Betty's finding it hard to concentrate.
And it's not just because she's zoned out of Cheryl's worryingly long monologue about how cheerleading is more than a club, but a way of life. It's because in the back corner of the auditorium, sitting up at the back of the stands, just behind the group of students doing band practise, Betty can see Jughead, with his laptop, staring thoughtfully into the air, and then typing again.
The hall's fairly empty, it's just the fifteen or so cheerleaders, the aforementioned band, and Jughead.
But it's enough to steal her focus.
He looks good today, she thinks, as he does most days. There's something about him she likes, a lot. It's the 'not caring' aspect. She wishes she had some of that. He walks the halls like a lone wolf, and spends lunch times with Dilton Doiley and his crew, but she knows that he spends most of the time making sarcastic remarks about his club. Whenever she walks past, she tries to keep her ears open, and if she ever hears one, she has to fight to bite back her smile.
"What's caught your eye, B?" Veronica asks from where she's sitting next to her; stretching her legs. Cheryl's the only cheerleader standing, pacing as she pulls a Julius Caesar on them. "Or are you just completely zoned out?" She raps her fist gently against Betty's head, and Betty turns back to her, smiling. She begins stretching her arms, hooking her right one over her left elbow.
"Nothing, nothing," she murmurs, but their whispering is enough to catch the attention of the red-haired leader.
"What are you two girls gossiping about?" Cheryl asks, walking towards them, weaving seamlessly through the ocean of teenage girls on the floor. "Pray tell." She crosses her arms expectantly, and Veronica saves the day.
"We were just wondering when we'd get to start practising, because you've been talking for a real long time."
"Hm." Cheryl huffs, and only looks like she half believes them, but she ushers everybody up and into formation.
It's a shaky practise, for Betty especially. It's the first practise back this term, and the moves are a little rusty, but by the end, most of the girls have got the hang of it. Aside from Betty, who keeps sneaking glances up at Jughead. Once or twice they make eye-contact, and she tries to smile, but he just frowns at her, and turns back to his screen. That worries her, does he not like her? Does he think she doesn't like him? It makes her stumble a few times, and when they're all heading to the locker room, Cheryl pulls her to the side.
"Betty, I don't know why you're sneaking glances at Riverdale High's nerdiest hobo, but I'd advise you to stop. You're a cheerleader after all, wouldn't want you besmearing the good name, would we?" She kisses her cheek with faux-niceness, and goes into the changing rooms.
Betty darts another glance at the stands, but Jughead is gone, and the band is filing out.
It doesn't take long for Veronica to find out.
"Jughead Jones, really?" She asks, appearing magically as Betty closes her locker, so the blonde girl jumps in surprise. Betty covers her heart with her hand, gasping.
"What? Veronica, you scared me."
"Don't deflect." She smiles, her thin lips curling upwards. "Jughead Jones, are the rumours true or false?"
"What rumours?" Betty hisses, giving herself away as they start walking towards the doors. It's a nice day, and they're going to eat lunch in the grass with the others.
"There are no rumours, Betty dear, only for someone as talented as moi to find out. But your denial does inform me. You've got a crush?"
"No." Betty lies earnestly, pushing the door open. The air is cool and fresh, and there are quite a few students that have followed suit, deciding to eat outside.
"Oh right," Veronica humours her, nodding. "He is kinda hot though,"
"What?" Betty's eyes widen. Does Veronica like Jughead?
"You know, the mysterious vibe, the leather jackets. And for a nerd, he styles his hair surprisingly well beneath that god awful beanie."
Betty starts wringing her hands. Gosh, if Veronica likes him, does she even stand a chance-
"Betty, stop," Veronica grabs her shoulder, spinning so they stop in the middling of the grass. "Come on, I'm not into him. You, though? You obviously are." Betty frowns; uncertain. Veronica is so beautiful, with her dark hair and smoky eyes. Her lips are almost always a lovely shade of dark purple and she's wearing a dark indigo dress and dark heels that make her look killer. If she does like Jughead, they'll definitely look good together- "Archiekins is much more my type."
That's enough to derail Betty's fears. Veronica and Archie are definitely endgame, she knows that. She must relax visibly, because Veronica laughs.
"Oh my gosh! You are so into him. Well then, it's easy enough, isn't it?" Veronica begins, brushing her hair behind her ears and waving her hand which is holding her coffee. "You're one of the most popular girls in the school, not to mention beautiful and smart, just go up to him. He'd be mad to say no." Her eyes light up with an idea "ask him to the summer dance!"
"What? No! No, Veronica, just stop," Betty shakes her head worriedly, clutching her folders to her chest. "I couldn't do that. Besides, he never goes to the dances anyway." She bites her lip, just imagining Jughead giving her a weird look and a frown, before rejecting her. She's not sure he even dates. She's never seen him with anyone. The few times she's spotted him outside of school at Pop's, he's sitting alone in a booth with his laptop, before riding off on that motorbike that Betty sometimes dreams about.
"Well, this will be a perfect time to start." She encourages, and returns to walking towards the group of cheerleaders and athletes congregated in the corner of the field. "I bet he cleans up well," she continues thoughtfully "I imagine he'd look almost presentable in a suit."
Betty think Jughead would look spectacular in a suit. "Shh, Veronica. We'll talk about it later." Betty whispers, before they reach their group, and they all sit down, smiling. Veronica and Archie fall immediately into conversation, and Betty spends the rest of their free hour, wondering what it would feel like to have Jughead's hand resting on the small of her back.
Unfortunately, because it's Veronica, she refuses to let it lie.
She corners Betty that afternoon after school, as they go into Pop's together. "You're asking him out," Veronica states, ordering them both milkshakes with just a wave to Pop, as they slide into a booth. "I'm serious, Betty. I can't remember the last time you ever went on a date, and I am not letting you go to the dance with some mindless jock. You deserve better than that."
"Isn't Archie a jock?" Betty teases, setting down her bag and removing her coat.
Veronica rolls her eyes "I snapped up the only one with any brains." Her face softens a little though, and she leans forward. "I'm serious though, B. A date would be good for you. And Jughead? Well, it's not like he has a bad reputation with dating-"
"He doesn't have any reputation in dating. What if he has a girlfriend who goes to Southside High?"
"We never see him with anyone outside of school," Veronica points out, shaking her head. "And I'm certain my gaydar would have picked up any obvious signs. No, it seems to me like he's waiting for the perfect person. Enter you." She smiles triumphantly, as if she's won the argument, and Betty snorts delicately, but then Veronica isn't looking at her, she's looking just over her shoulder. "Looks like now's the perfect opportunity."
Betty turns around, and her heart skips a beat.
It's Jughead, in his leather jacket, beanie on, satchel on his shoulder. He takes a booth in the corner, the same one he always gets, opens up his laptop, and begins typing.
"No." Betty says immediately, seeing the look in Veronica's eyes. "No. No. No! I can't."
"If you don't, Betty, I'll do it for you." Veronica chimes in a sing-song voice, just as Pop comes over with their order. "Thanks Pop. Go on, I'll look after your milkshake for you."
Betty swallows thickly, turning over her shoulder to see Pop now talking to Jughead. He says something that makes Jughead smile, his face breaks into a grin, and Betty thinks he looks beautiful when he smiles.
"I'll never stop bringing it up-"
"Fine." She whispers, standing. Veronica stares, a little surprised, before beaming encouragingly. "Just to get you to stop talking about it, okay?" Veronica nods, miming zipping her lips shut, and Betty tightens her ponytail, walking over to him. She stops in front of his booth, and he looks up at her, a little surprised.
"Hey, Betty," he murmurs, and he sounds quizzical. He's looking up at her, and the screen is lighting up his face.
"Hey, Jughead," she manages brightly, smiling. Her hands are sweaty and she jams them into her pockets. "Are you...writing?"
He arches an eyebrow, but huffs a small laugh. "Yeah, yeah, resident writer, after all."
She feels encouraged by his laughter. She risks a look at the screen, and vaguely recognises it as the plot he gave for the novel he was working on in English once. "Your novel, right?"
He looks surprised that she remembers, but tips his head in acquiescence. "Been working on it too much lately, I think, straining my eyes," he rubs at them with his thumbs. Before digging into his bags and removing a glasses case. Betty freezes, watching as he puts them on. They're auburn coloured, large specs, and they nearly touch the hair that flops into his forehead. He looks amazing. "Doc says I should wear these but I hardly ever do."
"Mhm." She manages in a strangled voice. She can feel her face heating up.
"D'ya wanna join me or..." he motions at the empty booth opposite him, but she jerks her head quickly.
"No!" She almost yells, and he cringes a little at her voice. "I mean- I've gotta- I came here with-" she jabs her thumb over her shoulder in the general vicinity of her and Veronica's booth. "Bye!" And she turns and hightails it.
She slumps back into the booth without turning back once, and barely manages to meet Veronica's eyes.
"Well," the other girl says eventually, sliding over Betty's milkshake. "This may be more serious than I thought."
Veronica and Archie corner her in the library the following day.
Betty takes one look between them, and then rolls her eyes at Veronica. "You told him?" She sighs, and they both side down opposite her.
"He can help, Betty," Veronica murmurs and Archie nods
"Yeah, Jughead and I are alright. Our dad's work together, I can talk to him for you, try and figure this whole thing out? Find out if he likes you, at least?" Archie offers kindly, and Betty is tempted by the offer for a beat, before she shakes her head.
"No, thank you guys, but no. If I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do this myself." Her voice drops into a whisper, and she points her pencil at the upstairs section of the library. "Jughead's up there now with Dilton, I'm gonna wait for Dilton to leave, and then go up there and try again."
Archie raises his eyebrows, impressed with her perseverance, but Veronica is more skeptical. "How long have you been waiting here?" She interrogates.
Betty doesn't answer, eyes drifting away guiltily.
"Two hours, okay!" She hisses, and Veronica tuts; exasperated. She stands up, and Archie follows suit.
"Okay, we'll go up there, and get Dilton to leave. And then you're going to snag yourself a date for the summer dance, okay?" Betty nods, and watches them both ascend up the steps. Her heart squeezes fondly for a moment. She's lucky to have friends like them.
She's going to do it this time. She will. She's not going to lose her nerve, she's going to be fine. She's prepared for him wearing glasses, or smiling, and she's going to do it. Upstairs, she can faintly here Ronnie lying about a cub scouts emergency, and Archie backing up her story, and then she sees the three of them rushing out of the library. Archie shoots her a quick thumbs up, and Betty steels herself, trying to cool her heating cheeks, and she wipes her hand on her jeans.
The upstairs section of the library is always emptier. Reserved for "nerds" as Cheryl deems it, and she finds Jughead in the history section, nose in a book, legs propped up on the table in front of him. She moves quietly across the carpeted floor. The library does make her feel calmer. The smell of the paper and dust, and the quiet. She moves slowly, not rushing like last time.
Jughead notices her before she gets to him, and offers a two-fingered salute as a greeting.
God. Betty think's he's so cool. Effortlessly cool. She knows that he's technically very near the bottom of the High School food chain, but there's something about the ease of his manner that she thinks she could get very addicted to. "H-hey," she stutters, playing with her fingers, standing by the table. Oh god, it's beginning to feel like the diner all over again.
"Betty Cooper," he murmurs, and he's smiling this time. Betty likes that. "Greeting little old lowly me twice in one week. To what do I owe such an honour?" His voice has a teasing lilt, and his eyes are such a stunning shade of green.
"You know I don't believe in all that ranking stuff," she murmurs, swallowing thickly, and his smile becomes a touch softer.
He nods. "I know you don't, not your style to demoralise the man who works hard. It's what I like about you."
Her kneels feel like jelly.
"Do you wanna..." he gestures to the seat opposite him, and then seems to remember that his legs are up on the table. He removes them, smiling. "No Veronica with you this time, if you wanted to join me?"
She nods, moving to take the seat, because she doesn't really trust herself to speak.
She realises it was a mistake the second she does.
Jughead's crossing his arms, and leans forward across the table. His body language is intense and interested, and Betty can feel the weight of his piercing stare. He arches an eyebrow after a beat of silence, before realising she isn't going to speak. He nods, eyes glittering in the light of the library. "I was just reading up on Allan Pinkerton." He taps the cover of the large, red book he was reading before she approached him, which lies just beside him.
Betty beams "you like detectives?"
"Yeah," he nods, cocking his head and examining her. "So do you, right? I uh...I remember a speech you once gave in assembly. You referenced Pollaky..."
Betty barely remembers. The fact he listens to her, that he remembers what she said- that they have this in common- she can almost hear her heart beating in her ears. He looks so good like this, even without the leather jacket, with his creased plaid shirt hanging over his dark green tee that brings out his eyes. And she realises she's zoned out to what he's been saying.
"...what do you think?"
She blinks, petrified. Oh god, she doesn't know what on earth he was saying.
"Betty?" He prompts softly, after another moment of silence.
"I have to go." She says in a rush, and he blinks in surprise.
"Oh, I thought-"
"Cheerleading practise. I mean- debate. I have to go." She stands up, too quickly, and the chair she was sitting on clatters to the ground. She can hear the librarian hiss for silence downstairs. She can feel her cheeks burning red. Jughead stands, more slowly, looking concerned. Concerned for her. Oh god, Betty can feel the sweat trickling down her neck.
"Are you alright?" He asks in a low voice, and he reaches a hand out as if he's going to comfort her, and she darts away before he can, stumbling.
"I'm fine!" She lies in a high-pitched voice. "I'm just date- late! I meant late, I'm really late!" And she's running down the stairs, grabbing her coat and bag, and she's out of the library as Jughead stares after her in shock.
She rounds the corner, and bumps right into Archie's chest.
Her two best friends look at her excitedly, and she collapses into their arms; groaning.
"Even worse than last time." She admits, and Veronica wraps her arm around her, and Archie takes her bags.
"Don't worry," Veronica murmurs "I have a plan."
This plan, which takes place the following day, involves Cheryl Blossom.
If Betty had known, she would have refused from the very beginning.
"Obviously when they told me, I was utterly against it." Cheryl states loudly, from where they're all sitting in the student lounge. It's empty, Cheryl had commandeered it and the rest of the student body had followed her instruction. So now, Betty sits on the sofa, Veronica and Archie flagging either side of her, and Cheryl before her. "I mean, he's a literal hobo. But," she sighs, waving a hand to encompass Archie "boy wonder over here reminded me that I do owe him. And after hearing about your double failure- I do admit to feeling some pity for you. Because you are a cheerleader, and thus are able to get any male in this school."
"That's great, Cheryl," Betty sighs, hanging her head in his arms. "But how does that help me?"
"Because you're a cheerleader, Betty," Cheryl repeats, as if she's explaining it to an idiot. "Wear your outfit, feel the part, because cheerleaders are sexy and confident and can get any guy they want. No man can resist a cheerleader. Okay?"
Betty has her reservations, of course, but when she's in the outfit, she has to admit there is a certain level of....confidence, that she didn't have before.
She feels good, walking down the hallway with her white turtleneck and her tight Riverdale vixens dress. The looks she gets from the guys make her feel good, make her feel sexy. She thinks her legs look long and appealing, and even Cheryl had concurred that the ponytail just added to the charm.
She spots Jughead by his locker, in a relatively empty hallway. Most people are currently in class, but Betty's had free periods most of the day, and the bell won't ring for a few minutes. She struts over to him, and like the first time, he doesn't see her until she's right beside him.
"Hey Jughead," she smiles, and her face doesn't colour. Her voice stays calm. She feels sexy, she looks sexy, and she can do this.
He turns to her and his eyes widen, and his lips part. She wants to jump up and down in triumph, as he takes her in. But then he's dragging his eyes back up to her face, and lowering his head slightly. "Are you okay? Yesterday, when you ran off, I thought-"
"I was just busy." She says smoothly, leaning against the lockers. "I'm not now, though,"
"No?" Jughead murmurs, relaxing and smiling. He closes his locker, mirroring her stance. "Just had practise? Shame I missed it." Is she imagining it, or does he sound flirtatious?
Betty frowns. "You are at a lot of the practises." She thinks aloud, whenever they do have a practise, Jughead is in the stands, typing away. She never pegged it before. "I thought you just spent all your time in the auditorium."
He shrugs a little, looking bashful. "Not all my time. Just some of my time. When I know a certain someone will be there."
Betty's feeling a little jarred. Has he liked her all this time? Does he- does he think she's pretty? The way that she thinks he's pretty? Well not pretty, but handsome, dazzling- she cuts off her train of thought. Focuses on him instead of her paranoid brain for a second. "I never knew," she manages, voice quiet but not stuttered.
He half shrugs, crossing his arms. "I like to be mysterious with my emotions."
Betty laughs, and he smiles at the sound. "That's what I thought. Definitely more mysterious than hobo." She laughs again, but Jughead is frowning. He leans off the locker a little, looking confused.
"Hobo?" He chimes, and she stands up straight too, eyes widening.
"No! No, that's not what I meant- not that you're a hobo, though Cheryl says you are homeless-"
"No! No!" She's doing this all wrong. "No, that's not what I meant- that's just what Cheryl says, I never thought you...were..." she trails off lamely, and looks up at him. He looks completely confounded, and she can't risk hearing him be angry with her. It'll hurt way too much. "I have to go." She whispers, turning on her heel and walking briskly away.
"No, Betty!" He calls after her, and she realises with a pang he's following her. Gosh, if he ever liked her before he definitely doesn't anymore. Luckily, the bell rings, and the halls start flooding with students, she manages to round a corner, and when she looks over her shoulder, she can't see him through the hoard of students.
She needs to go home, that's what needs to happen, and she heads down the steps towards one of the lesser used exits, except when she's half way down them, Jughead appears at the bottom. She freezes misstep.
"Betty," he pants, and he's out of breath, and Betty tries to stop her heart fluttering from the fact that he knew where she'd be. Which stairwell she'd take. How their minds seemed to be linked, even if he is about to say that he doesn't like her any more. "Please, before you run away again, can I say something I've been trying to tell you for a week now?" He's holding up his hand, like he's trying to calm a wild animal. She nods once, resigned to her fate. At least she has the few conversation they've had, to think about late at night. She takes in the sight of him, just whilst she can.
She loves everything about him. And he reads about detectives, and remembers what she says in assemblies, and he wants to be a writer- she thinks she's going to go home and cry over missing out on someone like him.
"Will you go to the dance with me this Friday?"
The words don't compute for a long moment. And she splutters out a "what?" as she comprehends it.
"Betty," he laughs, and he sounds exasperated and exhausted and fond all at the same time. "I'm kind of in love with you, if you'd care to notice. I come to every cheerleading practise because whenever I get writers block, it's only your smile that brings back the words. You're...my muse, Betty Cooper," he place his foot on the bottom step, as if he's going to slowly ascend them.
"You want to- the dance- but you never-"
"Why would I ever go to a dance unless I was going with you?" He asks, as if it's the most typical thing in the world.
It jolts her entire world, and that's how she finds herself tripping over her own feet in the haste to get down there with him, she can feel herself falling but just as she squeezes her eyes closed, waiting for the impact of the floor- it never comes. Instead she feels cool leather against her cheek, as she's caught in his arms.
"Wow," he smiles down at her "you are literally my damsel in distress."
She manages to whack him in the chest, but she doesn't mean it. He helps her up, but doesn't step away, so their chests are flushed together. "You really wanna go to the dance with me?" She asks quietly, and he nods, meeting her eyes earnestly.
"I wanna do a whole lot more with you." He says and then immediately cringes "not like that- I mean, not not like that but as in-" he takes a breath, and his shoulders deflate and he gives her a hopeless smile. "No more stuttering for us, so I'm just gonna come out and say it. I want you to be my girlfriend, Betty Cooper, I won't rest till you are. So there."
She smiles so hard her face hurts, and she kisses him with a force she didn't even know she could emit.
"See that?" Veronica sighs, pouring herself some punch. At Archie's hmmf she specifies. "Over there, Betty and Jughead. I knew they'd look good together." She sips some punch, eyes tracking them. "And he does look good in a suit." Archie scowls jealously, until Veronica laughs. "Of course, he's nothing to my Archiekins."
Soothed, he turns to look at the pair.
He blanches a little bit.
They do look good together.
Jughead's in a nice suit, no beanie, and his hair is styled nicely. A few long strands falling into his eyes, and the crisp whiteness of the shirt standing in start contrast to the skinny black tie. He's got a pink rose in his top pocket, of a shade that matches exactly with Betty's sleeveless pink dress. Her hair is down and over one shoulder, and she looks happier than Archie has seen in a long time.
Jughead's hand is on the small of her back, or over her shoulders, or their hands are twined, they're always physically touching at some point, and they keep kissing instead of dancing. Jughead's got this smitten look on his face that Archie's never seen before. It suits him. And Betty flusters beautifully under the attention.
"We totally have to double date," Veronica says, passing him some punch. Archie nods, happily.
"That sounds fun."
Besides, it'll be nice to have someone to talk to when Veronica goes off on one of her gucci-rants.