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“Love is friendship that’s caught fire.”
- Ann Landers

-

Jughead has never really been able to say no to Archie.

It started when they were little, when Jughead would invite him over to play video games, and Archie wanted the nice controller for the GameCube. Nice meaning the only one that worked; the other three had something wrong with them, be it a stuck button or a jacked up joystick. Only the silver one was in perfect working order.

Every single time, Jughead wanted to look Archie right in the eye and say, “No. My house, my rules, and my rules say that I get the best controller,” like he did with everybody else. But there was something about Archie that made Jughead’s head go fuzzy.

Even if Jughead ever did manage to say no, all Archie had to do was tug on his sleeve and use that stupid nickname.

“C’mon, Juggie. Please?” And that was all it ever took for Archie to get his way.

-

It doesn’t stop when they get older. There’s still nothing Archie can’t get with those three fucking words. The worst part is that Jughead doesn’t even mind it all that much.

Until the night that Archie wants to go to a party.

Jughead’s never been a huge fan of Cheryl Blossom to begin with, so the idea of spending multiple hours at her house surrounded by drunk people that he doesn’t care about isn’t exactly ideal.

“Everyone’s going, Jug.” Archie says, tearing open Jughead’s closet door and yanking out different shirts. He holds up two of them - one plaid, one solid black - with raised eyebrows. “Even Betty’s going.”

“Oh yeah, because that’s how I base my decisions. On what Betty’s doing.” He turns a page in his comic book, throwing Archie an eyebrow quirk to complete the sarcastic statement. The redhead sighs, his shoulders sagging as he drapes the shirts over the back of the desk chair.

“Please, man? I really want to go.” Archie leans back against the doorway of the closet, his arms folded across his chest.

“Then go. I won’t stop you.”

“I want you to go with me.” Archie clarifies. “There’s going to be girls there.” He offers a wink and Jughead shakes his head at the attempt.

He’s pretty sure he’s missed the train on dating, at least for now. There have never been girls. There have never been guys. Besides, he’d rather hang out with his best friend anyway, the one constant in his life. Because there’s always been Archie.

Jughead sighs, opening his mouth to say no again, but then he sees that damn look on Archie’s face, and he knows that the next words out of his mouth will have him up on his feet in three seconds flat.

“C’mon, Juggie, please?”

Groaning his dissatisfaction, Jughead swings his legs off the bed and stands up, reaching out for the black shirt, which Archie happily hands over.

“Fine. But I’m not happy about it.” Making sure that Archie can tell just how unhappy he is with each and every movement, he changes his shirt and pulls on a dark denim jacket and his signature beanie. Archie chuckles and throws his arm around his best friend.

“You’re never happy about anything, Jug.”

And Jughead can’t really argue with him on that one.

-

They can hear the music from down the street as they walk from where they’ve parked Archie’s truck. It’s some overhyped pop tune that’s been playing on the radio every hour on every station. Jughead knows every word, even though he doesn’t want to.

“You know, there’s still time to turn back.” Archie throws Jughead a glare and he holds up his hands in surrender. “Fine, fine. But please don’t do anything stupid, okay? I don’t want to have to deal with your dad if you ‘accidentally’ eat another pot brownie.”

The look on Fred Andrews’s face when Jughead had dragged a higher-than-hell Archie through the front door will forever be seared into the back of his mind.

“Yeah. We definitely don’t need a repeat of that.” Archie widens his eyes for effect as they make their way inside Cheryl’s house. Jughead looks around and instantly feels out of place. “I’m going to go find the drinks, okay? You want anything?” Jughead shakes his head and Archie gives him a thumbs-up as he heads for the kitchen.

-

Almost everyone is drunk when Cheryl suggests they play Seven Minutes in Heaven.

For some reason, Cheryl has some sort of obsession with this game. The number of times that Jughead has been forced into a closet with someone he barely knows, only to spend seven minutes looking anywhere but at the person, is ridiculously high. He thinks she might just like being the reason two people have to avoid eye contact in the hallway.

“Alright, who’s up first?” Cheryl asks, scanning the room for her first victims. She’s clearly the only one completely sober here besides Jughead. And, why not? She can’t enjoy the fun if she’s not clear-headed.

It only takes a few rounds for Cheryl to decide that Jughead is too quiet, has been blending into the walls too well. He’s sitting on the back of the couch when she finds his eyes.

“Jughead Jones.” Suddenly, too many people are looking at him. “You’re up.” He gives her a tight-lipped smile and holds up one hand dismissively.

“I’m not playing.”

“Everyone’s playing.” The look in her eyes is menacing, but calm. You wouldn’t be able to see the complete animosity if you weren’t already looking for it. “Now, spin the bottle.”

He sighs his defeat and the people on the couch make room for him to climb down and reach for the empty beer bottle. The green glass is sticky, and Jughead isn’t sure he wants to know what with. He risks one more glance at Cheryl to see if he can still make an escape. He can’t. There’s only about eight people playing, so no one even bats an eye when the bottle lands on Archie.

No one except Jughead.

He’s frozen now, his heart practically pounding out of his goddamn ribs as he looks to his friend, waiting for the redhead to laugh it off and tell him to spin again. But he doesn’t. In fact, he’s already on his feet and heading in the direction of the closet. Jughead doesn’t really see any option but to follow him.

When the door closes, the only light comes from a 90%-dim light bulb hanging above them. It halos around Archie’s hair and Jughead has to glance away.

“Suddenly I feel like a sixth grader again.” The sentence is meant to break any tension, and it works, judging by the appearance of a small smile on Archie’s face.

“Right? I don’t understand Cheryl’s hard-on for this game.” Archie says. “I hope you don’t mind, by the way. This just seemed easier than causing any sort of-”

“Yeah, Cheryl’s not exactly the easiest person to argue with.” Archie nods an agreement and rocks back and forth on his feet for what seems like a solid minute.

The air seems heavier in here than it was outside.

“I guess you probably have a lot of memories in here.” The sentence slips out of Jughead’s mouth before he can stop it. He might be crazy, but he’s pretty sure the tops of Archie’s ears go pink at this and he looks down.

“I guess.” The redhead lets out a nervous laugh with his words. “Don’t you? I seem to recall not being the only Riverdale guy who ended up in this closet with half our class.”

It’s true. Every bottle that’s ever been used for this game hasn’t been shy when it comes to Jughead. Luckily, only a few people ever actually tried to get anything out of him once they were inside the closet. Most people could tell from three miles away that making out with a half-stranger isn’t exactly his favorite pastime.

“Yeah, but it’s not like anything ever happened for me.” Jughead doesn’t mean for the words to come out as pathetic as they do. He can’t even really tell if it’s his natural humor, or if he’s subconsciously trying to get Archie’s attention. He glances at his phone. Four minutes left.

“What do you mean?” Archie furrows his eyebrows. “I distinctly remember you coming in here with Ashley Stevens freshman year. And everyone knows she was dead set on taking your virginity.”

Another truth. Despite Jughead’s desire and talent for laying low, he’d finally ended up on one of the upperclassmen’s radars. Ashley had been beautiful, older, and as Archie pointed out, very adamant about her desire to be the first girl Jughead ever took to bed for some reason. Not like that had mattered to him. He’d done everything except outright reject her.

It took him six months, but she finally lost interest and blew him a kiss as she drove off in her Mercedes after telling him that he would always hold a special place in her heart.

Jughead barks out a laugh at the memory and realizes that Archie is still waiting for a response.

“Uh, yeah no. Nothing ever happened there either.” Archie looks absolutely astonished.

“Nothing?” he asks, brown eyes wide in surprise.

“Archie, I’ve never even kissed anyone.” Jughead means it as an end to the conversation, but realizes too late that this has opened a door to a new realm of responses.

What?” If it was possible for Archie’s eyebrows to be any further up on his forehead, they’d probably be there. “You’re joking, right?” Jughead only offers a shrug in response.

“It was never very high on my list of priorities. You know that.” He’s laughing but Archie is giving him this look now. A look that has his shoulders going tense. Archie takes a couple of steps forward. “What?”

“Shh.” Archie’s hands come up to hold his face, thumbs softer than Jughead could have ever expected as they smooth over his cheeks once.

“Archie, what are you-?”

“Jughead. For once in your life, shut up.”

Jughead shuts up.

When Archie kisses him, it’s like the entire world finally makes sense, like suddenly all the questions Jughead has ever had regarding his disinterest in other people have been answered. He gets it now. He gets why there was never anyone that caught his attention.

Because his attention had been stolen by Archie fucking Andrews from day one.

And if there was any shadow of a doubt in his mind once their lips met, it’s demolished by the feeling of Archie’s thumbs pressing into his jaw, gently coaxing his mouth open so he can deepen the kiss. Jughead can’t seem to remember what it’s like to breathe, and when Archie’s tongue brushes against his, he thinks he might pass out.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Jumping apart at the sound of the alarm going off on Jughead’s phone, they stare at each other for a few seconds, both breathing heavily. The silence after he turns it off is absolutely deafening, and the sound of Archie clearing his throat is like a clap of thunder in his ears.

“We should-”

“Yeah.” Jughead instantly agrees, letting Archie open the door and walk out first. He, on the other hand, has to take a moment with his hand over his eyes, his jumbled thoughts almost as loud as the blood pumping in his ears. The first thing his brain produces that’s clear and fully-formed is the realization that there’s a distinct lack of the taste of any alcohol on his tongue. He stops.

Archie just kissed him like that completely sober.

The party is still in full swing when he finally gets himself to walk back out, and one of the girls in the next couple bumps into his shoulder hard on her way into the closet with her partner. He turns around and looks up, only to catch Betty’s eyes as she’s being dragged into the closet by a brunette with the most excellently groomed eyebrows he’s ever seen.

His eyes quickly scan the room for Archie, and he finds him a second later. Or, rather, he finds the back of his head. Archie is headed back over to the table of drinks and Jughead watches him mix himself a drink that doesn’t even have a remote possibility of tasting good. Jughead barely takes another breath before Archie has thrown his head back and downed half of it.

Funny. Archie apparently only feels like drinking after he’s kissed Jughead.

Suddenly there’s a feeling like acid burning a hole into the pit of his stomach. He briefly wonders if everyone feels like this after their first kiss.

“You okay, Jughead?” Betty’s voice is like music to his ears when it breaks him out of his thoughts. But if Betty is talking to him, that means he’s been standing here for at least seven minutes. Sure enough, when he looks back towards the kitchen, Archie is gone.

“Fine.” He shifts his eyes to hers, but is instantly distracted by the red in her cheeks and her disheveled hair. “Are you?” The blonde giggles.

“I’m great, actually.” she chirps, winding her arm around his. “Let’s go get a drink.”

Jughead doesn’t have the heart to bring down her mood by saying no.

-

The party dies down at around two in the morning.

Jughead is sitting on the couch, half covered by Betty leaning against him as she flirts with the girl she’d gone into the closet with - Veronica. He hasn’t seen Archie at all for the last three hours.

The last and only other time Archie has ever avoided Jughead was back in the seventh grade. Jughead had leant him his PSP and Archie had cracked the screen. He’d felt so bad about it that, even after owning up to it, he’d averted his eyes from Jughead’s every time he walked past him in the hall for two weeks .

Jughead really hopes Archie isn’t feeling the same way now that he did back then because he doesn’t think he could survive without Archie for two weeks again.

“Jug?” Betty’s tugging on Jughead’s arm, looking up at him expectantly from where her head is laying on his chest. He’s never been one for this sort of physical contact, even from his friends, but drunk Betty is too sweet and too genuine to deny.

“What’s up, sunshine?” he deadpans.

“I think Archie’s looking for you.” With what looks like great difficulty, she raises her hand and points ahead of them. Sure enough, Archie is standing in the doorway. When he catches Jughead’s eye, he smiles awkwardly, and Jughead knows him well enough to know that it’s his okay I’m done with this party; let’s please get out of here smile.

“That’s my cue.” Jughead lifts Betty gingerly and slides out from underneath her. “Please take care of this one.” He directs his words at Veronica, but Cheryl is the one that answers.

“Always.” Her voice is as sweet as the cherry cola she’s obsessed with and it sends an urge to vomit right through Jughead.

“Right.” He holds up a half-heartfelt thumbs up and clambers over several people passed out on the floor to get to his friend.

“Ready to go?” Archie asks. Jughead looks at him. Archie doesn’t meet his eyes. Jughead somehow manages a nod before following him out the front door.

-

The drive to Archie’s house is mostly silent.

Archie’s been drinking, so Jughead insists on driving, even though he hates Archie’s stupid fucking truck. There’s a hole in the back seat and one of the windows can’t roll down, but it’s Archie’s baby… and Jughead still hates it.

“Come on you fucking piece of-”

“Hey!” Archie is quick to shut Jughead up before he says something against the hunk of metal, even as it lurches forward well after he’s put it in park. “Leave her alone. She’s trying her best.” Jughead watches as he strokes a hand gently over the dashboard and whispers something unintelligible to the truck. It’s hard to tell if Archie’s still acting under the influence since this is exactly how he would act without a drop of alcohol.

“Can I drive your truck home?” Jughead’s lip curls at the thought of having to drive this thing for another second, but he has to get there somehow. “I’ll bring it back by in the morning.”

“Why don’t you just stay the night?” Something inside Jughead’s chest tightens.

It’s not like Jughead hasn’t spent countless nights in Archie’s bed, - or on his couch, or on the floor, or that one time on the kitchen table - it’s just that something feels different this time, like something’s broken.

But Archie is asking as if everything is normal, as if Jughead didn’t just have some sort of personal awakening in that closet tonight. He can’t stop thinking about it, about Archie’s hand’s on his skin, his tongue in his mouth.

He wonders if Archie has really been so quick to forget.

“I don’t-” But Archie has already taken his silence as a yes, opening his door and getting out. Jughead sighs, muttering under his breath and following suit.

It doesn’t take long for Jughead to find something in Archie’s closet to wear, and Archie doesn’t exactly have a nighttime routine, so it’s all of ten minutes before they’re laying side-by-side in Archie’s bed, staring at the ceiling like they did when they were kids.

They’re silent for awhile, the only noise in the room coming from the ceiling fan clicking. The sound is familiar, comforting even. It reminds Jughead of summer nights and Mario Kart, of a time when Archie’s mom still baked chocolate chip cookies every Tuesday night and Jughead’s dad was still employed. It seems like a century ago to him.

“You’re thinking so loud right now, Jug.” Jughead breaks out of his thoughts with a smile, moving so he can kick Archie in the leg, earning a laugh in response.

“Stop listening.” He jokes back. Archie sighs and Jughead can feel the shift in the mattress as he lifts his head to rest his arm behind it.

“What has your brain going at a thousand miles an hour, anyway?” Archie asks after a minute. An image of them kissing at the party flashes through Jughead’s mind and he blinks it away.

“Nothing.” He pauses to scratch his nose. “And everything.”

“That’s specific.” Archie’s voice is bored, like he was expecting exactly this sort of answer. Jughead snorts.

“What about you, Andrews?” He looks over and the redhead in question points at himself, raising his eyebrows in mock surprise. “Yeah, you. You’ve been pretty quiet yourself and I’m really hoping it’s not just TV static up there.” Archie surprises him with a laugh.

“Everything and nothing.” He throws Jughead’s words back at him, catching him off-guard a little. Jughead quirks an eyebrow. “I don’t know, man. I guess I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Right.” He doesn’t ask Archie if he wants to talk about it and they fall silent once again.

When they were younger, they used to use Archie’s room as a sort of hideaway, even more so than Jughead’s tree house. It seemed there was nothing in the real world - no homework, no yelling parents, no problems - that couldn’t be escaped inside these four walls.

Now the source of Jughead’s confusion and stress is laying beside him, and he isn’t really sure how to deal with that.

The next time he opens his mouth to say something, he’s interrupted within the first two words by Archie’s light snoring. Jughead rolls his eyes (even though he’s smiling), turning on his side to face the opposite wall, and tucks gently into himself.

Archie snoring, like the clicking of the ceiling fan, is a comforting sound to Jughead, and soon he’s falling fast asleep as well.

-

When Jughead wakes up the next morning, he’s warm.

There’s sunlight pouring in through the window next to Archie’s bed, and when Jughead opens his eyes, the light is hitting his best friend in just the right way to remind him of the angels that he doesn’t believe in. He closes his eyes and turns away. Archie’s warmth seems to be bleeding through the sheets and into Jughead’s skin.

Without meaning to, he lets out a groan of frustration.

“Mm, Jug?” Archie lifts his head and stretches his legs, causing Jughead to jump when he feels a foot brush against his calf. He pulls back like he’s been burned. “What time is it?”

“Almost noon.” Jughead says after consulting his phone. Archie’s eyes are still closed, but his eyebrows are furrowed in concentration as he struggles to process this information. Jughead would be lying if he said it wasn’t adorable.

“D’you wanna get lunch?” He’s finally opened his eyes, revealing the tired and hungover brown Jughead knows so well.

“That depends on where we’re going.” Jughead already knows where Archie is going to take him. He can’t remember the last time they went anywhere else.

“Do you really think I would disrespect you by taking you anywhere besides Pop’s?” Jughead smiles and Archie sits up, stretching his arms behind his head. Jughead swallows at the sight and looks away, busying himself with changing back into his clothes from the night before. Twisting his neck, he searches the floor for a familiar piece of grey fabric.

“Where’s my-”

“Here.” Archie’s dressed and reaching across the bed, beanie in hand. Jughead nods, taking it from him, and practically leaping out of his skin when his fingers brush against Archie’s. The redhead’s forehead creases in confusion and Jughead wonders if his reaction had been obvious. Swallowing, he sits on the edge of the bed to pull on his boots. “Hey, can we talk?”

“What’s up?” He fights to keep his voice calm, reasoning that there’s really no way to know what it is Archie wants to talk about.

“About last night.” And suddenly there’s a voice in his head screaming at him to run. He does his best to fight it into submission and silence. “About the party.”

“What about it?” Jughead is trying ridiculously hard to look absolutely fascinated by the laces in his boots, untying them and beginning to retie them at a painfully slow pace.

“I wanted to apologize.” Archie clarifies, clearing his throat. “For…” He lets the word hang in the air like Jughead knows exactly what he’s referring to. And even though he does, his first and most natural instinct is denial.

“For…?” Jughead leads.

“For the closet.” Archie pushes. Jughead forces a casual, easy smile to his face and stands, trying to move past Archie for the door.

“It's no big deal, man.” Suddenly, there's a hand grabbing onto his forearm.

“Jughead. Let me talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk ab-”

“C’mon, Juggie. Please?” Jughead is, quite literally, forced to nod. “I know I crossed a line, and I wish I could blame it on my being drunk, but we’d both know it was a lie.” He searches Archie’s face, thoroughly confused.

“Crossed a line?”

“I took advantage of the situation.” Archie offers as an explanation. “And I really hope we can just move past it.”

“Yeah, I saw how you were drinking.” Jughead can’t help the bitterness in his voice. “It’s pretty obvious how badly you want to forget you kissed me.” He doesn’t even care anymore if his words give away the way he feels.

When Archie barks out a laugh, Jughead feels something inside of him snap.

“Exactly.” He rolls his eyes and, once again, tries to leave the room. Archie doesn’t stop him this time; not physically, at least.

“Jughead, you idiot. I wasn’t drinking because I wanted to forget I’d kissed you.” Jughead has to stop and turn back around. He has to know where this is going. He wants to know exactly what Archie could think would ever make this-

“I was drinking because I wanted to forget that I couldn’t do it again.”

Okay, now Jughead has no fucking clue what’s going on.

“What?” His voice breaks in the middle of the word, most likely caused by the sudden dryness in his throat. Archie lets out a frustrated sigh. It’s the kind of sigh that tells Jughead that he hadn’t planned on having to explain himself.

“Jug.” Archie gives a small, almost uncomfortable smile. “You have no fucking clue how long I’ve wanted to kiss you.” A pregnant moment of silence passes.

Jughead’s trying to respond. He swears he is. But every time he goes to say something, it just doesn’t feel like the right thing to say. Plus, Archie is still talking, trying to come up with something that will make the situation less (what he thinks is) awkward.

“I saw my opportunity, and I just sort of took it.” He’s searching Jughead’s face for some sort of reaction. Jughead imagines it must look completely blank. He’s pretty sure his brain has short-circuited. The only thing he seems to be able to focus on, is the movement of Archie’s lips as he talks.

Jughead decides right then and there that Archie’s mouth is perfect.

Apparently Jughead’s silence is enough to freak Archie out, because he rushes into his next sentence. “Look, Jughead. I’m sorry. I-”

Jughead gives up trying to respond with words, choosing instead to push forward and kiss Archie right on his frustratingly perfect mouth.

He knows his best friend well enough to know that the jolt that runs through his whole body is complete and total shock. He probably hasn’t even processed what Jughead has done. Oh well. Jughead never claimed to be predictable.

But then Archie’s lips start to move in the same way they did last night, and Jughead finds himself melting into the kiss, into him. Unfortunately, it’s only a few moments before Jughead can feel that familiar tenseness in Archie’s body that tells him he needs to say something or he’s going to explode . He reluctantly pulls back enough to give Archie room to speak. He immediately feels an emptiness in his chest.

“Okay, so…” Archie swallows and opens and closes his mouth a few times. Jughead tries to hide his amusement, probably to no avail. “That just happ-”

“Yeah.” Archie furrows his eyebrows like he still doesn’t quite understand.

“You-”

“Mhmm.” Jughead gives up trying to stay serious and laughs at the look on Archie’s face.

“Okay, but…” Archie runs a hand through his red hair. “ What ?”

“Archie, in case you forgot, I did kiss you back.” Jughead reminds him. His voice is deadpan, bored, completely and totally Jughead. Archie makes a face like it’s taking every ounce of energy in his body to remember. He takes in a deep breath, covering his mouth with his hand for a second before dragging it down and dropping it at his side.

“So you-”

“Yeah.” Jughead’s now way too into the game of anticipating Archie’s questions to stop interrupting him. Archie’s hands come up to hold his face like they did the night before and Jughead stops breathing as his thumb moves across his bottom lip gently.

“So I can-”

“Please.” With a goofy smile that could only belong to Archie Andrews, he pushes Jughead into the wall and kisses him again.

Jughead has never thought much about kissing before now. Whenever he’s seen it, be it in some sort of media or in real life, it’s always just looked odd. He could never understand why two people would want to mash their faces together for an extended period of time.

Just as he’s having this thought, Archie’s fingers slip into his hair, his teeth grazing his bottom lip and, holy fuck, Jughead thinks he gets it now.

-

They pass Archie’s dad on their way out the front door, and if Fred notices their pink cheeks and kiss-bruised lips, he doesn’t say anything. They climb into the truck and drive the familiar route to Pop’s.

Along the way, Jughead notices Archie’s fingers twitching on the wheel, like he wishes they were someplace else. He feels the corners of his mouth lift up, and reaches for Archie’s hand, twining their fingers together and resting them on his leg. When he looks back, Archie is grinning, but trying his best to hide it.

When they pull into a parking spot, Archie only lets go of his hand long enough to get out and come around to Jughead’s door, opening it for him.

“Would you look at that.” Jughead can’t help it that his first instinct is to make a joke. “I guess chivalry really isn’t dead.” Archie just rolls his eyes and slams the door closed, lacing their fingers once again.

Cheryl is at one end of the restaurant with her clones, and half the football team is piled into booths at the other. No one says anything at the sight of Jughead and Archie claiming their favorite table near the door. Jughead supposes that inevitable things don’t cause much of an uproar.

Archie never lets go of his hand, not even as they eat their food. It’s like now that he’s doing it, he never wants to stop. Jughead would be lying if he said he didn’t feel the same way.

His mind races at a million miles a second. This is their place, their table. This is where their friendship made a name for itself ten years ago when Jughead knocked over a table and Archie jumped to his defense, swearing up and down that he saw a ghost do it. This is where it all began.

Jughead thinks about all the times that they’ve been at this same table, eating these same meals, on days just like this one. He wonders when they stopped being hangouts and started being dates.

He thinks maybe they always were.