Trying to Breathe by Lady Cleo
All disclaimers apply.
It was raining lightly, barely enough to soak the ground. The clouds overhead loomed in large gray formations, the perfect day for a funeral.
A pair of black dress shoes sloshed through the moist grass, leaving imprints that would vanish in a few moments. They trekked across the large green expanse, avoiding the spaces in front of the tombstones out of habit. Someone had once said, "Never step on a grave." The words had stuck, becoming a habit that wasn't about to be broken.
The tall shrouded figure pushed past the mausoleums and towards the quiet acreage that deemed newer plots. The fresh smell of newly laid sod mingled with the waning thoughts of grief that filled the air, overwhelming the cemetery.
It disturbed him, yet the shadowy figure in the immaculate black suit pushed off the feelings of grief left behind by widows and tearful families. He walked on, ignoring the air of gloom that surrounded him.
The black cotton was getting heavier as the rain continued pouring down, lightly soaking him. But, the man continued unadorned by any umbrella, uncaring towards the harsh, cold droplets of rain. He hiked on towards the small clump of mourners.
He stopped just a few meters away from the group of black. Standing underneath a lone sycamore, he listened to the quiet sobs, the soulful words of a sympathetic but uncaring voice. He stood there, for who knows how long, a perfect picture, the shrouded figure miserably alone. He even caught them glancing his way, questioning the unknown presence.
Not a familiar face was among them, he couldn't even pick out who he had once known. Not that he'd ever really cared about that group. They were all the same, huddled under umbrellas in expensive Armani suits, clutching thousand dollar dresses that would be tossed away without a moments notice. They crowded around the grave in their mocking grief, not a truly broken heart among the group.
A last prayer was said and the group gave last goodbyes to a grave. They moved away from the tombstone, their high heels and hundred dollar shoes making pitiful progress through the now soaked grass. A few more gazes wandered in his direction, but the long training of Zen kept any and all emotions of his face, aided by a pair of dark black sun glasses. They walked past him; heading towards their warm palaces, their well paid chauffeurs, and cocktail parties. She was probably already forgotten.
He on the other hand started forward, towards the fresh grave, its laid sod and marble tombstone.
The skies overhead darkened even more, black clouds rolled in, lightening searing the sky as thunder clapped in the distance. The sunglasses slipped off. Dark, emotionless eyes peered down at the pristine marble. The words were blurred in his vision, but the name was already etched in his empty heart. It was the only name that had ever had the audacity to conquer his unwilling heart. And now, she had deserted it.
He shouldn't even have dared to come. Standing here in the rain wasn't helping matters, it wasn't solving anything. It was only making the pain worse. Stupid cemeteries. All they had ever managed to do was add onto injury.
Without her, he would never have survived. And now that she was truly gone, now that he would never have the chance to see her again, he was almost positive that he wouldn't survive.
Before, even though they were separated by miles and miles, there was always the chance, a random hope that he might find her. That some wandering stranger might turn around and there she'd be, her brunette mane still perfect, hers eyes still enchanting. And, as stupid as it sounded, as out character as other might have thought it, he'd always dreamed about that one day when he would find her.
He still dreamed.
But, now she was gone.
The searing pain in his heart would never vanish. Every breath that slipped past his lips would always be a struggle, and his heart would never work like it should.
He stood there, listening to the pouring rain, waiting for an answer to his misery. Almost like he was waiting for her to appear at his side, grab his hand and call him a dumbass for standing out in the rain.
It wouldn't happen. No matter how much he wished, no matter how much he needed it to happen.
"Why did you leave me?" He asked the silent grave.
He stood, cold, miserably alone, waiting for the answer that wouldn't come. Slipping his hand into the jacket, he pulled the crumpled envelope from the black interior pocket.
She had been tired of waiting for him, tired of dreaming about him. So much so that she'd written him, begging him to find her, making plans to meet on the California shore. He'd gone, expecting to find her, planning on kissing her, and never letting go of her warm little body again.
He'd gone, and he'd waited, and waited, and waited.
She never showed up.
And now he knew why.
Without warning his knees gave out, sending the man down to all fours, gasping for breath, trying to fight the tears. Something inside his head screamed that this was all just a dream. That he could wake up and find her waiting beside him, her beautiful eyes staring expectantly into his.
He pulled himself up again, taking back the control of his body as the anger boiled up his throat, wiping away the sorrow and the aching pain. "Why the hell did you fucking take her away?" He demanded angrily, "Damn it, I want her back-"
Collapsing to the ground, he lay back against the grass, emotionally exhausted. Silently he stared up at the dark sky, his heart aching with anger, his eyes burning, his breath ragged.
"Hyde?" A voice called in the distant.
Two figures stood nearby, huddled under an umbrella, two figures obscured by the rain, two figures he knew without question. Hyde squinted, trying to clearly make out the happy couple. For once in his life, he hated them; standing together with a perfect life waiting just around the corner.
"Hyde." She called, "Jackie-"
"Don't," Hyde interrupted, "Don't say her name, it hurts too much. It makes it too hard to breathe." The couple took a few steps closer, the man's arm wrapped around the woman. Hyde couldn't see their faces, but he knew what was written across them. "I'm just trying to breathe."
"Come on Hyde, man, lets get out of the rain, find someplace were we can talk."
Hyde scoffed, they wouldn't understand his pain. They had always had each other. They'd never dwelt with the aching pain. Hell, they'd never loved her like he had, like he still did. When she'd left, they'd gone on with their lives, moved on with the world. He'd been the only one affected.
Hyde continued to gaze up, ignoring their pleas, their uncomforting words. "Give her back now," he whispered into the darkening sky. "Please just give her back to me."
Hyde closed his eyes.
The rain stopped, the words in the distance vanished. He wasn't so cold anymore, he felt dry, warm, content to be on the soft grass.
"A gift." The voice was small, almost like it had come from someone else's head. "A gift, use it."
Hyde kept his eyes squeezed shut, confused by the little voice. It didn't scare him, it comforted, like something had wrapped around his heart, soothing its broken edges.
Slowly, not believing what his body was telling him, Hyde pried upon his eyes. It was dark, quiet, warm; he was on a cot with familiar blankets pulled around his body. He could hear Kitty in the next room singing an old show tune. He didn't feel like a thirty-year-old, his body wasn't wrinkled by time. He felt young, like he didn't have the world on his shoulders.
"A gift- Use it- Change it-"
The voice took on a more impatient edge, almost like it knew he didn't believe his surrounding, trying to drive him towards the door. It wanted him to flip on that light, to let his eyes see what his body was telling him.
For once in his life, Hyde obeyed. Standing, he moved across the room, knowing where every object was, where to duck, and where the switch was.
Light flooded the basement room, and his heart stopped. He was back in Wisconsin. Back in his old basement room. He was back in the seventies, if the calendar on the wall held any truth.
He couldn't breathe; his heart was leaping in his chest with joy. Maybe it had just been a dream. Walking over to the cot he sat back down trying to control the wild flutters of his heart, the anxious twisting of his stomach, taking deep gulping breathes. Settling back down on the bed, he tried to convince himself that the whole episode had been a dream and nothing but a dream.
Then his hand brushed something wet, something crumpled and soaking. Paper- Bolting up from the warm blankets, he grabbed the soaking envelope and quickly brought it into view. It was the letter. Still addressed to him, still addressed to his apartment in New York City, an apartment complex that wasn't going to be built for another seven years. Hyde almost dropped the letter, his vision clouding; he focused slowly on his breathing, struggling to get each gasp of air down his lungs as he pulled the contents out.
March 5, 1989
It's not a coincidence, the date I mean. When I woke up this morning, I thought it would be like every other March 5. I planned on moping around the house. But, then the oddest thing happened. A letter from Mrs. Foreman arrived, a letter that absolutely shocked me. Its contents existed solely of your address.
I can only guess that by some miracle Mrs. Foreman found my address. I've been looking for you for eight years now. It took fours years just to escape my mothers watch, and some serous lying on my part. You wouldn't believe how hard you are to find. I was surprised when I couldn't even find Donna or Eric. Every letter I sent to the Foreman residence never made it out of California. It seemed like the world was against my finding you. But, if this letter reaches you, I guess our trials and tribulations are finally over.
The truth is, I'm tired of dreaming about you, I'm tired of waiting for you to magically appear at my doorstop. You see, I've had this stupid habit of just missing you every moment of every day. I thought I would eventfully give up the search. But, I can't.
I keep on imagining what would have taken place this day twelve years ago if I had been stronger. It haunts me constantly. And then there's the torture of dreaming that I'm still in the basement, still in your arms. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I love you, always have, and always will- Without you it's too hard to breathe, sometimes I don't even feel like I should be breathing without you.
If, no, when you get this letter and read it, if you're not married and you have any love for me, I'll be waiting. Catch a plane to Silverton, California. On the 32nd street in the lower southern side of town, there's a private beach. Walk a mile past the old lifeguard post to the rocky edge. On the 25th day of this month I'll be waiting there at exactly four o'clock.
"A gift. For you. For her. Use it. Change it."
Carefully putting the contents back Hyde stood, quickly pulled on the nearest pair of pants, the closest shirt available. He stuffed the envelope in his back pocket. It felt weird to be back in this house, but he pushed off the constant deja vu and walked quietly out of the room.
Kitty stood in front of the dryer folding clothes. God, it was good to see her. What had it been, almost eleven years since he last saw her, since he had moved away to New York? Oh sure, they had talked on the phone, but never actually seen each other. Just two days ago, back in his crappy universe she had been lonely without Red, who was on some stupid camping trip. She had called him, and he'd told her about Jackie, about how he was finally going to see her again. Maybe now he could change it, make sure she never found out about Jackie's death.
"Mrs. Foreman?" Hyde questioned.
Kitty jumped about a foot in the air and turned to face Hyde. She laughed her cute little nervous laugh, and clutched her heart. "Steven honey, you scared me."
"Sorry, Mrs. Foreman. What's today?" Hyde questioned, casually taking a seat.
"Saturday, March 5th." Kitty laughed grabbing her laundry basket and running back up the stairs.
It was today. The day that had changed his life twelve years ago- Hyde took a deep gulping breath trying to control the sudden panic that threatened to overwhelm his Zen. He needed to think, to calm down and plan this thing out.
Hyde relaxed and let his gaze dance across the old basement room. God, it was good to see this tiny little room again. To see where all the old memories had taken place, where he'd first seen her little form strut around. Hyde let his eyes desert the room to glance down at his watch, 2:00 p.m.
The basement door flung open and Kelso stumbled in. "Hyde, man, you missed it. These two chicks were out sunbathing in this weather, man."
Fez followed, "Oh I just love it when women are cold."
Hyde smirked. The last time he saw Fez was three years ago when his little buddy had come for a visit. He hadn't known what he was doing then, but Hyde had suspected that it had something to do with Hollywood. And Kelso, he hadn't talked to Kelso in eleven years. They had gotten into a stupid fight when Kelso had made a comment about how Hyde was only going to New York to find Jackie. He'd said that if Jackie loved him she would have never left. Kelso ended up with a black eye, unconscious on the floor. They hadn't talked since. Even though it was an old comment, and Kelso had never known why Jackie was dragged away, Hyde still resented him even now, a year before the comment would be made.
Donna and Eric followed hand in hand. God, they looked exactly the same, still attached to each other. Hell, the only difference twelve years from now was that Donna's hair was shorter and curlier. At thirty, Eric only had a premature gray hair or two and that was to be expected, what with handling two little kids, a wife in journalism and having to manage a large scale business.
The only thing missing now was her presence.
"Hyde, why are you so quiet? It's weird-" Donna declared settling down on the couch between Foreman and Fez.
"Yeah, I've convinced myself that we just smoked some really good shit last night. And these are the side effects." Foreman declared.
The door suddenly burst open, and Hyde finally saw the one object he desired more than anything else. Foreman, Donna, Kelso, Fez, all vanished from his mind. There she was in all her living beauty. He just wanted to hold her, to worship her, to feel her little heart beating against his chest.
It took only a second for Hyde to do something he would have never done before, but it was something the thirty-year-old in him had been dreaming about.
Hyde took the few strides between them quickly and grabbed the small girl, pulling her tightly to his chest, crushing his lips to her. His tongue met hers as he pushed her gently back against the door, loving every curve that pressed into his body, loving how she smelled, tasted, felt. If he had his way, she'd never leave his sight. But, even he, as blissful as kissing her was, needed oxygen. Hyde pulled his lips away from hers for a second, and buried his head at the curve of her neck, just holding onto her tightly.
"Ah Hyde, don't ya think you outta let Jackie breathe. Damn Jackie there's no reason to give me that dirty look." Kelso yelled indigently. Hyde grinned, placing a kiss at the base of her neck before finally pulling away. He smiled down at the small pixie, Jackie smiled back, obviously confused by Hyde's sudden need to publicly display his affection for her, but unwillingly to voice her confusion.
Keeping her small hand neatly tucked into his, Hyde led her over to his chair, taking a seat and pulling the small girl onto his lap.
"Jackie-" Mrs. Foreman yelled as she stumbled down the stairs, practically tripping over her own feet. Hyde felt a lump slid down his throat. Already? He didn't remember her coming down so soon after Jackie arrived. "Jackie, come upstairs, honey. Your mother is here to see you?"
"My mother?" Jackie questioned eagerly as she jumped off the Hyde's lap and bolted for the stairs.
Hyde started to follow, "No, Steven honey," Kitty stopped him with a stern glance, "I think it would be better for you to stay down here for a little while. Let Jackie and her mother talk. Donna, Eric, keep him down here for me." This being said she bolted back up the stairs.
Hyde didn't know what to do. If he stayed until he heard her screaming his name everything might go wrong again, the gift would be wasted. Hyde began casually inching towards the stairs. "That was weird." He commented, making as if to head back to his chair. Donna and Eric turned away from him, focusing back on their previous conversation.
"What the Hell?" Donna demanded charging after his retreating figure, her backup close in pursuit.
Hyde skidded into the kitchen, catching sight of Red and Kitty just exiting onto the driveway. Then suddenly he went down as four teenagers piled onto him. "Hyde this is for your own good man. Wait. Why are we doing this again?" Kelso questioned.
Shrugging off the load Hyde pulled himself to his feet only to find Donna and Eric blocking his exit. "Foreman, you don't understand." The thirty-year-old in Hyde declared, fighting past the violent barriers installed by his youth. "I know what's going to happen. If I don't stop it now, it'll ruin my life."
"Whoa, Hyde man, are you like psycho, no, wait, physic, no, wait." Kelso murmured.
The scream shattered the room, stopping Hyde's heart for a momentary second. "I'm too late-" Hyde whispered horrified, before pushing past Eric and Donna. He sprinted out the glass door, stumbling to a halt just outside. Red was yelling something out, a string of curses and orders, Jackie's mother stood at the end of the drive way and Jackie was being dragged down the driveway by a strange man. She was fighting him with every step he took, pleading with him desperately. Kitty was tugging on Red, begging him to do something. Hyde stood confused by the scene. Who the hell was that dragging Jackie down the driveway? And why in the hell was he doing that? And what the hell was Hyde supposed to do about it? He didn't remember any man dragging her, just her mother driving the car away.
The man wrapped his arm around Jackie's waist violently pulling her to her feet. "Stop it, you're hurting me-" Jackie whimpered as he started down the driveway, practically carrying.
Any remaining question that lingered in Hyde's mind vanished as pure rage overtook any clear thoughts that remained. Storming past Red and Kitty, shocking them in the progress, Hyde headed calmly down towards the struggling Jackie.
It only took two seconds for his fist to meet its destination, and in those two seconds Jackie was returned to his arms. The man lay unconscious on the pavement.
Red stepped forward, placing himself protectively in front of Jackie and Hyde as Jackie's mother stumbled over to the unconscious form. "Mrs. Burkhart, I think we need to have a talk. Donna, get your father." Red ordered, then turning his gaze to the rest of the teenagers, "The rest of you dumbasses get inside."
Hyde remained where he stood, holding tightly to Jackie. There was no way in hell he was going to let her out of his sight.
Red's face softened just a little, "Steven, why don't you take her inside." Relief washed through every being of his soul. Slowly, like a weight was lifted of, his heart began to beat again. Reaching down Hyde gently swept the light little pixie off her feet, using it as an excuse to press her close, assuring himself that she was still there.
They filed silently into the living room, leaving the Foreman's and Mrs. Burkhart outside. Hyde took a seat on the couch still cradling Jackie close to his body. Every nerve in his body was on a spiked edge. On one hand, his heart told him that he could protect her so long as she was in his arms. But, the logical voice in the back of his head whispered that he couldn't be with her always, that they could find a way to take her eventually. It was going to drive him crazy.
Donna walked quietly the living room, taking a seat on the edge of Eric's lap. "Red looks really pissed off." She commented, Hyde raised an eyebrow, his fingers trailing gently over Jackie's back as she continued to clingy silently to him.
"Man, waiting sucks." Kelso moaned from his seat in Red's chair. Fez nodded his agreement, tapping his foot merrily. As if on cue, Red stormed into the living room, Kitty and Bob close behind him.
"What a bunch of dumbasses, I was handling the situation." Red murmured, Jackie pulled herself out of Hyde's grip, slowly standing on wobbly legs, her eager eyes bearing towards him. Red let his frown slip for a second as he gazed down at the young woman in front of her. "It'll be okay-" Red began to say.
"Donna we'd better start cleaning out that extra room." Bob interrupted, Red scowled over at the toupee wearing banjo lover
"What? Why?" Donna questioned, confused as she stood up.
"Looks like Jackie's going to be staying with us for a long while."
Hyde let his head drop back against the couch, his eyes squeezing shut as relief spread throughout his tense body. Jackie squeaked happily, jumping into Red's arms she began peppering his face with kiss. The entire group broke out in relieved laughter as Jackie moved to squeeze Kitty in a tight embrace, then attacked Bob with a similar treatment to that of Reds. Finally she dropped down into Hyde's lap, burying her face in his neck as she held tightly onto him. Hyde let a hand slip up into her hair, a small laugh slipping past his lips.
Suddenly life in Point Place was the only life he wanted, Jackie Burkhart was the only woman he could ever love.
The stars sparkled up against a dark sky, the moon lingering just above his head. Any minute now, Hyde was positive that he'd wake up, back in his horrible reality. He could hear the laughter inside, the entire gang celebrating their triumph today. They didn't realize it, but they had just saved her life, they had just ensured his happiness.
Hyde vaguely recognized the glass door opening behind him, a smirk slipped across his lips as he felt her hand slip around his waist, her warm body slipping under his arm. She smiled up at him, her eyes sparkling with joy.
"Dance with me-" She whispered, her eyes pleading.
"I don't dance-"
"You've danced with me twice before, you'll do it again." Jackie declared stubbornly, dragging him out to the center of the driveway, her small hands fitting neatly into his. Hyde rolled his eyes, but complied, happy to have a reason to hold her.
They swayed together to an unheard beat, Jackie grinning as she placed her head on his shoulder. Hyde smiled, kissing the top of her forehead before resting his cheek against her head, his eyes lolling shut to the sound of an imaginary beat.
The distant echo of laughter seemed to fade, the clicking of her heels mesmerized him as the smell of fresh bread wafted around them, mingling with the sultry smell of vanilla. Hyde smiled, unwillingly prying his eyes open, feet still shuffling to an unheard tune. Before him loomed the interior of a simple, but elegant kitchen. The heels were no longer clicking on cement but on marble. For only a second Hyde was dizzy and disoriented, but then he brought his hand up into view, and the gold band sparkled up at him.
"Baby?" Hyde questioned, half doubting what face would turn to look up.
Jackie smiled, lifting her head from his chest and gazing happily into his face. God, she looked just the same as yesterday. "What's wrong Steven?" She questioned, worry knitting over her brow.
"Nothing baby, absolutely nothing." He assured, placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. It all came to him, the engagement, the wedding, first kid, second kid, third kid, each year getting better then the next.
"Brats will be up soon." Jackie whispered, Hyde nodded, placing another kiss on her forehead. The kitchen door swung open admitting a small copy of a younger Hyde with Jackie's eyes. "Morning, honey." Jackie greeted, slowly releasing Hyde she walked over bending down to kiss the pajama clad nine year old. The boy grumbled walking over to take a seat at the table. Hyde smiled, lightly swatting Jackie on the ass as she headed out of the kitchen before taking a seat across from the younger boy.
"Dad?" The small boy questioned as Hyde picked up the newspaper. "Why does mom always baby me?"
"It's her job, Tyler." Hyde replied, ruffling the boy's curly hair. The young boy rolled his eyes.
Jackie reentered the room, carrying the three year old Erica, while the five year old Mercedes tagged along behind her, clutching her mother's skirt. Jackie passed the younger child over to Hyde before helping Mercedes into a chair. "Aunt Donna and Uncle Foreman called this morning, their going to bring your cousins over tonight."
Hyde smiled as Tyler rolled his eyes unhappily. "Momma, Travis is always following me around. I don't want that baby following me around. And Samantha's always teasing me." The little boy frowned, pushing his breakfast around his plate.
Jackie smiled, kissing the young boys head. "Ah, you know you like it when Travis follows you. Stop acting like your father."
Hyde reared his head back, a smile creeping across his face, "How is that like me Jackie?"
"Oh, saying you hate stuff that you really like." Jackie murmured taking a seat beside Hyde. In response the two males at the table rolled their eyes, making Jackie giggle. Mercedes gazed up at her mother confused, while Erica continued to nap in her father's lap. Hyde smirked, gazing back down at his newspaper happily, sneaking a glance at his pretty wife every few seconds, before causally gazing at the date at the top of the newspaper. March 29th, 1989. The day of Jackie's funeral and not a cloud in the sky.
"What's the matter?" Jackie inquired, reaching over to take the little light-weight called Erica off his lap.
"Nothing Jacks-" Hyde assured with a grin, "Nothing at all-"