Actions

Work Header

Somewhere Along the Way

Chapter Text

Eric

Somewhere along the way, a raven haired, 98 pound devil kicking cheerleader became my best friend. I sit here, studying her head, in my lap sleeping. Don’t get ideas, I would sooner jump off a bridge than like her. She drives me nuts, and when I look at her all I see is the little girl, who followed me home from school one day after a bully was trying to kick my ass. I will never forget it, I was about to get pounded, praying Hyde was somewhere when this tiny blur came and kicked this kid asshole so hard in the shins, he fell like a ton of bricks. I remember looking around and not seeing anyone and then looking down and there standing was a slip of a girl. She had eyed me and with the snobbiest tone possible said

 

“You should learn to do something about this guy, I can’t be everywhere” 

 

I had said ‘thanks” and started walking home, she literally followed me, talking the whole time. In my whole life, I’ve never met anyone who talks as much as she does, she came in with me and my mom fed her cookies and milk, and you could say the rest is History, Jackie Burkhart became a central figure in my life. So, here I sit with her head in my lap after she cried herself to sleep, and I’m still rubbing her arm to comfort her. 

 

I look down at her and my heartbreaks, God, she just sets herself up to get hurt, she absolutely loves with all her heart. I notice her stir and shudder, I know what’s coming, because it’s what she kept saying as she cried herself to sleep

 

“I just love him so much, it hurts so bad.”

 

I stroke her hair “I know Devil, I know” I call her that because Jesus, this girl has a temper and will attack with no warning. Getting kicked by Jackie, is its own painful hell.

 

I take a deep breath and try to find calm and think to myself as I listen to her sob again brokenheartedly “Steven Hyde is a dead man”



Hyde

Somewhere along the way, against my will, better judgment and all that is right with the world, I fell in love with the most annoying cheerleader in the universe. She never shuts up, can be a total snob, shallow, but simultaneously is beautiful, strong, big-hearted and simply the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I fucked it up. I’ve been up at the water tower for hours, not wanting to go back to the basement, because I know she is there. I know right now her head is in fucking Eric’s lap, and she is sobbing. How do I know this? Because I’ve watched that show a million times, when she can’t take it anymore, she curls up with Eric.  When lost…. Jackie finds Eric, Jackie Burkhart, the Queen of Popularity is best friends with a complete and total geek, and besides me, he is unfailing loyal to her. More, than Kelso, More than Fez, even more than Donna. Those two are thick as thieves, and it has annoyed the shit out of me for years, and that is why I’m in this fucking mess, because I am fucking jealous of Eric Forman. 

 

I know. I know there is nothing between Eric and Jackie, God……. They fight like Cats and Dogs, he gets kicked by her the most, second only to Kelso… He is not even going to think about Kelso, that’s a whole other problem with Jackie, Fucking Kelso, but this time it wasn’t Kelso who sent him over the edge it was Eric. 

 

He knows Eric has been in love with Donna since he was five, Good God wasn’t Jackie the person a few years ago, that smacked him upside the head and said 

 

“Eric, I am tired of hearing you whine about Donna, either ask her out, or I am telling her you like someone else.”

 

I’ve asked Donna if Eric and Jackie being close bothers her, and she always sighs and says the same thing

 

“Sometimes, but I know Eric loves me, and Jackie loves me too and I know she would never ever cheat on any boyfriend and I know she wouldn’t do that to me. She is loyal down to those painful tipped toes. Jackie loves Eric,  but not the way I do, and not the way she loves you.”

 

I sigh, that is what I hate…. I don’t want her to love Eric, I don’t want her to have a soft spot for Kelso, I want to know that I’m first because I fear if push came to shove she would pick Eric over me. 

 

I press my fingers to my eyes, I have fucked up big time and I know it is time to face it head on.

 

The drive back in my Camino is agonizing, is she going to be in the basement waiting for me, is she with Donna now, or is she curled up with Eric like I suspect? I don’t want to walk in and discover that.

 

I pause outside the basement door, I’ve never been a coward but I’ve never broken Jackie’s heart before and nothing scares me more than that. I push in and find it empty expect Eric.

 

“Hey” I mutter, having no idea what to say

 

He looks at me, he’s pissed. I’ve never seen him this mad. He doesn't say anything back. 

 

I take a deep breath “Where is she?”

 

I see it. For the first time in our friendship which fucking predates him and Jackie, I see a burning hate, and it surprises me, but also flares up my own pissed off…. Looks like not only would Jackie pick him over me, but he would pick her as well and it  pisses me off. Those two… God Damn it.

 

“Why do you care?” he spits out, glaring at me.

 

I’m starting to lose focus and get mad again. “Don’t start with me, Forman. Where is she?”

 

He blows first, and for the very first time in his life, he unwisely decides to take me on, and shoves me as hard as he can (which I might add, is not much), it’s all I need, to take all my frustrations and shame out on him.

 

I shove him back as hard as I can “You want to take me on Forman? I don’t think you want to go there.”

 

He glares back “Yeah, I fucking do.” and dives at me and the next thing I know for the first time I am physically fighting with Eric. I’ve kicked Kelso’s ass more times than can be counted, but the most I’ve ever done is frog Eric in the arm. 

 

I am kicking the shit out of him, but he won’t stop, finally I pin him 

 

“Knock it off Forman. This isn’t going to solve anything and you know she’s going to freak when she sees us.”

 

I feel the fight go out of him, and again I get that burn inside of me, he will stop for her. It clouds my thinking and I tell myself it's not true. Jackie doesn't want Eric. I get off of him, and he pops up, I can see he wants to hit me again, but he lets his arms drop.

 

‘Where is she?” I ask softly

 

Eric

God, I hurt everywhere. I lost my mind, what in the name of God possessed me to attempt to fight with Hyde. I know better, he is a 150 pound kicking ass machine. You would never know it, but Hyde takes really good care of himself, outside of the pot and getting trashed. He works out, does weights in the basement and does all sorts of weird crap I couldn’t do on my best day. I didn’t have a chance in hell, what possessed me? I know the answer, it’s the same thing that always makes me do shit completely out of my character or out of my own desire…… freaking Jackie. Damn her, no one causes people to lose their damn minds like she does, no one more than my jack ass other best friend…. Hyde.

 

She has been pushing him over the edge since she waltzed in my life, I can’t think of a time he didn’t have an extreme reaction to her…..Extreme annoyance, pride when she kicked Laurie’s ass, protectiveness, and want. As much as he thinks he hides it, Hyde has been watching Jackie for years, if you don’t know him as well as I do, you would miss it, but the bottom line is if he really didn’t like Jackie, he would have ignored her existence, it's just how he operates. Instead, he’s been reacting to her for years, he’s the dumb ass…. He’s been in love with her this whole time and completely too stupid to realize it. 

 

“Why should I tell? You cheated on her Hyde! She fucking cried for hours. HOURS! If you can’t love her the way she loves you….. Just leave her the fuck alone!”

 

I recognize the pissed come raging back and know this is about to get ugly.

 

“She’s my girlfriend Forman! I need to talk to her, you think I don’t know I fucked up. You think I don’t know that Jackie wasn’t crying her fucking eyes out in your lap. You think I don’t know that she went straight to fucking you like she always does. She’s MY girlfriend Forman, MINE!”

 

“Why did you do it? What conceivable reason could you have for cheating on Jackie!”

 

He explodes “WHAT THE HELL WAS I SUPPOSE TO THINK, WHEN I WALK IN THE BASEMENT AND SHE IS HALF UNDRESSED, WITH YOU TOUCHING HER DAMN BACK!”

 

He doesn’t get it. That it is just as insulting to me as it is fucking wrong what he did to Jackie and I’ve had enough

 

“You are supposed to know that you and I are brothers and I would never screw your girlfriend. You are supposed to know that Jackie would die before cheating on you after what Kelso did and the way her tramp mom acts. You are supposed to know her better than that. You are supposed to know me better than that. Why can’t you for once just ask, instead of freaking out?

 

He just looks at me blankly, his even gaze unreadable even to me, and I barrel on this time more exhausted and sad

 

“She was hurting Hyde, I could tell by the way she was carrying herself that something was wrong. She was being weird about it, I told her if she didn’t show me or tell me then I was getting my mom, so she unzipped the back of her blouse. I was touching the bruise and scratches, and I was trying to figure how the hell this happened.”

 

I watch him close his eyes “I know that now, I just……”

 

“You just assumed two people who love you would betray you, and what gave you the sudden clarity that I am not screwing Jackie.”

 

I watch him take a weary sigh “I ran into Donna who was worried about Jackie, and told me about you making her show her bruises and scratches to you, and that Jackie was being super weird about it.”

 

He looks away, won't make eye contact with me anymore, which means he’s really upset and doesn’t want me to recognize it and asks

 

“Did she tell you how she got hurt?”

 

In all what had happened in the last 24 hours, I had forgotten to focus on that part, and that worry came back

 

‘No, she refused and just said she fell, then you blew in the room and all hell broke loose.”

 

“Okay” he whispers

 

As pissed as I am, I can’t bring myself to torture him anymore

 

“She asleep in your room, I put her on your cot.” 

 

He immediately turns and heads to his room, but I say his name

 

“Hyde, don’t screw this up.”

 

He looks at with the worst face, I’ve ever seen, complete and total regret are etched into every line on his face and says

 

“I already did”

 

I watch him push into his room, to face the consequences of his actions, and all I can think is 

 

“No one causes people to lose their damn minds like Jackie.”

Chapter Text

 

Hyde

 

I step into my room and the light by my bed is burning softly, and I cringe. Jackie is scared of the dark, no matter where she sleeps, she always leaves a light burning. She always says the dark holds the monsters and gets a faraway look and snuggles up to me, she will only sleep with the light out if I am with her. I look down, and she is curled up in a ball on my cot, at some point she must have changed because she has on my Zeppelin Tee and her cheer shorts. I hope to sweet Jesus that Eric didn’t change her, because I don’t give a damn what he says, Jackie’s body is fucking incredible, and there is no way he wouldn’t appreciate getting a chance to view her body and I don’t want him to see it. I can’t deal with the thought that  Kelso every touched her, I don’t need to think about Eric knowing what is under her clothes, or I am going to lose my damn mind.

 

She hiccups and I see tissue clutched in her hand and I feel like such a bastard. I know she cried herself to sleep. I kneel down and just watch her. Sleeping Jackie is something from a fairytale, her lips are rosy, her skin perfect and her hair is the color of midnight. She  looks like she is waiting for her prince to kiss her. I close my eyes, I am far from a prince, I’m the either the villain or the poor stable boy no one gives a damn about. 

 

I start to reach out to stroke her cheek when I notice my tee shirt has fallen off her shoulder and I see a huge bruise and a scratch. I’ve had the shit kicked out of me as a kid and I’ve been in a million fights, I know what the bruise is, that’s a fist mark. I can almost see the finger impressions on her delicate skin, and it is surrounded by scratches. I would bet my stash, that those marks are from her falling on the ground or her being scraped up against something. All my sins are briefly blown out of my mind by the cruel sludge of anger curling up in me and I yell out and shake her

 

“Jackie! Who hit you?” 

 

She comes flying awake and I glimpse pure fear before she sees it's me, and then she yanks her shirt up, curls up and scoots away from me. She isn’t saying anything, she just is staring at me with an expression of agony. I can’t bring myself to address that yet, so I focus on what started all this

 

“Tell me now, I’m not fucking around Jackie, who hit you?”

 

Jackie when it is important is world’s worst liar, sure she can lie to your face about where Donna is or why Kelso is super glued to something but when it’s serious and important she cracks, so when she looks away, I know she’s going to lie.

 

‘I’m not sure why you care but I only fell, I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal about this.”

 

Now I’m really pissed, does she really think that just because I’m a fucking idiot and cheated on her that I don’t care what happens to her?

 

“Damn it Jackie, you now I care about you, now who hit you?”

 

 Her head whips to me and I know it’s coming. There is no bracing for the storm that is Jackie

 

“You CARE! YOU CARE ABOUT ME! Well color me surprised, considering you fucked a nurse last night, because you assumed I was screwing Eric. ERIC! Who has never so much has kissed my cheek.”

 

She has temporarily distracted me by that complete bullshit line about Eric, and I’ve lost my ability to be rational again. I will spend my life trying to figure out why dealing with Jackie makes me go nuts.

 

“Oh Bullshit Jackie, never has so much as kissed your cheek…. I bet my life that tonight you laid your head in his lap and that he stroked your hair! I bet he rubbed your arm, kissed your forehead and you know how I know that…. Because I’ve seen the Eric and Jackie show almost my whole damn life. He touches you all the damn time! You ever see me touch Donna like that? I’ve been friends with her just as long and the most I’ve ever done was kind of kiss her that one time I lost my damn mind. YOU and ERIC AREN’T NORMAL.”

 

I can see it, I view the fucking pissed roll over her

 

 “So it’s my fault you screwed the nurse? It’s my fault, that I have one person who gives a damn about me? Because Kelso never did other than to get some, Donna’s friends with me through Eric, and you spent most of your life hating me.  So you can go to hell, Eric’s all I have. He’s the only one who actually gives a damn about me.”

 

Nothing she could have said to me, could have hurt more, that Eric is the only who cares about her, that their relationship is more special than what her and I have.

 

I’m hurt and I can’t keep it out my voice

 

 “You know that’s not true, I care about you. You are just too busy basking in Eric to notice that I do.You have me.You have me, Jackie.”

 

I’ve seen her wicked mad, I’ve seen her kick and fight pissed but this is raw and it’s like watching winter take her over, and I am almost scared of what she is going to say next, and then she takes an ice shard and shoves into my heart

 

“I don’t have you, because you don’t have me. You stopped having me the minute you decided I would bang your oldest friend, you stopped having me when you slept with a random nurse just to hurt me. We are done.”

 

She starts to blow by me but I won’t have it, I refuse for this to be done, I reach out to grab her and I get her shoulder, and she yelps and the bruise comes storming back into my mind.

 

I pull her to me and hiss

 

 “You can hate me. You can break up with me, but you are going to tell me who hit you, because I know a fist mark when I see one. So who the fuck hit you Jackie?”

 

She starts to struggle and yell ‘Let me go. Let me go Hyde.” 

 

Her use of my last name startles me, and I let go, and she kicks me so violently that I stumble. She’s out  past Eric and out the door.  I attempt to recover from her hellish kicks and go after her but I hear the Lincoln roar to life, and she’s gone.

 

I hit the basement door as hard as I can and yell “FUCK” I turn on Eric and seethe

 

‘Who the hell would hit Jackie?”

Chapter Text

Runaway Train

Jackie

Somewhere along the way, I let myself believe Steven loved me, that I mattered, that I wasn’t just the girl he screwed for a whole summer. Somewhere, I forget that is not how things work out for me. I can’t stop crying, it hurts, like nothing has ever before, even more than when Kelso cheated. God…… why doesn't he get it? I’ve been using Michael for years, and that makes me a total crap person. I’ve been in love with Steven since we were kids, and I’ve spent pretty much my whole life thinking I didn’t have a chance in hell, and well there was Michael, to distract me.

I did love Michael. I care about him, and it did hurt when he cheated, but he was just my way of trying to not stare at Steven and be pathetic. When he kissed me this summer, it was like my most secret hope was realized. Why can’t he appreciate I never told Eric all summer we were together?  One of the three secrets I’ve ever kept from Eric….

  1. I love Steven, always have
  2. Where the bruises come from
  3. That Steven and I have kissed before

I have secrets, lots of them and now not only has Steven broken my heart but I know he won’t let the bruise go. He knows what it is, I know he does. Abused recognizes Abused. Most of the time, I can pass off bruises and scratches from cheerleading, this time I can’t.  Eric, who has never been hurt in his life, could stare at the bruise all day and not know what it is, it’s why I didn’t want his mom to see it. Mrs. Forman is a nurse, I'm sure she has dealt with bruises like this before.

If he had not screwed the nurse, I wouldn’t have let Steven touch me for days, because I didn't have a story other than I fell, and Steven isn’t stupid, he knows a fist mark when he sees one. 

I lay my head on the steering wheel and just cry. The man I love more than life, slept with someone else, and I’m scared to death of what is happening to me. I don’t know how to stop it. 

 

Go On Believe Her When She Tells You Nothing Is Wrong

Eric

I stare at Hyde, not knowing what to say, and thinking perhaps it is foolish to go after Jackie, this one time. He doesn’t know how to make Hyde understand Jackie is only his friend, can only ever be his friend, and he feels deep resentment that he should ever have to explain. Hyde is just standing there, staring at nothing, the silence is starting to get uncomfortable, I’m not sure how to even answer his question 

 

“Hit Jackie? What the hell are you talking about?

 

Hyde looks at me like I’m an idiot and growls

“That’s not only a fucking bruise Forman, it’s a fist mark. Someone hit her hurt as hard as they could, and I bet you my life, she either fell to the ground or she was thrown up against something to cause the scratches.”

 

I’m shocked, and for now the cheating falls to the wayside.  I’m still baffled by what Hyde is saying

“Are you sure? I mean, how do you know that is what made the mark?”

 

Hyde looks at me like I’ve forgotten something, something vital.

 

“Jesus Forman, how do you think I know what that mark is? Think about it. Think about what we never talk about.” 

He says it with a deep weariness and his eyes are briefly unmasked, and I see years of abuse flash across his face.

 

I feel sick and I look away, I know exactly how he knows, and he is correct, we’ve never talked about it. Hyde has virtually ignored the topic our entire friendship.

 

He keeps talking, but he won’t make eye contact

 “She’s had other bruises, but she has always said they were from cheerleading. God, I’m a fucking idiot, long sleeves in the summer, jumpy, I’ve noticed her step back when we fight, FUCK Forman, that is what someone does when they get hit.”

 

I’m watching him come unglued, as he blames himself for not catching on. I can’t believe I never noticed, never delved into why she gets so hurt at cheerleading. Jackie is a master of switching gears away from what she doesn’t want to talk about. What the hell is wrong with me? You think I wouldn’t fall for it with Zen Boy as a best friend, but it never even occurred to me.

 

Hyde’s breathing is heavy, I can see it, he is going to lose it and spits out

“How long? You are the damn best friend, when did you start to notice?”

 

“I don’t know Hyde, I guess I’ve never paid attention, she’s always been quick to blame cheerleading, which is plausible. I mean you’ve seen her tumble, she falls a lot when she practices.”

 

I watch his eyes, they are tracking every time he wanted to ask and let it go. Every time he has been suspicious but didn’t want to go there, or believe anyone could be hurting her. I notice the guilt of not knowing and the nurse, but even after years of watching him lose it, I am unprepared for what happens next.

 

Hyde screams “FUCK!” and punches the glass out of the basement door. 

 

Trust I seek and find In You

Hyde

It takes me over, that anger I try so hard to keep inside, the anger of being hurt by your parents, being abandoned, near starving, knowing no one loves you best and for knowing it will mark me my whole life. 

 

I do it almost without thinking, it is like an out-of-body experience, I just want something to be destroyed like me. I punch as hard as I can at the glass, and my fist goes all the way through it.. Instant blood and pain, I want the pain, it’s what makes me feel. I hide my deepest hurts, so I don’t have to deal with the worst parts of my life. I need the pain, because this is the only way for me to let out the destructive monster who I fight everyday.

 

 I hurt myself, so I don’t hurt anyone else…….. Like stupid Forman, who has never had to worry about a damn thing in his whole life.

 

“Hyde! What the HELL?!” Eric yells

 

I turn on him, glass everywhere and blood, dripping from my hand

‘Don’t. Don’t even start with me.” I say harshly.

 

Apparently Eric is not on board with that plan, because he barrels on. He is totally ranting and raving. Then he says something he will never be able to take back

 

“Dude! What are you doing? You can’t keep hitting shit, just because you're mad or hurt! God Hyde, what happens one day when you are fighting with Jackie, are you going to hit her?"

 

Every fiber of my being freezes, did my oldest friend just suggest I would hit Jackie? I am stunned, I actually feel my stomach clutch. 

 

“Hyde….. I…..” Eric starts to say and I explode

 

“Oh, this is FUCKING RICH! Didn’t you just sit out here and scream at me that I should know you wouldn’t “screw Jackie?” Didn’t you stand here all fucking “I’m the king of the nice guys” and make me feel like shit because I assumed the worst? WELL FUCK YOU! I can’t believe you would even suggest I would touch her. I’ve never hurt any of you other than Kelso being an asshole or tonight. If you think I would ever put my hands on Jackie, then you don’t know me at all.”

 

I watch his face pale and instant regret come over him

“Hyde, I don’t know what to say, it just came out in the heat of the moment. I overreacted. You know I care about Jackie, it made me say something stupid.”

 

I start to laugh bitterly, I can’t stop. The irony in his words is entirely too good to let go without rebuttal

“Oh, you mean like I overreacted when I saw you caressing my girlfriend’s naked back. Yeah, I was wrong, and I’m paying the price, but don’t you dare stand in front of me and pretend you just didn’t the same FUCKING THING.”

 

I watch his chest heave, his eyes are shooting a plea at me to let this one go, and he tries to sweep it away

“Hyde, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean it.”

 

A part of my heart that I never imagined could go cold, is frozen. I never thought I would ever feel burning hate for someone I consider a brother.

 

Jackie would have recognized the look in his eyes, it was the same one he had the night when they got in a fight about “Get off my boyfriend”, biting, unyielding and unmovable. 

 

“Somethings you can’t take back Forman, and yeah…. You did mean it”

 

With blood drippy from my hand, and pain in my heart, I stomp out of the basement and thinking

 

Fuck Forman

Chapter Text

Lie to Me

Eric

Somewhere along the way I started to believe the lie I’ve been telling myself for years. Until I could stare at anyone without a hint of genuine deception and say

“I don’t like Jackie. We are just best friends.”

I can’t help but reflect on how I got here, and when I forgot the difference between the act I was putting on and the truth. You can make yourself believe anything when you need to survive. You hold that lie like a gospel truth because you love a girl who lays her head on your lap and weeps for another man. 

 

You lie to yourself until you believe it because you are best friends with one of the most perceptive people on earth, who has been watching what he calls the “Jackie and Eric Show” for years. You chant that lie until you can look your best friend in the eye and discount his suspicions. 

 

I fall on the couch, head back, thinking of all the things I’ve really screwed up in the last hour and wonder if Hyde knows what I just realized…..

“I love Jackie”

 

I love that stubborn, pain in the ass, drives me insane but never lets me down Jackie. I don’t want to love her, because I know without a doubt she has never loved me that way. She would do anything for me. She has been an incredible friend, but when you are a girl’s secret keeper, then you know her heart. 

She’s been in love with Hyde since Junior High and after Prom, it was a done deal. No one knows like I do how shallow her feelings for Kelso were. She’s followed Hyde around like a disgruntled puppy for a long time, so it was easy to lie to myself because I don’t have a shot in hell.

I have wrapped myself so tightly in the untruth that she was only my friend, that I didn’t grasp that much of tonight was about me, being pissed Hyde has Jackie, and he screwed up. I actually feel tears sting my eyes, I can’t believe I said what I did, because I do know… he would sooner die than hit Jackie.

 

How many times have I watched him pull his temper back with her……

Close his eyes and physically force himself to relax

Turn from her, so she can’t comprehend it

Walk out and not come back until he is cooled down

 I know he would never hit her like I know tomorrow the sun will come up.

 

I know I said it because in the heat of the moment my lie couldn’t hold up against the truth, the truth that I love Jackie. It makes me feel like crap, because I do love Donna. I want to be with Donna and I don’t want to give her up, but it’s moments like this I forget I’ve been keeping a secret about my feelings exactly as long as Jackie has for Hyde. I sit not knowing what to do next, there is no Jackie to comfort and no Hyde to try to calm down. I am paralyzed by all the events that have taken place. Just like Hyde, I feel like shit that it never crossed my mind to ask her about the bruises. What did Hyde say

 

“How long? You are the damn best friend, when did you start to notice?”

 

If I am really being honest, I lied to Hyde tonight about the bruises, I have only noticed them in the vaguest sense. I don’t even think I’ve asked her that many times about them. I feel a deep shame in not thinking about her stories and even wondering if there could be a pattern. 

I hear a voice in my head, one that says “No one is here, don’t keep lying to yourself.” I close my eyes and force myself to look at the ugliest truth of the night, there was something more going on.

 

Yesterday, when I asked her to show me her back because she was holding herself so oddly, I forgot who I was I forgot I was Eric Forman, best friend Extraordinaire , and in a moment of pure insanity I thought I could be Hyde. 

“Jackie, you are either going to show me, or I am getting my mom, so stop being a brat.” I say to her sternly

 

“Fine! This is idiotic, but your mom is going to make a big deal out of it and it’s not.” she turned around  facing the other way, that way I could look at her back.

 “You are going to need to unzip the back of my shirt.”

 

I reach for the zipper as I pull it down her exotic skin is exposed to me. My breath catches, Jackie is a stunning woman, and I can’t help but brush my fingers on her skin, while pushing the shoulder down to observe the giant bruise and scratches. I run my fingers over purple and menacing greens, staining her skin, glared with angry scratches.

 

“Jackie, what happened? This looks awful.”

 

She practically purrs her answer “Had a tough fall from the Cheer Pyramid, Kat Peterson swatted a bee, and we all fell on the track.”

 

I let her story wash over me, and I accept it instantly because I want to look at her skin and I want to trace my fingers over it with the excuse of testing for pain. What Jackie doesn't know is immediately before the knife of obscenities filled the air, I was leaning into the base of her neck where those wispy curls had wandered from her ponytail, dancing on that entrancing skin. Just once I wanted to taste her, just once.

 

“WHAT THE MOTHER FUCK IS GOING ON?” 

Both Jackie and I had snap around to a furious Hyde. Jackie popped up, her top sliding off even further, and his gaze went gone glacial. He pushed past her out the door.

 

I open my eyes and look around me, and tell myself that I can fix it, all of it. I am going to just tell myself that lie until I believe it.

Chapter Text

“Take me into your darkest hour”

Hyde

Somewhere along the way Forman forgot that I’m not Kelso, and that I’m not oblivious. He can say whatever he wants, but we've been friends since I kicked Jake Bradley’s ass for picking on him in kindergarten. I know him.  Forman thinks he is a master of hiding how he feels, he might fool other people, but not me. I can read him like a book, and that boy loves Jackie, always has and always will. 

When he is with her, everything about him changes, his eyes get sharper, he’s softer with her than I’ve ever seen him be with Donna, and like every other damn guy in the basement, his eyes follow her when he thinks no one else is watching. He is much more careful when Donna is around, but when it is just us, his face is an open book.

I’ve witnessed him watch her with longing every time she sauntered out of the basement with Kelso.

 I’ve studied his desperate need to pull her closer when she is curled up to him for comfort.

 I’ve watched him lean into her touch when she is teasing him, blissfully unaware that I can read the emotion that cross his face.

 

The one that screams and burns me the most...... is when he hugs her…. his eyes close and he inhales her soft scent.

 

Until a day ago the smelling her was the worst but coming down the damn stairs and watching him sweep his fingers over her soft skin and lean in to kiss her neck, that blows all the other shit out of the water. I just wish, I was smart enough to know that just because Eric is a fool doesn’t mean Jackie was cheating on me.

 

It’s not hard to identify what you yourself,  crave, want, and watch.  I’ve wanted and fucking loved Jackie for years but I had no desire to play second fiddle to Kelso or fight Eric for her. Unlike Eric, Jackie is a mystery to me in many ways. She can be both naked with emotion or shielded completely.  I’ve watched her for a long time waiting for the flip to switch and see if Eric would one day be more than her best guy friend. It has been so hard to tell, but then she made it abundantly clear she was interested in me when she climbed up in my lap and kissed me breathless.

 

That Summer

I feel like I am trapped in some terrible repeated hell, that I probably earned but want to break free from. Forman pretty much stays in his room every day, being stupid about Donna, which I don’t understand. He broke up with her, and then he went nuts when she started dating Casey and then rejected her straight out of hand when she came to him.  I find it hilarious, as if there isn’t someone else lurking in his heart, so why all the drama?  I guess that is what I’m agitated about. Is he upstairs about Donna, or is he freaking out that he is free and his beloved Jackie is untangled from Kelso and this might be his chance?

 

I judge scornfully to myself, “I’m not buying it Forman, you want her, you just don’t have the balls to do anything about it.”

I shake my head, it’s not like I do either, but he can be such a baby.

 

Jackie….

I can’t get her out of my mind. She is like something scrapping in my boot. I can feel it every moment of the day, and I can’t get comfortable.  She’s acting the exact opposite of her normal “ My world is ending, I broke up with Kelso” routine, she’s quiet, distracted and never comments on anything. Day after day, she just comes and hangs out, she hasn’t asked about Eri c once. 

 

I hate I’m watching the minutes tick by waiting for her to appear at her normal time, she arrives and leaves like clockwork. I’ve got about five more minutes before………….and then five minutes early, she blows in like a hurricane. It’s the most energy I’ve glimpsed out of her since Kelso and Donna blew town. It startles me and I stammer out

 

“Jackie, are you okay?”

 

Her eyes are almost wild, and she is breathing heavy, and then she makes eye contact with me and my world tilts. Those mismatched eyes are full of unbridled want and I’m pretty sure it’s aimed at me. She floors me again when she marches her cute little ass over to me, straddles my lap and grabs my face.

 

I’m fucking stunned, “Jackie, what the….”

 

I never get the last word out of my mouth because she cuts me off with a deep and passionate kiss and my world burst into color.

 

Her bedroom

I hear a noise that brings me back to the ominous present, a time when I don’t have Jackie, a time someone is hurting her, and a time she is fucking missing because she obviously didn’t come home after she stormed out. I climbed up the tree by her room and have been waiting for over an hour.  She might think she’s done with me, but I’m far from being done with her, and she’s going to tell me what is going on even if I have to have a knock down, drag out, might be the total end of us fight. 

 

I hear clicking footsteps, a sound I have memorized, she is here. I watch the door knob turn and my throat goes dry, this is it, and I’m not leaving until I have answers, because I don’t give a shit what Forman thinks she can push me right over the edge and I’ll never touch her.

 

The door opens and I say in an effort to not startle her 

“Jackie”

It doesn’t work, she lets out a blood-curdling scream.

 

Jackie

Somewhere along the way I forgot what it was like to feel safe. I’m always waiting, watching and trying to anticipate the next thing that might hurt me. Will it be Kelso cheating? Steven screwing some random nurse? Steven never loving me as much as I love him or my own quiet hell…. where will the next blow come from? All those questions followed by how much will it hurt this time and will I be able to hide it? 

My heart and a scream slam to my throat when I walk into my dark room and I hear my name

 

“Jackie?”

 

I hate the dark. Painful things happen in the black, and I don’t have light to guide my way or Steven to cuddle me close. I start to stumble back, prepared to escape, when the lamp by my bed flips on and there lays a pretty rumpled Steven, which is saying something because he isn’t neatly pressed on a good day. 

 

My heart slows from terror but spikes with anger “GOD STEVEN! You almost gave me a heart attack. What are you doing here?”

 

He glares at me, which I find hilarious because he is in my room uninvited, lurking in the dark.

 

“Don’t you glare at me! This is my house, I don’t want you here.” I shout

 

He strides towards me, and I am waiting for him to touch me and I’m going to kick him so violently, he won’t walk for a week. Instead, he goes past me, shuts my door, and leans on it. All 150 pounds of pure immovable muscle pressed up against my only exit. I am 100 percent trapped. He takes off his sunglasses, and he speaks softly

 

“Jackie, I’m not leaving until you tell me who hit you? You can scream, kick, and tell me that you hate me and never want to see me again but you are out of your god damn cheerleader mind if you think I’m ignoring a man’s fist print on your back.”

 

I close my eyes. This is my worst fear realized, this isn’t Kelso who believes whatever you tell him or Eric who never searches too far below the surface because what does he know about living in terror, this is Steven Hyde, a man who knows life can be hell.  

 

I’m honestly surprised I’ve gotten away with it this long. I knew the minute he had access to my body in ways that he didn’t have before, I was living on borrowed time, but I’m a professional at living in denial. I’ve witnessed him study the marks and watch concern fill his eyes, I’ve felt his fingers trace a bruise and known his mind was suspicious but I imagine he believed two factors, I wouldn’t lie to him and I would tell him if someone was hurting me. 

 

“Jackie, look at me.” He says it so tenderly, I can’t resist him. My eyes flutter to his stormy ocean eyes, and I try to stand strong.

 

“Steven, please… can you let it go? I’ll even forgive you for the nurse and I will pretend nothing ever happened, if you never bring this up again.” I know it's pathetic, but I am grasping at straws.

 

I watch his eyes get dark and his face could be fashioned out of marble. His voice is serious with a tone which suggests I shouldn’t repeat what I just said

 

“I don’t want you to forget it. I fucked up in every way, and I’m willing to do anything and everything to get you back but not at the price of allowing someone to hurt you. Now take your damn shirt off Jackie. Do it now or I’m calling Red Forman. Deal with me or deal with him. Which one is it going to be?”

 

I glare at him, he knows me too well, and this was a low blow. I throw myself at him, I’m known for kicking but I’ve never been one to hit people. I’m desperately trying to prove some point by hitting him, I don’t even know what. I positively know that my fear of the truth has finally pushed me over the edge.

 

He grabs me tightly, pinning my arms in his chest. I kick him as hard I can, hoping that will work.

 

“Fuck Jackie” he yells when I connect with his shin, but he won’t let go. Then he breaks me, right down to the most vulnerable part of my heart

 

“Stop Doll, no more. Let me help you”, he croons in my ear

I can’t do it anymore. I collapse against him. He slides down the door, and pulls me into his lap, and I began to tell my story with tears rather than words. I can’t say it, he must ask. I am waiting for the question I never wanted to answer.

 

He lets my sobs slow down, the whole time his hand gently caresses my back, I can sense him purposely, avoiding the area I’m hurt. I feel him take a deep breath and I know it is finally here, I can’t hide it anymore

 

“Jackie, who is it? Your mom or dad?”

 

My heart squeezes and I burrow my head into his neck, just wanting to never leave, I feel his body tense, his patience is gone.

 

“Answer me Jackie, Which one?”

 

I close my eyes tight and try to bring myself even closer to him, and I whisper my deepest secret

 

‘It’s my dad”

I let out every hit in sobs. He stands up and pulls me into his arms and lays us in bed. He holds me so tight and I need it. I need him, but if I had been watching I would have observed......

 

Death in his eyes

Chapter Text

Eric - Brothers in Arms

I haven’t left the couch since Hyde stormed out. I am not moving until he comes back. Hyde is more than my best friend, he’s my brother. I have to make it right with Hyde. We can deal with the other shit later, but I can’t have him thinking I actually believe he would hit her. I might have to tell him the truth about how I feel about Jackie. I don’t want to, but honesty may be the only thing that can repair this. Yes, I’m hurt that he thinks I would sleep with Jackie, but I wasn't exactly acting like “just a friend” when I was touching her back. My biggest fear is he will throw it all away for her, he didn’t think twice about risking his friendship with Kelso. When it comes to Jackie, Hyde is all or nothing and I don’t want to be the nothing.

 

I look at the clock it is after 2 AM, I am starting to get worried. Hyde has disappeared before, but he is upset about Jackie, the nurse, the bruise, and me, I love him, but he can be destructive when he is upset. Who the hell knows how he is dealing with all this?  I’m giving him 20 more minutes, and I am going to go look for him

I think to myself “Don’t do anything stupid Hyde, that’s what got us in trouble in the first place.”

On that thought, the basement door comes flying open with a kick, and the sounds of a very pissed off Jackie come flying in. 

 

“Put me down! You can’t just throw me over your shoulder and take me out of my house.” 

Hyde walks in with a Jackie over his shoulder, who is nailing him pretty hard with her fists, like it is a normal day, not like it is 2:45 in the morning and a few hours ago, a shit ton of hurt went down. 

 

I lock eyes with Hyde, and for once I can read them perfectly, something is bad really bad, and it involves Jackie. I have no doubt that Hyde got out of Jackie who hit her and that he isn’t leaving her alone. 

 

“Hyde?” I ask

His eyes are still winter blue but there is something else there and it scares me. He’s on a mission and nothing is going to stop him. He dumps Jackie on me and spits out

 

‘Do whatever it is, you do to get her to calm the fuck down. You know as her “best friend”

 

 I watch his lips curl into a snarl when he says best friend and know that our problems are not in the clear.

 

Jackie is squirming and yelling at Hyde

“You are such a bastard. I should have never told you, you promised me we could stay there. You waited until I fell asleep and tried to get away with stealing me out of the house….. You kidnapper.”

 

Hyde leans over and grabs her by the chin and harshly says

“You can call me a bastard, you can hate me, you can hit me as hard as you want, but if you think I am letting you spend one more night there or ever… You never knew me Jackie and you are out of your God Damn Mind.”

 

He starts to stride up the stairs and then he calls my name…..

‘Forman?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t you dare let her leave this house. I’m getting Red.”

 

I feel Jackie’s whole body tense “You said if I told you, that you wouldn’t tell him” 

 

Her voice is a plea and for one minute I see him waver, because it is nearly impossible to not give in to Jackie when she sounds like this. When her voice becomes soft and trembles, she sounds like a scared little girl. You want to give her want ever she wants to make it stop.

 

He takes a deep breath, looks at her, and says

 “I lied”

 

 He  heads up the stairs to bring my father who I know is not going to be thrilled to be woken up at 2:45 into our miniature Shakespearean tragedy.  Jackie is shaking, her anger is gone, her body is limp like a birthday balloon that is a week old. Hyde is right, I do know how to deal with this, he might hate it but I could write the book on soothing Jackie.

 

“Come on Devil, Lay your head down on my lap, tell me what’s going on before Red comes down here. I can’t help you if I don’t know what I’m about to fight.” 

Her big doe eyes look at mine, and my heart breaks. She is scared to death, and I can spot her desire to flee. I watch her think she can but I stop her cold

 

“Jackie, I’m not letting you go. First because something serious is going down and Second Hyde will actually kill me.”

 

I watch her slump and she finally puts her head into my lap. I start to rub her arm and stroke her hair like I have a million times before

“Come on Jackie, we have minutes. Tell me what is coming our way, let me help you. Because if Hyde is willing to tangle with Red this early in the morning, they are going to come down here as an immovable force.”

 

She says nothing for a minute and then she tells me the worst 

“It’s my dad. He hits me, that is where the bruise came from.”

 

I close my eyes and understand the determination, the thing I saw in Hyde's gaze it  was his protect Jackie at all costs stare. I know that nothing is going to stop Hyde from keeping her safe and for once I more than willing to go on this trip to hell with him. 

 

Hyde- Nothing Else Matters

God Damn Jackie could drive a saint to commit murder, I think as I stomp up the stairs. Has she lost her damn mind? I can’t believe she would even think for a minute I was going to lay there all night, get up in the morning and go on with my life. I stretch my back, for someone so tiny, Jackie is like a miniature tornado. When she hits, it hurts, almost like her life depends on it, I stop cold in my tracks. Maybe her life has depended on it? Maybe that is how she escapes getting the crap beat of her? New rage fills my mind and I stop caring about being quiet, stride up the stairs and pound on the Red and KItty’s door. There is no one on earth more than Red Forman that I trust to do the right thing. Normally I hate to ask for help but I know I need Red. Because no one messes with him, and I will kill Jack Burkhart before he ever touches my girl again.

 

The door flies open with a bang and Red looks none too pleased to see me 

“Someone better be dead or it’s your funeral we will be going to dumbass.”

 

Red Forman-Man of his Word

I know two things: 

  1. A pounding on my bedroom door at 3 o’clock in the morning is not good 
  2. It for sure involves one of the dumbasses

I stalk out of the bed before it wakes Kitty, the woman could sleep through the world ending, but this pounding on the door is making the whole room shake. 

 

I rip open the door preparing for some jackassery, Eric and the dumbass crew have gotten into but instead there stands Steven.

I go with instinct and deadpan 

 

“Someone better be dead or it’s your funeral we will be going to dumbass.”

 

I know something is terribly wrong, because out of all the idiots Steven is the least likely to ask for help or get me involved for something minor. I recognize much of myself in Steven, if I hadn’t gone into the Army I don’t know what would have happened to me. I was young, hot headed, and pissed off at the cards life had handed me. That is the real reason I brought Steven home, someone had to give the boy a chance. I know for sure Kitty, saved me from a life of bitterness after what I experienced as a kid and the horrors of Korea. Steven is a born survivor and people like Steven and I rarely ask for help.

 

I watch Steven steady himself, like he is going to drop a grenade into our lives and needs a second before he pulls the pin, but Steven has never been a coward, he gets right to it

 

“Red, I need you. I’ve got Jackie downstairs. Her dad beats the shit out of her, and if you don’t help me, my answer is to find him and beat him to death. Let’s see how well he does with someone who can fight back.”

 

I don’t know what I thought Steven was going to say but it wasn’t that. I quickly read the boy’s face. He’s serious and I know Steven cares deeply about Jackie, we all do. I would never admit it out loud, but Jackie is like a daughter to me.”

 

“Excuse me?” I mutter out, caught by surprise.

 

I watch Steven’s face get harder 

‘Listen, I don’t have time for this, she’s going to bolt if I don’t get you down there. I pretty much have Eric holding her in place. You and I both know that if Jackie wants to run, she can kick the crap out of Eric.”

 

I close my eyes, so Steven won’t identify my rage, because the last thing Steven needs is someone feeding his fuel to hurt someone. He needs someone to be calm and rational, and I know that is why he is at my door. He’s counting on me to do the right thing, despite that I have the same monster of rage living inside of me.

 

“Go downstairs, bring her up to the kitchen, let me put some clothes on.” 

 

I start to go in but I swing back and say to Steven’s retreating form

 

“No one will touch her again, Steven I promise. I am a man of my word.”

 

Hyde didn’t turn around but said into the black and silent hallway.

“I know, I’m counting on it.”

Chapter Text

Hyde- No Matter How Much It Hurts

 

I’ve had a million thoughts tonight, but the one that keeps floating back is that Jackie and I are exactly the same. The whole time we’ve known her, she has put on a persona to keep people away from what her real life is, keeping herself going, and never wanting people to know her life is hell. No one in my group understands that better than I do, and I bought into for years. I only saw the perky and annoying cheerleader. I who touts himself as the King of Judgement and being able to read people never looked below the surface. I am appalled at myself, what I did to Jackie is what I hate that people have always done to me…. that boy is trouble, parents are white trash so he must be as well and my personal favorite that I’m stupid because I’m a burn out. I saw a cheerleader and I stopped looking, and the thing is now that I am looking back there where big glaring signs. Signs that you could find in my own life…...

 

She never asks us to her house, not even Eric

She spends as much time as away from home as possible

She clings to the Formans’ who are good, and can be a safe place to land.

 

And how did I miss the excuses for the bruises, the long sleeves, and the jumpiness. I rub my face, I am sick with my idiocy.  I chose not to see the bright red flags, because I’ve always been uncomfortable with how Jackie makes me feel.  

 

“How long has this been going on?” I can’t help but think as I trudge down to the basement. I know without a doubt that Jackie is a master of deflection and hiding. I am going to need to remember that, because I am positive, she is going to come out swinging.

 

I walk down the stairs and observe what I didn’t want to witness earlier, Jackie with her head laying on Eric’s lap, and him stroking her hair. I want to rip her off of him, and tell him to stop touching my damn girlfriend, that it is not normal, and in what Universe would I ever do this with Donna? I don’t because everything else must take a backseat to the fact that Jackie is getting abused.

 

I watch her, approaching like I am walking towards a cornered animal, because Jackie is going to react the same way. I have to remember how she reacts is not about me, but is born from fear.

 

I amble around the couch to notice her not moving, I look at Eric

 

“She’s asleep. I finally got her calmed down, and she drifted off.” he says


“We have to wake her up, she needs to go upstairs and talk to Red.” I reply

 

Eric gets a stubborn look on his face and I know he is going to argue with me, and while I am more than willing to be patient with whatever comes out of Jackie’s mouth, that privilege is not currently extended to Eric.

 

“Listen Hyde, I think we should wait until she wakes up. What harm can it cause?”

 

I am done with this, he didn’t even question the damn bruise, he was too busy getting off on touching her damn skin. 

 

“Oh, you think that is what best? Waiting until Jack comes looking for her, not getting as much information to the people who can protect her as soon as possible? She’s fucking 16 Eric! I have technically kidnapped her. Her parents can just come get her, if we don’t do something. He’s going to notice his fucking daughter is gone! Don’t tell me what you think is best!” 

 

He only blinks at me, his face getting red with embarrassment, I know I am being harsher than I should with him, but I don’t have time for this crap. 

 

“Please stop yelling”, Jackie's voice raises to my ears.

 

I drop to my knees in front of her, I gaze into her huge, desperate eyes. She is pleading one more time with me. I can see it, and it is killing me. Despite the hard time I give Jackie, it is almost impossible for me to not give her what she wants.  She dosen’t even need to say it out loud

 

I reach out and stroke her hair and try to make her understand

 

“I can’t Jackie, not this time. I won’t leave you to live that life. I will not allow anyone to hurt you now that I know it is happening. You can’t ask that of me, because I’m going to do whatever I have to protect you, even if it makes you hate me.”

 

I watch a single one single tear slide down her face, and I want to kill Jack even more. I can feel my desire to hurt him almost overwhelm me. I close my eyes so Jackie won’t recognize it. She brings me back with a slight touch on my hand

 

“Please don’t be mad at me. I’m sorry.” she chokes out. 

 

I thought my heart was broken before but now, it's fucking shattered. I lean my head into her forehand

 

“Baby, I could never be mad at you for this. You haven’t done anything wrong.”

 

I can recognize the panic building, she just wants it to go away, and whether she means it or not her next statement is razor sharp and slices deep. I have to remind myself again that she is scared and I can’t take what she says personally

 

“You promised Steven, You promised you wouldn’t tell Red. You promised you wouldn’t cheat and you did. Why do you keep breaking promises to me?

 

Before, I can even respond, Eric finally stops being mute

 

“Jackie!” he says harsher than I have ever him sound “Enough! That wasn’t fair.”

 

I look at him in the eye, thanking him. He nods, for a minute the wall that got built today cracks open.

 

I stroke her cheek and tell her the only thing I can say and that is the truth. There are a lot of things you can say about me. Yes I can be a complete asshole, I can be careless and I know my temper is nasty but I do not lie, even when I know it would be easier to do  than tell the truth.

 

“Jackie, I know I did. I know I broke my promise about cheating, and we can talk about that later but you can’t possibly think I would keep secret about this. I have to Doll Face. Now come on, you need to come up stairs with me.”

 

She sits up and sighs heavily and starts walking upstairs with me. Leaving Eric still sitting on the couch, staring straight ahead.  She stops at the top, and I see her take a deep breath to steady herself. She looks back me and takes me hand and whispers so quietly that I almost can’t hear her

 

“Together?”

 

My eyes start to fill and I blink tears back and roughly say 

 

“Always Baby Doll, Always”

Chapter Text

Jackie- What Hurts the Most

 

Somewhere along the way I forgot that there is no fighting Steven. He is the most stubborn person I have ever met, and when he wants to protect someone, he is immovable. Even when he could barely stand to be in the same room as me, he was the first to defend me if Kelso went over the line. Being a friend of Steven Hyde’s is like walking around in a bubble in Point Place. You have an invisible force field around you that shouts,  “He will come for you.”  There is no standing against him when his need to protect is activated, and I need that stubbornness. I need it right now desperately, I need him to push me.

 

I can feel Hyde’s hand pressed tightly in my mine as I turn the knob into the kitchen, a place that has always been warm, inviting, and safe, but it is about to become a place that I will be stripped naked of my defenses. I tremble and stop, I can’t do it. Steven pulls me close for a minute, kisses my head and takes my place in front. He opens the door and guides us into the kitchen. I see Red, with a steaming cup of coffee with a Whiskey bottle standing next to it. 

 

“Jackie, sit down. Sounds like we have lots to talk about”, Mr. Forman says.

 

Steven drags me to the table and I start to sit in my own seat, but before I can he pulls me on his lap and wraps his strong arm around my waist. I don’t know if it is to keep me from bolting or to comfort me, I am guessing it is probably both. Mr. Forman slides a coffee mug at Steven and pours some whiskey in it and cracks,

 

“You tell Mrs. Forman, I made your coffee Irish, I will put my foot in your ass. Jackie, you need some of this?”

 

I shake my head, I just want to get this done and over with it, but how do you start telling people your life is a nightmare. How do you tell people who are so good that the people who gave you life are Monsters?

 

Steven tenses behind me and I think he senses my inability to know where to start, so he takes the lead

 

“Jacks, how long has this been going on?”

 

My eyes drop to the table, the utter shame of it fills me, and I sit mutely. You can’t undo a lifetime in silence in mere seconds. I notice Steven pressing my waist again, but this time Mr. Forman marches forward, he says it sternly but not harshly,

 

“Jackie, answer the question. I know this painful, but I’m going to need you to be the girl who works under the car with me. The girl, who is unstoppable, digs deep because I need to know and I need now.”

 

I take a deep breath and begin my tale of misery

 

“It has been happening on and off my whole life, he used to mainly hit my mom and ignore my presence. I can remember the first time I heard him hit her like it was just two hours ago”

 

She was six and hiding in her closet with her hands over her ears, she was tiny she could curl herself up into a ball and almost disappear in the dark closet. She would use this technique to hide for years to come, but tonight was the first time. She could hear her Mom and Dad screaming at each other, Her Dad calling her mom nasty names, her Mom saying,

 

 “Maybe if you ever came home, I wouldn’t need to find someone else to play with.”  

 

Then she had heard a slap and her mother sobbing and running up the stairs.”

 

Jackie came back to kitchen and said,

 

“He rarely hit me when I was young, because he had my mom to keep “in line” and I was such a Daddy’s girl, that I did anything to please him. I already knew that I needed to keep him happy, so I did everything to make sure he was never disappointed. 

 

When I hit Jr. High, and I started to like boys, he got a little more aggressive, but he still had his favorite target…. my mother. Then in the 8th grade, she left for the first time for a long period. She was gone for months, and nothing I could do made him happy, and he started to hit me regularly. My mom is home no more than a week at a time and it is always when my dad is gone, she times it perfectly.”

 

I sigh deeply in my heart, my mother leaving me to get hit, wounds me deeper than any punch I’ve ever received. It is a hurt that makes me want to curl up into a ball. My mom left me, she knows what is happening, and she does nothing to stop it. I’ve begged her to take me with her, and she always has an excuse. She will look at me and toss her hair and laugh that tinkling empty laugh and say

 

 It’s an adult trip

You have school

Your father simply can’t live without you

 

It is hard for me to think of the day I finally realized my mother didn't  give a damn. Who wants to come to the cold reality that your mother is fine with leaving you to be abused. She doesn’t want to get hit herself but she isn’t willing to do anything to interrupt her life style. Thinking of that night, makes me sick….

 

Mom, you have to take me with you. I’m scared of Daddy! He hits me just like he did you. Please don’t leave me again.”

 

“Jacqueline, I’m sure you are simply overreacting, I’m an adult, it’s my privilege to go on these trips.”

 

“HOW CAN YOU LEAVE ME? WHAT KIND OF MOTHER LEAVES HER CHILD WITH SOMEONE WHO HITS HER?”

 

She will remember for the rest of her life the expression on her mother's face, it was one of pure selfishness

 

‘Darling, if I take you with, he will come looking for me, and I am just not willing to do that. You are just going to have to figure it out like I did.”

 

Red pulls me back with another question “What happened that caused Steven to get involved?”

 

I burrow my face in Steven’s shoulder  “I can’t Steven. Please….”

 

Before Steven can even answer, Mr. Forman says, 

 

“Jackie, it’s enough. Tell me what the hell happened?”

 

I take a deep breath and know that I might be destroying Steven and I forever, even more than the nurse,

 

“I had been on a date with Steven, I forgot I was supposed to go with Daddy, to one of his social functions. I got confused about the date, I thought it was next week. When I came home, he was already there waiting for me. He pounced as soon as I walked in the door, screaming at me about, 

Embarrassing him and was I stupid?

Why couldn’t I even remember something as uncomplicated as the day of the week?

 

 He seemed to be calming down, but then he asked me where I was? I told him I was with Steven, and he threw me up against the wall. He started calling me a “slut like my mother.” That at least my mother had the good taste to whore around with people with money, I was being a whore to white trash. I saw his fist coming, and I turned my body, and he hit my shoulder. Then I ran upstairs and locked myself in my room.”

 

I feel Steven lay his head on my back,

 

 “Jackie, God I’m sorry. I’m so sorry” and that is when I watched Mr. Forman lose it for the first time in my life.

 

“STEVEN HYDE!” Mr. Forman shouted “You will not be sorry for a man who is a fucker. You are no more to blame than Jackie. I will not tolerate either of you thinking otherwise.”

 

I am stunned, I’ve heard Mr. Forman yell and I’ve heard him call us dumbasses, but this was something else. This was an unspeakable rage, and the fact is I knew, without a doubt he wouldn't hurt me. I didn’t even flinch. Because Mr. Forman is a good man, and I wish he was my dad.

 

Mr. Forman looks at me and says,  “Jackie, I want you to go lay down for a while and try to get some rest. I am going to call the police and let them know what is going on, so your father can’t report you as missing. You are going to have to this conversation again, and they will ask you tough questions. I think it is best if you try to get some sleep.”

 

I can only nod, I start to get up and feel wobbly. I am so tired. Before I can take another step, Steven picks me up in his arms and whispers,

 

“Let me take care of you this one last time… Please” 

 

I bury myself into his neck and reply softly 

 

“Okay”

 

He carries me upstairs, opens the door to Laurie’s room, and places me gently on the bed.

 

“Come on Jacks, get under the covers and close those eyes.”

 

I scoot back and slide under the comforter, I stare at him,

 

 “Lay with me. I need someone to hold me.”

 

I am pleaded with my eyes to understand that I mean him, that I need him. I want him to know that without asking, it’s him. There is more to me asking than what is going on with my dad. I silently pray he gets subtext.

 

His eyes are transfixed with mine, I see so many things swirling and true to form, he says nothing, but climbs into bed with me. He pulls me close and buries his head into my hair and whispers so softly that I almost didn’t hear him,

 

“I’m so sorry Jackie. For it all. I’m just so God Damn Sorry.”




Hyde- I need you to need me

 

“I’m so sorry Jackie. For it all. I’m just so God Damn Sorry.”

 

I feel her tense, and hear her start to talk but I cut her off quickly,

“No, Jackie. I need you to just listen. When we get through the rest of this shit, you can tell me whatever you want. I am asking you to promise to truly listen. Can you do that?”

 

Her voice carries in the dark room “Yes, I promise”

 

I close my eyes again, and bury my face deeper into her soft hair, even though there is no one else in the room, I just want her to hear it, no mistaking what I am saying,

 

“Baby, I can’t make up for it. Any of it. I never can. If I could go back in time and see everything again, I would. I would realize you are better than Eric, Kelso and so much better than me. I would have remembered you’ve never been the type of person to hurt someone you love. If I could go back, I would do anything to ask you about the bruises, to stop being an asshole and understand you do the same things I do to protect myself. Jackie, I’m sorry for all of it, and I know that is meaningless but I am…. I am so God Damn Sorry. I get blinded by the thing I want most,I want you to need me. I want to be the place you run… and seeing you with Eric kills me. I’m wrong Jackie, I am. I know it but baby…. It is hard for me to share you. I’m sorry for not knowing you enough to comprehend your heart. I’m sorry for not knowing you enough to save you.”

 

It is against my nature to share how I feel, but I feel like I at least owe her this, even if it makes me feel like my skin has been stripped bare. I feel her tense, I feel her take a breath and I squeeze her tight for a minute, and keep going

 

“No, Jackie, not tonight. I just need you to know how sorry I am, even if it fixes nothing. Close your eyes now.  I’ll help you fall asleep.”

 

I hear her give a heavy and frustrated sigh, but she says nothing. She does snuggle back closer and grab the arm that is around her and brings it closer to her chest. She takes my hand, and I feel her lay it flat against her skin. I can feel her heart beating, and then she says quietly

 

“It beats just for you”

 

My eyes immediately sting with tears, I’ve done nothing to deserve her. If I was a good guy, I would let her go and encourage her and Eric to be together.  Eric is a better man than I will ever be, but there is no way I can let her go.  I know she’s not currently mine anymore but I’m going to fight like hell to get her back and I will die before one more finger is laid on her.

 

I softly start singing Tiny Dancer to her while playing with her hair, she rolls over, lays hers head on my chest, so I can rub her back. I know that is what she wants, and I also know she wants to play with my hair, she says it puts her to sleep. I let her play, and continue to murmur the words to our song to her. I feel her body soften into mine, her hand falls away from my hair, and it rests on my neck. I feel a huge wave of exhaustion fall over me, and I tell myself I will only close my eyes for a few minutes, but before I know it I am with Jackie, gone from this world.

 

I don’t know if it was seconds, minutes, or hours but I bolt straight up when I hear the scariest voice I’ve ever heard in my life,

 

“You cross that doorstep, and it will be the last thing you ever do.”

 

I know that is Red Forman and I have a pretty good guess who he is talking to.

Chapter Text

 

Red- Tomorrow Always Comes

 

I watch morning approach, the sun starting to burn the dark away. I’ve done this many times in my life, watch the dark and light go to war for dominance. I find comfort in the certainty, no matter how stupid we are as humans nothing stops the next day from coming. The only thing that stops the sun from bring the future is death, but even that doesn't  keep it from coming for others. I know all about death, I’ve watched it, fought it, and caused it. It does something to you, taking a life, even when it is to protect yourself, your buddy or your way of life. It marks you, ever life you take strips a bit of your soul. I would never say it out loud, but humans are not meant to kill each other, it damages us. I know it damaged me, not that I was ever  innocent or carefree, but what idealism I had was lost in Korea. That is why I can sit here with stillness and patience waiting for the enemy to come to me. I know that he will come. He will demand, command and try to push his way into my house, but Jack Burkhart is no match for someone who has seen the worst that humanity can offer.I know what is coming, this a man who will throw his influence in my face, yelling

 

 “ Don’t I know who he is? Don’t I know he can own my house? My Job? if I don’t give him what he wants” 

 

Men like Jack don’t understand that men like me don’t give a fuck. He can take nothing from me because I’m not scared to die to protect what I love. There is nothing like war to help you evaluate what is important and a tiny brunette upstairs, crying herself to sleep, is important to three men in this house. He can't take what I view as precious.  The dumb asses believe I don’t know what is going on in my own home. Their youthful obliviousness allows them to live in assured confidence that their actions pass unnoticed. They really are a bunch of idiots sometimes, because  I know that…

 

Eric loves Donna but is in love with Jackie

 

Jackie loves Eric but is in love with Steven

 

Steven is over the cliff, madly in love with Jackie, and it drives him to rash decisions

 

I also know that Steven is more like me than my own son. He has battled abuse, struggled to survive on his own, and he understands too young the world just doesn't give a damn. I watched his eyes tonight, he is the one I am worried about the most, I’ve got to keep him on the leash. He will strike out to hurt who has ever hurt Jackie, even if it means hurting himself. I know about the nurse, I know why Steven did it, and I know he sliced he Jackie in half. When this is settled, him and I are going to talk about it.  I love the Loud One, and I am less than pleased he has fucked up. 

 

I sit here watching the clock, letting my fury for a man abusing his child and wife keep my blood blistering, nerves sharp, and my body wide awake. I called the Point Place PD to be here at 8:00 AM, but I know he will come earlier, he won’t be able to  help himself. He won’t go and report her missing right away, he won’t want to be embarrassed. This is a battle, in an obscene war, and I consider myself an expert in warfare. What does a man like Jack know about battle when it counts? I am not disappointed when there is a pounding on my front door.

 

I feel my lip snarl, that familiar black rage curl up into my brain, and the desire to fight come to life in my fists. Steven would laugh, but he has nothing on me when it comes to what he calls “Zen”  life has taught me how to be unreadable, which is what you want when you face your opponent.

 

I open my door casually and with my trademark rudeness I bark out,

 

 “What do you want? It is awfully early for a visit. I thought you rich people had better manners.”

 

This is why I understand Steven so well, I was Steven. I know what is to goad your enemy, to push them for sport, to watch their hate flame to life while you just grin.

 

Jack Burkart studied the man in front of him. He hated Red Forman. He hated everything about him. He hated that everyone in town knew him, respected him, and was cautiously fearful of the man. He didn’t have money, he didn’t have status, he was virtually a nobody, but Red Forman’s shadow was one that commanded respect.  Jack hated that Red didn’t have to bully, bribe, or threaten to get his way. He stared at the man in front of him who shouldn’t strike fear in anyone, least of all him, but there was no denying his mere presence struck a cord of discomfort.

 

“I want my daughter. That rabble you keep in your basement, must have her. I want Jackie up here and I want her now.” he snarled with impatience.

 

If this wasn’t so serious, I would have fun with this bastard but I have a tiny loud mouth upstairs to protect, so I waste no time

 

“No.”

 

This one word was not something Jack Burkart was used to hearing, a matter of fact that simple two letter word, enraged him more than anything. He didn’t like to be denied, and a harsh "no" from this man infuriated him,

 

“What do you mean no? Go get her now. I didn’t give her permission to whore around all night with a piece of trash. She’s my daughter, she belongs to me, and I want her now.”

 

I know what he is going to do, he thinks he is going to push into my home, well this jack ass thinks wrong, he is the one who has no idea who he is fucking with,

 

“You cross that doorstep, and it will be the last thing you ever do.”

 

I watch his face pale. I can’t help but get a sick satisfaction from it. This man hits women, and he needs to be reminded what it is like to pick on someone who can fight back.

 

Good sense in moments of temper is not Jack’s strong point, and for a minute he forgets he isn’t dealing with a 16-year old girl or the willowy woman he calls his wife,

 

“Who do you think you are?” he growls out as he tries to push by me, it’s all I need to let the monster out I push him heavily out into the yard, 

 

“Who do I think you are? I think you are the mother fucker who hits his wife and child.”

 

 I push again harder this time, he stumbles and I’m on him in an instant. I grab him by the neck and slam him up against his car, I continue telling him who I think he is,

 

 “I KNOW you are someone who picks on people who can’t fight you back. You wanna fight Jack, fight me, because the fucking world is going to end before you touch your daughter again.”

 

I lift my fist, to start pounding the shit out of this bastard when I hear,

 

“Holy Shit! Red!” 

 

Jack, nearly choking on fury, embarrassment, and fear of this man who has nailed up against the car, looks over his shoulder to see the boy who his worthless daughter can’t seem to get enough of and gasps out, 

 

“Oh look it's the piece of trash my daughter is spreading her legs for.” 

 

I hear Steven growl behind me, and I know this is about to get seven different shades of ugly.

Chapter Text

Everyone

“Somewhere along the way everything got fucking out of control”

 

Hyde

I tried hard to stay out of it. I did. I swear, I did. Red warned me that losing my cool would help no one, least of all Jackie, but when I heard Red’s voice harsh and unyielding say

 

“You cross that doorstep, and it will be the last thing you ever do.”

 

I figured I should go to the top of the stairs to keep an eye on things. What if Red needed back up? This was a mistake, I am apparently incapable of keeping my Zen when Jackie is involved. I know this, she has been causing me to lose my mind for years, I don’t know why I thought this time would be different. Things were heating up between Jack and Red it was bad ass listening to Red slice the bastard to ribbons. I tensed when Mr. Burkart attempted to move around Red, I was instantly ready to fight because if that bastard thought he was getting near Jackie, then he had another thing coming to him. I shouldn’t have doubted Red, because he shoved him heavily into the yard. I pounded down the stairs, so I could continue to watch, this was another gigantic error. Listening to that son of a bitch call me trash, barely made a dent. I can handle his predictable diatribe of 

 

Rabble (who, the fuck says that, pretentious bastard)

 

Trash, nothing I haven’t heard before even though it pisses me off. 

 

I sense my control to start to break when he calls Jackie a whore. Even stupid pissed off about the Eric/Nurse situation, I would never dream of calling her such a terrible name. 

 

Then that Mother Fucker notices me hovering in the doorway and says something about Jackie that causes the worst part of me to come flying to life. I hear him snarl

 

“Oh look it's the piece of trash my daughter is spreading her legs for.” 

 

I was out the door in a second, somewhere in the back of my mind a microscopic voice whispered, “Red is going to kick your ass” 

 

I don’t listen to that voice, and that explosive rage Eric and I got in a fight about earlier takes me over.

 

“What the Fuck did you just say about Jackie?”

 

I charge at Jackie’s father. That bastard is going to understand how much it hurts to get beat. 




Eric

I am beyond exhausted. I’ve been sitting down here in the basement trying to understand my place in this drama. I’ve been frozen since Hyde took Jackie upstairs. The part of me that is her best friend wants to be up there with her, comforting her, but there is a part of me, a part I am ashamed of that simply can’t cope with it. What can I possibly say to her? 

 

“I’m sorry my whole life has been untroubled, so I never noticed anything was up with you?”

 

or 

 

“I’m not comfortable having that nightmare in my head even though you actually live it?”

 

My friends have teased me about being weak and bolting at the first sign of trouble, but it was always in jest, but sadly they are correct. Here I sit immobilized by the terrible reality of Jackie’s life. A deep shame pierces me that I am jealous of Hyde being able to step in and know exactly what to do. We both hoard our roles with Jackie, if I can’t love her out loud, then at least I have the best friend card. Now he has taken the only thing I have with her, by stepping in and being her shoulder. The worst part is, I'm more focused on him taking my place in a crisis than her getting abused. If there is a Best Friend Hell, I am going there for sucking so much.

 

I hear my dad yelling at Jack Burkhart, I guess showtime has arrived. This whole night, I have had no assigned role in this drama but something tells me to get up and figure it out. I am confident it is my deep knowledge and years of experience of watching Hyde lose his shit, that tells me he won’t hold it together.

 

I trudge out the side basement door ready to head up the stairs. I hear my dad and Mr. Burkhart exchanging heated words. Words that are vile and obscene, words about Jackie that make my stomach sick. 

 

What type of dad calls his daughter a whore? I quicken my pace, I can mentally visualize my oldest friend’s face before he explodes, and then I hear

 

“Oh look it's the piece of trash my daughter is spreading her legs for.” 

 

I start to run



Jackie

 I am mostly still sleeping, but my body knows something is missing. Whatever it is has caused me to begin to wake. My eyes blink against the morning light that is dancing through the curtains. A soft breeze is coming in from the window, and lightly tickling my face which causes me to absently think to myself “It is going to be a beautiful day” 

I roll over to find what has caused me to leave the escape that is dreaming, Steven is gone. I close my eyes again, and think of him holding me. His eyes dark and full of regret, him asking me

 

“Let me take care of you one last time.”



I start to cry, I don’t want it to be the last time. I want him to take care of me forever. I want to care of his stubborn, jump to conclusions, loses his shit ass forever. Why did he have to screw it up? Damn him to hell……

 

Damn him for not trusting me

 

Damn him for not knowing my heart

 

Damn him for screwing that nurse

 

Damn him for making me want forget what he did

 

Damn him for being the only man I’ve ever wanted and loved

 

I squeeze my eyes shut, and try to clear my head. I have bigger problems right now than Steven being stupid with jealousy. I need to concentrate on the fact that my father is going to come for me. I need to focus on the possibility of being homeless after today. I am desperate to fall back into sleep, where my world was lighter. This is impossible due to voices starting to rise. I would know the harsh imperious voice anywhere, it is my father, who is furious. He is loud enough, that his words carry up through the open window. I can hear Mr. Forman’s voice getting sharp with a dagger of a statement

 

“You cross that doorstep, and it will be the last thing you ever do.”

 

I experience a moment of warmth knowing he wants to protect him. The voices become clearer, I realize they are in the yard. I hear things that make me want to crawl in a hole and die, but part of me wants to roll my eyes, my father is so predictable.



“I want my daughter. That rabble you keep in your basement, must have her. I want Jackie up here and I want her now.”

 

 Of course, he is going to start with insulting Steven, he must make sure everyone knows the Burkharts are the best.

 

I know what is coming next, I’ve heard him yell it at my mother my whole life, I am confident he is going to call me a whore.

 

“What do you mean no? Go get her now. I didn’t give her permission to whore around all night with a piece of trash. She’s my daughter, she belongs to me, and I want her now.”

 

I bitterly chuckle in my head “Right on time Dad, I’m a whore and Steven’s trash.”

 

What I didn’t expect was “Oh look it's the piece of trash my daughter is spreading her legs for.”

 

I knew as soon as it floated to my ears what was coming next

 

“What the Fuck did you just say about Jackie?”

 

As I jump out of bed to rush down the stairs, I hear Eric and Red scream simultaneously

 

“Hyde don’t”









Chapter Text

Donna

Somewhere along the way, I think I missed something because I wasn’t excepting to be woken up at 6:30 AM by swearing, screaming, and the sounds of a complete brawl from the Forman’s house. 

I thought I was dreaming when I first heard the yell. I sat straight up in bed to the unmistakable screech of Jackie. It is a sound that could be heard in space, though admittedly I never expected that screech to be followed by

 

“STEVEN NO! MR. FORMAN STOP! ERIC WATCH OUT!”

 

Hearing “Eric Watch Out” causes me to jump up out of bed and in my confusion I do a lap around my room. I have a weird thought as I shoot down the hallway of my house. I don’t know why, but I think to myself “Jackie is going to have a cow if she seems me in these ratty PJs”

 

I’m out the door, rounding the corner, just in time to watch Mrs. Forman turn the hose on a bundle of men beating the crap out of each other, with a horrified Jackie looking on.

 

Yeah,…. I’m certain I missed something

 

Eric

 

My heart is pounding as I run to my front yard, excepting the absolute worst case scenario. I stutter to a stop to discover Hyde running at Mr. Burkhart like a mad man. I know this Hyde, this version of Hyde has lost his mind and is a match for no one. I can see my dad’s face go white, and for a minute my father and I are on the same page, and we both yell

 

“Hyde Don’t”

 

I don’t know what made me think that was going to work, but it was all I had at the moment. Some part of me was remembering that I’ve witnessed Jackie yell at Hyde to “stop” a couple of times when guys were trying to mess with her, and it was like her voice could break through the spell. I’m fairly sure that I don’t have the same power, neither does my dad because Hyde is like a train off its track. I watch my dad put himself between Hyde and Mr. Burkart. I know what he is trying to do, the goal is putting the asshole in jail for hurting Jackie, not for Hyde to go to prison for beating him to death. 

 

I’m rushing forward to help my dad get Hyde under control, when Burkhart shoves my dad forcefully from behind which causes him to fall forward into Hyde. He steps around them, and is moving towards the front door, where Jackie is standing frozen. I know instantly what he is going to try to do, he is going to grab Jackie. For the first time in my life, I take instant action. I’ve let Jackie down in so many ways, but I’m not going to this time. I run like a bat out of hell, and tackle Mr. Burkhart from behind. I had the assumption that because he hits women, he wasn’t that tough. I’m 100% percent wrong, he punches me violently in the face. I hear my dad yell 

 

“Did you just hit my son?” followed by “You are going down you Mother Fucker!” from Hyde.

 

Our front yard has become an episode of WWF wrestling, all three of us a clump of fists and elbows. I lost complete track of what was going on, the primal need to positively hurt someone has overtaken me. That was until all of a sudden a powerful stream of sharp, icy water hits my face.

 

I fall off the pack of dueling flesh to see my mother hosing us down, a crying Jackie wrapped in the arms of Donna who looks shocked.

 

For a minute I am disorientated, that is until I see Jackie falling back hard on the ground. My last rational thought before jumping back into the fight is

 

“I hope my mom has the hose ready.”

 

Kitty

I wake to absolute chaos, my front yard is an explosion of swearing. I look out my bedroom window to see my husband, my son, the boy I call my son….. and….. is that Jackie’s Dad? rolling around like children, having a schoolyard fight. I grab my robe, scramble down the stairs, fly outside to find Jackie standing there in complete shock. I sigh, and think to myself “I don’t know what the heck is going on, but acting like children in the sandbox isn’t the answer.”

 

First, I try to yell at my husband “Reginald John Forman, you stop it right now.” The man doesn’t even pop his head up. I roll my eyes, I’m not the least bit surprised. I met the man after he punched someone out for me. You would never know it anymore, but the man loves a fight.

 

I have faith that Eric will have common sense and listen to his mother, “Eric Forman, stop it. You come here” nope, not even a blink in my direction. I’ve never witnessed Eric like this, he is a mirror image at this moment of his father. 

 

I know it’s a long shot but Steven has always been a good boy, and has a soft spot for me. 

“Steven! You stop it” I am briefly pleased when I see his head pop up for a second. Then his eyes shoot quickly to Jackie, and he is back in the game.

 

I do the only thing you can when you have a group of idiots  fighting on your lawn. I turn on the hose, and spray them down.

 

It is hysterical, they fly apart from the shock. All of them wet, sputtering, and completely disorientated to what is going on. I want to laugh, because leave it to a woman to take care of a problem. 

 

I am just about to ask what the heck is going on, when I notice Jackie moving towards Steven almost like she is in a trance. The person she loves his hurt, and she can’t help herself from going  to  him. Steven is bleeding profusely from a cut by his eye, I can tell it's mostly bluster, but to the untrained eye it looks like he is dying.

 

She kneels down beside him, completely ignoring that her father has been beaten to a bloody pulp. I watch her start to reach for Steven when her father grabs her hard and pulls her away. Steven’s face goes black, and he dives at Jack Burkhart. 

 

Jackie falls back heavily on her wrist, and a soft cry escapes her lips. I hear Donna next to me say “Oh Shit” 

 

I want to tell her not to use that language but as I watch my husband and son jump back into the fight only to be followed up by the piercing sounds of a police car flying up in front of our house, I guess her language is perfectly appropriate. 

 

I close my eyes as the cops start to break them up and I  mutter “Oh Shit” right along with Donna.



Chapter Text

Hyde

Somewhere along the way in my life, I always thought I would end up in jail. I never had much hope I wouldn’t fuck up and spend my life in a cage. I never in a million years thought I would be sitting behind bars with Red and Eric Forman. Better yet, next door in the other cell is Jackie’s bastard father, having a fit no one cares who the hell he is. If this wasn’t so fucked up, I would be laughing my ass off, because waiting with Red Forman to get bailed out is a trip. Both Eric and I keep making eye contact, but not saying a damn word, because I wasn’t the least bit scared of the dillhole next door to us, Red is a different story. Crashing waves of pissed are slamming over his face, each pushing him closer to losing his shit on us. 

 

I am both sorry and unapologetic simultaneously for the confrontation descending into madness. I’m sorry that I landed us here by going after that dick that Jackie calls Daddy, but I’m not sorry he got to experience what it is like to have someone stronger and meaner kick the living shit out of him. 

 

I watch Red get up and start to pace. I know it is a cliche, but he looks like a tiger at the zoo. I’ve always found the big cats at zoos fascinating, particularly tigers. They are beautiful but the perfect predator, just waiting to put to use the skills that nature gave them. That is what Red looks like at this particular moment, and Eric and I are in the same cage. It is both terrifying and inspiring at the same time. I’m waiting to get my ass chewed, I’m waiting for him to tell me I fucked up royally and all I have done is make things worse for Jackie.

 

Jackie

 

Simply thinking her name makes me close my eyes and let my head fall back to rest on the gray concrete wall. Her name inspires a million things inside of me,

 

How fiercely I love her

 

How loving her has caused me to lose my everlasting mind

 

That I’m the biggest idiot in the country for cheating on her

 

That I’m not sorry I punched the hell out of her dad

 

Her face when she kneeled down next to me, her love for me just burning out of her

 

The sheer panic that crossed her face when her dad grabbed her

 

That recollection brings the black back up and before I know it I jump up and start yelling

 

“I’m not sorry I hit him. I’m not sorry he got the beat down of his life. I don’t have one fucking part of me that wouldn’t do it again. I know I shouldn't have done it. I know I should have left it to the cops, but just once I wanted him to be held accountable by him getting what he deserves, not what the fucked up justice system that can be bought dishes out. I am sorry that you two are in here with me, and that you are in trouble because I couldn’t keep it together, but I wouldn’t take back one punch, so if you want to kick my ass Red, then do it but I’ll never be sorry.”

Red comes to a dead stop, both him and Eric stare at me like they recently realized they were in a jail cell with a crazy person. Red’s eyes are mixed with understanding and anger 

 

“Sit down and shut up you, dumb ass, I will deal with you and your idiot sidekick, I call my son later. I have to think about what we are going to do next, now that assault charges are likely coming our way.”

Anyone who knows me would have laughed if they had witnessed me, drop back down on the bench like a 5-year old told by his teacher to take a seat. Red is the only person on earth that strikes fear in my heart other than a 95 pound pixie who has no idea how scared of her I am.

 

 I’m so damn tired of fucking up, I wonder if there ever will be a time, I will think before I lose it. There are times I have my temper and feelings leashed, but when it comes to her, I feel out of control. I hate that, I hate she has power over my emotions. The last time someone had that type of power over me, they abused me. It is my instinct to push back against anything that will hurt me, and my greatest fear is I will let Jackie in, and she will crush me. I don’t know that she hasn't already. I don’t know that I can live without her.

 

My private musings are interrupted by Forman, who stuns me speechless as he begins to mutter quietly to me so Red doesn’t hear him

“I'm never going to have you in a place that you can't walk away again, so I'm using this jail cell to tell you something that needs to be said.  She loves you Hyde, she has since we were in junior high school. When a girl is your best friend, you hear about every crush, heartbreak, and about the cute boy in gym class. I’ve been Jackie’s secret keeper for years. She never told me a word about the abuse but the desires of her heart, I’ve heard them all. You are all she has ever wanted, Kelso, he was a placeholder for you. You were never Kelso’s replacement, he was yours. She cried for two weeks after Prom, she desperately wanted you to ask her out, but she knew you didn’t like her. Every tear about him cheating on her was sincere, but what hurt Jackie most was your complete disdain for her. Do you know how many times she has asked me 

 

“Why doesn’t he like me?”

 

I was pissed you guys hooked up because I was confident at some point you would crush her heart. You two are like opposing forces in the area of emotions, Jackie is desperate for someone to love her best, and you don’t trust anyone even when you have people who love you without reservation. I know there is a lot more to say between us, between you and her, but I want you to think about one thing, when we were all laying there wet and bleeding she didn’t run to me. She came straight to you without hesitation. You need to hear it Hyde, although I don’t think you deserve it, she is always going to pick you. She’s been picking you for years, you just never bothered to notice.”

 

I watch Eric get up and walk across the room and plop down on the bench. He allows his head to sink into his hands. I regret I am at odds with a friend I call a brother. However, he is right, we still have things to work out, things I’ve done, things he has done, and how both wreaked havoc on Jackie. Despite that, I can’t but smile a little at his last comment

 

“She’s been picking you for years.”

 

My smile slips when a cop comes and takes Jack out of his cell, the prick yelling the whole time 

 

“It is about time I was released from this dump, I want my lawyer! I will be pressing charges. I was attacked just trying to pick up my daughter, who I might add was kidnapped by the scummy one. I will expect that to be addressed as well. A man should be able to come looking for his daughter and not be brutally assaulted.”

 

I’m up off in the bench, heading to the bars to remind that son of a bitch exactly why I beat the hell out of him. Red is in front of me in the matter of seconds and slams me back down on the bench.

 

“You move Steven, you won’t have to worry about what the cops will do to you, because I’m going to put my foot so far up your ass, they won’t have anything left to question.”

 

Before I can answer or Red can continue to threaten me, the world takes a spin in the opposite direction

 

“Mr. Burkhart, you aren’t being released, charges have been filed against you for abuse and assault. We need to question you, your lawyer will be here soon.” The nameless officer says with a voice of weariness.

 

I can see Jackie’s dad getting ready to explode. I silently pray he will lose it, and pop the cop in the face, but I get something even better. 

 

“You are going to believe these assholes who attacked me and kidnapped my daughter over me? A City Councilman?”

 

I watch through the bars an expression of pleasure cross the face of the cop, a look of he knows he is about to drop a bomb

 

“Perhaps not them, but they didn’t ask for charges to be brought against you, your daughter did.”

 

I quietly sigh “That’s my girl”

 

Jackie

 

I find myself to be a weird contradiction. Most people would tell you that I am a whirlwind when I am pissed or that I can be ruthless. Both of those terms would be a fair assessment, I can be lethal when hurt or angry. I’ve stood up to bullies, I’ve kicked every one of those jack asses in the basement until they yelped in pain, and I’ve eviscerated backstabbing bitches who I call my fellow cheerleaders. Every one of these factors is who I am down to my core, so I ask myself frequently why I let myself be abused? Why didn’t I do something to escape? Where was the girl who took shit from no one?

 

I don’t have the answer, except that when it is your parent it is a deep manipulation of your mind. Your parents are supposed to love you best, they are supposed to protect you, take care of you and be there for you. Merely the neglect of being left unnoticed and being left with nannies or maids messed me up. Easy by the time I was 10, I thought I was doing something wrong, and that is why my parents were never around. I have perfect grades, I’m the most popular girl in school, and I never look anything but my best. All that, was for no other reason than I wanted my parents to love me enough to stay home. 

 

Abuse isn’t just physical and I’ve learned along the way it does not start with the punch. It begins with breaking down your spirit, and causes you to question if you deserve it. For me, it was sheer embarrassment and humiliation. Because I’ve never been able to let go of the little girl who wanted her parents home for Christmas. I didn’t want to admit my parents not only didn’t love me enough to be around, but both my parents abused me. My father with his fists, and my mother’s utter neglect. 

 

However, as I sit in the waiting room of the Point Police Department, what my parents, Kelso, Donna, Eric, and even Steven forget, is that I should not be underestimated. I knew if one day I had to fight my parents on this subject, I would need something that would shut my father down before he got his chance to spin his bullshit story. I have always known when it all finally came out, I would have to act  before he used the Burkart charm. I use it all the time, it makes people give me what I want. It keeps them at arm's length because truth is intimate and my truth hurts. 

 

So I sit here with three leather bound books, that I am confident will save me, but more importantly it will save the people who are truly my family. I won’t let him hurt them, he is about to find out how much I am his daughter in every fucking way.

 

Jack Burkhart

 

Somewhere along the way my daughter decided middle class trash was more important than her family. I always thought Jackie had a chance to be more than her slut mother, she has always been so mindful of being proper and making sure she represented herself in a manner befitting the Burkhart name. I can’t believe I am sitting in an interrogation room, my handcuffed being asked questions about hitting my child. I don’t understand how it is any of their damn business how I manage my family. I am concerned about one thing, the police appeared to have precise questions about hitting Jackie and her fucking mother. They can give details on events that happened years ago, there is no way Jackie could remember some of those things clearly with so much depth. If that worthless child is helping them, the repercussions will be painful for embarrassing me like this. If she thinks I won’t destroy that piece of trash boyfriend of hers for beating me up, then she is as stupid as her mother. She will pay for pressing charges against me. Who the hell does that child think she is? 

 

The door opens, I’m ready for another round with these local idiots who think because they have a badge they can do something to me. Surprise catches me when my daughter walks in. I can’t help but briefly admire how beautiful she is, and how much potential she wastes. It infuriates me, that she doesn't properly appreciate what has been given to her.

 

“Jacqueline I don’t who you think you are, but you will pay for this embarrassment. You will go back in there and tell them you lied, or you will suffer serious consequences.” 

 

I watch her face go hard, and her tone is one I recognize, it’s "my don’t fuck with me" voice

 

“I know exactly who I am, I am Jack Burkhart’s daughter, which means you always plan ahead. Isn’t that what you taught me when I was little? Always have a way out of a bad deal, while I have my out.”

 

I smirk “You think you telling them I hit you will save you from going home with me. All, I have to say to them is you are a spoiled brat having a fit. Who do you think they will believe?”

 

Her face becomes triumphant, I can see myself in her at this moment, and it causes me to get nervous

 

“Oh Daddy, do you think I am that stupid? I have years of journals in vivid detail of what you did to mom and I. Everyone single one dated, even down to the time, besides Daddy I have this.”

 

She raises a leather bound book, I know what it is immediately and if it wasn’t something that would destroy me, I would be proud of how ruthless my daughter is.

 

“I know what this is, Daddy, It is a record of every dollar you ever stole and where you filtered it to clean the money up. I won’t save you from abusing me, you are going down for that but if you want to stay out of Federal prison for money laundering you will shut your mouth and not press even a whisper of a charge against Steven and the Formans.”

 

She is my daughter down to her tippy toes, she knows she won, and she is going in for the kill, and she is doing it with not only glee but leverage to save what matters most to her. 

 

“I can’t believe you would do this to me, your own father.”

 

Her eyes spark “I can’t believe you think abusing your daughter is okay, if you didn’t want me to be like this, then you should have raised me different. Because, I am Jack Burkhart’s daughter and if you don’t think I won’t destroy you, then you underestimate how much what you have done to me, shaped who I am.” 

 

I watch her turn and walk out. I know I am screwed because she won't hesitate to win and you know how I know, because I wouldn't and after all she is my daughter.

Chapter Text

Eric

 

Well, I can say in all honesty that I’m not shocked to be in a jail cell with Hyde. Been there, done that, always figured, there would be a repeat at some point, but in no world did I ever think I would be sitting here with my dad and Hyde. I can’t keep my eyes off Hyde and my dad, they are having their own little jail house melodrama. Hyde is sitting on one of the benches with his arms crossed with my father standing directly in front of him. My dad hasn’t moved since he slammed Hyde back down when he tried to go through the bars at Mr. Burkhart. Every time Hyde tries to get up, my dad pushes him down and says,

 

 “You keep your ass on the bench, or I’m ending you.”

 

If I had known all I needed was my dad to keep Hyde in line when he was off the leash, I would have called him in years ago. I’ve never seen anyone put Hyde in his place so effortless. Leave it to Red to be the guy who can do it. 

 

I’m not unsympathetic to Hyde’s cause at the moment. It’s been strained since the cop said Jackie was pressing charges. Every tick of the clock, without the return of Burkhart to his cell, sharpens the tension. The worst, is the unspoken worry that might as well be screaming in the bitter silence. Everyone of us is thinking about Jackie, I can see it vibrating off of Hyde, Red keeps glancing out of the corner of his eye at the door;  and I am twisted up. She’s my best friend and the secret love of my fucking life, I’m entitled to give a damn about where she is. I stare at Hyde, a wealth of bitterness clouds my heart. I don’t understand why he imagines he is the only who gets to care and worry about her. 

 

I’ve never met someone as possessive as Hyde. If he claims you in some fashion, then his claim on you trumps anything else. The minute Hyde and Jackie crossed the line, in his mind their relationship stood above anyone else’s with her. I know he doesn't do it on purpose, I KNOW it is years of instinct to protect what is his, but right now it is bleach on a fresh wound. 

 

I care about Jackie, no matter how I feel about her in the deepest part of my heart, she is my best friend. I just want her to be okay, and I want this to be over. I desperately want to be back on an even playing field with Hyde, despite being bitter at him. I can’t deal with him hating me. I close my eyes, feeling every ache in my body. I’m not Hyde, getting into a fight is a new experience and I hurt like hell. The voice of an agitated cop wakes me from my thoughts,

 

“You three are free to go. I suggest the next time you three call the police instead of starting a brawl. You are lucky charges were not pressed, I have a feeling they would have stuck. Get your stuff from the front desk. There is a slew of people waiting for you, I don’t know who the brown haired one belongs to, but she sure has a mouth on her.”

 

I watch Hyde get up and move by the cop, he mutters to him

 

“She doesn’t belong to anyone anymore.”

Hyde

My heart is beating like crazy. I just need to see her, I need to see that she is okay. I desperately want to know what is going on. She pressed charges? What does that mean? If her dad is in jail where will she live? Will he get out on bail?  That last thought, causes my heart to beat faster. If he is out then he is a danger to my Doll. My breath gets shallow, any calm I had achieved while sitting in that stupid cell is gone. What if he hurts her? My thoughts are scattered when I experience a smack up against the back of my head.

 

“Calm the hell down dumb ass. You being a wreck won’t help anything.” Red barks. 

 

Apparently, I am not the king of Zen at the moment. I don’t know how I could possibly be, I lost my ability to be rational, the day freaking Jackie Burkhart walked into my life. Nothing and no one cracks my Zen like Jackie. 

 

I reach the door leading out of the jail, into the family or whoever the hell is bailing you out area, to find Mrs. Forman, Donna, but no Jackie. I didn’t realize that I had stopped in the doorway, 

 

“Keep moving Dumb Ass, I want my coffee, my paper, and some fucking sleep.” Red mutters from behind me.

 

I step further out and I look Donna straight in the eyes, she looks away immediately. She knows what I am asking, and now my heart is in my throat. I turn back to look at Forman who is also scanning the area for the brunette we are both in love with. I’m about to ask where the hell she is when Red beats me to it,

 

“Where’s the Loud One? She still talking to the cops?”

 

Mrs. Forman looks at all of us and then looks away, “No, she called Kelso to come pick her up, he just left with her.”

 

At the exact same time Forman and I yell “Kelso!”




The Princess and The Idiot

 

Kelso

Somewhere along the way Jackie because something in my life that was necessary. I think people would be surprised to know that Jackie and I are actually good friends, when I’m not screwing around on her, and she isn’t driving me nuts. There is just something about Jackie when it is just you and her, you feel like the damn sun is focused on you and only you. Public Jackie and Private Jackie are completely different entities, and what is even cooler is each person has their own version of Private Jackie. That is why I am so pissed at Hyde, I love my Private Jackie and I never in a million years thought I might have to give it up. I figured she would always be there. I mean Jackie and Kelso, Kelso and Jackie, it is weird to me to not think about our names not together in a sentence. What did surprise me is when she called me from the Point Place Police Department and asked me to come get her.  I don’t usually put in the same sentence “Jackie and the Police”, that is unless she is bailing me out because I’m an idiot and I got busted.

 

I’m not entirely sure what the hell is going on, but she asked me to come. I got there, and Donna and Mrs. Forman are standing next to Jackie like they might shank someone if they got too close to her.

 

He had gone into the Police Department to get Jackie. He had no idea what to expect or why she would call him. He knew he wasn’t first choice, even when they were dating. If she had been in trouble she would have called Eric, and strangely even though they claimed to hate each other she would have called Hyde second. He had always been weirdly protective of Jackie, and she had always gone to him when he had pissed her off. They had a bizarre relationship pre getting together, so it did cause worry that she was calling him.

 

He pulled open the doors and there he found them, Donna, Mrs. Forman and a distraught Jackie. To say that Donna and Mrs. Forman were surprised to see him would be an understatement.

 

Donna had raised her eyebrows, shock filling her eyes “What the hell Kelso? Why are you here?”

 

No matter the situation he was still a smart ass, “Why are you here?’

 

Before the banter continued, Jackie stopped it cold “I called him to come and get me. Michael, can we just go. I’ll explain later.”

 

He had instinctively grabbed her hand, and began to pull her out. For once, he caught the seriousness of the moment. Jackie was shaking, all sorts of emotions crossing her face, he had never seen her so close to falling apart. 

 

As he pulled her away, Donna had grabbed Jackie by her hand, and whispered harshly,

 

“What are you doing? Eric, Mr. Forman, and Hyde are going to be out any minute. They are going to want to know what is going on with you. You can’t just go.”

 

Something flashed across Jackie, it was dark and it was fierce, she wasn’t having it.

 

“Yes, I can. I can go where ever I want.” 

 

She had looked at him and said, “Please Michael, let’s just go” and for the lack of a better plan, he drove to the water tower .

 

They had been sitting silently for a long time, and as much he didn’t want to mess with her when she was agitated, he thought perhaps he should push a little.

 

“Come on Jackie, talk to me. You called me to pick you up at the Cop Shop, with our friends in a cell, Mrs. Forman and Donna looking freaked out, and you looking ready to shatter. What the hell is going on?”

 

She looks up at me, and I remember why I fell so hard for her. Those eyes, enormous, trembling, and full of something. I’ve never been able to read Jackie, it’s the mystery of those eyes for me. I want to know the something, find it, or be turned on by it. One single tear falls, there is nothing more heartbreaking than one tear falling down a woman's cheek, I think to myself.

 

“Michael, I just need you to listen. I don’t need you to save me or even talk. Can you do that?”

 

I shake my head yes, she grabs my hand fiercely,lays her head on my shoulder and tells me everything.

Her dad hitting her

Eric finding the bruise

Hyde, seeing Eric touching her back

Hyde cheating with a nurse 

Hyde forcing her to tell the truth

Red getting involved

Her dad coming for her

The brawl that led to everyone getting arrested, and finally her calling me, so she didn’t have to deal with the aftermath. 

 

I keep my promise, and don’t say a word, despite all the feelings I have about her getting hurt, me never knowing, and how miserable she is about Hyde fucking up. 

 

“Jackie, I’m going to say something. I promise it is not about your dad or the fight. For once, I’m not an idiot and I know you don’t want to talk about it with me, not really. That’s why you called me. You knew I wouldn’t push you, I’ve always given you what you wanted. This time won’t be any different but I need to say one thing.”

 

I watch her nod with permission, and I plow forward

 

“You love him, Jackie, more than you ever did me, even my stupid ass can comprehend that.  I don’t know when the change started, but you are the only I’ve ever seen him crack for.  He would never admit it to me but I would bet a million burns, he loves you. It doesn’t mean what he did was right, but Jackie, he won’t give up. You have two choices, you either need to tell him there is no way in hell you two will get back together or that you are willing to work on forgiving him. He won’t ever stop fighting for you, because I’m guessing you are the only person he has thought was worth fighting for. What we had Jackie, it wasn’t worth all the forgiveness you gave me. I didn’t deserve it and I didn’t deserve you, but Hyde does. More importantly, you deserve Hyde, a man who would beat the shit out of your dad, a guy who has gone to jail for you twice, and I guarantee is a wreck right now about where you are. It’s just my dumb opinion but I think you should forgive him.”

 

I feel tears hitting my shirt. I can’t help myself, I kiss the top of her head lightly, and whisper into the night 

“I’m sorry Jackie.”

 

She grabs my hand even harder, and with her voice cracking terribly, she whispers

 

“Thanks for coming to get me Michael.”

 

I close my eyes, lean my head on hers, and whisper my own absolute truth,

 

“I’ll always come and get you Jackie.”

 

I hear her sniff, take a steadying breath, and pull herself back in

 

“I think it is time for me to go back to the Forman’s”

Chapter Text

It’s been hours since Jackie left with Kelso. I can’t even begin to understand why she called that idiot to pick her up. I’m laying here on my cot, trying not to worry about her, and what it means she called for Kelso. No matter, how dumb he is sometimes, I know she is physically safe. Kelso would sooner die than let someone hurt Jackie, unless it is him screwing her over. Bitterness wells up inside of me, what position am I in anymore to judge Kelso? I did the exact same thing to her, I cheated. I hate it. I hate I am now on the same level as Kelso in Jackie’s mind. It actually makes me sick to think that we are comparable in any way, especially this one. Everything with Jackie’s dad has allowed me to push down what started the descent into this nightmare, and that is me being a fool. 

 

I close my eyes, and try to shake the image of her staring at me like every dream she had was dead. Now that I know Jackie’s dad is not anywhere he can hurt her, I can’t drown out the other screams in my heart, “You lost Jackie” and “Your best friend loves the same woman you love”

 

I sigh quietly to myself, he and Forman had not exchanged a word since the lobby of the Police Department, if you could even call yelling “Kelso” together speaking. I’m confident Forman is taking her running off with Kelso worse than I am. I could see it, he feels replaced. His place as Jackie’s soft place to land has always been concrete, and now there are cracks in the foundation. As soon as we walked into the kitchen, Mrs. Forman yelled at us, cleaned up our battle wounds, and then sent us to bed. I found it mortifying but it was extended to Red as well that took some of the sting out of it. I would bet my stash, Forman is upstairs having the same issue I am, he can’t stop thinking about Jackie. 

 

I continue to study the bleak gray walls of my current prison. I am pretty sure I know where Kelso and Jackie are, it’s the place we all go to think. I am confident they are at the water tower. I had thought about going there and…….. Do what?  I think to myself. I’ve lost the privilege to pull her out of Kelso’s arms into mine. She’s entitled to be wherever she wants and be with who she wants, and I don’t get a damn say in it. I also don’t want to push her anymore. I’ve backed her into a corner the last 24 hours in the name of her safety, so even though I hate it, I am going to leave her be. 

 

I don’t want to give her up. I refuse to give her up. I’m willing to do anything to get her back. She is worth fighting and working for. I fucked up, and I am going to fix it. The last 48 hours of distrust, broken hearts, fighting and loss is finally getting to me. My eyes start to give into the pure exhaustion that is my body and mind. My last thought before the minimal peace that comes with sleep is “Be safe Doll, I love you.”



My eyes fly open, it could have been seconds, minutes or hours, it is hard to tell when you sleep in a room with no windows. I’m not sure what woke me up, but then I roll to my side to see Jackie staring at me in the dark. I’m confused, I’m not sure that I might not be dreaming,

 

“Jackie? Baby is that you?”

 

She nods and then softly says “I know we aren’t together anymore, but will you just hold me?”

 

My heart shatters at the statement “I know we aren’t together anymore.” Even though it hurts like hell to hear her say it, I open my arms without a word. She crawls into them, tucks her head under my chin, and clings to my chest. I wrap my arms tightly around the best thing that has ever happened to me, and pray this won’t be the last time she lets me hold her.

 

I am brought back to the surface by raised voices, I know instantly, Jackie is gone. I don’t even need to open my eyes. I can feel the emptiness. I  also don’t need to wonder where she is, because one of the voices raised is hers. Jackie, especially pissed Jackie, has a very distinct tone. A tone you want to watch carefully, her temper is just as quick as mine. Her temper flashes quickly like a wildfire, it burns hot, it burns wildly, and man you don’t want to be in the path. The second voice is Eric, using a tone that you normally don’t hear form him; extreme bitterness with a dash of pissed. I hop up out of bed, ready to know what is going on when Jackie stops me cold with a snarl,

 

“Who the hell do you think you are Eric?”

 

I don’t know what stops me, but I decide to listen instead of bust in. Ha! Look at me showing restraint.  Just as I finish congratulating myself, Eric tells Jackie exactly who he thinks he is,

 

“I’m your best friend Jackie. I’m the guy who you’ve cried on for years. I’m the guy you’ve laughed with and fought with. I’m the guy you’ve made most of your childhood memories with. I think that entitles me to know a few things. I think it entitles me to know why you were stepping out of Hyde’s room first thing in the morning, especially after you disappeared with Kelso. I think I am entitled to know where the hell you were, after all my dad and I fought like hell to keep you safe. I want to know what the hell is going on?”

 

I lean on the door to my room, and pray he doesn't cross the line, and go somewhere with Jackie he can’t come back from. I’m not sure what started this fight, but they are at each other. I’ve heard them fight a thousand times, but this is ugly. I’ve never heard Eric get hostile with her, pissed…. yes, annoyed beyond belief, more times than I will ever be able to count, but this is something else. I’m tempted to intervene because I have a feeling this will not end well. 

 

“You are entitled? Is that what you said Eric? Are you telling me I owe you something for you being friends with me?” I hear Jackie’s voice seethe out. 

 

I hold my breath, willing Eric not to say what I think he is going to say. No matter my current issues with Jackie and him, I don’t want him to burn his friendship to the ground with her. It seems  today is Eric’s day to be a stupid ass with Jackie because he barrels on,

 

“Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. I deserve an explanation after everything I’ve gone through for you the last 24 hours. Now where the hell were you and why were you in Hyde's room?”

 

I’m not even out there, but I can feel the temperature in the whole basement drop to bitter cold. There is a sick part of me that is enjoying listening to Forman dig is own grave, after him lecturing me about how I don’t think before I say shit. Well welcome to the Jackie Causes Temporary Insanity Club . I’m not only a card carrying member, but I’m the damn president. He can kiss my ass because I know my Doll, and she is going to fucking explode. I’m not wrong, because the fury, that is Jackie, is coming down like the wrath of God on Forman. 

 

“You are such a fucking selfish bastard” I blink , Jackie never swears, that means she is beyond choosing her words carefully. “What you went through? Are you stupid? You got in a fist fight and put in a cell, BOO FUCKING HOO ERIC! My world is ripped apart, and has been for years, you are simply walking in on the final chapter. My father has been hitting me my whole, and you want to talk about what you’ve been through? Did you have to spill your darkest secrets to a man who is not your father? Did you have to watch the three most important men in your life rip apart a man who should love you best? Did you have to press charges against your own father? I’ll ask you again, what the hell is wrong with you, Eric?”

 

The room is silent, but I can hear the heartbeat of pain slashing at the quiet. I can imagine them just staring each other down. I can picture Jackie’s chest heaving in frustration, and I know Eric’s fists are clenched, with his face stop sign red. I start to pull the door open, when Eric drops the match on the trail of gasoline

 

“You know that’s not what I mean. Don’t try to turn this around on me. I asked you a simple question and you started yelling! I want to know why you are coming out of Hyde’s room? How can you be that stupid after what he did to you? Jesus, Jackie, what is it about you and men who treat you like crap? Who do you call to pick you up… The guy who cheated on you countless times without thinking twice!  Then this morning I find you walking out of the room the guy who nailed a nurse not only 48 hours ago, and I’m the bad guy! Damn it Jackie, I’ve been worried sick about you and you go to the two men who couldn’t deserve you less.”

 

I am frozen in my doorway, unbelievably hurt by the words Forman used like a sword. I sense a harsh winter well up in my body, causing my heart to stutter. I’m so surprised by his outburst that I can’t find the fierce anger I use to fight a situation that hurts like hell. Who knew it would be Forman that would kneecap me?

 

Neither of them has noticed I’m in the room they are enraptured with their fight. The world could be burning down and neither of them would take notice. From my shadowed hiding spot, I wait for what is coming, I start to count in my head 1,2,3 and then Jackie goes super sonic,

 

“Fine! You want to know why I called Kelso? Because I knew he would give me what I needed, which was simplicity. He let me lay my head on his shoulder without either of us having to worry about tomorrow or yesterday. He didn’t badger me with questions and for once in his life was clever enough to just leave me be. Something that I would expect you as my best friend would understand. I needed to call someone who wasn’t part of the disaster, that is my life. I needed Michael. He gave me the chance to settle myself without a barrage of questions.  As for Steven, I don’t owe you shit, but I will tell you why, because I needed to feel safe. I know his arms are the safest place on earth and after the day I had I wanted to feel protected. Maybe if you ever looked below the surface Eric, you would see things other than your preconceived notions about Michael, Hyde and I. Maybe you wouldn’t have missed some crucial things going on in my life.” 

 

I hiss in my heart, and even though I want to pound Eric into the ground, what Jackie is implying is low. I know why she is doing it, and Eric is no match for her when she is like this. She is hurting, and he has pushed buttons that increase the pain. Jackie is going to cut him off at the knees. I see Eric’s face go white and his voice trembles out,

 

“Jackie” A thousand cuts are in the single utterance of her name “Are you saying that I should have known about your dad? That isn’t fair, none of us knew. Not even Hyde! I can’t imagine you would say this to him.” 

 

“Of course I wouldn't say it to him, I always knew he would figure it out….Oh! look he did, and then he did everything he could to protect me.” 

 

I’ve had enough, she is totally lashing out and Eric doesn’t deserve this. 

 

“Jackie, you need to stop before you say something you can’t take back.” I say seriously from my vantage point of this exchange. The both whirl around to finally discover my presence in the room. The both are nervous at my appearance, blunt discomfort clouding their faces. I can see they are hoping I heard only the last bit of their exchange. 

 

I walk over to Jackie and pull her tightly to me, and I whisper sternly into her ear,

 

“He doesn't deserve that Jackie. Don’t destroy him because you don’t know how to deal with the last 24 hours. Don’t set him on fire because you are mad at me, it is not fair. He is not at fault for not knowing. I know you know in your mind, heart and soul that Forman would do anything for you. Be mad at him for being an ass. Be mad at him for being a dillhole who is yelling at you for the wrong things at the  wrong moment. You can kick his ass for being selfish about his feelings, but don’t blame him for not knowing. You can’t do that to him.”

 

I feel her stiffen, but she stays close to me. This gives me the chance to say one more thing, 

 

“Caring and Loving Jackie Burkhart can induce the calmest of men to lose their minds. Give him a pass on this Doll.”

 

Despite my desperate need to have it out with Forman about our own dance of problems, I’m going to take the first step into fixing what I broke. I’m going to leave them alone to work it out, and I am going to do everything I can to not let it bother me.

 

I hug her tightly, and say one last thing in her ear “Fix it grasshopper”

 

I release her, and start walking towards the basement door.  I pull it open and before I close the door behind me, I see her and Forman staring each other down like two gun fighters about to draw. I see her wavier and finally she flings herself into Eric’s arms. 

 

Deep pools of remorse, relief, and exhaustion shake out of Jackie, as Eric’s arms tighten around her. I watch him put his head in her hair, and take a deep breath as he inhales her in. His whole body relaxes as he rubs her back.  I wait for him to open his eyes and look at me, I want to see it. I watch him pull her closer, and his eyes flutter open to find my stare. I’ve left my eyes bare and I make sure he can understand what I want him to comprehend.

 

 I want him to know that I know he loves Jackie, that he isn’t fooling anyone, especially not me.

Chapter Text

Kelso

I don’t know what to say other than this day keeps getting stranger. There I was minding my own business trying to work out in my head what Jackie I talked about today, when I heard a pinging sound on my window. I can’t say having rocks thrown at my window is a new experience  but it has been awhile. So imagine my surprise to find Hyde down in my yard in the middle of the night.  I throw open my window and hiss out

 

“What the hell Hyde?”

 

In the guy world you don’t need to say more than that. We don’t need lengthy explanations. He looks like hell. We don’t have the type of relationship where I would say this out loud but seeing him like this, it legit worries me. I would never tell him that because it would only piss him off epically. I’ve been hit by Hyde more times than anyone else. His punches hurt like hell.

 

“Kelso, I need a place to crash. Can I stay here for a few hours and sleep?”

 

I can count how many times I’ve heard Hyde ask for help. Let's all count together…. Oh, wait, it is zero. I’ve been friends with him since kindergarten, and he has never asked for any form of support. Even when his mom left, he refused to tell anyone or go to the Formans for assistance.

 

 No one on earth is more stubborn than Hyde, so imagine my surprise to hear him ask for help, and from me of all people. Listen, I love Hyde. We are friends until the end, but our friendship, took a turn towards frosty when he started hooking up with Jackie. It doesn’t matter that I screwed the pooch with her, I didn’t want to watch Hyde take my place. 

 

Wanna know why? Because long before they were together they seemed strangely bonded. Since the minute she walked into the basement all those years ago with Eric, there has been an unnameable energy between them. I’m dumb but I’m not blind. I could see something lurking between Jackie and Hyde, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Who the hell knew "that something" would be love, the real fucking deal type of love

 

“Damn it Kelso! Are you going to answer?” he yells breaking me out of my amazement.

 

I look down again, and yell back “Climb up.” I have a very convenient tree outside my room. Every break out and sneaking back in has been assisted by this tree. You could say I’m awfully fond of it.

 

I watch Hyde monkey up. For a guy who is built like a stone wall he is surprisingly agile. He climbs from limb to window and hops in. I look at him and say nothing. I only raise my eyebrow at him. For once, he can talk first, I didn’t show up at his window in the middle of the night.

I watch him sigh,

 

“It was either beat the crap out of Eric and set what might be left of Jackie and I on fire or get out and find somewhere to crash. I elected you.”

 

I’m on a roll of brilliance these last 12 hours, just like with Jackie, I can tell that Hyde has no desire to provide more detail than what he gave me. No amount of annoyance at Hyde would cause me to bail on him when I know he is close to the edge. I know without a doubt he would do the same for me despite the many events that have occurred between us.

 

“Old sleeping bag is in the closet. Grab one of my extra pillows” I say quietly

 

I watch him grab the bag, unroll it, and snatch one of my pillows. He looks like a man who has been to war, and came home with wounds no one can see but him. I glimpse something that is  rare, an unguarded Hyde. His face his etched with Jackie. His love for her, his worry, and his desperate regret.

 

He falls on the bag, scrunches up the pillow and closes his eyes. He says nothing to me. I don’t know why I am shocked by that. Only Hyde would come to your house in the middle of the night, ask to crash, and say nothing more. 

 

My own exhaustion is creepy over me. I know I didn’t participate in the hell that went down this morning but soothing a miserable Jackie, is its own special torture. I’m about out when Hyde breaks the silence,

 

“Thanks Kelso, it means a lot.”

 

This day just keeps getting more bizarre, Hyde thanking me or expressing emotion is making me wonder if I’m living in a bizarro world. The shitty part of me has a thousand burns ready to snap out, but for once I’m just going to be a good  friend.

 

“No problem man”

 

The silence is heavy, I have a feeling that he isn’t finished talking. I continue my streak today of being dead on.

 

“Where were you guys? Was it the water tower?” I’m not sure why that is his starter question, but it’s Hyde so there is no unlocking the mystery of his reasoning.

 

 “Yeah, we just hung out and talked. She needed someone who would just leave her be. You know I’ve never been able to not give her what she wants.” 

 

The silence falls back as Hyde digests the information, I wait for the question he really wants to ask. I can feel it killing him that he has to ask me of all people what he is desperate to know.

 

“Kelso?” I reply back “Yeah?”

 

I actually hear him swallow. He’s nervous, this is something I’ve never witnessed. Chalk up another mark in the box of new experiences for me today.  His voice which is softer than I have ever heard before says,

 

“Is she okay?”

 

Never has there been a question more loaded than those three simple words. I brace myself for what is about to be an uncomfortable conversation,

 

“Yes and No. Is she falling apart about her  Dad…. No, but she certainly isn’t okay. It’s Jackie, she will get her fire back. She already has with that horror story, but I’m not comfortable telling you Hyde. I can’t screw her over this time. This one time, I need to respect the promise I made to her.”

 

I hear him exhale heavily, “I understand. I won’t push you on it but Kelso……” He trails off. 

 

If I didn’t know better, I would think he was scared to ask the next question. Hell, maybe he is, Jackie has always caused Hyde to react in ways that are the exact opposite to his nature.

 

“What about the rest of it?” he asks.

 

 I know what he is talking about. The part of me that is still pissed at him wants to torture him by refusing to answer, but Jackie’s face floats to my mind. She loves the bastard, and he may not want to admit it, but he loves her. If he is willing to incinerate his friendship with Eric over a girl, then she is the only girl who will ever matter to him. I decide to ease his misery.

 

“No, she isn’t okay. Nothing I ever did to her, hurt her as much as what you did with the nurse. As much as it sucks to admit it, Hyde…. What she felt for me is a fucking shadow compared to how she feels about you. You fucked up Hyde, but I am going to tell you what I told her even though I don’t want to. I told her I think she should forgive you, because no one is going to love her like you do. I told her that I knew you were going to fight like hell to make it up to her.”

 

It stabs at my own heart to help him, because I love her too. It’s impossible not to love Jackie, but to be loved back by her is to have all your dark burned away. Jackie’s love for Hyde has been a blaze of fire, purifying the darkest parts of him. I wish she had, had that fire for me, but she didn’t, and I was serious before… I don’t deserve her, but he does. 

 

 We both fall into silence, it goes on long enough that I assume he fell asleep.

 

He interrupts the dark one more time, “Thanks Kelso.”

 

I utter out, “Don’t make me regret it, Hyde, Go the Hell to asleep.”

Chapter Text

Somewhere along the way, I got roped into having a basement full of additional children. I don’t know when or how but I became responsible for helping shape them into decent humans. I blame Kitty, she collects children like some people collect stamps. Even after all these years, I still can’t tell her no. If I am being honest, a few of those dumbasses mean quite a bit to me. That is why I am sitting here waiting for Steven in the kitchen. On his own he is a worthy young man, but he needs guidance in dealing with circumstances no kid should ever have to know, before the hurt ruins him.

 

  Sometimes you just fuck up, you get it 100% all the way wrong. There is no excuse, and you need to man up and just say it. To me that is what being a man is. You take responsibility for your actions. You stand up and take the consequences. I believe this to my core. I believe in being honest even when it hurts, and I am about to be all sorts of honest with my second son. Because that boy has screwed up in everyway possible, and it involves the elfin girl who has lived in my heart since she wandered into the kitchen acting like she owned the place.

 

The Basement Idiots have no idea how loud they are. I know Steven cheated on Jackie. I’ve been able to piece together that Eric had something to do with it, and in the middle of that cross fire is Jackie. That bullshit is going to stop, or they are all going to get a foot in the ass. 



I think of Jackie has my daughter. Yes, I have Laurie. Yes, I love her, but she is the greatest heart break of my life. I don’t know how Kitty and I raised such a spoiled, selfish, and completely devoid of values child. I blame myself for being too soft with her, but she was still held to the same standard of right or wrong as Eric. I know it isn’t right, but slowly over the years Jackie came to replace Laurie in my heart, and I don’t think Steven realizes it, but I’m a level of pissed he has never seen.

 

To add to my anger over what he did to Jackie is his complete inability to hold is shit together with how he feels about her. I understand the rage. I understand the desire to destroy what hurts and haunts you. Even, more I get it down to my bones, the want to kill someone who is hurting the person you love best, but he must learn to control it or it will destroy him. He is on the path of letting his dark consume him. So, here I sit waiting for him to blow in from wherever he took off too. I’ve got Jackie sleeping in Laurie’s room, and I’ve told Eric if he moves from his room before I tell him to he will die on the spot.

 

As I’ve said before I can wait, but every minute that ticks by with the boy out in the wind, my temper slides closer to the edge. I hope he gets here before Kitty notices he is gone and goes nuclear because that will ruin my plans to kick his sorry ass. My wish is answered. He pulls the kitchen screen door open slowly, his head is down and his face is unguarded. His face screams exhausted. He looks drained of hope and like he has hit the wall. 

 

“Where they hell have you been dumb ass?” I growl at him from my chair.

 

 His head snaps up, and we make eye contact. He sees it, the anger, the disappointment, how ridiculous he was and that he is going to hear about it, from the one person he can’t argue with….. Me.  I might be the only person on earth except my girl upstairs who can bring Steven to heel. The fact is Jackie doesn’t know she has that type of power, and it scares Steven shitless that she could own him if she wanted to.

 

I have to admire the courage he has  to look at me and say, “Do you think we could do this later? I’ve only had a few hours of sleep.” He has the nerve to sound put out and like I’m being over dramatic. It is sheer bravado on his part, but I don’t find it amusing. I’m done waiting and my own control has slipped, so  frost falls over my tone.

 

“Sit your ass down or I’m going to make what happen in my front yard yesterday seem like happy fun time when I’m down kicking the shit out of you.” 

 

The boy has balls of brass because he glares at me. I can see the sneer in his eyes that even those stupid glasses can’t hide. The sneer plainly says,

 

  “You wanna try Old Man?” 

 

“What’s your choice going to be Steven?” I say with stone in my voice. I’m not fucking around with him, and he must realize it because he falls heavily into the chair. He plops his head into his hands and whispers,

 

 “Just Get it Over with”

 

I don’t know why that pisses me off more, but it does. As if this conversation is something, he just has to endure to get to what he wants. That sly amount of disrespect unleashes my own malevolence.

 

“You raise your fucking head and you look at me.” I watch his head snap up, shock dancing across his face. After I see his eyes on me, I let him have it.

 

“I am telling you right now Steven if you even fucking blink while I am talking to you, I’m throwing you out. You are going to hear what I have to say and then you are going to fix what you broke. You are lucky, I don’t take you out back and show you how much more dangerous than you, I am. I told you to stay the fuck out of it with Burkhart. You came to me to take care of it  and then did the exact opposite of what you were supposed to do. I don’t know what Jackie did or how she pulled it off but the only reason your ass isn’t still sitting in a cell is because of her.”

 

I see knowledge wave over his face, and I can tell he wants to ask, but the boy is not stupid. He keeps his mouth shut, and his vision unwavering, I still see defiance dancing in his gaze. That is what I am going to break, he must stop fighting the wrong people. He has to stop lashing out on the people who love him most. I know this boy. I know him inside and out. I was this boy. I won’t let him go off track.

 

“I know you want to protect Jackie. I know the mere idea her father could say the shit he did about her is enraging. I know you wanted him to suffer every hit, tear, and moment of fear he caused Jackie. I know that, but you can’t hand out your own justice. You have to stop being judge, jury and executioner. The bottom line is you suck at it. You decided that Jackie was cheating on you. You delivered a judgment, prosecuted it in your own mind, and you pulled the trigger on your relationship.”

 

I see his face lose what color was left and shame damper the final flames of deifance. He speaks for the first time since I told him to raise his head.

 

“You know about that?” He wants to look away, I know he does, but he holds my gaze. I make sure my eyes don’t waver. He needs to hear this all and comprehend it. 

 

“Yes, I know. You idiots think you are living some secret life down there, but first of all you are too fucking loud for anything to be a secret, and Jackie isn’t exactly shy about telling me how she feels. I’m going to say this to you one time and one time only. You can either accept that some people love you and won't betray you or you can spend your life waiting for someone to screw you over. That is a fucked up way to live. You can either have people who love you or you can be the guy who hurts people before they hurt you, only to find out they never intended to hurt you in the first place. You fucked up. There is a lot that needs to be fixed and you will fix it. If she never takes you back, then that is the consequence for being stupid and not trusting the best thing that ever happened to you. You better learn how to tell her how you feel and you better learn how to do it quick or you are going to watch her walk straight out of your life.”

 

His eyes break away from mine, and he growls out “You think I don’t know that I fucked up? How can you think I’m over here oblivious that I threw a match on what was the best thing in my shitty life? How can you imagine I don’t know what a complete and total bastard I’ve been to her? How can you…….” his voice trails off 

 

I watch him set his jaw and look back at me “I know Mr. Forman. I know I ruined the one person whose only mistake was to love me. I love her. I love her to the point of insanity, she fucking owns me. How do I make up for the one thing I swore I would never do? I was supposed to be better than Kelso, her dad, and her mom. I was supposed to be the guy who never screwed her over. I’m just another notch on the belt of disappointments in Jackie’s life. Believe me, I know exactly how badly I messed up.”

 

His voice is raw, with the pain of his heart being scraped over the gravel of his mistakes.  I sigh at the sight of him. He is hurting and beating himself up over this, and though he was a jack ass for what he did, him hating himself won’t fix the problem.

 

I take a deep breath and lay it on the line “Somewhere along the way Steven, Jackie Burkart became your world and you never knew it. If you love her like you say you do, then you need to fight for her the way you did to protect her.” Steven isn't the last person who is going to get his ass kicked today, but before I move on to dumb ass number one, I need some inside knowledge.  I pause because this is the area that is most delicate but I need to see his reaction.

 

“Don’t make Jackie choose between you or Eric, because I don’t anticipate you will like her answer.”

I watch a whole movie of emotions cross his face, before he can shut it down, but in that short film I see fear, hurt, and betrayal. 

I get ready to step back from my comment when he growls out "I already know the answer." I watch him stand up and slam out of the room down to the basement. 

I feel dread well up in my jaded heart and wonder if two friends who call each other brother will ever be the same again.

Chapter Text

 

Jackie

I’m laying on Steven’s cot waiting for him to come home. I love Mr. Foreman, and he is like a dad to me but if he thought I would stay in Laurie’s room… he underestimates my desire to have my own way. As soon as I heard him walk back downstairs, I went into Eric’s room and climbed out his window. I didn’t even bother to acknowledge his “What the hell Jackie?”

In a strange twist of fortune, everyone in this group of friends has a tree conveniently placed outside their bedroom window. We’ve been sneaking in and out of each others’ houses for years. In some glorious gift of comedic irony, Kelso, who has fallen off the water tower more times than you would imagine being humanly possible, has never fallen out of one of our trees. It makes me smile to think about it. It lightens my heart briefly. I need a few moments of laughter because the last 72 hours has felt like a tsunami hit my life. 

 

I blackmailed my father into making sure he didn’t go after the Formans and Steven, had a breakdown with Kelso, tried to find peace in the man who broke my heart, and then went to war with my best friend. I’ve run the course of emotions, but I keep circling back to the moment when Steven came bursting out of his room. I wonder how much he heard. If he heard what Eric said he will be hurt in a way that I fear can’t be repaired. More so, I can’t get his words out of my head and heart.

 

“He doesn't deserve that Jackie. Don’t destroy him because you don’t know how to deal with the last 24 hours. Don’t set him on fire because you are mad at me, it is not fair. He is not at fault for not knowing. I know you know in your mind, heart and soul that Forman would do anything for you. Be mad at him for being an ass. Be mad at him for being a dillhole who is yelling at you for the wrong things at the moment. You can kick his ass for being selfish about his feelings, but don’t blame him for not knowing. You can’t do that to him.”

 

When Steven is thinking clearly he is a deeply principled man. I know he is hurt and angry with Eric, some of it ridiculous and other parts of it is justified. Despite his hurt, he came out to make sure I didn’t kill a relationship vital to my life. At that moment my heart started to forgive Steven. His willingness to stop me from hurting Eric and leave me with him to work things out, started to soothe my troubled heart.  I wanted to hurt Eric for pushing unnecessarily and being such an arrogant fool. I could have brought Eric to his knees. I had all the weapons and skill to shred him. I would have done it and then regretted it.  Steven put his feelings to the side, and stepped in front of Eric. He softly but sternly brought me back in line.

 

After Steven left, and I calmed down, Eric and I talked. It was brutal but honest, and I believe healing for both of us. Still, there is something Eric is holding back, but I don’t anticipate he will tell me. Somethings are between brothers, and I’m pretty sure I will not be invited into that conversation. This one time I don’t think I want to know, something tells me it might change things in a way I’m not prepared for. While I wait for him to reappear, I allow myself to drift back to my conversation with Eric.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Basement

The door slammed behind Steven, and she jerked back out of Eric’s arms. The slam seemed to take away the moment of forgiveness out of Jackie. She was hurt. Her life had been blown apart and Eric wanted to talk about what was owed to him. She wanted to scream at him. The urge was overwhelming, but Steven’s words were wrapping around her heart and whispering in her ear. She took a ragged breath and gazed at the boy, who had always been her safe harbor, but all of a sudden it felt like the dock was unsteady.

 

“I’m sorry Eric. I shouldn’t have implied in any way that you should have known or guessed what was happening to me. That being said, I’m not the least bit sorry about the rest of it. I didn’t know our friendship was based on what I owe you.”

 

The words came out harsher then she meant them to, but her will to soften anything was dead. She watched Eric take his own unsteady breath, close his eyes for a minute, and square his shoulders.

 

“For you to imply that I should have known and that I was somehow a worthless friend because I didn’t know….. Jackie, that felt like you cut my heart out of my chest.” 

 

Eric watched her eyes, and he could see that she was sorry, but she was still angry. Her eyes were swirling. The heaviness of how crucial this moment was to their friendship was near breaking his body. He knew that if either of them messed it up, they may never go back. He hated that the two friendships he cherished most were pulling apart at the seams. He had to find steadier ground with Jackie, otherwise he wouldn’t survive the inevitable showdown with Hyde. He hates all this. He hates that Jackie and him are wobbly. 

 

Most of all he hates that…..

He is confident Hyde heard everything. 

 Hyde knows his deepest secret.

He recognized the look in Hyde eyes, and it told him his friendship may be dead.

Hyde could have flamed the fury that was Jackie but instead he had made sure that she didn’t slice him in half.  

Hyde still willingly put his feelings first when he knew all Hyde wanted to do was bare knuckle have it out with him. The guilt is eating him alive.

He hates it all and wants life to go back to the fantasy of normal.

 

“Is that all you have to say Eric?” She didn’t know what he was staring at and was pissed, that was all he seemed to be addressing.

Her voice shakes him away from his worries about Hyde and back to the immediate mountain that need to be climbed.

 

“No, it isn’t Jackie. Can we sit? For a minute before the door slammed you were willing to let me hug you, now you are back to facing me down like the enemy. I don’t want to talk to you like this.”

 

She heard all the hurt and remorse in his voice. She heard the weariness in his words, and she could see the defeat in his body. She could never hold on to anger when someone she loved was hurting. She fell onto the couch. She watched him visibly relax, and he dropped next to her.

 

“Jackie, I’m sorry that I forgot that all this was because you have been living in hell. I’m sorry that all this fighting is around you having your heartbroken. I will be sorry until I died, I was oblivious to what was happening to you, and I’m even more sorry that I was jealous that Hyde knew what that mark was instantly. It makes me deeply ashamed that I even think that because he knows it from it happening to him. I’m sorry that I forgot it was you standing in the middle of the chaos.”

Jackie winced at every word. It hurt her to hear how raw Eric sounded, and she was unsure how to feel about his last comment about Steven. She tucked that away for now. She couldn’t hold out against him, no matter how much she wanted to, the petite girl who stood up for him all those years ago couldn’t stand to witness him beat up, even if he was doing it to himself. Her need to protect was just as fierce as Stevens. She simply expressed it in different ways. So her heart cracked open, and she did what she knew he needed. She laid her head in his lap, so he could fine solace in a ritual of comfort for them both.

 

As soon as her head hit his lap he felt both lighter and like cement. This was her version of forgiveness. This was her saying I still trust you. This was her way of saying I’m sorry because she knew even if he never said it that he found his own comfort in this act. Jackie laying her head in his lap was her way of erasing the harsh words between them, but he couldn’t get out Hyde’s words out of his head

“In what world would I do that with Donna?”

“I’ve been watching the Jackie and Eric show for years.”

“You two aren’t normal. She’s my girlfriend.”

 

Jackie once again was unsure at his silence and brought him back to the present. 

 

“Eric, you are wrong about Steven. I know he cheated on me, and that is something him and I will have to either work through or go our separate ways but for you to say he doesn’t deserve me was wrong. I’m pretty sure he heard you and I know you are made at him for what he did. I get it. I appreciate it. I love you for it  but I’m going to tell you the same thing he said to me

 

“Don’t burn him to the ground”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I open my eyes and feel tears start to fall again. I don’t think I can live with Steven and Eric losing each other over me. Because I know I stand between them, and I know that Steven believes I would pick Eric over him in a second, but he is blind to the fact that I’ve been choosing him for years.

Steven’s smell and the memories of some of our softest moments cause me to finally relax.  I drift off waiting for the man I love to come back, to see if we can save who we are together or if I am going to have to start learning to live without him.  

Chapter Text

Hyde

I’ve gotten nothing left. Nothing. On my very best day dealing with my emotions is hell, and the last 72 hours have been less than my finest hour. I need to regroup and find my way back to even ground. I just want to stop feeling for a while. I want it to all go away, I think as I stomp down the stairs after my confrontation with Red. I am mad, embarrassed and ashamed of the things Red said to me. I know it all. I know I’m a fuck up. I know my whole heart is the hand of a tiny woman who would be within her right to crush it to the ground. I would. I did. Isn’t that what I did to her? I thought she had betrayed me, so I turned around and made sure that I destroyed her. I lean on the edge of the doorway to my room, and contemplate for the uncountable time,

 

“What the fuck is wrong with me?”

 

I push into my room, surprised to be once again greeted by the soft light from the small lamp above by my bed. I inhale sharply at the sight before me. It’s almost like I’ve gone back in time. There she is laying on my cot curled up in a ball, just like she was two days ago. I feel my lungs gasp for air, as I finally let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding.

 

I think to myself, “I guess that the whole stop feeling things plan is going to have to be put on pause.”

 

It takes everything I have to not touch her, but I call on my willpower. I should be an expert on not touching Jackie. Had I not been stopping myself purely on sheer will for pretty much our whole lives together? I’ve had slip ups. When I taught her Zen, I found it impossible not to brush her hair out of her face. I gave the lamest excuse that I needed to see her eyes. I’ve hugged her back when she would throw herself in my arms, and I’ve never been able to not squeeze her a little tighter than necessary. However, not once did I initiate a hug with her. I always pretended to be disgusted by it but I loved it when she hugged me.

 

 I found myself over time unconsciously directing her by putting my hand on her back. Donna pointed it out once and I made sure never to do it again. So, I get Eric’s need to touch her, smell her soft scent and want to be near her. Jackie is the ultimate siren, but there can be death on the rocks if you screw it up. That being said, I never crossed the line like Eric did, and I get angry again just thinking about him skimming his hands down her naked back, watching him sweep her hair to the side intimately and black rage fills me when I think of him leaning in to kiss her neck.  

 

I push down those feelings and fall quietly into the chair across from my cot. I close my eyes and let the sound of her peaceful breathing comfort me. I don’t know why she is in here. I am still confused by her seeking me out last night. What I do know is it is keeping a tiny spark of hope alive that she will forgive me. It is helping me cling to a life raft , she won’t hate me for the rest of her life and that I didn’t destroy the best thing that ever happened to me.

 

Gazing at her is my favorite thing to do, and I’ve been doing it secretly for a long time. Everything about her has always annoyed, rubbed me the wrong way and completely fascinated me. I rake my eyes over her body, and again I see the bruise. This time, instead of anger, I only detect an unfathomable heartbreak. I feel cut down to size that I didn’t push when I saw the signs. I am horrified by buying into her deflections when it was so obvious now she was doing the same thing I’ve always done. I could have helped stop this years ago, but I let my preconceived notions block me from seeing the truth, and I will never forgive myself for it. 

 

A low but stern voice yanks me out of my life sentence of  interminable shame.

 

“Stop It Steven”

 

I startle at her voice and my eyes swiftly move to hers . Her eyes have long been my window to her soul, and this time is no different. They are stern, but fiercely loving.

 

“Steven, you have to stop. I can see it all over your face. Nothing that happened to me was your fault. I know you suspected. I could see it in your eyes, and baby I did everything I could to deflect you. If you had asked me flat out about what was going on…. I would have lied to you and fought you the whole way. Who wants to admit their life is hell? Please don’t do this to yourself, it only hurts me more to see you like this.”

 

My heart clenches at her words, and I can’t accept them. There are too many ifs in my heart. I lean to stroke her hair, and her eyes close immediately, and I recognize a softness come over her, and that stabs at me as well. I don’t deserve her, giving me a pass on not knowing, and I sure as hell don’t deserve her forgiving me for the nurse. My voice is raw and the most unguarded it has ever been.

 

“Baby, I’m sorry. I can’t ever be sorry enough for all of it. For not pushing you, accepting your bullshit answers, and I won’t ever forgive, I didn’t do something about which I am a fucking expert in.”

 

Jackie starts to interrupt me “Steven, you can’t do this to yourself….”

 

I cut her off quickly “No, please listen. I’m sorry Jackie. I'm a level of sorry that actually hurts. I am deeply ashamed of what I did to you. Being with that nurse…..” 

 

I swallow heavily, I’m nearly choking on the words. 

 

“Sleeping with that nurse was the worst thing I’ve ever done. If you had done that to me, I would refuse to  have this conversation, but I am a selfish man, Jackie. I am begging you to forgive my sorry ass. I am begging you for grace, and for you to  believe my promise I will never do it again. I will always trust you first. I can’t not be with you. I simply can’t”

 

I watch tears stream down her face and whatever was left of my fucked up heart crumples into dust. I reach out and brush the tears off her checks. I yearn to take her in my arms, but I won't do anything she doesn't start first. I've lost the privilege. Just like I always predicted I would, I'm the one that caused us to implode. I can’t look at her and say this part. I can’t, because the pain I feel is overwhelming. I take a deep ragged breath and whisper out,

 

“If you can’t forgive me, I understand. As much as I hate it, as much as it burns me, Jackie, Eric is right. I don’t deserve you. I never did and I never will. I love you, Jackie. I’m not saying that to get out of trouble, but if we are over, I owe you the truth. You are my fucking everything.”

 

My chest hurts and I do something, I haven’t done since I was little, I feel tears begin to slide down my face. 

 

Jackie

 

I feel myself physically recoil as I watch the strongest person I know start to cry. I’m near sick at the sight of him in tears, and no amount of hurt remaining can hold out against him in such searing pain. I don’t even hesitate, I launch myself at him. I catch him by surprise because he falls back against the chair, but as always he wraps me tightly to prevent me from falling to the floor, showing his protective nature.

 

I grab him as tight as I can. I feel him burying his face in my neck, and his hot tears burn my skin. This man undoes me. 

 

“Steven, Baby please.” I whisper into his ear. 

 

His grief for hurting me and what he sees as a failure for not protecting me is a wave after wave of torture. I hold him close, and I run my fingers through his curls which I know it is soothing to him.

 

I feel his body starting to relax, so I pull his face out of my shoulder and grasp it tightly, so he must stare at me.

 

“Steven, I beg of you, PLEASE don’t torture yourself over what my mom and dad did to me. What is the difference to what happened to you? Do you blame me for not knowing? Not doing something to protect you?”

 

I watch his eyes fill with horror “Of course I don’t blame you. It isn’t the same at all.”

 

I bristle at such a ridiculous notion. I know what he is thinking. It is because I’m a girl. I will have none of that. I tighten my grip on his chin, 

 

“Steven, stop it! It is exactly the same. I need you to put this away. Please, it only increases the horror I feel about what happened.” 

 

I can see his eyes get stubborn but I also observe him trying to shutter down his feelings on the subject. I have a feeling we will have to talk about this again, but for now he appears to be willing to let  it go. 

 

He tightens his grip on me and I can guess what is coming and now my own pain is flying to the surface.

 

“Jackie, I don’t know what else to say but I’m sorry about the nurse. It feels so cheap and worthless to say words. I swear to you that I will never doubt you again. I will do anything. We can start over. We can go slow. I won’t do anything you aren't ready for. Just, please let me try to fix it.”

 

My own grief begins to pour out of my heart. I don’t have words at the moment. I cling to him and cry into his shoulder. I know it is backwards that I find comfort in the arms of the person who broke us, but I don’t want to be anywhere else. He rocks me back and forth, quietly repeating over and over again as he rubs my back

 

“Baby, I’m so sorry.”

 

I am often described as heedless and reckless, and I suppose if I am being honest I am. I love without hesitation even when it is against what is good for me or what makes sense. Which is why I have spent a good portion of my life loving a boy who I always knew would be a dangerous ride. I plunge headfirst into things, and worry about how I will land later. I’ve never been able to deny my heart and that is what he is. 

 

He is and always has been what I wanted. So, here I stand on the edge of the cliff, stepping back and letting Steven go is what would be safe and responsible decision. I can actually visualize myself standing on the lip of a beautiful cliff above the sea. The water is vast and it calls to my heart, the solid rock behind me is where I should stand but   want desperately to be in the waves. The surf beating on the shore crashing out his name in a rhythm that matches my heart beat. I can’t pull away from the sound and I don’t want to. So I jump, without promise of safe landing or that I won’t drown but I would rather risk it than never have him again. 

 

I murmur into his neck the only word I can think to say “Okay.”

 

I detect the confusion swirling up in his body, he pulls me back “Okay, what?” He is unsure of what I am driving at. 

 

“Okay, I want us to do this. Okay, I want us to figure this out. Okay, I forgive you. Okay, I don’t want to be without you, Steven.”

 

He always says my eyes shine brightly and it could light anyone's way, but the way his beautiful blue eyes fire to life like the hottest flame is almost blinding. This time he cups my face, gently but with hope, and uses his thumbs to stroke my face, as he croons out

 

“Are you sure?” 

 

“Yes, I love you. Where we love, we forgive Steven.”

 

He slowly lowers his lips to mine, giving me a chance to pull away, and when I don’t he brushes them across the mine.

 

“Thank You, Doll, I’ll never make you regret it. I love you.”

 

My heart is bursting and I feel my the pieces mending back together, but a little voice whispers 

 

“He said he will never doubt you again, but he didn’t say the same thing about Eric.”




Chapter Text

I Need You Part 2
Jackie
“He said he will never doubt you again, but he didn’t say the same thing about Eric.”

Steven is looking at me strangely. He has just told me that he loves me, we are on steadier ground, and yet I’m staring at him frozen. The concern about Eric bouncing around my heart like shrapnel from a bullet.

“Jackie? What is it?”

I can hear the panic starting to build in his tone, whatever relaxation his body had found is lost to uncertainty. I don’t want to bring it up, and ruin the healing that is starting between us, because what I need to ask is going to slice one of our wounds wide open.

As I continue to be silent, Steven’s eyes fill with concern, his confidence in us being okay is beginning to falter, and I sense his unease.

He sweeps my hair gently to the side and caresses my check softly with his rough fingertips. I want to lean into them and forget what I am thinking, but he is still Steven, and he must have his way.

“Talk to me Doll? I meant what I said, I’ll do anything. Don’t hold back. I don’t want anything between us left unsaid.”

I sigh heavily, “What about Eric?”

I guess I was wrong, Steven could get more tense. I watch his whole body bunch. The warmth drains out of his eyes, and every inch of gentle that had softened his face has gone unyielding. The openness in his gaze is instantly lockdown, leaving not a trace of the Steven that was present seconds before. His lips curl and his voice is dripping with disdain,

“What about him?” He stands up quickly and puts me on the cot and shoves his hands in his pockets. His stance defensive and combative. It pisses me off.

“Don’t even start Steven. You just said you would do anything. You totally begged for a second chance. You claim you trust me, but as soon as I ask about Eric, you shut down and start acting like an ass. It has been a whole five minutes since you said you can’t be without me, and you are already separating yourself. You better reign in whatever your problem is, or the last 20 minutes of laying it out here was a waste of our time.”

I lower my eyes and watch him from under my lashes. He can be such a pain in the ass, and I can see he wants to fight with me. It is rolling off of him. I don’t know that Steven will ever be able to curb the habit of wanting to saddle up when he wants to take out an opponent. I don’t want this. I refuse for us to take a step backwards. I grab his hand forcefully, and pull him to me,

“Steven, pick what is important to you. Being with me and talking about Eric or being mad. Ask yourself, if being right is worth giving me up and losing Eric.”

I gasp, as his stormy eyes start to burn. I identify in his penetrating gaze that there is more between him and Eric, than his mistaken belief that Eric and I had been together. I sensed Eric was holding something back when we talked and I had been immediately cautious, but I can’t seem to let it go with Steven. I am not even really sure I want to know. Whatever was lurking in Steven’s eyes was something there would be no stepping back from.

The heavy silence is broken but his frustrated tone, “Don’t make me do this Jackie. You won’t like it, and once I say it I can’t take it back.”

I don’t know what is wrong with me, I can see he is serious. He isn’t hesitating to be a jerk, there is a valid reason why he is holding back. I can even identify the desire to say whatever it is he is keeping locked inside of him. There is a shimmer of cruel glee in his gaze, telling me that if he wanted to he could get revenge on Eric. Because he is an incredible man who is a loyal friend, I observe him pull the glee forcefully back.

“You and I having this conversation…. Will lead to nothing good for any of us. For once in your damn life, can you actually listen when someone tells you something.”

He says it grumpily and it gets under my skin,

“Fine Steven, I understand how this is going to go, you are going to say things like I love you and I want us to be okay, and then pull back when I ask things that are hard.”

The better angels in my head are screaming at me “YOU DON’T WANT THIS! STEP BACK!”

Those Angels are drowned out by the part of me that is still hurt by his actions. They are suffocated to silence, by my desire for him to prove he is willing to do anything. When you lay it on the line, I am just as impulsive as Steven when angry.

I cross my arms, caution gone and I snip at him “You said anything Steven.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hyde
I love Jackie. I want her and need her more than I need oxygen, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that she could drive a saint straight to hell. All of us have joked, “what is it about Jackie, that can drive a person insane?”

One of the many ways she can drive a sober man to drink is that waspish expression on her face, the one that demands her way, even though you are trying to protect her. I want to throttle her. I actually want to shake her stubborn, pain in the ass pixie sized body. I am torn in several painful directions. I do want to show Jackie I am willing to do anything. I don’t want to tell her because I also don’t want her to make “prove it” a game to punish me. I want to tell her because I want to show her I won’t let my temper win. I don’t want to tell her because despite the fact, that I currently still want to beat Eric into the ground, I can’t do this to him. It would make me the lowest of friends.

“Steven are you going to answer me?”

I sigh, “Jackie, you are right, I don’t trust Eric right now. I am responsible for my behavior. No matter what angered me, I should have never punished you by sleeping with that nurse. I should have trusted you. I should have asked questions. Even if I had done the right thing, there would still be an issue between Eric and I. Further, more after you bolted from my room that night, him and I exchanged words."

I watch her roll her eyes, and blow out a frustrated breath “Steven, I think I can handle it.”

I call on every bit of patience I have. A considerable portion of me wants to just give in and make my life easier, but Kelso, Eric and I made a pact that goes all the way back to a broken car window of a Brand New Vista Cruiser.

We had been messing around with the basketball, Kelso threw the ball as hard as he could at Forman. He knew he couldn’t catch it. Sports and Forman have never worked together well in the same sentence. Kelso being the dumbass he is didn’t even notice where Eric was standing. For once in his nerdy life he was quick on his feet, and he ducked. The ball went right through the window on the back of the Cruiser.

Red had come out instantly and started yelling, “Who did this? Eric was this you?”

We all looked at each other, seven years old and complete understanding passed between us. No one said a word. Which I might add this only pissed Red off more, but our scared down to our toes 7 year old asses held it together.

We all got in trouble, sentenced to doing chores for Red for months, but we all knew it was better to not throw someone under the bus. After the jail sentence of chores was completed, we all made a pact to never rat each other out. We even did the blood promise. I run my finger over the scar where we used a pocket knife to seal our pact.

Not one of us has ever broken it, even when one of us has deserved it. Yeah that’s me looking at you Kelso, I yell in my head. I have a moment of anger again how badly I wanted to tell Jackie he was fucking around on her. Even Eric, who would do anything for her, held firm. We did everything we could to get him caught, but we never told. Hell, Eric and I even discussed that maybe it was worth breaking the pact over. I know it was, he knew it was, but we stood by it, as awful as that is.
Even if we are pissed at each other, we don’t rat. I picked a chick over my friend, even if they were broke up, I should have been up front with Kelso. I can’t break this code….. not even for her. I do the only thing I can do. I step in front of him again. She can’t know that Forman was so over the line when he was gazing at the bruise he lost sight of who he was. Jackie must stay oblivious to..............

The way he glided his fingers on her soft skin

The look of pleasure on his face as he touched her

How he started to lean in to kiss her tempting neck

She can’t know that he is in love with her.

Her knowing the truth will truly be the bomb that breaks up the band not Jackie and I being together.

It will change how they interact

It will likely hurt Kelso, he is sensitive that way

Jackie won’t be able to hide it from Donna

I don’t want Donna hurt.

I don’t want Eric to lose Donna

Most of all I know Eric would be truly devastated if I told a secret that he has barely admitted to himself, let alone to me.

 

He fucking owes me. This could very likely cost me Jackie, I am giving up what I need to breathe to protect him. There is a filthy and dark part of me that doesn't believe he is worth it after what he said to me and the things I overheard. He and I will deal with each other, friend to friend, man to man, brother to brother, and we will see if we can salvage us, it isn’t any of Jackie’s damn business.

She stomps her foot and huffs impatiently “Earth to Steven! I’m waiting.”

I can’t help but smile a little. Her petulance is secretly one of the things I love about her.

I step forward and take her chin firmly and pull down the shield guarding my eyes. I want her to comprehend my sincerity.

“Jackie, I am going to say this to you again. Don’t Burn Eric to the ground, because if I tell you what the problem it is, you are going to hurt him. I keep getting told by everyone don’t make you choose between me and Eric. Well Jackie, please don’t make me pick between you and him.”

I take a deep breathe. I am about to gamble on the riskiest decision of my life. I throw out what could be the end of Jackie and I.

“I won’t do this to him. If that means, I won’t do anything for you then I am just going to have learn to deal with loving you and not having you. Even if Eric and I stopped talking tomorrow, I wouldn’t tell you what it is between us. I refuse to hurt him no matter how mad I am at him. So, really Jackie. It’s up to you…. Will you trust me that this has to be between Forman and I or does this prove to you that I’m not worth forgiving.”

I notice a surge of feelings tornado in her storytelling eyes. The windows into who she is find their calm but she stays silent. As the room remains wordless, I feel myself start to choke up again. I pull her to me, and lay my forehead on hers.

“Doll, I love you with everything I am, but I can’t do it. He’s my best friend too”

She reaches up and strokes my face and softly says “I trust you. I’m sorry I asked.”

I am overcome with happiness, I am confident that we can get through me fucking up, the pain she has experienced and the uphill road she still must travel.

I can’t stop myself. As her words hit my heart, I crush my lips to hers.

 

My heart is beating my truth "I love, need, and I won't screw up my second chance with her."

Chapter Text

Eric

Red told me to go to my room and that if I moved until he came to get me, he would kick my ass. I know he says it a lot, but this time there was something there. A cadence to his words that left no room for argument. He has been oddly quiet with me during this hellish adventure. I excepted to get my ass handed to me while sitting in a jail cell with him. I was bracing myself for the ultimate smack down when we first got home from jail, but nothing. Strangely, until Jackie and I came upstairs from having it out in the basement, he had said nothing to me. When he caught sight of us, he looked at us both and gave two explicit orders

 

“Jackie, go to Laurie’s room and get some damn sleep.”

 

“You, go to your room and don’t leave it until I come and get you. I will kick your ass Eric, if you don’t follow my direction”

 

I was actually thrilled to be threatened, because I’m going to be brutally honest, him saying nothing scares me more than him yelling at me. I heard him telling Hyde off earlier. I close my eyes thinking about what I heard. I did the opposite of what Red told me and listened from the top of the stairs by the kitchen. I wanted to hear Hyde get his ass handed to him. I wanted to hear Red knock someone besides me to the ground. I wanted to listen to Hyde get shamed for what he did to Jackie. I got what I wanted, Red unapologetically told Hyde he fucked up with Jackie in more ways than one. However, the prophecy my mother always used to chide me with about spying on people came to fruition. I can hear her plainly in my head saying

 

 “ People who listen at keyholes don’t always like what they hear” 

 

Did I get to hear Red bring down the wrath of God……. Yes

 

Did I get to hear Red give no room for excuse for hurting Jackie……. Yes

 

Did I love hearing that there is at least one person on earth, Hyde must bend to…. You bet your ass, I loved it.

 

And then…….I heard my dad say,

“Don’t make Jackie choose between you or Eric, because I don’t anticipate you will like her answer."

 

For a minute, I felt sick joy my father was confident Jackie would pick me over Hyde. I had closed my eyes relishing that the man whose judgment is regarded as almost flawless had delivered his sentence. Jackie would pick me. For a moment, I was dancing on a wave of satisfaction. Then it all came crashing down on me, when I heard Hyde reply,

"I already know the answer." 

I lay here near sick thinking about the bitterness laced in those five words.

 

I had jumped up from the landing and went quickly back to my room. I’m a shit friend, because there have been many moments in the last 72 hours that Hyde could have kicked my ass, let me self-destruct my friendship with Jackie, or let her rip my heart out. She had been well on her way to doing just that, before he came out of his room and told her to stop. Jackie was ripping me to shreds, which Hyde should have loved, but he put an end to the argument. I’m never going to forget the look in his eyes as I gathered Jackie close. That stony blue stare delivered a clear message.

He heard every word that Jackie and I exchanged

He observed more than I thought he did when he came down the stairs to find Jackie’s blouse unzipped

The worst and most terrifying thing of all………..

He knows I am in love with Jackie.

 

I am completely screwed. I was caressing his girlfriend’s back. I was completely turned on by it. The worst….. I was going to kiss her neck. He was wrong about Jackie’s part in it, but my righteous indignation towards him was to help me continue to live in denial.  I didn’t want to admit to myself that I love Jackie.

 

My father’s stern and pissed off voice pulls me back to reality

 

“I hope listening to your best friend getting his ass chewed was worth it, because I told you not to leave this fucking room.”

 

Red

 I have a special brand of pissed off for Eric. It’s time that boy understands some undeniable truths, and I’m not stepping out of his room until he is preaching the gospel of what I am about to say to him from the mountain tops. 

 

I push in his room and start with just his plain fucking disobedience,

 

“I hope listening to your best friend getting his ass chewed was worth it, because I told you not to leave this fucking room.”

 

I watch his face go white, God I’m tried of these kids thinking I’m stupid and I don’t know what the hell is going on in my house.

“You knew I was listening.” he says with awe and wonder. For some reason that is the final straw and I unload on my son.

 

“Damn it Eric! Why do you and your dumbass friends insist on believing I am not aware of what happens in my home. MY HOME! I am responsible for you and somewhere along the damn way I became responsible for the band of morons you call friends.”

 

Eric stares at me shocked, and for once in his life he keeps his smart mouth shut.

 

I take a deep breath, grab the chair at his desk, and I sit down facing him. This conversation is going to be ten times more uncomfortable than the talk I had with Steven. I would actually prefer to never talk about this with him, but it must be said.

 

“Eric, how long have you been in love with Jackie?

 

I watch his mouth drop open in utter shock and panic flood his face. He tries to compose his expression in a desperate attempt to hide his secret. He stutters out,

 

“Dad…. I don’t love Jackie.”

 

I level him with a stare, “Cut the crap Eric. If you can’t be honest with me, how are you going to survive your talk with Steven?”

 

He drops his head, and I say the same thing I said to Steven when we had our little chat,

 

“You raise your fucking head and you look at me.” 

 

Eric’s head flies up as well. It is almost comical. I yell at all of them on a regular basis, I don’t ever go at them like this. 

 

“Eric, you are in love with Jackie. I know it. You know it, and I guarantee Steven knows it. There is zero excuse for cheating on Jackie. God help him if he does it again, I’ll kill him and bury his body before he knows what hit him. Steven is rash, and he makes judgments quickly that are often unfair. This time something, or I am betting someone, pushed him off the cliff. I have a feeling that Jackie is the only one in this sob story that is innocent. What did you do?”

 

“Dad, I didn’t do anything.” Eric denies, lying straight to my face.

 

At least Steven owns up to the shit he fucks up. Nothing pisses me off more than being lied to.  I’m not letting my son be that breed of man who doesn’t own up to his mistakes. He is going to step up or by God…… I really am going to kick his ass. 

 

I stare at him dead in the eye “Bullshit Eric. Don’t lie to me. Your oldest friend in the world made the decision you and Jackie were sleeping together because he witnessed nothing?”

 

I fall silent, waiting for Eric to say something, but he remains silent and his eyes slip from mine. 

 

“Eric! Look at me! I’m going to say this one more time and if you don’t answer, I’m going to leave you to completely get the shit kicked out of you by Steven. What happened?"

 

I watch something come over Eric, an expression I see in the mirror daily but have never glimpsed in my son. I recognize rage waiting to be released. I can see him battle with the desire to scream. I wait for him to make the conscious choice to give into the fire inside of him. He explodes with frustrated anger, “What do you want me to say Dad? What the hell hasn’t gone down between Hyde and I the last few days? 

 

Do you want me to tell you that………...

We got in our first physical fight when he came back from realizing he had screwed a nurse for no reason? 

He put his fist through the glass on our basement door? 

I asked what happens one day when he hits Jackie?

Hyde looked like a punched him in the face when I said that?

Hyde heard me tell Jackie that he didn’t deserve her? 

He walked in on me breaking every code between brothers there is.  

He witnessed me rubbing my fingers down Jackie's back, not because I was worried about the bruise but because I was finally getting to touch her.

I  was about to kiss her neck 

After all that he stood in front of me and stopped Jackie from ripping my heart out. I know that Jackie will press him hard to tell her what is going on between him and I. I know without a doubt he won’t tell her. No matter how mad he is at me, he won’t break the promise we made all those years ago.”

I look at my son’s face that is weary and looks like he has aged ten years in the last 5 minutes.

“Jesus, Dad, what do you want me to say? That I’m in love with Jackie? Fine I love Jackie. I fucking love a woman I can never have and a woman my brother can’t live without.”

He falls heavily back on his bed. He drops his head into his hands, and speaks softly

 

“Hyde messed up big time but I let him down in every conceivable way. He might get over what he saw, but I don’t believe he will ever forgive me for saying he would hit Jackie. Even worse, it will eat at him that I think he doesn’t deserve her. It’s his weakest point, his belief that Jackie is too good for him. It won’t matter that I tell him different. None of it will matter, because he won’t forget any of it. The one person who might get him to let it go is the person who can never know what the problem is.”

I sigh heavily. It hurts to see Eric this way. Eric and Steven have been near inseparable since Kindergarten. Even before they were old enough to understand what brotherhood meant, they were completely loyal to each other. This is a major frisson in their friendship. I came in here with the idea that I would yell him into doing what is right, but there is more here than a mistake with a buddy’s girl. This is about the bond of friendship, and I find myself hurting for them both. 

He raises his head at him, and he looks like he is five years old again and believes I have all the answers. It’s been a long time since he has looked at me like that, it makes my heart clutch.

His eyes cloud and I can see he is desperately trying to hold back tears. His voice is rough with sadness as he gasps out,

 

“Am I going to lose my brother?”

 

I want to look away from that question but I’ve never been one to blink when harsh facts stare you in the face.

 

“Eric, I don’t believe Steven could ever turn away from you. Loyalty is important to him, and he won’t throw that away. He could have already torched your friendship by telling Jackie everything and if what you say is true, he won't do that. I don’t imagine even for Jackie he will let your friendship die. He is more sensible than that.”

 

Eric starts to laugh bitterly, “Then you don’t understand Hyde and how he reacts to Jackie. If push comes to shove, he will burn anyone or anything in his way if it involves his need for her."

 

He bows his head and begins to cry, heartbreaking sobs of regret. He cries out to me “Dad I really screwed up.”

 

I do the only thing I can, I sit on the bed, grab my son and hold him tight.




Chapter Text

Eric

 Somewhere along the way I never noticed how oppressive the silence in the basement can be. I am being suffocated by a room that until 3 days ago was my sanctuary. Now it holds memories I don’t want inside my head or heart. This room that could tell you a thousand stories of my friends and I growing up is now filled with heartbreaking consequences. I am sitting here waiting for Hyde. I know he knows I am here. Hyde took Jackie over to Kelso’s. I was surprised he was willing to do that. Hyde has never been fond of acknowledging Kelso and Jackie’s past relationship, but he needs someone to distract her. Kelso will do it for him easily. Neither of us said anything about having it out, but when Hyde came out of his room this morning, he looked at me and said,

 

“I’m taking Jackie to Kelso’s after breakfast. He is going to take the girls and Fez up to Kenosha for the day.” He just stared at me with that inscrutable face of his and trusted I knew what he was after.  I had immediately gone upstairs and asked Red to take my mother out of the house. I want no one here, and I know Hyde doesn't either. I both want him to hurry up but take his time getting back from dropping Jackie off. I want Hyde and I okay, but I don’t have a fucking clue what I am going to say to him. Where do I even start? Do I start with what he observed?

“Hey Hyde, sorry about the whole trying to kiss your girlfriend’s neck incident.”

or maybe I could open up with

“Listen, I know I said if you didn’t get your shit together, that you might hit Jackie but maybe we could just let that go.”

 

Or I guess I could just grow a pair and say

 

“I love your girlfriend.”

 

Being at odds with Hyde is worse than being at odds with Jackie. Hyde is my brother in every way but one, and that is blood. I love and care about him more than I do my own sister. It hurts to fight with Jackie. I loathe fighting with her. The fight the other night,  is one of two real fights we have actually had. Wouldn't you know it, both times we have gotten into it, we’ve fought about Hyde. I close my eyes thinking of the first fight. I should have realized then that I was in love with Jackie. Red’s right, I am a dumb ass.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Summer That Started It All

Jackie Beulah Burkhart is going to get her ass kicked is all I can think. I would add Hyde to the threat in my head but I know better than to even go there with him. If I say one word to him, about him and Jackie sneaking around all summer, he will kick my ass. Hyde may not have to explain himself to me, but Jackie sure as hell is going to. Jackie is like the sunrise, you can set your clock on her. She is going to waltz in the basement any moment.  As soon as the door opens to the basement I pounce. She isn’t even all the way in the door when I assault her with words.

 

“WHAT THE HELL JACKIE? You and Hyde? Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

I watch her eyes narrow, her cheeks redden and those pouty lips curl. 

 

“Hello to you to Jackass!” She snarls at me.

 

“Don’t start Jackie.  All summer you’ve been lying to me. All summer you’ve been messing around behind my back with Hyde. I want an explanation.” I snap at her angrily.

 

She walks up to me swiftly and kicks me as hard as she can.

 

“Damn it Jackie! What was that for?” I yell as I fall back on the couch in agony. I swear she has cement in her shoes. How does she kick that sharply for the love of God? 

 

“I don’t owe you a damn thing! What is going on between Steven and I is none of your damn business. If I wanted you to know I would have told you.”

 

Her casual dismissal of our friendship stings. I let her hear the hurt in my voice. “So now we don’t tell each other things? We keep secrets from each other? Why didn’t you tell me Jackie?”

 

I watch the fight go out of her. She plops next to me on the couch and sighs heavily.

 

“I didn’t tell you because I just wanted some time with him without all the drama. Eric, it won't matter that Kelso ran away from me and that we broke up. He is going to care that I’m with Steven. I didn’t want to hear your lectures. He’s all I’ve ever wanted. You know that.”

I do know that. She’s been in love with him since we were kids. As long as she’s been in love with him, she has been terrified to do anything about it. The one time she got the nerve, he rebuffed her pretty harshly. If Kelso believed he had Jackie’s whole heart then he really is the King of Stupid. He has been sharing space with Hyde for years, and that is why she always forgave him for cheating. She felt terrible because she believed she was unfaithful in her heart. If Hyde had given Jackie even a hint, she would have abandoned Kelso without a second thought. 

 

“I know that Jackie. I also know that you are in love with him. This is Hyde we are talking about. He doesn't date, he has flings. Are you prepared if he doesn't want anything serious? Hyde is my best friend and I love him like a brother, so I say this not to be a jerk but as someone who knows him better than anyone else…. He is going to break your heart, Jackie. He doesn’t love you.”

 

I watch her face go white, and her eyes start to fill. “Then you don’t know him as well as you imagine. You don’t know how he is with me when none of you dumbasses are watching.”

I sigh. “Devil….I don’t want to see him break you.”

 

“It’s my heart to risk Eric. For him, I’ll risk anything.”

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now

I am shaken from the past by the basement door opening, and there he is. For a guy who claims to be Zen and simple, he is incredibly complicated, and I’m about to find out how deep that complication goes. 

It’s finally just us, but unseen is the spectator of Jackie. Through this whole hellish nightmare, there has been one recurring theme, who would Jackie pick if push came to shove “Him or me.” I don’t know the answer but as I look into those grim and barren eyes, I do know one thing…… He would pick Jackie over any of us. The depth of his feelings for her are more than I gave him credit for, and he won’t give her up. He was a fool. He knows it, but Hyde has always been a brawler and I know he will destroy anyone who is in his way when it comes to Jackie. I can only pray I’m not someone he thinks he needs to destroy to get to her….. Ever. 

 

Hyde can be such a dick and this time is no different. He won’t start this conversation. He could stand here all day and stare me down. It’s up to me to be the bigger person. A Hyde who thinks he has been wronged cannot be budged. I take a steadying breath and think to myself “Here we go.”

 

“Jackie, told me you refused to tell her what the problem was between us. Even at the price of her possibly not taking you back. Before anything else gets said, I want to tell you how much I appreciate you not telling her and getting her to back off the other night” 

 

I watch him take in the words. I am surprised they appear to piss him off. I guess I thought if I acknowledged what he was willing to give up for me and how much it meant, we could start on a more positive note. I was one hundred percent wrong. The expression on his face is one of anger and hurt. I’m not surprised when he finally opens his mouth that his tone and words are harsh.

 

“That’s what you are going to start with? Are you fucking kidding me? Hyde snarls

 

I am a pretty even tempered person, but the disdain dripping in his voice puts me on edge. This is a quality I have always found annoying in Hyde. He can make himself the person wronged faster than anyone I know, even if he started whatever the issue is. 

 

“What the Hell is that supposed to mean? You aren’t innocent in this parade of shit. How would you have liked me to start?” I bark back.

 

His face is constructed of stone, but his eyes are blazing and my comment merely dumps gasoline on the fire. He lets go of the tenuous control on his temper without hesitation and explodes.

 

“How about you are sorry for fucking feeling up my girlfriend? How about Hey Hyde , I lost my Goddamn Mind and traced my fingers down your girl’s back like a lover? Or I know you saw me about to kiss the woman you want more than anything in the world on the most intimate part of her neck? PERHAPS YOU COULD FUCKING START WITH THAT!”

 

His words wash over me like shards of glass being raked over my skin. Each raging question of contempt can’t be denied. I did all those things. I didn’t think of our friendship. All I thought about in that moment was getting the chance to finally touch Jackie. 

 

“I fucked up Eric. I screwed up in the worst way possible. I can’t ever take back cheating on Jackie. I can’t ever make right letting you and your so OVER THE LINE ACTIONS with my girlfriend drive me to not trust her, but I wasn’t totally wrong. You weren’t touching her like you were due to the bruise and you sure as hell weren’t going to kiss her neck because of it either. Even worse, you had the nerve to lecture me about not trusting you. You betrayed me Forman.”

 

I’m struggling with the reality of my actions, that not only did I break a huge boundary with Hyde, I broke one with Jackie. She just doesn't know it, and Hyde will never be able to really explain his reaction without giving me up. He could give me up. It would solve many of his problems. I’m about to ask him why he didn’t throw me under the bus when he continues on his tirade.

 

“I don’t know what pisses me off more. You being so far over the line that you don’t even remember what the line looks like or the fact that you think I would hit Jackie. Or that you think I don’t deserve Jackie. You never have and you never will. Don’t even bother to deny it.”

 

“Damn it Hyde. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for it all. I don’t believe you would hit Jackie. I was mad. I was mad you screwed someone else. I was mad Jackie was heartbroken. Damn it Hyde, if this had been Kelso and Jackie you would have been seething. On top of all that you scare the crap out of me when you lose your temper. I don’t want you to do something that you can’t take back one day.”

 

I watch his eyes start to flare again. I can see he assumes I mean hurting her. 

 

“I don’t mean hit her, but that doesn't mean you won’t scare the hell out of her or end up in jail because you killed someone in a fit of rage. Your temper is out of control and you are unreasonable when it comes to Jackie.”

 

He says nothing. His eyes and face are completely shut down. All I can see is frozen fury. Before he can interrupt the silence, I break it myself.

 

“If I am that shit of a friend, why didn’t you tell Jackie everything? You could make sure she never talked to me again. Why? You’ve stepped in front of me twice now……. I don’t understand.”

 

His face cracks briefly and I understand why.  I recognize the pact we made long ago. We don’t nark. We don’t take one of us down to save ourselves. None of us have ever broken the pact. Not Kelso. Not Me and even at his own peril, Not Hyde.  

 

Steven Hyde is many things, but he is loyal. I’ve wondered a million times if his years of aloofness with Jackie was his way of keeping her at a distance while she was with Kelso. We gave him a ton of shit for being with Jackie after Kelso left, but the truth of the matter is he didn’t do anything wrong.

 

I realize he hasn’t answered. I ask again. “You could have said screw the pact. You could have gotten the perfect revenge. Why Hyde?”

 

Just when I think this can’t get more uncomfortable Hyde decides to actually be open with his feelings.  “Do you think so little of me? Fuck You Forman. I would never tell Jackie how you feel when you barely know it yourself. As much as I loathe your no boundaries friendship, I won’t take it away from her. If she knew all this, it would ruin her comfort level with you. No matter how mad I am at you. I wouldn’t do it. I’ll never do it. Besides, we made a pact.”

 

 I can’t look at him. I shut my eyes tightly. All I can hear in my head is “How you feel.”   I knew he knew, but I was holding desperately to the fraying string of denial that he might not. There is no side stepping it anymore.

 

“How long have you known?”

 

Without a trace of emotion in his voice he replies, “I’ve known for years.”

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hyde

 

“How long have you known?”

 

My heart is pounding. “How long have you known?” A hundred moments of proof rush through my head.

 

The way he closes his eyes when he hugs her

The way he touches her, with reverence and want.

The way he inhales her scent when she is close to him

 

My voice is dead when I reply, “I’ve known for years.” Forman's face goes pale and his eyes slide away. 

 

“How could you know something that I finally just admitted to myself?”

 

I roll my eyes at him. “Come on Forman, we’ve been friends forever. How you are with Jackie isn’t normal. I don’t know how Donna stands it. Besides, it is not hard to recognize what I feel myself. You aren’t the only one who has loved her for years. It took everything I am not to cross the line when she was with Kelso. More than that, I didn’t want to get in the way if she wanted you.”

 

I watch a bitterness wash over him as he quietly whispers out, “You never had to worry about that. She’s wanted you for years. She has been in love with you since Jr. High and then when Prom happened she was lost completely to you.”

 

I can’t help but soak in his words. I experience something breaking open inside of me. To know she has loved me just as long as I’ve loved her makes me feel like a million bucks. He interrupts my momentary joy with a whiplash of bitterness.

 

“You think it is intolerable to watch me be in love with her. Well, try listening to her cry over you for years, hope for you, and have her heart broken time and time again. That wasn’t a picnic either.”

 

Whatever rage was dissipated by the revelation that Jackie has loved me for years evaporates instantly at his words. 

 

“Are you kidding me? You are pissed Jackie loves me and you have to listen to it? You could have made a move anytime. I sure as hell wasn’t stopping you. It’s not the same thing. I’m not letting you shift this on me. I would have never done what you did to me. I can’t ever tell Jackie why I got so mad without ruining your relationship. More so, what type of brother says the things you said about me to Jackie?”

 

“Hyde, you of all people should understand saying things in the heat of the moment. Yes, I said you didn’t deserve her. I know I implied she was stupid for taking you back, but damn it Hyde, cut me some slack… I was worried sick about her. She had gone through hell with her parents and you, then she up and disappears with Kelso. To top it off I find her strolling out of your room in the middle of the damn night. I was out of my mind.”

 

I’m done with this bullshit. He is completely ignoring the cornerstone of the issue. God! At least I can admit how fucking stupid I was. 

 

“Are you going to actually apologize at any point for what started all this or are you going to continue to ignore the fact that you were caressing my girlfriend and getting off on it? Forman you were going to kiss her in a way that I do. The rest of it is secondary to watching a man I call my brother touching the woman I love.”

 

His face pales. I recognize the regret. I truly don’t know if he is sorry that he did it or sorry he got caught.  I don’t know what else there is to say, but I want to make one thing clear. Something he better take as gospel truth, or he will regret it until he dies.

 

“You are right, I don’t deserve her. None of us deserve Jackie, least of all me. I know it, but you better understand this… I don’t care. She’s mine and I’m never giving her up. If I ever see you touch her like that again….. I’ll kill you. Are we clear?”

 

I’ve stunned him. His face is horrified by my threat. The fact is, it is not a threat, it is a promise. We have solved nothing with this conversation. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but all this did was kick up more dust. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to fight with him, but I feel like there is an abyss between us and I don’t know how to cross it. We stare at each other for a long time, but finally he breaks.

 

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. For a second, I forgot that it was impossible and I wanted so badly to touch her one time. I don’t want to love Jackie, Hyde. I would give anything to not want her. Who wants to love a woman who will never feel the same? I was wrong. I broke every code there is between brothers. There was nothing innocent about it. I’m right there with you in the fucked up column. Just like you cheating….. I’ll never be able to take it back. I screwed up. I’m sorry.”

 

It doesn’t fix anything, but I can hear he really is sorry. I don’t know what to say. True to my nature I give him a nod in acknowledgement but then I decide that is dickish even for me.

 

“Thank You. I don’t know if it fixes anything, but I appreciate the apology. I don't know what else to say, maybe we should just leave the rest for now.” I start to walk away to my room. I need to process this all before I can consider the next step.

 

“Hyde?” I don’t turn around but I do reply “Yeah?” 

 

“It’s not true what I said, you do deserve her. What you did for her….the action you took to save her….. It was impressive. You didn’t let anything stop you from protecting her. You could have made sure that Jackie was never totally herself with me again. You could have won but you didn’t. You put yourself in front of me for the millionth time. You are and always will be the better man. You deserve every part of Jackie, and I’ll be sorry till I die for what I did.”

 

I’m shocked. My heart wants to explode. All this is too much for me. For a guy who has spent most of his life repressing his emotions in public, these last few days have been hellish. To hear that he thinks I’m the better man starts to soothe the hurt, but I won’t lie to him.

 

Without turning around, I say back “I appreciate that. We aren’t okay right now, but Forman…… we will be.” With that I step into my room and close the door. 

Chapter Text

Anything But Mine

 

Donna

Somewhere along the way I stopped being a good friend to Jackie.  I started blaming her for something that isn’t even close to being her fault and that I barely even want to admit to myself.  As I sit here and watch her lightly doze in the back of Kelso's van, I can’t help but reflect on the distance that I allowed to grow between us. It makes me feel like a complete and total bitch that I had no idea what was going on with her. I know logically that Jackie did everything she could to hide the abuse, but what type of friend notices nothing. 

 

 I’ve known Jackie since I was nine, and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve spent the night at her house. She lives in a freaking mansion loaded with toys. For the love of God, she has a pool, and I don’t think we as a group have ever swam there. That should have been a sign, but nothing ever crossed my mind. I never once even considered the idea Jackie avoided home at all costs.

 

 When I really think about it, it never occurred to any of us to even ask to hang out at her house. We all just assumed we were not good enough to take home. The super shitty thing about it is, Jackie never said or implied that.  We all just assumed the worst about her, and I don’t know why. Yes, Jackie can be annoying as hell and shallow sometimes, but she is a really good friend. She has never let me down, but I have let her down in every conceivable way. When Eric and I broke up, and I lost my mind with Casey Kelso, she stood by me. It even caused a rift between her and Eric and that still didn’t cause her to bail on me. My loyalty has not been as unbreakable. I never once ratted on Kelso for cheating on her, and I gave her a really hard time for getting together with Hyde.  

 

I had a front row seat for all the beach trash he screwed over the summer. So why protect Kelso’s feelings? Why go against everything I believe and never tell Jackie her boyfriend was cheating on her? 

 

We have all been friends for a long time. Eric, Kelso and Hyde since they were five and I came on the scene when we were all seven. That is when we moved next door to the Formans, so if you want to be technical about it, I am not an original member of the gang either. Jackie came around when we were 9, and she was eight. Two years between when I met everyone and when she did, but yet we have all treated her like she was an outsider. That is except Eric. Those two have been thick as thieves from the start, and as long as I am being honest with myself, I resent the hell out of it. The bond between Jackie and Eric is unshakeable and I know he would do anything for her, and lately I’ve been seeing flashes of something else. That something else is what makes my stomach hurt. I know he loves me. I don’t doubt that, but he looks at Jackie like he would die for her. I want to see that in his eyes when he looks at me. I want that devotion bestowed upon me, and due to that I’ve treated Jackie like she is the enemy.


 It had been a fun day hanging out with Jackie, Kelso and Fez. I was thrilled to see Jackie a little lighter. As fun as it had been, there was a giant elephant no one wanted to talk about. The elephant of what the hell was going on with Hyde and Eric. I have envied their relationship many times. I have never witnessed anything shake their bond until all this stuff with Jackie’s dad went down. I asked Eric what was going on, and he flat out refused to admit him and Hyde were even fighting. Hyde flat out ignored me when I asked him, not even bothering to answer. 

 

I’m not stupid, Kelso basically got us all out of town and occupied, so they could work whatever the problem is out. I begged Kelso to tell me, but he looked at me blankly and told me he had no idea what I was talking about. Bullshit….. It's that stupid pact they have. Those three will never rat, no matter what the secret is. I’ve watched Eric and Hyde struggle for years on whether to throw Kelso under the bus when he was cheating, but they never broke. I’m the one who should have broke. I should have kicked their ass for their misogynistic, misplaced loyalty. 

 

Kelso breaks my thoughts, “5 minutes out Big Red, will you wake up Jackie for me?” Before I can answer Fez interrupts, “Donna you okay? You are awfully quiet, my Goddess.”

 

My heart immediately lightens. It is impossible to feel gloomy around Fez, he goes out of his way to make others feel good. He is also shrewder than we give him credit for. He is very good at reading people, and I love him for it. He can be a total pervert, but he is a good guy. I find I am not ready to go home. I need to think some things out.

 

“Kelso, I’ll wake up Jackie, but can you drop me off at the Water Tower? I need to clear my head.” Kelso catches my eye and his eyebrow goes up, asking me with his gaze what is going on.  I don’t know why but my eyes start to water, and I tear my gaze away from his. 

 

He startles me when he shouts “JACKIE!” She jumps awake and for a brief moment I see fear, and my stomach goes sick again. Here I am worried about stupid Eric being devoted to her when she has been living in hell. I really suck. 

 

“What the hell Kelso? You scared me.” Jackie snips.

 

“Sorry Jackie, but we are almost home. I’m going to drop you off first at the Formans and then I need to run an errand with Donna.” 

 

It makes no sense to drop her off and then go back out. I roll my eyes at his flimsy excuse, but bless him he tries. I know Jackie isn’t buying it either. Her eyes fall on mine, and she asks me with her gaze “ what is going on .” I just shrug and try to play it off like it’s only Kelso being Kelso. I watch her sigh and give in without questioning. 

 

“Okay, sounds good to me.” she murmurs. 

 

We pull into the drive and the first thing we all encounter is Eric sitting on one of the back patio chairs. He looks upset. Whatever went down between him and Hyde has rocked him. I can see it all over him. I’m not the only one who sees it, because Jackie’s face has gone white, and Kelso’s eyes have gone sharp. 

 

“Hey Big D, can I take a rain check? I think I’m going to ask Eric if he wants to play basketball.” 

 

I note his worry about Eric has trumped his concern for me.  “It’s okay Kelso. I think I’ll watch you guys play.” 

 

This time Fez glances at me, and tries to read my weariness. I smile slightly at him to give him reassurance. I don’t know what is wrong with me other than in the center of my heart, I know I am missing a significant piece of the puzzle, that has been the last few days.  I am terrified of what I believe that missing piece is and what it means for my heart. 


Fez

Somewhere along the way I became an expert at reading this group of people who adopted me into their circle. I lean against the cruiser with Donna watching Eric and Kelso play basketball. I take in the whole stage that is the driveway and read the scene. Eric’s face is an open book. I can tell just by looking at Eric that Hyde and him have not found even ground. Kelso who hates conflict is attempting to lend his support the only way he knows how by making things fun and light, but I identify the worry creased around his chocolate brown eyes. Donna is deep inside her head, and her eyes keep darting from Eric to Hyde and Jackie behind her. My Goddess simply looks drained, like someone dimmed the light inside of her, and Hyde is holding onto her tightly like if he lets go he will lose her. My friends are tilting left and right on the sea of their stormy emotions. I hate to see them like this.  My heart can’t stand to see them in pain. I can do nothing at the moment to help Kelso or Eric, and Hyde wouldn’t take my help if I offered it. My Goddess and I will talk later, Jackie knows she can always lay her heart safely into my hands. I will always keep it safe, and love her without judgment.  I can however help Donna. She needs someone right now who understands the demons in her heart even if she doesn't really understand them herself. 

 

I lightly take her hand in my mine and whisper so only she can hear me,” I understand Donna, I really do.” She looks at me confused and unsure of what I am getting at.

 

“I don’t know what you are talking about Fez.”

 

I sigh, and without looking at her, never taking my eyes off the game in an effort to not attract attention, I tell her the truth she is circling around but can’t quite land on. 

 

“I know what it is like to love someone who doesn’t love you the same way back.” 

 

Donna’s hand goes tight around mine, and I can see her breath quicken in her chest. She is desperately trying to keep her cool. 

 

“Fez, are you high? What are you talking about?” she mutters back.

 

I turn my body slightly now, so I’m moderately blocking Jackie and Hyde from our conversation. I need not worry about Eric and Kelso, they are involved in the game and frankly neither are good about picking things up that aren't obvious.

 

I decide I must be blunt if I am going to help her. “You love Eric, and he loves you back but not the same way he loves someone else.” 

 

I watch the damage the undeniable truth causes, her face goes pink and those beautiful eyes look pained. I hold her hand tighter, and she lightly leans into me. Her eyes never break away from Eric.

 

“That’s what it is isn't, the piece of the puzzle I’ve been missing, Eric is in love with Jackie.  I don’t have all of him.”

 

 It hurts my heart to witness the truth pierce her reality. She bits her lip, desperately trying to keep her tears in.

 

“Yes, he loves her too, but Donna, he barely knows it. I believe honestly that there is no part of him that is trying to hurt you or use you. He loves you Donna. I’ve listened to him plenty on this subject, but he is not yours alone.”

 

I admire her strength, her tears want to fall. They are waging a war to be set free, but like the strongest of generals she is holding them back. She says to me in the tiniest of voices,

 

“I want him to love only me. Why does everyone have to love Jackie? Kelso. Hyde. Now my boyfriend secretly wants her as well. Even you Fez…. You all want Jackie.”

 

Silence falls between us and for awhile there is nothing left to say.  Donna lets out a sniff. “I don’t want to be mad at Jackie. It’s not her fault, but why does she have to be best friends with the love of my life.”

 

I look at her and reply, “I am guessing Hyde would say the same thing, because Donna, if I know Eric is in love with Jackie, I guarantee Hyde knows it and hates it.”

 

Donna lays her head on my shoulder and whispers for only me to hear, “I’m sorry Jackie doesn’t love you back Fez.”

 

My heart's greatest secret almost passes the gates of my lips to unburden my heart, but I beat it back. I hope she doesn’t notice my gaze slowly track across the driveway to the impossibleness of the person I love. To the person who is never going to love me back. To a person who isn't Jackie. 

I just smile at Donna, and grip her hand fiercely.  My mind whispers my heart will always love alone …… Because Michael Kelso is never going to love me.”



Chapter Text

 

Jackie

I can think of nowhere less I want to be then sitting in this tiny gray chamber of hell waiting for the horror show that is my family to be drug out in front of the world. I don’t want to be here. I want to be in the haven that is the Forman house. There I can forget about my real life, and bask in the warmth of people who actually give a damn about me. Being in the same house with Red Forman and Steven makes me feel like no one can ever hurt me again. The last few nights, I have actual slept. Now that Steven and I are back on firmer ground, I’ve been living in my nest of fantasy that I wouldn’t have to deal with my home life ever again. I don’t know what made me think that having a showdown with my bastard of a father would end it, but I should have known better.

 

 I feel my heart starting to panic. What if they try to make me see him? What if they try to send me back home? What if they leave me alone with him? My heart starts to pound, and I can feel the room become dense with my panic. I am going to pass out. I start to feel the room go dark, when the softest whisper caresses my ear, and firm fingers rub across my knuckles in support.

 

“Deep breath Doll. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I promise” 

 

I lean into the shoulder that accompanies that voice. Steven… my heart sighs.

I feel his arm come around me ,and pull me tighter to him. I am so glad he is here. Mr. Forman had been adamant that he not come with, because he didn’t trust Steven to behave himself. I had begged desperately to let him come, and Mr. Forman finally relented, but he made Steven swear “To keep his dumbass mouth shut.” He had warned Steven that if he started to get angry even a little bit, he would kick his ass. Steven had agreed to behave himself. I don’t imagine Mr. Forman believes him. Honestly, I don’t think I believe Steven either. He has been pretty tense since the call came in. 

 

While I wait for the Point Place Police to stroll in, and pull my barely there rug of serenity out from underneath of me, I reflect on the other uncertainty in my life…. Eric and Steven. 

 


Earlier in the day

 

Somewhere along the way I got saddled with a best friend and a boyfriend who are melodramatic. They would be offended if I said that out loud to them, but here we are on day four of this weird Hyde/Eric pissed not pissed at each other stand-off. I tried to nudge Steven again to tell me what was going on, and he got angry. 

 

“Damn it Jackie! We covered this. Leave it alone. You are only going to make things worse between Eric and I.”

 

I know Steven won’t crack. If he wasn’t willing to tell me at the risk of me not forgiving him for the nurse, there is no way I’m going to manipulate it out of him. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t crack my oldest friend like a walnut. Eric is going to tell me what the hell is going on. I walk casually down to the basement. Steven is out with Kelso, and I figure this is the perfect time to have a conversation with Eric. 

 

He’s hanging out on the couch with one of his Lego sets. He is rebuilding one he has built a million times, he only does that when he is stressed, and he looks it. I feel guilt rising up in me. Some of this is my fault, and I don’t want to see him hurting. It makes my heart clench to see him in pain. I flop down next to him, and poke him in the side.

 

“Hey Geek, haven’t you built this one like a million times.” I say with joking disdain in my voice.

 

He doesn’t even look at me when he responds, “Hey Devil, I just needed something to do to take my mind off things for a while.”

 

He falls silent. His eyes never leave his Lego set, as continues to build like I am not even in the room. I know I joke about being the center of attention, but I don’t understand him acting like I’m not in the room. I start to worry he is mad at me. I lift my hand and touch his arm. He jerks away from me like I branded him with a hot iron.

 

“Eric! What is wrong with you?” 

 

He gets up and moves to Steven's chair, which I find disorientating on top of the fact that he is acting like I am diseased. He never sits in Steven’s chair. Hell…… no one does, even when he isn’t in the house.  He still hasn’t answered me. I’ve never had anyone bluntly ignore me like this, which is saying something because Steven Hyde is my boyfriend. That man can ignore people's presence like nothing I have ever seen.

 

“What the hell Eric! Are you mad at me? Why are you acting like I disgust you?”

 

His eyes fly up to mine, and I watch him soften at the sight of my distress. He sighs heavily and gives in to me.

 

“I’m not mad at you, Jackie. I just think maybe we shouldn’t be alone together for a while. I don’t want Hyde to….”

 

He never gets the sentence all the way out of his mouth because my temper interrupts his thought process.

 

"IS THIS WHAT THIS IS? Is this Steven having a fit still? He told me he would trust me! If he asked you to not hang out with me, then him and I can’t be together.” 

 

I feel  something black  crawling up my throat. I thought Steven and I, had turned a corner and now we are back to this idiocy. I don’t understand Eric’s reaction, when he yells at me,

 

“NO! Hyde didn’t ask me to do anything. Jackie, I promise he didn’t ask me to not hang out with you.”

 

I am beyond confused. He looks horrified  at the idea of me blaming Steven. I know something is going on between them, and I know they talked about it when Kelso shuffled us off to Kenosha. He looks so…. Unhappy. I step towards him, and he takes a huge step back.

 

“I don’t understand. Why are you acting like this?” I ask.

 

“Jackie, I’m not mad at you. I promise. I just can’t right now. I need some space from you. It’s all too much.” He says, refusing to look at me as he says it.

 

 I feel like someone has shot me in my heart. I hear those words, and I assume he means all the stuff with my family, and I feel myself get heavy with shame.

 

“Oh. I understand. My family situation is a lot, and then my drama with Steven on top of it has been a ton.” I bit my lip, to keep myself from crying. I turn to go back upstairs, my stomach is churning with hurt and confusion. As I hit the top of the stairs I hear Eric say softly,

 

“No, you don’t. You don’t understand at all.”




 

Ten minutes later the Forman’s phone rang and it was the police department asking for me to come down with either a lawyer, or an adult representative to speak with them about my father. So here I sit waiting to see what fresh hell is coming my way. I’m trying to distract myself by thinking about why my best friend apparently can’t stand to be in the same room as me. I know it is probably futile to ask Steven, but I need to know, and I need something to distract the terror beating in my heart.

 

“Steven, is Eric mad at me?” I ask softly.

 

His head whips to mine, and his fingers tighten on mine. “No. Why would you even think that?”

 

His answer is so absolute and quick that I believe him, and on top of that Steven never lies. Even though thinking about him cheating on me hurts, I reflect on the fact he could have covered it up. He didn’t wait to get busted. He flat out told me. I can always count on him to tell me the truth.

 

“Dollface, why would you even think that?” He follows up.

 

I nibble my lip, wondering if I should have brought it up. My hesitation causes him to grip my hand tighter, and for his voice to get a bit sterner.

 

“Jackie?” 

I sigh, there is no denying that tone. I repeat what happened between Eric and I earlier in the day. I watch his whole body go tense as he mumbles under his breath,

 

“You’re such a fucking idiot Forman.” 

 

I’m about to comment on that unpleasant statement, when the door opens and it’s showtime.

 





Hyde

If Forman was sitting in this suffocating closet they call an interview room, I would kill him. Why can’t he ever just not be a fucking idiot? Now Jackie is going to obsess about why her oldest friend thinks they can’t be alone together. If he doesn’t want her to know he is fucking in love with her, he should up his God Damn game on hiding it better. I mumble under my breath

 

“You’re such a fucking idiot Forman.” 

 

I feel Jackie start to comment when more pressing problems come waltzing into the room, and nothing passes her lips. Her whole body tenses and leans into mine. I pull her even tighter, and I whisper one more time for good measure,

 

“I’m not going to let anything happen to you.” 

 

I detect her nod into my shoulder. She straightens her back and shoulders, puts on her rock hard Jackie persona, but she never lets go of my hand. I can feel her trembling under mine.

 

“Miss Burkhart, I’m Officer Garmon. I specialize in domestic/family abuse, and I am the one working on your case.”

 

Jackie tips her head slightly at him and replies almost formally, “It is nice to meet you, but I find it terribly uncomfortable to be here. Do you think we could get straight to the point?”

 

I almost laugh… God, that's my girl. Only Jackie can sound polite and snotty together without anyone thinking it was strange or off-putting. Never underestimate Jackie. She won’t let these people see her break. No one gets to witness that Jackie, unless you are in her circle, and this cop sure as hell, isn't in her circle. 

 

The cop almost appears unsure of himself now. I want to laugh…. “ Welcome to our world, we are merely peasants at her feet” I don’t even crack a smile, because Red is just waiting for a reason to kick my ass. 

 

“Miss Burkhart, I have some news. It is not going to be easy to hear, but I need you to trust me. Can you do that please?”

 

Her hand goes tighter on mine. I watch Kitty sit down next to Jackie, and Red puts his hand on Jackie’s shoulder. I am struck again what incredible people the Formans are. 

 

I watch her nod at the officer indicating he should continue. He looks at us, and for split-second I understand how he feels. This guy is disgusted by what he must say, and I know it is going to be terrible. 

 

“Miss Burkhart, we finally got ahold of your mother. I’m afraid you aren’t going to like what I have to tell you. Your mother paid your father’s bail, and she is not planning on returning to the country. She said that you will be 18 in two years, and she refuses to get involved in and I quote “you and your father being dramatic .”

 

All the air in the room becomes lead at his words “paid your father’s bail” My heart is in my throat. That means the bastard is out. That means he can hurt Jackie. That means my Dollface is no longer safe. 

 

The room falls silent until Jackie says with lethal force, “She paid his bail? SHE PAID HIS BAIL! She refuses to come back? ” The expression on her face is killing me, she looks like whatever shred of innocence she had left just went up in a ball of flames.

 

“I want you to know Miss Burkhart, that your father has been told to have no contact with you whatsoever while this case is investigated. We believe you, and with the evidence you gave us, we are confident that he will be tried and convicted of child abuse. Now in the meantime, you are technically a ward of the state since your mother has indicated she will not be coming back for you. She has asked for the paperwork to relinquish guardianship of you through her lawyer.”

 

The last words out of the officer's mouth seem to almost get stuck, like it is so disgusting that he can barely say them. To my horror, I watch Jackie positively shrink at hearing that her mother has no interest in well…..being her mother. All the light she had regained the last few days, goes out. I’m ready to lose my shit when Mrs. Forman swoops in.

 

“Well, that is simply ridiculous. You go get whatever paperwork is needed, we will take care of Jackie. She is like our daughter anyway. We positively love and adore her.” 

 

Those last six words are what break Jackie. She crumples up into Kitty, and begins to sob. The rest of us all simply look on horrified. Kitty looks at Officer Garmon, and says in her sweet but no nonsense voice,

 

 “I’m taking her out. Red, you just take care of the rest.”

 

I’ve never witnessed anyone deny Mrs. Forman anything, and this guy is no different. He simply nods in agreement and Jackie is ushered out.

 

The minute the door closes, the temperature in the room drops ten degrees. Red squeezes my shoulder tightly before he sits in Jackie’s absent seat. That is his universal signal of shut the hell up and let me do the talking. I want to scream and throw chairs at the injustice happening to the woman I love, but I have tested Red’s patience enough lately. So for once in my life, I actually do what I am told. I just shut up and listen.

 

“Let me make this perfectly clear Officer Garmon, that girl is my daughter. If that bastard comes anywhere close to her, I will end his life.”  His tone is perfectly cold, serious, and not to be argued with.

 

I watch the cop digest what Red says, and I observe him seek to put his professional face back on, even though I can tell the whole situation horrifies him. 

 

“Mr. Forman, I appreciate your need and want to protect Miss Burkhart, but you can’t make threats like that. We will do everything to protect her, and frankly I don’t suspect he will come near her. I will say the mother's complete disregard for her daughter’s well being shocked me. I thought at the very least she would want to come home. Are you really prepared to take guardianship for this girl? I know your wife said so… but Sir…. You are taking on a huge responsibility.”

 

Red doesn’t even hesitate in his answer, “She is already my responsibility. Every adult is responsible for a child in danger, and I sure as hell am not letting a girl who is already my child be shuffled into the system.”

 

I feel myself get choked up. They did this for me, and they were going to do it for Jackie. Red looks at me and a million things pass between us unsaid, but all I can think is………

 

Somewhere along the way Red and Kitty Forman became all of our parents. 


Kitty

This is enough, I think to myself as I watch Jackie start to crumble. No girl needs to hear her mother abandoned her to the wolves. I put a stop to the conversation about Jackie being a ward of the state… that is just foolishness.

 

“Well, that is simply ridiculous. You go get whatever paperwork is needed, and we will take care of Jackie. She is like our daughter anyway. We positively love and adore her.” 

 

I grab ahold of Jackie, who appears to be in a state of shock, and start to get her out the door. I call over my shoulder,

 

“I’m taking her out. Red, you just take care of the rest.”

 

Now for whatever reason, God blessed me with a daughter who has the instincts of a feral cat, and not a drop of compassion for anyone but herself. Laurie and I, have been at odds since she came into the world. No mother wants to admit it, but I failed to make Laurie into an admirable human, and it breaks my heart that she has no use for her family. The only time she gives a damn about us, is if she is desperate for money or has nowhere else to go. She is Red’s greatest heartbreak, and I ruminate daily on what I could have done different.  So when Jackie came along, and brightened our lives all those years ago, I couldn’t help but think God was giving me a little girl to love on even, if she wasn’t mine. 

 

Jackie has clicked with our family since the day she marched into my kitchen, bossing Eric around. I can’t imagine our lives without her bossy attitude and loving heart. Red and I have long stopped thinking of her as being simply Eric’s best friend and now Steven’s girlfriend. She is our daughter, in every way, but the way that makes her biologically mine.

 

I pull her out of the Police Department, and head towards the car. 

 

“You just get in Jackie dear. The boys can drive home in Steven’s Camino.” 

 

She gets in the car without a sound, and says nothing the whole drive home. I am getting worried because Jackie and silent are not two things I put together often. We pull into the drive, and I notice Eric in the kitchen. He sees Jackie’s face, and he immediately comes rushing out. 

 

“Jackie! Are you okay?” he says with decided worry. 

 

She says nothing, and walks right past him. I notice my sweet boy's face going white.

 

I pat him on the cheek. “Let me talk with Jackie right now, Eric. She needs her mother.”

 

I see him flush with worry, but he doesn’t argue. I walk into the living room to find Jackie sitting on the couch crying quietly. Her big eyes look at me, and what I see makes me want to find Pam Burkhart and strangle her with my bare hands. I sit down next to Jackie, and pull her head into my lap. Her tears start in earnest as I stroke her hair gently. 

 

“Mrs. Forman? Why doesn't my Mom want me? What’s wrong with me that she doesn’t even want to protect me from someone who is hurting me?”

 

I am not an angry person, but I could and I would hurt Pam without blinking an eye. I decide to take a page out of Red and Steven’s book and be blunt.

 

“Jackie, there is nothing wrong with you. Baby girl, some Moms are altogether terrible people. She doesn’t deserve you, not one bit. Your mother is a complete bitch.” 

 

I hear Jackie gasp at me swearing, and then a slight giggle escapes her lips. 

 

“Thank you for wanting me” she says quietly. My heart breaks for this girl who should have only ever experienced love. 

 

“We will always want you sweet pea.” She begins to cry again, and I just stroke her hair in comfort. That is what Red and Steven find when they walk in the house, my daughter’s head in my lap fast asleep.




Chapter Text

Eric

Somewhere along the way God decided to make my life a Greek Tragedy. I’m sitting on the couch down in the basement, trying to find a way out of this hellish drama I’m trapped in. The woman I want desperately, the one woman I can never have, is now going to live with me, but wait there’s more…… the man she loves lives with me as well. This would only happen to me. I love Jackie. Jackie loves Hyde. Hyde is my best friend or at least he used to be, and he loves Jackie. To take this drama to a Shakespearean level, Hyde knows I love her and I have a girlfriend I care deeply about. Who I imagine is starting to get a clue about what is going on. 

 

 I let my head fall back to the broken top of the couch. I wonder if I will have a day anytime soon that isn’t full of emotional terrorism. The first shots of battle today were brought on by me fucking up trying to find a healthy distance from Jackie. I know I hurt her feelings. I’m near sick she thinks I don’t want to deal with her family horror show or the crap with Hyde. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I’m stuck between two people I love with my whole heart. I love Jackie, more importantly she is my best friend and Hyde is my fucking blood brother who loves Jackie more than is reasonable. I don’t know how to fix what I did, and keep both of them as my friends.  As if hurting her feelings this morning wasn’t bad enough, she finds out her dad has been let out on bail, and the kicker her mom doesn’t want her. A miserable Jackie is depressing as hell, but finding Jackie with her head on my mom’s lap while my mom strokes her hair is brutal. She was asleep, and it was obvious by her tear stained face she had cried herself to sleep. I knew the minute I saw the tracks down her face, her visit to the police station didn’t go well.  

 

Red had nodded his head towards the kitchen, and I was filled in quickly. I had avoided looking at Hyde. I could feel the rage coming off him in waves. After, I got the low down on Jackie basically being an orphan and her dad being out in the world, I decided to try to come find some sort of calm.  I want more than anything to go back to never having touched Jackie, not knowing about her life, Hyde never cheated, and to the time when I could be around her and not feel like hell. All these thoughts make me feel like a complete bastard, because we are back to me not wanting to deal with the painful stuff. 

 

The great irony of me telling Jackie that Hyde doesn't deserve her is, I’m the one who doesn’t deserve her. Her life has been shredded to pieces again, and I’m sitting here freaking out how uncomfortable it makes me knowing I’m going to be living with her. I hear steps coming downstairs and I know it's Hyde. I don’t bother to open my eyes. I would know those footsteps anywhere, Hyde is heavy footed and his steps always seem to have purpose. I believe I could actually identify all my friends by the echo of their steps as they travel down to our world. 

 

Kelso’s are always rapid, and sound like he is on the verge of falling. 

 

Donna’s are light but stuttered, almost like she waits on every step searching for assurance before moving on. 

 

Fez’s have a bounce to them, it almost sounds like he is skipping down the stairs.

 

 Then there are Jackie’s steps. You can’t miss them. It’s always a parade of clatter rapidly assaulting the stairs. Nothing about her is quiet, not even the foot falls of her feet.

 

 I’m so tired. I just want back the life, I had before the secret that I was hiding even from myself came out for the whole world to see. I listen to the footsteps make their way to the chair that sits by the couch. His chair. I hear him plop in it, and a heaviness comes over the air, and I know he isn’t here to visit or light up his stash. 

 

“What the hell is your problem?” said the voice of an aggravated Hyde.

 

I  finally opened my eyes. My  frustrations flying to the surface. I am tired of getting beat up on. I am sick of it all, and right now I am tired of Hyde.

 

“What’s your problem?” I snap back. 

 

Our eyes meet, and I see that very little of his anger for me has dissipated, and I know he is about to tell me what exactly what  his problem is.

 

“You’re my fucking problem! Jesus! What were you thinking telling Jackie you needed space from her? She thinks you are mad at her. What the hell Forman?”

 

He’s pissed, I can see it rolling off of him, but I’m fucking pissed as well. 

 

“I don’t know how I got to be the bad guy in this. You are the one who fucked someone else, but I’m the villain. How in the God damn world did it end up I was the one who hurt Jackie. None of this is my fault. I didn’t hit her, I didn’t cheat on her, and I didn’t abandon her but I’m the guy who is getting dumped on.” I seethe at the injustice of it all. 

 

Hyde’s eyes narrow, and his voice gets even colder.

 

 “How far up your ass is your head? You didn’t do anything wrong? You were touching my girlfriend’s back! You were going to kiss her. The worst part of it is she doesn’t even know that you were going to break a boundary she counts on. She trusts you to do the right thing. You are right…. It is my fault I fucked someone else. It’s my fault, I didn’t trust Jackie, but I never anticipated in a fucking million years that I couldn’t trust you, Eric. Jesus, you can’t take your screw up out on Jackie. Neither of us can. So stop being a fucking idiot and get your shit together.”



This is going worse than our actual talk. Neither of us were this upset when we tried to hash it the first time. I suspect both of us were holding back. 

 

“Screw you Hyde. You think I’m trying to hurt Jackie! I’ve never wanted to hurt Jackie. You don’t want me to put up boundaries, but you don’t want to see “The Jackie and Eric Show” That’s what Jackie knows and is use too.” 

 

My heart is pounding and I know I hurt Jackie’s feelings this morning. I know she doesn't understand. I don’t know what to do, and that is what explodes out of me.

 

“I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO HYDE?”

 

I see the control slip, and his rage takes over, and Hyde finally lets it all out in one sentence.

 

“I WANT YOU TO NOT FUCKING LOVE MY GIRLFRIEND!” 

 

Each word feels like a pin in my balloon of hurt, and I deflate. I’m back to where I started. I’m just so tired. I feel my body sag, and I drop to the couch and put my head in my hands. I wearily respond to him,

 

“I don’t want to love her Hyde. I would do anything to not love Jackie Burkhart.”

 


Hyde

 

“I don’t want to love her Hyde. I would do anything to not love Jackie Burkhart.”

 

I drop back in to my chair, exhale deeply, and stare at the man who until a few days ago, I would have trusted with my life. His words are desperate and broken, and it makes me feel like shit, but at the same time why does everyone have to be obsessed with the love of MY LIFE. 

 

“Eric, no matter what the issue is between us, you can’t shut her out to fix it. You are right, I don’t want to watch the Jackie and Eric show. I don’t want to know that you are smelling her sweet hair, when you hug her.  I for sure don’t want to think about rubbing her arms for comfort, and touching her soft skin. I would rather pluck my eyes out than see her in your arms in any form.  I can’t keep hurting her because both of us can’t get our shit together.”

 

I say it softly, but serious because I mean it, Jackie has to stop getting hurt in this process. 

 

“Forman, things are going to get bad for Jackie. Her mother abandoned her. Her dad is out, and she is going to need to have someone with her at all times. She is going to hate that. Between Red and I hovering, she is going to fight it every step of the way. She is going to need a soft place to land. She is going to need you. I need you to pull your shit together.”

 

I watch my oldest friend scrub his hands over his face. He looks exhausted. I hate we are at odds. I hate there is a part of my heart that resents him. I hate Jackie needs someone besides me….but she does, so I’m going to need to get over it.

 

“Hyde, I don’t know what to do. Now anytime she is near me I feel terrible. If I touch her, I feel like I’m betraying you. If I detect my heart jump, I feel like I’m slime to Donna.  I don’t know how to be there for her like she expects and not send you over the fucking edge. Because don’t tell me you aren’t going to tense up every time I touch her.”



I know what I am asking him seems unachievable . It’s not like I don’t get it. Loving Jackie and not showing it is a near insanity inducing task, but he must do it. 

 

“Forman, you act like I haven’t been in your position. I’ve watched and wanted Jackie for years. Do you know how hard it was for me to witness her with Kelso? You think I’ve haven’t been in your position? When I taught her Zen, and we were spending all that time together, I nearly lost my mind making sure I kept it all in check. How many times did we both almost break and tell her about Kelso banging other girls? It would have cleared the path much earlier for me. I still kept my feelings under control.  You have to find it in yourself to suck it up. If you really love her Forman, you will figure it out, don’t do it for me, do it for Jackie. Keep your damn hands off my girlfriend's fucking body and your lips to yourself, and I will force myself to deal with the rest.”

 

I watch his eyes narrow a bit, and he tells me an undeniable truth. “Come on Hyde, your actions before you got together completely hurt Jackie. She thought you hated her. Don’t lecture me on sparing Jackie. You did everything you could to make sure she thought you despised her.”

 

I inwardly sigh and roll my eyes simultaneously. I’m not unaware that I was mean to Jackie. I did it on purpose. I still don’t think he gets what I’m saying to him. 

 

“You don’t get it Forman. Jackie never had the expectation that I cared about her. I knew I was hurting her. I did it on purpose. If she hated me or thought I was an ass, she was less likely to be near me. It was my boundary. I didn’t only do it for her. I did it for Kelso. No matter how much I hated that he fucked around on her or that I thought she deserved more, I kept my feelings tucked away. She was his girl. Jackie’s expectation is you care about her and want to be around her. Telling her “you need space” is a slap in her face.”

 

I watch his face drop again. I start to get up and walk away, when he grabs my wrist. I glance back at him, his eyes are naked with pain and honesty. He repeats what he said earlier,

 

“I don’t want to love her. I just can’t help it.”

 

I pull away, and look away from him. The hurt in his eyes is near killing me, but I tell him my own truth.

 

“I know you don’t. I really do, because I can’t help it either, but I need you to man up, figure out how to love Jackie and live without her, like the rest of us have had to. I had to. Kelso is doing it now, and you need to as well.  Because she’s mine now, and I sure as hell don’t share.” 

Chapter Text

Jackie

 

Somewhere along the way people forget, I am intelligent, and that just because I talk a lot doesn’t mean I don’t listen. More importantly, I listen and file things away, for later use. Like I told my father as he sat across from me in that God Forsaken interview room, I am his daughter. I know how to plot, plan, and implement. I can be ruthless, and I can strike with precision. If you are going to last on the top of the highschool food chain you need to know how to manipulate situations. More importantly, if I was going to make it through life with my father and my screwed up mother, it was learn how to defend, strike, and end a situation before it ends you. I’m tired of being the victim. I’m so over being the one knocked down, and I am done being the one caught by surprise. I can do nothing currently about my mother. Fine, she doesn’t want me……  I sure as hell don’t need her. I will deal with her betrayal when she gets the nerve to show her face. Make no mistake…. I will do everything I can to make sure my mother is paid out for leaving me to be abused. What type of freaking mother abandons her child? Apparently, mine does, and now that my tears have dried, I am ready to think about payback.

 

 As for my father, I refuse to let him skate free after what he did to me. If the Point Place Police isn’t going to keep the monster in jail, then I will take care of it. It is time to use my insurance policy. It is time to give someone the ledger who will be furious about my father’s crimes. He has been stealing from his clients as well as the city. The best thing I could have ever done was take that ledger, because one of his clients will not tolerate being stolen from. 



Knowledge is power, and I have a critical piece of information that no one in the Forman house has. Most  people have long tuned Red out when he talks about the war. I don’t, and let me tell you what, Red, talks about the war….. A lot. He talks about his war buddies, and he isn’t shy in mentioning their names. Two names caught my attention not too long ago. Those names were Devin and Patrick Calabrese, and those names mean everything. Red has also talked about saving their lives when their destroyer was attacked. Saving lives usually assigns a debt. Red doesn’t know it yet, but I am going to ask him to call in that marker.  I know that Red goes every Tuesday night to meet up with his war buddies, at the only member exclusive club in Point Place.  Those two men that Red drinks with on Tuesdays are clients of my father, and they are the type of men you don’t want to betray. 

 

Loyalty is their watch word, and there are serious consequences for breaking that loyalty. You wouldn’t imagine men like that would live in Point Place, but never forget everyone needs a place to hide their secrets. Who would ever guess that Point Place would be the place to bury them? Making it the perfect place to shelter what others can’t know. I know not only has my father screwed these men over, but Red calls them friend. I’m going to give them my father’s secret, and they can do with it what they will. I feel a smile spread across my face. Game on Dad. Game on. 




Red

 

Somewhere along the way in my war days, I became best friends with twin brothers. Patrick and Devin Calabrese served by my side the whole time I was in Korea. Two men I trusted my life with, and they trusted me. A bond is borne out of war that can’t be broken. You don’t protect each other's backs in the scariest of situations and forget that bond. I saved Patrick and Devin’s lives when our destroyer was hit. I got all three of us to safety. When we left the Navy, they said I should look them up in Point Place, and they would hook me up with a job. They swore, I would always have a friend in them. A promise they have never broken.

 

I brought Kitty here to start our family, based on that promise. I didn’t know it then, but there is no mistaking it now, those two brothers are more than what they seem. I am about to call on the knowledge of who they really are. 

 

I am standing outside of a bar called Lucky’s, it sits on the west side of Point Place. It is the most exclusive club in Wisconsin. It is member only and you must be invited to join. I am sure it strikes you as odd that such an elite club would reside in such a small town. What people don’t know, is Point Place is the weekend getaway of the Calabrese Family, one of the largest crime families in the country. The head of the Chicago Mob for years has kept a home and businesses in this small nobody town. This is where Anthony Calabrese, the head of the family, stashes his loved ones to keep them from those who may use them for retaliation. Make no mistake about it, the family that resides in Point Place are not the sweet and the innocent. The citizens of Point Place don’t know it, but many of their business are mob controlled. I know it. I’ve always known it, and because I’m not a fucking idiot, I have made sure to keep my friendship with the brothers tight. 

 

Kitty would have an absolute fit ,if she knew I associated with men who at the very least can be described as criminals, but somethings can't’ be helped. I have chosen to work hard, suffer life’s ups and downs, and keep my life honest. The brothers have offered many times to “help me out” when things have been tough, and there are times I’ve been tempted. Still, my answer is always no. I always thank them, and tell them they are appreciated, but I can’t cross that line. Because once it is crossed, you are forever in their debt…. Saved their lives or not, I don’t want to owe the mob. It goes against my core belief system to see criminals prosper, but I do enjoy the company of these men. I am smarter enough to know helping them out keeps them looking out for me and my family. More so, I am willing to cross the line for Jackie. I hold tight to the ledger she put in my hands last night, and think of what she told me.


Last Night

 

He was sitting in his chair, enjoying the quiet. For once the dumbass gang was not crowded in his basement. Eric and Steven were working, dumbass 1 and two…. Who the hell knew and he certainly didn’t care. Donna and been with Jackie for a while, but he knew she left to go home. Jackie was tucked upstairs, safe and secure. Which is what he wanted. Now that Jack was out on bail, he didn’t want Jackie anywhere by herself. He knew it irritated her to be imprisoned or have a body guard, but that was too damn bad. Hell would freeze over before that bastard put one more hand on her. He simply wouldn’t permit it. Eric was offended his father didn’t trust him to be the only one with Jackie.

 

 He sighed……. The bottom line was Eric simply wasn't the toughest guy on the block.  He knew Eric would try to protect her with everything he had, but Eric would be easy to take down. He didn’t like to count on Steven’s violent anger, but he knew without a doubt Steven would…… frankly kill Jack Burkart if he came within 10 feet of Jackie. Jackie couldn't be safer with Steven next to her. 

 

Manic footsteps, barely muffled by the carpet interrupted his introspective thought.  He knew without looking up, who it was. Even Jackie’s footsteps were over the top, and uniquely hers. 

 

He had not acknowledged her presence. It was his nature to make things complicated, and not make the first move. You learned more, he believed, when you made the person who approached you speak first. In this he and Steven were identical twins. 

 

“Mr. Forman, Can I talk to you?” she had asked quietly.

 

It had taken him by surprise, because Jackie was never quiet. Not in her grief, not her in happiness, and not even in her fear. His nickname for her was dead on and apt, she really was “The Loud One.”

 

 It told him instantly, something big was coming his way. He turned his stare to her, and he assessed her. She was in her pajamas, and her face was scrubbed clean of makeup. When she didn’t have her war paint on she looked years younger than her actual age of 16. Clutched to her chest was a larger leather bound book, it looked like an accounting ledger. She was holding on to it for dear life, and her eyes were burning with something, and it was almost scary. She seemed on the verge of a significant decision, and trying to decide if she was on the side of angels or demons. 

 

“What is it Jackie? You know I don’t like to be disturbed while I’m reading the paper.”

 

He said it just to be annoying, he had that in common with Steven has well, he always liked to jab or tease. He liked to see if the person he was talking to was up to sparring with him. He already knew that about Jackie, but he did enjoy seeing the flash in her eyes. It made him feel like she was getting her spark back. 

 

He watched her take a deep breath, like she was on the edge of jumping off the high dive, and was trying to psych herself up. He could see in her eyes the minute she decided to take the plunge.

 

“Mr. Forman…… this book is a ledger of all my dad’s business dealings. He has been cheating the City of Point Place, and he has been stealing from the Calabrese brothers. I know you know who they are, and I don’t mean two guys who are your war buddies.”

 

He watched her eyes go sharp, and look him dead in the eye and repeated,

 

“Mr. Forman, I know you know who they are.”

 

He simply nodded in acknowledgement and marveled at his young girl. She already was a force to be reckoned with. She wasn’t waiting for someone to save her anymore, she was saving herself. 

 

He could see she took his nodding as permission to continue,

 

“I can sit here and wait for the system to put him in jail. He’s already out on bail. He will either come after me now, or he will disappear and come for me years from now. I can’t live my life looking over my shoulder….”

 

He raised his eyebrows as her words floated off. He watched her square her shoulders, and an air of steel formed in her eyes. She handed the ledger to him and said simply,

 

“I think you should let your friends know they are being cheated. After all that’s what good friends do. They look out for each other.”

 

He felt shock, unease, but mostly he was impressed. He knew what she was asking, but he needed to make sure she understood the consequences.

 

He stopped being Red Forman for a minute, and put on his dad hat.

 

“Jacqueline, do you understand what this means?” his voice stern, but inquiring.

 

Her eyes never wavered from his. He could see every hit and every heartbreak flood those mismatched eyes. Her voice was soft, but it was serious when she replied,

 

“Yes I do. No one will ever get cheated again, Mr. Forman.”

 

He sighed, not answering right away, and he watched her resolve falter and those eyes tremble. 

 

“Please….” she exhaled. 

 

He simply nodded again. She rose from the couch, and kissed his cheek. She whispered in his ear, 

 

“Thank You, Mr. Forman.”

 

She turned around, and padded back up the stairs, never looking back. Jackie had said the words, “No one will ever get cheated again.” 

 

He knew what she really meant was….. “No one would ever get beat again.”




 

The Present

 

I know what I am doing is wrong. I know I’m not the person who will pull the final trigger, but I am loading the gun and I’m pointing it. I pull open the door, and I am greeted by the Front Doorman,

 

“Hello, Mr. Red, how are you this evening?”

 

I keep my face impassive, and I reply, “Fine, thank you. I am looking forward to dinner and drinks with friends.”

 

The nameless Doorman smiles, and says “They are waiting for you. Head on Back.”

 

I walk into the restaurant. I pass the tables, and all the waiters to a solid black door. Another guard stands in front of it, and before I enter I take stock of how I feel. I find I am not nervous, and I am ready. 

 

The door is opened for me, and I see my war buddies waiting. Smiles and legitimate joy to see me. 

 

Devin pops up, and gives me a hug. “Red! How are you…. You SOB?”  

 

This is followed by Patrick rising to shake my hand, and hug me as well. I am not a hugger, but it is how these men greet people, and I am in no position to complain.

 

These men also are trained in the art of reading body language, and I watch their smiles falter.

 

Devin looks at me and says “Red, what is it?”

 

 I know what this information will mean for Jack Burkhart, and I find I simply don’t care. I know I won’t lose a minute of sleep over what I am about to do. I sit down across from them, and hand them the ledger.

 

“Listen, we need to talk. There is something you need to know.”

Chapter Text



Devin Calabrese

Somewhere along the way Jack Burkhart forgot his power, his status, and all that he had was not self earned. He forgot that he had been helped and guided to the City Council. He foolishly put out of his mind that many of his high-powered clients were directed to him. I am far from happy with the news that Red dropped at my feet. To be fair, he dropped it on both Patrick and I, but Patrick and I serve different roles in our family. I’m the one who makes the final decisions. I brought Burkart into the fold. I hate making mistakes, and Burkart was an error in judgment. It is inconceivable to me the bastard would dare to steal from us. I now not only have a problem with him, but with my fucking idiot accountant for not knowing my money was taken from me. I’ve already sent Patrick to deal with him. It looks like I have a new position to fill.

 

I push back in my office chair, inhale deeply on my cigar, and stare at the ledger. It inspires various emotions. The first one, being pleasure. I am pleased that Red came directly to us, as soon as he knew. Red Forman is an admirable man. One I respect deeply, and that is a rare event. Most men are disappointing. Most men take the easy way out. Most who call me friend, have called on my power long ago. Not Red. Never, not once, has he asked for a favor or help. I would give it without thought or hesitation. He saved my life, and Patrick's. What no one knows, but him and I, is he went back for Patrick. 

 

When our destroyer was hit, Patrick was injured to the point, he was unconscious. Red couldn’t get him and I out, and drag Patrick. He got me to safety, and raced back into the fire for my brother. There isn’t a world where I can live without my twin. He makes me bat shit crazy, but I can’t imagine life without him. I know, even though Red has never said a word, because he never would, he knows. That is simply the type of man he is. He knew that I couldn’t deal with losing my brother. He saved our lives. He saved my brother. I am forever in his debt. 

 

Red and his family have suffered rough times. I have offered forcefully to give him help. He has flat out refused every time. I know why…. I’m a criminal, and while I’m fine with that, Red truly isn’t that type of man. What I respect even more is once he knew who my family was, Red never wavered in his friendship to us. Righteous men are rarely friends with men who are in the mafia. I mean, it truly isn’t realistic. The mere idea that he would still call us friends, has cemented his place in our lives. There is very little I wouldn’t do for Red Forman, and there is very little I haven’t done. He may have never asked, but that doesn’t mean I have not helped and watched out for him. I take another deep pull on my cigar, puff out the smoke in a perfect circle, and reflect on the things that I’ve done without Red knowing. 

 

When the plant was leaving Point Place, he was to be laid off right away. I made sure that they kept him to the last day.



When things were tough, I contacted the bank who owns their house, and told them they would not foreclose on their home, and they would extend the family all the grace needed.

 

PriceMart…… came to Point Place, because of yours truly. I own PriceMart, under a different name of course, but Red will always have a job.



When he sat across from me and told me about the Hyde boy, who, he considered his, had been abandoned and abused…... I was outraged. Children are precious, and believe me when I say Edna Hyde will never ever be seen again. Hyde need never worry about his mother coming back. 

 

I pull my attention back to the ledger. I am filled with an unspeakable rage at Burkhart’s audacity, and lack of loyalty. What surprised me the most was that Red brought it to me without hesitation. It doesn’t surprise me that he told me. Red is loyal down to his bones, but I could see that he didn’t have a moment's regret or worry in his gaze. The only thing that I could detect was unease, when he refused to say where he got it from. He is protecting someone, and while I want to know the answer…. I will save that for a later date.  He must know what this means for Burkhart. Red is a pragmatic man, there is no way he isn’t aware this is a death sentence for Jack Burkhart. I will never tolerate being cheated, and breaking loyalty to the family is unacceptable. 

 

I flip through the pages of ledger again, and I notice a piece of paper stuck right in the middle. I pull it out, begin to read it, and I find I am fucking blown away.


Dear. Mr. Calabrese,

 

By now Mr. Forman has given you this ledger, and you know that you are being cheated. I am sure, knowing the type of man you are, that you are wondering how Mr. Forman came across the evidence of this betrayal. I am guessing, he didn’t or refused to tell you. I am asking you to not be angry with him. He is shielding me. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Jackie Burkhart, the only child of Jack and Pam Burkhart. I gave Mr. Forman the book. I am using it as my insurance policy/protection from my father. I don’t know what else to say other than my father has been abusing me most of my  life, and it had gotten increasingly worse since my mother abandoned me to be hurt at his hands.

 

I won’t bore you with the drama that was my escape from hell, but will say that if not for my boyfriend Steven Hyde and the Forman family……. I don’t know what would have happened to me. My father was arrested for abusing me, but my mother bailed him out. I have no doubt at some point he will come for me. While I don’t have my father’s terrible soul, he has shaped me, and I refuse to lose the game where the consequence is my life. I refuse to live in fear. I gave this to Mr. Forman, and asked him to give it to you. Mr. Calabrese…… I understand what this means. Do with this knowledge what you will, but know if my assumptions are correct, I will be thankful until the day I die.

Sincerely,

Jackie


Whatever rage I felt at being cheated is dampened by my white hot disgust that Burkhart was hurting his daughter. I am even more disappointed in myself for associating with a man who abused his child. I know…. how can a man who is fine with killing people, be horrified by this behavior?  We all have our own moral codes, even the worst of us, and mine is intolerant of hurting women and children. My family is brutal, and we have done things that most would find unspeakable, but no child or woman has ever been touched. My men know if that code is  broken, a death sentence will follow. 

 

I can’t help but be impressed by this girl. If I didn’t know better, I would think she had been raised in the life I lead. This was savvy. This was clever. This was fucking ruthless. This girl put a death sentence on her father the minute she gave Red the book, but that letter…… will secure the end of him to be painful, and far from quick. I now understand perfectly why Red didn’t blink to give me this book. He is protecting her. He is claiming her as his own. It looks like I can now add another name to the Forman family who will have my protection for life. Jackie my dear…… you will never be hurt again. 

 

This type of crime calls for me to deal with it personally. I will not call Patrick in, or any of the others who usually deal with problems. Burkhart gets me. I pick up the phone, and dial. 

 

“Burkhart” comes a gruff voice on the other end.

 

“Jack, we need to meet. I hear you are in a spot of trouble, and may need help. I want to make sure this is never a problem again.” I say smoothly. 

 

“Oh, Thank God. I knew you would help. This is all complete insanity.” he says with relief.

 

“Come over to the club, right away.” I say without a hint of what it is about to come.

 

We hang up, and I feel a wolfish grin spread across my face……. This is going to be fun.

 


One month later

Hyde

Somewhere along the way, Jackie forgot that I know her inside and out. I know when she is lying, and she is lying her ass off right now. Jackie’s eyes don’t allow untruths to stay hidden, or at least not with me. I know it might appear strange because I didn’t know she was being abused. I knew something was wrong, but my desire to refuse to believe what happened to me, could be happening to her, blinded me. I don’t give two fucking damns that she says it's not my fault. I will never forgive myself for not pushing, and having my head up my ass. That terrible slip in judgment doesn’t mean I don’t know when something is off, and something is really fucking off.

 

First, and the most disturbing is Red has gone from ultra protective of Jackie, to yelling at me for being up her ass about going anywhere alone. It is like Red has forgotten her maniac father isn’t out there somewhere. Jack Burkhart went missing a month ago. He fell off the fucking earth. The Police are making it sound like he jumped bail. I seem to be the only person who is worried that means he could just appear again, and hurt her. 

 

What Jackie has never done is lie straight to my face, but recently she did, and I know she knows that I don't believe her. I can’t fathom why she lied about something so stupid. I let my head fall into my hands, and think about the event that won't stop poking at me.

 

He didn’t give a damn what Red said. Until, he had some proof Jack Burkhart wasn’t a threat to Jackie anymore, he was going to make sure she wasn’t alone. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out why Red was acting like Jackie was safe. He knew Jackie was going to be annoyed with him. He didn’t care. Besides, it wasn’t like he hadn’t picked her up from cheerleading a million times, so she couldn’t say he was being overprotective.

 

 He pulled the Camino up to the school, behind a Lincoln with tinted windows. It struck him as vaguely odd, but Point Place had some fairly rich families. There was something about the Lincoln, that seemed familiar to him. It was like Déjà Vu. He shook his head, his mind couldn’t grasp what the connection was. His confused thoughts were distracted by the passenger door opening. Out came a massive man. He was dressed in a suit, had dark sunglasses on, and a face that said “Don’t Fuck With Me.” He stepped to the rear door, and pulled it opened. The man who got out exuded power. His face was unrelenting, almost wolfish. 

 

There was no doubt that the man was wealthy. His clothes were immaculate, well tailored, and a gold watch peeked out of the cuff of a perfect white shirt under the suit jacket. Something about this man, like the car sat on the edge of his memory. It was causing his heartbeat to pick up, and then it nearly stop. He noticed out of the corner of his eye Jackie coming out, and the man strode to her with an air of superiority. This was a man comfortable in his dominance. He walked directly up to Jackie. He watched her stop in her tracks. The man’s face softened a bit, and he took off his glasses. He was going to get out, but something stopped him. Jackie had been acting oddly, and maybe this was a clue. He was watching Jackie’s face intently, he could observe her surprise melt into wariness, but her eyes never wavered from the intense gaze of the man in front of her. They were too far away from him for him to hear what the man was saying to her, but Jackie was hanging on every word. Her face went from wariness to super sonic joy. It was such a rapid transformation, that it shocked him. The man offered her his arm. Jackie took it, and followed the man without hesitation to the car. If she had looked anywhere but the man's face, she would have noticed the Camino, but Jackie’s gaze never wavered from the man who looked like he could eat her for breakfast. They got in and took off.


My mind continued to comb through the event trying to find answers. I still don’t know why I didn’t get out of the car. I still don’t know why I didn’t follow it to see where it was going, but something told me not to. I always go with my gut. It’s what has kept me alive. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to see if Jackie would tell me what the hell that was all about. I had mentioned I had come to pick her up from practice, but she wasn’t there. Her eyes had shot away from my face. I knew the minute she did that, she was going to lie. I watched her take a deep breath, look back at me, and she quickly replied

 

“I left practice early. Kat Peterson was annoying the hell out of me. I decided I better leave, or I was going to lose it. I wandered around for a bit, before I walked back home.”

 

It was such a bullshit statement, that all I could do was raise my eyebrow at her. Her eyes had pleaded with me not to call her on it. I could see fear, and so I had simply said “Okay” 

 

 

Jackie's behavior is out of character, and worrisome. Worst of all, she is quiet. A quiet Jackie is like a falling star; it's rare, and an event most will never witness. I know, I’m not the only one who has noticed her behavior, because Wonderboy best friend keeps giving her the side eye. That is another issue…. She is avoiding Forman like the plague. I know they made up after he was a dumbass and told her he needed space. I heard him apologize, and for a few days they went back to being my personal hell. Then boom…. One day it’s like she woke up and forgot she ever knew him.

She has been spending substantial amounts of time with Donna and Kelso. Donna, I’m cool with, but all the Kelso time has me edgy. I’m trying hard not to be a dick about it. That is what gets me in trouble….being jealous. I’ve been simmering for weeks, trying to not make this about me, but I’m over it. I push back from the kitchen table and head  to the basement, hoping to find her there. I find only Forman. I’m not shocked, Jackie seems to do what she can to avoid being in the basement. I flop in my chair across from him, and sullenly ask him.

 

“Where’s Jackie?”

 

I can see his face is pissed off. I don’t know if it’s at me, Jackie, or he is just in a mood, but his response is less than friendly.

 

“How the hell, should I know? It wasn’t my day to babysit her.” 

 

His tone is clipped and bitter. For a minute I am taken aback by it. I know things haven’t been stellar between us lately, but we had moved to awkward politeness. 

 

“What the fuck is your problem? I just was wondering if you knew where the hell Jackie is?”

 

My tone is less than friendly back. I’m frustrated, worried about Jackie, and spoiling for a fight. If Forman wants to be an ass, I am more than ready to take someone on. I watch his face get darker. He pops up and starts yelling at me.

 

“What’s my problem? You go from yelling at me about not ditching Jackie, to encouraging her to not talk to me. She won’t even stay in the same room with me. I can barely get two words out before she bolts. So how the FUCK would I know where she is?”

 

I detect fire rushing through my veins. I jump up. I am more than ready to get into it with him. 

 

“What the fuck ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT ? I didn’t tell her not to talk to you. I haven’t said two damn words about you to her. Do you think I would put up with all the Jackie and Forman bullshit just to turn around and tell her not to talk to you? Have you ever met Jackie? Like she does anything, she is told. Besides I fucking told you, I wouldn’t do that to her or you. I just thought maybe you would know what the hell is going on with her. Aren't you supposed to be her best friend?”

 

 I watch all the color drain from his face. He flops back down on the couch. Now I feel like an ass, because he looks miserable. He says brokenly, 

 

“I don’t think I am her best friend anymore. She acts like her, and I have never met. I tried to talk to her about it, and she told me I was imagining things. I said “I’m not imagining you walking out of a room, I walk in.” She just looked at me and walked out of the room. I wanted it to be your fault. That way I don’t have to think she has decided on her own, she hates me.”

 

I watch him sigh wearily. I can see his feelings are hurt. I can see he is struggling deeply with his feelings for her. It inspires pity, annoyance, and sadness. I don’t want him to love Jackie. I want that more than I want to breathe. I loathe looking into his eyes and seeing how much he wants her. Still, Forman’s my best friend, and even though his feelings for her has caused me pain, I hate to see him like this. I find I don’t want to be at odds with him anymore. I don’t want to look at him and be hurt. I don’t want to look at him and feel betrayed. If I am being honest with myself, I need to extend the same grace bestowed upon me. I close my eyes, and feel the bile of regret. I screwed someone else. I hurt Jackie, for no other reason than I assumed she was hurting me. She forgave me. She still loves me. I still want to punch Forman in the face for touching Jackie, but I’m far from being innocent. 

 

I scrub my hands over my face, and fall back into my chair. I take a tentative step towards us being okay.

 

“Forman, I didn’t tell her not to be friends with you. No matter what happened, no matter how I felt, feel, or my general paranoia…. I’m never going to tell her to stop being friends with you.  I promise.” I say it quietly but with feeling. 

 

He looks at me. I can see he is almost in tears, and he is desperately trying to check his emotions. He looks away from me, and he chokes out,

 

“Thanks. I’m not sure, I can handle losing both of my best friends.”

 

I’m generally not an emotional guy, and showing my feelings is my own personal hell, but I can’t help but react to what he just said. 

 

“Forman, you haven’t lost me. Can we just put it behind us? I don’t want to be mad at you anymore. It’s not like I haven’t fucked up royally in this drama. She forgave what I did. I owe you what she gave me.”

 

His eyes fly to mine. A million memories pass between us without a word being exchanged. He gives me a slight smile. His shoulders drop from his ears, and I observe tension leaving his body. I’m glad we are in a better place, but what the hell is going on with Jackie still needs to be addressed.

 

“I was serious earlier Forman. I was hoping you had some idea, what is going on with Jackie. I’ve never seen her act like this. She’s avoiding you. She is avoiding me, and when we are together she is jumpy, scattered, and it is almost like she doesn't want to be with me.”

 

I watch stress fall back over him. Hurt, worry, and confusion swirl on his face.

 

“I don’t know Hyde. It was like a switch flipped. She was dealing with her dad being out as well as could be expected. We had made up. I know she was frustrated with herself. She kept saying she was tired of being a victim. She hated her dad, was walking around free, while she was in the prison of waiting. Then all of a sudden she was withdrawn. It’s like she has some secret that she can’t trust herself to keep quiet with either of us.”

 

Something about the last thing Forman said causes my heart to speed up. “It’s like she has some secret that she can’t trust herself to keep quiet with either of us.”

My brain flies back to the jail cell when Forman was telling me off, and he said "When you are a girl' secretkeeper."

Jackie can't keep a secret, especially from Forman, that one word... secret has started an avalanche of thought.

The basement and Forman fade away and puzzle pieces start joining together in my mind. Odd pieces that I didn’t think belonged together, start forming a picture.

 

Her never answering what made her press charges, when she never had before

 

The cop's lack of interest in the fact that Red, Forman and I beat the shit out of Jack

 

Her worry about her dad being out, then a complete absence of fear

 

Spending all her time with Kelso…. Who she can trust to not see too far below the surface, and even if he does, he never pushes her. Never has. Never Will.

 

Then a huge puzzle piece stops being blurry.  The Lincoln. The man who approached Jackie, a memory forgotten comes back to life….

 

I see Forman and I shooting hoops in the driveway, and a Lincoln pulling in. A man got out, and asked Eric to get his father. Eric had gone in the house, leaving me and the man alone. 

 

He leaned against the car, and had said, “You must be the Hyde boy.”

 

He had no idea how this guy knew him, and something about him set him on edge. It was like he was being sized up.

 

“Yes. Who are you?”

 

The man had grinned, “You don’t know who I am?” 

 

He couldn’t tell if he was being mocked or if the man was honestly surprised.

 

“No, I don’t. How do you know who I am?”

 

“My name is Devin Calabrese. I’ve been friends with Red, for a very long time. He has spoken of you. I hope you are aware how lucky you are to have a man like Red in your corner.”

 

He had never felt more unease. The man had said nothing wrong, but he felt threatened. 

 

“I know. Mr. Forman is a good man.”

Something about the man, made him feel like he better be honest, and for some reason he felt the need to be open with this man who was a total stranger.

 

I would be dead without Mr. Forman. I know it and I don’t forget it.”

 

The man had merely smiled, and then Red came out. 


My brain is searching for why Jackie would have connection with a random friend of Red’s. One he had never seen again until he witnessed him pick up Jackie from Cheerleading.

 

I am trying to put this nagging memory in the puzzle that is forming in my head. The guy’s name keeps swirling around. I know it. I’ve heard it before. No…. that’s not right, I’ve read it somewhere before. Then the rest of it explodes in my head.

 

Devin Calabrese. The son of Anthony Calabrese the head of one the largest crime families in the country. The man who they say runs Chicago. I had read an article about them yesterday in the paper. The cops suspected they were responsible for the disappearance of a lawyer who had been cracking down crime. There had been a small sentence in the article,

 

“The Calabrese Brothers are known to also have ties to a town in Wisconsin.”



Holy fucking shit.... that town is Point Place. I watched Jackie get in the car with a notorious mobster. That knowledge and the word secret are richotting around my brain. 

My mind is making rapid connections as the puzzle forms in my head.  Jackie had something on Jack. It’s how she got him to not press charges. She not only knows something, but whatever it is, Red knows, and he knows that knowledge keeps Jackie safe. God Damn.... Red knows a mobster. That is why he is confident in Jackie's safety.  The final piece snaps into place loudly in my head.

 

Eric is right... Jackie does have a secret.......

 

Jackie knows her dad won’t hurt her anymore, she’s responsible for his disappearance, and somehow one of the most dangerous men in the country is involved. 

 

I forgot that Eric is sitting in front of me. He brings me out of my head.

 

“Hyde, are you okay? You’ve gone bone white.”

 

I stand up, and tell him I’m fine. I walk straight into my room, shut the door, and slide to the floor.

 

I swallow heavily, and my heart beats out “ Oh Doll….. What have  you done?”





Chapter Text

Before- The Day Hyde Came To Get Jackie from Practice

The sun was setting on an endless day for Jackie. She was lugging her cheer stuff over her shoulder. She was so tired. It had been a brutal practice, and she hadn’t been sleeping well. She felt like she had been swimming in cement during practice, and the other cheerleaders were less than impressed with her sluggish attitude. She simply couldn’t help it. Her mind wouldn’t let her rest. 

When Jackie had put her plan into action, she had not considered what it meant for the people she loved most. Now those worries consumed her. All she could think about was how her choices would affect Steven and Eric.  Maybe it was naive, but she didn’t worry about Mr. Forman. In her mind, if Mr. Forman had saved the lives of the brothers, they must have affection for him. In her mind that translated to safety. She also didn’t worry about Mr. Forman judging her, he was a practical man. He understood that all she was trying to do was protect herself. She couldn’t seem to take that justification and apply it to Steven and Eric. She was convinced they would hate her for the choice she made. Even more than that she was terrified, if they knew what she did, and who had done it for her, she would be putting their lives at risk. 

 

 It was taking everything she had to keep the secret burning in my heart. As she walked out of the school to head home, she reviewed that night in her head again.  Mr. Forman had gone to his weekly meet up with his friends, with Ledger in hand. She had stayed up watching out the window for him to come home. He came home much later, than usual. It was nearly midnight before Jackie heard the car pull in. She  had thrown on her robe, walked quietly down the back staircase to the kitchen. He stepped in, just as she hit the kitchen. They just stared at each other. Jackie noticed right away that he had not come back with the ledger. She badly wanted to ask, but Jackie didn’t want to put him in the position to say anything out loud. She already asked more than a person ever should.  Jackie felt her eyes start to tear up. She couldn’t keep her pain in. Her tears seemed to inspire something in Mr. Forman, that was not his normal mode of operation. He strode to Jackie, hugged her tightly, and then kissed her forehead. He said with softness threaded with steel,

 

“He will never hurt you again.”

 

She had hugged him tightly back, and began the journey of keeping her choices secret. She was so lost in the endless review of that night, she didn’t notice a man striding towards her.  

 

Devin Calabrese, was a man who liked answers, and he had not been able to get the Burkhart girl out of his head, since Red had given him and his brother the ledger. The minute he found her letter in the book of her father’s sins, he knew he had to meet her. He was confident that Red would be unhappy with him for approaching her. He understood why Red wouldn’t want him anywhere near her, but this girl was the last person on earth who need fear him. He could see that she was distracted enough that she had not noticed him. Devin said her name to call her attention to him.

 

“Good Afternoon, Miss Burkhart.” 

 

Jackie's head snapped back to reality. There in front of her was the man, who she selected as the weapon in her final stand against her father.

 

She stopped in her tracks and stared at him mutely. In all of her worries, it never crossed her mind that this man would seek her out. For the first time in her life, she had nothing to say. 

 

Devin could see he had surprised her. He didn’t want to frighten the girl, so he did his best to soften his voice and features. He knew he could be scary as hell. His brother gave him shit all the time for looking like he was a dressed up version of an executioner. The irony was that Patrick filled that role in the family.

 

“Miss Burkhart, do you know who I am?” 

 

Jackie forced herself to speak “Yes sir, I do. You are Mr. Calabrese. I believe you and your brother are war buddies of Mr. Forman”

 

Jackie wasn’t stupid, she knew who he was. She also knew how to charm people. Being sweetly polite was always a start. Both Eric and Hyde would have recognized this version of Jackie, and they would have rolled their eyes. Sweet and polite were not words either would use to describe Jackie. She was a master at manipulation, and even a hardened criminal wasn’t immune to her powers. 

 

She watched his face soften, and a smile cross his face. She could recognize her manner had charmed him. Inner Jackie couldn't help but be smug.  He replied to her,

 

 “You are being awfully polite, my dear. I appreciate the sir, and the formality…. but do you know. Who I am? ” 

 

Devin said it with emphasis. He wanted her to acknowledge that she understood. He wasn’t sure what he was after, but he wanted her to admit out loud to him, she was aware of what he did for a living. 

 

Jackie was irked. She sensed he was being condescending. Did he think she was stupid? How could he doubt she didn’t understand who the hell he was? Her natural fire over took her need to act like she was sweet. Jackie responded with a little more sass than she probably should have to a man who tolerated very little disrespect.

 

“Of course I know who you are. I wrote you a letter, didn't I? What don’t you understand? Do I look like an idiot to you?”

 

Devin can’t help but laugh.  He watched her face get dark at his laughter. Her face went stony and stubborn. This girl had fire. Grown men, armed with weapons, wouldn't have said what she just said to him. Devin didn’t know the last time someone dared to be disgruntled or petulant with him. He understood Red’s protectiveness and love for her. He admired her, taking charge of making sure her bastard father never hurt her again. This slip of a girl was something else. If he had a daughter, he hoped she would have been like the firecracker in front of him. He wasn’t a father, but he was starting to feel a familial pride, and instinct to protect this pixie. For the first time in his life he wished he was a father, and that he could call this girl his daughter.

 

“Miss Burkhart, I’m here to thank you personally for letting my brother and I know that your father was being less than honest.”

 

He said it so kindly that Jackie forgot for a moment who she was dealing with. His eyes had gone softer, and he had that stern father quality that Mr. Forman had. She was attracted to the aura of someone who took care, even if she logically knew he was dangerous.

 

Jackie responded the only way she could, “You’re welcome. I didn’t think it was fair you didn’t know the truth.”

 

His eyes got hard, but his tone stayed soft when he spoke next. This time he used her first name. It created an intimacy between them, that was oddly comforting to her.

 

“Jackie, I did read your letter. I can promise you my dear, that your father will never bother you again. I took care of the problem personally.”

 

It wasn’t like Jackie didn’t know that this would be the result, but hearing it from the man who made it so, caused a weight to be released. Her father really was gone. She didn’t want to appear weak, but tears started to form in her eyes. She whispered softly

 

“Thank You.”

 

Devin Calabrese studied the girl standing in front of him, and felt something shift inside of him. Watching those big, doe eyes fill with tears made him want to kill Burkhart all over again. He was learning the lesson that all the men in Jackie’s life struggled with…. There is nothing worse than a tear filled Jackie. The desire to give her whatever she wanted was overwhelming 

He offered her his arm, “I would very much like to speak with you more on the subject. Would you be so kind to let me take you home? I promise you are safe with me.”

 

Jackie didn’t know it, but those five words were a vow…. Devin Calabrese would watch out for her for the rest of her life.


Now-

Jackie- The Weight of Our Decisions

Somewhere along the away in this crazy journey, I forgot Iying to Steven is nearly impossible. Even when I was hiding the abuse from him, I knew my days were numbered keeping it a secret. He has always been able to look below the surface and view the real me. It is why he has always been able to burn me with such precision. My weak points are on display for him.

He has been watching me like a hawk since my dad got out on bail. I love him. I love he is so worried about my wellbeing, but it is annoying the hell out of me. Because the more he watches, the harder it is for me to hide. On top of trying to dodge the meticulous mind that is Steven Hyde, my best friend is aware something is up. Eric has been the person I’ve unburdened my heart to for most of my life. I’ve teased him for years that he is my secret keeper. It is nearly impossible for me to not tell him things. I have to actually run away from him, the urge to unburden my heart is so great.

 

As I walk down the stairs towards the basement, I take a second and lean against the brick wall. I close my eyes and sigh dejectedly. I’m hurting Eric by avoiding him, and pretending he doesn’t exist. My current battle plan isn’t a long term solution, but I don’t know what else to do. I love Steven with all my heart, and Eric is beyond special to me. How do I spend time with two men who are genuine, and know I’m a terrible person?

They don’t know the person they care about is responsible for her father’s death. Here is the truly awful part, I’m not the least bit sorry. I would hand that book to Red again, without hesitation. I don’t feel guilty about the letter I wrote and put in the ledger. When I heard my father went “missing” all I felt was relief, and satisfaction. What I feel bad about is I don’t feel guilty. What type of person does that make me? I am sick I have that in me. You know what they say,

 

“The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”

 

I worry I am my father. There is nothing I fear more. The idea I have him leaving inside of me, makes me want to hurl. I wonder every damn minute of the day, if I am the monster that my father was. I signed my father’s death warrant easily, happily, and without remorse. Is that the type of person Steven and Eric want to love and be friends with? I lay in bed at night, horrified they will find out and be disgusted by me. 

 

Even more I worry about their safety because knowledge can be dangerous. The secret I have is shared with a very dangerous man. I don’t want the two men I love best, to have a target on them. I find I don’t worry about Red having this knowledge. I don’t think there is a man safer than Red Forman, when it comes to the man who now holds my most vital secret. He spoke of many things on the ride home from practice, but the last thing he said was “You need never worry about Red.” I don’t doubt his words. I have a feeling what Devin Calabrese says is final, in the best and worst ways. 

 

I push off the wall, and head in. I pray no one is in the basement. I am far from my best, and there is no way I am up for Steven or Eric. As soon as I step in, I realize my prayer is unanswered. There Steven sits, his arms crossed, glasses off, with an air about him that causes me to shiver.

 

“Hey” I say. I am desperate to sound casual. 

 

He pushes to his feet, walks straight to me, takes my hand, and pulls me into his room. He hasn’t said a word. He closes the door, locks it, and leans his solid frame against it. I am instantly reminded of the night he forced me to tell him about my father. I know this face, stance, and air. He’s done playing the game. I close my eyes, I can barely stand to look at him. I know it’s coming. Before, he can say a word, I open my eyes, and beg him.

 

“Please, Steven. Don’t ask. I’m begging you.”

 

I watch his eyes soften for only a moment, and they harden back. He knows, it is chapter and verse in his eyes. I feel myself start to get dizzy. How can he know? I’ve told no one. The only people who know are Red, Devin Calabrese, and myself. How the hell can he possible know? The silence is deafening, but I can’t bring myself to break it. As long as I don’t say it out loud, he can never really know, and then he can’t be disgusted by me. He can’t know something that might hurt him.  His voice breaks the horrifying recriminations that only I can hear.

 

“Jackie, you’ve been lying to me. I’ve let you lie to me. I’ve let your messed up behavior go unchecked, but I’m done now. You are going to tell what the hell is going on. You are going to tell me what part you had in your father disappearing off the face of the earth. You sure as hell are going to tell me how one of the Calabrese brothers is involved. Before you give me some bullshit story Jacks, I watched you get in the car with Devin Calabrese. You lied to me about leaving cheerleading practice early. I was there Jackie. I saw it all.”

 

I gasp in shock. He witnessed me get in the car. My head drops to my chest, my mind is searching for some plausible excuse. Steven is having none of it.



“Damn it Jackie. I’m not an idiot. Tell me what the hell is going on.”

 

My eyes fly up. He knows more than I imagined. This is the worst case scenario. I know who I have called into my life. I am one hundred percent aware, that I have formed a connection that can’t be broken. That doesn’t mean I want that for Steven. I would never be able to live with myself if something happened to him because of me.

 

“Steven, I don’t what you are talking about. You are being ridiculous.” 

 

I glance at him, in desperate hope he is buying it. I know he isn't. I sound stupid to myself. This is it. This is where I lose him forever. Tears begin to roll down my face, and I turn away from him. 

 

“Jackie, just tell me. Let me help you.” his voice is so sweet and concerned, I finally crack.



“Help me? You can’t help me. There is NO helping me. I helped myself." I storm. After wanting to keep it in for so long, it is like my soul is purging what is choking it. 

"FINE! You want to know what is going on? I set my dad up to be taken out by the Calabrese brothers, and I AM NOT SORRY." I look for shock and horror but all I see is his Zen and that propels me to let the rest out.

"I had evidence my dad was screwing over the Calabrese family. My dad kept a ledger of all the money he stole, and who he was stealing it from. I took it out of the safe, and I gave it to Red. I know the Brothers are war buddies of Red’s. He’s mentioned them in his war stories a million times. I knew exactly who they were. My dad had mentioned them several times at home.  The ledger is why you, Red, and Eric aren’t sitting in jail with assault charges hanging around your necks. I used it as leverage to keep him from pressing charges against you. I made it apparent to my father, that if he attempted to hurt you, Red or Eric, I would make sure he would go to Federal Prison. I kept journals of the abuse, he was going down for being a fucked up father. That was always my intent. To keep all of you safe, and keep him from pushing heavily against the abuse charges. Then my stupid mother, gave him a ticket out. She gave him the escape he so desperately needed. The minute she bailed him out, I knew he would disappear, but would come back for me someday. I know he would have never left me alone…. So, I asked Red to give it to them. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that as soon as they had evidence of my father cheating them, there would be a consequence. I knew they would kill my dad."

Every word feels like relief as it tumbles it out. I keep going, I so badly want this to be free out of my heart, but terrified of what it will mean. 

 

 "I drug an admirable man into my mess because I knew Red would do anything to protect me.  I have to live with that and the fact that I’m not sorry. This is the type of person I am. This is who you love. You love someone who is not the least bit sorry that I am responsible for my father’s death. I didn’t want you or Eric to know. I didn’t want to see disgust. I also didn’t want you to be in any danger because you knew more than you should.”

 

I turn away from him. I can’t bear to see him look at me like I’m a monster. I don’t want to see that he wants nothing to do with me. 

 

I whisper to him, my most desperate plea “Please don’t hate me.”

 

He strides to me, grabs me, turns me around and grasps my face. He is angry. I knew he would be, and my heart is breaking. He is staring at me with such an intensity, that it actually hurts to look at him. 

 

Before I can say a word, he crashes his lips down on mine, and kisses me like his life depends on it.


Hyde- I would have done in a second

 

My lips crash down on Jackie’s fiercely. I don’t have words for what I’m feeling right now. Is it….

Shock

Disbelief

Fucking Awe at how badass my girlfriend is

Annoyance at how dramatic she is. How can she think for a minute I would hate her?

Or is it simply sweet relief that I know her father can never hurt her again.

 

All I know is I have to touch her. Everything, I don’t currently have words for, is pouring into my kiss. At first, she doesn't respond, but then she wraps herself around me, and is kissing me desperately. I can feel her fear still, she actually thinks I might hate her. My chick is a drama queen. I pull back and examine those eyes that have long had control over me, and observe she is trembling with worry.

 

God…. this woman... she infuriates, stuns, impresses, and positively never ceases to rock me to the core. She is standing in front of me, worried I hate her for what I would have done in a second. I grab her face roughly,

 

“Jackie, look at my face. Make no mistake about what I am about to say. I don’t hate you. I could never hate you. The only thing that bothers me is I didn’t get to bash your father’s head into the cement myself.”

 

I watch a single tear fall down her face, and she breathes out what I can tell she thinks is her deepest secret.

 

“I’m not sorry. I would do it again. What type of person has no remorse?”

 

It breaks my heart to see her feel like she is a bad person because she defended herself. I don’t know what to tell her other than the truth.

 

“Doll, I would have killed him and never lost sleep. Do you think Red gives a damn? He gave Calabrese the evidence. Do you think he is losing sleep, the girl he calls his daughter is safe? The only thing I’m mad about is that you think I could ever hate you for protecting yourself. All I want to do is stroll up to Calabrese, shake his hand, and tell him how grateful I will be for my whole damn life, that he got rid of your piece of shit father.”

 

I observe most of the tension falling away from her body, but I can still discern worry. She bites her lip, and her eyes shift away.

 

I’m not having it. No more secrets. No more private demons. I want her to talk to me. 

 

“What is it Jackie? Tell me.”

 

“What if you knowing puts you in danger? I’m forever connected to the Calabrese family now. I share a secret with them. I can’t handle that I put you or Eric in danger. That is why I have been avoiding you. It’s why I won’t stay in the room with him.”

 

I close my eyes, pull her to my chest and begin to stroke her back. I’m not sure what to say to put her at ease, because she is right, she is forever linked to one of the scariest crime families in the country. Frankly, it terrifies me, not for myself, but for her. I do know one thing, and that is what I am betting on. It’s what she bet on. It’s what we all depend on…. Red

 

“Jacks, I appreciate your worry. I even understand it. I worry more for you, than myself or Eric, but I know one thing. You are forgetting something essential.”

 

She pulls back and looks at me with confusion. “I don’t understand.”

 

“Do you think for one minute Jackie, that if Red thought giving that ledger would put any of us in danger he would have taken it? If Red chooses to spend time with those men, then despite their choices, Red doesn’t believe it will harm his family. He would never put you, or any of us in danger...... Ever. I know they're gangsters, but my money is always on Red. There is no question in my mind, the decisions you made were weighed, contemplated, and deemed okay by him. I went to Red that night about your dad, because I can count on him to do the right thing. He did then, and he did when he took the ledger. He took that book to men who took care of a problem that was never going to stop hurting you. He did what needed to be done. If I'm half the man Red Forman is when I grow up.... then I will feel like I did something right.”

 

Her big eyes look at mine, and she replies, “Red doesn’t know I wrote a letter and stuck it in the ledger. I told them about the abuse. I wanted to make sure there was no doubt what manner of man they were dealing with.”

 

I start to laugh. I can’t help it. I hear Red clearly in my head. 

 

“When will you dumbasses stop thinking I don’t know what is going on in my house.”

 

“Jackie, it’s Red. You can’t possibly believe he didn’t turn every page in that ledger before he gave it up. There is no way, he didn’t know every detail. I absolutely have no doubt, he knew about the letter. Eric always says “I won’t be shocked if we get to heaven and find out Red is God.” Baby, it would be my preference if you had never been near or associated with men so brutal, but I could give two fucking damns about your dad, and I’m not worried about me.”

 

 I pull her back to me and kiss her fiercely. I want nothing more than to lose myself in her. I want to forget about bruises, assumptions, nurses, fucked up mistakes, friendships strained, and life altering decisions. I simply want her. I need her. She comes alive around me, and every fiber in my being explodes to life. I pull back for just a second. I want her to hear me, and understand. For once, I want the words to be spoken

 

“I love you, Doll. Nothing and I mean nothing could make me stop. Even when I was a fucking idiot, I still loved you. You’re everything.”

 

I watch her eyes blaze with happy, and she sighs “Make me yours.” 

 

I grab her up in my arms, lay her on my cot, cover her body with mine, and murmur in her ear.

 

“Anything for your Doll.”

 

Those four words are my vow. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for Jackie. 


Eric- Somethings simply can’t be helped

I know Hyde figured it out, whatever the hell is up with Jackie. I watched it come over his face. I asked if he was okay, and he lied his ass off. There appears to be a lot of that going around lately. What is freaking me out, is whatever significant moment of clarity was bestowed upon him scared the hell out of him. I’ve never seen him go white like that. Which can only mean one thing…. It means Jackie is or could be in danger. His moment of clarity was just a few hours ago, but I know he has already confronted her. I had just come down the stairs, when I heard him slam his door, and then I heard his voice get stern. It was his “Damn it Jackie” tone. We all have a different version of that tone, but Hyde’s tends to get pissed off.  I know they had some critical talk. It was heated at points, but then I heard her start to cry, and then he flipped a record on. Which means one thing…… the thing I can’t really think about. I went back upstairs immediately, thinking about them together, is not something I deal well with.

 

I’m laying on my bed, in another state of jealousy. I’m incredibly jealous that whatever was causing Jackie to avoid Hyde has been wiped away. I close my eyes. Will I ever stop being jealous of Hyde? Being at odds with Jackie throws me off, and makes me edgy. I got in a fight with Donna about it. I sigh wearily. I know Donna is less than impressed with me lately. I’m being terribly unfair to her. I’m going to have to make it up to her. I’m about to get up and go downstairs to tell Hyde he better get Jackie upstairs before Red fucking kills him. Red had been cracking down hardcore about curfews and Jackie being in Hyde’s room, now that she lived with them. Hyde was cruising for a showdown with Red on the "being appropriate" fight. 

 

Just as I’m about to open my door, it opens and smacks me in the face.

 

“Damn it” I yell, as I grab ahold of my face which is now stinging with pain.

 

“Well, don’t be a dumbass and stand behind the door” says a sarcastic and snotty voice. 

 

Despite that my face is on fire, I feel a smile spread across my face. I almost don’t want to open my eyes. That voice belongs to a Jackie who is my best friend. That voice belongs to a Jackie who treats me like I’m one of the most important people in her world. That voice belongs to a Jackie that doesn’t avoid me. I’ve missed that Jackie terribly. 

 

“Are you going to stand there like an idiot?” she snarks.

 

My eyes fly open, and there she is… the girl who blew into my life all those years ago. All the hesitation clouding her face and personality is gone. As much as I hate I know how and who burned it away, I’m so damn glad to see my best friend again, I smile like a fool.

 

“Jesus, Devil…. Ever hear of knocking?” 

 

She hesitates for an only a second, and she throws herself in my arms. I hear Hyde in my head. “ Look it's another episode of the Jackie and Eric Show”, but I don’t care. I really don’t fucking care. I close my arms around her slight frame, and gather close. I can’t help myself, my eyes drift shut and inhale her scent. We haven’t been us …. Since the night she curled up in my lap after Hyde cheated. I don’t want it. I hate it, and I would do anything for it not to be so, but…. I need this. I need her. She breaks the moment with a quiet,

 

“I’m sorry. It wasn’t you. I promise.” 

 

All my worries of why she was avoiding me start to drift away. I’m not as complicated as Hyde, I don’t always need to know the why, but I can’t get the look of Hyde’s face out of my head. Something serious went down…… there is a secret. My words that said to Hyde come flying back,

“It’s like she has some secret that she can’t trust herself to keep quiet with either of us.”

 

My mind stars whirling, she is hiding something. Something she doesn't think she can keep from me. I don’t want to break this moment of calm, but I am about to do what I know she feared. I am going to do what was causing her to avoid me. I am going to push.

 

“Jackie, what are your hiding from me? What don’t you want me to know?”

 

Her whole body goes tense. She still hasn't looked at me, but she responds….

 

“Eric, remember how you and Hyde insisted I not know what was between you? That it was for the best me to not know? I am asking you the same this time. It’s better that you don’t get involved."

 

Her voice is tiny, and she sounds pathetic. I almost give in, but I snap back and remember who I am dealing with. She’s manipulating me. She told Hyde. I know she did, and they are back to being happy fun time with each other. She’s in my arms in his Zeppelin tee, her hair messed up, and an old pair of his gym shorts. They are all the way back together. I briefly let myself get distracted by what caused her to looks so rumpled. I push that thought away. That is a road, I can't travel down. I force myself to focus on what I'm seeking. If he can know, then there is no damn reason I can’t know. 

“No Jackie. Tell me. I know you told Hyde. I’ve been tearing myself apart trying to figure out what would cause you to avoid me like the plague. What would cause you to stay away from Hyde? I’ve known you most of my life. You don’t stay away from those you love. What is going on?”

 

She sighs into my chest, and breaks away. “Can we sit?” 

 

We sit on the side of her bed, she leans her head on my shoulder, and tells me everything. To say I’m shocked would be a vast understatement. She falls silent, and then she asks 

 

“Well? What do you think?”

 

I don’t what to say, so I do the only thing I know how to do with expertise. I give her comfort. I kiss the top of her head, rub her arm, and whisper what I’ve said a million times.

 

“It will be okay Devil.”

 

Later, after she goes back to her room, I go downstairs with two beers in hand. I find him on the couch. He looks at me, and says not a word. He doesn’t need to. I can see it on his face. He knows, I know.

 

I crack both of our beers open and hand him one.

 

For the first time ever he breaks the silence, with a simple

 

“Well ?”

 

I lift my beer in the motion that I want to do cheers. We clink cans, and I look at him and say,

 

“Somethings simply can’t be helped.” 













Chapter Text

Donna

The sun is setting on a perfect day in Point Place. I’m sitting here cuddled up with Eric, there is really nothing more beautiful than watching the sun fall asleep from the Point Place Water Tower. It’s curious how it is all our place to find a moment of quiet. In all the years, we’ve been climbing the ladder to view the town from above, cause mischief, or just hang out none of us has ever been caught or found someone that didn’t belong to the gang here. I lean my head into Eric’s shoulder, and try to enjoy him gently playing with my hair. We had an excellent date. Eric was completely with me for once. He was focused on me, making me feel like the only girl in the room, and I want it to make everything okay.  It’s the first time in a while, that I’ve seen his eyes clear of worry, hurt and anger. It’s the first time since everything went to hell, that I haven’t seen her lingering in his eyes. I should be elated. I should be ready to let go of all my worries. I should be ready to throw a damn party, but I can’t. I can’t get settled, because what Fez told me, can’t be unheard.

 

He loves Jackie. My boyfriend, the guy I love, loves someone else. 

 

I squeeze my eyes tight. I so badly want to go back to not knowing. I’m desperate for blissful ignorance that I don’t share Eric’s heart with someone else. I simply can’t. I love him. I’m pretty sure I always will, but I want all of him. I can’t settle for second best. I don’t raise my head, because I don’t think I can see the truth in his eyes.

 

“Eric, I think we need to talk about something.” my voice is soft and weary. 

 

I feel his body tense a little, but nothing to indicate that he knows what is coming.

 

“Okay. Is something wrong?” Eric replies.

 

I feel tears clogging my throat instantly. I know as soon as I say it out loud, there is no going back. There is no undoing what I am about to do, but I have to know. I have to hear it from him. Maybe, just maybe I’m wrong. I’m holding onto that fantasy desperately. 

 

“Eric, I have a question to ask, and I need you to be honest.” 

 

I watch him nod and concern clouding his face. For a minute, I consider that I’m being ridiculous. I see nothing. There isn’t a trace of Jackie on his face, but until recently I had never seen her there. 

 

“Eric, Do you love Jackie? And I don’t mean as a friend,” 

 

His face shutters instantly. Hyde would be proud, there isn’t an ounce of emotion on his face. I guess we have all learned a little Zen from the “ king of hiding your emotions .” I’m waiting for him to answer. 

“Why would you ask that question?” he says it with a tone that I am ridiculous and my patience is shot.

 

“Why would I ask that? Do you think I’m stupid Eric? God, if something is going on with Jackie, your whole world stops. These last few weeks, you’ve been walking around like your world is ending. You revolve around her. If Jackie’s upset, you are upset. If she is happy, you are happy. If you two are fighting, you act like the whole damn world is ending. As much as she wants to believe it, Jackie isn’t the center of the universe.” 

 

I watch a frost come over him. I excepted guilt. I expected him to stammer and make excuses, but I didn’t even think about anger. I’ve known Eric for a long time, and I can count how many times I’ve seen him pissed. To be perfectly honest, it has never been at me, if he is actually mad, it is usual at Jackie. She seems have the magic button to his temper. Well, I must have found it, because his eyes are burning.

 

“Are you kidding me, Donna? The last couple of weeks? You’re mad I haven’t given you the attention you need, the last month. Jesus, Donna! Jackie’s been getting beaten, her dumb ass boyfriend cheated on her, we all lost our shit, ended up in jail, her dad got bailed out and then disappeared. She’s my best friend was I suppose to just ignore her? God…. she’s right. I’ve told her for years she was wrong, but she’s right. “

 

I am momentarily distracted by the end of his statement. I know he is talking about Jackie, but I don’t know what he means.

 

“What the hell are you talking about? What is Jackie right about?”

 

I watch his eyes go bitter and his lips snarl. This isn't Zen, this is disgust. I scoot back from him. This conversation has gone somewhere I wasn’t expecting, and I have a feeling I’m not going to like where it ends.

 

“Jackie has for years been saying that you don’t really like her, and that you only tolerate her for me. She’s right. You don’t give a damn about her.”

 

Everything in me freezes up and I stutter out “That’s not true. Of course, I care about Jackie.”

 

I reach out to him, to touch him, calm him and assure him that he’s wrong. He yanks away from me, and continues his snarl.

 

“No, you don’t. If you cared, you wouldn't be worried about helping my best friend while her life was falling apart. If you gave a damn, you would have been there for her. Instead, you’ve been secretly resenting her. God…… Donna, I don’t think it's Jackie that thinks she is the center of the universe. I think it's you.”

 

I watch him pop up and dig in his pocket. He throws the Cruiser keys at me. I catch them on instinct, but I look at them in confusion. He swiftly clears it up.

 

“Drive yourself home and give my keys to my dad. I’ll walk.”

 

I’m shocked. I watch my boyfriend turn from me, and walk towards the stairs. He doesn't look back. 

 

My tears start to come hard and fast. I collapse my head into my arms, and let out all my worries and frustrations. After a while, the tears slow into the harsh reality, of two facets.

 

Eric's right, I do resent Jackie, and my previous thoughts about how shitty I’ve been are true.

 

Worse, is the pain wrenching truth that is ripping my heart apart……

 

He never said he didn’t love Jackie

 




Fez

Somewhere along the way Jackie guessed my secret, and she has kept it without a word since. I can’t help but love her for it. I can’t help love as well that she lets me pretend to be in love with her to cover my secret. It’s getting harder to keep the secret. The heart wants what it wants, and I hate I’m never going to have my heart's desire. I sigh heavily, causing Jackie to look over at me. We are walking around the mall together. I’m the only one who will shop with her. I love to shop with Jackie. We get to talk without anyone to interrupt us, and both of us love fashion. 

I can see concern in her eyes, and I know she is going to ask. I’m trying to decide if I am going to tell her the truth.

 

“Fezzie, what’s wrong? You seem so sad today.” she asks sweetly. 

 

I can’t help but smile back her. People don’t know what a good friend she is, and I find at the moment I need her. I reach out my hand to her. She grabs it instantly. We don’t do this in front of Hyde, because she would have to explain, and I know she would never do that to me. I take her over to a bench and pull us down.

 

I sit quietly, unsure how to start. She lays her head on my shoulder, and whispers

 

“Talk to me, Fezzie.”

 

“The day you, Kelso, Donna, and I went to Funland, afterwards, while Eric and Kelso were playing basket ball, Donna and I were talking.”

 

I stop. I feel my heartbreak swelling my throat, and I go mute. I don’t even know why at this moment I’m so miserable. It’s not like I haven’t known from the beginning that my heart would never get what it wanted. 

 

Jackie reaches up and kisses my cheek in sweet encouragement. 

 

“I remember. You both looked upset. Did something happen?”

 

This is where I have to be cautious. I can’t tell her why Donna was upset. I am confident that Jackie has no idea that Eric loves her. I’ve always wondered how she can miss it, but she’s never indicated she is aware. I can’t out Eric. I don’t want my love outed, so I won’t do it to him.

 

“Donna and I were talking about you, Kelso, and Hyde. How it seems like we are all in love with you. She then said she was so sorry, I couldn’t have the person I love. She thinks I love you. I  wish I could be honest about who I love. I hate lying about who I am.”

 

I feel her body heavily sigh into mine. “Oh Fez, I’m sorry. I wish I could fix it.”

 

I sense her compassion and hurt for me radiating off her body. If she could give me Michael Kelso, I know she would. She hates I can’t love and be loved in returned by who I want most. We sit silently, but she pushes again on a topic that I fear.

 

“Fez, I can’t make Michael love you, but I don’t think you should pretend anymore. Be you. Tell everyone. I think you are scared for no reason. We all love you. I don’t believe you give everyone else enough credit. I really don’t think they will care.”

 

I shut my eyes and squeeze them tight. I love her confidence, and hate her naive belief at the same time. Be open I like men? Tell the gang that I’m what society is horrified by? How can she believe they will simply accept it? She doesn't get it. 

 

“Goddess, I appreciate your support, but you don’t get it. You really think the guys are just going to be okay hanging out with a gay guy? You have no idea what it’s like to have a secret about who you really are. You can’t understand that.”

 

I watch her eyes flare with anger and hurt. “I don’t understand what it’s like to have a secret about who you really are? Are you kidding me, Fez? I’ve been lying my whole life about what my life was like. I’ve been making stories up and pretending for years. Is it about who I love… no, but I know what it’s like to have a stone in your chest that only gets heavier.”

 

I feel instant shame. “Jackie, I am sorry. Goddess, I didn’t mean it like that.”

 

I watch her eyes cool quickly, and a sadness fill them. She wants to say something. I’ve never known her to hesitate. Jackie not saying how she feels is not something you encounter often.

 

“What? Just say it Jackie.”

 

She lays her head on my shoulder again, and whispers quietly “Maybe it’s time to let Michael go, Fez. I think you need to move on.”

 

I kiss the top of her head. I know she means well. I know she wants me to be happy. I know she hates to see me pine for the impossible. It’s just not that simple, and she knows it.

 

“You know that's not how it works Jackie. If I could turn off loving Michael Kelso, I would have done it years ago.”

 

She clutches my hand tightly, and whispers “I love you Fezzie. I know it is not the same, but you always have me.”

 

I grab her hand tightly back, and lay my head on hers. “Thanks for loving me for me, Jackie.”

 

She pulls back and kisses me on the cheek again, as she lays her head back down on my shoulder she whispers, 

 

“Always Fez. Always.”

 

I feel a tear slide down my cheek, and I wonder silently to myself if there will ever be a time in my life I can love out loud. 




Kelso

It’s been a long time since Hyde and I have hung out by ourselves. I’m both excited and feel weird. Coming home from California and finding Hyde and Jackie together was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Reality is a bitch of a mistress, it never occurred to my idiotic mind, there would be a time I would actually lose Jackie all the way, but here we are. I’ve come to accept it is done. She loves him. It’s obvious, how she feels. It feels like a gut shot when I stop to think about it. I know she never burned that bright for me, and when I’m alone in my room at night, I wonder how long she’s loved him. What is still surprising, is how much he loves her. Like I told her on the water tower, he will never stop fighting for her. He doesn't realize it, but he orbits around Jackie. The part of me that is an admirable friend, is pleased to see my friend finally get someone who will love like a star blazing in heaven. The part of me that wants that feeling back, wants to kick his ass. That part still hurts, and mourns my mistakes.

 

We are sitting at a diner in Kenosha we love, throwing back a beer, and eating what is the best pizza in the world. This place is one of the rare things that is solely Hyde and I. A few years ago, while looking at records at a store up here, him and I found this place. I can’t remember where everyone else was, because it's rare for us to be off in pairs, but that day we were. We had laughed and hung out at the diner for hours.  Today is one of those rare times we paired off again. We came up to look for parts for the Camino. Eric and Donna were going on some super date, Fez was being weird and wanted to shop with Jackie. Something is up there, because I could tell Jackie wanted to go with us. The girl loves a car, but Fez had given her some weird face, and she got super into the idea of going with him for the day. Hyde had shrugged his shoulders, searched Jackie’s face, seemed to find an answer, and off we went. 

 

Here we sit drinking, eating, and not saying much. That isn’t uncommon with Hyde. If you can’t handle long periods of silence, then hanging out with Hyde is not something I would recommend. I’m glad it’s just us. I do have something I want to ask, and it’s best to do it when no one else is around. I watch my friend, who for once appears relatively light and in an agreeable mood. It seems like a good time to tread on boggy ground.

 

“So, when are you going to tell me what you and Eric were fighting about?” I say lightly. I watch his face cloud and his body tense. He lets out a heavy sigh,

 

“Kelso, let it go man.”

 

I roll my eyes. “Come on Hyde, we’ve been friends since kindergarten. I took the girls and Fez out of town, because you asked me. You two have been weird for weeks, but now you appear okay for the most part. What happened?”

 

I watch Hyde glare at me. I know this expression. It’s his “Go to hell Kelso. Get Bent” face

 

I’m pretty sure I know what they are fighting about, and I don’t know why I want it confirmed. Maybe, I simply don’t want to be alone in how I feel. I throw out my guess, and just pray he doesn’t take a swing.

 

“Eric’s in love with Jackie…. Isn’t he? So what did he do to push you over the edge?” 

 

I watch Hyde’s face go into perfect shock, and I feel a deep satisfaction at guessing right and catching him off guard. It’s a rare thing to surprise Hyde, and I have to take my victories where I can get them.

 

He looks at me. His eyes searching mine, searching for why I want to know. I think he knows, it seems to not bother him all that much.

 

“How did you guess?” he asks without heat or any emotion of any kind.

 

I laugh, “You recognize what you suffer. Loving Jackie does something to a man. Listen, I know I treated her awful. I know I didn’t deserve her. Hell, I even know I don’t love her the way you do Hyde, but loving Jackie leaves a mark.”

 

He just stares at me. He takes a long pull from his beer. For a long time he says nothing, and after a solid 15 minutes of dead silence he mutters out,

 

“It doesn’t matter what he did. Talking about it will bring back shit I’ve barely dealt with, and I fucked up royally. That’s on me. No matter what he did.”

 

I’m strangely proud of him for accepting without question his part in hurting Jackie, but I can't help but wonder what happened. I can grasp on Hyde’s face it was enough to rock his friendship with Eric. Something I never thought possible, so I decide to let the why go. I hate to observe a mark on their friendship, even if they seem to be getting better. I want to try to help Hyde understand, and I think I can appeal to something he knows well.

 

“He will figure it out Hyde. We all have. Loving Jackie and not having her is a rough road. He was a dumbass for a long time and never realized how he felt. Now that he does, he doesn't know what the hell to do with it. Give him time, he will learn to live with loving with Jackie, and not having her. I’m in the middle of my turn, he is fresh in his, and you my friend had one too.”

 

His eyes snap to mine, and it seems I’m on a roll today. I’ve caught him again. I give him a slight bittersweet smile, and say with a sad laugh in my voice,

 

“I know I’m not the brightest guy in the world, but you didn’t always hide how you felt about her as well as you thought you did. There was no mistaking how you held her on Prom night, and there were times I thought you would kill me for hurting her.”

 

He looks at me, and ignores pretty much everything I am saying, except to say “I never crossed the line. I did everything I could to keep her away from me. I swear.”

 

That one sentence confirms to me that Eric crossed some line, a line that Hyde would regard as a breach of loyalty. I don’t say anything, but it doesn't take the rocket scientist I’m not to figure out Eric is connected to Hyde cheating. 

 

I quickly take a drink of beer, to wipe away the emotion in my throat, and I mumble out

 

“I know. I know you never would, and I appreciate it.” I take another step out on thin ice, and I say “I’m sorry Eric did, because it's obvious he did something.”

 

Hyde looks away, and quietly says ‘I’m sorry he did too.” 

 

He looks back, and smiles slightly “I’ll get over it, and we will be okay again.”

 

I smile back, raise my beer to him. He immediately clinks it, and smiles back, and I respond

 

“I know you will. That’s what we do.”

 

I see his smile spread farther across his face, and reach his eyes, and he says back with a lighter tone

 

“That’s what we do”


Hyde

I’m tired. It was a fun day, but a strangely emotional day with Kelso. Emotions are not something I do ever, but with Kelso…. Almost never. I’m driving home after dropping him off, and I wonder briefly to myself if all of us should start an I love Jackie Club. It’s not like I didn’t know that Kelso still had feelings for Jackie, of course I know. It would take a complete idiot to not realize it, but something about hearing it from him makes me sad. I could see in his eyes at the diner, that he misses her, and whatever she is to him, not having it, is something that pains him. I really don’t want them to love Jackie. I don’t want it, but I get it. It’s impossible to not get caught in the spell that is Jackie.

 God…… she makes me feel a million things, and I’ve always been possessive. I don’t want to share how she makes me feel with anyone. I don’t want anyone else to know how she can make you come alive. Because, I know better than anyone what it means to watch her from a distance, and slowly watch her drift towards you. I can’t bear the thought of her falling in love with someone else. 

 

I pull into the drive, and grin. I grab my keys and lightly jog to the back basement stairs. I’ve missed her today, and I’m still not totally comfortable not having her where I can watch her. It makes me nervous. I know things with her dad are “resolved,”  but I can’t make peace with the fact she has a connection to someone who could hurt her. For now… I just want to see her. I push open the basement door to find, a really pissed off Forman. 

 

He is sitting on the couch, red in the face, arms crossed, just glaring at the blank TV. The last time he looked this pissed was when I cheated on Jackie, and I know I haven’t fucked up this time.

 

“What’s wrong with you? Donna decide to dump you for another skinny neighbor boy?” I laugh trying to break his mood. 

 

His head snaps to mine, then he quickly looks away, but before he does,I see something in his eyes. I realize I hit a mark. I swallow deeply, shit, I hope we are not about to have another relationship meltdown in our group. 

 

“What’s going on Forman?” I ask quietly, as I step over to my chair and plop down. I’ve had more heart to hearts in the last month than I’ve had in my whole life. I would prefer to never have one again. Can’t we all just go back to keeping our crap together? I find big emotions exhausting.

 

Without looking at me he says quietly, but with an edge of bitterness,

 

 “Donna and I got in a fight. She pissed me off. I threw my keys at her, told her to drive herself home, and I walked off.”

 

I’m startled by that, and I turn to look at him. Forman is not the stomp off and leave his girl kind of guy. I fully admit that is my M.O. but Forman…. He is always Mr. Gentleman. Well, that is except when he is trying to molest my girlfriend. I quickly shake that out of my head. I’ve got to work on keeping bitter thoughts out of my head or him, and I are never going to be okay. 

 

“Dude! That’s not like you. What the hell did you fight about?”

 

I watch his whole body tense, and appear incredibly weary simultaneously. His face becomes troubled, and a mixture of pissed and gloomy cloud his eyes. I know. I can feel my whole body tense as well. I let out a long and deep sigh before I speak.

 

“You fought about Jackie, didn’t you?” I ask. Praying just this once I’m wrong.

 

Still, not making eye contact, he lets out a bitter “Yes”

 

I close my eyes, and ask  “Does she know?”

 

Eric replies quietly with anger, still lacing his tone. 

 

“She thinks she knows. She asked me the question, and when I said it was ridiculous, she flipped on me saying it wasn’t ridiculous when for the last month I’ve been living and breathing Jackie. I lost it. It pissed me off because, the last month has been fucking awful for Jackie, and that’s what she is pissed about? That’s what makes her think I love Jackie? I yelled at her that Jackie was right, that she does resent her and only puts up with her for me. Then I threw the keys and left.”

 

I sense the fire I thought I had down to a simmer start to flash. I take a deep breath, and try to remember Jackie is mine, and that Eric isn’t my enemy. 

 

“Eric, you don’t get it. Yes, this last month Jackie’s life has been hell on wheels, and you had every reason to be worried about her. The thing you don’t get is what I’ve been trying to tell you this whole time, “The Jackie and Eric Show” isn’t easy to watch when you are the other side of the couple. It’s exhausting. I hate it. I’m working on accepting that there is shit, I can do it about it, but it’s fucking hard. Besides, Eric…. You do love her .”

 

I open my eyes to appreciate that he isn’t any calmer. I expected to see guilt but I don’t notice anything but pissed. He is seething. I’m confused at first, and then it hits me. He’s like this because it’s Jackie. He’s responding as Jackie’s best friend, not as Donna’s boyfriend. Jesus, he’s an idiot sometimes. 

 

“Forman, stop thinking like Jackie’s best friend and start thinking like Donna’s boyfriend. Your girlfriend asked you if you were in love with another girl, and your response was to freak out on her for being a shitty friend to the other girl. If you were trying to convince her otherwise, you just fucked it up royally.”

 

“I’m sick of it”, he yells “I love Jackie. There is no denying it any longer, but that doesn’t mean I want to. I would carve her out of my heart if I could. I also love Donna. I want to be with Donna, and I’m not trying to be with Jackie. I can’t help how I fucking feel. I spent years lying to myself about how I felt, and now I can’t. It doesn’t mean I want to feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. I’m not cheating on Donna. I’m not trying to steal her from you. I’m just trying to live my life, knowing that somewhere along the way I fell in love with my best friend, and that I love someone who absolutely is never going to love me. She belongs to you, Hyde. She’s always belonged to you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, all Kelso was for Jackie was a moment in time. I could live my life happy loving Donna. Will it be this consuming feeling in my chest, I have for jackie? Maybe not…. I’m not sure I even want it to be. Because what I feel for Jackie is too much. It's just too much. I might not want it, but that doesn’t stop my heart from what it wants. I can’t help how I feel. I’m not having this conversation with Donna. I’m not even going to give it credence, because it doesn’t matter. How I feel about Jackie is moot, because you two belong together. I’m merely the fool who fell for something that was never his to begin with. I can be with Donna and love her. Jackie has nothing to do with it. I’m not pining for an impossibility, but my heart refuses to do anything but what it wants.” 

 

I don’t have any idea what to say to that. I don’t know how to feel about any of it. I’m sorry for Donna. I’m sad for Eric, and like I yelled at him before, I really don’t want him to love my girlfriend. Sometimes, it seems like there is always someone who can’t have the person they love. I think about what Kelso said, 

 

“He’ll figure it out.” 

 

I realize Kelso’s right. Which is a red letter day friends…. Kelso being right about anything. Yet, he is. Eric will figure it out. He is trying to figure it out, and harping on something no one can change isn’t helping him. At that moment, I make a decision to do something, I never do. It won’t help how I feel about the situation, but it will help Eric, and maybe it will help him come to terms with how he feels about Jackie faster. I’m going to lie.

 

“Forman, let me talk to Donna. I’ll tell her you're not in love with Jackie. I’ll tell her not to go down my road. I’ll tell her whatever made her think it…. is wrong.”

 

I finally observe him truly react, and he is startled. I’m not surprised, I’m not known for lying. 

 

“Listen, you two breaking up over this isn’t worth it. I’ll lie. I’ll tell her she’s overreacting. I’ll tell her to not be me. Then you apologize for being an ass. I don’t know what all this stuff is about Jackie and Donna not really being friends, but whatever it is Eric…. stay the hell out of it. Girls are weird. I don’t think you should try to fix it or get  between them. If there is an issue, Jackie and Donna will work it out.”

 

He looks at me and whispers “Why? Why do this for me when I KNOW this drives you insane. Why help me when the very idea that anyone loves Jackie while you do is like glass under your skin. Why?”

 

I think back to the conversation I had him with about a week ago, and what Kelso and I talked about today, and I lay it out for him.

 

“Like I said before, we’ve all had to love Jackie and live without her. Kelso reminded me today, I figured it out, he figured it out, and so will you. If this helps…. Then so be it. Now where the hell is Jackie?”

 

I stare at him, and he knows I’m done talking about it. I don’t ever want to talk it about again. I witness relief, understanding and gratitude. He gives me a nod, and then simply says

 

“She’s upstairs.”

 

I just nod back and head upstairs to Jackie. Kelso’s was right “Loving Jackie is a hard road” but damn if it isn’t worth the trip. 

 


I walk into the kitchen to find Jackie sitting at the kitchen table quietly. I watch her stare off into space, unaware that I am observing her. She looks melancholy, drained, and brutally beautiful. I don’t understand how someone can look so unhappy, but be breath stealing stunning simultaneously. I’ve never seen her look like this. I can’t place the expression on her face, but it is one of  helplessness. I’m instantly worried. What could have possibly happened to make her look so downcast? Good Lord, she was with Fez all day. She loves shopping with Fez. Just like the rest of the guys in the group, Jackie seems to have a different relationship with him. One that is special and entirely for them.  What’s funny is, that not once has it bothered me. Nothing about Fez stirs jealous in me.  

 

Jackie is very protective of Fez.  She seems to want to shelter him, like he is delicate. Occasionally I’ve witnessed her watch him across the room, and appear dejected. It’s always brief, and you have to be watching closely to catch it, but observing Jackie has been the paramount study of my life. I’ve been studying her out of the corner of my eye, since her bossy ass pranced into our lives. 

 

She is completely unguarded. I can see she is trying to work out something out, trying to solve some weighty problem. She is worrying her lip with her teeth. Jackie has a tendency to bit her lip when she is worried or turned on. I’ve always loved it, but this time it simply guts me. My Doll, unhappy, is something I can’t combat. It weakens me, and I want it to stop instantly. This time is no different. I step forward and call to her,

 

“Doll, What’s wrong?”

 

She whips her head to me quickly. I watch her panic and shutter her face. I watch that fake Jackie smile she gives the world crawl across her face. 

 

“You scared me. Nothing at all is wrong. I had a wonderful day with Fez.”  She babbles.

 

 It’s bright, full of sunshine, and she is full of crap. I hate that she is lying to me. I move to the seat next to her and sit down. Her eyes struggling desperately to hold their fake cheer. I take her chin, so she can’t look away, and say softly

 

“Jackie, please don’t lie to me. I would rather you say you don’t want to talk about it, but please don’t lie. I know you inside and out. You’re lying. What's wrong?”

 

A single tear escapes its prison and slides down her cheek. It rakes at my heart. She is hurting, and I can’t imagine what could have happened for her to act like this.

 

“Jacks, did something happen with Fez? Did he do something?”

Her eyes flip to mine, and instantly she seeks to soothe me. “Fez, didn’t do anything. I’m upset for him.”

 

I still don’t understand. They went to the damn mall, what could have gone wrong. The mall is practically their holy place. I start to worry someone messed with Fez.

 

“Is Fez, okay? Do I need to go kick someone’s ass?

 

She replies instantly, “No, no one physically hurt him…..” Her voice trails off, and then she looks at me with an intensity I don’t understand. Something is storming in her heart, and she doesn’t know how to let it out. We sit there silently for a few minutes, merely staring at each other, and holding hands. Finally, she softly whispers to me

 

“Steven, why do some people fall in love but have to suffer not getting the person they love?”

 

She sounds so grieved, that I think instantly she knows Eric loves her. I forget about Fez, and I am panicked she knows and that our world is going to be turned upside down again. More so, is my stupid fear that one day she will love him back. As my mind swirls with worry, a stable thought breaks through. She was upset about Fez, this is about Fez, not Eric. I’m even more confused. Did Fez confess to loving her, and she had to turn him down?  Her face is so troubled that, it makes me presume, she had to break his heart.

 

I gently push her silk hair, behind her ear, and ask her gently

 

“Doll, did Fez tell you that he loves you? Are you worried about hurting his feelings?”

 

Her eyes well up again. She looks over my shoulder but she answers,

 

“No, Fez isn’t in love with me.” 

 

I’m trying to understand, and I take another stab at it.

 

“Does he love Donna?”

 

Her voice gets low and quiet when she answers again.

 

“No Steven, he doesn't love Donna.”

 

I am perplexed by all this. I think about what she said,  

 

“Why do some people fall in love but have to suffer not getting the person they love?”

 

It snaps into place, “Jackie…. Who does Fez love?”

 

Her whole body goes stiff, and her eyes become wild with begging me to understand. Her need for me to get it, without her saying it is obvious. I close my eyes, and feel stupid that none of us ever realized it before, except Jackie. She’s always known. She’s Fez’s secret keeper. Damn… my Doll, the level of who she is never ceases to floor me.

 

She grabs my hand tightly, looks me straight in the eye, and with deep grief for our friend she whispers,

 

“He loves someone he can never have.” With that she stands up, and kisses me softly, “I’m going to go lay down for a bit.”

 

I sigh heavily, and let the truth hit me.

 

It seems like our group is destined to have broken hearts, because

 

Donna doesn’t have Eric the way she wants

 

Eric loves where he doesn’t want to but can’t help it 

 

Kelso loves a girl, who never loved him the way he loved her

 

And Fez…… loves someone who will never love him back….. He loves Kelso.

 

My heart hurts for my friends, but selfishly I can’t help but think

 

“Thank God this one time it’s not my heart, I have what I can’t live without ”

Chapter Text

Jackie

Somewhere along the way I lost the delusion that if you love someone they will love you back. It was the desperate belief that love conquered all that got me through some of my darkest hours growing up. I guess it’s a sign of growing up, when you realize that love doesn’t always fix things. That disillusionment is haunting me tonight. I can’t sleep. It’s a simple as that. I’ve been tossing and turning for the last two hours. I can’t get today out of my mind. I hate Fez is so unhappy. I hate to witness his heart yearn for what he can’t have. I’m even more bothered Steven caught me in a moment, where I couldn’t hide Fez’s secret. I know I didn’t tell Steven, but there is no way he doesn't know. I wish had been in better control of my feelings, but Fez’s pain brings out my deepest insecurity. My deepest worry is I love Steven more than he loves me. I’ve wanted him for so long. I watched from a distance desperate to have him, but knew he couldn’t stand me. I spent a very long time burying my feelings for him under my obnoxiously loud feelings about Michael.

 

  Michael……. my eyes water swiftly, and my heart grows heavy. I never cheated. I was faithful the whole time I was with him, but he never had me all. He was my life raft, so I wouldn’t drown in the all consuming tidal wave of feelings I have for Steven.

 

I realized nothing I did would silence how I felt for Steven. I figured out  I would just have to learn to live with the idea, that he didn’t give a damn about me. So I tried to find happiness with Michael. Except there is no finding true happiness when your heart wants elsewhere. 

 

The day Hyde and I  kissed in the basement, my whole world went sharp. Everything I had repressed flew to the surface, and despite all my snotty words it was just a fling… it never was. I already loved him, I was desperate to hang on to any moment with him. Because Steven is it for me, and if one day I lose him, I am going to lose the part of me that is alive. I will simply exist. 

 

I experience this weird shame that I am so damn happy that my dream came true, while people around me are suffering. I don’t want Fez to be alone without someone who makes him come to life. I’m also worried about Eric and Donna, something isn’t right there. I can sense the chaos in him, even if he hasn’t opened up me. 

 

I sigh heavily, and roll over to look at the clock. It’s 2 A.M. and I can’t settle my mind. I know I shouldn’t. I know it’s rude. I know Steven would be less than ecstatic about what I’m about to do, but sometimes a girl needs her best friend.

 

I push out of my bed and throw on my actual jammies. I’m confident Steven would lose his shit if I strolled into Eric’s room just in his Zeppelin Tee Shirt. I peel it off, and replace it with my plaid top and bottom. I leave my feet bare, and I quietly pad out of my room into Eric’s. I don’t even knock, which I realize is probably stupid. He could have Donna in there for all I know, but my gut tells me I’m okay. What does surprise me is to find him awake. I had planned on being obnoxious and poking him until he woke up.  Instead, he is in bed, leaning against his headboard, bathed in soft light coming from the lamp by his bed. He looks up instantly, and sets his book on his nightstand. He smiles softly at me,

 

“Hey Devil, come to steal my soul in your natural hour?” 

 

His joking words soothe me a bit. This is what I need. I need him. I need to know that even if Steven crushes me, I still have my one constant. That love might not conquer all but friendship can withstand anything. I need to bathe in the reassurance  nothing can change our friendship. Because being friends with Eric has been the only concrete relationship in my whole life. If I lost him, I would never be the same.

 

“Hey Geek, can I come in?” I ask, even though I’ve already walked into his room uninvited. 

 

He smiles at me. “Sure. What’s up?” 

 

I without hesitation crawl into bed with him. I make my way to the empty side of his bed. I turn to look at him, and I observe him  tense. I reach out to touch him, but he grabs my hand and places it back down. It confuses me a little, this is what we do. 

 

“Eric?” 

 

I don’t need to say anymore. He knows what I’m asking. I’ve been sneaking into Eric’s room for years, and having heart to hearts. I have always laid  on my side, facing him, holding his hand, and spilling my heart. This is where I told him that,

 

I didn’t want to be a cheerleader, but I had no choice

 

I fear being alone more than anything

 

I love Steven

 

Prom was the single most transforming moment of my life.

 

My heart was broken because Steven said he hated me

 

Every childhood dream and wish, I spilled to him like this a million times. Sometimes here and sometimes in the basement. Up until Steven cheated, Eric had never hesitated to touch me or treat me like we have always been best friends. 

 

His eyes get dark, and my heart starts to pound. My mind is telling me to retreat, and that I don’t want him to answer. 

 

“Jackie…” he whispers, and then trails off.

 

I don’t know what has changed in the five minutes since I strolled in, but the air has gotten serious. He looks so tired, and unhappy. He wasn’t like this minutes ago. This transformation perplexes me, and all I can think of is that it is me.

 

“Eric, are you mad at me? Did I do something?” I ask softly.

 

He closes his eyes, and replies, “Jackie, we can’t do this anymore.”

 

My heart stills in my chest. He won’t open his eyes. I feel utter panic. This is the second time, he has indicated in the last few weeks, that our friendship needs to be different. 

 

“What can’t we do?” I ask

 

He opens his eyes, and I comprehend a deep sorrow. He grabs the hand he pushed away, and answers painfully,

 

“This. You. Me. How we act with each other. What Hyde calls “ The Jackie and Eric Show.” We can’t do it anymore.” 

 

Immediate fury laces my veins. I push away from him, and I’m out of the bed in seconds. 

 

“Is Steven being an ass about this again? He told me that he trusted me. He told me that he understood. I can’t do this, if he is going to break his promise already... If he doesn’t know my heart... Then……” 

 

I trail off because the foul words we are over can’t come out. I’m shaking. I thought we were past this. 

 

Just like before, he jumps to defend Steven instantly. “No. Hyde hasn’t said anything, but come on Jackie, is he wrong? What if you found him with Donna in bed? What would you do? What if they acted like we do? How would that feel?”

 

My world has stuttered to a stop. He can’t compare the two. Hyde and Donna are close but not like Eric and I. I’ve never asked Hyde not to sit outside at night and talk with Donna. I’ve never asked him to tell me what they talk about when they sit on her roof and have a midnight chat. I trust him. I trust her. 

 

‘So, this is about him. You know he isn’t happy, so you don’t want us to be like this anymore. He either trusts me or he doesn’t” 

 

I watch him get irritated.  I push Eric’s buttons like nobody else. He yells with frustration at my pushing the point,

 

“Damn it Jackie…… it’s not Hyde. It’s Donna. She cares. She cares a lot. We got in a big fight. She asked me if I’m in love with you. I don’t want to hurt her. It’s not fair.”

 

My heart slices in half. I’ve wandered to the edge of insanity with Steven standing up for Eric and I’s friendship. I’ve been unwavering in my oath I wouldn’t ever ditch our friendship. That vow coming nearly at the price of Steven and I imploding and my heart being smashed into the ground. Yet, he won’t do it for me. I feel like I have sand in my mouth, 

 

“So, when I refused to stop being who we are together with Steven, at the real risk of losing the love of my life it was for nothing. So, when he cheated on me, accusing you and I being together, and I fought like hell for him to understand that you were my person, my best friend, my family…. It was only for you to throw it away because Donna thinks you are in love with me.” 

 

He stares at me, pain radiating out of him. I don’t give a damn. He is a coward.

 

“You’re a bastard Eric Forman. Fine. We won’t be us anymore.”

 

 I twirl to leave the room. Before, I’m even in a full rotation of my stomping out, he grabs me and spins me back.

 

Eric pulls me roughly to him, and says in a commanding voice, “Look at me, Jackie.”

I seemingly against my will glance up into his eyes, and they are unfettered. Everything laid out in front of me. I gasp. I want to be wrong, but Eric confirms it.

 

“She’s not wrong Jackie. I do love you. I’m in love with you. She knows she doesn’t have all of me, even worse Hyde knows. He knows the man who he calls his brother is in love with a woman he can’t breathe without.”

 

I close my eyes against the stunning reality, Eric has just laid at my feet. He still has me grasped tightly to him. I turn my head away before I speak.

 

“You’re wrong. You don’t love me, Eric….. Not like that.”

 

His voice is rough with emotion, when he speaks again “Jackie, I think I know how I feel.”

I don’t know what to say, because I’m not really sure what he is saying is true, so I blurt out,

 

 “I’m sorry.” 

 

He laughs a little and pushes a stray hair behind my ear. “Don’t be sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m the one that crossed over into somewhere I should have never gone. I’m the one who broke boundaries. I’m the one who hurt Hyde, Donna, and now you.”

 

My lip is trembling, and I can’t stop the tears that have found a home in my eyes. I’m watching my safe place to land disappear. I feel like I’m going to be sick. I don’t want to know this. This is a secret, I wish he had kept locked in his heart.  I turn my head again before I speak,

 

“So, all these years, us being together was you being in love with me. It was because you wanted more. You wanted something from me, and this was the only way you could get it.” 

 

I’m dying. He was supposed to be the person who never wanted more from me but to be my friend, and now that naive belief is quickly unraveling. 

 

“No! Don’t say that. Jackie, I just realized recently that I was in love with you. I’ve been lying to myself because I knew it didn’t matter. It wasn’t until everything exploded that the truth came flying to the surface.”

 

My eyes fly back to his. I feel hope swell up in my heart, and relief starts to burn the dark away. He’s just being dramatic. He’s just feeling so much because of my dad and Hyde cheating on me. He isn’t in love with me. There is no way this is possible, he’s been in love with Donna since we were young.

 

I smile at him, “Eric, I think maybe you are really feeling overprotective due to everything that happened. Of course, you love me. I love you, but you aren’t in love with me. Donna’s just being bitchy and weird like Hyde was.  I think all of you are being dramatic. You don’t love me, Eric.”

 

I say it with my tone that says I will not be denied. 

 

Something fires in his eyes, and he yells at me, “Damn it Jackie! Don’t tell me how I feel.”

 

The next thing I know his lips are crashing down on mine.

 

Holy Hell….. Eric is kissing me. 


Eric

 

 I’ve said it a million times…. Nothing makes a person lose their damn minds like Jackie freaking Burkhart, and here I am living proof of it.  I’m kissing Jackie. 

 

Fuck, I'm kissing Jackie! What the hell am I doing? 

 

Somewhere along the way in this conversation I lost my fucking mind, because I’m kissing Jackie and I’m confident Hyde is going to kill me. Her lips are soft, sweet, and I get it now. Jesus…. How did Kelso ever give this up? No wonder Hyde fights like hell for her. It doesn't matter that she is barely kissing me back, and I’ve obviously startled her, I’m down the dark, sweet, intoxicating madness that is Jackie Burkhart. I feel like I’ve been drinking her in for hours but that is only a mirage, it has been merely seconds. Her hands push into my chest forcibly, and I’m shoved back.

 

As I stumble away from her, a harsh and sobering reality crashes down on me. Before I can even open my eyes, her voice hits me like a pelican being tortured. 

 

“What the hell are you doing?” She shrieks.

 

I open my eyes, to a Jackie whose eyes are wild with panic, fear, astonishment, and betrayal. She is breathing heavily with shock, adrenaline causing her petite frame to shake. I am matching her deep panicked puffs of air. My mind is blank, I start to stutter out an apology. 

 

“Jackie I’m…” I never get a chance to finish. Instead, I watch the hellstorm that is Jackie flash to life. 

 

“Eric! How dare you? HOW DARE YOU!!!! ERIC! I have a boyfriend. How could you? How could you just grab me?”

 

She’s screaming. Her voice on her best day is shrill and demanding, but this is volcano erupting pissed. She’s not even attempting to control the volume of her shrieks. I’m a dead man if Hyde hears her, hell I’m surprised he’s not in here already pounding my face in. 

 

“Jackie. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I don’t what happened. It was just like the other time…” 

 

Before I can say more, she cuts me off with a livid demand.

 

“Last time? What the hell are you talking about? You’ve never kissed me.” 

 

I detect the bitter taste of “I've fucked up” cloud my throat. Jackie has no idea the real reason  Hyde flipped out. I was never supposed to tell her I love her, because it would ruin our friendship. She was never supposed to know that I violated her trust, and went over the line. This was what Hyde stood in front of me for. This was what Hyde was willing to risk losing Jackie over. All this was supposed to remain hidden, so our friendship could remain. 

 

I realize I’ve fallen into stumped silence, when she stomps her foot and demands again,

 

“ERIC!”

 

I can’t look at her. I focus my eyes on the floor, like it is my perch to staying upright. 

 

“Jackie, the day you had the bruise. The day Hyde freaked out. The day you let me check, I went over the line. I was doing more than touching the bruise, I was touching your skin because just once I wanted to caress it like I was something more. When I brushed your hair away from your shoulder…. I was sweeping it away like a lover does. What sent Hyde over the edge was, I was leaning in to kiss your neck.” 

 

I hear her gasp, and my eyes continue to be trained to the ground. Her voice volume softens but her tone becomes steel.

 

 “Eric Reginald Forman…. LOOK AT ME DAMN IT.” she yells when I don’t instantly train my gaze on her.

 

My eyes crawl to hers, and those Heather in bloom eyes are flat.  It makes me want to barf. I open my mouth to speak, but she cuts me off.

 

“Shut Up! Don’t you dare say a word. Do you understand?”

 

I nod at her, unsure of what is coming next. I don’t have to wonder long. Her words come out with bitter strength.

 

“I believed you were different. You were supposed to be the guy who I could trust no matter what. You were supposed to be the guy who could keep his hands to himself, and never try for the grab. You were supposed to be my friend. MY FRIEND. Always my friend first. I trusted no one like I trusted you. I thought you were the person I could always go to. You were supposed to be my best friend.”

 

For a minute my own hurt at not being able to love her flies to the surface, and I make a serious  truly idiotic mistake.

 

“Oh, please Jackie…. Trust me? Did you trust me enough to tell me you kissed Hyde on Veteran’s Day?” I see her face go white with shock and hurt. I recognize confusion at my last insulting query. I without thought snap out

 

“Donna told me you kissed. You told her but not me.”

 

As soon as it’s out of my mouth, I realize I’ve just torn another giant hole in a friendship that was teetering through no fault other than I can’t keep my heart where the fuck it belongs. 

 

“She told you. I guess, I don’t have anyone in this group who won’t throw me under the bus.” 

 

She whispers out.

 

The pain lacing through her words washes away the last of my stupidity. 

 

“Jackie, that’s not true. We all love you.”

 

Her eyes go to frigid winter, “I can’t believe you want to use that as an example of broken trust. You fucking touched me for pleasure when you said it was for help. You swept away my hair not to study a bruise but so you could kiss me. You took advantage of the idea, that I would never doubt you. I know Steven cheated, he should have asked what was going on. Yet I wonder what you would have said to him because he wasn’t wrong. I ripped him up and down for not trusting you. He never said a word. He never betrayed you. Do you realize I practically told him to tell me what  happened or I wouldn’t forgive him? He still refused to break your stupid pact. Yet, you not only betrayed me, you’ve screwed him again. YOU KISSED ME. Now what am I suppose to do? Am I suppose to tell Steven? Do you want me to lie? Because you know how well lying goes with him. Tell me Eric, what now?” 




I stare at her, the girl who has been my side for years. My Gal Friday. The girl who pushed me to ask out the Donna when I was frozen in place. The girl who has stuck by, stood up, and never abandoned me. When everyone else gives me shit, Jackie is and always has been my greatest defender.  I don’t have a clue what to say to her, and although my past history of saying shit before I think has caused hurt and trouble, I say the first thing that pops into my head. Avoiding once again the kiss, because I don’t have any idea in sweet hell what I am going to do about that. 

 

“I don’t want to love you. You think this is what I want? To love my best friend? To love Donna but be stupid in love with you? You think I want to love the girl  the man who is my brother loves with every breath in his body? This is my hell Jackie. I don’t want this. I would do anything to rip you out of my heart.”

 

Its raw. Its cruel. It’s nothing she deserves, but God it’s the truth.

 

Her eyes swing back to mine with obvious annoyance. I inwardly roll my eyes. Of course her ego is bruised by me saying I don’t want to love her. She’s still Jackie. She thinks the world bows willingly to her feet. The sad truth, is she isn’t far off. That doesn't mean I need to help feed the idea of her dominance. 

 

“If you don’t want to love me, then why did you have to fuck it up by telling me you love me and kissing me?  Which you can try to avoid all you want but you are going to talk about kissing me. Why Eric? Why?”

 

Her voice is snotty, petulant, and flat out bitchy, and I am reminded again of the truth I thought before I kissed her. The truth I contemplated when I watched Hyde put his hand through the glass of the basement door. The truth that induced Kelso to follow her endlessly despite the train wreck their relationship was. The truth that now applies to me in the worst way. I blurt it out without weighing the consequences. 

 

“Because Jackie, you can drive the sanest man to the brink. People lose their damn minds when they are around you. You drive people to extremes. There is no half-way with you. You wouldn’t stop with the “You don’t love me” I broke. I kissed you. I let out, what apparently, I’m shit at containing….. my desire to be near you.”

 

I stop for a minute, knowing what I’m about to say could be the executioner's axe on our friendship. I turn away from her again, and slowly let the axe fall,

 

“Maybe you are right….all the hugs, the comforting you, the touches that were supposed to be friendly, maybe they were always more, but I refused to believe it. Maybe it was my way of getting something that my mind knew was out of reach. Maybe it was always about more. As for the kiss…. I’m sorry. I’ll tell Hyde. You shouldn’t have to. I won’t let you lie to him, and I won’t either.”



Her voice slips to soft and bruised, “So we were never friends……”

 

I can hear every unshed tear in those words, and my throat is getting clogged with my own. 

 

“Jackie we’ve always been friends, always. We still are, I just think we have to redefine our boundaries. I can be happy loving Donna. I want to be happy loving Donna. I’ll never be happy loving you whether its from a distance, out in the open, or silent without a shot in hell. I need time to put all that in a box, but you will always be my friend. You will always be my best friend.”

 

I turn my eyes to her finally, and what I didn’t want to see is happening right in front of me. Who we are, our whole history is crumbling to dust in those voluminous eyes. I watch us die, and I suddenly know I screwed up more than I imagined. I understand with harsh certainty that I should have just listened to Hyde and Kelso, and figured out loving her quietly from a distance, because this is fucking awful. I’ve never watched a person die, but I am watching my own death in Jackie’s eyes. With tears starting to fall, I step towards her, and say

 

“Come on Devil…” but before the rest of the words fall from my lips, she throws up her hand in a signal to stop. With not a hint of emotion in her voice she calmly says,

 

“Don’t call me that anymore. I’ll give you exactly the type of friendship you want and that will be “Donna” approved. Nothing more. Nothing less. Consider the final curtain on the Jackie and Eric show closed. Don’t bother telling Steven about the kiss, it will never happen again. I won’t let you kill that friendship as well as ours.”

 

I watch her turn on her heel, and I desperately call to her 

 

“Jackie, please…” I don’t even know what I intend to say, but I’m positive if she walks out of the room, we will never be the same. If I let her break the spell of this moment, I will never get back my friend. She stops, but doesn’t turn. I wait for her to respond, turn, or do anything that will keep us alive for one more minute. I watch with deep trepidation, and don’t know what to do about the silence. I’m about to break it again with my desire to fix the disaster I created when she whispers my name,

 

“Eric?”

 

Her words finally have emotion, and that makes me think I can fix this. As long as Jackie responds with her heart, you can reach her.

 

“Yes?” I answer.

 

Still turned away from me, she drives the stake through our friendship, leaving it to bleed out.

 

“I never thought it would be you who would break my heart.”

 

She pulls the door open, steps through, and shuts it behind her. Leaving me alone to deal with the consequences of my choices. Leaving me alone to deal with the giant, gaping, and painful hole in my heart. 

 

I trudge back to bed feeling suffocated by the silence, wishing desperately for something to break the terrible sound of my own thoughts. It’s a second later that I understand the saying “be careful what you wish for” when Jackie’s wild tears echo through our shared wall.

 

The weight of everything that went down between us crushes the last bit of my strength and my own tears escape, while my heart chants her promise over and over again

 

“Consider the final curtain on the Jackie and Eric show closed.”





Chapter Text

 

Eric

There is no rest for the wicked. Never has a cliche applied more than that one does to me. The night started with me losing sleep over Donna, and now I’m watching the sunrise on the dawn of a new future. Except for a brief field trip outside to try to figure out how to fix this, I’ve been staring at my ceiling listening to my clock count down my doom. The clicking minutes of my clock in the dark gave me no answers on what to do. All my mind does is replay the highlight reel of my epic screw up. I spent most of the night hearing her voice tell me she never thought it would be me who broke her heart. I can’t stop the pinging of her dead tone, as she said she would give me whatever type of friendship I wanted. My heart won’t stop pounding at her saying, don't bother to tell Hyde about the kiss, that there was no use killing two friendships.

 

The sun is bright on the new day. I can feel a soft warm breeze swirling into my room, it’s a beautiful day to murder what’s left of my friendship with Hyde. I swallow a knot of terror that is trying to escape my throat. I have to tell him. There is no hiding this. Jackie can’t conceal this from him, there isn't a world where he is not going to know that something is broken between Jackie and I. I slam my eyes shut against a fact that has now just occurred to me, there will be no hiding this from any of them. Jackie and I can’t go from being inseparable to her treating me like a stranger without every one of our friends knowing something is up. I scrub my hand over my face, trying to formulate some sort of plan to survive what is about to explode my universe. 



My private panic attack is interrupted by the sounds of my mom starting breakfast. The day is officially here. I feel the panic over take me, and my ability to not freak is gone.  I have to move forward, I have to do something. I have to forge my own path. A familiar voice in my head cautions me “Don’t be stupid Eric. Don’t just drop this on him.”  I mentally tell that voice to “Shut the hell up.”

 

 I get out of bed, and throw clothes on. It’s barely past 7 on a Sunday, I know there is no way in hell Hyde is awake, but he is about to be. He is about to be awoken to a world where I kissed Jackie.


Hyde

The door to my room is thrown open, light flipped on, and a voice says “I need you to get up.”

 

I don’t move. The voice sounds like it belongs to my ex best friend, the “ex” , because I’m about to kill him for waking me up. I keep my eyes closed as I mutter,

 

“Forman, there better be a fire or a naked chick in your room because otherwise I can’t think of any conceivable reason for you to be in my room waking me up.”

 

I do not do mornings. I hate them. I don’t sleep well. It takes me awhile to obtain peace with the world when I wake up, and fucking Forman in my room jarring me out of a dead sleep is not my idea of slowly making peace with getting out of bed. 

 

“Come on Hyde, I need you to get up, I need to talk to you.”

 

I mutter several tasteless comments about where he can take talking and shove it up his ass. I roll over and continue my attempt to believe this is a dream. I am near sliding back to sleep, when Forman turns my futile attempt into a nightmare.

 

“I kissed Jackie.”

 

Well that woke me up…. My  eyes fly open, I sit up and look at him.

 

“I swear to God Forman if this is some lame attempt to get me out of bed, you better start running now.” I growl. 

 

His eyes are manic and his whole body is vibrating. I’ve never seen him like this, and I can’t help wonder if he is on something. 

 

“Are you high? What the fuck is wrong with you?” I still haven’t really taken notice of him telling me that he kissed Jackie, because he is acting like such a freak of nature, I’m assuming it’s some crazy babble.

 

He plops into the chair that sits directly across from my bed, the same one that I sat in to watch Jackie sleep before we made up. He lets his hands support his head, and he says quietly but clearly,

 

“Hyde, I kissed Jackie.”

 

Four words. Only four damn words, and my world fucking stutters to a stop. I can’t breathe. I am suffocating on instant coldness. My voice is raspy with disbelief,

 

“Excuse me?”

 

I watch him raise his head. The story that I’ve been reading for years is chapter and verse on his face. I think I might pass out. I shake my head to stop myself from fading away from conscious choice. 

 

“She came into my room last night, to talk. We got in a fight, I told her I loved her, she told me I wasn’t in love with her. It pissed me off, the next thing I knew I grabbed and kissed her.”

 

In my state of wrath filled shock, all I hear is…….

 

I told her I loved her

I grabbed her

I kissed her

 

I am tilting madly from confusion to insanity to my heart, squeezing at another betrayal. This isn’t possible. He wouldn’t do it. I know he touched her and attempted to kiss her neck, but that was a slip. He’s not this guy. He wouldn’t . He can’t be telling the truth.

 

I jump to my feet, and pull him up with me. I’ve known Eric since we were 5. I want to see his eyes. He can’t hide shit, or not at least from me. I say slowly,

 

“You told her that you loved her, and then you kissed her.”

 

His eyes shoot out the answer, and they plead with me.  I feel the need to have several levels of confirmation  before I kill him. I state the question again.

 

“You kissed my girlfriend?”

 

He merely nods, and I break.

 

The anger Eric so easily predicted would one day be turned on Jackie, ignites on him. I am wrath. I throw him out of my room. He hits the floor, and scrambles up instantly. I watch him open his mouth, but I don’t want words. I dive at him, and we crash to the ground, and my warning to him that if he ever touched her again is about to come true.

 

I told him I would kill him if he ever touched her again…. Look likes I’m clairvoyant.

 


Jackie

I look at myself in the mirror. I look like a corpse having a bad day. My eyes are red and puffy. The bags under my eyes are so big they need their own time zone. I didn’t sleep last night. My mind is blank. I can’t make sense of anything that took place. My heart, however, understands perfectly…. It’s broken. I cried a thousand tears and last night was a memory I never wanted. It’s early, but I want to feel Steven’s arms around me. I know there is no way he is awake. Sunday mornings are Steven’s holy place. He sleeps in while all the Formans go to Church. It is just shy of 7, it would take Jesus himself to get him out of bed this early. I figure, I can sneak into his room, and snuggle myself in his arms. I’ve done it before, and he has assured me he likes waking to the surprise of me.

 

 I’m refusing to consider the reality of what must be said or done. I am an expert at denial, and I am employing all my best techniques. I want some small moment of comfort before, all hell breaks loose. I’m not even sure I can hide it from him. I feel tremendous guilt that my instinct is to lie and cover it up, but he will never get over Eric betraying him. I close my eyes and tears return to what seems to be their new home. I’m hurt for myself, but I’m devastated for a friendship no one that thought could ever be rocked. I don’t want this for Steven. As angry as I am at Eric, I don’t want it for him. The new morning tears spell out what the hell am I going to do?

-------

I make sure that Mrs. Forman is distracted in the kitchen, and I slide the basement door open and from the top of the stairs, I hear a massive crash, and Steven yell

 

“You’re a dead man, Forman.”

 

I am frozen. It never occurred to me Eric would be stupid enough to just spring it on him. I’m shaken from the shocked jail of horror, by Mr. Forman flying past me down the stairs. It spurs me to life and I rush  after him. Steven has Eric up against the wall, and is getting ready to beat the living crap out of him. I watch him pull back his arm to visit revenge on Eric’s face when Mr. Forman flings Steven off Eric. He stumbles for only a second. Steven is agile. It is a testament to how angry he is, he charges back almost like he doesn't recognize Red standing there. Mr. Forman grabs him by the chest, and is strong arming him back. 

 

Steven is purple with rage, and Eric looks like hell promenaded on his face. Red is holding Steven back, yelling 

 

“What the hell is going on?”

 

I watch Steven curl his lips into a snarl, “Ask the backstabbing bastard! He kissed Jackie.”



I watch Red turn to look at Eric, press his hand harder into Steven’s chest, and with a voice several degrees cooler says to Eric,

 

“Did you kiss Jackie?”

 

I feel like I’m watching a movie, but this movie is my life. I already know the answer. I’m the girl causing the fight, but when Eric whispers out  “yes”  my body jolts like this new information.

 

I watch Steven push against Mr. Forman’s hand. He turns to look at Steven, and gruffly says,

 

 “Knock it off.”

 

He turns back to Eric, “Did she kiss you willingly?” I’m not sure the point of the question. Does it matter? I start to get offended when I see the look on Mr. Forman’s face. If Eric touched me without my permission, he won’t only have Steven to worry about.

 

As he asks, Mr. Forman stares at me. The turning of his head seems to finally make Steven and Eric realize I’m in the room. All of them are staring at me, I comprehend he asked Eric, but he expects me to answer. My eyes dart briefly, to Steven’s, they are gray smoke. The intensity of his glare is making me shiver. I start to shake, and I flip my eyes to Eric. My answer could very well end Eric and Steven. It’s my instinct to protect. I want to protect them both, and my first thought is to lie and take the heat off of Eric. It must have been clear to him, because he looks at me and mouths “Tell the truth”

 

I close my eyes. I don’t want to watch the effect of my  words.

 

“No, we were fighting, he grabbed and kissed me.”

 

My words fall on the basement, and I hear Steven explode again

 

“You fucking bastard.”

 

My eyes fly open, to see Steven around Mr. Forman in seconds. He immediately has Eric up against the wall. Before, Red can even react to a fully uncaged and unleashed Steven, I do the only thing that can be done. I dash at them. In a one tiny tare in time, Eric pushes him back slightly and I jump between them. 

 

My back is to Eric, and I throw my hands on Steven’s chest. His eyes dart to my hands, and I feel a slight bit of control return to his body. 

 

“Get, the fuck out of my way Jackie.” he growls.

 

I look at Steven and say firmly, “Stop. This isn’t going to solve anything. I need you to stop. Beating Eric up will only make this worse. It wasn’t that big of deal.”

 

I watch something shift in his eyes, they go from blinding anger to pissed off hurt. 

 

“He kissed you. He grabbed you, and you are standing in front of me telling me to calm down.  I’m always the bad guy.  Screw this.”

 

He pushes away from me, and starts to stalk off. Mr. Forman makes a grab for him, and gives an authoritative bark 

 

“Steven, go back to your room and talk to Jackie.”

 

I watch him, and hope he will follow Mr. Forman’s command, but that hope is in vain. He stalks off, towards the door. I call out, desperate to stop him.

 

“Steven. Don’t. Please let’s talk.” My voice pleading with him to hear me. Not Mr. Forman. Me. To hear me. Miracle of all Miracles, he stops his hand on the door knob. The room silent  broken only by the heavy breathing from all of us. He asks me a question without turning, his whole body tense.

 

“Jackie, were you going to tell me?” 

 

Every last bit of oxygen is sucked out of my lungs, I start out to stutter out an explanation,

 

“I….”

 

The pure hesitation, and my stuttered response, is all he needs. He throws open the door so violently it crashes against the basement wall. The newly replaced glass that was shattered by an out of control fist, is no match for the slam of frustration of a pissed off Steven Hyde. The glass crashes to the basement ground. Still, in his sweats, undershirt, and no shoes, a riotous Steven is gone. 

 

I stand frozen for only a second, then I bolt.  I run in my plaid pajamas with bare feet across the broken glass, detecting only the pain in my heart after him.


Hyde

I’m on fire. My skin is boiling with rage.  I can feel heat radiating off my body. I am stalking down the street, in my undershirt, sweatpants, and bare feet. The chill makes no impression on my inflamed body. I’m drowning in the black tar that is the sludge clogging my better sense. I can only hear two sounds, the rest of the world is on mute. Screaming at a deafening level is Eric saying

 

“I kissed Jackie” followed by Jackie failing to answer “Yes”

 

I don’t know if I am more unglued by the fact that yet again my oldest God Damn friend in the world is messing around with my girlfriend OR that she was going to hide it. Instantly, Eric kissing Jackie, flashes into my head. I quickly discern him, kissing her pisses me off more. My mind and rage separate. My rage wants to walk back and beat him to death. Each pound of flesh would have an assigned sin. My knuckles breaking his nose, peance for him being stupid and telling her that he loved her. My fist plowing into his eye repayment for grabbing her, and finally a murderous jab to his jaw punishment for kissing her. If anyone could see my thoughts right now it would scare the crap out of them, because the delicious taste of violence fills my senses. I can clearly visualize myself pounding Eric into a bloody pulp.

 

My sense of earthly awareness is drowned out completely by my desire to hurt, so when I feel a hand on my arm, I actually startle. The soft touch of cool skin on my burning flesh rouses me back to the present, and I turn ready to fight.  I am unaware I am stopped on the sidewalk lost in my fantasy about killing Forman. Thank You, Jesus, that some shard of rationality is still with me because my fist started to curl, and the monster inside of me is whispering 

 

“Take a swing”

 

However, the part of me that would know her anywhere even when lost in my spiraling nightmare of blind anger whispers 

 

“Jackie”

 

That minuscule almost nonexistent voice tells me to shut it down, to make sure that Eric is never right. That I never ever turn the monster on her, and become my father. I close my eyes tight, and picture everything precious to me. Everything that keeps me centered, and on the right side of angels. I pull with all I have, the memories that keep me on the path of righteousness. I recall Mrs. Forman teaching me to dance. I bring up Donna and I on the water tower talking. I let  Kelso and I on every stupid adventure we’ve ever had drift into my mind. I picture Fez just being Fez and yes even that thieving bastard Eric, but mostly what shines in my head is her.

 

The first time she called me Steven

 

The first time her smile for me became real

 

Her pulled to my chest at prom

 

Teaching her Zen

 

Our first kiss

 

Our first everything

 

The way I feel when I am inside of her

 

And how much I fucking love her.

 

Her voice cuts through my accounting of all the things I will lose, if I leave the terrible need I have in me to destroy untethered. 

 

“Steven, please look at me?” her voice, pained and worried, slices through my burning anger, and banks it to simmering, but I’m far from cool. I’m far from being in a rational place. I’m far from being pleased with her.

 

I don’t turn towards her. I won’t let myself get sucked into her eyes. I refuse to let her gaze distract me from the black flies of pissed I have for her right now. I seethe out,

 

“I can’t believe you weren’t going to tell me. You were going to lie. Even when I cheated Jackie, I didn’t lie. I’ve never lied to you. You were going to pretend it never happened. You were going to step in front of him and protect him again. He’s broken every damn code and boundary in friendship. He grabbed you, kissed you when you didn’t want it, and you still choose to shield him. Who did you stand in front of and protect when he deserved every punch…. HIM! It’s always him. Damn it Jackie! When do you pick me?” 

 

“When do you pick me” comes out hoarse and broken, and I find myself getting choked up. I feel her hand, glide down my arm to my hand, and tug it. I refuse to turn around. I’m being childish, I know I am, but I truly don’t care. I hear her lightly sigh, tug heavily, and this time she commands my obedience. 

 

“Look at me.”

 

I’m in full prick mode. I can’t beat the hell out of Eric, and I am mad at her. She is going to take the brunt of my dickish behavior. I mutter out coldly,

 

“No.”

 

“Fine!” 

 

She doesn’t let go of my hand, and almost against my will I am holding her hand back. Truly, it's my will holding onto her. She’s my lighthouse in the storm, she’s my safe harbor, and if I let go…. I’m going to lose myself in the waves of hate that are raging in my heart. She marches around me, so she is in front of me, I am sure it’s her way of forcing me to look at her, well too damn bad she’s so petite I can turn my head and pretend to ignore her. 

 

I hear her sigh again, but this time it sounds tired and dejected. Then she rips the bandage off her own feelings.

 

“It wasn’t about lying Steven, it was about making sure that something could be salvaged. I was going to hide it for you. I was going to conceal it so you and Eric could still be friends. I wanted to forget it ever happened, so maybe Donna wouldn’t have to feel as bad as I do. If I had flown down the stairs right after it happened you would have killed him. He broke my heart Steven. The person who I believed I had never had to doubt, broke chains of trust that I thought were unbreakable. I was unglued. If you had seen me like that you would have flipped out. I was going to hide it so you could still have your brother.”

 

The last sentence comes out of her mouth and stabs me in the heart. I still can’t make eye contact, but I grab her close to me. I need to say this. I need her to understand.

 

“Jackie, I know your heart is in the right place but you can’t lie to me. I can’t be wondering and trying to dissect what is underneath every story you tell me. I don’t ask much from you, Jackie, but I am asking you right here for honesty. I can’t function if I question what you say. It’s my weakest point, to assume people will screw me over. If you aren’t honest, I’m going to lose whatever tenuous perch I have on belief.”

 

I stop for a second to steady the rest of my thought. I feel her move to speak, and I gently quiet her.

 

“Not yet Doll. I’m not done.” I pull her even closer, and release the rest of my heart.

 

 “You have to stop protecting me by deciding what I need to know and don’t need to know. If someone is abusing you, I want to know, so I can help you out of hell. If you make a deal with the devil to protect yourself, I want to know, so I can make sure the deal is one you can keep. If a guy, even it’s one of our friends, makes you uncomfortable or does something inappropriate I want to know, because you deserve to not live in fear.  Doll, please don’t lie to me… besides cheating on me, there is nothing that you can do more to hurt me than to lie.”

 

I feel her soft tears against my chest. I find at some point I started stroking her hair. For her comfort or mine…. I don’t know, but it is soothing us both. I rest my head on hers, and my eyes drift to the pavement. The weathered concrete is streaked with blood, centered around her feet. I pull her back roughly.

 

“Jacks! Are you hurt? Jesus what happened?”

 

Her huge, remorseful and grief ridden eyes connect with mine, and she whispers,

 

“When you slammed the door the glass broke, and I chased after you. I ran straight across the broken shards”

 

Guilt slams into my heart. I sweep her up instantly and start taking us back. I begin to get my head out of my ass and really look at her. She’s in her pajamas, her hair is unkempt and wild, and her feet are bare and bleeding. I know I’m pretty much in the same state, as she is but I can’t stop myself from giving her hell.

 

“Jackie, you can’t run across broken glass, damn it! What the hell were you thinking?”

 

She curls herself closer, her face buried in my neck, and whispers

 

“I was Picking you.”

 


The Night Before

Kelso

Dead damn asleep when I hear through my window “Kelso! Dude Wake up!” I roll over to find Eric in my escape tree outside my window I close my eyes and roll back over. This has to be a dream, there is no way Eric is outside in my tree at 4 o’clock in the morning. 

 

“Damn it Kelso wake up! Can I come in?” Eric’s frantic voice comes through the window again. 

 

I sit up and flip my night stand light on, it illuminates Eric who looks like hell. I close my eyes for the briefest moments and wonder when our group got so complicated and when I become the person everyone ran to. I can honestly say that up until a month ago, I wasn’t the person who anyone sought out for advice. Yet,Jackie called me to come get her at the police department, Hyde asked if he could crash here, and now Eric is perched in my tree looking like his whole world is ending. Eric must have taken me closing my eyes as a sign I was falling back asleep, because he yells

 

“Wake the up  KELSO!”

 

My eyes flip back open, and I moan, “I’m coming.” 

 

I stumble to the window, and push it all the way open, “Come on in, it’s not like I was sleeping or anything?” I grouse at him.

 

He hops from the massive branch, into my room, and I find that unlike when Hyde invaded my room in the middle of the night, I am feeling less than charitable.

 

“What the hell do you want Eric?”

 

I fall back on my bed, lace my hands behind my head, and gaze at my friend. He looks like shit. I’ve witnessed Eric look terrible. I’ve seen him in physical pain. I’ve seen him want. I’ve seen him frustrated and pissed but this…… He looks like he glimpsed Hell, and it scared the crap out of him. He is still just standing in my room, almost like he is stuck, so I prompt him again.

 

“Well?”

 

His whole body slumps, almost as if he was a puppet and someone cut his strings. It occurs to me that something is really wrong. I feel my heartbeat pick up. Only two things would drive him to look like this, and come here. Actually not things….. Two people. I swallow and try to get him to speak again,

 

“Come on, man, you’re starting to freak me out. Are you fighting with Jackie? Hyde? They okay?” 

 

As soon as I say Jackie and Hyde, his eyes fly to mine, and I understand sheer panic. His voice is shaky when he says

 

“I fucked up Kelso. I really fucked up.”

 

My heartbeat has gone from beating heavily too rapid gunfire. He’s done something. Something he can’t take back. What could he have done that would drive him here? Why would he seek me out? My mind is swimming with confusion, when I get it. I know what hell he glimpsed, and he’s looking for a guide. He’s looking for someone who has been down this road. I slam my eyes shut, I don’t want to study his face when I ask.

 

“Did you cheat on Donna?”

 

For a minute he says nothing, and then his answer though soft crashes the silence in my room like the loudest thunder clap.

 

“Yes”

 

I squeeze my eyes tighter. I have to ask. He might ask me what to do because apparently I’m the resident expert on cheating, but he wouldn’t do it at 4 AM unless……… I quickly push the last of that thought out of my mind. He wouldn’t be that stupid. He has to know….. He has to know that if he did, he’s a dead man. I’ve never wanted to be dense and not read a moment right as much as I do right now, but I have a feeling I’m dead on the money.

 

“Who Eric?”

 

He sucks in a breath and hesitates, and with it all the hope of a different answer. 

 

“I kissed Jackie.”

 

My eyes fly open, and my body is surged with an fire blistering anger. I jump up and shout.

 

“JESUS CHRIST ERIC!”

 

His face crumples, and for the first since we were kids I watch my friend start to cry. 

 

“What am I going to do?”

 

I answer immediately “What are you going to do? That’s your question? It should be how do I stop from Hyde killing me? What are you going to do? JESUS ERIC! Do you think I have the answer to this? I may have cheated on Jackie, but it wasn’t with her best friend. I don’t have the answer to this. What the hell were you thinking? Please tell me Jackie’s wasn’t a willing participant in this?”

 

He collapses on my bed, and chokes out the story. It pours out of him. Jackie coming in his room to talk to him. Him telling her that they needed to be different. Her getting mad. Him yelling that he loves her, and the kiss. Her pushing him back, and then he tells me this isn’t his first rodeo with going where he should have never been. 

 

 It’s then he pauses, and says what I already know. He tells me what I’m trying to forget. Eric lets me know that he found out the most addicting substance on earth…. Jackie’s Kiss.

 

“The worst part of all of this is, in those brief seconds her lips were on mine, I felt like my whole world shifted in the opposite direction. It was like a siren song. I’ve never wanted anything more, than for that kiss to never end. It was the single best 5 seconds of my life. I get it now. She’s like a damn drug. I know why you could never stay away from her. The part that makes it even more awful, is I love her for her already, and now I know how she tastes. How am I ever suppose to forget that?”

 

He trails off from his confessional about his new addiction to fall back into more practical matters.

 

“What the hell am I going to do Kelso?”

 

My mind gives him a passing moment of compassion before it turns over into plain pissed. He’s right. He has fucked up. Eric has done more than fuck up, he has set fire to our whole enitre group.

 

“You better forget it” I snap. “You better erase the touch of her lips from your mind like it was a passing dream. What are you going to do? Run away? Never go near Hyde again? Pray that Jackie steps between you two, so he doesn't beat your brains in? I don’t have a plan for this! DAMN IT ERIC! YOU DON”T THINK” I yell at the end.

 

He sits up from my bed, and seems shocked that I yelled at him. I watch his face fill with snark, 

 

“I’m not sure you can yell at me to not think.”

 

His barb at my intelligence sends me over the edge. “Fuck You Eric. FUCK. YOU. You want to insult my intelligence ? I’m not the one who has been over the line with Hyde’s girlfriend not once, but now twice. I’m not the one who blew a God Damn Crater in my friendship with my two best friends. Why couldn’t you just suck it up like the rest of us? I know Hyde told you this. I know he told you to figure out loving her and not having her. You owed him that. You owed her that. You owed Donna that. I can’t believe you think I have some magic answer. You kissed Hyde’s girlfriend. You kissed Jackie when she didn’t want to be kissed. You kissed another girl when you have a girlfriend. I’ve fucked up. I hurt Jackie, and there is no denying Hyde smashed her heart, but you my friend….. Are the GOD DAMN KING!”

 

All the life that had returned to his eyes when I annoyed him, drains away. The tears start again. I sigh, and sit down next to him. It’s not my nature to be angry, and my temper is already spent. Now I’m just weary and unsure what Eric wants from me. 

 

“Why are you here Eric?”

 

He drops his head into his hands and quietly requests

 

“Jackie told me to not tell him, so I didn’t screw up that friendship as well, but we both know that isn’t the answer. I have to tell him. Can you please be there? I’m going to need someone to keep him from killing me. I want to work this out. I need you to keep him in the room. I need you to be what you have always been…… our best friend.”

 

I sigh heavily. He is invoking the deepest level of our friendship. The part that is just the three of us. I can’t tell him no. I don’t want to tell him no. I simply just don’t know if this time we can save us. Because that’s what Eric is playing at, he’s hoping the part of Hyde that clings to us as his family will be awaken by it just being us. He’s playing the only card he’s got, but I think Eric underestimates how much Hyde cares about Jackie. Hyde rolled the dice that hooking up with her could kill our friendship. He had been willing to risk it.  I maintain what I said to Jackie, what I said to him, and what I know like I know the sun will come up tomorrow…. Hyde will fight like hell for Jackie. There is nothing scarier than a determined, refuse to back down, and pissed off Hyde. 

 

Eric asks me for confirmation “Will you be there?”

 

I nod yes, but I look at him and say “Don’t be stupid Eric. Don’t just drop this on him. Wait for me. Promise you won’t get twitchy and implode the truth before I get there. You are no match for him. Even on my best day, I’m not.”

 

He laughs a little and says “I’m not that stupid. I know better than to take him on by myself.”

 

I pat him on the back, but I think to myself “I think he is exactly that stupid.”








Chapter Text

Kelso

“Let me get this straight, you strolled into Hyde’s room, woke up a guy who is grumpy on a good day, and your method of waking him up was to drop the news you kissed his girlfriend?”

 

Eric merely nods at me, still in a state of shock at almost dying at the hands of our oldest friend.

 

“You’re an idiot, Eric.” I laugh

 

 I knew he couldn’t keep it together. I knew it. Eric has never been able to deal with crisis without freaking the hell out. He has a long and consistent history of not being able to keep his shit together. A. Long. History. Like the time….

 

He freaked out when we wanted him to steal a few beers

He was the one that got all twitchy about borrowing Red’s tap

He’s the one who always gets chased when we leave shit on Coach Milhoan’s porch 

He was the one who was the most freaked out when we got arrested….

 

I could go on forever. Eric is a twitchy dumbass when things get tough. I inwardly want to smack the crap out of him…… And they call me the idiot. I don’t ever want to hear I’m the King again, because Eric has taken the throne. 

 

“I told you to wait for me. I warned you not to try to take him on yourself” I say exasperated.

 

Good Lord, it is only 9:30 AM. It’s not like I didn’t show until noon, considering he woke me up at 4 AM, I think my appearance this early is pretty damn good. 

 

He stares at me blankly, and answers stupidly, “I just wanted to get it over with. I had to tell him. I didn’t want to lie. I wasn’t thinking.”

 

His last line burns in my chest. I don’t know why, but it’s such a cop out. I let him have it.

 

“I wasn’t thinking? I WASN’T THINKING? No shit, you weren’t thinking Eric! If you had been thinking you would have never told her that you love her. If you were thinking, you would have shut your mouth and figured out how to keep her happy and Donna. If you had been thinking you would have visualized Hyde standing next to Jackie when you went to grab her. IF YOU HAD BEEN THINKING YOU WOULD HAVE NEVER  KISSED HER. I think it’s obvious you weren’t thinking. When the three of us talk you better have something better than “I wasn’t thinking”

 

“I’m not sure yelling at me is going to help any.” He mumbles at me grumpily.

 

“Are you serious? You’re going to get pissed, I’m yelling at you for doing the exact opposite of what I told you to do? Jesus, Eric! You came to my house at four in the freaking morning to ask me to be here when you told him. What the hell is wrong with you?”

 

He lays his head back on the couch, and with a weariness borne from knowing your world will never be what it was, he sighs

 

“Isn’t that the million dollar question? The only thing I can think of is what has driven all of us at some point to madness…. Jackie. I just wanted to stop hearing her in my head. I wanted to stop her voice telling me I broke her heart. I was gambling, his rage could blot out her pain.”

 

I feel my heart clench, I’m starting to think Eric isn’t strong enough to love Jackie and not have her. He blew his world apart because he would rather deal with Hyde’s anger than Jackie’s heartbreak. I’m not trying to be an ass, but it isn’t all that hard to break Jackie’s heart. Her heart is soft and tender…. I look at him and ask him if his suicide mission helped his cause,



“Did it work?”

 

His eyes, already shut, squeeze tighter against the truth, “No. Nothing Stops Jackie.”

 

Before, I can reply to that Gospel Truth, I hear Red’s boom voice all the way down in the basement.

 

“Kitty! Get bandages. Jackie’s hurt.”

 

Eric’s head pops up, and I recognize instant panic. I observe his life long friendship with both Hyde and Jackie, roll across his face, and fear. Plain fear. Fear for her. Fear of Hyde. Fear of a future yet to be determined. 

 

I also notice his desire to go see what is going on. I stop that insanity immediately.

 

“Don’t even think about it. You going up there right now, is only going to send him further over the edge, and if Jackie is hurt because of you, he won’t be anywhere near reasonable.”

 

His frustration at my statement is evident, but he also knows I’m right. He sighs heavily, and breathes out something he failed to report before.

 

“Did I mention she ran across glass in her bare feet to chase after him?”

 

I roll my eyes and head towards the stairs, of course she did. It’s Jackie, drama is thy middle name.


The Kitchen

I wander in to observe a testy Red, a Mrs. Forman in Nurse Mode, a Jackie in pain, and a Hyde who is nearly shut down. As I come around the corner, it is evident everyone is surprised to see me but Hyde. His eyes bore into mine. Before, I can say a word Red barks out

 

“What the hell are you doing here, Kettlehead?”

 

Hyde stared at me straight in the eye. He knows why. He had to know this was coming. There was no way he didn’t suspect Eric would call me in. Hyde answered for me.

 

 “He’s here for the three.”

 

Red looked confused, and snapped out, “Are you on Dope? What the hell does that mean?”

 

Hyde says without a drop of tone in his voice, “Don’t worry about it Red.” He dropped a soft kiss on Jackie’s head, and said to her, “Let Mrs. Forman take care of you, Doll.” 

 

He nods at me to head down. I lead the way. As soon, as we are out of the sight of everyone, I turn quickly.

 

“Go down there, put clothes on, and head to the Camino. We can’t have this talk in the basement. Donna, Fez, and Jackie can’t be part of it, we have to go somewhere else.”

 

His face was still flat, but his tone was razor sharp, “Where the hell do you suggest we have this conversation?”

 

I go for humor, “Well, not the Water Tower. I don’t want you to toss him off.”

 

He doesn't even blink. I inwardly sigh…. Great we have entered the “being an ass just to be ass” phase of Hyde losing his shit. In my opinion this phase is the worst to deal with. He can be a real dick when he wants to be. Because somethings are sacred, I lower my voice for my next shot at keeping this from turning into a blood bath.

 

“You know where Hyde. It’s the only place that is going to work. Get dressed. Get in the Camino and drive there. Eric and I will follow in the van. We do it this way, it has to be this way.”

I see him crack just enough that he responds.

 

“Fine.”

 

I start to turn to go downstairs when something occurs to me. I pivot back, put my hand on his chest, and throw out a truth that needs to be said. 

 

He simply glanced at my hand, and raised his eyebrow at me, but I know what that steely stare means. It means “Get your fucking hand off me” 

 

I take it off because I’m not in the mood to get hit in the eye, but I say quickly.

 

“Listen Hyde. I know you are pissed. I know you want to rip his head off and shove it up his ass. I’m not saying you are wrong, but I need you to think about two things. Jackie is mad now, but she will forgive him. She forgave me for cheating…. She forgave you. She’s going to forgive Eric for his mess up. She always forgives, it is the way Jackie is mad.  It is going to hurt her if you hate him for life.”

 

His eyes flared. I can see he hates the idea of forgiveness bestowed upon anyone but him. It has always been his problem, his possessiveness. It is his fatal flaw, but I know his weak point, and I’m going to use it. I’m going to use Jackie.

 

“In the long run that kiss is going to mean nothing. The thing I need you to focus on is she loves you. Jackie wants you. She doesn’t want me. She doesn’t want Eric. She wants you. I don’t give a damn what you believe or how much it hurts me, I know she has always wanted you. You reign supreme, the rest of us are happy with the scraps she has let us have.”

 

His eyes soften a little, his body unclenches…. I deliver something that has lived in my heart, something that must be said before we begin a journey that I know is going to suck. 

 

“When I screwed up and kissed Pam behind the gym, she picked your arms for comfort. When I didn’t ask her to prom, she came to you to be her hero. When we broke up over Laurie, she literally launched herself into your arms and wept. I noticed Hyde. I’m stupid but I’m not that stupid. It’s why I was so pissed when I came home, and found out that you two had been together. Because I knew that if she was with you, really with you I was never getting her back.”

 

I actually feel tears prick my eyes. I thought I was past the point of pain, but it still stings. I blink hard, and roughly say.

 

“She picks you. She has always picked you. Don’t forget that.”

 

I don’t want it to hurt but it still does. I turn away and head down the stairs.


Hyde

 

There is no way Kelso can know it but, he literally used the words that Jackie said to me. 

 

“I was picking you.”

 

“She picks you. She has always picked you.”

 

I’m sitting here in my Camino waiting for Kelso and Forman to show up.  I lean my head back, close my eyes, grab a cigarette, light it, and take the world’s deepest drag. I let the nicotine glide through my system, begging the smoky rush to calm the riot of feelings in my heart. I take the time to reflect on the last 90 minutes. The longest 90 minutes of my life. That’s all it’s been since everything went to hell. I take another soul-searching drag off my cigarette, and tick by the minutes that seem like eternity.

 

90 minutes since my oldest friend admitted he kissed my girlfriend

90 minutes since Jackie stepped between us

 

90 minutes since she was an idiot and dashed across broken glass

 

90 minutes since she looked at me, bleeding on the sidewalk and said “I was picking you.”

 

90 minutes measly minutes since my world was disordered again.

 

I take another drag. I need the sweet relief of satisfying at least one of my addictions to help me drag the demon all the way back in the cage. If I don’t get the smothering fury down to a controlled burn, I’ll kill him, I’ll do it without thinking and remorse. I’ll spill my oldest friend’s blood on the holiest place.  I knew where the conversation was going to be had before I even asked. It has to be had at our place. Kelso made the request, and it can’t be denied. I vowed, and while my record with Jackie on keeping my promises is less than stellar, I’m spotless with my two oldest friends. I will respect promise of old and listen. I will keep my vow, but I’ve never wanted to say fuck it more to my friends. I hear Kelso’s van. I take a final drag, flip the butt of the cigarette out the window and get out of the Camino. I don’t look back at either of them and start to push through a rough path in the woods that sits by our old elementary playground. In my mind I repeat over and over again.

 

“I was picking you.” 

 

Eric doesn’t know it but once again Jackie is saving his life. Those four words are all that keeping me from killing him.

 


 

 

I study my friends. It is finally the three of us, The Three. The silly, childlike name we gave ourselves when we found this place. I look around at what used to be our kingdom of make believe, and sigh at how older eyes have changed its majesty. All it is a small clearing in the woods that forms an intimate circle. It had three large stones in the middle. Now that my eyes are older, I can guess that a long time ago, those stones were the foundation to an early settler home, and this clearing was their small plot of ownership. When we found it the first time…. We were convinced it was magic. Our young minds convinced that only a spell would leave three rocks for three friends in a green clearing surrounded by the woods to form a circle. Our first circle.  We had found our brotherhood home. One day when we were bored playing on the playground we ventured into the woods looking for adventure. I’m guessing it was either myself or Kelso’s idea to wander away from somewhere safe. Any stupid thing we have ever done, has been my idea or Kelso’s. Forman is the King of Do Right, that is until he went after my girlfriend. 

 

I glare at him sitting across from him on my rock. It strikes me for a moment, how we each have a spot. How this group of friends is so connected to spots. Even in the basement we have places that we sit. I’ve always had the white chair, Eric the couch, and Kelso the lawn chair.  Kelso demanded we fall protocol. I want to scream that this is stupid, but if there is a chance in hell for Eric and I to find even ground, I guess ceremony and tradition must be followed. This place is where we made every pact that is the foundation of our friendship. This is where we slit open our skin, mixed blood, and made a pact to never rat on each other. It was here we made the vow to pick brother over girl. This lonely spot in the woods is where we promised to never bring anyone here but us. It was here in our most important circle we swore any serious breach in our friendship would be discussed here. All three of us. Together. The Three. 

 

 It is here where we talked out,

 

Eric accusing me of stealing his money

Kelso sleeping with Laurie (come man, it’s his sister)

Me hooking up with Jackie

Kelso being a prick and constantly cheating on Jackie

Me taking Jackie to prom

Kelso bailing with Donna to California 

 

All of it. Any major frisson in our friendship has played out here, to uphold that our friendship is worth saving. The only one that hasn’t been discussed here was me cheating on Jackie, him touching her when he shouldn’t have, and the shit storm that followed. There was no containing that. There was no time for this stupid waste of time.  As soon, as Kelso walked into the kitchen, I knew why. Eric’s idiot but he isn’t stupid. They both know my weakness is devotion to our friendship, to our pacts, to what saved me from hell as a kid. Eric played his card. I’m here. 

 

I’ll go to hell before I speak first. I stare at Kelso. Eric called him in, he’s going to play ref. I watch Kelso roll his eyes at me dramatically, and then he jumps straight to it.

 

“Okay, we are here to do what we do. We don’t end our friendship. It started the three of us, and no matter who is mad at who we discuss it as three. This time I have no part at all, so I’m going to ref. I’m calling rules. You have to let the other finish. Hyde…. No hitting.”

 

I don’t break eye contact with Forman, but I finally say something,

 

 “Nope. I can’t make that promise.”

 

I hear Kelso sigh, “Come on Hyde. Don’t be a prick, can you just….”

 

I never let him finish, no more rules, no more of this bullshit. I explode.

 

“I’m a prick. I’m the guy who is unreasonable? He fucking kissed my girlfriend. How am I the dillhole? Someone answer that?”

 

I still haven’t broken Forman’s gaze. I want him to know it. I want him to know how mad I am. I want him to feel it in his bones. This isn’t a game. 

 

My words echo across the trees with my questions hanging heavily. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Kelso start to protest, but Forman cuts him off.

 

“No. Kelso. He’s right. I’m the prick. I’m the guy who kissed my best friend's girlfriend. I’m the guy who touched her in a way I shouldn’t have. I’m the guy who told my best friend’s girlfriend I was in love with her. I deserve a punch.”

 

His eyes are full of apology, and I know he is sorry, but I don’t give a damn. I’m far from done. He is forgetting something essential, and I’m going to make sure he makes no fucking mistake how bad he screwed up this time.

 

“You know what’s worse than you kissing Jackie? Is you fucking up everything I did to protect you. I refused to tell Jackie what was between us. I absolutely stood in front of you to protect your secret. She could've refused to get back together with me over that. It got ugly Forman. I know we wouldn’t have been broken up in the first place if it I was such an asshole, BUT I didn’t back down. Every time your secret got close to being exposed, I protected you. I did it so Jackie could still have her best friend. I did it so you could still have a friendship that wasn’t uncomfortable with Jackie. I was willing to LIE to Donna for you.  I did it so you would be okay Forman, and you fucked me over.”

 

I hate that it hurts. I hate I’m more hurt than I am mad. I loathe, the person I thought I could always count failed me. It burns me he couldn’t do what I did for him, he just couldn’t buck up and deal with it. It slices at me he wasn’t willing to sacrifice for me, the way I did for him. The silence is pressing down on me, and deflating my anger. I’m simply drained at this point. 

 

“Why Eric? Why did you have to tell her you loved her? Why did you have to tell her Donna was upset? Why did you have to kiss her?”

 

My weary words hit him harder than my angry ones. For the first time he breaks my stare, and participates in this crap show since he burst into my room.


Eric

 

“I don’t have a why. She crawled into my bed, and all I could think of was Donna’s face, and how you said I needed to think of her. I told her we needed boundaries and she lost it. Then….”

 

I trail off….and I take a second to look at Hyde. Whose eyes are cool and unforgiving, they don’t inspire forgiveness and understanding. I pull my eyes away again, trying to make him understand. Trying to understand myself.

 

“She’s Jackie! She kept pushing that it was your fault that I wanted boundaries. That I was trying to make you comfortable. I told her it wasn’t. I begged her to believe me. She wouldn’t let it go. Then I told her it was Donna who was upset, and she went nuclear. She started ranting how she stood up for her and I’s friendship when you were being an ass. How she refused to give in, but I wasn’t willing to do the same. Damn it Hyde!!!!”

 

I jump up and starts waving my hands. 

 

“You know how she is. God! Jackie could make a madman sane, and the calmest person on earth turn crazy. She pushes extremes and I broke. I told her. I said everything, and then you know the rest. I don’t have a why. It was a series of events that tumbled out of control, because I can’t man up. I’m sorry. It’s not like I want this all out there. There is no going back now. I, either tell Donna the full truth, or lie and hope everyone goes along with me. Which is not what I’m expecting to ask. There is no why…. Only I ruined  everything. It’s not just you, Hyde. I said things to Jackie. Things I can’t ever take back, things that make her doubt the scope of our history.”

 

I observe his eyes hardened at the idea of Jackie being hurt. I swallow with difficulty and tell him what I didn’t want to say. The one thing I had hoped to at least keep between myself and Kelso, since I spilled it to him.

 

“I don’t have a why for breaking every loyalty between us. Only that I’m an idiot and remarkably stupid. I do have a why for how I told you. I can explain dumping it at your feet. There was a reason for that.”

 

I’m hoping that I can distract him briefly with an explanation for me losing my mind this morning, and going all psycho on him. His eyes don’t blink, his stare doesn’t even waver. Still, I press ahead. Let no secret be hidden. Let no feeling not be exposed. 

 

“Hyde, I counted on you flipping out. I was betting on you punching me into oblivion. I’ve never been so desperate to be on the receiving end of you losing your mind, than I was this morning. I would have done almost anything for you to beat me senseless.”

 

I can see that catches him by surprise. It’s hard to shock Hyde. Hell, it’s difficult to detect emotion on his face. This time however, I have gotten through his shields.

 

“Make sense Forman.” he barks out.

 

“I wanted your rage to block out Jackie. I wanted to dance in the fire of your temper, so I didn’t have to hear her say, with disappointment,

 

“So, we were never friends.”

 

I would stick a rod in my brain to kill the sound of her saying,

 

“Consider the final curtain on The Jackie and Eric Show Closed.”

 

“I would take every punch, spewing lava piece of rage from you than hear the echo of Jackie’s voice in my head over and over again saying…...

 

“I never thought you would break my heart.”

 

For a mere moment of time, I see Hyde understand. I watch him recoil from his own mess up. I witness the guilt of him cheating cross his shadowed face, but only for a second. I expected the steel shutter of nothingness, but for once his emotions are open. There is a brittleness of disappointment, that gouges at me. Suspicion is crawling across his face, as he quietly asks what I believe is his most important question

 

“Did you ask her to lie?” 

 

The quiet doubt in those words hurt almost as much as Jackie telling me that I broke her heart. Truth and Honesty are paramount to Hyde. He could have never told Jackie he cheated. She would have never known, but he did. I know without a doubt he would have told her even if he had turned out to be correct in his belief that she cheated first. At least here, I’ve maintained honor. 

 

“No! I would have never hidden this. I would have never allowed this to stay secret. I kissed your girlfriend. I broke the pact. Hyde, I’ve screwed up. I should of never touched her that day on the couch, not just because she was your girlfriend but also because I abused her trust. I took advantage of her blind faith in me.  I have failed miserably keeping my feelings in check. I’ve hurt feelings, incinerated trust, and damaged people I love. Even though I’ve done those things, I would never lie to you Hyde. I would never and will never ask Jackie to lie to you.

 

His steely blues eyes soften a little at that. Truth is Hyde’s watchword, and honor is his foundation. I know without a shadow of a doubt that when Hyde cheated his disappointment in himself was huge. I guarantee 25 years from now he will still beat himself up for what he did when he was 17. For a guy who came from crap….. His value system is rock solid. 

 

“I told you I wouldn’t do it again, and I did. I don’t have why. I don’t have an excuse. I only have shame that I hurt the people I love the most.”


Hyde

 

As Eric’s words trail off, I glance at Kelso who is suspiciously biting his lip, and blinking hard. I inwardly roll my eyes. Kelso has always been a drama queen. Dude will cry over anything. He centers his gaze on me. I know what he wants. He wants me to say it is okay. To fix it. You can’t help love Kelso, he merely wants us all to be together, happily ever after. I don’t know if we can do it this time.  



I don’t have a damn idea what to say to Eric. What is there to say? Maybe we are just getting to old for codes and beliefs that your friends won’t screw you over. Maybe this is a turning point in who we are. My heart settles a little at him not asking her to lie. I believe him. He has never been a liar. Nothing is fixed, but I don’t know where to go from here.

 

“Now what?” I ask.



Kelso resumes his role of director of this shit show

 

“Eric, don’t tell Donna. Let it go. You wanted boundaries with Jackie to save what you have Donna, then let everything settle. We all know Jackie will eventually forgive Eric. It’s not her nature to stay mad. Hyde, you are still going to tell Donna that Eric’s not in love with Jackie.”

 

At that my temper comes back. “The hell I am! I don’t owe him shit.”

 

Kelso raises his eyebrows and a voice I’ve never heard before comes out of him. It's stern, authoritative, and brokers no argument. It almost looks like he is channeling Red.

 

 “Yes. You. Are. You are going to do it for Donna, because we both know Eric and her should be together despite his turn visiting I love Jackie Land. No stays there forever, he will get over it. You are going to do it for Jackie, because she loves him and it’s going to wound her to see him hurt no matter what he did. You are going to do it for our circle. You are going to do it because it’s your turn to suck it up. I sat here after I found out about you and Jackie, and agreed to let  go how pissed I was.”

 

I start to give him the don’t even start with this shit again look when, he cuts me off before I can even start.

 

 “It doesn't  matter if my feelings were justified or not. I was hurt and upset you were with Jackie. It doesn’t matter that we were broke up, and I screwed the pooch with her. It hurt like fucking hell Hyde to come home and see her in another man’s arms. Not just any man, but my oldest friend. It killed me, but I agreed to let it go right here in our very first circle, so our circle would stay intact. You are going to do if for Eric, because no matter how dumbass it was, he walked down the stairs and told you the truth.”



I immediately get pissed. I don’t respond well to direction from anyone. Screw this. I start to stand up and stomp off when Kelso throws the final arrow as I reach the trees.

 

“Hyde, you made a pact. Brothers over Girls. I know you love Jackie, but Eric trumps her. Don’t throw it all away for something that won’t matter in a year.  I know Eric screwed up, but you my friend are far from free and clear in never screwing over one of us. You walk away without some resolution you are breaking our most important code.”

 

I stop cold, and close my eyes. Jesus when did Kelso get so smart. He’s referring to me kissing Donna, straight before they started being official. It was my own form of madness. Anything to burn the image of Kelso and Jackie together out of my damn mind. He is also pointing out that if I walk away, I’m breaking my word. My word is all I have. No one can take that from me. Not my deadbeat dad. Not my abusive mother. Not the world that judges me harshly…. No one. 

 

I turn and stalk towards the rocks. “Fine. I’ll talk to Donna. I’ll attempt to pretend nothing is the fucking wrong, but we aren’t okay Eric.”

 

He nods, and says quietly, “I know.”

 

Kelso looks at us and says “Shake on it.”

 

I shake unhappily. As Eric starts to pull his hand away, I grab him tight and I make a new vow.

 

“I’m calling for a redefinition of our code.” I make sure Kelso is paying attention, because this is for him as well.

 

 “Let it be clear from this moment on, it’s Jackie over brother. It’s her. I’ll go to hell and back before I ever choose either of you over her again.” 



Chapter Text

Hyde- The Ties That Bind You

 

I took off straight after, I told my two oldest friends they were no longer the most important thing in my life. I’ve spent the majority of my life living in the idea that I would live and die in my loyalty to Kelso and Eric. Most people feel that way about family, but I’ve never had anyone connected to me by blood who earned my vow of fidelity. They are my family, and I consider myself their shield. While not as close to Kelso as Eric, he is my best friend, and I sure as hell have picked him over Jackie a million times. I did it every time I kept my mouth shut when he cheated, no matter how it killed me. My lips never graced hers, as long as Kelso called her his, though grabbing her and kissing her for years was my deepest desire. 

As for Eric, I would never would have guessed in a million years that I would say that anyone would trump him. Even in the middle of this tornado of a disaster that has been our relationship over the last few weeks, I still picked him. I would have never told Jackie how Eric felt. There is nothing that could have compelled me to betray him no matter how angry I was. My word is my pact. Rationally, I know I can’t take my promises all that seriously if I crushed the one of being faithful to Jackie without a second glance, but to the two guys I’ve called best friend, that I shed my own blood for…. My promise was iron. A pledge now a shadow of what it used to be, because I was dead serious, I’m never putting Jackie second again. I absolutely will never chance losing her, at the risk of a boyhood creed ever again. It seems allegiance can change, because my new oath is to always put Jackie first. If I am going to fall on my sword, then it will be for her. I’m not sure what I am going to say to her when I walk in the door. A lot has happened this morning, and when I left she was still hurt and emotionally wrecked. She had no idea where the three of us went, hell I don’t even know what current state she is in, because I picked those dumb asses over her. Never again. She’s first. 

 

My mind is full of Eric’s betrayal, my promise to lie for him, Jackie dashing across glass… everything. I’m overwhelmed. I want to rest. I want five fucking minutes where I don’t experience the world shift. I pull the Camino up the drive, and head towards what I hope is calm. Some type of peace, even if it’s just Jackie sitting on my lap in my chair. Her on my lap, curled into my chest, is better than my stash. It gives me order every time.  I step into the kitchen, and am startled to find Red, Jackie and someone I never expected to find at Mrs. Forman’s table. Someone I hoped to never see again. Someone’s whose presence means my naive hope for calm is dashed. There sitting in a yellow chair straight out of the worst part of the 70s is a man who couldn’t look like he belongs in it less…… Devin Calabrese. Dressed in an immaculate suite, wearing sunglasses nicer than mine, looking every inch the mobster he is. 


Devin Calabrese 

Here I sit in Red Forman’s kitchen next to the young woman who I feel a strong connection to. Who I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on since a ledger was dropped into my lap, with a note telling me about her home life. Since I’ve been involved in this melodrama, and met her, there is something that seems to bind her to me more than just the need to protect a girl who told me I was getting screwed. Whatever this odd feeling is, it has driven me here to speak with her and Red. I don’t want to wait for my weekly chat with Red. There is much to be discussed, and normally I wouldn’t come here.  Red would never say it, but I know it makes him uncomfortable to have me close to his family. I don’t blame him, and I honor a man who puts family first. After all, isn't the whole basis of how I run my organization? You always pick your family. I’ve only just arrived, and moved Red past his shock that I am in his territory when young Steven Hyde comes blowing into the kitchen. 

 

Much like the intriguing Miss Burkhart who has tripped into my life and jaded heart, there is something about the boy who Red took off the streets that intrigues me as well.  Red has told both myself and Patrick his story. I’ve personally dealt with his worthless mother, as I have no tolerance for abusive mothers.  I know Red views him as a younger version of himself that needs guidance, and someone to give a damn. Truly, Red Forman is the finest of men, which is why the ragtag children he has taken into his home fall under my provision. 

 

Despite allegiance born out of my promise to always protect him and his family, I do find this young man fascinating. His face is exhausted. A tired that can only be born from the weariness of excessive emotion. His young body was open and showed no signs of unease, until his awareness, I was not only in his home, but lounging comfortably next to his girlfriend came to his senses. The metamorphosis of his whole being is a treat to watch. I watch him shutter his eyes even behind his ever present shades, pull his body taunt, and curve into what I call lion mode. I’ve viewed this language in only the fiercest of men. He is going to fight for his lioness. He knows who I am. He knows how dangerous I am, but he would attempt to tear me apart for this little raven haired imp next me.  If Red, wouldn’t throw a fit, I would recruit this young man into my ranks. 

 

My examination of Red’s young charge is interrupted by Red pulling him into our conversation. 

 

“Sit down Steven, we need to talk.” Red barks in only a way that Red can.

 

His obedience is instant, which I like. It shows he understands proper respect. Yet, he doesn't take his eyes off me, which shows intelligence. This boy has learned to never take your eyes off the most dangerous person in the room.  Before Red can explain, The Young Steven interrupts. 

 

“Eric, can’t be more too far behind me, depends on how long him and Kelso want to act like girls.  So if this something you don’t want him involved in. We better make it quick. There is no way you will get him to leave the room if he walks in and sees this.”

 

I almost laugh. This kid is something. “See this” is a deliberate swipe at me. I know what he is implying. He’s saying I’m dangerous. I’m something Red’s son shouldn’t see, that I would cause alarm. While all valid and true, his tone suggests I’m near dirt under his shoe. I simply raise my eyebrow at him.

Red is having none of it, “Steven, knock it off, You will not disrespect my friend. Let me worry about Eric.”

 

He takes his eyes off of me, and lets them fall on the reason I am here. The fleeting seconds, he removes his gaze from mine to hers, he transforms completely. What he believes are shielded eyes and face go soft, and reaches out to grab her hand. She meets him halfway. He doesn't say a word, but she answers his unspoken question.

 

“It’s okay. I’m okay.”

 

There is brief relief on his face, but he shunts his eyes back to mine. For a kid of 18 he is incredibly brave. He knows who I am, but there is something in those eyes, that tells me he doesn't care. That even if it is stupid beyond belief, and I could crush him like a bug, he would dive in front her and Red. 

 

“Why are you here?” He asks with little emotion. He can try to hide, but I am a master at what I do. I detect fear. Fear for her.  That weird connection to her starts to sing, I like she has someone who wants to protect her so fiercely, though I love, and I am confident she can take care of herself. I have a brief moment again where I wish she was my child. Something I can say I’ve never wanted, but if I could hand pick one, she would be my choice. 

 

Before, I can answer, Jackie interrupts. I sense she doesn’t want me and her young beau to speak much. 

 

“Steven, my mom is back. She’s looking for my dad, and wants money. Mr. Calabrese wanted to let me know that she might contact me.”

 

I watch him gently squeeze her hand, but his gaze is still on mine. Both of us trying to understand each other. I have a ridiculous thought, we are both sitting inside wearing sunglasses, trying to read each other’s motivations.  I know why this boy wears them. It is obvious. His gaze is his weakness. Even shaded, I can identify the crinkles, the changes in blue, and the worry in the story of his life. Why I always wear them? Well several reasons, but the one that is simplest is after the explosion in the war, light affects my eyes differently. My pointless and distracted thinking about sunglasses is interrupted by Hyde pressing for more information.

 

“How do you know?” It is snippy, and borderline disrespectful. I find myself starting to get irritated. Red steps in before, I can put this foolish boy in his place.

 

“Steven, I won’t tell you again. Check your tone.” 

 

I observe the direction has little effect on him. I see this boy has another weakness…. His temper. Red needs to help him learn to control it, or it will always control him. Again, the idea disappoints me in a different lifetime, if I had come across this boy first…. I could have shaped him into an elite solider in my family. 

 

“Steven, please. It’s okay. I promise.” Her words are soft but stern. 

 

It kills him, it is written all over his stubborn face, but he looks at me and says “Sorry. I’m just interested in knowing how you know Pam is home.”

 

I want to laugh. Young Steven is loath to apologize. I can appreciate that. I have a desire just to screw with him, but we have concerns to address.

 

“I know because Pamela came straight to me.”

 

I see it surprise all three of them, and I comprehend Pamela has kept some things secret. I just assumed Miss Jackie’s natural instinct to play the game and win came from Pam’s family.  If she wasn’t such a bitch, I would appreciate her silence, and ability to reinvent herself. I would appreciate her loyalty to her family, but Pam is a creature who inspires nothing but desire and then contempt. I know there will be no moving on until I explain. 

 

“Pamela used to be Pamela Salvatore. I’ve known her for years. She is the reason I even considered Jack as a business associate. They came here to Point Place shortly after they were married.”

 

I watch the lovely Jackie furrow her brow. “That’s not my mother’s maiden name. Her last name is Carlise. She’s from New York”

 

I sigh…… “No, my bambina, it is not. Your mother is from Chicago. Her family and my family have known each other longer than both of us have been alive.  She simply chose to distance herself from them when things…. How shall I say it...got rough.” 

 

I leave it at that. The Salvatore family is almost nonexistent now and Pam was shrewd to protect herself. While I’ve known Pam for years, it doesn't mean I don’t know she isn’t the most devious creature on earth, who will pick herself every time.

 

The information hits her daughter, and she pops up violently. Her voice not soft, now it is shrill.

“If she knew you. If she came from a background like yours…. Why wouldn’t she have come to you years ago for help? Why would she let him abuse her? Why would she leave me, if she had someone like you, to help her?”

 

I’m not a man of strong emotion, hell the emotion I generally have is rage, but watching this girl suffer another betrayal hurts my stony heart. 

 

“Jackie, your mother, is the most selfish of creatures on earth. Lifestyle means everything to her. Her branch of the family that runs the way mine does no longer exists. They started something they couldn’t finish. She and I have a complicated past.  Despite your dad working with me, she grew up in a life that taught her that I am not necessarily to be trusted.”

 

She stomps her foot. I am near shocked. This girl is fire trapped in a tiny body, and I have no problem distinguishing the part of her that made the decision to protect herself.

 

“Then, why come to you now? Why?”

 

Before, I can answer, the boy does it for her. “Money, Doll. She wants her money. If I’m right, and I bet, I am… she has had her conversion moment. She has known along your dad was screwing over Mr. Calabrese. Knowing your mom, she probably got some sick glee out of it. Now she needs what she wants most…cash. She didn’t come to Mr. Calabrese for help to find your dad, but to tell him about the stealing. Now that it doesn’t benefit her anymore, she wants to make sure it is clear she had “No part” in it. I would bet my Camino, she is claiming she was too scared to tell about your dad being a thief.  She wants her portion of your family money or what is left of it.” 

 

Damn this kid is good. He’s dead on. Pam is a deadly creature. She is the siren leading you to death on the rocks. Hell, I’m not sure Pam wasn’t the architect of stealing my money.  It is completely conceivable. She is incredibly clever. I don’t know why she never told on Jack for the abuse. Because Jackie is correct, I would have killed him instantly. None of her past transgressions or our complicated past would have stopped me. There is a part of me saddened she never did. I would have spared her it, and Jackie.  Even though our families are no longer aligned together, I would have ended him. So I can’t answer that for Jackie, other than I am sure, Pam had a harsh and strange motivation. I am surprised she had a child. She never inspired in me someone who could love anyone truly but herself. 

 

“Yes. That’s correct. It sums it up perfectly. What you don’t know my dear, is that even though a large portion of your mother’s family is gone, their money is not. There is a substantial trust set aside from you. I’m here to ask what you want Jackie. I can make sure she never bothers you, and understands the consequences if she does. I have no doubt at some point, despite her giving up her rights to you, she will want to reconnect. If she thinks it will get her to the money your grandmother left you, she is going to try be the best mommy ever.”

 

Before Jackie can respond, a series of events happens that knocks everything sideways. Kitty bounces into the room. I rarely see her. I can’t help but smile and feel warmed by her.

She has no idea who I really am, and I find I’m okay with that. I would hate to see apprehension on her face when I was near.

 

“DEVIN! Oh, it’s been too long. Where is Patrick?” she bubbles.

 

Red’s Kitty is one of the few people that makes me feel soft. I stand and lean down to hug her. As I do, she stretches up  simultaneously and bounces into my arms, causing my sunglasses to get bumped off my face. They clatter to the floor. On what I assume is polite instinct, young Steven bends over to pick them up for me. Maybe grateful for a momentary break in the tension, hoping Kitty coming in gives everyone a chance to settle.  As he comes back up from scooping up my glasses, I disentangle myself from her and our eyes meet. For the first time he observes me full on. There isn’t a shade in the spectrum to describe the color that flies to his face. A terrible knowledge is flooding him, and for the first time in a very long time, I am unsure of a person’s reaction to me. He stutters out.

 

“Your eyes don’t match. You have mismatched eyes.”

 

Such an extreme reaction to the color of my eyes perplexes me, both Patrick and I have monochromatic eyes. It’s not something that most people have the balls to point out. The clear panic in his voice at the shade of my eyes throws me off balance in my thinking. 

 

 I mutter out “It’s a generational trait in the Calabrese Family.”

 

His eyes fly back to the wilted Firecracker next to me, and then back to mine. His mouth drops open, and he chokes out…

 

“You have the same eyes. You’re Jackie’s Father.”

Chapter Text

Hyde

Holy Fuck. Holy Fuck. Holy Fuck. I can’t breathe. I actually feel the world swirling. Everything is fading away but them. As soon as I say “Your Jackie’s Father”   Calabrese pivots to Jackie. It is almost like I see a brilliant light shining so bright and hot on them, that everyone else in the room is lost in the glare. 

 

I’m right. I know I am. I’ve never been so sure of something in my life. Jackie is Devin Calabrese’s daughter. Without his glasses on, I recognize him stamped all over Jackie’s face. The chiseled cheekbones, the imperial nose, the raven hair, and the most telling those gypsy eyes. Jackie’s are more subtle. You have to be gazing into or made them the study of your life like I have to recognize they are different colors. 

 

 I vaguely hear Mr. Forman ask Mrs. Forman to step out of the room. I think I even understand her start to argue. Drowning in a haze of shock I hear him do something I’ve never heard him do.

 

“Katherine, please. I’ll explain later.”

 

Hearing Mr. Forman call Kitty by her full name startles me back to my surroundings. I don’t know if she listened because I am too focused on Calabrese. As I watch his hand reach up and start to grasp the royal sharp chin of my chick, I fly all the way back to the kitchen, and lose my fucking mind. 

 

“Get your hands off of her.” 

 

My hand snakes out with temper to yank this Cobra of a man’s hand off my Doll. Before, I can even touch him, he shifts his grasp off her chin to the other hand, and his now free hand shoots out squarely with incredible strength into my chest, causing me to crash to the floor. 

 

“Don’t be stupid.” He growls at me, but never taking his eyes off of Jackie. 

 

“Get him under control Red, or I will.”

 

Red is between me and the statues that are Calabrese and Jackie instantly. He pushes into me, and grabs me tightly. He hisses in my ear,

 

“Shut it down. Kitty knows nothing. I don’t want her in here. You can’t fight this man. Let’s just figure what the hell is going on. Don’t fuck this up Steven, there is too much at stake. Do it for no other reason than to protect her.”

 

I call on everything I am to not flip out, and try to beat a man senseless who could hurt me and everyone I love without a second thought. I watch him brush his thumb across her cheekbone. It should be sweet, but something about the way he does it is chilling. He asks Jackie softly, but with a hardness that causes me to feel my first true sting of fear.

 

“Did you know?” He thinks this has been a set up, that she sought him out because she knew the whole time. I would bear witness in court, he is trying to decide if Jackie is Pam. 

 

That thought plows to what should have been obvious…. “Pam.” At one point this man was with Pam, and knocked her up. She never told him. That bitch played Jackie off as being the daughter of another man. God, our home lives are so similar sometimes it’s eerie. There isn’t a drop of Jack Burkhart inside the girl who carries his name. 

 

Hurt, confusion, and trepidation cloud Jackie’s face, as she answers “No.”

 

It’s obvious he believes her as every feature he has eases. His stare doesn’t waver as he gazes at the daughter he never knew. 

 

Jackie’s face flashes panic, and her resolve is slipping rapidly. She’s breaking apart. Her reality was fucked up to begin with, but now everything she has ever believed is up in flames. Her eyes race to mine, and I know what’s coming. I push against Red to get him to let me go. I am almost to her when she unleashes

 

“NO. NO. NO. THIS CAN’T BE REAL.” She has startled even Calabrese. He steps back quickly. Jackie who can be hell on wheels when angry is very rarely out of control. She pushes everything off the table, and is sobbing at the same time.  I gather her up, as she wildly weeps into my chest.

 

“Dollface, Shh..” I try to calm, but she is inconsolable. She just keeps screaming between sobs, “Not Real. Not Real.” Her body is sagging into me, and I’ve decided I’ve had enough, she’s had enough. As I sweep an unglued Jackie into my arms, and head out of the room, Eric makes his appearance. I don’t see his face because I’m focused on Jackie, but I hear him yell.

 

“What the hell is going on?”


Eric

I remember when the biggest problem in my life was if I would piss Donna off this week or would Hyde and Jackie have some stupid fight. Followed with would Kelso do something to make Hyde punch him in the eye. Mixed in with Donna being at a different school because she tore off to California. All things that were merely weeks ago, but seem like a decade in the past. I would kill for the simplicity before Jackie and the bruise. Anything but the hell that came after. Kelso and I didn’t say much after Hyde dropped his medieval vow Jackie would always be first, and he would never pick us over her again. I could see it hurt Kelso, like it had never occurred to him that at some point one of us would defect. I both feel his pain, but at the same time feel like it should have been obvious. Hyde has been slipping away from us since he started screwing around with Jackie. Because at the most basic, Hyde probably should have never started messing around with Jackie without talking to Kelso. That was his first step towards Jackie first. Though if I shared that opinion I am confident I would be saying “Ow my eye.” 

 

Yet to hear him say it out loud, in our most sacred spot, was like watching the best part of who we are together die. It doesn’t matter that we deserve it, or that Hyde has the right to put the woman he loves over our dumb asses….but hearing it, hurt like hell. We drove around for awhile, saying almost nothing. He just dropped me off. He offered his support to whatever is coming next in the great “What Eric Screwed Up” drama, but I could see he was tired and sad. So I sent him on his way. I’m standing here in my driveway trying to force myself to go inside and deal with the next chapter. I was just starting to consider going over to Donna’s and apologize for being an ass to her rather than deal with Hyde, my dad, and Jackie when I hear her scream.

 

“NO. NO. NO. THIS CAN’T BE REAL.” 

 

I guess the decision has been made for me. I bolt up the cement, and round into my kitchen to the sight of Jackie dissolving into Hyde’s arms. He sweeps her up and out of the room. There is shit all over the floor. It looks like someone had a fit.  I can’t help but yell

 

“What the Hell is going?”

 

My dad is stock still, and then I realize we aren’t alone in the kitchen. There next to the table is a man I’ve seen only a few times in my life. I know who he is, and since the shit the fan with Jackie…. I really know who he is. Something is terribly wrong, and whatever it is, was a bomb. I yell my question again.

 

“Dad! What is going on? What happened to Jackie?” 

 

Before I can get an answer, Calabrese changes the topic. “Red, I need to go. I need to have a conversation with her mother.”  

 

He takes a deep breath with an uncertainty and unease I am surprised to hear from a man so powerful. He asks slowly and with deliberate care

 

 “Will she be okay?” 

 

I continue to be ignored, as my father who I swear to God has become someone I don’t know walks quickly to Calabrese, embraces him and seems to try to provide comfort.

 

“She will be okay Devin. Jackie has a backbone of steel. Go See Pam. Steven will calm her down, and we will always take care of her.”

 

Calabrese and my father are looking at each other dead in the eye. There is a conversation happening between them without a word being spoken.

 

Calabrese gives my father an intense squeeze, and I hear him say softly to my father.

 

“Again, you save my family.” Calabrese pulls back, nods at him and leaves.

 

 I’m still standing here like a useless prop on a dusty movie set. I snap loudly,

 

“Jesus Dad! Will you tell me what the hell is going on?”

 

“Sit down Eric. Let me bring you up to speed.”

 

I fall into my chair, and listen to my dad tell me Pam is back to spread her very own brand of evil. He recounts in some weird moment of stunning realization that Hyde made the connection Calabrese is Jackie’s father.”

 

I’m stunned. “Dad, what the hell are we going to do?”

 

I look to him to give me some great wisdom as the worry this guy might want to claim her and take her home explodes in my head. 

 

He sighs and looks older than I have ever seen him. He is blown away by this. For once, he isn’t able to hide behind his tough exterior. Now I’m scared. If Red doesn’t know the clear path, then we are headed into a world that is uncharted.  

 

“Eric, I have no idea. What I do know is we will take care of Jackie, and support her. It’s all we can do. I need to go talk to your mother. Why don’t you go and check on Steven and Jackie.”

 

He stands and starts for the living room when I stop with him a question.

 

“Is Jackie safe?”

 

My father doesn’t turn around, but his voice is terrible with reality. 

 

“Eric, even if he wasn’t already keeping an eye on her because of what she did for him, now that he knows Jackie is daughter…..she is the safest person in Point Place. God help anyone who touches a hair on her head again.”

 


Jackie

 

I am clinging to Steven like he is the only thing real in my life, because everything else I’ve ever believed has been ripped away from. The man I asked to take care of my father is my father. I don’t need my mom to confirm it. As soon as Steven said it out loud, it explained my strange connection when I met him that day after cheer practice. It was impossible to not see myself in his face, when he grasped my chin, and I was forced to pay attention. The man who hit me until I got away, didn’t make me, but lord knows he formed me. Now I have to wonder if parts of who I am come naturally. Jesus Christ, I’m the daughter of a mobster, and my mother….. MY MOTHER. My mother has smiled sweetly, and lied everyday since she gave me life.

 

We reach Laurie’s, now my room.  Steven pushes the door open and places me on the bed. He sits next to me, and tries to soothe me with his touch, but my hysteria is not calming. The more I think, the more my panic suffocates my ability to be rational. I can sense he has no idea what to do, and he makes a mistake. One I know he means without malice but words that do the opposite of what they suggest.

 

“You need to Calm down Jackie.”

 

I turn on him like a hellcat.  “Calm down! How in the hell am I suppose to calm down? My life is a lie. You just told the whole world that man is my father. I don’t want to be calm. Fuck Calm.”

 

I watch Steven flinch. I know it’s because I swore. I never swear. I don’t care if I’m scaring him. I fly up off the bed and start pouncing around the room, yelling whatever comes to my head.

 

“What does this mean?” “Why would she do this?” “Why leave me with a monster, when at least another monster wouldn’t have hit me?” 

 

I see him open his mouth and I yell “Don’t. Just Don’t. There is nothing you can say. Nothing Steven. You can’t fix this. You can’t save me. So don’t say a damn word.”

 

He shuts his mouth like I ask him. I inwardly laugh “You can always can count on silence with Steven.” I don’t  want silence as much as I don’t want empty words and promises that its going to be okay. It’s not going to be okay. Everything I know about my life, is a lie. I don’t know who I am.

 

My verbal volcano continues with my increasingly dark thoughts about my mother.

 

“My mother isn’t even the person I thought she was. She’s the daughter of a mobster who ran a crime family. Where she is from, her name, her background…… everything I’ve been told is a facade. NOTHING IN MY IN MY LIFE IS FUCKING TRUE!”  

 

My eyes fall on my collection of Nancy Drews. I stride towards them, and I start chucking them, yelling 

 

“I hate her. I HATE HER.”

 

“SHIT JACKIE STOP! YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN.” Steven yells as another book wings across the room. I round on him,

 

“STOP TELLING ME TO CALM DOWN. IS YOUR LIFE A LIE?”

 I get ready to chuck a book at him, and I can see in his eyes his patience is waning fast,  I’m pretty sure me throwing something at him is his line in the sand.

 

Just as I’m trying to decide if on top of my complete mental break down, I want to take on one Steven James Hyde, my bedroom door opens. It’s Eric. He steps in, and looks at me with concern.

 

“Hey, Devil. I just want…” If Eric says anything after Devil, I don’t hear it because my mind and heart find a target for all my confusion and rage. As he closes the door, I wing the book at him and scream

 

“I told you to never call me that again. NEVER! I don’t want you here. You ruined everything. I hate you. If you could have just kept your fucking hands to yourself none of this would have happened. Steven would have never cheated. I could have dealt with my dad a different way. We could still be friends and I wouldn’t know everything is fucking lie. I hate you Eric. I hate you.” 

 

“Jackie.” he stutters out painfully. I see that I’ve hurt him. I don’t care. I’m beyond caring about how he feels anymore. He is standing pale, umoving, the book I threw at him lays next to his feet like a fallen solider. I want to hurt him. I want someone to hurt as bad, as I do. I pick up another book, ready to launch 

 

“Get out. You are the last person I want. I thought I made it clear we weren’t anything to each other anymore. Go find Donna. Isn't that who you wanted before you decided to betray me and your oldest friend.”

 

I raise my arm, ready to beam him with my book. I’m so lost in rage, I never sense Steven come up and grab me from behind. Pinning my arms, and pulling me tight from behind to his chest. He hisses in my ear

 

“You are so out of line right now. I don’t give a damn how angry you are. None of this is Eric’s fault. Stop being a bitch.”

 

At that, it’s like all the air is sucked out of the room, and my rage is popped like a balloon. Never has he called me that. He has punched people for using that word in my general vicinity. It is a word, he reserves for women he holds in utter contempt. It shocks and hurts me to my core. It is like cold water being thrown on me. 

 

“Steven!” I utter hurt. I’m almost dizzy with the insult, and I feel faint. I feel my body tumble away, as black points appear before my eyes until they consume the whole room.

 

Light slaps bring me back, and I flutter open to see a terrified Steven.

 

“Don’t do that Doll. You scared the hell out of me.”

 

I feel my heart tremble, and the tears I don’t want and resent make another stand in this war. 

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I just want it all to stop.” I repeat endlessly. 

 

Eric’s voice penetrates my sobs, “Hyde…...”

 

I feel Steven take a ragged breath. “Just go Forman.”

 

I hear Eric leave, and I start to cry harder. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do anymore.” 

 

Steven is stroking my hair and back, almost rocking me. He doesn’t say a word. He isn’t trying to save me. He isn’t trying solve it. He isn’t even trying to give me advice. He is just holding me close while I’m lost in the brink.

 

As my sobs quiet, and my fragmented mind pieces back together, I realize he is quietly murmuring something into my hair. 

 

“I’m here baby. I’m here.” 

 

I let those words be my lullaby, as I drift to sleep, exhausted from the emotional roller coaster of the last 12 hours. The sleep that eluded me last night is taking me home. I hear a soft pledge that my heart snags close as I tumble to a place where life is sweet. 

 

“Not everything is a lie. I love you. You are my truth”




Chapter Text

Devin Calabrese

As soon as I am out of the Forman kitchen and out of view, I nearly buckle to my knees. I have a daughter. I have a child, and she is the intriguing young woman I detected an undeniable connection to. Of course, I did. She’s my fucking child. She’s my blood. She’s mine. I curse myself for being so unobservant the first time I met her. I was so wrapped up in Jack Burkhart’s betrayal and my awe of Jackie choices to free herself from hell, I didn’t take the time to examine her like I normally would.  Now that I have studied her imperial face, there is no doubt she is a Calabrese. Now that the idea has been flared to life, I can see she looks like my sister.

 

 Every Calabrese has mismatched eyes. Her eyes are not as startling as mine or Patrick’s, but those mystical eyes belong to me and my kin. Our eyes were granted to us as my Grandmother has told me my whole life, by our Gypsy blood. Our eyes she has told me, is where our power stems from. It’s foolish. It's pure superstition, but after looking into my daughter’s eyes I may have to reverse to my position. The daughter I would have chosen is mine. I take a second to steady myself. There is much to deal with. The first and the most vital is Pamela Fucking Burkhart. Damn that woman to hell. A pounding hate, and drive for answers brings the fierce confusion in my blood to a frigid focus. I stride down the driveway, open the door to my car, get in before my driver can even get out to open the door like he normally does. 

 

“The Burkhart Mansion, and do it with speed.” 

 

As we race towards my showdown with the most manipulative woman on earth, I can’t silence the nagging scream of “This can’t be real” from my new found daughter. My normally calculated mind is cluttered with Jackie. I don’t know if her cries are in disgust because I am her father or that her whole life has been a messed up fairytale written by her bitch of a mother.

 

“Mr. Calabrese we are here.” My driver says quietly. 

 

It is obvious he senses my mood. I don’t even know what the hell mood it is, but it’s about to become rage. I pound up the walkway, I don’t even bother to knock. I’m not interested in being polite, and I have zero intent on playing games. I push heavily into the mansion door, and yell for the most conniving woman who has ever walked the earth.

 

“Pamela Emilia Salvatore get your ass in my presence now.”

 

I don’t bother with Burkart. I’m calling her what she is. You can change your name, try to hide where you come from, but it doesn’t change who you are and the influence that shaped you.


Pam

As soon as I hear his deceptively silky voice call my name, I know it is over. In all the years since I’ve come to Point Place to start a life away from my fallen family, he has never once called or used any part of my real name. He helped create Pamela Burkhart. His final favor to me. His final nod to who we were. Devin Calabrese has done an amazing job pretending Emilia Salvatore was a forgotten shadow, and that is fine by me. Even when I came back with my song and dance about how I ran away, claiming I didn’t know what was going on with Jack, my real name didn’t pass his lips. His eyes had hardened. His lips had flattened, and his demeanor had gone frosty, but he acted like Pam Burkart was the only person he had ever known. He has only slipped one time into our once upon a time proving I was something entirely different to him. Other than that brief moment, Pam is the only person I’ve seen exist in his heartless eyes for over a decade.

 

I knew then, something was up. I can’t say he has never shown me an ounce of warmth over the last 16 years. However, I can say I’ve never seen the part of him that causes grown men to shake aimed at me. I figured he didn’t approve of me leaving Jackie behind. For a ruthless mobster, he has a strange code of honor. Children and women are to be cherished and revered. To kill or hurt one is a death sentence, and I am sure he finds my style of mothering... lacking. Still, he can’t know about the abuse, so I’m not too terribly worried about him being offended by how I parent. 

 

Hearing my real name combined with that terrifying tone that directs the unspeakable to be done ruthlessly causes a deep wariness to fill my body. I close my eyes. He knows. He has finally figured it out. The secret I’ve kept locked in the deepest chamber of my soul has been pulled into the light. Devin knows Jackie is his daughter. I take a deep breath, steady myself, and I step out into the hall. It’s time to play the game, and Devin Calabrese has been underestimating his opponent for years.


Devin

Much to my surprise, she appears quickly. She must have been close by. Seconds before she shuts down her expression, I recognize apprehension and caution. Smart Girl, she hasn’t forgotten who she is dealing with, I think grimly.  

 

Her openness is fleeting. The haunting beauty of sweetness she was used her whole life to get her way comes crashing down. There is no disputing, Pam is beautiful. Her hair is sweet honey brown, framing a face that is a bouquet of innocence and sass. She wields those big doe eyes as a formidable weapon. Using them to weave her silky strains of deceit until like a spider she has snagged you in her web. Innocence radiates from those chocolate eyes, but it is the biggest lie of all. She does nothing without keen precision and thought. Shame on me for forgetting who I was dealing with. I can identify parts of Jackie in her. Her soft pink lips, her tiny stature, and that air of superiority all dance in the daughter I never knew I had.  None of that matters right now, what matters is I’ve been conned.

 

“You lying bitch. Jackie’s my daughter. You’ve been hiding her from me, her whole life.”

 

Her serene, innocent facade drops immediately, and she stumbles back from me. I am on her like a tiger. I pull her brutally to my body. There is barely an inch between our faces. I can actually feel her quickened breath on my skin.

 

“You better start talking Emilia or my answer is going to be choking the life out of you with my bare hands.”

 

I watch her eyes startle at my use of her real name without Pam in front of it. I pull her even closer, so I can hiss in her ear. 

 

“No more Pamela. No more living behind the careful lie you created. You act like Emilia Salvatore…. I will treat you that way. Now I want an explanation.” I push her forcibly away from me towards Burkhart’s old study. She stumbles in and I stalk after her. I shut the door, and lean against it. I will not move until I am satisfied. I have to give her credit. She doesn't tremble. She doesn't shake. Instead, her eyes drive down to slits.  With malice, she laughs out coldly

 

“I thought you never wanted a child, Devin? Seems you wanted one after all, and she has been under your nose the whole time.”


Pam

Years of resentment and hate for him fly to the surface. I’ve been waiting a long time to shove this knife in his back. He ruined my dreams. I’ve been punishing him silently with Jackie for years. I never thought I would actually get the chance to se his crimes paid out on his face. 

 

I laugh with a sick happiness I can’t repress anymore.

 

“She’s yours. There is no mistaking it. Hell, I knew the minute I was pregnant, she was yours. Jack had barely been home during the time she was conceived. It never even occurred to him that early on in our marriage that I fucked someone else. It was long before he knew of you. So how could he possibly know  I screwed the guy who had been my first everything?”

 

I see flames flush his body, as he starts to understand the game I’ve been planning.

 

“Is this what this is? You are still pissed I didn’t marry you? You hid my child from me, because I decided I didn’t want to marry the most selfish creature on the planet?”

 

I find my repressed fury of not getting what I wanted, so badly, swirled to the surface. My sneer becomes hideous with the past

 

“We could have ruled together. How many times did you tell me I had a mind that could take down empires? The power we could have achieved together. You and I! Our two families combined! I had been trained my whole life to be a wife inside the organization. We were perfect.”

 

Those fields of different colors in his eyes get predator cold, as he lashes out at me.

 

“Do you hear yourself?  You could never tell the difference between power and love. Who the fuck wants to lay next to a woman every night wondering if she is planning to screw you over?”

 

I snap out at him,  “You sure had no problem screwing me after you dumped me.”

 

If I wasn’t standing across from one of the most dangerous men in the world, I would get joy out of the shock crawling all over his face. I have to be careful. I’m playing with a tiger, and I’m not his tamer anymore. 

 

He barks with bewildered rage, “One time Emilia. One time after I told you no more. One time after you decided you didn’t want to be the daughter of a dead and fallen mobster. One fucking time after I got you settled with your new husband. One stupid time when I let who you used to be to me, make me lose my mind. I never lied to you. I told you when we were young, I would never get married. I never wanted to pull a wife and child into my world. You also knew even if I wanted those things, I would never turn my back on my family.  Frankly, I knew it then, and I am painfully reminded you aren't worth it. All you’ve ever wanted was luxury and power. You’ve been using your body your whole life to achieve it.”

 

His words dismiss me. ME! A woman who many have chased, wanted, been turned down by, and lusted for. It infuriates me he thinks I’m not worthy of him. Devin has always caused me to lose control over my careful emotions, and despite my brain screaming, don't do it , my black need for him to know how badly I screwed him is off the leash. 

 

I blast him with frigid animosity. “Well one time is all it takes. One perfectly planned time. One time when I knew, I was likely to get pregnant. One slip into the past is all it takes to conceive a child, and that one fall from grace is why we have Jackie. I wanted to get pregnant. I would have figured out how to keep screwing you until you knocked me up. Jackie wasn’t an accident. Jackie is my revenge.  

 

I watch his face contort into perfect shock. The best part is, there is more to tell.

 

“It was easy to pass her off as Jack’s. Both dark haired. Both with olive toned skin, and she adored him the minute she laid eyes on the worthless bastard. He never questioned she was anything but his. My personal favorite is her name. Have you figured it out Devin? The greatest middle finger I could give you, and still let Jack believe his only child was named after him?”



“Have you figured it out yet? Are you as smart as you think you are? I spit out.


Devin

I am not a man caught off guard. Fuck, I’m not a man who has many weaknesses, but this...I didn’t even consider. Jacqueline… my beautiful, sweet, the best of us, baby sister. I am so stunned I let my guard down, and this evil thing passing for a woman pounces.

 

“That’s right. She’s named after your precious, very dead sister. The reason for your vow. The reason you never wanted to get married. The reason you never wanted to have children. Your baby sister who got caught in the crossfire of the dangerous world our families live in. The one person besides Patrick in this fucking world you gave a damn about. Jacqueline lives on, in her near replica of a niece…. our Jackie. You have no idea how many times I’ve laughed as I’ve watched her grow into your sister.  It was so easy to play on our past to get Jack hooked up with you, but keep Jackie out of your sight.”

 

I want to scream and destroy her on the spot. My heart clenches at the thought of the daughter I never knew, being named after my sister as a way for Pam to laugh silently. I push it all down. I am unsatisfied with her admitting Jackie is mine. I want an explanation for all of her crimes. It is essential I keep myself focused until I have all my answers.

 

“You let a man hit you and my child. Jesus Emilia! You had to know, no matter what, I would have protected you. Worse, you abandoned her to be abused. Why? You can’t be that cold. You can’t be that devoid of motherly instinct?”

 

Her eyes become a heartless winter, and she laughs with a humor only she finds,

 

“Sometimes you have to play the long game Devin. Sometimes you have to suffer to win. Sometimes you have to endure a fight, a slap, or a bruise to accomplish your goal. Sometimes the long con is how you come out on top and believe me…. I won.”

 

My original thought it was her idea to screw me comes slamming to the front.

 

“Him cheating me was your idea, wasn’t it? You of all people would know how to manipulate money and the books. You learned at the hand of your father. All this was you proving my comment all those years ago, that you could topple an empire….my empire. You had my child and my money. Everything you ever wanted and the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t have a clue. Every penny you stole from me was worth every hit, and when it got to be too much, you bailed and left our daughter to finish the game.”

 

Her eyebrow arches in perfect mockery, and she answers,

 

“Clever little thing our Jackie is. We all have to learn to take care of ourselves in this world. No one will ever do it for you. I was simply giving her the life skills she will need to be successful. Seems she got the best parts of us both… Our brains, beauty, and the ability to let nothing stand in her way. I’m guessing since my husband has disappeared off the earth, she also has our utter ruthlessness. Though I am disappointed by the rabble, she feels compelled to associate herself with.”

 

My mind snaps, and for the first time in my life I go after a woman. I backhand Pamela to the ground. Without hesitation I fall to my knees with the intent to break her slender neck. I am lost in the blackest wave of hate. I am enjoying the lush taste of knowing you are about to end an enemy as my hands slide around her neck. Just as I start to squeeze, I am knocked to the ground, and find myself face to face with Red and my brother.

 

I’m up on my feet instantly, ready to dive at this monster of a mother, but both Red and Patrick grab me. 

 

“Don’t do this, Devin. This isn’t who we are. We don’t hurt women. No matter if they deserve it or not.” My brother soothes at me. 

 

I strain powerfully against them and want to throw myself at the woman who is sobbing on the ground. His words mean nothing. I’ll kill her. She’s going to suffer for every moment my daughter lived in hell, so she could play games.

 

Red grabs me from Patrick, and says with quiet force.

 

“It doesn’t matter if she earned it. It doesn't matter if every breath she takes deserves to be squeezed out of her lungs. If you do this, any chance you have of getting to know your daughter is gone. You can’t kill her mother, and then try to be her father. Don’t do it, Devin. It will kill Jackie. Think of her. She’s worth more than revenge….. no matter how richly deserved.”

 

I close my eyes against the need to exact revenge and focus on the beautiful face of the daughter I never knew I had. It’s what saves Pamela Emilia Salvatore Burkhart’s life.

 

I open my eyes again, pull away from Red, kneel down by Pam Burkart to most of the world, but Emilia Salvatore to me and whisper in our language

 

“Non dimenticare questo momento. Perché se mai ti avvicinerai di nuovo a me oa tua figlia, avrai l'onore di essere la prima donna che uccido. te lo prometto”

 

I hear my brother gasp. I push up, and walk out. My temper is far from controlled. I don’t know that I won’t go back and snap her neck, if I wait around with my brother and Red. As I hit the door I hear Red ask Patrick.

 

“What did Devin say?”

 

I pause for a moment, curious if Patrick will tell him the truth. He sighs heavily, but he answers. 

 

“Devin said, don’t forget this moment. Because if you ever come near me or your daughter again, you will have the honor of being the first woman I kill. I promise you.”

 

I hear Red take a sharp breath. I know why. He knows I always keep my promises. This vow. This oath. This set in stone promise is one I will go to hell for.  

 

Chapter Text

Jackie

I’m back to staring at the ceiling. After my complete melt down with Steven and Eric, I fell asleep for a while. I woke up to find myself changed into my pajamas. I am in my Led Zeppelin tee shirt, which means Steven dressed me. It’s almost midnight, and I’m wide awake. When I crash after a major cry, I sleep hard, deep, and fast, but never for all night. Now I’m awake, and I want answers. I pop out of  bed, and throw clothes on over my Pajamas. I laugh lightly at myself. Never, in my life, have I willing gone out like this, but I don’t want to waste time. I pull my desk drawer open, and pull out the only copy of the Camino key. Steven made me one, for emergencies. I’m qualifying this as an emergency. I push the window open, and climb out. It’s time to take charge of my tomorrow, and try to understand my past. I don’t want to cry anymore. I don’t want to be the victim. I’m tired of getting caught unaware. I’m confident there is only one person who will tell me the truth. I drop to the ground, move silently to the car, start it, and drive towards the chapters of my life I didn’t know existed.

 

I pull up in front of Lucky’s. It’s where Red goes to meet with the Calabreses. My heart briefly whispers “Your family.” I hush it immediately. I don’t know if they are my family. Blood, I won’t deny, but family is a different story. I simply at this point want to know what the hell is going on. I want someone to just lay it all out there, and something tells me the man who fathered me won’t mince words.

 

I slip out of the car into the chilly night. A shiver sweeps through my body. I don’t know if it is from the sharp breeze, or apprehension. I close my eyes to quell my nervousness. There is only one person in charge of my destiny, and that’s me. If I am going to cower in the dark, then I’m bowing before defeat. I open my eyes and stride towards the door like I don’t have a care in the world. The doorman looks me up and down. His face becomes an instant sneer, and it helps me bring out the Jackie that won’t be denied. 

 

“Get out of here, little girl.” He dismisses me before I can even open my mouth.

 

I return with my snobbiest and coldest voice. “I want to see Devin Calabrese, and I want to see him now.”

 

I nearly kick him, when he laughs at me “Get your ass in the car, and get out of here. You don’t know who you’re asking for.”

 

“That’s fine. I’ll tell Red Forman, who considers me his daughter, how rudely I was treated, when I tried to see Devin, on his behalf. I’m sure Mr. Calabrese will be displeased, that a request from Mr. Forman was denied.”

 

I watch the doorman blanch. His eyes fill with uncertainty. I know I’ve won. 

 

“What’s your name?” he growls out.

 

“My name is Jackie Burkhart.”

 The jerk doorman turns instantly, and stalks inside. I am confident I will be allowed in to see Devin. I cross my arms for warmth in the unforgiving night, begging again that no one notices my absence back home. I’m confident, Red will not be impressed with this escapade. I don’t even want to think about Steven. My worries about the two men who are prone to extreme overprotectiveness are wiped away by a displeased voice.

 

“Jacqueline, what in the name of God are you doing here?”

 

That voice belongs to no other than Devin Calabrese.


Devin

There standing in the biting night, in nothing but what looks like plaid pajama pants, an old University Wisconsin sweatshirt with a tee shirt peeking out is my daughter. Her hair is loose, and her face is free of make up. She is impossibly young. There is no way to stop my heart from clutching at the sight of my sweet sister’s face alive again. Still, Jackie's recklessness astounds me, coming here in the middle of the night, is just plain stupid. So, my initial reaction is abrupt.

 

“Jacqueline, what in the name of God are you doing here?”

 

An unsureness that wasn’t there before  floods her eyes, but she does respond.

 

“I wanted to speak with you. I’m tired of waiting for things to be explained or happen to me. I need to talk with you.” 

 

I’m not happy with her methods of seeking me out, but I do understand wanting answers.

 

“Follow me. We will talk, and then you will go home. I can’t imagine, you ran this by Red, or even that young man who seems to want to defend you every time I’m near.”

 

I watch a small sassy smile quirk on her face. I am unsure how anyone denies her anything. There is something about her that just makes you want to give in. I hope like hell it is because she deserves it, not because she has learned to be a manipulative bitch from Pam. I lead us through the bar, and all eyes fly to Jackie. I am unhappy instantly. I stop cold in the middle of the bar. I do it so abruptly that Jackie nearly runs into me. I scan the bar, and my voice rings out.

 

“Is there something interesting gentleman? Because I suggest you find interest elsewhere.”

 

All the wandering eyes fly back to their drinks where they belong. Staring at my daughter is a bad idea. It will be made clear, shortly, that she is not to be messed with. I had already started sending word out before I had known she was my daughter, but that message will now need to be made abundantly clear. 

 

I take her to my private bar. This is where I meet with Red. Very few people are allowed back here. The list is sparse, and it is considered a great honor to be in this room. It means you are trusted, and valued. That is all lost on her, but I still can’t help but contemplate it. I escort her to a seat, and hold out my hand. She looks at me confused.

 

“The key to the car you drove. It will need to be taken home.”

 

Her eyes continue to be confused. “I’ll take it home. Steven only lets me drive. Besides how will I get back?”

 

I notice a sternness over coming me. “You will be escorted back home in my car, by me. One of my men will drive the young man’s car home, and tuck the key under the bumper.”

 

“No, you won’t. Steven only lets me drive his car. He will be upset.”

 

If it wasn’t aimed at me, the defiance that flushes her face would make me laugh, instead I find I have no time for it. Daughter or not, I don’t deal well with rebellion. My tone brokers no argument, and I continue to hold out my hand.

 

“Steven will just have to get over it. Give me the key, or I take it from you. Either way I still drive you home, except if I have to take it from you, we leave now without a word spoken between us. Furthermore, I knock on the Forman’s front door when you arrive home.”

 

She juts her chin up, and a look of pure loathing crosses her face. She slaps the key in my hand. I swear she stomps her foot, but I’m unsure because I am distracted by how her eyes light with battle. I recognize her desire to fight, not because she wants to manipulate but because she refuses to be mastered. She is a Calabrese through and through. Despite not being raised in the family, who we are is racing through her veins. I can’t help but be intrigued and pleased by that. I simply hold the key out to one of my men. I give no instructions. I don’t need to.

 

“Now, that is taken care of. Let us talk. Ask your questions Jacqueline.”


Jackie

I am pissed already. I didn’t think anyone could push my buttons like Steven did, but apparently Devin Calabrese has a special skill set. His absolute belief that he will have his way and people will follow it is annoying. Yes, I know I’m like that, but that doesn’t mean I want that turned back on me. I’m just staring at him, pissed beyond belief that he “handled me.” It has thrown me off my game and purpose. He raises his eyebrow at me, and lets out

 

“Time's a wasting Jacqueline. I don’t have all night.”

 

It’s the third time he has used my full name, and for whatever reason it rubs me strangely, so I decide to start there.

 

‘Why do you keep calling me Jacqueline? No one calls me that. I’m Jackie.”

 

His eyes both soften, and laugh simultaneously, but he answers right away.

 

“First, I’m not everyone. I set the standard and my standard is rarely one that applies to the masses. However, the real reason is your mother named you after my sister Jacqueline. It makes me happy to hear her name on my lips. You could be her twin.”

 

I am strangely excited at the idea that I have an Aunt with my name. For a minute I’m just a girl looking for family. 

 

“Does anyone call her Jackie?” It’s a silly question, but I’m wrapped up in the idea that I have a namesake, that isn’t the monster who hit me.

 

“No. No one ever called her Jackie. She was always Jacqueline. The only other name she ever went by was Jaxs. It was my special name for her.”

 

I pick up the "was" immediately. I’m scared to ask, but I’m here to get answers. I can’t hesitate now.

 

“Was?”

 

“She’s dead.” he says quietly. 

 

I can see it hurts, whatever happened it still grieves him deeply. My instinct tells me this an area not to probe. I only whisper out,

 

“I’m very sorry.”

 

He gives me a half-hearted smile, and says back.

 

“Thank You Bambina. She would have loved you. Let us move on.”

 

I know he has completely closed the subject. He’s right I have much to ask.

 

“Mr. Calabrese in the last 12 hours I’ve learned my whole life is a life. Jack Burkhart isn’t my father. My mother apparently at one point had a love affair with you, and had a life that she erased. I’ve been lied to my whole life. I don’t know who I am anymore. You are not a man who tolerates being lied to. I’m positive you have already demanded answers from my mother. I need the unvarnished truth.”

 

He studies me, and replies,

 

“The truth is ugly. Are you sure that is what you want?”

 

I answer without hesitation “I would rather have the truth than live a pretty lie.”

 

I recognize  pride enter him at my bluntness, and my desire for truth. 

 

He nods that he understands and continues, his speech.

 

“So be it. I have a request before we begin. I’m not sure either of us are comfortable with you calling me dad or any such name close to that, but I believe we can put away Mr. Calabrese. At the very least, would you please call me Devin?”

 

I’m confused by his request, but I of all people know how much names can mean. Loving Steven has taught me a name can change the essence of our personalities, so I quietly add,

 

“Devin, will you please tell me the truth. All of it.”

 

“Yes, I will.” he replies, and that is exactly what he does. He leaves nothing out, including he was going to snap my mother’s neck. Her past, his, how I was conceived, even how my mother named me after his sister to silently laugh at him. The only thing that is left unsaid is the fate of my father. I find that I don’t want the unvarnished truth of what happened to Jack Burkhart, so I don’t ask.

It hurts. My mother is a monster. I was never more than an instrument of revenge for her. She wasn’t sorry, I got abused. She doesn’t give a damn about me. She never did. I say nothing as his lecture fades away into the quiet bar. What can I say? I come from the most messed up family of all time. After a moment of silence he gently asks,

 

“Well, what do you think?”

 

Without even thinking I spill out “I think I can answer your question from earlier now.”

 

It is obvious to me, he is confused. I remind him he asked if I wanted to see my mother or if I wanted him to make sure she never contacted me again, before Steven told the kitchen he was my father. 

 

“I don’t ever want to see her again.”

 

His response to me is chilling, but strangely comforting.

 

“I’m glad you feel that way, because the truth is, that is the only answer I find acceptable. Your mother will never come near you again. I’m sure this may not sell me as a decent human, but she’s only alive due to Red, telling me it would hurt you. I would have snapped her lying neck like a twig. Now, before I take you home, do you have any more questions? It’s late, and I don’t want to have to explain to Red why you are in my bar.”

His truth is brutal, and I find I don’t care as much as I should about him almost ending my mother’s life. I don’t know what type of person that makes me, but that is to be pondered on later. Because I do have one last question,

 

“Do you want to be my father?”


Devin

Do you want to be my father?

 

I want to reach across the table and grab her to my chest as soon as I hear her question. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t ever want to lie to her. She’s been lied to her whole life, so as much as it hurts I need to tell her the truth.

 

“Of course, I want to be your father. Before, I knew you were mine, I told myself if I had a daughter I would choose you.”

 

Her whole face lights up, and it kills me to crush it, but she must know. She MUST understand.

 

“But, my dear, want and should are two different things. I’m a criminal. I won’t bother to pretty it up. I’m a dangerous man. I have enemies who would use you to hurt me without hesitation. Your mother hated me because I didn’t want to marry her. It was never even a possibility to anyone but her. I vowed to never get married and have children, because I wasn’t going to watch them die like my sister did. She was harmless. She wasn’t part of the life I lead. Jackie, she never did anything to hurt anyone. She was pure sunshine, and I watched her get shot. A bullet, meant for my father, took her life. I want to be your father, how could I not, but should I be your father… if I am being honest, the answer is no.”

 

Her beautiful mismatched eyes flood with tears, and I find myself regretting my bluntness, but her being alive is more important than her feelings being hurt. Her head bows, and she whispers out,

 

“I understand.”

 

Jesus Christ, her pain is like a knife in my chest. Is that what fatherhood is? Because it is unacceptable to me to see her like this. I throw out a question. I’m not sure why I am asking it.

 

“Do you want me as a father?”

 

Her head flies up, and her eyes are bright with unshed tears. “Yes, but I understand what you are saying.”

 

Her “Yes” echoes loudly in my head and screwed up heart. She wants me. I try to not be governed by want. It’s a dangerous road. The idea she wants me as her father causes me to react powerfully. I want to give her what she wants. Hell, I want to give me what I want. My intent since I discovered the truth was to watch and take care of her from afar. I had been steeling myself against any kind of relationship with her. I find I can’t break her heart, without breaking what is left of mine. Still, I am not foolish, and boundaries must be set.

 

“Jackie, I shouldn’t be your father. You and I both know it, but if you want me, then father you shall have. Bambina, you will never carry my name. You simply can’t. It is too dangerous. You must always stay Burkhart. I won’t risk you. You are too precious. You are safe and loved with Red. Don’t ever forget he is more your father than I will ever be able to be. I want you there. I know he will take care of you. That being said, I do want to know you, but if we are going to do this, it must be done in a way that you are safe. You’re my daughter, but my role has to be limited. Your life is more important than what I want or what you want. I’ll close everything I have ties to in this town and walk away instantly, before I put your life in danger. Do you understand me?”

 

I watch her smile slightly, and nod she understands, but I see hope and happy in her eyes. Despite, the fact I know what I am risking, that I am risking her, I can’t help but feel the same. 

I have a daughter, and though I can’t claim her out loud, she is mine. I reach out my hand to her, and she takes it silently. I take her out to my car that is waiting, and drive her home. As we pull silently into the Forman drive way, I see Jackie’s adventure didn’t go undetected by everyone. There in a patio chair is a very pissed off Steven Hyde. His arms are crossed, and his eyes are glaring at the car. 

 

She pops out of the car before I can say a word, she runs to him. I step out to observe. His arms open right away, and she doesn't hesitate. He wraps her tight, and I watch him revel in her safely for a minute. He murmurs something to her. She kisses him softly, turns to me and waves. I watch her run to a tree, and climb it. She’s back in her room in seconds. My daughter is a handful, and for some strange reason that please me. 

 

My eyes drift back to Steven Hyde, whose gaze on me is unwavering. I’m interested in what he is going to say. I don’t have to wonder long. This boy has some serious balls. I sigh one more time at the idea of what I could have molded him into if he was in my world. 

 

“I hate you are her father. Everything about you is a threat to her wellbeing. You and I both know it’s not safe, but she wants you, and you want your daughter, I can see it a mile away. I’m begging you to remember she means a lot to many people, and always put her safety first.”

 

I can’t help but be impressed by his honesty. I like knowing he walks by her side, ready to defend her, when she can’t defend herself. It is evident he loves her, still I want to hear it.

 

“What does she mean to you?’

 

This boy, who Red says is silent, and keeps his feelings close to his chest, gives me brutal honesty. 

 

“She’s my life.”

 

I nod at him. Red was straightforward when explaining how Jackie’s plight came to light. I know everything about him and Jackie, all the way down to the nurse, so I don’t mince words.

 

“I know you cheated on her. I know you broke her heart. You ever do it again I won’t hesitate to make you sorry.”

 

He responds right away, “If I hurt her again, I’ll deserve whatever you do to me.” 








Chapter Text

Eric

I don’t think I’ve fully slept in days. I sure as hell didn’t sleep the night I stormed away from the water tower and then kissed Jackie. I didn’t sleep when she went six shades of nuts on me, and I was wide awake when I heard her window open a few nights ago. I knew she was sneaking out, but I figured it was to go down to the basement. If my dad was smart, he would cut that tree down. As long as Jackie can get away with sleeping next to Hyde, she will. I got up to check, because you never know with Jackie. I was floored when I saw her sneak into Hyde’s Camino. I knew there was no way this was Hyde approved. First, because he is a total psycho about his car. Second and the most important Jackie out alone, is against Hyde’s religion of safety. We are far from in a pleasant place with each other, but I knew he would want to know. Once again, I woke him up with news that pissed him off. 


The Night Jackie Snuck Out

 

Hyde was not impressed with being shaken awake to find Eric. Instant pissed filled him, last time Eric woke him up, it was to tell him he had kissed Jackie. 

 

“If you are here to tell me you kissed my girlfriend again, I’m going to kill you, Forman.”

 

Eric winced. It’s not like he expected Hyde to be friendly, but apparently even 1/2 asleep Hyde could burn with precision. He was far from being in the mood, so he snapped back

 

“No kisses, but I just watched her sneak out and steal your car. So, I thought you might want to know.”

 

Hyde flew out of bed and yelled “She did what? I’ll kill her.”


If where she went wasn’t terrifying, I would have laughed my ass off, at Hyde’s reaction. It had been hysterical listening to Hyde go from yelling he would kill her for boosting his car or that she was trying to give him a heart attack. It had been a long night waiting for the sound of the Camino. Hyde had refused to budge from the patio furniture, so I had sat quietly with him. It had been scary beyond belief when the Camino had returned without a Jackie, but with two men who looked like they could tear apart Godzilla. Every bit of color had drained out of Hyde’s face. I’m sure my face was the same. They had approached Hyde silently, and dropped the key to the Camino in his hand. I felt him take a step forward. I had grabbed him. These were not men Hyde should fight. He had choked out

 

“Jackie?”

 

Giant number one replied “She’s with Mr. Calabrese. He will bring her home personally.”

 

I had watched my friend swallow, and nod. He dropped back in his chair, and whispered to me.

 

“Please go back inside. I want to wait for her by myself.”

 

I didn’t want to, but after all the shit recently, I felt like I had to honor his request. I spent the rest of the night waiting to hear her climb back in the window. Another night lost to worry. It hasn’t gotten any better. I can’t make peace with what has gone down between Hyde, Jackie, and I. I find I’m far from settled with Donna. I’ve been avoiding her. It’s her that has me sitting at the kitchen table waiting for Hyde. I need to talk to him. I’ve made a decision. One that is going to hurt like hell, but it is the only thing to be done. 


Hyde

I round the corner from the basement to find Forman sitting by himself at the kitchen table. I inwardly sigh. I don’t really have anything to say to him at the moment. Jackie’s connection with Calabrese has made it hard for me to focus on the other shit show that is my life…. My friendship with Eric. I still haven’t talked to Donna. I know I promised to lie for Forman, but I’m having a hard time bringing myself to do it. Everything in me wants to turn around and go back to my room, but I can’t keep avoiding him, and I’m really fucking hungry. I stride to my seat, sit down, and start serving myself. Before I can even get a bite in my mouth, he ruins my day by running his mouth.

 

“Listen, Hyde, I need to talk to you.”

 

I roll my eyes, “Don’t want to talk. I want to eat.”

 

He snaps back, “Then don’t talk, and just listen damn it.”

 

I don’t bother to acknowledge him. I’m hungry, tired, not in the mood for him, and still mildly pissed Jackie stole my car. Jesus… I love her, but sometimes I want to wring her neck. Just in case anyone is interested, I have now taken away her emergency key. I’m drifting into my annoyance with her, when whatever Eric is droning on catches my attention.

 

“Don’t talk to Donna. I’m going to tell her the truth.”

 

“Wait...What?” I reply.

 

He sighs heavily. It’s obvious to him, I wasn’t listening until the end. I watch him roll his eyes at me.

 

“I don’t want you to lie. I’m breaking up with Donna.”

 

If Forman had told me he was a secret Olympic athlete, I would have been less shocked. As the shock fades away, a sliver of  pissed starts to form.

 

“The hell you are. Don’t be stupid.” 

 

His face gets red, and he loses his shit on me. So much for a quiet breakfast and avoiding awkward conversations.

 

“You know what Hyde…. Go to hell. I fucked up with Jackie. I did, and I’m going to be sorry until I die. If I could go back and undo it all, I would. I hate I betrayed her. It kills me, I hurt you. I don’t want to hurt people anymore. Staying with Donna, when I’m in love with someone else, is wrong. She knows it. Donna isn’t stupid. I’m hurting her. I  can’t ask you to lie. I know Kelso means well. I know you why you agreed to do it, but it’s time for me to step up.”

 

I’m astonished. Forman is an extreme to say the least. I still don’t understand why he is doing this. I have always been certain he wanted to be with Donna.

 

“You love Donna. You’ll forget how you feel about Jackie. We all have to deal with it. Give it time. You don’t wait. You freak out. That is what has caused all this. You can’t be patient. You just react.”

 

His face ages, and what he says next is painful to hear. “Hyde, Donna is my Kelso. Yes, I love Donna. I do, but not the way I love Jackie. You don’t get it. I’ve tried to tell you this, but I don’t think you really understand. Jackie loved Kelso, she did, but the whole time she was in love with you. It’s not that she didn’t care about him. It’s not that she didn’t love him. It was merely a shadow compared to how she felt about you. She was settling for him. Don’t you ever wonder if that was why it was so easy for him to cheat? Because some part of him knew, she was in love with you?”

 

I am instantly perturbed. Is blaming he Jackie for Kelso being a Dill Hole? Does he think he is going to get Jackie in the end, because he has another thing coming to him.

 

“Are you blaming Jackie for Kelso being a cheating bastard? Because that’s absolutely stupid. Let me be clear if your plan is you aren’t going to love anyone until Jackie is available,  you better not hold your breath. I’m not letting her go Forman. You better just get over it.”


Eric

Hyde’s words nearly send me over the table at him. I hate, he is deliberately misunderstanding. He knows I don’t blame Jackie. Even more insulting is he still thinks I’m trying to steal Jackie. It causes me to explode.

 

“Damn it! You know I’m not blaming Jackie for Kelso being the town whore. It hurts when you know someone you love doesn’t love you the same way. Why don’t you get that? I’m not trying to take or wait for Jackie. Even if tomorrow you two imploded, it wouldn’t matter Hyde. She loves you. She is never going to love me. I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t love me, which is why I can’t do that to Donna.  All of you keep telling me to suck it up, and that you have all had your turn trying to get over Jackie. You and Kelso are full of shit. Kelso isn’t over her. He still loves her. He’s a dumbass who cheated, but you and I both know he loved her, and still does. He isn’t over anything. As for you, Hyde…. You didn’t get over her. You didn’t deal with it. You just did everything you could to hate her, because you loved her so damn much. If you ended tomorrow, you wouldn't stop loving her. I don’t know if Jackie will ever not be the woman I love, but more importantly, I want my fucking friend back. I don’t want boundaries. I want to be her soft place to land again. I don’t want to love her Hyde, but I want to be her best friend. I need The Jackie and Eric Show . She stood up in my bedroom and screamed that she nearly gave up on you because you couldn’t accept our friendship. I listen to her heartbreak that I wasn’t willing to stand up to Donna. Jackie was right. I should have been willing to fight for a friendship that is longer than my relationship with Donna.I know I’m going to hurt Donna, but I want my Devil Back.”

 

I drop my head into my hands, his silence is killing me. I feel compelled to add one more thing, before I get up, and give up dealing with the non communicative rock I call my friend.

 

“Hyde, I’ve messed up. You’ve messed up. Kelso’s messed up. At some point we have all screwed each other over in the name of Jackie. It’s not an excuse. I’m not blaming her or excusing what I’ve done. I kissed her. I broke boundaries, but the bottom line is we’ve all jumped into a pool of insanity inspired by her. I’m begging you to call it a wash. I just don’t want Jackie back. I want you back. I want my brother. You hating me is killing me.”


Hyde

Sitting in front of me is a broken Eric Forman. He’s a wreck, and while I don’t agree with everything he just screamed at me, he has two points I can’t deny. We have all lost our damn minds over Jackie, frankly she should come with a warning label. I’ve always depended on the solidness of my relationship what Forman, and it has rocked me to have that foundation cracked. I respect his decision to be honest. I don’t want to lie to Donna, but I want to make sure he understands the consequences of going down that road. Before, I can say a word, he breaks the quiet.

 

“Just say something Hyde. Even if it is to tell me to fuck off.”

 

It’s not my nature to be mushy, and I won’t be now, but I will tell him the truth.

 

“Listen, there is a lot of things in that fit you just threw, I'm not sure I agree with. If you want to break up with Donna, then you do what you have to do, but Forman, once you tell her the truth, it’s most likely we are going to lose Donna. If you tell her you love Jackie, that will cause ripples that will change who we are. I’m not saying you shouldn’t break up with her. I just want you to understand, we won’t go back to who we were, that ship has sailed.”

 

I fall silent, and take a moment to settle myself before I continue, 

“I’ve told you before, I can’t talk to you about you loving Jackie. Because I’m right there with you. I don’t want you to love her. I hate it with every fiber of my being. That is never going to change. Forman, it’s wrong and selfish, but I hate she is connected to anyone but me. I don’t want to share her. If I could erase the bond you two share, I would, because you are the person I worry about losing her too. I know it’s wrong of me to want that and more, so I know not being with friends with you hurts her. So, I’ll always suck it up, but I’m never going to like it. I’ve never liked it. It’s annoyed the hell out of me for years. I know I said this before, but I mean it this time. I’m never talking about how you feel about Jackie again, if you bring it up, I’m going to stand up and walk out. It’s best for everyone that this topic is one we don’t discuss. Do you understand?”

 

For once, I can’t read his face. It is a hurricane of feelings that are moving too fast for me to grab an idea of what he thinks. He only nods at my final question.

 

I take a second to recenter myself after sharing all that. I have one last thing to say, then I want to eat my damn breakfast.

 

“You are right about one thing.” Before I can continue, Forman interrupts me.

 

“Well, it's a Christmas Miracle if the Great Steven Hyde thinks I’m right about anything.”

 

I laugh. It’s so smart ass. It’s so Forman, I forget for a moment that we’ve been living in hell for the last month. It makes it easier to say this next part.

 

“As I was saying before someone decided to be a dumbass, you’re right. We have all messed up with Jackie. We’ve all lost our damn minds. I wish I knew what it was about her that makes people freak out, but whatever it is, You, Kelso, and I are far from immune to it. As much as I want to punch you in the face for kissing her, and telling her how you feel, I fucked another woman. In the end nothing is worse than that. I won’t lie Eric, there is a part of me that wants to hate you till I die. It’s not a part, I’m proud of, but I don’t want to give into the rage.”

 

This time I read his face perfectly. I know it pains him to know there is a section of me that wants to hate him. Frankly, it’s a huge portion of who I am, but in the end, I don’t want to hate my brother. I want to be better than the anger pulsing in my heart. I want desperately to be a better man. A man who deserves Jackie. 

 

“Hyde, I’m sorry. I really am.”

 

I rub my eyes with my thumbs, and try to end this morning’s episode of Donahue. 

 

“I know you are. Listen, I don’t want to hate you, the truth is, I don’t. I’m hurt. It’s just easier for me to focus on hate over hurt. I’ll get over it. The bottom line, is I’m ready for you and I to be back to normal. I’m calling it done. I’m calling us even.”

 

Our eyes meet, and again years of friendship is spoken only with our gaze. I see him lighten, and I feel my tension ease a bit. The moment passes and I channel Red.

 

“Now, shut the hell up, and let me eat my damn breakfast.”

Chapter Text

Kelso

 

Somewhere along the way I figured out Jackie was in love with Hyde. Everyone thinks I’m an idiot, and I am, but when it comes to Jackie, I’m a damn genius. Here’s the thing, when you have all Jackie's attention it feels like you are burning in the hottest sun. It doesn't matter if it's in love or friendship, her feelings for you radiate like a supernova. For a short time, I had the full force of her glow. It was before God Damn Prom. I tend to think of everything with Jackie and I as before and after prom, because it was never the same after that. Before….what she felt for Hyde started to seep out of the box she had it locked in. I’m able to understand now that she never loved me like she loves Hyde. Sometimes, when I watch her eyes on him, I wonder if her love for Hyde will burn her alive. It kills me that she didn’t ever want me as much as she wants him. For a while, I told myself that was why I cheated. It was easy to blame it her, but I know that’s wrong. The truth is I’m completely stupid, and don’t think. Being a total dink lost me the woman I love. Do I think I would have kept her forever….. No , but when I miss her like hell, I like to think  we could have made it. When I want to pretend I wasn’t perfectly aware of the cold shadow that was her attention falling away, I like to believe if Jackie never knew that Hyde wanted her back, she would still be mine.

 

However, the truth is, like I said before, when it comes to Jackie, I have 4.0, so I know and have known for a long time I was only borrowing her heart. When I’m being real with myself, I know she was never mine to begin with. As much as it sucks for me, I love her enough to want her to be happy, and Hyde lights her up. Her gleam has been diminished lately, and I hate that. Jackie should shine, and I hate to see her dimmed. That’s why her, Fez and I are hanging out. She appears easier with us. Whenever we are in the basement, she seems like she is a million miles away. I know it’s due to all the Eric, Hyde, and her family shit drama, but I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I suggested the three of us go out. We went to Kenosha, to the zoo, which for whatever reason both Fez and Jackie love. They both act like they are four whenever we go. Seeing the animals, and getting her cotton candy, brightened her up, but I can still see something is troubling her. I suggest we go to the Hub, I want to see if I can get it out of her. As soon as we sit, Fez goes to play pinball, and I know this is my chance.

 

“Hey Sweet Pea, what’s going on with you?” I ask.

 

Her eyes brighten at Sweet Pea. It is my private name for Jackie. It was what I used when we were at our best, and quietest. No one would ever believe it… except maybe Hyde at this point, but quiet Jackie is otherworldly. I miss her the most. 

 

“I’m okay Michael. I’m just tired.” 

 

My heart jumps at Michael. She rarely calls me that anymore, and I can’t help but smile at hearing it. As much as I want to dwell on hearing her call me Michael, she is dodging my question.

 

“Jackie, don’t lie to me. You know, I know you, better than that.”

 

Her eyes droop a little, and I feel guilty for sucking more sun out of her gaze. She looks away from me, and I know she is going to deflect, before she can, I throw out,

 

“Come on Pea, talk to me. I hate to see you unhappy. I’m not Eric, who you are mad at. I’m not Hyde, who you are trying to convince you are okay, and I’m not Fez, who you feel like you have to defend, instead of lean on. Talk to me, Jackie.”

 

All the sun sets in what was left of the light in her eyes. I grab her hand. It sparks in me an undeniable need. I wonder if I will ever stop wanting Jackie Burkhart. My thumb brushes her hand in encouragement. Normally, I’m the one who doesn’t push her, but I can’t let her be this unhappy. 

 

“I’m tired. I’m tired of it all. I don’t want to go back to being abused, but I wish I could go back to not knowing Eric loved me. I don’t want to know that Donna hates Eric and I’s friendship. I want to erase the split that I caused between Hyde and Eric. I wish my mother had never come back. I hate knowing that money over her child is what brought her here. I’m tired Micahel. I’m tired of being the main character of a soap opera. I’m tired of everyone not having the person they love best.”

 

There is nothing I can do to solve any of these problems, but for once to be candid. I take a look around to make sure Fez is still occupied. What I am about to say, needs to stay between her and I.

 

“Sweet Pea, you can’t stop how people feel. It’s not your job or responsibility. Sometimes the best thing you can do is let them feel that way quietly. You can’t fix that Eric is in love with you. Donna and Eric falling apart is sad, but Jackie, that's not your fault either. Even if he wasn’t in love with you… they aren’t the golden couple we all like to pretend they are. Your mom is an evil bitch. I’m sorry she’s your mom.  As for Eric and Hyde….they will work it out. Hyde’s mad. Hyde’s hurt, but the one person he will forgive is Eric. It’s time to let everyone deal with their own feelings, and focus on Jackie. We need our Jackie back.”

 

She smiles slightly at the last part, but replies sadly,

 

“You don’t know what it’s like to have your best friend love you and it change your relationship. I just want Eric back the way we used to be. How do I forget it?”

 

I swallow heavily. It’s the moment of truth, I am uncomfortable talking about this. If I’m being honest, I never thought I would say this out loud, but for her I will. I look around to make sure Fez is occupied one more time.

 

“I know exactly what it is like…. Jackie, I know Fez is in love with me. He’s never had to say a word, but I know. Because he’s my best friend, and I can’t love him that way, I ignore it. Eric loves you, he screwed up, but he doesn’t want to lose you. Let him love you quietly, and deal with his feelings. You can’t not be friends with him, just like I can’t not be friends with Fez.”

 

Her eyes are shocked. Jackie would never betray Fez, and I recognize she is hesitant to voice anything about what I just said. She really is an incredible friend. None of us deserve her. 

 

“You don’t have to say a word. I don’t want to put you in the position to betray Fez. All I’m saying is, Eric was wrong in his actions, but not talking to him, doesn't make him fall out of love with you. You can’t figure it out for him, just like I can’t figure it out for Fez. Love him enough to let him love you without comment. Be mad at him for kissing you. Be mad at him for grabbing you, but don’t be mad at something he can’t help.”

 

My stomach clenches at the sight of her eyes starting to water. She is about to say something when Fez drops back into the chair next to her. I watch her gather herself as quickly as she can. Before she turns all the way to Fez, she squeezes my hand tightly, and flashes me something I haven’t seen in a long time... her bright smile. It’s burning like the sun, and I am instantly warm. 

 

A voice breaks the moment that is imperious, haughty, and the last voice any of us want to hear, least of all Jackie.

 

“Jacqueline, thank God. I’ve been trying to track you down, and talk to you.”

 

I look up to see the marble beautiful face of Pam Burkhart, and all the sun that had risen again in Jackie’s face goes dark. My instincts scream trouble. I grab her hand again, and I say quickly to Fez,

 

“Call Hyde, now.”




Eric

I’m shooting hoops trying to decide how to break my own heart and Donna’s. It has to be today. Jackie is distracted with Kelso and Fez, and Hyde knows my plan. Besides, it’s been over a week since our fight. I can’t keep avoiding her. She has to be pissed. I’m honestly surprised she hasn’t come over and kicked my ass or complained to Hyde. In fairness, it has been a hell of a week. I mean seriously, we’ve gone from me losing my mind and kissing Jackie,Hyde trying to kill me, a life long friendship near imploding, and Jackie finding out she has a mobster for a father. It isn’t like we have had a ton of down time.  I throw up the ball for another shot, when I hear 

 

“Eric?”

 

I hear the swoosh of the ball finding the net, but I don’t watch my shot, because I close my eyes at the sound of that voice. I steady myself, and turn to find Donna.

 

“Hey.” I know it’s lame, but it’s all I’ve got. I watch her eyes flash furiously at me. Donna has never been on to hesitate, and this time is no different.

 

“Hey? Hey! That’s all you have to say to me after yelling, throwing your keys, and avoiding me.”

 

I sigh deeply. I don’t want to fight with her. 

 

“I’m sorry about that Donna. It’s been a hell of time lately, and I just didn’t know what to say to you. Can we go talk somewhere besides my driveway?”

 

Her face blotches red, and all my hopes of this going even remotely well vanish. 

 

“No. We can talk here. If you wanted to talk somewhere else, you should have knocked on my door, anytime after you were an ass to me. I’m tired of being told it's been a “hell of a time.” What drama are you involved with now? Jackie break a nail? Jackie need to cry on your shoulder? Jackie need her life cleaned up?”

 

Any calm I had is gone. I never wanted Jackie to be right about Donna. I always wanted to believe they were friends, but it’s obvious they aren’t. I don’t want to bring Jackie into this. I want this to be about us. About me. The last thing any of us need is a feud between Jackie and Donna. The thing is, Donna thinks she is tough, but Jackie would rip her to shreds. Much like Hyde, Jackie chooses to keep the part of her that is full of malice in check, but when it is unleashed it is ugly. 

 

“Leave Jackie out of it. This is about us. This about me, being a jerk. I’m sorry I didn’t come over, but Donna, somethings, have been rough in my life lately. I’ve been in a bad place.”

 

Donna is quick to retort. “I don’t want to leave Jackie out of it. She’s the problem. She’s always the problem. You pick her over everyone. You pick her over me.”

 

Her words “ pick her over me”, causes Jackie’s face to flash into my head. I visualize her disappointment in me, as I tell her we can’t be close anymore. Her heartbreaking, when I wasn’t willing to fight for our friendship the way she was with Hyde is seared on my brain. Donna has no idea, and that isn’t her fault, but her attitude is pissing me off. 

 

“You know what Donna…you want talk about Jackie. Let’s talk Jackie. After, I left that night, I came back here and told her we couldn’t be friends like we have in the past. I told her no more Eric and Jackie show. I told her you were upset. Although she went to the wall to defend our friendship to Hyde, I didn’t do it for her. Jackie’s barely talking to me. So, no, I didn’t pick Jackie over you.” 

 

My words roll over her and I can see a mixture of surprise and anger. I don’t have to wait long for her feelings on the subject.

 

“So, basically, You tried to set boundaries and Jackie threw a fit. You’ve been moping all week, because your precious Jackie is mad at you.”

 

I’m not Hyde. My patience is lengthy, but when my temper hits, I channel Red. It doesn’t often happen, but I feel my temper slipping.

 

“What is your deal with Jackie? Jesus, Donna, you want to be mad at someone…. Be mad at me. Jackie hasn’t done anything wrong.”

 

“What’s my deal with Jackie? My deal is you love her. You’re so in love with her, that everything else pales in comparison. Boo fucking hoo, her parents suck. Well, lots of people have shitty parents. All of you act like she is some Goddess to be worshiped. I’m sick of her stealing my boyfriend. Stealing my friends. It’s me or Jackie…. Eric. I won’t share your attention anymore.”

 

I know I’ve been unfair to her lately, but what she is saying is cold and heartless. It doesn’t matter that I was planning to break up with her, I find I’m disgusted. 

 

“What the hell is wrong with you? Her dad beat the crap out of her Donna. Her mom abandoned her, and your response is Boo fucking hoo . I don’t even know who you anymore. You want me to make a choice, fine. I choose Jackie. What is your explanation going to be to everyone? Are you going to tell Kelso, Fez, and Hyde what you just said ? What are you going to tell her?”

 

For the first time, I recognize anger drift away. Her whole face is replaced with panic. She stutters quickly,

 

“I didn’t mean it. I’m just mad. I’m so mad at you. Let’s take a step back. I let me temper get the best of me.”

 

Before, I can reply, Hyde’s voice comes from the patio door, biting, and brittle.

 

“Eric, Red wants you.”

 

My eyes hit his. He heard Donna, say what she did about Jackie. The rage on his face is evident. 

 

“Give me a second?” I say. Hoping he will go in and let me finish this. 

 

“No. He wants you now.” 

 

Hyde’s voice is steel. I close my eyes, and take a deep breath. I look at Donna, and say “We’re done here. I don’t have anything left to say.” 

 

I head into the house, as I pass Hyde, I whisper “I’m done. There is nothing to salvage. Say what you want to say to her. I don’t give a damn anymore.”


Donna

My heart is pounding in my chest, as Hyde strides towards me. His eyes are blank and mean. I’m desperately trying to think of what I can say to walk back my nasty words about Jackie. My boyfriend just ended our relationship, and I’m pretty sure one of my best friends is about to explode on me. One of the best defenses with Hyde is tears, and since I’m already on the verge of crying, I let them loose. I start to tremble out,

 

“I didn’t mean it. You know I didn’t. You know what it is like. We’ve talked about this. Watching them is impossible. It’s why you cheated. Jackie is one of my best friends, you know I didn’t mean it. You have to believe me.”

 

I’m hoping for sympathy and understanding, because I know Jackie and Eric bug the hell out of him. I also want him to remember that he isn’t innocent. He screwed another chick, and me being a bitch pales in comparison. My hopes are dashed as I recognize unmoveable anger.

 

“One of her best friends? That’s rich. You don’t give a damn about Jackie, unless it is convenient to your purpose. You preach your feminist crap, but you never blinked when Kelso screwed around on her. Where were you when I fucked around on her? How about her dad hitting her and disappearing? You certainly aren’t helping her deal with the complete destruction of her relationship with her real best friend. I tore Eric apart for chewing your ass the night at the water tower, but he was right. Jackie’s been living in the seventh level of hell for the last few months. Where have you been Donna? Where?”

 

“Hyde…. You don’t mean that. I was upset. I shouldn’t have said that stuff about Jackie. I’m sorry.”

 

His face crawls into a sneer, “Liar. You’re sorry Eric stood up to you. You’re sorry I heard, but what you aren’t, is sorry for what you said about Jackie. So Boo fucking hoo , looks like you shouldn’t have gambled he would pick you, and just in case you have’t figure it out yet, I pick Jackie. I’ll always pick her.”

 

I’m about to respond to Hyde, when Eric comes flying out of the house. His face is full on panic. I watch Hyde turn to him, and before he can ask, Eric throws him the keys to the Camino, and says

 

“Pam.”

 

All of the anger drains out of Hyde’s face instantly, replaced quickly with wild fear. With that, they are in the Camino tearing out of the driveway, and I’m left alone. My tears well up again. I’ve lost my boyfriend. I’ve lost one of my oldest friends, and somewhere along the way, I lost myself. I run towards home, my heart searing in my chest. I’m confident I’ve lost everything.

Chapter Text

Jackie

One minute I’m sitting in The Hub, blown away by the fact that Michael knows Fez loves him, and the next minute my mother of all people is standing there. My mother is in The Hub. If all the rest of our horror show instantly faded away, the mere idea she would grace The Hub with her presence would be laughable. I feel Michael grab my hand tightly, and tell Fez to call Hyde. I watch out of the corner of my eye, Fez fly to the payphone. 

 

A very nasty part of me wants to scream, “I don’t need Hyde to protect me.”  but I know it’s only from a place of love. They all want to protect me, but if ever I didn’t need protection it was when facing my mother. I pull my hand away from Michael, sharply, and slowly rise to my feet, like I have all the time in the world, like she is a peasant. I know it will piss her off. I know exactly how to deal with her. She grabs my hand, and starts to pull.

 

“Oh, baby, I’ve just missed you so much. We must talk. We can’t do it here. Come with me. We can go home. I bet you haven’t been to the mansion in ages.”

 

Her voice is her sweet coo. It’s the voice she uses when she wants her way. I know this act. Her eyes are huge and doe like, but under the sweet, I recognize fear. I see the spectator that is Devin. I pull my hand away, and respond with disdain.

 

“Sorry mom, I simply don’t have time to talk right now. As you can see, I’m busy with my friends.” 

 

I start to sit down, when she grabs my arm forcefully. I hear Kelso yell, “Get your hands off of her.” He’s up out of his chair, yanking my mom’s hand off of me. I put a hand on him, and say quietly.

 

“Let me deal with her please.”

 

He looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. He hisses at me quietly, “Hyde will kill me, if I leave you unprotected, so I’m not going anywhere.” 

 

I roll my eyes at him, but know he’s right. Steven would lose his everlasting mind. Just as I finish that thought, Fez is on my other side. He grabs my hand tightly. I love him. He really is very best. 

 

I watch my mother analyze the situation and change tactics. Her most flirtatious gaze slides across her face. She takes her fingertip, skims it down Fez’s chest, and purrs,

 

“Jackie, who is this strong, and handsome young man, unnecessarily protecting you. What a lucky girl you are to have such good-looking men to take care of you.”

 

Everything I’ve gone through, everything she set up, everything Devin told me wells up inside of me, and I feel myself going cold, and my desire to strike takes me over. For once, I give in to that sensation. I stare at her, and I say with my sweetest voice,

 

“Oh mother, they aren’t here to protect me. They are here to stop me from doing this.”

 

I pull my hand away from Fez, reach back and slap her across the face as hard as I can. I smack her so violently, the crack of my palm on her cheek echos in the now dead silent Hub. 


Hyde

I rush into the Hub just in time to witness Jackie bitch slap Pam Burkhart across the face. I’m so shocked I stop on a dime, which causes Eric to run straight into my back. 

 

“Damn Hyde. What the hell?” Eric mutters as he recovers from bouncing off my back. 

 

I still haven’t moved, but I stutter out, “Jackie, just bitch, slapped Pam. Holy fuck.”

 

Eric pushes at my back roughly “We need to get in there, before this gets nasty.”

 

I wake from my stupor, and rush towards the scene unfolding in the Hub. I’m next to Jackie in seconds. 

 

“You okay Doll?” I ask, as I push Fez away from her side. Jackie doesn’t get a chance to answer, because Pam recovers from the slap of the century. I watch her eyes narrow, and her hand starts to raise. I’m in front of Jackie in a second.

 

“You hit her, and I’ll lay you out.” I growl. 

 

I’ve never hit a girl in my life, but I figure I can make an exception for Pam Burkhart. Jackie steps around me, her eyes cold and murderous. A shiver of fear runs down my spine. She has never looked more like Devin Calabrese. This is her inheritance. This is her heritage. Total destruction is breathing fire out of her eyes.

 

“You hit me, and it will be the last thing you do. I know Mom. I know everything. Devin filled me in, and if you think I won’t kick your ass if you touch me, then you are not only soulless, but incredibly stupid. I won’t fall for your fake motherly concern. You don’t give a damn about me. You never did. I have family, and it is most certainly not you or the monster you allowed to abuse me.”

 

I watch Pam’s eyes get huge, at Jackie’s words. She is breathing heavily, and her cheek is heated with Jackie’s slap. Despite being on the defense, she hisses out,

 

“You fool. You think your new Daddy is going to take care of you. You think you are going to have the life you never had with Jack. Devin Calabrese only cares about one person, and that is himself. Don’t count on his protection Jacqueline. You aren’t important enough to him. You aren’t important enough to anyone. I’m your best bet if you want to live any life that isn't complete trash.”

 

I feel Jackie tense next to me. I get ready to rip Pam apart. I hate this woman. I hate what she did to my doll. I hate Jackie never had a mother love her. I think  Pam is worse than Enda, which I didn’t believe was possible. I take a step toward hers, and before I can take action Jackie slaps her hand on my chest and says to me,

 

 “Don’t you dare. I have this.”

 

I watch my girl level her body to her mother’s. Jackie looks like a prized fighter about to come out at the sound of the bell. She’s ready. I can see it. She needs to throw the final punch to close the door. She needs to make sure Pam knows she is never getting back off the mat. I respect that, so for once in my life, I wait, instead of charging forward.

 

“I don’t need Devin, you, or anyone else to take care of me. I’ve been taking care of myself my whole life. You sure as hell, never stepped up or stepped in to protect me. All you want is the money that has been left to me. It’s laughable you think you’re my best bet. I have a man who loves me.” She stops, takes my hand. She continues her moment of truth. “I have people who love me and are my family.” She slides her arm around Fez, reaches for Kelso’s hand, and makes quick eye contact with Eric. We stand next to her, holding her, being the wall of support she needs. We stand there in solidarity. 

 

“I don’t need you. You’re nothing to me.” Jackie says with finality. 

 

I watch a coldness wrap Pam’s face. It creates an ugliness that will forever wipe out, any memory of her beauty. I will always remember her face this way...hideous with contempt for her own daughter. My gut tells me it is time to get Jackie out of here. I’m proud of her strength in confronting her mother, but I notice the hurt sweeping away her resolve. 

 

I pull on her hand, nod at the guys, and gently whisper to her “Let’s go Doll. Let’s go home.”

 

She nods silently, and starts to follow me without hesitation, that is until Pam’s snotty voice rings through the still shocked, silent Hub. 

 

“Enjoy your life with total trash.”

 

I feel her stop instantly. I pull hard on her hand, and whisper to her, “Come on baby just ignore her.”

 

She softly whispers back, “No.” I feel her turn, and she replies out coldly with an imperial ring,

“The only piece of trash in this place is you. Go to Hell.”

 

She tugs on my hand telling me to go. We walk out of the Hub. None of us looking back. If we had, we would have noticed that in the corner of the Hub was a man in a forbidding suit, quietly watching. A man who stood up swiftly, and with purpose the minute we walked out the door. 



Chapter Text

A glimpse

I’ve always enjoyed shadows. They suit me. They always have, and I am sure they always will. In the dusky smoke cast from the absence of light, you can blend into the night, making everything more of a challenge. I love sensing my ears sharpen, and my body tighten in awareness. Some fear the dark, and worry about what goes bump in the night, not me, because I am what goes bump in the night. I am the ghost in the closet. I am the boogeyman at the end of the bed. I’m the monster that causes you to pull the covers over your head. I’m fear. I’m your worst nightmare. For now, I am simply a man, sitting in the shade of the room enjoying a cigarette. A normal man letting the nicotine course through his veins, as he patiently waits for his prey.  




Jackie

The ride home is quiet. After leaving The Hub, all the fight went out of me. It was like someone let all the air out of me. I sagged into Steven, and he immediately put his arm around my waist, giving me the unseen strength I needed. This is what it is always like for me, when I lose my temper or take a stand, afterwards I’m drained. As we hit the Camino, Kelso came up to me and gave me a hug. It was sweet, protective, and reminded me of all the best parts of him. He softly whispered,

 

“Love you Sweet Pea.” 

 

Steven had tensed at the words, but he let them go without comment. Which was wise, there is no part of me that can handle his jealous nature at the moment. Fez sweetly kissed my cheek, and whispered “I’m proud of you Goddess.”   He and Kelso took off, leaving the three of us to head home. 

 

I pretty much haven’t said a word to Eric since I screamed at him the other night. Nor at this moment do I feel compelled to. I simply want to go home. Home…. I contemplate the word as we drive back towards my sanctuary. I close my eyes, rest my forehead against the cool window of the Camino, and attempt  to put into order what home means.  A montage of moments flood my heart,

 

Eric pushing me on a swing

Mrs. Forman, baking all of us cookies

Mr. Forman teaching me how to work on cars

Mr. Forman, showing me how to throw a punch

Eric and I bickering over his Star Wars Legos

Eric being my best friend

Steven taking me to prom

Steven and his Zen lessons

Steven fighting to protect me

Steven and I making love

Steven loving me

 

Moment after moment plays like a home movie in my mind. They are home. The Formans, Eric, and Steven. They are what make me feel loved, safe, and valued. We argue, fight, mess up, but when things are terrible, they are my people. They are the people who love me through the waves. I feel the warmth of that truth, start to heal  the lashes on my heart. I don’t open my eyes. I am enjoying the quiet heat, battle the cold of parents who never gave a damn. I stay this way until Steven quietly calls for me to return to the surface.

 

“Doll, you awake?”

 

I let my eyes flutter open, and pour everything I am thinking into him. He smiles at me. It’s sweet, concerned, and full of love. 

 

“I’m awake. I was just resting my eyes.”

 

“Do you need me to carry you in?” he offers sweetly.

 

I almost laugh. This from the man who hates when I call him my knight in shining armor. Here he is offering to sweep up, and carry me in. I know better than to actually laugh. He’s like a turtle. I don’t want him to pull his head back into his protective shell. Instead, I grab his hand and give it a gentle squeeze. 

 

“No thank you. I’m good” 

 

All of us climb out of the car and round the house. We are greeted by the sight of Donna leaning against the Vista Cruiser. Her face is stony, and her eyes are red with tears. I have spent almost no time with her lately. Mostly, because my life has been a train wreck, but ever since the night Eric dropped his bomb on me, I’ve been unsure how to proceed. There have been several times in our friendship that I have sensed Donna has little use for me. Eric and I have argued about it, but a girl knows. I’ve fought the social ladder long enough to know when another girl views you as the enemy. I don’t think Donna thinks that way all the time, but it has certainly been there, no matter what Eric thinks. Still, she is one of my best friends, and seeing her upset causes me to want to help. I stride to her quickly, and tug on her arm until her near lifeless hand is in mine.

 

“Donna, are you okay? What’s wrong?” 



Donna

The last time I had any quality interaction with Jackie was the day Kelso took us up to Kenosha. It seems like since her life went to hell, she has been a ghost. I catch glimpses of her, and before I know it, she’s gone again. It feels so nice to have someone ask me if I’m okay, I nearly break on the spot. I almost pour out in the middle of the damn driveway, every feeling, good and almost mostly bad lately about her, Eric, and how I fit into that equation. Her head leaning on my shoulder, and warm hand in mind screams comfort, and I want to cling it. Because across from me are two men whose eyes are chilly. I’ve never seen them so in tandem. It’s almost scary. It would be easy to slide into Jackie’s embrace, forget what happened earlier, and push down my unresolved feelings about her. I want to more than anything, but I can’t. I have to finish what was started, even if it changes all my relationships. I take a big breath in, trying to find my courage.

 

“Jackie, do you mind going inside? I need to talk to Hyde and Eric alone. You and I can talk later.” 

 

I feel the surprise in her body as it parts from mine. Her hand drops, and I sense her about to respond when Hyde interrupts.

 

“I don’t have anything to say Donna.” 

 

His eyes are unforgiving and stubborn. I don’t see any room for understanding. Hyde is loyal and true until he isn’t, and it looks like I’ve reached my limit. He doesn’t even blink, reaches his hand out and says roughly,

 

“Let’s go inside Jackie.”

 

I turn from his frozen tundra of a gaze to glance at Jackie, whose face is confused and uneasy, but for once in her life she listens. She grabs his hand, and he pulls her in the house. I watch her bite her lip in worry, as her eyes fall to Eric. I recognize her unease for him all over her face. I wait until Hyde has gotten her all the way in and out of the kitchen. Jackie is nosy, and there is no way if she is close, she won’t try to listen. When her form slips through the kitchen door, I turn to Eric.

 

“I think we should finish the conversation we were having, before Hyde interrupted us, and you both took off to play knight in shining armor.”


Eric

I stare at a girl I’ve known almost my entire life, and wonder what happened to the girl I love.The generous, kind, and loving girl who this group has always counted on. My stomach churns that I’m partially responsible for her disappearing. I love her deeply, but I don’t love her the way I love Jackie, and that’s not right. It crushes my heart, to know the bitterness lining her face is my fault. Despite knowing I hurt her, I don’t understand her lack of compassion for someone who is supposed to be her friend. 

 

“What do you want me to say Donna?”

 

Her eyes fill with angry tears, and she spits out, “I want you to admit you are in love with Jackie. I want you to admit the reason our relationship fell apart is because of her.”

 

Her nasty arrows of contempt at Jackie fill me with anger. It causes me to release a tirade I never would have normally flung at her.

 

“Fine. You want to admit it... I’m in love with Jackie. Is that what you want to hear? Do you want hear I’m so in love with her that I fucked over Hyde in every possible way. I love her so much I nearly burned a brotherhood that means more than anything to me the ground. My feelings for her terrify me to a level, that I told her we couldn’t be friends anymore. The intensity that pounds in my heart for Jackie is painful, and I hate it. I would rip it out if I could. I hurt her. I hurt Hyde, and I hurt you. You’re right Donna. Congrats! Is that what you want to hear? Our relationship falling apart isn’t because of Jackie. It is because of me. There is no one to blame but me.”

 

Donna stands there openly crying. I can discern not all the tears are pain. There is a considerable amount of pissed in there, and that is okay, but I don’t want Jackie to be blamed. In all that has happened… Me touching her back, Hyde cheating like a total bastard, and all the chaos that came after, none of it is her fault. None of it. 

 

I watch her master herself, and she spits out, “So you were using me this whole time. A cover for how you felt about your precious princess.”

 

I know hurt is causing her to lash out, but I’m struggling with the continued assault on Jackie. 

 

“No. I didn’t realize until recently how I felt about Jackie. It all exploded when we found out about Jackie’s dad. I lied to myself so long, I didn’t know it, until me screwing up, caused it all to come blaring into the light. Donna, I understand I hurt you. I hate I did, and it was never my intent. I care about you. I do love you. I love you more than a friend, but I’m stupidly in love with Jackie. That’s not fair to you. You shouldn't have to share me with something I can never have or I could survive. I won’t do to you what Jackie did to Kelso for years. She loved him, but he was a place holder for what she couldn’t have. I won’t do that to you. It’s not fair. I love you too much to lie you.”

 

Her tears stop, and now all I discern is pure pissed. I know this conversation is going to get nasty again. 

 

“How very noble of you Eric...thanks for being in love with another woman, and having the decency to let me know I’m a place holder to your one true love. Fuck you Eric.”

 

“Donna, I don’t know what else to say, other than I’m sorry, but don’t let my total mess up, ruin your friendships with everyone else.”

 

I didn’t believe her eyes could burn any hotter, but I guessed wrong. Scorching anger causes an inferno in her gaze, and all of it erupts.

 

“Friends? Oh do you mean like Hyde?  Who very clearly told me he was picking Jakie over me. Kelso or Fez? Both worship her, I’m sure they would pick her over me. You two drop everything and go running  the minute she snaps her fingers. I don’t give a damn anymore. I’m tired of living in the perfect princess’s shadow. Tell me Eric! Tell me what was so damn important that you two had to go running like lovesick dillholes?”

 

Before I can say a word, another player enters stage right, and delivers an opening line.

 

“They came to make sure my mother, who participated in helping my father abuse me my whole life and abandoned me, didn’t try to hurt me again.” 

 

All I can think to myself is “Shit”.


Jackie

I watch both Eric and Donna’s faces go pale at my words. Eric follows up his ghost pale skin, with a preventative plea.

 

“Jackie, please go back inside. I need to finish talking to Donna.”

 

Donna’s eyes curl with disgust, and if looks could kill Eric would be dead right now. I only heard the last part of the fight. I tried to listen from my window. It was clear when we pulled up that Donna and Eric weren’t okay. I shouldn’t be here at all, but as Steven would say, “I can’t mind my own business.” 

 

I don’t move. My eyes don’t break contact with Donna’s. I want to see the pieces of the story edited out of this chapter in my life. I want to see the verses that Eric and Steven have hidden from me. Her eyes swim with hurt, betrayal, love and endings. Eric tries again to get me to leave.

 

“Jackie…. Please....”

 

His words don’t cause Donna to even so much as blink. She knows what is coming. Donna is many things, but stupid is not one of them.

 

“No Eric, I actually need you to leave Donna and I alone.”

 

“Damn It Jackie, Just for once….” 

 

Eric never gets to finish his sentence, because Donna’s wintry voice cuts him off.

 

“Go Eric. There is nothing left to say. You made your choice.”

 

I watch his shoulders slump and defeat solider across his face. He doesn’t look at me, and retreats the way I came. I’m confident he won’t go far, and if he does, it will only be to go get Steven. Those two and their endless need to protect me, as if I can’t handle myself. As if I can’t handle Donna. 

 

A silence that could fill an ocean laps around Donna and I. Our gazes don’t break, but there is a softening in her stare that wasn’t there before. I don’t know the best way to approach this topic, but things must be said. Things must be righted. Our world must be put back in some sort of order. I will not have it any other way. I have no idea, but that sheer need to control my universe comes from a father who I’ve just begun to get to know. 

 

“You apparently have a problem with me, Donna. Whatever you need to say….get it out.  It’s just you and me.”

 

She looks away, and I notice a tiny tear fall down her cheek. A soft but pained voice follows her tears.

 

“I’m sorry I’ve been a total crap friend. No matter what the boys say, I don’t want bad things to happen to you. I feel awful I never noticed. The fact that through this all, I’ve been absent in your life makes me wonder what has happened to me. To wonder who I am as a person.”

 

Her speech hurts my heart. I don’t want her to feel guilty about my life, and while there are a few things that have hurt my feelings, there is nothing she has done to me that her and I can’t get past.

 

“Donna, it's been complicated lately, for all of us. I think we can…” 

 

Before I can finish my thought, her head whips to mine, and the fierceness in her gaze startles. I never get a chance to finish, because she interrupts me harshly.

 

“Stop Jackie. I’m not done. I’m sorry, but I’m mad as hell at you. I’m mad at myself for being mad at you. I can’t help it.  I hate Eric loves you. I’m devastated Hyde would throw me away without a second thought, due to something I said about you in the heat of the moment. I’m tired of you being the sun that we all orbit around. It’s wrong of me. You’ve done nothing wrong, but right now, I blame you. Right now, I’m mad at you…..”

 

She travels off, and gulps. My heart is bleeding, but I’ll finish this.

 

“Right now…. What Donna? Just say it.”

 

She looks away again, but she summons her courage, and creates a new chapter. A chapter that has a twist I didn’t anticipate.

 

“Right now, I don’t think we can be friends. After Eric tore out of here, I called my mom. I’m going to visit her out in California for a while. I need to find the person again who doesn’t blame my friend for other people's actions. I need to find the Donna, who was a sincere friend. Jackie, I’m not even sure we can be friends again, but I have to get away from Eric, the basement, and I need to get away from you.”

 

It’s like someone stabbed me. I feel a thousand pricks of disappointment. She stares at me. I grasp her gaze, pleading with me to understand. I can only nod. I’m biting my lip so hard to stop the tears, I can taste blood. She looks at me for a second more, and then she walks back towards her house. I blink hard, trying to force the tears to go back home.


Eric

I’m just as bad as Jackie. I had zero of intention of not listening. I was more than prepared to swing in, and stop it if it got ugly. Listening to Donna tell Jackie she blames her for my screw ups was torture. I wanted to invade. I wanted to yell, that she wasn’t being fair. I wanted to scream it was no different from Jackie loving Kelso and being in love with Hyde. Was it Hyde’s fault that Jackie’s loved him for years? I wanted to do all those things, but something stopped me. A voice that warned me once not to get in the middle of Donna and Jackie. A voice that had tried to tell me that if I broke up with Donna, things that would never be the same. A brutally honest voice that had warned he would never talk about my feelings for Jackie again. A voice that tried to tell me that something things are better left unsaid. 

 

This time I was going to take the warning from Hyde, and not get between something I don’t understand. Which left me listening to two women’s friendship falling apart, and knowing I’m largely to blame. I sigh heavily, as I hear Donna walk off. I wait to see if Jackie will come this way. When I don’t hear the clomp of her heels, I round the corner to check on her. I don’t care that we haven’t spoken. I could give two damns she is pissed at me. I’m not going to let her heartbreak alone. What I find hurts. There standing in the middle of the driveway looking like a lost little girl, is my best friend.

 

There is maybe five feet between us as we stand in the driveway, but it might as well be the Grand Canyon. It kills me that she refuses to make eye contact with me. Why does it take losing something to realize how much you need it to survive? I thought I could have Jackie at a distance, and be with Donna and be okay. I was so damn wrong. 

 

My heart decides to forget about boundaries….a total amnesia of Hyde’s face, words, and rage a memory lost. In my whirlwind of forgetting, a tornado of yesterdays takes the place of memories I don’t want. I picture Jackie as the little girl who knocked down the bully, trying to beat me up, and followed me home. I remember the fearless woman who stood strong against the man she loves, refusing to throw our friendship aside. As much as I don’t want to think of it, I visualize her telling me that she will give me what I want, so I could be content with Donna. 

 

“Jackie?” I say softly. 

 

Her eyes slowly raise to mine, and I notice the desire to launch herself at me, and find comfort. I recognize her want to comfort me. Sadly, I also discern hesitation. The kiss. Me loving her when I shouldn't. Me touching her back is holding her back. It sits with mixed with a lifetime of ease. Jackie is unsure of me. It nearly kills me. She still hasn’t replied to me saying her name. She simply stands, paralyzed. Without thinking and on pure instinct, I make up the space between us, and I grab her. I fold her into me.

 

“I’m so sorry Jackie. I did this. I’m so sorry.”

 

Her body collapses into mine, and she begins to sob. Deep hurtful tears, and each is a nail in my heart, because this time I’m not comforting her from outside hurt, this time I am part of the cascade of grief falling from her soulful eyes. I would rather let Hyde hate me for life than be part of the mourning of her heart. As her tears soak my shirt with the tattered remains of our friendship, I review what is important to me. I don’t want to be separated from Jackie. I want us to be us. I need her to be my devil, and I need to be her geek. I finally get what Hyde has been talking about. She’s worth it.  Yes, it hurts that Donna and I are done. I don’t want it to be the end of Donna’s friendship with the gang, but I find I can live with it. I’ve never understood Hyde more than I do at this moment. I have no second thoughts about losing Donna. I’m even willing to accept that Hyde and I may never be all the way the same again. I’m willing to throw it all away to make sure I have my version of Jackie. Hyde’s vow in our spot now makes perfect sense. He’s always going to pick her. I finally get it. I’m not willing to never have what Jackie and I used to be.  It was mine, freely and openly given. I want my best friend back. I stroke her hair like I have a million times before, and I whisper what I hope is my way of saying fuck it all. 

 

“Can we pull the curtain back up on the Jackie and Eric Show?” 

 

Her head snaps up to mine. Jackie’s fairytale eyes search mine, and I watch what I love about her best beam out of her eyes….her ability to forgive and to love even when she’s been knocked down. Kelso, Hyde, and I are the luckiest bastards on earth, because Jackie forgives. It’s her superpower, her ability to give second chances, extend grace, and to bestow mercy on those she loves.  She smiles slightly, lays her head back on my chest, and whispers

 

“I think I could handle a revival.”

 

I gather her close, hug her tightly, and whisper my own heart.

 

“You being my friend is more important than anything else. I promise I won’t mess it up again.”

 

We stand for a long time saying nothing. Merely being what we have always done best, being The Devil and The Geek.


Hyde

It’s been another long day. Another day wrapped in emotional turmoil and change. Jackie’s head is in my lap.  We are nestled on my cot. I haven’t said much since we got home. I’m playing with Jackie’s curls absently while I read. I’m tired. Jackie’s tired. Between the showdown with Donna, Jackie’s mother, and finding the woman I love wrapped around my best friend, I’m nearly ready to call it a day. I must make peace with Jackie and Eric. I have to put away my inability to trust, and have faith that Jackie will always love me. More importantly, I need to put her first. She needs Eric. It hurts her heart for them to not be what they have always been. I can’t hurt her anymore. It’s time to work through it. Sometimes I wonder though, if Eric and I will ever be the same. I close my eyes, and let the weariness in my heart sweep through my body. I continue  to sweep my fingers through her midnight curls, and listen to the pattern of her breathing. No matter how mad or tired I am, the magic that is Jackie settles me. I know exactly how damn lucky I am she forgave me. I am totally aware, that she would have been smart to never come near me again. I know it, like I know the government is filling peoples’ heads with useless crap. It only makes me love her more. Despite, all the fucked up shit I did, she loves me enough to forgive me. She loves me so much, that she wants to close the doors on terrible yesterdays, and make new tomorrows. Jackie is my miracle, and even if it’s hard for me to say out loud most of the time, I love her more than I know what to do with it. She’s my northstar. She tethers me to a world where I am beginning to believe I have a future that includes an ending I never thought possible, a life with her. I’m lost in that happy thought when I hear Jackie give a melancholy sigh. I peer down at her. She’s biting her lip, and her face is troubled. I know what it is.  I would bet the house she is worried about what kind of person she is. Jackie really cares and worries she might be a monster based on who her parents are and how she was raised. What she doesn’t understand is the mere idea that she worries about what kind of person she is, makes her a better fucking human than any of the people who raised her or share her DNA. I’m having none of it. She will worry herself sick.

 

“Stop it Jackie.”

 

“Stop what? I’m not doing anything.” she replies right away.

 

I set my book down, stroke her cheek, and grasp her chin so she can’t look away.

 

“Stop trying to figure out if you are a bad person. I know you Doll. You are worried that because of your mom and Devin, you can’t possibly be a good. You are laying here worrying all that has gone down, is proof you are terrible. Jackie, you haven’t done anything but survive. The choices you have made, weren’t vicious or for sport. Everything that has happened has been in an effort to keep yourself safe, or someone you love protected. Grasshopper, there is no one more loving you. You forgave me. You love me even though I don’t deserve it. You threw yourself in front of Eric. I can’t think of one person in our group you haven’t sacrificed yourself for in some way. You are forgiving Eric, when I find it almost impossible to do. You are stubborn, a giant pain in the ass, and sometimes a complete brat, but you love with abandon. I love you Doll. You aren’t Pam. You aren’t Jack, and you aren’t Devin. You are no one but Jackie. My beautiful, fearless, stubborn, and full of love Jackie.”

 

I watch her eyes fill with tears. I pull her up to me, and kiss her lips softly. 

 

“No more tears Doll. No more.”

She reaches up and brushes my cheek. I capture her hand and kiss her wrist. She whispers to me,

 

“I love you.”

Her eyes are alive with her love for me.  I wish I could lock us in this room, and never leave. Her and I like this, is my happy place. I stroke her hair until her eyes grow heavy, and she slips away. As dreams take her away, I say softly,

 

“Rest baby. I’ll be waiting for you when you come back.”



Patience is something he had in spades. Life is about waiting. When you rush you make mistakes and miss opportunities. He had never minded waiting for long periods of time, alone with his thoughts. Unlike most men, he was not troubled by the way his mind worked. He had no problem sitting alone analyzing perfectly planned moments, and looking for mistakes in past encounters. So it had not been a problem for him to sit in the dark for hours waiting for his prey to come home. Prey is what she was, and somewhere along the way she forgot he was the ultimate predator. He had wondered briefly if she would notice the faint smell of his lingering smoke when she stumbled in the door. Luckily for him, she was tipsy, and like almost always, completely self absorbed. Never taking in the world around her. Always assuming she was safe in her privilege, and deceptive beauty. So, he had waited some more after she came home, sitting calmly in the dark, listening for sounds to tell him what she was doing. She made it easy, by coming back downstairs, to where he was waiting. He watched her stupidly walk right past him sitting in the shadowed corner of the room, and pour herself a drink. He could discern she was pretty closed to being sloshed, which would make this easy, but he wished it wasn’t. She didn’t deserve easy. If anyone deserved to suffer it was her.

 

Pam

I stumble into the Mansion. After my bitch of a daughter slapped me, and had her little stand with her band of worthless raggedy friends, I decided I need a drink. Of course, I picked Evelyn’s. The nicest club in Point Place, after Lucky’s, hell would freeze over before Devin would let me in his club. My daughter might want to hang out with trash, but I certainly don’t. All my drinks tonight were on the tab of men who were stupid enough to believe they would get to take me home. As if any of them had enough money to tempt me. The thought of money makes my head throb. Money is the only reason I came back to this god forsaken town. Now that Jack is dead, and I know he’s dead. Missing my ass. The minute Devin found out he was being cheated, Jack was a dead man walking. God, I hope Devin tortured that bastard. I hope he died a terrible and painful death. I will admit I am impressed at Jackie’s level of ruthlessness. She turned her own father over to die. Smart girl. At least a little of me rubbed off on her. I stumble a little more as I walk to my bedroom. I throw my purse, and pull off my clothes. I find something sweet and sexy to wear. It doesn’t matter I don’t have a gentleman caller. One must always look their best. Because beauty can get you almost anything you want. I hate to admit it, but Devin is right about one thing…. I’ve been using my looks to get my way my whole life. He is the only person in my history my beauty didn’t fool. Make no mistake he wanted me. I remember his eyes following me around the room when we were younger, but he was never fooled. I hate him for that. I will wish him nothing but ill for not bowing to my wishes and plans. It still burns me up. He and I,.... we could have ruled with an iron fist. I never wanted out of the life. I had been trained from the start to be a wife in the organization, or help run my family syndicate. My father wasn’t old fashion, he named me successor to his power. A power that was decimated by Devin’s father. I was just smart enough to flee before my family’s seat of command was wiped clear. I am perfectly aware it broke my father’s heart when I abandoned the family, and went to Devin for help. The bottom line is…. what good was my family without their power, money, and influence? I am loyal to no one but myself. The problem is that abandonment cost me my inheritance. Every bit of my grandmother’s money was left to Jackie. Every fucking cent. I curl my lips into a snarl, thinking of the money. Nothing good will come from me trying to plan while, I’m upset. Revenge and masterful plans can only be planned when your emotions are in check, your vision is clear. Devin taught me that. I am none of those things right now. So instead, I am going to get another drink. I clumsily walk down the stairs to Jack’s old study. I don’t bother with the lights. I walk over to cabinet, pull out a glass, and give myself two splash of whiskey. I flop down in my favorite chair, knock back a glup, and close my eyes. I relish the burn in my throat. Before, I can even think of taking another drink, a different type of burning surrounds my throat, causing my eyes to fly open. A strong, leathered glove is grasping my neck. I feel the whiskey tumbler drop from my delicate fingers, as I bring them up to fight the vice trying to steal my life.

Devin

My hand reaches around the long and slender neck of one Pam Burkhart, formerly known as Emilia Salvatore. No matter what she became, she will always be Emillia to me. Emilia who cheated money from my pocket. Emilia who let her child be beat. Emilia who stole my child from me. Emilia who didn’t listen to me. Emilia who has forgotten I don’t deal well defiance. 

 

Her gasp in terror fills me with satisfaction. The claws of her fingers are nothing on my gloved hands, and strong grip. I pull her roughly from the chair, into the dim light pooling from the hallway so she can witness who is bring her end. As soon as she sees my face, she gasps out,

 

“You, breaking your vow….” is all she can get out as life is starting to drain from her body.

 

I loosen my grip for a mere second. Giving her the belief that she has been given a reprieve. I watch the panic start to ebb a little. I pull her close to my lips, and I whisper even though there is no one to hear,

 

“Somewhere along the way Emilia you forgot I don’t make empty threats. I told you to stay away from my daughter. You didn’t listen….now I will make sure you do.”

 

With that reminder, I end a game she should have never played, and take pleasure in watching her lose her tether to this world. 


Red

Somewhere along the way I fell in love with a tiny blonde whirlwind. I never expected to find love. I sure as hell never expected to be a father. When I went into the military, I was looking for something to give my life meaning. I was pissed at all the fucking shit that had happened to me. It’s why I understand Steven. I was Steven. While the military gave me structure, my life didn’t have purpose until I met Kitty. She’s who gives me perch, purpose, meaning, and saves me everyday. I’m never going to be the guy who shows the world how I feel, but I love Kitty without exception. I can’t help but think of her, as I check the locks on the doors, and make sure the house is safe for the night. All of this. Every flip of a light, shake of a handle is because of her. I will never let her and our children be anything but safe and secure. The dumbasses don’t think I do bed checks, but I do….everynight. I check on them for the same reason, I secure the house...I love them. I quietly walk up the stairs, to begin the process. I slowly open Eric’s door, to find him sprawled across his bed, his breathing slow and even for the first time in a long time. I walk in, and adjust the blanket over my son. He thinks I am disappointed in him, but he makes proud everyday. I lightly tousle his hair, happy to see him sleeping deeply. I smile at his deep slumber. I know it’s because he and the loud one made up. He and Steven think they won’t be the same after everything, but what they don’t know is brothers always make it back to each other. 

 

I close the door without sound, and walk to Laurie’s room. I’ve taken to taking bets with myself if Jackie will be in her bed or not. I’m guessing after the day they had with Pam, Donna, and her and Eric making up, she will be missing. I push the door open, to find the bed empty. I know I should be angry at her. I know I should kick Steven’s ass, but I find I don’t want to. I trudge silently to the basement. I know what I will find in Steven’s room, I don’t really need to look, but I can’t find rest if I don’t know they are in their beds. I know sometimes they sneak out without me knowing, other times I am perfectly aware, but I have to at least know they started out safe and secure. I open the door to find a sight I know by heart at this point… Steven wrapped around Jackie. Even in sleep, he tries to protect her. Jackie is pulled close to his chest, his arms securely around her. She is tucked peacefully under his chin, finding the rest most of her life has denied her. I can’t bring myself to give them hell. These two wayward kids, who didn’t start as my children, but became mine, deserve to have a tether in the night. I am not sentimental by any means, but I can't help but look at them and know their love will last. Life is hard. No one knows that more than these two children, who never got a chance to be kids, but I’m confident they will make it together. So, I close the door, let them sleep, and will continue to pretend that I am unaware that Jackie sneaks down here. 

 

I’ve done my check. My house is secure. My loved ones are tucked in. It’s time to find peace in who made this all possible.

 

Chapter Text

1981

Donna

I wander on a narrow beach, only a few yards from my apartment, worrying a sturdy piece of paper in my hand. It’s close to 2:00 in the afternoon, which means it is almost four in Point Place. It means right now Jackie is getting ready to walk down the aisle, towards the man who has been her friend, her lover, the source of betrayal, her heart, and now her husband. I’m thrilled for her. I am. Coming to California after breaking up with Eric was a crucial moment in my life. I left because I didn’t want to watch him love Jackie. I left because I couldn’t watch the judgment that would never be lifted in Hyde’s eyes. I left because I wasn’t a Donna I was proud of anymore. I left because sometimes you have to leave to heal, start over, and to find what you never knew you wanted. I didn’t know I wanted more than the friends who were my tiny universe. Sure, I had always dreamed of traveling and writing, but truthfully it was just something I thought about, it was never concrete. 

 

Leaving Point Place saved me. It saved my heart. I still miss them. I miss them so much, I can barely breathe sometimes. They are my history, my memories, and every important moment of my childhood. How could I not miss them and wish things were different? That being said, I don’t regret coming here, and I plan to never go back. I stop, look at the sun, and let the breeze tease my hair. I do regret  I said I couldn’t come to the wedding. I should have gone. I should have done it for Jackie. Sometimes I wonder if I won’t ever not fail Jackie, but we talked about it, and I know she understands. 

 

Jackie…… she is the one, surprisingly, who I am in contact with, despite the harsh words and feelings I directed at her.  She is the one who has been out to visit me multiple times. She is the one who I talk to on a regular basis. When I got my first article published in a local magazine out here, I called her right away. I wanted to be mad at her. I was desperate to blame her for my heartache, but after some time, I could recognize my heartbreak wasn’t her fault. It was Eric’s fault. It was Hyde’s for being a judgemental asshole when his mistakes could fill a black hole. It doesn't matter anymore. It doesn't. I’ve learned loving Eric was about loving what was easy and comfortable. I miss him, but I don’t miss being in love with him. I lost complete contact with Fez. Fez, I miss. I regret taking my confused anger out on the idea he would pick Jackie over me. It cost me a sincere friend. Kelso, still pops up now and then….and I simply love that. It’s so Kelso. Whenever he calls, it’s like no time has passed. He surprised me once, knocked on my door, and there he was. I was shocked. I asked him why he had come with no warning, and all he would say is he had done something. Something he couldn’t take back. Something he never meant to cause the problem it did. He stayed a month. Never telling me what happened. He stayed until my phone rang, and it was Jackie. Her voice was sad, almost broken. All she said was “Tell Kelso, it’s time to come home. Tell him I need him.”

 

Like always when Jackie calls, the men in her life come running. I’ll never understand it. It will probably irritate me forever, but not enough anymore that I let it ruin Jackie and I. The gang of stupid boys I grew up with were big on pacts. Nothing caused more hurt in our group than the violation, and attempt to hold true to childhood promises. Despite the destruction those promises and betrayals had, I made one myself. One I’ve been keeping since, Jackie and I grew back together.

 

Love my friend first. Jackie’s the person whose worth fighting for. 

 

She’s the one who never abandons, and always works for forgiveness. Where Jackie loves, she does it fiercely. That I will never throw away again for a guy. I will never choose a guy again over my own happiness.

 

I stare at the invitation in my hand, and smile. I’m so damn happy for her, even if I can’t watch it myself. I drop the invite into the waves, and watch the ocean take it away. 

 

Somewhere along the way, I learned a beautiful and terrible truth, happiness can’t be found in another person, it must be found in yourself. I’m happy. I’m content. I’m back to being me. 

 



Kelso

Before

He had been sick to his stomach since Chicago happened. After Hyde took off and disappeared, watching Jackie’s face crumble in pain, had provoked a panic in him that was  indescribable. He fled to California. He knew Donna would let him hang out with her. Despite the break in their group where she was concerned, they were still Donna and Kelso. There had always been something about Donna, he found comforting. It’s why when he had come across her all those years ago runaway from home, he had jumped at the chance to go with her.  He ran away, and it cost him a future with Jackie. He knew rationally, he never would have kept her forever, but sometimes he forgot. Sometimes when he looked at Jackie and Hyde, he told himself if he hadn’t left that summer, he would still have her. He was a fucking idiot. That lunacy had caused him to hurt her again. He was terrified this time his stupidity would kill her. He wished he was braver, but his answer, like Hyde's, was to bail. Watching a hurt Jackie was an exercise he wasn’t up for. Kelso kept trying to make it right in his head. He kept trying to find a “why” it was okay for him to make a pass at his friend’s girl. He kept telling himself, she had left Hyde to go to Chicago. He pressed down the memory of the agony of her tears on the way up, and the steady flow of pain when they arrived. Kelso had no plans to go home until he could make right what he knew was wrong. Kelso couldn’t help but wonder if he would be in California forever. 


1981

I’m sitting in the audience instead of standing next to him. I never imagined there would be a day where if one of us got married, the three of us wouldn’t stand together, but here we are. I want to be standing next to him. I want us to be the friends we have always been, but mistakes were made. Mistakes that drove him and Jackie down a road of pure hell. Sure, no one forced him to make the choices he did. No one forced him to be a complete and total bastard. No one made him nearly break Jackie, but I sure helped push them there. It’s hard loving Jackie and not having her. I study both Hyde and Eric, both of them know the reality of loving her, and not having her. It’s hell. It always has been, and it always will be. There was a moment, when they were barely hanging on, I lost my mind and imagined I could get her back. I made the decision to be an ass instead of someone she could count on, and it rocked our world. I don’t know why Jackie speaks to any of us. Between Eric, Hyde, and myself, we have done her heart more wrong than anyone else. I don’t know why, but she forgave me. She called me and told me to come home. She told me she needed her friend. When I came back, I came back to a world I didn’t recognize. I found a Jackie wobbly on her feet like a fighter on the ropes. A Hyde who appeared dead inside, and a stranger inserting herself into our lives. 

 

Fez and I helped her find her feet. She and I had it out. She made it perfectly clear she would never be with me again…. ever. Jackie had stared at me without blinking and told me if I ever tried what I did in Chicago again, she was calling in Devin. In all the years, since it came out that Jackie was the daughter of a mobster. She had never used him as a threat. She wasn’t kidding. If I hurt her again, she was bringing in her line in the sand….her father. Who didn’t and wasn't responding well to his “bambina” being heartbroken. Sometimes, I think Hyde’s only alive, because Jackie wouldn’t let Devin “take care” of the problem. Dude is scary as fuck. 

 

So here I sit, sorry that I’m not standing with one of my oldest friends. We’ve made peace. Most of the time, we are who we used to be. Most of the time….because forgiveness has never been Hyde’s strong suit. I know I’m not up there because he doesn’t want this day associated with me in any way. This day is about him and Jackie. The music starts, and I quickly glance at Hyde. His eyes are bare. His face open. He looks happy. Really fucking happy, and I find I’m not jealous. This was always the end game, no matter how stupid I got.  I told Jackie a long time ago when we sat on the Water Tower, something I believed then, and know without a doubt now….

 

“You have two choices, you either need to tell him there is no way in hell you two will get back together, or that you are willing to work on forgiving him. He won’t ever stop fighting for you, because I’m guessing you are the only person he has thought was worth fighting for.”

 

For a while, Hyde stopped fighting. I know he believed he could never come back from his shattering choices, but somethings can’t be helped. Some things can’t be prevented. Somethings, no matter how derailed, can’t be kept from getting back on track. Somethings can’t be stopped even when an idiot friend in his most selfish moment sought to wreck it. 

 

Jackie and Hyde should be together. They just don’t work without each other. Apart, they fall into shells of themselves. I’m never going to love Jackie like that. I’m not sure I’m capable of loving anyone like that.

 

Somewhere along the way, I realized I’m never going to love Jackie the way Hyde does. I love her still….more than I should, but she isn’t the love of my life. The love of my life is the tiny flower girl making her way down the aisle towards her mother. I smile at my baby, and find I’m content after all to just watch. Sometimes the best view is from the sidelines. 





Fez

Before

He rocked her back and forth as she sobbed brokenly in his arms. He wasn’t a man prone to violence, but at that moment Fez wanted to kill Hyde. Fez loved no one like he loved Jackie, and absorbing her heartbreak into his body was devastating. He held her until she cried herself to sleep. Fez scooped her up, and placed her in her bed. He shut the door to her room, grabbed his keys, and decided to tell his friend how he felt.

 

Fez for the first time in his life, stormed into the basement, angry, looking for blood, and was thrilled to find his target. Their eyes met instantly, and Fez knew that Hyde knew. It was the only time in his life he would ever throw a punch, and years from now, he would never be sorry. 


1981

When I came to this country many years ago, I thought I would learn English, take part in the American Experience, and go back home. It never occurred to me the land of my birth would ever stop being home, but it did.  Home is here, in this quiet little town in Wisconsin. Home is a bunch of friends who have loved me without judgment. Home is the bride who will walk down the aisle in mere moments. Leave it to Jackie to have a best man instead of a maid of honor. She and Hyde went a round about who should get me on their side. Despite me punching him in the face, we have remained close. He told me he deserved the punch, and he was proud of me for it. It didn’t matter what Hyde wanted. She won, of course. Hyde likes to pretend he stands tough against Jackie, but in the grand scheme of things, he gives in more than any of us to her. I couldn’t help but ask her why she didn’t want Eric. Their friendship has survived growing up, heartbreak, and brutal anger. She had laid her head on my shoulder, and said two things. 

 

“Oh Fezzie, I want someone up there who has always just loved me for me. I want someone up there who has loved me best. Besides, Steven needs his brother with him.”

 

So here I stand, proud to be her best man, next to Brooke, who has become an essential part of Jackie’s world. I’m excited to watch my Goddess make her way to the man she has fought so hard for. There was a time, I thought this day would never come. There was a time I believed my Goddess would break, but I’ve learned to never underestimate Jackie. Nothing stops her. Not abuse. Not abandonment. Not betrayal or heartbreak. Jackie’s desire to live and love trumps all obstacles. I wish I had that drive. I wish I could have the love of my life, but somewhere along the way I learned not all love is possible. We don’t all get our heart’s desire……

 

Donna didn’t get Eric

 

Eric was never going to have Jackie

 

Kelso wasn’t ever going to have her either, and…. I’m never going to have Michael Kelso. 

 

It still hurts, but I also know it’s okay to not always get what you want. What you want is not what is always good for you. I’ve learned that when a door is impossibly locked, that another one opens. I look out into the crowd, and meet the eye of the man who has started to replace Kelso. I’m not ready to tell anyone but Jackie, and I’m not sure if this world will ever be okay with how I love, but if Jackie has taught me anything….it's anything is possible and can be achieved. 



Devin

Before

He had come late to the game of being a father, but he had taken to the protective part naturally. His need to shield Jackie was tremendous. Between how she grew up and his ever present worry she could be hurt because of him, his desire to make life easy for her was overwhelming. Right now, he wanted to strangle the life out of Steven Hyde with his bare hands. Seeing his vibrant and sassy daughter wilt away, because of what he now believed a worthless boy was infuriating. You didn’t kill for heartbreak. In any other situation, he would have laughed at anyone for wasting the time and resources to take someone out because of a broken heart. That was before it was his daughter’s heart. Devin had never wanted to hurt someone more than he did Steven Fucking Hyde. Sadly, he had promised he would behave himself, but that didn’t mean the boy and him weren’t going to have a chat.


1981

I never wanted a daughter. I never wanted to be a father, but the universe gave me one anyway. My beautiful, feisty, exceptional Jacqueline. I gaze at my daughter draped in Italian silk, wearing Kitty Forman’s veil, and know I’m not responsible for who she is. Jackie is the woman who she is because she was abused, and chose to not be her tragedy. Jackie is who she is in daily defiance of who created, formed, and gave her life. Yes, including me. There is so much of me in her. Her fight. Her cunning. Her refusal to be taken down, but her love, light, kindness, and desire to rise above, is thanks to her own spirit and the Formans. As I’ve said many times before, I am eternally in Red Forman’s debt. He saved my life. He saved Patrick’s life, and he saved my baby girl. There is no man on earth safer than Red Forman. There is no man I respect more or am humbled by as him. He is simply an admirable man. Before she walks towards her new future on Red’s arm, I wanted a few moments with her. I continue to be her father from a distance for her safety, and I would never deny Red the privilege he has earned...to walk his daughter down the aisle. Before, I hand her to Red, there are things, I must ask.

 

“Are you ready, Bambina?” It’s time.”

 

“I am Babbo.” 

 

Her eyes crinkle at the Italian word for Daddy. It is her private name for me, what she decided she wanted to call me. Around anyone else, she calls me Devin, but when alone, I get to be her father. I get to be her Babbo.

 

“Before we go, I want to ask you something. Be honest with me Jaqueline. There is little I wouldn’t do for you, my bambina. So don’t hesitate in your answer.”

 

Her eyes go from soft with anticipation for her wedding day to curious. I sweep her hair over her shoulder, and tip her chin. I want to study her. 

 

“Is this what you want?” After everything? Can you let go of all the pain and love him anyway? Because if you have doubts, I’ll take you away from here instantly, my baby girl.”

 

Her gypsy eyes gifted to her by her ancestors meld with an impossible mixture of soft but steel. Her answer has not a shred of worry. This is a woman who knows her heart, even if it worries me. 

 

“I love him. I always have. I always will. He messed up. I know he did. He loves me. Sometimes you have to fall to pieces to come back stronger. I have no doubt in him. I have no doubt in us.”

 

My daughter. I don’t have words for the pride and love I feel for her. I kiss her head, and reflect briefly again on how much I wanted to make Young Steven pay for hurting her. I would have, but Red stopped me. I can’t deny his request for his daughter. Because she is his daughter. Genetics don’t trump what he has with my child. She is mine, but she belongs to Red Forman. I gently tug the veil over her face. I’m escorting her to Red. This part is my privilege, whether I’ve earned it or not. We find Red waiting for us outside the closed doors of the sanctuary. I lean down and kiss her check.

 

“Bellissimo, I love you. You have my blessing and my heart.”

 

Her smile is brilliant, and my heart catches at the sight of it.

 

Somewhere along the way, I discovered there is something I want more than power. I want to see my daughter happy, loved, and content. If Steven gives her anything less than her heart’s desire, I’ll kill him and bury him in my backyard. 



Red

Before

He watched Devin pace with a violent energy that worried him. Ever since Steven had come home with Sam, and Jackie had shattered into a million pieces, Red had been worried Devin would go after him. He understood. He was far from pleased with Steven himself. Frankly, he wanted to kick his ass, but somethings you have to stay out of. His fears were proven correct, by words powerfully frigid, 

 

“I’ll kill him. She’s broken Red. That mother fucker broke her. He doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air as her. I’ll end him. I’ll do it myself.”

 

Red did something men tougher than him would not dare to do. He put Devin Calabrese in his palace.

 

“Devin, knock it off. I know you want to make up for every bad thing that has happened to her. I know you want to make sure the rest of life is smooth for her, but that’s not life. Jackie is going to experience pain, heartbreak, loss, and just flat out bad things. A parent doesn’t stop them from happening, we guide them through it. We hold them tight so they don’t fall. Besides, that boy loves her. He loves her more than he knows what to do with. He’s fucked up badly. I want to kick his ass, but he’s got to make a decision. He’s either got to get back off the ground and fight for her, or he needs to let her go. I know he will do the right thing. Leave him alone Devin. When he gets his head out of his ass, he is still going to love her, and she still loves him.”

 

He looked at Devin dead in the eye, and asked for the seal of safety. 

 

“Give me your word Devin, that you won’t hurt him.”

 

Red watched his friend master himself. He could see Devin didn’t want to do what he was being asked.

 

“I give you my word.”

 

Red let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding, and let worry about Steven’s safety evaporate. Devin was a man of his word, and Red knew he wouldn’t break it.


1981

When I had my first child and it was a baby girl, I dreamed of giving her away to a worthy man. I thought about what type of man would love my Laurie, and prayed he would deserve her. That dream was never realized. Laurie is and always will be my greatest failure. What type of man doesn’t know where his daughter is? What manner of man raises such an unfeeling and self-absorbed creature? I don’t have answers to that, but somewhere along the way I learned sometimes, no matter how much love, care, and structure you provide….a person makes choices to be who they are. Laurie was given nothing but love, but she isn’t capable of giving it herself. The young girl I’m walking down the aisle, who is my daughter in every way, but blood was handed a terrible and cruel childhood, but she chooses to love. Her loyalty and passion for those she deems worthy of her heart, are forgiven and accepted for who they are. No one more than the man I’m about to hand her to. Steven, like Jackie, had a hell of a life. He could be Enda. He could be a drunk. He could be rotting away in jail, but he chose to escape the sentence everyone who only sees the outside, predicted for him. He has fallen a couple of times, but he chose to get back up. That’s what life is all about… .choices. 

 

I chose Kitty. I made the conscious choice to not let my heart be fashioned of stone.

 

Devin chooses to be a criminal, despite knowing exactly the consequences and risk.

 

Pam and Jack Burkhart chose to be abusive parents, and the fate that fell upon them is one of their own making. I’ve known Devin for a long time, as soon as Pam sought Jackie out after being told not to, I knew he would kill her. He has never said a word, but I’m far from stupid.

 

I choose to be okay with it. I choose to be friends with men who end lives and dole out their own brand of justice. 

 

Jackie chose Steven

 

Steven chose to fuck it up

 

They both chose to fix it, and now they are making the conscious choice to walk life together.

 

I know Steven is a worthy man. I believe in him. I always have. I always will. Even when he was being a dumbass, I knew he would do the right thing. I raised him to be that way. The boy I brought home and helped form, has the heart of a warrior, and even warriors fall sometimes. I never doubted he wouldn't regain his feet in battle, and that is why when Pastor Dave asks

 

‘Who gives this woman away?”

 

I choose to answer “Her mother and I do.” 



Hyde

Before

He had taken to getting up first thing in the morning and grabbing a beer before his eyes were even all the way open. Fucking his life over had driven him down a spiral he didn’t have any interest in stopping. He lost Jackie. He did what he said he would never do again…. He doubted her. Then, because he wasn’t satisfied with being the one who told her to “have a nice trip”, in the middle of his panic attack she was out growing and leaving him behind, he took one God Damn Look at Fucking Kelso and lost his mind. Did he stop there? Nope. He drank and banged his way through Vegas. Finally, he had figured out that wasn’t going to stop the Jackie in his mind. He had decided to head back and fix them. Because by then Eric had screamed at him several times through the phone, “YOU FUCKING MORON!” and he knew she had not cheated. He didn’t really need Eric to tell him that, but Eric threatening to come and get his “sorry ass” finally made him take stock. He had screwed up. It was time to beg on his knees, but he had never gotten the chance, because seconds after he got home, a nightmare with store bought blonde hair claimed to be his wife appeared. Until he died, no amount of booze or drugs would push out Jackie’s face when Sam pronounced herself his wife. Watching Jackie and him go up in flames caused him to shut down. He went into self-protection mode.  He proceeded to be a dick to Jackie whenever she was within five feet of him. He couldn’t stand to be in the same room as her, and not have her. It was his hell loop, so he went back to a method from long ago...hate. Make her hate him, so she would stay away. So he wouldn’t die looking at her. Then the nightmare took a twist to mock him for his crimes. He found out it had all been a hustle. They weren’t even married. He didn’t believe it could get worse, until he found her and Forman kissing. He had actually felt his knees go weak. What he had been worried about for years had come to pass. Eric had finally gotten the guts to go after Jackie. She was finally done being stupid, and realized Eric was better for her.

 

He had moved out the next day. If he stayed, he would have murdered Eric. He stopped talking to him.The mere idea of Eric with Jackie incited a rage in him that usually ended with him throwing empty bottles of whiskey across the room, and then him sitting for hours, drinking until he couldn’t see her face. His life had become working, drinking, getting high, drinking some more, and begging God to end him. Because life without Jackie was hell, and imagining Jackie with Forman was torture. 

 

He stumbled out of his shit bedroom barely sober, ready to make barely not sober at all, and found something that leached every bit of clouded thinking out of his head. There in his apartment, that he knew he had locked was Devin Calabrese. A Devin Calabrese who looked pissed. Devin was up out of his chair, had him in his grip, and slammed him into a chair before he could stutter a word. Then he delivered a speech that Hyde would never forget.

 

“If it were up to me, you would be dead. I told you to not hurt my daughter, or there would be retribution, but yet you did it anyway. I’m not a man who makes idle threats. You claimed your life wouldn’t be worth living without her.”

 

He interrupted Devin, unable to hold back what his heart screamed at him daily.

 

“It isn’t worth living. I’m not living. I’m just waiting to die.”

 

“You’re pathetic. Get the fuck up off your knees, and fight. Be a man, and fix what you destroyed. I would be more than happy to provide you death. I would have fucking ended you months ago. You’re alive for two fucking reasons. Red asked me not to take out your sorry ass. You better thank Jesus every day, that Red Forman is in your life, because I would have shot you and buried you without hesitation. Second, I won’t break her heart. You’re alive because even though you are currently not only beneath my daughter and a fool, she still loves you. I’m done watching her mourn for you. I will not have it. Fucking get yourself together, and do right by my daughter… or so help me God, I will kill you, and make it look an accident.”

 

Devin dropped him, strode out, leaving him stone sober. It wasn’t the death threat that cleared out the last measure of booze. It wasn’t that Red had stepped in front of him, that brought clarity to his senses. It was “she still loves you.” Hyde knew that Devin Calabrese was not a man, who was given to romance. He was a man, brutally realistic in all areas. If he said Jackie still loved him….then she must. His heart began to pound. If there was even a shred of him left in Jackie’s heart, he had a chance. He got up off the floor, and for the first time in months headed to the shower with purpose. It was time to get his Doll back.


1981

I’m an idiot. The beautiful woman gliding towards me was almost lost to me forever. It was no one’s fault, but my own. It would be easy to blame Kelso and a crap hotel room in Chicago, but I’m the one who forgot a truth that should never be doubted….

 

“Jackie loves me.”

 

It seems impossible to me every day, but she does. Her heart has never failed to trust, support, love, and believe in me. True, there have been times when she has made choices that have hurt me, but they were never done with malice. She has never wavered in her devotion. It was me who forgot how much she loved me, not her. It was me who forgot she could be trusted without explanation. It was me who let the other men in our lives being in love with her cloud my jealous judgment. It was me who was stupid and forgot that Kelso is an idiot and can’t keep his hands to himself. Jackie’s my God Damn Miracle, and now that I’m done being a dumbass, I will never forget it. I don’t care if I find her naked in a field of flowers with Forman, I won’t think twice. Jackie’s heart doesn’t betray where it loves. It’s that simple. 

 

My eyes leave her briefly, to the motion of her father coming in the side door. His eyes meet mine. He simply stares, there is no mistaking his message. He will not accept me ever hurting his daughter again. I will not accept it either. I don’t let my eyes linger long, because I don’t want to look at anyone but Jackie. She’s beautiful. She has said for years, she was made to be a bride, and she was right. She is simply stunning. Her dress, her hair, and her makeup are flawless, but that’s not what I can’t take my eyes off...it’s her gaze. It’s those mystical, gypsy, mosaic, heather filled eyes. Her love for me is so bright, I don’t know how I ever doubted it. I’ve done nothing to deserve her, as a matter of fact, I’ve done fucking everything I can to lose her and prove to her I am garbage, yet she has forgiven me. She allowed me to get back up off the floor, and try again. I’m barely listening to the official ceremony, answering automatically. I’m waiting for my vows. I hear Pastor Dave prompt me, and I start without hesitation. 

 

“Jackie, you know saying the right thing at the right time has never been my strong suit, but I think this time, I’ve got it handled. I want to promise that I love you, that I will love you forever. I want to promise you that I will trust and believe in you. I want to promise I will take care of you. I want to promise you are my number one priority. I want to promise you that I know how bad I messed up. I’m sorry for every tear I’ve caused, every ache in your heart, and for being less than the man you deserve. I promise I will spend the rest of my life loving you hard, and with everything I am. If I fail…I deserve whatever happens to me.”

 

I briefly pull my eyes away from her gaze to find an unyielding  stare. It’s my promise to Devin. I want him to know that my life is second to Jackie’s. I let it only linger for a second, before I fall back to her, and finish my vows.

 

"I love you Jackie. Thank you for loving me. You are my heart. You are my grasshopper. You are my Doll….forever.”



Eric

Before

 Eric was more than prepared to face a drunk, or high or both Hyde. He was ready to kick his ass. It surprised him when Hyde ripped the door open, and he was stone sober. Eric could see the ravages of grief in his eyes, but for the first time in a long time, he didn’t see someone who was dead.

 

“What the fuck do you want Forman?” Hyde growled out.

 

Hurt years in the making lashed right back at Hyde’s rude comment,

 

“I want you to stop hurting her. I want you to stop being the bastard that could be your parents. I want you to stop crushing her. You once said you hated that you shared any part of her heart with anyone else. Well too damn bad…. Get the fuck over it. Jackie loves. She loves Kelso. She loves me. She loves Fez, but the only person she has ever been IN LOVE WITH IS YOU. You are a selfish bastard.  You’ve cheated. You’ve bailed. You’ve fucked up so many times it’s not even funny, but yet she still loves you.”

 

His breathing stuttered out. He was so mad. He was so hurt that he would never have the woman he loved. He was so pissed his friend would throw away a chance at having a woman love him completely. 

 

His eyes had never left Hyde’s, and like always they were inscrutable and nearly impossible to read...except one thing… he couldn’t hide, he still loved Jackie. He watched Hyde take a deep breath….

 

“What do you want me to say?”

 

Eric jumped on the question “I want you to admit you still want Jackie.” I want you to admit you love her. I want you to fix the cracks in her heart. I want you to stop being stupid.”

 

Hyde looked at him silently for what seemed like ages, and replied

 

“Why would the guy dating her want another guy to say he was in love with his girlfriend?”

 

This time Eric couldn’t keep eye contact, this time he had to look away. 

 

“Because we aren’t together. Because she came to me and told me she would rather be alone than pretend to not be in love with you. Because she didn’t want to lie to me. Because her happiness means something to me……”

 

His voice trailed off, and then he said a reality that hurt like hell, but was his gospel truth,

 

“I love her enough to let her go.” 

 

Silence was his response again, but after a second, a voice gruff with emotion reached his ears.

 

“Loving Jackie is all I know how to do, and my options are either get her back and love her for the rest of my life, or drink myself to death.”

 

With that, Eric watched him step back and slam the door in his face. It was right then standing outside of his brother’s door, he finally got it. He didn’t love Jackie like that. He wouldn’t die without her. He could live with her being with Hyde. His love for Jackie was big, and often consuming, but it wasn’t the source of his life. Jackie was not his forever. He felt something click in his heart, and for the first time in a long time, he knew he would be okay. He knew with a strange certainty they would all be okay.


1981

As I watch her pledge herself to my oldest friend...my brother really, I can’t help but feel wistful. I still love her. I still look at her and wish she was mine. For a brief moment, when she was on her knees and lost in a hurricane of pain Hyde forecast on her, I made my move. We tried to be together, and then one day she came to me and told me she was sorry, but she couldn’t date her best friend. She told me she loved me with all her heart, and she would never love anyone like she loved me, but she would never be in love with me. She told me her heart didn’t feel passion for me, and then because she is Jackie, and her heart is honest, she looked at me and whispered…

 

“I still love him. I’m never going to stop. It’s him or nothing. I would rather be alone than pretend to love someone like I love him.”

 

It nearly killed me, because I do love her. I had told himself this was my chance, that maybe I would get to love her the way my heart had been dreaming of for years. I wanted nothing more at that moment to grab her, and beg. I wanted her to know with me, she would never hurt. Then I looked in her eyes. I really looked, for the first time in a long time, and I saw what I had been refusing to see. I comprehend what I had done my very best to ignore...her need and consuming love for Hyde. I knew in that minute...she was dead serious in her words, it was either with Hyde or alone. There was no one but him, it would always be Hyde. What she had needed this whole time was not a boyfriend, but her best friend. I had drawn her close, kissed the top of her head, and whispered

 

“I love you Devil. As long as you and I are the friends we have always been, I’m happy.”

 

As I witness Hyde slip a stunning Sapphire, Emerald and Diamond ring on Jackie’s finger (he wanted a ring that represented her eyes), a question pops into my head,

 

“What do you need?”  

 

Hyde is her answer. I know she is for him. We all need certain things to survive. Oxygen, water, food, shelter...all the basics that keep us alive. All of us need these things to exist, but having those things doesn’t mean you are living. Jackie and Hyde can exist in this world without each other. I’ve seen it. It isn’t pretty. It is actually pretty horrific. To live….they need each other. To have purpose. To dream. To defy the odds that is their nature, they must be together. Together they love, live, and triumph. 

 

I watch Hyde lean down and kiss Jackie as Pastor Dave pronounces them husband and wife. As they break apart, her eyes slide to mine briefly, and I see all the clouds of yesterday are gone. She’s happy, and I love that. Just before they start to walk down the aisle away, she mouths,

 

“I love you Geek.” 

 

I mouth to her “I love you back Devil.”

 

Her eyes move quickly back towards her future. My girl is going to be okay. She is going to be more than okay, she is going to be happy. She’s my best friend. She’s the Devil. She’s the girl I still love. She’s the girl who doesn’t love me back the same. She’s the love of Hyde’s life. She’s the woman he can’t live without. 

 

Somewhere along the way…. I decided I was more than okay with all of that.



Jackie

Before

She laid in her bed, staring at the ceiling. She had no idea who she was anymore. Losing Steven and watching him turn into a total stranger had smacked her to the ground. She had watched him work his damnedest to make sure she knew she meant nothing. She had experienced the man she loved purposely with premeditated intent break her into pieces. He had achieved his goal. Most people didn’t realize this about Steven, but when he really wanted something, nothing stopped him. He had wanted to destroy what was left of her heart, and she could safely say that he had achieved his desire. She wanted to cry, but her pain was past the point of tears. Her pain was at the level where she felt nothing but the crushing reality of knowing she was lost. She had tried a farce of a relationship with Eric. She had known from the start it was wrong. She had known it would end with her hurting him, and she had given up quickly. There was one man for her. It might make her pathetic. It might make her stupid, but Steven was it. She was never going to love anyone like him. So she threw in the towel with Eric and accepted her fate. She would live alone with the memory of a love that she was pretty sure she couldn’t live without.  She was about to roll over on her side, and attempt to sleep, when there was a loud pounding on her door. She sighed heavily. If Fez was plowed and forgot his keys, he was a dead man. He had been staying out more, and Jackie wasn’t in the mood for  drunk Fez. She marched towards the door, yelling

 

“Damn it Fez. You need to remember your….” 

 

She never got the last word out, because as she ripped the door open in fury, she found herself face to face with Steven Hyde. A Steven Hyde she hadn’t seen in a very long time….her Steven.

 

“What are you doing here?” she whispered out.

 

“Can I come in?”

 

“No. Fez isn’t here. Come back later.” she jabbed back. 

 

“I’m not here for Fez. I’m here for you.”

 

“What?”

 

 All her pain was inside that one word. He hadn’t actively sought her out in months. They barely talked. Then before she could even form another thought, he fell to his knees.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. I love you Jackie. I’m going to love you until I die. You shouldn’t trust me. You shouldn’t forgive me.You should kick me in the face and tell me to go to hell, but I'm begging you to give me a chance to fix it. Give me a chance to make it right. Give me a chance to help you fall in love with me again. I’m here on my knees, Jackie. Please.”

 

She didn’t have any response, other than to fall to her knees and bury her face in her hands. Instantly arms she loved, missed, craved, and was certain she would never feel again wrapped around her. He held her tight, as he experienced her grief.  She sobbed for every terrible lash on her heart. After awhile, words that were watery and shaken slipped into her heart.

 

“Tell me there is hope Jackie. I’ll do anything to fix us. I’ll never stop fighting if I know there is hope.”

 

She raised her eyes to his. To eyes bare for the first time in a long time. To eyes that were honest. To eyes that acknowledged that this wouldn’t be easy and that it shouldn’t be easy. To eyes she loved with all she was, and said the only thing that could be said.

 

“There is always hope.”

 

1981

Who knew happiness was so exhausting? My heart is so full that my mind can barely keep up. My eyes are heavy with the day, and I feel my mind drift away, away to my life. To how I got here…..

 

Once there was a girl who everyone called princess and they assumed she lived a fairytale. She was actually really living a twisted version of a tale. The princess grew up among money and influence, but wicked and cruel people abused the princess. The princess dreamed someone would save her, but no one did. The princess had to save herself. The princess had help saving herself, from a skinny peasant boy and his family. They saved her heart from being dark. They saved her from letting the cruelty consume her. Somewhere along the way, the princess met a grumpy peasant boy, who, much like her, suffered at the hands of cruel parents. They fell in love. The princess was positive she had finally found her happy ever after. There was no one the princess loved more than the grumpy peasant boy. Not the Goofy Court Jester, who had long entertained her. Not the boy from a foreign land. Not even the skinny peasant boy, who had always been her loyal companion. What the princess felt for the grumpy peasant boy was all consuming. Sadly, the princess’s heart would break again, because the grumpy peasant boy couldn’t believe a princess would love a peasant. The grumpy peasant boy hurt the princess more than once. It looked like the princess would forever be broken hearted, but a shadow protector the princess had gained along the way, and the skinny peasant boy gave the very stubborn, stupid, pigheaded, refuses to listen grumpy peasant boy a Come to Jesus Talk. It wasn’t that they needed to tell him to love the princess. He loved the princess so much, it nearly killed him. He had become cruel to the princess. He nearly drown his love for her in drink, and with a terrible, tacky, slutty woman who was evil.  He loved her so much, he forgot how much she loved him. That was what the tongue lashing he received was about. He needed to be reminded her heart was loyal and true. The grumpy peasant boy could be stupid. The boy, who was now a man, decided to get off his stubborn ass, and fight for the princess’s heart. He didn’t really need to, he never lost it, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to let him just have it back, after being such a complete moron. Still, the princess had no resistance when it came to him. She loved him more than her heart could hold, and when he asked for her hand, she nearly knocked him down. It was the wedding the kingdom would ever forget. They had a long quest to get to this point, but when the Grumpy Boy (now man) Vowed to love the Princess forever, she knew she finally had her fairytale. 




I’m pulled from my silly and fanciful thoughts by a soft and loving voice, and hands playing with my curls. 

 

“What are you thinking about Doll?”

 

 Steven places a soft kiss on my forehead, and I snuggle closer to his chest. I absorb the love pouring out of his fingertips, stroking my back and teasing my hair. I take too long to respond, because he asks again,

 

“Doll? You okay? What’s going through that head of yours?”

 

I smile at the slight worry in his voice, and kiss his chest.

 

“Us. Our story.”

 

Steven curls me closer, and asks me tenderly,

 

“Is it everything you wanted? Today? Us?”

 

I raise my head, and look into those eyes, eyes that show endless pools of love, and I think of my silly thoughts. I kiss his lips sweetly, and I answer…

 

“It’s my happy ever after.”