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Betty stared at her reflection as her makeup artist applied the final touches of her mascara. She was set to have an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, and she couldn't remember a time when she had felt less excited about anything in her life than this. She sighed as Rose smiled.

"You're through, Betty," she said, and Betty forced her lips to quirk upwards, smiling back as much as she could at Rose; after all, it wasn't her makeup artist's fault that she was so tired.

"Thank you, Rose," she said. She stood from the chair she was sitting in and began the walk out to the stage that housed Ellen, practicing the box breathing her therapist had taught her in that session all those months ago. Once the bright lights emanating from the stage hit her, she took a steadying breath, painted a smile on her face, and walked out onto the stage to thunderous applause.

XXX

"You did great, B," Ronnie, her best friend, and manager, said.

She smiled slightly; eyes trained on the scenery passing them by as their car drove down the road.

"Thanks, Ron," she murmured. She didn't have the heart to tell her best friend that she didn't care about the interview, not one damn bit. She knew Ronnie would be disappointed in herself if she was; after all, Ronnie had worked extremely hard to secure her a spot on the famous talk show host's show. She didn't want to be the one to burst her bubble at a job well down. Curling her nails into her palms discreetly, she sought out the familiar sting that always brought her comfort when she felt like she was drowning in the black abyss.

Betty Cooper had been America's Sweetheart for as long as she could talk. Growing up in the spotlight hadn't been easy and there were a handful of years that she had rebelled against the harsh reality. She partied with the best of them, spending many a night blacked out on couches of people she didn't know the name to. Then, there was the huge Chuck Clayton debacle. He had been her costar in the television series that had finished shooting three months prior and, while famous in his own right, he was a class A asshole. He was pushy and needy, always demanding that Betty be his arm candy to premieres because it would make them look good; make him look good.

She still remembered the night he took her virginity vividly. She had been a little less than sober and consent was dubious at best, but he was…whatever the fuck he was to her, so she supposed that's what was supposed to happen. Just the thought of him inside her had her tail-spinning and she turned to Ronnie.

"What else is on the itinerary for today?"

Ronnie consulted her planner, making Betty smile slightly; the brunette was never seen without it.

"Well, you have lunch with Archie at three and then I figured a trip to the spa? You've earned it, B," she replied sincerely, and Betty nodded.

Archie Andrews was one of the only few people she trusted in the industry. Small-town boy turned musician and he was every woman's dream. At one point, when the rumor mill had been spinning mercilessly, people thought Archie and Betty were dating and that in itself was laughable. He was charming, in the good boy way that he was, but he was definitely not her type. Besides, he had long since harbored a silent crush on her best friend, too scared to say anything and jeopardize his friendship with Betty, even though she had blatantly told him it wouldn't. If anyone deserved happiness, it was Ronnie and Archie. They had seen Betty at some of her lowest lows, and some of her highest highs. They held her hand after Chuck took her virginity, letting her cry even though she wasn't sure why she was crying. It wasn't rape. It wasn't. Archie had threatened to beat the shit out of him, but Betty declined, simply saying if she hadn't wanted her virginity taken, then she should have said no. The looks of heartache both Ronnie and Archie had given her were enough for her to dig her nails into her palms and change the topic.

"Lunch sounds nice," Betty agreed, leaning her head against the window. She really just wanted to go to her yoga studio and get in a class before she went for her daily five-mile run, but she knew that'd have to wait. Veronica would kill her if she didn't have the lunch with Archie, not to mention the fact that she actually wanted to see her friend. So, she just sat back in her seat and let the driver drive them to the sushi restaurant they typically visited when seeing each other.

XXX

"I saw you on Ellen. You looked sad." Archie commented thirty minutes later before taking a sip of his tea.

Betty blinked as she took a sip of her water. "Why would you say that?"

He snorted. "Are you forgetting that I've seen you at your saddest, Betty?"

She sighed. "Archie, I'm fine. Just a bit tired. After the release of the show calms down and all the promotional aspects are a little less heavy, I have a bit of time for a break. I'm going to make it count."

"Is Chuck going to be with you?" Archie asked carefully, but Betty saw the way his jaw tensed.

"No," she said softly. "He starts filming his new movie in England and he'll be gone for three months. So, I'll have some time to myself."

Archie nodded approvingly before opening his mouth. He seemed like he was choosing his words with care.

"I'm going back to my hometown for a few weeks, to see some family and friends. I have a break in my tour, and I want you to come with me.

Betty wracked her brain, puzzled. "You want me to come with you to Riverdale?"

Archie nodded earnestly. "You're my best friend Betty, and I've already talked to Ronnie about it. She agrees that it's a good idea. Hell, she even wants to come."

"She does?" Betty asked in surprise. Veronica was a born and bred Manhattan elite. She had a very hard time imagining her in a small town like Riverdale.

"Yeah, well," Archie began sheepishly. "Ever since your attempt, she has had difficulty letting you be out of her sight. As have I."

Betty sighed. None of this was news to her and her eyes flickered down to her wrist where her scar was being covered by her sweater.

"I know, Arch," she said softly.

"Just, think about it?" Archie pleaded, and she found herself nodding.
XXX

Soon enough, Betty found herself boarding a private plane with Archie and Veronica in tow, on their way to Riverdale, the town with pep!

As they got into the rental car Veronica had personally ordered, Betty peered out as their surroundings flashed by them. As far as she could look, she saw woods. It would be a nice place to run, she thought to herself.

"-And Jughead will be there." Archie was saying, and Betty blinked, bringing herself back to her present moment.

"Who's Jughead?" She asked. "And, where will he be?"

"Oh, sorry, Betty. Jughead is my childhood best friend and one of the main reasons I wanted to come back and visit Riverdale. He's currently working on his novel and said he needed a break right around the time that I did so thought we could meet up. He's going to be at Pop's, a diner that we used to frequent a lot as kids, tonight," Archie explained, and Betty nodded. It all sounded very homey. Cute and quaint in the way that only small towns could be.

The driver dropped off the three friends at Betty and Veronica's hotel, (Archie was going to be staying with his mom), and they made their way to their floor. After telling her two best friends she'd meet them for dinner, Betty walked into her room and shut the door, taking a look around. It was definitely different than any hotel she had been in elsewhere and she snorted. What the hell was she doing here? Besides running? Sighing, she sat down on the bed and threaded her fingers through the comforter, taking a small solace in how comfortable it seemed to be.

Well, since she was here and there was nothing she could do about it, she might as well make the best of her time. After all, she was Betty Cooper. Fucking resilient as they came. She began to get ready for dinner, wondering just what this trip would bring.

Author notes: Jughead next chapter. Would love to know what you think.

Chapter Text

Betty met Archie and Veronica in the lobby of the hotel, smile firmly intact. She may not be sure what the fuck she was doing in Riverdale, but she wasn't going to hurt her two best friends, either. They smiled back at her.

"You look great, B," Ronnie said after giving her a gentle hug. Betty's smile felt a bit more natural this time as she looked down at her outfit. Loose, black sweater; grey leggings; and a pair of ballet flats. She was comfortable which, in her opinion, was all that mattered while she was on break.

"Thanks, Ron," she replied, stepping up to give Archie his hug next. It wasn't like the three friends hadn't just seen each other a couple of hours ago but ever since that night that Veronica and Archie found her bleeding in her tub, the two of them had felt the need to make sure she was still existing, and she would do that for them, no matter how it made her feel. It was the least she owed them at this point. After pulling back from Archie, she looked at him.

"Where is this diner?" Betty asked curiously. She knew that Archie had called it Pop's but that's all she knew about it, apart from the fact that he went there with his childhood best friend, Jughead. Who named their kid Jughead? Must be a nickname. She shook the thoughts out of her mind, reminding herself that she did not even know the guy and he would probably appreciate it if she did not judge him based off his name. She looked back at Archie expectantly.

"Pop's is on what's considered, or used to be considered, the Northside. Now it's just in the center of town," he replied, and she nodded, wondering briefly why there was even a portion of the town called 'the Northside', but didn't ask. Every place had secrets. Just look at New York. Betty followed Archie and Veronica outside, pausing when they reached a Pontiac instead of the car they drove in. Quirking an eyebrow, she looked at her two friends questioningly. It was Archie who spoke up.

"This used to be my dad's car. He left it to me in his will," he explained, and Betty felt her throat clog. Archie had lost his dad at the height of his career. Some kid who took his father's car out for a joyride ended up hitting him on the side of the road and he had succumbed to his injuries. She knew Archie missed him every day; his third album was dedicated to him.

"He'd be proud of you, Arch," she said softly, squeezing his forearm. Veronica nodded, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"Just like we are," she said.

Archie smiled. "Thanks guys. Now, let's go. I want to introduce you to my friend."
XXX

Pop's could only be described as retro, Betty thought. From its vinyl booth seats to the jukebox in the corner of the room, it was very retro. And, she thought, she loved every bit of it. She followed Archie to a booth in the back where a guy was sitting. All that she saw of him from first glance was the fact that he was wearing a crown beanie of some sort, a black jacket, and combat boots. Very Donnie Darko.

"Jug!" Archie called, and the guy looked up, crooked smile on his lips.

"Hey, Arch," he said, getting up to clap a hand on his shoulder. "It's been too long."

Betty painted a smile on her face, Alice Cooper's voice in her ear about first impressions being lasting ones and held out her hand. "Nice to meet you, Jughead."

His eyes did the familiar sweep over her in the way that most people did when they realized, holy shit, Betty Cooper is talking to me, but, to her relief, he didn't say anything other than, "nice to meet you, too, Betty." Then, he introduced himself to Veronica and they all sat down.

"Okay, so how have you been man?" Archie asked, and Jughead grinned.

"Good. Dealing with the typical writer's block shit right now and just needed a break. You?" Jughead asked before flagging down a waitress who came and took their drink orders, eyes widening momentarily on Betty and Archie. Thankfully, she didn't say anything and just went to place their orders in.

"I'm good," Archie replied. "Just on a break from tour and wanted to come home for a few weeks."

Jughead nodded. "Yeah, Riverdale isn't the same without it's very own superstar."

"Says the famous author." Archie remarked.

"Not famous yet and not sure I want to be," Jughead shrugged.

"Trust me, it's not all it's cracked up to be," Betty said softly.

Jughead's eyes flickered to her, a soft frown tugging at his lips, but then he was looking back at Archie, and Betty quickly dismissed the idea that he felt bad for her. He didn't even know her. When the waitress came back with their drinks, she bit her lip, before posing a question.

"Betty Cooper?" She asked, and Betty smiled.

"Guilty."

"Do…do you think I could get a picture? It's not very often that we have famous people in tiny Riverdale." She said, and Betty curled her nails into her palms, before taking a breath and nodding.

"Sure," she smiled before standing up.

"Do you want me to take it?" Veronica asked, grimacing slightly at Betty. She knew how much she wanted a break right now. Betty smiled back slightly, a simple, "it's okay". The waitress nodded and handed her the phone, smiling before Veronica quickly snapped the photo and handed her the phone back. Betty sat back down.

"Thank you, honey," the waitress said, and Betty nodded, smiling tightly.

"No problem." Betty whispered.
XXX

The four of them walked the mostly empty streets of Riverdale and Betty understood why Archie had picked this time of night to get dinner: no one else would be around to spot them. She tucked her hands into her jacket pockets, burying her face into the knit of her scarf as they kept walking. She noticed that Archie and Veronica were walking ahead of her and Jughead and smiled slightly.

"I think we're being ditched," Jughead said in a whisper.

"I won't tell if you won't tell," she whispered back, and felt her heart warm when he chuckled.

They fell silent as they walked but it wasn't an uncomfortable one; there was no need to fill it with meaningless words right now and Betty was grateful for that. Sometimes, when the noise of the world became too much, she just wanted to shut it out, if only for a moment.

"I know what you mean," Jughead said, and she blinked. Had she said that out loud?

"What?" Betty asked in confusion.

"When the noise in my world becomes too much I shut it out by writing. Whether it's another chapter for my novel or a short story, I always find ways to deal with the encroaching noise," he explained, and she nodded. Guess she did say that out loud. She bit her lip, trying to think of how to phrase what she wanted to say.

"I've been running from noise my whole life," she settled on eventually. It wasn't enough to tell him that she was a mess, but it was enough to let him know that she understood where he was coming from. She could feel his eyes on her and looked forward steadfastly.

"And, how's that working out for you?" Jughead asked curiously, and she chuckled.

"Ask me again by the end of this trip."
XXX

They ended up at a bar called the Whyte Wyrm and Betty took in the atmosphere. Smoke and alcohol permeated the room but that didn't seem to bother anyone so she wouldn't let it bother her. She followed everyone to a table in the corner, taking a seat besides Jughead after a slight hesitation. Just then, a girl with vibrant pink hair walked up to them.

"Jones," she greeted.

"Topaz." Jughead nodded at her before her eyes traveled around the table and landed on Archie.

"Holy shit, red," she greeted him with a hug. Archie laughed and returned it. "Long time."

"Too long, Toni. How's Cheryl these days?"

"My wife is good," Toni said slyly, and Betty watched as Archie's face broke into a shit-eating grin.

"Congratulations. I don't know anyone who deserves happiness more," he said sincerely, and Toni grinned.

"For that, red, first one is on the house. What'll it be?" Toni asked.

The table decided to keep it lowkey and just stick with a couple of pitchers of beer, something Betty was utterly grateful for. While she had partied with the best of them in the past, those days were behind her and she could barely stomach anything stronger than a light vodka soda. Toni nodded and walked off to place their order.

"She seems nice," Ronnie said, and Betty nodded.

"She is," Archie agreed. "Jug and I grew up with her and another girl named Cheryl. Cheryl and Toni had a thing for each other from the moment they laid eyes on one another and we all placed a bet on who would be the first to ask out who. Toni, naturally, was the one who caved and asked her out three days into their friendship. They've been going strong ever since."

Betty smiled. "Clearly, if they're married."

"Yeah, that was a surprise," Archie replied, looking at Jughead who just shrugged.

"You were on tour when it happened, and they didn't want you to have to stop it for their wedding. Besides, it wasn't a lavish ordeal. They just got married at the Wyrm and my old man officiated it," he said.

Archie snorted. "Cheryl Blossom had her wedding in a bar?"

"A lot of things have changed since high school, Archibald," piped up an unfamiliar voice, and Betty looked up to spot a woman with shockingly red hair.

"Cheryl," Archie greeted her warmly, moving in for a hug, one that was readily returned. Cheryl sat down at the table and took a sip of beer.

"So, Jughead and Archie. The gang is back," she drawled, and Betty watched as Jughead rolled his eyes.

"I still live in Riverdale, Cheryl. You still see me every day," he reminded her, but she waved him off with a quick flick of her fingers before looking around the table once more, eyes zeroing in on Betty.

"Holy shit," she said. It wasn't the usual gasp of surprise when people met her, and she was relieved. "I can't believe Archie was serious when he said that he knew Betty Cooper. I thought he was just fucking with us."

"Thanks, Cheryl," Archie rolled his eyes. "And, you could have known I was being honest from any number of media outlets."

"Please." She sniffed. "Like I have the time to read that trash. It's disrespectful to the people they're writing about. Even I won't stoop that low."

Betty decided right then and there that she liked Cheryl Blossom the best.

"So, Archie," Toni said as she walked up to the table. "How long are you guys in town for?"

Archie looked at Veronica, then Betty, before back to Toni. "A few weeks. I'm on break from tour and Betty just finished promoting her new series. We thought a vacation would be nice."

Betty smiled. "Riverdale is lovely. Very quaint."

Jughead looked at her. "We'll have to show you the finest it has to offer."

She nodded. "I'd like that. The woods look like a good place to get a run in."

"They are." Cheryl replied. "I run every morning if you're looking for a running buddy."

Betty had usually allotted her time for a run as her "me time" before the day grew busy, but she didn't want to be rude so settled for a maybe. "I'll keep that in mind. Thanks."

They stayed talking for another couple of hours before Veronica started yawning.

"You ready to go, Ronnie? I can give you a lift back." Archie said, and Veronica looked at Betty questioningly.

"Do you want me to hangout for a bit longer?" The brunette asked, but Betty could see how tired she was by her eyes. Veronica had been going nonstop these past few months while Betty filmed and then promoted her show. She knew she had earned a break.

"Go, V, it's okay. I'll catch a cab back to the hotel," she promised, and Veronica nodded, squeezing her shoulder. It was their simple way of communicating, a, "I'm here if you need me", sort of thing. Archie stood up and offered his hand to Ronnie, causing Betty to quirk an eyebrow at him and him to blush. She shook her head fondly. The two idiots had to realize they loved each other one way or another.

Eventually, Cheryl and Toni retired for the evening, too, leaving just Jughead and Betty. She wasn't sure what to say to him now that it was just the two of them so took another sip of beer and looked around the bar.

"So," Jughead began, and Betty looked at him. "You've been in the industry your whole life."

She nodded. "Since I was in diapers."

"Must've been lonely at points," he said softly.

Betty blinked, getting ready to shrug off the concern like she typically did with anyone other than Archie and Veronica but then she paused, noting the fact that this was Archie's oldest friend. Perhaps he wouldn't judge her.

"Sometimes," she settled on finally. "Other times, it's great."

"Your last movie, The Secrets Within, was amazing. Acting and script wise. I'm not surprised that you're a contender for an Oscar," he said, and she smiled. That had been a good movie to work on. It was one that wasn't overshadowed with Chuck and she got to help with some of the script, a secret pleasure of hers.

"Thanks," she said softly, smiling. "I appreciate that. But enough about me. You're an author?"

Jughead nodded. "Uh, yeah. Been writing ever since I knew how to hold a pen. It's helped me out of some dark times."

She was curious as to what those dark times were but knew better than to ask. Everyone had their secrets and she respected his.

"That's good. That's how acting used to be for me," she murmured.

"Used to be?' Jughead winced at the past tense and Betty sighed.

"I haven't found a project I've been in love with in a while. That's part of the reason for this break," she admitted. "To get back to what I once loved."

He nodded. "Well, hopefully you find what you're looking for, Betty."

"Thanks, Jughead."

They eventually parted ways after he helped flag down a cab for her and she rode in silence to her hotel, thinking over the night. Perhaps not every man was an asshole, she thought. She smiled softly as she climbed into bed, slightly more excited to see what the trip would hold now that she knew a few more people.

Author's note: Comments appreciated. 3

Chapter Text

Betty woke up the following morning with a little less ache in her heart. She was away from the limelight for a bit, no matter the fact that she was in a town like Riverdale. She washed her face and carried out her normal morning routine before ordering in room service. While she had never been told she needed to be on a strict diet per se, it wasn't an unknown fact that she was expected to look a certain way if she wanted to keep working in front of the camera. So, after looking over the menu carefully, she decided on yogurt and fruit, knowing the fruit would keep her going during her morning run.

After breakfast, she changed into her running gear, shot off a quick text to Ronnie that she'd be back in about an hour, and made her way out of the hotel. Feet hitting the pavement, she kept her head down as she listened to her workout playlist, eyes on the ground below her. When she ran a sense of calmness washed over her, unlike anything she ever felt before, even when curling her nails into her palms. The only person, besides Ronnie, who knew about her coping mechanisms was her therapist, Julia. She had been seeing her for the past five years and the two women were something of friends at this point. Julia had often tried to come up with ways for Betty to cope without being detrimental towards herself and for her part, Betty put in a valiant effort.

As she ran, she thought about the past few months. She had filmed a show with Chuck, the man who took her virginity, and she wasn't sure how she felt about it. Sure, they looked good with each other, as every news outlet claimed, but she wasn't happy, this much she knew. And, this much Ronnie and Archie knew, too. They both had tried to convince her to leave him behind, saying she deserved better than a man who took something so precious to her just because she had had one too many.

That was another reason she didn't drink hard liquor anymore. She never wanted to be in a position where she couldn't stand her ground again just because she couldn't say the word no due to alcohol coursing through her veins. It wasn't like she was looking to press charges against Chuck, either, despite Archie's begging. Besides, what good would it do? He'd get off with a slap on the wrist because of who he was by default and Betty would be branded a slut. She knew how the media portrayed women of violence. If it could even be called that.

She reached the outskirts of the woods, pausing momentarily to take in some much-needed fresh air. Riverdale was beautiful, no denying that. It didn't have the glamor that New York did but Betty had been in the business long enough to know what hid behind the façade of the New York City night life. People doing lines in the bathroom; actors getting wasted at parties. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be and she couldn't remember a time that she had ever truly enjoyed the city unless she was filming.

On her loop back to the hotel, she slowed her running to a jog, letting the cool air hit her face. She needed a shower, but this was her time for herself right now and she needed to respect that. For a long time, she had ignored her body telling her to take a break and that had resulted in a suicide attempt. A fucking suicide attempt. Thankfully, due to her magic at being the best manager ever, Veronica had covered it up with her just being tired and needing a break. Chuck had been in France, promoting one of his blockbusters, and Ronnie had moved in with her. She would never forget how fucking grateful she was to her friend, her sister. And, she knew she owed it to her to not fall down that path of destruction again so worked every day at staying healthy. It was a battle, but a battle she wasn't willing to lose.

Once in the hotel, Betty took a shower, letting the hot water loosen the tension in her muscles. Given the last few weeks of promoting, she expected to be tense for a while. When she was through and her hair was dried, she changed into casual clothes and went to go meet Ronnie. The brunette was out in the hallway, clacking away at her phone so she waited patiently until she looked up. Finally, she did.

"Hey, Betty. How was the run?" Veronica asked, and Betty smiled.

"Good. Different than a run in the city," she replied. Veronica nodded before speaking again.

"So, there's not a lot to do while here," she admitted sheepishly. "It's sort of just vacation for all three of us and we can do whatever we want."
Betty smiled.

"That sounds perfect. I'm going to go into town and look for a bookstore. Want to meet for lunch later?" Betty asked, and Veronica nodded.

"Definitely. See you, Coop."
XXX

Betty walked the streets of Riverdale with a hat pulled lowly over her head. Even though they hadn't told anybody they were leaving the city, Betty wouldn't put it past the paparazzi to find out and follow them there. They were bloodhounds, thirsty for their next big photo.

She looked at all the shops that lined the streets, eyes landing on a bookstore, and she smiled softly. Perfect. Walking in, she began to browse the sections, eyes looking for something to pop out at her.

"Fan of Toni Morrison?" Came a voice, and Betty looked up to spot Jughead smiling at her.

"Jughead, hey," she greeted him. "What are you doing here? And, yes."

"Still stuck on writer's block so came to the one place that could offer up some inspiration: a book store," he replied, boyish grin in place. Betty found herself having to force herself to not look at his smile; she wasn't a creep.

"That makes sense," she agreed, hands in her pockets.

"What are you doing here, Betty?" Jughead asked conversationally.

"I'm just browsing; seeing all the town has to offer," she replied, slight quirk of her lips.

"It's a pretty sparse town so, uh, there's not much," he admitted, rubbing a hand against the back of his neck sheepishly.

"Yet, you're still here," she replied kindly, and he blinked, soft smile adorning his face.

"It's home," he said finally, and that hit Betty harder than she thought it would. She didn't know where her home was. She never truly felt like she had belonged in the city but then again, she never truly felt like she had belonged anywhere. She was just…there.

"Betty?" Jughead asked. "Did I say something?"

She shook her head quickly because she wouldn't let this kind stranger think he had made her upset.

"No," she promised earnestly. "Just thinking. Anyways, I'll let you get back to browsing."

She smiled at him and began walking away with a dip of her head. It was his voice calling her back that had her pausing as she turned to look at him.

"So, uh, the Wyrm does this karaoke night every Friday. It's usually just a bunch of drunk idiots trying to sing but it's kind of funny. Would you, I don't know, like to come with me? Archie and Veronica are welcome, too," he added quickly.

She smiled. "Sure. That sounds fun."

She pressed her fingers against his bicep before nodding her head at him and walking out of the shop, no book in hand but a smile stretching across her lips.
XXX

The Whyte Wyrm was more crowded than it had been the night before and people were already belting out tunes like, Livin' On A Prayer. Betty was sipping at her beer as she tried to not wince at the horrendous voices some of these people had. At least they were having a good time. Jughead was cringing next to her.

"I'm so sorry," he said lowly. "I thought there'd be at least some talent up there by now."

Betty just shrugged, soft smile tugging at her lips. "It's okay, Jughead. I'm having a good time." And, she was. For once, she wasn't thinking about all the demands that were waiting for her back home.

"Hey, Betts," Archie said suddenly, and she looked up to see him smirking at her. She raised an eyebrow.

"What?"

"Why aren't you up there singing?" Archie asked, and she sighed.

"Because, Arch, you know I only sing by myself," she replied.

"You can sing?" Jughead interrupted in surprise. She shook her head just as Archie and Veronica nodded theirs, and she glared at them.

"Oh, she's one of the best singers I know," Veronica supplied. "She just gets stage fright."

"Actors get stage fright?" Cheryl wondered; arm slung loosely over Toni's shoulders. It seemed like everyone out of Archie's old group of friends wanted to be at the bar tonight.

"We do," Betty confirmed. "Especially when it comes to singing."

"Oh, B, you have to go up there!" Veronica declared; eyes bright as the alcohol swam through her veins.

Sighing, Betty nodded once she saw no way out of this. She finished her beer and made her way up to the stage, flicking through the book that housed the song selections. Finally, she settled on one and began to sing softly to Let It Be. By the time she was through, the audience was captivated, and she was blushing. She said a quick thanks and hurried off stage, back to the booth that the group was in.

"Nice song choice," were the first words out of Jughead's mouth, and she looked up to spot him grinning at her.

"Thanks," she said softly.

"You can act and sing?" Toni asked. "Is there anything you can't do?"

Love myself. "Hmm, I don't know. Ask Ronnie, she's known me the longest."

"What?" Veronica asked, looking like she had missed part of the conversation, and Betty laughed, patting her on the shoulder.

"Nothing, Ron," she replied.

They stayed and listened to more horrible renditions of famous songs and Betty found herself enjoying the company she was in.
When the bar called final shot, the group decided to leave. Tucking her face into her coat, Betty followed everyone out of the Wyrm, sighing in contentment. Tonight was a night that she didn't know she had needed. Desperately. She found herself smiling at the future nights to come.

Chapter Text

"Okay, so what's good here for breakfast?" Betty asked Jughead, eyes scanning the menu. In a strange turn of events, Jughead had gotten her number from Archie, saying he hoped she didn't mind, (she didn't), and asked her to breakfast. He wanted her advice on a chapter in his novel and since she had a secret passion for writing, she was happy to oblige.

"The breakfast burger is good," he commented, and she felt her eyes go round.

"Where do you put it all?" Betty asked in shock, and he chuckled.

"I'm a growing boy, Betts," he replied, adopting the nickname Archie had given her. Somehow, she liked it better coming from him and she stored that away to be dissected later.

"Some of us aren't blessed with your metabolism, Jug," she said absentmindedly, eyes still looking through the menu. "I think I'll have the wheat toast with egg whites."

"Pop has that as an actual option?" Jughead asked, making a face of disgust, and Betty chuckled.

"Yes," she replied. "Hidden behind all the burgers your town seems infatuated with."

"You city girls don't know what you're missing when it comes to burgers," Jughead replied, and Betty rolled her eyes.

"Some of us have to work in front of the camera for a living," she reminded him, watching as his eyes narrowed.

"Fuck anyone who would tell you that you're not allowed to have a burger just because you're an actress," he said simply, and Betty smiled.

"Thanks," she said softly. The waitress came up to them just then, ready to take their order, then did a double take upon seeing Betty.

"My stars, you're Betty Cooper!" She grinned, and Betty nodded.

"That's me," she replied.

"You were so good in that recent movie and I hear you have a new show coming out. I cannot wait to watch it," she said, and Betty smiled.

"Thanks," she replied kindly.

"So, what'll it be, kids?" She asked, and they placed their orders, Betty smiling softly at the fact that the waitress didn't ask for a picture.

"Do you get people coming up to you a lot?" Jughead asked, and Betty's eyes flitted to him before she nodded.

"Have since I was a child," she said.

"Must be hard," he commented, and she got ready to shrug it off like she always did, but then thought about not just accepting the fact that it came with her job.

"Sometimes," she admitted. "I'd like to be able to go to a restaurant every once in a while without being noticed. Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for my job, it's just, I need a break every now and then, too."

She could feel Jughead's eyes on her and she burned from the intensity of his gaze. Finally, he spoke up.

"It must be hard," he said softly. "Being in the limelight all the time. I'm glad you have that other actor, Chuck something."

Betty's stomach twisted uncomfortably, and she lowered her hands into her lap, curling her nails into her palms.

"Chuck's something," she muttered, eyes staring at the table. She didn't want to talk about this, least of all with Jughead. It was nice for someone to not know about her damaged baggage.

"Betty," he began, but was interrupted by the arrival of their food. She took a moment to collect herself as she took a bite of her eggs before changing the topic altogether.

"So," she said. "You said you wanted my help with your chapter?"

He studied her, clearly torn on if he should finish their conversation or not but decided against it as he nodded. "Yes. I don't know why but something tells me you like to write."

She smiled softly, deciding to be honest. "Had I not been an actress, I would have been a writer. I've even gotten to work on some scripts for the movies I've done."

He sat back in his chair, impressed. "That's fantastic. I don't think there's been a movie that I've seen you in that's been bad and to know that you helped with some of the scripts, well, that just makes it better."

She felt her cheeks heat up as she took a sip of coffee.

"Thanks, Jug," she said softly. "What's your book about?"

"Uh, it's a crime novel," he admitted, taking his beanie off to rub his fingers through his hair. "Small town guy murdered by his father."

Betty blinked. "That sounds horribly depressing."

He chuckled. "That's kind of my M.O."

"So, what part are you having writers block on?" Betty asked curiously, taking another bite of her eggs.

He sighed. "I've figured out that I want it to be the father who murdered his own son, but I can't figure out why. Nothing seems good enough."

Betty thought about that for a moment before replying. "Did the father ever love the son, even if only a little?"

"Yes, but they had a complicated relationship. He wanted him to go into the family business and the son wanted to lead his own life. He told his father as such."

"Well," Betty began, soft smirk tugging at her lips. "I think you just found your motive."

Jughead stared at her before a slow grin stretched across his face. "I think you just became my favorite person."

She blushed at the praise, feeling a secret sense of pride coursing through her. Outwardly, all she said was, "Don't let Archie hear you say that."

He chuckled and they went back to eating their breakfast in companionable silence, giving Betty ample opportunity to think. She didn't know what she was running from, besides the white noise of the city. She knew she was due for a break, as did Archie and Veronica, and they presented her with the perfect opportunity for one. But. What happened when vacation was over, and she was back in the city? A soft sigh escaped and Jughead looked up at her.

"You okay?" Jughead murmured, and she nodded, getting ready to lie. Then, she realized that's what she had essentially been doing her whole life and, just this once, opted for the truth.

"Just a bit nervous about going back to the city," she said softly.

"Why?" Jughead asked quietly, and damn, if his tone didn't make her want to cry. He seemed like he genuinely wanted to know, and she didn't know what to do with that; didn't know what to do with people being concerned about her who were not Ronnie and Archie. Again, she found herself being honest.

"New York is, quite literally, the city that never sleeps. There's some form of activity going on at all hours of every day and, I don't know, I just don't get much chance for a breather," she admitted, fingers cradling her coffee mug, so they weren't digging into her palms.

"That must be hard. To have all that noise surrounding you," he said softly, and she nodded.

"It is," she whispered, eyes staring unseeingly into her coffee mug. "Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for the life I lead but it's just too much at times."

"That's okay to feel that way, Betty," Jughead said quietly, and she looked at him. "I can only assume that you have so many expectations placed on your shoulders that you need a break, too. You're only human."

Mind on her past, she spoke up. "I took the idea of a break too seriously a few years ago. I was out all night, partying til the sunrise, and hungover during interviews. It's not something I'm proud of by any means, but it did make the noise a little less intolerable."

Jughead nodded, eyes soft on hers'. "If you're looking for someone to reprimand you for your choices, you're knocking on the wrong door; I'm not your guy. I don't give two shits if you partied every night of your career, Betty. As long as you're happy. Are you?"

Was she?

"I'm working on it," she admitted finally, biting her lip. "It's taking me some time and some days are definitely harder than others, but Veronica and Archie are great tools of support for me and they help me stay grounded."

"I know we just met, and it might not amount to much, if anything, but you have me, too," Jughead said softly. She blinked, taking in his words and trying to decide why someone as nice and wholesome as him would willingly be in her life when he didn't even know half the baggage she had. She smiled.

"Thanks," she said very quietly, fingers fiddling with one another. "That's a very nice thing to say, Jug."

He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, before taking off the familiar beanie and carding his fingers through his hair.

"Yeah, well, you're welcome, Betts," he replied softly, and she decided to change the topic.

"So, what other chapters are you stuck on?"
XXX

By the time breakfast was over and the pair had parted ways, Betty went for her daily run, bumping into Cheryl on the way.

"Betty, hey," the redhead greeted her, and Betty smiled.

"Hello, Cheryl," she replied, feet pounding against the pavement.

"Where have you just come from?" Cheryl asked as she ran next to her, and Betty worked on keeping her breathing steady as she talked and ran.

"I just had breakfast with Jughead," she said, seeing Cheryl look at her in surprise.

"Really? Just the two of you?' The redhead asked, and there was an undercurrent of something Betty couldn't quite make out in her tone. She shrugged.

"He needed help with his writer's block, and I need to spend time with people other than Archie and Ronnie while on vacation," she replied, and Cheryl nodded.

"Well, you're more than welcome to spend an evening with Toni and me. We're grabbing a light dinner tonight and a few drinks if you want to meet up with us?" Cheryl asked, and

Betty thought about, hesitant about what a few drinks entailed. Then again, she had been drinking beer the whole time that she had been here, and no one had judged her for it.

She smiled.

"Sure, Cheryl, that sounds nice," Betty murmured.

"Great. See you around eight. Too doles!" Cheryl chirped before making a left and running in the opposite direction as Betty.
XXX

By the time Betty had showered and gotten ready for her dinner with the two partners, more people had found out about it and decided to tag along as well. She briefly wondered if Jughead would make an appearance but then shook her head. It was none of her business what he did with his free time. She met Veronica in the lobby and they both waited outside for Archie to pick them up, before heading over to a nice restaurant on the edge of the small town.

Stepping inside, Betty suddenly felt a little overdressed in her slacks and blouse; most people were in khaki shorts and skirts. She ran a hand through her hair nervously.

"You look lovely," a voice whispered close to her ear and she tried to ignore the shiver of pleasure that ran up her spine as she turned to spot Jughead.

"Hey, Jughead. Didn't know if you were going to be here tonight or not. Not with the roll you seemed to be on with writing," she said, and he shrugged.

"Even the authors have to eat," he said, and she laughed.

"I do suppose that they have to eat, too," she agreed. He bumped his shoulder with hers' as they made their way to a table in the back of the room. Betty wasn't certain if it was because Archie and herself were apart of the group or not, but she appreciated what little privacy she could get all the same. She took a seat at the table, looking around.
It wasn't as nice of a restaurant that Cheryl had originally made it out to be. It was more of casual hangout place; more upscale than Pop's but wouldn't hold a candle to anything in the city. She found herself grinning at that thought and falling in love with the place a bit more as she accepted her menu from the waitress. The familiar sweep of her eyes over her face told Betty the waitress recognized her but then Jughead was stealing her attention the next minute, going on about how this place had some of the best crab legs in the state. Eventually, the waitress walked off without making a scene and Betty sighed in relief.

"Thanks, Jug," she whispered.

He lips quirked. "Figured you'd like a break from a night of constant fawning." He didn't look at her as he said those words, but they still touched her and she found herself scooting her chair closer to his slightly, just to the point their knees were barely brushing against one another. His skin was warm against hers' and a pleasant feeling settled low in her belly.

They spent the remainder of the evening eating good food and enjoying the company they held with one another. For once, Betty wasn't plagued by doubts and insecurities. She was in the present moment. And she was utterly fucking thankful.

Chapter Text

Betty studied her reflection. She looked…happier, if she had to use a word. She wasn't sure if it was because she was on vacation or if it was because where she was on vacation at, but she didn't question it either. She just enjoyed the fact that she wasn't facing mounting stresses for the first time in too long. She swept her hair into a side braid, running her finger through her tresses to pull out a few loose strands. She let them frame her face before deciding she was content with her hair. Then, she gave her outfit a once over. Black skinny jeans, gray knitted sweater, and her black converse. She was content with the way she looked and began to make her way to the lobby.

Today she and Jughead were supposed to go explore some northern parts of the state. She wasn't sure when they had turned from acquaintances to friends, but she liked it. She suspected it had to do with when he invited her to breakfast, and it was just the two of them. She wasn't used to hanging out with men other than Archie and Chuck. Sure, there were the guys on her sets, but they seemed too starstruck with who she was to actually want to know her. That was what was so great about Jughead: he could see past the title 'celebrity', and just want to know her as Betty. It was refreshing in ways that things hadn't been in a long time.

She had been trying to not read any of the comments on her Instagram page but sometimes she slipped and found herself reading them late at night when she couldn't sleep. People were wondering where Chuck was, what the "It" couple were doing, and how they were faring with him filming in England and her being in America. She knew that her fans would be freaking out if she came out with a post about what happened between them; wondered just how many "fans" she'd have left. True, she had been America's Sweetheart all her life, but the country loved a good Prince Charming, and that's exactly how the media portrayed Chuck Clayton. She snorted. What a pile of shit.

As she waited for Jughead, her eyes traveled the length of her arms, which were covered by her sweater, and she thought about what he would say if he knew what she was hiding behind the material. Only two people in the entire world knew about the scar on her arm and they had sworn they'd take it to the grave. She wondered if Jughead would look at her any differently, if he would pity her or be disgusted by her because she could have everything she wanted and how could she be possibly sad enough to do something as awful as try to end her own life? She wondered if he'd find her selfish and that thought alone had her cringing.

Thankfully, the sound of a motorcycle interrupted her stream of thoughts and she looked up, blinking at the source of the noise. There sat Jughead on a motorcycle, crooked smile firmly intact, and she felt her jaw drop.

"Hey, Betts," he greeted her warmly, and she found herself shaking her head.

"No," she said firmly. "There's no way in hell that I am getting on the back of a fucking motorcycle."

Jughead's lips pulled down into an exaggerated frown. "Please, Betts? I promise to drive slow."

She bit her lip as she eyed the motorcycle warily. She had never been on one before, had never found the desire to because Alice Cooper had always said they were death traps waiting to happen. Then she thought about Chuck and the fact that he was a death trap waiting to happen and realized her odds on the bike looked a lot better than her odds with Chuck. She found herself nodding slowly.

"You promise to go slow, Jug?" Betty asked, eyes wide. He smiled softly at her.

"As slow as you need me to, Betts," he assured her. She didn't raise any more objections after that and got onto the back of his bike with care. She hesitantly wrapped her arms around his waist, heart warming as he chuckled and wrapped them tighter. Pressing her face into the back of his jacket, she nodded her head to signal that she was ready, and they were off in the next moment.
XXX

They rode throughout the back streets of the state, enjoying the cool air of the morning. Betty took in all the sights the state had to offer that she normally didn't get to see. There was woods and little rivers; parks with families. It was sweet and she was content. When Jughead pulled over to a diner that was hidden off the side of the road, Betty looked around.

"What is this place, Jug?" Betty asked.

"This is Natalie's, a diner I used to frequent as a kid with my dad and little sister," he replied. "Whenever we'd go on road trips."

Betty smiled as she got off the back of the bike, hesitantly accepting the hand he held out to her in surprise. She wasn't sure if they had a label besides friends, but she also wasn't sure if she was ready to find out just yet. She didn't want to taint the good thing they had going with her damaged past. She followed him into the diner, taking a look around before an elderly woman walked up to them, beaming smile on her face.

"Jughead Jones as I live and breathe," she greeted him with a hug and kiss to the cheek.

"Hi, Natalie," he smiled warmly at the woman, patting her on the back. Natalie pulled away from him with a fond pat to his cheek before looking at Betty. "This is Betty Cooper, my friend."

Betty wasn't sure what to expect from Natalie, not knowing if the woman had seen any of her movies, but what she didn't expect, however, was to be pulled into a tight hug.

"Any friend of Jughead's is always welcome in my home," she said, and Betty found herself smiling as she returned the hug. Natalie directed them to a table tucked away in the corner, sitting them side-by-side instead of across from each other and Betty found her knee brushing Jughead's again. She tried to ignore the feeling of warmth traveling through her body as she accepted her menu from Natalie who walked away with a tip of her head.

"She's so nice, Jug," Betty breathed, and Jughead smiled.

"She's been apart of my life since I was born. My dad brought us here all the time growing up and she took a special interest in myself and my sister, Jellybean," he replied.

"Jellybean?" Betty asked curiously, and he chuckled, knocking his shoulder with hers'.

"Trust me, the real thing is worst. And, she would kill me if I told you anyways," he teased, and it was her turn to laugh as her eyes scanned the menu but Jughead was closing it moments later.

"Oh, you're not actually going to need that. Natalie was just being nice by giving you one. I'm going to introduce you to her French Toast. It melts in your mouth," he grinned, and she found herself nodding, not caring about the calories for once.

They laughed and talked as they ate breakfast, Betty finding herself completely comfortable with the surroundings she was in. No one came up to her and interrupted their breakfast by wanting a picture and she was grateful. She wondered if Jughead secretly knew that no one would recognize her here or they just lucked out, but she was pleased, nonetheless. By the time breakfast was finished, Natalie was waving them off and telling Betty she was welcomed back any time. She promised she'd come back soon.

They spent the rest of the morning and into the afternoon shopping through the shops that lined the streets, laughing at each other in silly hats and sunglasses. For the first time in too long, it felt like Betty could take a breather; like the rest of the world wasn't watching every move she made, waiting for her to fuck up. It was nice, in the most surreal way possible. Just as they got ready to get back on the bike to ride back to Riverdale, the clouds opened up and the Heavens rained down on them, catching them in a surprise storm.
Laughing, they ran for cover to the nearest hotel they could find.

"One room or two?" The hotel receptionist asked without looking up from her computer. Stealing a quick glance at Jughead, Betty bravely asked for one, hoping he didn't mind. He didn't seem to if the smile on his face was anything to go by. Giving them their key, they made their way to their room, opting to take turns in the shower so they could dry off. When she got out of the shower, she found out Jughead had run down to a store to buy them both some sweatpants and t-shirts to wear so they wouldn't have to get back into their wet clothes. Betty would be touched at his gesture if it wasn't for the fact that he had bought her a short-sleeve shirt, unknowing of her scar.

"Betts, is something wrong?" Jughead asked, frowning as she bit her lip while staring at the shirt. She didn't know how to respond; didn't know if she could respond. How did she tell this man, who had shown her nothing but kindness from day one, that she was fucked up beyond repair? Exhaling shakily, she shook her head.

"Nothings wrong, Jug. Today's been perfect," she smiled softly, making a small smile quirk his lips upwards in response. "But, there's something I think you should know if you want to continue being my friend."

"Hey, Betty, whatever it is, I'll always want to be your friend," he assured her softly.

She smiled sadly. "You say that now, but you might change your mind after learning some of the more, ah, darker parts to me." With that, she held her arm up slowly to his eye level, staring down at the scar on her skin, a constant reminder of the worst night of her life. It was silent in the room as Jughead studied her arm. He traced his fingertips over the scar gently, sighing softly.

"Oh, Betts," he murmured. "What did you do to yourself, baby?"

Betty sighed as she looked at the scar on her arm. "Not everything in my life is what it seems, Jug."

He was quiet for a moment, thumb tracing the scar, before he very gently brought her arm to his lips and placed a soft kiss against her flesh.

"I'd like to hear about it, if you'll tell me," he whispered. She exhaled shakily, before nodding. "Want to get more comfortable?" She nodded again so he led them to the bed and they both laid down on top of the comforter, turning on their sides to face each other. She eventually began talking.

"I've been in the spotlight since I was born," she said. "There's never been a moment when I didn't know anything else but sets and lines. My mother was proud of me, always taking me to auditions and making sure I was prepped for interviews. The whole country knew my name before I even knew how to spell it. And, it was great. For a while. Then…"

"Then what?" Jughead asked softly, eyes boring into hers'. She sighed.

"Then, it just became white noise. The demands that Hollywood had placed on me to be the girl they wanted me to be. I tried every day to meet those standards and it still wasn't enough. I wasn't enough. That's when it started to get a little out of control," she said.

"The partying?" Jughead guessed.

"That, and Chuck," she whispered, eyes staring at a spot on his shirt.

"Your boyfriend?" Jughead asked carefully and despite whatever it was that they were doing, he still seemed to respect there was another man in her life. She sighed and shook her head because if she was going to be honest, she needed to be completely honest.

"Just the guy who took my virginity," she whispered, throat catching. He must've heard because he asked his next question very carefully.

"Did you tell him he could do that, baby?" Jughead asked seriously.

"I didn't say no, Jug," she whispered, tears filling her eyes. He pulled her into his chest, and she didn't stop him.

"Something tells me that you didn't say yes, either," he said firmly.

A soft sigh escaped her lips as she pressed her face into his chest. "I didn't. I was too drunk to say anything."

"Then he definitely didn't have the right to sleep with you," Jughead said firmly, rubbing his hand up and down her arm. "Does Archie and Ronnie know?"

Betty nodded. "They were the only two people I told. Archie threatened to beat the shit out of Chuck, but I won't let him do that. I can't call it what it is, no matter how much Archie and Ronnie want me to."

"It was rape, baby," Jughead said quietly. She nodded.

"I know," she whispered.

Jughead was quiet for a moment but Betty knew he had another question so just waited patiently. Eventually, he spoke up.

"Is that why you did this?" Jughead asked quietly, cupping her arm.

"It's part of the reason. The other reason was the white noise," she murmured. Jughead sighed softly, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead. So soft, Betty wasn't sure it was real. But, then he was speaking again, and his lips were still pressed against her forehead, so she knew she hadn't imagined it.

"I'm not going to pretend like I know how hard your life is because I don't and it would be disrespectful to you if I tried to act like I did, but I am going to say I'm here for you. In whatever form that may look like," he said.

She nodded, not knowing what she needed right know but knowing that she craved his friendship at the least.

"I'd like for us to be friends, definitely. Maybe something more, if we went slow," she said.

"I can do as slow as you need, Betts," he promised.

And that? That was good enough for her.

Chapter Text

Betty and Jughead didn't get sleep that night. Instead, they stayed up talking about anything and everything they could think of. Jughead, it seemed, wanted to know about as much as possible about Betty and, for her part, she was willing to share all that she could. Currently, they were talking about one of her many horror stories on sets as they shared a pint of ice-cream.

"You're telling me that the security guard, this six-foot guy, got scared of you?" Jughead asked, mirth in his eyes. Betty was trying to swallow her own laughter as she recounted the story.

"Yes! I was only thirteen at the time and he had been put on as detail for the set. The first day on, he got all flustered, trying to say his daughters loved me in all my movies but considering the accuracy he had with all of the titles of them, and the fact that he was beet red, with shaking hands, I highly doubted the autograph I gave him was for his daughters," she laughed.

"That's kind of really fucking creepy," Jughead groaned, biting back a smile, and Betty nodded.

"I know!" Betty exclaimed. "Some grown man shaking to meet a thirteen-year-old? He was scared! It was definitely an out-of-body experience at the time." She took another bite of the ice-cream, savoring the taste, before looking at Jughead. "Okay, your weirdest memory from being a teenager."

He snorted. "I can assure you; it won't be anything like yours', Betts. But, okay, I got one. Toni and I were about fourteen or fifteen, right? Well, we had decided to skip our afternoon gym class because neither one of us excelled in the fitness department. Anyways, we were back at my trailer, just hanging out and she kissed me. Out of the blue. Said she wanted to be sure she liked girls one hundred percent."

Betty screamed. "No! What happened afterwards?"

Jughead laughed. "She said, "sorry, Jones, you're cute and all, but dick isn't what I fancy." Then, she patted me on the shoulder and left, leaving me confused as to what the fuck just happened. I was terrified."

Betty laughed as she patted his shoulder. "Must have been a hit to your ego."

"Not really," Jughead admitted thoughtfully. "I mean, I'm glad I helped her realize she isn't into men but being kissed by Toni was definitely not something I had ever fantasized about late at night."

They both looked at each other and burst out laughing before their laughter died down into chuckles, then silence. They sat in the comfortable silence, neither seeming to find the need to fill it with anything. Betty listened to the quiet whir of the air conditioner and wondered if this was what it meant to feel peace. After a few more moments of silence, Betty spoke up.

"Hey, Jug?" Betty asked softly.

"Hmm?"

"Tell me something that scares you," she whispered, fingers playing with the comforter. It was quiet for a moment, and then he began to talk softly.

"I'm scared that my mother will come back into town one day," he admitted, and she frowned, propping herself up on her elbow to look at him better.

"Your mother? What happened?" Betty asked gently, unsure if she was crossing into an area that he didn't want her to be in.

"She bailed when I was about ten, saying she had had enough. My dad was an alcoholic when I was a kid and there were many nights I could hear my parents shouting at each other over the sounds of bottles being smashed against the walls. She wanted to take Jellybean, but my dad refused, saying he wouldn't have his family torn in half. She didn't really put up much of a fight and just left. Just like that. I remember Jellybean crying for weeks after she left and it was my job to help her calm down; my dad was already knee-deep in booze at this point," he said, and Betty automatically laced her fingers with his, squeezing them gently.

Jughead continued. "Finally, after the Sheriff came and threatened to place Jellybean and I into social services, my dad started to clean up his act. He went to AA meetings and worked hard for each chip he got. I never thought I'd see the day when my dad would choose his kids over the bottle but there he was, fighting like hell to get sober just to keep us. I remember the nights when he'd be throwing up from withdrawals. Jelly was always scared those nights and I'd get her out of her bed and into mine and tell her stories until she fell asleep."

Betty's heart ached for Jughead and his lost childhood. They, at the very least, had that in common. She hesitantly placed her lips against his shoulder, kissing him gently, and he briefly carded his fingers through her hair in appreciation before talking once more.

"My old man eventually got clean. He hasn't had a drop of alcohol in over twelve years and each day is another day to celebrate. I guess I'm just scared that somehow my mom will catch wind of this and come back into our lives like she never even fucking left in the first place. And, what right will she have to do that?" Jughead asked quietly.

"She wouldn't, Juggie," Betty said firmly. Jughead smiled and kissed her hairline.

"I like that. 'Juggie'," he whispered, and she smiled softly.

"Your turn," he said.

"My turn for what?" Betty asked.

"To tell me what you're most afraid of," he said quietly, and she bit her lip, thinking about it. Eventually, she spoke up.

"I'm afraid of not being good enough. Of letting everyone who ever believed in me down," she whispered.

"Baby," Jughead said softly, tracing her cheekbone. "It's bad enough the kind of pressure the country puts on you; you can't do that to yourself, too."

"It's not that easy, Juggie," she sighed.

"Why not?" Jughead challenged gently.

"Because, this is who I am. I'm 'Betty Cooper: America's Sweetheart'. What the public want from me is what I have to deliver on a silver platter," she said.

"To be honest, I couldn't give two fucks less about what the public wants. What do you want, Betts?" Jughead asked softly.

"A break longer than a few weeks," she whispered. "To travel without needing to promote a film or my show. Don't get me wrong, my job is great most days, but I just want some time for myself, too. That's why this vacation has been so nice. I dread to think about it ending."

"Who says it has to?" Jughead asked, and she snorted.

"Be serious, Jug," she said.

"I am. Who's to say we can't get on my bike and just ride to wherever we feel like it? Fuck the demands and white noise of your job and just once, do something for you," he stressed. She stared at him, wondering how someone who had seen such terrible shit in his childhood could steal see the wonders of the world. Betty didn't think twice before kissing him softly. It was a barely there kiss, gentle and unsure, but it was still a kiss. A kiss, it seemed, that Jughead had wanted. He cupped her cheeks gently, exploring her mouth with his, their tongues shyly meeting one another. Eventually, they pulled away, breathing a little heavier than normal, and Betty let him bring her down onto his chest.
Finally, she spoke up.

"I can't travel the world with you right now," she began. "But one day, if you'll have me, I'd like to see everything with you."

"Baby," he whispered. "I'd go anywhere with you."

Nothing more was said, but then again, nothing more needed to be said. Betty was content with where they were in each other's lives.

Chapter Text

Betty and Jughead made the ride back to Riverdale the next day, Betty's heart feeling lighter than it had in years. She had her arms wrapped snuggly around his waist; face pressed into the back of his jacket. As they drove the streets leading them back to the sleepy town, Betty found herself thinking, "I could get used to this". And, for once, that thought didn't scare her. A soft smile tugged at her lips as she pressed her face even more firmly into his back and enjoyed the rest of the ride.

When they got back into Riverdale, Betty felt a sense of small disappointment. Not over the fact that she was back in the town that introduced her to Jughead but more so over the fact that they're little getaway was through. She wasn't sure when she'd get the next opportunity to do something like that with him again. It had been the most relaxed she had been in a long time, even when sharing the darker parts of her background with him. He hadn't judge her once for falling down the rabbit hole and she'd forever be grateful for him for that.

Just then, flashes went off in every direction as shouting filled the air.

"What the fuck?" Jughead asked, looking around. Betty was one step ahead of him as she spotted the paparazzi hurrying across the street, cameras clicking feverishly.

"Oh no," she moaned, turning her face into Jughead's shoulder blades. "How did they find us?"

Jughead seemed to catch on and, quick as a flash, was pulling her off the bike and sprinting to the nearest store that could offer them some form of protection. He pulled her into the hallway, making sure no one had seen them, before turning to face her.

"Baby, breathe," he whispered, fingers trying to loosen her fists. She hadn't told him about her habit of digging her nails into her palms but what did it matter now? The fucking piranhas had found them. In Riverdale of all places. So much for a chance at a happy distraction from work.

"Baby," Jughead said softly, fingertips brushing against her cheek. "Look at me and only me."

She did, taking erratic breaths while doing so.

"Breathe," he murmured. "Follow my lead."

Jughead led her in a breathing process, one similar to something Julia had to do countless times during the early stages of their sessions. Betty found herself wondering where Jughead had learned it as she tried to match him to the best of her capability. Eventually, her heart rate slowed down and she uncurled her fists, loosening her nails from her palms.

Placing her head against his chest, she inhaled shakily.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

He placed a gentle kiss to her temple. "Nothing to be sorry for, love. Are you alright?"

Betty nodded into his chest, fingers clutching at his shirt. "'M fine."

Jughead gently pulled her fingers from his clothes and inspected her palms, studying the little ridges inside of them.

"Baby?" Jughead asked softly, voice laced with gentle concern, and she sighed.

"Coping mechanism for when it all becomes white noise," she mumbled, hanging her head low. She could feel his lips pressed against her temple again, then him shift as he looked out the windows of the store.

"Here's what we're going to do," he said decisively. "We're going to go out the back exit and I'm going to take you to my apartment. We'll doctor your hands and then I'll call Archie and see what we can do about the paparazzi, alright?"

Betty hummed her approval and followed Jughead to the back of the shop and out the door into an alleyway where, thankfully, there were no grown men with cameras. Jughead laced their fingers together and tugged her down the alleyway, and she kept her head ducked just in case.

XXX

By the time they got to Jughead's apartment, Betty had calmed down significantly. Her breathing was back at a steady rhythm and she wasn't curling her nails into her palms. She followed him up a flight of stairs and into his home, taking in the design of the apartment. It was nice, something that fit him, and she was pleased to know that he seemed happy there.

Jughead led her to the couch and eased her down, rubbing her forearm gently all the while.

"I'll be right back, baby," he whispered, dusting a kiss to her temple. He stood up and walked away, returning moments later with his hands full. Sitting down on the coffee table across from her, he placed one of her hands in his lap with an apologetic grimace.

"This might sting a little," he whispered, and she nodded, biting her lip in preparation. Jughead sprayed the iodine on her cuts and she hissed at the stinging sensation.

"Sorry baby, sorry," he murmured soothingly. "Almost done." He moved onto her other hand and worked quickly, spraying each cut with the iodine before kissing both of her palms gently. "All done."

Betty leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss against his lips, feeling his lips quirk upwards and mirroring the smile against her own. When she pulled back, she smiled shyly.

"Thank you," she whispered. Jughead smiled at her before joining her on the couch. He pulled her into his side, and she went willingly, laying her head against his shoulder. "What are we going to do about the paparazzi? I don't want them to start swarming the town just because Arch and I are here, and I especially don't want them harassing you."

"Baby," he groaned. "You've got enough on your plate to worry about; don't add me onto it, too."

She smiled softly at him. This man, this amazing man who had seen so many hardships in his life, was always putting other people before him and she had somehow found herself to be one of those people. She would constantly be in awe of his selflessness. "Too late, babe." Betty replied, poking him in the side.

He rolled his eyes fondly before nodding. "Let me call Archie and see if him and Ronnie can come over." Jughead pulled his phone out of his pocket with one arm still wrapped around Betty and dialed Archie's number. She listened to his end of the conversation as he explained about what happened when they got back into town, then listened as he asked him and Ronnie to come over. She briefly wondered what her two best friends would say once they found out that she and Jughead went on a trip together but soon found herself not caring. Let them think what they want.

Shortly after the phone call, Archie and Veronica showed up, Archie letting themselves in at the request of Jughead. As her eyes swept over the scene before, Veronica got a shit-eating grin on her face that told Betty everything she needed to know: she was already planning what dress to wear to their engagement party. Betty rolled her eyes, shaking her head at her friend's antics. Veronica walked over to them and sat down on the other side of Betty as Archie took to Jughead's side.

"So, what happened?" Archie asked, eyes zeroing in on the arm wrapped around Betty. To his credit, Jughead didn't seem the least bit bothered by the situation and openly dusted a kiss to Betty's temple before talking.

"Betts and I went away for a couple of days and when we got back into Riverdale, it was like a fucking media circus," Jughead explained.

"Paparazzi?" Veronica asked, and Betty nodded.

"They were everywhere, Ron, everywhere!" Betty exclaimed, feeling a little emotional with the state that they were all in. Jughead kissed her temple again, murmuring a quiet, "breathe, baby," in her ear, before holding onto her fingers so she couldn't do anything detrimental to herself. She nodded her head a little, a quiet agreement to not doing anything that would harm her and listened to Ronnie spew out ways to get the paparazzi off their backs.

"I mean, you two could just come out with the fact that you're dating," Archie interrupted slyly, and Betty looked at him, then Jughead, who had a smirk on his face. "Oh, c'mon man, who goes on a trip then comes back looking like the sun is shining out of his fucking ass?"

Jughead laughed, as did Betty, before he replied. "Can't argue with you there."

"So, it's true? You two are dating?" Veronica asked, clapping her hands together excitedly.

Betty ducked her head into Jughead's chest, blushing bashfully, as he rubbed a hand up and down her spine.

"We're taking it slow, Ron," Jughead said to, Betty guessed, appease her. It seemed to do the trick because Veronica nodded and leaned back into the couch, tapping away at her phone.

"Now, to deal with the fucking zoo that is the media," she muttered, clacking away. "I'll send out some PR that will please them for the time being and let you two lovebirds have some time for yourself. But, I can't guarantee that'll last long. You really should come out with a public statement, B."

Betty shook her head. "No. No fucking way am I forcing Jughead into the limelight. The shit is hard enough to be in willingly. I'm not making him do that unwillingly."

Jughead squeezed her hand gently. "Baby, I want to. I want to do this with you."

Betty searched his eyes, looking for any hints of dishonesty, but he left them open and clear.

"You're sure?" Betty whispered. "You sure you want to go public with our relationship?"

Jughead placed a kiss to her shoulder. "Yes baby, I want this. I want all of this, with you."

"What about Chuck?" Veronica asked curiously, tone filled with disdain.

"Fuck Chuck," Jughead said simply. "I'd like to see that dick try and do something else to Betty. He won't be around to brag about it."

It was Archie who spoke up. "Betty, you told Jug?"

His tone was gentle, asking her if it was okay to talk about this, and Betty nodded.

"I told him everything," she whispered, holding onto his hand. Jughead rubbed comforting strokes into the back of her palm as he looked at Archie.

"I know she told you and Ronnie, and I swear, I won't tell a soul. But, is there anything that can be done about Clayton? He can't just get away with this shit," Jughead said angrily.

Archie nodded; jaw tensed. "Believe me, Jug, I'm as angry as you. But Betty didn't want to press charges and, despite how I feel about that personally, I will always respect her wishes." He turned to face Betty. "You're my best friend, Betty. The first person to believe in me in L.A.. That's something I won't forget so easily."

Betty smiled at him, touched by his words.

"Thanks, Arch," she murmured, squeezing his shoulder briefly. He nodded, touching her hand before she removed it to hold Jughead's again as Veronica spoke up.

"Well, kids, I've released a statement that should feed the vultures for now," she said, dusting her hands off. "But, like I said, you two should really come out with something. And soon."

Betty looked at Jughead and he her, then they both nodded at Veronica.

"We will," Betty promised firmly, scared, but also excited to see what would unfold in the coming days.

Author's note: RIP Kobe Bryant and Gigi. Prayers to his family, friends, and fans.

Chapter Text

Betty and Jughead spent the weekend staying indoors. They were mainly inside of his apartment, deciding against going back to her hotel for a couple of reasons. One: the piranhas had figured out where the hotel she was at was and two: his bed was much comfier than hers' at the hotel. So, really, there was no room for debate. Their decision was unanimous and liked-minded. As Betty had her feet in Jughead's lap, she bent over her toes, painting them a soft, periwinkle blue, listening to him hum softly. She didn't ask of course, but she suspected that if he could hum the way he could, he might just be able to carry a tune, too. She looked up at him, cracking a smile when she found one resting against his lips, as well.

"What?" Betty asked, wondering what had him grinning that way, as if he didn't have a care in the world. Perhaps he didn't.

"Nothing. You're just fucking beautiful, you know that, baby?" Jughead asked quietly.

She whined. "Juggie."

He laughed at her antics before softening his eyes on her once more. "I mean it, Betts. Even sitting here, relaxed as you are without a camera around, and you're still just as fucking gorgeous as you are in the movies."

She smiled softly. "I think that's because you make it easy. For me."

"What do you mean?" Jughead asked curiously. She dropped her eyes, knowing that what she was about to say would make her even more vulnerable in front of him, if that was possible, and the idea still scared her a little.

"I mean," she began, concentrating on getting the nail polish onto her pinky toe. "That you make it easy for me to feel beautiful."

"Betts," he groaned. "You don't need help from anyone to make you feel beautiful, least of all me."

His response had her looking up.

"But you do, Juggie," she said earnestly. "You help me because you see past what the rest of America can't or won't. You don't see Betty Cooper: Actress. You see me, just me, Betty Cooper. And, I can't begin to express my gratitude for that."

His eyes drank in everything about her facial expression. Her lines, dips, and curves etched into the face people paid millions to look like. She felt her heart warming when he smiled softly.

"You're more than a pretty face in a sea of people. There is prettiness everywhere, baby. But with you..." he trailed off, thinking.

She felt on display. "With me, what?"

"With you…it's like I've captured the perfect picture of the setting sun. You exude beautiful, natural colors in everything you do. And, it's not just in your looks. You're a good person simply because you choose to be. And, you let me see that. And, I think that's just really fucking amazing," he murmured.

She felt the air whoosh out of her as she studied him, trapping her lip with her teeth. "Jug?"

"Yeah, baby?"

"Is it alright if I kiss you?" Betty asked softly.

"God, baby, I thought you'd never ask," he whispered, and she laughed quietly. Then, closing the nail polish and setting it aside, she scooted forward until the bottom of her ass was brushing his knees as her toes still rested against his thighs. It should be an uncomfortable position, she thought, as she threaded her fingers through his unruly hair, but she found herself not caring in the slightest as her lips found purchase against his. She buzzed at the electricity running through her veins from the simple touch his lips caused.

This was unlike any kiss she had ever had with Chuck and she found herself not even wanting to compare, they were that drastically different. Jughead's hand gently tugged her ponytail until her hair was a golden ray of waves around her and his fingers tangled into its depths as his mouth explored hers'. He licked her lower lip, asking for entrancing, and she obliged immediately, humming when their tongues learned a dance all of their own. A dance, she realized with a fondness she didn't know she was capable of possessing, that she wanted to be acquainted with for a very long time.

When they eventually parted for air, Betty found that Jughead didn't want her too far from him because he was pressing a kiss to her shirt-clad shoulder, then pressed their foreheads together. She listened to the rhythmic beating of his heart, working a bit faster after what had just transpired between them before finding her voice to ask the question she knew she needed to.

"So," she began quietly, linking their fingers together and smiling softly when he pressed a tender kiss to her knuckles. "You really want to go forward with what is growing between us to the media?"

He chuckled. "That's a fun way to call our relationship by a different name."

She blushed, ducking her head shyly. "I just didn't know what you wanted to call it."

"I'd shout from every fucking rooftop that I, Jughead Jones, is dating Betty Cooper in a heartbeat," he said seriously, and she smiled. She knew just how honest he was being.

"And I," she said. "Would send stories to every news outlet about our growing relationship."

He laughed gently, nipping at her lower lip.

"I like the sound of that, baby," he whispered.

"Yeah?" Betty asked hopefully, eyes searching his.

He left his open for her to see every ounce of honesty buried deep in them. "Yes."

She sighed in contentment as she placed a feather-light kiss to his chest.

"God," she whispered "That makes me so happy. You have no idea."

"I think I do. But, in case you're right, explain it to me, love?" Jughead asked gently. She knew he understood she meant with Chuck and she also knew that he wanted to see every part of her, even the parts she couldn't make sense of. Especially those parts.

"With Chuck, it was just a media relationship. Our names looked good together in print, but it never felt like he loved me. I don't even think he's capable of loving anyone but himself," she admitted.

"You know that's not your fault, right? Not that or what he did to you," Jughead said quietly.

"Jug…," Betty began but he interrupted her.

"No, babe. What Chuck Clayton did to you was inexcusable and unforgiveable. No person has the right to force themselves on another person, famous or not," he reminded her.

"I was drunk," she muttered, but even she knew how weak that excuse was. So, did he, if the look he leveled her with was anything to go by.

"Tell me something, Betty Cooper. Would you have sex with someone because they were drunk?" Jughead asked.

She shook her head. "No, of course not. Being drunk isn't an invitation."

"Exactly," he murmured; eyes boring into hers'.

Suddenly she understood his point.

"Oh," she whispered.

He brushed his lips against her forehead and for the first time since her rape, she felt whole.

"We'll get you justice, I promise," he vowed.

And that was enough for now.

Author's note: Enjoy! Xxx

Chapter Text

Betty couldn't remember the last time she had been this genuinely happy. So carefree and content with where she was sitting with her life. She wasn't feeling the demands of Hollywood; wasn't filling the pressures to live up to the image America and, (the world), had created for her. And, she could honestly say it was the man she was with. A man, currently trying to get her to jump into the river.

"Jughead Jones, I am not jumping in that river. What if there are crocodiles and…stuff?" Betty demanded, biting her lip in worry.

"Crocodiles?" Jughead snorted. "Betts, this is New York. Not Louisiana where there are actual swamps."

"I wouldn't know what's in Louisiana," she reminded him. "I've never been."

"Neither have I but that's not the point," he said.

She laughed. "What's the point then?"

"I want you in this river with me, preferably naked, but I can make do with bra and underwear, but really, I'm fine with anything as long as you're actually in the river," he replied, smirking at her. Betty rolled her eyes, knowing she was quickly losing the fight.

"What if it's too cold and I get frostbite?" Betty asked weakly, and he rolled his eyes and just stared at her. Sighing, she nodded her head. "Fine, I'll get in the damn river but if the paps get a photo of this, you have no one but yourself to blame, Juggie."

Jughead just laughed as she striped out of her shirt and jeans, leaving her in her bra and underwear, before slowly getting into the river.

"Ah, Juggie, it's cold!" Betty complained, before gasping slightly as his toned body encroached into her space, muscular arms wrapping around her.

"Don't worry baby, I'll warm you up," he promised with a smirk. Then, in a softer voice, "is this alright?"

Knowing he meant how close he was to her; she was quick to free his worry.

She kissed him softly. "More than."

He placed gentle kisses along her jaw, earlobe, cheek, and sending little shivers down her spine with each delicate touch. Despite how hard she tried to not compare them, Betty never did have difficulty compartmentalizing the vast differences between Jughead and Chuck. Where Chuck was rough and firm; Jughead was soft and gentle. Something she found a bit funny when his calloused hands were cupping her cheeks between them. The touch, while should feel rough, was just pure gentleness. Something that left Betty reveling in.

"I love you," she sighed breathily, almost as if not needing to voice the words. She knew he just knew.

Jughead pulled back from painting art against her skin to look at her, eyes soft and adoration filled.

"God baby, it's so much more for than that for me," he murmured, voice burning with intensity. Betty looked at him.

"Yeah?" Betty asked hopefully, and he nodded.

"Yes," he promised softly. "Let me show you?"

She nodded, trusting him completely to not hurt her in the way Chuck had. Unclasping her bra, she let it rest next to her, then came her underwear. Finally, they molded into one.

XXX

By the time Betty and Jughead had retired to his apartment and had ordered in pizza, she was feeling perfect bliss. The afternoon had been absolutely perfect. She hadn't known a man could touch her so tenderly; so lovingly. But, then again, Jughead was always blowing her expectations out of the water. He was never doing something that didn't leave her awestruck and, as they sat down in his living room, legs tangled and sharing pizza, she felt like she could see them living in this type of domesticity for a long time to come.

"Tell me something about yourself," he said.

She laughed. "What more could you want to know about me?"

"God baby, I want to know everything," he murmured, eyes boring into hers'. She smiled softly, blushing slightly as she grew shy at his look. She pulled her hair to cover some of her face, having taken to wearing it down more often lately. It seemed Jughead liked running his fingers through her hair and she was happy to let him. He automatically tucked it behind her ear. "Don't hide from me."

Betty nodded as she thought.

"I really don't know if I want to act anymore," she admitted honestly. It was the first time she had ever said out loud. She hadn't even told Archie or Veronica. Jughead looked at her.

"Why?" Jughead asked softly.

"While I like to think I'm good at it, I prefer writing. My heart fills so much to the point it's almost bursting whenever I get to help with some of the scripts," she said.

"Would you ever write your own movie?" Jughead asked with a smile and she laughed.

"While they let me help with some scripts, a lot of people have made it clear I belong in front of the camera and they don't want to see me anywhere else. Besides, Hollywood is tough enough for actresses, but female writers? It's a male dominated city. They simply don't really want to endorse the idea of too many women writing scripts. I think, if I could, I'd write a book," she murmured.

"A book? You want to be an author?" Jughead asked.

She blushed. "Yeah. Always have. Just, scripts and books are two different things and I wouldn't even begin to know how to start. And, of course, this is all just wishful thinking. I already have a job. A job I succeed at and pays the bills."

"And, a job that makes you unhappy," he said quietly, and there it was. The truth she didn't want to face. She didn't say anything, and he took that as his cue to continue. "I don't like to admit that I follow celebrities for the mere fact that I don't want to invade their privacy, but I've seen you in some interviews over the years, promoting work. You always had a smile, but it never reached your eyes. And, I was surprised no one else hadn't noticed. All I kept thinking was, 'how is no one concerned with the fact that this beautiful woman is crumbling'?"

Betty didn't hesitate to brush her lips against his, eyes closing of their own volition.

"I love you," she whispered. She could feel him grinning against her lips and it stole her breath away. To know that she made him an iota as happy as he made her felt like she was doing something right with her life for the first time in a long time.

"I love you, too," he whispered, and her heart beat pleasantly, especially after remembering what they had done earlier at the river. "And, I say to hell with Hollywood. If you want to write your own script you should. Or book. But you shouldn't be afraid to because you're a woman. I won't allow it."

She quirked an eyebrow teasingly. "You won't allow it, hmm?"

He smirked. "Nope."

She shook her head fondly. "Dork. But I don't know. Veronica is my manager and one of my best friends. I would be nowhere without her. She…"

"Would be happy with no matter what career you chose as long as you're happy," he cut in gently. "Like you said, she's one of your best friends. She just wants the best for you."

Betty bit her lip. "I know that, I do. I just don't want to burden her."

Jughead looked at her incredulously. "Betty, baby, have you ever burdened anybody? If anything, people have burdened you by their demanding ways. You're so good and kind and gentle. You didn't report an attack and instead, stayed with your abuser because it would be easier on everything. You are good. And, I will not let you think for one minute you're a burden to anyone. Not after everything you've been there. And, still haven't ruled out cutting off Clayton's dick, at the least."

Betty couldn't help it as she laughed. "Thank you. It would mean a lot."

"Anything for you, babe," he promised earnestly. They fell silent then, soaking in the calmness in his apartment as Betty took another bite of her pizza. She had been enjoying food she normally didn't let herself eat and, in the back of her head where that little pessimistic voice liked to eat at her, she wondered how she'd fare once she was back in the city with casting.

Jughead nudged her foot with his, eyes closed. "Stop that."

"What?" Betty asked.

"Wondering if you're going to get jobs even though you're eating pizza," he chastised her, eyes still closed.

"Your eyes are closed. How do you even know what I'm thinking?" Betty wondered.

He grinned. "I'm in-tune with you, love."

The sentence warmed her from head to two and had her reaching for her third slice of pizza, to hell with casting.

Author's note: Couple of things. 1. Might seem like a slightly weird place to stop but it actually sets up the next part of the story arc nicely. 2. Thank you to everyone who supports this lovely little baby of mine. I adore all of you. 3. I know I mentioned Hollywood and Betty does a lot of her work in NYC, but she also does film work in Hollywood, too. Hope you enjoyed and will leave a little love! Xxx