Melting: Chapter 16

Author's Note: So, I didn't call in sick, but an ice storm did hit, so no work for me, and a few updates for long as it doesn't make the power go out! Thank you to anyone who reads this, especially with the great delays between updates. Please please please please take a moment to review. I hope you enjoy...

Disclaimer: You know how the episode where Red finds out Eric and Donna are engaged? And he's mocking Eric, "Well you sure say that a lot, so it must be true. here, let's see if it works. I'm Mr. Rogers..." Well, It's mine. Their mine. All of it belongs to me (laughs maniacally... Nope, still not true. Damn, Red is always right.

Steven Hyde's lungs were on fire. Too many years of smoking and drinking and skipping gym, had left his body unprepared for the trial he was putting it to. But he had to find her. As fast as possible. So he ran. Around a city he wasn't familiar with. With little idea of just how long she'd been out on her own.

To the studio first, where she had made it in, Thank God. But they'd said she'd left at least an hour ago. And without a thank you to the receptionist, he was out running again.

To the grocery store, to the beach. To the small restraunts he knew she liked. He ran passed the strange looks without a care, without even noticing. He had to find her.

He checked the mall. Just in case she'd decided to celebrate the role with a little shopping. He ran by every salon in a 5 mile radius, peaking in windows and throwing open doors, searching desperately for a tiny, beautiful girl that he was going to kiss or kill as soon as he found her.

Sweat made his t-shirt cling to his chest and back and arms. His feet were already were not made from running. He could feel his sunglasses sliding down his nose, and still he pushed, mentally insisting he needed to move faster, think faster. He'd never been so scared in his life.

The sun was already well passed the highest point of the day and easing towards the horizon. Every muscle in his body was cramping, tightening, slowing him down and finally, making him stop. He looked up, face unusually contorted with frustration, fear, agony, at the apartment building.

He noticed a shadow cross the window, and then the flickering of a new light filling the room. With a sudden and renewed energy, he was in the building, climbing steps with the longest stride he could, until his hand was at the door, pushing it open...he held his breath.


She walked into his view, and immediately his body began to curl inward. His search was over, she was safe. But he could feel a thick blanket of anger beginning to spread to the crevices where desperate worry had just been. He took a few steps towards her, looking her up and down to make sure she was really okay, and then he turned and headed straight for the kitchen.

"Steven? Are you okay? You look...uh, well, dirty." Jackie asked, to his back as she leaned on the doorframe and watched him swallow down 3 glasses of water, and then without hesitation grab a beer from the fridge. Not even looking at her, he made his way back into the living room, gulping his beer as he went. Plopping down on the couch, putting his feet up on the coffee table, and turning on the TV. Annoyed, Jackie rolled her eyes, she hated being ignored. Moving to stand in front of the television, she folded her arms across her chest, and fixed him with her most withering glare. "Is this about last night? Look, I already said I was sorry, there's no need for you to act like an ass."

"Is this about last night!? Jackie, are you freaking kidding me? I'm watching TV, and really it's in your best interest not to push me right now. So move."

"Excuse me? This is my home, mister. So you can take your stinky, dirtiness right off my couch, thank you very much. It didn't cost much, but up until now it didn't reak, and that's the way I liked it."

Suddenly, Hyde was standing. She hadn't expected him to listen, or to get more upset. Really, she'd just expected to push him a little until he told her what was wrong. Partly, because she could tell something was wrong, and also, because this was the first day in forever that she'd felt like herself. He'd given that to her. Or she'd taken that from him. She wasn't sure which, but either way she didn't want him mad at her for it. Even if it could never happen again.

But now she felt like maybe she'd crossed the line, he was far angrier than he should be about sex. He was Steven after all, and she knew he too had enjoyed it. He took his glasses off, setting them aside. He stepped closer and as he did, peeled the drenched t-shirt from his body.

"Jackie, don't you wonder why I'm so dirty? Why a guy you've barely ever seen leave the house willingly in the heat, let alone go jogging in it, is drenched with sweat from an afternoon run around LA?" He was close to her now, right in front of her, and his tone was so layered and in his now naked eyes she could see every emotion he was feeling, and it overwhelmed her. She wondered to herself, as she saw anger, disgust, annoyance, frustration, even maybe gratefulness and concern, floating behind his bright blue veils, which one would inspire the next words out of his mouth.

She gulped, "Why, Steven?"

"Because I've spent the last 4 and a half hours running all over, looking for you. Leaving this morning without me is the stupidest thing you have ever done. And I was out there trying to find you, to protect you. Maybe that's the stupidest thing I've ever done."


"No. There's a man who is out to get you, do you understand that? If he finds you, which he can, so easily, and I'm not there, what are you going to do, kick his shins? Tell him he has bad hair until he goes away? You can't be like this, lost in your own little Jackie world, oblivious to everyone else, when your life might be on the line." His voice was rising, but he was not shouting at her. His eyes were as bright as she'd ever seen them. And she couldn't look away. "And I mean, I'm out here. My work, my friends, the closest thing I have to a family and a home, are all back there." He waved his hand in the direction Point Place might have been, before bringing a finger to his chest, and pointing it, poking it repeatedly to his bare flesh. "But here I am, because you are alone, because you are in danger. And do you know what I would do if anything happened to you? Do you? Do you know what it was like to wake up with you gone and not be able to find you? If I came back tonight, and you weren't here, I would have snapped, Jackie. I was already at the edge of my rope with worry. I would have not rested until I found that guy and tore him apart with my bare hands." He looked at her, really looked into her. And rather than feeling the warmth of his concern, the walls she built around her frozen heart that allowed him to stay, to protect her, crumbled, and it unleashed all the pain she still held in with every single breath.

"If you can't take it, then leave, Steven. I never asked you to stay. And don't you dare get self-righteous on me now." She stepped forward a half-step, so they were really toe to toe, chest to chest. Her voice was so low. "Since when do you even care, Steven. The only reason I'm even out here, is because of you, because you broke me. Inside. Completely. What can he possibly do to me that'd be worse than that? Worse than what you did by marrying her, by staying with her, by touching her, kissing her, making love to her, and then smiling as you watched me cry."

She had let two tears fall down her cheeks, and she was surprised by how warm they felt. She stared at him, deeply and pointedly, through misty eyes, and she watched thoughts and almost words and feelings pass across his face like fast rolling storm clouds. Their breathing was fast and heavy, their bodies were so close. And the tension seemed to push everything faster, heavier, closer.

Until the phone rang. Startled, the strong-willed, old Jackie she'd allowed to resurface recoiled at the tone. And a very angry Steven Hyde went to yank the receiver off the wall.

"Hello." His voice boomed and hissed and snarled all at once.

And he found his tone entirely justified when it wasn't Kitty, or Red, or any of their friends on the other end.

He heard the breathing. Then a soft laughing. A mocking chuckle that made his fists clench at his side.

"I saw her today. And she was very alone."

Hyde's fists wrapped even tighter, the muscles of his back rippeling in agitation.

"You were no where around. But I didn't take her. Why? Because I can be patient. I'm sure it will happen again. And I wanted to let you know, that I didn't, but I could have, and let you think about what that means for a while."

Click. Dial tone. And an angry barreling, "FUCK!" escaping his lips.

He hung the receiver up with such force that Jackie thought for sure it was going to crumble and fall off the wall.

His head was hanging low and everything about his arms and back seemed to be pulled so tight, like he was really being stretched thin.

Jackie felt suddenly like the chills would never stop, like the relief of the night before had been a lie, a tease. She'd never be well again.

And she couldn't stop the warm tears turning to icey ones, that wouldn't stop.

Slowly, she walked up behind him, and with a shaking hand reached out and touched his shoulder. It was shaking, and if she didn't know him better, she have thought he was crying.

Her voice, a hoarse whisper, floated out a litany of soft, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Finally, abruptly he turned to her. His eyes were so dark. With anger, but she could have sworn she saw something else...something she hadn't seen in so long.

"Steven, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought all that up, and you, you have been so great to have here. I'm just, I'm so sor-"

She was silenced as he pulled her to him, his breathing raspy and uneven, his face red. "Jackie, I-." And without another breath he was kissing her and pulling her towards the bedroom.

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