Title: Coming Home
Author: Me, duh.
Summary: Steven Hyde ran from Point Place, away from the memories, from Jackie. Now it's five years later and he's back, like it or not.
Author Note: I just started writing in this fandom, and I'm taking a little creative license with the plotlines. This starts during the final season.
Disclaimer: I don't own "That 70's Show" or anything like that. I do own an awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe, though. But it's just not as fun to write about...
"Everything I am and everything in me wants to be the one you wanted me to be."
When I'm Gone by Three Doors Down
By dinnertime, Steven had first raked the lawn and then cut it, washed the car, and straightened up the neglected basement. Though his arms ached, his head felt remarkably clear. He moved the last box into place, glancing around the room.
It looked mildly better. Or at least more organized. Glad to finally be done, he collapsed onto the worn down, sunken couch. Though he was physically tired, his brain was still whirring, trying to process the events that had brought him back to Forman basement.
If he could just talk to WB, he knew he could fix the whole mess. Things could get back to normal, or close to it. He had a feeling getting in touch with WB was going to be a challenge, though.
Steven rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. The day was almost done and he'd managed to avoid another fight with Red. As long as the older man kept his distance, Steven could focus on the task at hand and ignore the hot ball of anger in his chest. Red gave the anger something to focus on, to feed off of. As long as he stayed away, Steven was calm, in control.
As if summoned by his very thoughts, Steven heard distinct footsteps on the stairs and sighed, knowing who was coming.
"Had enough for today?" Red asked as he came down into the basement. "You can stop. There will be more to do tomorrow. Kitty's setting the table now."
"Whatever," Steven shrugged, standing and starting for the stairs.
"Actually, wait a moment," Red said, putting a hand on Steven's shoulder as he moved to pass. "There's something we need to get out. I think you and I need to have a little talk."
"A talk? About what?"
"Well, to start with, I think you owe me an explanation," Red said.
"Owe you?" Steven echoed. "What are you talking about?"
"Steven, the last time we saw you everything was fine. You'd made some dumb choices, sure. But we trusted you to work it out. And then you ran off in the middle of the night, like some dumbass kid trying to hide from his mistakes. And worse, after all we've done for you, you never gave us a reason."
"Why does there have to be a reason?" Steven shrugged, avoiding Red's gaze.
"Of course there is a reason. Look," Red sighed, uncomfortable with the emotionally charged conversation, but pushing on anyway. "You weren't exactly on the straight and narrow, but you had a good head on your shoulders. I knew you were going to be okay, eventually. But then you were just gone, without a word!"
"It had nothing to do with you. Don't take it so personally."
"Personally?" Red scoffed. "Don't take it personally? Are you kidding me? We practically raised you, son. You owed us more than that!"
"Owed you? So everything you did for me was just a favor, something you expected me to pay back?"
"No, no," Red shook his head. "Everything we did was because we chose to. But you threw it back in our faces like it was nothing and I want to know why. What was going on in that dumbass little brain?"
Steven snorted, "Fine, you want to know? You want to know why I left and never looked back? I left because I couldn't take this damn place for one more second! Pretending I was part of the perfect Forman family. I couldn't stand it!"
Red took his outburst in stride. "I know we're not your parents, but we took you in, son. You had nothing and we brought you into our home, into our lives. We deserved at least a goodbye."
"Yeah, you took in the little orphan boy. Does that help you fall asleep thinking about what good people you are?" Steven was angry now, sick of the disappointed tone in Red's voice. "You're no better than me! Look at your life, man! You're just pathetic, Middle America losers. This whole town is a shit stain on America!"
Red didn't flinch. "I'm sorry you feel that way."
"Don't give me that crap! You're not so high and mighty! This shitty town is rotting away any remnants of a brain you might have had," Steven laughed angrily. "Have you got something to say, big man? I just insulted you! Why not take a swing at me? Show me what a man you really are!"
Red shook his head slowly. "Real men don't need to resort to their fists every time. And I don't see a man in front of me. I see an angry little boy throwing a temper tantrum. If you want to run your mouth like you're a hotshot, be my guest. Insult me all you want. At the end of the day, I know who I am. But do you have any clue who you are?"
Indignant now, Steven stepped closer to Red. "I am a man. I've been living on my own for five years, without your help."
"You've been getting by. You've got no money, because you blew it all on booze. No friends, because you left them all behind. And now no job either because your own father couldn't stand your attitude any more. What sort of a man is that?"
"I..." Steven faltered. He was so angry, so upset, he couldn't think straight. "You think you know me, but you don't," he finally sneered. "Just because I'm not who you want me to be..."
"I have no claim on who you are. But are you who you want to be?" Red interrupted. "What sort of future do you have?"
"Screw my future! What do you want me to do? You want me to settle down, like Eric? Is he a real man?" he scoffed.
Red smiled, a dangerous, angry smile. "Whatever shortcomings Eric has, he's managed to create a life for himself that he can be proud of. Are you proud, Steven? Of anything?"
Air hissed through between Steven's gritted teeth as he struggled to hold in his boiling rage. "I don't have to listen to your bullshit anymore, Red," he growled.
"Then walk out the door, son," Red replied calmly. "Walk back to your promising future."
Silence fell heavy in the room. For a moment, Steven's fist clenched and he could feel the weight of the punch he was ready to throw. But as he looked back at the older man, calm and waiting with infinite patience, he felt a sudden shock of shame and guilt. It loosened his tense muscles, made his gaze drop to the floor. Red's gaze wasn't soft or loving. But Steven could feel the emotion behind it; feel the caring even in his hard words. And it made him feel sick over his behavior.
Feeling like a scolded child, he muttered, "Whatever."
After a moment, Red spoke in a quiet sort of voice. "You're right, Steven. You are an adult now and you make your own choices. But we're offering you a second chance and it's up to you to take it. I won't be this patient forever." He sighed. "Go wash up. Dinner should be ready."
As the older man walked back up the stairs, Steven was left alone. All the energy brought on by the fight drained out of him, and he stumbled towards the couch.
He felt an unusual emptiness in his chest, a cold, numbing feeling. Something was wrong. It was something he'd been hiding from for a long time. And something he wasn't ready to face yet. When he'd left, parts of him had shut down. It hadn't seemed like such a loss under the haze of alcohol. But sober, he realized how much had changed.
Steven shook his head, as if he could shake away the realizations. But they stuck with him, digging deeper into his mind. With a sudden burst of energy, he moved for the stairs, taking them two at a time.
Kitty turned in surprise as he stomped into the kitchen. "Oh, dinner's almost..." she began.
He never gave her a chance to finish. He grabbed the handle for the fridge, yanking it open. Bottles clanked against one another under the force, but his focus was on a row of cans.
"Steven, wait!" Kitty called after him as he hurried from the room, a beer in each hand. He ignored her, moving quickly for the sanctuary of his room. At the last moment, he grabbed a bottle of tequila from a shelf. He planned to drink himself to sleep as quickly as possible.
They must have eaten dinner without him, he thought nearly an hour later. No one had come looking for him and the house was quiet now. If he listened closely, he could hear the muffled laugh track of some television show playing downstairs.
The empty cans lie on the floor where he'd tossed them. The bottle of tequila was in his hands, growing lighter by the minute. He took a quick swig, enjoying the warm burn and the numbing effect it had on him. His plan was working great. His mind was in too much of a haze to process any emotions. A perfect escape. He imagined Red would have a lot to say about his method, though.
When he heard footsteps outside his door, he readied himself for a fight, expecting the older man. But the footsteps were too soft and quick. When they paused outside of his door, he waited quietly.
"Steven, can I come in?" Kitty asked softly through the crack in the door.
"Whatever," he shrugged.
She stepped into the room, flipping on the light. He hadn't noticed the dark until then, but night had fallen long ago. In her hand was a covered plate of food. She placed it on the desk before moving towards him.
"It's ham," she said, sounding rather nervous.
"Fine," he shrugged. Her voice was fuzzy around the edges, thanks to the alcohol, as if she was calling to him from inside a tunnel.
"May I sit?" she asked after a moment.
Kitty sat beside him on the small bed, turning to face him. "I love you, Steven," she said, taking his free hand in hers. "And I want you to be happy. But you're not. You're just not happy. I can see it in your face, Steven."
"I'm fine," he shook his head, not liking where the conversation seemed to be headed. It was killing the softening effects of the tequila.
"No, you're not," she disagreed. "You use to smile."
"I'm not happy because I don't smile enough?"
She answered with a sad look. "You're not happy because this isn't the life you should have. Drinking your days away, all alone. This isn't what you need." She took the half empty bottle from his hand.
"I'm a big boy, Mrs. Forman," he replied.
"On the outside. But a mother knows her baby's heart," she said, touching his chest softly. "And inside you're still so young."
He wanted to protest, but his tongue seemed unwilling to cooperate. In fact, he had the sickening sensation that he might cry.
"The experiences you had when you were young, growing up with Edna and Bud, it shaped your view on life," Kitty continued. "When you came to us, so young and so hardened, I just loved you so much. I knew you needed it."
"But you grew-up a lot. Meeting your real father, being with Jackie. Those experiences changed you. And, in my own time, I realized that some day you wouldn't need my love. And that was a good thing. It meant I had done my job."
She looked at him, eyes full of sadness. "And then things changed. After things with Jackie went sour, and you came home married to that...that girl," she grimaced. "We thought it was just a little speed bump. A mistake that you would learn from. But you didn't, Steven."
"You left in the middle of the night. You left behind the life you had built here without a backward glance. You weren't the boy I had raised."
"Mrs. Forman..." he began, intending to say something, anything to cancel out the guilt that was winding it's way through his chest.
Kitty spoke over him, still holding onto his hand. "You need us," she said plainly. "If you push us away, you're on your own. And you're not ready. So stop pushing."
There was a single beat of silence before she moved. She leaned forward and brushed a kiss against his forehead, and then she was gone, taking the bottle of tequila with her. The brief conversation had erased the warm, sleepy feeling he'd gained from the alcohol. He found himself wide-awake.
Falling back onto the pillow, his gaze turned upwards. The walls he'd built to keep out his more important thoughts were crumbling at an alarming rate. He couldn't stop it now. Five years of regrets and anger and disappointment came crashing back. It was going to be a long night.