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Cars, Sandwiches and Other Kisses

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The first time they kiss is also the first time Veronica helps Betty.

The whole gang are at that age when no one really understands their own power to hurt or to befriend, and we all stumble over lines without realizing it.

Reggie and Veronica have gone too far in their teasing, and Jughead’s felt hat is damaged. Betty promises an inconsolable Jughead that she’ll fix it for him. She quickly realises it won’t be as easy as it seemed; the hat had belonged to Jughead’s grandfather’s, and the buttons lining the turned-up rim simply can’t be found anymore. Betty searches the whole town for some duplicate, even goes so far as to post ads in the elderly centre where she volunteers, but to no result.

Then, one night, Veronica turns up to Betty’s parents’ door with her pretty shoes shyly pointing each other.

My mother, well, her friend, she said… Oh, just take them!” Veronica slaps a small package into Betty’s hands, and turns around. A chauffeur is already holding their car’s door open for her.

Betty blinks and looks down. In her hands are exact copies of the buttons Betty has searched all over for.

Veronica is already one foot in her car before Betty recovers enough from the shock to run up to her. Leaning into the car window, Betty pecks Veronica on the cheek. “Thank you!”

As the car drives away, Veronica’s small hand shoots out from the closing black window, and Betty waves back.

*

The second time happens in a parking lot.

Veronica and Archie are out together when Archie’s car breaks down. Betty’s mother shouts up the stairs that Archie is calling, and Betty rushes out of the shower to get the phone, only to get asked out… to repair the Andrews truck. Something is wrong with it that Archie can’t figure out, and, “Could you come give it a look?”

Betty agrees, not even considering any other reply. Hastily putting on some clothes, she picks up her tool bag, and leaves at once on her sturdy bicycle. The roads are clear and the moon illuminates the parking lot where Archie and Veronica are stranded.

Betty finds the problem as soon as she props herself under the car: rust took a clear bite out of one of the rods. It needs to be fully replaced, but Betty can do that if Archie finds a replacement, and it'll cost less than towing the vehicle back to a garage. Archie borrows Betty's bike and goes in search of the nearest car supply store to fetch the missing piece, while Veronica is charged with holding a torch lamp Betty had in her bag. Betty stays underneath the car, fixing the shaky looking fuel tank while she's there anyway. Veronica is sitting on Archie's jacket so as not to dirty her own clothes by having to sit down on the concrete floor to light Betty's way. The help is unreliable, because Veronica took to idly playing with the lamp in her boredom, but Betty can see enough from the streetlamp’s ambient light to get by. She tries not to notice the way her position gives her a direct view of Veronica's smooth outside thighs where her skirt is riding up her pulled up legs.

Betty had always known that Veronica had a great body - they change in front of each other enough that she’s pretty sure she knows how many freckles Ronnie has by now. Still, there’s something intimate about this situation, something forbidden in the angle and the warm glow of Veronica’s skin in the cool spring air. Betty averts her eyes once more and concentrates on securing the engine.

After a while of them sitting in companionable silence, Veronica’s head pops under the car and she peers at Betty.  "What is your plan?"

Betty doesn't look away from where she's tightening a bolt. Legs. There would be a lot of legs if she looked, so she doesn't. "What do you mean?"

"This. Why are you helping us? Are you secretly sabotaging the car, is that what you are doing?"

Betty gapes at Veronica in horror. "I would never do that!"

Veronica is visibly taken aback by the vehemence in Betty's voice. Then she smiles. "You're right, you would never do that."

Betty doesn't answer, and harshly wrench back into alignment a gritty piece. She feels more upset than she thinks she should be by Veronica's suspicion.

As if sensing her hurt, Veronica murmurs, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have thought that. You are a wonderful person, you know."

Betty, thinking she must be hearing things because surely Veronica Lodge would never apologise to her, tries to slide out from under the car so she can face Veronica better. Except that as soon as her head pops out, her forehead collides with Veronica's chin when Veronica must have meant to bent down to speak more clearly to Betty as well. Their momentum and subsequent fumbling result in Veronica's hair stroking Betty's face and the barest brush of soft lips against her temple, while Betty apologizes profusely. Veronica laughs and Betty feels her ears go hot. They both pause after that, looking at each other and the silence stretches for just a little too long.

The awkwardness is dispelled when Veronica suddenly seems to notice Betty’s still-damp hair. She scolds Betty for not taking proper care of herself, and the odd moment is broken. That discussion gets them talking about self-care, and, somehow, the conversation slips into their schedule management. Veronica lets Betty in on her secret: every morning, she includes personal activity into her to-do list and plans it the same as the rest of her agenda. It's a good idea, and Betty says as such, assuring Veronica that she’ll try it someday.

They are extremely comfortable with each other, and Betty wonders when's the last time they were able to speak to each other so freely, just the two of them.

At that moment, Veronica asks, "Don’t you ever get the impression we only talk of boys?”

A laugh bubbles out of Betty, surprising her so much she bumps her head under the car.

“Are you alright?” Veronica’s upside-down face peers at her with worry. Her beautiful hair is trailing dangerously close to a dirt puddle, but she doesn’t even seem to notice. Her skirt rides even higher up her legs because of the stretch, and now that Betty is looking she can’t stop.

 “Yeah, I really am,” Betty says, somewhat breathless, and is surprised herself at how true it is.

Archie comes back shortly after with the missing piece, they fix it into place, and Betty bids them a good night together. She whistles all the way back. When her mother asks if Betty has found what was wrong with the car, Betty can only answer: “No, but I think I found something right by me.”

*

Their third kiss is what really gets Betty wondering: what if…?

It was only supposed to be a simple race. One that turned into a competition between Betty and Veronica once they learned Archie would be giving the price, but really, what isn’t a competition for them?

It turns into a bad joke when Betty, first place, slips and twists her ankle. She sits on the side of the road and resolves herself to waiting until most of the participants have caught up and passed her by before she can hobble the rest of the way to the finish line. No sense slowing any of them down because of her own mistake. Her ankle is already swelling, but at least it doesn't feel like it's broken.

“Betty! Are you alright?”

Betty looks up, squinting against the sun, and smiles wryly at Veronica. Of course Veronica would be one of the first right behind her. “Yeah, it’s only my ankle…”

Veronica looks confused. “But why are you sitting by the side of the road? Don’t you want someone to help you?

Betty unties her shoe and slips it off with a wince. “Nah, I’d get in their way. You go. I’ll take my time and join you later.”

Veronica huffs, and sits down next to her. “Seriously, Betty. Here, I’ll help you. You’ve got to learn to ask things for yourself.”

There is a fondness in her voice that warms Betty all over. She hardly needs to think about it, which might have something to do with the way she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the softness of Veronica’s lips against her forehead. Would they feel just as soft against her own? “Okay,” she says, leans over and kisses Veronica. It’s surprisingly slick and just a bit sticky, because she’s wearing lipstick Betty suddenly realises, and she licks its faint taste of strawberry off her own lips in pleased wonder.

Veronica blinks, then burst out laughing, and Betty can’t help but follow. This is more than a little absurd, but not in a bad way. She wonders why she never did this before, what’s so different between this and what they usually do, and if this could transform things between them. In that moment, Betty thinks that even if this leads to a change, she could like living with a little difference in her life.

They end up last places in the race, Betty’s arm thrown over Veronica’s shoulders as they hobble down the path, and Betty’s ankle is throbbing, but she feels like she won something bigger than first prize today. She feels as if she walked a new path, one that could be filled with new and wonderful things, all hers to discover. She has no idea what it is, but she’s also comfortable with that. That night, she dreams up a thousand what ifs?

*

The kiss after that, Betty is thinking of sandwiches.

It's Jughead's fault, really. A few weeks after the race incident, Betty and Jughead are talking over in Jughead's backyard, just hanging out in their last week of summer break watching Hot Dog chase squirrels. After a few false starts, Betty tentatively asks Jughead, "Have you ever thought about kissing people?"

Jughead makes a face. "Ew, no. I don't get the attraction to kissing girls, really."

Betty rolls over, trying not to sound over-interested. "And boys? Have you ever thought about... kissing boys?"

Jughead hums thoughtfully then makes another face. "Nope. Just as ew." He turns his sometimes too-sharp look at Betty. "Have you?"

Betty considers faking she doesn't know what he means, saying she thinks about kissing boys all the time, but this is Jughead. They've been through too much of their lives together for her to even thinking about evading one of his questions. It'd never work. "Yes, a bit. But I also think about boys." She frowns.

Jughead hums and they keep quiet for a long time. Long enough that Betty startles when Jughead stands up.

"I'm getting some sandwiches. We had pickles and smoked meat left when I was done eating this morning. I didn't know which one I'd want to eat then, but now I think I'll just make two and eat both."

“Oh.” Betty says. She looks up at the bright blue sky and watches clouds pass. Then, again, she says. “Oh.

The next time she’s alone with him, Betty asks Archie about what he feels when he’s with Veronica. Instead of concentrating on how that might be different than when he’s with her, she wonders if she feels different when she’s with Veronica. To her surprise, they almost like all the same things about Veronica. When Betty tells him as such, Archie says: "I'm really glad that the both of you are such great friends," and Betty grins. When they part that night and he waves at her from his doorstep, she takes a moment of think of Veronica and strawberry flavored lipstick kisses. Her thoughts lead her to pickles and smoke meat, and she giggles.  

Maybe things aren’t all so complicated after all.

*

Their first date is awkward, mostly because Betty hasn’t told Veronica that it is a date yet.

Betty had planned to when she called Veronica to go out, but the actual words had stuck in her throat. How exactly does one go around asking one of their best friends out to see if they could work out some romance into their relationship?

That was how Betty ended up gingerly sitting next to Veronica in the cinema and hoping Veronica doesn't notice the tension surrounding them. The confused glances she keeps shooting Betty tell otherwise, though to Betty’s relief Veronica doesn’t seem inclined to bring it up soon.

They talk of everything and nothing, but Betty can’t really concentrate on any of it because she’s suddenly noticing millions of things about Veronica she had never given attention to before. Things like the way Veronica’s hair gleams blue-black in candlelight, the width of her smile, the cadence of her voice, the way she tips everyone generously wherever they go, how fully she gives her attention to people when listening to them, the daring sparks in her eyes. Despite Betty knowing Veronica for almost a decade already, this feels like discovering a new person all over again in her friend, and it’s overwhelming.

As their after movie dinner comes to an end, Veronica is twirling her last forkful of spaghetti while Betty is fiddling with her napkin. The whole date (is it really one?), she had kept expecting the ground to swallow her, but now that they are almost done she finds herself wishing this could go on. Looking up furtively, she sees Veronica raise an eyebrow at her and smile from one side of her mouth, the expression curious and fond at once. Betty suddenly, desperately wants this to work.

Veronica beats her to the punch.

"Are you going to at least kiss me goodnight after this?"

Betty stares. Veronica’s face turns exasperated, and her voice rises with her temper. "This is a date, right? There was a movie that you didn't see because you kept staring at my lips! And I know that my lipstick is on perfectly, because it took me two hours to decide exactly which shade you'd find most attractive. So if this is a date, then I want my kiss!"

Each word is perfectly accentuated, and it's such a Ronnie thing to say that Betty feels affection wash over her like a heavy homespun blanket. Betty practically falls over the table in her haste to comply, because really, Veronica really did choose the most perfect shade of lipstick for today.

After that one, the two dozen more that night, Betty stops counting their kisses.