Could've Been, Should've Been
A/N: This story may not be congruous with the show's timeline or plot, but it takes place a few years after the show ended. I hope that you guys like it… it was inspired by the song "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" by Darius Rucker (you know, from Hootie and the Blowfish). There's a flashback from Season 2, episode 25 "Cat Fight Club." I'm sure that you'll recognize. I hope you like it :)
The basement had never been the same since Sam started coming around. No, it had never been so abandoned for such long periods of time. Never had it felt so sad. Jackie Burkhardt had done her best to avoid it all costs. Steven Hyde and his stripper had contaminated it with their dirty marriage. And Eric thought that she was breaking up the band – ha!
She wished that she could be happy and smug about it, but the truth was that she had never been so beaten and low. Fez always asked if she was alright, and she always told him she was, but she was living a lie. Eventually, she broke up with her friend and went back to Chicago.
She had come a long way since the first time Michael brought her to the Foreman's dirty basement; she wasn't quite as selfish anymore –although she had her moments, it was something that she was both proud and dismissive of. Growing up hadn't given her what she wanted at all –it had taken everything away from her. She felt so weak that she hadn't even been able to fight for what she truly wanted.
Deep down, and she hated to admit it, she wanted him, even with his whore-loving tendencies. She wanted to look in those surprisingly blue eyes and smile for real. She wanted to sleep in his arms when she was lonely and make love on that cot when she was hungry for anything but food.
She missed the way he gently ran his fingers through her dark hair, and the way he made her feel alive and real, instead of like the porcelain doll that her parents and other boys picked up and threw down on a whim.
He got her. He accepted her. He let her cry. He took her shopping habits and the way she pouted to get her way. He called her cute and every so often, he told her he loved her. And she always knew that he meant it.
But neither one of them had been perfect. He cheated, she clung to the past, but they had it all figured out. That is, until that whore walked in and took her happiness away. And she let her.
But what could she do? In an instant, he hated her. He was cruel and vulgar and it seemed as if he sought her out to torture her some more.
Jackie had been through the rebound and running away, ignoring the way he smelled and looked as they walked down the aisle together as Donna and Eric's Maid of Honor and Best Man, all the while fighting the what-could-have-been thoughts that poured into her head.
She hadn't seen him since the reception, and now, awkwardly standing at the Foreman's front door, she wasn't sure what to expect. He had, supposedly moved out, but this place was his home and she'd be surprised if he didn't swing by now and again.
"Mr. Foreman!" She squealed, hugging him as always.
"Kitty!" Red called into the house.
"What do you – Jackie!" Kitty ran over and hugged the younger woman. "How have you been?"
"Fantastic." She flashed her perfectly white smile. "Are Eric and Donna here yet?"
"Not yet, but they will be soon."
"Do you mind if I wait in the basement?" She asked. As much as she didn't want to go down there, it would be easier than sitting upstairs pretending that this wasn't freaking her out completely.
"Go right head, hon." Kitty laughed. "I'm glad you're back."
"Me too." She smile again and went down to the basement.
And there she stood at the bottom of the stairs. It was all basically the same, save the presence of her friends and the lingering scent of "incense" in the air.
Jackie smiled despite herself.
Donna had warned her that she and Eric might be a little late, but it was fine. She needed some time to get her bearings anyway.
She sat on the couch, remembering all the things that had happened on it. She and Michael had been so young when she started coming here, and she and Steven well, they were just so in love that her heart ached. Once upon a time she had been a whore when it came to saying "I love you", but Steven certainly changed all of that, and in the end, the words were locked up tight.
From what she knew, Steven and his stripper had moved out of the basement. She wondered what his bedroom looked like, and before losing her nerve, she was there, standing in the doorway like she always had.
She flipped on the light switch, the old light flickered to life like it was out of practice. The far side of the room was stacked with boxes of Christmas decorations and other mementos that the Foreman's had kept over the past few years. The room was as dark and dreary as ever and Jackie's heart clenched in her chest as her eyes focused on the cot – still where it always had been.
The memories that flooded her in this room were too much to take – the night when the Foreman's busted her for staying over when her parents were gone, making out with a curly-haired rebel who loved her, the first time they made love, and even more sentimental, the conversations they had about his alcoholic and druggy mother, his ever changing father status, her absentee mother and fraudulent father. Beneath their obnoxious and apathetic exteriors were two kids who just needed the world to stop spinning for a while – they found that in each other, or at least Jackie had found that in Hyde.
She wanted to marry him. She wanted to have kids with him. She would have been poor with him.
Their mistakes ended up being their undoing – he was angry, she nagged, he cheated, she wanted a stronger commitment, she sought comfort in an old boyfriend, and he married a stripper.
Whenever Jackie ended up thinking about the relationship, she came to the conclusion that they just weren't meant to be. She still didn't know how she felt about it, but maybe it just didn't matter anymore.
A chill when down her spine making the rest of her body quake when she realized that Sam had also been on this cot. With him. It made her sick – so, so sick.
God, she needed to get out of this room. The walls were closing in now. She couldn't breathe. If Eric and Donna didn't get here soon, she was going to end up going crazy.
Jackie left the room and walked back over to the couch, all the while seeing the shadows of her past intermingling with the sounds of The Price is Right – she was glad that she had forgotten to turn off the TV.
She saw Eric and Donna laughing on the couch, Michael and Fez entertaining themselves with a bouncy ball, and Steven sitting in the chair next to her. Eyes glued on her.
Wait. That didn't makes sense at all.
Steven never looked at her like that with everyone around –especially when the TV was on.
She blinked a few times, trying to fix her crazy mirage. If she was going to go nuts, she was at least going to see it right. But it wouldn't alter. She shook the mental pictures away and re-opened her eyes. He was still there. He was still staring.
Her heart began to race in her chest.
Was he really here?
Hyde had heard someone in his old room – but he figured that it was just Red tossing some more things into a box. Imagine his surprise when Jacqueline Beulah Burkhardt stepped out, looking short of breath for a moment, walked by him without so much as a sideways glance and resettled herself back down on the couch to watch some God damn game show – of course it had to be The Price Is Right.
Truth be told, he had been a little apprehensive to remain in the basement once the TV attempted to drudge up old memories, but he decided to just roll with it. Word in the kitchen was that Eric and Donna were visiting today until after Christmas, and unless that had changed in the past week, he decided that he wanted to see them. He had nothing better to do, and he missed them.
But now, as his masked blue eyes wouldn't removed themselves from Jackie, he began to think that he shouldn't have come.
That is, until she spoke his name.
"What the hell are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Chicago." Déjà vu. Or he was high. He hoped that it was the latter –it sure would explain a lot.
"I'm in town for Christmas. I wanted to see Eric and Donna – and the baby." She said quietly. "I'm sorry. I thought you moved out."
"Oh. Then what are you doing here?" She was genuinely curious, she wanted to catch jus a glance at a day-in-the-life of Steven J. Hyde.
"I wanted to see them, too."
They were silent as their eyes drifted back to the TV screen.
"God, another old lady." Jackie muttered under her breath. She always regretted not going to California to see The Price is Right, even if she didn't end up anywhere near Bob Barker it would have been fun.
"What did you say?" Hyde's words were so soft that they scared her.
"They called down another old lady." Jackie was proud of herself from keeping her voice from shaking. "They always call old ladies."
Hyde turned back to the TV and Jackie felt her heart squeeze in pain again. Where the hell were Eric and Donna? She was going to kill that red-headed lumberjack.
Hyde couldn't keep his eyes from glancing over at her. What had all his year of Zen training gotten him? Sweaty palms and jittery. Like Foreman. Foreman was dead. The question was when and how.
Hyde looked at the woman next to him. Her beautiful features were laced with worry and concern.
Their eyes met, and they were back in the 70's.
"No. More aloofness." Hyde coached.
"I'm not believing you."
"Hyde, when are we going to move on? I've been saying whatever for half an hour!"
"You can say very much by saying very little, small Grasshopper. Pretend you're Laurie and insult me."
Jackie thought for a moment. "Okay. Hey Hyde! You're stupid!"
"Whatever." He said in his usual Hyde-fashion.
"Wow, that was great." Hyde couldn't help but notice the admiration in her eyes.
"Yeah. Now the another part of this is ambiguity. Say it with me."
"Very good. See, you don't want people to know exactly what you mean."
"Etta Parker, come on down!"
Jackie and Hyde were brought back to the present, leaving their first practice as being civil with each other behind.
"Another old lady." Hyde mumbled.
Jackie laughed. "Dam old ladies and their holiday sweaters."
Hyde smirked. "How's the old room?"
Jackie's face flushed. "Filthy, as usual. You would love it."
"Pain in the ass." He grumbled. "How's Chicago?"
"It's not home." She said simply. Jackie still wasn't sure what they were doing here. "Where are you living?"
"A place a few blocks away."
The Price is Right finished and Hyde stood up. "I'm going home."
"What about Eric and Donna?"
"They're three hours late. I'll see them tomorrow." He started toward the door. "You wanna come?"
"Don't worry about it."
Jackie studied his face. For all she knew he was setting her up for something cruel. But she was slipping back into her old ways, she was beginning to trust him again. She took a breath and then a step toward the door.
Hyde pulled up to the brick building that he lived in. His apartment was on the fifth floor of the walk-up, and glancing over at Jackie he wondered why she didn't wear more practical shoes. Sure, the black high heeled boots made her look sexy as hell, but for walking up five flights of stairs, they weren't the best. She probably had an elevator where she lived, or maybe she had a house. He couldn't help but wonder.
The two walked up to Hyde's apartment in silence, eventually closing in on his apartment. "Sorry about the hike…" He mumbled, reaching into his pocket for his key. Jackie shrugged, and followed him into the apartment. It was dark and small. The window hadn't been open, and it hadn't been cleaned in a while, but it suited him.
Despite her best intentions, Jackie found herself trying to see if Sam had left any of her stripper wear laying around the rooms. But she didn't see anything other than Steven. His scent lingered in the room, his beer bottles were around along with half-empty bags of chips. There wasn't a trace of Sam, and Jackie didn't know what that meant.
"So this is it. Sorry about the mess. I wasn't really expecting anyone."
"Sure." She nodded.
Hyde began to clear newspapers and sales reports off of the couch, hoping that it would make the room more welcoming for her. He was regretting his Zen classes down. How did she have better control over herself than he did? Maybe she just didn't care anymore. She had probably stopped caring a long time ago, why else wouldn't she have –
"Steven?" Her voice broke him out of his thoughts.
"She's not here."
"Working the corner?" Jackie covered her mouth. "Oh. Sorry, Steven."
"Whatever." His Zen had returned. "You thirsty or something?"
"I'm okay." She sat down on the couch and he flipped on a light. "So you're doing well?"
"I get by."
"Well, that's always the way you wanted it, right?" It was a bittersweet thought and she wondered if he was truly happy. He didn't seem that way.
"Yeah Jacks, it's what I wanted."
"I'm leaving Chicago." She said quietly.
"I really hate it there. I thought I hated Point Place, but apparently I don't. Go figure." She laughed quietly. "Chicago isn't what I wanted."
"What do you want?"
Jackie shrugged and fought the urge to admit that she wanted him. She didn't want him to get confused. She wasn't moving back for him – she wouldn't do that. He was married and she wasn't one of those girls.
"Shouldn't you figure that out?"
"I will." She paused. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Where did you go after the toasts? You just disappeared."
"Are you talking about Foreman and Donna's wedding?" Jackie nodded. "I had some stuff to handle."
The toasts were finished, dinner was eaten, the cake was cut, the first dance was danced, and now everyone was sitting and mingling. Hyde found himself with a drink sitting at a table along, his tie undone. Eric and Donna were having fun, Mr. and Mrs. Foreman were dancing, Kelso and Brooke were laughing at another table, and she stood there, oblivious to the fact that she looked drop dead gorgeous – she had shattered the cardinal rule of not looking better than the bride. She smiled at the guy who handed her a drink, and laughed as he whispered something in her ear.
What a tool, Hyde decided. His hair was gelled and perfectly in place, his face was clean shaven, and he had money. Hyde was sure of it.
He looked away for a moment, and before he knew it, they were dancing. The tool's hands were wandering too far down for Hyde's liking, but Jackie seemed content with dancing with the guy. Then she kissed him and his blood was boiling.
He knew then that if he didn't leave he was going to end up doing something he would regret. For a moment, a pain of guilt hit him. It hit him hard. What kind of guy had he become that he couldn't even stay for his best friends' wedding? He looked back at Jackie. They wouldn't notice if he was gone, so he slipped away, deciding to stop at the liquor store before heading back to the basement.
"At the store?"
"You had to handle stuff at the store?"
"Yeah." He lied. He didn't realize that she had noticed he was gone – Eric and Donna hadn't. Kelso and Brooke hadn't. Fez hadn't even noticed, and they had ridden together. Leave it to Jackie.
"Do you know what time it is?"
Hyde looked at his watch. "8:30."
"I should be getting back to the hotel."
"I'll drive you."
"No, that's okay. I can walk."
"Not in the dark, Jackie." Or looking like that, he silently amended.
"Okay, fine. I'm staying at the Hilton."
Hyde drove slower than usual, telling himself that it was because of the snow. He knew that she would be around for a while, she was even moving back to Point Place, but it seemed like a dream and the moment he let her out of his sight she would disappear in a cloud of pixie dust. He didn't know what he would do if that happened.
The red glow of the Hilton sign was bright in the darkness. Hyde parked and glanced over at Jackie. "Do you wanna come in? We can grab something to eat – it's on me."
Hyde nodded and got out of the car, following a half step behind her as she led the way into the building. The elevator brought them up to the eleventh floor, and Jackie walked to her room, Hyde continuing to follow close behind.
Jackie walked across the room, placing her bag on the bed. "I'm just gonna change before dinner."
"Okay." Hyde nodded and watched as she grabbed some clothes from her closet and disappeared into the bathroom. He didn't think that there was anything wrong with what she was wearing – the jeans, tank top, jacket and boots – she looked so good. He shook his head. He shouldn't be thinking that way. Not when he was in her hotel room with her. Alone.
He needed to get a hold of himself. This was Jackie. Jackie. Jackie. Jackie. She didn't want him anymore. He shouldn't want her anymore – he had too much pride for pining. He took his sunglasses off and blinked a few times, focusing on breathing.
The bathroom door opened and Hyde, looking at the floor, saw that the boots were still on Jackie's feet. He looked up. There she stood in a short black skirt and a bright turquoise v-neck top.
"I'm ready." She said, walking over to the bed and grabbing her bag. "Steven? Did you hear me?" Nothing. "Hello?"
"You look beautiful." Hyde's pride was gone, it ran out the door the moment he saw her.
"Thank you." She was a little thrown off. This was only the second time he had said that to her – last time she was wearing a wedding dress in the middle of the mall. Her stomach flipped. "Are you ready to go to dinner?"
"What do you mean?" She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to piece together the things that she didn't understand about the enigma that was Steven Hyde.
"Jackie, I miss you."
"I don't understand."
"I didn't know you were coming back. I didn't know you would be at the Foreman's."
"You haven't come home for a Christmas in three years."
"I don't understand where this is coming from."
"Why did you just… give up on me?"
"When did I ever give up on?"
"When you came back from Chicago."
"I gave up on us, not you. Sam showed up. You were married. It hurt me, Steven, but there was nothing I could do."
"You could have stuck around. You could've told Sam to fuck off."
"God, what good would that have done? She showed up and suddenly you hated me."
"Damn it, Jackie! I hated you because you left me with her. You gave me no choice but to stay with her."
"I don't control your actions, Steven. If you wanted to leave her, you should have."
"I never wanted her."
"You married her."
"I was drunk and I was angry and I don't even remember it."
"That doesn't mean you didn't say 'yes'. Even if it was only for a few hours, you wanted her, not me. And you have to live with that. I'm not a home wrecker, I won't do it, not even for her."
"What home?" He was yelling now, and he knew he shouldn't but after four years, there was nothing else to do. "She was a whore, Jackie! You said it yourself. She was as stripper, a whore, she was nothing."
"She was your wife, Steven. That sure as hell wasn't 'nothing', at least not to me."
"I loved you. I told you that I would have married you..."
"Steven, when you said that you were already married to her. We're talking in circles. We made our decisions, and now we just have to live with them."
"I know what I felt and I know what I said-"
"You just want me because you can't have me anymore."
"I think about you all the time. It would have been so simple to fix everything."
"You were married!" Jackie screamed through the tears. "You were married to someone who wasn't me! It wouldn't have been easy to fix, Steven, because she wasn't me!"
"Do you even think about me anymore?"
"I regret marrying her. I regret leaving you at that hotel. I regret not telling you exactly what I felt. But I was hurt, and I was drunk. There's no way you could punish me any more than I've punished myself. God Jacks."
"What about Sam?"
They both stiffened at the name.
"She's gone. She was already married and she left… years ago." Hyde knew he never loved Sam, but when she was gone he felt the pain of Jackie's absence stronger than ever before. Maybe he never felt it for real with Sam. He had felt it in full force ever since then, but he doubted that Jackie would believe him. It was so unlike him. So uncharacteristic.
The phone rang, but Jackie couldn't move. It rang again and she sprang into action.
"Ms. Burkhardt, we have a call for you from a Donna Foreman."
"Okay, yeah, thanks." Her eyes stayed glued on Hyde's blue eyes.
"Where are you? Eric, Luke, and I are at Mr. and Mrs. Foreman's and you aren't here."
"I'm at my hotel. Listen, I'm really tired from the drive. I'll see you tomorrow though, okay?"
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah. I'm fine. Tired. I'm gonna grab something to eat and I'll come over around ten tomorrow morning, okay?"
"Okay. We'll see you then."
"Hyde might be over here tomorrow. I figured I should warn you… you can prepare yourself-"
"I'll be fine." Jackie sighed. "I'll see you tomorrow. Kiss Luke for me. Bye, Donna." She hung up the phone and reconnected with the honest blue eyes across the room. "Bigfoot's concerned." She explained quietly.
"I miss you." It was like he hadn't even heard her.
"Yeah, you said that already." She picked nervously at her cuticle. "Listen, I haven't eaten anything all day. I'm starving. So I'm gonna go downstairs. You can either come with me or go home."
"I can't eat dinner with you."
"Then maybe I'll see you tomorrow, Steven. Close the door on your way out."
Jackie grabbed her back and walked out of the room, careful not to brush by him as she did. She was tempted to look back, but she knew that she shouldn't. They weren't going to fix this is one night and she could feel her resolve crumbling. Sleeping with him wouldn't solve anything. She just needed some space. She needed some air. So she got into the elevator and prayed that everything would be alright.
Jackie reluctantly walked back up to her room, unlocking the door, and closing it behind her. She was tired, but at least she wasn't hungry anymore.
All though dinner she had replayed the argument with Steven over and over and over again in her head, trying to pull out each piece of information and then figure out why he was taunting her the way he was. Sam was gone, but he was still angry – no, maybe he was hurt, that she left him with her. But that wasn't fair, was it? Sam had a legal claim on Steven – although from what Steven said, it wasn't even a legal marriage if she was already married.
She missed the time when things were simpler. That summer when they began sneaking around, and then the year or so after Steven and Michael had fought over her. Things were good then, not to heavy. But then she had to push it. She had to push marriage. He had pushed back, too. They were fighting for all the wrong reasons.
Years ago she would have taken him back in the blink of an eye, but she couldn't do that this time. He had hurt her repeatedly, and the last few times had knocked the breath out of her.
But she missed him. God she missed him. She missed the way he held her tight, and told her she was cute. She missed the way he opened up to her behind closed doors. She missed the way he thought she was a badass. She missed the way she felt when she was with him. Sending him away had been a mistake. All she did was make mistakes.
Steven stood in the Hilton parking lot. He had been standing there for half an hour and he still hadn't figure out where he was going to go. The snow was falling, the wind was blowing it all around, and at least a dozen cars had slowed down, hoping to get his spot, so close to the door. He didn't move. He kept his hands shoved in his pockets, his sunglasses shielded his eyes, the snow was melting on his head and his skin, but still he didn't move.
Under the glow of the Hilton sign, he realized that he needed to make a decision right here, right now. To go or to stay, to fight for what he wanted or to give up – but he had never had much ambition…
Jackie flipped on the TV after changing into her sweat pants and tank top. She just needed to relax, get her mind off of Steven, and go to sleep. Tomorrow would be a good day. She would see her Godson, and her best friend. She would see Eric. She might even see Kelso, Brooke, and Betsy. She'd see Fez, and Mr. and Mrs. Foreman again (she'd have to apologize for disappearing), she'd see skanky Laurie, but then again she would also see Bob. She would see the people who really cared about her. She really did miss them when she was in Chicago.
She glanced at the clock. She knew she shouldn't have, but she called room service and ordered herself a glass of wine and some ice-cream – they were her weakness when she needed a little self-indulging TLC. She just wished that it would get to her sooner.
As if the waiter had heard her thoughts there was a knock on the door that at Jackie hopping off of her bed and walking over to the entrance. She pulled it open, her eyes still locked on the movie she was watching.
"Thank you." She said, glancing over when she realized that the person made no move to come inside. Hyde stood in the doorway, hands in his pockets. His jacket was soaked through and his curly hair was pressed down by wetness. "Hi."
"Come on in." She stepped out of his way. Jackie felt like she was running on autopilot – she wasn't controlling her actions anymore. She couldn't. "You came back."
Hyde looked down at his feet, and then back up at Jackie. He wondered how she still managed to look sexy in flannel pants. He took a step forward and kissed her. Jackie almost jumped back – his hands were freezing, but his mouth was warm. This felt so familiar, and Jackie's entire body ached for the man in front of her. His blue eyes had looked so in pain, his body was dripping with freezing water, and he came back. For her. Hyde wasn't much for grand gestures and this was as good and big as it got, but it was all that she wanted. She only needed to know that he was going to be around.
"I messed up."
"Shh, Steven, it's okay." Her small hands warmed his face and melted his heart.
"No. It's not. I really messed up… with the nurse, Sam… I was an idiot."
"We both messed up." Her fingers raked through his cold curls. "Do you want to be with me?"
"Jackie, I love you.
"I love you, too, Puddin' Pop." Jackie smiled, and kissed him softly. "I'm glad you came back."
"Me too, doll." Hyde smiled, kissing her again.
One night couldn't fix all of their problems, but they were both sure that it was one hell of a start – all they were missing was The Price of Right.