The Smokin' Patty wasn't the best place to work. Ask anyone and they'd tell you the place was greasy at best and rat-infested at worst. But a job was a job, and it paid. Besides, no one said you had to eat the burgers, and it was only a couple of afternoons every week, anyway. Plus it meant you could get away from home. Ignoring the glances the popular girls gave you in your uniform was pretty tough to deal with, though... And boy, did they glance.
Though, seeing cute guys from your school was probably the toughest of all. Their reactions could be either obnoxious flirting mixed with teasing ("oh wow (Y/N), I didn't know you had tits!"), or they barely recognised you and asked if you knew each other, which you would then act oblivious to or tell the honest and embarrassing truth; "Yes, hi cute guy, I'm (Y/N) from your History class and I work here smelling like grease all day! What can I get you?" At least you worked with a nice guy. Aaron was his name. He was one of those people who you'd never talk to if you didn't work with each other: athletic, attractive, and popular. Even though you'd only been working with him for a while, you couldn't deny that you were getting a crush on him. Seeing him was one of the only things that made your days working there better. That, and seeing the gang.
Speaking of which... The doors swung open and in they came, Jackie hanging off of Kelso's arm. They all collapsed down in one of the booths, Eric and Jackie taking the seats closest to the wall; Kelso sat closest to Jackie (the two of them already sucking each other's face, much to everyone's chagrin... with the exception of Fez who was sat next to them, enjoying the show). Donna was next to Eric on the other side of the table, and Hyde beside her. You couldn't hide a confusing, little spark of jealousy at how close he was sitting next to her, but you quickly pushed it aside. Donna spotted you and waved for you to come over, tucking a strand of her red hair behind her ear as she picked up a laminated menu and began to scan it. You gave her a smile and wandered over, taking the notepad and pen from your apron pocket. Even if you were at work, seeing them made it a bit better.
A big grin was plastered on your face. Store policy, of course. Still, even the blinding smile on your face wasn't enough to hide your dead eyes, so symptomatic of every teenager stuck working a job. "Welcome to The Smokin' Patty, valued customers. What can I help you with today?"
Eric jumped suddenly and shivered, placing his hand on his heart. "Guys, I think I just had a flashback. I can see the Fatso Burger uniform right in front of my eyes..." he began, eyes shut in pretend agony. He opened his eyes then. "Oh, wait. It was just you, (Y/N). And hey, you're looking a little less greasy than I expected."
You narrowed your eyes at him, pursing your lips. You and Eric were good friends in reality, but that didn't mean you weren't going to make fun of each other. "Shut it, Forman. You're not even working anymore and you still look greasy. Anyway, you're just jealous that I'm earning money while you sit on your butt all day."
"His butt, (L/N)?" Hyde chuckled. "Wow, quite a mouth you've got on you. What would your boss say?" You rolled your eyes, smirking at him. He was too clever for his own good.
"Well, I think you look great, (Y/N)," Donna smiled, covering both Eric and Hyde's mouth to stop them from insulting you again. "Even if the uniform is a little degrading. But we can't blame you for that." You nodded in solemn approval. It was hardly an appropriate outfit, and one that made your feminist toes curl in disgust. The red and white plaid dress was short and tight, and not to mention cut low in the front. You felt just like the pieces of meat you were selling.
"Not here, Michael!" Jackie cried all of a sudden, voice piercing through the restaurant and causing her and Kelso to pull away from each other. "We're here for (Y/N)." She pulled down her top (which Kelso had no doubt pulled up in the first place) and huffed, eyes turning to you. Her eyes turned into saucepans once she saw you. "Oh, wow." If you hadn't felt vulnerable before, you certainly felt it now.
"I know," Eric muttered again, shaking his head. You glared at him, pulling down your skirt self-consciously. "It looks more like a teatowel than a uniform."
Jackie seemed not to care about this rare moment of agreement between her and Eric, and began lecturing him at once. "Hey! Even if (Y/N)'s outfit isn't the right size and looks like it's from two decades ago, you of all people, Eric, shouldn't make her feel worse about it."
"Gee, thanks Jackie," you muttered, frowning. A firey blush spread across your cheeks, which only made you even more embarrassed.
Kelso turned to you now, a grin spreading across his face. "Actually, that waitress outfit really suits you. Smokin' Patty my ass, more like smokin' (Y/N)," Kelso flirted obnoxiously, seemingly forgetting the pretty girl sat next to him. You cringed ― for your own sake, and Jackie's. "Think you'd wear that in the bedroom?"
"Hey!" Jackie exclaimed, pushing herself away from Kelso. "I'm right here!"
"Damn, Jackie! Don't take it so personally!"
"Ugh!" she scoffed, standing up. "That is so typical. I'm going to the little girl's room. Donna?" Donna instinctively looked away, rubbing her neck reluctantly. Jackie seemed not to notice, or more likely, she seemed not to care, "Donna!" Your redhead friend sighed and made her way to the restroom with Jackie. You cringed. Who knew what kind of state they'd be in when they came out. You did feel bad for Jackie, even if she could be a bit insufferable at times. You wouldn't wish Kelso on anyone.
"You're such a dumbass, Kelso," you said, hands on your hips. "Why'd you say that? You know Jackie's just gonna get upset."
"Yes, Kelso. I hate to see her so upset," Fez added. "I much prefer it when she and you are touching each other..." Eric's eyes could not physically roll back further into his head, and Hyde laughed. You turned to Hyde and gave him a smile, which he returned. Even with his sunglasses, you knew what he was thinking: that the whole goddamn thing was stupid, man.
"Hey, (Y/N)!" yelled your manager suddenly, making you jump out of your skin. "I don't pay you to stand around and talk all day! Move your ass, will ya!"
You sighed, though panic spread through you. Yelling... well, it didn't go well with you. You quickly ordered for the gang (guessing what Donna and Jackie would want), then hung the order up for the cooks to take. It was a quiet day today, so hopefully they'd get it done fairly soon and you could escape another scolding from your boss. While it was being completed, you stood behind the counter and chatted to Aaron.
"I went and saw this movie the other night at the drive-in," he began, leaning on the counter. You smiled and nodded attentively. "Yeah, it was really good. It's called The Omen. You heard of it?"
"Oh, yeah! I think so. About an evil kid, or something? I've heard it's really scary, aha."
"Well, I didn't think it was that scary. Some girls say they get scared though. How are you with horror?" He grinned happily, shuffling a little closer to you.
You blushed a little. Was he... Flirting with you? "I don't really know... I think I'd probably be a bit scared. I don't think I could see it by myself, that's for sure."
"Well," Aaron began, tilting his head to the side and placing his hand on top of yours. "If you had a strong guy like me there to make you feel safe, I'm sure you'd be alright." Yep. Definitely flirting with you. You laughed, embarrassed at his words, and looked away shyly. You liked his flirting. It didn't happen alot to you, and a girl could always do with a boost of confidence every now and again. Especially when it came from someone like Aaron.
Finally, the order was ready, and you brought it out to the gang. The girls still hadn't come back. Oh dear. That couldn't be good. You were almost tempted to check on them. "Here's your food and drinks, guys," you said. "Eat up! And, uh, if you see any rat tails in there, just keep quiet, y'know?" Fez made a disgusted face at your words, his face crinkling at the thought. You giggled. He really was quite cute sometimes.
"Hey, (Y/N)," Eric began, leaning on his arm casually. "I think Kelso wants to ask you something."
"Shut up, man!"
You furrowed your brows, placing the food and drinks down on the table. Hyde began to sip from the soda he'd ordered, ears pricking up at the burgeoning conversation. "What is it?" you asked. No one said anything, and Kelso in particular was avoiding eye contact with you. "Oh, come on! You have to tell me, you guys!"
"Yeah, go on, Kelso," Hyde added. "I want to hear what you were gonna say too. The tension is practically killing me here."
Kelso sighed, and turned to you. "Fine... But you're not gonna like it." You only raised an eyebrow in response, cautious of getting caught slacking off again by your manager. "Well, look. I'm through with Jackie--"
You rolled your eyes. "You've been saying that for ages, Kelso."
"But this time I really mean it! Jackie's gone! And I have a plan. You just need to pretend to be my girlfriend for a while. It doesn't have to be for long, just until--"
Hyde spat out his drink, getting it all over Fez who let out a cry of anguish. Poor Fez, you thought briefly, but your attention was centred mostly on Kelso at the time being. "What?! You're kidding, right?" the words left your mouth without you even thinking them through. Fury spread through you. What an awful thing to say! "There is no way I'm gonna do that! Don't be stupid, Kelso."
"Aw, come on (Y/N)!" he said, grabbing your arm before you had a chance to turn away. "I'm not being stupid, you are. It's only for, what, two seconds! Then it's over! You don't have to do it ever again. I don't see what the problem is... Ugh, I knew you wouldn't like it!"
"Shut up, moron. You knew I wouldn't and yet you asked anyway. How could you not see what the problem is? Of course I'm not going to do it. Jackie's my friend! Why're you even asking?! If you want to break up with her, just break her heart quickly like you always do, dumbass. Don't get me to do your dirty work!"
Kelso groaned. "I can't break up with her, she'd ruin me! And I'm all I have! Please, (Y/N)!"
Hyde took the role of your defender. "Look man, she said no. Now shut it and eat your burger, before I ruin you myself."
Kelso sunk back into his seat, crossing his arms over his chest and pouting. You smiled gratefully at Hyde. "I'll get you some napkins, Fez," you said, before turning away and getting back to work. You didn't speak to them again for the rest of your shift. You'd see them after work in Eric's basement, anyway. It didn't take much longer for Jackie and Donna to come out of the restroom, the former with her shirt unbuttoned seductively and hair swept back perfectly. Fez was practically drooling at the sight of her, and by the looks of it, Kelso didn't seem that disappointed either. Guess that solves that problem for the time being, you thought.
Work continued to drag on, but soon it was seven o'clock and time for you to go home. Well, to Eric's home at least. You quickly changed into the outfit you'd brought and left The Smokin' Patty. It wasn't that far of a walk to the Forman's residence, and you enjoyed the walk in the evenings. In winter you couldn't do it, but during spring and summer it was a perfect opportunity to relax. The birds sang in the air and every so often a car would drive by and you'd catch a brief glimpse of a song. It all made your heart swell. Kitty opened the door with a big smile and embraced you tightly, gushing over you like she always did. You loved Kitty. She was like the mother you'd... well, the mother you'd hardly had.
The gang were down in the basement as usual, hanging out around the couch, though Jackie and Kelso were nowhere to be seen. Hyde and Fez were listening to music, Hyde probably telling Fez why disco sucked or something, while Donna and Eric sat (somewhat awkwardly) on the sofa together. The stairs creaked a little as you walked down them, and Donna waved you over with that beaming smile of hers. She seemed glad to have you there. Well, she was nervous as anything around Eric, after all. You dumped your bag in the corner and collapsed down on the sofa next to her.
You closed your eyes and sighed. The conversations in the room died down in the darkness that engulfed you. You might just fall asleep, right here. Would that be so horrible? It had been a long day. Surely someone would wake you up, eventually...
"Long day working for the man, huh?" Hyde said in your ear suddenly. Your eyes opened wide and you jumped up in fright, placing a hand to your heart. He just laughed at you.
A scowl crossed your face. "Leave me alone, Hyde," you muttered, rolling over, cheeks heating up in embarrassment.
"Aw, what's wrong? Did I scare you?" Hyde messed your hair up, like a father would to their son. You batted his hand away, irritated. You hated it when he made you feel like a kid.
He didn't say anything else and sat down on the chair next to you, but apparently you weren't worthy of his attention anymore. "Hey Forman, did your dad ever say what happened with that keg of beer after we got busted?" You smiled at the thought of the party in the empty house. What a disaster that had been. You'd never forget the looks on the people inspecting the place once they saw the pool full of teenagers. "As you can see, it's a nice neighbourhood. Heavily Caucasian!" Not surprisingly, Hyde's main concern was still the beer.
Eric blinked a couple times, a bit confused. "Well, no. What do you think? That he's just gonna... Let me keep it?"
"I don't know, man. Maybe he'd have a change of heart." Silence filled the room before everyone burst out laughing, including you. Red Forman, loosening up? Now that was funny.
Donna leaned in closer to Eric. To your side, you could see Hyde tense up. "It was so funny when you arrived with the tap," she laughed, then threw her hands out, pretending to be Eric. "Everyone, I have stolen my dad's tap! Ha! You really thought you were doing something. You guys should've seen the look on his face when he saw Red and the police standing there. It was priceless."
"Oh, yeah? Well your dad didn't look too happy either, you know."
"Yeah, but he can't stay mad at me," Donna replied, tilting her head. "Whereas you, hoo-boy, you knew you were in trouble." Eric gave her an annoyed smile, but of course he wasn't really annoyed at her. He could never be really annoyed with Donna.
The evening continued on, with all of you watching TV (well, with no sound while Donna and Eric gave them voices). Eric was somehow able to smuggle a couple of beers down from upstairs for you guys to have. Fez was the first to leave, somewhat reluctantly, but his strict exchange parents would have a heart attack if he was back too late. Donna invited you to stay over at her house for the night. You couldn't, however ― your father was expecting you home tonight, and you needed to look after your aunt Narelle. That meant you'd walk home with Hyde, seeing as you did live on the same street.
You smiled up at him and gestured towards the back door. He nodded, seemingly a little reluctant to leave. "Bye Eric, Donna," you called as Hyde stood up and stretched. "I'll see you guys later, yeah? And hey -- behave." Donna just rolled her eyes at you, though with a smile.
"Bye Eric," Hyde said, then walked over to Donna and placed his hand on her shoulder. "I'll, uh... I'll see you 'round, Donna." His hand stayed for too long on her shoulder. He was staring at her way too much. This had gone past casual. We were right into the tension stage now. Eric, watching it all happen, gave you a look of confusion, which you returned with a shrug and an equally bewildered expression. There was no way were you about to tell him that his best friend was into Donna as well.
"Right," Donna said, breaking the tension a little. She offered Hyde a small smile. "See you 'round, Hyde."
"You know," you said, the fresh night air piercing your lungs as you breathed in, "you should probably be more subtle around Eric."
"Huh?" Hyde responded, raising his eyebrow. He took a drag from the cigarette in his hand, the smoke exiting through his nose. If you weren't so used to the smell, it wouldn't have looked as hot as it did. He always seemed to be bathed in smoke, your Hyde; weed, tobacco, hell even fumes from a car. You watched it make trails in the dark night air: eyes diverting to his open lips for a split second before you turned away, biting your lips. What was up with you?
You sighed. He was going to make you spell it out for him, was he? Fine. You shoved your hands in your pockets and looked down at your feet. "With Donna? I know you like her. And if you're not careful with your behaviour, soon Eric will as well."
Hyde let out a chuckle at your words. "My behaviour? God, (Y/N), you sound like you're about to give me detention." He took another drag from his cigarette, a broad smile on his face. Maybe it was just the moonlight, but despite the smile, his face seemed sad. "Anyway, I don't like Donna. Where'd you get that from?"
"Oh, knock it off Hyde," you laughed at him. Was he really trying this whole routine? Really? "You've had a thing for her since we were kids. Don't deny it, you won't be doing yourself any favours. I just wanted to let you know that your flirtation with her isn't going to stay unnoticed."
Again, he chuckled lowly. "Nothing gets past you, huh?"
Silence engulfed you two for a while. But that was alright. Nothing was ever awkward between you and Hyde, even when it had to with him trying to get with your best friend. You felt the sudden urge to hug him, tightly. Not out of romantic reasons, you told yourself, but because you loved him so dearly. It was disgustingly melancholic. You felt like you were in the middle of a teen drama.
Once you were approaching your street, Hyde stopped to drop his cigarette and put it out. When he lifted his foot, it was little more than a sorry pile of ash mixed with bits of white paper. You frowned at the sight. "I'm, uh, I'm glad you brought that up actually, (Y/N)," Hyde began, offering you a friendly grin. You wished he wasn't wearing his sunglasses, or you might have had a better chance of knowing what he was thinking. "Walk with me," he said, holding his arm out for you to take in yours. You raised your eyebrow at him, an apprehensive smirk on your face. What was he playing at? "C'mon!" he laughed. "What's the worst that could happen?"
You put a hand to your chin in mock thought. "Hmm, let's see. A rebellious, no-good guy like you takes advantage of innocent little me and leads me down a dark path of hedonism and self-destruction?"
"Ha! Oh, you wish. I think you can lead yourself down that path just fine, Little Miss Teacher's Pet."
Hyde just laughed at you. "Ah shut up and take my arm, idiot." You did so, and the two of you began to walk towards your street again. "Because you saw through my little act, you might as well put yourself to good use. Now, I know that Eric likes Donna. He's lived next door to her his whole life, of course he would. He is a man after all... Even if he doesn't always act like one. But just because he likes her doesn't mean she has to like him too, y'know? I mean, why can't she like me?"
"So, what you're saying is, you don't care that your best friend is practically in love with Donna, and that you're going to keep trying to get with her anyway?"
"Hey, who said I wasn't in love with her either?"
You're not sure what expression your face twisted into, but one look at it and Hyde shrugged in defeat. "OK, OK, I don't love her. Not yet. But I could. I could. I just... Need her to give me a chance. And while she's still obsessing over Eric I'm never going to get one."
"Fine, whatever. I'm not the boss of you. But what's this got to with me?"
He sighed and turned to you. You were practically at your house now. You could see the light from the TV shining out the window. Hyde looked you in the eyes. In the reflection of his glasses, you saw the anxious look on your face. "Do you remember what Kelso said to you today? Like, about the whole pretend-relationship thing?"
You furrowed your brows at him and blinked in confusion. "Uh, yeah? Why are you bringing that up?"
"Ugh, just listen, idiot. Well, today I was thinking, 'How can I possibly win Donna over? ' I could tell her and Eric were getting really close. And then Kelso -- goddamn Kelso, man! -- he asks you to do that! And it hit me! It was perfect!" You just blinked and shook your head in complete and utter confusion. Hyde laughed at it all. "(Y/N), you need to pretend to be my girlfriend!"
Time seemed to go still. You could feel each breath in and out like a wave coming to shore, each blink like a bird flapping its wings. Reality came back to you in a rush of realisation that felt like you'd just been punched in the stomach. "What?!" you exclaimed, pushing away from him. "Are you crazy?! Goddamn it Hyde, I already told Kelso no! And now you?"
"I know, I know! But just think about it, right?" He pushed his sunglasses up onto his forehead and grabbed hold of your shoulders. His face was wild with passion and inspiration. "If Donna likes me, once she thinks I'm taken she'll get jealous. And then she'll know she wants me. Like, at the moment, she doesn't realise if she likes me or not because I'm right there, you know? But if I'm taken, then she'll realise that she can't have me anymore. She'll get jealous. You never know what you have until it's gone, that kinda shit, yeah? Once she confesses, then we can just break up with no hard feelings! You can give her your blessing, or whatever... Hell, we can even come clean if you really wanted to."
You wanted to slap that mad smile off of his face. Instead you just stared, mouth open and eyes wide. You couldn't believe what he was saying. And more so, you couldn't believe he was making it sound somewhat possible. Still, not like you were going to admit that. "Hyde, do you realise how crazy you sound right now?"
"Yeah, man! But it'll work!"
"You don't know that! And what's in it for me, hm? I'm not gonna gain anything from doing this! You get Donna and I look like the second-rate girl that gets dumped for her."
Hyde didn't have an immediate response for this one, and nothing was said for a while. You got back your breath in the meantime, not realising how angry you had been. Eventually, however, he smiled confidently again. "Alright, so that is an issue. But! It works both ways. What about that guy at your work today? I saw you guys flirting. Don't you want to make him jealous?"
"You mean Aaron?" You blinked a couple times. "I... I don't know, he's probably just fooling around."
"But do you like him? That's the question here."
Hmm. Well, you did like him. He was cute and all... Tall and friendly and athletic and attractive. He might've even been a year older than you, which was all the better. But did you like him enough to go through all this? The relationship between you and Aaron was nothing like the relationship between Hyde and Donna. Still, you liked the idea of dating him. "So what if Donna doesn't like you? And what if Aaron doesn't like me? What'll we do then?"
"Well... No big deal, I guess. I mean, I won't be happy or anything. And you probably won't be either. But, you know, we'll get over it. And who knows (Y/N), maybe we'll fall madly in love with each other while we're at it." You managed to roll your eyes and choke out a laugh at his words. He was clearly joking, and you knew that. So why did it bother you so much? You were being stupid. "Come on. I know you think it's a good idea."
You weren't sure why you liked Hyde so much. He was immature and hardly the kind of guy most girls dreamed of. He could be rude and this whole damn thing only proved how little he cared about manners and societal norms. Your father disapproved of him and hated you hanging around him. He was probably going to end up in prison sooner or later. But that wasn't all of what Hyde was. Within that tough shell of his was kindness and vulnerability: the image of the sweet, innocent boy who'd showed you around when you first got here always remained in the back of your mind.
Maybe it was the way his eyes lit up magically under the light of the moon. Maybe it was the sweet, boyish naivety on his face that seemed so out of place for him. Maybe you did actually like Aaron and just didn't fully realise it yet. Or maybe you were just as crazy as he was.
Whatever the reason, the next words out of your mouth surprised you both. "Fine. I'll do it."