Self Conclusion (Chapter Five)
Jughead slept fitfully in Betty’s lap for twenty minutes before he asked to be alone again.
Betty busied herself in the kitchen baking fresh bread and cookies while Jughead napped. After an hour and a half, Betty decided to wake him up, bringing a mug of soup, slices of fresh bread and a plate full of cookies.
When Betty opened the door to her dark bedroom, Jughead was lying on her bed, facing her.
“Hi,” She murmured quietly, placing the tray down next to the laptop on her desk.
“Hi,” He answered quietly.
“I know you’re still sad, but -”
Jughead sat up quickly and shook his head. “No, no, that’s just it. I’m not sad any more, I’m pissed off.” His voice rose.
“It’ll be okay, Jug, I -”
“Will it? I-I am so angry that my face is burning up. My blood literally feels like it’s boiling a-and I’m going to be engulfed and all that will be left of me is a pile of ashes and I don’t know how to stop it!”
“Don’t let it consume you, Jughead. I know, easier said than done, but you need to take back control. Get it out of you anyway you can - take a kick boxing class, or -” She couldn’t help but notice the look of distaste on Jughead’s face. “- Or,” She said again pointedly. “Write it down in a journal like me, or write songs or poetry or start a podcast, do anything to get the anger and heat out of your body. Don’t let it burn you up.”
Betty jutted her chin towards her laptop. “Go let it out,” She murmured.
Jughead stood up and wandered to the desk, picking up the plate of cookies instead of the laptop. He popped one in his mouth and made a face Betty couldn’t decipher.
“What? Are they okay? I just made them.”
He shoved another in his mouth and chewed quickly before answering her. “These are the best goddamn cookies I’ve ever eaten.”
Betty blushed slightly and laughed. “Slow down, there’s more in the kitchen.”
“What kind are they?” He asked as he shoved another in his mouth.
“Lemon crinkle cookies. The’re one of my favorites, too. I’ve only made them once before, so…” She trailed off, not really knowing what she wanted to say. “I’m glad you like them, though.”
Jughead sat back down next to Betty on the bed.
“It’ll make you feel better if you pour yourself into something,” Betty murmured quietly.
“I’m already starting to feel better. And actually, I-I’d like to get to know you better. Maybe finish our 21 Questions?”
Betty smiled. “Sure. I think you asked the last one, so I’ll go.”
“When did you first start thinking about… about killing yourself?”
Jughead scratched the back of his neck. “Just like that, huh?”
“I just figured since we’re running out of time we might as well ask the real questions.” Heat crept into Betty’s cheeks.
“Okay,” Jughead nodded. “I really don’t remember the first time I thought about it. It feels like it’s always been there, creeping in the back of my mind, and it just got louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.”
Betty chewed on her lip.
“With every shitty hand I got dealt throughout the years, it got worse. I’ve heard all my life that I’m a disappointment, or a failure, or a liability and my plan was to prove them all wrong. But the older I got, the more truthful it became, and the plan to prove them wrong got over-shadowed by the voice telling me to end it all instead. I’m just a big fuck-up. I’ve been bullied all my life, and fuck them, cause I don’t need people like Cheryl Blossom or Reggie Mantle in my life, but when the people who are supposed to be there for you through everything, like Archie, or my own mother start to leave, what are you supposed to do?”
“You’re not a fuck up, Jughead. I wish you could see you the way I see you.” Betty pulled Jughead’s hand into hers.
“How do you see me?” He asked quietly.
“I mean, you’ve always been the smartest person I know. And sarcastic. But you’re also the strongest person I’ve ever met. Even when we stopped talking, the way you carried yourself in school, it seemed like you were perfectly okay being by yourself because you knew you were out of everyone else’s league. And being here, now, with me? Stopping yourself from doing it? That takes courage, Jughead.”
“Then you’re courageous, too.”
Betty shook her head slowly. “No, I’m not. Sure, I go up to the Cliffs all the time, but I’m too cowardly to go through with anything.”
Jughead gripped Betty’s hands tighter. “You’re too smart to go through with anything. There’s nothing courageous about killing yourself.”
“There’s nothing courageous about this, either.” Betty murmured, opening her palm to remind him of her crescent-shaped scars.
Jughead rubbed his thumb over them. “We all have ways to dull our sharp edges, y’know?”
“How do you dull the pain?”
Jughead shrugged. “All different ways, I guess. Did you know I once initiated a fight with Reggie just because I wanted to feel something? I was numb. So being punched in the face was better than that. Writing helps, too. You keep a journal? I’ve been writing a novel.”
“What?” Betty’s eyes lit up, a small smile forming on her lips. “That’s incredible. Why didn’t you say anything earlier?”
“Because if I kill myself, it’s never going to get published. If I don’t want a future, what’s the point of taking about the possibility of one?”
Betty’s eyes started to sting, tears pooling. “I’m sorry I can’t change your mind, Jughead. I know we haven’t been close lately, we haven’t talked in years, but I-I don’t want to lose you.”
Jughead opened his mouth, about to say something, then changed his mind. He closed it again. “You are one of the only people to show me kindness, you know that? And I’ll always be grateful.”
Betty squeezed his hand. “I still have 31 hours to try and change your mind.” She whispered.
“You’ve helped me more than you know, Betty.”
Betty smiled sadly. “That’s the first time you’ve said my name since the 7th grade.”
“I just can’t imagine a world where we leave this house on Sunday and go back to being friends and the rest of the world just magically melts away and the shit stops.”
“The shit might not stop, Jughead, but we could deal with the shit together. I don’t want it to go back to the way it was before - I just thought you wanted to be alone. And now I know differently, I -”
“It might kill me to get my hopes up, Betty.”
Betty cast her eyes down at their intertwined fingers. “Tell me about your mom? And Jellybean?”
“There’s not much to tell about my Mom - she tried. She kept her job at the diner for a while when Dad was working with Fred, but eventually she got fired. When I was little, she used to tell me I was “too much”, whatever that meant. It’s not like I was a hyper kid. When she took JB to Toldeo, it was as if the thought of bringing me along with her never occurred to her. It was just like her and Dad would split the kids down the middle - JB with her, me with Dad, that’s it. JB cried the morning they left, and I promised her that I would see her soon, but I haven’t seen her since that morning. That kid means more to me than anyone else.”
“I’m so sorry, Jughead. I know she misses you, though. Why not go see her?”
“I called my mom a couple weeks ago, she doesn’t have the room for me right now.” Jughead shrugged and stood up. He trudged to the laptop and pulled up Betty’s iTunes library.
“Have you ever played the Music Game?” Betty asked as she saw her music library fill the screen.
Jughead shook his head. “What’s that?”
“You answer questions with songs or song lyrics. For example, my first question: What song would you describe yourself with?”
“Uh,” Jughead faltered. “Creep by Radiohead. What about you?”
Betty thought for a second. “Gasoline by Halsey.”
“What song would you use to describe me?” Jughead asked.
“Maybe not you, but your life: The Show Must Go On by Queen. Same question.”
Jughead took a deep breath. “Not Just A Girl by She Wants Revenge.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” Betty answered sheepishly.
Jughead looked relived. “Your turn.”
“What’s the anthem of your life?”
“Wasn’t that your first question?”
“No,” Betty half-smiled. “That was a song that you would use to describe yourself. This is… this is more like a song that you feel a deep connection to, like it could’ve been written for you.”
Jughead bit his lip for a second before answering. “Degausser by Brand New.”
“Jughead,” Betty murmured sadly. She knew the song well.
“Breathe Me by Sia, maybe.”
Jughead shrugged. “I’ve never heard it.”
“What song do you wish described your life?”
“My Way by Frank Sinatra.”
“How would you describe this weekend so far?”
“It’s my turn to ask,” Jughead smirked. “But, uh, To Be Alone by Hozier.”
The heat rose to Betty’s cheeks. “Really?” She whispered.
“Jughead? Will you do something for me?”
Jughead nodded again. He padded back over to the bed and sat next to Betty.
“When fourty-eight hours are over, will you go to a therapist? Or talk to someone? I - I really want to keep getting to know you. And you deserve to see Jellybean again.”
Jughead nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
“Really?” Tears pricked Betty’s eyes.
“Yeah. But you have to, too.”
Betty nodded. “Can I tell you something?”
“I had the biggest crush on you in 7th grade.”
Jughead’s mouth hung open slightly. “Really?” He felt like he was gasping for air.
Betty smiled. “Yeah.”
“Betty I’ve had a crush on you since the day we met.”
She placed her hand gently against Jughead’s cheek. Her eyes were searching his, trying to read him. She leaned forward until Jughead caught her lips between his.
It was soft, sweet, gentle.
They both needed more.
Betty ran her hand to the back of Jughead’s neck to pull him closer. Her fingers weaved with his hair, pushing his hat off his head.
His tongue moved gently against hers, moving his mouth to trail kisses along her jawline and the delicate skin behind her ear.
Betty tilted her head back. Her heart was pounding in her chest.
Jughead grazed his hand over her neck, his thumb moving softly over Betty’s soft lips. She opened her mouth to gasp as his teeth nipped at her neck, allowing his thumb to slip in between her lips. She ran her tongue over his thumb before he brought his mouth back to hers.
“Betty,” he murmured into her mouth.
She broke the kiss only to place one of her legs over Jughead’s, straddling his lap. She kissed him again, gently, running her hands down his back. She toyed with the hem of his shirt.
Jughead pulled away only to pull his shirt off. He peppered soft kisses against her jawline. He returned to her lips with a hunger, nibbling and sucking and needing more.
He brushed his hand against Betty’s stomach, curling his hand around her waist to press her body against his.
Betty raised up on her knees to have him pull her shirt off. She sank back down, shifting slightly so she was sitting on Jughead’s leg. She began to suck on Jughead’s neck, eliciting a moan from his lips. She moved her hips ever so slightly against his thigh, the friction causing the heat to pool in between her thighs.
“Betty,” Jughead murmured, lust filling his voice.
A whimper escaped Betty’s throat in response.
He ran his hands against Betty’s back, gripping her soft skin. She ground herself against Jughead’s thigh once more and pulled Jughead’s bottom lip between her teeth.
She placed her hands at the waistline of Jughead’s pants. “Do you want to?”