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the fun of sifting through the ashes

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"This is all very Buffy; the Vampire Slayer of you all." Veronica comments, when they're entering the town library, because Betty's Positive (Capital P) that they can find something on the McCoy's and their heritage.

Because, apparently, according to Jughead Jones's wacko theories, they think Mayor McCoy and her daughter may well be vampires.

"Hmph." Betty responds, scanning stacks with practiced ease, tongue caught between her teeth.

"I mean," Veronica continues as Betty pulls a thick book off the shelf and squeezes past her, out of the stacks, and back towards where they left Archie and Jughead (the unofficial boyfriends Ronnie's handling). "It's not exactly fighting demons and such at Innuendo every night, but it's also just weird enough to pique my interest, in a strictly Joss Whedon-esque way."

"You want to fight the demons at Innuendo, now, Ronnie?" Archie asks when they get a table by the window, near the back corner, with the children's books.

"I'm sorry I asked. At least you guys don't have a hellmouth under the school, like in Buffy." She responds. "Or, if you do, you would've told me, right?"

"There isn't a hellmouth under the school." Jughead reassures her from behind his gritty, 2014 MacBook.

"Thank god." She whispers as Betty smacks Riverdale's Extensive Guide to Family Trees open.

"That's under the drive-in land." He mutters.

Veronica looks up at him sharply. "Huh?"

Jughead rolls his eyes and shrugs, sitting up properly from where he was slumped in his chair. Honestly, no wonder his posture is terrible. "Oh, c'mon, Ronnie." He says. "You know all of us were conceived in the backseat of some car, at the drive-in. Did you think the men of Riverdale just had really strong swimmers? The hellmouth likes it, for some reason, or we've come to believe that it does."

"So, you'll forgive the hellmouth for being weirdly kinky - and a goddamn hellmouth, in the first place, for gods sake - but holding an orgy in the forest is grounds for being burnt at the stake?" Veronica questions.

"It's not a great comparison when you put it like that, but we've lived here all our lives. Do you expect us to think it's not normal?" Archie retorts, looking a little put-out. Betty doesn't seem interested, flicking through pages of portraits and diagrams that Veronica can't scan fast enough. She's also reading it upside down, which doesn't help.

"For straight, teenaged couples in the backseats of their daddy's cars do it in the missionary position during a shit showing of Citizen Kane, and this appeases an ancient god beneath the surface, who gifts them with the miracle of teenage pregnancy?" She says, in a 'just checking' voice.

"Yeah." Jughead agrees, looking back down at his MacBook.

"I'd say y'all are wild, but that's weird." Veronica snorts, leaning back in her chair.

"What," Jughead sighs, and actually closes his computer, which is never a good thing, "you want 'em to do it doggy-style, so that Martha, from biology class, in the next car over, sees your ass through the window, and your balls swinging?"

"Can we get back to the topic at hand?" Betty snaps and the other three at the table immediately shrink, because she's kinda scary when she uses that voice.

Veronica, predictably, is the first to recover. "Ah, yes, whether or not the McCoy's are vampires, and if the mayor happens to hold virgin ritualistic-sacrifices every month or so, but never really goes through with it, in her weird green morph suit." She recites from the continuous monologue in her head.

"If you're gonna be weird about it-" Betty grumbles and Veronica leans across the table, kissing her forehead.

"Sorry, Betts." She says, and watches Betty pink from forehead to collarbone.

There's a long silence as everyone goes back to what they were doing. Jughead typing something out on his laptop - perhaps his novel "Riverdale's Very Own 'In Cold Blood'" as he had once called it - a very serious, very cute expression in his face; Archie scratching something onto a page of blank sheet music with a led pencil, a look of earnest concentration on his face, even as he's continually blowing strands of hair out of his eyes; Betty flicking through that ridiculous book, looking for proof that Josie and Sierra McCoy are indeed vampires.

Veronica, herself, is a little weirded out by the bleeding tree that is very visible through the front windows of the library.

"Archiekins?" She bumps the redhead's bicep with her elbow and he looks up, a little startled.

"What's up, Ronnie?" Veronica finds it very sweet that he's keeping his voice low, as if he knows that what she's about to say is for his ears only.

"Is that a normal thing?"

"The tree bleeding?"

"Yeah."

"Uh-huh."

"Okay. Just checking."

Another silence as Archie goes back to his music and Veronica pulls out her phone.

Why isn't there a Wiki-How on determining if someone you know is a vampire? She thinks, scrolling through the Google results. And why are there so many furry-quiz results?

She shakes her head and keeps scrolling.

It's nice, even if their topic of research is obscure and she's trying to avoid looking at the blood-tree from the corner of her eye. It's really obscure.

"Have y'all heard that vampire lore? About the counting things?" All three off Veronica's unofficial-significant-others shake their heads, looking a little disinterested. "Essentially, vampires are obsessed with counting things. It's why The Count, on Sesame Street, is such a big deal. Like, if you dumped a fuckton of poppy seeds in front of a vampire, they'd be overcome with the primal urge to know how many poppy seeds there were there, down to the last one."

"So are you saying we should dump a fuckton of poppy seeds in front of Mayor McCoy, and-slash-or Josie McCoy, and see if they go to their knees over a counting kink?" Jughead asks.

Veronica shrugs. "I'm saying it's certainly an option."

He seems to weigh it up in his head. "I like it."

"Are we doing that, then?" Betty inquires from behind her light reading for the day.

"Yeah." Jughead nods and Archie bites his lip, looking between Jughead and Veronica. "We'll establish an elaborate plot to spill a mugs-worth of poppy seeds in front of the mayor. And see if she actually goes about counting them. Archie and Betty can cover Josie, okay, I think."

Veronica stuffs her phone in her purse and stands. "To Wholefoods we go, then."

Betty and Archie share a look and begin packing up their things, as Jughead finishes putting his MacBook back in his bag, and hauling it into his shoulder.

"You really should stop lugging that around, you know." She scolds as they exit the library, Betty's family tree book signed out by the blonde herself, smiley and cheery, giving Veronica the lollypop you get if you sign out a book (and only if you sign out a book, not flirt with the middle-aged librarian). "It'll ruin your already crap posture."

"Shut up. This is my origin story for becoming the trash-lady in Labyrinth." He retorts.

Veronica laughs, even as they pass the blood-tree and unlock their bikes from the cage, out front of the library. Veronica bumps their elbows together before they clamber onto their bikes and feels her chest ache nicely a little when Jughead beams at her.

~

Mayor McCoy does not take kindly to having poppy seeds dropped through her carpet when they come to see her about the state of the town square, still a mess after the almost-stake-burning event.

She even, graciously, helps them pick the seeds out of the carpet, individually, by hand, and refuses a vacuum cleaner. She makes them hand her the ones they got and put them on her desk to dispose of later.

It's all the proof they need.

~

"We dropped poppy seeds in front of Josie on the sidewalk, and she legit dropped to her knees, sobbing. She's a vampire, for sure." Archie tells Veronica, over the phone, on his way to Pop's to meet them.

"Jesus. Not quite as discreet as her mother, huh?" She comments, swirling her straw through her strawberry milkshake and meeting Pop Tate's eyes at the counter. He winks at her and she smiles a little.

"Doesn't appear that way, no." Archie sighs.

"A shame." Veronica responds, a similar air to her tone. "See you in a minute?"

"You bet." Archie hangs up and Veronica looks up to her other, unofficial, boyfriend, sitting across the booth from her.

"Hey," he looks up and smiles a little. She smiles back, because how often does she get this? "I don't know what I wanted to say, but you're dazzling today."

Jughead does that snort thing where he exhales through his nose in an amused way, without really making a sound. "Thanks Ronnie. You're looking particularly radiant today, yourself."

The bell on the door to the dinner tinkles, and Betty and Archie step in, looking frost-bitten and pleased with themselves.

Betty sits herself down beside Veronica leaving Jughead to shove over and let Archie press his side to Jughead's in an attempt to warm up. Jughead reluctantly raises his arm to stretch it over the top of the red leather bench seat and near Archie's neck, letting him settle in closer.

Betty looks excited, pulling the family tree book from the library out of her bag.

"So, not only did we drive Josie crazy out on the sidewalk by the record store, but I also found this." She slams open the book to a dog-eared page - Betty has never been so unattractive, but Veronica can forgive her the small fault, as she must have done it while on the move, in absence of a bookmark, or in absence of good memory - and turns the book for Jughead and Veronica to see.

The teens gasp in delight.

There are two relatively large portraits in the book, one of Josie, her hair pulled back into an attempt at a severe bun and a collar that rides up to just below her chin, a brooch at the throat; and one of Mayor McCoy, looking modest in some high-end fashion of the 20's.

"So, then, it's definitely confirmed." Veronica asks Betty excitedly. Archie looks about ready to curl up and fall asleep by Jughead right then and there (and this must be a soft day for Jughead, because he looks less pissed off than usual at this situation. He looks like he'd maybe happily let Archie dose off there).

"Oh yeah." Betty agrees and they high-five before kissing very briefly. Veronica looks back to the boys - Archie is almost definitely on the verge of sleep and Jughead looks content where he is - and then to the open book between her and Betty. A smaller portrait catches her eyes.

"Hey," she murmurs, and both Betty and Jughead look up. "Who's that?"

They both peer at the portrait she's pointing to. Betty puffs her cheeks out in confusion and Jughead lifts the book up, eyes flicking from the portrait from the 40's, to the man behind the counter. "It's like he never aged a fucking day," he breathes, looking like Veronica had unlocked the secrets to the universe.

"You guys just never noticed this?" Veronica asks, incredulous.

"Sure, our parents knew him when they were teenagers, but none of us really ever registered it." Betty whispers, still looking weirded out. She then takes the book from Jughead, snaps it closed, and slips it into her backpack. "Enough of that, for today."

"But Betty," Jughead all-but whines, jokingly, and waking Archie from his semi-nap.

"No," Betty snaps, mock-seriously, "no more mystery solving today."

"I'm with Betty, on this one," Archie adds, groggily. Jughead pats his head and Archie pushes his face into Jughead's chest.

"I actually think I need to take him home." Jughead says, closing his laptop. "He looks ready to die."

"Solid plan, take me home and build me a blanket fort." Archie mumbles into Jughead's t-shirt. Jughead rolls his eyes, fondly, and packs up, before ushering Archie out of the diner, holding hands.

Veroica turns to Betty who's stolen her milkshake. "Thief," she says, and Betty scoffs in response.

"Hey, Ronnie." Betty says, when Veronica's pulled out her phone, leaving Betty to her own devices, and her surrendered strawberry milkshake.

"Yeah?" She replies.

"You're my girlfriend, right?" Veronica bumps their elbows together, noting the way Betty's cheeks pink further when she does.

"Considering where I was the night we were almost burnt at the stake, right before your mom caught us, I would say that isn't up for debate." Veronica informs her. Betty turns towards her, putting  into perspective just how close they are.

"Is that a yes?" Betty whispers. Veronica grins.

"God, yes." She whispers back, and kisses her proper on the mouth.

"Oh, good." Betty murmurs, and the milkshake is abandoned entirely, for the time being, along with the book, and the ghost train passing by, just outside the diner, right on time.

 

Fin.