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Journeys

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You can’t help but find yourself watching in his direction again. Not in a creepy way, of course. You prefer to think of it as an admirable glance. You want to know what he’s writing, maybe it’s your inner journalist taking over, or maybe it’s your fondness of reading. One of the two. Even at a young age, your parents would always find you picking apart novels or magazines, anything you could get your hands on really, attentively claiming the words you liked for yourself. You still have a habit of writing down any word that comes of interest, haphazardly storing each one in one of many worn out journals you keep within reach.

Jughead Jones. That’s his name. Even though you’ve never spoken to him in more than three sentences, you’d like to consider him an acquaintance. He always interested you, always seemed like someone who had a lot more to say: an internal speaker. Though some may argue that everyone falls within some line of that category.

Regardless, he’s the sort of person you just can’t quite read. When it comes to most people, the more ‘external thinkers’, you can pick up typical body language, mannerisms, things that give away what kind of a person they are. But not Jughead.

Take his red-headed counterpart, for example: Archie Andrews. Archie has always been more than fond of the opposite sex, it’s written all over his facial expressions when Betty Cooper or Veronica Lodge head anywhere near his direction. Nothing against him though, you admire them too. Maybe not in the same way, but they are some of the smartest girls in your school.

You bring your mind back to the figure of Jughead, through the small greasy aperture in the wall which separates your world from his. He sits among the pristine booths, courtesy of your hard-labour, enveloped in his own frantic typing, the remains of a burger resting on his idle plate. You watch his hands; they move like they’re in autopilot, only stopping occasionally when his mind initiates a new idea. It’s exhilarating to watch.

You are only brought back down to earth from the nudge of a co-worker and your own reality sets in once again. The rich fragrance of fry ups and the chaos of sizzling and cutlery clatter disturb your blissful thoughts. You glance back down to the sink beneath you. A tower of dirty and used dishes stack up high precariously to your left, a swamp of filthy dishwater swelling beneath you. The beautiful moment has passed.

“Eyes on the prize, (y/n),” your boss, Pop Tate, reminds you, gesturing with his eyes at the sink in front of you.

“Yes sir,” you give a light-hearted salute and return to your task of scrubbing away at dishes. He slowly nods and moves back over to the grills, giving you a quick smile as he does so. Your strong work ethic is what gives you this kind of slack in the kitchen. Your daydreaming remains few and far between for the most part, so Pop rarely ever speaks up. Still, you return your focus on your job, returning your earbuds in place and letting the rhythm of the next song guide your working hands.

 

You think back to the previous nights, on both occasions, you had caught yourself surprised:

 

The first wasn’t all that significant. It was the sort of day that most people would forget, or maybe recall in a similar way to their previous meal. To most people, it would’ve been just another ordinary day, not worth mentioning. But you weren’t most people.

The diner was short on staff and Pop had asked you to take orders. It wasn’t a particularly arduous task but you weren’t exactly a social butterfly and you stood out like a sore thumb as the only waitress with a different uniform. You were happy flipping burgers in the kitchen with Pop, but you didn’t make a fuss. You were perfectly capable of talking to people.

And so, after a series of rounds, you brought what you thought was your last order of the evening. An extra member of staff had showed up which meant you could finally retreat, back into your cooking domain.

After setting down the plate you turned around, intending to do just that, but your gaze caught onto something all too quickly. You recognised him immediately, accidentally making eye contact and finding yourself frozen in place.

He gave you a warm smile, a rare one. It was something you hadn’t seen on his face that often, if not at all and it rendered you taken aback. Your rigidness must’ve confused him because he furrowed his eyebrows after that and moved to take a seat at the same old booth he always sat at, laptop under arm. He placed it in front of him, lifting the lid as you finally persuaded your legs to work.

“Um… hey,” You murmured carefully and he turned his head to look up at you. You felt uneasy under his stare. Being the one in the scrutinising spot light, alternatively, instead of being the quiet observer among the mass, felt entirely daunting.  

After a moment that felt longer than a year, he stopped looking at you like that. Instead, the smile made another appearance.

“Hey,” The response finally came, unwavering.

“So… can I get you anything?” You offered, feeling extremely out of place.

He nodded to the seat opposite, crossing his arms over the now closed laptop lid.

“Oh, I-,” Your voice came out weak, so you tried again, “I’m not allowed to… uh, while I’m meant to be working,”

“Not allowed to sit? Man, working-class jobs nowadays are starting to sound more and more like slave labour,” He joked, the smile still there. “Next you’ll be telling me, you’re not even allowed to eat,” He put emphasis on the last word.

You stifled a laugh, feeling a little less anxious, “Speaking of which, would you like anything to eat?”

He stared in thought at nothing in particular, as though he was making a life of death choice and you could tell he was teasing you. You knew from his previous visits that he had a reputation for eating a lot. “Depends,” He replied after a while.

You raised an eyebrow, “On…?”

“Whether I get company to go with my food,” He leaned forward, prodding like a cat waiting for a reaction.

You glanced sidelong at the counter and the other employees, far too preoccupied to notice you. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to sit down for five minutes; it wasn’t particularly busy in the diner at that moment.

“Okay,” You said at last, “Wait here,”

He gave you a nod.

You headed back into the kitchen, spotting Pop immediately and practicing the question in your head. You shouldn’t have been so worried, it was Pop, he would let you get away with murder if it was up to him, you just didn’t want to let him down.

“Perfect (y/n)! Just in time, could you check the meats for me?” Pop asked and you did so out of habit, grabbing the tongs and taking the burgers and hot dogs away from the heat. He was busy monitoring the deep fryer, lifting the fries out and throwing them skilfully onto a tray. “Thanks, Sweet,”

“No problem!” You grinned, eyes lingering on the food, “Hey Pop…”

“Yeah?”

“Any chance I could take a quick five-minute break?” You asked with a confidence you didn’t know you had and it startled both you and Pop.

“Uh, sure,” He raised an eyebrow, “(y/n) you know you can take a break whenever you need to, you barely sit down for dinner,”

You smiled in gratitude opening your mouth to say something but all you managed was a quick adrenaline induced, “Thanks!” after which you tumbled to the door in a flurry of limbs.

“Just a sec, (y/n),” Pop stopped you and you came speeding to a halt. You turned around in nervous apprehension. “You’d better get yourself something to eat, it’ll help you recharge,”

You widened your eyes in surprise and as if on cue, your stomach let out a groan, “Really? Thank you so much!”

Pop chuckled in amusement, already handing you a plate of fries before gesturing you to go and sit down. You shot him one last smile as you made your way back over to Jughead’s booth.

“Wow, for a minute there I thought you’d stood me up, but hey, you brought food so I’ll let it slide,” The smile shrunk back into a smirk and he took a handful of fries. “I gotta say, you have your perks,”

 You managed to give him an eyeroll as you sat down, tucking into your food and savouring every bite.  

“Was that an eyeroll too? You are just full of surprises. By the way, what’s your name? Since we’re eating together, I should’ve probably asked this earlier,”

You stifled another laugh before answering “It’s (y/n),” Of course Jughead had no idea who you were.

“Well it’s very nice to meet you (y/n) and while this is a fine cuisine,” He nodded to the fries, "I can't give it too much credit, you see nothing quite matches up to my Monday burgers," He shot you a mischievous glance.

You inwardly glowed. Unbeknown to Jughead, Monday was your burger day, Since the after-school shift was only short, Pop let you make burgers for the whole duration of it, meaning the burgers Jughead seemed to favour were in fact products of your very own expertise.

“What’s with that look?” Jughead tilted his head to one side in question, although his grin said otherwise, “You look awfully proud of yourself,”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” You sunk into the booth, hiding your expression. After a few more fries, you finally stood up. “Well I’d better get back to work, they’re all yours,” You moved the plate towards him and he cast a look at them before looking back up to you.

You could have sworn you saw a wave of disappointment flash across his face.

“Thank you… for the fries.”

 

You thought that would be the first and last encounter you would ever have with the enigmatic teenager, an anomaly among your memories, something that possibly was never supposed to happen. Yet your preconceptions were proven wrong not two days later.

 

“(y/n), I know who you are, I’ve seen you around at school,” Her nails tapped on the surface and she took a red-lipped sip of her icy beverage. You moved your gaze back from her hands to her eyes, “And I’m guessing by the look on your face you know who I am.”

“Veronica,” You breathed before trying a small smile.

"It's lovely to finally meet you, properly," The other voice, sweet as sherbet, sounded from the other side of the booth. You moved your vision to the vanilla milkshake and then further up to catch her blue eyes and the bright smile that embellished her face. Betty Cooper.

You aren’t quite sure how it happened. All of a sudden you had found yourself stood facing two of your biggest idols in school. You looked deep into the eyes of everything you wanted to be.

Veronica was the embodiment of a completed jigsaw; she was well put together; everything from her clothes to her hair to her nails seemed perfectly in place. She had a sharpness to her appearance, matching her audacious personality.

Betty was sweet and simple; she was genuine to the core; there was no hiding, no layers to cover up anything. She was honest and fearless, with a brightness that seemed to light up the room.

You had admired the two since you first saw them. Since Veronica first moved to town and since you first started school with Betty. Nevertheless, you had never plucked up enough courage to talk to them.

Until today.

You were conscious of your messy (h/c) hair, your hand-me-downs, your cheap second-hand shoes that were falling off your feet. You suddenly felt out of place: extremely out of place.

You had originally visited Pop’s to collect your pay check (Pop was old fashioned like that) and he never failed to offer you a bonus in the form of free milkshakes. You remember distinctly the rain pour that evening, as it drummed against the glass, your clothes were practically soaked through and you had barely made it two steps through the door when your path was obstructed.

“What’s your flavour?” Veronica studied you through fox-like brown eyes.

You cleared your throat before attempting to speak but your voice still managed to sound uneasy, “U-uh, what?”

“Are you more of a charming chocolate kind of gal? Or maybe an impulsive vanilla,” She flashed a grin towards Betty who rolled her eyes.

“She means what’s your favourite flavour milkshake,” Betty explained keeping her eyes on Veronica with intrigue.

“So what is it?” Veronica repeated, leaning her head on her hand.

You paused for a moment before answering, “Straw- uh, strawberry,” You replied, shoving your hands into your pockets to steady your shaking fingers.

“Interesting,” Veronica smiled slyly, “An introvert,”

Betty moved her head back and gave her an amused look, but she directed a smile your way, “Just ignore Ronnie, she’s kidding,”

“Hey Pop, can we get one strawberry milkshake please?” Veronica called over to the counter and you quickly tried and butt-in.

“No Veronica, that’s okay, you don’t have to-,”

She silenced you with a wave of her hand.

“Hey, you don’t have to stand, you know, why don’t you take a seat?” Betty offered, moving up.

Her suggestion made you double take and you glanced back over at Pop, too busy serving customers and moving in and out of the kitchen to notice you, before you finally nodded, shuffling in next to Betty. After around five minutes, a waitress set down a strawberry milkshake in front of you to which you responded with a sincere ‘Thank you,’ as you took the first sip. 

“So (y/n),” Veronica leaned forward eagerly, “You should tell us more about yourself,” she insisted, sipping her chocolate milkshake as her eyes stared through your skin.

“Well, I…” You trailed off, distracted, before jumping back into the moment, “Wait, not to be rude or anything, but why do you want to know?”

“Let’s just say we’ve had good word from a mutual friend,” The ravenette responded, letting a smirk crawl its way up her cheeks.

“V, no need to interrogate the poor girl,” Betty turned to you, “Sorry if we seemed invasive, (y/n),” You still weren’t used to them referring to you by your name, “We just wanna be your friend,”

“Friend?” you echoed just above a whisper before an uncontrollable smile took over your face, “Uh, that sounds great!”

“Great!” This time it was Veronica’s turn to echo. “In that case, here, put your number into my phone, and be prepared for group texts, I’m having a sleepover this weekend so be sure to come and we were all going to go on a hiking trip over the break, we’re shopping for supplies too-,”

“Wait, hold up, all? Who’s all?” You interrupted, startled by the sudden explosion of new information.

“We’re going hiking? Ronnie, you hate walking,” Betty cut in, as shocked as you were. “When did we arrange this?”

“Just now,” Veronica smiled, typing rapidly on her phone before she leaned back with her arms crossed and a look of pride on her face, “Check your phones,” She took a satisfactory sip of her milkshake.

You looked down in disbelief. Sure enough, the notification popped up on your phone, leaving you wondering when she actually got your number; you barely had a chance to give it to her.

“What?” She noticed the expression on both your face and Betty’s, "It's called efficiency, we've got nothing to wait for?"

You exchanged looks with Betty, triggering the two of you to start laughing.

“What’s so funny?!”

 

Something else happened that night too. As soon as you walked out the door, intending to go home, you were interrupted by another familiar stranger.

 

“(y/n)!”

“Archie?” You smiled in confusion, “Wait, why are you talking to me?”

“Are you leaving? Hey, so am I! How bout I keep you company on your way home?” He ignored your question.

“Uh, sure,” You looked him up and down sceptically, “Aren’t you here for Betty and Veronica?”

“Nah, they’re getting a lift home,” The red-head’s grin was so wide you worried it would peel right off his face. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you,”

You narrowed your eyes, pursing your bottom lip against your tongue.

Archie stopped still, giving you a strange look that lasted until you addressed it.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

Archie burst out laughing after that, “God, you remind me so much of someone!”

“Who?”

“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this text from Veronica, would you?” He deviously changed the subject.

“About as much as you, before today I’d never even spoken to her,”

“Really? I could’ve sworn you were in some of our classes,” He stopped walking to look at you but you kept going. Finally, he caught up again.

“Probably, I don’t know,” You tip-toed over the statement. You knew fully well which classes you shared with them.

“…but we’ve never actually spoken properly,” Archie finished, coming to a realisation, “Sorry if I caught you off guard there, truth is-,”

He paused and this time you stopped to look at him.

He looked to be reading over all the possible answers in his head before he finally erased them and went with something else, “Where do you normally go at school? Between lessons I mean,”

“Uh-,”

“Because you should hang out with us, in the student lounge,” He stated, before shaking his head briefly, “But it’s totally okay if you don’t want to,”

You considered the offer, trying to suppress the smile that threatened to take over your face. Your social life had never really taken off, despite your peers. You weren’t complaining though; you were perfectly content studying in the library and staying in every weekend. You had never even imagined the prospect of someone wanting to actively communicate and generally spend time with you.

It wasn’t like you’d never had friends before, it was more along the lines of: the good ones had moved away and the ones that didn’t understand you, had moved on. When you’d slip in and out of your antisocial intervals, conclusions were jumped too, all inevitably leading to the same outcome.

“No- I…” You took a deep breath, “That sounds wonderful,”

 Archie mirrored your expression with a hint of surprise, “Sweet!”

 

You can’t remember the rest of the conversation, only that it floated around small talk and topics such as Archie’s music and your mutual appreciation of it. By the time you got home, you had gotten straight to work on your homework, completely oblivious to your phone that had been practically bursting with messages from Veronica’s group chat.

Thinking of which, you look down to check the time, only to see another stream of notifications (something your phone does not usually experience) and missed calls from Veronica Lodge herself.  You wonder why she is calling so late.

Chapter Text

“(y/n)! You’re super late! Did you forget?” Veronica asks through a perfectly tailored, lipstick clad smile. You glance down at your phone quickly, reading the time as 10:23pm, and you return a sheepish expression. “No worries,” She continues, “We haven’t started the movie yet,”

She turns around, signalling you to walk inside and you marvel at the stunning palatial interior. She leads you to what you can only presume is the living room, despite it being the equivalent size to the whole first floor of your own home. You spot the familiar face of Betty among a kneeling circle of other people you recognise upon closer inspection.

“(y/n)!” You are met with the cheerful greeting of Kevin. Surprisingly, one of the only people in the group you speak to on a somewhat regular basis. He knows you slightly better than the others, only because you share more than one class and happen to be seated near each other more often than not. Being Kevin Keller, there is no hesitancy or uncertainty about him. The same can be said for the girl on his left: Cheryl Blossom. Luckily, your invisibility has granted you safe from her firing range; she’s never been a problem for you. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a lot of people.

“(y/n)? I’m not sure if we’ve been formally introduced before,” Cheryl’s smile sits like glass on her face: transparently unauthentic. “My name’s Cheryl,” Her handshake is forceful, unyielding.

"Come sit down!" Betty gives you a signature sweet smile as you make your way over, trailing behind Veronica. She continues in a significantly quieter voice, "We were just about to play this dumb game Cheryl invented,"

“I thought we we’re watching a movie?”

“Yes! Come sit,” Cheryl ignores you and turns to Betty, “I’ll try and pretend not to take offense to that statement, Betty,”

“It’s another variant on truth or dare, minus the dare part,” Kevin explains to you, laying out four cards in the centre of your mini circle, “We each pick a card and whoever draws spades has to answer a mortifyingly personal question,” He sends a grin of anticipation to each of you individually, “The queen of hearts is the dictator, they ask the question,” He continues, “Diamonds and clubs both act as judges, deciding if the answer is too vague or the question too harsh, any questions?”

“What happens if we don’t answer the question,” You take it upon yourself to ask, trying not to show fear in front of Cheryl who looks like she can smell it a mile away.

“If the spades wielder decides to forfeit, they must reveal an equally mortifying secret or truth about themselves, the difference is, they get to decide what they mind admitting least,” Cheryl leans closer to you, similar to the way a predator circles its prey.

“But there’re five of us?” Veronica points out, “There’s only four queens,”

“We’ll take it in turns, someone can sit out each round,” Kevin clarifies, “Frankly, whoever it is, they’re dodging a bullet,”

“In that case, I’ll sit out first… It’ll be better to see how to actually play first anyways,” You quickly form an excuse after earning a deadly glare from Cheryl.

“Suit yourself,” She doesn’t look pleased, “Alright queens, choose your cards,”

One by one they all lean forward and pick up a card.

“Now reveal them,” She instructs as Kevin, Betty and Veronica do so, flipping their respective cards over in front of them. Cheryl is the last to flip hers, but the outcome is almost too predictable. “Well, well, well, looks like I’m drawing hearts,” She has a look of cruel pleasure written all over her face as she hunts down her victim. “Veronica,” She feigns surprise, “Spades, I see,”

“Do your worst, Blossom,” Veronica sighs in contempt, fully aware of what’s coming next.

“Let’s see,” She fidgets with her long red hair playfully as she thinks, “When was the last time you had a functioning relationship?”

“Cheryl…” Betty warns.

“Silence clubs,” Cheryl sends a sickeningly sweet and patronising smile in her direction, “Unless addressed,”

Kevin remains silent and studies Veronica with pure interest as she makes her next move.

“Wow, you really know how to sting, but I’m afraid I’ll have to forfeit,” She leans back.

“Very well,” Cheryl says with visible annoyance.

Veronica bites her fingernails in thought before answering, “I’ll keep it on the topic of relationships, just to appease you, your highness,” She mocks, “I won’t tell you when my last relationship was, or how long it was for-,”

“Just get to the point, Veronica,”

“-But I will tell you,” Veronica continues as though she wasn’t interrupted, sending Cheryl an icy look, “I have since then, extended my palette, if you will,” Cheryl narrows her eyes as Betty and Kevin exchange a nervous glance.

“Too vague,” Cheryl says simply, evaluating Veronica up and down with her eyes.

Veronica’s previous confidence wavers and Kevin mouths something in silent alarm to Betty. She nods and they both pipe up simultaneously, “Overruled,”

“But-,”

“Overruled,” Kevin cuts Cheryl off, “It doesn’t take much of the imagination to understand what she means,” He sends Veronica a grin of approval.

“Well, she’ll have to specify!” Cheryl protests, obliviously. Betty remains silent, looking down at her hands.

“Hey, I thought the clubs and diamonds queens decide whether the answer is valid or not,” You point out from observation. “Kinda defeats the whole point if you’re abusing your power,”

Kevin nods in signal for the next round to begin. As he starts shuffling the cards again, Cheryl sends you a terrifying look.

You gingerly move to pick up the card closest to you when shiny Blossom-red fingernails snatch it out from underneath you. You almost jump but instead move to pick the last remaining card. Kevin shuffles back, sitting the round out and observing from the side-lines.

This time when you all flip your cards; the spades card looks up at you pretentiously and you visibly gulp. Luckily, fate lends you a favour and it’s Veronica who has picked up the queen of hearts.

Cheryl crosses her arms indignantly and Veronica shuffles over to Betty, exchanging whispers that you desperately urge your ears to pick up.

After a moment or so, she composes herself, and quite formally announces her question. “(y/n),” She begins, clearing her throat, “You haven’t been with us long, so I’ll leave this question vague for your own sake,” Her eyes seem to search yours as she continues, “I know you don’t speak to a lot of people, especially at school, but,” She pauses, a smile beginning to make its way over her face, “Out of everyone you’ve met so far, is there anyone you take an interest in? Romantically speaking,”

“Oh my god, Veronica, is that an invitation?” Cheryl bursts out, realisation finally hitting her.

“What? No!” Veronica defends herself, “I’m asking (y/n), be quiet,”

After that Cheryl shuts up and four pairs of eyes concentrate all their attention onto you.

"W-what," Your voice is almost inaudible and you have to think about your answer, carefully, because you're not so sure yourself. There's been people you've longed to be friends with: Betty and Veronica among them, but there's never really been anyone you've considered from a romantic standpoint. At least for the moment, you don't think so...

Then it dawns on you.

“Well?” Cheryl taps her nails across her folded arms impatiently.

“I honestly don’t know…” You stammer, “I mean maybe?” Your mind can’t seem to escape an irrational flood of thought circulating a specific, introverted, beanie-clad teenager.

“That obviously means yes,” Cheryl sighs in boredom, “Whatever, just spill,”

“Actually,” Betty comes to your aid, “The question never asked who, she doesn’t have to go into further detail,”

You send her a look of gratitude and she returns it with a kind smile. You glance between Betty, Veronica and Kevin and you are positively relieved when they agree in unison to bring the game to an end.

 

It’s not until around three hours later you finally get some much-needed solitude. The others had all fallen asleep in front of the credits to the second movie when you shut off the screen and get up, heading out of the apartment. You reach the outside steps and relish the silence, accompanied only by the sound of gentle rainfall around you. You breathe a sigh of relief.

The streets are dark and barren, potentially hiding anything and every danger possible, but in that moment, you are lost in the tranquillity of just being. You don’t expect it when it happens, in fact, it’s the last thing you thought would ever happen.

You notice a figure walking brusquely by you, recognising him by his angry walk. It seems, at first, he doesn’t see you, but you realise when he comes to a halt, he recognises you too.

“Jughead?” He takes a step forward and you can see him much clearer in the faint light. He’s fully dressed, at least you think he is, you’re not quite sure whether there’s much of a difference between his pyjamas and his everyday clothing. You could say the same for yourself too.

“(y/n),” He says with finality, like he expected it was you, despite this only being your second proper conversation, “What are you doing out here?” He subtly but noticeably moves closer to you and you can’t help but raise an eyebrow.

“I hate to be predictable and ask you the same thing but I could ask you the same thing,” is your reply and you gesture for him to sit next to you. He does so without question.

“That’s fair, I guess I’d better explain myself,” He avoids your eyes, “I was just out… walking,”

“…In the middle of the night,”

“Yeah,” He confirms, grinning at how ridiculous it sounds, “I couldn’t sleep,” He pauses, “Actually, I'm not going to give you some stupidly ambiguous excuse I'd tell someone else, the truth is, I often go on long, meaningless walks in the dead of night,”

“Okay, fair enough,” You respond and he sends you a sidelong grin of amusement. You can’t help but laugh, “In a way I’m doing the same,” He looks at you in interest as you elaborate, “It was getting too crowded in there, I needed a moment,”

“…In the rain,” He finishes, holding his hand up to make a point. It’s at this moment you realise you’re both just sat, drenched, out in the rain at 2am.

“Wow, this paints a really melodramatically depressing picture,” You observe at the situation and Jughead scoffs in amusement.

“What’s a couple of millennial youths without some melodrama?” He jokes and you look at him. For the first time, it feels like you’re really looking at him.

“We’re going to catch colds, you know,” You tell him.

“I know,”

He hasn’t moved his gaze away from you and you shrink uneasily under his eyes, “So… uh, tell me, when did these long, meaningless walks first occur?”

Jughead releases you from his stare as he stops to think, “Now that’s a good question, gosh, I must’ve been about ten years old?” He chuckles to himself, “Around the age I started to decide I was indestructible; I said to myself ‘Nothing out there can get to me,’ you know how kids can be,”

“Why’d you say that?” You ask.

“Maybe I thought that nothing in the dark or in the night was anything comparable to what was already going on… in my own home, or whatever we pretended it was…” He trails off and stares off into the darkness. His expression contracts to something cold and unreadable.

For the first time in a very long time, you feel the need to give him a reassuring touch, something to ease the tension, but you waver. “That sounds like hell,” Is all you can come up with.

Jughead scoffs again, “Yeah,” his eyes meet your own again, moving back and forth between them and you are caught off guard at the sudden intensity. You feel extremely vulnerable at the unexpected eye contact and this time there is nowhere to hide.

After a moment, you realise it’s your turn for an explanation, “Normally, I can’t stand being around people, especially not for long amounts of time,”

“I hear that,” He nods, “Normally, but not always?”

“Sometimes people are okay,”

“Oh yeah?” He challenges and you return with a solid nod. “You better introduce me to these ‘okay’ people, I’m still trying to find them,” He laughs and you give him an eye roll.

“Wow…”

“Meanwhile,” He continues, “Well, I think there’s at least one I can tolerate,” He gives you a well-timed wink before standing up. “Still, for the moment, I’m only in shallow waters, we’ll have to see what happens,”

“We will,” You confirm, mostly unsure of what he means but you don’t show it, “I look forward to it,”

“Me too,”

“Goodnight, Jughead,”

“Goodnight.”

 ...And before you know it, his hunched figure strides away, hands buried deep within the pockets of his jacket, raindrops scattering from his clothes and his hair. You slowly stand up, shivering, and only slightly sure you didn't just dream the whole thing.

Chapter Text

When you wake up the next morning from your sleeping bag on the floor of the Lodge residence, you can feel the beginnings of a cold start to permeate. Your clothes are still damp from the rain and you pick up your bag, meeting Veronica’s eyes over her cup of steaming black coffee.

“Morning (y/n),” She smiles sleepily from her position on the couch. You look around, scouting for the others, “They’re already up – making breakfast,” She explains quickly, rising to stand.

“Oh, sweet,” You nod in thanks, “Hey, V, would it be okay if I-,”

“Take a shower? Of course!” She moves to lead the way, before stopping and turning to face you, “I didn’t mean that in a rude way,” She quickly corrects.

“No, that’s okay,” You smile sheepishly, “I… went outside last night for some fresh air, you could say my clothes are still a little water-logged,” You try and explain without sounding super weird.

She tilts her head to one side, “May I ask how come?”

“Uhh…” You hesitate.

“Wait, don’t tell me… you’re a smoker? Wait no, tell me,”

You shake your head, “Not quite, I was just…” You hesitate but then decide to leave Jughead out of it, “Sleepwalking,” you quickly blurt out, frowning in confusion at your own excuse.

Veronica looks at you in alarm, “Oh my gosh, I’m so so sorry; I could’ve sworn I locked the door!” She works herself up into a frenzy, “Oh no, what if you got hurt? Are sleepwalkers aware of their surroundings when they’re asleep?” The question seems more rhetorical than directed at you.

“Don’t worry about it,” You dismiss with a reassuring smile, “Which way is your bathroom?”

That brings her attention back to the present, “Oh right, of course, of course, it’s just down there, clean towels are kept in the drawers,” She gestures and you nod in gratitude.

When you reach the grand looking room, you gratefully peel off your uncomfortably damp pyjamas and gingerly climb into the porcelain tub. You turn the knobs, giving passage to the steaming hot water that hits you like an electric shock.

Letting out a sigh of relief under the comforting stream, you think back to the previous night and what you had told Veronica. What if it was just a dream? What if you didn’t actually have a conversation with Jughead and it was all just in your head?

Pushing away the unsettling thought, you continue to rinse away the aroma of stale rainwater as you try to convince yourself that you’re not going crazy. As impossible as it sounded, Jughead was there. He must have been. 

 

By the time you get home, it’s just after noon and the air is cold and sharp, promising an imminent downpour just like the night before. This one, however, you’d rather not get caught in, and you just manage to make it inside before the drops get heavier, accompanied by the low rumble of thunder.

You make your way straight to your room and to your window where you slump down against a cushion, watching the world turn grey as you equip your headphones and press shuffle.

Somewhere during that time, you manage to complete some of your assignments, most of which aren’t even due for another two weeks, before you grab the book on your side table and spend the rest of your afternoon reading.

The sky outside is dark when you’re startled awake, legs numb and shivers beginning to wrap around you from your stationary position. You pick up the book that had fallen on the floor during your nap and lean over to switch on the light. It blinds you for a few seconds before you finally will yourself to stand up, shaking away the tingling sensation in your feet. After that, you change into some more loose fitting clothes and pick up the rest of your laundry to toss it into the laundry basket.

When it gets to around 7pm, you realise how hungry you are and finally make yourself something to eat, or rather, a small banquet. You sit at the breakfast bar as you eat, absentmindedly flicking through channels on the TV when the quiet buzz of your phone seizes your attention.

It’s a text from Veronica again: a selfie with Kevin and Betty in an outdoor clothing store, to be more specific. This is followed by a few confused messages from Archie and quick clarification from Betty. Jughead is yet to respond at all in the group and you wonder if he even uses his phone.

The others seem to have already arranged a date and destination for the allegedly planned road trip, and you make sure to screenshot the conversation for future reference. It’s not long after that when you finally make your way back upstairs to your bed and fall into a heavy slumber among all the cushions and pillows on your bed.

 

The next school day begins as any other. In the morning, you catch the same bus, go to the same lessons and do extra studying in between as you always do. It isn’t until lunch when everything seems to change: starting with Betty in the student lounge.

At first, you presume she just needs a proof-reader for an article she has been working on for the Blue and Gold. But after you’ve finished reading what probably would be enough articles for the whole year, you can’t help but assume there is an underlying motivation behind her request. Regardless, you give her the benefit of the doubt and proceed in helping her with the simple task.

The two of you even manage to distract yourselves in conversation with each other, (something out of character for both of you as workaholics), and you almost forget what you were originally supposed to do when Veronica comes bursting in, a look of alarm clear in her long-lashed eyes. She races towards you both with startled doe-like steps, catching the attention of Archie, who had been sat composing with his guitar, as he jumps up to meet her.

The chorus of noise and chanting chases her into the room before she has time to explain and you take a glance towards the commotion in the hallway.

Her next words act as both a shout and a whisper; you can’t tell which one, “Guys I need your help! There’s a fight-!” She pauses briefly to catch her breath “Jughead’s in a fight!” She manages to say before she turns and jets out of the room, expecting you all to follow which, of course, you do.

Within seconds, you’re already there and trying the subdue the jarring adrenaline that has filled your body. You shove through the crowds as the hallways tremble with chaos, wondering if your shuddering heart is the source.

Once you see him, your mind doesn’t have time to process your actions as suddenly you’re stood near him, your mind watching from somewhere else. It takes you a minute to grasp a bearing of what’s happening before Archie barrels between the two brawling boys, forcing them apart with two steady but threatening hands.

However, it’s not enough for him to simply give them a warning; suddenly you see Veronica straining to hold Reggie back. The heavily built football player immediately retreats at her touch but Jughead is not so compliant.

Before you can intervene, he lunges towards Reggie, aiming shockingly heavy blows with strength you had no idea he had. Reggie retaliates in a similar way to an angered bull, and the whole situation blows out of proportion.

Even with Archie and Veronica’s attempt at hindering their path, the pair seem completely intent on brutally attacking each other and Veronica’s eyes meet yours in quick desperation as you’re just stood, frozen. You realise she’s speaking to you, but you can barely hear her over the noise. You focus on her and only her as everything else seems to go in slow motion, and it’s at this point you realise she’s mouthing, ‘Stop him!’

You nod in understanding as Archie struggles against separating them and even Veronica needs help keeping Reggie at bay, to which Betty quickly races to her aid. There is a millisecond when you try and decide whether to grab jughead’s arm or his waist to pull him away, but you don’t have a millisecond.

Without thinking, you wrap your arms around him focusing all your strength into your arms as you gently pull him backwards away from the fight. You can feel his heart hammering against your palm and it beats with such force, you worry it’ll break out of his ribcage. His body temperature is hot enough to set your arms on fire. He’s panting and you’re desperately trying not to let him go, despite your lack of strength.

You hear the distant shouts of teachers as the chanting dies down and students begin to disperse. Overwhelmed, you try and block everything out, keeping your head down and slamming your eyes shut for what seems like years.

It takes a few moments, but sure enough, you feel your balance start to return.

Slowly, but surely, you open your eyes as you try and straighten up but immediately you’re met with the icy glare of none other than Jughead. He stares daggers into you as you keep him restrained, looking almost betrayed. It’s as though everything stops and all he does is look at you, burning through your skin with his eyes. Everyone else disappears. It’s the most unsettled you’ve ever felt and you suddenly jerk away in surprise.

Despite the action, he keeps his gaze on you for one, two more heartbeats, as though you didn’t even flinch. It’s not until after your lowkey stare off when he wipes his bloody lip, straightening up and acknowledging Archie.

“Easy, don’t look so worried; you know how Reggie is…” Jughead shoots him a condescending smile, intent on provoking him, to which Veronica has to continuously suppress, “…never knows when to keep his mouth shut.” He lets out a laugh, casually picking up his discarded bag as he stalks away, the unfamiliar image of his aggravating grin charring itself permanently into your mind.

You double take as you try and think of something to say. Turns out, you’re not the only one stunned into silence. The others say nothing.  

After a quick exchange of confused glances, Veronica finally vocalises the question on everyone’s mind.

“Okay, what the hell just happened?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never seen him like that before…” Archie trails off, as though there’s more to the story.

“Whatever, your friend’s a freak, I don’t have time for this,” Reggie tries to move from Veronica’s grip. She however, doesn’t let him go that easily.

“Whoa, whoa, you’re not going anywhere,” She holds his arm with an excessive amount of force and he slumps down in defeat, wincing slightly from his injuries (inflicted by Jughead) as he sits with his back to the lockers.

He sighs before complying, “Alright, what do you want,” He casts her a sidelong glance and she crouches to sit next to him, gesturing, with her eyes, for Betty to elaborate.

“Well… for a start, how did you two even get into a fight? I don’t think Jughead’s ever even fought anyone before,” She looks to Veronica who just shrugs.

Both Archie and Reggie cut in, “Actually-,”

Reggie lets Archie explain further this time, “Jughead’s been in more than a few fights, mostly he’s standing up to bullies or trying to prove a point, but... something's different,” He looks at Reggie in anticipation.

“I won’t lie, I said something stupid,” Reggie adds, “But it wasn’t nearly enough to set him off, I always say stupid stuff to him,” He looks at you dead in the eyes and you can see the underlying guilt buried there, “I don’t know why today was any different,”

Archie looks hesitant before he finally says something else, visibly regretting it as soon as the words leave his mouth, “Maybe it’s something to do with his dad…” It’s more of a statement than a question and you cast your eyes back to the now empty corridor Jughead had departed via.

“Do you think we should talk to him? See what’s going on?” Betty suggests but you don’t look back at her as your feet have already decided where they’re going.

“Wait a sec, (y/n), where are you going?” Veronica’s voice is almost drowned out as you start walking to catch up.

“I’ll be back.”

Chapter Text

Throughout the rest of the day, there are three things that become apparent to you.

First of all, despite all your efforts to find the fled teen, you come up empty handed as well as fifteen minutes late to your next class; something very unusual for you.

Secondly, your next class turns out to be chemistry: the anomaly of subjects that just so happens to include all of your new friends, supposedly Jughead too, but he doesn’t turn up.

And, thirdly is the reason why you’re here, standing in front of a rundown trailer among the derelict part of town most people call the ‘South Side’. It’s true, you wanted to make sure Jughead was okay, but this, being here, was totally not your call…

 

“(y/n)! Be my lab partner?” Betty pleaded to you with those glassy blue eyes of hers and of course you couldn’t say no. You were still overwhelmed by how quickly everything had changed; most people would only ask to be your lab partner if they were failing. All except Kevin of course, who regularly adopted you when Betty and Veronica decided to pair up but ever remaining in the minority… up until now.

“Sure!” You smiled, practically buzzing with animation at the prospect of Betty voluntarily working with you.

Nevertheless, every good thing comes with a price and as you were seated, strategically placed directly behind Veronica and Archie, you realised there was a deeper intention behind the offer.

“Hey (y/n)!”

“Hey, (y/n),” They had spoken practically simultaneously, wearing matching playful grins that were too dubious for a simple friendly interaction. They had been about to bargain with you and even then, you could tell…

“Uh, hey,”

“I’ll cut to the chase,” Archie explained, cutting to the chase, “We were talking, while you were off looking for Jughead, and we all basically came to the conclusion-,”

“Archie-kins, she won’t agree if you don’t explain it properly,” Veronica interrupted, rolling her eyes.

“Hey! I was about to, if you just give me a chance-,” He was absentmindedly fiddling with some of the test tubes of solutions when Veronica’s hand slapped his away.

“Put those down,” She warned, “…As I was saying, we were mostly talking about Jughead and we realised, Jughead has never been provoked into a fight, like ever,”

Betty had nodded along, adding, “He’s way too articulate, even though he’s capable of putting up a fight, he only really fights with his words, and good ones at that,” She did make a valid point, he was practically a verbal tyrant.

“…Not to mention, we established it was in fact Jughead who started the fight, despite continuous interrogation.” Veronica had sent a deadly glare over to Reggie, who looked like he had been beaten up enough already.

“So he must’ve been trying to get something out of his system,” Archie explained, anxiously glancing at Veronica like she was an unstable firework.

“He’s also been even more distant than usual, I mean apart from when he’s talking about you,” Betty continued and then stopped in alarm, covering her mouth as though she’d said something she shouldn’t have.

“Wait a minute, so you guys might know why he started the fight?” You glanced between them expectantly.

“Yes and no,” Veronica told you, “But that’s where you come in,”

“We want you to go visit him after school, we know where he’ll be so you don’t have to worry about finding him-,” Archie started.

“I don’t know, you guys…” You hesitated, extremely reluctant about intruding somewhere you had no right to be and where you probably weren’t wanted, “He barely even knows me,” You didn’t want to appear as some sort of substitute in place of the others because they were too busy or something.

“That’s the thing,” Archie started, thinking over his next words carefully, “There’s something about you, something different,” He continued, giving you an all-American smile, “Jughead is extremely stubborn; he avoids people at all costs and he certainly doesn’t talk to people unless he has to,”

“You see, that was different with you,” Betty added, “I’ll admit, it took a lot of persuasion for him to finally accept Veronica and Kevin as his friends and even when me and Archie were little kids, we practically forced him to be our friend. He doesn’t make friends on his own,”

“…And from what I’ve heard, that’s how it’s always been,” Veronica told you, staring you squarely in the eyes, “Up until… he met you,”

“Me?” You repeated in a whisper of disbelief, again reminded of your first meeting with the ravenette in the diner.

“Yes, and he doesn’t shut up about you,” Archie teased, chuckling at your minor embarrassment.

“So will you?” Veronica had asked you. At this point, you hadn’t had much of a choice.

 

Your eyes land on the rusted metal and the deteriorating plastic chairs scattered outside. The steps were practically peeling away from the consistent swing of the door they supported and the vegetation surrounding the entire area was all but gone, leaving in its wake brambles and brown grass.

You visibly gulp. Despite the exterior, you were still intimidated by the evidently neglected property. Your eyes slowly trail along the front door. Every nerve in your body objects when you lean forward to give it a tentative knock.

Knock knock.

Nothing. Half of you urges yourself to turn around and go home since it’s obvious no one’s home, but the other half of you knows you have to try again.

You hold out your hand, about to make a knocking motion, when it swings open without warning.

“What do you want?” The voice came out more as a slur and, had you not been standing so close, the phrase would’ve been completely incoherent.

“Sorry, I… Um…” You try and organise your words before they leave your mouth but you have to admit you’re having trouble. You take the time to peer up at a much older man than you expected, his face somewhat hidden by a blanket of facial hair and you notice he’s wearing a flannel shirt not unlike a teenager you know. You detect the faint aroma of alcohol on his clothes and when you manage to take a second look at his eyes you realise this must be Jughead’s dad. “FP,” It’s more of a statement than a question and he raises an eyebrow as he looks you up and down

“Yes?”

You’ve heard about FP somewhat from brief mentions via Betty and Archie, but primarily you know of him through working at the diner. The serpents never seem to bother you, most likely because your existence is practically unapparent to them, but you like to think they respect you as a catalyst of their favourite source of fast food.

Still, from the look he’s giving you, he clearly doesn’t recognise you in any way. At first his stare is obtrusive, unwavering, but as a muffled voice is heard from the other side of the doorway, he’s immediately distracted and turning to look back inside.

Thinking he might shut the door on you, you finally claw your brain for an explanation, “Um, I’m so sorry to bother you Mr Jones!” You clear your throat, adjuring your voice to sound strong and assertive, “Would I be able to speak to Jughead?”

The question catches him off guard and he gives you a sceptical look before shouting to his son, “Jughead!” He doesn’t take his eyes off you.

Satisfied at the sound of a response, FP looks you over once again, even giving you a kind smile. You almost don’t notice his lowkey nod of approval as Jughead appears looking alarmed as soon as he sees you, quickly ushering you away from the steps. He utters a “We’ll catch you later, dad,” as he hurries along and seems to avoid any potential eye contact with you until you’re both at least twenty feet away.

The contact his hands make on your back send you paralyzed as you simply follow his lead and you can’t help but let out a sigh of half relief and half disappointment when he abruptly removes it. You’re about far enough from his home for his dad to shut the door and go back inside so he finally lets out a breath he seems to have been holding in.

“(y/n),” He states bluntly, feigning his usual aloof exterior. “What are you doing here?” You can hear the interest bleeding through the words as he tries his best to hide it.

“Don’t worry, it wasn’t my idea,” Was that disappointment that flashed across his face or were you imagining it? “Archie told me to come and talk to you,” You clarify.

Jughead nods slowly breathing out a mildly perturbed, “Of course…”

You study him for a moment as he keeps looking off into the distance like he’s thinking about something and out of nowhere you feel his hand hastily snatch your own. His pace has quickened so you’re both lightly jogging and you pant heavily at the unexpected flurry of movement.

You’re practically wheezing by the time he slows down and you lean over, trying your best to subdue an inevitable stitch. “Whoa… a little warning next time?”

“Sorry,” He murmurs and flashes you a sidelong smile, “I just didn’t want to waste any time,”

You furrow your eyebrows in confusion and try not to let the fact that he’s still holding your hand, distract you from where you’re supposedly going. When you finally look up properly, the first thing you notice is a huge metal fence, lined with barbed wire.

“Jug…”

“Yeah?”

“I hate to be that kid, but this looks extremely sketchy from where I’m standing,”

Jughead grins at you and shakes his head, carefully nudging you so you take a step to the side. He stands in the exact same spot you were stood just a moment later before replying with, “Hmm… I don’t see it,”

You roll your eyes and nudge him again with your shoulder in a teasing way. “You know what I meant, smartass,”

Upon further inspection, you recognise the area to be a construction site. More specifically, the land where the ‘Twilight Drive-In’ used to be (and apparently still is.)

Realisation dawns on you and you send him an empathetic look. He avoids your eyes and you don’t blame him but he straightens himself up, beginning to follow along the fence as he runs his hand over the metal.

You ask a question that is left unanswered as he moves along and it lingers in the air for a lot longer than necessary.

“Why did you take me here Jug?”

Instead of giving you a straight forward answer, he seems to have found what he was looking for and he pries away a large chunk of the fence, leaving open a small, but decent opening. A minor shift of his head signals you to, against your better judgement, follow him onto the private land. Yet, the fact that you two are technically trespassing doesn’t even seem to faze him. He knows the route well, it appears.

Of course, you’d overheard conversation of him previously living here, before Archie’s house became an option, so you feel almost intrusive entering a place so personal to him. Regardless, you do as he silently asks and follow him all the way to a small building that seems to be still standing, keeping an eye out for any construction workers who might wonder what you’re doing. Granted, you don’t see any and realise because of how late it is, they’ve probably all gone home.

Jughead opens the door and makes himself comfortable on what you presumed, used to be his bed. The room looks pretty barren, surprisingly, and you guess he must’ve been here a couple of times prior to pick up various old objects of sentimental value before the whole place gets destroyed.

“I needed to tell you…” He says out of nowhere, addressing your previous inquiry, “I don’t know how to explain it in words, I’d be better off writing it down or something,” He runs his hands over his face and then through his hair, catching his beanie and stretching his neck. You’re left only speechless when he continues, “There’s something about you, (y/n) … Everyone else, it’s like I’m performing, trying to say and do whatever they expect me to, whatever seems like the right thing to do; the polite thing to do,”

“…Like you’re trying to fit into a box that just doesn’t leave you any room,”

“Exactly,”

“I hear that,” You sympathise, moving slightly closer to him, even sitting beside him, “It’s like there’s always been these unspoken constrains that everyone’s stuck in, the normalities of mundane life, I suppose… And those who kick against them; they’re known as ‘outsiders’,”

He studies you in a trance like state before slowly nodding his head in agreement, “It’s strange how out of everyone… even Archie and Betty… it’s when I’m around you I feel most like myself,” He pauses for a moment and the words sink in, “Don’t get me wrong, despite what I say, I don’t hate everyone,”

You let out a chuckle of amusement and he reciprocates it. “Neither do I,” You smile.

“By the way, I’m sorry for dragging you all the way up here, I don’t know if you know this, but… well… this place used to be my home,” He explains and you nod along.

“Don’t worry about it; I’m finding this all pretty fascinating,” You admit sheepishly as your eyes lose themselves around the room.

He chuckles once again, before continuing, “Since my dad seems to be somewhat stable, I’m back home, which is the best-case scenario for the both of us, I think,” He smiles to himself, “…And soon maybe mom and Jellybean can come back,” His voice is almost inaudible and you can practically see his painful desperation to have his family back together again.

“I’m glad things are good between you two…” You start, not sure what else you can say. You’ve never found yourself in this kind of emotional territory before. You decide, the best thing you can do is change the subject, “So… don’t take this the wrong way but, why did you get into that fight with Reggie? Was there any particular reason or…?”

“I guess I do owe you an explanation,” He replies, avoiding your eyes entirely and keeping his gaze on his hands, “The truth, at its most basic and primal core, is that it was fundamentally meaningless. It wasn’t even about Reggie… I just needed to let out some withheld frustration.”

You’re silent for a moment.

“I knew I couldn’t tell you… because, I couldn’t stand it if you thought differently of me,” He looks pleadingly into your eyes, “Please don’t think differently of me,”

You rise to stand, moving so you’re facing him, before you route around in your bag for something. Jughead doesn’t question you, and then after a moment, you finally reveal what you were looking for.

You gently peel away the packaging from a sterile wipe and lean down so you’re kneeling in front of him. He raises an eyebrow and you roll your eyes murmuring something about how it’s ‘better to be safe than sorry’, referring to your handy first-aid kit that lives in your bag. After the moment passes, you feel your confidence evaporate and you hesitate, silently asking him for permission as he smiles softly and leans closer to you, letting you clean the neglected gashes.

At first you barely touch him, afraid you’ll inflict even more wounds than there were to begin with, but after a while, you relax, successfully applying butterfly tape on the wider cut just above his right eyebrow.

Even after you’re finished, your hands seem to linger and then so do your eyes.

“I’m sorry if I frightened you earlier,” He murmurs, lifting his own bruised knuckles to take your hand. He holds it so carefully, overwhelmed with fear that any slight motion would injure you. He holds it like it’s the most delicate thing in the world; like it’s a baby bird.

You shake your head at his statement, dismissing his worries. You flash your eyes across your locked hands and he does the same.

When he looks at you again, there’s nothing cold about it. At first, it’s warm and inviting, like hot chocolate, but it keeps shifting.

It changes to a different look; a soft look, like he’s mesmerised or he’s seeing colour for the first time. It’s a look that’s intrepid and all-consuming. It leaves you temporarily dazzled.

 

Eventually, you draw your eyes away… and the walk home is both as uncomfortable and long for one of you as it is the other.

Chapter Text

The blonde, ravenette and red headed trio sit around their usual table in the cafeteria, trepidation evident on each of their expressions. They wait anxiously for something to happen.

Jughead had chosen to sit alone. It wasn’t something completely out of the usual, yet, given the circumstances and the melancholy aura emitting from the dark-haired teen, they knew something was wrong and they needed to know what.

Prior to their seating arrangement, they had been on the search for someone in particular: someone who, up until this moment, was very obviously avoiding them.

“I can’t stand not knowing, let’s just go and talk to him,” Veronica finally gives in, standing up abruptly in preparation.

“No way, Jughead won’t thank us for any large-scale confrontation, let’s just wait,” Betty reminds her, causing Veronica to sigh in defeat, taking her seat once again.

“Alright, but any sign of (y/n) and I’m gone, I need to find out what happened,”

“Do you guys think maybe something happened?” Archie proposes, gesturing with his eyes towards Jughead’s table.

“That’s exactly what I just said Archie-kins, listen-,”

“No I mean…” Archie trails off but Betty clocks onto what he’s implying straight away.

“You might be right about that,” She stares off into the distance until the others turn to see she’s looking at you. You’re weaving around tables and chairs and look like you’re headed in their direction.

“That’s… true, neither (y/n) or Jughead have been acting like their usual selves today, and I don’t think it’s just us they’re avoiding,” The three of them turn again to lock eyes with you and you send a soft yet uneasy smile in their direction.

“Still, if anything happened, shouldn’t it be the other way around, shouldn’t they be inseparable right now?” Betty continues, trying to work out what’s going on.

“Not necessarily-,” Archie replies but cuts off as he spots you walking over to Jughead’s table. “I just hope I didn’t screw anything up with them, y’know by suggesting (y/n) go and talk to him,”

“Don’t worry Arch-,” Betty gives him a sympathetic look but they are both interrupted.

“Shhh, I’m trying to listen,” Veronica snaps, waving a hand towards them and leaning closer in her seat towards the two in question.

 

“Um… hey,”

“Hey…”

You feel your hands begin to tremble under the lunch tray you’re carrying so you set it down.

“…Can we talk?” You try and keep your tone steady, unsure why this sudden tsunami of nerves is getting the better of you.

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Jughead mutters with disinterest. You fidget with the hem of your jacket and try to form more words. Admittedly, you’re at a loss. Jughead narrows his eyes, snatching a look in your direction before he finally shifts and looks away, his arms are still crossed as he speaks but he relaxes a little. “What did you want to talk about?”

You breathe a sigh of relief that his angry undertones have subsided and decide now’s as good a time as any to take a seat.

After another moment of silence he speaks up again, “So...” It’s left to linger in the air as you desperately search for the right words to say next. You can tell he’s growing impatient.

“I just wanted to apologise for… y’know, yesterday,” You scratch the back of your wrists anxiously and keep your eyes on the tray in front of you, despite all your hunger having died down long before. You feel his eyes suddenly snap your way again, although, they never outstay their welcome; the sensation diminishes almost as quickly as it comes, “I’m sorry,”

He sighs in defeat, “It’s alright,”

You wait for any indication he’s going to say something else, but he doesn’t. You just sit quietly for a moment. “I’ll admit, you caught me off guard there,” You want to elaborate how you were caught off guard having been invited somewhere so personal to him: The Drive-in, but you let the statement fall short allowing him to interpret it however he will.

“In that case, I’m sorry too,” You realise he’s talking about the moment before you went home; when he had given you all sorts of unusual eye contact and you mentally kick yourself. He thinks I didn’t want him to, you realise, which is completely the opposite of the truth. Regardless, he retreats further into himself and your heart lurches. You have to stop him.

“No, don’t-,” You try to say but he cuts in.

“I shouldn’t have put you in a position like that, you’re not my emotional crutch; you’re by no means obligated to look out for me,”

You scoff at his statement, unable to take him seriously, “That’s not at all what I meant, I… I enjoyed spending time with you,”

He looks taken aback, eyebrows furrowing in confusion.

“You’ll have to bear with me, I’m not exactly an expert when it comes to… interacting with people,” That’s really the only way you can explain it. You have a tendency to retreat when you’re put into new and unfamiliar situations. You chuckle to yourself light-heartedly, hoping Jughead will do the same.

He doesn’t. At least not immediately, “I know,” He says at last. He gives into a half smile, “That’s what I like about you (y/n),”

You narrow your eyes but you can’t suppress the smile that appears on your face. “Now you’re just making fun of me,”

He holds his hands up defensively, “I would never,” He says the next part much more quietly, “Believe it or not, I understand completely,”

You nod, confirming you heard him and the two of you let the conversation fall into another silence, this one however is a lot more comfortable than the last.

“So, are we still friends?” You ask hopefully, realising you haven’t yet established if this is an initiation of further potential conversations with the ravenette teen or simply a tragic conclusion to whatever sort of friendship that had managed to manifest in the past week. You pray it isn’t the latter.

“Without a doubt,” Jughead confirms and he doesn’t miss a beat.

Your smile is almost as wide as his and it’s uncontrollable to say the least. You realise that this is a perfect opportunity to bring up your next proposal but he beats you to it.

“So… that all you came to say?” You can tell he’s joking by the mischief in his eyes and he even manages to subtly shuffle closer to you, forcing your knees to collide and practically putting you in cardiac arrest.

You don’t give him the satisfaction of seeing you flustered as you immediately straighten up, announcing what you were about to say just moments ago, “Actually, I wanted to ask you if you wanted to hang out at Pop’s later this week, call it an apology milkshake,”

This time it’s Jughead’s turn to be flustered but he hides it almost entirely, keeping his composure. Of all the things Jughead expected you to do, this certainly wasn’t one of them. You maintained a solid status of being completely unpredictable and he found it… compelling. We’re you really asking him on a date? He should be so lucky… “Sure. How does Sunday sound?” He offers, realising his mind had ran away with him again.

“Sounds perfect, should I pick you up?” You daringly tease, eliciting a sly smile from your playful counterpart.

“Yes, and bring me flowers too, chrysanthemums are my favourite,”

You can’t stop yourself from laughing at his statement, and you are certainly sure you’re going to take him up on that suggestion.

“Absolutely,” You confirm, “And if you’re lucky I’ll even throw in an extra milkshake,”

“Done.”

 

By the time Sunday eventually crawled around, you admit you almost forgot about your little rendezvous with the dark-haired boy. Your leisurely morning had been short lived when you dived out of bed and you kept true to your word, even going as far as purchasing flowers on your walk there.

When you had arrived, the place looked almost exactly the same, sans the gloomy atmosphere. It was as though a new source of life had been breathed into the trailer’s very core. You couldn’t think of any other way to describe it apart from: awake.

You grip the handful of chrysanthemums behind your back; your initial idea was for them to be a surprise following what you could only assume was a frivolous demand and you wait in pure anticipation for Jughead’s reaction.

When the door opens, however, you are not met with the neutral expression of your classmate. You aren’t even met with his father. No, when your eyes slowly fall onto the small figure of a much younger Jones, it takes you a good few seconds to process who she is.

Her big brown eyes light up when she sees you and the expression is sure to be accompanied by a childish grin. You can tell by that face that she knows exactly who you are. But, the real question is, how?

You half expect her to start flying as she bounces away, yelling at the top of her little lungs. “J-U-G-G-G-I-I-I-I-E-E-E!”

You hear the distinct teenage groan of Jughead in response to her exclamation, assuming he said something along the lines of: “What…?” but before you know it, the bounding ball of energy is back and she’s dragging you with her, never letting her delightful gaze trail away from you.

In hindsight, it was still early in the morning, sometime before noon at least; and maybe you should’ve probably called ahead of time. Still, the picture of Jughead staring at you in astonishment, damp hair framing his face and his smooth pale torso (that just so happened to be shirtless at this moment in time) on full display, would forever be etched into your mind.

He had barely had any time to react when Jellybean marched into his room - or his dad’s room you weren’t quite sure - but he had certainly not expected you to be there, that was for sure.

“Oh my God-,” He pauses for less than a second before his voice raises, “Jellybean I told you to knock!” He grabs his beanie first, and then his shirt which had been left on the floor, giving you opportunity to subtly survey his back. When you finally come to your sentences, you quickly look away, muttering incoherent apologies while Jellybean darts out of the room, cackling like a mad man, Jughead hot on her heels and shouting mild obscenities at her behaviour.

Seizing your chance, you quickly retreat back into the living room area, trying your best to erase the image of Jughead: half-naked. It is no easy feat. At least he was wearing jeans, you dare yourself to think.

After several moments of humiliation, he makes his reappearance, fully clothed in everything from his signature beanie to the scowl on his face. Although, it’s worth mentioning that said scowl seems to soften upon meeting your eyes again.

“I’m s-sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude,” You stutter.

“It’s not your fault,” He brushes off, aiming a glare at his sister. She had proceeded to pounce on his shoulders, gripping her arms around his neck and dangling there, like a cat, her black hair flying in every direction. Jughead remains unfazed by this, as though it’s a usual occurrence and you can’t help but swoon as he interacts with her. His actions are gentle and careful and his obvious amusement is concealed by feigned irritation. “I didn’t expect you to get here this early,” He half chuckles as he sets Jellybean down on the floor, then he notices what’s in your hand, “Are those for me?” His eyes glow with amusement as he refers to the flowers you ultimately brought as a joke and then there’s a flash of something else. Excitement? You never thought you’d ever see such an expression on his face.

You nod and hand them to him as he gazes at them in awe. Jellybean quickly moves her investigation over to you and she can’t seem to stop herself from playing with your hair.

“Is this (y/n)?” She turns to her brother expectantly, a dangerous smile on her face.

“That’s me,”

“Jughead talks about you all the time!”

“Jellybean,” Jughead warns but turns to you once he’s put his flowers in a vase of water, “She’s kidding,” He assures you and you chuckle in amusement.

Jellybean then darts out of the room without warning, leaving you to exchange a look with Jughead, “She’s lively,” You comment, smiling after her.

“Yeah, she is,” A small smile makes it’s way up Jughead’s face. He then goes ahead to explain the situation, “Sorry, I’ll admit I forgot she was coming this weekend, mom isn’t coming to pick her up until lunch time and my dad’s working this afternoon. If you want we can rearrange? I know you have work and stuff,”

“No, don’t worry about it!” you insist, “She can come with us,”

Suddenly, the small, plucky Jones reappears, “Really?” She’s beaming with excitement.

“(y/n) are you sure?” Jughead raises an eyebrow, “She can be a little… overwhelming” He lowers his voice so Jellybean can’t hear.

“Of course! And don’t sweat it, I can handle overwhelming.”

 

It became almost too apparent to you that you may have had second thoughts about that statement two hours down the line.

“Having fun yet?” Jughead teases, taking a long sip of his strawberry milkshake. He seemed to be enjoying your social turmoil around his younger sibling way too much.

You sigh in response, trying your best not to let your nerves show. You never expected Jellybean to be so… vocal and confident. She was practically the polar opposite of her brother. “I’m having plenty. What exactly are you implying, Jones?” You try and meet his sly remark with an equal one of your own.

Jellybean had just so happened to spot some kids from her school and had wasted no time in running over to greet them. They seem genuinely happy about her interruption too, leaving you and Jughead in a mild wonder at how she manages to be so self-assured. Though you’ll never admit it, deep down, you almost feel a hint of jealousy. Nevertheless, it’s nothing in comparison to the sense of pride you feel for her.

On her way back to your booth, she gives you a toothy grin and takes a big slurp from her banana milkshake. The grin says a thousand things you don’t care to address and you sink further down into your seat, spiralling into some kind of fight or flight mode.

“So (y/n) are you Jughead’s girlfriend?” She asks unapologetically as she takes a seat next to you. Your eyes widen in alarm and you feel your face heating up. She knows exactly what she’s doing and even makes sure to shuffle up as close as possible. You’re cornered.

You shoot a look of panic towards Jughead who seems all too amused by her question, and completely unfazed by it. He’s just smug because he’s in the clear and doesn’t have to answer. You wish you were so lucky… He even dares to raise his eyebrow expectantly at you. You’ll get him back for that.  

When you finally regain your composure, you keep your gaze on Jughead, forcing a smile as you reply. “Well Jellybean, you’ll have to ask him,” You let a smile rise up over your face and you lift your milkshake in a non-verbal toast, raising your own eyebrows before taking a satisfied sip.

Jughead’s smile drops like a repellent-intoxicated fly; he’s caught off guard with your answer and clearly doesn’t know what to say to that. Unfortunately for you, fate seems to want to side with him.

“You like him though?” She persists. Her statement is more of a question though; she’s uncertain.

You try and keep your cool, “How about we talk about something else,”

“But you didn’t answer my question!” She stands up, catching the attention of a few other booths.

“Jellybean, sit down,” Jughead tells her, shaking his head. Finally, he’s decided to say something. “(y/n),” He turns to face you, his expression unreadable, but you know he’s loving this, “You wouldn’t leave her without an answer, would you?” He gives you a look that tries to be innocent, but his expression is completely chaotic.

You narrow your eyes, hoping to convey your inner seething rage at his irresponsible antics. You refuse to fall victim to whatever cruel game he’s playing.

Jellybean looks at you with big glassy eyes and you can’t help but waver, she knows exactly how to get information out of you, that’s for sure. “Would you please?” Her lower lip trembles in pleading. She’s clearly experienced with interrogation.

“You two should be detectives one day, you have talent I’ll give you that,” You state, taking another absentminded sip of milkshake, “And I’m sorry Jellybean, I can’t answer your question,”

“Is it because you don’t know?” Jellybean doesn’t cease the subject and continues to pry. You don’t even dare look at her brother at this point. You’re not sure what kind of expression you’d find if you did. She doesn’t stop there though, “You should kiss each other! right now! That’s how you find out,” She says like it’s the simplest thing in the world before adding, “I’ll pretend not to look,”

You don’t know if your face has ever felt as warm as it feels right now. In fact, you’re sure that the colour of your cheeks surely competes with the pink of the milkshake you’re drinking and you can’t make eye contact with Jughead even if you wanted to.

You expect to hear some kind of retort: something intended to tease you further and brush off the blunt demand. Either that, or some kind of warning to tell her that’s too far, but neither of which happen.

Instead, you’re met with a splutter of laughter from the boy. It’s a sound you’ve never even heard him make and it’s both unsettling and kind of charming. “Oh Jellybean,” He laughs even harder, “You sure do have a wild imagination,”

“It’s not a joke!” She counters, sizing up Jughead with a deadly glare. She looks like she’s about to say something else but she chooses to stop short.

“Yes, it is, and it’s time to let it go,” Jughead’s voice is suddenly cold and serious and he doesn’t meet your eyes.

You decide to lighten the mood and turn the conversation onto the crestfallen 10-year-old. “Hey, don’t worry about that stuff; it’s not important,” You smile reassuringly at her, “Although, you seem to know a lot more than me… Tell me, is there a special boy at your school, Jellybean?” The initial question was supposed to be light-hearted above all else and you were mostly just grasping at straws but you don’t expect her to answer so abruptly.

“Oh yes! I have three boyfriends, of course,” She says with a cheeky gleam in her eye and you raise your eyebrows in surprise. Jughead incidentally stiffens. “But it’s nothing serious, all the boys at my school are too boring,” She follows up and you can’t hold back your laughter any more. This kid is something else!

“You shouldn’t even have a boyfriend, Jellybean, you’re way too young,” Jughead scolds with furrowed eyebrows and he’d look remarkably like a disapproving father if it weren’t for the childish scowl on his face. You have to admit you don’t hate his overprotective-big-brother side.

Jellybean immediately joins you in your hysterics, the two of you laughing at a rather unamused Jughead. “Oh Juggie,” You breathe after calming down, “She’s just having fun,” You exchange a satisfied smile with the smaller Jones, “You’re only young once, right?”

This time even Jughead can’t suppress the hint of a smile.

 

Afterwards, the three of you head out to the park for a short while until Jughead’s mom has to come and pick her up. She’s far too distracted by the slide to pay attention to the two of you though, and so, you both hang back to sit on the swings, trailing your feet along the sand.

“I did try to warn you,” Jughead says to you with a look that says ‘I told you so’. “Although, I have to say, I’m impressed you made it this far; she doesn’t usually warm up to people so quickly,”

You stare at him in thought for a moment. So… this whole thing was some kind of test. You had predicted as much and send him a playful smile before replying.

“You doubted me, Jug? I’m all torn up,” You dramatically look away, feigning a hurt expression.

He laughs at your response and waits for you to meet his gaze again. His eyes are intense and, much like Jellybean, they’re unapologetic when they meet yours head on.

“Not for a second, (y/n).”

Chapter Text

You only just finish packing when you hear the sound of a car pulling up outside your house. It’s an early Saturday morning and officially the first day of summer break: the day of your spontaneous and rather hastily planned road trip. The car must be Betty’s and you peer out of your window just to double check, spotting her and Veronica almost immediately. Betty looks well prepared for a hike, wearing her usual baseball shirt and loose jeans as well as hiking boots and a light parka-style jacket. Veronica, on the other hand, while she has made an effort to dress somewhat appropriately, still looks to be wearing clothes worth more than your entire house. Still, she looks radiant; you just hope she decided to pack something other than Jimmy Choo stilettos.

As they make their way up your driveway, you can’t help but notice Veronica latch her arm around Betty’s and their harmonious voices ring out alongside the birdsong as they wait for you to answer the door. Excitement and adrenaline almost cause you to lose your footing as you greet them, catching your breath.

“Hey, (y/n)!” Veronica is the first to speak, “How’s your morning going? You ready!” She says in a singsong as she grabs your arm with her free one.

“Absolutely!” You chime in, picking up your rucksack and closing the door behind you.

“What? We don’t get to meet the parents?” Betty jokes in faux disappointment.

“They’re already gone,” You explain briefly, “Work,”

Satisfied with that response, the others quickly change the subject back to the trip, “Unfortunately, Kevin bailed since he got roped in to some family reunion, so it’ll just be the five of us,” Betty explains with a hint of disappointment, “Do you have everything you need?”

“Phone, Laptop, Charger?” Veronica suggests and you and Betty exchange an amused glance.

Sure, Ronnie,” Betty laughs, taking your rucksack for you, to which you thank her before she loads it into the trunk of her car, “Oh (y/n), did you manage to find that camping stove? Me and my dad have been meaning to get a new one,”

“Oh yeah sure, let me just go and grab it,”

After a while of grabbing a few extra essentials from your garage including a box of food and the aforementioned camping stove, you re-emerge, making a beeline for the trunk of Betty’s car.

It’s not long before she sets off and you say goodbye to the familiarity of your home and embrace the anticipation of a long journey on the road. Before then, however, you need to make a few more stops.

You sit back, letting the cool summer morning air hit your face and dishevel your flurry of (h/c) hair and listen quietly as Veronica turns the radio on, putting her sunglasses on and kicking her shoes off as she gets comfortable. The short trip through town is full of impromptu singing and laughter, mostly by the others, until you all finally arrive at Archie’s house.

Jughead agreed to meet at Archie’s prior to setting off and Betty pulls up, greeting the two drowsy teenagers, before running back to her own house one door down to get something. Veronica rolls down her window in a regal air of sass as she lowers her sunglasses.

“Just so you know, I already called shotgun,” She smirks, throwing Jughead the keys to the car from the dashboard. He flinches as he catches them, fatigue evident on his face as he exchanges a look with Archie. “Get in, nerds,”

After hauling their respective luggage into the trunk, the two boys make their way to the doors either side of you, and climb in, muttering something about how early it is. Archie is wearing an ensemble of shorts and a t-shirt as well as flip flops, which initially surprises you, since it’s not that hot, but he mentions packing hiking boots too. Alternatively, Jughead simply wears a variation of his usual clothes, minus the jacket. In no time at all, he pulls out a map of the hiking trail you’re supposedly going to be visiting: some place called ‘Green Hills.’

“I wasn’t sure whether you guys had a tent, so I brought a 6-man,” Archie says excitedly and a look of alarm falls over Veronica’s face.

“Absolutely not, Archie-kins! We’re not camping!”

The three of you glance at each other.

“We’re not camping?” You ask in confusion.

“I thought it was obvious!” Veronica exclaims, “Can you imagine, Veronica Lodge, sleeping in a tiny mosquito-infested garbage bag?” She scoffs, “No way! Not gonna happen! I’m not camping anywhere without a shower or a Wi-Fi connection,” At that, Archie sprays her with his bug repellent jokingly, startling her, “Not funny, Arch!”

“Sorry Ronnie,”

“Veronica, not to be rude, but that kind of limits your options,” Jughead teases and Archie can’t help but laugh.

At this point, Betty makes her way back, holding a tool box in her right hand as she runs over to the trunk, “Never know when you’re gonna need this,” She grins before noticing the atmosphere, “What happened?”

“Wait, if we’re not camping, what are we doing?” You interject again. 

“Don’t worry, (y/n), we’re staying in my family getaway lodge, the only other property in my mother’s name,” Veronica explains.

“Seems appropriate,” Archie quips, “So we’re going to the Lodge’s lodge,”

“Shut up,” Veronica huffs, but it’s too late; everyone has already erupted into fits of laughter.

“Hey Arch, remember last time we went hiking?”

“I remember getting lost in the forest thanks to you and then getting attacked by a bear,”

“Ha-ha, good times,” Jughead laughs to himself.

You send a sceptical look in Archie’s direction and the two just laugh. You’re debating whether or not to ask when Jughead leans closer to you and murmurs, “Don’t ask,” with dancing eyes and a grin.

It’s at this point when you set off and Betty rolls down all the windows, and all five of you are deafened by the wind, only being able to hear the mellow summertime music Veronica is blasting out of the car radio.

The journey takes about two hours before you finally pass the highways and immerse yourselves in trees once again. The drowsy atmosphere of the long drive sure doesn’t last long when Veronica finally turns down the music and grabs all of your attention.

“So, who’s up for a cheeky game of eye spy!” It’s more of a demand than a suggestion and there’s no way out of saying yes.

“Only if I get to go first!” Jughead leans forward in his seat, a boyish grin plastered on his face as he plots the most diabolical thing to spy.

“No way, we’ll never get it,” Archie disagrees, “Ronnie can go first since it was her idea,” Veronica looks pleased with herself at that.

She clears her throat, “Okay… I spy with my not so little eye,” She lets a smirk creep up her face as she looks around, stopping as she faces your direction.

“Wait guys,” Betty interrupts, drawing the attention of everyone, “Could you check the map, I have a horrible feeling we’re lost,”

“Right, of course, of course,” Jughead agrees as Veronica holds her phone up, trying to find signal so she can use her GPS.

“Damn, I got nothing,” Veronica sighs, putting her phone back down and turning to glance where you and Archie are looking: Jughead’s map, and for the moment: you’re only solution of getting ‘un-lost’.

Jughead’s eyebrows are furrowed as he concentrates, but he is consciously aware of your head, barely millimetres away from his shoulder, making it harder for him to.

“Okay Betty, look for road signs,” He instructs.

“On it,” She replies and the rest of you look out the window as well, just in case she misses them.

“Hey, that’s not a road sign but it’s a gas station,” Veronica points out up ahead.

“And looks like a diner too,” Archie observes, glancing at you and Jughead in anticipation. “Awesome; I’m starved!”

“Hey if we don’t find the lodge, looks like we’ll have to camp after all!” Betty teases, nudging Veronica, who has a look of wide eyed alarm on her face as she removes her sunglasses.

“You better be joking,”

“Oh, come on Ronnie, you know I am,” She giggles, reaching her right hand out to give her a light-hearted shove, “Let’s stop and eat,” She decides, parking up.

 

A while later, the sun begins to set, painting the sky in vibrant waterfalls of orange and red. The five of you seem to have lost track of time in the diner and the gift shop, buying food, souvenirs and all sorts, not to mention chipping in for gas. You’re just praying you get to the lodge before the nightfall eats up the last of the light, filling its great black expanse of belly with the only thing stopping you from getting lost… again; you still have ways to go yet.

Throughout the whole ordeal, you and Jughead have both been giving each other all sorts of eye contact, and not even the awkward kind. You keep catching him looking at you with those narrowed steely eyes, which seem almost cat-like. You can’t tell whether the gaze is endearing or sly. You can tell, though, by the playful smile that never leaves his face, he’s both: having a great time and thoroughly enjoying the effect it’s having on you.

The next drive is about an hour and you can even feel the ensemble of panic in the car as night sets in and you are indeed engulfed in black. You have to rely on Betty’s headlights as there aren’t even any street lamps around these isolated roads. In fact, it’s so dark, you almost miss the other car on the opposite side of the road, parked up. Betty sees it straight away, however, and she stops almost abruptly upon sight of an aged and bearded man, resembling a lumber jack with a cap and plaid shirt, as he waves in the glare of the headlights.

You can’t help but feel anxiety creep in at the ominous location you’re all in, and so you stick to keeping quiet; better to let the others do the talking.

The man scratches his beard once, then twice, before tapping gently on the driver side window with calloused hands. Gulping, Betty and Veronica engage in a silent conversation of eye contact, before she finally winds down the window.

“Uh, hello!” Betty tries, enthusiastically, “Can we help you?”

“Actually, yeah!” The man says in a southern sounding accent with equal friendly enthusiasm, causing you to let out a silent breath you weren’t aware you were holding in. The man leans to one side, pinpointing Jughead and Archie as he continues, “Don’t suppose either one o’ you boys know how to fix up a truck? She keeps squeaking like a grasshopper!”

Archie and Jughead exchange an amused look before directing their attention to Betty. “Actually, I don’t have a clue about cars, neither does he, you’re probably better off asking her,” Jughead explains to the man, but he’s too busy making way as Betty’s already out of the car and running to the trunk to dig out her toolbox.

Veronica is just gaping and looking straight at the rest of you, mouthing ‘Oh my God!’ while Archie’s just giving off this smug smile, proud of his best friend.

Before any of you can react, you hear her start talking, in some kind of foreign mechanic-speech as she mentions something about a drive belt as she holds her trusty wrench.  “…don’t worry, I can get this fixed up in no time, but if the problem continues, you might wanna consider replacing…”

You all just watch in awe as she works, holding the flash light from her phone over her head to see, and taking no more than a few minutes.

After testing out the acceleration and confirming that the sound has stopped, the man and his friend jump out the truck to celebrate, giving Betty a big bear hug and offering a reward that she politely declines. When they ask her if they can do anything for her, she replies with, “Actually, we are kind of lost – not from around these parts… Any chance you could give us directions?”

And that’s all it takes as the man whips out a map, asking Betty questions and drawing out a route for her, identifying where they are and where the nearest motel is. He insists Betty keep the map, “Don’t worry, kid, I got a dozen at home. You have a safe journey now,”

Finally, she gets back in and passes the map to Veronica, who is on navigation duty. It takes no longer than half an hour more, before the group eventually arrive at the motel. It’s right by a small scattering of establishments, including another gas station and diner, and you yawn, fatigue creeping up on you as your body aches for sleep.

 

Checking in proves to be more trouble than you originally thought, since the place seems to be some kind of maze. You can’t help but awkwardly gawk at the slightly unsettling ancient masks that line the walls. They are kind of amazing yet, being as drowsy as you are at the present moment, you can’t help but feel like they’re watching you. Jughead notices it too and you can see his unease in the unnatural rigid tenseness of his shoulders. Regardless, his eyes seem to inhale his surroundings with a level of curiosity.

Betty and Veronica are already talking to the lady behind the desk before you even realise she’s there. She seems friendly, but also with an air of mystery about her. She has tanned skin and bright piercing grey eyes, which swiftly make contact with your own and send a shiver down your spine. You look away. The others seem oblivious to the unusual atmosphere, however, and check in via Veronica’s (mother’s) credit card, without hesitating. Archie has already disappeared somewhere to use the bathroom, most likely, and Jughead is speaking to you in a quiet voice but you can hardly concentrate on what he’s saying. You’re lost in thought.

With Betty and Veronica distracted, you’re startled by the feeling of Jughead’s hand, taking yours and leading you down the weird hall. He seems mildly amused and the two of you exchange jokes about the weird artefacts scattered about, including the masks.

“It’s the most bizarre thing,” You think out loud and Jughead hums in agreement.

“Look, they’re not just from around here, they must be from all over the world,” He points at a brass plate inscribed with dates and origins of all the artefacts. “I guess the owners get around,”

You observe the room once more. It resembles a mixture of a museum and a thrift store and you can’t help but feel fascinated by it, yet also oddly apprehensive. Soon enough, Betty and Veronica come looking for you and after finding Archie, the five of you head outside to get your bags.

 

“Here they are,” Betty announces, stopping to put her bag down and turning to the rest of you as she double checks the numbers on the keys she’s carrying. She throws a set to Archie and he almost drops them.

“Thank God, I’m beat!” Veronica slumps against her bag to show it as Betty opens the door to room 205: the designated girls’ room.

“It’s pretty late, we should probably all just shower and get to sleep as soon as possible,” Betty points out, “Will you guys be okay down the hall?”

“Sure we will,” Archie laughs and Jughead follows him as they go.

“I call first shower!” Veronica announces as soon as you all head inside. The room is fairly sized with a simple bathroom and two double-sized beds. Before you’ve even set your bag down, Veronica has disappeared into the shower, and Betty moves to sit on one of the beds. After a moment of hesitation, she flips on the TV, sighing in disappointment as it shows nothing but static.

“Of course,” She murmurs, then laughs to herself.

You smile sheepishly and try to start a conversation, “Hey, Betty?”

“Yeah?”

“This is going to sound weird,”

“Go on,”

You shuffle your hands slightly, fiddling with the hem of your shirt, “Do you feel uneasy at all, In this place?”

Betty stifles a laugh, “Oh yeah, every motel I’ve ever been in creeps me out,”

You try to laugh along, “Heh, yeah, but like…” You pause, collecting your thoughts, “Do you get the sense that we’re being watched?”

“(y/n),” She scoffs gently, “You’ve been watching way too many horror movies; you’re just tired,”

“Yeah,” You reply, unconvinced, “You’re probably right,” You laugh slightly, “I should just get some sleep,”

Betty smiles and nods, “Hey, you can have the next shower if you want,” She offers and you smile gratefully.

 

When you finally get to shower, you relax under the hot water, letting it wash away all the unease and doubt. Afterwards, you sit quietly in the calm light of the bed-side lamp. Veronica is already fast asleep and snoring slightly in the other bed. Firstly, you skim over the texts from your parents, replying half-heartedly before you switch it off and plug it in to charge. Then you read the leaflets on the side table just to find something to do before you decide to go for a walk. You leave a messy note in rushed handwriting on the side table so as not to wake Veronica as you slip on your shoes and put on a thick plaid shirt over your pyjamas. You then grab the room key and shove it hastily into your pocket before you leave, closing the door quietly.

You suppress the sudden eerie feeling that wants to creep up on you as soon as you leave, looking around at the lights that plaster the motel in an angry orange glow. You make a rapid decision to look for the vending machine you saw when you arrived and get something to eat. You don’t feel particularly hungry but you imagine it might help calm your nerves.

As you make your way down the steps, however, you get that familiar chill like someone is watching you again and you grit your teeth as you put your change in, pressing the button with shaking fingers and retrieving the snack without a moment of hesitation. Once you have it, you intend to bolt back to your room but as soon as you turn around, the desk clerk is standing there, silently, like a ghost.

You freeze up, holding the packet with a deadly iron grip as you just stare; heart thundering in your chest like it’s going to pop right out of your ribcage. The woman smiles sweetly, the smile quickly turning grim, like she’s giving you condolences or something.

She moves to gently grip your shoulder and you don’t move a muscle. Like a deer in headlights, all you can do is stare.

“I’m sorry,” She says quietly, dipping her head, and you furrow your eyebrows in confusion.

“That’s o-okay…” You stutter in response but she simply shakes her head.

“Your family…” She says it like she’s lost in thought, “Something terrible…”

“What?” You echo in confusion and just as you say that, you hear another voice, one that’s familiar.

You turn around to spot Jughead, racing down the steps and towards you. He’s wearing nothing but a simple grey t-shirt and darker grey jogging bottoms and he looks cold from the sight of goose bumps all down his arms.

“(y/n)!” He calls over to you, alarm evident in his eyes and you turn around to face him as he joins you.

“Jughead, what happened?”

“Wait, why are you standing out here, by yourself?” He looks over your shoulder like he’s trying to find someone and you swivel around, noticing immediately that the clerk is nowhere to be seen.

“I…” You begin, but you shake your head, “Never mind, why are you awake?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” He begins, “I was just about to get up and go for a walk. It’s what I usually do when I can’t sleep… but, uh,” He pauses and you peer up at him.

“What?”

“Archie wasn’t there,” Jughead clears his throat, “In the room, I mean. I thought at first he’d just gone out for a snack or a midnight run or something… but he’d leave a note or something, right?”

“Uh, right!”

“Then I tried knocking on your room, you know, to see if he’d gone in there for whatever reason, I don’t know… But the room’s locked, and no one answered,”

“The others are probably asleep,” You reply, “That’s probably why they didn’t answer,” You’re already walking up the steps and Jughead follows in step beside you.

“Probably,” He echoes.

“We’ll see if Betty knows where he might have gone,”

“Yeah,”

Just as you both reach the room, you go rigid.

“What?” Jughead looks at you.

“Just a bad feeling,” You murmur, “Hey, can we quickly go back and double check your room?”

“Sure?” Jughead raises an eyebrow but doesn’t argue as he leads the way, opening the door to a room identical to your own, but one which is completely empty.

You peer around, but come up with nothing. There’s no indication that Archie might have left a note or something and a phone, probably his, sits idly by one of the beds. You feel the unease again, churning in your stomach and making you feel almost sick.

“Let’s go,” You say and after Jughead locks the room you go back over to 205.

You tremble slightly with both fear and the cold when your hand reaches the handle and you look over at Jughead who grabs your other hand for support, sending you a soft encouraging nod.

Just as you expect, you open the door to another empty room, the bedspreads pulled right back and the bathroom door hanging limply open. The note you left remains untouched and you look back at Jughead.

The others… they’re all gone.