Epilogue – At Last
A/N: This is my last JH story. And the last three words: they mean everything to me. So…Jackie and Hyde Forever and don't ever forget it. Peace, my babies…
R.E.M. – It's the end of the world (as we know it)
…Just one fleeting moment in time…
October 31, 1988
"Give me your hand, my lovely. I will kiss it…soft…slow…smooth. That is nice, yes? I thought so…"
"Yes, my tulip?"
"Who are you talking to?"
Fez blinked. It did nothing to help his blindness. This hallway was blacker than black could ever hope to be, the blue strip of landing lights below long gone. And she sounded so far away.
Curious, Fez smoothed his thumb over the cool fingers at his lips. "Cheryl?"
He chuckled nervously. "Well you are very good at throwing your voice."
"I'm not throwing my voice, Fez."
A few feet away, Kelso narrowed his eyes. "Fez, who are you kissing, man?"
"What do you mean?" Fez frowned. "I am kissing Cheryl, of course. Right, my lovely?"
The neon blue lights returned and Fez's eyes widened at the hideous face that stared back at him. Cloudy cerulean eyes went unblinking.
"You're not Cheryl," he muttered shakily, still holding the creature's pale hand.
"Oh, my GOD!" Donna screamed hysterically, the gruff sound carried by a suddenly-panic-stricken Brooke. Both took off running down the hall. Behind them, Fez's date followed, screaming.
The unsightly white-haired woman in Fez's face began to scream, too, but her ghastly shriek was unnatural and excruciating to everyone's horrified ears.
Eric covered his ears in pain.
His eyes wide with fear, Kelso pointed. His screech was ear-splitting. "It's the ghost lady of the third class corridor! Run! Fez! RUN!"
"Ahhh!!" Fez shouted and took off running behind Eric and Kelso.
Arriving first, Brooke slammed into a wall at the far end of the hall and began to feel her way around the dark blue haze. "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" Donna was also abruptly halted by the wall beside her, followed, of course, by Cheryl.
At a realization, Brooke's face grew horrified. "There was supposed to be a stairway here, right? Did we go the wrong way?"
"Crap! Did we?" Her eyes wild with concern, Donna began to feel her way around, too. All three women screamed and jumped, suddenly stuck by moving bodies. "Ahhhh!!"
"Ahhhh!!" the boys screamed back.
"Well MOVE! Why are you all stopped?!" Kelso demanded angrily.
"There's no where to go, Kelso!" Donna yelled back.
"This is bad." Eric's face soured with concern. His head shook, his lips curled down like a mackerel's scowl. "It's too dark, you guys. I can't see my own hand in front of my face."
"It's not in front of your face, stupid," Brooke snapped.
Eric raised his hand. "Oh."
"I think we went backwards," Fez announced.
"Well, where is that ghost lady?!" his date asked everyone, still fraught with alarm.
Huddled together, all six froze and frowned—having momentarily forgotten what they were running from—and slowly turned around as a group.
His face scowling with resentment, Fez shook his head. "Oh, 'Come to the haunted ship, Fez. We'll have a few drinks and dance. It'll be a hoot'. And now I am going to die!" His mouth grew rigid. "I hate all of you."
Kelso swallowed. "Okay, one of you is just going to have to sacrifice themselves for the good of the group, and as a member of said group, I would just like to say 'thank you' in advance."
"Uh-uh. No way. I'm not sacrificing anything, Kelso!" Donna glowered at him.
Brooke shook her head. "Well, I'm not doing it."
"Yeah. Me neither," Eric concurred vehemently. "You're the cop, Kelso."
"Which is exactly why I should be protected so that I can then protect the rest of the community when we safely get out of here!"
Eric shoved Kelso forward toward the dark, shadowed outline of the 'ghost' who faced them in showdown maybe forty feet away. "Just distract her, man!"
"What? Why me?"
"Michael!" Brooke ordered.
"Fine! I'll do it… Big, stupid babies. But you're all buyin' my beer!" Kelso took a few stomping steps forward and then launched into a full speed run toward the woman, screaming, his arms flailing.
"Go! Go! Go!" Eric yelled at everyone as they all began to run.
…Save yourself. Serve yourself
World serves its own needs. Listen to your heart bleed.
Dummy with the rapture and the revered and the right - right.
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty psyched!
All six slammed into the far wall with a loud thud and several groans. The sounds of the ballroom loomed up ahead as Eric shoved the tethered group through a doorway that led to the stairwell they remembered.
"Before she curses us again!"
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it…
Inside the Grand Ballroom, Jackie looked from left to right, then back again, and then did it again, her head resembling something of a sprinkler head in mid-summer.
"Where are they?!" she demanded, stamping her foot. "It's been well over an hour!"
"Will you relax," Hyde snapped at her for probably the hundredth time since arriving, sitting up in his seat as he stared at her posture intently. "They'll be here...Now sit down, before you get yourself worked up again!"
Turning, she stamped her foot again, this time at him. "Yeah, but, it's been…"
"Jackie," Hyde growled.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine…
But she wasn't listening; instead, her eyes widened as she turned and saw her friends—looking unkempt and out of breath, but laughing as they walked briskly through a break in the crowded dance floor.
"There they are! Where have you guys been?!" Jackie demanded irritably as they approached. "I'm been trapped here with Mr. Stick-in-the-Mud all night."
"We got here as fast as we could," Donna assured her.
"Man, we ran into that ghost lady again," Kelso exclaimed. "It was awesome!"
Jackie began to hop and clap, the red and white 'Sandy from Grease' cheerleading costume she wore flouncing with her—her ponytail swinging. "Well, I wanna dance!"
"NO!" Hyde stood up and pointed at her. "Jackie! Damn it! You promised!"
"Yeah, well, I lied." Jackie stuck out her tongue.
Sidestepping Hyde's glower, the rest of the gang sat down around the table, grateful for the drinks that were already waiting for them. Chatter began about the last hour's adventures as Jackie stood by, incredulous, holding out her arms.
"Hello! Dance floor!"
Brooke shook her head apologetically at her friend. "I'm too tired and thirsty right now to dance, Jackie... Plus, I'm terrified of what Hyde will do to me."
"Me, too," Donna admitted as everyone else nodded. They were all terrified.
Jackie's eyes narrowed into tiny, angry slits. Her hands balled into fists. "Steven!"
"Nope," he responded from his chair, seated as smug and casual as could be, his hands relaxed and crossed over his stomach. "It's not happening, Jackie, so just sit down before you explode all over the nice people dancing."
"This is the worst night ever. I don't see why I couldn't just go through all the mazes," she complained and stepped toward Hyde, who held his arms open for her.
The chair reserved for Jackie was wedged perfectly up against Hyde's so that she could rest her legs over his lap, and that's exactly what she did, falling between his arms comfortably.
"It's not that big of a deal," she grumbled quietly. "I'm fine."
Hyde rolled his eyes. "It's not safe, Jackie. I'm done talking about it."
Jackie folded her arms, pouting as she laid her head on his shoulder. His arm curled around her. "This is supposed to be our place."
"And it is," Hyde acknowledged as everyone listened, drinking their beers. "We did stuff in here, too, I think." He grinned. "Lots of stuff. Right?" He made a face at his friends, not really remembering much from their drunken night here four years earlier. He was searching for help.
"Yeah, you guys were making out and…" Donna frowned. "Oh, you danced," she suddenly recalled. "He danced with you."
"Whatever," Jackie mumbled scornfully, rolling her eyes. Hyde smiled beside her, rather enjoying watching her pout, as long as it was from the safety of her chair.
"So what happened here before, anyway?" Cheryl asked laughing, curious about why the very pregnant brunette she'd just met was so insistent on going through the mazes with everyone else.
"Well..." Donna took it upon herself to begin...
Cheryl sat for the next hour, extremely intrigued and keenly focused on the story set around the month of November, back in 1984, long before she'd met any of them.
"So whatever happened to Colin and Jessica?" she ultimately asked.
Jackie frowned over at Hyde, who didn't seem to be paying attention. "Well…I talk to Colin sometimes. He lives in New York. He's actually doing really well," she explained happily. "He has a girlfriend. He's happy. I think he's still a little angry with Steven, though. But I told him to just get over it, and whenever I say that he just laughs and says that it's not about me." Jackie laughed. "If Steven would just stop calling him Lucky Charms…" she directed scornfully at Hyde.
"When you stop calling him to see how he is, I'll stop calling him Lucky Charms," Hyde grinned, keeping his eyes on his activities, proving he was listening.
"I've called twice in four years, Steven." Jackie rolled her eyes as Hyde ignored her and continued his drinking game with his friends. "Anyway," she continued, returning to the female-only conversation currently dominating table. "Colin's fine and Jessica…"
Brooke smiled, jumping in. "I ran into her about…Mmm…" She had to think about it. "Two years ago?"
"She actually lives here, in Chicago. But guess who I saw her with?"
Cheryl frowned. "Who?"
"Her fiancé, who is the…" Brooke frowned as Donna shrugged, unable to assist. Jackie was no help either. "Whatever. He's one of the players on the Chicago Bears."
"He is a mortal enemy of the Packers," Eric threw in disdainfully.
"She's a traitor," Kelso added, shaking his head with disgust. "I mean, she knows how I feel about the Bears!"
"Yeah, and she hates Hyde," Fez laughed.
Hyde kept playing his game of quarters.
"She doesn't hate him," Jackie clarified to Cheryl. "She's way too nice to hate anyone."
Brooke was laughing, too. "Oh, she hates him, Jackie."
"Yeah, she does," Donna concurred, laughing as well. "What did she call him? A cheating…"
"Well she can just shut up then!" Jackie snapped angrily, rubbing her hand protectively over Hyde's forearm. "I never liked that bitch."
Everyone started to laugh, the mood and discussion lightening to matters of gossip that seemed more local, like the costumes of the people around them and delicious rumors from work.
Eventually everyone got up to dance, get drinks and socialize, but Jackie stayed at the table with Hyde, as she had promised. And he stayed sober, ashe had promised. They passed most of the time making fun of any peculiarity that came within eye range, making Jackie comfortable and placing playful kisses on each other's lips.
When the rest of the gang returned to the table, they wore curious faces for Jackie and Hyde, who sat one behind the other. Hyde's arms reached around Jackie as he rubbed circles across the sides of her over-stretched belly, his chin resting on her shoulder, hers on her chest.
Jackie scowled while she stared at his efforts. "The other way," she demanded quietly and watched him comply, Hyde turning his strokes counter-clockwise with gentle deliberation. She closed her eyes with relief. "Oh," she sighed. "That's a little better."
Behind her, Hyde's face was as serious as a heart attack. "You want me to keep going?"
"What are you guys doing?" Brooke asked.
"Steven is massaging my belly," Jackie explained without looking up.
"Well, we can see that, but why?"
Jackie raised her eyes, irritated by the interruption. "Because it makes me feel better. Now go be skinny and not pregnant and dance, bitch."
"Jackie!" Donna scolded and laughed at the same time. "You are the meanest pregnant lady ever. You realize that, right?"
Jackie ignored her and returned her eyes to her large baby bump. Her eyes clenched shut. "Ah. The bottom, baby."
"Are you sure you're alright," Hyde whispered to her, his expression one of concern as he stretched his arms further to gain access the lower section of her belly. "We can just go home."
"I'm fine," she responded quietly.
Brooke frowned. "Is she still having the Braxton Hicks?"
"I guess," Hyde shrugged. "She says she's having cramps."
Her eyebrows shooting up in intrigue, Brooke stepped closer and kneeled down beside them. "Is it like a tightening? Are they stronger than usual?"
Jackie shook her head. "No," she lied, determined to stay out tonight. It had taken her forever to get Hyde to agree to come. So here she would stay.
"Are you timing them?" Brooke asked Hyde quietly.
Hyde frowned in abrupt concern, never having thought that he might need to.
"No, he's not!" Jackie snapped. "Will you please just stop worrying? I'm seriously fine."
When Brooke sighed and stood up, Jackie craned her neck back to get her face as close as possible to Hyde's. She batted her eyelashes. "Can we please dance now? Please? Baby? Please? Pudding? Please? " Hyde watched her with amusement. "Please? Please? Pleeease? Dance with me. Please?"
Hyde hesitated, blinking several times as he pondered. "One more time."
"Alright," he sighed and shook his head. "But if you start to get tired, or the cramps come back, you tell me. Got it?"
Jackie smiled with excitement. "I promise!"
As Hyde fought to wiggle out of the cramped chair maze he was trapped in, Jackie hastily jumped up, not minding her speed, forgetting her condition.
Everyone dispersing from different points around the table stopped at the sound. It was a whimper and then a gasp of air. They all turned around as Hyde looked up. Jackie was still, but suddenly crying now, silent, shameful tears, her expression shocked, limbs frozen in place. One arm was bent at chest level, the other held straight out. Only her eyes moved frantically, wide with horror.
Hyde wore the same expression. "What's the matter?"
But Jackie was in her own bleak world, sobbing quietly in place, still unmoving, still frozen.
"Jackie!" Hyde shouted over the music, trying to regain her attention. A million chairs, it seemed, stood between him and her quaking upper body. But it was only two. He tossed them out of the way to get to her.
"Stop!" Jackie shouted at him, raising one arm slightly in front of herself. "Don't come any closer!"
He came anyway and grabbed her face. "What's wrong? Why are you crying?"
The tears worsened at his sudden presence and Jackie was moving into hysterics between his hands, her expression still terrified.
"What the hell's wrong?!" Hyde shouted in frustration.
"I'm so em-em-embarrassed," Jackie sobbed quietly, almost incoherently, to only him. He had her eyes locked on his. His hands were blinders and she could speak, as long as they were alone. "I'm-I-I…"
"Shh…Okay," he whispered in a calm, soothing voice. "Just tell me what's wrong."
Jackie blinked and, fighting through his hold on her head, looked down, causing him to do the same.
Hyde twisted his foot and raised it from the yellow-tinted puddle of amniotic fluid that pooled below them. "Oh," he muttered, setting his foot back down. Letting relief calm him, relief that she was technically alright, he looked up at her humiliated face. "Okay," he nodded, finally understanding her reaction. "I'm going to fix it. Just stay here."
"Hyde, what's wrong with her?" Brooke asked from across the table.
"Nothing." His feet shifting aimlessly in his indecision, Hyde finally sighed and reached around Jackie's back to grab the two pitchers of beer from the table, taking them squarely into both hands as the rest of the gang watched in confusion. Without an explanation, he rotated his wrists and let the amber liquid spill everywhere around him and Jackie.
He grinned at Jackie.
Still frozen, Jackie watched the unsullied beer trickle and run, blending in with their baby's water. She blinked, and shuddered, feeling the curious eyes begin to turn on her. Fresh humility began to set in.
"Waitress, we spilled our beer," Hyde called out flatly to the girl walking by. She stopped, visibly irritated at the liquid mess beneath his feet—beneath the overturned pitchers locked securely in his fists—and pivoted in the other direction to get a mop.
As if time had not stopped, the music continued vivaciously. The crowd continued to murmur and sway, paying little attention to the party foul at table number nine. In the middle of it all, Jackie stood unblinking, yet unable to process her surroundings. Distraught and exhausted, her already-overloaded body instead, and suddenly, began to sink, yielding to her embarrassment just as Hyde scooped her up, drawing her face up into his neck to hide.
Tears stinging her nose, she snuggled in and closed her eyes. "Just kill me, Steven." A fierce hold on his neck, she pretended they were home. In her mind, the music was simply the radio on a lazy Sunday afternoon; the curious voices she heard were the TV while they lay in bed, veiled in play beneath the covers. And Hyde, soft but strong, held her, maybe like the nights he carried her to bed when she would fall asleep on the couch. Yes, that was it. She was not here, and this was not happening. They were home.
"We're almost out," she heard him say.
"My purse," Jackie murmured.
"Brooke's got it," Hyde assured her as he closed in on the main exit. "Are you having contractions?" he breathed out precariously. He sounded more worried, more shaken, than she ever thought possible for him. "Does it hurt?"
Jackie wiped her wet cheek on his shirt. "No…Are we going home now?"
"You're going to the hospital."
"In Milwaukee," Jackie stated matter-of-factly. Underlying, though, was a question.
"No. Here," Hyde responded curtly. "We're not risking driving all the way back to Milwaukee."
"No!" Jackie raised her head. "Doctor Nick might not make it down in time."
Hyde's jaw tightened. "Then you'll just have a different doctor, Jackie."
"Steven!" Jackie wiggled angrily. "Put me down."
Reluctantly, carefully, but angrily, Hyde set her down in the middle of the hallway and held out his arms as the others stopped, too. He looked at Brooke. "What the hell just happened?"
"Her water broke."
"Yeah. I kind of figured," he snapped. "What does that mean, though? Do we have time to drive back to Milwaukee?"
Brooke sighed at Jackie. "Are you having contractions?"
"I told you I feel…" Jackie winced. Another sharp, aching pain tightened against the inside walls of her distended abdomen, and then quickly gravitated toward the center. Crap. They were getting worse. She really hoped they didn't see that. "…fine."
Hyde scowled, his eyes narrowing as he stepped closer to Jackie. His hands cradled her face gently but with enough strength to render her head immobile. "Jackie," he growled quietly, his eyes stern. "Are you having contractions or not?"
Jackie's face was unsure between his hands. "Not?"
"Jackie," Donna pressed from behind Hyde. Beside her, Brooke glanced at her watch. "We're all leaving regardless. So stop lying!"
Jackie gulped. Hyde's angry eyes still had hers locked. His palms burned against her cheeks. "I might be?" she amended nervously.
Dropping his hands, Hyde shook his head, his jaw and lips rigid as he fumed in front of her.
Jackie watched, fearing his reaction.
"How often are they coming?" Brooke asked her.
Jackie glanced between Brooke and Hyde, and then made a sweeping gaze behind them at the faces of her friends, her own temper suddenly flaring. "I don't know, okay!" She pushed Hyde's rising hand away. "Everyone stop staring at me like I'm a dancing cow or something!"
"Jackie, you're going to the hospital whether you like it or not!" Hyde commanded and seized her hand, stopping himself before he could absentmindedly yank on her. He sighed, calming himself. "Can you walk?"
Her obstinate expression unchanging, Jackie glanced around herself and then nodded. They all continued down the long hallway toward the boat's main atrium, the place where Jackie and Hyde had first began their flirtation four years before, where Jackie now stopped, refusing to take one more step.
"I need to clean up."
"Clean up at the hospital," Hyde grimaced.
"I want to clean up now! I'm not going in public covered in Steven Junior's water like this, Steven!"
Hyde sighed, automatically accepting of this particular defeat, and left her side to sit down beside his friends. "Go ahead then," he prompted calmly, his jaw tense.
As haughtily as her pregnant body would move, Jackie disappeared into the restroom, escorted by Brooke and Donna upon Hyde's silent cue.
Eric slapped his palm on Hyde's shoulder once the girls were lost from view. "You nervous, man?"
"Of course," Hyde scoffed as he stared at the women's restroom door. "Jackie complains for hours when her curlers are in too tight. This is going to be my personal hell."
Kelso nodded, his mind only half inside the conversation as he glanced around the decorated tavern. "Yeah, I was nervous, too. Just don't look directly at it. I couldn't do it with her for months after…" He shuddered.
Hyde frowned. "No, you idiot. I'm talking about having to watch her in pain."
Kelso ignored him.
Shaking his head, Hyde began to glance around, too. He could hear his friends' garbled bickering, but he could not bring himself to listen. Jackie was on his mind. She seemed ready and consistently acted as if the whole thing was a walk in the damn park, her biggest concern tonight having something to do with the over-sized cheer sweater that she could not get to fit right.
But this was a baby, a real, live baby beneath that sweater, the baby he had given to her on an unusually-windy night in February, the very baby she had pleaded with him breathlessly for. He spent the eight and a half months since rubbing her stomach and watching it grow. He kissed it every night before bed and first thing every morning. And thus far, what lived inside seemed to be made of only the soft flesh of her abdomen. It rippled in the bathtub, their "baby", and in bed. Its shrouded presence caused Jackie to complain of heartburn and being fat, on occasion. But that was about it, for the most part. Other than that, it had been no trouble at all.
But now…a double hit. This mystery baby and hours of watching Jackie in pain. He had no idea if he was up for either. No idea if he could be their hero, as Jackie continually insisted he was. Yes. She, so far, was easy enough to please. His presence and love was all she ever seemed to need. But he knew everything would soon change, as would she.
The panicked call made Hyde look up with round, full eyes. He stood up. "What's wrong?"
"Just come in here!"
Hyde hurried into the restroom behind Donna. "What's the matter?"
"Something's wrong. She won't let either of us near her," Brooke complained fretfully, worry painting her face green as she pointed. "She's in that one."
Hyde banged on the stall door. "Jackie?"
"Steven," he heard Jackie cry. She was in pain.
Hyde pushed at the door, but it was locked. "Damn it, Jackie. Unlock it." All he heard was crying, and he stormed into the next stall to stand on the toilet seat and peered into Jackie's stall. She was leaning against the side wall, grabbing her pregnant belly, doubled over in pain. Quickly, Hyde pulled himself over the flimsy wall and dropped down inside with her.
"Hey," he whispered, more scared then he could ever remember feeling as he grabbed her face. "What's wrong?"
Tears were in her eyes. "It hurts."
"My stomach. I think it's real this time," she whimpered, almost startled. "They're getting worse, Steven."
Hyde glanced at his watch. The time revealed nothing. "Brooke? How far apart are they, do you think? I haven't been checking... Fuck!"
Meaning to comfort him, Jackie grabbed his waist and tried to hug him, but it was nearly impossible with seven pounds six ounces of baby between them. She squeezed the flesh at his sides, instead, as Brooke spoke from the other side of the door. "Don't worry, I've been checking. I think they're about seven minutes apart."
Hyde made a face. "Is that bad?"
"No, it's not bad. She just needs to go to the hospital. It's not going to come out in the bathroom, but we should try to hurry."
"Is it still going? The contraction?" Hyde asked Jackie. She shook her head. "Let's go then."
"No." Her voice was troubled.
"Why not? What's the matter?"
"I don't want to say," Jackie frowned. "I'm too embarrassed."
Hyde waited, his face spreading with dissatisfaction.
Eventually, Jackie sighed. "Fine...Will you help me?" She looked down. "Clean up, I mean. I can't bend over. I keep getting contractions. I feel like a disgusting…wet…heifer, Steven. God, it's a good thing I never got on the dance floor because I really would have been a big dancing cow!" Her eyes were soaked with tears, her expression locked in perpetual humiliation. "I feel gross and I don't want them to see me all wet and…I don't want the people at the hospital to think I'm…I don't want them to…" Jackie drew in a stifled, yet shaky, breath.
Hyde relaxed his shoulders. "I know. Okay." He placed his palms flat on the sides of her stomach and began to rub, a gesture he was becoming used to. "What do you need me to do?"
With some reluctance, Jackie handed him the paper towels she had soaked with warm sink water and felt a chill run through her chest. It was silly, really, of course he loved her unconditionally. But as he knelt down and removed the layers of wet clothing beneath her skirt, she wondered how he could after this…love her. She played with his curls for a moment and then dropped her hand. "You think I'm gross now, don't you?" Her lips curled down into a pout.
Hyde didn't look up from what he was doing, wiping down the insides of her thighs. "No."
"You're never going to want to have sex with me again," she accused petulantly.
"Jackie." Hyde looked up and heaved an annoyed sigh. "Cut it out…Do you feel clean?"
"Yes," she whispered.
Satisfied, Hyde stood up, aware of the pout on her face. "Of course I'll want to have sex with you," he whispered, laying his hands on her cheeks again and kissing her gently. "I've always, always wanted to have sex with you."
"I know, but that's when I wasn't dumping baby water all over dance floors." Jackie sniffled, tears threatening to return.
Hyde grinned amorously and moved his mouth to kiss a path along her jaw toward her ear. "Yeah, but that baby water that's all over the dance floor right now is from our baby." He kissed her ear. "And that makes you the sexiest chick in the world." Leaning back, he saw the disbelieving expression on her face. "Hey. It takes guts to dump your baby water all over a dance floor. I thought it was pretty bad ass."
Jackie rolled her eyes and fought back a smile.
"It was hot."
"Oh, shut up, Steven." Jackie knit her eyebrows at him, still a bit unsure. But his gaze was sweet, adoring, and it now lay lovingly on her stomach. He saw nothing else. And she felt beautiful.
Another contraction hit and Jackie winced in pain, moaning now at the intensity of it. "Oh, God. Steven."
"That was six minutes," Brooke announced.
"Crap. We've gotta go."
The drive to the hospital was surprisingly uneventful, especially considering that it was Kelso who insisted on driving while Hyde held Jackie through her pain in the middle seat of the van. As her contractions grew in intensity, his driving only became safer, more controlled. His nerves, though, were going haywire.
"What is this guy's problem!"
"Michael, calm down!" Brooke ordered.
"Michael, I swear to Go…ahhhhhhd!" Jackie yelled. "Steven!"
"We're almost there," he soothed before turning angrily to his friend. "Kelso! Stop freaking out and just get us there, man!"
"I am! God! It's these jerks on the road," he explained, looking in his rearview mirror at the long line of accusing headlights behind him. "Honking at me is not going to make me go any faster?!" he yelled out his window, the sounds of honking and angry yells making everybody more and more frazzled, especially him.
Within minutes, they reached the emergency room of Chicago Memorial Hospital, Eric, Donna, Fez, and his date following closely behind in another car. Inside the waiting room, the serene hospital colors and quiet atmosphere put everyone quickly at ease. The staff immediately brought out a wheelchair for Jackie and escorted her and Hyde to the admitting desk, after a few temporary farewells to their friends, who would eventually sit in the maternity waiting room, and sleep, waiting with controlled impatience throughout the long night.
The nurse rolled Jackie away. Though Jackie's eyes remained on Hyde longingly, knitting, beseeching him to follow.
"I'll be right there. I promise," Hyde hummed gently and turned with a scowl to the nurse behind the desk. "Hurry it up, huh."
The admission nurse gathered some paperwork and an empty chart, clicking her pen several times to work. Hyde grew impatient. "Her name, please," the woman finally said.
Hyde flexed his jaw. "Jackie," he sighed curtly. "Hyde."
"And your relationship to her."
"I'm her husband…Steven Hyde." His voice was tense. He could imagine how frazzled and upset Jackie was becoming without him. As the seconds slowly ticked away, as this apathetic nurse took her damn time, his nerves tensed, threatening to explode him into a rage. But it was for the staff on the maternity ward, for the nurse who wheeled his cantankerous wife away that he truly feared for.
"Her date of birth," the woman in blue scrubs continued, without giving him so much as a glance.
Hyde blew out a breath. "March twenty-first, nineteen sixty…"
Three floors up, and nearly twenty minutes later, Jackie opened her eyes—her chin tucked tightly against her chest—and smoothed two shaking hands over the gentle curve above her overstretched bellybutton. Dressed in a hospital-issued Johnny—dyed a hideous shade of seafoam green—she sat back against her pillow and closed her eyes. For a lifelong dream, this was awfully nightmarish. The pain was increasing in intensity with each contraction and only served to scare her further. She considered taking the medication nurse hostage several times, especially if that slow bitch didn't make this snappy.
Jackie flinched. Her body stiffened as the muscles in her abdomen clenched tight. Where the hell was her husband?! This was supposed to be a joyous freaking moment!
Jackie's eyelids flew open. "Oh, thank God!" With what of her wits she had left, Jackie smacked Hyde's chest before clutching at her belly again. "I'm only dilated one centimeter. Where were you?"
The pain in his face nearly matching hers, Hyde bent over Jackie, tentatively placing his palm to her forehead to sweep her hair away. "Getting you checked in. Apparently, you can't just walk in, push the kid out, and be on your way." He kissed her forehead.
"I can't do this."
"You said that about shopping for fat clothes."
"And I couldn't do it, Steven!" Jackie yelled as her most recent contraction broke off and disappeared. "Brooke had to buy my maternity clothes for me, remember?" Miserably, she dropped her head back on the pillow and wrapped her fingers around his. "All that searching for those pretty stockings with the little blue and pink unicorns and I end up in seafoam green," she complained.
Hyde frowned, pulling up her johnny dress slightly to study the polyester stockings that covered her feet and calves and knees, stopping at mid-thigh. He grinned. "I like 'em."
"You would," Jackie snarled and then sighed at his lack of a rebuttal. His face remained sweet. "I'm sorry, baby."
A few minutes passed and Hyde moved away from Jackie, walking around the room as he touched and eyed everything it had to offer. "There's a cot here for me," he noticed in the corner and chuckled. "We can't get away from them, can we?"
Jackie smiled. "It's our…" Hissing, she paused as another contraction throbbed through her abdomen. The pain was becoming what she once assumed would be unbearable. And even though, each time, she thought she could not tolerable a greater pain, each time she did. Her legs pushed against the mattress as her body squirmed. "God…I can't take it anymore! Steven!" she demanded as Hyde rushed to her bedside. She grabbed his shirt. "You get that bitch back in here and tell her that I am not waiting anymore. I want that shot!"
He nodded. "Okay."
Several minutes later, a female anesthesiologist smiled and began gently, pressing a firm but gentle palm on Jackie's naked back. Jackie, straddling Hyde on the edge of the bed, buried her face into his neck. "Alright, Mrs. Hyde, just relax and hold on to your husband. You're going to feel a mild prick in the middle of your spine and then some slight pressure. Please do not move until I say, alright?"
"Is it going to hurt?"
"It shouldn't be more than just pressure."
Closing her eyes, Jackie braced herself against Hyde, her fingers clutching the back of his shirt. "Okay." Her voice was muffled, her lips smashed against his shoulder. "Go ahead."
Hyde nodded, wincing as the anesthesiologist gave him the final gesture and then pierced his wife's spine.
Queasily, Hyde kissed Jackie's temple. "You alright?"
"I guess so."
"Okay." The anesthesiologist straightened up. "All done."
Jackie raised her head, pleasantly surprised. "That's it?"
"That's it," the woman smiled.
Jackie frowned at her. "It's not working. I'm getting another contraction right now," she winced, fighting to keep her scowl steady. "Do it again."
The anesthesiologist chuckled.
"Jackie. Give it a minute," Hyde said.
"She should lie down now and try to sleep," the lady in the lab coat advised, glancing at the clock. It read that it was past two in the morning. "You should, too. It's going to be a busy day tomorrow…for you both. And every day after," she laughed. "I assure you."
Hyde frowned and blinked a few times. "Sleep?" He received a head-tilting gesture from the woman that stopped him cold. It suddenly struck him that Jackie was quiet—a rarity—and felt a little heavier against his body. The woman walked out, leaving them alone.
"Hey," Hyde nudged his wife. "Jackie."
A smile lifting one side of his mouth, Hyde rolled Jackie's head back and studied her eyes. "You're high, aren't you?"
Jackie smiled deliriously. "I am… Oh my God, Steven, this stuff is great," she giggled. "We should take some home." Her eyes danced like a pendulum back and forth as she measured the sensation washing over her body. "I can't even feel my stomach. Is it still there?"
Hyde chuckled. "Lie down, loadie."
He laid her down and started to climb off the bed. "No," Jackie cried out, clutching at the back hem of his shirt. "Where are you going?"
"To my cot."
"No." Jackie shook her head, frantic, terrified. "No cots. Sleep with me. Please." Reeling him in by his t-shirt, she continued her plea. "There's room. We used to do it all the time, remember? Sleep on tiny little beds together." She scooted over to allow him room and yanked him down as best she could.
"Yeah, but we didn't have almost two feet of baby between us," Hyde argued, settling in beside her.
"I had you," Jackie smiled, snuggling in gleefully against him, "and you were almost 6 feet of baby." The light suddenly went out, and they heard the door shut. The room was silent while Hyde pulled the blankets up over them and tucked them behind Jackie. "Steven…Can I tell you a secret?" Jackie whispered.
"Sure," he whispered back.
Hyde laid his head back on the pillow, gently kissing her lips after a moment. "Me, too."
"I don't think I know how to be a good mom," Jackie pouted, milking for another sympathetic kiss. "And we don't have the money for a nanny."
On cue, Hyde kissed her again. "We don't need a nanny."
"Good, 'cause we can't afford one."
"Well good 'cause don't need one." Absentmindedly, Hyde massaged her giant, numb belly, which was wedged securely between them. "You'll be a good mom, Jackie… We'll be fine."
"But what if it turns out like us. I can't handle another you. Or me! God," Jackie groaned, envisioning the possibilities. "I would kill it."
Smiling to himself, Hyde cleared his throat to respond. "I suppose that couldn't be all bad, though. If it turned out like us. We turned out alright."
Hyde frowned, thinking it over. "Well…We had parents that a one-legged prostitute wouldn't trade places with and we're still alright. I mean, we're…sort of normal. We're not serial killers or anything. That's gotta count for something right?"
"God, is that our only goal, Steven? That he's not a serial killer when he grows up."
"It's a good goal, Jackie," Hyde insisted. "Hey. You know how I know you can take care of a kid?"
"You take pretty good care of me."
"You think I take good care of you?"
Hyde nodded. "Look at me. I've got a clean shirt on. My socks match. And I haven't once tried to tamper with that smoke detector up there."
After a moment, Jackie sighed and then yawned, feeling the warm pull of sleep. "Steven." She said it so quietly that he nearly missed it.
"I'm glad you're Steven Junior's daddy," she told him softly, and in complete sincerity, the darkness making it easier to admit such weaknesses. "You're the only one I ever wanted for him."
Hyde smiled gently. "What happened to other names you picked out?"
"I changed my mind. I want 'Steven'."
"Jackie…Don't you think you screaming 'Steven' over and over for one person is more than enough? I thought our goal was to not raise a serial killer?"
"No," Jackie stubbornly insisted, clutching onto his side to enforce her point. "His name is Steven… It's my favorite name in the whole world."
After thinking it over, Hyde blew out a breath. "Okay…I'll agree, on one condition."
"You go to sleep. Right now. No arguing. At least while the pain's gone."
Jackie blinked, her lips forming a preemptive pout. "Will you stay right here?"
"Where else would I go?" he asked, kissing her forehead.
Satisfied, Jackie smiled and wiggled—as much as her swollen body would allow anyway—down deeper beneath her crisp hospital sheets, sighing once she was peacefully inside the warm protection of a very grown Steven Hyde. She could feel his breath saturate her hair, his lips puckering against the crown of her head. The air around her was tinted black with night, but the broad expanse of his chest made it even darker against her eyes. In no time, Jackie drifted, happy and content. This life was turning out to be more wonderful than any she could have ever dreamed up or fantasized, for this one was real and never seemed to end. At last…
Eight hours later—two of them being the most grueling of her life—Jackie sighed and closed her eyes again, exhausted and accomplished, her skin, for the first time in her life, glazed with the sweat of real effort, her body wilted with fatigue. Her eyes, too. But she could hear him let out another brief, demanding cry, and then, just as quickly, he stopped, a gentle, familiar hush breaking off the precious new sound.
"Hey," was all she heard, vaguely made in whisper, somewhere in the room. It made her smile, though she was still too tired to open her eyes.
Inside the bright, artificial light of maternity room 315, in the middle of Chicago, Illinois, and only a few feet from his wife, Hyde cradled a small head in his comparatively large hand.
His expression was curious as he tilted his head, looked into fresh, sky-blue eyes and smiled. Delivered. At last.
A/N2: Bye Jackie and Hyde. Be good to each other. Mwah.
EDIT - Delivered also means to be freed, or saved. :)