Disclaimer: I don't own.
Author's Note: Well, here it is! The last chapter! I'm sad that this is over...but happy, too! I hope it's a pleasing ending...I hope it's been a pleasing story and that you've enjoyed it! Thanks, thanks, THANKS to all of you, especially those of you who've reviewed! You guys have been inspirational and definitely gave me the will to keep going when I've been tempted to quit. Now that this is over, I'm picking up Frames again, and I've got a new story, Imagine, going. Maybe I'll start another one soon, too. Thanks to everyone who's supported this angsty story! I love you guys!
For Her Sake
Chapter 27 – Their Sakes
You're My Blood
Seven months later
For as wealthy as he'd once been in life, Jack Burkhart's headstone was remarkably simple. Black and white marble cut only with his name, date of birth and date of death. No details of his life; no mention of a wife or daughter, or of his posistion as city councilman. No blessing or prayer to wish him well in the afterlife.
Jackie stood there, her eyes tracing her father's name over and over again. She shivered, but felt nothing. No tears, no regret, no longing for her daddy. Nothing she should feel. Nothing a decent person would feel when a parent died. She hadn't been able to, nor had she been able to cry, since that night. A hand settled on her lower back, and she turned to him, a weak smile on her lips. "I still can't cry," she said softly. The last tears she'd managed were those she'd shed when Steven woke up from surgery. They'd dried her completely.
Hyde shrugged, then leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "It's okay, Jackie." He sighed and looked at Jack's grave. Good fucking riddance. Not that he'd ever tell Jackie he thought that every time she insisted on coming, or any time she mentioned his name.
"Well, if you wanna cry, Jackie, maybe we should go visit Hyde's grave. Oh wait, that's right. Hyde's not really dead."
Hyde glared at Forman, who stood next to Donna on the other side of the grave. Ever since he'd come home after being shot, Forman had been making snide little comments, never outright saying anything, the coward that he was. "Why don't you just come out and say whatever it is you wanna say, Forman." He crossed his arms in front of him.
Donna raised an eyebrow as she looked back and forth between Hyde and Eric. "Uh…Jackie, are you done? Maybe we should just head back to the car."
Jackie nodded. She'd noticed Eric's snippiness towards Steven, and she understood, but also knew that it irritated Steven. She knew that, although Steven would never say it, Eric was his best friend. Maybe it was time for a talk. "Uh, yeah. I think that's a good idea, Donna."
The girls started to walk away, but Hyde reached out and caught his chick's hand. "No. Whatever he has to say, he can say it in front of you." He leveled his gaze at Forman. "So? You got something you want to say, Forman?"
Eric sighed and looked away, taking a deep breath. The last thing he wanted to do was confront Hyde this way. And yet, ever since he'd learned that Hyde was alive, that he'd faked his death, Eric had been angry. He'd gone through hell, hell, he'd even cried over this idiot. For nothing. For no reason at all. "Yeah, I got something to say." He met Hyde's eyes and clenched his jaw, pointing at his best friend. "You put us all through hell, Hyde. You just ran away. Let us all think you were dead." His voice began to rise, and he started pacing the grass. "Do you have any idea what we went through? We thought you were dead, man! Damn it, do you realize how hard that was?"
Hyde nodded, closing his eyes briefly. "So, you'd rather be visiting Jackie's grave, huh?" He took a step towards Forman. "Because if I hadn't done what I did, she'd be in the ground, Forman." He glanced at Jackie. She was staring at him, her eyes bright, though he wasn't sure if it was with tears or just the sun's reflection. When he looked back at Forman, saw the way the guy was looking at him with disdain, almost as if he didn't believe all that Hyde had told him, a burning sensation broke in his stomach and spread upwards quickly, flushing his cheeks. He took another few steps until he was standing eye to eye, nose to nose with Forman. "Look, man. Her father was going to kill her."
Eric rolled his eyes. "You could have gone to the police. You could have told Mom and Dad, or US and we would have helped you figure something else out."
Hyde shook his head and spoke quietly, seriously. "No. I couldn't have." He took a deep breath. "You wanna know why I couldn't?" Forman nodded, and Hyde pressed his lips together. He hadn't told anyone this; not Red, not Kitty, no one. Only Jackie knew, and that was because Sammy told her. "He took a picture of her, and he…" He looked down. "He shot it, right through her forehead. Have you ever seen a picture of Donna with a bullet hole in it? Have you ever seen someone shoot a picture of Donna?" His eyes closed, and he remembered the dreams, every night. Her picture, the bullet hole in her forehead, only in the dream, blood spurted violently from the wound. And in the dreams, he ran in between the gun and her, but never managed to save her. "I saw that every night, man, every fricking night."
Eric looked down, swallowing hard. He couldn't imagine…how Jackie's own father had shot…shot…a picture of his daughter. "Hyde, man, I didn't…" He shrugged, looking at Donna for help, but she looked away. "I didn't know."
Hyde snapped his head up, the anger returning, and he glowered at Forman. "Look, I'm sorry for what you guys went through. I really am. But you know what?" He shook his head and looked over at Jackie. She stared at him, now he was certain her eyes were full of tears. He watched her breathing, her chest moving just enough for him to notice, and a sort of surreal, aching tenderness soaked him. He gave her a half smile. "Whatever you went through…it was worth it." Jackie's lips trembled, and his smile grew. "'Cause I still got my chick."
Jackie burst into tears, and stumbled towards him, tripping over some stick on the ground into his arms. His arms enfolded her immediately, and her body gave into his. Emotional exhaustion had finally broke her; his sweet words had finally allowed her to release the pain. And so she didn't fight, neither did he, and they both sank to the ground.
Donna looked at Eric. "We should go."
He nodded, but hesitated. "Hyde…"
Hyde looked up and nodded. "I know. Just…" He kissed the side of Jackie's head. "Just give us a few, okay?" He turned his face back to Jackie, trying to figure out what she was whimpering. He thought he heard Forman and Donna walk off, but didn't move. Didn't matter whether they had or not. All that mattered was Jackie.
"Steven…" Jackie lifted her head and looked into her lover's eyes. She felt so ashamed, so torn. She closed her eyes and rested her forehead on his shoulder. "It hurts. And I know it shouldn't….after all he did." When she looked up again, she relaxed. No judgment in his eyes, not even any anger. She smiled sadly. "Funny thing is that I don't wish he was still alive like you're supposed to when someone dies. I'm glad he's dead…but it hurts."
Hyde nodded and stroked the side of her head. "That makes sense." He furrowed his brow. "You know, I was just thinking. You've got like, three men who think of themselves as your father. Red, Bob, Sammy." He raised his eyebrows. "Four. WB does, too." He grinned and tweaked her chin.
She giggled, pressing herself closer to him. "So much for blood being thicker than water." Steven's hands softly circled her back, and she thought of the past few months. They'd moved in together, in their own apartment, just the two of them and Stephanie. It was an adjustment, sometimes not so easy, but more often then not, wonderful. Because of him. He was still thoroughly himself, but just a tiny bit softer, and definitely more available to her. She reached up to touch his cheek. "You're my blood, Steven," she whispered, a warming rush of love flowing through her entire body. "You and Stephanie. You're all I need."
Hyde smiled at her. "I guess I can deal with that."
"I'm your blood too, right Steven?" He gave her that smirk, and that little shoulder shrug, and she giggled as she lightly pinched his back. "Steven!"
He pulled her closer and aimed his lips at hers. "Sorry, kitten. You're just gonna have to settle for this." He kissed her, and as she responded, he knew she understood.
I Finally Know
Two months later
Jackie took a deep breath and clutched Sammy's arm. No more waiting. No more praying, or hoping, or manipulating or crying. The day she'd longed for since she fell in love with Steven Hyde was finally here, and she trembled, inside and out, with joy, nerves, and peace. So many feelings; she could hardly wait to see him waiting for her at the end of the aisle, surrounded by the gorgeous flowers she'd picked and the flattering, romantic candlelight she'd decided upon. Her eyes closed. Steven. Mrs. Steven Hyde.
"You look so beautiful, pretty girl."
She opened her eyes and smiled up at the man who'd become her father, who'd she'd quickly come to love dearly, and who'd been there for her, Steven and Stephanie in the past few months. He'd helped so much in healing her heart from the scars her biological father left, and now when she wanted her daddy, it was Sammy she thought of. "Thank you, Sammy."
Sammy smiled in return, and put his free hand over hers on his arm. "I bet you're kinda sad your daddy ain't here to give you away, huh?"
Jackie noticed his nose twitch a little bit, and she moved closer to him, leaned against him carefully so as not to muss her beautiful, beaded gown. "My daddy is here to give me away," she said, her voice catching slightly. He looked at her in surprise, but pleasure, and she nodded. "You've been more of a father to me in the past few months than Jack ever was. Can I…" Her eyes misted. "Would it be okay if I called you Daddy sometimes?" She smiled, the tears becoming more insistent in her eyes. "Because I love you."
Sammy's face softened, and his dark eyes shined with emotion. "Pretty girl," he said quietly. "I…uh, I don't know what to say." He grinned. "I love you too, and you can call me Daddy anytime you wanna." He leaned down and kissed her forehead, his heart swelling. He'd only known her a short time, and yet she'd become such an important part of his life. One he couldn't imagine being without. He cleared his throat and forced the burning in his eyes back. None of this. Not now. Not before the happiest moment in her life. "Now. I want you to promise me somethin'. If that Hyde kid ever hurts you, you tell me about it." He winked. "I know people, ya know what I mean?"
Jackie laughed and shook her head.
"Nah. He ain't gonna ever hurt you." Sammy rubbed her hand. "And I ain't got any people to talk to anymore anyway. I'm going on the straight and narrow. For you and for little Stepo."
Jackie furrowed her brow. "Stepo?"
Sammy nodded. "The kid won't let me call her Cammy. Says only her daddy can call her that." He thought about the last time he'd seen the kid looking at Jackie, just last night. "That kid really loves you, pretty girl."
She nodded, her lips trembling. All the years of wondering…all the pain…all the tears…No more. From now on, only tears of joy. Or perhaps anger when he was a stubborn idiot. But he would be her stubborn idiot, forever. And she would be his cheerleader, forever.
And there was no doubt in her mind or her heart. Steven Hyde loved her. With all of himself.
"I know," she whispered. "I finally know."
Always Remember This Moment
"And Steven, please repeat after me."
Hyde's heart pounded as he stared at Jackie, the 95 lb, shoe shopping, Donny Osmond-loving cheerleader he'd fallen for against his will. Then, she'd been just a girl. A hot girl. Now she was a woman. A beautiful woman. And the way she looked tonight, the flowing gown, with beading on the bodice, the veil that shaded her face and yet tantalized him with hints of her beauty, the roses she carried and wore in her hair…he'd never forget the way she looked tonight.
He listened to Pastor Dave, and hardly realizing he spoke, hardly aware of anything except the love in Jackie's tear-filled eyes, he repeated them.
"I, Steven, take you Jacqueline, to be my lawfully wedded wife."
You waited so long for me to come around. Back then, and now. You've always waited for me to take you…and now I am.
"To have and to hold."
And you convinced me without even realizing what she was doing that I wanted a girlfriend, that I wanted you to be my girlfriend.
"To love and to cherish."
You loved me. You still love me. Hell, you taught me what love is, what it can be. You showed me that, Jackie.
"For better or for worse."
You always wanted me back, even when I cheated. Even when I told you I didn't know. Even…even after I married someone else.
"For richer or poorer."
He smiled when she made a little face at that vow.
Ha, kitten. I know you'd be with me even if I lived in a cardboard box. I see through all that materialistic crap.
"In sickness and in health. From this day forward. Till death do us part."
Hyde squeezed Jackie's hands. You wanted to die for me. And I would die for you.
I would die for her. His eyes closed for a moment.
I, Steven Hyde, would die for you, Jacqueline Burkhart.
The pounding in his heart steadied, and his entire body felt warmth he'd never known before. Peace. He looked at her again, so radiant, so his, and he smiled.
He'd always remember this moment.
Jackie could hardly breathe as she listened to Steven speak those glorious words. She felt faint, as if she'd collapse at any second; the combination of Steven so gorgeous in his tuxedo and the words he was actually saying to her, to HER, with that soft smile he gave only her on his lips, was nearly too much. To think, she'd fallen in love with a fashion challenged, scruffy, aimless orphan boy. And here in front of her stood a man, a gorgeous, if not ambitious, at least somewhat motivated man.
"And Jacqueline, repeat after me."
She nodded at Pastor Dave, though her eyes remained locked on her soul mate as she spoke her vows.
"I, Jacqueline, take you Steven, to be my lawfully wedded husband."
I took you a long time ago, Steven. On Veteran's Day. Maybe even before. And now I'm taking you for good.
"To have and to hold."
And if you think I'm ever letting you go again, Steven Hyde, you're gonna be disappointed! Because I'm not. I can't. Not after what I went through this past year. I need you. So much.
"To love and to cherish."
Jackie smiled, several tears falling from her eyes, thrilled by the sweet look Steven was giving her. We taught each other to love, didn't we, Steven? And we'll keep doing it, baby. We'll keep doing it.
"For better or for worse."
You forgave me for always using Michael to make you jealous. You forgave me for leaving without waiting for your answer. And I know now to talk to you, that you'll forgive me when I make mistakes.
"For richer or poorer."
She made a face at him, just as she had when he'd said this part of the vows, and he chuckled. She grinned. Just don't ever buy me a trailer, Steven! He raised his eyebrow, and she nodded slightly. He knew exactly what she was thinking. Fine. But it better be pretty!
"In sickness and in health, from this day forward, till death do us part."
You almost died for me. You DID die for me, basically. And then…Steven…you almost really did…and now I know you love me that much. Now I know I love you that much. Steven, my life is worthless if you're not with me.
Steven smiled at her, took a step closer to her, and she could breathe again. She felt steady, firmly safe and secure on the earth, in his hands.
And she knew she'd always remember this moment.
Before Pastor Dave could finish pronouncing the couple man and wife, the groom pulled the bride into a deep, passionate kiss, bending her over nearly to the floor.
He smiled and shook his head. He'd always remember this moment, that's for sure.
For Their Sakes
Hyde stood in the reception hall, looking at the four men gathered around him with amusement. Bob, WB, Sammy and Red were stepping all over one another trying to instruct him on how to treat Jackie, how he better never hurt Jackie, how he sure as hell better not repeat the mistakes he'd already made, how to keep Jackie happy. Funny. I went from no fathers to four. Just as Bob was telling him what Jackie's favorite midnight snack was, and that he should surprise her sometimes with it, Hyde caught sight of Jackie. She stood across the room, glowing as she had all evening, talking to her admiring girlfriends, and he was sure, enjoying the adulation.
He wondered just what she was wearing under that dress. And how long it would take him to undo those tiny pearl buttons on the back of it. Hell. Maybe he wouldn't even take the dress off.
He smirked and licked his lips. "Oh, don't worry. I know exactly how to keep Jackie happy." With that, and his dirty thoughts clouding his mind and heating his body, he headed towards his new wife.
An hour later, Jackie gazed up at her husband as they danced together. She rubbed his back. "So," she purred. "You finally married me!" It took all of her strength not to squeal and break out into a celebratory cheer.
Hyde shrugged. "Yeah, well, I did it for your sake." She gave him that look, the one that screamed (and in her shrillest voice, no less), "Oh pulzeeze, Steven!". "For Stephie's sake, then." This time, he got the rolled eyes, and he grinned. "Fine." He pulled Jackie's tiny, curvy body closer to him and looked into those mismatched eyes that held him hostage every time he looked in them. "Fine. For my sake, too."
Jackie smiled brightly. "Oh, I knew that, Steven!"
Just then, Donna approached them, Stephanie in her arms. "Hey, you two, someone wants to join the dance."
Jackie and Hyde took the smiling baby, dressed in a frilly frock Jackie had gushed for hours over, and the three of them began to dance. Donna smiled and drifted away.
Jackie laughed as Stephanie began to play with her veil. "So, Mr. Hyde, how is marriage shaping up so far?"
Hyde was about to answer, when Stephanie chimed in, now patting Jackie's head and the pretty veil.
The parents stared at the baby, now eleven months old.
Jackie started to laugh. "She's saying bride, Steven!"
Hyde frowned and glared at Jackie as he took his daughter into his arms, holding her in front of him so that she was facing him. Jackie began to clap, and he shook his head, though his daughter, too, was clapping her tiny hands in imitation of Mommy. "Uh, no. My daughter's first word was NOT bride."
Jackie snuggled into her family. "Oh, yes it was, Steven!"
Hyde sighed, but smiled at his baby girl, who had mismatched eyes just like Jackie. "No. You did NOT just say bride, Cammy." He raised his eyebrows. "Tell Daddy you didn't just say bride."
He nodded, his heart about to burst, and he pointed at Jackie. "Now, see, that's more like it!"
Jackie laughed and rubbed his and Stephie's back. "Feel better? Now she's said dada. And that's you." She giggled. "But she said bride first, and that's me!"
"Shut your piehole, Jackie," Hyde said, but despite himself, he smiled.
The family began their little dance again.
Jackie gazed adoringly at her husband, then at their child. "Steven," she said softly. "When do you want to try for another baby?"
Hyde lifted a shoulder. "Whenever you're ready," he said. He'd thought about it. And the truth was, he couldn't wait to experience all he'd missed with Stephanie. At times he felt guilty, at times it tore him up.
Then again, if he hadn't missed Stephanie's birth, he might not have her mother.
It was worth it. He had the rest of Stephanie's life to share with her.
Jackie nodded and rubbed his chest. "I'm ready now," she said. "I wanna give Stephie a little brother."
Hyde smirked. "Then lets start tonight. Hell, lets go get Donna to watch the baby and sneak off and start right now!"
She swatted his rear end. "Steven, you pig!" She turned to Stephanie and played with one little hand. "So, Stephie, do you want a little brother? Or how about a little sister?"
Stephanie smiled, her eyes darting back and forth between her mommy and daddy, and the pointed at her mommy. "Bide!"
The parents laughed.
Later that night, before heading off for their honeymoon, they stood in the Forman's house, staring down in the crib at their sleeping child. They held hands, stood close to one another, shoulders, thighs touching. Hyde looked at his wife. "Hey Jackie?"
She looked up. "Yeah, Steven?"
He shrugged and smiled. "I just…I love you."
Jackie leaned forward and kissed his shoulder. "I love you too, Steven."
They kissed softly, and whispered a few words to one another, promises of forever, always, and an extremely hot honeymoon to come before looking again at the child they'd made together.
Just as they shared the love they felt for one another and for their daughter, they shared a thought.
She exists for our sake.