Heads up, I only posted the first part of the epilogue just a few days ago, so if you haven't already had a chance to see or read the first part you might want to check that one out before you read the second part of the epilogue!
Epilogue, Part Two:
Arriving at FP's trailer, Betty releases Blake from her car seat, gently lifting her out and into her arms while Jughead opens the child-locked door on the other side of the car to let Bailey climb out independently.
Pulling out the bottles of soft drink and the extravagant cheese grazing platter that Betty had made up for them to take along, Jughead juggles both in one hand, locking the car with the other before taking his five-year-old's hand into his as they join Betty who has Blake's baby bag slung over one shoulder as she holds their baby in her other arm.
"Bay, do you want to knock for us?" Jughead asks, prompting the little girl given that both he and his wife have their hands full with carrying everything in.
Bailey doesn't need to be asked twice before she races up to her mother's side, giving a knock on the door her best shot before she grins proudly, looking up to Betty who is holding her little sister. Meanwhile, in her mother's arms, Blake is beginning to squirm and wake up since being rudely disturbed from her nap after dozing off during the short car ride to her grandfather's.
Within moments of Bailey knocking, FP answers the door to the young family after inviting them all over for a BBQ dinner and to spend the day at his trailer for a family afternoon.
"Grandpa!" Bailey squeals with instant delight, throwing her arms out and open to her beloved grandfather.
FP showed no special treatment nor did he have any bias towards any one of his three, beautiful granddaughters. But, he and Bailey were incredibly close with the two of them sharing a very special bond.
After all, seeing as the two of them would spend an entire day with each other, once a fortnight for most of Bailey's life, they had developed a very connection with each other. Even after the horrible accident that had landed Bailey in hospital and wracked FP with guilt, that bond couldn't be altered nor could it be broken.
So, responding to his eldest granddaughter's excited greeting, he picks her up, he presses a kiss into her braided blonde locks and he gives her a hug as he holds her in his arms before placing her back down on the ground in order to greet the rest of Bailey's family.
FP gives Betty a careful hug, being especially mindful of the baby within her arms, before he turns his attention to his youngest granddaughter, gently stroking the side of her face with the pad of his thumb, smiling at her as he coos: "look at you, princess... You are just getting way too big, way too fast."
Then, finally he tears his eyes away from Blake to throw his arms around his son in a man-hug.
"Come in! Come on in, guys. The others are already here" FP adds enthusiastically, stepping away from the front door.
As he steps away, he reveals where JB and Casey are standing side-by-side further inside and on the other side of the living area in the trailer. Their arms are wrapped around each other's backs as JB lent against her boyfriend just a little before they untangle themselves from each other in order to greet the other Joneses.
Meanwhile, Bailey had already raced ahead of her parents, giving both her aunt and Casey a quick hug before joining her younger cousin on the floor by the coffee table where she'd been playing with Hot Dog.
"Bay-ee!" exclaimed Ellie who is coming up for two, releasing a little gasp at the sight of her cousin who she absolutely adored and idolised, believing she was so cool and so big at the grand old age of five.
However, at seeing the other couple across the room, after setting down the drinks and the cheese platter on the bench top, Jughead can't hide his smirk, nor can he stop himself from taunting his younger sister.
"No way, JB got here first? First time for everything..." Jughead quips, knowingly teasing his younger sister after his dad's remark, resulting in the offended look on JB's face as she walks across the room as the two siblings throw their arms around each other in a big, almost aggressive bear-hug.
"So how are you going, little sis?" Jughead murmurs into his sister's hair as they hug.
After pulling away to look up at her older brother, JB smiles before answering his question to her.
"I'm good. We're good. Ellie's been in training for the terrible twos this last week but other than that, we're good" JB explains as she glances over to her daughter, quickly checking on her and her whereabouts.
After things settled down for her during the second half of her pregnancy, JB had just taken her daughter's arrival and motherhood all in her stride. In fact, even Betty had been impressed (and a little bit envious) at how she had taken to it.
She was relaxed, she takes it day by day, she trusts her gut and she tried to listen to what her daughter was trying to tell her from before she could even talk. Meanwhile, Betty ever the overachiever knew that she had the inclination to overthink everything, a habit she was still trying to shake since having her second daughter.
Meanwhile, beside the brother and sister, Betty and Casey share a brief hug before Jughead and JB step away from each other allowing the two men to shake hands as the sister-in-laws hug warmly.
Their situation and close families meant that the two exes had almost as much to do with each other as when they were together. It had the potential to become awkward but given that they'd never broken up badly, they'd never lost the initial friendship and respect for each other that had blossomed into a relationship all those years ago and given that both Betty and Casey were just happy that the other person was happy and had found happiness -even if it was with someone else- they made their dealings with each other work after moving on with their respective partners.
After Betty and JB pull away from each other, the younger of the two turns her attention to her niece in Betty's arms, cooing at the baby girl as she touches Blake's little feet. When Betty offers her daughter to JB, the baby's aunt doesn't need to be asked twice before she takes her in her own arms, expertly rocking Blake.
Then, upon offloading their youngest daughter to give JB some time with her niece, Jughead and Betty check on their eldest, walking over to where Bailey and Ellie are playing together with Hot Dog.
However, after looking up and noticing her parent's presence and that neither of them are holding her baby sister that she's come to grow very attached to, Bailey casts her big, blue eyes further with concern.
"Where's Blakey?" Bailey asks worriedly, not even noticing that her cousin has just ripped the toy that she'd been playing with out of her hands as she looks to her parents.
"Aunty JB's holding her" Jughead explains pointing over to the corner of the room where his sister has since taken his daughter over to Casey, the two of them cooing over the baby in JB's arms together. "See?"
A look fills Bailey's face; a mix of panic and concern. Then, she looks back to her dad as she begins to get up from playing with Ellie.
"She's my baby sister."
While Bailey's possessiveness had originally been directed towards Blake as a result of having to share her parents, it didn't take long at all for the dynamics to shift again and before her sister came under the five-year-olds blanket of possessiveness also, including her too.
"I know, Bay, settle down... Aunty JB's going to give Blake back to us but she's just giving her a cuddle for a few minutes first."
Listening to her dad but not necessarily liking it, Bailey just looks over, sending a warning little glare in the direction of her aunt who she normally adores before sitting back down with Ellie and Hot Dog.
Then, as though Bailey's distraction is contagious, just after she overcomes it, Ellie too seems to notice the same baby in the same woman's arms -her own mother's arms- exhibiting a similar reaction to her cousin's. So, just as Bailey had minutes ago, Ellie gets up from where the girls are playing together, too. Noticing this as her cousin begins to leave her with an unhappy little squeal, Bailey attempts to console Ellie as though she believes that her cousin is concerned about the same thing that she had been.
"Oh, it's okay, Ellie... She's giving Blake back to me later."
However, with her own agenda, the little girl toddles over to her mother and the man who had become like her father in her little brown eyes, protesting her displeasure in her mum's attention towards her cousin.
"Mummy! Me!" Ellie squeals, holding her arms up to be held by JB, to which Casey just responds to by picking her up and holding her next to her mum, showing her the baby that she's holding in her arms.
"Look, Ellie... It's a baby. It's baby Blake" Casey says to the little girl, speaking to her softly in an attempt to ease her agitation before playfully ruffling the curls of loose hair that hung around her face affectionately.
Her hair is lighter than her mother's locks, though not as light as Betty and Bailey's golden hair. Ellie's was somewhere in the middle; more of a light, mousy brown.
Aside from that, the little girl was entirely her mother. In fact, for her family who had never even seen nor met the man who had contributed to the other half of Ellie, none of them could identify what she must have inherited from him seeing as she looked like she got just about everything from her mother.
Over the year-and-a-half that was nearing two years since Ellie's birth along with the seven months before that, JB hadn't seen or heard from the biological father of her daughter, aside from the two cheques with just a small sum of money that he'd received from his own parents attached to them which he had sent almost a year apart.
Meanwhile, after he picks her up, both JB and Casey watch little Ellie with their attention glued to her as she observes the four-month-old baby intently with great caution. They can tell that she's not too sure about Blake from where she's being held in her mum's arms and they can see that she's wary of her, something that they have to stop themselves from sniggering at, especially after they lock eyes, sharing each other's amusement over Ellie's hostility towards her new cousin that is a direct result of jealousy.
However, the two of them had been curious about how Ellie would react to a baby -especially one in her mother's arms- seeing as it had been a point of discussion between the two adults over the last couple of weeks. The topic had arisen a few times lately as the two halves of the couple shared the feeling of their relationship continuing to progress and feeling themselves looking to take the next step in their relationship after over two years together.
While Casey had made no secret of hoping for a larger family –they both did- Casey understood that his girlfriend was younger than he was and that Ellie wasn't even two yet, so as a result of their discussions, Casey had put the timing on that idea completely in JB's court for her to decide on whenever she was ready.
After all, in addition to juggling Ellie, JB had decided to continue studying, taking up a community college course in graphic design which she'd been working towards completing.
In addition to that, there was another little goal on JB's mind. It was an idea that she'd been playing around with for a little while now, but she'd wanted to wait until they'd reached their second anniversary. But, now, since reaching that milestone a few weeks ago, she was just waiting for the perfect idea to strike her.
She was going to ask Casey to marry her.
She didn't know how or when she was planning to do it, but the decisive young woman knew that she wanted to propose to him and she knew that she was going to do it, with the idea of a long engagement being the stepping stones leading to forever.
It wasn't as though the thought of an engagement hadn't occurred to Casey and that JB had just grown tired of feeling as though he was never going to do it so she'd decided to take action for herself. The thought had occurred to Casey. It definitely had.
However, after one broken engagement and getting close to another in the past, he had been a little cautious about the idea, not wanting to propose too soon, especially considering that girlfriend was younger than he was and he wasn't sure if she was ready for that step yet.
But, JB was convinced that the man she was in love with was the man she wanted to promise to spend the rest of her life with.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Jughead and Betty are cuddled up on the couch in the trailer with FP sitting on the ground with Bailey and Hot Dog as she tells him all about her week. With their eldest daughter occupied by her grandfather and their youngest daughter being held by her aunt, it gives the young parents a few quiet moments together.
Then, from where she's looking around the room, watching her daughters and her in-laws, Betty leans further into her husband, murmuring her educated guess into his ear after watching the other couple on the other side of the room for just a few moments.
"You know what I think? I give it a month before their engaged. Two months, tops."
While he was progressively becoming more and more used to just how quickly his little sister had grown up, the big brother in Jughead pales at his wife's words and her prediction.
"No way... You're way off" Jughead contends, inserting an eye roll for added emphasis.
However, deep down Jughead knows that his wife is way too accurate in her guesses to be wrong...
A little later on in the day, FP called his family outside to where he'd prepared their barbecue dinner with tables, chairs and picnic rugs scattered around the place.
Then, after dinner, FP was surrounded by all of his favourite people with his children, his children's partners and their own children all sitting around, scattered on the ground outside of the trailer on the balmy night under the stars.
With one granddaughter in his arms, one sitting on his lap and the other leaning against his shoulder, FP is on cloud nine.
Meanwhile, the parents are enjoying the few, quiet moments without their children.
Under the starlight, Jughead and Betty are just about dozing off together after a few rough nights from what they believe to be Blake feeling her teeth. He's running his hands through her golden locks that she wore loose today from where's curled up against his chest, feeling herself grow heavier with sleep as she becomes more and more relaxed.
Meanwhile, the other couple are wide awake from where they are sitting in the background, a little way away from Betty and Jughead and even further from where FP's sitting with his granddaughters.
Casey is leaning back against the tree where he and JB are canoodling, pressed up against together. The two of them whisper to each other eliciting frequent giggles from her and stifled chuckles from him with JB shuffling closer and closer to him in the darkness from where they are sitting a little way away from the others.
Then, with their parents all otherwise occupied, FP looks between his three beautiful granddaughters.
"Just call me 'Charlie' and his angels" FP had joked to his children and their partners a little earlier on as his eldest two granddaughters joined him as soon as they'd moved outside and where he was already rocking Blake in his arms.
The only thing that was better than a dad joke was a grandpa joke.
Then, as he scanned the three beautiful girls in his arms, FP hadn't stopped there.
"I tell you what though... I think having three granddaughters was the whole reason I ever joined the Serpents. You know, just to prepare to have a whole gang behind me to keep an eye on my girls."
That had been the last time he'd spoken to the adults, over half an hour ago, since they'd all settled into their spots outside.
Since then, FP had been engaged in conversation with Bailey predominantly as she babbled away from where she sat beside him on the grass, along with the odd statement or response from her cousin as Ellie spoke up every now and then with a word or response from her limited vocabulary.
Meanwhile, Blake had well and truly fallen asleep in FP's arms and as the night carried on, Ellie seemed to be heading that way too as she leans against her grandfather from where she's sitting on his lap.
However, Bailey continues talking on as she tells her beloved grandpa about anything and everything; her toys, her sister, her favourite movies, her day today and her friends at school.
Really, FP's the only one of the adults that is listening to her.
However, that is until something that his eldest daughter says piques Jughead's interest and attention which he turns to her, despite missing the very beginning of her story.
It takes him a moment to catch up before Jughead realises that Bailey is telling his dad about a movie he thinks that she watched recently. She's telling him the plot and spoiling the story for him as she speaks, but that's not what has really caught his interest as she delivers her review of the movie to FP, explaining the subplot in her own five-year-old terms that had been touched on lightly in the kids movie when a father left his family, only to return towards the end of the movie.
"... Yeah, it was a sad bit. The mummy cried a little bit too. There was lots and lots of happy things and funny things in that movie, but it made Bailey feel a little bit sad when the daddy in the movie leaved his family... My daddy wouldn't do that."
Hearing those five words from his daughter prompts a flurry of feeling through Jughead.
Bailey was probably a little bit too young to remember her life before Jughead was in it now. To her, it's almost as though he has always been there.
But, he had left her. Although he'd done it unknowingly, he had still left her.
However, as the five-year-old speaks to her grandfather candidly, speaking the words that go heard by her father, it fills Jughead with love, with peace with a touch of lingering guilt and with gratitude that -in her eyes- he wouldn't do that.
But, most of all, it fills Jughead with relief.
After all, despite everything; despite having left his girlfriend, despite having unknowingly left their unborn child and despite having missed out on the first three years of Bailey's life, hearing from his daughter herself that Bailey believes that he would never leave her or them and their family, means the world to Jughead.
He's hearing it from one of the people that it matters to most of all.
Feeling the flurry of feelings and emotions beginning to stir from within him, Jughead's eyes are already glimmering in the darkness even before he begins to look around him...
After all, surrounding Jughead is his family; his father and his younger sister, along with her daughter and boyfriend. But, Jughead Jones's eyes are focused on a few people in particular...
His wife... The woman he loves, the woman who has been the love of his life for as long as he can remember. The woman whose heart he broke all those years ago, leaving her, leaving her without so much as a goodbye and leaving her carrying their unborn child.
Their eldest daughter... The girl who he had never even known existed until she was three. The girl whose life he had missed out on the first few years of. The girl who had changed his life, turning life as he knew it upside in the best ways possible from the moment he learnt of her existence.
They were what he left behind all those years ago.
Then there's their youngest daughter... The baby girl sleeping in his own father's arms who never would have had the chance to exist if he had gone through with his plan of over five ago, nor, if he'd never swallowed his pride and come home.
Even in the darkness of the night and even despite the reassurance and relief that their daughter's words had brought him, Betty's trained eyes see the flicker of guilt that still plagues her husband, even to this day; the guilt that he will most likely always carry with him.
So, from where she is rested against and nestled into his body, Betty leans up, resting her hand on his chest as she presses a reassuring kiss to his lips, stroking her hand down the side of his face.
While she can't deny their past, while she can't rewrite their history and while she can't tell him that he's wrong, Betty can remind him of the most important part of the point and of their story.
And she does.
"You came back."
- The End -
Thank you. To every single person who has reached this authors notes after sixty-seven chapters, thank you. Thank you for coming along for the ride, whether you've been here from the start, whether you've joined part of the way along or whether you've only started reading my story closer to end. Thank you. Thank you to each and every one of you who has left one comment, sixty-seven comments or any number of comments in between. I am so grateful for the support of everyone who has joined me and these characters on this journey and I hope that you have all enjoyed reading this adventure as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
So, what's next for me? After a future fiction request from the lovely breaking_points in one of the latest chapters, I do actually have just one one-shot written and ready to post within this universe. It gives you a glimpse into Bailey's life as a teenager and a parallel of her friendship with her very own 'Archie and Jughead'. There is also one other standalone, unrelated one-shot that I've been working on for a while and have been considering posting. However, in terms of full-length stories, I'm not quite sure what comes next. I do have two story ideas that I've been working on fleshing out for a while. One is a whole new story, set a few years after season 3. The other idea I had been playing with for a little while; a short story based on almost a 'what if' to this one and what if Jughead hadn't left town. However, to be completely honest, unfortunately this latest season of Riverdale has left me a little uninspired so as to whether or not anything else comes to fruition from my ideas (other than the one-shot for this story which I've already written) we'll have to see...
Also, since I don't usually post chapters quite so close together but I wanted to post the two parts of the epilogue within days of each other, if you haven't seen it or had a chance to read it, you might want to check out the first part of the epilogue if you haven't already done so!
Once again, I'd just like to say an enormous thank you to everyone who has joined me on this journey. I do hope you have enjoyed the ending to one, enormous story. I cannot wait to see what you all thought of how it all ends. I've had those final three words in my mind for quite some time!
P.S. - Keep an eye out for the little 'What You Left Behind' one-shot! I'm hoping to post it later in the month.