Ice Cream Musings
***

Author: Claire
Category: Eric/Jackie romance
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Up to the end of Season 4, if any.
Setting: During the summer when Donna and Kelso were away. This assumes nothing happened between J/H.
Summary: Jackie and Eric find themselves alone together during the summer. Ice cream finds it's way into their conversation, among other things.

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No matter how much he planned something, he could not be prepared for everything. He was not prepared to lose Donna, and he was not prepared to plan his life without her, though a sickening feeling told him to start as soon as possible. He had to do something now, and something worthwhile. After all, these were the best years of his life, and it would only get worse from here on out.

Light footsteps sounded outside and approached the door to Eric's basement. They were notably feminine, and for a second he had a fleeting hope that they may be Donna's, and that the summer so far had all been a bad dream. But his great powers of deduction told Eric that it could be none other than Jackie, no doubt coming to-intentionally or unintentionally-be a nuisance to his soothing depression.

The door opened and shut lightly. Silence. A beat. Then an all too cheery voice broke in.

"Hi Eric!"

Eric refused to look up. The magazine he was idly flipping through now became increasingly interesting as he used all his strength to focus on it and not her.

His 'ignore her' strategy failed and only made Jackie more forceful in getting his attention. She walked over to the couch where he sat and made herself comfortable on the opposite side. Eric made no acknowledgment of her, and so she scooted closer to him on the couch.

"Can I help you? Or are you trying for a world record of most annoying within arms' length?" Eric said finally without giving her the satisfaction of looking up.

"Hey, I just wanted to chat with my good friend Eric..." Jackie explained, though not very convincing to him.

Eric was growing frustrated and found it hard to try to ignore Jackie when she was burning a hole in the side of his head. He gave up.

"Chat...? Friend...?" Eric chuckled and finally looked up at her. His chuckle became a stifled laugh.

"Oh my god! You cut your hair!" Eric sat up, suddenly, depression was not so threatening anymore with an opportunity like this to take his mind off of it.

Jackie had a hopeful, yet worried, smile. "I got it done this afternoon..."

"It's so short!"

"I'm not sure why I did it."

"It's so... different."

"Maybe it's like a new start-without Michael, you know?" She ran her fingers through her very short hair pensively, wondering if she'd made a good choice. Eric looked at her curiously.

"So you're saying that... you cutting your hair is a way of throwing away your old bad habits-like Kelso-and turning over a new leaf. Hopefully meaning a better-spirited Jackie?"

Jackie mulled over this for a moment, then nodded slowly. Eric wasn't sure she quite understood but at least she tried. Jackie stared off for a moment then looked back at Eric. "I look like a boy!"

Eric couldn't help but laugh. In truth, she looked better to him compared to before. And 'boyish' wasn't the first thought that popped into his head. "You don't like it?" was all he said.

"It was a bad idea to cut it all off..."

Eric was puzzled, "Are you talking about Kelso?"

"Please! As if I could care less about that jerk! This is my hair, do you know how long it'll take to grow back?" Jackie continued to play with her hair, rubbing it downward, like she wanted it to look different somehow. Or perhaps she thought she could make it grow faster by stroking it.

"I think it looks... fine. Or better, anyway."

Jackie rolled her eyes and kept her hands on her head, concealing as much of her hair as possible.

"It's not that bad..." he tried to assure her, but didn't exactly know the best way to go about it.

Jackie looked up at Eric and forced a smile. "I guess you're right... It could be worse... at least it's not as bad as your hair." Her smile was now broad and genuine.

"Hey, I-" he started, but couldn't finish. Anything he would have said would probably have damaged him further. That is, if he could have thought of anything to say.

"Eric, be honest. And I will know if you're lying! What do you think of my hair? Is it completely ridiculous?"

He wasn't sure what she wanted to hear. He figured to act dumb was his best bet; she seemed to understand that better than anyone. And a silly answer might take her mind off of it, while a sincere one might get him in trouble. Being all alone in the basement with Jackie, where no one could hear him scream, he was a bit scared.

Eric shifted to face her and rolled up his sleeves, as if preparing for something that required liberal preparations. He leaned in to examine her hair in an over-obvious way, and then leaned back to get a far away view of it.

"Shake your head," he told her, "like this," and he leaned his head back, tossing his hair around, exaggerating the movement of his head. She let out a small laugh but obliged, indulging in the action.

Eric tried to keep a straight face for her sake. He reached out and ran his fingers through her hair, gripping it at the tips. In his hands, he scrutinized the hair as if he knew what he was doing, investigating it from all angles-left, right, top. He nodded his head, and still holding her hair, he presented his conclusion.

"It's good. It makes you look... more mature. If you didn't say or do anything... someone might even mistake you for a... woman." Eric stumbled over the last word. It surprised him that he actually meant it. Jackie was different in a good way. She did look more mature. She didn't look like the Jackie he had always known and was forced to put up with. He might have found her attractive had he not known her. With that thought, he suddenly felt awkwardness in having his fingers in her hair. But he didn't move.

Jackie gave him a look, and rested her hands on his outstretched forearms. "Eric, don't make fun of me! I swear, if this is your stupid way of telling me I look like a boy..."

"No! I... I'm actually serious. I like it. You look good."

She dropped her hands and Eric was grateful to have a reason to let go of her hair.

"Eric... I hate you." Jackie shook her head and looked away.

Eric wasn't sure exactly what she meant by her comment. Did she think he wasn't serious, or that he was mocking her? Did she hate him for that? Or was it that his answer shocked her? Perhaps she hated him because he had made her feel pretty when it wasn't his place to do so. He definitely felt a little out of place in the situation. He was never very good at this.

"I'm sorry about Donna..."

Eric looked up in surprise. It was strange that he hadn't been thinking about Donna for a while until Jackie had mentioned her just then.

"I actually wasn't thinking about her." He told Jackie, still surprised as he said it.

"Yea... I wasn't thinking about Michael, either," though Eric knew she had to be lying. Jackie may not have been missing him, but Kelso was definitely on her mind. Maybe in the bitterest way possible.

"Give me a reason, Eric."

Eric looked at her, confused, and very aware of the swift movement she made to put her hand on his knee. Very subtle, yet very forthright.

"A reason for what?"

"A reason to stop thinking about Michael!"

Eric couldn't think of any. He really did want to help her, knowing that being Kelso-free would be a good thing for her, just like being Donna-free was a good thing for him. His efforts to cheer her up had failed so far, so what was left to try? Jackie never made it easy with him.

"Do you like ice-cream?" a lame attempt, but it was something.

"Do you have Rocky Road?"

"I actually only have that chocolate-vanilla-strawberry flavour..."

Jackie sighed, "Oh..."

"Sorry."

"You know who would look funny wearing that flavour? Michael."

Eric smiled, "I'm guessing you would dress him in it?"

"It would get all in his hair and he'd get so mad... and he's so stupid he would never even see it coming. Michael is so dumb!" She laughed a little bit.

Eric wondered if she saw the underlying humour in that, but figured not. That's what made it even more amusing. Although, Jackie was never worse than Kelso. No one was worse than Kelso.

"We could always go out for some ice cream," he tried.

Jackie looked confused for a moment; it was probably because Eric had just voluntarily suggested spending time with her. He wasn't feeling so bad around her, though, and he wanted to hang on to that feeling. Even if it came with Jackie. Maybe because it came with Jackie.

"I don't want ice cream that much..." she leaned back on the couch and stared at the wall in front of her.

Eric kept fishing for ideas, but the more he thought, the longer the awkward silence hovered over them. He stared hard at her, thinking. Admiring her hair. Admiring the difference it made. Was he aware that he was admiring Jackie? It was just the hair. He looked away.

"Your hair looks really good."

Jackie smiled. "You don't think it'd look better covered with ice cream?"

"Ice cream is overrated," he said, aware of the nonsense he just told her. But maybe she would pretend to understand what he was talking about.

She laughed, "What are you talking about?"

"Never mind..." Eric laughed in spite of himself. Overrated? Why did he always say things that didn't make sense? Why did he say that to Jackie? Overrated?

"I mean... you don't need ice cream to feel better." Why couldn't he have said that first?

"Do you?"

"I think it'd take a lot more than ice cream to make me feel better."

"What about a hot fudge sundae?"

"A joke works well," he smiled. "You make me feel better. Good for you." Good for him for being honest with her. Or would she find a way to throw it back in his face? She was smiling too.

"You're alright, Eric."

"Well... they'll be sure to make me a statue for that."

He regretted saying that after he saw her expression. She was trying to say something nice and he did what he hoped she wouldn't do to him. He threw it back at her. He could not think ahead.

Eric lacked foresight. Had he a shred of it, he may have realized right away why she leaned in towards him, why she rested her hand on his chest, why she paused right before she met her lips with his. She was looking for an objection. Would he have backed away if he had realized she gave him that choice?

She kissed him slowly, urging a response from him. He eagerly gave in to her mouth's silent pleading, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her as to him close as possible. His hands found their way to her hair, and he finally got the chance to feel her hair the way he really wanted to, tangled between his fingers. He wouldn't have objected. Had he had a clue.

Jackie was a much more demanding kisser than Eric would have guessed. She brought her hands to his shoulders and gently pushed him backwards on the couch. Eric froze for a moment when he felt her hands push against him. He thought she might push away, and it freaked him out that he did not want her to. He had no control over the situation; he had no idea what was happening, what would happen next. This whole thing with Jackie was unexpected from him. Eric didn't do 'spontaneous'; he didn't handle it very well. Yet here he was. With Jackie.

Eric wondered what would happen if they didn't stop. How far would she let him go? How far would she make him go? Eric considered that it might be the first time where he would have to be the one to slow things down. Or maybe she wouldn't continue to be demanding. Maybe that insistence he saw in that first instant she kissed him was just his imagination. Maybe it was he who wanted her to be insisting.

He wanted to stop thinking about everything. He hated missing a moment by thinking too much. Everything passes by unnoticed when he let his mind wander. He hadn't noticed, for instance, when he-or she-had pulled his body on top of hers, though he thoroughly enjoyed it. Their kisses became more heated, and Eric found his hands roaming around the skin of her stomach, while his lips trailed down her neck and back to her mouth again to kiss her over and over.

Jackie drew herself up against his body and captured him in a kiss that made him sigh. Her grip around him tightened and her tongue fervently played with his, hushed sounds escaping her every so often. Eric could feel that things were not slowing down in the least, and every part of him obliged to pressing forward, but the situation had already gone further than it should have. When Jackie had leaned over to him with intentions she was sure to make known to him, they had already gone too far. Eric touched her face and held Jackie back as he lifted himself off her. They starred at each other, both a little dazed.

"I think you need to let your hair grow back..."

Jackie sat up and ran her hand over her hair, smoothing back into place. "Yea, I think so..."

She looked at him for an idea for something to say.

"You should probably go," he finally said. She let out a breath.

"I was just going, yea..." Jackie stood up and walked straight to the door, not looking back. Her fingers casually brushed along her lips as she walked out. Eric stared at the door for a long time while his mind buzzed. He kept rolling it over in his head, trying to make sense of it... he had just made out with Jackie Burkhart. That thought would not leave him until he saw her again, and he knew it.

He could not stop thinking about Jackie.

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- finished jan 12, 03.