Here it is – the final chapter! Thank you to all those who reviewed. I've really enjoyed writing this story because it gave me a chance to write something a bit more light-hearted than usual, going back to the pre-soap-opera spirit of the early seasons. Long live the comedy!
"Hurry up, you guys," Kelso urged, "they've already started."
Fez, Eric and Donna joined their excited friend along with many other music lovers in the long line snaking from the club's entrance. Fez's enthusiasm was a perfect match for Kelso's, however Donna and Eric did not appear to have caught their vibe.
"Excuse me, my good man," Kelso addressed the bouncer in a deep voice, "I don't like to pull rank, but we are close, personal friends of one of the band."
"Yes, we are," Fez agreed, "except we didn't know it until today."
"And they weren't supposed to know it on any day," Donna growled under her breath.
"Geez, Donna, how long are you going to hold this against me?" Eric groaned.
"Oh, it's much too early to give a ball park figure on that one, Big Mouth," Donna retorted. "As far as grudges go, we are only in the larval stage of this one. Ask me again when it's had some time to grow legs."
"Donna, I think you are losing sight of what is important here," Kelso remonstrated with the smouldering redhead. "That is, we have to go in there, find Hyde and burn him over this whole Jackie/Blue thing until he has reached the texture of beef jerky."
Eric turned to Donna. "He does make a good point."
Donna considered this, shrugged her shoulders and then dazzled the bouncer with a seductive smile and flash of bra strap which soon had all four teens ushered through the sacred portal.
The mood in the club was electric, with the band throwing down a mixture of soft rock, hard rock and those good old classics that make you turn to the stranger next to you and say "I love this song!" As the foursome came into view of the stage, they marvelled afresh that the girl who had annoyed, browbeaten and chattered at them for months on end was the same saucy blonde babe casting some kind of tribal spell over the audience with her mastery of the drumsticks. So mesmerising was her allure that they lost sight of their prime objective, until Fez accidentally bumped into Hyde while jostling for a better view of Jackie.
"Hyde! Look guys, it's Hyde!" Fez announced. "Now Hyde, don't get confused. It's me, Fez. And this is Donna, and that weedy guy over there is Eric."
"Yeah, I know who you all are, Fez," Hyde answered.
Kelso could not hold back his delighted grin. "Just trying to help you out, man. We know how you sometimes have trouble recognising your closest friends, especially in rock clubs. BURN!"
Hyde's contented smile did not slip for a moment as he contemplated his friends. "Nice one, Kelso. You been working on that long?"
"Oh yeah, me and Fez have been brainstorming all afternoon. That's what's known as a tandem burn. Hey, Eric, you're up."
"OK, I got one," Eric said, squaring up to Hyde. "Hey, Hyde – it's a good thing your fro never loses its shape. Now you won't have to worry about getting helmet hair when you spend the next month wearing the stupid helmet!"
Hyde considered Eric's burn. "Nah, Fez and Kelso's was better. Your focus on hair styling was a bit too effeminate for a good burn." His friends stared at him, thrown off by his unflappable good humour. "How about you, Donna? You've always been the brains of this group – after me. I'm expecting something a bit more cerebral from you – the thinking man's burn."
Kelso's face fell ludicrously as he voiced the obvious. "Damn it, Hyde! When someone burns you, have the decency to get pissed off about it! All this…not caring and… contentment – you make me sick!"
Donna peered closely into Hyde's beaming face and read the story written there. "Oh my God, you're happy! I don't think I've ever seen this before. I mean, I've seen you taunting, and I've seen you mocking, and I've seen you sardonic but I don't think I've ever seen you happy."
"Well, not without the aid of certain substances," Eric amended.
"Hey, I can take a burn, Forman, but you start calling me happy and I will open up a can of Red Forman on your ass," Hyde threatened, managing to wipe the grin off his face for a record 5 seconds. But then he caught sight of Jackie wielding her wooden servants in a blistering, machine gun-like burst of notes across the snares and crash cymbals and the menace melted off his face. Eric followed his gaze and came to the correct conclusion.
"Awww, it looks like Steven's decided a 2 for 1 deal isn't so bad," he teased, but secretly the soft spot that he had recently developed for Jackie was happy for her.
"Good. That'll be some consolation for poor Jackie," Kelso said. "Now she won't be too heartbroken that I won't take her back." Kelso mistook his friends' expressions of disbelief at his capacity for self-delusion. "Come on! You know I can't be with a girl who is sneakier than I am! It would destroy the whole basis of our relationship."
"That basis being where you cheat on her with every slut in reach 'cause she's too naive to catch on?" Hyde clarified.
"Exactly. That arrangement's not gonna work now I've seen how good she is at deception. I tell you, she's gotten too complicated for me."
"Kelso, the children's placemat puzzles at Fatso Burger are too complicated for you," Hyde responded.
"Hey, those placemats are… impossible," Kelso objected with his usual explosive style. "Anyhow, I guess I'll have to downgrade our relationship to just friends."
"Fine, just don't go saying her name too loud – she's still undercover."
"I'm not an idiot, Hyde." Just then Jackie completed a thrilling drum solo, prompting Kelso to catcall loudly, "Woohooo! Go, Jackie – I mean, Blue!" Hyde frogged his arm in punishment, prompting Kelso to try and make up for his gaff. "That is, go drummer chick who I've never met before in my life." He wiped the back of his hand across his brow. "Phew! Almost dropped the ball on that one," he murmured to Fez.
As the song ended, Trevor addressed the movers and groovers around him. "Alright, Point Place, here's a song from the Piano Man himself, dedicated to all you badass boys and girls who like to keep secrets." He gestured to Dave, who gentled the frenetic mood of the club with a slow piano intro, but then the song shifted straight from first gear to fourth as Trevor broke in with some kickass guitar work. Stepping up to the mike, he sang out:-
Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on
Well, we all fall in love
But we disregard the danger
Though we share so many secrets
There are some we never tell
Why were you so surprised
That you never saw the stranger
Did you ever let your lover see
The stranger in yourself?
Don't be afraid to try
Everyone goes south
Every now and then
You've done it, why can't someone else?
You should know by now
You've been there yourself
Jackie and Hyde grinned at each other in silent agreement that the best burn of the evening would have to go to Trevor for his song selection. Then inspiration hit Jackie as to a fitting climax for the song, and she threw a wink at her new officially designated boyfriend just before she reached a hand up to grasp the forehair of her wig.
You may never understand
How the stranger is inspired
But she isn't always evil
And she is not always wrong
Though you drown in good intentions
You will never quench the fire
You'll give in to your desire
When the stranger comes along.
A collective gasp swept the club as the Hot Chick drummer tore off her blonde wig and cap and threw them into the crowd, shortly followed by her shades. With a sexy hair flick honed from hours of watching Charlie's Angels, she unleashed her raven tresses to the hot-blooded approval of every male present. Her final drum solo was the only noise loud enough to rival the shout of approval that rose up from the masses.
As the set ended with this song, Hyde, Eric, Donna, Kelso, Fez and Trevor rushed to Jackie to form a protective barrier around her to shield her from the fans. There was little doubt regarding Hyde and Jackie's new understanding as she threw herself into his eager arms.
"Oh baby, that was awesome," he panted in between the desperate kisses they shared. "But what happened to all the secrecy? I thought your parents would come down hard on you if it got out who you are."
"Yeah, well, I figure if they have a problem having a drummer for a daughter maybe I'll start having a problem having embezzlers for parents. Like if the town council were to find out that the only fact they found out in their last "fact-finding mission" to Aruba was how to make the perfect Harvey Wallbanger, things could get kind of sticky for them."
Hyde stared at Jackie in amazement. "You'd really blackmail your own parents to get your way?" An admiring smile grew on his face. "You're really coming along!" The next time Jackie came up for air from their latest breathless kiss, Trevor observed, "Well, judging from the audience response, I don't think management are going to get too inquisitive about your real age. Might start cutting into their profit margins if they did."
"It's like I always told you guys," Jackie said smugly. "It's all about popularity and money!"
"Hey, does this mean I don't have to pretend you're not Jackie when you're not you?" Kelso asked hopefully. "Because that was starting to get real confusing,"
"Yeah, but you did manage to play along at least 5 whole minutes before you slipped up," Donna reassured the handsome doofus. "At least you did better than Eric."
"What does she mean?" Jackie asked Hyde.
"Oh, she's referring to Eric spilling the beans about your little Wonder Woman deal to Kelso and Fez," Hyde explained.
"Eric!" Jackie cried reproachfully. "What the hell?"
"It was an accident!" he defended himself against the two female stares directed at him. "Everyone knows if there's a wrong thing to say, you can count on me to say it." Eric suddenly pointed an accusing finger at his girlfriend. "You know this about me, Donna! You knew that when you told me. When it all comes down to it, this is all your fault."
As Jackie's cool stare turned towards her best friend, Donna nervously pasted on her face a conciliatory smile. "Hey, let's not play the blame game here," she cajoled. "Look at how well everything turned out! You and Hyde are in – well, I guess some people would call it love, like those anthropologists who spy on remote African villages. And now you've found the courage to do without your disguise so it doesn't really matter who knows now. All's well that ends well, right? Am I right?" Donna's nerves were not allayed by the conspiratorial smirk Jackie and Hyde shared.
"Donna," Jackie said, walking towards her friend and taking her hands between her own. "You don't have to be guilty or nervous. As your friend I will always be there for you – to teach you how to do handstands, and forward rolls, and the best way to get the creases in your pleated skirt extra crisp. Oh Donna," Jackie enthused, clapping her hands excitedly, "it's going to be so much fun to have you on the cheerleading squad."
Donna's look of dismay was in comical juxtaposition to Fez and Kelso's expressions of delight. "Donna will be a hot cheerleader and Jackie will be a sexy musician? It is like my private fantasies are coming true!" Fez said gleefully.
Kelso nodded in full agreement. "Although it's sort of like the wires have gotten crossed along the way," he added. "I mean, can you imagine Donna as a cheerleader?" There was a moment of silence at the thought before all five of her closest friends sputtered out guffaws of laughter at the notion.
"Hey, if Jackie can be a drummer I sure as hell can handle freaking cheerleading," Donna asserted angrily. "Dillholes," she muttered as their hilarity doubled in volume.
"Guys, guys, let's break it up," Trevor interrupted, glancing at his watch. "Time for the final set."
"Sure, man. Hey, you want to join us after the gig?" Eric invited. "We were thinking we'd grab some pizza."
"Only if that's alright with Blue here," Trevor said with a half-smile at Jackie. "We've always had an understanding that our association was strictly hush-hush. You know, what with me knowing about her special skills and all."
"Oh Trevor," Jackie said, turning towards her oldest friend with softened eyes. "It wasn't because you knew about the drumming that I never told anyone about our friendship. It's just that you were the first person who ever really got me and I kind of wanted to keep you to myself, sort of like a feel-good secret to make me smile when I was down. You know?"
Trevor smiled back widely and stepped into Jackie's open arms for a hug. "Yeah, I know what you mean, kiddo," he said gently. "But I think it's time you extended the Meet-the-Real-Jackie-Burkhart-Secret-Society to include a few more members – Beulah."
"Ohmigod!" Donna cried. "That's why you call her Blue, isn't it? It's short for Beulah!"
"OK, it's music time, people," Jackie declared, shooing her friends off the stage and forestalling further questions. "Come on, we've got a show to finish!"
"So, Hyde," Eric said, as they watched the band work its way through the final songs, "Looks like you've got one unusual girlfriend there."
"I guess you could say that," Hyde answered, his eyes fixed on the lady in question.
"Yep, she sure is a bundle of surprises," Eric continued. "Me, I like a bit more predictability. I don't think I could handle it if I found out Donna had a secret life. I mean, how do you deal with something like that?"
"It's like the old saying goes, Forman," Hyde said with his trademark smirk. "You've got to fight fire with fire."
"Right," Eric agreed, but then thought about what Hyde said. "Alright, I don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"And now, for our final number," Trevor shouted into the microphone, "I'd like to call up the newest member of our band who will soon become a permanent fixture – Steven Hyde!"
As Hyde stepped onto the stage and took the bass guitar offered by Vince, he didn't know which was more gratifying, the gaping stares of his friends or the blank amazement on his girlfriend's face. Praying that his playing would go as smoothly as it did last night when he practiced with Trevor, he picked up Dave's cue and came into the song seamlessly.
down the highway
Goin' to a show
Stop in all the byways
Playin' rock 'n' roll
Gettin' beat up
I tell you folks
It's harder than it looks
It's a long way to the
top if you wanna rock 'n' roll
It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll
As Donna watched Hyde, who she had only ever seen use a guitar as a prop to appear cool, she pinched her boyfriend's arm to get his attention. When he turned to her, his face as astounded as her own, she shouted into his ear "Who the hell are these friends of ours? What are they, like pod people or something?"
"Don't ask me," Eric yelled back. "I'm just his best friend. It's not like I'm supposed to know him or anything."
Make you wanna cry
Lady do the hard sell
Know the reason why
Gettin' ripped off
That's how it goes
Playin' in a band
It's a long way to the
top if you wanna rock 'n' roll
It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll
The song ended to tumultuous applause and no sooner did Hyde set down the guitar than his arms were full of his animated girlfriend, bubbling over with questions.
"Steven, how could you not tell me about this?" she demanded indignantly, slapping his chest for daring to keep such a secret from her.
"Hey, you've got to count on a bit of mystery if you want to get together with a guy like me," Hyde warned her, smoothing his hands over her shapely body. "I told you from the start, baby – ambiguity; that's what zen is all about."
Oh, and in case there's anybody reading this story who has lived under a music-deprived rock for the last 30 years, the two songs in this fic are The Stranger by Billy Joel and A Long Way to the Top by ACDC