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“Betty should be by real soon,” his new co-worker Moose tells him, reclining back in his seat. His polo shirt stretches tight across what he thinks would have been impressive pecs a decade ago. “She’s a ball-buster but she’s also a fine piece of ass.”

“Don’t let Hiram hear you say that,” Dilton pipes up beside them, hunched over a sketch he was working on.

Moose rolls his eyes but stays quiet. Jughead doesn’t ask any questions. He’s already heard about Betty Cooper - the only female Senior Copywriter at Valentine Lodge and his new supervisor. She had been Hiram’s secretary in ‘61 and had somehow worked her way through the ranks to her current position, much to the confusion of her colleagues.

He’d never had a woman as his manager before so he was intrigued to say the least. What kind of woman got that kind of position in a male-dominated industry? And Dilton’s comment about Hiram had also caught his attention. Hiram Lodge was one of the most feared and well-respected Creative Directors in American advertising and somewhat of a legend at the agency. Did working for him involve more than just secretarial duties? It would explain a lot.

A blonde woman rushes into the office then, heels clicking across the linoleum floor. She was slim, blonde, immaculately presented in a pale blue skirt and blouse. Her hair was short, neat, curled to perfection. She looked like a housewife, pristine and pastel. She had to be one of the secretaries.

She turns, eyes widening when she sees him sitting at the desk.

“Oh! You must be Forsyth.” She plasters a fake, bright smile on her face. “Pleasure to meet you. I’m Betty Cooper.”

Jughead stands quickly to shake her hand, trying to mask his shock. This was his supervisor?

“I go by Jughead actually,” he replies, shaking her hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Her smile falters slightly and she seems at a loss for words. If he knew her any better he’d say she seemed frazzled, out of sorts. There was a nervousness to her - twitching hands, wavering expression – that didn’t seem appropriate for someone in charge.

“I, um... I need to go... I have, uh...” She trials off, megawatt smile in place again. “I’ll see you later. We have a lot of important work ahead.”

She hurries out of the office leaving Jughead dumbfounded. He turns to Moose and Dilton, eyebrows raised high.

“Is she always like that?”

Moose shrugs, meaty arms crossed across his chest. “She’s a woman, what can you expect? Their moods change like the wind.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’s pretty sure Betty Cooper hates him.

It’s been two weeks since he started at Valentine Lodge and she hasn’t said a single nice word to him. Not one.

Granted, she hadn’t said much at all. She was very focused at work, always working long hours and eating lunch at her desk and answering to Hiram whenever he demanded her attention.

She never really spoke to him or the other guys, usually only addressed them to delegate work and announce deadlines. There was never any joking around or casual conversation with her, unlike the rest of the creative team. He didn’t know anything about her other than she was blonde, she worked at Valentine Lodge and she was Hiram’s right-hand man.

At first he’d thought it was just her way. Dedicated to the job and therefore unsocial - and at times, rude. She’d proven as much when he approached her one day with an original idea for the Campbell’s Soup account.

“I know Hiram had a specific vision but I sketched up a few alternatives,” he explains, trying to hand her his sketches.

She sighs, eyes focused on her work, not sparing him a glance. “I don’t have time to look those over, Jughead. We need to be working on the spec.”

“Well I really think these could be better. Definitely more innovative tha–“

“Jughead,” she snaps, dropping her pen onto her desk, irritated. “We have a deadline and a spec. Those are the only things you need to worry about. We don’t have time for any new ideas now. Okay?”

Jughead runs his teeth over his bottom lip, trying to suppress the anger building inside. He nods once, short, “Okay,” and returns to his desk.

He never attempted to show her his ideas again.

After their brief and unpleasant encounters he’d chalked it up to her being kind of a bitch. Some people just were. It couldn’t be helped.

And then he had walked into the office one day to find her sharing a cigarette with Moose, head thrown back in laughter as he recalled a story from the night before - a drunken adventure in the city with one of the partners, Archie Andrews.

“I’ve known him for five years now and he’s never grown up,” Betty says with a shake of her head. “I’m not sure he ever will.”

Jughead wanders over to them and to make conversation, asks, “Who are we talking about?”

“Andrews,” Moose answers. “He’s a riot. Especially when he’s drinking.”

Betty checks her watch, any evidence of her laughter now gone, replaced with her usual, stoic expression.

“I need to go. Hiram’s waiting for me.” She grabs her notebook and a pen, pauses in the doorway before she leaves. “Jughead, make sure you have those drafts finished this afternoon. Hiram wants to see some of your work before the big meeting tomorrow.”

Jughead blinks, thrown by her sudden change in mood.

“Is that okay? Or do I need to tell him they won’t be ready in time?” Her tone is laced with irritation and disapproval.

“No, it’s fine,” he answers quickly, recovering. “I’ll have them ready.”

She leaves, the click of her heels becoming quieter as she walks down the hallway.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to piss her off. She hates me.”

Moose shrugs. “She seems okay to me.”

Jughead frowns, tries to shake it off. Maybe he was being over-sensitive. He was new; it might take her a while to warm up to people. He hoped that was the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trill of Ginger’s laughter carries across the office once again, spiking Betty’s irritation. She looks over at her desk, eyes narrowing as she sees Jughead still perched on the edge, leaning in close as he flirts with Archie’s secretary.

Cheryl strolls by then, presence as commanding as ever, and snaps, “You’re not being paid to flirt, Ginger,” as she passes them.

Flustered, Ginger turns away from Jughead and busies herself with her typewriter. Betty looks down at the work in front of her, unable to suppress her smug smile.

She hadn’t exactly warmed to Jughead. His work ethic left a lot to be desired and he was the embodiment of the young New Yorker stereotype – arrogant, opinionated, liberal. Maybe it was wrong to make assumptions but that had automatically set off alarm bells. She’d met people like him in the past and they had always looked down on her and her smalltown, upstate upbringing. She never belonged with those people, in those circles.

She’d heard him talking in the office during the few weeks he’d been at the agency; long overviews of the book he was planning to write and the depth of the themes within, and recollections of poetry nights and evenings spent seeing Bob Dylan in the Village. He was a Beatnik cliché - right down to the turtleneck sweaters - and it rubbed Betty the wrong way.

Jughead collapses into his seat with a sigh, draws a cigarette out of the pack on the table and lights it up.

“Is that why you got fired from your last job? For flirting with the office girls when you should have been working?”

Jughead looks over at her, smiles sardonically. “No, actually.” He takes a long drag, exhales. “I called my boss a war-championing fascist. He didn’t take it too well.”

Betty’s eyebrows knit together. “Why the hell would you do that? That’s so rude.”

Jughead snorts. “Of course. Let me guess, you’re a republican?”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” Betty says, tone defensive, though she’s not sure why she feels the need to justify herself. “But no, I’m not.”

“No shit,” Jughead says, nodding slowly. “I just guessed someone as repressed as you would be right-wing.”

Excuse me?” Betty drops her pen onto the desk, hands curling into fists. “Repressed?”

He shrugs. “Just call ‘em like I see ‘em.”

Betty rises from desk quickly and begins to march away, chest rising and falling rapidly, anger ready to consume her. She pauses at the doorway to the office and makes the few steps back until she is standing in front of Jughead.

“I may not be as ‘liberal’ or as ‘free’ as you think you are but at least I’m not a pretentious asshole, stuck in a job that I think is below me.”

She leaves without another word, fingers slowly uncurling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betty enters the office without knocking and immediately slaps a hand over her eyes.

“Oh! I’m so sorry. I can just–“

“It’s fine, Betty,” Cheryl reassures her, amusement coloring her tone.

Betty uncovers her eyes, watches Cheryl adjust the hem of her dress and Archie run a hand over his hair, attempting to fix the mess it had become.

“You’ve got a little something there,” Betty tells him as he heads towards the door, pointing at the red stain around his mouth and chin. Behind him, Cheryl opens a compact, fixes her lipstick.

He scrubs at the stain with his hand, mumbling a, “Thanks, Betty,” as he passes her.

“Nate’s been stationed again?” she asks as she takes a seat in front of Cheryl’s desk.

She smirks, sliding a cigarette from the pack beside her. “Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to.”

And she usually doesn’t. Cheryl’s relationship with the youngest partner in the agency is an open-secret and not something to be pried into.

Cheryl offers her the pack and Betty takes a cigarette gratefully, needing something to calm her down.

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” she asks, cigarette balanced delicately between her painted fingers, elbow resting on the table. Betty wished she looked half as sophisticated when she smoked; she often thought it made her look like a little girl desperate to be seen as an adult.

“I need to vent. About the new guy.”

Her eyebrows raise. “Forsythe?”

“He goes by Jughead,” she corrects with a roll of her eyes.

Cheryl wrinkles her nose at the nickname. “And what has he done to get Miss Cooper so riled up?”

“He called me repressed. I mean...” She shakes her head. “I am not repressed.”

“Well, no,” Cheryl agrees. “But looking at you, you’d never know that.”

Betty frowns at the comment. Maybe she didn’t pour herself into form-fitting dresses that highlighted every curve á la Cheryl Blossom, but that wasn’t Betty’s style. She liked to think she had a more professional, modest look - not sexy but not... not sexy.

“Are you trying to insult me?”

Cheryl laughs. “No, Betty. You look great, always so pristine in your cardigans and your skirts. But you have to admit, you haven’t exactly moved with the times. ‘50s housewife’ definitely springs to mind. And it can make you look... uptight.”

Betty looks down at her outfit today - a pleated cream skirt and a dark blue sweater. She supposes it isn’t the current style but the skirt was flattering and she liked the color of the sweater. And she doesn’t really understand how her clothes convey whether she is uptight or not.

“That’s stupid,” she declares, taking a long drag. “And he shouldn’t make assumptions about people based on their appearance. He doesn’t know me. I don’t like him pretending that he does.”

“Wow,” Cheryl says, leaning back in her chair. “This guy has really touched a nerve. There’s definitely more to this. Why do you hate him so much?”

“I don’t hate him,” she insists. “I just... He’s so pretentious and clearly thinks he’s better than the rest of us, too good for his job. And he wants to be a writer, so it’s not like he really cares, not like the rest of us...” She trails off, teeth pulling at the corner of her lip as she thinks back to his first day. “I guess I didn’t make the best first impression. And I’ve been out of sorts ever since. He probably thinks I’m nervous wreck who can’t pull herself together.”

Cheryl quirks one manicured eyebrow. “Explain...”

“On Jughead’s first day I ran into Reggie in the lobby. With his wife.”

The sad smile Cheryl gives her makes her feel pathetic. She didn’t want pity – the thing between her and Reggie had ended a long time ago; had barely even begun - and she definitely didn’t want to be seen as the girl who couldn’t move on. Seeing Reggie that day had just thrown her off – she hadn’t been expecting it.

Still, it had soured her mood for three weeks, leaving her unfocused and despondent. She really did need to pull herself together.

“You need a man, Betty,” Cheryl declares. “Someone to have fun with; make all your troubles go away.”

“Is that what Archie does? Make all you troubles go away?”

Cheryl’s lips quirk up at the corners, not quite a smile, dark eyes too sad. She taps her cigarette agains the ashtray on her desk, wedding ring clinking against the glass.

“Something like that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jughead has been at Valentine Lodge for three months when they are given the Heinz contract. It’s a big deal, their most important account to date.

Betty was working tirelessly; long nights in the office, bouncing ideas around with Moose and Dilton, and days inventing tag line after tag line, none of them ever quite right.

A week before the big pitch, Hiram calls them into his office. It’s not the first time he’s met him but it’s the first time he’s been addressed by him directly and Jughead is trying not to sweat. He’s just a man; a powerful one, no doubt – but just a man.

“We need a fresh pair of eyes on this,” he tells them from behind his mahogany desk, the picture of authority in his highback leather chair. “I’ve booked a room at the Hilton downtown. You two can work there, get away from the office for a little while.”

Betty’s mouth drops open, stumbling as she asks, “A room? For me and Jughead? But he isn’t even working on the Heinz account!”

“Well he is now,” Hiram says dismissively. “I should have known better than to put Moose on Heinz. He’s not driven enough.”

“Looks like a quiet night in for us, Cooper,” Jughead teases, a few paces behind as they walk back to the office.

Betty sneers. “Don’t you have another poetry reading to get to? Far, far away from here.”

Jughead laughs quietly, pleased as always to have pushed her buttons. And he hadn’t even done most of the work this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Nice digs,” Jughead comments as he throws his overnight bag onto the bed.

“We only have one room?!” Betty asks, outraged, eyeing the two single beds.

Cheryl shrugs, hotel key in hand. “It’s just one night,” she reasons. “Hiram said it was unnecessary to spend twice as much.”

Betty doesn’t argue further; she knows it’s pointless. Cheryl was only following Hiram’s orders when she booked the room and she couldn’t fault her for that. Few people defied him and stuck around to tell the tale.

“Well have fun,” Cheryl says as she leaves. She winks at them. “And try not to kill each other.”

“No promises,” Betty retorts as she sets her typewriter onto the small table beside the window.

It is quiet in the room, quiet enough to hear the distinctive noise of the lock turning in the door after Cheryl closes it behind her.

“Did she just–“

Jughead rushes over to pull at the handle, groaning when it fails to open.

“She fucking locked us in!”

“I bet she and Hiram planned this,” Betty says, fuming. How dare they lock her in a room with this man against her will?

“Well it looks like we’re stuck here,” Jughead says, dropping down onto his bed with a sigh.

He stretches out, pulls a magazine from his bag. Playboy.

“What are you doing?” Betty asks, brow furrowed. “We’re supposed to be working.”

“I’m just taking a little break. Getting some inspiration from the extremely talented photographers who contribute to this magazine. Need to get the creative juices flowing.”

He opens it to the center, turns the magazine on it’s side and holds it out in front of him. Betty scoffs.

“Your work ethic is appalling. And God, don’t you have any decency?”

“It’s normal, healthy,” he argues. “Why can’t you accept that man’s natural state is nude?”

“Because I’m civillized,” she snaps back. She takes a deep breath, not willing to let him get the best of her. “Are you going to work, or just continue staring at naked women who can’t stare back?”

Jughead sighs heavily and closes the magazine, dropping it onto his lap. He folds his hands behind his head and leans back, watching her.

“What?”

“When I started I couldn’t figure out your relationship with Hiram,” he begins. It catches Betty off-guard; she never expected him to bring up Hiram. “But now I think I get it. What you and Hiram have is special, a unique bond. And definitely non-sexual.” His tone is smug, self-affirming. She doesn’t it like it one bit; doesn’t want to hear his analysis of her relationship with Hiram. “Wallpaper is more exciting than you, and Hiram needs a woman that isn’t an uptight princess.”

Betty’s jaw visibly tightens but she says nothing, tapping away at the keys on her typewriter. She’d heard enough gossip and speculation about her and Hiram’s relationship over the years. This was nothing new.

Jughead smirks to himself. He liked getting a reaction out of her. It was so much better than her acting like he didn’t exist.

“Or maybe you’re ashamed of your body,” he muses, sitting up on the bed. “That’s it, right?”

“You don’t know me at all,” Betty snaps back, refusing to look at him.

Jughead leans back on his hands, smile smug. “I’m right. That’s definitely it.”

Suddenly Betty is out of her chair, levelling him with a determined look. Her hands go to her blouse, slipping the buttons out quickly and pulling it free from her skirt.

“W-what are you doing?” Jughead stammers, frowning.

“If you’re so liberated - so comfortable with nudity - then I can work naked, can’t I?”

His mouth drops open as she pulls her shirt off her shoulders, leaving her in a white, lace bra, and begins unzipping the back of her skirt.

“Won’t be a problem, right?” she asks, a challenge in her tone.

Jughead snaps out of it then, realizes that he needs to save face or he’ll never be able to live this down.

He stands quickly, pulls his sweater over his head and then gets to work on his pants.

“What are you...”

“Hey, if you’re taking your clothes off I think I should, too. It’s the polite thing to do.”

Betty’s mouth presses into a thin, harsh line before she barks, “Fine.”

Fine.”

As soon as his pants and socks are in a pile on the floor he stands up straight, trying to look confident. Betty is stiff in front of him in her underwear, hands braced on her hips. He tries not to stare, keeps his gaze focused on her face. He really, really wants to look but it almost feels like losing. He’s not about to be the weak-willed one here.

She moves in front of her typewriter and he follows her lead, standing on the other side of the desk beside his own. There is a moment of silence, neither of them knowing what to do, chests heaving with exertion as if they’ve just run a marathon.

Slowly, she reaches behind her back and unhooks her bra. The material falls loose around her chest, the straps sliding down her arms until she removes it completely. Jughead’s mouth goes dry and his eyes flicker down, unbidden.

He wasn’t Moose, he wasn’t about to call her a fine piece of ass. But goddamn.

In an effort to win this strange, silent battle between them, he stands and hooks his fingers into his boxers. Betty’s eyes widen and she stands quickly, fingers at the edge of her panties. In smooth movements, they both slide off their underwear - their final article of clothing.

There is a deafening silence in the room as they stand before each other, completely nude. Betty moves first, taking her seat again casually and Jughead follows her lead.

Neither of them speak, the click of keys the only noise in the room as they type up ideas and possible log lines. His eyes flicker over to her occasionally, an unconscious movement that he can’t seem to stop. He catches her looking at him, too, clearly facing the same struggle.

Jughead doesn’t know how much time has passed - it could be thirty minutes, it could be three hours - but eventually he breaks. He can’t deal with the atmosphere, the strange tension humming in the room. She wins this round.

“I’m gonna need a cold shower,” he says, meeting her gaze.

A beat, and then Betty’s lips begin to quirk up at the edges, spreading into a wide smile before she is laughing, loud and hearty, nose scrunched up and skin crinkling around her eyes.

He begins to laugh too, her laughter infectious and the whole situation so ridiculous that there is no other appropriate reaction.

She swipes beneath her eyes as her laughter dies down, little giggles still escaping her mouth every now and then. He is no longer laughing but his smile lingers, never quite going away.

Maybe working with Betty Cooper wouldn’t be so bad after all.

 

Chapter Text

Betty stares out the window, across the busy skyline of skyscrapers and apartment buildings. Unconsciously, she flicks her pen back and forth between her fingers, making a tap, tap, tap sound every time it hits the paper.

A hand suddenly covers hers, pressing it flat to the table.

“Betty!”

She snaps out of her daze, turning to Jughead who looks both amused and concerned.

“You okay there, Chief?”

She frowns. “I told you not to call me that.”

He shrugs. “And I told you that wasn’t going to happen.”

Betty sighs and turns back to her notebook, reading over her extensive notes from today’s meeting. With her promotion came lots of new responsibilities and she was still trying to wrap her head around it all.

“Really, are you alright?” Jughead asks, quieter this time, leaning closer.

“I’m fine,” she smiles, small and constrained.

“Okay...” Jughead turns back to his sketch. He knows now not to press her; if she wants to talk, she will.

A few minutes of silence and then she pipes up.

“Trev’s taking me on a date tonight. And it feels very... important.”

“How so?”

“He’s going all out,” she replies. “Expensive restaurant on the Upper West Side, two tickets to see a show afterwards.”

Jughead’s eyebrows rise but his eyes remain focused on his sketch. “I’m surprised a failing screenwriter can afford all that.”

Betty chooses not retort. She’d heard enough mocking comments directed at her boyfriend. This was nothing new from him.

“Do you think it sounds important?” she asks, a hint of anxiety creeping into her tone. “I mean, would you consider that to be an extravagant date night?”

“I guess,” he shrugs. “Although I’d never take a girl to the theater.” He looks over at her. “You like all that romantic stuff, so why are you panicking over dinner and a show?”

“I’m not panicking,” she insists, words coming out high and rushed.

He snorts. “Right. Okay.”

Betty tries to re-focus and turns her attention back to her notes. She has so much to do; a to-do list is probably a good place to start.

“Maybe he’s going to propose.”

The pen slips from Betty’s fingers as her head snaps up. She swallows thickly.

“Do you think?”

“You’ve been dating for almost a year,” he reasons. “Isn’t that the natural order of things?”

Betty mouth goes dry as she struggles to respond. She can’t admit that she had been thinking the same thing and that she had, in fact, been panicking when the thought entered her head.

She nods, trying to mask her worry. “You’re right. It’s like the next step.”

“Exactly. So you just need to relax while he treats you to a pleasant, yet boring, evening.” He winks. “Just the way you like it.”

They grow quiet again and Jughead feels almost proud of himself. He did a pretty good job of talking her down.

Three minutes later it starts again. Tap, tap, tap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She rummages through the contents of her handbag until she sees the glinting metal of the chain. She fastens it around her neck, the cross lying heavy against her collarbones. It had been a while since she had worn it. She had been surprised and relieved when she had found it, discarded at the bottom of her jewellery box.

After a few deep breaths she exits her car and walks up the path towards her childhood home. Her mother answers almost immediately after her knock, as if she had been waiting. She is perfectly put together, as always, with a pink apron tied around her waist and a string of pearls around her neck.

“Elizabeth,” she smiles and then leans forward to embrace her. She smells like cookies, delicious and familiar. “How are you, sweetheart?”

“I’m good, Mom. How are you?”

They drink coffee in the kitchen, the plate of chocolate chip cookies lying untouched on the corner of the kitchen island. She would steal one later when her mother wasn’t around and couldn’t comment.

“How’s Trevor? Any job prospects on the horizon?”

Betty restrains herself from rolling her eyes. Her mother always asked this question – entirely disapproving of Trev’s aspirations to be a screenwriter, which wasn’t, in her words, a ‘real job’ – and she always gave the same answer.

“He’s still interning for the production company, Mom. And he’s writing in his spare time.”

Her mother’s lips purse.

“Well he can’t intern forever, darling. And while I know he loves to write, he would be a lot more financially stable if he got a regular job. Say, accounting.”

“He’s taking me to dinner tonight,” Betty says, ignoring her altogether. “To the nice Italian uptown. The one Mr Lodge took us to the day you visited the agency.”

Her mother’s lips quirk with approval. “That’s a very expensive restaurant, Elizabeth. I hope you have an appropriate dress picked out - nothing above the knee,” she warns. “Although I must admit, I’m surprised Trevor can even afford a place like that.”

Betty inhales deeply, hands curling into fists. She wills herself not to bite back, not to rise to her baiting.

“We’re going to a show afterwards, too. I don’t know which one - Trev is keeping it a secret.”

“Hmm. Sounds like a proposal could be on the cards.” Her voice is high, sing-songy. Betty feels slightly queasy. She takes a long sip of her coffee and Betty braces herself for her next comment. “He must be a patient man, wanting to marry a woman like you. Always working, stuck in that office. Lets hope he doesn’t want a family anytime soon.”

And there it was.

Her mother liked to criticize - she was so good at it, it could be considered a skill. And when it came to Betty, there were three things in particular that she liked to mention - her job, her weight, and her lack of husband or children.

It was unfathomable to her that Betty would choose her career over starting a family. Her parents had married right out of high school, had started having children right away like the dutiful Catholics they were. They’d only stopped at three because her mother had been unable to get pregnant again.

It didn’t help that her brother and sister had both settled down before they were twenty-five and still lived in their small hometown. Betty would always be the rebellious child; the disappointment.

She tries to push away the sadness that always crept up whenever she visited her mother. It was especially hard to swallow when the reason she had travelled to see her was to tell her about her promotion. It seemed pointless now. She doubted she’d be happy for her.

Betty drinks from her cup, draining the remaining coffee.

“I guess I’m just lucky to have found someone so understanding,” she replies and offers her the most convincing smile she can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“That was so good.” Betty pats her stomach, full and sated. “I don’t think I have enough room for dessert.”

“Of course you do,” Trev smiles. “It’s a special night, Betty.”

She thought she had a handle on her nerves but her stomach twists at his words, reminding her of her earlier anxiety. She really wasn’t sure how she would react if he proposed. And in the middle of a busy restaurant, too. She hoped he didn’t make a big spectacle of it.

Betty smiles tightly and tries to change the subject.

“Work is so frustrating lately,” she complains. “Ever since Hiram made me Chief Copywriter, I’ve basically been his right-hand man, doing all of the work he doesn’t want to do. And it’s only gotten worse since the wedding.”

Hiram had re-married a few months ago - a French aspiring actress who was half his age. It had been the prime topic of office gossip for a while.

“Well this is what you wanted, right? More responsibility, more money.”

“It is. And I never thought that asking for a raise would turn into a promotion. It’s just... some of the work I’m doing feels above my pay grade; even my new role. It’s Hiram’s level.” She sighs. “I don’t know why I’m complaining. People would kill to be in my position. I should be grateful.”

Trev smiles softly and takes her hand in his.

“You’re allowed to be honest, Betty. It’s normal to find parts of your job frustrating.”

Irritation flared as it always does when he compares their jobs. She wants to ask him how he would know, how he has any idea what working is actually like when he spends his days making coffee runs and drinking whiskey with producers and script supervisors.

She doesn’t. She can’t risk sounding like her mother.

A waiter strolls by and Trev grabs his attention, asks for the dessert menu. She really doesn’t think she can eat another bite but Cheryl had told her the tiramisu was to die for. Maybe they could share it.

“So there was something I wanted to ask you,” he begins, eyes trained on their joined hands. He looks nervous, apprehensive, and Betty tenses up. This was it; the moment she had been dreading. “We’ve been dating for almost a year now, and it’s been so wonderful, and so I think it only makes sense to–“

“I can’t marry you,” Betty blurts out before he can finish.

Trev’s mouth parts in shock, his hand slipping from hers.

“I wasn’t... I was going to ask you to move in with me.”

“I can’t do that either,” tumbles out of her mouth before she can process what she’s saying. But when she pauses, thinks it over, she realizes it’s true.

She can’t marry Trev and she can’t move in with him or start a family or even buy a cat with him. She doesn’t want to.

The waiter returns with the dessert menu, a cordial smile in place.

“Here you go, sir,” he says, handing Trev the menu.

He takes it from him, still staring at Betty in shock, and says, “I don’t think we’ll be needing it. Could we get the check?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She knew he would be in the bar; he was predictable like that. It was his favorite haunt – only a block away from his apartment and open late every night of the week.

“Cooper,” he says, surprised. He stands from his stool at the bar. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I just broke up with Trev. I need a drink.”

She turns away from the confused expression that flitters across her face and orders a whiskey and coke. She shrugs out of her coat, takes a seat on the stool besides his, and knocks back the drink in one as soon as it is placed in front of her.

“Are you okay?” he asks gently. It’s a strange tone for him; foreign but not unnatural.

She nods, once. “I’m okay.”

“Get her another, on me,” Jughead tells the bartender and then turns to Betty. “I know it’s fresh right now but you’re strong. You’ll be alright, Chief.”

Betty narrows her eyes at him. “I told you not to call me that. But you’re right... Thanks.”

“It’s probably for the best, anyway. You’re already married to the job, Cooper. Trev would have only made things more complicated.”

It’s an echo of her mother’s sentiment – the workaholic who wasn’t married – yet he means it as a compliment, in his own way.

“I do want that, you know,” she admits softly, then sips at her drink.

“Want what?”

“Marriage, kids, a family.” She smiles sadly. “I just don’t want it right now. Is that such a bad thing?”

“Not at all,” he answers immediately. “You’re taking your time, forging a path for yourself. Too many people rush in without thinking about the consequences. I’d say you’re doing things the right way.”

She doesn’t know why his words are such a comfort. She would consider him her friend now but they weren’t particularly forthcoming about their private lives and they definitely didn’t offer each other words of comfort.

Still, it was nice to hear that someone didn’t think she was making a mess of her life.

She smiles at him, small but genuine.

“Thanks, Jughead.”

“Anytime, Betty.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She runs her finger across the baby’s cheek, marvelling at the softness. He continues to sleep in her arms, his downy red hair soft against the cradle of her hand.

“He’s so beautiful, Cheryl,” she says, finally tearing her eyes from little Thomas.

Cheryl’s lips quirk with soft affection, eyes focused on her son.

“Sometimes I cant believe he’s actually mine.”

The baby starts to wriggle in her arms, face growing red and features scrunching up in irritation. Cheryl plucks him from her embrace, settling back into her chair with a lack of grace Betty isn't used to seeing from her. She was still adjusting to her new role, wasn’t totally comfortable manoeuvring her tiny newborn around.

She begins to unbutton her blouse and guides Tommy to her breast. Betty is shocked for a moment, not accustomed to seeing someone so open about breastfeeding. But this was her home, she reasons; the place where she was most comfortable.

“Has Archie stopped by?” she asks, carefully, looking at the tufts of red hair on the baby’s head. A product of both of his parents.

Cheryl sighs and begins to smooth her hand over his hair.

“He visited us in the hospital and he’s coming over tomorrow. He seems perversely proud, as if we aren’t an illegitimate stain on his marriage.”

The bitterness had always been there on Cheryl’s part, lurking beneath the surface, but she had been good at hiding it. With the birth of their son it had risen to the surface – her distaste for Archie’s weakness, for his choice to marry a girl his parents approved of instead of the girl he loves.

She still went back though. Every time. It would never truly be over between them.

“I’m so sorry,” Betty says softly.

Cheryl laughs, short and humorless. “Why are you sorry? None of this is your fault. I only have myself to blame.”

She switches Tommy to her other breast and gives Betty what almost looks like a convincing smile.

“Enough about me. I want to hear about you. How are you enjoying the single life?”

“It’s really not like that. I’m focusing on my job and myself.”

Cheryl rolls her eyes. “I’m an advocate for self-improvement, Betty, but you should be having fun! A little meaningless fling. It’s just what you need.”

Betty raises her eyebrows. “Oh, really? And who do you propose I have this fling with? The only men I know or meet, I work with, and they are either married, sleazy or drunk. Sometimes all three.”

“Jughead isn’t married, sleazy or drunk.”

A nervous laugh tumbles out of Betty’s mouth.

Right. Jughead.”

“I’m serious,” Cheryl grins. “He’s smart and funny, and you guys get along. Plus, he’s one of these liberated, modern men I keep hearing about, so he’d have no problem with it. He’s the perfect choice for a fling with no strings attached.”

Betty laughs her off despite the heat burning in her cheeks. The idea was crazy. Her relationship with Jughead wasn’t like that and there was no way she could take that step with him.

Besides, she didn’t know if Cheryl was the best person to take advice from. No strings attached had left her with a baby that wasn’t her husband’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Betty Cooper?”

She turns from the cashier at the sound of her name, a look of surprise crossing her face as recognition dawns.

“Chuck Clayton?”

“Yes,” he smiles. “It’s so good to see you. I don’t think we’ve crossed paths since the Andy Awards in ‘64.”

“I think that’s about right.” She smiles back and grabs her bag of groceries from the counter. “How are you? Just leaving the office?” she guesses, looking at his suit and tie.

“Yes, finally. Big pitch tomorrow - it’s been a tough week.” They head out of the grocery store and onto the street, away from the lines of customers inside. “What about you? Are you still at Valentine Lodge?”

She nods. “I’m a Chief Copywriter now.”

He smiles again, white teeth gleaming, as he says sincerely, “I always knew you’d go far. You’re one of Hiram’s most talented people.”

Betty is flattered by the compliment but tries to remain cool.

“Well, thank you. That means a lot.”

“I hope you won’t think this inappropriate but we actually have a new Chief Copywriter position at my agency. It’s a new role, covering some of our biggest accounts. It’s a big opportunity.”

Her eyebrows knit together, unsure if she’s misreading what he was saying.

“Are you–“

“I think you should apply, Betty. You’ve got talent, you’d be a great addition to the company. And we can match your salary – maybe even better it.”

She’s a little shell-shocked, the offer appearing almost from nowhere. It was tempting to say the least, her feelings towards her current job only fuelling that desire. But she definitely hadn’t expected this.

She and Chuck had only met once before, at the Annual Andy Awards, and had chatted briefly. He worked for a rival agency and while he had been friendly and knowledgeable of that industry, Betty had no interest in befriending the opposition.

Yet now she was considering becoming the opposition.

“Just think about it,” he says, sliding his business card into her hand.

As he pulls his hand away, his fingers slide across hers in a strangely intimate gesture. Betty pulls her hand back quickly, thrown, unable to process everything that had happened in such a short span of time.

“It really was good to see you, Betty,” he says as he walks away, charming as always.

Betty looks down at the business card in her hands, a mix of emotions settling heavily in her stomach.

Clayton Woods Twyst. She had never expected this to be an option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She bends the corners of the card with her nail absentmindedly, the black letters in the center oddly intimidating.

“What’s that?” Jughead asks as he enters the office, focusing in on the card in her hand.

It was late in the evening, the two of them the only ones left, still working on the Avon pitch for the following day.

“It’s Chuck Clayton’s business card,” she answers. “He offered me a job.”

His eyebrows raise in surprise. “As in Clayton Woods Twyst Chuck Clayton?”

“The very same.”

“When did he even give you this offer? You literally never leave this office.”

She rolls her eyes. “Very funny. I ran into him at the grocery store.”

“And he just offered you a job?” he asks, slightly skeptical.

“There was some small talk, but essentially, yes.”

Jughead seats himself on the edge of her desk, arms folded across his chest.

A beat of silence and then he asks, “Are you gonna take him up on it?”

She sighs, shoulders dropping as though she is deflating under the weight of her indecision.

“I don’t know. It’s a great offer – more money, more responsibility, a chance to work with some big clients – but it almost feels like a betrayal to leave Valentine Lodge. It’s given me so much.”

“You mean Hiram has given you so much,” he argues with a hint of disapproval. “Look, you don’t owe him anything, Betty. You work your ass off here every day, sometimes doing work that he takes credit for, and what do you get for it? Being his favorite? The jealousy and derision of your co-workers because you’re his favorite?

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t be grateful. But you’ve done more than enough to repay him for his support over the years, and maybe you moving to another agency will make him finally realize how much he takes you for granted.”

He’s not saying anything she hasn’t already thought. She’s been feeling increasingly under-appreciated – particularly by Hiram – and it didn’t seem as though things would improve in the near future. The agency was always expanding, and with it, her workload.

“I guess you’re right,” she agrees.

“You know I’m right,” he corrects. “And honestly, forget Hiram. Be selfish for once. Do you think Moose or Dilton or any of the other men in this office would think twice about accepting this offer? They’d do it in a heartbeat, and so should you.”

She looks down at the card, the correct decision suddenly clear in her mind. Be selfish. It was the right move; she was making the best choice for her.

“I guess I have a phone call to make.” She smiles at him, touched by his support. “Thanks, Jughead.”

He smirks. “Don’t mention it, Chief. Just don’t forget who your friends are when you’re a partner at that place, okay?”

She laughs. “I won’t, I promise.” She looks down at the card again and then over to the drinks cart in the corner of the room. “I’m gonna need a drink before I do this.”

He winks at her, “Already on it,” and wanders over to the cart. He pours vodka into two tumblers and places one in front of her.

She raises it in toast. “To being selfish.”

“To being selfish,” he echoes and clinks his glass against hers. 

 

Chapter Text

“Hello?”

“It’s 7.58, I’m the only person left in the office, and I’m going out of my mind trying to come up with taglines for Cadillac. Give me a distraction.”

Jughead chuckles through the receiver.

CWT has changed you. Somehow you’ve become even more demanding.”

She cradles the phone between her cheek and shoulder as she places a cigarette between her lips and lights it. She takes a drag.

“I’m waiting,” she sing-songs.

He huffs. “Fine, I do have some gossip for you. Although I’m pretty sure you’ll already know about it. It’s about Archie.”

“I’m listening...”

“Midge, his new secretary, is dating Moose and she told him that he was served divorce papers last week. Val’s taking him for half of everything.”

“Oh, no,” she gasps. “I had no idea.”

“Really? Cheryl didn’t tell you?”

Truthfully, she hadn’t seen much of Cheryl in the six months since she left Valentine Lodge. She was working in a different part of the city, their paths never really crossed, and she always at work or busy with the baby. Betty doubted she had time to meet up.

Still, Cheryl had gotten her through some tough times at the agency. She owed it to her to be a good friend and stay in touch.

She takes another drag. She’d call her tomorrow.

“We haven’t talked much since I left,” she admits quietly. “How’s Archie? Did he take it badly?”

“Well he locked himself in Cheryl’s office an hour after he got the papers, so I don’t think he was too cut up about it.”

“That figures,” Betty replies. “They could never stay away from each other and now there’s nothing in their way.”

“I guess. Probably takes some of the fun out of it. All the sneaking around and renting expensive hotel rooms.”

“You’re awful,” Betty admonishes, although she does wonder if Cheryl and Archie’s relationship thrived because there was a level of deceit, because it was forbidden.

“I’m just being honest,” he laughs. “Lighten up, Cooper. What’s the matter? Clayton working you too hard?”

Betty laughs, the sound shaky and nervous.

“Something like that.”

There is a beat of silence and Betty considers asking him what he’s still doing in the office, when he curses down the phone.

“Shit! I gotta go. I’m gonna be late.”

“Late for what?”

“Dinner reservations.” She can hear faint rustling as he begins packing up his things. “Call me next week sometime. I might have some updates on the Andrews divorce.”

“Okay, I will.” She feels a slight wave of disappointment at their call being cut so short. They’d done this at least once a week since she left – phone calls from their respective offices where he caught her up on all the goings-on at VL – and sometimes they would talk for over an hour. This call hadn’t even lasted fifteen minutes. “Enjoy dinner.”

“Thanks, I will.” She can hear the smile in his voice as he says, “Hey, you should leave, too. ‘Cause I’m not sure if you know, but people have these things outside of work called lives. They’re really fun. You should look into them.”

She rolls her eyes, laughs. “Hilarious, Jones. Will I see you on Ed Sullivan soon?”

He barks out a laugh. “You’re a hoot, Cooper. Talk to you later.”

The dial tone rings in her ear long after he’s gone. Betty glances over at the clock and sighs. It was getting late. She really should get some dinner and go home to feed Caramel. That was all that was ever waiting for her at home anymore; takeout and her cat.

Jughead was right. She did need a life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jughead calls her a week later, he has bad news.

“Archie’s mother died. The funeral is in two weeks.”

She decides to attend, gets the date and address of the church from Jughead.

Archie had always been one of the good guys at the agency. His position as the youngest partner in the company had been met with some skepticism and derision at first, and had left Archie with a chip on his shoulder. So he had always vouched for the new, inexperienced people, fought for the underdogs – fought for people like Betty. Despite her opinions on his relationship with Cheryl, she had always liked Archie.

He looks like a shell of himself – hair unkempt and a beard covering his jaw – as he stares down at the coffin, now lowered into the ground and covered in dirt. His usually confident, glass-half-full demeanour is gone, replaced with a grieving man who hasn’t yet come to terms with his loss.

Beside him, Cheryl stands stoic, a sleeping Tommy in her arms, his head buried in her neck. He is older now, almost a toddler, with a thick head of red hair. They make a handsome family, the three beautiful redheads together. She knows there will be whispers, disapproval of Archie for bringing his girlfriend to his mother’s funeral when he wasn’t even divorced yet. She didn’t think he cared all that much – not when his fingers are wrapped so tightly around Cheryl’s hand that it seems as though she is the only thing keeping him anchored to the ground.

As the priest closes the service and everyone parts ways, Betty lingers, hoping to catch Cheryl’s eye. She never did get around to making that phone call.

Archie takes the baby from Cheryl as they begin to walk away, clinging tightly to his son as he turns away from his mother’s grave.

He manages a small smile when he sees her.

“Hey, Betty.”

“Hey, Archie. I’m so sorry for your loss.” She runs her hand along his arm. “How are you doing?”

He shrugs. “As well as can be expected. Having this little guy around has definitely helped.” He smiles down at his son, a fond, genuine expression – a proud father’s smile.

Betty reaches out to stroke her hand across Tommy’s hair. He snores softly against his father’s neck, totally unaware of the pain and grief around him.

“I knew my eyes weren’t deceiving me.”

Betty turns at the sound of Cheryl’s voice and is immediately engulfed in a tight hug. She wraps her arms tight around her waist. It had been too long and she only had herself to blame.

“I’ve missed you,” Cheryl murmurs against her hair.

Despite the sombre mood, Betty smiles. “I’ve missed you, too.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bar is busy when she enters but she spots the group easily, Moose’s loud voice an obnoxious standout among the crowd.

Jughead grins when he sees her, uncharacteristically smart in his black suit.

“The prodigy returns,” he announces and her old co-workers turn to greet her with smiles and hugs.

“It’s good to see you, Betty,” Dilton smiles after a tentative hug.

She smiles, genuinely happy to be back amongst old friends. “It’s good to see you, too.”

“Come here, Cooper.” Jughead wraps her up in a hug of his own, the familiar scent of his cologne washing over her. It had been a day of triggered memories, only six months old but feeling like a lifetime ago.

She should have tried harder to stay in touch.

“I didn’t see you at the funeral,” Betty comments as she pulls away.

He shrugs, hair falling into his eyes. It’s much longer than it was the last time she saw him, shaggy and unkempt.

“We stood at the back. Society people like the Andrews don’t want people like us hanging around.”

“Speak for yourself,” Moose retorts. “You may look like you’re joining a commune but some of us are still respectable.”

“You do look like you’re about to run away to San Francisco,” Betty says, ruffling his long hair.

He smirks, batting her hand away. “It’s the summer of love, baby. Gotta embrace it.”

She rolls her eyes. “Okay, I need a drink.”

She had spent an hour at the Andrew residence, catching up with Cheryl and cuddling Tommy until she finally left to meet up with the old Creative guys. She and Cheryl had made plans to grab lunch the following week, something they hadn’t done since she left VL. It made Betty feel lighter to know that she hadn’t totally severed her relationships by leaving the agency.

Still, she had avoided Hiram when she spotted him by the wet bar. He had seen her leaving as a kind of betrayal and she didn’t want to open that old wound.

“So be honest,” Jughead says as he passes her her second vodka tonic of the night. “What’s it really like working for the opposition?”

Betty shrugs, eyes focused on the ice in her drink as she swirls it around. “It’s... good. Really good.”

Jughead snorts. “My God, you hate it.”

Her gaze snaps up to his as she quickly tries to protest, “No! I don’t. It’s just...”

“It’s what?”

“It’s boring,” she admits. It’s the first time she’s ever said it out loud. He had always been able to draw the truth out of her so easily. “I mean, the people are great and the work is steady but it’s dull. Everyone’s so goddamn positive all the time and they’re never honest about your work. They just tell you what you want to hear.”

Jughead laughs. “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that the ideal working environment?”

“You’d think so,” she says. “But there’s no passion behind any of it. Everyone does exactly what is asked of them and they’re always on time. There’s no working through the night to meet a deadline or brainstorming in the office, bouncing ideas off each other.” She sighs. “I guess I just don’t find copy all that exciting at CWT and I never felt that way when I worked with you guys.”

“You need the excitement,” Dilton interjects. “Valentine Lodge is by no-means a well-oiled machine, but creatively, it’s a dream come true. When you work with people like Hiram Lodge you’re always pushing boundaries and trying new things.”

Dilton was right. VL definitely wasn’t the most organized of agencies but the work they produced was fresh and innovative, and they were always demanding something special from their creative teams. Betty missed the urgency of it all.

“I guess the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” Jughead says, smiling sympathetically.

Two hands slide around his waist then, as a soft voice says, “Hey, you.”

He turns and grins at the petite blonde woman stood behind him. She looks cute and stylish in a miniskirt and turtleneck, long hair tucked behind her ears. Betty watches as Jughead kisses her in greeting, a strange feeling settling in the pit of her stomach.

“I didn’t think you were gonna make it,” he murmurs as he wraps his arm around her shoulders and turns back to them. “Betty, this is Sabrina, my girlfriend. Betty used to work at Valentine Lodge.”

Girlfriend. Jughead had a girlfriend. A girlfriend he had failed to mention during their many phone calls over the last six months.

“Wow, you guys must go way back.” She smiles, pretty and bright, and offers her hand to Betty. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Betty shakes her hand and attempts a smile. “You, too.”

“Betty’s a Chief Copywriter for another agency now. She’s gonna go far,” Jughead tells Sabrina, then winks at Betty.

“Jug...” She feels embarrassed by his compliment.

“That’s so cool,” Sabrina smiles. “And impressive, too. Advertising is such a boys club. You’re really making your mark.”

“Babe, you should invite Betty to one of your rally’s.” He turns to Betty. “You’d love it, Cooper. A crowd of angry chicks yelling about equality. I think you’d fit right in.”

Sabrina slaps his chest with the back of her hand, admonishing him, but can’t stop a little laugh from escaping. Betty knew that feeling; his sarcasm and teasing often left her equal parts amused and annoyed.

“In all seriousness, if you wanted to come to a rally you’re welcome to join. The more the merrier.”

“Uh, yeah, I’ll think about it.”

Sabrina was being so sweet and friendly, extending a genuine invitation and trying to be nice, yet every time she talked Betty felt irritated. She couldn’t even pinpoint why, she just knew that she felt it, however irrational the feeling may be.

Jughead wraps his arm around her shoulders, presses a kiss against her temple. Betty’s stomach clenches and she turns away from them to join Dilton’s conversation. She didn’t need to be Jughead’s third wheel. But she did need another drink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She leaves the bar when the group decides to move onto another, with promises to see them again soon. Betty didn’t know if she’d make good on those promises but she would try. The Creative guys hadn’t just been her co-workers, they had been her friends too, and she had missed them.

She hails a cab outside and instructs the driver to head uptown, to the Upper West Side. It was getting late and she didn’t know if he’d even be around, but she was going to try nonetheless. She didn’t really feel like going home to her empty apartment and her cat that didn’t really like her and a bowl of last night’s leftovers.

Most of the lights are off in the office as she steps out of the elevator. Her heels click against the linoleum as she walks down the hallway, in the direction of the office at the far end. There was a single lamp on in the room, visible through the crack in the door.

He looks up when she enters, a wide smile on his handsome face.

“Hey. I was wondering if you were going to stop by.”

“I was catching up with some of the guys from VL. Time ran away with me.”

She slips out of her coat and bag, lies them across the couch in the corner. She walks over to his desk and takes a seat on the edge. Chuck immediately reaches out to touch her, his hand resting on her knee. His wedding band was gone, tucked away in his desk drawer, the way it always was whenever she came to his office after hours.

“I feel like we haven’t been together in so long,” he murmurs as he leans up to kiss her.

She meets him halfway, hands cupping his face as their lips connect.

It was wrong, she knew. She had never thought of herself as the kind of woman that would sleep with a married man, and truthfully, she didn’t even know why she was doing it. Boredom, possibly, but if she was honest with herself, it was something much bleaker – loneliness.

She had had a life at VL, with friends and supportive colleagues and people who actually challenged her creatively. But she had left that behind for a higher salary, her own office, and a job title with more weight behind it.

And this man – the one stood between her parted knees, his hands sliding across the tops of her thighs – he was responsible for it. And she was beginning to suspect his intentions had been less about wanting her talent and more about wanting her.

She couldn’t care about any of that though. It’s not like she was going anywhere – she had made her bed and now she was going to lie in it. This was the only thing in her life that wasn’t devoid of excitement and she would enjoy it while she could.

“You taste like vodka,” Chuck says against her lips, a hint of disapproval in his tone.

She kisses him again before he can say anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A week later, she and her co-workers are gathered in the lobby of their office, waiting for the partners to make an announcement.

Chuck stands in front, the words ‘Valentine Lodge’ and ‘merger’ leaving his mouth as he addresses the group. Betty doesn’t hear the whole spiel; is stuck, struck stupid, by the first sentence.

They were merging with Valentine Lodge. And he didn’t tell her.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” she demands as she enters his office without knocking.

He stumbles over his words. “I-I was going to... I just–“

“You didn’t think I’d like to know that my old boss – the man who refused to accept my resignation – was going to be a partner at this agency?”

Chuck sighs, shoulders deflating. “It was confidential, Betty. Partners only. I couldn’t tell you.”

“Right,” she scoffs. “Because I’m just the woman you screw on your desk when everybody else has gone home. You don’t share anything important with me.”

She leaves, the door slamming shut behind her.

If she was being rational, she’d admit that she’s being unfair. He had no obligation to tell her what was happening with the agency and she had no right to ask that of him. Clandestine meetings did not demand any kind of loyalty or confiding, and honestly, she didn’t expect them to. But she’s reeling from the information and rationality is not her current priority.

She had been slowly coming to terms with her desire to one day return to Valentine Lodge – it seemed almost like an inevitability – but she had wanted to return on her terms. Now she had no choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shiny, silver letters hanging up in the lobby – CWVL – are new and expensive, but her office is old and familiar, unchanged since the last time she had sat in it, over a year ago.

At least it was hers now, a private office for the Chief Copywriter, instead of a larger open space for the entire Creative team. It had been the one thing she had fought for when the merger was in process. If she was going to be back in Valentine Lodge territory, she wanted to make a few changes.

She picks up her phone after the third ring.

Clayton Woods Valentine Lodge, Betty Cooper speaking.”

“Man, that’s a mouthful.”

His low chuckle sends warmth through her chest. Sure, they had spoken often during her time at CWT, but now they were co-workers again, sharing the same space.

“Ugh, I know,” she agrees. “They really should have chosen Clayton Lodge & Partners.”

“How’s the new digs? Don’t miss sharing an office with me and the guys?”

“What exactly would I miss? The crumbs I found everywhere from your constant snacking or never going one day without hearing you fart?”

Jughead laughs loudly. “Can’t argue with you, Betts. We are pretty disgusting.”

“Sometimes I do miss it,” she admits. “You were disgusting but you were a good time.”

“I knew you would miss us,” he says, a smile in his voice. “You should come over some time. We have an empty desk with your name on it.”

She would definitely take him up on his offer when the dust has settled and the agency has found it’s feet. Working with the old team sounded fun.

“So how’s Sabrina?” she asks, trying to make conversation.

To Betty’s surprise, he sighs heavily into the receiver. “We, uh, we broke up. About a month ago.”

“Oh! Shit. Jug, I’m so sorry, I had no idea.”

“It’s okay,” he assures her. “It was for the best. Things weren’t working between us anymore.”

He clearly doesn’t want to talk about it and Betty isn’t going to push him. His relationship was his business.

“Hey, are you still working on your novel?” she asks, trying to change the subject. Despite their many phone calls over the last ten months, he’d never once mentioned the story he had been writing since he started at VL.

“Uh, I’m writing,” he replies. “But it’s a new novel – more political and socialist, less focused on romantic themes and the dissolution of the main character’s marriage.”

“A ‘yes’ would have sufficed,” she quips. “It’s good to know you’re still a pretentious asshole.”

Jughead laughs again, the sound bringing a smile to Betty’s face.

“God, it’s good to have you back, Cooper. I missed ya.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betty exits the Chevy meeting with a list as long as her arm. Hiram had a very specific vision in mind, and while Betty loved a challenge, she was concerned that they couldn’t meet all of his expectations.

“Betty?”

She pauses in the doorway and turns to Hiram. The other partners and the rest of the Creative team file out of the meeting until they are alone – just her and Hiram. It’s the first time they’ve had direct contact since the merger; the first time since she left VL.

“Take a seat,” he says, gesturing towards the chair in front of his desk. He wanders over to the gold drinks trolley beside his desk. “Whiskey, vodka?”

“Vodka on the rocks.”

He pours her a drink and a whiskey for himself; places the tumblers on the desk as he unbuttons his jacket, takes a seat. He hasn’t changed. He is still the same commanding presence, precise in his movements, authoritative and stoic.

But Betty remembers his look of shock that he had failed to mask when she gave her two weeks notice; the way he gripped her hand when he told her she didn’t have to leave.

He didn’t intimidate her anymore.

“I think this conversation is long overdue.”

“Please don’t mock me, Hiram,” she interjects before he can continue. He had the position of power here but she wasn’t going to let him belittle her. “I know there is some irony in my current position – I tried to leave and ended up back in the same place. But I’m here now, and I’m one of the few people trying to be supportive of the merger. Please don’t make this harder for me.”

“You really think that’s why I wanted to speak with you? To mock you?” He shakes his head, disappointed. “I know our relationship wasn’t great when you left but I always believed you knew how much respect I had for you.”

Betty schools her expression before she let her surprise show.

“I was arrogant,” he says. “I had given you this job – had taken a chance on a secretary and turned you into a copywriter. I thought you were too grateful to leave. I thought me giving you that chance meant you owed me your loyalty. But you were right to go.”

Betty’s mouth drops open. She must have misheard him. “Excuse me?”

“I didn’t appreciate you. You did so much for me, you put in so many hours, turning in great work. And I didn’t give you the respect you were owed. Especially in the six months before your resignation.”

They both know he is referring to the period of time that followed his second marriage – the marriage that was now null and void, less than a year later.

Betty takes a long sip of her drink. She couldn’t quite believe Hiram was telling her all of this; saying things that she had wanted to hear for so long.

“I want to apologize for the way I treated you. You were a bright spark among a talented team, Betty. You still are.” The corner of his mouth ticks up, a semblance of a smile. “I, for one, am incredibly happy that you’re back. It would have been one of my few regrets in life, if I had never had the chance to repair our relationship.”

“I’m glad to be back,” she admits aloud for the first time since her return. “And I’m glad we’ve had this talk. I... I missed working with you, Hiram. I missed being a part of this agency.”

“And we missed you.” He tips his tumbler towards her. “A toast to you, Betty. It’s good to have you back on the team.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The energy boosters are Hiram’s idea. He’d been told about them by a rival during a meeting last year and had been intrigued – an injected stimulant that gives you one to three days of uninterrupted creative focus, energy, and confidence.

It was just what they needed. They were about to spend their weekend working on the Chevy account and up until now they had nothing. They needed a change of pace, to shake things up.

Betty refuses. They didn’t know what was actually in the booster and Betty didn’t think overconfidence and an abundance of energy was going to make her any more productive.

“Why are you doing this?” she asks Moose, cringing as she watches the needle pierce his skin. “Midge will you kill you if she finds out.”

“She won’t find out,” he says dismissively.

Midge was now Chuck’s secretary and the office’s biggest gossip. She was definitely going to find out.

“If you say so...”

There is a commotion behind them, the thundering of footsteps. She turns just in time to see Jughead racing out of Archie’s office, a large smile on his face as he sprints across the hallway and jumps over a chair.

He comes to a stop, panting with his hands on his hips, still grinning.

Man, I feel good. You’ve gotta try this, Cooper. It’ll change your life.”

Her lip curls as she looks at his sweaty, glistening face.

“I think I’m good.”

“Dilton!” he shouts suddenly, dropping into the seat beside him. “Arm wrestle,” he demands, propping his elbow on the desk.

Betty rolls her eyes and heads off to the kitchen. The only stimulant she needed was coffee and she’d need a lot of it to put up with those idiots today.

Hours later, the guys are still riding the high, Dilton and Jughead shouting taglines at each other in the middle of the Creative office. Dilton’s tie is off, now tied around Jughead’s head, and both are twitchy, unable to stand still. Moose has his chin cradled in his hands, watching them, fascinated, as if he is watching two geniuses at work.

They hear running out in the hall and see a dark figure run past the open doors of the office until Hiram comes to an abrupt stop. He is sweaty and uncharacteristically dishevelled, his suit jacket and tie discarded, his shirt unbuttoned to reveal his undershirt.

He looks strange as he enters the office, almost as if he doesn’t know where he is.

“I know you’re all feeling the darkness here today but there’s no reason to give in. This is a test of our patience and our commitment. One great idea can win someone over.”

Jughead and Dilton stare at him in awe, nodding knowingly as they listen to his rambling.

”You’re as good as they say,” Dilton murmurs in admiration.

Betty can’t take anymore. Even Hiram had succumbed to the madness and they were getting nowhere.

She leaves, unnoticed, and heads towards Chuck’s office. She’s grateful Midge isn’t outside and she can enter undetected.

“Betty,” he says in surprise as she closes the door behind her. A look she can’t quite identify crosses his face – if she had to name it she’d call it guilt. “I thought you’d be hard at work on the Chevy pitch with the others.”

“Honestly, there’s not much hard work happening.”

He smiles, but it’s tight. “Not one of Hiram’s best ideas, then?”

“Are you okay?” Betty asks, eyebrows knitting together. Things between them had improved in the months since the merger and she had thought everything was normal again. At least, as normal as an affair could be.

Midge enters then, papers in hand.

“Mr. Clayton, the Los Angeles office plans have arrived,” she says, eyebrows rising as she spots Betty. “Oh! Betty. I didn’t realize you were here. I apologize for interrupting.”

“It’s okay, Midge,” Chuck assures her, taking the papers from her hands. His eyes shift over to Betty who is currently frozen, trying to process what Midge has just said. “Could you leave us? We have some business to discuss.”

“Of course.”

Even in her confused, distracted state, Betty doesn’t miss the curious look she gives them both.

“Betty–“ Chuck begins but she cuts him off.

“Los Angeles office?” she asks. “Are we opening a branch in California?”

“Yes,” he answers. “That was one of the agreements of the merger. That’s why I’ve been making so many trips there this past month.”

“Will you be working at the branch?” It’s a question she already knows the answer to but she asks it anyway. He clearly had no intention of telling her.

“Yes... I will.”

Betty nods. “Okay, California. So you won’t be here? In New York? Because you’ll be on the other side of the country.”

His eyes are soft, pleading. “Betty, please–“

“Well that’s great for you.” Her smile is sardonic. “I hope everything goes well in LA.”

She leaves before he can stop her, doesn’t look back as he calls after her. It had to end now – whatever it was between them had to be over. And instead of feeling sad she felt... resigned. And selfishly so.

She didn’t love Chuck – sometimes she wasn’t even sure she liked him – but their relationship had offered her some excitement and companionship when she was lacking in both. Now it was over and she didn’t really feel anything.

Except a little anger. That bastard had no intention of telling her he was moving to California. Men really could be so cowardly and weak.

When she re-enters the Creative office Jughead is stood against the wall, a drawing of a red apple pinned to the notice board above his head. A joint hangs from his mouth, a lazy smile on his lips. In front of him, Dilton and Moose giggle gleefully, a box of pens in their hands.

“You ready?”

Jughead nods. “Just do it, man. Stop fucking around.”

Dilton throws a pen as hard as he can, the nib stabbing through the paper apple, inches from Jughead’s head. He looks up and begins to laugh, smoke billowing from his mouth.

Betty eyes the scene, wondering if it was better to remain on the sidelines or embrace the madness.

Her thoughts return to Chuck and his stupid, pleading eyes. Why couldn’t he just man up and be honest with her? Did he have no respect for her at all?

Her hands clench into fists.

“Hey, can I have one of those?”

“Sure,” Dilton says, handing her one of the pens.

As she reaches for it, Moose throws his pen, the plastic flying through the air and landing in Jughead’s upper arm.

“Fuck!”

“Oh my god!” She rushes over to Jughead, trying to inspect the damage. Blood begins to pool around the pen, staining his shirt.

He giggles, delirious, staring down at the pen sticking out of his arm.

“Oh, shit. I’m bleeding.”

Betty sighs, irritated. She’d had enough of their antics. They needed to pull themselves together.

“No more throwing pens!” she yells, pointing at Dilton and Moose. “And clean this up.” She waves her finger at the mess they had created in the office. She grabs Jughead’s wrist and pulls him out of the office. “Come on, we’ve gotta wash this.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hold still,” she snaps as she pulls the bandage tight around his arm.

He smiles, lazy and fond, watching her tend to him as he leans against the desk.

“You’ve got a great bedside manner,” he quips, placing his hands on her hips. He’s testing the waters and she doesn’t push him away.

He still feels hazy, happy, but it’s dull and dying. He can feel the high wearing off, leaving him feeling worse than he did before.

Slowly, he leans forward and presses a kiss against Betty’s neck, just above the collar of her dress.

She laughs, light and whispery. “What are you doing?”

He pulls her closer until she’s standing between his legs, hands sliding across her hips and meeting in the middle of her back. She’s so close he can smell her perfume, floral and sweet.

He runs his nose along the column of her neck. “You make a damn fine nurse, Cooper,” he murmurs against her skin before dropping another kiss against her throat.

“Jug, come on,” she murmurs, leaning back to look at him. Her eyes are swimming with worry. “Seriously, what is going on with you? Is it Sabrina?”

“No.” He sighs, defeated, hands falling from her hips as he slumps against the desk. There’s a pregnant pause and then he confesses, “My aunt got a letter this morning. My cousin James died in ‘Nam. Twenty years old, his whole life ahead of him. And now he’s dead.”

Her green eyes grow soft. “Oh, Juggie. I’m so sorry.”

He shakes his head. “It’s so... fucked up. He was such a smart kid. And they don’t even tell you how it happened. You just get a lousy letter with a date and a standard message.”

“Is that why you were so eager to try the booster?” she asks quietly. “Because you’re feeling so down.”

“I don’t know... Maybe...” He exhales heavily, reaching out for her again. She places her hands against his chest, keeping some space between them even as she moves closer. “I was trying to feel something other than pain but... I don’t think I need the drugs, Betty. I think I need something else.”

“Jug,” she says carefully, a warning in her voice. “You’re not thinking straight...”

“I thought about you a lot when you were gone,” he admits quietly. “More than I’d like to admit.” He reaches up to wrap his finger around a piece of her hair, watches the movement. “And I came to the conclusion that you’re the girl of my dreams.”

She rolls her eyes. “Your high,” she says dismissively. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I’m serious,” he insists as she attempts to pull away from him. She pauses, breath hitching quietly as their eyes meet. He tucks her hair back behind her ear. “You’re intelligent, driven, beautiful, and you don’t take shit from anybody. I’d be a lucky bastard to have a girl like you on my arm.”

“Juggie,” she whispers as he leans in, so close he can feel her breath against his skin.

He presses his mouth to hers then, a soft brush of their lips. He draws back, eyes flickering over her face, looking for a sign that he’s not alone in this. Her cheeks are flushed, eyes glossy and bright as she watches him, waiting.

His hand comes up to cup her cheek and he kisses her again, harder this time. Her lips parts beneath his as she sighs into his mouth, giving into instinct, feeling. She wants this, has thought about this more than she ever should.

Because she really, really shouldn’t think about this.

As his tongue slides across her bottom lip, she reels back, knowing she had to stop before things went too far. She doesn’t open her eyes, just presses her forehead to his. He doesn’t pull away.

They’re both breathing fast and she can feel the beat of his heart beneath her hands.

“You need to go home, Jug,” she says softly. “You need to get some rest and stop trying to dampen your pain. Let yourself feel it.”

When she pulls back and steps out of his embrace, a strange sadness washes over her. She doesn’t really want to leave him but she knows it’s for the best. Their relationship needed to remain as it was and sleeping together when he felt this way wasn’t fair to either of them.

“I’m going home.”

He catches her hand before she can leave, a sad smile pulling at his lips.

“You’re always gonna be just out of my reach, aren’t you, Cooper?”

His tone is light, teasing, but the intensity of his eyes pulls at something in Betty’s chest.

She squeezes his fingers and then lets go. She needed to leave before she did something stupid like stay in this office with him.

“Sleep it off, Juggie. I’ll see you in the morning.”

As she walks down the hallway, lips still tingling with the memory of his kiss, she wonders how she had managed to turn her back on one confusing relationship today, only to end up complicating another.



Chapter Text

Betty is almost vibrating with anger as she storms out of Weatherbee’s office. She can hear some of the guys calling her name – even Reggie, who asks her if she’s okay as she passes him – but she just keeps walking, eyes focused straight ahead.

As soon as she reaches her office she slams the door closed behind her and takes a seat at her desk. She opens the bottom drawer and retrieves the bottle of vodka and tumbler inside. She didn’t have an expensive cart like Hiram and Archie, stocked with various bottles and crystal glassware, but she liked to keep a little something stashed away in her drawer.

She pours a generous amount into the tumbler, adds a little tonic from the small bottle in her drawer, and settles back into her chair as she takes a long sip.

“I’m not sure that you should attend these meetings in the future, Miss Cooper. It isn’t helpful to have someone so... emotional on the team. And frankly, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

He’d snapped at her throughout the meeting but that had been the final straw.

She could still be so naive. It’s been six years since she started writing copy – six long years where she has worked tirelessly, and fought for her position and tried to earn the respect of her co-workers. And now, two weeks into the job, her new boss has just belittled her in front of every Partner and Chief in the agency.

When was she finally going to learn that no matter how hard she worked, some men would always see her as a silly girl who didn’t belong in a man’s job?

She takes a cigarette out of the carton in her purse and lights it up. She didn’t smoke very often – not compared to some of the guys or Cheryl – usually reserving the habit for times of stress, when she needed something to calm her down.

Since Weatherbee, she had been smoking three packs a week.

Her drink is gone and her cigarette almost finished when her phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Hey. Are you okay? Moose told me what happened.”

Betty exhales a harsh breath. “News travels fast around here.”

“Really, are you okay?” Jughead asks, voice laced with concern. “Weatherbee was out of line. He shouldn’t have said something like that in front of all of those people.”

“He shouldn’t have said it at all,” she snaps back. “Do you think he would have spoken to you or Moose like that if you had told him you didn’t think his idea was going to work?”

“No,” he admits. “But Moose and I would never tell him that. You’ve always been the honest one who spoke her mind. That’s why you’re the Chief and we’re just Creative.”

Betty rubs her hand across her forehead, a headache beginning to form.

“I wish you were on this account with me. It would be so much easier if I was working on this with the old team.”

“I wish I was, too,” he confesses. “Coca-Cola is a big fish – it would have been fun to work on. Especially with you.”

Unbidden, Betty lips curve into a smile. “It would have been fun. I miss hanging out with you at work. Having your own office is great but it can feel lonely.”

“Well I’ll have to stop by then,” he says, a smile of his own in his voice. “I can sketch anywhere, beauty of the job.” He goes quiet for a moment, then says, “Don’t let Weatherbee get you down, Betts. Every other guy in this place knows how great you are. And he’ll thank you in the end when you’re not pitching his shitty idea to our largest potential account.”

“How do you know his idea was shitty?” she asks, amused.

“Well you didn’t like it, so it had to be. Betty Cooper only approves of the best.”

She hangs up the phone, smile still lingering.

It’s late when she hears a knock at her office door. She looks up as it opens and Jughead peers around.

“Jug,” she grins. “What are you still doing here?”

“Working late,” he shrugs, stepping inside, sketchbook tucked under one arm. “Figured you would be, too. Want some company?”

“Definitely.”

“Good,” he says as he closes the door behind him. “Because I’ve got a little something for us.”

He pulls a joint from behind his ear, a smirk on his lips. He takes a seat in front of her desk as he lights it, then takes a deep inhale before passing it to her. She takes a small toke – it had been a while and she didn’t want to make herself sick.

She relaxes into her seat as Jughead takes another drag, blows out perfect smoke rings. He’s so different from the man he was when they first met, but in some ways exactly the same. As she watches him, she catalogues the differences between who was then and who he is now.

His hair is longer than ever, thick and parted in the center. And he’s switched out his fitted pants for flares and jeans, a leather jacket thrown over his shirts and turtlenecks. Aesthetically, he is changing, moving with the times. And while the pretentiousness and occasional arrogance is still there, he is changing as a person too – he’s more focused now, more mature.

She had liked the Jughead who had joined the team in ‘65 but she couldn’t quite name how she felt about him now.

He closes one eye as he looks at her, sizes her up.

“What are you thinking about, Cooper?”

“Taking risks.”

He raises his brows. “With the Coca-Cola account?”

“Yeah.” She smiles, small and secretive. “With the Coca-Cola account.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Luther King has been assassinated, the Vietnam War rages on, and another Kennedy is dead. So many terrible things are happening in the world but inside the offices at CWVL people want to talk about only one thing – Coca-Cola.

They’re living in a bubble, where day melts into night in the blink of an eye and no ones ever sure what day it is, never mind what’s happening outside of the building.

Everyone is working on the account in some capacity. For every idea that is scrapped, a new one must be made. Jughead and the rest of the team are brought in eventually, to create a fresh take on existing ideas. But still, it is never enough – Hiram is always demanding more, until one day, he is no longer around.

“Have you heard from him?” Jughead asks, stretched out across the couch in her office as he sketches. It was a familiar position for him now, one he often took up when he wanted to get away from the other Creative guys or sometimes when he just wanted to see her.

“Not a thing,” she answers as she adjusts the leaf of paper in her typewriter. “No one even knew he had gone until his maid called Archie, complaining that she hadn’t seen him in two weeks and she needed to be paid.”

“It’s so weird. Hiram is like the backbone of this agency. I never thought he’d just take off.”

“Me neither,” Betty agrees quietly, and she can’t deny that it stings a little that he never even told her he was leaving.

With Hiram missing in action, the partners call an emergency meeting to discuss the situation and how the agency would go forward. All of the partners are required to come – even the one’s living in California.

Betty avoids the main meeting room all day, keeps herself cooped up in her office, not wanting to risk running into him. He seeks her out, of course, entering her office without knocking.

She stands quickly, a surprised, “Chuck!” leaving her mouth.

“Hello, Betty.” He smiles weakly. “How are you?”

“I’m okay,” she nods. “And you? Are you okay? Are you enjoying life in California?”

“I was. Until Hiram decided he was going to disappear without a trace months before we try to land our biggest client.”

Betty sighs. “He’s really messed up, hasn’t he?”

“That would be an understatement.” He shrugs out of his jacket, tosses it over the couch. “Do you have anything to drink? I need something to take the edge off.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” she asks. “I don’t really think we should–“

“It’s just one drink, Betty,” he reasons. “For old times’ sake.”

Betty doesn’t know how to argue with that. She pulls a tumbler from her drawer, pours him a glass of vodka. She knows he isn’t a fan but it’s all she has, and if he wanted something different he could go to someone else’s office.

She really hoped he wanted something different.

He grimaces as he smells the vodka, but takes a generous sip. Betty notes the dark circles beneath his eyes and the five o’clock shadow covering his jaw. Maybe California wasn’t the dream he thought it would be.

There is a strange look of determination in his eye as he regards her, gaze flickering from head to toe. He closes the distance between them, almost pushing his body against hers when she stops him with a hand against his chest.

“Chuck, this isn’t–“

“She’s divorcing me,” he confesses quietly, determination shifting into sadness. “She’s leaving me and I’m not sure I even care. Because all I can think about is you.”

“Chuck,” she says, voice hard. “You can’t do this.”

“I miss you,” he murmurs, brushing his hand over her hip and then down to her thigh. “I was such a coward, Betty, never telling you the whole truth. I made so many mistakes. But you have to let me make it right.”

He leans in then, lips a breath away from hers when she says, “Don’t.” He pulls back, confused, eyes searching her face. “I’m not doing this,” she says firmly. “I don’t want this.”

Behind them, her office door closes, and Betty pulls away from Chuck to investigate. She really hoped it was just her secretary. She didn’t want anyone else to know about her and Chuck – especially when there no longer was a her and Chuck.

She steps out into the hallway and looks around, just catching sight of Jughead as he rounds the corner. Her heart leaps into her throat.

He was the last person she wanted to find them together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jughead turns away from the scene before him, closing the door with an audible click.

He had always wondered – back when Chuck was still based in New York – if there was something between them. They had been close, Betty often retreating to Chuck’s office for private conversations and shared looks during meetings.

He had dismissed the idea almost as soon as it entered his head – Betty would never get involved with a married man, and definitely not her superior. He put it down to their time together at CWT; they must have formed a bond over those six months.

Now he knows he should have trusted his gut.

It wasn’t any of his business what Betty chose to do and who she chose to do it with. And as out of character as it seemed, she wouldn’t be the first to engage in an affair with a co-worker.

Still, Jughead didn’t like seeing them together one bit. And he doesn’t want to name the awful feeling that settles in his stomach as he walks away from her office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheryl begins to laugh, hand clasped across her mouth as she giggles.

“Cheryl!” Betty hisses. “This isn’t funny. What if Jughead really did see and got the wrong impression?”

“Oh, Betty,” Cheryl sighs, an amused smile still quirking her lips. “You know for a good girl, you get yourself into a lot of sticky situations.”

Betty’s eyes narrow. “Is that all you have to say?”

Cheryl rolls her eyes and flips open her cigarette case to retrieve one.

“Jughead isn’t going to tell anyone,” Cheryl says as she lights the end of her cigarette. “He’s half in love with you. He wouldn’t jeopardize your career.”

“He isn’t in love with me,” Betty mutters, frowning.

“He was probably just surprised,” Cheryl continues, ignoring Betty’s protests. “You need to talk to him and clear the air. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

“You’re right,” Betty agrees. “I should just talk to him.”

Cheryl takes a drag of her cigarette, eye full of mirth as she watches Betty across her desk.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Cheryl smiles. “It’s just... I really thought something would finally happen between you and Jughead after the merger brought you together again. I never anticipated Chuck Clayton coming between you.”

She doesn’t like her use of ‘finally’, as if it was a given that she and Jughead’s friendship would become something more. It was completely false anyway – the kiss they shared last year and never spoke of again was proof of that.

Betty nods towards the cigarette case. “Can I have one of those?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiram returns a new man.

He says he’s been in California, living in a commune, meditating and opening himself up to new ideas. Now he has one – and it’s Betty’s responsibility to pull it off.

She spends four week’s storyboarding, forming an actual ad around Hiram’s single but descriptive idea. She demands the use of Jughead’s Creative team and puts them to work drawing up her vision.

The pitch she writes is the hardest part of all – a succinct speech that uses words like unity, and hope and bringing people together, and depicts a picture perfect world in these troubling times. They know they need a jingle, too, something to really sell it, and put a trusted music producer to work.

At the end of it all, they have a fully realized vision, a commercial storyboard that should convince the Coca-Cola execs. And a winning final line that will secure the account.

It’s the real thing. Coke.

Betty chews at her fingernails as she sits in the meeting room, surrounded by everyone who had worked on the pitch. At the head of the long table stands Hiram, an impassive look on his face. He wasn’t giving anything away.

Jughead’s hand smoothes over knee and he leans in close to whisper, “Don’t look so nervous. We did a great job. You did a great job.”

“I’m sure you know why we’ve gathered you all here,” Hiram says, addressing the room, the other partners flanking him on either side. “We had a meeting with Coca-Cola last week. It was our opportunity to pitch our idea and sell the work that we have created here at CWVL.”

A wide smile spreads across his face then, one she has never seen before, and Betty’s stomach twists with anticipation.

“I am happy to announce that we are now the chosen advertising agency for Coca-Cola. We got the account!”

The room erupts into cheers and applause and Betty feels a sudden, relieved laugh leave her. Jughead clasps his hand on her shoulder, grins at her. She covers his hand with her own, so happy to share this moment with him.

“Now I feel it is prudent of me to thank all of you for all of your hard work,” Hiram says, commanding the room again. “You’ve produced incredible material and should all be very proud of yourselves. Especially you, Betty.” His gaze slides over to her and Betty feels heat rise in her cheeks as everyone else turns to look at her. “You truly were the brains behind this operation. You’re an asset to this agency and we’re very proud to have you on board.”

“Thank you,” she replies, making sure her voice is clear and strong.

She looks over to Weatherbee sat across from her, his mouth pressed into a thin, tense line and a frown furrowing his brow. Her triumphant smile turns into one of satisfaction.

As they file out of the meeting room, Hiram calls her name to hold her back. He takes his hand in hers as soon as she is close enough and squeezes.

“I meant what I said, Betty,” he says softly, a smaller smile on his lips now, but it’s there all the same. “You did an amazing job. You should be very proud of yourself.”

She smiles and nods. “Thank you, Hiram. Really.”

She turns to leave, pausing when he calls her name again.

“Oh, and Betty – expect a raise next month. You’ve earned it.”

When Betty exits the meeting room, Jughead is waiting for her, arms folded across his chest. Their eyes lock for a beat before Betty breaks out into a huge smile.

Jughead grins, too, holding his arms out wide and she runs at him, wrapping her arms around his neck as he lifts her into a hug and spins her around.

She is giggling when he places her on her feet again, her hands pressed to his chest as she looks up at him. His happiness suddenly shifts into something intense and unreadable, and Betty swallows thickly.

“Jug, Chuck and I–“

“We don’t need to talk about that right now.” The corner of his mouth ticks up. “We need to be celebrating! Drinks tonight?”

She nods. “Definitely.”

He smiles again and presses a kiss to her forehead. “I’m proud of ya, babe.”

She was proud of herself, too.

 

Chapter Text

Betty leans back against the wall, martini in hand, as she watches the happy couple dance. She spies Tommy sat at the main table, on Cheryl’s mother’s lap, watching his parents move around the room. He is as sweet as ever, red hair curly and wild. A soft smile pulls at Betty’s lips.

“Can’t quite believe they’re here?” Jughead asks, leaning close, his hot breath against her ear.

She laughs. “I guess. It is kind of surreal. For so long they were this thing that everybody knew about but never spoke of.”

“I think it’s sweet,” Jughead remarks, leaning back against the wall. “It hasn’t been smooth-sailing but they’re finally here, and that’s what matters.”

He says ‘finally’ as if this – a beautiful, ostentatious wedding – was where Archie and Cheryl were always going to end up. But she remembers a time not so long ago, Cheryl’s bottom lip shaking as she tried to hold back tears in her office, telling Betty that she was late and she knew it wasn’t her husband’s baby.

There had been genuine fear in Cheryl’s eyes as she admitted to Betty that she didn’t know what Archie would do if she told him she was keeping it and that it was his. His answer was to pretend it was her husband’s child and act as if nothing had changed. And Betty knew she hadn’t wanted her to see the disappointment in her eyes as she recounted his words.

Cheryl and Archie’s marriage hadn’t been an inevitability, and their love was far from easy, but she’s happy that they’ve finally found each other.

The band at the front of the room begins to play a new song; a beautiful, swelling Etta James tune that makes Betty feel wistful for a love she’s never quite experienced.

Other couples move out onto the dance floor, joining the bride and groom.

“Hey, Cooper.” Betty looks over to Jughead. He tilts his head towards the floor. “Care to dance?”

She smiles, sets her empty glass onto a nearby table and slides her hand into his. “I’d love to.”

One of his hands is locked on her waist as his other takes hold of hers. She places her free hand on his shoulder, fingers resting against his nape, just beneath his hair, so long now it covers most of his neck.

“Not quite formalwear, but you look very handsome,” Betty comments, eyes flickering down to the bolo tie around his neck.

He smirks, hand briefly tightening around her waist. “Careful, Cooper. That almost sounded like a real compliment.”

She smirks. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Jones.”

They sway gently to the music, her eyes occasionally wandering around the room before returning to his. Jughead’s gaze doesn’t stray; he is always looking at her.

“This is nice,” she says softly, fingertips brushing against his skin.

He pulls her slightly closer until there is no space between them, lips quirking up. “I’ve got another word in mind, Betts, but I guess ‘nice’ will do.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She hears them before she sees them – the patter of little footsteps and high-pitched giggles as they chase each other around the room.

Two dark-haired little girls race into the Creative office, their pretty dresses swishing around their knees as they play. Dilton huffs loudly at the interruption but Betty is frozen. She stares at them, eyes taking in every familiar dark feature on their delicate faces.

Jughead enters the office, grinning down at the smallest of the girls as she runs head-first into his legs.

“Hey, little lady,” he laughs, crouching down to her level. “I think your old man’s looking for you.”

She frowns, tilts her head. “Old man?”

They look so much like him that Betty already knows who their father is before he comes rushing into the room.

“There you are!” he says, relieved, when he finds the girls. “You can’t run off like that.”

Jughead rises to his feet, smiles down at the girls. “They can hang out in here if you’re busy,” he offers. “I’m sure I have a spare sketchpad and some markers around here. That should keep them occupied.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it’s no problem.”

“Thanks, Jug,” he smiles, then turns to Betty. “Hey, Betty. How are you?”

Betty swallows the lump in her throat and manages a small smile. “I’m good, thanks. You?”

Before he can answer his wife enters the office, looking as sophisticated and beautiful as she had the last time Betty saw her, four years ago.

“There you are, girls.” Veronica smiles and wraps her arm around Reggie’s waist. “Hello, Betty, Jughead. It’s nice to see you again. I hope the girls haven’t interrupted anything important.”

“Is your name really Jug-head?” the eldest asks, sounding the name out. She looks up at Jughead, confusion clear on her tiny face.

“It sure is. Silly name, I know. What’s your name?”

“My name is Nancy Katherine Mantle,” she replies proudly. “And this is my baby sister, Lisa,” she says, taking her sister’s hand.

The fondness is clear on Reggie and Veronica’s faces as they watch their daughters interact with Jughead. He takes it all in stride, laughing with them as they ask why his hair is so long and why is he so messy? with ink all over his hands. Their mother never let them get that messy.

Betty gathers her papers and attempts to slip out unnoticed. She stops in the doorway when she hears Jughead ask, “Where are you off to, Cooper?”

“Uh, I just have some things I need in my office.” She smiles politely at Veronica, ignoring Jughead’s scrutinizing look. “It was nice to see you again, Veronica.”

“You too.”

She rushes back to her office, resting back against the door as soon as it is closed. Her head tips back against it with a thump as her eyes fall closed. She takes a few deep breaths, trying to will the tears away.

It’s just shock, she tells herself. She hadn’t been expecting to run into them today.

Part of her had hoped she’d never run into them at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jughead finds her that evening, worry swimming in his eyes as he enters her office.

“Just wanted to see if you were okay. You seemed out of sorts earlier.”

He takes a seat on the couch and Betty pulls two tumblers out of her drawer.

“Drink?”

He nods. “Sure.”

She makes them two whiskeys on the rocks and sits down in the chair across from him, contemplating how she was going to tell him. Because she was going to tell him – she wanted to explain her earlier behavior, wanted to finally talk about what had happened all those years ago.

“I’ve never seen them before – Reggie’s daughters. I’ve heard about them, saw the announcements in the paper, but I’ve never actually seen them with my own eyes until today.”

“Okay...” he says, confused.

“When I first started at Valentine Lodge, I was working as Hiram’s secretary,” she begins. “It was 1961, I was twenty, and it was my first real job. I commuted from my little hometown upstate everyday. I still lived with my parents and my mother disapproved of me working instead of finding a husband, but I was so happy to finally be independent.”

She takes a sip of her drink, hands shaking slightly. She’d never told anyone about this – Hiram and Cheryl knew, but only because they had been there, had witnessed her at her lowest. And now she was telling him, this man who had someone become her confidante, and maybe something more.

“I was the youngest of the secretaries at the time and trying to meet all of Hiram’s demands, under Cheryl’s careful eye. She was even harder on the new secretaries back then.”

Jughead looks surprised – Cheryl’s demanding nature and biting reprimands towards new girls was well-known.

“I really was so naive. A sheltered Catholic girl. I remember being so shocked when my parents forced my sister to get married in her last year of high school because she had gotten pregnant – I didn’t even think girls could get pregnant if they were unmarried.

“So when Reggie took an interest in me, I had no idea what to do. I had never had a man take notice of me before. He would stay behind after meetings when I was clearing up, would stop by my desk when he knew Hiram and Cheryl weren’t around. I knew he was flirting with me, giving me more attention than he did the other girls, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do about it.”

Jughead visibly swallows, voice low as he asks, “Betty, did he–“

“No, no,” she assures him, aware of the direction of his thoughts. “He never forced me to do anything. I mean – I don’t think I totally understood what was happening when he lay me out across the couch in the meeting room, but I knew what sex was and I knew I wanted it... I wanted him to touch me and kiss me.

“It happened three times – once in the meeting room, and twice in his office. After the third time, he told me he couldn’t see me anymore; that he had to focus on his work and his future, and I was distracting.” She smiles sadly as she admits, “I remember thinking that I must not be in love with him because I didn’t feel sad when it was over. And that my sister always said sex was meant for two people in love, so why had I done it at all?

“The guilt ate away at me. My mother never questioned why I started attending church with her every week, she was just happy I was going at all.” Her eyes fall to her lap as she says, “A few weeks later, I started getting sick. Every morning and sometimes at lunch. It wasn’t until Cheryl found me in the bathroom one day that I even knew what was happening to me.”

“Betty,” Jughead sighs, leaning forward to place his hand on her knee.

She places her hand over his, fingers curling around his palm.

“I wanted to tell him but a week later he came to the office with Veronica on his arm, introducing her to everybody as his fiancé. He had never even mentioned her. I knew I couldn’t say anything – he was never going to leave her for me and an illegitimate child, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted him to. Being a mother wasn’t in my immediate plans. I had things I wanted to do with my life.

“Cheryl told me she knew someone who had helped her in the past. If I could get the money together she would book an appointment. There was no way I could ask for the money from my parents so I turned to the only person I thought wouldn’t judge me – Hiram.”

She blinks away tears. “The procedure went badly. Really badly. I had to stay in the hospital. I didn’t work for two months, didn’t talk to my family. It was awful.” She licks her lips, now salty with tears. “To this day, Reggie doesn’t know what could have been. Only Hiram and Cheryl... and now, you.”

“I’m so sorry, Betty,” he murmurs, hand tight on her knee. “You shouldn’t have had to go through that.”

She smiles; he was so caring, so sweet.

What had happened to her was horrible and she never wished it on anyone, but a part of her would always blame herself. If only she hadn’t been so naive – a stupid girl from a small town who had no clue how the world really worked – she never would have found herself in that situation.

“When I saw his girls today, I couldn’t help but wonder if our child would have looked like that – their father in miniature. It was strange to see. I didn’t know how to react; I just... had to get away.”

“Do you regret it?” he asks quietly.

“No,” she says firmly. “I do want a family someday but I didn’t back then. I was still learning to take care of myself, never mind someone else. And besides, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I wouldn’t give my career up for anything.”

“You can still have that,” Jughead says as he leans back into the couch. “A family, I mean. You’re young, you’ve still got time.”

“I’m not sure that I can,” she confesses, voicing one of her most private thoughts. “I’ve never been in a relationship that I wanted to bring a child into. I’ve made mistake after mistake with men – first Reggie, then Trev, then Chuck.” She stares at her drink, at the ice spinning around her glass. “Sometimes I think I should just give up on the idea of a family altogether. I’ve always been better at work than love.”

“That’s bullshit,” Jughead states. Her eyes snap over to his. “You clearly haven’t had the best track record with love but that doesn’t mean you should give up. You’re an incredible woman, Betty – I may have even called you my dream girl, once upon a time.” He smirks, and a smile tugs at Betty’s lips. Softly, he adds, “You’ve just never been loved the way you deserve to be.”

Betty can’t tear her eyes away from him and the fierce, intense look on his face. His words are soft but their meaning is anything but. He wants her to believe what’s he’s saying; that she deserves to be loved and loved well.

After a beat, she blinks and looks away, breaking their eye contact. The tension that had crackled between them – always there but more apparent then ever – dissipating.

He clears his throat, brushes his hand through his hair.

“Hey, uh, I think a guy’s about to land on the moon. Looks like we finally did it. What do you say we go watch the television in Archie’s office? Catch it while it’s happening?”

She smiles and rises from her chair, taking Jughead’s hand in hers. “Let’s go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jughead picks up the phone. “Jones.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were getting your book published?”

His sigh is audible through the receiver. “Who told you?”

“Moose told Midge, and I overheard her telling Ginger in the break room.”

“Damnit,” he curses. “I was going to tell you, Betts.”

“Oh, yeah? When?” she demands.

“When everything was finalized,” he answers, tone defensive. “I just got the deal but nothing is set in stone. And I know you don’t really care about my book anyway, so–“

“How can you say that?” she cries. “When have I ever made you feel like I didn’t care?”

“Maybe when you’re mocking me and calling me pretentious,” he snaps back, irritation flaring.

“I’m joking. That should be clear. I can’t believe you’d ever think so little of me.” Quieter, she adds, “I’ve only ever wanted you to be happy, to find success in the thing you love.”

“I know that,” he sighs. “I do. I’m just... I’m being insecure about this. It feels like a really big deal and I’m scared that something is going to go wrong.”

“Well why didn’t you just say that?” she retorts. “Instead of keeping things from me like an asshole. God, you infuriate me sometimes.”

“Yeah, well you’re no peach either, sweetheart.”

There is silence as they sit in their respective offices, stewing in their own anger. Betty’s nostrils flare, hands curling into fists. He really could make her so mad.

Suddenly, Jughead laughs, the sound punctuated by a heavy sigh.

“What? What’s so funny?”

“You,” he answers. “Us.”

Her eyebrows knit together. “What do you mean?”

“It’s just... I think about how you came into my life, so forthright and demanding, always getting on my nerves.” He chuckles again, the sound wistful. “Sometimes, even now, I could strangle you – you’re so goddamn stubborn and headstrong.” He pauses, voice softening as he says, “But then I go away, and I realize I really love all of those things about you... and then I miss you. And I can’t stop thinking about you.”

“Jug...” she murmurs, heart in her throat.

“I’ve driven myself crazy for three years. I’ve lost my mind over you,” he confesses, both amused and exasperated. “Always thinking about you and wanting you. I mean... all I wanna do is be with you.”

Silence. Betty blinks, shocked.

“...What?”

“You heard me,” he says gently. Then, “I’m in love with you, Betty.”

Betty swallows the lump that has formed in her throat; echoes his words, voice high with disbelief, “You’re in love with me?”

“Yes, I... I love you, Betty.”

“That’s what I thought you said,” she murmurs, suddenly feeling breathless. She presses her hand against her stomach, wanting to settle down the somersaults inside. “I don’t know... I feel like I can’t breathe almost.”

She takes a deep breath, voice shaky as she rambles, “I mean, I try not to think of you like that...” Jughead heart falls to the pit of his stomach, but she continues, lost in her thoughts. “But then I can’t stop... so I do. Because you’re there, you always have been. And you’re here, too.” She presses her hand against her chest, over her rapidly beating heart. “And - shit, I’m not making any sense... I just... I think I am, too. I think I’m in love with you.” She lets out a watery laugh, eyes filling with happy tears. “God, I really am. I’m in love with you.”

Her smile is wide now, euphoric, pressed against the receiver as she murmurs his name.

“Jug...” Silence. She stands, panic washing over her. “Jughead? Are you there?”

Outside she hears footsteps, hammering down the hallway, and suddenly he is there, in her doorway, slightly out of breath.

“What were you saying?” he asks, intense gaze focused on her.

She steps out from behind her desk. “I love you,” she professes, teeth biting into her lip to smother her giddy smile.

His smile is blinding, the best thing she’s ever seen.

He crosses the distance between them in three strides, his hands cupping her face as soon as he is close enough. Their lips meet in a kiss so sweet and good that Betty’s toes curl up in her heels.

Her arms wrap around his waist to pull him closer, until all of her is pressed against all of him. And in his kiss, she knows, that she has found someone who will love her the way she deserves to be loved.