"Betty! We're late, come on!"
She looked at her watch, groaned. "Shoot. Sorry, Ronnie," she said, looking into her webcam with an apology on her face. "We've got to get going. Can I call you tomorrow?"
"Seriously? We haven't talked in three weeks, this is no good," Veronica pouted. "Okay, tomorrow."
"'Kay," Betty smiled, reaching to switch off her computer. "Oh! Wait, I forgot to ask, are you going back early for the rehearsal dinner, or just for the ceremony?"
"Betty!" he shouted from the hallway. "They're going to hate us, you know that, right?"
"I'll be there on Tuesday, to spend some time with Daddy," Veronica answered. "Who are you going out with?"
"No one. Just some friends," Betty waved her hand. "Okay, that's good, because I might be late and I would hate if we both missed Midge's bachelorette party."
"Yep," Betty chewed her lip. "If I didn't love it so much, I'd want to kill people."
Veronica grinned. "Yeah, I get that -"
"Okay!" she called back to him, rolling her eyes. "Gotta go, Ronnie. Love you."
"You, too," Veronica said before her image flickered off the screen.
Betty grabbed her coat and purse, switching off the lights on her way to the front door.
"Jesus, what kept you?" Reggie asked, adjusting his collar with some difficulty.
"Here." Betty reached up to straighten his coat before pecking him quickly on the lips. "Just girl talk."
Reggie smiled, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear before leaning down for a longer, slower kiss.
"Reggie," she laughed into his mouth, her hand wrapping around the back of his neck. "We're late," she reminded him.
He groaned, pulling away reluctantly. "It's your fault, you know. We could have had sex at least twice in the time you two were talking."
"That doesn't say a lot for you, does it?" Betty asked as she walked out the door.
Reggie followed her, flicking off the lights. "Ha, ha. You're a witty one, Betty Cooper," he said dryly, closing the door behind him.
Okay, maybe we need to back up a bit.
Several people shrieked as Moose hurdled into the pool, a tremendous amount of water showering out over the party as a result. Midge grinned, handing her drink to her friend before leaping after him, summer dress and all.
Veronica came over to stand next to Betty, stealing a chip off her plate. "Midge just bought that dress, too," she said, sounding forlorn. "What a waste."
"Like you're not thinking about jumping in fully clothed, too," Betty grinned.
Veronica looked sideways at her friend. "Please. I have thirty-four designer swimsuits upstairs in my room. I'm not ruining my jeans, thank you very much."
Archie happened to be walking past the girls as Veronica was talking. He paused, catching Betty's eye with a slow smile. Veronica, oblivious to the redhead behind her, didn't see him beckoning Jughead over silently.
Betty hid a smile, with difficulty. "So that's a 'no' to swimming, then?"
"I'm sorry, have you seen how awesome I loo-EEAAAUGGHH!"
Veronica's indelicate shrieks were heard throughout the party as Archie and Jughead seized her and all three careened into the pool. Laughter and applause sounded, everyone cheering as Veronica came up for air, spluttering. "Betty!"
"What?" Betty asked, the picture of pure, blonde innocence. Or attempting, at least. "I had nothing to do with it!"
Veronica clambered out of the pool, dashing at Betty with surprising speed. Betty shrieked as her best friend grabbed her and dragged her to the pool. "Ronnie, come on!" Betty protested, trying to wiggle out of her grasp. "A little chlorine never killed anyone!"
Veronica grinned. "Good. I'd hate to lose my best friend on grad night." And with that, she shoved Betty backwards into the water.
Betty surfaced, coughing, as Archie swam up to her. "Welcome to the party," he said.
She shoved the water-heavy bangs out of her eyes and laughed. "Gee, thanks," she said, before grasping his shoulders and shoving him underwater. "Who wants to play Marco Polo?" she shouted, and suddenly teens were jumping into the pool from all sides.
Hours later, most of the crowd had dispersed, leaving Veronica, Betty and Midge on lawn chairs, staring up at the night sky. They boys were heard in the background, helping clean up some of the trash before Mr. Lodge came outside in the morning.
"The sky is huge," Veronica said in a voice of quiet awe.
Midge snorted. "Babe, you're so drunk."
"Please," Veronica waved her hand, only barely missing her nose. "Lodge's don't get drunk. We pay the help to do that."
"That makes absolutely no sense," Betty giggled, enjoying her own lightheadedness.
"Your face makes no sense," Veronica scowled. "What?" she asked, as Betty and Midge broke into hysterics.
"Sounds like you girls are having a good time," a voice said to their left. They looked up to see Reggie standing over their chairs, smirking.
"Reggie!" Veronica gasped. "Reggie, I'm going to miss you, you know that?"
Reggie laughed, scooting onto Veronica's chair next to her. She rolled to her side a little bit, curling into him. "We'll still see each other, Ronnie," he said, rubbing her back.
"No, no, because you're going to be in New York and Betty's going to be in New York and Archie's going to Ohio State and I'm going to stupid England." The last several words were harder to hear because Veronica had buried her face in Reggie's shirt.
Betty reached over to pet her friend's hair. "Don't worry, Veronica, we'll keep in touch. The internet is awesome."
Veronica turned around to look tearfully at Betty. "You promise?"
"Come on, who else am I going to talk to about hot professors and bad roommates and -" Betty paused, a lump forming in her throat to match the unexpected tears stinging her eyes. "Stupid England," she muttered, blinking rapidly.
Veronica wriggled out of Reggie's arms, crawling over to Betty's lawn chair and climbing in next to her. "Don't worry," she murmured, wrapping her arms around her friend. "It's going to be okay."
Betty sniffled. "What if you get a new best friend?"
Veronica's lip quivered. "Never. Never never never."
"Okay," Betty nodded, her chest hurting a little. "Because if you do, I'm going to have so much sex with Archie, it's not even funny."
"Hey!" Archie and Jughead said in unison, coming up just in time to hear Betty's last declaration. "What are you all talking about?" Archie asked, looking at the two embracing girls in confusion.
"Dude, don't ask," Reggie said, eyes closed contentedly. "Just wake me up when they start making out, okay?"
Betty and Veronica laughed, sitting up. Betty rested her head on Veronica's shoulder as Moose and Chuck joined them around the dying campfire.
"Can't believe we made it," Midge said, scooting over to let her boyfriend sit next to her. "I mean, does anyone feel that we've been in high school forever, or what?"
"Feels like decades," Chuck said, leaning back on his elbows.
Betty looked around at all her friends, the people who had been with her since pre-school. Her room was mostly packed, her car slowly filling in preparation for her move to New York City the next week. Books were neatly arranged in boxes, clothing sorted by season and bundled into suitcases. Her walls were becoming barer every day, her desk empty save for the admissions packet NYU had sent in April. She kept opening it, flipping through the various forms and pages, letting her mind wander through all the possibilities waiting for her.
But now the date of departure was days away, and Betty was regretting taking the summer internship with The New Yorker. It was a great opportunity, sure, but it meant nine fewer weeks with her friends and family, and suddenly she wanted nothing more than to have one last sunlit summer with the gang.
"You guys, this sucks," she said, feeling that pressure in her chest again, her throat closing up. "I don't want to leave."
"Betty, you're going to have an amazing time in New York," Archie said, squeezing her ankle from his spot on the grass. "You won't miss us for long."
"I'll miss you forever," she cried, tears finally spilling over.
Veronica whimpered, turning to hug her tightly. "Me too!"
The boys and Midge watched, a bit perplexed, as Betty and Veronica cried in each other's arms.
"Um," Reggie said, fiddling with his beer. "You'll still have me? I mean, I'll be in New York, too. Columbia isn't that far...we can hang out a bunch!"
The rest of the gang couldn't help but laugh as the girls cried even louder.
Too far back? Okay, hang on, we'll catch up. Soon.
High school ends and friends scatter. Moose gets a football scholarship playing for USC, so he's off to Pasadena. Midge, studying in Berkeley, tries to make it to all his home games, and he visits often in the spring, when training lets up.
Chuck plays football for Ohio State for awhile, before discovering that he really enjoys science. His adviser throws a bunch of biology and chemistry into his schedule, and before Chuck knows it he's pre-med.
Jughead surprises everyone by having decent enough grades to get into Reed College in Oregon, where he studies anthropology and avoids the rampant amounts of marijuana available to him. His stomach couldn't handle an even more voracious appetite, he's pretty sure.
Archie joins Chuck at Ohio State, where he thoroughly enjoys the girls, the parties, and, surprisingly, his creative writing course. Three years into an English major, and his professors are pushing him to go for an MFA in fiction.
Veronica goes to Cambridge, where she hops around Europe and dates British men and Italian men and, her personal favorite, Spanish men. At some point between getting arrested in Amsterdam (and seriously, who thought that was possible?) and an ill-advised elopement in Greece, she stumbles into pre-law and turns out to be, well, excellent at it.
Right, right, you want to know about them.
So, Betty and Reggie both end up in New York City, him at Columbia University (thanks more to a bit of pedigree and connectedness than a stellar academic record) while she's studying journalism at NYU. Reggie floats around subjects for awhile before discovering politics, and when everyone else hears about that they all get a little chill. Because Reginald Mantle in elected office is kind of terrifying to think about.
At first, they don't see each other much. Sure, they grab coffee every once in awhile, call when they're passing through the other's neck of the woods. Reggie buys Betty Broadway tickets for her birthday. For his, she shows up with cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and he just loves her so much at that moment.
But they lead separate lives. Classes and new friends take up most of their time, leaving Reggie and Betty in that awkward stage of friendship, where she always feels like she should call, or he feels guilty if he passes by her neighborhood without stopping but he's in such a hurry, she'd understand.
But still. There's the party she ends up going to with him where she tries weed for the first time, and there's a bonding experience for you (because she made him walk her up and down every street until she found a hot dog vendor and then can they find some roasted peanuts, please?) And he got dumped and then completely drunk four blocks from her dorm, so he called her at a disgustingly early hour of the morning (Hey, hey Betty, um, do you know what line you take to get home? I mean, my home. Dude, there are so many trains...) and she groaned and pulled on her shoes and went to get him from the corner he was sitting on.
Then there was the time they got lost in Staten Island, but they swore a blood oath to never speak of that again.
And of course, there was the first big party of their senior year, where -
You know what? Let's just jump to this part right now.
"So, you and Mike split, huh?"
Betty nodded, grabbing another beer from the fridge. "It was coming for awhile, but I think what really did the trick was walking in on him getting a blow job from a sophomore."
"Ouch," Reggie whistled, then raised his drink. "Well, here's to that sophomore. She probably did you a favor."
She rubbed her eyes tiredly. "A year, I dated that jackass. Why didn't I break up with him months ago?"
"It's hard to give up consistent sex and dates to awkward social gatherings," Reggie suggested, shrugging slightly.
"Yeah, by the way, thanks for coming to this with me," Betty said, glancing at him. "I don't think I would have come otherwise."
"Anytime. Besides, I've been wanting to hook up with your friend Adrienne for months." Reggie nodded at a tall brunette who had just walked in.
"Great," Betty snorted. "Just wait until I leave, could you?"
"Can't promise anything, Cooper," Reggie replied thoughtfully. "Check out that skirt."
"Or lack thereof," Betty responded shortly. "Just don't promise you'll call her this time because Sarah didn't talk to me for weeks after you pulled that."
Reggie's mouth twitched. "Sorry about that."
"Yeah, yeah," she sighed. "Okay, I'm going to make the rounds. Go...make your move, or whatever."
He watched her exit the room, off to say hi to friends or something. For a moment he wondered if he should follow - just broke up with her boyfriend, probably vulnerable or sad or something - but he shook if off after a moment and moved towards the keg.
"Hey, Adrienne," he said, his smirk unmistakable.
She looked up, blinked, smiled.
Betty inched her way through a window onto the fire escape, a pack of cigarettes she had borrowed off her friend clenched tightly in her hand as she squirmed into a comfortable sitting position.
Lighting up, she leaned her head back against the cool brick, exhaling the toxic fumes out into the night air. She was regretting coming tonight - she wasn't close with most of the people here, someone had mentioned that Mike might stop by, and Reggie had disappeared with Adrienne fifteen minutes earlier, the jackass.
She wrinkled her nose, trying not to think of what he was doing at that moment. Were they having sex yet, or just fooling around? Was his shirt off? Were her hands under his waistband, had his crept up under the hem of her skirt, his fingers inching -
Betty yelped, her cigarette slipping from her fingers through the grating to the street far below.
"Shit, Reggie," she breathed, her heart pounding. "Don't do that to a girl."
He grinned, climbing out onto the fire escape with her. "Since when do you smoke?"
"I don't," she insisted, even as she pulled another cigarette from the pack. "Do you want one?"
"Sure," he said, taking the offered smoke from her. "Thanks."
They lit up, smoking in silence for a few moments, her heart still beating uncomfortably fast.
"I didn't sleep with Adrienne," Reggie said suddenly.
Betty coughed, surprised. "Okay."
"I mean, I totally could have," he insisted. "She was practically beg-"
"Reggie," she cut him off sharply.
"Right, sorry. Anyways, I just didn't feel like it."
Betty wanted to pry, because since when did Reggie not feel like sleeping with hot, eager women? But he was clearly reaching the end of his Share-and-Care moment, so instead:
"It's probably for the best," she said. "I hear her ex-boyfriend's got a jealous streak."
Reggie thought for a moment. "Think I could take him?"
She stared at him for a long moment, then grinned. "Not a chance."
"And the jester sang for the king and queen...in a coat he borrowed from JAMES DEAN, in a voice that came from you and meeee-eeee-eeee..."
Reggie could not stop laughing. He and Betty were making their way out of the subway station near her apartment, and she was meandering her way through a drunken version of "American Pie". She had a habit of shouting out indiscriminate lyrics, and then following them up with long, wavering attempts at notes. It was freaking hysterical.
"God, I love this song," she sighed, leaning against him as they turned onto her street. "It's so deep, you know?"
"Does this mean the concert is over?" he asked, chuckling.
"Yep," she stated, poking at a plastic bag with her toe. "People shouldn't litter."
"Probably not," he agreed. "This is your apartment, right?"
She looked up at the building in front of them and gasped. "It is, how did you know?"
"Magic," he responded, digging her keys out of her bag. "Up we go, darling."
It took twice as long as usual to get up six flights of stairs and into her loft apartment. She kept getting distracted, and twice set her purse down and just left it on the stairs, so by the time they reached the top flight, he was both carrying her purse and swearing to start going to the gym again because wow, was he out of breath.
"Hey, I made it," Betty mumbled, leaning against the door as Reggie fumbled with the key. "That's nice."
"All right, home sweet home," Reggie sighed, steering her into her dark apartment. "You're good from here, right?"
She nodded, and then proceeded to spend forty-five seconds trying to take her coat off.
Reggie stifled a laugh and shut the door behind him, resigned to staying until she was at least laying down. "Here, Cooper," he said, his fingers making quick work of her coat zipper and buttons. After he had slid it off her arms and onto a chair, he looked down to see that she was staring up at him, eyes wide. "What?"
And, okay, Reggie's seen movies and he's even watched freaking Gossip Girl, so he really shouldn't have been all that surprised when Betty kissed him.
But he totally was. Which explains why Instinct kicked in first, so by the time Logic was up and running they were already tangled up on the couch, his hand under her shirt and his belt unbuckled and holy shit what was he doing?
"No, no no bad oh god BAD no," was the gist of what came out of Reggie's mouth as he catapulted off the couch.
Betty was silent for a moment, her breathing ragged. "Um."
"Yeah, that? Is why this is a bad idea, because you can't even talk right now and Jesus, I'm a horrible person," he rambled, his hand running through his hair.
"You're not a horrible person," she said, attempting to sit up. "I kissed you first. Right?"
"But you're drunk and heartbroken, and I don't know. It's a bad, bad combination."
Betty nodded, tucking her hair behind her ear and chewing at her lip nervously. Reggie watched her teeth bite into her soft lip and he suddenly wanted nothing more than to run his tongue along that spot, see if he could feel a mark and oh my god what the hell was wrong with him, he needed to go, like, now.
"So, I'm going to take off," Reggie said, thumbing at the door. Betty sat in that same spot on the couch, not talking, just looking at him. "Right. I'll call you. Drink some water. Night."
No, this isn't where It Begins. It's awkward for a few weeks after, and then they go to see some Hugh Grant piece of crap and laugh at all the same points (none of which were supposed to be funny, and people sitting around them keep giving them dirty looks which is awesome) and things are okay after that. They continue to date other people (Adrienne even makes a second appearance and Reggie doesn't tell Betty anything about it, but then Adrienne doesn't talk to Betty for a month and seriously, Reggie, you jackass.)
Then they graduate and move to Washington, D.C. together.
Well, okay, not exactly like that. See, Reggie is the first to decide to move down there, to work on Capitol Hill. His dad had offered to pull some strings, find him a job, but Reggie refused. Instead, he asked a couple of his professors for references, made a bunch of phone calls, sent in a ton of applications, and then one day he got a call from Olympia Snowe's office.
A few weeks later he's in the middle of finding a place to live in Foggy Bottom or Chinatown, when Betty knocks on his door.
"I think I'm moving to D.C., too," she tells him, her eyes bright with excitement.
Betty has also been making the job-hunting rounds, trying to find work in print journalism. Which, someone should have told her years ago, is a dying field. Newspapers in New York City and around the country are cutting back on costs and staff, and finding an entry level position is a torturous exercise in patience and rejection.
And then her favorite journalism professor emails her. (My friend is an editor at The Washington Post and she said she's hiring a proof-reader. It has upward mobility and benefits. I recommended you.)
And, well, on his computer at that very moment is the Apartments For Rent section of craigslist, and then they're calling up the owner of a two bedroom place in Georgetown, working out utilities and rent, and before they know it they're moving in together.
So, actually, yes. Exactly like that.
"Honey, I'm home!"
Betty looked up from her work to see Reggie shutting the front door and shedding his coat. He disappeared into their tiny kitchen, emerging a moment later with a beer and Chinese leftovers from the night before.
"How's it going?" he asked, clearing a spot on the coffee table where she had several articles strewn about, red marks abound. Betty sat on the ground between the couch and table, making erratic notes on an article about the Russian elections.
"Tedious," she muttered, her red pen scratching at yet another 'your/you're' mix-up, come on. "Don't people need to take grammar courses before becoming professional journalists?"
He snorted, leaning his head back against the couch cushions. "I think spell-check has destroyed our educational system."
"Yeah, Congress should get on that one," Betty cracked, capping her pen and opening the container of chicken fried rice. "Did you have a good day at work, sweetheart?"
He whapped her on the head with a pillow. "Was that necessary?"
"Was that?" she asked, rubbing the back of her head.
"Work was fine," Reggie said, leaning forward to spoon some rice into his mouth. "The omnibus bill is taking over my inbox, but we expected that one."
"It's going to committee next week?" Betty asked, looking up at him.
He nodded. "Finally. But it's going to be all everyone is talking about for the next two months, so let's talk about something else."
"Company town," Betty grinned. "Good luck with that."
Reggie laughed wearily. In the year since they had moved to D.C., they had become all politics, all the time. The town bred it in its residents, to the point that you couldn't take a cab or order a drink without discussing the latest appropriations bill or judicial appointment with a cabbie or bartender.
"What are you up to tonight?" Betty asked, gathering her papers and stuffing them into her black messenger bag.
"Dunno. Simpson's reruns, try and read a bit. You?"
"I've got a date," she said simply, standing.
Oh. "Really?" he asked casually.
"Yeah." Betty nodded, moving into her bedroom, leaving her door open. "You know Jack, at the sports desk?"
"Buzz cut, right?" he called after her.
"Cool," Reggie said, playing with the label on his bottle. "Have fun."
She continued to talk to him from her room, chatting about what their plans were for the night as she changed. He tried to listen, really, he did, but when she kept walking in front of the open door in her bra and holy God are those garters? it was next to impossible to.
To distract himself, he grabbed the remote and started flipping through channels until he found an old episode of Friends playing. Chandler and Joey drowned out the sound of her heels clicking on wooden floors, the spritz of perfume he could smell from here, the opening and closing of drawers.
Finally, she emerged. He looked over, taking in her short, green dress over a pair of heels that did her legs no wrong. "How do I look?" she asked, threading a pair of silver earrings into their holes.
Reggie grinned. "Sure you don't want to stay in? I'm pretty sure Jack wouldn't know what to do with you the way I would."
Betty rolled her eyes, going to the hall closet to pull out a cardigan. "Down, boy. We're in the Off Position right now, remember?"
He got of the couch, going to stand behind her. He didn't touch her, just stood close enough so she could feel his warmth, hear his breathing. "You sure? Because you wouldn't even need to get undressed." His hand reached up, pulling her soft blonde hair over her shoulder. "I saw those garters you had on," he pressed his lips to her exposed neck, gratified to hear her breathing stutter. "You could just leave them on, hitch up your dress a bit." His fingers reached down, playing with the hem of her dress. "I would do the rest."
"Reggie," she breathed. Then, more firmly. "Reggie."
He sighed, backing up. "Yeah, okay. Off Position." He smiled at her. "Have fun tonight."
She looked at him, a bit unsure. "You okay?"
"Of course," Reggie grinned. "I'm tired anyways. You're too much for me on a good day."
Betty laughed, her eyes dancing. "I don't know, you've never had much trouble keeping up."
He winked, grabbing her bag from the side table and handing it to her. "Have a good time."
She hesitated, then pecked him quickly on the cheek before leaving.
Whoops, maybe we skipped a part. Okay, rewind. How about: two weeks after moving to D.C.
"I think we should have sex."
Reggie choked on his slice of pizza. "Whu?"
He looked up to see her staring at him, completely straight-faced. "I think we should have sex," Betty repeated.
Why didn't feel like the exact right answer because, well, yeah they should. Still. "Why?"
"Because we both want to," she said as a matter-of-fact. "And we've got this...tension thing going on, and maybe we need to get it out of our system."
Okay, yes. There had been tension. It had started with the drunken make-out session last fall, and ever since then there had been...moments. Like when it started to rain back in New York City as they were walking through Central Park, and instead of running for shelter, they had just continued strolling. And then he had wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and her hand went into his coat pocket, and it felt so romantic it was sickening.
Repeat: Fourth of July on the steps of the Capitol building, watching fireworks over the National Mall.
Also of note: the time when she pretended to be his girlfriend when Crazy Girl #17 (yes there had been sixteen before her, no, don't ask) had stalked him to his grad night party. Reggie had seized onto Betty as soon as #17 had walked in the door, and they spent the rest of the night hanging all over each other, causing his friends to exchange Looks.
Right, because both his friends and hers were convinced that they were in love with each other and Kept. Bringing. It. Up.
But now they were in a new city, new fresh start, and why was she suggesting this now?
"Um," Reggie said eloquently. "Isn't that a bad idea?"
"Probably," Betty said, resting her chin on her hand. "Well, I just thought I'd mention it."
And then she got up and left the kitchen. No, seriously, what?
They didn't have sex. Not immediately. But living together and sharing a bathroom had removed a lot of privacy and boundaries from their relationship, and it was hard to see someone who looked as good naked as Betty Cooper and not, well, wonder.
And their apartment was tiny, okay? So they kept bumping into each other in the kitchen or in doorways, and usually they were both in a hurry so they just kept on moving, but sometimes they lingered and there was eye contact and seriously, he needed to just get over this and stop sounding like such a girl.
Not to mention the fact that they were both attractive people with busy social lives and their bedrooms shared a very thin wall. So.
So now it was approaching the holidays, and neither of them were going home for Thanksgiving. She had to work and his parents were going on a cruise or something. They thought briefly about trying to cook, but again, tiny kitchen. Busy lives.
They got drunk instead.
They bought a bunch of board games at a flea market and turned every one of them into a drinking game. Which meant that by six in the afternoon, they were both wasted.
And at 6:07pm, Reggie said: "Okay, let's have sex."
It wasn't the best sex either had ever had (see above drunken state). But when they woke up hours later, slightly more sober and very much naked, it had seemed natural to try it again. And that time, well, it was better. Let's say that.
They woke up the next morning, sheets and limbs tangled together. His palm was splayed across her stomach, her hair tickling his nose. Reggie woke up first, followed shortly by Betty.
She turned onto her side to face him, shifting into him slightly. "So."
"So," he smiled, tucking her hair behind her ear. "We're going to do that a lot."
Over the next year, Reggie and Betty do that a lot. It's a perfect -with-benefits situation, where they can come home from busy, stressful days and relax in the best possible way.
Their sex life is erratic at best. Whenever one of them is dating anyone else, the -with-benefits portion of their relationship (Betty: "stops". Reggie: "pauses"). This is harder than you may think - putting a cork in fantastic, convenient sex that is constantly available is a ridiculous exercise in self-control.
They both suck at it, mind you.
Betty starts using it as a litmus test for her relationships. As soon as she falls back into (bed) her habit with Reggie, she figures it's time to let go of whoever she's currently dating. The logic is shaky, at best, but damn if he's going to be the one to mention it.
Reggie doesn't exactly date women so much as...well, you know.
So this is what it is: they live together in relative harmony. They each have separate groups of friends from work and gyms and so forth, but there's some overlap there, too. So they'll go out fairly often together, to bars and clubs and concerts, where they'll most likely sit next to each other and eat off the other's plate. (Their D.C. friends have their own Looks that they share, by the way). They watch 30 Rock together every Thursday night with pizza, and if one can't make it, the other one records it and they watch it together over the weekend. They go shopping at IKEA.
And, depending on certain factors, they will have a breathtaking amount of sex together. They have done the deed on every surface in their apartment at least twice.
But at this moment, they're Off. It had started a few weeks ago when Reggie had gotten semi-involved with the barista in the Chinatown Starbucks. (Semi-involved for Reggie means more than two nights in a row, four nights total). Three weeks in, and the spark has faded for both Reggie and The Barista (who definitely has a problem with Betty). He's just about to get back into the On Position, when Betty announces that she has a date.
So, fine. He watches three episodes of Friends before he gets sick of it, and realizes that he's starving. He's considering ordering Thai food take-out (where is that menu, she always puts it in that one drawer - ) when the door opens.
"Quick date," he says, trying so hard to keep the smirk out of his voice.
She glares at him, reaches into the fridge for a beer, and then drags him into her bedroom by his collar.
Thai food can so wait. On Position it is.
Reggie rummaged through his wallet, briefcase, coat pockets. Where were those damned tickets? Were they - ah ha! Stuck to the fridge under the George McGovern magnet Betty had bought for absolutely no reason.
And...yes, they were officially late. Shit. They might miss the first act if they didn't leave, like, now.
"Betty! We're late, come on!"
Their friends were already at the theater, three separate texts told him. They were all supposed to meet for drinks before the show, but he had gotten caught up in a meeting on immigration reform and Veronica had Skyped Betty so they both decided to skip the drinks.
Of course now they might as well miss the show, too, if she didn't hurry up.
"Betty!" he shouted towards her closed door. "They're going to hate us, you know that, right?"
She finally emerged a few moments later, and they were on their way. After they had changed trains at Chinatown, she glanced up at him.
"You still haven't told me if you're going to the wedding next month," she said.
"I think I can," Reggie said. "It'll depend on work."
She nodded, moving closer to him as the train filled up with the Friday night rush hour of eager young interns. He wrapped an arm around her waist, feeling her lean back against him comfortably.
"Hey," he said, thinking of something. "You bringing a date to the wedding?"
Betty twisted a bit to look at him. "I don't know. I hadn't thought."
"Wanna be my date?" Reggie asked casually.
She froze in his arms. He pretended not to notice.
"I don't know if you've really thought that through."
"What's to think through?" Reggie asked, his voice tightening. "It would be fun."
Betty paused. "I haven't told any of them about our..."
"Oh, that just sounds terrific," Betty said sarcastically, moving out of his grasp.
"Well, maybe it's time to start telling people," Reggie said with a hint of annoyance in his voice. He was starting to feel like he was being backed into a corner.
She smiled humorlessly. "Tell people what, exactly. That we're fuck-buddies? That we've screwed each other on the side of every other relationship we've had for the past year?" (It should be mentioned that Betty was hardly using her indoor voice).
"Yes, Betty, I want to march into that wedding, grab the mike, and explain in graphic detail all the things I've done to you in our apartment." Reggie was so done with this conversation.
The train arrived at their stop and he made his way for the platform without waiting for Betty. She followed quickly behind him, waiting until they'd reached the street above. Then she grabbed his arm and yanked him around. "What the hell is your problem?"
"Nothing," Reggie shook his head, resigned. "Absolutely nothing. Let's just go see this fucking musical."
She stared at him, confused and pissed and worried. "Who are you right now?"
"That's exactly what I want to know," he said angrily.
"Who am I? Seriously, Betty, are we just fuck-buddies? Do you just like to keep me around the apartment so I can be your walking, talking dildo?" (Reggie? Also not using his library voice).
Betty slapped him, angry tears filling her eyes. "Don't talk to me like that." She spun around and started walking away.
"Like what?" Reggie followed her, calling. "Because I don't know how I should talk to you? Am I your best friend? Your boyfriend? Your booty call? Damn it, Betty, stop fucking walking!"
"Now?" She spun around, fury in her eyes. "You want to have The Talk now?? Are you kidding me here?"
"It seemed appropriate," Reggie replied dryly. "Look, it just came up, okay? And it looks like, yeah, now is when we're going to have it."
Betty looked around helplessly. "Look, Reggie, I don't know, all right? I don't know what we are. What I do know, however, is that you haven't been able to keep a girlfriend for longer than a month, you cheat incessantly (mostly with me, I know), and you've got a jackass streak a mile wide."
Reggie smiled tightly. "You sure know how to make a girl feel special, Betty Cooper."
As he turned in the opposite direction, making his way back to the Metro station, he could hear Betty calling after him. Ignoring her, he got on the escalator. Going down.
The next month is a silent stand-off in their apartment, which is both awkward and boring. So let's skip ahead to the wedding.
Betty pulled out of the rental car lot, her nails tapping nervously on the wheel as she steered into traffic. She hummed absentmindedly to the radio as she passed the large sign she knew so well.
Welcome to Riverdale!
Her stomach jumped with nerves and excitement as she turned on her right-hand turn signal. She rolled down the window, reveling as the cold blast of December air hit her face. Home.
She hadn't been back to Riverdale since the December of her senior year - almost two years, she was embarrassed to admit. Two years - and so much had changed.
Betty wondered if people would notice. If people would know.
Before she knew it, she was on her street, on her block, pulling into her driveway. Her parents were outside before she had cut the engine.
"Elizabeth! Welcome home, sweetheart," her dad said as she stepped out of the car.
"Hi, Daddy!" She hugged him tightly. They had come to visit her in D.C., but that was nearly a year ago. "God, it's been too long."
"You're telling us," her mom said, wrapping her in a fierce embrace. "How long are you here for?"
Betty pulled her bags from the backseat and followed her parents towards the house. "A week. Vacation time is hard to come by during the holidays."
"Maybe that's why you should visit us in March, or October," her dad said pointedly.
"I know, I know. I'm really going to do better from now on," Betty promised. "Let me just go dump my bags, then we'll catch up."
"Hurry up," her mom called as she moved towards the kitchen. "I made oatmeal raisin cookies!"
Betty grinned as she climbed the stairs. It was good to be back.
Later that afternoon she climbed back into her rental car and took off down the street. Veronica wasn't back until late that night, so she headed in the other direction, to another house and family she knew all too well.
As she slowed down near the Andrews' residence, she saw a sight so familiar it made her chest tighten.
"Oh, my god," she called through her open window. "That Jalopy of yours is still running?"
Archie's head popped out from behind the open hood, delight in his eyes. "Betty Cooper!"
She parked, throwing her seatbelt off and jumping out of the car. They met halfway down his driveway, where Archie seized her around the waist and swung her around. "Welcome back, Betty," he said in her ear as he set her down gently.
Betty held on, inhaling the still familiar scents of engine grease, bread and cinnamon that combined to smell so uniquely Archie.
"God, I've missed you," he exhaled, pulling back to look at her. "Damn, Betty, D.C. looks good on you."
She blushed, grinned. "Come on, Andrews, show me what you're subjecting your poor car to."
"All right! Just like old times, right?" He grinned, pulling her around to the open hood. "Let's see what we can do here."
It was like old times: sleeves rolled up, arms brushing as they tinkered around. If it weren't for the beers they both accepted from Mrs. Andrews, Betty might have begun to think she was sixteen again.
She heard another engine rumble up, cut off, and she peered around the hood to see a far-too familiar car, and a far-too familiar man getting out of the driver's seat.
"Reggie!" Archie called out excitedly. "When did you get in?"
"About an hour ago," Reggie replied, coming to stand next to the Jalopy. "My parents weren't home yet so I thought I'd drive around, see who was around." He looked at Betty with an indiscernible expression.
She smiled faintly at him. "Have a good drive?"
He shrugged. "A bit quiet, but no worries."
"You guys didn't want to drive here together?" Archie asked, so immersed in his work that he didn't notice the Look exchanged by the other two.
"I had to do some editing, and he always distracts me," Betty said, absolutely ignoring the amused look that flashed across Reggie's face. "I thought I'd get more work done on the bus."
Archie shrugged, accepting that. "Too bad. Road trips are fun."
"Yeah," Reggie said. "Too bad."
They all came back for the wedding. Moose and Midge return home to get married from Arizona, where Moose had been drafted to play for the Arizona Cardinals, and Midge was working as a social worker for women and children. Jughead from New Orleans, where he was working for Teach for America. Chuck from the Twin Cities, taking a much needed break from the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Veronica flew in from London, arriving at one in the morning after Betty got in. Archie had driven back from Columbus, where he was enrolled in the Masters of Fine Arts program at the Ohio State University, three days prior.
The week was crazy busy and, luckily for Betty, mostly split up by gender. Stag parties, shopping, preparations all conspire to keep Betty and Reggie from being in the same room too often.
Of course, they ended up sitting next to each other at the rehearsal dinner, answering increasingly uncomfortable questions about their life in Washington. (Wait, so you two are still roommates? How does that work without you killing each other? Betty, how's your love life? What happened to that sports editor you had a thing for?)
In D.C. they could normally avoid these questions with their friends by changing the topic to the upcoming State of the Union address or social security. Here, Reggie's attempt to bring up campaign finance reform was met by: blank stares, an awkward joke about sexual favors, and a five minute rant about the British parliament by Veronica.
So, okay, success.
"I mean, half of Parliament is made up of people who simply inherit the seat. It's absurdly classist," Veronica continued her ironic rant, taking over the attention of the table.
It wasn't until the end of the night that Reggie pulled her aside, grabbing her hand and walking into a dark corner of the restaurant. "Hey."
"Hi," she said softly, biting her lip.
"Can we talk? Doesn't have to be now, maybe when we get back to D.C., but...we can't keep ignoring each other."
Betty hesitated, trying to find the right words. "Reggie, it's - "
"Betty!" Veronica appeared suddenly. "Come on, you guys, we're going to Pop's for sodas." She grinned. "Man, I've missed Riverdale."
Betty shot Reggie an apologetic look before following Veronica out of the restaurant. He leaned his head back against the wooden inlays of the wall, closed his eyes.
"Midge looks beautiful," Veronica said, sitting down next to Betty at their mostly abandoned table. Betty smiled. She did look stunning, elegant. Moose had worn the most heartbreaking look on his face as he'd watched Midge walk down the aisle.
Betty turned to her oldest friend. "You're looking pretty smoking yourself, Lodge."
Veronica laughed. "Please. I still smell like airports."
"It's a hassle," Veronica admitted. "I'm considering...I'm thinking about transferring."
Betty straightened, turned. "You might be coming back to the states?" She couldn't keep the excitement out of her voice.
"I'm thinking about it," Veronica insisted. "I just know that if I finish law school in Britain, that's it. I'm staying there. Because it'll be too much of a pain to go through law school in America if I ever want to move back, so...I should do it before it's too late."
Betty nodded. "Do you think you'll decide soon?"
Veronica bit her lip, the smiled. "I sent in my applications last month. We'll see."
Betty squealed, grabbing her friend's hands in her own. "Ronnie!"
"Shh!" Veronica giggled. "It's not for sure yet?"
"Yeah, yeah, where did you apply?" Betty asked excitedly.
Veronica coughed. "Harvard. Georgetown. Berkeley and University of Chicago. A few others."
"Oh, my god," Betty exclaimed, smiling brilliantly. "Ronnie, it would be so amazing to have you close again."
Veronica grinned, her own excitement shining through. "It would be pretty great, wouldn't it?"
"God, are you kidding me? I can't even think about it." Betty's smile faded a little. "I've missed you, so much."
Veronica blinked quickly. "Me, too."
They reached for each other, hugging tightly.
"This looks familiar," Archie said from behind them. They broke apart, wiping at tears and laughing. "Yep, that looks familiar too."
Veronica stood up, grabbing Archie's hand. "Dance with me, Archie Andrews." He followed her to the dance floor, tossing a grin over his shoulder at Betty.
Betty laughed, kicking her feet up onto Veronica's vacated seat. She looked around the room, seeing Moose dancing with Midge's little niece and Jughead sweeping Midge across the dance floor. Chuck and his father were chatting by the bar with Mr. Weatherbee. The only person she didn't see was -
Her heart jumped as she followed the extended hand up, finding Reggie standing next to her. Silently, she took his hand and followed him out to the floor just as the music changed to a slow beat.
Reggie spun her around once before bringing her in close. They fit together neatly, arm around waist, hand to shoulder. They moved slowly. Carefully. Betty could feel his heart beat through the crisp white of his shirt and the silk red of her dress.
"I've missed you," he said softly, his lips grazing her ear. She closed her eyes, trying to avoid the words she knew she had to say.
"I know things have gotten bad between us lately, Betty," Reggie continued. "But I needed you to know...Betty, you're my best friend."
Stop, Betty shouted silently. Stop talking, please, Reggie. But she said nothing, just clenched his hand tighter in her own.
"I don't know how it happened, but you're the person I think about, the person I want to talk to more than anyone..."
No. No no no.
"Betty, I just need to tell you, all right? I -"
"I'm moving back to New York."
And Betty could feel the reaction hit him, her arms around him when he froze, his lips against her ear when he deflated, her hand in his when he let go.
They separated, stood apart. "What?" he managed.
"I..." She bit her lip, blinking away unexpected tears. "I got a job at the New York Times. It just...felt like the right time."
"I don't know, when did you get the job? When are you leaving? Just, when?" Reggie tried to keep his voice steady.
"Two weeks ago," Betty said. Then: "Next month, hopefully. I'm going to New York after this to look at apartments. It'll be a couple days."
Reggie said nothing, just looked at her, and she was pretty sure she'd never felt anything worse than the moment he nodded and turned away. Walked away.
The music was still playing, the guests were still dancing. Laughter and conversation still flowed around the room, but Betty could do nothing except stand still in the middle of the dance floor, watching Reggie walk away from her.
There's not much else to talk about this week. The newlyweds climb into their car at the end of the night, leaving the next morning for their honeymoon in Mexico. Betty drives Veronica to the airport that day, neither of them mentioning Veronica's plans for returning - Veronica doesn't want to get her hopes up, Betty doesn't want to jinx it.
Archie and Betty go out for drinks that night, at a dive bar with truly awful karaoke. Things are easy between them, like they've always been, but as she looks at him over the carved up wood of their table, she can't remember what it felt like to be head-over-heels for Archie Andrews.
The next day she drives her rental car back to the bus depot, and boards a Greyhound heading for New York City.
At absolutely no time does she cry.
Fine, whatever, except for the times that she does, happy?
Betty stepped out of yet another run-down apartment in Chinatown, rubbing her eyes tiredly. None of it felt right. The apartments were terrible, the city was noisier than she remembered, and it was all so freaking claustrophobic she thought she was going to suffocate.
Her phone rang. Sighing, she picked it up.
"Hey, darling," Veronica's voice rang through. "How's the apartment hunt going?"
"Oof, that bad, huh?" Veronica said sympathetically. "Don't worry, you'll find something."
"I don't know, Ronnie," Betty sighed, sitting down on a low set of steps. "I'm not sure I belong in New York anymore. Maybe I'm getting too old for it."
"Please," Veronica said. "You're twenty-three, get over yourself."
Betty smiled slightly. "Think this is a mistake?"
"I don't know. Why do you want to leave Washington, anyway? I thought you loved it there."
"I did. I do. It just felt like time for a change." Betty played with her shoelaces.
"Ah," Veronica said. "Thanks for clearing that up."
"Oh, shut up," Betty laughed. "Did you make it back okay? All your bags in one piece?"
"All present and accounted for. Along with a rather thick envelope from the Harvard Law Admissions Office."
Betty gasped. "Veronica Lodge, what the hell? What does it say?"
She could hear Veronica's blinding smile through the phone. "I'm in. I'm going."
"You're going to Harvard?" Betty blinked.
"I just got off the phone with Daddy. I'm moving back this summer."
Betty jumped off the stoop, grinning ear to ear. "I can't believe it!"
"I'm coming back, Betty Cooper. Hope you're ready!"
Betty laughed brightly. "Harvard isn't going to know what hit it."
"Damn straight," Veronica agreed. "Oops, call waiting. I'll talk to you soon, okay?"
"Sounds good. Bye!" Betty hung up the phone, still smiling.
Too elated to continue looking at depressingly bad apartments, Betty began to wander. After awhile, she somehow ended up outside of her old apartment building, the one she had lived in her junior and senior years. Tilting her head back, she tried to see the window of her loft apartment, the one where she had hung her own handmade curtains. They might still be there, if she can just tilt her head -
Damn, Cooper, this place is tiny!
Shut up, Reggie. This is my first real New York City apartment. You are required to love it as much as I do.
Is that your kitchen or your bedroom?
It's a loft apartment, jackass.
Yeah, yeah. Okay, here's a little housewarming gift.
Really? You didn't need to do that...
It's no big deal. Just some fabric. I don't know, I thought you could make a pillow or comforter or something, make this place a little more like home.
Reggie, it's perfect. Thank you.
No problem. So, where do you pee?
Betty blinked, realizing that she had been standing, staring up at the top floor for more than a few seconds. With a final glance up at the building, she started back down the streets.
It took about three and a half minutes for her to realize that she was crying.
That was why nothing felt right. That was why the traffic was too noisy and the streets too crowded and everything else too...off center.
God damn it. She was an idiot.
This is the part of the story where she turns around, runs towards Penn Station and gets on the next D.C. bound train.
This is the part of the story when she fights off a tourist for a cab at Metro Station, jumps in and taps her foot nervously on the floor. Home, she keeps thinking. Home, home home.
This is the part of the story where she throws a far-too large bill at the cab driver, grabs her bags and races up to the door. She bursts into their apartment, looks around breathlessly, sees...no one.
Because this is also the part of the story where Reggie has gone to get the girl. Their trains had passed each other at approximately 3:26pm, just north of Philadelphia.
Reggie is just now stepping out onto 7th Ave, reaching for his phone, dialing...
Betty looked around the apartment, her heart racing. He wasn't there. Well, that was fine, he was just out at the moment. Buying groceries or something, who knew?
Should she call him? she wondered. Or just wait for him to return? No, she decided, reaching for her phone. She wanted to hear his voice now.
Her phone rang.
Betty jumped, looking down at the caller ID. Reggie.
Smiling to herself, she answered. "Hi."
"Betty, I refuse to let it end like this, okay?" Reggie said immediately. "You can't just leave like this. I won't let you. We need to talk, or argue, or just get it out in the air, but I won't let you just walk out of my life without a word."
"Reggie - " Betty started.
"I mean, seriously, what the hell? You just announce that you're moving to New York like that?"
"Were you just going to pack and leave? Had you considered not telling me at all?"
"Reggie!" Betty said, a bit more annoyed.
"Look, it doesn't matter. I'm here, okay? I'm making the big gesture."
"You're...where?" Betty asked, slightly concerned.
"I'm in New York. Standing outside of Penn Station. Where are you, I want to see you."
Betty started to laugh. Big, stomach-ache inducing laughter. She leaned against their kitchen wall, sliding down to sit on the ground as her body shook.
"Betty, what the fuck?" Reggie sounded pissed. "I'm trying here, okay?"
"Reggie, I'm at home," Betty managed through her giggles.
"Where's home?" he asked, confused.
"D.C., you idiot. I came back. I came back to you." Betty grinned, looking around at their apartment. His and hers.
"You came back to D.C.?"
"You came back..."
"I love you," she said simply.
There was silence for a moment. "Okay, then."
The next twenty minutes were a flurry of activity on his part. While she stayed on the line, he ran back into the station and bought a ticket for the next train to D.C. - one leaving within seventeen minutes. Reggie raced through the station, jumping over small children and animals (he swore that part was true when he told her later, laying in bed together as the sun was coming up).
Reggie got on the train.
"So, where do you want to meet?"
"What?" Betty asked, confused.
"This is our big, romantic moment, Cooper," Reggie said. "What do you think, Capitol steps? Washington Monument?"
"I'm in our apartment," she said. "Just come here."
"No way," he laughed. "We're going to run towards each other while the sun is setting over some big monument. We're going to spin around and kiss and people will applaud."
"Oh my god, you are such a girl," Betty said. "Are we running in slow motion, too?"
"Sure," Reggie said. "Make sure you run through a flock of birds, too, so they take off in your wake. It's very cinematic."
"Definitely," she laughed, grabbing her coat and keys. "All right, you win. Where are we doing this?"
"Lincoln Memorial," he said decisively. "On the steps."
Betty grinned as she closed the door behind her.
"Where are you now?" Betty asked, standing inside the memorial. "Fuck, it's cold."
"We're just a few minutes away. Stay warm thinking about all the dirty things I'm going to do to you tonight."
"You are so cheesy."
He laughed. "First, I say we re-christen every surface. The other times didn't count. So we can start with the island in the kitchen, I remember how you liked it when I - "
"Reggie! I'm not going to have phone sex in front of Abraham Lincoln!" Betty said loudly, causing a family having their photo taken near her to look at her, scandalized. "Great, now I'm scaring tourists."
"That's my girl," Reggie said proudly.
"Where are you?"
"We're pulling in. Should I run or get a taxi?"
"Are you kidding? The station is two miles from here. Just take a cab."
"I don't know, a taxi doesn't feel very romantic. Me running down the Mall, however, straight into your arms?"
"Reggie, I'm freezing here. Take a damn cab."
"Fine," he said. She could hear him get into the taxi, give the driver his destination. "What are you wearing right now?"
"Are you asking me or the cab driver?" Betty asked, trying to ignore how fast her heart was beating.
"I'm just wondering how much effort it's going to take me to get you naked enough to - "
"Reginald Mantle, if you say another word I'm never wearing anything less than ski gear around you."
He laughed, and her pulse ticked up. "We're here."
She doesn't know how they timed it so perfectly, but the sun actually is setting dramatically over the Mall when she walks out onto the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She looks to her left, waiting to see a tall build, dark hair. The crowd is thin due to the late hour and the cold, so she sees him as soon as he comes around the bend.
It happens exactly as he described. They run towards each other, meeting at the bottom step of the memorial. He grabs her, spins her around and they kiss, whispering words against the other's lips. It could be I love you, I love you too, but we can't be sure. Only they know.
Betty pulls back first, her fingers playing in the hair at the nape of his neck. "Are people applauding?" she asks, grinning.
"Who cares?" he laughs, leaning in again.
There is applause.
They don't hear it.
"Oh my god, you bitch!" Veronica exclaimed on Skype the next night. "Tell me everything."