"WHAT HAVE WE got?"
"Young woman in her late teens, early twenties—car accident. Lacerations and contusions to the face and chest, right arm dislocated, probable broken ribs and possible head and brain trauma."
"What's her medical history? Any allergies?"
"No idea. No ID, nothing. The police are still looking into it at the scene."
"Hmm. Pupils are dilated, minimal response to light. How long has she been unconscious?"
"Paramedics say since they picked her up about fifteen minute ago."
"Her left lobe is slightly swollen."
"Christ, I hope not. I see no open wounds, no clear abrasions except for the ones on her face, neck and arms. We've gotta open her up and stop the bleeding, relieve the pressure on her brain before she goes into a coma. Prep her and get her into OR 1, STAT!"
"Hang in there, sweetheart."
Steven? Steven, where are you? What's happening to me?
"You're going to make it."
: : :
17 February 1980
Point Place, Wisconsin
The Formans' Basement
HYDE'S MEMORY OF last night was a blur of alcohol and weed and the one and a half syllable caw of his name being bleated in his ear by some annoying fuckwit of girl whose name he couldn't recall and who had yet to leave his cot.
The morning light, if it was indeed morning, filtered in through the tiny slit of a window above, slinking softly up his naked torso until it found his face. He squinted, lifting a hand to shield his eyes from the harsh glare. Since when was there ever this much light in his room?
Behind him he could feel the smooth shapely limbs of the girl had he picked up last night at the bar. She was snoring soundly into his pillow, the thin outline of her body slightly writhing underneath the sheets. She stirred as he woke, pressing full, soft breasts into his back.
Hyde grimaced and tried his best not to recollect the previous night, or how easily he had found himself in flagrante delicto with the petite brunette nestled behind him. The booze and pot had helped with that, but faint memories were rising to the surface of his mind like exhaled filigree curls of smoke.
Hyde normally avoided her type: the small, tanned, dark-haired snotty bitches with big mouths. It was one of the reasons he went after taller girls, slutty blondes and redheads with large racks and long legs—the anti-Jackie Burkhart diet.
The nameless brunette lying behind him was quiet, though she was still asleep. He couldn't recall the sound of her voice, except the one time she yelled out his name. He remembered telling her to shut the fuck up. He wasn't interested in talking, wasn't interested in hearing her speak. If she couldn't comply with this simple demand, then she could get the fuck out. But she hadn't seemed to mind. She was just another nameless chick slumming it with a burnout loser, getting back at Daddy for whatever reason. That was what he'd figured anyway, and even if it wasn't the case, he didn't care. All he had wanted was an easy lay.
It was probably the alcohol and the weed (yeah, most definitely the weed) that made him pick her up in the first place, or the fact that the rest of the girls at the bar were either taken or uggos. Or maybe he had just zeroed in on the one girl in the joint who looked a little like Jackie. Of course he'd never admit that or the fact that the only girls he had been cruising with after Jackie were her exact opposites. But last night was different. The argument he and Jackie'd had Thursday night had still been playing in his head like a broken record.
She hadn't bothered to come back to the basement after that. She and Fez had been missing in action since Friday, which only sent Hyde over the edge. By Saturday night he was alone, drunk and high, itching to find the release that booze and drugs were no longer giving him. He needed a revenge fuck and he needed it from someone who looked like her.
It didn't take long for Hyde to capture the nameless brunette's attention (it never did). She had been interested and willing. Right away he noticed she had the same hair and build as Jackie. Her eyes were different, though, as was her face. But she had a flash of that same pirate smile Jackie had—maybe it was something all rich, beautiful bitches shared—and that was good enough for him.
A few beers later and they had already retreated to the back of the bar, their drinks long forgotten as he had her back pressed against the wall, his lips flush on hers while his hands eagerly roamed her lithe body. She had moaned into his mouth, eager and pliant, but the angry, bruised kisses he had been giving this girl weren't meant for her. They'd never be for her or any other whore.
The nameless chick murmured in her sleep, stirring Hyde from his half-drunken reverie. He closed his eyes and groaned, trying to shut out the memories of the rest of the night. Most of it was still a haze, thanks to the alcohol and pot. What made him bring this girl back to his old room in the basement he couldn't give an explanation for. It was something he had never done with any girl except Jackie and Sam—no, not even with Sam.
And now Hyde was painfully aware that he didn't want this girl here anymore. He wanted her the fuck out of his bed, but it was too early yet. He'd kick her out after the Formans left for church. He didn't need her making a racket with Red around or he'd be liable to get a boot shoved up his ass.
Stealing a cursory glance at the brunette's slumbering form, Hyde frowned. The girl seemed docile enough, but that didn't mean when awake she wasn't a shitstorm waiting to happen. He vaguely recalled her trying to talk when he had her naked and on all fours on his cot, but he had told her to keep her trap shut. The fantasy was always ruined the moment the girl opened her piehole.
She had willingly complied, eager for a fuck and wagging her ass in the air like a bitch in heat. But when she had begun to moan in thrall, he had pushed her face into the pillow to stifle her cries. He didn't need to hear that shit. She hadn't sounded right, not like Jackie. She was the one he was supposed to be revenge-fucking, getting back at her for her whorish mouth and the way she always tried to goad him. Fucking bitch never knew when to keep her trap shut, when to let things go.
Why did she always have to make him feel?
But all Hyde could feel right now was a hammer pounding inside his head and the narrowing pinpoint of a clammy churning in his gut. When the nameless brunette began to cling tighter, he shoved her off with a grumble, his jaw clenching in disgust. Naked, sweaty flesh peeled away and he slumped into a sitting position, holding his head in his hands before getting up and sloughing off towards the toilet.
He'd kick the girl out after breakfast.
: : :
HER FATHER ALWAYS used to say that the only certain things in life were death and taxes. Of course he had been wrong about the latter. Jack Burkhart had probably been dodging taxes for years before he was pinched and thrown in jail.
But death—death was certain, of that much Jackie could concede to be accurate. And now she was swimming through her own silver cloud of euthanasia, her thoughts spinning and whirling like a merry-go-round; except the horses had fangs and her father was in the saddle, beating her down while her mother trilled drunkenly in the background.
Her ribs and shoulders ached and her eyelids seemed sewn shut, and all she wanted to do was collapse into his arms. But he wasn't here, wherever here was. It was a moot point anyway because he was never there for her anymore.
At this moment there was only dear old dad, with hair like a raven's eyes and distinguished streaks of grey, barking and howling at her with all his authority. And she was crying or laughing, trying to get off the damn horse and swim away—to be anywhere but there. But her father was insisting, insisting that she stay still while silver tendrils of her past were being siphoned from her mind.
Liquid silver, she thought dismally, as she tried to stop them from leaving her, grasping fruitlessly as they slipped through her fingers, yelling, "No, not this one! Not that one!" But it was already too late. They were leaving her like everyone else in her life.
And her dad was still screaming, still barking orders, but she had finally broken free and swam, swam with all her might. She wasn't going to listen to dear old dad—no, not anymore. But it didn't matter because the silver water was already dragging her under the current, swallowing her whole.
: : :
HYDE SHIFTED AWAKE on the couch.
His neck and joints were stiff from the awkward angle he had been sleeping in. He'd had a dream about his father, Bud. It was strange how those sorts of memories always seemed to come to him in his dreams, memories he would have liked to forget. They were things his waking mind didn't care to consider, so they decided to dredge themselves up as he slumbered. Perhaps it was the counterbalance to his Zen. He was made to suffer while he slept.
The dream itself he could barely recall, except that Bud had been there. He had been burying Hyde alive.
It had always been an irrational fear of his, and most people would tell you if you dreamt about being buried alive it meant you felt trapped or helpless or you were about to make a really stupid mistake. But Hyde didn't care about psychological bullshit like that. No, what really made the wheels and cogs spin in his mind were the metaphysics of it all—like how did he know what it felt like to be buried alive, what reference did he have for comparison?
He often had dreams about being buried alive or being drowned and yet he had never experienced either terrifying sensation. Were these dreams memories from past lives or were they portents? Or maybe he just possessed a vivid imagination for the macabre. Hyde had no trouble forming a perfectly rational basis for his fears, but he did have trouble with trying to adapt those hypothetical fears to the de facto ones in his life—not that he would admit to having any.
Sitting up, Hyde cupped his face in his hands and breathed deeply. He didn't need to be thinking about this shit, trying to decipher his dreams like Sigmund Freud. What he needed was a joint and another beer to help wash over this nagging hangover. Or maybe not. Beer, pot and girls—in the beginning they had helped him forget, but now he was beginning to think he might have indulged too much and the effects were starting to screw with his head.
Hyde thought back to the petite brunette from this morning, the one that sort of looked like Jackie, the one who had screeched and swore and kicked at him when he had unceremoniously tossed her clothes at her and pointed towards the basement door. He hadn't expected her to be that upset about it, not that he cared. But the entire dramatic act only reminded him of something and someone he didn't care to recall.
He didn't need the past stirred up for him. He was through with feeling and caring, and no amount of drinking and getting high seemed to be dulling those emotions he so vehemently denied having. So maybe it was best for him to lay off the stash and booze for a little while—at least for a day or two. He certainly didn't need a repeat performance of last night, not in this life time.
Taking in another deep breath, Hyde exhaled sharply and lowered his hands. He stood up and briefly palmed his face before yawning, feeling the leaden lethargy of tiredness creep back into his bones. What he needed was more sleep, to relegate these stupid, needless thoughts to the back of his mind and get some rest. Then tomorrow he'd start over again, refreshed with a new plan of action (or inaction). Because tomorrow was another day, a new day, and new days were always better than old ones.
: : :
FEZ PUSHED THE key into the lock of his and Jackie's two-bedroom apartment. It was a quarter past eleven and he was tired and still hungover (the trip back to Point Place from Chicago had been hell). The last three days with Kelso had been a blur of alcohol, candy and women—and not necessarily in that order. It had been fun but exhausting.
On the last night he and Kelso had finally had a talk about Jackie, putting his life and his relationship with the brunette into perspective. Jackie had been right to ask him if marriage was what he truly wanted because he wasn't really sure at this point. He just wanted her to be happy and for him to be happy too. This in itself wasn't a problem. The problem was that them being together didn't exactly make this happy dream possible.
Blinking in the darkness, Fez reached for the hall light switch. He had felt bad about what he said to Jackie and wanted to apologise, but at the same time his ego was still bruised; his feelings were still hurt and close to the skin's surface. He had hoped a few days away from Jackie would help, and they did. But now that he was back home he suddenly felt like leaving again; however, he knew he'd have to face Jackie sooner or later, and from experience he reckoned that sooner was better than later.
"Jackie?" He turned on lights as he walked around the small apartment. She obviously wasn't in the living room or the kitchen, so he went to her bedroom door and knocked softly. "Jackie, you awake?"
Still no response.
Turning the handle, Fez opened the door to Jackie's room and switched on the lights. Her bed was made, numerous stuffed toys holding down the floral-patterned fort. Nothing was missing or out of place, nothing obvious anyway. There was no sign of a disturbance, no sign of Jackie.
Fez sighed. She was probably staying with Donna, although that thought somehow left a bitter aftertaste in his mouth. Jackie and Donna weren't exactly best friends anymore; however, since Eric's return, the former redhead had become less bitchy and self-centred than usual and had seemingly wanted to put more effort into her friendship with Jackie. Still, when Jackie had problems it was Fez who she turned to now, not Donna, not—
Frowning, Fez turned off the lights and quietly closed Jackie's door. He understood now why Jackie had been so upset to lose him: he really was her only friend. Ever since Hyde had returned from Las Vegas with Samantha, ever since Eric and Kelso had removed themselves from the basement, the rest of the gang had gone out of their way to alienate his princess. And by everyone, Fez meant Donna, Hyde and Hyde's stripper wife. They never passed up an opportunity to burn Jackie. Sure, sometimes Jackie deserved it, and sometimes even he joined in the fun. After all, that's what the basement friendship was all about. But even Fez knew it had gone too far at times, especially when it came to Jackie.
The worst offender had been Hyde. How quickly he had gone from treating Jackie like his sunshine to some slut-faced bitch he'd rather cross the street to avoid. Albeit Hyde would have never admitted to Jackie Burkhart being his sunshine, Fez knew it to be true. He had seen, he had observed and he had stalked.
And so Fez had been the most shocked to witness the sudden change in his friend, to hear that he had decided to stay married to Sam and that Donna had encouraged it. It was this shock that had made him convince Kelso to propose to Jackie and to take her in when no one else would. He really had wanted to see his bitchy goddess happy. She was his Jackie, his (arguably) prettiest best friend. And it was her surprisingly quick rejection of Kelso and numbing acceptance of Hyde leaving her for another woman that made Fez so hesitant when she vocalised her decision to pursue him.
Had she really just been interested in dating everyone in the circle? Was Eric next?
Still, Fez wasn't convinced that Jackie was over Hyde. He had seen how devoted she was to him, how much in love, even before they started fooling around. Jackie had always gone to Hyde when she was upset. He was her hero, her reluctant knight in shining armour.
And Jackie wasn't the only one in love. Fez had also quietly observed how surprisingly gently and loving Hyde could be with Jackie, especially when he thought no one was paying attention. Jackie was the first girl Hyde had truly ever loved, and Fez was begrudgingly confident that she was probably the only girl the rebel burnout would ever love.
So after seven weeks of dating, on Valentine's Day, Fez had done perhaps one of the stupidest things he had ever done in his life: he proposed to Jackie Burkhart. A part of him did it because he loved her. Maybe not in the way one should love another, but it was still love, even if it was the remnants of worship.
Guiltily, he would admit that Jackie Burkhart was something like a prize, a bitchy, beautiful prize. It made him sick when he really thought about it, but it was the truth, and Fez knew he wasn't the only one who felt this way. He hadn't been lying when he told her that she had this way of making him feel like he was the centre of her universe. Fez was certain that was how Kelso had felt too, maybe even Hyde.
Jackie just had this magical pull on a guy. But at the back of his mind, Fez knew that he didn't really have that with Jackie. He wasn't quite the centre of Jackie Burkhart's universe; neither was Kelso for that matter. She hadn't accepted his proposal, but Hyde...
In the end it all came down to Steven Hyde. Hyde still had a hold on Jackie, whether she wanted to admit it or not. Fez knew this. He had always known this. And after his weekend binge and talk with Kelso, Kelso had admitted to knowing this too (even the stupidly pretty can be observant from time to time).
Fez realised that his actions, his rushed proposal, were a result of him wanting to break that hold, to show Jackie that he was better than Hyde. Oh, he still loved and respected his friend—Steven Hyde could be the best friend a weak foreign boy could ever ask for—but Hyde could be one mean son of a bitch. All it took was for the poor orphan boy to open his heart to someone and have it bruised, to have the one person he cared about and trusted the most walk out on him—for whatever reason—and Hyde would turn into the meanest bastard on the planet. Then he'd disown you in a bruised heartbeat, just like he had disowned Jackie.
Fez had wanted to prove to Jackie that he was ready for a commitment, that he wasn't a Steven Hyde. And maybe, just maybe, he had been testing her with the proposal. He still wasn't sure if he was just sloppy thirds or that Jackie wasn't using him to get over Hyde. He still didn't know. But what he did know was that Jackie honestly didn't want to just marry anyone.
The realisation that he was 'anyone' and not 'someone' hurt his pride; it wounded his ego. And, yeah, he had acted like a jerk. He was mad and upset and he should have seen it coming. In his heart of hearts he knew Jackie wasn't intentionally trying to use him to get over Hyde, but he did know that she wasn't entirely over his friend, just as sure as he knew Hyde wasn't entirely over Jackie.
But the latter was an issue beyond Fez's scope. Jackie and Hyde would have to hash things out together or on their own or not at all. It wasn't his or anyone else's problem. And while Fez wanted more than anything to go back to how things were on New Year's Eve, he knew that ship had already sailed. He had ruined it by proposing and getting angry at her answer.
Jackie had been right: they were too young and he wasn't even sure if he wanted to get married. Like Jackie, Fez didn't want to be alone and it made sense to be alone together with your best friend rather than, you know, alone alone. But Jackie had been smarter than him, more sure of what she wanted or didn't want. And he would have to respect her decision and hope that she would accept him back into her life, because she was one of his best friends.
Fez stood back from the door and tried to stifle a yawn, his jaw cracking from the strain. He turned around and retreated to his own bedroom. He would see Jackie tomorrow and they could talk things out rationally after work. They would have a nice meal, share a bottle of wine and maybe a bowl of candy, and he would apologise for his behaviour. Right now, though, he would go to bed and try to catch up on his sleep from the weekend—not noticing the soft blinking red light on the answering machine in the living room.
: : :
THE CLOCK MECHANICALLY ticked away.
Time was just another sound he had forgot, another one of his senses lost. He had forgot the taste of happiness, the sight of hope. He had forgot the feel of love lying in his arms and the sun beating on his heart. It was all slipping away from him now, like sand running through the cracks of his fingers.
Time was what he needed more of—more with her and more with himself—to figure out where it all went wrong. He couldn't turn back time, couldn't escape its cruelty, its ravages of innocent youth. It changed everything and everyone. It had become his chaos, unpredictable and unforgiving.
Hyde never realised before how excruciating it was to just sit back and let time flow by, hoping the wounds would somehow heal on their own. He had no idea how slowly and deliberately time would crawl, how feelings wouldn't change no matter how hard he tried to drown them in his own brand of poison. And as each second passed, the unconsidered and unfathomable dread of what he had foolishly hoped to obtain (or lose, depending on how one looked at it) only seemed to drift further and farther away. His heart had woefully remained intact, bruised and bloodied beneath his skin, but still beating.
That damn heart of his—the one that refused to completely freeze over, the one that hid behind bruises that ran too painful and too deep, sliding from limb to limb beneath his skin. A heart and a feeling trapped in time, refusing to let go, to let her go.
But it was his own fault. He had let her chip away at his walls, had let her blur the lines between what he wanted and what he could never have. He was still feeling the repercussions of her love, for bad and worse, long after he was sober. In the end he was still the same man who had said 'I love you'; no amount of time and drugs could ever cover up that fact or change his past. And even though that was exactly what he wanted, to forget her completely, he was still reaching out for her, still trying to find her hand in the watery mist—
: : :
SUDDENLY JACKIE SURFACED. Someone had pulled her up from the depths. She was still swimming somewhere in those turbulent silver waters, but his blue eyes had found her and she swam towards them.
Every time he looked at her she could swear he was looking deeper than before, as if he was shedding her skin, exposing her vulnerabilities all the way to the bone. And she worried that if he looked deep enough, he'd end up shedding away everything she had ever learnt to protect herself with and he would see the tiny black spots of weakness that lay at the centre of her heart.
Worst of all, maybe he would end up seeing the reasons why she was so selfish and spoilt, why she demanded so much from him all the time; the reasons why she took so much care to point out how beautiful and amazing she was or why she went to even greater lengths to distract everyone from the real her, the real Jackie. And she wondered if she would ever be ready to show that side of herself to anyone.
But more than any of that, Jackie feared that he already knew. He already knew and he didn't care.
: : :