A.N. We come at last to the final chapter. I had great fun writing this story and am kind of sad to see it end, but I think all the zennies will find this epilogue satisfying. My heartfelt thanks to my most faithful reviewers and encouragers, AdriGoddess, Hyde's Bride, BloodyLyra, SometimestheycallmeJackie and Sooki28.
Point Place, September 1991
"Mommy!" The piercing wail of a thwarted child rang through the Hyde household. Jackie set down her guitar with a sigh; she could feel her song was finally coming together. However, it would have to wait until the latest melodrama of her youngest child had been attended to.
"Isabella, this better be import – " Jackie forgot what she was saying when she took in the sight of her six year old daughter teetering in her mother's ivory high heels, swathed from head to toe in Jackie's best lace tablecloth. "Isabella Katherine Hyde, what on earth are you doing?"
"I am trying to get married," the little girl said as one stating the obvious, "but Ren won't marry me!" She turned an indignant pout towards her big brother who was sitting on the couch reading an X-Men comic. He did not bother looking up at his sister's accusation; much like his father, he preferred to conserve his energy for occasions he judged worthy of his attention. "Make him marry me, Mommy!"
Jackie choked back her laughter. "Baby, you can't marry Ren."
"Why not?" Isabella demanded with a stamp of her little foot.
"One, because he's your brother, two because you're too young and three, because you can't force someone to marry you."
"Now those are words I never thought I'd hear you say," Hyde said as he walked into the living room. Jackie stuck out her tongue at him.
"You're one to talk! I may have attempted a little gentle nudging down the aisle in my time, but I think the award for marriage by coercion has to go to you."
Hyde picked up his wide-eyed daughter right out of her shoes, bouncing her until her pout became a smile. "That's something daddys do to mommys when the mommy is too stubborn to listen to reason."
Jackie turned to her ten year old son. "Ren, I order you to ignore every piece of advice your father ever gives you about how to romance a woman."
Her son glanced upwards, a familiar smirk on his lips. "I don't know – seems to have worked on you, Mom."
"But Daddy," Isabella pleaded, reclaiming her parents' attention "I want to be a bride and wear a pretty white dress and walk on flower petals! Mommy, you understand! You used to be a bride, didn't you?"
"Uh, yes, I suppose I was," Jackie replied, wary of where this conversation was going.
"Did you wear a white dress and a veil when you got married, Mommy? Did you have lots of bridesmaids and presents and did Daddy wear a tie?"
"The occasion was definitely… unforgettable," Jackie fielded.
"Yes," Hyde agreed. "My head is still spinning from what happened after the judge said 'kiss the bride'."
Isabella wriggled out of her father's arms and ran towards the bottom shelf of the bookcase, tugging out the family photo album.
"Show me, Mommy," Isabella plopped the heavy book onto her mother's lap and then climbed back into her father's arms, raising her crystal blue eyes expectantly towards her parents. Hyde's eyes danced with amusement at Jackie's predicament, his smirk challenging her to talk her way out of this one. Jackie raised her chin, meeting the challenge, and turned to a photo which had been taken 6 months after Ren's birth.
"Here we are, Bella," Jackie said, pointing at a photo of herself in a trailing white wedding gown standing next to Steven Hyde at his most smug.
"Oh, Mommy, you look so pretty," squealed the dark-haired poppet. "And Daddy looks so funny wearing a tie."
"Really? Let me see," Ren said, scenting an opportunity to burn his Dad. He sat between Jackie and Hyde as Jackie slowly turned the pages, remembering that day, September 30, 1981. It was Hyde's idea to hold it on the first anniversary of their original marriage. He claimed it was so he wouldn't have to deal with the aggravation of celebrating two wedding anniversaries, but Jackie knew it was really because he wanted to blot out that unpleasantness at the marriage registry by giving Jackie the special day she had always dreamed about.
"You see, there's Aunt Donna and Aunt Brooke as my bridesmaids, and little Betsy just managed to toddle down the aisle as my flowergirl."
Ren gave a shout of laughter. "Wow! I've never seen Aunt Donna wearing anything so… pink. Or frilly."
"Yes, it was the one chance in my life where I could finally make her wear something feminine," Jackie explained, smiling with satisfaction at a picture of Donna wearing a creation Zsa Zsa Gabor would have felt right at home in; Donna, however, looked distinctly uncomfortable. Hyde secretly thought Jackie's insistence on the dress had been the final payback for Donna's lapse of loyalty in the year that is best forgotten, and Donna had accepted it as her penance. I guess I'm lucky she didn't make me wear a bridesmaid dress of plaid flannel at her wedding, Jackie thought as she turned the page to a picture of a newly-wed Eric and Donna trying to escape a shower of rice that Kelso and Fez were pitching at them with their usual energy.
Isabella began flipping pages backwards. "Mommy, these photos are out order! The photos of Ren should come after the wedding, not before it."
Jackie shared a meaningful look with her husband. "You're right, Bella. Silly me. I'll have to fix that."
"Wait a second – I was born before your wedding?" Ren deduced. "So I'm a bas – " he caught his mother's eye, "I mean, illegitimate? That is so cool!"
"Sorry to disappoint you, kid, but you were born into the system," his father said, dashing his son's rebel hopes. His eyes lingered on a photo of the newborn Ren, taken minutes after his birth.
The nurse gently placed the small bundle into Jackie's arms as Hyde watched in awe. Hard to believe that they had created something this perfect and extraordinary. As the tiny boy curled his fingers around Hyde's thumb with a surprisingly strong grip, Hyde knew in that instant that everything he thought he knew had changed. "So," he said, his throat suddenly dry, "what's this little guy's name?" They had been brainstorming baby names for the past month but had been unable to agree on anything. Kitty had assured them that once the baby was born, they would look at him and know his name and now Jackie knew she was right. There was only one name possible for this miraculous child.
"Ren," Jackie said as she tenderly caressed his velvety soft cheek. "Ren Steven Hyde".
"Ren," Hyde repeated thoughtfully. "It does have a ring to it. Not a bad name for a rock star. Where did you come up with that?"
"It means renewal, rebirth – a second chance." Hyde met Jackie's eyes and was awed by the pure love he saw in them. The love that at one time he never thought he would see again. Silently, he breathed a short prayer of thanks for this one last second chance; he was determined to spend the rest of his life deserving it.
Hyde was pulled from his memories by Ren's shout of laughter. "Oh man! Who is this crazy couple?" Jackie smiled at the photo of a smiling dark-skinned man in a grass skirt with his arm around his bride's waist – or as far as his arm could reach around her waist.
"That's your Uncle Fez and his wife, Simboola," Jackie explained. "This photo was taken at their wedding in Africa. We tried to talk them into staying here in Point Place, but they both felt it was their mission to go back to her people and share the best America has to offer."
"How do they do that, Mommy?" Isabella asked.
"They import and sell candy. Fez says it's made them the most important people in the village."
"Is he the one you send those Playboy magazines to, Dad?"
"C'mon, Jackie," Hyde coaxed. "You know Fez would never survive an African jungle without some release for his pervy weirdness."
"Look, Mommy! Here you are on stage with Donny and Marie," Isabella cried, pointing to another photo with excitement.
"Ah, don't remind me," Hyde groaned. "There was no living with her for weeks after that."
Jackie gave her husband a playful shove. "Hey! I've had more than one person say that I was the best act on that variety hour."
"I agree with both of them. Of course, if Izzy was singing up against the Osmonds, I'd vote her as the best act, just from lack of competition." Hyde shook his head sadly. "I've always thought that if you hadn't been carrying her when you did that gig, she might not have inherited your taste in music."
Isabella made an indignant noise. "Mommy has good taste in music! When I grow up I'm going to make records and sing to children just like Mommy."
"You tell him, kid," Jackie cheered.
Hyde folded under his daughter's moody pout. "Alright! I take it back! You and your Mom are both perfect." At once the sun came out on his daughter's face, which aside from her blue eyes, was a miniature copy of her mother's. A fact which made it impossible for Hyde to resist her.
"If you want to follow in my footsteps, Bella, you need to be especially sweet to Grandpa Will," Jackie advised. "It was his contacts that launched my career. If it weren't for him I'd probably still be singing for the kids at Point Place library."
"But Mom, you still do sing for the kids at the Point Place library," Ren reminded her. "You were there just last week."
"Yes, well, they said the children were begging for me to play to them again – what was I supposed to do?" Although Jackie's albums of children's music were among the best selling in that category, making her a highly desirable guest performer on children's shows, charity benefits and variety programs, there was still nothing she liked better than to play her music to a cluster of wide-eyed tots. And even though it was W.B. who had provided an opening to the world of recording artists, it was really Hyde's encouragement and confidence in her talent that had been the secret of her success.
Another page was turned to a photo of the family on the day Hyde opened his third Grooves record store. Three was the magic number that turned Hyde from the owner of a small record store to the manager of a franchise. At first he was nervous that becoming the overseer of his small kingdom would turn him into "the Man", but Jackie was quick to point out that there weren't many employee plans in the corporate world as flexible as Hyde's, not when it came to certain fumes seeping out from under the Grooves' office door. Besides, it took less time to keep tabs on his three capable managers than it did to babysit a store all day, time that he put to good use by giving his kids the kind of attention that had been so conspicuously absent from his own childhood home. Not to mention the extra time he had with Jackie. Whenever anyone asked him how he spent his time since switching to shorter working hours, he would sigh and shake his head and complain how keeping Jackie satisfied was a 24 hour job and he prayed each day for the strength to meet her insatiable demands. At which point Jackie would kick him in the shins (but never too hard) and mutter some empty threat about no more cookie-making privileges.
More pages in the photo album were turned, more memories were recalled; the day they had moved to the sprawling ranch-style house they now lived in; a photo of Ren on his eighth birthday, grinning with uncontainable delight as he sat behind his new drum kit (it was two days later that Jackie insisted they sound proof the back room); a photo of Eric in front of the Point Place Grammar School, looking especially twitchy as he faced his first day of teaching; newspaper clippings of some of Donna's early stories which she wrote as a journalist for the Kenosha Times; a play bill for The Importance of Being Earnest displaying Bernard as a high-bred English toff, a role he was made for. He and Brooke were still going strong, with four more kids to keep Betsy company (it seemed Bernie was fated to be surrounded by small children) and Brooke and Jackie were still fast friends, in spite of the miles between them.
However, when Jackie turned the page to a picture of Michael Kelso wearing a face-splitting grin, surrounded by scantily clad women from the Busty Broads Joint (the strip club where he worked security), she quickly snapped the book closed before her children could ask questions about that particular photo.
"Oh my, will you look at the time! You two should have been in bed an hour ago. And on a school night, too!"
"Really?" Ren replied with wide-eyed innocence, a look mirrored by his little sister and partner-in-crime. "I must have lost track of time – your stories were so interesting, Mom."
Jackie fixed her son with the same suspicious look that his father so often provoked. "We'll see how far that story gets you when your teacher calls on you tomorrow and finds you asleep at your desk."
Ren gave the trademark Hyde smirk which had gone a long way to establishing him as the coolest kid in the fifth grade. "I don't think Uncle Eric will be too hard on me, not with all the dirt on him Dad has given me."
Jackie gave Hyde the look. "What?" he said defensively. "With all the classic burns Eric has taken, it would be a crime not to share them with someone who has the burn calling."
Jackie turned to her son. "Ren, I forbid you to blackmail your uncle! Blackmail may have been something of a Hyde family tradition in the past, but I don't want your generation carrying it on."
"Fine," Ren capitulated, rolling his eyes. "I'll just say I was up late perfecting my Jedi training. He always falls for that."
"That's better," Jackie said, approving of her son's lie. "Now, off to bed right now, you two, or I'll tell Grandpa Red you've been naughty. And you know what he does to naughty children!"
Ren and Isabella recited together, "He'll put his foot in our – "
As their progeny scampered off, bickering and giggling by turns, Jackie gave a weary sigh. At once Hyde was on the alert, taking in her exhausted posture as her body sunk into the nook between his arm and body.
"Are you OK?" he asked with concern. Jackie still had a tendency to push herself beyond her body's limits, and she had seemed more tired than usual lately. "Baby, I really want you to see a doctor tomorrow."
"Actually," Jackie replied, "I saw Dr Collins today."
"You did?" Jackie nodded, her face revealing nothing. "Well, what did he say?" Hyde asked impatiently. When Jackie looked away from his eyes, he felt his heart skip a beat. Surely it was nothing serious? If anything happened to Jackie…
She pulled a folded piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to Hyde, her face expressionless. "Here, I think you should read this."
"Jackie, what – "
"Just read it, baby. It will explain everything."
Hyde opened the note.
To Mr Steven J. Hyde
This letter is to inform you that at some point during the recent long, hot summer, you did impregnate one Jackie Hyde. Probably on one of those nights when the kids were in bed and the swimming pool was looking so good and you were saying none of the neighbours could see us anyway.
I understand that my manner of informing you about my first pregnancy was not exactly cordial. And as we have had so many "do-overs" in our crazy history together, I thought one more wouldn't hurt.
So I wish to state for the record that you are the only man that I would ever want to have rugrats with and you are most definitely on the hook in all matters baby-related, even if you do turn into a nag just because I work a little too hard sometimes.
So that's it, Puddin' Pop. We're going to be parents for the third time. At last Bella will have someone to practice her inborn bossiness on. And maybe Ren will get that little brother he always wanted – if he does, I know he'll look out for him the same way you used to watch over me and our friends when we were teenagers; disinterested on the surface but always there when we needed someone. When I needed someone.
I think Spiral Staircase best summed up the way I feel about you, Steven:-
I love you more today than yesterday
But not as much as tomorrow
Hey, at least it wasn't Abba!
Mrs Jaclyn B. Hyde
Hyde slowly raised his eyes up from Jackie's letter to find her watching him, tear-filled eyes incongruous with her beaming smile. As she waited for his response, he vainly searched for words to describe what he was feeling, but could find none. Just at the point when her smile was beginning to waiver in the face of his blank amazement, he suddenly grabbed her and kissed her so deeply and potently that the kisses they shared from their first summer together were pale copies in comparison.
"A baby, Jackie? Are you sure?"
"So says 3 home pregnancy tests. Not to mention Dr Collins. Are you happy, Steven?"
"Happy? Jackie, of course I'm happy! I just never thought – I mean, it's been so long since Izzy, I figured it wasn't in the cards. But this – this is like one of the best surprises ever." With a squeal of happiness, Jackie climbed onto Hyde's lap and hugged her husband tightly. This position gave him the perfect opportunity to heft her upwards. As he began walking towards the bedroom, he said with fake strictness, "Now, Jackie, about this note."
"What about it, Puddin' Pop?" Jackie said as she peppered his neck with light kisses.
"You knew I'd have a coronary when you handed me a note about going to the doctor with a face as long as Fez's name."
"But I was just trying to make up for the other time, Steven," Jackie said with sweet innocence. "It's not like I was trying to… I don't know… burn you or anything."
Hyde gave her a piercing look. "Whatever! But I warn you, Jackie, any more of your 'dramatic flourishes' and I'll…"
"You'll what?" Jackie smirked, one eyebrow raised.
Hyde met the challenge in her eye and quickened his pace. "Sounds like a certain cheerleader is begging for a preview. Remember what you told me about cheerleaders, back at the Christmas dance?"
Jackie frowned as she tried to remember what she had said; These are bad girls, they need to be punished, and they know it.
"Steven, you can't be serious! Come on, it was just a joke! Steven! STEVEN!"
And there we have it – the end at last. I hope you all enjoyed the ride and please leave your reviews at the door.