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“Blushing is the most peculiar and most human of all expressions”
-charles darwin

 

It’s because he sees her shivering.

There is no overthinking in the gesture; no deeper meaning than the simple fact that he doesn’t want her to be cold.

In the middle of lunch, Jughead shrugs his fleece-laced denim jacket off and stretches his arms out to drape it over Betty’s shivering shoulders.

There isn’t a hidden motive—hidden motives aren’t his style.

So why—why—does the slight surprised expression and delicate blush produced from the innocent gesture make his stomach twist with something not entirely unpleasant?

His hand gives an awkward pat to her shoulder as her fingers grip the lapels, a shy smile spreading across her face like the pretty pink flush on her cheeks.

“Thank you, Jughead.” Betty says softly, pushing her arms through the sleeves and tugging the jacket tight around her.

Jughead Jones clears his throat and turns back to his food before giving a narrowed look to the stares their friends are giving him. His shoulders stiffen in defense. “What?”

Archie’s brows are furrowed, Kevin’s are raised, and Veronica’s are arched in intrigue and amusement. The raven-haired girl leans onto the table and points her fork at the blonde. “Jean material suits you, Betty dear. Who’d have thought Ponyboy here was such a gentleman.”

Bristling from the term ‘gentleman’, Jughead gives a narrowed look to her before taking a large bite of his chicken sandwich and replying with a full mouth, “I prefer the term ‘rogue’.”

“The only ‘rogue’ thing about you are your table manners.” She quips in disgust, taking a bite of her cobb salad as he gives a sarcastic smile.

Before anyone else can reply, their table’s approached by none other than Cheryl Blossom.

Jughead doesn’t listen as the redhead chatters on about the river vixens. He draws into his own thoughts before feeling Betty’s hand rest over his elbow, directing his gaze to her smiling face.

“Walk me home today, Juggie?” she asks, looking up at him with deep blue eyes he’s sure hold more secrets than the ocean itself.

Strangely, the soft tone of her voice causes a tightness in his throat. He wants to tell her no. He plans on ditching his last class to head to Pop’s for their discounted happy hour. But he swears she’s put him under some type of spell because the moment he opens his mouth, the words ‘yeah, sure’ tumble from his lips.

Jughead ditches his last period anyway, hiding out in the locker room to write on his laptop before he shuts it and sets out to wait for Betty five minutes before the bell rings.

Arms folded over his chest, he leans against the wall opposite her classroom. In the short minutes passed, Jughead kicks his foot up to the wall behind him and finds himself subconsciously thinking about the look Betty had given him earlier that day. He thinks about the shy smile she’d directed his way; Why had she smiled that way toward him?

Betty was never shy around him.

Why did his simple act of kindness induce a blush?

Jughead scoffs to himself as a pensive expression comes to his face. This is what he gets for doing nice things—he gets a blushing Betty and an aggravatingly smug Veronica.

When the bell rings, Jughead finds himself searching for the familiar blonde ponytail in the sea of students swarming out the door to enjoy their weekend. He doesn’t expect his chest to tighten when he finds it, her eyes connecting with his.

She still has his jacket on, and somehow that makes the fluttering feeling inside him amplify. The thought makes him frown.

“Hey,” Betty greets cheerfully, walking up to him and tilting her head. “You ready to head out?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” Jughead nods, pushing himself from the wall and walking alongside the blonde as they leave the school. His hands tuck themselves into his pockets as his eyes stare ahead with a bored expression.

“You know,” Betty begins, breaking the comfortable silence the further they are from the school. “after lunch, Archie offered me his jacket.”

The way she says this makes Jughead’s head turn to give her a furrowed look. Betty passing up a chance to wear Archie’s letterman jacket? “And you didn’t take the offer?” he raises a brow. “You feeling alright, Betts?”

“Ha ha,” Betty replies dryly, a smile still on her face and she nudges her shoulder with his. Her cheery disposition is infectious, as he feels his own smile of amusement tug at his lips.

“I already had a jacket. Besides,” She continues with a shrug and a teasing smile. “not many girls can say they’ve been offered the coat of the dark and mysterious Jughead Jones.”

“You’re hilarious.” He quips dryly, fighting a chuckle.

“Seriously though, thank you, Jug.” she tells him, tucking a flyaway behind her ear as his gaze follows the action with far too much interest. Had Betty’s hair always looked this soft?

Snapping from his strange thought, Jughead shrugs his shoulders with forced nonchalance. “It’s just a jacket, Betts.”

“It was a sweet gesture.” Betty presses, leaning her head forward to catch his gaze with a grateful grin.

Jughead snorts, pushing down the rush of warmth her words arouse in his chest. “First I’m a ‘gentleman’, now I’m ‘sweet’?”

“Sorry, should I be calling you a cad?” she jokes with a giggle, casting her gaze downward to their shoes—his boots scuffed and dark, stained with dirt and oil; her pink flats with gold stitching. “Miscreant, maybe?”

Jughead gives her an amused glance. “Better.”

When they approach her house, Betty turns to him, biting her lip in a way that has his eyes linger on the action longer than normally necessary. Blinking, his gaze snaps back up to her eyes and he’s surprised and annoyed when, once again, he notices the rosy bloom of her blushing cheeks. Surprised because why had he let his attention linger to the simple gesture of her biting her lip? Annoyed because once again, Betty Cooper’s disarmed his cool and collected façade of emotions.

But he also feels… pleased?

A tiny swell of pride at being the one to elicit such a response from her with just the simplest act of his stare stirs a foreign sense of pleasure in Jughead, and he doesn’t know why.

“Here you go,” Betty shrugs off the jacket, stepping closer to him to repeat his earlier actions of draping the material over him. Her hands wipe unseen dirt from his shoulders until they rest just above his chest, pressing lightly against the fabric and branding her touch through three layers of clothing.

Jughead watches, enthralled, at the way Betty’s breath hitches when he brings his own hands up to catch her own. He’s not sure where this surge of confidence comes from in pushing their normal levels of comfortability to foreign territory, but he’d be lying if he said he disliked it.

Betty’s hands are warm in his, not soft like one would think. They’re slightly calloused in a way that speaks of the hard work she humbly never complains about. It’s nice though, feeling her hand in his, he thinks. Sure, they held hands as children—sticky with ice cream or covered in dirt while being pulled up into his treehouse, but there’s something different in the gesture now. Without thinking, Jughead’s thumb drags across her palm before he lowers her hands back to her side.

Stepping back, he slides his arms through the sleeves and is immediately overwhelmed with the scent of buttercream frosting and something unique entirely. His jacket is saturated with Betty’s scent, and again, he feels a peculiar sort of pleasing rush from the fact.

“Try not to be so forgetful tomorrow, Cooper.” Jughead jokes with the clearing of his throat, breaking whatever strange silence that had been hanging over them.

Betty’s smile—the one he’s used to—friendly and amused, spreads across her face as she stands there in front of him and holds her hand up in ‘boy scout’ salute. “I’ll try.”

Silence follows as they stare at one another before Jughead takes a step backward, queuing their time to part ways.

“See you tomorrow.” He tells her, burying his hands into his coat pockets and making to leave before Betty steps closer, stilling him. Before he can even think to bristle in shock, her lips meet the corner of his mouth in a quick kiss before she’s walking up the steps to her home, waving at him.

“Thank you, Juggie. See you tomorrow.”

When her front door closes, Jughead’s still immobilized.

The corner of his mouth burns as hard as the warmth in his chest. His heart’s hammering and he swallows the knot in his throat with confusion before turning and walking down the steps of her home.

It isn’t until he’s halfway down the road that he brings a hand up to grip the lapel of his jacket and pulling it up to take a tentative sniff.

Thoughts of buttercream frosting, blushing cheeks and soft lips follow him all the way to Pop Tate’s.