Disclaimer: That '70s Show copyright The Carsey-Werner Company, LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC. "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" (C) ABBA; 1993 Polydor / Umgd.
September 8th, 1980
Point Place, Wisconsin
A huge banner with the words, "Welcome Home, Eric!" was strung from the basement staircase to the shower. Colorful streamers hung from the ceiling, and balloons were tied to anything that would keep them from floating away. The party had already started in Forman's absence. Donna, Red, and Mrs. Forman were off to the airport to pick him up—which left Hyde in charge of making sure the basement didn't get trashed in their absence.
Yeah, they'd picked the right guy.
On the spool table, a full plate of Forman's favorite cupcakes sat untouched by Fez or Kelso... 'cause Hyde had frogged them whenever they got close. All the balloons were still intact because Hyde had swiped Kelso's pins from him. The two-liter bottles of pop hadn't been shaken, the stack of plastic cups hadn't been toppled, and Kelso and Fez were sulking by the stereo...
Crap. The Formans had picked the right guy.
But he was in too good a mood to give a shit. He and Jackie were sitting on the couch together, playing with some party favors. She'd scooted onto his lap, draping her legs over his knees, and blew a green blowout into his cheek.
"You think that's funny?" he said.
"I do," she said, and unrolled the blowout into his cheek again: Fwap!
He grabbed his own blowout and puffed it against her nose. Fwap! "Huh. That is funny." Fwap! Fwap!
She giggled, and they tried to see how many times they could fwap each other in a minute. But he became lightheaded from the effort and declared her the winner.
"Oh, you're such a good loser, baby," she said, and she rewarded him with a kiss intense enough to steal his remaining breath.
"I didn't really lose," he said afterward. "Thing is, when you win—I win. There's no damn losing with you."
Jackie covered her heart. "Steven..."
He brushed some of her hair from her face and leaned in for another kiss. No more losing, and no more worries about freakin' trust. Never thought it would happen... but it did.
On September 10th, 1979, Hyde had withdrawn $3000 from the bank and sent it to Sam anonymously. And every month after that, he sent $200 more. It wasn't a helluva lot, but it would shave some time off her sentence. He tried to address the package whenever Jackie wasn't around, but she'd caught him once in the Formans' kitchen.
"Who's Samantha Gandler?" she said. Her arms were wrapped around Hyde's waist, and her cheek was pressed into his shoulder.
"Someone who helped me get back to you," he said, and that seemed to be enough for her—'cause she'd never asked about Sam again.
The sixth step of the basement stairs creaked, and everyone stopped what they were doing. Hyde and Jackie quit making out. Kelso and Fez quit singing along to the Styx song on the stereo.
"Guess who's home!" Mrs. Forman shouted from above. Forman was climbing down the stairs with Donna and his parents behind him.
Hyde and Jackie stood up from the couch. His shades were in his room, like they usually were now, but he could've used them. He'd written Forman only one letter, saying he understood why Forman had left for Africa—and giving Forman a heads-up about the tiger lilies he'd bought for Donna. After that, Hyde let Mrs. Forman fill him in on the rest, including his engagement.
Kelso and Fez greeted Forman at the bottom of the stairs and hugged him together. Jackie embraced him next and shoved her engagement ring in his face. Forman took her hand and glanced over at Hyde.
"You finally gave up, huh?" Forman said with a smirk. He was tan, his hair was cut close to his scalp, and he looked older. His eyes, though, were brighter—as if they held a light that had long gone out.
"A man knows when he's beat, Forman," Hyde said and hugged him tightly. A thousand different things wanted to come out of his mouth, like "I missed the hell outta you" and "You ever leave this long again, I'll beat you into the ground." But what escaped was: "Lord of the Rings kicks ass."
Forman laughed. "You read Tolkien?"
"Yeah," Donna said next to him. Her hair was back to its natural red, and her easy smile had finally returned. "He partially took over your role as geek."
"I'm gone a year," Forman sighed theatrically, "and everything changes."
"It's been a long year, man." Hyde gave him a pat on the back and let him go.
"Oh, you wanna talk about long, my friend?" Forman said. "The flight to Africa—that was long. Felt like I was on the freakin' plane forever. My year in Africa zipped by in comparison. It was the strangest thing..."
Hyde looked up at the streamers and scratched the back of his neck. "Uh... sorry 'bout that, man."
"What?" Forman laughed again. "What did you have to do with it? I was a little scared to get on the flight home—but I fell asleep, woke up, and I was back in Wisconsin."
"Yeah, if you hadn't gotten on that plane," Donna said, tugging on Forman's sleeve, "I would've flown to Africa myself and dragged you back."
Forman smiled and grasped her hand gently. "No matter how far life takes us from each other, I'll always come back to you, m'lady."
"You better." She drew him close and kissed him, longer than maybe even Forman expected.
When she finally released him, he turned to Jackie. "So you're a..." he inhaled a recovering breath, "you're a Wisconsin-Parkside girl, I hear."
"Yup!" Jackie grinned and hugged Hyde's arm to her. "I really do have it all."
Hyde lay a soft kiss on top of her head. She seemed to love college—though she'd just started two weeks ago—and he was relieved she'd accepted W.B.'s offer to pay her tuition.
W.B. had given Jackie the news of his early wedding gift at exactly the right time, too: The day after Hyde brought her again to see her father in Michigan. Jack Burkhart told her of his second family, and she was angry. But the news didn't tear her apart like it had the first two times...
Something had changed.
"I can't forgive him today," she said to Hyde in the Titan Motel, "but maybe someday..." Then she cupped his face and gave him a tender kiss. "Thank you for making me see him."
Hyde had kept his promise to her, and in just the last few months, they'd driven to see her father again. On the long drive there, Jackie said, "Steven, do you ever think about seeing your mom or stepdad? Y'know, trying to find them?"
"Nah. Bud's got nothin' I want," he said. "And Edna... we're both happiest without each other."
Everyone was seated around the spool table, listening to Forman talk about Africa. Donna rested her head on his shoulder as he spoke. Kelso and Fez were batting balloons at each other. And Jackie was feeding Hyde a chocolate-frosted cupcake while she sat in his lap. They were all just hanging out, as if no time had gone by at all... and Hyde couldn't quit smiling.
This was his life, man.
And it was good.
Author's Note: Thank you so much to all the readers and reviewers who've followed Hyde on this journey. Sharing it with you has been incredible.
I've got several That '70s Show stories in the works. Some short ones, some epic-sized ones. Romance, humor, drama, adventure. Zennie, of course. But also with the other characters having important storylines of their own.
Until the next story's published, the T7S comics are still going full-force. It's Zen-time there (see my profile for the link).
Thank you again for your readership! Your response to this story has been humbling and an absolute joy.