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A Non-Issue

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"You're going to have a hard time hiding that from Betty" – Toni

"I think that's a non-issue now" – Jughead


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He hurt. Everything hurt. Especially his heart. But it didn't matter.

He crushed his lips into hers. It was a non-issue. Everything was a non-issue now. Nothing left to hide from Betty . . . not even Toni. His hand found its way behind her neck, under her thick hair. It was a struggle to get it there, her heavy hair gave him so much more resistance than Betty's fine silky strands had.

He had felt so guilty that morning when Betty had stopped by, even though he hadn't really done anything. Well . . . except spend the whole night with Toni, ignoring her calls and texts. And admittedly, he had been curious. It almost seemed as if Toni had liked him . . . No other girl outside of Betty had ever shown any interest in him . . . what could that possibly be like?

"Sorry, I have morning breath," he said when Betty instinctively kissed him and he stepped back out of the way. Toni had just left. He hoped Betty couldn't tell.

She followed him into the kitchen, letting him know why she was there. She had been on her way to the library, looking for reference materials.

". . . I thought it might help us crack the Black Hood's code. Which I'm hoping is something we could do together, Jug,"

He hesitated before serving himself some cereal. The guilt raged through him. But he hadn't done anything wrong. Had he? He blinked a few times before pouring the cereal into the bowl before him and coming clean with her, letting her know that he and Toni had been up all night working on just that.

He and Toni began moving together, towards the bedroom, her taking tippy-toe steps backwards as she clung to him, getting tangled up in his feet as The Beast tried to weave in and out between both of their legs.

"Hot Dog, stay," he commanded firmly, shutting the door on the gnarly sheepdog once they found the bedroom. And then his lips found their way back to her soft, lush ones - so different than Betty's. Everything was different now. Everything.

She had kept placing her hand on his shoulder as she leaned over him that night they had worked on the cipher. At first it had been almost thrilling, and he wondered what it would be like to be with someone other than Betty. But not Toni, no. That would never happen. She was a Serpent and he couldn't go there. And besides, he only wanted Betty. This was all just an intellectual exercise.

But then . . . Just as the sun was starting to come up . . .

Toni caught his lips in a kiss, catching him by surprise, and for a brief moment his body wondered what it would be like too . . .

"Toni, no," he said softly, pushing her away gently. "I'm with Betty."

"Sorry," she pouted briefly, but then hid it with a shrug and an understanding smile. "No big deal, Juggie."

He titled his head to the side. "Please don't call me that around Betty, okay?"

"Yet another Southside secret?"

"Yeah, I guess," he said glumly and ran a hand through his hair roughly. His beanie had been off for the better part of the night. "Let's get back to this, okay?"

"Sure," Toni replied, seemingly nonplussed.

And then all too soon there was no intellectual exercise about it. Betty was gone and Toni was firmly underneath him. He was touching her in places he had never touched Betty. But it wasn't the same. He was empty inside, numb. What little feeling remained he wanted to get it all out, pour it all into her. Toni Topaz, his willing vessel.

And he had wanted it, too. After confessing that Betty was a non-issue now, seeing as she had chosen to leave him just in time for his initiation into the Southside gang, he had stared at her for a long time. Toni had been right, he was going to lose everything by joining them. With the ice pack to his forehead, now and forever a Serpent – the thing he had never wanted to be, he sat there at the kitchen table, utterly broken. And with that stare his eyes dared Toni to try again. It was time to fully embrace his destiny. And she had obliged.

Now it was over and he was silent. His body ached more than ever. But his heart had grown cold.

"Do you want me to leave?" Toni asked.

Jughead didn't want it to be this way – he had never wanted to be that guy – but yes, he desperately wanted to be alone so he replied softly, "Yeah."

And she did.

When he heard the front door to the trailer shut behind her, he buried his head in his hands and squeezed his hair between his fists. How could she have left him? Just when he had needed her the most?

He thought he had been empty - he thought the only pain left was the pain wracking his body - but he had been wrong.

A bit of wetness streamed down the passage between his cheek and his nose. It came from his right eye, just as Betty's had when she had told him she wanted a different ending.

He did, too.

"Oh God, Betty," he croaked out, pleading to absolutely no one because she wasn't there. "What have we done?"