Its always been tough being the glue between them, but had been a job that Archie had never minded having. Even though Betty and Jughead were about as different as you could get when they were kids, they had both always had one common goal, to protect Archie.
So even though Betty had no idea what alcohol was until she was twelve years old and Jughead had never seen the inside of a sushi restaurant in his entire life, they still managed to enjoy one another.
Then they entered high school and things changed. Not in a bad way in Archie’s opinion, the idea that something was binding his two oldest friends together that was stronger then himself was nice, even if it did mean that there were some inside jokes that he didn’t understand or experiences that Archie didn’t get to share.
But then one night during their senior year, Archie’s phone rang, Jughead’s name glowing brightly on the screen.
“Jug? What…What time is it?”
“Late, early, I don’t know! Listen, Arch you need to call Betty.”
“What? Why, is she okay?”
“I don’t…Look Archie, we broke up, okay? Its sucks, its absolute crap, but we both knew it had to happen and…I just need you to take care of Betty okay? ‘Cause I know that you can’t be there for both of us and she is gonna need you more then I do.”
Then the connection had broken off and Archie was left in the dark of his room, eyes bleary from sleep and legs tangled in his sheets.
Jughead had been right, just like he always seemed to be. Betty wasn’t okay, not even a little. She refused to do anything if Archie wasn’t there, refused to even eat. It got to be so bad that Mrs. Cooper actually asked his dad if Archie would stay at their house for awhile, just so Betty could regain some sense of her former self.
His dad had agreed and so Archie had moved into the Coopers, where, after a few weeks of downright anguish, Betty slowly started down the road of recovery, with Archie by her side every step of the way.
He didn’t hear a lot from Jughead, except for the occasional text to reassure himself that Jughead was still alive. They never talked about Betty, just video games or about the homework that they were working on. He didn’t even see him at school, he was to busy chaperoning Betty from class to class and thanking the heavens that Betty and Jughead didn’t share any classes.
The first day of spring break finally came and Archie drove Betty and her mom to the airport. They were going to visit Polly and the twins, soak up as much sun as possible and hopefully find Betty’s smile.
“Thank you so much Archie.” Betty whispers, wrapping her arms around him.
“You’ve done so much for me and I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t had you.”
“Its not a problem Betty. The best thanks that you can give me is to come back home from San Fransisco with a smile and some epic tourist style photos.”
“I will Arch, I promise and-“
“Elizabeth thats our flight being called! Goodbye for now Archibald, I hope you have a safe drive home. Come on Betty!”
And so with one last half-hearted wave, Betty walked away, holding tightly to her mom with one hand, to her suitcase with the other. Archie watched their plane fly away, until it had completely disappeared. Then, pulling his phone out of his pocket and speed walking to his car in the parking lot, he called a number that he hadn’t called in a long time.
“Hey Jughead. You free right now?”
Jughead was free and so with a bit more speed then was strictly legal, Archie headed to his trailer. Archie was excited to see him, if a touch nervous. He had seen the affects of the breakup from Betty first hand but he had no clue as to how Jughead was fairing through all of this.
The grassy patch that the Jones’ trailer sat on was very slightly overgrown, grass blades leave wet marks an Archie’s boots from last nights rain and nearing the door Archie hears the last sound that he had been expecting to hear; laughter.
He opens the door cautiously, pocking his head inside and feels his nose wrinkle slightly as the scent of wildflowers hits it.
“Archie! Hey man.” calls out Jughead, looking up from where he’s sitting on the couch, his computer in his lap. “Come on in.”
Archie responds, closing the door behind him and furrowing his brow as he glances around the living room. About seven different bouquets sit on the coffee table and more unbound groups of flowers are laying haphazardly all over the floor.
Veronica’s voice pierces through Archie’s concentration and turning he watches her pull the bathroom door closed behind her, brushing her black hair out of her face with her perfectly painted nails.
“Veronica…What are you doing here?”
“Wait, you can see her too? And here I was thinking that my house had been possessed by a overdressed wood-nymph who mission it was to see how much pollen my nose could handle before I started to sneeze!”
“Shut up Jughead.” Veronica replies, squeezing past Archie to sit back down among the flowers.
“To answer your question Archie, I’m here because my mom’s florist ordered too many flowers for an event that my mom is having and to save these specimens of natures beauty I had to promise to get them out of the Pembrooke, post haste.”
“And the only place you could bring them was here?” Archie asks, sinking down to sit next Jughead on the low couch.
“Well I could have brought them to the speakeasy but I thought that if I couldn’t convince that grumpy pants,” pointing a flower stem at Jughead “to go out and enjoy the outdoors, I might as well bring the outdoors to him! Plus I have a bet on with Kevin that I can get a picture of Jughead wearing a flower crown.”
Jughead’s fingers, which up till now had been tapping rapidly on his computer keys, halted and he lifted his eyes to Veronica’s glowing face.
“And what exactly are the spoils of this bet?”
“Twenty-five dollars and a promise that Kevin will stop trying to look over my shoulder for answers when we have a pop quiz in English class. Why?”
“What were you thinking of spending this cash prize on?”
She lifts her shoulders carelessly, continuing to snip thorns off of the pale pink rose that she’s holding.
“New napkin holders for La Bonne Nuit? I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it. I mostly just want Kevin to stop trying to use me to cheat.”
Jughead doesn’t say anything for a minute, considering something, and then says,
“You can have your picture, but your twenty-five dollar prize goes towards a dinner for us at Pops. And you have to go get me a soda from the fridge.”
“Are you serious?!”
Veronica’s tone is incredulous and Jughead just nods sagely.
“Never again will I doubt you Jughead Jones!” she cries, scrambling to her feet in a very un-Veronica way, asking,
“Do you want anything Archie?”
“Nah, I’m good Ronnie.”
She disappears into the kitchen with a nod and Archie takes the opportunity to ask Jughead in a quiet whisper,
“Are you doing okay Jug?”
Jughead glances to the doorway to the kitchen and then looks back at Archie with a slightly grim smile.
“Yeah, I am. I mean, it wasn’t easy at first but its been a few months now and I’m ready for my next chapter, you now what I mean?”
“Yeah, I know.”
They both turn away from one another as Veronica re-enters the room, beaming softly at both of them, an off brand bottle of soda held loosely in her hand.
“You gonna make Arch wear a flower crown too Veronica?” Jughead asks, hand outstretched.
“As tempting as the sight of both of you in flower crowns would be I’m going to have to say no to that one.” she responds, handing the soda to him “Unless you really want one Archie.”
Archie shakes his head emphatically in the negative, both Jughead and Veronica laugh, and Archie joins in. Because its been so long since he laughed, and he kinda’ misses it.
“Now I have a special vision for this crown of yours Jughead,” Veronica says, scooping different colored flowers into her arms. “and I think that you’re going to like it.”
“Anything involving me taking off my hat for someone makes the, ‘Don’t Like’ list Ronnie.”
Veronica straightens, glancing over at Jughead and muttering something thats too quiet for Archie to make out. Evidently Jughead can though, his expression turning into an embarrassed scowl at her words. Veronica smiles again at Jughead’s reaction and walks over to the couch, dropping the flowers on the coffee table and kneeling next to Jughead’s slumped form.
“I know what makes your list Forsythe, which is why I’m going to turn your crown beanie into a flower crown beanie!”
“This dinner at Pops better have multiple servings of french fries, because this is starting to compete to be the new worst moment of my life.”
“Oh, you know you love it Jones!”
Veronica’s words are purely playful, but something about them catches Archie’s attention. Because they’re too playful; her words, the way that Jughead closes his eyes even though Veronica is so close to him, how Veronica is straddling Jughead’s right leg so she can stick the carefully chosen flowers into the fold of his beanie, and how when Veronica takes Jughead’s soda from his hand he opens his eyes and watches her mouth as she takes a sip.
Its subtle enough that he might be imagining things, after all, if Veronica is talking she’s most likely flirting and Jughead can be as observant as a brick wall when he chooses to be, be Archie knows that theres something more, something dark brewing under the surface.
Something tension filled and long-lasting, something that Archie would be lying if he said that he hadn’t felt it before when it came to Veronica and Jughead.
He thinks about Betty, beautiful, broken Betty, whose finally feeling better after so long and how if Veronica and Jughead were to actually acknowledge the underlying something she would be thrown back into heartache.
But what could Archie do? Because what if he were to say something to Jughead, or to Veronica, would it just exasperate the situation? Would they continue to ignore things if no-one ever brought their attention to it? Or would it happen naturally even if Archie didn’t warn them against it.
A laugh breaks through Archie’s thoughts and he’s brought back to the present moment, a moment were Jughead and Veronica are simply two friends who are a tiny bit closer, (or a whole lot, Archie thinks eyes drawn to Veronica’s legs pressed against Jugheads,) and having a good time together, just like regular teenagers.
Veronica must notice Archie’s face change and looks over Jughead’s head; (that she holding the back of, forcing him to look down at their legs so she can finish putting flowers in the back of his hat,) and frowns at him, her expression concerned.
“Are you feeling okay Archikins?”
Now would be the moment for Archie to say something, he knows it, and knows just what would happen. Veronica’s fingers would drop from Jughead’s hair and she would rise unsteadily to her feet and Jughead would look at the floor, face flushed and horrified at what Archie was insinuating. Archie would say it and be cruel and Betty would be safe.
But it would be cruel.
So Archie just shakes his head and tries his best to smile naturally and says,
“I’m fine Ronnie. You guys don’t need to worry.”
And if Archie has anything to do with it they never will.