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One Word Can Warm Three Winter Months

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"And my only solution was to stand and fight,
And my body was bruised and I was set alright,
But you came over me like some holy rite,
And although I was burning you're the only light,
Only if for a night"

~ Florence and the Machine ~

~~~

Jughead helped Betty pull her coat on before she slid her bare feet into her boots, not bothering to zip them up. She stood and buttoned up, keeping her eyes locked on him.

Betty slipped her hands under her hair, releasing her trapped blonde locks from inside her coat. Jughead brushed his fingers across her jaw helping her toss more blonde over her shoulder. Betty smiled with a soft sigh, briefly looking over his shoulder and down the hall.

Freds snoring from the living room and the soft guitar strokes of Archie learning "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" upstairs were the only sounds in the warm house. Betty loved how easy going this home always was, with its open door policy where you were encouraged to be yourself. Always. A stark difference from her own home.

Betty turned her attention to back to Jughead "I'm mad that you won't let me have the flannel" She said in a playful whisper

"Betts, I can't have you stealing what little clothing I have left" He stepped closer to her, and tugged her collar closed to keep the wind out on her "long" journey home.

Betty pouted dramatically as Jughead pulled her by the collar, pressing his lips to hers.

"I'm going to ask again later, and you're going to say 'yes' " She mused keeping her gaze close to his

"You're right, I will" Jughead sighed, knowing full well that Betty almost had it in her grasp tonight.

But, his need to do laundry was great, and it was the only clean one he had. So he withheld it, enjoying the look of shock on her face when he'd told her "no"

Betty giggled as she slid her hands up Jughead's back, dipping her cool fingers under his well-worn "S" tshirt, pulling him into a tight hug.

"I love you, Juggie" She whispered against his chest, feeling him let out a content sigh as he squeezed his arms around her tighter.

"I love you too, Betts-" Jughead replied with his lips pressed to the top of her head "I'll see you in the morning, usual time?" He finished kissing her blonde head a few more times.

"Mm-hmm" Betty hummed nuzzling in and not moving from her spot in his strong arms.

"And after school? Do you want to go to Pop's? Or maybe a movie at the Bijou?" He asked, neither of them moving from their tight embrace

"I can't, I have Vixen practice again. I have them all week because of the Final Friday Game against Central High. Pop's, maybe after?" She sighed

"Sure, you know where I'll be" He chuckled

"I do" Betty whispered stepping back slightly, looking up at his clear blue eyes

"Tonight was mind blowing" She mimicked keeping her gaze on him

"It really was," Jughead bantered back, grinning wide and fully accepting the compliment.

"You better go. Alice is likely standing watch"

"You're always looking out for me, Jug" Betty said with a wink

"Always" Jughead smoothed his hands down her sides to her hips, pulling her forward. She gripped the skin of his back harder as they passionately kissed goodbye

"I'll see you in the morning"

"Can't wait," Jughead said releasing Betty and opening the front door, letting a cold gust of wind inside.

He watched as she made her way across the sidewalk and up to her from door, stumbling with a giggle when she almost lost a boot on the top step

"Easy there Cooper" Jughead teased from across the yard

"Shhsh you!" Betty said with a wave before stepping inside.

 

~~~

 

It had been 3 weeks since he'd snuck her out of the Andrews' house seconds before her curfew.

He saw Betty nearly every day since, but she was so busy with extracurriculars that it left her little time to breathe, let alone have quality time with anyone.

To top it all off Betty's family life continued to crumble, with the discovery of Jason Blossom's killer, and "The Cooper Family's Secret Shame" the odds seemed ever stacked against his Hitchcock blonde.

At lunch, Jughead sat with the gang at their usual table in the dining hall.

"Is Betty still in her meeting with Weatherbee?" Archie asked as Jughead dug into his lunch.

"Must be, something to do with the Winter Formal. She said she'd meet me here"

Veronica swooned, clasping her hands over her heart.

"Oh, how I love a good excuse to wear pretty things!" She exclaimed though this wasn't exactly her target audience. Kevin gave her a light smile, but the comment fell on deaf ears. "-I Miss Betty," Veronica whined.

"Me too." Jughead sighed quietly.

This was only 3 months into their graduating year, Jughead soon realized that the pressure from Betty's parents was crushing her and that she was already spread too thin.

During their walks to school, she'd unload everything to him, like she was trying to purge all her anxiety out before stepping foot into the war zone that was Riverdale High. Jughead would listen, sympathize, and offer his input. Reminding her of his love, support, and devotion.

But as soon as she stepped foot through those doors her mask and guard went up and she was pristine Elizabeth Cooper. Student body president, River Vixen, Blue and Gold Editor, Tutor, Debate Team Captain, Valedictorian Nominee and all around perfect honor roll student.

Jughead understood wearing a mask, he often used a form of that defense, just on the opposite side of the spectrum. He closed off the world, whereas Betty forced herself or rather was forced to be devastatingly involved in it.

He knew he had to help ease her stress. But whenever he would ask how he could help, she'd tell him that he already was, that just being himself was help enough and that he just helped keep her grounded. He tried to sneak her away but with Alice supervising the Blue and Gold now, it made things tricky.

Jughead felt he needed to DO something. Feeling powerless was not a welcome feeling, for anyone. And to Jughead it was not even an option. So he started brainstorming, trying to devise a plan to get her out of Riverdale, away from it all, only if for a night.

"Jug?!" Archie's voice snapped Jughead out of his brainwave and back to the gang at the lunch table

"You kinda spaced out there pal, you ok?"

"Yea, I'm fine" He lied through a side smile "Ron, Betts tells me that you two are heading up the decoration committee? How's that been going?" He asked trying to divert the attention away from himself

"It's going splendidly, we have everything we need. Your girl is crazy organized, it's incredible! All we need now are more hands to help decorate day-of. Say, you know who has hands? You guys!" Veronica gestured to the young men at her table

"What do you say, fellas? Help a girl out?" She leaned herself dramatically against Archie with a slow bat of her long lashes

"Sure Ronnie" Archie and Kevin groaned in unison.

"I'm already on the hook, Betty asked me this morning"

"What did I do?" Betty chirped coming up behind Jughead, slipping her arms around his waist. She nuzzled her face into his neck as he answered

"You forced me against my will to help decorate"

Betty huffed a laugh "Ha, against your will?! I just need you to pick things up and put them down" She finished dropping down next to him. "Did Veronica recruit more hands to help?"

"Of course, B" Veronica smiled pulling both Archie and Kevin close.

"Excellent, Weatherbee won't let me pawn off any of my delegating responsibilities to Ethel so anything you guys can do to help me is greatly appreciated"

Jughead dropped his hand to Betty's thigh, squeezing lightly "We've got you, Betts"

The table nodded in agreement as the Betty let out an exhausted sigh

"You guys are the best." She said looking directly at Jughead.

 

~~~

 

After school, Jughead went to see FP. He checked in every week or so to make sure the man was still alive.

Much to Jughead's surprise lately FP was sober, continued to hold his job with Andrews' Construction, had cleaned up this trailer and his life, so it seemed.

Though these boasts of sobriety were often a roller coaster of emotion that usually ended in heartbreak, Jughead had to remind himself to keep his optimism in check. He still wasn't keen on letting himself get carried away with hope.

"So you're planning a little get away for your girl, huh?" FP sighed sitting at the kitchen table take-out coffee cup in hand

"I am, after the Winter Formal. Kinda an early Christmas present" Jughead confessed lightly trying to contain his excitement

"You'll need wheels," FP said quickly tossing a small set us keys at Jughead who barely caught them, the action catching him off guard.

"Your truck?!"

"Yours now."

"Dad, don't be crazy, I can't accept this."

"I have my bike." FP shrugged sipping his coffee

"It's November."

"I carpool to work with the crew so the truck is just sitting in the driveway. It needs an oil change and maybe a tune up in the spring, Insurance is up to date and new winter tires last year. Big Green should serve you well for quite a few years"

"This is crazy, Dad. I don't know what say. Thank you..."

"You're welcome, Jug." FP paused, picking at the plastic lid of his coffee cup "I know I've failed miserably in the parenting department and that these are just small steps, but I'm going to make things right with our family."

"These are huge steps Dad, Thank you. Again."

"Don't mention it, kid. You deserve it"

FP quickly fished a business card out of his wallet and placed it in front of Jughead.

"These little cabins in Midvale are nice, quiet....romantic" FP said with a sly smile.

Jughead rolled his eyes with a laugh "Thanks, Dad. I'll look into it, " not really giving it a second thought.

~~~

Jughead hopped into the familiar vehicle, smiling as he turned the engine over.

As a kid, Jughead always wanted to drive this truck, one day. But as he got older, his faith in his father cracked and frayed until the appeal of a living somewhere far away, where you don't need to drive overshadowed his desire to purchase a vehicle. Jughead thought the less he had to tie him down, the better. Thinking that one day he would live a nomadic existence. But now things had changed. Things were changing.

Jughead gave his Dad a quick wave as he pulled out of the trailer park, suddenly hit with the freedom that driving granted him.

~~~

Back at the Andrews' residence, Jughead started to sleuth the Internet, looking for ideas to whisk Betty away to.

Motel? Ew, no.
Hotel? Jesus, Fucking Expensive.
Campground in Greendale? November.
Midvale Lake Cabins? Free off-season?

Jughead took the business card from his flannel pocket. The phone numbers and address matched.

After reading through the website and checking it out on google maps, he wasted no time in calling. He spoke to a lovely woman 'Susan' on the phone and gathered more details. She accepted PayPal and didn't ask much for details from him, just vehicle details and number of people occupying the cabin. She made a comment about not many people knowing that the cabins existed. Jughead laughed and said the Internet is a big place.

Jughead sat back, content with his progress. But there were only a few days until the formal, and he needed backup. He reached for his phone and typed out a message to Veronica.

'Ronnie, I need your help. But you must swear an oath of secrecy.'

'omg, it's happening.'

'What's happening?'

'idk, some grand romantic gesture?'

'um, well ya. I need you for an alibi. Can you help?'

'Of course I can. Leave it to Miss.Lodge. Now, give me details...'