A/N:I hated S8 with a burning passion. Who didn't, except for Fez fans? I decided to write this because I wanted to give Jackie some substance again, as well as rebuild her beautiful relationship with Hyde that the S8 writers effectively destroyed in the first episode.
PS: The chapter titles are song titles.
An afterword is an epilogue or postscript found at the end of a piece of literature. It is considered the concluding section that gives final word, often offering social, cultural or historical commentary.
LOVE CONQUERED ALL, or at least that's what Jackie had once led herself to believe. Love was supposed to be immeasurable and immutable, invincible and insurmountable, and any other adjective she could think of that began with the letter 'I'. Did Paris and Helen of Troy let anyone come between their love? Well, okay, there might have been the Greeks, and they may have started a war that brought about the destruction of an entire kingdom, but they followed their hearts and that's all that mattered in the end.
Jackie Burkhart was certainly no Helen of Troy. She was vastly hotter than the ill-fated Trojan princess. She wasn't some hairy, half-naked hemp-smoker from some bygone era. Jackie came from the era of shaved legs. She was beautiful and delicate, like a porcelain doll. She was her own princess in need of her Prince Paris. However, Princess Jackie's current prince wasn't shaping up to be a man willing to go to war for her. Their love certainly caused no rift between nations or launching of ships. No wooden horses would be sneaked past her impenetrable forces. No foundations would be razed to the ground over their kisses. No, theirs was a love that was all too... well, ordinary.
Creepy and unnatural—was that to be the pinnacle of her love life? Creepy and unnatural abandoned her without so much as batting an eyelash in her direction. Creepy and unnatural gave up too damn easily.
Life wasn't fair. Jackie had learnt this the hard way these past few years. People left. People abandoned you. However, there was one consistency in Jackie's life, one idea that never abandoned her, and that was the concept of love. For good or for bad, love would always be the focal point of her existence. It was her obsession, that unattainable dream.
Love was supposed to immeasurable, but even she wasn't that self-deluded to believe that was entirely true. She could measure love quite well—with gifts and words of adoration and promises, promises of a future and a family together. The American dream. The Jackie Burkhart dream. Throw in a two carat princess cut diamond engagement ring, white doves and unicorns prancing on rainbows, and the dream would be complete.
Oh, yes, she could dream. She could delude herself with childish fantasies. If she were to really dig deep inside herself, she could also admit (though never aloud) that love was more than materialistic trophies and Hallmark greetings. However, selling out to commercial propaganda just happened to be Jackie's bag, as it was countless others', and she would never pretend to be any different.
Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, Jackie still measured love, in both quantity and quality. And if you were to catch her in a circle, she might just admit to favourably leaning towards quality, but vehemently deny the confession once sober. She was well aware that there were all sorts of love, like the love for a pet or designer shoes or your crazy grandmother who smelled like Ben-Gay and used to call you Kathy but gave you twenty dollars every birthday, along with some of the best hugs you'll ever remember from your childhood.
And then there were the loves of your lives—the men with whom you so foolishly handed over your fragile heart. From her first love with Michael to the ego-boosting crush she shared with Fez, Jackie could count the worth and amount of love on the fingers of both her hands, tally the scores in her head. While both loves were sweet in their own way, they were sadly quantifiable.
Michael was the easiest one to size up. He was her 'first', the one who had first clumsily and unwittingly carved a niche in her heart. He was pretty and he used equally pretty words to get underneath her skirt. Fez was the opposite. He complimented her, like Michael, but he had spent a bit more time trying to open up her heart to him rather than her legs. Some loves, she had soon discovered, weren't necessarily about control or passion or about heartache and forgetting how to breathe. Fez had made her feel good about herself when she had been at her lowest. He worshipped the very ground she walked on and, for a while, she believed that was exactly what she needed. It was exactly what she deserved: to be catered to and coddled, to never be challenged. However, it was a one-sided love affair that left a bitter taste on her tongue, if only for the fact that her heart refused to hold reasonable negotiations with her brain.
And then there was Steven Hyde, the rebel without a cause; always defying the rules and scoffing in the face of convention, subscribing to nonsensical conspiracy theories more frequently than she set her hair (which happened to be quite often). Here was a man who never did or said exactly what she wanted but somehow opened her up to this totally different dimension of love that she couldn't possibly define—not even if she had a thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters.
Steven Hyde was like biting into tinfoil. It was stupid idea and it hurt like hell to do, but it was interesting and fun and her curiosity got the best of her because she would bite into him regardless of the consequences—again and again. But more than that, he made her laugh, he made her cry, he made her scream. And instead of carving himself into a small spot of her heart, he had taken the entirety of it in his hands and seared his fingerprints into it, making it as much his own as it was hers.
It was the kind of love that could never be measured or articulated. It was unpredictable and dangerous, an all-consuming need that left her breathless and twisted inside. It still left her twisted inside. And so he would become the one with whom she would grade all others against, for better or for worse.
So now the one thing Jackie knew for certain was that love was anything but immutable. Love changed things. It didn't just change how you felt or how you regarded someone one day or the next. Love changed who you were. Love shifted your world to suit its needs. Sometimes it made you a better person; sometimes it made you worse. Sometimes all love did was strip away your identity until there was nothing left but an empty shell waiting to be discarded or rebuilt from the foundations up.
Sometimes love left you naked and exposed and clutching onto anything that would fill you with warmth again. But that was a dark and cruel path to travel down; one filled with brambles and thorns that sliced into your sides, carving twisted, unrecognisable patterns into vulnerable flesh. That kind of love sucked you down into a pit that you yourself dug with your own bare hands with the dirt still embedded underneath your fingernails.
Jackie had already dug her own pit of self-loathing. She had dug so deeply and so blindly that she could no longer see the sky above and was too numb from the effort to crawl out of the hole she had so willingly fell into. Or maybe she was thrown into it. Yes, maybe she had dug the pit, but someone else had tossed her in. Now she was wallowing in the mud, unable to climb out. But even at the bottom of her utmost despair, she was an optimist, a foolish romantic. All was not lost as long as there was love, she still reasoned, and she was right in a way.
Sure, love could conquer a lot of problems, as long as you figured out what love was truly for. And sometimes—just sometimes—if you were lucky enough, a sliver of light would find its way through the darkness and light a path of escape. And if you were strong enough, willing enough and had just enough luck on your side, you could follow that light out into freedom. Some day Jackie would eventually see that light...
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