Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, but as long as those who do continue to defame them so completely, I will offer no apologies for abducting them for my own purposes.

Spoilers: Through 8x04, "Misfire"

The Blame

Only Kelso could come up with something so unbelievably stupid. Only he could conceive of a spur of the moment proposal to an ex-girlfriend just to relieve his own boredom. Hyde had found the whole concept amusing, infuriating, and ridiculous—though maybe not in that order. But, hell, it would be a great burn on Kelso when she said no and humiliated him in front of everyone.

Such was the thought which comforted Hyde over the twenty-four hours which followed Kelso's announcement—hereafter known as "the dumbest plan ever." But that security was rudely wiped away from him when Fez announced Jackie was looking forward to the proposal, that she was actually planning on saying yes.

What the hell, man?

She had sworn up and down that nothing had happened with Kelso that night. Despite his jealousy, deep inside Hyde knew that Jackie had been finished with her first boyfriend for years. But now she was going to marry him?

It was wrong. On every level, it was wrong. Jackie didn't love Kelso. He had never made her happy. He couldn't possibly make her happy. He had the intelligence of a rock, the emotional capacity of a flea, and the constancy of a rabbit. No matter how he turned it over in his mind, he couldn't make himself believe that just because Jackie wanted to get married she would ever want to marry Kelso.

The only conclusion he could draw was that Fez was right. He hated that Fez was right. It had been Hyde's own actions which had left Jackie so emotionally vulnerable she would jump at the slightest sign of affection or love from anybody. Even Kelso. Hyde's stomach turned at the thought.

Against his will, he found himself picturing it: the wedding of Michael Kelso and Jackie Burkhardt. Pink and purple and unicorns everywhere, because Michael didn't have the sense or the balls to stand up to Jackie when she went to extremes. And Hyde himself, as best man, with a front row seat watching the only girl he'd ever really loved promise to spend all eternity with a guy who would be making out with her cousin by the reception.

And it was all Hyde's fault.

That one thought pounded away in Hyde's brain as he ascended the outdoor stairs from the basement, slowly following Kelso and Fez as they went in search of a balloon, which somehow was supposed to be a suitable engagement ring for a girl as image-conscious as Jackie. Moron.

In the driveway, they were confronted by the object of so much fuss, as she was marching over in a huff from Donna's house. Jackie froze when she saw them, and immediately her whole aspect changed. She smiled brightly at Kelso and sauntered over to him in a way that made Hyde long to throw her over his shoulder and drag her far out of reach of his best friend and every other jackass who had the gall to even look at her. But he figured he'd probably better not.

"Hi, Michael," she simpered coyly up at him, with a flutter of her eyelashes and a flick of her hair. Damn her. She had no right to behave that way with anyone other than him...except she did. Because Hyde had messed it all up. It was his fault, and this was his penance.

Kelso giggled, reduced by the barest of her arsenal of manipulations into the gooey fool he always was around her. Hyde was sure he wasn't even thinking about the Playboy Club now. "Hey, Jackie."

"Where you going?" she asked, with a flirtatious little pout that suggested he would break her heart by leaving without telling her.

"To get you a—uh, I mean, to get stuff for the party. Right, Fez?"

"Yes, that is right. To get balloons for Miss Kitty's party. And also candy, because they are out of candy."

"Didn't Mrs. Forman just buy three bags full?" Hyde commented.

Fez turned to glare at him. "Are you calling me fat?"

"Huh? I just—"

"Name-caller!" Fez announced. "Come along, Kelso, I do not have to put up with this." And grabbing Kelso by the hand—which, admittedly, wasn't as rare an occurrence as it should have been—he marched away, nose in the air.

Jackie took one quick look at Hyde and turned to call sweetly after them, "See you at the party, Michael!"

"Cut the act, Jackie," Hyde ordered, more irritated with her behavior than he thought possible. "No one's here to see it."

"I don't know what you're talking about," she sniffed.

"I know you know Kelso's going to ask you to marry him. Fez can't keep a secret from us either."

"Yeah, he's a lot more like a girl than Donna that way," said Jackie fondly. "He has nicer nails, too."

Hyde couldn't stand here and listen to her small talk and act like nothing whatsoever was going on. Over the years, he had felt the full spectrum of human emotions when it came to the girl in front of him, but the one thing he tried hardest for was the one he could never manage—indifference.

"Jackie, you can't marry Kelso."

He knew they were the wrong words the moment they left his mouth. Jackie's spine stiffened; even her pretended gaiety disappeared as she crossed her arms and glared at him. "See, the great thing about not being your girlfriend anymore, Hyde, is that I don't have to listen to anything you say. So...bye." With a defiant twirl of her head, she turned on her heel and would have strutted away from him if he hadn't stopped her with his better-chosen words.

"You'd be punishing yourself more than me."

Jackie whirled just as quickly as she'd turned to leave. "You think that's what this is about?" she demanded, stomping back toward him. "Punishing you? I thought you were supposed to be smarter than that; I thought you were supposed to know me. I guess I was as wrong about that as I was about everything else."

Damn it. Now she was going to cry. He had overstepped himself by even bringing this up with her. Hyde had no place in her life anymore; any interference from him was just another slap in the face to her. After all, it was his fault she was like this.

"Jackie, I—"

"I don't want to punish you, Hyde. Go ahead; live your life, have fun with your slutty, brainless wife. But you can't expect me to wait around pining for you while you do. I'm entitled to my own life, too. You weren't willing to give me the things I needed, asked for, begged for, but Michael is now, and you're just going to have to deal with that."

On one level, he knew she was right. She was completely right. But on another level, she had never been so wrong. She was throwing her life away because he had hurt her; whether it was his place or not, Hyde had to make her see that.

"Jackie, why did you want to marry me?"

Her stunning face crinkled in confusion. He knew she hated when she was forced into that look—it was laying groundwork for wrinkles, she said so often even Hyde had remembered it—but he didn't care. She was beautiful like that. She was always beautiful. He should have told her so more often.

"What does that have to do with—"

"Answer the damn question, Jackie," Hyde snapped. "Was it just because you wanted a wedding, with the white dress and napkins folded like swans and all that other crap?"

He had goaded her into a response. She would have to answer to prove she wasn't as shallow as he was making her out to be. The fact that he hadn't believed in her shallowness for a long time now was irrelevant.

"Of course there was more! How can you even ask that? I loved you, Steven. I wanted the world to know that, to know we loved each other and were going to be together forever."

Hyde's focus was lost for a moment at Jackie's words. A pang he wanted nothing to do with was gripping that heart he wished he didn't have at the thought of the future he had so carelessly thrown away. He pushed the regret away; he didn't have time for it today.

He cleared his throat. "Yeah. Well...is that why you want to marry Kelso?"

As she realized how she'd been caught, Jackie glared at him, eyes narrowed to slits. "Oh, you...you...I hope you go bald!"

She turned and ran away. Hyde didn't try to stop her this time.

The anniversary party so lame even the guests of honor couldn't be bothered to show up was nearly a thing of the past. Jackie had said no to Kelso's dumbest plan ever, and the world was a better place for it.

Hyde went into the kitchen to grab himself a celebratory beer. Donna apparently thought something she had said kept Jackie from marrying Kelso. That might be true, but given the moment when Jackie locked eyes with Hyde right before she said no, he doubted it. But he had no plans of advertising his involvement in the whole stupid day to anyone. Let Donna gloat, and Jackie save face, and Kelso and Jackie be on the best terms of their lives before he left tomorrow.

It was enough that she had said no. And it was all Hyde's fault.