No one expects Jackie to come over this weekend- Donna’s busy helping her mom, and Kelso’s in Madison visiting family- but she shows up early Saturday morning, her steady stream of chatter and Kitty’s laugh slowly waking Hyde up. He forces himself out of bed, gets ready for the day, and heads into the main room. Jackie’s flipping through a magazine and still talking- something about Sonny and Cher- even as Mrs. Forman goes back upstairs, leaving Jackie talking to the air.
She doesn’t look up when he walks in front of her, but she quiets when he flicks the TV on to watch Saturday morning cartoons and glances over when he sits next to her on the couch and kicks his feet up, his boots thudding dully against the table. Jackie raises her eyebrows slightly. “Good morning to you, too,” she says before going back to her magazine. “How’d you sleep?”
Hyde’s taken aback for a second- he always is when Jackie’s polite. Especially to him. “Okay. Until you woke me up.”
She rolls her eyes. “Oh, please. I wasn’t talking that loudly.” She glances over at him. “Was I?”
He wants to tell her that yes, she was that loud, and she usually is, but when he meets her eyes, there’s a glint of insecurity in them, something he never thought he would see in her. The Jackie he knows isn’t insecure about anything, and for some reason, he can’t muster the words to tear her down. “Uh… no. Nah, it was a joke.” Jackie grins, pleased at his answer, and goes back to her magazine. She hums softly under her breath, and they stay quiet for a while. The silence is comfortable, and he could stay like this all day, but Forman and Fez come bounding down the stairs. Hyde can’t help but feel disappointed. It felt like he was finally making headway on the plan, but it’s hard to act like the guy Jackie wants when his friends are around, egging him on, getting him to do something stupid.
Forman looks around, his face quickly falling. “Donna’s not here?”
“She told us she was busy, remember?” Fez says as he opens the deep freeze. He takes a second, looking through, before closing it with a sigh. “No Kelso either… and someone ate all the orange popsicles.” He huffs before sitting in the lawn chair, sulking.
“Well, I know, but I just thought…” Forman shakes his head. “I thought maybe she would skip out.”
“Come on, man,” Hyde says. “She would have told you before she came in here.”
“He’s right,” Jackie adds in a sing-songy voice. “I mean, you’re totally her favorite.” She flips the page in her magazine and closes it, looking up at Forman with a judgemental gaze. “I don’t really get why.”
Hyde can’t help but laugh, and Jackie looks proud of herself. Fez smiles slightly, but quickly starts pouting again, and Forman looks like he’s about to go on one of his “Kick Jackie Out of the Basement” campaigns. Instead, he picks up a Lego box and settles in on the floor in front of the TV. Even with Kelso and Donna gone, it feels like a normal Saturday, just quieter. More peaceful. The only thing missing is-
“Hey, you know what would make Legos more fun?” Fez says suddenly.
“Circle?” Jackie asks hopefully. Fez’s grin is wicked, and Jackie claps excitedly and pulls out the incense holder for Forman to light. She makes a move to turn on music before Hyde pulls her back.
“No ABBA, no Captain & Tennille, none of that crap.”
Jackie groans. “Fine.” Hyde releases her hand, and Jackie stomps over to the records. She picks through while he gets his stash out of his room, and holds up a Grateful Dead album for approval when he comes back out. He nods, and she turns the volume down slightly before settling in right next to him.
He lights up, takes a hit- and another- before passing it to Jackie. It’s cute, the way she smokes- she’s careful, taking a few tiny pulls before passing it on. Like she’s too delicate to take a big hit.
Maybe she is too delicate.
Forman frowns for a second before he takes a hit, and Fez does too, and when it gets back to Hyde he can see why. There’s a ring of pink lip gloss staining the rolling paper. “Jackie…” She looks over at him, her eyes wide and innocent but smiling like she knows what she did. “Come on, man, we told you. Wipe off your lipstick if you’re gonna smoke.”
“Oops,” she giggles, and he just sighs.
They sit for a while, laughing as Jackie eats the middle out of the Oreos and passes the cookie part to Fez, and Forman fumbles with Lego pieces as his vision blurs, and Hyde attempts to explain why parents don’t like the Grateful Dead, and w hen he goes to pass to Jackie, for what she says is her last hit, she doesn’t take it out of his hand. She leans over and wraps her lips around the joint, just inches away from his fingers, and takes one of those tiny hits before she takes it from him. His mouth drops open in surprise, and Jackie’s bloodshot eyes look at him like she knows what she just did.
She smiles and passes it to Forman, who’s been too busy talking about Donna to notice anything, and no one notices the way Hyde is still staring, dumbstruck, at Jackie’s lips.
Fez leaves soon after, and nothing is funnier than watching him stumble up the basement steps, trying not to fall, and Jackie gets bored of watching Eric struggle with his Legos and plops down on the floor to help. She’s sobering up much faster, and she clicks the pieces together quickly. At some point, Forman just sits back and watches her, and she’s almost completely silent.
“Dinner’s ready!” Mrs. Forman calls down, startling Jackie out of her haze.”Oh, Jackie, are you staying?”
“It’s okay, I’m sure the housekeeper can make me something,” Jackie says, standing up to gather her things.
“Oh, nonsense. You can eat with us!” Mrs. Forman laughs. “Everyone wash up!”
It’s a quiet dinner, mostly, except for Jackie complementing Kitty’s cooking, until Red starts talking about how the damn Toyota is acting up again.
“Oh, Mr. Forman, if you want help with fixing it up, I can hold the flashlight for you,” Jackie exclaims suddenly.
“Well,” Red says, sounding surprised, “thank you, Jackie.”
Forman chokes. “Or, uh, I can help, Dad.”
“Eric, I can even see my own hands when you hold the flashlight,” Red says before turning to Jackie. “How about… after school on Monday?”
“I’ll be here,” Jackie promises, smiling, and Hyde is shocked, and a little proud, too, to see Jackie actually volunteering to do work instead of think to just take it into the shop. But it kind of makes sense. She likes to do stuff with her hands- makeup and magazines and Legos- working on cars falls under that.
Forman sulks the rest of the meal, and Red seems happier now that he has a competent assistant, and before Hyde knows it, Kitty’s clearing the table as Jackie says her goodbyes. “It was great, Mrs. Forman, thank you.”
“Oh, anytime.” Kitty smiles. “It’s nice having you here. It’s like having Laurie around but much less…” she wiggles her fingers. “Worrisome.”
Jackie grins and heads to the basement. Hyde, for some reason, follows her, his feet moving faster than his brain. “Hey, did you drive?” he says as he follows her down the stairs. “I can give you a ride.”
She shakes her head and grabs her purse. “It’s okay, I drove over.” She looks up at him with big eyes. “But you can walk me to my car?”
“Yeah. Yeah, of course.” She smiles and heads for the basement door, letting Hyde open it for her and follow her up the steps. It’s not far, just down the street, but they both drag their feet slightly, the walk taking longer than usual. Jackie shivers, and Hyde automatically throws his arm around her shoulders, rubbing his hand up and down her arm to warm her up. She smiles gratefully, leans against him, and takes a deep breath.
She pulls away when they get to her car. “I’ll see you tomorrow?” she asks hopefully.
“You don’t have church?”
“I don’t really go if my parents are out of town,” she says mischievously. “Why, do you?”
Her tone is teasing, but Hyde still bristles. “Hell no. Church is just a sorry excuse for a bunch of money hungry do-gooders to shove propaganda down your throat, and-” She laughs, and he stops talking just to listen to it- a disturbing new development. He shakes off the feeling creeping over him. “I mean. No, I don’t.”
“Great. See you in the morning.” she hops in her car and starts it, but rolls down her window just before she peels off to shout, “Be up early!”
Hyde just groans and heads back to the house.
“Jackie get there alright?” Mrs. Forman asks the second he’s in the house.
“Yeah. All good.” He scratches the back of his neck awkwardly.
“That’s good…” She trails off as she tries to get a piece of food off a plate. “So, is she your girlfriend yet?”
The ‘yet’ throws him for a loop- she can’t know about the deal, right? “I’m, uh, not sure what you mean, Mrs. F.”
She laughs slightly. “Well, honey, you’ve been pining after her for ages, haven’t you? I saw the way you were looking at her dinner. You weren’t exactly subtle.”
Hyde relaxes his shoulders slightly. Not the deal, just her being a romantic. He considers denying, but that would just create confusion when they do start dating. “Not yet. I’m working on it.”
“Oh, good.” She pulls off her gloves and dries her hands before she walks out of the kitchen. “I think you two would make a great pair.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Forman,” he responds with just a touch of dejection. He looks in the cupboard to see if there's any good late night snacks, and heads to the basement with a cookie wrapped in a napkin for later, thinking about the last thing Mrs. Forman had said.
They wouldn’t make a great pair, Hyde knows that. They spent a year antagonizing each other, then a few months with Jackie being infatuated with him before finally getting over it, and now….
Now they have a strange sort of friendship, and Hyde doesn’t completely hate it. They still push each other's buttons constantly, still act like oil and water, but it's different. They know each other now.
Maybe not a great pair. Maybe not a good pair.
But they could make an explosive pair.
Jackie wasn’t kidding when she said to be up early, and she’s grabbing his hand and pulling him out of bed to prove it. “Damn, Jackie, what’s the rush?” he says groggily, but he lets her pull him into sitting upright.
“It’s already 9:30, Steven, and there’s so much to do?”
It's the wrong question to ask, because now he’s leaning grumpily against the wall at some fancy store while Jackie puts on a fashion show of sweaters and fancy jeans and dresses, showing each new outfit off to get approval from a saleslady.
Okay, maybe he’s not that grumpy.
She looks good in everything. Of course, she does. God, she could wear a potato sack and still glow. He watches her parade in and out of the dressing room, and finally, she calls out, “Okay, last one!”
Hyde’s prepared to complain about how long it took, or that it's too many clothes, or that the store freaks him out, but the words dry up in his mouth.
The last dress is short and flowy, a purple color that brings out the green in her eyes and the tan in her skin. It drapes suggestively around her bust, and there’s just so much skin . He doesn’t know where to look first- her legs or her chest or her neck or her eyes.
“You like it?” Jackie asks, smiling like she knows exactly what he’s thinking.
“ Uh ….” He finally lets his gaze settle around her shoulders. “Yeah. Looks good. Let’s go.” The last phrase is said hastily as he turns around. “I’ll meet you out front.” He walks away as fast as he can, trying to get the image of Jackie in that dress out of his mind, but his thoughts quickly turn into how soon he can see it on her again.
Jackie is, objectively, totally hot. He’s told her that. But he’d thought that her abrasiveness had worn off that shiny layer of hot cheerleader and left just an annoying girl. That dress put the layer back on, even thicker, and Hyde can almost imagine going on a date with Jackie for something real, for something important.
It’s the dress, man. Snap out of it . He shakes his head and stares at passersby, waiting for Jackie to be ready.
She walks out a few minutes later, handing a bag to Hyde and chattering about the trip. “I mean, can you believe that one woman told me to wear more green?” She scoffs. “Obviously, I have green undertones! I can’t walk around looking like a grape, or something!”
“More like an olive,” Hyde says, unlocking the car. “Too tan for a grape.” She laughs at that, and he smiles at her crookedly. “Back home?”
“Stop by my house first. I want to put these away.”
When they get back to the Forman’s, they sit quietly, drinking pop and watching a rerun of a show. Hyde makes fun of the characters, and Jackie hushes him, and it feels like they’ve done this before- hung out, no questions, no strings. Just friends. As far as Jackie is concerned, at least- she thinks that he’s into her, and just keeping them as friends respectfully.
She sits close to him, and when she finishes her pop, she stretches and looks around. “TV is so boring on Sundays. It’s all news and shows my mom watches.”
“What do you want to do instead?”
“Hmm…” She takes her time, scanning the basement for something. “Do you play chess?”
“Better than Forman,” Hyde says, oddly cocky, trying to show off.
“Want to teach me?” Hyde raises an eyebrow in question, and Jackie quickly adds, “My dad said he would teach me, but he never got around to it. Too busy. So?”
He lets out a mock annoyed sigh. “Alright. Do you know how to set up the board?” She shakes her head. “Okay. I’ll do that, you-” he points at the record player- “ Houses of the Holy. Led Zeppelin. Cover has a bunch of naked climbing people on it.”
“Really? You listen to them constantly,” she complains, but she gets up and starts searching for it as Hyde pulls out the box with the chess pieces in it, letting them clatter as he puts them on the board one by one. ‘Song Remains the Same’ starts up, and she sits back on the couch, right next to the side table, as Hyde pulls his white chair closer.
“White goes first.” He moves a pawn forward two spaces. “You can only move two on your first turn.” Jackie looks carefully, and slides one of her own forward. “All the pieces move differently. Pawns go straight forward, one square at a time. Knights-”
“The horses, right?” She asks, picking one up.
“Yeah, the… horses. They move like this.” He picks it out of her hand carefully and ignores how warm her fingers are as he demonstrates. “Has to be an L- two spaces up and one space out, or the other way around.” He passes it back to her, and picks up her bishop. “Diagonal only, as long as you want, but only empty squares. Rooks-”
“Castle.” She hands him her piece.
“Yeah. Forward or sideways, as many empty spaces.” Sets it down and picks up her queen. “This is your most powerful player. The queen can move any direction, as many empty spaces as you want. And the King can move any direction, one space at a time.”
“Of course the queen is more powerful than the king,” she says haughtily, fluffing up her hair. “Exactly like real life.”
Hyde chuckles and sets her pieces down. “So if I moved this pawn,” he says, trying to get Jackie’s mind back on the board, “I can now move another pawn, or my rook. See?”
She nods, watches him slide his rook forward, and frowns down at her board. Her queen is open, and she slides forward another pawn, one in front of a bishop. “Good?”
“Yeah, that's good. Watch where my pieces go. Watch where yours go.”
They go back and forth, Hyde coaching her as she goes and helping her with a few moves. The game is simple, and he doesn’t bring in any of the fancy rules, just lets Jackie find her bearings. She hums along to the music, and takes risks, and makes silly comments, but she gets it. Jackie’s smart. Not everyone realizes it- Hyde certainly didn’t for a while- but she picks up things quickly and can laser focus, and Hyde doesn’t get why she keeps talking about her horse when she’s so close to getting him in check. “You sure you’ve never played before?”
She shakes her head. “My mom always said it was a game for the men, and Michael wasn’t exactly known for his brain.” She looks up at him, eyes flashing. “Why? Am I doing okay?”
Hyde slides his bishop forward two spaces, so close to her king- but she’s got it well protected. “Yeah. Really good.”
“Must be my natural talent,” she says, laughing. But there’s a shake in it, and Hyde can tell she’s trying to play off her skill.
“Seriously, Jackie,” He looks at her, taking off his sunglasses, “You’re really smart. You’re getting the hang of this quickly. Why are you playing dumb?”
She lets out a deep breath through her nose, biting her lip and looking away. “You’re gonna think it’s stupid.”
“No, I think someone who’s never played chess before beating me is stupid.” She giggles at that one, looking back up at him and smiling proudly. “Come on, doll. What’s up?”
“I guess… I mean, all cheerleaders are supposed to be beautiful, but not very bright, you know?” She tucks her hair behind her ear. “And my mother always told me boys don’t want girls who know more than them. And then I started dating Michael, and I always had to make things simple for him. I’m just used to it at this point.”
“Bullshit.” The word comes out of his mouth before he can stop it. “It’s bullshit that you gotta act like a moron to fit in,” he hastily finishes.
She laughs nervously. “I think the proper term for pretty stupid women is ‘bimbo,’ actually,” she tries to joke, but it falls flat from her nerves.
“Fine. You shouldn’t have to be a ‘bimbo’ to fit in with your stupid friends.”
“God, Steven why do you even care this much?” Her voice has a hint of a challenge in it, and it’s making her just that much more attractive.
He moves his knight and takes out one of her pawns; she moves her rook and captures his bishop, so close to the king. “Jackie, you gotta know you’re already hot without acting stupid.” She flushes, that lock of hair falling in her face again. “But you should know,” he says, tucking it back behind her ear, “that I’m more into smart girls.” She takes a sharp little inhale, and Hyde can’t help but stare at her lips.
He doesn’t move his hand from her face, even as she leans in, even as her lips start to part so slightly, and he would take this home now, he’d be fulfilling his end of the plan, he’d be kissing Jackie -
Forman explodes down the stairs, yelling about how Donna kissed him on the cheek after church, and Jackie pulls away. Her face is red, and Hyde’s is so warm he knows it’s probably the same shade. “It was so… cool. And I think-” he stops, watching as Jackie fixes her hair and Hyde slides his glasses back on. “What’s going on down here?”
“Nothing,” they both say quickly, and Jackie abruptly stands and gets her purse. “I think I should head home,” she says loudly. “I had fun today Hyde. Thank you.”
He’s slightly dazed, but he nods and manages to say, “Want me to walk you to your car?” She shakes her head, leans down to kiss him on the cheek, and waves a quick goodbye to Forman before vanishing out the basement door and into the street.
He turns on Hyde the second she’s gone. “ Houses of the Holy ? Chess? Sunglasses off?” He smiles conspiratorially. “You were trying to seal the deal!”
Hyde grunts and starts cleaning up from the game. “I would have been able to if you hadn’t randomly burst in.” As he slides the box back under the table, he sees Jackie’s magazine, forgotten in her rush to escape. He carefully straightens it out on top of the coffee table so she can easily find it, and stands up, stretching.
“Wait a minute.” Forman looks at the magazine. “Did you just willingly put a tabloid on top of the coffee table? I thought that was reserved for Rolling Stone .”
“Whatever, man. It’s just so she can find it later.” But his eyes glance off to the wall, not looking directly at Forman.
“Hyde, man… I think you might actually like Jackie.” His tone is light and teasing. Hyde’s fist to his arm is not. “Ow! Come on, you really aren’t into her?”
“Forman, man,” he says, mimicking him. “It’s called acting. Ever heard of it?”
Forman rolls his eyes, clearly not believing him, and opens his mouth to respond, but his mom calls them for dinner and the words die in his mouth.
They head up the stairs, and Hyde waits until Forman’s back is turned to him to press his fingertips to his cheek. To where Jackie gave him another one of those tantalizingly close kisses. It’s warm there, and it lets him know that he’s closer to finishing this stupid plan.
But he’s not sure he wants to be closer.