Strong, Chapter 1: First Impressions
I’m so happy to be here, writing another multi chapter fic for you lovely people.
So, without further ado:
This is completely AU. No Jason murder, no events of S1. Jughead is a born and raised South-Sider, he knows no such thing as an Archie, Veronica or Betty. (Not for long!) He does know fellow South-Sider, Cheryl though ;)
God, I’m so excited to write these characters. I really wanted to write JB, and Gladys also. You may have some questions after the first chapter, but hold on, they shall be answered.
*DISCLAIMER* I know absolutely nothing of the American school system, so please just take it with a grain of salt as it is more than likely not accurate. I’m not American, hence ‘Mum’. Although I’ve read so many fics with 'Mom’ I almost slipped up a couple times! Ha.
Also edited myself so sorry for any mistakes!!
Also posting this from mobile so sorry for the no read more break, and anything else that could potentially go wrong with this shitty app.
Aaaaand I think that’s all! Enjoy, buggies. ❤️
<b>Summary:<\b><i>Betty Cooper swore she only signed up to tutor a young girl from South Side High, and definitely not for what followed.
And Jughead Jones didn’t sign up for anything.
It was sunny out.
And Betty thought the temperature was high enough to warrant the black denim high waisted shorts she had changed into, paired with a simple white tank top she tucked in. As she turned herself in front of her bedroom mirror, she spared a thought to how her Mother would disapprove. <i>'Far too much skin, Elizabeth.’ </i>A smirk grew on her face. Well, she wasn’t home from work in time to scorn her choice of clothing today. And in a last minute act of rebellion Betty didn’t even grab a cardigan as she popped her feet into a pair of converse, tightened her ponytail, and left the house.
Her phone started to buzz in her back pocket. She reached for it as she continued her journey to Pops. It was nearly August and the warmer weather was coming to an end. Which meant that Summer Break was also, and Betty had put her name forward for a “Big Sister” volunteer programme at a school on the other side of town, Southside High. She was hoping this is what the phone call was about. It was basically after school tutoring for any student who was put forward, Betty had done it last year with a different young girl and she was looking really looking forward to it again. Regardless of <i>'how good it looks on a college application’ </i>, in her Mothers words.
Not that it mattered. Betty already had early acceptance to the Medill school of Journalism at Northwestern, starting in the Spring Semester. Chicago was far enough for Betty to gain some independence, but not far enough that she couldn’t visit often.
“Hello, Elizabeth Cooper speaking.” She answered, always polite, always the full name if the number was unknown.
“Hi, Elizabeth? This is Gladys Jones. I’m ringing in regards to the Big Sister programme at South Side High. How are you?” The voice through the phone sounded maternal, and younger than Betty had expected.
“This is she, but Betty is fine. I’m well, thank you Mrs Jones. I’m glad to be hearing from you.” And she was, it was genuine. Betty loved to offer a hand to any student who wanted to better themselves.
“Well, Betty, I’m glad to be calling. I was shown a few profiles from some of the volunteers, and yours stood out to me the most. You seem to have a wide range of curricular, extra and otherwise.” Betty smiled on the other end of the phone, she did look awfully good on paper. “And I was hoping, if you haven’t already been snatched up of course, that you would buddy up with my daughter."
"I would love too, Mrs Jones, thank you for considering me.” She smiled while checking the road to cross.
“Of course. Would you like to come over tomorrow and meet myself and JB? Say around 4pm? I will be home from work then"
"Yes, definitely, I’ll see you both then. I look forward too it.” Betty replied.
“As do I, Betty. I’ll send you through our address, and I’ll see you then. Thanks again."
She couldn’t wipe the smile from her face after the phone call had ended, and it still resided there as she walked through the front door at Pops, the ding of the bell alerting her arrival to her best friends.
"There she is, my own personal ray of sunshine. I took the liberty of ordering your usual for you.” Veronica nodded at the vanilla milkshake that was waiting for Betty as she slide into their usual booth opposite her and Archie. She smiled at Veronica in thanks. “And what, or who, has gotten into you to make you look so happy, huh?"
"V, honestly.” She joked, rolling her eyes. “I actually just got off the phone with the Mother of a Southside High student about the Big Sister programme. She wants to meet me tomorrow.” She explained, taking a sip of her shake.
“Oh that’s cool, Betty.” Archie chimed in, smiling across the booth at Betty. “I remember how much you enjoyed that last year."
"Thanks, Arch.” She returned his smile and gave a thought back to other things he probably didn’t remember from last year. Or chose not too. Like her unrequited feelings of what she thought was love towards him, but turned out to just be a silly childish obsession gone on too long. As soon as she had seen Archie with Veronica, she was simply happy for the both of them. There was no jealousy, and Betty found relief in finally letting go of that Andrews fantasy. Besides, Veronica was such a permanent fixture in Bettys own day to day life now that she would not have it any other way.
Even if that meant being the third wheel more often than not when there was no one else to act as a buffer.
“Well, that’s less risque than I was hoping. But, you are the true star of Riverdale after all, Betty Cooper. What will this town do without you?” Veronica was only half joking. “What will I do without you!” She reached across the table to take Betty’s hand in her own and gave it a squeeze.
“Chicago really isn’t that far from NY, V. We will see each other all the time, I promise.” Betty squeezed back in return.
“Oh, I will make sure of it. Daddy’s jet will be getting so much use it won’t know what hit it.” Archie sniggered at how pretentious she had sounded, and Betty couldn’t help but join in. Veronica waved her hand in dismissal and rolled her eyes at her boyfriend. “Oh Archie, please, don’t act as though you haven’t been begging me to take you on your first flight."
Now Betty was laughing in Archie’s direction, the look on his face one of a boyfriend who just got shut down by his own, entitled girlfriend. The sound of their laughing was cut off by the ding of the bell above the door again, Archie watching the group who just walked in over Betty’s shoulder.
"Those Serpent wannabe kids do hang out here a lot lately.” His eyes were trained on the leather jackets of the group as they made their way to the back corner booth. “I wish they would fuck off, they give me the creeps.” Betty shot him a dirty look.
“Jeez, Arch, louder for those in the back please.” But the curiously had gotten the better of Betty as she glanced quickly over her shoulder into the back corner of the diner. It was the same group as always, 3 boys and the red headed girl. One of the boys, Betty had noticed, never seemed to be without his grey beanie, detailed to look like a crown. It stood out against the harsh of his leather jacket, and she wondered how the two fit together.
“They might be scum but those jackets make them super hot, right Betty?” Veronica asked, watching the group with hungry eyes.
“They aren’t scum, V.” Was all Betty would reply, she refused to admit that there was something about the leather that did make them seem more attractive. Unattainably so. The attitude that seemed to come with the jacket probably helped the cause. They looked miserable, all the time, Betty thought as she looked back toward her friends. Especially the one with the beanie. She wondered if it was part of the act.
“Say, Archiekins, do you think if I got you a leather jacket like that, you would swap it out for you letterman? Just for a night or two, just for me?” Veronica made eyes at her boyfriend, the way she held the straw in her mouth more than enough to imply exactly what she meant.
“Only if you wear one to match, and nothing else." He winked.
"Okay, guys, ew!” Betty pulled a face, covering her ears with her hands. This was the kind of thing that made her resent being a third wheel. She could handle watching them try and eat each other’s faces off, but sex talk? No thanks. She didn’t get paid enough for that. “There’s a minor present."
Archie threw his arm around Veronica’s shoulder as they laughed, pulling her closer to him. "You’ll get there, Betty.” Archie joked. Betty just rolled her eyes at the both of them and quickly finished her milkshake.
“Well, there won’t be any leather jackets, that’s for sure.” She shimmied her way down the bench to exit the booth. “And on that note, I’m going home. I need to get some more reading done in advance for school, seeing as I’ll have just less time when the new term starts up with this tutoring."
"B, you just got here! You bore.” Veronica sighed, her mouth shaped in an exaggerated pout. To anyone else it would seem condescending, but not to Betty. She knew Veronica well enough to know she always meant well.
“Bye guys, I’ll text you later, V.” She climbed from the booth and walked backward toward the door, waving at her friends. Just as she turned back she walked into something hard. And leather. It was the chest of one of the serpent group, one of the beanie less boys. “Shit, sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” She offered the boy a forgiving smile. He wasn’t much taller than Betty, his jet black hair quiffed back from his face.
“That’s okay, darlin’.” He looked her up and down, his tongue darting out to wet his lips. “I’ll watch for you instead."
"Oh Joaquin, please.” The red head rolled her eyes, but was watching Betty with a look she couldn’t quite grasp. Her lips were blood red, matching her hair, and her arms were crossed right across her chest. And even though she was shorter than Betty, the look she was giving made her feel small. “We all know she’s not your type."
Betty faked a laugh, but she could feel the colour creeping into her cheeks. And she figured you could see it, at least the rest of the group who were stood behind this guy definitely could. She gave him another smile before getting out of there as fast as she could without running. She could feel all their eyes burning into the back of her head.
It was 3.30 the next afternoon, and Betty was yet again stood in front of her bedroom mirror. But this time she was dressed just how her mother approves. Dark blue jeans, and a pastel pink sweater with a white collar.
"Elizabeth, downstairs quickly! You don’t want to be late. Punctuation is key!” Betty rolled her eyes at her Mother, but did as she was told. With one more tight tug of her pony, she slipped her feet into a pair of black ballet flats and hurried down the stairs. Alice Cooper, her overbearing, ever concerned, painfully punctual Mother was already waiting for her at the front door. She was tapping her foot, and giving Betty a look that she was all too familiar with.
“Sorry, Mum.” she murmured as she slipped past her out the front door, avoiding her gaze. As she walked to the car, she could hear her Mother muttering as she followed.
“It’s not just you that would look bad, Elizabeth. It would also fall back on us, your parents.” Her tone was condescending, and Betty was all too familiar with the words that fell from her Mothers tongue. “Would you want to disappoint us like that? Like your sister?” Betty could feel her fingers curling into her palm, her nails itching to break skin. She shook it off, stretching her fingers before opening the door and climbing into the car.
“Mum, it only takes 15 minutes to drive to South Side. We have plenty of time.” Betty crossed her arms over her chest, purposely looking straight ahead to stare at the garage door. Alice sighed as she sat in the drivers seat, angling her body to face Betty and tilting her head in concern.
“Are you taking your medication, Elizabeth?” There was that tone again, always with that tone. If she actually paid any attention at all to her daughter, she may have noticed that Betty hadn’t been taking any of her medication in weeks. Months, for that matter. Betty would hold the pills under her tongue until she had opportune moment to spit them out again. With everything that had happened with Polly, both of her parents had been rather distant lately. But that didn’t mean Betty wasn’t still nagged at every minute they were around. She continued to ignore Alice, averting her eyes to stare out at the front garden through the car window. “Answer me, Elizabeth.”
“Yes, Mother.” Betty finally answered through gritted teeth. “Twice a day every day.” She heard her Mum sigh beside her.
“We just want the best for you, sweetie. We want you to be your best.” She was being genuine, but that didn’t make it any easier for Betty to swallow. It was never about what she wanted. It was just about how good she could make her parents look. Alice reached out her hand to rest on the side of Betty’s arm, an attempt at being sincere. Betty turned to her Mother, a fake smile plastered on her mouth.
“Thanks, Mum. But we need to leave.” She nodded to the clock on the dashboard that now showed the time as 3.35pm. “Punctuation is key!” She mocked. Now it was Alice’s turn to roll her eyes as she turned in her seat and started the engine. They were backed out of the drive and on their way before Alice spoke again.
“Look, Betty. I know sometimes we are hard on you. But, but after Polly, can you blame us?” <i>Can you blame her?</i> Betty thought. No wonder she threw it all in and ran half way across the world. Polly had needed her freedom, she wanted to make her own life decisions, and Betty was starting to understand that more every day. “We gave your sister everything. She had every option she could have wanted, and yet she threw it all back on our faces.” Alice’s voice had started to falter, and Betty knew talking about Polly made her upset.
“Mum, I’m not Polly. Please don’t get upset.” She glanced in her Mothers direction. “I’m just nervous, okay?” Which wasn’t a complete lie. She needed to make a good impression today, although that wasn’t an entirely new concept. She had been taught that first impressions were everything. Alice looked at Betty in her peripheral and offered a light smile that didn’t touch her eyes.
“You’ll do great, Betty. You always do. Just remember, chin up. Don’t slack.” Betty unfolded her arms in favour of wringing her hands together. They had driven over the rail bridge that separated the North and South sides of Riverdale, which meant they would be arriving to the Jones’ shortly. Betty could feel her hands slick with sweat, but she tried to push away her anxious thoughts. She had done this before, and as long as the girl wasn’t a complete nightmare she knew she could handle it. Betty thrived off of helping others.
“It’s this next left, Mum.” Betty directed Alice down the right street, eyes squinting to read the numbers on the letterboxes. “It’s number 44 so it’s on my side.” The neighbourhood was nice, it looked as though the street could blend in just fine on the other side of the tracks.
“These houses are much tidier than where I dropped you last year. Thank god." Alice Cooper, the queen of laying judgment. She pulled into the driveway once they had reached the right house. Alice turned to Betty in her seat once again, reaching out her hand to dust off Betty’s shoulder. "Now, do well. And call me when you need me or your Father to pick you up.”
“I could get the bus, Mum. It’s just down the road an -”
“God, no. I don’t want you walking around here on your own. If anything comes up, I’ll ask Archie to get you.” Alice smiled a small smile at her daughter.
“Okay, thanks Mum. I’ll call you later.” Betty offered a smile in return , opened the car door and climbed out. She knew her Mother would wait until she was in the front door before she left, so Betty took in the house quickly as she walked to the door. It was lovely, and looked well kept. There was a red Mazda CX3 in the drive, which was a sight in itself. Obviously this family had money. Betty took a deep breath before raising her fist and knocking on the door.
The woman who answered the door was younger than Betty was expecting, yet again. Or maybe she just looked that way. Gladys Jones was of a similar height to Betty, her black hair fell just below her shoulders. Her blue eyes were striking.
“Betty? Hi, please, come in.” Gladys pulled the door open wide, holding her arm out to welcome her in. Betty stepped foot through the front door into the kitchen, which was open plan with the living room. Everything was white and bright, and there was a young girl sat at the island in the kitchen. The girl, with hair longer than her Mothers but the same exact colour, smiled a dazzling smile at Betty.
“This is JB, and I’m Gladys.” The older woman says, moving around to stand behind her daughter, her hands grasping thr girls shoulders. “Welcome. Can I get you a drink of something?"
"A water would be lovely, thanks.” Betty moved around the island and perched on the stool next to JB. She smiled down at the young girl, and she noticed that her eyes were the same deep sea blue as her Mothers. She smiles a thanks at Gladys as she puts the glass in front of Betty. “Hi, JB. I’m Elizabeth, but everyone calls me Betty. Is JB a nickname?” The girl offered Betty a shy smile. She must be around 13, Betty thought.
“It stands for Jellybean.” She answered, ducking her head a little. Betty looked up at Gladys, who just shrugged her shoulders and laughed. “Which is still a nickname, anyway.”
“Her Dad fought a hard case, and she won’t tell you her real one unless she trusts you with her life.” Gladys smiled, and Betty noticed the lines at the corner of her eyes. She was beautiful, but she looked tired. And not tired like she didn’t have enough sleep the night before, but more like she had been exhausted for a long time. Betty commended herself on how she could read people. “Well, I’m going to go and sort out some washing, how about you two get to know each other some more.” She ruffled JB’s hair as she walked passed them, leaving the kitchen into the laundry attached.
“You know,” Betty nudged JB’s shoulder with her own, “I’m going to make it my goal to get your real name out of you. I’ll prove you can trust me, JB.” She offered the young girl a warm smile, that was returned ten fold. “So, tell me, whats your favourite subject in school?"
"Science.” Jellybeans face lit up, and then it was hard for Betty to get a word in. Not that she minded. She told her all about her school, her friends, how her 14th birthday was coming up and she didn’t know if she was allowed to invite boys to her house just yet but one of her best friends was a boy. She told her how her teachers always compared her to her brother and she hated it.
“Your brother?” Betty asked, her interest peaked. She had gotten the impression that it was just JB and Gladys, but then again, this house was awfully big for just the two of them. Betty was trying to pick up as much information she could without directly asking, rather waiting for JB to when she felt comfortable. "Does he go to school with you?“
"He’s in senior year, same as you I think?” Betty nodded at JB. “He’s a shit head in school, and all the teachers think I’ll be a chip off the old block."
"Oh, well that’s not fair.” Betty was taken a back a little by how easy JB had sworn, but she had to remind herself that just because she still couldn’t say the word crap in her parents house without some alarm going off didn’t mean it was the same for everyone else. Jellybean just shrugged.
“It’s okay, he’s not a shit head to me.” She smiled, spinning herself side to side on her stool. “He’s my big brother, he’s the best.” Betty felt warmth in her chest, the way that JB felt towards her brother was the same that she felt with Polly.
“That’s nice, JB.”
“Him and Mum don’t get along that well, but..” Jellybean trailed off, catching herself before she spilled all their Jones family secrets to this girl she has just met. Sure, Betty was nice and seemed understanding, but JB liked her and didn’t want to scare her away. This house was a good facade for how much they were a South Side family, through and through.
“I know what thats like.” Betty nudged her shoulder, realising that JB didn’t want to carry on with that sentance just yet. “My Sister and Parents definitely do not see eye to eye.” Jellybean gave Betty a small smile in gratitude, and was about to ask about her sister when she heard the distinct rumbling of a motorbike coming into the street.
“Speak of the devil.” Jellybean joked. Betty turned her head toward the window, watching a dark figure park up in the driveway on a motorbike.
“What’s your brothers name, dare I ask?” Was all Betty had time to ask before he made his way through the front door.
“Jughead.” Jellybean answered Betty, and announced his arrive at the same time. As the boy took off his helmet, Betty was shocked to realise it was the beanie wearing serpent from Pops. As if in time with her thoughts, Jughead reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled the hat onto his head. He walked around the behind Betty to Jellybean, ruffling her hair on his way to the fridge.
“Hey, Kid. Where’s Mum?” He asked, not really taking any notice of Betty. She couldn’t help but feel slightly flustered, especially after how much she floundered after the interaction she had with him and the rest of his gang yesterday.
“Doing laundry, you’re safe.” She joked, smiling at her brother.
“Good.” He opened the milk and drank straight from the carton, something Betty found kind of gross. He raised his eyes brows in her direction, a question to his sister.
“Oh, this is Betty. She’s my tutor for the new term, for after school.” Jellybean turned to look at Betty sat beside her. “This is Jughead.” Betty smiled at him.
“Another nickname, I’m presuming?” God, why did she ask that. Like it was any of her business. She could feel the flush rising in her cheeks. Jughead just gave her a sly smile while he screwed the lid back on the milk. This was the most she had gotten to look at him properly, not just from the far corner of the diner. He was good looking, that she wouldn’t deny. He had a sharp jaw, and those blue eyes that seemed to be a Jones trait. She also couldn’t help but notice his hands, the way they grasped the bottle.
“It’s far better than the alternative, trust me.” He shut the fridge door, making to pick up his helmet on his way to the hall that on the opposite side of the kitchen. “I’ve seen you
around, at Pops.” Betty was slightly shocked, she didn’t really think she was someone Jughead would notice. His eyes were trained on her now, and she suddenly hated the fact that she blushes so easily.
“Yeah, I’m there a lot with my friends.” She smiled at him, hoping her face wasn’t as red as it felt.
“That’s it, you’re always third wheeling with that ginger kid and his rich girlfriend, right?” He snarked, a smirk on his face. Betty dropped her smile, his comment kind of pissed her off. She knew she was a third wheel, she didn’t need others pointing it out for her.
“Didn’t realise I was that obvious.” She shot back, a sharp tone to her voice.
“Sometimes, to me.” He still had a smirk on his face, and Betty couldn’t help but find herself enjoying his face. Her heart was beating a little faster, had he really noticed her? He looked her up and down before he spoke again. “When you’ve got those legs out.” He winked, before turning around and walking into the hall.
“Jug! Can you not!” Jellybean called out to her brother, shaking her head in shame. She shot an apologetic look to Betty. “Sorry, told you he was a shit head.”
“It’s okay.” Betty laughed. And as much as she probably wouldn’t admit it, she had kind of enjoyed those comments. It usually wasn’t her who got hit on, that normally fell to Veronica. But she kind of liked it. Or maybe she just liked the way he looked at her. She shook her head, trying to rid herself of those thoughts. Jughead was just a boy, this is just what they do. They liked to play games. Wasn’t it similar to what happened at Pops yesterday? She reminded herself. “Where were we?”
Betty had stayed for a little longer, Gladys came back and the three of them sat and talked. She turned down the invitation of dinner, claiming that her Mother would have already accounted for her, although in reality she wanted to avoid another run in with Jughead.
Later that night while she was trying to sleep, she convinced herself that he was just trying to irk her. He was in a gang after all, it was probably a territorial thing. She wouldn’t let some tiny little run in get to her, she was Betty Cooper after all.