Eric has been glumly sitting on the couch for a half-hour, clearly wanting to say something, but he doesn’t say anything till Kelso finally breaks and asks him what’s wrong. He lets out a long, dramatic sigh. “I finally asked Donna if she wanted to go out… and she said no.”
“Sorry man. That sucks.” Hyde isn’t great at comforting people, so he reaches out and pats Eric on the shoulder awkwardly.
Kelso’s even worse at it. “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been rejected.” He stretches his arms out and grins.
“Well, it’s not like she rejected me, she just….” He sighs again, like what he wants to say is something earth-shattering. “She wants to, she just has this stupid agreement with Jackie…”
Kelso perks up when Jackie is mentioned. They haven’t spoken since she found out about him cheating on her with half the school, but Kelso still has some creepy obsession with knowing everything about her. “Jackie? She talked about her? How is she?”
If Hyde was close to him, he’d punch him in the arm for asking. His constant need to hear every possible thing about her is getting annoying, and weird, and even Fez is getting sick of it. “What agreement?” he asks, moving the conversation past Kelso’s stalking and back to Forman’s love life.
“Well… remember how Donna said she didn’t want to date and Jackie thought she could find Donna the perfect man? Apparently Donna finally agreed, but she’s only going out with someone once Jackie starts dating again.”
Hyde tries really hard not to laugh, but he can’t keep the grin off his face. “Forman, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Just say she rejected you, man, no one’s gonna judge.”
“I’m not lying!” Eric’s voice goes a little squeaky as he tries to defend himself. “That’s what she said! When Jackie dates, she will!”
Kelso stands up, puffs out his chest proudly. “Well, there's a very obvious solution to this problem.” When Hyde and Eric look at him with confusion, he scoffs as of it should have been obvious. “I’ll just start dating her again. She’s not over me, she’ll say yes.”
Hyde makes a face, feeling a weird surge of protectiveness when Kelso says that. It’s not that he likes Jackie- he can’t stand her most of the time- but it’s as if Kelso doesn’t know how to leave that poor chick alone, and Hyde feels bad for her. “So it wasn’t enough to cheat on her the first hundred times, you want to do it again?”
“It wasn’t a hundred! It was 5!” He sounds pleased, and he slyly adds, “She only knows about Laurie and Pam Macy, so do the others really count?”
“Yeah, that’s not something to be proud of, man.” Hyde really wants to punch him.
Eric sighs. “She’s not going to go out with Kelso again. Donna said Jackie made up some list of what her next boyfriend should be like, and the standards are crazy high. She says no one under 30 can meet them.”
Hyde grins. It sucks to see Eric get screwed over, but man, does he love seeing Kelso get shot down. “She’s not going to take you back. So I guess you’re screwed, Forman. Sorry, man.”
“Yeah… thanks.” Eric props his face in his hands, and it’s silent for a while until he jumps up, eyebrows raised- his idea face. “Wait, I just thought of something!” He turns towards Hyde, and he knows exactly where this is going. “She liked you for a while, right?”
“Yeah, right after she broke up with Kelso, but Forman, I’m not-”
“So we just need her to get that feeling back!” Eric sits back down on the couch, this time right next to his chair. “Hyde, I cannot believe I'm saying this, but please date Kelso’s ex-girlfriend.”
Hyde shakes his head, ready to protest, but Kelso beats him to it. “He can’t go out with Jackie! She was my girl! That’s, like, against friendship rules!”
“He’s right, man, I can't date a friend's ex. Too weird.”
“And they hate each other! How can they date!”
“That is also true. Forman, I’m not gonna take Jackie out just so you can get with Donna.” It’s probably the worst idea Hyde’s ever heard, but as Forman frantically rants and points and becomes unable to form a sentence, he almost wants to do it. Almost. Not enough to change his mind, though. “Not in a million years.”
Eric sputters protests of his own, arguing that of Hyde was a real friend he would do this, right as Fez walks in. “Oh, Eric is all red! What happened?”
Kelso, who’s been staring in disbelief, practically shouts, “Eric wants Hyde to date Jackie so he can get with Donna!”
Fez gasps. “Hyde and Jackie can’t date! They hate each other!”
“That’s what I said!” Kelso shouts, standing up and moving next to Fez. “And, she was my girlfriend! What kind of friend gets with his friend’s ex?”
“Um, Hyde! He will!” Eric exclaims, still trying to convince them that his plan will work. “Come on Hyde, what do I need to do to get you to go out with her for me?”
“Forman, I’m not dating Jackie. I’m sorry that you can’t get with Donna, but I’m not that sorry.”
Eric opens and closes his mouth, starting sentences before realizing they aren’t going anywhere, before he finally gives up and goes back to slouching on the couch, defeated.
Fez and Kelso sit as well, and Hyde is about ready to start a circle, but Eric’s face lights up again. “I’ll pay you!”
“What?” Hyde and Kelso say with disbelief at the same time.
“I’ll pay you to go out with her.”
“Yeah, no,” Hyde says, shaking his head and holding back a laugh. It’s one of Forman’s more ridiculous ideas, and it seems too close to scummy for Hyde to sink down to. He’d spent enough time watching his mom get treated like crap by her boyfriends, he wasn’t going to make girls feel that way. He’s not Kelso.
“I’ll do it!” Fez exclaims. Hyde’s surprised it took him this long to volunteer- he’s had a creepy crush on Jackie almost since they met, but he didn’t need the money. His host parents were very generous with the allowance.
Kelso practically squawks with anger. “Fez! Come on man, you can’t date my ex-girlfriend!” He gestures wildly towards Hyde. “And neither can he! I’ll win her back!”
Hyde pulls a face.
He’s not jealous. He just hates the idea of Jackie and Kelso getting back together. After they had broken up, and Jackie had spent her mourning period pining after Hyde, they’d become almost friends. It was hard not to, considering he took her to prom last year (out of pity- she wouldn’t stop crying!) and taught her how to be zen around Laurie (which didn’t work- but it was fun to see tiny Jackie beat up Forman’s sister). And in Jackie’s eyes, “almost friends” was close enough to friends that she had told him about not wanting to be with Kelso anymore. That Kelso was weirdly possessive for a cheating asshole, and that she didn’t like how she acted when they were together. She’d told Kelso as much too, but he just wouldn’t get the damn point. He kept practically stalking her, trying to hit on her whenever he could, and being just as awful as he was when they dated. “She doesn’t want you back, man, get over it. Besides, you’ve got Laurie, and pretty much any girl you want. So can you just leave her alone?”
Everyone looks at him in surprise- not at how he’s telling Kelso to pipe down, but how he’s defending Jackie.
“Wow Hyde,” Forman says with a laugh, “I didn’t know you cared that much about who Jackie dates.”
“I don’t care about who she dates,” he says, slouching lower in his chair. “But I spent a lot of time with her when she was trying to use me as her rebound. She told me she doesn’t want you, Kelso, and you acting like a weirdo stalker isn’t going to get her back.”
Kelso looks like he wants to get into an all-out fight, and Hyde would accept the challenge, but Forman breaks up the tension by talking about Donna again, and Fez turns on the TV, and Kelso stews in his lawn chair across from Hyde. “I could win her back. I know I could,” he mutters- not quietly enough to keep Hyde from hearing.
“You know what Forman? If it keeps this idiot’s paws off her, I’ll do it.”
Kelso doesn’t say anything. He just stomps out of the basement. Fez, loyal as always, goes after him.
“You will?” Eric grins, looking happier than he has in days. “Oh man, Hyde, I owe you….”
“Yeah, you do.” Hyde kicks his feet up on the table. “You owe me $50, and that’s just for me to try to convince her to let me take her out.”
Forman’s face goes white, and Hyde grins. There’s no guarantee he can even get Jackie to go out with him, but even if he doesn’t, he's still getting $50.
This will be fun.
Forman’s plan doesn’t seem to go any farther than “please date Jackie,” so it’s on Hyde to figure out how to make that happen. When Jackie was hanging all over him after she had broken up with Kelso the first time (and the second time), he hadn’t had to do any work to make her like him. In fact, he had done work to make her not like him, and it didn’t even work.
He couldn’t ask Kelso what Jackie liked in a guy- he’d kick Hyde’s ass. Couldn’t ask Fez either- his idea of impressing a girl was to just annoy her until she gave in, and it hasn’t worked for him yet. And Hyde’s never worked that hard to pick up a chick before- but he had only picked up easy chicks who wanted a one-off, same as him.
Eric forbid him from talking to Donna about the plan, but how else is he supposed to find out what makes Jackie tick? He figures as long as he makes it seem like he actually wants to get with Jackie, with no ulterior motives, he can ask her without getting into trouble with Eric. That's going to be the hardest part- acting like he actually likes her- but he’s a good liar. He has years of practice from lying about- and to- his mom.
But he’s also known Donna forever, and when he does his absolute best to act accidentally in love with someone he’s supposed to hate, she immediately calls him out for faking it. “Hyde, that's really screwed up. You know how much Kelso messed with her. Did Eric set this up?”
“Donna. I’m not faking it.” He sighs, cringing inwardly at what he’s about to say. “Look, remember last year, when I took her to prom?” Donna raises her eyebrows suspiciously, but nods. “I didn’t realize it until they were back together, but...”
“Oh my God…” She looks shocked, then happy, then worried. “And it was too late to make a move… I’m sorry, Hyde.”
He shrugs. “It’s whatever.”
“Wait-” she’s back to looking confused, and he knows she’s found a hole in his story. “If you’ve liked her for that long, why didn't you make a move when she was into you?”
Crap. he knew he forgot something. “Well, uh…” He scratches the back of his neck, trying frantically to think of an excuse. “She had just broken up with Kelso. She was vulnerable, and I didn’t want to, you know… take advantage of her.”
“That is… surprisingly noble of you,” she says with a teasing smile.
He knocks their shoulders together. “Shut up and help me.”
“Well, what do you want to know?”