Betty tugs on her sweater pulling her sleeves out of her jacket and over her hands, she knocks again, impatiently as the wind blows cold drops of rain in her direction, she can hear rustling through the door as Jughead swings it open,
“Betty, hey, what’s up?” he looks worse than she does, his eyes heavy like he had just woken up, and he’s wearing the same clothes that he was wearing the night before (with the minor exception of his pants that had been replaced by a plaid pyjama bottom) and yet he’s smiling from ear to ear, the dim smell of pancakes tells her why.
“Oh, hi,” she tried to tame the disappointment in her face, “Is Archie home?”
“Yeah, he’s just upstairs, come on in,” he pulls her into the house by the strap of her bag and she can’t help but let out a quiet laugh at the giddy way Jughead was acting, “Sorry I almost let you get pneumonia out there,” he says already heading back into the kitchen.
“It’s… fine,” she smiles weakly at him, and starts making her way up the stairs, each step she takes making her stomach twist like cloth being wrung dry, she felt like she was climbing Everest, almost breathless by the time she got to the top and her stomach tied in an intricate knot.
She repeats the lines in her head that she had rehearsed, like a child anxiously awaiting to audition for a school play as she walked towards Archie’s room. His door barely open, she pauses before going inside, questioning whether she should knock- there wasn’t much of Archie that she hadn’t already seen. She lightly taps on the door, slowly opening it; Archie had hung up his dad’s old punching bag again some time in between her last visit, he stood in the centre of his room with headphones blasting in his ears, his shirt tossed on the bed, beating the inanimate object like he was trying to get the truth out of it.
The towel that hung on his shoulder now dampened by his sweat; he stops his punch mid-throw as he sees a blurry image of Betty standing at his door in his peripheral vision. She was wearing a yellow raincoat over her dark jeans and worn-out combat boots, she stood meekly at the door, her hands tucked in her coat pocket. His strong arms, limp at the sight of her in his bedroom, his racing heartbeat, now palpitating as he lowers his headphones down to his neck.
“Hey,” her voice unexpectedly hoarse, she didn’t intend for it to be hardly a whisper.
“Hi,” he mutters, mirroring her voice, quiet.
Archie scrambles with the wires on his headphones as he pulls them off his head entirely and throws it onto the floor, “You’re soaked, Betty” his expression bursting with worry, ‘maybe if you had opened the door sooner’ she thinks but all she can get out of herself is a shrug, the hair framing her face wet and clinging on to her cheeks, her numb fingers growing accustomed to the indoor heat again, she wiggles them slightly inside her coat pocket to get the blood flow back.
Archie would normally kiss her; to say hello, goodbye and whenever he could, really. He would take up every opportunity he would get to kiss her. Maybe it’s minuscule to Betty, compared to the other things they’ve done, he thinks, but for him, embracing her was an incomparable thrill. However, it isn’t a normal day, and the look in Betty’s eyes tells him that.
Archie pulls his shirt over his head, sitting on the edge of his bed, his eyes glued to her, neither of them has said anything for what feels like an eternity.
Betty gently places her crossbody bag on the ground, she sighs, adjusting her hair back into place as she stands up positioning herself a few steps away from the door, she needed a quick exit strategy, she thinks, fast enough that she wouldn’t have time to think it over,
“I was going to call this morning but–”
“I’m going back to Quantico.” Betty cuts him off, “I leave tonight.”
Archie slips out of the end of his seat, his limbs immobilised as he tries to process Betty’s words, trying to keep his balance as she takes away the ground from his feet.
“What about Polly, and the school and-“
“They’re sending real agents to look into Polly’s disappearance, so I’m finally able to go home.”
Home, the word stung Archie as it came out of Betty’s mouth. The old saying ‘home is where the heart is’ rang in Archie’s ears, if not Riverdale, he thought at least he would be her home like she is his.
They stand on opposite ends of his childhood bedroom, the faint sound of rain hitting the pavement outside, Betty breathes deeply as she stares at a spec on the floor next to Archie’s feet, unable to muster up the courage to look him in the eyes as he questions her,
“What’s going on Betty,” his eyes searching for hers, “everything was fine just yesterday and now-”
Betty’s sharp look stops him mid-sentence and he stares back at her, his dark eyes pleading like they’re playing a game of tug of war and he’s losing. The night before felt like a lucid dream for Archie, his emotions high and senseless.
Jughead looms over him with a smile plastered on his face, ‘Well, Sarge, thank you for that brilliant performance,’ Archie’s head buried in his palms.
He holds out a glass of bourbon to his friend, clutching on to his own with his other hand, ‘Here, drink this,’ and Archie does as he’s ordered, wincing at the taste as it went down his throat, he was more of a beer kind of guy.
‘I mean, there was practically a standing ovation from Kevin!’ Jughead laughs as Archie stares back at him, unamused, searing over his confrontation with Chad,
‘He’s just- such an asshole!’
‘I get it, you couldn’t help yourself, it’s your precious Ronnie’
Jughead sits beside him already finished with his drink, his taunts leaving an even worse taste on Archie’s tongue, he can hear the insinuation in Jughead’s tone.
‘It’s not like that, I just worry about her,’ Archie replies, placing his drink on the ground between them, he looks up at the couch opposite the one he’s sitting on, Kevin and Fangs are making out sloppily and the only remnants of Betty is her empty wine glass sloped against her seat.
‘Did it look like that?’ He scopes the room for Betty, suddenly feeling the urge to explain himself, she’s by the bar with Toni and they’re laughing- or yawning, he’s too drunk to tell.
‘Like what?’ Jughead gets up, grinning, his eyes squinting from his sarcasm, ‘You have a fun night Andrews, go get your keys jingled!’ he exclaimed kneeling down and grabbing the drink he had gotten for Archie off the ground before walking off in Tabitha’s direction. His eyes followed his friend as he walked away, and found Veronica staring back at him.
Betty’s fingers curl up into a ball, her nails digging into her palms as she snaps back at him,
“Now what, Archie?”
She looks around the room almost to stall for time, every inch of the space drenched with his scent, she looks past him at a framed picture of them on his bedside table, her thoughts going thousands of miles every millisecond trying to conjure up any excuse to end this, to protect herself.
She remembers the day the photograph was taken, Mr Andrews had taken them to a car show in Greendale, Archie put his arm around her shoulder as they posed for a picture with the winning car, if she closes her eyes, she can feel the summer air against her skin and the smell of hot dogs, she can see the proud smile on Mr Andrews’ face as he snapped the picture. Everything was so different then, before... she doesn’t let herself finish the thought, she didn’t want to remember any of it, it was too painful.
The pause between her sentence feels like hours for Archie, his face red now, her cautious eyes meet his desperate gaze. He can feel a hollow pit in his stomach, he knew this look, the way she looked at him many times before, like the string that pulls them together has become a noose around her neck again.
Betty tries to clear her throat, which was closing in on itself, “Whatever this is, or was, it’s just over.”
The words echo around the room like phantoms from their past haunting them, her mouth shuts as fast as it had opened in regret, her eyes shamefully reverting to the spec on the ground.
Archie wondered if his gulp was audible to Betty a few feet away.
Betty wastes no time, gravity wasn’t going to let the tears welling up in her eyes to stay there, she turns her back to him, grabbing her bag off the ground and heading for the door when Archie’s voice behind her stops her in her tracks,
“So, you’re just leaving then?” He scoffs, causing her defences to arm themselves, “I don’t know why I thought it would be different this time.”
Her body spun to face him as she bites back, “I don’t know why you would think that either, Archie,”
Her voice trembling with emotion but her face cold, her tears locked in place, she wanted to hurt him as he had hurt her,
“It’s never different with us, with you and this godforsaken town, you know that.”
He steps towards her unwillingly, his body wanting to comfort her even as she yelled at him. Archie knew Betty, the real Betty, he knew if he held her, all would be right in the world.
“How could I expect-” She struggles to find her words, still feeling the lingering hangover she woke up with that morning, she feels a cold stream down her cheek,
“This means nothing to me!”
He stops now halfway between where he stood and where she is, his eyes narrow on her,
“Nothing?” His voice is soft and vulnerable but Betty doesn’t let herself budge,
“No, nothing, so you’re free to do whatever or whoev-”
This time Archie doesn’t let her finish,
His eyes analysing every inch of her face, his voice low,
“This is about Veronica?”
Betty’s face tenses up, the air in her lungs frozen still, she considers how she’ll react for a moment, stung by the name that she hadn’t even mentioned,
‘Archie really can’t shake her, huh Betty?’
Kevin’s head leaning back on the couch as he looks at her, trying to contain his excitement from all the chaos Cheryl had ensued. Betty looks at Archie, sitting on the couch parallel to the one she’s in; Jughead standing in front of him with a drink in his hand, Betty can’t make out what they’re saying, her eyes drift to Veronica having a heated discussion with her husband in the other corner of the room, her head follows suit smirking back at Kevin,
‘How long will it be ‘till she leaves him for him do you reckon?’
Her eyes widen at the suggestion, Veronica loved Chadwick, right? Yet the thought of her leaving him for Archie didn’t seem absurd to Betty, she clasps her fingers tightly around her wine glass as she pours the rest of her drink down in one go like a shot.
‘I give them two more weeks,’ Fangs chimes in from beside Kevin, looking equally as enthused by the drama ‘I mean c’mon, if Archie was all manly renovating my house, I’d be all over him too’ Kevin’s eyes retort back at him and they begin to flirtatiously bicker between them, but Betty couldn’t hear a single thing they were saying besides distant mentions of Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, she makes her way towards the bar where Toni is quietly sat on a stool swivelling an olive around her glass of what was clearly water,
‘Rough night?’ Toni’s eyes seem empathetic, but Betty could only see pity, the way people looked at her after Archie rejected her when they were only kids, the way they looked at her when her father was arrested for murder or when her mother joined a cult; it was always her in this position. The longer she stayed in Riverdale the more things reverted to the status quo. She was tired, tired of being the victim, tired of being the second choice, and tired of being pitied.
She lets out the air through her nose roughly and begins to chuckle, “This is about me,” the muscles in her face fighting back against her forced smile, “I have a life, a career, and I’m overplaying play-pretend here with you.” She delivered the line like it was the punchline to a joke she had rehearsed all night to tell, calculated with perfect timing.
Archie stood still for a moment trying to read her smug demeanour like he was trying to solve a puzzle that was missing some pieces. He could feel her venom down his throat, flooding his insides but he couldn’t let it end this way, the next few steps he takes are enough for him to crowd her space, she steps back knocking her elbow on a bookshelf lightly and in an attempt to steady herself she backs into his door, trapping herself, she tells herself to turn around and walk away but her body is involuntarily motionless, paralyzed. The streetlights shine into the room, like a mirror ball reflecting off of the droplets on the window, the window she looked into her whole life. Archie steps forward once more, his face consumed in the shadows, he raises his hand towards her face and Betty can’t bear to watch as she feels his calloused fingertips wipe her wet cheek.
“I wasn’t pretending, Betty.”
His voice penetrating through her hard exterior, her eyes that repelled his now couldn’t look away, Betty reaches blindly behind her for the doorknob, she had to get out now, or she wouldn’t ever leave, her mind screams at her to get out, but she is stuck in a trance, his hand gently placed above her head, his weight resting evenly against the door, her mouth open breathing him in. Archie’s hand cups the side of her face as he stares deeply into her eyes- their bodies often communicate without words, and most of the time it was enough for them to show their love with the look in their eyes, but Betty’s vision was now blurred, the tears in her eyes a blindfold, they gather in her eyes as deep as oceans as she swallows hard.
“I saw you, Archie, last night” she could barely get the words out, her vocal cords failing her.
“Betty, I swear, the thing with Chad was just me trying to look out for Ronnie, our friend.” He says, his eyes wettened by the sight of Betty on the verge of tears.
“No,” her eyes locked on his, “That’s not what I’m talking about Archie,” the anger inside of her returning and now morphing into injury, “I saw you, both.”
The room was still, Tabitha and Jughead were giggling as they headed for the front door, Toni had left a while ago, murmurs could be heard from corners of the room as Betty swivelled around in her bar stool, she couldn’t tell if it was the liqueur or if the room was spinning with her, she had lost count of how much she had drunk by her sixth drink. Betty clumsily gets up, there has to be a toilet somewhere in this bajillion dollar mansion she laughs to herself as she downs another drink, water this time. Elizabeth Cooper was many things, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to be dehydrated. She stumbles out of the room and into the hallway, it was narrow and dark, her hand safely leaning against the wall as she slowly made her way down the path before her, she yanked on the doorknob of one of the doors, locked. She continues until she hears a faint sound of shuffling, her mind tells itself to shut up, as she walks toward the noise- the hallway leads to the courtyard, Betty stood at its entrance watching from afar as Veronica’s fingers ran through Archie’s hair, she feels all the contents of her stomach rise into her throat, she turns back into the hallway, her heart going faster than she can breathe, her feet now moving on its own accord, running, and the next thing she knew she was out of the door. Her face drenched in her tears underneath the pale moonlight, Reggie watched as she drove face-first into one of Cheryl’s bushes, as she emptied out her stomach.
Betty’s head shot up, ‘Reg… how long have you been here?’ she said breathlessly.
Reggie snickers at her question, ‘I’ve been sat here for the past half hour,’ he motions toward his car ‘waiting to sober up enough,’
Betty pats on her skirt and her dishevelled hair hangs over her face,
‘Are… are you alright?’
‘Well, I just made a fool of myself for the second time tonight, so…’
Reggie gets up from the stoop and gives out his hand for Betty to grab,
‘Come on, I’ll take you home Cooper.’
She nods, firmly taking his hand.
His silence is enough confirmation for Betty, her heart steeped with betrayal, her face shifts, the pain in her eyes contrasts the smirk on her face, her guard is up again.
As Archie begins to speak, she pushes past him, making her way through the door,
Her mind scolding her, how could you let yourself get here, Betty? how could you be so fucking stupid?
“Betty, wait,” Archie’s voice high and despaired, “Please!” he follows her down the steps.
Betty throws the front door open, her hand clutching tightly to the strap on her bag, she bites the insides of her cheek, to keep herself from responding to Archie’s cries. Her body, finally responding to her commands, marches itself out of the house and into the pouring rain. The sky is dark, and the clouds are painted with streaks of purple as lightning strikes upon the town of Riverdale. Archie, on her trail, steps outside, the rain cascading over his unprotected skin. Betty feels Archie’s strong grip around her arm, she turns to face him,
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Archie!” She shouts at him, undoing his hold on her arm, “I am not a fifteen-year-old waiting for you to love me back anymore,”
Her voice travels through the air, loud enough to cause hurricanes. His navy-blue shirt clinging to his lean body, wet, his mouth agape, as he watched her unravel in the rain.
Archie watched as Chadwick stormed out of Thornhill from the hallway he stood in, in his drunken state it had taken all his strength to not punch him square in the face, his eyes lingered on the door as it was slammed shut by Chad.
‘You didn’t have to do that,’ Veronica looks up at Archie, placing her hand on his forearm, ‘but, thank you, really.’
‘You deserve better than him, you know that right.’
Veronica raises her brow, she smiles at him, the kind of smile that she didn’t hand out to just anyone, ‘I need some fresh air… care to join me, Archiekins?’
Archie looks back at Betty, still stationed at the bar with Toni, and a drink in her hand, he hesitates before succumbing to Veronica’s puppy eyes.
‘Sure, I definitely need to freshen up if I want to drive home tonight.’ he remarks, and Veronica laughs.
They sit in the courtyard, the stars above them, in the cold March air. They sit in the serenity of the night; all Archie could think about is how he just wanted the night to end, drive home with his girl and sleep. He frequently would catch himself refer to Betty as his, wishful thinking he thought to himself.
‘Do you remember our first kiss?’ Veronica’s voice coming out of the nowhere in the dark almost startles Archie, ‘It was right here- well, a few hundred feet from here but you get the gist.’ Her tone playful but her eyes serious as she assessed his expression.
‘Yeah, God, that night was-’
‘The start of us.’ Veronica interjects, she grabs his hand and pulls him up, his body wilted and unresisting. They stood facing each other,
‘Just, listen,’ Veronica insists, Archie’s palms sweating as she raises her hand towards his face, her fingers run through his hair, pulling gently his thick locks, ‘Everything was so good back then, with you and me.’
For a moment, her words linger in the air, any lack of sobriety from Archie was now gone, Veronica’s words dragging him back into conscience. The homecoming dance, that was the night of their first kiss, the night he let his insecurities stand in the way of something real, the night he didn’t sleep thinking about the look on Betty’s face as she walked back into her house, the night he had his first heartbreak. Finally, he breaks the silence,
‘Do you remember that night?’ his fingers around her wrist, Archie gently grips her hand off of him, he cups her hand with both of his, his eyes caring, ‘Because when I look back on it all I remember is…’
‘Betty.’ She says, almost defeatedly as she watches his thumb stroke the back of her hand.
‘It was a mistake then, Veronica,’ her eyes jolt back at his ‘Just like it would be tonight.’ Archie’s words pour out of him like it wasn’t just Veronica that needed to hear it out loud.
‘It’s always going to be Betty, isn’t it?’
‘I’m sorry,’ He pulls her in tightly, his head resting on her head, ‘I will always love you, Ron, but-’ he feels her nod her head against his chest, as they stand there in the calm of the night,
‘I know Archiekins, I know.’
The rain hit the ground like bullets like Zeus himself shot it at them.
“Betty, nothing happened between me and Veronica last night.” She can feel herself want to roll her eyes at him, unconvinced, after all, history always repeats itself, but she can’t look away,
“Right,” Her voice breaking into a million pieces, “So I imagined it all, then?”
“No,” his eyes intensely locked onto hers, he holds her face as tears fall from his eyes, undiscernible from the drops of rain, “Betty, you’re the one I want.”
“You’re all I ever wanted,” she lifts her hand, holding on to his wrists, as his hand travel to either side of her head, his thumbs gently caressing her skin,
“You, Betty, nobody else.”
Their lips clash into one another forcefully, the streetlights shining on their silhouette, they kiss as if their life depended on it like they had dosed themselves with poison and they were each other’s antidote. Their face’s part for a moment, Archie smiles as the hard rain hits his face, “I love you, Betty Cooper.”
The words Betty had longed for, dreamt of, were finally coming out of his mouth.
A bright light shone from behind Betty from the driveway, Glen rolled down his window, looking at Archie clinging on to Betty for dear life, his eyes stuck on her ignoring the large vehicle behind them. Betty turns her face towards him as he calls out to her, freeing herself of Archie's hold.
She turned back to face Archie, "You love me?" her lips curled into a smile, her face beamed from the excitement his words brought her.
"With every fibre of my being, Betty,"
his smile grew wide as their foreheads pressed against each other,
"For as long as I've known what love is, I've loved you,"
Betty's eyes filling with tears,
"You, Betty, it has always been you."
Her head tucked into his neck, she breathed in his scent, Archie wrapped his arms around her and the world fell quiet for a moment. It was just them, in their own little world, the way it is supposed to be.
Betty looks up, staring deep into his eyes, "I love you, Arch."