Disclaimer: I don't own. I don't steal. I just borrow.
Spoilers: Um, anything through season eight is fair game. Possibly minor ones for unaired episodes, but nothing major.
Author's Notes: So I wasn't going to start posting this story until I was finished, but, as anyone who knows me or has seen the way I eat on Thanksgiving can attest, I have virtually no willpower. On the other hand, I'm very good with excuses, and for this one, I can only say that as (except for the first two parts) each part of this story will be a self-contained vignette, there's no real way to say when it's done, except that I'll have covered all the moments I want. So far, I've completed at least the first drafts of the first four parts, and I'm planning on a seven or eight part series. My new goal is to only post a new chapter when I've finished another one, but given how well the first goal went, uh, we'll see. And for those who have read and so kindly reviewed my other 70s Show stories, I can only promise that this one is almost completely free from angst and full of fluffy fun. So...yay. And in case you're actually still reading these hideously long author's notes, you can stop now. For I am done.
Outside Looking In
I. Donna Gets Answers
The day that Sam left, no one cared. At least, no one directly involved. Or so it seemed to Donna.
It was Mrs. Forman who first told her of it. She had called Donna over as a last resort, after all her efforts to get "Steven" to open up failed.
"He just won't admit it's bothering him," she confided during Donna's briefing before being sent to the front lines. "You know how he gets, all straight-faced and broody, and he says he's fine, but he is not fine, because when your wife picks up and leaves, you can't just be fine. And, here, bring him these cookies when you go; they're his favorites."
So armed with two dozen, peanut-butter chocolate cookies and an insufficient explanation of what had happened, Donna descended into the basement. She wasn't surprised to find Hyde sitting in his chair, legs crossed, face impassive, watching television. She didn't say anything at first. She just placed the plate of cookies down on the rickety, old table in the center of the room and took a seat on the couch, pretending to watch TV herself.
Hyde didn't react to her presence. He didn't even reach for a cookie. Donna wasn't completely sure he was awake behind those glasses.
Trying to beat Hyde at the quiet game had always been useless, and today was no exception. Ten minutes into Charlie's Angels, Donna caved.
"Mrs. Forman told me Sam left this morning," she began. Straightforward was always the best tactic when dealing with Hyde.
"Yep," he affirmed. He didn't move his gaze from the TV screen. He didn't even flinch.
"Come on, Hyde, you must be feeling something. Even if it's just, 'hey, look, cookies.'"
Hyde finally glanced at her, but there was nothing in his face that showed he was the slightest bit disturbed. "Hey. Look. Cookies." And back to the television, it was.
Donna tried another tactic. "Will you at least tell me why she left?"
"She didn't even give you a reason?" Donna let her astonishment show.
"She talked a lot; I didn't listen much."
Frustrated, Donna leaned over and ripped the glasses from Hyde's face.
"Sorry, buddy, but you had your chance to do this the easy way; now we do it my way. You don't get your shades back until I get some freakin' answers!"
Hyde glared at her for a moment, but he relented in the end, as she had known he would. His glasses were too precious to lose. "Fine! But I'm having a cookie first."
Donna hid her smile as he chewed hard, almost as though he was working out all his frustrations on the soft, home-baked treat.
"She left because things weren't working out with us," he confessed after every last morsel of the cookie had been swallowed.
"How is that even possible? I mean, I saw you two together. You never fought. You always seemed to get along perfectly."
"Donna..." Hyde stopped and stood, pacing the room. Donna knew he had always found it easier to talk about the emotional stuff when he didn't have to sit still and bear scrutiny. "You loved Forman, right?"
"What a stupid question. Of course I did." Still did, if the truth were known, but she didn't feel now was an appropriate time to get into her own issues.
"And did you always get along perfectly?"
Donna's mouth tipped. "Sure, if you don't count that million times a day he pissed me off." But she got what he was saying. "But if you knew you didn't love Sam, why'd you let it carry on so long?"
Hyde shrugged again.
"That kind of half-assed attempt to dodge an answer won't get you your glasses back. Personally, I think Randy would look really good in these, so..." She made as if to stand.
"It was just easier," Hyde said, all in a breath, like that was the only possible way he could get it out.
Donna sat back down. "Easier than what?"
"Than dealing with it!"
It was obvious Hyde's irritation with her questions was increasing. She tried to calculate how many more answers she would be able to get out of him and phrase her questions accordingly. She thought back over the events of the last nine months since Sam had first shown up on the Formans' doorstep. Hyde had simply taken it in stride; he was his general impassive self. But Donna had truly believed he wouldn't have let the girl stay if he didn't care for her; that was why she had gone out of her way to befriend her. She had never even considered he would take his "Zen" so far as this. And the more she thought about it, the fewer questions she had. She mostly just had statements.
"You lazy dumbass!"
"You heard me, dumbass! You let that girl throw a year of her life away because you couldn't be bothered to tell her you didn't really want to be married to her?" Now, Donna was the one standing, pacing, ranting, while Hyde had sunk back into his chair. "You would have spent a lifetime with a woman you didn't love because it was, what, more convenient? You selfish, cowardly, lazy dumbass! I think you have finally taken the crown away from Kelso with this one, Hyde. You are the king. And also, where is the stupid helmet? You need to wear the stupid helmet. For, like, a decade." She finally finished, breathing hard and eyes bugging, but feeling much relieved for the outburst.
Her relief vanished, however, when she realized that Hyde was sitting there, laughing—actually, laughing—at her.
Despite herself, Donna felt the urge to smile. She didn't give into it yet, though, because then Hyde would know he wasn't really in trouble, and it was too soon for that. "What's so funny, dumbass?" she said instead, though without any real bite to her words.
"I was thinking about how Mrs. Forman sent you down here to cheer me up."
Donna considered that thought for a moment herself. Kitty had wanted her to get to the "root of Steven's pain" and instead she had screamed at him. And Hyde had much preferred the screaming to any kind of emotional openness. Donna couldn't fight the smile any longer, and soon the smile became a laugh, and she and Hyde were lost in hysterical fits, only interrupted by the moments when she remembered she was still pissed at him on behalf of all womankind and frogged his arm in retaliation.
They were finally starting to calm down when the basement door opened and Jackie and Fez walked in. Jackie rolled her eyes and gave them her best 'I am far too good for the likes of you' look, while Fez pouted.
"You have had circle time without Fez? Basta—ooh, cookies!" And he quickly commandeered the still nearly full plate of Mrs. Forman's cookies.
"No, no, I swear we haven't dipped into the stash," Donna promised, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.
Jackie crossed her arms. "Then what's so funny?"
"His wife left him!" Donna shouted, pointing at Hyde, and then giggling again.
"What?" said Fez, so panicked he dropped his third cookie. "The stripper is gone? Donna, that is not funny; that is a tragedy! Hyde, how could you let your stripper wife leave without once having done the dance of love with Fez?"
Hyde ignored Fez's comment, but his eyes, still sans glasses, were fixed on Jackie's face. Donna's laughter subsided immediately, as another piece of the puzzle came together. She looked up at Jackie, who was standing near the doorway, arms crossed, expression disdainful. Jackie raised one eyebrow in curt, silent response to whatever it was she sensed in Hyde's look, and then coldly announced, "You'd better give Steven his glasses back, Donna. His emotions are showing."
With no further reaction and apparently unconcerned how she had shocked the others, Jackie sat down in the lawn chair closest to the door, grabbed a magazine off the table, and set about ignoring them all.
Donna was so busy gaping at her friend she barely noticed when Hyde swiped his glasses back and returned to his Zen pose in front of the TV. She stole a glance at Fez, but he was still enamored of the cookie plate and didn't seem to have noticed the interplay between the two. It was at times like this she especially missed Eric. They had so perfected a silent language over the years that a single look would have said it all between them.
Now, she was on her own, trying to decipher what was going on between her two best friends. It was odd that after so long together—all right, off and on together—so very little had been said or assumed about Jackie and Hyde this past year. From the time Jackie had come into the basement and announced she was done with men, she had never shown the least indication that Hyde was in her thoughts—even though men had, of course, resumed their place there eventually. She had always hated Sam, of course, but Donna thought it little different from the continued resentment Jackie always bore toward her ex-boyfriends' new girlfriends. She had been convinced Jackie had moved on and had never felt the need to discuss it with her.
She wondered suddenly if she had been wrong to assume so. If, more than that, she had been a bad friend not to notice what her best friend had been going through all year. But then, she hadn't noticed what was up with Hyde either. And neither of them seemed to really care that underneath her pretended indifference and new romance, Donna was still struggling daily with losing Eric. When had they all grown so far apart they never talked about the real issues in their lives anymore?
It had to change, Donna decided. So Eric was gone, and Kelso was gone. Four of them were still here, and she would be damned before she let the rest of her friendships just quietly slip away. And she would start by figuring out this whole Jackie and Hyde mess.
Fez's whimpering drew Donna out of her thoughts. "Fez! What's wrong?"
"I am just so sad about Hyde's wife. Remember when she would spank her ass? Why don't you two ever spank your asses?" He glared accusingly from Donna to Jackie. "Or each other's asses?"
"I know what would cheer you up," Hyde told him.
"I am sorry, Hyde. You are a good friend, but it does nothing for me when you spank your ass."
Hyde shot him a disgusted look. "Man, you get creepier by the day."
Twenty minutes later, they were gathered in the sacred circle. Hyde in his usual chair, Donna on the couch, Jackie in Eric's chair—Donna still thought of it as his and wasn't sure the day would ever come when she didn't—and Fez on the ottoman.
"So, guys," she announced, once the lovely haze in her head had made all her loneliness and worries seem to float away, "I've decided something. I've decided that...we're all just slipping away from each other, you know? Like, down the drain, drip, drip, dripping away." She had the feeling her friends weren't understanding her, so she used her fingers to illustrate, little drops dripping down, and, "Down came the rain and washed the spider out," she sang.
Jackie looked at her in revulsion, but then turned her attention across the table to Hyde. "Well, I, for one, feel bad for Steven. I mean, who would ever have guessed that a drunken marriage with a slutty stripper wouldn't end in 'happily ever after'? Oh wait! I did."
"I wish I had married a slutty stripper," moped Fez. "I married a whorey Laurie, but that was not the same. She would only be whorey with everyone else but me. Why do the whores not love the Fez?"
"You've got peanut butter on your chin, man," Hyde told him.
"So once there was this spider on my wall, and I smashed it—BAM!" Donna's hand flew onto the table, upsetting its uncertain balance and making the others jump away. "With my bare hand! 'Cause I have, like, huge hands. I bet I could crush a cat with these hands. Not that I would, I like cats. But maybe a big cat, like a cougar, I bet I could crush a cougar!"
"Don't be stupid, Donna! You couldn't smash a cougar with your hands. You'd have to step on it with your giant feet. Just like Steven's stripper wife stepped all over his cold, dead heart." There was a little too much glee in Jackie's voice in that last burn.
"To hell with whores who do not love Fez!" Fez roared. He bit into another cookie. "What Fez needs is not a whore, but a woman who bakes. Like Miss Kitty. But, also, a whore. Baking gives me needs."
"You know what, Jackie?" Hyde started, leaning across the table toward her, before changing his mind, sinking back into his seat. "No, you know what? Never mind. Think what you want."
"Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man. Oh, man, I just got that! See, like, you pat a cake. Pat-a-cake! How awesome is that?"
"Oh, don't worry, Steven. I will think what I want, and I will be right no matter what I think. Because I? Am always right."
Fez leered at Jackie. "Ooh, someone is being feisty today." He turned to Hyde. "Are you just going to let her speak to you like that? I think someone needs a spanking, and that someone is Jackie."
Hyde's inexpressive gaze was rooted on his ex-girlfriend. "Believe me, don't tempt me."
"Have you not been listening? I am trying to tempt you! Spank that naughty girl," Fez ordered. "No, wait!" He grabbed the last cookie from the plate. "Now, you may proceed."
When the munchies had subsided, as well as that lava lamp glow to everything in the room, Donna invited Jackie back to her place for the evening. Because if she had to listen to Fez complain one more time about how no one had been spanked, she would be minus another friend.
Besides, it was the perfect opportunity to begin putting her plan into action. She figured Hyde had been grilled enough for one day, and he was liable to start lashing out if she put him on the spot again. Especially about such an always touchy subject as his feelings for Jackie.
But Jackie never had trouble spilling her guts about anything; the problem had always been getting her to shut up once she had begun. Donna had decided this was an occasion for which it was worth taking that risk. To make the process easier, she had even agreed to let Jackie give her a manicure—though she put her foot down at the prospect of another facial.
"So..." was Donna's articulate beginning, as Jackie scrubbed furiously at her fingernails and every few minutes mumbled something about proper cuticle care.
"Really, Donna, do you even have a nail file?"
"Yes, though by the time you're done assaulting my fingers, there may not be any nails left to trim. I'll be known as Stumpy for the rest of my life."
Jackie glared at her, but gentled a bit with her hands.
Donna frowned. When had it become a difficulty to get information out of Jackie? "So, Jackie, anything you'd like to talk to me about?" Not unlike with Hyde, though for entirely different reasons, direct approaches worked best with Jackie.
"Oh! Well, I was at the salon yesterday, and who should walk in but Pam 'I'm so slutty I'd do it with my own brother, which is why my parents made sure I was an only child' Macy. So I said to her—"
"Hyde!" Donna broke in, unable to sit through a round of Jackie gossip, in addition to the manicure. There were only so many sacrifices you could make in a day. "I meant did you want to talk about Hyde?"
Jackie looked up at her, honest confusion in her face. "Steven? Why would I want to talk about Steven?"
"Uh, because his wife left him today? Because of the way he was looking at you, and those awful things you said to him? It just happened; you can't pretend it meant nothing."
Jackie simply shrugged, a self-defense mechanism Donna knew she had picked up from Hyde. They had influenced each other so much in their years together. Donna used to think that was a good thing; now she wasn't so sure.
"Don't do that!" she ordered. "I've had enough of that from Hyde today. Come on, Jackie. You know you can talk to me. Just tell me: are you really over Hyde?"
"Honestly? I don't know, okay? It was like, he was my whole world, and then he wasn't in my life at all, and I couldn't even let myself think about him, couldn't get closure, no matter what I said, because we never had a chance to even talk it out. He was married, and that's all there was to it. Like our time together didn't matter to him at all. Like it never even happened." The pain in Jackie's voice now that she was finally talking was so intense Donna wondered how she could ever have missed seeing it all these months.
"And now?" she asked, softly, apologetically.
Jackie shrugged again, discarding Donna's hand and turning her attention to her own nails. "And now...I don't know. He hurt me a lot, Donna. Too much, maybe. But I'm the one who let him. I'm the one who made him my world, and then demanded he make me his. I don't want to go back to that."
"No one said you had to. But if you still love him, don't you think you could be with him without making those same mistakes?"
"Maybe. I mean, it's possible. I think I've grown up a lot this year; I've learned to stand on my own, and I'm proud of myself for that. But, when all is said and done, I still want the things I've always wanted—a husband, a house, kids, security—and I've finally accepted that Steven is never going to be the kind of man who will provide those things. So it's a dead end road, and I'm not walking down it again."
"And so the constant burns were...what exactly?"
"Fun?" Jackie supplied uncertainly, as though even she wasn't sure of her motives.
"Oh sure, hurting someone you love is always a rush."
Jackie tossed her head. "Yeah, well, he hurt me first and worst. The way I see it, this is what he's had coming for a long time. His skank wife is gone, so what? If he expects me to fall all over myself over him again, he's wrong, and he should know it."
Try as she might, Donna couldn't get Jackie to say more on the subject.
Jackie went home to the apartment she shared with Fez about an hour later. Donna waited until she had vanished from sight before she sneaked back to the Formans' basement. With Jackie so unexpectedly close-lipped, Donna had decided to give it one last shot with Hyde. It was still early enough he should be up, and sure enough, when she entered, she found him on the couch with a can of beer and the television blaring.
"Nice to see you're recovering so quickly from your heartbreak," Donna teased, as she sat beside him.
"If you mention that one more time, girl or not, I'm gonna kick your ass."
"You couldn't take me," Donna boasted. "But if you answer one last question for me, I promise I'll never bring it up again as long as I live."
Hyde grunted his disbelief. "Whatever."
"Was Jackie the reason Sam left?"
Hyde was silent so long Donna was convinced he wasn't going to answer. She sighed in defeat, grabbed a beer, and sat back to watch TV in silence with him.
She was halfway through her beer and three-quarters of the way through an episode of Baretta when Hyde's answer threw her for another whirl.
"Jackie was the reason I told her to go."
Hyde turned to look at her. "What?"
"Now I have a million questions, and I promised I wouldn't ask any of them."
He only smirked.