Summary: Post S8: Jackie's downward spiral becomes complete. Will Hyde be able to help her through it? Or will he have to accept the fact that sometimes, you can't save the one you still love?

Warning: Language, Drug use

Disclaimer: I don't own That 70's show. If I did, well the travesty of S8 wouldn't have happened. The blame and the show/characters belongs to Fox, et all…

December 31st 1980, 11:15 pm

Forman's basement

Hyde slumped in his chair, a beer clutched tightly in his hand. From the floor above, he could hear the sounds of the party; laughter, music, cheerful voices ringing out. He fled from it an hour ago, retreating to the darkened basement to escape a celebration he no longer felt the desire to take part in. The coming year would be no better than the previous one, which completely sucked. There was no point in pretending it would be and subjecting himself to the revelry would only make him sick to his stomach.

He brought the beer to his mouth and took a long drink from it. His lips twisted in a grimace as the warm liquid slid down his throat. As much as he hated warm beer, he was resigned to drinking it. The usual stash he kept in the basement was gone, having been consumed the previous night. And the only other beer in the house was upstairs with the holiday madness he worked so hard to escape.

Plus once he reappeared, it would take him at least another two hours to escape. Mrs. Forman would force him to rejoin the party, protesting that he was far too young to brood so much. Until the need for a fresh bottle of wine or more food pulled her attention away, he'd be trapped. If he were drinking something harder then he'd be willing to take the risk but not when it came to beer. He propped his feet up on the edge of the table and took another mouthful of the warm, unsatisfying liquid, trying to enjoy the solitude.

It wasn't meant to be. The sound of footsteps on the basement stairs informed him that he was about to have company. A scowl of discontent twisted his lips but he didn't look over his shoulder to see who it was that was invading his sanctuary. It was probably just Forman coming to check on him. Or more than likely, Fez sneaking away from the festivities to take care of his needs since his relationship with Jackie had gone down in flames after only a month and he hadn't found a replacement victim yet.

Whoever it was had stopped and he could feel eyes boring into him. It was dark and the person who intruded was probably trying to figure out who it was but it was annoying as hell stared at. He rolled his own eyes, biting back the urge to turn around and glare at the person. Not that it have the desired effect in the dimly lit room. The scrutiny was pissing him off but he made sure that his customary Zen mask was firmly in place, in case they moved from the spot they appeared to be rooted to.

"I didn't think anyone would be down here." The words ran together slightly, slurred by the effects of alcohol.

Inwardly, he groaned at the voice because it belonged to the one person he didn't want to see right then. Her. But then again, he should have expected it. It seemed like anytime he didn't want something to happen, it did. Hell, beside death and the government monitoring everyone's activities, it was the only other certainty in his life.

He growled low in his throat, inaudible to her, his earlier anger returning to the surface. In his mind, he could see her dramatic entrance to the party, showing up fashionably late as she always did, but she hadn't been alone. Randy had been with her. While it was one thing to know that Donna had been trying to set his former girlfriend up with her ex-fling for the last month, it was entirely different to see it.

The jealously and rage had consumed him at the sight of them together, her smiling that damn smile at someone else. The same smile she used to bestow upon him. Only this guy was stupid enough to believe the sentiment behind it was real. Not see the pure evil lurking beneath the brilliant depths. A guy who looked at her in a way that was eerily reminiscent of Kelso when they first started dating. Dopey, blinded by the pretty face and tight little body and unaware of the fact that she was as poisonous as any snake.

"I'll just go." Jackie's voice wavered the slightest, interrupting his angry thoughts, as if the idea of going back upstairs was no more appealing than staying down there.

"Whatever." He tried to maintain his Zen but the word had come out acidly, the venom plain to hear.

"I, uh…" Her attempt at a sentence trailed off with a helpless sigh.

His reply was a non-committal grunt. Shaking his head, he tried to clear his thoughts. It wasn't like he cared what she did. Not anymore. That bridge had long since been burned and could never be reconstructed. Best thing that ever could've happened.

"No, you know what," Her shrill, slurred voice rose with anger. "I'm not going anywhere. So screw you!"

"Whatever." He repeated and forced himself not to grunt when she brushed past him, her thigh banging into his shoulder as she clumsily made her way to the couch.

She dropped down on the worn couch with her back turned toward him, her usual easy grace gone, and a glass bottle clasped in her hand. He'd gotten a glimpse of the expression on her face and it was dark, very un-Jackie like. The rest of her appearance was typical, a pathetic attempt to be the center attention like always. Dressed to the hilt in a sexy, short, low cut halter dress and a pair of heels that matched it. Her hair was down, flowing freely in waves against her bareback. Even though he'd rather be tortured by the CIA than admit it to anyone, she looked beautiful.

Mentally he reprimanded himself. He had to stay focused and remember what she really was. Devious. Haughty. Cruel. Vile. Nothing but a lying, self-centered bitch who lived for tearing apart someone's life.

The devil in a designer dress and heels.

It was rare that she didn't start to talk as she soon as she sat down but he was thankful not to be subjected to her whining or scathing commentary on why he sucked. From the corner of his eyes, he watched as she unscrewed the cap and brought it to her lips, taking a long swallow of the clear liquid. Normally, she'd make a bitchy, backhanded comment about poor people being the only ones who drank directly from the bottle. Though tonight, it seemed as if she didn't care about appearances or society's expectations. Which was disturbing since she based her life around what the world told her she should be: a shallow, materialistic, superficial bitch.

Too bad he didn't care enough to bring it to her attention. He didn't really want to know why his ex-girlfriend was mainlining vodka at a dangerous rate. Especially if it had anything to do with her newest new boy-toy. Meant he wouldn't have to reach into his arsenal of cruel burns and spend this night like every other for the past year and a half. But as she greedily gulped down more of the potent liquid, his curiosity rose.

There was only one other time he saw her drink like that and it was when her father had been carted off to jail. She got beyond smashed that night and he got stuck holding her hair back while she bowed down to the porcelain gods. It wasn't the coolest night they ever spent together or one they ever talked about. There was never a thank you directed to him but that was probably because she couldn't remember. Not that he did it just to hear those empty words or burn her about it the next day.

His reason for spending the majority of the night in the bathroom with her was because she was his chick and she needed him. But now, that title no longer belonged to her. So if she got drunk off her ass and sick from it, it wasn't his responsibility to take care of her this time. He was free to laugh and make endless burns about it. The job of Jackie's dedicated shmuck was Randy's or whoever else wanted to have the claim of being her perfect love this week.

But looking at her slurping down mouthful after mouthful of vodka and not flinch from the sting of it, he wondered what brought this binge on. His brow furrowed as he realized that she had been drinking more lately. Anytime they were hanging in the basement, she'd participate and down several beers. In fact, she was able to drink more than Donna, a feat no one ever believed they'd see. She was dangerously close to being able to match him drink for drink.

He'd probably end up kicking himself for what he was about to do but that old, protective instinct he harbored toward her washed over him as he finished his beer. Due to the rocky nature of their current relationship, he couldn't come out and ask her what was wrong. And even if he did, she wouldn't tell him out of fear that he was trying to burn her, which he usually did. That meant he had to take a tact she wasn't familiar with to catch her off guard so she wouldn't just glare or flip him off.

"You feel like sharing that?" He turned to face the couch and inclined his thumb toward the rapidly dwindling bottle.

She scowled slightly, looking at something only she could see then down at the white knuckled grasp she had on the clear glass, obviously deliberating. Her teeth tugged on her lower lip, raking over the supple appendage. A sigh tumbled out of her mouth and the bottle was held out in his direction. When he took it from her, she hastily pulled her arm back against her side.

And she managed to do it all without looking at him or speaking a single word. That was an impressive effort on her part but a telling one. She was trying to hide the fact that she had been crying and didn't want to give him any ammunition to use against her. A defensive reaction. An attempt at self-preservation. One he knew exactly how to exploit.

He took a sip of the vodka, his breath hissing over his lips as it burned its way down his throat. His eyes narrowed as he examined the bottle then widened as he noticed that it was a hundred proof. This stuff was strong enough to put a man twice her size on his ass. Slanting a gaze toward the ninety-five pound chick on the couch, he wondered how the hell she was still upright. She was completely still on the couch, which was really unlike her because usually she full of energy and could never sit still.

"Didn't picture you as a hard, cheap liquor kind of girl. Or else I would have taken advantage of it a long time ago." He threw out, baiting her. But it got no response. Leaning forward in his seat, he tried to get a better glimpse of her face. "Thought Vodka would be too pedestrian for your tastes. Not classy enough for a Burkhart."

Shoulders slumped slightly but again, there was no verbal acknowledgement of the barb tossed in her direction. He didn't know if she was choosing to ignore him or if she was on the verge of a stupor. If she was just ignoring him, it was going to piss him off and he'd have to cruelly remind her what she was. But if she wasn't and this was actually something real to be concerned about then he needed to know.

"How come you left the party?" He waited for an answer that never came. Worry was beginning to seep through his mask as he stared at her unmoving frame. She drank two thirds of the bottle herself in a short amount of time when ordinarily she'd nurse her drink as long as she could. "Hey, you conscious?"

Once again, the silence mocked him.

"Jackie?" He called her name, expecting for it to garner a reaction. But there was nothing, physical or verbal, to indicate that she heard him. "Shaun Cassidy's upstairs with an engagement ring."

Even the mention of her favorite Hardy Boy and her favorite piece of expensive jewelry failed to stir her and he knew that something was wrong. He stood, walking around the coffee table so he could get a better look at her. Her eyes were open, glassed over, rimmed with red and unseeing. Full lips were slightly parted, shallow puffs of air sliding past them. The usually flawless olive skin was blotchily flushed a dark, troublesome pink.

He waved a hand in front of her face, "If this is some ploy to try to get me to care…"

But it was no ploy, no mind game to gain the advantage in their battle and no bitchy manipulation to get him to do something she wanted him to. Whatever was wrong with her was legit. A bolt of panic shot through him and he bent down, pushing a stray lock of hair away from her face. "Jackie, I need you to look at me."

Her eyes remained fixed on the nothingness, failing to meet his terrified gaze. His hands cupped her face, tilting it up so he could get a better look at her. Beneath the rosy tint to her skin, it was paler than usual, a washed out grayish color. And it was alarmingly warm to the touch. He swallowed nervously, wondering exactly how much she had to drink and if she had accidentally taken anything.


It had to be a stupor. Unfortunately for her, he was used to being on the other end of it and wasn't sure what to do. Keep her moving? Give her mouth-to-mouth? Put her in a cold shower? Slap her? None of those options were viable ones. She couldn't even look at him let alone walk; he didn't know CPR, the shower in the basement didn't actually work and no matter how much he wanted to at times, he couldn't hit her.

Something had to be done soon, before he was faced with the reality of not having her in his life anymore. Despite what he led everyone to believe, that was the last thing he wanted. Yeah, he was pissed at her and wanted to punish her for betraying him with that moron Kelso but not by letting her die. His gaze drifted from his ex to the basement door and he sighed. It was like twenty degrees outside but it was the only choice he had.

He hooked his arms around her and easily pulled her to her feet. She sagged against him; her petite body a boneless puddle, head rolling from the movement. Holding her tightly, his fingers slipped beneath her chin forcing her face up toward the light. The pupils were huge, only a thin band of blue and green encircled each one. He dragged her over to the door and opened it, figuring the crisp air would help.

A shiver ran though her body as the wind battered them. His teeth were chattering from the cold but he stayed there, holding her up as the powerful gusts swept down upon them. Arms tightened their hold on her as powerful shudders wracked her tiny frame. Thin, high, whimpers slipped over her lips and he brought his mouth to her ear. "It's ok doll. I have you. You're safe."

If possible, that only caused her to shake more. He shifted her in his arms, getting a better hold on her quaking frame and tucked her head protectively beneath his chin. His mind wandered again and once again he wondered if her current condition was really just the result of alcohol. All his life he dealt with drunks and had many of his own drunken episodes but nothing he seen or experienced came close to this. There had to be more to it but what?

Even if she had taken part in numerous circles, she wouldn't be like this. When stoned and drunk, the former cheerleader got introspective and deep, well as deep as she could manage. So what did that leave him with? Cocaine? Acid? Quaaludes? Downers? Some other type of drug his panicked mind couldn't think of at that moment?

"Jackie, baby, what happened to you?"

There was genuine concern in his voice and the slightest hint of fear. Fear that he had a part to play in this. He knew that she wasn't the same. That her self-destructive spiral was directly related to the way he had been treating her for the past year and a half. She hadn't been the same since he told her to have a nice trip but once his "wife" showed up, she had become a stranger. The once vibrant, out-going, talkative girl had turned into a quiet, sullen, angry woman.

All because of one stupid mistake that he wished he could take back. A mistake that he spent every day of his life regretting. He didn't know why he chose Sam over Jackie. Probably because he was angry about finding Kelso in Jackie's hotel room and wanted to hurt his bossy, shrill ex. And even though Jackie repeatedly insisted that nothing happened between her and Kelso, his insecurities wouldn't allow him to really believe it so he decided it was easier staying with a woman he didn't love than taking a chance on the one he did.

Deep down, he knew that if he let her get close to him again, he'd want her back. But the damn Kelso demon that taunted him since they started dating would always be between them, making him wonder if he was the one she settled for because she couldn't manage to stay with her first love. So he turned all his anger, all his pain on her, tearing her down every opportunity he got and using Sam, booze or cruelty as his buffer. He only wanted to knock her down a little, make her realize that she had faults and flaws, that she could be resisted. Obviously, he went too far which his task, pushing her past the edge of reason.

"The things I said," He licked his dry lips. "I didn't mean."

She just continued shivering, him holding her body upright as snow began to blow in on them. He pushed hair from her face, stroking it soothingly. "I was just lashing out cause I was mad."

"If I had known…" He trailed off, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

From upstairs he could hear the annoying sound of noisemakers, horns and yelling as the party guests ushered in 1981. They were excited a new year, a clean slate. Everything was fresh and new for them. But looking down at the diminutive brunette he was holding up, he knew that for them it was just another day. One of the many they had of trying to pretend that they were all right, that they weren't falling apart like they had been since that fateful day in a Chicago motel.