A/N: Here we are, the end of the road for this story. There may be more T7S stories from me in the future, but right now I gotta take a break and wait for the inspiration to hit me again! In the in between time, I have to say thanx so much to everyone who read this, and moreso to everyone who review - you guys all totally rock :-)
(For disclaimer, etc. - see chapter 1)
"Mrs Forman, Mr Forman" Hyde greeted the pair with a forced grin as he emerged in the living room, closing the door behind him, "What a great surprise"
"Well, we were just in the neighbourhood and we thought we'd drop in, see how you're doing" Kitty lied like a pro, and Red stared at her in disbelief as she did so.
"That's cool" Hyde nodded, "Honestly, everything is fine here"
"Yeah, it looks real... fine" Red said looking entirely unconvinced as his eyes drifted around the room - the paint was peeling off the walls, there were clothes and magazines and beer cans strewn all over, the stuffing was coming out of the armchair, and the space where he presumed the TV had once been stood empty.
"Oh, look now, I did a little grocery shopping for you" Kitty seemed to suddenly remember she had the large paper bag in her hands, and she passed it over to Hyde who took it and peered inside at real food and proper supplies that he couldn't afford, "Gotta have your four food groups" Kitty laughed almost crazily and Hyde nodded in agreement, as he thanked the Formans for their generosity.
If anybody else had come here, giving him free food, suddenly offering to take that food and tidy it away whilst cleaning the kitchen, Hyde would've got angry at them making him a charity case. It was different with the Formans. They were almost like a family to Hyde, who's own parents had never really had any time for him. From the day he met Eric at school, Kitty and Red had kind of become his surrogate Mom and Dad, ensuring he was fed and clean and surviving the life that no child or young man should have been subjected too.
"Uh, you need a coffee table" Red said suddenly in the midst of an awkward silence shortly after Kitty had disappeared into the kitchen.
"Yeah, that'd really pull the room together" Hyde nodded, glancing back towards the door behind himself, wondering what it was going to take to get them to leave so he could get back to Jackie already.
"Steven, is there some place else you need to be?" Red asked him, as he caught him glancing over his shoulder for the seventh time, "Or do I not want to know what you were doing before we arrived?" he asked with a look that Steven understood only too well, "Are you on dope?" he snapped, pointing a finger at the startled young man, "Because I am not having some hop-head living under my roof, I..."
"Under your roof?" Hyde suddenly looked puzzled as Kitty came bustling back out of the kitchen.
"Well, Steven, I was going to clean but honestly, I was too afraid to even put the groceries away" she admitted, hugging the paper bag she had taken with her.
"Hold on a second" Hyde shook his head and turned back to Red, "You said something about living under your roof?"
"No, I didn't" he said quickly, realising what a mistake he'd made.
He'd been the one to say, in no uncertain terms, that whilst they would try to help Steven out, he would not, under any circumstances, be invited to come and live at the Forman family home. Sub-consciously he must have thought differently. Deep down he'd known from the start that they'd be taking the virtual orphan home with them, no matter what.
"Oh, Red" Kitty grinned, as she hugged him tight, "You do care"
"For God sakes, Kitty, not in front of the boy!" Red said sternly, pushing his wife away gently, "You'll give him weird ideas" he said, as Hyde looked away.
He had some ideas about getting close to women, mostly just the one woman right now, and they weren't weird ideas, mostly they were just hot. All this reminded him that Jackie was still in his bed waiting for him, and that thought led to a few others that he was almost too embarrassed to process in front of Eric's parents.
"Steven!" Red suddenly snapped, catching his attention, "Now, we all know you can't live here by yourself like this, so get your crap together and get in the damn car, because you're coming home to live with us. Understood?" he yelled, pointing a stern finger and looking so mad about the whole thing that even Hyde jumped a little at the fierceness of his look and tone.
Still, the sentiment was not lost on him, even if it wasn't obvious. Red was a hard ass but his heart was in the right place, and Hyde knew what a big deal it was that the Formans were offering to let him come stay at their house.
"Come on, Steven" Kitty said with a smile, "I'll help you pack up your things" she offered, turning him towards the door that led to his bedroom.
For a moment, Hyde let her follow him, before suddenly remembering all too quickly why this was the worst idea ever.
"No!" he shouted suddenly, turning back from the door and startling the poor woman so much she almost fell down, "I... er, I can get my stuff" he said quickly, "You two should maybe wait for me in the car because... y'know I think there might be a rat problem" he told them, looking awkward.
Kitty was soon running for the door faster than Hyde had ever seen anybody move in his life, and though Red waited long enough to tell Steven to move his lazy ass, he seemed almost just as eager to get out.
Grinning to himself, Hyde headed back to his room and was a little surprised to find Jackie now standing on his bed with a baseball bat in her hands.
"What the hell, Jackie?" he said as he looked up at her, and she peered down with wide eyes.
"You said there were rats, Steven!" she shrieked, "I am not staying here to be attacked by rats!"
"Relax, man" Hyde shook his head, and repressing a chuckle, "There are no rats, I just had to say something to get the Formans to leave, so I got a chance to talk to you"
"Oh" Jackie let her arms fall to her side, the bat slipping from her grasp and landing in the bed by her feet, "You're sure you made it up?" she checked warily, as Hyde walked over.
"I'm sure" he nodded once, putting his hands to her waist, lifting her down from the bed, and standing her in front of him, "but we do kind of have a problem" he said, glancing towards the door and back, "I can't tell the Formans you're in here, not if I'm going to move into their house..."
"Well, I can stay here a while" his girlfriend shrugged as she put her arms up around his neck, "It's not like I never stayed in a house alone before, and I know you'll come get me as soon as you can"
"I'll get Forman to drive me back over here as soon as I can get free from Mrs Forman's mothering" he promised, with appropriate eye roll, before kissing his girlfriend, who happily kissed him back.
The honking of the car horn outside parted the young couple and regretfully Hyde had to let Jackie go and get together any stuff he absolutely needed. A couple of changes of clothes and so on, and he was done.
"Don't be too long" Jackie said from her position laid out on his bed, with a look on her face that made Hyde wish he really did not have to leave right now, but he did.
"I'll be back, doll" he assured her before finally leaving the room and the house.
Jackie picked up the magazine that Steven had bought her and settled down to read until he came back. The grin on her face would not shift as she thought of how good things could be from now on. She had the perfect boyfriend, at least he was perfect for her, and he was getting out of this scabby house. It was all working out and Jackie couldn't be happier about it.
"Hey, thanks for this, man" Hyde said as the Vista Cruiser pulled up outside his old home some two hours later.
"Anything for my new brother" Eric smiled as Hyde hopped out of the car and headed inside to find Jackie.
He'd half expected her to be at the window, nose pressed up against the glass, overly eager to escape the house that he too was definitely not sorry to leave behind. Instead Hyde found he had to go searching for his girl, and when he found her, he couldn't help but smile at the sight. There was Jackie Burkhart, self-proclaimed princess of Point Place, laid out on a borrowed bed, in borrowed clothes, with a stolen magazine abandoned to her left and her hair splayed out in a mess of waves to her right. Despite all this, she had never looked more beautiful to Steven Hyde.
"Hey, Jackie" he said softly as he sat down beside her and gently shook her shoulder, "Rise and shine, babe, time to go home"
The little brunette smiled as she stirred from sleep and gazed straight up into a pair of familiar blue eyes.
"Steven" she grinned, more so when he leant down and kissed her lips, "I thought you'd be gone longer"
"I was gone longer" he told her as she pulled herself up and sat beside him, "I figured you'd be going nuts right about now but I guess my bed was comfier than we thought, huh?"
"I guess" Jackie agreed, looking a little embarrassed about it as she rested her head on Steven's shoulder, "So, we should be getting out of here now" she said, as if she were sad to leave, "My parents are due home tonight and I should get there before they do, otherwise I have to explain my outfit and..." her sentence tailed off as she glanced down at her clothes, thinking them explanation enough.
"Whatever" Hyde shrugged, "I think you look totally hot" he assured her, and with a grin on her face she happily kissed him in thanks for the compliment.
When they could finally bear to tear themselves away from each other for two seconds they waved goodbye to the place Hyde had called home for so long and went and joined Eric in the car that would take them both to their real homes.
Forman wasn't exactly surprised that the two shared the back-seat instead of sitting up front with him, though he could've done without the view he had each time he glanced in the rear-view mirror. Other peoples hands and tongues all over the place was a gross enough sight, but when the anatomy in question belonged to Hyde and Jackie it was a whole other world of eew that Eric had yet to make his peace with. They loved each other and he knew it, but it didn't mean he had to be comfortable with their making out in his car!
When the Vista Cruiser finally pulled up outside the Burkhart residence, Eric had to clear his throat three times, in increasing volumes, before he got a reaction. Hyde got out of the car and walked Jackie to her door without thinking, and though she was a little surprised by his sudden gentlemanly manner, she didn't say a word.
"So, I guess I should get inside" Jackie shifted her feet, "I'll get this T-shirt washed for you as soon as I can" she promised him, but Hyde shook his head.
"Keep it" he told her, "It looks better on you" he said, smoothing the fabric over her shoulders.
It meant more to Jackie than simply being given an old Led Zeppelin T-shirt, it was like a symbol of how much Steven really cared about her. Somewhere along the line she had learnt how to read the emotions of the man of her dreams, without him saying a word. Jackie thought that would probably come in very useful in the time to come.
As the reunited couple shared a kiss goodbye, Jackie made a point of hugging her boyfriend tight right after, letting him know without words how grateful she was that he'd looked after her and how glad she was they were back together.
Opening the front door, Jackie moved to go inside, then turned back at the last moment to call to Hyde, who was now half way down the path back towards the car.
"Steven!" she called, knowing this was probably a bad idea but doing it anyway because she just couldn't help herself, "I love you" she told him, almost too quiet for him to have heard but he knew what those words had been.
"Yeah" he said, nodding once, "Right back at you, doll" he told her wish a wink as he headed back to the Vista Cruiser and climbed inside next to his best friend and new adoptive brother.
"Aaw, you guys are so cute" Eric teased, "There should be a song" he giggled, only to be frogged in the arm by a seemingly angry Hyde.
"Just drive the damn car, Forman" he said, sounding less stern than he ought to have done, his smile totally giving away how not mad he really was.
As the car moved away from the sidewalk, Hyde looked back at the house they were leaving behind. Jackie was at the window, waving to him like a crazy person and with a sigh as if it was a hardship he raised his hand back at her. Eric was going to tease him, Kelso was going to make life difficult because he'd had Jackie first, and the whole situation of being in love like this was going to take some serious getting used to for Steven Hyde, but it was cool, he could deal. Whatever.