The Renewal

All of a Sudden

The moment is fleeting, and we both pull back as though nothing has happened, and turn our attention back to the TV game. Although I hear it, I don’t see it as I am caught up in whatever the hell just happened, I don’t even know –

But then clear as day, “I bid one dollar, Bob” comes from the screen, and I am reminded about how ridiculous and boring this is, and how much I’d rather be –

Steven wraps his arms around the back of my head, and I pivot my body towards his and we’re kissing again, and time is flying and the world behind my eyelids is filled with color and light and happiness as our lips move against each other’s in an urgent, messing around way, but I can’t stop the feeling of something more, no matter how I try to stop it, after all this time. I feel myself falling and then admitting that somehow, somewhere in the past few weeks I had begun to fall for Steven Hyde.

Unfortunately, once I admit that to myself, I begin to worry if this is just some meaningless thing to Steven, like I had originally thought. The idea rushes through my head and I pull myself slightly away from him.

He looks at me, questioning in his eyes. I verbally echo as much. “What are we doing?”

Steven doesn’t say anything for a long moment. His hands are still wrapped around the back of my head and shoulder. He looks at me searchingly. Then he swallows. “I don’t know.”

And that’s enough. I lean in once again and kiss him once more. Steven always shrugged everything off with a nothing, so by his simple admitting that he didn’t know…that said everything.

We kiss even harder, and I’m filled with this feeling of belonging and acceptance that I hadn’t realized was missing before and that I now realized was all that was holding me back from fully being myself. I had spent a lot of time alone with Steven this summer, but never felt as though he accepted me for who I was. And that was part of what made this summer a pretty tough one. But now, all those walls were tearing down and there was nothing left to stop me from me and being happy.

And so I kiss him again. I kiss Steven Hyde. I rub my hands in his curls and down his sideburns and I begin to realize that I have found something in Steven Hyde that I have found in no other. And I don’t know what it is exactly, but its in Steven Hyde, and for some reason that makes me really happy.

“It’s official. I’m rich in real life, and in games too,” I smile sweetly as I take more of Steven’s quickly diminishing pile of money.

“Man, every time,” he mutters.

“Whatever you do, don’t flip the Monopoly board,” I say, thinking back to the last time I probably played this game last year and Fez kept flipping the board.

Steven shakes his head. He rolls the dice. “I passed Go. Two hundred for me,” he takes the money from the bank.

“I don’t think that’s going to save you,” I grab the dice. And I land on Park Place. “Perfect,” I whisper. I already owned Boardwalk. “I’ll buy it,” I put the money in the bank and grab the card labeled ‘Park Place.’

Steven glances at his watch. “Alright, time to go pick up Fez.”

“What? No fair! I just bought Park Place!” I whine.

Steven gives me a rueful smile as he stands up. “Sucks, doesn’t it?”

“This is as bad as flipping the board.”

Steven shrugs. “Hey, its Fez’s fault again.”

I just shake my head minutely and grab my purse and follow Steven up the stairs. But the truth was, I wasn’t really all that upset about the game at all. In fact, I hadn’t been able to stop grinning all afternoon. Because whatever I had now with Steven had made me uncontrollably giddy.

I had already analyzed it a million times over in my head. Not so much while we were making out, but when we went upstairs to eat lunch with Kitty, and then when we had come back to the basement and had turned off the stupid game show and started playing Monopoly.

And it was during the game that I figured it all out, and my grin grew even bigger. I had been upset because now that I had completed my change, there would be nothing to do for the rest of the summer. And there was still a week left in July and all of August. And I thought that fooling around with Steven was going to be that thing to do for the rest of the summer.

But I realized it was a little deeper than that. Starting this illicit… relationship?... with Steven was simply the start. Because it had broken down the walls of insecurity and resistance that had kept me – us – from having a good time this summer, considering all the time we’d been spending together. And now with the walls gone, I found that I have never been so comfortable with or had as much fun with anyone else before.

When we get to the mall, Steven strategically parks the El Camino close enough to the entrance to the jewelry store that Stephanie would be able to tell that it was a really nice car, but far enough away that she wouldn’t be able to see that there were other people in it.

“I can’t believe I agreed to let Fez pretend that this was his car,” Steven sighs as we crouch down on the floor and out of sight. “What if he takes her on a date and she wants to go in his car?”

“Kind of like the time that Eric pretended the Corvette was his,” I say. “And stupid Leslie crashed it.”

“Yeah, that didn’t end well. Well, Fez is never going to drive this,” Steven says affirmatively.

“I’m sure that Stephanie is a good driver though,” I shrug. “She’s smart, calm, and basically the opposite of Leslie.”

“Your point?” Steven asks.

“Well, if she does want to go on a date with him, as long as she drives, your car should be fine.”

“No way,” Steven shakes his head stubbornly.

“All I’m saying is that you can trust Stephanie to drive your car,” I return, just as stubborn.

“I don’t trust anyone to drive the Camino except for myself,” Steven says. He pauses before continuing. “And probably Red and you, since you guys know cars.”

I try to ignore the quick, irregular thump my heart makes when Steven says he would trust me to drive his car. So I continue to push my point.

“But Stephanie – ”

Steven turns and stops me from talking by kissing me. After a moment he pulls away. “Were you seriously going to keep arguing that? Even after what I had just told you?”

I look down. This time I can’t help from blushing. “Yes…”

Steven makes a noise in the back of his mouth that sounds like dry amusement.

“Oh, you’re just as stubborn as I am,” I hit him halfheartedly.

“Can’t argue with that,” he says. And this time I lean forward and begin kissing him.

I plant my hands on the sides of his head as he pulls me on top of him, and never once do we break our kiss. Steven runs his hands through my hair, pulling out the braid I had made hastily that morning. After a moment I belatedly realize that Steven is, and has been keeping his hands in my hair both times that we’ve made out, and they have never strayed, not once.

I pull away, unexpectedly, the shock of the realization shaking me to my core with extreme gratitude. He respected me. Something new after having a boyfriend who treated my body like it belonged to him.

“What?” Steven asks.

“I just…” my voice fades. My head was spinning. I was trying not to make this into something it wasn’t, but I couldn’t help it. I knew this was something slightly more for me than just fooling around, and I began to wonder if it were the same for Steven too. After all, he was respecting me, which meant he cared.

I feel another swell of gratitude, and realize that I have no words for how I feel. So I just lean down and begin kissing Steven again.

After a few minutes, Steven pulls away and checks his watch. “Crap,” he mutters, and he begins to sit up. I scoot off of him. “Fez should be getting out now.”

“We keep this a secret?” I ask, already on board, but just looking for confirmation.

Steven just nods and crouches down further. I follow his lead, and come to realize something else.

It wasn’t even a question that we were going to keep this a secret. And upon brief analysis, I understand that it is in no way embarrassment of each other, but rather to protect ‘us’ from the criticism of others. I couldn’t even begin to think how our friends would react if they found out. And honestly, I didn’t want or need that drama, and I’m sure Steven felt the same way. I didn’t want anyone telling me that what I was doing was stupid or crazy. Because I didn’t care.

I pull up my head slightly and look at Steven crouched next to me. Our shoulders are leaning together. I take my hand and fish out his in the dark. When I find it and curl my fingers through his, I am honestly thrown off guard to feel his fingers tighten back around mine.

I turn my head away from him and squeeze my eyes shut. My head was spinning again. And all of a sudden I’m back in the Hub two years ago with some unprecedented and unsubstantiated crush on Steven Hyde because he was my hero for taking the fall for my stash. I can vividly remember grasping at his hand and forcing his fingers through mine despite his refusal and I mentally wince at my vulnerability and horrid display of infatuation.

I had grown so much, and what I felt now for Steven Hyde was so completely different and now this time he was holding my hand.

I think I can vaguely hear footsteps and then I definitely do hear the door handle being pulled. I look up and see Fez outside the driver’s side door.

“See you tomorrow, Stephanie,” I hear Fez’s voice, mumbled through the car.

Steven, instead of letting go of my hand, just pulls our hands underneath the seat. Fez open the door and climb into the driver’s seat.

Steven waits until he has shut the door to speak. “Let me know when she goes back inside,” is all he says.

There is a pause. “Okay, she’s gone. Thanks Hyde,” Fez says.

“No problem man,” Steven begins to pull himself up, pumping my hand once before letting it go and getting up. I sit in shock for a moment; Steven keeps surprising me. Then I sit up as well.

Fez gets back out and comes around to the other side while Steven scoots behind the wheel. “Now, I do believe we’re going to the Hub,” Steven turns the ignition. He glances at me briefly, and then we’re pulling out of the parking lot and on our way to the Hub.

“You’re still letting that Fenton guy get to you?” Hyde shakes his head at Fez as he sits down with his side of French fries.

“Yes,” Fez says grumpily. “But…but he has this grudge over me. I don’t know why.”

I cross my arms and look at Fez across the table. We were sitting in the Hub at our favorite table in the back near the bathrooms. Fez was sitting on the booth and Steven and I were sitting in chairs facing him.

“Are you sure he doesn’t like Stephanie?” I ask him.

Fez looks at me, very serious. “Yes. I asked him specifically if he did, and he didn’t even know who Stephanie was.”

“How’s it going with her, by the way?” I ask, not meaning to get off topic, but incredibly curious.

Fez gets a dopey grin. “I think she might be the one.”

Steven chuckles silently. “Don’t get your hopes up buddy.”

“So what do you think this grudge is that he has?” I frown.

Fez wiggles in his seat uncomfortably. “Well…”

He falls silent. We wait. Steven eats a handful of French fries. I take a sip from the soda Steven had silently handed to me while Fez was paying. I had tried unsuccessfully to suppress a smile after taking my first sip. Steven had ordered my favorite flavor soda and given his free soda from Fez to me.

Finally Fez speaks. “I think his masculinity feels threatened by mine.”

“Fez, you have no masculinity,” I deadpan.

Steven chokes on a French fry. I try not to laugh. Fez looks shocked.

“Well, excuse me Jackie, but at least I’m more masculine than Kelso and I don’t split on my girlfriend like a chicken. Now, good day,” Fez says angrily, standing up.

Steven starts to choke on his fries again. I shoot him daggers as I feel my face pale as all the blood rushes out of my face. “But Fez,” I start the routine.

“I said good day,” Fez pushes into the bathroom.

“Crap,” I say after he’s gone.

“Crap is right,” Steven sighs standing up. “I’ll go get him. He just needs to cool off.”

“Yeah, and you need to stop eating fries,” I tease him. “Or at least stop choking.”

“Never,” Steven shakes his head. Then he smiles. “And you can never underestimate the power of a good burn. Nice job, by the way,” he gives me a quick kiss, catching me slightly off guard before following Fez into the bathroom.

A few minutes pass before Fez returns from the bathroom, Steven following, shaking his head.

“I’m stuck with a bunch of girls,” Steven mutters as he sits back down. I kick him underneath the table. He gives me a look. “Fez has something he needs to tell us,” he says through grated teeth.

I look at Fez, curious. “You do?”

“About Fenton,” he says slowly, and I lean back in my seat, ready to listen. “He challenged me. Which is why I think he feels threatened by my masculinity,” Fez glares at me, and I sink into my seat, feeling both guilty and like I’m about to laugh. “Today he came into the store and he challenged me to wear a pair of tight leather pants to work one day.”

Steven and I sit in silence, in utter shock and confusion.

“What?” Steven manages after a long moment.

“It’s true,” whispers Fez, intensely serious. “And he doesn’t think I’m man enough to do it. Well, I’m going to prove that evil man very, very wrong.”

“Wait Fez,” I cross my arms over the table, thinking. “Are you sure he’s not just tricking you? You know, gets you to wear the pants and you just make a complete fool of yourself?”

“No, because he says he has a pair too that he’s going to wear on the same day,” Fez says confidently.

“No, Jackie’s right,” Steven holds out his hand. “It could be a trick, and he just said he has another pair to trick you into making a fool out of yourself.”

“But if I don’t wear them, Fenton will think I’m a chicken,” Fez groans.

Steven holds up his hands. “And if you do, everyone else will think you’re a crazy fool.”

“You two are just making things worse,” Fez stands up angrily. “Now, good day.”

I bang my head against the table. Not again.

“But Fez,” Steven starts, sounding exhausted.

“I said good day,” and then I hear the jingle of the door as Fez exits the Hub.

I lift my head. “Again? He is really not in a good mood today.”

Steven shakes his head. “Donna, Kelso, Forman and now Fez,” he pauses. “All of a sudden, you’re the only one left in the group that isn’t pissing me off.”

“What a turn of events,” I smile, and Steven can’t help but smile either.

“Let’s go get Fez,” Steven gives me a hand and helps me up.

Fez is outside the Hub waiting at Steven’s car. He’s sitting cross-legged in the bed.

“I wish to be alone,” Fez mutters.

I share a look with Steven. He just shrugs, so I climb into the passenger seat without another word.

On the ride back to Forman’s Fez remains silent and Steven and I don’t push him. We don’t talk either; we are both acutely aware of the presence of a moping Fez in the bed. I doubt he’d really be able to hear us, but I don’t want to take the chance. And when we finally get there, Steven and I both get out of the car and shut our doors before realizing that Fez has no intentions to move.

Steven and I exchange glances again. This time I shrug. Steven sighs and looks at Fez. “C’mon man, we’ll shoot some hoops.”

Fez still says nothing, but he does climb out of the Camino. Once he has straightened himself up, he looks squarely at Steven and me.

“I cannot stay. I must go work out and tone my gluteus for those pants,” then Fez spins on his heel and exits the Forman property.

Steven and I both watch him disappear in astonishment, much like after he originally told us about the pants.

Once he disappears however, Steven makes his way to the garage.

“You up for one on one?” he calls out.

“Who? Me?” I point to myself.

Steven nods. “Yeah, you,” he says, clearly amused.

“But...but, you were just saying how I never play,” I say, confused.

Steven finds the basketball and dribbles it over and stands next to me. Then he dribbles it in place. “Yes, but you know all the rules, so I don’t see why not.”

“Well, first of all, I’m wearing heels,” I start.

“Take them off.”

I huff. “Then I’ll be even shorter. And your boots have heels, so I’ll be at a really major disadvantage.

“Oh, quit your yapping,” Steven hands off the basketball to me. Then he leans down and pulls off his shoes. He tosses them on one of the chairs on the porch and takes back the basketball, looking pointedly at me.

“Uh, fine,” I groan a moment later. I undo my sandals and toss them on the chair as well. Then I walk back onto the driveway. “Offense or defense?”

“Offense,” he says.

I nod and walk towards the net, facing away from it. Then he starts dribbling the ball toward the basket.

And see, here comes the thing I was worried about. I knew all the strategies from watching years of basketball, but I couldn’t exactly replicate them.

So when Steven moved to make a jump shot, I knew the point was to knock the ball out of his hand…if I could reach it. And of course, as I had aforementioned, I was too short. And he made the basket.

“Alright, I want offense,” I retrieve the ball and walk toward the porch, then turn and face the hoop.

I begin to dribble, contemplating my move. Steven quickly advances, and so like in the professional games, I turn my back to him, using my body to shield the ball. Then I curve around the edge and make my way over to the basket. Steven has it covered well, however, so I fake left, surprisingly catching him off guard and make a weak attempt at a layup, but the ball falls just short of the basket, bouncing off the rim.

“Damn it,” I mutter.

“Better luck next time,” Steven grins cheerily.

“You’re getting too much amusement out of this,” I whine.

Next time I’m on offense, however, I take a different strategy. I realize that I’m too short for jump shots or layups and similar shots because it requires you to jump up to the hoop. So, maybe I could attempt a three pointer.

I’m dribbling the ball again, using my body as a shield. Then I pick it up and pivot on my heel so that I’m facing the basket.

Steven moves back a few feet, anticipating that I’m going to move in towards the basket. I try not to smirk. I knew he would do that. Then I balance the ball between my hands, set up my trajectory, and do my best to follow through as I shoot the ball from right where I stand at the edge of the porch.

Steven stands slack as he watches in shock as the ball sails above his head, bounces on the rim, and then falls into the hoop.

“Yes!” I shout. “I believe that’s three points for me!” I point at Steven. “Wasn’t expecting that, were you?”

“Did you hustle me?” he picks up the ball.

“Are you kidding? I wasn’t even expecting that,” I smile giddily.

Steven walks up to me and shakes his head. “That was so hot.”

I laugh and cup his face in my hands and press my lips against his, parting mine slightly and his do the same. He shifts the ball to one arm, and cups his free arm behind my back.

I pull away first, and look at Steven. I just smile. He looks at me and does the same. After a moment, he tosses the basketball on the chair where our shoes are. Then he puts his arm around the back of my neck and I lean my head on his shoulder as we walk towards the door to the basement.

“You’re an enigma, Jackie Burkhart,” he says. “An enigma.”

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