A/N: Hello, everyone. This fic is pretty especial to me. It costed me a lot to write, I bleed this story for way too long and I almost ruined it. It also marks my tenth story in the t70s fandom and I'm very happy that. Hope you like it.
Especial thanks to MistyMountainHop for the amazing beta job she did on this fic, it wouldn't exist without her help and support. And thank you to jessasacklers who spends long nights awake just to hear me banter about this fic.
This work was written for the Zenmasters Anthology Project 2017, Soulmates Theme. Prompt: Telepathy – "On some days, a person can hear her or his soulmate's thoughts".
November 28, 1983.
Hyde escaped to the diner's bathroom, jazz against his back, but neither the old music nor the door blocked Jackie's words. Her voice was inside his skull.
Most times, he could avoid following her thoughts. He'd been hearing them for years, ever since he learned what this whole soulmate mess was about. But ignoring the way her voice sounded tonight, so affected and out of place, was tough.
He went to a sink and splashed water on his face. Driving for hours wasn't how he'd planned on starting his twenty-third birthday, but he'd runaway from his family and friends like he always knew he would.
After splashing his face some more, he left the bathroom and gave the diner a once-over. The place wasn't quite empty. A typical three-in-the-morning crowd was here. An old, probably drunk, trucker sat at the food counter talking to the diner's clearly disinterested owner. The owner answered the chatter with monosyllabic responses while stealing glances at his watch. Three tattooed bikers, meanwhile, were in a booth, practically snoring on their empty plates.
Hyde pushed open the front door, and Jackie's voice shot through his brain: "You have to understand. Just understand me for once in your damn life!"
"Stop, stop, stop," he said inside his head. Her mind was too loud tonight, and he couldn't do anything about it.
All people were born with the ability to hear the thoughts of their supposed soulmate, a person chosen by God or whoever the hell sat down naked in the clouds. For most, that telepathic moment happened just once, during childhood. If a person was lucky or smart enough, he'd remember what he heard or write it down to find his soulmate later in life.
Hyde, though, wasn't like most.
The first time he heard Jackie's thoughts, he'd been around seven. She was repeating her middle name like a prayer, and he'd laughed and mentioned it to his ma. Edna didn't react, however, except to look at him funny, as if waiting for him to say something else about it.
He didn't. The incident slipped to the back of his memory, but the second time he heard Jackie … that was weird.
She'd filled in the blanks for him later, like how her grandma had thrown her a birthday party with kids she didn't know and adults offering her pitying glances. Jackie hadn't understood the pity at the time. She was too young, but neither of her parents were at the party. They hadn't celebrated her birthday with her at all that year.
Her confusion and sadness invaded Hyde's mind. He told his ma everything he heard Jackie think. Unfortunately Bud was there, too. Before everything went to shit, he was always there, and he made sure Hyde knew it.
Outside the diner, Jackie's voice reached his ears, not just his mind. "Mom?" she said into a payphone. The phone was on the same block as the diner, only a few feet away. She'd probably called her mom, Pam, to let her know she was okay.
"Well, he's a gentleman," Jackie murmured, but her thoughts screamed his name. Pam must've talked crap about him. "It was my decision, Mom. Not his."
This whole mess really was Jackie's doing. He'd gone along with it, but suspicion tugged at his chest, and he didn't like it. Her doubts—or whatever was driving her—hadn't entered his skull. That was a new experience. Maybe her decision had been a thoughtless impulse, nothing substantial for him to hear anyway. If that was the case, then she'd done good by calling off their wedding.
"Look, I'm fine, and—" She sighed into the phone. Apparently, Pam had interrupted her, but Instead of listening, Jackie removed the phone from her ear and slowly returned it to its cradle. "Stupid cow."
Seeing her hang up on her mom was another new experience. It was almost as odd as her running away with him, the man she'd just refused to marry.
She turned away from the payphone, gaze on the ground. "Hey," he called to her, but she didn't look at him. "Jackie?"
She muttered something. Hyde moved towards her, hoping to hear what was she saying, but she didn't repeat herself. She hugged his waist when he was close enough and laid her head on his chest. She wasn't crying, but she wasn't calm either.
He closed his arms around her. Her back was tense, the muscles stiff as cement, and her thoughts were a complete mess.
Her mind went blank a breath later, sending white noise into his head. He finally got a chance to separate his thoughts from hers, as he learned to do as a kid. He'd always hated having the Gift, but after his relationship with Jackie started, having it didn't suck as much.
Right now, though, it was killing him.
"Let's go," she said.
"I don't care."
That didn't sound like her—in any kind of way.
But he knew someone with those same thoughts, someone whose favorite place had always been anywhere but here. Himself. But she couldn't hear him, hadn't since she was a little girl. She'd lost the ability to know what was in his mind.
And that loss scared him more than his own mind being connected to hers since birth.
Until We Get There
The first time Hyde ever heard his soulmate, he was a kid, and he hadn't realized the thoughts weren't his. The endless litany of "Beulah, Beulah, Beulah," didn't sound strange to him since he was watching cartoons. It blended into the sound effects, making him laugh.
The second time his soulmate's thoughts broke into his skull, though, they didn't make him laugh. They took on a voice unmistakably distinct from his: female and crying about her mommy and daddy not coming to her birthday party. Hyde had been in his room, playing with plastic army men, and the thoughts he heard were definitely not from his eight-year-old mind.
"Maaaaaaaaaaaaa!" he shouted and raced from his room. He found Edna in the living room, picking up Bud's empty beer bottles. He told her what he'd heard and asked if ghosts were haunting their new house.
Edna frowned at him, put the bottles down on the coffee table, and captured Bud's attention from the TV. Bud was on the couch, beer in his hand, and the bastard laughed when she relayed Hyde's story.
"Would you look at that?" Bud said. "Honey, we got a Listener!" He sipped from his beer and continued to chuckle like the whole thing was a joke. "Whose fault is it? No one in my family has the so-called Gift. … Honey?"
Hyde's neck heated up. He didn't like how his dad was talking. He usually didn't, but Bud's laughter made it so much worse, and Hyde looked at his ma for more than a frown.
"Judith has it," she said to Bud and grabbed Hyde by the shirt collar. She dragged him away from the couch. He didn't fight her. He never did when he was a kid, when his homelife wasn't as bad as it would become. "I'm going to call her," she said. "I don't know anyone else who could tell Steven about it."
"What?" Bud said, sitting up straight. "I can tell him." His gaze snapped to Hyde's. Listen, kiddo—"
But Edna yanked on Hyde's shirt and him with it, away from Bud. He hadn't realized it then, but she'd protected him from Bud's mockery. Being a Listener was for sissies, as his dad always said, and he'd turned out to be one.
A few days later, Hyde was in the backyard, helping Edna hang up clean, wet clothes to dry. "Okay, so about your aunt Judith…" she said, and he nodded. He'd been waiting for her to mention Judith again. "She's a Listener, like you."
"What's a Listener?"
"It's someone who has the gift to hear her soulmate's thoughts more than once, during her whole life."
Edna picked up the laundry basket from the grass, and he followed her as she went further down the clothesline. He needed more of an explanation, but she hung up one of his undershirts then one of her work skirts.
"Doesn't everybody hear their soulmates?" he said. In the movies and cartoons everybody did. What made him special? Hearing one's soulmate was normal.
"Yeah." She leaned toward the laundry basket but stopped at his stare. "But you have the ability to hear her whenever she's feeling strong stuff. … She must hear you, too."
His eyes widened, and his heart thudded in his ears. "She does?!"
Edna smirked, maybe at his surprise. "Sure she does. Bet you she's listening right now."
She quit caring about his foul mouth a year later. Two years after that, she quit doing laundry and cooking decent food. Five years more, and she quit talking to him. She'd left Point Place with a trucker.
When Jackie was a kid, her grandmother had wanted her to say her full name with pride. Jackie wrote whole notebook pages of her name—Jacqueline Beulah Burkhart—while saying the name out loud. Her grandmother observed the exercise in the parlor, walking around Jackie and the coffee table with her cane.
Jackie was horrified. Her full name sounded as embarrassing as she'd feared.
Every time Beulah Burkhart appeared at the house, Jackie's mom ended up crying. They never got along, and Jackie wished she could remember or understand why. But she did remember the way the cane touched the parlor's hardwood floor and how the thud, thud, thud echoed inside her head.
But Grandma wasn't always that unpleasant. Sometimes, she'd sit with Jackie on the couch and talk about Grandpa. Charles Burkhart the Fourth had been a great man. He'd died years ago, but Grandma used to hear his thoughts. Had listened to them ever since they were kids.
He found her first, like the prince rescuing the princess, and they'd been together ever since. Their courtship began before either of them knew soulmates were meant to fall in love and be happy together, forever.
At seven, Jackie had started to hear her soulmate, too. Grandma was proud of her.
"How are his thoughts?" Grandma said after one of their talks about Grandpa.
"Confusing…" Jackie said, but Grandma smiled, and Jackie realized she should've given a better answer. "I don't know which are mine and which are his."
"That's fine. We all have trouble with that."
Jackie got off the couch, thinking their conversation was over, but Grandma patted the cushion next to her. "Come back, Jacqueline. I'm going to teach you how to separate your thoughts."
Jackie sat beside her again, and Grandma called for Jackie's dad to join them. He'd been smoking a cigar by the parlor's French doors, but he stubbed it out on an ashtray and sat on Grandma's other side.
"Jackie, the Gift is something the Burkharts have," Grandma said.
Daddy nodded. "Not everyone has the luck of being born with it, but that doesn't mean they don't have a soulmate."
Jackie's brows furrowed, and an ache settled in her chest. How sad that other people had to go through so much to find their soulmate while she could listen to her future husband, as her mom called him.
"Why does it happen?" she said to her dad later that night. They were in the dining room, eating dinner. He was reading a letter at the table, but he put it aside.
"No one is sure, kitten," he said. "Our brain is amazing, you see? It's said if we used its entire capacity, we could move things and discover the secrets of the universe."
Jackie laughed as her mom shook her head, but Mom was paying as much attention to Daddy as Jackie was.
He reached across the table and grasped Jackie's hand. "I know it's scary. I was certainly scared when I first heard your mother!" He and Mom laughed together, and once he calmed down, he said, "But when you meet your soulmate, it'll be exciting. It'll be a happy day."
Jackie smiled after hearing that.
In the months that followed, she realized she heard her soulmate only in moments of great emotion—when he was really happy, sad, or scared. Slowly, she got better at distinguishing his voice from her own, as her grandmother had taught her.
"But his voice won't sound like it truly does in person," Grandma had told her during one of their lessons.
Jackie frowned. "Why?"
"None of us hear our voices inside our head as we truly sound, Jacqueline."
"It has something to do with resonances. Now, stop asking questions and finish that repetition."
Grandma never gave satisfactory answers, but at least Daddy always asked if she'd heard something new from her future boyfriend. And when everyone in the family learned she constantly heard her soulmate's thoughts, they came to visit and brought her presents.
She asked why, and they said her having the Gift was proof of their family's virtue.
Only later in life did she find out the truth, that her family pitied her. Unlike her dad and grandmother, most of her relatives thought having the Gift was a curse. That she'd have to grow up listening to people's, "Oh, I'm so sorry," and their fake, worried looks.
But at twelve-years-old, she decided she wouldn't let her family make her feel bad. Her grandmother was right: having the Gift was a proof of real connection. And just as Grandma Beulah had found Grandpa Charles, Jackie would find her own soulmate one day.
She believed that wholeheartedly until she stopped listening.
Jackie was new to Forman's basement, and she'd just claimed to be a Listener, though not so succinctly. Kelso had brought her by to meet Hyde and the rest of their friends, and she insisted Kelso was her soulmate, despite—as her claim went—the fact she'd stopped listening to his thoughts when she was eleven-years-old.
"You can do that?" Donna said. She was sitting in the lawn chair, frowning. "My God, what does that mean? People say the Gift is a sign of deeper connection. Others say it's a sign of being condemned to never be with your soulmate."
"No, it's not!" Jackie said from the couch. Kelso was beside her, and she gripped his knee.
Hyde arched an eyebrow. He should've gotten up from his chair and gone to the kitchen for a pop, for a break from this chick. But he listened to her ramble about the importance of finding one's soulmate and how beautiful having the Gift was. Her experiences as a Listener sounded legitimate enough. The rest of her story? Bullshit.
"You know, soulmates?" he said, interrupting her. "All of it's crap." His friends booed him, but he was just the messenger. The truth was the truth, and he adjusted his shades on his nose. "No, man. Think about it. You spend your whole life wondering who she is, what she's doing, and if she's gonna recognize you from one freakin' thought you had when you were kids. That way, you don't question the rest of the shit that's happening in the world."
Forman sighed and slumped next to Kelso. "Here it goes. You're in for a treat, Jackie. Let's all sit back and listen to the conspiracy theorist!"
Jackie stared at Hyde with wide eyes, as if she couldn't believe what he was saying. Did she really live in a glass cage, protected from the real world? People hating the concept of soulmates was completely normal.
"Look," he said, "what are the odds of you actually hearing some random kid when you're little?" He gestured at her. "Do you remember it? 'Cause I sure as hell don't. Forman and Donna don't, either." He pointed at Kelso. "What about you?"
"Um…" Kelso scratched his cheek, clearly thinking about it. Jackie shifted next to him on the couch. Her hand had been on Kelso's thigh, but she removed it.
Hyde grinned. This conversation was going to cause Kelso trouble this painfully idealistic chick.
"Well, yeah!" Kelso said, looking at Jackie. "She was all excited because she got a Bridal Barbie for her birthday."
Jackie placed a hand over her heart. "Oh, Michael, you're right! I got a Bridal Barbie when I was ten!"
"Wait a sec," Hyde said. "Kelso, you told me you heard your soulmate when you were around six or seven."
Donna laughed, and Hyde dug the sound of it—until she got out of the lawn chair, sat on the couch's armrest, and slid her arm around Forman's shoulders.
"The point is it doesn't matter," Hyde continued. "What if we're that we'll hear a thought that doesn't sound like us one day just so it makes us believe in this soulmate crap?"
"This is when things get interesting…" Donna murmured.
Jackie frowned. "What do you mean?"
Hyde crossed his arms over his chest. "What if it's a lie, man, and you didn't hear anyone but yourself? We've been brainwashed by TV, by our folks—by society at large—about this myth for so damn long that we believe it." He sighed. "If you wanna be with just one person the rest of your life, do it. But don't let random chance dictate who you choose. It's stupid."
"BULLSHIT!" someone shouted inside his head, and Jackie stood with clenched fists and a flushed face.
"That's not true, Hyde!" she said.
"Bastard, how dare you? Who the fuck do you think you are?" his soulmate shouted telepathically, and his head started to pound. What were the chances her thoughts would synchronize with the attitude of Kelso's new girlfriend?
"I heard him," Jackie said. "I know I did!"
Her eyes were filled with tears and he swallowed. Upsetting her wasn't his intention. She was annoying as fuck, and her voice had made his headache worse, but making a girl cry was never on his agenda.
"You don't know anything!" his soulmate said inside his skull, but she couldn't be talking to him or about him. They'd never met, but one of her words applied to him anyway. He was a bastard.
"Hey—" he began, but Jackie spoke over him.
"Just because you don't remember hearing your soulmate doesn't mean other people are like you!" She gave him one last glare before charging out of the basement, hair whipping behind her.
"What an asshole!" Hyde's soulmate said in his mind. Her timing was impeccable. "Poor people are not only sad. They're bad and mean."
He swallowed again when Kelso chased after his girlfriend, but Forman and Donna broke into laughter.
"Nicely done, Hyde!" Forman scooted across the couch and offered him a high-five.
Hyde left his hand hovering in the air. The girl in his mind kept yelling at whoever had pissed her off. Jackie's thoughts had to be just as pissed.
"Man, that girl is horrible!" Forman said.
"She's got some nerve," Donna said and walked over to Hyde. She clasped his shoulder, and he shrugged her off. Her touch was usually something he craved—too much—but it did nothing for him right now. "Jackie yelled at you!" she went on, as if their physical interaction hadn't happened. No surprise there. She never noticed him , not the way he wanted her to. "If she wasn't such a romantic moron, I'd like her."
"Donna, man, what did she do to you?" he said and blinked at his own words. She didn't answer, but her lack of response told him enough. "Crap…"
He pushed himself off his chair. Making a girl cry wasn't cool, but being celebrated for it sucked worse. None of his friends, not even Donna, seemed to get it. He left the basement through the back door without explaining himself, and the chill of night hit his face.
"I hate him!" his soulmate shouted in his head. "I don't want to see him again! I can't believe I thought he was foxy!' She wouldn't shut up, and—fuck, who had this chick met? He hoped she'd keep to her word, that she wouldn't see that asshole again.
Her thoughts were filled with weird and worrying shit. They usually were, but tonight's were fueled by fury. Another batch of conflicting feelings he had to lug around along with his own.
Generally, what made her happy transformed into sad realizations. Like when her dad showed affection by giving her presents. Her cheerful thoughts eventually turned cold as the truth seeped into her. Without her dad spending time with her, creating memories, the presents were meaningless. He didn't know her because he wasn't ever home long enough. Because she wasn't important to him. And that belief heated her thoughts, not quite enough to rage, but her anger transferred into Hyde's blood.
He sympathized with her, the agonized person inside his head, but he needed her to shut up. He ached to have Jackie's luck and one day just stop listening.
November 28, 1980.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church had buzzed with pre-wedding noise when Jackie found Steven in his dressing room. She'd tricked Donna into leaving her side by claiming hunger pains and sneaked off. None of Steven's groomsmen were with him. Her suspicion about him wanting solitude while he put on his tux had been correct.
He'd accepted her idea after a second of silence, as if he'd been waiting for her to show up and suggest it. He nodded, took her hand, and they left quietly while everyone continued to flutter around the church.
They'd gone together. Their unity, their closeness, had crushed her fear that she'd gone crazy. But now, at the diner, she'd never felt so separated from him. He sat across from her at the table, lost in his own world. His own mind. He'd been different since he found her in that Chicago motel room. The guilt on his face and in his voice had threatened to break her heart all over again. He'd changed, and she knew—without him saying so out loud—that he didn't want her as his wife. He wanted only her.
A waitress brought their food and placed it in front of them. Hamburgers and French Fries.
"Steven?" Jackie said when the waitress left, but the smell of French fries was dizzying. This was her third dizzy spell in as many days, but she refused to think about it and shut her eyes. Breathed in and out. In and out. Then looked at Steven again, hoping to see his eyes.
They never shone cold as other blue eyes did. His were a summer day, filled with warmth and laughs and a sun that promised never to leave. But he hid them from her, keeping his gaze down at his plate.
Even without the Gift, she could guess what was in his mind.
"Steven," she said again, and this time he looked at her. "Are you … are you okay?"
"Yeah, man." He scrubbed his hand over his face. "Just tired. We didn't think this through."
She mustered a smile. It probably seemed fake, but he said nothing and started to eat. She didn't push him to say more. Instead, she bit into her own burger. It tasted greasy and a little gross, which meant it was good. But her dizziness didn't help her appetite.
Steven's ring was still on her finger. She hoped it would remain there for a while if, in the next few days, he didn't dump her. Her stupid, impulsive choice had sent him a horrible message. But maybe he'd understand her reasons once she got the guts to speak them out loud.
They continued to eat, but his silence was like fire, burning her wounds. The silence of not just his voice but his thoughts. His absence inside her head bothered her more than ever.
Because Steven James Hyde was her soulmate. No one needed to tell her that, even though she'd stopped listening to his thoughts when they were kids. But why couldn't she hear them again?
Steven didn't have the Gift. She'd made sure of that by asking all their friends and the Formans. Everyone answered the same: he wasn't a Listener. But she'd asked Steven himself, just to be sure, during the summer their relationship started. He'd smiled and kissed her forehead. Said, "Nope," before reminding her how little he cared about the whole concept of soulmates
But she did. She cared even when she didn't want to, but her beliefs had expanded beyond what she'd been taught. Being with Steven was what she wanted. Whether or not he was her soulmate didn't matter.
It shouldn't have.
Yet part of her still worried. She'd stopped listening to his thoughts, and now she was deaf to them. Did that mean the universe had made a mistake, that she and Steven weren't mean to be?
She chewed and swallowed a French fry, but her fear didn't subside. She'd never heard of or read about anyone like her, someone who'd lost the Gift. People with more than one soulmate—widows and widowers who heard someone else's thoughts once their first partner was gone—sure. But people who had the Gift then didn't anymore? Nonsense, as her Grandma Beulah would say.
Maybe she was broken. Maybe she was depriving Steven of the chance of being happy without her.
He was no longer eating. He'd put down his burger and was staring out the window. A few cars zoomed past on the road outside. A small motel was behind the diner. That was where she and Steven would spend the rest of the night, mostly so he could sleep. He needed enough energy to keep driving them to nowhere.
He had to hate her for all of this, and her eyes felt thick and heavy, as if they'd burst into tears that would never stop.
"I don't hate you," he said.
Even as tears rimmed her eyes, she smiled—genuinely this time—at how well he knew her. If that didn't mean they were it for each other, the universe could go fuck itself.
He laughed. "That's the spirit."
"You haven't smiled since we left Point Place," he said, and her heart started to pound. He often paid close attention to her, her attitude and facial expressions and body language. He read her like no one else. How she felt and what she was thinking, they were important to him.
She should've realized it years ago, but his perpetual aloofness had rendered his deepest feelings invisible. Not his love, but her significance to him. How she recognized it now, though, eluded her.
"Well, you know how to look through my Zen, grasshopper."
She blinked a few times. He was talking crazy, and her stomach hurt.
"You must be sick," he said and took a sip of Coke. "You've been feeling like this for days."
"Yeah…" She'd told him about her dizziness yesterday, during breakfast, but was she pale? She needed to go to the bathroom and redo her makeup.
"Jackie, you don't need any of that. You don't look sick."
White noise crackled inside her head like it had since she was eleven. She missed her soulmate's voice when she felt the loneliest.
Steven wiped burger grease from his fingers with a napkin. He reached across the table afterward, grasped her hand, and caressed her knuckles. The contact was likely meant to reassure her, but she sensed as much tension in him as she felt herself, as if she could still hear his thoughts.
That was ridiculous, though. She was projecting her own anxiety onto him. She couldn't possibly feel what he was feeling—
"I bet you can," he said. "Listen, Jackie—"
"H-how do you know—wh-what are you—?" Had her tongue broken off? She couldn't finish her damn sentences, but she forced one through her fumbling mouth: "How are you answering me like that?"
"Um…" He kept caressing her skin. His touch ached in her heart, and the pain in her stomach grew worse. "I … was born with an extra voice inside my head," he said, "but I ain't crazy … I think."
His response mirrored what she'd told him and their friends when she first me them, when she explained she had the Gift. That she was—had been—a Listener.
"Yeah," he said.
A scream burned in her throat. Yeah? Just, Yeah, after five years together, after she was honest with him about her situation and her own Gift? Yeah?
"Look, Jackie, I know you're pissed, but—I couldn't just tell you, all right? Nobody knows anyway. It embarrassed the hell out of me at first. Then I was afraid—"
"Shut the hell up." She yanked her hand from him and stood up. Steven stood up, too, but she gestured for him to sit back down. "Leave me alone."
He did , and that was all he did. He said nothing, moved no part of his body. She couldn't hear his thoughts or the beat of his heart, but she hoped he was scared. Because she was going to yell the shit out of him if she couldn't figure out how and why he'd hid the truth from her so well.
"Oh, God…" she said and began to hyperventilate. He stood again, but she was already racing toward the bathroom, a hand over her mouth.
Whatever he thought of her running off on him, he already knew she needed to throw up. He could hear it in his head. He was a Goddamn Listener.
She reached a toilet, knelt down, and her stomach contracted. Disgusting. This was not how she imagined spending Steven's birthday.
Next Chapter: Jackie makes a call, Hyde grees to another of her ideas again.