AN: This is set after season 8 but I've not watched season 8 on the advice of shippers gone before me so I've had to piece together what happened. So where I deviated from canon, that's why. Hope you enjoy, please review.
Jackie Burkhart had been called many things by many people, but no one would have cause to call her a quitter.
So her life wasn't perfect at the moment – so far from perfect – but that didn't mean she was going to give up. She couldn't disappoint her adoring public like that. She put her hands on her hips and fixed the crowd at the roller disco with her signature 'look', a cool combination of sultry and upbeat.
Those years of cheerleading weren't going to waste as she worked the audience. She was glad the bright light obscured their watching faces. Jackie knew her friends were out there in the dark, cheering her on if they knew what was good for them.
Donna, infused with the giddiness of Eric's recent return, had suggested they'd go to cheer Jackie on. At first Jackie has been on the fence about their attendance, after all, she was really only competing because of the cash prize. She desperately needed money.
Her career had taken a sharp downward turn about the same time her relationship had. The thought came to her unbidden and the sadness followed afterwards like a dull ache. Jackie hoped Hyde wasn't out there but knew her odds weren't good. Her stomach cramped as she remembered a time she would have given anything for him to have come to something like this to support her. His presence at group activities had been steadily increasing and at first Jackie had cautiously allowed herself to hope it was ploy to gain her company. But now he only seemed to get enjoyment from insulting her mercilessly to the point where Jackie was beginning to suspect he was deliberately seeking out opportunities to make her feel like crap.
It had even gotten worse after his marriage was revealed to be a scam. Jackie optimistically thought its end would evaporate some of the negative tension between them.
Unfortunately Hyde's disdain was more enduring than his drunken vows and his new found hobby of torturing Jackie continued.
Shock turned to hurt, hurt to bitterness, bitterness to dislike. Well, joke's on him, Jackie thought defiantly to herself. She knew she looked incredibly hot in her tiny shorts and blown out hair. In fact, Jackie half wanted him here to see her in all her glory. Nothing got Jackie pumped more than competition followed by inevitable victory.
Her dance partner Fez was wowing everyone with some pretty spectacular moves. Her friend's enthusiasm warranted a real smile. Living with Fez had been surprisingly easy.
Sure, Jackie had to pretend she didn't notice the loss of a few pairs of underwear in the first month of cohabitation but over all, it had gone smoothly. Fez had even handled her coming on to him with grace.
Jackie winced internally as she remembered her brief infatuation with Fez, who had seemed just as stunned by her interest as all their other friends. She had been spiralling out of control and Fez had been the most stable part of her life so she had clung to him. At first he had gotten carried away with the possibility of being with Jackie, after all she was pretty damn attractive, but when he had realised she was rebounding, he had gently and kindly let her down.
Jackie remembered the conversation they'd had at 10pm on their second hand couch. It had made her cry for the first time in weeks as her denial and distraction were simultaneously snatched away. But it was also the last time she'd shed tears for Steven Hyde. That was six months ago.
Now his insults were met with withering glares and, increasingly, abuse of her own. No one knew how to hurt a person quite like a scorned lover. She knew some of her barbed comments must have wounded him. A stranger might not have seen their impact, what with his sunglasses shield and defensive body language, but Jackie knew better. She had seen the way he had to take one particularly deep breath after certain words she'd flung at him.
It was in these moments that she almost understood why he attacked her relentlessly. She felt the flush of victory and a vicious sense of accomplishment when she landed a direct hit. It was akin to adrenaline and Jackie would bask in the triumph until she was home alone and then she wondered exactly how they had got there.
And worse, she knew the answer. They had both messed up. Two teenagers trying to negotiate big feelings, their own egos and their own fears. Jackie wasn't blameless but she would never take the mantle for most malicious. Hyde didn't forget or forgive.
Fez's warm hand wrapped around hers, jolting her into the present. Thank goodness she had a commanding stage presence and therefore her wandering mind wouldn't affect their score. As if psychic, Fez made sure to catch her eye and give her a warm, encouraging grin.
It induced a rush of genuine affection in Jackie. He continued to be supportive and when Jackie had hurried home with the flyer for the competition he hadn't hesitated before agreeing to sign up with her.
The prize was a thousand dollars and, split down the middle, that was the kind of money she could do something with. What exactly she wasn't sure but at least she'd have some options. She didn't want to have to ask either of her parents for money. Her father was still in jail and that had killed their already weak relationship. Pam was off in Barcelona for the summer, enjoying the sun and sangria. She called Jackie every week, demonstrating a new found consideration that hadn't existed when Jackie was a child. Jackie appreciated the motherly gesture but she wasn't fooling herself into thinking Pam was someone she could depend upon.
Forcing herself to think happy thoughts, Jackie's eyes glittered and her body turned technicolour from the flashing lights. Letting Fez lead she moved around the rink with easy grace and balance. Jackie might not be the brains of their little group but she'd defy any of the others to pull off some of the more complicated cheering stunts she had. Jackie knew her body and appreciated what it could do.
Throwing herself completely into the routine, they finished off the last few moves flawlessly. Jackie had worked up a light sweat but the thunderous applause made it seem worthwhile. She fanned her face with her hand and smiled coquettishly.
Fez tugged her off the rink and Jackie waited anxiously for the judge's verdict. Arms wrapped around her from the side and squeezed her tight.
"You did so good!" Donna announced loudly, talking over the disco surging from the speakers. Eric and Kelso nodded in agreement. Hyde was thankfully absent.
Jackie returned the hug with a grin. She liked this Donna. They'd gone through a rough patch when news of the marriage was first revealed. It had taken a while to understand that Donna had truly been torn between the guy she'd known since preschool and her best friend.
A long chat with some apologising from the red head had put them on the mend. Eric's recent return had restored some equilibrium to the group. He was standing just behind Donna, his skin tan from his time in Africa. He and Donna had fallen back into a relationship without missing a step.
Jackie was happy for them but seeing their healthy relationship often felt like a punch in the stomach. She tried to keep it from showing on her face but Donna had picked up on it. While she couldn't not be excited about having her boyfriend back, she did make an effort not to be too affectionate with him when Jackie was around. She also made sure that they got to spend some quality girl time together, just the two of them.
"You think so?" Jackie asked. It was an empty question, she knew her and Fez had rocked that dance floor.
"Hell yeah," Kelso contributed, dropping an arm over Fez's shoulders. "You guys are so gonna win."
"We did do well, didn't we?" Fez stated with a broad grin.
Kelso nodded. "Yeah and you two were the best looking. Everyone knows the attractive people always win." He took a sip from the soda in his hand, completely confident in his assessment of the situation.
Eric raised an eyebrow but didn't dispute the somewhat flawed logic. Jackie had noticed a change in him after his time overseas. Africa had made him calmer and more mature. He wasn't as compelled to correct people these days. He'd always been the hardest person for Jackie to talk to and it was because she knew he thought she was a little bit ridiculous and a lot shallow (which wasn't entirely unjustified) but since his return they'd actually managed to have some proper conversations. Jackie was surprised but she was actually interested in his experiences overseas. After all Jackie was an urban, worldly girl trapped in a small town. And when he found out she was struggling with money, Eric and Donna had appeared on the doorstep with donuts and the jobs section of the paper. They hadn't found her anything but she'd appreciated the gesture all the same.
A hushed quiet settled when one of the judges took a microphone and stood up.
The butterflies in Jackie's stomach got more violent as he announced third and second place. She discreetly crossed her fingers.
Please, she prayed silently, I need a break.
"And the winner is…. Jackie Burkhart and-"
The rest of his words were cut off by the loud cheering that erupted from their friendship group and the rest of the audience. Jackie released a joyful squeal of her own, throwing her arms around Fez with glee.
Fez dragged her on to the stage where a trophy and, more importantly, a cheque was waiting for them. Jackie's eyes brimmed with tears of happiness as her heart suddenly felt too big for her chest to contain.
Fez kissed her cheek and swept her away from him so she could take a bow. Jackie relished in the sweeping sounds of adoration.
When they ran off, Kelso swept her into a bear hug, lifting her feet off the ground. She was too excited to scold him.
"We need to celebrate," Donna decided, leaning in to inspect the golden trophy. It was nothing special, you could buy one from the same place that cut keys, and the inscription was generic. But the piece of paper Jackie clutched in her hand was what she wanted.
"We have beer at the apartment," Fez said breathlessly. Kelso had released Jackie only to embrace Fez with the same passion.
"Alright, beer!" Kelso cheered, starting to lead the way through the crowd.
"Alright, beer!" Eric echoed with a shrug and followed his friend. Jackie started to walk but then slapped her palm to her forehead.
"Oh shoot, my jacket is backstage."
"Want me to come with?" Fez asked.
Jackie shook her head. "I'll run and grab it and meet you all at home. Remember, I drove my car here so I'll just drive home."
Jackie waved goodbye to her friends and disappeared into the crowd that had filled out the centre rink. It took her longer than she expected to get through as people kept stopping her to offer her their congratulations.
She was on a high when she finally got out back. She used the term 'backstage' loosely. It was just a cramped space where equipment was stored, where competitors could put their bags and where kids could sneak off to make out. Jackie dodged one such couple kissing frantically in a dark crevice.
Jackie located her jacket and slipped it over her shoulders. She had cooled down since she had stopped dancing. She quickly decided that she would slip out the back entry rather than try and navigate the crowd again. Sure she'd have to walk down a dark alley but if she ran, she'd be back out front on the main street in no time.
The old door was heavy and the handle had a tendency to get stuck so Jackie grabbed the handle with force and threw her small body behind the action.
The door shoved open but Jackie felt it meet resistance at the same time she heard an aggravated "ow!"
Jackie stumbled, the unexpected voice causing her to jump and lose her balance. She would recognise that voice anywhere just from the way her heart beat faster upon hearing it.
Steadying herself, Jackie looked up at the annoyed face of Steven Hyde.
Hyde wasn't exactly sure why he'd managed to attach himself to the group this evening. Their big plans consisted of going to the local roller disco to cheer on Jackie and Fez, but Hyde had figured it would be a perfect chance to rag on Jackie.
His natural gift for insults combined with her nervous energy would make for endless fun. So what if he was being a dick, it was the way he managed having her in his life. Most people broke up and that was that. They'd broken up and been forced to stay in each other's life. Turns out, neither of them had very many friends outside their immediate group.
Hyde just hadn't considered the fact that since Jackie was competing she wouldn't even be around to hear the latest burns he'd come up with. He'd spent most of his afternoon in the record shop creatively crafting some pretty wicked cut downs. Time wasted apparently.
So now he was just stuck a roller disco with shitty music.
He'd spent some time flirting with a chick that had seemed keen but like usual she had started to bore him after a while. He knew the drill too well these days. Sly flirtations, simpering laughs, hair tossing and then that persistent empty feeling gnawing at his belly.
It happened more and more often, setting in quicker than ever before. The only thing that truly got his heart rate up was making Jackie miserable. Better than any drug he'd ever sampled.
If Jackie had been around to witness it, he would have stuck it out with the girl. He'd developed his acting talents over the last couple of months and he could really put on a show, pretending like the girl he was talking to was the most interesting thing he'd come across in his life.
God that is so fascinating. Tell me more about the moment you decided fuchsia was your colour!
But he wasn't going to suffer for sufferings sake so Hyde had ditched the girl and subsequently the group. They were earnestly hoping that Jackie was going to win and Hyde was just not down for that. He got a disconcerting amount of comfort from seeing how far off her pedestal Jackie had fallen.
Sometimes he felt brief moments of guilt but he shrugged them off. This was who he was. A vindictive son of a bitch and a moron for thinking he could have a happy ending with the shallow cheerleader.
When Jackie and Fez were announced as the next performance, Hyde suddenly couldn't stomach seeing her. He'd snuck out back and opened the beer he'd smuggled in his jacket. The alley was blessedly quiet and even if it did smell a bit like garbage and something else that Hyde didn't care to identify, he far preferred it to the press of the people inside.
He wished he'd had a chance to participate in a quick circle session to take the edge off but he'd had to work late and in the end there was no time. He was going to have to make do with the beer.
Hyde slumped against the door and cracked the can open. It fizzed up unexpectedly, spilling over his hand and onto the ground. Hyde cursed angrily. Kelso had probably been at it again. Left unsupervised, his tall friend could do as much damage as a small child.
Hyde took a sip. It was too fizzy and too warm but it settled his nerves.
"Ah hell, I can't stay mad at you," Hyde joked to the can. He lost track of time, delaying going back in to find his friends. He checked his watch and realised he couldn't drag it out much longer. He swigged the last of the alcohol and lobbed it into the large skip bin.
The door swung open abruptly and caught him hard in the shoulder. "Ow!" he growled, clutching his arm.
To his complete astonishment, the culprit was none other than Jackie. Her mouth had dropped open and Hyde hastily shoved his glasses further up his nose to hide the reaction of his eyes. Even now, after everything, whenever he saw her unexpectedly a burst of white heat travelled the length of his spine. Once upon a time that had been a pleasant sensation but these days nausea took hold almost immediately.
"Resorting to bodily harm now?" he demanded. He knew it hadn't been intentional but crap, it had hurt.
Jackie regained her composure quickly. All his zen lessons had paid off and her surprise was swiftly replaced by a stony mask.
"Whatever, Hyde," she retorted crossing her arms and glaring up at him. She never called him Steven now. Which was fine with him. Stupid name anyway.
"I should sue you! Oh that's right, you have no money anymore."
Jackie merely arched an eyebrow and retrieved a small rectangle of paper from her pocket and waved it under his nose. "What's this then?"
"That's a cheque, Jackie. Any more difficult objects you need identified?" he said it slowly, like she was stupid. She barely blinked. She was harder to rile and he really had to work to get that gasp, that flicker in her eyes, that let him know he'd gotten under her skin.
"Incorrect, Hyde, as per usual. This is confirmation that I am, and always will be awesome."
"If you're offering it to me to compensate for all the emotional suffering you've inflicted on me, then I accept."
She rolled her eyes. "Dream on, Hyde." She tried to step around him.
"If you're involved then it's always a nightmare."
"As fun as this is, I have to go. I've got friends waiting for me that don't just hang out with me because they pity me." Her cheeks were filling with colour and her eyes flashed angrily.
That was below the belt but he had to acknowledge it was a good burn. He smirked; the meaner she got the more he knew that he was getting to her. If she shouted at him, he'd ride that high for days.
Hyde was about to inflict the death blow, something about being second choice to a stripper, when a dark car pulled into the entrance of the alley. The windows were tinted nearly black, the lights were off and there was no number plate.
Hyde's eyes narrowed behind his shades, instantly on alert. He was street savvy enough to know that was suspicious. And naïve Jackie was walking straight towards it. She did have a troublesome habit of getting involved with things and people that would be bad for her.
Without thinking, Hyde reached out and grabbed the back of her jacket. "Wait up a second, Jackie."
"Get your hands off me!" she spluttered, clearly flustered. He ignored her.
As he yanked her backwards, Hyde realised this was the first time he had touched in her months. Some part of him registered that but most of his attention was on the dark car.
"Shut up, Jackie," he instructed, not releasing his hold on the girl. With his free hand, he tried to open the door to the disco but it was jammed shut. He cursed and Jackie struggled against his grip.
Hyde couldn't try and open the door and control Jackie at the same time. She was surprisingly wriggly for someone so small. She broke away from him and made her escape.
"God, what is your problem?" she snapped as she strode away from him. Up ahead the doors opened and Jackie became aware for the first time that the car was blocking her exit. Two men got out of the car, one tall and bald and the other of average height with brown hair. Even from a distance, Hyde could see the man was well dressed. Only one type of person wore a suit and hung around in dark alleys.
He lunged after Jackie, wrapping his arms around her middle and hauling her backwards behind the bin. The men didn't see them and Hyde thought a hurried prayer just in case some deity was listening.
Jackie seemed to finally understand that something was not right. She was tense against him but she wasn't fighting the grip he had on her. He was clutching her tightly, not willing to risk her walking into the midst of danger.
He could hear muffled voices and the sounds of a scuffle. Unable to help himself, he glanced around the corner of the bin, trusting that they were enough in shadows to keep hidden.
The bald man had pulled another person out of trunk of the car. He was gagged and bound and bucking like his life depended on it. It probably did. Hyde's shoulders tensed – this was bad!
Jackie's fingers were digging sharply into his arms and he realised she was watching what was happening now. Curiosity had gotten the better of her too. Her eyes were wide and her breathing was shallow.
The scrawny man was pushed to his knees and he was begging but it was falling on deaf ears. Almost in slow motion, a gun was pulled out from under the jacket. Before Hyde's brain could process the image fully, the kneeling man was shot decisively in the head.
Next to him, Jackie screamed and he shoved his hand over her mouth. But it was too late, the two men had seen them.
Bullets suddenly ricocheted down the alley. "Shit!" he swore and pushed Jackie further behind the bin, trying to shield her as best she could with his body. Blood was pounding through his veins as Hyde tried to come up with a plan of action.
Jackie scrambled to her knees and started grabbing at the door, trying to jerk it open. Hyde hurried to help her, adding his strength to her efforts. Jackie pounded the door with her fists.
"Help! Let us in."
Hyde didn't like the odds of anyone hearing them over the disco music.
"God. Damn. ABBA!" he snarled.
The door wasn't going to give. They were going to die in a gritty alley that smelt like urine! Hyde inhaled sharply, maybe he could distract them long enough to give Jackie a fighting chance. If he waited for them to come further down the street, he could rush them. A small hand was curled in his shirt and eyes wide with panic met his.
"If you get a chance, run!" he told her firmly.
"No!" Jackie told him determinedly. "I'm not leaving you. We both run."
"Dammit, Jackie! Now is not the time to be bossy!"
A piercing wail rent the air. Hyde knew that sound anywhere. The cops. His shoulders slumped in relief. He'd never thought he'd be pleased to hear that the police were coming.
There were a few more pops and the hissing sound of bullets passing harmlessly over their heads, fired erratically as the men rushed to their car. The roar of the engine was followed by the squeal of tires.
Hyde sagged against the wall, almost vibrating from adrenaline. He felt jacked up and exhausted at the same time. Jackie collapsed next to him, letting go of his shirt. They sat shoulder to shoulder in silence until they heard the police.
Hyde shouted to them that they were down here, not wanting to get shot by a cop with a twitchy trigger finger. When they were instructed to walk out into the open with their hands up, Hyde raggedly got to his feet. He didn't offer his hand to Jackie - his body felt burnt from where she had touched him earlier - put his hands above his head and stepped out into the flashing red and blue lights.