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Crushed Velvet and Corsages

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Jackie sits on the couch next to Eric and realizes that he may be her only hope. She's dateless and he's dateless and the prom is only hours away. She can't be the only one simmering in anger here.

If it weren't for that idiot Michael and his slut for a date Pam Macy, she wouldn't be here. Neither would Eric if Donna got off her feminist high horse.

The lecture Donna gave to Eric about prom being a male-dominated fantasy requiring women to dress up and degrade themselves all for the sake of popularity made Jackie cringe. Hyde, in his infinite wisdom, agreed with Donna and added only a sucker would dump hard earned money on something so cheesy.

Jackie rolled her eyes and came to Eric's defense saying it was about romance and dressing up and dancingGod, Donna's her best friend but couldn't she see how she just crushed the poor dork? She had a suspicion that Eric was going to use the evening as a way to ask Donna to be his girlfriend. Maybe Donna was embarrassed that she might not be able to find heels to fit her giant feet.

So, now here they were staring at the TV like a couple of losers. She does what she does best and sighs and pouts to get his attention, when that isn't working she grabs his arm, "Eric, aren't you upset about Donna?" What Jackie really wants is a way to approach Eric about a plan that suddenly occurs to her, but she's somewhat hesitant to blurt it out loud.

He looks at her quizzically, one eyebrow raised, because her question is out of the blue. "No. She's right, I guess…I mean…I wouldn't want to feed the prom industrial complex-"

She grunts in frustration, cutting him off. Jackie doesn't believe one word he's saying and she's knows he doesn't either. "That's so stupid. Look, I have the perfect dress and I know you bought that crushed velvet suit. We could-"

"Erm, no." He says, not bothering to look at her. It's a good idea, if only he could give it a chance.

"But-"

"Jackie…" He says her name like a warning, and it does little to deter her. "Ok, look, I can be ready in an hour." If being reasonable isn't working, the next best option is to switch up her tactic.

"Then by all means," he motions to the door "Maybe you'll find a date on the way out."

It hurts, this blunt dismissal. Was she so hideous that he wouldn't want to be seen with her? She knows they're friends even when they burn each other, but the sharp pain in her gut makes her realize this was different than the teasing that's just part of their dynamic.

The last thing in the world she wants to do is sit here and cry in front of Eric Forman, but it's too late to stop the tears. All the hurt she normally is able to hide so easily comes out in full force. It's too much for her after Eric's outright rejection.

All she wants is to dress up and be a princess for the evening, to be swept up in the glitter and romance. And, to rub it in Michael's face. What doesn't he understand about that?

She doesn't hear the annoyed sigh, but she does feel the arm wrap around her shoulder and she buries her face in his neck and continues to sob. She does hear him quietly shushing her, and she starts feeling better. Now she wonders, in between breaths, when the universe decided she should care about Eric and what he thinks of her.

"Jackie, if I agree to go with you, will you please stop crying?" She focuses more on the words he's saying rather than the defeated tone and her heart skips a beat. She sniffs and let the words sink in, and it's not like she's not used to getting her way, but there's something about Eric giving her what she wants that makes this feel like a special victory.

She pulls away slightly and looks at him. He's not a scumbag or a cheater, and there's a boyish charm that she's always secretly found appealing, and she feels happier than she thought she should be being his date. He looks at her too, and his arm is still around her and its hard to tell if the tension is just something she's imagining or not. Or, maybe it's just weird that they were this physically close.

Jackie gives him her best smile through her tears, "Forman, are you asking me to prom?" She's joking of course, and there's a pink tinge to his cheeks and he chuckles. In mock seriousness he says, "Jackie Burkhart, will you engage the prom industrial complex with me so you'll stop crying on my shirt?"

She can't help but laugh, and it doesn't escape her that Eric makes her feel good in ways Michael never did.

An hour and a half later she's back at the Forman's. She's got her father's Lincoln and her best smile on while waiting for the front door to open. Since it's prom, she isn't about to waltz in through the back door because this event demands some formality even though it is just going with Eric.

Kitty opens the door and fawns over her while Red only lowers his newspaper low enough to give her a polite nod. She waits for Eric with a jittery feeling flowing through her, and it feels amplified when she sees him on the staircase. She's always thought he was kinda cute in his nerdy way, but now that he's dressed up ready to take her out, she sees how dashing and handsome he can be.

Eric seems to feel the same way, because all they're able to do at the moment is stare at each other. His slow steps bring them face-to-face. "Jackie…you look…really beautiful." He sounds unsure, like he's trying out a foreign language. She self-consciously looks down and brushes at the dress and looks back at him and manages to breathe out, "I…yeah. You do too."

Eric shifts uncomfortably and practically thrusts a box at her, "I got this," he clears his throat, "For, you know." For two people who normally had no issues throwing quick insults or witty come backs at each other, the conversation they're having is strangely stilted.

The white corsage makes Jackie's mouth drop into 'o.' It doesn't match the lavender of her dress, but it accents the baby's breath in her hair, and how perfect was all of this? She holds her wrist out, watching as he attaches it, and it strikes her how long his fingers are.

Kitty breaks the reverie with demands for pictures, so Jackie and Eric stand together awkwardly while she compliments them and reminds them to smile. It's then that Jackie realizes that her face hurts because she hasn't stopped smiling since Eric agreed to go with her.

His mother finally lets them leave and Jackie hands him the keys because he's the guy and he should drive. He opens the door for her and she climbs in, a bundle of nerves. Somehow, the roles they've played in each other's lives this far tilts just so on it's axis. The feeling can't be ignored, but Jackie doesn't know what to say because she's scared he's going to say something snarky to her and ruin the elation she feels.

Eric doesn't say anything either, maybe because he wants Donna at his side instead. Well, that much is true, she thinks and she shouldn't even care because it's not about going to prom with Eric-it's about going to prom to prove to Michael that she doesn't need him or want him anymore.

She looks at Eric and he looks so lost she almost laughs out loud. This really is some situation they're in, and it's kind of ridiculous. But, she looks down and the flowers he bought for her, and maybe this isn't so ridiculous.

"So," Eric starts, his voice higher than normal, "I would have got reservations for dinner…or something…but…you know." He won't look at her, and it doesn't matter because that was just so incredibly sweet and why couldn't Michael ever be like this? And why didn't Donna see how thoughtful Eric could be?

"Look, I'm just happy you agreed. All of Point Place High deserves to see how gorgeous and sophisticated I look in this dress!"

"If sophisticated is the look you were going for, then it's probably for the best that you didn't go with Kelso." She laughs at that when before she would have said something rude back, but it's true.

They pull up to the school to see dressed up classmates milling about outside. Some are smoking on the hoods of cars or making out or passing brown-bagged liquor back and forth. Jackie takes a deep breath and glances at Eric, who looks a little less lost. He gets out and opens the passenger door for her. She starts to climb out when she notices Eric has a hand out to help her. She takes it and smiles at him and they both hold on a second longer than necessary.

His hand guides her to the doors of the gym, and they hear Boston's "More Than a Feeling" coming through. She goes to step inside, but Eric holds her back. "Um, Jackie? Could you maybe warn me if you're gonna cry or like, fight Pam Macy? Just so I can hitch a ride home with Fez."

Jackie looks at him incredulously, "Fez managed to get a date?" She shakes her head and refuses to believe that. "And no. I'm not going to cry or cause a scene. You are my date so," she bounces a little, "you have to stick with me no matter what." It's a challenge and Eric smiles as if he resigns himself to this fate.

Eric holds his arm out for her to take. "Shall we go to the ball, m'lady?"

They step inside, and it's still the gym. A gym with streamers and a disco ball, but it was all so enchanting, and Jackie can't help but jiggle around with excitement. She's too busy darting her eyes around to notice that Eric is smiling at her.

She follows him to a table where he pulls the seat out for her and volunteers to get them punch. She so baffled at how much of a gentleman he is and she involuntarily follows him with her eyes. She's almost forgotten the real reason she wanted to come.

The reason himself suddenly stands before her. "Jackie? What are you doing here?" Michael's eyes are bugging out and Jackie sees Pam Macy at his elbow, a slutty vision in a yellow dress.

"Michael." She crosses her arms across her chest. She's not above acknowledging him, but that's as far as she wants to go. Michael is handsome, sure, but seeing him in the flesh reinforces her opinion about him. He's an asshole and a cheater and he'd rather sully himself with the town whore than be with her.

Michaels's still standing there gawking at her when she spies Eric returning, cups in hand and she beams. Michael notices that her eyes aren't on him and looks over his shoulder to see Eric approaching the table. Eric smiles at him before sitting next to Jackie.

It feels good knowing that Eric isn't backing out on his end of their date. "ERIC?" He bumbles in typical Kelso fashion, "Are you here with…Where's Donna?" Michael comically darts his body around, searching for the redhead.

Jackie looks at Michael Kelso and wonders what exactly she saw in him aside from his looks. Looks are usually enough for her, but now that she's had a small glimpse of what a real guy is like…it seems a little embarrassing.

"Michael. Eric's here with me, you idiot." She stands, a physical cue that she's done with this interrogation. She's very deliberate when she looks at Eric. "Dance with me?" Eric stands and takes her hand, and as she pulls him to the dance floor there's a feeling she can't shake.

"Misty Blue" comes on and she can feel his hand rest on her hips, the other gently holding her hand as they swayed. There was a respectable distance between them, and she appreciates that, but somehow it isn't enough. Releasing her hand from his, she wraps her arms around Eric's shoulders and rests her cheek on his shoulder. She feels him pull her closer, and she's not weirded out or disgusted or offended.

He's skinnier than she's used to, but that's okay. It may be the song or the lights or her gratefulness for Eric's kindness, but she's happy here with him. Why she ever was mad at Michael not bringing her here is lost on her.

There was always something about Eric Forman that she was drawn to, be it friendship or advice, or whatever. As she feels his arms around her, it dawns on her that it's the stability she loves. He's like this dorky lighthouse to her drama filled ship, because she always seeks him out when it seems the darkest.

And he's never let her down. Even now, when she's sure he's thinking about Donna, he doesn't disappoint her. As hesitant as she is to pull away from him, she feels like she needs to apologize, or something. "I'm sorry Donna didn't come with you."

They are still locked in the embrace, swaying to the music automatically. "Jackie…" He looks at her with those green eyes, and to her, it doesn't matter what else he says as long as he'll keep looking at her like that. "I'm not thinking about that. At all. But I am going to warn you that Kelso is headed this way."

 

Jackie looks over her shoulder to Michael stomping towards them. She rolls her eyes and groans, because she's sure he's going to completely embarrass her. One of her hands leaves Eric's shoulder, and she places it on her hip, awaiting his arrival. There's a small, knowing smile on Eric's face and it's most likely that he was expecting this sort of thing and it doesn't leave when Michael stops in front of them.

Michael crosses his arms and taps his foot like a cartoon version of a parent catching children in a naughty act. "Eric. Would you care to explain to why you're dancing with Jackie?" Eric chuckles and removes himself from Jackie and pats him on the shoulder. "Hey, buddy. It's prom, man! That's the idea."

"Michael," Jackie hisses between clenched teeth, "why do you even care, and where's Pam?" Her patience for his antics is low. "Shoo. You better find your date before she sticks her tongue in some else's mouth." She waves him off, and of course he doesn't listen.

"Just so you know," Michael says indignantly, "if you're trying to get me jealous, it is not working." He stomps back, probably to find his date and she's just happy to see him off. She furrows her brows and thinks that the whole reason she came was to get some sort of reaction from Michael, and now that he has pretty well fulfilled her expectations, it doesn't make her feel validated like she thought.

She feels Eric tug on her hand, and she looks up not really knowing what to expect. "Hey you, finish this dance?" Jackie gives him a sad smile as she wraps her arms around him again. It's unexpected, his patience with her. There's an appreciation she feels because he was her last resort and he knows it and she knows it, yet it hasn't stopped him from being nice to her.

His hands are on her hips and yet again they've resigned themselves to six inches between them. They dance in a circle, almost stiffly. Michael sees them and blatantly stares at them, and Jackie can't help but glare at him back. The whole reason she talked Eric into coming now seems like a ridiculously stupid idea, because now that she's here, she wants to enjoy herself…with Eric, apparently.

"Um, you can go…talk to him. If you want." She looks up as he says that to her because it sounds more like a question. There's no taunting or annoyance behind his words. He's giving her an out, she realizes. A chance to ditch him and run back to Michael Kelso, and he doesn't even look angry or anything. Because he really is a nice guy.

That unnatural feeling of guilt builds up again, and it's tempting to go to Michael and unleash the fury that she's held onto, but she doesn't do it. Now Jackie refuses to let Michael ruin prom for her. He's ruined her heart and her reputation by taking the town tramp here, so it's out of the question that he's going to take this night away from her.

She looks at Eric, really looks at him and it hits her how genuinely cute he is. "No, Eric. I'm here with you." They continue in the same position, although neither one of them is technically dancing. "I know that we're not here with the people we actually want to be with. I mean- wait; I know you're not here with who you want to be with. I actually don't care about Michael now. God knows how many times he's cheated on me, and he actually brings her here. In public! Just, ugh, I don't even want to know what sort of disease he's caught by touching her!"

Eric's eyes glance up at the ceiling before he gives her a small smile. "That was impressive. How do you manage to say so much without breathing?" Jackie huffs out a laugh, "Hey! You're supposed to be my date. Be nice to me." She gives him a light slug.

Eric clutches his arm. "Whoa there lady. You're not supposed to abuse your date." Jackie stands up straighter and wraps her arms around his neck again, "I won't abuse you if you keep dancing with me," she says with a smile.

Eric feigns annoyance and sighs, "You drive a hard bargain. I can't have the prettiest girl here hitting me." With that, his hands find her ribcage and travel down to her waist where his long fingers grip briefly before finding their way to the small of her back. It feels like such a natural move that Jackie unintentionally arches her back and presses her chest against him. There's something so innocently sensual about it that when she raises herself up to give him slight kiss on the lips there's no second thought.

It was a peck and nothing more, and as soon as their lips meet, they break apart. Now they're both looking at each other, and Jackie can't do anything more than let her mouth hang open. She watches as Eric furrows his brow. "Did…" he smiles, "Did Jackie Burkhart just kiss Eric Forman?"

She's so bewildered by her own actions that she can't even form any sort of response, because she did totally kiss him. She kissed him and it wasn't gross at all. In fact, it was nice. Her mind runs through something to say, and all she can come up with is, "Am I really the prettiest girl here?"

"You did just kiss me so yeah, I'd say so," he answers in a loud whisper. She chuckles because he's such a goofball. "Eric. You say so because it's true!" His hands find her waist again and he looks at her. "I am a lot of things, Jackie. Handsome, brilliant…lover of the finer things in life. But, I am not a liar."

He doesn't have to tell her that because she already knows. Jackie's heart pounds in her chest with the knowledge that he's probably the most honest person she's ever known. Her parents, her friends…her ex-boyfriend-all of them- have been dishonest in some way. But Eric, he's just always been there and that's been enough.

At some point the song had changed to something fast, but neither of them realizes it. A couple bumps into them, and it breaks Jackie out of her trance. The two of them are stalk still in a sea of boogying teenagers. Jackie looks around and sees the photographer. "Oh! Let's get our picture taken!" She doesn't wait for a response before she drags him by the hand to stand in line. This was something that had to be documented. Even if they went back to their routine after this, she wants to remember this moment.

She's bouncing around on the balls of her feet, eager for their turn. Of course Michael picks that moment to tap her on the shoulder and yank her by the wrist out of the line. "Jackie? What…You're taking your picture with him?" She pulls herself out of his grasp. "Michael. Stop." She can feel the anger threatening to burst out, but holds back. "You are with Pam tonight. So go be with her. Eric and I are together, okay?" She turns to face her date, and he's still waiting patiently in line and the truth of her words hit her like a ton of bricks. Eric and I are together.

Eric and I are together.

It feels so natural to say.

And when it's their turn she wraps both arms around his waist and smiles up at him as he looks down and gives her that boyish smile she's always found charming and the camera clicks. It's a rare thing that there's photographic evidence of the moment when someone starts to fall in love with someone else.

 

Fez finds them as soon as they step away from the camera. Jackie's reaction is almost shame at being seen with Eric, but it's brushed aside almost as soon as the feeling rises. If she doesn't care about what Michael thinks, it surely doesn't matter what Fez thinks. He's foreign, after all.

Her heart is in her throat, because she suspects Fez can read her like a book. Like, if he gets a good look at her, he'll be able to tell that she's…that she has some sort of genuine feelings for Eric.

It's then that she reaches down and takes Eric's hand in her own. She can see in her peripheral that he's whipped his head around at her action, but he's letting her hold on to him, so at least there's that.

And she stands, waiting for whatever teasing Fez has in store for them, gripping Eric's hand and squeezing as if she's daring him to pull away.

"Well, well, well," Fez starts, looking them up and down, "I see you have found dates." It sounds a bit like an accusation, as if he's waiting for denials. "Jackie, you won't go to prom with me, yet you choose Eric." Jackie lifts an eyebrow waiting for whatever else he has to say.

Fez gives them a critical eye, and before Eric or Jackie can say anything he says, "It is fine. I see you two are good together. Fez will go and find a woman who will dance. There is more than one beautiful teacher in this school." He turns on his heel then, leaving the two of them alone.

They turn to each other at the same time. Their hands are still together, and neither of them attempts to let go.

She gives a nervous laugh, because she's standing in the middle of the gym and she's voluntarily holding hands with Eric Forman. Her cheeks are flushed and she feels tongue-tied and this is totally not how she imagined the night going.

But she sees Eric has turned a delightful shade of pink, and they're both just standing there like idiots. Then it occurs to her that they don't really need to be here. That maybe right now she wants to be alone with Eric, because it could just be the setting they're in that's causing her to feel this way.

That has to be it. Eric wants Donna, Donna probably wants Eric, and Jackie wants Michael to contract a painful venereal disease and that's that.

"Eric? Do you maybe wanna…" the invitation to leave is stuck in her throat, because she's nervous of what he'll say to her, "um, do you want to leave? We could go…" Go? Go where?

Eric's grip on her hand loosens a bit. "Do you- do you want to go home?" He sounds unsure, and Jackie feels the need to reassure him.

"No! No, I -do you want to go somewhere else? That's not here, I mean?" Perfect. Now she sounds like a retarded person, and just because she may have a crush or something on him, that doesn't mean he wants to spend any extra time with her or anything.

Eric squints at her and asks, "We haven't even been here an hour. What about the whole prom king and queen stuff? Isn't that super important?" The last sentence is said with a ditzy tone, to tease her because he knows she's usually one to care about trivial things of that nature.

Now she rolls her eyes because it's obvious to her. "Well, clearly I'm not a junior so I can't be on the ballot. And you? I really don't think I need to say you're not-"

"Hey!" Eric gives her a look like he's offended, but she can tell he's not. So she laughs at her unintentional burn. He's still holding her hand, after all. He clears his throat. "Okay, where do you…want to go?" His voice nearly cracks and that's when Jackie realizes it may not just be her that has a crush.

But he poses an interesting question because she has no idea. Adding to the confusion it seems to her that she is pursuing him and she's just floundering. Normally, she's used to vocalizing what she wants but boys and dating were different entirely. When it came to that, Jackie Burkhart was the one to be chased and impressed.

Jackie suggests they go for a drive because that's innocent enough. She could clear her head and escape the romantic ambiance of the dance. Eric agrees and as they step through the doors into the hallway, she absently releases his hand to dig in her clutch for the car keys. When she hands them to Eric she is nearly stunned when he pointedly takes her small hand back into his.

And it's that harmless act on his part that makes her heart feels full and she's so giddy she's almost afraid she'll burst into giggles. She smiles up at him. "Eric? I just want to say thank you," she says while looking directly in the eyes, "just for coming here with me- even though we really didn't stay long. You are such a good guy. Donna will be really lucky to have you." She throws that last line in intentionally as a gauge to see if she's right about her suspicion or not.

He takes her in, maybe to see if she's serious and she can't blame him. Although they were friends in a way, they weren't ever overtly nice to each other. To be honest, she always thought that there was some innate agreement between the two of them that their relationship was relegated to volleying insults or outright teasing.

And, she was perfectly okay with that. Until now.

"Jackie? Donna and I aren't… We aren't dating, you know? I gave her plenty of chances…" he trails off and looks at his feet, "but the strange thing is that you and I are having fun, right? God. That sounds so weird coming out of my mouth."

She gives him a sardonic look as she holds back the desire to slug him in the arm again, even though he did admit that maybe he was over Donna and that he was having fun with her. But it isn't quite what she wants to hear.

"And you know what? I'm- I'm glad I came too. With you." He says with confidence. He starts walking backwards while holding her hand, pulling her with him. "Shall I escort you to the carriage?"

She smiles and daintily says, "It would be my pleasure." And it is.

They decide on Fatso Burger first. After, they drive a little aimlessly with sodas and a small tray of cold, untouched French fries wedged in between them. Jackie is amazed at how easy it is being with Eric. He's witty and funny and genuinely nice. They smile and joke and she can no longer deny she's fallen for Eric Forman.

So much for clearing her head.

Somehow they end up at Mount Hump. Eric and Jackie hop on the hood of the car and they still don't stop talking. Talking as in she's actually listening to him and cares what he has to say.

It's a beautiful June evening and she revels in it. It's so romantic and Eric is handsome and she's has her perfect dress on and…and when she looks at him talking about something she can't help it. She cuts off his words with a kiss.

Eric's startled a bit, but not enough to not reciprocate. Jackie opens her mouth a sliver as an invitation. His tongue darts into her mouth and she immediately greets it with her own. It's soft and wet and sweet-exactly how a first kiss between two people should be.

They pull away, giving each other shy smiles. Compared to the only other boy she's ever kissed, this one was perfect.

She tries to find words to say what she feels exactly in that moment, when Eric gently cups her face, "I-never in a million years- you are…do you want to do that again?"

She laughs softly at his fumbling and eagerly nods her head.

Two hours go by before Eric announces that it's midnight. Jackie concedes that it's probably time for her to go home. But, it's the last thing she wants. For the first time she's happy- really happy.

"Eric? I- did I thank you for coming?" She laughs. Jackie wants to drag out the night just a little longer. Postpone the drive to the Forman's and make this last.

"I need to thank you for making me come," he says jokingly, "because I would have never known that you are pretty awesome and that you're even more awesome with me."

Her whole being stutters to a stop. Did he just imply what she thinks he did?

"Wait…." She starts carefully, "you think that you and I are awesome together? As in like, 'couple' together?"

Eric looks at her, confusion in his face. "Well, yeah. I mean we did just spend two hours making out on your dad's car, so…" he falters and then another look washes over him, "Or, you know, not. I didn't mean…" Eric starts being Eric-y with the hand gestures and the squeaky voice.

She places a hand on his arm to quiet him down. He does, and she looks into his green eyes and his nervousness tells her she makes him happy, and that he really wants to be with her too.

"I think we'll be awesome together." Is all she says and she means it.

When Jackie gets home the first thing she does is gently place the corsage in the freezer. She changes her clothes and washes off her makeup and slides into bed thinking about her boyfriend Eric.

She'll have to hear all about it tomorrow because Fez and Michael won't keep their mouths shut, but for once she doesn't care what other people will say. She's happy, Eric's happy…that's all that matters.