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Remembering

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Chapter 1
Betty had fallen asleep with the iPhone Jughead gave her in her hand, but she woke to voices below the loft. She clicked on the phone to read the time, 6:08pm. The sun was still fairly high in the sky, seeing as it was summer, but there were long shadows over the room. She walked over to the wardrobe at the other end of the room and examined herself in the mirror, picking up her shirt to inspect the scar on her lower abdomen. Looking closer she realized her stomach had fainter scars too. Silver little lines that circled around her belly button like a star burst.

“Stretch marks,” Betty murmured and frowned. She wished she could remember. Downstairs, a hushed conversation continued and drew her attention. She tried to walk gingerly down the stairs, but they were creakier than she realized and by the time she got to the bottom, Jughead and Polly had stopped speaking and were looking at her.

“Hey Betty! I wanted to check in on you since I was in class when you left. How did you like your first day as a public school educator?”

“Polly…”

“You didn’t like it?”

“Can we cut the crap for a minute?” Polly’s face fell. “Jughead told me.” Polly swallowed and looked at Jughead, who was hiding behind a mug of coffee.

“Okay,” Polly stretched the word and swiveled in her bar stool so she was facing Betty more fully.

“I want to hear your side. What did you know?”

“About?”

“Damnit Polly. Everything. About the crash. About the baby?”

“Okay, okay. I know that you were pregnant. I know that Jug and mom wanted you to get an abortion and that you and Dad wanted to keep the baby. I was sort of out of the loop most of that time since I wasn’t living at home and had my twins to take care of. I didn’t come home until after your accident. I came home and tried my best to help everyone manage...between your accident and mom and dad splitting up, things were just out of control.”

“What do you know about the accident? About my injuries?"

“I know..” Polly took a slow breath and tears pricked her eyes. “I know that you and Jughead were heading back to town. I know that it was raining like crazy, I know the truck driver that hit that puddle that threw water all over you felt awful about it. It was an accident after all, but he...he committed suicide a few months after. After, Mom took the company that he drove for to court. They got a crazy settlement too.”

“Polly,” Betty interrupted, “Tell me about my injuries.”

“Right, well. At first, you were in and out of consciousness. You had broken several of your ribs and cracked your femur and you had a massive concussion. We could still speak to you for the first few hours, even though you were really drugged up, but there was swelling in your head. They put you in a medically induced coma and did a surgery to release the pressure, but you didn’t wake up. Not for over five years. And even then, it was just a little at a time. You opened your eyes and you’d respond to some voices, but you also slept a lot. Most of the doctors thought you wouldn’t pull through, or that you would never fully recover. But mom, god, at first she was so resilient, Betty. I’ve never seen someone fight like that. The twins were six at the time and I remember thinking that she was such an amazing mother. Not to me, not to Chic, but to you. The baby of the family…” Polly’s voice dropped off.

“I remember some of that,” Betty rounded the furniture and took seat in the stool next to Polly, reaching for her hand. “I remember mom singing to me, reading to me. I remember her crying sometimes while she brushed my hair.” Betty shook her head at the memories, “but as soon as I was out of the hospital and at Thornhill, everything got so bad. I don’t understand. What happened to her?”

“Penelope Blossom.” Polly answered, her voice filled with quiet anger.

“What do you mean?” Jughead inquired, still standing by the sink, coffee much twisting in his palms.

“I don’t know, exactly, but it has something to do with the Blossoms.” Jughead huffed and shook his head. Why, after all that had happened in this insane, devious town, had he not considered there was more than met the eye? As if Betty’s brain trauma and loss of their baby hadn’t been enough. No, there had to be MORE drama. The room was quiet for a few moments as each person sought some sort of conclusion or question in their own mind.

“What about the baby, Polly?’ Betty broken the silence.

“The baby?” Polly squeaked and looked up at Betty startled.

“Yeah. Jughead and my baby. What happened?”

Jughead interrupted, “Betts, I told you, the baby didn’t make it. Tell her, Polly.”

Polly looked down at her feet and took a quick breath.

“Right Polly?” Jughead asked again.

“Of course.” Polly breathed, but when Betty couldn't catch her eye and Polly held her breath, she knew.

Betty stood up from her chair and picked up her shirt and pointed to her scar. “How do you explain this?”

Jughead rounded the kitchen and leaned down, tracing the scar with his thumb and looked up at Betty. “What does this mean?” he retracted his hand almost immediately, but Betty felt a feeling butterflies let loose in her stomach at his touch. She shook off the feeling, wanting to focus on getting the truth from Polly.

“It means that the baby was delivered via Cesarean section. They wouldn’t have done that if I had miscarried." She explained to Jughead, who had crossed his arms and looked downright dangerous. Something told Betty that if she didn't focus her linr of inquiry Jughead was going to lose it.

"Right, Polly?' She turned to her sister before Jughead could say anything. "Even if mom had forced me to get an abortion, it would have been through DNC since it was still early on.”

Jughead stumbled back and pulled his hands through his hair. “Fuck me,” he murmured. Then louder. “What the fuck, Polly.”

Polly bit her lip nervously and finally looked up at them both. “Well..there’s something you both should know.”

Chapter Text

“There’s something you both should know.” Polly said, standing up, her hands out in a symbol of surrender. Their bodies acted for them, and Betty and Jughead found themselves leaning toward each other, Jughead’s arm naturally falling over Betty’s shoulders. They needed each other to bare this news.

“Well, first of all. Twins run in our family. You know that.” Polly began, “You were pregnant with twins.” Betty gasped as a tear slid down her cheek, a mirror image of Polly’s own expression. Betty was expecting this, but somehow she still found herself shocked that her suspicions were correct.

Polly went on with a shaky voice. “You really did lose one. It was one of the reasons we got so much money out of the settlement, but Betty I swear to god, I know that happened. I was in the room with you when you started bleeding. Heavily. You lost a lot of blood.”

“And the other baby?” Betty asked hoarsely, Jughead squeezed her shoulder and tucked her into his side. She wondered vaguely if the only reason she could still stand was because he was practically holding her up.

Polly shut her eyes to keep the tears at bay, but more fell anyway. “The other baby was full term.”

“Full term?” Jughead repeated, his brows deeply furrowed. “Meaning…”

“Meaning...he was born, via c section. At exactly 37 weeks, the earliest the doctors would perform the operation, mom insisted that he come out. He was 21 inches long and 5 pounds and 4 ounces. He…”. Polly sobbed unabashedly now. “Betty. Jug. He was...he was perfect.”

“He was?” Betty asked “Past tense?” God she was terrified. Afraid her son was somewhere, still alive. Afraid he wasn’t.

Polly wiped her eyes and sniffed. “Yeah. He was...and he probably still is. Mom signed him over to social services. I don’t know what happened to him. I swear I don’t. I’m so sorry, Betty.” Polly slid off the stool and took a step toward her little sister, but Betty stepped back.

“I need to think, Poll.”

“Betty, please, try to see it from my perspective. We had no idea if you were ever going to wake up. When the baby was delivered, that was before the settlement money came through, before mom and dad had finalized their divorce, there was no place for a baby.”

“What about me?” Jughead said softly.

Polly turned to him, a hardness in her eyes, “what about you?”

“I’m his...I’m his father.” Saying it nearly took Jughead’s breath away, but he persisted, “I’m his father. I could have been there for him. Nobody asked me.”

“You didn’t even want him. You wanted Betty to have an abortion.” Polly fisted her hands.

“I wanted Betty to have a life,” Jughead corrected her, barely contained violence shook in his voice, “regardless of what I wanted before, we had turned around. We weren’t going to go through it.” Jughead turned away, overcome with too much emotion. Betty rubbed his arm and turned to her sister.

“I think you need to leave Polly. I’ll see you at school tomorrow. I love you, but we need some space. We need some time to think.” Polly took a ragged breath and nodded. She picked up her purse and stood.

“There’s more,” Polly whispered.

“Well don’t stop there,” Jughead bit out. “How else do you plan on ruining our day?”

Polly sighed and sat back down. “Mom waited three days before she signed the papers. She held him and I swear to you, she didn’t want to give him up. She didn’t even let me hold him until the next day. She never let him out of her sight. Not at first. I thought she was going to let me raise the baby with my kids, but when I came back to the hospital, on the fourth day, he was gone.” She reached for Betty’s hand, but she pulled her hand away and gripped her own knees. Polly stood up, visibly choking down her tears as she turned and walked to the door before she turned once more. “He had a full head of dark hair and a mouth like yours, Jug. His eyes were grey, just like Betty’s were when she was a baby. He was absolutely beautiful.” She closed the door quietly as she left.

Jughead and Betty didn’t move until they heard Polly’s van pull out of the driveway and then each took a step in and wrapped their arms around each other.

“Jug?” Betty murmured from his shirt, but Jughead didn’t reply. Instead he clutched her neck with one hand and her waist with the other. He brought his head down to her shoulder and he began to shake as he gripped her tightly. Sobs wracked his body and Betty rubbed his back softly.

“We all failed you, Betts. And our son. I’m so so sorry.” He choked out into her shoulder. Betty raised her hand to his neck, gently massaging his skin.

“It’s okay, Jug. We were just kids. It’s not your fault.”

“No, Betty. It is. I should have been more careful from the beginning. I should have used a condom, even though you were on birth control. I should never have pushed you into getting an abortion…oh god, I’ve made so many mistakes” he trailed off as more sobs wracked his body. Still desperately trying to comfort him, Betty brought her mouth to his neck and kissed all of the skin she could reach.

“It’s okay, Juggie,” she murmured over and over. “It’s okay, Jug.”

With his mouth on her shoulder, he only had to turn it a little to place answering whispers of kisses. He was afraid to scare her away by pressing harder, but when she tilted her chin more for him, he took what she offered. He rubbed his lips over her tender veins and gave special attention to the soft spot just above her clavicle and then back up to that corner of her jaw, just above her ear that he knew she loved so much. She gasped when he slid his tongue just over that spot, but didn’t pull away. Inspired to more bravery he continued his kisses across her jaw until he reached her pout. He opened his eyes briefly to read her expression, but her eyes were closed, her mouth slightly open as she tilted on her tiptoes toward him, leaning into him with her hands on his shoulders. Unable to wait, and needing the comfort only she could provide he leaned in and captured her pink mouth with his wide pout. He pressed their lips together and bent her backwards a little, causing her mouth to open in a gasp and Jughead took full advantage, sweeping his tongue into her mouth, just inside to caress the insides of her lips. She opened her eyes and looked up at him when he pulled away.

“Can you...can you do that again?” She asked softly.

“Can I do that again, she asks,” Jughead smirked under his breath and shook his head slightly before lowering his mouth to hers only to pull back again. He couldn't help himself. He loved when her mouth chased his. She opened her eyes and he could see fire there as he pulled away again. When he tilted his head to hers again she abruptly jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around his torso and holding his face still with her hands. She gave him a scolding look and then took the kiss he'd been holding back. Punishing him while gluttonously sucking on his full bottom lip and then scraping her tongue against the roof of his mouth. Desperate to regain some semblance of control, Jughead turned them and sank down onto the couch, laying her on her back and disentangling himself from her arms. He held them over her head, but her legs still held him fast to her.

“Betty, I’d love to, but right now we have a missing son we need to find.” Jughead breathed, so close to her mouth Betty could feel the warm puff of his breath across her face and her neck involuntarily craned to seek him until his words finally registered and then she collapsed on the couch and opened her eyes.

“Find? You think we can get him back?” She asked, her eyed wide.

“He’s ours, Betts. He belongs with us.” Betty studied Jughead’s expression, as if to make sure he was serious.

“Ours.” She murmured. He nodded his head. “What do we do?”

“We call our lawyers.”

Chapter Text

Betty and Jughead had called Veronica and Kevin right away. She caught them as they were on their way to the airport to catch their flight back to LA..

“Kev, It’s the newlyweds,” Veronica sang into the phone by way of a greeting, “You’re on speakerphone.”

“Jughead, I already gave you all of my best sex advice, and, no, I’m not willing to come over for hands-on instruction.” Kevin deadpanned into the phone.

“Kev, hush. Betty’s basically a virgin.” Veronica's faux scandalized voice joined her business partner's.

“Jug, you have marital responsibilities, you know.” Kevin quipped back.

“Jesus, you two.” Jughead shook his head, Betty noticed a flush in his cheeks and she reached out and slid her thumb gently down his face in wonder. He smiled and blushed harder.

“Jughead kissed me earlier.” Betty added in helpfully as she looked into Jughead’s eyes.

His eyes widened. “Betts! Et tu, Betty?” But he winked and shook his head again, slowly, careful not to shake her hand off.

“Oooooh.” Kevin and Veronica sang together.

“Sorry.” She mouthed back.

“Sorry, Jug,” Veronica chuckled, “I know we’re all basically children.”

Betty and Jughead sobered at her phrasing and Betty dropped her hand. “Speaking of children, Jughead and I have one. Somewhere. And we need your help.”

There was a pause and Betty arched one eyebrow as Jughead furrowed two. Had the call dropped, or… “Holy fuck,” Kevin finally said. 

"Wait. What?" Veronica's incredulous voice raised to an uncomfortable pitch.

After a brief explanation and several insistent, 'yes, that's what she said's, veronica and Kevin were finally able to respond with intent.

“We’re on our way. Give us an hour and a half, we’re just outside the city coming up to Newark, but we're turning around,” Veronica said and hung up.

Betty and Jughead sighed and studied each other for a moment, seemingly caught in inaction.
“What about Archie and Cheryl?” Betty finally spoke.
“What about them?”
“I mean, isn’t it time to let them in on Plan Free Betty anyway? And, they knew us before the accident. Maybe there’s something they know.”

Jughead frowned as he thought it over. Archie hadn’t been forthcoming before and there was a possibility that he knew more than he had let on in the hospital a few days before. “Yeah, okay, let’s give them a call.”

Jughead’s phone was still in his hand from their conversation with Kevin and Veronica, and a few minutes later the phone was ringing on speaker phone again.

“Hey Jug. How’s your dad? No, no more cookies.” Archie answered, a cacophony of noise behind him. “That goes for you too.”

“Umm. He’s good. He’s moved into a rehab facility. He’s got a while to go, but the stroke was pretty minor. Mostly, they’re afraid of his liver disease. It seems over forty years of being an alcoholic has adverse effects on your health.”

“Clean this up, here’s some paper towels. That’s hard Jug, I’m glad you got to him in time though, you know? No, no, not all the paper towels. Here just start with two.”

“I’ve got Betty here and we’ve got some questions for you.”

“Betty, huh?” It struck Jughead that Archie didn’t sound as surprised he should.

“Hi Archie,” Betty called into the phone. "It sounds like this is a bad time. The boys giving you a hard time?”

“Always.” Exasperation audible in his sigh. “You guys want to come over? Cheryl just went out to grab dinner. We’d love to have you guys over, as long as you don’t mind screaming children and spilled apple juice as side for Crunchie’s Barbecue.”

Jughead and Betty looked at each other in question and Betty shrugged. Jughead nodded, “That’d be great. We’ll bring the beer. Be over in twenty or so.” And then hung up and slid the phone in his back pocket.

“Do you think we’ll have enough time to get back before Veronica and Kevin come?”

“Yeah, an hour and half usually means a solid three the way they drive. Kevin always stop in Morristown at his cousin Mordechai’s ice cream shop and Veronica has the world’s smallest bladder and needs to stop to pee every twenty minutes or so.”

“Hmm.” Betty hummed. She liked knowing little details like this about Kevin and Veronica, especially when it all felt so right. “Mordechai’s Milchig’s. Yeah. I remember that place, actually. Kevin always orders the pistachio ice cream and Mordy always teases him about liking nuts.” Betty smiled as the memory unfurled and took root. “Ever since I ran into you at the reunion, I keep getting these flashes of memory. At first they were really disorienting and painful, but I'm getting used to them now.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Jughead asked as he tucked some hair behind her ear and studied her forehead as if there was some magical button that could alleviate any discomfort and bring back her memories. He made a mental note to look up pressure points online later.

“No, just catch me when I fall again, okay?” Betty teased, though Jughead frowned. “Hey, do you think we can call Kevin and see if he'll bring me back a double scoop of coffee ice cream?”

Jughead chucked and shook his head, “you're an enigma, Cooper.”

 

Jughead stopped at a gas station along the way and picked up a six pack of hard cider for Betty and Cheryl, a six pack of Shiner for himself and Archie and four hot wheels cars for their boys. True to their word, they walked up to the Andrew’s home twenty minutes after they’d hung up with Archie.

Jughead pulled up to the Andrews’ home and parked on the street. Betty felt overcome by familiarity. She had been to Cheryl and Archie’s house several times since the accident, accompanied by Polly or her mother, but this felt different. She knew that he lived in his childhood home, but looking at the house now she could see changes that she knew, somehow, to be different from when they were kids. Yet this house suddenly fit. She remembered Archie living in a butterscotch yellow home that stood three stories tall without a narrow driveway, rather like the house next door, now that she thought about it. The house she stood in front of now was white with graceful, symmetrical windows and columns and a well-manicured, two-tiered lawn. Her confusion made her nervous and she found herself sidling up next to Jughead and gripping his hand. He gave her a soft, reassuring smile and they walked up to the house, Jughead holding a large brown bag in one hand and his wife’s hand in the other.

“Still don't know why Cheryl insisted on buying this place when Archie grew up right next door,” Jughead murmured as he let go of Betty's hand and knocked.

“What did you say?” Betty looked up sharply, but before he could answer there was a scurry of activity and the door burst open and four wild little boys spilled out, all shouting at once. Betty was halfway to the resurfacing of a new memory when she was nearly knocked backward by two red headed five year olds.

“What did you bring Uncie Juggie?” Robbie, one of the seven year old twins with the strawberry blonde boy with green eyes asked. He was easily the fairest in complection and no one knew where he got his looks.

“More hot wheels, dummy, that's what he always gets us,” his twin, Peter, sneered and with his bright flame colored hair and blue eyes, he so resembled his late uncle Jason that Jughead got an odd chill down his back.

The younger twins, Charlie and Fred, threw themselves at Betty, one on each leg and smiled up at her. “Aunt Betty!” They sang in unison.” They were identical, unlike their brothers, and it was unclear if they favored Cheryl or Archie more with their deep red hair, their warm brown eyes and wide, toothy grins.

The boys half dragged and half pushed Betty and Jughead into the front entrance of the home and into the kitchen, where Cheryl and Archie were plating chinese take out. Cheryl turned around and smiled at them both. “Welcome to the madhouse, Betty and Jughead. Won't you sit? Oh you brought presents. How sweet. ” Cheryl took the bag and handed out adult refreshments and put the rest in the fridge.

“What's up, guys?” Archie offered his lopsided smile and handed each of them a mixed plate of chow mein, general tso’s and sesame chicken. “Just take a seat anywhere there isn't a plastic cup with a lid.” Archie placed his hand on Betty's lower back and guided her to the seat next to his own. Jughead frowned and gave Archie a look, which wasn't caught as his best friend was too busy tucking in Jughead’s wife’s chair. A familiar feeling of inadequacy, jealousy and rage that he was sure he was done with over a decade ago whispered over his consciousness. Jughead shuddered and adjusted his beanie as he adjusted his attitude. Archie had been here for Betty while he was out making a life without her and they were in front of Cheryl, so he was clearly overreacting to what was likely just a friendly, brotherly gesture.

The boys were called in for dinner and once there had been sufficient arguing and whining, the brothers tucked into their food. It took a quick ten minutes for the children to devour their food in which Archie asked, “So we heard through the grapevine, you two are married? How the hell did that happen?”

“Language, Archibald.” Cheryl snipped and then turned to her sons. “Boys, clear your places. If you're all done brushing your teeth and in pajamas in the next ten minutes, I'll let you watch an episode of Ninjago before bed.” The boys cheered and ran upstairs, leaving the adults alone for a few minutes. Cheryl turned to Betty and Jughead, “Now,” Cheryl fixed her signature laser stare at them and gracefully folded her hands over her knee. “How the hell did this happen?”

Jughead raised an eyebrow at Betty and Betty smiled back at him confidently. Their wedding had been an act of convenience, but no one really needed to know that and the look Betty wore gave Jughead the impression she had a plan.

“I saw Jughead at the reunion, and... It all just started coming back to me. The pregnancy. The accident. How much I love Jughead.” She reached for his hand and he played along.

“I see,” Cheryl pursed her lips. “Dear Betty, I've always been amazed at how forgiving you can be.”

“There's nothing to forgive really. The accident was just that...an accident. Jughead wouldn't ever put me in danger knowingly.”

“If you say so.” Cheryl quipped. Archie opened his mouth to say something, but Jughead interrupted him.

“What, exactly, are you implying Cheryl?” Jughead rested his elbows on the table and leaned toward her.

“That's enough Jug, we're just trying to look out for Betty’s best interests.” Archie cut in. Both wives put an arm on their husband's arm as if to anchor them.

“Okay, I appreciate the concern guys, but we have something more important to discuss than my well-being. The well-being of our child.” Betty mimicked Jughead’s posture, leaning over the table to study her cousin and old friend’s faces.

Archie paled and looked quickly at Cheryl. Cheryl arched an eyebrow, “Whatever do you mean Betty?”

“Don't bother lying, Cheryl, Polly already told us one of the babies survived.” Betty paused to gauge their reactions. Archie’s face showed obvious panic and he looked at Cheryl in desperation, who remained stoic. Betty went on, “we're going to track him down. We're willing to look past any secrets you kept from us as long as you come clean now. We need more information to find our son. Please Cheryl. Please Archie. We’re asking for your help. What can you tell us?”

Jughead was on the verge of an outburst and he was thankful that Betty was doing all the talking. Archie had already, supposedly, sworn to not knowing anything pertinent to he and Betty, so whatever Archie said now he’d be taking with a grain of salt. He bit his tongue from saying what he thought. That Archie was a boneless coward. That there would be nothing that Archie could do to earn his trust again. That the very fact that Archie had not just known about his son but may have had a role in keeping him from him and Betty could possibly result in Jughead murdering his former friend.

“I’m sor…” Archie started, but Cheryl cut him off.

“First of all,” Cheryl started, her finger in the air, “no one deliberately held anything back. At first. Nobody told us that Betty was still pregnant until it became very, very apparent. By then, Jughead, you were doing well at school. Starting your life over and the restraining order was still active.”

“We were going to tell you, Jug, when he was born, but nobody told us they were doing an early c-section. By the time we knew the baby was born, Alice had already found a home for him.” Archie took over.

Betty reached for Jughead’s arm and ducked her face down, tears slipping silently into her lap. It was the last straw for Jughead’s waning patience.

“So you’re telling us you don’t know a goddamn thing more than what we already know? How fucking convenient.” Jughead snapped. He turned to Archie, “you told me you didn’t know anything else. You fucking lied to me. And the loan you gave me. To keep me in school until I published my first novel. What was that? A friend helping out a friend? Or a gutless ass trying to keep me away? Because you knew I’d be a problem. What the hell else are you hiding?”

Jughead’s voice had risen and echoed in the kitchen. The boys, hearing the ruckus, had come down to investigate and Cheryl and Archie rose in unison.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t be of more help,” Cheryl spoke calmly. “We hope you’ll come again. Boys, say goodbye to Cousin Betty and Uncle Jughead. They’re leaving now.”

Jughead gave a curt nod to the boys and tried to smile, while Betty found it in her to bend down and give each boy a kiss on the cheek and hug. Archie escorted them silently down the hall and locked the door loudly behind them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

As they got back into FP’s truck outside of the Andrews’ house, that feeling of impending memories coursed through Betty. She grabbed onto Jughead’s wrist as he reached to put the keys into the ignition.

“I know, Betty, it’s not what we hoped, but I’m telling you they know a hell of a lot more than they’re saying.”

“No, Jug.” The tremor in her voice caught his attention. Her eyes shone with tears and her brow furrowed in thought. “There’s something else. Something about this house.” She closed her eyes, willing her epiphany to come.

“That might be because this was your house, Betts. It’s the house your parents bought when you moved here when you were five. After the accident, when your parents divorced, they sold it. The Blossoms bought it and when Archie and Cheryl moved in, it was given to them a wedding present.” Jughead spoke as gently as he could, not wanting to disturb Betty’s process, but to enable her memories with information.

Betty’s eyes opened wide, “Oh my god. I remember. It was so different. The kitchen, they made it so sterile, but it used to be sunny. White cabinets. A Breakfast table. Curtains my mom made. It’s starting to come back, Jug.” He held her hand while the memories continued to flood and she spoke in half sentences, describing the images that flitted through her mind. “I remember tripping up the stairs in second grade. My tooth fell out but it was just a baby tooth. My mother was terrified there would be nerve damage. I remember...oh god, that’s embarrassing.”

“What?” Jughead couldn’t help himself.

“It’s just...the last of summer before seventh grade. I was supposed to go swimming, but I couldn’t come.”

“Keep going.”

“I couldn’t come because,” she blushed. “I was going to go with you, wasn’t I? You and Archie, but also lots of other kids. Reggie and Ethel…”

“Yeah, that’s right Betts. You said you were sick…”

“I couldn’t come because...well, I got my period for the first time. That shouldn’t feel so embarrassing. I mean, it’s totally natural. I guess it’s the feeling I had back then. The memory comes with that feeling, you know.”

Jughead smiled a little and squeezed her hand. “Totally natural, and yeah, I can see how that would have felt embarrassing in seventh grade. Anyway, we better get out of here before Archie calls the cops.”

He turned the key in the ignition. Betty’s flow of memories ebbed, but it had given her plenty to think about.

As Jughead drove out of Betty’s old neighborhood, he changed the subject. “We need to talk about Cheryl and Archie.”

“Right,” Betty sat up straighter as she realigned her thoughts. “So, they helped you out, financially?”

“Yeah, I had a sizeable scholarship, but it didn’t cover everything. Archie started working for his dad right after high school as hisforeman and was making good money. He and Cheryl became a thing within a year after the accident and that first year I was at school. You know, come to think of it, anytime I offered to come down, whether it was to see my dad, or whatever, they just flew him out to see me. They did everything they could to keep me out of here and I was so fucking engrossed in my heartbreak, my emo misery and my writing to catch on to it.”

“You were heartbroken over me?” Betty said before she could think, “Shit, I’m still not good at the whole thinking before I speak thing.”

Jughead rolled his eyes, “Of course I was heartbroken, Betts. And for the record, I read a lot about recovering from brain damage and I know verbal and physical impulse control can take years to regain, but we need to focus, okay?” But he smiled even as brushed off her personal question. Secretly, he sort of loved this impulsive version of Betty who said whatever was on her mind in the moment. With all the dishonesty from people he thought he could trust, it felt refreshing and warm to be able to have someone be so open with him.

“Right, they did everything they could to keep you away…” Betty thought and a very disturbing idea overcame her. “You don’t think…”

“What?”

“If they did everything they could to keep you away, would they do anything to keep me asleep?”

A sick feeling washed over Jughead, churning his stomach.

“God, Betty. That’s a really disturbing thought, and scarily enough I wouldn’t put it past them.”

They got home a few minutes later and Betty took a quick shower and got into pajamas. The day had truly been excruciatingly long and she still had more to discuss with Kevin and Veronica, who were due to arrive any minute.

Jughead was taking his turn in the shower when Veronica and Kevin’s rental car pulled into the long driveway.

Betty hurried to answer the door and stood on the front porch in her pajamas as they parked and got out.

“Girl,” Veronica started as walked up to Betty, “I mean there’s drama and then there’s…”

“Drammmaaaa.” Kevin supplied.

“We have a lot to talk about. But first, we need drinks.”

“I’m on it,” said Jughead behind her, stepping onto the porch and then ushering everyone inside.

While Betty sat in the middle of the couch, Veronica and Kevin flanked her on either side and Jughead went into the kitchen and pulled out the Bullet to make strawberry daiquiris with a mix and some rum.

“I didn’t come empty handed, B,” Kevin said and pulled out a covered styrofoam container and a spoon.”

“Ooh. Is that what I think it is?”

“Cousin Mordechai’s coffee ice cream, as requested,” Kevin smiled and waved the ice cream in an airplane motion before depositing it into Betty’s open hands.

“So Jughead tells us that you remembered my pervy cousin...anything else come to mind since we last time we saw each other,” he frowned at his watch, “you know, in the last twenty hours or so?”

Betty caught them up on the conversation with Polly and with Archie and Cheryl (which came with only a few snide comments from Veronica), while Jughead finished the drinks and set out some pretzels and barbecue chips.

When everyone was finally seated and caught up, Veronica put on her lawyer glasses and Kevin pulled out his legal pad to take notes and the gathering turned serious.

“The first thing we need to do is get a full account of Betty’s medical history. That’s something we can file online, but we probably won’t get the full results until the clerk opens tomorrow. Do you have any of your medical paperwork to give us a head start? If we know when the baby was born, then we’ll having a starting point to how to find him.”

“I don’t know, I brought some of my boxes, but I haven’t gotten a chance to look at them yet.” Jughead was already taking them out from under the staircase as she spoke.

While Veronica started shuffling through them, her cat-eye reading glasses perched delicately on the end of her nose, Kevin got to work applying for all of Betty’s mountains of medical documents be released online.

“What can we do?” Jughead asked as Veronica and Kevin worked in tandem.

“Dinner,” Kevin said dismissively. Even though Betty and Jughead had been served dinner an hour and half ago, they’d barely eaten half their dinners when they’d been asked to leave. Jughead could eat.

Jughead turned to Betty, “You wanted me to teach you how to cook...let’s get to it.”

While Betty and Jughead cooked, speaking softly to each other so as not to disturb their lawyers/friends, Kevin and Veronica worked, occasionally asking pertinent questions about Betty’s health or about a piece of paper Veronica found in a box. Jughead showed Betty how to properly hold a chopping knife, putting his arms around her. His breath whispered over her ear, but he kept a few inches between her back and his front. One hand rested lightly over hers until she got the hang of it. They silently held food up for each other to try on their forks, Jughead murmuring what he thought should be added and then enjoying watching Betty move around the kitchen on her own.

It wasn’t long until dinner was ready (chicken cutlets with rice and green beans), Kevin had finally downloaded all of the available medical documents they could find for Betty that weren’t sealed or difficult to find. And Veronica had collected a pile of any and all medical documents that might have any pertinent information. She had only skimmed titles to save time so she could get through the whole box and Kevin had pulled up about twenty tabs, but hadn’t looked at anything in depth yet either. Thus, as the four friends ate and went through each piece of information, it was new to them all as they went.

“So, most of this stuff is from when you were a kid...a broken arm when you were ten, a sprained wrist when you were fourteen, all your vaccinations...yadda yadda…oh here’s a good one. I remember when you got your wisdom teeth out at the beginning of senior year and your mom and I picked you up. You said all kinds of nasty things about Jughead.”

“I don’t remember this! Do tell!” Kevin gushed.

“I want to know too!” Betty straightened excitedly.

“Oh God,” Jughead murmured.

“Well, Jughead,” Veronica put her drink down to fully engage in her story. “Betty was noticing how she couldn’t feel anything in her mouth and that the cotton was so stuffed in the back of her throat that she had absolutely no gag reflex.”

“She may have said something about getting some more of that medicine for the next time she helped Jughead out. You should have seen Alice's face. Oh my god. I tried to shush her, but she kept going. She was like, ‘its soo long, Veronica. How do I fit it all in there?’” Veronica slurred her speech to mimic a stoned version of Betty with recent dental work.

Kevin was laughing uproariously, holding his hands over his belly in an attempt to breathe. Jughead was pulling his beanie lower on his head and Betty was still waiting for the end of the story, the gears still turning as Veronica picked up her drink and took a sip.

“Fit it all…” Betty murmured under her breath as she thought. “Oh! Oh my god.” Betty looked wide eyed at Veronica. “Your talking about his penis.”

At this Veronica and Kevin returned to fits of laughter as Jughead tried desperately to disappear inside his beanie.

Betty put the rest of the story in her head and tried to make eye contact with Jughead, but he had hoped up and started clearing plates in a frenzy.

“Let me help, Jughead,” Betty wiggled out between Kevin and Veronica from the couch.

“Yeah, Jughead. Let her help you out.” Veronica teased.

“Let me know if you need advice, like the last first time.” Kevin nudged Veronica.

Ignoring her friend’s comments, she stepped over Kevin’s legs and grabbed Jughead’s elbow. Leaning into him, she murmured into his ear, “I can feel a memory coming, Jughead, I think I need to lie down.”

“Umm..okay, yeah. You’ve had a long day.” In a louder voice, he turned to Kevin and Veronica, “I’m going to take Betty up to bed, guys.”

“Sure you are.” At this point it wasn’t even embarrassing anymore, so Jughead just rolled his eyes and led Betty by the small of her back up the staircase. As she stepped foot into the upstairs loft, a memory began to wiggle itself loose and she fell into the past.

///// Jughead and Betty had been asleep in the trailer together when a sound like a gun woke Betty with a start. It was early, too early to see anything out of the window, even if she was brave enough to get out of bed and look out. Jughead had felt her stirring and had put his hand on her arm, but his eyes only fluttered and closed.

“You okay?”

“Yeah. What was that noise?”

“Noise?”

“Like a gun or something.”

“Time is it?”

“umm,” Betty checked her phone, “5:45, but I don't see why…”

“Old Man Fogarty.”

“What?”

“Leaves for work every morning. 5:45. Car backfires.”

“oh. Sorry.”

Jughead finally opened his eyes enough to really look at her. He put his arm around her waist and pulled her into him so he was spooning. He wrapped her in his arms. “Make it up to me. Sleep.” he said and within a few minutes his breathing had evened out again.

Betty tried to fall back asleep, but there was a particular part of Jughead’s anatomy that wasn't as sleepy as him and a funny idea wiggled it's way into Betty's head, just as something else was wiggling its way into the curve of Betty's rear end. Slowly she turned in his arms and inched her way lower. She froze every time his breathing changed and after a solid ten minutes she was finally where she needed to be. She lifted his shirt and kissed just below his belly button. He sighed, but didn't move so she pressed her lips against him again. She let her kisses linger over his skin. Breathing him in and lowering the waistband of his pants just until a few curly dark hairs emerged. The erection he’d had earlier had nearly disappeared as he’d drifted further into sleep, but now his body reacted to her touch and his covered penis was pressing into her throat as her kisses became a little sloppier, needing to taste him and run her tongue along his smooth skin.

“Mmmm. Betts. What are you doing?” She looked up to meet his eyes, barely opened in the room bathed in a grey morning light.

“Is this okay? Can I do this?” She was suddenly nervous. She’d never been this close to any penis before. He seemed caught, genuinely considering if he’d give her permission and she started to pull away, embarrassment flushed all over her face. He hated that look.

“Yes. Please.” He said quietly and caught her hand and brought it back to his stomach. “I just...I wasn’t expecting it. I’m yours, Betty. My heart, my soul, my body.”

“I know your heart. And I know your soul. But I don’t know your body yet.”

At that Jughead smiled deviously and pulled down the edge of his pants so that his erection popped free. “Betty, I want you to meet an old friend of mine…”

“Oh my God, Jug.” She rolled her eyes and hid her face in his stomach for a minute, but it meant that his erection was now hitting her squarely between her breasts. She looked back down in surprise as the top of her tank top revealed to Jughead and Betty a lovely scene in which Betty’s full breasts encased Jughead’s engorged erection with only the top popping it out of the top.

“Hello Jughead’s old friend, I see you’ve met two my very best breasties.” She teased back. Jughead chuckled in response and flexed his muscles so that his penis bobbed and Betty broke into laughter again. The vibration of her chest against his balls and shaft were no joke, however, and Jughead took a deep breath as arousal hit him in full force. Betty looked up sharply.

“Did I hurt you?” She asked, seeing a look of vague agony on his face.

“No, not at all,” Jughead’s voice came out strained and smiled down at her. She bit her lip back, but she wasn’t embarrassed. She was emboldened.

“Oh.” She said and looked back down, where the tiniest drop of pre-cum glistened out of the slit at the top. Unable to resist, she raised her finger to touch it and he hissed when her finger finally made contact.

“Still not hurting?” She asked.

“Still not hurting.” He confirmed, “but that doesn’t mean it’s not painful. Can you...do it again?” He felt embarrassed about asking, but he was too turned on at the moment to care.

She brought her finger back down and slid her finger up and down the slit, gathering pre-cum and spiraling it around the head of penis slowly. When it ran out, she frowned at the dryness, although it meant she could continue to touch the velvety skin.

“I didn’t realize it would be so soft and hard at the same time. It’s just so….solid.” She said, giving his tip an experimental squeeze with her thumb and two fingers. Jughead grunted.

“You can, if you want, you can squeeze harder. To...to test it.” He managed to form words somehow. She did as he suggested, reveling in how hard he was. She shimmied her body down a bit so that her breasts were now at his base and she could touch the rest of him freely. Wanting to recreate the silkiness of the precum before, she delivered a steady lick from about mid-shaft up to the tip of him with the intention of using her spit to keep touching him, but her plans changed when she heard his reaction.

“Oh my fucking God, Betty.” He breathed out in a low timbre she’d never heard him use before.

“Again?” She asked and all he could do was nod. She licked him again from a different angle, this time sliding her tongue over the ridge at the top and got an even stronger reaction from Jughead, his hips straining toward her involuntarily. Then she went at him again, noticing how sensitive the tip was, she licked and kissed there. Thinking of it like a French kiss, she battled his penis with her tongue, pushing and kissing, but mostly staying at the top. When Jughead gave another involuntary thrust, searching desperately for the heat of her mouth, he hit her lips at an angle that allowed the whole end of penis to enter fully into her mouth. They looked at each other in surprise. He saw her beautiful pink mouth stretched around him and her wide green eyes that were impossibly big looking up at him with a mixture of surprise, adoration and lust.

“Holy fuck. I’m gonna cum, Betty.”

Hearing those words and seeing the exquisite agony in his open mouth and stubborn brows, plus the feeling of her mouth so completely full of him had Betty feeling a level of lust she had never imagined before. She moaned around his mouth and it pushed Jughead over the edge. He grabbed her by the shoulders, not wanting to spill inside of her mouth without her permission and grabbed his cock to catch the cum that was already jetting out. Betty watched in awe as she watched stream after stream of white, thick liquid shoot over his hand and on to the bedspread and a little on her knee. In the end, he barely caught any in his hand at all.

He shivered before his shoulders hunched and he breathed a deep sigh. “Holy shit. That was the hottest thing I could ever have imagined.” He shivered again. He pulled off shirt to clean up the best he could. And then tucked himself back in his pants and held his arms out to her. She went to him immediately, still a bit stunned, her mind racing a mile a minute.

“Can we talk about it?” She asked.

Jughead stiffened, “Shit. I’m sorry. Did I do something. Do you want me to do something…”

“What? No.” She said confused until she caught on to his offer. “Oh. Do something. I don’t know. Maybe…” she thought for a moment analyzing her body and horniness level. “Maybe later.” For now she wanted to talk about him. Of course she knew what ejaculate was, but how it all happened...the look on a man’s face before he came. How sensitive and soft and hard he could be. She shivered. Maybe she’d take him up on his offer sooner rather than later, but for now she wanted answers.

“It looks really big,” she whispered. “Is that...normal?”

Jughead looked at his girlfriend and immediately recognized her ‘investigative journalist’ face and scoffed a little in amusement before returning to her question. “Umm..Yeah. I think so. I mean...it’s about average.”

“Oh,” she looked disappointed and he wasn’t sure how to take that. “What’s average?”

“About six and half inches.”

“That sounds...reasonable. But yours looks bigger than that.”

“Well...mine is closer to seven and a half.”

“Oh no.” Betty looked truly disappointed now.

“Sorry?” Jughead wasn’t sure what to say to that.

“No I mean. It’s just…my mouth was so full and I could barely go down past that first part...you know, the head.”

“Betty, it felt amazing. Really the most satisfying sexual experience I’ve ever had.” Of course there hadn’t been any that didn’t involve his own hand, so there wasn’t much to compare it to.

“But what if...you know..you don’t fit?”

Jughead was silent for a moment, but he’d turned and searched her eyes while the right words came to him.

“Betty, we already fit. Our anatomy will figure it out.I promise.” And then he’d kissed her until their alarms had gone off and the morning sun was bright through the trailer window. ////

The last thing Betty remembered she was talking to Jughead in the kitchen, but now she was enveloped in a warm blanket with a warm body resting next to her. When she looked over, she found she was disappointed that her bedmate was Veronica and not Jughead. She rolled back over and thought about her memory of Jughead over and over until she finally drifted off to sleep again dreaming about kissing his soft belly and his hard member.

When Betty woke up a few hours later to a bright morning sun shining straight into her eyes and voices downstairs, she was alone in the bed. She wrapped herself in her robe and checked the time. 7:15. She needed to be at work in forty five minutes. Late on her second day. Betty groaned and hopped out of bed, getting herself dressed quickly and skipping down the stairs.

Jughead, Veronica and Kevin were all hard at work in their respective laptops or tablets, and they barely looked up in greeting

Everyone murmured a quick ‘morning,’ barely looking up at her as they were so engrossed in their work. She slipped into the bathroom and finished getting ready for the day and when she emerged, Jughead was standing across the living room with his jacket and beanie on, two travel mugs in one hand and two small paper bags in the other.

“I’ll take you to work Betts.” He said.

“Oookay. Well, bye everyone…”

“Mmhmm,” Kevin said around his mug.

“Have a good day, Betty,” Veronica said warmly and then ducked her head back into a file.

“They’re just busy, Betts.” Jughead said as they got into FP’s truck.

“What happened last night? The last thing I remember I was getting up to talk to you in the kitchen.”

“Yeah, you sort of had a waking dream or something.”

“Oh that’s weird.” And then she remembered what she’d been dreaming about. “Oh my god...what did I say.”

“Well, at first you came into the kitchen and said you wanted to talk in private, so we went upstairs.”

“Oh, but I didn’t say anything, did I?”

“You may have asked me about the size of my penis….”

“Oh my God.”

“And tried to get into my pants.”

“No, Jughead! I’m so sorry.”

Jughead laughed and grabbed her hand. “It’s fine. I managed to defend myself from your nefarious attack. I think I know which memory came back, by the way.” He smiled and squeezed her hand, but didn’t take his eyes off the road. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Umm...I’m not sure. Maybe.”

Jughead laughed. “Maybe later?”

Betty laughed too. The echo of their conversation all their years ago felt so satisfying, so right. Jughead and Betty settled into a comfortable silence for the rest of the short ride to school. Amazingly, Betty still had ten minutes to spare as Jughead pulled up next to the school. Jughead handed her the bag labeled “Betty’s lunch” in his awful scrawl and offered a smile as she opened her door.

Before she left, though, she turned back. “ I do have a question, though.”

“I have answers.”

“Did it fit...in the end?”

Jughead smirked, but turned his head to the side bashfully. “Well we made a little human, didn’t we? I guess so.”

“Hmm. I hope that memory comes back too.” She responded, “but if it doesn’t you’ll have to remind me.”

Jughead’s bashfulness disappeared, replaced by a brazen lust. “Maybe I will. Have a good day Betty.”

As Betty swayed her hips as she walked up the steps of Riverdale High School, she was well aware of the eyes on her backside and of the return of a side of Betty she’d forgotten about until just now - a flirtatious side.

 

After work, Jughead was waiting outside for her on the steps, smoking a cigarette and bouncing his knee.

“Hey Jughead. I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

“Only a few minutes, but just before I left Veronica and Kevin got responses from the hospital administration. They sent over your full files. They promised not to read them until we get back.

“Let’s go.” Betty said abruptly and beat him to the truck.

Chapter Text

Jughead and Betty pulled into the little cabin by the park and rushed inside. Veronica and Kevin were ready. Documents had been printed at the library en masse and they were ready to get to work.

Jughead had also been busy in his own way, having purchased an additional loveseat and recliner that matched the couch he’d gotten previously and replacing the flimsy, square coffee table with a long oval one with shelf underneath and a little drawer. He’d bought highlighters and pens and as soon as all four old friends were seated, Veronica spoke up.

“Okay. We’re going to go through each file one by one. Jughead mentioned Archie and Cheryl being super weird yesterday and we won’t to make sure we’re not missing anything. We’re going to look from the beginning and see if anything stand out.” The group nodded and Kevin took over.

“As we go through each file, we’re going to color code our findings. Blue highlighter for anything relating to Baby Boy Jones. Pink for anything about the accident or Betty’s coma. Green for anything that just looks out order. Okay?”

Veronica handed the first pile to Betty. “I know you’re still gaining back your reading and if you want us to read it instead, we can, but I thee are your files Betty. Kevin and I worked hard to get your autonomy back, as did Jughead here. Take your life back, Betty.” Betty smiled and bit her lip in excited determination. It was her life. And her son’s. And even Jughead’s. She would take their lives back. She’d be strong.

Betty shuffled through the files up until the date of the accident and put them away for safekeeping and opened up the file dated the day of her accident and began to read. “June 3, 2018. Elizabeth Anne Cooper. Admitted to Riverdale Medical Center Emergency Room with a cracked femur, broken clavicle, broken wrist, four cracked ribs, a moderate concussion, and several contusions on her face, side and leg.”

Jughead breathed deeply next to her as he peeked over her shoulder and took a look at the close up photos of Betty’s broken and bruised body. Kevin reached out and put his hand on Jughead’s shoulder to comfort his old friend.

“I need a second,” Jughead said and walked briskly outside, closing the door with more force than he meant to behind him. Betty watched him go and then looked questioningly at her friends, who sat quietly with morose expressions.

“Should I keep going? We just started?” She looked again at the door Jughead had left and caught sight of his hunched shoulders on the porch.

“This is going to be hard, Betty. Take a few minutes.” Kevin said. Betty nodded and walked outside.

Jughead was already standing up, wiping his eyes and preparing himself to go back inside. This wasn’t about him and his guilt. His mistakes. He had to go forward. This was about their son. Out there somewhere. And maybe he was happy with a wholesome family, playing soccer on the weekends and in cub scouts. But maybe he wondered why his family didn’t want him. Maybe he wanted to know where he got his voracious appetite or his wiry frame. His green eyes and his pouty mouth. Somewhere out there his son was growing up without him and suddenly every minute counted.

When he turned around, Betty was standing behind him, worry in her eyes and her arms opened to him. She was on the top step and he was standing on the one just below, so when he let himself be wrapped in her arms, his forehead rested in her neck. She combed her fingers through his hair and rested her arm over his shoulders, rubbing lightly. She was so warm and so alive and whole. Nothing like those ghastly pictures in her medical files. He suddenly felt an overwhelming need to strip her down and check her body for her any lingering scars, to kiss every part of her that had been marred due to his idiocy. But again, this moment was about their son. It would have to wait. Still, he needed to say something to her here and now before he could walk back in an bury himself in their painful past.

He lifted his head and cradled her face with his hands. They were eye to eye, nose to nose, his thumbs resting just to the sides of her lips. “Betty. I know I’ve said this before, but I am so so sorry. I’ll be apologizing for it for the rest of my life, for feeling like I needed to shield you...from the pregnancy. I should never have tried to take your choice away.”

“We can handle this, Jughead. I don’t remember everything yet, maybe I never will, but the memories that I do have, they come with these feelings. Overwhelming feelings. That I loved you. That I trusted you. That we were a team.”

“We were.” He said. She was speaking it past tenses and it hurt, even if it was totally valid.

“I want to get there again. I know we got married out of convenience, that you were just trying to help me out after you feel like you made some big mistake, but the accident was an accident. And I want to find myself, and I want to find the version of myself that loved you. I want to feel like that again. I want to find our little boy. I want to be a family. Do you want that?”

“More than anything,” he said seriously, looking straight into her eyes, her heart, her very being. “I’ll do anything to get you both back.”

When Jughead and Betty came back in, holding hands, they were ready. Jughead sat back on the recliner, but Betty took his hand guided him to sit next to her on the love seat, sitting as close to him as she could without actually being on top of him. She picked up the file again and continued to read, but she was careful to hide the photos so Jughead didn’t have to see them again. “Induced medical coma.” She turned the page which was an order for an ultrasound. The next photo was sobering. It showed two little beans in utero. And as she read, Kevin made notes to keep a running total of basic facts and dates:

June 3. Admitted to hospital.
June 4. lost one fetus. Ultrasound confirmed an additional viable fetus estimated 9 weeks gestated.
June 4. Blood loss required blood transfusion. Perfect match to Polly, who donated several times over several days.
June 5. Brain bleed detected.
June 5. Stint inserted to release pressure from brain bleed.
June 23. 18th birthday. Alice applied to be Medical guardian.
July 8. Alice approved as Medical guardian.

That concluded the first file and the group took a breather, Kevin and Betty rocked on the porch swing and Veronica and Jughead took the Adirondack chairs on the other end of the porch, lighting up their cigarettes away from the non-smokers.

“Polly donated a lot of blood.” Betty’s not so gentle segue began as she studied her knees.

“I noticed that,” Kevin said lightly.

“I think she really loves me. I want her to be involved, but I’m afraid of whatever my mom is holding over her head.”

“Your call Betty, but as your lawyer I would say that the least number of people know about what we’ve discovered so far the better. She probably would be on your side, she always seemed like the cared a lot about you, but she has her own family to look after. You don’t want to put her in a hard situation, you know?” Betty nodded.

When Jughead and Veronica had finished their cigarette they group made their way back in and Betty opened up the next file

“Oh my god. This is it.” Jughead put his hand around her waist so that his shoulder as behind her and he could read over her shoulder. Veronica sat up excitedly and Kevin got his pen ready. The first pages were about the 20 week ultrasound, complete with ultrasound photos and a little arrow that pointed to evidence that he was a boy. After that were denied requests to induce Betty, followed by an approved planned c-section request.

The next page was a birth certificate. Betty read on. “Baby Boy Cooper born Nov 20, 2018...5lb 10 oz, 18 inches long, initial APGAR 3, follow up 5.” Betty read over it again, tracing her fingers along the words. It was the closest she could get to touching her son.

“Is there...can we see him?” Jughead pushed. She shook herself out of her stunned state and turned to the next page. There was a set inked hand and foot prints, but no photos.

“Well, there are no pictures of him after the birth, but their are ultrasound photos and footprints taken the day before he was born.” Jughead and Betty took a few minutes to examine the full profile of a baby’s pert little nose and mouth. They hovered their fingers over the baby’s tiny, but long feet printed at the bottom of a hospital-created birth announcement. As they looked together, Jughead’s arm tightened around Betty’s shoulder, pulling her in tight and Betty leaned into his neck and shoulder.

“That’s our baby, Bett’s,” Jughead said softly. He was amazed at how much affection he could feel for a little person he’d never met. A little person who probably had a home of his own, with a different set of parents.

They handed the photos and announcements over to Veronica and Kevin, who oohed and ahhhed appropriately. Betty reverently put the papers back in the file and turned to the last two pages. The first detailed the baby’s bilirubin levels and his vitamin k administration, his weight and note from the doctor about a heart murmur. The last page was sobering, the baby’s birth certificate.

Baby Boy Cooper, November 20. 21 inches long, weighs 5lb 10oz. Father: Unknown. Mother: Elizabeth Ann Cooper.

“Father unknown?” Jughead scoffed, shaking his head in angry disbelief. Betty frowned and put her hand on his knee.

“We’ll fix that, Jughead.” She said earnestly.

“There’s nothing about the adoption in here. Or even his name…” Betty turned the page over and finding nothing reread the front again, as if she had missed a clue.

“That’s okay,” Veronica said. This is a lot more than we had before. We have his birthday and his birth weight. Both of those things might help us to find him. We’re closer, Betty, I promise.”

“Maybe it’s in the next file,” Kevin suggested. Betty nodded and pulled out the next file only held more questions and sad facts.

“I’m tired of reading, Betty said a little sadly. Jughead. Can you?” She handed him the file and he shifted his weight so he could balance the file over his knee and hold the papers with his left hand while holding Betty to his side with his right.

“Sure, Betts. It looks like there was a request for Alice to be assigned the child’s guardian, followed by a signed form that released him into the custody of the Sisters of Quiet Mercy.”

A collective groan filled the room, confusing Betty. “What?” She asked, looking from face to face.

“The sisters are these insane fanatics who confuse actual psychological help with their twisted form of theology.” Jughead said.

“They did a number on Polly when when she was pregnant with the twins and with Cheryl.” Veronica said.

“Cheryl?” Betty said, still confused.

“It’s a long story,” Kevin sighed. “But really quickly, Cheryl was in a relationship with a girl and her mother sent her to the sisters to set her ‘straight’.”

“Wait, that makes no sense. My mother and Penelope are in a romantic relationship. Why would Penelope care if Cheryl is straight or not?”

“You speak as if hypocrisy actually makes sense.” Jughead shook his head.

“So, let me get this straight. My son was sent to some religious nut jobs who turned Cheryl straight, in spite of the fact that her own mother is gay, and kept my sister under lock and key until she had her babies?”

“In a nutshell.” Veronica confirmed.

“Okay, then. Carry on Jughead.”

“Right.” He turned the page and quietly, his brows knitted. “And it gets crazier.”

“Share with the class, Jug,” Veronica said.

“Well, it looks like after the baby was born, Betty came out of her coma. Something about the delivery woke her up.”

“What?” Betty turned around, full of venom and surprise. “I don’t remember that.”

“It says you were agitated and violent and that you placed into a medical coma after that.” Jughead summarized.

“Can I see that?” Kevin asked and Jughead handed it over. Veronica. And Kevin read the rest of that report together.

“Oh my God, Betty.” Veronica said. “This is enough for a major law suit, girl.”

Jughead and Betty shared a look. “Why what does it say?” Betty asked.

“That you were reinduced and that your doctors advised against it. Then it looks like there are second and third and fourth opinions until your mother found someone who approve of keeping you in a coma.”

“Wait, what is this?” Veronica pointed to a line and showed it to Kevin.

“Infertility treatments? What? Why?” Kevin looked as confused as Veronica until they turned the page. They were silent as they read on Jughead’s knee began to bounce nervously again. To distract him, Betty reached for the next file and opened it up and Jughead looked down to see what was inside. Jughead and Betty’s foreheads rumpled simultaneously in confusion.

“What the fuck is this?” He stammered, Jughead sat back as he stared at another set of ultrasound photos.

“What the fuck is right.” Kevin said and whistled as Kevin placed the file he and Veronica had been reading back on the coffee table.

“Oh my god. No. This can’t be right.” Veronica gasped as she looked between both open files on the table.

“What? Someone tell me what’s going on,” Betty grabbed onto Jughead’s arm and tried to search out the meaning of their alarm in her friend’s eyes.

“There’s more ultrasound photos,” Kevin’s voice was filled with shock as he picked them up and studied them.“They have a different date on them though. It’s a different baby.”

Betty peered at the pictures herself.

“Babies,” she murmured. “Twins again.” She pointed to the corner of the screen. “What does that mean?” She asked the group.

Veronica and Kevin took the file back and skimmed through it quickly together. There was plenty to read, but right now they just needed answers to the big questions. When they were done, they sat back and and looked in each other in shock.

“I’m going to fucking kill him.” Veronica said.

“What? Who?” Jughead leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. Pouncing position. He looked lethal.

“You were artificially inseminated, Betty.” Veronica said carefully.

“This says the father of these babies was Archie Andrews.” Kevin finished.

Chapter Text

“This says the father of the babies is Archie Andrews.” Kevin said.

As the words were spoken aloud Jughead jumped out of the chair and left the cabin in flurry of expletives.

“I don’t understand,” Betty buried her face in her hands for a second and looked up with tears, “What does that mean? Why would he...How could he…”

Outside, they could hear Jughead screaming more expletives and starting the engine to his motorcycle, followed by the sound of flying dust and the retreating growl as he drove down the long driveway.

Veronica took Betty’s hands, her face ashen and her eyes spilling over in tears of her own. “Betty...B...look at me.” Betty’s green eyes met her friend’s earnest brown ones, searching for answers in them.

“I can’t...I hate being so stupid. I’m so slow. Do you...understand? Can you explain it to me?”

“Betty, it’s not you. I swear to god, this is fucked up, even for the Blossoms. I don’t know how or why, but I swear to you, we’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

 

Jughead didn’t bother knocking on the Archie’s door. He’d kicked this door down once before and now he did it again.

Archie and Cheryl happened to be standing in the living room, apparently in the midst of an argument when the door burst in and a menacing man Archie hardly recognized stepped through the door.

“What the fuck, Jughead,” Archie yelled.

“You. Outside. Right fucking now.” Jughead said.

Archie was a strong man, broad shouldered and still in shape due to working construction, but he’d been caught in Jughead’s fury before and if his face was any indication, now wasn’t time to push back. He followed his former friend outside.

“We’ve been looking through Betty’s medical files. Looking for our son. Betty’s and mine. Imagine our surprise when we came across the ultrasound photo of twins that said you were the father.”

“Listen, Jug…”

“Tell me that’s not true, Archie. Tell me you didn’t knock up the love my life while she was unconscious three months after she gave birth to my child.” He stepped within an inch of Archie’s body, pointing at his face as he spoke. When Archie didn’t say anything for a minute. He screamed in Archie’s face, “Tell me!”

“I didn’t ‘knock her up’, she was artificially insem-” but Archie didn’t get to finish his sentence as he was knocked to the ground with a fast and powerful right hook to his temple.

Jughead let out a primal scream. He wanted to cry, but he also wanted to kill Archie. He imagined his next move. Crushing Archie’s windpipe with his boot. Grabbing a landscaping rock and bashing his head in. His hand crept to his back pocket where he always carried a blade and imagined how quickly he could slice Archie’s throat.

He did none of those things because the door opened and a blonde little boy stepped out. When he saw his father on the ground he ran to him, putting his little body between the intruder and his father.

“Don’t hurt him, Uncle Juggie.” The little boy spoke bravely, but the quiver in his voice gave away his fear. Jughead let his empty hand drop, the knife still in his pocket, and he took a step back.

“I’m sorry Robbie. You’re right, bud.” How had he not see it before? Where would Robbie have gotten those green eyes with two brown eyed parents? And his twin brother, with his red hair might not seem out of place at first glance, but his eyes were a cold blue. Not from Archie or from Betty, but maybe from Alice or Mary. It wasn’t just the physical characteristics, though. Robbie had always been a thoughtful kid. Sharing what he had, the calmest of the four with a fierce devotion for his brothers and justice for the world. He was Betty’s child through and through. In fact, now that he looked at him, he couldn’t see any traces of Archie at all. “I’m sorry Robbie.” He said again.

Archie stood back up and spoke softly to Robbie. “Go back inside, son. Uncle Jughead and I need to talk for a minute.” Robbie gave one more untrustworthy look at Jughead and went inside. Jughead looked inside and saw that Cheryl was watching from the living room window downstairs and that the other three boys were looking down at them from a bedroom upstairs. The one that had been Polly’s years and years ago. He sighed.

“Talk,” he said to Archie. Jughead shoved his fists into his pockets to keep himself from from lashing out again. He didn’t want to fight in front of children.

“Look. Betty was in a coma. Things weren’t looking good. Cheryl and I were still visiting a lot and the doctors mentioned something to Cheryl about pulling her off life support. Obviously we didn’t want that. I love Betty. I always have. You know, I love her.” Jughead’s slanted his head at Archie’s admission and Archie doubled back, “like a sister. Obviously.”

“Is that obvious?” Jughead wondered aloud.

“Yes. Of course. I’m...I’m married. Anyway, Cheryl and I had been trying for a baby and she wasn’t getting pregnant…”

“You were trying…” Jughead said in disbelief. “You were trying to get pregnant at 19 years old? You told me they were ‘happy accidents’ Archie. Why didn’t you tell me the truth?”

“Yeah, well, the Blossom estate still wasn’t settled and Cheryl thought that if we had a baby that it would help our case. And I didn’t tell you because there was still a restraining order and it was a way we could keep Betty alive. At least for nine more months. Ya know?”

“There was no indication they were going to pull Betty’s life support, we‘ve spent hours going through her medical records.” Jughead said, things were still not matching up. “And, are you actually defending your actions by saying you were partially motivated by money?”

“It wasn’t about money, but about legacy. You know? The blossom legacy. It was important to Cheryl and Betty is important to me. It was a win win.”

“This is your understanding of a win win? I mean I knew you were an idiot, but you were fucking taken, man. Cheryl played you.” Jughead wasn’t sure if he was angry or just disappointed. “I mean doesn’t it get fucking tiring, being such a fucking tool?”

“Shut the fuck up man. You weren’t here I did the best I could.”

“And why wasn’t I here Archie? Huh? Is it because Cheryl said to keep me away? Cheryl said it would be better for Betty if I wasn’t around? Was it Cheryl’s idea to pay me off under the guise of helping out an old friend?”

Archie looked down sheepishly and it said everything. “Cheryl, she...it was…”

“Peter and Robbie. They’re Betty’s aren’t they?” Jughead needed to hear it.

“They’re mine and Cheryl’s kids, but yes, Betty’s their biological mother.”

“And the other sets of twins? What else am I going to find out if I keep reading these files?”

“No. Cheryl got pregnant with Charlie and Fred a year later. We didn’t think she could get pregnant by that point, so they were really were just a surprise.”

“Archie. What the fuck else do you have to tell me. You know me and you know Betty. What else am I going to find out if I keep looking into all this shit? The more I find, the more you and seem Cheryl seem to be hiding.”

Archie looked back at the house, where Cheryl was still watching them out of the living room unabashedly. Her arms folded and her eyebrow arched.

“I can’t tell you anymore. Not right now.” Archie said turning back to Jughead. “You should go, but I…” Archie looked up at the four little faces squished against the glass upstairs. “What have I done. Oh my god.” He said in an undertone. “Jug. I really fucked shit up man. I’m so deep into all of this. And the kids…” he shook his head. “Tomorrow, come down to Andrews’ Construction around 10. I’m tired of all of this bullshit. I’ll tell you everything. But not now. Not while she’s watching us.”

Not wanting to get Archie into trouble with Cheryl when he was so close to finding out the truth he didn’t look back at the house to indicate they’d be talking to her. “Fine. I’ll see you then.” And Jughead stalked back to motorcycle. He still owed Archie a few more punches to the gut, at the least, but he needed information first.

 

Kevin and Veronica were surrounding Betty in a long, warm hug. Eventually Veronica stood up and brought the laptop back to the loveseat. The three adults snuggled together on the small couch, Betty in the middle as they went through the rest of Betty’s medical records. What they found was disturbing. So many answers, but there were boundless questions. Veronica looped a neat list of dates and facts gleaned from the medical records.

Feb 18th, 2021 Alice Cooper signed documents to begin infertility treatments.
March 20th, Elizabeth Cooper was artificially inseminated.
On April 14th, Elizabeth confirmed pregnant with twins.
July 30th, Fetuses measured average growth, both males.
January 1st, Elizabeth induced and twins born via c-section.
Boy A 21 inches long, 6lb 8oz’ Boy B 22inches long, 7lb,0 oz.
Father listed as Archibald Andrews, Mother listed as Elizabeth Cooper.
Alice signed over parental rights to Archibald and Cheryl Andrews on Jan 2nd

 

The timelines fit, Betty realized, as she thought about Peter and Robert. The little boys she’d loved like nephews as she’d watched them grow. It had been funny that she was still learning to walk, talk, dress herself at the same time as these boys and know that she knew they were children it made those memories feel sullied. There was so much to think about and she didn’t know what to process first. Her mother’s betrayal, or maybe that of Archie and Cheryl. And what did Polly know about all of this? Did she have any claim at all over Peter and Robert? They had a home, parents. She didn’t want to disrupt their innocent lives with their parent’s sordid scheming, but if they were capable of something like this then maybe she owed it to those boys to take custody. But then, what did she have to offer? A minimum wage job? A tiny cottage with a barely a room? What did that mean about her and Jughead? Would he want the twins in his life? Would he consider raising another man’s children.

Cocooned in the arms of her friends, Betty drifted off to sleep, as she was prone to do and woke to the smell of burgers and fries. She sat up and stretched on the couch, realizing Veronica and Kevin had gotten up and were talking to Jughead quietly in the kitchen. She listened to the conversation quietly as he caught them up on his conversation, confirming what she suspected about Robbie and Peter, and Veronica and Kevin showed Jughead the list of what happened after that. She had fallen asleep as they are the list, so some of it was news to her too.

Veronica read the date that her mother finally consented to remove her from a medically induced coma, July 28th, 2022. The date that Betty had first opened her eyes, August 8th. The days she began to verbalize and when she could identify her mother and Polly, sit up on her own, hold a cup and feed herself...A heavy sob filled the room and Betty was surprised to find that it had come from her, based on the three sets of eyes that turned to her.

Except that she wasn't alone in her tears. Veronica was leaning into Kevin, her eyes red rimmed and Kevin held a tissue.

Jughead’s tears were sliding down his neck, but his face was hard with anger. He turned to Kevin and Betty, “Thank you so much guys. I know you have real work to get to back in LA…” It was his way of dismissing them for the night. All he wanted to do right now was hold Betty. To spend a few hours shielding her from the rest of the world.

“We’ll be back tomorrow afternoon to discuss our legal options regarding custody of...well, I guess all three boys.”

“We’ll do what we can on our end.” Veronica responded, “but legally, we're limited. Of course...” She tilted her head toward Kevin.

“Of course you may know people who are less...scrupulous.” Kevin finished for her.

Jughead nodded. Betty looked around confused.

“We’re going to the Pembrooke tonight, and we rescheduled our flights for next week. It’s our firm and we have junior partners handling everything back in LA.” Kevin said, pulling Veronica toward the door.

“We’ll check in tomorrow. Kevin and I have several phone meeting during the day, but let’s meet up in the evening, okay?”

“We’ll meet at the Wyrm. At six. We’ll have dinner there,” Jughead said. He was being curt and he knew it, but his ability to handle anyone besides Betty was waning.

After a few more goodnight kisses and hugs from Kevin and Veronica to Betty, Jughead and Betty were finally alone. Silently, Jughead opened his palm to Betty, pulled her up from the couch and guided her toward the stairs. No words were spoken as they ascended and Jughead turned on the bedside lamp and plugged in their phones. When he turned back around, Betty was wearing only grey underwear and matching grey bralette with black lace trim. He froze as she walked toward him and pulled his beanie off and put it on the nightstand. In slow motion, never taking her eyes off of his face, she pulled his shirt off of him and placed it over a dresser. She turned back and knelt at his feet, untying his laces and pulling of his boots. She peeled off his socks and put them away in the corner. He was mesmerized. All he wanted to do was comfort her after everything that had happened. He’d left her to the wolves and they’d done a number on her, practically raping her, using her body against her will, medically torturing her and all with the permission, and sometimes the request, of her own mother. He should be the one on his hands and knees, honoring her body and personhood, but instead she was caring for him. Gently and sweetly.

When she reached for the button of his jeans he stopped her and moved her hands up to his face. He kissed the tips of each of her fingers and then the palm of each hand, where her old scars still shined up at him. He placed her hands on his shoulder and then took off his own belt and unbuttoned his own pants, but left them on.

She’d left her hands on his neck, studying his face as he’d worked his belt and pants, and now he took them back in his again and brought them to his heart. He held them there with one hand while the other traced her face. “Let me just hold you tonight Betty. I know you don’t remember, but I used to be able to comfort you. You’d lay your head on my heart and we’d rub our noses together. You’d tickle me with your eyelashes and we’d hold each other impossibly close. I’d breathe in your scent at your neck and kiss you until you cried and until your tears were gone.”

“Remind me.” Betty whispered up to him, and Jughead leaned down and picked her up bridal style and placed her gently on their bed. He joined her and pulled the blanket over them. They held each other and Jughead nuzzled her jaw with his nose. He grazed his lips against her collar bone and whispered his fingers over her bare back. He never overtly kissed her, he just stroked her and smoothed his mouth over face and neck. And true to her word, she began to cry.

She cried and sobbed and all the while Jughead didn’t stop. He wiped away her tears and combed his fingers through her hair and whispered, “I know, Betts” and “I’m here” and finally, as her choked breathing started to return to a semblance of normal he looked deeply into her eyes and said “I love you. And I’ll never stop loving you. I’ll never leave you again and you’ll have me. Always.”

She repeated his words, trying to embrace their meaning. “You love me?” She whispered. He nodded and kissed her softly on the mouth.

“You’ll never stop loving me?” She asked.

“Never.” He replied and kissed her bottom lip with more pressure.

“You’ll never leave me again?”

“I will never leave you again.” He confirmed and slipped his tongue into her mouth. She whimpered in response, but wasn’t distracted from her mission.

“I’ll have you always?”

“Always,” he whispered and pushed his mouth fully on hers, using both his hands to frame her face.

“Jughead?”

“Mmhmm”

“I want to have you. I want you to have me too.” And then she answered his kiss with her own pressure. There was no more talking, as their mouths were busy. After a while he pulled back a bit and looked down at her, studying her and running his hands up and down her legs and torso.

He explored her body and took note of all the changes. Some of them were painful to look at (the scars from the accident), but others were beautiful. The stretch marks were his favorite. They added texture and a story. Plus they looked like tiger stripes and he smiled as he thought about how fierce she could be.

“Am I what you remember?” Betty asked.

“Better.” He smiled up at her from his place by her hips. He have her another kiss where one of her stretch marks disappeared into her underwear on her belly. She smiled back and then sat up and pushed him back down on the bed. It was her turn to explore.

She started at his hands, taking in every mole and mark. She ran her fingers up his arm, where a tattoo of a two headed snake with a crown on the top head slithered over his bicep. She tried to remember where she’d seen the symbol before, but nothing came to mind.

“It’s my serpent tattoo.” He said when she lingered, but said nothing.

“What does it mean?”

“It was part of my initiation into a gang from the South Side.” Betty frowned. She knew about the Southside, of course. She knew how her mother spoke about not ever going to the other side of the river. That it was dangerous. Of course nobody seemed to be as dangerous as her mother at the moment.

“You’re in a gang?” She met his eyes.

“Yeah, I joined in high school. I led them for a while, but when I left for college and handed over responsibility to another member. Once a serpent, always a serpent, though. They’ll help us get our son back.”

“They’re the less than scrupulous people Kevin referred to earlier?”

“Yeah.” Betty nodded, accepting that. Her hands moved on from the tattoo on his arm to the large one that took over his left rib cage of several flowers with the a long two headed snake that weaved around them.“Peonies” she noted.

“Your favorite flower,” he said. She blinked up at him. Under the tattoo, his skin was puckered and scarred, but it wasn’t immediately noticeable. She could only tell because she could feel it. “That was where I skidded across road in the accident.” She nodded and lowered her head to his chest. She traced the scars with her fingers as Jughead played with her.

She looked up suddenly with a question in her eyes, “We were together in high school. Does that mean I was a serpent too?”

Jughead considered for a moment, “You were sort of an honorary member. You proved yourself to them, but never finished your initiation. They’ll be happy to see you.”

Betty sat up. “I want to meet them.”

“We will, tomorrow. You need rest.”

“No, I rested earlier, I want to go now. We need to know. And Veronica and Kevin will only be here for a few more and we need them. Plus, the longer we wait the more time Cheryl and Archie, not to mention Penelope and my mom, have to plot against us. We need to get ahead of them.”

“You may not realize this, but you are still the woman I fell in love with.” Jughead’s smiled transformed his face.

They got dressed in the reverse way they had gotten naked. Jughead brought her her clothes and slipped them on her. He bent and put on her socks and sneakers and tied them. While she tied her hair in a tight ponytail, he slipped on his clothes, grabbing the jacket he’d borrowed from Sweet Pea when he’d pretended to be him the week before.

When Jughead headed toward FP’s truck, Betty took his hand and pulled him in the direction of his bike instead.

“Are you sure?” He asked.

“I’m not going to live in fear, Jug.”

Jughead pulled her by the waist and kissed her hard and then took out an extra helmet from the cab of his truck for her. He may have hoped she’d trust him enough to ride with him again.

Chapter Text

Jughead kicked the bike to life and Betty’s placed her foot on the back footstand, flipping her leg. She straddled him, pushing her hips against his butt and bringing her arms underneath his jacket, she hooked her thumbs in the belt loop of his jeans.

“I’ve done this before,” she breathed into his ear. The motion had been too smooth and quick for it not to be motor memory.

“Hell yeah you have. Just don’t do that other thing you used to do.”

Betty thought for a minute and then let her hands do the thing her fingers itched to do. And a little smirk crept over her features when she realized what it was. “Oh. You don’t mean this, do you?” She spread her palms up his ribs and then lightly raked her nails down his abdomen.

“Fuck, Betts!” He grabbed her hands to keep them still. She giggled behind his ear. “Did you just have a flashback?”

“Mmhmm. Something about watching you straddle your bike triggered something. The first day you took me out on this thing. I was so scared at first, but by the time you dropped me back off I had gotten the hang of it. Sometimes when a memory comes back it’s like I’m reliving it. I can remember the feel of your suspenders digging into my legs when I was behind you. I remember when we’d stop at a light and you’d reach down and squeeze my knee to tickle me and then I’d get you back my scratching your belly like I just did.”

“Like riding a bike huh?”

“Like riding a bike.” She confirmed and rested her head on his back. He drew his helmet over his head and tiptoed the bike a bit before the clutch caught and they were off.

Pulling up to the Wyrm, Jughead removed Sweet Pea’s jacket from the cargo hold and held it with one hand while holding Betty’s hand in the other. He recognized about half of the members standing around outside smoking. He considered removing his own coffee-colored leather jacket to flash the badge branded on his skin, but a rebellious part of him decided against it. Let them come at him. He may have given up his title as president, but his name still meant something.

A few men approached him with a hug and a handshake. Others eyed him warily and any of the new serpents who got up to challenge him were quickly shot down by their fellow members before they could get more than a step toward them. He’d been here a few nights ago when he’d asked Sweet Pea for help, but there hadn’t been as many serpents around then. Looking around at the ink and the tension tonight though, he realized he must have come just before a meeting, If they played their cards right, this might make for a lucky night in terms of

Jughead scanned the room until he saw Sweet Pea and caught his eye. Jughead tilted his head and Sweet Pea nodded. There were a lot of people waiting to get Pea’s attention and it boded well for them that he was letting them cut ahead.

“Pea,” Jughead said in greeting, “you remember Betty.”

“Of course. Good to see you again, Betty.” Sweet Pea gave her a nod and turned back to Jughead and leaned in a bit, “Is she...you know. All there?”

“Yes. She is.” Betty answered for Jughead, catching half the bar’s attention with her tone and volume. “I may not have all of my memories, but I most certainly am here.” Sweet Pea raised his eyebrows and Betty remembered they were here to ask a favor and maybe she shouldn’t piss off the leader of a notorious gang. “Shit. I’m sorry. That was rude. The truth is, I get a little defensive about my brain damage. It’s a fair question.” She sighed, she ought to be used to this by now. “My cognitive ability is the same as it was before, but social nuances and my memories are taking longer to come back. I apologize if I offended you.” She looked up at Jughead, searching for approval. He was hiding his smile behind his hand, but she saw that he was amused and she took that as a good sign.

“You most certainly are back, Betty, but with a mouth,” Sweet Pea smiled down at her as he stood from his seat and walked toward them. Geez he was huge. He took the jacket Jughead handed back and gave Betty’s arm a gentle squeeze. “No apologies necessary. You’re welcome any time. You may not be a jacketed serpent, but you’re one of ours. Now,” Sweet Pea rubbed his palms together. “I know Jughead here would have come alone if he only wanted to return my jacket. The two of you here means, if it’s anything like it used to be, you’re up to something. Lay it on me.”

Jughead looked around at the other serpents, unsure how much he should say in their company. Sweet Pea noticed and barked out, “Inner circle only. Everyone else get a beer.” A few guys left a few others joined them. Jughead was happy to see that Joaquin was in town and joined their group, as did Toni and Fangs and a new face he couldn’t quite place at first until Betty shouted it out.

“Ethel?” Betty was so happy to see a friendly face, a familiar face, even if it was covered in darker makeup than she was used to seeing on the Riverdale Independent School District’s Child Psychologist.

“Betty? Wow. You’re really here! Wait. How are you here?”

“You haven’t heard? Jughead and I got married.”

The group gave a collective gasp and then Sweet Pea smiled and pulled them in for a hug. Fangs thumped Jughead on the back and kissed Betty’s cheek and and Toni rolled her eyes, but winked cheekily at Betty. “Finally got your man,” she said.

Ethel offered congratulations too, though a bit cooler than the rest and then Sweet Pea indicated everyone should sit down. “Serpent meeting starts in twenty, so talk fast.”

Betty nodded at Jughead. “We’re looking for our son. I’m not sure who knows this, but Betty was pregnant with twins when we were in the accident. She lost one of them, but no one told us until two days ago that the other one survived. We know he was given to the sisters of quiet mercy almost nine years ago.”

“Holy shit, so in the last week you’ve managed to get Betty free from the dragon’s lair, marry her, buy that little cabin I told you about and figure out you had a kid. Jesus, why does all this shit happen to you, Jughead? You’re like a fucking magnet for psycho fairy tale shit. You really are a pince and princess, huh?”

Betty and Jughead didn’t say anything, they just looked at each other and back at Sweet Pea. “Fuck. That’s not all is it?” He asked.

“Not exactly,” Jughead continued. “It turns out, after she had...our son,” Jughead swallowed around the words and Betty squeezed his hand. “Betty’s mother conspired with Archie and Cheryl Andrews to get Betty pregnant through artificial insemination while she was still in a coma. She had twins as a result and they’re living with the Andrews’ now.” The group of serpents leaned back in their chairs, grimacing as Jughead retold their tale of woe. “...so we’ve come for intel. We don’t know where our son is and we’re not sure what the hell to do about the Peter and Robbie.”

“Peter and Robbie being Betty’s children through Archie. So they weren’t adopted like she told me” Toni’s eyebrow arched and her normally glowing skin had taken on a pale greenish tint.

“What? Adopted? What the hell are you talking about?” All eyes turned to Toni.

“Jesus, that woman is a piece of work. I might have some of the information you’re looking for, but I don’t know anything about the first kid.”

“Anyone else have information, why don’t you talk after the meeting in the office.” Sweet Pea took back over the conversation.

“Thank you, Mr. Pea,” Betty gripped his hand.

“No thanks, necessary. No serpent stands alone, you’re one of us if you want to be. And Mr. Pea is my cat, so SP or Sweet Pea will do.

“Got it. And, I do. I want to be. I’ll get the tattoo right now.”

“What, Betty, you don’t have to do that.”

“I want to. I want my life back. I want to make my own choices.”

“All right, have the lover’s quarrel later and let me know. Right now we have a meeting to run and until then, Betty, you can make yourself comfortable upstairs while the serpents talk. No offense, but you need to be jacketed to be part of the meeting.” With those words, Sweet Pea stood and walked up to the stage, bringing a bar stool with him and sitting down, waiting for everyone else to quiet down.

Jughead led Betty up the stairs to the rooms above and showed her where the meeting room is.

“I’m going to go show face at the meeting. Will you be okay here for a while? Meeting may take an hour or so.”

“Of course, I’ll be fine.” He started to turn away but she caught his arm. “Jug. I’m serious about being a serpent.”

“It’s not so simple Betty. There’s a process.”

“A process?”

“For one, you need to memorize the serpent laws.”

“What else?”

“Betts, I don’t want to miss the meeting.” He pecked her on the cheek and squeezed her hand a quick squeeze. He paused at the door, “you sure you’ll be okay?”

“Of course, I have research to do.” She waved the iPhone he’d given her.

He gave a wink and closed the door. When she could no longer hear his boots on the stairs, she stood up and started looking around the room. On the wall by the door was a framed poster.

A serpent never shows cowardice
No serpent stands alone
If a serpent is killed or imprisoned, their family will be taken care of
No serpent is left for dead
A serpent never betrays their own
In unity there is strength

It took less than twenty minutes to repeat them with her eyes closed. She’d been told that she was always a quick study. It appears she was told correctly.

Downstairs, Jughead was impressed with the efficiency of the meeting and the control that Sweet Pea held. There was even a secretary keeping minutes and the issues that arose were mostly legitimate.

Knobs announced the opening of his own brewery. Scale made a speech about retention rates at the high school and keeping the Southside kids away from drugs and getting them into the gang as an alternative. This led to a vote to begin a Big Brother Big Sister program with young people from South Side High and Middle Schools, which was proposed by Birdie and seconded by Scale, as well as a discussion/brawl about acceptable drugs to sell and partake in.

Another vote and the serpents had a new bylaw: ecstasy, marijuana and mushrooms were allowed in the South Side as recreational drugs or to sell, but no Serpent could take coke, meth or heroin or sell it to anyone in the South Side or to any minors. Failure to follow the rule could end in club expulsion and the stripping of his or her jacket. Nobody brought up Jingle Jangle or the other harder drugs that used to be sold and used in the Southside and Jughead hoped that meant that problem had been taken care of.

The last part of the agenda was about a free clinic that had recently opened and was almost immediately robbed of their pharmaceutical drugs at gunpoint. A sign up sheet was passed around for protection shifts. Jughead signed up for the following week on a day and time he knew Betty would be working.

There were a few petty complaints, someone who felt cheated by a shitty paint job on their car, someone else who claimed their partner had fallen asleep on a job, and so on. There was general revelry, brawling and laughing intermingling in the hour and half long meeting, but it finally ended and Toni, Ethyl and Joaquin walked up to the office with Jughead.

 

Toni started, “Okay, you guys I’ll try to spare you the details here, but Cheryl and I had been on and off since high school.” Betty cleared her throat. “You have a problem with that, Blondie?”

“Not exactly, it’s just...since high school...but she married Archie over eight years ago.”

“Yeah, And? We had an affair. Can I finish?” Betty closed her lips tightly and leaned back. “Anyway, we were together on and off until after Freddy and Charlie were born. Then she really buckled down. Started to do the mom thing and we sort of fell apart. Every once in a while we hook up, but not often. God, she was beautiful when she was pregnant,” Toni’s voice tapered a bit, lost in thought.

“Can I interrupt now?” Betty asked. Toni sighed.

“What about Robbie and Peter? What about MY babies?”

“Right. The truth is, I knew there was something up, but I was just happy she was giving me the time of day. She told me she and Big Red had adopted the twins to legitimize their relationship. They were a cousin’s kids who’d been hooked on jingle jangle and couldn’t take care of them or some shit. Obviously, Archie knew all about me and Cheryl when they got married. It was supposed to be just a marriage of convenience. She always said, ‘Archie doesn’t want me, he wants what I have.’ I always figured it meant money, but the more she said it...it seemed like it was more than that. Sure, she did give Archie and his dad a lot of money to restart their business after everything fell apart after the Lodge’s tore Fred Andrews to pieces, but the way Archie did everything Cheryl said without a question...it was like she had something over him. I never knew what and I didn’t want to.”

Jughead settled his hand over Toni’s shoulder. She was visibly upset, blinking back obvious tears.

“Joaquin, Ethel. What do you two have?”

Ethel spoke first. “As you know, I manage the special education intervention for all of RISD. I know Peter has had a lot of issues. He gets very angry and sometimes violent and has attacked other children. Obviously, this is confidential,” she interrupted herself, “I’m only telling you because you’re their biological mom and because nothing leaves the inner circle’s lips when it comes to discrete information.”

“We trust you, Ethel, go on.” Betty took both of her hands.

“I don’t know much about Robbie, he hasn’t qualified for special education, but Peter is in the process of getting assessed. Right now the other special education teachers and I are considering Autism Spectrum Disorder or an emotional disturbance. Either way, he needs a lot of intervention.” She paused for a moment. Ethel had spoken to countless parents about their child’s special needs before and knew how hard it was for a parent to hear about a disability. “There’s one more thing. Either way, Robbie has shown some signs that he may have been abused at some point. It’s unusual, because the school nurse examined the other boys, and none of them showed the same kind of bruises. There’s an ongoing investigation.”

Betty felt a familiar rage enter her. It passed into her shoulders, fighting the muscles so her stand widened, and flowed into her hands, ending at her curling fingertips. Jughead slid his hand down her arm and wedged his fingers into her’s.

“Thank you, Ethel.” Betty’s voice was tight, but she wouldn’t blame Ethel for being a messenger, “I really appreciate you letting me know.”

“Of course. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.” Ethel gave Betty a pitying glance and then walked out of the office as Sweet Pea entered. He held the door open to Ethel as they say said their goodbyes and then relaxed on the very worn out leather couch under the windows where Toni was filing her nails.

Finally, Joaquin was the only serpent left standing. “What have you got for us Joaquin?”

Joaquin shifted his feet for a moment before responding. “I think we should all sit down. Jughead and Betty shared their ‘what the fuck’ glance, which was similar to the ‘holy shity’ glance Toni and Sweet Pea shared before straightening in their own seats, and sat beside each other on two rolling chairs. Joaquin perched on the end of the coffee table.

“Nine years ago, there was a baby found on the steps of the Wyrm.”

“Holy shit, Ticker!,” Sweet Pea spoke up.

“Ticker!” Toni exclaimed as well. “Of course, we used to visit him in the hospital all the time.”

“Ticker? Someone named our baby Ticker?”

“Nah, foster care named him Timothy, but we all called him Ticker because he has a bad heart.” Betty reached out and squeezed Jughead’s bicep. It was a little too strong of a grip, but he didn’t move away or complain. He just leaned in.

“Where is he now? Is he okay?”

“I’m sorry,” Joaquin shook his head. “I took him to the pediatrician the day after we found him and when they listened to his heart they said it hadn’t formed correctly. That there was a really big hole in it.”

Sweet Pea picked up the story, “They sent us to a specialist in Centerville. He had a severe heart condition. Poor kid had to have three different heart surgeries, but by the time he was well enough to leave the hospital he was already five years old and with no family, he entered the system. We all used go to together and cheer him up. Old lady Fogarty even made him his own jacket. He was one of us. We paid for all of his procedures and brought him presents, but none of us were considered acceptable foster homes for him.”

Jughead knew he had no right to be angry, they had no idea they had let his son slip right through their fingers, but damnit. They had been so close and he couldn’t deny feeling almost violently jealous. They had held him, cared for him, fed him, even paid for his medical condition and he’d never so much as seen a picture of his son. He pulled himself out the dark hole he was making for himself when he felt Betty stand up and hold her arms out to the three serpents. All three stood and accepted her embrace. Sweet Pea’s eyes were even watering and Toni wasn’t even trying to hid the tears that slipped down her face.

“Thank you,” Betty cried. “Thank you for being there for him. He knew love because of you. You were his family...and you’re my family now too.” She turned to Jug and pulled him into the embrace. She dried her arm on her sleeve and looked around at all four faces. “This is my family,” she repeated, “I want to be a serpent.”

Sweet Pea and Joaquin had genuine smiles, Toni laughed and shook her head. Jughead sighed and adjusted his beanie with shaking fingers. He wanted nothing more than to talk her out of this, but he could hear the determination in her voice and he had sworn to himself and to Betty and in the eyes of the law that he would support her in her every decision going forward. If she wanted to be a serpent then he would wear that skin again.

All eyes turned to Jughead as they all sought his approval, or at least his reaction. “You heard the lady. Looks like we’re taking home the Beast.”

Chapter Text

Ch 8

Jughead woke to a warm body rolling into his side and a heavy sigh on his bedmate’s breath. He would know that sigh anywhere.

“Alright, Hotdog. Let’s take you out, boy.” Sleeping on the couch with the hairy beast had been only slightly more uncomfortable than usual, which is to say he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to take sleeping down there. Maybe he ought to consider an air mattress. Or maybe his wife would one day invite him into her bed upstairs. But he didn’t really think she was ready for that. There was an order to these things. Hand holding, a goodnight kiss, making out, heavy petting and so on. Of course, there were also usually dates. That thought made him frown has he slipped on some shoes while simultaneously scratching his chest.

After Hotdog had done his business and the coffee maker had been set, he turned toward the stairs to wake his sleeping bride so she could get ready for work. Hotdog beat him up the stairs and by the time he got there, he was surprised to see that Betty had already been up and that instead of nuzzling in the covers, as Hotodogusually did when being ‘sicked’ on to someone, he was licking the tears of Betty’s face as she sat on the foot of the bed. Her fingertips hid in his fur.

Noticing her legs dangling off the end of bed and her bare feet, Jughead moved to the dresser and withdrew a pair of slipper socks he’d bought her the previous week. He knelt at her feet and gently slipped each one on before sliding his gaze up her body to meet her eyes.

“Morning Betts. You okay?”

“Yeah...I just. I remembered something this morning.” Her shoulders hunched and she brought her hands out of Hotdog’s fur and put them under her legs so she could sit on them.

“It was something about me, wasn’t it?” He said, when he realized he couldn’t catch her eye.

“Until it sticks?” She asked in a small voice.’

Jughead sighed. “I know you don’t remember, but I apologized for that.”

She looked at him then, searching his eyes and face. “What?”

“It’s just...I also remembered something else.”

“Okay…”

“About Archie.” This time it wasn’t a sigh, but an intake of breath followed by a refusal to let that breath leave.

“What about him?”

“I don’t know...I just. I have these feelings. Memories where I had this deep affection for him. Not like anything I’ve felt for him since I woke up from the coma. It’ not like with you. He used to make me feel nervous. Like my heart would jump out of my chest when he talked to me. And I wanted him to kiss me. So, so badly.”

Of fuck. After all this time, it was finally happening. Just when he thought he was over that particular insecurity. He leaned back on his heels, giving himself some space from her.

“I underst…”

“But” she said quickly and he stopped short, taking his hands and pulling him back so he was standing on his knees. She tugged and opened her legs so he scoot between them. With the low platform bed she was sitting on, it bough them face to face. “But,” she continued, “I don’t feel like that with you.”

He squinted at her and tilted his head. If ever he’d experienced ‘mixed messages’ this was it. “You don’t?”

“No,” she smiled, “With you I feel safe. Cared for. Like I belong. Like we’re a partnership. A team. Like you see me.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him into her. He tentatively reached around her back, cradling her waist and shoulder with opposite hands and responding with a gentle squeeze when she didn’t retract from his touch.

“But you were crying.” He pointed out. Because he was a self-sabotaging bastard.

“I get confused, just so full of emotion...sometimes it sort of helps to cry. It’s sort of soothing, afterwards I think more clearly.”

“Okay.” He smiled into her shoulder, relieved that she wasn’t distressed and that he was still in a good place with her.

“About that night that we broke up...when I told you that I needed to push you away until it stuck.”

“Yeah?” She pulled away and looked into his eyes again.

“I never wanted to be apart from you. It was something I thought I was supposed to do. I’m glad you feel like I care for you, because I would do anything to see you safe...anything, so long as it doesn’t get in the way of what you want. That was what I learned that night. If you want to be a Serpent, don’t say I didn’t warn you, but I’ll follow you anywhere. If you want to take on Cheryl Blossom and the whole Blossom Monarchy, I won’t hold you back.”

“Okay.” She said leaning forward.

“Okay.” He said, rubbing his nose with hers. And then she leaned in more and pressed her full mouth onto his.

____________
After he’d driven Betty to the school they’d shared another kiss. Jughead wished her luck because she was ready to speak to her sister again, and she wished Jughead luck on getting decent answers from Archie. He stopped to grab a coffee and prepare some questions he wanted to ask Archie before he saw him and then drove to Andrew’s Construction headquarters on the other side of town.

He was surprised to find, when he got there, that there was only one company truck in the lot and Jughead wondered if maybe the crew was on a site or if they got Friday off. The front door was open.

Archie was in a state he’d never seen him in before. He was leaning back in his chair with a tumbler in one hand and a half empty bottle of bourbon in the other. He was looking back and forth between them as if he was unsure which to choose. Jughead cleared his throat to spare him from having to make a choice.

When Archie’s eyes finally focused on on the man in front of him, Jughead’s heart dropped a little. He very nearly forgot the rage he’d brought as he took in Archie’s tear stained cheeks, his red rimmed eyes, his disheveled clothes.

“You were right. She played me, man,” Archie stuttered. He spun the glass in his right hand a quarter of a turn.

Jughead took a seat across from him and smoothed his hands on his jeans before leaning in to rest his elbows on his knees. “Talk to me Arch.”

Archie took a steadying breath and finally dragged his eyes from his glass again. “I loved her.”

“Cheryl?”

“No. God no. Betty.”

“You loved Betty.”

“Loved. Love. Cheryl is… I’m not Cheryl’s type. We kind of tried. After the Robbie and Pete. I wanted to be a family. Because they deserved that, you know? I threatened to leave her, to expose the whole thing. So we tried. And we got pregnant right away. And for a while, up until you came back, even after Betty woke up, it was working. I mean, we’re not in love or anything, but we worked well together...as parents, or in public.”

“Expose what whole thing.”

Archie’s face twisted as his last walls crumbled and the secret finally spilled out. “It was our fault. The accident wasn’t an accident.”

“Excuse me?” Jughead butted in, his shock momentarily distracting him from his pursuit of the truth.

“But it wasn’t supposed to be that bad.” As Archie went on, Jughead could feel himself winding up, his hands clenching, his jaw tightening. “And then...God, Betty was in a coma and she lost the baby and nobody was sure if she was going to make it. I had no idea that she was still pregnant. I couldn’t bring myself to visit her. I felt awful for paying that trucker to run you off the road. Cheryl convinced me that it would just be enough to drive a wedge between you. And then I could sweep in, be the ‘white knight’, you know?”

“I don’t fucking know, but don’t stop now.” Jughead gritted out, his need to know the truth only barely keeping his murderous rage in check.

“I’m so sorry. That’s why I paid for your college. Cheryl just wanted to keep you away with a shit ton of legal stuff, but I couldn’t let her. You’re my oldest friend, and I wanted Betty but I didn’t want anything terrible to happen to you.” At that point Jughead almost barked out a laugh, but found that his throat was too tight to manage it. “So I paid for your college and then for grad school and sponsored your publication until you made it big. I tried to make up for it.” Archie searched Jughead’s face for some acceptance, but finding only a stony, angry visage he went on.

“Anyway, as time went on, Cheryl visited a lot and she finally got me to go too. I overheard the doctors. They were going to take her off all the machines. They were going to let her die and I couldn’t let that happen. At that point Cheryl was on the outs with her family, so we cooked up a plan. I’d marry Cheryl to make her seem legitimate in the eyes of her family and to keep Betty alive a little longer, we’d artificially inseminate her. Give them a reason to keep her a live a little longer.”

“What the fuck are you talking about. I’ve read over all of her medical history. There’s nothing indicating they were going to pull the plug on her.”

It was Archie’s turn at outraged shock. “What? No, no. Cheryl told me. She told me Alice didn’t want the burden. She told me.”

“She fucking lied to you man. God, if I didn’t fucking hate you so much I’d feel sorry for you being such a tool. Shit.”

“I know. She lied to me about so much. But she finally told me yesterday. God, I feel sick.” Archie stood and picked up the small garbage can on the side of the desk and then let his chair catch his weight with a creak.

“Told you what, Archie?” Jughead dug his fingers into his knees.

“They’re not even mine, man. Petey and Robbie. They’re not even fucking mine.”

“What the hell are you talking about? She was artificially inseminated, you just finished telling me this.”

“Yeah, but not by my sperm. She told me it was mine. That Betty was carrying my kids, but they’re not mine.”

When Archie didn’t go on and seemed to be lost in his own thoughts and self pity, Jughead slammed his fists on the desk. “Who’s are they then, Archie.”

“Jason’s. They’re Jason Blossom’s.”

There was a shattering of glass and heavy booming sound and it took both Jughead and Archie a minute to realize Jughead had grabbed the glass of bourbon off the desk and thrown it at the wall and followed that up by grabbing the end of the desk and flipping it over. Papers and office supplies rained down around them both and Archie reached for one of the drawers. He slowly pulled out an old and heavy looking revolver, but Jughead was too busy wringing his hands through his hair and pacing the office to notice. “Why?” He screamed and the echo felt like it hit Archie in the chest.

“For the money, I guess. Apparently Cheryl wasn’t the heir. It was Jason first and then her mother, followed by Cheryl, but in both cases there were contingencies. Jason wasn’t enough by himself. It was only if he produced a male heir to continue the family name that he would earn the title and the majority of Cliff’s inheritance. Cheryl just told me last night.”

Jughead ran his hands down his flushed face. “Oh my god. Oh my god.” He felt sick and angry, powerless and vengeful.

“I know I don’t deserve to live, Jug. You’ll never know how sorry I am. Tell the kids it wasn’t their fault, okay.”

“What are you talking about now, Archie.” Jughead spit and turned, but it was too late. A second later a shot rang out and Archie slumped to the floor.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 9

 

Betty finally got a chance to catch up with Polly during their lunch hour. As usual, they spent it in the student’s lounge that had formerly been the basement. Betty had been deep in her writing. She’d taken to writing in the moleskine Jughead had let her read. Mostly she just wrote down thoughts, much like he did, but today she was trying to connect dots, stretching her mind by piecing together what she knew and trying, for the life of her, to remember the things that seemed to be missing.

 

When Polly appeared with a fancy looking coffee and a cinnamon muffin, Betty was relieved. “A peace offering,” Polly had said with a worried look in her eyes. Betty had studied her for a few seconds before standing up and taking the coffee and muffin, she put them on the table and then pulled her sister in for a long hug.

 

“It’s not necessary. I’m not happy that you didn’t tell me about Timothy, but…”

 

“Timothy? Oh my god,” Polly grabbed her sister’s elbows. “His name is Timothy? You found him?”

 

“Not exactly.”

 

“Tell me everything.” Polly sat down on one of the stools.

 

“Yeah, well. I was thinking you should go first.”

 

“Anything. I mean. I don’t know a whole lot, I’ve spent just about the last decade purposefully turning a blind eye to anything that might be less than scrupulous. I know about what mom went through, at least whatever she let slip, but that’s about it. I couldn’t risk knowing something that would get my babies in any trouble, you know?”

 

“Okay.  Tell me about mom. How did she become so…”

 

“Crazy?”

 

“Sure, that’s one way to put it..”

 

“Okay.  Well.. you know how fierce mom is about protecting you. She's always been like that.”

 

Betty's eyebrow shot up in annoyance mixed with impatience. “And?”

 

“And, that fierceness was her downfall. Most of this is conjecture, but I think it started when your baby…”

 

“Timothy.”

 

“Right. When Timothy was given up, mom was never the same. She became nuts about your medical stuff. She cried a lot. She was always holding your hand. Honestly, I was a bit jealous. I mean I had the twins to look after and I could have used her help, but she barely left your side. It was soon after that that Cheryl started coming around. I guess she and Archie had just started dating and for some reason that meant that she got really invested in your case. That lasted for about a year...it was really weird, but thankfully she had those twins and I guess she got distracted and stopped coming around so much. The only downside there was that suddenly Penelope was everywhere. I mean, at first, it was super cordial and sort of cold. Mom barely gave her the time of day and the weirdest part was one day I walked in and mom was suddenly all about Penelope. Like she hadn’t been the one sneaking around behind mom’s back with dad all those years ago...it was so weird.”

 

“Did you know I was impregnated while I was at the hospital?” Betty craned her neck trying to determine if what Polly said next would be truth. She knew her sister well, she might be the only person she felt she was pretty good at reading.

 

“What?” Polly wrinkled her face. “No. There’s no way mom would have let that happen.” Polly shook her head with certainty.

 

“Well...she did, because I was.”

 

Betty watched Polly’s face shift from big-sister-condescendence to mild-befuddlement and finally a lightbulb went off. “No. NO. Oh my god. Oh my god!”

 

“I know.”

 

Polly hopped up and paced around the room as Betty filled her in with what she knew so far. “Okay, so you’re telling me that just a few months after you gave birth, you were...inseminated? Raped? What?”

 

Betty filled her in on what she knew - that the babies were Archie’s. That the Peter and Robbie were actually her children as well, but that the other two couldn’t have been and that Jughead was visiting Archie again today to find out more details. It was pretty clear to Betty, based on her sister’s reactions, that Polly had no clue about Betty’s second pregnancy and Betty was beyond relieved.

 

“I really don’t know how or why mom would have let that happen. I mean….oh. Hmm.” Polly’s eyes became unfocused as she studied an imaginary spot on her knee.

 

“Tell me. What?”

 

“It’s nothing...it’s just. That whole Cheryl and Penelope gambit. It was so weird...it must have had something to do with the babies. Maybe even all three?”

 

“Maybe. And that brings us back to Timothy...apparently he was at a hospital not too far away for the first few years of his life. The serpents were around him, but they didn’t know he was Jughead and my baby. Then, a few years ago he just disappeared from the hospital. None of the serpents know where he went. I want to go down to the hospital this weekend to see what I can find out.”

 

Polly was worrying the side of her lip as Betty spoke about Timothy and when Betty was done there were tears in Polly’s eyes. “Oh my god. I think I remember him...I think I know who took him from the hospital.”

 

Bettys heart just about dropped into her ankles as she grabbed for her sisters hands. “Oh god. Tell me he’s okay.”

 

“I don’t know...the last time I saw him, if that was him, yeah. He seemed fine…” Polly shook her head to keep herself calm. “Right around that time when Penelope suddenly got cozy with mom, she came to visit us at the house. I hadn’t been allowed to visit you for a while up until that point.” Polly went on shared her memory of what could only have been Betty and Jughead’s son….

 

//Penelope’s sleek Cadillac had slipped behind Polly’s car just as she was about to head out to the store and Polly swore under her breath. She was probably here to see her grandchildren, as she sometimes wanted to do...a few times a year, though she couldn’t think of any holidays or birthdays. It was a rare moment where both of the twins were napping and her mother was home and willing to watch them while she got a few groceries. She might be their grandmother, but she wasn’t going to wake the twins up just because she stopped by unannounced. To make matters worse, Penelope had parked so close to her that Polly could immediately see that she wouldn’t be able to back out until either she or her mother moved their cars. Great. Her frustration level was at a boil, but it evaporated as curiosity filled her instead when Penelope opened the back of the car door and a little boy in grey trousers and black suspenders over a crisp white shirt climbed out of the back seat. He couldn’t have been more than three or four and for the life of her Polly couldn’t figure out who he belonged to. He certainly wasn’t a Blossom, with that mop of light brown hair. Polly frowned and put her purse jacket back on their hooks.

 

“Mom?” She called softly to the kitchen, quietly enough to grab her attention, but not loud enough to wake the twins. “Penelope Blossom is here. And she has a little boy with her!”

 

“What? What do you mean?” Alice came to stand next to her daughter at the window. “Oh my god. It couldn’t be...no.”

 

“What’s wrong mom? Who is that?” Polly asked, but Alice’s expression had already turned blank by the time Polly tore her eyes away from the woman and boy walking up their sidewalk.

 

“Honestly, Polly, do you want them to wake the twins? Go open the door for them before they ring the bell.” Polly turned to leave, she certainly didn’t want them to wake up quite yet. “Wait, Polly?”

 

“What, mom?” Polly whipped around, already halfway to the door.

 

“Take my car to the store since Penelope blocked you in.” Alice nodded toward her keys hanging next to Polly’s. “Oh. Okay.” She was confused, but she wasn’t about to say no to using Alice’s nicer, warmer car.

 

She opened the door as Penelope and the boy reached the front porch. “Mrs. Blossom. It’s so good to see you. Unfortunately the twins are napping, so I’m afraid they can’t play with the little friend you brought over.” Polly pasted on her best Barbie smile for Penelope but gave the little boy a wink. He looked up with a broad smile and sparkle in his green eyes and then held u

 

“Not everything is about you, Polly Dear. Is your mother home?”

 

Polly’s smile hardly tightened as she motioned Penelope in and walked out toward Alice’s car, closing the door securely behind her. The nerve, Polly thought, as she walked to her car.

 

An hour and a half later when she returned home, Penelope was gone and her children were up. Not a word was said about the visit or the strange boy, though Polly had meant to ask. Suddenly, Alice had become extremely busy and irritated with Polly for leaving for so long. She’d left in a huff and Polly had never bothered to bring it up again. ///

 

As Polly had recounted her tale, Betty had scooted her stool even closer to Polly, as if being close to her physically while Polly  remembered her son could somehow get her close to him too. At the very least it was comforting and the sisters were locked in an embrace as the story of Polly’s memory ended. 

 

"I have one more question, and then we can get back to work." Betty said. 

 

"Anything."

 

"The paperwork from the hospital said he was given to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, but the Serpents said he was dropped off at their doorstep. Any idea how that happened?"

 

"Hmm." Polly thought for a minute. "I mean, i don't know for sure but my guess is that mom was trying to hide him from somewhere and she used the sisters to just say he was there? After everything with Chic and me. I can't imagine she'd give them another descendant."

__________

 

He had been in this hospital too many goddamn times I the last few weeks, Jughead thought as he worried the floor outside of Archie’s room. Archie. He was a failure. As a friend, as a husband, a father. He even failed at his own suicide.

 

Honestly, he wasn’t sure if he was relieved or upset that his long-time friend-turned-poisonous-thorn-in-his-side had managed to clip the back of his head, resulting in a lot of blood loss and a shattered skull, but surprisingly little brain damage, though it was yet to be seen if the brain bleed couldn’t be stopped or and how much the damage would impact him.

 

Jughead sighed and after tossing his second coffee cup in the dumpsters slumped back in his chair and rested his neck on the back while stretching his long legs out and crossing them at the ankle.

 

“Forsythe Jones?” Jughead looked up at the authoritative voice.

 

“Yes, officer?” Jughead leaned up in his chair and brought his crossed ankles under his knees.

 

“I’ll need you to come to me. We have a few questions.” The police officer moved to the side, indicating Jughead was to lead.

 

“Of course.” Jughead said, an acquiescence dripping with sarcasm.

 

It wasn’t until the officer opened the back door to his cruiser that Jughead truly realized that he was considered a suspect. “Hold on, do I need a lawyer?” He hesitated at the door.

 

“Get in son,” the officer responded and Jughead had to sigh instead of retort that the officer looked no older than Jughead himself and that his condescending name-calling was tiresomely transparent.

 

“Am I under arrest?” He asked instead.

 

“If I think you’re inhibiting our investigation you will be.”  The police officer placed his meaty hand on his hip.

 

“Damned if I do, damned if I don’t?” Jughead murmured.

 

“What was that?”

 

“I’ll be happy to answer any questions.” Jughead said clearly. He’d played this game before and knew that being brought in was inevitable at this point. He might as well do it while he still had some rights...and his phone. He slid into the backseat and as the officer pulled away, he texted Veronica and Kevin after the officer pulled away. He considered texting Betty, but he didn’t want to scare her unnecessarily and there was a chance he’d be out before she was done with work anyway. He did send her a quick, “I might be held up this afternoon, so Kevin or Veronica may need to pick you up.”

 

She responded just as they were pulling into the police station, “No problem. Polly can give me a ride back. I spoke to her and found out a few more things. How was the conversation with Archie?”

 

“Can’t talk now. Later.” He responded quickly.

 

_____

 

In the end, it took twenty-four hours before Jughead was released and Betty was frantic despite Kevin being there with her and doing his best to help her understand the process - they'd hold him for as long as they could while trying to find evidence that he was in some way guilty of attempting to murder Archibald Andrews.

The worst part was learning about Robbie and Petey's true parentage from Kevin. No, maybe it was learning that two people she thought were trusted friends had in fact planned and executed a horrible plan to get rid of her baby and break up her and Jughead, arguably ruining her life. No, scratch all of that. The worst part was most definitely the fact that Jughead had to be delivered this news by the ginger judas and then said ex-friend had the nerve to try and kill himself in front of him! Betty worked her way through the kitchen, enjoying the "instantcart" app on her phone and the endless recipes the internet offered.  The YouTube videos were especially helpful and Betty busied herself for hours while he was away, baking and cooking. It was the only way she could stay sane while Kevin worked on finding legal recourse for having been kept unecessarily asleep for years and while Veronica mostly worked on preparing a case in the event that Jughead need to go to trial.

By the Veronica picked him up it was late Saturday night and he was exhausted and beyond frustrated that he’d lost a day with Betty that they were supposed to spend looking for their son. 

Veronica had come armed with grilled chicken on a bed of buttered pasta and garlic bread and pep talk, but Jughead barely heard except for the part about Betty making this meal for him, which was without a doubt the  most delicious meal he'd ever had in his life.

 

The saying was that the way to man's heart was through his stomach, but Jughead thought that was understating things a bit and that the food Betty prepared for him gave her possession of his very soul. When he said as much to Veronica she just laughed and rolled her eyes.

 

As much as he appreciated her help and the food, though. All he really wanted was to sleep. Specifically he wanted to sleep with Betty and he’d decided, after hours of thinking of her while in a cold (albeit clean, since Riverdale rarely needed it) holding cell, he’d do whatever he could to get into bed with her tonight. Not for sex. At least, not necessarily for sex, but truly he just wanted to sleep with the sound of her adorable snore she’d always insisted she didn’t have and to feel her warm on the other side of the bed. Also, a bed that didn’t make him feel like an 80 year old man when he woke up from a solid six hour sleep would nice.

 

When Jughead got home, Betty was waiting on the porch with nearly the same expression as Hot Dog, who sat next to her. Dog and woman could barely contain themselves as Jughead climbed out of the front seat and walked toward them sheepishly. As he neared her on the steps, Betty jumped into his arms and locks her lips with his. She kisses him deeply and thoroughly.  It was a kiss filled with sadness and fear that Jughead could taste due to the saltiness of her lips and also with a punishing passion that he could feel as she presses her mouth over his, forcing his neck back. He knew this kiss. Its Betty’s “how dare you scare me like that” kiss, which is rare, but unmistakable.

 

“I'm sorry,” he said with a guilty grin on his face. “I missed you too.”

 

Betty didn't respond verbally, she just took him by the hand and pulled him inside. Veronics followed them in and greeted Kevin, but Betty turned around and in a firm voice said, “Kevin and Veronica, we are so grateful for your help, but Jughead and I need to retire for the evening. Good night.” And with that, Betty turned around and led her man upstairs to their bed.

Chapter Text

Jughead didn’t have to ask to sleep in the bed with her. She led him up to her room after a polite, but firm “Goodnight” to Veronica and Kevin. Their friends were too amused by her candor to be offended and Jughead vaguely registered a door click and the sound of their engine float down the road, but his attention was all on the blonde with wide, wet eyes as she touched his cheeks, his neck, his arms, his hands and then back to his shoulders and down his chest. Her fingers slide over him as if she’s never done it before, and he wonders if she hasn’t. At least, not this iteration of her. She bent down and slid her hands down his black jeans and then she wrapped around his legs and sobbed into his thighs.

 

“Betts. Stop crying, baby. I’m here. I’m fine.” He pulls her up and he brings her to the bed, pulling her into his lap and pulling her head into the nook between his shoulder and neck.

 

“They told me...about Cheryl’s brother. About...so much, Juggie. So many horrible things I don’t remember. Things when I was asleep, but also when I was awake...from before. About the Black Hat guys and my father. And all I wanted...all I needed was you. And you weren’t here.” Her sobs continued as Jughead rubbed wide circles on her back. Betty twisted in his lap to give him better access and he adjusted her to straddle him. Her lips rested on his neck as she caught her breath. “Everything feels so much better when you’re holding me.”

 

Jughead squeezed her in response, bringing her even closer to him and effectively bringing her mouth to push gently on the skin of his neck. And what started as an accident soon became intentional. A timid, slow kiss, and then another in the same place as before and another closer to his jaw. And it was at that point that Jughead took her hands and leaned himself back to look into her eyes.

 

“Holding you is perhaps my one and only divine purpose, but I really need a shower.”

 

“But you taste so good right now.” Betty said and promptly blushed. These damn brain damaged moments. “I mean...well, that’s exactly what I meant.”

 

Jughead brought his nose to meet hers, his eyes filled with mirth. “Just a quick shower and I promise I’ll still taste good. Maybe even better,” his words were spoken over her lips so she could feel his breath and his lips move as he spoke. She leaned into him and he leaned back, but by now he was nearly horizontal on the bed and she pushed him back the rest of the way and captured his mouth with hers. Her lips lingered over his as she inhaled and pecked him once more. And then she was off of him and offering her hand to pull him up.

 

“Hurry,” she said. And he did.

 

And yet, he wasn’t fast enough. The emotional and mental stress had taken its toll and when Jughead got back to the bed, Betty was fast asleep on the far side of the bed. The corner of the other side was pulled down in clear invitation, but he still wasn’t sure if getting into bed with her was the right move. He placed a tentative knee on the bed and lifted the covers. Betty turned toward him, her hair across her face and as he leaned over her to swipe it back, she rolled again and Jughead found himself surrounded in her smell and warmth. Exhaustion overtakes him and he justifies staying...just for a few minutes and then he’d go back down to ‘his’ couch to sleep the rest of the night.

 

Instead, Jughead awoke to a barrage of wet kisses on his neck and soft hair between his fingertips. As the kisses traveled up his face, the wet kisses became more sloppy and more odiferous. “Ugh. Hotdog.”

 

He managed to push him off, but as soon as he was released from his sloppy, hairy prison, Betty shrieked and kicked out as Hotdog launched himself on the next available human. The shrieks turned into giggles and then Jughead joined in the sweet torture too. Hot dog nuzzled his way into the crook of Betty’s arm and Jughead nuzzled into her neck as his fingers climbed up her side and dug in just enough to tickle. But Betty wasn’t going to go down without a fight and she was soon lightly digging her nails into the most sensitive part of Jughead’s stomach and ribs until she had pinned him down. Hotdog hopped off the bed, completely wired up, and began chasing his tail and happily bark around the room, but Jughead and Betty were oblivious as Jughead looked up to find an angel perched on his belly, her smiling face looking down on him with a halo of golden hair flying around her face.

 

“Say Uncle,” she said as he mischievously smiled up at her as his hands slid up her ribs, a clear threat.  

 

“Never,” she followed his hands and laced her fingers with his.

 

“Then I’m going to have to torture you more.”

 

Their playful banter and their closeness erased any inhibitions he usually had and he smiled up at her. “I'm yours, Betty. You can torture me if you want.”

 

Betty’s expression shifted as she studied his eyes. She experimentally moved their entwined hands, finding him following her lead and letting her move him as she pleased.  

 

“Mine?” Betty whispered in awe, as if someone had just given her an unexpected and pricey gift.  Jughead nodded, shuffling his thick hair over the pillow and drawing Betty's attention. “My crazy, dark curls?” she said as she unclasped their hands and sifted her fingers through his tresses.

 

Jughead could only groan affirmatively as he relished the feeling of her nails gently scraping his scalp. It brought her attention to his throat.

 

“My muscular neck that makes all these deep groans?” she ran her hands down the column of his neck, her thumbs tracing the sides of his Adam's apple, adding just enough pressure to make his heart leap and his dick jump.

 

“Yes,” he hissed and now she was caught by his wide, full mouth turned down in the most beautiful bow shape she could imagine on a man.

 

“Is this my mouth?” she asked and she tugged on his jaw so that his mouth gaped open enough so she could slip her thumb just inside and tease his tongue and bottom lip. The sensation too much for Jughead, he briefly closed his eyes and brought his hands to Betty’s hips, grinding her down on him for a moment before he opened his eyes and caught her gaze.

 

“All yours.”

 

This time Betty was shocked into silence as he rolled his hips into her again. She gasped and fell forward a little, bringing her hands to his chest to stay steady.  

 

“That feels...really nice. Why does that feel so…” he rolled his hips again “ahh...nice?”

 

“I'm sure I don't know what you mean.” Jughead teased and froze. Betty looked alarmed.

 

“No..please don’t stop. I don't want to think about anything else.  Just you and this feeling.”

 

“What feeling, Betts?” Jughead prodded as he spread his fingers around her sides.

 

“I'm just so safe here.” Jughead lifted his hands to her face and leaned up so he could look directly into her eyes.

 

“You are safe here, Betts. You're in control and I'll do whatever I have to to protect you, except take away your choices.”

 

“You've said that before,” Betty rolled her eyes.

 

“Because I mean it.”

 

Betty went quiet, her eyes studying the moles on his bare chest, as she thought about everything he'd said and finally she looked up at him.  

 

“Thank you, Jug. I appreciate that you want to let me be independent and make my own decisions, but I'm tired. I don't want to be in control right now…” she looked down shyly before continuing, Jughead just held his breath as she spoke. “I trust you. I want you to...I want to be yours too. I want you to be in control.”

 

Jughead blew out a long breath and lifted Betty off of him. He got out of bed, Hotdog instantly back on his feet and hopping around him. Betty curled up into a ball, disappointed that she'd scared him off.

 

“Betty.” Jughead called from across the room. Betty turned watery eyes toward him and was surprised to find him smiling. “You are mine and I'll show you how much I mean that in about ten minutes. But first, I need to take the beast out. I'll be right back” and then as an afterthought he popped his back through the doorway. “And don’t fall asleep!”

 

Betty smiled back at him and Jughead couldn't help but adjust himself in his boxers as the sight of her wild blonde bedhead, her flushed cheeks, her bottom lip disappearing between her perfect white teeth...damn.

He turned quickly and ran down the stairs before he could change his mind (or Betty would change hers).  As soon as the door closed, Betty ran downstairs to use the restroom and brush her teeth and then back up. She studied herself in the mirror and tried her best to tame her hair before she heard the door open again. She was halfway back to bed when Jughead burst through the doorway, having apparently run up the stairs.

 

Betty turned around, surprised, as Jughead took three long steps toward her and lifted her up and carried her to the bed and gently placed her down. His breath was labored as he leaned over her and said “Betty, every inch of you is mine. I want you to stay completely still and completely silent, do you understand?” Betty nodded. “I want to worship and enjoy your body and I don't want you to think about anything but the pleasure I'm giving you.” Betty wet her lips and gasped at his words, but otherwise lay completely still. “Stop me if I do something you don't like or if I hurt you at all, okay?”

 

Betty nodded again and Jughead began at her mouth. He plied her mouth open with his thumb on her chin and she opened to him willingly. He licked inside her leisurely, kissing along her top lip and around, taking longer on her more plump bottom lip. He rubbed his nose against hers and kissed her eyelids, her eyebrows, behind her ears. He lifted her head with one hand and with the other piled her hair above her head so that he could kiss and lick and nibble behind her ears and down her right side of her neck and then he began on her left side. The whole time, Betty lay perfectly still, her eyes closed, simply enjoying the sound of his breathing and the sensation of his mouth.

 

When he finally got to her shoulders, he lifted lifted her oversized T-shirt up her to expose her stomach and then his hands joined his mouth in his exploration. He traced every line and scar on her stomach with a touch and a chaste kiss. He thought about Timothy growing inside of her and then about Robbie and Peter growing together later. And the one they lost that should have been there with them too. Tears slipped out of his eyes, but he wiped them away quickly. Now wasn’t the time to mourn. Now was the time to rejoice. He had Betty back. Back in his life, in his arms, in his bed, and he wanted to worship her. He wanted to learn her all over again.

 

He lifted Betty’s hips to pull the t shirt higher, exposing her breasts. Betty opened her eyes and started to cover herself, but then she caught Jughead’s eyes and he just shook his head, reminding her. “They’re mine, aren’t they?” He said, holding Betty’s gaze.

 

“Yes,” Betty managed to choke out. “Yours.”

 

“Mine,” Jughead said and ran his hands up her stomach, cupping under both breasts and massaging them with his thumb. He worked his way toward their center, “They’re different now,” he said and watched her eyes widen before he could soothe her. “They’re softer, bigger, much more fun.” He smirked and then he leaned down and fit half her left breast in his mouth, tonguing her nipple and making her chest lift involuntarily. “Mmm. And so much sweeter than I remember.” He sampled the other side, switching back and forth until she couldn’t help the soft whimpers or her gyrating hips.

 

“Betty?” Jughead said, backing up a little to take in the whole package, her tiny sleeping shorts and her hips quivering inside of them and her stomach rising and falling as she tried to control her breathing, and especially her open mouth and eyes that relayed so much trust, desire and innocence. Fuck, that was sexy.

 

“Yeah. Yes.” She replied, her hands gripping the sheets under her.

 

“I take it back now, move with me baby. We’re in this together.” Betty smiled and the sat up and held his face in her hands as she pulled him in for a kiss.

 

“Jughead Jones.” She said, when she pulled away. Her eyes widened and she shook her head as if in disbelief as she realized how much she wanted him. “I want you. All of you.”

 

Jughead couldn’t wait any longer. It wasn’t just that he wanted to release, which would be so fucking sweet when that came, but he was tired of being separate from her. So, so tired of it. He needed to be a part of her again. “I don’t want you, Betty. I need you. I fucking need you.” He pulled her panties down to her knees and then gently laid her down so he could take them off each leg. He risked a look between her legs and sucked in a breath. It was an embarrassing fact that Jughead had masturbated to fair amount of porn over the years. He’d even encountered a few vaginas in person in the last few years, but none had ever compared to Betty. While he knew that labia’s shape and size and color was different for everyone, Betty truly had the most perfect pussy he’d ever seen. Her plump outer lips perfectly framed the most tantalizing inner ones, which were just visible enough to tease, and later to taste. God, he couldn’t wait to taste her, to simply cover his mouth in her, inhaling her scent and drinking her release. She lifted her hips impatiently, but Jughead took it as an offering.

 

He framed her pussy with his thumbs, his other fingers on her as he inhaled her as if she was nourishment and fuck, he was hungry. She tasted as good as he remembered, musky and tangy, but it was the other senses that truly reveled in the experience. He could hear her panting and chanting, “Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my fucking god. Juggie. Juggie. Jughead.” He could smell her sweat and her arousal, so familiar and arousing. He could feel the muscles in her thighs fight his fingers to fuck his face more thoroughly and her lips grow more engorged with blood as he continued to lavish her with his tongue and gently scraping teeth. And finally, what he saw. He saw her stomach undulating, her breasts heaving, and her mouth and eyes wide open as she looked down and watched him take her with his mouth, thrusting his tongue in over and over and over until her eyebrows worried and her eyes closed tight and she let out a hoarse moan and soaked his mouth with her liquid relief.

 

Jughead sat up, and watched her recover, her legs still open wide for him to see her soaking pussy and her head and hands restlessly moving as she came down from her first high. After a minute she looked up at him again. “Didn’t I say I wanted all of you?”

 

“I think you may have mentioned something to that effect.”

 

“Then let me have you.” Betty opened her legs up wider, her feet flat on the bed and reached down and opened herself up for him with both hands, exposing her slick channel. “Put it in me, Jug. I need it. I need it right now.”

 

“Fuck, Betts.” Jughead managed to utter as he took a hold of himself and circled her pussy, gathering moisture to on the head of his cock before pushing just the tip into the beautiful channel she held herself open for him.

 

“Oh my god, Jughead.” Betty groaned in utter ecstasy. He pulled out and fucked her just with the tip, letting the head of his cock pop in and out of her.

 

“Shit, that feels so good, Betts. Holy fuck.”

 

“I said all of you, Jughead.” Betty admonished with a frustrated growl and Jughead responded with a long, full thrust inside of her.

 

“Yes! That’s it. I’m..oh my god.” There was so much about Betty that was familiar to him. Her scent and taste, her expressions and the frustrated noises she made, but this was something entirely different. As Jughead thrust deep and long into her again, her eyes opened and steeled into him, penetrated him with her serious and urgent gaze. “Again!” She screamed and on the third thrust Betty yelled the longest, most passionate “Fuck!” Jughead had ever heard come out of Betty’s mouth. Her pussy quivered and pulled around him and it came as such a shock that his orgasm came too quickly to pull out.

 

“Shit,” he said, as he pulled out of her to finish the last few streams of cum on her soaking wet pubic hair, combining their cum together.

 

"I missed you," Jughead murmured into Betty's neck as he collapsed on top of her.

 

"I missed you." She nodded slowly, still out of breath and Jughead wondered if she knew how much he'd meant it. 

Chapter Text

“I missed you,” she’d said and Jughead wondered again about time and the relativism. How can you miss someone you’ve only known for two weeks? But there was something in her face that reminded her of of a different Betty. Recognition, he thought. She opened her mouth to speak again, and he could see in the tilt of her head and the furrow of her brow that it was going to be something important.

“I think it’s about time I tell...oh my god. Time. What time is it? Is it Monday? Shit!”

With surprising strength, Betty shoved Jughead off of her, nearly pushing him off the bed as she scrambled off the bed and grabbed her phone to check the time. “Shit!. Shit shit shit. I have to be there in ten minutes.” Betty began hopping around the room and Jughead just froze on the bed, watching her ample ass wiggle as she walked, her breasts jiggle as she pulled on panties and her long legs reappear at the other end of a mauve pencil shirt. “Get up, Juggie, you have to drive me!” Betty came close to grab his hand, but he just pulled her into him and latched his mouth on her right breast while maintaining eye contact. He ran his hands around her waist and tested her soft curves.

 

“No.” He said, not unpetulantly. Betty giggled and Jughead switched to her other nipple, lapping at it just enough to harden it to a nub, just perfect for tweaking.

 

“Yes!” She exclaimed and one hand grabbed his hair to hold him closer while the other pushed his shoulder away. Neither of them new if she was arguing or encouraging him.

 

Either way, Betty popped out of FP’s truck as the warning bell rang, meaning that as faculty, Betty was over thirty minutes late. She spun and grabbed her messenger bag and purse, bagel and coffee and kicked the door closed with her foot and then as an afterthought, turned and yelled “ThanksJuggieLoveYou” through the open window. With another pirouette took the steps two at a time to the front entrance of the school.

 

She didn’t mean it, Jughead thought. It was a habit. A habit of something she didn’t remember? Jughead frowned in thought minutes after the doors had closed and the second bell had rung. “Curious,” he murmured to himself as he drove out of the parking lot.

 

Having lost their weekend to look for their son with Jughead in jail, Jughead decided he’d do what he could on his own - between checking on his dad, the volunteering he’d signed up for with the serpents and working on shaping his latest work based on his editor’s emails he’d missed.

 

He headed home first, smirking at the rumpled and ruined bedsheets before throwing them in the stackable washer in the kitchen and then after two bowls of cereal (there was still milk in the bowl after the first round) he set to work on his edits. He was near the end of the project, so he hoped he could this would be close to the final edit before it went on to publication. Writing for an online publication meant fairly shitty pay usually, but he’d managed to make a name for himself. He’d maintained a steady writing pace and had readers clambering for more of his writing. The best part was that the publication costs were so low that he’d managed to persuade his publisher to give him a bigger percentage of the combined earnings. It also meant socializing with his readers, or even his publishers, was kept at a minimum.

 

He had just submitted the latest, and hopefully last changes to his project, which would be published at a rate of one chapter per week for twenty-eight weeks, when his phone alerted him to a call from Sweet Pea.

 

“Yeah,” he answered.

 

“How’s the beast?”

 

Jughead rubbed Hotdog’s side with his socked foot, “lazy, stinky and still alive, for better or worse.”

 

“Well, we’re ready for Betty to finish up her initiation tonight, if she’s ready.”

 

“Yeah, about that...how does that work these days? The changes I made still in place?”

 

“Yup. You think she can handle it?” Jughead shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair with his free hand.

 

“Yes. No. I don’t know, but it’s not my choice, man. I promised her I wouldn’t protect her from her own choices and I’m going to stick by that...I think.”

 

“You’re a better man than me, Jones. Or maybe less of one. Who the fuck knows. See you at 7?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Oh, and Jug.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I heard about Andrews man, that’s some fucked up shit. Especially how they tried to pin his attempted suicide on you. Any news about him?”

 

“Nah. I’m staying away from it. Have you asked around about Timothy?”

 

“I got a guy heading over to the hospital Ticker was at right now. Hopefully he’ll have some news to share tonight. See you later.”

 

“Later,” and they hung up.

 

Jughead had never wanted to be a father and now he didn’t even know who he’d be fathering. Hopefully, Timothy, but what about Betty’s son’s through Jason Blossom? He and Betty hadn’t had a chance to discuss how she felt about yet, they’d just needed comfort and sleep in the last twelve hours. And speaking of kids, Jughead realized, he’d cum inside of Betty today. Was she on any kind of birth control? Fuck, probably not. Would the list of crazy, stressful shit they had to talk about ever end.

 

Jughead sighed, stood and stretched. He had no idea what the hell he was going to do about being father and it wasn’t like he’d had any kind of decent example to live up to, but FP was still Jughead’s family and his only remaining support system aside from the tenuous relationship he had with the serpents and Veronica and Kevin. And of course Betty. He thought again about her swaying hips as she got dressed this morning, about how had her breasts had shifted up and down as he’d sunk his length into her this morning. About how she’d held herself open to him, demanded him.

 

Jughead shivered and tried to retrace his thoughts...that had escalated fast. Sex with Betty. Oh yeah, he’d come in her. Fatherhood. Dad. Time to visit FP.

 

As Jughead made his way to the rehabilitation facility where FP was working on remembering how to feed himself and getting dialysis for his fucked up kidneys. As he parked and checked the time. Betty was nearly done with her lunch hour by now and he’d have to pick her up in two hours. He sent her a quick text. “Hope you’re having a good day. I’ll be picking you up on the bike today.”

 

Betty checked the text she’d gotten from Jughead and sent back a quick, “See you soon,” before greeted her sister, who’d just rushed into the room with a flushed face and wide smile. Betty hadn’t, in fact, had a good day. She’d been riddled with guilt as she stepped into school and realized that she had completely forgotten about Petey and Robbie - her son’s who were left with a mad woman for a mother while the only father they knew clung to life in the hospital. Shit. Maybe she shouldn’t be a mother after all.

 

She had a fair amount of things on her mind this whole weekend. Jughead being in jail, the idea that she’d been impregnated by Cheryl’s twin brother, who she didn’t remember at all, her loss of Timothy and the other baby in her belly were only the tip of the iceberg. In the last weekend she’d changed her living situation and lost and made friends. She’d learned to cook, she’d made love and, most importantly, she’d begun to remember. She wasn’t sure if it was the dramatic decrease in medication, giving her more energy and cognizance than she’d had since she woke up, or if it was being in a new environment or if it was Jughead who brought the memories out from the recesses of her mind. She only knew that they were coming at an exponential rate. Little things here and there, most of them seemingly irrelevant to her life. She remembered riding her bike and feeling of pulling her Barbie helmet off her sweaty head and feeling the breeze cool her neck. She remembered getting gas for the first time and spilling it all over her shoes and the strong odor that accompanied the mess. She remembered Veronica kissing her at cheerleading practice and Cheryl’s mean girl response with a flourish of her long hair and a sneer.

 

“Betty, Betty, Betty. I talked to mom.” Polly said as she burst into the room where Betty had just been finishing her lunch.

 

“Okay...that doesn’t usually make you happy.” Betty pursed her lips and furrowed her brows.

 

“I know, but I asked her about him. About your little boy.”

 

“Oh my gosh. What did she say? Does she know where he is?”

 

“Yes. She knows where he is. He’s safe. She told me about how she had to give him up because the Blossoms were threatening to pull strings and get your doctors to let you go. They all, apparently saw you as some sort of threat, though I’m still not sure how...Anyway, she dropped him off with the Serpents and thought they’d take care of him, but then she lost sight of him. She hoped he was safe, but couldn’t go looking for him because they were still holding your life over her head. So they made a deal to get you pregnant with Archie’s sperm  and they’d keep you alive.”

 

“Polly, It wasn’t Archie’s sperm though. You know that right?” It was now Polly’s turn to give her sister an unconvinced look.

 

”No, trust me, Mom said...” she was cut off by the ring of a bell which meant the lounge was about to be filled with the next group of students with their free period and Polly needed to get back to her own classroom. “Ugh. Okay. I’ll catch you after school.” And before Betty could call out, a group of students began their descent down the stairs and Polly was already squeezing past them. Great, now Betty was going to be responsible for telling her sister that Robbie and Petey weren’t just Polly’s girls’ cousins, but also her half brothers. Betty’s stomach rolled a little, but she swallowed it down and turned on her Cooper charm for the students.

 

After school, Betty walked down the steps and saw Jughead eating an apple in the shade of a tree on the front lawn. Her stomach did a little flip as she watched his jaw move and noticed his biceps shift as he held his apple firm so he could bit into it. How could he effect with just by eating a piece of fruit? Betty almost laughed, but then felt an arm on her elbow. Turning around, she saw Polly, who hooked her arm into hers and they wordlessly walked to Jughead.

 

Jughead moved in and pulled Betty into his side. “Hey Pol.” He greeted.

 

“Juggie, Polly has information about Timothy.”

 

“Hi Jug, right so as I was saying. I talked to mom and she told me all about giving the baby to the Serpents because she was afraid of what the Blossoms would do. And she told me about how Petey and Robbie are actually her and Archie’s”

 

“Polly, that part’s not true,” Betty tried to interrupt her, but in true big-sisterly fashion, Polly only rolled her eyes at Betty.

 

“Hush, Betty. Anyway, she admitted that Penelope used Timothy later to blackmail mom into keeping quiet. She said they would let the hospital remove you from the medical coma and provide a for Timothy, me and my family, mom and you as long as she gave all of her assets to the Blossoms, including the house, and sign a non-disclosure agreement. Apparently, the deal was also based on the fact that you weren’t allowed to remember anything from your former life. They gave you tons of drugs to keep you from remembering and tried to remove anything from you life that might trigger anything.

 

Betty and Jughead held similar expressions of shock and terror on their faces.

 

“They’re crazy. They’re completely crazy.” Betty said, and spun in a circle trying to collect her thoughts. Jughead just shook his head quietly, his hands stuffed in his pockets. They both forgot all about telling Polly about Petey and Robbie’s true parentage as they tried to wrap their mind around the truth.”

 

“So, mom was protecting me?”

 

“She’s broken up about it, Betty. She’s a complete mess. She hates who she became. Honestly, she’s so unhinged, I’m kind of afraid for her...if Penelope doesn’t find out she blabbed and does something, I’m kind of afraid we’re going to lose her to herself.

 

Betty’s belly flipped and Jughead’s eyes shot to read Betty’s expression. Seeing her face whiten, he placed a steadying hand on her shoulder and gave a comforting squeeze. Betty wiped away a stray tear and refocused. “Polly, you said something about knowing where he is…”

 

“Yes. He is safe and alive, but I’m sorry to tell you this. He’s at the Sister’s of Quiet Mercy.”

 

“Fuck.” Jughead and Betty said in unison.

Chapter Text

As they drove back to the cabin to eat dinner before the initiation, Betty and Jughead updated each other on new information. As soon as Betty had finished briefly reviewing what Polly had said, Jughead told her that she’d be going through initiation that night, wincing when she got a happy look on her face.

 

Jughead sighed, “Betts, that’s not necessarily good news. The serpent's...I’m not supposed to talk to you about the initiation.”

 

“But you’re going to anyway?"

 

“You didn’t hear it from me, but you’re going to have to-“

 

“Stop, Jughead,” Betty grabbed Jughead’s knee, “I’m remembering more and more every day. Earlier I remembered that conversation about when we broke up.”

 

“We talked about that.”

 

“I know, I know. But I remember before that too. I remember dancing in front of all those people. It was in front of them, but it was for you. But Juggie, this time it’s not for you. The more I remember about myself, about us, I know that this is a decision I need to make regardless of what you want. It’s not that I don’t want your input on things, I do, but I know what it means to be a Serpent. And I want to do this on my own.”

 

“Betts, I can’t. I can’t let you do this alone. I’m sorry. I lo-. I love you too much.”

 

“Juggie. I love you too, but don’t worry. I meant that I had to go in there without the extra intel. I still want you physically by my side.”

 

Jughead let out a loud breath and short laugh. “You’re going to kill me, Betts. Shit. It’s a good thing we only have sons, because daughters would probably give me a heart attack before I was fifty.”

 

“Jughead Jones, that is such chauvinist thing to say. Wait, did you just say sons? Plural? Not just Timothy?”

 

Jughead adjusted his beanie before nodding, “Well, I mean. If you want. Petey and Robbie are your sons too. It’s up to you. If you want them to be part of our lives. Or your life. Or...I don’t know.”

 

“I don’t know yet. Cheryl and Archie are the only parents they’ve ever known, but I can’t imagine Cheryl is going to just give them up. I don't know, Cheryl has done horrible things, Jug. With Archie gone, potentially forever, what's to stop her from going full psycho?”

 

“Nothing, except maybe losing her inheritance? What do you want to do Betts?”

Betty sighed and shook her head. As usual her conversation with Jughead had helped her clarify her thoughts, “I don’t want her around those boys.  Honestly even Freddy and Charlie shouldn’t be around her. She’s a monster...” Betty’s voice broke, but it wasn’t in sadness or desperation. It was anger. I violent cloud of emotion that felt disturbing, but also not unfamiliar.

 

“Betty,” She could hear him calling her, but her clenched jaw refused to allow her to respond. “Betts!” He said louder, but it wasn’t until he grabbed the hand from his knee.

 

“What?” Betty managed between gritted teeth.

 

“You’re doing it again.”

 

“What?”

 

Jughead reached across her lap to grab her right hand and she could see now the rent skin in her palm. She held up the other hand, but realized that she’d been holding Jughead’s knee the whole time and her nails had torn through the fabric of his jeans. “Oh. I’m..I’m sorry.”

 

Jughead sighed, but there was no relief in it. He brought her hand to his lips. “I know you. I know what it means when you do this, but you don't have to go into this darkness alone. I promise you Betty, Cheryl and her mother are going to pay. She tore our family apart and nothing is going to stop us from ripping them down and putting us back together again. Do you believe that we can do that?” the truck skid to a halt in front of the cabin and Jughead turned his intense gaze to Betty's drawn face.

 

A shiver ran down Betty's back in response to Jughead’s menacing tone, but the words, ‘I know you’ echoed in her mind, looking for a place to land. “I believe in you, Jughead Jones.” She leaned across the bench seat of the truck so he could pull her into his arms and her mouth went to his neck, where she left tiny, open mouthed kisses all up the column of his neck.

 

Jughead groaned and stilled her hands, which were creeping up his shirt. “Baby, just let me hold you.  We're having a moment.”

 

With her hands captured, Betty used her body instead, writhing and rubbing against him like a cat in heat. “No,” she breathed into his ear before gently nipping the lobe.

 

Jughead gasped and tried again, letting her hands go and cradling her face in his palms, but as he pulled her away so he could make eye contact, she dropped her head back, exposing the creamy skin on her  neck. “We should,” Betty interrupted him by wiggling her bottom over his crotch, “Shiiit. At least. Unh-go inside.”

 

But Betty just lifted her skirt and shifted so  that Jughead’s erection fit neatly between her thighs. “No,” she said again and she swiveled her hips. “You do something to me Juggie.” Betty breathed into his mouth as she spoke, teasing his lips with her own. “When you get all protective of me and our boys.”

 

Jughead smoothed his hands down his back and gripped her waist so he could lift her and part her knees and deposit her back on his lap in a straddle. “You're mine to protect” he whispered his explanation into her neck. “All of you.”

 

“And when you call me baby,” Betty added as she stretched her shirt down so that her ample cleavage heaved a mere inch from his slightly open mouth.

 

“I'll take care of you, baby,” Jughead said as he drew down the cups of her bras and shirt and then kissed and kneaded her breasts.

 

“And when you wrap your hands around the back of my neck and control me.”

 

He answered by sliding one hand up her chest and wrapping his long fingers around the side and back of her neck, his thumb tucked under her chin kept it tilted up. She was totally exposed and perfectly open to him.

 

He knew his girl. Even after nearly every single person in her life had betrayed her, she'd lost her trust countless times. But not with him. Time and again, in times not remembered and in those more recent,  Betty exposed herself to him. She held her heart and her body open for him because she trusted him implicitly. For someone who had never had the benefit of the doubt, even when he thought he'd had, it was precious gift. Precious and sexy as fuck.  

 

His mouth left her breast and he took over her mouth with his, pulling her towards him with one hand while the other hand flicked each nipple in turn causing little jolts of pleasure realized in sharp intakes of breath through Betty’s nose.

 

They were so lost in each others’ breaths and moans that neither of them registered the sedan that pulled up next to them. It wasn't until the sharp rap on the front window that startled them away from each other. Jughead frantically pulled Betty’s shirt back in place while shooting daggers at the interrupting parties. Betty scrambled back to the passenger side of the truck and as soon as she was clear of his his lap, Jughead opened the car door with enough force and speed to clip one of the leering men outside.

 

“God damn it Sweet Pea,” Jughead said, and slammed the car door.

 

“We're here for our prospect.” Sweet Pea looked past Jughead to Betty, who was now fully dressed. “Take her,” Sweet Pea nodded to the serpents he's brought with him and then slid a quick arm over Jughead’s shoulders to keep him from fighting the other serpents off.

 

“What the fuck. We're not supposed to be there for another hour and a half.” Jughead tried shrugging Sweet Pea off, but his grip only tightened.

 

“Well, we thought she deserved a car and driver. Only the best for serpent royalty, after all.” Sweet Pea clapped Jughead roughly on the back as Betty drove away in the back of the sedan driven by a heavy set woman with long, dark braids. “She's in good hands, Jug. We won't let anything happen to her.”

 

Jughead gave him a hard stare, but finally let his body relax. This was Betty's decision to make and he'd promised himself, God (even if his faith was dubious at best) and Betty that he wouldn't make the same mistake twice.  “She'll be okay,” he told himself more than Sweet Pea.

 

“She will,” Sweet Pea agreed. “Now, if you don't mind. I kind of need a ride back to the Wyrm.”



Betty had always been a quick study, Jughead thought as he stood with the rest of the serpents watching Betty recite the Serpent Creed. He could see that grabbing the rattlesnake scared her a bit, but she didn't hesitate.

 

With only the gauntlet left, Jughead turned toward the bar. The rules for women were different now and their version of the gauntlet didn't require men. Finding a seat, he turned to watch her golden braid disappear through the back door of the bar escorted by every female member of the club.

 

Betty, in her limited memory, couldn't remember feeling so scared and alone as she felt surrounded by the expressionless faces of the women forming a circle around her.

 

The only faces she knew were Toni and Ethyl and somehow their stony visages scared her even more.

 

Rough hands grabbed at her and pulled her. No words were said as she was passed around, her body twisting and her eyes dizzying as she went. When she's gone around the circle a few times, she was thrown on the ground, but she got up quickly.

Toni stepped forward first. “You're a worthless, rich little bitch.  You don't belong here.” she screamed so close to Betty's face that Betty could nearly taste the Spirit cigarettes she'd been smoking.  

 

Toni shoved her toward a blond woman with dark eye makeup and sideways smile. “You ugly nasty slut,” she spit.

 

And on it went.  

 

“Brain damaged freak” “Scarred up hag.” “Northside bitch.” And on and on.

 

When each member had had her turn to berrate and degrade her with their words, Toni stepped forward.

 

Betty was breathing hard and her head was swimming.  Her heart hurt with hurt, but her mind burned with a stubborn grit.

 

“Being a serpent means the world will think the worst of you Betts Cooper. You're not a person, barely even a person. You're Southside Serpent Scum for the rest of your miserable life. Is that really what you want?” Toni spit over Betty's face as she spoke.

 

Betty took a deep breath and narrowed her eyes. “Fuck everyone else. This is who I am. This is who I want to be.” Betty matched Toni’s ferocity and suddenly the air shifted filled with the sound of three dozen whooping women and Betty was passed around again, but the impassive faces were gone. Instead, the faces of her Serpent Sisters shined back at her. Toothy and gold-decorated smiles beamed at her, warm hands with elaborate manicures caresses her hands and face, perfumes leather jackets gripped her in hugs and for the first time that Betty could remember since she woke up, she felt like she was home.

Chapter Text

Betty wakes in a bed that she doesn’t recognize. Surrounded by people she can’t place. In a large room that she doesn’t remember. And for a moment, she’s paralyzed with fear. She focuses on what she knows. Her name is Betty Cooper. Hal Cooper is her father. Alice is her mother. Her mother lives with Penelope Blossom. Penelope Blossom took her son. Her and Jughead’s son. Timothy. Jughead. Timothy, she needs to find Timothy. And Penelope Blossom’s daughter is Cheryl. Cheryl forced her to have two more sons. Robert and Peter. She needs to look out for them too.

The rest of her memories of the last few weeks come less painfully and more quickly after that. The women around her are her new sisters in Serpenthood. And speaking of serpents, her ouroboros tattoo is still raw and angry, but beautiful on the inside of her forearm and it reminds her of Jughead, who she hasn’t seen since Sweet Pea borrowed her from the cabin and her initiation had began. She needs to find him, partially because she misses him and wants to reconnect with him, but also because she’s going to get her son. Their son.

Betty wakes her new sisters one by one, starting with Ethyl and Toni and they wake up the rest. Together, they make coffee and do each other hair and make up - their war paint, really, and then they go off in search of their men.

Betty dials Veronica’s number as she goes in search for Jughead. She doesn’t have to look far for Jughead. The men had all been kicked out of the bar, as was the new custom when there was a newly minted female member, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t be in the parking lot. And that was where Betty found her sleeping spouse, spread uncomfortably across the bench seat of the his father’s beat up pick up.
“Hello?” came the sleepy reply of Veronica.

“It’s Betty. We’re on our way to the Sister’s of Quiet Mercy to get Timmy. Can you meet us there?”

“Oh shit. We’re doing this, huh? Sure thing mami, where are you now?”

“I’m at the White Wyrm. It’s a bar on the southside -” Betty began.

“Oh, I know about the Wyrm. In fact, I’m in the top floor of it right now. I happen to have a little piece of side tail here I like to visit every so often.”

“Wait...what?” Betty turned and looked back the building, only now noticing the set of windows in the top story of the bar. Veronica appeared in an over-sized black t shirt in the far left window, her hair in the messiest pony Betty had ever seen on the normally crisp-looking lawyer. And just behind her a tall shirtless man appeared, placing a lazy hand on her hip and smiling down at Betty too. “Holy shit. Sweet Pea...how did I not know this?”

“It’s not exactly common knowledge, but he’s warming up to the idea of making it public, right Pea?” Betty saw Veronica turn to look at the Serpent leader behind her and he just rolled his eyes.

“Great, you’re here. Let’s just call Kevin and get him here too and then we can leave.”

“Oh, don’t worry B. He’s here too.”

“What? Okay, nevermind...tell me later. Can we please just go get my baby now?”

“Sure thing.” Veronica hung up and turned to go back into the apartment as Betty turned back to the window of the pick up.

She almost hated to wake him, but she couldn’t wait another moment to put her plan into action and reunite them with their son. Jugghead startled awake when she reached across the window and swiped her hand across his downturned mouth. He captured her hand as he startled, but after a moment he realized it was her. He softened his hold and brought her hand back to his mouth to kiss her knuckles and then turned her hand over to kiss her palm, which was when he caught sight of the angry new image on her arm. He stopped mid-kiss and smiled sadly.

“And so it’s done,” he said softly.

“Almost. Apparently, in order to be in a motorcycle club I also have to ride a motorcycle.” Betty rolled her eyes in faux frustration. “But they gave me a year to get a license. Until then, you’ll have to give me a ride.”

“I think I can do that,” Jughead responded, but the innuendo was lost on Betty.

“And right now. I need a ride to the Sisters of Quiet Manipulation.”

Jughead sat up quickly and started the car as Betty ran around the side to get into the passenger seat. “We’re going to get our boy?” Jughead had to ask, he needed to hear it.

“Damn right,” Betty said and Jughead peeled out of the lot, an army of leather clad Serpents rode behind them.

It took forty five minutes to reach the dilapidated old nunnery and in that time, Betty had called Kevin and Veronica and arranged for seprents to escort them there too. They were going to intimidate the fuck out of those nuns, but they were also going to do it legally. Betty couldn’t take a chance of losing their son again. And so, not only were they met in the parking lot with their lawyers, but every serpent who could be called upon in the short time they had to organize this maneuver, some fifty or so men and women.

Even so, the nuns had their own show of force with no less than a dozen armed guards and the angry, red faces of a twenty middle-aged nuns who sweltered in their black, wool robes.

A very tall and thin nun stepped out of the crowd and greeted them with a stern pinch of her lips she thought was a smile. “Welcome to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. I am the Mother Superior. Can we help you...people, with something?”

Sweet Pea, Jughead and Betty stepped forward and Kevin and Veronica took their place just behind them. Betty reached for Jughead’s hand. “We’ve come for our son, Timothy. He was stolen from us and we want him back. Now.”

The nun’s face twisted in the most disgusting grimace Betty could imagine before responding, “I’m afraid that’s impossible. He was a ward of the state and he has now been formally adopted by me. I am his mother and he isn’t going anywhere.”

Veronica procured a document and handed it to Betty, who in turn offered it to the nun. “This is proof that that he was taken without the proper waiving of parental rights, which makes any further legal declarations on his adoption status null and void.” Betty said carefully as Veronica coached her quietly in her ear.

The Mother Superior simply glared at the piece of paper in Betty’s hand and said, “I’m afraid we can’t help. Please get off our land before you are removed from it. And have a blessed day.” She turned and led her troops back into the old wooden door, leaving the serpents confused and unsure in their wake.

“We’ll come back with a court order,” Kevin yelled, and Jughead was pretty sure he heard a cruel laugh echo inside the dark hall the nun had disappeared into. Betty started forward as the last guard filed inside and turned to the close the door. Just as he locked the left side of the door, however, a slim child around the age of 10 slipped out and ran toward the group.

“Stop, kid,” the guard yelled out, but he was too fast and darted around the guard slow hand.

“You’re here for Timmy?” the child approached Betty and Jughead directly.

“Yes, he’s our son.” Betty responded reaching for the boys hands, which Jughead and Betty noticed were black and purple across the knuckles with bruises.

“He needs you guys, I can show you where he is.” The guard had caught up to him by then and tried to grab him by his collar, but Jughead delivered a swift blow to his nose before shoving him into a nearby serpent.

“Keep him here,” Jughead said and to the boy, “lead the way kid.”

 

___
Timmy Smith remembered the day that he had come to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. In fact, it was his first memory. He had been three years old and up until that point had only ever been treated with kindness, or at the very worst, indifference by the nurses and doctors and the occasional visitors at the hospital where he had spent the first few years of his life. Even the tall, thin lady with the red hair and the scary dark eyes hadn’t been cruel to him. He only remembers that she had been cold. Even through her gloves, her grip on his wrist had chilled him.

But he had tried to charm her, he had always wanted people to like him. He drew a picture of her on his drawing pad, but she had only curled her lip at him and looked out the window. He tried the same tactics with the nuns, but they had taken his drawing out of his notebook and ripped them to pieces in front of him. “Idle hands are the devil’s hands,” they told him. And so if he wasn’t sweeping or scrubbing, mixing or kneading, his hands were whipped with a long stick each of the nuns seemed to keep her somewhere in her skirt. One of the older boys, Jersey, said they pulled it out of their butts and then put it back in there when they weren’t using it to beat the boys.

Timmy had thought that perhaps he could still draw his stories, if he was quiet and careful about it, but Jersey’s words thumped in his ears when Sister Rainard found his scraps of paper in his pillow with his drawings because she had pulled down his pants and taken out her ruler and he was terrified she would put in HIS butt. Instead, she had beaten the backs of his legs and buttocks until they were bleeding and then the nuns had taken away his pillow and bed as punishment after turning over everything in his room to make sure he wasn’t hiding anything else. Later, Mother Superior Guld had kneeled down in front of him and stroked his hair and told him that they had done it all out of love, didn’t he want to be loved? His parents didn’t love him, but the nuns did. And the Mother Superior did. And she was right, he really did, more than anything, want to be loved. So he had cried and said he was sorry and told her that he loved her too and she had left him there and locked the door.

That was where he lied for two days. Jersey had brought him food and water and helped him to the bathroom and then brought him back to lay on the hard, cold floor of his cell. On the morning of the third day, his door opened and Timmy’s faulty and broken heart hammered in his chest when he saw that there were several adults in the doorway and he was sure it was the nuns to force him to work again. A figure stooped low and Timmy was both afraid and hopeful that it was Mother Superior, who hurt him and loved him so.

Instead, it was an angel. With green eyes and dark lashes like his and a kind face and golden hair. There were tears in her eyes and a set in her jaw and Timmy immediately wished he were allowed to draw her.

“Are you a dream?” he asked.

“No, honey. I’m your mommy,” the angel said. Timmy furrowed his brow in a way that Betty could see was just like his father, and then promptly began to cry. He had always wanted a mommy, he thought, but this had to be dream.

“Don’t cry, Tim. We’ve come to take you home.” said a deeper voice and a man with downturned mouth like his own bent down too, and put his hand on the angel’s shoulders. Where the woman looked she had fallen from heaven, the man in the leather jacket and dark hair looked like he’d been sent by the devil himself. “Do you want to come home?” he said, and Timmy wondered if his kind voice was a trick or not.

What kind of torture was this? Did Mother Superior decide to send him away because of his drawings? Maybe if he was obedient, these new people would come to love him instead, if she didn’t want him..

“Okay,” he said, and tried to stand, but immediately fell and the angel and the devil man were by his side in an instant and he knew that he’d already let them down, for their faces turned dark and angry. When they reached for him, he flinched and closed his eyes, but their hands weren’t rough at all. The angel pulled him onto her chest so that his head was on her shoulder and the devil man took off his dark coat and layed it over him so that he felt fully encased and shrouded from the world. It muffled the sound of angry, loud voices, as did the ‘shushing’ sound coming from the angel and the hum he could feel in her chest as she carried him out of the musty brick building.
____

Timmy had been naked from the waist down when Jughead and Betty finally pushed past the angry nuns, led by the young boy who called himself Jersey to the back of the stone building. Dried blood caked his legs as he lay on the dirty, stone floor of a cell the nuns had the audacity to call a bedroom. Jughead very nearly commited murder, fearing the worst kind of violations, but Sweet Pea and Fangs had stepped in and only barely managed to roughly push the nuns out of the way before the hyper-ventilating father lost himself in rage. In the state they found him, the old women were lucky they didn’t all have their own hides tanned and their hands bruised, the way they had treated the children in their charge. Instead of focusing on his anger toward the child-abusers, Jughead focused on his wife and child, throwing his jacket over his son and leading them out of that hell hole.

 

The gang-escort rumbled around the old pickup, along with several cars mixed in. All together there had been eight severely abused children at the sister’s of quiet mercy. Calls and threats had been made and less than an hour later, the children had found new homes with serpent parents and even more serpents came out of the woodwork with carseats and minivans to cart their new charges home. Or rather, straight to the hospital to be checked out professionally, and then home.

Jughead simply shook his head in fury as he drove, willing himself to calm down as tried to get the image of his broken boy on the floor. Betty simply let her silent tears fall as she caressed Timmy’s hair. On the way, Jughead reached across the seat to put his hand on the back of the sleeping boy, who laid on his side between Betty and Jughead. Eventually Betty and Jughead’s hands found each other and they allowed their pinkies to intertwine while keeping a protective hand over their son.

“Where were we Jug? How could we let this happen to him...even a week ago and he wouldn’t have been this...this...damaged. While I was getting a fucking tattoo our son was getting the life nearly beat out of him.”

“Don’t blame yourself Bett’s. This is on a lot of people, but not you. Me? Absolutely, but not you.”

Too emotional to argue, Betty just nodded in response and tightened her hold on Jughead’s hand.

Chapter Text

__
Chapter 14
Parenting came as naturally to Betty and Jughead as it comes for most parents. Not at all.

The hospital had good and bad news for the new parents of the abused children liberated from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. Jughead and Betty were relieved to hear from the doctor that Tim, like the other children, had not sustained any sexual trauma or permanent bodily injuries. However, the children were all severely dehydrated and malnourished with a handful of common infections and pests. Several of the children, including Tim, weighed about half of what they should weight at their ages and they were developmentally quite behind where they ought to be. Unlike the other children, there was the matter of Tim’s heart, but Betty and Jughead were once again relieved to hear that it appeared healthy according to a cursory listen from a pediatrician. However, an echocardiagram was ordered for the following week just to be sure. The child psychologist had more worrying news. Tim, like most of the children, showed signs of emotional disturbance, ptsd and had a likelihood of developing a range of other disorders: depression, eating and sleeping issues among them.

Over the course of the long day at the hospital, as Jughead watched over his family and seethed over the injustice of it all, unable to bring himself to connect to Betty and Tim, afraid his emotions would be contagious. Tim simply clung to his mother and hid his face when anyone else would speak to him, whether it was doctors, nurses, other serpents or Jughead. Betty had to admit that she secretly loved the physical connection. She took her time noticing his thick, light brown hair as she slid her fingers through it away from his eyes, his sharp green eyes that looked at everyone with the same suspicion but seemed to reserve a sense of reverence when he looked at her and those deep circles under his eyes, all of it so much like his father it was impossible not to absolutely love him. While she lifted him onto her lap so the doctor could hold his stethoscope to his back, Betty buried his nose into his neck and inhaled the smell of her child. Holding him felt so right that she had to hold herself back from squeezing his emaciated body to hard as she longed to simply absorb any of his pain and the years of neglect and abuse he had endured.

They brought him home late in the evening. Betty stayed in the truck with Tim while Jughead ran into Pop’s to grab three burgers and fries, skipping shakes for the night. It would be their first mistake of many as parents. Tim inhaled it greedily, hunched in his chair as if he was afraid it might disappear out of his hands. By the time he got home, the burger and fries, and most Betty’s fries, were gone.

“Here we are, Tim. You’re new home,” Betty had said. Tim slid off the bench seat and out of the truck and promptly threw up his dinner on Betty’s jeans and shoes. He fell to his knees and emptied his stomach as Jughead rounded the truck and rubbed his back soothingly and Betty petted his hair. When there was nothing left in his bony little body, he looked up at Betty’s face in terror.

“I didn’t mean to,” he said, his eyes shiny.

“I know, Sweetie, it’s okay.”

“I’ll do my prayers. I’ll clean it up. I’m sorry,” he babbled.

“Timmy, there’s nothing to be sorry for, honey. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

Tim hung his head and followed Betty in the direction of the cabin. Jughead flanked them and reached out to rest a comforting hand on his son’s shoulder, but Tim’s violent jerk away had him tripping over himself and falling on the ground in terror, covering his head.

“Oh shit.”

“Juggie!” came Betty’s voice from the stairs of the porch as she turned, “What did you do?”

“Nothing! I just touched his shoulder!” Jughead threw his hand up in surrender and then knelt down on the ground. “Sorry buddy, I didn’t mean to scare you.” But Tim just looked at him wide eyed and crab walked away from him and toward Betty.

Betty sat on the stairs as Tim climbed the stairs and snuggled into Betty’s side. Neither Betty or Jughead had realized that other than their initial meeting in the dingy room at the nunnery and the drive to the hospital in which Tim had most certainly been in shock, Jughead and Tim had not had any physical or verbal contact.

“Tim, your dad won’t hurt you. He loves you. He loves me.”

Jughead held his breath, he hadn’t actually said the words to Betty, even if they were true, but desire to connect to Betty about the passing comment dimmed compared to his need to ensure that Tim understood that he wasn’t in any danger from him.

“I do, Buddy. Sometimes I may seem grumpy, but I love you and I won’t hurt you.”

“Mother Superior says she loves me and that’s why she hurts me.”

Jughead tried very hard not to furrow his eyebrows in anger, but the dark thoughts that crossed his mind must have shown through since Tim dipped his face into Betty’s shoulder again.

“She was wrong about that buddy, that’s not what love is.” Jughead kept his voice soft and sidled up on the same step as his wife and child slowly, but gave them enough distance so Tim wouldn’t be scared.

Tim popped his head back out. “She didn’t love me.” and his voice wasn’t just sad. It was resigned. Something he’d known all along, but now it was confirmed. That he was incapable of being loved.

Jughead and Betty shared a forlorn look over Tim’s head. What a match they all were. All children raised by loveless people, but they were determined to break the cycle.

“She was wrong not to love you, bud, but that’s her fault, not yours. You deserve more than that. Your mom and I are going to do everything we can to show you that. Do you understand?”

Rather than nod, Tim looked to Betty, as if for confirmation. It hurt that he clearly didn’t trust Jughead yet, and clearly did trust Betty, but he couldn’t really blame the kid. Even as a child several years younger than Tim was now he had indelibly trusted her, loved her. She was just the kind of person that inspired one to loyalty.

In the chaos of the day, Jughead and Betty had completely forgotten the other dependent they had locked up in the house until a sharp bark and a scurrying sound of paws on wood reminded them. Tim went white and grabbed Betty’s hand while Jughead held in his expletive and ran up the stairs to let out a very anxious sheepdog badly in need of a patch of grass.

Betty swung Tim into his arms, much more easily than she should have been able to if he weighed as much as a typical nine year old, while a bullet of white fur barreled past them to relieve himself. Making quick work of it, he bounded back up the stairs and met his owners as they opened the door, announcing to all that his people were home and that there was a ferocious beast on the premises to defend them. Then he went about the serious business of catching up on their day via the abundant smells on first Jughead’s shoes and legs, followed by an accepting lick on his hand, and then he moved on Betty’s shoes and legs and...what was this? A smaller person who smelled of vomit and fear. Hotdog sat dutifully and expectantly so that he could meet his new person.

“This is Hotdog, Timmy. He’s a very nice dog. Would you like to meet him?”

“Yes, please,” Tim’s eyes shone with excitement. A startling expression that so perfectly mirrored both of his parents when they looked at each other. Betty let him slide down and Hotdog fell to belly and inched forward, making himself as submissive as possible to try to get rid of the fear smell his little person was giving off. It was love at first lick.

Betty dressed Tim in an old shirt of Jughead’s and a pair of her old gym shorts with a drawstring for bed and laid him on the loveseat in the living room. Hotdog took his rightful place on top of him and minutes later, the boy and his dog were settled and sleeping.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Betty whispered to Jughead while they crept up the stairs to their loft bedroom.

“Yeah, actually, other than the vomiting thing I think we got this,” Jughead smiled as watched his wife’s hips sway gracefully in front of him.

Too tired to bring her clothes back downstairs to get ready for bed, Betty opted to simply turn toward her dresser while she changed for the evening. Instead of following suit, however, Jughead watched Betty’s damaged and beautiful body emerge from her now two-day old clothing. He was struck by the domesticity of it all. His child and their dog sleeping fitfully downstairs and his gorgeous wife undressing just a few feet away from him.

He cleared his throat and she turned, in just her panties, her hands folded over her breasts and her mouth open in surprise.

“I didn’t think you’d mind-” she started.

“No, Betts. It’s not that, I don’t mind baby. Just the opposite. It’s just all that beautiful skin...please let me hold you.”

 

“Juggie, I told you before. I’m yours. Of course you can touch me.” He crossed the room to her then, his hand opening from their tight fists to slide over her rib cage. He always loved how he could almost completely surround her body with his fingers. E

“I’m yours too.” he whispered as his hands slid up her ribs to her arms. He held her gaze as he unfolded them and placed them around his neck. Then he returned them to her ribs and pulled her flush against him.

They slid their lips over each other, not a full embrace, but an intentional, hot connection until he couldn’t stand it anymore and he dipped mouth down to hers and drew his hands up her sides, around the edges of breasts and to her jaws to hold her steady while he robbed her of breath.

In return, she nudged backward to the bed until he fell and she straddled him.

And then there was an ear piercing scream from the room below them.

Betty bolted off the bed and into another one of Jughead’s shirts as Jughead groaned and palmed his erection in consolation. “I’ll get him,” she mentioned behind her even as she was halfway down the stairs.

It was a long night filled with rotating nightmares among all three Jones’ and two bedwetting incidents. Apparently, the intensity of their weekend had spiraled into their subconsciousness. When they woke up on Sunday morning, the usually chipper Elizabeth Ann Cooper Jones was in no mood to welcome the sun.

Their morning dragged until around the time that their second pot of coffee was percolating and a call from Joaquin came through on Jughead’s phone and from Kevin on Betty’s.

“Hello,” they answered simultaneously and threw each other a glance and smirk. “Wait, you’re what?” “Holy shit!” They got off the phone and their smirks blossomed into cheerful, all encompassing smiles.

“We’re going to a wedding!” Betty announced excited and Tim and Hotdog look up from the floor where they had been playing tug-of-war with a dog toy.

“And an adoption party!” Jughead added.

Chapter Text

The bell sounded over the door of the children’s boutique in the Northside and a bespeckled woman with light red hair and deep grey roots stepped out from behind a clothing rack. “Good afternoon, and welcome to Childre- Oh! Are you-Can I help you?” the woman’s deep frown had both Betty and Tim taking a step backward, but Jughead was well acquainted with this look. He saw the way her eyes had widened when she saw Tim’s skinny frame and mismatched, missized clothes.

“Our son needs a dress shirt and slacks. Maybe a tie and some shoes.”

“Ah, yes, I see. This shop is quite expensive. There’s a thrift store a few streets away…” the woman vaguely gestured toward the Southside.

“We can afford it. The question is, Madame Defarge, can you afford us?” Jughead pulled Betty into his shoulder, sandwiching Tim between them.

“I’m not sure what you mean.” The woman’s frown deepened down to her jaw, the literary reference clearly both unsettling her as she couldn’t catch the the Dickonian reference.

“Let me introduce myself. The names Jones. I have quite a few friends who live...a few streets away.” Jughead gestured in exaggerated mimicry of the other woman. “And I don’t think they’d be happy about the way you treat your customers.”

“I don’t want any trouble,” the woman ducked behind her counter as she spoke, giving herself distance between her and the natural enemy of lemmings like her.

 

“Neither do we.” Jughead sauntered over to the counter and leaned his elbows on it, bringing his face inches away from the saleswoman. He spoke in an undertone, “I wouldn’t want anything to happen to your little shop. It would be best if you took good care of my son and wife today,” he ended with his most lethally charming smile and a knock on the counter before returning to Betty and Tim.

He bent his long legs so he could come face to face with his boy. “See anything you like, Tim?” Tim turned one way and then the other taking his time and then his eyes lit up and he looked into his father’s eyes and nodded once and smiled before heading in the direction of boy’s blazers. He walked to the back wall where the accessories hung - ties and belts and such. He took a package and brought it back to his parents, holding the suspenders up for their perusal. Betty and Jughead shared a proud and enamored look.

“You’ve got style, kid,” Jughead said. “The only thing missing is a snazzy hat, like this,” he pointed to the grey beanie on his head.

While Betty picked out some more practical clothes Jughead and Tim tried on various hats and accessories, making faces in the full length mirror outside of the dressing room. She made her way over to the boys when she’d made her selections as Tim was doubled over laughing at Jughead, who had stacked several hats on his head and three differently patterned ties around his neck. She rolled her eyes at him, but Jughead just smiled back unabashedly.
“Want me to help you try these on?” She asked Tim with her soft smile, but Tim shook his head and turned to Jughead. He ducked his head, begging his father to realize what he was trying to say without words.

“Betts, Tim’s nine years old. He can try on clothes by himself, can’t you son?” Jughead winked at Tim.

“Oh, yes, of course you can, sweetheart.” Jughead was rewarded with a wink right back and a matching impish smile before Tim took the clothes and walked into the dressing room by himself. Thirty minutes later they were leaving the shop with several bags in hand and a felt newsboy cap. It wasn’t a beanie and it wasn’t a crown, but it was his own look. One picked out by him, but inspired by his parents. He felt nervous and proud and hopeful. More than he’d ever remembered feeling. He was also excited to see the other Mercy Children, as they had always called themselves.

When Jughead parked at the trailer park, he had to admit that he was impressed with how everything seemed brighter. Efforts had been made to decorate with a new potted plant at the front of every trailer, all bright pink rose bushes. A new layer of pea gravel had been smoothed over the previous muddy ruts and the park was free of litter and refuse visible from the main road. Mismatched lawn chairs had been set out along a path and the biggest change was that a massive swing set was being erected in the middle of the park.

Three little girls in matching white dresses with pink embroidery in the shape of rose buds at the hems ran up to greet the car. They were clearly biologically related, with wild light brown tight curls and mocha skin and bright green eyes.
“April!” Tim exclaimed as he hopped out of the car and into the arms of the tallest girl with round purple glasses and huge buck teeth. April laughed and hugged him back. She was a few inches taller than him and swiped off his new cap and promptly lay her cheek against his head.

“I missed you, Ticker!”

“I missed you too,” Tim said forlornly. “I’m sorry I let them take me to the room again. I shouldn’t have been drawing. I knew what they’d do.”

“I missed you too!” The smallest girl put her dirty hands on her hips and stepped forward, ruining the white dress along with April and Tim’s moment.

“Of course I missed you Alex! And you Ana, get over here.” Ana rolled her eyes but joined her sisters in a brief hug that had Tim briefly disappearing in a mass of brown curls.

Jughead and Betty had stood back watching the exchange. It was side of Tim they had yet to see and they were flabbergasted by this sweet and confident nature he was showing with the girls. Betty felt nervous, there was so much she needed to learn about her son and she felt another deep sense of loss for what she should have had. Next to her, Jughead had a different a different feeling emerging in his belly. He knew the look his son was giving this girl, April, too well. There was something entirely satisfying about knowing his son without ever having met him. He got him. Of course he was taking time to warm up to his new parents, that’s what Jughead would have done in the same situation. Of course he didn’t stop drawing, that was his thing, just like writing was Jughead’s thing. He was going to be okay. They were going to be okay. Jughead checked Betty’s face, assuming she was having similar feelings, but his heart dropped at the forlorn expression he found instead.

“Betts?”

“I’m sorry Juggie, it’s just...we lost so much time with him. There’s so much more we don’t know. What if he never warms up to us? He’s already nine, he’s already almost a young man…” she whispered even though Tim was already being led to the swing set where Sweet Pea, Joaquin, Kevin, Toni, Ethyl and several others were either building or offering emotional support.

Jughead tilted Betty chin up with two fingers, “We’re a family, Bets. He’s where he belongs now and that’s all we can do. Move forward, make the most of the time we have.”

Betty nodded and took a steadying breath. She wiped her cheeks and offered a watery smile before Jughead pulled her into his long arms.

“Jug, Betty, we need a few extra sets of hands over here!” Sweet Pea called over, even as Veronica appeared from Sweet Pea’s trailer carrying a pitcher of lemonade on a tray with a stack of cups in a 1950s style navy dress with polka dots and a circle skirt. And her signature heels, of course.

“Oh no, you don’t. Get over here, Betty. These workers need refreshments and you are up for another lesson in food preparation. Actually, I could use one too, but we’ll muddle through it together. Honestly, if wasn’t for Pea and Smithers I’m not sure I’d be able to keep these curves,” she slid her hands down her sides and over her hips in demonstration.

 

"I can't believe you and Kevin are both involved with Serpents. When did that happen? What does Kevin marrying Joaquin mean? Will he be staying here or going back to LA with you?" Betty was, as usual full of questions. Where pre-accident Betty would have measured her questions, the New Betty had the same amount of curiosity, but not a lick of restraint. 

"Okay, the first question. We all knew each other in high school, of course. Joaquin and Kevin were on again, off again for years, but only in the last year have they really started taking things more seriously. I don't know where to begin with Pea and I. Its...complicated. As to your second question, we're branching out. I'll be going back to LA and Kevin will be running a Riverdale office. It won't be as high end, obviously, but I still need his expertise and support." Veronica sighed and wipes a tear aside. "I'm really happy for Kevin.  He's wanted this forever. I don't know. It's just now you're awake and married and Kev is married and I...I've got Smithers." 

Betty may not have been completely caught up on normal social behavior, but hugging Veronica in this moment seemed right. She opened her arms to the brunette, who promptly and naturally fell into her open embrace. Dark met light and Betty was inundated with a fresh set of memories of Veronica's face, younger than now, offering her coffees and cupcakes, looks of concern and support and of her passionate and loyal friend defending her time and again. Betty tightened her hug and simply whispered, "V." 

 

It took an hour to complete the swing set, complete with a sandbox and some rubber mulch at the bottom of the single slide. While the children played on it the adults took turns getting ready for the celebration. Some prepared food, others set up a chuppah and others got dressed in their finest.

The children’s nice new clothes got filthier by the minute. Some of the Mercy Kids, as they were quickly named, were sure they were going to ‘get it’ later, but others seemed to be bouncing back into a childlike state in spite of their trauma. April, Ana and Alex proudly tell anyone who will listen about their handsome new Daddies. How they make the best blueberry pancakes and let them watch disney movies and sing all the songs as loud as they want. Jersey confided that he’s not sure Ms. Toni, but that she seemed ‘pretty chill’ and like that she talked to him like a grown up. Sweet Pea stepped up to foster the three oldest boys, one of whom was thirteen and the other two were fifteen, but Pea was working with Veronica to get them emancipated as soon as each of them was sixteen.

One of the fifteen year old boys, Chuck, complained about Sweet Pea’s stipulations, “I want to join the serpents as soon as my paperwork is done, but Sweet Pea said we all have to finish High School. What a waste of time. He said that was your dad’s rule, not his, but that he stood behind it.” Chuck pointed his chin at Tim.

“That true, Ticker? How come your dad got to make rules.”

“He was the Southside king,” Chuck informed them, “Until he gave it up to be a writer. You’re dad’s kind of a tool, ticker.”

“No he’s not.” Ticker said quietly, his fists clenching the sleeves of his new blazer.

“Whatever, Ticker, who gives up being a leader just to write a story? He’s an id-” but the older boy didn’t finish as something small and bony smashed into his bottom lip and his mouth filled with blood. Jersey stepped in right away and pulled Tim off, but the damage was done.

“You’re such a dirty little shit,” Chuck spit blood at him as he spoke, “Just like Mother said. You’re a nothing. A damned nothing.”

Jughead came running from where he’d been standing a good twenty feet away chatting with Fangs, but damn his kid had a fast right hook and it came out of nowhere. As Jughead ran past the other kids, a slim brown hand reached out and squeezed Jughead’s fingers. He paused and frowned down until he realized it was April. The girl took a step back in fear as Jughead turned on her, but swallowed her nerves and spoke up.

“He’s not nothing. He’s special.”

“I know, honey. I won’t let him think that if I can help that.”

“We won’t let him.” April said firmly. His son even fell for the same kind of girl Jughead had. He smiled and nodded down at her and then took off in the direction he’d seen his son go.

He found Tim behind the Fogarty trailer, petting a very skinny and mottled looking cat. “You okay, buddy?” Jughead sat next to him. “How’s your hand?”

Tim lowers his head and a blush sets up his neck and up to his ears. “That wasn’t the right thing to do, I know. I’m sorry. I still want to live with you and Mommy. Please don’t send me away.”

“Buddy, buddy. We’re not sending you away. Not ever. Well maybe if you’re twenty six and you’re still living at home we’ll give you a little nudge, but otherwise I’m afraid you’re stuck with us.” Tim lifted his head a little and cocked it toward Jughead. He was listening. “I can’t just let you get away with it though.”

Tim lifted stood up and began unbuckling his pants, ready for his punishment.

“Shit, Tim. Er-crap, I mean. Kid, I meant that I can’t let you get away with it without one my lectures. Button your pants, son!”

“Okay?” Tim asked and sat back down.

“Son, whatever issue you had with that kid. He’s might be a total jerk, but he’s not worth getting in trouble for. People like us, we solve our problems with our words, okay buddy? We’re smarter than that. We don’t need to use our fists without good reason.”

“What’s a good reason?”

“Well, I don’t know. One time I defended your mother when someone was saying mean things about her. Even that may have been a mistake, though.” Jughead mused. “I’d say it’s best not to use your fists unless you just don’t have any other options. Self defense or in the defense of others, okay?”

“We’re smart. We use our words, not our fists.” Tim summed it up.

“That’s it, son.”

“It’s Ticker, if that’s okay. You can call me Ticker.”

“Alright Ticker, let’s get back, okay.”

“Okay...but, um.”

“You can ask me anything,” Jughead sat back down.

“Can I - Can I call you Dad?”


“Of course you can, Ticker. That’s what I am.

The ceremony was beautiful. The girls stood under the chuppah with Kevin as Joaquin circled them seven times. Everyone got kisses and instead smashing a glass, everyone took turns pouring different colored sand into a beautiful glass bottle.

“Just like these grains of sand, it would be impossible for this family to be separated into different colors, different personalities.” Veronica said as she ended the ceremony.

A giant “mazel tov” was yelled from one corner of the crowd while others threw rice and others blew bubbles. The celebration ended an hour later after everyone had their fill of hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad and coleslaw. It was a school night and the Mercy children and their parents would be getting up early to enroll them in the local schools.

_____
Tim woke to the sound of Hotdog’s welcome home barks as Jughead pulled into their bumpy driveway. He groggily let the dog lead him to their makeshift bed on the couch. Betty bent down and gave him a kiss on his forehead as she passed by.

“Goodnight Sweetheart.” she whispered.

“‘Night.” he responded sleepily.

“Night, Ticker,” Jughead squeezed his son’s shoulder.

“Night Dad.” Betty turned her stunned face to Jughead, who just smirked back at her. He jutted his chin in the direction of the stairs signaling he would tell her all about it later.

“Dad?” Betty whispered when they were finally crawling into bed.

“Yeah...we had a moment. A few now, actually. I told you everything was going to be okay.”

“Was it because of that lady at the shop?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, how you stood up for us? Took care of us?”

“I told you, you’re mine to take care of. Both of you. I won’t let anyone insult my wife and kid.” Jughead’s chest puffed out a little and Betty couldn’t help but giggle a little.

“My big brave man taking on some stuffy old lady. My hero.” She teased.

“Well Ticker was impressed.” Jughead deflated a little, but his grin was impish.

“Ticker, huh? Wasn’t that what Sweet Pea used to call him when he was still in the hospital?”

“Yeah, I think he prefers that to his given name. Seeing as we didn’t get a chance to choose it either, I think it sounds good.” Jughead was almost defensive and Betty found it ridiculously endearing.

She jumped onto his lap and attacked him with kisses until he was wet in the face and they were both giggling uncontrollably. He turned the tables and started kissing her back whenever she got close, gaining control and finally pushing her backwards enough that she fell back on the bed with a laugh. He dotted kisses down her neck and chest and up to her ears, where things got more serious. She brought her hands up to his face and his followed hers. He entangled their fingers and then he brought them down on either side of her head and pushed them gently, but meaningfully into the pillow.

 

Betty’s breath was hot in his ear as he nibbled along her jaw and she finally found her voice again.

“Juggie, he’s right downstairs.”

“Then don’t wake him, Betts.”

Betty pulled away to look him in the eyes. “Me? What about you?” she whisper-yelled. He smirked down at her and mimed locking his mouth, then bringing the key to her lips and locking them and finally tossing the ‘key’ on the bedside table.

Betty bit her lip and Jughead winked down at her. They managed, just barely, to swallow their laughter by swallowing, instead, each others’ breath. They took turns at first. She pulled off his white undershirt and he pulled off her light blue spaghetti strap nightgown. She pulled down his cotton pajama pants and he pulled off her simple black panties. He brought her the smallest waves of pleasure and then surprised her with an intense moment: he’d run his hands up and down the sides of her breasts and then twisted her nipples just once and let go, he’d grip and massage her ass, bringing his fingers closer and closer to her heat and then thrust one finger into her and pulled it out and fed it to her.

She, in turn, took only deep gasps, but didn’t utter a sound. She sucked hungrily on his finger and when he went to pull it away she chased it and took two fingers into her mouth instead. She sucked hard on them, massaging each of his knuckles with her tongue and letting him slide out slowly. She nibbled on his fingertips and just as he thought she would finally release him she looked deep into eyes and then pushed her mouth down on his long digits, past her gag reflex. She holds them there even as her throat constricted around them and her eyes watered.

But Jughead was determined not to lose their game. Instead of cursing, he let out a long ‘shhhhh’ as he grit his teeth. When his fingers finally emerge from her mouth, wet and red from her ministrations, he pulled her into him instead of groaning. He invaded her mouth with his tongue and she let him, which was almost hotter than sucking on his fingers. He explored thoroughly and as he worked she moved her hand between them and lined his cock up with her entrance. Taking the hint, he pushed himself inside her in slow, shallow thrusts.. He continued to fill her mouth up with his tongue and Betty decided she’s rather lose their little game than not chase the wave starting at her toes as the head of his cock rubbed her fleshy g spot with every pass.

“Yes,” she whispered into his mouth. Jughead growled in punishment and brought both of her hands back over head and held them with one hand, never taking his mouth off of her or stopping the rhythmic pumping of his member into her hot, slickness. With one hand left idle, he brought it down to her nipple and he tugged gently. “Holy fuck,” Betty cried. The extra stimulation was all she needed to finally reach the crest. “Again, again. Harder, fuck.”

“Hush Betts.” Jughead said, but he acquiesced. He tugged even harding on her hard, pink nipple and quickened his pace and she went over the edge.

“Ahhh, Jug. Jughead. Yes. Yes. Yeeeessssss.” And then she was done, pushing him away just before he reached his own orgasm. She left him painfully hard with her cum dripping down over his balls and his mouth numb from the thorough fucking his tongue had done of her sweet mouth. He brought his hand to himself and watched her come down from her intense high.

“Oh my god. That was- I can’t even - It was just -” she said between breaths as her hands found purchase in her hair and chest rose and fell in such rapid succession that her tits jiggled deliciously with each exhale.

“So fucking hot.” Jughead finished for. “You’re so fucking hot. Oh my god, I love watching you come.” She met his eyes, dropped down to where his hand shifted over his erection and then looked back at him with a smirk. Her eyes showed that she was both hungry and sated.

“I love watching you, too, Juggy.” She moved her hands out of her hair down to her breasts, kneading them and tugging her nipples in turn.

“Shit, Betts.” he shivered, “Can I-?”

“Come on me Juggie.” She licked her lips in anticipation. “Come here,” she said, still massaging and tweaking her breasts. He kneeled over her, dick in hand and rubbed his tip over her breasts and hands as she teased and moved her own breasts. Within second he was sending long spurts of semen onto her chin, shoulders and, finally, as the spurts lost their power, onto her full, round breasts.

He collapsed next to her and they spent the next twenty minutes in their tingling most-coital bliss and in relief that they hadn’t woken up Ticker.

Betty recovered first and grabbed Jughead’s shirt to gingerly clean herself and Jughead. By the time she was done, Jughead had recovered as well.

“We’ll need a bigger house, Betts.” He said.

“But we just got this house,” Betty pouted back as she tucked herself into his arm.

“I know, but as much fun as it was to see how far I could push you before I had you calling my name,” Jughead paused to give her a pointed look, but he laughed at his new Betty who gave him her signature look of exasperation instead of abashedness. He loved that she was still fully herself, but also so different. “At some point I’d like to see how loud I can make you yell...beginning to end.”

“Me too,” she conceded. “But can we afford a new place?”

“Who said anything about a new place? We have a lot of space on our lot. We’ll add on.”

Betty turned so suddenly she knocked him in the chin, but she was too excited to notice. “Really, Jug? We can build our own house? With enough room for all our boys?”

“Yup, all our boys and then some.”

“More kids?” Betty raised her eyebrow at him. “Don’t you think we should deal with what we’ve got?”

“I’m not saying right now, I’m saying…wait. About now. Are you on some kind of birth control. With all of your pills and stuff, I sort of assumed.”

“Birth control?” Betty gave him a blank, curious look.

“Um. Yeah. Birth Control. A pill that you can take so you don’t get pregnant.”

“Wow! They have that? It’s genius!”

“Shit.”

“No, I mean. I’m probably not pregnant, right?”

Jughead rubbed his eyes. “Betts, it's been a long day. Let’s talk more about this tomorrow okay? You’ve got work and I have to go enroll Ticker in school in the morning.”

“Okay, Juggie. I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about though.”

“Yeah. Yeah. You’re probably, maybe right.”

Betty fell asleep a few minutes later, but Jughead had a rough night. He had to admit that the idea that Betty might be pregnant again was extremely exciting. He was heartbroken that he couldn’t be there for her pregnancy, birth and early years with Ticker. He wanted a chance to experience all that with Betty, but the timing, damn. The timing was absolute shit.

By the time Betty’s alarm went off in the morning, Jughead had gotten a solid two, maybe three hours of sleep if you included the naps in between nightmares. He groaned, but Betty was chipper. She kissed him relentlessly down his sides until she had him laughing and awake.

“Ugh. Death by the tickles is number one on my list of five most feared ways to die, but death by Betty’s mouth is in my top five prefered ways. I’m torn.” He mumbled as he combed his fingers through her hair and she straddled him.

“I’m happy, Jug,” she said as she sat on his stomach and beamed down at him.

“Shh. You’re going to jinx us,” but her energy was infectious and he found himself smiling up at her lifting them both up. He stood up and let her slide down his body, making sure to rub his erection on her way down. They couldn’t start anything right now, but he couldn’t help himself. She leaned down and gave his tip a light kiss before turning toward the door.

“Come get some coffee, Mr. Jones,” she said over her shoulder with a wink.

“You’re a sexy little tease, Mrs. Jones” he murmured under his breath.

Thirty minutes later, Jughead and Ticker were on their second bowls of cereal (no reason to waste perfectly good milk from the first bowl) and Betty was applying some light makeup when there was a knock on the door.

Betty popped her head out of the tiny bathroom and met Jughead’s eyes. He just gave a clueless shoulder shrug and shake of his head. He got up from the bar to open the door, just as the knock sounded again, more insistently.

“Uh. Can I help you, officer.”

“Forsythe Jones?”

“The third, yeah?”

“You’re under arrest for murder. You have the right to be silent…”

 

____

Chapter Text

Betty runs after her cuffed husband and the two officers already stepping off the porch. “Wait! What are the charges? Why are you doing this?”

 

“Ma’am, you need to go inside.”

 

“No, you don’t understand.”

 

“Betts, call Veronica and Kevin. And officers, can you please read me the charges?”

 

The shorter, stockier officer sighs, but opens the document in his pocket. Forsythe Jones, you are charged with capital murder of Dr. Samantha Mueller.

 

Betty stumbled backwards, “Dr. Mueller? She’s dead? Oh my god.”

 

Jughead just mouthed, “What?” and then the tall, darker skinned officer pushed him into the backseat of the cruiser.

 

___

Betty’s first call was to Veronica, who didn’t answer. She hated to call Kevin the day after his wedding, so she thought she’d give Veronica a few minutes to call her back. In the meantime, she called into work, bi-passing Polly and calling the school’s front office and then finally left the porch and walked back into the cabin. The bowls that Jughead and Ticker had been eating from were abandoned at the bar and Betty’s heart sunk.

 

“Ticker? Where are you sweety?” Betty called out, how could she have forgotten her baby for the last ten minutes. Shit. She’d been a mother for less than three days and she was already forgetting her child. Tears pricked Betty’s eyes, but she refused to be weak.

 

Thankfully, the cabin was small and Hotdog was terrible hiding. She could see and hear his shaggy white tail thumping under the coffee table. “Oh, honey.” Betty’s hand fell to her chest and she took a steadying breath before laying down on the carpet. She didn’t look at Ticker yet, aside from a peripheral glance to make sure he was there. She just opened her hand and waited.

 

Eventually, Ticker’s small hand found his mother’s and they lay quietly for another moment until Ticker finally spoke up.

 

“Where is my Dad?” Ticker asked quietly.

 

“There was a mistake. We’ll get him back soon.”

 

“Did he kill that lady by mistake?” Ticker’s question was filled with both innocence and fear and Betty had to take another breath to gather her thoughts and answer the way she wanted to.

 

“Absolutely not. Your Daddy would never do something like that. Do you understand me?” Betty turned her head to make eye contact with her son as she spoke, but her words didn’t have the calming effect she had hoped. Instead, Ticker’s eyes widened with fear. Betty frowned until she realized that she was squeezing Ticker’s hand a bit too hard and that her ‘Confident Betty’ face could easily be misconstrued as ‘Angry Betty’ face to a nine year old. “What I meant was, honey. That your Dad and I would never do anything that would risk us being apart from you. We would protect you no matter what. You don’t have to worry about me or Daddy ever doing anything to hurt you, and that would include hurting other people. Does that make sense?”

 

Ticker studied the underside of the coffee table for a few minutes. “We’re Joneses. We use our words to solve our problems.” Ticker said evenly.

 

“That’s exactly right, Ticker. Um. Can I call you Ticker, like Daddy does?”

 

“Yeah, you can. But let’s call him Dad, okay Mom? I’m too big to call him Daddy?” Betty wondered if she ever felt this feeling before. One of joy and sadness and pride and humor. She was pretty sure it was an emotion reserved for parents because she was pretty sure only Ticker could elicit this tornado of feelings in her.  

 

“Okay, Ticker, we’ll call him Dad.”

 

They’re morning went on. Betty poured Ticker a new bowl of cereal and was finally able to get a hold of Veronica. A long morning of calls and messages were sent. Ultimately, Kevin pulled himself away from his groom and his new little girls and joined Jughead to make sure he was properly represented. Veronica did the legwork, finding out all she could about the death of Dr. Mueller and the charges being brought against Jughead.

 

Ticker was outside on the front porch, throwing a ball for Hotdog when Sweet Pea pulled into the driveway just after noon, Veronica on the seat behind him. Hot Dog immediately abandoned the game to protect his people, but backed off immediately after his olfactory investigation of Sweet Pea’s boots and Veronica’s behind. It was unfortunate that she was wearing a skirt.

 

“Oh! Hotdog!” Veronica yelled in outrage and Sweet Pea laughed at her.

 

“I know, boy. Smells good, don’t it?”

 

“Pea! There’s a child present! You’re impossible!” Veronica backhanded SweetPea’s leather-clad arm before stepping in front and leaning down to greet Ticker.

 

“Hey, Timothy. How about a hug for Tia Roni?”

 

Ticker made a face and leaned away. “Umm.”

 

“You don’t have to hug her Ticker, don’t worry about it.” Sweet Pea slapped him on the back as he walked up the front steps.

“Nope, you don’t,” Veronica said, her smile not wavering as she straightened out. “How about a fist-bump instead?” Ticker timidly offered his fist without meeting her eyes.

 

“You’re very pretty.” Ticker said and then immediately covered his mouth. He thought his whole body might just burn up on the spot for how hot he suddenly felt, but Veronica just smiled and flipped her hair.

 

“I know,” she said and walked up the stairs.

 

Betty greeted everyone with grilled cheese sandwiches, which were one of the five things she had mastered in the kitchen. The others being baked chicken, spaghetti, scrambled eggs and coffee.

 

Sweet Pea moved over to Betty and pulled her into his hard embrace. “You’re a serpent, Jug’s a serpent and so is Ticker. We’re here for you, Betty. Whatever you need. You got it? We take care of our own. No matter what happens with Jug, we’ve got your back.”

 

“Thanks, Pea.” She hugged him back.

 

“And there’s one more thing,” Pea said and held up a shopping back, “your jacket’s ready.”

 

He pulled out the jacket and held it open for her to slid on.

 

“Like a glove!” Veronica exclaimed. You look amazing, B!”

 

“Thanks V!” Betty left Sweet Pea’s hard embrace and fello into Veronica’s soft one. They held each other tightly, until Veronica finally pulled away. “Okay, let’s get down to business. I’ve got good news and bad.”

 

Betty pushed away from Veronica and collected herself. “Okay, let me just get Ticker situated with lunch first.”

 

When they were finally settled and Ticker was busy playing some kind of candy-related game on Betty’s phone, Veronica finally leveled with Betty.

 

“Okay, the good news first?” Betty shook her head.

 

“No, bad first.”

 

“Okay, then. They have a strong evidence the connects Jughead to Dr. Mueller. Her body was found out at the old drive in, an old haunt of Jughead’s. It was recently turned into office buildings and she was found behind it and there was a note in it, a printed email from Jughead in regard to your case. That’s the bad news”

 

Betty blew out a breath she didn’t know she was holding in. “What’s the good news?”

 

“The good news is that while they tied Jughead to her, they didn’t tie her to the murder. She was killed the night before your court date.”

 

“The night before? But he had to pick me up really early in the morning that day. Can’t we be his..his..what’s that word?”

 

“Alibi. Yes, and no.” Veronica helped her out. Not remembering even everyday words was normal for brain damaged people and Veronica had been properly informed by Jughead in the days preceding the court case and the marriage. “Jughead was all over the place in those three days before he married you, getting a lot of stuff done. Kevin and I hadn’t seen him since early that evening. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have an alibi for his whereabouts that night. He says that he’d spent the night here after finishing getting the furniture in and put together, but there’s nobody who can confirm that.”

 

Betty rubbed her eyes while she thought it all through. “So, when can he come?” Betty finally asked. Veronica sighed deeply.

 

“Well, he’ll be in front of the judge in a few hours. Kevin will try to let him get off with a minimal bail, but in all likelihood it’ll be steep. He’ll probably have to stay there until arraignment, which could be a week.”

 

Betty couldn’t hold in her frustration and fear anymore. “Excuse me,” she said and walked outside to get a breath of fresh air and to hide her tears from her son.

 

Veronica followed her out. “Listen, there’s nothing you can do right now. Maybe you just need a distraction.” Betty sighed.

 

“I guess it’s worth a try,” Betty hiccuped. “I need to sign Ticker up for school tomorrow. I don’t even have a driver’s license. How am I supposed to get him there? And how about work?”

 

“One thing at a time, B. Pea can assign a serpent to drive you around wherever you need to go, okay?” Veronica slid her arm around Betty’s shoulders and let her cry until her well was dry.

 

“And we’re going to need some cucumbers,” Veronica said after a particularly loud nose blowing from Betty.

 

“Cucumbers?” Betty croaked.

 

“Best trick for puffy eyes, Veronica smiled. And a healthy, hydrating snack. You’ve got to love an efficient snack.”

 

“Cheryl once told me something similar.” Betty mused without really thinking of her audience.

 

Veronica retracted her arm from Betty’s shoulders and folded her hand in her lap with a sigh.

 

“Cheryl. What a crazy piece of work.”

 

“I know. She is crazy. I can’t believe how awful she is. She was always so nice until Jughead came into town. And Archie. I trusted them, you know? Last I heard, Archie was still in ICU.”

 

“The thing is I knew how crazy Cheryl was and Archie broke my heart so I should have known, but I still can’t believe how evil they became together. They’re sick, B.”

 

“I don’t know. I think Archie sort of got sucked into something…”

 

“No. Betty, he has major issues. He thought he was in love with you while dating me and then marrying a woman who he hated. None of it makes sense.” Veronica shook her head again. “But…”

 

“Yeah.” Betty prompted her.

 

Veronica collected her thoughts, lips pursed, “But, I don’t actually think he was ever malicious, you know? Just so, so easily influenced by people around him. He was always able to rationalize his behavior. It was actually kind of amazing.”

 

“We should go see him.” Betty said quietly.”

 

“What? Are you serious, B?”

 

“Yeah. His mom married me and Jug. And, more importantly, he has information about the twins. I know Cheryl will do anything in her power to keep them away from me, but now that he knows that Robbie and Petey aren’t his, maybe he can do something about it. If he’s awake, that is.”

 

“Shit. You’re right.” Veronica held her head in her hands. “Pea is not going to like this. Almost as much as I don’t like it.” Veronica took a deep breath. “Alright. We’ll enroll Ticker and then we’ll drop him off with Joaquin and the girls while we pay Archie a visit.”

 

“Thanks V.” Betty responded. She knew by now how much bad blood there was between Veronica and the Andrews’, even before they found out about how they had conspired to impregnate a subsconscious Betty. Betty wondered, not for the first time, how she would be able to cope the feeling of complete violation when she thought about it. Up until now, she’d had enough present-day issues to handle that she hadn’t given herself the time she needed to process a past she couldn’t remember.

 

“Don’t thank me yet, we don’t even know if he’ll be awake. Or if Cheryl will let us see him at all.”

 

__

 

Enrolling Ticker took a solid two hours, but it matched up well to the end of school. Joaquin was just picking up the girls when Veronica, Betty and Ticker were leaving the front office.

 

“April!’ Ticker yelled out. The two ran to each other and April jumped into his arms giggling.

 

“I thought you were going to be in school with us, Tic.” April’s hand naturally fell into Ticker’s and he folded his hand around hers.

 

“I will be tomorrow. My dad...well, he. The police took him away. But my Mom and I are going to use our words to fight and get him out.

 

“My new Daddy does that too. He’s a lawyer. Using words to fight the bad guys is his job!”

 

“Wow, that’s awesome.”

 

“I know.”

 

Joaquin agreed to take Ticker for the evening. Fangs had been assigned as Betty’s driver and would bring him home whenever they were done at the hospital.

 

“Are you ready for this?” Betty asked Veronica in front of the hospital. She’d been here hundreds of times. Had spent years of her life here. And yet, she found herself breaking into a sweat at the thought of entering the familiar building.

 

“Are you?” Veronica arched long brow at her.

 

“No.”

 

“Neither am I. Let’s do this.”

 

In spite of their nerves, actually getting to Archie’s room was underwhelming. Room 204 was just like 202 and 206. A grey door and a place for charts next to the placard indicating the number.  A slim, rectangular window in the door.

 

Inside, Betty could see Archie’s parents. Fred was stretched out on the chair that turned into an uncomfortable bed. Mary was looking at her phone, her glasses slipped low over her nose. Betty knocked quietly and waved when Mary looked up.

 

As Mary got up and ambled to the door, Betty realized that Veronica was several feet away, face ashen. “I’m sorry, Betty. I can’t. I can’t face him. Face them. I’ll be in the waiting room. I’m sorry.” She turned and left just as Mary opened the door.

 

“Betty, it’s so sweet of you to come, honey. You guys have always been so close. Come in, come in.”

 

Betty was surprised and torn. Did Mary not know how her only child had veritably raped her? Or was she just as deluded as Archie and actually thought what he had done was somehow justified?

 

“Mary. It’s...I’m so sorry. About Archie. I can’t imagine…” Betty’s words failed her, but Mary just rubbed Betty’s arms good naturedly.

 

“Betty, I’m so glad you stopped by. I need to talk to you anyway, and so does Archie. He’s in and out of it, but the doctors say he’ll probably pull through.”

 

“That’s, well. I’m happy for you and Fred, Mary.”

 

Mary offered her a tight smile, “Fred and Archie really need to rest, let’s talk outside.” Mary waited until the door was fully closed before finally turning to Betty fully. “There’s a lot to say and I want to ask how you’ve been doing, about married life and all that, but there are some pressing issues here. Archie told us things. I don’t know. He’s on a lot of drugs, but some of these things, Betty.” Mary rolls her eyes in exasperation. “They’re truly disturbing.”

 

Betty grabbed her knees as she thought of what to say. “What did you hear?”

 

“That Robbie and Petey aren’t Cheryl’s and Archie’s at all. That they had you artificially impregnated while you were still in a coma. That he thought the older twins were his until Cheryl confessed that they switched out Jason’s sperm for Archie’s. I mean. God. None of that is true, right?”

 

“I wish I could, Mary.” Betty turned her swimming green eyes to meet Mary’s. “I really wish I could.”

 

Mary fell back in her chair. “Well, shit. Archie, Archie, Archie. What in the world…” When Mary had taken a few minutes to fully absorb this seemingly insane information, Mary turned back to her. “You know, that’s what he told us about you. But he told us so much more. Criminal things. As a judge, I can’t let them go now that I know they’re not just drug-induced ramblings. Oh my god, the kids. With what we know...Cheryl and Penelope won’t be around to watch over them. Fred and I love being grandparents, but four young boys…”

 

“Mary, Robbie and Petey are my children. I want...I could help you. I mean, if you want.” Betty’s heart beat incredibly fast. What if her offer sounded too desperate? What if Mary said no?

 

Mary sighed. “God, that’s right. The older twins aren’t even my biological grandchildren. Oh god. What a mess...but I don’t want to separate them. For all they know, they’re all brothers, not just cousins.” Mary chewed on her lip as she thought. “I’ll let you know. For now, we need to keep all of this very, very quiet until we get Archie’s legal situation resolved. Cheryl and Penelope can not find out, okay, Betty?”

 

“Yeah, okay.” It wasn’t a ‘no’. “Um, can I tell my lawyer?”

 

“Yes, they have a confidentiality agreement, but no one else, okay?”

 

“You’ve got it. Of course.”

 

“Okay, sweetie. Listen. One more thing. Those babies may not be Archie’s, but you need to know two things. First, that what Archie did is absolutely wrong. He had a hand in your accident too, I’m not sure if you knew that.” Betty shook her head, “Second, those kiddos are still members of our family. We’ll do whatever we can to make sure they grow up with loving people around them. That makes us family now too. I can’t apologize enough for Archie, but I’m going to make sure he does whatever he can to make it up to you.”

 

“Thanks Mary. That’s….I don’t know the right words. There’s so much to think about, but I appreciate everything you’ve done. For me. For Jughead. I can’t forgive Archie yet, but maybe one day.”

 

Mary and Betty hugged one final time and then Betty went to find Veronica and fill her in. When she got to the waiting room, Veronica was on a call. She held her finger up to Betty to indicate that she was still talking to someone.

 

“You’re kidding, Kev. Really?...Okay...Yeah….Tomorrow...Sure, of course...that’s such great news...so crazy, I know. Okay, let me Betty know. I’ll see you in court tomorrow. Kay, love ya, bye.” Veronica put her phone in her shiny black handbag and turned to Betty with an excited fire in her eyes. “Betty, O.M.G. great news, girl. Someone came forward. Apparently Cheryl had hired a private investigator to follow Jughead. He lost her a few times, but she managed to find him. She turned on Cheryl, showed up at the police station with photo, video and gps evidence that Jughead was at your cottage all night that night. I mean, can you believe our luck?”

 

“Oh my god. So is he free? That’s amazing! Who is it? How did the PI even know this was all going down. Wow. I mean, wow!”

 

“I know! So, unfortunately he can’t home tonight, he still has to go in front of the judge tomorrow, but Kev and I can easily get him off the hook. Kev was able to tell Jughead though, so he knows he’s getting out. Anyway, what was it like with Archie and his familia?”

 

“Good. And weird, but mostly good I think. I’ll catch you up in the car.”

Chapter Text

 

Fangs showed up early the next morning and Betty called in sick at work yet again. Polly had called several times, but Betty simply texted back lies about being sick, too afraid Polly would uncover the truth if she heard Betty’s voice. She considered calling FP at his rehab facility, but she didn’t want to hinder his improvements and thought maybe they could just tell him after the fact. After dropping off Ticker to his first day of school, which went well since he had already learned he’d be in April’s fourth grade class, they made their way to the courthouse.

 

The name of the judge was unfamiliar to Betty, but there were familiar faces in the courtroom. Mary and Fred were in the front, on the defendant's side, and behind them Sweet Pea and Joaquin. Veronica and Kevin were speaking quietly to each other at the table up front. On the prosecution’s side, Cheryl sat by herself murmuring to the prosecuting lawyer over the divide, while Penelope and Alice sat together a few seats behind. Betty barely had time to take her seat next to Fred and Mary, let alone greet anyone, when Jughead was walked to the desk and the judge came out. Betty felt her stomach rumble with emotion, she hadn’t seen her mother in weeks and the three women responsible for breaking apart her family and separating her from her children were in the same room with her since the first time she’d found out about their crimes.  But then Jughead came out and winked at her and suddenly the world was still. Her heart was calm and her hands were relaxed and steady. She smiled back, her signature sideways, half-shy grin, and all remaining tension evaporated.

 

The judge sat and the courtroom relaxed into their seats.

 

“Forsythe Jones, you’ve been charged with the murder of Dr. Mueller. You pled not-guilty to these charges yesterday? Is that correct, Counsel?”

 

“Yes, your honor,” Veronica responded.

 

“And today, in spite of a bail being set at $800,000, an emergency hearing was requested to discuss some supposed evidence that will clear him of this charge. I hope you understand, Mr. Jones, that this kind of exception is not easily or often made.”

 

“I do, your honor, thank you,” Jughead responded quickly and clearly.

 

“In that case, the court calls a Ms. Forsythia Peabody to the stand.”

 

Gasps and murmurs erupted around the room and Betty’s brow furrowed. Who? She looked around, trying to read the faces of the other’s in the room. The serpent's looked surprised enough that they must have at least recognized the name. Veronica, Kevin, Mary and Fred looked expectant as they looked behind them, and then very worried as they all looked to each other in a silent question. Jughead’s previously calm, borderline cocky expression was gone. Instead, he looked close to tears. On the other side of the courtroom, her mother looked crestfallen and Penelope’s lips were pinched tight. Cheryl was smiling. That couldn’t be good.

 

The judge let his gavel fall once, “Order, please, is Forsythia Peabody in the courtroom?”

 

“Your honor,” Kevin stepped forward, “uh, Permission to Approach.”

 

“This had better be good. I hope the defense is not taking advantage of this favor.”

 

“Your honor,” the prosecutor stood, “I see no reason to waste any more of the court’s time, clearly Ms. Peabody will not be -”

 

He was interrupted by the double doors bursting open and a bleach blonde woman with dark eyes and a furious expression strode into the courtroom and all the way up to the front of the courtroom and walking up to the seat intended for witnesses. Her slacks and blouse were ripped and slightly bloody and her hair was pulled into a very messy ponytail with bits of leaves and sticks sticking out. She was stopped, however, by a uniformed police woman.

 

“Ms. Peabody, I presume?” the judge asked.

 

“Yes, your honor. I’m sorry I’m late. Someone ran me off the road and then attempted to run over me while I ran away.”

 

The stuffy judge let his airs fall. “Dear god, young lady. Are you alright?”

 

“I will be, as soon as the right people are behind bars.” She turned around and looked directly in Cheryl, Alice and Penelope’s direction. The rest of the courtroom too. Cheryl was even paler than usual, her mouth hanging open and her eyes wider than Betty had ever seen them.

 

“Well, by all means, swear her in Diaz,” the judge said. “This just got interesting.”

 

“Ms. Peabody, are you aware of the whereabouts of Forsythe Jones the third on the night in question?” Kevin started out.

 

“Call me Penny. And yes, I was surveilling his house that evening and tailed him all day the day before. He was either at the grocery story, a local furniture store or at the house the whole evening and early morning.”

 

“Your honor, these are the pictures the geographic information system data to prove his whereabouts.” Kevin handed the judge a folder and waited for him to look through them, his reading glasses perched low on his nose.

 

“Proceed,” the judge waved his hand vaguely at Kevin and Penny.

 

“And Penny, why were you following Mr. Jones that evening?”

 

“I was hired by Penelope Blossom to follow Forsythe Jones, also known as Jughead around. She told me that he was a criminal and I already knew that he was. He doesn’t know this, but I’m his aunt. His dad is my half-brother. Not even FP knows that. Mama Peabody didn’t want anyone to know. After Forsythe Senior left her high and dry with a six month baby, she told everyone my name was Penny. Penelope. It’s a family name. My mama was also Penelope’s cousin. Not a Blossom, cause Penelope married in, but a Peabody. The Blossoms took Mama in for a time. That’s why Penelope knew she could trust me. I owed her.”

 

“And Penny, why are you telling us all this now.” Kevin cocked his head to one side.

 

Penny shook her head as she grappled with her thoughts. “It’s messed up.  I’m a private investigator, so I don’t know why they thought I wouldn’t know.”

 

“Know what, Penny?” Kevin pushed.

 

“They were behind all of it. They hired the guy with the truck that almost hit Jughead and Betty ten years ago and then they offed the guy when he had a change of heart. They killed that poor doctor because she was going to tell everyone too much about what they put Betty through while she was in a coma. And, honestly, I’m loyal enough to look over that. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s how I was raised. And that’s the real reason I’m telling everyone. I found out that they killed my mama too. They figured out a way to blame it on the Serpents. It’s why they paid for me to go to law school and to become a PI, because they thought I’d be dumb enough to follow the trails of breadcrumbs they left for me.  Mama would have been. She wasn’t a smart person, but she had a lot of heart. I suppose I get that from the Jones side.”

“And I suppose, young lady, that you have proof of these other accusations?”

 

“Yes, sir. I do,” she nodded at Kevin who retrieved a file from the Defense’s desk and handed it over to the judge.

 

While the judge looked through the various pictures and documents, a movement caught the attention of the other attendees of the court. Cheryl, Penelope and Alice were slipping out of their seats and leaving the courtroom. Cheryl reached the doors just as the judge took his glasses off and looked up. He nodded to the uniformed officers at the doorway. “Officers, detain these women please.”

 

A scuffle broke out, Alice crying out as one officer yanked her arm behind her back. The other officer maneuvered his body in front of Penelope and Cheryl. Penelope feinted left and Cheryl right. He grabbed for both women, but Cheryl managed to slip free and out the doors before anyone could catch her. The officers standing by the judge ran forward, leaving only one in the room, to go after Cheryl.

 

“Mr. Jones, I’ve seen enough evidence today to exonerate you of these charges. You’re free to go.” The judge turned his attention to the back of the room, where an outraged Penelope and a very scared-looking Alice were in handcufffed, “

 

The remaining officer unlocked Jughead’s cuffs and Jughead immediately held his arms out to Betty. The officer spoke behind him. “You’ll need to come back to the station to collect your belongings. You can ride with your family or I can drive you.”

 

Jughead didn’t respond, he was too high off the scent and feel of his wife’s warm, soft body, even though they were seperated by the pew between them.

 

“We’ll take him,” Mary spoke up, responding for Jughead.

 

“We’ve got you guys,” Fred rested a large hand on Jughead’s shoulder and he finally pulled away, a little teary but very happy.

 

The serpent's stood up and after several congratulatory minutes, they made their way outside of the courthouse.

 

In all of the chaos, they’d completely forgotten about Penny. She sat on the steps outside the courthouse, smoking the dregs of a cigarette, black mascara running down her face.

 

Jughead took a step forward and then looked down at Betty’s hand in his and up to her face.  Betty squeezed his hand and nodded. He jutted his chin toward their family and friends, “hold on a few minutes, okay guys?”

 

They nodded and took their own seats or stood on the courthouse steps.

 

Noticing them walking toward her, Penny stood up quickly and attempted to wipe away the tears and the sorrowful expression on her face. “Jughead,” she said. Her voice broke in spite of herself and she cleared her throat. “Betty.”

 

“Penny. Or, Aunt Penny?” Jughead greeted. When Penny justed crossed her arms he went on. “Look, I just wanted to thank you. You put yourself out on a limb today. I know it wasn’t for me, it was for your mom, but I appreciate it just the same. I’m sorry for your loss.” Penny nodded. “Listen, I don’t know a lot of the history between you and my dad and I know back in the day...we didn’t exactly get along.” Penny’s rough bark of laugh was muffled behind her hand as she tried to light another cigarette. Her hand too shaky, she couldn’t get the flame to catch. Jughead gently and slowly took the lighter from her and lit it and then went on. “But, we’re family. I’ve recently discovered just how important that is. We don’t know each other, but maybe you want to come by sometime. Meet Ticker. Have dinner or something.”

 

Penny took a long puff of her cigarette and turned her head to exhale. “Yeah, that might be good,”  she offered a watery smile.

 

Betty finally spoke up, she had practically been bursting from trying to keep herself quiet. “We love you, Aunt Penny,” she said and then leaped at her and pulled her into an embrace with such force that Jughead had to steady them both to keep them from toppling backwards and off the stairs of the courthouse.

 

Penny looked startled and scared for a moment, looking directly at Jughead who was half smirking and half rolling his eyes. And then she barked another laugh and hugged her back. “You know I think it’s been nearly a decade since anyone hugged me. I forgot what it feels like.”

 

“Well, there’s more where that came from.” Betty said, pulling away, “You’re family!” Betty pulled Jughead by the hand back to their waiting friends.

 

“Sure, sure,” Penny murmured after them, a soft and surprised look stuck on her face, until she the blonde had bounced a few times and she remembered something crucial. “Hey Blondie,” she yelled out.

 

Jughead turned first and then murmured to Betty, who turned back as well. Penny motioned for her to come back. Betty walked back up to her, eyebrow arched. Investigative Cooper mode engaged.

 

“Let’s meet. Maybe this afternoon or something. I’ve got to talk to you about your mom.”

 

Betty’s eyebrows told everything. The arch lowered and furrowed and then opened expressively and then reverted back to its investigative arch once more. “Okay.” she finally said, “You know where we live. We’ll be home.”




Instead of going home, however, Fred and Mary treat Veronica, Sweet Pea, Jughead and Betty to lunch at Pop’s. Kevin and Joaquin thanked them for their invitation, but just wanted to get home. Kevin winked at Veronica and Betty before slipping behind his husband’s back on his motorcycle. Veronica agreed to drive Betty and Jughead home after lunch, so Fangs took off too.

 

After they’d ordered and the weather had been discussed, Mary cleared her throat and looked at Fred, who adjusted in his seat and folded his hands together on the table. “I hope you don’t mind discussing some more serious matters today. I know there’s a lot going on, but Mary and I have some pressing issues we need to discuss with all of you.”

 

Jughead mirrored Fred’s pose across the table, leaning in as well. “Absolutely. We want to talk to you guys too.”

 

“Mind if we go first?” Mary asked.

 

“Excuse me, Mary,” Veronica butted in. “Before you go on, are you sure you want me listening in to this…”

 

“Veronica, of course, I wouldn’t have brought it up without their lawyer present. And, on a personal matter, sweetie. I want to say how proud of you I am. Cheryl was never really warm with us. Fred and I always hoped that Archie would change his mind about you.” Sweet Pea shifted and put his arm around Veronica’s back, scooting her in a bit closer to him. Mary smiled, “Of course, I’m glad you found love. I just wanted you to know that Fred and I always approved of you and liked you.”

 

“Thank you, Mary, that means a lot.” Veronica said.

 

The two women squeezed hands on the table and then Mary reached into her briefcase and pulled out a series of papers. She took a deep breath, straightening them out for a moment. Fred offered a gentle squeeze around her shoulders and Mary breath caught in her throat and she took a sip of water before she began. “This is hard to say.” She sighed again and finally looked up at Betty and Jughead. “Our son made some very, very big mistakes. We love him, but we’re not proud of what he’s done. We’ve spoken to him and he knows what he did was very, very wrong. He wants to fix as much of this as he can. He’s admitted to several crimes and he’s signed his statements. They’ll be arresting him and Cheryl before the end of the day. Since he’s testifying against her, we’ve figured out a plea for him. He’ll do five years. Three of them in a psychiatric ward and two in a minimum security prison. Afterward, he’ll have mandatory psychiatric counseling. We hope you understand that as awful as we feel, I couldn’t let him go to jail his whole life. I hope you’ll find a way to forgive us for getting him a lenient sentence.”

 

Jughead sat up in his seat and pulled at his hair. “That’s bullshit, Fred.” Fred just sighed.

 

“Jughead,” Betty turned to him, her voice sharp and short. “I don’t care about what happens to Archie Andrews, no offence Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,” she turned back to them. “All I care about are the kids. What about the boys?”

 

“Yes, that’s what we’d like to discuss with you,” Fred spoke up. “The boys are our priority too. We love all four of them, even if Robbie and Pete aren’t our biological grandsons, we still want to be there for them.”

 

“Yes,” Mary picked up, “We want to be there for them...in a grandparent sort of way.”

 

“What are you saying?” Jughead tapped on the table impatiently.”

 

“We know you only recently got custody of Timothy, but how would you feel about taking all four bo-”

 

“Yes!” Betty jumped in.

 

“Let her speak, Betts.” Jughead said, still cautious.

 

“Um, well, I was going to say that Archie has signed over his rights to all of the children. With Cheryl in jail, hopefully by the end of the day, she won’t have any rights either. We want them to continue to be raised together. It’s going to be hard enough to lose the only parents they’ve ever had, but also their brothers…” Mary’s voice dropped off.

 

“We would support you guys financially as much as we could,” Fred added in. “I know you’ll need a bigger home and Jughead just bought a nice piece of property. I can build the house for you, free of charge.”

 

“And I’ll pay for a nanny and a cleaning lady.” Mary added in.

 

“And,” Fred added, “We’d like to see the boys. The way grandparents do. You know, take them fishing and camping.”

 

“I’ll take them school shopping,” Mary added in.

 

Before Betty and Jughead could respond, their food arrived. Everyone tucked in. Jughead had a storm of thoughts in his head, but since he hadn’t had a decent meal in days he figured he ought to eat before he said anything. Betty picked at her food, simply waiting for everyone else to finish. Veronica tried to catch Sweet Pea’s eye, but he was even more quiet and broody than usual.

 

“I don’t mean to rush you,” Mary said when her tuna melt was half eaten. “But we expect that the boys will be removed from the home today.”

 

“We don’t have any room,” Jughead responded. “And there’s a third person in this equation that we need to discuss this with.”

 

“You’re right, Juggie,” Betty said. “For me, it’s yes, but we need to think about Ticker too. Give us a few hours, Mary? Fred?”

 

“Of course,” the Andrews said in unison.

 

The rest of the meal was eaten politely and with little to no small talk. Hugs were given all around and then Fred and Mary left soon after.

 

“Pea?”Jughead spoke up and Sweet Pea jutted his chin out in response. “I need a smoke.” Sweet Pea nodded. “Order some dessert, Betts. We’ll be back in a few.”

 

“Okay,” Betty responded, but it came out more like a question. A question ignored by both of the men in leather jackets.

 

Veronica led out a long breath and groaned into her hands. “Dios, this has been the longest month of my life, B.”

 

“Want to talk about it?” Betty offered.

 

Veronica sighed. “Girl, you have so much going on. I don’t want to burden you.”

 

“Burden me. I could use a distraction from everything in my life right now.”

 

Veronica smiled, it was tight and tired, but it was genuine. “Alright, you asked for it. Six months ago, Kev and I were living in LA in absolute luxury. I mean, everything I thought I wanted. We’re respected there. My penthouse is amazing. We attended lavish parties...my closet is to die for…And I think I was happy. I mean, I was naively happy. You know?”

 

Betty didn’t know, but she nodded encouragingly and Veronica went on. “Kevin was flying Joaquin out a few times a year. Sometimes he’d come here to visit. They sort of had this open relationship thing going, but as time went Kevin went from occasionally making out with another guy at a bar to pretty much just pining for Joaquin all the time. They said it was open, but Kevin rarely ever looked at anyone else. And apparently that’s how it was for Joaquin too. I’m happy for them. I really, really am...but then I came back to Riverdale and this physical thing I’ve always had with Pea suddenly feels...heavier. I want him now. I think I might, ugh. I can’t believe I’m going to say this. I love him!”

 

Betty waited for a second, not seeing the problem and unsure of how to respond, “And you don’t want to love him?” Betty asked.

 

“God, no. Hell no! I don’t want to give up my life there. I love LA, but I will. I’ll do it for him.”

 

Meanwhile, outside…

 

“What’s on your mind, Pea?” Jughead asked as he hands back Sweet Pea’s lighter.

 

“I want you to take your title back. As king.”

 

“Holy shit, I mean I know you don’t mince words, but what the hell?”

 

“I want to start up a new charter of the Seprents in L.A. We’re close to being legit now. You take over here and I’ll be the prez over there.”

 

“This is about Roni, isn’t it?”

 

“Course it is. I love her.”

 

“I’ve spent a long time running from this place, from my legacy. I’m ready now. I’m about to be the father of five sons. They’re going to need the serpents. A code. A family. Yeah. I’ll do it.”

 

____

 

Veronica dropped Betty and Jughead off at the house. Penny was waiting on the steps.

 

“You guys need me to stay for this,” Veronica asked warily.

 

“No, V. We’re good. Jug, go ahead and go pick up Ticker from school. I’ve got this.” Veronica nodded and backed up and drove away.

 

Jughead tamped down his protective nature and pulled Betty in for a kiss on her temple. “I know you do. Call me if you need anything. I’ll be back in thirty minutes.” He waited until Betty walked up to Penny and asked her inside before he started his truck and headed toward the elementary school.



“Tea?” Betty asked as she put on the kettle.

 

“Sure,” Penny replied. Betty took note of Penny’s still disheveled state. The dried blood on her ripped close.

 

“Let me get you some clothes while you wash up.”

 

“Oh, right. Sure.”

 

When Penny emerged she looked refreshed. Her makeup reapplied, her scrapes bandaged. They sat together at the bar, stirring their tea for a moment and then Penny started.

 

“I’ve known your mom for a long time. We went to school together. We were friends...I don’t know if that’s the right place to start or not.”

 

“I don’t know a lot about her. I have these vague memories from when I was a little girl and then a few since then, scattered around from my accident, but everything since I woke up. She’s always been this...I don’t know. She’s just manic, I guess. She couldn’t never sit still, always nervously talking…”

 

“Yeah, Penelope really did a number on her. And I was pissed at her, so I just let it all happen.”

 

“You were pissed at my mom? Why?”

 

“Oddly enough, it was because of FP. She was one of a handful of people who knew my secret. We were in middle school when she figured it out. She did reconensense for me. We were friends, like I said, I wanted to know more about my biological father and brother. Did they know about me? Why did they leave us. Before I knew it though, she had this huge crush on FP. I was so pissed. Chicks before dicks, ya know?”

 

“Chicks before dicks?” Betty repeated.

 

“Yeah, it means, like. You put your friends before your boyfriends.”

 

“Was FP my mom’s boyfriend?”

 

“Not really, no. She was interested. Pined after him forever until I couldn’t stand it anymore and I just went up and told him that she was in love with him. Partially to piss her off because she was supposed to be my friend and partially because I was hoping she’d retaliate and tell FP that he was my brother. I didn’t have the guts to do it.”

 

“Instead, he sort of let her down easy. Told her he thought she was really cute, but that he had a lot going on and didn’t want to date anyone. Turned out he was getting initiated into the serpents that year and didn’t want to pull Alice into that world. She stopped talking to me and I went and joined up too. Nobody knew who my dad was, except for him. Forsythe Senior. He rejected me outright. Told me to run home to mama and to never come back. So I waited and my hate for him grew. Penelope got into my ear and told me all of these horrible things about the
Serpents and them. Gross exaggerations of the truth, I’d come to find out later.”

Penny took a break and sipped her tea for a while, for which Betty was thankful for the extra processing time.

 

“Anyway,” she went on, “I waited until Senior died of lung cancer and then I went back, but this time I was a spy for the Blossoms. I never told anyone how I was related to them, and maybe that would have made a difference. Truth is, though, I treated FP and Jughead like shit. I deserved what they did to me.” Penny met Betty eyes with a smirk, but then frowned when she took note of Betty’s confused expression. “Oh shit, you don’t know, do you…”

 

“What did they do to you?” Betty asked, a little angry. She trusted Jughead, but also knew how protective he could be. If he was protecting his father…

 

“It's water under the bridge now,” Penny responded. You can ask him about it if you want.”

“I will.” Betty said evenly. Penny smirked and Betty realized how similar the expression was to FP and Jughead’s. “This is all very interesting, but what does this have to do with my mother now?”

 

“Good question. Damn. You really are your mother’s daughter.” Penny shook her head with a smile, “I knew what was going down with your mom while you were in the hospital. I didnt know about the not-so accident where they tried to kill you at that time, but I knew that they were basically holding your mom hostage. See, they had bought pretty much the whole hospital. Nothing happened there without their knowledge. They needed your mom to stay mum about a whole lot of stuff. At first, she fought it, of course. She sued that truck company, which was of course a shell corporation for the Blossoms. That pissed them off and they started to come down on her hard. At first, it was all friendly. Like they were trying to ‘save’ you. They convinced her that you were dying.  Then they took your little boy and they held that over her head and yours. The thing is, they got her to do more and more shit as she was trying to protect you and then your kid and then Polly that she just got in over her head.”

 

“You’re saying that when she was force feeding me pills I didn’t need, signing forms to let someone impregnate me, keeping me in a coma that wasn’t necessary, even beating the crap out of me...that she was trying to protect me? I’m sorry, I just...I can’t accept that. And what about the weird,” Betty held her fingers up to make air quotes, “relationship between Penelope and my mother?”

 

“Yeah, that was basically just a dig. Penelope’s way of mocking Cheryl for being a lesbian and also completely isolating Alice. Cheryl is bad, but only because she’s abused by the best, or worst, as the case may be.” Betty dumped the rest of the tea in the sink and leaned over the sink. “Listen,” Penny went on, “the documents I gave the judge and the testimony I’ll give will prove that Alice didn’t do anything illegal and that she was under duress the whole time. They won’t charge her. After that, she’ll be a broken person. I know you have a lot of resentment against your mom. I know she did some really messed up things, but I just wanted you to know. I wish I had a second chance with my mom.”

 

Betty’s words wouldn’t come. She just nodded her head in response, her arms folded over her chest.

 

“I should go,” Penny said, “I’ll uh, return these clothes...sometime.”

 

“Wait,” Betty said, “One more question. One more big question. Why?”

 

“Why?”

 

“Why me? What did the Blossoms get out of all of this…”

 

“Why do the Blossoms do anything. It was all about the money. The inheritance. And a little about legacy and social standing, I guess. Cheryl and Penelope were given a small sum from the will, but the majority of it was to go to the heir - Jason. In the event that Jason died, it would go to his first born son. Not daughter. If there were no sons, it would be divided equally among the many, many Blossoms. Polly’s twins are both girls, so they get a portion in that case but otherwise, it all goes to Robbie. He was the first born of the two. They had Jason’s sperm in the event that he needed to be...taken care of. They just needed a womb and you were a convenient option.”

 

Betty met Penny’s eyes, looking bewildered.

 

“Dude. I know, I mean I may be a cold-hearted bitch, but that is one hundred percent Blossom-level insanity.”

 

Betty lifted her hand to Penny’s arm, “Thank you -,”  but Penny flinched, “oh sorry.”

 

“No worries, just an old injury, better as Jug.” Penny responded.

 

“Oh, okay. Well, I was just going to say thank you for all of that. I really do appreciate it, and Jug and I mean it about you being family.”

 

“Thanks, Blondie.” And then Penny turned and walked into the sunlight, a minute later an engine started and Betty heard the telltale sign of a motorcycle leaving the cabin. It took Betty a full minute to realize the only bike that had been in the driveway had been Jughead’s.

 

“Oh, crap,” Betty remarked, stepping outside.

 

A yellow note was stuck to the door: Tell Jug we’re even. Love, Aunt Forsythia.

 

Jughead’s motorcycle was gone.

Chapter Text




When Jughead returned with Ticker, Betty was nose deep in a recipe for stir fry. There literally was hoisin sauce on her nose and there was more smoke in the air than Jughead thought was necessary for how early into the recipe she seemed to be.

 

“Hey Betts, why don’t you take a break and talk to Ticker and I’ll take over for you. Also, where’s my bike?”

 

_____

 

“Hey Ticker, how was your day, sweetie?”

 

“It was....hard.” Ticker said as he flopped down on the couch, Hot Dog immediately taking his place over hip, as if he was a lap dog and not a 65 lb wiggling mass of hair. Ticker wove his fingers into the dogs neck and settled in.

 

“Oh, school can be hard. It may take a few days to get used to it.”

 

“Mhmm,” Ticker responded.

 

“Well, did you see any of your friends?” Betty looked over at Jughead, who just shrugged his shoulders in an equal of perplexion.

 

“Yeah, they were there,” was Ticker’s succinct reply.

 

“Well, we wanted to talk to you about something very important and something that may change our lives.”

 

“Okay,” Ticker responded, but his head shot up and his face went pale.

 

Seeing his reaction, Jughead stepped in before Betty could go on, “But first, Mom and I love you and we’re a family, remember?” Ticker nodded silently, the color returning to his cheeks, though his eyes were still wide and his fingers tense in Hot Dog’s fur.

 

“We’re thinking about adding to our family. How would you feel about having a brother...or a few brothers?”

 

Ticker face wrinkled at first as he looked from his mother’s face to his father’s and then back to his mother’s. Betty and Jughead had not realized that it was possible to not just inherently love a child, but to also fall in love with him. His smile was so wide like his fathers, but quirked like his mothers, conspiratorial like his father and honest like his mother’s.

 

“I’ve always wanted brothers,” and when his smile reached his eyes, a chain reaction occurred. His cheeks hit his eyes, the pressure releasing a tear in each eye and then he was laughing and crying, which caused a similar reaction in Jughead and Betty held her men to her chest and let them sob and laugh.

 

When they had sobered, Ticker’s mind went to logistics. “I don’t think there’s enough room for brothers on here with me and Hot Dog.”

 

“That’s a good point, Tic,” Jughead said, but directed at Betty.

 

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Betty said and she pulled a long roll of paper from a cabinet in the kitchen and spread it out on the breakfast table. “I made some plans of the house. These sticky notes are the furniture and beds. Now...” Betty arranged the yellow sticky notes, her tongue indenting her upper hip. “...what do we think about this?”

 

She had pushed removed the love seat and barstools and replaced them with a three-sided breakfast nook, “with storage in the seats, of course.” The other side of the living room had taken advange of the vaulted ceiling and there were were two bunk beds and a loft bed. Under the loft bed there’d be a closet of sorts.

 

“It’ll be tight, but everyone would have a bed”

 

“I love it, Bets,” Jugead slid one arm around her waist and moved her over and reached with his other hand to swipe the paper from the table, “I just have a few extra changes to make,” Betty frowned at her plan in his hand, wondering what she missed. “In the meantime, let’s get to work.”

 

Betty oohed and ahhed over Ticker’s agenda and folder and looked at all of the paperwork the school had sent home while Jughead moved furniture around. When they were done, they piled into the truck and headed a town over to closest superstore to purchase and order the new furniture they would need to house their family that was about to more than double in size.

 

The next day, the call came in. When the police had come to take the Andrew’s boys, now the Jones’, the boys were in bed, but Cheryl was long gone.  

 

Becoming the father of five children and the spouse of a mentally damaged woman saved Jughead’s soul. As a man who had sought out solitude his whole life, always careful with his thoughts, who assumed the worst...he was embarrassed. Humbled, really. Because as it turns out, having family doesn’t mean that you need to protect your heart and dream. In fact, the bigger their family got the more empowered he felt.

 

That doesn’t mean that life wasn’t hard. Of course there was the day-to-day. Living, sometimes quite literally, on top of each other in their cabin loft for nine months was messy, loud and downright painful. Who made legos so damned painful, anyway?

 

Ticker’s heart was beating as it should, but his timid soul took months to warm up to the boys. In the end it was Freddy and Will who really took to him. They imagined monsters and creatures with wheels for hands and mouth like a volcano and Ticker would draw them. Tirelessly. For hours and hours, Ticker, Fred and Will wandered the woods around the house, Hot Dog bounding in front, scaring off rabbits and other ferocious beasts that might try to hurt his boys, and picking up sticks and burrs in his coat to prove it.

 

It was Pete and Robbie who had the hardest time adjusting. Psychologists and Psychiatrists agreed, both boys were on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. But what was an everyday challenge also became great strengths and advantages. Ethel worked with the boys tirelessly. She helped Betty and Jughead learn how to manage the boys’ anxieties and fits. How to create positive routines and enrolled them in numerous free programs.

 

When the house was finally finished - a five bedroom, U-shaped ranch-style house with sliding doors to a giant courtyard in the middle - their world shifted again and Jughead felt the tightness in his lungs ease a bit more. Betty occasionally recovered a new memory, but her openness and honesty, the traits belonging to New Betty didn’t disappear even as he watched aspects of his highschool sweetheart reappear slowly. He could see it in the cautious way she approached her mother, arms folded and pursed lips. He could see it when her hands flew to her hips and her chin jutted out when Ticker’s teacher tried to give him detention because he broke down crying in the middle of class one day.

 

With the cabin no unoccupied, two lost souls found saved each other. FP and Alice moved in together. They weren’t overly affectionate. Not physically, but they never went anywhere without each other. Alice had medical experience and FP needed caring for. Whether it was simple pragmatism or something more, Jughead and Betty never asked.

 

In fact, Betty found it difficult to bear her mother’s presence at all. When their pregnancy nerves had proved fruitless, more records were uncovered. After the pregnancy with Robbie and Pete, Alice had sanctioned a tubal ligation. Betty’s reproductive choices, once again, robbed by her mother. The last violation Betty somehow found even more repugnant than the others. Trust between mother and daughter was shattered, seemingly beyond repair. And yet, there was a tie there she found she simply could not sever. Especially when she tried tirelessly to make things right. A new sketchpad for Ticker, endless board games for Robbie, books for Petey and action figures for Freddy and Will.

 

Even with all the extra love in the boys’ lives, Betty and Jughead worried about the boys feeling like they belonged in their patchwork, hastily thrown together family. They had grandparents and aunts, the serpents and supportive teachers. They had cousins/sisters in Polly’s daughters, which took some getting used to, but mostly for the adults. They had a community.  And yet, the children asked constantly for Archie and Cheryl. For Mommy and Daddy.

 

Cheryl was never found and neither was the Blossom fortune, somehow liquidated and deposited into numerous overseas accounts before she disappeared.

 

Archie served his five years and then moved in with his father. He worked alongside Jughead’s serpents. Things were tense. They left him alone because he was the bosses’ son and the only father the boys had known, but nobody was overly friendly with him. It was Fangs who closed the distance in the end. He knew the history, of course, but wasn’t directly involved in it and he found Archie earnest and goofy. They became roommates eventually and Archie was invited to birthdays and other occasions with Fangs supervising.

 

Penelope’s plastic face and scarred body sagged and aged in prison and life went on.

 

Memories were made. And Kept.

 

The End.