The Morning After… what?
Chapter 1 – Stripped.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed the fun one-shot because I am back with a new series which promises to have enough angst to make you buy your own 'Casper1990' voodoo doll and perform some payback similar to that in my one-shot. This plot may remind some of you of the film 'The Family Man' but honestly, that is really just a coincidence. I really hope you like this because I have loved writing it so far. I have checked all of my references to ensure they can be applied to the timeframe so don't ask if something was around bacjk then.
P.S. – I was listening to 'Better Off' by Hinder and… wow! It is the ultimate Hyde/Jackie song. It's not the best song in the world but listen to it anyway and think about Season 8 while you do.
"Good morning everyone. This is Jeff Lynn coming at you live from WLTQ on this gloomy Monday morning. I'm here with-"
A swift slap on top of the clock radio cut off the DJ's voice and reminded Steven Hyde that, like every other stiff in America, he had to go to work today.
As he did every morning, Hyde stuffed the radio into his pile of laundry and rolled back over in bed, throwing an arm around his still-sleeping girlfriend. But today, something was different.
Instead of being greeted with the vanilla scented hair which normally smothering his face when he woke up, Hyde found his nose buried in a mess of stale, smoky hair. And when he opened his eyes to see why things had suddenly changed, Hyde was shocked to find that either his girlfriend had chopped off her luscious locks in favour of a boyish blonde haircut, or he had seriously screwed up last night.
Hyde, in a frazzle, quickly unwrapped himself from this woman and tried to get dressed and out of the room without making a sound. Before leaving, Hyde slowly lifted his head and stole a quick glance at the woman in his bed.
Yup, definitely not Jackie. he thought.
"Fuck." he muttered.
Hyde quietly opened the door and crept out, closing it softly behind him. He could already feel the beginnings of a hangover hit him and he almost welcomed it after admitting to himself that he had cheated on Jackie again, for he would rather take a mind splitting headache over a tornado of guilt any day. Unfortunately for Hyde though, he was feeling both.
Hyde stood still at the door for a moment with his eyes closed, silently hoping that nobody was currently sitting around, watching TV or engaging in a circle without him. However, when Hyde opened his eyes and turned around, he felt his heart stop.
There was no basement.
Or at least, there wasn't the basement that had been there yesterday. Hyde wandered around the room at a daze and was left speechless at the sight of a pool table, a mini-bar and a small area by the door where a sewing machine had been set up. Hyde leaned limply against the wall and he felt like he was about to throw up.
"Kitty!" Red hollered from upstairs. Hyde was startled and walked up the first few stairs so that he could be sure he had definitely just heard Red's voice. "Wake up Steven already! I want my damn breakfast."
Relieved, Hyde let out a breath he didn't know he was holding, and he bounded up the rest of the stairs and into the kitchen where thankfully, everything was exactly the same. Except, Kitty was a bit thinner had apparently cut her hair and Red was looking a lot more frail and grey. For the second time in as many minutes, Hyde had nothing to say and he stood shell-shocked at the apparent time lapse that had occurred since the night before. Kitty, who had been busy scooping a few slices of bacon onto a plate, turned around and gasped at the sight of Hyde.
"Steven, you scared me half to death!" Kitty told him loudly. She shook her head and walked over to the table where she placed the food down in front of Red. She turned back to Hyde. "Now, come on over and sit yourself down while I fix you some breakfast." Kitty said after regaining her natural motherly tone.
Hyde walked wearily over to the table and sat down in his regular seat, unaware that he was currently gawking at Red, who let his irritation show by slamming his newspaper down on the table and turning to face Hyde.
"Are you stoned?" he asked seriously.
Hyde blinked. "No, I just… everything downstairs seems so different." Red rolled his eyes.
"For God's sake Steven. It's been 3 stinking years since we redid the basement. Now, I'm as unhappy as you about the sewing machine," Red grimaced and earned himself a glare from his wife, "but no-one has used it in years so just let your old stomping ground be forgotten and let me enjoy the only bit of retirement I have that doesn't include going line dancing with Kitty. Now, if you would finally move out and stop mooching off of us, then maybe you would get over it."
This speechless thing was becoming a regular habit of Hyde's this morning and he really wanted to cut it out this second. Red had never suggested that Hyde was a freeloader or anything so he figured that this was obviously just some crazy-ass dream and he would wake up any minute.
But, if this was a dream, then why was he so hungry? And why did his upper lip itch so much?
Hyde decided to take care of both problems right now and dug into his breakfast which Kitty had put down before him, and he began scratching at his upper lip while he ate. However, when he felt something furry up there, Hyde swallowed nervously and asked,
"Do I have a moustache?"
Red looked up. "No, a moustache is a little bit of hair below your nose. You just have a dead rat on your face." And Red went back to reading his morning paper while he ate.
Kitty was quick to defend Hyde. "Now Red, you stop teasing him. Steven, it does not look like a dead rat. It's just…" Kitty had run out of words so she decided to shift the focus off of her embarrassing predicament. "Steven, why don't you just shave it off?" she asked with a hopeful smile.
I can't handle this Hyde thought and he shut his eyes tightly and willed himself to wake up. But instead all he got was a suspicious and a concerned look from the two people who had practically raised him. Even if this was just a dream, or a nightmare as the case seemed to be, Hyde wanted to get out of the room as soon as possible.
"I gotta go to work." Hyde bolted out of the kitchen and leaned against the pillar in the driveway to catch his breath. This was so wrong. Hyde had went through enough shit in his life to know the 'what's what' of fucked-up nightmares. But this was a completely new experience. He had to think. From what he had gathered, he hadn't been able to wake up yet, so maybe somebody knocked him out when he was coming home from work? It was a possibility. Except it wasn't a possibility considering that muggers barely even existed in Point Place. So Hyde was sticking with the theory that this was nothing more than a really bad dream and to prove his theory, he pinched himself in the arm and prayed that it would break his sleep. But when it didn't, Hyde began to get scared. There was a woman in his bed who wasn't Jackie, the basement had apparently been completely redecorated 3 years ago, Red had told him that none of his friends came around anymore, and from the reflection of himself he saw in the glass door; Red had been correct in labelling the mess on his face as a dead rat. Dream or not, it had to go immediately. Then he could figure out what exactly he had gotten himself into.
Showered and clean shaven, Steven Hyde ticked off many drivers as he sped through the streets of Point Place in search of anybody who could fill him in on what kind of alternate reality he had snored himself into. First stop: Grooves.
10 MINUTES LATER
Hyde complained a lot; that was just the way he was. But if managing a store which had quadrupled in size since the last time he saw it was a consequence of some dream universe, then there would be no complaints coming from him.
As soon as he had driven into the parking lot, Hyde was struck by the face that Grooves now had a parking lot. But besides that, he couldn't get over the sheer size of the place. Where before the store name was painted onto a wall, it was now made of fibre glass and was painted with a sleep coat of black which made the store look incredible vintage. The door had also been remodelled into the shape of an electric guitar which opened up so customers could go in and out. After Hyde had gotten over the oddly designed door, he was left gobsmacked as he stared at the two floor shop which had more records stocked than all of Atco Records' warehouses. Although, being Monday morning meant that the place was near deserted except for the always dependable stoners and hippies who just wandered aimlessly around one place until somebody came along and pointed them towards another store where they could do pretty much the same thing.
As Hyde walked around, he saw that the listening pit had been expanded into several areas and that everywhere there were records, there was a couch and a few chairs to chill out. Guess I am a moocher Hyde thought. Hyde also realised that the wall behind the cash register had been knocked down so that the store could be twice as long and the counter could be a complete circle where customers could queue all around. Basically, the place was incredible.
"Mr. Hyde, there you are."
Hyde turned around at the feminine voice and came face-to-face with the most frustratingly multi-skilled jackass in America.
"Hello, Fenton." Hyde said through gritted teeth. I knew this was too good to be true.
Fenton smiled and handed a pile of forms over to him, telling him that they needed his signature as soon as possible or else the customers would have nothing to listen to but the music of Barry Bray. Hyde laughed at the irony of his former guidance counsellor giving up a well respected job in full time employment for an under the radar music career.
Once he had ignored Fenton to the point where he flounced off in a huff, Hyde tracked down the cashier and asked them who was working today.
"Um, Kerry, Anna and Susan, I think." the bubbly blonde responded. "But they won't be here for a few hours, if you wanted to…" As if it wasn't enough that he had hired an all-female workforce, Hyde cringed when he realised that a 16 year old girl thought it was perfectly normal to be hitting on him. Just how badly could one person screw up in a dream?
Hyde had managed to avoid any more run-ins with horny teenagers long enough to sneak into his office and escape with his address book and pants still intact. He had pulled over to the side of the road and was flicking through the thick book which was mainly filled with numbers for accountants, delivery men, suppliers, and tour managers. But eventually Hyde reached came across a tiny squiggle on the corner of one of the back pages and breathed a sigh of relief when he found Eric and Donna's details listed. He also briefly wondered why two of his oldest friends got such a crappy entry. With any luck, he could find their house before he woke up and spent the entire day being plagued with why he was experiencing the most vivid dream of his life. And also with why his life seemed to be going as he had lately being envisioning it would go, except for when it came to Jackie. She was simply gone without any explanation he could think of.
As he drove, Hyde thought as hard as he could about what he was going to say to his old friends when he got there. He couldn't just ring the doorbell and say, 'Hey, I may or may not be dreaming but could you tell me why I don't remember how I ended up here and why I don't know where Jackie is?' Kelso could get away with asking something as idiotic as that, but not Hyde. No, he had to appear as in control as always and ensure that nothing surprised him to the point where anybody started asking him questions that he couldn't give answers to. Just as he thought about turning back around and staying in his room until he woke up, an idea struck him and he fished around the glove compartment until he found what he was looking for.
"Aha." Hyde said as he held his wallet in front of him. Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, he flipped open his wallet and briefly inspected his driver's licence which, from the date told him that he was dreaming into the 1980's. Hyde laughed at the lunacy of the fact that he had momentarily considered this to be reality and not a horrible nightmare. He may have been one to hit the circle hard from time to time, but he hadn't gotten to the point where he could just misplace several years of his life. Especially years which seemed to have seen such major changes, many of which he was still unaware of. Hyde ignored the next few cards and pictures in his wallet and felt a wave of emptiness wash over him as he came to the end with still no clue about where he had ended up in this 'life'. As always, her voice was in the back of his mind, and right now it was asking him why he had no pictures of her when she had a blown-up 6ft long portrait of the two of them in her bedroom. But Hyde was as bewildered as she was because he had no idea why there were no pictures of her in his wallet. Hyde might not be one to wear 'I Love You' t-shirts all day long, he still kept a small snapshot of her with him at all times, and he had just naturally assumed that it would still be the case in some dreamland. Hyde threw the wallet down on the seat next to him and he rubbed his eyes tiredly as he looked at the long stretch of road ahead of him. Another 50 miles to Madison and he had no expectations of waking up before he got there.
30 MINUTES LATER
The clear road and the smooth roads meant that Hyde had managed to stay pretty relaxed throughout his secluded journey. He hadn't stopped once, and with the trip half over, Hyde's thoughts drifted to how Eric and Donna would look in this world. Age appeared to have started taking its toll on Red and Kitty, so Hyde was hoping that he would have a more pleasant experience when he encountered his friends. He knew he was going to sound like Jackie's clone by saying this but, living in an alternate reality was no excuse for looking bad.
Hyde chuckled as he once again thought of Jackie. Not waking up beside her and not having a picture of her was making him miss her a great deal. If she was her with him now, she would probably be rattling on about how romantic this early morning sun was and how she could see the two of them waking up during their honeymoon to a sight like this. God, he could really want to strangle her sometimes. Lately, she had been talking seriously about the two of them taking some big steps in their relationship, and with Christmas fast approaching, Hyde knew that she would be wishing for an incredibly romantic gesture from him so that they could finish off the New Year with 'one week of the hottest sex marathon of his life', as Jackie had put it. Hyde didn't have much objection to that notion, but he was worried that she was still expecting too much from him. In the last 6 months he had found the courage to build a relationship with W.B, go into full-time employment, and start wearing his sunglasses to bed. Hyde sighed as he thought of that last one. It had only came about when he told her he wasn't risking Kelso sneaking in and hiding them again, so he would just wear them to bed, regardless of whether they got scratched. Jackie finally agreed, saying that waking up to her own reflection was definitely the best way to start the day.
Hyde shook his head as he realised he was getting sidetracked. The point was, he felt as if he was just starting to build a life and he didn't think he could handle one more serious commitment in his life at the moment. But when it came to Jackie… he had this strange problem with saying 'No' to her demands. So, if she wasn't content with the necklace he had bought her the week before and the fact that he had finally relented and bought her a piece of jewellery, he figured he could handle telling her that they might have a future someday but that he wasn't ready to fully commit to one now; that she would just have to be patient with him.
And if he ever escaped from this fucked-up situation, he would work on finding a way on telling her that.
'Madison – 10 miles'
"Huh." Hyde said. He had been so focused on his future for so long that he hadn't noticed how close he was to the end of his trip.
Hyde was getting excited now as he thought of finding out what had became of the next generation of 'Formans'. His address book told him that they were married, but that hardly came as shocker. Eric and Donna would wind up married with 3 kids and a cat named Fluffy, no matter what reality they were in. Hyde was more interested in if Eric had gone into premature baldness like Red had, or if Donna had succumbed to being a stay-at-home mom like Kitty. Anything that Hyde could burn them with when he returned to reality.
With a signpost stating that he was now only 5 miles away from his destination, Hyde figured that he was about to find all this out.
15 MINUTES LATER
Hyde whistled as he pulled up in front of the small, but well-kept house he gathered Eric and Donna lived in. From the looks of it, he guessed that they probably didn't have those 3 kids and a cat he had imagined his subconscious would grant them. Instead the house had a small driveway with a car which Hyde assumed his mind must have made up, because he didn't recognise anything about the model except that it had 'DMC' stuck onto the front and Hyde figured that it stood for 'Don't Mention Casey'. After all, Eric only had so many insecurities about him and Donna. It still amazed Hyde how such a scrawny oddball could land a girl as hot as she was, and not feel the least bit threatened by most guys. But Hyde knew better than anyone else how much power a Kelso could hold over a woman, even after they had broken up.
Hyde climbed out of his car, shut the door, and walked up the small garden until he reached the front door which he realised too late was in the process of being repainted.
"Fuck's sake." Hyde muttered after rapping the door a few times. Hyde made sure to keep his hand tucked away from any potential hugs or handshakes when the door opened and Donna looked at him with an enormous smile on her face.
"Hyde!" she yelled, enveloping him in a bear hug.
"Whoa, down Donna." Hyde told her as he felt his feet leave the ground. Hyde saw her wedding band and smiled inwardly. Just as he thought.
Donna laughed. "I knew you'd come today. Not even you could stay away from my med school graduation." Hyde's eyes bulged.
"Y-you're a doctor?" Hyde asked in disbelief. Donna looked at him strangely.
"Well, that was kinda the idea when I spent over $50,000 on tuition."
Hyde remembered his vow not to draw any attention to the fact that he had no idea what was going on. He quickly turned his unsure expression into an amused one.
"No, I just meant it like: whoa, you're a doctor! Congratulations Donna."
Donna beamed at him, but her high was short-lived when she looked at him sadly. "I'm surprised you didn't make it to the funeral."
Hyde's face immediately stilled. She couldn't possibly be talking about…
"I mean, I know you and my dad weren't best buds or anything but I…" Donna trailed off and Hyde tried to cover up the relieved smile that was trying to force its way onto his face by contemplating what she had just told him. Bob, her father, had died and Hyde hadn't even bothered showing up at the funeral. Bordering on being a pervert was one thing, but letting down his friends? This had officially become his worst nightmare. Hyde felt like he had a lot to make up for and he figured that the truth would actually work in this situation.
"God Donna, I'm sorry I wasn't there. Things have been so strange lately and I feel like I am in some totally different place than usual."
Donna was growing more and more freaked out by Hyde's behaviour. He seemed to be talking to her like an actual human being, and not like some modified form of one. She hadn't seen him like this since-
Her train of thoughts were broken when the surprised voice of her husband asked the same question she had asked only a minute earlier when she had opened the door. But she had a feeling there would be no hugs during this greeting.
"Forman, hey." Hyde said with small smile. Both Eric and Donna were confused by Hyde's friendly manner and Hyde was quick to notice this. "I guess you're surprised to see me, huh?" Hyde joked.
Eric stepped up beside his wife. "Donna, could you excuse us for a moment, please?" Donna nodded her head and she wearily left the two men alone in the doorway.
Hyde shifted uneasily as Eric looked at him with an even face. It was an uncomfortable silence as neither spoke; Hyde out of natural habit, and Eric out of raging emotions. Finally, the latter spoke,
"What are you doing here, Hyde?"
He was left stunned by the faint tremors of anger in Eric's voice and eventually he opened his mouth to reply.
"You know, I'm-I'm here for Donna's graduation, man." Hyde hoped he bought it because he had a feeling this was one discussion he wouldn't be able to bluff quite so easily.
Eric gave a bitter laugh, and for the first time in their friendship, Hyde felt intimidated by him. "Oh, so you now you want to play the part of the best friend. What happened? My parents finally see sense and kick you and your slut-of-the-week out on your asses?"
Hyde didn't know how to handle the words Eric was firing at him. Hyde had never felt so defenceless against a burn before. The only served to reassure him that this was just some horrible nightmare that would end momentarily. He would wake up in a bit of a sweat, Jackie would stir and notice this, she would be concerned and would stroke the side of his face until he had calmed down, and then Hyde would go upstairs and have breakfast with Kitty, Red and Eric where they would tease each other about what had happened to them the night before. That would all happen in just a moment.
So why wasn't it?
Why was his best friend still staring at him with such coldness in his eyes and why did this seem to only get worse as more time passed?
"Forman man, I'm sorry for whatever I did." Hyde spoke with such sorrow in his voice and he shocked himself at how truly sorry he was for something that had never happened. But Eric wasn't caving with sympathy.
"You're sorry, are you?" Eric asked bitingly. "You haven't talked to us in three years, Hyde. And now you show up smiling and saying that you're sorry? I think you'll have to forgive me for not buying into this crap."
His rant was interrupted by a car honking alongside the El Camino. Eric finally broke his concentration of Hyde and leaned behind the door for his coat and for a backpack. "Donna!" Eric yelled through the house. "I'm going over to the school to pickup my class's gift for you! I'll meet you at the ceremony at 4, OK?"
Hyde heard Donna descend the stairs and come to give her husband a quick kiss on the lips. "OK, don't be late." One last glare and Eric was gone, leaving Hyde to stand there and wallow in self-pity. Letting his friends down was hard enough, but ignoring them? And 'slut-of-the-week' didn't exactly convince him that he was living a rosy life with Jackie.
Donna looked sympathetically at Hyde and motioned for him to come in. He did, and Donna tried to remain calm and collected with this situation. She may not have held a grudge for as long as Eric had, but she still wanted answers from Hyde. Starting with what he was doing here.
"So," Donna said, breaking the silence, "what really bring you here, Hyde?"
Hyde looked at her blankly and shrugged. "I don't know."
"Ah, the famous last words." Donna said wistfully but Hyde just stared at her, not catching her reference to the biggest mistake of his life. She figured that a social life of nothing but booze and circle-time had begun taking its toll on his memory. It would certainly explain why Hyde had shown up the way he did and why he seemed so much more spaced out than she ever remembered him being.
Hyde suddenly stood up and inspected the contents of the living room. Besides the typical furniture, a few photos on the mantle caught his eyes and he immediately walked over to get a closer look at them. One was of Eric and Donna at their wedding, another was of Eric, Donna, Red and Kitty at Eric's college graduation, but it was the last photo that made Hyde's heart hurt.
It was a shot taken in this room, obviously at a party as there was a buffet table in the background and several people's elbows making their way into the shot. In the photo were Eric, Donna, Fez, Kelso and Jackie, all sitting on the couch with drinks in their hands and smiles on their faces and no sign of Hyde anywhere. He thought that none of them had changed a bit. Sure, some had gained weight, though still not Eric, but for the most the group of five looked almost exactly the same as they had yesterday.
Hyde looked up and Donna smiled sadly at him when she saw what he was holding. "Doesn't look right, does it?" Hyde said nothing, which pleased Donna because now was hardly the time for her to deal with him unloading a lifetime's supply of emotional baggage. "Believe me; we weren't like that all that often. We just weren't the same after you-"
"Were?" Hyde questioned, uninterested in what Donna was about to tell him.
Donna shrugged. "Well, the five of us don't really see each other all that often. Not that you'd know what that's like." Hyde looked up in surprise. "Sorry."
Any other day, or any other reality, Hyde would have just let it go but he had to press the issue here. "Donna, what happened? With you guys, I mean."
Donna gave a short laugh and leaned forward in her seat. "Where do you want me to begin?" Hyde gave her no answer, which basically told her that he wanted to know everything. She took a deep breath and prepared to re-open this can of worms once again. "Well let's see… Kelso is still in Chicago with Brooke and Betsy. But they're not together anymore. They tried for a bit, but it just wasn't working."
Kelso moved? Hyde thought in surprise but he nodded and urged her to continue.
"Uh, Kelso used to come up and visit a lot when everybody was still in Point Place but that photo was really the last time he came for a real visit. After that, he got so busy with work and with Betsy that it was just a phone call once a month or so."
Hyde frowned at this and felt himself falling deeper and deeper into despair.
"Fez…" Donna stopped herself when she had to laugh. "Fez is actually working as Christine St. George's hair stylist in New York."
"New York?" Hyde asked in surprise. The last time he checked, Fez was the shampoo boy in a tiny salon.
Donna laughed again. "Yeah, we all still have a little trouble with it ourselves. Christine is about 70 now, but somehow she still thinks it's worthwhile to spend 3 hours a day getting her hair done." She was silent for a few moments as she thought of what else he had missed out on. "Oh, well as you can see, Eric and I are living here. He's working at an elementary school a few miles away and in a few hours, I will have graduated medical school." Donna stated with a proud smile. Hyde smiled back at her and thought that all in all, his friends had done pretty well for themselves.
"And Jackie?" Hyde asked with a lot more interest than he had shown up until now.
Donna's proud smile immediately froze and her forehead wrinkled in confusion. "OK, I'm all for the new and improved Hyde, but you can't seriously expect me to believe that you care about Jackie all of a sudden?"
Hyde had to wake up now. He couldn't handle another moment of this. In the last few hours, he had woken up beside a mysterious woman, found out that his sanctuary had been remodelled, been labelled a freeloader by the man he thought of as his father, been flirted with by a teenager and pretty much revealed to be employing people based on their oestrogen levels, treated as a piece of shit by his oldest friend, been told that all of his friends had moved on with their own lives, been told that he didn't even take an interest in their lives anymore, and that he was hanging out with anyone who would give it up for free. All of this would drive a man like Steven Hyde to suicide, but being told that he apparently didn't care about Jackie Burkhart? He felt like he was going to collapse right there and then.
He walked quickly over to Donna and kneeled in front of her, gripping her arms. "What happened to Jackie, Donna?" he asked, not caring that she was currently looking at him with fear in her eyes. Fear of what had set him off like this.
"Where is she!" he demanded.
To be continued…
A/N: So where is she? If you want to find out, review!