A/N: Set early season 2. Australian air-dates are the work of the devil. Events mentioned could be little messed around because of this. This fic probably could have used more work, but I'm sick of it hanging around my hard drive. Much love to fairy_dude for the fantastic beta work *mwah*.
Open to the parking lot outside Big Al's Fried Chicken Take-Away…
Eric knew it was a mistake as soon as the words left his mouth. Drawing the attention of the cro-mags from school had not been one his saner moments. "Hey guys." The blond, Rick, turned from the apparently engrossing series of grunts and whoops that passed for conversation amongst the athletic crowd and eyed Eric incredulously. " 'Scuse me?" Eric inwardly cringed. 'Nice Foreman. Attract the unwanted attention of the guys who used to towel-whip you in gym class.' And wow, who knew his inner voice could sound so much like Hyde? "Uh… how's it… uh… how's it going, guys?"
'Play it cool, play it cool, Eric. That's right. Lean against the car, arms folded, and most importantly, Show. No. Fear.'
Oh yeah, he could pull this off.
"What's it to you, faggot?"
Dennis, another stocky muscle-boy, came up beside him, cracking the knuckles in his fist.
"You know, I really thought we'd moved past the whole 'intimidation and physical violence' stage of our relationship."
Eric braced himself for the blow. Eyes squeezed shut aaaaand…
"Foreman, what the hell are you doing? Get back in the car." And there's Hyde. Great timing, as per usual. He nods at Eric's would-be attackers. "Guys."
They back off, as if they hadn't been about to introduce Eric's face to their fists. Typical.
Eric snorts, and slides into the passenger seat. "Well, I think that went well. Don't you think that went well?" The engine roars to life, and Hyde dumps bags of warm greasy food in his lap. "Hold these. What the hell were you thinking? Jesus Foreman. Next time you should save the small talk and just draw a target on your forehead, or better yet, hang a 'kick me' sign from your ass." He shoots Eric a look he can't read from behind his aviators. Eric can see himself, reflected in Hyde's shades. He forces his gaze down at the take away food instead, pressing a finger against the warm bag until the grease sops through, turning the white paper a dark and sticky grey.
Cut to The Foreman Basement, where Eric proceeded to relate the whole sordid incident to the other guys…
"Wait, wait. What is this faggot?"
Hyde turned to the confused Fez. "Faggot's a guy who's into luvin' other guys, Fez."
At this, Kelso let loose a burst of soggy giggles. Eric shot him an impatient look and snagged the joint from unresisting fingers.
"But how is this an insult? I love all of you, except for maybe Kelso. Does this make me a fag, too?"
"No, Fez, it's… it means you LOVE love other guys. You know what I'm saying?"
At Fez's blank stare, Eric sighed, "Ok, Fez. Picture Jackie. Picture all the things you'd like to do with Jackie."
Fez closed his eyes, and let loose a contented hum. "Oh yes. I can see it now."
"Ok, now, picture yourself doing those things with Kelso."
Disgust was written on every line of Fez's face. "First of all, I do not believe that it was necessary for you to use Kelso for your example, Eric…"
"…And secondly, you are saying that they were saying that you are gay?"
"Got it in one, Fez." Fez turned to Hyde.
"But Eric is not gay. He is with Donna."
Hyde sighed impatiently. "Fez, it's not like… they were putting him down, man."
"I do not understand. Why is this an insult?"
Eric sat forward, "Look, it doesn't matter anyway, because I'm not."
Hyde snorted and shot him a pointed stare.
"Hyde, Eric has a girlfriend."
"So he cannot be gay."
"Having a girlfriend doesn't mean you aren't gay, Fez."
"Yeah, actually Hyde," Eric interrupted, "it kinda does."
Hyde lent forward, staring Eric down. "Actually Foreman," he mimicked, "it really doesn't. It's called denial. I'm sure you'd know what I'm talking about. I mean look at you. You're tiny; you never stand up for yourself like a MAN, and until Donna, definitely no action in the girl department. And hey, lets not even mention your little 'date' with Buddy."
The chair Eric was perched on tipped dangerously as he pushed into Hyde's personal space.
"Uh oh." Fez's worried glance shot back and forth over the bare inches separating the two.
"Hey! It was not a date! I didn't know he was gay! What's with you tonight?"
"Nothing's 'with me' Foreman. I'm trying to do you a favour here. Awakening your latent sexuality."
For a couple of seconds the only reply he received was a baffled stare, then, "'Awakening my latent sexuality?' Have you been reading self-help books again? Hyde I… is this. Is this about Donna? Cause I know I said I wasn't going to mention it again, but…"
"No this isn't about Donna," Hyde spat out, "but while we're on the subject, let's talk about Eric and Donna, the happy couple, shall we? Together for over a year and you still haven't gotten any?"
Eric flinched back from the force of the sudden glittering glare visible from behind Hyde's shades. "I, you know that...that is NOT for lack of trying on my part, believe me. Donna just doesn't want to yet…"
"Rather convenient for you then, isn't it Foreman?"
"Ooookay, this is getting a little awkward. I think it might be time for me to leave now. You two have some issues that you need to work through." Fez said matter-of-factly and stood, warily eyeing the two bristling boys.
Hyde broke the hard stare first, looking up at Fez. "Take Kelso with you, would you?"
Eric barely registered the tactful retreat of his two friends. He simply stared at Hyde in bewildered hurt. "Look, Hyde, I don't know what your problem is…"
"My problem is you, Foreman, ok? You're my problem!" He sat back, his usual calm shattered by a rigid anger.
"Ok, you know what? I don't know what all this is about, but I don't have to take this from you." Eric stood to leave. Hyde abruptly deflated with a long sigh. "Yeah, yeah you really don't." He ran a distracted hand over his face, catching his sunglasses and sending them clattering to the floor. "Just… just forget it, ok? I'll see you later or something." He rose, scooping his shades off the floor as he stood, and disappeared into what passed for his room. Eric simply sat for a moment, trying to figure out what had just happened. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Hyde so openly provoking, or so shaken for that matter. However, he wasn't about to follow Hyde and try to talk to him. Not after some of the things he'd said. Suddenly, the sheer silence of the empty basement seemed to beat down on him. He fled the oppressive stillness for the refuge of the shower.
Dinnertime in the Foreman Household…
"Eric, honey, could you pass the salt please?" Eric passed his mother the saltshaker. The heavy silence that had dominated the evening meal threatened to descend again. "Well, this is awkward isn't it? Ahahahaha." Hyde snorted, apparently engrossed in pushing peas from one side of his plate to the other. Considering the rest of his meal lay untouched on his plate, it was quite a feat. Eric found the sight strangely entrancing. Kitty played with her fork, then spoke again. "Steven, what's wrong? You've hardly touched your dinner tonight. That's just so unlike you." Hyde blinked and looked up into her concerned face. "I'm fine Mrs. Foreman, just not really hungry tonight." They all went back to their meals. Several minutes dragged by. Red's voice seemed overly loud when it broke the quiet. "Just what's wrong with you two tonight? There is a disturbing lack of lip being shared tonight and, wait. There IS a decided lack of smart-alecky comments coming from the both of you. Keep it up, boys."
"They're fighting Daddy. Do you want to know why? Hyde is jealous because Eric went on a date with another guy." Laurie smiled brightly at her father, happily crunching on a piece of lettuce. Deafening silence reigned for all of, oh, about 5 seconds. Then…
"WHAT?" Red stared at his son in shock. Eric didn't notice. He was to busy gaping at Hyde, who had gone unnaturally still and decidedly pale. Then Eric blinked and Hyde was once again slouched in his seat, zen-like calm working overdrive. "You're so full of it, Laurie."
Kitty merely shook her head. "Laurie, dear, that's enough." Eric shook himself. "Yeah Laurie. That's not funny."
Red shook his head. "I don't want to hear anymore of this talk about any son of mine being a nancy-boy. Let's all just finish our goddamn meals in peace."
What followed would have to be one of the longest, not to mention uncomfortable, dinners of Eric's life. Afterwards, Red stormed out to the lounge and Laurie slunk back to her room. Kitty looked at the two boys still seated at the table and shifted uncomfortably. "Uh… you boys know that if there's ever anything, ANYTHING you need to talk to abou…"
"Yeah, Mum, we got it."
"Well then…who wants cocoa?"
"Yeah, none for me either."
Later that night, in the Foreman kitchen…
Laurie sat at the table in her pajamas, flipping through the latest issue of 'Girl!' magazine. Eric leaned against the doorjamb, watching her. Without turning to look at him she said, "Are you going to stand there staring all night? Because that's kind of creepy Eric."
He pushed off the doorframe and headed for the table. "Hey Laurie," he pulled out a chair across from her, hesitated, then took a seat on the one next to her instead. "What're you doing up?"
"What does it look like I'm doing? I couldn't sleep because I could hear you tossing and turning, so I came down here to get a drink." She waved a hand at the empty glass on the table.
"Uh, Laurie? Why'd you tell Red that I'd been out on a date with a guy?" Her pointed look let Eric know that, like duh, he should so know this. "Because if Dad found out you were gay, he'd kill you."
"Oh right. Right. Yeah, I can see how that would work for you. Unfortunately your plan has one fatal flaw in that I'm not gay." Studiously ignoring her smirking "Sure." he continued, "But, um, hey, how did you know that that's what Hyde and I were fighting about? Not that I was on a date with a guy…or, you know, that Hyde was jealous, or anything."
Laurie let out an amused snort. "Kelso told me about the little row you two had this afternoon. Turns out Steven's quite the drama queen. Who knew?"
"Hyde's always been a drama queen." Eric paused to consider, then looked at his sister "Not that you should ever tell him I said that. Ever."
They sat in somewhat companionable silence for a few moments, then…
"Um, so… what exactly did Kelso tell you about our fight? Because he is waaaay off the mark. Hoo, boy is he off the mark. Way… way off…"
Laurie shot Eric an annoyed glance over the top of the glossy mag. "Look, Eric, I'm just repeating what he told me, ok? He said you and Hyde were having a big gay fight. Kelso's actually pretty perceptive about that sort of thing, so next time you two have a little lover's tiff, maybe you should think about doing it in private."
Laurie looked confused. "What?"
"Wait, Laurie, what the hell are you talking about?"
She sighed. "You and Hyde. You guys used to be so much better at hiding it. Now people are starting to notice."
"There. There is NOTHING going on with me and Hyde! He's my BEST FRIEND Laurie, not my… boyfriend. What the hell is with everyone today? Today is like, 'Eric's Big Day of Gay!' and apparently everyone got the flier except me. Could someone tell me what is going on here? Please?" he beseeched the otherwise empty kitchen.
"Come on Eric. You can drop the act, ok?"
When she received no answer to her demand, she looked up to find Eric staring at her aghast. "What act? There's no act to drop!" Her brow furrowed as she leaned forward to study him. "Oh. My. God. You really have absolutely no idea, do you?"
He merely stared back at her.
"So you and Hyde…"
Laurie started giggling.
"Stop it. Laurie, it's not funny! I just found out that apparently everyone except Fez and hopefully Donna, although I'm yet to confirm that one, thinks I'm gay. And everyone who's not Hyde, Fez and Donna, thinks I…I have a thing for Hyde!"
By this stage Laurie was genuinely laughing. At Eric's Stare O' Death, she tried to speak through the laughter. "I'm… I'm sorry Eric… but that's… that's just so funny…" she paused, pretending to wipe away a tear, "And for the record, Donna thinks you've got a thing for Hyde. Hyde doesn't, but he's got it bad for you. Always has." As if unaware of the bombshell she'd just dropped upon her brother, Laurie closed her magazine and stood up, yawning. "Well, since you're having your little crisis in the kitchen now, I can probably go to sleep. Night Eric."
Eric shook himself and quickly sprung forward to catch Laurie's pajama top as she passed. "Wait, Laurie. You think Hyde's…uh… 'got it' for me? What, I mean, how can you tell?"
"Oh please. Hyde thinks he's all Mr. Zen-Master Cool and stuff, but I can so see past that." She looked down at the desperately confused boy grasping her shirt and in a rare moment of vague, almost sisterly affection, patted his hair. "Go get him, tiger." She smirked, and walked away.
"Ok. So, I did NOT just hear that. In no way did I hear any of that. I refuse to process that information because I am the king of denial and… wait, did she just pat me?"
Even later that night…
The sleeping boy laid tangled facedown in sheets; one arm slung around his pillow, hugging it to his side, the other arm cushioning his head. He let out a soft gasp and tightened his embrace on the pillow, his hand rhythmically clenching the sheets above his head. He murmured quietly into the mattress, shifting slightly in his sleep. A louder, sharper breathe fell from his lips as his eyes shot open and he twisted upright. His head fell forward, shadowing his features in the moonlit room. He cupped shaking hands over his face and exhaled noisily into his palms. "Oh my god."
The Basement, the next day…
Eric stood at the bottom of the basement stairs, the handrail grasped in a white-knuckled fist. He took a step forward… then released the railing to turn and flee back up the last three steps. He stood there for a while, hands clenching at his sides, indecision tearing through him. Visibly steeling himself, Eric turned and marched purposefully toward the door at the rear of the basement. Deep breath in and… knockknockknock. "Hyde? Hyde are you there?" Silence reigned in the room beyond and Eric's breath left him in a rush. He was about to leave when a rustle from Hyde's room caught his attention. He edged forward. Knockknock. "C'mon Hyde, I really need to talk to you." Silence… "Look, Hyde, I know you're in there. Can we talk? Please?" A loud curse answered his pleas. The door swung open and Eric found himself uncomfortably close to one pissed off Steven Hyde. Words poured from his mouth in confused nervous babble. "Hey Hyde I'm glad you opened the door because I really need to talk to about some kind of important stuff and I…"
"Foreman, do you mind? I'm kinda busy here."
Eric paused long enough to take in the skewed shirt, unbuttoned to the waist; the rumpled jeans, unbuttoned… further down and oh my god. His gaze shot back up to Hyde's face, a blush burning its way up his neck to stain his cheeks. He couldn't meet Hyde's eyes. Instead he found himself gazing intently at 'Hyde's mouth. I'm staring at Hyde's mouth. He has been kissing someone with that mouth. I should not be staring at Hyde's mouth. Stop. Staring. Oh god. The mouth is moving. He's saying something. Hyde is talking with that mouth. C'mon Eric. Focus.' "Foreman!"
"I said, 'could you get the hell out of my doorway'?"
"Um sure, yeah, sure. I, oh god, I'm sorry. I'll just be, be going now. Um…"
Hyde's eyes narrowed and he lent forward to stare intently at Eric. Eric nervously licked his lips, missing the glance Hyde shot down at the motion. "Hey man, what's wrong? You ok?"
"Uh yeah. I'm fine. Fine. Never been…finer. Why do you ask?"
Hyde studied for a second, then shook his head. "If you say so." He turned away.
"Wait!" Eric grabbed his wrist.
He let his grasp slide away. What the hell was he thinking? Hyde had a girl in there. "Nothing."
"Good. Now go away, Foreman. Far far away."
"Far far away, check." He backed away as the door slammed in his face.
'Well. That went well. Have I mentioned I hate myself?'
He trudged back up to his room, berating himself all the way.
The parked car, with Donna, that night…
Eric broke another kiss. "So, um, Donna. That maths exam sure was a killer, hey?" Donna looked at him for a moment. "Yes. Yes the maths exam was a 'killer'." She leaned in again and this time Eric pulled back before their lips connected. "Yeah, I mean, that question 14. Whew."
"Eric, what are you doing?"
"What?" Mild panic threaded his voice.
"I said, what are you doing? Every time I try to kiss you, you start talking about maths or take-away chicken or the situation in Lebanon."
"Oh. Well, I just happen to think that the situation in Lebanon is an important world event, worthy of our time and discussion."
"Eric, there is no situation in Lebanon. Now will you top stalling and tell me what's wrong?" Eric stared at her, the girl who had been his friend for as long as he could remember. The girl he loved more than anything else in the world. Looked her in the eyes and couldn't tell her he was freaking out because every time he tried to kiss her, images of Hyde's mouth, lips made red and swollen from kissing, sprung into his head. Oh this was so wrong. So very wrong.
"Eric? Eric, are you ok?" And now she was concerned about him. He couldn't meet her eyes, soft and worried. "Donna, there is, there is something very wrong with me."
"And this is news how? Oh wait, you mean more so than usual?" She teased lightly. When he failed to respond, her tone darkened with alarm. "Eric?"
He shook himself. "It's nothing. Let's just go home, ok?"
"No, Eric, something's wrong. Whatever it is, you can tell me." She laid her hand on his shoulder and he almost flinched away at the warmth sinking through his shirt. "Eric?" He could feel his pulse racing now, full-blown panic sweeping through his system. "Donna…"
"Eric, talk to me."
"Donna, I…" Panic blinded him. He could hear the pounding of his heart riding over whatever it was Donna was trying to tell him. "I can't do this anymore. I can't… I can't do it. I'm sorry Donna, I…"
"What the hell? Eric? What are you saying?"
He couldn't look at her and oh god what the hell was he doing? He tried to stop the words breaking through but his mouth was running on autopilot. "I can't do this with you anymore."
"What?" She pulled back, dumb-founded.
"You heard me." He winced at her expression. She folded her arms and looked at him critically. "Eric, are you breaking up with me?"
He swallowed hard. Was that what he was doing? He must be insane. Donna was amazing. She was smart and gorgeous and perfect and not what he wanted. Not anymore.
"Yes?" Her eyes glinted dangerously.
"Eric, you… you complete dill hole! You can't just… we were… I mean, where did this even come from?" He opened his mouth to answer, but she cut him off. "No, you know what? I don't even want to know, ok? I… take me home. Right now." Heart sinking rapidly, Eric started the engine. He started to say something, to try and apologize, but she interrupted with a sharp "I don't want to hear it." The drive home was painfully strained. What had he just done?
"I broke up with Donna." Hyde stared at him in shock.
"Foreman, what the hell were you thinking?"
"I wasn't! I mean, I didn't exactly plan it, you know?" He ran a frustrated hand through his hair. The other grasped the back of the couch he was leaning against.
"But… why man? I don't get it."
Eric merely looked at him. There was no way he was answering that question truthfully. "It just didn't feel right between us anymore, you know? I mean, hell Hyde, Donna's always been one of my best friends and she's one of the only girls I've ever really known. Maybe I was just, I don't know, projecting the things I thought I should be feeling onto her, or something."
Hyde appeared to be considering this. "I suppose I can see that. Never would have picked it, but I can see how…" he nodded. "So what brought about this startling revelation? Meet a girl who really rings your bell?"
Eric tensed. "Not exactly." He looked at Hyde, leaning against the back of the couch next to him. He took in the lean lines of his slouching body; the long curve of his neck, the hard shoulders visible through the strained black shirt, the slim waist leading down long jean-clad legs. He swallowed hard.
"So what was it? You been going through my self-help books?"
"No, someone awakened my latent sexuality." Hyde froze in place. For a second Eric wondered at it, then the words he'd just spoken really sunk in. He felt the bottom drop out of his stomach and he gasped. "I mean… I…" He started to back away but strong hands clamping down on his arms halted his retreat. Hyde's face was suddenly close enough to his that he could feel the moist heat of Hyde's breath hitting his cheek. Hyde shook his head, then reached up to rip off his sunglasses. Eric found himself caught in Hyde's disbelieving stare. "Foreman…" Hyde licked his lips, breath coming hard. "Foreman, what the hell are you talking about?"
"I, um, I…" Eric trailed off, completely distracted by Hyde's nearness. He stared helplessly into Hyde's desperate gaze. "Don't. Don't mess me around Foreman. What. Did. You. Mean?"
Eric jerked his head back, sudden and inexplicable anger surging through him. "I meant that I've been having messed up dreams. I've been thinking things that are freaking me out and I broke up with my girlfriend on a… a crazy impulse and it's all because of you. And hey, apparently everyone but me knew anyway so I figured, why not go with it? There's nothing wrong with discovering you want your male best friend the way you should want your girlfriend of an entire year." Eric's head dropped forward, anger spent, horrified to find hot tears threatening to spill onto his cheeks. 'And Hyde's the drama queen?' He chocked back a muffled sob, or was it a laugh? It didn't matter now and he couldn't look, he really couldn't. He should be bracing himself for the punch that he knew would be hurtling towards him any second now. He ruthlessly crushed the small voice in the back of his head that sounded suspiciously like Laurie. 'He's got it bad for you. Always has.'
"No, there's nothing wrong with that." And he couldn't have really heard that, right? He looked up at the harsh whisper. Hyde's face was tight with the bright, hard smirk crossing it. "If you're messing with me Foreman, I swear…"
"I'm not. I'm not messing you around Hyde. I wouldn't do that."
And then Hyde's mouth was on his and it wasn't so different to kissing a girl, not really, except that it was. It was different and hard and so good that Eric gasped at it. Hyde pressed his advantage and oh, oh that would be Hyde's tongue in his mouth; wet and hot and he couldn't breathe. He'd known Hyde's tongue was as sharp as it was quick but he hadn't known it was also this soft and moist and so very talented. He whimpered as Hyde pulled away and, using a hand he hadn't couldn't remember burying in Hyde's hair, tried to pull him back down. Hyde resisted the pull, simply staring down at the boy in his arms. "Whoa." Eric nodded.
"Yep. That about sums it up. Does this mean you're not going to hit me?" Now the kiss was over, he was acutely aware of Hyde's body pressing against his. It felt strange to be held tight against someone whose chest was as flat as his, with no curves to wrap around. Only lean muscle meeting his own; long arms wrapped around his waist and shoulders with a subtle strength Donna had never possessed. "I think the answer to that should be pretty obvious by now Foreman."
"Okay, so is this going to be one of those things that we should just forget ever happened?"
Hyde pulled away slowly and Eric felt an acute sense of loss "Do you want it to be?"
"Then it's not."
"Are we… is this going to be ok? Cause I don't want things to be weird."
Hyde rolled his eyes. "Look, they're not going to be weird unless you keep making them weird by asking dumb-ass questions like that one."
Eric broke out into a wide smile.
"Dinner's ready boys!" Kitty's voice floated down into the basement.
Hyde quirked an eyebrow and pulled him back into a loose embrace. "Be there in a minute, Mrs. Foreman!"
"Ok Steven, just don't wait too long. You food will get cold."
"So." Eric smiled back up into Hyde's devious stare. It was kind of weird in a kind of very good way to be this close to Hyde. Almost familiar, yet not.
Hyde drew his hand down Eric's side in a slow stroke. "Only got half a joint left." He grinned wickedly, fingers dipping into Eric's waistband. He leaned forward and whispered heatedly into Eric's ear "Last one upstairs has to watch the other smoke it." He pushed Eric back over the couch and sauntered up the stairs. Eric lay sprawled on couch, staring up the ceiling. He could hear Hyde coughing as he wandered out into the house above. A bright smile crossed his face and he laughed out loud. He felt lighter; better already. Oh yeah. They were going to be alright.