Disclaimer: That '70s Show copyright The Carsey-Werner Company, LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC. The 10th Kingdom copyright Babelsberg International Filmproduktion GmbH & Co. Beitriebs KG and Hallmark Entertainment Distribution, LLC. "You Make Me Real" (C) 1970 Elektra Entertainment for United States and WEA International Inc. for the world outside of the United States. "Love Reign O'er Me" (C) 2010 Geffen Records.
Author's Note: This story stands alone. You don't need to have read Reflections Through the Glass to enjoy or understand what's going on here. All will be explained through the natural course of the story. But this is technically the sequel, so reading the first one may enhance your enjoyment of it.
Dedication: To Nick (SlickNickShady), without whom this story never would've been written. To Chris (jackiehydelover), who encouraged me to write That '70s Show fanfic to begin with. To Elise (blahgal), Grace (GraceXElisabeth), Prissy (nannygirl), Carol (twiniitowers), Angie (heartlessromantic667), Marla (Marla's Lost) and JB (MidnightRaine), whose encouragement helped me finish this beast of a story. Finally, to Lulu (booyahsaidthelady), a great friend (the detective to my writer) who cheered me on through every chapter for two patient years.
THE SUN IS SETTING
Wednesday, May 21st, 1980
Eight Months after Jackie and Hyde Got Engaged
Jackie and Hyde's Apartment in Kenosha, Wisconsin
"Oh, Steven, you are gonna love this once you wake up."
Jackie dunked slices of Wonder Bread into the egg mixture she'd made. The cramped, windowless kitchen was her least favorite part of the apartment. As consolation, golden sunlight and music poured in from the attached living room. It was her day to make breakfast, and The Doors' Morrison Hotel played on the stereo. Not her favorite, either, but she wanted to make this morning extra-special for Steven.
She dropped the egg-soaked bread onto a heated pan, and her engagement ring gleamed in the sunlight. The diamond was sky blue, her favorite color, and she was honored to wear it. The ring had belonged to Fez's grandmother, the fairest woman of them all. And maybe, just maybe, Jackie had taken on that mantle, too: Jackie Burkhart, the fairest of them all.
The thought tickled her as butter popped and crackled underneath the bread. She flipped the slices over with a spatula and swayed her hips rhythmically. Steven's music had a sexy bassline. She wouldn't admit the truth out loud—he'd never let her play The Captain & Tennille again if he knew—but she'd grown to like his musical taste.
She jostled the pan a little to keep the butter from moving to the rim, and a surprised breath left her. Gentle but determined hands slid over her pajama top. Strong arms wrapped around her waist, and a warm body pressed against her back.
"Smells good," he said. His sideburn fuzzed against her cheek, and his hips matched her movements. He was half-hugging, half-dancing with her. "Yeah..." he inhaled deeply, "smells real good."
"Me or breakfast?"
He chuckled and turned her around. His hair was a mess of curls, and blue toothpaste smeared his white undershirt. He'd clearly just woken up, but his eyes were bright and alive, like the sunlit sky. Like the diamond of her ring.
She touched her palms to the sides of his face. Her thumbs stroked his stubbly cheeks, and he smiled tenderly. That smile was enough to make her forget where she was, what she was doing. She forced herself to remember. She was in the kitchen with breakfast cooking on the stove. The Doors were playing on the stereo... while Steven continued to dance with her. His hands subtly guided the motion of her hips, and she began to lose herself again.
"The French toast's going to burn," she said.
"So we'll eat cereal." He shut off the stove.
She sighed but let him draw her closer. His left hand slid up the small of her back, and his right hand took hold of her left. He waltzed her past the kitchen counter and into the living room, and she delighted in his skill. He was making good use of their ballroom lessons. That had been their deal. She'd learn how to cook if he learned how to dance for Eric and Donna's wedding—and their own.
"This is nice," he said and spun her.
She giggled. The softer qualities of his voice always made her giddy. He brought her flush against him after the spin. He was chuckling again, only this time with a mischievous smirk.
"What?" she said.
"You dig my music."
"I do not."
"Admit it, doll." He pecked her lips softly and kept himself close to her. The lingering taste of his kiss, his adept dancing, the slight pressure of his hips—all of it threatened to make her confess. "Admit it," he repeated. "The Doors get you hotter than ABBA ever could."
She strengthened her resolve. Her hands slipped down to his sweat pants and squeezed his butt. "I admit nothing."
"You already have." He cupped her own butt and gave it a squeeze. "You just don't know it yet."
"Steven!" She squeezed his butt again in retaliation.
He said nothing but squeezed her butt harder.
She slapped his.
He slapped hers harder, and she gasped—and he laughed deviously. His eyes grew brighter and his tongue stuck out through his teeth. He looked like a kid whenever he laughed that way, and it made her laugh with him.
She hugged his waist and leaned her head on his chest. She listened possessively to the joy bouncing out of him. His playful side was something she treasured. He'd lost some of it in Fez's homeland, after their adventures through that magic mirror. She was determined for him not to lose any more.
"Jackie, what's going on?" he said. "What's with the frown?" He was looking at her with concern, but when had his laughter stopped? When had he pulled from her embrace? She wasn't aware of any of it—or of frowning.
She touched the corner of her lips. Gravity had pulled them down.
"You pissed about the French toast?" He glanced back at the kitchen. "It was probably gonna burn anyway."
She smacked him across the chest. "Steven, I'm really trying. I was born with a cook,not with cooking talent. Just be glad I can touch eggs now. They're nothing in comparison to mucking through a Deadly Swamp or swimming in a dirty moat."
"I know, and I appreciate you even giving it a shot."
"Yeah, man. It's nice that you, uh..." he looked away, "you know, that you..."
She tilted her head. She was going to have to help him with this one. "Care, Steven? That I care about you more than I hate cooking?"
"Exactly." He grinned and bridged the remaining distance between them. His mouth closed in on hers and gently parted her lips. The kiss was both loving and deep, and it made her dizzy—but not pleasantly. Memories whirled inside her mind like a tornado. They whisked her to the past when Steven could barely touch her, as if her very skin was diseased. He hadn't wanted her to exist then, to see her face or hear her voice. But she fought her way back inside him as they ran through too many forests, away from ugly Trolls and murderous farmers.
The tornado of memory swept her to Fez's castle with an Evil Queen and a vicious wolf, to a dark chamber full of mirrors and Steven's impassive, loveless face. Then it spat her out to the present again, to her living room. She withdrew from Steven's kiss, stunned by the experience, but he had the serene, carefree expression of a satisfied man. He twirled her on the soft rug as Jim Morrison sang through the speakers, "Really need ya, baby, God knows I do 'cause I'm not real enough without you."He brought her close to him once more, and she said, "Are you happy, Steven?"
Only Jim Morrison's voice gave her answer, "You make me throw away mistaken misery. Make me free, love. Make me free."
Steven, meanwhile, lifted her arm as if to tango. She dug her nails into his skin to keep him from dancing. "Steven, are you happy?"
He grimaced, but his eyes remained warm. "What's it freakin' look like?"
"Then there's your answer."
He tried again to tango with her, and she gave in though the song was more suited for a jive. He led her around the coffee table and their claret-colored sofa, past his rock posters and the framed pictures of herself. They danced alongside their bookcases filled with records and beauty magazines. Passed books of his that made her think about things she'd never thought about before.
"But you never say it," she said as he dipped her. "You never say you're happy."
"Ever think it's 'cause you keep asking me lately?" He kissed the tip of her nose then raised her back up.
"Maybe I keep asking because you're not telling me."
He released her—the tango was done, apparently—and his arms dropped to his sides. "I hate that question."
"So if I didn't ask," she said and leaned against the back of the sofa, " would you volunteer the information?"
"Don't you think I already do?"
Her mind screamed, Yes!—he'd just danced with her all over their apartment—but her heart didn't feel it, had no faith in something he refused to claim verbally.
"Grasshopper, if you can't fucking see it..." He sighed and ran a hand over his face. "Why do I have to put everything into words for you?"
"I trust words."
"How about this," he stepped back toward her, "you shut your piehole and trust me?"
He cradled the side of her face, and his thumb traced the ridge of her ear, coaxing a startled but pleased, "Oh!" from her. It was amazing how her joy could be contained right here in this man—in his touch, his laughter. Jackie and Steven... their names mingled perfectly in the same breath, but she'd never been Jackie alone. She'd always had a man to draw strength from, starting with her her father and now Steven. It wasn't right.
She wasn't right. Didn't Steven deserve someone who was strong on her own? Who could survive by herself?
"Y'know," he said, "we got an hour before they're all gonna show up." His gaze had fogged over with lust and something deeper. "We could have our own bachelor party right here."
She arched an eyebrow. "You want me to strip for you?"
He arched an eyebrow right back. "I've done it for you."
"But when you do it, it's cute."
"Yeah?" His thumb remained on her ear, dragging itself up and down the outer edge. That simple touch had seduced her many times, but she had to prepare for their friends' arrival. Do her hair and makeup. Pick the perfect outfit, something that would stick in Steven's mind at that stupid nudie bar tonight. "Let's go," he said, tugging her hand toward the bedroom. "Or we could use the couch..."
"No, I want you to long for me tonight," she said. "It's Eric's bachelor party, and if he enjoys looking at skanky strippers instead of his future wife, that's his problem. But I want you to remember what you have at home."
"There's more than looking that goes on in there."
"Forman's bound to get himself a lap dance if he's drunk enough."
"Steven," she began to shake, and her fists clenched, "you—you can't!" Her words were devolving into a scream, but she forced them to keep their shape. "If another woman gets you off, especially by touching you—"
"Jackie, Jackie, stop." He was cupping her face with both hands now. "Gawking at other chicks doesn't get me off anymore, and I'm sure as hell not gonna be touched by one. I'm not like Forman. I'm past that shit." His stare was intense, communicating with her on a visceral level. She glanced away, only to be brought back by his voice. "You're it for me, okay? You're all I fucking want."
He kissed her then, as powerful a kiss as she'd ever received. Her legs buckled, and he held her up as she continued to shake. Anger and fear were no longer the cause. His feelings for her had done it. She felt them as if they circulated in her very blood. He was telling the truth. Finally, she was all he desired.
Months ago, he'd brought his old stash of dirty magazines to Mt. Hump Park. The magic mirror was hidden there, the Traveling mirror. She and Steven had reunited on the other side of it, in the Nine Kingdoms where Fez and Michael now lived. Steven hated talking about what happened there, but he'd tossed his Playboys into the mirror and never bought another one.
Now, as his kiss softened, she knotted her hands at his back. Like him, she had no wish to return to that fairy-tale world. She preferred Kenosha's paved streets to the cobblestones of Fez's kingdom—and Steven's warmth over magic. A life with him was all she desired. His ring on her finger all but guaranteed she'd get it.
"You got nothing to worry about, all right?" he said into her lips.
She nodded, but doubt clung to her like dew. It sank deep into her pores, and not even her morning shower would slough it off.
Eric shifted a giant sack of plant food to his left shoulder. Donna's idea of a house-warming gift for Hyde and Jackie was sweet, but lugging a ten-pound sack up five flights of stairs? Not an easy task, even after months of weight training. Worse, Fez was behind him, shouting, "Hurry up, fool! Your king has spoken."
"Your king has spoken, Eric!" Kelso repeated on the stairs. He was climbing behind Fez.
Eric ignored them until the third floor when Fez poked his back and said, "The broken elevator would go faster than you."
A growl rumbled in Eric's throat. A man could take only so much. He turned around before the next staircase. "You wanna carry this thing?"
Fez put up his hand in refusal, and Kelso repeated again, "Your king has spoken!"
Eric sighed and kept climbing. Those two had laid it on thick since he and Donna picked them up from Mt. Hump. They were kidding around, but Eric hadn't ruled out regicide. He could toss the sack of plant food at Fez's skull. Maybe it would take out Kelso in the process, two-for-one.
"Kelso, would you cut it out?" Donna said. She was at the head of the group, carrying a small potted cactus inside a larger pot. "Fez may be King where he's from, but this is Wisconsin, and he's just Fez here."
"N'uh-uh!" Kelso said. "This is the Tenth Kingdom, and all kingdoms gotta recognize royalty from the other ones. And that's 'Sir' Kelso, to you."
"Ai, she is right, Kelso," Fez said. "I would rather be 'just Fez' right now anyway."
"But, Fez—" Kelso objected.
"I said, 'Your king has spoken!' Now..." Fez raised his arms toward Eric, "I will take the sack."
"Well, if you insist." Eric gave him the sack of plant food, and Fez passed it to Kelso.
"What?" Kelso said. "I'm already carrying the backpack!"
"Ah-ah-ah, Kelso," Eric said, wagging his finger, "your king has spoken."
Donna chuckled and flicked the brim of Eric's Milwaukee Brewer's cap. "Nice burn!"
"Thank you, m'lady."
Afterward, the four of them reached the sixth floor without incident. The hallway was nicely lit, but Donna didn't seem to agree. She complained about the "dungeon lighting" as she rang the doorbell of apartment 6-A.
Hyde opened the door with a scowl. "You're late," he said, but Eric didn't care. He embraced Hyde warmly. They hadn't seen each other since winter break, and despite Hyde's frosty welcome, he seemed to miss Eric, too. He returned the hug and patted Eric's back. "What'd you do, get a flat tire?"
"Eric just had to get his jog in this morning," Donna said, causing Hyde, Kelso, and Fez all to laugh.
"Do you wear a headband?" Kelso said. "Oh, and those shorts? Burn!"
Eric let go of Hyde and glanced back at Kelso. "Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it. You get a nice high from running."
"Yeah, right," Hyde said and led everyone into his apartment.
The living room was a decent size. It had hardwood floors, and the furniture was set up like Eric's old basement. The décor shouldn't have worked. It was a cross between Hyde's edgy aesthetic and Jackie's ultra-feminine taste. Filigree sconces on the walls, cherrywood bookshelves with silver furnishings, black chairs and rock posters—it definitely shouldn't have worked, but it did.
Just like Hyde and Jackie.
"It's all used," Hyde said, pointing to the furniture. He was clearly proud of that fact but didn't dwell on it. "Fez," he clapped Fez's shoulder, "long time, no see. How's being 'the Man,' treating ya?"
"Oh, it's fine. It's fine," Fez said, "but I don't understand why you won't take my offer."
"Your money comes from 'that place'. Not happening."
"Steven, money is money," said a new but familiar voice, and Eric turned toward it. Jackie was leaving what had to be the bedroom. A blouse-and-skirt combo hugged her small, shapely body, and he couldn't deny she looked—and smelled—fantastic. Lavender perfume with hints of citrus wafted from her skin. Her brown hair reached just below her chin. The hack-job Hyde did eight-months-ago had finally grown out.
"Tough shit," Hyde said. "I want as little to do with 'that place' as possible."
"But Michael and Fez come from 'that place,'" she said.
"Exactly. Don't want anything to do with them, either." He grinned in Kelso's direction, obviously joking. "You keepin' your ass safe over there?"
"I'm Captain of the Fourth Kingdom Guard," Kelso said, dropping the sack of plant food on the floor. Eric picked it back up. "Defeater of the Trolls. People faint in awe when I walk by. It's awesome!"
"Yeah?" Hyde grabbed Kelso's left wrist. A thick scar ran from his bicep to his inner elbow. "That still getting you chicks?"
"Tons!" Kelso pumped his fist in the air, but his rapture quickly faded. "Nothing over here, though. Man, those stupid wishes I made are still in effect. It sucks! I had to legally change my name to 'Pink Floyd' to get those Schlitz people off my back. They kept bringing me beer. The first time I went back to my parents' house, the yard was covered in beer crates. My brothers were happy, though..."
Eric found himself staring at Kelso's scar. Trolls—those violent, shoe-loving uggos—were twice the size of Rocky Johnson, Eric's favorite wrestler. They also had a surprising fondness for the Bee Gees. Kelso had gotten the scar from fighting the Troll King's children, from protecting Eric, Donna, and Jackie. He could've died. They all could have, and one of them had...
"Eric," Donna nudged his shoulder, "you okay?"
"What?" He blinked, and the image of a golden comb with long, sharp teeth raked behind his eyes. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."
"Good. Because..." she presented Hyde with the cactus, "it's time for our house-warming gifts."
"Apartment-warming," Jackie said and gazed at her engagement ring.
Hyde took the cactus. "A plant?"
"It's prickly, just like you," Donna said.
Jackie snatched the cactus from Hyde and glowered at Donna. "I don't wanna have to water a stupid plant every day. Is this a burn gift?"
"Says here it needs water only once a month," Hyde said, reading the tag. "Requirements: food, water, sunlight." He looked up at Eric. "Food?"
Eric shoved the sack of plant food at him, and Hyde stumbled backward. "Three times-a-year, buddy. Spring, summer, fall."
"The cactus is gonna grow out of that pot eventually," Donna patted the larger pot she'd bought them, "so you can put it in this."
Hyde took the pot from her. "You've gone all domestic since you're about to get married, huh?"
"They've gotten even more dull." Jackie stalked off to the window and placed the cactus on the sill.
"All right," Kelso said and shrugged off his leather knapsack, "now that 'Mom and Dad' have given you their boring gifts, here's mine and Fez's." He flopped down on the sofa and inadvertently kicked the coffee table. Two bowls of party mix and three six-packs of soda bounced. "Sorry." He rifled through the knapsack. Then he pulled out an iridescent set of bra and panties.
Hyde felt the material with his fingers, and colorful sparks floated into the air. "What the hell is this?"
"The hornier you get, the more it reacts." Kelso grabbed a handful of party mix and stuffed it into his mouth. "I'm not that horny right now."
"I am." Fez touched the panties, and a red firework burst over the couch.
Jackie swiped the bra from Hyde and stared at it. She didn't seem to know how to react.
"Wait until you put it on," Kelso said.
"Yes, you both will feel all sorts of things," Fez said. "Put it on."
Hyde quirked an eyebrow at Jackie, and she flashed Fez a sour look. "No," she said.
"Damn, Jackie! It's rude not to try out a gift in front of the giver," Kelso said, and Jackie and Donna both gave him a withering glare. "Don't worry, Big D. We got you the same thing for your wedding present."
"All right!" Eric shouted cheerfully, and Donna turned her glare on him. He cleared his throat. "I only meant... No, I do mean, 'All right!'"
Her tough expression weakened into a laugh. She was gorgeous, and her laughter made him feel carefree—if only for a moment. He leaned in for a kiss, and a soft, feminine voice began to sing, "Only love can make it rain, the way the beach is kissed by the sea..."
It was Donna's engagement ring. He'd bought it for her in Kissing Town, and the large pearl was singing The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me".
"Hey, you trained it to sing something other than Styx?" Hyde said.
"You damn well better believe it." Donna sat on the sofa's arm and scooped up some party mix. "I tried to teach it Janis Joplin, but the pearl keeps refusing."
"That ring is pretty smart," Jackie said, and she pulled Hyde to a black chair. They sat down together, him in the chair and her on his lap.
"So..." Hyde's fingers laced over Jackie's stomach, "does it sing during your classes? Freak out your professors?"
"No, it usually knows when to keep quiet," Donna said, tapping her fingers on her knee as the ring sang. She looked adorable sitting on the sofa arm, her legs swinging in time to Pete Townshend's keyboard.
Eric moved toward her. He opened a can of Coke as the conversation became an update-session. How did Eric's first year of college go? Was being an education major as boring as it sounds? Did The Empire Strikes Back's release today influence Eric and Donna's wedding date? But no one asked him about Laurie, if he'd gotten any other signs of her after that rose on Wedge Hill.
The discussion moved onto Donna and her journalism major. Then onto Jackie and Hyde, how they liked living in the Graycliff Apartments rental. It was close to good shopping, Jackie told them. A fifteen-minute bus ride to her college, a five-minute walk to Lake Michigan.
Business at Grooves was fine, Hyde said, "except for the time Kelso visited me four months back and almost set fire to the place."
"It was an accident, Hyde. God!" Kelso said. "How was I supposed to know scorch ants liked eating vinyl?"
"Why the hell did you bring those things back with you at all, moron?" Hyde was frowning, and his boot tapped on the floor. "Fairy-tale shit from the Nine Kingdoms should stay in the Nine Kingdoms."
"I brought them for Betsy," Kelso said and hugged his knapsack to his chest. "I don't get to see her a lot, so I gotta give her something to remember me by."
"How 'bout buying her stuffed animal?" Hyde said. "Ever think of that?"
Kelso stuck out his tongue. "That's exactly what I got her this time, Mr. Smarty Pants. I can't wait to see her tomorrow."
Jackie shifted in Hyde's lap and sighed as if the conversation were beneath her. Then she gazed at her engagement ring, for what had to be the hundredth time since Eric had gotten there. "I love you," she said.
Hyde patted the sides of her butt. "You talking to me or the ring?"
Eric fought not to laugh. He knew she liked jewelry, but her fascination with that blue diamond was ridiculous.
"Oh, Jackie," Fez said, "I am so glad you like the ring. Snow White would be proud that you wear it."
She finally looked up. "Really?"
"Yes. You are beautiful and brave, just like she was."
"I know. Thanks, Fezzy."
Kelso jabbed a soda can in her direction. "That's King Fezzy, to you."
Snow White. Eric shuddered. In the last eight months, he'd tried to forget she was Fez's grandmother—or that he ever jumped through that Traveling mirror. He couldn't, of course. Donna's stomach still had remnants of the Troll's tattoo, despite the magical ointment Fez gave her. Eric's own reflection betrayed him, too. His front teeth shone occasionally with unnatural light, reminding him that fairy tales were very real. Most troubling of all, the stink of rotten food brought him back to the Deadly Swamp, where he'd learned the truth about his sister.
"Eric!" Kelso shouted, jolting Eric from his thoughts. "Your king asked you a question."
Donna slammed her fist into Kelso's shoulder. "If you say that one more time, you're gonna be Captain of My Foot Kicking Your Ass."
"Nice," Hyde said.
Kelso winced and rubbed his shoulder, and Fez repeated his question. "Eric, have you had any more bad dreams about getting married to Donna?"
"Bad dreams?" Donna grasped the hem of Eric's shirt and dragged him closer. He'd been standing this whole time, and he bumped into the sofa's arm. "You've been having bad dreams? Wait... how does Fez know? We haven't seen him since—"
"No, no." Eric mustered a smile. "No dreams. He's just talking about the nightmare I had before our first wedding..." He swallowed. "You know, the one where we'd been married for five years and living in that trailer, and you were miserable and left me?"
Kelso nodded. "And after you told us about it, Hyde asked if you saw Jackie—and if she was ugly— and if he had to dump her."
"What?" Jackie's voice was shrill and piercing, and she twisted around in Hyde's lap.
Hyde laughed defensively. "I didn't say any of that. Sir Dillhole's remembering it wrong."
"Hyde's right, Jackie," Eric said. "He asked me how you were 'holding up' five years later—"
"Shut up, Forman!"
"—and if he should 'get out' now."
Jackie pinched Hyde's arm, and he grunted in pain.
"Burn!" Kelso said. "Man, it's really good to be back."
"Assholes," Hyde muttered, but Jackie was scowling at him. "Hey, look, I didn't mean—"
"So you'd dump me if I became ugly? Is that what you're staying Steven?" She poked his chest and he clenched his jaw shut, but she wasn't finished talking. "Me becoming ugly is impossible because beauty is genetic, and my mom drinks like she's been trapped in a mall for years with no Orange Julius stands, and she's still beautiful."
Eric, Kelso, and Fez all enthusiastically agreed. "And hot, too!" Kelso said.
Hyde didn't say anything, and Jackie thrust herself from his lap. "Well, Steven?"
"Jackie, first off," Hyde said, crossing his arms, "I said that over two freakin' years ago, and I was mostly kidding. Second, I'm not doing this crap with you."
She matched his crossed arms. "'Mostly'?"
Eric, Kelso, and Fez hooted, but Donna elbowed Eric in the ribs.
"Take off the ring and throw it at him!" Kelso said.
Jackie's scowl deepened. "Oh, shut up, Michael! Nothing's going to make me take off this ring. He's marrying me, whether he wants to or not."
"As entertaining as all this is," Eric said, hoping to diffuse the tension, "summer break officially started last Friday, and time's-a-wasting, people." He guided Donna off the couch. "We've got a movie to go to and an Empire to watch as it strikes back."
Hyde blew out a frustrated breath. "Fine."
"Fine," Jackie said.
The fight was far from over, but Eric silently thanked them for taking a break. This was his and Donna's week, and he intended to wring as much joy out of it as possible.
The line outside the movie theater wound around the block, and Jackie remained by Donna. Her anger at Steven only faded once they were halfway to the box office. Holding him accountable for something he'd said so long ago was foolish, and with that new understanding, she went to his side and apologized.
"Forget it," he said and squeezed her hand. "Sorry, too."
She hugged his arm to her body as the line inched forward, and he pressed the occasional kiss to her temple. Then, about ten feet closer to the box office, an unwelcome voice rang through the air: "Eric? Eric Forman? Thanks for saving me a spot, buddy."
Mitch—the red-haired, annoying little man who was inexplicably enamored with Donna—pushed his way through the line and stood next to Eric. "Thanks, pal." Mitch gestured to all the people behind them. "That sucker's a mile long..." he winked at Donna, "like my lightsaber, if you catch my drift."
Eric shoved him out of the line. "I don't think so, 'pal'."
"Whoa," Mitch recovered his footing, "you've got some muscle!" and returned to Eric's side, only for Eric to shove him again. This time, Mitch fell to the sidewalk. "Damn, Forman. Easy! When'd you turn into the Hulk?"
"Eight months ago," Eric said.
"Yeah, well that's about the time you're gonna spend in jail, buddy." Mitch stood up and dusted himself off. "What you just did, that's assault! All these people are witnesses."
Michael and Fez were behind Jackie, and Michael whispered, "Fez, you want me to—"
"Ai, no. I don't like the sonuvabitch, but you can't use that on him."
"Fine." Michael sounded disappointed. Jackie had no idea what he'd wanted to do, but she was sure it wasn't good.
She was also sure something strange was going on with Eric. He'd never been that aggressive before, but she couldn't blame him. He deserved to be a little violent after what he went through with Laurie... not that Jackie had any interest in talking to him about it. That was Donna's job.
"You wanna hit me?" Mitch said. "Go ahead." He got in Eric's face and pointed to his own eye. "Right there. And then you'll be arrested and never know what happens to Luke or Leia."
Eric backed off and lowered his head. "Just... go away, Mitch."
"Oh, I'm never backing off, Forman!"
"Mitch," Donna produced a square envelope from her bag, "consider this a white flag of truce and go stand at the end of the line."
Mitch opened the envelope, and Eric whispered, "Donna, you can't give a wedding invitation to every piece of riffraff you meet."
"Can I bring a date?" Mitch said after reading the invitation.
"Of course," Donna said.
"All right! Hot post-wedding sex, here I come!" Mitch stuffed the invitation in his pocket. "Congratulations, Forman." Then he addressed Donna. "If he doesn't go through with it this time, Cherry Pie, my lightsaber's always avail—"
Steven pulled away from Jackie and grabbed Mitch by his shirt collar. "Yeah, let's go," Steven said and dragged him down the line. He returned a few minutes later, Mitch-less. "Don't worry," he told Eric, "if Don Juan el Twerpo has the balls to show up at your wedding, he ain't gonna fuck with it."
"Why?" Eric had a look of admiration on his face, and Jackie must have had the same look because she certainly felt that way. "What did you tell him?"
"I told him enough, man. Let's leave it at that."
Jackie looped her arms around Steven's hips as the line collectively moved toward the box office. She was used to him not tolerating any bullies, especially on the behalf of his friends. But ever since they'd gotten back to Wisconsin, he didn't hesitate at all. It was as if his sense of protectiveness had multiplied by ten, and it more than awed her. It turned her on.
Jackie was crying. That stupid space movie had made her cry. The credits were rolling, and Steven rubbed her back, and Eric stared at the screen with his mouth agape. Michael and Fez were retelling the movie to each other, adding their own sound effects, as Donna hugged Eric's shoulders, saying, "She made the wrong choice, Eric. I never would've picked Han."
"How could he have said that to her?" Jackie shouted and hit Steven in the stomach. It was at least the fifth time she'd struck him. Han Solo's response to Princess Leia's declaration of love was unacceptable.
"Hey, would ya quit freakin' hitting me? I didn't say it."
She jabbed a finger in his face. "If I were about to lose you forever, you damn well better tell me you love me. What's this 'I know' crap? That's just as bad as you saying, 'I don't know,' when I asked if we'd ever get married."
"Jackie, come on. Don't bring that shit up again."
Eric looked over at them and nodded solemnly. "Luke would've told Leia he loves her."
"And that," Steven said, "is what makes Luke a pussy."
A few minutes later, they were all outside. The line around the theater hadn't shrunk, and Donna kept Eric from spilling Darth Vader's secret. The movie had really upset him, but Jackie had upset herself. She was holding Steven's hand and admonishing herself silently. She shouldn't have brought up their past. His uncertainty about their future together was over, but the words had fallen out her mouth like grenades. She kept doing that lately, spitting out things she didn't mean to say. It was driving her crazy.
"Man, Luke's fight with Vader was badass," Steven said to Eric. "Pretty cool he chose death instead of the Dark Side, man."
"Wait, wait, wait..." Eric held him back, "how can he be both a pussy and a badass?"
Steven smirked as if Eric already knew the answer.
The men split off from the women after lunch. Jackie had apologized to Hyde again before they left, but he didn't want her apologies. He needed her to chill out. She was constantly running hot and cold with him. Sometimes, what he gave satisfied her. Other times, she accused him of withholding himself. It was like permanent PMS, man. The thought had crossed his mind that she was pregnant. But this shit had started months ago, and she hadn't gained a pound.
Going through that fairy-tale hell must have traumatized her more than she'd ever admit. She'd witnessed him "poisoning" thousands of people in Fez's ballroom. Their bodies dropped to the marble floor, and he acted like it didn't matter to him. Turned out he was only dosing them with a sleeping brew. He'd whipped one up thanks to a book he read, but she hadn't known that then.
Then she watched as a possessed Laurie choked the life out of Forman. A poisoned comb was stuck in Laurie's hair, and Jackie shouted at Forman to use it. He did, scratched Laurie's neck with its sharp teeth, and Laurie died instead of him. All in front of Jackie.
She'd talked it out with Hyde during their first months back in Wisconsin, cried with him. She didn't hold back when she needed comfort, and he was glad to give it. Eventually, she seemed to let everything go, and they lived their lives in the present.
Then the mood swings began.
Question upon damn question she asked him. He refused to answer most of them, instead kissing her into a more secure state of mind. His tactics usually worked, but when they didn't, he left the scene until she calmed down. Had to, man, or else she threw stuff at him.
He didn't believe in shrinks, so that was out. Maybe it was hormones. She could have switched to a different birth control pill. Whatever the cause—for better or for worse—he planned on figuring out her deal. No other options except for breaking off their engagement...
But breaking things off with her would shatter him into a hundred thousand pieces.
Author's Note 2: I've created a movie-like trailer for Beneath a Shattered Sky. The T7S gang is literally cut out of the basement and thrust into the fantasy world of the story. Unlike any T7S video made before. With special effects. Link in my profile.
I've also created artwork for each chapter. Links are in my profile. :D