A/N: The purpose of this is to deal with the Chicago saga before it actually reaches Chicago since that only led to season 8. Also, in the season 7 DVDs, when the director himself considers season 8 to be a "coda" or "variant of 'That '70s Show'," I think that's the cue to just acknowledge season 7 as the REAL last season. Though I'm sure I'm not the only one who did that anyway ;-)
Disclaimer: I don't own, I'm just a poor college girl attempting to fix the mistakes of millionaire writers.
At the sound of the basement door opening, Jackie turned her head. Sure enough, standing in the doorway was Steven Hyde. They both stared for a moment and Jackie noticed that he was not wearing his usual sunglasses. Instead, she felt his penetrating stare come directly from his baby blues. She could tell he was surprised to see her since she had left him a note saying she already left for Chicago, positive he was going to say, "No." Jackie figured his surprise wasn't in a good way.
His eyebrows were knit in confusion and he was frowning. Hyde was almost tempted to ignore Jackie completely and just go into his room. She was no better than the rest of them. She may not have left him just yet but he didn't miss the wording of her note. She assumed he would say, "No," and that alone showed she had no faith in him. If she could give up just like that, why should he even bother to put up a fight? "What are you doing here?" he asked, trying to maintain a calm demeanor.
"Well, my mom took the car so… until I can find another ride, I'm stuck in Point Place."
"Sorry to hear that," he answered, with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. So that was it then, Jackie was still planning on ditching him like everyone else. Deciding that there was nothing more to say, Hyde began walking towards his room, determined to leave everything regarding Jackie in the past when…
"Steven?" Jackie stood from the couch and slowly made her way towards Hyde. He didn't say anything in response so she continued. "I thought that maybe, since I'm still here… can we talk for a moment?"
Time stood still as Jackie waited for Hyde to say something. His face was stony and that made Jackie's stomach do somersaults. She was determined not to let it show and instead appear as uncaring he was. He did teach her Zen after all so it was time to put those lessons to good use. She looked directly into his eyes, searching for just a glimmer of hope that all was not lost. But hope was nowhere to be found, instead it seemed to be replaced by pain, confusion and, worst of all, defeat.
With a sigh, he replied, "About what?" even though he had a pretty good idea of what the topic of conversation would be. What else could it possibly be? She shouldn't even be here.
"It's just that…" she tried to ease into this, attempting to avoid a screaming match, "if there's anything… anything at all that you want to say to me, now's your chance."
Hyde was ready to explode. His nostrils flared and he could literally feel the anger boil in his chest. Her mind was already made up; physically she was in Point Place but her head… and heart, he figured, were in Chicago. Who did she think she was to give him an ultimatum, decide what his answer would be before he could voice it, and only now give him a say? The only reason this confrontation was taking place was because she wasn't able to get a ride yet, she even said it herself.
Despite his whirlwind of thoughts, Hyde put everything he had into keeping his anger in check. "Didn't your note say it all? Obviously you've made up your mind for the both of us." With that, he made his way into his room but was unable to shut the door in time to prevent Jackie from joining him.
She followed suit and took a seat on his cot, purposely ignoring the glare that she knew was telling her to leave him alone. "Steven, I told you I was willing to give it all up and all you could answer me with was passing out in a beer warehouse." Given the situation, she kept her composure. Getting too emotional would only push Steven to hide his own emotions underneath his yelling and then nothing would get accomplished.
"Damn it Jackie, it's not all about you! That was just a night out with the guys, but you wanna know what I think?" Inevitably his voice still rose, "I think your entire ultimatum was a bunch of crap!" He couldn't deal with the closeness any longer so he moved to the other side of his room. "You were gonna go the whole time and were just using the warehouse as an excuse to blame that on me." Hyde always underestimated how draining it was to argue with Jackie and this time was no different. "That way, you'd never have to give leaving a second thought!" He was already huffing to catch his breath, and they only just begun.
Jackie was visibly shaken by his words. As she attempted to blink back tears, she stuttered, "Ste… Steven?" She paused for a moment as she realized he thought this whole ordeal would result in being abandoned… again. "You honestly believe I'd just leave you like that?" She slowly got up from the cot so she could properly stand face to face with Hyde.
He saw how her eyes widened and her mouth opened in shock. He saw how she tried to steady herself. She didn't even yell back like he thought she would. Her words were barely above a whisper and Hyde couldn't help but feel guilty… a tad… that he made her feel that way. If he was honest with himself, he'd admit that he didn't think Jackie would just ditch him for no reason because she had too big a heart for that. But that truth was buried underneath years of assuming and preparing for the worst.
Hyde didn't even respond. All he could do was look at the floor because he wasn't willing to watch Jackie do everything in her power to keep from having a nervous breakdown. His gaze was so set on the ground that it took him a moment to notice Jackie had cautiously come over and grabbed his hand.
"Steven," she said, forcing him to look at her, "how could you say something like that? Do you even know what I thought about when I got that job offer? Do you?"
With a slight eye roll, Hyde barely managed to whisper, "No." He hated how pathetic he sounded because it meant this moment was affecting him; the man who was indifferent to everything, good and bad, was feeling. This was all a result from the possibility that Jackie might leave. There was fear, hurt, anger and even love, which was buried under layers upon layers of stone in his heart. As much as Hyde claimed not to love people, he was in love with Jackie Burkhart and he was powerless to stop it.
"YOU, Steven!" Jackie said, pulling Hyde from his thoughts. She let go of his hand to reach up and cup his face. "You don't even realize how scared I was to tell you about Chicago. We had just gotten back together and agreed not to bring up the future but then all of a sudden, I had no choice but to bring it up!" Suddenly, she began pacing the small area, "So okay, I'm sorry I brought up marriage again but what was I supposed to do? This is the opportunity of a lifetime so I need some kind of offer from you if you want me to stay! Do you want me to stay?"
"Jackie…" he trailed off. What was he supposed to say to that? He knew that even if he did propose, in the end it would never stand a chance against Chicago. On top of that, he wasn't sure he even wanted to get married… ever. Jackie always pushed for more and eventually Hyde knew that their relationship would reach this point where it was no longer enough. As much as he wanted her to stay, he couldn't argue with fate. He sighed, "You've already left."
Jackie straightened up and looked him square in the eye with frustration. "Forget about the note and just answer me, do you want me to stay?" She continued searching his eyes but they still looked to be fighting some internal conflict.
Hyde carried on, doing everything in his power to appear strong and stubborn. "It doesn't matter," He started yelling again, "you said you were only going to stay if we got married—"
"SOMEDAY, Steven!" She first spoke to match him then got considerably quieter, "Someday. I don't mean right this second, I just want to know if there could ever be a time where you'd think being with me is worth that." Her eyes were pleading for him to let his guard down and simply answer the question.
All this time he had been holding back because he didn't think he was worth it for her. But she was asking what he wanted for himself. Hyde had always been one to choose the path of least resistance; take the easy way out, even if it wasn't necessarily what he wanted. He was lazy, disconnected and extremely stuck in his ways. Whenever it was time to make a decision, he never wanted anyone else to make it for him. He always had to have control yet he hated when it came time to actually do something. He would always try to have some kind of reason not to do anything because, he was sure, it would only wind up a disaster.
So once again, Hyde found himself in that dilemma: tell Jackie the truth or convince himself it was better to let her go. Maybe all this time, he was the one making excuses; he was the one telling himself Jackie made up her mind. Whether she did or not, he was still given another chance… wasn't he? That had to count for something, mean something… didn't it? Jackie, who once said she loved herself the most, was voluntarily giving him control of her fate.
"Jackie, I…" This was it, either bite the bullet or throw in the towel. "I'm sorry, okay, I'm just…" Pausing for many short breaths, Hyde resumed, avoiding her gaze, "I just… don't know about marriage. I don't, okay?" As he spoke, there was a faint sob. Jackie lowered her head and slumped her shoulders. The tears streaming down her face ached but he had to tell her the truth. "I don't know yet—"
Suddenly, Jackie's head shot up and her tears momentarily lay forgotten. She noticed that he was carrying a similar stance, without the tears, but her mind lingered on that one word… So, with a deep breath, she carefully repeated, "yet?"
Considering her look a second ago, her voice remained even. Hyde willed himself to look at her and saw her head tilted in question of his meaning. "Yeah… yet," he confirmed, noticing that her face was still teary but her expression conveyed further explanation was needed. "Because…" struggling to push through his nerves, "like you said, this is the opportunity of a lifetime…"
"And you're afraid if I don't go… I'll regret it—"
"Yeah, but," with the need to keep going, "you… ARE… worth it." This was even harder than he imagined, "And I… DO…" he quickly mumbled, "want you to stay."
A small smile graced Jackie's face. "I'm sorry… about the note and all that," she shrugged. It may not have been exactly what she wanted, with regards to her ultimatum, but she could see that he was making an effort. Knowing how he hated being vulnerable, it meant that much more when he did try for her. "Steven," grabbing his attention, "I want to stay with you, much more than go to Chicago." She went over and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"But don't you want to be loved by everybody and be the constant center of attention?" His words were said accompanied by a hesitant half-smile. He too put his arms around her body and slowly ran his hand down her back.
Jackie's smile grew and she snuggled into Hyde's chest. She could feel his heartbeat and she knew this was the right choice. "As long as I have your attention, that's all that matters." Immediately she rolled her eyes and lightly slapped his chest when a wicked smirk crept onto his face, though she laughed anyway. This was it, she was home.
A/N 2: Happy (early) Holidays everyone! By the way, reviews are like Christmas presents... hint, hint ;-)