My roommate is trying to break the world record of pull-ups done by a girl. Problem is, she's completely shit at pull-ups. Unfortunately, Toothpick Tina has even less brain power than she does muscle and still hasn't figured out that it's a lost cause. I'm five seconds away from beating her to death with my book when a guard walks into the room.
"You've got a visitor, Collins."
"Not interested." The guard grunts and snatches my book out of my hands.
"I didn't ask if you were interested. Get up." I'm going to strangle Tall Boy. That was a really good book and the guard probably won't let me finish it now. I swear, I'm not usually this violent. But you try sharing a room with a dumb-ass Ghoulie for 2 months without being a little grumpy. I'm not emotionally prepared to deal with whatever bad news Tall Boy is here to give me right now. I'm a little bit thrown when it's in fact, not Tall Boy on the other side of the Plexiglas window. The blonde eyes me with a smirk and picks up the phone.
"Long time no see, eh?"
"Not long enough." Penny laughs, albeit sarcastically.
"I have news about your case."
"Are you gonna tell me what it is or do I have to shank someone for you first?" The blonde grins.
"Remember Cheryl Blossom?" I nod. "Turns out she doesn't blame you for her brothers murder after all. She gave a statement at the courthouse for FP and threw you a bone. The way I figure it, you were just a poor girl, desperate for love from her druggie Uncle Mustang, who would do anything to get some attention. Including, helping him and his boss hide a body."
"You're a cold hearted bitch, Peabody." She nods proudly. "I'm getting out?"
"As soon as they process the paperwork." A year early, at least. The Snake Charmer is truly an evil genius. "Just remember, Collins. I don't do anything for free."
"Have you ever know me to back down, Penny?" Penny smiles at me one more time before hanging up the phone. I barely have time to process what just happened before a guard stands me up and shoves me back towards my out of juvie, good. Blaming everything on my uncle, not great. Agreeing to work for Penny, terrible. Overall, pretty average for how my life has been so far. Definitely better than spending my life in prison as an accessory to murder though. Honestly, the serpents shouldn't even be here. It was Daddy Blossom who pulled the trigger.
When I get back, Tina is still going at it on the pull-up bar. She does a whole three pull-ups before Missy stomps over and socks Tina in the stomach. She walks off and Tina lays on the ground moaning. I wish I still had my book.
Missy Carlione once told me that the buzzers of Shankshaw Juvenile Detention Center sound like freedom. Missy Carlione is a goddamn liar. They make them same noise when they let you out as they do when they lock you in. Maybe that's a metaphor. One of those ouroboros snakes Toni was telling me about that eat themselves tail first. Mostly though, the buzzers just give me a headache. And stepping out into the freezing Riverdale air knowing that no one was here to drive me home just made it worse.
It's October in Riverdale, you can tell because the South Side is covered completely in mud and slush. My toes are half frozen by the time I get to my trailer. Despite being empty for two months it's fairly clean. Freezing though, and someone jacked the propane while I was gone. All I want is a hot shower and food that doesn't come from a boil-in-baggie. Is that too much to ask?
Apparently it is, because I've been home for five minutes and someone is already banging on the door.
"You have a goddamn death wish, Tall Boy?" The giant man just grunts and nods his head to the pickup truck behind him. Fucking, Peabody. I'm freezing and smell like a gymnasium but of course, our lives revolve around the Snake Charmer. I shrug on my serpent jacket, taking a second to relax into the comforting leather, before following Tall Boy to the truck.
He lets me crank the heater as high as it will go. Or I should say, I crank the heater and ignore the glare he sends me but he doesn't turn it off. The drive to the warehouse is pretty quick with Tall Boy speeding along the backroads between here and Greendale. We pick up two crates that weigh approximately a million pounds each and get them into the truck before Penny even shows up. The second she shows I'm kicked out of the warehouse and told to sit in the truck. I manage to snag Tall Boy's keys before they shove me out the door.
Tall Boy has the lamest taste in music. I mean he's like 40 but still, live a little. He seriously has 3 copies of the same Metallica CD. I pop in a Slayer CD and crank the heat way up again.
First thing tomorrow I've gotta visit Thomas Topaz. We're related, I guess. My dad was his cousin or something, I don't really know. But after Mustang died my mom started wiring money from whatever vacation town she was in to Thomas. I don't even know if anyone told her that I got arrested. Probably not. The main thing is, Thomas should have money for me. Enough to buy some gas for the trailer and to pay off my phone bill. Then school, I guess. Since attendance is part of my probation deal. I really don't want to go back to school without washing my hair first.
I switch out the Slayer CD for a bootleg Anthrax one. Maybe I could sneak in a few modern CDs while I'm working with Tall Boy. I mean, 80s metal is great but there's only so many times I can listen to Tall Boy singing along to Master Of Puppets before I want to slam my head into the window. What plays from the speakers is not Anthrax.
Friday night and the lights are low. Holy shit.
Looking out for some place to go. It's ABBA. Tall Boy has a secret ABBA CD. Oh my god, he is never going to live this down.
I can't wipe the shit eating grin off my face when I see Tall Boy trudge back to the truck. He doesn't notice until he opens the door and I twist up the volume.
"YOU CAN DANCE! YOU CAN JI-IVE! HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE!" Tall Boy slams the door shut behind him and turns off the radio, quicker than you can blink. I don't let it stop me. "OHHHH, SEE THAT GIRL! WATCH THAT SCENE. DIGGING THE DANCING QUEEN!" If looks could kill, I'd be a pile of ash and embers.
"Not a fucking word, Collins."
"Oh come on! Everyone loves ABBA. Even you, apparently." He glares at me again and revs the engine.
"I will drive this car into a ditch if you say another word." He probably will. I stop singing, though I'm still grinning like a mad woman. "You can't judge me. You're a sixteen year old delinquent with a face tattoo." It's my turn to glare now. Tall Boy gives me a satisfied look.
I know, I know, a face tattoo? Believe me, I've heard it all. It was stupid. I know. Whatever. In my defense, I was locked up in juvie, my roommate had a tattoo needle, and I was going through a serious Marina and The Diamonds phase. Now I'm stuck with a little heart on my cheek for the rest of my life. It could be worse though, Missy has a neck tattoo that says 'RIP'. My face is evened out with a small scar on my other cheek. A souvenir from my father letting me drive when I was five. Not the best move but hey, we didn't die. I just crashed the car into a brick wall and got a sick scar and a stupid nickname to boot. I miss him.
We make the drive back to my trailer in record time. Before I'm able to slip out of the truck, Tall Boy grabs my arm and pulls me back in.
"You don't talk about this with your little friends, got me?"
"Yeah, whatever. Telling people about my new drug trafficking hobby isn't exactly on the top of my list of things to do, TB." He glares at my and tightens the grip on my arm.
"I'm not messing around, Crash."
"I got it." I yank my arm back and match his glare. Just cause he's twice my size doesn't mean he scares me. I hop out of the truck and into the freezing air and he peels away.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
I wrote this months ago before I learned to use dialogue tags so....... sorry.
I was raised to respect my elders. The Uktena traditions were passed down to me by my father and grandmother. We are, at our core, a tribe and a family. The Serpents live and breathe by family. That being said, if I could kick Grandpa Topaz's ass I would.
I haven't seen the man in two months and what do I get? A hug? A smile? A 'Hey Crash. I missed you'. NO. He smacked me on the forehead. Not even a real greeting. Just opened the door, saw me, and bam. He's lucky I'm not sporting a red mark on my first day back to school. He did let me inside… eventually.
"It's fucking freezing out here. I thought it was supposed to be October." I flop on the couch next to Thomas' armchair and stretch out my frozen legs.
"Sorry. It's fucking freezing in this fucking town. I fucking thought it was supposed to be fucking October." He tries to smirk and glare at the same time. It works for him.
"Why aren't you at school?"
"Because it's 7 a.m. Why aren't you in a retirement home?" He smacks my arm and I grin at him. "Where's Toni?" He shrugs, which I guess means she spent the night at her uncle's place.
"I'm assuming you didn't come here to enjoy my presence?"
"Of course I did. You're by far my second favorite old man."
"Hey, you'll be old too one day. See who's laughing then." He sits back in his chair and squints his eyes at me a little. "What do you really want?"
"Did my mom send me anything while I was gone?"
"By gone you mean…?" He raises his eyebrows at me and I roll my eyes.
"Arrested and locked in juvenile detention. Lesson learned."
"I doubt that. Kitchen cabinet, by the cereal." Score. I stand quickly and take the few steps into the kitchen. The lower corner of the cabinet is filled with random letters and bills I have to sort through to find the money orders from my mom.
"You should really organize these before they shut your water off."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. I was here first. It's my water." I shove my papers into my jacket pocket and put the other mail back.
"I don't think Riverdale Water & Power are gonna give in as quick as the boys at the Wyrm do."
"I can take 'em." I laugh and Thomas flexes his arm.
"I'm sure you can. I gotta get going. I have to sign in with the office before I ditch first period."
"You have to what?"
"Go to class, take notes, ace all my tests, etcetera."
"That's what I thought. Damn kids." I'm halfway out the door before I stop and turn around.
"Hey, do you have a phone I could use for a couple of hours? I've gotta get mine turned back on but I can't 'til after school." Thomas eyes me for a second. "Just to text Toni and the boys." He nods and points to the side table.
"There's one in there. It has a few minutes on it I think." I open the drawer in the table and dig through even more papers. Under a stack of TV Guides there's an old flip phone. It works though, and I'll take what I can get.
"You're the best, Topaz."
"I know. Go to school." I laugh and wave goodbye as I step out of the trailer, Thomas nodding in response.
The walk to school is quick enough. I've really gotta talk to someone about getting a ride. I'd look badass on a motorcycle. Walking through the metal detectors into the poorly lit and even more poorly heated South Side High is almost comforting. Sure, it's dirty and people are doing Jingle Jangle in the corners but it's home. God, that's depressing.
Walking through the SSH cafeteria is like stepping into some fucked up modern West Side Story school musical. Including a literal fence that goes through the center of the room. It's supposed to keep us from fighting but mostly it just makes for a dramatic backdrop. As expected, Fangs and Sweet Pea are sitting at our table eating breakfast. Fangs notices me first and grins, causing Sweet Pea to try to figure out who the hell he's smiling at.
"In the flesh." I can't help but smile at them after not seeing them for so long. Sweet Pea is the first one to stand up and hug me, my head not even reaching his shoulders. Fangs just slaps me on the back from his seat.
"What the hell are you doing here?" He asks. I scoff.
"Nice to see you too, Fangs." Sweet Pea sits back down and I take the seat across from them. Fangs rolls his eyes at me.
"You didn't break out, did you?" Sweet Pea asks, only half joking.
"No. Remember that Blossom girl? Cherry, or whatever. She gave some speech at FP's trial about how it was all her dead daddy's fault and with the horrible influence of my druggie uncle I got off scot free."
"That's dark." Fangs remarks. Sweet Pea shoves Fangs with his shoulder and smiles at me.
"What he means to say is that we're happy to have you back." I smile back at him.
"Happy to be back." Fangs looks away long enough for me to grab some food off his tray. "Where's Topaz?"
"She volunteered to be part of the welcoming committee." Fangs tells me, glaring at the food in my hand but not taking it back.
"It's FP's kid." I raise my eyebrow at Sweets and he shrugs.
"I thought he went to Riverdale. Why is he slumming it on the South Side?" Fangs shrugs.
"I guess cause of his dad."
"Right." I nod. "How is Daddy Jones anyway?" Sweet Pea groans dramatically.
"Please stop calling him that. It makes me nauseous." Fangs and I laugh at him and he gestures to the cafeteria door.
"Here comes the purple haired princess." I look over and see Toni with Jughead Jones. She doesn't look happy. "And her knight in shining beanie."
"What do you think he's saying?" Fangs asks.
"By the look on Toni's face, I'm betting something stupid." Sweet Pea snorts and Fangs nods in agreement. Jughead walks off and Toni turns to us with a roll of her eyes. She freezes on me for a second before smiling and coming over to hug me.
"Crash!" She squeezes me so hard I can barely breathe.
"Missed you too, Toni." She finally lets go and grins at me. Before we have time to catch up the bell rings.
"Hurry up, kids. It's time to learn shit." Toni leads the four of us out of the cafeteria, slipping between other kids with the speed and agility only short girls can manage. Sweet Pea and Fangs take a different route. Sweet Pea flinging his arm across my shoulders and Fangs crashing through the crowd in front of us, not caring who he bumps into. It's good to be home.
The feeling doesn't last long, however. I almost forgot how soul sucking math class really is. At least Toni and Sweet Pea get to take English together. Fangs and I are on our own. It's cruel. I make it a record three minutes into the teacher explaining basic algebra before I pull out the phone Thomas gave me. The only number programmed in is Toni's uncle but I've had my friends memorized for years.
Hi Sweet Pea.
Who is this?
What's your favorite scary movie?
Did you just send me an emoji? All I got was a stupid rectangle
Middle finger emoji
Middle finger emoji to you too, asshole
How did you know?
How'd you really get out of kid jail?
Bullshit. I've known you all my life and you've never been good.
I'm a bad girl, Pea.
Eye roll emoji
Okay, fine. When did you get out?
And you didn't tell me?
I was busy!
Shouldn't you be paying attention to your class?
I was with Penny…
Cue Sweet Pea knocking down my classroom door in 3, 2, and-
Meet me by the bathroom
Close enough. I can't tell if the teacher is actually reading or if she's asleep and using her book as a cover. Either way, she's not going to say anything if I walk out of class. So, I do. Sweet Pea is pacing in front of the bathrooms. Boy, does he look pissed. I consider running away for a second but I'm going to have to deal with it sooner or later. Plus, he sees me before I get the chance to hide.
"What the hell, Crash? Peabody?" I cringe.
"She's the Serpent's lawyer. She got me out. Don't make this into something it's not, okay?" I take a few steps closer to him and lean against the lockers.
"No. Not okay. Do you understand what Penny does? She's a plague on the Serpents and now she has her claws in you too."
"I'm fine, Pea. I've got it under control." He glares at me and I sigh and grab his hand. "Trust me." He takes a breath.
"Fine." I grin, squeezing his hand, before dropping it to hug him instead. He leaves his hands at his sides until he realizes that I'm not letting go and hugs me back. I press the side of my face into his chest and he tightens his arms just a little.
"I missed you." He laughs and I can hear it deep in his chest.
"I bet you did." He replies smugly.
"Asshole." He laughs again and I pull out of the hug to smack him on the arm. The bell rings and kids start filling the halls. I swear, the classes at SSH are barely five minutes long. Sweet Pea pulls me down the hall towards our next class.
"You going to Fangs' tonight? His moms making dinner."
"Maybe." I shrug. "I have to go to City Hall and run errands. Someone jacked the gas from my trailer while I was gone."
"Where'd you sleep last night?"
"In my bed. Under a million blankets." Sweet Pea gives me an annoyed look.
"You're gonna freeze to death. Next time just come to my place."
"Sure. Next time I get locked up and someone steals all my shit I'll just go to yours." Sweet Pea rolls his eyes and shoves my shoulder.
"Or if you just want to hang out. I have heat, running water, and food. Basically a five star resort." We get to our classroom and sit in the back row. "Speaking of resorts, where's your mom these days?"
"Aruba. Or maybe it was Cabo? Somewhere where you can drink liquor out of coconuts." Sweet Pea gives me his classic 'I hate your mom' look and I give him a small smile. "Nothing says 'I loved my husband' like blowing his life insurance on drinks and cabana boys, right?" He pulls out a notebook and rips out a blank sheet of paper for me to take notes.
"Come eat with Fangs and I. Or at least come over after. Mrs. Fogarty got Netflix."
"Yeah, maybe." I can't find my pencil so I take one from the kid next to me.
The door slams and our teacher walks in with a comically big mug of coffee.
"Welcome to World History."
City Hall is definitely a portal to hell. That's just a fact. The janky AT&T store is purgatory and the rest of the Southside is like, the river of Styx or whatever. Thankfully, Mrs. Fogarty's food can fix anything, supernatural or not. That doesn't really make sense, but whatever. I'm eyeball deep in carne asada fries and five seasons of Breaking Bad. I don't care about anything. The apocalypse could be happening at this very moment and I would not budge from this cozy ass couch. And as a special bonus, Mrs. Fogarty has that mom look that can make anyone do anything, including convincing Fangs and Sweet Pea to set up my propane for me while I eat dessert. She is the coolest.
The boys got back while I was helping myself to second dinner and we all smushed together onto the couch to continue binge watching.
"Is that Danny Trejo?" Sweet Pea asks, throwing his legs over mine. Fangs shifts into the corner on my other side and puts his legs over Sweet Pea's so I'm a Serpent Sandwich and I balance my plate on their legs.
"Well," I take a big bite of food, "it's Danny Trejo's head." Sweet Pea snorts. Mrs. Fogarty gives me a mom look.
"Don't talk with your mouthful, Carrie."
"Sorry, Mrs. Fogarty." She smiles at me before turning back to the TV, even more interested than we were. We all flinched when the bomb went off on the show.
"Nice one." Fangs and I laugh at Sweet Pea's comment. Mrs. Fogarty tries to give him a mom look but the corners of her mouth are turned up.
"No bombs." She scolds. The three of us nod.
"Yes, Mrs. Fogarty." She shakes her head at us and turns back to the show. I'm fully engrossed when my phone starts vibrating.
"Shut that off!"
"Shut up, Sweet Pea." I shove Sweet Pea and Fang's legs off of my lap and grab my phone. Walking into the kitchen before I answer it.
"Who is this?"
"Jesus kid, didn't anyone teach you how to answer a phone."
"Oh, hi TB. How'd you get this number?"
"First off, stop calling me TB. Second, I got it from Penny."
"How did Penny get this number? I've had this phone for like 3 hours."
"She got it from Hog Eye."
"How did Hog Eye get it?"
"From Toni. It doesn't matter. Where are you? We've got shit to do." I squeeze my eyes shut to stop myself from audibly groaning or slamming my head repeatedly into the kitchen cabinet.
"I'm at my trailer."
"No you aren't. I'm at your trailer."
"For god sakes, Crash. I'm not in the mood."
"Whatever, I'll be there in five."
"Be here in two." I snap the phone shut. Yeah, I bought a flip phone. Make fun of me all you want but it is so worth the satisfaction of slamming the phone shut on people. Plus it was only twenty bucks. I shove the phone in my pocket and go back into the living room. Everyone's focus is on the show until I start pulling my boots on and Sweet Pea turns to me.
"Where are you going?'
"Out." He glares at me. "Serpent business." Mrs. Fogarty grunts in disapproval but doesn't say anything.
"I'll go with." Sweet Pea starts to stand but I cut him off.
"You weren't invited." I put on my jacket. Fangs is the closest to the front door so I smooch his forehead and he swats me away. "See you at school." Sweet Pea glares but I slip out the door and book it down the road to my trailer.
The thing no one ever tells you about drug trafficking is that it takes forever. Or maybe they do tell you and I just missed that episode of the after school special. Either way, they could put a picture of my under eye circles on a pamphlet for anti-gang propaganda. 'Don't waste your life- or your concealer'. Kids everywhere would be enlightened and start doing trigonometry or something. Whatever rich kids do in their free time.
I jump when Tall Boy opens the truck door. He pauses for a second, looking between me and the rearview mirror I had adjusted.
"If you're done with your makeup, princess, we have a job to do."
"My job is mostly being bored and listening to ABBA, so… mission accomplished." Tall Boy glares at me.
"Grab the crate." I jump out of the truck and follow Tall Boy to the bed. He drags the crate to the edge and looks me up and down. "You'd think Penny would have found someone who could lift more than a tube of lipstick."
"Don't be sexist, TB." I try to grab the crate to prove my point but it barely budges and Tall Boy snorts. He grabs one end and lifts it almost entirely out of the truck and I grab the other side. He's still doing most of the work and he makes sure I know it.
"Don't break a nail, Collins." I glare at him. We get the crate into the warehouse without dropping it, or breaking anything. Tall Boy walks into Penny's makeshift office and I try to follow but he blocks me.
"Wait in the truck." He slams the door closed before I can protest. What an asshole. I'm definitely telling everyone about his secret ABBA CD. I go back to the truck, not because he told me to but because I wanted to. Whatever. Tall Boy had better have Fernando on this thing.
I walk into the cafeteria the next morning, fully expecting to be able to nap until second period. What I'm not expecting, is Sweet Pea surrounded by a bunch of teen serpents watching something on his laptop. It's probably another cat video. Wait, no. Sweet Pea doesn't know that I know how many cat videos he actually watches. Which is a lot, by the way. Like a weird amount. The video they're watching though, is totally cat-less.
"Please tell me this is gay porn and not a Fight Club remake." Sweet Pea looks up from the computer and Toni scoots down the bench so I can sit down between them.
"Neither. Some North Sider went psycho and made a video threatening the Black Hood." He turns the laptop towards me and restarts it.
"Oh my god. That's hilarious." I crack up and Sweet Pea and Toni laugh with me. Fangs grins. Sweet Pea restarts it.
"Maybe we should take him down a peg." Fangs offers with a smirk. Jughead saunters up to the table.
"I'm guessing we're not watching funny cat videos." Oh god, he knows about Sweet Pea secret youtube account. Sweet Pea pauses the video and turns the laptop towards Jughead.
"Check this out. Some sick in the head Northsider posted a crazy ass video. And uh, we were just talking."
"Fogarty wants to earn his Serpent stripes." He slaps Fangs on the back proudly. "I say, bring us the head of that Northsider and you're in." I grin at Fangs and he smiles back.
"I'm down with that." Everyone laughs and Sweet Pea slams his fist on the table, encouraging Fangs. Jughead blanches.
"What, Jughead?" Sweet Pea raises his eyebrow and gives Jughead a menacing look.
"I know this guy. He's milquetoast. A football player. He's just kind of a lame target is all I'm saying. You wanna prove something? Why don't you go after the Black Hood?" I can't help but scoff.
"Why would we do that?" I ask him.
"The Black Hood's targeting Northsiders, who do nothing but blame the Southside for everything that's wrong with this town. And we're sick of it. The Black Hood's doing our work for us. He's a hero." Sweet Pea says. I nod in agreement. Jughead fumbles for words. He looks like he wants to say more but instead he just walks away. Sweet Pea turns the laptop back towards the group and restarts the video.
"Check it out." Fangs points to another video. "Remix."
Since being home I had quickly fallen into my old routine. Mostly because my old routine was hanging out with Sweets, Toni, and Fangs and wreaking havoc on the Southside. It was pretty easy to pick back up.
"Okay, okay. Get out the chart, Fangs." Fangs diligently pulls the crinkled piece of paper out of his pocket and smooths it out on the sidewalk. I pull the pen out of my hair and make a tally next to Sweet Pea's name. "The official rankings for Loudest Shoe are as follows: Sweet Pea as number one, Fangs as number two, Crash Collins as number three, and Toni Topaz as number negative three."
"Why is Toni even on the chart if she isn't here?" Fangs asks.
"Because Crash keeps losing and she refuses to accept it." I glare at Sweet Pea and he shrugs.
"No! Because even though Topaz is too busy playing FBI with Jones, she's still officially last on the Crash Collins Olympics leader board."
"We are not calling it the Crash Collins Olympics." Sweet Pea protests for the sixth time.
"Yes we are. It's on the chart." Sweet Pea makes a grab for the pen but I pull it out of his reach. "I have the pen, I have the power."
"It's my pen!"
"You gave it to me." Fangs snatches the pen from my hands and crosses out 'Crash Collins Olympics' from the top of the page.
"We should take a break." Sweet Pea sits on the curb and stretches his legs into the street.
"You only want to take a break because you're winning." Fangs points out, though he flops down on the sidewalk next to Sweet Pea. "I'm thirsty." I grab the paper from the ground and shove it in my pocket.
"You guys are so boring." Sweet Pea grabs my ankle tugs it, nearly knocking me off balance. I shake it out of his grasp and kick him in the arm but he grabs it again and yanks it harder. Fangs catches on and grabs my arm, pulling it down too until I fall. Luckily, I fall on the two of them instead of the concrete. Lucky for me at least. Sweets got a knee to the chest. I roll off of them and onto the edge of the street.
"You're gonna get hit by a car."
"You're the one who pulled me down." Sweet Pea rolls his eyes, grabbing my arms and dragging me closer to the sidewalk. I lean my back against his knees. The boys are quiet, enjoying the last bit of sunset and the little bit of heat that it brings. I get bored quickly though, and fidget with my shoelaces. "I'm bored." Fangs huffs and pokes me hard in the shoulder.
"You're like a toddler." Fangs pokes me again and I swipe at his hand.
"And you're like a less cool version of Ponyboy." I retie my laces. "Can we go now? I'm thirsty." Sweet Pea groans. I stand and grab his arm, trying to pull him up to no avail. I knew he was muscular but I never really noticed how solid he is. It's kind of hot, except it's Sweet Pea who is most definitely not hot. Just super annoying and hard to move. "Get up!" I tell him, pulling on his arm again. He grunts. Fangs watches the sun disappear behind the horizon and when it's finally gone he stands and brushes the dirt from his jeans.
"Okay. I'm ready." Sweet Pea grunts again and I pull on his arm again using my entire body weight. Fangs watches us and laughs.
"Dude, do you only weigh ten pounds?" I glare at him. I'll admit that physically I am not super intimidating. I'm pretty average, height wise, and instead of looking tough and majestic like my ancestors my cheekbones just make my face look round and cherubic. I have a well deserved reputation but honestly, if you didn't know who I was and I pulled a knife on you, you'd probably laugh.
"I'll have you know, Fangs, that what I lack in mass I make up for in anger."
"Like a chihuahua." Sweet Pea chimes in. I kick him in the shin and he laughs. Assholes.
"Whatever. You guys suck." I drop Sweet Pea's arm, unable to make him budge and switch to Plan B. "Whoever gets to the bodega last has to pay." And with that I start sprinting down the street as quickly as I can. The bodega is only two blocks away, but Sweet Pea's grotesquely long legs will let him catch up quickly if I don't keep my head start. I hear boots slamming pavement behind me. Fangs, judging by the slapping sound. Sweet Pea shouts and his clomping boots start following ours. Maybe I should get combat boots. I bet I'd look badass in combat boots.
I'm only a few feet away from the door when Fangs cuts in front of me on the sidewalk. He tries to skid to a stop but slams his hands into the bodega window, making the boy behind the counter jump. I slip around Fangs, getting inside first, right as Sweet Pea arrives.
"Sweet Pea lost. He's paying." I greet the boy at the counter, Nico. He's not a Serpent yet, but his parents both are. "Nico, what's the most expensive drink you have?"
"There's some of that hipster coconut water shit in the back." He barely glances up at us from his book. Just enough to make sure we aren't Ghoulies or robbing him. Fangs leans against the counter and starts talking to Nico about his book. I go to the back by the coconut water and Sweet Pea follows.
"That stuff is gross. Tastes like sweat." Sweet Pea points out before I buy one and regret it.
"You're gross and taste like sweat." He swats the back of my head lightly.
"How do you know what I taste like?" I will not blush. Crash Collins does not blush.
"Tall Boy told me." Sweet Pea snorts and grabs a gatorade. I decide to not get the coconut water and get some iced tea instead. Pea grabs it and pays, interrupting Fangs and Nico.
"When do you get off work?" Fangs asks Nico, leaning on his elbows across the counter. Sweet Pea raises an eyebrow at me and I give him a confused look. He rolls his eyes and gestures at Fangs and Nico. What is his problem? Sweet Pea rolls his eyes again and leans in so he can whisper in my ear.
"They're flirting." OH.
"How can you tell?" He gives me an 'are you serious look' and I shrug. I can never tell when people are flirting. Someone would have to be like, 'Crash I think you're hot and we should make out' and I'd still be like 'You mean as friends or something?' and they'd be like, 'Not as friends. You're the love of my life and we should get married and move to Manitoba'. Not that I think about that a lot or anything. Anyway, Sweet Pea twists open my tea and hands it to me and we stand back while Fangs and Nico flirt it up.
"Do we approve of Nico?" Sweet Pea asks quietly. I think for a moment.
"He's not a Serpent, but his parents are. He reads a lot, which seems like something Fangs would be into. He's cute."
"He's cute?" I nod and Sweet Pea stares hard at Nico.
"He's either into men or completely oblivious." I add.
"Definitely into Fangs, at least." Sweets nods.
"I would approve more if he were initiated, but he's better than the last boy Fangs was into. And way better than the Ghoulie girl."
"He didn't know she was a Ghoulie at the time." I grunt and Sweet Pea shakes his head. Another girl walks in and Nico nods at her. Fangs saunters over to us.
"He's coming with." He says proudly. "Just has to cash out so Leah can take over." Nico takes his tray out of the register and walks to the back office, leaving the three of us alone in the shop. "Heard you, by the way. And if we're going to bring up ghoulish mistakes then Crash is definitely the worst offender." Nico walks back over to us. I didn't even see him coming out of the office, I'm definitely losing my touch.
"Ghoulish mistakes?" He asks. Fangs smirks but before he can continue Sweet Pea cuts him off.
"Leave it alone, Fangs." He scolds. He leads us all out of the bodega.
"Jealous, Pea?" Sweet Pea grabs Fangs in a choke hold and Fangs starts laughing. Pea starts laughing too and Nico and I share an amused look. Boys are so weird. Before they can escalate the play fight we hear a noise down the alley. Sweet Pea drops his hold on Fangs, almost making Fangs fall to the ground. Nico helps him up. Sweet Pea starts down the alley suspiciously. Some kid is tagging the wall and Sweet Pea shouts at him.
"Hey! What the hell are you doing?"
"Back off. I'm not here for you." Stupid kid. You shouldn't go wandering around the Southside alone unless you want to get your head smashed in.
"Oh yeah? Then who's this message for, huh?" He asks, grabbing the kid and shoving him. It's that boy from the video. The one Jughead told us not to go after. If he came after us that makes him fair game! "Aw, hell. Don't tell me it's for the Black Hood." Sweet Pea laughs. "You believe this guy? And people say we're the troublemakers." The kid shrugs his backpack on and tries to walk off but Fangs, Nico, and I block his path.
"Southside Serpent country. Not safe for Northsiders" Fangs says.
"You can't come here and tag our turf. So, why don't you get your ass back to the Northside before somebody gets hurt."
"Get out of my way, or someone will get hurt." The Northsider says. It would almost be intimidating if he weren't a head shorter than SP. Sweet Pea smirks and pulls out his blade.
"You just made a big mistake." He says. He flicks the blade and grins. The kids eyes flicker from the knife to Sweet Pea before he pulls a gun out of his backpack. Fangs and Nico take a step back. Sweet Pea steps in front of me and I can't see what's happening anymore.
"Who made a mistake?" We all take a step away. Nico takes off down the street. I can't blame him, the kid has a seriously crazy look in his eyes. "Who made a mistake?" He shouts again. Sweet Pea puts his hands up in surrender. Fangs starts running and pulls me behind him and once Sweet Pea realizes that the kid isn't gonna shoot us in the back he runs after us. We don't stop running until we turn the corner and don't hear the Northsider running after us.
"What the fuck was that?" Nico asks, out of breath. We didn't run that far but the poor kids hands are shaking. None of us answer. We just lean against the brick wall and try to get our nerves back. Give us a break, okay. You can be tough as nails and having a gun in your face is still pretty fucking nerve wracking. Plus that kid has definitely lost his marbles.
"Let's go to the Wyrm. I need something stronger than an iced tea." Everyone agrees, whether it's to actually go to the Wyrm or just get the hell off the streets. I don't really care.
We started the night at the Whyte Wyrm, shooting pool and drinking beer. At least Nico and I were shooting pool and drinking beer. Fangs watched us play and Sweets sat brooding about the northsider who 'showed him up' last night. Whatever.
I'm one ball away from winning the game when Sweet Pea storms over to the table. I glance at him, but used to his angst I just aim my cue instead of giving him attention. I miss and Nico smirks. This game is stupid anyway. Sweet Pea crosses his arms over his chest and sighs loudly. Nico takes aim and hits one of his balls into the pocket. Sweet Pea sighs again and I give in.
"What do you want, Pea?" He glares down at the pool table.
"We should teach that Northsider a lesson. He can't come to our turf and threaten us." Sweets unfolds his arms and presses his palms into the edge of the table.
"What kind of lesson?" Fangs asks, half-heartedly.
"The violent kind." I perk up a little. Fangs does too, but more out of concern than excitement. Nico nudges me and I go back to the game.
"You know where he lives?" I ask, lining up my cue stick. I knock the ball but it bounces off the edge of the pocket. Nico grins and I glare at him, leaning against the table and looking up at Sweet Pea.
"Yup." Creep. I down the last few sips of my beer.
"I'm in. Let's knock some Northside heads."
"Hey, the games not over." Nico protests. Fangs smiles at him.
"Crash always quits when she's about to lose. Don't take it personally." I shove Fangs but he barely moves and Nico laughs. Assholes. Nico gives in and puts his cue away. Sweet Pea grabs a few more teen Serpents that owe him favors or just want to impress him and tells them the plan.
On our way out, Tall Boy catches my eye. He gives me an 'I'm watching you' look and I give him the finger. Not my best work, but he rolled his eyes so at least he knows I'm watching the clock. I'm not stupid enough to be late to meet Penny, despite what Tall Boy might think.
The sound of motorcycles signalled our arrival to the quaint Northside neighborhood. I still don't have a motorcycle so I had to ride on the back of Sweet Pea's like some biker girl in a calendar. I really need to get my own ride.
Sweet Pea and the gang stomped up the steps to Archie's house. Archie whipped open the door before we were even on the porch. Sweet Pea stood at his full height, like he always does before a fight.
"How stupid are you Northsiders? You really think you can come to my house and stick a gun in my face in front of my boys?" I cleared my throat. "And my girl." Thank you. "And there wouldn't be any payback?" Before the redhead could respond another boy opened the door wider to reveal himself.
"You have crap timing, bro. Bulldogs eat Serpents for lunch." I barely held back a laugh. Instead I stood next to Sweet Pea, trying to look at tough as I could even though I was by far the smallest of the group. I think it worked since the girl behind Archie kept giving me the evil eye.
"We'll see about that." Sweet Pea said, smirking. "And the more the merrier." He added, stepping towards the house where more Bulldogs kept stepping into view. The other boy grabbed Pea's shirt and shoved him back before Archie grabbed his friends hand and told him to chill.
"Veronica, stay here." Archie told the girl. She furrowed her eyebrows and grabbed his arm.
"What, Archie? No." He turned back to her and pulled her away from the door to talk. I made eye contact with the other Northside boy and he smirked at me. I'm gonna kill him,the look on his face pisses me off.
"If you wanna fight, we'll fight." Archie says, as if he had a choice.
"What about your gun?"
"What about your knife?"
"How about no weapons?" The girl, Veronica I guess, interrupts.
"How about lots of weapons?" I suggest.
"If you troglodytes insist on doing this, there are gonna be rules." Bitch. "Or should I call Sheriff Keller to referee?" Snitch bitch. I try to take a step towards her, ready to tell her that she doesn't make the rules, before Sweet Pea puts a hand out.
"Fine. No weapons." The boys agree. Sweet Pea suggests the bridge, a common place to fight because there's no one around to call the cops. Archie agrees and we all get in our cars and bikes to drive to the bridge.
When we get there it's raining. It's kind of cool to be honest, but mostly it just makes my hair stick to my face. I throw my hair in a ponytail to keep it out of my eyes and take off my jacket. I don't know how they boys keep theirs on when they fight, mine just gets in the way. The rain quickly soaks through my shirt and if it weren't for the adrenalin from the fight I'd be freezing. The Northsiders finally pull up and get out of their cars. Let's get this show on the road.
Archie and Sweet Pea step forward first, like they're about to play a violent game of basketball. Archie throws the first punch, right into Pea's jaw. After that, everyone rushes forward. I go for the boy closest to me. He lunges for me with his arms out, like he's trying to tackle me, so I punch him in the nose and dip out of his reach. I can always tell when someone underestimates me in a fight but this ain't my first rodeo. I've been fighting since I was five and Moose Mason stole my crayons, so I kicked him in the nuts. Good times.
After seeing the first one miss another boy lunges for me. I get a good shot in his stomach but he pulls me to the ground next to him. I half roll away before he grabs my arm and punches me in the face. He's stronger than me, so instead of pushing him off I claw at his face, catching his cheek and when his hold on my arm loosens I slide away. The first guy grabs me around the neck and the other one stands up. I grab the first boys arm and use him as leverage to lift both my legs and kick the second one as hard as I can in the chest. He stumbles back and another Serpent grabs him and starts punching. The first boys grip around my neck tightens and it starts getting hard to breathe. I try to bring my leg up and kick backwards but I only catch his shin. I kick again and get his knee, but not hard enough for him to loosen his grip.
I'm really going to get choked to death on this ugly ass bridge, aren't I? My vision starts getting black around the edges. I use all the last of my strength to slam my elbow into the guys ear and he lets go, dropping me onto the ground. I almost have my breath back enough to go for the guys legs when a shot rings into the air making everyone freeze.
That Veronica bitch is holding a gun in the air. She's the one who said no weapons in the first place. Obviously, that doesn't count when her precious boyfriend is losing. We can't stick around after the gunshot. Sheriff Keller and his mighty men will be here in minutes to arrest the Serpents whether we were to blame or not.
Sweet Pea gives me a ride home on his bike and since I have time to kill I invite him in. He's happy to get out of the rain and quickly accepts. I stop him from sitting on the couch with his wet clothes and drag him to the bathroom instead. He sits on the sink and I dig through the cabinet for the first aid kit.
"Your face is bleeding." I touch my face where the boy punched me. I guess I am.
"I thought it was just rain." I smile at Pea and he shakes his head. "You can take your jacket off. And there's probably at least one of your shirts here if you want it." He quickly strips his jacket and shirt off, tossing them onto the shower floor.
"It's freezing in here." I shrug and put some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. "Why isn't the heat on?"
"It's on it just low. Can't waste the gas while I'm not home." He's quiet and I grab a towel and hand it to him.
"This is gonna sting." He nods and I dab his cheek with the cotton. He winces but tries to play it off. He sits quietly, brooding, while I clean the blood off his face. "Use the towel." He ignores me. I roll my eyes and wrap the towel around his shoulders to keep him warm.
"Do I get to clean the blood off your face too? Or am I the only one who gets tortured."
"You're such a baby sometimes. It only stings a little." Sweet Pea gives me a playful glares and grabs the cotton balls and rubbing alcohol. There's nowhere else to sit in the tiny room so I stand between his legs and he wets the cotton.
"This is gonna sting." He says mockingly before wiping my face with it. It stings a lot, actually and I pull away from him. "Baby." He teases.
"You're a baby." He dabs my face again and I try to push his hand away.
"Seriously, stop. Your face is still bleeding." He says quietly. He pulls me closer to him so I can't pull away when he cleans the cut on my chin. "The Northsiders are going to get what's coming for them." I can't say anything with his hand on my jaw so I hum in agreement. He finishes cleaning my cut and his hand drops.
"Let me put a bandaid on your cheek." Sweet Pea laughs even though I wasn't joking.
"I know for a fact that you only have Hello Kitty bandaids and I am not wearing that." He's right. Toni bought them for me though, I swear. I roll my eyes and close the first aid kit. Sweet Pea stands up, so I'm face to chest with him.
"Still cold?" He looks down at me stares for a moment before smirking. I give him an apprehensive look.
"Freezing." He grabs me and picks me up, making me shout in surprise. We get into the hallway and he throws me over his shoulder and walks into the living room. "How do you turn up the heat in this place?" He asks, spinning around like he's looking for the thermostat even though he damn well knows where it is.
"Pea, put me down." He laughs loudly. I slam my hands onto his back but he still doesn't let go. "I'm gonna kill you." He spins again, turning his head towards me.
"What? I can't hear you from down there."
"You're such an asshole." He laughs again proudly and drops me onto the couch. I bounce off and slide to the floor. He's still laughing and it only gets worse when I glare at him from the floor. I lunge for his legs and he stumbles but doesn't fall. Me not being able to knock him over makes him laugh even harder and he leans forward, resting his arm on the side of the couch. I lunge again, this time for his middle and pull him onto the floor next to me. He keeps laughing and the dumb look on his face makes me finally start laughing too. It takes him a minute to calm down and when he does he stretches out on the floor like a starfish. I sit next to him until he pulls me so I'm lying down too.
"Remember when we were kids and we would go to the quarry and look at the stars?" He asks me quietly. I look over at him and he's staring at the ceiling.
"I remember you dragging me to the quarry in the middle of the night and falling asleep." Pea rolls his eyes and I grin.
"You have to appreciate the little things, Crash." He closes his eyes and I watch him for a few seconds.
Sometimes when we're alone he gets really cheesy. He talks about the stars and the sunset and everything else that natures does when you aren't looking. He tells me that beauty is everywhere, you just have to look for it. I don't really see things the way he does, though. I think, maybe, my life is just darker than his. Uglier. Some people think that it's easier to see the stars when everything around you is dark.
My mom runs from the darkness. She fills her life with sunny beaches and flashy clubs and old men with teeth that are too white. She tries to hide behind her shiny new credit card and peroxide hair, like nothing bad has ever happened to her. She's a liar and a bitch. She pretends that my dad and I never existed, like I'm just some random girl that lives in her house while she's on vacation. I hate her. Sweet Pea must have felt my body tense because he scoots closer to me and nudges me with his elbow. I'm expecting him to say something dorky and heartfelt but he doesn't.
"Got any food?" I roll my eyes and sit up.
"I have cheese crackers and chocolate milk." He sits up and faces me. "Oh, and a bag of spinach." He wrinkles his nose.
"It's healthy." He does a weird half-scoff/half-laugh thing and stands up, pulling me with him.
"Let's get Fangs and Toni and go to Pop's." I look at the clock and frown.
"Can't. Tall Boy's gonna be here soon and he gets bitchy when I'm late." Sweet Pea frowns walks into the kitchen with me following behind him.
"How many times do you have to go before your debt to Peabody is paid off?" I shrug. I grab the cheese crackers from the cabinet and hop onto the counter. Sweet Pea gets the milk from the fridge and sits at the table in front of me.
"I think only three times, then I get a cut."
"A cut of what?" Oh shit. I never told him about the whole drug thing.
"A cut of the money." I say, trying to buy time to think of a solid lie to tell him. What could Penny sell that won't make Sweet Pea have a stroke. Not drugs. Candy? No, that doesn't make any sense. Shit. "Oh! Bike parts." I didn't mean to say 'oh' outloud but I don't think he noticed. Sweet Pea gives me a hard stare but relaxes after a few seconds.
"How much cash does she give you?" I shrug again.
"She hasn't given me anything yet. I've only done it twice." Sweet Pea takes a sip of milk out of the carton and I throw a cracker at him. He eats it. Jerk. Before he can ask anymore questions my phone starts buzzing loudly. I hop off the counter and grab my phone and keys. "Lock the door on your way out." I tell Sweets and he nods, grabbing the crackers from where I left them on the counter. I walk out the front door and halfway to Tall Boy's truck when Sweet Pea comes out after me.
"Hey, where's my shirt?" He makes eye contact with Tall Boy who raises an eyebrow at the younger boy.
"I think in my dresser. If not it's on the dryer." Sweet Pea nods and goes back inside and I climb into Tall Boys truck. I crank the heat up and Tall Boy slaps my hand but doesn't turn it back down. He starts driving, glancing at me briefly before looking back at the road.
"Lovers quarrel?" He asks.
"What?" I hardly pay attention to him, picking some dirt out from under my nail instead. Maybe it's blood actually. Gross.
"You and your boy. You both got cut up." Oh, right! The fight.
"Nah. We fought a couple of Northsiders earlier." I tell him with a shrug. He nods and focuses more on the road instead of me.
"So, he is your boy?"
"Who?" This old man is off his rocker. Penny needs to replace him with someone that makes sense.
"Sweet Pea." I shrug again.
"I guess?" I don't understand old people. Tall Boy in particular tries to be cryptic and mysterious but he just sounds like a 90 year old grandma most of the time. He gives me a side eye and shakes his head at me.
"Sometimes I can't tell if it's an act or if you're actually that damn stupid and blind." Rude.
"I'm not stupid." He smirks.
"So it is an act?"
"I'm not acting."
"So you're stupid."
"Shut up, Tall Boy!" I turn the radio on to stop him from talking.
Soon, we're at the warehouse. The two of us drag the crate into the cavernous main room of the building. We go back for the second crate and when we get it inside Penny is sitting on the desk in her makeshift office. Tall Boy walks in and shuts the door. He's seriously getting on my nerves. What a jerk. I'm about to wait in the car when the door on the other side of the warehouse opens and two people walk inside. I quickly duck into the shadows and hide.
It's hard to tell who they are, or if I even know them. It's too dark until the office door opens and the light shines across the room. You've got to be fucking kidding me. That evil sneaky bitch. Oh, she's so going down. The boy I don't recognize starts dragging one of the crates out the way he came.
"Malachi," Penny says, standing behind Tall Boy, "you're late." He rolls his eyes at her.
"I'm here now, aren't I." I'm waiting for him to say something stupid and so very Malachi. Like throwing his arms out and yelling 'Welcome to the shit show'. He doesn't do anything though, which is almost just as jarring. "You heard from the Sugarman?" Penny nods and the three of them walk back into her office, leaving the door open like a bunch of idiots.
"Everything is golden on our end, Peabody."
"It better be. I have a lot of money riding on this."
"Ghoulies do too." He agrees. "And we're the ones doing all the legwork."
"I told you, I'm working on it. With FP out of the picture it's only a matter of time. Tall Boy is next in line." Oh, she is so going down. No way are the Serpents turing into petty drug pushers.
"And the girl? I know you've been bringing her here."
"Don't worry about her. She's in and out of the cooler every month. If she turns into a problem we'll get rid of her." I'd like to see you try, you raggedy ass bitch. Malachi nods. The other Ghoulie boy comes back into the warehouse for the second crate. As soon as he's outside I take my chance to sneak out the other way and wait by the truck like I haven't been listening the whole time.
I've gotta tell someone about this. Not Sweet Pea, he's too short tempered. Fangs isn't really high ranking enough to do anything about it, Toni either. FP's in jail but he should be out soon, right? Except, Penny was the one who was supposed to get him out. Shit. I didn't even realize my hands were shaking until Tall Boy walked out of the warehouse. God, he's just as bad as Penny.
He sits in the driver's seat and lights a cigarette. He offers one to me and I take it, anything to calm my nerves until I can figure out a plan. Or at least get the hell away from Penny and TB. I'm shaking too badly to light it and Tall Boy glances at me, clearly annoyed.
"What's wrong with you?" He asks gruffly.
"Nothing. Just cold." I finally get it to light and he turns the truck on, cranking the heat. The drive back to my trailer is silent and eerie. Although, Tall Boy probably just thinks it's normal. I feel seriously spooked though. The Ghoulie thing blindsided me more than I care to admit. I don't know why, I should have figured it out. Maybe that's why I'm so bothered, because I didn't realize it as soon as it started. I'm really off my game. When I get home, Sweet Pea is gone and I find myself wishing he were still here.
I'm copying all 30-ish chapters I've already posted on ff.net today so make sure you haven't accidentally skipped any.
The next morning Fangs and Sweet Pea are both foaming at the mouth over an article in the Riverdale Register. I'd honestly almost forgotten about the whole Bulldog thing after finding out about Penny's double-agent-drug-ring-clusterfuck last night. Fangs bomb idea was a welcome distraction.
"Sweet Pea, I need you to take care of this-" Fangs is trying to delegate but Sweets had stopped paying attention. Jughead caught his eye.
"Nice article your girlfriends mom wrote." Sweet Pea says. Jughead sighs.
"Yeah, I saw that. Dilton Doiley says he was stabbed and a bunch of you guys jumped him?" He can't even snitch right.
"Idiot stabbed himself. With his own knife." Fangs sets the record straight.
"And we didn't jump him." Sweet Pea adds. "There was a fight, Bulldogs versus Serpents. And you see this?" He points to his black eye. "Your boy Andrews gave it to me. Just before his girlfriend shot a gun into the air." This finally gets Jugheads attention.
"What happened?" Jughead asks.
"And of course, Northsiders get off scot free and the rest of us are hauled in by the police." Sweet Pea says. Wait, what?
"You got arrested?" I ask. No one tells me anything anymore. Fangs nods at me.
"It's payback time." Sweet Pea tells Jughead. Jughead gets visibly nervous.
"What are you guys talking about? What is that? Is that a pipe bomb?" Hell yeah it is. Boom, baby!
"Fogarty's cousin served in the Army. He's gonna build us something." Sweet Pea says.
"We'll do it after hours. But it'll shut the Riverdale Register down once and for all." Fangs adds.
"You think blowing up a building is going to make things better?"
"It'll at least make things interesting." I tell him.
"It can't get any worse." Sweet Pea adds.
"Yeah, Sweet Pea, it can. Let me talk to Archie. Let me figure this out, okay?"
"Man, that's your answer for everything. Talk and more talk. And we don't even know who you stand with. Us… or them?" Jughead doesn't look like he knows either. Sweet Pea leans forward and looks hard at Jughead. "You can't be half a serpent."
In standard dramatic Serpent fashion, everyone takes this as a cue to leave. Sweet Pea lets me ride on the back of his bike again and we drive to the Whyte Wyrm to play pool.
Sweet Pea thinks he's so good at pool just because he's beaten me a few times. That doesn't mean anything! The only thing he's the best at is having a big ego and being annoying. And I'm not just saying that because he ditched me to play pool with Tall Boy OR because he was like 'Tall Boy is a better player, Crash. You have to come to terms with that and move on'. Even though if I were mad at him for that it would be completely justified. Besides, Tall Boy is a traitor to the Serpents! Even though I didn't actually tell anyone yet…
But, I'm not mad. I just really like spending time with Hog Eye and listening to Fangs go on and on about the stupid bomb.
"Didn't your mom specifically say no bombs?" Fangs rolls his eyes.
"She was joking." I don't think she was joking. "Besides, I know you love lighting things on fire."
"How do you know that?" I raise an eyebrow at him and take a sip of my soda.
"Because you specifically told me you love lighting things on fire on your birthday last year."
"Okay. Well, lighting things on fire is fun." Fangs looks up to the ceiling and takes a deep breath.
"I'm going to go talk to Sweet Pea." Because Sweet Pea is so much fun. Boys are so frustrating. All they do is play pool and act annoying. At least Toni is here, instead of ditching us to hang out with Crate Face.
As soon as the thought crossed my mind, Jughead Jones walked into the Whyte Wyrm with the confidence only a sixteen year old white boy can muster when walking into a biker bar that clearly was not meant for him to walk into.
"I think this Northsider's lost."
"I'm not. I'm over being half a serpent."
"Wow. You'll do anything to protect your Northside buddies."
""My father was a serpent. He led you. I wanna stand with you guys." No one acknowledges him. "Tall Boy was the one who gave me this jacket. It's finally time I start wearing it." Tall Boy picks up his cue and saunters over to Jughead.
"So, now you wanna be a Serpent, huh? Let's see if you survive the initiation first." Tall Boy can be really dramatic when he wants to be. I bet it's all the ABBA.
Jughead accepts his fate and leaves the Wyrm. Tall Boy and Sweet Pea continue their game.
"So, who's going to give Jughead the first trial?" Toni picks at the dirt under her nails while she talks.
"I don't want Jughead anywhere near Hot Dog. He'll be tainted." Toni smiles but shakes her head.
"If he wants in, we have to let him try." We should have kept the Uktena Only sign on the door. It would mostly be me, Toni, and Old Man Topaz but that's not so bad. At least then Hot Dog wouldn't have to suffer at the hands of Jughead Jones. He probably doesn't even like dogs, he's just that bad of a dude.
"Tall Boy is technically our leader while FP is in jail. Hog Eye is working, so not him. And Byrdie is annoying, so not her. Crash is in, obviously. And Fangs isn't ranked enough to initiate." Sweet Pea tries to plan while he lines up his next shot.
"Jesus, boy. It's just a dog." Tall Boy takes a sip of his beer. "Crash and I are busy. You and some of the boys can take him after dark." He decides for everyone. Oh right, this shit with Peabody is really ruining my not-trafficking-drugs plan for the evening.
"What are you doing that's more important than a new member initiation?" Toni asks me. Before I can stutter my way through a poorly thought out lie, Tall Boy cuts me off.
"Serpent business. If you don't know, you ain't supposed to." Toni gives me a weird look and I shake my head to let her know not to push it.
"Don't take it personally, Toni. TB gets grumpy when he can't break into peoples homes and give them dogs." Toni wrinkles her eyebrows but laughs at my sincerity.
"Don't call me TB." Tall Boy reminds me gruffly.
After another long, wholesome night of being a criminal I could really use a coffee. On the plus side, it's Saturday. On the down side, I'm spending my Saturday morning taking a smelly bus to an even smellier prison. I really, really, really need to get my own ride. The bus ride wasn't that bad though. It did give me some time to figure out what I'm going to tell FP. Yes, I'm tattling. But in my defense, I'm only 16 years old and finding out that Penny is canoodling with the Ghoulies and putting us at risk is definitely something I should tell an adult. This adult just so happens to be in prison for murder right now but hey, we've all been there.
"Do you have any food, weapons, or cigarettes on your person?" The bored CO asks me as I shuffle through the metal detector.
"Nope." They give me a blank stare. "No, Mr. Officer, sir. I don't have any food, weapons, or cigarettes on my person, sir." Their blank stare doesn't leave their face.
"Forsythe Pendleton Jones. The second." The CO sighs.
"Your name?" They have the most monotone voice I've heard in my entire life.
"Carrie Collins." They make a note on their paper before calling for FP and letting me into the visitors room. I don't have to wait long before FP shuffles in and sits in front of me.
"Good morning, Daddy Jones." He grins at me.
"Crash, how many times do I have to tell you not to call me that?"
"At least three more times. I like it."
"Everyone else hates it."
"I know, that's why I like it so much." FP laughs but quickly makes his face somber.
"How's my boy?" I should have known FP would ask about Jughead. Duh, it's his son. Some people like their children.
"My son. Jughead." I really don't want to be the one to tell FP that Jughead is joining. I probably should have thought this visit through better.
"Oh that one." FP sighs.
"What did Jughead do?"
"Well, he's going to Southside High now." FP nods his head, obviously wanting more information.
"He's friends with Toni, I guess."
"That's good. She's smart."
"Sure." Rude. "What else is he doing? Is he sitting with the Serpents at lunch? I bet the Ghoulies can't wait to get ahold of him." FP does this thing where he clenches his fists when he talks about Jughead and it's really distracting.
"He mostly sits by himself and reads. He's kind of a loser."
"Crash." He is a loser! Don't hate the messenger, Daddy Jones.
"We've got his back. Quit worrying." FP sighs again.
"Okay. Good." He adjusts in his seat and unclenches his hands. "How about you? You good?"
"Yeah. I guess. Did you get my card?" It was a 'Get Well Soon' card but I scratched out the 'well' and wrote 'out of jail' instead. It was awesome. FP laughs.
"I did, thank you. I didn't know they had cards for getting arrested."
"They sell them at CVS. It's kinda shady though. You have to ask the cashier when no one else is around and they sneak you into the back room through a tunnel by the children's strawberry flavored toothpaste." FP nods along. "Worth it."
"I'm glad to see that juvie didn't take away your sense of humor." I shrug.
"If I haven't lost it by now, I don't think it's going anywhere." He smiles and the two of us fall into a semi-comfortable silence. It's hard to be completely comfortable when you're in prison and everyone around you is listening to your conversation.
"Well, did you really just come here to update me on my son?" I can't tell him. About Jughead or Penny or any of it. It would drive him crazy to be stuck in here while all of this was happening. I'll just deal with it myself.
"I just wanted to see you. You're basically the only parental figure I have left." It sounds depressing when I say it outloud. Actually, it's super depressing no matter how I say it, but whatever.
"I'm glad you're out, Crash. You'd better stay safe. Don't do anything stupid. At least, until I'm out and I can kick your ass."
"No promises. I'd better motor if I wanna catch this bus back home." FP nods. He looks at me for a second before pressing his hand against the glass. "I'm so not doing that." He nods his head at his hand.
"Put your hand up, Crash."
"No!" FP smirks and presses his hand harder into the glass.
"C'mon, it's like in the movies."
"I'm not doing that, it's cheesy."
"Come on. Do it!" He persists. I huff and roll my eyes but FP doesn't lower his hand.
"This is so stupid." I press my hand on the glass, opposite his hand and he grins at me.
"I'm glad you came. You can always come to me if you need something, even when I'm in Shankshaw."
"You're such a dork."
"I care about you like a daughter. You know that, right?" Okay, that's really cheesy and I hate this but it's kind of nice to hear. I nod and FP smiles again. "You can put your hand down now."
"Thank you. I'll see you soon, FP." I stand up from the plastic chair.
"Don't get into any trouble. And don't beat up Jughead, I know you want to."
"No promises." FP laughs again and hangs up his phone. I put mine on the hook and wave goodbye to him before leaving.
So, I didn't tell him about Penny. That's fine. I can handle this. I'm a smart, strong, sensual delinquent. I can handle Penny Peabody. She's not even that tough! She's just loud and blonde so people listen to her. I can handle Malachi too, he's easy! I've got this. All I need is a ride home… and maybe a snack. Then, I'll show Penny who's boss.
When I get back to my trailer Sweet Pea is waiting for me on the front steps. He looks pretty tough sprawled out like that.
"You should be a model." I call out, walking up the short walkway to the front door. Sweet Pea jerks up like he was half-asleep. He probably was.
"You think?" I nod and step over his legs to unlock the door.
"Yeah for like, a biker magazine or something." I open the door and Sweet Pea stands up to follow me inside.
"You could model too." Aw. He plops down on the couch and kicks his feet up. "For Baby Gap or something." He's such an ass. And he's taking up the whole couch. It's not even his house! I roll my eyes and sit on his legs, pushing all my weight onto him but he doesn't flinch like I wanted him to. Instead he just closes his eyes and rests his head on the arm of the couch.
"If you're trying to get me to move, it's not working." He mumbles. I huff. "I'm comfy. I waited outside for an hour. Where were you?"
"None of your B-I-business. Did you just come here to insult me?" Sweet Pea nods, smirking with his eyes still closed. He's obviously not going to move so I lean my back against the couch and try to get comfortable.
"I just wanted to hang out." He mumbles sleepily.
"Wanna watch Netflix?" He perks up a little bit.
"Cool." I stand up. "I don't have a computer or a TV." Sweet Pea opens his eyes to give me a half glare.
"Then why did you ask?"
"Because I want to go to your place and watch Netflix and eat your food." Sweet Pea sighs loudly. A few seconds later he stands up and stretches. His shirt lifts with his arms and I can see a strip of the smooth skin over his abs. Jesus, is it hot in here or is it just me? I swear, Sweet Pea wasn't this hot before I left. Maybe I'm just boy crazy after being stuck with only girls and cops for months. I guess I was staring because Sweets flicks me in the forehead with a grin.
"Take a picture, Collins."
"Send me a picture. My phone doesn't have a camera." I grab my keys and he leads us out the front door and towards his trailer.
"Why did you buy such a shit phone?"
"So I could dramatically snap it shut when people pissed me off." Sweet Pea nods at my answer, seemingly expecting that sort of reasoning. The two of us quickly make it to his place and the second he unlocks the door I dip under his arm to take the good spot on the couch.
"Why's it so hot in here?" I ask, shrugging off my jacket and dropping it on the floor. Sweet Pea picks it up and hangs it by the front door.
"Probably because I actually use the heater. Are you thirsty?" He asks as he heads to the kitchen.
"Almost always, yeah." I call out. I turn on the TV and spread my legs out on the couch.
"Sugar?" Weird but whatever.
"Do you want sugar in your coffee, Crash?" Oh.
"Yes, please! Also why does your Netflix account say Fabiana?" Sweet Pea walks back into the living room with two mugs.
"Mrs. Forgarty gave me her password." He sets the mugs on the table and moves my legs so he can sit down.
"We have three hours until we have to be at the Wyrm for Jugheads initiation. What do you want to watch?" I shrug, pulling my legs towards me so there's room for Sweet Pea because I'm polite and don't hog the whole couch.
"Then why did you ask?"
"You don't even like Gossip Girl you just make me watch it because you think it's funny."
"It is funny." Sweet Pea rolls his eyes and chooses some action movie instead. He wasn't wrong though. I don't really care about Gossip Girl. It's just really funny to watch Sweet Pea watch cheesy teen girl shows. I did actually like Pretty Little Liars, but only Toni knows that.
When I wake up I'm curled into a ball and tucked into Sweet Pea's armpit. It's not as gross as it sounds, it's actually pretty cozy. He has his arm wrapped around my back and his slow breathing is quickly lulling me back to sleep. I want to give in and let my eyes close but I have stupid responsibilities tonight. Ugh.
"What are you watching?" I hate when you first wake up and your voice is all gravelly and soft. Sweet Pea glances at me over the top of my head.
"Some movie about robots." I shift to stretch my legs out over Sweet Pea's but don't move from under his arm. It's really warm here.
"Is that the girl from Die Antwoord?" Pea nods.
"Yeah she found a robot and adopted it or something. It's not bad." His voice is muffled slightly by the top of my head.
"That's adorable." He laughs softly. His phone starts vibrating loudly and he leans forward to turn it off, moving my body with his chest. "Did you set an alarm?" He nods again.
"We have to leave for the Whyte Wyrm in five minutes. I wanted to let you sleep until then."
"You're the sweetest pea in the entire vegetable aisle, Sweet Pea." He rolls his eyes.
"Yeah, well, you looked like a zombie so I figured you could use some shut eye." He always ruins the moment. Not that we have moments but if we did and we were having one right now it would have been totally ruined. Whatever. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and lean back onto the arm of the couch, pushing Sweet Pea's arm off of me.
"Can I drive your motorcycle?"
"Absolutely not." He stands up and I let my legs drop onto the couch. He hands me my shoes and puts on his Serpent jacket. "Hurry up. I wanna see Jughead epically fail all of his trials." With that in mind, I pull on my shoes and grab my jacket quickly.
"What is the fourth law?" Tall Boy shouts in Jugheads face. Everyone in the bar is rowdy, shouting and encouraging, or in some cases discouraging, Jughead in his trials.
"No Serpent is left for dead!" Jughead shouts back, determined. I almost feel bad for him right now. Tall Boys breath reeks and they're close enough that Jughead is for sure getting hit with spit every time the giant shouts.
"What is the fifth law?"
"A Serpent never betrays its own!"
"What is the sixth?"
"In unity, there is strength!"
"In unity, there is strength!" I join in the crowd echoing the sixth law. Tall Boy holds out his arms to silence everyone.
"You know the laws," Tall Boys deep, gravelly voice sounded over the music, "now it's time for the next trial!" Sweet Pea, Fangs, Toni, and I stand to reveal the rattlesnake, Tammy, behind us on the pool table. She isn't officially named Tammy, but she should be.
"Retrieve the knife." Tall Boy tells Jughead. The last trail should be a dramatic reenactment of Hamlet or something. The Ghoulies just get jumped in, we have trials and rattlesnakes. Way cooler. Jugheads face drops.
"What?" He utters in disbelief. Toni nods at him, encouraging him and letting him know that we're serious. Tammy isn't even mean, she's pretty adorable for a snake. Jughead swallows hard and takes a small step towards the cage.
"Bite him, Tammy!" I can't help but encourage her. Sweet Pea smirks, resting his hand on my shoulder as we all watch Jughead move towards the rattlesnake in anticipation. It takes him a few seconds to get the courage, but he plunges his hand into the cage. In a flash, Tammy lunges for Jughead and grips onto his hand with her fangs. I cheer her on as Jughead shouts. He grabs the knife, Tammy dropping off of him as he lifts his hand out of the cage. The bar cheers as Jughead thrusts the knife into the air above his head like a trophy.
"Half price well drinks!" Hog Eye announces and everyone cheers again. Everyone disperses into smaller groups or pool teams. Toni ditches us again for Jughead, so me, SP, and Fangs claim a pool table and split up. Me and Sweet Pea vs Fangs. Fangs doesn't protest the uneven groups because 'Crash sucks at pool' and 'she's going to make Sweet Pea lose anyway' which I think was uncalled for but no one asked me.
"I'll get drinks." I offer, already walking away from the table. I'm in a giving mood, mostly because Tammy bit Jughead and it was hilarious. Before I can get to the bar, Tall Boy grabs my arm and drags me away.
"If you want to grab me and drag me into shadowy corners, you have to buy me a drink first, TB." He glares at me and drops my arm. I wink at him and he almost rolls his eyes but stops himself at the last minute.
"You're off tonight." My smile drops.
"Just uh, celebrating. Don't worry about it. You're back on tomorrow."
"I want to be on tonight."
"Too bad. Not my call."
"I need the money, Tall Boy. You can't just cut me off like that with no warning."
"It's just one night, kid. Get over it."
"What's so top secret that I can't be there, huh?" His glare deepens.
"None of your goddamn business." Don't slip. Don't spill. He can't know that I know.
"That's bullshit. You dragged me into this shit, you can't just ice me out with no explanation." He tries to stare me down but I don't crack. What's he going to do in a bar full of other Serpents? He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small wad of cash, shoving it into my hand before anyone sees.
"Shut the hell up about it and I won't tell Penny that you were creeping around in the dark." Oh shit. Ohshitohshitohshit.
"Deal." I shove the money into my pocket and Tall Boy nods at me, walking back into the crowd. I take a deep breath, not slamming my head into the wall even though I really want to, before making my way back to the bar.
"Three beers and a shot of Jameson, Hog Eye." Hog Eye looks me up and down with a raised eyebrow.
"Are you twenty-one yet, Crash?" I nod earnestly.
"Twenty-two." Hog Eye obviously doesn't believe me. "C'mon, we're celebrating!" He looks around for anyone who would actually care before pouring the drinks.
"Don't do anything stupid, kid." I nod. Hog Eye walks over to the next customer and I slam my shot back, bracing my hand against the bar to calm my nerves. I barely stop a shudder at the nasty taste, knowing I would never live it down if anyone saw me gag from the taste, and chase it with a sip of beer. I'm fine. I'm great. Everything is great and Tall Boy doesn't intimidate me at all. I balance the three beers in my hands and go back over to the pool table.
"Who's winning?" I ask, handing Sweet Pea the beer I sipped out of and taking the slightly fuller one instead. He'll never notice.
"Fangs." I hand Fangs his beer and he nods in thanks.
"Cool. I'm on Fangs team now."
"What?" Sweet Pea asks offendedly
"Keep up the good work, Fogarty. We're winning!" Fangs laughs and Sweet Pea shakes his head at me.
"That's not- You can't-," he stutters, "that's now how this works!" I shrug with a grin.
"You're just mad because you're losing." Sweet Pea glares at me and Fangs laughs. We hang out at the bar for a few more hours, drinking and playing pool, before crashing at Sweet Pea's trailer.
I think the sun was created specifically to shine into my eyes and give me a wicked headache. There's no other reason for it to be so fucking bright. The banging sounds and loud music coming from the kitchen aren't helping either. This is awful. I'm never drinking again. I really, really, really don't want to get out of this bed but I also feel kinda like I'm gonna barf and I don't want to puke in what must be Sweet Pea's bed. Why do I always end up hungover in Sweet Pea's bed?
I push the thought out of my mind and sit up, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. The motion makes everything worse and I have to take a few deep breaths to calm my stomach before I can stand up. Behind me the bed is empty but Sweet Pea's clothes from last night on the floor tell me that we definitely cuddled. I shouldn't really be surprised though, Sweet Pea gets clingy when he drinks and almost always whines until I sleep next to him. He's kind of a baby.
More shouting from the kitchen encourages me to finally stand, pausing only for a moment when I think I might puke, but I keep it down. I stumble down the short hallway towards all the loud noises that make my head throb. The culprits are sitting around the kitchen table, drinking coffee and eating what I think was supposed to be pancakes.
"Why are you yelling?" Sweet Pea, Fangs, and Toni all look up when I speak. Toni winces but Sweet Pea just laughs openly at me.
"You look awful. Want some pancakes?" He shoves the plate towards me and the smell makes my stomach churn. Before I can give him the proper bitchy retort I feel my stomach flip and I swiftly make my way to the bathroom. I say swiftly, but to be honest, I stumble and trip and barely make it into the small room before dropping to my knees and heaving up everything I drank last night. It wasn't even that much! I've just lost my tolerance while I was locked up. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and lean my back against the edge of the tub. This is so not worth it. I'm never ever ever drinking again.
I can hear them laughing at me from the kitchen. Heartless bastards. I kind of feel better now, though. I wash my hands and rinse out my mouth with mouthwash before walking back into the kitchen. Toni is the only one who bothers to try to stop giggling.
"You're all terrible people." I mumble, grabbing a mug of coffee. For some reason Sweet Pea only has three chairs. It's constantly a problem, since we have four people in our group, but he refuses to buy a fourth chair. I'm starting to think that he does it just to piss me off. I'm not going to let it get to me right now, so I sit on his lap instead of arguing about it. He doesn't protest, just wraps one arm around my stomach and rests his coffee cup on my thigh.
"Pancake?" Fangs offers, sliding the plate across the table. I take a bite of one and a sip of my coffee, waiting to see if it makes everything worse before eating more.
"Why are you all so mean to me? I'm the only cool member of our friend group."
"Uh, no." Toni disagrees. "I think the whole puking think makes you just as uncool as the boys." Fangs and Sweet Pea loudly protest and Toni raises an eyebrow and sips her coffee. I take a few more bites of pancake and start feeling better.
"It's not her fault." Thank you, Sweet Pea. "They don't have beer in baby prison." Nevermind. Fangs snorts and Toni tries not to but starts giggling again too.
"Horrible, awful, terrible people." I turn sideways in Pea's lap and bury my face into his neck. "Everyone is mean. The world is too sunny. Everything sucks." Sweet Pea chuckles but lets me curl into him and wraps his arms around me so I don't fall.
"I thought you two only cuddled when Sweet Pea was drunk?" Toni asks over the rim of her cup.
"We aren't cuddling. I'm hiding from the sun."
"Mhmm." Toni hums. We aren't cuddling. Even if we were, that's fine. Friends cuddle all the time. It's only weird when you point it out.
"I want a milkshake." I whisper, as to not shout in Sweet Pea's ear. Sweet Pea sighs and pulls his head back a bit to look down at me.
"You wanna go to Pops?" I nod. "Okay." I sit up and turn back to the table. Toni and Fangs are exchanging weird looks. Toni's eyebrows are raised and her eyes are wide, staring at Fangs. Fangs has more of a constipated look, with his eyebrows drawn together and his mouth pulled to the side.
"What the hell are you doing?" I ask. Fangs startles and I don't even try to hold back my smirk. Toni gives me a fake smile.
"Yeah, what would we be doing?" Fangs adds. Toni kicks him under the table and he jumps, wincing.
"I literally saw all of that but whatever. I'm getting a milkshake so I don't care." Toni gives Fangs another look and he shrugs, embarrassed. "Sweets, can I borrow a shirt? Mine smells like beer." I sniff it a little and wince. "And like, cotton candy or something?"
"That's a Baby Bottle Pop." Fangs informs me.
"When did I buy a Baby Bottle Pop?" I wrinkle my nose. I really should learn to pace myself.
"You didn't," Toni snorts, "you stole it from the gas station but the guy behind the counter was so entertained by you and Sweet Pea being idiots that he let you have it." Well, that does sound like me. I shrug, getting off Sweet Pea's lap and putting the plates in the sink. I could go for some candy right now.
"Did I finish it?" Toni shakes her head no solemnly.
"You spilled it all over yourself and dropped it on the ground."
"What a waste." Fangs nods in agreement. "Let's go." The three of them slowly start standing up and grabbing their shoes and jackets. I go to Sweet Pea's room and grab a shirt. At least my bra smells clean… clean-ish. I pull the shirt over my head as I stumble down the hallway towards the living room.
There's something about Pop's that can make the world seem like an okay place, even when everything is going to shit. Maybe it's the food, or the atmosphere, or just Pop Tate himself. Whatever it is, it makes Pop feel like home. Or at least your cooler, richer, preppier friends house where their mom like, bakes cookies and shit for an after school snack before going home to your trailer. It's a breath of fresh air when the rest of Riverdale feels like it's been doused in mustard gas.
But like all good things, it must come to an end. Unlike all good things, this end is only because we have to go beat the shit out of Jughead for the last phase of Serpent initiation. From one good thing to another, right?
Just before sunset the Gauntlet Group banded together in Sunnyside Trailer Park to gather Jughead. We aren't called the Gauntlet Group, but we totally should be. One thing the Serpents are lacking is a decent naming system. We showed up the Jones' trailer just in time to catch Archie Andrews and his angst parade. These Northsiders and their emotional issues, man. Why can't they just suppress them and cover them up with petty crimes and games of pool like the Southside?
"What the hell do we have here?" Sweet Pea asks, sauntering up to Jughead and Archie. The rest of us stand behind Sweet Pea, mildly interested in whatever drama Jughead is causing now.
"Just leave it, alright?"
"Wait, you're friends with these thugs?" Rude. Only I'm allowed to call us thugs.
"It's not what you think." Yeah, we aren't friends.
"Are you joining the Serpents?"
"If he survives." Sweet Pea answers Archie. "And go ahead and call us thugs one more time." Damn, we're so in sync, we should start a boy band.
"Jughead, these are the guys who attacked me. Who attacked Reggie, and Veronica, and Dilton. Your friends!"
"Wait, is that why you're here? To warn me?"
"No. I came here to tell you to stay away from Betty. She doesn't want to see you anymore." Daaaammmmmmnnnnnnnn, dude. That's cold.
"Screw you." You tell him, Jug. "I just saw Betty yesterday. She- She was fine."
"No, dude. She's been wanting to break up with you for weeks. She's been agonizing over it since you crossed to the darkside. She couldn't bring herself to do it."
"So she sent you? Betty would never do that!"
"If you don't believe me, then call her. And feel free to tell her you're a Serpent now, too. I bet she'll love that. She saw where you were headed, Jughead. Okay? We all did. And she knows you can't be with them and with her. And come on, man, you know it too."
"Tell Betty I got the message."
"Yeah." Archie storms off. Jughead turns towards us, stretching his neck and trying to look angry instead of heartbroken. I don't even like Jughead and I feel bad. I almost feel like I just got broken up with.
"What? Did you enjoy the show?" He asks furiously.
"The show hasn't even started yet." Sweet Pea tells him with a smirk.
Minutes later we're all lined up. Five Serpents on each side, popping their knuckles and waiting for Jughead to take the plunge. He steps forward, immediately getting punched in the gut twice. He makes his way down the line once, then back. When he gets to me I give him a good punch in the eye and a second one in the kidney. Sweet Pea hits him one last time and he drops to the ground. This is the real test. Can he get back up and keep going? Will he abandon the gang when it gets too hard for him? Is he willing to die to join us? Jughead stands, blood dripping out of his mouth, and faces off with Sweet Pea.
"Is that all you got?" Pea grins, holding out his hand for Jughead to shake. Toni congratulates him, putting his official Southside Serpent jacket on his shoulders. Jughead reaches for my hand to shake and I grab it, whacking him hard on the back in congratulations. He winces.
"Ready for your first gang tattoo, Jug?" He nods, limping along as we lead him to the tattoo parlor.
Last night was the second night in a row that I didn't get a call from Penny or Tall Boy. You'd probably think that I'd be happy to not spend my nights moving drugs and lowkey betraying the Serpents, which I guess I am. But the thing is, the money is good. The money is really, really good. Not betray all your friends and family good, but I promise I am dealing with that. I just need a solid plan before I expose Penny and Tall Boy because if I don't well… They'd probably kill me and chop my body up into little tiny Jingle Jangle shipment sized pieces and that wouldn't help anyone!
Is this what people think about on their walk to school? I mean, obviously not Northsiders but do other kids have to deal with this shit? Maybe I should just get an iPod. If Penny would just call me back in I could probably get a used car soon. Car insurance is for nerds, so all I need is gas money.
"Hello? Anyone there?" Fangs waves his hand in front of my face, effectively bringing me out of my thoughts. I swat his hand away and glare at him before opening my locker and shoving my backpack in it.
"You look tired, Crash. When's the last time you slept?" Sweet Pea leans against the locker next to mine, completely ignoring the Ghoulie trying to get into it.
"You really know how to make a girl feel special, Sweet Pea." Fangs laughs mockingly at Sweet Pea and he glares at both of us. Suddenly, there's a commotion down the hall. Mayor McCoy and Sheriff Keller come storming into Southside High, drug dogs in tow and grabbing any Serpent they see. Toni tries to make a run for it but before she can she gets grabbed and cuffed. A cop grabs my arm, twisting it behind my back, and slams me into the locker and handcuffs me. They drag all the Serpents outside and into a Riverdale Police Department van, shoving as many of us into one as they can. This isn't the first time they've come to the school and just arrested us at random. They always release us a few hours later. It's more of a scare tactic and a waste of money than anything, and it only pisses us off.
Soon enough, we're all fingerprinted and shoved into a holding cell. I wonder if they'll call my parole officer. I don't want to get locked up again when I didn't even do anything. Penny was right, I am in and out all the time. They should give me a punch card or something.
"Oh shit." Sweet Pea and Toni look up at me alarmed. Oh shit. Penny was right. Fuck.
"Yo, chill. We'll be out soon." One of the younger Serpents tells me from their spot on the floor. Who the hell is this kid anyway? They can't tell me what to do. I will not chill, asshole. Everything is about to get totally fucked up. I slam my hand on the barred door to get the officer's attention.
"I need to make a phone call." He ignores me. Asshole. I slam my hand again, rattling the door. "I need to make a phone call right now!" Toni gives me a weird look.
"Crash, we'll be out soon. Just relax." I ignore her and she and Sweet Pea share another weird look.
"Hello? I need to use your fucking phone."
"We don't have to give you a phone call. That's just on TV." For god sakes.
"Give me my phone call right now or I'll scream." Sweet Pea tugs on my jacket, trying to get my attention. "I'll scream. I'm not kidding." The cop finally looks up at me and I take a deep breath, fully prepared to let out the most annoying shriek this man has ever heard, when he stands up.
"Fine. Jesus, kid." He handcuffs me again before letting me out of the cell and leading me to his desk phone. Using the phone when you're handcuffed is a nuisance. I quickly dial the number, hoping to God that I memorized it correctly.
"Hello?" Thank you, Jesus.
"Don't call me that."
"I need you to do something for me." I talk as quietly as I can into the phone.
"Why are you whispering?"
"I'm in jail. Don't worry about it. I need your help."
"I can't go to Penny, if that's what you're going to ask."
"No! Nononononon. You can't tell Penny. Penny and Tall Boy can't know that I'm in here. I'm serious. Like, life and death serious. They can not know."
"I'm going to meet Tall Boy right now. What should I tell him?"
"Why are you meeting Tall Boy?"
"He wants to parlay with the Ghoulies."
"No!" The cop gives me a side-eye at my outburst and I try to go back to whispering. "Jughead, listen to me. You can't let that happen. You need to shut Tall Boy down, okay? Are you listening?"
"What am I supposed to tell him?"
"Tell him I'm at Shankshaw. With FP! And to not do anything until I'm back."
"Hurry up, snake." The cop gruffly tells me.
"Jughead, I have to go but I'm trusting you, okay?" I hang the phone up and let the cop drag me back to the holding cell.
It was a long night spent on the cold concrete floor. Sandwiched between a snoring Sweet Pea and a restless Toni. Little known fact, Toni is a sleep kicker. She can deny it all she wants but I have the bruises to prove it. I could really go for a cup of coffee but I doubt they'll let me have one. Jail seriously sucks. I don't know if I can Yelp this place, but if I can I'm giving it one star.
'Could have been worse but I had to sleep on a concrete floor with no blanket. The concierge called me an 'asshole'. Would not recommend. Putnam County is better, they have a radio.'
"Carrie Collins?" Sweet Pea jerks awake at the sound of my name, elbowing me in the process. The cop gestures for me to get up. Behind him is my parole officer.
"Shit." She crosses her arms and stares down at me. Man, I don't want to go to prison right now. This blows.
"Get up, Collins." I do what she says and the cop unlocks the door, letting me out before slamming it shut again and locking it.
"I didn't do anything." The cop glares at me and my parole officer nods.
"I know. They're letting you out." They lead me into the hall and the cop dips into an office. "Your friends will be out tonight. Except a…" she glances at her phone, "Desmond Danforth, who was caught with five ounces of marijuana in his locker." Damn. Desmond had good weed. The cop comes out with a thick folder and shoves it into my chest.
"Sign here." I sign and my parole officer signs next to my name under 'Legal Guardian'. The cop hands me my bag and lets us leave. My PO walks out the door, stomping towards her Mercedes.
"Can I call you mom now?"
"No." She opens her car door and leans against it to give me a hard stare. "Stop getting into trouble."
"I didn't do-" She holds up her hand to stop my protesting.
"I know. But you're still a Serpent. If you keep dicking around, you're going to be wasting the rest of your life sitting in prison and making three cents a day." With that she steps into her car and slams the door.
"Did you really just say 'dicking around'?" She pulls out of the precinct driveway without answering me. She really just said dicking around. I thought she was supposed to be professional and shit. Whatever. I have real problems to deal with. I pull out my cell phone. Another perk of having an old phone? I still have 80% battery left, baby.
"So about that parlay with the Ghoulies?" Jughead sighs into his phone. I don't think anyone has ever been this relieved when I called them.
"Meet me at the Ghoulie headquarters right now. Tall Boy and Archie are with me." He hangs up. He really just hung up on me? And Archie? What the fuck? I'm gone for a few hours and suddenly Archie has a say in the Serpents? This is all bullshit. And I have to ride the fucking bus to The House of the Dead. Another typical Saturday.
The House of the Dead looks like the cave from The Lost Boys mixed with a trap house and just a hint of The Sex Pistols poser style. The Cure constantly blasts over the speakers and the whole place smells like old tequila, jingle jangle, and cinnamon candles. Malachi is a loyal customer at Bath & Body Works. And I guess a loyal customer to Penny Peabody now, too. I guess you could say Malachi and I have a history. A pre-Ghoulies history, but still, it haunts me. The Ghoulie gang leader and Tall Boy are cozied up on the tattered couch. Tall Boy looks like he fits in here just fine.
"Thanks for the heads up, TB." The giant looks surprised to see me, but he covers it up quickly. He nods at me, looking at Malachi through the side of his eyes.
"Hey there, Crash. Long time no see." Malachi grins up at me from his spot on the couch.
"Not long enough." He laughs, which pisses me off, and looks me up and down before standing and wrapping his arm around my shoulders.
"C'mon now, Cobra. Smile for Malachi." I try to glare at Tall Boy but he won't make eye contact with me. I am going to kill him and Malachi and every stupid Goblin bitch in the place if Jughead doesn't hurry the fuck up. A few seconds later, my prayers are answered. Or threats, whatever. I've never actually been happy to see Jughead until now. Even with his annoying little ginger friend trailing behind him. The two of them waste no time before walking right up to Malachi and making their demands.
"Me and my boy, want to challenge you to a race." Jesus Christ, I take back every good thing I've said about Jughead now. "If we win, Serpents remain autonomous and you quit dealing at Southside High." Malachi sniffs, rubbing his chin angrily.
"And if we win?" He asks.
"We fold. And you can continue polluting the Southside with your little straws of death."
"So, the mighty Serpent prince has some stones. But not much else. So unless your highness wants to put some of Daddy's territory out on the table, I got no reason to agree to this race." Malachi moves his arm from my shoulders to my neck, pulling me closer to him. I try not to let him feel me squirm.
"They were following me." Another Ghoulie interrupts, bringing two Northside girls behind him. "Tried to get in the garage."
"Jughead?" God this is the world's worst Shrek 2 remake and I'm stuck in the middle.
"Wait, so these are your bitches?" Malachi demands, pointing at the girls with the same arm he keeps wrapped around me and nearly hitting me in the face with it.
"I beg your misogynistic pardon." Veronica crosses her arms over her designer dress and glares at Malachi. This is so not going well. Tall Boy, who finally decided to get up and join the action, obviously agrees with me.
"Why don't you take your skanks and get the hell out of here. Until you make me a better offer, there'll be no race."
"If you win, we'll give you the Whyte Wyrm?" Uh, no we won't.
"What?" Jughead ignores me and continues ruining everything.
"You can expand your drug dealing horizons and upgrade out of this literal hell hole."
"We'll take the Wyrm. And Sunnyside Trailer Park." Jughead nods, instantly giving in to Malachi's demands. You've got to be fucking kidding me. Who the fuck does this guy think he is? Malachi grins at his win and turns back to me nuzzling his face into my hair. His grip around my neck is too tight for me to pull away.
"And when we take out the Serpents, you can be my prize." He whispers into my ear. Jughead stares at the two of us for a second before leaving, bringing his Northsiders with him. Tall Boy relaxes back into the couch with a bottle of liquor. Malachi is pleased with my discomfort and finally lets me go. I walk calmly out of the haunted house and then run to catch up with Jughead, who refuses to slow down and talk to me despite me calling his name loudly.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" I demand. He keeps walking so I grab his arm and make him stop and face me. "The Wyrm, Jughead? Sunnyside? People live there. Innocent people who are going to lose their homes because of you." I didn't realize I was shouting at him until Archie started trying to pull Jughead away from me.
"Why do you care anyway? You and Tall Boy have something going on with the Ghoulies behind the Serpents backs? Behind Sweet Pea's back?" Jughead shouts back at me, shocking his friends.
"You don't know shit about what we're doing. You've been a Serpent for what? Three days? You can't just offer our territory to Malachi like that!"
"Too late." Jughead mutters, turning his back on me and walking away.
This is such bullshit! He's barely even a Serpent and now he's calling the shots. What the hell is wrong with everyone? Why is everything so fucked up and why am I always stuck in the middle of it? I was here before him. I've done more for this gang than he has and now I'm the one that's going to get killed because Jughead can't stop sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. Fuck Penny Peabody and her stupid fucking power complex.
The walk to my trailer is cold. The inside of my trailer is even colder. I'm probably out of propane again but I honestly don't care anymore. I've been living in this cold empty trailer since my dad died and my mom decided that 11 years old was old enough for her to take off and leave me to take care of myself, our bills, and everything else she can't be bothered with.
I had Mustang for a while in the beginning. Before he started drinking, he would take me to his hotel room and we would watch cable for hours and eat dinner from the vending machine. I basically lived off Cheetos and root beer for a year. Then he got too depressed to take care of himself, let alone me, and I was 'responsible' enough to stay in the trailer by myself while my mom was on vacation. She used to come back at least once a month. Now I'm lucky if she answers the phone when I need money.
That's why I need Penny and her evil drug lord disciples. I need to do at least two more trips this month if I don't want the city to turn off my water. Plus, I would like to eat at some point. And it's not like anyone is gonna hire a 16 year old girl with a record and gang tattoos. Penny is all I have now and I can't let Jughead take that away because he wants the Serpents to be a do-gooder after school club. Tall Boy is right, even though it makes me nauseous to admit. My phone starts ringing again, probably Tall Boy. I'm totally psychic. Oh wait, it's just Sweet Pea.
"Guess who's out of jail?"
"Nope. Guess again."
"Well, it's not Desmond. He's going to county."
"Yup. Drug bust."
"Yep. Oh shit, hang on. Tall Boy is calling me."
"Why is Tall Boy calling you?"
"I don't know… I think he's obsessed with me. I'll call you back." I hang up on Sweet Pea and manage answer Tall Boys call without breaking my dumb old phone.
"What's up, Old Man?"
"Hello, Carrie. How are you? See. That's how you answer the phone. Fucking kids." Tall Boy mutters.
"What do you want? Am I ungrounded now?" I ask.
"Yeah. Like, can I work tonight or not? Is that why you're calling."
"Shut up. Meet me at Pop's at 9."
"'Kay!" Tall Boy hangs up on me without saying goodbye. And he says I'm the one with no phone etiquette. Sweet Pea texts me before I can call him back. It just says 'Meet at the WW asap' and I can't help but get a little nervous. Jughead couldn't have already told them, could he? He's stupid but he's not that stupid. Maybe he is. God, he definitely is that stupid! My life is over. I don't want to go. I'm not going. No way. Nope. Not doing it.
Okay, I can't not go. They know where I live. Maybe if I go I can explain and they'll forgive me. They're forgiving people. Well, Sweet Pea isn't but we've been friends for years. That has to mean something. Okay, I'll go. I'll go. I'll be fine. Everything is fine.
By the time I get to the Wyrm, I'm sweating buckets. It's honestly so gross.
"Crash!" Fangs yells from the bar. Sweet Pea meets me halfway and puts his hand on my shoulder. "You're here! And you're totally covered in sweat."
"Did you sprint here?" Sweets asks, removing his hand from my shoulder and wiping it on his pants.
"Shut up. It's not that bad. Did you just invite me here so you could make fun of me?"
"No." Sweet Pea says, giving me a weird look. "It's Friday night. Game night! Remember?" Oh god! It's Friday night! This is normal. I'm so stupid.
"Maybe she forgot when she was in prison." Fangs suggests. I glare at him, significantly calmer now.
"I didn't forget. I just didn't realize it was Friday. It's been a weird day."
"What happened?" Sweets asks.
"Oh, uh. Nothing." Now both boys give me weird looks.
"Right. Let's pretend that I believe that for a second." Sweet Pea replies sarcastically. "Snacks?"
"Yes. Always." He puts his hands back on my shoulders and walks me to the bar. There's plenty of empty stools, which is weird. "Where's Toni?"
"Getting Jughead." Noooooooooooooooo.
"Ew. Why?" I try to appear calm even though I'm totally convinced that Jughead is going to out me in front of everyone.
"He's a Serpent now. You don't have to like him, but Toni does. I guess." Fangs answers. Sweet Pea plops a plate of fries in front of me and I dig in greedily. Sweet's actually a pretty good cook, I'd rather be eating at his trailer than eating old bar food. He could have a cooking show on Food Network called Supper with Sweet Pea and the Serpents. He could cook shirtless and I'd be his assistant and lick food off his fingers. Oh my god I can't believe I just thought that. What's wrong with me?
"Hello?" Sweets snaps his fingers in my face. "Earth to Crash. What are you thinking about so hard that's making your face all red?"
"What? Nothings hard. I'm not thinking about anything. What are you talking about?" I stammer. The boy exchange looks again before looking back at me with quirked eyebrows.
"Why are you being so weird?" Sweet Pea asks, mostly amused but a little concerned.
"Maybe she's on Jingle Jangle." Fangs suggests. Sweet Pea nods at Fangs and looks back to me.
"Carrie, are you on Jingle Jangle?"
"Fuck off." He turns to Fangs, who shrugs.
"Guess not." I'm saved from further interrogation by Toni barging in to the Wyrm with Jughead at her tail and storming over to us.
"Who's ready to get whooped at pool?" She asks confidently.
"Hold on. I have to do something first." Jughead tells her. The three of them give Jughead a weird look and my heart starts pounding. He goes over to Tall Boy. I didn't even realize Tall Boy was here he's like a giant ninja.
"What the hell is he doing?" Sweet Pea mutters. Tall Boy and Jughead talk for a few seconds before Tall Boy nods and the two of them go to the stage and get everyone's attention.
"Serpents!" Tall Boy calls out. "As you know, the Ghoulies have been encroaching on our territory ever since FP Jones got locked up. Jumping our boys, selling drugs on our turf." Jughead frowns but doesn't interrupt Tall Boy. "I say, it's time to show them who's boss!" The Serpent's cheer. Tall Boy shoves Jughead forward, forcing him to take the flack if this goes badly.
"Tomorrow afternoon we're having a drag race. Serpents vs Ghoulies. If we win, the Ghoulies back off. No more drugs and they back off the Serpents."
"And if they win?" Sweet Pea calls out, voicing what everyone in the bar is thinking.
"If they win, they get the Wyrm and Sunnyside." Jughead says. Everyone is deathly silent for a second before shouting over each other.
"You're not our leader!"
"That's our land!"
Jughead, ever they martyr, just takes it. People hurl insults and questions at him for a few more seconds before Tall Boy steps up again.
"Quiet! As de facto leader, I approve this race. If you don't like it, that's too damn bad." Everyone shouting quiets to angry murmurs and grumbles. Tall Boy and Jughead leave the stage, the former heading over to us.
"What the hell, Jughead?" Toni doesn't even give him a second to explain before she bombards him.
"Who the hell said you could call the shots? You think you're our leader now?" Sweet Pea asks, equally as pissed off.
"If anyone should be the leader it's Crash. She's been a Serpent for five years." Fangs points out. Sweet Pea nods, surprisingly agreeing with Fangs. I had no idea they thought I was so responsible. Jughead shakes his head angrily and steps towards me.
"Obviously that doesn't mean anything to her. Besides, Tall Boy is the one who started everything with the Ghoulies in the first place, I'm just finishing it." Jughead says.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sweet Pea's totally pissed now, rising to his full height and stepping between Jughead and I.
"It means that Crash and Malachi looked pretty chummy in the Ghoulie den this afternoon. How long has that been going on, huh?" Jughead accuses. Sweet Pea falters and Toni and Fangs turn to me with equally shocked expressions.
"Once again, Jughead. You have no fucking clue what you're talking about." I say, trying to sound pissed off rather than caught.
"I'm pretty sure I know what I saw. Which was you and Malachi wrapped around each other, right before you tried to tell me not to race. Am I wrong?"
"Yes!" I say. Jughead scoffs. My friends are silent, trying to figure out which one of us is lying.
"Carrie," Toni starts, her voice is soft and carries a hint of betrayal, "Malachi? Really?"
"I wasn't with Malachi I was with Tall Boy." I try to explain.
"What were you and Tall Boy doing with the Ghoulies?" Fangs questions.
"While Toni and I were in jail?" Sweet Pea asks, the hurt tone in his voice makes me want to cry. "You and Tall Boy were doing god knows what the the Ghoulies."
"It wasn't like that."
"Then tell me what it was like." The pain and anger in Sweet Pea's voice makes tears well up in my eyes, only making me look guiltier. But I can't tell him. I can't tell anyone. Not until I fix it, at least. Until then, telling them will only make things worse. Sweet Pea scoffs, not even able to look at me anymore.
"Collins!" Tall Boy calls from the other side of the bar. He taps his wrist where a watch would be to let me know it's time to leave. Toni catches my eye before I turn to leave.
"Where are you going?" She asks, basically throwing me a lifeline. An opportunity to tell them what's going on and why I'm betraying all of them, but I can't take it. I can't tell them about the drugs. I can't tell them about Penny and Tall Boy. I can't even convince them that I'm not fucking around with Malachi. So, I just leave without saying anything or meeting Toni's eyes. I knew this would happen. I knew everything would fall apart and I just let it.
Another night wasted, sitting in TB's stupid truck listening to his stupid CDs. Who even uses CDs anymore? News flash, the 90's are over. Get an aux cord. I made two hundred bucks which is cool, I guess. But all my friends hate me and think I'm a backstabbing Ghoulie, which is not cool at all. My life sucks. Everything sucks. And to top it off, I'm out here in the blazing sun sweating my ass off in this Serpent jacket. The Ghoulies are on one side of the parking lot and the Serpents are on the other. I don't want to stand near the Ghoulies but I don't want to spend the whole afternoon getting death glared by Sweet Pea and Fangs either. Toni just keeps giving me sad looks and that's almost worse. I'm trying to stand in neutral territory but the Northsiders are here too for some fucking reason.
"Hey, Cobra!" Malachi saunters over to me. At least he keeps his hands to himself this time.
"Fuck off, Malachi."
"Wanna go for a ride in my hearse, princess."
"Not even when I'm dead." He smirks, openly looking me up and down.
"I like 'em feisty. But you already know that. Just don't forget, if I win, you're my prize." I finally get fed up and storm away, standing near the annoying Northsiders just to get a few seconds of peace. God he is so annoying. Women aren't prizes, asshole. I swear, he wasn't this bad before he was a Ghoulie. It must be the fumes in the den.
"Let's do it!" Tall Boy announces. Everyone cheers. "Get these cars up on the road." Jughead and Malachi shake hands. Toni walks to the center of the road, ready to start the race, when some Northsider bitch walks past her and takes the honor. She waves the flag and the cars take off. I should be in the car. Not Jughead and his Northside buddy. This is my fault. Also, I race better than Jughead. My nickname is Crash for a reason.
We all wait anxiously for the winner. Well, I'm anxious. Most people are just drinking beer and listening to music. Minutes later a Ghoulie comes running into the middle of the lot.
"Everyone scatter! The cops are rounding up Ghoulies!" Fuck. This can't be good. Jughead called the cops? How can one person be so fucking stupid? Ghoulies all race to their cars and drive off. At the same time, Jughead and Archie come back.
"Come on! Come on! We've gotta go right now!" Jughead tells his friends. Tall Boy must be thinking the same thing I am because he starts screaming at Jughead.
"You called the cops?! You won't throw in with the Ghoulies but you will with the cops? Where's the honor in that?"
"Calm down, Tall Boy. You think I knew Keller was gonna be there?" Archie steps in, pulling Jughead away to face off with Tall Boy himself. Idiot.
"I called Keller." Archie says, like that's supposed to help anything.
"What the hell, Archie? Did my dad tell you about this too?"
"No this was my idea to get rid of the Ghoulies and it worked! They get arrested for street racing and now they're off the chessboard!" I can't stop myself- Well, I don't want to to stop myself. - From lunging at Archie and grabbing him roughly by the collar.
"You stupid bitch! Do you have any idea what you just did?" Jughead rips me off Archie and shoves me away from them.
"How long do you think this wall last?" Jughead demands. "One month? Three? And you know what they'll want when they get out? Your head on stake! All of ours!" Jughead shouts at Archie. Sirens start up again, coming over the bridge. The rest of the Northsiders scatter and I get in Tall Boy's stupid, dumb, ugly, stupid truck because I have no other way home.
Tall Boy drives us straight to the warehouse. I've never been here when it's still light outside. It looks even grimier in the sunset. He throws the truck in park and storms over to the door, slamming his fist against it until Penny opens it. I don't know if I'm supposed to stay in the truck or not but Penny keeps giving me the evil eye while she and Tall Boy whisper furiously at each other. Tall Boy glances back at me and waves me over, so I hop out and as soon as I'm close enough he grabs me by the collar of my jacket and drags me into the office with them. He shoves me into an old chair and starts pacing around the small room. Penny sits in the chair behind her makeshift desk and crosses her arms.
"Someone wanna tell me what the hell just happened?" Penny asks. Tall Boy turns to me expectantly. For 'de facto leader' he's a huge wimp.
"Jughead's Northside buddy called the cops and got Malachi and the other Ghoulies arrested for street racing." See, Tall Boy? Was that so hard? Penny picks a book off the desk and chucks it at my head. It bounces off my temple and it honestly really hurts but I'm not going to let her know that.
"Congratulations. We're totally fucked."
"We?" I scoff. "Last I checked, you and Tall Boy were the ones trying to make deals with the Ghoulies! I had nothing to do with this."
"Yeah? Who's gonna believe you?" She asks snidely, setting her arms on the desk and leaning towards me. "You're the one who used to date Malachi." She quirks her eyebrow.
"Oh please. I was 14. No one cares."
"Really? Who's to say you didn't go crawling back to him the second he became leader of the Ghoulies. Girls like you crave men in power. Don't they, Tall Boy?" Tall Boy looks like a deer in the headlights for a second, looking rapidly between me and Penny. But Penny has the money and the power to do whatever she wants and Tall Boy knows it.
"Right. I saw them together at the House of the Dead." He answers, making me scoff again.
"What were you doing there? Buying Jingle Jangle?"
"Tall Boy was just keeping an eye on you, like FP asked. We couldn't have a baby Serpent being disloyal."
"Call me a baby Serpent one more fucking time, Peabody. I'm Uktena. I belong here. You're just some raggedy bitch that couldn't get into college without the Serpent's lining your pockets. You would be nothing without us."
"Us who, traitor?" She spits out. God, I want to ring her fucking neck. Tall Boy can tell and he sets his hand on my shoulder threateningly. Penny shifts her gaze to Tall Boy. "Get her out of here. I have a meeting." This is such bullshit. I am going to kill Penny Peabody.
Southside High sucks. Everyone knows that. The only okay part about school is that my friends are there and sometimes the cafeteria has those Honey Buns that taste like plastic and sugar but like, in a good way. Today, the lunch menu is frozen milk and stale tater tots. Also, my friends think I betrayed them and probably want me to get jumped out of the Serpents, AKA beaten to death. Fun, right? Even Toni is keeping me at arms length. Which is especially concerning because she has really long arms for such a short girl.
The icing on the cake is getting called into my English teacher's class to talk about 'my participation'. There being nothing to talk about is probably the problem. I hate his stupid class. I hate this stupid school. I hate this stupid hallway. I hate his stupid door! I hate the stupid sound it makes when I knock on it and I hate his stupid smug smile when he opens the door to greet me.
"Miss. Collins, come on in." Shut up. "Have a seat." Shut up! "Let's talk." I plop down in one of the desk chairs and prop my head and on my fist. Mr. Phillips leans against his desk in front of me.
"What do you want to talk about, Mr. Phillips?"
"Penny Peabody." Oh.
"Don't play dumb with me, kid. She's a Serpent. She's a trafficker. And she told me that you're to blame for what happened with the Ghoulies this weekend." What the fuck? Since when does Mr. Phillips know anything about the gangs?
"She's lying. I didn't do anything!" He takes a step forward and slams his hands against my desk, startling me and forcing me back in my chair.
"Don't bullshit me, Crash."
"I'm not bullshitting you. I didn't do shit."
"Who was it?" Can't snitch. Won't snitch.
"Look, I don't know what Penny told you but you and I both know that she's a liar and a traitor." He smacks has palms on the desk again and I flinch. "What the hell does it matter to you anyway, huh? Tutoring Penny in English lit?" I ask, raising an eyebrow sarcastically. He narrows his eyes and leans towards me, inches away from my face.
"Don't ask questions when you already know the answer."
"Are you threatening me?"
"Someone has to. You think you're hot shit because your Uncle killed Jason Blossom? News flash, Collins, you're just a stupid kid. Sooner or later, you're gonna have to pay for what you've done. And when that time comes, none of your precious Serpent's will be there to protect you. Not after you turned your back on them to play lap dog for Penny and Malachi." He says lowly.
"Fuck you." He smirks and leans back, returning to his leisurely position against his desk. His smirk drops to a scowl when two cops and Sheriff Keller barge into the classroom.
"Robert Phillips, you're under arrest." The two cops grab him by the arms and cuff him. He doesn't even try to fight back, he just keeps his icy gaze on me the whole time. Sheriff Keller eyes me warily but doesn't say anything. They lead Mr. Phillips out of the classroom to march him through the halls of Southside High. Well, I'm fucked. I guess I'll deal with it later.
Now on to my plan. I didn't mention my plan yet, because it's a super top secret plan. Either it will fix everything, or it will literally ruin my entire life. Let's begin! Step One: Finding Toni Topaz. Well, not finding her because I know she's in the library but whatever, you'll see.
The library doors squeak, but with a stroke of good luck the speakers around the school crackle to life and I'm able to sneak in unnoticed.
"Students of Southside High, due to unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Phillips is no longer teaching at Southside High." I spot Toni sitting at one of the graffitied tables and I sneak closer behind the bookshelves. "All English classes that were previously with Mr. Phillips will meet in the cafeteria. Attendance is required. Thank you." They're really kidding themselves if they think anyone is going to show up to those classes. Whatever. Focus, Carrie! Toni slams her book shut and lets out a frustrated sigh. She gets up and ducks into one of the other aisles and I take my chance, running over and grabbing the burner phone out of the side pocket of her backpack, rezipping the pocket and running back into my aisle before she sees me. Nailed it. Crash Collins for the win, bitches.
Step two is significantly easier. Basically, I just have to stay hidden and make sure Toni doesn't leave the library. Also, send a text to Fangs and Sweet Pea. And screw it, I'll text Jughead too even though this whole thing is his fault anyway.
SOS. Emergency Serpent meeting in the SSH library. Now!
God, I'm so good at this. I should be an FBI agent. Except like, not a cop. I wonder if I could do a Russian accent. I could definitely rock a black leather catsuit.
Where is the library?
It's okay. I've planned for this to happen. Of course Sweet Pea doesn't know where the library is. No one uses it but Toni and this weird girl that I'm pretty sure eats the books.
First floor. English Hall. Big door that says 'Library'.
Now, we wait... It's only about two minutes before all three boys come rushing through the door. Super suspicious, if anyone bothered to be suspicious in this school. The three of them find a very confused Toni and immediately begin bombarding her with questions. This is my cue. I step out of the aisle and walk over to the table, dropping the phone on it gently and getting the attention of all four Serpents. Three of them give me blank looks but Sweet Pea glares. As predicted, he starts to storm out of the library but I jump in front of him to block his way.
"Don't call me that." He spits out.
"Sweet Pea, please. Just let me explain." I beg. This is the titular part of my plan, convincing Sweet Pea to listen. "Please." I ask again. Sweet Pea stares at me, still visibly furious, but he goes back to Toni's table and sits down. Hallelujah!
"Talk." Sweet Pea demands. I'm used to Sweet Pea being angry but I'm not used to him being angry at me. I try to focus on Toni instead and she nods at me encouragingly.
"I was working for Penny. To pay her back for getting me released. And then to make some money because well, I needed money. And it's not like I can work at Pop's or the Bijou or whatever. And I wasn't supposed to tell you. I wasn't supposed to tell anyone. But I figured with the drag race and the Sugarman and everything, I-"
"Did you know Mr. Phillips was the Sugarman?" Jughead interrupts.
"No! Not until like, twenty minutes ago." I admit.
"Wait a second. Penny Peabody was working with the Sugarman?" Toni asks and I nod. "You were dealing drugs?" She asks, this time with a harsher tone.
"Not dealing! Just like… trafficking. Maybe! I don't know for sure. I never really found out what was in the crates, I just kind of assumed."
"You told me you were moving car parts." Sweet Pea accuses. "You lied?" The one thing I wasn't prepared for was Sweet Pea's voice being so full of betrayal. I'm so incredibly unprepared that tears spring to my eyes and my throat does that awful clenching thing. I think it shocks them as much as it shocks me because their pissed off expressions falter and Toni reaches for my hand.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lied but I was just-" My voice is all squeaky and I really regret inviting Jughead and letting him see me so vulnerable and stupid. It only gets more high pitched and nasally as I tell them everything in one big breath.
"I knew you would tell me to stop but I couldn't because of Penny. And I needed the money- I haven't seen my mom in weeks. And then I found out that Penny was working with the Ghoulies but Tall Boy knew that I knew and I wanted to tell FP and ask him what to do but I couldn't do that while he was stuck in jail and I don't know. I- I guess I was just scared of what they would do and that you all would be mad at me and you wouldn't want to be my friend anymore. And then Archie called the cops on the Ghoulies and Penny is pissed and she said that she's gonna blame it all on me and all the Serpents would think I was the one who did everything and then I'd be kicked out of the Serpents and you're all that I have." They're quiet for a second as they unpack everything I just said in their heads. Toni is the first one to speak.
"Tall Boy threatened you?" She asks angrily.
"Yes. Well, no. Not directly. I don't think so, at least." Sweet Pea slams his fist into the table and it makes me jump. There's a long beat of silence but I'm able to blink the tears out of my eyes and I rub them roughly.
"And the Ghoulies?" Jughead asks skeptically.
"You told me to go there! What did you expect to happen when you and Tall Boy went to 'parley with the Ghoulies'? You'd tell them to back off and they'd just listen?"
"I went there to stop Tall Boy." He defends.
"And instead you rolled over and gave them everything they wanted. If it weren't for Archie we'd all be homeless and the Wyrm would be an opium den. Don't you dare blame that on me." I look at Toni, Fangs, and Sweets, and they look back at me with conflicted expressions. "You know how much the Serpents mean to me. How much you mean to me." Eventually, Toni sighs.
"That's everything? No more secrets?" She asks.
"No more secrets."
"Okay." She nods. "I forgive you." After a few more seconds of silence Toni shifts and Fangs winces, Sweet Pea mimicking him a second later.
"Me too." Fangs tells me. Sweet Pea nods silently. Jughead sighs too, before nodding in agreement.
"And no more stealing my phone and sending fake emergency texts." Toni scolds.
"No promises." I tell her honestly. She shakes her head but smiles. For the first time in days, I feel like I can relax.
The bell rings, reaffirming my impeccable timing, and the five of us stand up and head to the library doors. Sweet Pea hangs back and bit and I get the impression that we aren't done talking so I idle by the library door. Toni gives me a look I don't understand before pulling Fangs and Jughead out with her and leaving Sweets and I alone. He still hasn't made eye contact with me and it's making me anxious.
"Do you hate me?"
"You know I could never hate you, Crash." Well, I didn't. But I guess, now I do.
"Are you still mad?"
"Are you still hanging out with Malachi?"
"No! Of course not. And I wasn't hanging out with Malachi at all. He was just fucking with me. And with Jughead. You know how he acts when he thinks he's beating me." I try to explain. Sweet Pea almost looks relieved with my answer. "Why?" I ask and he shrugs.
"The guy just sucks. And he's a Ghoulie." Duh. Makes sense. He finally makes eye contact with me and I smile gratefully.
"Friends?" Sweet Pea smiles tightly and nods.
"Friends." He agrees. I hug him tightly and after a moment of surprise, he hugs me back just as tight.
"Thank god." My voice is muffled by his stupidly muscular chest. "Because my trailer is freezing and I don't know how to replace the gas tank." Sweet Pea laughs and his breath ruffles my hair.
"I can fix that. Ya know, before you freeze to death."
"Crash, are you listening?"
"Yeah, totally. I'm totally listening. You unscrew the old one and screw in the new one and if you do it wrong you'll explode and die. Easy-peasy." Sweet Pea sighs dramatically at my response. Don't ever let him say that he's not dramatic. He's a total diva.
"I'm trying to teach you how to replace your propane tank so you won't freeze to death and die when I'm not here to help you. The least you could do is pretend to listen."
"I told you, I'm totally listening. It's not my fault that you're freakishly buff and it's distracting." He glances at me from his spot underneath my old trailer and I'm suddenly really self-conscious of how weird I probably look squatting on my cement block steps and gawking at Sweet Pea's ridiculously buff arms. It's totally normal to notice how jacked your friends are right? I mean I can't not notice. He's right in front of me with his rolled up shirt sleeves and stupid arm muscles.
"I asked if you're pipes are ready are ready for winter."
"You have to insulate your pipes for winter or they'll freeze."
"Sorry, what are you going to do to my pipes?"
"Crash." Sweet Pea scolds me, still enamored with the propane tank for some reason.
"Yeah. Insulate my pipes. Got it. Are you ever going to come back out? I'm cold." He huffs slightly but starts crawling out from under the trailer. "You're like my dad except you didn't die tragically in my childhood resulting in serious trauma and a life of crime."
"You've told that joke like three times and it's never funny." Sweet Pea sighs, finally getting to his feet and leading the way to my front door.
"First of all, it's funny every time. Second of all, your ass is covered in dirt and spiderwebs."
"Why are you looking at my ass?"
"I'm not! I wasn't looking at your ass it's just there." He mhmms and throws a smirk over his shoulder. "Whatever. You can't sit on my couch like that." He ignores me and walks right inside, the screen door slamming behind him. Asshole.
"First my hot arms and now my ass? If I didn't know any better I'd think you were checking me out." I'm not blushing. I'm totally not blushing and I'm totally not thinking about Sweet Pea's body because that would be a weird thing for me to do. It's just cold!
"Shut up." Smooth. I'm as cool as a cucumber. I swing open the screen door and let it slam shut behind me me. Sweet Pea is sprawled out on my couch, no doubt getting dirt and cobwebs all over it. "It's not my fault that puberty gave all my friends rockin' bods while I look like a cross between a 12 year old and a teenage mutant ninja turtle." I flop down on the couch by his feet and he moves his legs just enough for me to sit.
"Fangs says you look like an angel but act like a demon. Toni thinks you look like a cherub... but browner."
"You guys talk about my looks when I'm not around?" He shrugs innocently.
"You were gone for a long time. We couldn't remember what you looked like and the only pictures we could find were from middle school."
"I was only gone for two months." I say, poking him in the leg.
"I have a bad memory." He shrugs again. "Take a picture with me." He adds, suddenly sitting up and bumping shoulders with me.
"Why do you need a picture? I'm right here." Sweet Pea sighs again and gives me one of his famous broody glares.
"Listen, Carrie." He starts quietly, grabbing my chin and turning me to face him. I'm a little surprised at how close our faces are and my breath catches in my throat. "You get arrested more than anyone else I know. So will you just take a stupid selfie with me before you get sent to jail and I forget what your face looks like?" He lets his hand drop from my chin to my knee but he doesn't pull his face back. I never noticed how brown his eyes are. I know that sounds stupid but whatever. They're so deep and warm and I want to swim in them like the weird kid in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who falls into the chocolate river. He's staring back at me so intently and I briefly wonder if he's also thinking about the weird kid in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who falls into the chocolate river. After a few more seconds of swimming, I finally get the self-control to speak out loud.
"You are such a brat." A look of surprise flickers across his face before he rolls his eyes.
"Shut up and take the picture." He pulls his phone out of his pocket and swiftly wraps his arm around my shoulders, tugging me closer to him. I glare at the camera, trying my best to look hot and tough without looking like I'm trying too hard. Sweet Pea takes a picture and then rolls his eyes at the face I'm making. "Smile."
"I don't smile for pictures. I'm mysterious." He snorts, very unladylike.
"Yeah. So mysterious. Just smile." He poses again and I keep glaring at the camera. I'm a vixen. A femme fatale. Sweet Pea glances down at me and back to the camera. He pulls me tighter with the arm he's kept around me and just before he takes the picture he smooches me on the forehead with his stupid mouth, effectively causing me to drop my glare and maybe… maybe even smile at the camera long enough for him to take the picture. The smile doesn't last long though because after snapping the photo he gives me a triumphant grin and I glare back wholeheartedly.
"You're going to ruin my reputation." I point out.
"You're reputation as the meanest girl in the South Side is solid, Crash." He reassures me, taking his arm back and shoving his phone back in his pocket.
"Wait! I want a picture on my phone." I pull out my phone and grab Sweet's arm so he can't lay back down on the couch.
"Does your weird old people phone even have a camera?"
"Yes! Now shut up and take the picture." I have to hold the phone weird because it doesn't have a fancy front facing camera.
"I'm not going to smile." Sweet Pea says, cementing his spot in my mind as Riverdale's Sassiest Teen Queen. He leans in close enough for me to take the picture and following his footsteps I lean in and plant a big smooch on his cheek as I take the picture. It's blurry and grainy but I still like it. Not that I would admit it to anyone, but it's a pretty cute picture. I can't admire it for too long before my phone starts ringing obnoxiously.
"Who's in your phone as 'Dumbass Emo Nerd'?" Sweet Pea asks, leaning back into the couch.
"Why is Jughead calling you?"
"I don't know." I guess I could answer it and find out. But then I'd have to talk to Jughead and just… ugh. The ringing is annoying though… Stupid Jughead. I answer the call and step into the kitchen.
"Crash?" Jugheads anxious voice flows through the tinny phone speaker.
"No. It's Jason Blossom." I answer boredly, opening my fridge and seeing nothing but some half-wilted spinach.
"That's- That's not funny, Crash." Yeah… I guess not.
"Whaddya need, Crate Face?"
"I have a problem."
"That blows." Jughead huffs loudly into the phone. Sweet Pea saunters into the kitchen and leans against the door frame, shooting me a vaguely interested face.
"A Penny problem."
"And you thought it would be a good idea to call me? Over the phone? Don't you know anything about the FBI? What's a Penny problem? Don't call back here." Before I can snap the phone shut (thank god for flip phones) Jugheads needy voice calls through the speaker again and shoots straight into the part of my brain that cares about other people. I hate that part.
"Crash, please. My dad got jumped by Ghoulies and I'm freaking out."
"Wait, wait, wait. What happened to Daddy Jones?" That piques Sweet's interest and causes him to give me an annoyed expression.
"What? Don't- don't call my dad that. He got jumped by Ghoulies in the shower."
"Did you see him?"
"No. No, Penny told me what happened. She said she can get him out but I need some cash."
"Well, I don't have any money. Penny cut me off."
"She said I could do a job for her."
"No! Jughead, don't do that. Don't do anything for Penny."
"If she can get my dad out of prison, I have to. She got you out, right?"
"Yeah but that was a bunk charge in the first place. FP is an accessory to murder, Jug."
"Well, what am I supposed to do? It's my fault the Ghoulies went after him. Now I need to get him out." I cringe before even spitting out the words but-
"I'll do it." Sweet Pea's eyes widen and I end up squeezing mine shut in response. "I've done it before, it's not a big deal." I mean, no Serpent stands alone or whatever.
"I can't ask you to do that, Crash. Besides, Penny called me."
"Penny is easily persuaded." Silence. Sweet Pea gives me a look I don't really understand and sits at the small kitchen table.
"I already asked Archie…"
"Archie? Are you joking? For god sakes, Jughead. Who would you rather have help? The best juvenile delinquent in Riverdale or your Northside boytoy that accidentally started American Psycho the boy band?"
"Archie owes me. And his dad has a truck."
"You're really bad at crime. You know that, right? The Serpents are a real gang not a glee club. I mean, I haven't seen Glee because I'm not a nerd but I did watch a compilation video of people getting slushied and it was awesome."
"Right. Well, if you didn't want me to help then why did you call me?"
"I don't know. I've never done anything like this before."
"Well she gave you the address, right? You have a GPS on your phone? It's not as bad as it seems, Jughead. Just pick up the crate and take it to Greendale. You can tell yourself it's a pizza if it makes you feel better."
"It's only one delivery." Definitely wrong.
"Yeah. Sure. Totally. Just once."
"I gotta go. You'll be fine, Jug!"
"Wait, Crash why did you say it like that?"
"Bye!" Smack. God, I love flip phones. I sit at the table across from Sweet Pea who's currently giving me a look I've only seen on the faces of Toni Topaz and my probation officer. It makes me fidget. Maybe if I just stare really hard at the table Sweet Pea will forget why he's disappointed in me and everything will be fine!
Okay, that's not working. And there's no dirt under my nails to pick at. I'm so screwed. Ugh. It's fine, Crash. Just act casual.
"What's up, Pea? You want some old spinach?" Jesus. What is wrong with me? Sweet Pea takes a minute to respond and the room gets tense.
"What are we going to do about Penny Peabody? The Serpent's aren't drug traffickers, Carrie. And I'm not just gonna to sit around while Penny and Tall Boy are threatening you."
"What do you want me to do, Sweet Pea?"
"We need to tell the rest of the Serpents."
"No. It's not their problem. It's mine and I'm dealing with it." Sweet Pea scoffs and sits back in his chair before leaning towards me again and recrossing his arms on the table.
"A Serpent never stands alone."
"Yeah. Sure. A Serpent also never fucks up and gets caught in Penny Peabody's web. I'm not going to drag everyone else into this with me. Half the Serpents don't even do shit, they don't deserve to have to clean up my mess."
"It's not about that."
"Then what is it about?" He scoffs again, throwing himself back in his chair before standing up and pacing the length of the kitchen. The length of this kitchen is like, two feet and his legs are so long that it looks like he's doing the waltz but like, he's mad about it. So, he's just furiously dancing in my kitchen and if we weren't fighting it would be hilarious. Eventually, he stops. He leans against the counter and looks down at me with that look. The disappointed look that zaps directly into my heart and makes me want to die just a little bit.
"It's about how you always try to deal with everything on your own." Oof. I don't know what to say. Instead of words all I can think of are 'Caution: Do Not Enter' signs and semi-truck horns.
"Well, I can handle it on my own."
"Can you? Because every time you 'handle it on your own' I'm the one who has to pick you up from the sheriff's office. I'm the one who has to take you home, drunk or high, from the party. I'm the one who has to go to the quarry at 3am. I'm the one who has to do damage control every time you-"
"Damage control?" Sometimes when people say mean things to me, I feel like I'm having an out of body experience. That probably sounds crazy, but whatever. It's like I'm hiding in the corner while I watch this other girl get ripped to shreds and I can't look away no matter how hard I try. Like a car crash. Like you're sitting in the backseat of your dads 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe and your mom is screaming and your whole body aches and you don't really know why.
"You know I didn't mean it like that."
"How did you mean it, Sweet Pea? Cause it seemed pretty fucking sincere to me." He sighs and pushes his hair back, the curl on his forehead dropping back into place anyway.
"I just wish that you would let us help you."
"I don't need your help." I bite back. A bit too harsh.
"Fine." Sweet Pea only needs two steps to turn and walk out of the kitchen. Fuck.
"Sweet Pea." I call, standing and following him. He pulls open the screen door and pauses, obviously waiting for me to say some kind of cheesy apology… I've got nothing. He shakes his head and walks out, letting the door slam behind him.
This fricken blows. I should just apologize for- Actually, no. I don't have anything to apologize for! I didn't do anything wrong. I just want to clean up my own messes and not drag anyone into it. That's not a crime. Trust me, I know all about crimes! Sweet Pea should apologize to me! For being a jerk. God, he's such an asshole. He called me damage control. Damage control! That's so fucked up! I hate him.
Okay, I don't hate him. He's my best friend. Maybe he's right and I should let him help. But is it wrong to not want to get someone you care about wrapped up in drug trafficking drama? NO. That's a good quality in a person! Sweet Pea should apologize to me for being an asshole and then I guess I could apologize for being a good friend or whatever. It doesn't even matter he'll never apologize first he's too stubborn.
Maybe I can just bottle everything up until Toni notices that Sweet Pea is acting like a brat and makes him apologize to me. That's a really good plan. I'm a genius.
This plan sucks. Who the hell came up with this? I miss Sweet Pea. Not that I would tell anyone that because it would totally ruin my mysterious badass persona. But I miss him. I miss his stupid jokes and his dumb laugh and his stupid long legs that make him tall enough to reach things that are really high up. AND he totally stole Fangs! I wanted Fangs. Toni is too perceptive and she doesn't let me win at pool. Which is why I'm sitting at a table with Tall Boy, of all people, trying really hard to enjoy this cup of beer and avoid eye contact with Toni and Sweet Pea. I mean, I guess I could just go home but who wants to sit at home and be depressed when you could sit in a bar and be depressed, right?
"Everyone!" Jughead shouts, barreling into the Whyte Wyrm. Jughead has a lot of flaws. I'm glad I can always count on him to do something dramatic and a little stupid to take my mind off my actual problems.
"Guys, listen up." Once he gets everyone's attention he stands in the center of the room. "I have an announcement to make. My dad's getting out." Jughead tells everyone excitedly. The bar cheers. "When he does, I'll bring him up to speed about our plans with Mayor McCoy."
"That's brilliant." Tall Boy states sarcastically, slamming his beer onto the table.
"Do you have a problem with that, Tall Boy?"
"With your old man? No. I got no problem with him. But you want us to sit down with the mayor."
"I do." Jughead agrees. "He's right. I think we can bring the Southside back. But it's gonna take work and it's gonna take compromise." Tall Boy laughs.
"Bring the Southside back? You've been here all of five minutes." I hate when I agree with Tall Boy, because he's so annoying. At least there's beer to distract me from the pain.
"Tall Boy, I'm sick of you acting like a little bitch." Jughead says, causing me to laugh and choke on my beer. "Whispering behind my back that I'm half a Serpent or that I don't belong here. Why don't we put it to a vote? If you guys think what I'm doing is wrong, I'll step aside." Jughead suggests. Toni rises from her chair to address the bar.
"All those who stand with Jughead and think that Tall Boy should shut the hell up…" She raises her hand. Immediately, nearly every other Serpent in the bar raises their hands in agreement. And although I hate the idea of sitting down with the mayor and potentially turning the Serpents into a do-gooder club for At-Risk-Youth, I also don't want to spend every second of my life fending off Penny Peabody so… I cautiously raise my hand too. And I get a mildly intimidating glare from Tall Boy. The man in question realizes that he's outnumbered and storms out of the Wyrm like a grumpy toddler.
Toni goes to congratulate Jughead but the rest of the bar quickly goes back to what they were doing before. Which leaves me sitting alone at a table, nursing a beer, and avoiding eye contact with all my friends. I never thought I'd wish for Jughead to be more annoying but now is a really bad time for him to be concise. Like, where's the drama? Where's the pizazz? Where's the crazy bar fight with Tall Boy where Jughead miraculously wins against a man that's three times his size and suddenly with the adrenaline coursing through the air Sweet Pea realizes he was being a dick and he sweeps me into his strong arms and plants a wet one on me?
Wait. No. What? No kissing. That would be weird. Super duper totally weird and not at all in my fantasy. He just realizes that he was being a dick and apologizes and we go back to being Best Friends Forever! Totally normal. Not weird at all… I need more beer.
Remember when I said Toni was too perceptive? Well, she's practically omnipotent. And now, she's sitting in the living room of my trailer with her 'Doctor Topaz, the therapist' look; ankles crossed, hands placed gently on lap, a sincere look on her face. All she's missing are outdated cateye glasses and a calming painting of the beach. All under the guise of getting ready for FP's party together. My cuticles are begging for just one day where everything is easy.
"Crash…" Oh no. Oh god. It's starting. Remain calm. You can get through this. "What's up with you and Sweet Pea? I thought you made up."
"We did." I say.
"Mhmm. So why, pray tell, were the two of you avoiding each other all night at the Wyrm? Besides, of course, the kicked puppy looks you gave each other when the other one wasn't looking." Toni says.
"That's a horrible thing to say, Toni. I would never kick a puppy." Toni rolls her eyes, effectively dropping the therapist persona.
"Carrie." Don't give in. Don't give in. Don't give in. Ugh. Fuck. Stupid Toni and her stupid therapist super powers.
"I didn't even do anything wrong! It was stupid Sweet Pea's fault! He's the one who was being a jerk."
"What did he do?"
"He was mad for no reason and then he started complaining about how he always has to clean up my messes and do damage control and-"
"Wait, he said that?" She interrupts, suddenly on my side instead of her usual stance as neutral party.
"He said damage control?"
"Yeah." The more I concentrate on it the more hurt I get. Feelings are stupid.
"What the hell? What was he mad about?"
"I don't know." Yes, I do. "Will you do my eyeliner for the party?" Toni springs into action, always ready for a full on makeover montage. She grabs the freshly shoplifted tube of eyeliner.
"Cat eye or Skins UK?"
"Cat eye." And now for part two of plan Distract Toni, "So Jughead's northsider girlfriend is planning this whole thing?"
"Yup. I guess party planning is her passion." Toni says.
"Rich people are so weird. Has she even met a Serpent besides Jones?" I ask.
"She met me and Birdie. Asked about joining the Serpents as a way to keep an eye on her man too. Mascara?"
"Please." Toni grabs the pink tube and gets to work.
"Look up." She says. She takes my chin in her hands and tilts my face toward the ceiling.
"So she really wants to join the Serpents?" I ask.
"She said 'Serpent adjacent'."
"So like, being a Serpent but without all the actual work?" Toni smirks before giving me a scolding look.
"She seems nice."
"Crash." She chides.
"I'll be nice." Maybe. I'll try at least. Toni does one last coat of mascara before leaning back to admire her work.
"Not you, my eyeliner skills." She corrects, sarcastically. I punch her softly in the shoulder as she laughs at her own jokes. "Ready?"
I'm thankful for Toni Topaz. I'm thankful for Toni Topaz's old Subaru that works 70% of the time. I'm thankful that it worked tonight. I'm thankful for tequila! I'm thankful that Toni is working the bar so I have someone to sit and talk to while I steadfastly ignore the pool competition going on.
"Jones, you look nervous." Toni comments, breaking me out of my thoughts. "Want a drink?"
"No, I'm good. I'm just getting a lay of the land."
"Cause that's not weird." I add, taking a sip of my drink. Jughead doesn't care though. He's too distracted by Betty Cooper and her ex-Serpent mother strutting into the bar. Alice Cooper, legacy, abandoned the Serpents for a quaint life on the Northside. Picket fences, sweater sets, and an unfulfilling marriage. The dream.
"Wow, Betty. Mrs. Cooper, you look incredible." Jughead tells them.
"Tell me about it," Mrs. Cooper says saucily. "Unfortunately I couldn't get this one to dress appropriately." She says, pointing to her pastel-clad daughter. "Hog Eye, get me-"
"Tequila." Hog Eye answers on reflex. "Straight-up."
"Hold the worm." Old people are so weird. Jughead pulls Betty aside while Toni and I watch Alice Cooper take shots.
"Mmm. Hit me, Hog Eye! Honey, what do you want? Shirley Temple?" Betty just smiles sarcastically at her mother in response and looks back to Jughead. "Just give me two." Hog Eye obeys, sliding two shots of tequila towards Alice. She throws them back and slams them back on the bar, barely wincing. Toni and I share an impressed and a little disturbed look.
"Toni, get me-"
"Club soda!" Hog Eye interrupts, shooting me an unimpressed look before looking meaningfully at Alice Cooper. He pours me a glass of club soda and slides it across the bar, tossing a smile at Alice. She gives us one of those 'responsible mom knows you're lying' smiles and walks away, leaving Hog Eye, Toni, and I at the bar.
"Do I really have to drink this?" I ask, sniffing the club soda wearily.
"You think that in a bar full of Northsiders, I'm gonna give an underage girl tequila?" Hog Eye asks me incredulously.
"No." I sigh. What's the point of being in a biker bar if you can't drink tequila? As if on cue, the speakers click on and the first notes of that Donnie Darko song start playing. If having good timing were worth money, I wouldn't live in Sunnyside Trailer park. That's for damn sure. Unfortunately, I'm reminded that we can't have nice things when two of the northsiders start singing along. Fuck karaoke.
"Who hears gang retirement party and thinks karaoke?" Hog Eye asks, just loud enough for Toni and I to hear. I snort and Toni gives both of us scolding looks.
"I think their voices sound nice." She says decidedly. "The Wyrm could use a little livening up."
"It's the Whyte Wyrm, Toni. Our version of livening things up is a bar fight." I point out.
"And that's how we like it." Hog Eye agrees.
Their voices are nice though. And I like Donnie Darko. My theory is that Donnie died after the plane crash and the entire thing was in the bunny dudes head. Also, Drew Barrymore is hot. Suddenly, the brunette girl rushes off the stage. The microphone squeaks and Archie rushes after her. Serpents around the bar start booing loudly. Betty Cooper climbs onto the stage to do damage control and she starts singing instead. Which is fine… until seconds into the song she starts unbuttoning her shirt.
"Uh, Toni. This isn't the Serpent adjacent thing you mentioned, is it?" I ask nervously. Toni nods, smirking slightly and looking over at Jughead. Oh, Betty. Oh shit. I can't let her do the Serpent dance in front of the entire bar. Her mom is here! Shit. I can't stop myself from looking for Sweet Pea in the crowd, who's grinning at the show. Asshole. Someone needs to stop this. The Serpent dance is a shitty ritual anyway.
I make my way through the crowd quickly, shedding my jacket as I go. By the time I get through the crowd, she's done dancing and is standing awkwardly on the stage in her lingerie. I jump up there the same time FP does, tossing my jacket at her.
"Betty Cooper, everybody!" She takes my jacket and I pick her clothes up off the stage.
"Let's give her a round of applause." FP tells the bar. I guide Betty off the stage and give her the clothes. Her mother grabs her and pulls her away. "And show her some of that Serpent hospitality we're known for!" I glance at Jughead, who looks crestfallen on my way back to the bar. I also can't stop myself from looking at Sweet Pea again, who looks pretty happy with the show Betty just gave. Asshole. Asshole. Asshole.
"You know, I've been in and out of the Serpents since I was younger than my son. And it's been a wild ride. Good times, bad times, but through it all, the Serpents stuck by my side, while most other people turned their backs on me. My own family included. Now, the letter of the law says that I can't be here in the Serpent den. That I can't associate with my friends. - My real family. My blood. But I've been thinking about that. And it'll be a cold day in hell before a snake lets a pig tell him what to do." The bar cheers in response.
"The Northside wants me out of this gang? Well, they better bring a coffin! Cause FP Jones isn't retiring. I am not going gently into the night. I'm here to stay! So, bring the fire!" Hear fucking hear, Daddy Jones. The bar errupts into cheers and hollers again, this time I join in. FP is here to stay, baby. Order is restored in the house of the snakes. Suck on that, Tall Boy!
The giant in question doesn't take long to tuck his tail. Barely twenty minutes after FP announces his non-retirement, Tall Boy stalks over to the bar orders another beer. While Toni is pouring he leans over me and whispers in my ear.
"You're back in."
"What if I don't want back in?" I ask him quietly, with as much sass as I can muster. Tall Boy scoffs.
"Bullshit. Like you'd pass up three hundred dollars." So they're upping my cut. Which is incredibly suspicious but also… money.
"Fine." Tall Boy stands to his full height just in time for Toni to slide him his beer with a glare.
"Is he bothering you, Crash?" She asks me, not taking her eyes off Tall Boy.
"Nope. He was just leaving." He rolls his eyes at my answer but takes his beer and walks off. Toni shoots me a questioning look but I just shake my head in a 'nothing going on here, he's just weird!' way. She buys it.
The Wyrm is still in full party mode when Sweet Pea saunters over to the bar. He avoids me completely, turning away from me and Toni to order shots from Hog Eye. But I don't let it bother me. It's totally, completely, not a bother at all. I'm as cool as a cucumber. Hog Eye pours him the shots and he walks over to FP.
"Shots! Let's line 'em up." Sweet Pea calls out. Toni pours a shot and slides it over to me, glaring slightly at Sweets.
"Hail to the king." Tall Boy says with fake earnestness. Everyone echoes him and downs their shots. Soon, everyone piles out the front doors to go for a joyride and I'm left with Toni and a few lingering Serpents. Hog Eye goes to the back and leaves the two of us at the bar alone.
"Are all Northside parties like this?" I ask Toni, as she wipes the bar down.
"Probably not… maybe." She tosses the towel in the small sink and leans against the bar. "Wanna leave early?"
"Won't Hog Eye through a fit?" Toni shrugs, glancing at the door to the back and back at me.
"Not if we tell him that we're having womanly troubles." She suggests. Hog Eye stumbles through the doorway with an armful of clean glasses and sets them on the counter. Toni winks at me before turning to Hog Eye and rubbing her stomach gently.
"Hey, Hog Eye. Mind if I ditch a bit early?" She rubs her stomach again and stifles a fake groan. "I've got awful cramps." Hog Eye eyes her suspiciously.
"Didn't you bring any spare tampons, Toni?" I ask.
"Nope. And this one's gonna be a gusher. I mean blood everywhere."
"Okay, okay. Whatever. Get out." Hog Eye gives in easily. "For the record, neither of you girls are good actresses." Bitch. Toni doesn't care though. She grabs her bag from under the bar and starts walking away before Hog Eye can change his mind.
"Thanks! See you tomorrow. Let's go, Crash!" I quickly hop off the bar stool and follow her outside and to her car. Before I can blink she's buckled in and revving the engine. Toni starts pulling out of the bar parking lot when her headlights flash over Betty Cooper, standing in the cold and crying. God damnit.
"Stop the car." Toni instantly slams on the brakes and looks at me worriedly.
"What?" She asks, obviously not seeing the sad blonde girl. I roll down the window and stick my head out.
"Cooper!" Betty looks up and glances around, finding the parking lot nearly empty. "Betty! Get over here." She nervously makes her way to the car and stands a few steps away from the window.
"What are you doing, Carrie?" Toni asks wearily.
"What do you want?" Betty asks, her face a mixture of fear and heartbreak.
"Get in." I tell her.
"Get in the car. We're taking you home." I roll up the window and look at Toni. "She looks like a sad deer. We have to take her home." Betty finally gives in, opening the back door and getting in.
"Thanks." She says quietly.
"It's not safe out here for Northsiders." I can't be too nice. The drive is silent, save for Betty's quiet directions and sniffling that Toni and I pretend to not hear. We pull up outside her picket fence house and Betty gets out, thanking us again before walking up the front steps. Toni waits for her to get inside and for us to drive around the corner before talking.
"Since when were you nice to girls like Betty Cooper?" She accuses.
"I'm not nice." I say plainly.
"We gave her a ride home. That's a nice thing to do." She points out.
"Okay, fine, whatever. I just didn't want her to freeze to death or be mauled by Ghoulies. That doesn't mean I'm nice."
"Aww, Crash! You're nice!" Toni coos obnoxiously.
"Shut up." I'm never being nice again. Being nice sucks.
"I can't believe she really did the Serpent dance. That was awesome."
"The Serpent dance is stupid. I can't believe anyone really does it."
"I did it. Didn't you?" Toni asks.
"No. I was 11. All I had to do was say the Serpent laws and get the knife from Pepper."
"That's bullshit! I had to do all the trials." I can't help but smirk slightly.
"We're Ukenta. You should have just pulled the 'my grandpa literally invented the Serpents' card." Toni frowns. She always gets mad when I make good points.
"Did you leave the lights on when we left?" She asks, pulling up to my trailer.
"No." Sure enough, the lights were on. There were no cars outside to show who it could be either. I got out of the car wearily and grabbed a big rock off the ground.
"Want me to come in with you?" Toni asks.
"Nah." I toss the rock in my hand. "I've got it." I walk up the crumbling steps and pull the door open quietly. It's not a murderer sitting on my couch though.
I drop the rock I was holding and wave to Toni to let her know that I'm not in danger.
"Hi, baby! It's good to see you." My mom says happily. She gets off the couch and sets her hands on my shoulders but doesn't hug me. "Oh, it's been too long." Yeah. No shit.
"I didn't know you were coming home." My mom gives me a big stepford wife smile before dropping her hands and sitting on the couch again.
"Of course. It's Christmas! Now come. Sit!" She pats the couch next to her and I sit on the edge. "We should catch up." Right. Because the only way this night could get better is for my mom to tell me about all the cabana boys she's fucked since I was arrested.
"So, who's the boy?" She asks interestedly.
"Yes! The boy who came looking for you." She says, as if that explains anything. Unless...
"Wait, did Sweet Pea come by here?"
"That tall one? Oh, no. No! It was a different boy." She winks at me.
"What did he look like?"
"Handsome! But troubled. And he was wearing a funny hat!"
"Carrie, that's a terrible name to call someone."
"You're right. Sorry, mom." She smiles at my response, proud of her parenting. "Listen, I've gotta go. I'll be back later, okay."
"Are you gonna go see that boy?" She asks excitedly.
"Yup." I walk out the door, letting it slam behind me even though she hates that. If she really hated it she would fix the broken springs, right? Whatever. I have to figure out what the hell Jughead wants.
I'm surprised to see FP's bike outside his trailer when I get there. He's not known for leaving parties early but hell, maybe prison sobered him up. Jughead swings the door open before I can knock and grabs my elbow hard, dragging me down the road.
"Uh, ow, Jughead." I rip my elbow out of his grip and he stops walking, choosing instead to pace erratically in front of me. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Suddenly he stops and whirls around to stand inches away from me.
"We need to get rid of Penny." That's not what I was expecting. I don't really know what I was expecting. Betty's pregnant? Jughead's addicted to jingle jangle? But Penny? Could we really get rid of the Snake Charmer?
"No. We need her." Jughead scoffs.
"For what? She's going to ruin the Serpents, Crash."
"Penny Peabody has been a Serpent for a decade. We put her through law school. Why do you think your dad and I are out, let alone every other Serpent that's been locked up."
"She's a drug mule!" He whisper yells. "And now she's in with the Ghoulies? Penny has Tall Boy roped into it. You, my dad. She has a video of me and Archie delivering a crate full of drugs." Of course. This isn't about the Serpents at all.
"So that's what this is about? You and your golden boy Archie can't take the heat?" Jughead's wild eyes scowl at me.
"This is about all of us. The Serpents aren't drug dealers." I scoff at that.
"You've been a Serpent for what, five minutes? Have you ever thought that maybe this is a good thing, Jug?" His face clashes with confusion and betrayal before deciding on a blank mask. "The money is good. Better than anything else we've been doing."
"At the cost of what? Lives?"
"Some of us don't have the option of morality. Some of us have to do whatever we can to survive, even if it means peddling uppers to Northsiders." I know if I look at his face too long I'll crack, so I turn on my heel and storm off before I get the chance. He's right… kind of. But I'm also right. I mean, gangs are gangs. The Serpents were founded by the Uktena and we'll do whatever it takes to keep our families alive. Are drugs the best way to uphold a legacy? No. Are they the only way I have right now? Yeah. Kinda. This frickin sucks. I wish my dad were around, he'd know exactly what to do.
I make it half-way back to my trailer before my phone starts buzzing away in my pocket. Right, Tall Boy. Drugs. ABBA. I almost forgot.
Alley behind the Wyrm 12pm
It's 12:18 where the hell r u?
Well, it's 12:24 now. Tall Boy is gonna be pissed. This sucks. Everything sucks. I want to SCREAM. I'd rather watch 6 hours of nonstop Northside karaoke than deal with anything that's happened in the last 24 hours. My life is a nightmare all I want is a bubble bath and a bottle of Strawberry Mad Dog 20/20 and maybe Sweet Pea and -
Hold up. That's not Tall Boy's truck. Thank you baby Jesus for giving me the knowledge to check dark alleys before walking down them. I pick up another rock before creeping around the corner of the Whyte Wyrm. It's too dark to see inside without getting closer so I press my back against the wall and try to blend in with the shadow before slipping further down the alley. They don't have the dome light on so either their smart or dead. Oh god what if they're dead? I can't be caught with another dead body. I'm so screwed.
"Crash?" Hearing my name makes me jump, holding back a shriek but accidentally biting my tongue.
"FP?" Shit. I hide the rock behind my back and try to look innocent.
"What the hell are you doing out here?" Dad voice: activated.
"Uh. I- I bit my tongue." I'm so stupid oh my god. A look of realization flashes on FP's face, which quickly turns to fury and reluctant acceptance.
"Get in." I drop the rock and get in the truck, pressing myself as close to the door as possible. FP silently starts up his truck and pulls out of the alley. Without even looking at him I can tell you this, his jaw is clenched so tightly you can see the muscles popping out, his knuckles are white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly, his eyes are bulging out of his head just a little bit. Okay, maybe not the last one but that's how I picture it.
I've seen this look a grand total of three times. First, when Jughead tried to burn down the elementary school and got sent to juvie. Second, when Gladys took Jellybean to Ohio and my dad and I went over to check on FP and found him staring at himself and drinking. And third, when I followed Mustang into the basement and found Jason Blossom.
"First Jughead, now you?" He starts muttering and I'm not sure if I should correct him on the whole drug trafficking timeline or not. Suddenly he slams his hand against the steering wheel and I flinch. He notices and cringes.
"Sorry. Damn Snake Charmer." He starts muttering again and sighs loudly. I wonder if he knows about the Ghoulies. Probably not. Ugh, he's gonna be so mad. And it's not like Tall Boy is gonna step up to the plate. Maybe I could slip him some valium first or something. It works for my mom. I should have just told him while he was still locked up and behind a thick sheet of plexiglass. Not that I think he'd hurt me or anything, I just don't want to see the disappointed look he's gonna give me.
Before I can muster up the courage, we're pulling up to the warehouse. FP gets out of
the truck and slams the door without a word. He storms inside without grabbing the crate. Great. Awesome. This is fine. I'm really strong and I don't need his help! Men are so annoying.
I hop out of the truck and go around the back, unlocking the hatch. I have to crawl into the bed of the truck just to be able to reach the crate. I scoot it all the way to the edge before Tall Boy walks out of the warehouse to help me.
"Finally." I say, jumping down from the truck bed. "Thanks for the heads up by the way." Tall Boy smirks. He grabs a handle on the crate and pulls it towards him.
"Surprise." Bitch. He can carry the crate by himself! But as I walk around him to go inside he grips my shoulder tightly and pulls me back, making my stumble into the tailgate.
"What's your problem?"
"Listen, kid. FP doesn't know about the Ghoulies and he ain't gonna. I know you have a big mouth but keep it shut or Penny and I will shut you up for good, got it?"
"Capiche, Godfather." Tall Boy rolls his eyes but lets go of me.
"They never said capiche in The Godfather. Grab the crate."
"You've probably seen the Godfather a thousand times." I grab my end of the crate and he pulls it out of the truck.
"I saw it when it came out."
"God, you're so old." Tall Boy loosens his grip on the crate,forcing me to take the brunt of the weight for a few seconds before grabbing it again. Jerk. I want to make more jokes about how annoying Tall Boy is but the second we're inside the warehouse all the jokes slip my mind. FP and Penny are arguing. FP looks pissed and Penny looks pleased with herself. We are so screwed. The two of them turn to look at Tall Boy and I as we set the crate off to the side. FP stares at me for a few seconds, his mouth forming a smaller and smaller line as time passes.
"Crash, go to the car."
"Go." This sucks. I stomp out of the warehouse, not caring if I look like a bratty kid. FP doesn't even have any good CDs. He just listens to the same 3 dad rock greatest hit albums over and over again. Tall Boy on the other hand…. Has a bunch of CDs and a back window that slides open from the outside. All you need to do is press and slide and I'm in! Well, kinda in. My ass is hanging out the window but there's no one here to see and I can reach the CD case. Nailed it.
FP left the keys in the ignition. You'd think that a bunch of criminals in a gang would be better about security. Whatever. I'm listening to Fernando.
If there's one good thing about Southside High it's that no one notices if I don't show up. The downside of that is walking in on my mom and a strange man in his boxers eating breakfast in our kitchen. I did not get nearly enough sleep to deal with this shit.
"Carrie! Baby, I missed you. Come sit." She doesn't give me a second to decline before standing up, grabbing my shoulders, and shoving me into a chair next to the half naked twenty-something she's apparently banging.
"I missed you too, Ma."
"Oh! I got you something." She races down the hall to her bedroom, leaving me alone with the man. He looks me up and down once. Twice. Then goes back to his bowl of cereal. When did we get cereal? My mom runs back in and shoves a small box in my hand.
"Open it!" She looks like she's about to clap and squeal like a little girl. I wonder if she's been doing jingle jangle. I open the box and pull out the gift. A small plastic keychain with a dolphin on it. Just what I always wanted. "Do you love it?"
"Yeah! Thanks, Mama. It's beautiful." She grins at me and grabs my shoulders again, squeezing in a way I'm sure she thinks is comforting.
"I saw it in the gift shop and I just had to get it for you."
"It's perfect. Thank you. Listen, I gotta get to the Wyrm. Will you be here when I get back?" My mom smiles and pats my shoulders.
"Yup! And then it's off to Cabo." She sits on the mans lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. He wraps one of his arms around her waist and uses the other to take another bite of cereal.
"That's great." I stand up, no longer hungry. "Hey, would you mind paying some bills while you're here? We're behind on rent." My mom is too busy sucking on the guys neck to listen to me. She unlatches herself long enough to say-
"Sure thing, sweetheart." Before the two of them start making out at the table. It takes me about three seconds to get dressed and book it to the Wyrm. Unfortunately it takes about two seconds for my mom and her new beau to get hot and heavy in the middle of the kitchen. I've gotta buy some bleach next time I go to the store.
Practically every inch of the Whyte Wyrm is covered in glitter and wrapping paper. I think everyone's version of Christmas should have tequila and glitter. They go together like… like… tequila and me! Whatever. They work. And it's always nice to see the Serpents being cheerful and giving back, even if the junior Serpents are the ones who are forced to wrap everything. Toni, Fangs and Sweet Pea are already half-way through when I show up. Sweet Pea ignores me, big surprise.
"Hey, Crash." Toni hands me a toy to be wrapped and Fangs scoots down to make room for me at their station.
"Hey, Topaz. Do you like dolphins?"
"Uh. Yeah? I guess. Why?" I pull out the keychain and hand it to her.
"Happy Holidays. Courtesy of Alabama Wentworth-Collins." Toni holds it up to the light before shrugging.
"You can keep it." She puts the keychain in her pocket and we go back to wrapping presents.
"What is all this?" Jughead asks, walking into the Wyrm.
"It's a Serpent tradition." Toni explains. "Every year we give back to the South side. Toys for Tots. Meals on Wheels. Kids and old folks living alone."
"The Hells Angels do it." Fangs adds.
"I'm always down for charitable works. Hey, have you seen my dad?" The man in question comes down from the office with Tall Boy close behind.
"Why aren't you in school?"
"It's a half-day before break."
"Well in that case, you can hold down the fort here, Jug."
"Or I could come with you guys." Suggests the kid who was practically hyperventilating the last time he saw Penny.
"Nice try, the answers no."
"We do need another set of hands, boss." Tall Boy points out.
"I'll go." I offer quickly. Screw Tall Boy and his weird agendas. I'm need propane money. It's freezing outside.
"Let me pull my weight." Jughead says. FP ignores him.
"Sweet Pea, you're with us."
"What?" I protest. FP gives me a hard stare before looking back at Sweet Pea. Sweet Pea stands up, abandoning the toys he was wrapping. "FP, I can go. It's not a big deal."
"He said Sweet Pea." Sweets says, pushing past me to join FP and Tall Boy. Tall Boy smirks at me and the three of them leave the Wyrm. This is such bullshit. I mean, honestly! What the hell? I didn't even do anything wrong! This sucks. This is all Jugheads fault. I don't know how but it is! I've decided.
"Way to go, Crateface." Jughead glares at me before storming out of the Wyrm. I attempt to wrap a present for a few seconds before giving up.
"Fuck this. I'm going home. I'll see you guys on Christmas." I tell Toni and Fangs before storming out too. I've said this before and I'll say it again, the Serpents are experts at being dramatic.
"Hey, Ma." I flop on my moms bed and watch her pack and repack her suitcase. "You're packing early."
"Well, dear, us Wetworths are early packers. Your grandfather was a doomsday prepper, did you know that?" I never really know what's true and what she made up in her head but at least this one is entertaining.
"I'm not a Wentworth, I'm a Collins." I remind her. She freezes.
"Right." And puts her yellow bikini back in the dresser. She pulls out the red one.
"What do you think of this?" She holds the red bikini up and looks at herself in the mirror.
"It matches your hair." She smiles and nods before folding it up tightly and putting it in her suitcase. "I wanted to talk to you about something."
"That boy?" She stops packing and smiles at me.
"Oh." Her smile drops and she goes back to her closet.
"What did you do with Mustangs body?"
"Who?" I flinch.
"Your brother, Ma. Mustang. My uncle." She pulls out a pair of cork wedges and examines them in the light. "When he died, they said you paid for his cremation."
"Oh, right." She decides to forgo the wedges and grabs some heels instead.
"What did you do with his ashes?" She sighs, dropping the heels on the bed and going back into the closet.
"Who cares, honey? That was months ago. Now," she grabs a blue dress and holds it up to herself, spinning around for me to see, "what do you think of Cabo?"
"Did you pick up Uncle Mustangs ashes?" She sighs and rolls her eyes at me.
"They probably threw them out." She tosses the dress in her suitcase as well. "What about Bora Bora?" I swallow hard and force a smile.
"Bora Bora sound great. When are you leaving?"
"Tomorrow." She tells me, excited that we're talking about her again.
"Tomorrow is Christmas Eve."
"Oh, it is? How exciting!" She loves me. She loves me. She loves me. She loves me.
"Can we get some groceries before you leave?"
"I'll write you a check." She puts on a straw hat and models it for me.
"Thanks." I can't take this anymore. I slip off the bed and go to my room, shutting the door and leaning against it. She loves me. She has to. I want to scream. Instead I press the heel of my hands as hard as I can into my eyes to stop from crying and I sink to the floor. Maybe she didn't love Mustang. Maybe she didn't love my dad. But she has to love me. I'm her daughter. Somebody has to love me.
In unity, there is strength. Right?
This chapter is so short and rushed. sorry........
I stole this pocket notebook from the 7-11 because I'm lonely bored. I've never had a diary before. It feels kinda stupid. Like I'm talking to myself. Plus, my handwriting is awful.
Anyways, diary, it's Christmas Eve! My mom left last night to Cabo. Or maybe Bora Bora? Either way, I'm alone. Which is fine! Everything is great. I love being alone. My heater broke this morning and the trailer is freezing. So, I'm eating Christmas Eve dinner (ramen noodles) on the floor of the kitchen in front of the oven. I'm wearing two pairs of socks, sweatpants, a sweater that is definitely not mine, and a Serpent Jacket. I couldn't find a hat so I'm thinking about stealing Jugheads. It's not so bad here I guess. After all, Baby Jesus lived in a barn for a while or whatever, He had his parents though. And those wise guys and some sheep. I bet he had a kitten too. I want a kitten. A kitten wouldn't abandon me.
It's Christmas morning! Yay! Woohoo! Yipee! I dreamt about my dad last night. It was nice at first. I dreamt that instead of him, my mom died (which is probably a terrible thing to think but whatever) and Mustang was alive two. It was Christmas and the three of us woke up early to open our presents under the tree. Dad made french toast while Mustang and I had a contest to see who could eat the most chocolate at once. When we opened the presents we all realized that we bought each other the same Southside Serpent Christmas sweater, which doesn't exist but it totally should. Do you think I could get Mrs. Fogarty to knit one for me?
Anyway, I don't have the ingredients for french toast so I'm just going to make plain naked toast and watch cartoons.
Still December 25th
It's still Christmas. It's about 1 in the afternoon. After eating breakfast I started getting really worried about gas poisoning. I don't really know how gas poisoning works so I just opened all the windows in the trailer and kept the oven on. I've added two layers of blankets to my outfit. Also, I had to stop watching cartoons because it's too cold in the living room. I'm reading a book but the only one I could find was Sweet Valley High: Kidnapped By A Cult. In my defense, I haven't had much relaxation time since my dad died. Whatever! You're not even a real diary! You're a college-ruled pocket notebook. You can't judge me.
Still December 25th
Okay, fuck diaries. Fuck this trailer. Fuck my mom abandoning me when my dad died. Fuck Penny Peabody. I can't stand it here anymore. I have to get out. I need my friends. I need Sweet Pea. I'm just going to apologize. I don't care anymore. I need him. I need my best friend. I'm going to go get him! And save Christmas!
Wait, I have to turn off the oven first.
The walk to Sweet Pea's trailer was too fast and now my heart is beating out of my chest. Why am I freaking out? Chill out, Crash! Sweet Pea swings the door open.
"Crash?" He was probably asleep, judging from his pajama pants and bedhead. He's not wearing a shirt. Why isn't he wearing a shirt? I try to say something but all that I can get out is a weird squeak/whimper and then I start crying. "Shit. Are you okay?"
"No." He pulls me inside and shuts the door and I wrap my arms around him as tight as I can.
"You're freezing." He comments, pressing himself closer in an effort to warm me up.
"I know." I try to calm my crying but it only makes it worse. "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry." He leads me over to the couch and pulls me into his lap like I'm a little kid. I feel like such a baby. His arms are so warm. I wish I could stop crying.
"N-Nothing. I just- I-" can't breathe. I can't breathe. I think I freaked Sweet Pea out because he's petting my hair and shushing me.
"It's okay. It's okay. Just breathe."
It takes me a few minutes to stop crying. A few minutes more to get my breathing even. Sweet Pea rubs my back the entire time and I end up curled into a ball on his lap with my face tucked into his chest.
"I got in a fight with Toni." Sweet Pea says, breaking the silence. "She told me off for being a jerk to you. She's kinda scary when she's mad." The image of Sweet Pea being scared of Toni, who's at least a foot and a half shorter than him, makes me smile.
"You were right."
"No. I wasn't. I never should have yelled at you like that." I lift my head from his chest and lean it against his shoulder so I can look up at him.
"You were half-right. But I don't wanna talk about Jason Blossom." I can't raise my voice from a whisper. "Or what happened. Or finding Mustang or Joaquin leaving or any of it."
"I just don't want you to be mad at me. I don't- I-I need you back. I need you back. You're my best friend."
"I'm sorry, Carrie."
"Please don't leave me." My voice cracks.
"I never left. I'm not leaving." I move so that I'm straddling him. I don't even care how it looks, I want to be closer to him. I need to be closer to him. And I wrap my arms around his neck and bury my face in it. Sweet Pea wraps one arm around my back and uses the other one to cup my face. He lifts my chin up to look at him and presses his forehead into mine.
And then he kisses me. His lips are soft and I can feel him tense up like he's using all his strength to hold himself back. I don't know what to think, so I don't think. I just kiss him back. It's not rough or hungry. It's soft. And it's perfect
I manage to make it through almost the entire school day without being alone with anyone. The only time I was stuck with Sweets was during history and I played it about as cool as a grease fire. I don't really know what's happening between Sweet Pea and I… I didn't even know he liked me like that. If he likes me like that… Maybe I should ask. Would that be weird? Like, hey Sweets we've been best friends for years but I was wondering if you like me or if you like me like me. No pressure. Ugh, this is stupid! He's my best friend. Now we just make-out sometimes. Friends do that! Right? And it's not like I can ask Toni cause she'll go wild and I can't ask Fangs cause he can't keep a secret to save his life. The only other person I talk to about feelings (gross) is Sweet Pea. I miss Joaquin! He would know what to do…
Speaking of Toni, she and Jughead are sitting on the front steps of the school directly in the middle of my path. I guess I could sneak through the back doors and avoid all confrontation with Jones. He's probably still mad about the whole Peabody thing. Or I could just break his teeth before he can tell Toni anything. Shit… I wonder if he told Toni. Oh god, she's going to kill me. I should have found her before break ended. Oh fuck she sees me. Shit. Shit. Shit.
"Crash!" She's smiling. This is a good sign.
"Hey!" Act casual. Act cool. "What's crackin'?" THAT'S NOT COOL. SHUT UP. Toni smirks.
"Nothing. Are you stoned?"
"What? No. Are you?" She glances at Jughead who gives me a weird look. "I'm not stoned. Leave me alone." Toni laughs and Jughead relaxes his shoulders a bit.
"How was your Christmas break?" Toni asks, mercifully changing the subject.
"Pretty fucking shitty." Except the part where Sweet Pea and I kissed which I haven't stopped thinking about and I'm totally freaking out. "Yours?"
"Not bad, actually. My Uncle made breakfast, Grandpa Topaz came over and they were civil for almost two hours, I got a sweater."
"That's awesome! I haven't seen the Old Man in forever."
"Yeah, we never met up for our family Christmas. Are you and Sweets…" Oh god she knows. I can feel my cheeks burning.
"What? Are we what?"
"Are you guys still fighting? Look, Care, I know what he said was shitty but he didn't mean it. He loves you."
"You think?" Toni's eyebrows crinkle. "I mean- No. I mean- We aren't fighting. We made-... up." Jughead's face contorts to match Toni's confused expression. Oh my god, Crash, get it together!
"So you aren't mad anymore?"
"No. We talked. It's fine." Toni's face shifts into a smile.
"Great! Maybe we can do a late Christmas tonight?"
"Sure! At someone else's place cause my heaters out."
"We can probably go to Sweets." Toni suggests. I shrug, as long as it's warm.
"Are you coming, Jones?" Jughead and Toni both look taken aback. I am too, once I realize what I just said. Toni elbows Jughead.
"Yeah! Yeah, sure. I'll go." Neither of us look like we actually want him to go, but Toni is grinning proudly at me. Thankfully, the doors to the school burst open and break the tension. Unfortunately, it's Fangs and Sweet Pea who are kicking the door open so it's just a different kind of tension. Jughead stands up, immediately concerned.
"What's going on?" Jughead asks.
"This hellhole's officially closed. We're done. No more Southside High!" Sweet Pea answers. A few Serpents behind him cheer and push each other in excitement.
"What? How?" Toni asks.
"They say it's dangerous and gonna be quarantined. Who cares? We're all going to different schools."
"Wait, this doesn't make sense." Jughead says, always ready for a new conspiracy theory. "Where are you guys going?"
"Same as you, and you, and you. And Fangs." Sweet Pea points at Jughead, Toni, and I as he speaks. "We're going to Riverdale High. Think of all those Northside heads to knock." He throws a fake punch at Fangs who feigns punching back. Jughead and Toni share a look. Sweet Pea swings his arm around my shoulders and I try not to tense up. He smells SO good. I'm going to die. He leans down towards my ear to talk to me.
"You aren't excited? We don't have to go to this shithole anymore."
"I'm… Uh, I have to go talk to my parole officer." I shrug his shoulder off and walk away as quickly as I can. I am so awkward. I'm going crazy! Why did I do that? That was so weird! I wasn't lying though, I do have to talk to my parole officer. Oh, she's calling me.
"This is your parole officer."
"I know. I have caller ID. Guess what I have your name saved as." It's Cop Mom.
"No. I take it you heard about Southside High shutting down?"
"Yeah." A sleek black Mercedes pulls up next to me and rolls the window down.
"Get in." My PO commands. I look over my shoulder, catching Sweet Pea's eye, before getting in the car. She shoves a manilla folder and a pen in my lap and starts driving. "You're going to Riverdale High. You can take the 6 bus from Sunnyside Trailer Park and it'll stop in front of the school. There's a bus pass in the folder, courtesy of Sheriff Keller. If you miss more than 3 days, you'll be back in juvie. If you get arrested, you'll be back in juvie. If you get suspended, you'll-"
"Go back to Shankshaw Junior. I got it." She grunts at me.
"This will be good for you." I think she says that more to herself than to me. She parks her car in front of my trailer and shuts it off. "Your mom home?"
"No. She's uh- at yoga. She does yoga-laties." She drums her fingers against the steering wheel for a few seconds before sighing in defeat.
"Fine." She holds her hand out for the folder and I give it to her, "Her name is Alabama Collins?"
"Wentworth-Collins." I correct her. She nods and signs a few of the papers in the folder before passing them back.
"Give these to your principal tomorrow morning. Tell him your mom signed, if he asks." I think I like her.
"Got any plans for the night?"
"I mean… I was thinking about snorting coke and recreating Jackass 2, but my friends are having a Christmas party so I'll probably just go to that instead."
"Are you allowed to talk to me like that? Like, legally?" She smirks at me before giving me a serious look.
"Any drugs or alcohol at this Christmas party?"
"No. Jughead's kind of a loser and we don't want to make him uncomfortable by having a good time."
"Yeah." She drums her fingers again and nods.
"You need better friends. Maybe at Riverdale you can meet someone who does their homework and joins after school clubs."
"I'm in an afterschool club."
"Don't bullshit me, Collins." Yeah, I definitely like her. I mean, for a glorified cop at least. She stares at me for a second, giving me a look that's halfway between 'you have no hope' and 'I still think I can save the kids I get', before speaking again. "Get out of my car."
Well, at least I got a ride home. I have time to grab the presents I've picked up for everyone and shove them into my backpack. If everyone rides their bikes home, I have about fifteen minutes to gather my nerves before meeting them at Sweet's. Sweet Pea, who is my friend. My very tall and handsome friend. God, I don't think I've called anyone handsome before. I sound like a grandma. Maybe it would make me feel better if I pinched his cheeks? No. That's weird. Definitely weird. Don't think about his cheeks. Or his butt. Oh god, stop. Stop!
Great, now I'm thinking about his butt again. What's wrong with me?! I don't think about Fangs' butt! I've thought about Toni's before but only once. She was wearing new shorts. Oh my god, what's happening to me? I think I'm turning into a sex maniac. I always figured I would go to rehab for drinking, not sex. I think I'm going to have a heart attack. Oh god, why couldn't I be the Virgin Mary? Or Hugh Hefner, at least he got paid.
No. It's fine! I'm fine! Everything is fine. Sweet Pea just saw that I was freaking out and distracted me for a while. With his mouth. And his soft lips.
Okay, Crash. Chill out. You're literally just hanging out with your friends. Nothing has changed just because you realized that Sweet Pea is hot and you wanna mack on him. Everything is the same! There's no reason to freak out. So, just walk to his place and enjoy a late Christmas like you have for the past 6 years. Walk.
Okay, I'm going. This is going to be fine. I'm just hanging out with my friends. Stop being weird. Stop thinking so much!
I guess I spent too much time being weird because by the time I get to Sweet Pea's, he, Toni, and Fangs are already there.
"Crash!" Toni cheers as I walk through the door. "You're late. Sweets thought you got kidnapped. He was about to call in the cavalry." I throw a glance at the boy in question, who rolls his eyes at Toni.
"I only pointed out that she was late and last we saw, getting into a weird car." He says grumpily.
"That was my parole officer. I had to fill out some forms so I could switch schools. I told you that." Toni took the good chair and Fangs and Sweet Pea have the couch so I have to sit in the bitch spot on the floor or squish between the boys. "Where's Jughead?"
"He can't come. Said he had some stuff to do before going back to Riverdale High tomorrow." Toni answers with a shrug. She tries to look nonchalant but she's obviously a little mad about it. To be fair, he did break up with his Northside girlfriend and leave her in a biker bar parking lot. He has a lot of groveling to do before they get partnered up in science class.
"Why the hell did you invite Jughead anyway?" Sweet Pea asks gruffly.
"I don't know. It just happened. Sometimes my mouth moves faster than my brain, you know that." Sweet Pea's eyes widen slightly and I realize how awkward that must have sounded. Oh, god this is a disaster. Fangs grabs me by the jacket and yanks me onto the couch between him and Sweets.
"Yeah, yeah. Present time." Fangs smacks his thighs in anticipation. Ignoring the throbbing feeling I have in my chest, I shift the backpack off my shoulders and into my lap. Toni balances her perfectly wrapped gifts on the coffee table in front of her and Sweet Pea moves his small pile, hidden under an old flannel shirt, onto the table in front of him.
"Who's first?" I ask.
"Fangs." Fangs says decisively.
"Close your eyes, Fogarty." I unzip my backpack just enough to peak inside and pull out his present, a new switchblade I swiped from the fish and tackle store in Greendale, and put it on his lap. Sweets and Toni pass their presents over too and Fangs opens his eyes.
"A knife!" He exclaims. Sweet Pea snorts and Toni rolls her eyes at me.
"Really? You got him a knife?" She asks.
"Yeah. He needs to be able to show those Northsiders who's boss and all he has is that dull one we got at the gas station." Toni tries to give me a mom look but she can't stop herself from smiling.
As we move through the present portion of the night I get less and less anxious. I give Toni some film for her camera and Sweet Pea one of Mustang's best Serpent jackets. It's not like he was using it anymore. I guess the Christmas spirit gets to me because I don't even flinch when Sweet Pea throughs his arm around my shoulders and pulls me into him for a one armed hug. In fact, the only time I feel weird at all is when Toni give me my present, a framed picture of us with my dad when we were kids.
"It's from that powwow we went to Salamanca. Remember?" She asks. She points to herself in the picture and grins. "Your dad made me that jingle dress and Grandpa cried."
"Yeah." I want to say something but I can feel my throat constricting. The two of us are standing on the hood of my dads car, dressed to the nines. My dad is between us, grinning like a mad man in his favorite Serpent jacket. He looks proud. Toni squeezes my knee and Sweet Pea pulls me into him again.
"You were an ugly kid." Fangs comments, effectively breaking the somber moment. Sweet Pea flicks Fangs in the ear and Fangs reaches across me to try to hit Sweets back but he can't reach. "Can we watch the movie now?"
"Yes." Toni and I answer at the same time. Fangs gets up to put in the traditional Christmas movie, Die Hard, and we all settle into our seats. Tucked into Sweet Pea's shoulder and cuddled up under the blanket Mrs. Fogarty made for me, it barely takes me twenty minutes to fall asleep.
When I wake up, it's dark out and Toni and Fangs are gone. Sweet Pea's trapped under me on the couch, shaking my arm.
"Crash, you awake?"
"Mmno." Sweet Pea shifts under me and tries to sit up.
"C'mon, let's go to bed."
"I'm sleeping." I can feel his chest rumble with laughter under my head.
"Come on. Stand up."
"No." Sweet Pea sighs.
"Fine." I relax a bit, thinking that he gave up and I can go back to sleep, when suddenly he slips out from behind me, dropping my head on the couch cushion.
"Rude." I open my eyes just enough to see him smirking at me before closing them again. Before I can fall back asleep, Sweet Pea slips his arms under me and picks me up bridal style. "What are you doing?"
"Going to bed." I'm suddenly much more alert. I grip onto my new blanket and Sweets carries me into his room and drops me on the bed. "I'm not spending the week with a hunchback so you can be comfortable. Scoot over."
I scoot to the edge so that he has room and he crawls into the bed with me. He pulls the blankets over both of us and gets comfortable. We sleep in the same bed all the time and as much as I want it to feel different after what happened, I'm just too damn tired. So I curl into his side and go back to sleep.
Y'know how you can change the alarm on your phone to play a song? Don't. Nothing ruins a song forever like having it blast in your ear at 7 am. I don't even know why it goes off at 7! I'm late anyway. And I'm never ever listening to Take A Chance On Me again. I used to love that song. Sweet Pea groans, rolling half over me to turn off the alarm, then rolling onto his back and throwing his arm over his eyes.
"Your alarm is ABBA?" His voice is still thick and gravely with sleep.
"I thought it would motivate me." He looks down at me with a sleepy smile.
"You're so weird." I smack him in the stomach but it just makes his grin wider at me. "Ready for your first day at Riverdale High?"
"Oh shit, I almost forgot." When I think about it my stomach starts churning. Eight hours a day surrounded by snooty Northsiders and I can't punch a single one without going back to juvie? This is such bullshit. Sweet Pea gets out of bed and stretches, flashing the sliver of skin between his shirt and his sweatpants. Arguably, the best part of a guys body. Not that I'm paying attention to his body. It's just a fact. God, it's too early for this.
"You'll be late if you go back to your place to change." Sweets points out, throwing a t-shirt onto the bed for me.
"Great. First day of school and I'm wearing your clothes." I mutter, getting out from under the warm blankets. Sweet Pea turns his back to me so I can change from the shirt I slept in to the fresh one.
"Good. I don't want any of those Northsiders getting ideas." He says, turning around to face me again.
"Ideas about what?" I check myself out in the mirror. I guess raggedy jeans and an oversized band tee isn't the worst outfit I've ever worn.
"Like that you're… y'know. That they could-" I look at Sweet Pea's reflection in the mirror as he uncharacteristically stumbles over his words. "That you're y'know available."
"Available for what?" Sweet Pea sighs like I'm the one who's not making any sense.
"Are you being oblivious on purpose?" He asks.
"No. Are you being confusing on purpose?"
"No." He makes eye contact with me in our reflection. I hold his gaze for a moment before laughing. Sweet Pea rolls his eyes.
Sweet Pea gives me a ride to school and we meet up with all the other Serpents that got assigned to Riverdale High. I almost wish I'd gotten assigned to Greendale. I heard they have witches. We just have bitches. Ha, that rhymed. The Southsiders stand out in the groups of students milling around outside before classes start. I don't know if it's the sea of ripped jeans and leather jackets or the slightly anxious and pissed off aura they give off but whatever it is, there is zero chance that we could blend in.
The school bell rings and everyone outside floods through the front doors. The Serpents all exchange looks. Some of us excited, others nervous, and a few of us just bored. Except Emerald, who's definitely stoned. Sweet Pea squeezes my shoulder gently before pushing me forward. Alright, let's do this. I glance at Jughead, who looks kind of like he's gonna barf, before walking up the front steps. As soon as one person does it, everyone else joins in too and the small group of Serpents breeze through the front doors and walk down the hall with the toughest looks we can muster. In the middle of the hall is a welcoming table with Veronica Lodge standing proudly behind it. Once we're close enough, she starts her spiel.
"Friends! On behalf of the students and faculty here at Riverdale High, welcome to your new school! To ease this transition, I've set up a registration desk where you can get your locker assignments, class schedules, and a list of sports and extracurriculars. We encourage each and every one of you to drink deeply from the cup that is fair Riverdale." I can't help the snort that comes out when she says that.
"Stand down, Eva Peron." A voice calls from the top of the staircase. Everyone turns to look at Cheryl Blossom and her group of River Minions as she walks down the stairs. Toni tenses next to me.
"There's the school spirit I so fondly remember." Jughead says sarcastically.
"Cheryl," Veronica starts, "No one invited Fascist Barbie to the party."
"Wrong, Veronica, no one invited Southside scum to our school. Listen up, ragamuffins. I will not allow Riverdale High's above average GPA to suffer because of classrooms that are overcrowded with underachievers. So please, do us all a favor, and find some other school to debase with your hardscrabble ways." Toni pushes past me.
"Why don't you come over here and say that to my face?" She suggests angrily. I take a step towards them, preparing to pry Toni off Cheryl Blossom's bleeding body.
"Happily, Queen of the Buskers!" My hands twitch and form fists that I shove into the pockets of my jacket. Archie Andrews, who I just noticed to be honest, steps between Toni and Cheryl.
"Okay, guys, everyone, can we just put our Northside-Southside differences apart and start over? A new slate?" The ginger jock suggests, as if he didn't come to the Southside with a gun. One of the other Bulldog Bitches behind him scoffs.
"You don't speak for the Bulldogs, Andrews. And need I remind you, these greaser-snakes showed up at your place trying to kick your ass." I can't see my hands but I'm sure my knuckles are white. Sweet Pea obviously feels the same way since he shoves past me and Toni to get in the dudes face.
"Happy to finish what we started." Jughead grabs one of Sweet Pea's arms and Fangs pushes him away from Archie and into me. I wrap one of my hands around Sweet Pea's arm to keep him back.
"God, I am so over the toxic masculinity in this hallway right now." Veronica says, furiously stepping between Sweet Pea and Archie.
"Alright. That's enough pomp and circumstance." The principal says, effectively stopping whatever was about to happen. Boring. "Everyone, let's get to class. Now."
Jughead pulls Sweet Pea away, dragging him down the hall and away from the Northsiders. Toni and I share a 'God, we've only been here for five minutes and it's already a disaster' look and grab our schedules from Veronica's table. I make sure to grab Emerald's arm and bring her with us on our way to class. First block, World History. At least I can sleep through the mornings.
Y'know how in teen movies there's always a student lounge and the students just hang out there all day doing whatever they want and the teachers don't bother them or make them go to any classes? Riverdale actually has one! There's couches and vending machines that actually work. I keep expecting Amy Poehler to pop out of the closet and offer us snacks and condoms.
It's also the only good thing about Riverdale High so far. The teachers treat me like I'm stupid just because I went to SSH and the students act like they'll get the poor disease by sharing a desk with me. I spent all of second period (English) writing 'fights = juvie' in my notebook so I wouldn't punch the girl next to me. She spent the first ten minutes of class applying bubblegum scented Germ-X and giving me the side-eye. I want to deck her so friggin bad. But I won't! I'm calm! I'm cool! I'm collected! I'm squashed between Sweets and some dude in a cashmere sweater.
"God, I just wanna wipe that smirk off her face." Toni rants, still angry about Cheryl Blossom's version of a welcoming committee. The purple haired girl flops onto the arm of the couch and drops her backpack at her feet before shifting her glare to me. "Why aren't you angrier about this? I half expected you to leap over the table and scratch her eyes out."
"Rich people press charges." I explain as calmly as I can. "Plus, if I get in trouble here I'm getting shipped back to Shankshaw."
"For real?" Toni asks. I nod. There's also a part of me that feels bad for Cheryl. After all, I was technically an accessory to her brothers murder… that would make anyone apprehensive about being my chemistry partner. Sweet Pea puts his hand on my knee, giving it a supportive squeeze.
"I don't think we've properly met. Veronica Lodge." Veronica, aka Archie's gun toting girlfriend, walks up to our group and introduces herself to us. She's dressed like she had a nanny growing up.
"Of the Park Avenue Lodges." Jughead adds, holding his pinky out to imply that Veronica is loaded. Or classy. But probably just rich.
"Toni." Toni greets her with a handshake. "Topaz."
"Oh, like the purple colored gemstone. Love it."
"And I'm Josie McCoy." Another Northside girl introduces herself. "Formerly of the Pussycats. Now just Josie. And this is Kevin." She points to the guy next to me.
"What's your name?" Kevin asks Fangs.
"Fogarty. Or you can call me Fangs. Your last names Keller, right?" Oh that's Kevin Keller! The boy Joaquin was star-crossed lovers with. Interesting.
"How did you know that?" Kevin asks, slightly uncomfortable.
"Joaquin and I used to hang out." Fangs answers. I smirk and Sweet Pea squeezes my knee again. "He talked about you all the time."
Before I can introduce myself, the principal comes storming into the student lounge.
"You guys!" He points at us, the only Serpents in the room. "Yes you. Come with me. Now!" We follow him out into the hallway and he leads us to the Bulldog dude from before, standing proudly over a graffitied school crest.
"Which of you defaced our school seal with this graffiti?" I can't help but laugh when I see the 'snake' on the floor and the principal glares at me. That is the ugliest effing snake I've ever seen.
"This is what they do, Principal Weatherbee. They tag their turf." The stereotypical jock says.
"My god, Reggie, could you be any more transparent?" Veronica asks. Reggie nods.
"Effective immediately, no gang behavior of any kind will be tolerated at my school. As of this moment, no more Serpent jackets." Shocker. Didn't see that coming a mile away. The guys are pissed though.
"What? Are you kidding me?" Jughead, the newest Serpent, is the angriest. Although Sweet Pea isn't far behind.
"No more Serpent jackets. All tattoos are gonna be covered. Possession of any gang paraphernalia whatsoever will lead to immediate suspension. Are we clear? That's all." The principal declares the rules with a 'do not fuck with me' look on his face. Reggie gives us all a proud smirk and it takes all my self control to not knock it off of his face. Sweet Pea feels the same, and it takes Jughead, Fangs, and Toni to lead him away.
"Collins," Principal Weatherbee calls me, "in my office. Now." He turns his back on me and starts down the hall, obviously implying that I should follow him so I do. Once we're in his office, he sits behind his desk and nods for me to take the chair across from him. He stares me down for a few seconds.
"Those rules are effective immediately." It takes me another few seconds to realize that I'm still wearing my jacket and I shrug it off. "I got the forms from your parole officer this morning. I'm sure you know but I just want to reiterate, absolutely no gang activity, violence, drug use, or truancy will be accepted at this school. Southside High went easy on it's students, here at Riverdale we expect A Grades and Grade A behavior. Is that clear?"
"Sure." I mutter. He glares at me, obviously expecting a 'yes, sir' but not getting the satisfaction.
"Is that permanent?" He asks, gesturing to my face. Rude.
"Is what permanent?" I ask, kind of offended. Like, that's my face, asshole, of course it's permanent. He sighs and leans forward, crossing his arms on the desk.
"The tattoo on your face, Collins." Oh, right.
"Uh, yeah. Pretty permanent." You don't have to rub it in.
"Well, cover it."
"'Kay." It's all I can do to stop from smacking my lips and acting like a brat. I need him to like me… or at least tolerate me.
On the way out of his office, I catch Emerald. Who's slightly less stoned, but honestly she's just kind of like this all the time.
"Is it true that we can't wear our jackets anymore?" She asks.
"Yeah. No more 'gang paraphernalia." Emerald frowns at my response. "Don't worry about it, Em. We'll just wear out jackets before and after school. Make sure everyone knows, okay? And tattoos have to be covered too." I'm about to walk away when she stops me again.
"What about your tattoo?" She ask, poking me in the cheek softly.
"I don't know. I guess I'll have to cover it." She grins suddenly.
"I have a really good idea."
And that's how I ended up walking into math with a Hello Kitty bandaid on my cheek. Apparently, Emerald keeps them in her backpack for emergencies. I look ridiculous. Fangs cracks up as soon as I walk into the room and continues giggling once I sit next to him. Everyone else in the room avoids eye contact with me, probably turned off by the murderous look in my eyes. Fangs doesn't care, he won't stop laughing.
"You look like Nelly." He manages to tell me between giggles. I try to keep an angry look on my face, I try really really hard.
"I'm gonna kick your ass, Fogarty."
"Oh, I'm so scared." He says sarcastically, still grinning like a mad man. I punch him in the arm before the teacher walks in the room and starts class.
If our first day at Riverdale High was… a bit of a mess, then our second day was a dumpster fire. We barely managed ten minutes of peace in the student lounge before classes when Jughead Jones strolled in, Serpent Jacket proudly displayed. I've gotta admit, the kids got guts. He just doesn't have critical thinking skills. Actually, he kind of reminds me a Toothpick Tina. He fights like Toothpick Tina too.
"Oh hey guys, what's up?" Jughead greets nonchalantly. Reggie, the graffiti artist from yesterday eyes Jugheads jacket.
"Take it off." He demands. Toni, Fangs, Sweet Pea, and I watch, somewhat amused but mostly ready to defend a fellow Serpent even if it's Jughead. "Take off that jacket, Rat Boy." Reggie steps towards Jughead menacingly and Sweet Pea and Fangs mimic him.
"Oh, Reggie."Jughead sighs. "I don't think you know what this jacket means. Because you have no sense of honor, or history, or loyalty."
"That's it." Reggie grabs Jughead by the lapels and the Bulldogs and Serpent boys start brawling in the middle of the student lounge. Toni steps back and I deliberately take a step back too. Itching to break Reggie's nose but with the threat of actual jail time looming over my head, I step behind Toni making a physical barrier between myself and the fight. The fight doesn't go on for long before Principal Weatherbee and the gym teacher race into the room and break them up. Weatherbee drags all of us into his office even though Toni and I didn't do anything.
"You all have a weeks detention for fighting." I'm so screwed. And I didn't even get to break anyone's nose? This is bullshit! "But I made myself clear to you, Mr. Jones. Take off that jacket, or you're suspended."
"Please, Jughead, just-" Veronica begs.
"Then I guess I'm suspended." Jughead interrupts. He leaves the principal's office with his head held high. Weatherbee turns his gaze back to the rest of us.
"I wasn't fighting." I point out. Weatherbee grunts.
"She wasn't." Toni adds. "She even tried to stop them but Reggie and Jughead wouldn't listen." She's totally lying. Reggie scoffs but Sweet Pea cuts him off.
"She did. I should have listened to her. I'm sorry." Weatherbee eyes Sweet Pea suspiciously before looking back at me.
"You know the rules, Ms. Collins. I have a zero tolerance policy for violence… You're excused from detention but just know this, I am watching you." With that, he dismisses us.
The four Serpents, and a pissed off Reggie Mantle, file out of the principal's office. Reggie makes sure to bump his shoulder against Sweet Pea's but Sweet Pea reigns in his anger. We walk through the hall until we find a small alcove the we can sit in together without random Northsiders interrupting.
"Sorry for throwing you guys under the bus." Toni says, leaning against the wall.
"Don't worry about it." Fangs shrugs. Sweet Pea nods and wraps his arm around my shoulders, pulling me into him.
"We wouldn't want this kid getting locked up." He adds.
"Yeah, remember how distraught Sweets was without her all summer?" Fangs teases with a small smirk. "I wish Crash were here."
"I wonder what she's doing right now." Toni joins in, deepening her voice to mimic Pea better.
"Do you think she misses us?" Fangs adds. Sweet Pea swipes at his head, Fangs ducking just seconds before getting knocked in the ear.
"Shut up." He swings at Fangs again and Fangs blocks him. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was blushing.
"Aw, Pea!" I grab his arm so he'll stop trying to hit Fangs and he wraps it around my shoulder again. I wrap my arms around his waist for good measure. "I missed you guys too."
"I dunno, Fangs. Kinda looks like she just missed Sweet Pea." Toni jokes. Fangs frowns and nods.
"I don't think she missed us at all." Toni sighs. I glance up at Sweet Pea, who's grinning proudly.
"C'mon, T." I beckon, holding one arm out for her. She instantly joins in on the hug, mostly to further annoy Sweet Pea. "Bring it in, Fangs."
"Don't." Sweets protests. Fangs joins in the hug, wrapping his arms around us so Toni and I are squished in the middle.
"You love it, Sweets." Fangs says cheekily. "In unity, there is strength."
Then came the third day. A day that started out bad and only got worse. I can barely open my eyes enough to see that alarm clock is not the cause of the buzzing noise. I fish under my pillow for my phone, knock it behind the bed, and dig it out in the span of about 30 seconds.
"Carrie! Oh, baby I miss you so much. I've had the worst time." My mom's voice screeches through the speaker. I glance back at the alarm clock and a neon red 5:13 AM glares back at me. "Ricardo, remember him? I found him balls deep in some little redhead. In our bed! I can't believe it. Can you believe it?!"
"No, mom. I really can't." Any chance of me going back to sleep flies out the window with that image in my head. Instead, I force myself out of bed in the hopes of making breakfast before class.
"And then the bastard has the nerve to say that I owe him money! The sniveling little prick. You know what I think? I think he was just using me for my money." Shocker. I literally never would have guessed. The only thing less surprising is that all the cabinets are empty. "So listen, that's not why I'm calling. I'm calling to let you know what I'm flying to Jamaica tomorrow, so I'll be home a bit later than planned. I know, I know. You miss your momma. But honestly, honey. This whole thing just stressed me out. I really need to relax. You understand, right?"
"Oh, baby, you're not mad at me. Are you?"
"Of course not, Ma." She's never around enough for me to miss her.
"Oh, good! So listen, are you going to work today?"
"Work? No. I have to go to school. I don't have a job."
"You don't have a job? How are you paying bills?"
"I'm not." My mom sighs.
"Carrie, honey, you have to keep up with the bills or they'll turn the power off." She explains slowly.
"Yeah, I know. But how am I supposed to pay the bills? You used to send me money orders but you stopped."
"Well, I was sending them to Malcolm and he stopped picking them up." I sniff sharply and try not to throw my phone against the wall.
"Because Uncle Mustang died, Ma! You have to send them to Thomas Topaz now. We've talked about this."
"Sweetheart," she takes a deep breath, "this is just too much for me. It takes so long to go to the post office these days. Can't you just figure something out."
"Like what? I have to go to school! And I can't get a job anywhere in town with a record."
"Well, whose fault is that?" She snaps. She takes a deep breath before starting again. "Just think about it, Carrie. You'd look so cute in a little waitress uniform. But listen, Sweetie, I've gotta go. Love you! Bye." Her voice is replaced with a dial tone and I finally chuck my phone at the wall as hard as I can.
Shit. I can't afford a new phone. I'm so stupid. I pick it up off the floor and examine it. A little chunk of plastic broke off the edge but it works fine. Another win for old school brick phones.
I decide to leave for school early. I slap a bandaid on my cheek and find the only jacket I have that doesn't have a Serpent logo on the back, a pink leather jacket that I'm pretty sure was my mom's in the 80's. A quick glance in the mirror on the way out reassures me that I do, in fact, look like Meth Head Barbie but I can't be bothered enough to change.
My only goal at the moment is getting to the school vending machines without killing anyone. A goal that hits its first roadblock only twenty minutes in when the bus rolls up late and splashes everyone at the bus stop with dirty street water. By the time I make it to Riverdale High I barely have time to eat anything. Fangs joins me outside the school and we walk in together. He gets to the door of the student lounge before stopping abruptly and making me run into his back. He starts giggle and after peeking over his shoulder, I forget about food entirely. Toni sees us and beckons us over and when Sweet Pea turns to look I start laughing.
"You're wearing a turtleneck!" I manage to say between peels of laughter. "You look like such a dork." Fangs snorts, causing both of us to laugh even harder.
"Seriously-" he brushes a tear from his eyes, "You look like Stepford Wives."
Sweet Pea glares at me, tightening his hold on the strap of his backpack. When I notice Toni not laughing I slowly contain myself. Toni clears her throat angrily and Fangs finally stops laughing… mostly.
"Principal Weatherbee is passing out uniforms for Southsiders. Apparently, the clothes we wear aren't 'Riverdale High appropriate'. He thinks these uniforms will help us fit in." She explains. What started off funny now feels like I got splashed with freezing street water, again.
"Seriously?" Fangs asks skeptically. Toni nods, pursing her lips. She looks behind us and stands up a little straighter.
"Mr. Fogarty, Ms. Collins." Principal Weatherbee greets. Fangs and I turn to face him with sour looks on our faces. "I see your friends have told you about our new uniform policy."
"Yeah and it's bullshit." I spit out before thinking. The principal blinks at me, like he's trying to decide if he should laugh or slap me.
"I'm sorry you feel that way, ." He says diplomatically. "But failure to comply with our new policy results in suspension, and we wouldn't want that, would we?"
"You can't do that." Fangs protests. "No one else in the school has to wear uniforms."
"Everyone else is able to follow our dress code, Mr. Fogarty."
"What kind of dress code lets you wear mini skirts and tank tops but not our clothes? Or does your dress code only apply to Southsiders?" I ask.
"Look, I'll take off my jacket. I'll cover my tattoo. But I'm not wearing a some uniform while everyone else gets to wear their clothes." Fangs tries to reason with Principal Weatherbee, but the older man obviously doesn't care.
"Either wear the uniform, or be suspended. The rules are clear."
"Then suspend me." Fangs decides, brushing past the principal and storming out of the room. Weatherbee shifts his focus to me. If he were anyone else he'd have an eyebrow raised, challenging me. Instead he keeps his face a stoney mask and honestly, it pisses me off. Fuck this. I hate this fucking school anyway.
"Fuck it." I shrug. "Suspend me." Principal Weatherbee nods once, turns, and walks out of the room.
"Crash, what the hell?" Sweet Pea asks.
"Are you crazy? What's wrong with you?" Toni asks, equally as confused and angry as Sweet Pea.
"This is bullshit. This whole thing is bullshit. I'm going home." Before they can talk me down or make me think about what I just did, I leave. Walking as fast as I can out of the building and down the street, past the bus stop with the asshole driver, past the cars filled with spoiled rich asshole students, past the train tracks, straight into my cold and ugly trailer. I take off the ugly jacket and my shoes and crawl back into bed.
Today is stupid. Everything is stupid. I'd rather just go to jail. At least I don't have to deal with people who think they're better than me all day. In juvie the only thing that matters is how well you take a punch and whose boyfriend can smuggle in cigarettes.
This one is cheesy.
I manage to sleep for a few hours before I'm woken up by a loud banging sound. My first thought is 'I'm so hungry I think my stomach is eating itself'. My second thought is 'who the hell is knocking on my door like a cop?'. One of these is more prudent than the other, but I never made it to the grocery store. I lay in bed for a few more seconds before the banging gets louder and I storm into the living room to see who it is, swinging the door open and almost knocking my parole officer off the cinder block steps.
"Oh, hi." I greet. She glares at me.
"Can I come in?"
"I guess." I leave the screen door open and flop on the couch. She follows me inside, shutting the front door gently before turning to me and putting her hands on her hips.
"What's your problem?" She asks rudely.
"You heard me. What's wrong with you? Because I know you aren't nearly as stupid as you want people to think you are."
"I don't want people to think I'm stupid."
"Then why do you act like a jackass?"
"Man, get the fuck outta here. It's too early for this shit."
"Oh, I'll leave. But the second I step foot out of this place your ass is getting hauled in by Sheriff Keller."
"For getting suspended! You think I'm joking? I'm not. Your principal called me this morning."
"Yeah? Did he tell you about his new policy? All the Southside kids get to wear snazzy new uniforms. Apparently our old clothes weren't good enough for Riverdale High."
"That's what this is about? You can't wear your fishnets and your Slayer t-shirt so you'd rather be arrested?" I can't help but scoff. Of course she doesn't fucking get it. "What? Tell me."
"Think we could wrap this up? On Wednesdays at Shankshaw they serve fries shaped like smiley faces." I settle back into the couch and give her a bored look. She scoffs and throws her hands in the air. She takes a few seconds to compose herself before starting again.
"Look, Collins. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter to me whether you go or not. You're the one who has to deal with the consequences. So it's up to you whether you suck it up and wear the uniform or you spend the rest of high school rotting away in the JDC ."
"It's not j- It's not just the uniform, okay? It's them telling us that we aren't fucking welcome there. They're telling us that we don't belong and making sure that everyone knows it. Telling us that we aren't good enough for their school. Rubbing it in our faces that we're poor and dirty and they don't want to sit next to us in case it rubs off on them. It's the teachers treating us like we're stupid and calling us out for not using the right kind of pen. It's Principal Weatherbee harassing us constantly because he's had it out for us the second we stepped foot into his school. So forgive me if I don't want to wear a fucking target on my back or go to a school where I get shit on all day."
"So what? You're being bullied? I thought you were tough. I thought you were 'Crash' Collins, the Southside Serpent who steals cars and stuffs Ghoulies into dumpsters. A couple of rich kids give you dirty looks and now you want to throw your life away?"
"If you're trying to pull some tough love shit, it's not gonna work." She switches tactics, sitting in the chair next to me and looking me hard in the eyes.
"What are you scared of?" She asks quietly but still with an air of authority.
"I'm not scared of shit."
"Are you scared of the River Vixens? Are you scared of Cheryl Blossom?" She asks. I scoff again but it comes out as more of a choke.
"I'm not scared of Cheryl Blossom." I don't know if I'm lying and it pisses me off.
"Then what?" I break eye contact, choosing instead to pick the dirt out from under my nails. Fuck it, that's the theme of today.
"What- Uh… What happens if I go to this school? I humiliate myself everyday for what? I'm not going to graduate. I have shitty grades already and I don't get anything that they're teaching us. It's been two days. So what's the point?" She pauses for a second.
"Are you going to let being scared stop you from even trying?" She asks.
"Yes." I answer immediately.
"Then nothing's going to change. If you never put in the effort, nothing is ever going to change. You're always going to have the same life, the same relationships, the same lack of options. You really want to live on the Southside for the rest of your life? In your moms trailer? With no heat? No food? No job?" She pauses again, trying to make her words soak in. "I'll pick you up at 7am."
"What? For what?"
"For school, Carrie. I'm not letting you throw your life away." She stands up and walks to the door. "And put some concealer on your tattoo. You look like Nelly."
My hand flies to my cheek. She glances at me one last time before leaving, gingerly shutting the door behind her and leaving me to stew on what she said. She's right. Of course she is. And I hate that she's right. Nothing is ever going to change if I don't change it. And I want things to change. I want a lot of things to change.
My brain is a weird mixture of anger, fear, and hope. The hope is something I haven't felt in a long time. But it's also the thing propelling me to Sweet Pea's front door. It's the thing that makes me knock. It's the thing that makes me cup his face with boths hands when he opens the door. And the thing that makes me kiss him with everything I have. It's the thing that starts to crumble when he pulls away and grabs my hands.
"Crash?" It takes me a few seconds to realize what exactly just happened and how crazy it was.
"Holy shit, Sweet Pea, I'm so sorry." I can see my horrified expression in the reflection of his TV and if I wasn't about to have a heart attack it would be kind of funny. "I can't believe I just did that."
"I can't believe it either." Sweet Pea finally mutters after a few tense seconds of silence. "Are you okay?"
"What? Yeah. Of course I'm okay. Why?" He stares me down for a few seconds before gently pulling me to the couch to sit down.
"Well for starters, last time we kissed you were crying… like a lot."
"So, did something happen? Because I mean… not that I don't want to kiss you or anything but if you're having some kind of crisis, well, there are better ways to handle it."
"Nothing's wrong. It's just- I mean, I-" I can't formulate a full sentence and it's making things weirder than they already were.
Sweet Pea and I sit side by side on the couch, not touching, with our hands in our laps. Suffice to say that it's incredibly awkward and not at all the rom-com-esque moment that played out in my head.
"I-" I start again, nervously picking at the skin around my fingernails, "I like you Sweets. Like, more than a friend. Is that okay?" The few seconds he takes to answer feel like an eternity.
"Yeah. That's okay, Crash. I, uh, I like you too."
"Like more than a friend should like another friend?" Sweet Pea nods at me. "More than you like Toni… or Fangs?"
"Definitely." I abandon my cuticles, moving my hand to rest on the couch between us. Sweet Pea puts his hand next to mine, not quite touching, but not pulling away either.
"I was talking to someone earlier and they said… if I don't put in the effort to change things, then they'll never be different. I think- I think I want things to be different. Between us, I mean." Sweet Pea doesn't respond and I want to pull my hand away but I don't. "You can say no, if you want." I add, just in case he feels pressured.
He finally looks at me and honest to God, he starts laughing. Like, literally laughing in my face. Can you believe this asshole? I come over here and bare my soul to him, telling him I like him and he fucking laughs at me? I'm going to kill him.
"I'm sorry." He chokes out, tears forming in his eyes. "I'm not- I'm not laughing at you but-" he can barely speak through his laughter, "I never- God, Carrie. I've pictured this a hundred times and not once was it you who finally made the first move."
"What are you talking about?" I ask, thoroughly confused. He quiets his laughter, taking my hand and turning towards me.
"You're so oblivious." If anyone else said that I would be mad. But when Sweet Pea looks at me like that, I can't be mad. "I've been flirting with you for years."
"Yeah. But like, as friends."
"Oh." He adjusts his grip on my hand, running his thumb over my knuckles gently. "Sorry if this is weird but… do you want to be my boyfriend?" I ask quietly. He gives me a small smile, which quickly turns into a cocky grin.
"Yeah, Crash. I want to be your boyfriend." Before he can take it back, I lean over and kiss him. I give it my all, too. No way is he going to take it back when I've been practicing for this for years. He kisses me back, rom-com style. His hands sink into my hair and my arms wrap around his neck. I can feel him still grinning against my lips and the thought makes me smile too. This is so cheesy. It's perfect. I can't wait to tell Toni!
Sweet Pea pulls back again. He rests his forehead against mine and looks me in the eyes.
"You're sure nothing bad happened? You aren't getting arrested tonight or anything?"
"Why would I get arrested?"
"Because you got suspended."
"Right. Actually, I decided to go back to Riverdale High… even with a stupid uniform and the bratty northsiders. I'm going to at least try." Sweet Pea smiles at me. One of those proud smiles that I rarely get. When he smiles at me, it melts away just a little bit of the horrible shit we've been through the past year.
And if I'm being totally honest with myself, I think I might love him. Not that I would tell him that. It'll go straight to his head.
I wake up early the next morning, put on the ugly polo shirt and some concealer, and meet my parole officer. She is not a morning person, but she did buy me Pop's for breakfast. We got to Riverdale High early so she could talk to Principal Weatherbee. She made me wait in the hallway 'just in case'. I'm pretty sure 'just in case' is code for 'you're really annoying' but I have a large coffee and a breakfast burrito so I really don't care. Sweet Pea comes to meet me in front of the Principal's office and it's only a little awkward.
"Hey." He greets. His usual Sweet Pea charm is replaced with an awkward blush and him shoving his hands in the pockets of his Serpent jacket. "So, uh, you coming back?"
"Probably. She's still in there with Weatherbee but… I think it'll be fine."
"Good. Cool." This is so weird. Why is it so weird? Ugh.
"So are we, like… supposed to kiss or something? I don't really know how this works."
"I don't either." Sweet Pea agrees. He leans against the lockers next to me, relaxing just slightly after finding out that I feel the same way. "I mean, for the record, I'm down to kiss whenever."
"Well, yeah. Me too. We have like ten years of friendship and pining to make up for."
"You've had a crush on me since you were six?" Sweets asks me with a smirk.
"I don't know! I'm really bad with math." I can't keep the goofy grin off my face. "Nice turtleneck, by the way. You look like a dork."
"Well, you're dating a dork so what does that make you?" He asks sarcastically.
"Uh, cooler than you." Sweet Pea laughs, slides his arm around my shoulder, and kisses the side of my head.
"Actually, I think that would make you less cool." He notes. The door to the Principal's office opens, cutting off my killer comeback, and Weatherbee and my PO walk out. She gives me a small thumbs up but Principal Weatherbee is too busy glaring at Sweet's jacket to notice. Sweet Pea shrugs his jacket off quickly and holds it in his arms. The old bastard nods at Sweet Pea before looking at me.
"You're on probation."
"Yeah. I know. Eighteen months."
"No." He sighs. "You're on probation with the school. You're no longer suspended but I am keeping an eye on you, Ms. Collins. I am the authority at Riverdale High and I will not have my authority questioned, understand?"
"Sure." I answer quickly. My PO gives me a wide-eyed glare. "I mean, uh, yes, Sir. I understand. Thank you?" The last part comes out as more of a question but Weatherbee doesn't care. He nods at me and goes back into his office.
"There you go, Carrie. Don't fuck it up." She tells me. Sweet Pea snorts. She gives him a quick once over before shaking her head and leaving.
"Does she always talk like that?" He asks, once she's gone. We start walking down the hall towards Sweet Pea's locker.
"Yeah. Pretty much, why?"
"I thought all parole officers had to be uptight and annoying." He says with a shrug.
"She's pretty cool. For a cop, at least." We get to his locker and Sweet Pea shoves his jacket in it.
"What's her name?" He asks.
"I have no idea." I probably should…
"Crash! Sweet Pea!" Toni comes rushing over to us, pushing her way through the quickly crowding hallway.
"What's going on?" Sweets asks. Toni looks worried and it's kind of freaking me out.
"Did you get Jughead's text?" She asks once she reaches us.
"No. I blocked his number."
"You blocked Jughead?" She asks. "Why?"
"He's annoying." I shrug. "I didn't like that he could just text me whenever he wanted. So I blocked him."
"Okay, tabling the fact that he's a Serpent now and you're going to have to move on, he sent everyone a text saying that there's a Serpent meeting and it's important."
"Since when does he call Serpent meetings?" I try not to sound as annoyed as I am but I don't think it works.
"Crash," Toni starts with a sigh, "Look, can we just go find out what he wants before you start planning his murder." She pleads.
"Fine." Toni starts walking down the hall. Sweet Pea slings his arm around my shoulders, again, and leans down to whisper in my ear as we walk.
"Should I tell her that I've already planned his murder?" He asks conspiratorially.
"Oh, me too. Weeks ago." Sweet Pea nods along.
"I'm leaning towards poison in his food. But there's just something about his hat that makes me want to strangle him."
"See, I was thinking about the hat too! Maybe we could put something in it?" I suggest. We follow Toni into a classroom filled with other Serpents, all in the ugly uniforms. Jughead is leaning against the desk like he's a 'cool' professor that's about to teach us about Shakespeare by rapping and he gestures for us to sit down. I sit next to Fangs, who I'm a little surprised to see in a Riverdale polo, but I guess everyone is surprised to see me in one too.
"Thank you for finally joining us." Jughead greets. "Welcome to the inaugural meeting of the Swords and Serpents club."
"Which is what, exactly?" Toni asks skeptically.
"Well like I told Fogarty to lure him back to dear old Riverdale, we are a gaming group. Sanctioned by Mr. Weatherbee, himself. Where like-minded students can meet and concoct world-building, role-playing scenarios, inhabiting fantastical heroes and dispatching mythological creatures." Jughead explains.
"So it's a club for nerds?" I deduce.
"No, but really?" Toni scoffs. "What's the point of this?"
"It's a club, for us. A safe haven where we can be Serpents, during school hours and under everyone's noses. We're not shedding our skins. We're lying low, in the tall grass." Jughead tells us seriously. I think it over for a second, not wanting to encourage Jughead but only because I find him annoying.
"Do we all have to write cheesy poetry about snakes to get in?" I ask.
"Do we get cool shirts?" Sweet Pea joins in on my harassment.
"Do we get snacks?" Forrest asks from behind us.
"No, no, and… maybe." Jughead takes each of our questions seriously.
"Give him a break, guys." Toni chides. "Thanks to Jughead, we have our place here at Riverdale. In unity, there is strength." The rest of the Serpents echo the law and Jughead ends the meeting while he's still ahead.
After a week at Riverdale High, Principal Weatherbee scraps the uniforms. We still have a strict no gang paraphernalia and no tattoos rule, but we aren't dressed like servants in a country club anymore. The teachers are still horrible. The students are still worse. And I'm up to my eyeballs in homework. Is this what it's like to be a normal teenager? Because it sucks.
One bonus is that I get to help Jughead with his homework. Which isn't really a bonus but I know more than he does and I get to hold it over his head, which is fun. He hates it so much. The hate is fueling me. I can't wipe the shit eating grin from my face as he sulks on Mr. Topaz's couch.
"Why is she here, again?" Jughead complains to Toni.
"Because I know more than you, Jones." I answer smugly. Jughead glares at me and Thomas chuckles quietly. Jughead rolls his eyes at me and sets his recorder in the middle of the table.
"Whatever. Can we start?" I nod and Jughead presses record. "Thanks again for meeting with me, Mr. Topaz. Toni told me that you're one of the founding members of the Serpents."
"Yes. The snake, the laws, it's all based on Uktena tradition." Mr. Topaz explains.
"Who were the Uktena?" Jughead asks. I snort and Toni shoots me a glare.
"Uktena is a serpent. A horned serpent, a water serpent. Before there was a 'Riverdale', all this land belonged to the Uktena."
"How did the Uktena evolve into the Serpents?" Jughead asks, causing Mr. Topaz to laugh.
"The Uktena, we didn't evolve. We were all slaughtered. When my grandpa was a baby, there was a raid, and it was lead by your hero up there, General Pickens. The battle, if you want to call it that… only lasted for 12 minutes, but the slaughter was total and savage."
"The General Pickens? Whose statue stands proudly in Pickens Park?" Jughead asks incredulously.
"Yes. And every year the Northside honors this man who massacred children. When my grandpa died, we formed the Serpents as a way to keep the family together."
"How do people not know about this?"
"Well, some do but…"
"It's called the whitewashing of history, Jones." Toni explains. "What, did you think Jason Blossom was the first person to be murdered in Riverdale?"
"Now, Hiram Lodge is following in General Pickens footsteps, stealing the land out from under us. Your dad never mentioned any of this?" I ask Jughead skeptically. He shakes his head no.
"He avoided talking about the Serpents before he was arrested." Well, minus one for FP Jones. I guess I can't blame Jughead for this one. Barely anyone talks about the Uktena these days. My dad wouldn't shut up about them. I bet my dad could have kicked FP's ass.
"So, are all the Serpents Uktena descendants?" Jughead asks.
"Not anymore. See, General Pickens slaughtered over 400 Uktena. They got the land, the river, and the maple trees. Everyone that survived was sent to the Southside. Basically, a makeshift reservation but without the sovereignty. Eventually, we had to expanded from just Uktena in an effort to build our numbers. Which, I think was a mistake. No offense, Mr. Topaz."
"None taken." He mutters.
"Crash!" Toni scolds me. Jughead ignores my small dig and write furiously in his notebook.
"This is great. Thanks, Mr. Topaz."
"Yeah, sure." He shrugs boredly in response.
"So… are we done? Cause I have plans." I stand and shrug on my Serpent jacket.
"Plans with who?" Toni asks suspiciously. Oh my god. Oh shit. Oh fuck. I forgot to tell Toni about Sweet Pea. How did I forget? It's too late now, it'll just seem like I was hiding it from her.
"What? No one? I have to go." I stutter out. Why didn't I just say Sweet Pea? That wouldn't have even been suspicious. Damn it, Crash. Get it together! She'll be happy for you.
"Before you go, I have some letters from your mom in the cabinet." Mr. Topaz says.
"Sweet, thanks." I grab the letters, mostly postcards but there's a few money orders too. "I haven't seen Penny around lately."
"Why would you see Penny Peabody?" Mr. Topaz asks gruffly.
"I am… a criminal. She's my lawyer. Duh." I'm not even lying. Both those things are true. He doesn't need to know that the Serpent's sometimes traffic drugs for lots of money and lately I haven't been getting any money.
"Yeah. Weird." Toni adds awkwardly. I give her a weird look and she looks at Jughead, avoiding eye contact.
"Don't you have plans?" Jughead asks.
"Yeah… Whatever. I'll see you later, Old Man." I bump Mr. Topaz's shoulder gently before leaving.
After Jughead's bullshit article, tensions were high throughout Riverdale. Somewhat surprising, since everyone who knew about the Uktena never really cared before Jughead Jones started talking about it but whatever. I'm not bitter.
Today is Pickens Day and the day that we're going to put Mr. Topaz's plan into action. Which so far includes everyone waking up super early and meeting at the Wyrm to make protest signs. It's kind of fun, actually. Plus, he gave us a couple rolls of duct tape and Fangs let me tape markers to his hands like he's Edward Sharpie-Hands. It's the little things.
I'm trying to listen to Toni and give Jughead a chance. It's just so hard when he's so annoying and always wearing that stupid hat. It's weird! It's not even a cute hat. The thing I can't figure out, the thing that's really going to make or break him for me, is if he's doing this protest to help the Serpents or if he's just doing it to piss off Hiram Lodge. So far, I can't tell. He is letting Toni give the speech, though. And he offered to let me do something too but since I'm not allowed to guillotine Hiram Lodge and the Blossom family in the middle of Pickens Park, I declined.
"Yo, Crash." Sweet Pea breaks me out of my thoughts by grabbing my shoulder. "We're all about to leave. Want a ride?"
"Actually, I was thinking of riding with Jughead." I shrug. A look of surprise flashes across Sweet Pea's face before sinking into a good-natured glare.
"Don't say things like that. You scared me." I follow him out to the parking lot, where we're almost alone. Apparently, I was really focused on the guillotine thing that the Serpents had cleared out before Sweet Pea knocked me out of my daydream. Sweets passes me a helmet but stops me before I can climb onto the back of his bike. "Hey, are you doing okay? I know this Uktena stuff gets to you more than you let on sometimes."
"I mean, nothing gets to me cause I'm a stone cold bitch and everything but… if things did get to me, I'd say right now I'm probably at a 5 out of 10." He sets his helmet on the seat of the bike so he can grab my waist with both hands.
"And on that scale a 1 is totally cool and a 10 is… ?"
"Jail time, usually."
"So, a five is good but you might need to marathon one of cheesy teen girl shows where everyone gets murdered with me later?" He asks. I can't help the small smile that makes its way to my lips.
"You know me so well." He grins at that and leans down, pecking me on the lips quickly.
"Put your helmet on." I do what he says and he puts his helmet on too, straddling the bike and giving me a second to climb on behind him.
"And I know you well enough to know that you totally love Pretty Little Liars." I tease as he kicks the kickstand and revs his engine.
"I will wreck this motorcycle if you ever say that again."
The ride to the park is short. Too short. Partially because I get to be as clingy with Sweet Pea as I want when we're squished together on his bike, but mostly because the entire protest is stressing me out. I know it's for a good cause. I know it's for family. My real family and the Serpents. But it sucks being one of the only Native people in the park when everyone is talking about your people being slaughtered. But I can do it for Toni. No Serpent Stands Alone.
Fangs rips off a chunk of duct tape and presses it over my mouth. Before I can rip it off and make what would certainly be a hilarious joke about being kidnapped, I'm dragged into the center of the crowd along with the other Serpents. Sweet Pea and Fangs push through the crowd so that Toni can go to the front. She pulls out her megaphone and starts her speech.
"We're here representing the dead and the silenced. Pickens Day is a lie. General Pickens slaughtered the Uktena tribe, my grandfather's family. And this land, the land that we're standing on, the land that will soon give way to 'A New Southside' was stolen from them. And we can't bring them back. But we can and we must honor them." Microphone feedback cuts her off as Hiram Lodge forces his way onto the stage. Veronica and the other Pussycats stand awkwardly behind him.
"Hey, folks! Hi. Uh, I think we can all be proud to live in a Riverdale where young people stand up for justice. Where a young woman can defend the honor and legacy of her grandfather. And where we can celebrate the living legacy of the Uktena, who contribute to the rich tapestry that is Riverdale. That is, the Southside. And that will be So-Dale. So let's hear a round of applause for that, am I right?" Veronica nods and claps along dutifully. "What do you say people?"
The crowd claps along with Hiram. Toni looks crushed and the other Serpents look furious. Thomas is the only one who looks like he was expecting this. After all the years the Northsiders pushed us to the sidelines, why would they care now? Especially Hiram Lodge and his Stepford Daughter. Toni rushes back through the crowd, trying to look proud and tough instead of upset. It works, if you'd never met her before.
Before I can decide if I should go after her or give her space, Sweet Pea has his hands on my shoulders and is leading me back towards the bikes. Toni is sitting in the passenger seat of her grandfather's car, trying not to look like she's crying. Sweet Pea goes to his bike but I detour to Toni, leaning my elbows on the window frame until she rolls the window down so we can talk.
"Please, do not say I told you so." She begs as soon as the window is cracked.
"I would never say that, T." She sniffs and wipes her eye with the back of her hand delicately.
"I know you wouldn't. Maybe you should."
"And crush your social justice dreams? No way. I need at least one friend with hope for the future. Besides, it's not like you knew Hiram Lodge goes to every event with speeches prepared." She smiles a little but it doesn't reach her eyes. "Have your old man take you home and when you're ready, come over to Sweet Pea's and we'll have a mini-party."
"A pity party?"
"Don't be so morose, Topaz. That's Jughead's job." She fully smiles at that.
"I'll go if Jughead goes." She agrees.
"He tried. That's important to me. And I think a small Serpent party, with just us and the boys, could bring everyone together."
"And bringing everyone together is important to you. You're so mushy." I poke her gently in the chest over her heart and she swats my hand away. "It's not my house, but I'll see what I can do. Sweet Pea's a sucker when we cry."
"I'm glad you use your powers for good, Crash."
"I think the courts would disagree. See you later, T." She smiles at me again before rolling the window up. I saunter back over to Sweet Pea, who's sitting on his bike waiting for me, feeling slightly better after making Toni smile. Sweets raises his eyebrow at me.
"You know, you look really cute sitting on your motorcycle like that… and tough. Super tough."
"What do you want, Crash?" He asks, not humoring my compliments for a second.
"I have a favor to ask…" I start, stepping closer so I can rest my hands on his thighs. "Can Toni and Fangs come over later when Toni feels a little better?"
"Of course. But you'd never be so nervous to ask if Toni and Fangs can hang so what do you really want?"
"Toni wants Jughead to come because she wants us all to be friends and we need to try for her or she'll be disappointed in me and I'll spontaneously combust and die." Sweet Pea sighs at me and looks away, fidgeting with the buckle on his helmet.
"I've never seen a spontaneous combustion. I bet it'd be cool."
"Sweets, please! I know he's annoying but you know how Toni gets with these things. Remember when she found that lizard in the quarry without a tail and she took it home and tried to glue a paper tail on it's butt so it wouldn't be sad?"
"That was you."
"No, it was Toni!"
"It was you. And the lizard died."
"Maybe Jughead will die." Sweet Pea sighs, hangs the helmet off the handlebar, and wraps his arms around my waist.
"I thought we were gonna go back to my place and watch Netflix and ya know… chill." I try to calm the blush on my cheeks before he can notice but I don't think it works.
"We will have plenty of time to chill, after we mend Toni's broken heart by pretending to like her new friend for an hour or two. Deal?"
"Deal." He finally agrees. I peck him on the lips before climbing on the back of the motorcycle and putting on my helmet. "You know I would never really say no to Toni when she's sad, right?" He asks.
"You're the best friend anyone could ever have." I answer. "And if we leave now we can make-out for a while before people come over."
A few hours later, the party is in full swing. However, considering that none of us are really into big parties in the middle of the afternoon, full swing is just the five of us, some beer, and Fang's phone plugged into a speaker. He's playing his 'Fangs Fogarty's Ftotally Fawesome Fparty Fmix'. Not to be confused with 'Fangs Fogarty's Fucking Fawesome Fparty Fmix' or 'Fangs Fogarty's Farty Fparty'.
Toni had mellowed out a bit after the disaster protest this morning. Or at least, she was a lot less sad and ready to move to Phase Two. She wouldn't say what Phase Two was but she was two beers in at that point and she's so small.
"I'd like to make a toast!" Toni announces, standing up and swaying slightly. "To all of you. You're my best friends! And especially to Jughead. You tried to do something for the Serpent's today and in my eyes, that makes you an official member."
"I thought I was an official Serpent when I completed to trials." Jughead says confusedly. Toni flops back onto the couch next to Jughead and Fangs and throws her arm around his shoulder.
"You were like, a quasi member. You had to earn your stripes." Toni explains.
"You were on probation." Fangs adds.
"Wait, I thought being on probation was what made you a full member." I joke.
"No," Sweet Pea starts, "that's only for little girls who throw Ghoulies in dumpsters and get arrested by the middle school security guard."
"In my defense, I didn't know he could arrest me. I thought he was just for show."
"You got arrested in middle school?" Jughead asks.
"You got arrested in elementary school!" I point out. "Don't think for a second that your dad didn't give my dad all the dirt on you. Parents are gossips." Everyone grunts in agreement.
Suddenly, I remember one of the real reasons I wanted to get Toni tipsy this afternoon. I mean, number one was of course because she was upset. I'm a good friend and everything. But number two was so that she wouldn't be upset with me for not telling her about Sweet Pea and I sooner. It was an honest mistake but sometimes she does that weird girl thing where everything feels like it has a double meaning and the real meaning is that everyone hates you. It happened once before when I forgot to tell her about Malachi and she thought I didn't trust her anymore but really I was just distracted by a stray dog outside and forgot! She was pissed for like two weeks before she realized that I'm just easily distracted and forgetful.
"Right." I announce, standing up from my spot on Sweet Pea's lap. Everyone looks up at me and I suddenly feel incredibly awkward. "Uh, Sweet Pea has something to say."
I sit back down on his lap and he gives me a questioning look.
"Say something." I encourage quietly.
"Uh, okay. Yeah, um. Oh, right! I remember." Sweet Pea turns to Jughead with a serious expression. "Jughead, I guess I don't hate you that much."
"Uh, thanks?" Jughead says, confused and a little offended.
"No, not that. The other thing."
"What other thing?" Sweets asks me. Now everyone is looking at me like I'm crazy. Awesome.
"Sweet Pea and I are dating."
"Oh, that. Yeah." Sweet Pea agrees. He takes another sip of beer.
"Yeah, we know." Fangs tells me.
"Wait you knew? How did you know?" Toni asks.
"They've been all over each other. It's pretty gross. You didn't notice?"
"Well, of course I noticed but they're always like that."
"That's true. But it's been worse lately."
"I just thought they were making up for their fight."
"Yeah but Sweet Pea also wasn't talking about her all the time so I knew something was different."
"I do not talk about her all the time." Sweet Pea butts in.
"Well not anymore." Fangs replies with a smirk. Sweet Pea glares at him and Fangs smirk widens.
"Congrats." Toni says, raising her can in the air.
"Maybe now that you're actually dating you can be less gross." Fangs suggests.
"We're gonna be more gross." I tell him. Sweet Pea nods and puts his hand on my thigh.
"You're gonna hear all about it since apparently I talk so much." Sweet Pea tells Fangs with a small bite in his voice. Everyone turns to Jughead, who hasn't said anything in a while, and he shrugs.
"I actually thought you two were dating the whole time." He explains. "This doesn't really change anything for me but I'm happy for you."
"Thanks, Jug." Toni gives me a thumbs up. I guess this whole not hating Jughead thing isn't that bad. Maybe one day, when he gets a less stupid hat, we could actually be friends.
The Whyte Wyrm was packed to the brim with angry Serpents and their worried families. Everyone in Sunny Side got eviction notices. Even people who weren't Serpents and people whose homes had been passed down to them for generations. It was like Hiram Lodge was jealous of Colonel Blossom and needed to raise the stakes on the new generation. Oh, you slaughtered 300 people? Watch what I can do. And the Jones family was at the center of it all, once again.
"We all got the eviction notices. But I swear to you, no one is going anywhere. The heat has been on us since Picken's Day and they are using that damn statue as an excuse to turn it up. But if we're gonna fix this, I have to ask; is anyone in this room responsible for cutting off Picken's head?"
I can't help but scoff at FP's question. The only person stupid enough to cut off the head of the statue and keep it after all this time is Jughead. And I know for a fact that he doesn't have the head because I searched his trailer while he was with Toni… Just to make sure.
"Why don't you ask your son what he has to say?" Tall Boy suggests, shoving his way through the crowd and towards the stage.
"What is your problem with me, Tall Boy?" Jughead asks exasperatedly. Sweet Pea pushes himself off the pool table so he can rise to his full height behind Jughead.
"You wrote the article that started this whole mess! You and your posse fired the opening shot on Picken's Day."
"Oh, lay off it, TB. You sound like a Scooby Doo villain." I chide.
"It was a peaceful protest, Turncoat." Toni reminds him.
"That accomplished nothing. So what's to say that you and your little boyfriend didn't go back that night with a ladder and a hacksaw?" Tall Boy accuses.
"Hey! We didn't do it." Jughead protests. "Hell, Tall Boy, you're the tallest guy in this room. You wouldn't even need a ladder."
"Jughead, Tall Boy. The last thing we need right now is to turn on eachother. We'll find a way out of this." FP reassures them in an attempt to calm everyone down.
"Alright, Order Of The Inphinons-" Jughead announces as he waltzes into the bar. He stops short when he notices the pissed off Serpents waiting for him. The atmosphere is tense, to say the least. Penny Peabody smirks from her seat at the table and Jughead's face falls.
"Jughead Jones. Did you really think you'd seen the last of me?" Penny asks with a smirk.
"What's the Snake Charmer doing here? Dad?" FP ignores Jughead completely, finding his cuticles easier to deal with.
"No, I brought her in." Tall Boy explains. "To help us."
"We don't need Penny's kind of help." Jughead protests.
"You don't get a say anymore. Since you broke Serpent law and hurt one of our own. Penny was about to tell your dad. Show him, Penny. Show 'em all." Penny yanks up the sleeve of her Serpent jacket and shows us an ugly scar on her arm.
"That used to be my Serpent tattoo. Until your son sliced a chunk outta my arm and left me bleeding in a ditch in Greendale." Jesus Christ, I'm gonna puke. "But, I'm still willing to help the Serpents. Tall Boy showed me those eviction notices, they're legit. Luckily, I can think of about 41 ways to stall the process. And I'm talking years."
"What's your price, Penny?" FP asks skeptically.
"Blood for blood. An eye for an eye. I want back in with the Serpents and I want him kicked out. Oh yeah, one last thing… I want his tattoo carved off. And I want to do it myself, with a dirty knife." Penny crosses her arms across her chest and smirks at Jughead's nervous expression.
"That's it. Penny, Tall Boy, go up to my office. Jughead,-" FP turns to his son with a pained look on his face. "Go home."
After a brief moment of hesitation, Jughead storms out of the bar. Most of the Serpents follow his lead start filing out of the bar, not wanting to deal with a raging FP and Penny Peabody fight. I try to follow them out but Tall Boy grabs the back of my jacket and yanks me up the stairs with them.
"You too, Collins." Tall Boy demands. FP clenches his hands but doesn't argue, probably following the same line of thought as Tall Boy. It's like you help out with one murder and suddenly you're blamed for all felony assaults afterwards. Really, not fair.
We get to the office and shut the door, and a very tense few seconds of silence after that, FP sighs again and flops into his desk chair. He leans his elbows on the table in front of him, rubs his jaw a few times, then slams his palm onto the table.
"What the hell happened?" FP asks, aiming his face at Penny, but his question at me.
"I'll tell you what happened," Penny starts brazenly, "Your boy showed up at the warehouse with his cronies and some crowbars. They kidnapped me and dragged me out into the woods, where two of them held me down and carved into my arm. Collins was the only one from that merry band of misfits that didn't turn her back on her fellow Serpent."
"Wait, Jughead wasn't alone?" I ask, suddenly way more invested in what happened. Penny scoffs.
"You really think Jones could take me on his own?" She sneers. FP roughly rubs his jaw again.
"And there's one more thing, when baby Jones is gone, and I want Collins to take his place." Penny states. She smirks at FP and leans back in her chair lazily. "She's always been the better Serpent."
I try my hardest not to show any reaction. Because in Penny Peabody world, a compliment is a threat. I am a stone cold bitch. I'm calm. I'm cool. I'm collected. Penny doesn't scare me or make me want to rip all her hair out. Tall Boy doesn't scare me! FP scares me a little but like, in a dad way.
"We'll vote tomorrow." FP decides. His way of reminding Penny that Jughead is apparently just as important that she is. Which isn't really true since she got both of us out of jail and Jughead has done nothing but whatever, he's his son. Family is so stupid. FP shifts his eyes to Tall Boy, who takes a second to get the message. Tall Boy stands up, Penny shortly follows, and the two of them walk out of the Wyrm with a slight 'we're winning' swagger.
FP sits silently, holding his head in his hands and breathing hard. I try not to move, if I move he'll see me and I'm toast. If I sit still, I'll blend in with the chair and he won't see me. He sits there for almost two minutes before I can't help it and start fidgeting with the zipper on my jacket. It takes another minute for the noise to piss him off.
"Stop that." He snaps with enough ferocity that I immediately tuck my hands under my thighs. "I've gotta go talk to Jughead." He stands up and adjusts his jacket.
"Good luck." I reply. FP pauses and turns to me with a glare.
"I'm not done with you, Collins. You're coming with me."
"I didn't even do anything!" I protest. I didn't! I didn't even know about it until now.
"Bullshit. Get up." He demands. He doesn't give me a choice, really, so I get up and follow him out to his car, doing my best to avoid the curious glances of the lingering Serpents downstairs.
The ride to the Jones trailer is practically silent. You can almost feel the anger radiating off of FP. I can only hope that Jughead is smart enough to keep his mouth shut. Otherwise, FP is going to lose his damn mind.
The second we get there, FP throws the car into park and rips out the keys. He's out of his truck and in the trailer before I can blink. I reluctantly follow him.
"Well, what'd they say? Are they kicking me out?" Jughead asks as soon as we're inside.
"There's going to be a vote. You versus Penny." FP answers tersely.
"Me versus…" Jughead repeats, astonished. "What? They can't see what they get with Penny in the picture?"
"Money and a place to live." I suggest. FP shuts me up with a quick glare before turning back to his son.
"Penny is a cobra, but mutilating her? That's the kind of thing you don't come back from, Jughead."
"Yeah, like stuffing a teenagers body in a freezer?" FP snaps and slams Jughead against the wall, holding him by his collar. I look away, finding my shoes easier to stomach. There's mud on them from the Whyte Wyrm parking lot. I should really clean them.
"You need to learn to keep your damn mouth shut. Tall Boy was right. You brought the Northside down on us. Serpents are losing their dens because of what you wrote."
"Don't kid yourself." Jughead pushes FP off of him. "They're using my article. And they're using what happened to the statue of General Pickens as an excuse to justify something they've already been doing."
"You think you're a hero, Jug? Cutting up women? Bringing the temple down right on our heads? You… will be the death of us. Not the Northside, not Penny. You." FP stares Jughead down for a few seconds before shifting his glare to me. "And you. What the hell is going on between you and Penny Peabody?"
"Nothing! Nothing you don't already know about."
"Don't bullshit me, Collins."
"She's just using me to piss you off. And it's working." I point out. FP glares for a few more seconds before storming off to his room. Jughead sighs and flops onto the couch, rubbing his face with his hand just like his dad. "Not so fast, Jones. You're coming with me."
"Crash-" I glare at him to shut him up, taking a page out of FP's book. Jughead shuts up and sighs again but follows me out of his trailer.
"Where are we going?"
"Where do you think?" I ask sarcastically. Now it's my turn to be pissed off. And what really pisses me off is that they were so damn sloppy. And they didn't tell me! No one told me! I'm gonna kill them. And they aren't going to come crawling back with bloodied tattoos either because I'm not fucking sloppy.
We get to Sweet Pea's trailer quickly. And just like I thought, he, Fangs, and Toni are waiting there. I don't want to rough Jughead up like FP just did, so I wait for him to sit on the couch next to Toni and Fangs before I start my spiel.
"What the hell were you thinking, Jug?" I demand. Jughead just stares at the wall. Fangs and Sweet Pea at least have the decency to look ashamed. Toni just looks tired. "Penny said that you and your 'cronies' attacked her and I think we all know who she was talking about. I mean, really? First of all, are you crazy? And secondly, are you stupid?"
"Penny was destroying the Serpents. Dragging everyone down with drugs. That's not who we are."
"You shut your mouth, Jughead Jones. You've been here for five minutes, you don't get to make these decisions. Penny Peabody has gotten more Serpents out of jail than you can count. Including me and your dad. Or did you forget that without Peabody, Daddy Jones would be rotting under a pile of Ghoulies in the prison graveyard right now? And you three, you should know better! What do you have to say for yourselves?"
"I did it for you, Crash." Sweet Pea interrupts scolding. "Penny was threatening you. She was going to throw you under the bus to make herself look good."
"Well, that's just- That's... really sweet, Pea." I admit, he threw me little off my game. But still! "Guys, just- Next time call me, okay? Next time, don't leave her wounded in a ditch. If you want to get rid of Penny, we'll have to kill her. Probably more than once, I have a feeling she's not entirely human." I sit on the arm of Sweet Pea's chair and he grabs my hand gently.
"What did Tall Boy want with you?" Fangs asks.
"FP thinks he ruined me, after the Jason Blossom thing. Penny and Tall Boy want to rub it in his face, is all." Sweets squeezes my hand comfortingly and I scoot over so I'm in his lap instead of on the uncomfortable arm of the chair. "Why didn't anyone tell me?"
"I texted you." Jughead defends himself.
"I don't read your texts." I admit. Jughead throws his hands in the air and rolls his eyes.
"We just thought it would be easier if Penny went missing. None of us wanted you to get caught up in anything with her. Plus, you and Sweets were fighting and I didn't want to make anything worse." Toni finally explains. Fangs nods along. I'm still annoyed but honestly, being annoyed isn't going to fix anything.
"You'll need to do something huge if you want to stay in the Serpents, Jughead. Penny's been helping the Serpents out of jams for years now and honestly, it's not looking good for you." As in, not a single Serpent will vote for him against Penny when we're all about to be evicted.
"What do I do?" Jughead asks, taking off his hat and running his fingers through his hair.
"You'll have to prove that you have more to offer." Toni advises. "Or prove that Penny was trafficking drugs."
"Uh, preferably the first one. Considering Penny has you, me, your dad, Sweets, and Andrews on camera doing her dirty work and I'd prefer not going back to juvie." Sweet Pea squeezes my hand again and I run my thumb over his knuckles.
"You'll figure something out." Toni encourages.
"Or we could just kill Penny." Sweet Pea suggests.
"We'd still be homeless though." Fangs counters. Sweet Pea slumps his shoulders.
"I think we should all start with a good nights rest. Everyone go home." Sweet Pea says, not bothering with subtlety. He pushes me up so he can stand.
"I'm in." I agree. Fangs and Toni both stand to leave but Jughead lingers. "You can stay at my place, Jones."
"Wait, what?" Sweet Pea asks.
"Not with me. I'm sleeping here. It's just… your dad was pretty pissed off. I thought you might give him a night to cool off. Sweet Pea and Jughead both visibly relax, albeit for different reasons.
"Aw, Crash. You're being nice again." Toni teases. I glare at her and she grins. I take my keys out and toss them at Jughead.
"Don't lose those. The only other set is in Fiji." Jughead gives me a weird look. It's a mixture of gratefulness, confusion, and skepticism. In the end, he takes the keys.
"Yeah, whatever. Don't tell anyone I was nice to you or I'll kill you."
"I'm telling everyone." Fangs calls as he walks out the door. Toni and Jughead follow Fangs out and Sweet Pea drags me to his bedroom. He strips down to a pair of shorts in record time and flops onto his bed, pulling me down with him even though I'm not in my pajamas.
He stares at me for a few seconds with that look that makes my heart feel all gooey and disgusting. The look that I probably should have recognized months ago but man do I feel it now. Why does he have to be so damn dreamy? It's really unfair.
"What did Penny really want with you?" He asks softly, not wanting to disturb the moment.
"She's using me to piss off FP. I think, at least. I don't really know. He and my dad were close and I think he's always felt kinda responsible for me. Especially with Mustang…" He grabs my hand again and starts playing with my fingers.
"Can I ask you something without you getting upset?" He asks gently.
"Have you ever had a good parental figure?" He asks and I scoff. If I didn't know he was mostly joking, I'd be annoyed. Maybe it's because I know his family is just as crazy.
"Says the kid who lives alone." I retort.
"I was emancipated. It was mutual."
"Well good for you. I'm an orphan."
"Technically, you aren't an orphan."
"Be nice to me. I was abandoned. I have mommy issues."
"That makes two of us."
"We're a good pair." He smiles at that and I lean up to peck him on the lips.
"You should brush your teeth." Sweet Pea suggests.
"You should brush your teeth."
"Okay, fine. Let's both brush our teeth. I want to go to sleep."
"Fine but only because I want to. Not because you told me to."
"Yeah. Sure. Of course not."
It takes two days for the Serpents to get together again and prepare to vote. FP was really kidding himself if he thought we were organized enough to have a meeting two days in a row. Especially with the eviction looming over our heads. Half the Serpents are packing their things and the other half and ready to be forcibly removed if it comes down to it.
Hog Eye and Toni are trying to keep the drinks flowing in an effort to calm everyone down. It's only making them rowdier, though. There's been a lot going on lately and everyone is looking for a way to let off some steam. Whether that's gonna be a war with the Northside or watching Jughead and Penny Peabody duke it out is still up in the air. What we aren't expecting, is Jughead, FP, and the blonde Northside girl to come strolling into the Wyrm with a metal head. That statue kind, at least. There are a lot of metalheads in the bar.
"Stop the damn vote." FP demands. The bar quiets as Jughead drops the head on the table. FP grabs Tall Boy roughly and forces him into a chair in the middle of the room. Everyone gathers around to find out what the hell is going on.
"What the hell were you doing at the dump last week, Tall Boy?" FP starts accusingly.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Tall Boy lies.
"I'm talking about you cutting the head off the Pickens statue and stashing it at the dump where you were seen, dumbass. So start spilling!" FP explains. I'll be damned. I should have known! After all, the Scooby Doo villain is always the same creep who says there's ghosts first.
"Why'd you do it? Did someone put you up to this?" Jughead asks.
"What's the Northsider doing here?" Tall Boy deflects. "This is Serpent business. It's on Serpent land." I mean, he's not wrong.
"She's here because she's one of us." Jughead explains. Toni rolls her eyes but Jughead doesn't notice.
"You haven't answered my sons question. Why'd you do it?" FP demands.
"Cause I'm tired of seeing the Serpents going soft under your rule. Then Hiram Lodge came by, wanting to stir up some trouble. He said if I took the head, he'd get McCoy and the cops to swarm all over us and cause some chaos."
"So Hiram Lodge asked you to start a mutiny and you helped him. Why?" Jughead asks.
"I figured it'd be my chance to get rid of you, Sunshine. And if I got rid of him, I could get rid of you too, FP."
"And then what? You'd become leader?" FP asks with a scoff.
"He and Penny! You're Judas, Tall Boy. And an idiot." Jughead adds.
"You betrayed your own kind, Tall Boy. You broke Serpent law. What should we do with this lowlife?"
"Strip him of his jacket." Jughead decides before anyone else has a chance to speak. "Exile him."
"All those in favor?" FP asks. The majority of the Serpents, and Betty Cooper, raise their hands and FP laughs. "Looks like this piece of trash and I got a long ride ahead of us." The bar cheers, always down for a little violence. FP jerks Tall Boy out of his seat and pushes him towards the door. It takes a bit of coaxing and two more of the larger Serpents to get Tall Boy outside. I give them a few minutes before I make my move.
"I'll be right back." I tell Sweet Pea and Toni before slipping outside. Tall Boy has a bloody nose and a black eye. But honestly, I was expecting worse. FP is standing by the truck door, blocking Tall Boy from getting out of the car and the two other Serpents are standing nearby like bodyguards, probably hoping Tall Boy will try to run so they can beat on him a while longer. Tall Boy catches my eye and smirks, causing FP to whirl around and see me. He's significantly less happy than Tall Boy. I make my way across the parking lot quickly and start in on Tall Boy before FP can try to get me back inside.
"Looking good, TB." I poke him hard on the cheek and he winces but tries to hide it. "Can we get a minute, FP?"
"Absolutely not." FP scoffs.
"Don't you still have a vote to conduct?" I point out. FP glares at me for a few seconds before starting to go back inside. He stops after a few steps and turns to glare at me again. He looks like he's going to say something but he eyes Tall Boy and the two Security Serpents and shakes his head before going inside. Tall Boy smirks at me again, even though his eye is starting to swell.
"Shouldn't you be inside voting for your boy?" He asks sarcastically.
"Shut up, Tall Boy. I get being pissed at the Jones's but you put every single Serpent at risk because you were bored? There are better ways of getting what you want than sidling up to Hiram Lodge. Which you would know if you weren't so busy kissing Penny's ass. Did you really think she would let you lead the Serpents?"
"You're awful cocky for a sixteen year old girl. Jughead's barely been here for a few days and you're letting him walk all over you. You know, Penny and I could have made you Princess."
"Don't bullshit me, Tall Boy. Serpent King is just a stupid title made up to make FP feel good about himself. What does Penny want with me?"
"She's using you 'cause you have power over the Serpents. At least the young ones and the ones who knew your daddy. The way she figured, if we got FP and Jughead outta the way, I'd be leader and you'd be the one that convinced them all to stay."
"Jesus. You don't have an ounce of loyalty, do you? Not to the Serpents, not to Penny, and certainly not to Hiram Lodge. So what did he give you? Money?" Tall Boy laughs.
"Immunity. And you'd better think long and hard before you go up against Hiram Lodge, kid."
"Why?" Tall Boy smirks at me again before shutting the car door. That little bastard. He's so fucking annoying. He's a coward too. Hiram probably said 'boo' and Tall Boy started cowering at his feet. I'm glad he's getting exiled. I need a fucking drink.
I go back into the Wyrm, hoping to catch Hog Eye in a good mood. Instead, FP catches my arm the second I get through the door and pushes me against the wall, just out of sight of main room, though a few Serpents definitely see us and look away. If I were any bigger I bet he'd have his arm against my throat but instead he just towers over me and speaks lowly.
"I don't know what the hell is going on between you, Tall Boy, and Penny Peabody but it stops now. I am the Serpent leader and you will do as I say. Do you understand me, Collins?"
"Y'know, I used to think of you as a father figure, FP. But lately, you've just been a pain in the ass. Figure your own shit out before you try to blame it all on me." I rip my arm out of his grip and take a step away from him.
"In case you forgot, it was your son who went behind your back and attacked a Serpent. It was you who made a deal with Clifford Blossom. It was you who made the first deal with Hiram Lodge. And now we're all stuck dealing up your mess. So don't you dare come at me for making money the only way I can. With Penny out of the picture, I'm fucked. That's on your shoulders, Jones."
I storm into the crowd before I can think too hard about what I've said. I kind of mean it but I don't at the same time. I mean it's true. I just- Fuck. I don't know. I just want to go home. My friends are all sitting at their usual table while Sweet Pea plays pool, Jughead looks like he's in a good mood, so obviously Penny is out. And now I need to find a way to make money. Too bad even Pop Tate won't hire a girl with a record and a face tattoo. My life sucks. Everything sucks. Toni sees me coming and slides a shot glass in my direction.
"You're still here, Jughead?" I ask, even though it's pretty obvious. He grins and raises his shot glass.
"I'm on probation!" He shoots it back. Fangs and Toni hold theirs up as well.
"He's on probation!" They echo and shoot their shots back as well. It's kind of sweet.
"That's great, Jug." I try to give him a sincere smile, it's probably more of a grimace but he takes it anyway. I take the shot. "Is this Sprite?"
"Yeah. Hog Eye said hard liquor is a hard no." Toni explains. "It's still fun though!"
"You're such a dork." I tease. I slide the shot glass towards her and she refills it, refilling hers too. We cheers the glasses and shoot them back.
"Oh, here." Jughead digs into his pocket and gives me my keys. "Thanks, again."
"No problem. You sure you don't wanna keep 'em for another night? I plan on avoiding your dad for at least three days."
"Nah, we're good." Jughead assures me. Sweet Pea joins us at the table and slips his arm around my shoulders.
"Why are you avoiding FP?" He asks, taking a glass off the table.
"We just… got in a little fight. It's not a big deal."
"You got in a fight with my dad?"
"It's not a big deal."
"What did you fight about?" Toni asks.
"Look, I don't want to talk about it, okay?" I snap. I must have sounded pretty pissed because everyone shares a look and a raised eyebrow. "I'm gonna go home. I'll see you guys at school."
I make it halfway to the door before Sweet Pea grabs me around the waist and drags me to the side of the room. He puts himself between me and everyone around us but instead of being threatening like FP, it's comforting.
"What's going on? And don't say it's nothing, we all know you're lying."
"It's n-" Sweet Pea cuts me off with a pointed look. "FP knows that I would never turn my back on the Serpents but he's still accusing me of doing whatever the hell Penny and Tall Boy are doing and it's just… I mean…"
"He hurt your feelings?" Sweet Pea says, more than asks.
"A year ago, I would have trusted him with my life. And he would have done the same, no matter how young I am. But now it's like… the Serpents are imploding and instead of sticking together and supporting each other, he's treating me like I'm- God, I don't know. Like I'm not the same girl who took care of him when he was too drunk to get out of bed. Or who stepped up when Mustang and Tall Boy were too busy getting high to help him run the Serpents. I have devoted my life to this gang and now FP Jones is trying to make me seem like the bad guy. I just- I just want to go home, Pea."
"Let me take you home, okay?" He asks and I nod. He kisses me on the forehead quickly before going back to the table and telling everyone that we're leaving. He's back in a flash and grabs my hand, leading us out of the bar and to his bike. "Helmet."
I put on my helmet and climb on the bike behind him. Sweet Pea drives back to my trailer and we spend the rest of the night wrapped in a mountain of blankets.
Maybe it is easier to deal with things when I just tell him what's going on instead of keeping it to myself. At least, with small things. Not with big things. The big murdery things that will just get Sweet Pea and Toni and Fangs in trouble. I think I'll keep those to myself and bury them deep down inside where I keep the bad memories. Maybe I should get a real diary, one with a lock.
I didn't hear from FP until he showed up at my place a few days later. It was weird to see him knocking on my door. I don't think he's been in my trailer since Mustang died and that wasn't a very good memory.
"Can I come in?" He looks… sheepish, almost. I should say no. I'm still pissed at him. Say no. Say no!
"Yeah. Of course." I take a step to the side and FP walks in. He glances around the living room. I almost feel bad, it's pretty messy in here to be honest. The only guest I ever have is Sweet Pea and it's not like I have to clean up for him. FP goes to the kitchen and takes a seat at the table and I stay near the doorway. "You, uh, want anything to drink, Jones?"
"No, I'm fine." He rubs his jaw once before motioning to the seat across from him. "Can you sit please."
"Why are you here?" I ask. I sit down, but not because he told me to.
"Yeah, oh." He chuckles softly. "You know, when your mom was pregnant I made a promise to your dad to look after you if anything happened."
"That's pretty cheesy… I'll bet he did the same for Jug and Jellybean?" FP nods.
"Yeah. But uh… I've done a pretty shitty job, haven't I?"
"Of looking after me?" FP nods again and rubs his jaw. "You haven't done a shitty job, FP. I've been told that I have some authority issues."
"That's an understatement." FP agrees with a snort. He goes back to his serious expression. "But it's not like I've made it easy for you. To take me seriously, I mean. But I have a plan. That's part of why I came here."
"What kind of plan?"
"I'm following Jughead's lead and trying to have a meeting with Hiram Lodge. And i think you should come."
"Gross. Why would I want to be within twenty feet of Hiram Lodge?"
"Jughead thinks we can settle this whole thing without a turf war and well, if we can I think we should try. And you're coming because… well, mostly because I need you to trust me again. But also because I need your help keeping Jughead in line."
"And I'm a good influence?"
"You're a… resourceful influence. Look, Crash, I'm not taking what you said lightly. I'm trying to fix this and you deserve to be there when I do." He gives me such a sincere look that it's impossible to say no.
"Fine. When's the meeting?"
"Jesus Christ, FP." He smirks again. "Fine, let's go."
I stand up and push my chair in, grabbing my Serpent jacket from it's spot by the door. FP pauses and gives me a critical look.
"That's what you're wearing to a business meeting?"
"Oh, says the guy who lives in dirty flannels and a crusty old jacket?" He mocks offense. The two of us leave my trailer and walk to his. It's kind of nice to walk with him. It reminds me of when he first got sober and went on a big hiking and fresh air kick. Except we never went hiking, we just walked around the Southside. But still!
Jughead is waiting for us at his trailer. Well, he's waiting for his dad. He looks a little surprised to see me but he rolls with it. He obviously cleaned up a bit while waiting. The trailer looks really nice. It's weird.
"Veronica just texted me. They're almost here." Jughead says. He starts pacing back and forth across the living room while I sit on the couch and watch. "Are you staying for the meeting, Crash?"
"Okay. Here's the plan-"
"Unless this plan involves you distracting Hiram while I pick his pockets, I'm not interested." Jughead gives me an exasperated look and turns to his dad. FP just shakes his head.
"We need a plan!"
"It'll be fine, Juggie." I say his name with a teasing tone and he rolls his eyes. A few seconds later he's back to pacing. His phone dings again and a car door slams outside.
"They're here." Jughead sits next to me on the couch and slaps his thighs. He seriously needs to chill. FP opens the door and lets Hiram and Veronica in. I'm surprised they didn't show up with bodyguards. Veronica takes the mediator role and introduces everyone while FP grabs Hiram a beer.
"Daddy, you know FP Jones and Jughead. This is… Crash." I shake his hand and successfully hold back a weak handshake comment.
"Yes, Ms. Collins. I've heard of you." Hiram greets.
"Okay." I sit back on the couch. Veronica sits at the end of the coffee table and Hiram sits across from us.
"Thank you for agreeing to sit down and discuss this misunderstanding." Hiram starts.
"There's no mis-" Jughead and FP speak at the same time but FP takes the lead.
"There's no misunderstanding here. Tall Boy said you paid him to decapitate the Pickens statue."
"As an excuse to turn up the heat on the Serpents." Jughead adds.
"You've got a lot of nervous people scared they're gonna lose their homes." FP tells Hiram.
"I heard about that. And though it has nothing whatsoever to do with me, I've spoken to Mayor McCoy. And as a gesture of goodwill to the Southside community, I'd like to settle any back rent you or your neighbors owe to the town."
"And what do you want in return?" Jughead asks skeptically.
"Peace in the land." What a fucking weirdo. Veronica looks at us expectantly.
"It's a deal." FP agrees. Everyone stands and FP and Hiram shake hands.
"There is one thing." Hiram adds. "Mayor McCoy tells me you have some kind of expose you're working on, Jughead. So in exchange for my generous offer, I'd appreciate if you kept my name out of it. Sound fair?" Of course. And since Jughead is Jughead:
"That sounds like a bribe. No deal."
"See you in the funny pages." FP says, wrapping an arm around Jughead. There was really no point in me being here. I mean I appreciate the gesture but come on, FP. Whatever. At least now I know for sure what Hiram Lodge looks like.
"Let me walk you out." I offer. Veronica smiles at me gratefully and Hiram accepts. Rich people manners are so weird. I lead them out of the trailer and to their car, where there driver opens the door for them. Hiram lets Veronica in first and stops to talk to me.
"I've heard a lot about you, Ms. Collins. I've gotta say, you're not exactly what I pictured."
"Well, Mr. Lodge, Tall Boy's not a great source." Hiram gives me a tight lipped fake smile.
"Is that so?"
"Yeah, well. He's never been good at judging heights. I'll see you at school, Veronica." She waves at me from inside the car and I go back into the Jones trailer. Okay, so that line was really weird and not nearly as suave as I wanted it to be but whatever. I panicked. Sue me. Jughead and FP are waiting for me when I get back inside.
"Let me walk you out, Mr. Lodge." Jughead mocks. I flick him in the forehead and sit in Veronica's chair.
"What'd you think of the meeting, Crash?" FP asks, relaxing into the couch.
"I think you should have taken the deal, but I'm not surprised that you didn't." I answer. Jughead looks offended.
"You think I should let Hiram censor my writing?"
"One newspaper article versus homelessness. Hm, let my think about that." Jughead glares at me and I smile at him.
"What did you and Hiram talk about outside?" FP asks. I roll my eyes at him and he holds his hands up in surrender. "Not accusing, just asking."
"Apparently, Tall Boy was quite the gossip. He told me not to underestimate Hiram before you exiled him. I just wanted to see what Hiram would say when you weren't around."
"Well, either Tall Boy thinks I'm super short or I don't understand metaphors."
"Probably both." FP jokes. Jughead snorts and I glare at both of them.
"Whatever. If we're done here, I have petty crimes to commit."
"Don't get caught." FP cautions as I walk out the door.
I don't actually have crimes to commit. I don't have any plans, really. Sweet Pea and Fangs are doing some pool play-off that I don't want to watch. Toni is on a solo-photography hike for a few hours. Maybe I should hang out with some other Serpents. Like Emerald. Except I don't want to get high. Maybe I'll just take a nap. Or I could clean my trailer…
I'm on my hands and knees scrubbing every speck of dirt from my bathroom floor when Jughead calls me. I honestly don't think I've cleaned since I got home from juvie. And it's not like it was super clean beforehand, given all the murders that were happening at the time. Safe to say, my house was a pigsty. I rip off my rubber glove and hold my phone between my ear and my shoulder.
"What d'ya want, Crate Face?"
"Crash, I need your help."
"I uh- I have a problem."
"Shit. You're pregnant, aren't you?"
"I'm serious. Look, can you just meet me somewhere. Somewhere safe?"
"Fox forest, mile marker 104." Jughead sighs in relief and hangs up. I guess my place is clean enough for now. I wonder if I should bring my gloves. No. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's fine.
I get a ride to the edge of Fox Forest from my neighbor. She has to go to work so she just drops me off on the side of the highway. Honestly, I wish I could say this is the first time that's happened. When I get to the small service road, Jughead and Betty Cooper are waiting for me.
"Crash, thank god." Jughead comes rushing at me. "You told me 'next time, call', so I called."
"Wait… wait… did you murder Penny Peabody? Jesus Christ, Jughead, give a girl some warning."
"No. Not Penny. It was… I don't know who it was actually."
"Some guy my brother brought home. He attacked my mom and-" Betty chokes up and tears fill her eyes. I grab her shoulders gently and try to calm her down.
"Betty, it's gonna be fine. Okay? Just breathe. Now tell me, where is the body?" I ask.
"In a storm drain on the Southside." She says.
"It's the car. It's his and we need to get rid of it." Jughead explains, gesturing to the beat up car behind them.
"Oh, that's easy. I knew I should have brought my gloves. You drove it here?" Jughead nods. "Okay, we need to make sure you didn't leave any DNA. Then we'll dump it. Find a rag, Jug. Betty, you just… stand over there for a minute until you calm down, kay?"
Betty nods, trying to wipe the tears from her eyes so she can help. Not that I blame her, baby's first murder is rough. Jughead finds an old towel and I rip it in half, handing a piece to him.
"Wipe it down, steering wheel, door handles, everything. Make sure Betty didn't leave any stray blonde hairs anywhere. I'm not having a repeat of last time. We're doing this the right way." Once I'm sure the car is clean of any stray fingerprints or DNA, I shift it into neutral. "There's a lake right around that curve."
"We're leaving the car in the lake? Isn't that a little… classic?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Jughead. I didn't realize you wanted to get so creative with your first accessory to murder charge." I retort.
"She's right, Juggie. A classic is a classic for a reason. Help us push, okay?" Betty convinces him pretty easily.
"Betty should steer. Use the towels to cover your hands. If you leave a stand of hair, your DNA won't be on file. Mine and Jughead's will." Betty nods, grabbing the towels out of my hands. She steers while Jughead and I push the car towards the lake. When we get to the edge, Betty shuts the doors but rolls down the windows.
"So it sinks better." She explains. I knew she watched a bunch of cop shows.
"Wipe our hand prints off the back, Jughead." He does, and we push the car the rest of the way in.
"Norman Bates made it look so easy." He jokes. The three of us watch the car sink for a few seconds. Thank god it's not muddy. I'm sure covering our footprints would have been a bitch.
"Do you have anything of his, Betty?"
"His phone, Betty. His phone." Jughead reminds her. Betty takes the phone out and tosses it into the lake too.
"Well," I wipe my hands on my jeans before stuffing them into my jacket pockets. "We should call an Uber. There's a rest stop down the road, so we look less suspicious."
I start walking out of the forest, Jughead and Betty trailing behind me. It only takes us twenty minutes to get to the rest stop and Betty uses her phone to call a car.
"Thank you, Crash."
"Yeah, no problem, Betty. But uh, for the record, Jughead, when I said you could call me, I was specifically talking about Penny Peabody. So, you totally owe me."
"Deal." Jughead agrees instantly. As he should. Next time, they'll probably send me to adult jail.
I make the mistake of thinking Jughead and Betty won't screw anything up. Until two days later I get a phone call while I'm hanging out with Sweets. And then I get another phone call when I don't answer the first one.
"What do you want, Crate Face? I'm making out with my boyfriend."
"You need to get over here now. It's an emergency."
"Is it more important than a six foot five dreamboat?" I ask. Sweet Pea shakes his head no.
"Yes. Significantly more important. Jail time important." God damn it, Jughead. I sigh and Sweet Pea rolls his eyes, knowing that I'm caving.
"Fine. Where are you?"
"My dads trailer. Please hurry." I hang up and Sweet Pea gives me an annoyed look.
"You're ditching me for Jughead Jones, aren't you?" He asks. I give him a guilty look and he rolls his eyes again.
"I'm sorry! You know I wouldn't go if it wasn't important."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever." He says it good-naturedly but I can tell that he's a little hurt.
"I'll be back in a few hours. Wait for me?"
"Yeah. I've gotten into the habit of sleeping next to you so…"
"So, I'll need to get a second girlfriend."
"As long as she's not as hot as me, I'm cool with it."
"So Fangs is out of the question?" He jokes. I roll my eyes and peck him on the lips.
"I'll see you soon."
I tried to play it cool in front of Sweets but honestly, I'm freaking out a little bit. God, if Jughead's already screwed up this whole thing and I have to go to jail again, I'm gonna kick his ass. Why did I even answer the phone? I'm totally screwed. And I'm definitely blocking Jughead's phone calls from now on too.
I don't bother knocking when I get to the trailer, assuming that Jughead would have warned me that his girlfriend, her mom, and his dad were all there too. I was wrong, of course. And judging by the furious look on FP's face when I walked in the door, I was in deep shit too.
"Jughead Jones, you have got to be the worst criminal in the state of New York." I say.
"Carrie, what the hell are you doing here?" FP asks. He doesn't rub at his jaw but his eye twitches a little.
"I called her." Jughead admits. FP and Alice Cooper give Jughead crazy looks. Betty just sighs and holds her face in her hands.
"Go home, Crash." FP demands.
"No." I say. FP grunts. He shoots up from his chair and grabs my arm, dragging me into the hallway even though there's barely any privacy in his trailer anyway.
"Go. Home." He says lowly.
"No! You said you would stop lying to me and leaving me out of things."
"I never said that."
"You implied it! And if you expect me to trust you again, this is the first step."
"I am not putting you in the middle of this shit again, do you understand me, kid?" He asks, barely able to speak with his jaw clenched so tight.
"I'm already in the middle of it and I'm not leaving until it's finished. Besides, the one you have to worry about was exiled to San Junipero anyway." I say. That was low and I know it, but it works. FP glares at me and clenches his jaw but he's not going to keep pushing it after I bring up Joaquin. That's all on him.
He lets go of my arm just as quickly as he grabbed it. It takes him a few seconds longer to stop glaring at me and storm back into the living room.
"Jughead, takes the girls to Pop's. I'll meet you there. Collins, you're coming with me." FP explains. He grabs his Serpent jacket and storms out of the trailer, leaving a crying Cooper duo behind him. Jughead gives me a questioning look.
"It was, uh, nice meeting you, Mrs. Cooper." I say. She barely acknowledges me, which I can't blame her for, before I rush out or the trailer too. Half because I'm scared that FP will ditch me and half because I don't really like when people cry around me. It freaks me out.
FP doesn't ditch me though. He's waiting in his truck and as soon as I climb inside he shifts into drive and peels out of the trailer park.
"So, what's the plan?" I ask. FP rubs his jaw so furiously, I'm afraid he'll bruise himself.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kick you out of this truck right now." Because we're supposed to be partners. Because we're a father/daughter surrogate duo. Because I'm more disposable than Jughead.
"Bodies are heavy." I offer. He almost smirks but no quite, he's still too mad. Whether it's at me, Jughead, or Alice Cooper, I can't be sure.
"We'll get bags of lye from the warehouse. Then go back to the storm drain to get the body and bury it deep in Fox Forest. The lye should get rid of it in a few weeks."
"We should get the teeth too."
"And do what with them?" FP asks, disgusted.
"Smash 'em. So they can't ID him. I saw it on Bones."
"You're a really weird kid. You know that, right?"
"Yeah, well. Blame it on Mustang. He loved cop shows."
"Bones wasn't a cop, she was an anthropologist." FP says.
"Wow. That was a big word, FP."
Three hours, and a hell of a lot of sweat later, FP drops me off in front of my trailer. My shoes and hands are covered in dirt and I should probably burn them or something but whatever. I'm tired and who has that kind of money anyway? I just want to crawl into bed and get four sweet, sweet hours of sleep before school tomorrow. The light in my room flicks on and I almost scream before I realize it's just Sweet Pea.
"You scared me." I say, clutching my figurative pearls.
"Sorry. Why do you look like you crawled out of a grave." Sweet Pea asks, sleepily rubbing his eye with his palm.
"I did… not. I didn't. I was just, uh, going for a run with FP."
"It's two in the morning." He points out, giving me a stupid look.
"Night jogging. To help with his cravings." I try to explain.
"Okay. Don't tell me. Just get clean and come to bed, please." I let out a small sigh and nod. He's letting me off easy. Probably because it's 2 am and he's tired, or maybe because I do a lot of stupid things and he doesn't want to hear about them right now. Either way, I'm grateful. I give him a quick smooch on the forehead before turning out the light and closing the bedroom door. Shower first, then cuddling.
You've got this, Collins. It's not blood on your hands if he was already dead. You're just helping the Coopers. You're saving a family. You're a good person. You can handle this.