Back at the Foreman household, Jackie was about to have a conflict of her own. This was not an inner struggle between her heart and her mind. Instead, it was a battle between the man she used to love and the woman she had become. She knew that it was hard for Steven to watch her with Eric; it had nearly killed her to see him with Sam two years ago. Still, it was time they dealt with the way things were going to be rather than cling to a past that was far behind them.
"Jackie, I've been looking for you," Hyde said softly as he came into the Foremans' living room. He set the carton he was carrying down by his feet as he sunk onto the avocado green couch.
"What do you want, Steven?"
He shrugged nonchalantly. "I just wanted to see how you were doing. I know that a lot has happened, ya know, and I just wanted to make sure that everything is okay."
"I'm fine," she replied shortly. "What's going on? Are you moving out?"
Hyde nodded and shrugged again. "Nah, just cleaning."
Jackie leaned forward and picked up an old faded t-shirt. She looked at the soft cloth in her hand and thought about when this had been the most important thing in the world to her, when he had been the most important person to her in the world. "You still have your Zeppelin shirt."
"It has sentimental value. You can't get rid of some things."
"And yet, others are so easily discarded," she mumbled sarcastically.
Hyde moved down the couch to sit next to her. "I didn't discard you, Jacks," he insisted. "I was just scared, and I ran. You were on me about getting married, and I freaked out."
Jackie shot him a look. "You were so scared of marrying me that you ran to Vegas, got drunk and married a stripper. I can't believe I was so lucky to have loved you."
"Yes, Steven, loved. As in the past, as in I don't anymore," she said slowly. "Do you understand that concept? I had to get over you eventually."
Hyde looked down at his hands. "I just didn't think you would move on with Foreman."
Jackie smiled to herself. "I didn't either, but I did. I have."
"You said you were going to love me forever, Jackie."
"Well, not everything lasts forever, Steven. Some promises were meant to be broken" she said wryly. "You taught me that."
Eric stood at the top of the staircase, listening to two people come to terms with the end of a relationship that has been over for a long time. He was back from his journey, knowing everything that he needed to know. Jackie tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she looked at Hyde and then her hands. "Listen, Steven, I know this is hard, and I hate what it has done to your friendship with Eric," she stated.
"This isn't about Eric!" he shouted. Jackie winced, causing Hyde to bring his tone down an octave. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell. I just don't want to lose you."
Jackie placed her hand over his. "You're not going to lose me," she said. "We will always be friends, Steven. You helped me get over Michael, you taught me so much about myself. You changed my life."
"But you're just going to walk away…"
"I'm not just walking away from anything, Steven. It's been over for a long time."
"I never thought I could lose you."
She twisted her hands in frustration. "You didn't want to marry me, but you don't want him to be with me either. So, am I just supposed to be alone? Steven, I deserve better than that."
"I could be that. I Donna and Eric could be together to raise their child."
"What if that's not what I want? What if I want to help raise this child with its father? What if I want to be with Eric?"
"You can't mean that."
"I do, Steven," she shot back. "I mean it more than anything. I love Eric. I want to marry him."
"You want to marry me?" Eric shrieked from the top of the stairs before he could stop himself. He looked down at the petite brunette and scruffy anarchist sitting on the couch. Stumbling down the stairs, he couldn't contain his excitement.
"Eric, are you okay?" Jackie cried as she pushed past Hyde.
"Did you just say you wanted to marry me?"
Jackie shook her head vehemently. "I love you, Eric."
"I love you, too," he murmured as he stood up, wrapping his arms around her waist. There, in the middle of his childhood home with his ex-best friend watching, he kissed the girl he had waited his whole life to find.
"Let's go back to my place and finish what we started upstairs," she murmured in his ear. She looked up and winked at him saucily. "We're going to go, Steven. Let me know where you're staying so I can come by and visit you."
"Really, I wish you the best."
Hyde called out, "Jackie, wait."
"I have to go to him, Hyde," Jackie told him sadly. "I have to go to Eric, I love him."
Jackie strode boldly through the front door and shut it securely behind her. Leaning against the solid surface, she finally allowed herself the deep exhale she had been holding back all along. There were a thousand thoughts racing through her head, most notably that she had just admitted that she wanted to marry Eric. She knew that the knowledge would kill her best friend, the woman that was still very much pregnant with his child. There were a lot of things that she needed to talk to Eric about, and Donna was priority number one. More than anything, she didn't want the news to hurt her. One false step, and the baby's life could be at risk.
Eric was sitting behind the wheel of her car when she finally came back around to the driveway. He was hunched over slightly, head in his hands and completely lost in thought. When he heard the soft thud of the passenger door shutting, he looked up and seemed surprised to see her next to him. "What just happened in there?"
"I think it's called brutal honesty," she replied. "I didn't even have time to think about what I was saying. I just had to let the words come. Steven needed to know how deeply I felt for you if he was ever going to move on. Truth be told, maybe I needed to hear it, too. Now I truly know that the past is behind us."
"Well, except for Donna," he remarked offhand.
"Even that version of the past is behind us," she assured him. "This baby is the future."
"We are going to have to tell her."
"I know," Jackie retorted. "I don't know how we're going to do it, but we have to. I just don't want anything to happen to the baby. If she gets too stressed out or upset, it could have an adverse effect. I'll understand if you want to put this off until after the baby is born."
Eric shook his head. "We already tried that once and it only blew up in our faces. The most important thing is honesty, and I don't want to bring my child into the world with a web of lies. If we know that this is what we want going in, we need to tell Donna. Besides, Hyde already knows, and he won't keep this secret for long. I wish I could say that I knew how we should handle this, but I don't."
"We just need to be honest," she proclaimed. "It's really that simple. Let's go find her right now before Steven has the chance and tell her what our intentions are. I'm not saying that we need to get married right away, but I know that it's something I want to happen. I don't need her permission or even her blessing to love you, Eric. I already do. I just don't want to lie to her about a future that includes her child."
"We won't," he promised. "This is my chance to finally get things right."