The first night feels weird.
It's not the first time Hyde's spent the night at Eric's house, but it's the first time he's spent the night there in this context. Eric's house, which is a little bit like his house too, now - except his house never looked like this. His house never had clean walls in fresh colors, or beds with covers that still smelled like laundry detergent and softener. The relief Hyde feels over something as simple as having a warm bed to crawl into at night, even if it is in a makeshift room in the Forman family's basement, is downright embarrassing. But if he is to be completely, truthfully honest with himself--and he really hates heartfelt honesty, even if it's just to himself--he needed the help.
It's hard falling asleep.
Eric had that stupid grin on his face the whole day. Almost as if watching Hyde eat all the cookies was one of the greatest triumphs Eric had ever experienced, despite the fact that it obviously left him without any cookies of his own.
Hyde has the distinct impression that Eric knows--knows that Hyde owes him big time now, and has never felt this kind of gratitude towards anyone.
The thought is unsettling. Getting help in this way, in this huge way which he wasn't sure how he'd pay back, or even how to show his gratitude for, was making his insides turn in the most uncomfortable way. He'd owed Eric favors before, but they were always easily repaid. Get a bag. Buy some beer. Pay his next tank of gas. Stuff like that. Even after the fiasco with the Donna kiss, they'd kept their friendship level. But this?
This is different. And it's making Hyde think of Eric in ways he's been trying to ignore for a very, very long time.
The house is quiet and dark, and that feels weird too as Hyde makes his way out into the main room of the basement and sits down. He never had to be quiet back home. Even if Edna was asleep, he never saw the need to be that respectful to her--after all, why should he, when she had gone out of her way to make her miserable? Anger briefly surges up in Hyde, before he shakes it off. Kitty and Red have been good to him. However he'll manage to pay them back, waking them up at three in the morning is probably not a good way to start, so now he's doing his best to be quiet. Of course, smoking pot in their basement probably isn't the best idea either, but at least that's familiar territory to him.
Smoking pot is soothing. Comforting. There are few things in this world Hyde likes as much as he likes being high. Being high makes it so easy to forget about all his stresses, and to just space out. He doesn't quite understand why they don't just legalize marihuana everywhere, so everyone could be happy all the time, but then again--corrupt governments and fascist conspiracies never did seem to make sense to people on the outside.
He's just starting to feel the buzz and get some really good conspiracy theories really going in his mind, when there's footsteps on the stairs, light footsteps, feminine footsteps, and shit--Hyde panics. Put out the joint, he needs to hide it fast, real fast, and come up with a passable excuse for why he's down there in the middle of the night.
"Mrs. Forman, I--"
But it's not Mrs. Forman on the stairs. Instead, Eric's lanky frame comes into view, and then Hyde can see Eric as he's rubbing sleep from his eyes and blinks a few times.
Hyde breathes a deep sigh of relief and sinks back down onto his chair.
"Jesus, Forman. You walk like a woman, has anyone ever told you that?"
Eric's mouth tightens a bit in a resigned grimace, and he nods once and sighs. "Yeah. Yeah, I get that a lot."
Hyde digs out the joint from under the couch where he threw it in his panic, and lights it again, and when he looks back up Eric is still standing there in the middle of the room, staring at him.
"What?" Hyde asks.
Eric gestures once, and Hyde looks down at the baby blue pajamas he's wearing.
"Your mom gave them to me," he mumbles, inhales, and offers the joint to Eric. Eric looks down at his own pajamas for a second, before seemingly deciding that he can't possibly look more stupid than Hyde anyway, and sits down, taking the joint from Hyde's fingers as he does so.
"So what are you doing up at this hour?" Eric asks, while holding in as much smoke as possible.
"Couldn't sleep," Hyde replies, exhaling as he takes the joint back. "Your house is too freaky, man."
"You've stayed here before," Eric says, exhaling and giving a couple of weak coughs.
"Yeah, but this is different. It wasn't freaky back then. Now it's freaky," Hyde explains, with a duh gesture.
Eric nods and Hyde just knows there's sarcasm coming. Any second now. "Of course," Eric deadpans, and there it is. "How could I forget, we just repainted the entire house in freaky."
Hyde grimaces. "That's not what I mean," and he's trying to think of how to best explain it without sounding like a massive wuss.
They puff on the joint in silence for a few minutes as Hyde thinks, and the joint is starting to get very close to done now. Almost to the point of them not being able to get any more feelgood out of it. The room is spinning comfortably around Hyde. Not wildly out of control, like when he's gone on a beer bender, or the few times in his life he's tried harder drugs, like mushrooms, but--comfortably. Comforting. A little bit like being rocked to sleep.
"Okay," Hyde finally says, just as the joint gets to the point where it needs to be put out. "Okay. It's like this. You know when you and Donna started dating?" Eric nods, his eyes clearly struggling to focus. This bag was good.
"Can you remember how you felt then?"
"Horny?" Eric tries, clearly confused about where this conversation is going.
"No, not horny!" Hyde shakes his head. "Idiot. I mean, didn't you feel like the luckiest guy on earth? Like she'd just done you a huge favor that you could somehow never pay her back, by actually choosing to date you over any other guy?"
Eric just looks confused, now. Hyde sighs deeply, runs a hand over his face and puts out the last remains of the joint, almost burning his fingers in the process.
Eric blinks a couple of times. "So--you couldn't sleep because... Donna made me lucky?"
"Nah, man," Hyde says, exasperated, and then just angrily blurts it all out--the whole thing. "I couldn't sleep because you just did this huge thing for me and just totally saved my ass!"
Eric looks a little baffled, and then there's that stupid grin again. "And...?" he asks, then laughs a little--giggles, really, and he really doesn't get it, does he? "And this is a bad thing?"
"Yes!" Hyde exclaims, "Because it's so Goddamn huge, I have no clue how I'm ever gonna repay you!"
That seems to sober Eric up a bit, and he stops giggling.
Suddenly embarrassed by his uncharacteristic outburst of honesty, Hyde crosses his arms and stands up, turning his back on Eric. "Not that, uh... Not that it's that big a deal, anyway," he mumbles, turning a little and shuffling his feet along the floor. "I mean, I didn't need your help."
Out of the corner of his eye he can see Eric stand up on unsteady legs, hands nervously fumbling at his sides. Stupid, Hyde, stupid.
"Hey, it's... it's no big deal, man," Eric says, trying for casual and failing as spectacularly as only Eric can. "It's no big deal, you don't owe me anything."
Hyde turns a little more, and looks at Eric's face. He's got that stupid look, the look that Hyde has seen a million times before--that attempt at looking innocent and laidback all at once. A rush of gratitude hits Hyde, and it's almost painful in his chest, and he hopes to God nothing shows in his own face. If Eric wants to write this off as nothing, then Hyde's fine with that, Hyde's grateful for that. It spares him some embarrassment, and yet the bottom line remains the same--Eric was there for Hyde, when even Hyde's own mother wasn't.
"Thanks," Hyde mutters, and Eric makes a little pfft noise and shrugs.
"Oh, hey. You know."
He could maybe have blamed it on the pot, the gratitude and guilt he felt over the help he was given, or maybe even claimed that he was upset about his mother's leaving. But the truth is, none of it had any influence whatsoever, on Hyde's decision to lean over and kiss Eric.
Eric's lips are warm and surprisingly soft, but not at all like a woman's, and for just a split second, everything is perfect in Steven Hyde's world.
Then Eric makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat as he stumbles back and trips over the couch. He lands on his ass on the floor, gaping like a fish out of water, and something tightens uncomfortably in Hyde's chest.
Everything hits him at once, and suddenly kissing Eric feels like the worst idea he's ever had! Worse than the time they decided to see if smoking dried spices from Kitty's spice rack would give them a high, worse than the time they convinced Kelso that anyone could hold their breath underwater for ten minutes and then challenged him to try, worse than the time he decided that he just had to kiss Donna.
"You--you--you--I--you," Eric stammers, scrambling to his feet and walking backwards until his back hits the wall.
"Listen," Hyde starts, desperately trying to come up with an explanation, or an excuse, or anything at all that will just fix this.
The look on Eric's face has gone from painfully fake nonchalance to wide-eyed shock and something that almost looks like fear. When Hyde takes a step forward, Eric seems to attempt to physically melt into the wall, and Hyde covers his face with both hands--and yeah, this really was the worst idea ever.
What if this fucks up everything? What if this just fucks up everything? And Hyde is pretty sure that kissing their son would beat both waking Red and Kitty up and smoke pot in their basement, as far as bad ways to pay them back for their hospitality goes.
So for lack of a better solution, in order to salvage what is still salvageable, Hyde does the only thing he can think of.
"Man," he says, forcing a giggle as he removes the hands from his eyes. "Oh man, this was such a mistake, Donna!"
Eric looks confused now.
"Yessir," Hyde says, then walks in a circle and sends a silent prayer Eric will buy it. After all, they've all done some amazingly stupid shit while high, and they've all thought they saw or heard stuff that turned out to not be true the next morning--they've all done it. If Eric just buys this--if Eric just believes him this one time...
"You know I mean no disrespect to Eric," and Hyde's trying to slur his words as best he can now, letting himself fall back and land on the couch. "Sorry, sorry..."
Hyde closes his eyes and pretends to fall asleep, so he won't have to watch Eric's face anymore, won't have to see if his lie is accepted or not. The room falls silent for what seems like forever, before there's finally a shuffling noise from Eric's direction, and the sound of Eric clearing his throat a little.
"It-it-it's, uh... it's okay," he says, and his voice sounds lighter than normal. Hyde's not sure if it's because of the kiss, or if Eric has bought the lie and is trying to make Hyde believe he's really talking to Donna.
"I won't tell Eric," Eric says, and that answers that question.
Ignoring the still tightening feeling in his chest, Hyde remains unmoving with his eyes closed as Eric makes his way up the stairs. It's not until the last faint noises of Eric going to bed has faded, that Hyde opens his eyes again.
He stares at the ceiling, and something cold seems to have gripped his heart and started squeezing. Feels kinda heavy too, like something's sitting on his chest, and his eyes are stinging for some reason. He had that same feeling the day his mother told him she was not coming back. He's had that exact same feeling a lot lately, in fact. Might be from the pot, Hyde thinks. Maybe it's a bad batch or something, Hyde's not sure.
Suddenly the spinning isn't the least bit comforting anymore.
Hyde goes up the stairs, instead of down.
By all rights, he could have--probably should have--gone down the stairs when Red told him to get out of his sight, but for some reason he goes up instead. Follows closely after Eric, up the stairs and into his room, then shuts the door behind them.
Eric paces for a couple of seconds, then stops and turns to Hyde.
"You're a moron," he says, and Hyde shrugs a little.
"I was trying to be nice," he says, then adds, "Dumbass," for good measure.
"Nice?" Eric asks. "Nice how? Like, make Red hate you forever, kind of nice?"
"I was trying to help you out."
"I didn't need help," Eric objects. "You've been kissing their asses since you moved in!"
"Yeah," Hyde said, gesturing wildly, "because I am a guest in their home. You guys took me in and fed me, and it's no secret your family's money situation is not at its best! I've been trying to show Kitty and Red that I appreciate what you're all doing for me, and I was trying to get Red off your back!"
Eric looks embarrassed now, but stubbornly fumbles for a comeback. "Yeah," he says weakly. "Yeah, well... well--thanks!"
The thank you is spit out like an insult, and Hyde sighs deeply.
Days. It's been days. Days of normal, days of weird, but they still haven't spoken about--it. The original plan of avoiding any and all mentions of--well, it, is not working for Hyde anymore. He thinks maybe it's time they have a talk.
"Eric--," he starts, but clearly Eric is one step ahead of him, because he immediately interrupts Hyde.
"Please leave my room now," Eric says, rushes the words out and carefully avoids meeting Hyde's eyes.
"No." Hyde speaks quietly, but firmly, and it seems to surprise Eric enough so that he actually looks up and directly at Hyde.
"I'm not leaving. We have to talk, Forman," Hyde says, then takes off his sunglasses. If Hyde had a security blanket, those glasses would be it, and taking them off makes him feel embarrassingly vulnerable and exposed. Still, he can't help but feel like it's important for this conversation that he's not trying to hide behind anything anymore--even if it's just his glasses. He wants Eric to see that he's not hiding anything. He needs Eric to see that.
Eric doesn't see much of anything at the moment--he's gone back to studying the floor instead.
"Please look at me," Hyde asks quietly, and he hopes the desperation doesn't shine through in his voice. "Please."
Eric's eyes keep darting back and forth across the floor, from one pile of dirty clothes to another, to the corner of the bed, and back again. This is the point of no return, Hyde knows. He can walk out that door right now, and they can go back to letting things be normal and weird, and go back to not talking about it. He almost considers it too--it would certainly be easier that way. But then he pushes that thought aside, because this will keep coming up, he can feel it. And Hyde doesn't like the thought of this--thing between them, constantly bugging him and annoying him.
Hyde takes a deep breath and once again, just blurts it out--but there's no anger this time. There's just the truth. Simple--yet so complicated all at once.
"I wasn't really that stoned," he says.
Eric's eyes stop moving. Hyde gives him a few seconds--just in case he wants to say something. But when Eric remains quiet, Hyde continues.
"I didn't mean to freak you out, and I don't blame you for getting all weird on me. I just didn't wanna ruin our friendship, you know?" He takes another deep breath, and this is the hardest part, right here.
"I'm not gay," he says, hesitates for a second--just a second--then pushes onward. "I'm not gay, I don't think I'm gay, I don't think--but--I like you."
It's out there now. Nothing to do but wait. Hyde holds his breath, holds his breath until his lungs are aching. Say something, he silently urges Eric, anything at all.
It's not until after what seems like an eternity has passed, that Eric finally lifts his head a little, and shyly meets Hyde's eyes. It's not much, but it's something--a step in the right direction--and Hyde can breathe again. And this might be it, right here--this might be all the talk Hyde's getting.
"We okay, man?" Hyde asks carefully, not wishing to push Eric further.
Eric purses his lips and his eyes narrow a bit. Hyde knows that look, too. He knows all of Eric's looks. He fiddles nervously with his glasses, trying to keep his hands from shaking as he waits for Eric to say whatever it is he's obviously working up the nerve to say. Whatever it is, Hyde knows that this is it--this is when Eric decides what happens with their friendship from this point out. If they can move past this whole kissing thing and go back to being normal, if they end their friendship right here and now--or maybe--maybe--something...
Hyde doesn't even dare finish that thought.
"You lied to me," Eric finally says, and he looks Hyde straight in the eye. It's slightly unsettling, considering Eric's most common reaction to--well, pretty much anything, is blind panic. Hyde expected stuttering, maybe a quiet We're okay at best. He did not expect this.
"Yes," he admits, then tries to excuse himself, "but I lie about a lot of crap, all the time."
Eric frowns. "Why wouldn't you just talk to me right away? Why lie about it, and then bring it up now, like, days later?"
Hyde's eyebrows fly upwards; he can't help it. "Seriously?" he asks, and Eric nods. "Dude, you freaked out. You were stammering like a broken record. I just needed to diffuse the situation, and it was the first thing I thought of--I'm sorry." He shrugs and gestures at Eric again. "If it's any consolation, it clearly worked, I mean--I don't see you freaking out on me anymore, with the whole--lack of stammering and falling over furniture, you know?"
Eric grimaces a little, as if reluctantly agreeing.
"So are we okay, man?" Hyde asks again, suddenly desperately wanting--needing--to get out, out, as far away as possible. Eric clearly doesn't want--and Hyde was stupid, so stupid, to even think, to even hope...
Eric blinks a couple of times, before he finally takes a deep, shaky breath.
And now Hyde's the confused one.
Eric nods, and repeats, "No." Then he quickly shakes his head, "I mean yes. I mean--no!"
And then before Hyde can analyze the confusing statements further, or even try to begin to make sense of them, Eric is crossing the room, and he's getting awfully close. Hyde barely have the time to think, He's going to kiss me, before Eric suddenly stops, his lips a mere inch from Hyde's.
"Forman?" And isn't that embarrassing, how his voice cracks just then?
"I--I," stammers Eric. "I'm just--not sure how to do this."
A corner of Hyde's mouth tilts up.
"Just pretend I'm a girl."
Eric seems to contemplate this for a second, before squeezing his lips together in a grimace and giving a miniscule shake of his head. "Nope. Nope, can't do it. Can't see you as a girl."
"Okay," Hyde says with a chuckle bubbling in his chest, "then pretend you're one."
And then they're kissing.
Their first kiss was brief--so brief that Hyde doesn't even really remember it anymore. Doesn't remember the exact feeling of Eric's lips against his, doesn't remember the details of it. Yet, they feel awfully familiar now, as they're pressed against his own lips, and this time he has the time to memorize every touch. Warm, soft, comforting--more comforting than any pot he's ever smoked, and his heart is beating wildly in his chest. His sunglasses drop from his fingers and hit the carpeted floor with a dull clack, and Hyde doesn't even care--doesn't care, because he's kissing Eric, he's kissing Eric, he's kissing Eric.
A trembling hand comes up and cradles his neck at the same time as a soft tongue tentatively strokes against his own, and Hyde carefully moves closer--just a little bit--until he can feel Eric's body against his own. Hard and flat--again, nothing like a woman's, nothing at all, but still so very good. Does this mean he's gay? Does this mean anything at all, beyond--oh God, he's kissing Eric? And Hyde can't think about this right now, literally can't think about it, because--because--
It's not until his back hits the door with a dull thump that Hyde realizes they've moved. It's not enough to make him break the kiss, though--Eric's lips feel too good, too warm, too soft, and there's something distinctly hard around his groin area that's not just himself. Hyde shifts his hips a little--gives a little experimental push, and that certainly gets Eric's attention. His head jerks back and he stared at Hyde with wide eyes, cheeks flushed.
For a second, Hyde thinks he's ruined it again--he's sent Eric back into a panic cycle, and this will end even worse than the last time, because he can't lie his way out of this one, he can't, absolutely not, because even if he denied the whole thing--claimed it to be an elaborate practical joke--there's no denying his own hardness rubbing up against Eric.
The panic never comes, though. Instead, Eric just stares at him--heavy and rapid breaths against Hyde's face--and when Hyde finally realizes Eric isn't going to hyperventilate himself into a coma, he gives another little push with his hips, and Eric's eyes drift shut, and he makes a little sound--a little Oh.
Hyde's heart is pounding so hard in his chest now, it's filling his ears and everything else sounds fuzzy and underwater. Eric makes no more moaning sounds--thankfully, because Kitty and Red are still just down the stairs in the living room--but Hyde can still hear his labored breathing. When he brings their lips together again, he can feel the slight tremble in Eric's body, and when he pushes, he can feel Eric start to push back.
Hyde's not sure how long they stand there for, just pushing and making out and just--holding each other--but when they finally do break apart, they're both grinning like idiots. Hyde doesn't really want to stop at all, but he knows that if he doesn't, there will be more pushing, and that would be a bad idea. First of all, it's still broad daylight, and any member of the Foreman family could come barging in at any second. Secondly, Eric is still technically dating Donna. And third, and most importantly, Hyde suspects any further--pushing--might just be a tad too much to handle for poor Eric in a single day.
"I mean... yeah," Eric says in a shaky, breathy voice, and God--it makes Hyde wants to do all sorts of sinful things to him. "Yeah--we're okay."
"Good." Hyde says. His smirk grows, just the tiniest bit, as he braces himself for the onslaught of a full blown panic attack.
"Now--what are you going to tell Donna?"
A lot may be different, Hyde thinks to himself, but he's grateful to know that with all these changes, Eric still screams like a girl.