If there’s something that the youth of Riverdale can count on to somewhat temper the constant and melodramatic anguish of their daily lives, it’s their parents’ liquor cabinets.
The Blossoms’ is definitely the most impressive, hence Thornhill, complete with wine cellar and no fewer than ten drinks cabinets, being the scene of almost all house parties for the town’s teenage population. Sherriff Keller has a modest stash of impossibly expensive brandy that Kevin, having learnt how to avoid police detection from childhood, has dipped into once or twice, and the Coopers seem to be a G&T type of household, with a decanter of sherry for good measure, and more white wine than they know what to do with. Fred Andrews, the man’s man, sticks to beer.
And despite knowing (and creating) many of the tricks themselves, the parents still manage to let themselves be outsmarted by their kids, clandestine alcohol smuggled away under coats or sipped and flinched at in the darkness of late-night bedrooms.
One of the kids that doesn’t participate in this prohibition-esque routine is Jughead Jones.
He knows it’s probably heaps of fun, and can appreciate the adolescent experimentation for what it is, but after witnessing the extreme effects of the substance on his mangled home life, he’s not about to get involved with it anytime soon. Besides, who wants to waste the entire day afterwards, hungover and feeling like death warmed up, when there are other, considerably less addictive mind altering alternatives? So Jughead maybe might break his strict moral code when it comes to his father’s acquaintances, and buy himself a baggie or two of weed now and then.
Because it makes him feel good; not swimming in his own head like the drink did the one time he tried it, but more floating, riding the crest of some wave that doesn’t crash, but rolls in gently and deposits him on a warm beach.
He knows that it completely feeds his reputation of “weirdo stoner loner”, and it attracts more trouble than it’s maybe worth: namely certain football players attempting clandestine deals under the bleachers before he redirects them to his source, (He’s not interested in dealing. He doesn’t need that shit.) but it’s somehow worth it, even if that does make him sound like a total pothead.
Except now he’s living with Archie Andrews, actual real life puppy-turned-sniffer-dog, meaning he comes back into the bedroom from the bathroom one day to find Archie holding up his stash with a mischievous glint in his eye. Jug could probably deal with it if he was being judgy, because defensiveness and confrontation is something he does unsurprisingly well, but Archie just widens his trademark grin and declares that, as roommates, they share everything.
It’s true. They’ve been sharing Archie’s bed for the last fortnight, for God’s sakes, after the air mattress gives up the ghost and they both admit they’d much rather wake up from their respective nightmares to each other’s’ company, rather than an empty bed. Archie’s sharing his house, Jug’s sharing his expertly suppressed emotions (gradually, he’ll admit), so he has to concede to sharing this too.
The plan is this: Tuesday nights are when Fred is out at the bar, or the bingo, or wherever lame parents go to blow off steam, so the idea is to order in Pop’s and watch Labyrinth utterly stoned. Somewhere along the way, however, the invitation gets extended.
They’re in the student lounge, the Monday before, Jug’s leg pressed against Betty’s in warm familiarity as they lay out the composition of the Blue and Gold’s front page on the table in front of them. Archie watches with this kind of weird mix of fondness and jealousy that Jug has noticed has quickly become one of his key facial expressions lately, especially around the two of them.
Jughead wonders when Archie’s emotional intelligence is going to make that long-awaited connection with his mouth, or any other method of communication for that matter. To his left, Veronica’s tapping something out on her phone, glossed nails clacking against the screen and causing an admittedly very chic annoyance.
“You wanna work on this tomorrow night?” Betty asks, turning to Jug with her casual openness, and he’s surprised by the fact that he has to turn her down. He hasn’t had to do that before (in case you hadn’t noticed, Jughead does not usually have Other Plans).
“I can’t, Betts, I’m sorry.” And he’s going to leave it at that, before Archie decides to let the entire room know just what Edgy Teens they’re going to be in just over 24 hours.
“We’re gonna get stoned and watch David Bowie!”
There’s a smugness to his expression that comes with that period of teenage years where dabbling in illegal substances makes you the coolest kid on the block, but he can’t quite seem to grasp that yelling about it generally has the opposite effect. It attracts the attention of Veronica, though, who clicks off her screen and leans forward to join the conversation.
“Well where in all creation were Betty and my invites, boys?” she asks, smirking as she cocks an eyebrow, and Jug can feel Betty shift beside him.
“Oh no, that’s fine,” the blonde says, hurriedly, in her all too familiar attempt to distance herself from another of Veronica’s bold proposals, “You guys have fun!” and she actually pats Jug’s knee in her awkwardness, like he’s seven or something.
“’C’mon, B! I’m sure they won’t mind…” Veronica wheedles, and Jug has to admit that she’s damn good at this negotiation thing – either that or living with malleable Archie is softening him up. He’s got absolutely no doubt in his mind that Veronica’s got high before (I mean, she lived in New York), but Betty is resolutely inexperienced, and he’s kind of dying to see how she’ll react.
“Sure, you can come,” he manages, and turns to the girl beside him, keen to demonstrate she’s not being forced into anything, “You don’t have to, though.”
“No! Um… I’d love to.”
She smiles, half apprehensive, half excited, and Jug can’t help but smile back at her, like it’s a bodily reflex.
Archie, from across the table, blinks his gaze away from them.
And this somehow serves as suitable explanation for why the four of them are sprawled out on Archie’s sofa bed the next evening. He’s bought four cans of Febreze, much to Jug’s amusement (although, in his defence, there is a lot of soft upholstery in this lounge), and they’re waiting on the food delivery – ordered before the evening begins, because if there’s one thing stoned Jughead cannot handle, it’s waiting for food. He’s rolling, or trying his best to roll without spilling anything on a mattress where a certain redhead keeps leaning over him every two seconds to reach for the remote, or his phone, or something equally irritating. Eventually, though, they end up with three spliffs, which he thinks is probably more than enough for the quartet, especially considering what he predicts will be a painfully low tolerance for both Archie and Betty.
When the doorbell rings, Veronica hops up to haul through the bags of food, and Jug would be lying if the sight of it laid out on the bed isn’t the most arousing thing he’s seen in his life. They’re squeezed together against cushions and pillows, Archie beside Jughead beside Betty beside Ronnie, and with Sarah selling her baby brother to the sexy Goblin King onscreen, Jug figures it’s as good a time as any to spark up.
The stuff is strong, even when mixed with tobacco, and as he exhales after his second toke he can feel two sets of eyes on him; he expects Betty’s, but the way Archie’s gaze fixes on his throat, on the smoke that leaves his lips, heightens the gentle floating in his stomach tenfold.
With a satisfied smile, he passes the spliff over to Veronica, who, no joke, does a remarkable impression of Frenchie from Grease, exhaling expertly out of the corner of her mouth, and Jug sees her smirk at the way Betty unconsciously bites her lip. Maybe it’s the quick working of the drugs that tempers any jealousy he’s supposed to feel at Betty eyeing up Veronica like she’s delicious, but he thinks that even without it he probably wouldn’t care all that much anyway. He’s not big on possessiveness, or anything else that unnecessarily complicates relationships, and besides, Veronica does look like she’s rolled straight out of Gossip Girl, or something.
“This is the good kush, Juggie.” She says, impressed, and he stifles a laugh, before Archie is reaching across him to swipe the joint out of her hands, flopping back against the pillows and breathing in clumsily before spluttering spectacularly on the breath out.
He coughs for a good minute, and Jug pats his back with his already heavier-than-normal arm, before taking the spliff from him.
“Baby steps, Andrews,” he grins, and Archie looks up with watering eyes and a sheepish smile, “Wanna try something?”
At the answering nod, he moves to face him completely, shifting Betty to lean more on Veronica, but he’s sure she doesn’t mind in the slightest. He’s never tried shotgunning anyone before, or rather, never had anyone to try it with, but he knows the general principle, and it’s probably an easier way for Archie to get high without suffering another coughing fit. So, he tells him to open his mouth, which he does, obediently, and then tells him to close his eyes, which he obeys too, and he glances behind him to see Betty’s face drawn in a silent question, her back pressed up to Veronica’s chest as they both watch.
“I’m gonna blow the smoke into your mouth, and you’re gonna breathe it in, okay, Arch?”
And Archie is practically vibrating with excitement as Jug relights the end of the joint and inhales enough to give himself a pleasant, buzzing head rush, steadying a hand on Archie’s infuriatingly defined jaw. He leans in and exhales, mouth more pursed than usual so as to direct the stream of smoke into Archie’s parted lips, and once he’s done he waits, faces inches apart, so close he can count the smattering of freckles over the redhead’s nose, see the flickering of his lashes against his cheeks.
“Hold it.” he says, softly, and Archie does what he’s told, only breathing out once Jug has pulled back, and still coughing slightly from the burn in the back of his throat.
“Good?” Jug asks, and Betty tangles their fingers together.
Archie’s got a slightly dazed, dopey smile on his face, but that really doesn’t make much difference from his normal expression.
“Yeah…” he manages, then lets out a small, high laugh, eyes crinkling and face lighting up. Oh God, Jug thinks: he’s a giggler. But the laugh is infectious, and soon he’s sniggering too, and Veronica can’t control herself either, so they laugh until Betty squeezes his hand and he realises with a start that they’ve left her out in the cold.
“My turn,” she states, with a certainty that turns her eyes steely, and after she’s relit the joint she doesn’t toke on it like he expects her to, but presses it back into his hand. His fuzzed-up brain takes a minute to catch on, half because of the drugs, half because of her newfound, bewildering, control, but he eventually realises that she wants him to give her the treatment he gave Archie. And he’s somehow more nervous, sliding a hand to the back of her neck to pull her in, because where solid certainty sits when he’s with Archie, Betty’s presence brings fizzing possibility and apprehension.
There’s no reason for him to have worried though, she exhales more smoothly than Archie did, and Jug’s in no way condoning smoking in the slightest, but the way the curling tendrils that escape her lips mirror the flick of her ponytail is really very aesthetically pleasing. And they don’t really manage to pull apart, because once she’s done she pulls him in to kiss her, tasting of smoke and strawberry chapstick.
“Who’d have known that Forsythe Jones would be the sexy shotgun god?” Veronica teases as he falls back onto the pillows and Archie’s outstretched arm.
From his right-hand side, he can hear the redhead in question repeat “Forsythe” to himself, quietly, and snicker like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard in his life.
For the next hour, Jughead can feel himself becoming more pillow than human. It seems like the munchies kick in almost immediately after that, and Pop’s fries, despite being left and somewhat lukewarm, are the most glorious culinary creations on this planet. Archie can barely eat for laughing, whether at Jared’s iconic leather pants, the fact that Jughead seems to know every line, or the smudge of ketchup that Betty leaves in the corner of her mouth, but Jughead does well to devour what he’s left, with Betty’s help, and they make it through a rather frightening amount of food. After about twenty minutes and two more cycles, both the spliff and Veronica tap out, the latter’s hair making a dark pool against the pillows as she dozes, one arm still thrown loosely around Betty’s waist.
They’re a tangled mess of heavy limbs, Archie’s arm having snaked to rest over Jug’s shoulder, Betty’s right hand warm on his upper thigh, and he uses his skills of expert avoidance to remove it from its precarious position, instead taking it in his own and placing them on the mattress between them. He’s not uncomfortable with the contact, per se, just the implications, the possibilities of what follows.
She leans her chin on his shoulder, escaping Veronica’s sleepy grip.
“Do you ever wonder what it would be like to fuck David Bowie in space?” she asks, voice low in his ear, and the three of them consider this for a moment, eyes fixed on the screen, before Jug replies, simply.
And Archie’s off before anyone can stop him, pealing laugh filling the room, and all Jug can muster in his lax state is a small chuckle, unable to take his eyes off the way Archie throws his head back, arm muscles tensing and relaxing around his neck and shoulders. Betty giggles into the hollow of his neck before pressing a kiss there, sudden and tingling, and he hums involuntarily, which draws Archie’s gaze back, dark and hazy.
Then, Betty decides to really throw him off by swinging a leg over his lap, and sitting, straddling his legs.
“I… can’t see the film.” He protests, weakly, but she slots their mouths together by way of an answer, and her position is not only drawing his attention away from the screen, judging by the way Archie seems to be wholeheartedly invested in watching them instead. And the kissing is soft, and familiar, because he knows the way that Betty’s lips move, but the pressure of her thighs on either side of him, and the insistent heat of everything is suddenly too cloying, with his clouded head and relaxed muscles, so he has to push her away.
“Sorry, can you just—" he tries to articulate, but she nods, and tries to clamber off the other side, effectively prevented from tumbling over the edge of the sofa bed by Archie, who catches her before it all goes disastrously wrong.
“Easy!” he laughs, and Jug takes the moment to breathe and pull himself further upright.
Betty’s ended up in Archie’s lap this time (the word Jug’s brain supplies is ‘side-saddle’, and considering Archie’s reputation as their very own ‘ginger stallion’, it’s quite accurate), and the two of them seem to be eyeing up the remaining joints with a kind of identical mischief, with the blonde eventually grabbing one, and the lighter, from the sheets. She holds them in her hands and uses them to point at Jughead like a baton, her shrewd expression indicating definite plotting and planning happening underneath that trademark ponytail.
“I want you to shotgun Archie again.” She says, like she’s pitching an article for the Blue and Gold, business-like and assertive, but with a tiny smirk at the end that lets them know that this is entirely for fun. And there’s no way Jug can say no, because it’s Betty and Archie and he’s craving another hit like anything, and the way Archie’s blushing at the thought is too good to resist.
So, he blows another stream of smoke through Archie’s slack lips, hand resting on the juncture of his shoulders, but it’s Betty who gives the orders this time, who tells the redhead when to exhale, who scratches at the base of Jughead’s neck like she knows he likes to keep their faces within infuriating proximity. Archie’s getting better at this, fast learner, he doesn’t cough this time but still stifles a giggle by catching his lower lip in his teeth, and suddenly that’s all Jughead can look it, the pull of skin into his mouth.
And then, softer and less certain:
“Can you kiss him?”
Both of their eyes flicker towards her, but there’s something impossible to read in her face, and they’ve got no idea which one of them she’s actually asking, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference because they lean in anyway, closing the space. It’s slow, and mistimed at points, but there’s a grounding in the pit of Jughead’s stomach that combats the dizzy spinning in his head. He has to hold Archie’s shoulder, because as he tilts his head he feels like the room shifts, like he’s a glass about to slide off a table and smash onto the floor, but he never falls, just moves against Archie’s mouth with a kind of languid fluidity.
And when they pull apart, Jughead’s sure Archie’s going to laugh, but instead there’s a silence. It could be, very plausibly, an awkward one, because they’ve gone about this all the wrong way, with no negotiation or discussion of Feelings, but instead, the relief of resolving Archie’s silent and longstanding almost-jealousy outweighs any miscommunication and gives way to three smiles.
When her silent, questioning glance at Jughead is answered with a nod, Betty presses her lips to Archie’s, in the culmination of something eleven years in the making, and they look so perfectly matched that there’s a swelling in Jug’s chest, although that could also be attributed to the pot. He’s melting back into the mattress now, and is beginning to see the immense advantages of Ronnie’s position – they’ve finished off the food, and although they still have the epic Escher-staircase face- off to look forward to, he feels like he could probably sleep into the next century.
“Don’t tell me you’re leaving us to clean up.” Archie whines, as Jug shifts himself further down the bed and curls up on the sheets, but all he receives in response is an answering groan that sounds suspiciously like: “Boyfriend responsibilities.”
When Fred Andrews returns in the early hours of the morning, he’s greeted by a suspiciously fragrant living room, and three thoroughly unconscious teenagers sleeping in their clothes on his sofa bed.
The fourth, a certain Betty Cooper, is pressed between Archie and Jughead, and seems to have been the only one with the mind to put on pyjamas.
He just hopes they haven’t been into his liquor cabinet.