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Teach Me To Love Again

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“I hope he’s hot,” Veronica announced, cutting through the previously melancholy atmosphere, “We need some more eye candy at that school.”

Betty let her gaze fall to her vanilla milkshake and had to bite back a smile at the crestfallen expression on Archie’s face as Veronica fantasized about their new colleague. They had worked together at Riverdale High for just over two years - when Veronica moved from New York - and he had been following her around like an adorable puppy ever since. She felt Kevin nudge her foot under the table and she coughed lightly to hid her giggles as he rolled his eyes at her dramatically. Neither Veronica or Archie seemed to notice.

“Don’t get your hopes up V,” Kevin sighed. “He was a professor at NYU and taught Modern American History. If that isn’t code for crazy old man then I don’t know what is.”

“Don’t jinx it Kev, he might be gay” Betty joked.

“Maybe” Kevin mused, his eyes twinkling mischievously.

“Well maybe I’m looking for a sugar daddy,” Veronica teased, winking at Kevin from across the table.

“V you practically are the town’s sugar daddy,” Betty laughed, earning a grin from her best-friend.

“Alright then, I’m looking for a new pet,” Veronica confessed. “I’ve had my way with almost all the attractive men in Riverdale and I’m bored,” she pouted. Betty noticed Archie scowl and quickly moved to change the subject from her best friend’s romantic endeavors.

“Well all the changes to the curriculum this year has been driving me nuts! I’ve had to create lesson plans for three new novels and Beloved has been removed from the syllabus. I love that book.” The blonde girl sighed, picking at the french fries that she had previously barely touched. She had been working as Riverdale High’s English teacher ever since she graduated from Riverdale University five years ago. Beloved was always her favorite novel in the curriculum; she’d studied it at school herself.

“Don’t get me started,” Kevin grumbled. “The funding for The Arts is beyond a joke this year. How am I supposed to put on Les Misérables with no money? I don’t want it to be that authentic. And yet, Riverdale High’s precious football team appear to be entirely unaffected by the cuts.” Kevin added, eying Archie suspiciously. “Tell me your secret Andrews,” he demanded.

“Very true,” Veronica mused, a curious expression on her face. “Spit it out Archikins!”

Archie’s reply was innocent enough, “Weatherbee just likes football I guess. Maybe the new teacher can help me coach the team?” he asked suddenly, determined to get probing questions and eyes off of him.

“Or…” Betty mused, “he could help me re-open The Blue and Gold! I’ve been bugging Weatherbee for years and this might finally be the year he lets me do it. Especially if I have another teacher on my side!” she realised excitedly.

Veronica just rolled her eyes. “Look at all of you with your extra-curricular activities, how adorable!” she said smugly.

Being Riverdale High’s Mathematics teacher, Veronica didn’t have any clubs to run for enthusiastic students. She argued it was because nobody actually liked maths, herself included. Betty always wondered how her best-friend could teach a subject she had no interest in, but Veronica always assured her that it was better than staying in New York where her father was engaged in a criminal court case for fraud, so Betty didn’t ask questions. Besides, Veronica insisted that maths was sexy, and if Archie’s behaviour was anything to go by, she was right.

Betty turned around when she heard the familiar chime of the diner’s welcome bell and noticed an alarming number of her students amble through the door, clearly about to take over the diner in their last night of freedom before the beginning of the school term tomorrow. A couple of them waved at her, but most of them ignored the group of adults sitting in their regular booth, a dooming reminder that the summer was over.

“I think that is our cue to leave,” Kevin observed. “I don’t get paid to supervise teenagers outside of school hours.”

They chucked a few bills on the table and silently retreated from the diner, edging around the hoard of teenagers. Betty waved at Pop - the owner of the diner - just before she slipped through the front door and into the cool air outside. Although her fellow colleagues despised the start of the school term, she often looked forward to it. She liked keeping herself busy and always felt that the summer holidays dragged on too long. Her house felt too big and too quiet, leaving her alone with her thoughts. Teaching was a welcome distraction.

The group said their goodbyes and headed towards their vehicles, with Archie and Veronica sharing a ride home. Betty promised them all that she would bake her famous Cooper Cookies to get everyone through the day tomorrow. Veronica mentioned something about her waistline and Kevin rolled his eyes - knowing that she would be eating the most cookies - as he opened the door of his sensible Sedan and slid inside. Betty watched him drive away before she started rummaging around in her bag for her car keys.

“Hey Miss Cooper!” a familiar voice called out, distracting Betty from her handbag. She looked up and was met with a smile from one of her favourite students.

The girl had long dark hair that was pulled back in a messy ponytail and bright blue eyes that were framed by heavy makeup. She was about half and head shorter than Betty and her petite frame was wrapped in an oversized sherpa jacket - that Betty suspected must belong to the girl’s boyfriend - and she wore back denim shorts over fishnet tights that were barely visible under her knee-high socks. She had the kind of fashion sense that was usually only found in 90s grunge aesthetics, and she pulled it off flawlessly.

Jellybean Jones - preferably called JB - had been one of Betty’s more challenging students up until about a year ago. A number of the other staff members had declared her a lost cause, due to her bad attitude and disadvantaged home situation, but Betty could not be deterred. Over the past year she had improved the girl’s grades significantly with one-on-one tuition in every subject. Betty discovered JB’s passion for music and had promised her unofficial private music lessons in exchange for an improvement in her attitude and grades at school.

“Hi JB,” she said warmly, “Are you all ready for school?”

“Yeah, I have a question about the English syllabus this year though,” she replied.

“Fire away,” the teacher smiled.

“Why aren’t we studying Beloved? I was looking forward to that all of last year!” she pouted.

“You and me both,” Betty sighed. “Unfortunately we have had a new curriculum set so we will be doing In Cold Blood instead.”

JB grimaced. “Ugh, my brother loves that book,” she muttered.

“How is your brother settling into life in Riverdale? It must be a huge change from New York” Betty asked sincerely.

“Alright I guess. He always hated this town so he’s being grumpy as hell,” she laughed, gesturing behind her to a parked truck that Betty hadn’t noticed. “But he still swears that Pop’s makes the best burgers in the world so here we are.” She held up one of Pop’s takeaway bags.

Betty looked behind JB and noticed a man sitting in the driver’s seat of what used to be FP Jones’ truck. In the dim evening light, she couldn’t make him out very well in, but she noticed his resemblance to JB. Dark hair, like hers, but it curled underneath a grey beanie. An unlit cigarette hung from his mouth. He lifted his lighter and, in the spark of the flame, Betty saw his striking blue eyes before the fire went out and he was in darkness once again. In that brief moment however, Betty couldn’t shake the feeling that she knew him from somewhere.

“Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow Miss,” JB said, interrupting Betty’s thoughts as she returned her gaze to the young woman in front of her.

“Bright and early,” Betty replied in her usual chipper tone. JB just rolled her eyes and smiled. The dark haired girl opened the door to the truck and climbed inside, opening the window to allow her brother’s cigarette smoke to drift out into the fresh air.

“There is such a thing as passive smoking, Jug,” she snapped as she wafted the smoke from the vehicle. Her brother just snorted in response and continued to smoke his cigarette

Jug… Betty even recognised that name from somewhere. She was about to climb into her own car but then she remembered something.

“Oh JB?” she called. The teenager turned around and leaned out of the open window at the mention of her name. “I still have a box of your things at my house. Do you want me to bring them into school tomorrow or drop them at your place later this evening?”

“Could you drop them over?” she asked. After a moment of thought, she added, “If it wouldn’t be too much hassle.”

“Of course, see you later,” Betty replied, waving as the truck pulled out of the parking lot.

 

The trailer was dim and cold when JB and Jughead arrived home from Pop’s. The curtains were drawn tightly shut and the lamp in the corner did little to chase away the shadows that clung to the trailer’s walls like glue, sucking the light from every crevice. It smelled musty, like old leather. Damp, and unwashed dishes still lay piled in the sink. It looked the same as it always had, and yet everything had changed.

JB’s gaze fell upon the cardboard boxes piled high in the kitchen and felt the sorrowful tug of her heart that felt all too familiar. Only two of the boxes were labeled ‘Dad’, and she hated the fact that her father’s miserable life could be tidied away neatly into two storage boxes, highlighting his insignificance in the world. They were set to move into Jughead’s new apartment on The Northside in just a few days time and the trailer would be demolished; her childhood along with it.

JB looked down at the burger in her hands, suddenly not very hungry at all.

“May I ask why your teacher has a box of your things at her house?” Jughead asked. He sank down on the sofa and unwrapped his burger, putting his muddy boots on the coffee table. Taking a bite of his burger, he raised his eyebrows at JB expectantly.

The girl took a long sip of her milkshake before answering. “She tutors me at her place sometimes,” she replied, shrugging her shoulders in an attempt to diffuse her brother’s interest.

“What? And you sleepover afterwards?” Jughead asked sarcastically. JB was uncharacteristically quiet. “Fine, I’ll just ask Miss Cooper when she comes by with your things.” he threatened.

“Jug, can you please just drop it?” she muttered.

“No.” JB’s reluctance making him even more interested. “I’m your guardian which means, until you go to university, I need to know these things.”

“You may be my guardian, but you’re not Dad!” JB snapped, snatching up her burger and stalking towards her bedroom. At the mention of their father, Jughead winced and let out a long sigh. Looking after his teenage sister while they were both dealing with grief was going to be a lot harder than he had expected.

Jughead let out a groan when the familiar sound of Pink Floyd started blaring from JB’s bedroom, clearly with the intention of drowning out everything else. He couldn’t help but wonder when his little sister had gotten so… cool. It had been twelve years since they were last living together, just before Jughead left to study at Columbia University. He had left a five year old girl with braids and two front teeth missing. Back then he could entertain her with barbies and crayons, now he had no idea where to start. Was she sporty? Into theatre? He didn’t even know what her favourite subject was in school. She had visited him a few times in New York but he never came home. The last twelve years of their sibling relationship had consisted of the odd phone call and cards on holidays. Now he was back in Riverdale and his baby sister was all grown up with no parents to watch her sprout wings and fly from the nest.

Finishing his burger, Jughead busied himself with one of the many novels he had brought with him from his apartment in New York. He lay stretched out on the sofa - where he had been sleeping for the last week - and kicked his boots off onto the old stained carpet. JB had washed all the sheets in the main bedroom for him but it felt weird sleeping in his father’s room, opting for the sofa instead.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when there was a knock at the front door. Throwing his book carelessly onto the coffee table, he walked to the door and opened it slowly, already knowing who would be on the other side. She was standing on the porch with a cardboard box clutched in her arms, and she smiled brightly when her gaze met his.

Betty Cooper looked exactly the same as she had in high school. The same blonde waves tied up neatly in a tight ponytail and there was that all too familiar pastel blue sweater clinging to her shoulders. Before he could stop himself, Jughead noticed that she was curvier, having grown into her womanly figure gracefully. He mentally kicked himself for even making the comparison. Her green eyes sparkled when she smiled at him politely and she moved the box onto her hip as she held out her hand.

“I’m Betty Cooper, JB’s English teacher. You’re her brother I’m assuming?” she asked, a vague flicker of uneasiness briefly flashing in her green eyes.

Jughead felt his heart sink as he realised that she didn’t even recognise him. Sure, he had been a couple of years above her at school, but they worked together in The Blue and Gold for a whole semester before he transferred to Southside High. Jughead folded his arms, ignoring Betty’s outstretched hand. He eyed the contents of the box in her arms suspiciously, noticing a couple of items of JB’s clothes and what appeared to be a makeup bag.

“May I ask why you had my little sister’s clothes at your house?” he asked bluntly, gesturing to the box in Betty’s arms.

Betty looked completely taken aback by his question, her brow furrowed in confusion. “I was her temporary guardian after your father… I thought you knew?” she tried to explain, unable to keep the surprise in her voice at bay.

“Apparently not! She told me she was staying with some friends.” Jughead response was harsh and gruff.

“Well I approved it with the social worker,” she clarified. “JB told me that it was agreed with your mother -”

“That woman doesn’t get a say in JB’s guardianship.” Jughead snapped, glaring at the blonde woman in front of him. Gladys Jones had been long since out of the picture. If he held any bitterness towards his father, it was amplified ten folds towards the women who had left them for a ‘better life in Toledo’ without even a glance back or a hasty goodbye.

Betty calmed herself down, fidgeting with the sleeve of her sweater. “Well I apologise for the misunderstanding, Mr Jones. I was only trying to do my part to help.” If you or JB need my assistance with anything please don’t hesitate to -”

“We’re not some goddamned charity,” he interrupted, expression hard and cold.

“Of course not.” Betty whispered, averting her gaze from his harsh glare. “I didn’t mean to imply that you were.”

“Well?” he asked rudely. “Don’t you have a husband to go and play house with?”

Jughead didn’t notice the flash of hurt that crossed Betty’s delicate features as she handed him the box of JB’s belongings and turned to leave. Her pale cheeks flushed from embarrassment and tears threatened to sting her previously-bright eyes. Just as she reached the bottom of the steps he called out to her.

“Betty?” she turned around at the sound of his voice, glancing back up at him, framed in the dim moonlight. “My name is Jughead” he said pointedly before slamming the rickety wooden door shut.

Jughead chucked the box in his arms on top of the pile of things that JB was moving into the new apartment and collapsed back on the sofa with an angry sigh. Out of everyone in Riverdale who was likely to meddle in his business, Betty Cooper was the worst. She was just so... nice. Jughead knew from experience that nobody was kind unless they wanted something. He didn’t trust nice people.

In his anger, Jughead hadn’t noticed the sudden absence of JB’s rock music - noise that had previously been consuming the trailer. The silence was eerie. He also hadn’t noticed JB, standing in the doorway to the living room, a furious expression burning in her blue eyes.

“I cannot believe you just said that to her.”

 

As she sat in her car outside the Jones’ trailer, Betty wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, ignoring the black mascara smudges that now stained her skin. She took a deep breath, but it did little to ease the ache inside her chest. Like a knife cutting her up inside, she felt the repeated stabs of pain as she recalled Jughead’s words over and over in her head.

Don’t you have a husband to go and play house with?

No. But she should have. At the age of twenty-eight, Betty should have had a husband and possibly even a child to share her perfect white-picket-fence life in Riverdale with. That dream died with her fiancé two years ago. Jughead’s words hurt more than he had ever intended, cutting deep into the very core of her being.

Betty drew a shaky breath and clenched her hands into tight fists to stop them from trembling. The familiar sting of her palms as nails cut into the scarred flesh was always oddly comforting, giving her a sense of clarity and control. She knew she shouldn’t exercise the bad habit but it was the only thing that kept her head on straight sometimes.

The drive back to The Northside of Riverdale was quiet. As she travelled through the empty streets, she didn’t pass a single car; everyone had gone home hours ago. Even the bright diner in the centre of the town was empty. That was always the way it was the night before school began again.

Betty pulled into her long driveway and stared up at her large, empty house, wishing more than anything that JB was still occupying one of the spare bedroom. She hadn’t told the teenager, but she had been set to become her official guardian until social services had made contact with her brother at FP Jones’ funeral. Previously, he hadn’t been seen as a viable option due to his residence in New York. But when he offered to temporarily move back to Riverdale, he became the obvious choice to care for the girl. He was her only other living relative, besides her wayward mother.

As for said brother, who she now knew to be Jughead Jones, Betty couldn’t get over the overwhelming sense that she knew him from somewhere. It was like a bulb, flickering but never fully turning on. She certainly recognised his unusual name. He was handsome, dangerously so, with angular cheekbones and piercing blue eyes; his dark curls adding to his broody demeanor. He was the kind of man that women like her were warned to stay away from. But all of Betty’s thoughts about his attractive appearance were soon counteracted by his arrogant and rude behaviour. He had just lost his father, she supposed, but the way he had spoken to her had been unexcusable.

Betty walked wearily into her unwelcome house. It was something she always dreaded doing at the end of her day. Perhaps it was why she always tried to keep so busy: afraid of returning to the emptiness. All the lights were off and the atmosphere was as dreary as she felt. The only sounds to fill the space were her own footsteps against the polished wooden floors. She headed to her study and pulled her old school yearbook from the top left-hand corner of the bookshelf, knowing immediately where it was, and ran her hands over the fragile cover. Sitting at the kitchen table with a large mug of tea, she slowly opened the book and began scanning the pages.

The yearbook brought back a flood of memories that Betty hadn’t been ready for until now. Being the school’s golden girl, there was a picture of her on almost every page. She looked longingly at the teenage-version of herself, recalling brighter days that always held the promise of something successful in her future. She had been a cheerleader, chair of both the charity and the social committee, personal tutor to students in the younger years, and, finally, joint editor of the school newspaper; The Blue and Gold. Betty gasped when her eyes fell upon a snapshot of three teenagers in The Blue and Gold office. Dilton - the newspaper’s photographer - was hiding behind his camera; Betty remembered how he had argued that he should have taken the photo. But that wasn’t what had caught her attention. In the centre of the photo was a teenage version of herself - with the same ponytail and pastel sweater - standing beside a taller boy wearing a grey crown beanie over his dark curls. She was smiling brightly at the camera and he had his arm thrown casually over her shoulder as he smiled down at her.

“Jughead Jones,” she whispered, tracing his outline on the page with her finger. “I remember you.”

How could she have forgotten?

Chapter Text

With a stack of her famous Cooper Cookies in her lap and a smile on her face, Betty drove to school. She always loved the first day: the intoxicating smell of fresh expo markers, the rustle of neatly distributed paper, and the satisfying click of file folders, were amongst her favourite things. Even the grumpy teens, stumbling through the schoolyard like zombies, could not bring down her chipper mood. She met Veronica and Kevin in the parking lot. Each of them looked as tired as the few early rising students.

 

“You guys look...tired,” Betty said, a bright smile plastered on her face.

 

“Shut up and give me a cookie,” Kevin groaned. He reached out, giving a satisfied little hum when the gingersnap cracked in half. “Better now. I just need more coffee, it’s been thirty minutes since my last cup. I have my Theatre 1 class in the mornings and I’m not excited. Fifty percent of them have no interest in being there and the other half are crying and dead inside like I am. Masterful cookies as always, Betty.”

 

“Thank you Kev,” she offered the plate to Veronica who graciously declined, claiming that her waist could not suffer the cookie assault. They all knew that wasn't true, and she would be stuffing her face the second they sat down in the teacher’s lounge and were faced with their responsibilities for the first time in over two months. “I need to talk to you guys about something that happened last night. I ran into a old acquaintance and it was...weird.”

 

Kevin’s eyes lit up as he snatched another gingersnap. “I am immediately interested and all ears. I love hot gossip.”

 

Veronica nodded in eagar agreement. “Spill!” she demanded.

 

With great care not to leave out any details, Betty recounted her run in with Jughead Jones. She mentioned how hostile he had been about the return of Jellybean’s things as well as the comment regarding her love life that bit right to the core. Despite the two years that had passed, Trevor’s death was still fresh in her heart. There had never been any time to prepare for the tragedy. A horrible car accident that had turned her entire life upside down, smashing her delicately planned future into thousands of tiny, unfixable pieces.

 

By the end of the tale, Veronica was fuming. “Excuse me? That’s so...so annoying! I don’t care that he got his feelings hurt because you didn’t remember him. Who in the hell does he even think he is?”

 

Quickly, Betty learned that the powers that be must have had a sense of humor. As they strolled into the wide double doors of Riverdale High she came face to face with Jughead Jones, standing close beside Principal Weatherbee, holding a stack of books on various historic material. Betty couldn’t help but notice the appealing way his biceps were strained against the material of his shirt under the weight of all the textbooks. She silently thanked America for its extensive history. Suddenly, the pieces fell right into place. Forsythe Pendleton Jones the Third: it was a name that had shown up many a time next to hers on the Blue and Gold front pages back in High School. The principal had never let him sign his articles off as ‘Jughead Jones’.

 

His signature beanie was absent from his head, a pair of glasses balanced delicately on the bridge of his nose and a tie was hanging loosely around his neck. It was a far cry from the scruffy, grumpy man who had insulted her last night. He looked almost... professional. For a brief moment, their eyes met and Jughead had the decency to look a bit ashamed. Whatever he wanted to say died on his tongue and he turned his attention back to Weatherbee.

 

“The new history teacher, apparently,” Betty muttered, hopefully not loud enough for either of them to hear.

 

Unfortunately, they did. Veronica and Kevin had the hearing of predatory cats when it came to anything even vaguely drama-related. Kevin’s eyes went wide and he gasped, “You’re telling me that smoke show is not only the new history teacher, but your jilted lover from high school?”

 

“No!” Betty groaned, quickly rounding the corner to remove her inquisitive colleagues away from the topic of their conversation. “We never dated, he was two years above me anyway. We were barely friends outside of school. We mostly hung out in the Blue and Gold office and even then we were just writing and editing articles. He transferred halfway through his senior year to Southside High anyway!”

 

“I was fully prepared to be full skin him alive for you Betty, but after witnessing his ass I’m a little torn,” Veronica commented as they entered the teacher’s lounge. “Being a pompous asshole can sometimes be a turn on. Confidence and cockiness is sexy.”

 

“You’re just saying that because you haven’t had a good lay in a while,” Kevin pointed a cookie towards her.

 

Archie stood up from the old beat up couch, setting aside his guitar and joining his group of friends. “What are we talking about?”

 

Betty had little to no interest in watching her friend’s hopes get crushed again today, so she quickly shifted the subject, “We met the new teacher.”

 

“Jones? I ran into him a little while ago with Weatherbee. He’s seriously stacked when it comes to degrees. He was a double major: creative writing and history. Then he got a doctorate in something history related. I asked him what his favorite war was and he didn’t really answer - said something about capitalism and the war machine or something,” Archie shrugged. He had never been one for academic achievement, having a natural ear for music and a body built for football instead. He took a seat beside Veronica, very intentionally. Betty and Kevin exchanged a knowing look.

 

A comforting idle chatter filled with space, allowing Betty a moment with her own thoughts as Kevin began his yearly rant regarding Weatherbee’s strict rules on the Fall and Spring productions. Jughead certainly had been a bit more upset about her lapse in memory than she expected. They had been loose friends on the best of days, most of the time they had just edited in silence. She was sure they had both preferred it that way. Was there something more she wasn’t remembering? Or had Veronica potentially been onto something with her jilted lover theory? That seemed silly. If there was something Betty remembered it was Jughead Jones’ status as a date hater. A few girls working underneath them had made an advance or two and he had shot them down every time, unbothered by the curious looks and whispers it got him.

 

“Staff,” Weatherbee’s voice interrupted the chatter, “I want to introduce you to your new colleague. This is Forsythe Jones. He’s taking over the open position in the history department for this year while Mrs Muggs is on maternity leave. He’s a former professor at NYU so he’ll be of great use when preparing our students for college.”

 

The look Jughead gave him was not of someone terribly interested in that job, and Betty was forced to stifle her own laughter. The principal exited, leaving Jughead alone in a pond of sharks. Teachers could be vicious, especially in a small town like Riverdale. Any sign of fresh meat was a threat on their territory. She took it upon herself to speak up, but Veronica beat her to it.

 

“So, Forsythe…” she began, smiling flirtatiously at him and earning a scowl from Archie that she didn’t notice.

 

“It’s Jughead” he clarified.

 

“Jug-head” the brunette replied, liking the way the name rolled off her tongue.

 

“Jughead, come sit with us.” Betty interrupted, saving him from her horny friend. “I made cookies for the first day,” Betty gestured to the already dwindling pile.

 

He was hesitant at first, but finally came over to the group. There was a quick round of introductions, where both Kevin and Veronica attempted to flirt with him. Whether he was purposefully ignoring their advances or simply was oblivious to them, Betty couldn’t tell.

 

“I wasn’t going to ask my boss this, but is there a place I can sneak cigarettes?” Jughead asked.

 

Veronica smiled, fluttering her eyelashes. “Yep. Outside by the arts building is where all the students smoke. I don’t think they’ll mind seeing you there. I know I wouldn’t.”

 

Archie practically seethed in his seat, shifting from side to side. “You really shouldn’t though. Not on school grounds. We’re supposed to be a good influence.”

 

“Listen - Andrews was it? - I haven’t been a good influence for a single day in my entire life. I teach college. Most of my students are willing to share a light with me. These kids are just the same. You don’t need to baby them.”

 

Betty jumped in quickly to ease the building tension, “So Jughead. I have a question for you. I’ve really been wanting to start up the Blue and Gold again and, since we used to work it together when you went here, I was hoping maybe you would help me run it?” She pushed the tray of cookies towards him. A little bribery never hurt anyone. “Cookie? They’re a family recipe.”

 

“Oh so now you remember me?” he muttered under his breath. “I don’t want a cookie. Thanks though.”

 

He stood, pulling his lighter from his coat pocket. “I’m headed outside. See you guys around. Maybe.”

 

Betty couldn’t help but notice the way he’d quickly snatched up one of her cookies when their eyes had been focused on his face. A little part of her really hoped he liked them.

 

//

 

Jughead had not expected the assault from his little sister during lunch time. When she entered his classroom, he had been prepared for a hello, not the feeling of an apple colliding with his head while she shouted, “You’re such an asshole.”

 

“What did I do now?” He asked with a frustrated sigh, picking up the apple. “You can’t have this anymore. You're fruit privileges are withdrawn.”

 

“I specifically asked you to be nicer to Miss Cooper after you triggered her bad memories of her dead fiancé and you wouldn’t even sit with her this morning in the teacher’s lounge and eat one of her cookies! Which, by the way, is idiotic because her cookies are the best thing in the world. And then she asks you to set up the Blue and Gold, which you mentioned to me that you loved doing in school, and you don’t even give her an answer,” JB’s arms swung wildly, mimicking her wild anger. “I don’t ask a lot of you Jug, but she’s my favorite teacher! She was good to me!”

 

“She didn’t have to. I could have come down earlier if I’d known. You said it was fine. Why bother lying to me about staying with your friends?” he challenged.

 

It’s an argument they were forced to continue after last night. She had stalked away after ripping into him about his bad behavior. Truthfully, Jughead had felt bad afterwards. He didn’t know about Betty’s past, and he should have been more sensitive about it. After all, his own father had just died. There was no point in being hostile to people who weren’t at fault.

 

Maybe he was just upset about her not remembering him. But even that was still a petty reason to be unkind to her. Deep down it was rooted in jealousy: jealousy that she had been there for his little sister when he should have been. That was his job as a brother and he’d failed at it miserably. The one request FP had before passing was that Jug stepped “the fuck up” and a few days in he was already floundering. Maybe the failure apple didn’t fall so far from the tree.

 

“Because I knew you’d be like this! I didn’t want to be a burden. You had to finish out your year at NYU. You told me that yourself,” she didn’t sound angry anymore, just sad.

 

“Jelly…” it was an old affectionate nickname, one he didn’t use often enough it seemed. “I’m sorry…”

 

“Why were you so opposed to coming back? Even just for me. I needed you so badly,” she whispered, “I needed my brother to hold me while we cried because dad was dead and all you said was ‘I’ll come when I can’. And Miss Cooper was there to hold me instead. And now you’re acting hostile, and I don’t know what I’ve done wrong.”

 

“Because I hate it here! How is that so hard to understand? Because there’s a lot of unhappy memories all bubbling underneath the surface. I’m here for you now and I need that to be enough. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t before. I’ll do what I can now to try and make it up to you.” The words coming from his mouth felt very familiar, like a distant echo of his father is inside of him as he spoke. It makes him wince.

 

Jellybean took a deep breath in and exhaled. There was a silence in the air as she took a seat next to him. “Fine. What you can do for me is grovel like your life depends on it.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Govel to Miss Cooper. You were a major dick and I-”

 

She was cut off by Jughead’s hard gaze and the sound of the door shutting. Betty was standing at the threshold with a soft smile, holding a bag of cookies. Jughead wondered how many of them he could eat and still keep up appearance of being a stoic history professor who was upset at his small town relocation. Those cookies she made had been like a pillow of deliciousness. He’d never felt a cookie have such a perfect snap before, and one might call him a bit of a sweets connesuire.

 

“Sorry to interrupt,” her words were so earnest it made Jughead feel even more guilty for his behaviour towards her. “I didn’t know you’d be in here JB. I just wanted to bring you the leftover cookies and see if you’d thought anymore about what I mentioned earlier? About reopening the Blue and Gold?”

 

Damn, she really wasn’t giving up. The first mistake he made was looking up into her swirling green eyes, so open and hopeful. The second mistake was thinking about how beautiful they were, just as he had always remembered. Before he opened his mouth he felt his sister’s swift kick to his shin. A reminder of the threat that hung in the air and his promise to play nice .

 

“Do you think you could give me a week to think on it? I’m not sure how different teaching here will be from University so I’m not fully prepared for extracurriculars of any kind. Once I get a better grasp on everything I’ll be sure to let you know.”

 

Betty broke out in a genuine smile, setting down the plate. “Oh thank you! I know it’ll be good for the students here to have something like that circulating. I remember how much we both loved it. You were seriously the best head writer we had.”

 

“It’s not that hard when most of the other people aren’t sure where to put a comma if they had a gun to their heads,” he found himself smiling back at her and wondering exactly how much of their shared time she remembered after his little outburst. “Actually Betty, I need to apologize. I was…”

 

“An asshole,” JB supplied, crossing her arms.

 

“Careful,” Betty scolded, “We’re on school grounds. I don’t want to have to write you up for vulgarity.”

 

Jughead bit back a laugh. Having to sign off a detention slip on his own sister might have been worth the ass kicking he would get later. “I was rude. It was uncalled for and I’m sorry.”

 

“Apology accepted. But you can really make it up to me by seriously considering the Blue and Gold offer. I have to go make sure Veronica and Kevin aren’t encouraging another food fight in the cafeteria while they’re on duty. Between you and me, they are the real children in this school. But I’ll make sure to see you around.”

 

With a wave, Betty left. He couldn’t help but watch her exit, eyes trained on the subtle way her demeanor had shifted. She’d been so closed off before. Now there was an extra bounce in her step.

 

“See. She forgave me. Maybe you will now too,” he looked at his sister, feeling a little hopeful.

 

After a minute the teenager nodded. “Fine. As long as you agree to let me hang out with some friends after school. I promised them we’d start planning what we want to present to Mr. Andrews for the winter choice concert.”

 

“Seems kind of early to be doing that doesn’t it?” He raised an eyebrow, but when countered with the harsh look in her eyes he caved. “Fine okay. Just be home for dinner, okay? Or I’m going to start knocking on every door on the Northside with a baby picture of you. Have you seen this girl? She looks more like an angry teenager now. When you look at her she screams unironic punk rocker who still cries over Fall Out Boy.” The punch that landed on his arm made him flinch. “Ow! Jeez kid who raised you? Wild wolves?”

 

“Yep. Now don’t make too many kids cry today. I have to jet to fifth period Honors Trig with Miss Lodge. Later loser,” she saluted with a sparkle in her blue eyes before exiting his room, leaving Jughead alone with his thoughts.

 

It was a dreary place to be.

 

//

 

After classes were finished for the day, JB met Betty in the music room as she did every Monday during the school year. Archie was kind enough to let them borrow it when there wasn’t choir practice. Their tutoring sessions had begun as just that, but thanks to a little musical inspiration it had quickly become something Betty cherished more than anything.

 

JB wanted to be a musician, had started up a band her junior year, but something about the songs she wrote left her wanting more. She’d never had any sort of formal training. Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, literally, didn’t allow for much of that. In exchange for good grades, Betty and her pianist hands offered lessons.

 

Once, Betty had asked JB why she didn’t ask Mr. Andrews for music lessons. He played guitar, like her, and dabbled more in writing hits for the top of charts than little Miss Cooper did. Her answer had been heart wrenching.

 

“Because you believe in me. And I need someone like that.”

 

Betty had taken those words to heart. If JB needed someone like her, then she would give it. It wasn’t all selfless on her part. It was nice to not be at home, to spend a little time indulging herself in laughter and fun and silly jam sessions. Ever since Jellybean had moved out of her house, things were much lonelier again.

 

“Hey Miss C,” the black haired girl smiled when she entered the room, holding her guitar case. “How were classes today? I mean besides mine. Sorry second period is always a snooze and no one was super excited about the In Cold Blood announcement.”

 

Betty laughed. “It’s alright. I wasn’t expecting a bunch of seventeen year olds to be thrilled with the news of Capote on their first day of classes. At least I got a few interested girls when I mentioned Pride and Prejudice.

 

“Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but that’s one of Jug’s favorite books,” JB set her things down. “He once told me the only reason I knew was because no one would believe me. He’s too much of a true crime enthusiast for anyone to believe he’s got a soft spot for Regency Era romance. I’ve always been convinced that he models his broody attitude and practiced glares on Mr Darcy, what do you think?”

 

Betty laughed lightly at the comparison. “He’s softer than he lets on. I remember that from school.”

 

There were a few beats of silence where JB shuffled with her books. “Miss, I...can I ask you about him? From when you guys were in classes together. I know you weren’t in the same grade but I don’t...my brother and I aren’t close. We’ve never been close, but now we have the opportunity to be. I was hoping maybe you could help me relate to him?”

 

Betty thought for a moment, trying to recall the illusive boy she had known before. In many way he was much the same as he was now: sarcastic, honest to a fault, with hardness he used to keep people at arm’s length.

 

“I remember he never took off that hat,” she recalled fondly, “No matter what happened. If it rained, snowed, was sunny. Even when the teachers yelled at him he refused.”

 

“Between you and me. I always thought maybe he had premature balding under it!”

 

They shared a laugh and Betty let her mind wander. What else she did she remember about Jughead Jones. “Did I ever tell you I used to have a crush on Mr Andrews when we were at school?” JB raised her eyebrows slowly. “Don’t look so surprised, everyone in our grade with a pulse did. I’m glad to know things don’t change. Well Archie’s never been very smart when it comes to girls. He’s sweet, and I love him for it, but he was always running after this girl Valerie. I remember he’d agreed to go Sadie’s with me but then Val asked him and I was...well I had been a back-up plan.”

 

“I ran to the Blue and Gold office after he told me I didn’t have to do him the favor anymore. Archie gave me this big hug and said ‘Thanks for making Val jealous for me’. And I just said ‘you’re welcome’, because I felt so heartbroken I didn’t know what else to do. He was never going to love me the same way I loved him. Or thought I did anyway. So I was sitting there on the dusty old cracked couch, crying, and your brother walks in. I forgot he used to always spend lunch time working on his manifesto. I tried to pretend like I hadn’t just been crying, but I knew he could tell. When I tried to stand he just sat next to me on the couch and started talking. He didn’t talk much, so I was really surprised at first. He wasn’t talking about anything important, just whatever came to mind. But I was so distracted I forgot to cry.”

 

She smiled as the memory came back to her. “When the bell rang I was surprised, but he just looked up and grabbed his things to leave. I didn’t say anything but before he left he told me, ‘Betty, don’t let jerks like Archie Andrews make you feel bad about yourself. Someone’s going to be really lucky to have you one day.’ I started coming by during lunches a little bit more. We never really talked much, but the silence was always nice.”

 

JB seemed surprised by everything. It took a few minutes for her to absorb the new information, but at last she smiled. “I always kind of thought my brother was some giant jerk, even in high school.”

 

“He was a known woman hater but not a jerk. The only person he ever fought with was Reggie Mantle, but everyone fought with him. He transferred halfway through the year, so I didn’t see him again after that, but I remember the Blue and Gold felt a little lonelier without him there,” Betty shook her head, “But your brother’s the history teacher. Not me. I’m here to tutor you. So let’s do that.”

 

Despite her own insistence on changing the subject, Betty did not stop thinking about Jughead for a very long time.

 

//

 

 

Jughead sat at his table, a can of coke by his side, glasses perched precariously on the bridge of his nose as he dug around in the old box marked ‘high school keepsakes’. He’d found a few photos of his Southside adventures, an old lighter he’d stolen from his father with the Serpents emblem on it, and the poster from the Twilight Drive-in final showing. It had been demolished by Andrews construction a month into his first year of college, only to make room for a high rise condominium complex. Another casualty to the spread of corporate America.

 

Small tokens weren’t what he had spent the last few hours searching for however. At the very bottom of the third box he found his Southside High yearbook, dusty from years of neglect. The only reason he owned one was because Toni Topaz had snatched a few extras to hand out free of charge. He opened to the first page, tracing along his friend Fangs messy script. That idiot had always been surprisingly elegant.

 

Halfway through the book, tucked in between two seemingly irrelevant pages, was a folded old picture. The faces in it did not belong to the former residence of Southside High, but instead predated that part of his life. The one he noticed first was Betty Cooper, standing beside him in front of the Blue and Gold, his arm slung around her shoulder.

 

Jughead pulled a cigarette from his pack. With the nicotine filling his lungs, her slowly unfolded the picture, flipping it over to see the put together cursive writing.

 

Juggie,

 

Thanks for being the best B&G member ever. I nabbed this picture from Dilton before it went to print in the year book and made a copy. I’m really going to miss you. Good luck with college, I know you’ll do Riverdale proud. Send me a copy of your book when it’s finally published.

 

Betty Cooper x

 

As he traced the old ink with his finger, a sigh escaped his lips. He knocked the cigarette ashes into the glass tin and watched them crumble in a heap of grey dust.

 

“Jesus Betty,” he muttered, “I was so fucking in love with you. And you didn’t even remember my name.”

Chapter Text

“What about these?” Jughead asked, holding up a set of pink fairy lights shaped like rose buds so his little sister could see them. JB just raised her eyebrows at him. The look of distaste was evident on her features. “What? I thought all girls have fairy lights in their room. For their aesthetic or something.”

“Well I don’t go for the ‘basic white girl aesthetic’ thank you,” JB huffed, turning her attention instead to a set of classic horror movie posters.

“You used to like barbies,” he pointed out, putting the box of ‘white girl’ fairy lights back on the shelf. JB rolled her eyes and he grinned. Jughead had recently discovered a love of teasing his little sister, something he had missed out on when he moved away.

“I think you forget that I’m seventeen,” JB muttered and her brother’s grin widened.

“Well, since you’re all grown up, you can always pay for all of this stuff,” he joked, gesturing to the growing pile of items in the trolley. This earned him another signature JB eyeroll.

They had moved into their new apartment three weeks ago and, ever since she had passed the threshold, JB had been pestering Jughead to take her shopping so she could completely redecorate her room. So here they were, in the neighbouring town’s department store, trying to find her new ‘aesthetic’.

Jughead had agreed on one condition: that they unpack everything they already had first. Neither of them were particularly proactive and they had been procrastinating over the unpacking for weeks. Literally living out of cardboard boxes. Jughead suspected that his sister was still trying to cling onto the life she shared with their father, so he didn’t push her too much in fear of toppling over their carefully balanced relationship. But after a morning of hell where JB couldn’t seem to find any of her school-books due to the ridiculous living situation, Jughead decided that enough was enough.

So far, JB was racking up quite a bill. Jughead didn’t really mind though. He understood how she felt. She didn’t want her new room to look anything like her old one. She didn’t want to be reminded of her childhood, the trailer, and, above all, their Dad.

“Can I have scented candles?” JB asked, eyeing up the shelves of colourful candles in every flavour. She picked up a caramel-brown one entitled ‘Gingerbread House’.

“Why do you need those?” Jughead questioned. He would never understand women’s need to make everything smell like a sweet shop at Christmas.

“Oh, you know. For all of my satanic rituals that I perform when you’re sleeping. Necromancy, demonic possession, that kind of thing,” she replied, her tone dripping with sarcasm and her blue eyes bright with mischief. Jughead snorted with laughter.

“Well it’s a fire hazard, so no. Find some other way to talk to ghosts.”

“But you smoke,” she pointed out, narrowing her eyes at his hypocrisy.

“I’m an adult,” he said flippantly, as if that explained everything. JB let out an exaggerated sigh.

“Can I paint the walls in my room?” she asked hopefully.

“That depends, what colour?” Jughead replied, narrowing his eyes at his sister’s innocent expression. It was a back and forth he had never experienced before, even in the weeks they’d been cohabitating. There was a lightness to it. A fun. Maybe there was some hope in salvaging their brother-sister relationship yet.

“Oh I don’t know… Black?”

“No.”

“Really, really dark grey?”

“That’s just black.”

“No it isn’t,” she pouted.

“It is. We’re only going to be there for a year, I actually have to sell the apartment afterwards,” he reminded her. Nobody bought apartments with a black interior.

“How about dark blue?” she said instead.

“I’ll think about it.”

The hopeful expression she now had almost made everything worth it.

 

“I swear to God I’m going to end up stabbing one of those kids with a compass this year!” Veronica moaned, rubbing her temples as she stretched out on the deck chair. She breathed in the steamy air of the Pembroke’s sauna and exhaled slowly. She was clad in a sinfully sexy black swimsuit which cut out at her waist and emphasised her perfect curves, and her shoulder-length black hair was pulled back in two dutch braids.

The first month back at work after the summer holidays was always the worst. New names to learn, concerned parents to appease, and endless lessons to plan. Veronica hated it, as did Kevin. Betty, of course, didn’t mind too much. She really didn’t mind anything too much. The three friends always celebrated making it through the first month of term with a relaxing afternoon in the private spa situated in the basement of Veronica’s apartment building. The most expensive building in Riverdale, and owned by Veronica’s family, The Pembroke was the height of absolute luxury. Veronica may have disowned her father in New York, but she would never be ready to give up the luxuries that his wealth provided. Besides, he had gifted the building to her as a twenty-first birthday present so, technically, it was hers.

“Now now darling, we can’t have you getting fired,” Kevin exclaimed. “Who would I gossip with?”

“Oh I’m sure you’ll find someone. It’s one of your many talents. I’m pretty sure you could extract gossip from a brick wall.”

“Now that really would be interesting! Just imagine all the secrets that would come pouring out,” he winked at Veronica and she grinned back. “Talking of gossip, got anything juicy?” he asked hopefully.

“Not since you asked me yesterday,” Veronica smirked. There was a pause before, in a brief moment of clarity, she remembered her struggles with a certain cohort. “Actually, I was meaning to ask you guys what’s up with Archikins. He’s acting… weird?”

“Like no-longer-able-to-hide-his-boner-around-you kind of weird?” Kevin offered slyly, sharing a snigger with Betty that Veronica pretended not to notice.

“No…” she mused. “He keeps blowing me off.”

“What do you mean?” Betty asked, confused. Archie would do anything for Veronica, everyone knew that.

“He keeps ignoring me... It’s hard to explain. We were on lunch duty on Thursday and he shut down my every attempt at conversation. Then, yesterday, he was supposed to be my ride home and he left without me. I assumed that he had just forgotten and sent him a very put-out text message and he just replied with ‘Sorry, babe, I had somewhere to be.’” She frowned as she recounted the story. “That’s weird right?”

“Maybe he has something on his mind?” Betty offered, just as bewildered as her friend. What she was hearing was very much unlike the Archie Andrews she knew, the one who in high school had once climbed a flag pole to fetch Ethel’s undergarments after a nasty bullying attempt. He was a man with a heart of gold. His intentions were always the best even if the plans that accompanied them weren’t.

“Playing hard to get?” Kevin whispered so only Betty could hear. “Maybe he’s on his man-period or something,” he said to Veronica. “Too much testosterone. He needs a good shag.”

“I would happily oblige if he weren’t being such a dick,” Veronica huffed.

“What about you, B?” Kevin asked, swiftly changing the subject before it became and all out Andrews head hunt. “Got anything worth sharing?”

“Nope.” Easily, she turned her attention back to her book and she lay back on her deck chair.

“You sure? Because I know something worth hearing,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows cheekily.

“I’m not interested,” Betty responded casually at the same time that Veronica leant closer to her dark-haired best-friend.

“It’s about our sexy colleauge, Mr Jughead Jones,” he said tauntingly. Betty lifted her gaze from her novel and looked curiously at her friend. Hating herself for her sudden interest. Jughead had remained cold and distant to her at work over the last few weeks, avoiding her questions about reopening The Blue and Gold, and rejecting her every attempt at conversation. Most people would have given up by now, leaving him to his grumpiness, but Betty couldn’t seem to let it go. It was like she was drawn to him for some reason.

“What about him?” she responded, inwardly cringing about how interested she sounded. Kevin grinned at her.

“I knew that would catch your interest.”

“Please don’t tell me he has a girlfriend,” Veronica begged. “I like my eye-candy to be fair game.”

“Not that I know of. But I do know that he has just moved into a new apartment on Harbour Road.” he flashed a sideways glance at Betty.

Betty felt her stomach drop like a stone. Had she heard Kevin right? “Harbour Road?” she asked tentatively, “as in…”

“The same Harbour Road where you live in your sweet little house? Yes!” Kevin was gleeful. Even Veronica was smirking as she watched the shock on her best-friend’s face.

“How do you know?” she asked in astonishment.

“He bought the apartment off Moose, he’s moved uptown.”

Betty nodded, turning her attention back to her book in an attempt to hide her curiosity. She knew exactly which apartment Kevin was talking about. Moose was his on-and-off boyfriend (they were currently very much off) and Betty had been to his apartment numerous times for various social gatherings. Moose really knew how to throw a party.

The three of them wasted the rest of their Saturday afternoon relaxing by the indoor swimming pool - only Betty actually swam in it - and then they went their separate ways to return to the world of marking essays and practice papers. Betty sat at her kitchen table, staring at her stack of twelfth grade synopses, and groaned. It was times like these she regretted her career choices. She loved teaching, but marking the first load of assessments of the year was pure hell.

She spent an hour grading the essays with her green pen (she never used red ink, it was too negative) and managed to get a quarter of the way through the pile before she gave up for the evening. She pulled her portion of leftover lasagna from the fridge and popped it in the microwave, almost jumping at the noisy hum of the machine as it heated up her food. The evenings were always the worst. It was too quiet.

“Get a grip,” she muttered to herself as she felt her fingers automatically curl inwardly to her palms. With effort, she unfurled them and set about closing the kitchen and living room curtains to keep herself busy while she waited. As she peeped out of the window that overlooked the street however, her attention was drawn to the apartment block at the end of the road.

The lights were on in Jughead’s apartment, it was a small building in comparison to The Pembroke with only ten flats, and Betty knew where Moose used to live by sight. She thought she could almost make out two human-shaped shadows behind the thin curtains and found herself wondering what they were doing. During the short period over the summer when JB stayed with her, they often binged addictive TV shows in the evenings, or lay back on the sofas listening to Betty’s extensive music collection, or typed away on their laptops in silence. Either way, Betty just enjoyed the company. That’s what she was missing now.

Glancing up at the bright apartment once again, Betty made a split-second decision. Collecting the batch of chocolate chip cookies that she had made in the morning into a plastic container, and shrugging on her jacket, she ventured out into the open air, not even bothering to lock the door behind her.

 

“I’ll get it!” JB called, dropping the TV remote onto the cardboard box next to the sofa - they were yet to unpack everything - and moved towards the front door. She flung it open, expecting it to be the pizza delivery man, and was surprised to find her English teacher standing nervously on the other side. “Hey Miss Cooper!” JB greeted, a smile spreading over her features.

“Hi JB, nice apartment,” the blonde complimented.

“Thanks, we moved in a couple of weeks ago.” There was a pause, neither of them knowing what to say. “Do you want to come in?” JB offered. Betty smiled at her and nodded, following the teenager into the flat.

“I brought you guys some cookies, as a housewarming gift I guess. I could hardly ignore my new neighbours.” she said lightly, handing the plastic container to the dark-haired girl.

“Chocolate chip?” JB examined the package hungrily.

“Of course.” Betty smiled. She knew chocolate chip cookies were JB’s favourite kind.

Their interaction was suddenly interrupted by a crash and a very loud expletive.

“JB!” Jughead shouted from another room. There was the sound of a door slamming. “Where the fuck did you buy this furniture? It’s fucking impossible to -” Jughead stopped short at the sight of a certain blonde haired angel in his living room. “Betty?”

“Hi Jughead.” she said meekly.

“What are you doing here?” he asked suspiciously, narrowing his eyes slightly. He ignored the glare he received from his little sister for his rudeness.

“Uh…” Betty suddenly felt very embarrassed, realising how rude she was being for intruding with nothing but a plate of chocolate cookies in her hand as an offering. “Kevin told me that you guys moved here a couple of weeks ago, he knows the guy who used to own this place” she explained hastily. “So I thought I would bring over some cookies as a sort of welcome to the neighbourhood thing. I live just down the street.” She stopped, aware of her rambling. “Anyway, I guess I should probably go -”

“Don’t be ridiculous! You just got here!” JB interrupted. “We’ve ordered pizza, you can stay if you like…?”

“I don’t want to be a bother,” Betty replied, twisting her engagement ring nervously around her finger.

“You’re not intruding Miss Cooper, I’d love you to stay. I actually had a couple of questions about In Cold Blood -”

“Which I already offered to help with,” Jughead interrupted, the expression on his face implying that he very much felt that his colleague was intruding. Betty fidgeted uncomfortably with the sleeve of her jacket.

“Yes, Jughead, but you’re not as clever as you think you are.” JB said in exasperation. Betty tried to bite back her smile. Jughead just glared at his sister.

“Be nice to me, or you won’t get any furniture in your room.”

“By the sounds of things, I won’t be getting any furniture in my room anyway!” JB pointed out, challenging her brother’s masculinity through his all-day struggle to construct the flat-pack furniture.

“Is there something I can help with?” Betty asked, unable to resist the classic Cooper impulse of lending a hand. Jughead looked like he was about to decline when JB cut across him.

“Yes, actually.” she said, her blue eyes shining with glee. “My dear old brother is failing miserably at putting my new bed together. You aren’t, by any chance, good at DIY are you?” JB asked innocently, knowing full-well that Betty was practically a professional mechanic. She often fixed the townspeople’s cars for a significantly lower price than the mechanic shop in the next village.

“I don’t need any help.” he grumbled. “I doubt she’ll be much anyway.”

Betty narrowed her eyes at him, she was never one to shy away from a challenge. Even an indirect one. “That, Mr Jones, is where you’re wrong” she replied, her green eyes shining playfully. “How about a bet?”

“Go on...” Jughead goaded, liking the way her bright eyes held his gaze defiantly. He shouldn’t be flirting with her, he thought, he was supposed to be pushing her away. Well maybe just one more time couldn’t hurt.

“If I manage to build JB’s bed, then you have to reopen The Blue and Gold with me.”

“And if you don’t?” He asked, folding his arms across his chest as his lips formed a smirk. “What do I get?”

JB looked curiously between her older brother and her favourite teacher. Neither of them were paying attention to her, their sight set on each other in some kind of stand-off reminiscent of those vintage cowboy movies her dad used to watch. She half expected them to start gunslinging. The teenager smiled to herself, silently hatching a plan.

“I’ll give up, I won’t ask you about The Blue and Gold again.” the blonde offered, tightening her high ponytail.

“And run my detentions for a month.” Jughead added, grinning mischievously at her. Detention was every teacher’s personal nightmare. No one wanted to spend time after school and it often felt like just as much a punishment for them as the students who’d been caught breaking the rules.

“Fine.”

Jughead held his hand out. “Shake on it.” he demanded. She took his hand, liking the feeling of his warm skin against hers as she shook it firmly. She smiled sweetly, knowing that she had already won.

“You’re on Jughead Jones,” she whispered in his ear as she sauntered past him towards JB’s bedroom.

“You’ve already lost, bro.” JB laughed as she bit into a cookie.

Jughead snatched a cookie from the container in his sister’s hands, not liking the knowing look in her bright blue eyes. He had to be missing something here.

“What’s with this woman’s obsessive need to make cookies?” he muttered as he examined the treat in his hand. It’s not that they were bad, just that it was a curious way of coping.

“I can hear you, you know!” Betty called from the bedroom. JB grinned at the embarrassed blush that spread across her brother’s features.

“Don’t complain, they’re good cookies.”

“Thank you JB!” Betty called again. Jughead scowled and stalked towards the bedroom, cookie in hand.

“I hope you’re not cheating, Betts,” he teased as he leant against the doorframe and watched her examining all the pieces of JB’s bed that had recently fallen apart. He surprised himself at the ease in which the nickname rolled off his tongue. It was a long forgotten reminder of the high school history they shared that she didn’t remember. A bitter poison on his tongue, but one so sweet he wanted to taste it again. Betty seemed to notice too, looking at him in astonishment before turning back to the matter-in-hand.

“How am I supposed to cheat at DIY?” she asked incredulously. Jughead just shrugged. “Where are the instructions?”

“In the bin.”

“In the bin?” she repeated, raising her eyebrows at him. “Now that is where you went wrong” she laughed. “Go and get them.” she ordered.

Jughead smiled slyly at her before disappearing into the kitchen to dig through the trash for the instructions he so confidently disposed of. JB was leaning against one of the kitchen counters, eating her third cookie, with a mischievous look in her blue eyes that Jughead was becoming all too familiar with.

“What?” he demanded.

“Pretty, isn’t she?” she asked smugly. “I know you noticed.”

“Stop being ridiculous,” he muttered, lifting the now-stained sheet of instructions out of the overflowing bin.

“Only if you admit it.” JB demanded, wiggling her eyebrows at her older brother.

“Admit what?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Jones. Admit that she’s pretty.”

“Yes, she’s beautiful,” Jughead sighed as he stalked back to where Betty was already constructing the bed without the instructions. JB clapped her hands happily at her brother’s confession.

Approximately half an hour later, JB was bouncing happily on her newly-constructed bed - mostly just to rub her brother’s nose in it - while Jughead watched her with a scowl etched across his face. Betty had barely looked at the instructions at all as she swiftly built what he had spent all day agonising over. She was standing next to him now, eating a slice of pizza, and admiring her creation.

“So, when do you want to reopen The Blue and Gold?” she asked slyly, noticing that Jughead was trying hard not to smile.

“A deal’s a deal,” he sighed. “Come by my classroom on Monday lunchtime and we can start clearing out the old B&G office.”

“Really?” The excited look in her green eyes was enough to melt his heart.

“I promised, didn’t I?” he said softly. Betty smiled brightly at him. A real, genuine smile.

“I should probably get going” she said quickly, realizing there were still some essays mark before bed. Saying her goodbyes, she promised JB she would to respond to her emails about In Cold Blood, and collected her jacket and (now-empty) plastic container from the kitchen before heading towards the door. She looked questioningly at Jughead when she realised that he was also shrugging on his leather jacket.

“I’m not going to let you walk home on your own,” he said, rolling his blue eyes at her surprised expression.

“Jug, this is Riverdale. Nothing bad ever happens here.”

“Just let me be a gentleman for once,” he teased, closing the door behind them as they headed towards the stairs. Once they reached the outside of the building, Jughead pulled a cigarette out of the packet in his pocket. “You don’t mind?”

“Not at all,” she replied, pulling her jacket a little tighter around her shivering body.

“JB always lectures me about passive smoking,” he laughed, taking a drag on his cigarette. Betty admired the way the smoke curled out of his parted lips as he exhaled. He really was sinfully handsome, she thought. It was the first time she had found herself attracted to a man in two years, she hadn’t even thought about it since Trev’s death.

“She has a point,” Betty smiled.

“She always has a point,” he sighed, running his free hand through his mess of dark curls. Betty realised that his signature grey beanie was absent from his head.

“You’re doing a good job” she reassured, placing her hand comfortingly on his arm. She felt him tense under her touch and understood why; it felt like an electric current had passed between them.

“Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if she would have been better off staying with you.” he admitted.

“Is that why you hate me?” Betty blurted out.

“What?”

Her voice was barely above a whisper when she replied. “You heard me.”

“I don’t hate you, Betts.” There it was again, that nickname that oozed familiarity. “I envy you.”

To his surprise, Betty laughed.

“That’s really fucked up.”

“No it’s not. You are able to relate to my sister on a level that I can’t,” Jughead said, the regret evident in his voice. He dropped his cigarette on the ground and crushed it with his boot.

“I can relate to her grief of losing her father, yes, but only because I lost my fiancé and my whole world got ripped out from underneath me. That’s not something to be envious of.” Her voice was soft, non-judgemental. “I am trapped here, Jughead, trapped in this dead-end town. I want to leave, but this is all I have ever known. I grew up here, went to school and university here, found and lost the man I loved in this town. There is nothing for me here, and yet I cannot let go of what might have been. I am unable to move on.” She was unable to stop the tears that flowed over the threshold of her green eyes and slipped soundlessly down her cheeks. This was just routine now, it was almost like the tears knew exactly where to go. “I am the last person you should envy.”

Jughead watched the beautiful broken woman in front of him and wished more than anything that he could take away her pain. They had reached her house, and stood facing each other in the dim glow of the porch light. For once in his life, Jughead Jones was speechless. But, he didn’t need to use words. Instead, he reached out and wrapped his arms around the sobbing woman, resting his chin on her head as she fitted perfectly against him.

Betty took a deep breath. Her forehead pressed against Jughead’s chest, she could smell his comforting scent of mint and cigarettes. She felt calmed as his warm hands rubbed her back, silently letting her know that it was alright, that she could cry if she needed to. But Betty decided that she was done with all the crying. Reluctantly, she pulled back, giving him a wobbly smile. His eyebrows were drawn together in concern and his bright blue eyes held the gaze of her green ones.

“You’re as strong as hell, Betty Cooper” he whispered, giving her a small smile. “You always were.” Betty squeezed his hand in a silent thank you.

“See you on Monday?”

There wasn’t a need to say thank you. It was understood.

“Bright and early,” he joked, his blue eyes twinkling in the dimness of the shadow of her house.

Betty turned to leave, but before she disappeared inside her empty house, she returned to where Jughead was standing and pressed a light kiss to his cheek. Then, she was gone. Before Jughead had the chance to react.

Jughead stood there, stunned and still feeling the warmth on his cheek where her soft lips had brushed against his skin. He was utterly bewildered. After every attempt to push her away; his rudeness, his cold attitude, and general grumpiness, she was still being kind. Perhaps it was impossible to push away Betty Cooper. Perhaps it was just time for him to just accept his feelings for her and get on with the year. But, he had a feeling that it was going to be very difficult to stay away from Betty, she was magnetic.

 

The first bell was already ringing when Betty heard the familiar roar of Jughead’s motorcycle in the school car park. She peered out of the window in the hallway and watched as JB handed her helmet to her brother and ruffled his dark curls affectionately - Jughead tried and failed to swat her hand away - before hopping off the back of the vehicle and escaping into the school building.

Leaning on the handlebars, Jughead watched her go, a bemused expression on his face. His leather biker jacket was tight around his shoulders and his dark hair still curled perfectly despite having just pulled off his helmet. He looked up (very intentionally) and his eyes met Betty’s, like he knew she was watching. He smirked and Betty felt herself blush.

Before it could become anything more, their interaction was interrupted and Betty’s attention was ripped away by a high pitched giggling sound. She glanced behind her and noticed, with annoyance, that some of her teenage students had also taken note of Jughead’s arrival.

“He’s so hot oh my god,” one girl giggled as she not-so-subtly peered out of the window next to Betty.

“And he rides a motorcycle,” another added.

“What happened to your crush on Mr Andrews?”

“Ancient history babe, I’m all about The Jones,” she answered.

Betty cleared her throat.

“Girls, shouldn’t you be in class?” she asked, giving the three of them a stern look. Admittedly, they had another five minutes before the final bell rang, but Betty couldn’t get over the sense of annoyance that she felt at the way they were leering at Jughead. He was a colleague. Of course she would want the students to respect him.

The three girls scurried off, but not before Betty heard soft laughter coming from behind her. Jughead was leaning against the wall. The look on his face confirmed that he had overheard the whole interaction.

“How about you, Betts? Are you all about The Jones?” he teased, winking at her. Betty regarded him with astonishment. He was still wearing his leather jacket, and she could smell the stale scent of cigarettes that always clung to him. His blues eyes danced with amusement.

“I.. Um… Excuse me?” She spluttered, unable to form a coherent thought when he was looking at her like that. She was surprised, he wasn’t ignoring her anymore. It was like they had broken some kind of invisible barrier between them.

“You heard me,” he goaded, a grin spreading across his face.

“You’re ridiculous.” She had a smile playing on her lips.

“Perhaps…See you at lunchtime, partner,” he joked, giving her a mock salute before disappearing down the corridor.

Betty couldn’t help but watch him go. How did she not notice how handsome he was in high school? The man was gorgeous. The kind of gorgeous that turned heads - even those of adolescent students. She decided that she must have spent her high school years completely blind.

 

Jughead was checking his emails on his phone, stretched out with his boots on his desk, when Betty knocked on the door of his classroom. He quickly sat up as she came into the room and closed the door behind her. Despite the cold October weather, she looked like the epitome of summer with her bright smile and pastel colours. They were complete opposites, Jughead thought. He was like the ice cold of winter.

“You don’t waste any time, do you?” he joked, the lunch hour had only started a couple of minutes before.

“I can come back later?” Betty frowned apologetically. “I’m sorry I just assumed -”

“I was joking,” he reassured her.

“Oh…”

“So, shall we get started then?” He had been into the Blue and Gold Office a couple of weeks ago, out of curiosity, and there was a lot of work that needed to be done. It had been turned into the schools storage cupboard. Maybe print journalism really was dead.

“Brilliant! I made cookies…” she added, smiling sheepishly.

“Of course you did,” Jughead rolled his eyes playfully, making Betty giggle. “What kind?”

“Coconut.”

“Say no more.”

 

Another box landed on the table with a satisfying smack, blowing up a cloud of dust. They had been working through the old office for the whole of their lunch break and had barely scratched the surface of all the junk piled up over the years. Decades old papers. Awards no longer on display. A forgotten clipping about a teacher fired for coming to class drunk. This place had it all. They were currently sorting all the mess into two categories: ‘relevant’ and ‘rubbish.’ Unfortunately, Betty seemed to want to keep everything.

“Ooo Jughead, look at this” she squealed excitedly, waving an old newspaper at him.

“Is that, by chance, another newspaper?” he asked sarcastically. “Who would think that this is where we used to write the school newspaper.”

“Oh shut up,” she scolded. “This is one of my old articles. The first one I wrote as Head Editor after you left.” She was scanning the pages with wide eyes. Jughead was beginning to understand why this was taking so long.

“What was it about? The local dog shelter?” he guessed. If he remembered right (and with her he always did), Betty had always been one for local issues. He remembered her anger when they were in high school and she discovered that the animal shelter in the neighbouring town weren’t caring for the animals properly. He was sure she wrote an article on it.

“Not exactly…” she answered vaguely. That caught Jughead’s interest.

“What then?” he pressed, looking up from the stack of files in front of him. Betty was biting her lip as she held up the old newsprint. He was more distracted by that, wondering what it would be like to bite her lip, before turning his attention back to the newspaper in her hand. It was entitled Northside Prejudice Forces Students Out with a photograph of the graffiti-ridden, ugly structure of the drug-ridden Southside High. “Betty, what’s this…?”

“After you moved to Southside High, I started a little investigation. Turns out there were other students who were forced out of Riverdale High because of their connections or proximity to the Southside. It got me in a lot of deep water with the management, but I argued that I had the right to write what I saw fit, and they were forced to drop it. I suspect that’s why the newspaper was closed down after I left the school… I was angry that you had to transfer schools just because your father was involved in the Southside Serpents.”

“You wrote that article for me?” Jughead was astonished. Here he had been thinking that she had forgotten him the moment his boots stepped outside of Riverdale High. But here this was: evidence that she fought for him right in front of his eyes.

“Well yeah, Jug,” she said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“How didn’t I hear about it?”

“I delivered a copy of the paper to your trailer, I gave it to your father with a copy of my phone number because you weren’t in,” she admitted sheepishly. “I assumed, because you didn’t contact me, that you didn’t like the article or weren’t interested in me or -”

“He never gave it to me,” he interrupted.

“What?”

“A copy of the paper, your number, I didn’t get any of it.”

“Oh…” Betty wasn’t sure how to respond. He never received her number. He didn’t just ignore her. But it was a long time ago, surely it didn’t matter now?

“Can I… Um… can I have it now?” he asked awkwardly.

“My phone number?” she replied, unable to hide the surprise in her voice.

“Yeah, I mean it might be useful with you tutoring JB and us working on the Blue and Gold,” he offered, desperately trying to hide his real reason for wanting it.

“Oh,” she sounded disappointed and Jughead mentally kicked himself. Why couldn’t he just ask her out like a normal person? All this song and dance was tiring. “Yeah, of course you can. I’ll email it to you.” She gave him a tight smile.

Suddenly, the door swung open and they both jumped, too wrapped up in their moment to remember that they were in the middle of a school instead of a Nicholas Sparks movie. Watching the sketchy reaction from the two teachers, JB grinned widely as she leant against the doorway. The teenager flashed Jughead a look as if to say ‘you are telling me everything later.’

“Hola,” she chimed. “How’s the unpacking going?”

“Very well thank you,” Betty replied hastily.

“Go away, rat,” Jughead snapped at the same time.

“Mr Jones!” JB said in mock horror. “That’s no way to treat your students.”

“I think you’re an exception,” Jughead muttered, turning his attention back to the files in front of him. He knew by now that there was no point trying to fight his little sister off. It just made her more curious. Betty was trying to suppress a smile as she witnessed the exchange.

“Can I have a place on the B&G team once it’s all set up?” the dark-haired girl asked innocently. Betty raised her eyebrows at her. JB had never been interested in writing before, only music and the occasional gossip.

“Well you have to earn your place,” Betty began. “Write an article and either me or your brother will review it and decide whether you have won a place on the newspaper.”

“But Jug is my brother,” JB pointed out. “What about family loyalty?”

“That’s called nepotism, and it’s illegal,” Jughead cut in, scowling at his sister.

“Nepotism? My my, what a big word,” JB teased, her blue eyes sparking with mischief. “You may think I’m stupid, but I do know that nobody is going to take legal action over a wee bit of nepotism in a school newspaper.”

“Oh shush you two” Betty cut in before Jughead had the chance to reply. “Write an article JB and I’ll review it, avoiding the whole nepotism issue.”

“That is why you’re my favourite teacher Miss Cooper, because you will always take my side over my dear big brother here.” JB winked at Jughead. He just rolled his eyes.

Fortunately for Jughead, he was quite literally saved by the bell that signalled the end of the lunch hour. He would much rather teach a whole class full of teenagers about The Declaration of Independence than spend another minute with his irritating little sister.

“Same time tomorrow?” he asked Betty, feeling his heart skip a beat at the small smile she gave him. She nodded and he disappeared out of the door before JB had the chance to embarrass him further.

“He is so bad with women.” JB sighed as she watched her brother hurry down the corridor.

“What do you mean?” Betty laughed, busying herself with her bag to hide her blush.

“Well he clearly likes you, he’s just a complete idiot.” It seemed he wasn’t the only idiot around though if Miss Cooper was going to play dumb about it. Her brother wasn’t a subtle man.

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Is it?” the teenager challenged.

“Are you still on for tutoring tonight?” Betty asked, desperate to change the topic. They had made a deal that if JB surpassed her essay goals they would have a tutoring session at Pop’s tonight. With a little motivation, that girl could accomplish anything.

“Of course!” JB confirmed, a little too enthusiastically. “See you there at 6pm. Sharp. Don’t be late!” she called as she snatched up her backpack and followed her brother down the corridor.

She arrived at her maths class just as the bell was ringing and was met with raised eyebrows from Miss Lodge, although JB suspected it was more due to her worn down ‘hipster’ look rather than her lateness. She was right. Sliding into her usual desk, she grinned at her best-friend and (literal) partner-in-crime Lucas. Also the child of a Serpent, Lucas was painfully attractive with dark skin and chocolate brown eyes. JB wasn’t aware of a single girl in their grade who hadn’t lusted after him at some point, aside from herself. She was pretty sure that being romantically involved with him would be incest by this point. They had grown up together in the crime-ridden Southside where becoming practically inseparable was a necessity for survival. When things got too much at home, they often hid away together in the ruins of the old Drive In. JB had stayed there for three days once and her father hadn’t even noticed that she was missing. Lucas was like the brother that Jughead should have been. Like the brother she never had.

Her relationship with her family had always been complicated. A mother she didn’t know, a father too drunk to pay much attention, and a brother who had been her idol until he’d run off to the big city and forgotten all about her. Maybe it was a fear of abandonment that made it so hard to move from that trailer. Despite it’s bitter memories, it was where the only family member who hadn’t run out on her had lived. And her brother, so determined to bulldoze anything from his past, had done exactly that. All her feelings were mixed up these days. Really only music kept her sane. And Lucas’ bad attitude.

“Miss Lodge is looking hot as fuck this afternoon,” he whispered to her, nodding to the front of the room where Miss Lodge was still sitting at her desk on her phone, her tight purple blouse not leaving much to the imagination. It was a good thing for him Lucas had a big one.

“She always does.” JB said dismissively, rolling her eyes at her best-friend’s inability to control his hormones. Lucas just winked at her. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and typed out a text for her brother under the table.

JB: Hey there sucker! I’m hanging with L after school, meet you at Pop’s at 6pm for dinner?

It didn’t take him long to reply which JB found amusing, since he was supposed to be teaching a class.

J: Are you paying?

JB: You’re my guardian! Legally, you have to feed me!

J: I should have put you in an orphanage!

JB: But then you wouldn’t have my beautiful face to come home to every day.

J: Stop texting in class, I’ll give you detention.

JB: Miss C would save me;)

J: I’ll see you at 6pm, you piece of shit.

JB smiled to herself, knowing full-well that she would be hiding out at Lucas’ house instead of going to Pop’s this evening. All the pieces of her plan were falling into place and her two pawns were blissfully oblivious.

Chapter Text

Jughead sat in his booth at Pop’s waiting patiently for JB to arrive from her tutoring session. Never once in her life had she ever been on time, and he didn’t expect much from her tonight - she was probably still in her vampire cave listening to sad music in the bed Betty built her (no he wasn’t still bitter). The familiar chime of the doorbell rang, perking him up. His attention shifted towards the door. None other than Betty Cooper stood there, shivering from the cool weather in her beige peacoat.

 

There were a variety of reasons for her to be standing inside the restaurant. Pop Tate’s was a popular restaurant - probably the the most popular one in all of Riverdale and Greendale combined. There was no better place to get greasy dinner food and a killer milkshake. Judging by her curious expression and the way her gaze darted around the room, it was unlikely she was just here for a delicious dinner.

 

“Jughead,” Betty’s eyebrows rose when she spotted the empty seat across from him. Realization dawned on her the same time it did him. “Let me guess, you’re here to meet JB for dinner?”

 

“I am. And you are too?”

 

“You’d be correct.”

 

The silence that followed was almost uncomfortable. A weird sort of limbo had consumed them. Should he offer her a seat? Should she just go? Her stomach growled and Betty instantly regretted letting her favorite student fool her. Now she was hungry - in more ways than one. She slipped in across from him with a sigh.

 

Betty tried to swallow the nervous giggles bubbling up in her throat. “Well if we’re both already here, why not have some dinner?”

 

“Yeah. Yeah sure why not.” It was brief, but she swore she saw Jughead smile.

 

Dinner was spent talking about work, school, what life had been like for both of them in the years they had spent apart. She listened to his stories from working as a university professor and laughed more often than not. It was tempting to probe him all about life in the city, but he seemed more interested in how their sleepy little town had changed in the years he had been gone.

 

Very little - that was her answer. The tensions between the North and the Southside had lessened some, but whispers that would change due to FP’s death were still heard throughout the hallways. Her mother’s paper, the Register, was doing well. Print journalism hadn’t yet been killed by the slow and steady influx of big corporations. Two years back, a Starbucks had replaced Nana’s Coffee and Tea bar and there were rumors the Twilight Drive-in was next on a mysterious figures hit list.

 

“The drive in? You’re kidding!” He takes a bite of his fries angrily. The salty taste does nothing to calm his frustrations. “That place is an iconic landmark in Riverdale history and what? Mayor McCoy - I can’t believe she’s still in office by the way - is just going to sell it to the highest bidder? What’s next? They’re going to take Pop’s away from us?”

 

“Maybe you should have done debate instead of history,” Betty suggested with a laugh, snagging the cherry from the top of his tall coffee milkshake. She popped it into her mouth, enjoying the way his eyes blew wide as she watched a shiver roll up his spine. Maybe she had a little sexuality left inside of her.

 

It took him a few moments, but Jughead managed to regain his wits. “History has a lot more impact on the world today than most people realize. This isn’t the first time small town America has been taken over by big business. Soon enough Riverdale is going to look like one of those getaway towns for rich bigwigs. We’ll have bed and breakfasts on every street and tourist attractions about our funny small town ways. Pickens Park? Southside High? I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all getting bulldozed within the next year to make way for tourist attractions and high rise condominiums. Just enough to make us think this place is still ours but in reality it’s a shell of world we knew, we grew up in.”

 

He paused, studying her amused expression. A blush grew on his cheeks. “I’m kind of rambling, aren’t I? Forget it. It wasn’t important.”

 

In a moment of vulnerability, Betty reached out and took his hand. Her features softened and she smiled. “Don’t apologize. I think...I think you passion is really amazing. Inspiring even. You were like that in high school too: always fighting loudly for what you thought was right.”

 

She fondly remembered an instance during her freshman year when Pop’s had gone through a rough period. Jughead Jones - a man who acted like he hated one and everything, especially then - had anonymously put together a fundraiser for him. Had Betty not stumbled across him counting money in the Blue and Gold Office late after school and questioned how on earth he’d gotten all that cash, she herself might never have known about the secret heart of gold that was hidden underneath layers of hardened armor. Jughead didn’t want praise or glory - he wanted to do the right thing. It was something she always admired about him.

 

Jughead coughed (to ease the tension built up, his throat was feeling fine) and pulled his hand away from hers. “Thank you, Betty.”

 

“You’re welcome, Jones. Just don’t let it go to your head.”

 

The rest of the dinner went remarkably fine - good even. They talked, they laughed, and he even offered to buy her a second milkshake. She should have said no, but truthfully Betty didn’t want the night to end. The longer she could make this go the better in her eyes. It wasn’t often she got to speak to Jughead in such a relaxed and vulnerable setting. This was new territory and she wanted to spend as much time as possible here.

 

Fewer and fewer people entered the 24 hour dinner, and one of the neon signs nearly flickered out. Outside was nothing but darkness, illuminated only by the moon. Jughead stood (insisting on paying the bill because it was his little sister who had conned them both into being here) and offered her his hand. They didn’t speak, but they didn’t have to. Betty smiled and squeezed once.

 

“Do you need a ride home?” he offered. And then, almost as if anticipating her reluctance to take his kindness, added, “It’s not an issue.”

 

Betty shook her head. “No. Really it’s fine. I actually drove myself here so it would be silly if I just left it overnight. But thank you Juggie.”

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

A silence that mimicked the one they had encountered upon her arrival clung tightly between them. Neither of them dared to break it in fear of what might be said, what might happen. Finally, Betty pulled away, turning to face him.

 

“Tonight was nice. Fun. Good. Thank you. I haven’t had something like...this in awhile.” Whatever this was could be labeled at another date. Not right now though. That was too frightening of a thought. When things had labels they were serious. She’d had nothing serious since Trev.

 

“Yeah. Me too I….Betty I…Also…” he took a deep breath, trying to steal himself for the impulse he was choosing to follow. Her pretty blonde eyebrows knit together in confusion, but before she could vocalize the questions he saw dancing behind her eyes, Jughead leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on her lips.

 

It was something he’d wanted to do since high school, had fantasized many nights in the cramped trailer he shared with his little sister and his dad. But now, in the moment of finally fulfilling all those secret thoughts, he realized it was much better than anything he could ever have dreamed up. Her lips were soft (though that wasn’t much of a surprise). She did not melt completely into him, instead pulling him closer so her tongue could slip inside of his mouth.

 

Jughead groaned, a hand coming up to tangle in her pretty blonde ponytail. Her hands explored him and finally came to rest on his jacket. Primal instincts took over and his hand crept down to her ass, squeezing hard enough to elicit a pretty moan from her (now bruised) pink lips. They fumbled together for a long time in the darkness, only coming up for air when they absolutely had to. He kissed down, sucking a dark purple bruise into the curve of her neck.

 

A shrill buzzing cut through the air, thick with sexual tension. Betty sheepishly smiled and took a step back, noting the number displayed at Veronica’s. She apologized, “I’m sorry I have to take this. I um...I’ll see you tomorrow. At school?”

 

Despite being thoroughly confused, Jughead nodded. “Yeah. Yeah all right. See you at school Betts.”

 

She watched him go, feeling a heavy weight on her chest and a wetness between her legs that practically begged to follow him. Betty pulled her mind out of the gutter and turned away to answer the phone. “V? What’s up?”

 

What she had not expected was the shrill sobbing that now filled her ear drums. Any words Veronica were trying to say were swallowed whole but the earth shattering sobs. Once Betty had finally managed to calm her down, one sentence became clear as day.

 

“I fucking hate Archibald Andrews and I hope he rots in hell.”

 

Needless to say, Betty would not be spending the night in her best friend’s apartment tonight, comfortably curled up in her sheets. “Okay okay. I’m on my way over right now. I’ll be there soon just don’t kill him or anything. Please!”

 

With a promise from her friend, she hung up and quickly began the drive to the Pembrooke.

 


 

Jughead fumbled with the keys to his apartment for a few minutes before finally getting them into the lock and opening the door. He was still shaken by his and Betty’s impromptu date (and make-out session). Sure it was fulfillment of one of his longest held fantasties, but what did it mean now. They hadn’t had a chance to talk. Veronica’s phone call had cut any hope of that very short.

 

“Well, well, well,” JB spun around in on of the bar stool chairs like an evil villain in one of his favorite old movies. “Someone’s home late.”

 

“And someone set me up on a date with their tutor and English teacher. Maybe it’s not my lateness we should be focusing on but your lies?” He set his books down and raised an eyebrow.

 

“Who said it was a date?” she said slyly.

 

“I… um…” Jughead seemed lost for words.

 

JB took the bait and didn’t falter for a moment. It was like she had rehearsed a speech (she had) and was not going to let him stop her (she wasn’t). “Jug, as long as you’re happy and remember to wear a condom I fully support this relationship. I’m proud. You’re a baby bird finally spreading your wings and chasing after the girl you’ve had a crush on since High School.”

 

“And how, exactly, did you come by that information?”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Well for starters, I have fucking eyes, and you’re constantly using yours to check her out when you think no one is looking. So how was the kissing?”

 

“Confidential information. Besides, you don’t even know that we kissed. Maybe we had a completely platonic encounter. Maybe we yelled at each other and I’m never allowed inside of Pop’s again.”

 

“Please you would never jeopardize you're milkshakes for anything, especially a petty feud with a teacher you’ve had the hots for since like...forever. Also you have lipstick on your face and last I checked you didn’t own anything called pink perfection. But hey, J, totally your choice if you want to start. As you're loving sister I am here to support all your decisions. Might I recommend something with a different undertone though?”

 

Jughead picked up a pillow from the couch and tosses it at his sister as a warning. “What the hell JB?” He tried to keep a serious face but soon he found himself laughing. “Shit I am in way too deep with this.”

 

JB moved over on the couch and patted for him to take a seat beside her. It was a moment of vulnerability she hadn’t seen from her brother before. “Are you okay? I’m sorry if I did something wrong.”

 

“No. No it’s fine Jelly just...I spent so long with this fantasy of finally getting to kiss Betty and it was amazing but now it’s just like...I have no idea what comes next. No idea what’s supposed to come next. I’ve dated two people in my entire life. Two. Most freshman in high school have more dating experience than I do. And I can’t help but think that maybe I don’t even deserve her. Maybe I’m not good enough for her.”

 

She picked up the pillow from the couch and smacked him with it. “Knock that self loathing shit off Jug. You’re wicked amazing and I won’t have anyone, including you, tell you otherwise. It’s okay to have to take things slow.”

 

“When did you get so wise?”

 

“When I had to grow up really quickly because my dad was an alcoholic and my brother was off ignoring that this place even existed.” Her voice was tinged with bitterness, though she hadn’t meant it to be.

 

Jughead winced and squeezed her shoulder. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. I should have been. And I’m going to do better from now on. You’re my number one priority.”

 

“Don’t make it weird,” JB smiled anyway. “I was going to take a shower but maybe you should instead Mr. Hot and Bothered.”

 

Before he could retort she was off, laughing at just how well her plan was going.

 


 

Betty met a very distressed Veronica at her apartment. She had gone from teary eyed mess to woman of mass destruction during the short fifteen minute drive. There were still tears in the brunettes eyes, but nothing but pure anger was present in her actions as she passed back and forth around the room and listed various was she was going to eviscerate Archibald Andrews.

 

“And then I’ll grab his eyeballs and rip them right out thought his asshole!”

 

The blonde took a deep breath, “Okay normally I’m not one to question your angry rants but what exactly did Archie do this time?”

 

In the last twenty minutes that she had been here, there had been very little actual explanation as to why their beloved ginger friend was facing the wrath of the Lodge goddess. Veronica paused her movements. “He’s not only cancelled on me twice as well as stood me up. And then, the icing on the cake, I told him he was starting to hurt my feelings and he said he didn’t care. Didn’t Care !”

 

She let out another shriek of frustration before throwing herself onto the plush couch and popping open a bottle of wine. She poured them each a glass (Betty declined) and threw hers back with a single gulp. Betty couldn’t fathom why her best friend was behaving like this. Everyone knew he loved Veronica, except Veronica. He had never been particularly subtle. This change was mind boggling and no doubt leaving them all with a severe case of whiplash.

 

No matter what the reason for his attitude, it was bad. She was going to have a few words with Archie Andrews when she got to school again - and they would not be very nice ones. But for right now she had to work on cheering Veronica up. Despite her hardened attitude, there was no doubt his actions were eating her up inside. Just the look in her eyes was enough to break anyone’s heart.

 

“Hey hey. V let’s watch the Machelorette. I know you’ve got an episode recorded,” she smiled and rubbed circles on her friend’s shoulder. “I’ll order pizza and we can pretend we’re in college again and forget all about stupid boys.”

 

“Stupid boys?” Veronica’s interest peaked, “And what makes you think boys are so stupid, B? Has there been a development with tall dark and handsome that we don’t know about yet?”

 

Betty groaned. “Can we focus on Archie stuff for a minute instead of whatever is happening between Jughead and I?”

 

“So that means there is something happening! No you spill it right now. I want all the details, Cooper. Spare nothing. Did you do the dirty on school campus? Confess undying love for one another at Pop’s? My love life is in absolute shambles so humor me here.”

 

“It’s not like any of that. Or maybe it is. I mean JB set us up on a date tonight and it went really really well. No antagonizing, no sarcasm. It was really sweet and we laughed a lot and then he...we may have...we kissed. In the Pop’s parking lot. And it was kind of amazing.”

 

Veronica squealed and threw her arms around Betty. The hug was tight but did nothing to ease the anxiety that had slowly begun accumulating after her kiss with Mr. Jones. Deep in her gut she felt remorse. Would Trev be disappointed in her for starting to move on?

 

The brunette could sense her friend’s distress and pulled back, studying her expression. “But you feel bad. Because of your fiancé. Betty...he’s been gone a long time. It’s time to stop dwelling and start living. That’s what he would have wanted for you, not sitting around in misery mourning him. You played a beautiful grieving widow but now it’s time to get out and enjoy yourself, okay?”

 

Betty looked down at the ring on her finger, twisting the small diamond around and around again. “Maybe you’re right. I mean part of me knows you are. But I can’t help but feel terrible still, like I’m hurting him somehow. Did I wait long enough? What will other people think? I don’t know if I’m ready for anything serious.”

 

“Okay so first things first: you definitely waited long enough. Second, who cares what people think Betty? Don’t answer that, I know you do but you shouldn’t. Whatever the small minded people of Riverdale are thinking about your love life is irrelevant. What matters is you and yours. And let me tell you, yours are going to be thrilled to hear about this development. Kevin might combust. Lastly,” she reached out and took her friend’s hands so she would stop fiddling with them, “if you aren’t ready for anything serious then you don’t do serious. You have some fun with Jughead. You kiss him and feel good and then go back home and live your own life. No one is asking you to get down on one knee. Hell, I think he might run back to NYC if you did that now. What I am asking you is to just try? Just go out on a limb and see if this is something that’s going to make you happy.”

 

Going out on a limb was not something Betty often did. It was terrifying to leap into something with little thought of the consequences and imagining it caused her anxiety to spike her and heart rate to quicken. But maybe Veronica was right. Maybe it was time to close her eyes and take a leap of faith. With a deep breath, she pulled the ring from her finger and tucked it safely into the pocket of her purse. It felt like a large chunk of her was missing now, but at the same time it felt freeing. Slowly she was untethering herself from the ghost of her dead finacé.

 

“Okay,” she hugged Veronica tightly. “Thank you V. I’m not sure where I’d be without you.”

 

“Bored, lonely, and without a hot tub to gossip in during weekends. Now I need a boy break. Let’s watch Crystal on the Machelorette and enjoy ourselves.”

 


 

Late at night JB got a call from Lucas asking her to meet at the Drive-in. Thankfully, Jughead slept like the dead and she easily maneuvered her way out of the apartment without getting caught. She knew her friend was going through some rough times lately - they both were. It was making their bond stronger, sure, but was leaving them both with plenty of emotional scars.

 

The Twilight Drive-in was their happy place: safe from grown ups, serpents, and anyone else who loved to tourment the teenagers (including their own minds). He picked her up in his old beat up minivan a block away from her apartment complex to avoid suspicion. With both her brother and her teacher in close proximity, it wasn’t worth risking being caught for a little convenience. She would be grounded until she was old and gray if Jughead found her out past curfew.

 

They drove in silence. JB used the keys she’s snatched from the night guard to open up the gates and the parked in the empty lot. When the engine cut off nothing but the chirp of crickets filled the empty air.

 

“So…” JB began, “Your old man still pushing you to join the snakes?”

 

Lucas nodded, running a hand through his hair. “Yep.”

 

They didn’t talk much about their shared serpent roots. It was not something FP (nor Jughead for that matter) had ever wanted of her. She stayed away from most of the messy business and hung around the few children her age. Nobody expected her to follow in familial footsteps, but that was not the case for Lucas. At every turn he felt his father’s pressure to conform to the life he lead. It was quickly becoming a join or leave situation.

 

“I told you...I’m sure Jughead wouldn’t mind you staying with us if you have to,” she promised. “He’s got a heart of gold underneath all that shit.”

 

He shook his head. “No thanks JB. I’m not getting in the middle of your convoluted family shit. Besides, you told me you two were finally starting to get along and bond. You don’t need a rando living with you guys and making it complicated. Hard pass. Thanks though.”

 

Every time she offered he shot her down. There was no point in arguing with Lucas when he had already made up his mind. He was stubborn in the worst of ways, but sometimes so was she. Their understanding of their faults was what made them the easiest and best of friends.

 

“Okay but-”

 

“But just know the offer stands,” he finished for her. “I know. Thank you.”

 

The conversation flowed freely after that, not bogged down by any one topic in particular. At one point they counted as many stars in the sky they could. JB did all she could to distract him from his impending initiation and he seemed to appreciate a moment where it wasn’t the main topic at hand.

 

“Have you told Jug yet?” Lucas asked with purposeful vagueness. She knew what he was talking about and let out a loud groan.

 

“No. I haven’t. And I don’t even know if I want to. I know it’s stupid but I’m scared. What if it changes things right as they’re starting to get good between us? What if he looks at me differently? What if instead of seeing his little sister he sees someone weird?”

 

“Slow down cowgirl that’s a lot of jumping you’re doing there.” He pulled out a cigarette and took a long drag. “From what you told of me he seems like a cool dude. Besides isn’t he a professor at a University? It’s being liberal like a prerequisite for a job like that?”

 

“Okay yeah maybe that’s true but I’ve never come out to anyone in my family before. My dad was blissfully unaware of anything outside of the radius of his beer bottles. What do I even say? Hey Jug, great dinner, by the way I’m a raging bisexual who may or may not have a small teacher crush on the girl who you want to be your girlfriend? That’s classy.”

 

Lucas laughed. “Right so my vote is don’t say it like that you dumbass. The last part. I think the dinner thing is totally cool. Just whenever it feels right. And I’m not trying to push you into it, I just know you’ve been flip flopping about doing it since he rolled into town. I’m just saying, if it’s something you want to do then I doubt he’s going to make much of a fuss.”

 

“Thanks,” JB pushed him lightly. “Best pep talk ever, seriously.”

 

The alarm on her clock alerted them to just how late they had stayed out. It was nearing three in the morning and if she didn’t get home and put her head on the pillow soon, there was going to be hell to pay. It had been a busy night of scheming to help a teacher love blossom.

 

When JB managed her James Bond-esque break in, she was overcome with a sense of pride that she had snuck out successfully in her new apartment. Her brother seemed to be fast asleep on the couch, surrounded by ungraded papers with his glasses slightly askew. She gave his forehead a kiss and moved quickly into her bedroom for an early morning nap. When he heard the door close beside her, Jughead sat up with a grin, unable to bring himself to scold her with the news that she was not near as stealthy as she liked to think she was.

Chapter Text

“The fact that you think I’m going to even consider calling him is hilarious, B. That good-for-nothing Judas hurt my feelings, not the other way around,” Veronica snapped, scribbling furiously on her students’ practice exam papers with a murderously bright red ink. She took another sip of wine - apparently red was the colour theme for tonight - and raised her perfect eyebrows at her best friend defiantly. Television and pizza had only distracted Veronica for a short period of time. Now she was back to seething about Archie’s behaviour.

Betty sighed. She had spent the whole evening trying to persuade her stubborn friend to at least give Archie a chance to explain himself for the inexcusable rudeness, to give him a chance to grovel and apologise, but Veronica was too angry to even broach the subject. Admittedly, focusing on her friend’s drama had given her the excuse to ignore her own pressing problems. She still hadn’t spoken to Jughead after their moonlit make-out session after JB’s manufactured date at Pop’s and, frankly, she didn’t know what to tell him. She wasn’t ready for a commitment, let at all a relationship, and she wasn’t sure how to explain herself to him without hurting his feelings and making his walls go right back up.

“I swear, if I didn’t have to work with that jerk, I would make a point of never seeing him again,” she spat. “Maybe I should call in sick tomorrow.” Her voice was barely above a whisper now, a flicker of hurt breaking through her angry exterior.

“Now that would be ridiculous,” Betty cut in. “Since when has Veronica Lodge ever been driven away because some guy is being an asshole?”

“You’re right, I know you’re right,” the brunette sighed. “I just don’t know what I did wrong.” The anger had completely diffused now. Betty saw Veronica’s lip tremble as she took another sip from her worryingly-large wine glass. Before tonight, seeing her best friend upset was a rare occurrence. In fact, Betty couldn’t even remember the last time she had seen the hot-headed latina cry.

“V, come here,” Betty pried the wine glass from her friend’s grip and pulled her in for a hug. “I promise that you haven’t done anything wrong, this is all on Archie. I have no idea what is going through that thick brain of his because I swear to God that man is head over heels for you.”

“Apparently not,” Veronica sniffed, her mascara-blackened tears staining Betty’s perfectly pink cardigan.

The blonde sighed. What a predicament they’d worked themselves into this time. She knew that Veronica liked Archie probably as much as he liked her, but he just couldn’t seem to find the guts to ask her out. When she had suggested that Veronica ask him out instead, she was met with a scoff and a shaking, at best, explanation as to why.

“I honestly think you should just talk to him Ronnie, he’ll grovel like hell once he realises that he’s hurt you.”

“I’m not stooping that low! I’m going to ignore him until he apologises, and maybe even after that.”

Betty rolled her eyes half-heartedly. All week she was surrounded by teenagers, and having her best friends behave the same was was exhausting. But Veronica was hurt and she understood how that felt, so she just hugged her a little closer.

“So, what are you going to do about that sexy Mr Jones?” Veronica asked, her dark brown eyes shining mischievously. Apparently, she had decided to distract herself by meddling in a love life that wasn’t her own.

“And that’s my cue to leave,” Betty muttered, making her friend smile gleefully.

“Awww come on B!” Veronica whined. “I need you to distract me!”

“Well, I’ll see him tomorrow at school and I’ll just have to figure it out from there. You never know, he might pretend the whole thing never even happened. In fact, that is a highly probable scenario considering his unpredictable moods.”

“But you definitely like him.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yes, V. It scares the hell out of me, but I like him. Probably more than I should,” she confessed.

“Then what could possibly go wrong?”

Betty gave her a skeptical look. “Let’s not jinx it.”

 

The next morning, Betty pulled into the school car park bright and early (as she did every day) and headed towards the building, a stack of essays balanced precariously on a box of chocolate chip cookies in her arms. Chocolate chip was Veronica’s favourite and she knew that her friend was going to need a little encouragement today. Besides, she might be able to save a few unfortunate students from detention if she plied her friend with home-baked goodies.

Twisting so her load was balanced on her hip, Betty fished around in her bag for the keys, but was surprised to find the school already unlocked. It was rare that anyone arrived at school before her, staff and students alike. She was just contemplating the possibility of a break-in when she heard a familiar song coming from the music room. Her relief was soon forgotten however, a wave of irritation coming over her instead as she dropped her belongings off in the teacher’s lounge and stalked towards the sound of the music drifting down the corridor.

He was there, absentmindedly strumming on his guitar and taking breaks every few beats to jot something down on the pad of paper propped up on the music stand. He was biting his lip, brown eyes squinting in concentration, making the scar between his eyebrows more pronounced, and his red hair was falling messily over his forehead. He looked almost exactly the same as he had in high school, but sporting a blazer and tie instead of his signature varsity letterman jacket.

Betty cleared her throat and the music stopped. Archie looked up, surprise painted over his handsome features. He grinned when he saw her leaning against the door. However, the smile instantly faded when he caught her irritated expression.

“Hey Betty, what’s up?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” she remarked coldly.

Archie frowned, obviously confused by her hostility. “I’m good thanks, I thought I would spend some time jamming before all the teenagers arrive,” he shrugged.

Forever oblivious, Betty thought.

“You realise that Ronnie is pretty pissed off, right? No, scratch that. She’s upset. More upset that I have ever seen her actually.”

“What happened?” he asked innocently. Whatever coy game he was playing at, Betty was not having.

“Are you being fucking serious right now?” A flash of unmistakable guilt betrayed Archie’s composure. “What the hell is going on Archie?” Betty demanded, more quietly this time. She knew her high-school friend well enough to know that he wasn’t the type to be unnecessarily mean. Sometimes stupid, uncoordinated, thoughtless, and unaware, but never mean. Archie ran his hand through his red hair and sighed, guilty expression fixed on the blonde in front of him.

“It’s kind of stupid,” he mumbled.

“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. But you better have an explanation because I was trying to reason with V all of last night, it was exhausting.”

“I honestly wasn’t trying to hurt her feelings,” Archie protested. Betty waited patiently for him to continue. “Look Betty, it was a really stupid idea. You know when Jughead joined the staff last month?”

“I noticed, yes.”

“Well he was all aloof and mysterious and stuff and Ronnie said something about how guys being assholes can sometimes be a turn on.”

Betty blinked, surprised. And then, unable to stop herself, she laughed. “Oh my God Arch. You’ve been a dick to Ronnie because you think she will find it attractive?” Archie nodded sheepishly. Betty shook her head, her green eyes alight with amusement. “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Well it obviously didn’t work!”

“Obviously!”

“Is she really upset?” Betty just nodded. “Damn, I really fucked up.”

“Why didn’t you just ask her out? I can tell she likes you,” she tried to reassure him, all her anger having faded.

“Really?”

“Yes, Arch. Everyone can tell Ronnie likes you except you, and vice versa. But you’re going to have to do some spectacular grovelling. I mean it, like really really spectacular. She’s just about ready to murder you.”

Archie grimaced and mumbled, “I’ll think of something. I have to.”

“You better,” she cautioned. She ruffled his red hair, laughing as he tried to swat her hand away, and headed back towards the teacher’s lounge so she could start setting up her lesson. She smiled to herself, remembering how infatuated she had been with Archie in high school. The perfect girl next door forever doomed to the friend zone. That part of herself seemed worlds away now. Thinking about Archie as anything more than a brother was beyond weird and she cringed just picturing it.

Making herself a cup of coffee - milk, two sugars - she spent the following hour listening to Archie’s music from down the hall and grading the papers that she hadn’t had the chance to do the night before thanks to Veronica’s messy love life crisis. She finished the last paper just as the first few students were arriving through the school gates and, capping her green pen, she made her way towards the teacher’s lounge just in time to meet an already-fuming Veronica.

“Just give him the chance to explain himself, V,” Betty cautioned, handing her best friend a cup of tea and one of her chocolate chip cookies.

“What if I don’t want to?” the brunette nibbled at one of the cookies in her hand, for once not complaining about the calories.

“Then you’ll miss the opportunity for some truly spectacular grovelling. Or so a little birdy told me anyhow,” Betty shrugged, trying to hide the smile playing on her lips.

Veronica narrowed her eyes at her best friend. “What do you know?”

“I’m not telling you anything! I just recommend that you hear Archie out.”

“I don’t want to even look at him, let alone talk to him,” Veronica muttered.

Unfortunately for her, Archie chose that moment to walk into the room, guitar in hand. She glared at him before turning away and, for once, he had the common sense to look a bit guilty. Noticing the exchange between his two colleagues like he had some kind of inbuilt gossip-radar, Kevin - who was in a conversation with another teacher - took a seat next to Veronica, ignoring Betty’s warning glance.

“Trouble in paradise?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Veronica muttered.

“Awh come on V, you can do better than that,” he teased. “Something has gone down between you and a certain ginger stallion, and I demand to know the details.”

“You’re annoying,” Veronica sighed. Kevin grinned gleefully, knowing that she would tell him everything.

Not wanting to relive Veronica’s romantic problems for what would feel like the one hundredth time, Betty excused herself, briefly mentioning that she had to set up for her lesson. That wasn’t strictly true, but everything was always prepared in advance with Betty Cooper.

She had just finished writing the aims for the lesson on her whiteboard when the familiar sound of a motorbike thundered outside. Betty felt butterflies swarm in her stomach at the sound, the knowledge that Jughead was just on the other side of the wall made her shiver with excitement, a feeling that had been long absent in her life. She could hear a group of teenage girls giggling in the hallway and suspected that they had also spotted the arrival of a certain History teacher. It was easy to just picture him with his leather jacket thrown carelessly over his shoulders, running his hand through his inky-black hair as he pulled off his helmet, bright blues eyes scanning the school grounds. Maybe he was lighting a cigarette before classes started. There was a sharp knock at the door, pulling Betty out of her mind as she turned towards the sound and was greeted by a familiar dark-haired girl with a mischievous grin.

“Hi Miss,” JB chimed happily as she took her usual seat in the middle of the classroom, dumping her bag on the desk next to her to reserve it for Lucas, who would probably, like always, be late.

“Good morning, Jellybean,” Betty replied, regarding the pixie-like girl with a critical expression. JB raised her eyebrows, her favorite teacher very rarely used her full name. “Care to explain why you missed our tutoring session last night?”

JB touched her chest with mock surprise. “Was that yesterday, Miss?”

“I’m not an imbecile JB,” Betty sighed, finding it impossible to be truly irritated with her favourite student. “If you pull a stunt like that again I will put you in detention, or ban tutoring sessions at Pop’s.”

“Yeah alright Miss, fair enough. Jug just needed a little nudge though,” she smirked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Betty replied, shooting JB one of her classic warning looks. “But your education has nothing to do with your brother’s ability to date.”

“Oh so it was a date! Did you and my dear old brother have fun?” A couple more students had made their way into the classroom during the conversation and Betty suspected that even though they weren’t paying attention now, they soon would be.

“That’s inappropriate,” Betty scolded, busying herself with placing worksheets on the desks.

“I know he had fun,” JB muttered and grinned behind her worksheet. With another warning look shot her way, JB had the decency to drop the subject, suddenly very interested in the contents of her pencil case.

Betty began her lesson, a well-planned lecture on the influence of The American Dream on early American literature, specifically In Cold Blood. She noticed JB’s best friend, Lucas, sneak in ten minutes late but decided it best for everyone if she didn’t comment. The lesson dragged, they always did first thing on a Friday, and her students took notes with bored expressions on their faces, frequently looking towards the clock above the whiteboard, waiting for it to tick away and mercifully ring. Betty dismissed them five minutes early, understanding the fruitlessness of their Friday morning. She called over to Lucas before he could disappear down the corridor.

“What’s going on, Lucas?” she asked calmly, gesturing that he sit down at one of the desks at the front of the classroom.

“What do you mean, Miss?” he asked.

“Don’t play dumb please, you’re above that. You’ve been late to my class three times this week and I would put you in detention but I don’t think that would be fun for either of us.”

“Sorry...”

“So, really this time, what’s going on?” Betty prompted again, leaning against her desk.

Lucas shrugged. “Nothing, just late.” He fidgeting with the strap on his backpack.

Betty didn’t buy it, but she also knew when not to push. “Alright, but if this happens again this semester I’ll have no choice but to put you in detention. So makes sure I don’t have to,” she cautioned as she dismissed him from the room. Lucas nodded and headed out into the hallway where, no doubt, JB would be waiting for him.

Betty was just clearing up her classroom in readiness for her second period when there was another knock at her door. When she looked up, her heart skipped a beat. Jughead was leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed and a small smile on his lips. Dark hair curled over his forehead and his dark blue tie was hanging loosely around his neck. The colour brought out the blue of his eyes.

“Hi,” he said simply, uncrossing and then recrossing his arms. If Betty didn’t know better she would say that he looked almost nervous.

She smiled shyly. “Well hi yourself.”

“I hope you gave my irritating little sister hell about messing around with you last night,” he smiled, running his hand through his messy hair just like Betty had pictured him doing earlier.

“Of course,” she laughed, surprised at how relaxed he made her feel. “I threatened her with detention and everything.”

“Only threatened?”

“I’m not that mean. Besides, I had fun last night so I can’t be too mad at her.”

Unconsciously, she touched her thumb to her ring finger to fidget with her engagement ring, something she always did when she was nervous, and was initially surprised to find that it wasn’t there. It took a moment of panic before she remembered that last night she had tucked it safely back in the velvet box that Trev had nervously placed into her hands all those years before. It was the first time she had taken it off her finger since the night he proposed. Originally, she had thought there would be sadness, or guilt, like she was betraying him. But it was impossible to escape the overwhelming feeling of relief as she looked at her ring-less hand. Maybe this was the first step in finally moving on.

That thought in mind, she looked back at Jughead with something hopeful bubbling in her stomach. He was gorgeous, that much was obvious, and she couldn’t deny that she liked him. Still, that nagging warning in the back of her mind reminded her that he was leaving. He would be here for the rest of the school year and then he would disappear back to the city, leaving Betty alone again. Could she handle letting him in only to lose him?

“Do you have plans tonight?” he asked, walking over so he was leaning against her desk instead.

The scent of mint and cigarettes washed over her as he drew closer, making it difficult to think clearly. His long fingers curl on the desk only inches from hers. She glanced up, blushing when their eyes met, and quickly averted her gaze.

“Um…” she couldn’t think straight when he was looking at her like that, like she was something desirable. No one had looked at her like that in years, and never so intensely. “I was going to continue clearing out the Blue and Gold office after work. It should probably take all evening.”

“Can I join you?” His voice was low, inviting. Betty felt an unfamiliar kind of excitement bubble up inside her and it wasn’t from the prospect of sorting boxes.

“If you want,” she replied, flashing him a flirtatious smile, peering up at him through long lashes. At that moment, the bell began ringing, signaling the start of the next class. Any minute now the second hoard of students would begin filing the hallways.“Don’t you have a class to teach, Mr Jones?”

“Unfortunately,” Jughead replied, his eyes not leaving her face. He brushed his fingers lightly against hers as he stood up and they both felt an unmistakable electric current crackle between them. “See you later then.”

“Later,” Betty confirmed with a smile.

“It’s a date.”

He winked at her before disappearing down the corridor and Betty knew she was in deep trouble.

 

Jughead spent his lunch hour grading papers on The American Civil War, something he found even more tedious now that he was teaching high school instead of college. Just as he was finishing his second cup of coffee - black, no sugar - a paper airplane landed on his desk. He didn’t need to look up to know who had thrown it.

“Don’t you have any friends?” he muttered half-heartedly as his little sister skipped into the room.

“Lucas is in detention again,” JB sighed. “Miss Lodge is on the warpath today I swear. He was only like one minute late this time,” she complained as she perched on the edge of Jughead’s desk.

“Oh yeah, I forgot you only have one friend.”

JB stuck her tongue out at him childishly. “That’s one more than you had in high school.”

“Touché.” Jughead turned his attention back to the pile of essays.

“So…” JB looked at him expectantly.

“No, I haven’t graded your paper yet,” Jughead replied, not even looking up from his work.

“I don’t care about that,” JB scoffed. “I want to know how Operation Bughead is going.”

“Is that what you’re calling my love life now? How reassuring.” He rolled his eyes and affectionately swatted his sister’s muddy boots off his chair. “And it’s none of your business by the way.”

“Of course it’s my business,” she protested. “I would make an awesome aunt you know, and I’m not going to be able to exercise that hidden talent until you hurry up and shack up with someone, preferably Miss Cooper. Seriously, with her looks and your...” she looked him up and down with a doubtful expression. “Anyway, with her looks, your kids would be beautiful. You’re not getting any younger bro. Don’t most people start freaking out about fertility at thirty?”

“You’re ridiculous,” Jughead mumbled, conscious of the blush brightening his tanned skin. “I hope you haven’t been bugging Betty. You’re like a mosquito.”

“Miss Cooper loves me, she finds me endearing.” JB grinned at him, her blue eyes shining.

“Well I don’t so go away.”

“Touchy touchy,” she tutted. “Have you got food in for tonight? Because I want to go to Pop’s with Lucas since I missed out yester-”

“Completely of your own accord. And to answer your question, no. I’m working late.” He didn’t mention who he would be working late with and JB didn’t seem to catch on.

“You should really learn to cook J,” the teenager scolded. “I’m surprised I haven’t died of malnutrition with the less-than-satisfactory mac and cheese that you have been feeding me.”

Jughead scowled. Admittedly, he hadn’t really thought about cooking when he became his sister’s guardian. Stupidly, he assumed that she was of an age where she could feed herself. He had been wrong. With the knowledge that his father had never cooked, he had to wonder how JB had been surviving. It probably had something to do with a certain blonde English teacher named Betty.

“Alright, I’ll add it to my list of ‘How To Look After a Teenager’,” Jughead teased. “Now go away before I put you in detention.”

JB slung her bag across her shoulder and gave her brother a mock salute before finally giving him some peace and quiet. Jughead loved her, but he loved her more in small doses. She was like a bear hoarding before hibernation, except she hoarded gossip, and it was exhausting. With horror, he that he wouldn’t be able to go on another date without JB somehow finding out about it. Hell, she would have picked out Betty’s engagement ring before the end of their third date. What a teenage menace.

The rest of the afternoon passed slowly, a common occurance on Fridays, and Jughead couldn’t help but glance at the clock every few minutes. He played a documentary about the Second World War for his 9th grade class on one of the old flickering televisions that they had back when he was still at school. Every few minutes he had to hit the bulky frame to keep the screen in colour, and cursed himself for not planning an actual lesson to distract himself from his thoughts. His mind kept wandering to Betty; her perfectly curled blonde ponytail, the way her cardigan clung appealingly to her curves, her flirtatious smile.

He liked her, there was no point in denying it, but there was a nagging feeling of doubt whenever he thought about what they were to each other. He could sense her reservations and he couldn’t really blame her, she had lost someone after all and he wasn’t exactly sticking around for long, but somehow he couldn’t do the responsible thing and leave her alone. Seeing her for the first time since high school had stirred something inside him, something almost territorial, as his judgement succumbed to old feelings.

Jughead dismissed his class ten minutes early after the television finally flickered out and no amount of bashing could bring it back to life. He handed back their essays, with a couple of comments about some students’ more than liberal use of Wikipedia, and told them to review for a quiz next week, that earned him a communal groan.

“Playing documentaries isn’t proper teaching, you know,” an annoyingly familiar voice scolded him as the last of his students were escaping the school premises.

“So you’re instructing me on how to do my job now? As well as on how to parent. Delightful,” Jughead muttered as JB rolled her eyes for probably the one-hundredth time that day. He glanced up, noticing that she was looking at him expectantly, her motorcycle helmet tucked under one arm. “Oh hell no, you’re walking missy.”

“Jug,” she whined. “It’s like a twenty minute walk.”

“Walking is good for you. I’m not riding all the way home just to come right back.” JB pouted and Jughead glared back. “No.”

“What if I get kidnapped?”

“This is Riverdale, not Mexico City.”

“Please?”

“No.”

“Pretty please?”

“Even more no than before.”

 

Betty unlocked the Blue and Gold office and couldn’t help but smile at all the progress that Jughead and her had made since he had agreed to help her with the re-opening. There was just a couple more boxes to organise, as well as a bit of cleaning up, and then they would be ready to start going through applications next week. Opening up the dusty curtains, determined to make the most of the afternoon sunlight before the darkness of winter ate up the day, she noticed, with a surge of disappointment, that Jughead’s motorcycle was no longer in the parking lot. Had he forgotten? Or perhaps he had changed his mind about their ‘date’ after all.

Hating herself for feeling so deflated, Betty tightened her ponytail and set to work on what now seemed more like a chore. It wasn’t long before her phone buzzed and she saw Jughead’s name appear on the screen. She sighed, readying herself for his excuse.

J: Chocolate or vanilla?

Betty stared at her phone in confusion. Wondering what ice cream flavours had to do with anything.

B: Vanilla…?

J: Thought so. See you in a few:) x

Not long after, the door to the office swung open to reveal Jughead, who had changed into a dark green t-shirt and black jeans with his signature beanie on his dark hair, holding two milkshakes in his hands. He grinned at her adoringly as he handed her one of the cups. Betty couldn’t help but smile back.

“You went to Pop’s?” she guessed, stating the obvious. “I thought you had stood me up.”

“Hardly, I had to give JB a lift home. She was absolutely horrified when I suggested that she could always walk.”

Betty smiled as she sipped her milkshake, picturing the conversation. Earlier, Jughead had noticed that her engagement ring was missing from her left hand and wondered, or rather hoped, that it had something to do with their kiss the night before. Looking at her now, he wanted nothing more than to press his lips to hers again, to bunch the skirt of her sundress in his fists as he ran his hands up her thighs, feeling her skin against his. He cleared his throat and took a gulp of his milkshake, forcing the thoughts down before he got a little too excited.

Sensing the tension between them, Betty averted her eyes. She started unpacking one of the cardboard boxes that had been laid out on the desk to give her hands something to do, knowing that without distraction she probably wouldn’t be able to stop herself from touching him. The longing surprised her. She couldn’t remember feeling this kind of pure magnetic attraction with anyone, not even Trev.

Over the next hour, they unpacked article after article, joking about the older ones and rediscovering photographs that Dilton had snapped for their stories when they were in high school. They saved most of the newspapers clippings, not having the heart to throw them in the trash, filing away neatly by year on the ceiling-high bookshelves that dominated the far wall of the office. Betty not-so-subtly watched as Jughead put the last few folders onto the top shelf, admiring the way his shirt rode up slightly, revealing a wisp of dark hair disappearing into the waistband of his jeans. Jughead caught her staring and grinned.

“Like what you see, Betts?” he joked, winking at her. Betty blushed the same shade as her pink lipstick and quickly looked back down at the folder she was organising.

“Shut up.”

Stilling trying to ignore his boyish grin, Betty tried and failed to slot the last folder into place, even on her tiptoes she wasn’t tall enough to reach the top shelf. That just made Jughead grin wider.

“Here, let me do it,” he offered smugly, Betty just scowled at him stubbornly.

“I don’t need your help! Okay maybe a little bit,” she admitted, holding out the folder for him to take.

Instead of putting it away for her, Jughead picked Betty up, laughing as she shrieked in surprise, and lifted her up high enough so she could put the folder away herself. Briefly, he wondered when the last time he had laughed as much as he had in the last hour was.

“Put me down,” she giggled, smacking his shoulder half-heartedly, feeling her heart flutter into overdrive.

Instinctively, she ran her hands down his arms as he slowly lowered her down and marvelled at the strength of his muscles as they rippled under her light touch. She looked up at him when her feet hit the ground and caught her breath. The look in his blue eyes had intensified, all traces of amusement gone, as his gaze flickered down to her lips and back up to her green eyes. She was leaning with her back against the bookshelf, his arms braced against the wood on either side of her, and she swore she could almost hear her heart thudding in her chest.

“Betts…,” he whispered, closing the gap between them a little more as he dipped his face to hers.

Remembering what Veronica told her about having a little fun, Betty gripped his t-shirt in her hand and pulled him forward the last few inches so her lips met his. It was soft initially, much like the kiss they had shared the evening before, but they soon forgot themselves in the moment as it intensified. Betty tangled her hands in his dark curls, knocking his beanie to the floor. Jughead reacted enthusiastically and nipped her bottom lip. She gasped and opened her mouth to him.

Any lingering thoughts of self control went out of the window as Betty pressed her body against his, her exposed skin flushing under his touch as he ran his hands down her body. Her long legs wrapped around his waist as he pressed against her. She broke the kiss and peeled his t-shirt off with needy urgency, eying him greedily before connecting her lips to his again, letting out a moan as his long fingers gripped her thighs under her dress. He carried her to the desk in the center of the room. This was the room where they had first met over ten years ago. Somehow, it felt all the more special.

She gasped again at the sensation of the cold surface against her bare skin. Jughead fumbled with the top few buttons on her dress, revealing a candyfloss-pink, lacy bra. For a moment, he allowed himself to revel in her moans, slipping his fingers underneath the fabric. Her breath hitched as he tweaked her nipple. He pulled down on her bra so her breasts spilled over the material. Her dress was hanging around her waist, the fabric grazing the tops of her thighs and the straps falling down past her shoulders. At some point he had pulled her hair free of its ponytail and it spilled around her shoulders like a golden cloud, curling around her flushed face. Jughead swore he had never seen anything so beautiful in his entire life.

“Betts,” he moaned as she sucked on the pulse point on his neck, hard enough to leave a mark.

She hummed in response, her hands exploring the expanse of his bare chest. It was difficult to think straight, not that he was before. He ran his hand up the inside of her leg and felt the dampness of her lace underwear as he brushed his fingers over her, making her shiver. She pulled him closer by one of his belt-loops, her fingers hovering over the button on his jeans.

“Are you sure?” he murmured in her ear, lightly tracing his fingers over her heat again, feeling himself harden even more in his jeans.

“I’m sure,” she whispered back. “I want you.”

Gently, he slipped his fingers under her panties and pushed one gently inside her, his cock pulsing at the feel of her wetness against his skin. She gasped and he gave her a moment to get used to the sensation before adding another finger and pumping slowly, groaning as her nails raked his back and pulled him closer, breathing heavily in his ear.

“Jug, I need you now,” she whined, suddenly desperate to feel him inside her.

Unable to stop himself, he growled at her words, pushing her down onto the desk and shoving her panties to one side as he unzipped his pants. Betty could feel his length glide over her entrance and she lifted her hips to him, eager to relieve the pressure already building up inside her. Instead, he pushed her hips back down as he teased her again, making her whine. She propped herself up on one elbow and pulled his face down to meet hers again, kissing him deeply as he finally pushed inside her, her gasp silenced by his tongue.

It was desperate and quick. Their collective groans echoing around the small room as he fucked her against the hard desk. She arched her back and spread her legs further for him as he ploughed into her. The way her named rolled off his tongue made her feel powerful and wanted, and she bit into his shoulder to muffle her moans when he pressed deeper.
“Oh my god… Shit!” Betty moaned as she felt him deeper inside her, the angle making her head spin. She almost unravelled right then, the ache between her legs intensifying as the pressure built in her core.
When she tightened around him, he gasped in response. “Fuck.”

His thrusts becoming sloppy as he gritted his teeth and tried to hold on for her. He slipped his hand between them and stroked her clit, feeling her shudder beneath him as he pressed harshly against her heat. He circled her clit harder as he pushed inside her and Betty could feel herself starting to spiral.

“Come for me,” he demanded as he slammed into her. She gripped his shoulders as her orgasm rippled through her, curling her toes at the intense sensation. Jughead was quick to follow.

They stayed there for a moment, breathing heavily. He kissed her softly before they both re-arranged their clothes. Betty giggled as Jughead searched around on the floor for his t-shirt and beanie. He grinned at her, relieved that she didn’t seem to regret what they had just done.

“So…” he started, pulling his t-shirt over his head.

“So…” she replied, doing up the last few buttons on her sundress and pulling her hair back up into its usual ponytail.

“Oh shit, are you on the pill or something?” he realised, kicking himself for not thinking about protection ten minutes ago. He could almost hear JB’s sarcastic reminder from last night, something like… as long as you’re happy and remember to wear a condom I fully support this relationship. Jughead cursed again.

She pulled him down for a kiss. “Juggie, I’ve got an implant, calm down.”

“What the fuck are we doing?” he laughed, his relief evident. Betty just bit her lip and shook her head, a smile playing on her swollen lips.

“I don’t know,” she laughed. “But if we’re going to do this again -”

“When we’re going to do this again,” he corrected, winking at her and slowly brushing his lips against her jawline.

“Alright. But shouldn’t we have like rules or something?”

“Rules?” he asked, pulling back to study her expression, unsure of what she was insinuating.

Betty hesitated. “You know. I’m not in a place to start a relationship and you’re not exactly staying here for that long so we should keep this casual. I can’t let myself get hurt again by caring about you only to lose you when you go back to New York.” Her tone was even, but Jughead grimaced as he saw the pain shine in her green eyes. No matter how much he wanted her, somehow he knew that another heartbreak could break her for good. Still, he was too selfish to just walk away. Having any piece of her was better than nothing, that’s what he told himself anyway. She couldn’t let herself fall in love, so the least he could do was return the favour.

“Right, casual,” he nodded. “No need for things to get messy.” Betty didn’t catch the flash of disappointment in his blue eyes.

“Exactly.”

“So these rules…? Like no romantic feelings?”

“Yeah, no feelings,” she nodded. “If one of us catches feelings then we should stop. So, no lying.”

“Afraid you’ll fall in love with me, Cooper?” he teased, he ran his hand over her knee and felt her shiver under his touch. Betty just rolled her eyes. “Anymore rules?” he joked.

“No sleepovers,” Betty suggested.

“You’re expecting me to sneak back into my apartment at 2am?”

“Fine, no sleepovers with clothes on.”

“Fair enough, cuddling in pyjamas is dangerous. What about….no dates and no PDA,” he suggested. “There is no need to involve the whole of Riverdale in our business.”

“Easier said than done,” Betty muttered. “I’m going to have to tell Veronica, maybe Kevin.”

“That’s cool with me. I don’t have anyone around here to gossip with but I’m sure JB will catch on, she’s like a bloodhound.”

There was a moment of silence before Betty replied. “So this no dating thing… does that apply to us dating other people?” she asked, averting her gaze from his.

“That’s not how it works,” Jughead grinned, confident that he had found a weak point in her plan. “You either take all of me or you’ll have to share.”

“Fine,” she rolled her eyes. “I can share.”

Jughead didn’t think she looked convinced. “I don’t believe you.”

“Pfft, please.”

“Alright then, one more rule. No jealousy,” he challenged. Betty just raised her perfectly-shaped eyebrows at him. “You sure you want to do this, Betts?”

“Oh absolutely.” She hopped off the desk, the skirt of her dress falling back to an acceptable length, and picked up her bag and cardigan that had been discarded on the floor. She glanced up at him through her long lashes and pressed her lips to his once more. “Have a nice weekend, Jughead,” she murmured before turning and walking out of the door. Leaving the taste of vanilla on his tongue.

Once he was sure she was gone, he leaned against the bookshelf, head in his hands. “Jughead Jones you are so fucked.”

Chapter Text

“What the hell do you mean you’re joining the Serpents?”

 

The rain clattered down on the old tin of Jellybean and Lucas’ secret hideout--a haphazardly thrown together structure made of three sticks and a few old sheets of metal, all covered with waterproof plastic sheets. They had built it together as children and, despite the need for obvious improvements, they didn’t have the heart to change it. It was where they spent a lot of their time together, when Jughead was gone, FP’s alcoholism was spiraling, and Lucas had no safe place to go. Not many people came to visit Fox Forest, especially in the dead of night, so it became a haven of sorts, where nothing in the universe mattered except the chirp of birds and the crunch of leaves under her leather boots. Only now that comfort was being shattered by the very boy who she had always shared it with.

 

“After what happened with my dad you’re seriously telling me this? That you want to join the fucking Serpents? A gang? Are you a moron Lucas? Or are you high?”

 

“It’s not like they’re the reason your dad died.” He tried to protest, but it wasn’t much use against the storm that was Jellybean.

 

“No they just let him drink himself into a fucking stupor parading him around like their Serpent King. That’s totally not contributing to his toxic behavior, except oh shit yes it is.”

 

“You don’t get it. You have a family that actually cares about you!”

 

Jellybean felt her blood start to boil and thunder cracked loudly in the distance. Their little patch of solitude was illuminated in a fiery orange glow. She felt her phone vibrate in her pocket, no doubt one of the million text messages she was currently leaving unanswered from her brother that she was going to get rung for later. Who was he to say things like that? Her mother had abandoned them. Her father had drowned his sadness until he looked at everything through the clear glass of a bottle. Her brother had left too, forced back only by societal pressures and a will that dictated him the soul caretaker of his younger sister until she was old enough to be thrown out on her own.

 

“Where Lucas? Tell me where. Because I thought that family was you and now you’re leaving me too. You know what? Enjoy your snakes, you fit in well with them since that’s what you are.”

 

She ran out into the rain, causing Lucas to follow her, She spun around to face him, raindrops mingling with the tears on her cheeks, and kicked out the biggest stick of their fort, sending it, just like all her childhood whimsy, toppling to the ground.

 

Anger fueling her movements, she spun and ran as far and as fast from him as she could go, ignoring the hum of the engine as he tried to follow and find her. She didn’t want his sympathy. Or a car ride home with the last person to abandon her. The only person she had left was Miss Cooper. Kind, sweet, caring Miss Cooper who had let her live at her house, had fed her, clothed her, and even helped nurture her love of music.

 

The water clung to the denim of her jeans, weighing her down as she walked towards something. Everything was cold and her entire body was shivering. In and out she watched the world start to fade until there was nothing she could focus on but the cold of her body.

 

Jellybean found an old tree to sit under, with a patch dry enough that she could properly pull out her phone and press the call button on contact number three. Jughead answered immediately. “Where the hell are you Forsythia? It’s nearly midnight and it’s raining cats and dogs. You’re going to catch a cold.”

 

In some ways, his nagging warmed her heart. Maybe he did care--even if it was in his own special Jughead Jones brand way. For a long time she had worried he didn’t, had let this fear settle in her stomach that she was fatherless, motherless, and brotherless. But over the past months they’d gotten closer and closer, teasing and mocking each other in the way that siblings should. Now if only he could pull his head out of his ass and take Miss Cooper on an actual date he might be the perfect legal guardian around.

 

“I don’t know where I am. I think I’m by the highway, near the welcome to Riverdale sign.” She hadn’t realized she was still crying, but her body fluttered with a hiccup and the water on her face felt a lot warmer than rain. “I feel really sick.”

 

“Stay there. JB do not move, whatever you do, do not move. I’m coming to get you now, okay? I’m bringing warm clothes but stay as dry as you can. If you aren’t breathing--”

 

“Yeah yeah you’ll kick my ass yourself. Get a new threat, Jones.”

 

As the line went dead--no doubt a result of her waterlogged phone--Jellybean felt herself start to fade in and out, exhausted. The lines in her vision went black and the last thing she remembered was her head thumping against the hard bark of an old maple tree.

 


 

 

The last month of Jughead’s life had been like a waking dream. His job at the high school was not as hopelessly terrible as he thought it would be--there were even some kids who seemed like they cared about the history lessons--and Jellybean and him had started rebuilding their tattered relationship in a way that was both healthy and fun. On top of it all, he’d been with Betty Cooper, literally, physically, actually been with her. In bed. Multiple times. All night long. He was pretty proud of himself.

 

Of course these late night adventures were tricky to keep a secret. Veronica had found out and locked him inside a closet with a few threats and a mop to his chest before sending him off and promising to keep her lips “locked and keyed”. The grilling he got from Kevin not long later told him that had not worked. But outside of them, their friends with benefits relationship hadn’t leaked into the general public, which was good for his mental health as well as JB’s. Her determination to turn them into something would have given her the ego the size of the Texas, or maybe Alaska.

 

But all good things must come to an end and tonight would be the first in a series of disasters. When JB hadn’t answered her phone, at first he’d been annoyed, irritated, like any normal, rational adult is when the teenager doesn’t pick up in the middle of rainstorm. Quickly--around the fifth time he’d been sent to voicemail and the thirteenth text message--he started to get worried. Maybe even terrified. Normally, he could say without fear that she was a really good kid. She did her homework, only bitched sometimes, and had a personality he didn’t find altogether irritating. This was not normal behavior.

 

And then he got the phone call that shattered his heart. There were a lot of things Jughead had lost in his life. His mother. His father. His dignity once during college when he had gone to the only party in his entire life and his college friend Toni had somehow convinced him to strip tease for shots at a sorority party (the details were still hazy, but there was a permanent scar on his hip he didn’t ask too many questions about). But never, in a million years, would he ever thought he would lose his little sister. She called him cold and wet and with a voice that told him something was horribly, terribly wrong. So he panicked.

 

Lost somewhere on the highway, Jellybean was potentially dying of hypothermia and he had no idea how to get to her. The old truck from his dad was having problems and wouldn’t start up, so he called the only person he could think would be up this late at night. He saw her lights on across the way and called. She picked up on the second ring, just as panicked as he was. Together, they set off in her little car to find his sister.

 

To say he broke down would have been an understatement. When Jughead found her under that tree, barely coherent, he panicked, cursing and screaming and tucking her into the back with as many blankets as he could as Betty tried her best to calm him. She placed a hand on his shoulder and looked straight into his heart.

 

“Breath, Juggie, or you won’t be able to help her.”

 

So he took a deep breath and got them home. After a hot shower and a change of clothes, she was finally sitting up, curled in her bed and complaining about how her feet ached and her head felt like someone had a nail gun pressed against her temples and kept pressing the trigger.

 

“You’re a fucking idiot, you know that?”

 

Jellybean rolled her eyes and pulled her favorite stuffed pink elephant--that yes absolutely had been a gift from him when she was little, and yes absolutely she refused to throw it away - over her face. “Runs in the family I guess,” she muttered, her voice muffled by the soft toy.

 

“What the hell were you even doing out there?”

 

“None of your business.” He expression soured as she picked at the fuzz on her bed.

 

“Not to play that card, but as your legal guardian, it is a lot of my business.”

 

“I got into a fight with Lucas, okay? And I really don’t want to talk about it.”

 

He felt something strange settle in the pits of his stomach. Lucas had been the subject of some of their late night conversations, but he had yet to properly meet the boy in questions. Immediately, Jughead felt his brother instincts kick in as he pondered the legality of throwing a teenager off a bridge into Sweetwater River. He tucked that away and filed it under the ever growing list of “things to ask Betty one day”-- right next to “hey do you think maybe we could make this serious” but before “if I drop turkey on the ground can I still eat it and don’t laugh at me I don’t want to google it and have the FBI man who probably already thinks I’m a pervert judge me anymore.”

 

“Are you and Lucas like….a thing?”

 

JB raised an eyebrow. “A thing? Care to be a little more specific as to what a ‘thing’ is, Grandpa?”

 

“Are you...are you dating him?”

 

“Oh fuck ew not you too. No. Lucas is like a really really annoying brother. So he’s exactly like you. Except right now I hope he chokes on a peanut and no one’s around to punch his chest until it comes out.”

 

“Vague yet oddly specific threat that I won’t ask too much about.” Jughead laughed, shaking his head. “Are you sure there’s nothing going on with this guy? Standing outside in the rain with him until you nearly die seems like there’s something.”

 

“So does calling someone in the middle of the night to help you find your lost and potentially dying sibling, don’t you think?”

 

He glared. “Fine. I won’t pry.”

 

“Good. But like I said. It’s not like that. It’s all...I’m sort of…well complicated.”

 

“Welcome to the family. Now get some rest, I’m going to go thank Betty for helping me out and letting us ruin the back seat of her car. I think I owe her an entire reupholstery on it.”

 

“You owe her a lot more than that.”

 

As Jughead tucked her into bed, he felt a quiet gnawing on his mind, a gentle reminder that the anxiety monster had caught hold of something and refused to let it go. Jellybean wasn’t telling the truth about something. It wasn’t that he expected her to be always forthcoming with him, at least not yet. Their relationship was getting better, but it was nowhere near perfect, and they both had some secrets that would stay that way for a long time. But he wanted to be there for her and whatever demons were making things “complicated” for her.

 

Complicated was something he understood well. His relationship with Betty was complicated. His relationship with work was complicated. There wasn’t a single relationship in his life that wasn’t complicated, even the one with himself--which flipped from self loathing to adoration like his self confidence was on a bungee cable.

 

“Love you Juggie.” She whispered as her eyes fluttered closed and she fell into a content sleep.

 

“Love you too Jelly.”

 

He flicked the lights closed and went to the kitchen where Betty was waiting for him.

 


 

 

Tonight had been busy, more so than anything in a long time, and that was including the pre-christmas break midterm papers that were flooding Betty’s desk currently. Jughead had called her in a panic and her simple book and tea night had turned into a man hunt… or a Jellybean hunt. And now she was sitting in his living room, worrying about both of the Joneses and the stress this predicament might bring. There was nothing in the house to serve as a distraction anymore, not after she’d memorized every part of the barren walls and old furniture. So, she picked up a few knives from his butcher’s block and got to work.

 

Soup could cure anything--especially her mother’s chicken noodle soup. Lucky for her, Jughead had just about all she needed to make it, no doubt because she had nagged him about grocery shopping until he’d taken the list she wrote out for him. No way was she going to let Jellybean starve just because her brother was lazy. She was a growing girl who needed her nutrients. Besides, Jughead needed to take care of himself better too. She didn’t mind the softness of his stomach, especially not in bed, but she feared for his cholesterol as he burned through cigarette packets and drowned in Pop’s wrappers. Frankly, she couldn’t understand how he was as thin as he was.

 

When she heard the door to Jellybean’s room close, Betty smiled, knowing he would be attracted to the scent of her boiling chicken broth. Sure enough, it only took seconds for her to be at his side.

 

“Whatever you’re cooking I want twelve of.”

 

Betty laughed. “You can have one of. It’s for Jellybean to help her feel better. Hot soup, not from a can, does wonders for not only the soul but also the cold toes. I should know, my mother swears she made my sister’s hypothermia go away with this once. She’s also convinced it can keep STDs away but we won’t tell her that it’s probably not that magical,” she laughed. “It certainly didn’t prevent my sister’s teen pregnancy,” she added.

 

“Well thank God you’ve got the implant,” he snickered. Betty just rolled her eyes. “I think at this point in my life any sort of home cooked meal has otherworldly properties.”

 

“That’s because your diet is terrible and you know it.”

 

“I never denied it was terrible Betty, just that I didn’t have time to fix it.”

 

“Bull. If I can make myself breakfast lunch and dinner, plus a double batch of cookies each Friday because someone,” she looked pointedly at him, “gets greedy with the chocolate chip ones, then you can do better. Speaking of, taste.”

 

Holding up the wooden spoon, she guided it gently to his mouth. He opened without protest and swallowed the gulp. The little happy hum he made filled her with a sense of pride. If there was one thing Betty knew she could do well, it was cook. Okay two things, but the other was a little less safe for general audiences.

 

When Jughead leaned down and planted a kiss to her lips, she could taste the rosemary on his lips. Kissing him always tasted good but tonight was so much better. Betty tried to ignore the domesticity of the moment even as she instructed him on how to chop the carrots.

 

“How’s this?”

 

“Those pieces are way too big Jug! Are you feeding people or a reindeer?”

 

He laughed and took a bite of one of the carrots. “You know, I think I forgot what vegetables tasted like. Kind of earthy.”

 

“Did you wash them first?”

 

“Are you supposed to?”

 

“Oh my god you are hopeless!” She laughed, pulling them from his grasp and sticking them under the warm water, smiling as he came behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing along the curve of her neck.

 

It wasn’t sexual like he had been a few nights ago, tangled up in her bedroom sheets as he took her from behind and the walls shook with their joint pleasure. There were still a few of the deeper hickies there that she had hidden with careful clothing choices and far too much makeup for her own good. At this rate, she was going to need more foundation--not that Jughead seemed to care. For someone who wanted it to be kept a secret, he was doing his best to litter her in markings. Maybe she sort of liked that too though.

 

She felt his hand slip under her shirt and jumped away from his cool touch with a yelp. Picking up the spray from the faucet, Betty aimed and fired. Jughead cursed, reaching forward to try and wrangle it from her grasp, in the process covering his walls and the few pictures he had hung up in cold water. They screamed and laughed as both their shirts were soaked through. Thunder crackled outside but they couldn’t be bothered to notice, not while they were wrapped in their own little world.

 

“You are the absolute worst, Jughead Jones!” Even as she said it, Betty knew her words rang hollow.

 

“That’s not what you said last night. I think there was distinctly a lot less complaining then too.”

 

For good measure, she sprayed him one last time.

 

As they sat on the couch--soup bubbling on the stove to let the chicken tender--in fresh clothes that had been kindly supplied by a certain man’s wardrobe, she felt at ease, resting her head against his chest, his fingers tangled in her hair and some trashy reality show playing in the background. It was blissful. Easy. She pushed away the nagging in her mind. This was wrong, not what was supposed to be. They were just friends. Friends who fucked. But there was nothing wrong with friends sitting at one of their houses while she wore his t-shirt watching TV and nursing his sister back to health. She did things like this with Kevin all the time. Kind of.

 

Or maybe she didn’t and she was fooling herself into thinking that today had been absolutely platonic. The little kisses he kept leaving on her head, and the way he traced with butterfly light touches on her arm told him differently. Betty toyed with the fraying end of the old ACDC t-shirt, stoutly ignoring the fear and bile that rose in her throat.

 

Just enjoy the moment, Betty. It sounded like one of Veronica’s lectures and she relaxed, even just a little. She could do that. Enjoy the now and worry about the consequences much, much later.

 

Thinking about Veronica made her heart hurt. Stupid, stupid Archie was still grovelling. After nearly a month, her best friend had not let him off on anything easily. Even when he tried to explain his half baked plans, Veronica had threatened to make him a unic and gave him a list of things he could do to make it up to her--the top of which was a very detailed reminder that he was not to talk to her for an entire week.

 

Archie, in all his infinite stupidity, had failed that one. Like a kicked puppy, he had been unable to stay away from her. He followed her to Pop’s and bought all her burgers from the background, brown eyes sad and down trodden, easily ignored by a fuming and still heartbroken Veronica. Not that Betty cold blame her. On the list of stupid things she had seen Archie do, this had easily made top of the list, even stolen the spot of that time Reggie dared him to eat a bee in elementary school and he actually did it. They learned he was allergic to bees the very hard way. His mother had nearly strangled him.

 

That was a pretty common theme with all his goofs--the threat of strangulation from a woman that was far too smart for him. Betty, ever the diligent childhood best friend, sat by him as he moaned about his sadness, strumming his guitar and writing love songs to Veronica that she might never hear. At least she had started saying hello to him again in the mornings.

 

“Just give it some time,” Betty had recommended. “I’m sure she’ll come around eventually.”

 

She was not sure of that at all.

 

“It sounds complicated,” Jughead sighed, hearing her recount the ever growing complexities of Veronica and Archie’s relationship. “And messy. People are stupid about relationships.”

 

“Tell me about it. Sometimes things can be simple, you know? Like they are with us.”

 

“I wouldn’t call a list of rules simple, but it’s nowhere near as bad as theirs. At least we know what we are.”

 

“Yeah.” Betty felt her heart tighten for reasons she wasn’t sure about. She pushed them away with a frown. “At least that.”

 

The clocked ticked by and another chef was eliminated from the competition. On days like this she learned a lot of interesting little quirks about Jughead. He liked to judge food despite being culinarily inept himself. When TV was on, he couldn’t have other noises in the background--even the sound of the running dishwasher bothered him. If it weren’t for the necessity of drying their clothes, he could have probably shut that off as well.

 

Her favorite thing though, was the little way he smiled when he was relaxed, completely at ease. Knowing that JB was safe and asleep had helped calm him. No doubt the exhaustion from stress had started to come for him, seep into his bones until all his concentration went to staying awake instead of keeping up his usual guarded exterior. It was nice to see him so soft. Unable to stop herself, Betty learned over and kissed him.

 

The kiss turned into nothing spectacular, just a little peck that made him smile and kiss her back for a moment before turning back to a frustrated five star chef trying to defend his food to the group of apathetic judges.

 

“Betty.” His voice surprised her and she looked up. “Can I ask you something?”

 

“Of course, Jug. Anything.”

 

“I asked Jellybean what the hell she was doing out there and she mentioned that guy Lucas again. Are they together?”

 

Those knots returned to her stomach, making her feel uneasy for a whole knew myriad of reasons. Before she could answer, he continued. “I don’t care either way but I want to know. Is this when I give her the talk? Did Dad ever do it? Scratch that he definitely didn’t. He tried once with me and choked on all his snake metaphors and excused himself for a six pack and a smoke. Should I be worried about this guy since she won’t let me meet him? And then she says it’s complicated so I know she’s hiding something from me. Complicated is Jones for ‘secrets I don’t feel like telling’, trust me, I used that a lot growing up. I guess what I’m asking is, do you think this is something I should be worried about? I’m sure you know what’s so complicated.”

 

A few months ago, she might have thought he was bitter about just how close she was with Jellybean. Maybe he still was, but at least he had learned he could rely on her to find out more. Betty didn’t want to interfere too much in their relationship. Things were on the up and up and if she were to start spilling all she knew, it might jeopardize them, and that was not something she wanted to be responsible for.

 

Besides that, some of Jellybean’s secrets were not hers to tell. Coming out was a private thing. Betty had never done it, but once the confession about her bisexuality had been made in the dead of the music room, fear shaking the young teenagers girls body, Betty had rushed to Kevin and used as many hypotheticals as she could to get his help. She wanted to be supportive--the best ally she could for a girl she cared so much for. The one thing Kevin had recommended was time. Time and no pressure. His own father had been a bit pushy about the process, prompting him to family members to “come out of the closet” as his way of being supportive, even if it made things uncomfortable. Betty listened, took notes, and drafted up a long loving letter to JB about just how much she loved her, and always would.

 

“If you ever met my brother, promise me you won’t tell him?” she had said. “I don’t...I don’t know how he’ll react. Maybe he won’t care. I don’t think he’ll care. But I want to be the person who says it. I never got to with Dad so this means a lot to me.”

 

Betty would keep that promise until she stopped breathing. Placing her hand on Jughead’s, she gave him a squeeze of reassurance before speaking, “I promise it’s nothing you should worry about. I don’t think her and Lucas are anything other than really good friends, at least for the moment. She’s battling with her own things, just like we all are, so give her time. She’ll come to you eventually. I promise.”

 

The kiss she planted on his cheek appeared to have eased his worries--at least a little bit.

 

“Okay. Okay, I’ll try not to worry too much then. Thank you for always looking out for her when I was too stupid too.”

 

“Hey don’t say that. You aren’t stupid. You’re just...learning. We all are. Teachers are always supposed to be learning, remember. It’s part of our job description.”

 

“Yeah. I just didn’t think learning how to be a father figure of any kind would be part of that.”

 

Betty frowned and cupped his cheeks. “Hey. Look at me. Jughead Jones you are doing amazing. You are doing amazing things that not a lot of people our age could ever imagine doing. You are not in an easy place right now and you should be proud of yourself. Say it. Out loud. I want you to say that you’re proud of yourself.”

 

“There’s a reason you’re an amazing teacher you know that?”

 

“Flattery will get you everywhere, except out of this. Say it.”

 

“I...I’m proud of myself. For doing the best I can.”

 

She beamed. “Easy right?”

 

“Like eating nails.”

 

Before they could move any closer together--they were like magnets, sliding closer and closer together, determined to touch--there was a loud sob from the back bedroom. Jughead jumped to his feet. “I’ll be back. I think that was JB.”

 

“No rush. Go make sure she’s okay.” As worry filled her heart, she moved to the soup, stirring it like it was the only thing keeping her sane.

 


 

There was nothing more heartbreaking than seeing his sister sitting on her bed, tired, emotionally exhausted, and sick as she sobbed like her soul had been ripped out and laid out on display. Comfort was not high on the list of things Jughead thought he was good at, but watching her he decided it was time to learn quickly. He held her shaking form close to his chest. The gentle beat of his heart eventually helped to ease her aches, but she clung tightly to his shirt, face pressed against him.

 

“He’s gone. Dad’s gone. Forever, and he’s never coming back.”

 

He realized, with a pang in his heart, that this was the first time they had talked about this, about the hurt of losing another parent, about the suffering they were both silently going through. Guilt was the first thing he felt, quickly suffocated by a wave of sadness. Things had never been good with FP and him. Their relationship was toxic on the best of days and explosive on the worst. He had been the father he could to JB and that mattered more than anything else. But now that father was gone and it was just them. Alone.

 

It was strange to be crying about something that had seemed so...obvious at the beginning. When Jughead got the call about his dad’s passing, he hadn’t had the decency to be shocked. He didn’t cry. He didn’t beg. There was no grief. Just resigned acceptance as he agreed to come back to Riverdale as soon as he could.

 

Wrongfully, he had gone and assumed the same was true for JB--or at least if there had been any pain, it had long since passed, been dealt with by a watchful Betty. But maybe it hadn’t. They were siblings after all, it would make sense if they both had the same pitfalls. Compartmentalization was easy, even if it wasn’t healthy.

 

“Yeah. Yeah he’s gone.” The tears were hot against his cheeks, splashing down into the black of his little sister’s hair. “But I’m not, okay? I won’t leave again. I was so stupid to leave before but I won’t. It’s just us. Just each other, but that’s not so bad. I love you, even when I’m terrible at showing it I love you so much.”

 

“I love you too, Jug.” She sobbed again and clung tighter. “Mom’s gone and dad’s gone and Lucas is going to be gone too. Everyone fucking leaves. You can’t leave. Not again you can’t leave without me because I don’t want to be alone.”

 

“You won’t. You won’t ever again.”

 

Loss was tied closely to the Jones clan. There were no grandparents to speak of--they died at an early age, before he could even walk. He’d met Grandpa Forsythe once, a week after the cancer put him in the hospital for the very end of his days, not that he could remember anything but the screech of a flatline on a heart monitor.

 

To over compensate for that pain, he pushed as many people away as he could, and the few he let slip through his arm were kept by any means necessary. Maybe that’s why he had agreed to those stupid rules. In any capacity he could have Betty, he would keep her.

 

“Do you promise?”

 

Jughead squeezed her shoulder. “I promise Jelly. Now go to sleep. You’re exhausted and there’s nothing a little sleep can’t fix.”

 

She laughed lightly, sniffling until her eyes fluttered closed. “I can think of a few things. None of them are good.”

 

“For my sake let’s not say them outloud.”

 

He let her sleep on him for a few minutes, watching for the moment when her shaking finally calmed and her breathing evened before lifting her and tucking her back into bed. It was going to be a long few days of healing for them now that the flood gates had been cracked open. He wrote a little reminder in his phone to call the school and inform them they would both be absent for a few days. Which meant writing substitute teacher plans. God he missed those college days when he could post a last minute note on Blackboard and the students would cheer in delight that they could stay in bed a few more hours.

 

When he finally left the room, Betty was packing her things up in her purse. She noticed him and gave a sheepish smile. “Sorry. I didn’t want to bother you but it’s getting late and I should head home soon. I’ll call to check on JB tomorrow and the soup is on the stove. I wrote down a few instructions to finish it off.”

 

“You’re a lifesaver Betty. But you don’t have to…” Of course she did. Their stupid rules. No sleepovers with clothes on. And it was nearly two in the morning. “At least let me walk you out before you dash?”

 

She seemed hesitant at first, but finally nodded. “Okay. We’ll just hurry so JB doesn’t miss you too much.”

 

They walked to the door, Jughead’s umbrella held high over head to help shield them from the rain, even if it had started to die down. He thanked her again for the soup, the instructions, and helping him find his sister earlier.

 

“Of course. I love her so much. She’s an amazing girl.”

 

“Yeah. Yeah she is. I’m glad I’m starting to realize that.”

 

The weighted silence was awkward as he contemplated what to do. Finally, he handed the umbrella off to her. “This is my building and you have to walk to your car out in the garage. Take it. Just remember to bring it back eventually.”

 

“I will. Thank you Juggie.”

 

Before either of them knew what she was doing, Betty popped on her toes and kissed him. He felt the peering eyes of the doorman and the woman who always sat in the lobby. Just as quick and she had kissed him, she was gone, walking hastily to her car. A little voice rang out in the back of his mind as he made his way back upstairs.

 

Rule Number One: No PDA.

 

Well.

 

Fuck.

Chapter Text

“I should probably go,” Jughead sighed. He was still breathing heavily from their afternoon’s activities and he could feel Betty’s bare skin pressed against his. He looked at her, she was hot and flushed, her blonde hair loose from its ponytail and splayed out in a beautiful contrast against the white pillow. He climbed reluctantly out of the tangled sheets, wanting more than anything to stay.

“Hmm?” she mumbled, the duvet falling away to reveal her nude chest. She stretched lazily and the coral peaks of her nipples seemed to wink in the dim lamplight. Jughead allowed himself a moment to study her carefully. He loved to trace her figure with his eyes when he knew she wasn’t watching.

“I told JB I was going Christmas shopping but she didn’t look convinced,” Jughead admitted, as he pulled on his boxers and began hunting the floor for the rest of his hastily discarded hastily discarded clothes.

“Jug, it’s almost nine. All the shops in Riverdale close at 5pm sharp.”

“Shit… I’ll just say I went to the next town over.” He had found his trousers now and Betty not-so-subtly watched as he pulled them on.

“Greendale is hardly lively,” she pointed out.

“I’ll think of something,” he shrugged. “She’s beginning to get suspicious anyway.”

“You don’t say,” she remarked with a snigger. Jughead threw a pillow at her and laughed when it hit her square in the face. “Get out,” she grumbled half-heartedly, pulling the duvet back over her head and collapsing back amongst the rest of the pillows. Once her face was hidden from his perceptive gaze, she frowned. It always happened like this. The moment he began to leave, a small part of her wanted him to stay. Well, more than a small part, and the feeling scared her slightly. She had to keep reminding herself that they weren’t together, that this was purely physical, but it was easy to forget when they were twisted in the sheets together, her name on his lips.

“You free this weekend?”

Betty propped herself up on her elbows and looked at Jughead for a moment. He was sitting on the edge of the bed with his back to her. He pulled his t-shirt over his head and she admired the way his shoulders flexed. She felt tempted to crawl out from under the sheets and wrap her arms around him, but something stopped her. A feeling of reluctance or fear, nervousness perhaps. It was easy to remember how she used to cuddle Trev like that in the mornings before he went to work. She thought about how she would rest her cheek on his shoulder and wrap her arms around him as she tried to persuade him to stay in bed for just five more minutes.

“Betts?” he turned around and looked at her, his eyebrows raised slightly.

“Mmm?” she hummed, her mind stuck momentarily in the past.

“Are you free this weekend?”

There was that feeling again. She bit her lip nervously before replying to him.

“This weekend is Christmas,” she replied carefully.

“Yeah, so?”

“So, isn’t Christmas more of a family thing?” She didn’t know much about casual relationships, but she was pretty sure fuck buddies didn’t spend the holidays together. That was something couples did.

“I guess,” he shrugged, not sensing her reservations. Christmas had never really been much of anything in his family. His parents fought, his father drank, and his sister cried. He always found himself taking her out sledging, or challenging her to snowball fights--anything to distract her from the sound of their parents’ crumbling marriage. In a weird way, things had been easier when his mother left. His father still always drank enough alcohol for a whole Christmas party, but at least he did it quietly. Before it had killed him anyway. “Do you have plans?”

“I always spend the holiday at my parents’ house. My sister and brother-in-law bring the kids up, I don’t get to see them often.”

That wasn’t strictly true. It was Cooper tradition to have the whole family come to Riverdale for one of Alice Cooper’s famous Christmas lunches, but that was only done on Christmas Eve. Ever since she had graduated college, Betty liked to spend Christmas Day curled up in bed with Trev watching classic festive films and eating leftovers her mother had shipped her home with. For the last two years, Veronica had all but demanded that she join her family on their skiing trip. On more than one occasion, Kevin had tried to tempt her with Christmas in New York where they could hit the winter sales, but she hadn’t felt like celebrating. If it was anyone other than her mother running the family Christmas party, she would have avoided that as well.

“Do your family still live in Riverdale?” Jughead asked. He was fully dressed now and Betty grabbed her dressing gown before following him downstairs.

“Like my mother would ever leave,” she laughed. “She doesn’t think anything exists outside of this town.”

“And your dad?”

“Too terrified to leave my mother.”

“I bet that makes for fun Holiday dinner conversation,” he chuckled.

“Tell me about it.” She waited until he had tied up his boots and then handed him his leather jacket. She didn’t like the way he left straight after sex. It made her feel… cheap. But it was better than having to deal with the emotional tsunami that was the alternative. She couldn’t ask him to stay. Could she? She wondered briefly if she should at least offer him some coffee--it was cold outside and the neighborly thing to do.

“I didn’t know your sister had gotten married,” he thought aloud. He remembered Polly Cooper vaguely from high school. She was the popular, cheerleader type - made all the girls jealous and all the boys pine. He never saw it; he only had eyes for one Cooper in those days. Not that anything had changed much since then.

“Oh yeah, she married Jason Blossom straight out of high-school. Two babies popped out a few months later. Riverdale biggest scandal since people found out that the pies at Pop’s aren’t homemade.”

“What?” Jughead looked at her in disbelief. “You’re kidding.”

“Pies or the teenage pregnancy?” she giggled.

“Pies, always pies!”

“Sorry, sweetie,” she laughed. “Guess you missed the memo.”

“It’s like finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. You’ve ruined the magic.”

She rolled her green eyes playfully at him and opened the front door. A gust of icy wind ruffled her loose blonde curls and she shivered. It had started to snow since Jughead had arrived and big fluffy flakes swirled onto her porch, clinging to the wooden boards like sparkling spray paint. Winter’s own graffiti. She looked anxiously at the road, thick with ice that was being quickly hidden under a layer of snow, lying in wait for an unfortunate soul driving a little too fast around the bend. Betty shivered again, and this time it wasn’t because of the cold.

“Looks like we’re having a white Christmas this year,” she remarked, pulling her dressing gown more firmly around herself.

“Global warming,” Jughead replied, glaring at the swirling snow like it had personally insulted him. Betty rolled her eyes again.

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright getting home?” she asked nervously, the black ice on the road glinting tauntingly at her.

“Betts, I live at the end of the street and I’m hardly going to get stuck in a snow drift,” he laughed. “It’s not even an inch deep.”

Betty nodded, lips pursed, not wanting to admit to herself that part of her hoped he would use the weather as an excuse to stay. She just wished they could curl up back in bed together and do something other than sex, like watch a film, with her pyjamas on this time. She silently cursed herself for her own rules.

“I guess I’ll see you after Christmas then,” he said, zipping his jacket up as he stepped into the freezing weather.

“Merry Christmas, Jug,” she smiled, stopping herself from kissing him goodbye. She had made that mistake on a couple of occasions and it always made her want him to stay even more.

“Merry Christmas, Betts.”

Betty closed the door and watched him walk down the street from her kitchen window. She scowled at the wintery weather, rubbing the sleeve of her dressing gown indignantly against the condensation that was beginning to smother the window. Betty Cooper didn’t do snow. Even as a child she never understood the other children’s desire to roll around like puppies in the fluffy flakes that quickly melted, filling boots and saturating scarves.

She let the curtain fall back across the window, making both Jughead and the snow vanish from sight, leaving her alone in her empty house. During term time she would have stacks of essays to mark and weeks of lessons to plan, but the holidays gave way to a black hole in her busyness. Absentmindedly, she filled the kettle and switched on the television, the colours blurred across the screen. She didn’t really care what was on, as long as it diffused the silence that seemed to cling to every crevice of her too-big house. The kettle pinged. She poured herself a cup of tea and sipped it too eagerly, the sweet liquid burned her tongue, punishing her for her impatience. Tea was always the solution to boredom. Inspiration would strike… or not. Either way, it passed the time.

Her phone buzzed on the coffee table and she felt her heart skip a beat when Jughead’s name lit up on the screen. She knocked over her mug of tea in her haste to snatch up the phone, and winced as the hot liquid splashed against her skin.

“Fucks sake,” she muttered, grabbing a tea-towel from the kitchen to mop up her mess, cursing herself for her own eagerness. She opened the message, and couldn’t help but giggle aloud.

J: SOS! I’ve fallen into a snow drift!;)

B: You’re ridiculous

J: Tbh I would rather be buried alive right now, JB is grilling me:/

B: Yikes! Stay strong x

 

 

“It’s not a difficult question,” JB sniggered. “Where have you been this evening?” she asked for what felt like the millionth time. When he glared at her, she just answered with a wider grin. She was lounging on the sofa, wearing a pair of Christmas-themed pyjamas that seemed to clash with the moody teenage persona that she smothered everyone with in public, and her long dark hair was tied up in a messy bun. She looked a lot younger without all of her dark eye-makeup, Jughead could almost see the little girl she had been before he had left. Almost.

“I was doing Christmas shopping,” he mumbled, suddenly very interested in the pasta he was reheating in the microwave.

“Oh yeah? What did you buy?” she pressed, knowing that he was lying. Nothing ever got past JB.

“Presents.”

“Where are your shopping bags?”

“In the truck,” he replied, stuffing a forkful of spaghetti into his mouth.

“Mmmhmm,” she mused, trying to hold in her sniggers, her shoulders began to shake slightly with the effort. She knew full-well that the truck had been parked outside the apartment all day, gathering snow. “So where did you get that hickey?”

He coughed, food catching in his throat. JB couldn’t hold her amusement in any longer and she burst into laughter. Jughead glowered at her while she erupted into a fit of giggles, snorting adorably.

“I hate you,” he grumbled, unable to hide the smile playing on his lips. “You’re annoying.”

“I’m going to assume you’re screwing Miss Cooper,” she said, stealing a string of spaghetti off his plate and slurping it up like a toddler. “You guys have hardly been subtle over the last couple of months.”

“You knew?” Jughead asked in disbelief. He thought that he would be able to pull the wool over his sister’s eyes for at least a couple of months.

“Obviously, you’re too lazy to work late. And you’ve been suspiciously happy considering you hate this town,” she shrugged. “So, is Miss Cooper going to be my sister-in-law anytime soon?” she joked.

“It’s not like that,” he admitted with a frown.

“So what’s it like?”

“Just casual.”

“Oh my sweet naive big brother,” JB sighed dramatically, giving him a pitiful look which he didn’t appreciate.

“What?”

“You’re a bigger idiot than I thought.”

 

 

Betty felt miserable. She hated the painful wait before Polly arrived and her charming niece and nephew could occupy her parents’ time. Being alone with Alice and Hal Cooper was uncomfortable to say the least, and even more so when her mother was interrogating her on every part of her life. The only person who managed to make Christmas Eve with her parents even remotely bearable was Trev, and he hadn’t exactly been around for the last couple of years. Adored by both her parents, he had always found a way to diffuse the tension between them.

“I heard a Vice Principal position was opening up at the school,” Alice mentioned with all the subtlety of a brick wall.

“Yes,” Betty sighed. “With the growing student population, Weatherbee thinks it’s a good idea to spread some of the management duties.”

“You’ll apply for it, of course,” Alice remarked, sipping her tea innocently. Betty grit her teeth and forced a smile. She knew her mother meant well, but she hated it when she was treated like a child being encouraged to sign up for another afterschool class.

“I don’t know, Mom.”

“Speak up, Elizabeth.”

“I don’t know,” she repeated, louder this time. “I already have a -”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” her mother interrupted. “It’s a fantastic opportunity, and you’re the obvious person to promote. You’d just be throwing it away if you didn’t apply.”

“I already have a lot on my plate. I’ve re-opened the Blue and Gold, you know.”

“But that doesn’t come with a pay rise.”

“I don’t want a pay rise,” Betty snapped.

“Honestly Elizabeth, I don’t know what -”

Hal cleared his throat, abruptly putting an end to whatever tangent his wife wanted to go on. Alice glared at him but left the subject alone. Despite her pushiness, she knew that nagging Betty was pointless. Especially for the last couple of years.

“What time is Polly supposed to arrive?” Betty asked, desperate to divert her mother’s focus.

Alice checked the clock above the fireplace. “Anytime now I suppose.”

“She’ll probably be slightly delayed because of the snow,” Hal added. “She won’t have to drive back this evening though. Jason’s parents have gone skiing this year with his sister so they’re going to stay in Riverdale for a couple of days.”

“That’s good,” Betty smiled. She had missed her sister bitterly since the little family moved out to Boston when the twins were only toddlers. She only ever got the chance to see them at Christmas, or occasionally at Easter. Now the twins were turning thirteen in the new year and she wondered where all the time had gone.

“Have you got any plans for tomorrow, dear?” Alice asked, hoping that Polly’s presence might encourage her younger daughter to join them for Christmas Day. She didn’t like the idea of Betty spending the day on her own, it wasn’t healthy.

“Same as always,” Betty shrugged.

Alice and Hal Cooper exchanged a nervous look. For the first time in her life, Alice Cooper had been confronted with a problem that she couldn’t solve. She kept telling herself, and her daughter, that time heals all wounds, but she was beginning to doubt herself. This was the third Christmas since Trevor’s death, and Betty’s grief seemed just as fresh as it was back then. So, Alice did what she did best: switching gears and trying a different tactic.

“You know, Vicky was telling me that her son is coming back to Riverdale for a couple of weeks in the new year,” she began, trying to spark Betty’s interest and ignoring her husband’s warning look.

“Vicky..?” Betty replied, a distant bell of recognition ringing in her head.

“Vicky Mantle.”

“Reggie is coming back to Riverdale?” she asked, not quite catching her mother’s meaning. “Weird, I haven’t seen him since high school. I’m sure Archie will be keen to catch up with him.”

“Yes, very handsome boy if I remember correctly.”

Betty shrugged. Reggie had never really been her type. Too loud and immature, a bit of a jerk really. She hoped he had grown up a bit since then. “Yeah I guess.”

“I also heard he’s recently divorced…” Alice trailed off, taking another sip of her tea.

“Seriously Mom? Why are you trying to marry me off to every new man in town?”

She had the decency to look offended. “I’m doing nothing of the sort. I noticed that young Jones moved back to Riverdale a few months ago and I didn’t say a word.”

Betty blushed scarlet at the mention of Jughead, sparking her mother’s interest. She was like a vulture, always scavenging for information and she didn’t stop until she found out what she wanted to know. She was just about to start grilling her daughter on what she was hiding about Riverdale High’s new History teacher when Betty was saved by the bell. Literally.

“I’ll get it,” she squeaked, jumping up and rushing to the front door in order to hide from her mother’s prying eyes.

“That was interesting”

“Leave it alone, Alice,” her husband warned.

“I most certainly will not.”

Fortunately for Betty, Alice didn’t have the chance to start up her questions about a new potential man in her life as Polly’s twins, Juniper and Dagwood, were the centre of attention the moment they came through the door. Betty was surprised at how grown-up they looked, both had sprouted up at least two inches since she saw them six months before, and Juniper was even wearing a little bit of makeup. She suddenly felt worried that the flower-patterned diary and robot building kit were a little babyish for her almost teenage niece and nephew.

“Hi you two,” Betty smiled, giving both of them a quick hug. “You’ve grown!”

The smiled in unison. Blossom twins were always an interesting breed.“Hi Auntie Betty.”

“How’s school going?” she asked, hanging up their coats.

“Good,” Juniper piped up. “I’ve got the main part in the Easter play.”

“That’s great June! You’ll have to let me know when it is and I’ll try and book some time off to come and see it. How about you Dag?”

“School’s shit,” Dagwood said, not even glancing up from his phone.

“I heard that Dagwood!” Polly called from where she was unloading suitcases from the car. She gave Betty an exasperated look and Betty smiled. She knew how to deal with moody teenagers, she did it on daily basis

Betty laughed and leaned down to whisper, “Don’t let Grandma Cooper hear that language Dag. She isn’t as forgiving as me.” She winked at him and got a small smile in return.

“Are those my favourite grandchildren I hear?” Alice called from the sitting room. “Come in here and give me a cuddle you two.”

Juniper skipped happily into the sitting room and threw her arms around her grandmother, only scowling slightly when Alice remarked on the makeup on her face. She ducked when her grandmother tried to rub her pink lip gloss off with a tissue. Dagwood was less enthusiastic, grimacing when Alice kissed him on the cheek and radiating the classic teenage aura of embarrassment.

“I think they’re growing out of cuddles,” Polly said to her sister, both of them watching the not-so-little children from the doorway.

“I’m afraid so,” Betty sighed.

“Pol still manages to guilt trip them into the odd hug or two,” Jason laughed, kissing his wife on the cheek before sitting down next to Hal and engaging his father-in-law in conversation. Betty helped her sister haul the suitcases into the hallway before they headed to the kitchen to make another pot of tea.

“How are you feeling?” Polly asked, knowing that Christmas-time was always difficult for her younger sister. She seemed to take it harder than any other holiday, probably because of the proximity to the anniversary of her fiancé’s death.

“Better now you’re here,” Betty admitted. “Mom was getting a little too interested in my personal life.”

“She just wants what’s best for you, you know.”

“But she doesn’t always know what that is.”

“True.”

“She wants more grandchildren, and I’m becoming an old maid,” Betty said bitterly. Polly just rolled her eyes.

“You’re not even thirty yet!”

“I feel old.”

“Nonsense! You just need to get out of this town. No wonder it’s impossible to meet anyone.”

“Oh I don’t know, Mom has her eye on a new man for me.”

“And who’s the lucky guy?” Polly smirked.

“Reggie Mantle.”

“You’re kidding,” she snorted, unable to hide her amusement.

“Nope, Mom’s ready to marry me off.”

“Christ Betty, you need to get out of here.”

“It’s not all bad,” she smiled. A rare, genuine smile that Polly hadn’t seen from her sister in a few years. She suspected that someone had caught Betty’s eye, and she was willing to bet that it wasn’t Reggie Mantle. Unlike Alice however, Polly knew not to ask too many questions. Her sister would say what was on her mind in due time.

There was a lot to catch up on in the year the two sisters hadn’t seen each other, and one pot of tea wasn’t enough. They curled up on the sofa, wearing matching homemade Christmas jumpers at their mother’s insistence, and watched the twins lose to Alice at scrabble. Polly did most of the talking, Betty never really had much to say, but as she listened to her older sister. It was a surprise when she felt the urge to talk about Jughead bubble up. She wondered if Polly would judge her, or commend her on her out-of-character behaviour. As Polly refilled their mugs, she decided to test the waters.

“You know Ethel Muggs has just had her baby,” she began. “A little girl, they called her Samantha.”

“Oh that’s wonderful,” Polly smiled. “I hope you haven’t had to cover her History lessons, you already do too much for that school.”

“No, Weatherbee employed a substitute. He used to teach at NYU.”

“How the hell did Riverdale High manage to snag a college professor?” Polly wondered aloud. Most people in Riverdale had never even been to New York, and she couldn’t think of a reason why someone from the big city would want to relocate to their tiny town.

“Well it’s only for a year, and he’s kind of from the area originally,” Betty explained, she was stalling.

“Would I know him?”

“Perhaps. Do you remember the Jones family?”

“Jones…” she mused. “Yeah didn’t one of them die earlier this year? FP Jones or something… I remember talking to Mom about it. He was an old friend of hers and she was quite messed up about it. Weird, I didn’t even think that she knew anyone from the Southside, let alone the Serpents.”

“Yeah well it’s FP’s son, Jughead Jones. He came back to look after his little sister until she graduates. It’s only for a year so he was perfect to cover Ethel.”

“Jughead…” Polly hummed. “I remember the name, but then again I could probably recognise every name from this town. What’s he like?”

“He was kind of cold at first, bitter about having to move back I guess, but he warmed up to me. He’s actually really sweet. We re-opened the Blue and Gold together, we both used to work for it in our high school days.”

Polly smirked. It had been a long time since she had seen that self-conscious glow of a crush radiating from her little sister. Perhaps she didn’t know it yet, but that girl was falling. Hard.

“What?” she asked defensively.

“Oh nothing, I’m just glad you’re getting some action,” she sniggered. Betty turned beetroot red, her cheeks flaming. Was it really that obvious?

“I’m not… We’re not… Um…”

“Relax!” Polly laughed. “I won’t out you to Mom. Honestly I’m glad you’re dating again, I was getting worried that you would end up with Archie and that just wouldn’t work.”

“I’m not dating again,” Betty replied defensively. Polly narrowed her eyes.

“So if this Jughead isn’t your boyfriend..?”

“It’s complicated…”

Polly shook her head, “Oh boy.”

“Don’t judge me Pol.” She had meant to snap at her sister, but it came out more like a plea.

“Betty I’m not judging you! If anything I’m kind of in awe of you.”

“Well, what is it then?”

“Casual relationships always crash and burn and one if not both people end up getting hurt. I don’t want you getting hurt again.”

“That’s exactly why we’re doing it,” she protested. “He’s leaving in the summer and I can’t bear to be left behind again. What am I supposed to do?”

“It’s obvious isn’t it? Give him a reason to stay.”

Polly’s words echoed in the back of Betty’s mind for the rest of the day. She wondered whether it would be that simple. Would Jughead stay in Riverdale for her if she asked him to? Would he let her follow him to New York? She told herself she was being ridiculous. Her whole life was here; her job, her friends, her family. She couldn’t just drop everything and leave for some guy she had only known a few months. That would be ludicrous. Jughead would run a thousand miles if he knew what she was thinking about.

The rest of the day passed in a kind of daydream. They ate lunch, opened a bottle of champagne, and played more board games. Betty wiped the board with everyone at scrabble, and the twins complained about how board games were old fashioned and boring. Alice and Hal bickered constantly, and Polly and Jason still behaved like the teenagers who fell in love almost fifteen years ago, embarrassing their kids as they snuggled on the sofa. No-one really noticed how distract Betty was. She was usually quiet at Christmas anyway.

Betty was helping her mother with the washing up when her phone rang. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Jughead’s name, a picture of him sitting on his desk in the Blue and Gold office shone up at her from the screen. She excused herself and walked into the hallway to take his call.

“Hey Jug, what’s up?” She briefly wondered if JB was alright.

“Hey Betts, you know you’re the best friend-with-benefits a guy could ask for?” Betty rolled her eyes with a smile.

“What do you need?” she sighed, it’s not like she could say no to him.

“Well I bought JB a Pink Floyd vinyl for Christmas, but I just found out she already has it so I have nothing to give her tomorrow and I was hoping you would take pity on me and go last-minute Christmas shopping with me?”

“You have nothing else to give her?”

“Nope.”

“What about a Christmas stocking?”

“What? I’m not Santa!”

“Oh dear God,” she muttered. “I’m at my parents’ house so I’ll text you the address, meet me here in half an hour.”

“Thank you Betts, you’re the best!”

“You owe me dinner,” she added before hanging up. Her stomach swirled with butterflies and she cursed herself for feeling so nervous. Actually, she cursed her sister. Everything had been fine until Polly turned her whole viewpoint upside down.

Betty sheepishly excused herself from the rest of the afternoon, muttering something to her mother about last minute Christmas shopping that Alice just frankly didn’t believe. Like mother like daughter, Alice knew that Betty always had her Christmas shopping done by the end of November. Alice was concerned that her youngest daughter was going home early to spend the evening on her own.

Mercifully, the doorbell rang.

“Who could that be?” Alice wondered, her head snapping up like a bloodhound who had just caught a scent. Betty cursed internally that Jughead didn’t have the common sense to stay in his truck. “I’m not expecting anymore company.”

“That’s my ride,” Betty said hastily, snatching up her coat as she tried to sprint out of the front door. Polly tried to hide her smirk while Alice eyed her youngest daughter suspiciously.

“I thought Veronica was skiing with her family,” she posed.

“She is,” Betty muttered as she pulled on her boots.

“Is that Kevin?

Betty gritted her teeth. “No.”

Before Betty had the chance to react, Alice was opening the front door. She flashed Polly a desperate glance before rushing after her mother to save Jughead from the whatever her mother had in store.

Jughead was wearing his usual leather jacket despite the cold weather, although his grey beanie did seem more appropriate now that it was dusted with snowflakes. He smiled politely at Alice, desperately trying to hold back a laugh as Betty glared at him from behind her mother. He knew he should have called her from the car, but he was trying to press her hand a little. If her family liked him, then she might be more inclined to see him as boyfriend material rather than just a good lay. He was a man of many talents.

“Good afternoon Mrs. Cooper,” he greeted, giving her a charming smile as he shook her hand. “I’m Jughead Jones.”

“Nice to meet you Jughead,” Alice replied with a smile of her own. Jughead sensed something was slightly off, the woman looked like she had just seen a ghost. He wondered if he had come at a bad time. Betty had mentioned that family gatherings were always tense.

“I’m sorry for stealing Betts away, I’ve left my Christmas shopping to the last minute and I have no idea what to buy for my teenage sister.” Alice noticed the young man’s nickname for her daughter with interest.

“It happens to the best of us,” Alice agreed. That was a lie, she had never in her life left her Christmas shopping to the last minute.

“Yeah well we should really get going,” Betty interrupted, squeezing past her mother and giving Jughead a what are you doing stare.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come in for a coffee?” Alice offered innocently. Betty began physically tugging Jughead away, or trying to anyway. That man was as strong as a brick wall when he wanted to be.

He flashed another one of his charming smiles. “Thank you for offering Mrs Cooper, but I think we should probably get going.”

“Well have a nice time. Drive safely,” she warned Jughead, eyeing the snow nervously. “Don’t stay out too late Elizabeth,” she called.

“I’m almost thirty Mom,” Betty muttered under her breath as she dragged a now-laughing Jughead towards his truck.

Alice waved them off as she watched the truck pull out of her driveway, leaving tyre marks in the snow. Polly joined her at the door, putting her arm around her mother.

“You know something about this Jughead Jones, don’t you?” Alice asked.

“Perhaps,” Polly smiled. “But don’t press Betty about it, just let her figure this out for herself.”

“He looks so much like his father, I almost did a double take.”

“I know Mom,” she sighed sympathetically. Polly was the only one in the family who knew about Alice’s history with FP Jones, and even then she didn’t know everything. “He seems nice. He makes her happy, that much I can tell.”

Alice nodded, “Yes. She was rolling her eyes at me like she was a teenager again.”

“Well Betty has always been wise beyond her years, perhaps someone who brings out the rebel in her might be a good thing.”

“Maybe.”

 

 

“You’re an ass,” Betty muttered when they were speeding out of town and safely out of earshot of her mother. Jughead just chuckled. “Now I can never go home again, Mom will cross examine me until I crack.”

“She should be proud that you managed to get someone as hot as me,” Jughead joked, sniggering when Betty smacked his arm playfully.

“What am I supposed to say to her? ‘Oh hi Mom, you know that handsome man who stopped by at Christmas? Well we’re sneaking around behind everyone’s backs and having crazy good sex.’ She’d have a heart attack.”

He winked at her.“Crazy good sex huh?”

“Eyes on the road, Jones,” she shot back, her cheeks reddening.

“Your mom did look kind of shocked when she saw me,” Jughead frowned. “Was it something I did?”

“No, you could have three eyes and Mom would just be relieved that I’m dating again.”

“Dating?” Jughead felt a spark of hope at her choice of words.

“You know what I mean,” she shrugged. Jughead nodded, trying to ignore his disappointment. “She used to know your dad, maybe she just had a double take?”

“Huh, maybe. I’ve always been told that I look like him.”

“So,” Betty started, eager to change the subject. “What’s the plan for JB’s present?”

“I don’t know. Remember? That’s why I called you.You know her better than I do anyway.”

When she grinned at him, Jughead narrowed his eyes. “Well we only have a couple of hours until the mall closes so are you happy for me to just go crazy?”

“I’ve never let a woman go rogue in a mall with my credit card.”

“Well, I’m sure it won’t be the last time.”

“Oh Christ,” he muttered.

Festive music filtered through the building and giant Christmas trees twinkled on every floor of the shopping mall, bringing the outside in. Children fidgeted in long queues, waiting for their turn to sit on Santa’s lap for one last reassurance that they were on the Nice List before the big day, and their parents stood wearily alongside. Betty stopped to admire every window display, ogling at the candy cane towers, present mountains, and swirling snowflakes. Some of the better displays made the viewer feel as though they were standing on the outside of a giant snow globe.

Jughead hadn’t realised what a task Christmas shopping was until he was educated by Betty. Apparently he had to do a Christmas stocking for JB because she technically was still a child, and the search for one present quickly turned into an entire haul. Jughead obediently followed Betty around the shops as she successfully spent his money and loaded his arms with bags. She already knew all the brands that JB liked after the teen had spent the summer staying at her house and bought a collection of beauty products, scented candles, jewelry, stationary, books, and candy that the young woman could open on Christmas Day. She had always imagined shopping for stocking fillers for her own children and, honestly, she thought that she would be doing it by now.

“Betts, I think we have enough,” Jughead cautioned as he tried to steer the beautiful blonde away from yet another perfume store.

She turned and looked at Jughead and had to hold back a laugh at how many bags he was holding. She took a couple from him with an apologetic smile. “I guess you’re right. So, now for the big finish. Any ideas?”

“I was thinking we could buy her another vinyl, but I’m not one hundred percent sure about what she already has,” he frowned.

“Maybe something else to do with music then,” Betty suggested. She knew first-hand how serious JB was about her music and had been to the music store in Greendale more times than she could count.

“Something for her guitar?”

“In theory that’s a good idea, but the guitar isn’t hers. She borrows it from the school so she can’t actually make any alterations to it.”

“Huh, that makes sense I guess. It’s not like my father would have had the money or sense to buy her one of her own.”

Betty almost stopped in her tracks. She didn’t know why she hadn’t thought of it before. Jellybean Jones, the girl who loved music more than anything else, the girl who hummed through her lessons and spent every available moment in the music room, the girl who had been saving up for her own guitar for years. At one point Betty had been tempted to buy her one but knew she would never accept it. But she would accept one from her brother…

“That’s it!” Betty squealed excitedly. “Oh my god that’s perfect!”

“What?”

“A guitar. JB’s been saving up for years but kept having to bail your dad out with rent and bills and stuff. I know the perfect shop.”

Jughead smiled. “Well then, lead the way.”

 

 

The snow had started again, heavier this time. Betty twisted her spaghetti around her plate thoughtfully and wondered if they would be snowed in for Christmas again this year. Secretly she hoped that they would. With the snow piled high, her mother couldn’t pop by and check on her. Maybe mother nature would take pity on her.

“So, do I have to wrap all the presents?” Jughead asked nervously before taking another bite of pizza. By the end of the afternoon, Betty had almost managed to fill the truck with Christmas goodies. He wondered how he was going to cope on his own next year.

“No, just put them in her Christmas stocking.”

“Her Christmas stocking..?” Jughead flashed her a guilty look.

“You can borrow the one I had when I was a kid,” Betty offered, rolling her eyes. “Honestly, how did you manage Christmas before I came along?”

“I just sent money like an estranged uncle.”

Their dinner was interrupted when Josie McCoy, an old school friend of Betty’s, popped into the restaurant to pick up a takeaway order. She was clearly back home visiting family for the holidays as she had moved out to LA soon after graduation to try and make it big in the music industry. The last Betty heard, she had landed a well-paid job directing music videos. They rarely saw each other these days, but that’s what happened when people moved out of Riverdale.

“Hey Betty,” Josie smiled as she gave her old friend a quick hug. She pulled up a chair at their table while she waited for her order. “How are things?”

“Nothing much changes in Riverdale,” Betty smiled back. “This is Jughead.”

Joise shook his hand while not-so-subtly winking at Betty. “I haven’t seen you around before,” she began. There was something about the young man that was vaguely familiar but she had met a lot of people.

“I just moved to Riverdale from New York,” he explained, saving her the embarrassment of reminding her that they actually went to high school together for several years.

“Now why on earth would you want to do that?” she laughed.

“It’s just for a year, until my sister goes to college.”

The waiter called out that Josie’s food was ready and she began to get up, promising Betty that they would catch up sometime although both women knew they wouldn’t.

“Well I’m sorry for interrupting your date,” she remarked, giving Betty another knowing glance

“We’re not on a date,” Betty replied a little too quickly, but not as fast as the blush spreading across her face. Josie looked at her skeptically. She had been around the couple for a few minutes and she could tell that there was something going on.

“Keep telling yourself that hun,” Josie remarked as she gave the waiter an overly-generous tip and left with her takeaway.

Betty turned her attention back to Jughead and glared at his smug face.

“We’re not on a date,” she repeated. “It’s against our rules.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” he joked, his blues eyes looking at her in a way that made her stomach swirl with butterflies.

“You’re ridiculous,” she muttered, suddenly very interested in her pasta.

“Would it really be that bad?”

“What?”

“Going out on a date with me.” The statement hung uncomfortably between them. Betty’s gaze met his for a moment before she looked away again.

“Of course not.”

“Then why all the rules?”

“You know why,” her voice dropped to almost a whisper.

“Remind me,” he lowered his voice to match hers. Unconsciously they lent closer to one another across the table.

“Because you’re leaving. What’s the point in starting something that has to end?” She pushed her plate away, suddenly not very hungry anymore. She liked the bubble they had created for themselves. Being with Jughead was refreshing. It gave her a way out. She wasn’t alone, but she wasn’t creating anything permanent that could be broken in the blink of an eye.

I could stay Jughead wanted to say. He hated Riverdale, but he loved Betty Cooper. Oh God did he love Betty Cooper.

“You’re right. I know you’re right.” He could sense that he had made her defensive and decided to drop the subject.

Polly’s words rang in Betty’s mind again. Give him a reason to stay. But what if she did? What if she let herself fall in love with him and he left anyway?

 

 

“Jellybean?” Jughead called as he pushed open the front door, his arms ladened down with shopping bags. He dumped them in the hallway and followed the sound of the television blaring, Betty following close behind. JB was lounging on the sofa with a pot of ice cream, watching Elf for the millionth time since she was about five years old. Jughead noticed that he seemed to be finding his little sister mooching around the apartment more and more and wondered if she still hadn’t sorted things out with Lucas.

“Have you been Christmas shopping again?” she sniggered, giving him a knowing wink. She hadn’t seen Betty standing behind him. “Did you have fun?”

“It was fine,” Jughead replied, stepping aside slightly so JB could see Betty. She sat up straight immediately, like she had been caught sleeping in class.

“Miss Cooper! Hey!” she said a little too enthusiastically.

“Good evening JB,” Betty smiled. “I hope you don’t mind me interrupting.”

“Of course not,” She gave Jughead a sideways glance. He knew that she was internally screaming at him. “So you guys were actually Christmas shopping?”

“Jughead left it all to the last minute,” Betty replied. “I’ve had mine done since the end of last month.”

JB raised an eyebrow at her brother. “That’s funny… He told me that he’d already done it.”

Jughead glared at his sister.

JB ignored him.

Betty didn’t catch on.

After a couple more minutes of torturing her brother, JB disappeared into her room, muttering some excuse about how she was tired. Jughead brought the rest of the presents in from the truck and stored JB’s new guitar safely in his room while Betty filled her old Christmas stocking full of goodies. She frowned disapprovingly at the lack of Christmas decorations in the apartment - they didn’t even have a tree - and positioned the overflowing sack next to the television for the teen to discover in the morning, or afternoon, or whenever JB decided to emerge from her self-labeled cave.

“She’s going to freak out in the morning when she sees all of this,” Jughead grinned, stretching out on the sofa.

“I hope so,” Betty smiled, curling up next to him with a yawn. “I always wanted to make a Christmas stocking for someone.”

“Well, without you I would just be giving her money like every other year. God, I never thought about how shit the holidays must have been for her when she was a kid.” There was that familiar pang of guilt that he often felt when he thought about his sister.

“Hey, you’re here now,” Betty reminded him, entwining her hand with his reassuringly. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed her palm gently. Betty felt her skin tingle under his lips like it always did when he kissed her, but this was different. It wasn’t a passionate kiss. It wasn’t a casual one either. It was domestic, and it scared her how normal it felt, like he had done it a thousand times before, and he would do it a thousand times over if she let him.

Jughead let her hand fall gently, sensing her tension. He was always scared that if he pushed her just a little bit too far then he would lose her forever, and he had already rattled her at dinner. She was like a timid little bird, make a sound too loud and she would fly away.

“I should probably go home,” she admitted, glancing at the flurry of snow dancing outside the window. There it was, the little bird trying to fly away.

“Or, you could stay?”

 

 

“OH MY GOD!”

Jughead woke with a start to his sister’s annoyingly-shrill voice. He automatically reached out for Betty, but found the mattress next to him empty and cold. He frowned and opened his eyes sleepily, wondering if he had dreamt that she had spent the night.

“Betts?” he called.

“In here,” she replied.

He ran his hand through his hair and climbed reluctantly out of bed, pulling on a hoodie to ward off the cold before following the sound of voices into the living room. He was attacked with a hug before he had even closed his bedroom door.

“It’s only 9am but this is already the best Christmas ever!” JB squealed as she squeezed him tighter.

“Only 9am?” Jughead groaned, pretending to be annoyed when he was actually flushed with pride.

“I haven’t had a Christmas stocking since Mom left,” JB whispered before reaching up on tiptoes to kiss her brother on the cheek. “Thank you so much.”

He ruffled her long dark hair and she ducked away from him with a laugh. “You’re welcome Jellybean.You really have Betty to thank though.”

“Yeah I guessed Miss Cooper had something to do with it.”

“Betty, please!” Betty called from the tiny kitchen. She didn’t really feel like a teacher make-up free in Jughead’s clothes. She didn’t know how she felt, but maybe it wasn’t all bad. “But you still have to call me Miss Cooper at school,” she warned, pointing at her with a teaspoon.

“Morning Betts,” Jughead grinned, not quite believing that he had managed to persuade her to break two rules in one day. No matter what she said, last night had been a date, he knew that in his heart. She pressed a mug of coffee into his hands and tried unsuccessfully to hold back a smile. Jughead noticed a tray of cinnamon buns cooling on the side and Betty had to smack his hand away as he tried to snatch one.

JB watched their little interaction with amusement. She wondered how long it would take before Jughead made the decision to stay in Riverdale and if it would be soon enough she’d win the History Class Bet about it.

“Jughead has another present for you JB,” Betty said, handing the teenager a cinnamon bun and a mug of hot chocolate.

“Another one?” JB asked excitedly. She felt like a child again.

“You’re just trying to keep me away from breakfast,” Jughead muttered as he disappeared back into his bedroom to fetch JB’s guitar. The teen almost dropped her breakfast when she saw what Jughead was carrying.

“Is that..?” she didn’t want to say it in case she woke up. Jughead just grinned as he handed her the case. JB tore off the red ribbon and opened the case, a brand-new guitar stared up at her. There was a moment of complete silence, Jughead worried that he had somehow screwed up, and then… “YOU BOUGHT ME A FUCKING GUITAR?”

JB threw herself at her brother and clung on like a baby koala bear, squeezing him even tighter than before.

She could feel tears welling up in her eyes.“Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“Merry Christmas,” Jughead chuckled, eyes soft as he pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“Merry Christmas.”

Betty left about an hour later despite JB’s insistence that she should stay. Regardless of all the rules she had broken in the last twenty-four hours, staying at Jughead’s for Christmas Day seemed a step too far. Besides, she wanted Jughead and JB to spend Christmas together.

As she trudged home through the snow, she thought about the old-fashioned typewriter that she had bought over a month ago that was now gathering dust in her closet. She had wrapped it beautifully, with a perfectly-tied red ribbon on top, but somehow couldn’t bring herself to gift it. Not because she wanted it for herself, but because she was scared about what it might represent.

Before he went to sleep that night in his now-empty bed, Jughead hesitantly pulled open his bedside draw. It was still there. An original copy of Beloved wrapped shabbily in Christmas paper with For Betty written on top in his untidy scrawl. He couldn’t give it to her. It was a present that said I love you. He didn’t want the little bird to fly away.

Chapter Text

Betty wasn’t sure how she ended up here at the Pembroke, with Kevin on one side of her, and Veronica on the other. It was the first weekend back from winter vacation and tradition dictated that they would spend their Friday having a relaxing pseudo-spa night filled with wine, old movies, and lots of gossip. She had tried to get out of it earlier when they had cornered her in the teacher’s lounge. Her head was still reeling from her Christmas adventures with Jughead and their impromptu sleepover and she knew they would be able to sniff it out of her if she was trapped alone with them. She pretended to feel faint. She pretended to have a cough. But Kevin picked her up and carried her to his car, tossing her into the passenger side and speeding off towards the comfort of the always fabulous Lodge residence.

 

At least, for now, they were all so focused on Veronica’s relationship troubles that they didn’t dare bring up Betty’s. Kevin was pasting little jewels onto the design he’d painted on Veronica’s big toe--a pretty white flower amidst a dark black background. It was classy. Simple. Elegant. Everything their friend was, even as she sat in her chair guzzling champagne flutes as chocolate from their coated strawberries fell onto her robe.

 

“I just….I hate men.” She said for the fourteenth time that day.

 

Betty and Kevin both hummed in agreement as he stuck the last little jewel to her nail and beamed down at his handiwork. Betty nodded in praise. “Looks great, Kev. You’re an undiscovered talent.”

 

Her own toes had been painted pink polka dots, a stark contrast from the bitter cloud she felt on her shoulders as she remembered the warmth of Jughead’s embrace and the sweet early Christmas morning present exchange between brother and sister. It was everything she had ever wanted and it scared the shit out of her. She could tell Kevin was at least onto her wandering mind; every few minutes he would glance he way and raise an eyebrow but say nothing.

 

“Still Archie?” Betty asked sympathetically, squeezing her friends hand.

 

Veronica nodded and filled everyone’s glass with the remainder of the bottle, frowning childishly when she realized it was empty. “Of course still Archibald. Why wouldn’t it be? He asked me out to dinner, Pop’s, just something casual, and I told him I’d think about it.”

 

“I thought you were on your way to forgiving him?”

 

“I am! I’m trying to at least. But you know how Lodge women are, I could hold the grudge until I died and it wouldn’t be long enough. I just don’t want to open up and let him hurt me again. So I told him I’d think about it.”

 

Kevin snorted. “I don’t think Archie’s ever had someone tell him they’d think about it in his entire life. It’ll be a good reality check for him. He needs it. Not everyone is willing to fall all over themselves to take a look at that Adonis.”

 

“But don’t you think…” Betty was slow in her word choice, deliberate as she watched a few of the bubbles in her champagne flute pop, swallowing the lump in her throat. “That sometimes love is worth the risk?”

 

The silence in the room following her bold statement was suffocating. Kevin and Veronica exchanged looks of surprise. Since when, ever, did Betty Cooper say love was worth the risk. She who had locked herself and her heart away like a hermit ever since her fiance's untimely death. It startled them both and Veronica’s expression dared to soften.

 

“Maybe it is. There are a lot of risks we take for love. I risk having to put up with that big dumb idiot and his stupid plans constantly. He’s broken my heart once already and it’s scary to open up again. When you’re hurting, you want so badly to protect yourself from anything that could do it again, that you forget to enjoy the things that make you happy, you get scared and you shut out everything. And then, when the things that do make you happy come along, they frighten you and you pull back because what if you don’t deserve that happiness.”

 

Suddenly, Betty felt like they weren’t really talking about Veronica and her problems anymore. She took a deep breath and shook her head to steer the direction back towards something she was comfortable with, “I’m not sure that’s how it is with you and Archie though Ronnie. You two have been playing this back and forth game for a long time. Maybe it’s time to give in. You both deserve happiness.”

 

“I can’t take this,” Kevin sighed, rubbing his head. “Straight people problems give me a headache. If you’re both being blind, I suppose it’s my duty to spell it out for you. Veronica, Archie is an idiot, yes, most definitely, without a single doubt in anyone’s mind. But you also love him for that. He had the best of intentions, he always does somehow, because he liked you so much he tried to change who he was for you to like him better. Dumb? Incredibly. Sweet? Somehow. So pick up your phone and text him now, telling him to plan you a date and if it isn’t the best one of your entire life then there’s no hope for your romantic relationship.”

 

“He’ll rise to the challenge, V. I know he will. Archie’s such a good guy!” Betty relaxed, pleased that things were refocusing back to where she liked them--far away from her and whatever disaster of a love life she had cultivated with Jughead Jones of all people.

 

Kevin turned on her, eyes narrowed, arms crossed. “Oh if you think I’m done before getting to you, you are sorely mistaken, Betty. Listen I know you’re fucking Jones, Veronica knows you’re fucking Jones, JB knows you’re fucking Jones, his entire apartment complex knows that you’re fucking Jughead Jones, the hot history professor. And by extension, I’m sure we’re all very aware of the fact that you have developed something you hate: feelings. That’s why you don’t do these things. Friends with Benefits have never, in my experience, really been just that. There’s always something bubbling underneath the surface and given the speech you just did, there’s something to tell. So, spill, Elizabeth, before I have to call Polly and extort her for information.”

 

“Remarks the man with the casual sex relationship with a married man,” Veronica quips. “But I’ll allow it in favor of my own curiosity.”

 

Theoretically, she could have denied everything. She could have called Kevin a crazy person and stomped right out of the Pembrooke with a badly damaged ego, but a secret that was still somewhat her own. But after Christmas she knew everything was in shambles. Whatever she wanted with Jughead was deeper than she could have ever imagined and it terrified her. Fear latched onto the worry and created a never ending cycle of intrusive thoughts and late, sleepless nights.

 

She first told them about the path they had taken to here, starting all the way at the Blue and Gold Office. Then she told them about Christmas. He had showed up at her door and her entire family fell in love with him. Their rules that they were breaking without care: the sleepovers, the kisses, the hand holding and early morning breakfasts. And then, of course, the way Jellybean looked at her, so excited every time they crossed paths in the hallway. She started to cry, curled in on herself, shaking slightly.

 

“I just don’t know what to do,” she whispered, letting every fear out with her tears. “I’m scared.”

 

“Oh B,” Veronica and Kevin wrapped her in a tight hug. “Hey it’s okay. Sometimes we don’t know what to do. This is such a scary thing for you, to even think about making that leap into something, but I think you maybe already have. You and Jughead share a connection that’s really special and I don’t want you giving that up just because you’re scared.”

 

Kevin cupped her cheeks. “Repeat after me: I, Betty Cooper, deserve to be happy.”

 

“Kevin do I--”

 

“Yes. Now, like I said, repeat after me: I, Betty Cooper, deserve to be happy.”

 

“I, Betty Cooper, deserve to be happy.”

 

“And, no matter how scary it is, am willing to try to bring that happiness into my life.”

 

“And, no matter how scary it is, am willing to try to bring that happiness into my life.”

 

Kevin smiled. “And promise to tell Kevin and Veronica, in explicit detail, what it’s like to fuck Jughead Jones like a stallion in the Blue and Gold Office.”

 

“KEVIN!” She was laughing now, tears gone, makeup a mess, but feeling lighter than she had in awhile. “You are the absolute worst!”

 

“I’m not hearing a no.”

 

Veronica laughed, clapping her hands together. “Come on, B, I promise I’ll give you all the details on Archiekins when we finally wiggle our way under the sheets.”

 

“Ew, please no. He’s like my brother and I have no interest in knowing how any of that works, please and thank you.”

 

They spent the rest of the night in a fit of alcoholic giggles. For the first time in a very long time, Bety felt free, relaxed, like she didn’t have a single care in the world. Kevin and Veronica helped her formulate a plan to admit what was going on with her--and, of course, pick out an outfit that would send him spiraling straight into her waiting, open arms. When she stumbled home that night, she was smiling, and picked up her phone to send Jughead a sweet goodnight message, complete with a little heart and everything.

 

He sent one back.

 

--------------------------

 

Jughead was pretty sure he had died and gone to heaven. Ever since Christmas things had been going better than ever for him--a phenomenon he was not used to. Normally, just when he thought things were going well, the universe would rip the rug right out from underneath him and cause him to topple down back to rock bottom, throwing him a shovel so he could keep digging down. Riverdale High was good to him in a lot of ways. The biggest was that Betty was there. Betty, the girl he’d loved since high school, and the girl that he got to sleep with on a regular basis. It wasn’t just that anymore. Despite their silly rules they were doing things together and he felt...well he felt hopeful.

 

Weatherbee called him into his office the Friday after winter break had finished, shuffling papers and muttering to himself. Jughead sat where he was instructed to and tried not to fear the worst. The worst never came. Instead of a firing like he had expected, Weatherbee had offered him a full time position as the AP and Honors United States history teacher, if he was so inclined to take it. It turned out that Ethel Muggs had decided to stay at home with her little girl, at least until she was in kindergarden, which left the job ripe for the taking. The pay was still garbage compared to when he worked at the colleges but it was tempting to take the bait and settle down somewhere.

 

“Do I have time to think about it?” he asked, quietly. Betty had mentioned to him once or twice her fears about him leaving and this seemed all too perfectly timing. Here right before him was a solution to his biggest relationship problems. Why was he so scared to reach out and take it?

 

“Of course. I’ll need your decision by the end of the school year. That gives you a few months to get things sorted out, I suspect?”

 

Jughead nodded. “It does. Thank you, Sir. I really appreciate the opportunity. I just need to figure out a few things and speak with my sister about it.”

 

“I understand, Mr. Jones. I look forward to hearing your answer.”

 

It wasn’t a lie, he reminded himself as he exited the office, that speaking to Jellybean would be an important part of this decision. They hadn’t talked much about her future plans other than she wanted to be a musician. Her SAT scores were good and with enough of a push and few really good recommendation letters he was sure she could get in anywhere she wanted.

 

But there were other worrisome things in his life surrounding Jellybean than what he college prospects were--and if she even wanted him to follow. Their relationship was better than ever. Christmas had helped cement that bond but even outside of that they were talking more, having family board game nights, actually engaging with one another in ways they hadn’t since they were kids. It would have been perfect, if it weren’t for the Serpents.

 

The Serpent's had been a plague on his life for as long as he could remember. The gang his parents ran with that destroyed his father and drove his mother away, had also been the only reason he wasn’t murdered after his transfer to Southside High. He hung around them on the fringe, interacting as little as possible, but leaching off their support so he could survive and make it out of there alive. The only Serpent he actually made friends with was one Toni Topaz.

 

They hadn’t spoken in nearly a year and even then their correspondence was infrequent at best. Occasionally a few text messages, sometimes a Facebook like, but nothing more than that. After he moved into Riverdale she sent him a welcome back message but that was it. Until she had called to warn him about a boy named Lucas who had recently joined the Serpents. Jughead knew the name. That was JB’s best friend. He had met the kid maybe once; he never seemed too bad, but he’d be damned if he let his little sister get anywhere near the Serpents.

 

So he arranged a meeting. It wasn’t the Wyrm, that would drudge up too many bad memories. Instead they picked the only other bar in town to meet up at, a Northside brewery that was insanely pretentious--with a nickname like The River’s Edge how could it not be--but welcoming to Southsiders. According to Toni, the pizza was pretty good too.

 

“Long time no see, Jones,” Toni smiled and gave him a salute. “Glad to see you looking less of a mess than you did in High School. New York treat you well?”

 

“About as well as I’d hoped. Wasn’t expecting to ever come back here, honestly.” He pulled up the chair beside her, only to see it was occupied with a red velvet bag. “And this is definitely not yours.”

 

“Sorry, I should have warned you. My wife loves this place so if I go she has to. Does that bother you?” It did, in some ways, mostly because anything regarding the Serpents and JB felt like a sensitive issue. Toni placed a hand on his and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Hey, you can trust her, Jones. I promise.”

 

“Alright. Alright, sorry. I’m just on edge because I found out my sister is hanging around the Serpents and I don’t want that for her. It imploded our family, Toni. I know you love them and you’re still ride or die, and I respect that, but this isn’t something that would be good for her. Not when she’s so close to getting out.”

 

She waved him off. “Trust me, I get it. JB doesn’t belong in the Serpents anymore than you do. You both scream troubled art kids not son and daughter of a gang leader destined to go down their same path. That’s why I told you about this. I’m worried too.”

 

Jughead’s phone buzzed on the table, nearly knocking into Toni’s glass. Betty’s name popped up on the screen and he couldn’t even hide the smile on his face. She was asking what he was up to tonight. There was even a heart on the screen just like the goodnight text message a few days back. Maybe there really was hope for them, despite her protests and her rules and everything else. He told her he was at the River’s Edge tonight, dealing with something important, but he wished he was with her. It was cheesy, sure, but absolutely truthful.

 

“Got yourself a girl Jones?” Toni teased. “Don’t get defensive, it’s cute. I’m glad to see you happy. I don’t think you ever were in High School.”

 

“Trust me. I wasn’t. I’m in a better place now. Even if I have to worry about my little sister and her possible gang affiliations.”

 

“You have my word I won’t let her join, Jug, and the Serpents are mine now anyway. If I say no, then it’s law. I’ll keep her safe.”

 

He relaxed a little at that, offering her a smile. “Thanks, Toni. I really appreciate it.”

 

“Anytime, Jones. I owe your family a lot. Keeping them out of this mess is the least I can do.”

 

--------------------------

 

The River’s Edge. It’s the perfect place to launch her plan, excited at the prospect of finally admitting to Jughead that she might finally be ready to take that plunge into a committed relationship. The thought electrified her nerve endings and she shivered with excitement as she zipped up her snow boots and threw on her coat. It wasn’t far of a walk to the little pub and Betty hoped he would be excited by the surprise. Maybe she could wait for him to finish up his meeting and they could have their first official date.

 

Despite the cold weather nipping at her ears, painting her cheeks and nose red, she felt like she was flying. She imagined pizza and beer and maybe a few sneaky kisses in the back corner booth. Her toes curled in her boots. Tying her scarf tighter around her neck, Betty quickened her pace, excited by the prospect of seeing him.

 

That was, until, she burst through the doors of the cozy little pub, flooded with warmth as the old heater created a safe place from the outside world. Her eyes scanned the room for that familiar mop of black hair peeking out of a grey beanie. When she caught him under the hazy glow of the bar’s fluorescent bulbs, she beamed. And then she saw. Or rather, she saw her, the pretty girl with pink with her hand on his shoulder. She tried not to panic, tried not to assume the worst, but they seemed so close, laughing over a drink.

 

Of course. Of course he was busy with a girl tonight. She had made it so abundantly clear to him that this was not what she wanted: a relationship. It was a rule wasn’t it? Don’t get jealous. Don’t get attached. Dating other people was entirely on the table, for both of them. And here she was, jealous, heart broken, attached. Maybe a little bit in love.

 

She spun out of the bar before the waitress could greet her. The tears stung in the cold ice and the walk home felt more like a drudge than a happy jaunt she had done on her way here. It was like her entire world had collapsed around her. She lost him. She lost him because of all the walls she built and all the fear she had let fester in her heart. Never again. No more hurt. She would lock him out for good and throw away the key.

 

That night, Betty clung to the old photo of Trevor and her, sobbing into the freshly cleaned sheets of her empty bed. She had expected them to be filled tonight but that, like many of her plans, had shattered into pieces. Jughead sent her a text to say goodnight and she threw her phone in the drawer and slamming it shut. Jughead Jones could go to hell.

 

It went on like that for nearly a week. Every time she saw him in the hallway, Betty would cling a little tighter to the walls, or Veronica, or Archie, or Kevin, or whoever or whatever was around. She stayed later than she normally would for students, or sprinted out of the building as fast as she could, even ignoring when he offered her a wave. He could tell by the flicker of confusion in his eyes he didn’t understand.

 

He had tried twice to corner her, but the phone calls were getting less and less frequent. The text messages had stopped all together. By week three he was ignoring her as much as she was ignoring him. The pain was still there, aching her heart, making it hard to even sit at home. Veronica and Kevin both had a few ideas about what was going on, but they didn’t dare to ask too many questions.

 

Betty was curled up in bed listening to the heavy thrum of the rain against her windowsill. Her phone started to ring again. One last call from Jughead, maybe a last ditch attempt at figuring out where things went wrong. Her heart ached. She could answer. She could apologize. She could run to his house and kiss him senseless and ask him to be with her, but images of that girl ran through her mind. Jughead was trying to move on and maybe she should too.

 

After the second ring, she sent him to voicemail. Later, when the screeches of tires and the loud bang of her neighbors stumbling home woke her up, she opened her phone again and saw the number one. Despite her better judgements she pressed the speaker button to listen to his message.

 

“Hey Betts. It’s Jughead. I….I miss you. I miss you so much.”

 

There were still a few seconds left but she hung up the phone and quickly deleted the evidence. His words would ring around in her head until the early morning, where not even coffee could chase them away.

 

--------------------------

 

Jughead was miserable. Absolutely miserable. Betty had shunned him for reasons he didn’t understand, he knew JB’s best friend was causing her to hang around the Serpents more than he’d like, and there was still the matter of Weatherbee’s offer on the table--though he wasn’t sure what the point of staying would be anymore. The woman he was in love with had done a complete 180 on her affections at the flip of the hat. He’d tried, more than once, to corner her in the hallways, to pry from her what the hell he could have done to mess up so horribly. Maybe she had figured it out. Maybe she knew he was in love with her and this was her way of cutting him loose. Those stupid fucking rules were going to be the death of him.

 

He felt bad for himself, but he also felt bad for his students. They were getting the brunt of his frustrations. Their papers were ripped to pieces for the slightest grammatical errors and he had even had to give a curve on their last exam because of how particular he was about their short answer questions. The once beloved teacher was reduced to nothing more than conspiratorial hallway whispers every time he stomped through.

 

The person he felt worst for was Jellybean. Whatever comradery they’d managed to build up was destroyed by his constantly poor attitude. When he wasn’t pissed off, he was moping, laying on the couch watching reruns of old Netflix shows and binging on food. Their happy family dinners had become cold take out in silence. He was stumbling backwards and it scared the shit out of him, but he had no idea how to claw his way out.

 

“Betty broke up with you didn’t she?” Jellybean looked over at him across the table, eyes tired, arms crossed in frustration. She’d set her chopsticks aside to give him a scowl his mother would have been impressed by.

 

“We were never together.” He bit back.

 

“So that’s a yes then? I thought something happened. She’s been jumpy and quiet and she can’t even make eye contact with me anymore without looking like she wants to apologize. What the hell did you do?”

 

He shouldn’t have snapped, but his patience was worn this already. “I didn’t do anything, Forsythia. Jesus Christ why is that always the assumption? I get it, I’m a shitty brother and a shitty person.”

 

“Wow, Holden Caulfield how about you bite back your nihilism and remove the stick out of your ass. I was asking a question.”

 

“No. It’s fine. I get it. You like Betty better, you’ve always liked Betty better and why wouldn’t you? I must have done something terrible because she absolutely couldn’t have. You tell her everything. Does she know about Lucas? The Serpents? The fact that Toni Topaz had to tell me you were heading down to hang out at the fucking Whyte Wyrm of all places? Jellybean do you have any fucking idea how dangerous that place is? Not just for normal people but for you? For us? Most of the Serpents are gnawing at the bit to get a Jones back into their ranks and they’d do anything the could, no matter how much Toni is saving your ass. Do you even care? Do you even pay attention to your actions?”

 

She stood, knocking over her plate and kicking the chair over. “What the fuck? What the actual fuck, Jughead? Your girlfriend dumps you and you regress back to standoffish dick 101? Yeah maybe I have told her some things I haven’t told you, but maybe it’s because my brother was MIA for a lot of my life and just now I was starting to trust him again. Maybe I was going to start opening up to you. But now? Fuck that. You’re being a dick because you’re sad. I get it. We’re all fucking sad, Jughead! Everyone in our family is destined to be sad and miserable and fucked up! I am, you are, everyone is! Maybe it’s a good thing she dumped you, so she wouldn’t get roped up in whatever shitfest follows us around. This dark cloud of bullshit that always lingers!”

 

She was crying then, tears in her eyes, running down her cheeks. Before he could stop her, eyes softened, heart shattering, she was stomping to her room, making as much noise as humanly possible. Her door slammed shut and rattled the doorframe. From behind the white wood he could hear her crying, muffled by a pillow of the soft plush of her cheeks.

 

“Fuck. Fuck, Jug.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. This was a mess. It all was a mess. Yeah Betty had hurt him, but he needed to stop with his only defensive coping mechanism for pain to be hurting other people. That wasn’t fair to him, or people like Jellybean who didn’t deserve any more hurt than she already got.

 

After doing the dishes--or rather, tossing the plates in the garbage and reminding himself that he would start being more ecologically friendly tomorrow--Jughead went and knocked on her door. His reply sounded a lot like ‘fuck you’ but really he couldn’t blame her for that one. He knocked again.

 

“I want to apologize.”

 

“You better start grovelling then.”

 

He remembered a time before he had left for college, when he had snapped the head off her barbie doll on accident and she refused to speak to him for a week. The apology went a lot like this. Well, at least some things would never changed, even if they both had better hair now.

 

“I was being an asshole and I took it out on you. I’m still insecure about our relationship, because I’m scared to lose you, Jelly. I love you so much, you’re my little sister, after all, and the thought of ever losing you makes me miserable. I shouldn't have lashed out how I did, because I’m an adult. I don’t want to be like dad. I don’t want to let every bad thing in my life hurt you. I won’t. So I’m sorry. And I give you full permission to kick me wherever you want if I ever do it again.”

 

Her door was open now and she was pulling him into a tight hug. “You better mean that, jerk.”

 

“Trust me, I do.”

 

They ended up sitting on her bed, looking at the glow in the dark stars she had insisted on pasting on the ceiling, even if by the packages standards she was nearly a decade too old for them. None of them actually glowed anymore, an outdated relic from the past they’d ripped off the trailer walls. But they used to watch them a lot at night. It felt peaceful to do it again.

 

“I’m sorry. About Betty. That sucks I know...I know you really like her. And I don’t get it because I thought she really liked you too.”

 

“Trust me. So did I.”

 

The silence was heavier than and he watched his sister fumble with the bracelet on her wrist, pulling at the beads and snapping it once, twice, three times until the noise started to drive him insane. Just when Jughead thought he was going to have to reach over and take it off of her, she set her hands down and threaded their fingers together. He had never heard her as soft spoken as she was.

 

“Can I tell you something?”

 

“You can tell me anything. No matter what.”

 

She was so quiet then, he would have thought she was asleep if it weren’t for the faraway look in her eyes as she stared at their make believe skyline. “Toni...she’s bisexual right?”

 

“Yeah. Apparently she married Cheryl Blossom of all people, can you believe that?”

 

“No.” Jellybean laughed. “Kind of crazy right? I never would have guessed.”

 

“Cheryl? Bonkers. Them together? Maybe less so. When I was at the bar with them it wasn’t as weird as I thought. She only told me I looked like death twice. A real compliment for Cheryl.”

 

“And you don’t...think it’s weird at all.”

 

His eyebrows knit together in confusion. “No? I mean yeah they seem like opposites but when you actually get to know them it’s there, the affection they have for each other.”

 

“No, no I mean...that they’re both girls. You don’t think that’s weird?”

 

“Jellybean, what--”

 

“Because...because would it be weird, would it be weird to you if I asked you to walk me down the aisle one day but I told you I didn’t know who would be waiting there at the end. I don’t know if it’ll be a boy or a girl, I just know it’s going to be someone that I love,” her voice cracked and she kept her eyes firmly focused on the last fading glow star on the ceiling. “Because I’m terrified you’re going to hate me. I never told dad and it still...I still hate it. I still wish I could. Every time I think about the fact that he died without knowing that part of me I wish I had told him. So I wanted to tell you, so no matter what happens, I didn’t have to live with that.”

 

“Jelly...holy shit...come here,” she was in his lap in a second, holding tightly to him. “Hey. Hey you don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff with me. I love you and the weird little box you come in with you're stupid hair and the music you listen to. The Joneses follow the beat of our own drum and I’m proud of you for having your truth and living it and I’ll support you know matter what. And, for what it’s worth, I like girls too.”

 

She was laughing then, pushing against his chest and beating him over the head with the pillows she could fine. “You big dumb idiot! God you’re annoying! Why are we related again?”

 

“Genetic anomaly. But seriously, thank you for feeling comfortable enough with me to tell me that. It means the world to me. I know we haven’t always been the closest, but I want to change that, because you’re my little sister and I love you.”

 

“Okay, okay, we get it. Kumbaya my lord. I love you too. We should love everyone. Blah blah blah.” She rolled her eyes but he could tell by the smile on her lips she was thrilled. “Now that we’ve sorted out my love life, why don’t we take a good long hard look at yours. What the hell is happening with you and Betty?”

 

Jughead groaned. “God I don’t know, JB. A mess probably. We were something and then we were something more and just when I thought maybe we could be the something I wanted she pulls the rug out from underneath me and ignores me every chance she gets. I tried calling, texting, talking to her at school. Nothing.”

 

“Alright. Well I normally don’t advise this kind of borderline stalking behaviors, but I’m going to suggest that since you, I don’t know, are fully aware of her home address and it’s literally right there, that you, perhaps, waltz your ass over there and ask her what the hell is going on? You might not get the answers you want but you’ll get answers. And she owes you some for ghosting you. God. My brother. Getting ghosted by the hot English teacher. Truly the Jones family curse runs deep.”

 

“Tell me about it. You really don’t think it’s weird if I go over there? I’m losing my mind over here. If I just knew then maybe I could patch myself up and move on.”

 

“Then that’s what you’ll get. Go put your big boy panties on and get this shit done. And remember, I have friends that can and will egg her car if need be.” When he raised an eyebrow at her, she answered with a shrug. “All hypothetical of course. I have absolutely never in my entire life launched an egg attack on someone else’s vehicle. Except, maybe, that bitch Carmen, but there’s no proof of that so I plead Not Guilty.”

 

After a lot of pushing and some nagging, Jellybean had him out the door, his hat tucked over his head so he didn’t get cold with a reminder that he was not to come home without information. He trudged through the snow along the familiar route to Betty’s house. His heart hammered in his chest and every step he pulled through the white fluff felt like agony. If it weren’t for the fact he knew JB wouldn’t let him inside without information, he would have turned back and hidden away under his covers.

 

He spotted the familiar driveway, one Christmas bauble still hanging from her tree outside. She must have forgotten it in her rush to rip it all down. Her car was still in the driveway, he could see that from a few feet away, so he quickened his pace. A wiser man--or perhaps one more well versed in romantic comedies--would have spotted the warning signs and ran away when the car drove up and parked out front. A man was in the front seat and he leaned across the seats. She jumped away from him, but smiled, kissing his cheek before opening his car door. He watched her wave goodbye and hurry to the door but the green eyed monster had already taken up residence inside Jughead’s heart.

 

There was someone else. There was always someone else. There would always be someone else. Because a man like Jughead Jones was not worth anyone’s time of day. No matter how hard he tried to pretend, he was still the loner guy with the gang family from the wrong side of the tracts. She had indulged his little fantasy for awhile but had gotten tired of playing pretend.

 

“So. Who was that?”

 

Betty practically shot out of her heels as she fumbled with her keys. She spun around poised with her pepper spray before catching his gaze and relaxing. “Jesus, Jughead. You can’t do that.”

 

“I can’t do what, Betty? I can’t show up at your house after you’ve been ignoring my phone calls only to see you with some guy? That’s what I can’t do?”

 

Her eyes narrowed and she steadied her shoulders. “Jughead. One of our rules was that we could see other people, right? That didn’t stop you the other night.”

 

It clicked then, the catalyst to it all, and he couldn’t bite his tongue before he laughed. “Toni Topaz? You mean the girl married to Cheryl Blossom? I was meeting an old friend because I was worried about Jellybean. She was hanging around the Serpents, which Toni runs now, so I needed to check to make sure she hadn’t gotten involved in any of it. But this is all ironic right. You got jealous and now you’re telling me not to be jealous after you shut me out for a month. Ghosted me because, what, you were upset I was following one of your stupid little rules.”

 

“We had those rules for a reason, Jughead! So we wouldn’t do this. When I got jealous I knew I had to stop, because that’s what we decided. That’s what we said was fair.”

 

“No, that’s what you said was fair. If you would just open your eyes you would know why we can’t follow any of the rules. Why we’ve broken every single one and threw them away like they were trash, Betty.”

 

“Stop it. Jughead just stop it. Stop it because...because you promised me,” her voice was tight and she looked at anything but him.

 

Jughead took a step forward. “I promised you what, Betty? What did I promise you? Say it out loud.”

 

“You promised...you promised that you wouldn’t fall in love with me.”

 

“Yeah. Yeah I did. Which is a promise that I technically got to keep. Too bad for both of us I’ve been in love with you since High School.”

 

“No! No. You can’t just say that! You can’t just come to my house and say that to me. Not when you promised. I can’t...I can’t do this. I can’t do this again. Not yet.”

 

He sighed, running a hand through his hair, dusting the bits of fallen snow that still clung to them. “You’re right. I can’t do this either. I can’t when I know that we both love each other and we’ve been playing some stupid fantasy game. I won’t sleep with you anymore, Betty, not without something else. And if you want that something else, well you’ve got until May to let me know. Weatherbee offered me a job here and I was going to take it, but I’m not so sure anymore. Not when I don’t know if there’s anything left making me stay in Riverdale.”

 

He didn’t hear her call for him, but he did hear her cry and the clink of her keys against the snowy white ground as he walked away, back home to a place he could drown his sorrows in hot chocolate and old Chinese food.

 

--------------------------

 

Betty fumbled through the front door of her home, ignoring the lights, ignoring the soft whirl of the heater as the collapsed on the welcome mat just past the threshold. She was sobbing, body lurching in protest as the agony ripped at her heart. Every day had been a struggle to keep him away, to keep her heart safe, so she never, never had to deal with the pain of losing someone she loved again. But she had pushed too hard. Fought too strong and now she was a ruined woman.

 

“I’m scared,” she whispered into the air. “I’m scared to say it. I’m so scared.”

 

The Blue and Gold office was empty the next morning aside from the little note of resignation taped to her computer. Effective immediately Jughead Jones would no longer be helping her supervise the school newspaper. Added to that was the hasty scribble of Jellybean’s name and the note she wouldn’t be writing for her either. That wasn’t much of a surprise. Ever since Betty had started her panic induced pullback the girl had ignored her at every turn. She had missed more classes than she had attended and the only reason she was passing was because Lucas was still turning in her assignments. The little family she had built for herself had been systematically destroyed by her own fears.

 

Veronica had suggested putting her in detention and Kevin’s wisdom had involved a principal's report, but neither of them had any sage romantic advice to offer. Or maybe, they just knew better than to pry. With no one else to turn to, alone and heartbroken, Betty picked up her phone and dialed a familiar number. It took three rings for her to answer.

 

“Polly...I think I fell in love again.”

 

Her voice was soft and sympathetic. “Oh Sweetie...I know.”

Chapter Text

“I don’t know how this happened,” Betty whimpered down the phone. She was curled up on the couch, watching her cup of tea go cold, trying to make herself as small as physically possible.

 

“It happened because it was supposed to happen,” Polly replied, her voice crackling slightly. Phone signal was always poor in Riverdale. Betty felt instantly comforted at the sound of her sister’s voice; if anyone could sort her out, it was Polly Cooper. “More importantly, what are you going to do about it?”

 

“I was hoping you would tell me.”

 

“Do you really need me to tell you what you already know? You’re going to go for it!”

 

“But Pol… What if it all goes to shit?”

 

“What if it doesn’t?” she countered. “Back when Trev was alive you were always a hopeless romantic. Love conquers all, right? It was sickening to be around you two. You can have that back, the world is giving you a second chance at it. And hell, if anyone deserves to be happy it’s you.”

 

Betty paused, trying to sort the thoughts in her brain, before finally admitting out loud the biggest truth of it all. “I’m scared. I’m scared of loving someone again.”

 

“Betty,” Polly had her big sister tone on now. “You can’t live your life too scared to move on, you just have to take the leap.”

 

“What if I’ve blown it?”

 

“You haven’t.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

She groaned and Betty could practically hear the roll of her eyes from the other end of the line. “Trust me, I saw the way he looked at you at Christmas, I know,” Polly said with unquestionable authority. “I know you’re scared about him leaving but there is a world outside Riverdale. You could always leave too. That town has given you nothing but heartache.”

 

“He said he would stay in Riverdale,” Betty admitted. “Weatherbee has offered him the teaching position permanently.”

 

“Well why are we even having this conversation? I thought your reason for not making a go of it was because he would be leaving in the summer?”

 

“I guess that was always just an excuse,” Betty mumbled.

 

Polly sighed. “I know you feel like you would be betraying Trev by actually moving on, but he would want you to be happy. He’s looking down on you right now, and he probably wants reach through the barrier between life and death to shake some sense into you.”

 

Betty wiped away a couple of tears that were trickling down her cheeks. Polly was right, Trev would want her to move on. It had been almost three years since that fatal car accident. She never would stop mourning his death, he was the love of her young life, but maybe people could have more than one. Perhaps Jughead was her soulmate and, if she gave up now, she might never get that chance again. There were only so many times you could be given the chance at happiness before the world rejected stubbornness.

 

“Do you believe in soulmates, Pol?”

 

“How can I be with Jason and not believe in soulmates?”

 

“Do you think Trev and I were soulmates?”

 

Her sister’s reply was gentle, sweet. “If you have to ask, then you probably weren’t. But Jughead could be.”

 

Betty thought about that possibility for a moment. Jughead Jones, her soulmate, wrapped up in her sheets every night as the moon bathed the bedroom in an ethereal glow, curled up on the couch with her watching trash T.V, helping her cook dinner and getting nothing done because they were so busy chasing each other around the kitchen filling the room with laughter. Fast forward a few years and he’s waiting at the end of the aisle, holding her hand tightly as the contractions hit on the way to the hospital, playing catch with their kids in the garden. She could picture it clear as day, and she wanted it. She wanted it more than anything she had ever wanted before.

 

“Yeah, he could be.”

 

“So what are you going to do?”

 

Betty felt a refreshed sense of determination. “Fight for him.”

 

“There’s my little sister. You don’t stop fighting. Now I have to round up a few kiddos for dinner. Take good care of yourself, okay? Get some rest and wake up ready to win. I love you.”

 

“I love you too, Pol. Thank you for everything.”

 

The next morning, Betty woke up feeling a little less brave than she had the night before, but she was determined nonetheless. Now early March, spring was beginning to creep back into Riverdale and the weather was remarkably mild, the last piles of snow slowly melting away into the damp earth. Not quite sundress weather, but Betty opted for a thin cardigan instead of her thick peacoat.

 

She got to school earlier than usual and waited in the teacher’s lounge for the familiar hum of Jughead’s motorbike, a box of please-forgive-me cookies resting in her lap. She knew it wouldn’t be an easy conversation, but the fastest way to Jughead’s heart was through his stomach, and his heart was exactly where she wanted to be. She was sure this time.

 

The staff began to trickle in one by one, all of them eyeing the biscuit tin in Betty’s hands, waiting for her to offer them around. Teachers, they were like vultures. Kevin and Veronica walked in practically arm-in-arm, clearly discussing something of great interest, and both plopped down on the couch next to Betty. Kevin reached for a cookie, Betty smacked his hand away.

 

“Ooo, touchy,” he said, raising his eyebrows at his friend. Betty rolled her eyes.

 

“They’re for Jughead,” she explained.

 

“Um since when are you talking to him again? Unless I’ve missed an incredibly important update in the land of Bughead,” Veronica demanded, sitting up suddenly.

 

“Bughead? Are we in middle school again?” Betty sighed; she had a lot of explaining to do. “It’s a really long story…”

 

“We’re listening,” Kevin hummed.

 

“Can I explain everything later over coffee?”

 

“Make it a glass of wine, and you have a deal,” Veronica replied.

 

The bell signalling five minutes to first period sounded loudly and everyone began shuffling papers and heading to their classrooms.

 

“My house this evening?” Betty proposed, anxiously looking around the room. Still no sign of him.

 

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Veronica was smiling slyly. Kevin just nodded before following the rest of the teachers out of the door.

 

Betty frowned, she hadn’t heard Jughead arrive. She supposed she would just have to catch him at break.

 

JB was absent from her class, again. If nothing else, she figured it was worth making a go of things with Jughead just to get her attendance record back up. Lucas still took work for her, and handed in her homework, but her grades were slipping. Sooner or later Betty wouldn’t have a choice but to put her in detention, even though she knew that wasn’t the best way of getting through to JB. Weatherbee was beginning to notice her prolonged absence in only one class, as well as her quitting the Blue and Gold, and it wouldn’t be long before he would demand an explanation.

 

A student raised their hand, snapping Betty’s gaze away from JB’s empty desk. Class was… tedious. She was distracted, thinking about what she was going to say to Jughead if she ever got the chance. When she got the chance. She gave her class a surprise pop quiz, much to their dismay, and spent the lesson shushing whispers and grading papers. She wondered what Jughead was doing.

 


 

“I’m not going to her class,” JB snapped. She leant back in her chair and put her feet on her brother’s desk. He glared at her and tried to swat them away to no avail.

 

“JB, if I knew that things going sour between Betty and I would risk your grades, I never would have gotten involved with her in the first place.”

 

“Yeah well I’m still not going, I’m pissed at her.” JB folded her arms indignantly, Jughead just sighed.

 

“She’ll put you in detention you know.” She snorted in response. Narrowing his eyes and attempting to get some sort of authority figure grasp back on the situation, he tried again, “I’m serious Jellybean, Betty’s not usually one for discipline, but you’re purposefully pushing her buttons here.”

 

“Like a detention is gonna scare me.”

 

“It will when she won’t write your recommendation for NYU.” Jughead watched his sister’s hardened expression falter for a moment. He knew that getting out of Riverdale meant the world to her, and she wouldn’t knowingly do anything to jeopardize that.

 

“She wouldn’t say no.”

 

“Maybe, but I know if one of my students skipped class for weeks on end I wouldn’t be writing them a glowing report. Just think Jelly. Who are you really punishing here?”

 

Giving her brother one last glare, JB snatched up her backpack with a huff and stormed out of his classroom. Jughead could only hope she was going to English class.

 


 

JB slunk into Betty’s classroom, her eyes glued to the floor, determined not to look at her once-favourite teacher. The class was quiet, everyone had their heads bent over their quiz papers and very few looked up when she came in. She made eye-contact with Lucas and quickly looked away again. He had been dropping by after school to deliver all the English work she had missed, but they hadn’t exactly talked to patch things up. Most nights she didn’t even answer the door and he would just post the work under the front door. The only benefit of seeing him at school was that he wasn’t allowed to wear his Serpents jacket. The sight of it on him made her feel sick.

 

Betty slipped a pop quiz onto the table in front of her with a note attached in her elegant hand — See me afterwards. JB felt nauseous as her stomach lurched forward in protest. Avoiding Betty was one thing, but confrontation was something she wasn’t prepared for. Deep down she knew that her behaviour was completely out of line and she valued Betty’s good opinion above anyone else’s, even Jughead’s, but she was young and bitterness was such an easy emotion to hold onto. She hastily filled in the quiz paper with only half the amount of time as everyone else, her head spinning with the imminent scolding that she was likely about to get. After what seemed like hours, the bell rang and one by one all the other students handed in their papers and filtered out of the classroom. JB stayed where she was, eyes cast down.

 

Finally, the last student left and she was left alone with Betty. She raised her eyes for a second to catch a glimpse of her face, trying to assess her mood. Not that she would be able to tell if Betty was angry, she still wasn’t sure if lovely Miss Cooper could even raise her voice.

 

“Come here please, Jellybean.”

 

It felt like a stone dropped in JB’s stomach. It was the tone of her voice that hurt the most: she wasn’t mad, she was disappointed. And that was a hundred times worse.

 

JB stood in front of her, head cast down slightly like a scolded child.

 

“I know things haven’t been ideal between your brother and I—”JB snorted, that was an understatement. Betty raised her eyebrows at her coldly and she muttered her apology waiting for the teacher to continue.“But that is no excuse for your attendance record of the last few weeks. Frankly, I’m surprised at your immaturity, I expected better of you.”

 

JB winced, there it was.

 

“I’m not going to put you in detention because I know that won’t solve anything or motivate you to buck your ideas up. So, unless you start attending my classes, I’m going to revoke my glowing recommendation letter from your college applications. And that isn’t a call I’m eager to make.”

 

JB gasped. Neverin a million years had she thought it would go there, but Jughead was right. She knew the moment she looked up that Betty wasn’t bluffing. Her jaw was set, determined, and she had an icy look in her green eyes that looked almost wrong on her usually-smiley face.

 

“You can’t do that!” she protested angrily.

 

“I can, and I will,” Betty replied, voice calm as ever, carefully stacking the papers on her desk in a nicely organized pile to take home for grading.

 

“You can’t punish me because you broke up with my brother, it’s not fair.” JB had never been good at accepting responsibility for her behaviour. She always had someone else to blame, like an absent mother, or an alcoholic father, or a brother that didn’t know how to try.

 

“This has nothing to do with Jughead.” JB flinched. “You’re cutting your nose off to spite your face, Jellybean and I’m not going to let you throw everything away over a childish tantrum. You don’t like me? Fine. In a few months you won’t ever have to see me again if you escape this God forsaken town and get into college. But if you screw that up, you’ll be stuck here forever with the knowledge that you could have gotten out if you had just gotten over yourself.”

 

JB opened her mouth to protest, but found that she had nothing to say.

 

“Now, one more absence without a signed explanation as to why and you know what’s going to happen,” Betty warned. JB just snatched up her backpack and stormed out, but she knew tomorrow that desk wouldn’t be empty. That girl was stubborn, but she wasn’t stupid.

 


 

Jughead was greeted after lunch duty by a tin of homemade cookies sitting neatly on his desk. He knew immediately who had put them there and the sight of them irritated him. He didn’t want cookies; he wanted answers. Cracking the lid open to peek inside, the irresistible chocolate scent tempted him to take a bite despite his frustration. Well, maybe he could want answers and cookies. He knew to expect Betty at his apartment after school either tonight or tomorrow. Over the last few months he had picked up on her endearing habits and she always baked when she was building up to something, presenting sweet treats to anyone she was trying to cheer up or seek forgiveness from. The cookies were more obvious to him than a text asking to meet up.

 

More than anything, he wanted to run his hands through her blonde waves and taste her perfume on his tongue as he dragged a stripe along her neck, but he knew that wouldn’t solve anything. If sex worked to solve relationship problems instead of communication, they would have the most well-adjusted relationship in a hundred miles. He just needed to know whether all hope was lost. At least if she decided that she didn’t want him then he could go back to the city never to return. He would just forever be plagued with the knowledge that he almost had Betty Cooper.

 


 

“So, I decided to forgive Archikins,”  Veronica announced triumphantly as she poured everyone a second glass of red wine.

 

“Finally!” Kevin sighed. “The poor man’s been pining for months, if it was anyone other than Archie Andrews, he would have given up weeks ago.”

 

Veronica rolled her eyes but it was hard not to acknowledge his stubborn nature. Maybe it was one of the things she found so endearing about him. To be wanted felt good.

 

“Are you two going to make a go of things?” Betty asked excitedly. She had been waiting for two of her closest friends to get together ever since Veronica arrived in Riverdale, and she needed a distraction.

 

“Well, we’re going out for dinner in Greendale on Friday and if that goes well --”

 

“You’ll fuck.”

 

“Kevin! I don’t sleep with everyone on the first date!” Veronica protested, pouting slightly. Kevin just raised his eyebrows. “Yes, alright, fine. We’ll fuck. Did you have to put it so crudely?”

 

“Awh, I’m so glad V. I think you two will make a great couple.”

 

“Talking about couples…” the brunette turned her attention onto her best friend, taking a long sip of her wine. “What’s going on with you and Jones? I noticed the please-fuck-me-again cookies you had this morning.”

 

Betty sputtered, nearly spitting into her wine glass in surprise. “That’s not what they were!”

 

“So you’re not going to go by his apartment tonight?” she challenged. Betty just took another sip of wine. “HA! I knew it! Everyone knows that you bake cookies if you need a favour or are about to beg for someone’s forgiveness.”

 

“I do not!”

 

“Oh yes you do,” Kevin chimed. “You get our guards down with your heavenly bakes and then you ask us to cover your lunch duty.”

 

“Well, it works,” Betty laughed.

 

“So…” Veronica coaxed. She was already topping up her wine glass. Betty knew both her friends would end up crashing at her house tonight and all their students would get test papers instead of actual lesson plans tomorrow.

 

“So, what?”

 

“So, what’s going to happen with you two?”

 

“I don’t know, I haven’t exactly spoken to him.”

 

“Well, what do you want?” Kevin asked. “If you want to be with him then go for it, but only if you’re one hundred percent sure. You know I love you hun, but you’ve been toying with the poor man’s feelings for far too long.”

 

Betty winced, although she appreciated her friend’s honesty. She had been so wrapped up in her own feelings it was nice to have a little reality check every once in awhile. “I know.” Veronica topped up her wine glass and Betty took a gulp of her liquid courage. “What do you guys think I should do?”

 

“Nope, we’re not doing that,” Kevin protested. “Ronnie’s been dangling herself in front of Archie like a delicious piece of meat for months and I’ve been sneaking round Moose’s in the middle of the night for quick, meaningless fucks. We’re hardly qualified to offer you romantic advice.”

 

“Well aren’t we a bunch of fuck ups,” Veronica snorted, raising her glass before draining it. Betty just laughed.

 

“What did Polly say?” Kevin knew Betty always called her sister when she needed real advice.

 

“She thinks I should go for it. Especially since Jughead offered to stay in Riverdale for me.”

 

“Whoa wait.” Veronica’s words were beginning to slur slightly and Kevin moved the wine bottle away from her. “He said he would stay?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well then… WHY ARE WE EVEN HAVING THIS CONVERSATION ?” she shrieked, leaping up from the couch and almost spilling her wine on the spotless carpet. She snatched up Betty’s coat and began pushing her friend out of her own front door. Betty laughed and tried to protest but Kevin chucked over her boots and before she knew it she was standing on her front porch in her socks while her best friends giggled and peeked gleefully through the windows.

 

“I hate you both!” she called, sitting down on her front steps to pull on her shoes.

 

“You’ll thank us later!” Veronica’s voice was slightly muffled through the front door.

 

Betty pulled her coat tightly around her and thanked God that Jughead’s apartment was only a short walk down the road. When she got to the bottom of the driveway she turned around and looked back through her living room window. Veronica had moved onto her own neglected wine glass, but Kevin was still watching at the window. He smiled at her encouragingly and Betty thought about what he had said about her needing to be one hundred percent sure. She figured she would know for sure when she saw him.

 


 

Jughead had lit another cigarette and was watching the smoke curl up towards the disbaled fire alarm. JB hated it when he smoked inside, but she was studying at Pop’s, and after a couple of sprays of air freshener and a re-attached smoke detector she would be none the wiser. Hopefully. He had been trying to quit, for Betty, but had stopped all his efforts over the last couple of weeks, picking it back up like the chainsmoker he was. She had never asked him to quit, but he thought she would want a boyfriend with clean lungs and an above-average life expectancy. Turns out she didn’t want a boyfriend at all.

 

He had thought that she might come over tonight, but as the minutes ticked by he was convinced that he had spent the better part of his day fooling himself. It was past nine on a Thursday, good girl Betty Cooper would be tucked up in bed reading a book by now with her lesson plans for tomorrow neatly stacked beside her. Jughead, on the other hand, would go to bed wondering which historical documentary to play for his classes. It was a wonder that he was still employed at that school.

 

Taking another long drag on his cigarette before smashing it onto a used paper-plate, he opened the kitchen window. The smoke seemed to pour into the open air like a dam breaking. Jughead waited a couple of minutes before putting the batteries back in the fire alarm. JB wasn’t due back for another couple of hours, her curfew wasn’t until midnight anyway, so Jughead figured he’d shower and scrub away the smell of cigarettes before she used up all the hot water. He never understood why women needed to take so much time in the shower, Betty had been exactly the same.

 

He stood under the stream of water, his face tilted up to catch the drops, as the bathroom began to fill with steam. He noticed that Betty’s vanilla shower cream still stood next to his cheap body wash and had to resist the urge to smell it. He wondered how long JB would put up with his moping before she forced him to throw away everything Betty had ever touched. It was ridiculous, pathetic really. They were never even together, not officially anyway, and yet this felt like the worst break up he had ever had. All the other girls he had just shrugged off, but Betty wasn’t like other girls. He let the water wash over him, relishing in the hot burn for another couple of minutes before he snatched up his towel and headed to his bedroom to dry off. He almost missed the determined knocking at the door. Almost.

 

“Coming!” he called, assuming that JB had forgotten her key as it was approaching ten o’clock. He quickly threw on his old pyjama bottoms and sprayed some air freshener around the living room in  a poor attempt to hide the stench of smoke. They knocked again, louder this time. “Christ JB, don’t you have a key?” he grumbled as he threw the door open.

 

“Hi Jug.”

 

“Betts…” he couldn’t help himself, the familiar nickname rolled off his tongue as he took in her slightly ruffled, but still perfect appearance. Her hair was out of its usual ponytail and she brushed it out of her face with a slight irritation. Her green pea coat didn’t quite go with her pastel pink cardigan and white summery skirt which made Jughead suspect she has left in a hurry, probably before she could change her mind. He noticed her lips were stained with red wine and her cheeks were slightly flushed, but the determined look in her bright green eyes confirmed that she was thinking clearly.

 

Kevin had been right. The moment she laid eyes on Jughead — dark hair still wet from the shower with that surprised look in his blue eyes — she knew. She knew that she wanted to be with him for the rest of her life, at least she knew that she wanted to try. She wanted to reach up on her tip-toes and wrap her arms around his neck, trace her fingers down his bare back, and inhale his smokey scent, but they needed to talk first. There was something about the way he was standing, leaning against the doorframe and blocking the only way into the apartment, that showed he was still very much on the defensive. He crossed his arms, Betty took a deep breath.

 

“I was an idiot,” she began. “I was refusing to see what was right in front of my nose because I was scared. Scared as hell that you were going to leave and I’d be alone all over again. Then I was scared that you were going to stay for me and realise that I’m not what you wanted after all. I just wanted to stay in our little bubble and never come up for air, but that was never going to last.” He was watching her patiently, his blue eyes trained on her green ones, waiting for her to finish. “But I realised that I don’t feel scared when I’m with you, I feel safe, and happy, and I can forget about all the other shit because you’re the only person I want to be around.” She could see the beginning of a smile on his lips, but he bit it back, waiting for her to say it. To say what he had been waiting for since he first laid eyes on her again back in the summer. When everything had been simpler. “I guess what I’m trying to say is stay. Stay here with me because I love you. I really fucking love you, Jughead Jones.”

 

The slight smile broke into a grin. “I love you too, Betty Cooper.”

 

Her lips were on his almost before the words were out of his mouth. Her fingers curled in his damp hair and her tongue flicked over his lips, tasting cigarettes and coffee. He breathed her in as he pulled her inside and closed the door behind them, pushing her against it as he ran his hand under her skirt and up her bare thigh. She moaned against his mouth and the sound made him want to bend her over the kitchen counter, but it had to be different this time. It wasn’t just meaningless sex, not that it really ever was.

 

He broke away, smiling at her little pout and she tried to pull him back to her.

 

“I think we should move into my bedroom,” he murmured, his lips tracing her temple. He felt her shiver under his touch, God he missed making her tremble for him.

 

“Always the gentleman.”

 

Jughead snorted. “I just don’t want JB walking in on our inappropriate behaviour.” He ran his hand up the inside of her thigh to emphasize his point.

 

Betty giggled and smacked his hand away playfully. She kicked off her boots and peeled off her coat, throwing it over the back of the couch like she lived there (Jughead wished she did) and flashed him a brilliant smile before grabbing his hand and pulling him towards his bedroom.

 

The atmosphere felt different in the dim lamplight of Jughead’s bedroom. He watched her let her cardigan drop to the floor slowly, leaving her shoulders bare in her thin white cami. She caught his eye as she pulled the soft fabric over her head, letting it brush every inch of her chest like a kiss.

 

Jughead could taste the anticipation that laced the room, and it tasted like sex. Every time Betty had been in this room she had ended up tangled in the sheets, or pressed against the wall, moaning his name. It had always been fast and hot, over too quickly before reality came crashing down and she was collecting her clothes and disappearing out of the door. But it was different this time.

 

“What?” she whispered. Jughead was staring at her in a way that she had only ever caught glimpses of before, and she had always tried to ignore it. He was looking at her like she was the only woman in the world, the intensity almost made her want to cover her chest with her hands.

 

“Nothing.” He shook his head, a smile playing on his lips. “I just… I think you should pinch me.”

 

She closed the gap between them and wrapped her arms around his neck, standing on her tip-toes so she could brush her lips against his cheek. He was already half undressed and she could feel his heart beating against her own, her skin felt like it was on fire where it touched his. She raised her lips to his again, longing for the burning to continue.

 

“I love you,” she mumbled against his mouth.

 

“I’m never going to get tired of hearing that.”

 

“I love you,” she giggled. “I love you, I love you, I love you.” It felt freeing to say the words out loud, like a weight lifted off her shoulders that she hadn’t even realised that she was carrying until it was gone. One some level, she had known for a long time now that she was in love with Jughead, she just couldn’t let herself admit it. Know that she had, she felt as free as a bird.

 

Jughead pulled her closer and ran his hands up her back, unclasping her bra and discarding it behind him as he gently pushed her towards the unmade bed. She nibbled at his lower lip and he moaned, grabbing her ass and lifting her to him before they both fell into the messy sheets. Betty whimpered as he pulled her skirt down achingly slowly, she could feel the material grazing every inch of her skin and suddenly she was very aware that she was only wearing her lace panties. Jughead kissed her inner thigh, his fingertips dancing across her skin and she squirmed under his touch, her feet pawing at the waistband of his trousers. She could feel him smile against her skin.

 

“Patience,” he whispered, his breath tickling her thigh.

 

“Jug—” Her whine turned into a sharp gasp as he slipped a finger under her panties and stroked it over her. She whimpered and raised her hips to him, eager for more, but he pulled away, raising his finger to his lips instead and sucking off her wetness with a satisfying pop.

 

She squirmed and begged and pleaded for more as he pushed his fingers inside her ran his tongue over her clit. She orgasmed quickly, having been starved of him for so long, and it wasn’t long before they were tangled in the sheets together, moaning each other’s name. It was different from other times, less desperate, more open. Betty could feel the love radiating off Jughead that he had spent the last six months trying to hide beneath the surface and he could sense her giving him all of herself. It was how their first time should have been. No pretenses or stupid rules, just the two of them accepting that they were enough for the other. When he spilled himself inside her, she swore she was reaching out to touch Nirvana.

 

Betty curled up against Jughead, the sheets around their waists, and hummed contentedly. He kissed her forehead and she smiled, peering up at him through her long lashes, trying to drink in this moment so she could remember it forever. Nothing was going to make her get up and leave this time.

 

“I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD JUGHEAD!” A familiar voice shouted from the living room. “I TOLD YOU NOT TO SMOKE INSIDE!”

 

“Shit!”

Chapter Text

The last month had been a beautiful chaotic mess. Every morning Jughead woke up beside Betty and pulled her a little closer, whispering sweet words into her ear until the snooze on the alarm went off for the second time and she dragged him out of bed. Jellybean would watch and rolled her eyes as she dug into the breakfast that Betty had somehow managed to whip out of thin air. It felt so weirdly domestic but he couldn’t help but smile every time he got to wrap his arms around her and kiss her so hard she nearly dropped the frying pan.

 

Rumors were circulating fast amongst the Riverdale High students, not that it was a surprise to either of them. If there was anything students loved more than their own gossip, it was the ability to get in on what the teachers were talking about, lingering outside of doorways just to catch a few words of whatever undercover world they thought existed at school. People saw them riding together in Betty’s car (and JB frantically sprinting out of it just to get away from them) despite how professional the two tried to keep it on school grounds.

 

Once, Jughead had overhead two of his students arguing about who made the first move, which, while funny, had absolutely nothing to do with the implications of the Cold War on modern day country relations. As he had handed back their essays, Jughead couldn’t help but bite out, “Speculating on my relationship isn’t going to get that C- to improve before the final, Jeremy. Maybe you should be focusing on that instead.”

 

Absolute chaos had ensued after that. Kids screaming, laughing, Jeremy’s beetroot red blush. Trying to teach anything the rest of the day had been impossible but it was well worth it to see his expression. Even if he got a scolding later that day from Betty.

 

Which was how he had ended up agreeing to come to Kevin’s teacher appreciation brunch. The PTA had helped put it together, but Kevin spearheaded most of the project, dragging both Betty and Veronica to his house for late night crafting projects that left them both slightly intoxicated and exhausted. 

 

“Why are we here?” Jughead groaned, fiddling with the awkwardly speared fruit kabob that Kevin has proudly set on his plate a few moments ago. Normally he wasn’t one to complain about his cantaloupe and watermelon touching but this entire thing seemed like a farce. The way they could really be appreciated was a sorely needed pay raise not some rich Northside parents throwing store bought vegetable platters their way.

 

The entire thing reminded him a lot of how the history club at the college he used to teach at would go. Too many people brought napkins and cups and not enough people brought pizza. Only this time there was no pizza at all. There was only fruit and misshapen star cookies and two waffle irons that everyone was trying to use. The sentiment was nice, in theory. Teachers could always use a little appreciation, but he would much prefer eating some of Betty’s overtly cheesy bacon scrambled eggs than whatever powdered eggs Martha from the PTA was currently cooking up in the teachers lounge microwave.

 

“Because it’s teacher appreciation week, Juggie. And we’re being appreciated.”

 

Jughead certainly didn’t feel that appreciated. If anything he felt sort of tired of the mockery that his job had become. He was content to stay here, because this was where Betty was, and he didn’t exactly mind enriching the minds of the youth. It was invigorating in its own way as he helped ignite the love of the past in young minds. But some days he missed the rigorous debates and constant excitement that came from college academia. It always felt so good to get into an argument with a fellow scholar about the modern implications of some little known revolution. The collaboration. The curiosity.

 

The significantly better paycheck.

 

But being here wasn’t all bad. He was making friends and he had finally managed to fix up his fractured relationship with his sister, catching himself a stunner of a girlfriend as well. It was just some days, as he started at the wilting paper cut out T-E-A-C-H-E-R hanging right next to a hurriedly scrippled “appreciation” that he got a little melancholy.

 

“Yeah. I guess we are.”

 

Betty frowned, tangling their fingers together and giving his hand a squeeze. “I know it’s not what you’re used to, but it’s nice in its own way, right? I don’t ever remember giving teacher appreciation gifts when I was in college.”

 

“I got one or two, but never anything big, and it was usually from kids who were trying to kiss up so they didn’t end up failing the final exam.”

 

“That sounds a lot like it is now,” she teased.

 

Before he could respond, Kevin appeared before them, a brilliant smile on his face. “Look at you two lovebirds. You’re practically glowing. It’s making me sick to my stomach. But at least Betty isn’t so doom and gloom anymore. There’s only so much I can handle from both you and Veronica sitting there in misery. I hope you manage to keep her happy, Jones.”

 

He half expected to say something snarky, to squeak out a few passive aggressive words that ended with Betty elbowing him so hard in the rib cage he lost his breath. Instead, Jughead gave a half smile and nodded. “Yeah. Me too.”

 

He could feel Betty start to blush beside him and pride swelled in his chest. There was nothing he wanted more in this world than to make her happy, to see her smile, to hold her close and kiss her a million times over until the only thing he could see from her was that pretty little grin and the air was filled with a never ending chorus of her laughter.

 

When Kevin was gone, they were swooped upon again. This time by Veronica Lodge and Archie Andrews. They were walking hand in hand, thankfully having come to some arrangement after their odd confusing relationship. Not that Jughead really had any room to talk when him and Betty had been dancing around each other for most of the school year.

 

It was nice to see them happy. It was nice to feel happy instead of standing on the precipice of disaster and waiting for the next terrible thing to happen.

 

“Betty! Happy teacher appreciation week!” Veronica threw her arms around her friend’s neck, kissing each of her cheeks once while Archie and Jug exchanged awkward head nods as they clung desperately to their cups of juice.

 

“Happy teacher appreciation week, V.” From her bag, Betty produced a little package of individually wrapped miniature cakes with the words I appreciate you with a little smiley face written on them in neat gold cursive frosting. She had been up for the last two days making them. Not that Jug was much help other than a taste tester who tasted a lot of frosting and tested nearly half a dozen mini cakes. 

 

She gifted one to Archie too, who took it with a quick hug and eyed it hungrily. When Veronica made no move to stop him, he unfurled the little twist tie and began breaking off pieces of it, uncaring that his fingers were currently bright blue. Jughead wondered how they might look painted on his guitar.

 

“So I had an amazing idea,” Veronica started, “What if you and me and our boys had a double date this weekend! We’ve never been able to go on one before. It’ll be exciting!”

 

Archie choked slightly on his cake, clearly not in the know of his girlfriend’s horrifying plan, and Jughead immediately blanched, groaning as he tried to imagine trying to hold small talk with Veronica. It wasn’t that they didn’t get along. He didn’t hate her. They said hello in the hallways and went about their business existing in Betty’s general sphere, but sitting beside her at some sort of restaurant and listening to her prattle on about the newest designer handbag made him want to gag. He wanted to object but his girlfriend was staring daggers that were sharp enough to kill. 

 

Archie awkwardly offered him a piece of cake, which he took grateful to be able to use his mouth for something other than digging himself into a hole impossible to get out of.

 

Smiling brightly, Betty nodded, clasping her hands together in excitement. “That sounds amazing. Maybe we could go to Pop’s and then see a movie or something? Jug loves films and you do too so it could be exciting. I don’t know how many times you’ve gone to the drive in before.”

 

“Not too many. I think Kevin took me once. I was thinking we could go out on the town since we never get to, but there’s something that appeals to me about the small town charm of a diner and drive in double date. Count us in. Right, Archikins?”

 

Her boyfriend nodded easily, quickly succumbing to the plans thrust upon him as he took another bite of the cake. Veronica seemed only mildly perturbed as she turned back and squeezed Betty’s hands. “Perfect. The boys are all in!”

 

Jughead wanted to argue that he was absolutely positively not all in. He was only half in, if anything. One foot in. Half a toe maybe. The drive-in had been one of his favorite places in the world growing up and the thought of sharing it with Veronica made him sort of sick.

 

“I’ll check out what movies are playing and Jug and I will pick one out. How does that sound?” Betty offered, trying her best to stay moderate when she could no doubt tell that her boyfriend was less than thrilled by these developments.

 

Veronica, apparently oblivious or choosing to be, simply smiled and nodded. “Perfect. We’ll plan on this Saturday then. Can’t wait to hang out with you both. Toodles, Bettykins. Bye, bye Jughead. I look forward to getting to know Mr. Jones a little bit more than just gossip about how strict of a grader he is.”

 

When she winked at him, Jughead nearly threw the last of his half wilted fruit kabob in the trash and ran as fast as he could for the safety of his classroom. When Archie was finally dragged off, Betty turned to him, apologetic as she threaded their fingers together.

 

“Don’t be mad. Veronica really wanted to.”

 

He sighed, taking a deep breath to help steady his nerves. Before he would have said no. Before he would have lashed out and stomped away in a fit of overdramatic angst just to prove a point. But that was before and this was now and he wanted this with Betty to work. Which they both knew meant making difficult sacrificing. She was doing so much for him already and this was important for both of them. So, instead he asked, “Do you want to?”

 

The question surprised her and for a moment he watched her face contort through a series of strange and perplexed expressions, before finally settling on a nod. “Yes. I do. I want this. It feels normal, real, and makes us seem official, doesn’t it? We don’t want to be hidden anymore and coming to school together and having dinner and all of that feels good, Jug, but I want us to go on dates out in public with our friends and do things like that. Things that couples do a lot. I think it’s important, for me, so I can get used to it again. I haven’t really done anything like that in awhile. That was the last person Veronica and I ever went on a double date with. But it’s you and we’re something really special. I want to share that with my friends.”

 

Who was he to deny her when she’d morphed into an English teacher right in front of him and given him such a speech? Sometimes when she got like this he wanted to lift her up and hoist her legs around his waist and walking her right into the nearest wall. Something told him the principal wasn’t going to tolerate or appreciate that kind of public affection in a space that was supposed to be a safe haven for everyone, but it was almost worth it. Almost.

 

“Okay, then we’ll do it. How bad could it be?”

 

Betty’s eyes lit up and she quickly pressed a kiss to his cheek when she was sure no one was looking. “You’re the best, Jug. I promise you won’t regret it.”

 

“Yeah I’m sure.”

 

Soon enough the bell rang and the teachers scattered to their classrooms, each carting around a present from the lounge. There would still be leftover cookies and treats for them during lunch and breaks which would be sorely needed if the headache he already had after first period was any indication. Halfway through second period, Betty had sent him the listings for the drive-in showings. They were still playing classics. Rebel Without a Cause, American Beauty, and even The Godfather. She had cryptically explained that they couldn’t see the last one, but either of the first two options were completely on the table. Feeling bold, Jughead chose American Beauty which earned him a series of hearts from his girlfriend.

 

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.



-----------------

 

Determined to have the best double date of her life, Betty probably spent longer than she should have getting ready for it. She felt like she was in high school again as Veronica sent her a few pictures of outfits, many of which she had to veto for being impractical for such a simple night. Finally it was time to do her hair. It took twenty minutes to decide if she was going to do it in her traditional ponytail, or let it down and feel her waves tonight. It wasn’t until she felt Jughead’s arms wrap around hers as he pressed little kisses to the side of her neck that she felt confident enough to keep it down.

 

“Like my hair, handsome?” she murmurdered, leaning back into his touch.

 

Jughead grinned, nipping her earlobe, “Absolutely. I think it would look better if I had you pinned to the bed and it was spread around you like some sort of halo and I was fucking you so hard that you forgot how to breath.”

 

“Don’t tease me like that,” she groaned.

 

“Well I’m sure you could arrange it so we end up not being too busy tonight. Wouldn’t Veronica understand if you just wanted to spend the night at home with your loving, caring, adoring boyfriend.”

 

His hand was inching up her shirt with every word he said and every breath she took felt labored as she tried desperately to keep herself in line, to focus on what tonight meant, how important it was to walk out with him arm and arm and proudly proclaim to all of Riverdale that this was her boyfriend, that her and Jughead Jones were going to be together for a very, very long time.

 

“No.” She finally managed to pull herself away, fluffing her skirt back out and tucking her little sweater and peter pan collar combo back in. “Are you trying to seduce me away from this date night?”

 

“Only if it was working.”

 

Betty couldn’t help but laugh as she smacked him gently. “Stop it or I’m going to put lipstick on you in retribution.”

 

“Perfection pink is absolutely my color, baby, I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.”

 

From the other room, they could both hear Jellybean groaning, typing away on her computer as she frantically tried to finish up one of the six study guides she had been handed recently. She was on edge anyway, waiting to hear back from a few of the colleges she applied to. For most of them she had already received an acceptance letter, which was reassuring, but they were still all anxiously waiting to hear back from NYU. 

 

“You guys are disgusting,” JB protested, “Can you go on your date so I can be left home alone in peace and do what I want?”

 

“What are you going to do, throw a wild house party?” Jughead teased.

 

“Bitch, I might!”

 

Betty had to stop herself from scolding JB on her bad language, silently reminding herself that out of school she was just Betty and not Miss Cooper . Instead, she just rolled her eyes and swatted Jughead away before applying the last coat of her mascara. Her hair looked good down and she was feeling cute and confident. Maybe they’d have a little fun under the blanket in the back of the truck during the movie. Archie had offered it up, claiming it was the perfect way to view the movies. She could tell Jug was anxious about being without a means of escape but he was doing so good for her already. There would definitely be a reward in the form of a little under the covers feel up.

 

“You’re both pretty. Now Veronica said her and Archie are leaving so it’s time for us to roll out. You ready for a night you’ll never forget, Jones?”

 

“It is certainly going to be a night.”

 

That was likely the most optimism she was going to get out of him and for now she was willing to take it. They quickly gathered up everything they needed, her purse, his wallet, and some extra cash so they could splurge a little on popcorn and candies. It was perfect timing, because just as they were leaving the house with one more promise from JB that she was an adult and everything was going to be fine while they went out and enjoyed themselves, Archie and Veronica were pulling up.

 

“Hop in! This is going to be so exciting, right?”

 

“Yeah, so exciting,” Jughead mumbled beside her. She shot him a look, squeezing his hand gently, but obviously in warning that if he didn’t shape up a little bit, he wasn’t going to get anything tonight, including his much sought after snuggles. She had even brought the most comfortable blanket she owned.

 

After everyone was piled into the truck, the group made their way to Pop’s to start the evening. It was nice to sit across from Veronica and Archie, watching the gentle way they touched each other, the intense look of desire he always gave her when she turned away. Betty wondered what her and Jughead looked like to other people looking in. She was used to the way his gaze lingered on the curve of her neck or the pull of her lips, but maybe someone else might view at as something more. Something sexy. She flushed at the idea.

 

Veronica was still the most dressed up person at the table with a string of pearls around her neck and a cute little clutch sitting beside her. At least Betty had managed to talk her out of anything more than kitten heels and a tight little skirt. The last thing she needed was having to catch her best friend as she fell face first into a pile of popcorn at the movies.

 

“This is going to be so fun,” Veronica said with a smile, clinging onto Archie’s arm. “A real true double date with our men. Archie and I have been spending a lot of time together. I was formally introduced to Fred a few days ago.”

 

Betty tried not to dwell too hard on something like that. Of course she wouldn’t be meeting Jughead’s parents, given the situation there, but she wondered if he felt shafted that he hadn’t been introduced to Alice and Polly as officially her boyfriend. Maybe they were going to slow. She needed the time to process everything, that fear still lingering at the edge of her heart, but suddenly she was worried maybe a reminder of their steady pace would upset Jughead.

 

She looked to her side and saw him sitting there, half staring out the window as he took drinks of his milkshake. He looked bored if anything and that helped calm her fears even just a little bit. 

 

“That’s exciting. I bet Fred just loved you, V.”

 

“He did,” Archie laughed, speaking up for the first time since they’d all tried to discuss what milkshakes they were getting. “She won him over. Not that it’s hard with how charming she is.”

 

That earned him a laugh and a soft kiss. Veronica was practically sitting in his lap, uncaring about how uncomfortable they might make the people around them. Betty tried not to squirm in her seat as she watched them interact.

 

“That’s great. Fred is a really swell guy and I’m not surprised he did. You’re great. That’s why you’re my best friend.”

 

Veronica beamed, reaching out to squeeze her friend’s hand. “Thanks B. You’re the best too. How did Mama Cooper take Jughead?”

 

“Oh.” She paused, taking a deep swallow of her milkshake as she tried to think about how best to answer. Would her friends judge her for the pace she had decided to set? Would Jughead?

 

Mouth dry, Betty was at a loss for words. Just as she was about to crawl under the table and pray that no one tried to pull her out, Jughead decided to pull himself out of his melancholic state and answer for her. “I haven’t been introduced to her officially as Betty’s boyfriend yet. Which is fine. I don’t need her approval to confirm that Betty and I are in a good place. I know that because I know us. We’re good.”

 

God she loved him. Jughead was the best person in the entire world, the sweetest man in the entire world, a gift to her. She leaned over and put a kiss to his cheek, squeezing his hand. Just like that everything felt at ease again. He was right. They were them and there was no need to define what they were doing in terms of Veronica and Archie. They were two entirely different relationships with different standards and backstories. Besides, Fred Andrews was like an adorable kitten next to the lioness that was Alice Cooper.

 

“How does Jellybean feel about everything?” Archie asked. The first of his questions for tonight and of course it was a hard hitting one. Leave it to the human golden retriever to try and make lively conversation and make things a little awkward.

 

They had done a bad job of hiding their relationship at the start and Jellybean was well aware of all the ups and downs they had experienced as of late. It was a bit of a mess in terms of everything, but she had been there through it all, a cheerleader in the background, even if it had put her and Betty at odds at one point. She was fully supportive, behind them one hundred percent. Maybe a little too supportive sometimes if what Betty heard in the hallways was any indication.

 

“She’s good. She’s happy. I think we’re the least of her concerned right now, though,” Jughead laughed always lighting up when he got the chance to talk about his sister. “College acceptance letters are coming in slow and steady and every day she gets a little more on edge. If we don’t find out answers soon I think she might grow three heads and start guarding the gates of hell like Cerberus.”

 

Archie smiled and nodded good naturedly, pretending like knew that this guy was referring to the three headed dog that Hades had in hell. “That’s great, man. I’m glad to hear it. Sometimes you never know how people will react, especially since she’s so young. And she’s really talented. I hope she keeps pursuing music.”

 

“She’s going to!” Betty said, excited. “That’s what she wants her major to be wherever she goes. Music. No matter what I know she’s going to do amazing things with it. She can do anything she puts her mind to. I believe in her.”

 

She felt Jughead’s eyes on her, watching her like she had just risen up from the sea like Aphrodite. It made her cheeks blush and her toes curl in her shoes. “Thank you. I’m sure she would appreciate it. She pretends like she knows everything and then hide her face as she tears up when she thinks no one is watching.”

 

“Seems like a Jones family trait.”

 

“Hey!” Jughead protested. “Don’t be mean to me out in public.”

 

“Why? You’re always mean to me!”

 

“I’m nice to you.”

 

“Since when?”

 

It devolved into a fit of laughter, teasing as she relaxed against him, finally at ease as they tangled their hands together over her shoulder. This felt good, right, sitting across the table from her two best friends who had finally worked it all out. Maybe everything would be good. Maybe this was the beginning of the happy ending they all deserved.

 

Or maybe there were no happy endings. Maybe this was only a happy beginning with an even better middle. 

 

She was overflowing with happiness and joy as the burgers came around. Jughead and Archie each split theirs in half and offered each other to share, arguing about if mushrooms belong on burgers and eventually agreeing that if nothing else you couldn’t find beer battered fries better than Pop’s anywhere around.

 

Betty and Veronica shared a few stories from work, which was occasionally interjected by Jughead’s loud ranting about some student’s essay. It was surprising to find that this was where him and Veronica had common ground.

 

“The unoriginal ideas! And the blatant copying from each other’s notebooks. It’s like they think I can’t tell their calculations apart,” she scoffed, spinning her fry around in the ketchup. “It’s absolutely appalling, don’t you think? It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.”

 

Jughead nodded in agreement. “I know high school and college kids aren’t held to the same expectations but if I got one of these essays in even my History 101 course I would have pulled them aside and discussed getting a tutor. It makes me really sad about what the future holds for some of them. I mean, in some cases I understand. You talk with the kids and they’re more than willing to learn and improve but there are those privileged kids that I know have access to things and they take it all for granted, instead choosing to just pass by until they can pay someone else to write their paper. Acting like I’m not fully aware this is Henry from third period’s work and not theirs.”

 

“I admit I was one of those kids growing up. Not paying someone to do my work, God no I’m not stupid and I’m mucher smarter than that, but I never realized what I had until I started missing it. I wish back then that I had been a little more grateful for every silver spoon I got fed with.”

 

“It’s good you realize that,” he offered her a half smile, “That’s a lot of growth. I admit I walked around with a chip on my shoulder a lot longer than I should have. Maybe I still do. It’s hard sometimes.”

 

It was strange, to see them regard each other with understanding, but Betty was thrilled by the progress. She felt like she was practically glowing by the time that food was done and paid for and they were on their way to the movies.

 

They got a good spot not too close but nowhere near cars bigger than them. The boys set up blankets and pillows as Veronica and Betty went to gather popcorn. As they stood in line, Veronica turned to her friend and smiled.

 

“You’re so happy with him. And he seriously looks at you like you hung the moon. You’re a lucky girl, Betty Cooper.”

 

She blushed, but couldn’t help but grin back at her. “Maybe. I think the same thing of him. He’s really helped break me out of my shell and even though I’m absolutely terrified, I feel okay going forward. I feel reassured by him, that no matter what, we’re going to be doing this together. Every time I get scared he’s going to be right by my side to pull me back in. It’s okay if we move at our own pace. We’re doing things our way and that’s all that matters, you know?”

 

“Yeah it is. That’s all that’s important, B. I’m so happy. I’m so proud. Now come on. Let’s get snacks so we can feed our hungry boys and keep them from rioting in the middle of this place.”

 

They came back with snacks overfilling their arms. Popcorn to share, sodas for everyone, and a few sweets that made them happy. Betty and Jughead curled up under her blanket, tangling themselves together so she was hallway in his lap. They had a little more public decency than Veronica and Archie, who were practically spooning already.

 

“I love you,” Betty whispered sweetly, kissing the shell of his ear.

 

Jughead smiled, squeezing her thigh under the blanket, rubbing slow and steady circles. “What a coincidence.”

 

“Oh yeah? Any reason?”

 

“Yeah. Because I love you too.”

 

Archie groaned. “Can you two not be disgusting over there? I’m trying to digest my popcorn in peace.”

 

“I know something that can help with that,” Veronica beamed and reached inside of her too small yet seemingly never ending purse and pulled out a small bottle of vodka. “What’s the fun in being adults if you can’t sneak something into the movies.”

 

“Veronica!” Betty gasped. “We can’t do that. This is a public place. We’re teachers!”

 

“And you’re no fun. Archiekins do a shot with me.”

 

Betty watched as the two took half shots from the cap and felt Jughead give her a little squeeze. “Live a little Cooper. I’ll drive home. Get drunk with your friends. I’m sure I’ll thoroughly enjoy carrying you're wasted ass to bed.”

 

She wanted to argue at first, but the challenge presented was too difficult to argue. She wanted to be right and prove him wrong. Betty Cooper was someone who could have fun, so she grabbed the bottle and took a drink. Veronica and Archie clapped for her only to be shushed by a couple a few cars down. It made her feel like a teenager, laughing with her friends in the back of a pickup truck while an old movie played, wrapped tightly in her boyfriend’s arms.

 

Tomorrow, she’d probably feel terrible, but tonight she felt like the luckiest woman alive.