Betty was sitting in her world history class when the teacher announced a project that they would need a partner for. The room erupted in excited chatter, everyone looking around to find their friends before their enthusiasm was quickly doused by the teacher following up her statement by saying she had assigned them each a partner, so they wouldn't get to chose their own. Everyone quickly deflated as she started listing pairs of names.
"Veronica Lodge and Cheryl Blossom." Betty heard and she grimaced as she gave Veronica a sympathetic look. The teacher would be lucky if they didn't kill each other before they completed the project.
"Archie Andrews and Reggie Mantle." The project was likely to not get finished at all, or be hastily thrown together at the last minute. She loved Archie, he was her best friend, but he wasn't the best student and neither was Reggie. She perked up when she heard her own name after a few more pairs were rattled off.
"Betty Cooper and Jughead Jones." Betty glanced at the boy in the back corner of the room. They had been friends when they were kids, but had grown apart sometime in middle school. She knew he was smart, but she also knew that he tended to miss school on a regular basis and she wasn't looking froward to completing most of the project on her own, but she stood and moved to sit next to him after the teacher had finished. He glanced at her with a cautious look on his face like he expected her to insult him at any moment, but instead she gave him a friendly smile before looking back to the front of the room as the teacher explained the project.
It seemed simple enough. Pick your favorite era of history, in any part of the world and write an essay with an accompanying power point on the issues in that era. Betty made a note of the instructions in her notebook so that she wouldn't accidently forget to do a part of it. The teacher finished explaining the project before she allowed them to begin talking amongst themselves and she turned her attention back to Jughead. He was twirling his pencil between his fingers and staring at the desk in front of him.
Betty took a moment to observe him while he wasn't paying attention. He had dark circles under his eyes, like he hadn't had a good nights sleep in a while, and he held tension in his brow. He seemed on edge, anxious almost and she found herself wanting to ask if he was okay, but she knew he'd probably just glare at her before snapping something snarky. She cleared her throat, unintentionally gaining his attention as he turned to look at her with a raised eyebrow. She sighed and bit her lip.
"So, what's your favorite era of history?" She asked. He shrugged and snorted.
"They all sucked for one group of people or another. It's human nature to cause conflict." He said and she sighed again.
"Right, but that doesn't really help us decide what to write about for the project." She said. He scoffed as he looked at her.
"Worried I'm going to ruin your perfect 4.0 princess?" He snarked and she rolled her eyes before flipping her book open.
"Fine. I'll decide, and you can help when you decide to stop being an asshole." She said. She saw his eyebrows raise as an expression of surprise covered his face.
"Betty Cooper, what would your mother say if she heard you talking like that." He said and Betty resisted the urge to hit him. They'd been working together for less than ten minutes and she was already annoyed. Maybe it would be her and Jughead who would kill each other before the project was over instead of Cheryl and Veronica. Their teacher had literally put together the worst pairs in history, and Betty was sure she would regret it by the end of this.
"I'm not that stupid little girl you used to know Jughead." She snapped as she skimmed the book with her eyes.
"Good. She was boring." He said and Betty gritted her teeth and refused to respond as she searched for a topic. She heard Jughead sigh before his voice came again, more serious this time. "We could do the sixties."
"Why the sixties?" She said, glancing at him in surprise. He shrugged.
"A lot happened in the sixties. The Vietnam War, fighting for gay rights, hippies, a variety of things to write about." He said. She studied his face for a moment, wondering if he was just messing around, but he seemed serious about it and she shrugged.
"The sixties could be fun." She agreed cautiously and he smiled, a small one, but she could tell it was a real one. She returned the smile before she made her way to the front of the room to grab a laptop and bring it back to their desks, which were now pushed together.
They spent the rest of class researching things for their essay, with Betty taking notes as Jughead scrolled through and picked out the important things, as well as some interesting trivia they'd found that she figured they could fit into the project somehow. Right before the bell rang, they made plans to meet up over the weekend to work on it. Jughead told her he'd call her when he was free, and they could meet up at Pop's, which she agreed to.
Betty left the class feeling slightly better about being partnered with Jughead and Veronica met her outside the classroom and quickly grabbed her arm to drag her down the hall toward the cafeteria. They were quiet as they went through the line and got their food but the moment they sat down at their regular table, where Archie and Kevin were already sitting, Veronica turned to her.
"I swear to God, I am going to end up in jail before this project is over for strangling Cheryl with her own hair." She snapped and Betty snorted at her dramatic antics while Kevin piped up next to her.
"Inventive." He quipped.
"I thought so." Veronica said and Betty glanced between them before meeting Archie's eyes.
"How are you doing with your partner Archie?" She asked and he shrugged.
"Fine. Reg and I will get it done, eventually." He said and Veronica rolled her eyes.
"You better. Both of you need to pass the class or they won't allow you to play football anymore." She said looking at him. "You have to have good grades to participate in extracurriculars, remember?"
"We'll get it done." Archie insisted. Betty and Veronica shared a look with Kevin but they all let it go, and didn't comment on it any further as Veronica looked at her.
"What about you B?" She asked. "Jughead Jones."
"He's fine, V. We used to be friends so I'm sure we can get this project done without any major drama." She said and Veronica seemed to perk up.
"Used to be friends?" She asked. Betty shrugged.
"When we were young, Archie, Jughead and I used to spend a lot of time together. We were good friends." She explained and Veronica raised an eyebrow.
"Why aren't you friend's anymore?" She asked.
"It's not some big dramatic story, we just....grew apart I guess." She said, glancing across the cafeteria to where the boy was sitting by himself. She noticed him wrapping up his sandwich and stuffing it into his bag, presumably to take home with him. "He lives on the south side, we live on the north side. Things just changed."
"He seems....sad." Veronica said, following her gaze.
"Maybe we should invite him to sit with us." Archie said quietly and they looked at him.
"I don't know if he'd accept the invitation Arch." Kevin said next to him. "He's kind of a loner. Besides, I think he'd take it as a pity thing, and be pissed off at us."
"Well this project is going to take a few weeks, so maybe I can get him to loosen up around me at least." Betty said, picking at the muffin on her plate. "Maybe then he'll realize that it isn't pity."
"Isn't it though?" Kevin asked and Betty's eyes snapped up to his.
"No, Kev, it isn't pity. We used to be friends and I want that back. He's a good guy, he deserves for someone to be his friend." She said. Kevin had the decency to look sheepish.
"Sorry." He muttered. Veronica raised an eyebrow as she watched Jughead stand and leave the cafeteria.
"I'll say one thing, he's not bad to look at." She said. Betty gave her a look.
"Hey!" Archie exclaimed and Veronica grinned at him.
"I love you Archiekins, but that doesn't mean I've suddenly gone blind and can't appreciate a nice face." She said and Betty rolled her eyes.
"Can you please not objectify my project partner?" She said and Veronica rolled her eyes.
"Fine. I'll be nice." She said.
Not long after the bell rang, signalling the end of lunch, sending them all back to classes. Betty took meticulous notes in each one that she would later copy onto another page, this time color coding it like she did with most things. By the end of the day she was ready to go home and begin more in depth research for the project, but first she had practice in the gym. She and Veronica had become River Vixens together in their sophomore year, which Betty had been thoroughly excited about, but now leading into their senior year she was kind of over it. The only reason she stayed on the team, was because she knew her mother hated it and she wanted to do something to spite her.
So she spent an hour after school listening to Cheryl bark orders at them, before she finally released them. As she and Veronica made their way through the halls of the school and out to the parking lot, she let her mind wander to the list of things she needed to complete, compiling a list in her head. She agreed to give Veronica a ride home since Archie practice was running long, and the moment she started the car Veronica turned the station to some mindless pop music, which they promptly began singing at the top of their lungs. Betty knew that as she drove down the street, that they must seem obnoxious to the people they passed but she had decided recently that she wasn't going to let other peoples opinions affect her, so she joined her friend.
They were laughing by the time they made it to the Pembrooke, mainly because of the look they'd received from an old lady in the car next to them at the stop light. Veronica leaned over to hug her before climbing out and waving before she walked into the building. Betty waited until she saw her go through the doors before she pulled out and started driving toward her own house. She pulled the car into the garage and quickly grabbed her bag before going inside. Her mother and father were sitting at the dinner table already, with Polly sitting at the side. They shared a look before she rushed upstairs to drop off her school things before bounding back downstairs to join them. As soon as she scooted her chair in her mother turned to her.
"We can finally start dinner. Thanks so much for gracing us with your presence, Elizabeth." She said sarcastically. Betty resisted the urge to roll her eyes knowing that it would only make things worse.
"I had to drop Veronica off." She explained and her mother scoffed.
"I'm sure she could have called a car to pick her up. You know we were waiting for you." She said and Betty sighed.
:You could have started without me." She said. Her mother glared at her for a moment, everyone around the table silent and waiting on her next move, before she snatched the bowl of potatoes off the table and began serving them.
"Next time we will." She snapped.
Betty endured an awkward dinner and small talk with her family until she was able to escape to her room and begin her research. She delved deep and took notes as she went for an hour, before she closed the laptop and redid the rest of her notes before placing them in her binder neatly. By the time she was done she was yawning so she put all of her things away before changing into her PJ's and brushing her teeth. She flipped off all the lights and climbed into her bed early. She was asleep before ten minutes had gone by, strange fuzzy images of the sixties floating through her dreams.
When Jughead got home from school he tossed his backpack into his room before leaving the trailer again to make the trip to Toni's trailer. Her grandfather looked after Jellybean while Jughead was at school but he tried not to leave her with him for too long after he got home. The man was already helping him out immensely and he didn't want to take advantage of his kindness. When he got to the trailer, Toni already had Jellybean wrapped in her blanket and laid in the rickety stroller that he'd picked up on the side of the rode with a free sign attached to it. She gave him a smile as her grandfather made his way into the room.
"She was a little fussy today Jug." He said looking down at the baby as he spoke. "She had a bit of a fever. I think she may be getting sick so you might want to take her down to the clinic just in case."
"I'll do that." He said. "Thank you."
He took the handle of the stroller and started pulling it out the door with Toni following behind. She lifted the edge of it to help him get down the stairs without jostling the sleeping baby inside of it, and he bid her goodbye once the stroller was firmly on the ground. As she went back inside Jughead turned the stroller in the direction of the free clinic that was positioned on the far end of the south side and began the walk there. Many people on the south side knew the position he was in with his parents and little sister and they all pitched in to help when they could but he hated asking for help.
Jellybean had turned six months old only a week ago and he wasn't sure if either of his parents even realized it. His father was serving time for another drug charge, he wasn't even sure what it was this time, and his mother had split two days after Jellybean was born. Jughead had woken up to the sound of his little sister crying and had gotten up to investigate when the noise didn't stop only to find a hastily scribbled note from his mother claiming that she couldn't handle this life and he was suddenly left alone with a newborn to take care of. That night he'd dug through his pockets to find some money from his job at the drive in and managed to find enough to buy a can of formula to feed his sister.
Ever since that night he'd become the sole provider for his sister. Some nights he'd take her with him when he had to work and he'd lay her on the cot in the corner of the projection booth as he did his job. He always made sure to turn the lights off and use as little amount of water as he could to keep the bills low enough that he could afford to pay them and still buy food for the house. He was thankful that his parents had purchased the trailer outright so he didn't have to make his paycheck stretch to pay rent on top if everything else.
Some days he got so angry at his parents that he wanted to scream until he lost his voice but when he looked at his little sister he knew that he couldn't afford to lose it. He knew that he just had to suck it up and deal with the hand that life had dealt him so that he could hopefully give her a better life than he had. She became his priority from that moment on and he'd come very close to just dropping out of school completely to pick up a second job but Toni's grandfather had come over to his trailer and convinced him to finish. He remembered that the man had told him to focus on finishing school for his sister because he'd be able to get a better job one day if he had at least a high school diploma.
Jughead reached the clinic quicker than he'd expected, lost in thought as he was, and he went inside the building quickly. He signed in before taking a seat against the wall to wait, knowing that it could take a while to get in. There weren't very many people in the waiting room so he took that as a good sign that maybe they'd get out of here before the sun seat outside. As he waited he unhooked the straps and lifted Jellybean out of the stroller and unwrapped the blanket around her before laying it back in the stroller.
She looked up at him her blue eyes, so much like his, shining up at him and he smiled as he bounced her in his arms lightly. She stuffed her fist into her mouth and began chewing on it as he talked to her, and he used the edge of her blanket to wipe the slobber from her face. She'd began teething recently and it seemed that the slobber never ended as he was constantly wiping it. He played with her while the others were called back one by one and, after they'd been sitting there for an hour and a half, they were finally called back. The nurse did a basic check of her weight and temperature, which he noticed was a little high. before she left them in a room to wait some more.
When the doctor finally made an appearance Jughead laid Jellybean down on the exam table and explained that she'd had a fever for a couple of days so he wanted to get her checked out just in case. The doctor moved to the other side of the table and completed her examination before going back to the counter in the corner of the room where she began making note on the file. Jughead lifted Jellybean back into his arms as the doctor turned to face him.
"Well, during my examination I noticed that it sounds like she has a bit of fluid in her chest, most likely mucus build up. Her nose is a bit stuffy, so I'm pretty sure that she has a cold." She said and Jughead nodded,
"Does she need medication?" He asked and the doctor sighed.
"At her age there's not really much that we can give her. Use some over the counter children's Tylenol to control her fever and put some vapor rub on her chest. There's not much to do but wait for it to pass. If she isn't better in two weeks then bring her back in, but other than that, she should recover just fine." She said and Jughead nodded as she handed him the papers to give to the front desk.
"Thank you so much." He said as he placed Jellybean gently back into the stroller before following the doctor out. She lead him to the window where he handed the papers to the receptionist before leaving. Once he got outside he began the walk home once again, making a small pit stop at the store to buy Tylenol and vapor rub, before continuing on.
When he got home he took Jellybean out of the stroller before folding it up and placing it in the corner and then he proceeded to feed her. He gave her baby food bananas that she loved before giving her a bath and putting the vapor rub on her chest. After that he gave her a dose of Tylenol before putting her in her pajamas and making her a small bottle. He took her into the bedroom and sat on his bed as he gave her the bottle and her eyes slipped closed halfway through the milk so he gently removed the bottle from her mouth and moved her to his shoulder to burp her. After she finally burped, he rocked her for a few minutes to get her fully to sleep before laying her in the crib that was wedged between his mattress and the wall.
He got up and flipped the light off as he left the room, leaving the door open a little so he'd hear her if she started crying, as he made his way to the kitchen. He dug through the cabinets, making note of the food he had left, before deciding to just make himself a sandwich with the leftover chicken that Toni had brought over the day before. He finished the sandwich quickly and turned off all the lights before going back to the bedroom and collapsing onto the mattress. Jellybean was pretty good at sleeping through the night already but she was sick so he was prepared to have to get up at some point in the night to tend to her so he forced the thoughts of the day out of his mind as his eyes slipped closed. He went out like a light in only a few minutes, exhausted from the stress put on his shoulders.
Betty spent the weekend waiting for Jughead to call so that they could meet up but the call never came and by Sunday afternoon she was ready march over to his house and demand that they work on their project. She decided to do just that only moments after the thought crossed her mind and she bounded down the stairs to grab the keys to the station wagon. As she spun toward the door, her eye caught on a figure in the living room and she turned completely to see Polly sitting on the couch with a book on her lap. She had glanced up whens she heard the keys jingle and their eyes met.
"Going somewhere?" Polly asked and Betty shrugged.
"I need to work on a school project and my partner has apparently forgotten about it so I'm going to his house." She explained.
"I'll tell mom and dad where you went when they get home." She said and Betty studied her for a moment.
"Why do you stay here Polly? You're old enough to live on your own and you wouldn't have to listen to their quips about your appearance or life choices." Betty said. "I can't wait to get out of here."
"You're technically old enough to live on your own too Betty, if you wanted to." She said and Betty shrugged.
"Where would I go? You know if I stayed in Riverdale then they'd still pester me." Betty said and Polly shrugged.
"I'm just saying that you could leave, if you wanted, and they couldn't say anything about it because you're eighteen." She said. "And the answer to your question is you."
"What?" Betty asked. Polly sighed and laid the book down to give Betty her full attention.
"The reason I stay here. It's you." She said. "I couldn't leave you here with them by yourself. They're bad enough when both of us are in the room, I can only imagine how bad it would be for you if I left."
"Polly, you shouldn't stay for me, I can handle it." Betty said giving her sister a sad smile. "If you want to leave then you should go. Like you said, I'm old enough to leave, so if it gets too bad then I can just walk away. Seriously, you should go. Get out while you can."
She didn't give Polly a chance to respond, hoping that her sister would seriously consider their conversation and leave. Their mother and father always found something to pick at, no matter how minor it seemed, and her mother had a way of making you feel like you were doing something wrong by just looking at you. When Betty had been a sophomore in high school, Polly had had a pregnancy scare, and their parents hadn't let her forget it for a second since then.
One night, a few days after their parents had found out and dragged Polly to the clinic, Betty had heard them yelling in the other room. She'd heard her parents tear into Polly, not letting up for over an hour, and throwing out the word slut multiple times. Betty had been angry on her sisters behalf because Polly was hardly a slut for having sex with her own boyfriend but she hadn't wanted to invite the insults and anger her way so she had climbed out of bed as quietly as she could and grabbed her phone off the desk before plugging in her headphones.
She'd had the volume up but had still heard when her sisters bedroom door slammed shut before the yelling floated across the hall. Her parents continued yelling and arguing, this time with each other, well into the night and Betty had curled into her bed trying to block out the noise with music. The next morning they were called down to breakfast, each of them with red rimmed eyes from lack of sleep and tears, to see their parents sitting at the table like nothing had happened the night before. Betty and Polly had been quiet that day and everyday after that, they had learned to keep their voices low with the hopes of not catching the attention of their parents and their anger. Betty hoped that Polly took her advice and finally left.
Betty climbed into the car as she shoved the thoughts out of her head and focused on driving through town and into the south side. She remembered where Jughead lived from the times that they'd spend summers in middle school walking around town and going to swimming holes. She pulled into his driveway in record time, the trailers around his seemed crammed together to fit in the small amount of space available, and she parked her car next to the motorcycle that she'd seen him driving. She climbed out of the car, pulling her backpack with her, before she walked up to his door and knocked lightly.
She waited a few minutes before she knocked even louder and she heard someone cursing inside before the door was yanked open. Jughead seemed shocked to see her on his doorstep, his mouth hanging open slightly as he glanced around as if he was trying to determine if she was real and she gave him a friendly smile which seemed to snap him out of it.
"What are you doing here?" He asked and she raised an eyebrow.
"You said you'd call me so we could work on the project but you never did." She said, adjusting the strap of her backpack on her shoulder, drawing his eye to it, before they came back up to meet hers.
'What, you want to work on it now?" He asked, seeming surprised and she nodded.
"Of course. Is this a bad time?" She asked. He glanced over his shoulder into the house before he turned back to her with his lip between his teeth.
"Uh, no, come in." He said as he stepped to the side. She smiled again as she stepped past him into the trailer. Her eyes roamed the room, taking in her surroundings, as the door closed behind her and on her second pass over the room her eye caught on the baby in the floor. Their was a blanket spread out underneath her and she was laying on it on her belly and Betty dropped her backpack to the floor as she turned to look at Jughead. His hand was rubbing along the back of his neck, tugging on the grey beanie he always wore as he studied her, seemingly waiting on a reaction.
"Is she yours?" Betty asked cautiously, not sure how to address the situation. He sighed and shook his head as he made his way over to sit on the floor next to the baby.
"She's my little sister." He said. Betty nodded as she followed him and sat across from him on the floor, they baby between them.
"Where are your parents?" She asked and his eyes snapped to her.
"My dad's in jail. I had thought your parents would have said something, seeing as they run the paper where his arrest was announced." He said and she nodded.
"And what about your mom?" She asked studying his face. He looked away from her, his eyes going to the baby on the floor.
"She's at work." He said slowly. "She works a lot."
Betty heard the lie in his voice but she didn't call him out on it, it wasn't her place to judge someone else's family drama, she had plenty of it on her own. She followed his gaze to the baby between them, happily chewing on the edge of her blanket and a soft smile crossed her face as she watched. She glanced up at Jughead, who still had his eyes on the baby, before she cleared her throat drawing his attention to her.
"Can I hold her?" She asked and he studied her for a moment before he nodded and moved to pick the baby up from the ground. She scooted closer to him as he transferred the baby into her arms and she smiled down at the girl when she had a firm hold on her. She ran her finger down the baby's cheek as she looked at her. "She's beautiful."
"She's the best part of my world." Jughead uttered quietly, his eyes never leaving the baby.
"What's her name?" Betty asked. A small smile crossed Jughead's face.
"Jellybean." He said and Betty raised an eyebrow.
"Is that her real name?" She asked and he laughed quietly.
"No, just like Jughead isn't my real name." He said and she looked at him.
"I know your real name. Please tell me that her's isn't as unfortunate." She said teasingly and he laughed more fully this time as he looked up to meet her eyes.
"I'm afraid so." He said and Betty grinned.
"We'll stick with Jellybean then." She said and he nodded.
"I thought it was a good name." He said.
They spent a few more minute playing with Jellybean before Jughead took her from Betty's arms and laid her back on the floor for more tummy time, leaving them free to grab their laptops and begin crafting their power point deciding to tackle the essay after that. They stayed on the floor next to Jellybean, pressed together as they leaned against the coffee table, for hours as they worked and completed the preliminary power point subject to edits later into the project.
Before starting on a rough draft of their essay Jughead suggested they get some coffee to keep their energy up. Betty stayed on the floor next to Jellybean as he brewed a pot of coffee and brought her a mug of black coffee, asking her if she wanted anything in it, which she refused. She preferred her coffee black which seemed to surprise Jughead but he didn't comment on it as they started working again, occasionally sipping their drinks as they went. They finished the rough draft quickly, which Betty knew meant they'd probably find a lot of issues when they went over it again later, but she was content to close their laptops after they'd gotten it done.
She asked Jughead if she could feed Jellybean when he had gotten up to make her a bottle and he handed it over with no protest, flipping on the TV and laying on the couch as she did, and Betty found herself walking back and forth rocking the baby in her arms as she feed her. She was so caught up in feeding and burping the baby that she didn't notice the sounds from the couch stop and as she turned to look, she realized that Jughead had fallen asleep on the couch.
He seemed so much younger when he was sleeping, the constant furrow of his brow smoothed out as he slept, and she found herself studying his face. He had dark circles under his eyes like he didn't get enough sleep and it was obvious that his mother didn't live here despite the lie he'd told leading Betty to deduce that he was probably taking care of Jellybean on his own while still going to school. She knew that he must be under an immense amount of stress and she began to understand why he missed school so much lately. She looked down at the baby in her arms and almost wanted to cry. No one should be forced to take on so much responsibility at such a young age just because their parents were trainwrecks.
She sighed as she glanced around the trailer and her eye caught on a play pin in the corner of the room. She knelt down and grabbed the blanket from the floor and laid it into the play pin as she held Jellybean close to her with one arm tucked around her and when she got the blanket situated, she laid the sleeping baby down inside before stepping away. She grabbed a blanket off the back off the couch and laid it over Jughead on the couch before she packed up her things into her bag.
She left the trailer quietly and drove to the store to buy a few things before she came back. Jughead and Jellybean were just how she'd left them so she let them sleep as she dug around in the cabinets and pulled out a pot that she filled with water to begin boiling before she added the pasta. As that cooked, she crumbled up some meat and out it in a frying pan with some crushed tomatoes and basil. When the noddles were finished, she drained them and added the sauce that she'd made and mixed it up before taking it off of the heat and turning the stove off. She placed a lid on the food before searching around for a notepad and pen. She left a note on the counter for Jughead to find explaining that she'd had to get back home but had left dinner for him before she turned off the lights and TV and slipped out of the trailer again.
She drove home quickly parking the car next to her parents cars before entering the house. Her mother was still putting things on the table meaning that she wasn't late like she had been a few days before so she dropped her bag in her room quickly before joining them at the table. She and Polly glanced at each other over the table, her mind going back to the conversation they'd had earlier in the day, and she gave her a look that said everything she wanted too. They ate quietly, answering properly when they were asked questions, like a practiced routine before they were finally able to leave the table.
Betty retreated to her room to go over the rough draft they'd made that day as the sounds of her parents settling down for the night floated to her before she put away her work and climbed into bed. She was startled a few hours later as she scrolled through her text thread with Veronica by the sound of her bedroom door creaking open. When she glanced up she saw Polly standing in the doorway fully dressed and she hopped out of bed to look at her, noticing the dufflebag she had slung over her shoulder.
"Are you leaving?" She asked, keeping her voice low so she wouldn't alert their parents.
"Yeah. You were right, I can't stay here forever." Polly said biting her lip. "I'm going to leave my phone here so they can't track me but I'll call you with my new number when I get somewhere safe."
They stared at each other for a long moment before Betty moved toward her and wrapped her arms around Polly. Polly returned the hug and they held each other for a long moment before Betty pulled back to look at her, and study her face for a moment,trying to memorize every part of her before she let her go and stepped back.
"Be careful out there Polly." She said softly.
"Be careful here Betty." Polly said.
"I love you, Pol." She said and Polly smiled sadly.
"I love you too, Betty. Never forget that." She said. "You have someone in your corner."
"I won't forget." She assured her.
Betty followed Polly down the stairs and they hugged once more before Polly disappeared out the front door and Betty flipped the lock behind her. Betty walked back up the stairs avoiding the creaky steps until she reached the landing and tiptoed back to her room making sure the door clicked closed as quietly as she could make it. She picked up her phone again to check the time and realized that it was well after midnight so she flipped the screen off and laid it on her bedside table as she slid into bed. She sent a silent prayer up that Polly would be safe before she slipped into sleep.
Jughead startled awake in the middle of the night and had panicked for a moment as he rolled off the couch and stumbled over to the playpen in the corner. When he saw Jellybean sleeping peacefully inside he took a deep breath and made an effort to calm his racing heart as he looked around the room. All of the lights in the trailer were off but the moonlight was flowing through the window and lighting up the room slightly as he made his way to the kitchen. The first thing he noticed was the pan on the stove and he approached it, taking off the lid cautiously, and found that it was spaghetti. He knew that Betty must have made it before she left, which he knew meant that she'd probably gone through the cabinets because he was quite sure that he didn't have the ingredients for it in his cabinets.
He heated up the food and ate it quietly, finding that he couldn't go back to sleep as he worried about what Betty might say about his living situation and to who. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't realize what time it actually was until his phone began ringing with an alarm across the room and he scrambled to get to it before it woke Jellybean. It was only five in the morning but he began packing Jellybeans bag for the day before pulling out an outfit for her to wear. After he had double checked that she had everything she needed in her bag, he sat it to the side and began packing his own backpack, putting some of the spaghetti into a tupperware bowl for him to have later.
He checked on Jellybean again to make sure that she was still sleeping soundly before he jumped into the shower for a quick wash, leaving the door open in case she began crying. After his shower he got dressed quickly and went to make a bottle for Jelly bean before he woke her up. He fed her at the kitchen table, giving her some baby food along with her bottle, before he unfolded the stroller and laid her into it, placing her bag in the bottom of it where it had a little basket and slinging his own bag over his shoulder.
He left the house at six-forty in the morning and made his way over to Toni's and she opened the door for him when he knocked. She was already dressed and ready for school as well as she helped him get Jellybean inside and her grandfather took her out of the stroller as they stood to the side and Jughead let him know that she had Tylenol in her bag if her fever picked up again before he kissed her goodbye and made his way out of the trailer with Toni.
"You need a ride to school?" He asked, knowing that she was waiting on a part to fix her own bike.
"Sure." She shrugged and they trudged back over to Jughead's trailer and she climbed on to the back of his bike, wrapping her arms around him as he started off.
They got to school pretty quickly, giving them a little while before classes started, and Toni left him at the door as she went off in search of someone. Jughead began his own quest to find a certain blond haired girl-next-door, which he spotted pretty quickly standing in the hallway talking to Veronica Lodge and Kevin Keller. He sighed and straightened his shoulders before making his way toward the group, ignoring the looks he was getting from the two on either side of Betty, as she glanced at him. Betty turned to face him fully when he stopped in front of her and he clenched his hand around his backpack strap as he glanced at Kevin and Veronica and cleared his throat.
"Can I talk to you?" He asked. "Privately."
"Sure." She said simply, shrugging her shoulders as she bid goodbye to her friends and led him down the hall. He followed after her quickly as she ducked into a room at the end of the hall and, once they were inside, she closed the door behind them blocking out the rest of the school.
She turned to look at him as he stood awkwardly in the middle of the room he now recognized as the blue and gold office. He knew that she was waiting to see what he wanted as he glanced around the room and shifted his feet against the carpet as he rubbed the back of his neck, tugging at the beanie, a nervous habit he was trying to break, as he looked up at her and she gave him a friendly smile so he blew out a breath and began speaking.
"Look, about my living situation...." He started. "I'd rather if you kept that to yourself."
"You don't need to worry Jughead, I'm not going to say anything." She said and he looked at her fully. "As far as I'm concerned, it's no one's business but your own."
"Seriously, you're not going to tell me that I need to talk to someone? Like social services?" He asked and she shrugged.
"Jellybean seemed well taken care of." She said. "I don't see a reason to involve social services."
"Thank you." He said seriously. "For understanding."
"Of course." She said before biting her lip and looking up at him. He raised an eyebrow in question. "But....if you ever needed someone to talk to about it, I'm here. I know that I can never truly understand what you're going through but I can listen, if you want."
"Why?" He asked, honestly astonished. "I mean, why do you care?"
"We used to be friends until I let my mother push us apart because she didn't approve of me having friends from the south side. I've recently realized that I don't really give a damn what she approves of so I was hoping that we could repair our friendship." She said and Jughead studied her for a long moment. He wasn't used to hearing her curse and it almost made him want to smile. He had always thought that Betty Cooper had the perfect family because they'd seemed so much more put together than his own but he was coming to realize that their were a million ways to be bad parents, and maybe her world wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. He gave her a small smile.
"I'd like that Betty." He told her and she grinned.
"Really?" She asked and the actual excitement in her voice made him laugh slightly.
"Really." He confirmed. She clapped lightly as she seemingly bounced in place and he found himself smiling at her genuine excitement at the prospect of being friends with him. The bell ringing loudly startled both of them for a moment as they looked at each other with wide eyes, both having jumped when it sounded, before Betty snorted and they erupted into laughter.
They took a moment to calm down before they each had to rush to their respective classes and Jughead found the he was genuinely excited by the thought of them being friends as well. He, Betty, and Archie had been inseparable when they were younger, even when everyone else in their class had developed the idea of getting cooties from hanging out with someone of the opposite sex, they had remained close and did everything together. They spent almost everyday together, even in the summers, until the reached middle school.
They had began to notice the changes in their bodies, and that was precisely the moment that Betty began to spend less time with them. Jughead had thought that she was embarrassed by the way her body was changing and he had wanted to comfort her, so he had gone to her house but her mother hadn't let him in so he'd decided to text her. They spent a few weeks texting, until that trailed off and came to a complete stop as well. At the same time, Archie had gotten really into sports and even though he always invited him along, Jughead knew that it wasn't really his scene. They all drifted away from each other slowly until he only saw them in passing, and eventually it seemed that Archie and Betty made up and began hanging out again. He knew that they lived next door to each other and it made sense that they started hanging out again, but he had been jealous when he realized it at first because neither of them had reached out to him but he eventually got over it, having to deal with his own problems at home.
After his conversation with Betty, he found himself wondering if things had gone down differently from her side. He knew that her parents, particularly her mother, were obsessed with perfection. He remembered one time, when they were younger, Betty had freaked out when Archie accidently got dirt on her dress and he and Archie had made fun of her for being prissy. She had started crying and ran away, making them both feel bad as they chased after her, but when they got to her house they realized why she had been so panicked about it. Her mother had been sitting on the porch when she got back, and hadn't noticed Archie and Jughead as she tore into her about the stain. They had stayed there and watched until Betty was dragged inside, her mother's shouts still audible as the door slammed shut.
After that day, they had both been careful not to mess up anything Betty was wearing, even loaning her clothes to change into while they played outside so that she could just change back into her clothes before going home and they didn't have to worry about the dirt. Jughead remembered vividly that he had pulled her aside, when Archie wasn't paying attention. and had asked her if her parents hit her because he had been worried and had seen it happen on the south side. She had told him that they didn't, that they only shouted, but that they'd never hit her. He had let it go but he still worried about her after that. He wondered now, if that was why she'd stopped talking to him. She had said that it was because of her mother, and he knew that Alice Cooper was a force to be reckoned with, so he knew it was totally plausible that she had kept Betty from hanging out with any boy once she started showing signs of a more feminine body. It was probably worse that he was from the south side, Alice probably thought he'd knock up her daughter before they were even in high school, never mind the fact that they hadn't been romantically involved.
But now it seemed that Betty was fed up with her parents and ready to make her own decisions and Jughead was eager to get to know that girl he had known as a child now that she was all grown up. She gave off the perfect girl-next-door vibe but he knew that was an image carefully crafted from years of her parents expectations, and he wanted to know the real Betty, the one that she hid from everyone, the one that she was under that facade. They had been best friends before they grew apart and he wanted to regain that. He had already shared his biggest secret with her and he hoped that, one day, she would be comfortable enough to share hers.
Betty got home from school to find her parents sitting in the living room and the moment she steeped through the door they called her into the room. She could tell by their body language that whatever they were about to say, the were pissed off about it. She sighed and tossed her backpack onto the recliner before looking at them with her arms crossed over her body.
"What?" She asked and her mother turned a glare on her.
"Where the hell is your sister?" She snapped. Of course this was about Polly, they wouldn't be able to control her now that she wasn't living in their house. Betty shrugged and blew out a breath as she looked at them and tried to keep her face from giving anything away.
"I don't know mom. She was here when I left to meet Jughead for our project. I assumed that she was already in bed when I got back because I didn't see her." She told them.
"Are you sure you didn't see her Betty? She left her phone here so we have no way of contacting her so any information you have could help." Her father said.
"I'm sure. When I came home I went straight to my room." She insisted. "I didn't see Polly."
"Fine Elizabeth. Go to your room." Her mother said. Betty snatched her bag from the chair and rolled her eyes as she spun toward the stairs and made her way up them to her room.
She was glad that Polly left and that they couldn't track her but she hoped that she was okay. Betty knew that she was better off away from their parents and she knew that Polly was smart so she wouldn't give them a way to track her easily and Betty hoped that she found somewhere safe to stay. She knew that Polly had probably gone west as she had always talked about moving to LA but she wasn't going to tell her parents that. She understood why Polly didn't want their parents to follow her because they both knew that if they found her then they would try to drag her back to this house so they could control what she did. Betty didn't see herself leaving Riverdale anytime soon, probably not even for college, but she knew that she wasn't going to stay in this house forever. Her parents would probably still try to control her because she wasn't going to be far away from them but she knew the way they worked and was confident that she could avoid their intrusions into her life if she had her own place.
She sighed as she shook the thoughts out of her mind and pulled out her homework to begin working on it, but she had only been sitting at her desk for a few minutes before her mother burst into her room without knocking. Betty jumped in her seat as she looked up at her with wide eyes, her mother looked enraged.
"You're a liar!" She shouted and Betty took a deep breath as she stared at her.
"What the hell are you talking about?" She asked.
"I wanted to see when Polly left so I checked the camera we have installed in front of the house. Any idea what I saw Elizabeth?" She snapped and Betty blew out a breath. She'd forgotten about the stupid camera.
"She wanted to leave." She said knowing that she'd been caught in the lie.
"Oh and you thought you'd just help her huh? How convenient." She said and Betty rolled her eyes as she stood from her chair and glared at her mom.
"I wonder why she left." She said, the sarcasm plain in her voice. Her mother glared at her.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" She asked.
"This!" Betty shouted, losing patience with her mother. "You act like we've killed someone when we disagree with you, or when we do something that you don't like. Polly left because she was tired of all the insults you threw her way, she was tired of being your little puppet. You can't keep controlling the choices we make Mom!"
"I know what's best for you!" She said and Betty scoffed.
"It's not your decision to make! People make mistakes, that how they grow! You need to let us make mistakes instead of trying to make us perfect all the time. We're not dolls for you to play with, we're people who can make our own choices." Betty shouted before pushing past her mother and rushing down the stairs and flinging the door open.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Her mother snapped from behind her.
"Away from you!" She shouted before leaving the house, slamming the door roughly behind her.
Betty took off down the sidewalk, her anger driving her further and further away from her house, until it cooled a little and she realized where her feet were taking her. The south side and Jughead. She took a deep breath to calm her mind as she continued her steps until she came upon his trailer and stepped into the driveway. His bike sat there, the chrome shining like a beacon and she blew out the breath that she had been holding. She stepped up onto the porch and knocked lightly at the door until she heard shuffling movements from inside. The door opened a few seconds later revealing Jughead with Jellybean in his arms and Betty smiled at him as he studied her for a moment.
"Are we working on the project today?" He asked and Betty shook her head.
"No, I just needed to get away from my parents for a while." Betty said, glancing into the trailer behind him. "Sorry if I'm bothering you."
"You're not." He said, stepping to the side to let her in. "I was just getting ready to take Jellybean for a walk in the park."
"Oh, I don't want to interrupt family time." She said and Jughead smiled at her.
"It's fine Betty. You can come with us if you want, I wouldn't mind the company." He said, placing a bag in the bottom of the stroller. "I mean Jellybean is great but she isn't much for conversation yet."
"Alright, if you insist." She said with a small laugh as he grinned at her before turning to the stroller once more and placing JB into it. He began pushing it and she held the door open for him before following him out the door. He paused on the porch to lock the door before they went on their way.
They were quite as Jughead pushed the stroller down the sidewalk and Betty padded along beside him, her eyes wondering around and observing the other people out and about, some bearing the symbol of the Southside Serpents, others not, but all peacefully coexisting. She found it almost refreshing that they didn't seem to care what other people around them were doing or wearing, everyone just seemed to be enjoying the warm day and the sun shining down. She was brought out of her musings when her eyes landed on Jughead again to see that he was looking at her.
"So, if you don't mind me asking, what's going on at home? Why did you need to get away?" He asked and Betty sighed as she sucked her lip into her mouth and shrugged.
"Polly left and they're not happy about it." She explained. "They're even less happy that I helped her."
"Why are they upset?" He asked. "I mean, isn't Polly like twenty? They should be glad that she's finally leaving home."
"Yeah, but now they can't control her so...." Betty said.
"Well for what it's worth, I think it's stupid that they're blaming you for helping her. It's not your fault if she wanted to leave." He said and Betty sighed as they stopped at a bench positioned near a pond.
"Yeah I know but everything is my fault nowadays it seems." She said as they sit. "They always need someone to blame and you can be damn sure it isn't going to be them."
"You know, if you ever need a place to go, just to get away from it all for a few days, you can always stay with me. There's not a lot of room but we could make it work." He said and Betty gave him a sad smile.
"Thanks Jug." She said softly and he nodded.
"That's what friends are for." He said and she laughed quietly. He smiled as he turned to take JB out of the stroller before he sat her on his lap and turned her to face the park so she could look at everything. Her face seemed to light up as she looked around in amazement and it made Betty smile as she watched her.
Jellybean was fascinated with everything in the park and her eyes kept moving from one thing to the next as she and Jughead made small talk, getting away from serious things for a while as they relaxed on the bench. A little while into their stay, Betty spotted some ducks making their way across the pond and scooped JB up off Jughead's lap and stepped closer to the pond so that she could see them. Betty held the baby close to her as she pointed out the animals and Jellybean smiled a wide gummy grin making Betty laugh.
"Look Jelly, ducks." She said in a soft voice. Jughead came up behind them to stand next to her as Jellybean kept her eyes on the ducks, seemingly fixated on them, and she glanced at him. Their eyes met over JB's head and he gave her a smile but she saw some emotion she couldn't identify slid through his eyes before he broke their gaze to run his hand over Jellybean's hair. She turned and when she saw him she reached out for him with grabby hands.
Jughead took her out of Betty's arms and took her back to the bench where he gave her a teething cookie to munch on. Betty joined them moments later and he smiled lightly at her as he bounced JB on his lap and Betty adjusted the bow on her head that had fallen slightly askew. When she looked up Jughead was studying her with that same look in his eyes again and she raised an eyebrow at him seeming to bring him out of whatever he was thinking about.
"You're good with her, you know?" He said and Betty shrugged.
"I love babies." She said softly. "I've always known that I wanted a family, ever since I was a kid myself. Although, with the gene pool I've got, maybe it isn't such a good idea."
"Don't say that." He said softly and Betty looked at him fully. He had a pained look on his face as he stared at her. "Don't let your parents take that away from you. Don't let them have that kind of impact on your life. It's just genetics, you don't have to be like them and neither do your children. We're not our parents Betty, we're not our families."
"I know that Jug." She assured him. "It's just, sometimes I wish things were different, you know. I wish....I wish that they were better, that they actually cared."
"I get that. Believe me." He said.
They fell silent after that, both lost in thought. Betty always wondered about the what ifs. What if her parents were a little different? What if her mother wasn't so obsessed with perfection? What if she and Jughead had stayed friends when they were younger? Where would they be if things were different? Would they be happier, or better off, or would they have ended up here anyway? She knew that she needed to let go of those thoughts and feelings because it wouldn't change anything. This was their lives and nothing was going to change it. This was the course their lives took and dwelling on the what ifs was useless, it wasn't going to help or make their situations change, so she had to let it go and learn to live the life she was given.
When they got back from the park Jughead took Jellybean out of the stroller and made his way to the bedroom to put her down for a nap, leaving Betty in the living room by herself. He rocked Jellybean gently in his arms until her eyes slipped closed and then he placed her into the crib and tossed the blanket over her before leaving the room. When he came back into the living room Betty was sitting on the couch and she gave him a soft smile when she noticed him coming back. He moved to the couch to sit next to her and flipped on the TV. They were quiet as they sat together staring at the TV until Betty shifted next to him and her eyes landed on his face, distracting him as he glanced at her.
"So where is your Mom, really?" She asked, a curious look on her face before she held her hands up slightly. "Not that I want to pry or anything, I'm just wondering."
"She left." He told her honestly. If they were going to rebuild their friendship, he didn't want to start with lies.
"Left?" She questioned and he shrugged.
"Two days after Jellybean was born, I woke up and she was gone." He told her. "All she left was a note saying she couldn't do it."
"I don't think I could do that." Betty said quietly and their eyes met. "I couldn't carry a baby for nine months and then just leave without any regard for what would happen to them."
"She was never a very good mother." He said. "I don't even think she wanted me most of the time."
"Well, no offense, but I think she was stupid." Betty said, causing Jughead to laugh lightly in surprise as she looked at him. "I couldn't imagine not wanting you and Jellybean in my life, so something must be wrong with her."
Jughead stared at her for a moment trying to read her expression but she looked completely serious. He couldn't imagine why she'd want them in her life because he felt like he was such a burden but she didn't seem to mind that they lived in a run down trailer or that he barely had enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table. She seemed to genuinely like him and want to rekindle their friendship regardless of the life he had and he found that surprising. He was terrified that he'd do something to ruin it and drive her away and he was desperate not to. She had only been back in his life for a few days but he still didn't want to go back to it being just him and Jellybean. For some unknown reason he felt like Betty was supposed to be a part of their lives.
"What about your dad?" Betty asked, snapping him out of his thoughts.
"What?" He asked.
"Your dad." She said. "I know that you said that he was in jail but I guess I was wondering about his role in Jellybean's life."
"He got arrested a few weeks before she was born." Jughead explained and Betty raised an eyebrow.
"So, has he ever met her?" She asked and Jughead shook his head.
"I've never taken her." He said and Betty bit her lip like she wanted to say something about that but she didn't.
"What was he arrested for?" She asked and he could hear the caution in her voice as if she thought he was going to get angry.
"Possession and distribution of a controlled substance i.e. drug dealing." He said before he sighed and ran a hand over his face. "You know, when he first got arrested, I was so pissed at him but now that I've had to take care of Jellybean and pay for all of the things she needs, I kind of get it. I only have to provide for JB and myself, he had himself and three other mouths to feed. I don't approve of the way he was making money but I understand why he did what he did. It's fucking hard taking care of a family."
"Maybe..." Betty started before biting her lip and he looked at her.
"What?" He asked and she shrugged.
"I don't mean to overstep here but maybe you should go see your dad." She said. "Take Jellybean to meet him. Maybe get his side of the story."
"Maybe." He said quietly, his mind swirling with her suggestion. He meant what said, he had been pissed at his father but he understood now why he had chosen to deal drugs, he had been trying to take care of his family in any way that he could and to be fair, at least he hadn't left willingly like their piece of trash mother had.
"When is he supposed to get out anyway?" Betty asked quietly. Jughead shrugged and looked at her.
"He's got a few more months." He said and she nodded.
"You know, if you wanted....I could go with you." She said looking at him with a cautious look on her face. "If you don't want to go see him alone."
"You don't have to do that." He said and she gave him a small smile as she shrugged her shoulders.
"I know but if you want me too, then I will." She said. "You're my friend, and I want to be there for you. If you need me."
"I'll think about it." He told her and she nodded.
"Okay." She said before she leaned back into the couch and turned back to the TV, effectively ending the conversation and giving him time to think. He leaned back into the couch next to her and looked at the screen but he wasn't really watching what was on, too caught up in his own thoughts.
He hadn't seen his father in over seven months, too busy blaming him before Jellybean was born, then too caught up in taking care of her after that, that he hadn't even really thought about it. He had felt a little guilty about not taking Jellybean to meet him, but he hadn't wanted to disrupt her routine at first and then he had been afraid that it would upset her. Thinking about it now, that was probably stupid, it's not as if Jellybean would even realize or remember that she'd seen her father in jail.
He knew that Betty was right and he needed to hear his father's side of the story instead of just condemning him for doing something to take care of his family. From what Jughead knew, there was quite a bit of money in drug dealing, and he knew deep down that his father was just trying to make ends meet. Now that he'd spent six months attempting to make his check stretch as far as it would go, he understood how hard it was.
He resolved to go and see his father, but he wasn't sure yet if he should ask Betty to come with him. She'd already seen some of the hardships that he was facing but he wasn't sure if he was ready for her to see the darkest part of his life. He didn't want to show her anything that might make her run for the hills because he felt like he needed her in his life. Of course looking at her, with her pressed clothes and perfect image, he would have expected her to run a long time ago. Maybe he should stop underestimating her.
When they were growing up together, before their circumstances pushed them apart, she'd always been the first one to help in any situation. She was the first of them to reach out and invite others into their games, and she had never been judgmental of anyone. He should have expected that she wouldn't care about his situation. She'd always been someone he admired, with her accepting nature, and he was glad that she hadn't lost that aspect of herself. She seemed ready to rebel against her parents, but he was glad that she still had parts of that little girl he used to know, the good parts in his opinion.
Instead of going home after leaving Jughead's, Betty made her way to Veronica's house for a sleepover, hoping that when she returned home the next day that her mother would have cooled off a little. She hoped that Jughead would take her advise and go to see his father because she thought that he needed to get closure so that he could stop being angry about his father.
When she got to the Pembrooke, she was let into the Lodge's apartment by Veronica's mother, who led her back to Veronica's room before leaving them on their own. Veronica smiled up at Betty from where she was painting her toenails on the bed and Betty moved to sit on the chair in the corner of the room so she wouldn't jostle the precariously tilting bottle of polish and make it spill on the comforter.
"So, have you been able to crack Jughead Jones yet?" Veronica asked and Betty looked at her.
"Cracked him?" She asked with a raised eyebrow and Veronica shrugged.
"I mean, he seems like the type of guy that isn't easy to get to know. He's a bit of a loner, just like Kev said at lunch the other day, I was just wondering if you guys were actually talking or if you worked on your project in complete silence." She said.
"It's not really a big deal, we talk while we're working, and even when we're not." Betty said with a small shrug. "We used to be friends, like I told you, and it's easy to fall back into that. I know that he isn't the same little boy that I used to hang out with but sometimes, when we're together, I can see that boy."
"Oh my god! You like him." Veronica said with a squeal and Betty rolled her eyes.
"It's not like that V, I just like being around him." Betty said. "When I'm around him, I don't have to pretend to be this perfect version of myself that everyone else sees. He doesn't look at me like he expects a certain thing, he just accepts me for what I am."
"Do you feel like you have to pretend around me and Archie?" Veronica asked seriously making Betty feel a little guilty. "Because you know that you don't have to. We love you, just as you are."
"I know V, it's just different with him. I feel like I could tell him anything and he wouldn't judge me for any of it." She explained. "When we were kids, all three of us hung out, and we were close but it was different with him then too. There's just something about him that's always made me feel....I don't know, safe I guess. No matter what was happening when we were younger, he was always the one I'd turn to, not Archie. I hate that I let my mother push us apart."
"Wow." Veronica said softly and Betty glanced up to see her looking at her with a soft expression. "That's like fated lovers kind of feelings."
"Stop." Betty said rolling her eyes and shoving Veronica's shoulder lightly. "It isn't like that. We're friends, or at least that's what I'm trying to get us back to."
"Sure." Veronica said, turning to put the cap back on the polish and sitting it on the bedside table. "But I'm placing my bets now, you're going to end up in his bed at some point."
"Veronica!" Betty exclaimed glancing at the door to make sure neither of her parents were hovering around as Veronica shrugged.
"I'm just saying." She said holding her hands up in surrender. "It wouldn't be the end of the world if it ended up happening, I stand by what I said, he's nice to look at."
"Okay, I'm officially changing the subject." Betty announced giving Veronica a look. "How's the project coming along with you and Cheryl?"
"Ugh, don't even ask." Veronica said. "I swear, Satan spawned that girl and now regrets it, she's that bad."
"I'm sure it can't be that bad." Betty said, laughing at Veronica's dramatics.
"It is B." She insisted. "She wants us to cover the sixteen hundreds because she likes the outfits. I'm serious, she made an entire power point about it before she even came over to work on it, nevermind the fact that we're supposed to be covering events and not fashion. She drives me crazy."
"Well, at least she took initiative." Betty tried and Veronica rolled her eyes.
"It's not initiative if it doesn't help Betty!" She exclaimed and Betty shrugged again.
"I'm sure you'll figure it out." She said. Veronica sighed.
"Okay, I'm done talking about our project and partners because all it's doing is making me frustrated." She said, standing from the bed and grabbing Betty's wrist to pull her out of the room. "Let's make hot chocolate."
"It's like a hundred degrees outside." Betty protested.
"It's never too hot for hot chocolate Bettykins, besides we have air conditioning." She said and Betty just decided to go along with it, there was no changing Veronica's mind once she decided on something.
"I know what will take our minds off of our schoolwork and partners." Betty said, hopping up to sit on the counter as Veronica moved around the kitchen grabbing things for the hot chocolate.
"What's that?" Veronica asked.
"Movie night." Betty said dramatically and Veronica laughed as she glanced at her with a shrug,
"You're totally right B, make some popcorn." She said. Betty sighed as she jumped back off of the counter and they moved around the kitchen easily avoiding one another as they set about their tasks.
Betty made a bunch of popcorn and dumped it into a big bowl before adding extra butter to it and by the time she finished with that, Veronica had poured each of them a large mug of hot chocolate and had put marshmallows on top. The grabbed their items and made their way into the living room where they debated what tpo watch for a few minutes before settling on having a scary movie marathon.
They spent the rest of the night scaring the crap out of themselves before retreating to Veronica's room and tucking the blankets around them securely, each of them glancing around the room every couple of minutes, until they finally managed to calm themselves down enough to sleep. They laid in the dark for a while after that, breathing quietly and trying to fall asleep, before Veronica shifted to look at Betty.
"All jokes aside B, I'm glad that you and Jughead seem to be getting along. From what I know of him, he seems like a good guy." She said seriously and Betty nodded lightly.
"He is." She said.
Neither of them spoke again after that and soon Veronica's breathing became even lulling Betty to sleep as she listened to the rhythmic noise. Jughead and Jellybean featured heavily in her dreams that night, making her smile lightly.
Jughead took a deep breath as he looked up at the building, standing high and foreboding in front of him, and forced himself to step inside with Jellybean clutched close to him. He had taken Betty's advice and come to see his father but he had decided to do it without her, He wasn't ready for her to see this part of his life just yet and when he'd spoken to her about it she had seemed to understand completely. That led him to where he was now, pushing through the doors to the jail currently housing his father, and he almost wanted to turn around a run but he forced himself to make his way to the desk where an officer was sitting.
"Um, hi." He started, gaining the attention of the officer. "I'm here to see Forsythe Jones."
"You have ID?" The officer asked with a raised eyebrow. Jughead dug around in his pocket for his wallet, making sure to keep an arm around Jellybean, before finally producing the ID and handing it over. The officer glanced at it and began typing something into the computer in front of him before he slid the card back over to Jughead. He slipped it back into his wallet quickly and put it back in his pocket before readjusting his grip on Jellybean as the officer stood from his desk. "I'll need to search you before I let you in."
"Okay." Jughead said and the officer raised an eyebrow at him.
"You'll need to sit her down, kid." He said and Jughead looked at him.
"She can't sit up on her own yet." He told him and the officer sighed before motioning over another officer from behind the desk. Jughead reluctantly handed Jellybean to the officer and allowed himself to be searched as he kept a close eye on her. After he'd been searched the officer moved over to Jellybean and began taking her shoes off and Jughead looked at him confused.
"What are you doing?" He asked, taking her back from the second officer.
"We need to make sure that there isn't anything hidden on her as well." He said and Jughead had to refrain from rolling his eyes.
"Is that really nessacary?" He asked and the officer nodded.
"Absolutely." He said.
Jughead held his tongue even though he wanted to tell them that they were stupid and he waited for them to be done checking everything. They handed him back her shoes when they finished and the officer who'd been sitting at the desk led him back to a room, hidden behind two sets of doors that had to be opened from the inside, the locks clanking back into place the moment it shut behind them and showed him a table to sit at. He looked around the room to see a few other people sitting at other tables and he assumed that they were waiting for inmates as well. He'd looked up the visiting hours before he'd come and he'd picked the time he hadn't expected many people to be here and it seemed that he was right.
He sighed as he sat Jellybean on the table and kept and arm around her as he slipped her shoes back onto her feet. Jughead had put her in a yellow sundress for this visit, though he wasn't sure why he even put the effort in, but he thought she looked cute anyway. He'd slipped a small bow onto her head to match and it stood out starkly against her dark hair so similar to his own. He played with her until he heard the doors open again, from the other side this time, and he glanced up to watch the inmates file out of it. When his father came out behind some of the others, their eyes caught immediately, and Jughead could see the genuine surprise on his fathers face before his eyes slid to Jellybean.
His father made his way over and sat down at the table across from them, where the chair was positioned, and an officer came over to snap his hands into the cuffs and chain that ran through a loop on the table. Jughead sighed as their eyes met once again and he took Jellybean off the table to place her in his lap facing their father so that he could see her.
"Jug." His father said in greeting. "I didn't expect you to visit."
"I didn't expect to come." He said softly and he saw his father flinch slightly. "But I've been talking to a friend and she convinced me to come....and I realized that, maybe, you had a reason for doing what you did."
"I never meant to be taken away from you guys Jug, I was just trying to take care of you." He said and Jughead sighed with a nod.
"I know dad, I get that now. Believe me." He said. His dad looked from him to Jellybean, now chewing on her own hand totally oblivious to their conversation, before he met his eyes again.
"Where's your mother?" He asked and Jughead shrugged.
"Fuck if I know." He said. "She left."
"She left?" He asked. "When?"
"Right after Jellybean was born. I've been the one taking care of her this whole time." Jughead said.
"What the hell was she thinking? She shouldn't have just left you to take care of a baby, this isn't your responsibility." His father said, sounding angrier than Jughead had seen him before.
"I'm handling it." Jughead said and his father sighed as he ran his hands over his face, the chains attached to his wrist rattling as he moved.
"The point is, you shouldn't have to." He said and Jughead shrugged.
"I'd rather JB be with me instead of out there, wherever mom fucked off too. At least this way, I know she's safe and taken care of." Jughead said. His father seemed to study him fro a long moment before he looked at Jellybean again.
"Well, she does seem well taken care of Jug. You seem to be doing a good job of it." His father said before biting his lip. "Did you drop out of school or something?"
"No." Jughead said. "Thomas Topaz refused to let me. He watches her when I'm at school and I just take her to work with me at the Drive In when I have a shift."
"That's good." He said with a sigh. "I'm glad you're finishing school. I've screwed your life up enough without being the reason you didn't get a diploma as well."
"We're doing okay dad." Jughead said quietly, bouncing Jellybean on his leg. "You don't need to worry, I can handle this."
"I know you can." He said quietly. "You always were better than either of us."
"I don't think that's quite true dad." Jughead said.
"It is, boy. Accept it." He said.
They spent the rest of the visit talking about things far less serious and Jughead left the jail feeling much better about everything. He loved his dad a lot and he knew that the man was only doing what he had to do to take care of his family. Jughead was working through his anger about the arrest and accepted that sometimes people didn't make the best decisions when they were desperate. His father had been doing his best to take care of them and hadn't meant to get in so deep that he ended up with jail and Jughead could forgive him for making the wrong choice.
Compared to his mother, who had just left with no explanation or concern for either of them, his fathers reason for missing so much was more understandable. He'd done what he did for his family, while Jughead's mother had done what she had solely for herself. He agreed with Betty's sentiment on that, he wouldn't be able to walk away from a child he had a hand in making with no regard for them either, and he was starting to realize that he and Betty were maybe not so different after all.
He'd looked at her as the perfect girl next door for so long that he'd found himself stuck on that image of her, but after spending more time with her, he had begun to realize that she was a person just like everyone else. She had secrets and darkness in her that he felt a kinship with and he found her intriguing because he knew that she wasn't firmly either thing. She was the girl next door and she was a dark reflection of that all at once, and he thought that maybe they were the same in some ways.
He knew that looking at them from the outside, they didn't seem to share anything, they didn't fit together, but he had started to see a little of the girl she truly was without all the masks and he'd unconsciously began showing her those parts of himself too. They'd been friends as children before drifting apart, and when she had approached him about rekindling that relationship, he'd thought it would be hard but they'd seemed to fall back into the friendship as easy as breathing. He wasn't sure if the closeness he felt with her was a result of their shared past or if it was just that easy for them to open up to each other. She knew things about him that no one else did, like Jellybean and his father, and he thought that maybe he knew things about her too. He was sure that her friends didn't know just how bad it was for her at home and he felt privileged that she'd shared it with him.
She was the reason he'd given his father a chance in the first place, and he was glad that he had because he hadn't realized until today how much he had truly missed him, and he almost wanted to call her to tell her about the visit but he resolved to instead tell her the next time he saw her. It had been so long since he'd had a friend that he could talk to about his life and be one hundred percent honest without fear of judgement and he found himself thankful for the project that had brought her back into his life.
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.
Jughead texted Betty to come over as he dug through the drawers to find a hat for Jellybean before shoving the phone in his pocket. He finally found a white sunhat at the bottom of the drawer and gripped it in his hand as he picked up Jellybean from the bed where she was chewing on the edge of the book he's been reading to her. He had heard from others that the teething stage was a nightmare but so far Jellybean didn't seem to bothered by it, the only thing he really noticed was that she slobbered much more now so most of his clothes had wet patches at the shoulders where she'd stick her face into him but he didn't mind it.
He took her to the kitchen and sat her in her bumbo seat while he slipped her shoes on her feet and sat the hat on her head before he began to apply sunscreen to her skin. Jellybean babbled as he moved around her but she was happy to sit up, supported by the seat, and watch him move around the room. He was sticking a few snacks into the diaper bag when he heard the knock, and knowing that it was probably Betty, he yelled for her to come in as he finished and zipped up the bag. He heard the door open and close quietly before Betty joined them in the kitchen.
"Hey." Betty said, moving to pick up Jellybean and sit her on her hip.
"Hey." Jughead said, giving her a smile. "I was wondering if you wanted to come to a carnival with us."
"A carnival?" Betty asked, glancing at him and Jughead grinned.
"Yeah. I saw a flyer for it and thought it would be fun to take Jellybean to." He said. "It's a few towns over in Centerville."
"I'd love to go." Betty said, smiling at him as she bounced Jellybean in her arms. "We can take my car."
"I was going to take the truck." Jughead said. "But it would probably be better to take the car."
"Alright, it's settled then." Betty said. "Do you need help getting anything?"
"No it's fine, I've got everything I think. We can put the stroller in the trunk." Jughead said, looking around to double check that he'd packed everything. "If you could get Jellybean in her car seat while I do that, it would be great."
"No problem." Betty said and Jughead nodded as he grabbed the bags from the counter and the stroller from the corner of the room before making his way out the door with them. Betty slipped the keys into his hand as he passed before she moved to grab the car seat. It only took him a few seconds to get the trunk open and slip the stroller into it, thankful that Betty had a big trunk, before he made his way back into the house. Betty already had Jellybean snapped into the car seat and he allowed her to move past him as he grabbed the keys to the trailer off the table and locked the door.
Betty strapped Jellybean into the car easily before climbing into the driver's side and Jughead followed, getting into the car and handing her the keys back so she could start the car, then they were on their way. It was quiet in the car for the first few miles, the music playing softly from the radio providing a buffer to the silence, before Jughead looked at Betty with a sigh.
"So, I went to see my dad." He said softly and she glanced at him for a moment before focusing back on the road.
"How'd it go?" She asked.
"Better than I expected actually." He admitted. "You know, even though he did something illegal and it landed him in jail, he's still my dad. He still cares about us, which is more than I can say about my mother, so that's something. He made a mistake, I get that now."
"Are you going to see him again?" She asked and Jughead shrugged.
"Maybe." He said, biting his lip. "He gets out in a few months so we'll see."
"Well, for what it's worth, I'm proud of you for going. I know that it must have been hard." She said and Jughead shrugged again.
"You were right, you know." He said, looking at her. "It did help to go see him and talk to him about everything, so thank you, for telling me that I should."
"Of course, Jug." Betty smiled at him.
They spent the rest of the drive in relative silence, aside from Betty occasionally singing along to the radio and Jughead teasing her mercilessly for it, before they finally reached their destination a couple hours later. It took them a few minutes to find a parking spot in the crowded lot but eventually Betty squeezed the car into a spot and they climbed out. Jughead pulled out the stroller and unfolded it as Betty took Jellybean out of the car seat and slung the diaper bag over her shoulder before joining him at the back of the car.
He took Jellybean from her and placed her into the stroller as Betty locked up the car before they began making their way to the entrance of the carnival. There were kids and families everywhere as they began their trek through the gates, and the smell of corn dogs and cotton candy floated on the air. Jughead watched as Jellybean stared around at all of the colorful booths with wide eyes and it made him smile. He knew that she couldn't understand any of it yet but she looked excited so he figured that it didn't really matter that much. Betty walked along beside him with her eyes flickering around, much like Jellybean herself, and Jughead laughed quietly bringing her attention to him.
"What?" She asked and he grinned at her.
"You look like a kid in a candy factory." He said and she rolled her eyes and shoved him lightly.
"I like the carnival. It's fun." She pouted and he shook his head.
"We haven't even done anything yet." He said and she shrugged.
"No, but I've been watching other people who are playing the games. Their reactions are great, especially when they lose." Betty said.
"Right, someone should tell them that the games are rigged." Jughead said, looking around at the booths surrounding them. Betty looked at him with a grin.
"Are you sure their rigged? Maybe you just suck." She said teasingly making him roll his eyes.
"Fine." He said. "You try to win one then."
"I will." She said before dragging him over to a booth. He parked Jellybean beside it as Betty handed the man behind the booth a dollar and received three darts. The booth had spinning platforms with balloons attached to them and the goal was to pop three of them with your darts. Jughead leaned against the edge of the booth and watched as Betty seemed to concentrate on the game, weighing the darts in her hand, before she grinned at him with a cocky expression. He raised an eyebrow at her and waved his hand, telling her to go for it.
He watched as the first dart made contact with a balloon and he moved away from the side of the booth to watch her. She threw the other two darts in quick succession, each of them hitting other balloons, leaving Jughead staring at her with wide eyes. She clapped and jumped up and down in place with a big grin on her face before pointing to a small stuffed dog when the booth operator asked what she wanted. Betty took the dog happily and spun around to face Jughead.
"I told you that you just sucked at games." She said.
"How did you do that?!" He exclaimed. "That's impossible."
"Obviously not." She said, the sass in her voice clear as she held out the dog to him with a smirk on her face. "Do you want the prize Juggie? I can win another one."
"No thanks." He said rolling his eyes, but the smile on his lips said he wasn't really irritated about it. Betty shrugged and spun to Jellybean.
"Fine, I'll give it to Jellybean." Betty said, kneeling down by the stroller and placing the dog in her hands. Jellybean stuffed it straight into her mouth, chewing on the dogs ear happily, and Betty smiled up at him. "I think she likes it."
"At this point she likes anything that she can chew on." He said as they moved away from the booth and Betty shrugged.
"I'm going to maintain that she likes me more right now." She said, grinning at him. He raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, so you plan to bribe her for her love?" He asked and Betty nodded.
"That's the plan." She said. He laughed as they walked around the carnival.
They stopped at a few other booths, each of them playing a few games each, before they decided to get something to eat. They each got a corn dog and Betty got a small cup of ice cream which she shared with Jellybean, who seemed to love it, as they sat at a table and watched the other people mulling around. Jughead picked up Jellybean and knew right away that she needed changed so he began looking around for a place to change her.
"Something wrong?" Betty asked, finishing up her corn dog. Jughead shook his head.
"Just need to find somewhere to change Jellybean." He said and Betty glanced around.
"Can't you just take her to the bathroom?" She asked.
"They don't have changing tables in the men's restroom and I don't really want to lay her on the ground in a dirty public toilet." Jughead said and Betty looked at him.
"Seriously, no changing tables?" She asked. "What about all the single father's who need to change their babies? Not having changing tables is so stupid."
"That's just how things are." Jughead said, still looking for a place to change Jellybean.
"I can take her." Betty said, making him look at her.
"Have you ever changed a diaper before?" He asked and she rolled her eyes.
"Of course. I used to babysit all the time." She said reaching for Jellybean and taking her out of his arms. "Seriously, it'll only take me a few minutes. There's always changing tables in the women's room so we don't have to put her on a dirty floor or search forever for somewhere to change her. In and out, we'll be right back."
She left the table with Jellybean in her arms and the diaper bag over her shoulder before he could even respond. He watched as she strode away from him and shrugged figuring that she could handle changing Jellybean on her own.
Seeing Betty with Jellybean made him smile, she seemed so at ease with her that if he didn't know, he'd think she was Betty's own child. He wondered if the people around them thought that they were just having a day out with their own child. As he thought about it, he realized that out didn't freak him out as much as he thought it would. Jellybean wasn't his daughter but he'd had her practically since she was born and it almost felt like she was. He had thought that the thought of anyone else being a pseudo parent for her would make him possessive or angry, but seeing Betty fill that role made him almost happy.
He and Betty had grown up together so he had known already that she was a very maternal and nurturing person but they way she took to Jellybean had surprised him. He had been afraid at first that she was going to tell someone about their situation and he'd lose Jellybean, but now he knew that she'd have never done that. She seemed almost like she wanted to help him. She hadn't judged him at all but instead she had begun to spend more time around him, and by extension Jellybean, and he found that he liked having another person around.
He knew that Betty was beautiful, as she had always been, but her kindness made him want to keep her around for as long as he could. He knew, by this point, that he liked her as more than a friend and that terrified him. If she didn't feel the same way he didn't want to drive her out of his life, but at the same time he almost wanted to tell her, to see what she felt about it. He'd never call himself a brave man but he thought that maybe telling her was worth the risk, especially if she returned his feelings.
They got back to the trailer as the sun was sinking below the clouds, making the sky light up in colors of red and orange, and Betty was yawning as she pulled into the driveway. It had been a fun day but also a long one so she was a little tired but regardless she followed Jughead into the trailer. They unloaded everything from the car before Jughead gently took Jellybean out of her car seat, where she had fallen asleep, to move her to the crib in the bedroom. Betty occupied herself by putting the leftover snacks away in the fridge until Jughead rejoined her in the kitchen.
"Can we talk?" He asked quietly and she glanced at him nervously.
"Um, sure." She said, following him to the couch. He seemed to be studying her, his face conflicted, so she reached out to take his hand. "Is something wrong?"
"No." He said, but his brows were furrowed and she bit her lip.
"Are you sure?" She asked. "Because, in my experience, no good conversation starts with any variation of the words we need to talk."
"It's not anything bad." He said, glancing up to meet her eyes. "I mean, I hope not."
"Okay." She said hesitantly as she studied his face. His eyes flickered over her face before dropping to their joined hands on her lap.
"I like you Betty, in a more than friends kind of way." He said without looking at her. "But..."
"But?" She asked, making him look at her and he seemed to take a deep breath.
"Jellybean needs consistency in her life and her happiness is more important to me that anything so...." He blew out a breath as their eyes met. "I need to know that you're in this with me, that you aren't going to just walk away."
"I'm not going anywhere, I promise." Betty said, touching his face lightly. "I like you Jug, and Jellybean is a part of your life. I get that you have to look out for her but I'm here. I'm not walking away, ever."
They stared at each other for a long moment before they seemed to move in unison, their lips meeting in a rush of heat, and Betty found herself pressed against him firmly as they kissed. She felt his arms around her waist, holding her tight, as he ran his tongue along her lips begging for entrance. She parted her lips slightly, allowing him in, and she made a soft sound in her throat. They kept kissing for a few minutes before Betty pulled away, a few kisses peppered on his face, before she stepped back from him. They both had smiles on their faces as they looked at each other.
"I gotta get home." Betty said softly, the regret leaking into her words. Jughead nodded.
"I'll see you at school tomorrow then?" He asked and she smiled.
"Of course." She told him before she started toward the door but he caught her arm and pulled her back for a hug.
"Thank you." He said softly and she pulled back to look at his face.
"For what?" She asked and her shrugged lightly.
"For saying you'll stay." He said, their eyes meeting. "For not leaving me. Everyone always leaves."
"I won't." She said, her heart breaking at the sadness in his voice. "I'll never leave, not unless you tell me to go."
"Then I guess you're going to be stuck with me." He said and she gave him a small smile.
"I don't mind." She said, dropping another kiss on his lips.
She pulled away from him again and made her way to the door, him letting her go this time, and she pulled it open to go outside before she turned back to him for a moment.
"Give Jellybean a kiss for me." She said and he nodded.
She finally left, closing the door behind her, as she made her way to her car and pulled out. She felt like she was leaving her heart in the trailer with the two people who had become so utterly important to her in such a short space of time. Her lips were still tingling from the kiss and she almost wanted to turn around and go back, she wanted to stay with them in that trailer that felt more like home than her own house, but she knew that if she didn't come home then her mother would surely send out a search party.
Betty got back to her own house quickly and she made her way upstairs before either of her parents could comment on how late it was already but she saw the looks they gave her when she closed the door. She closed the door to her own room quietly before making her way to the ensuite where she stripped her clothes off and climbed in to wash off the dirt from the day. Her skin was sticky in places from Jellybean touching her with sticky hands after she'd shared her ice cream with her but she didn't mind as it seemed the girl had a good time.
When Betty thought about Jughead and Jellybean, it almost felt like they were family, and she thought that the presence of a baby was what helped it tip over into that so quickly. She and Jughead had grown up together so they already had a foundation for their relationship and even though they had grown apart in the last couple of years, it was easy to fall back into that relationship, but with Jellybean added into the mix it made the dynamics a bit different. Jughead was obviously filling to role of a father and Betty had, without really realizing it, fallen into the role of his partner. She knew that he did far more than she did because Jellybean was a part of his life all day everyday, as opposed to her seeing her only some of the time, but regardless of that she still felt like she played an almost parental role when she was with them.
She knew that the thought of having a family at her age should have sent her running for the hills but she honestly didn't mind it. She had always been more mature than people her age, due in part to the way her parents treated her and Polly, and the thought of maybe becoming a more permanent part of Jughead and Jellybean's life didn't scare her at all. She didn't want to run, she wanted to help, to be there for both of them as much as she could.
After climbing out of the shower, Betty got dressed in a soft pajama set and moved to sit on her windowsill. Archie's light was still on across from her and she could see him sitting at his desk, seemingly working on something and, as if he could feel her gaze, he glanced up. Their eyes met and she gave him a small smile as he stood from the desk and moved to his own window so that they were directly across from one another as he grabbed his phone off the desk.
Are you okay?
I'm okay Arch, just a lot on my mind.
Anything I can help with?
Betty bit her lip as she thought. She knew that she couldn't tell Archie about Jellybean, but he was her best friend and she thought that maybe he could help without knowing the whole story.
Can I tell you something? Will you promise not to tell anyone?
You know you can talk to me about anything Betty.
Jughead and I kissed.
She could see his surprised reaction from where she was sitting as he looked up at her with wide eyes before he began tapping on his phone again.
Okay, we're going to talk about exactly how that happened later but I have a feeling that that isn't what the conversation is about.
I like him a lot Arch.
Nothing, it's just that my parents wouldn't like it, especially my mother.
Who cares what they think? Certainly not you, you're still friends with me after all.
Yeah, but you and I aren't dating so it's a little different. I don't want them to ruin this, you know how they are.
Look, this may not be the best advice but if it's really that bad then leave. You don't have to deal with it, you're old enough to make your own decisions.
Where would I go Archie? I don't have a job, it's not like I could afford an apartment.
You can stay with me, or Veronica, you know that we're here for you. Plus Pop's is hiring, I'm sure if you talked to him you could get a job. You don't have to stay with toxic people, you have options and we don't care who you date.
I don't know Arch. I'll think about it.
Just let me know, you know you're always welcome here.
Betty put her phone down after that, waving at Archie before turning her lights out and making her way to the bed. She was tired from the day of activities, so she went out like a light the moment her head hit the pillow. She could think about everything tomorrow.
The day after the carnival Jughead woke up and knew immediately that he wouldn't be going to school. Jellybean was fussy and burning up with fever, so he gave her some baby Tylenol and paced back and forth in the living room, bouncing her lightly. He wrote a quick text to Toni to let her know that he wouldn't be bringing Jellybean by today knowing that she'd pass the message along to her grandfather. Jughead thought about taking her to the clinic but he knew that they couldn't give her anything and he didn't want to wait for her to be seen again just to be told the same information.
The morning passed slowly, with Jellybean napping intermittently, allowing Jughead to clean up a few things around the house until she began crying again. She had a hard time taking a bottle because of her stuffy nose so he fed her smashed up bananas when she got hungry. When morning rolled into afternoon Jellybean decided that she didn't want to be sat down, screaming when he tried after she'd fallen asleep, forcing Jughead to lay on the couch with her on his chest. Her breath came in puffs as she fell asleep effectively making sure that he couldn't move so he reached for the remote cautiously and flipped on the TV.
It was mid afternoon when his phone began ringing and he answered it quickly without even looking, hoping that the sound wouldn't wake Jellybean.
"Jug, is everything okay?" Betty's voice came from the other end and Jughead glanced at the clock.
"Shouldn't you be in class?" He asked.
"Shouldn't you?" She asked, the sarcasm in her voice making him smile. "Is everything alright? You aren't here."
"I woke up this morning and JB wasn't well so I figured I'd stay at home with her instead of taking her to the babysitter." He explained. "I think she's got a bit of a cold."
"I'll come over after school. I can make you some soup." She said.
"You don't have to do that. I'm not the one who's sick." He said and he heard her scoff over the phone.
"You will be, I guarantee it. Besides, I can make some broth for JB as well. She's old enough for it." She said and he smiled even though she couldn't see it.
"Okay. I'll see you then." He said.
"I gotta get back to class before they come looking for me." She said softly. "I'll see you later."
The phone clicked on the other side letting him know that she'd hung up so he tossed his phone back on the coffee table and focused back on the screen of the TV, but he wasn't really watching it, his mind caught up with thoughts of Betty. He never expected her to come back into his life and know that she had he was thankful for it. She embraced him and Jellybean with an open heart, no judgement in her eyes at all, and she'd agreed to stay.
When his mother had left, it took him a little while to accept that he was truly alone, and he hadn't expected that to ever change. He'd known that his father would be released from prison at some point but he hadn't truly expected him to care about them all that much. He had thought that he'd be alone with Jellybean for the rest of his life, that he'd have to carry the burden alone and try to give her the best life that he could, but now he thought that maybe that was wrong.
He could see that Betty cared about him and about Jellybean and when she assured him that she wouldn't leave, he believed her. He knew that their relationship was unconventional for someone their age but he knew that she didn't care about that. She cared about them without having a ulterior motive and he knew that she wasn't going to abandon them. She was everything he ever wanted, when they were young he used to fantasize about their lives and marriage, but she'd been infatuated with Archie and hadn't really noticed the small boy tagging along behind him. They had been friends but he knew that she hadn't truly seen him as a romantic option back then. They were older now though and he knew that things had changed.
They weren't in love, he knew that, but he also knew that they would get there eventually. He liked her and by some miracle she liked him back, she even loved his little sister, and now that they were older, their relationship seemed plausible. When they were younger he would never have seen them ending up here, despite his fantasies, but now it seemed like it was inevitable. From the moment she'd shown up at his doorstep, hoping to work on a project, everything had changed and shifted before falling into place. She had been kind to him about his situation and she had willingly taken a place in their lives. It felt to him like she was always meant to be there, like this is what their lives were supposed to be. It felt like fate brought them together in that moment and had been keeping them together since.
Jughead was brought out of his thoughts by a knock at the door and a glance at the clock let him know that Betty was still in school leaving him confused. He stood up, the motion waking Jellybean who let out a disgruntled noise, before making his way to the door. When he opened it, he became more confused, because it actually was Betty and she smiled up at him before stepping in the door.
"What are you doing here?" He asked, closing the door behind her as she made her way into the kitchen.
"I said I'd come over." She said and he raised an eyebrow.
"I specifically remember that you said you come over after school. School isn't over yet." He said and she shrugged as she unloaded the bags she'd brought with her.
"I ditched early." She said and he sighed.
"You shouldn't have done that. We're fine." He said. She gave him an unimpressed look.
"I'm sure missing the last few hours of today isn't really going to affect my schooling." She said as she began to cut up some vegetables and put them into a pan. Jughead sat at the table with Jellybean still in his arms and watched her moved around the room as the smell of the soup began wafting around the room. After she seemed satisfied with it for the moment she spun and lifted Jellybean out of his arms and sat her on the table in front of her as she took a seat.
Betty began talking to her in a soft voice, running her hand through Jellybean's hair, before placing a kiss on each of her cheeks. Jellybean was watching Betty's face with a gummy smile on her face causing Jughead to smile as well.
"I haven't been able to get her to stop fussing all day accept when she was asleep. You're here for a few minutes and she's already smiling." He said and Betty laughed.
"I told you she liked me better." She said.
"You may be right." He said. "But you know, you really didn't have to leave school early, we would have been fine."
"I know." She said softly, looking at him. "But I wanted to be here, with the two of you. It's really not a big deal Jug, we graduate in a couple of months and I've got a good enough GPA that missing a little isn't going to matter all that much."
"What about college?" He asked and she shrugged and bit her lip.
"I don't know about college. I mean, missing a few hours isn't going to affect me getting in if that's what you're worried about, but I'm not sure I'm going. At least not right away." She said and he looked at her.
"Why not?" He asked. Betty sighed and looked at him.
"You know that my parents were angry when Polly left, but didn't you wonder why she hadn't left for college already? She was old enough." She said.
"Why didn't she go to college?" He asked, as it seemed she wanted him to.
"When Polly was a senior, she was dating Jason Blossom and they had a pregnancy scare. She wasn't actually pregnant obviously but my parents found out and after they had it confirmed by a doctor, they made them break up and they wouldn't let Polly leave the house apart from school for months. Polly had been so ready to get out, she was waiting every day for letters from the colleges she'd applied to, hoping for one far away from Riverdale to accept her. When none came in, rejection or acceptance, Polly contacted the schools herself and we found out why. My parents had contacted each school she had applied to, saying that they were her, and withdrew her applications." Betty said and he stated at her in astonishment.
"Why?" He asked. Betty sighed and shook her head.
"When Polly confronted them about it my mother told her that she obviously wasn't ready to make those kinds of decisions about her life, given the pregnancy scare, so they had to make them for her." Betty bit her lip. "They said that she could reapply in a year, but before that year was over Polly had given up on ever leaving Riverdale or our parents, until a few weeks ago when I told her to leave."
"Do you know where she is?" He asked and Betty nodded.
"She called me. She's in LA, she's doing well." Betty said with a smile as she looked at him. "She's finally going to college because our parents can't stop her. She wants to be a teacher."
"That's good for her." He said before biting his lip and placing his hand over hers. "But you know, you could go too. You don't have to let your parents take that away from you either."
"I know." She said softly, looking at him. "But I wouldn't want to be away from the two of you."
"I know that I asked you to stay, but I don't want to hold you back." Jughead said, earnestly. "If you want to go, then do it."
"It's okay Jug. You aren't holding me back." She said. "You and Jellybean aren't the only reason I'm not going. I was going to take a year off anyway to save some money before going. With the two of you in the mix, it only means that I'll look for colleges that I can attend online instead of in person, but whatever happens I'm not leaving."
"Okay." Jughead said before he leaned over to kiss her lightly. When he pulled back they were both smiling and Betty stood from the table, positioning Jellybean on her hip, before turning to stir the soup. The smell of it had now enveloped the room and Jughead realized how hungry he was as she put the soup into bowls. Jughead helped her sit them on the table as she flipped the stove off and put a lid on the pan to keep the heat inside before joining him. Betty put Jellybean in the high chair next to her and cooled the broth from her bowl before feeding it to her, causing Jellybean's nose to run. Betty had to keep cleaning her face as she feed her but at the end of it Jellybean seemed much happier than she had been that morning.
They ate quietly before moving to the living room to watch some more TV, which Jughead grew bored of quickly, instead choosing to watch Jellybean and Betty in the corner of the room, also seeming to ignore the TV, as Betty read books to Jellybean who watched her intently. Jellybean was chewing on the dog that Betty had won her the day before but the slobber didn't seem to bother either of them.
Looking at them brought his childhood fantasies back. He knew that from the outside looking in, they looked like a happy family, and he wanted that to be a reality more than anything. In his childhood fantasies they had always ended up here, with children running around them, but in those they had been married and happy. He never could have imagined this scenario when he was younger, but somehow that didn't matter, they were here due to circumstances that neither of them could have foreseen. I wasn't what he expected growing up but despite it all, he wanted to hold on to it. Their little pseudo family meant everything to him.
Betty woke with a start, the sun shining through the window startling her for a moment, until she realized where she was and sat up quickly. Jughead shuffled around on the bed behind her but didn't wake as she glanced around the room trying to gather her thoughts. She remembered the night before, she had brought Jellybean into the bedroom to put her into her crib and she and Jughead had been talking quietly and must have fallen asleep at some point. Betty took a deep breath and slipped off the bed to look for her phone, which she quickly found in the living room on the coffee table and when she flipped it on she almost regretted even looking at it. She had over thirty missed calls from her mother and she knew that the moment she went home all hell would break lose, not to mention that it was already ten in the morning meaning she and Jughead had missed school because she was certain that they weren't going in now.
She blew out a breath and moved back to the bedroom, where Jellybean was staring up at her from the crib, and she took her out and laid her on the bed easily and changed her before she shook Jughead's shoulder to wake him. It took a moment for him to wake up but eventually his eyes flicked open and he saw her with jellybean in her arms. He stared at them for a moment, a small smile crossing his face, before his eyes went wide and he sat up suddenly and she knew he realized that she wasn't supposed to still be here. He stared at her for a long minute before he cleared his throat and rubbed a hand over his face.
"You're still here." He said, his voice rough with sleep and she nodded.
"I'm still here." She said. "We must have fallen asleep last night."
"You gonna go home?" He asked cautiously. She shrugged as she handed Jellybean over to him.
"I can't avoid it forever." She said and started to stand from the bed again but he caught her wrist bringing her attention back to him.
"You can stay with me." He said seriously. "If you go home and they react badly, you can stay here for as long as you need."
"Are you sure?" She asked him, studying his face.
"Absolutely." He said. "You're already practically part of the family, why not make it official."
"Are you asking me to move in with you?" She asked and he shrugged.
"Look, we both know that the moment you go home, your parents aren't going to react well." He said, meeting her eyes. "I'm saying that you have a place to go. I'm saying that you can leave just like Polly did. I know that this isn't as far away as she went but it's something. It's a place where they can't control you anymore."
"Okay." She said softly.
"Okay?" He asked and she smiled softly.
"I'll be back." She assured him. "I'll get a few things from the house and then I'll be home."
"Home." He said, a soft smile on his face. "I like the sound of that."
She kissed him softly and dropped a kiss on Jellybean's cheek before standing from the bed. He squeezed her hand in his before letting her go and she left the trailer quickly comforted by knowing that she was coming back soon. She started her car and pulled out of the driveway, starting toward the north side of town. She used the drive to her house to clear her mind and steel herself against the onslaught that was inevitable.
She knew that her mother would be pissed that she'd been out all night, and that her father wouldn't say anything to her defense. He never usually said anything bad about either of them but he let their mother say horrible things which was almost worse. Now that Betty had spent time with Jughead and Jellybean, she couldn't imagine ever speaking to a child of hers the way her mother spoke to her and Polly, and she realized that her mother didn't really care about them at all. It had taken her a while to realize it but now she knew that all her mother cared about was her image and she projected that onto her daughters because god forbid they not be perfect. It might make her look bad if her daughters were flawed.
Betty understood that Polly's sudden flight from home had pissed her mother off not only because it meant that she couldn't control her anymore but also because it shattered the illusion of the Cooper's being a perfect family, which is what her mother hated so much. As she pulled into the driveway she squared her shoulders and took a deep breath before she moved toward the door and stepped into the house. Her parents were sitting in the living room, obviously having stayed home from work, and their eyes snapped to her as soon as the door clicked closed behind her.
"Where the hell have you been?" Her mother snapped, on her feet immediately, the paper she had been reading tossed haphazardly onto the table.
"I lost track of time working on the project with Jughead. We fell asleep." She said, the lie sliding of her tongue easily.
"You really expect me to believe that?" Her mother rolled her eyes. "You're just like your sister."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Betty snapped, her patience was already worn thin and she hadn't even been here for ten minutes.
"You're both sluts!" Her mother shouted. "Staying out at all hours with a boy. You'll be the next one with a baby on your hip."
"Polly wasn't a slut!" Betty shouted back. "She had sex with her boyfriend, that's not a fucking crime. Just because you disapprove doesn't make it bad. She was a teenager and you made her feel like shit. That's why she left, she couldn't stand you. Either of you."
"Don't you turn this on us. You are the disappointment here!" Her father said and Betty sighed, knowing that he was only backing up her mother, that he'd never speak up for her.
"Why? Why am I a disappointment? Because I'm not a little girl anymore? Because you can't control me and make me a perfect little puppet?" Betty asked, staring at them. Her father looked away from her and her mother only seemed to get angrier at her words. She sighed and shook her head. "It guess it doesn't matter anymore. I'm leaving."
She spun toward the stairs and ran up them to her room and dug a dufflebag out of her closet and began tossing clothes into it from her drawers. When that was full, she grabbed another bag and pulled the clothes off the hangers in her closet and stuffed them in it. She sat each of them by the door and grabbed a small box from the closet and pulled her pictures off the mirror and packed all of her makeup into it before grabbing her diary. She took one last look at the room before grabbing everything in her hands and leaving. As she got to the bottom of the stairs she saw her parents staring at her, her mother had her arms crossed over her chest.
"You're not leaving." She said and Betty rolled her eyes.
"You gonna stop me?" She asked.
"You're in high school, you can;t just leave because you want to. That isn't how things work in the real world." She said and Betty sighed.
"I'm eighteen mom. Legally old enough to decide for myself where I live or maybe you want me to call the sheriff and tell him that you refuse to let me leave, see what he has to say about it?" She raised an eyebrow. "You know how this town loves to gossip."
They stared at each other for a long time and Betty refused to budge until finally her mother stepped away from the door with a huff and Betty dragged her bags through it and out to her car, which was thankfully in her name and not her parents, throwing the bags into it quickly before she pulled out again. Her parents were standing in front of the house, staring at her as she left but Betty didn't pay them any attention as she left quickly.
She got back to the trailer in record time, where she found Jughead had already fixed something for breakfast, and he helped her bring her things inside before they sat down to eat. It was quiet as they finished breakfast until Betty blew out a breath and looked at him.
"I'm gonna talk to pop's tomorrow about picking up some shifts at the diner." She said. "You can pick Jellybean up after school and take her to the drive in with you and I can pick her up from there after I get off and bring her home for bed so she doesn't have to sleep there."
"Sounds good." He said before taking her hand in his and drawing her eyes up to his. "Are you okay?"
"I'm okay." She assured him. "They're my parents but they don't actually care about me, not like they're supposed to. Getting away from them is a good thing."
"Good." He said softly. "For what it's worth, I'm glad you're here."
"Me too." She said, smiling at him. "There's no where else I'd rather be."