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Just The Way Things Are

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Betty was laying on her bed, having successfully avoided her mother's wrath, and she was going over the essay that she and Jughead had written together to make sure that it matched up with the things on their power point and everything seemed to be cohesive. The project was supposed to take longer than this to complete but she hadn't found anything that needed fixed so she finally accepted that they were finished. It relieved her that they'd already finished it because it meant that she could put it out of her mind until closer to the presentation. She was in the middle of putting the essay back in her bag when her phone rang with an unknown number. She looked at it for a moment in confusion before answering it.

"Hello?" She asked.

"It's me Betty." Polly's voice came from the other end making Betty gasp and glance at the door as if her mother was going to appear and realize who she was talking to. She made her way to the door and flipped the lock before leaning against it.

"Where are you? Are you okay?" She asked.

"I'm fine, I just wanted to call you so you'd have my new number." Polly said.

"Are you safe?" Betty asked and Polly laughed on the other end of the phone.

"I'm safe Betty. I made it here to LA and found a roommate from an ad. She's pretty great and she even helped me by getting me an interview with her boss." Polly told her and Betty breathed out a sigh of relief.

"So what's the job?" Betty asked curiously.

"Catering. It's not exactly what I want to be doing, but it's okay for now until I can start taking a few classes at college." Polly said. 

"You're planning to go to college? That's great Polly!" Betty said moving back to her bed and laying on her stomach as she talked. "What are you thinking of studying?"

"I was thinking of going into early childhood education. I always liked kids, so I think it'd be a good career path for me." Polly said and Betty smiled.

"I think it would be good too, Pol." Betty told her.

"So, what about you? What's going on in your life? I hope mom and dad aren't being too bad." Polly said, sounding a little guilty and Betty sighed.

"I'm fine Polly." She told her. "Mom found out that I helped you leave and she yelled at me for it but now she's just freezing me out, which isn't so bad."

"I'm sorry, Betty. I didn't mean to get you in trouble." Polly said and Betty rolled her eyes even though her sister couldn't see her.

"It's not a big deal Polly. I told you to leave, remember?" Betty said. "I can handle their anger. In other topics though, can I talk to you about something?"

"Sure Betty, you know you can talk to me about anything." Polly said and Betty bit her lip.

"Well, you remember how I had that project with Jughead?" She asked.

"Yeah. What about it?" Polly asked, the confusion clear in her voice.

"I found out something about him or about his family really, and I can't talk about it with anyone around here because I don't want to cause problems for him, but I need to talk to someone about it." Betty began.

"Okay, I'm listening." Polly said. Betty took a deep breath and blew it out.

"Okay, so he has a baby." Betty started. "Well, it's not really his, she's his little sister but he's the one taking care of her."

"Where are their parents?" Polly cut in.

"Their mom left after the baby was born, and his dad got arrested for selling drugs before she was born, so Jughead has been left alone to take care of her." Betty explained. "Anyway, he's really good with her."

"Okay...so I understand the situation, but I'm still unclear about what this conversation is actually about." Polly said and Betty ran her hand through her hair as she chewed on her lip.

"Do you remember when we were kids? Jughead and I used to be best friends, along with Archie, until we all hit puberty and mom decided that girls and boys couldn't be just friends." Betty said.

"Yeah, I remember. You were so angry that she wouldn't let you hang out with them but I told you to let it go because I knew what she was like. What about it?" Polly asked.

"Well, I told Jughead that I wanted to try and be friends again because I'm tired of mom controlling my life, and we've been hanging out." Betty told her. "I've seen the way he takes care of his sister, and I admire his strength in the face of everything his life has thrown at him. Veronica and I were talking the other day, and she said something about me liking him, and I think maybe she was right."

"So what's the problem? Does he not like you back?" Polly asked.

"I don't know, Pol. I thought I could be friends with him, I wanted to be friends with him, but these feelings kind of came out of nowhere and smacked me." Betty said in frustration. "Things are complicated. He has a baby to take care of, the last thing he needs is for me to make things awkward and screw up our friendship again."

"Well, you said yourself that it's not really his baby, so he won't have her forever. His father will likely take over when he gets out." Polly said.

"I think that's unlikely, Pol. Even if he is the father, Jughead has had her since she was born, he isn't going to walk away so easily. In his eyes, she's his." Betty said.

"Okay, then I think you need to take some time to think about how you'd feel taking care of a child for the rest of your life. If he feels the same as you, are you ready to take on that responsibility?" Polly asked seriously. "Because you can't be in a relationship with him if you're not willing to take care of her. You have to understand that bringing people into her life is a serious thing, especially in a relationship aspect. Don't do this if you think you'll end up walking away, only do it if you're serious because that baby deserves for you to be serious. Dating someone with a kid is a big decision, especially at your age, so really think about it before you say anything to him Betty."

"I get it Polly. I will think about it." Betty said. "I wouldn't want to do anything that would affect JB negatively."

"Good. That's smart." Polly said, as Betty heard something in the background. "I've got to go Betty, but I'll call you later."

"Bye Polly, I love you. Thanks for the advice." Betty said.

"I love you too, Betty. Call me anytime you need advice, or if you just want to talk. I'll be here."  Polly said before hanging up. 

Betty sighed and save the number under a different name so that her parents wouldn't be able to link it to Polly if they happened to see it before dropping her phone on the bedside table and flipping onto her back to stare at the ceiling. She had told Veronica that she didn't like Jughead as more than a friend but she had known that she was lying to herself when she had. She had genuinely wanted to rekindle their friendship, but the more she hung out with him, the more she realized how much they'd both grown up.

She had obviously known that he'd grown up, just like they all had, and she'd seen him in passing since they grew apart, Riverdale wasn't that big of a town so avoiding him completely had been impossible, but she hadn't realized how much he had matured. She knew that his maturity was a product of his environment and she thought that maybe he'd never really gotten to be a kid like everyone else, but it had been a few years since she'd talked to him and now that she had it seemed like everything had changed.

Watching him take care of Jellybean, while also going to school and working, made her admire him and spending some time with him in the place he felt the most comfortable had revealed to her the kind of man that he was. He was so sweet and caring underneath that hardened exterior that he wore like armor around other people and he had showed that part of himself to her without hesitation, in a way trusting her not to hurt him, and she wanted to hold him and tell him that she wouldn't. That he could trust her with all of the dark parts of himself. She could see, when he looked at Jellybean, that he still had a bit of optimism in him despite everything that life had thrown at him and she wanted to nurture that and let him know that it was okay.

She knew that Polly was right, that she needed to think about Jellybean in all of this, and she was. The thing about it was, even though they hadn't been apart of each others lives again for very long, it felt like Jughead and Jellybean were already imbedded in her own life. She felt like they were supposed to be in her life and when she thought about them not being a part of her life, it felt wrong. Still, she didn't want to say something to screw up their friendship so she was going to keep her feelings to herself until she could get a better read on how Jughead felt. She hoped that everything would work out.