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this bed could use a secret [and these pounding hearts could keep it]

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     Jughead had avoided her as much as possible. His dad's girlfriend was... intense to say the least. He didn't know much about her, other than she was some rich lady named Alice from the Northside who ran the local newspaper with two daughters, one of whom went to Riverdale High. He couldn't really figure out what this woman saw in his dad, but apparently her ex-husband was in prison. Maybe she had a type? She just had this way of talking to you with wide eyes and a manic smile that he found to be kind of alarming. So, Jughead would disappear into his room when she showed up at their trailer. He made excuses when they invited him to tag along on their outings. This arrangement was fine with him; he was happy that his dad was happy. FP had certainly cleaned up his act and stopped drinking so much since she came into the picture. How could he complain when his father, who had been single for the previous four years, had finally found love? 

     It was the end of his junior year at Southside when his avoidance strategy came to a halt. He arrived home on the last day of school, ready to take on the summer (by mostly just sleeping it away) when he found his dad and Alice at their kitchen table with beaming smiles.

     "Come here and sit down, boy. We've got a surprise for you."

     Jughead was still getting used to this new cheerful version of his father and tried to hide the annoyance in his voice when he responded, "You know I hate surprises."

     "Oh, don't worry, Jug-head," Alice responded with her trademark smile and crazy eyes. "This is a fun surprise. Sit down," she commanded as she pulled out a chair.

     He slunk down and braced himself for whatever could be coming next. 

     "We're going to the beach this weekend!" Alice told him excitedly.

     "Well, you guys have fun," Jughead responded, knowing very well that he was going to be forced into going on this trip.

     "You're coming too, boy. And Alice's daughter, Betty. We're all gonna spend the weekend getting to know each other better."

     "And why would we want to do that?" Jughead questioned his father, losing the usual polite indifference he wore around Alice.

     "It's important for us to all get along, Jug. Alice and I have been talking and-" his father glanced over and shared a smile with her as he continued, "And we think we're ready to take the next step in our relationship."

     "And that would be?"

     "We're getting married, son. This summer. Alice has offered to let us move in with her on Elm Street and you'll be able to go to Riverdale next year. It's gonna be great since you'll be applying to colleges and I have a feeling the guidance counselor there is going to be a hell of a lot more help than the one they've got at Southside. You’ve got potential, son. More than I ever had."

     Jughead sat in shock with his eyes narrowed and his mouth slightly open. "You're kidding me, right? You  can’t wait one year until I'm out of the house to do this? I have to leave all of my friends and transfer to a new school my senior year? This is such bullshit."

     "Watch your mouth, boy! Alice is kind enough to let us move into her house and you need to show her some appreciation. There will be a lot more opportunities for you on the Northside and you know that. Now, let's worry about all this later. We are going to the beach this weekend and it's going to be fun. You hear me?"

     "Whatever," Jughead responded as he walked out the door with a slam.



    A little while later, he arrived at the quarry where his friends would usually hang out in their free time. Sweet Pea, Toni, and Fangs were sitting by the water smoking and drinking beers in celebration of summer break.


    Toni, who was sitting on the cooler, got a can out and tossed it to him as he walked up to them. “What’s the deal with you, Jug?”


    “What do you mean?”


    “School’s out for summer. We’re gonna be seniors this year! Why do you look like someone shit in your cornflakes?”


    He took a deep breath. “You know how my dad has had that Northside girlfriend for a while now?”


    “The newspaper lady? What about her?”


    “Yeah, well apparently they’re getting married, and we’re moving to the Northside. Oh, and I’m going to have to transfer schools. And also, we are going on some beach trip this weekend with her and her daughter, so I’m going to miss the big party at the warehouse.”


    “I thought you hated going to parties?” said Fangs.


    “That’s beside the point!” Jughead responded in frustration.


    “Dude, I wanna go to the beach!” Sweet Pea unhelpfully interjected.


    “Well, I don’t really care for the beach and more importantly, I don’t want to have to spend my weekend with some Northside princess,” replied Jughead, who was in no mood to see the bright side of things.


    “That sucks, Jug!” Toni said emphatically, “I can’t believe your dad is making you transfer your senior year. I can’t run the Red and Black without you!”


    “How old is the daughter?” Sweet Pea asked.


    “I don’t know, why does that matter?” Jughead responded.
    “Well, is she hot?”


    “She’s going to be my step-sister, Pea!”


    “So? It’s not like you’ll actually be related. I’m just saying, it would be a pretty convenient set up.”


    “You are disgusting. How is that the first thought that comes to your mind?” Toni asked Sweet Pea.


    “Okay, fine! Well, if she is hot, feel free to send her my way. I know you’re morally opposed to Northsiders or whatever, but a babe is a babe to me.”


    “Noted. Now, can we talk about something else? Like, anything else?”


    “Alright, serious question. Do you think the Northside girls are as uptight and vanilla as they look? Or are they secretly wild in bed? Because, I was thinking that-”


    “Nope! We’re not talking about this,” Toni interrupted. “Fangs, why don’t you tell us about your new summer job?”


    Jughead shot Toni a grateful look and cracked open his beer. He was ready to enjoy the end of school and forget about the fact that his life was about to be turned upside down.

 

############

 

     "I don't know, V. Don't you think it's a little short?" Betty turned around in front of the dressing room mirror wearing a sundress that she definitely wouldn't be able to bend over in without giving innocent bystanders a free show. 

     "As if! Your legs are to die for, Betty. You asked for my assistance in shopping for new summer clothes because you know I am something of a fashionista, so heed my advice. Get the dress."

     Betty vividly recalled it being entirely Veronica's idea to take her shopping for a new summer wardrobe, but she figured it wouldn't make a difference if she pointed that out. "Okay, but I need summer clothes that will be appropriate for this weekend. I don't want my mom's boyfriend-slash-fiance-person and his son getting the wrong idea about me."

     "And what idea would that be? That you have legs? We have left the Victorian Ages, B. You're allowed to show your limbs. It's not a crime and it does not suggest anything negative about you as a person." 

     “I guess it’s just sort of out of my comfort zone? You know how my mom is. She’s usually the one shopping for me and her preferences are somewhat…”

     “Juvenile? Outdated? Amish?”

     “I was going to say modest.

     “Well, stop dressing for your mom! You’re seventeen! Get the dress!”

     "Alright! Alright, I'll get it. Let's move on to shorts." 

     "I knew you would see the light!" said Veronica as she clapped excitedly. "So, how are we feeling about this weekend? Excited to meet your new step-brother?"

     Betty rolled her eyes at Veronica in the mirror. She knew how much Betty was dreading having the two men join her family. "I just don't even know. It's going to be so weird. My mom said that she's going out with FP on Saturday night and leaving me with his son so that we can have some 'quality bonding time'. Like, there's no way that could be anything but  completely awkward."

     "You know what you need? Some social lubricant to break the ice."

     "Are you suggesting I get drunk with this kid?"

     "I don't know, maybe? Don't you think having a little alcohol in your systems will ease the awkwardness a bit? I'm just saying, it's probably what I would do."

     "I don't even know him. What if he doesn't drink and thinks I'm some crazy party girl for trying to get him drunk the first time we meet?"

     "Well, first of all, he's from the Southside, so even if he doesn't drink I doubt he will think much of it if you bring alcohol. Second of all, you can just play it by ear. I'll sneak some vodka from my parents' stash and you can bring it with you in case you find yourself in a situation that calls for it."

     "I will think about it," Betty responded honestly.

     "You never know, Betty. Obviously this boy is off-limits because he's going to be your step-brother, but he may have some cute Southside friends? If you guys get along, he can bring us to parties and stuff. It's our senior year! We should be making questionable life choices." Veronica bounced her eyebrows suggestively and Betty laughed in response.

     The more Betty thought about it, the more she came around to the idea and figured it wouldn't hurt to bring some alcohol even if they didn't end up drinking it. So, that was how she found herself wrapping a bottle of vodka in a bath towel as she packed her bags for their weekend trip. She also packed most of the new clothes that she had bought on her shopping spree with Veronica. With her new, slightly less innocent wardrobe and her contraband liquor, Betty was feeling like she was going to have a good start to her summer.

 

############

 

      FP parked his truck outside the house on Elm Street, which looked conspicuously out of place in the classy neighborhood. Jughead still couldn't believe that they would be moving here by the end of the summer. It may be a big, fancy house, but it would never be his home. 

     As his dad shut off the engine, he turned in his seat  and said, "Now, I want you to lose the attitude, boy. If you are anything less than polite to Alice and Betty, I will not be happy about it. You hear me?"

     Jughead opted not to respond and just rolled his eyes as he got out of the truck. He was completely dreading this weekend, trapped in a house with two stuck up Northsiders. He just knew they’d be judging everything about him- how he dressed, how he spoke, the things he said. Better get used to it, he figured. He brought his laptop along with the hope that he could hide in his bedroom and work on his book.

     As they walked up the front steps, the door swung open and Alice came out to greet them each with a hug and kiss on the cheek. Jughead grimaced at the contact and gave her a tight smile.

     "Come in, come in! The car is in the garage and I left the trunk open if you want to go put your bags in there. Betty should be down in a minute- BETTY!" she abruptly called up the stairs, startling Jughead. "Sorry about her, I'm not sure what's taking her so long."

     "No worries Alice. I'll take our bags to the car and Jughead, why don't you head up to Betty's room and carry her bag down for her?"

     "Thank you, Jughead, that would be great. Just go up the stairs and her bedroom is the last door on the left."

     No one seemed to notice or care that he had in no way agreed to this plan, so he started his way up the stairs. He got to the end of the hall and knocked on the left door as instructed. 

     "Mom, I told you I'll be down when I'm ready!" she was saying as she swung the door open. 

     Jughead stared at her, completely frozen. 

     She was naked.

     Okay, technically she was in a towel. The towel was small. She was wet. Her hair was wet. Her hair was blonde. She had legs. Nice legs. His brain was slowly catching up and he realized he probably looked like the biggest creep, standing there gaping at her (amazing) form. When he met her (beautiful, green) eyes, she looked about as shocked as he was. 

     "Uh, hi. I'm sorry I thought you were my mom, but, um, clearly you aren't. So, I'm going to go put some clothes on, and then maybe we can try this again, but with clothes on."

     "Yeah, okay, I’m sorry, I didn't mean to umm-" he was trying to get a coherent sentence out, but he could feel himself blushing and words?? What are words? Why was he even here? "Oh, I'm supposed to be bringing your bag down if it's ready, but um if it's not ready don't worry about it, I'll just wait out here and-"

     "Oh, it's right here," she said while turning around to grab her flowery duffel bag from the bed and goddamn, watching her move in that towel was not doing anything to help his short-circuiting brain. "Thanks for coming to get it, uh Jughead I think my mom said your name is?"

     "Yeah, yeah it is," he responded while taking the bag from her. 

     "Okay well, thanks, Jughead." She gave him a little smile before closing the door. 

     He stood and stared at her door for a few moments, trying to figure out what the hell just happened. It was then that he remembered that this girl was going to become his step-sister very soon. He slowly made his way down the stairs, realizing just how fucked he was. 

 

############

 

     Betty opted to wear some comfy little cheerleading shorts and a tank top for the drive to the beach. She reasoned that it was totally appropriate for a long-ish car ride and had nothing to do with the fact that a very attractive boy would be sitting next to her (who had definitely just been checking her out). He's going to be your step-brother! She reminded herself for what felt like the hundredth time in the past ten minutes. 

     Her thoughts were interrupted by another knock, this time more aggressive and definitely her mother's. 

     "Betty, we were supposed to leave ten minutes ago. You are being rude keeping everyone waiting! Can we get a move on please?"

     "I'm coming, mom!" she shouted as she took one last look in the mirror and rushed out of her room.

     "Honestly, Betty, I don't know what took you so long. You know I like to stick to a schedule when we are traveling. I hope this won't be a habit of yours this weekend..."

      She tuned out her mom's nagging as she followed her down the stairs and to the garage. 

      When she opened the door and took the seat behind the passenger, she exchanged an awkward glance with Jughead. He turned and stared determinedly out the window. She took the opportunity to look him over and couldn't help but notice how clothed he was in comparison to her. He had a beanie on his head, a flannel tied around his waist, and dark jeans on in spite of the summer heat. Although the air was on, it was still pretty warm in the back and she couldn't help but notice his musky scent- maybe his deodorant? Or body wash? Either way, it was doing things for her and she quickly looked away before he noticed her staring. She looked herself over and realized that maybe shorts were a terrible idea, because seriously whose thighs look great when sitting down? She readjusted her position, pulling one foot up onto the seat and leaning her knee against the car door, hoping she looked more casual than she felt. She realized this was not going to be comfortable for very long and just put her feet back on the floor, because he's going to be your step-brother, Betty! Who cares what he thinks of your thighs?? But, she couldn't help but worry about it anyway, because holy hell this boy was attractive. 

     Once her mother was settled in the passenger seat, FP turned around and asked as he backed out of the driveway, "Alright, kids! Who's excited for a fun weekend?"

     Betty noticed that Jughead gave his father a look that was nothing short of pure disdain, and she tried not to take it as a personal affront. Hadn't she been dreading this weekend as well? Why did it suddenly seem much more exciting? Because this kid is really hot? He is going to be your step-brother, Betty!  

As they got on the road, Alice and FP began discussing directions and Betty pulled out the worn copy of Pride and Prejudice that she liked to re-read, hoping to keep her mind off of the boy sitting a foot away from her.

 

############

 

      Jughead was trying not to be the world's biggest creep. He really was. On the drive, he had put in his headphones and tried his best to forget about his unfairly beautiful future step-sister on the other side of the seat. All he could smell was her goddamn shampoo. She pulled out a book and he chanced a glance over at her. Of course it was Jane Austen, because of course she has to be smart, too. He turned up his music a little louder in an attempt to distract himself. 

     When they arrived at the beach house, FP and Alice were chatting happily about their plans for the weekend. It was decided that they would get changed and take a walk up on the boardwalk that ran along the beach. Alice found the master bedroom and told FP to bring their bags in from the car, leaving Betty and Jughead to choose between the two smaller bedrooms on the other side of the house. Betty was inspecting one of the rooms when Jughead entered with her duffel bag.

     "Hey, Betty," he said quietly and she quickly turned around as if he had startled her. "Sorry to sneak up on you," he continued, "You can have whichever bedroom you want and I'll take the other. Also, I'm really sorry about earlier.."

     "Oh my gosh, no, that was not your fault. I totally shouldn't have opened the door before I knew who was there. I guess I'm going to have to get used to that."

     "Yeah, I'm sorry about that, too," he said, rubbing the back of his neck, "I'm sure it must be weird for you to have us moving into your house."

     "No, not at all!" she said quickly, then thought for a moment and continued with a small smile, "I mean yeah, it's going to be weird. But, it's not like it's your fault. And you're the one who has to transfer schools and everything. That must be awful."

     "Yeah well, I'll be fine. It definitely sucks having to leave my friends, but it means I'll be able to focus on more productive shit like applying for colleges and writing. So, that’s good, right?"

     "You write? What kind of writing do you do?"

     Jughead couldn't remember anyone ever sounding so excited and interested in his writing before, and he suddenly felt embarrassed. "Oh, I'm just sort of working on this book. It's a novel that’s kind of based on what it was like growing up on the Southside."

     "You're writing a book? That's amazing! What was it like growing up on the Southside?" 

     "Well now, that's a story for another day."

     "Can I read what you've written so far? I mean, not right now, but maybe some other time?"

     "I don't know, maybe," Jughead responded feeling awkward and dreading the idea of this girl ever laying eyes on what is surely mediocre-at-best writing. "Do you know which room you want?"

     "Um, I'll take this one if that's alright with you?"

     "Yeah, that's fine. I'm just gonna go jump in the shower," he said as he walked out the door. 

     "Oh, I noticed that we have a shared bathroom between our two rooms. So, don't forget to lock both doors when you're in there."

     "You mean you don't want a repeat of earlier? I can always leave your door unlocked so you can take a peek and even the playing field." He meant for this to come off as a joke to lighten the mood, but he immediately regretted it when he saw Betty's eyes widen in surprise.

     Before he could take it back and die of embarrassment, Betty smiled and responded, "I just may take you up on that, Jones." She gave him a wink as she closed the door. For the second time that day, Jughead found himself staring and wondering what the hell he was getting himself into. 

 

############

 

     She heard the shower turn off and briefly considered knocking on the door. What has gotten into you, Betty??   She wasn't usually one to be flirty and forward with boys, but something about this situation had her feeling more bold than usual. Perhaps it was the fact that they couldn't actually act on it that made it feel more like a game than anything. She wasn't risking anything by putting herself out there, since it wasn't like anything could really happen between them... right?

 

     After she heard him leave the bathroom, she waited a few moments and then went in with her toiletry bag. The room was still steamy and smelled faintly of his body wash. As she showered, she tried not to imagine him naked in the same space just minutes before. She did wonder what he looked like under all of his layers and figured she would get to see for herself when they went to the beach the next day. Stop thinking about his body, Betty.

 

     She quickly left the bathroom after she finished showering and shaving, opting to get herself ready in the bedroom which luckily had a large mirror over the dresser. She went through her clothing choices and decided on one of her new summer dresses with some strappy sandals. The dress was light and flowery with spaghetti straps and fell a few inches above her knee. She felt that it was flattering for her figure and showed off a little cleavage, but not so much that her mother would give her a hard time about it. It made her feel attractive without looking like she was trying too hard.

 

     "You kids ready to go?" she heard FP call from down the hall. She took one last look in the mirror and went out the door just as Jughead was leaving his room. She looked him over and noted that he was wearing almost the exact same outfit as earlier. He waved his arm in a way that suggested she could walk ahead of him and they made their way to the kitchen where their parents were.

     "You look nice , Betty! I'm glad you've put some effort into your appearance for once," Alice said upon seeing Betty. She turned to FP and added, "Betty hardly ever gets done up and usually just throws her hair up in a ponytail. I've told her time and time again that she needs to try a little harder if she ever wants boys to be interested in her." 

     Betty rolled her eyes. Thanks, mom! , she thought bitterly. She was used to her mother's jabs, but it was always embarrassing when she made her comments in front of other people. She glanced at Jughead and couldn't help but notice that he was glaring at her mother. 

     "Well, I think you both look great!" FP said, looking between Betty and Alice. "Shall we head out to get some dinner?"

     "Yes, please," Jughead said with a tone that suggested it was long overdue, despite the fact that Betty had watched him eat an alarming amount of junk food in the car.

 

     They left the house, opting to walk up to the boardwalk for some pizza. FP held his arm out in a gentlemanly manner for Alice to hold onto, which she accepted with a smile. Betty and Jughead, who were following behind them, exchanged a glance of annoyance at their cheesiness which in turn made them both smile. It was the first time that Betty had seen a real smile from him and wow, he was beautiful. This is going to be harder than I thought.

 

 

 

############

 

 

 

     For the first time since meeting her, Jughead was finally able to get his mind off of Betty as he bit into the piping hot boardwalk pizza. Alice was skeptical of his dad’s idea to get three large pies to share amongst the four of them, insisting that she and Betty wouldn't eat very much. Thank God his dad handled the ordering, because he was ready to inhale the entire pie in front of him. At some point he needed to come up for air and looked up to see Betty staring at him from across the table.

 

     He glanced at Alice and FP who were deep in conversation next to them, then back at Betty who was still just looking at him. "What is it? Do I have something on my face?" He grabbed a napkin and started wiping around his mouth.

     Her eyes went wide and she shook her head. "No, I am just surprised by how much pizza you can eat, to be quite honest."

     He leaned back and patted his stomach as he said with pride, "I am something of a bottomless pit, Cooper."

     "I can see that," she said with a little smile. And, just like that he was back to thinking about how beautiful this girl is. 

     "What about you? How many slices have you had?"

     "Oh, this one is my first," she said gesturing to her half-eaten slice of pizza.

     "What? Eat some more! Here, have a slice of my pepperoni. You're not a vegetarian are you?"

     "No, I'm not, I'm just-"

     At some point Alice must have started listening in on their conversation, because she suddenly interrupted saying, "We're not all blessed with your metabolism, Jug-head. It's probably for the best that Betty stops at one slice. Don't you think, dear?"

     "I was only planning on having one, mom," she said sounding annoyed.

     God, this woman was infuriating. He could normally tolerate her to a point, but he really hated how she treated Betty. Once she was distracted again by her conversation with FP, Jughead slid a slice of pizza onto Betty's plate. She looked up at him, confused.

     "Eat it," he soundlessly mouthed to her. She looked at him for a moment and then he softly knocked his foot against her leg under the table and nodded towards her plate.

     Her face broke into a big smile and took a small bite of the slice he gave her. He felt her foot move forward so that it was right beside his. They ate their pizza in silence as their parents chatted obliviously beside them and Jughead moved his leg just a bit so that their knees were leaning against each other. She quickly looked up at him with a blush and a small smile that reassured him that he hadn't just crossed a huge line and creeped her out. 

 

     As he laid in bed trying to fall asleep that night, he couldn't stop thinking about the girl in the room next to him. She was beautiful. So, so beautiful. He didn't know her that well yet, but he could tell that she was smart, and she was definitely sweet. She had been nothing but kind and welcoming despite the fact that there's no way that she could be too thrilled about him and his dad barging into her life. He was attracted to her. He was definitely, definitely attracted to her. God, why did his dad have to be marrying her mom? We have a type , he supposed. The question is, what was he supposed to do about it? 

 

The best course of action would obviously be to stay away from her. Being around her and getting to know her without being able to act on his feelings would be actual torture. It would be easier if she didn't seem to have any interest in him, but hadn't she looked pleased when their legs were touching during dinner? He remembered how she blushed and smiled when he gave her his flannel to wear on the slightly chilly walk back to the house. Seriously, if they weren't in this impossible situation, he'd already be daydreaming about dating her. Which was actually really unusual for him. He couldn't remember ever feeling this attracted to someone before. Was it because she was off-limits? Or was she really just that special? In any case, he knew he wouldn't be able to stay away from her. There is no way his mature, logical side would win out against his teenage hormones. And so, he drifted off to sleep really trying not to think about her. In that little dress. In that towel. Blushing and smiling and biting her lip. Okay, yeah, he he had no self control.