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Author's Note: Hello everyone! Have for you the next chapter of this fic. Sorry it's a bit late, last week I lost track of the time and before I knew it, it was Thursday and I hadn't done the edits for the chapter yet. But this week I was able to and I knew I had to post asap! Thank you, so so, so SO much for all of the incredible support you gave the previous chapter. I am really so happy that you all are still engaged in this fic and want to read more, thank you! I'm really trying my best to find my balance of fandom life, work life, and real life and some days are better than other but if you ever wanna remind me, in a friendly way, about updating this fic, please feel free to! Thank you again for the wonderful support, sorry it's a little late but it's sooner than the last time, by about ten days but I tell you, that's progress! Hope you enjoy this chapter, please review and let me know your thoughts if you have the chance. Thank you again and as always please, Enjoy!
"Hey, wake up."
Jackie heard a voice call out to her, but it sounded so far away from where she was in her peaceful, blissful slumber that she chose to ignore. Today had been like one very long, living nightmare for her and she just wanted to sleep it all away—or at least sleep it off for at least five more minutes.
"Come on, Loud One, get up."
Eyes still shut and determined not to leave her safe haven of sleep just yet, Jackie brow furrowed. Nobody else had been in her dream, she'd been shopping alone in America's Mall with an unlimited credit card. And no one in real life had ever called her Loud One expect…
Her eyelids flew open and she blinked a few times at the blank wall she woke up facing. Nothing was in front of her but Jackie could feel that she wasn't alone.
Slowly she propped herself up on her elbows, turning around to see the rest of her room, and instead found the sight Mr. Forman standing at the foot of her bed, frowning down at her.
She scowled right back. "Oh, go away," she moaned before she moved back onto her side again and buried her face into the pillow.
"I'm not going anywhere until you we talk about what happened with those papers about the funeral I wanted," the booming voice declared. "It was a mix up…"
Not happy about being disturbed from her beauty sleep, Jackie pulled her head out of the pillow and stared back at the vision of Mr. Forman in front of her. He didn't look happy but that didn't matter because as far as she was concerned, he wasn't really here. It was her overactive imagination that was keeping her from sleeping and she needed to remind it that she was in control.
Never breaking eye contact with the eyes that looked like Mr. Forman's, Jackie reached over to her nightstand and with a press of a few buttons and the placement of the needle over the record, ABBA's 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' consumed the room at a loud volume.
When Jackie saw the expression on Red's image drop into a look of despair, she smiled smugly and snuggled back into the comfort of her bed.
"Aw, crap," his voice groaned. "Not this again."
Agnetha and Frida's voice were literally music to Jackie's ears but hearing how upset her imagination, in the form of Mr. Forman, sounded was a very nice bonus. She closed her eyes and allowed her smile to stretch her lips further, happy to have her music and also with the possibility that it seemed her ghostly image of Mr. Forman would soon be gone.
She really did love ABBA.
Suddenly the singing stopped and an ear-piercing screeching sound that was enough to pain any music lover—ABBA fan or not—took its place.
Jackie's eyes popped open and she sprang up in her bed, "Hey!"
By this time, it was no surprise to see that the image of Mr. Forman was still in the room with her, however what Jackie had not expected to see was him standing by her record player. The sight of it actually lessened some of her outrage into a stronger sense of confusion.
"Wait…How did you do that?" She frowned at the memory from earlier that day. "Earlier you said you were having trouble opening doors. Now you can ruin my records?"
"Guess my 'ghostly powers' are getting more powerful," the hallucination flashed her a Red Forman smirk.
Her right eyebrow quirked in response. "So you are a ghost?"
The grin fell into the stern stare most associated with Mr. Forman. "Get out of bed, we need to talk."
"Oh no," Jackie shook her head and, on her knees, moved to the foot of bed. She didn't care that the figure was now giving her its back and was ready to leave the room, now she didn't want it leaving. "You can't expect me to do whatever you say when you won't even answer my questions."
Mr. Forman's image turned back around to face her, but Jackie folded her arms over her chest and huffed.
"Maybe you should use your ghostly powers to find someone else to help you."
He seemed to roll his eyes, the just like the way Mr. Forman would when he got annoyed with her. "I told you. You're the only one who can see me."
"Lucky me," she muttered under her breath.
Apparently though, she had not said it low enough because it looked like Mr. Forman's image had heard her. And he now looked more like he did whenever Eric and the guys did something to upset him, right before he started yelling. Jackie didn't back down though, she just stared back. And when his image took a step forward towards her, she sat taller and straightened her shoulders and hoped it didn't sense her fear.
"You know, it's not like I've exactly won the lottery with you either."
Jackie's eyes widened and her jaw dropped open. She couldn't believe what she'd just heard; not win the lottery? She was the freakin' jackpot! And even her imagination should know that.
"I am a catch! I'm young, smart, and pretty," she had threw fingers up representing each trait she'd pointed out. "Those are the three things everybody wants. And I not only have them all, but I have extra amounts of them too. You are so lucky to have me! You could've ended up with much worse."
"I know. Believe me, I know," the agreement was said with a sort of sigh.
Her rage was put on a sudden pause as a frown dropped into place of her forehead. "You do?"
That wasn't very like Mr. Forman to agree with someone so quickly, and if this was her imagination it would make sense for her to quickly agree with herself.
"Hate to think of what would've happened if instead of you, I ended up with Kelso or Haji," it looked like he had a headache from the idea alone.
"Yeah," a smile broke onto her face and Jackie did her best to hold in a giggle. "That would've been pretty bad."
There was a pause of silence and in that moment, Jackie realized she was still smiling. The way she would when they were all in the Forman kitchen and Mr. Forman would grumble about his house being full of dumbasses or mock one of the guys for whatever idiot thing they'd done or said, she'd smile and maybe give a small laugh as she watched him walk off. She felt that same feeling of content and comfort now, as if they were in the Forman kitchen—as if Mr. Forman were really here.
Damn, her imagination was good! Jackie realized maybe she should write a book.
"So, you gonna get up now?"
Jackie stared at the vision of Mr. Forman in front of her. She no longer felt her smile anymore and all the previous feelings of comfort were gone when she heard the sound that she shouldn't be able to hear anymore. Her imagination might help land her a bestselling book one day but at this rate it was never going to allow her to sleep again if she didn't gain back some control over it.
She laid back down and turned back onto her side so that she was facing the blank bedroom wall again and gave her back to the not-so-imaginary Mr. Forman.
"Oh jeeze." Jackie could hear the voice behind her mutter. "Hey, come on, we were doing good here. Talking, sharing, we were bonding and all that other crap. Don't go back to sleep."
Her eyes were shut tighter when she heard the voice behind her; it sounded just like him. While she couldn't exactly squeeze her ears shut like she did with her eyes to avoid the sight of Mr. Forman, she had figured out a pretty effective way to block out the sound and sometimes even get it to go away completely for a little bit.
If she played her ABBA record, she'd have to sit up and set everything up; which meant she'd have to turn around and literally face her problem again. Luckily, her stereo also played the radio and after stretching her arm back and turning a few nobs, music filled the air.
"Ah crap, not these foreigners again."
Jackie almost turned around to point out that it wasn't ABBA playing but rather Fleetwood Mac, but she stopped herself and instead turned up the volume of "I Don't Want to Know" even louder.
"Alright fine," the sound of Red's voice was frustrated as ever. "You know two can play your little musical number game."
Static tore through the chorus of the song, it didn't last very long, but when a signal was found again the feel good Fleetwood Mac song had been replaced with song that had instruments that sounded a lot like the scratching of nails on a chalkboard but maybe more in tune.
When the singer started singing the crooning voice and sad words, Jackie realized she was listening to country music.
She would have much more preferred the white noise static, she thought to herself as she groaned and rolled onto her back—but kept her eyes shut.
"What do you think of that?" the voice sound less frustrated and more smug.
Her eyes opened and she saw the form of Mr. Forman smirking down at her, like he'd won; but she would show him…it…whatever it was.
"Well, it wouldn't normally be my music of choice. I feel dusty just listening to it," she explained and sat up, pausing when she caught onto the lyrics of the song that were actually saying to 'Wake Up.' Very clever, she had to resist rolling her eyes as she continued. "But at it'll put me to sleep fast and I can finally wake up from this insane dream."
"This isn't some dumbass dream, dammit!"
Mr. Forman's image shouted louder and harsher than she'd ever heard him before. Of course, she'd seen Mr. Forman upset, she'd been there the day he had his heart attack when Laurie married Fez to stay in the country, but she had never witnessed something like this. It almost felt like she could actually feel his anger.
She starred back at him with wide eyes, too frightened to say anything yet. The slowly, the feeling of intensity faded and the image of Mr. Forman bowed its head and sighed.
"If there was a way to make you believe, to prove to you that all of this is somehow real, I'd do it. But there's not," the soft voice the statement had started with became much more stern and gruff as the Mr. Forman look alike frowned back at her. "So you're just gonna have to trust me on this."
Jackie nearly burst out laughing.
"Trust you?" she really wanted to laugh but settled for a short scoff. "I don't even know what you are. You apparently don't even know what you are. How can I trust you?"
It felt ironic to say those words to one of the few people Jackie felt like she could still trust after all these years, but she reminded herself that it wasn't really Mr. Forman she was speaking to bur rather her cruel imagination playing tricks on her.
This needed to end.
"And as far as proof goes, we went over all different kinds of things that would convince me that you, "Mr. Forman," were really here," Jackie argued with great fury; she hoped these facts would stop these illusions. "The naming of one thing about me, the finding of the papers that I told Mrs. Forman to look for…but you couldn't tell me anything about me and those papers weren't there which means you aren't here either. So please," she sighed with exhaustion. "Please, just, just go away."
With tears stinging her eyes, Jackie laid back down in her bed and pulled her purple blanket up to cover her head. She wished not for the first time, that Mr. Forman was still alive and her life and everyone else's was back to normal.
"You wanted a mustang," Mr. Forman's voice said.
Jackie frowned then sniffled, "What?"
Who was talking about horses? She'd never wanted a mustang, a pony sure and even a unicorn at one point but mustangs were wild horses…
"The car I mean," the sound of Mr. Forman's voice interrupted Jackie's thoughts. "That used to be the kind of car you wanted."
Still confused, Jackie pulled the covers off in time to see the figure scratch it's left cheek and take a seat at the foot of her bed. She was about to tuck her legs closer to her body when she noticed her mattress had not reacted the way it should when any weight was put on it. Which made the image of Mr. Forman sitting in her room talking about mustangs all that more puzzling.
"Years back when you and the other dumbasses were still in high school," the explanation began. "You came over to the house looking for them but they were all at career day. Instead of leaving though, you hung around and helped me work the Vista Cruiser," Jackie saw the exasperated head shake she could recall Mr. Forman doing countlessly, especially when it involved Eric. "Who knows what dumbass thing Eric had done to it that time."
She tried not to show her surprise and continued to listen carefully to this story that sounded vaguely familiar if not a bit foggy.
"Anyway, during that time you mentioned that your father wasn't around much but that it was okay because he promised to buy you a Mustang and I told you a Mustang's front end was problematic so you should…"
"Get yourself a Firebird."
"Get myself a Firebird."
They said the words simultaneously as if rehearsed but this was the first time in a long time that Jackie had thought back to the advice Red had given her that day. It wasn't until she heard his voice reminding her of the problematic front end of the Mustang that the rest of the memory came flooding back to her mind.
Jackie sat there is shock, mouth open in a gasp and eyes widely staring at the smirking figure of Mr. Forman.
"Oh my God," she breathed, her hand now covered her chest. "I completely forgot about all of that."
"You did?" she heard Mr. Forman ask.
Jackie wasn't exactly sure, but she could have sworn that the tone of voice used to ask the question actually sounded almost sort of hurt.
"Yeah, I mean almost all of it," Jackie shrugged her shoulders. "I still remember how to change a flat tire. In fact," she sat up on her knees and beamed proudly as she continued, "I had to change a tire when Michael and I were dating and his van got a flat. Ugh, I still remember. I told him to get me the jack and he came back with a handful of playing jacks he said he kept in the glove compartment in case of emergencies."
Red's image rolled its eyes and muttered, "Dumbass."
"I know," Jackie agreed with a smile that faded when she tried to recall if she had ever shared this story with Mr. Forman when he was alive; her imagination seemed to think he would have gotten a kick out of it. Her heart felt like he would have too.
"I'm surprised you remembered all of that," she said out loud but looked down at the floral pattern of her sheets when she noticed his eyes narrowing in her direction. "You know if you're really you and all."
This should have been something that made Jackie believe that this really could be the real Mr. Forman, after all she'd been the one who told him to tell her something about her that he would know; but instead it made her just as skeptic as before. She barely remembered the conversation and she was way younger than him, she should have had a better memory than him. Why had that moment been something that stuck with him? Sure, it was a moment that involved Jackie Burkhart but this was also supposedly the man who had forgotten his wife's birthday one year.
She didn't know what to make of this.
"I'm really me."
The voice was so firm and sounded so much like Red Forman's voice, the kind of voice you did not ignore if you knew what was good for you, that Jackie instinctively looked up and met his eyes with hers.
"And," the voice continued, sounding just a little more causal. "You were pretty good working around cars."
Jackie grinned brightly at hearing this—now that part she did remember! Of course, she didn't mind being reminded of it either.
"Look, Jackie," Mr. Forman's figure made a sound like the clearing of one's throat and then locked eyes on her again. "I know this is a lot to take in and understand. Hell, I can barely understand any of it."
Her smile had transformed into a deep frown. "This isn't making me feel any better."
"But," the great emphasis was put on the word, Jackie took it too mean that she'd interrupted too soon. "The only thing I do understand is that you're the only one who can see me. Who can hear me and communicate with me, knowing that I'm really here."
"But why me?" she asked, her throat stung and even though she tried to prevent it there was a quiver in her voice.
"Hell, if I know, kid." The Mr. Forman she saw in front of her seemed disappointed that he couldn't give her answer either. "That's just one of the many questions we've got about all of this. I know there's a lot of 'em. And I wanna answer these questions just as much as you do."
She cocked up an eyebrow. "Wanna bet?"
Mr. Forman's image scowled back at her. "Hey, I'm the one that's supposedly dead here. I might want the answers even more than you do."
That was a good point, Jackie quickly realized. At least she wasn't the dead one in this situation, things really could have been worse. Of course, she wasn't going to admit that this hallucination ghost thing was right either, so instead she settled for shrugging her shoulder aloofly and letting the image continue to speak.
"Listen, just like you tried ignoring me, I've tried finding someone else who would listen to me. And it didn't work out for either one of us. So it looks like it's just the two of us. And if we want to find out the answers to those questions we have, we're gonna have to work together."
Jackie was still skeptical, "I'm supposed to work with a ghost?"
"I'm not a…" the angry tone lost its volume with a sigh. "I don't know what I am. But I do wanna find out, don't you?"
Part of her felt like she was better off not knowing, but Jackie knew for the sake of her sanity she had to find out just what exactly it was she was seeing in this shape of Mr. Forman.
"Yeah," she whispered with a nod. "And why you're here too."
"Exactly," the figure said with a grin.
She recognized the grin that she saw, full of pride and approval. It looked just like one Mr. Forman had looked at her with that day in the garage after she'd finished changing the tire on the Vista Cruiser on her own. Back then such a smile had made Jackie ecstatic and beam back her own grin but now she couldn't even manage the smallest of smiles, thanks to the uneasy feeling she felt in her stomach.
"This is more than just not following through with your last request for your funeral," Jackie shared her theory out loud. "Isn't it?"
"I think it might be."
Jackie drew in a deep breath, hoping to gather not only a enough oxygen but a lot of courage too, for what she was about to say. Her chin tucker downwards and she narrowed her eyes at the sight of Mr. Forman.
"Okay, fine. If—and I'm not saying I will, I am saying if," she felt like she could not put enough stress the detail but did her best to do so anyway. "If I agree to going along with all of…this…I am gonna need proof. Proof that tells me that you're really the Red Forman in your new…form."
Her tone was forceful for the most part of her declarative. However, even Jackie knew that some of her words lost their bite when she'd fade off to search for the right vocabulary work to use. All she could hope was that her main nonnegotiable message had gotten through.
Red's image frowned again. "I just gave you proof with the Mustang and the day in my garage…"
"I know, I know. And it was good proof. Really," she interrupted the counterpoint argument with her own. Her hands clawed up in front of her and she went on, "But I need something physical. Something that I can see with my own eyes, that I can hold in my hands. Something that I can show the others when they think it's time to send me off to the funny farm."
"Like what?" irritation was clear in the tone of voice.
Watching the sight in front of her, Jackie thought Mr. Forman looked annoyed with the fact that he had to keep 'proving himself' to her but this wasn't something she would even think about letting slide. If she was going to risk her credibility and more importantly her reputation, he could do this for her.
"I don't know," her shoulders drooped, she felt fresh out of new ideas. "Those papers with your funeral requests sounded like a good form of proof but they weren't where you said they were…"
"I can do that," Mr. Forman's voice said before Jackie could wallow too much on remembering that those missing papers had previously been the proof that told her this wasn't really Mr. Forman she was seeing.
A frown wrinkled on her forehead Jackie shook her head. "No, they weren't there."
"I know, I thought they were where I told you but that was the wrong place, but now I remember where there are."
Jackie eyed the illusion even more suspiciously. Was it a good thing that the search was for the same object from before? Why not a new object? Was she being set up for another snipe hunt?
"I'll take you to it this time," he said a moment later.
That was certainly a twist Jackie had not seen coming.
"Okay," she nodded affirmingly and swung her legs off to the side of the bed. "Let's go."
"First thing in the morning."
The words halted Jackie's actions causing her to turn her head in his direction, her brows inching closer together. "I thought you were in a rush."
He shook his head. "I'm not waking Kitty up at this hour."
"You woke me up at this hour," she threw out, crossing her arms over her chest. "And this has been a very long day for me too."
"That's different," he seemed to try to brush off her argument.
"Well, since you woke me up," Jackie got on her feet and walked over to the bookcase she'd brought from her childhood home. "I'm not gonna be able to go back to sleep which means you aren't gonna be able to sleep…" she paused and with a yellow notepad in hand spun round and titled her head in the direction of Mr. Forman's image. "Are you able to sleep? Like at all?"
"If we're not sleeping and we're not going to see Kitty, what exactly do you have planned for us?"
It wasn't lost on Jackie that her question had not be acknowledged let alone answered, but she figured one of the more plausible reasons for the question being disregarded was because he didn't know the answer either. She decided she could let this one go.
"We are going to set some ground rules," she plucked a pink pen out of the ceramic cup on her lower shelf.
For once it wasn't Jackie who was the suspicious one and she noticed the wary look on Mr. Forman's face. "What kind of ground rules?"
"The kind that are going to keep me from looking like a crazy lady who talks to herself and gets sent away," explained Jackie and spotted the ever-present frown on her audience. "I can't help you if I'm locked up in some rubber room."
"Fine," he agreed curmudgeonly. His index finger popped up in front of his face and pointed straight at Jackie. "But one of those damn rules better be you not playing anymore of that damn Baba music."
Jackie scowled and was ready to argue and defend her choice of music when she realized that his request was no more 'Baba' music. He said nothing about 'ABBA' music though.
"Deal," she confirmed, with a growing smile. They still had a lot to do but she already felt like she was gaining back some control in her life.
Author's Note: So what did you think? Yay? Nay? A little bit of both? Be sure to let me know in a review if you have the time to spare. Thanks!
Next chapter Jackie goes back to The Forman home for one more search of Red's requested papers but finds much more waiting for her in the Forman kitchen.
Until next time, thanks for reading, hope you liked, please review and lemme know what you think, stay tuned, take care, and have a nice day!