Disclaimer: All characters and their histories belong to someone who isn't me.

A/N: This takes place in the "present" so includes spoilers for anything that's already aired in the U.S. It's mostly Hyde centric, but what's Hyde without Jackie?


Chapter 1 - Red

Hyde sat at the kitchen table, staring at the stack of papers in front of him. His head rested wearily in his hands and his eyes began to glaze over as he tried to make sense of the legal jargon. The trademark shades rested on the table, off to one side. This was some serious business and he needed to see clearly.

Man, why didn't I fill these stupid papers out when WB first sent them? Now I've got to make all of these stupid decisions and I don't give a damn about any of them. What do I care which HMO screws me out of my not-so-hard-earned money? What a scam.

Hyde's inner rant was interrupted by Red's whistling as he slid open the patio door and strolled into the kitchen. His unusually cheerful demeanor was in sharp contrast to the younger man's defeated one.

Happy to catch Red in a rare moment of contentment, Hyde took the opportunity to ask him a favor. "Hey, Red. Can I ask you something?"

Grabbing an apple from the fruit basket, Red turned around, leaning back against the counter. "What's the matter? You forget how to read?" He smiled, satisfied with himself, as he bit into his apple.

Hyde smirked at him. "Ha ha. I'm not Laurie."

Red's face clouded over and his eyebrows furrowed as he glared. Hyde mentally prepared himself for the Wrath of Red. He knew from experience that, of all the topics that get Red hot under the color, Laurie's…shortcomings were high on the list. Just under The Fallibility of the United States Government, but above Idiot Foreign Drivers.

Inexplicably, the anger left Red's face and he merely shrugged as he turned his attention back to his snack. Hyde was speechless. He turned his hands over on the table, palms up, and raised his shoulders in silent question. Had Mr. Forman gone soft on him?

"You know, Steven, Laurie may not be the brightest bulb on the tree," Red began, using the tone he reserved for lecturing the boys. "Kitty and I spent many a night worrying about how she'd turn out."

Oh God. Now he was laying on the guilt, which was weird coming from him. That was usually Mrs. Forman's M.O. Hyde found it disconcerting. He wasn't sure he liked this kindler, gentler Red Forman.

"But I've gotta say, she's turned out a hell of a lot better than we were afraid she might. After all, she could have ended up a stripper." He exaggerated his last word, lowering his apple and looking pointedly at Hyde before grinning victoriously.

There it is! The Red I know and love. "Nice," Hyde offered in defeat and just a touch of admiration. Too absorbed in the task waiting for him on the table, couldn't think of a clever response. He just bobbed his head slightly, returning his gaze to the documents spread in front of him. Red joined him at the table, sitting in his usual seat.

"What you got there?" he asked, gesturing toward the stack of papers.

"It's, um, medical stuff. For work. I've got to fill out these forms for the insurance company."

"Ah, welcome to the world of being a grown-up, Son. There's a lot of forms. A lot of standing in lines, and spending money buying things you don't want and trying to avoid idiot foreign drivers, but mostly? There's a lot of forms."

"Yeah, I'm finding that out," Hyde responded dryly. "So what I needed from you is your phone number at the shop. And Mrs. Forman's at the hospital, too, if you have it."

"What for?"

Trying to sound casual, Hyde answered, "Well, I need to put someone down as my emergency contact person and I just kind of figured…you'd do."

"Really." It was supposed to be a question, but sounded more like a statement.

"Yeah, man. I mean, you guys signed all my permission slips and detention notes and all that other school crap, so I thought, 'Hell, we've had a good run. Why not extend the tour?'"

"Well, your tour of living in my basement has been extended beyond the limits of reason, so I guess that makes sense."

Hyde grinned, knowing Red was just giving him a hard time as usual. But after a moment, the smile faded and he was quiet, serious now. He looked down at his hands as he continued, trying to explain himself to his best friend's father. He wanted Red to understand why, after all he and Mrs. Forman had done for him, he was asking for yet another favor.

"Look, I can't put my mom because I don't even know where she is right now. Not that I'd want her anyway. And there's my dad, but he's not all that close by and…"

He sighed, frustrated with himself because he wasn't saying it right.

"I just…I feel like…you guys have been more like parents to me than either of them anyway." He had to rush to get the last part out and he was slightly out of breath.

Red just looked at the boy, taken slightly aback. He knew how hard it was for someone like Hyde to say something like that, to admit something like that. He knew because it was just as hard for him. They were a lot alike, he and Hyde. They both needed people to think they were tough, like nothing ever got to them. But there were times when pride had to be pushed aside, and this was one of them. He reached over, gripped Hyde's shoulder firmly, and looked him straight in the eye.

"Son, nowhere is it written that you have to list your biological parents as your emergency contacts. Or anything else for that matter," he added.

The tone in Red's voice did nothing to conceal his feelings about Hyde's parents and their treatment of their son. For as much as he gave Eric a hard time, he couldn't fathom how Bud and Edna could abandon their only child. WB seemed to have stepped up to the plate, but part of Red felt like it was too late in coming. The truth was, there were many times over the last few years that he had felt like he himself was the boy's father, at least in the ways that mattered. And this was definitely one of those times.

He felt downright paternal as he continued dispensing his fatherly advice.

"This is not a decision to be taken lightly, Steven. You should choose the person you would trust with life and death decisions. Who would know you well enough to tell the doctors important information. The one you'd want to notify your friends if you were in an accident. The person whose face you'd want to see after regaining consciousness."

He paused to let his words sink in. But mostly because, though he'd deny it later, he was getting choked up at the thought of Hyde lying unconscious at Point Place General. He coughed then, regaining his voice. "Kitty and I would be happy to be that person for you. Proud," he amended. "We'd be proud."

Hyde was visibly relieved. He let out the breath he didn't realize he had been holding. "Thanks, man."

"You're welcome." Red smiled, satisfied that he had gotten that little speech out fairly painlessly. He felt like he was on a roll, so he continued. "Mind if I ask you something, though?"

"Sure." Hyde shrugged, relaxed now that the sappiness was over.

"Why didn't you put down your wife's name?"

The silent stare that answered him told Red that the thought was entering Hyde's mind for the very first time. His suspicions confirmed, he continued, "You know, it is customary for a man to list his wife as his emergency contact."

Red's words hung silently in the air for several moments. He wondered if Hyde was figuring out what he and Kitty had known from the beginning: that while he and Samantha might be having a lot of fun shacked up, what they had was nothing close to a marriage. He hoped he was.

Finally deciding to leave Hyde alone with his thoughts, Red stood. But there was something that he'd been meaning to tell him, although he never could seem to find the right time. Maybe now was it. "You know, Steven…" He paused to clear his throat. "Kitty and I have kept mostly quiet about some of the…choices you've made this year because, well, you're a grown man now and your life is your own to lead. And part of being a man is living with the consequences of your…"

Hyde stood up, shaking his head and lifting his hand to interrupt. "I know what you're gonna say, Red, and I get it. 'I made my bed', right? You can spare me the lecture."

"Actually, I wasn't finished. Although that is an unusual remark coming from someone so newly married," he added with more than a trace of sarcasm. It wasn't lost on Hyde as he sat back down to hear the rest.

"What I was going to say was that the other part of being a man, the hardest part, is admitting when your decisions were wrong. And doing whatever it takes to fix it." He looked down sympathetically at Hyde, who was staring silently ahead into middle distance. He knew the boy well enough to know he wouldn't get a response from him, but he felt compelled to add, "Even when it seems easier to just keep it broken."

Satisfied that he had said his peace and fulfilled his parental duty in giving Hyde something to think about, he patted the boy's shoulder twice and headed toward the driveway. As he reached to open the sliding-glass door, he changed his mind. He turned and walked back through the kitchen, heading toward the living room. Where he knew he would find Kitty. He smiled to himself, glad that she was his emergency contact.