March 29th, 1981
Pinciotti Living Room, wedding rehearsal
Hyde pulled at the collar of his shirt. No matter how many times he wore a dress shirt, he was never comfortable with it. It screamed sell out. The neck always felt like it was choking him. Unfortunately he had no choice but to wear the uncomfortable piece of clothing. If he had tried to show up to the rehearsal in his usual jeans and t-shirt, the over-stressed bride to be would have killed him.
"You shouldn't pull on it like that." Jackie informed him quietly, the first few words she'd spoken to him since his confession earlier. "Cotton doesn't rebound."
His hand froze, eyes swinging to her. She'd told him that before. When they had attended the career fair at their high school. The all too familiar stab of pain twisted in his chest, a permanent reminder of what he'd thrown away. Nodding, he dropped his hand and averted his gaze.
"Relax, this is only a run through." She tossed her hair over her shoulder and adjusted the off the shoulder neckline of deep red dress she bought for this occasion.
Hyde gave a brief nod, trying to resist the urge to stare at her. It was hard. Really hard. She was hot on an average day in jeans and a blouse. But there was just something about Jackie in a slinky red dress that made him…
"Where the hell are Kelso and Fez?" Eric's panicked hiss, snapped him out of his thoughts.
"No clue man." He gave himself a mental shake and clapped his twitchy friend on the back, chuckling slightly. "But hey, at least you showed up this time."
Jackie turned toward Eric, an eyebrow raised, "You didn't show up to your first wedding rehearsal? That's why the wedding never happened?"
"You're lucky Donna is very forgiving." The haughty tone was classic and as her eyes appraised the groom to be, she gave a familiar scoff. "If that happened to me, I would have made the moron sorry that he was ever born."
Forman opened his mouth. His intention was probably delivering a burn but it never came. Instead, his face flushed and he took a deep breath, "You're right. I am lucky."
"What's going on?" Donna's voice, never soft, interrupt their huddled discussion. They all jumped slightly and swung their gaze to her. "Ok, I see Eric. So I know that this time, no one's hiding the fact that my groom is missing in action."
"Donna!" Jackie smiled, walking over to the taller woman. "You're wearing a dress! I'm so relieved. I was afraid that you'd be walking down the aisle in a flannel shirt and corduroys."
A grin tugged at his Hyde's lips. He knew what his ex was doing. This wasn't her usual commentary of Donna's fashion crimes. She was distracting her friend before the blonde realized that the moron twins were no where to be found.
"I've worn dresses before." The protest was defensive.
"Not that I can remember and then when you were having your dress fitted, you kicked me out of the room."
"Because I don't want anyone to see it after what happened to my first wedding dress."
Hyde stifled a laugh as he remembered the destroyed dress. His eyes drifted to Forman, who had gone pale at the mention of his first wedding transgression. The nervous kid gulped several times and raised his hands, about to make this situation worse by saying something that he thought was witty. Acting quickly, he clamped his hand over Forman's mouth and dragged him into the kitchen and away from the girls. "Man, you must like pissed off Donna because you were going to undo all Jackie's hard work."
Releasing the twitchy kid suddenly, he stepped away and wiped his hand on his pants, lips twisted in disgust. "Did you just lick me?"
"No!" The vehement cry was punctuated with one of those hand gestures Eric was so proud of. He looked down before adding, "At least, not on purpose. I was trying to lick my lips."
"Whatever man." He pushed open the back door and reached into his pocket, drawing out his pack of cigarettes. Lighting one up, he took a deep drag and felt the tension lessen in his body. "So you haven't had a panic attack yet…"
"I'm ok." There was surprising conviction in Eric's voice. "It's different this time."
"I have a decent job, we found an apartment." He smirked, "An actual apartment this time, not one that will roll away if the wind is blowing too hard."
Silence lapsed over the guys as the reality of the situation settled in on them. This was real. Things were changing. There wouldn't be anymore late night/early morning circles that inevitably lead to those stupid in-depth conversations. No more blaming each other when something happened at the house.
No one to help him from screwing things up even more than he already had.
"Eric! Hyde!" Donna yelled, "Pastor Dave's here! Move your asses!"
Hyde flicked his smoke away and slipped his sunglasses on. "Sure you don't want to run? Back door's right there. I'll create a diversion to give you time…"
"No, I'm good." Forman smiled. "But thanks for the offer. You're a good friend."
A chuckle slipped from him as he followed his best friend into the living room. There was still no Fez or Kelso. Donna was angry but determined not to let the moron twins ruin anything for her. She stated emphatically that the rehearsal was going on as scheduled, no delays. Given the fact that she had been on edge for the last day, they all agreed that they'd do whatever she wanted.
He listened as Dave gushed about how happy he was to be the one performing the ceremony. There was an awkward moment when the pastor got overly emotional as he addressed the seven people in the room. Dave, kitty and Bob all got teary while Red looked like he was contemplating how to get his foot into the pastor's ass. Finally, Dave instructed Eric to stand to the right hand side and for the rest of them to go into the hall and pretend that this was the real deal.
Once out there, Jackie handed Donna a fake bouquet and took her place next to him. She shook her hair back and offered him a tentative smile. Slowly, she slid her arm through his and took a deep breath. "Ready?"
The oddest sensation shot through his body at her touch. His heart beat speed up. Lines of fire crackled through his veins, burning him and stealing his breath. A cold, clammy sweat inexplicably coated the palms of his hands.
"Hyde, we have to go." Her tone was aggravated. "Eric's waiting for Donna."
He nodded and went to take a step. But nothing happened. His entire body froze, eyes locked at the end of the trail where Pastor Dave was waiting for them. He could feel the weight of Kitty, Red and Bob's expectant gazes. All he had to do was make it to the end of the aisle with causing him or Jackie to trip and stand next to Eric.
So why couldn't he?
The wedding and reception would be more difficult, have more pressure. He'd have to deal with hypocrites staring at him. Wondering why the scruffy guy was the twitchy kid's best man. Or how he had the nerve to walk in a wedding with the poor shell of a girl that he destroyed. Then there was speeches to make and dancing…
Yup, this was definitely the easy part compared to that hell.
Knowing that, it should have been simple.
Just walk through the doors, down the aisle with Jackie. They were the best man and maid of honor, not the ones getting married. But his brain started taunting him. Reminding him that the last time he had taken a walk like this, it had been the walk that put the final nail in the coffin of his relationship with the petite brunette.
Was that why it suddenly felt like his lungs were going to collapse every time he drew a breath?
"Hyde?" Jackie whispered, her voice betraying her bewilderment. "Hyde?"
Donna was suddenly in front of his unblinking eyes, staring at him in a mixture of anger and understanding. She sighed, casting a panicked glance to where Eric was waiting. "I think maybe we should do this a different way. Why don't you go stand next to Eric instead of having to walk it twice?"
"Donna," Eric's voice sounded from the doorway. "What's going on? I'm getting kind of worried…"
"Take Hyde up there with you." She said in a rush, pushing at his resistant body. "I think it will work out better that way."
He felt Jackie's arm slipping from his grasp as she moved away from him. It was strange. Because the second contact between them was broken, his brain shut up and he could move again.
"Yeah, ok, let's go." Forman clapped him on the back.
He followed Eric in a daze. Taking his place next to Forman, he didn't even bother to watch the girl's coming down the aisle. His mind was running on tangents. Wondering what the hell just happened?
Vaguely, he was aware of an elbow meeting his side to rouse him from his thoughts. He gave himself a mental smack and passed the "ring" to his best friend. But his attention wandered away from the rehearsal again. Replaying that moment over in his mind to try to figure it out. Once again he was nudged, not so gently, and looked down to see Jackie staring at him with interest. "What?"
"It's over, we have to walk back to the hall now." She explained, brow furrowed in confusion. "Unless you'd rather stay here…"
"Uh, no." He took a deep breath and grabbed her hand. To his surprise, the second he did that, he calmed down. It felt right, natural. Familiar. Not creepy and unnatural feeling like it had when she had taken his arm.
Her eyes were wide, locked on their intertwined hands. She had probably been expecting him to go traditional and take her arm. Not possessively claim her hand. Or for his thumb to lightly caress the back of her hand, rubbing the satiny skin in small circles. To give it a light squeeze just to assure himself that this wasn't some distant memory but a current moment in reality.
Taking courage from the fact that his touch could affect her too, he lead them back to the hallway.
"Well that was interesting." Eric drawled when they were finished with the precession, leaning against the banister of the staircase. His eyes flitted to the entwined hands of the exes and one eyebrow arched. But he didn't point it out. "But hopefully, now that we have all that worked out, we won't have a repeat tomorrow."
"Yeah." Donna agreed, studying Hyde carefully. "What happened?"
"I don't know." He admitted, finally releasing the petite brunette's hand from his but not before once again giving it a light squeeze. "But I did warn you both that I might not be the best choice for this best man job."
Before the engaged duo could respond, the front door burst open, announcing Kelso and Fez's arrival.
All eyes swung to them. What a sight it was. Hair all messed up, faces flushed and their clothes were completely disheveled . There was streaks of mud on their shirts and pants. Fez's ugly maroon jacket had a sizable rip on the arm that matched the rip on the leg of Kelso's hideous powder blue pants.
"See fool," Fez huffed in his usual overly dramatic fashion, "I told you the rehearsal wasn't at the church. But did you listen to me? Nooooooo…"
"It wasn't my fault!"
The foreigner gave his buddy a patronizing look. "Oh so the brick just jumped through the church window and hit the piano lady by itself?"
"It was an accident." Kelso held up his hands as everyone looked at him, appalled by his latest brilliant move.
Fez clucked his tongue, "We had to run, through back yards which were all muddy. That ruined the beautiful new outfits I spent hours picking out for us. Then we ran into the hell hound…"
"Speaking of that, when did the Henderson's get a dog?" Kelso sounded like it was a betrayal for him not to be informed about this. "If I knew, I would have gone over before today so it wouldn't attack when I had to cut through their yard.."
Hyde shook his head. This wasn't the first time they'd had a conversation like this. Probably wouldn't be the last time either. Just a sad fact. Like Fez thinking those hideous powder blue and maroon outfits were something that a straight guy would wear.
"Huh," Jackie rolled, "You ever think they got the dog because they don't want anyone in their yard?"
"No." His eyes dashed to Donna, who face reflected her annoyance. "We didn't miss the rehearsal, did we?"
"Yeah." Eric piped up as anger turned his fiancée's face turned a shade similar to her former hair color. "And this is why neither one of you were chosen as best man."
"Damn Eric!" The indignant response was vintage Kelso. "It wasn't our fault that we missed it."
"Oh, not at all." Forman agreed sarcastically. "It was the old lady inside the church's fault for not expecting to get hit with a brick."
"Don't forget the dog's fault for defending it's turf against dill weed's who didn't belong there." Hyde added with a derisive chuckle.
Donna shook her head, "I swear if the cops show up here that I will kill the both of you."
"God Donna," Kelso's eyes rolled, "It's not like the old lady saw us. She was unconscious."
A loud whistle cut through the hall. Everyone turned to see Red standing in the doorway with his patented you're all idiots look on his face. "Everyone shut up and get your asses back in here. Time to eat."
"Ai, at least we didn't miss the most important part. All that running has made my stomach have needs." Fez smiled as he started toward the living room, Kelso following right behind him.
"Why does it seem like the older we get, the dumber they get?" Donna inquired of her groom to be as he led them out of the hall.
"Because that's actually happening." Eric laughed, "By the time we're thirty, they'll probably be completely brain dead."
Hyde started toward the living room but stopped when he realized that Jackie had made no move to come with them. He turned, studying her carefully. She avoided his stare, looking down at the floor. Guess she didn't realize that he was too stubborn to just give up because she looked away. "You coming?"
"I think I'm just going to go back to the Forman's." Her face was drawn and paler than it usually was. "Listening to them gave me a headache."
He closed the distance between them, fingers curling under her chin as he lifted her face toward the light. There was something about the storminess of her eyes that bothered him. Gave him that odd sensation of unease in his gut. Made him suspect that there was more to her desire to flee than just a headache. "You sure?"
"Yeah," She stepped away from his touch and wrapped her arms around herself. "It's been a long, stressful day. I think I'm just going to curl up and go to sleep."
She gave him a fake smile, one he had seen grace her face too many times before. "Don't worry. I'll be fine. Go have fun with our friends."
Something was definitely wrong. She was shutting down. He felt it. That old protective instinct was screaming at him, telling him not to let her leave. To not give up and just let things be this time.
That if he did, it would be a horrible mistake.
Leveling her with a probing gaze, he shook his head. "Nah, I'm not really up for hearing more of doofus and dingus's tales or seeing Donna choke them. Going back to the house and relaxing sounds good to me."
"I don't need a babysitter." She huffed with a slight shake of her head, that infamous stubborn streak of hers flaring to life at the notion that she couldn't take care of herself. One perfectly plucked eyebrow rose in indignation, lips in a sneer. "I'm perfectly capable of walking the fifty feet across the yard."
"No worries. I've never been the babysitting type. No one would trust me not to corrupt their kid." He mockingly gave her back a raised eyebrow. "That walk just sounds better than hanging here. So let's go."