Day 2

Title: Day 2
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Riverdale
Rating: PG
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Jughead catches a cold while he's living at the drive-in movie theater.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2018-19 project project for symphonyflute

The wind stung Jughead’s cheeks as he walked down the street to the Twilight Drive-in Movie Theater. His jacket was buttoned up all the way with the fleece collar turned up to protect his neck. His hands were thrust deep into his pockets. And his hat was pulled down lower than he normally wore it to cover as much of his ears as it could. He was as warm as he possibly could be, and he was still completely freezing.

The worst part of it all was how his nose, red like his cheeks from the chill, was running, causing him to sniff involuntarily every few seconds. It had been annoying when he’d first set out for the theater, and he had tried blowing his nose into a balled-up napkin he found in his coat pocket. Then he’d tried wiping his nose on his sleeve. But when neither of those kept his nose from running for more than a few minutes at a time, he went back to sniffling. And after almost an hour of walking, he barely noticed he was doing it any more. He was too fixated on trying to think warm thoughts.

When he got to the drive-in, Jughead walked across the lot and climbed the stairs to the projection booth. He walked straight to the nest of blankets against one wall. After kicking off his shoes and slipping out of his jacket, he burrowed right under, wrapping the blankets tightly around himself, including around his body like a cloak and over his head like a hood. His whole body shook with shivers he couldn’t control. He was out of the wind now, which was a great relief. But it was still mightily cold in the booth. The room wasn’t insulated, as it wasn’t meant for anyone to actually be living in it.

Thinking that if he turned on the projector, its running might help heat the room up a little, Jughead shuffled, crawled, and squirmed in the blankets to get close enough to the machine. It would, he hoped, have the added benefit of distracting him from the cold with a movie. Even a movie he’d seen dozens of times should be able to suck him in with its characters and storyline. Jughead Jones always loved a good story.

But, tonight, the strategy wasn’t working. The movie played, projecting out on the big screen, which he could see from his spot on the floor of the booth through the giant window that made up most of the front wall. And the sound ran in the booth alone, the speakers outside turned off so no one passing by would hear and come investigate why a movie was playing. But he couldn’t keep his mind on what was happening in the story. All he seemed to be able to fit in his brain was how incredibly cold he felt and would, he was certain, probably always feel. He felt like he would never be warm again.

Reaching out from under the blankets, he grabbed his jacket again. More wriggling, twisting, disentangling himself, and tugging, and finally his jacket was back on and buttoned right back up. He hated wearing his jacket to bed, because it meant that there would be nothing warm for him to climb into in the morning for the walk to school. But if he died of exposure or frostbite in the middle of the night, his discomfort come morning wouldn’t really matter.

It wasn’t until the shivering finally subsided that he realized his nose was still running and he was still sniffling. And if he noticed he was doing it, other people probably would as well. It wasn't that Jughead liked to go unnoticed, really. It was impossible to escape notice when you were a bit eccentric and when your best friend was Archie Andrews. It was just that he didn't like to draw unnecessary attention to himself when there was something more that people might notice about him... like his unwashed clothes and the bags under his eyes and the food he paid for with spare change he found on the drive-in theater grounds. He considered that payment for playing security guard around the place at night.

The sniffling was highly problematic, though. Not only would it annoy other people, but it was indicative that he was probably coming down with something like a cold. He hadn't been eating well or sleeping much, so he wasn't exactly surprised. But he rarely ate or slept well, especially when he was home. Sleeping with one eye open was the only safe way to sleep with FP around.

At least here he was able to sleep soundly, assuming he could fall asleep. “ehhh-IHshoo!” Jughead groaned deeply. Yeah, there was no doubt about it: he was coming down with a cold.

He sneezed his way through the rest of the movie, rubbing his nose on whatever dry portion of the blanket was closest whenever it got so bad he couldn't stand it any more. He turned off the movie projector, not wanting to fall asleep with it on and cause a fire or damage it and call attention to his spot here. Then he closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

ehhh... ehhhh-HIHShhhhhh!” But sleep was impossible with his nose tickling so much. “ehh-HIHshh! Eh ehhh EHHSHHH! Ughhh!” Jughead sat up and leaned back against the wall. The pressure in his nose lessened a little when he was sitting upright, but he still couldn't fall asleep. “ehhh ehhh IHKSchoo!” This was going to be a long, long night.


“Sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff ehhh-HIHTChoo!” He wasn't sure which was worse, the constantly running nose or the sneezes, but he didn't particularly like either of them. And there was no way he would be able to get through the school day sounding like this.

So on his way to school the next morning before dawn, Jughead stopped by a 24-hour gas station convenience store. He had just enough to buy necessities and some left over for lunch. It wasn't going to leave him with a cent to his name, but that wasn't a new experience. Once he was over his cold, he would pick up an odd job here or there until his next paycheck from the drive-in hit his bank account. Pop might be able to spot him a couple meals if he got desperate. Pop knew he was good for it or that Archie would eventually pay down his tab for him.

The first thing he picked up was cold medicine, the strongest extra strength stuff he could find. He popped two into his mouth right there in the store while he finished shopping, swallowing them dry with the experience of a kid who had learned it was better to sneak Tylenol out from under his mattress and take it without getting up out of bed where his father could spot him and lay into him. The other necessity was, of course, tissues. He picked the biggest box in the store that would fit into his backpack but resolved to use as few as possible throughout the day. There were tissues and paper towels in bathrooms at school, and some of the teachers had boxes on their desks. If he stocked up on free ones, he'd have enough to last him through the night and maybe into the weekend. And the last thing he bought was a giant cup of hot water and a tea bag. Knowing it was just about the only thing short of prescription cough medicine that could soothe his throat and knowing too how bitingly cold it was outside before the sun was up, he stood at the front of the store and drank it while it was still piping hot. His fingers warmed up with the hot cup clutched in his hands. But he was too eager to drink it and, before long, he'd drained it to its last drop.  

Thinking of nothing at all but the hot shower that awaited him in the boy's locker room at school, Jughead pushed the door open and headed back into the cold. With a cold.

ehhh-IHKshhh! HEHShuhhh! Sniff! Sniiiifff!

That shower couldn't come soon enough. Exhausted and aching, Jughead quickened his pace. 


“You look cold,” Betty pointed out during lunch. Jughead had made it through the first few classes of his day escaping anyone's notice. Sure, a few people cast annoyed glances back at him when he sniffled too much. But usually a few good rubs of his nose or a blow of his nose kept his cold in check. And the medicine was working wonders as well. But not a minute into lunch and Betty was already calling him out.

Jughead’s burger and fries sat virtually untouched on his tray as he sat hunched over, hands balled up in his jacket pockets. No one else was wearing their jacket in the lunch room, but Jughead didn’t care about that. He shrugged and turned his head. Betty’s ponytail swung in place, perky and perfect as always. But her expression was one of concern.

“I’m not cold. I don’t get cold,” Jughead told her. “Just how I was made. My great-great grandfather was an Eskimo. He lived up in Alaska. He was the only cop north of Nome. Ol’ Bluenose Jones, they called him.” He laughed, hoping he sounded even remotely convincing.

But Betty didn't buy it. She'd heard too many of his stories to believe him this time. She still looked worried. In fact, her frown only seemed to intensify. “Jug…” she began, trying as always to find a sensitive, tactful way of saying what needed to be said.

Archie had far less tact. “Why haven’t you eaten your lunch?” Archie said this with a mouth full of roast beef sandwich, courtesy not of the school cafeteria but the brown bag he’d brought from home that was either packed by him or by his father. Jughead wondered what that must be like—to have a father who packed your school lunches for you every morning.

“M’not hungry.” Immediately, Archie’s eyebrows rose at this answer. Quickly, Jughead tried another approach. “I’m saving room for Pops’ burgers. These ones taste like sawdust.”

Archie still looked suspicious. “I’ve never known you to turn down a burger. You eat the school ones all the time and never complain.” And then he did something entirely unexpected and picked up the other half of his sandwich. He stretched his arm out across the table, offering it to Jughead. “Here. Have some of mine.”

Jughead was tempted. On any normal day, he would have grabbed it and devoured it happily, thanking Archie repeatedly between swallows. He eyed the fresh bread on top and bottom, the crisp lettuce peeking out from the sides, and the tall chunks of juicy meat. But he shook his head. As good as Archie’s sandwich looked, Jughead still didn’t feel hungry enough to eat it.

He hunched back over, looking at his tray and the edge of the cafeteria room table in front of him. Maybe if he didn’t make eye contact with them, they would go back to their own personal dramas and forget all about him and his lack of appetite.

It almost worked. Betty, still frowning, looked over at the notes beside her lunch; she was cramming for a big exam in history this next period. Archie rescinded his offer, dropping the half of his sandwich pack on the plastic Ziploc baggie where he would eat it when he was done with the first half.  Jughead kept on staring downward and not eating. All he had to do was wait this out. He’d sleepwalk through the rest of his classes then go back to the drive-in movie theater where he could curl up and try to get warm again.

“Why are you sniffing so much?” Veronica asked, her mouth raised on one side in a kind of look of disgust.

Not realizing he’d even been doing it again, Jugheard tried to think of an appropriate excuse on the spot, but nothing was coming to mind.

“Yeah,” Archie said, nodding slowly. “I noticed that, too. What’s wrong with you? Are you getting sick?”

At these words, Veronica scooted a few inches down on the bench, even though she was sitting on the opposite side of the table.

Jughead pretended not to notice this, even though he noticed everything. He shook his head and tried to sound as adamant as he could when he replied, “No.” It wasn’t exactly a lie because he was already sick, not just starting to get sick.

He must not have been very convincing, because Veronica inched further away, Archie put his sandwich down entirely, and Betty looked up from her notes. Jughead felt his cheeks go a little pink; he didn’t like them all looking at him like this. If he had anywhere else to be, he’d get up right now and go. Worst of all, he felt like he was going to sneeze again. That medicine was supposed to work for twelve hours, and it had only been five and some change. Pulling his hand out of his pocked, he raised a fist to his nose, rubbing his knuckles hard against his nose. He knew they were still watching him, but as long as he rubbed hard enough to keep from sneezing, he still had a hope of keeping up this charade.

But then he felt a soft, cool hand pressed to his forehead. It flipped over, feeling with the backs of the fingers then cupping his forehead gently. “You’re running a fever, Jughead,” said Betty. Her tone was factual and sympathetic at the same time.

He tensed up as her hand left his forehead and started rubbing his back. He wasn’t expecting this and didn’t know how to react. He froze, not sure what to do.

From across the table slid a wide, metal thermos. A clink of a spoon placed on top of its lid followed. He looked up to see Veronica gesturing for him to take it. “Soup. Eat it while it’s still hot. I promise I haven’t touched it yet.”

Jughead looked back down at his plate. The burger was actually starting to make his stomach churn to look at. He must really be sick. Burgers had always been his comfort food. And now, instead of eating one, he was concentrating on not sneezing.

“Maybe you should go home from school,” Archie suggested. “I mean, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have to be. You’ve got a valid excuse, especially if you’re running a fever.”

“Oh, he definitely is,” Betty confirmed.

Jughead shrugged. He didn’t exactly have a home to go home to. But he hadn’t told Archie about living at the drive-in. Hell, no one knew about him leaving home. Though, if anyone would understand, it would be Archie. He knew what FP was like.  And even though Archie could be self-centered, he had always had Jughead’s back no matter what. He’d always been there when Jughead needed him.

ehh-IHtchhh!” Jughead managed to turn his head and sneeze into the collar of his jacket. It had struck so quickly, he hadn’t been able to even try rubbing his nose or holding it back. “M’sorry,” he mumbled.

Betty rooted around in her purse and pulled out a tissue. She handed it over, and he held it in his hand, not sure what he should do with it. The decision was made for him almost immediately, however, as another tickle flared up in his nose. Aware of this one, he held his breath and gritted his teeth, trying to hold it back. But he felt it intensify and force his mouth open. He quickly ducked his head and covered his nose and mouth. “ehh… IHHHTChhhhh!” he sneezed.

Betty patted his arm. “I’m going to go get you some napkins.” Abandoning the remainder of her lunch and her notes, she headed toward the lunch line, where trays, plates, plastic cutlery, and napkins were.

“Why aren’t you eating the soup?” Veronica asked. “Our cook made it fresh this morning. I promise it’s good.”

Of that, Jughead had no doubt. But that didn’t change the fact that he just wasn’t hungry. “Thanks, but I don’t need this,” Jughead said, pushing the thermos away from him.

“Oh yes you do. I don’t know if it’s starve a cold and feed a fever or feed a cold and starve a fever, but it looks like you’ve got both, so you’re getting this soup, and you’re going to eat it. Don’t you dare argue with me this time, Jughead Jones.” Veronica pushed it back again. She stood up, reached over, and picked up his tray. “I’m throwing this out and getting you some Tropicana from the vending machine. More vitamin C never hurts. When I get back, you’re going to have eaten at least two bites of that soup.” She put her free hand on Archie’s back. “Archie’ll tell me if you don’t.” And, with that, she turned and headed for the far end of the cafeteria where the vending machines and trashcans were located.

This left Jughead sitting there helplessly, staring at Archie. Archie gave him a little smile. “You really should try to eat. You know what she’s like when she’s angry.”

Resignedly, Jughead pulled the thermos over. He stuck the spoon in his mouth as he twisted open the lid. Steam rose from the surface, caressing his cheeks. And even though he wasn’t the least bit hungry, the idea of eating something just to warm himself up wasn’t entirely a bad one. Veronica hadn’t said what kind of soup it was, but it looked creamy with large chunks of potatoes, mushrooms, and celery floating in it. He dipped the spoon in and hesitantly tried a mouthful. It was glorious. It was like his taste buds suddenly woke up and demanded more of it. He quickly helped himself to another spoonful, and another. The hot soup warmed his belly, and he felt that warmth radiate outward, soothing his pain in throat and the aches in his limbs just a little as well. He started eating faster, going at more of his normal pace, despite having to pause between bites to sniffle.

He was so absorbed in the task of eating that he almost jumped when Archie spoke up again. “Hey, Jughead?” He looked up, sniffling, chewing, nodding.

“Can you tell me why you don’t want to just go home sick?”

Jughead paused, staring at the soup. There wasn’t much left. Only a spoonful or two. Pretty soon it would be gone and he wouldn’t have eating as an excuse not to talk. And the girls would come back, and he definitely didn’t want them to know he was homeless. So this was his chance to say something—maybe his only chance. He looked around to make sure Betty and Veronica weren’t about to return to the table. Then he took a deep breath and said, softly, “I can’t go home right now.”

Archie looked like he wanted to ask a million questions, but he didn’t. He stopped himself after “What—no. You know what? It doesn’t matter. You’re coming home with me after school.”


“It’s decided. Don’t make me unleash Veronica on you. You’re coming over and staying the night. You know my dad won’t mind.”

Jughead was about to protest further when Betty dropped onto the bench beside him. She set a tall stack of napkins onto the table in front of him. “There you go. That should last you a little while, but let me know if you need more.” Then she went back to studying as if nothing were wrong, as if one of her friends catching a bad cold and trying to hide it happened every day and it was no big deal at all.

After finishing the soup and sliding the thermos and spoon back to Veronica, Jughead wasn't sure what to do with himself. He wasn't used to being without food during lunchtime and wondered if he might be able to stomach a cafeteria burger now after all. Knowing he couldn't afford one, he just cracked open the plastic bottle of orange juice and took a sip. The acidic juice stung going down, but the coolness felt nice momentarily when it hit the back of his hot and sore mouth and throat.

Minute by minute. That was how Jughead lived his life now. A hard sniff. One heavy  breath out. One careful, quiet breath in. One sip of orange juice. One painful swallow. Another sniffle. And then a serious flaring of his nostrils as he felt a sneeze coming on.

He picked up one of the napkins and cupped it to his face, so glad Betty had thought to get these for him. He breathed in and out a couple times, expecting the sneeze at any moment but just feeling it build and build. The napkin rubbed against his sore nose and still the sneeze built. Finally, he gasped and tensed up. “Heh!” It was another second of waiting before it finally struck in full force. “ehhhHIHShhhh! EhhChishhh! ehh-Hrschhhh! ehh HIHSchooo! Hihshhhooo! HIHSHUH! Sniff! HihShuhhh!

He pulled his eyes open and grabbed another napkin off the table. He curled into himself as he switched the napkins and then quickly blew and rubbed his nose. He balled them up into his fist when he was done, intending to throw them away when he was next near a trash can.

But he suddenly found Archie on his side of the table, standing next to him, tugging at his arm. “Get up, Jughead. We're going.”

Jughead frowned, looking at the clock. There was still more than a quarter of an hour left in the lunch period.  Where were they going? And how the hell was he supposed to find the strength to stand up after sneezing so much? He shivered and fought wanting to close his eyes. God, he was so tired.

“Come on,” Archie said, kinder this time. He dug his keys out of his backpack. “We're skipping the rest of the day. You're in no condition to sit through classes. And I'm not going to be able to concentrate on my classes knowing you're this bad.”

“It's just a cold,” Jughead protested.

“With a fever. And you look like you're about to drop dead with exhaustion? How much sleep did you even get last night? Wait, no, don't answer. I don't care. Just grab your backpack and let's go. Do you need anything out of your locker?”

Jughead shook his head.

“Okay, then it's straight to the parking lot.”

Somehow, Archie got him up onto his feet. Somehow, Archie got him out of school without anyone stopping them and asking questions. Somehow, Archie got him into the passenger seat of the car, buckled in for safety.

On the short ride to Archie's house, Archie called his dad to let him know what had happened. Not only did he understand, but Archie's dad said he'd call the school to let them know Archie was out sick. Jughead knew he couldn't call FP to ask him to call in an excuse. It was just one of so many things that were different when your dad was an unemployed alcoholic.

With warm air from the car's heater blowing on him and the repetitive vibrations of the car beneath him, Jughead found himself relaxing. Before he realized he'd even closed his eyes, Archie was shaking his arm to wake him up and tell him they were at Archie's house. Even the short walk from the warm car in the driveway up to the warm house made Jughead start shivering all over again. Archie parked him on the couch at once.

“I'll be right back,” he said, and he was.

The problem was, Jughead was sneezing again by the time he got back. “hehh-IHTchhh! Ihhh-HIHShhhh! Hehhhshoo!

Archie waited for the sneezes to stop and then he forced a pillow with a fresh pillowcase under Jughead's head. After this, he laid a single blanket over him.

Thinking of his bundle of blankets back at the drive-in's projection booth, Jughead started to ask for another blanket he could wrap up in. With his teeth chattering from the cold, he only got as far as. “Arch, could I get—” when Archie flipped a switch. Jughead went still for a second. Then he felt warmth all around him. It was a heated blanket. Jughead closed his eyes. He didn't know how he was ever going to be able to thank Archie for this. He hated being in anyone's debt, hated having to depend on anyone for anything. But this heated blanket was possibly the best thing he'd ever felt. He stopped shivering almost at once.

“Yeah? What do you need? Tissues? I've got you covered there.” Archie plopped a box on the coffee table in front of the couch. “And water?” He put two plastic bottles of water down as well, each one on a coaster to keep the wooden surface of the table safe. “Did you take any medicine for this yet?” Jughead nodded. “Well, that's good. What else do you need?”

Jughead sniffed. “Nothing. I ehhh ehhh-Hishoo! Sniff!” He reached out and found the tissue box was just within reach. He rubbed his nose into the tissue and gave a good, strong wipe. His nose felt dry for the moment at least. “I think I’ve got everything.”

“Not everything just yet. Here.” Archie handed him the television remote control then flopped into his father's recliner to look through social media on his phone. He looked like he couldn't care less what channel Jughead chose to watch, and Jughead considered turning it to an adult entertainment channel just to see Archie's reaction. But, of course, he didn't.

Jughead smiled to himself. Archie was worried about him and not going to abandon him until Jughead was settled, but Archie was trying not to make it obvious. He fussed to a point and then gave Jughead his needed space. Even after the rocky moments between them lately, he still knew Jughead all too well and knew just what he needed.

“Thanks.” Jughead turned on the television, flipped to the Food Network, and promptly fell asleep.