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should have worshipped her sooner

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Initially, Betty doesn’t really seem to be all that, just your average, cookie-cutter girl-next-door. Closer to a drawing of what an all-American teen girl should be than a real person. Even her faults, her glaringly obvious discomfort at how the boy she’d been with last night had been looking at Veronica, the inevitable self-pressure of perfectionism, they’re wholesome faults. To be expected, really. Veronica’s decided to remake herself into the kind of inherently good person that she’s never managed to be before, and here’s this perfect ideal to hold herself to in the form of Betty Cooper.

 

Thinking like that doesn’t even last the day.

 

She’s standing next to Betty, and she can see the blood smeared on her palm, the tremble of her lips, the faint gloss of impending tears. She can remember the taste of Betty’s lips on hers, the trust implicit in her eyes as Veronica leant in and stole a kiss. Her heart beats fast and loud, and without thinking through the long term consequences, without thinking at all really, she decides to annihilate Cheryl Blossom.

 

———

 

Veronica Lodge is many things, but above all else, she is self aware. Being openly bisexual in New York is very different to being openly bisexual in some small town her mother used to live in, made even smaller by the size and weight of the Lodge name these days. Before they leave, she lets herself think about it, about all the things that are going to change once they officially live in what google streetview tells her is basically a village. Not that everyone knowing all your business would be so different from downtown New York right now, she supposes. It’s the principle of the matter.

 

Before she arrives in Riverdale she thinks, it probably won’t even come up, and when was the last time you liked a girl anyway, and by about 4.40pm on her first Monday she thinks, way to jinx yourself, idiot. Betty blinks at her from the other side of the changing room, as she asks why Veronica would bother being nice to her, as they talk around the unspoken question: what do you want from me?

 

It’s a good question. Veronica doesn’t let herself want things that she won’t get, and it’s been proving a winning strategy so far, but Betty’s looking up at her and her eyelashes are so long, and her lips are so glossy, and her pigtail is so neat. She looks picture perfect. She looks like an ideal, not a person. Veronica wants to grab her hand again, reel her in, so she can feel Betty’s warmth, and humanity, and enjoy the bemused quirk of Betty’s brow every time she’s pulled tight against Veronica’s side by a linked arm.

 

She thinks about the hint of surprised pleasure in Betty’s eyes when she told Cheryl they’d be auditioning together. The genuine gratitude when she told Cheryl they were a pair.

 

Why are you being so nice to me?

 

Veronica Lodge knows better than to want something she can’t, won’t get. So she takes a breath, and doesn’t let herself want any more than this.

 

——

 

Plan A involves persuading Betty to make a move on her long term crush, which is just part and parcel of being a good friend. Getting herself accidentally invited on their date is truly not the aim. In fact, it kind of feels like seeing Betty all dressed up and finally making a move on the guy she is “totally endgame” with seems like the opposite of what she was aiming for. She was kind of hoping they’d go on a date, and she’d see them Monday, and over the weekend she could have gotten over this dumb, fleeting crush. Instead she finds herself primping far more than she ever had for the Met Ball, and trying pretty hard not to think about why.

 

She’s definitely going to have to get pretty drunk tonight, and then hope she doesn’t manage to say something really obvious and ruin this burgeoning friendship.

 

Veronica admires her reflection in the hallway mirror, carefully going over her lipstick one last time.

 

“You look gorgeous, honey,” says her mom, walking over to her and smiling at their joint reflection, “Trying to make a good impression on anyone in particular?” she asks, sly.

 

“Sure,” says Veronica, “Riverdale.”

 

Her mom laughs, and she looks so much younger when she’s smiling, thinks Veronica. “Fair enough. Knock them out.”

 

“I always do.”

 

She checks her reflection one last time, still perfect. Time to head out and meet Betty.

 

——

 

Archie Andrews is attractive enough, that’s true. But there’s no way he’s good enough for Betty, and there’s no way she wants to jeopardise her newfound friendship. It’s exactly why she walks into a closet with him, better her than Cheryl, right?

 

———

 

It’s kind of amazing to Veronica that even when she’s trying so hard she still manages to fuck things up. Betty had stormed off the other night, and Veronica’s not even sure if she knows that they kissed yet. God. This was so far from the plan.

 

She’d ended up spending all of last night calling contacts until she’s successfully persuaded a courier to bring her a dozen Magnolia Cupcakes by the morning. It’s 7.03, and she’s trying not to worry. She’s organised a flower delivery already today, and she just got off the phone with some very tired people at the nearest salon.

 

She clutches her mug of coffee, and tries not to think about all the unanswered texts she’s sent Betty. It’s probably kind of overkill, they only met a few days ago, there’s probably not even something there to salvage. Veronica knows this. But she’s still leaning against the kitchen counter, clutching her mug, and trying not to worry about the courier.

 

There’s no problem the right cupcake can’t solve, her mom used to say, and it’s been looping in her head since she left that goddamn closet. If she can’t get the cupcakes, then she can’t solve the problem. It’s not what Hermione meant, she knows it logically, but she can’t help. She just. This was her fresh new chance, and Betty was at the centre of that, and she’s already fucked it up. Typical fucking Lodge.

 

There’s a soft knock at the door, and she races over. It’s Smithers, holding a Magnolia Cupcakes box.

 

“Thank you," she says, taking it off him, “Thank you thank you thank you.”

 

“Good morning, Miss Veronica,” he smiles.

 

“Good morning!” she replies, and she already feels so much better. The cupcakes and flowers and the pedicures may have eaten a significant amount into what remains of her account after her father’s arrest, but it’s going to be worth it. It’s going to work. She’s going to fix things with Betty, and get her fresh start back on track. And then she’s going to go on a date with the nearest hot boy.

 

———

 

“You were right,” says Betty, and Veronica almost wishes she hadn’t been, because this means Cheryl must have done something terrible to Betty. Again.

 

———

 

They drink their milkshakes, and Veronica’s heart is so light she could fly.

 

“Do you want to try mine?” asks Betty, and Veronica instantly trades them, so Betty can have some chocolate.

 

“Looks kind of like it’s going to taste of vanilla,” teases Veronica, and Betty makes an affronted noise, and goes to take it back. She quickly takes a sip, and finds herself smiling. “Okay, really good vanilla, I’ll give you that. Really good.” She takes another sip, as Betty makes mock-outraged faces at her across the table.

 

“Easy, Ronnie,” laughs Archie, “Betty’s a bear for those vanilla shakes, and I’m not sure you could take her in a fight.”

 

“Or you wouldn’t want to,” says Jughead under his breath, and Veronica does her best to pretend not to have heard it.

 

“Fine,” she sighs, aggrieved, “We can trade back.”

 

But Betty’s grabbed the chocolate, and is sipping it happily, eyes closed.

 

“I’m good. I haven’t had the chocolate in years, I think I forgot how good it is.”

 

“Happy to help,” says Veronica, and this, she thinks, just this. This is good. This is enough. This is more than she ever thought she’d get, after her father’s arrest.

 

———

 

Chuck is hot, and seems sweet, and the fact that he’s distinctly not in her friendship group seems like a plus. It’d be nice to be able to date without worrying about all the ways it can go horribly wrong. She really can’t afford to courier any more cupcakes.

 

He suggests Pop’s, which seems to be everyone’s favourite of all three restaurants in town, and Veronica lets herself get excited. New York feels like it was worlds away, and she doesn’t think it’s so selfish to just want to have some fun.

 

And it truly is fun. Chuck is confident enough that the conversation never really lulls, the kind of gifted conversationalist that makes Veronica feel like they've got inside jokes already. She hasn't laughed this much in months.

 

Chuck was the new kid until Veronica arrived in Riverdale, even though he's been here for like two years or something now. Classic small town, she supposes. But it’s turning out pretty well for her, because he gives her the rundown on the ins and outs of Riverdale, with extra focus on things that the residents absolutely don’t seem to realise are weird – Veronica’s really looking forward to the annual autumnal decoration season, complete with a town bonfire. It’s not that she had much to leave behind in New York, it turned out, but she’s still been missing it. She feels slightly better seeing Chuck, eyes alight with amusement, cheekbones still sharp despite the dim lighting of the diner. He’s got good grades, and a big social circle, and he's exactly where he wants to be in the Riverdale High social order. He’s clearly thrived, come to love this town. Veronica’s not one for being inspired by anyone but herself, but it’s still nice to see.

 

Also, it probably helps that he never tries to probe her about Hiram.

 

Ever since the arrest, Veronica’s been nothing more than her parents’ daughter. In New York, she was Hiram’s child, and the sins of the father were certainly being pinned on her. She couldn’t walk through school corridors, hell she couldn’t walk through Manhattan without the weight of stares and curses. In Riverdale, she’s Hermione’s daughter, and really the prodigal child is supposed to get a nicer greeting than this, surely. There's the eternal weight of the Lodge family name, sure, but there’s also this long and intricate past of her mother’s, the nitty gritty of small town rivalries, except no one’s bothered to tell her the backstory.

 

Chuck doesn’t ask about any of it though, just tries to make Veronica laugh as much as he can. She doesn’t really feel like a Lodge, just a girl having fun on a date. It’s going well, and she feels relaxed and comfortable with him already. It’s nice. She bites another fry in half, and smiles at him bright and wide.

 

———

 

The first comment that Veronica sees on that goddamned instagram post reads “no gracias”. She’s going to burn this whole fucking town down to the ground if she has to.

 

———

 

Betty suggests getting ready separately, so at least one of them will definitely be able to greet Chuck, and Veronica finds herself agreeing. After seeing Betty so fired up this afternoon, so righteously indignant, Veronica thinks there’s a lot she’d agree to.

 

It’s kind of awkward, waiting alone by Ethel’s swimming pool for a boy she hates to show up. She’s kind of cold, and Ethel is uncomfortably excited by how this whole thing, and there’s a voice in the back of her head trying to warn her that this has the capacity to go very fucking wrong. In theory, they handcuff Chuck, he confesses, a curtain closes. In practice? If they piss him off, Veronica’s very aware that he’s about twice her size, which not really a big deal in a crowded and public place. Potentially a huge deal late at night in a private residence once he’s been uncuffed. Not to mention this is almost definitely not legal in a variety of different ways, and, like, this sounded like a good idea when Betty suggested it earlier, but now Veronica’s alone in a dark room, and feeling remarkably vulnerable in a bathing suit and cape combo. She looks good, for sure, but that’s not really helping her feel any less stressed about this.

 

There’s a knock, and no time to worry any more. She kind of wishes Betty were ready, that they could be a united front in this. Whatever. Showtime.

 

Chuck is both gratifyingly alarmed to see her, and gratifyingly dumb enough to not realise he’s walking head first into a trap. Still, Veronica’s skills as an actress are limited, and she instantly relaxes as she hears Betty enter the room. Then she stops. Thinking. Breathing. Everything.

 

Betty looks unreal.

 

It’s actively not fair, how good Betty looks. Not, thinks Veronica, that she doesn’t always look good, because she does, but this is a new and different kind of good. There’s a lot of skin to process. She’s wearing a balconette bra, and a dark wig, and bright lipstick and it’s just a lot to deal with. Betty says some truly terribad line about not being able to make it, and normally Veronica would be cycling through all the snarky comebacks she tease Betty with later this evening, but she’s still feeling kind of dazed. That was a hell of an entrance. It’s a lot easier to not crush on your hot friends when you don’t have their cleavage in a push-up balconette burned into your retinas.

 

Embarrassingly, Chuck gets it together before Veronica does. She can’t help judge him a bit less, because frankly if Betty Cooper ever dressed up for her, there isn’t a trap she wouldn’t walk into.

 

———

 

Veronica spent all of last night trying to work out how to broach this stupid topic, and she’s still not sure what to say, but she can’t just pretend like the plan went off perfectly. It’s been made very clear that Betty doesn’t want to talk about whatever it was. Disassociation? Fugue something? She’s pretty sure that multiple personalities don’t really work like that, but? Whatever, she’s definitely going to be googling it all anyway. First though, first she’s going to talk to Betty.

 

“Hey B,” she says, and she avoids linking arms with Betty, because she’s not sure how physical contact will go down right now.

 

“Wasn’t that amazing? A full on perp walk!” chirps Betty, ponytail bobbing with her enthusiasm, so diametrically opposed to the brunette sneering at Chuck as she boiled him last night.

 

“Yeah, your expose definitely did the job, Lois Lane.”

 

“Is that an upgrade or a downgrade from Nancy Drew?” asks Betty, and she takes Veronica’s arm in hers, pulling her towards their next class.

 

Veronica doesn’t answer immediately, too busy trying to work out how to bring the topic back around to what had happened, to Polly.

 

Betty seems to sense something’s wrong. She pulls them over to the side of the corridor, leans in a bit, “Are you feeling any better? What he did to you was aw–"

 

“It’s nothing about that.”

 

“Oh,” she says, and it’s so clear in her eyes that she knows exactly what it is about. “Oh I see. Look, V, I don’t know what to say. I can’t– I can’t do this right now, or right here. Or at all maybe.”

 

“I’m not saying you have to tell me anything,” says Veronica quickly, “Not if you don’t want to. But you know you can, right? If you do want to?”

 

They’re standing so close that their foreheads almost touch, looking directly at each other, and Betty doesn’t back down. There’s a beat, and Veronica feels so open, so raw. Like every fear, every worry, every insecurity she’s ever had is writ large on her face. Like Betty can read it all. The look in Betty’s eyes slowly softens, warms, and Veronica can feel tension easing away before she even says anything.

 

“Of course I know that, V. Of course I know.”

 

Betty takes her by the hand, and that’s how they walk to class.

 

———

 

“So,” says Kevin, sliding into the booth at Pop’s that Veronica’s been doing her homework in, “You’re not straight.”

 

“Took you long enough,” she replies without looking up, still working on her maths problems, “Jughead figured it out the first day I met him.”

 

“That’s Jughead for you. And, you know, you’re rocking that whole Ambiguously Bi Rich Bitch thing, didn’t necessarily mean you were actually bi.”

 

Veronica pauses, makes sure to catch Kevin’s eyes. “I am? A queer teen in small town America carefully penning themselves into a stereotype to make sure they’re a known entity? What would that be like?”

 

“Hah, point,” says Kevin, huffing a not-quite laugh. “So, be real, how much better was New York?”

 

“Well it definitely had more than one gay bar,” she says with a smirk, and Kevin sighs over exaggeratedly. “How was growing up in Riverdale?”

 

“You know that film from the other year? GBF? Yeah, no one got the punchline here. Not, you know, that we got the film here. There’s only the drive in.”

 

Veronica winces. “Thank god for Netflix?”

 

“Thank god for the whole damn internet,” he says, flagging down a waitress. “Can we get some cheesy fries please? Anything else for you, Ronnie? Okay, no that’s all. Thanks. So,” he looks at her pretty seriously as the waitress walks away, “I’m pretty sure Betty is straight. At the very least mostly straight.”

 

Ugh. It would be nice to think she was capable of maintaining any mystique at all. “Yeah, I figured. Are there any out girls in town?”

 

“Sure,” says Kevin, and she feels herself perk up, even as she registers the pitying smile on his face. “Josie and Melody are out, proud, and top of the running for any and all cutest couple competitions.”

 

Typical,” she complains.

 

“You know how many out guys there are?” he asks, and she raises her eyebrows in query. “Me. That’s it, end of list.”

 

“Ouch,” she says sympathetically, and he nods.

 

“So,” he says pointedly, “Betty.”

 

“I’m not, like, trying to befriend her so she’ll sleep with me,” says Veronica, “I’m going to be her friend no matter what, I’m just crushing on her, it’s fine, I’ll get over it.”

 

“Easy, tiger. I just meant you want to be careful. She’s kind of pretty oblivious, so I don’t think she’s going to notice, but still. It doesn’t sound fun.”

 

“If you have never managed to get a crush on a straight friend, or you have a technique for getting over it quickly then please, feel free to go on,” she says, not quite annoyed.

 

“Yeah okay,” says Kevin, “Commiserations, then.”

 

The cheesy fries arrive.

 

“I’m eating at least half of these, as payment for you making me talk about it,” declares Veronica, pushing her homework to the side. Kevin rolls his eyes but doesn’t disagree. “Okay, so fill me in on the non-Betty approved breakdowns of everyone at school.”

 

“God, finally,” says Kevin, “She can be bitchy, and don’t get me wrong, it’s incredible, but you really have to push for it.”

 

Veronica gives him a quicksilver smile. “Start with Moose.”

 

He laughs delightedly.

 

———

 

Betty’s going on a date, which is fine, would totally be fine, except she keeps insisting that it’s not a real date, which is laughable. An “information gathering exercise”, please.

 

“Surely she’s not even fooling herself with that one?” Veronica asks, mostly rhetorical.

 

“I don’t know,” says Jughead, “She’s very convincing. It seems not improbable that she could convince herself.”

 

“Despite literally calling it a date.”

 

“Despite literally calling it a date,” he agrees. “So how’s not crushing on her going?”

 

“For someone who is clearly above high school gossip, Juggie, you’re way too good at it,” she says dryly, because frankly it’s still somewhat embarrassing that she’d met Jughead for about twenty minutes before he’d muttered “Betty? Really?” to her in their booth at Pop’s.

 

“I’m above high school gossip?” he asks archly, “Who told you that? I’m literally writing a book on the town’s drama, surely that’s the pinnacle of gossip.”

 

Veronica can’t help her laughter, just as Jughead can’t help but look pleased that he caused it.

 

“Eh, the crush is ongoing and futile. I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough, you know how these things are.”

 

There’s a pause, and when she looks over at Jughead, he’s examining his hands, the kind of careful scrutiny that means you don’t want to make eye contact.

 

“Hey, woah, what’s up?”

 

“I don’t,” he says, quiet but sure.

 

“You don’t what?”

 

“I don’t know how these things go. I don’t really do crushes. Or even really squishes. Attraction of any kind.” He looks so uncertain, or, no. He looks certain of himself, but unsure of what’ll happen now, perhaps. He’s still looking at his hands.

 

God, Juggie, it’s a figure of speech. Call yourself a writer, honestly,” she declares flippantly, and smirks when he looks up startled. A smile slowly starts to take over his face, as he shakes his head ruefully. “C’mon,” Veronica declares, getting up and gathering her things, “You voluntarily shared personal information, milkshakes are on me.”

 

“You get a discount,” says Jughead.

 

“Yeah, girl, and I’m using it on you. Be grateful.”

 

———

 

When she gets to the office of the school paper, Betty’s staring absently at their murder board. Veronica leans in the doorway, just observing. When it’s been about four full minutes she clears her throat delicately. Betty startles, but settles as soon as she sees it’s Veronica.

 

“It’s over, we should be glad of that, right?”

 

“Glad is a pretty strong word,” she says.

 

“Yeah, that's fair.”

 

Betty cocks her head at Veronica, pats the desk next to her. As soon as Veronica joins her, she curls in, rests her head on Veronica's shoulder. Veronica’s arm curls around her immediately.

 

“This has been a really fucking shitty year,” says Betty in a small voice. The piece of paper reading ‘The Coopers’ is still central on the board. So is the picture they’d found of Polly and Jason smiling together.

 

“I’m not disagreeing with you on that one,” says Veronica, equally quiet, equally subdued. She doesn't look at the part of the board emblazoned with ‘Hiram Lodge’ or ‘Twilight Drive-In’.

 

Betty is warm, and smells faintly of jasmine. Her shampoo maybe. Jason's killer being in jail doesn't actually make the rest of this bearable. There’s still been too much loss. It just doesn’t balance out.

 

“I’m really glad you came here, V,” admits Betty softly.

 

Veronica pulls her even closer. Turns her head to press a kiss into Betty’s jasmine-scented hair. “Me too, B,” she says, murmuring the words against Betty’s head, “Me too.”

 

———

 

Summer in Riverdale is unlike anything she could have imagined. It’s truly unreal.

 

“I’m absolutely not wholesome enough for this,” she mocks, and Betty turns and starts walking backwards to pout at her.

 

“What on earth do you mean ‘not wholesome enough’?” she asks, and behind her Jughead chokes on a laugh.

 

“Betty, darling, I love you, you know this, but you’re dressed like a 1950s housewife. Possibly even 1940s. I don't think I’ve ever owned a sleeveless shirt, let alone a polka dot picnic basket. This is incredibly cookie-cutter, even for you, B."

 

“We’re nearly there,” says Archie, from where he's leading the group. He's laughing too, but he’s wearing pastel and he brought a guitar, so he can't talk.

 

“If the picnic basket is a problem, you don’t have to have any,” says Betty, sugar sweet and utterly cruel, “And besides, once we’re at the lake I’ll be in a bikini, which is distinctly less early twentieth century housewife.”

 

Veronica reminds herself for the fifth time that she actually chose to do this of her own free will.

 

“Yeah, Veronica,” mutters Kevin in an undertone, “She’ll be in a bikini, you don't have to worry!”

 

“Joaquin, can you shove your boyfriend for me?” she asks facetiously, before speeding up to catch up with Betty, “C’mon, don’t pout, I’m sure you made a wonderful picnic. Does it have little cucumber sandwiches cut into triangles? Does it have actual sugar cookies? Don't leave me in suspense.”

 

Betty laughs, light and carefree, and it warms Veronica far more than the dappled sunlight. Summer is looking up this year. The sky is blue, Betty’s smile is bright, and her friends have apparently thought up stupidly wholesome activities to last them all summer. They’ll spend the day at the lake, swimming and picnicking.  Ethel’s hosting a barbecue tomorrow, and Veronica thinks she can probably rope Betty into coming over to hers tonight to make ice lollies for it from pinterest recipes. It’s like living in a children’s book, or a drawing of summertime.

 

———

 

Cheryl doesn’t handle her birthday very well. It makes sense, of course, that she wouldn’t really be able to cope with turning seventeen. Veronica absolutely can’t even imagine. She’s older than Jason will ever be, and it’s so concrete. The party and copious amounts of alcohol make perfect sense. It doesn’t mean Veronica isn’t more than a little worried.

 

The whole year is invited, and almost everyone is milling around the back garden, where the Pussycats are playing a few demos. The night is warm, and there’s laughter and music in the air, and Veronica is more than a little distracted.

 

“What?” demands Kevin, and she looks up startled.

 

“What?” she asks in return, “Did I miss something?”

 

“You’ve been out of it all night, V,” says Betty, good-humoured. She sits next to Archie, who has an arm curled over her shoulders.

 

“And you missed the punchline of my hilarious anecdote,” says Kevin, pointedly.

 

“Though it must be said, ‘hilarious’ is a relative term,” interjects Jughead, and Archie starts to laugh at Kev’s affront.

 

“I’m gonna go look for Cheryl, I think,” says Veronica, “Wish her a happy birthday or whatever.” She gets up as she says it, makes sure to smile just the right degree of convincing.

 

“Rather you than me,” mutters one of them, and yeah they’re not wrong, exactly but. But this must be such a fucking horrible night for Cheryl, and Veronica’s never been able to let herself forget about the poison in Mrs. Blossom’s voice, or the feeling of being caught in a snake’s nest that one dinner, months and months ago.

 

Cheryl’s in the living room, playing Never Have I Ever, and she is way too drunk. She’s still smiling, of course, she’s always still smiling, but it looks so incredibly, obviously fake to Veronica, and she can’t help but think that Cheryl’s so-called friends should have noticed. Veronica’s pretty far from sober herself, but this isn’t her first birthday without her twin.

 

“Hey, Blossom,” she calls out, and Cheryl instantly looks over, “You’re wanted elsewhere. I’m afraid I’m going to have to steal the birthday girl from you,” she says, addressing the circle of people Cheryl was playing with, as she hoists a pliant Cheryl to her feet, “Have fun!”

 

They walk arm in arm to the kitchen, and Cheryl leans against the breakfast bar to look at Veronica.

 

“And what if I hadn’t wanted to come with you?” she asks, and she seems a bit more like herself already.

 

“I’m confident you would have let me know,” says Veronica dryly, and Cheryl inclines her head in amusement.

 

“So what’s up?” asks Cheryl. This is a balancing act Veronica’s not quite sure how to handle, but she thinks of that night before the memorial, and Cheryl’s soft, tearful smile, and she has to try.

 

“Do you wanna just. Go somewhere quiet and talk?”

 

Cheryl goes to reply and stops herself about three times, from what Veronica can tell. “I– Yeah, actually, that would be good.”

 

They grab a bottle of red wine, and two glasses, and use one of the back sets of stairs to go up to her bedroom without being seen.

 

“What do you want to talk about?” asks Veronica, because it seems safer to ask first than to assume.

 

“You’ve travelled right? Further than here, anyway. Further than Riverdale. Tell me about somewhere else?” It’s supposed to be a demand, Veronica thinks, but it comes across pleading.

 

“Yeah,” she says, “I can do that.” They sit at the top of the bed, leaning against the headboard, and drinking red wine, and Veronica tells tales of times gone by, and the excitement of arriving in a whole new country.

 

She’s not entirely sure who kisses who first. It just sort of happens. Soon they’re sprawled across the bed, Cheryl leaning over her, Veronica's dress hiked up her legs and her hands underneath Cheryl’s top. Cheryl tastes mostly like red wine, and her lips are soft, and her weight feels good pressing into Veronica. Maybe ten minutes pass like this, maybe an hour or more, just kissing and kissing.

 

They stop to catch a breath, and normally this is the point where Veronica would be giggly and breathless, tipsily charming, ensuring that she’s in charge of this party hook-up. Instead, she feels incredibly disconnected, very aware that she's not crying in that way that means tears aren’t implausible. She looks at Cheryl leaning over her, hair a mess from Veronica running her hands through it, eyes glassy with tears she isn't shedding.

 

“It’s Betty, right?” asks Cheryl, soft like she’s aware it’s a question that could spoil their truce. “It’s been Betty since day one, hasn’t it?”

 

Veronica closes her eyes, and tries so hard to ignore the sting of tears, sublimate it.

 

“Oh Ronnie,” says Cheryl, and then she curls forward, tucking her head into Veronica’s neck, turning their embrace into a real hug. Veronica pulls Cheryl close, and they hug, platonic bar their state of disarray. “I really miss him,” confesses Cheryl, and they both pretend that Cheryl’s tears aren’t dripping onto Veronica’s collarbone. “Just like. So fucking much.”

 

“I know,” soothes Veronica, voice low, a hand gently rubbing Cheryl’s back, “I know you do.”

 

When Cheryl cries herself out and falls asleep, Veronica tucks her into bed, and goes to find the others.

 

“You were gone a while,” says Betty immediately, while Veronica’s still walking over.

 

“Put Cheryl to bed,” she says, “I’m pretty tired myself, think I’m gonna head off.”

 

“Your lipstick’s entirely gone,” points out Kevin dryly.

 

“Thanks for volunteering to be my lift,” replies Veronica, and he smiles ruefully at her, even as he grabs his jacket and starts to say his goodbyes.

 

———

 

They’ve made plans for a bonfire this evening, and Betty divided everyone into separate taskforces. Veronica and Archie are on supplies, which essentially means marshmallows and other junk food.

 

Veronica holds up two different brands of marshmallows for Archie to judge between. He considers it seriously before throwing them both into basket.

 

“Oh, Ronnie, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” he says, as he grabs another bag for good measure.

 

“Ominous,” teases Veronica, leading the way to the chocolate.

 

“So I’ve been writing this love song,” says Archie, he catches her raised eyebrows, “No, shut up, I’m not asking you out.”

 

“You nearly worried me, Andrews.”

 

“Shut up,” he says again, smiling, “It’s just, I’ve realised some of the lyrics in it are something you said to me once, and I wanted to check you’d be okay with that? That you wouldn’t feel weird about it or whatever?”

 

“What lyrics?” Veronica wracks her brain, but she can’t think of anything, so she keeps her eyes on the chocolate selection.

 

“‘A train to the rest of my life’,” says Archie, “And I know you meant that platonically, or whatever, but. Is that okay?”

 

Veronica stares at the chocolates, and bites down the semi-hysterical laugh she can feel bubbling up.

 

“Ronnie?” asks Archie, hand gentle on her shoulder, all concern.

 

She looks him in the eye, tilts her head slightly. “I expect royalties if it’s a hit.”

 

Archie’s smile takes up his whole face.

 

“Deal.”

 

———

 

The bonfire is burning well, and the stars are starting to come out. Archie plays his guitar, on the other side of the fire, Josie and Pussycats harmonising to every tune they play. Kevin and Joaquin sit curled up against one another, hand in hand, talking to Jughead and Cheryl respectively. Veronica sits cross-legged, and slightly colder than she would have thought she could be given the fire just in front of her.

 

“Rookie error, not bringing a jacket,” says Betty, as she settles herself down beside Veronica. “Or even a cape.” She brought a blanket, which she spreads over their legs.

 

“You love my capes,” replies Veronica, instantly tucking herself into Betty’s side to leach off her heat.

 

“I plead the fifth,” smiles Betty, leaning into Veronica. “This was a good idea, right?”

 

“This was a great idea.”

 

“Not too cliché?” teases Betty, and she laughs as Veronica rolls her eyes.

 

“I’ve been here almost a year now, I’m expecting cliché.”

 

Betty takes her hand, and pretends to wince at how cold it is, but holding her hand even tighter.

 

“Do we have to move into the open flames for you to heat up?” she asks.

 

“No,” says Veronica, resting her head on Betty’s shoulder, “I’m good here.”

 

“Okay,” says Betty, “Here’s good.”

 

The hand holding hers squeezes lightly.

 

———

 

The day before school is due to start again, Betty arrives at her place at like six in the morning.

 

Smithers had knocked on her bedroom door, and when Veronica had stumbled to him, she’d been sure at first that he’d been mistaken. She’d grabbed a dressing gown, and headed out into the rest of the flat, and sure enough, Betty’s sitting on her couch, fully dressed and alarmingly awake.

 

“What’s going on? Are you okay?” asks Veronica immediately, heading over to Betty as she tries to wipe the sleep from her eyes.

 

“Everything’s fine,” says Betty quickly, standing up just in time to steady Veronica. “No one looks like this when they’ve just woken up,” she mutters, and Veronica’s not really sure how to react to that. Not even fully sure that’s a thing that happened.

 

“It’s so early,” she says pointedly, hoping to shame Betty.

 

Betty just smiles fondly instead. “It’s the last day before school,” she says earnestly, like Veronica doesn’t know this.

 

“I’m aware.”

 

“I thought we could do a road trip! Just you and me,” says Betty, and she sounds so enthusiastic, and maybe it’s because she’s not awake enough to have her guard up, but Veronica can feel herself smiling crookedly back at Betty.

 

“Okay, sounds good,” she says, “Go make me coffee, and I’ll get dressed.”

 

She gets changed pretty quickly, does her make up in record time. Checks herself in the mirror. The last day of summer, and Betty just wants to spend it with her. She tries, somewhat futilely, to tone down her smile.

 

She swans back into the living room, and Betty’s making small talk with Smithers.

 

“Where’s my coffee? You don’t actually expect me to move any more without coffee, do you?” she asks, only half teasing.

 

Betty passes her a thermos without looking away from her conversation with Smithers, and Veronica can’t help her sigh of relief as she drinks some. She glances up, and Betty’s watching her. Smithers looks kind of amused, and Veronica decides not to ask. It’s the last day of summer, why bother ask things she might not want the answer to?

 

“I presume, Miss Veronica, you’d like me to inform your mother of where you’ve gone?” prompts Smithers.

 

“Oh, that would be wonderful, thank you,” she says, then, turning to Betty, “Where are we going?”

 

“I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” declares Betty, but she’s weirdly bad at lying if it’s not for the sake of journalistic endeavours.

 

“I’ll tell her you’re with Miss Betty, and you’ve brought your phone?” says Smithers, and he’s definitely amused now.

 

“Sounds perfect,” says Veronica, and offers her arm to Betty. “Have a good day!” she calls, as they head out of the apartment. The sun’s already shining, and she’s glad she thought to bring sunglasses.

 

“What’s the actual plan?” asks Veronica, as they get in the car.

 

“I thought I’d just drive, and we’d see where we end up,” says Betty, entirely unconvincingly, “Do you want to put some music on?”

 

Veronica gives her just a long enough look to be clear that she knows something’s up, but lets it go, rifling through the CDs to pick out the summer mix they’d made almost two months ago.

 

She ends up dozing off in the passenger seat, as Betty sings along quietly to something.

 

———

 

It’s a perfect day.

 

They stop at a zoo first, and it’s early enough that they’ve missed the hoards of children. They get ice creams and wander around taking far too many photos, both of the animals and of each other posing. Betty in front of the chinchillas becomes her new phone background, and she doesn’t care how much the others will mock her when they get home.

 

They drive on, and stop for brunch in a town that’s like the hip equivalent of Riverdale. It has a farmers market. It’s not something that should be mindblowing to an ex-New York native, a cafe that does quinoa porridge and avocado on everything, and yet.

 

It’s nearly two when Veronica realises what the plan was. The sea glitters ahead, bright and beckoning. They’d been singing along loudly to one of the CDs, and as they crest a hill and the ocean comes in view, Veronica goes silent.

 

“Oh,” she says, “I– Betty.”

 

Betty takes a hand off the wheel to catch hers, squeeze it for a moment, before returning hers to the wheel.

 

It still takes nearly an hour for them to hit the actual coastline. They park on a hill, and sit at the very top of it, looking out over the sea.

 

“This is the best day,” says Veronica quietly. The only other sound is that of waves lapping below them, and the occasional bird cry.

 

“That was kind of the plan,” admits Betty, and she looks over at Veronica. “I can’t believe it’s been a year since I met you.”

 

“You’ve still got a few hours to go,” jokes Veronica. It’s so much. Betty sitting here, eyes intense. A whole day scheduled around making her happy. Betty, beautiful as ever, practically glowing in the sunlight, sitting here for her. With her.

 

“I love you, you know,” says Betty, like it’s some great declaration.

 

“Yeah, I know, I love you too,” Veronica replies, fond.

 

Betty rolls her eyes. “You know, you’re not as intuitive as you think you are.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean, Girl Wonder?” she asks teasingly, because, sure, like Veronica’s the one who claims to be intuitive. She’s never been one to play detective.

 

Betty moves slowly, carefully. Her hand reaches up to Veronica’s face, rests gently on her jaw. She slowly guides Veronica closer, her eyes flitting between Veronica’s eyes and lips, a faint trace of worry in her brow.

 

“Oh,” breathes Veronica, “Call yourself a detective.” She leans in, and kisses Betty. It’s soft and sweet, and she can feel a smile overtaking her face.

 

“You do that,” says Betty softly, “I call myself an investigative journalist.”

 

Veronica laughs, and goes to kiss her again.