Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Summary: This is an old piece that I never posted because well I don't remember why. It takes place pre-breakup (the good old days) post-Mr. Burkhart's incarceration. Jackie gets comfort from an unexpected source.
"Hey Eric," Jackie said as she came in the basement bouncing in her usual manner. She was looking for Steven. She'd just had a particularly bad visit with her dad at the jail. He was losing hope that his appeals would come through. And her mom's extended vacation wasn't helping his spirits. Or Jackie's.
"Hey Jackie. Hyde's not here" Eric stated not looking up from his magazine on the couch.
"That's okay I'll wait. Where's Donna?" She could always depend on Donna to make her feel better.
"She's at a bonding dinner with Joanne."
"Fez and Michael?" Those dummies could always offer a distraction from thinking.
"Girl cruisin at the mall."
Well that was just great. No boyfriend, no friends, no parents – she was stuck with Eric. It was the perfect way to end a crappy day. She flopped down next to him on the couch.
Eric looked uncomfortable. They never spent that much time alone. He really thought she would leave once she found out no one was here. But if she wanted to stay that was fine with him. He didn't really think she was all that bad. It was just fun to call her the devil and pretend like he hated her. But now that she was dating Hyde- he really should try to talk to her. She'd changed a lot lately. And she seemed to make Hyde happy. Or as happy as Hyde could seem.
"So where's Steven?" she asked pitifully.
"He had to work late –that new job is turning out to be a little more demanding than the Fotohut."
"Yeah he was really tired on our date last night."
"Sure he wasn't just bored?"
"Funny Eric – should I just go?" She so didn't need this. She should have left when she got here and found the place empty. Eric would never like her no matter how long they knew each other. She didn't know why he insisted on hating her. She got up to leave but Eric stopped her.
"I'm sorry Jackie –stay – it was force of habit."
She looked doubtful. She'd given up a long time ago on Eric. He was the one guy in the world resistant to her charms. Not that she had ever wanted to use them on him. She just wanted him not to hate her. Cause she didn't hate him. "So we are going to try and get along?"
"Yeah – you know what Jackie-I don't know why we never bonded before. Maybe it was because you dated Kelso – you got to get flack for that." He laughed, trying to bring her in with the joke.
It worked. She relaxed and laughed. "Well I guess that is true. So now that I'm dating Steven you can cut me a break?"
"Yeah I guess" This felt weird, talking with Jackie, joking with Jackie. "So what is new?"
"Nothing" she responded quickly.
Okay super weird. He was offering her a chance to talk about herself and she wasn't interested? Eric nudged her shoulder with his, encouraging her to spill it.
"I went to visit my father today. His second appeal was denied." She really didn't want to talk about this with Eric. He thought she was nothing but shallow. He still thought of her as the bitch cheerleader. She kinda wished she still was –then she wouldn't be so scared.
"I'm sorry Jackie –that well that sucks. Does your mom know?"
"No she is still in Cancun."
"I'm sorry", he really was. He put his hand on her knee.
That was more than she could take. Eric comforting her. Her life was pathetic. It had gotten so bad that a guy who thought she was a member of the dark side was pitying her. "Don't Eric –don't feel sorry for me", she started to cry.
"Jackie don't cry –seriously I don't feel sorry for you. Shush", he gathered her up –hugging her as she cried harder.
"I'm sorry Eric –its just (sob) once I get started (sob) I can't stop."
Eric hated this. Jackie was always so happy. Except for when she was mad at Kelso or fighting with Hyde. But lately she hadn't had any of the latter. So he'd got pretty accustomed to bubbly Jackie. But as the tears progressed he started to think that had all been an act. This had been coming for a while. He wished Hyde was here –he was a poor substitute for who she really needed. But he held her and whispered words of comfort and tried to help. "Hey –hey listen – things are going to be okay. Your dad is going to be fine. He needs you now. You're helping him through this. And your mom is going to come home soon."
Jackie couldn't believe Eric was making her feel better. He was saying everything she needed to hear. Life was weird sometimes. She never thought she'd be crying on Eric Foreman's shoulder because her whole family life had fallen apart. But she was tired of being strong. She was spoiled and not use to life being hard. Up to this point she had been pretty tough. Steven had helped her. He'd been her stability. She hadn't cried in front of Steven since they'd started dating. He didn't like it when she cried and she didn't want him worrying about her. So it felt good to let it out. After she was cried out – she pulled back –feeling awkward – and sure that Eric regretted their truce. He seemed nothing but concerned though.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm better –thank you Eric. I guess I needed that."
"What a bony shoulder to cry on?" he said trying to break the somber mood.
"A friend". She looked him in the eye –hoping he realized how much that meant to her. That he could treat her like a person he would hang out with even if she had never dated any of his friends. He looked shocked by what she said and touched.
"Oh…well your welcome." He was glad he helped, and the whole thing was making him feel strangely warm inside, he shrugged it off. "So what do you want to do now –something mindless perhaps to help you forget about your bad day?"
She looked at him skeptically "What do you have in mind?"
"Well we can either braid each other's hair or watch TV until Hyde comes home."
Jackie pretended to consider the first choice, thought about taking him up on it just to bug him for old times sake –then turned on the TV. After a while her head got heavy and she could barely keep her eyes open. But she wasn't going home without seeing Steven. And to tell the truth –she didn't really wanna go home after that.
"Can I borrow your bony shoulder again?"
"Yeah –but I got one better –two chicken thighs."
Jackie was unsure but when he pulled out a blanket and pillow the need for rest won out. She settled down. This was nice –getting along with Eric. As they watched TV Eric thought the same thing. Jackie wasn't so bad –she had a vulnerable side. He'd only seen her confident one before. He felt that warm feeling again. It was nice being there for somebody. By the time Hyde came home Jackie was sound asleep. Eric put his finger to his mouth to keep Hyde from waking her.
Hyde was confused at first, then worried. What the hell was Jackie doing asleep in Eric's lap? "What's going on man?
"Shush –come here", motioning towards the couch "switch with me." Eric shifted lifting Jackie's head and placing it in Hyde's newly settled lap. "She had a rough day. She needs you now." Eric got up to leave –stopping on the top stair when Hyde whispered.
"How do you know that?"
Eric looked back answering simply "She's my friend."
Hyde scoffed not believing his ears. "Since when?"
Eric smiled then answered. "Since now."
Hyde returned the smile. And Eric left them alone. Hyde stroked Jackie's hair and wondered at how quickly life could surprise you. Eric giving Jackie a chance? Weird.
"Baby is that you?" Jackie asked as she felt his gentle touch.
"Well it better not be Foreman?"
Jackie laughed and crawled into his lap. Looking into his eyes he could tell she'd been crying.
"Baby you okay?" he asked concern again becoming his main emotion.
Jackie looked at the face of the man she loved. She thought about everything that was going on –all the bad stuff and the people she could no longer turn to for support. Then she thought of all the good. She realized they didn't compare. It was amazing what you could face with a little help from your friends. "Yeah I'm okay now"