His voice is slurred and thick with alcohol, but she recognizes it immediately. With a sigh, she flops back onto her pillow, holding the receiver by her ear.
"What do you want, Steven?" she asks as she glances over at the clock by her bed. It's the middle of the night. She rubs her hand across her eyes.
"Who else would it be?" she snaps.
He laughs. "Holy shit, I can't believe you answered."
Jackie bites her lip. "Yeah, well, I wouldn't have if I'd known it was you."
"C'mon, Jacks," he says, garbling the words together, "who else would be calling you at 2 AM the night before your wedding?"
It's hard to argue with that logic, so she doesn't reply. If she says nothing, perhaps he'll think she hung up, and he'll leave her alone. The silence stretches for a long time, and just when she thinks he's gone, he manages to slur, "I know you're still there, Jacqueline Burkhart."
She sighs again.
In her mind's eye, she sees him as he is right now: drunk off his ass, barely standing inside of some phone booth outside a bar. He's wearing sunglasses, even though it's dark out, and he's flipping off Eric or Kelso or whoever dragged him out for a beer as they motion for him to hang up the phone.
"Steven, this is a bad idea. Where are you? I can call you a cab to take you home."
He laughs, and it's raspy and cold. "So generous. Who are you and what have you done with Jackie?"
Jackie has never been particularly patient, and this phone call is working on her last nerve. "Look, it's the middle of the night, and I have the biggest day of my life tomorrow. Either tell me why you're calling or let me go back to sleep."
He's quiet for a moment. Then he says, "You know why I'm calling."
She shuts her eyes tight and swallows all the emotions that are rising, unbidden, up her throat. She thinks about Scott and how they will have the perfect life in Minneapolis. He'll be a rich lawyer, and she'll be a snotty housewife, and they'll raise a perfect little family. She'll be happy and secure, and she'll never have to think about some drugged up burnout she once loved back in Point Place, Wisconsin.
"You still there?"
She gulps. "Yes."
"I always knew you were going to get married," he says, "but I didn't realize you'd say yes to the first asshole who asked you."
It hurts, that that's what he thinks of her. Her hand clenches the phone so hard that her knuckles go white and bloodless. She wants to scream at him, tell him that he could have been that asshole, if he'd really wanted, but she bites her tongue. After a moment, the anger abates, and she's surprised to find she pities him. She really does.
"Steven," her voice is quiet and much steadier than she expected, "I am going to hang up now. Goodbye."
"No, Jackie, wait!" he sounds frantic, and even though she knows she'll regret it, she hesitates. He plunders on, "Don't do it. Don't get married. Not to him, at least. If you come back, we could—"
She wishes he'd stop talking because he's breaking her fucking heart.
"—we could, I don't know. We could fix things, you and me. Because you have to know, that I never—I mean, God, Jackie, I still lo—"
"Don't say it!" she interrupts, screeching into the phone. There's an awkward pause, and all she can hear is his breathing on the other end of the line. She clears her throat, adds, "Hyde, if you really care about me, you'll let me go."
His breath hitches. He asks, "Is that what you really want?"
She doesn't know for sure, but it's so much easier if he does.
She whispers, "Yes."
There's silence, then: "Whatever."
The line goes dead.
Disclaimer: I do not own That 70's Show.