Disclaimer: I do not own That 70s Show or any of the characters, with the exception of Matthew.
Hyde sits on his usual seat in the basement, his legs propped up on the ottoman and his glasses in place. He half listens as Eric, Fez and Kelso carry on a pointless conversation about a woman Kelso hit on at the Piggly Wiggly.
"I'm telling you, she was totally hitting on me. Man, older ladies love them a piece of this" Kelso says, his hands slowly slithering down his body as he says it.
"A piece of what?" Fez asks confused.
"Of me, they love them a piece of me" Kelso explains, his shining moment fading due to his friend's naiveté.
"Why would they want a piece if they can have the whole thing?" Fez presses on, the saying clearly going over his head.
"Fez, man just leave it alone" Eric intervenes, not wanting to deal with several more minutes of banter between his two friends.
Fez nods his head reluctantly and looks back at the television where a commercial of a man solving a Rubik's Cube is playing. The foreigner's eyes pop open as the guy manages to match up every side of the cube. "Unbelievable" Fez exclaims and Hyde smirks at his friend's excitement.
For a while longer, the four men sit silently, focusing on the black and white images coming on the screen. Since the turn of the decade, things have been chaotic for the group so they haven't had too many moments of silence like this one. Hyde inhales quietly and basks in the calmness of the moment. He enjoys not having to hear about Donna and Eric going off to college in the fall or Fez and his new job. He doesn't have to pretend to care that Kelso got fired again from whatever job he has at the moment, and he sure as hell doesn't care about Jackie.
It's been a few days since he's seen her down in the basement, four days actually, not that he's keeping track. On the days that she does come by she doesn't stay for very long, usually an hour, hour and a half. Never longer.
He hears from the others that she is keeping herself busy, might have overheard that she's taking a few classes over at the community college. Whatever though, who cares. Jackie is no longer his business, hasn't been for several months now, and that's the way he likes it. He doesn't have to worry about checking in with anyone or buying birthday presents, Valentine's Day presents...Christmas presents, nothing. He can just come home after work, pop open a can of beer and relax.
That's what his life is, what he had always expected it to be. Just a bundle of uncomplicated days doing whatever the hell he wants.
"Hey Eric, where's Donna?" Kelso breaks the silence.
"I don't know. She told me she might be meeting up with Jackie and that guy later. She might be getting ready or something" Eric responds without taking his eyes off the T.V.
Hyde's ears perk up but he makes a strong effort not to make it noticeable. He keeps his eyes glued on the screen and lifts his arm to adjust his sunglasses, make sure they stay put.
"Have any of us met this guy? I mean damn, she talks about him all the time but does he really exist?" Kelso asks, his question having more emphasis than he probably intended it to have.
"Who are you, Hyde? You think this is a conspiracy theory?" Eric asks amused by the sudden existential question of his doofus friend.
"I'm just saying man, this is a small town. Don't you think one of us would have at least seen him by now?" Kelso continues.
"Hey, that's true" Fez jumps in.
"Kelso, how many times have we actually left the basement recently?"
The older boy thinks about this for a moment and the nods his head. "You're right" is all he says and then the silence returns.
Hyde focuses on keeping his body straight, making sure that the others can't notice the sudden tension of his muscles. He folds his arms across his chest in his usual way and crosses one over the other. He shifts his eyes over to see if his friends are looking at him and is relieved when he sees all their attention is back on the television.
How is it that he's the only person who hasn't heard anything about this guy? He hasn't left the basement either, so how is he more out of the loop than the other three? Hell, how does Fez know something before he does? Fez never knows anything.
Who gives a shit man, it's Jackie. You don't care about Jackie he thinks to himself.
"Eric, have you met the guy?" Kelso asks once again interrupting the quiet.
"Kelso, no I haven't met the guy" Eric replies.
"Damn Kelso why do you care so much?" Hyde finally interjects, annoyed that he keeps bringing up this guy.
"Well, damn Hyde I'm sorry but I'm just curious. If we're going to have a new person in this group then we should at least meet him first" Kelso says.
"We are not going to have a new person" Hyde quickly jumps in.
"How do you know? Jackie might start bringing her new boyfriend around and before you know it he's hanging around all the time and then he's part of this" Kelso says, his hands creating circling wide motioning towards the basement.
"Do you really think Jackie would bring her boyfriend to a place where her previous three boyfriends hang out? Wouldn't that be weird?" Eric asks reasonably.
"She might" Fez says. He suddenly pulls a chocolate bar out of his jean pocket and starts unwrapping it.
Kelso nods his head up and down. "Exactly, she might. I'm just saying someone needs to check this guy out, make sure he's cool and not...you know, a cop or something."
"Kelso, you were a cop" Hyde points out.
"Yeah, but I was a cool cop and stuff. Besides, I was already in the group" he answers.
"Whatever man, Jackie's lame ass boyfriend is not going to be part of the group" Hyde says.
Kelso shrugs his shoulders and looks over at Fez who is quietly nibbling on his candy. Hyde gets back to watching T.V. but it doesn't take long for him to realize that he's been watched. He slowly turns his head over to the couch and notices Eric scrutinizing him. Hyde furrows his forehead.
"What Forman?" he asks.
Eric smirks once he realizes Hyde is no longer "zen."
"You wouldn't care if Jackie's new boyfriend came around here though, would you?" he asks, his smirk never-fading.
"Why the hell should I care?" Hyde asks.
"Oh, I don't know. It's only that Jackie was the last girl you were with so it must be a little weird to see her prancing around making googly eyes to someone else."
"Jackie was not the last chick I was with" Hyde retorts defensively.
"You don't mean Sam do you? Because she does not count" Eric says.
"She was my wife so she counts" Hyde answers.
"Yeah, she sooooo counts" Kelso jumps in and starts shaking his chest seductively which makes Fez laugh. Hyde glares at them and they instantly stop.
"Well, technically, you weren't married" Eric corrects.
"Whatever, she counts" Hyde continues.
"Okay, fine. But you didn't love her" Eric says.
"Are you implying that I loved Jackie?" Hyde asks, amusement showing on his face.
"You're telling me you didn't?" Eric asks, his smirk faltering a bit. He's been friends with Hyde since they were kids and he knows his friend better than anyone. Possibly even better than he knows himself. If there is one thing about Steven Hyde Eric knows, it's that he was deep in love with Jackie, whether he wants to admit it or not.
"You're crazy man" Hyde replies and starts getting off his chair. He starts making his way to his room but instantly stops when Eric calls out to him.
"You didn't deny it" he says.
Hyde turns around and takes a few steps towards the couch. "You're crazy" he says once more.
"You still didn't deny it."
"You can't seriously think I was in love with Jackie. Jackie Burkhart."
"What do you guys think?" Eric says turning to look at Fez and Kelso. The two men look at Eric and then up at Hyde. They see his menacing glare and just shake their heads, not wanting to offer a reply and get in the middle of it.
"Whatever, just admit it Hyde" Eric presses on.
"No" Hyde says.
"No, you won't admit it or no you didn't love her?" Eric asks.
"Drop it Forman" Hyde threatens. He knows Eric is getting a kick out of this. He always got a kick out of things dealing with Jackie for some reason. This time though, he's hitting too close to home and Hyde would hate to get into in with his best friend.
"Just answer the question. Which one is it?"
"Damn it Forman, I was never in love with Jackie. Okay?" he calls out.
Eric's smirk returns and he nods his head, clearly satisfied that he got a rise from Hyde. Hyde rolls his eyes and takes a deep breath. He looks over at Kelso and Fez and sees their eyes widen. He follows their gaze to the staircase a few feet away and his heart stops when he sees Jackie standing there.
"You sure showed me, didn't you Hyde?" she says, her voice breaking as she says his name.
"Jackie" he calls out but before he can move she dashes up the stairs.
"Fuck" he curses himself out.
"Hyde, I'm sor-" Eric starts.
"Can it Forman" Hyde interrupts him and makes his way to his room, slamming the door loudly behind him.