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Gray-Colored Lenses

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 The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. 

-Marcus Aurelius


 

Truth be told, Veronica doesn't believe that color exists. She didn’t always think like that. A younger Veronica, one who spent all her time reading magazines about love and watching old soulmate sitcoms in her mom’s lap, would be disturbed that anyone thought like that. But this Veronica, the one who’s 16 and sure that she's met everyone New York has to offer without any inclination as to what red looks like, believes otherwise. 

Really, it's a conversation she overheard from her father that squashed her belief in color. On the phone he talked about patenting the rights to expensive glasses that allowed its wearer to see in color, regardless of their soulmate status. It wasn't that that bothered Veronica, it was his reasoning for why he wanted the rights to the glasses. She stayed just out of sight at the mouth of the kitchen and listened to the conversation he held with one of his business partners. Their maid, Lucinda, walked by but Veronica pressed her fingers to her lips and shook her head when she turned to walk into the kitchen. Lucinda moved on with a slight nod.

The conversation she overheard made her eyes childishly well with tears. Her own father, clear as day, tells the phone that he can’t see color. Her own father can’t see color, the same man who’d been married to her mom for over sixteen years. She thought they fell in love. She thought that's why they had her . She thought they were soulmates.

For the next week she kept waiting for her father to come and chastise her for eavesdropping, that her emotional turmoil was punishment for listening in on things that were none of her business. She hoped that Lucinda had told on her. She hoped her father would come and they could both laugh about what happened and then he would take her shopping.

Weeks bled into months; her father never came.




Veronica’s 17 and still colorless when Hiram Lodge is arrested for stealing unbelievable amounts of money. It isn't until he's shipped off to prison that the events that will define Veronica for the rest of her life are set into motion. She starts receiving death threats on social media, her mom and her are evicted from their home in New York, and 13 of their 14 properties throughout the country are reclaimed by the government, all in her father's name except for a small home in a little town called Riverdale that her mom had purchased solely for nostalgia.

She googled Riverdale. It was a tiny, tiny town that had one grocery store, three restaurants, and a population count that paled in comparison to New York City’s millions. To even go to a mall, Veronica would have drive one town over. Her mom says that she’s going to have to learn how to do that: driving.

"Ronnie," her mom says on the car ride there. No chauffeur, no private jet. Just a mother and her daughter driving to their new home. Veronica didn't even know her mom knew how to drive.

They turn left onto another nameless road lined with thick trees. They take a right and drive along the riverside.

Riverdale: the town with pep! Only 50 miles.

“Veronica, are you listening? I need to tell you something.”

She forces herself to tear her eyes away from the rushing water.

Her mom takes a deep breath. "Your father and I aren't soulmates. I want better for you, mija. I wanted you to know.”

Even though Veronica isn’t surprised - she’s known for a while - a part of her clung to the hope that her mom had found her soulmate somehow. Color is something Veronica believed in less and less every day.

Veronica doesn't know why but her eyes water assuming her mother sees the same drab grays that she does.

 




For the first time in her life Veronica understands what it means when they say life is meant to be lived in color, which is especially ironic considering she can’t see them.

But even if she couldn't see it at the time she knows now that New York is colorful. Maybe she didn't know what red looked like but New York is bright and the lightest of lights and the darkest of darks all mix together to create a city that Veronica desperately wants to belong to again.

Riverdale, in stark contrast, is one small town color of grey. That feeling runs through the core of Riverdale, right down the boy in the beanie who orders the same burger from Pop's everyday only to leave it untouched in favor of his laptop.

The majority of her two months in Riverdale have been spent here, in Pop's, tagging along with her mom who landed a job in the small diner a week or so after they arrived. She's yet to make a friend in Riverdale if Pop’s and Smithers didn't count. Which is really her fault. She's fallen into a haze that she can't climb out of. These mood swings came in New York, too, but they were a lot easier to hide behind designer dresses and one dimensional friendships. In contrast, today for the first time since she was 7, Veronica wears jeans.

Her mom slips into same booth Veronica loiters in everyday. She slides a chocolate milkshake and a basket of fries her way and smiles the same tired smile that she's worn since they've got here. They always share the free meal that Pop allows Hermione each shift with each other. The best part of Veronica’s day is always when her mom takes her break and brings them the same indulgent basket of fries to split. On their slow days (which were everyday) Veronica could usually weasel Pop out of a chocolate shake or two, free of charge. Pop’s is her favorite thing in this town, if not her only.

The leather cushions groan as her mom readjusts in the booth. She looks especially tired today, which is quickly becoming how she looks everyday. Still, she says, "You look blue, baby. What's wrong?"

Veronica shoves a fry in her mouth and shrugs. She sits up a little straighter. She tries to look normal a little harder. Hermione mirrors her.

"Just anxious to start school. There's only so much Netflix and Twitter a girl can take before she starts to go stir crazy. Besides, Edward Cullen has yet to step out of all these trees and save me from this town. School is kind of my last shot mom."

Veronica can see relief wash over her mom. She's the one person who's always been there for Veronica through her fair share of mental breakdowns and she knows that neither of them can take that right now. She breathes a little easier knowing that her mom can't tell that anything is wrong. She'll never admit how much she actually hates living here; her mom is doing everything she can to keep the two of them afloat on top of the scandal their fathers tied them up in. Besides, in these two months her mom has become her best friend. The least she can do is put on a happy face for her.

Pop calls even though their 15 minutes aren't up. Veronica refuses to acknowledge the irony of that with her father in jail. Hermione scoops up a handful of fries, stuffs them in her mouth, and attempts to finish their conversation with a full mouth in two sentences. “You’ll finally be a senior. And you’ve been asking for a change of scenery for months. This is good for us.”

Hermione pats her daughter on the shoulder and dusts off her apron. They both smile but it doesn’t quite reach either of their eyes.  

-

That night the Lodge women wall themselves up in Hermione’s room the second she gets off her shift to pick out Veronica’s outfit for her first day of school. The Lodge women are prepared, if nothing else.

Hermione sits patiently on her bed while her daughter rummages around her closet in search of an outfit for tomorrow. Veronica comes bursting out with a grin and the dress Hiram gave her for their seventieth wedding anniversary.

“Okay, what about this one? Be honest. I'm going for ‘New York darling meets small town charmer’ but I’m not trying to be over the top about it.” Veronica twirls in the dress that belongs to her mother. She still hasn't quite gotten used to wearing the same clothes more than once, hence raiding her mother’s closet.

Hermione shakes her head. “That one doesn’t look right with your eyes.” She rummages through the heap of dresses Ronnie piled in her lap and holds one out. “What about this one?”

She holds up a darker dress, one that Veronica instantly likes better than the one she has on. “Yes, thank you!”

She shrugs the old dress off and pulls on the new one. The old dress pools around her feet and Veronica kicks it carelessly back into the closet like it didn't actually cost a fortune. Her eyes wrack over her body. Dark eyes, dark dress. That combination seems simple enough but she's suddenly irrationally upset that she can’t tell what goes well with her eyes. Her mom snaps her out of the haze she falls into a moment later.

“Ronnie, what is it?”

Veronica forces herself to look away from the mirror. “Nothing to worry about. I just wonder what colors are like sometimes. Do you?”

Hermione smiles and pats the bed next. Veronica falls into place next to her with a frown.

“Did I ever tell you about when you were born?”

Veronica shakes her head then rests it on her mom’s shoulder.

“Well, when you were born the doctors handed you to your father and you just screamed. Ah, mija, you were such a crier. But then they handed you to me and you calmed down enough to open your eyes and they were brown. The most beautiful brown eyes I’ve ever seen.”

Veronica’s brows furrow. She tries to make sense of that. “I don’t understand.”

Hermione draws her daughter close. “Soulmates aren’t always romantic. Sometimes your soulmate doesn’t love you back, sometimes your soulmate is your best friend, and sometimes your soulmate is your daughter who you know is going to be the saving grace of your complicated marriage who makes it all worth it.”

Veronica gapes. She's heard of best friends who, by definition, are soulmates who date only to find out they work better as friends. She’s heard horror stories about seeing color only to find the person still sees in black and white. She's even heard whisperings of a girl from Riverdale who's dead brother was her soulmate. And that boy who comes in the diner everyday, she's sure that his soulmate has to be his laptop. Still, Veronica never considered that her soulmate would be someone she didn’t love romantically. It makes her uneasy and that much untrusting of her eyes. What if they betray her?

"Do you think my soulmate will be romantic?"

Her mom leans down and presses a kiss into her hair and squeezes her arm reassuringly. "I couldn’t tell you, baby. You'll have to find them first."

 




She does find them. Her.

Betty .

It's ironic that a town with so few colors can bring the greatest changes.

She meets her at Pop’s because when Veronica isn't sleeping or forcing Smithers to watch Criminal Minds with her, Veronica is at Pop’s and only Pop’s. She likes milkshakes and the soft New York-like glow Pop’s has. Later, she'll like it for entirely different reasons.

Two Veronica-aged teenagers come into the diner laughing that day. A bulky guy with a goofy smile and a varsity jacket holds the door open for a girl in a high ponytail who’s face Veronica doesn't quite catch. Their laughs are contagious and Veronica finds herself smiling and watching them sink into a booth a ways away from her. She loves her mom and Smithers but she really misses having friends her own age.

She's caught in thought and accidentally staring when she catches the guy’s eyes. He grins unbelievably wide and ushers Veronica over. She blushes uncharacteristically at being caught and abandons the double chocolate shake to say hello. Being this friendly must be a small town thing, Veronica assumes.

(Being that friendly is an I-find-you-attractive-thing but Archie never tells that to Veronica when she later gushes about how nice everyone in Riverdale is.)

Only a short couple of booths separate them and Veronica awkwardly stands at the head of their table without an explanation why before she allowed herself to consider how stupid she must look now. She does all she can to not make eye contact with the girl who sits across from Archie. She's too embarrassed to meet her eyes.

“I’m Archie,” the guy says first. His smile is wide and spreads adorably across his face. He’s attractive, Veronica decides, and she does have taste for the finer things in life.

“Veronica,” she introduces. She extends her hand politely and Archie shakes it with a laugh.

“Are you new here, Veronica?” a feminine voice asks. “I'm Betty Cooper.”

Veronica reroutes her attention to Archie’s counterpart and from the moment she meets her inviting smile and warm eyes, the world becomes overwhelmingly different. It takes Veronica a whole ten seconds to realize what's just happened.

Betty’s eyes are dazzlingly calm in color, even if Veronica doesn't know what that color is. Pop’s neon signs paint the whole diner a pretty shade of something, the same something that flushes Betty’s cheeks and make her lips pop against her skin. Her lips, however, are void of the smile they wore moments ago. Betty’s mouth opens and closes and opens again - Veronica recognizes her teeth as white - but she doesn't say anything.

Archie, on the other hand, does. “Have you two met?”

The two of them snap out of their little trance. Veronica instantly wants to ask Betty if she sees too but she remembers what her mom says, that soulmates aren't always romantic and then she remembers that they aren't even always returned and decides that seeing color and finding out if her soulmate sees back is just a little bit too much for one day.

She tries to answer Archie but a meaningless lump of sounds string together instead.

“What is it? Are you okay?” Archie again. Betty continues to stay silent and it makes Veronica ache a bit.

Veronica looks to Betty’s eyes again to try and gauge just how fucked she actually is. She receives her answer when she finds herself lost in the pool or warmth they provide. In all of her life, Veronica doesn’t think she’s ever seen anything quite as beautiful as the color of Betty’s eyes. They’re different. For all she knows the color is red, even though she knows that eyes can’t be red. But if Betty’s eyes were she knows she would love them. And she would love them if they were green, too. Or blue, or brown, or whatever color she suddenly can’t bring herself to look away from.

But Betty looks away and there is color high in her cheeks. Veronica thinks she sees tears glistening in her eyes. She isn't sure what’s worse: how hurt Betty’s tears make her feel or the words that immediately follow.

“You need to leave, Veronica,” Betty says, far harsher than Veronica figured she could’ve. “You need to leave right now.”

“But my mom-”

“Please,” Betty pleads and Veronica instantly knows that she’ll do anything for this girl, even if that meant that she hurts herself in the process.

She backs away from the table and away from confused Archie, from teary-eyed Betty, from her mom who tries to stop her when she's nearly out the door.

“Please,” she echos Betty’s word and looks into her mom’s eyes and tries to tell a thousand words with just one look. Hermione nods and lets her daughter go, confused and upset that she still has two hours until her shift is over.

Overwhelmed, Veronica stumbles to the far end of Pop’s property and calls Smithers to pick her up. When he pulls into the parking lot and asks Veronica what's wrong when she climbs into the car, he's met with tears and mumblings about a girl named Betty.

Chapter Text

"Silence is the most powerful scream."

-Author Unknown

 


 

It turns out small towns were just a little bit more colorful than Veronica thought Riverdale could be. That night, which Veronica has dubbed the Betty Cooper Incident, she cries silently while Smithers comforts her the best a butler-sort-of-uncle hybrid can.

On the way home he picks up every chocolate ice cream flavor he can at the gas station. And once they got home he guides her to the couch and offers her warm washcloths and put Criminal Minds reruns on the flatscreen. But Veronica is hysterical and to both of their dismay, she won’t stop crying. Now, Smithers is a good man but he is still visibly relieved when Hermione comes home and takes over.

“What is it, baby?” Hermione pleads. She combs through Veronica’s sweaty hair with her fingers and tries to soothe her silent sobs. Veronica hiccups through her messy crying and Hermione can't wipe at her snot and tears quick enough. Hermione can’t remember a time when Veronica was ever this upset besides when she broke her arm when she was seven. She cried in her arms then and she cries in her arms now. It makes Hermione ache all the same.

She dabs a cool wet washcloth over Veronica’s forehead and shushes her lightly. “Ronnie, you have to tell me what happened.”

Veronica wants to. She does. But try as she might, she can't calm down. She breathes so quickly that her head feels light and her limbs feel tingly. And her mom is worrying. And Smithers keeps offering her ice cream.

“Mami,” she croaks finally. Her throat is dry. Her mom calls for Smithers to get water. She wracks her mind for the right words to describe what's going on. It really isn’t a big deal, not really. But inside Veronica a switch has just been flipped and with it, she only finds herself falling. She’s thankful her mom is there to catch her.

Words that don't quite make sense bubble out of her mouth. But it's a start. “I can see ,” she cries.

Hermione looks around in confusion. “You can see what, mija? What is it? What happened?”

“I can see in color.”

Hermione gets her to calm down from there. She urges Veronica to drink the water that Smithers brings and continues to press a wet washcloth to her forehead and the back of her neck. Veronica tearily recounts the Betty Cooper Incident - Alice’s daughter, go figure - punctuated with sobs and cries about soulmates and an extreme lack of understanding of color. It's edging into the am and Hermione has work in the morning and she's exhausted but her baby is exhausted too. She'll be damned before she let her daughter go through anything like this alone.

It's Smithers’ idea to keep Veronica’s mind off Betty by teaching her which colors were named what.

(Smithers had a soulmate once, he says. He refuses to talk about it any further than that.)

Veronica sits with a tub of ice cream in her lap and paws at her red, swollen eyes as she rattles off the color of the items that Hermione and Smithers reference through the room.

“The lamp?”

“It's red.”

“And the carpet?”

“Brown.”

“And the painting?”

Veronica’s eyes water. “Green.”

This goes on for another hour before the youngest Lodge falls asleep exhausted in her mother's lap. But not before she finally told them that Betty’s eyes are green and not red.  


Veronica doesn't know how long she's been starring in the mirror. She has school today and woke up at four am to make sure everything went absolutely perfect. But when she shed her clothes to step into the shower she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and couldn't look away.

In color, she feels like a different person.

Her eyes are brown and even though they are nothing like Betty’s blue, she thinks brown looks beautiful on herself. Her hair is brown too, nearly black. She hears Smithers moving about and startles out of her trance. She checks her phone again and realizes she's nearly twenty minutes behind schedule. She tears her eyes away from herself and steps into the shower.

Betty’s been on her mind a lot since she started seeing in color. The shower takes longer than normal and by the time she shuts off the water and steps out, her skin is red from the scalding water.

She wonders if she'll see Betty today and then, if she'll see Archie. Her stomach flips uncomfortably because she doesn't know if they'll talk to her.


In a twisted turn of events, Betty Cooper is scheduled to give Veronica her tour of the school her first day of senior year. Or, that's what the registration lady says when she goes to collect her schedule. But a guy named Kevin Keller shows up instead and refuses to acknowledge that he isn't Betty Cooper. He does immediately let Veronica know that he is the sheriff’s son and Veronica quickly realizes that everything in this town feels like it's 50 years behind New York.

Kevin’s been five steps in front of her throughout the entirety of his speedy tour. “This is the science wing, but you're a senior so I doubt you have to take any science this year anyway.”

Kevin walks quickly and Veronica has to pace at a slight jog - in her heels - to keep up. The entire tour has been awkward and feels incredibly forced. The small talk Veronica tries to make tapers off from the lack of trying on Kevin’s end. Veronica doesn't know what she did but she knows that Kevin doesn't like her. Go figure. That makes two of the four people she’s met in this tiny town. How many more people can there actually be?

Kevin speeds past another hall of classes and takes two lefts, one right after the other, and arrives at a room he walks into without holding it open for Veronica. The door nearly smacks her in her mouth but she's pleasantly surprised when she finds students lounging about various sofas and tables instead of another classroom like she expected.

“And this is the student lounge. Betty and I hang out here.”

Veronica nearly chokes. “You know Betty?”

Kevin narrows his eyes at her. “Yes. She's my best friend.”

That picks Ronnie’s interest. The questions just continue to annoy Kevin.

“So tell me about her,” Veronica prods. Kevin’s little slip is the most meaningful thing that's happened all morning. She’s sure that's why Kevin’s here in place of Betty.

“Well, if you must know, she is madly in love with Archie Andrews, who, by the way, is her boyfriend.”

Veronica’s face turns sour. “Are they soulmates?” she asks breathlessly.

Kevin chews his lip as he debates telling her the truth. “No.”

Veronica deflates. Thank god. She doesn’t know what Betty is meant to be to her yet. She doesn’t know if she’s supposed to fall in love with her or be her best friend or if Betty even sees color back. But it makes her feel better that at least she still has a chance.

And then Kevin adds an afterthought. “Which means there is hope he isn’t as straight as he says he is.”

Another interesting piece of information. It’s not like she didn’t suspect Kevin was of the not-straight variety but having her suspicions confirmed made her feel a little less out of place.

“Thank god, you aren't straight either?”

Veronica hopes it'll help her and Kevin connect better but instead, Kevin snaps. He is very close to her and very loud all of a sudden. It catches Veronica off guard. “Listen, homewrecker, we were all doing just fine before you got here. You've done enough. Don't go messing up our lives.”

And then he leaves her stranded in the middle of the student lounge, people stare and she feels like crying all over again.

She catches a flash of red hair and blinks fruitlessly at her tears. She recognizes the hair as Cheryl Blossom’s, who followed her on Twitter a few days after they got to Riverdale. Cheryl puts a comforting hand on her shoulder even though she expects otherwise. She's heard rumors about Cheryl and planned to stay away from her bite. But Cheryl surprises Veronica even more by saying, “Come on, Veronica dearest. I have open period until 9 and I'm not going to let you spend it socially destroying yourself. ”


Jughead Jones properly graces her acquaintance when she arrives at Pop’s after school that day. Pop’s glows neon red and how much that reminds her of New York continues to amaze her. Her only regret about New York is not getting to see it in color. If Pop’s, the most New York part of this tiny town, looked so beautiful in color, she can't begin to imagine the beauty New York holds. She’ll have google pictures later.

“Hey, mom,” she greets when she passes by the register.

“Hi, baby.” Her mom comes around the counter briefly and kisses her on the cheek before she rushes off to work again.

Veronica heads to the far end of the diner and takes her usual booth. Pop comes over to her a few moments after she's settled bearing a milkshake and a pat on the head. He smiles at her warmly. “Your mother says you're seein’ color, Ronnie?”

Veronica blushes. She looks past Pop for a moment and catches her mom’s eyes. Hermione looks away guiltily and Veronica looks back to Pop with a polite smile. “I am.”

He pats her on the head again. “Hold onto that girl then. I've watched her grown. She's a good one.”

“I'm trying.” Veronica says, and he walks off with a nod. She'll ask her mom about that later. She's never stopped to consider that her mom might miss having friends her age, too. Still, she doesn't need that to spread around town, no matter how much her mother misses gossiping. If one thing is true, New York has nothing on the gossip fest within Riverdale. And if it can spread in Riverdale, it's only a matter of time before people who don't like her father will get a hold of it and warp the rumor until Veronica’s the bad guy somehow.

A monotone voice startles her out of thought. “Hello, Veronica Lodge.”

The boy with the beanie slides into the seat across from her, uninvited. Veronica stares at him a beat  too long, perplexed with how the people in this town behave. She recovers quickly, though. “Hello, Burger Boy.”

He looks plesased with the name.

“Jughead Jones, the third. Pleased to officially meet you.”

Her brow raises curiously. “Veronica Lodge, the first. But you already knew that?”

Jughead shrugs. “We have a class together. English.”

She also has that class with Betty which explains why she doesn't remember him. The conversations halts and they fall into silence, besides the usual sounds of Pop’s. Jughead stares at her milkshake and Veronica hugs it toward her protectively.

“Not to be rude, but what do you want?”

Jughead’s eyes sparkle at that. He pulls out his laptop. “I'm writing a novel.”

“And what's that have to do with me?” Veronica eyes his beanie that oddly resembles a crown. She considers his name. The third? Maybe Riverdale is so old it still has royals.

Jughead swipes at her milkshake quicker than she can react and takes a sip without asking. Yeah, probably not.

“My novel is on the science of soulmates,” he says matter-of-factly.

Veronica’s heart speeds up. She defensively yanks her straw out of Jughead’s mouth. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Jughead wipes at the milkshake that dribbles out of his mouth and glares at her. Still, he turns his laptop around and Veronica’s horrified to find her twitter account pulled up on the screen.

“You've been vagueing about soulmates for the past three days. Listen to this one from last night. ‘And then my soul saw you and it went-’”

“Okay!” Veronica cuts him off, cheeks flushing. “I get it, Sherlock Holmes. You have a basic understanding of the internet and found my Twitter. I still don't know what you want.”

Jughead meets her eyes. “We could pretend like you didn't stare at Betty for our entire forty minute English period but I think we can both agree that would be counterproductive.”

If she wasn't nervous before… “You aren't going to tell anyone, are you? Because so help me, Jughead Jones-”

Jughead rolls his eyes. “Relax, that would require having friends.”

Veronica still eyes him uneasily. “What then?”

“I just need a teenagers perspective on finding a soulmate.”

She sighs and presses her palms into her eyes, cursing only when she remembers she's wearing makeup. She shoves her milkshake toward Jughead, suddenly the thought of anything making her stomach unsettled.

“What do you want to know?”


If her first day was any indication as to what the rest of her senior year will look like, the rest of the week proves that theory pleasantly wrong.

Cheryl offers her a spot on the River Vixens, to which Veronica politely declines. And even though most of the school shies away from her after she becomes friends with the infamous Cheryl Blossom, Archie still says hi to her. She's up two redheads - and a beanie if she counts Jughead’s odd friendship - and is still down a blonde.

Betty’s continued silence is frustrating. It all makes Veronica extremely unnerved. She wishes that Betty would just talk to her.

She has a few classes with Betty but in all of them she sits as far away from Veronica as she can. Right now she has government with Betty, and this class is no exception.

“Miss Lodge?”

Veronica snaps out of her head, where she escapes to more and more lately, to find her government teacher staring at her.

“Yes?”

“I said you'll be paired with Miss Cooper for this assignment.”

Veronica and Betty make eye contact. Betty looks as if she's about to argue but Veronica quickly agrees. “Okay, thank you,” she answers her teacher sweetly.

The entire time he explains the assignment Ronnie makes sure to pay extra close attention. Even if she's never been a school girl herself she figures if they finish early she’ll get to talk to Betty.

The teacher cuts them loose and students shuffle around the room to pair with their partners. Betty doesn't move and Veronica sighs and picks up her stuff to move to her.

“Hi,” Veronica says, dropping into the seat next to her.

“Hey,” Betty mumbles in response.

Betty flips her textbook open, prints ‘odd questions’ at the top of one piece of paper and ‘even questions’ at the top of another. “Pick which one you want.”

So much for finally getting to talk to her.

Veronica still dutifully takes the even questions and finishes her half of the assignment, before Betty even. She waits patiently for Betty to finish her half and becomes enthralled with the with her handwriting in the process. When Betty’s done she grabs both pieces of paper and prints their names at the top.

Like a child, Veronica blushes when Betty writes her name.

Betty meets her eyes. They both sort of flinch and Betty looks away. “Which part do you want to explain when he calls on us tomorrow, Veronica?”

“I don't care. Whatever you need me to do, B.”

They hold a short, stiff conversation and throughout the entirety of it, Betty still won't meet her eyes. To be honest, Veronica can't take much more of this. “Okay, I just want to know what I did to you that's made you hate me so much. You can’t even look at me and I haven't done anything to you.”

The bell rings and Betty collects both of their papers, staples them, and turns them into the basket.

She catches Veronica’s eyes before she darts out the class and heads out into the hall. “It's not what you did to me, Veronica. It's what you made me see.”

Chapter Text

Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly

Flames everywhere

-Richard Siken

 


 

There is such thing of having too much of a good thing. Case and point: Cheryl and Veronica with wine.

Agreeing to hang out at Cheryl’s house seemed like a good idea when they’d planned it a few days back. Cheryl Blossom is nothing like she expected. She’s bitter and selfish and sometimes downright mean but she’s given Veronica more of a chance than anyone else in this town. To Cheryl, Veronica’s a clean slate. Veronica’s opinions on Cheryl aren’t muddled with a confusing murder mystery that half the town still thinks she’s responsible for. So they work together; two head-bitches recasted as the town outcasts.

Veronica’s in Cheryl’s room and the whole vibe her house gives off is a little… unnerving. It was Cheryl’s idea to drink. They climbed into Cheryl’s bed, put on a shitty movie that only serves as background noise, and Cheryl broke out shot glasses from her nightstand. (Veronica doesn’t question the type of person who keeps shot glasses and wine in their nightstand. Who was she to turn down free alcohol?)

“Never have I ever had sex with a guy,” Cheryl says with a wink. “Bottoms up, Ronnie.”

Veronica scowls and tips her shot filled with wine back into her mouth and swallows. Cheryl quickly refills it and only spills a little.

She doesn’t know how long they’ve been playing but she’s had enough shots that her insides buzz pleasantly. Wine makes her a happy kind of drunk. “You know I think we’re supposed to play this game with vodka,” she points out with a grin.

Cheryl shrugs. “We’re also supposed to be playing with more than just two but I’m sure we'll make do.”

“We should throw a party,” Veronica muses. She imagines the people in her class drunk and playing party games and she knows it’s something she’d pay to see. Quickly, she adds, “Never have I ever thrown a party.”

Cheryl looks disgusted with her but she downs her shot regardless. “How the hell has the daughter of Hiram Lodge never thrown a party? What were you? Poor?”

“Dad always said to let other people waste their time and money and reap the rewards. Now I’m thinking it was just because he had a lot of secrets to keep.”

Cheryl hums and rests her head on Veronica’s shoulder in acknowledgement. “I haven't had anyone here for anything other than a party since Jason,” she confesses. Veronica is awed for a moment. She supposes drunk bonding starts here. “I guess these idiots don't like me or something?”

Veronica frowns. Cheryl’s attempt at sounding indifferent doesn’t really work. “Well fuck them. You're like the only person who's been really nice to me since I've gotten here.”

Cheryl sits up and does another shot, unprovoked. She groans and chucks her shot glass across the room. Veronica’s honestly surprised when it doesn’t shatter.

“Look at what I’ve become,” Cheryl whines. She gives Veronica a one over. “And for a Lodge, nonetheless.”

Despite everything, Veronica bumps her knees into Cheryl’s to keep the mood light. She’s learned to brush off what Cheryl says for the most part. It makes both their lives easier. “I love you, too.”

Cheryl looks startled. Veronica suddenly, achingly, wonders how often anyone actually says that to her.

Cheryl’s voice is soft and lacks its usual bite when she speaks again. “The whole town hates me. They thought I killed my brother. Some people still think I did. He was the only person who really accepted me and he's been dead for two years.”

Veronica abandons her shot glass and pushes off of Cheryl for a moment. She rummages the side of Cheryl’s bed in search for her bag, pleased when she finally manages to find it. She pulls out the twizzlers she had Smithers pick up from the store when she heard Cheryl mention how much she liked them offhand.

“I don’t hate you, if that counts for anything.”

“Hardly,” Cheryl responds but she cuddles up to Veronica and takes the twizzlers from her anyway.

They eat twizzlers and drink far too much wine straight from the bottle and they barely bring up dead brothers or unreciprocated feelings otherwise. Veronica lets slip that she’s never seen more than an episode or two of Friends and Cheryl acts like she personally offended her by being in her room and they spend the next two hours binging it. It’s not until they’re winding down and it starts getting harder to keep their eyes open that Veronica cracks and the B-word that Cheryl’s been waiting for all night finally slips out.

“Betty hates me,” Veronica mumbles miserably.

Cheryl scoffs and rolls her eyes. “Get over yourself, Lodge. She hates herself.”

“Don't say that.”

“Why not? It's true. Betty and I talk. She told me about you. Little miss perfect was doing fine and dandy. She's finally dating the boy she's been pining after for 17 years. He took her first kiss, probably her first time, and she was convinced she could make this whole no color thing work.” Cheryl scoots closer to her in bed. “But then you show up with your New York charm and your doe brown eyes and you make her see. Her and Archie have been fighting. She got her first ever B. There's whisperings that she's going to crack again.”

Guilt washes over Veronica. She has to will her stomach to keep the twizzlers down. “Again?”

Cheryl stares at her for a long time. “You really don't know anything about us. You wouldn’t be talking to me if you knew what a horrible person I used to be.”

Veronica doesn’t dispute this. When she arrived in Riverdale, she hadn’t even planned on crossing paths with Cheryl. Now she’s in her bed. Funny how things work. “What made you change?”

“I’m sure you’ll find out eventually.”

 


 

On Monday morning Veronica is still dealing with the tail end of her hangover. It’s for that reason and that reason only that she thinks the universe decides to take pity on her and something finally goes her way.

She doesn’t know why but when she woke up this morning and threw on a simple black dress (dressing down by Veronica’s standard) paired with her pearls, she decided to walk to school for once instead of taking up Smithers on his offer to drive her.

She has one headphone shoved in her ear, the other shoved down the front of her dress as she walks. Birds actually chirp, the leaves rustle lightly in the wind, and Riverdale continues to feel a town straight out of an 90’s sitcom.

She hears footsteps approaching and she doesn't think anything of it. Except moments later she looks to her right and Betty Cooper, in a knitted sweater holding two cups of coffee, falls into step next to her breathlessly with a smile that only kind of reaches her eyes.  

“I know this is weeks overdue but I wanted to apologize for how I acted at Pop’s. I needed time to think.”

She holds out a cup of coffee to Veronica in truce. The irrational part of Veronica, the part that’s still hungover, is awed and thinks that coffee is basically a proclamation of love. The rational part smiles warmly and takes the coffee and graciously sips from it to ease her aching head. She’s pleasantly surprised to find that the coffee isn’t actually coffee at all. It’s hot chocolate and it’s so Betty Cooper that Veronica nearly laughs.

“Consider it water under the bridge.” She takes another sip of her hot chocolate. It burns her tongue but Veronica really doesn't care. “And thanks for this. It’s good.”

Betty’s face scrunches when she goes to take a sip. “It’s hot. I don’t know how you’re drinking it.”

“Us Lodge’s have silver tongues,” Veronica says with a wink. It’s something her dad used to say. She feels guilty for not thinking of him more. Besides in passing with her mom, she doesn’t have anyone to talk to him with. “Well, that’s what my dad used to say. Guess it isn’t all true.”

Betty’s looks at her scrutinizingly for a bit. It makes Veronica a little uneasy. She expects at jab at her dad to follow (Riverdale sure has a lot of those) but instead, “How are you holding up with everything happening with your dad, anyway?”

“I miss him,” she says truthfully. It’s the first time she’s admitted that aloud. “But I understand everything that’s happened. Still the occasional death threat or two but other than that I’m okay.”

Betty's eyes go wide. “Oh my god, you're joking right?”

“Yes,” Veronica says quickly to ease any worry. “Well, no. But I've practically been receiving death threats since I was conceived. It's really no biggie.”

Betty still looks spooked. “I'm sorry for freaking you out, do you want to listen?” Veronica holds out her other earbud for Betty to take.

Betty smiles, a real one this time, one that reaches her eyes. “I’d like that.”

The whole way to school they bump shoulders, sing along to Lorde, and drink their hot chocolate. When they get to school, Betty hands back Veronica’s headphone. “Hey, Veronica?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for being patient with me.”

 


 

 

Cheryl calls her the following Friday night for Veronica to make good on her empty drunken suggestion.

“Put on your mother’s pearls, Ronnie dearest. We’re throwing a party.”

“A party?”

“Do you have ears or do they not have those in New York?”

Veronica scowls. “I thought we were joking when we said that. We were drunk.”

“I do my best thinking with a glass of wine in hand. Let me take your party throwing virginity. Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.” Veronica can practically hear her smirk through the phone. “Plus I heard that you and Betty are on good terms now. She owes me a favor. I’ll make sure she comes.”

“I don’t consider small talk on what’s for lunch that day good terms.” Veronica still smiles, though. Conversation with Betty is easy, even if Betty isn’t always up for it. It gives her hope for the future.

“I’m picking you up in an hour. Be ready.”

And then the line goes dead.

 


 

Cheryl makes good on her promise and arrives on her doorstep an hour later while Veronica’s still puttin on her face and walking around in her underwear. The whole time she finishes getting ready Cheryl barks at her to go faster, punctuated with little outfit tips here and there. If nothing else good comes out of tonight, Veronica at least can say that she looks hot.

A quick drive to Cheryl’s and another two hours of dumping bags of chips into bowls and lining the counter with alcohol bottles and cups and they’re finally ready. Cheryl hooks her phone up to a stereo, blasts some spotify party mix, dims the lights and the atmosphere is completed. People start to trickle in and Veronica is awed when the same Riverdale high students who blushed when Cheryl and her Vixens shook their asses at the assembly take their red solo cups without batting an eye.

Betty arrives with Archie sometime later in the night. She wears a tight green dress that makes her eyes sparkle and hugs her curves in ways that make Veronica a little warm.

“Veronica,” Betty greets, looking mildly relieved. Archie waves politely from behind her. “Have you seen Kevin?”

“Last I saw he was disappearing with a guy into one of Cheryl’s rooms.”

Betty’s jaw drops in disgust. “Thanks,” she says half heartedly. “He’s sorry about your first day, by the way. We both are. He doesn’t like to admit when he’s wrong.”

“Really, Betty, it’s okay,” Veronica assures.

Betty still doesn’t look convinced. There’s a far away look in her eyes for a moment before she snaps out of it and turns to Archie. “Arch, can you go get us drinks?”

They make idle conversation while Archie disappears into the kitchen only to return with three solo cups. He asks a question as he hands Veronica her drink and Veronica hardly has a chance to respond because a moment later, Cheryl’s yelling.

“Time to play a game,” Cheryl announces loudly. People fill up every corner of Cheryl’s house but those close enough gather round to play. Cheryl’s heels are long gone, she’s somehow already far too inebriated to properly balance in them anyway, but she still holds herself like the head-bitch Veronica knows Cheryl longs to be. “Here are the rules, truth or dare but if you don’t answer or do the dare, you have to take off a piece of clothing.”

Cheryl winks in Veronica’s direction obviously and she laughs. She eyes Cheryl’s tight party dress and wonders, if it came down to it, what Cheryl plans on taking off that wouldn’t leave her underdressed.

A few people lose interest and go off to mingle and they’re left with a small band of people who are game. Archie settles on a couch and Betty plops down in Archie’s lap. Veronica awkwardly takes a seat next to them and takes a generous drink from her cup.

“Ronnie goes first, since she’s the hostess,” Cheryl announces proudly. “Right after me, of course.”

Veronica doesn’t really know these people. She avoids making eye contact with Betty like she has the plague and stays away from Archie for similar reasons. She cops out, finally, and decides to pick on Cheryl. “Truth or dare, Cheryl?”

Cheryl, who must’ve been expecting Veronica’s predictable behavior, proudly says, “Truth.”

“Was Jason really your soulmate?”

Cheryl smiles softly. “He was.”

It’s very fitting for Cheryl. Who else would be as entitled to be practically born with the gift of seeing in color?

“Archiekins,” Cheryl says sweetly. “Truth or dare?”

“Truth.”

The game continues in a truth-chain for a while and nobody, except for a shy girl named Ethel Muggs who takes off one of her earrings when asked about her virginity status, takes off their clothes otherwise. The game starts to grown dull and Cheryl will have none of that at her party. When her turn rolls around again she looks directly at Betty with mischievous eyes.

“Betty, truth or dare?”

Betty looks restless too. Her cup lies empty near their feet and she picks at her nails. “Dare,” she says. And everyone sits up a little straighter, looking to Cheryl for what she’ll force Betty to do.

“I dare you to kiss Veronica.”

“What?” Veronica asks vehemently.

“Of course, you could always take off something, Betty. You sure have a lot to chose from.”

Out of respect, Veronica starts to reach around her neck to take off her pearls. She freezes when Betty gently says, “Veronica, wait.”

The party seems to slow as Betty rises from Archie’s lap and quickly straddles Veronica’s. All Veronica can do is look up helplessly. Betty’s head tilts down and her curls spill forward off her shoulders and create a curtain of hair around their faces. “Just a game, right?” Betty asks and Veronica nods in agreement. There’s this look in Betty’s eyes that makes Veronica want to stop and pull away and ask Betty what’s wrong but Betty’s already leaning in and tangling her hands into Veronica’s hair so Veronica leans in and meets her halfway.

Around them, people holler.

Betty’s lips are soft but the kiss she gives isn’t. Betty’s mouth presses into hers roughly, not at all what Veronica expected, but after the initial shock the vigorous kiss causes her passes and Veronica sets to match it. She cradles Betty’s face in her hands and thumbs her chin. And when Betty’s mouth parts, Veronica’s tongue slips into her mouth and strokes against Betty’s. Veronica doesn't let herself over analyze it for once. She just kisses Betty and Betty consumers her and there isn't anything uncertain or questioning otherwise.

“Alright ladies, that’s enough.”

Veronica stares up at her when they break. Betty’s eyes are glossed over with unshed tears, cheeks pink with heat, and her mouth is smeared with her lipstick. “Betty,” Veronica murmurs softly, brushing her hair back behind her ear. Betty blinks and a tear slides onto her cheek. Veronica frowns deeply and wipes it away. She looks like the same girl who banished Veronica from the diner a month earlier. And she can't do that. She can't lose her again. So Veronica does something stupid and pulls Betty forward into her and kisses her softly for all the words she can't say so that Betty won't slip away. Honestly, Veronica is full of awful ideas. Betty just started talking to her again. But also, Betty kisses her back and anchors herself to Veronica’s shoulders, digging her nails so hard into her skin it kind of hurts.

But that isn’t the problem. The problems occur when they break for the second time that night and they both realize how much further than the dare they've took things.

Archie, who Veronica honestly forgot was sitting right next to them, stares at them ludicrously. “Are you kidding me, Betty?”

“It was just a dare,” Veronica defends. But Betty’s still straddling her lap and her lipstick is still smeared across her mouth.

Betty slips off of Veronica’s lap and into the seat adjacent. She refuses to meet anyones eyes, even though everyone tries to catch hers.

This is her fault. Veronica’s. And she can't help but think the homewrecker title Kevin gave her on her first day is fitting. “I’m going to get some air,” Veronica mumbles and runs off toward Cheryl’s patio.

“Veronica!” that would be Archie again. His ginger red hair (read: not blonde, not Betty’s) sticks up awkwardly from him running his fingers through it. His eyes are wide and blown. Worst of all, his stupid white tennis shoes are faster than her heels.

“Go away, Archie,” Veronica snaps. She doesn’t want to deal with this this. She can't.

“You don’t get to kiss my girlfriend like that and tell me to go away.”

“Listen,” Veronica says, her voice coming out sounding far more desperate than she’d meant it to. Tonight was a bad idea. Veronica is overwhelmed, she feels the sting of tears start to collect in her eyes. “She’s my soulmate, Archie. And I don't even know what that means yet. I don’t even know what she means yet. I just-” Veronica pinches the bridge of her nose to keep from crying. “I'm sorry.”

A look of understanding graces Archie’s face, though he looks a bit sad. “It’s funny, because Betty and I spent our whole lives thinking that one day we would look at each other and we would finally see color. And I didn’t love her the way she wanted me to for a very long time. And now that I realize that, she’s slipping away from me and I think you’re the reason why.”

They stare at each other. Archie just smiles at her for second. “Take care of her, Ron.”

His eyes dart down to her lipstick smeared lips and then he walks away.

 

Chapter Text

The soul would say

Yes, I am your pain but I am also your peace and your power

Know always that I am aware and able.

-Author Unknown


 

In it’s typical small town fashion, Riverdale on Monday morning is filled with hushed gossiping about the events that played out over the weekend. Veronica catches pieces of information throughout the day in class: Mr. Svenson’s wife passed away, Nancy Woods and Ginger Lopez came out as an item, Sheriff Keller revealed he is marrying again. Though above all, Veronica keeps hearing about Archie and Betty’s failed relationship and cruel words about herself, the heathen who broke them apart. A part of her longs to return back to beginning of the quarter when the worst thing that anyone said to her was because of her father. Veronica’s caught far harsher words than ‘homewrecker’ as she passes through the halls.

It’s not entirely bad though; she gets an odd we-kissed-but-don’t-talk-about-it friendship out of Betty and that almost makes the way that Dilton Doiley curls his lip at her worth it.

As their little friendship forms, Betty starts spending more of their lunch period sitting with Veronica and Cheryl instead of with Archie, Reggie, and the rest of the football team. And after two days of begrudgingly sitting with Moose in protest, Kevin Keller is added to the mix too, grumbling about the antics of straight boys. Cheryl is smug with this progression, if not outright pleased with herself.

Veronica’s the first one at the lunch table that day. She places her questionably edible school lunch down and lays claim to their usual spot. Kevin surprises her moments later by dropping his tray down right next to hers and taking a seat.

“Betty’s making me apologize,” he announces.

Veronica turns to him, giving Kevin her attention. She’s been waiting for this, if she’s being honest. She has an inkling that Kevin is apart of the Riverdale few who actually like her despite their rocking beginnings.  

“Go on.”

He flashes her an apologetic smile. “I'm sorry for going all crazy-Keller on you. That's more of my dad's style than my own.” His smile falters as he continues. “She called me that night and I've never heard her so upset in my life, and I was friends with Betty when Zayn left One Direction. It’s just… Mama Cooper isn't exactly the most nurturing of mothers so have to stand up for her. But I guess I was wrong to think Betty needs protecting from you.”

Veronica plasters a smile on her face. “I forgive you, Kev. Everyone here seems to think I’m a toxic rich bitch anyway. One more didn’t make much difference.”

She’s lying. They both know that. She’s been trying so hard to be a better person here and all she’s received is hate in return. These people don’t even deserve the best parts of herself and yet, Veronica keeps giving. Kevin senses her underlying hurt so he offers words of advice and it just so happens that he says something that halfway resonates with Veronica: “Why’s it matter what they’re saying if Betty and I, and even Cheryl know they’re wrong?”

Veronica’s face scrunches. “I guess you’re right.”

(It’s then that Kevin realizes he has two girls to protect. Veronica is not used to the bite and burn of Riverdale and he's determined to soften the blow.)

 


 

Veronica waits by the mouth of the track for the Vixens to finish practice. Slick sweat clings to their bodies and seems to make the girl’s all shine a little underneath the September sun. They’re nearly done; Cheryl leads them in a series of stretches as they cool from the mile Cheryl has them run each practice. Veronica mentally adds running to a growing list of things that she doesn't miss about New York. There, Veronica was a cheerleader. It wasn’t something she necessarily enjoyed doing but she felt that running laps, cutting calories, and staying late after school was worth the built in popularity. It wasn't, but nobody could've convinced a pre-Riverdale Veronica otherwise.

Here, she’s happy to be a part of the sidelines. She leans against the fence around the track and watches the Vixens finish up. Namely, she watches Betty and the way she gracefully goes through the motions of each stretch Cheryl orders them into. Veronica’s stomach flutters when she catches Betty’s eyes as she pops back up from on her stretches. Just friends, she reminds herself. Veronica smiles at her and the fluttering amplifies when Betty smiles right back.

Practice ends soonafter and the girls lug their bags over their shoulders and scatter across the field and on their way home. Betty picks up her own bag, golden ponytail swaying as she does so, and she knowingly starts to make her way toward Veronica.

“Are you waiting for Cheryl?” Betty asks as she reaches the fence, leaning into the fence similarly to Veronica.

Veronica bites her lip and shakes her head. “You actually, B. Can we talk?”

Betty nods softly. Concern adorns her features. “Walk me back to mine?”

 


 

The walk back to Betty’s is short and all the while, Veronica manages to avoid talking about what she wants to. They enter Betty’s house through her garage and Betty halts in front of a car.

“Do you mind if I work on this, Ronnie?” she says, squinting at car like she’s figuring something out. “I think I just realized why it isn’t working.”

And that’s how Veronica’s presented with another fact a la Betty Cooper: Betty’s something of a mechanic. She actually works on cars.

The hood is popped before Veronica knows it and Betty is bent under it rambling on about what does what and what goes where. She’s still in her cheer clothes and grease is already somehow smudged across them.

Veronica’s mouth is embarrassingly dry as she watches Betty perched on top of an old work bench Betty pulled out for her earlier. “Where does a girl like you learn to work cars?”

Betty pulls back from the hood with a slight frown. “My dad and I used to do stuff like this together all the time.”

She looks a little farther off as she says it, but Betty doesn't press it so Veronica doesn't either.

Betty ducks back underneath the hood of the car again and her shirt rides up slightly, a sliver of her skin presenting itself. However, marring it is a clear stain of black that Veronica is almost certain isn't grease.

“Betty,” Veronica gapes. “Do you have a tattoo?”

“Oh,” Betty says softly in reply. She tugs her shirt back into place with a light blush painting her cheeks. “Don't mention it around my mom. My sister and I got matching ones about a year ago.”

Veronica eyes the spot where the tattoo is. “What is it of?”

To her surprise, Betty pulls her shirt back up and nudges the waistband of her shorts away for Veronica to see. It's a dark flower inked into the dip of her hip. Betty brushes her fingers over it with the same faraway look that Veronica wishes she didn't sink into as often as she does. “My sister was supposed to have these at her wedding.”

“Supposed to?”

Betty lets her shirt settle back into place again and looks away. “Jason was killed before it could happen.”

Veronica’s eyes go wide. “Cheryl’s brother?”

Betty nods softly. “Yeah.”

Veronica waits expectantly, like Betty is going to say more, but the moment passes and Betty starts tinkering with the car once more. Besides the sounds of the wrench tightening around who knows what, they fall into silence.

“So,” Betty says clearing her throat. A grinding sound from the car reverberates into the garage. “What did you want to talk about?”

Oh, that's right. Veronica forces a faux smile on her face as she talks. “I know I might being a tad dramatic but I can't help but feel that this town is talking…”

Betty turns to her with startlingly fierce eyes. “You don't believe the things they're saying, right?”

“Betty, you and Archie have practically known each other since you were in diapers-”

“Only since we were four,” Betty corrects.

Somehow, that makes Veronica feel worse. “Everyone here has this connection that I can’t even begin to imagine. And I feel like since I’ve been here, people are upset that I’ve disturbed that. And I can’t help but feel like I might have ruined a few things too…”

Betty grabs an old cloth and starts wiping grease away from her hands. “Veronica, you're my friend and nothing anyone says is going to change that. You’re better than most of the people in this town.”

The words give her mixed emotions. She doesn't know if she wants to just be Betty’s friend but in that same breath, Veronica can do this. They can just be friends. Having Betty like this was better than not having Betty at all. Betty’s given her colors and heartache and Veronica was willing to take those. She can take Betty’s friendship too.

Betty wipes fruitlessly at grease she managed to smear across her cheek. Veronica slides off the bench and takes the towel from Betty (who misses the grease on her cheek for the third time in a row) and gently wipes it away. Veronica holds her face for a moment and familiarity washes over Veronica when her eyes dart down to Betty’s lips. The feeling spreads. It’s too much like the kiss, too soon and Veronica pulls away before she can do something she regrets. Betty smiles at her softly all the same and Veronica forces herself to bury the feelings it stirs.

“Thanks,” is Betty’s shaky response. Veronica decides she feels a lot like Betty sounds.

 


 

October barrels into Riverdale High bringing lower temperatures, football games, and the closing of the first quarter. Homecoming takes over similarly, with announcements, date plans, and the student council stressing about the preparations for the dance. Veronica has yet to sit through a full day of school this month without Homecoming announcements and guys (and girls) asking their dates to the dance with large, neon signs and puns painted across them. It’s surreal, the way only high school can be.

It turns out Chuck Clayton, co-captain of the football team, has his own sign and corny pun for Veronica. He asks her in the middle of lunch when too many eyes are on her to possibly say no. Besides, Chuck Clayton is beautiful and popular and halfway kind. And Betty and Veronica are friends. It’ll be good for her to go to the dance with somebody.

(The dance isn't even really something she actually wanted to go to at all but Cheryl is going with Josie - and refuses to talk about that, by the way - and forces her to keep her date.)

The night of the dance, Chuck shows up on her doorstep with flowers and woos her mom for the fifteen minutes they linger in the apartment. A part of her aches while this happens because this has always been her father's job; sending her off to her dates and threatening whoever showed up to take her. Her mom does a good job stepping in, but his absence makes it bittersweet.

Chuck drives them to the dance and they make easy small talk. Under different circumstances, Veronica thinks that she could date Chuck. He’s only talked about football three times tonight which is better than she’s had dates in the past play out. However, any thoughts of that are squashed when they get to the dance and three turns into nine and he’s still yet to ask her about herself.

She really shouldn’t be surprised that beautiful Chuck Clayton makes terrible conversation. Football. His favorite pass times. His favorite movies. Football again. (He does mention that he draws comics and hopes to create his own some day. She finds that interesting, if nothing else.) Boys from Riverdale aren’t much different from boys from New York.

“Want to dance, Ron?” he suggests.

Veronica practically drags him onto the dance floor to escape their miserable conversation. She catches a glimpse of Cheryl and Josie as she weaves through her classmates. Cheryl’s pressed tightly into Josie and they sway back and forth together, even though the music isn’t quite right. The genuine smile on Cheryl’s face is enough for Veronica to approve.

The most meaningful interaction Veronica has at the dance occurs when Chuck is in the bathroom. She seeks out Betty - who came with Kevin - and awes at the gorgeous pink dress that hugs her body.

“Mind if I steal her away from you for a bit, Kev?”

Kevin’s grins all knowingly. “Not at all.”

They find their own little spot together on the dance floor and sway together in time to the music. Betty’s arms loosely loop around Veronica’s neck and Veronica holds onto Betty’s hips.

Betty leans into her a little more than Veronica would consider friendly but she doesn’t mind. “How’s your date going?”

“Fine,” Veronica admits but her nose scrunches up in thought. “He hasn’t asked me anything about myself. I think I’d rather be hanging out with you and Kev.”

Betty rolls her eyes. “You’re better off with Chuck. Kevin keeps moaning about Moose and Midge.”

“It’s better than whining about football,” Veronica counters. “I don’t know why he thinks I care.”

Betty hums thoughtfully and leans down so her lips ghost over Veronica’s ear. It’s innocent, but Veronica can’t help the shiver that follows. “Fair warning. I think I see your date watching.”

Veronica doesn’t want to return to her subpar date or maybe she just doesn’t want to let Betty go yet. Regardless, she rambles. “Who needs boys? We could just keep dancing together, Betts. We could just forget about him and I’m sure Kevin wouldn’t mind and…”

Betty pulls back, a sad sort of frown on her face. Their easy swaying stops and Betty’s arms pull away from like she’s just remembered who Veronica is and what they’re doing and Veronica knows right away that she’s said the wrong thing.

“I can’t,” Betty whispers just quiet enough that Veronica has to lean in to hear. “I’m sorry.”

So many things that could ruin their friendship pop into her mind, but Veronica settles for, “I understand,” and lets Betty squeeze her arm and walk away. The rumors have just started to die down. It’s probably for the best that they aren’t seen pressed together in public, no matter how badly Veronica wants Betty to stay. Betty returns to Kevin and Veronica’s forced to return to Chuck and neither of them are as satisfied with this as they were when they first arrived.

Back with Chuck, Veronica practically spells it out that she’s ready to go. She stares at his lips the same way he’s been staring at hers all night, knowing that nothing with Chuck will be long term and sex would be a great distraction right about now. Veronica’s pleased with herself when Chuck finally takes the bait.

“So, Veronica, do you want to get out of here?”

“Did you bring a condom?” Veronica asks brashly.

A grin spreads across his face. “I guess it’s true what they about girls from New York.”

Veronica doesn't ask because she doesn't want to know.

They have sex in the back of his car and Veronica isn’t into it enough to get off. When it’s over, she instantly feels disgusted with herself, horrified that she allowed herself to sink back into old habits as quickly as she did. It hits her quickly and overwhelmingly as she shrugs back on her dress and she feels like she might throw up.

“Are you okay?” Chuck asks, stroking her hair in a way that makes her want to gag.

“Yes,” she lies. “Will you take me home?”

The whole way Chuck drives her home she has to repeatedly remind herself that this is what she wanted to keep from crying.

Chuck pulls up in front of Veronica’s and looks at her seriously. “I’m not going to see you again am I?”

“No,” she answers truthfully.

“I get it, don’t stress. I heard about you and Betty.”

Veronica breathes in deeply to calm herself down. “Everyone has.”

“Night, Ron. I had fun tonight.”

“Goodnight, Chuck. Thanks for the ride.”

Veronica hardly makes it into their apartment before she’s dry heaving into the nearest trash can, thankful that her mom is working the night shift so she can’t see her daughter hit a new low.

Chapter Text

in a world
full of
temporary things

you are
a perpetual
feeling.
― Sanober Khan

 

 


 

The second downfall of Betty Cooper occurs just one week after the dance. It starts Monday morning when Betty doesn't show up to school and only amplifies the Tuesday after when she doesn't turn up either. Veronica tries to drop off homework (who knew small town teachers cared so much?) but she's met with the wrath of Alice Cooper who takes the homework without a thank you and slams the door back in her face.

Bitch.

On Wednesday, Betty’s back at school with crescent shaped indents in her palms that are scabbed over and red. When Veronica tries to bring it up, Betty gives her an airy response and starts talking about the Blue and Gold instead. On Thursday, Betty comes to school without any makeup and her and Archie won't even look at each other, leaving everyone scrambling to figure out why. On Friday, it only takes until the closing of first period for rumors to spread about Alice Cooper and Fred Andrews and a fight that ensued the previous Thursday night.

The bulk of it unravels on Saturday - still Friday, technically - when Betty turns up at her doorstep at nearly 12 in the morning the same week.

Smithers opens the door and discovers her (and bless him, two sniffling, sniveling girls in the span of two months) and quickly wakes Veronica. Veronica’s mostly confused and somewhat annoyed about being torn from her beauty sleep. She throws a hoodie on top of her pajamas, or lack thereof, and rubs the sleep out of her eyes as she pads into their living room to attend to whatever Smithers thinks is so important.

And then she sees her and Veronica doesn’t think she’s ever been so wide awake as when she lies eyes on Betty in all her tearful dismay.

“Hey,” Betty says nonchalantly. Like she hasn't clearly been crying, like her eye isn't rapidly bruising. She stands near the front door shifting her weight back and forth, trying (and failing) to not appear aloof. She picks anxiously at her fingers before she lifts her gaze to Veronica’s and smiles. Her smile drops and she brings a hand to her swollen lid and winces.

“Hi,” Veronica croaks back. Venom bubbles up in her mouth, directed at whoever caused Betty pain, but she swallows it back down in favor of being gentle. She can get revenge after she makes sure Betty’s okay.

Veronica takes cautious steps forward until Betty’s in front of her, who pointedly avoids looking anywhere but Veronica’s questioning eyes. Veronica pulls on Betty’s sleeve and wordlessly tugs her into her arms. She tucks her chin into the crook of her shoulder and hugs her for a moment.

“Betty,” she says as she pulls back. Her hand trembles as she ghosts her fingers near the black eye. “What happened?”

Betty deflects and shies away from the intimate moment. She clears her throat, takes a step backward, and tugs her sleeves down over her hands the same way she always does when she starts thinking too much. “Sorry for coming.”

“Don’t apologise,” Veronica says fiercely. She grabs hold of Betty’s hand (tries hard to ignore the scabs that scratch across her palm) and tugs her to the couch. “You’re always welcome here. We’re…” Veronica trails off because Betty’s looking at her so deeply that she startles. “Uh.”

“We’re what, Veronica?” Betty asks in her silence refusing to break the eye contact that Veronica can’t look away from either. “Friends?”

“Yeah,” she breathes, thankful when Betty’s eyes dart away to pick at her nails again. “Friends.”

Veronica feels like Betty’s eye just continues to swell; only a sliver of her beautiful green manages through the horrid bruising black and blue that obstructs it. “Let me get you an ice pack,” she decides, rising to her feet.

Veronica starts off toward the kitchen without waiting for Betty to respond. However, she stops mid stride, turns back around, and offers Betty the only comfort she had when her dad was arrested. “Would wine be okay?”

Betty nods gratefully and sinks further into the couch with a heavy sigh. Veronica disappears to the kitchen and reappears moments later with two glasses of wine in hand and a frozen bag of pizza rolls tucked under her arm.

“You didn't drive here, right?”

“Walked.”

Veronica’s conflicted with how she feels about that answer but hands Betty the glass anyway and plops down onto the couch next to her. She holds up the frozen pizza rolls apologetically. “This is all I have.”

But Betty’s already downing her glass of wine. She pulls away, the glass already half empty, and smiles a genuine Betty smile and takes the bag from her. “It’s perfect, Veronica, thank you.” She presses the frozen pizza rolls into her eye.

Veronica nods. She finds herself nervously twirling her thumbs as she figures out how to address the elephant in the room. She chews at her lip and decides to go for broke. “Are you like… alright? Should we call Kev’s dad or something?”

“It’s alright, Ronnie, really. I’m fine . Just family stuff. I really just needed to leave for a while. My parents are overbearing.”

It’s less convincing with a bag of thawing pizza rolls pressed into her eye. “You can talk to me, girl to girl. I won’t tell another soul if that’s what you want. I swear on my mother’s pearls.”

Veronica untucks her pearls from her sweatshirt and gives them a soft tug.

A smile spreads across Betty’s face. “You wear them to bed?”

Veronica feigns confusion. “Of course.”

They dissolve into laughter and it feels so easy; like for a second they’re just two teenagers with crushes on each other. For a moment they aren’t running from their parents, they aren’t weighed down by what seeing in color means, Betty doesn’t have a black eye and Veronica doesn’t cry at night for her father. But the moment ebbs away and so does that feeling and it’s replaced with the reality of life, for better or for worse.

It never fails to amaze Veronica how everything with Betty can be so easy but also the hardest thing in the world.

Betty pulls the pizza rolls away from her eye and lets the bag fall into her lap. “I stopped taking my pills after I met you,” she says seriously. The atmosphere shifts and Betty sort of winces. “Which is probably the reason I’ve been so out of it lately. And I want to apologise for that, Veronica. I know this isn’t how you envisioned meeting your… uh… me.”

Betty doesn’t say it but soulmate is implied and it sends a giddy feeling throughout her body. “What happened tonight, Betty?” Veronica urges gently.

“Well…” Betty stares at the pizza rolls in her lap. “My mom kept filling adderall prescriptions for me when I was younger. Some doctor said that I might have something when I was in third grade so they had me taking that. But that was before everything with Polly happened…” She looks up at Veronica nervously. “I don’t want to scare you off, Veronica.”

Ronnie places a steady hand on Betty’s thigh and squeezes. “I’m not going anywhere,” she assures. “It’ll take a lot more than a pretty girl who fixes cars to scare me.”

Betty’s gaze flickers across Veronica, trying to see if she’s telling the truth. “After Polly my mom took me to see a specialist because she was so scared of having another daughter who was crazy. All that happened was that I swapped adderall for prozac.” Betty starts to speak quicker. She stares back at her lap again, her hands starting to clench. “Did you know how many cases of bipolar are misdiagnosed as ADHD a year? Did you know that my mom called me another disappointment when we found out? Did you know-”

“Hey,” Veronica catches her hand before they can dig into her already scabbed palms. She swipes her thumb across the inside of her wrist soothingly instead, pleased when Betty starts to relax into her touch. “What’s this mean, B? Did she do this to your eye?”

Betty doesn’t say no like she’d hoped. “She's always told me that soulmates don't really exist.”

“I didn’t used to believe in soulmates,” Veronica reveals with a nod.

“She told me that being with Archie was safe and that a basket case like me needed safe.”

And then finally, the real reason she's here reveals itself. “My mom found out that Archie and I broke up.”

It’s unsaid, but Veronica hears it loud and clear. My mom found out about you.

Stupidly, all Veronica says is, “How?”

“I don't know.” She takes a sip from her glass of wine. “You just were at Pop’s and I looked into your eyes and everything fell apart. Archie loved me. I loved him. I...” Her voice is smaller when she meets Veronica’s eyes. The vulnerability makes Veronica ache. “Does this mean I'm gay?”

Veronica can’t help herself. She places her glass on the coffee table and takes Betty’s and does the same. She lurches forward then, and pulls Betty into her arms, careful to avoid knocking into her eye. The pizza rolls crinkle between them. “This doesn’t have to mean anything. We might be destined to be best friends. We don’t know.”

“Veronica,” Betty whispers, she breathes in Veronica’s shampoo and hugs her back with the same sturdiness Veronica exerts, “I think we both know that’s not true.”

 


 

Like most things with Betty and Veronica, that night becomes another thing that neither of them talk about. The not talking about it feels different this time. Betty sits closer to her at lunch, she came over and had dinner with her and her mom, she receives texts from Betty more nights than she doesn’t, and offers to take the licenseless Veronica to the next town over so she can see the mall. They even have plans with Cheryl the next day that neither Betty or Cheryl will disclose.

Still, Veronica adds Saturday night to the list of anomalies that have come from Betty Cooper: seeing in color, the kiss at Cheryl’s party, breaking up with Archie, showing up at midnight and sort of confessing feelings. Veronica is happy not to dwell on what they don’t talk about. She’s content with their growing relationship in whatever odd form it decides to present itself in.

Right now, however, Betty isn’t on her mind. She waits anxiously in her living room for the first chance to talk to her dad in nearly six months. Hermione has been mumbling to him on the phone in hushed portuguese for the past ten minutes, only vaguely aware that Veronica can hear everything she’s saying.

Veronica tries not to listen to their argument, though, and instead tries to focus on being excited to talk to her dad. She hasn’t heard from him in months, hasn’t seen him in even longer. He was away on a business trip when he was arrested and jailed to await trial. And then Hermione and Veronica packed up and set off to Riverdale. Veronica never had the chance to say goodbye.

Hermione curses at her Hiram in spanish now, her own native language instead of his. Veronica can proudly say she can speak both, though not as fluently as either of her parents would like. Hermione gives one last feeble shout and storms into the living room with a phone extended from her like an illness. “Here, mija,” she says shortly. “Take it.”

So Veronica does. She takes the phone and presses it to her ear. “Dad?” she asks tentatively.

Docinho ,” he says softly into the phone. His voice and his accent quickly overwhelm her. It's a lot. Veronica already feels the tears she promised she wouldn’t cry building up in her eyes. “We don’t have much time.”

“Daddy,” Veronica says, her eyes watering. Her heart aches. Everything that’s happened is his fault: the move, losing their homes, her mom having to work at Pop’s, finding Betty. “How could you leave us?”

“I’m sorry, Veronica,” he says simply.

“I found my soulmate,” Veronica spills, surprising herself and her father.

Veronica can’t see him but she pictures his bushy brows knitting together the same way Veronica’s do when she concentrates. And she imagines him scratching the salt and pepper stumble at his chin. “Then it was meant to be. Everything happens for a reason, Ronnie. I’ve told you.” He clears his throat and she hears him sniff. Briefly, she imagines tears welling in his dark eyes. “Do you love them?”

“I don’t know yet,” she admits. “But she makes me feel like I don’t need to keep looking. She’s where I’m supposed to be for the rest of my life, daddy, I know... Even if she thinks that my moqueca is too spicy.”

He laughs heartily, the same way that always breathed life into their too-big homes when she was a child. She finds herself laughing with him.

Their laughs taper off and a heavy sigh replaces it. “Ronnie, I have to go,”

Veronica frowns. “I miss you.”

“I miss you, too, amorzinho . And I expect to hear more about my future daughter-in-law. Keep cooking for her, you hear me? That’s how I won your mother over.”

 


 

It’s a day later and Veronica’s with Betty and Cheryl at Polly’s house. And, wow .

“He likes me best,” Cheryl says with triumphant grin.

A mini Cheryl sits in her lap. Same big brown eyes, the same red hair, the same narrow nose. Cheryl combs her fingers through his mop of red waves and holds him to her protectively.

Veronica gapes. “He looks just like you.”

His name is Nathan and this is the surprise outing Cheryl and Betty wouldn’t provide details for. Cheryl and Betty are babysitting for Polly and Veronica instantly knows why his aunt’s forged a truce over him. They’d presented the little toddler to Veronica like he was a prize. Though, Veronica suspects that getting to know him might be.

“I know,” Cheryl says smugly, like she’s told all the time. But any trace of smugness is wiped from her face when she speaks to the toddler in her lap. “Say hi to Veronica.”

(She’ll later find out that Nathan is the thing that finally softened Cheryl and ended the infamous Cooper-Blossom feud.)

Nathan curls into Cheryl further, presses his face into Cheryl’s chest, and mumbles something Veronica can't make out. “Go on, Nate,” she tries again.

He mumbles into Cheryl’s chest again and refuses to pull away. It’s then that Betty makes a reappearance, a car seat slung underneath her arm. She sets Nathan’s seat on the ground and drops down next to Cheryl and Nathan so she’s eye level with him.

“You know, Nate, Veronica is kind’ve like a princess. You see her necklace?” Betty points to the pearls that hang around Veronica’s neck.

His head lifts from Cheryl; his eyes glitter in awe. Veronica’s heart putters pathetically in her chest. He looks to Cheryl for confirmation. “Like Elsa?”

“Sure,” Cheryl nods. It really surprises her how soft she acts with him.

That’s all the selling that Nathan needs from his aunt’s. “Hi, Veronica,” he says more confidently now. Her name doesn't work quite right in his mouth. He tries it again, to no avail.

“You can call me Ronnie, Carrot Top.”

“Hey!” Nathan says with a big grin. He’s clearly pleased with the nickname. He looks at Veronica very carefully before he blurts out his next request. “I hold you?”

Veronica looks to Betty for help. “He wants you to pick him up.”

“Oh,” she says softly. Nathan scrambles down off of Cheryl’s lap and holds his arms out for Veronica. “I've never… I don't know how to…”

Still, she reaches down and carefully scoops tiny Nathan up into her arms. He immediately goes for her pearls and and starts tugging at them and Veronica heart is so full that she doesn’t even protest.

From there they head out the front door and pile into the car to head to the park. Betty teaches Veronica how to buckle Nathan into his seat and when they get to the park, Cheryl only fusses over how he ruins his brand new shoes once, and tiny Nathan is thrilled to have not just his aunt’s with him, but also ‘Princess Ronnie.’

“He likes you,” Betty whispers hours later back at Polly’s house, only one episode of Sofia the First since Cheryl’s left. Nathan fell asleep on Veronica’s chest and no matter how many times Betty offers, she doesn’t let her take him.

“Being a princess helps. Plus he's two. Is there anyone he doesn’t like besides Oscar the Grouch?”

Betty shrugs. Sofia the First keeps playing on the tv and they both pretend that they aren’t watching it. “My mom.”

“Smart kid.”

Veronica fights the urge to combs through his red hair with her fingers, suppressing a sigh. “What is it?” Betty asks.

“I was just wondering if his aunt might like me too.”

“You could just ask Cheryl yourself.”

Veronica scowls at her. Betty laughs.

A beat of silence and then Betty says, “You know, I think she might.”

Chapter Text

I feel like a part of my soul has loved you since the beginning of everything.

― Emery Allen


 

“You know Chuck, right?”

“Yeah, of course,” Betty nods. She sits close, fiddling with the fraying of Veronica’s couch. “What about him?”

It's not a conversation she wants to be having but it's been weighing on her lately. And, Betty... Betty’s her friend now. She attempted to tell Cheryl but her advice is paired with tough love and she walked away with the same heavy feeling in her stomach that's been festering for weeks.

Everything is so easy with Betty, even with the question of what their relationship means hanging over their heads. More days than not she hangs out with her, helps her prepare for dinner, and is gone again before Alice can come home. Things should be easy since homecoming. Veronica can't help but feel like she's making a problem out of nothing.

She feels selfish for feeling this way. Her mom received a promotion at Pop’s and her hours have mellowed out a bit. She doesn't have to have dinner with her while she's on break, or see her coming home from the night shift as she gets ready for school. But Chuck Clayton’s something that refuses to ease up on her, no matter how much easier things should be.

“Veronica?”

She snaps out of thought and meets Betty’s eyes. “Sorry,” she says softly. Her eyes dart down to her thumbs. “I - I slept with him -  Chuck - after the dance. In his car. And I just feel so disgusting about it. As if I already wasn't the New York whore, the whole football team seems to be staring lately.”

“Oh, Ronnie. It's okay,” Betty assures. Though the frown adorning her face makes Veronica think otherwise. “What you want isn't anyone's business if you don't want it to be.”

“But I didn't want it.” Betty’s eyes widen. “No, no, god, not like that. It's just… like I was sinking back into the person I used to be.” She frowns and lifts her eyes again. “I used to be awful.”

“Cheryl used to be awful too, and look at her now.”

Veronica vividly remembers the Vixens grumbling about Cheryl’s attitude only a day earlier.

“Okay, maybe Cheryl isn't the best example but she tries.” Betty places her hand over Veronica’s. “The point is, Veronica, that none of us knew the old you. Maybe you were mean. Maybe you really were like Cheryl, but the Veronica I know now is kind and caring. You were there for me when nobody else was.” Her hand squeezes. “It’s okay to make mistakes.”

Relief floods Veronica in the form of tears that Betty’s quick to hold her though.

 


 

Chuck Clayton is pushed from her head for two weeks. But it’s brought back into light when Reggie Mantle beats her to their lunch table that day, leaning arrogantly against it as Veronica takes her seat. He’s all cocky smile and arrogant attitude and he’s so much like Chuck Veronica kind of wants to throw up all over again.

There were a lot of Reggie Mantle’s back in New York. Veronica can’t say she misses it.

“Come on, Ronnie,” he pushes while Veronica glares up at him. “Chuck told us all about you. Come to the carnival with me.”

The carnival. It makes her eyes roll. Apparently it’s the only interesting thing that happens in Riverdale. Veronica’s heard gossiping about it for weeks. She supposes that Reggie is to the carnival what Chuck was to homecoming.

“Sorry,” Veronica shakes her head, and she lies because she’s sick of Reggie and his refusal to leave her alone. “I already have a date.”

Reggie looks amused; like he doesn’t believe her. “Who then?”

“Me.”

They both look over to see Betty, brows furrowed. Veronica instantly breathes a little easier as she drops her lunch tray next to Veronica’s and settles down next to her, unnecessarily close.

For a moment Betty achieved the impossible and stunned Reggie into silence. (Veronica, too, but for entirely different reasons.) It only lasts a moment; he rebounds quickly. “Oh, some chick on chick action,” Reggie grings, waggling his brows at them. “Didn’t know you swung that way.”

Betty presses closer. “So now that you have your answer, leave.”

But Reggie’s relentless. “Well, if you ladies are ever interested in creating a Mantle sandwich…”

“What did you just say?”

Archie appears at the table then, fire lit behind his eyes. Reggie laughs awkwardly and clasps him on the back. “Relax dude, kidding,” but he makes some excuse to leave anyway.

And maybe it was Archie who did the rescuing, really, but Veronica squeezes Betty’s hand all the same, mirroring her gesture from just a few days prior.

 


 

Like most things in Riverdale, Betty’s eye heals. Even the faint, stubborn yellow rimming that lingered for a week after everything else has faded away. Betty and Archie start talking again, as friends this time. He even joins them for lunch sometimes. Veronica even hears he’s talking to Jughead again these days. Everything becomes easier, really this time. People have stopped talking and the worst summer of her life is pushed to the back of her head.

By mid November, fall’s seeped into Riverdale, tinging everything a pleasant warm orange. Well, everything except for Betty’s petrifyingly pink bedroom that Veronica can’t help still grin at every time she’s in her room.

Today’s no different than most days this month. Veronica’s in Betty’s room again after school. She’s smiling at her pink decor, at Betty’s embarrassed smile, at the song that Betty puts on for them.

It’s been so much easier to smile lately.

“Stop with that face,” Betty groans, flopping down onto her bed. She flips back over and looks at Veronica, feigning misery. “We’ve been over this a thousand times. I haven’t redecorated since I was ten.”

Again, all Veronica can do is smile. “Maybe I could help you with that sometimes.”

Betty rolls her eyes. “Let’s just work on the calculus homework for now.”

It’s something they’d taken up last month; they made excuses to hang out with each other to mask how often it truly was. Veronica’s happy that it’s carried over to November as well. They’ve fallen into a pattern that involved each other so quickly it’s like the universe is trying to tell them I told you so . But Veronica doesn’t let it. She’s not going to let something as silly and uncertain as color dictate who she falls in love with. She reminds herself of a younger version of herself, one before Betty and Riverdale who thought soulmates might not even be real.

But, in that same thought, she’s still drawn to the girl who’s face is scrunched up as she works on her homework. They go to school and pretend like the only open seats next to each other, they act like they’re each others last partner opportunity and pair together, and more often than not Veronica trails behind Betty home only to leave again before Alice gets back.

(Betty protests any sort of revenge that Veronica suggested following her showing up at midnight. It’s not safe, she explains. So Veronica will wait to hand Alice her ass for now.)

Yesterday they chalked their hangout up to Betty needing help with arranging student council volunteer opportunities. Today Veronica needs help with calculous. Veronica anxiously wonders when they’ll hang out for the sake of themselves, rather than hiding behind these excuses that are becoming more and more obvious by the day.

Though, she doesn’t have to worry about that much longer.

Veronica’s homework lays on the ground, mostly untouched save a few problems she actually tried before gossip and social media got the best of her. Occasionally, Veronica will roll over and show Betty some cute animal she found on Twitter to distract her from very adamantly finishing the homework that isn’t even due for another two weeks.

She peers up from her phone to look at Betty. Little hairs fall out of her ponytail, framing her face. And every time Betty starts mumbling about a difficult problem, she curses softly under her breath. It brings an irrationally wide smile to Ronnie’s face. Betty insists she never swears. Veronica’s kind of honored that Betty’s comfortable enough to slip up around her. It's with that thought that Veronica’s brought into another one. She figures that Betty’s the most beautiful girl she’s ever met, and then, if it’s dramatic to think so. But Betty literally gave her the gift of color just from looking at her so she lets the mushy thought warm her for a moment.

Without warning, Betty’s glances at Veronica, redirecting the warmth to Veronica’s cheeks from being caught. Briefly, irrationally, she wonders if Betty somehow heard her inner thoughts.

“You’re staring,” Betty chides, setting down her pencil and smiling warmly at her. “Where’s the homework you’re supposed to be doing?”

“I’m looking at better things to do than my homework,” Veronica blurts out, her mouth quicker than her mind.

They both freeze.

“Oh my god, wait. That came out wrong,” Veronica’s flush deepens. She doesn’t even care if she’s being dramatic anymore. She’s mortified .

To her relief, Betty just bursts out in laughter. “Sheesh, V, at least let me take out on a date first.”

Their confrontation with Reggie pops into her head. Veronica knows Betty probably doesn't actually mean anything from the joke - she didn’t mean anything from the lie she gave to Reggie - but she finds herself saying: “Really?” nonetheless.

It makes her feel a little better when Veronica watches Betty’s cheek tinge with color, too. “That’s actually what I was going to ask you,” Betty says softly. She sets her notebook aside and sits up. “Even though pretending like you haven’t been staring at me doing my homework for the past hour has been exciting.”

“Betty,” Veronica pouts.

Betty just laughs again. “You’re aren’t going to the carnival with anyone yet, right?”

Veronica’s head tilts. “You weren’t lying to Reggie?”

“I mean, at that point I hadn’t asked you yet…” Betty trails off, moves to open her nightstand drawer and starts rummaging through it for whatever she’s trying to find. She produces two brightly colored tickets with a shy smile.

“It’s kind of a big deal here. It’s the only exciting thing that happens in Riverdale, if you don’t count the whole murder thing that people still talk about.”

Veronica stares at her. The carnival. With Betty. As a date .

“Soooooo,” Betty drawls when Veronica doesn’t respond; she holds an orange ticket out to her, “do you want go?”

Veronica can’t find it in her to be embarrassed about how quickly she says yes.

 


 

After she gets home (and gushes to her mom for nearly an hour about she has a date with Betty Cooper) Veronica decides that she’s upset that Betty beat her to the first date milestone. She had all intentions of being the one to woo in their relationship, the one she didn’t even know had truly started yet, but Betty, and her talk about colorful carnivals, picking her up on Saturday night made it hard to refuse.

So when Betty mentions to Veronica offhand how much she misses their old little drive in, Veronica absolutely decides she’s going to woo her the only way Veronica Lodge knows how: all out.

She pokes around - because Betty and Jughead aren’t the only ones who can do a little digging - and she finds out that the old drive in was demolished back when they were sophomores. Something about Jughead living there that she doesn't quite understand and a biker gang that she doesn't want to get into to sends her to Kevin for answers.

A long, confusing history of Riverdale and their phone call ends like this: “Yeah, I have a driveway, Ronnie. Why do you ask?”

She’s at Kevin house the next day after school with a box full of junk food, dvds, and a projector. Veronica borrowed the projector from her theater and borrows a white sheet from the Keller’s to hang over the garage. Well, Sheriff Keller helps her and his son who are grossly unqualified to do anything that requires a bit of height and handywork. He also helps them set up the projector, and the speakers, and walks them through how they’ll get the movie to play when they’re ready. Veronica can’t thank him enough and he just pats her on the head, wishing her luck with her girl .

“Oh my god, dad,” Kevin gasps. “You can’t just say what we’re both thinking.”

He laughs. “Have fun you two!”

Veronica considers it a miracle that they only bicker for twenty minutes about what movie they’ll watch.

In the end, Kevin wins - “It’s my garage, Lodge.” - and chooses some old horror movie that he swears she’ll thank him later for. It’s Veronica’s idea to invite the rest of their friends; deep down she wants Betty to have the honor of taking them on their first date. Veronica’s perfectly happy with first claiming their grand romantic gesture.

“I’ll text the rest of the gang, you go pick up Betty,” Kevin commands, dragging the rest of the blankets and pillows out into the driveway. He fishes his keys out of his pocket and tosses them to her. Veronica catches them with a frown.

“I’m from New York,” she says sheepishly. “I can’t drive.”

Kevin rolls his eyes and mumbles something about her being spoiled under his breath when she hands them back.

“It’s a good thing she lives five minutes away then,” Kevin says. “Now go.”

Veronica practically buzzes the whole way to Betty’s house, thinking of all the ways that something spontaneous like this could go wrong. The most pressing of her problems are Alice opening the door when she beckons for Betty. Maybe Betty isn't even home. She'd hate to come all the way over here, all five minuets of walking, just to return to Kev’s Betty-less. She contemplates just calling Betty as she rounds the corner and approaches the house but soon realizes she doesn’t have to make that decision. The garage door is open and inside is Betty, lying underneath the same car she’s been working on a few months.

Veronica invites herself in and tries to be quite but the clicking of her heels gives her away.

“Mom?” Betty asks. The car stops making the sound it was moments before.

“Try again.”

At that, Betty shimmies out from underneath the car and she stares up at her in confusion.

“Veronica? Why are you here? Are you okay?”

“I came to steal you away actually,” Veronica explains. Her eyes linger on the dark grease that sticks to Betty’s collarbone. “If you aren’t too busy?”

Betty sits up and smiles. “I always have time for you, V.”

The embarrassing blush that creeps up her neck makes Veronica’s relieved that Betty ducks inside to change her clothes quick.

Betty reappears again, less greased and in cleaner clothes and by now Veronica’s significantly less red. They start the short walk back to Kevin’s.

“I get the feeling we’re going to Kevin’s but are you going to tell me why?”

Veronica refuses until Kevin’s comes back into view.

The rest of their friends are all already lingering in the driveway, waiting for Veronica and Betty to arrive so they can start the movie. “Tada!”

“You didn't.” Betty grins.

“But I did,” she responds. “And tonight we’re watching a horror movie in the true drive in fashion.”

“The movie was my idea,” Kevin points out, pressing play.

“Yes, but everything else was mine.”

They divide themselves and claim blankets on the driveway to watch the movie. Cheryl and Josie are curled underneath a set of blankets bickering about who gets to feed who popcorn. And for a brief moment, Kevin attempts to join Betty and Veronica’s before Veronica sends him a pointed look and he rolls his eyes and relents.

“Scoot over, heteros,” Kevin commands and Archie and Jughead share a look.

“Oh,” Kevin grins, a whole lot more interested in his movie arrangements now, “is bisexuals a more appropriate term now?”

Veronica settles in her cocoon of blankets and holds out the covers for Betty to join her. Betty drops down next to her, warm and sure. And even though they've kissed before, this feels far more intimate. Betty curls into her side and sighs softly.

“Veronica,” Betty whispers after the movie’s been rolling for a while. Veronica startles, horror movie and all, and Betty subtly shifts closer to her.

“Hm?” Veronica hums. She’s met with Betty’s slightly glossy green eyes and she frowns. “Is everything okay?”

“My mom was being a bitch tonight,” Betty confesses softly. “I told her I was taking you on a date. Thank for rescuing me.”

And then Betty presses a kiss to her cheek and Veronica swears warmth erupts in her heart.

 


 

Saturday comes overwhelmingly fast and for the greater portion of the day, Veronica’s getting ready for Betty to come pick her up at six. They’ve come a long way from the I-refuse-to-acknowledge-your-existence type relationship that they shared the first few weeks of knowing each other.

The universe is kind of funny like that.

“Mom, do you still have that yellow dress I like?” She’s already tried on every yellow clothing item in her own closet. Twice. Veronica wants to wear yellow. Yellow feels right. She didn’t know it at the time but yellow was the color of Betty’s sweater when she met her months ago.

Hermione appears in her room a few minutes later and holds up just the dress she was looking for. “You mean this one?”

“Yes,” Veronica squeals, tripping over herself to run forward into her mom’s outstretched arms. “Thank you.”

“Are you nervous?” Hermione asks, pulling Veronica back to get a good look at her.

“It’s Betty. She makes me feel calm.”

With her dress situation sorted out, she’s finally able to worry about the rest of herself.

She applies her makeup and works out the kinks of her hair. She stares at herself in the mirror for a truly vain amount of time before she snaps back out of it in search of the perfect heel. She loses track of time wondering which heel Betty will like best. She startles when her mom calls out to her. “Honey, Betty’s here.”

Is it really six already?

A quick check of her phone confirms, yes, it is six. On the dot, actually and Veronica smiles at Betty’s punctuality. Veronica quickly hurries to shove on the very first pair of heels she debated on and stumbles out into the entry room as she rushes to put them on.

Hermione obstructs Betty from her view as she rounds the corner, drawing closer to the. Betty says something Veronica doesn’t quite make out and then they’re laughing, Hermione taking a  subtle step back and - there she is.

Betty.

Betty practically glows with her hair hanging free from its usual ponytail. Her golden hair matches her soft yellow sweater that she pairs with a white button up underneath. She looks like she did the first day she saw her; the day she began living in color.

“We match,” Veronica says when she finally reaches her.

“We do,” Betty agrees. She produces a bouquet of yellow flowers that Veronica hadn’t spotted before and hands them to her. Her heart putters pathetically as she brings them near her face to smell. “And, uh, I got those for you if you wanted to put them in some water.”

Hermione breaks the moment with her cooing. She takes the flowers from Veronica and runs to the kitchen to put them in a vase.

“Thank you, Betty. They’re beautiful.” Veronica stops herself from adding, but not nearly as beautiful as you.

“Flowers, Ronnie!” Her mom’s smile is still so wide when she comes back Veronica wonders if she'll burst. “And look at you two. I want pictures.”

Hermione ushers them together and pulls out her phone. “Mom…”

“I'm sorry, baby, but it's not everyday my little girl goes on her first date with her soulmate.”

Both of them share a look. “Mami…” Veronica groans.

“Okay, okay, go,” Hermione nods, taking a few last pictures despite herself. “Have fun, be safe. You text me if you need anything.”

She pulls Veronica into her arms and presses a kiss into her hair. Betty’s far taller than Veronica, than Hermione herself, too, but that doesn't stop her from pulling her into her arms and squeezing just the same.

“Be good, girls,” Hermione smiles as they shuffle out the door. “Bring a coat, Veronica!”

But the two of them are already gone, giggling distractedly at nothing at all.

 


 

“Your mom was right. You should've brought a coat,” Betty says later, her fingers dancing over the goosebumps that have raised on her bare arms. They’ve just barely left Betty’s car

More rise, but these new ones weren’t caused by the cold.

“You can keep me warm instead,” Veronica teases.

“Nice try but I think I have a jacket in my car,” she says absently, continuing to trace up and down Veronica’s arm. “Let's go get it before your mom kills me for letting you freeze.”

“But the carnival-”

“Will still be here after I'm not worried that you're in danger of frostbite.”

Betty drags them back off to her face. Veronica supposes that the warm jacket Betty produces is worth ruining her outfit for. It means that Betty is keeping her warm and Veronica’s always been one to get her way.

 


 

By now, the carnival grounds shimmer and glow. The sun’s set and the colors and lights of the carnival are allowed to shine through. There’s a unique combination of funnel cake and cigarette smoke that feels inexplicably like New York. Though, home has started to feel more and more like a feeling and less like the city she once belonged to.

(Veronica tries not to wonder why.)

When they get there - again - their usually easy relationship shifts under the pressure of the word date. They stand in line to get their wristbands and make idle conversation until they reach the front. A gruff man takes their their tickets are tears them in and replaces it with yellow wristbands.

Veronica holds up her wrist excitedly for Betty to see. “Look! It was meant to be!”

Inside the carnival grounds, things and people bustle about. Riverdale shuffles by her in a light she’s never bothered to look at them before.

Betty pulls her along to all her favorite rides. On the Cyclone, Veronica’s squashes into Betty’s side while they ride and laughs until she almost vomits. In the fun house they take so many pictures in the mirrors that the ride operator nearly kicks them out. Betty buys them snowcones that they eat even though the air around them bites. They sit in dewy, half wet, half frozen grass and all Veronica feels is warm.

One snow cone wiser and they brave the carnival grounds again, hand in hand this time. Veronica suspects it might be to keep them from separating because that's nearly happened tonight - twice - but it still feels incredibly nice.

Veronica catches a flash of red hair and a familiar beanie a ways ahead and starts to tug Betty in their direction.

Betty must see them, too, because she’s shouting; “Juggie! Archie!” a moment later.

The boys slow down and Betty and Veronica are able to catch up. Both of whom look at their linked hands curiously before Archie proposes they all get funnel cakes together.

“Dude, they're on a date,” Jughead whispers fiercely when he thinks that Veronica and Betty can't hear them.  

“So are we. What's the problem?”

Questionably sanitary carnival food becomes ten times as enticing when the smell overwhelms the carnival grounds and Betty keeps talking about how good it is. They gorge themselves on sweet fluffy cake (Jughead eats an entire funnel cake by himself while Archie pouts beside him with a candy apple that has a fly stuck to it.) Veronica buys her and Betty their own funnel cake, topped with powdered sugar and ice cream.

“You’re being a bad date, Juggie,” Betty chastises, pushing their remaining cake to Archie with a smile.

“What? I paid for this,” Jughead defends around a mouthful.

“Well, you boys have fun,” Veronica says rising, tugging Betty by her hand and pulling her with her. “ My date and I are going to seize the night.”

By seizing the night, Veronica means ride the one ride that's made her nauseous just looking at it the whole the night. The Zipper.

Riders are literally caged into their seats to keep them safe. The gleeful screaming coming from the compartments is easily misunderstood to Veronica’s ears as panicked when they slot themselves a spot in line. Veronica presses into Betty shamelessly while they wait in line for their turn; partly because her legs are still cold and exposed to the cold air, but mostly because the rickety sounding metal seems to groan louder with every step they take toward it.

“Are you nervous?” Betty asks, bemused. Her arms still wrap around Ronnie in her confusion. “I didn’t think Veronica Lodge was scared of anything.”

“I'm not scared of anything,” she defends. But she looks up at the near nauseating twirling the Zipper does and sighs. “Except maybe this particular carnival ride.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m here then, right V?” Betty grabs her hand and squeezes.

Veronica relaxes a little and squeezes back. “Right.”

Still, later (on the merry-go-round this time because Veronica could barely stand by the time she gets off the Zipper) Betty tells her that she doesn’t think she’s had someone squeeze her hand so hard before. Veronica relived the rides thereafter are tamer.

People start to funnel out of the carnival grounds now and while they move sluggishly back to the front, Betty points out all her favorite rides and giving them each their unique backstory. “Juggie and I rode that one until we threw up when we were nine,” she says, pointing at the Ring of Fire. “And Cheryl and I nearly killed each other when were twelve on that one when we were forced to ride together.” This time she points at the Caterpillar Train. “And that one - ” Betty’s finger points back at the Zipper -

“Is where I nearly died!” Veronica finishes with a shudder.

The best part of her night, though, comes later. They meet up with Archie and Jughead again. Jughead is the proud owner of a plush whale, and Archie an inflatable guitar that squeaks every time he whacks it against Jughead’s head.

“I’ve always wanted one of those giant bears,” Veronica admits thoughtfully.

Betty grabs her hand and tugs her off toward the games. Jughead and Archie are unphased when they disappear again.

“Come on then.”

“Where are we doing?”

“Winning you a prize, obviously. What kind of date would I be if I didn’t?”

Veronica grins. “And they say chivalry is dead.”

In the end, twenty minutes and ten dollars down the drain, Betty’s forced to admit defeat to the ring toss game. But luckily for them, another teen works the booth who stares at Betty like she’s the entire world and ends up giving the obnoxious bear to her when she asks nicely and bats her eyes.  

“Thank you,” Betty beams at him, then quickly presents the bear to Veronica.

The bear is bigger than her and nearly bigger than Betty. And she may not have won it but Veronica’s thankful all the same. She says her thanks like this:

Her eyes flutter shut and her lips press into Betty’s - finally - tasting faintly of faraway funnel cake and ice cream. She hears Betty inhale, feels her hands settle on her hips. Veronica toys with the soft baby hairs at the base of her neck and she can't help the sigh that follows. Of all the things they've had tonight, Veronica knows that Betty is the sweetest.