Disclaimer: I own nothing but Julia Jones.
Summary: Betty Cooper has some questions for Gladys Jones. Coda to The Serpent Princess
A/N: I got this conversation after a talk with my own Momma, I hope you enjoy it.
Children of Children
Betty Cooper had always pictured herself as so levelheaded, planning everything to the T, surely the Cooper woman curse would skip her. In her childhood she always seen herself as a mother, but not until she had established a career as a world-renowned journalist, married with a stable life. She always pictured a white picket fence, a husband who may or may not have had red hair, and perfect strawberry blonde children. However, life has a tendency to take you where you least expect it.
In Betty Cooper's case it's being nineteen-years-old and living in a trailer, adjacent to her boyfriend's father, rocking the most beautiful raven-haired baby that she had ever seen with the distant pump of oxygen in the background; far from the perfect children she had pictured in her mind. This baby is so much better, she's not made of a naïve little girl's fantasies, she's made of pure love; physically she may be far from perfect, she is still on oxygen and the doctors aren't sure when she is coming off, but she is doing so much better, she is home finally out of the NICU after an infection that brought her into the world just a little too early. It can take one person to change your life completely and in Betty's case, it's Julia Jones. Maybe two people in her case, she thought as she felt a soft kiss placed behind her ear.
"How are my girls?" Jughead whispered into her ear.
"Daddy's home," she cooed softly to the newborn who was latched to her breast as her mother rocked back and forth; Betty gazed up at her boyfriend. "She's a night owl like her Daddy, has his appetite too."
Jughead looked dog-tired, his beanie long discarded and wearing a pair of coveralls, he works the overnight shift as a janitor at a nearby corporate office, responsible for something neither are sure of. He worked the nights so Betty could still have the day to go school while he took care of the baby, then they switched off; both exhausted but both knew it was for the best. In order to ensure the best future for their daughter, they needed to try and still pursue the best future for themselves. And this job keeps the food on the table, and the health insurance that accompanied kept their baby's the oxygen machine around, which in turn kept the baby around.
"And apparently a thing for your breasts," Jughead quipped, his eyes enamored on his little girl. "We need to watch out for that appetite, I might need to get a second job in the future just to keep the pantry stocked."
"Or maybe you'll be a famous author by then." Betty suggested with a grin as she switched the baby over to her other breast.
"Or maybe you'll have moved on and have a rich ol' husband by then." Jughead teased, "One that didn't just have to clean five bathrooms."
"At least I know you're cleanly," Betty shot back with grin. "Besides, we're not even married, we have baby out of wedlock, we're just living in sin, but maybe one day that'll be us, you'll be my rich ol' husband."
"We'll see." Jughead muttered and started to undo the snaps of his uniform. "I am going to go shower, be here when I get back?"
"We'll see," Betty laughed. She frowned when he left the room, it wasn't that she was desperate to be married, they knew that didn't prove anything, but she just wanted to know what his aversion to the idea of it happening was one day. Sure, Betty had an idea, but the naïve part of her brain had always thought that she would be the one to change his mind about those things. But, abandonment issues are rarely that easily overcome.
It had been a rare day spent together, lately their schedules rarely matched up, but on this particular Sunday the young couple lay sprawled out on their thrift store couch, watching as their baby as she napped in a playpen next to the couch. Jughead pulled Betty closer to his chest and nuzzled his nose into the back of her neck causing to Betty shift against him. His hand slid up her to her chest and groped lightly; she shivered against him and rolled over so that they were facing one another, pressing a searing kiss against his lips, before she pulled away.
"It's been a while since we've gotten to kiss like that," Betty mused, wrapping her arms around his neck in an attempt to pull him closer to her.
Jughead let out a breathy laugh against her bee stung lips. "Well, here is the thing, the last time I kissed you like that we ended up with a baby," he joked before his lips drowned to her neck, his teeth gently grazing the skin sending a shiver up her spine.
"I don't know, I think you're missing a few steps." Betty grinned and titled her head back to grant him more access. "Either way, I've missed you, Jug."
"Why don't you give me a reminder?" Jughead scooped Betty up and threw her over his shoulder, which normally elicit a loud shriek, but both knew any loud noise risk waking that baby and any fun they were hoping for would immediately be cancelled. He carried her across the tiny trailer and back into their bedroom, dropping her down against the bed.
The two lay in the afterglow of their rare twenty minutes spent getting lost in one another; they had been intimate since the conception daughter, there was the second trimester where Betty seemed insatiable and had gotten creative in ways that surprised the both of them. The younger mother lay across her lover's chest, her golden locks spread everywhere like a halo, while Jughead's fingers trickled up and down her spine.
Jughead tilts her chin up, placing a soft kiss to her lips. "Not to be a total guy, but I missed that," he sighed, contently.
"If that makes you a 'total guy' then I just learned something about myself, because I thoroughly enjoyed myself" she chuckled and pressed a kiss to his chest. "Don't get me wrong, I love our baby, but I miss those moments sometimes, just us being us."
"I mean, we're so young, it makes sense." Jughead agreed, as he pulled the duvet up to wrap it around her. The two fell into a comfortable silence, before he spoke again. "My parents were young…"
Betty stroked his chest. "A certain boy once told me we're not our parents, just like Julia isn't going to be us."
The nostalgic comment didn't seem to sooth her boyfriend's mind. "What if you wake up one day and I am not enough for you?" He whispered. "Our life is so much less magnificent than you were destined for, a baby out of wedlock, living in this shitty trailer on the Southside, our daughter has in this life is a janitor for a Dad and legacy in a biker club."
"This is just the beginning, I see this great guy who would work a shitty job to keep me in school, and is loyal as hell to a family, you make my life magnificent, Juggie." Betty leaned up and skimmed her lips against his. "You will never not be enough."
Gladys Jones showed up on a Sunday morning, Julia had spent the night wailing, she was already prone to URIs, their poor little girl spent the night with howl like coughs wracking her tiny body; neither parent slept through the night, despite Betty's desperate pleas to do so, after he worked a double. The two finally get the baby to sleep, and curl up themselves when a thud is heard at the front door causing both parents to jump and the baby to let out a shriek; Jughead muttered some curse words under his breath as he got up; the moon still hung in the sky which meant he was even more weary than usual to have Betty answer the door, while Betty goes to tend to their baby who was not so easily lulled back to.
The biggest fear he had told her one night was him coming home and finding the Ghoulies had taken everything dear to him, it may have been a little far fetched to think a sleep deprived woman with a baby could take on a whole rival gang, but he had read of adrenaline fueled women who had lifted cars off their newborns. But he was here at the moment, his Dad not far away, he went to the door and swung it open with such force that it hit the trailer, causing Julia to wail more.
Thoroughly annoyed and sleep deprived, Betty took the baby out into the living room where Jughead stood slack-jawed, a woman with Raven hair, a foot shorter stood next to him. Betty held Julia closer to her chest and bounced the baby, gently. She recognized the woman from the few pictures that FP had laying around his trailer, it was Gladys Jones in the flesh.
"Juggie?" she questioned, softly, as she padded towards him. "Are you okay?"
"So, this is the little girl I heard so much about from you father." Gladys motioned towards Betty and the baby. "And the Cooper girl, of course."
"Betty, her name is Betty." Jughead corrected through gritted teeth. "What are you doing here Mom?"
Betty found it best to keep her mouth shut in this situation, in most cases she would come in swinging when it came to Jughead, but she wanted to remain calm, all the negative energy in the room would certainly be picked up by the bay. Also, she never really knew much of the situation at hand, therefore never really knew how to comment.
"I came to see my granddaughter, am I not allowed?" Gladys raised an eyebrow.
"No, you don't get to decide when you just get to waltz in and out." Jughead tugged the ends of his hair, his safety net long discarded; Betty made a move for Jughead's hand, which he gratefully took.
"Come on, Jug, it's only a couple days I drove all this way." The elder woman pleaded. "I will be out of your hair by Monday at the latest, I just wanted to see if the rumors were true, and they are, you knocked up the Cooper girl."
"Mom, can you please stop talking about Betty like she's this random girl I knocked up in a bar one night?" Jughead seethed and massaged the bridge of his nose.
To be fair Betty is pretty sure Julia's conception took place during Sweet Pea's birthday celebration in the bathroom of the Wyrm, but it wasn't as if they met that night. Some beers had been consumed, one thing lead to another. Betty shook her head from the reverie, and watched the exchange, a frown creased her features, she would have hated it if Julia looked at her the way Jughead was looking at his mother now, with such utter disgust, granted it was warranted, but Betty had a new perspective, she was a mother. She would do anything for her daughter, and perhaps Gladys thought at one point that leaving Jughead and taking Jellybean was the best she could do.
Betty held her hand up to halt Jughead's next sentence, to end the argument from continuing in a way that would rattle the baby; who was already starting to whimper again against her mother's chest.
"You can stay until Monday, but you do one thing to hurt him and you're out on your ass," Betty declared, before she padded off to the bedroom hoping for some silence
Having Gladys around wasn't as awful as Betty thought it would be, it was nice to have an extra set of hands around to help with Julia while Jughead worked that night. The two women sat at the tiny secondhand oak table in the kitchen, while Betty scrolled through pictures of the four short months had on this planet. From the ones of her in the incubator to the ones to the day they finally got to bring the little girl home. But the one that gave Glady's the most interest, was a rare picture that Jughead shed all his layers; the top buttons of his shirt undone and the small baby resting against his chest.
"I never pictured my son as a father." Gladys commented, the baby was currently curled up in her arms fast asleep. "I thought he got his fix of taking care of babies with JB."
"Sometimes things just happen," Betty laughed, softly. "They aren't really planned, I am sure you understand that, he was scared at first, we both were but he never left my side."
"You're both so young." Gladys sighed, wistfully. "I know you probably think I am a terrible mother, Betty, but I had my reasons and when I heard about Julia I decided that it was time to make amends, that my bad decision forced my son into his own bad decision, he's not even twenty and he's a father."
Betty's furrowed her eyebrows. "Nobody forced Jughead into being a father, I gave him the option to leave and he chose to stay," she argued.
"Only because he's afraid of being like his father, I am sure," Gladys sighed, bouncing the baby. "He had always been such a letdown in his life."
"FP is doing so well now, though, he absolutely adores Julia and has been such a big help at night." Betty insisted. "We all lose our way sometimes."
"I worry Jug will follow in his Dad's footsteps sometimes, you know losing your childhood can do that, so I was thinking I could help you two out, take the baby home with me, let you two have the life you deserve, make up for all my mistakes so my son doesn't need to be thirty-four at nineteen." Gladys rambled on, it was as if he was trying to sell her a new car.
"Maybe he wouldn't have had to become a 'thirty-four-year-old' if you didn't pick and choose what children you decided to leave with an alcoholic father." Betty snatched the baby back from Gladys. "You're not really putting the blame on your son having to grow up so early on me, you're just passing off your own guilt, and taking my baby, why not just rip my heart right out of chest?"
Gladys squared up to Betty, a glare etched into her features. "You know nothing, little girl, you fuck my son a couple times, entrap him, and then decide to play house with him and you think that makes you think you know him?" She snapped, raising her hand. "You might be his two-wit baby mama, slinking around the White Wyrm like your mother, but I am his mother, his family."
"You're not my family, and I suggest you put your hand before you find yourself in a ditch in Greendale." Both women turned, Jughead stood in the doorway of the trailer his coveralls stained under his Serpent jacket. "How dare you, how fucking dare you, she was here for me in a time you weren't, Dad got arrested, she was there, Dad needed to get out, she was there, how dare you act as if she and my daughter are my burden when you spent your whole life acting as if I was yours, now you have five seconds to get the fuck out!"
Jughead picked up an array of clothing that Gladys had laying around the living room, he chucked out the front door into the dirt path that led through Sunnyside. He didn't bother to watch as his mother walked door again, Betty imagined that it would be too painful. However, she watched as the woman trudged off without even so much as word for her son; but a few muttered curses for her the clothing that decorated the front yard. Betty would burn all her clothes if it meant the wellbeing of her child. Her own stupidity led to this showdown, trying to give her the benefit of the doubt when she had only been a mother herself for not even five months yet.
Betty walked over to Jughead a placed a soothing hand on his cheek. "You okay?" she asked, calmly, for his sake at least.
"No!" Jughead snapped, with such ferocity that Betty almost fell backwards from the gruffness. "I didn't want her here for a reason, but no you had to let her stay and for what, so we could almost lose our daughter?" He took the baby and walked into the bedroom flinging himself into the rocking chair, which only caused the little girl to whimper. "Hey there, don't start, Missy, Daddy is sorry he startled you."
Betty who had followed him to the room stood behind him and rested her hands on his shoulders. "I'm sorry, okay, I just…I wanted to know her…our elephant in the room," she whispered.
Jughead peered up at her. "What do you mean, we're fine, you and I, what we have going with Julia, we have a good thing going."
"Then why do you think I am going to leave?" she whispered, averting her eyes to their daughter. "You two are my world I would never just up and leave, no matter what."
Jughead released he had been carrying in his shoulders. "My mother used to say that, then she took Jellybean and left me FP, who would get black out drunk and beat the shit out of me," he explained, quietly, his grip on the baby seemed to become firmer as he spoke. "Her excuse, I wasn't home in time, but wouldn't you come and look for your child if there were immediate danger?"
"I would throw myself in front of a bus if it meant her wellbeing," Betty declared, moving to kneel in front of him, put her hand against his. "I love you, Jughead, I love you so much, and what happened to that boy who told me that we aren't our parents, well I am yours either, I am Betty and you're Jughead and this our life, not Gladys and FP's, not Alice and Hal's, Betty and Jughead's, so let's change the cycle, let's be happy and in love like we are; sure things get tough but, I love you and you love me and that's going to get us through this." She took breath. "You're my best friend, Jughead, you've stuck with me through so much, that's our thing."
Jughead held her gaze, his face softened to an expression reminiscent of the first time he had told her that he loved her. "…Okay," he whispered. "We're Betty and Jughead, and this our daughter and we're not going to leave her, promise?"