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i want to exorcize the demons from your past, i want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart

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sunlight filters in through the open window, the warm breeze of a hot summer’s afternoon causing the curtains to flutter as toni topaz blinks rapidly, her brows immediately knitting together when she squints with a groan.

 

it takes her a few moments to register the arm slung across the middle of her back as she buries her face into her pillow, pink hair falling around her face, tongue exploring her own mouth to find the taste of beer and tequila stagnant within it as she licks her lips last.

 

they taste like peppermint.

 

she hears the sound of horns honking and people yelling on the busy streets of new york outside her window, the echoes reaching her even up on the seventh floor of her shitty apartment building, and she finally finds the strength to push herself up slightly, coming to terms with the fact that she’s definitely naked underneath these sheets as she pushes them off her and grabs the wrist of the arm slung across her body.

 

“hey, wake up, you gotta leave.” her voice is husky, more than likely a result of hours of chain smoking last night as the body beside her groans and rolls over, but doesn’t budge.

 

toni’s eyes roam over a tanned, muscular back, landing on the mess of curled brown hair at the pillow of her bed before she rolls her eyes and sits up slowly.

 

dammit…what was this one’s name? cindy? sandra? sandy?

 

“toni, baby, come back to bed…” the girl whines, and toni cringes before she stands up, grabbing her underwear and black denim shorts and hastily putting them back on before grabbing a flannel and buttoning it up haphazardly.

 

“what part of ‘you gotta leave’ didn’t you hear?” toni says, grabbing the girl’s clothes off the floor and throwing them on top of her on the bed as she walks to her bedside table to grab her phone, wallet and keys, shoving them into her small travel bag on the floor. the girl slowly sits up, yawning as the sheets fall off her body, and toni swallows thickly at the sight of full breasts, perky and beautiful, recalls the memory of them being in her mouth-

 

“you treat all your girls like this?” the girl asks with a frown, looking down at her clothes on top of her, and toni scoffs as she grabs her pack of cigarettes as well.

 

“yes.” she says bluntly. the girl blinks owlishly, but gets off the bed, putting her clothes back on slowly as if waiting for toni to change her mind and tell her to stay.

 

instead, toni makes her way to the open window as she lights a cigarette, sucking in the toxic fumes and letting the lightheadedness of her first cigarette of the day hit her before resting her hand on the frame impatiently.

 

she needs to get back to the bar, for god’s sake, she doesn’t have time for this shit…veronica is gonna kill her-

 

since when, since fucking when does toni leave early for a quick fuck, even if the person is fucking hot as hell...

 

“are you gonna even talk to me?” the girl asks angrily, and toni turns to face her, smoke billowing out of her mouth and nose as the girl shoves her shirt back on, glaring at toni through a mess of mascara around her eyes. toni shrugs, taking another drag as the girl scoffs in disbelief.

 

“fucking unbelievable…” she mutters, grabbing her things and making her way out of toni’s bedroom, and the pink haired girl winces when she slams the door shut, the mirror on the wall beside it shaking with the impact.

 

sarah! her name was sarah! ah, shit…

 

toni finishes off the cigarette hurriedly, throwing it out the open window and ignoring the stupefied exclamation from some asswipe pedestrian at the bottom as she shoves her pack of cigarettes into her travel bag as well, preparing herself to leave. she rushes to the bathroom, stripping her clothes and turning the hot water on full blast before she ties her hair up in a quick bun and moves under it, letting the water wash over her body as she scrubs her face clean of last night’s makeup.

 

she didn’t mean to leave last night during her shift, but that fucking girl had been so insistent…

 

toni topaz has been living in new york for three years now, has been a ‘serpent’ at ‘the whyte wyrm’ for two and a half of those three years, and she’s never, ever, come across a girl that deadset on fucking her.

 

it’s definitely an ego boost, toni grinning underneath the stream of water hitting her face despite herself, and she feels a little guilty for kicking the girl out of her apartment so quickly, but this is how toni’s always been.

 

she doesn’t do relationships. she doesn’t do casual. she does hard liquor, a night of rough sex with a girl or guy who’s name she won’t remember and she moves on.

 

it’s how she likes to operate. it’s how she’s always operated.

 

as soon as she’s done rinsing the soap off her body, she steps out, not even bothering to wipe her body down from the water. the room is covered in steam and already hot enough to dry her body as she brushes her teeth over the sink quickly. she doesn’t bother with new makeup, simply puts on some eyeliner and mascara before she steps back out into her room, quickly putting on fresh clothes consisting of a grey crop top and denim shorts. she ties the flannel she was wearing around her waist and grabs her travel bag, slinging it over her shoulder. she sprays herself heavily with some cheap perfume before she leaves her bedroom, heading to the living room as she grabs her leather jacket and slowly puts it on.

 

it may be boiling right now, the july heat clinging to her skin, but she has to represent…

 

she grabs her helmet resting on the couch in her living room as soon as her jacket is on her shoulders comfortably and makes her way out the door. she locks it, not that it matters, she hasn’t got anything valuable to get stolen, and begins her descent down seven flights of stairs. she’s just reached the garage when her phone rings loudly, and toni looks down, her eyes widening when she reads the name at the top.

 

“shit.” she mutters. she answers it, fully prepared for a verbal beat down as soon as she raises the phone to her ear.

 

“veronica, i-.”

 

“and just what the fuck do you think you’re doing, leaving half way through your shift on one of our busiest nights, topaz?” veronica lodge growls, and toni sighs as she runs her fingers through her hair.

 

“i know, i’m sorry-.”

 

“what’s my only two fucking rules, toni? no leaving your shift early for a quick fuck and no boyfriend or girlfriend drama in my bar, it’s not that hard! you’re skating on thin ice as it is! betty keeps telling me i should fire you and be done with it!” toni grits her teeth.

 

“tell cooper to stick a pipe in it.” she hisses. veronica sighs.

 

“i’m inclined to agree with her. first that fight last week and now this? toni, you better give me a good reason to keep you around because i’m starting to lose sight of why i should.” toni’s heart sinks.

 

no, no, fuck, she can’t lose this job, this job is her whole life

 

“look, i’m coming to the bar now, okay? give me half an hour.” veronica sighs, and she’s silent for a few moments before she answers.

 

“fine. gives me enough time to wake up properly…you’ve got twenty-five minutes.” the line goes dead, and toni glares at it before she shoves her phone into her pocket and makes her way over to her bike. she kicks down the stand, swinging a leg onto the bike, shoving the key into the ignition and revving it to life.

 

as soon as she’s out of the garage, she’s tearing onto the streets of new york, relishing in the cold air that hits her and ignoring the angry car drivers that shout at her from their windows as she speeds right past them.

 

it’s okay, she’ll make it up to veronica. she’ll buy a bottle of her favorite, and she’ll tell her she’s sorry, that it won’t happen again. and it won’t. this is the first time in a long time toni’s abandoned the bar halfway through a shift, and veronica fucking loves her. they have a sisterhood, her, veronica, josie mccoy and, somewhat begrudgingly, betty cooper. they’re the goddamn serpents of the whyte wyrm, veronica’s not going to fire her…

 

she pulls up to the nearest liquor store, parking her bike on the side of the road and feeding the meter before she pulls her helmet off and rests it on the handle. she steps inside, the air conditioning immediately hitting her skin and drying the sweat clinging to it as she licks her lips and makes her way straight over to the bourbon section.

 

she has a love/hate relationship with the weather in new york, but she’d be lying if she said she enjoyed summer. the cloying heat, the constant sweating, the feeling of claustrophobia…no, she much prefers the snow, the chill of winter as she sits by a heater with a cup of coffee or tea in her hands…

 

what can she say, sometimes she likes the finer things like sitting in an arm chair in front of a fire…reminds her of home.

 

she comes to a stop in front of the bourbon section, her high heeled boots thumping on the ground as her eyes search for that brown cap, for the picture of that stupid ass turkey-

 

“you’ve got a snake on your jacket.” toni turns at the sound of a soft voice, her eyebrow immediately raising before her eyes land on a girl.

 

a girl who almost has her jaw dropping to the ground in awe.

 

long red hair, chocolate brown eyes filled with wonder and intrigue, full lips painted bright red that lift up into a smirk as she looks toni up and down. toni’s eyes roam over the sheer black lace of the top the girl is wearing, down to the matching booty shorts and the thigh high boots adorning her legs, leaving the creamy skin of her thighs exposed, and toni can practically smell the money on her.

 

yeah…she’s definitely out of toni’s league. fucking gorgeous, of course, but so out of her league...

 

“keen eyes.” toni says simply, turning back to the alcohol in front of her. she hears the sound of boots clacking on the ground, and when the girl gets closer, toni can fucking smell the price of the perfume that clings to this girl’s skin, expensive and fruity, the aroma surrounding her and cloying her senses as she bites down on her bottom lip to stop herself from looking at her.

 

“you look like a whiskey girl.” the girl says, her voice right beside toni’s ear, causing her to shudder, and she licks her lips and chuckles nonchalantly.

 

“it’s not for me, it’s for my boss.” toni clears her throat and steps forward, fingers wrapping around a bottle of maker’s mark, because there’s clearly no fucking wild turkey before she turns to face the girl once more.

 

the girl is observing her, perfect, straight white teeth sinking into her cherry colored bottom lip as she looks up into toni’s face with a raised eyebrow.

 

“so, not a whiskey girl?” she teases, and toni smirks.

 

“i’m more of an ‘everything’ kind of girl. try it once and if i like it…i’ll think about trying it again.” she says, her voice low and filled with seduction because she can’t fucking help herself, and this girl is fucking beautiful-

 

veronica. she needs to get back to the bar. fuck, she really doesn’t have time for this-

 

the girl watches her with lust filled eyes before she looks down at the bottle in toni’s hands with a smile.

 

“for your boss, hmm? a birthday, or an apology?” she asks, and toni rolls her eyes.

 

“got me all sorted, have you, red?” she mutters. the girl chuckles, and the sound causes a shiver to run up toni’s spine involuntarily.

 

“what’s your name?” the girl asks softly, and toni grins.

 

“sorry, my mother always taught me not to talk to strangers.” the girl’s smile widens as toni turns on her heel and makes her way to the front counter, swaying her hips purposefully as she does, and the cashier behind the counter, who toni sees all the time at the whyte wyrm, raises an eyebrow at her as she slams the bottle down in front of him.

 

“did you piss off veronica again?” he says with a grin, and toni glares at him before slamming a fifty dollar bill onto the counter.

 

“no free tequila shots for you tonight.” she says simply, grabbing the bottle and shoving it into her bag as he chuckles and shakes his head. she makes her way to the front door before she hears someone shout behind her.

 

“hey!” she turns, a smirk lighting up her features before she can stop them as the girl with the red hair watches her with intrigue.

 

“you didn’t explain what the snake means!” she says, moving to take a step closer, and toni grins as she opens the door and puts one foot out of it.

 

“it’s not a snake! it’s a serpent! ask around!” she calls back, raising a hand in farewell before she exits. she makes her way to her bike, swinging a leg back over it as she grabs her helmet and shoves it on, and she’s a little disappointed when she doesn’t see the girl standing at the door, a sigh escaping her before she turns the ignition and revs the bike up, tearing down the street once more.

 

who the hell was that girl? toni finds herself smiling underneath her helmet as she goes faster, her mind wondering where on earth that girl came from and why she hadn’t seen her around before. new york is a big city, sure, but toni’s been here for three years, she’s never seen beauty like that around these parts before…

 

she sighs, checking in her side mirror for any cars before moving to the next lane without even indicating. there’s no point dwelling on her, it was highly unlikely toni would ever come across her again…she looked way too fancy to be living in some poverty stricken area of new york. maybe she was just around for a visit, or buying a bottle of liquor for some friend for a birthday party at some lavish hotel in manhattan…there was no way this girl frequently came around this area of brooklyn often.

 

she reaches the bar just within the time frame she was given, parking her bike on the small parking lot of the bar as her eyes look up at the neon sign fondly. she steps off the bike, swinging her keys around her finger before she makes her way inside.

 

“hey, archie.” she says, smiling at the security guard at the hallway that leads into the bar, and archie andrews grins at her, brown eyes crinkling as he crosses his arms over his broad chest.

 

“that girl you left with last night was hot as hell, toni. nice catch.” archie says with an appreciative smirk, and toni rolls her eyes.

 

“yeah, she wasn’t worth it, though. how mad is ronnie?” toni asks, sinking her teeth into her bottom lip with worry, and archie shrugs.

 

“not quite a ‘i’m about to burn the bar down’ angry, but past a ‘i’ll kick your ass if you even stare at me, archie’ angry.” he summarizes, and toni winces.

 

“got it. nothing a bottle of maker’s mark won’t fix.” She says, swinging her bag around and pulling out the bottle of whiskey. archie laughs, ruffling the back of his red hair as he does.

 

“good luck.” toni simply nods, making her way into the main bar and relishing in the way her boots sink into the sticky ground as she peeks her head in to see veronica sitting on top of the counter of the bar, flicking through a wad of cash with a cigarette stuck between her lips.

 

“you’re late! i said twenty five minutes!” she barks, not even looking at toni as she sighs and makes her way over to the raven haired girl.

 

“i was grabbing you this.” she stops in front of her, slamming the bottle down on top of the bar, and veronica’s chocolate brown eyes move down to it in appreciation before she looks up at toni with a raised eyebrow.

 

toni can tell she’s only just woken up, her raven hair sticking up all over the place and her eyes bloodshot despite the fact it’s almost two in the afternoon, but this is what their lives are from thursday to sunday…

 

“hmm…you’re forgiven. for being late at least.” she clutches the cigarette between her fingers, her cheeks hollowing as she sucks in the fumes, the tip of the cigarette burning cherry red before she grabs the bottle and two shot glasses from behind the bar.

 

“none for me.” toni says, wrinkling her nose in disgust. she can still taste the alcohol in the back of her throat despite brushing her teeth. veronica scoffs.

 

“get real, topaz, it’s not for you. you’re being punished, remember? these shots are for me and me only.” she says with a grin, popping the bottle open and pouring it into the two shot glasses in her hand. toni sighs.

 

“look, i really am sorry, v. that girl wouldn’t leave me the fuck alone the whole night, i wouldn’t have gotten any work done, anyway. she was all over me.” veronica rolls her eyes.

 

“then you tell one of the boys and they get her the fuck out of here. it’s not that hard, toni. just admit you were looking for someone to fuck. i’d rather you be honest than lie to me.” she grunts. toni sighs again.

 

veronica lodge knows her way too fucking well…

 

“she wasn’t even worth it.” she grumbles. veronica laughs.

 

“they rarely are.” she admits, downing the first shot before grabbing the second and doing the same. she smacks her lips appreciatively before grinning at toni widely.

 

“you know how to get me, kid.” she says simply, and toni smiles.

 

veronica lodge had come from a rich background, her father and mother owners of some estate in a town called riverdale a few hours away from new york, and her father had begun construction on some big tourist attraction within the town that veronica hadn’t been happy about at all. veronica had grown up in riverdale, along with betty, the two of them best friends since kindergarten, and upon learning about her father’s plans, she’d taken betty’s hand and brought her to new york. they bought a bar together with the money veronica had saved thanks to her father…and the rest is history.

 

toni had moved to new york three years ago from washington, looking to further a career in photography and to simply get away from home for...other reasons, which led nowhere, and on a particularly hard night of feeling useless and hopeless about her future, she’d stumbled upon the whyte wyrm. toni had drunkenly unloaded her woes onto veronica, who had offered her a job straight away, and again…the rest, as they say, is history.

 

“i really am sorry, veronica.” she says softly, and veronica stares at her for a few moments before she sighs in defeat and holds out a hand for toni to take.

 

“it’s fine, t. you know i’m not gonna fire you, i gave you that serpent jacket for a reason. you’re one of us, now and forever. but seriously, don’t do it again. josie had to pick up the slack, and betty’s pretty pissed off. she says you’re irresponsible.” toni rolls her eyes.

 

“tell her to loosen her ponytail.” she says, taking a cigarette from the pack veronica has resting on the bar top, and veronica laughs loudly before raising the lighter, toni placing the cigarette between her lips and allowing veronica to light it up for her.

 

“you know she loves you, toni. she just worries about you. about all of us. she’s a caring person.” veronica says fondly, and toni rolls her eyes again.

 

“too caring. i’m fine.” toni says with a shrug, jumping up onto the counter and swinging her legs as she takes a drag from the cigarette between her fingertips. veronica watches her for a few moments.

 

“are you?” she asks softly. toni hesitates. like she said, veronica knows her way too fucking well…has probably already summarized the exact reason why toni had left the bar last night with that girl, desperate for distraction, for something to take the pain away…

 

it's been almost seven years, but it still hurts. toni's quite sure it won't ever stop hurting...

 

she licks her lips, grabbing the bottle of bourbon and raising it to her mouth to take a swig.

 

fuck it.

 

“yeah.” she says simply, slamming the bottle back down on the bar, and veronica sighs.

 

“i know it’s getting close to the anniversary-.”

 

“i’m fine, veronica.” toni says more firmly, and veronica purses her lips, watches her for a few moments once again before she nods.

 

“okay.” she says simply. footsteps echoing across the back of the bar pulls toni’s attention away from veronica, distracting her from the thoughts that swirl in her mind as betty cooper comes to a stop once her green eyes land on toni. she simply frowns before sighing and making her way toward them.

 

“glad to see you could join us.” she says, and toni grins as she moves her eyes up to the signature blonde ponytail swinging from betty’s shoulders.

 

“you know i can’t stay away for too long. you’ll miss me too much.” toni teases, and betty rolls her eyes, a small smile playing on her lips as she adjusts her leather jacket that covers her pajama shorts and tank top, turning to grab a glass as the green serpent emblazoned on the back shines under the bar lights. betty and veronica own a flat above the bar, and toni grins down at the fluffy slippers betty’s wearing as she makes her way over to them.

 

“what are we drinking for breakfast?” she asks wearily, coming to a stop in front of veronica, and the raven haired girl smiles as she grabs the bottle of whiskey and pours it into the glass betty holds out to her.

 

“toni got it. as a ‘i’m sorry for leaving early to fuck a hot girl’.” she says, pouring a few splashes into betty’s glass, and betty sighs as she looks at toni with a frown.

 

“we have rules, t.”

 

“i know, b. no boyfriend or girlfriend drama in the bar, and no leaving early for a quick fuck. it’s the first time i’ve broken a rule in a long time, give me a break.” toni mutters, and betty purses her lips and nods slowly.

 

“i’m willing to overlook it. just don’t do it again, okay? we really needed you last night, the bar got busier after you left.” she says, taking a sip from the glass in her hands, and toni looks at them both in surprise.

 

“you seriously need to start locking people out at a certain time. i left at two in the morning.” she says incredulously. veronica chuckles.

 

“if we started locking people out, we’d have a riot on our hands. you do realize we’re the most popular bar in brooklyn, right?”

 

“probably all of new york, actually.” betty says with a grin, and toni chuckles.

 

“i don’t know, i ran into a girl at the liquor store and she asked me what the snake on my jacket meant.” she teases. veronica’s eyes widen before her face contorts in disbelieving rage.

 

“what?! everyone fucking knows what the serpent on a leather jacket means! who is she?” she demands, and betty laughs as toni shakes her head with a grin.

 

“i don’t know, i didn’t catch her name. she was hot as shit, though.” toni says fondly. betty rolls her eyes.

 

“unbelievable. how can she not know-.”veronica growls under her breath, and betty reaches out and grips her shoulder with a chuckle.

 

“calm down, v. if she doesn’t know, she’ll learn eventually. maybe she’s new around here.” veronica scoffs.

 

“yeah, let her try and show her face in this bar, i’ll kick her out faster than she can run out with my heel up her ass…”

 

as soon as betty finishes her drink and toni and veronica finish another cigarette, veronica puts toni and betty to work, promising them proper breakfast as a reward. she has them carry cases of beer from the truck out back, and toni rolls her eyes when betty’s cheeks flush red at the sight of jughead jones, their delivery driver, stepping out of the truck, his trademark beanie adorning the crown of his head. he lifts it slightly to push back midnight black curls as he smiles at betty softly.

 

“hey, betty.” he says, making his way to the back of the truck to lift the door, and betty smiles shyly at him.

 

“hey, jug…” toni almost groans from the high school foolishness of it all. they’re all in their early twenties and betty’s acting like a fucking fifteen year old with a schoolgirl crush…

 

toni follows jughead to the back of the truck, a frown on her face as he jumps up into it and grabs the first carton.

 

“hey, you never told me where the nickname came from. surely your parents didn’t name you ‘jughead’.” toni says, grunting as she takes the case of beer out of jughead’s hands, and he shrugs.

 

“not sure, honestly. but it’s better than people calling me ‘forsythe’ all the time.” he mutters. toni almost chokes.

 

“fuck off, your name is not ‘forsythe’.” jughead grins, and toni almost drops the case as she laughs loudly.

 

“holy shit, and i thought having the name ‘antoinette’ was bad…”

 

jughead helps them load the rest into the back room, and once again, like every other day for the last two years, he leaves without asking betty out on a date, simply offering her a smile and a promise that he’ll be back tonight as he jumps back into the truck and takes off. betty’s shoulders sag in defeat as soon as he rounds the corner, and toni rolls her eyes.

 

“just fucking ask him out, cooper.” she grunts, reaching up to grab the cigarette tucked behind her ear, and betty looks at her with worry.

 

“what if he doesn’t like me in that way?” she says in fear, and toni laughs as she digs into her pocket for her lighter.

 

“he didn’t even say ‘hi’ to me, i’m pretty sure he likes you, betty, so stop being a prude and ask him out. break the gender stereotype of the guy always asking.” betty frowns, teeth chewing on her bottom lip thoughtfully as toni lights her cigarette and takes a drag with a sigh. a few moments pass before betty finally shakes her head.

 

“i can’t, toni. what if it ends up going really well? then jughead can’t ever come here again because veronica and i made a promise that there’d be no boyfriends or girlfriends allowed at the bar.”

 

“oh come on, archie stays here all the time!” toni exclaims, and betty sighs.

 

“archie and ronnie aren’t dating, you know that. we don’t need that drama happening here, this is a relationship free zone. appear available but never be available, remember?” she says firmly. toni doesn’t respond, simply shrugs as she finishes off her cigarette.

 

she remembers. she’s been living by that fucking code ever since veronica yelled it at her on her first day here, the words sparking something within her that changed her entire life.

 

veronica arrives with breakfast shortly after, and as soon as they're done eating, the rest of the day is spent cleaning up from the previous night in preparation to do it all over again as soon as the sun sets, the neon light outside getting closer and closer to lighting up with that all too familiar saying:

 

“the whyte wyrm. open thursday to sunday, from dusk till dawn. home of the infamous ‘serpents’.”

 

josie mccoy arrives well into the evening, looking a little refreshed, and as soon as her eyes fall on toni, her grin fades, a cold glare taking over her dark features as toni sighs in defeat and nods her head.

 

“okay, what am i buying you?” she asks simply, and josie huffs, contemplates it before adjusting her jacket and making her way to the bar.

 

“three shots of tequila and you’re forgiven. mama’s had a long day.” she sighs tiredly, and betty frowns.

 

“everything okay?” she asks. josie shrugs.

 

“yeah. mom’s riding my ass again about the record label. she wants me to sign with them, but i read that contract thoroughly. they pretty much wanna take my whole life over, and i’m not about to sign a deal like that just to get fame and fortune. that’s not why i’m doing this. i want my music to change lives, not just my own.” toni smiles fondly, and betty nods in agreement as veronica wraps an arm around josie’s shoulders and gives them a gentle squeeze.

 

“well, screw your mom. you know we’ll support you through anything, josie.”

 

“even if it means i have to leave?” josie says with a pout, and veronica smiles sadly.

 

“you may leave the bar one day, but you’ll always be a serpent, kid.” she says wistfully.

 

a sisterhood. that’s what they are. it’s been that way since day one, and even though the other three know that josie leaving them is a high possibility now that her music career is finally starting to kick off, record labels clawing at each other to get to her, there’s nothing that will ever change that. josie is one of them. now and forever.

 

but toni has to admit that the thought of josie leaving is saddening. she may not be as close with the dark skinned girl as she is veronica and betty, but josie was always there for her. in fact, that day she’d come to the bar for the first time with only ten dollars to her name, josie had been the one to give her a free tequila shot and an ear to cry to before veronica had taken over.

 

but toni’s happy for her. in the almost three years that toni’s known her, she’s seen josie go through a lot of bullshit with not only record labels, but her mother as well, and now she was finally on the cusp of something great.

 

“alright, enough pouting, let’s get this place ready for a party, shall we?” veronica says, clapping her hands with excitement before she moves out from behind the bar and yells out to archie.

 

“archiekins? call the boys and tell them to haul ass over here!” she bellows, and archie ducks his head around the corner of the booth with a playful grin.

 

“on it, boss!” he yells back. toni rolls her eyes as veronica grins back at him.

 

“are you bossy like that in the bedroom with him, too, ronnie?” toni teases, and veronica laughs, but says nothing.

 

toni wonders just how long archie is willing to hold on to this ‘friends with benefits’ relationship he has with veronica. it’s been going strong for almost a year now, but toni’s seen the way archie looks at her. it won’t be long before veronica will have to choose between keeping a security guard or gaining a boyfriend.

 

no girlfriend or boyfriend drama. it was the number one rule.

 

toni’s never had to worry about it.

 

the boys, which consists of “sweet pea” (toni still doesn’t know his real name despite knowing him for two and a half years), reggie mantle and fangs fogarty arrive just as the sun sets at almost eight o’clock at night, the three of them taking a shot of whiskey before heading to the entrance of the bar to begin allowing entrance to customers, and toni, josie, veronica and betty head to the back room to get ready. toni slides on her favorite pair of ripped black jeans that she always leaves here before putting on her favorite vest top, unbuttoning two of the buttons to let her cleavage show before veronica comes over to her, observing her with a frown.

 

“here.” she reaches over, tightening toni’s bra straps so that her boobs are practically suffocating, and toni looks down at them with a grin.

 

“better?” she asks. veronica grins back.

 

“better.” toni puts a few braids in her hair before throwing her high heeled boots back on, and she sits down in front of the studio mirror with the fancy lights as she begins applying her makeup.

 

they’re all done within twenty minutes, the four of them sliding into their serpent jackets with a grin before they make their way back to the bar, and archie makes his way over to them, puppy dog eyes looking at veronica in awe before he leans over the bar toward them.

 

“ready?” he asks simply, and veronica smiles and leans in, pressing a chaste kiss to his cheek as betty turns the music on full blast.

 

“light us up, archiekins.”

 

the second the neon light outside the bar sparks to life, people begin filing in, sweet pea and fangs checking id’s and greeting their regulars happily, and toni has her hands full within five minutes, bodies quickly filling the bar to get just a view of the serpents behind it.

 

like veronica said, they’re the most popular bar in brooklyn.

 

“toni! four shots of tequila!” one of the regulars, andy yells, and toni grins as she grabs four shot glasses and slams them down onto the counter.

 

“starting early, are we?” she yells over the noise of the music, a thumping beat with heavy rapping, and andy grins.

 

“the other two are for you!” he shouts with a wink, and toni rolls her eyes as she grabs a bottle of tequila and spins it in her hands with a flourish before sliding it across the four shot glasses. she accepts andy’s twenty and ten dollar bills with the other hand.

 

“still trying to drink me under the table? it’s been a year, andy, you’ll never win!” she tells him, raising a glass and clinking it with him before she downs it and ‘chases’ it with a beer.

 

which really means she spits the tequila back into the bottle without him knowing.

 

she takes the second shot, doing the same as more people begin piling in. the serpents serve as best they can, doing their usual tricks of spinning bottles and singing along to the music that pounds through the speaker system. toni throws ice into the air at one point, catching the cubes as they fall into a cup that garners raucous cheering from the crowd, and veronica stands up on the edge of the bar, raising a bottle of vodka into the air.

 

“are we ready to have a fucking party or what, brooklyn?!” she screams, and the crowd roars as she raises the bottle to her lips, taking a sip and sloshing it around in her mouth before she lights a match and spits the alcohol onto the flame. there’s a few screams of surprise when the flame spreads across the bar, and veronica does it again, vodka spilling down her chin as the crowd cheers enthusiastically.

 

within an hour, the bar is packed, people cheering and dancing as they crowd the bar, and a new song begins. the second the familiar sound of joe elliot screeching ”step inside, walk this way” plays, josie cheers and she jumps up onto the bar top, her hips swaying to the guitar as the crowd goes wild for her.

 

she curls a finger at toni, calling her up, and toni grins as she jumps up onto the bar and runs across it briefly before sliding on her knees, coming to a stop right at josie’s feet as she swings her head wildly to the music. she grips josie’s hips, pulling herself up as she pushes herself as close to josie as physically possible, the both of them dancing seductively along to the song before veronica calls out. toni turns just as she throws a sugar shaker at her, and toni grins as she catches it and holds it up for the crowd to see.

 

“who wants to live out the song currently thumping through your veins?” she screams, and the crowd roars, a swarm moving toward the counter as toni tilts the sugar shaker upside down and lets it literally pour on the customers, all of them with their tongues out, desperate for a taste.

 

josie grabs a bottle of tequila, holding it up with a cheer as people begin slamming their shot glasses onto the table, and she spins and dances as she pours shots, taking money from the hands waving in the air as she does. the song’s coming to a close, and toni moves over to the pole on the far left of the counter, gripping it tightly and swinging her body around it before grinding her hips against it, and she can spot the sea of men staring at her in awe, knows they want nothing more than to ravish her body as she falls back, a hand gripping the pole to keep her steady as her pink hair hits a few of them in the face.

 

she takes her jacket off, throwing it behind the bar, where betty catches it, and she wraps her legs around the pole, practically melding herself to it as her body twists to perfection around it. the song comes to a close, another instant classic starting up as the familiar drum beat and guitar twang echoes around the bar, toni mouthing along as soon as michael hutchence’s voice sings out as sweat begins to cling to her skin.

 

“‘all you got is this moment, twenty first century’s yesterday…’” she sings, and she watches as josie steps down from the bar top, goes back to serving, and she knows it’s all on her now to entertain, to keep the customers happy as they wait to be served. the second she hears ”so slide over here”, she slides along the bar on her knees again, swinging her hair and thrusting her hips up before grabbing a stray tequila shot and downing it, the burn in her throat ever so familiar as she jumps up and spins once.

 

“yeah, baby! WOO!” one guy yells from the back, and toni grins as she runs her fingers through her hair, lifting it up off the back of her head for some relief as she sways her hips to the sound of the guitar. it isn’t long before veronica jumps up onto the bar, and she makes her way over to toni, her chest pressing against toni’s back as she twirls a piece of toni’s hair between her fingers, and the crowd is going nuts watching them dance, but toni’s used to this.

 

this is what the whyte wyrm is all about. this is why they’re famous. they’re women, taking ownership of their bodies, their sexuality, their freedom, and putting on a show. it’s entertainment. it’s fun.

 

it’s unlike any bar anyone’s ever been to.

 

veronica grips toni’s chin between her fingers, lips inches away from toni’s own as she looks to the crowd with a seductive smirk before singing along to the song.

 

“‘i need you tonight…cause i’m not sleeping. there’s something about you, girl…that makes me sweat.’” toni drops to her knees, veronica gripping her hands and helping her slide between her legs before she moves back up to her feet and stomps across the bar, body moving along to the beat of the music, and she’s dripping with sweat, but the crowd is loving it, bodies glistening in the summer heat as josie and betty serve as many people as they can. but no one complains.

 

why complain about the wait time for a drink when there’s all this happening?

 

veronica grabs one of the guys closest to the counter, spinning him around and pulling him until his back is arched over the bar, and she grabs a bottle of vodka, pouring the drink into his mouth and down his chest as his friends roar with approval. she shoves him away, the guy cheering as vodka spills from his chin, and toni moves behind her, hands resting on veronica’s hips and her chest pressed against veronica’s back as the song comes to an end and they both strike a pose, the crowd exploding with appraisal. veronica grins, and toni presses a kiss to her cheek before they both jump down from the bar and begin serving drinks once more.

 

toni quickly manages to throw her hair up into a loose ponytail, and betty grins at her as toni laughs, nodding at her own hair, which is resting upon her shoulders for once.

 

“loosened your ponytail, huh?” she shouts over the crowd and the music, and betty rolls her eyes as she grabs the soda gun and turns to the crowd.

 

“who’s feeling a little hot after that performance?” she screams, and the crowd roars so loudly, that toni almost covers her ears with a grin.

 

“well then, let me cool you guys down!” betty roars, and she’s spraying the crowd with water from the soda gun, all of them cheering loudly as she raises it high with a cheer.

 

toni chuckles and turns back to the bar-

 

and comes face to face with the girl from the liquor store.

 

she freezes, her heart pounding against her chest wildly, and not just from the erratic dancing she was just doing as her eyes take in the girl’s chocolate brown eyes, her red hair curled to perfection and her lips covered in that same red lipstick as they pull up into a smile when her eyes meet toni’s.

 

god, she’s fucking stunning.

 

“so…i found out what the serpent means!” the girl says over the noise with a wide smile. toni grins breathlessly, and she steps closer to the girl, leaning over the counter to hear her.

 

“looks like it!” she says simply. the girl raises an eyebrow before nodding at her.

 

“you’ve got some moves! i’m…thoroughly impressed!” she shouts. toni’s eyes widen.

 

“you saw that?” she asks in shock. the girl nods once with a smile.

 

“i see why this bar is so famous now!” she says. toni grins, and she’s about to say something when a guy almost knocks the girl over to get toni’s attention.

 

“i want a beer!” he shouts drunkenly, his eyes bloodshot, and toni bares her teeth and grabs him by the shirt, tugging him forward angrily.

 

“then you wait your fucking turn!” she shouts, shoving him back so hard, he goes barreling into his two friends, who laugh at him as his cheeks turn bright red. the girl watches toni in surprise, eyes wide.

 

yeah, she’s definitely not from around here if this kind of behavior is surprising to her…

 

toni sighs and leans in closer to her once more.

 

“what can i get for you?” she asks softly. the girl swallows thickly before she licks her lips.

 

“two vodka shots. one for me, one for you.” she says with a small smile. toni grins, grabbing two shot glasses and a bottle of vodka, and she spins the bottle in her hands before she fills the glasses right to the top, sliding one over to the red haired girl as she raises her own.

 

“on the house. cheers.” she says, clinking her glass to the girl’s before they both down their shots, and the girl winces, a shiver running up both their spines before she leans in closer to toni.

 

“can we talk outside? it’s crowded in here.” she shouts, and toni chuckles.

 

“it’s a bar, sweetheart. what did you expect?” she says with a cocked eyebrow. the girl smiles, but toni turns her head to veronica regardless.

 

“ronnie! i’m heading out for a smoke!” she yells, making the motion with her fingers, and veronica pauses at the beer tap and glares at her.

 

“you said that last night and you never came back!” she growls. toni rolls her eyes.

 

“i’ll come back this time!” veronica hesitates, but eventually sighs and waves her off. toni grabs her serpent jacket, shoving it on before she looks back at the girl and nods her head to the entrance.

 

“come on!” toni uses her arms to push herself up and over the bar, landing on her feet gracefully as she comes face to face with the girl properly, and she takes in the girl’s outfit. a stunning black dress that fits her perfectly, accenting her curves as it comes to a stop just above her mid-thigh. she looks dressed to the nines, definitely not appropriate for a bar, and toni can’t help but grin as she pulls her gaze away, looking up at the girl as she watches toni with a smirk. toni shakes her head before beckoning her to follow.

 

whoever this girl is, she’s gonna be the fucking death of her…

 

she pushes through the crowd with ease before she reaches the hallway, and she passes reggie and archie, who both grin at her as reggie holds his hand up with a grin on his face.

 

“killed it as usual, t!” he says, looking for a high five, and toni reciprocates, slapping her hand against his before she gets to the entrance. as soon as she’s out in the summer heat, the cool winds cause the sweat on her body to dampen, she looks at the line, groaning when she sees it’s trailing down at least three blocks as she looks at sweet pea and fangs.

 

sweet pea, fangs, reggie and archie were like brothers to her, the small security team of the four boys their protection against the men who got a little too handsy at the bar, and toni has a feeling they’re gonna be kicking out a few people in a couple of hours…saturday’s were always crazy. the boys were in for a rough night.

 

“cigarette?” she asks. sweet pea grins and reaches into his pocket, his eyes landing on the redhead beside her, and his smile fades before he shakes his head.

 

“don’t go leaving again, ronnie will kill you.” he says simply, and toni rolls her eyes.

 

“ronnie doesn’t own me. shut up and give me a cigarette.” he chuckles as he hands her one before giving her a lighter, his eyes moving to the girl once more, and toni walks around the corner to the back, the girl following her as her heels clack on the asphalt ground loudly.

 

“you’re not bringing me back here for a quick fuck, are you?” the girl asks with a raised eyebrow, and toni grins.

 

“why, you want one?” she asks devilishly, lifting the cigarette to her lips and trying to light it, but the wind keeps blowing the flame out. she growls, and the girl sighs and takes the cigarette from her hands, cold fingers meeting toni’s warm ones and causing a spark of electricity warm enough to light her cigarette to flow through toni’s body. she shudders involuntarily, and the girl flicks the lighter with ease, the flame staying steady as toni looks into her eyes and leans forward, the tip of the cigarette beginning to smoke as she takes a drag.

 

“i’d like to get your name first.” the girl says with a grin, and toni chuckles as she blows smoke out of her mouth with a nod.

 

“antoinette. but my friends call me toni.” she holds her hand out, and the girl smiles as she takes her warm hand into her cold one.

 

“cheryl.” she says, and toni lets the name reverberate in her brain for a few moments before she’s grinning.

 

“cheryl…” she says simply. god, it sounds fucking ethereal, where the hell did this girl come from?

 

“that’s my name, don’t wear it out. it sounds good coming from your lips…” she looks at toni through hooded lids, and toni bites down on her bottom lip before she takes another drag from her cigarette to stop herself from grabbing this girl and slamming her against the wall.

 

“so you did some digging, huh? found out what the serpent meant?” toni asks, and cheryl smiles.

 

“i asked the cashier at the liquor store, and he gave me this.” cheryl reaches into the clutch bag caught between her fingers, opening it and pulling out a small black matchstick box and throwing it into the air. toni catches it, her eyes falling on the familiar green snake with the words ‘the whyte wyrm’ printed in white beside it, followed by an address below the name and picture. she purses her lips, nodding once before she hands the box back to cheryl.

 

“nice job, nancy drew.” toni says with a deep exhale. cheryl chuckles.

 

“i’m a determined person, antoinette. when i want something…i’ll do whatever it takes to get it.” she says firmly, and toni feels her heart pound against her chest as she licks her lips and takes another drag from her cigarette.

 

“toni.” she says simply. cheryl smiles, catching her double meaning before bowing her head as she watches toni with careful eyes before talking again.

 

“how long do i have you for?” cheryl asks. toni rolls her eyes, looking down at her cigarette, which is halfway done.

 

“until this finishes, so…” she trails off, taking another drag to make her point, and cheryl frowns before she nods once.

 

“then i guess we need to find another day when you’re not so busy.” she says simply. toni raises an eyebrow, trying her best to keep calm even though her heart is pounding painfully against her chest. why the fuck was she such an invalid around this girl? toni could have a girl naked with a snap of her fingers, usually, but this…this is something else.

 

“you asking me out on a date, red?” she teases, trying to keep the shake out of her voice. cheryl grins.

 

“would that be so surprising?” she asks. toni scoffs, her eyes raking over cheryl’s body with a mixture of lust and wonder.

 

“i’m some hood rat bartender in brooklyn and you look like you just stepped straight off the set of gossip girl, so yeah, it’s surprising. what are you doing in a place like this, anyway?” toni asks, motioning to the surrounding neighborhood of brooklyn. she needs to know where the fuck this girl came from…

 

cheryl says nothing for a few moments, her eyes observing the neighborhood as well before she shrugs and steps forward with a smile.

 

“business…and pleasure.” she says, her eyes moving up and down toni’s body, and toni swallows the lump that builds in her throat as she licks her lips and takes another drag.

 

keep it cool, t. be suave. you can do this, you totally can…she’s just a girl…a really, fucking beautiful girl…

 

“oh well, pleasure, i can definitely help with, cheryl.” she says with a playful smirk.

 

jackpot, t. well done.

 

cheryl chuckles under her breath, her teeth sinking into a cherry red bottom lip as she regards toni almost thoughtfully, perhaps wondering what the pink haired girl would look like spread out on her sheets, soft moans escaping her lips…

 

toni’s definitely thinking about cheryl that way. what can she say? she’s a horny mess pretty much twenty four seven. it’s hard not to be when you spend four nights a week grinding against three other beautiful girls in a crowded bar filled with the smell of alcohol and raging hormones.

 

“i’m sure you can, toni.” toni grins at the nickname, but it quickly fades when cheryl takes a step closer to her, eyes never leaving toni’s, even when she takes another drag from her cigarette.

 

cheryl comes to a stop inches away from her, and toni can’t fucking breathe, cheryl’s fingers reaching out to grip the lapels of her jacket, and toni’s breath catches, her lips pursing and her eyes fluttering closed on instinct as bright red lips come closer and closer…

 

“but i’d hate to cost you your job…your boss seems like a real hardass.” cheryl whispers, her breath washing over toni’s face, and she can smell something akin to cherries as she slowly opens her eyes and looks at cheryl, dumbfounded.

 

“i-we’re not open monday to wednesday, so i’m free then.” toni croaks out, blinking rapidly and ignoring the throb between her legs.

 

what the hell is she doing? appear available, but never be available, that’s not only the bar rule, but her fucking rule-

 

cheryl sighs sadly as her eyes fall on the cigarette in toni’s fingers.

 

“looks like your cancer stick’s done.” she says, and toni looks down at her cigarette to see it’s down to the filter, weak smoke still escaping it as she exhales shakily and throws it at her feet to stub it out. cheryl hums thoughtfully.

 

“well, i’m busy monday night, but tuesday i think i’m free, so…” she trails off, and toni hesitates, licking her lips as she tries her best to fight the urge to grab this girl and lay one on her.

 

god, she’s so fucking beautiful…

 

the girl suddenly reaches into her purse, grabbing a pen and paper before writing something down on it, and she folds it before stepping forward once more, her fingers suddenly brushing across toni’s collarbone, causing her breath to hitch. she looks up at her, teeth sinking into her lower lip as cheryl looks down at her mouth in wonder before tucking the piece of paper into toni’s bra.

 

“let me know.” she says with a lopsided smile, her fingers brushing down toni’s body ever so gently, causing goosebumps to erupt over her arms that have nothing to do with the cool wind hitting her sweat soaked skin as she grips her bag tightly and turns to walk back toward the road. toni watches her go, her feet staggering forward as if to follow her when she realizes she looks like a complete and utter lust-filled idiot.

 

“hey! what happens if i’m busy tuesday night?” toni yells out to her, trying to gain back some of her credibility, and cheryl turns to face her, a wicked grin lighting up her features before she shrugs.

 

“then i guess that’s your loss, antoinette!”

 

wow.

 

toni is so fucked…

 

she watches her hail a cab, watches it come to a halt in front of cheryl as she jumps into the back of it without a second glance, and toni is standing there at a complete and utter loss for words for a few moments before she remembers she’s supposed to be working.

 

“shit!” she runs back inside through the back door, quickly running to her locker and pulling out her phone from her bag to write down the girl’s number, grabbing the piece of paper tucked into her bra and hastily writing the number into her contacts. she frowns, wondering what she should put cheryl under in her phone before she grins and types out the word she’s thinking of.

 

‘bombshell’.

 

she gets back out to the bar just in time to see veronica and betty finishing off a dance on top of the bar, and she breathes a sigh of relief when josie winks at her as she gets back into position.

 

“don’t worry, we’ve got them entertained!” she shouts, and toni grins.

 

“when don’t we, josie? when don’t we?”

 

------------------

 

“woo! one thousand, two hundred in tips, ladies!” veronica cheers, slamming her stack of money down onto the dining table as she stands up and swings her hips to the music playing in the small diner they’re occupying.

 

it’s almost seven in the morning, and toni is fucking exhausted. friday and saturday nights at the bar always ended at this time, people somehow still partying on, taking the ‘from dusk till dawn’ hours of the bar quite literally, and it’s tiring, but at least it’s only two nights out of the week. most thursdays, veronica’s happy to close the bar by four, and on sundays, they barely make it to three in the morning.

 

they’re all tired, but this is their usual routine. they need to wind down, and they always come to roberto's diner for some grub before they retire home to sleep, it’s tradition.

 

but right now, toni wants to get home. she can feel her phone burning in her pocket, and all she can think about is the new number saved into it that she wants to message.

 

“three hundred even, girls!” veronica grins, and toni can’t help but grin back as she laughs, erasing cheryl from her thoughts and grabbing the syrup on the table. she completely slathers her pancakes in the sticky goodness, josie sticking a finger under the stream, and toni bites at her hand playfully, josie grinning at her before licking her finger clean.

 

“we are killing the game, damn!” she exclaims, and betty crinkles her nose with a grin before she takes the money off the table and begins counting out three hundred to spread amongst the four of them.

 

“i hope this week’s tips cover your rent, toni.” betty says with worry, and toni rolls her eyes as she folds a pancake and takes a bite hungrily. betty was always the worry wart out of all of them, and toni appreciates how much betty cares about all of them, but damn, why was she such a mom-

 

“you worry about my rent too much, cooper.”

 

“of course i do, you’ve been kicked out of four apartments for not paying on time!” betty exclaims, and toni grins sheepishly as josie laughs loudly.

 

“relax, betty, between the tips and the twenty-five an hour we pay her, she’s golden.” veronica says with a smirk.

 

“besides, if my landlord tries to kick me out, i’ll just kick his ass like i did the last one.” toni says, taking another bite of her pancake taco, and betty frowns as veronica shakes her head with a grin.

 

“you’re a fucking riot, topaz.” she guffaws.

 

"hey, he grabbed my ass and told me he wouldn't mind me not paying rent on time if i 'gave him some', the guy was a fucking asshole, he deserved that broken nose." toni growls, and betty sighs as veronica and josie both laugh. when betty hands her the three hundred in tips, toni wipes her hands from the syrup covering them and rolls it up, shoving it into her bra as a new song plays over the speakers, prompting josie and veronica to cheer as they begin dancing together.

 

"oh, this is my jam! roberto! turn that up!" josie hollers loudly, and veronica grins and interlaces her hands with josie, tugging her closer as they dance happily.

 

toni laughs heartily, watching them fondly, but she realizes they’re distracted, as is betty, counting the money for herself, josie and veronica, and toni takes the opportunity to reach into her pocket and pull out her phone.

 

fuck it, she can’t wait until she gets home. she needs to get into contact with her now, the anticipation is fucking killing her-

 

"you know, we’re open sunday nights as well…"

 

wait, is that too needy? it is, it totally is-

 

she erases the message with a sigh of frustration.

 

"guess who just got off work? ;)"

 

no, that’s stupid, completely and utterly stupid-

 

you [06:43]

you know, you never told me your last name, it’s been a journey trying to find you on social media…

 

she sends it before she can chicken out, and when the swoop sound echoes from her phone, indicating its delivery, she groans and locks her phone, shoving it into the pocket of her leather jacket as betty looks up at her with a frown.

 

“you okay?” she asks softly. toni simply nods, moving onto her second pancake frantically. she had tried to find cheryl on instagram during her second and third smoke breaks, and had come up empty. there was a million cheryl’s in the goddamn world, how the hell was she supposed to find her without knowing her last name?

 

josie and veronica collapse back into their chairs with a grin, pulling toni out of her thoughts.

 

“man, i’m beat.” josie sighs tiredly, and toni nods slowly, finishing off her pancakes quickly as she stands up and throws a twenty dollar bill down from the stack shoved into her bra.

 

“me too. that should cover it all, i’ll see you ladies in the evening.” toni says through a mouthful of food with a grin and a salute, and veronica rolls her eyes.

 

“yeah, go get some sleep, you earned it by actually sticking around tonight.” she grumbles, and toni sighs.

 

“am i ever gonna live that down?”

 

“no.” josie, veronica and betty say at the same time, and toni rolls her eyes, but bends down to press a sticky kiss to betty’s cheek before bidding them all farewell. she walks the block back to the bar, staring up at the now closed bar fondly before she jumps onto her bike and kick-starts it to life.

 

the sun is well and truly over the horizon by the time toni gets back to her apartment, and she chuckles to herself, wondering when she’d turned into a modern day dracula as she climbs the seven flights of stairs toward her apartment.

 

this was always the worst fucking part, her body is beat and sore and yet she has to climb all the way up here...

 

she should just move into the bar at this point with veronica and betty, she can sleep on the couch-

 

she’s barely through the door when she hears her phone go off, and toni freezes in the doorway, her heart pounding against her chest.

 

cheryl.

 

she reaches into her pocket, pulling out her phone and looking down to see a text message from veronica.

 

ronnie [07:12]

you better be back by three, we gotta clean the place up before tonight! sleep well!

 

toni growls in frustration. she fucking knows when to be back at the bar, she’s done it every day for two and a half fucking years-

 

she throws her phone onto her bed as soon as she enters her room, sticking the charging cable into it harshly. god, cheryl probably wasn't even going to reply, she was fancy and toni was...well, not. cheryl was probably just looking for some fun for the night and chose toni as her target, she's such an idiot...

 

she peels her clothes off and steps into the shower with frustration. she quickly washes off the sweat and mildew from the alcohol staining her skin, shampooing and conditioning her hair and sighing at the pink dye that swirls down the drain…

 

she’s gotta re-dye it soon…she's definitely getting josie to do it this time around, veronica had almost destroyed her hair when she had tried, and betty had accidentally dyed her own hair when she had...god, those girls were useless.

 

toni loved them to death.

 

within half an hour, she’s out of the shower, running a towel through her hair as she quickly shoves underwear and an extra-large tank top on before collapsing onto her bed with a sigh. she checks her phone-

 

bombshell [07:45]

i can literally say the same thing, toni…

 

toni’s heart drops.

 

she replied. she actually fucking replied, holy shit-

 

she quickly unlocks her phone, teeth chewing down on her lower lip as she stares at the message for a long time.

 

god, what does she even say?

 

she hesitates before typing something out.

 

you [07:47]

topaz. antoinette topaz on pretty much everything…

 

she sends it, and she watches with bated breath for a few moments before she sees the three dots come up, then disappear...then reappear...then disappear again...

 

toni grins widely. so she’s not the only one freaking out when it came to replies...

 

bombshell [07:48]

like the gemstone. what a pretty name, antoinette. almost as beautiful as you.

 

her heart races, and toni finds herself grinning widely, her tongue darting out to wet her dry lips as she reads the message over and over again.

 

god, what is she doing? she groans and shoves her face into her pillow with embarrassment.

 

great...now she fucking gets why betty cooper blushes every time jughead jones shows up…

 

cheryl had her turning into a fifteen year old school girl with a crush, what the fuck, man…this isn't what toni does. appear available, but never fucking be available...

 

you gotta get back into the game, come on, topaz…

 

you [07:51]

flattery will get you everywhere, cheryl 'whatever your last name is'. ;)

 

there, she’s still got it, she’s not completely melted into a puddle of goo because of this girl, she's fine, totally fine, cheryl doesn't have a hold over her whatsoever-

 

bombshell [07:52]

i wonder if it will get me somewhere with you.

 

fuck.

 

toni’s mouth is hanging open. fuck, this girl had more game than even she did, how the fuck was that possible?

 

before she can even think of typing out a reply, cheryl sends another message.

 

bombshell [07:53]

as for my last name, you’re about to find it out. just found you on instagram. your photos are stunning, toni.

 

toni feels her cheeks turn red. great, cheryl was probably going to realize she was a failed photographer and would probably stop messaging her altogether now-

 

once again, cheryl is typing out a reply before she can even think of one.

 

bombshell [07:55]

you should get some rest, you’ve no doubt had a long night. sweet dreams, antoinette topaz. xx

 

toni bites back a smile, and she doesn't have a chance to process cheryl's message before she sees a notification on instagram-

 

cherylblossom has started following you.

 

oh, she’s fucked, she’s so fucked-

 

cheryl blossom. that’s her name. cheryl blossom...

 

oh god, oh god, toni don't do it, don't look at her page-

 

toni opens instagram and immediately goes to her followers. when she finds cheryl’s page, she finds herself gasping softly as it loads.

 

cheryl has over twenty thousand followers, and the second she sees her photos, she knows she was right in thinking cheryl was some rich girl from the upper east side.

 

there’s pictures of her in a yacht, with a glass of champagne in her hands, fancy sunglasses covering her eyes, and the photo is taken from the side, toni sighing at the fact that she can’t get a full view of cheryl in a bikini, but from what she can see…

 

fuck.

 

come on, focus, where is she from? who is she?

 

she continues scanning through cheryl’s photos, sees a photo of a young man with red hair and blue eyes holding her around the waist as cheryl leans into him, and neither of them are smiling in the photo as toni finds herself wincing-

 

is that her boyfriend?

 

no...no, there's too many similarities. the same nose, same lips...he looks too much like her, it must be her brother. he’s handsome, but toni would be completely lying if she said she was remotely interested in him considering his sister was…well, cheryl.

 

there aren’t many photos, surprisingly, only about seventy or eighty that mostly consist of cheryl in exotic locations drinking fancy alcohol with her brother by her side, and it appears he doesn’t have an instagram, toni tapping on the pictures to see he isn’t tagged in any of them. toni frowns before she stares long and hard at the blue 'follow' button.

 

she shouldn't. she should play hard to get, she should let cheryl know that she wasn't invested at all, because she isn't, she isn't at all, she really, really isn't-

 

she taps the follow button and exits the app with a sigh. fuck. just...fuck.

 

well, then...that didn't really help her much.

 

she thought finding cheryl on instagram would help unlock the mystery of who exactly cheryl is, but all she got instead was a last name and more confusion. who was this girl? where was she from? how does she have all this money to her name when she looks about the same age as toni? there were no clues whatsoever...

 

cheryl blossom…toni’s never heard that name before, but then again, there were a lot of rich people in the world whose names toni didn’t know…

 

she licks her lips before going back to her messages and staring at it for a long time before inspiration on what to write strikes her.

 

toni knows exactly what to send her.

 

you [08:03]

as long as you’re in them, cheryl blossom, they’ll be the sweetest dreams i’ve ever had. xo

 

there. if cheryl wants to be a flirt and play hard to get, two can play at that game…

 

toni's always loved a bit of competition.

 

toni puts her phone on silent so she isn't tempted to message cheryl back in case she does reply, and she shoves it under her pillow, grinning into it as she closes her eyes and tries to drift off to sleep.

 

but before she truly does succumb to fatigue, she finds herself thinking of red hair and chocolate brown eyes, of cheryl blossom and her tight fitting dress, a smug smirk playing on those full, bright red lips...god, toni wonders what they'd taste like...wonders what it would sound like to hear her name fall from those lips in a breathy moan...

 

yep. turns out toni's dreams are definitely much sweeter with cheryl blossom in the lead role of them.

 

Chapter Text

“oh god, toni!”

 

sharp nails dig into her back, scratching down muscled skin as toni bites down on an alabaster neck in retaliation, a soft hiss of pain escaping her lips as she pushes her fingers harder inside the girl underneath her body.

 

“right there, fuck!” the girl, whose name toni, for the life of her, cannot remember, wraps a hand around the back of toni’s neck and pulls her down for an eager kiss, toni obeying with a soft grunt as she captures her lips between her own full ones, and it only takes three more hard thrusts before the girl’s thighs are clenching around her waist tightly, a loud groan escaping her as she breathes heavily against toni loudly.

 

toni sighs tiredly, waits for the girl’s release to finally come to an end before breathlessly pushing herself up and off the girl beneath her. she wipes her hands on the sheets of the girl’s bed and wipes away the sweat at her brow with the back of her hand.

 

fucking summer and this ridiculous heat…

 

“hmm…thank you.” the girl hums, her hands reaching out to grab toni's. toni simply nods and makes her way around the room swiftly, picking up her clothes from the ground as she does.

 

“hey…hey, where are you going?” the girl whines with a pant, and toni watches as she props herself up on her elbows to look at toni incredulously. toni shrugs, tries her best not to stare at her bare chest as she slides her underwear back on before reaching for her bra.

 

“i’m leaving.” toni croaks out. she’s itching for a cigarette, and this girl has no fucking air conditioning-

 

“already? but-.”

 

“i gotta get to work. see you around.” toni quickly buttons up her jeans, and her shirt just falls over her body as she grabs her bag and hooks her serpent jacket over her arm.

 

“i don’t have your number.” the girl mumbles. toni grunts, pulling a cigarette out of her pack and tucking it behind her ear for safe keeping as she shrugs.

 

“it’s not a loss, trust me.” and with that, she leaves, toni giving the girl a two fingered salute before she’s leaving the room and exiting out of the front door before the girl can say anything else.

 

the girl is a regular at the wyrm, and toni had run into her at the coffee shop a few blocks away from the bar. the girl had been giving her ‘fuck me’ eyes the entire time toni was waiting for her coffee, and toni was bored and had free time.

 

so why the fuck not?

 

turns out, the girl wanted a few more rounds than toni was anticipating, and toni’s already running late for her shift at the bar. she really needs to stop this ridiculous sex drive of hers, it’s gonna get her fired one day…

 

it was probably a stupid idea, this girl was more than likely going to follow her around like a lost puppy dog for the next few weeks until she realized toni wasn’t interested in anything further, and toni can already anticipate the glass of alcohol that’s going to get thrown at her face when that time comes.

 

it’s already happened at least three times before, veronica roaring with laughter every single time.

 

her phone starts ringing, and toni grits her teeth as she lights her cigarette and pulls it out of her back pocket. she comes to a stop a few meters from her bike and answers it without looking at the caller id.

 

“i’m five minutes away, veronica-.”

 

“late for work, are we?” toni freezes with her leg hovering over her bike.

 

she’d know that voice from anywhere. it’s been in her dreams for the last week. it’s her. it’s-

 

“cheryl?” she chokes out. she hears a soft chuckle, and the sound has her heart pounding against her chest.

 

holy shit, cheryl was calling her-

 

“you never messaged me about tuesday night…i was alone in my apartment wondering what i must’ve done wrong to warrant you ghosting me.” cheryl says in a soft voice that’s filled with genuine hurt, and toni bites down on her bottom lip anxiously as she sits down on the seat of her bike and takes a drag from her cigarette, inhaling the toxic fumes with a heavy sigh.

 

she was going to text cheryl, but toni had no idea what to text her at all when everything had been wiped from her mind after a phone call from veronica. tuesday had been spent at the wyrm dealing with water damage in the back room after a pipe had burst, and truthfully, all thoughts of cheryl had been wiped from her mind as they all tried their best to save the back room from falling apart. if the back room fell apart, the bar would have to close for a few weeks, costing them all money. it just couldn’t happen, and luckily, it didn’t.

 

but it’s friday night now, and it’s not like cheryl had scrambled to text her on tuesday, either…

 

play it nonchalantly, toni. be blasé, you can do it…

 

“sorry, cheryl. it turns out i was busy tuesday…” toni manages to say huskily as she takes another drag. there, it’s vague and doesn’t tell cheryl anything about what she was doing. cheryl could think she was fucking some girl or having fun with her night off, maybe it would spark some jealousy in her-

 

“hmm, it would appear so. i’m guessing you’re working tonight?” cheryl says slowly. toni nods numbly.

 

“yeah. you gonna swing by and see me?” she says, her tone playful despite the nerves currently flooding her body. why the fuck was this girl having such an effect on her, toni doesn’t understand it-

 

“i don’t know. turns out i might be busy tonight.” cheryl says simply, and toni scowls and glares down at her phone and takes another drag from her cigarette.

 

this fucking girl…

 

“ha ha, very funny.” toni deadpans, blowing out the toxic fumes as she does. cheryl laughs once again, the sound sending a shiver up toni’s spine.

 

“have to keep you on your toes, toni. get to work. i’ll see you tonight…if i feel like it.” and with that, cheryl hangs up, the phone beeping twice as toni looks down at it in disbelief.

 

did she really just say if she felt like it? was she seriously going to keep toni guessing all night if she was going to show up?

 

was this girl human? it didn’t seem possible, toni’s never met anyone like her-

 

work. she has work. fuck, shit, right, she needs to go-

 

she tosses the half done cigarette regretfully and shoves her helmet on, peeling out of the basement quickly, and she immediately squeezes the handle to go as fast as she can without a cop stopping her for speeding, maneuvering her bike between the cars stuck in traffic as she does.

 

she has no idea how or why this girl has such a hold on her…maybe it’s because every other girl or guy toni has interacted with has been immediately immersed in her, her personality too intoxicating for them to give up a chance to get into her pants, and toni’s never minded that. but this girl was playing her game back, was holding herself at arm’s length because she liked it, and toni feels like a fucking idiot for becoming a victim to a game she’s played multiple times before.

 

toni’s never been one to like the chase, but when it came to cheryl blossom, she was willing to run fucking laps if she had to.

 

what was it about this girl that had her so hooked?

 

toni hasn’t spent a single night without cheryl blossom in her dreams since meeting her, and god, it’s fucking rare for toni to think of anyone past a one night stand. she hasn’t even kissed this girl yet…

 

toni pulls into the parking lot of the bar and jumps off her bike, pulling her helmet off and making her way to the entrance. sweet pea and fangs look up and grin at her widely.

 

“where have you been?” sweet pea teases, and toni punches him square in the chest without answering before making her way inside. archie and reggie are watching something on archie’s phone when she walks in, both of them laughing hysterically, and toni rolls her eyes and walks up to the bar to find veronica behind it with her phone to her ear. when her eyes land on toni, a scowl comes over her face as she lowers her phone.

 

“i was about to call you.”

 

“sorry, i, uh…slept in. we’ve still got fifteen minutes.” toni says breathlessly with a grin, and veronica narrows her eyes before she rolls them and waves her toward the back room.

 

“yeah, yeah…go on, get ready, betty and josie are almost done.” toni’s grin widens, and she makes her way over the bar, landing on her feet and standing on her tiptoes to press a kiss to veronica’s cheek. veronica sighs loudly, but smiles all the same as toni pushes the back door open and finds betty and josie getting ready, betty looking up at her arrival with a frown.

 

“you’re late.” she deadpans. toni rolls her eyes.

 

“i know, i slept in. sorry.” she mumbles. josie chuckles, and betty sighs, but turns back to the mirror to finish her make-up while toni collapses into the chair beside her and gets started on hers. she can feel the adrenaline pumping through her veins, and it’s something she’s used to in her line of work, but tonight, something’s different.

 

what was she going to do if cheryl showed up tonight? toni wasn’t exactly sure…she did feel bad for ghosting her and not messaging, but she’d honestly forgotten in her worry over the bar possibly having to be closed for weeks due to flooding, which thankfully, hadn’t happened, but that still would’ve meant she was out of a job for a while…maybe if she had explained it to cheryl, she wouldn’t have said what she said-

 

no, no she would’ve said that regardless, been all flirtatious and keeping her on her toes about whether she would show up or not, she was enjoying keeping toni in the dark, being unpredictable, and toni knows that because she’s the exact same-

 

god, cheryl blossom had her, and toni absolutely hates it. appear available but never be available, that was her rule…but cheryl was so fucking intriguing, and there was so much about her that toni didn’t know yet…but god, did she want to…

 

“alright, ready?” betty asks, pulling toni out of her thoughts quite effectively. toni blinks a few times and looks at herself in the mirror to check her make-up.

 

it looks like a mess given her short amount of time to get it done, but toni figures she’s probably going to sweat most of it off with this fucking heat. she quickly tears her shirt off and grabs the one betty holds out to her, adjusting the low cut top to show off her black lacy bra beneath it. she shoves her serpent jacket on and moves her hair back out from under her clothes before clapping her hands and looking to the others.

 

“ready.”

 

-------------------

 

cheryl doesn’t show up.

 

it’s almost five in the morning, and toni is covered in sweat, is bruised, and is fucking exhausted, but more than anything, she’s pissed off. she hasn’t seen a single hint of cheryl’s bright red hair in the bar, even though it’s been crowded the whole night.

 

friday nights are always busy, and toni’s had to pour two buckets of ice over the crowd after they’d gotten a little too rowdy during her performance. one guy had grabbed her ankle and tried to yank her off the bar top, and it had taken everything in toni not to swing her other foot right into his face to get him to let go. it’s been a long fucking night…and toni was hoping that cheryl would show up and make her feel just a little bit better.

 

but nope. no cheryl.

 

toni knows she’s being a little unfair. cheryl had said she might show up…if she felt like it. but why wouldn’t she feel like seeing toni? was she not interested at all in her? and if she wasn’t, why would she call toni and put this idea that she was going to show up in her mind, only to ghost on her?

 

was she cruel enough to do something like that? or was this payback for toni not messaging her? if so…fair enough, toni guesses, but it still fucking sucks. toni’s barely been able to pay attention the whole night, she’s dropped two glasses and almost smashed a whole bottle of vodka, much to veronica’s chagrin, and toni is seriously starting to despise herself for it. she never, ever let a girl get this under her skin before, why was cheryl an exception?

 

“earth to toni!” fingers snap in front of her face, and toni blinks rapidly and turns to see betty holding back laughter as she takes the beer that’s currently overflowing out of her hands.

 

“it’s full.” she says with a smirk. toni sighs and slides the glass of beer to the customer, who shakes his head with a scoff, but gives her a five dollar note regardless.

 

“sorry.” toni whispers. the bar had begun to die down about an hour ago, and they’ve had a fair share of customers being hauled out by sweet pea, archie, fangs and reggie, too drunk to even call themselves a cab home. veronica had done the honors, but there’s still a few stragglers here and there…

 

“you’ve been mentally occupied all night, is everything okay?” betty asks, reaching out to grip her shoulder as she begins cleaning up the bar. toni simply shrugs.

 

“yeah, i’ll be fine.” betty’s about to say something when her eyes land on the entrance to the bar with wide eyes. toni follows her gaze, her heart leaping to her throat, but she’s disappointed to see jughead jones making his way inside with a scowl on his face. he says a quick hello to reggie and archie, and it isn’t till he gets closer to the bar that toni notices his eye is bruised, black and swollen pretty badly.

 

“shit, jughead! are you okay?” toni immediately reaches for some ice as betty rushes over the top of the bar, landing on her feet a little ungracefully as she stumbles into jughead. he grips her arms to steady her, and she’s bright red as she reaches up to grip his face in her hands with worry. toni hands her the ice, and betty rests it over his eye as he winces and sighs loudly.

 

“got into a fight with my boss. i got fired.” he grumbles. betty gasps softly, and toni sighs and reaches for a shot glass. she grabs the tequila and pours him a shot, sliding it over to him as he looks up at her with a sad smile.

 

“thanks, toni.”

 

“on the house. what happened?” toni asks with a frown. betty adjusts the ice as jughead takes his beanie off and rests it on top of the bar before taking the shot.

 

“i wouldn’t do that, you have no idea what this bar top has seen.” toni says with a chuckle. jughead wrinkles his nose, whether from the tequila or from what toni just said, she isn’t sure, but regardless he takes it off, resting it on his lap instead as he looks up at betty.

 

“he actually started talking about…well, about you guys. he said something about needing to deliver drinks to ‘those sluts at that bar’ and i told him not to say that about you guys, because you’re my friends…he told me if i didn’t like it i could join you guys. and then…” jughead trails off, and toni’s frown deepens as betty grips his chin between her fingers.

 

“what, jughead?” she breathes. toni can see the adoration shining in his eyes, and she almost rolls her eyes at the clueless pair in front of her as jughead wraps his fingers around the wrist of the hand holding the ice to his eye.

 

“he said something really horrible about you, betty. so i punched him. i needed time to cool off before i came here…i didn’t want you to see me upset.” jughead whispers. toni licks her lips, watches as a small smile lights betty’s face, and she clears her throat to hide a smirk as she nods at betty once.

 

“i’m uh, gonna go outside for a cigarette. good luck with the eye, juggie.”

 

“thanks, toni.” he says with a smile, and betty isn’t even paying attention to her as she gives jughead a small wink and makes her way over to the back room. she laughs as she passes josie and veronica attempting to wake up two customers passed out on the bar top, and makes her way into the back room to grab her smokes before leaving through the second door in the room to the back.

 

she’s thankful to jughead for defending their honor, but it wasn’t necessary. still, toni can’t deny that if she had been there, she would’ve done the same thing. at least this made jughead look good in betty’s eyes, maybe this would finally actually lead to something between them-

 

“fancy seeing you here, antoinette.” toni’s fingers freeze on the wheel of her zippo lighter, her heart pounding against her chest as the sound of loud heels clacking on the asphalt fills her ears.

 

“we have to stop meeting like this.” cheryl blossom says, coming to a stop in front of her with a wide smirk on her face. her lips are covered in that signature red lipstick, her teeth tugging on her bottom lip as she looks toni up and down with a raised eyebrow.

 

she’s here.

 

toni’s eyes take in her appearance. she’s wearing another dress, dark blue this time, and toni’s surprised by how good blue looks on her, contrasting nicely with her red hair…

 

she’s been out, by the looks of it. out somewhere nice. somewhere that definitely wasn’t the whyte wyrm. but it’s five in the morning, what was she doing here?

 

“came just in time. we’re about to close.” toni deadpans, her eyes falling on the cigarette between her lips once more. cheryl lets out a deep sigh, and she reaches out and takes the lighter from toni’s hands. her fingers are cold despite the heat, and toni feels goosebumps rise on her skin at her touch. she fights back a shiver as cheryl flicks the wheel. the flame ignites, and toni leans forward until her cigarette is burning cherry red, pulling back and taking a drag as her gaze falls back on the red haired beauty before her. cheryl flicks the top of the lighter down with expertise to put out the flame, and she hands it back to toni with a smile.

 

“i’m sorry i’m late. it turns out i was busy tonight…last minute business deal. i tried to finish it quickly and thoroughly, but old white men tend to drone on…especially in pretty company.” she says softly. toni frowns, simply gives her a nod but says nothing, taking another drag from her cigarette as she does. cheryl takes a step closer to her, her eyes moving over toni’s face with a sad smile.

 

“let me make it up to you?” she whispers. toni licks her lips, tries to ignore the way her heart is pounding as smoke billows from her mouth slowly.

 

what exactly does cheryl mean by that? there’s a million different ways that could be interpreted, and if she means sex…hell, toni’s not gonna be the one to complain about that, but she can’t help but be disappointed if that is the case. she wants to actually get to know cheryl-

 

oh god, what is this girl doing to her?!

 

she swallows thickly and raises an eyebrow.

 

“how?” she croaks out, not quite trusting herself to speak more than that one word. cheryl’s perfect white teeth sink down on her bottom lip once again, and she takes another step closer, close enough that toni has to look up at her slightly due to their height difference as her breath hitches. cheryl’s eyes move down to toni’s lips, watching her carefully as her lips close around the filter of her cigarette and suck in the fumes, and toni bites back a smile at the look on her face. is she wondering what toni’s lips would feel like against her own? the lust in her eyes tells toni that’s exactly the case, but then again, cheryl was completely unpredictable…

 

here she was, showing up at five in the morning to see her after toni had spent the whole night torturously wondering if she would even show up.

 

you shouldn’t be giving her the time of day, toni, walk away…

 

cheryl exhales deeply, but she smiles as she reaches out and smooths out the lapels of toni’s jacket with red nailed fingers, her palms resting over the top of toni’s breasts for just a beat longer than necessary before she’s tucking a finger under toni’s chin to lift her gaze up, chocolate brown eyes boring into her own.

 

“have an early breakfast with me?” cheryl asks in a hushed voice. toni blinks in surprise.

 

breakfast? with cheryl blossom?

 

“what, like right now? aren’t you exhausted? it’s like, five in the morning.” she chokes out. cheryl smiles and gives her a simple nod.

 

“sleep isn’t something i get a lot of, anyway, it’s fine. besides…something tells me you’re worth staying up for.” she whispers. toni licks her dry lips, tries to calm her racing heart at those words before she takes another drag from her cigarette.

 

worth staying up for…god, this is bad-

 

“i’m working, remember?” toni says in a low voice, tries her best to sound nonchalant, but it just comes out sad and depressed, and cheryl frowns as she looks at the brick wall behind toni, perhaps cursing the bar in the back of her mind for making her unavailable. toni almost whines when cheryl takes a step back, has to physically stop herself from stepping forward to replace the closeness between them as cheryl nods slowly.

 

“when do you get off?” she asks firmly. toni shrugs.

 

“in like half an hour.” she mumbles, finishing off her cigarette and tossing it to the ground. cheryl watches the butt bounce of the ground before it lands, and she purses her lips and nods once.

 

“i’m willing to wait. there’s a twenty four hour breakfast place nearby.” she says with a smile. toni inhales deeply.

 

she’s willing to wait…wait half an hour just so she can have breakfast with toni?

 

“you mean roberto’s? i know, we go there every morning after work to wind down.” toni says with a chuckle. cheryl raises an eyebrow.

 

“actually, there’s another one i was thinking of. jay jay’s diner? we can go to roberto’s if you want-.”

 

“no, uh…your place sounds good.” toni says hastily with a smile. it’s likely veronica, betty, josie and the boys would go there after they closed, and toni doesn’t exactly want them to meet cheryl just yet…not when she had no idea who the girl even was.

 

it might sound strange, but toni kind of wanted to keep her for herself for now…

 

god, what is she doing?

 

“i’ll, uh…i’ll see if i can get off earlier…wait here?” toni asks. cheryl’s smile is fucking astounding, bright white teeth on full display as excitement shines in her eyes, and she nods once, toni biting down on her lip to stop herself from returning her smile as she opens the back door and dashes inside.

 

she’s about to have breakfast with cheryl blossom. breakfast. with cheryl blossom.

 

why does that excite her so much?

 

appear available but never be available, that’s her rule…and yet she’s leaving work early to be exactly that for cheryl blossom.

 

god, what is this girl doing to her?

 

toni ducks her head out of the back room and looks around quickly. betty is still with jughead, icing his eye, but the both of them are laughing and smiling at least. toni smiles and looks around the bar. more customers have left, and all of the boys are gathered inside, talking with veronica and josie happily as they try to round up the last of the customers to kick them out…

 

“betty!” toni shouts, turning her gaze back to the blonde. betty jumps slightly and turns to look at her with wide eyes, and toni grins at her.

 

“do you mind if i leave early? we’re on the cusp of closing, anyway.” betty frowns thoughtfully, and she turns to look at veronica in hesitation as jughead grins at toni.

 

“got a hot date?” he teases. toni rolls her eyes and tries to appear dismissive.

 

“yeah, with my bed. i'm uh...not feeling so hot.” she lies easily. jughead chuckles, and betty sighs and simply nods once.

 

“yeah, i guess that’s fine. go get some sleep, but be back here by three to help clean up.” she says sternly. toni gives her a two fingered salute.

 

“got it. thanks, b.” betty rolls her eyes, but gives her a small smile regardless before she turns back to jughead, and toni’s thankful for that beanie wearing boy right now for putting betty in a good enough mood to let her go early…

 

toni grabs her stuff, slinging her bag over her shoulder, and she tries to calm herself down with a few deep breaths as she grabs her helmet before pausing.

 

shit. would cheryl be okay with riding on her bike?

 

only one way to find out…

 

she grabs the spare helmet in the back room that veronica had bought in case any of them decided to catch a ride with toni on her bike, and she finds herself grinning widely as she steps back outside to find cheryl leaning against the brick wall of the bar. she smiles and stands straight as soon as she sees toni.

 

“ready? i’ll call an uber-.”

 

“actually, i have a better idea.” toni says with a grin, holding up the helmet to cheryl’s face as she does. cheryl’s smile fades, her eyes widening as she takes the helmet into her hands with confusion.

 

“uh…”

 

“ever been on a motorbike before?” toni asks, her grin only widening when cheryl visibly swallows nervously.

 

“uh…not, i have not.” cheryl says with a nervous chuckle. toni smirks.

 

“willing to let me pop your motorbike cherry?” she teases. cheryl cocks an eyebrow, giving her a slight look of disdain before she shakes her head with a small laugh.

 

“i’d hate to make you leave your bike here. let’s go.” she says, squaring her shoulders and holding her purse closer to her chest as she tucks the helmet under her arm. toni blinks, slightly in disbelief that cheryl’s actually agreeing to do this, but she leads cheryl over to her bike all the same.

 

toni makes sure the boys aren’t outside before she leads cheryl over to the parking lot where her harley davidson is proudly resting, shining black underneath the lamp light. cheryl stops short, her eyes staring at the bike apprehensively, and toni steps in front of her and gives her a small smile.

 

“we don’t have to, you know, but you can trust me. i’ll go slow, i promise.” toni says softly. hell, it’s scary, getting on a bike, toni was incredibly scared the first time she did, and cheryl was technically getting on the back of a bike with a stranger, so she gets it.

 

but cheryl again surprises her by nodding slowly.

 

“okay.” cheryl exhales shakily, but returns toni’s smile as she steps closer to the bike, her eyes roaming over it slowly.

 

“it’s beautiful.” she murmurs, running her red painted fingers over the seat of it, and toni smiles widely.

 

“bought it after my first year working at the bar. i saved all my tips up.” toni says with a chuckle, remembering the day that veronica had come with her to look at bikes and had immediately picked out the one right in front of her for toni, saying it matched her personality.

 

cheryl smiles fondly, and toni clears her throat before she notices cheryl’s dress is low cut and sleeveless, only straps keeping the dress up over her shoulders. she shrugs out of her jacket, holding it out for cheryl to take.

 

“it might be hot, but the wind is gonna hurt if you’re not covered.”

 

“what about you?” cheryl asks, eyeing toni’s equally sleeveless shirt, and toni shrugs.

 

“i’m used to it, it’s okay.” she holds the jacket out closer, and cheryl takes it, slipping her arms through the sleeves with a smile.

 

“thank you.” she says softly. toni nods once, and she grips her helmet and shoves it on before swinging her leg over the bike, settling down on the seat easily.

 

“need a hand?” toni asks, turning back to look at cheryl, who shakes her head as she puts the helmet on and hikes her dress up a little until the fabric is resting about mid thigh. toni swallows the lump in her throat and turns back around just as she feels pressure on her shoulders. the bike dips a little with cheryl’s extra weight, but she settles comfortably behind toni, her chest pressed against the pink haired girl’s back before she wraps her arms around toni’s waist tightly.

 

“do you know the way?” cheryl breathes into her ear, her helmet bumping against toni’s slightly, causing the girl to grin as she shakes her head.

 

“take a left when you pull out of the parking lot. keep going straight and i’ll tell you when to turn next.”

 

toni does as she’s asked, tries her best to keep herself calm as cheryl’s hold on her tightens the second the bike roars to life.

 

cheryl handles it surprisingly well. toni remembers veronica screaming behind her with joy when she had first ridden on toni’s bike, remembers josie clinging to her for dear life and remembers betty telling her to go as slowly as possible, but cheryl is quiet, her grip on toni loosening the longer they drive for. she looks in the rearview mirror to see cheryl smiling in the mirror behind her, her chin resting on toni’s shoulder as she closes her eyes and feels the wind on her skin. she looks…peaceful.

 

they’re driving for about five minutes before cheryl taps her shoulder and points to the right.

 

“take a right here, it’s on the left!” she shouts into toni’s ear. toni does as she’s told, and she sees a sign for this ‘jay jay’s diner’ place high above them, shining bright red with a neon light that says ‘twenty four hour diner’. she frowns.

 

she’s never heard of this place before…

 

she pulls into the parking lot of it, parking her bike close to the diner before she turns the ignition off and kicks the stand down. cheryl grips her shoulders once more, nails digging into her skin just a little as she jumps off the bike. toni gives her time to adjust before she does the same, swinging her legs off the bike before removing her helmet and shaking her hair out of her eyes. cheryl takes her one off, and she frowns as she runs her fingers through her hair to fix it quickly, toni grinning at her as she does.

 

“helmet hair?” she asks with a pout, catching toni’s grin. toni laughs and shakes her head as she takes cheryl's helmet and rests it on the handle of her bike.

 

“no. you’re fine, bombshell.”

 

it slips out of her mouth before she can stop it, and her heart drops down to her toes as cheryl’s eyes widen before she raises an eyebrow with a smirk.

 

“‘bombshell’?” she asks, her tone light and teasing. toni feels her cheeks turn red, and she shrugs and mumbles something about it being a nickname before she makes her way to the diner’s entrance as quickly as possible. cheryl follows behind her with a chuckle, and a soft bell tinkles loudly the second toni steps inside. she looks around the place in awe, her eyes taking in the décor in surprise.

 

it’s almost like a diner pulled straight out of the fifties, red vinyl booths and stools all over the place that actually have a few occupants, some truck workers, some late night partiers. the wallpaper is checkered black and white with neon lights of burgers and milkshakes, and toni finds herself smiling.

 

“wow…this place is amazing.” she says under her breath. cheryl chuckles in her ear, and toni jumps when she slides her hand into toni’s and interlaces their fingers.

 

“wait until you taste the food.” she whispers. toni feels goosebumps erupt on the back of her neck. cheryl’s fingers are still cold as she drags toni to the closest booth, her fingers only letting go of toni’s once she slides into the booth and nods at the seat opposite her for toni to sit in, which she does, her eyes still roaming around the place in wonder.

 

how has she never been here before? she’s never even heard of it, and she’s been living in brooklyn for three years now…

 

“is this place new?” toni asks with a frown, turning her attention back to the red head. cheryl smiles and gives her a small nod.

 

“yes. it opened about two months ago. it usually isn’t this empty, but it is quite early in the morning.” cheryl says with a light laugh, looking around the place fondly.

 

“i’ve never even heard of it.” toni murmurs, running her fingers through her hair and grimacing slightly when she feels nothing how damp with sweat her hair is. god, she needs a shower…

 

toni doesn’t realize that cheryl is frowning until she looks up at her to see her brow furrowed.

 

“really? not at all?” she asks. toni shrugs.

 

“i mean, i’ve likely been handed a flyer about it, but i never pay attention to that shit. maybe i should.” she says with a chuckle. cheryl smiles, and she licks her lips and nods once.

 

“hmm, you should…but i’ll have to talk to the marketing team about it, make sure we get out there and advertise more.” she says firmly, grabbing a menu and looking down at it as toni stares at her in confusion.

 

“uh…why would you do that?” she asks blankly. Cheryl looks up from the menu at her with a wide smile.

 

“because i own this place.” she says simply.

 

toni’s pretty sure her mouth drops open.

 

she…she owns this place? like…owns it?

 

what the fuck?

 

“what?” she manages to choke out. cheryl chuckles, and she’s about to say something when a young woman makes her way over to them, coming to a stop with a wide smile as she pulls a pen out of her bun and grabs a notepad from her apron.

 

“hey, boss! fancy seein’ you here so early!” she says way too cheerily for someone working at five in the morning, but cheryl smiles up at her fondly.

 

“hey, katrina, just showing a new friend around…toni, would you mind if i order for us?” cheryl asks her, and toni is still dumbstruck over the fact that cheryl owns this place as she nods numbly. cheryl raises an eyebrow and smirks at her before looking up at the waitress once more.

 

“two breakfast platters and two glasses of water, katrina. thank you.”

 

“you got it! be back in a jiffy!” katrina says with a grin, and toni watches her go incredulously before she looks up at cheryl with a clear of her throat.

 

“uh…”

 

“i know…it’s not required of her to talk like that, but she and the rest of the staff took it upon themselves to match the aesthetic of the restaurant. i’m not about to stop them, the customers like it, apparently. it’s good for business.” cheryl says with a shrug, clearly misinterpreting toni’s noise of confusion. toni scoffs in disbelief and shakes her head.

 

“no, not…cheryl, you own this place? what…what is it exactly that you do?” toni asks in wonder.

 

what was she, a mob boss? a drug pusher? how did she have enough money to own a fucking restaurant when she looked no older than toni?

 

cheryl licks her lips and leans in closer.

 

“ever heard of blossom maple syrup?” she asks in a hushed whisper, her eyebrow cocking with a smirk. toni blinks once with a frown.

 

she definitely knows that name from somewhere-

 

oh wait, shit…yes, she does. the syrup she uses on her pancakes every morning at roberto’s after work…

 

“i…yeah…it’s the syrup they use at roberto’s…” toni mumbles. cheryl grins.

 

“they use it here, too. and it’s sold in stores.” she says nonchalantly. toni’s eyes widen.

 

“wait, you own that, too?” toni asks in surprise. cheryl laughs and tosses her hair over her shoulder before shaking her head.

 

“no, no, my parents own that company. but our syrup is distributed all across america, so…wealth is something we’ve always had. it’s been part of the family for decades now. when i turned eighteen, i was given a choice by my father to either help him run the business or inherit a small fortune to do whatever i wanted with. i chose the fortune. i think he expected me to blow it all on riches and materialistic things…instead, i invested the money into businesses. i own this restaurant, another one in manhattan, and a nightclub in the heart of new york.” cheryl says proudly.

 

toni is lost for words, looking at cheryl in complete and utter disbelief.

 

so she was born into money…it makes sense, cheryl looks high class, but to own so many business…it’s impressive. cheryl grins and winks at her.

 

“now i blow my money on materialistic things knowing i have more money to back it up.” she teases. toni licks her lips nervously, unable to stop herself from thinking one thing.

 

this girl was probably worth millions…so why the hell was she having breakfast with someone like toni?

 

“and yet, you’re having breakfast with me. some trashy bartender from a bar in the slums of brooklyn.” toni deadpans, her shoulders slumping slightly despite herself. cheryl’s expression softens, and she hesitates before she shakes her head.

 

“i wish you wouldn’t say that about yourself, toni. i think you’re…utterly intriguing.” cheryl says, her head tilting to the side slightly and her eyes narrowing as she observes toni with wonder.

 

“why?” toni finds herself blurting out before she can stop herself. she regrets it instantly, wants to take it back as cheryl hesitates for a long time, doesn’t say anything before she exhales deeply and drops her gaze down to her hands resting on top of the table.

 

“i’m not sure.” she murmurs. toni frowns.

 

so she’s not the only one somewhat confused by her attraction…maybe her and cheryl aren’t so different after all.

 

“must be hard…running three businesses on your own…” toni says, clearing her throat as she leans in closer. cheryl smiles and looks up at her with a shake of her head.

 

“i’m not completely alone. my twin brother, jason…he chose to inherit the syrup company, but he still helps me out whenever he can, and i have a good team behind me…” she says with a shrug. toni smiles.

 

“ah…the guy in the photos on your instagram…” she says slowly with a nod. she knew that guy had to be related to cheryl, they looked so similar…

 

“that’s jay jay…i named this restaurant after him, actually.” she says fondly. toni smiles again.

 

“you two must be close.” she says softly. cheryl’s smile falters slightly, and toni can see the hurt in her eyes as she exhales shakily.

 

“we are…some days i think he might be the only friend i have.” she whispers, her eyes filled with pain. toni has no idea what to say, but she finds her heart breaking for the red haired girl.

 

it’s true then, what they say…money doesn’t always equal happiness…

 

“but enough about me, toni. i wanna learn more about you.” cheryl says suddenly, leaning forward and resting her forearms on the table.

 

toni finds herself suddenly getting nervous. her life was boring in comparison to someone who owned three fucking businesses and was born into money…

 

but cheryl had pretty much just confided in her that she was lonely…clearly her life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be despite all the money she had…

 

toni doesn’t get a chance to say anything before the waitress comes back over with a tray full of food. she places a plate of food in front of toni and the other in front of cheryl before placing a glass of water beside each plate with a smile.

 

“oh, and before i forget!” the waitress reaches into her apron pocket and pulls out a bottle of blossom maple syrup before placing it in front of cheryl, who laughs lightly and nods her head.

 

“thank you, katrina.”

 

“no worries, boss! if you need anything else-.”

 

“i’ll let you know.” cheryl says with a smile. the waitress nods and walks off, and toni looks down at the plate in front of her.

 

scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, two pieces of toast, two pancake and a side of bacon. it’s a lot of food, and toni’s mouth is fucking watering at the sight in front of her.

 

“a true american breakfast.” cheryl says with a grin, sliding the syrup toward toni, who returns her grin before taking it and slathering plate with the sticky sweet goodness.

 

“so crazy…the fact that your parents own this shit and i’ve been eating it for as long as i can remember.” toni says with a chuckle, sticking her finger under the steady stream of syrup like she always does and placing her finger in her mouth. cheryl watches her, and toni notices the way her breath hitches before she clears her throat and adjusts herself in her seat, grabbing her knife and fork with a smile and a shrug.

 

toni bites back a smile as she places the bottle back down and begins cutting up her food. cheryl takes a sip from her water and observes toni with a smile, watches as the exhausted bartender cuts up her bacon, and makes sure to get a bite of everything onto her fork. it tastes absolutely divine, toni letting out a soft moan of pleasure the second her lips wrap around the fork. she sighs and looks to cheryl with a smile.

 

“it’s amazing, cheryl.” she tells her once she’s swallowed her mouthful. cheryl smiles happily, and she digs into her own plate, taking a bite of her eggs before she nods at toni again.

 

“so…tell me. the photos on your instagram look professional…are you a photographer?” cheryl asks as she reaches for the salt. toni nods as she takes another bite of food.

 

“yeah. i came to new york to do it professionally, but there’s about a thousand photographers here, and jobs are far and few between. i haven’t had a gig in almost a year...” toni says with a frown. cheryl nods solemnly.

 

“it’s a tough business to crack…how did you get your job at the bar?” cheryl asks. toni shrugs again.

 

“i was broke and helpless, and i stumbled across the whyte wyrm one night. veronica pretty much gave me a job immediately. i’ve been working there ever since.” she grunts, taking another bite of her food.

 

“how long ago was that?” cheryl asks once she’s finished swallowing her own bite of food. toni shrugs again.

 

“about two and a half years ago.” toni takes another bite of her food, and cheryl nods once.

 

“do you know how long the whyte wyrm has been open?” she asks sheepishly. toni frowns.

 

“about three years now. it was only open for a few months by the time i started working there.” cheryl purses her lips and nods again, and toni takes a sip of water as cheryl’s eyes fall on toni’s hair, a small smile playing on her lips.

 

“forgive me for asking, but…why pink?” she asks. toni grins widely.

 

“i don’t know. guess i just like the color.” she says simply. cheryl chuckles, and she takes another bite of food and swallows it before she leans back into her seat.

 

“it looks good on you.” she says warmly.

 

“thanks…” toni says with a soft smile. it’s silent for a few moments, the both of them eating a bit more food before cheryl clears her throat and nods at toni.

 

“do you enjoy working at the bar?” she asks suddenly. toni smiles fondly and nods.

 

“yeah. veronica, josie and betty…they’re like sisters to me. ever since they took me in, they’ve treated me like family…it’s like a sisterhood. we’re like a small family, us four and the team of boys who run security. it’s definitely not the worst place i’ve ever worked at.” toni says with a shrug. cheryl nods slowly, and the frown on her face only deepens, a look of worry in her eyes before she sighs tiredly, running her fingers through her hair as she does.

 

“it sounds like you’re all very close.”

 

“we are.” toni says simply. cheryl nods again, and toni doesn’t really understand the look of worry in her eyes, but it’s quickly erased as she exhales and looks at toni with wonder.

 

“where are you originally from?” she asks.

 

“washington. i left three years ago.” toni deadpans, her eyes dropping down to her plate of food.

 

she doesn’t wanna talk about home…not now, not ever, really-

 

“for work?” cheryl asks with a frown. toni shrugs.

 

“sure.” she says simply. cheryl’s frown only deepens, but she doesn’t comment further, clearly noticing toni’s body language as she picks up a piece of bacon and chews on it thoughtfully.

 

“so…tuesday. were you really busy?” cheryl asks with a cheeky grin. toni sighs in relief, thankful for the topic change as she chuckles.

 

“i really was…a pipe burst at the bar and we spent the whole day cleaning it up…i really am sorry for not messaging.” toni says apologetically. cheryl’s chuckles, her expression softening as she nods once and reaches out to grip toni’s hand in her own.

 

“that’s okay, t.t.” she says, giving her hand a squeeze. toni raises an eyebrow.

 

“t.t?” she asks with confusion. cheryl grins.

 

“if my nickname is ‘bombshell’, then i’m allowed to give you a nickname, too.”

 

toni finds herself laughing at that, and cheryl laughs with her, the both of them chortling as they finish off their breakfast through small talk. toni learns that cheryl has a bit of an estranged relationship with her parents because of her decision not to run the company, but that she loves them and they love her and it’s good enough as far as the red head is concerned. her brother, jason, is apparently three minutes older than her, something he never stops reminding her of with enjoyment. she’s had a relatively sheltered life, over-protective parents and an over-protective brother will do that to someone, but she’s learned to stand on her own two feet now that she’s got three businesses under her belt.

 

toni, in return, tells her that she fell in love with photography as a kid, that moving to new york was the best choice she ever made and that she wouldn’t change her job at the bar for anything. cheryl asks her if she enjoys being a serpent, if the performance aspect of her job ever gets to her, and toni simply shrugs.

 

“it’s tiring, but it’s fun. the guys tend to get a bit handsy, but throw a bucket of ice on them and they cool down.” she says, biting the last piece of bacon on her plate. cheryl’s eyes widen.

 

“that must be slightly terrifying.” she says in a low voice. toni smiles.

 

“i can look after myself.” she says. cheryl raises an eyebrow.

 

“i’m sure you can.” she murmurs, her eyes moving down to toni’s lips once more. both their plates are empty, and toni drains the last of her water, feeling thoroughly fed as she looks down at her phone and lights it up.

 

it’s almost six thirty.

 

“damn. we’ve been here for over an hour.” toni says in surprise. cheryl chuckles.

 

“time flies when you’re having fun, i suppose.” toni bites back a smile, and cheryl winks at her before she lifts her hand and waves katrina over, pulling out her wallet from her purse as she does.

 

“oh, i’ve got it, cheryl-.”

 

“don’t be silly, t.t. i own the place, remember?” she says with a chuckle. she hands katrina a twenty, telling her to keep the change, and katrina raises an eyebrow.

 

“shouldn’t you eat here for free?” she says with a chuckle. cheryl smiles.

 

“part of running a business is realizing that nothing comes for free.” she says simply, and katrina blinks in surprise as toni shakes her head in disbelief and follows cheryl out of the diner. toni fights back a yawn as she steps through the door to see the sun break over the horizon, filling the city of new york with orange and yellow light. cheryl closes her eyes and smiles, breathing in deeply as she soaks up the sun before she turns to toni. she slides toni's jacket off her shoulders slowly, curling it up into her arms before holding it out to the pink haired girl with a smile.

 

"thank you for lending me it." she says softly. toni smiles.

 

"no problem." she says simply, reaching out to grab it. she slide her arms back through the sleeves, tries to ignore the smell of expensive perfume that's now lodged into the leather as cheryl reaches out and takes toni’s hand in her own. toni’s surprised by how warm her hands are now as she interlaces their fingers.

 

“i had an amazing time, toni. i wish we could continue this, but i think it’s safe to say we both need sleep and lots of it.” cheryl says with a sad smile. toni licks her lips and nods once.

 

“yeah, i’m pretty beat…” she says with a sigh.

 

truthfully, she doesn’t want this to end, either…she just gets along with cheryl so easily, it’s like nothing she’s ever had before…

 

who was this girl? where did she come from? god…

 

“i’ll leave you to head home then, t.t. i’ll catch a cab back to my apartment-.”

 

“no, don’t be silly, i can take you.” toni tells her, but cheryl gives her hand a squeeze as she shakes her head.

 

“toni, you can barely keep your eyes open. i’d rather you get home safely now, i’m not letting you drive me all the way back to my apartment in manhattan. it’s okay…” cheryl smiles, and toni’s breath hitches when she steps closer, her hand reaching up to cradle toni’s cheek affectionately.

 

god, her whole body feels like it's on fire from just a simple touch...

 

“can i ask you something, though?” she whispers. toni tries her best to breathe when cheryl brushes the pad of her thumb across her bottom lip gently, and she swallows thickly and simply replies with a nod. cheryl licks her lips hesitantly, her eyes darting down to toni’s lips before they move back to her eyes once more.

 

“do you think you could try and get tomorrow night off? i’d love for you to come to my nightclub in manhattan…it’s ladies night, drinks are cheap.” she says softly. toni hesitates.

 

take a night off? shit, toni’s pretty sure she’s never actually done that before…

 

but spending a night with cheryl instead of at the bar with guys trying to grope her all night is definitely inticing…but she couldn't do that to the girls, leave them to fend for themselves for a night, could she?

 

fuck, what was she supposed to do?

 

“i’ll…i’m not sure if i can. i’ll text you, yeah?” toni says hoarsely. cheryl raises an eyebrow.

 

“last time you said that you ghosted me.” she teases. toni shakes her head with a smile.

 

“i definitely won’t this time, i promise.” she says way too eagerly, but cheryl smiles all the same, white teeth biting down on her bottom lip as she nods once.

 

“okay.” she whispers. toni finds her eyes dropping down to those red stained lips, and god, she wants nothing more than to capture them in her own, but before she can, cheryl’s stepping back, a soft sigh escaping her as she nods toward toni’s bike.

 

“get home, toni topaz. you deserve a good morning’s sleep.” she says with a soft smile, and before toni can say anything, she’s making her way back inside the diner, toni watching her go with a heavy sigh.

 

“yeah…goodnight, cheryl.” she mumbles before making her way over to her bike and grabbing her helmet off the handle, her eyes landing on the one cheryl was wearing as it dangles slightly.

 

good god, she was in so much trouble…

Chapter Text

toni isn’t able to get the night off.

 

she never expected she would, truthfully, but she still made an attempt. fake coughing into the phone, however, had only caused veronica to laugh, tell her to drink an entire bottle of cough syrup and harden the fuck up.

 

toni’s not exactly mad, or disappointed. she knew there was no way veronica was gonna let her take the night off, unless she was on her deathbed, and even then, toni’s pretty sure veronica would kick down the door of her apartment with chicken soup in her hands to help speed up the healing process.

 

veronica does, however, inform her that jughead was now working for them as a busboy, which surprises toni, but also makes her happy. jughead’s a good kid, and besides, it at least gives him and betty an excuse to see each other more. the only problem now was the ‘no boyfriend or girlfriend drama’ rule of the bar…

 

toni yawns tiredly, stretching her limbs out like a cat as she stares up at the ceiling and winces at the sound of car horns honking angrily outside the window. she hasn’t moved from her bed in over an hour, and she’s been staring at her phone for about fifteen minutes now.

 

she’s contemplating whether she should text or call cheryl to give her the bad news. toni’s always sucked at texting, because she hates replying and hates the long wait for someone else to reply. but cheryl could still be asleep or busy, and she didn’t want to disturb her…

 

but she can’t exactly not tell cheryl that she can’t make it, and it’s getting closer and closer to when she has to start work, so she needs to tell her as soon as possible. she can’t sit here all day contemplating whether to text or call.

 

a phone call was more polite, right?

 

ah…fuck it.

 

she sighs, pressing down on the little phone icon underneath cheryl’s nickname. she still can’t believe she said ‘bombshell’ in front of cheryl, she’s such an idiot…

 

the phone rings for a long time, and toni frowns, unsure if she’s going to even answer until finally, on the sixth ring, she does.

 

“calling so soon, toni? it’s only been half a day.” cheryl teases. toni bites back a smile, her heart pounding at the sound of cheryl’s voice, which she silently chastises it for before clearing her throat to answer.

 

“guess i missed the sound of your voice.” she teases back, scratching the back of her neck subconsciously as her teeth gnaw on her bottom lip nervously.

 

“how sweet, t.t.” cheryl says with a chuckle, but there’s an air of sincerity in her tone that has toni’s heart pounding a little faster, and there’s the sound of a pen shifting on paper echoing through the phone before cheryl says something that’s slightly muffled, but toni still catches it.

 

“thank you, chris. can you push my three thirty for fifteen minutes? this is an important call.” toni grins at that, unable to help herself as she throws the covers off herself and grabs her cigarette pack on the bedside table.

 

an important phone call, huh?

 

got her right where you want her, toni.

 

she tries not to think about how cheryl has her in the exact same predicament as there’s a murmur of agreement on the other side of the phone and the sound of a door closing.

 

“busy?” toni asks, running her fingers through her hair as she makes her way to her window sill. she grabs a cigarette from her pack and places it between her teeth as cheryl sighs loudly.

 

“business as usual.”

 

“did you get any sleep?” toni asks with concern, the words slightly muffled as the cigarette bounces between her lips. toni quickly lights it and pushes the window up, blowing the smoke she sucks in out quickly.

 

“about an hour or two.” cheryl says nonchalantly. toni stiffens, her eyes wide.

 

“jesus, cheryl, and here i am, waking up at three in the afternoon.” toni scoffs, taking a drag in disbelief. cheryl laughs.

 

“don’t be silly, toni, your line of work definitely qualifies you to sleep so late. you’re practically a vampire.” cheryl says with a chuckle. toni rolls her eyes.

 

“you’re acting like owning three businesses isn’t hard work.” she mutters.

 

“oh, it most definitely is, but i’m used to only getting a few hours of sleep. no need to fret. now, i’m guessing there’s a reason for your call, other than wanting to hear my voice.” cheryl says, her tone teasing. toni smiles, but bites down on her bottom lip before she sighs and runs her fingers through her hair again.

 

“look, cheryl, i’m really sorry, but-.”

 

“you can’t make it tonight?” cheryl concludes correctly. she hears the sound of a chair squeaking, presumes cheryl is moving from her chair as toni licks her lips and nods subconsciously.

 

“yeah. veronica’s a hard ass, i had a feeling she wouldn’t give me the night off.” toni grumbles, taking a drag from her cigarette.

 

“that’s okay, toni. thank you for trying…i actually think it might be for the best, i should probably spend tonight catching up on my sleep.” cheryl says with a chuckle. toni smiles despite herself.

 

“yeah, you should. i really am sorry, though. i wanted to come.” toni says with a sigh, itching at her brow before she takes another drag. cheryl chuckles again.

 

“then how about we reschedule for tuesday night? the club won’t be too busy, but it’ll still be fun. what do you say?” cheryl says, her tone hopeful.

 

toni grins widely.

 

tuesday? fucking perfect.

 

“consider me there. gives me a chance to make up for not texting you last tuesday.” toni says with a chuckle. cheryl laughs loudly.

 

“in that case, i’m looking forward to tuesday night.” cheryl says, her tone becoming soft as toni smiles.

 

“so am i.” she whispers. it’s quiet for a few moments before cheryl clears her throat.

 

“i should let you go, you no doubt have a bar to get to.” toni sighs, takes another drag of her cigarette and nods again.

 

“yeah. i’ll see you on tuesday?”

 

“of course. see you then, toni. have a good weekend.”

 

“you too, cheryl.”

 

toni ends the call, staring down at her phone for a long time before she quickly finishes off her cigarette and tosses it out of the window.

 

tuesday night she could work with. she wasn’t working…and apparently neither was cheryl. toni feels the usual anxiety beginning to rear its ugly head as she scratches at her wrist to stop herself from reaching for another cigarette.

 

she’s nervous. she’s gonna be heading into the lion’s den alone…maybe she can convince one of the other girls to go with her?

 

veronica was out of the question, that girl refused to go out anywhere that wasn’t her bar, and betty wouldn’t go if veronica wasn’t. that leaves…

 

toni grips her phone and quickly scrolls through her contacts, smiling wildly when she comes across the cat emoji before she presses the call button.

 

she answers on the third ring.

 

“hello?” she sing songs. toni grins.

 

“josie, i have a favor to ask, but you can’t tell veronica and betty or any of the boys, okay?” josie makes an excited noise.

 

“ooh, sounds juicy! what’s up?” she says excitedly. toni chuckles.

 

“there’s this club in manhattan that i wanna check out on tuesday night, you wanna come with?” toni asks firmly. a loud squeal of excitement echoes through the phone so loudly that toni winces and holds the phone a few inches from her ear.

 

“oh my god! girl, yes! i’ve been looking for a new place to let off some steam! i am there, one hundred percent!” toni tries to contain her own excitement, her heart thundering against her chest as she chuckles.

 

“knew i could count on you! thanks, josie!” josie laughs.

 

“you’re welcome! you leaving for the bar soon?” she asks. toni nods.

 

“yep.” there’s the sound of scuffling on the other end of the phone before josie sighs.

 

“alright, well i gotta shower and get ready, i’ll see you then!” toni laughs.

 

“me too. see ya!” she hangs up, the grin on her face never leaving as she jumps up from the window sill and makes her way to her bathroom.

 

josie was definitely going to be the best wing woman, and it’s about time toni introduced cheryl to at least one of her friends…

 

jeez, introducing her to friends…did this make them official?

 

jesus christ, toni, slow the fuck down, you haven’t even taken her out on a date yet…

 

a date. god, toni hasn’t been on one in almost five years…and the last date she went on didn’t exactly end well. the guy had ended up abandoning her half way through the night to go out with his buddies…not that toni particularly minded, she just hadn’t felt like going out and the guy was insistent, so ultimately, it was a good thing…

 

this girl is making you think about dating, toni. that hasn’t happened in forever. she’s got you, and she’s got you bad.

 

toni doesn’t know what it is about cheryl that makes her crave something that she’s never really wanted before. stability. love. a relationship…

 

what if cheryl didn’t want the same, though? toni wasn’t in the business of getting her heart broken, and if cheryl wasn’t looking for something like that…

 

toni shakes her head as she strips off her clothing with a scoff and turns the hot water on full blast.

 

she’s thinking way too intensely about this. her and cheryl were just talking, it wasn’t anything remotely serious yet and she needs to stop treating it like it is, but she can’t. she’s just so fucking intrigued by cheryl as a person. this morning had been amazing, and it was the first time toni’s opened up to someone in a long time…

 

cheryl just gave off this aura of being someone that toni could talk freely with, someone who wouldn’t judge her or make her feel like shit like most people have. it’s not something she’s had before. it’s just easy with cheryl, and she knows it’s ridiculous because she’s only known the girl for about a week now, but she can’t help it.

 

add in the fact that this girl had three businesses to her name and was clearly a lot more mature than most their age, and it truly made toni think that cheryl was something special. that cheryl was…sensational.

 

and in past experiences, letting someone like that go would be a huge mistake on her part.

 

toni’s shower is quick as she puts her damp hair up into a high, but loose ponytail, stray strands framing her face as she quickly does her make up in the bathroom instead of the bar. she knows cheryl told her she was going to catch up on sleep, but the girl was unpredictable. it’s possible cheryl could show up at the bar tonight, and toni wanted to look her best.

 

she quickly picks out a grey vest top and ripped denim jeans, shoving them on her body before grabbing her serpent jacket and slipping into it.

 

toni stops by the liquor store, wanting to buy a bottle of tequila for veronica to make up for her leaving to have breakfast with cheryl, and when she gets to the front counter, the guy behind the counter, whose name is paul, grins at her.

 

“hey, did that girl end up swinging by the bar?” he asks.

 

“what girl?” toni asks with a frown. paul shakes his head with a chuckle.

 

“that drop dead gorgeous one with the red hair. after you left the other day, she asked me what the serpent on your jacket meant and i gave her the match box you guys sell at the bar. she said she’d consider popping in for a drink…so did she?” he asks, waggling his eyebrows with a smirk. toni rolls her eyes, slapping a fifty dollar bill onto the counter as she shoves the bottle into her bag.

 

“i don’t kiss and tell.” she says, trying her best to bite back a grin, but failing miserably as paul laughs loudly and winks at her.

 

“you’re a showstopper, toni.”

 

“don’t you forget it. see you tonight?”

 

“i’ll be there after i close here!” she gives him a two fingered salute before making her way back to her bike, unable to keep the grin off her face as she does.

 

when she arrives at the bar, she finds fangs and reggie outside it, laughing loudly as they both smoke cigarettes, and toni jumps off her bike, takes off her helmet and whistles at fangs.

 

“spare me one?” she calls out with a grin. fangs rolls his eyes, but reaches into his chest pocket for his pack.

 

“at this point, you owe me about three packs.”

 

“i give you free drinks under the radar, we’re even.” toni says with a roll of her eyes. fangs shrugs with a grin and pulls out a cigarette for her.

 

she lights it quickly, inhaling the fumes as reggie looks her up and down with a smirk.

 

“so who was that red haired girl you were with last week?” he asks cheekily. toni shrugs.

 

“a friend.”

 

“just a friend?” he sing songs. toni growls and punches him square in the chest.

 

“yes, just a friend!” she hisses. reggie winces and rubs his chest as fangs laughs loudly.

 

“she’s small, but she packs a mean punch.” reggie nods in agreement, and toni rolls her eyes.

 

she didn’t want the boys knowing about cheryl, if it got back to veronica…cheryl would more than likely be banned from the bar for life.

 

no boyfriend or girlfriend drama…

 

“don’t you guys have anything better to do with your time than tease me?” she asks with a sigh. reggie and fangs share a wicked grin before they both look at her and shake their heads.

 

“no.” they say at the same time. toni gives them both the middle finger.

 

she chats with them until her cigarette is done before she makes her way inside. archie and sweet pea are sitting at the bar with jughead, which toni finds such an odd sight, before she makes her way behind the bar, jumping over it and causing jughead to jump slightly.

 

“toni, hey!” jughead greets her with a grin once he sees it’s her. toni returns his smile as she straightens her jacket.

 

“hey, jug. acclimating well?” she asks with a grin. jughead nods once happily.

 

“yeah! definitely having a better time than i did at my last job.” he says with a scoff of anger as he takes a swig from the beer in his hand. archie grips his shoulder.

 

“ah, he was a dick. don’t worry, we’ve got your back now.” he says with a grin. jughead smiles, and toni spots the hickey on archie’s neck, unable to stop herself as she grins.

 

“have a good time last night?” she teases, taking off her backpack and her jacket. archie grins and shrugs.

 

“the usual. kick the stragglers out, close the bar, get breakfast-.”

 

“fuck ronnie, you know, the usual.” sweet pea says with a laugh. archie puts him in a headlock, ruffling his hair just as toni hears loud footsteps behind her.

 

“why are you boys fighting in my bar?” she turns to see veronica watching them both sternly, and she grins and pulls the bottle of tequila out of her bag, giving it a little shake as she does.

 

“relax, v. here, have a drink.” she puts it down on the bar top, and veronica groans in appreciation, rushing over to her with her arms open-

 

toni goes for a hug, only to be rejected as veronica pushes her back lightly and grabs the bottle, pressing a kiss to the side of it.

 

“ugh, never leave me, jose.” she whispers. toni raises an eyebrow, and veronica fixes her with a playful glare.

 

“thank you, toni, but also, i deserve it, because you left early. again.” she says firmly, cracking open the bottle and grabbing a shot glass. toni sighs.

 

“the bar wasn’t busy anymore, and i needed some serious shut eye.” veronica frowns, looking her up and down quickly with a bit of concern.

 

“are you still feeling like shit?” she asks. toni shrugs.

 

“i drank some cough syrup and hardened the fuck up.” she teases. veronica barks with laughter and wraps an arm around her shoulders as she takes the shot.

 

“good! cause tonight is gonna be busy!”

 

toni groans internally, sighing as she looks at jughead, archie and sweet pea helplessly.

 

busy. otherwise known as she was going to spend tonight getting oogled at and possibly felt up by strangers who wolf whistled at her and called her a number of derogatory names.

 

tuesday can’t come quick enough.

 

-------------------

 

tuesday actually comes surprisingly quickly.

 

saturday and sunday night pass with ease…somewhat. she’s only felt up three times and punches one guy, which is pretty average for work at the whyte wyrm, but a girl she’s been ghosting for the last two weeks does throw a drink in her face angrily once she had spotted her behind the bar, leaving toni drenched in vodka with veronica, fangs and sweet pea roaring in laughter at her as josie led her out back to help her get cleaned up.

 

that had pissed her off, even though she knows she deserves it. but ultimately, toni makes over six hundred dollars in tips, which she immediately tucks away into her fund to travel overseas, something she’s been wanting to do for years now. she’s not exactly sure how well veronica would take her wanting to go on a trip to australia for six weeks, but she’s almost got all the money saved, which means she’s getting closer and closer to it. she’ll have to tell her eventually…

 

toni is keeping way too many secrets from veronica at this point.

 

she wakes up tuesday morning feeling excited and nervous more than anything. which annoys her. she’s just going out to a nightclub, it shouldn’t cause this crazy feeling of tension and anxiety to rise inside her, and yet…

 

cheryl was going to be there. cheryl owned the nightclub she was going to…what if she made a fool of herself? what if she looked everywhere for cheryl and never found her? what was she even supposed to do when she got to the nightclub? walk in and tell them she knew cheryl personally?

 

these are all things she can get an easy answer to, she can easily text cheryl and ask her what she’s meant to do, but she refuses to make herself look like an idiot by helplessly texting cheryl on instructions on how to enter a nightclub, she fucking knows how to do that…

 

god, she doesn’t even know the name of this place-

 

DING DING.

 

toni frowns as she takes another drag from her cigarette and looks down at her phone, her heart racing when she sees a new message from cheryl.

 

bombshell [03:37]
i just realized i never told you the name of the club, t.t. it’s called ‘escape’, i’ll send through the address in a moment…my apologies! xx

 

toni blinks for a few moments before she rolls her eyes.

 

kismet. what a fickle, fickle thing…

 

you [03:38]
was literally thinking the same thing and was about to message you asking for it. great minds think alike, bombshell. see you tonight! xx

 

toni grins as she sees the three bubbles pop up indicating cheryl’s typing, and waits patiently for it to come through.

 

bombshell [03:40]
when you come in, tell them you know the owner, give them my name and they’ll show you to the vip section. see you then, toni…i’m looking forward to it.

 

vip section? fancy.

 

toni stares for a long time at the kissing face emoji after that sentence, her heart pounding as she licks her lips and bites down on the inside of her cheek to stop herself from smiling.

 

god, she’s got it so bad…

 

cheryl sends through the address, and less than a few seconds later, her phone starts buzzing in her hand, toni jumping slightly as she sees the cat emoji at the top.

 

oh no.

 

please don’t cancel, please don’t cancel-

 

“josie, what’s up?”

 

“toni! i’m so sorry but i can’t come out tonight, i’ve just booked a studio for the rest of the day to do some recordings! the label i’m considering signing with wants to hear my vocals in person.”

 

toni’s heart sinks, and she tries her best not to sigh as she swallows the lump in her throat and nods.

 

“that’s okay, josie…congratulations!” she says with a smile. she’s happy for josie, of course, but now she was flying solo at this club…

 

fuck.

 

“thanks, babe! i feel horrible-.”

 

“no, no! it’s okay, don’t stress. do your thing!” toni tells her. josie sighs.

 

“hey, i might not be able to come, but i’m pretty sure the boys aren’t doing anything tonight!”

 

toni hesitates.

 

the boys? as much as she loves them, she can’t rock up to a club with a gaggle of rowdy security guards by her side…

 

maybe she can just take one of them? but which one? archie was out of the question, he was more than likely going to be with veronica tonight, and jughead was too, toni didn’t want to be the cause of any issues with betty if jughead found a girl at the club…

 

reggie was an oaf, as much as she loved him, and sweet pea had the biggest resting bitch face on planet earth…

 

but fangs…fangs could work…

 

toni and fangs got along a lot better than she did with the other boys, the both of them finding common ground in the fact that they were both bisexual and biracial, and fangs also grew up close to washington, so at this point, they were practically siblings.

 

he’d be perfect.

 

“cool, i might ask fangs to join me. thanks, josie!”

 

“of course! i’ll see you tomorrow, i gotta warm up.”

 

“good luck, not that you need it.” toni says with a grin. josie scoffs, but says nothing more as she hangs up, and toni scrolls her way through her contacts until she reaches fangs.

 

he answers on the third ring.

 

“hey tiny, what’s up?” he greets cheerily. toni rolls her eyes. she fucking hates that nickname, just because she’s the smallest girl at the bar…

 

“you doing anything tonight? i’m heading to a club in manhattan and i need a wingman.” she says hurriedly. fangs chuckles.

 

“nah, i’m free. swing by yours?” she hears the sound of him grunting, and she raises an eyebrow but says nothing.

 

“yeah, bring your car. be here by nine.”

 

“got it. goddammit, i’m your team mate, dumbass! i gotta go, this asshole’s gonna make me lose my winning streak, see you tonight, tiny!”

 

“i really hate it when you call me that.” toni grumbles.

 

“i know.” and with that, he hangs up. toni rolls her eyes, but grins as she sends a text message to cheryl.

 

you [04:02]
hey, is it okay if i bring a plus one? his name is fangs, he’s one of the boys who works security at the bar.

 

a minute passes before the three dots pop up, cheryl’s message coming through rather quickly.

 

bombshell [04:03]
fangs? please don’t tell me that’s his actual name…

 

toni laughs loudly, unable to stop herself as she types out a quick reply.

 

you [04:03]
nah, it’s a nickname, haha.

 

toni knows he got the nickname as a kid, had laughed when he told her he’d gotten it because he had bitten his older brother’s hip as a child so badly that he still bore scars from it to this day. he had introduced himself to her as ‘fangs’ that day almost three years ago, and toni’s called him that ever since.

 

bombshell [04:04]
in that case, i’ll add ‘fangs’ to the list. xx

 

toni grins widely.

 

perfect. fangs would be the perfect wingman…this was going to go well.

 

hopefully.

 

toni settles into her bed, deciding to spend the rest of the day watching movies on netflix, but she finds herself barely paying attention, excitement for tonight keeping her mind completely occupied until seven thirty rolls around and toni quits the app on her phone with a sigh and jumps out of bed to shower and change.

 

what if things really did go well tonight? what if she ended up waking up tomorrow morning in cheryl’s bed rather than her own? and fuck…what if it went the complete opposite? what if in a week’s time, cheryl was the one throwing a drink in her face angrily at the whyte wyrm?

 

it’s the last thing toni wants, but she has a tendency to fuck up good things in her life…

 

god, the anniversary was two weeks away…

 

don’t think about that!

 

she ends up going for a tight fitting black dress with sleeves that show off a lot of cleavage, the neckline plunging down to about mid waist, and she grins at herself in the mirror before she tosses her pink hair up into a loose ponytail once more, framing her face with the loose strands. she starts applying her make up when she hears her front door open, and she tenses up before fangs’s voice sounds out.

 

“you seriously need to fix the lock on your door, tiny!” he calls out. toni lets out a sigh of relief before replying.

 

“nothing in here worth stealing, anyway!” she hears her bedroom door open before fangs appears in the doorway, leaning against it with a frown on his face.

 

“fair enough, but what if some asshole comes in here in the middle of the night and finds some hot girl sleeping soundly in her bed?” he says with concern. toni frowns.

 

she hadn’t…actually thought of that.

 

“hopefully they’ll be polite and leave.” she says weakly. fangs chuckles darkly.

 

“if they’re breaking in, you really think they’d do that?” he scoffs. toni sighs and nods before she starts doing her eyeliner.

 

“i’ll fix it.” fangs sighs with a roll of his eyes.

 

“i’ll fix it now, god knows how long you’re gonna take doing that shit.” he says with a chuckle.

 

“i’m almost done!”

 

“as if, we both know you’re gonna spend at least half an hour perfecting that wing. i’ve got you.” toni grins as fangs makes his way to her front door once more, the sound of a toolbox being messaged around with echoing out moments later.

 

forty five minutes later, toni’s door is fixed and her make up is immaculate as she puts on her gold high heels and a black choker with a snake dangling from it. she steps out of her room, and fangs grins as he turns the doorknob of her front door.

 

“all fixed! you can pay me by buying me a drink tonight.” he says with a grin as he twirls the screwdriver in his hand.

 

“done. thanks, fangs. you look good, by the way.” she says, cocking an eyebrow and smirking as she takes in his black jeans and button up white shirt with the sleeves rolled up. he looks her up and down and whistles in appreciation.

 

“could say the same for you, but that would be admitting i’m checking you out. you look good, tiny, is there someone at this club you’re trying to impress?” he asks with a cheeky grin. toni feels her cheeks turn red as she shrugs.

 

“maybe.”

 

“ha! i knew it! is it that redhead from last week?”

 

“…maybe. now let’s go, we need to make a stop, gotta buy cigarettes.”

 

fangs doesn’t stop pressing her for details the entire ride to the club, even gets out with her when they stop to buy cigarettes so he can keep questioning her, and toni only gives him minor details, simply telling him that she met cheryl at the liquor store and that she asked toni to come check out the club. that was that.

 

fangs grins as they merge onto manhattan bridge, his eyes on the road, but constantly flicking to toni teasingly.

 

“i’ve got your back, tiny. this girl is gonna be mush in your hands by the end of the night!” he cheers. toni rolls her eyes and bites back her smile as they get closer and closer to the club.

 

they make it by eleven, and toni looks up to see the club is packed.

 

the line spirals around two blocks, fangs looking up in awe as toni takes in the blue aesthetic lighting behind the word ‘escape’ at the top of the building.

 

“whoa…that line is longer than the ones we get at the bar…” fangs whispers. toni nods numbly, still staring at the long line in shock.

 

“she sure knows how to run a business…” toni mutters. fangs looks at her in surprise.

 

“wait, red owns this place?” fangs says in shock. toni bites her lip in hesitation before she nods. fangs whistles in appreciation.

 

“damn…if you don’t date her, i will. she must be loaded.” he says with a grin, prompting toni to punch him in the arm.

 

“shut up.”

 

they park at a nearby lot, and toni’s glad they only need to walk for about two minutes before they get to the club. it’s hot, sweat already trickling down the back of her neck as her six inch heels dig into the asphalt. she grips fangs’s elbow, linking her arm through it as they make their way past the line toward the front door.

 

“you told her you’re bringing me, right?” fangs asks nervously. toni grins.

 

“yeah, she knows we’re coming.”

 

they come to a stop in front of security, fangs grinning down at her.

 

“this is an odd change of pace.” he chuckles. toni rolls her eyes and looks up at the tall security guard in front of her.

 

“hi, my name’s toni, this is fangs, we’re friends with cheryl blossom.” the security guard looks through his list before he’s smiling at them and nodding.

 

“yeah, she’s been waiting for you. head on through, andrew will show you to the vip section where she’s at.”

 

toni gives him her thanks as she leads fangs inside, and he laughs quietly and leans in to her ear.

 

“vip section? damn, this girl must like you, tiny.” he teases. she bites back a smile and leads him toward the security guard with the name tag ‘andrew’.

 

“hey, the guy out front told us to come to you. i’m toni, this is fangs, we’re friends of cheryl blossom’s.”

 

“ah, yeah, she told us to expect visitors. come on through.”

 

he leads them down the entrance ramp and as soon as they enter the main dancefloor of the club, toni’s eyes widen.

 

there’s some trance beat thumping through the speakers, and the sea of bodies dancing is insane. it’s packed, not an inch of dancefloor space free as toni takes in the crowd of grinding bodies and sweaty people, all of them cheering on the dj at the booth above them, where there’s a railing and stairs with a velvet rope cutting it off from the club goers.

 

“through to those stairs with the rope, cheryl’s up there somewhere. i’ve given the guy at the rope your names though, just let him know, okay?” andrew yells into her ear over the music. toni gives him a thumbs up and leads fangs through the crowd of bodies, her heart pounding faster with each step.

 

she can’t see cheryl from here, and as her and fangs climb the steps, she scans the vip section quickly in an effort to locate her-

 

“toni! you made it!” toni’s heart skips a beat as cheryl rounds the corner behind the security guard and smiles at her, and toni’s jaw immediately drops open at the sight of her.

 

cheryl looks…wow.

 

she’s wearing a green dress that cuts off mid-thigh, the dress hugging her curves beautifully as the sequins around the middle of the dress shine in the club lights surrounding them. her hair is straightened to perfection, slick and cascading down her back and the sides of her arms as toni takes in the mesh sleeves of the dress. gold rings cover her fingers, much like they do toni’s, and her face…

 

god, her face…

 

“cheryl, you look…” toni can’t even begin to find the word to describe her, but cheryl is looking at her in similar awe, her brown eyes wide as she licks her lips and gives her a lopsided smile.

 

“lost for words?” she asks playfully. toni scoffs and simply nods as cheryl bites down on a cherry red bottom lip.

 

“i could say the same thing.” she whispers, looking toni up and down with a raised eyebrow. toni bites back a smile.

 

she knows she looks good.

 

fangs clears his throat beside her, and toni shakes her head and points at him, trying to ignore the smirk on his face as she does.

 

“uh, this is fangs. fangs, this is cheryl.” she says, and fangs smiles and extends his hand over the rope.

 

“nice to meet you.” he tells her. she takes his hand with a smile.

 

“likewise! martin, let them through.” she says, tapping the security guard’s shoulder, and he rolls his eyes, but pulls back the rope to let them in. they walk through, toni taking in the small amount of people who must’ve paid extra to be in the vip section before she licks her lips and looks at cheryl.

 

“is there a smoker’s section?” toni asks. cheryl nods once with a smile.

 

“just around the corner. i can take you.”

 

“you coming, fangs?” toni asks. fangs grins at her and shakes his head before nodding toward the bar in front of them.

 

“i’m gonna get us drinks, i’ll meet you there, tiny.” he gives her a subtle wink, and toni rolls her eyes, but cheryl doesn’t catch it, simply waves toni forward.

 

“come, it’s this way.” toni nods and follows her around the corner. they climb two flights of stairs, toni pulling a cigarette out of her new pack as she does before cheryl pushes open the fire exit door and leads her outside.

 

it’s a small balcony filled with chairs and tables, but the hot wind is refreshing, the music still thumping loudly below them as toni pulls out her lighter.

 

“wow…this place is amazing, cheryl.” toni says, attempting to flick the lighter before cheryl reaches out and takes it from her hands lightly.

 

“thank you, toni. i’m glad you like it.” she says softly, flicking the lighter until it sparks with fire. toni leans forward to light it before looking at cheryl with a raised eyebrow.

 

“seems like we’re always doing this.” toni says roughly as she blows out smoke, and cheryl laughs and shakes her head.

 

“it’s because you smoke too much.” she says sternly. toni shrugs as she takes another drag from her cigarette.

 

“we all gotta die one day.” she says simply.

 

hesitation is clear as day on cheryl’s face before she’s suddenly reaching a hand up to cradle toni’s cheek, her thumb brushing across the apple of her cheekbone, and god, if it was anyone else, toni would slap their hand away and chastise them for ruining her highlighter, but the spark of electricity that hits her when cheryl touches her…

 

fuck, toni, you’re in too deep…

“i’d rather you didn’t anytime soon, t.t. i enjoy your company far too much to lose you so quickly.” cheryl says softly. toni pokes her tongue out to wet her lips, trying to calm her racing heart as she smiles and leans in closer to cheryl’s touch.

 

“don’t worry. i’m fit as a fiddle. take away the cigarettes and i’m pretty much an athlete with all that exercise i get dancing at the bar.” she says with a light chuckle. cheryl smiles, and toni bites back a whine of despair as she drops her hand and suddenly walks toward the railing of the balcony. toni tries not to watch the sway of her hips, tries not to look at her ass, but fuck, it is one perfect ass-

 

“it’s crazy how packed this place is for a tuesday night.” toni says, joining her gaze and looking out below them. cheryl hums softly as she flips her hair over her shoulder with a nod.

 

“it dies down quickly. by one, everyone’s gone…well, the responsible ones, anyway.” she mutters the last part, and toni smirks as she puffs on her cigarette.

 

“wish i could say the same for the wyrm. even on our least busiest nights, we’re lucky to close by three.” she says with a grin. cheryl winces slightly for some reason before she’s smiling.

 

“apples and oranges, t.t. a bar is very different from a nightclub.” she murmurs, still looking deep in thought. toni purses her lips with a frown. something's clearly on cheryl's mind, but she decides not to question her about it, instead blows smoke out of her nose as she nods.

 

“that’s true.” she mumbles. cheryl turns to face her now, her eyes roaming toni’s face as she continued watching the crowd below and puffs on her cigarette.

 

“why is it called ‘the whyte wyrm’ anyway?” she asks. toni’s grin widens as she turns to face cheryl now, prepared to recite word for word what veronica told her when she had asked the same question her first night there.

 

“did you ever wake up sober from a one night stand and it feels like a worm’s crawling its way through your body, and some guy or gal is passed out right beside you and god, they’re so ugly that you’d rather that worm crawl it’s way through every single one of your organs than risk waking them? that’s the whyte wyrm.” toni says proudly, taking the last drag from her cigarette before she puts it out on the ashtray on the table next them.

 

cheryl blinks a few times in surprise before she’s laughing, her eyes shining with delight as she shakes her head with amusement.

 

“that's definitely something i can relate to." she says, her nose wrinkling in disgust. toni laughs and nods slowly.

 

“and that's definitely something i can agree with.” she says with a grin. cheryl’s smile only widens, her eyes staring at toni in wonder before she suddenly sighs.

 

“i didn’t even ask you how you are, toni. how rude of me…” she murmurs. toni smiles and, in a moment of feeling bold, reaches out to take her hand. cheryl’s hands are cold, as always, and toni gives them a gentle squeeze before responding.

 

“it’s okay. i’m fine, cheryl. how are you doing?” she asks. cheryl exhales shakily, her eyes down on their intertwined hands before she looks up at her.

 

“i was feeling a little down before…but i’m much better now that you’re here.” she says with a soft smile. toni raises an eyebrow.

 

“feeling a little down? i think we should fix that, bombshell. come on, tequila shots are on me.” toni keeps their hands interlaced as she leads her back to the fire exit, cheryl chuckling behind her as she does. there’s a few people on the balcony now who have joined them for a smoke as she opens the door and heads down the stairs with cheryl right behind her.

 

toni feels cheryl give her hand a squeeze as she steadies herself to walk down the stairs, and toni smiles to herself before leading her back toward the vip bar where fangs is sitting, and toni can tell from here that he’s flirting with the bartender, a cute boy with a smile on his face as he drinks in whatever fangs is saying in awe. toni chuckles to herself and makes her way over to him, and she clears her throat right next to fangs’s ear, watches as he spins in surprise before he smiles.

 

“hey, tiny! sorry i forgot about drinks…” fangs says with a frown. toni rolls her eyes as she hears cheryl laugh quietly behind her.

 

“you’re useless, fangs. you see a pretty boy and you forget all about me, huh?” she teases. she sees the bartender’s face light up as fangs shrugs with a grin. cheryl steps forward and looks at him with wonder.

 

“fangs…such a strange nickname to have.” cheryl says with a smirk. his grin only widens.

 

“it's a long story, but it's not the weirdest nickname at that bar, trust me. you haven’t even met sweet pea yet.” he says with a chuckle. cheryl blinks once.

 

“who now?” she asks in confusion. toni laughs and shakes her head before looking at the bartender.

 

“three tequila shots, please.” she says, placing a twenty dollar bill onto the counter, but cheryl grips her wrist and shakes her head.

 

“i don’t pay, so neither do you.” toni blinks in surprise.

 

“what happened to ‘part of owning a business is realizing that nothing comes for free’?” she asks with a smirk. cheryl shrugs and nods at the bartender, who doesn’t take the twenty dollar bill and instead pours three shot glasses with tequila.

 

“drinks are different. besides, i want us to have a good time tonight.” cheryl says with a smile. fangs reaches for the first shot glass.

 

“hell, i’ll drink to that!” he cheers. toni rolls her eyes, but takes the second shot glass and clinks it with cheryl’s as she picks up the third.

 

“to a good time tonight, then.” she says before downing the drink with a slight wince. cheryl does the same, her mouth puckering slightly as she coughs before breathing in deeply and nodding.

 

“to a good time tonight.”

 

-----------------

 

it’s easily one of the best nights of toni’s life.

 

cheryl gets along with fangs easily, the three of them spending a good hour talking about anything and everything as they order drinks, and toni had almost hit fangs across the head when he had mentioned the girl who had thrown a drink in toni’s face at the wyrm on sunday night.

 

“you should’ve seen her face, cheryl!” fangs had said with a loud laugh, and toni had glared at him as cheryl had frowned.

 

“why did she throw a drink in your face?” cheryl had asked. toni had sighed.

 

“probably pissed at me for ghosting her.” she had mumbled. fangs had chuckled and shaken his head.

 

“tiny has a tendency to leave the people she picks up at the bar a little heartbroken, don’t you?” he had said, and toni had been seconds away from punching him before the bartender had come with another round of drinks.

 

why the fuck was he even bringing that up, god, she shouldn’t have brought him-

 

cheryl hadn’t said anything, but toni’s worried that this might ruin things for her now. god, shes’ gonna kill fangs…

 

after a few more drinks though, they’re all talking and laughing once more, and by the time they’re done, toni is feeling more than a little buzzed as she giggles (and she knows she’s drunk when she hears it because she never fucking giggles) when cheryl leans in closer to her.

 

“so this whole serpent thing…how serious is it?” she asks. toni shrugs as fangs laughs and lifts the sleeve of his shirt to reveal the double headed snake that adorns all of their black leather jackets on his arm, cheryl’s eyes widening as she reaches out to touch it.

 

“wow…did you get these for veronica?” she asks, her words slurring a little in her own drunkenness. toni nods slowly.

 

“we all have them. once a serpent, always a serpent.” she says with a drunken grin, reminiscing on the night veronica had taken toni to the nearest tattoo parlor to get it done on her third shift at the whyte wyrm fondly. when veronica had seen the numerous tattoos on toni's skin, she had demanded toni get one to officially join the team, and toni hadn't hesitated. cheryl raises an eyebrow at her.

 

"it's like a gang." she says with a chuckle. toni shrugs.

 

"kind of, to be honest." she guffaws.

 

"except we don't do any illegal shit." fangs says with a grin. cheryl licks her lips before she looks at toni with a smirk.

 

“and where’s yours?” she asks playfully. toni ignores the way her heart skips a beat and instead winks at her, leaning in close to whisper into her ear.

 

“hmm, i’ve got plenty of tattoos, but dance with me and maybe i’ll let you find them for yourself, bombshell.” she whispers seductively.

 

yeah, tequila definitely makes her a lot more flirtatious and courageous.

 

she can practically feel cheryl shiver at her words, and she bites down on a red bottom lip in hesitation before she looks at fangs and nods toward the dancefloor.

 

“feel like dancing?” she asks. fangs grins, watching this small interaction with a wicked glint in his eyes before he shakes his head.

 

“nah, i think i’m gonna get that bartender’s number.” he says, grinning toward the bartender as he looks at fangs with a shy smile. cheryl chuckles and leans in to him.

 

“have fun, i’ve heard great things.” fangs’s eyes widen before he grins devilishly, and nods at toni.

 

“i can say the same thing about tiny, red. she might be a heartbreaker, but she’s got some moves.” he teases. toni gives him the finger angrily, and fangs winks at her with a laugh. before toni can kick him though, cheryl grips her hand and drags her out onto the dancefloor, which is still filled with bodies despite the small amount of people in that particular section.

 

“toni, why does fangs call you ‘tiny’?” cheryl asks with a breathless laugh, turning to face her when they reach the edge of the dancefloor. toni sighs and rolls her eyes.

 

“because he’s an ass.” cheryl laughs, but allows toni to grip her waist and pull her in close as the song currently playing slows down for the chorus. cheryl places both her forearms on toni’s shoulders, her hands clasping around the back of her neck loosely, and toni smiles up at her as they sway on the spot for a few moments until cheryl suddenly leans in close to whisper into her ear.

 

“i love this song.” she tells her. toni smiles, her head starting to spin a little as she simply nods once before cheryl suddenly sings along to it in her ear.

 

“‘you, you love it how i move you, you love it how i touch you, my one, when all is said and done, you’ll believe god is a woman…’”

 

toni’s grip on cheryl’s waist tightens, nails digging into the dress as she bites down on her bottom lip and tries her best not to pounce, because fuck, of course she can sing, too…

 

you’re so fucked, toni, you are so fucked…

 

cheryl pulls back, her hand reaching up once again to touch toni’s cheek, and toni licks her lips before cheryl suddenly rubs her thumb over them gently. they part against her touch, her eyes closing as she breaths in through her nose and tries to sober up a little, because she needs to say this, needs to let cheryl know how she feels…

 

“cheryl, what fangs said…about the girl who threw the drink in my face…” toni starts, but cheryl smiles and shakes her head.

 

“toni…it’s okay. i’ve had my fair share of one night stands, too, remember?” cheryl breathes against her. toni frowns, but says nothing more before cheryl’s suddenly exhaling shakily and smiling.

 

“but…” she says softly, and toni blinks herself out of her daze and looks up at her with a frown of confusion.

 

“yeah?” she croaks out.

 

“i’m not just some girl, am i? like those ones you pick up at the bar?” cheryl whispers as she pulls back to meet toni’s eyes. the expression on her face is unreadable, and toni finds herself swallowing thickly before she licks her lips as cheryl’s thumb brushes across her jawline.

 

toni finds herself shaking her head before she can even think about cheryl’s question, her impulses taking over.

 

“no, cheryl…you’re really not. besides, i picked you up at a liquor store, remember?” she teases. cheryl rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling before she bites down on her bottom lip (and god, toni needs her to stop fucking doing that) and leans in closer, causing toni’s breath to catch in her throat.

 

“toni, i…i don’t want this to be a one-time thing.” she whispers. toni’s lips part as she leans in a little closer as well, and cheryl meets her halfway, their foreheads resting against each other, and they’re not following the beat of the music at all, the both of them coming to a standstill as toni breathes in cheryl’s scent…expensive perfume mixed with tequila and peppermint…

 

“good. neither do i.” toni whispers back, her heart pounding erratically, and with that, she grips the back of cheryl’s neck and tugs her closer before capturing cheryl’s bottom lip between her own slowly, almost questioning if she’s making the right move…

 

all doubts are erased when cheryl groans against her, her hands moving down to grip toni’s waist to steady herself as she responds eagerly, tongue sliding against toni’s languidly and fuck-

 

the taste of her lips, the feeling of cheryl’s hands pulling her closer in desperation, god, toni’s head is fucking spinning, whether from the tequila or from kissing cheryl, she isn’t sure, and she can hear fangs laughing a few meters away from her at the bar, but fuck, she doesn’t care-

 

cheryl deepens the kiss even more, pulling toni as close as possible as her hands suddenly brush over the exposed skin of her collarbone, and toni can feel the goosebumps that erupt on her skin at her touch, can’t stop the whine that escapes her as she tangles her fingers in cheryl’s red locks-

 

finally, after what feels like years, cheryl pulls away from her with a noisy pop, her cheeks flushed and her red lipstick smeared all over her lips as she licks them. they stare at each other for a long time, and god, toni can see the lust written all over her face before she leans down to whisper into toni’s ear.

 

“let’s get out of here.” toni blinks rapidly, pulls back to look at her in surprise as her heart pounds in her ears, and fuck, the look in her eyes right now-

 

“i…”

 

she’s lost for words. because she wants this, of course she fucking wants this-

 

who cares, dude, you’re getting laid!

 

no, this was more than that, cheryl was more than that-

 

oh shut up, stop acting like you have morals all of a sudden! just fuck her and be done with it!

 

but this was different, cheryl wasn’t some random girl for her to sleep with, no-

 

“cheryl, are you sure? we’re both a little drunk…” toni finds herself saying with a chuckle, wanting to be serious but chill at the same time. cheryl smiles, leans down and kisses her so, so slowly…toni feels like she can’t fucking breathe as she kisses her back just as softly before cheryl pulls away and nods against her.

 

“maybe…but toni, i know you want this just as much as i do.” cheryl whispers. toni bites back a smile, but cheryl notices, because of course she does, a smirk on her face as she looks at toni as if waiting for confirmation-

 

take her on a date first, ask her out instead, do it, toni-

 

“okay. yeah, let’s go.” toni says breathlessly with a nod, and cheryl finally pulls away and takes toni’s hand in her own, dragging her off the dancefloor with a smile.

 

“my apartment’s a three minute walk away. let’s go.” cheryl says, and before toni can say or do anything, cheryl’s dragging her out of the vip section. toni turns to look at fangs, who she sees is watching her with a cheeky grin. he gives her a huge thumbs up as he cheers.

 

he’ll be fine on his own, she knows that, but she still feels a little shit for leaving him here on his own…even though she’s more than likely doing him a favor, she’s pretty sure she’s not the only one about to get lucky tonight-

 

fuck, was this really happening? was this seriously fucking happening-

 

cheryl leads her out of the club to the entrance, the hot summer wind hitting them as toni sees the line has now thinned out quite a lot, and cheryl leads her across the road as soon as the pedestrian light turns green, her hand never leaving toni’s as they walk along the sidewalk.

 

toni has no idea what to think, and honestly, the four tequila shots are definitely getting to her now. cheryl’s not any better as she stumbles slightly with a giggle, and sure, toni’s slept with a lot of girls while drunk, but she doesn’t want this to be a mistake-

 

“cheryl, wait…” toni tugs her hand to pull her to a stop, and cheryl stumbles back into her and looks at her in surprise.

 

“are you sure? i…i don’t want you to wake up tomorrow morning regretting it.” toni whispers. cheryl blinks a few times before she smiles and shakes her head.

 

“toni, i might be a little drunk, but i’ve wanted this since i first laid eyes on you…please, don’t think i’ll wake up with doubts about this...if anything, the alcohol has made me brave enough to finally do something about it.” she says softly, her hand reaching up to brush across toni’s cheekbone once more. toni finds herself smiling, and she licks her lips before she nods and lets out a shaky breath.

 

"okay. i...i've wanted this too since i first saw you, cheryl, there's...fuck, there's just something about you..." toni slurs a little, her drunken mind making her say things she'd never say sober, and cheryl lets out a shaky breath before she leans in to press a kiss to toni's lips softly.

 

"i feel the same way, toni..." she whispers. toni smiles, their foreheads resting together before she nudges her softly.

 

“good. then lead the way.” she says roughly. cheryl takes her hand once again, her smile only widening before she leads toni down two more blocks. they come to a stop in front of a tall apartment building that looks luxurious, and toni scoffs as cheryl leads her inside because of course she’d live in a place like this-

 

the lobby is magnificent, and the receptionist even looks high class, but toni doesn’t even get a chance to appreciate the view, cheryl’s heels clacking loudly on the floor as she drags her to the elevator quickly.

 

fuck, cheryl's definitely on the same wavelength as toni right now-

 

“we’re right at the top. penthouse.” cheryl says nonchalantly, pulling her into the elevator and swiping a keycard onto a chip reader. it turns green and beeps as toni rolls her eyes.

 

this fucking girl-

 

“of course you’re in the fucking penthouse-.”

 

toni doesn’t get to finish her sentence.

 

as soon as the doors close, cheryl pounces, pushing toni up against the wall and kissing her fiercely. toni groans, squeezing her thighs together instinctively as she grips cheryl’s shoulder and switches their positions, pushing her up against the wall instead. toni’s fingers fiddle with the hem of cheryl’s dress before she trails kisses down cheryl’s jaw, sucking in the skin of her neck harshly. cheryl whines against her, her hand cupping the back of toni’s neck to pull her closer as she arches her neck to give her more access with a breathless gasp.

 

“toni, fuck-.” cheryl moans, her nails digging into the back of toni’s neck-

 

there’s a loud ‘ding’ before the doors open, and toni pulls away only for cheryl to whine and pull her back in, spinning them until she’s gripping toni’s elbows and pulling her into the penthouse while she walks backwards without breaking the kiss.

 

“bedroom.” cheryl breathes against her lips, still leading toni backwards until she’s pushing a door open, and toni finally pulls away long enough to look inside-

 

cheryl’s room is fucking huge. a king sized bed with egyptian cotton sheets and the most beautiful golden décor, but she once again doesn’t get the chance to take everything in-

 

cheryl kisses her hard, her teeth tugging on toni’s bottom lip harshly, and toni throws all caution to the wind and reaches behind cheryl’s back for the zipper of her dress. she finds it at the top, and she slides it down, cheryl shivering against her before she shrugs her arms out of the green material-

 

it pools at her feet, dropping with a loud thunk, and toni didn't even realize how heavy the material must be to make that much noise before cheryl steps out of it and drags toni closer, nose nuzzling against toni’s with a smile.

 

"wait..." toni pulls back, stares down at the red lace bra and the matching underwear in awe, eyes roaming over the creamy white skin of cheryl’s stomach and legs before she’s shaking her head and exhaling deeply.

 

“god, you’re beautiful.” she blurts out. she can feel herself blushing immediately from embarrassment, but cheryl is smiling widely as toni’s fingers reach out to brush across her bare skin, smooth to the touch and immediately erupting with goosebumps when toni makes contact.

 

toni's whole body feels like it's fucking on fire, and she's struggling to contain herself from doing something crazy, like throwing cheryl onto the bed and fucking her until she screamed her voice away, but cheryl's staring at her so softly...

 

toni finally pulls her gaze away to look up at cheryl imploringly for any hesitation.

 

she finds none.

 

cheryl pulls her in, hands cradling her face as she kisses her softly. toni quickly takes the rings on her fingers off, dropping them to the ground with a smile as cheryl chuckles and does the same with her own rings.

 

"smart idea." she mumbles. toni laughs, kissing her softly before cheryl suddenly reaches for the bottom of toni’s dress.

 

“your turn.” she whispers against her lips. toni nips at her bottom lip before pulling away to look into her eyes.

 

“i’m not wearing a bra.” she murmurs with a smirk. cheryl sucks in a deep breath before she winks at her.

 

“one less item of clothing for me to worry about then.” cheryl breathes.

 

fuck.

 

toni lets her pull the dress up and over her head, raising her arms to allow her to do so, and toni watches somewhat apprehensively as cheryl’s eyes roam over her bare skin.

 

she sees cheryl’s eyes move over the bundle of stars tattooed on her left hipbone, over the bohemian tattoo on her sternum, and she steps closer with hesitation, her eyes looking at toni imploringly.

 

"may i?" she whispers, a hand reaching out to touch her. toni scoffs.

 

"you don't need to ask permission, bombshell, i'm literally standing half naked in front of you, i'd take that as confirmation." she says with a breathless laugh. cheryl smiles before she brushes her thumbs over the design on her sternum, just touching the underside of her breasts and causing a shiver to run up toni's spine-

 

“these are beautiful, toni…” she whispers, her voice cracking slightly. toni licks her lips and takes cheryl’s left hand, pushing it down slowly, and cheryl's breath hitches as she skims over the top of toni's black lace underwear to meet the bare skin of her thigh where another tattoo is.

 

a tattoo of two roses with a snake emerging from them, another rose above the snake as it’s head pokes out through brass knuckles.

 

cheryl gasps softly, looks up at her with wide eyes before toni smiles and shakes her head.

 

“that’s actually not 'the' tattoo. i got that back home, way before i even met veronica.” she says hoarsely. cheryl smiles before her fingers move up to touch the stars on her hipbone.

 

"this one?" she whispers.

 

"was my first tattoo at eighteen." toni says softly. cheryl nods before she touches the one at her sternum.

 

"got drunk on my twenty first birthday and got it." toni says with a smile. cheryl chuckles at that, and toni grips her wrist again and brings her fingers up to the side of her body, just beside her right breast, where the two headed snake is resting.

 

cheryl’s fingers brush over the tattoo, and it’s a soft moment, the both of them staring at each other with smiles before cheryl cups her face and pulls her in for a gentle kiss.

 

“do you want more?” she whispers against her lips. toni nods numbly.

 

“my back is a blank canvas…i wanna change that.” she says gruffly. cheryl smiles and kisses her again, pulling her closer by her wrists until they’re looped around cheryl’s back and brushing across her bra.

 

“take it off.” she says shakily. toni swallows the lump in her throat before unhooking cheryl’s bra and kissing her, pulling it off her body slowly as she does.

 

she can feel cheryl shaking beneath her fingers, and fuck, toni’s shaking too, from excitement or nerves or probably both as she drops her gaze down and takes in the sight before her.

 

god…she’s fucking perfect…

 

cheryl bites her lip nervously, and toni reassures her with a shake of her head before she brushes her thumb under cheryl’s bottom lip to get her to release it.

 

“you’re beautiful, bombshell.” she says softly with a smile. cheryl returns it somewhat shyly before she’s leaning in to kiss her again, and toni takes the initiative, pushes her gently until the back of her knees hit the king sized bed.

 

she falls back, giggling slightly as toni collapses on top of her with a breathless laugh. she hovers above the red haired girl before she kisses her, a little more roughly this time. cheryl’s nails dig into her back, scratching down it as her back arches off the bed in anticipation. toni trails kisses down her jaw until she reaches her neck, her intent clear as she bites down on the skin harshly.

 

cheryl whimpers, a breathless sigh escaping her as she pulls toni closer by the back of her neck, fingers fisting into pink hair-

 

toni reaches up and pulls out the band holding her hair up quickly, pink waves falling down and brushing across cheryl's chest before toni pulls it over her right shoulder and moves down to cheryl's chest. The red haired girl gasps against her as a tongue swirls around her nipple, and toni scratches marks down her stomach playfully before removing her lips with a smile and moving back up to the bruises already marking cheryl’s neck to press soft kisses there.

 

toni’s had a lot of sex with a lot of different people, rough and quick and filled with no passion whatsoever, but fuck…this was different. this was something electric, something exciting, something so beautiful and unlike anything she’s ever had before-

 

“toni, please…” cheryl whispers into her ear. toni smiles against the skin of her neck, tongue lathing over the wounds she’s created as cheryl shivers underneath her from the action.

 

“please what?” she whispers into her ear before biting down on her earlobe. cheryl groans and licks her lips before pressing a kiss to the corner of toni’s mouth.

 

“please fuck me.” she moans out. toni’s body tenses, a wave of lust crashing over her before she trails her kisses down cheryl’s body, taking skin between her teeth every few kisses just to revel in cheryl’s soft moans of pleasure every time she does.

 

cold fingers fist through her pink hair once more, and toni slowly hooks a finger through cheryl’s underwear before pulling the fabric down gently. cheryl kicks them off the rest of the way, toni smiling up at her before she kisses the skin beneath her bellybutton and moves further down…

 

when toni hooks cheryl’s legs over her shoulders and slides her tongue along cheryl’s folds, the red haired girl moans loudly, tugging slightly on toni’s hair as she does in pleasure before the bartender dives back in with more vigor, tongue circling cheryl's clit lightly. within minutes, cheryl’s whole body is shaking beneath her hands, toni resting them on her hipbones to keep her body flush with the bed as she works harder to get cheryl to her climax-

 

“don’t stop, please!” cheryl moans out, and toni can’t help her own groan at the sound of those words, her tongue working faster-

 

cheryl whole body snaps up, back arching off the bed as her fingers grip toni’s hair tightly, her thighs clenching around toni’s head as she almost screams with pleasure, and toni smiles against her, laps her tongue a few more times to bring the red haired girl down before one of cheryl’s hands untangles from her hair and interlaces instead with the hand on her hips, squeezing tightly. her body begins to relax, her chest heaving with heavy pants before toni begins making her way back up cheryl’s body slowly, presses kisses to her skin as she does. cheryl smiles at her weakly, reaches a hand up to tuck a lock of hair behind toni’s ear affectionately before she leans up to kiss her. cheryl groans at the taste of herself on toni’s lips, and god, the fact that she’s kissing her after she's just gone down on her-

 

“are you tired?” cheryl whispers against her lips suddenly. toni raises an eyebrow.

 

“after that? no, definitely not.” she says with a chuckle. cheryl laughs with her softly before her teeth nip at toni’s bottom lip playfully.

 

“good. because we’re not getting any rest tonight.”

Chapter Text

when she doesn’t hear the usual sound of horns honking and people yelling, toni knows something is different.

 

she breathes in deeply through her nose, taking in the scent of lemons and something else before she slowly opens her eyes, blinking the sleep away as she hugs the pillow she’s resting on closer to her face.

 

she’s not home.

 

where is she?

 

wait.

 

the club, cheryl, kissing her, coming back to her apartment-

 

toni’s eyes snap open and she sits up quickly, staring around the room wildly before she looks beside her to see pale skin and an exposed back with harsh red lines running down it, red hair falling around the white sheets and pillows in soft waves-

 

cheryl groans and buries her face into her own pillow, a hand reaching out to curl around toni’s wrist as she tugs on it to pull her back down.

 

“five more minutes.” she grumbles, inhaling deeply through her nose as she turns onto her side to face toni, giving the pink haired bartender a full view of her bare chest and-

 

fuck.

 

toni swallows thickly, her eyes moving over the way cheryl’s eyes close once more with a content sigh, and she’s twisting the covers between her fingers because she has no idea what to do.

 

she stayed the night.

 

she never stays the night.

 

fuck, fuck, fuck-

 

this is bad, this is uncharted territory-

 

“i, uh…i should go…” toni mumbles, throwing the covers off herself and moving to get off the bed, but once again, cheryl’s grip on her wrist tightens and she tugs toni back once more.

 

“stay, t.t. please?” she croaks out. toni purses her lips, tries to calm her racing heart as she finally turns to face cheryl, who is looking at her with the softest fucking smile on her face-

 

you are so fucked, toni topaz.

 

she doesn’t regret last night. of course she doesn’t. last night had been…amazing. but toni doesn’t stick around. and yet here she was, staying at this girl’s place for the night…god what was she doing?

 

her head pounds painfully, and she frowns with a wince and clutches it as she licks her lips and looks back at cheryl in hesitation.

 

toni can’t remember everything from last night, but the parts she does remember…holy shit.

 

her and cheryl had sex, that’s for sure. and lots of it.

 

she feels her back burn with pain, remembers the feeling of cheryl’s nails scratching down her skin as her fourth orgasm had rocked through her body, and the memory of it has toni biting down on her bottom lip to stop herself from smiling despite how hazy the memory is.

 

yeah, she definitely rocked cheryl’s world last night.

 

god, the sound of cheryl screaming out her name, the way her thighs had clenched around toni’s waist with every thrust…

 

“stay, toni…” cheryl breathes once more, effectively pulling toni out of her thoughts as she looks at cheryl apprehensively.

 

“i…”

 

“you don’t stay the night. i know…i can tell. you look like you’re five seconds away from running out of this place.” cheryl says with a chuckle, and she’s sitting up now, the covers falling off her body completely and pooling around her hips, leaving the smooth skin of her stomach exposed, and toni can fucking see the blue and black marks on her ribcage that her teeth have caused, the bruises over the top of her breasts that her lips had marked…

 

“but just this once…wouldn’t you like to stay?” cheryl whispers, her fingers reaching out to grip toni’s over the top of the covers.

 

toni’s eyes move up to her neck, roam over the black and blue marks on the creamy pale white skin there before she looks into cheryl’s eyes.

 

“stay and do what, cheryl?” she croaks out. cheryl’s perfect white teeth gnaw at her bottom lip, red lipstick that’s completely smudged off but still stained on it shining brilliantly in the sunlight that comes through the curtains before she’s leaning forward, her lips brushing against toni’s jaw, moving up to her cheek, a soft kiss to the corner of her mouth…

 

“get to know each other better.” cheryl whispers against her skin. toni can’t help the shiver that crawls up her spine, goosebumps erupting over caramel skin as she licks her lips and reaches up to brush her fingers over cheryl’s jawline with a cocky smile.

 

“i think we know each other pretty well after last night.” she murmurs teasingly. cheryl chuckles against her before she pulls away and looks into toni’s eyes.

 

“physically, yes…but intimately…not quite yet. i want to know everything about you, toni. i find you…utterly fascinating.” cheryl says softly, her eyes roaming over toni’s face in wonder. toni sucks in a shaky breath, contemplating the million reasons why she shouldn’t do this.

 

the only thing that seems to keep running through her mind is the one reason why she should.

 

you like her, toni…this is the first person in a long time you’ve felt this way about…don’t throw it away now…

 

“okay…i’ll-i’ll stay.” toni whispers.

 

and god, the smile that breaks over cheryl’s face is heart stopping.

 

she leans in and kisses toni deeply, tongue pushing past toni’s lips gently, and toni finds herself falling forward as she lifts the covers over herself once more and moves on top of cheryl. the red haired girl snakes a hand around the back of her neck to pull her down, and toni wedges a thigh between cheryl’s legs, a groan escaping both of them as her skin meets the wetness still there from last night, and she places each hand on the side of cheryl’s head to hold herself up, kissing her languidly-

 

cheryl’s fingers brush over the back of her ear, following the bumpy ridge down to the back of her left shoulder, and toni freezes.

 

don’t ask, don’t ask, don’t ask-

 

cheryl pulls away from her with a frown, her fingers brushing over the raised skin multiple times, over and over again-

 

please, just don’t ask-

 

“what is that, t.t.?” cheryl whispers. she gently grips toni’s chin and moves her head to the side, trying to get a better look, but toni shakes her head and lightly slaps her hand away, giving her a shaky smile as she tries to calm her racing heart down.

 

“it’s nothing. just a scar.” toni distracts her with a kiss, one cheryl happily returns before she’s pulling away with a soft hum.

 

“i didn’t even feel it last night…how drunk were we?” cheryl says with a breathless laugh. toni smiles and kisses her again, ready to throw anything and everything at her to keep her distracted from asking again.

 

“pretty drunk. i’m nursing a mean hangover.” she says with a sigh. cheryl laughs again as toni kisses her neck.

 

“so am i. how’d you get it? the scar, i mean.” she breathes. toni squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head.

 

screams and terrible, horrible pain-

 

don’t think about that!

 

“can’t remember.” she grumbles, and she’s kissing cheryl harshly now, wanting nothing more than to stop the questions, the inquiries into that fucking scar-

 

a soft moan escapes the girl beneath her as toni’s fingers move down further, brushing over the top of her thighs playfully, and cheryl pulls away from toni’s lips with a loud pop and arches her back off the bed, tilting her head to the side to expose her already bruised neck as she gasps for air-

 

toni latches onto the first patch of skin she can find that isn’t black or blue, lips sucking viciously as cheryl’s thighs squeeze around her leg with a whine.

 

“still not satisfied? you’d think four orgasms in one night would be enough.” toni whispers teasingly against her skin, and when cheryl laughs shakily she finds herself relaxing a little.

 

the moment’s passed. she’s in the clear.

 

please let her be in the clear-

 

“you started this.” she breathes. toni gasps dramatically and pulls back.

 

“did not! you pulled me down for a kiss.” she huffs. cheryl laughs again, a little more loudly this time.

 

“mmm, and you’re trying to distract me with sex. you don’t want me asking about that scar.”

 

fuck.

 

god, this girl can see right fucking through her.

 

she’s starting to panic now, she can feel that familiar build up in her chest, a soft wheeze escaping her-

 

“it’s okay, toni. we don’t have to talk about it…we can talk about something else.” cheryl says softly, her fingers brushing over the scar once more with a small, but understanding smile that has toni blinking back tears before she moves back down to kiss the new bruise forming on cheryl’s neck.

 

distract her, go on, use that charm of yours-

 

“or we don’t have to talk at all.” she says in a low voice, moving up to latch her teeth to cheryl’s earlobe. she feels the redhead shudder beneath her, nails scratching down toni’s arms before she hums lowly.

 

“f-fair point. but i do want to know more about you, toni.” she says with that earth shattering fucking smile, and toni feels her heart soften just looking at it, all traces of anxiety or panic simply vanishing at the sight of it.

 

god, what is this girl doing to her?

 

“what do you want to know?” toni mumbles, leaning down to press a soft kiss to the mass of black and blue on cheryl’s neck.

 

she’ll tell her anything. just nothing about the scar, please, don’t ask about the scar…

 

cheryl purses her lips and licks them before her fingers brush across toni’s jaw. she’s struggling to hold herself up now, and cheryl must sense it because she chuckles and wraps an arm around toni’s waist before she sits up slowly, her lips now attacking toni’s neck as toni grips her shoulders to steady herself. she’s practically straddling the red head now, and she’s trying to focus on the fact that they’re both still very naked beneath these sheets to distract herself from the painful memories...

 

the sheets pool around their bodies, a gentle breeze coming in through the open window and causing the curtain to flutter as cold wind hits the bare skin of toni’s back and soothes the scratches left by cheryl last night, and toni takes a deep breath at the same time cheryl does.

 

“you told me you lived in washington…” cheryl murmurs, hands gently moving around and caressing toni’s back to pull her closer. her lips close around the skin of toni’s collarbone, sucking softly as the pink hared girl mewls and runs her fingers through cheryl’s hair, eyes rolling slightly in the back of her head at the feeling, and god, she’s thankful for the distraction-

 

“y-yeah, i did. born and raised.” toni says breathlessly. cheryl’s hands move further down, palms smoothing over her ass and causing her hips to buck unintentionally as she bites back a moan. cheryl cocks an eyebrow, a smirk playing on her lips, but she says nothing as she hums softly against toni’s skin before her lips move further down as well.

 

“you also said you fell in love with photography as a kid…when did you first pick up a camera?” cheryl asks, looking up at her imploringly. toni smiles, cradles cheryl’s face in her hands before she brushes the lightest of kisses to her lips.

 

“when i was six. i had one of those little play cameras that had images behind them when you clicked it. but i used to pretend it was a real camera, used to take photos with it.” toni says in a low voice. cheryl’s eyes grow unbearably soft, a smile playing on her lips before they move down to kiss the valley between toni’s breasts.

 

toni scratches her nails through cheryl’s hair, her teeth unconsciously biting down on her lower lip to stifle another moan as the red head moves her hands over toni’s thighs now. toni can feel her fingers moving over the place where she knows her tattoo is, caressing the ink tenderly, but cheryl’s eyes are on toni’s chest before she’s leaning forward to drag her tongue over the skin between her breasts once more. toni finds herself leaning back, head moving up to the ceiling as a soft pant escapes her, all the painful thoughts and memories gone now, and god, she can’t begin to understand how she’s getting aroused right now considering how sensitive that area is after last night, but she can feel that insistent throbbing between her legs, sweat beginning to build on her skin as her heart pounds wildly-

 

each kiss cheryl gives her feels like fire against her skin, and the red haired girl is still dragging her tongue across toni’s skin as if she can’t get enough of her.

 

“mmm…you taste like sex.” cheryl whispers. toni shivers against her.

 

“what does that taste like exactly?” toni manages to get out with a soft gasp as cheryl’s nails dig into her thighs. cheryl chuckles against her skin before she moves her lips to toni’s ear.

 

“like sweat. salty…but there’s also a sweetness there, too…or maybe i’m just remembering what you taste like.” she says hoarsely.

 

fuck, you’re so fucked, toni, you’re so fucking fucked-

 

“i th-thought you wanted to talk.” toni says with a breathless laugh that cheryl returns.

 

“we can talk and fuck at the same time, can’t we?” she says, her tone laced with seduction that has toni squeezing her thighs around cheryl’s hips.

 

“you might render me incoherent.” toni murmurs, her teeth gnawing at her bottom lip to stop another loud moan as cheryl’s hands move up to squeeze her breasts. she’s kneading the skin between her thumb and forefinger as she looks up at toni with nothing but utter worship shining in her eyes.

 

“mmm, if i’m rough, maybe.”

 

god, you are so fucking FUCKED-

 

“last night wasn’t rough enough? have you seen the bruises on your body?” toni says, looking down at her with a raised eyebrow. cheryl grins.

 

“have you seen the ones on yours?” toni can feel her cheeks turning red, and she feels cheryl’s fingers move around her back once more, tracing the outlines of the scratches there with a triumphant smirk. toni simply rolls her eyes and tries not to convey how fucking turned on she is right now.

 

“so we’re both kinky bitches who like it rough, doesn’t mean we can’t be soft sometimes.” she says, even though soft is the last thing she really wants right now-

 

“something tells me soft is the last thing you want right now, t.t.”

 

seriously, she’s fucking reading your mind at this point-

 

“can you read minds or something?” toni says, voicing her thoughts out loud before she can stop herself. cheryl laughs loudly now, her forehead connecting with toni’s collarbone as she hugs the pink haired bartender close to her body before her laughter eventually fades.

 

“no, but i can read people…i can read you.” cheryl whispers, pulling back to look into toni’s eyes. toni finds herself swallowing thickly, and she clears her throat before she responds.

 

“yeah? what can you read about me?” she asks, her voice cracking slightly for reasons unknown to her. cheryl reaches up, fingers brushing over the apple of toni’s cheekbone tenderly.

 

“that you have a lot of pain. but that you hide it with a smile and a cocky attitude to stop people from getting too close to you, to finding out what that pain is.” cheryl says, her voice clear and concise as if she’s doing a tarot reading instead of pretty much dragging toni for filth right now.

 

yeah, she can see right fucking through you, toni, you’re an idiot, you should’ve just fucking left, you dumbass-

 

toni says nothing, but she can feel the tears welling in her eyes, memories of screams of anger and surprise and pain that zaps up the scar behind her ear-

 

her eyes dart over to the double doors right beside her, ones she’s sure lead out to a balcony-

 

she needs a cigarette.

 

“can i smoke?” she says roughly, pulling away from cheryl with a cough to stop the shakiness in her voice. she throws the covers off them and moves off cheryl as if she’s been electrocuted, and the red haired girl sighs, but doesn’t stop toni from getting off the bed as she nods once.

 

“yeah. there’s an ashtray on the table on the balcony.” toni raises an eyebrow at her as she bends down to pick up her clutch bag, and cheryl smiles.

 

“jason smokes almost as much as you do.” she says simply. toni nods once and takes her cigarettes and her phone out, and cheryl throws the covers off herself, clearly aware that nothing more was going to happen, but toni’s glad she’s not pushing it. she gives toni her space, moves over to another door in the room and opens it before pulling something off a hook behind it.

 

“here. you can’t exactly go out there naked.” cheryl says with a smile. she’s holding out a white fluffy robe with the letters ‘C.B’ stitched in gold on the top left hand side of it, and toni rolls her eyes, but takes it and shrugs it on, tying the robe around her waist snugly.

 

great, now she’s wearing a robe with cheryl’s initials on it, why doesn’t she buy herself a collar and a leash and be done with it-

 

“take your time, i have to make a few phone calls. i’ll meet you out there when i’m done.” cheryl says softly. toni nods once again and pulls the curtain back from the double doors. her fingers just close around the handle when cheryl speaks up once more.

 

“and toni?” she purses her lips and turns, and cheryl looks at her apologetically.

 

“i’m sorry. i didn’t mean to upset you.” she says sincerely. toni licks her lips, a shaky exhale escaping her before she gives the red haired girl a small smile.

 

“you didn’t…don’t worry.” and with that, she steps outside into the burning sunlight. she blinks rapidly with a soft hiss, sweat already beginning to build on her brow from the weight of the robe and the blistering sun bearing down on her, and she sighs and quickly lights up a cigarette before she looks down at her phone for the first time since getting to cheryl’s apartment last night.

 

it’s eight in the morning, and she has three texts from fangs from last night. she frowns before she unlocks her phone and opens them.

 

fangs [01:58]
get it tiny!!!!! she’s hot as fuck! have fun!

 

fangs [02:45]
i’m fucking the bartender in the back room, don’t tell cheryl lol

 

fangs [04:02]
tonight was awesomeeeee! thanks for inviting meeee!

 

toni chuckles softly at the eight kissy face emojis after it, and she takes a seat beside the table to her right and flicks the ash into the ashtray before taking another drag from her cigarette.

 

a rush of lightheadedness hits her, and she breathes in deeply in an attempt to soothe her headache. her throat is dry, so are her lips, but she doesn't dare go inside for a glass of water, not exactly wanting to interrupt cheryl and whatever phone calls she’s making.

 

besides, she’s still reeling from what cheryl said. because the truth of the matter is, she’s right. and toni knows she is. she’s been pushing people away for three years now, because it’s better than having to explain, or talk about what happened-

 

don’t think about that!

 

but that’s why she’s here now, isn’t it? because she doesn’t think about it, because she’s closed herself off from having any kind of human emotion that involved pain or anguish, cut herself off from having a connection with someone, from letting them in and airing out her problems and her pain and suffering-

 

whatever dude, she’s wrong. you’re really gonna let some girl you’ve known for like two weeks get in your head like this?

 

but it didn’t matter. it didn’t matter if toni met cheryl two weeks ago or two years ago, the girl was right. she could read toni…hell, she’d pretty much ripped the book open and flipped through the pages at lightning speed while simultaneously drinking in every single word written on the paper.

 

she’s never, ever met someone like this before.

 

and if the fact that cheryl could read her so well wasn’t enough, the sexual chemistry between them was fucking insane. last night had been nothing sort of phenomenal, something toni’s never had before, or experienced before.

 

they were compatible. in every single fucking way. romantically, physically, intimately, platonically…they just fucking fit together like puzzle pieces. toni can’t deny it even if she wanted to.

 

every part of her is telling her to flee this apartment, to run and not look back, but she can’t. because she’s never had this before and she can’t lose it.

 

maybe this is exactly what she’s been looking for all along. not just a quick fuck with a hot girl whose name she’ll forget in day or two…when did that ever fix anything? at the end of it all, it only made toni feel worse…

 

she’s not your fucking therapist, toni-

 

no, no, she knows that, of course she knows that, but cheryl was fucking making an effort to get to know her, making an effort to try and break down her walls, and fuck, when has anyone ever made an effort to do that? not even veronica, someone she considered a sister, had ever done that. josie and betty, any of the boys…none of them tried this hard to get toni to open up, and yes, she’s partly to blame for that because every time they’ve tried she’s pretty much ripped their heads off, but with cheryl…it was different. toni didn’t feel like shutting down, didn’t feel like putting her walls up, didn’t feel like telling cheryl to stop…

 

and she needs to tell someone. because it’s something she’s kept inside her for three years now, and it’s fucking killing her. it’s turning her life inside out and upside down and she can’t keep going like this.

 

toni groans as her head throbs and she leans down to press the palm of her hands into her eyes with bruising pressure, the smoke coming off her cigarette filling her nostrils and clouding her senses with nothing but tobacco. she licks her lips and sits up with a sniff, blinking away her tears before they fall and looking out at the view ahead of her in an effort to distract herself.

 

and it definitely works.

 

the view from the penthouse is gorgeous, the whole of manhattan visible beneath her, and she’s grinning before she can stop herself.

 

she’ll never regret moving to new york. she misses washington, sure, but this…

 

the door opens behind her, causing her to jump slightly, and she doesn’t get the chance to turn around before a hand is gripping her shoulder and squeezing softly. cheryl moves into her periphery, a red robe tied around her own body as she moves the second chair on the balcony closer to toni. she’s watching the pink haired girl intently, a mixture of emotions crossing her face before she simply reaches out and takes toni’s hand in her own.

 

“are you okay?” she asks softly. toni takes a drag from her cigarette.

 

no. not really.

 

“yeah. i’m fine.” she manages to croak out, smoke escaping her mouth and nose in a steady stream as she exhales deeply. cheryl purses her lips, but says nothing, simply squeezes her hand and leans back into her chair with a sigh.

 

“we…” toni starts, but stops, shaking her head and licking her lips as cheryl looks at her curiously. she doesn’t speak, simply waits for toni to gather the courage to say something once more.

 

“we can talk, if you want. just…about other things, please.” toni finally manages to get out, her eyes not meeting cheryl’s as she looks up at the sun and takes the last drag from her cigarette.

 

maybe one day, she’ll be able to talk about it. just…not today. not now…

 

she puts it out on the ashtray, stares in wonder at the other cigarette butts resting inside it until cheryl finally responds.

 

“okay. if there’s something you don’t want to talk about, just tell me, t.t. i don’t want to push you to talk about something you don’t want to talk about…i want you to be comfortable with me.” cheryl says slowly. toni finally turns to face her, and for a brief second, she’s staring at her in confusion.

 

because she’s starting to genuinely wonder if this girl is real.

 

“i…i am comfortable with you. more comfortable than i am with a lot of other people who i consider myself close to…i don’t know why.” toni says truthfully, because she doesn’t see a point in lying about it. she’s already keeping enough things from cheryl, she doesn’t want to add to the long list. cheryl simply smiles knowingly and nods.

 

“i feel the same way about you, toni. you make me feel…mmm…” cheryl trails off, and her fingers are tracing patterns onto toni’s forearm, making her heart race pathetically as she closes her eyes and begins humming.

 

“calm. you make me feel calm. and safe…something i haven’t had the luxury of feeling in a long time.” she murmurs, opening her eyes, and toni has to physically stop her mouth from dropping open in shock.

 

because right there, shining in cheryl’s eyes like a fucking beacon.

 

pain.

 

and toni gets it now. gets why cheryl can read her like an open fucking book.

 

you’re not the only one hurting here, toni.

 

toni finds herself wondering what cheryl’s pain is, but as soon as the thought enters her mind, she whisks it away like a bad smell, because she has no right.

 

she’s not telling cheryl about her pain, so why should she even have the luxury of wondering what cheryl’s was?

 

all in due time, toni…maybe one day you’ll tell her about your pain…and maybe one day she’ll tell you about hers.

 

maybe.

 

toni licks her lips but says nothing for a long time, and for some stupid reason, she instead grabs her cigarette packet, pulls out two and holds one out to cheryl, who looks down at it with watery eyes before she sniffs and takes it with a smile.

 

“thank you.” she says in a small voice. toni simply nods, flicks open her lighter and holds the flame to her cigarette before she holds it out to cheryl, who leans forward until the tip is burning cherry red. she inhales deeply, closing her eyes and leaning back against her seat before she sighs and allows the smoke to leave her lungs in grey tendrils.

 

“jason would kill me if he knew i was doing this.” she says with a chuckle. toni raises an eyebrow.

 

“what, he can murder his lungs but you can’t?” she says gruffly. cheryl cocks an eyebrow, but the look in her eyes is soft, the pain is still shining there, perhaps even more pronounced as she winces and shakes her head.

 

“he’s protective.” she says simply.

 

“why?” toni responds back.

 

“because he has reason to be.” cheryl takes another drag from her cigarette, but says nothing further, and toni doesn’t push her, because she doesn’t have a right to.

 

you’re not telling her your pain…you’re not allowed to ask about hers.

 

“when you asked me to stay…” toni starts, not quite sure where she’s going with the sentence, but she looks up at cheryl imploringly, only to find the redhead smiling at her widely.

 

“i meant i’d like you to stay the night again, yes. only if you want to, t.t.” cheryl says firmly, trying to make it very clear that she’s leaving the choice up to her. toni grins.

 

“don’t you have work?” she asks. cheryl shrugs.

 

“i told them i’m taking the day off.” she says simply. toni scoffs in disbelief and spends a few moments contemplating if she really should stay.

 

it doesn’t take long for her to reach a decision.

 

“i’d like to stay, if you’ll have me. i’m, uh…” toni trails off, feels the heat rising in her cheeks, and when she looks up at cheryl, the girl is watching her with a cocky grin.

 

“not quite ready to let go of last night? me neither.” she says with a small laugh. toni licks her lips, shakes her head in amusement before she sinks back against her chair with a sigh.

 

“this is probably a bad idea.” she murmurs out loud.

 

“why?” cheryl asks.

 

because veronica would kill me if she found out i had a possible girlfriend.

 

“i work at a bar where i’m groped and stared at every second of my shift, cheryl. whatever this is between us…if it leads to something more, it probably won’t end well. and i don’t want that to happen.” toni says truthfully, choosing her words carefully.

 

they’re not dating, she knows that, but the chemistry between them is undeniable, and if that’s what it leads to…

 

“then it doesn’t need to be anything more for right now. it can just…be.” cheryl says, as if it’s the easiest solution in the world.

 

and toni wants to argue. wants to tell cheryl that this is only going to end with both their hearts broken, with a burning forest fire behind them that they had no hope of putting out.

 

but instead, she lets out one shaky breath and simply nods.

 

“okay.”

 

---------------------------

 

they spend the whole day in cheryl’s apartment.

 

toni and cheryl shower together after they’re done on the balcony, finally finishing off what they started that morning with cheryl three fingers deep inside toni, the pink haired girl collapsing against the shower wall with cheryl crashing their lips together to muffle her moans.

 

toni doesn’t bother asking cheryl for clothes simply shrugs into the bathrobe cheryl had given her once more, and the red head does the same with a smirk on her face as she orders them room service for breakfast.

 

the rest of the penthouse is gorgeous, toni staring in awe at the living room that’s right in the center of it, stairs on each side of the square space leading down to it with a gigantic tv hanging on a feature wall. the kitchen is beautiful, large enough to fill toni’s bedroom in her own apartment, and there’s a hallway to the right of the kitchen that toni guesses leads to more bedrooms, but she doesn’t ask if anyone else lives here, because she’s quite sure no one does.

 

cheryl seems a little out of her element, having someone else there to occupy her home. she’s quiet during breakfast, as if she’s forgotten that toni’s there, but toni finds she doesn’t mind. it’s not an uncomfortable silence at all.

 

they decide to have a lazy day and spend it sitting in her living room on her couch watching movies.

 

cheryl gets calls that have her ducking out of the room every once in a while, and toni feels kind of bad that she’s occupying her time, but cheryl reassures her that it’s fine and that a day off is something she’s needed for a while, anyway.

 

they manage to make it through the first movie just fine, the both of them talking every once in a while about random things, but by the second movie, they’re talking way too much for the movie to even be playing, so cheryl turns it off with a smile and continues their conversation.

 

they talk about everything.

 

cheryl tells toni a bit about her childhood, but toni can tell she’s keeping some things hidden, because cheryl doesn’t mention her parents much, mostly focuses on telling her about jason and how he was her rock growing up.

 

toni wants to ask why she would need jason to be her rock in the first place, but decides against it. cheryl had told her that day they had breakfast that her relationship with her parents was strained…toni didn’t want to bring up anything that would upset the redhead, so she stays quiet and listens. cheryl tells her how her father had loaned her money to buy the nightclub, and that she’d done so well running the place that she was able to pay him back within three months, effectively stopping him from making any moves to try and overthrow her positon.

 

“would he do something like that?” toni asks. cheryl purses her lips and says nothing, and toni takes that as an answer.

 

cheryl tells her that once she had made enough money from the nightclub, she bought the restaurant in manhattan, and after that, had bought the second restaurant in brooklyn that she named after her brother. she tells toni that’s the reason why she was in brooklyn the day they met. she was visiting the restaurant to talk with the chef about a change in the menu.

 

toni tells her a little bit about washington, only tells her that she grew up poor living in a trailer park before she began working a job at a local café at the age of fifteen. she saved every single penny she earned to buy herself a good camera, and had begun taking photos, selling them online to eventually afford a ticket to new york with enough on the side to afford a shitty apartment that she still lives in despite the money she’s now making at the bar. cheryl asks her why she doesn’t move to a nicer one, and toni simply shrugs and blames it on nostalgia, and also on the fact that she’s trying to save up for a trip to australia, which piques cheryl’s attention, a smile lighting up her face as she nods.

 

“australia is beautiful, toni. you would love it there.”

 

they spend the rest of the afternoon talking about cheryl’s time there, a business trip she had taken two years ago, and toni found herself falling more and more in love with the idea of a vacation there the more cheryl talked about it. they talk about the bar a bit, cheryl asking a few questions about how the bar runs that have toni frowning, but she ultimately answers each question as best she can.

 

cheryl joins her for a cigarette every time she goes out for one, and eventually they both sit out on the balcony and watch the sunset, cheryl curling up on her seat and leaning over to rest her head on toni’s shoulder as she takes the cigarette from her hands and sucks in the toxic fumes.

 

they order a pizza, and cheryl pops open a bottle of wine and turns on another movie, and toni replies to all her messages after ignoring her phone all day as she does. she has two from veronica asking if she’s okay, three from fangs asking if she’s alive, and one from josie apologizing again for not showing up last night. toni tells veronica she’s fine, tells fangs she’s alive, and tells josie it’s okay.

 

everything worked out perfectly.

 

toni’s eyes now watch the end credits of the movie they’re watching in a daze, her stomach full and her head clear for the first time in a long time despite the fact that her and cheryl have finished the bottle of wine between them as cheryl turns the movie off and stretches on the couch with a yawn.

 

it’s only eight, but toni feels equally beat, especially after last night, but she doesn’t want to end tonight with the both of them crashing out on the bed like old grandmas…

 

before toni can say anything, however, her phone begins ringing loudly, and she frowns and looks down to see veronica calling.

 

“uh…sorry, cheryl, i have to take this.” toni murmurs. cheryl simply smiles.

 

“of course, t.t. i’ll be in my room.” toni nods as cheryl stands and makes her way to her bedroom, taking her glass of wine with her and toni answers the call with a frown.

 

“hey, v. what’s up?”

 

“hey, uh…i’ve got bad news.” veronica says with a sigh.

 

toni’s heart drops.

 

“shit. what happened?” she asks.

 

“the fucking pipe burst again. it’s bad. really bad. we’re not gonna be open for the rest of the week. maybe even longer.” veronica’s voice sounds strained, and toni’s heart is pounding against her chest with panic.

 

shit.

 

shit, shit, shit, what the fuck are they supposed to do?

 

“i’ll…i’ll be right there-.”

 

“no, there’s no point, toni, there’s nothing you or me or anyone can do. i just thought i’d call you and let you know. the bar is flooded, it’s hard enough for even me to navigate around the place. jughead’s got some guy he used to work with coming in to drain the water tomorrow, so…i’ll call you when it’s safe to swing by. i have no idea how we’re going to pay for all this damage…”

 

toni contemplates veronica’s words with her teeth worrying her bottom lip so harshly, she feels the skin rip.

 

“ronnie, are you sure you don’t want me to come in?” she asks softly. veronica sighs again.

 

“no, t. seriously, there’s nothing you can do…just enjoy your week off, okay? you guys deserve it, anyway.” toni frowns, but simply nods.

 

“okay. i’ll buy you a bottle of whiskey when i come in next.” veronica laughs loudly.

 

“make it two, kid. i’ll message you tomorrow. night, t.”

 

“g’night, ronnie.” they end the call at the same time, and toni stares at her phone for a long time with her heart pounding and her head suddenly becoming foggy.

 

she was essentially out of a job for the rest of the week.

 

fuck.

 

toni licks her lips and tries to stop herself from crying as she walks into cheryl’s bedroom with a sigh.

 

what were they supposed to do? that bar was their fucking home and now it was destroyed? where the fuck were they even going to get the money to fix everything...fuck...

 

cheryl’s draining her wine glass when toni enters, her eyes on her phone, and she looks up when toni enters, a smile on her lips that quickly fades when she sees the look on toni’s face.

 

“is everything okay, t.t.?” cheryl asks, walking forward to grip her shoulder as she sets her wine glass on the dresser. toni blinks back her tears and shakes her head.

 

“not really, uh…the pipe at the bar burst again, the whole place is flooded. we’re gonna be closed for the rest of the week, maybe even longer…” toni murmurs. a tear falls before she can stop it, and cheryl gasps softly as she wraps an arm around toni’s neck and pulls her close.

 

“oh god…toni, i’m so sorry.” she whispers. toni grips the back of her robe tightly as she buries her face into cheryl’s neck.

 

today had been so perfect…and now it was all ruined.

 

what was she going to do? her rent was due soon, and sure, she had a lot of money saved, but that was for her overseas trip…

 

looks like australia’s gonna need to wait a little while longer, toni…

 

cheryl pulls back and cradles toni’s face in her hands, her eyes filled with concern.

 

“is there anything i can do to help?” she asks softly, wiping away toni’s tears with the pad of her thumbs, and fuck, toni hates that she’s crying in front of cheryl right now, she doesn’t want to look weak-

 

“no, it’s okay, cheryl. we’ll…we’ll figure it out. there’s nothing we can do right now…i don’t want to end today on a bad note. i’ve had the most amazing time.” toni says in a low voice, looking up at cheryl with a small smile. the red haired girl chuckles.

 

“i hope i didn’t bore you-.”

 

“not at all, cher.” toni says, the nickname kind of springing out of nowhere, and cheryl bites down on her lower lip, her eyes shining with lust as she sighs.

 

“a new nickname, huh?” she whispers teasingly. toni simply smiles and gives her a wink, and cheryl laughs before she leans forward to connect their lips in a soft kiss.

 

it quickly becomes heated, toni’s tongue sliding against cheryl’s as she pushes them back towards the bed, and they fall down onto slowly, cheryl falling back as toni climbs on top of her, their lips never leaving each other’s. cheryl sighs and pulls away from her, her thumb brushing across toni’s cheekbone imploringly.

 

“are you sure, t.t? we don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, i’d understand-.”

 

“cheryl?”

 

“yeah?”

 

“shut up and let me fuck you.”

 

--------------------------

 

toni wakes up the next morning to an empty bed.

 

the second she feels herself rising to consciousness, she immediately notices the lack of weight around her waist that’s supposed to be cheryl’s arm. the both of them had snuggled close and fallen asleep with their limbs entangled after cheryl had tapped out, her third orgasm still pulsing through her body as she had whined.

 

“toni…if i have…any more…i might die.” cheryl had breathed, her whole body flushed red and covered in sweat as toni had laughed and decided to call it quits as well, and with cheryl brushing her fingers through toni’s sweat soaked hair with one hand while cuddling her close with the other, her lips pressing kisses to toni’s bare back, toni had come to a heart stopping conclusion.

 

that falling asleep and waking up next to cheryl blossom was something she could definitely get used to.

 

but apparently, that’s not the case this morning.

 

she blinks the sleep from her eyes and turns slowly to find the space beside her empty. she frowns and sits up slowly, lets the covers drop from her body as a light breeze comes in through the window and cools her body down.

 

she fucking hates summer.

 

she turns to find a note on the pillow, and she reaches out for it with a sigh.

 

dearest antoinette,

i’m sorry to skulk away sneakily like a bad one night stand, but i have some business to attend to this morning. i’ll be back as soon as i can, please feel free to do as you wish…just promise you won’t be a stranger.

love, cheryl. xx

 

toni finds her fingers brushing over the cursive writing of cheryl’s words, finally resting on the large looping ‘c’ of her name before she smiles and rests the note back onto the pillow. she knew there was no way they’d get another day of peace together, but part of her had hoped…

 

it’s fine. she had no intention of being a stranger.

 

toni makes herself a cup of coffee in the kitchen before she heads out onto the balcony to have a cigarette, and as soon as she’s done, she also decides to have a shower, deciding that she’d rather not pass up good plumbing and hot water.

 

she moves to cheryl’s dresser, hoping that the girl won’t mind if she borrows some clothes. she can’t exactly go out in a robe or the dress that she wore two days ago…

 

she also borrows underwear, grinning sheepishly as she slides them on before she grabs denim shorts and a button up white blouse that cheryl has in her last drawer.

 

part of her wants to stay, but she knows she needs to get to the bar. veronica was probably freaking out, and even though she had told toni she’d message her when she could come in, toni wants to be there for her best friend right now. the bar wasn’t just veronica’s home, it was home to all of them…

 

she grabs her dress, her clutch bag and her jewelry and shoves them all into a plastic bag she finds in the kitchen. she slips on her heels and contemplates messaging cheryl, but decides against it. instead, she grabs the note cheryl wrote on and writes a second message on the back of it.

 

dearest bombshell,

a stranger, i definitely won’t be. sorry to leave, but i needed to get to the bar. i’ll message you!

love, antoinette. xx

 

she smiles and leaves the note on top of the bed before she makes her way to the elevator. she thankfully doesn’t need a pass to get down, simply pushes the button pointing down and watches as the elevator doors close slowly.

 

she calls an uber and waits patiently for him to arrive. she gives him the address to her apartment, and he grumbles a little at the fact that he has to drive from manhattan to brooklyn, but the drive is surprisingly short regardless.

 

she sends a quick message to veronica letting her know that she’s coming in, and when she doesn’t get a response, she frowns and jumps out of the car, deciding she should probably be quick about getting there.

 

she doesn’t change her clothes, because she kind of likes the idea of being in cheryl’s clothes all day. they’re fresh, but it’s like she can smell cheryl’s perfume on them, and it relaxes her almost immediately, a lazy smile forming on her face as she pushes herself off the door to her apartment and takes her heels off. she shoves the contents of her clutch bag into her normal bag, grabs the keys to her bike, her helmet and her jacket, shrugging it on before she slides her feet into her sneakers and makes her way down to the garage.

 

she checks her phone to see if veronica’s replied, finds she still hasn’t, and she sighs and jumps onto her bike, revving it to life and pulling out of the parking lot quickly.

 

veronica’s probably busy with the pipes and everyhing else...toni should probably stop at the liquor store…

 

but then again, veronica should probably not be drinking considering the circumstances…

 

she heads straight for the bar instead, a frown immediately forming over her face when she pulls up to the small parking lot to find the bar completely empty. the boys aren’t anywhere to be seen, and it’s such a strange sight that toni feels a shiver run up her spine.

 

they haven’t closed in three years, from day one they’ve been open every thursday to sunday, and now…

 

fuck, no one was going to be happy about this. their customers were going to be pissed.

 

toni swings her leg off her bike and rests her helmet on the handle, making her way inside the bar. she notices how damp the floor is the second she steps inside, and god, the smell...alcohol that smells like it's been stagnant for fifty years, mixed with what smells like urine and vomit-

 

“ronnie? are you in here?” toni turns the corner of bar-

 

and finds veronica glaring at a woman standing right in front of her.

 

a woman wearing a black pantsuit and red heels.

 

a woman with long red hair that cascades down her back in soft waves, hair that toni has spent the last two nights running her fingers through and gripping while soft moans escaped her lips-

 

“cheryl?” toni manages to choke out. her heart is pounding against her chest wildly as cheryl turns around in confusion. as soon as her eyes land on toni, they widen in shock, and she’s suddenly twisting her fingers nervously as she drops her gaze down to her feet.

 

“toni, i…i thought you were going to stay at mine-.”

 

“you know her?” veronica growls, her fists clenched as she glares at cheryl with the fire of a thousand suns.

 

what the fuck is going on?

 

“i…yeah, i know her. cheryl, what are you doing here?” toni says, turning her attention to the red head. why didn't cheryl tell her she was coming to the bar? she said she had business to attend to...why would she lie?

 

veronica scoffs and runs her fingers through her hair.

 

“let me guess, you fucked her.” she hisses, glaring at toni just as angrily as she does cheryl. toni blinks once, her whole body frozen in shock and confusion.

 

seriously, what the fuck is going on?!

 

“cheryl, what-.” toni starts, but before cheryl can say anything, veronica interrupts her.

 

“of course you fucked her, only you’d be stupid enough to fuck the enemy.” she snarls, taking a step forward toward toni, who immediately feels her shackles rise as she clenches her fists.

“the enemy? what the fuck are you talking about?” toni snaps angrily. why was veronica acting like cheryl was evil here? why was cheryl even here in the first place?

 

veronica scoffs, and toni’s attention turns to cheryl, who has tears in her eyes as she purses her lips and shakes her head.

 

“toni, don’t be mad, please.” she whispers.

 

WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON-

 

“don’t be mad about what?!” she shouts, looking back and forth between cheryl and veronica until veronica laughs darkly without an ounce of humor.

 

“she’s trying to buy the bar off us, toni! that’s what she doesn’t want you to be mad about!” she yells.

 

toni’s heart stops working.

 

her throat immediately closes up, her eyes pricking with tears as she digs her nails into the palms of her hands and tries to process what exactly veronica just said.

 

“she’s trying to buy the bar off us, toni!

 

cheryl was trying to buy the bar. cheryl wanted to buy the bar.

 

toni...toni was nothing more than a pawn in her game.

 

“veronica, i’m trying to help-.” cheryl starts, but toni raises a finger to silence her, cheryl immediately snapping her mouth shut and looking at toni sadly.

 

she steps forward, her heels clacking on the wet ground loudly.

 

“toni, please, let me explain-.”

 

“is that all i was to you, then? is that why you slept with me, why you kept asking me questions about the bar? to get information from me? i was just a fucking business deal?” toni growls through bared teeth, and when hot tears spill down her cheeks, she quickly wipes them away.

 

she is not fucking crying over this girl-

 

“oh great, so you told her shit about us, did you? nice fucking job, toni!” veronica snaps, and toni looks at her helplessly, her bottom lip trembling as anguish grips her tightly.

 

the last two days meant fucking nothing-

 

“toni, no! god, no, you weren’t just a business deal, you…toni, please, listen to me…” cheryl reaches out to grab her, but toni glares at her warningly, and she steps back apprehensively, her hands raised in surrender, her eyes filled with guilt as she licks her lips nervously.

 

“toni, at first…at first, yes, i thought that i could use the attraction we had towards one another to find out more about the bar-.”

 

more tears fall before she can stop them, and god, she feels fucking sick, bile quickly rising in the back of her throat, her stomach turning every time she thinks about the fact that she ever let her guard down around this woman-

 

“she’s trying to buy the bar off us, toni!”

 

“toni, listen to me! it’s more than that now, after tuesday night, and-and yesterday, after i got to know you, that’s not what this is anymore! i just want to help-.”

 

cheryl reaches out to grip her hand, and toni immediately moves it out of her way.

 

“don’t touch me!” she growls. cheryl’s bottom lip trembles, tears falling down her face as she pulls back with a nod.

 

toni turns away from her and tries her best not to fall to her knees, because they’re shaking so fucking badly-

 

the first girl in the longest time that toni’s felt this way about…and she was just a business venture…

 

god, she’s such an idiot…such an idiot…

 

“you should probably fuck off now.” veronica says through bared teeth to cheryl, but she doesn’t reach out to comfort toni, telling the pink haired girl that as soon as cheryl leaves, she’s going to get an earful.

 

great job, toni…really, great job…

 

toni hears cheryl sigh before she hears the sound of a pen scratching on paper.

 

she remembers the note she left cheryl, the one still on her bed at that fucking penthouse of hers…

 

god, how could toni think, even for a second, that someone like cheryl was remotely interested in her? cheryl was high class, high money, she lived in a fucking penthouse, and toni…toni was scum. brooklyn, southside scum.

 

of course she’s been using you from the beginning, toni…fuck, how could you be so fucking blind…

 

“veronica, let me at least help with the piping issues. here, something to help fix the issue.” cheryl says, her voice stern, businesslike…

 

nothing like the voice toni’s heard for the last two weeks.

 

it was fake…all of it was fake…

 

she feels veronica stir beside her before the sound of paper tearing echoes around them.

 

“i’m not some charity case for you to just hand out money to. now get the fuck out of here.” veronica growls angrily.

 

toni still doesn’t turn around.

 

she hears cheryl sigh behind her, and then there’s the sound of heels walking across from her, clacking on the ground loudly until they eventually fade completely.

 

it’s silent for a long time, and toni’s struggling to keep herself upright, her head spinning and her chest aching terribly-

 

“that was meant for you, too.” veronica deadpans.

 

toni whimpers.

 

she turns to look at veronica slowly, and she can barely see the raven haired girl through her tears, but when they finally fall down her cheeks, she sees veronica is glaring at her with tears falling down her own face, ones she wipes away before she sniffs and nods toward the door.

 

“get the fuck out of here, toni.” she says, her voice firm despite her tears.

 

no, no, no, please, not now, not after everything-

 

“ronnie, please…i’m s-sorry, i d-didn’t know-.” toni tries to reach out to grab her best friend, but veronica moves out of her reach and shakes her head.

 

“i said get the fuck out of here! GET OUT, TONI!” she screams, and toni falls to her knees, unable to keep herself up anymore.

 

“r-ronnie, p-please!”

 

she can barely choke the words out, but veronica is crying just as hard as she reaches down and grabs toni by the bicep, dragging her up off the ground. she’s shoving her toward the entrance of the bar, and toni has nothing left in her to fight her.

 

“ronnie, d-don’t do this-.”

 

“GET OUT!”

 

she’s thrown forward. she lands on her knees, feels the impact rip pain throughout her whole body, but the sound of the door slamming shut hurts harder.

 

toni bangs a fist on the door and begs, screams and begs for what feels like hours for veronica to open the door again, but she’s only met with silence.

 

and for the first time in two and a half years, toni has nothing.

 

and for the first time in almost three years, toni wishes she was dead.

Chapter Text

“get out and stay out!”

 

toni topaz stumbles forward over her own feet into the pouring rain outside, her head spinning and the taste of tequila stagnant in the back of her throat as she makes contact with the bin outside the bar. it crashes to the ground loudly, splashing more water into her face as she follows after it a moment later. she throws an arm out to stop herself from falling flat onto her face with a cry of panic, groaning at the pain that shoots up her wrist the second it makes contact with the concrete with her weight crashing on top of it, her whole arm bending at an odd angle. the rain is pouring down heavily all over her, causing her clothes to stick to her skin as thunder crashes loudly above her. a grunt of exasperation escapes her as she turns onto her back and blinks up rapidly at the rain that falls onto her for a few moments in an attempt to catch her breath, her wrist cradled to her chest.

 

“fuck you! he threw the first punch!” she manages to gasp out as she sits up slowly, but the bouncer is long gone, back inside the confines of the bar she’s just been thrown out of, the door swinging shut behind him. her wrist throbs painfully, but more than anything, toni’s trying to simply swallow the bile rising in the back of her throat as she glances around the sidewalk quickly to see if anyone has witnessed her fall from grace.

 

there’s a few stragglers, but either the rain is that thick or a majority of them are just as drunk as she is on this friday night, because they barely notice her, thankfully. her jaw is aching, and she pokes her tongue out to probe the flesh of her lip that’s been cut open, the tangy, metallic taste of blood hitting her taste buds, but she doesn’t bother wiping it away.

 

she’s more focused on trying to calm the pain in not only her body, but her heart.

 

great job, toni…you’ve hit a whole new fucking low…

 

two weeks.

 

it’s been two weeks since she’s heard from veronica. two weeks of torture away from her best friends, her family…the people she’s come to care about since coming to this hellhole of a city. betty and the others are at least still talking to her, the blonde calling toni the next day after the fight and telling her to simply give veronica some time to calm down. but it’s been two fucking weeks.

 

how much longer is toni supposed to keep going on like this?

 

she knows the whyte wyrm hasn’t been operational, josie had told her that the pipe was still causing issues with the plumbing throughout the entire building now, which means toni isn’t the only one out of a job right now. the longer that bar stays shut, the more money they lose, and toni knows their regulars are probably getting frustrated at their favorite hangout place no longer being accessible. if that pipe didn’t get fixed soon…

 

toni wants to help. she has no idea where she would even begin, but the whyte wyrm is her home, those people are her family, she has to do something…

 

but with veronica refusing to talk to her no matter how hard betty tried to calm her down, there isn’t much she can do.

 

toni gets it. she does. that bar was more than just a business to veronica, it was the middle finger to her parents who had always believed she couldn’t survive without mommy and daddy by her side. it was everything that made veronica who she was, everything that proved that she was an independent woman who didn’t need her father’s help or her mother’s guidance…it was everything that proved she wasn’t just some rich daddy’s girl who lived off his life savings.

 

so, toni gets it. she gets why veronica was so mad about cheryl trying to buy the bar. many have tried in the past and have gotten worse than a torn up check thrown at their faces. and toni had slept with her, had slept with the woman who was trying to take that away from veronica. her home, her independence, her freedom, her worth…everything that proved that veronica was her own woman, last name of ‘lodge’ be damned.

 

veronica has every right to be mad. but toni didn’t know…god, how was she supposed to know that all cheryl wanted was to buy the bar? how was she supposed to know that cheryl didn’t give a damn about her, that she was using her for information?

 

toni groans at the pain that zaps up her wrist as she pushes herself up off the ground slowly, every inch of her drenched in rain as she stumbles toward the corner shop ahead of her for cover.

 

she doesn’t want to think about the red head right now. every time she thinks of cheryl, a deep pain resonates in her chest and she finds it hard to breathe. the girl had been messaging toni nonstop for the last two weeks, but toni hadn’t replied to a single message. she doesn’t even know what she would say if she were to reply. she’s just…heartbroken.

 

she knows she was stupid…she shouldn’t have trusted cheryl so quickly, she’d only known the girl for a week, but she thought she’d felt something with her…something that she’s never felt before. she thought this time things would be different, that it wouldn’t be a one night stand that ended with her forgetting cheryl’s name. it could’ve been something more. can she really sit here and blame herself for wanting to cling to something that could be different from the fucking routine of sleeping around with people she barely knew?

 

god, she’s so stupid. so, so stupid…she’s protected her heart for over three years now, and the first time she let her guard down, it ended like this…

 

she misses her. since that breakfast they’d had together, toni has felt like cheryl was someone she could talk to about anything, and she was. that day they spent together after the club had been one of the best of toni’s life. she’s never been able to talk to someone so openly, so freely before. but cheryl was just using her from the start to get her hands on the bar, and even though she had sent messages begging toni to give her a chance to explain, toni can’t bring it in herself to give her a chance to. what if she doesn’t like the answer? what if it just breaks her heart even more?

 

it’s just too much. this thing she had with cheryl…she doesn’t want to let it go, is scared to let go of the one thing that’s made her happy in over three years …but cheryl doesn’t like her in that way, it’s as simple as that. she was just using toni, and she should be mad about it, should be beyond pissed off and angry but all she feels is defeated and hurt. god, she’s going insane, isn’t she? it’s not normal, to feel this strongly about someone you’ve only known for a week…it’s not normal, to still want someone to be a part of your life despite the fact that they hurt you…

 

focus, toni, focus on what matters right now…

 

toni licks her lips, shivering slightly from the cold of the rain despite the hot summer heat. she’s thankful for the reprieve from the hot, sweaty humidity, but this rain is unforgiving. it’s not letting up any time soon…

 

she can’t think about cheryl right now. she needs to talk to veronica. she’ll force her way back into that bar if she has to. she can’t lose her job, she can’t lose her family. she’s already lost them once before…

 

the scar behind her ear throbs painfully as she purses her lips and blinks back her tears.

 

god, she wishes she was back in that bar with a shot of vodka.

 

it hurts…why does it still hurt so much?

 

three years to the day. three years today that her whole life fell apart. usually, veronica would call her, make sure she was okay, but this time, the raven haired girl is silent, no phone calls, no texts…

 

betty had at least called her this morning to ask her how she was coping. toni didn’t have the heart to tell her she’d spent the whole night crying and drinking herself into a stupor.

 

the day is almost done, toni, not much longer, just a few hours, you can do this…

 

her fingers brush over the scar behind her ear, tears falling and mixing with the rain already staining her cheeks, and she sniffs and digs into her pocket for her cigarettes, swaying slightly on the spot as her head spins. the box is soaked through, but the two cigarettes left inside it remain dry, so she plucks one out and reaches into her other pocket for her lighter.

 

she’ll find another bar, it’s fine. there’s no way she’s going home to wallow in her despair, she wont’ be able to handle it. who cares if she wakes up drunk in an alleyway at this point, she’s just sick of feeling like this, of feeling anything. cheryl’s not the only person she misses…

 

something wet drips down her chin, and toni wipes it away, thinking it’s either rain or tears until she sees the red staining the back of her hand.

 

her lip is bleeding badly. she brushes her fingers over her bottom lip, feels the rush of pain as soon as her tongue touches the abrasion on the left, and the metallic taste that once again fills her taste buds has her spitting onto the sidewalk harshly.

 

why was she the one getting fucking kicked out when she didn’t even start the fight? fuck, all she did was tell that guy that his girlfriend was gorgeous and could do better than him…

 

the truth hurts, sure, but she didn’t deserve to get fucking punched.

 

she’s lucky she rolled away in time before getting the full brunt of the attack, she’d probably be knocked unconscious on the ground of that bar if she hadn’t…

 

yeah, because getting into a fight at some sleazy bar is a good way to deal with your pain, toni…

 

she knows it isn’t healthy, but she doesn’t know what else to do. she hates this day, hates it with everything in her, and usually she’d be at the bar with the others in an effort to keep her mind off of the pain, but she can’t do that now, so what choice does she have?

 

she grips her lighter and flicks it open, fingers hovering over the wheel to flick the flame to life. she has about twenty bucks left now that she hasn’t been working for two weeks, so she has to choose between buying more cigarettes or getting a ride home.

 

it may be raining, but she can’t handle tonight without her cigarettes.

 

all time low, toni, all time fucking low.

 

she flicks the lighter shut and takes a drag, inhaling the fumes before she takes her phone out to try and google another bar nearby. she’ll just flirt with anything that moves in order to get more drinks, it won’t be that difficult…

 

except her phone is cracked and soaked in water from being thrown out into the rain, and when she tries to turn it on, the screen stays black.

 

“great. fucking perfect!” toni yells angrily, throwing the phone to the ground where it smashes further in her anger. it bounces off the concrete and falls into the rain once more, and toni stares at it blankly with no idea of what to do next.

 

this day is fucking cursed, she’s starting to realize that now-

 

“toni? is that you?”

 

her heart stops.

 

THIS DAY IS FUCKING CURSED, TONI TOPAZ.

 

toni closes her eyes and shakes her head despite how much it’s spinning, refuses to acknowledge the voice to her right or the sound of heels clacking onto the concrete or the sound of that fucking voice…

 

“toni, what are you doing here?”

 

no, this is not happening-

 

“no…no fucking way.” she croaks out, refusing to open her eyes even as the smell of chanel perfume invades her senses.

 

she’d know that perfume from anywhere, fuck…

 

she can’t do this, not today, of all fucking days, please, please just not today-

 

“toni, please look at me.” her voice is soft, but pleading, and toni bites down on her bottom lip to stop it from trembling and shakes her head.

 

“leave me alone, please just leave me alone.” she whispers, the cigarette between her fingers almost falling from her grip, and she goes to turn around and walk away-

 

“toni, wait…” fingers close around her injured wrist to tug her back, and toni hisses in pain and pulls out of her grip angrily before turning to face her, stumbling slightly in her drunkenness as she does.

 

cheryl blossom is staring at her with wide brown eyes filled with concern, an umbrella over her head to protect herself from the rain still pouring around them and a beige coat covering her entire body, and god, she looks fucking perfect while toni looks like a drowned rat-

 

toni’s heart aches. it aches, and aches, with pain from her past, pain from her present, and god, she’s so tired-

 

“don’t touch me.” she hisses, trying to sound intimidating, but it just comes out weak and pathetic, because right now, that’s exactly what she is. weak and pathetic, and she can’t do this tonight, she can’t be here with her-

 

cheryl’s expression softens as toni cradles her wrist to her chest. her cigarette has fallen to the ground, is now being saturated by the rain along with her already broken phone, and she stares down at the both of them in despair. just one more thing to go wrong…

 

god, this day can’t be real-

 

“toni, your lip…you’re bleeding, let me help you.” cheryl steps forward, but doesn’t make an attempt to touch her again, which toni is thankful for.

 

but she’d be more thankful if cheryl just left her alone.

 

“fuck off, cheryl.” toni mutters, turning and making her way back out into the rain, picking her damaged phone up off the ground as she does, but the sound of heels clacking onto the concrete echoes behind her once more before cheryl steps in front of her and blocks her path. toni’s breath hitches as cheryl steps closer until they’re both under the protection of the umbrella she’s holding. she blinks rapidly and looks up at the red haired girl in front of her, cheryl standing taller than usual due to her six inch red heels she’s wearing.

 

“let me help you, please. you’re drenched, it’s cold and you’re hurt.” cheryl says, her eyes roaming over toni’s cut lip and swollen wrist with a frown.

 

“yeah, i’ll manage, alright?!” toni scoffs harshly. she goes to move once more, but cheryl blocks her with a sharp inhale, and toni practically crumbles, her shoulders slumping and her bottom lip trembling as her head spins wildly with each movement.

 

fuck, she’s too drunk for this right now…

 

just leave me alone, please…

 

“cheryl, please…just go. i can’t do this today.” toni croaks out weakly, her whole body trembling from the cold and the anguish. she just wants to grieve in peace, that’s all she wants…

 

“toni…” cheryl’s voice is shaking, and toni looks up to see tears in her eyes as she purses her lips and shakes her head.

 

“please, i can’t leave you out here like this. the weather is terrible and it’s cold.” she whispers softly, and god, the look in her eyes…for a second, toni lets herself believe that maybe cheryl does give a shit about her, but even in her drunken state, she’s brushing that thought away quickly.

 

she can’t do this right now, this day is painful enough-

 

“i don’t want to fight with you right now, cheryl, i…i don’t have the strength, okay?” toni manages to say despite how badly she’s trembling.

 

god, she’s so tired…she’s so, so tired…

 

“i don’t want to fight either, toni, but you’re hurt. your lip is bleeding and your wrist looks swollen. i just want to help…” cheryl trails off, taking another step closer to the pink haired girl. toni sighs, scratching at her brow as she takes a step back. cheryl sighs as well at her actions, but says nothing.

 

she’s tired, she’s drunk, she’s sore, and she’s freezing, she has no cigarettes, no money, no phone, no friends…

 

you need help, toni. and god, she’s the last person you want to see right now, but she’s offering to help. even if it’s out of pity for what she did, it doesn’t matter…

 

“fine.” toni says through clenched teeth, unable to get any other words out because frankly, she’s on the verge of throwing up at this point from not only the alcohol, but everything else. the redhead nods, but she’s biting back a smile as she steps closer to the curb. toni follows after her feebly, feeling like a complete and utter idiot as cheryl throws up an arm as a taxi approaches. it comes to a stop in front of them, and cheryl opens the door and turns to toni with a smile.

 

“let’s go.”

 

“where?” toni says roughly. cheryl sighs.

 

“my apartment.” toni’s heart drops, her jaw clenching as she goes to step back, every instinct in her telling her to run and keep running no matter how shit she feels right now, but cheryl shakes her head quickly and steps closer to her to stop her from doing exactly that, as if she knows what toni’s thinking, and more than likely, she does.

 

“can you read minds or something?”

 

“no, but i can read people…i can read you.”

 

“you don’t have to stay, i just…let me at least wrap up your wrist and clean the cut on your lip, then you’re free to do whatever you want, toni.” cheryl says urgently, pulling toni out of the memories of that day they spent together. toni licks her lips, the rain pounding harder against her body before she finally sighs and nods.

 

“okay.” she whispers. cheryl holds the door open for toni, another sigh of relief escaping her, but she doesn’t make an attempt to touch her again, and toni grumbles and ducks under the roof of the car to get inside it. the relief of the rain no longer hitting her skin causes her to sigh happily, and she sinks down onto the chair and clips on her seatbelt quickly, avoiding her wrist as she does.

 

this is a bad idea, toni, turn back, turn back now-

 

what is she doing, what is she doing-

 

cheryl gives the cab driver her address as she closes the umbrella and steps inside the car. they take off as soon as cheryl closes the door behind her, a soft sigh escaping her before she looks at toni sadly.

 

“are you okay, toni?” she whispers softly. toni swallows the lump in her throat and refuses to meet her eyes, focuses instead on staring outside of the window. is she seriously asking that? after everything she’s fucking done?

 

“don’t expect an answer when you’re part of the reason why i’m not, cheryl. i don’t want to talk about anything, i just want to dry myself off and head home.” she says firmly, sinking back against the seat and closing her eyes to try and stop the world from spinning, but it doesn’t help. cheryl bites her lip but says nothing more, sinking back into her seat as well. she plays with her fingers anxiously, and toni tries her best not to look at her, but she can’t help the quick glances out of the corner of her eye as she observes the redhead.

 

she’s nervous. toni doesn’t understand why. she gets it, she was just a pawn in cheryl’s game, and she was more than likely doing this because she felt bad, but what was she nervous for?

 

it doesn’t matter. she’ll get cleaned up at cheryl’s apartment, but after that, she’s gone. she’s heading straight home to wallow in her grief and spend her night crying under the covers of her bed like she has every other fucking year on this day.

 

“toni…please, don’t go to new york. don’t leave us.”

 

she bites back a whimper and blinks away her tears, the lump in her throat only getting bigger by the second…

 

toni isn’t even aware she’s dozed off until she feels something squeeze her shoulder, and she blinks the drunken fatigue out of her eyes and turns to see cheryl looking at her with a sad smile.

 

“we’re here. come on, t.t, let’s get you cleaned up.” she murmurs. toni sighs and looks up at the apartment building, a pang of regret hitting her like a tidal wave at the familiar sight ahead of her. cheryl pays the cab driver before she steps out of the car, unraveling her umbrella as she does, and toni scoots out of the car with a wince, her body shaking as soon as she’s back out in the cold rain. cheryl hesitates before she holds her arm up and waves toni forward.

 

“come here, toni. you’re shivering.”

 

“i’m fine.” toni deadpans, and she walks out from under the umbrella and makes her way toward the entrance of the apartment building with her arms crossed over her chest. she’s not about to cuddle up to cheryl like nothing happened between them. she’s still hurt, and yes, she’s accepted cheryl’s help, but self survival and what not…

 

cheryl sighs, but follows behind her regardless. as soon as they’re inside, cheryl closes the umbrella once more and shoves it into a stand at the side of the door. toni tries to stop her teeth from chattering as she follows behind cheryl meekly. the redhead smiles at the receptionist and leads toni toward the elevators, and once their inside, she swipes her card to lead them up to the penthouse.

 

it’s all too familiar…

 

toni hates it. she hates everything about this.

 

just get cleaned up and go, toni…be smart about this, you’ve got no money, no phone…you need this…

 

she has no idea how she’s going to afford a cab ride from manhattan to brooklyn with just twenty bucks, but she’ll fucking walk if she has to, she can’t stay here-

 

the doors open, and toni bites back a whimper as she takes in the familiar apartment before her. she spent an entire day and a half here, floating on cloud nine, wrapped up in cheryl’s arms, the both of them talking about their lives to each other, something toni’s never been able to do with anyone else…

 

“stay there a moment, i’ll grab a towel for you to dry off.” cheryl unties her coat and shrugs it off, hanging it on a hook next to the front door to reveal a white button up blouse and a grey pencil skirt. she disappears down the hallway to the right and re-emerges a few moments later with a towel in her hands. she holds it out to toni with a smile, and the pink haired girl takes it before she drapes it over her shoulders.

 

“thanks.” she murmurs. cheryl nods once.

 

“come on, i have a first aid kit above the fridge.”

 

toni follows her into the kitchen sheepishly, sits down at the stool in front of the island and winces as it causes pain to shoot up her wrist. toni takes the towel and begins drying herself off as cheryl opens a cabinet above the fridge and pulls out a first aid kit, her brow furrowed and her teeth clutching her bottom lip in concentration as she opens it and pulls out a bandage wrap and rubbing alcohol. once she has everything ready, she steps around the island until she’s in front of toni, who spins her seat around with a grunt to face the redhead before she slings the towel over her shoulders once more. cheryl raises a hand to grip her chin before she hesitates and lets out a small sigh.

 

“can i touch you?” cheryl asks softly, her hands hanging uselessly at her sides. toni hesitates for the briefest moment before she averts her gaze and gives her a curt nod. cheryl sighs a little more loudly this time, her breath washing over toni, and god, it smells like expensive wine and cherries-

 

“you were working?” toni mumbles. cheryl nods once as she grips toni’s shoulder.

 

“my office is just around the corner from where i found you, i just left…what happened to your face, toni?” cheryl whispers, her fingers tucking under toni’s chin to lift her gaze up to the light. she grabs a rag and quickly swishes some rubbing alcohol onto it as toni shrugs.

 

“got into a fight at a bar.” she grunts. cheryl frowns, but says nothing as she grips toni’s chin again and presses the rag to her cut lip. toni hisses, the pain zapping through her and cheryl winces sympathetically.

 

“i’m sorry.” she whispers. toni sighs, and cheryl licks her lips and shakes her head as she continues cleaning the cut thoroughly with a frown.

 

“you’ve been drinking. i can smell it on your breath.” she murmurs. toni simply smirks and says nothing, and cheryl licks her lips before she grips toni’s chin a little tighter.

 

“are you drinking because of me?” she asks. toni scoffs.

 

“no.” toni blinks back tears as those words reverberate in her mind once more.

 

“toni…please, don’t go to new york. don’t leave us.”

 

cheryl purses her lips and is quiet for a few moments before she powers through her hesitation and finally speaks.

 

“toni, i want to explain myself-.”

 

“cheryl, please…” toni grips her wrist, her nails slightly digging into cheryl’s skin as she clenches her jaw and swallows thickly.

 

god, she shouldn’t have come here, not when she’s drunk and injured, she should’ve just gone home…she wouldn’t have been bombarded with this if she had…

 

“not tonight. i can’t, okay?” she manages to choke out, tears welling in her eyes easily as the scar behind her ear throbs painfully. cheryl’s bottom lip trembles, but she nods, her thumb brushing toni’s chin before she drops her hand altogether with a breathy sigh.

 

“give me your hand.” she says gently. her fingers brush over the swollen skin of her wrist as soon as toni holds it up, and she quickly pokes and prods it for any broken bones, toni biting back a yelp of pain each time she does.

 

“does it hurt to move it?” cheryl murmurs, her eyes firmly planted on toni’s wrist. toni sighs.

 

“yeah, but it’s not unbearable.” cheryl nods once as she moves her wrist around with a small smile and a nod.

 

“it looks like a sprain. i’ll wrap it up, but if the pain gets worse, you should go to a doctor.” toni scoffs again, and she has a feeling she’s going to be doing that a lot tonight-

 

“i can’t afford a doctor right now, but thanks.” she grumbles, averting her gaze with a cough and a wince. cheryl gasps softly before she’s suddenly gripping toni’s chin again and forcing her to look up, and toni can see nothing but rage in her eyes as they roam over toni’s face questioningly.

 

“toni, did veronica fire you?” she asks through clenched teeth. toni rolls her eyes.

 

“surprisingly, no. but she’s not speaking to me, i haven’t heard from her in two weeks, and the pipe is still fucked, so the bar’s been closed since…since that day.” toni says firmly, dropping her gaze once more. cheryl exhales shakily and drops her hand from toni’s chin before she’s pulling toni’s wrist back up, grabbing the bandage as she does.

 

“i just wanted to help, toni-.”

 

“i don’t want to talk about this tonight, cheryl, please.” toni says through gritted teeth, and cheryl sighs in frustration and looks at toni with a frown, pulling the bandage a little too tightly in her anger and causing toni to wince in pain.

 

“well you’re not giving me any other chance to explain myself, you’ve been ignoring all my messages!” she huffs, finishing off the bandage before placing tape over it to keep it in place.

 

“my phone’s broken.” toni says with a sheepish grin, which causes cheryl to roll her eyes, and scoff as she places the tape back onto the counter and crosses her arms over her chest.

 

“was that before or after you smashed it onto the sidewalk tonight?” she deadpans. toni simply purses her lips, and cheryl shakes her head before she grips the fingers of toni’s uninjured hand and gives them a squeeze.

 

“toni, please, i just want a chance to tell you-.”

 

“i can’t do this tonight! what part of that aren’t you getting?!” toni snaps, jumping up from her seat in anger, causing the towel around her shoulders to fall to the ground. cheryl blinks in surprise, and toni steadies herself by gripping the counter before she’s shaking her head.

 

“i’m leaving. thanks for the help.” she grumbles, heading straight for the elevator door, but cheryl grabs her elbow and tugs her back lightly, and there’s no longer anger shining in her eyes, but concern and panic.

 

“toni, don’t leave! just talk to me!”

 

“why?! why should i after everything you’ve done?! you used me, cheryl! fuck, you strung me along for a week with your text messages and your bullshit and as soon as you got a quick fuck out of me, you tossed me aside for your own fucking business plans! you don’t give a shit about me so stop pretending that you do!” toni growls, yanking her arm out of cheryl’s grip. she stumbles slightly, but manages to right herself enough to march her way over to the elevator. her heart is pounding in her ears and she knows she’s crying, but she’s ready to get the hell out of here and as far away from cheryl blossom as possible.

 

she never should have come here, she’s such an idiot-

 

“toni, that’s not what happened! if you’d just give me a chance-.”

 

“fuck, no! not tonight, okay? i’m going through enough bullshit, just leave me alone!” toni smashes the down button on the elevator as hard as she can, pleading for it to get here as quickly as possible, but cheryl’s already making her way over to toni, refusing to give up as her heels clack on the ground loudly with each step.

 

“why not tonight?! what’s so horrible about tonight?” cheryl demands, coming to a stop in front of the pink haired girl and blocking the down button from toni’s jabbing finger. toni faces the elevator and ignores her completely, her teeth biting down on her lower lip so harshly, she reopens the wound cheryl just cleaned up for her.

 

“toni, you can push me away all you want, but i know you’re hurting! you’re in pain and you can’t keep bottling it up! you can get mad and lash out at me all you want, but you need to talk to someone!”

 

shut up, shut up, shut up-

 

god, what is taking this elevator so fucking long?! her head is spinning, she can’t keep back her tears for much longer, and she can’t fucking stay here, she just can’t, she just wants to go home, she doesn’t want to do this, not here, not ever-

 

“toni, look at me!” cheryl’s voice is desperate as she reaches out and grips toni’s elbow, spinning her around forcefully, and toni’s about to punch her lights out when the look on cheryl’s face gives her pause.

 

cheryl’s crying, thick tears streaming down her face as she reaches up and cradles toni’s face in her hands, and before toni can stop herself, she’s crying as well, cheryl brushing the tears away with the pad of her thumbs.

 

“talk to me, toni, please…stop forcing yourself not to feel, stop pushing me away…just let me help you.” cheryl whispers. toni grips her wrist and tries to push her away, to get the redhead off her, and her breaths are coming out short, panic quickly rising as hot tears spill down her cheeks rapidly.

 

no, she’s wrong, you can’t think about it, toni, don’t think about it-

 

“i-i can’t-.” she manages to choke out just barely, but cheryl’s grip doesn’t loosen, her eyes roaming over toni’s face in concern as she sniffs back her own tears and steps closer to the pink haired girl.

 

“toni, shh, just breathe.” she coos softly, her fingers brushing through toni’s damp hair affectionately.

 

“toni…please, don’t go to new york. don’t leave us…we need you, sweetheart. you can’t leave us like this-.”

 

“dad, look out!”

 

her bottom lip trembles, and every ounce of pain she’s feeling hits her all at once, mixed with the alcohol and god, just the pain of everything-

 

her body collapses forward into cheryl’s arms, a loud, anguished sob escaping her, and a surprised gasp escapes the redhead before she’s holding toni close, her fingers brushing through toni’s hair as she rubs her back gently.

 

every part of her is telling her to pull away, to get into the elevator that’s now opened up for her with a loud ding, but cheryl’s holding her so tightly, and toni doesn’t want to move.

 

because, god, it feels good to just be held, to have someone who cares, even if it’s all pretend, even if cheryl’s doing this for her own personal gain, or because she feels bad, or whatever reason she’s helping toni right now, she’s holding her, and toni didn’t even realize how badly she needed this until now-

 

“come here, shh…” cheryl drags toni down to the floor, cheryl’s back hitting the wall as she slides down it and pulls toni down until she’s sitting in cheryl’s lap, her back pressed against the redhead’s chest, and if cheryl’s upset about the fact that her clothes are getting wet, she doesn’t say anything. she rests her cheek against toni’s temple, her hands moving up and down toni’s arms to warm her up as she whispers into her ear.

 

“breathe, shh, just breathe, okay?” toni can’t stop crying, and she tries, she really does. she closes her eyes and licks her lips and tries to breathe in through her nose and exhale from her mouth, but the crying mixed with the alcohol is really getting to her now and she just can’t fucking stop crying.

 

“toni…” cheryl’s voice is so soft, filled with so much care, and the words are spilling out of toni before she can stop them, like verbal vomit rather than actual vomit spilling out of her.

 

“they’re d-dead because of m-me.” she gasps, her chest heaving with a stutter as she sinks back against cheryl and looks up at the ceiling in exhaustion. she’s shaking uncontrollably against the girl beneath her, and cheryl lays her palm over toni’s forehead, nails scratching lightly at her scalp as she sighs breathily into her ear.

 

“who is, toni?” she asks in a low voice. toni whimpers, swallows down her tears and shakes her head and tries to keep talking, but it’s so hard, it’s fucking hard to talk, to breathe, to think-

 

“cheryl, p-please…” she whines, her nails digging into the redhead’s thighs, but cheryl continues running her fingers through toni’s hair, her other hand moving over toni’s on top of her thigh to interlace their fingers.

 

“just breathe for now, t.t, shh…” she encourages in a gentle tone, and toni sinks further into her and tries her best to do as she says, to just keep breathing, to focus on getting back control over her body…

 

toni isn’t sure how long they’re sitting there for, but cheryl doesn’t complain once, simply continues doing everything she can to comfort toni by running her fingers through her hair or pressing kisses to her temple until finally, finally…

 

toni starts talking.

 

and once she starts, she can’t stop. because it’s three years of keeping this inside her, of only murmuring the story to veronica and betty and the others before telling them never to mention it again, three years of pain and anguish and god, suffering…

 

“b-back home in washington, i…i w-was going out to lunch w-with my p-parents, and i t-told them i was moving to new york. and my d-dad, he…he was so shocked, he almost s-stopped the car in the m-middle of the road, and he was s-so distracted, cheryl…he d-didn’t want me to g-go, and i yelled at him, i t-told him he had to let m-me go, because i d-didn’t want to stay th-there anymore, and he b-begged me not to g-go, and...this c-car came out of n-nowhere and hit us, and…they d-died, cheryl, they died because of m-me-.” toni can’t talk anymore, her words coming out jumbled as tears fall down her cheeks thickly. her voice box closes up on her, an anguished whine escaping her lips as cheryl’s grip on her tightens. cheryl’s fingers move up to brush over the scar behind her ear before she’s pressing her lips to toni’s temple.

 

“the scar…it’s from the accident, isn’t it?” cheryl murmurs against her skin.

 

toni just cries harder, and cheryl takes it as confirmation, her hold on toni only tightening further.

 

“when, toni? when did this happen?” cheryl asks in a soft whisper. toni swallows thickly.

 

“three years ago t-today.” she croaks out. cheryl says nothing, and toni begins shaking uncontrollably once more as she cries, cheryl pulling her in impossibly closer with her lips still pressed to toni’s temple. she rocks the pink haired girl back and forth comfortingly, and toni can think of nothing else to do but simply feel for the first time in three years.

 

“shh, it’s okay…just breathe…”

 

toni’s heart is pounding painfully, but she’s so thankful. she’s thankful that cheryl’s not spouting the same bullshit that everyone else has, including veronica and betty and everyone from the bar. that it wasn’t her fault, that she can’t blame herself for a car accident, that they just happen sometimes, because this was her fault…

 

god, one second her father had spun around with those wide eyes filled with despair, had begged her not to go, and the next, a car was heading straight for them and she was screaming and nothing but pain had spread throughout her whole body, darkness quickly taking over…

 

she woke up laying on the roof of the car with her parents dead in the front, their eyes wide and staring. toni’s tried so fucking hard to get that image out of her head, but she can’t. it’s burned into the back of her mind…

 

her mother, looking at her in sadness.

 

“toni, we love you so much, and new york is so far away…you’re all we have, baby, we can’t lose you.”

 

her father, tears in his eyes as he’d turned to look at her.

 

“toni…please, don’t go to new york. don’t leave us…we need you, sweetheart. you can’t leave us like this-.”

 

“dad, look out!”

 

they told her they couldn’t lose her, that she was all they had, but fuck, they were all she had, too. not a day has gone by where she hasn’t thought about them, and that first year without them had been torture, no mother to brush her hair back and tell her she’d be alright…no father to press a kiss to her brow and give her advice on what to do…

 

“i’m so sorry, toni…i’m so, so sorry.” cheryl whispers into her ear.

 

and for some reason, those words make her angry.

 

because she knows that somewhere deep down, maybe, cheryl means them. but at the end of the day…fuck, at the end of the day, cheryl hurt her. she used her, manipulated her…

 

toni finds herself scoffing before she can stop herself, a breathy sigh escaping her as she tries her best to breathe through the tears, to get out the next words despite the fact the lump in her throat is practically blocking her airways at this point.

 

“d-don’t p-play with me right now, cheryl, you d-don’t care about m-me. i was j-just a pawn in your s-stupid game.” toni manages to hiccup weakly. god, she’s so tired, she just wants to sleep and not wake up for at least a whole week…

 

cheryl sighs and cups toni’s cheek, forcing her to turn slightly until she’s facing the red haired girl, who purses her lips and shakes her head sadly.

 

“that’s not true, toni. what i felt with you…it was real. the most real thing i’ve had in a long time, and i…god, i want to explain everything to you, but…not now. you’re drunk and you’re grieving, and i don’t want to make this day about me. it’s about you, toni, it’s about losing your parents, and i just want to make sure you’re okay…let me take care of you. stay the night, please?”

 

no, cheryl wasn’t going to rope her into this, she wasn’t going to stay the night, absolutely not-

 

she said it was real for her too, toni…

 

no, she doesn’t care, she doesn’t, she needs to go home, now-

 

“i sh-should go-.” she tries to push herself up and out of cheryl’s hold, but god, the girl is the fucking hulk with how strong she is. she pulls the pink haired girl back down easily, toni grunting from the impact.

 

“toni, you’re drunk and it’s pretty much a hurricane out there! please, just…stay where you’re safe. i swear to you, i won’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with, i just want to help. i wouldn’t be able to live with myself if i let you go out like this and something happened to you. please…” cheryl’s practically pleading at this point, her voice filled with desperation and urgency, and toni knows she’s right, the rational part of her mind telling her that she’s drunk off her face with no transportation back home anyway, but staying here…

 

she just spilled everything to this girl, told her the one thing that she’s never spoken in length to about anyone, and she wants to run. she wants to run and keep running until her feet are bleeding and there’s nowhere else for her to run to. but cheryl’s hold on her is so tight, and she wants toni to stay so much…

 

she cares about you, open your goddamn eyes!

 

“toni, stay.” cheryl whispers into her ear. toni finds herself shivering, and she licks her lips and closes her eyes before she finally nods slowly.

 

“fine…but i’m sleeping on the couch.” she sniffs, blinking away her tears and wiping them from her cheeks. she hears cheryl let out a sigh of relief before she chuckles in her ear and squeezes toni’s hands tightly.

 

“that’s fine. i’ll light the fireplace so you can get warm as well, you’re probably freezing.” toni says nothing, isn’t sure what she would say even if she could talk right now, and cheryl jumps up off the ground and holds her hand out for toni to take. the pink haired girl hesitates before taking cheryl’s hand, using it to help herself up slowly with a wince. her wrist is truly aching now, and the cold from the rain is starting to seep into her skin…

 

“i’ll grab you some dry clothes as well, t.t. come on, let’s light the fire.” cheryl leads her out into the living room, her hand never leaving toni’s until she reaches the fireplace. there’s already firewood inside it, and cheryl grabs a longstick match from the mantle of the fireplace and lights it before throwing it onto the wood. it catches fire immediately, the orange light spreading throughout the apartment as a burst of warmth hits toni. she groans in appreciation and steps closer to it, holding her hands out to the flames with a shiver. cheryl grips her shoulder before smoothing her palms down toni’s back.

 

“i’ll get you some clothes.” she murmurs. toni purses her lips and nods as cheryl disappears into her room, toni refusing to look in case the room sparks something in her that she can’t control.

 

she’s already said enough tonight.

 

she shouldn’t be here, but something’s keeping her here, and she knows it has everything to do with the red haired girl in the other room. toni hadn’t expected her to handle that so well…god, half of her was expecting cheryl to turn around and call her a murderer, but all she’d done was hold toni close, comfort her as best she could…

 

“i figured you might be more comfortable in this…” toni looks up as cheryl holds out pajama shorts and a simple shirt, and toni smiles and takes the clothes from cheryl’s hands meekly.

 

“thanks.” she whispers. cheryl smiles and simply nods once.

 

“there’s a bathroom down the hall-.”

 

“i’m not leaving this fire. besides, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.” toni grumbles, reaching for the hem of her long sleeved shirt that’s been soaked through. she probably shouldn’t be undressing in front of cheryl, but she has no fucking energy to walk down a hall to a bathroom, her whole body still swaying drunkenly from the alcohol and the crying. she pulls off her shirt with ease, but struggles to unbutton her jeans because of her wrist, and cheryl, who has been trying, and failing miserably, to avert her gaze, sighs and steps forward to help her.

 

toni’s breath hitches as cheryl unbuttons her pants and pulls the zipper down. she’s sinking down to her knees, tugging the pants down with her, and toni purses her lips and steps out of her jeans with difficulty, the denim clinging to her skin from how wet it is. her cheeks are quickly turning read, and cheryl grabs the pajama short and holds them at toni’s feet. she grabs cheryl’s shoulder to help steady herself with her good hand before she steps into them. cheryl pulls them up as she stands slowly, a smile on her face as she tucks a finger under toni’s chin and lifts her gaze up until their eyes are meeting.

 

“there.” she whispers simply. toni huffs and takes a step back, her gaze falling onto the couch longingly, and cheryl sighs and turns back toward her bedroom.

 

“i have a spare blanket, make yourself comfortable.” toni nods and settles down on the couch, her gaze falling onto the fire in front of her as she does. the couch is way too comfortable to have any business being a couch as far as toni is concerned, and she’s thankful that she’s not falling asleep in some ditch somewhere for the night instead as the thunder crashes louder outside. the rain smashes against the windows, and toni closes her eyes and takes a deep breath in.

 

she knows that ultimately, it’s a good thing that she’s opened up about her past…she’s kept this inside her for far too long, has struggled with the pain of coming to terms with losing her parents and leaving them behind in washington…

 

god, she left them behind in washington…what was she thinking? they begged her not to go and yet, less than a year after they had died, she was up and packing her things, moving to the one place that caused all her pain.

 

what is she doing? why is she here, why-

 

“toni?”

 

a warmth caresses her body, and toni manages to pry her eyes open to see cheryl placing a blanket over her body, a look of concern on her face.

 

she’s still wearing her work clothes, but she sinks down to sit beside toni’s laying body regardless, her hands moving over the blanket to warm up toni’s shivering body. the pink haired girl bites back a cry and curls up under the blanket, her gaze returning to the fire.

 

“toni, what’s on your mind?” cheryl whispers.

 

no more. i can’t do this anymore, please…

 

“nothing, cher. go to bed. thank you for letting me stay the night.” toni breathes. cheryl hesitates, but after a few moments, she stands up and leans down to press a kiss to toni’s forehead. she finds her eyes closing at cheryl’s touch, a soft sigh escaping her before cheryl whispers against her skin.

 

“goodnight, toni.” she walks away, but toni doesn’t watch her, is afraid that she’ll beg cheryl to stay and keep her company if she does. she can’t do that to the girl…

 

because god, no matter what cheryl did to her, toni refuses to burden the girl with her demons. not even her worst enemy deserved that…and cheryl was definitely not her worst enemy.

 

it’s quiet for a long time, an hour or two at most, and toni can feel herself drifting off to sleep multiple times, but every time she gets close, she hears the sound of her mother and father, and she’s jolted back to consciousness, her heart racing and tears immediately welling in her eyes. the rain and thunder doesn’t let up, either, and toni finds herself simply looking into the fire before her with nothing but despair and anguish, coming to terms with the fact that there's no way she's going to sleep tonight despite how drunk she is.

 

the car had burst into flames as soon as toni had been pulled out of it by some good samaritan, and toni had screamed and screamed that her parents were still inside despite the fact that she knew they were long gone…

 

watching the flames lick the metal of that car, knowing her dead parents were burning inside-

 

what did you do, toni, what did you do, how could you leave, you shouldn’t have left, you’re so selfish-

 

there was nothing for her left in washington. their caskets were empty, and she had no other family, she knows she made the right choice, she did, she did-

 

you left them, they begged you to stay and you still left, because you’re selfish!

 

no, no, she wasn’t selfish, she was just scared, she didn’t want to stay there, in that fucking trailer with only the memories of her parents filling every single room, she couldn’t do it, she was protecting herself from the pain-

 

toni buries her face into the couch to stop herself from crying out, her hands digging into her ribs as she curls into a ball underneath the blankets.

 

her fault, her fault, all her fault, all her fault-

 

what daughter selfishly left her parents behind to pursue a photography career that only crashed and fucking burned? now she works at a bar, which is probably the last fucking thing her parents wanted for her, god, she's such a fuck up, a complete and utter mess-

 

would they be proud of her? were they proud of her at all?

 

no, and you know it, toni. they're probably disgusted with you-

 

she's crying before she can stop herself, a choked out sob escaping her lips before she hugs her knees closer to her chest, and she's so caught up in her thoughts that she doesn't hear the sound of cheryl's bedroom door opening.

 

“toni…” she jumps slightly at the sound of her voice, but the softness in cheryl’s tone only makes her cry harder, and the red haired girl quickly makes her way over to her and pulls the blankets back off toni's body. she moves until she’s laying down behind toni, who doesn’t even hesitate in curling up into cheryl’s side, unable to stop herself from crying loudly now that she doesn't have to worry about waking cheryl up, which she's probably already done-

 

selfish, you're selfish, toni topaz-

 

cheryl pulls the blankets back up to cover them both and wraps her arms around the pink haired girl tightly, encouraging her to let it all out.

 

toni doesn’t know what else to do but listen, her fingers digging into cheryl’s silk pajama shirt tightly.

 

“i’m here, toni. i’m right here, shh…” cheryl murmurs, pressing a kiss to her brow, her voice thick with sleep.

 

the couch is big enough to compensate the both of them, but the fact that cheryl could be sleeping on her king sized bed with egyptian cotton sheets and is instead choosing to curl up with this mess of a girl on her couch instead only makes toni cry harder. she clings to cheryl tightly, refusing to let go, but the red haired girl doesn’t complain for a single second.

 

“i’m s-sorry-.”

 

“don’t. you have nothing to apologize for. you’ve spent three years hiding your pain, let it all out, toni. i’ll be here for every second of it.” she whispers.

 

and for the first time in a long time, toni listens, and toni obeys. because yes...yes, cheryl did hurt her. yes, maybe cheryl did use her for nothing but business, but right now, cheryl’s being the one thing that toni’s needed for the last two weeks.

 

she’s being a friend. she’s letting toni bare her soul without any repercussions.

 

and god, does it feel good not to be lonely anymore.

Chapter Text

it’s the sound of a phone ringing that wakes toni up.

 

the second she’s stirred to consciousness by the shrill, obnoxious ringing, her head pounds painfully, and she groans and slaps a hand around, trying to find her phone to shut it off-

 

“hello?”

 

the ringing stops.

 

someone’s answered.

 

it’s not her phone ringing.

 

“yeah, you did wake me…don’t be silly, it’s fine. listen, i can’t come in today, rebecca, i’m sorry…no, a friend of mine isn’t well, so i’m taking care of her. i messaged jason last night, he’s happy to help out in my place, so message him if you need help with anything, okay?…thank you, i’ll see you tomorrow. bye.”

 

she feels someone shift beside her before a breathy sigh echoes in her ear, and toni clutches the blankets and pulls them closer, the smell of chanel perfume hitting her nostrils and making her head pound-

 

“t.t, did i wake you?”

 

cheryl’s voice is soft in her ear, but toni finds herself licking her dry lips, the back of her throat burning with lack of hydration and the taste of tequila as she clears her throat and nods once.

 

“yeah…” she manages to croak out. cheryl sighs and rubs her hand up and down toni’s arm, and a shiver runs up her spine for reasons she can’t even explain.

 

“i’m sorry, i forgot to put it on silent. go back to sleep, you need to rest.”

 

the memories of last night slowly start to piece together in the now sober mind of toni topaz, and she finds tears immediately brimming her eyes as she remembers how she had a complete and utter mental breakdown in front of the woman lying right beside her.

 

she was hysterical, god, crying and spluttering like an idiot about her dead parents like a hundred other people in new york didn’t have the same problem, like she was useless to grief and all it’s suffering…

 

how could she just let go like that?

 

i’m never fucking drinking again.

 

she feels horrible. her head is aching and her wrist is throbbing painfully, and she runs her tongue over the cut on her lip anxiously before she purses her lips. she told cheryl everything…she told her about her parents, about what she did, oh god…

 

and yet…cheryl was still here. cheryl was still laying beside her, still running a hand up and down her arm comfortingly like last night hadn’t scared her off one bit.

 

why hadn’t it? toni was just some girl she slept with who had spent the night crying in her arms, how was cheryl not freaking out right now?

 

“cheryl…”

 

“shh, it’s okay, toni. get some rest.” she murmurs, her voice still thick with sleep as she sighs tiredly. toni frowns and finds herself finally turning to look cheryl in the eyes.

 

she’s got her elbow propped up with her head resting on her hand, a lazy smile on her face as she gazes down at toni with nothing but care shining in her eyes.

 

toni finds herself swallowing thickly as she wipes away her stray tears and shakes her head.

 

“i don’t want to rest. i want to apologize for last night-.” she starts, but cheryl suddenly raises a finger and presses it to toni’s lips to silence her.

 

“shh. i won’t listen to your apology, toni. it’s utterly unnecessary. you did nothing wrong. how are you feeling?” cheryl asks softly, concern taking over her breathtaking features as she chews down on a bare bottom lip anxiously. toni simply takes a moment to stare at her before she sinks back into the couch tiredly.

 

“thirsty.” she says hoarsely, the burn in the back of her throat only getting worse with each passing second. cheryl purses her lips and nods once, gripping the blanket that’s draping the both of them and pushing it off their bodies.

 

“i’ll get you some water and order us room service.” toni simply nods, and cheryl smiles before she sits up slowly and moves over toni’s body to get off the couch. toni watches her walk into the kitchen apprehensively, tries to ignore the sway of her hips before she follows suite. as soon as she sits up, pain zaps through her jaw and wrist, and she winces and bites back a gasp of pain before she stands and makes her way to the kitchen slowly.

 

cheryl’s already filling a glass with water, and as toni approaches, she smiles at her warmly before she purses her lips and nods at her.

 

“the bruising on your face isn’t too bad. how’s your wrist?” toni simply shrugs as she sits down at the island in the kitchen, and cheryl hands her the glass with a frown of concern on her face. toni drinks the water quickly, a soft groan escaping her despite herself as she drains it in three gulps. she sets the glass back down, and cheryl hesitates before she sighs and leans in closer to toni over the island.

 

“toni…do you want to talk about last night?” cheryl asks carefully, her eyes roaming over the pink haired girl carefully.

 

toni hesitates before she shakes her head slowly. she’s said enough, and despite the pounding headache she has, she remembers last night.

 

cheryl said there was an explanation for what she did. toni’s ready to hear it.

 

“no…i want to hear your explanation. for why you did what you did.” she says firmly, her arms resting on the island as she copies the red haired girl and leans in closer across the island. cheryl inhales sharply, and she licks her lips and nods once before she’s suddenly moving around the island to sit down beside toni, who turns to face her slowly.

 

“i want to tell you everything, i absolutely do, toni, but i also want to make sure you’re okay first. what you told me last night…god, toni, you’ve been dealing with that for three years and you never told anyone?” cheryl whispers. toni licks her lips, feeling a little frustrated that the attention is back on her, but she simply shrugs.

 

“i told veronica and the others, but i asked them not to bring it up afterwards. it…cheryl, i don’t like talking about it, and last night i was drunk and emotional-.”

 

“it was the anniversary, toni, of course you were emotional.” cheryl says softly, her hand immediately seeking toni’s own. she squeezes her fingers sympathetically, and toni looks up at her, trying her best to read the expression on her face, but it’s unreadable.

 

she looks genuinely sad for toni, her eyes hooded as she gazes at the girl in front of her, but there’s something else that toni can’t quite put her finger on…

 

get your answers, toni.

 

“why did you do it, cheryl? was that all this was from the beginning for you, just a business deal? did…did i even mean anything to you?” toni tries her best not to cry, and she succeeds, but her voice cracks and betrays her emotions. she clears her throat to try and hide it, but cheryl sees right through her. the guilt in her eyes is clear to see, and she sighs and lets go of toni’s hand, leaning back in her seat as she does.

 

“you have to understand, toni…when i met you that day at the liquor store, you instantly caught my attention. i truly knew nothing about the bar at all. when the man that works there gave me the matchstick and told me about the wyrm, i became…intrigued. he told me it was a great bar that had people in it from sunset to sunrise, and i just knew i had to see what all the fuss was about…but more than anything, i wanted to see you again.” cheryl smiles softly, as if she’s recalling the memory of that day, and toni bites back her own smile as she remembers how her heart had leapt at the sight of cheryl sitting at the bar in front of her, that dress, those eyes…

 

“as soon as i entered the wyrm and saw how busy it was…i knew that finding out more about how the wyrm operated was a must. it was the busiest bar i’ve ever seen in my life, toni, and i’ve been to quite a lot of them. i knew the only way to get those answers, to find out more about the place was to talk to someone who worked there.” toni purses her lips and nods once.

 

“me.” she says simply. cheryl chews on her bottom lip hesitantly before she sighs and nods as well.

 

“yes. but i was attracted to you from the get-go, toni. i don’t want you to think i was just using you because i swear, that isn’t what this was. and the more i got to know you and the more you described the bar to me as being a family, a home for you and the others…the more i lost sight of the business side of things. i found myself barely even thinking of buying the bar anymore…and when you got the call from veronica about the pipe…all i wanted to do was help. that’s all i wanted to do and all i still want to do, toni, i swear to you.” cheryl breathes, genuine care in her eyes as she grips toni’s hand and squeezes it again. there’s tears in her eyes as she swallows thickly and continues talking.

 

“toni, i am so, so, so sorry for everything that’s happened…i had no idea veronica would react so viscerally to me, i…i wanted it to be a nice surprise, and it backfired completely. i should’ve spoken to you about it, or at least called veronica or something… just waltzing in there with a check ready was a bad idea. i know we’ve only known each other for a short amount of time, but i…i care about you so much, toni. and i know how much the bar means to you…to everyone who works there. i just want to help, i promise.”

 

a misunderstanding. two weeks of pain could’ve been completely avoided if all three of them had been adults and sat down to talk about what happened…

 

god, you’re an idiot, toni. you should’ve replied to her messages, talked to her sooner…

 

toni knows she’s got a bit of an immaturity streak, and yes, she has a problem with people who break her trust and betray her just like every other person would, but this…cheryl was just trying to help, and toni immediately chalked her interest in her down to simple business…but the signs were all there, cheryl was a successful businesswoman, it was obvious in the way she held herself, and toni knows she has that attitude of ‘i get what i want’, so of course it was hard for her to see past that...to see the genuine care that the redhead had for her.

 

toni’s been screwed over her whole life, what was one other thing to the list? fate took her parents too early, karma had her failing her dream career and guilt had her sleeping with every tom, dick and harriett in new york city in an attempt to mask the pain of her mother and father’s deaths. was it such a big surprise that the first time she felt something real, it ended up being a ruse?

 

except now, right in front of her, she has the concrete proof that it’s not. cheryl cares about her, god, cares about her enough to want to buy the broken down bar she works at to help her keep her job. she’s just so used to the bad shit, she kind of forgot that sometimes…god, sometimes, life can give you something good.

 

“please believe me, toni.” cheryl whispers, her voice breaking toni out of her thoughts. toni frowns for a brief moment, contemplating her next words before she clears her throat and leans back slowly.

 

“cheryl, you’ve already got three businesses to your name, why add the wyrm as well? isn’t that adding way too much pressure on you?” she asks with a frown. cheryl smiles knowingly.

 

“i can handle it, t.t.” she says with a light chuckle.

 

is she crazy? toni’s seen how hard veronica and betty struggle sometimes running one business, but running four…it seems impossible, but toni’s starting to believe that cheryl as a whole is a pretty impossible thing. this girl took toni into her home and comforted her after the pink haired girl had done nothing but ignore her and call her every name under the sun without her knowing.

 

you’re an ass, toni topaz.

 

“why didn’t you say this at the bar, cheryl? or in one of your messages?” toni whispers. cheryl swallows thickly and shakes her head.

 

“i wasn’t about to grovel over a text message, toni, those things can always be interpreted wrongly. i wanted to do it in person, i wanted to look you in the eyes and tell you how sorry i am for how things went down. and i’m sorry that veronica isn’t talking to you. it’s all my fault.” cheryl croaks out, bowing her head guiltily as she does. toni sighs and shakes her head.

 

“no, it’s not, cheryl. veronica…she hasn’t had the easiest life.” toni murmurs. cheryl looks up at her with a soft frown, and toni hesitates, chewing on her bottom lip before she grips cheryl’s hand in her own. her hands are cold, and toni feels goosebumps raise on her skin as she looks up at the redhead sadly.

 

“her whole family comes from money. but her father started some shady construction at her hometown that veronica didn’t agree with, so she moved to new york with betty and bought the bar with the money she saved from her father. when he found out…he disowned her. said he didn’t want his daughter owning some sleazy bar in brooklyn, that it was wrong and destroyed the family’s image. that bar means everything to veronica, cheryl. that bar is her middle finger to her parents, her success story, so you have to understand that when someone comes barging in wanting to buy it…it makes her feel like she’s a failure. it makes her feel like all those things her father said about her being a disappointment is true. she found a second family with betty, myself and the others. she…she probably thinks i betrayed her.” toni swallows the lump that rises in her throat and blinks back her tears, and cheryl squeezes her hand and looks at her sympathetically.

 

“you need to talk to her, toni.” she whispers. toni nods immediately.

 

“i know. i will. after last night…god, life is so short, and i know she’s mad at me, but i can’t lose her, and i know she feels the same way about me.” toni says softly. cheryl gives her a small, encouraging smile, and toni returns it before she licks her lips and nods once again.

 

“cheryl, we’re sinking. that pipe isn’t fixing itself any time soon, and i know veronica doesn’t have the money to repair it. the longer we stay closed, the more money we lose…but i don’t know if i can convince her to let you buy the bar. no matter how good your deal is, she’s…fuck, she’s stubborn. she won’t give up the bar-.”

 

“she won’t have to, t.t. i promise you, nothing will change. all i’ll be is an owner on paper, veronica and betty will still run things like they always have. i just want to provide the financial support, toni, i promise. i’ll even be willing to only take ten percent of the bar’s earnings if that convinces her that i’m in this only to help.”

 

toni blinks in shock at that. ten percent was nothing…but then again, cheryl does own three other businesses that were very clearly thriving considering how lavish her lifestyle was…

 

“a restaurant, a diner, a nightclub, and now a bar. you’re insane, cheryl. i don’t even know why you’re doing this. why do you care so much about the bar?” toni asks in genuine wonder. cheryl simply smiles and leans in closer until she’s cradling toni’s cheek with her hand affectionately.

 

“because i care about you, toni. and because that first night i was there, seeing how you, veronica, betty and josie worked behind the bar…seeing those boys and how much they goofed around, but still did their jobs properly…it’s a cohesive unit, t.t. and god, it’s entertainment at its absolute best. i’ve been around a lot of small businesses that have fallen apart because the people working in them weren’t taking the time to see it as anything other than a job. but for you guys…it’s more than that. it’s like you’re letting each customer into your homes and letting them share in the celebration of your lives. it’s a beautiful thing to witness, toni topaz. i’m not about to let you guys lose that over something as silly as money.”

 

toni scoffs before she can stop herself, and she raises the glass to her lips to drain the last dregs of water before she shakes her head and looks at cheryl with a raised eyebrow.

 

“you’re something else, cheryl blossom.” she murmurs. the red haired girl simply smiles cheekily and gives toni’s hand a squeeze, and toni finds herself sighing as she looks at cheryl once again, this time truly observing the girl in front of her in wonder.

 

where did this girl come from? god, there was still so much about cheryl that she didn’t know…cheryl very briefly passed through her childhood when they had spent that day after the club together, and she rarely mentions her parents, only focuses on the one family member she apparently cares about: jason. it was clear the two twins were close, but toni wants to understand why.

 

she wants to know more about her. for the first time in a long time, toni finds herself actually caring about someone enough to want to know who they are. it’s obvious how completely opposite they are. cheryl’s had money her whole life while toni’s struggled day and night to earn enough money to simply live, toni can see that, but there was something about cheryl that continued to draw her in, despite everything that’s happened between them…

 

“we’re so different from each other…” she mumbles, her fingers restlessly playing with cheryl’s on top of the counter as the girl before her smiles and leans in a little closer to her, her eyes flicking up and down from toni’s lips and eyes repeatedly.

 

“opposites attract, t.t.” she whispers. toni sucks in a sharp breath, unsure of whether she wants to take the initiative and close the gap between them, but she’s been fucking dreaming about kissing those lips for two weeks now, and cheryl is so goddamn close…

 

fuck it.

 

she leans in slowly, her lips brushing against cheryl’s almost teasingly at first before cheryl’s sucking toni’s bottom lip between her own harshly, a soft moan escaping her as she threads red manicured nails through toni’s pink hair. she scratches at her scalp tenderly as toni grips her elbows and pulls herself closer, her tongue brushing across cheryl’s bottom lip to ask for entrance, which the redhead happily submits to.

 

she’s spent two weeks berating herself for daydreaming about the taste of cheryl blossom’s lips, unable to get the memory of it out of her mind no matter how hard she tried, but to actually be kissing her right now…

 

cheryl’s quickly becoming her new favorite drug, and toni isn’t sure how she’s supposed to quit when cheryl’s kissing her just like this…

 

“god, i missed you, toni.” cheryl gasps out against her breathlessly, her forehead resting against toni’s as she sucks in large gulps of air. her fingers quickly grip the bottom of toni’s shirt, clutching it tightly, but not in an incentive to remove it, but to simply ground herself, and toni lets her, because she’s feeling a little breathless and lightheaded herself, like she’s just had her first smoke of the day.

 

she can get used to this. god, she can, she wants to. at this point, toni’s pretty sure that even if she can’t convince veronica to let cheryl buy the bar, there’s no way she’s letting cheryl walk out of her life. not after everything cheryl did for her last night…

 

but…shit.

 

shit, what if she can convince veronica to let cheryl buy the bar? then cheryl would technically be her boss…

 

and the number one rule of the whyte wyrm.

 

“number one rule, kid. no boyfriend or girlfriend drama at my bar.”

 

toni can’t help the groan that escapes her, and cheryl pulls away from her with a frown of concern, her nails scratching at the back of toni’s neck lightly.

 

“what’s wrong?” she asks softly. toni licks her lips and looks up at cheryl with hesitation before she grips the wrist of the hand curled into her shirt.

 

“cher…if you buy the bar, we…we can’t keep seeing each other.” toni says hoarsely. cheryl’s eyes widen, a look of confusion on her face before she suddenly shakes her head furiously.

 

“no, toni, it’s okay, i won’t let whatever we have distract me from doing business-.”

 

“no, cheryl, it’s…it’s not that.” toni sighs and pulls back completely now, prying cheryl’s hand out of her shirt as she runs her fingers through her hair in frustration.

 

“we have rules at the bar, cheryl. and one of them is to appear available but never be available. i’ve never had a problem sticking with that rule, but the other one…the other one is kind of a problem now.” she breathes. cheryl simply waits patiently, and toni sighs and gives her a sad smile.

 

“no boyfriend or girlfriend drama at the bar. if you buy the wyrm…there’s no way we’ll be able to continue this, cheryl. you’ll be my boss, and even i know that’s a recipe for disaster with how the bar operates.”

 

“i…i don’t understand, t.t., why would having a boyfriend or girlfriend be an issue?” cheryl asks in confusion, frowning deeply as she looks at toni, who hesitates before she gives an answer.

 

“because customers are flirting with us twenty four seven. that’s the appeal of the bar, cher, the hot as fuck bartenders are ‘single’, even if we’re not. if customers found out that we were taken, they wouldn’t be able to flirt with us, and that whole fantasy of thinking we’re flirting back is ruined. so if we have partners, they aren’t allowed to come to the bar at all, to keep the illusion up. i know it’s hard to understand, but-.”

 

“no, i…i get it.” cheryl croaks out. toni licks her lips and gives her hand a squeeze sadly.

 

“i know veronica wouldn’t be okay with us seeing each other if we go through with this. it would just make everything so complicated…” toni whispers. cheryl’s expression completely falls, and she licks her lips anxiously before she shakes her head.

 

“well…i mean, it’s…i saw her flirting with that security guard before i walked inside the bar that day, so clearly she’s breaking her own rules!” she splutters, her cheeks flushed in what toni thinks is anger as she crosses her arms over her chest. toni simply smiles and shakes her head.

 

“veronica and archie have a strict fuckbuddies rule. they literally only use each other for sex, and they seem pretty happy with it.” toni sighs. cheryl chews on her bottom lip, the look in her eyes conflicted before she looks at toni with a wince.

 

“i…we could do that…if that’s what you wanted.” she murmurs, but the look in her eyes contradicts everything she’s saying, eyes filled with sadness at the idea of toni simply being nothing more than a tool for sex. and after years of being exactly that to so many other people…toni doesn’t exactly find it appealing, either. she chuckles and grips cheryl’s hand in her own tightly.

 

“i don’t think that’s something we can do without catching feelings, cheryl…god, i’ve never had a problem with it, but with you…i’m kind of already long gone here.” she whispers. cheryl’s shoulders slump in defeat, and she’s squeezing toni’s hand back before tears well in her eyes and quickly fall down her cheeks.

 

“i’m pretty sure i’m past long gone at this point, t.t. i haven’t stopped thinking about you for a single second since the moment i laid eyes on you.” cheryl croaks out. toni’s heart breaks a little inside, and she blinks back her tears and simply purses her lips and nods.

 

they had time…they had time, it’s okay, it wasn’t over just yet…

 

“well, there’s no guarantee veronica will even listen to me, so…we have time to figure it out, i guess.” cheryl smiles at that, and she leans in and presses a kiss to the corner of toni’s mouth before she leans back with a sigh.

 

“i guess we do.”

 

-----------------

 

toni feels a pang of guilt and regret shoot through her the second she gets off her bike and looks up at the whyte wyrm in front of her.

 

cheryl had paid for the cab ride back to her apartment, something toni still feels guilty for even though the red head had kissed her lips and told her not to worry about it. after quickly booting up an old phone of hers that she had lying around the apartment and restoring everything from her broken one, she had called betty, who had almost sobbed with relief the second she had heard toni’s voice.

 

“god, i’ve been worried all night, you weren’t answering your phone! we’ve all been panicking, we thought you were dead!”

 

toni’s heart had leapt at those words, because betty had said all of them…did that mean veronica, too? why would veronica give a shit if she was alive or dead if she was still mad at her? maybe last night had opened her eyes, just like it had opened toni’s…

 

now was her chance to try and fix things between them.

 

so, after promising betty she would be at the wyrm in twenty minutes with an explanation, she swung by a tobacco store to buy herself some cigarettes with the last of her money before making her way to the bar. driving had been a bitch with her injured wrist, but she simply allowed the thoughts of finally being able to fix things with veronica help her push through the pain.

 

she squares her shoulders and licks her lips before she hangs her helmet on the handle of her bike and makes her way inside. there’s an eerie atmosphere of dread that immediately hits her the second she opens the door, and the foul smell of waterlogged carpet and concrete hits her nostrils, causing her to wrinkle her nose. she’s barely taken a few steps when she hears a loud cheer, and she jumps and looks ahead to see archie practically pounding straight for her, his eyes lit up with excitement and happiness. he runs straight for her, scooping her up and spinning her around as he hugs her tightly, and toni can’t help the little giggle of excitement that escapes her as she holds him just as close.

 

“fuck, it’s good to see you, toni! are you okay?” archie asks, settling her down and pulling back to grip her shoulders, his face filled with concern as he takes in her bruised jaw and cut lip. toni’s smile falters, but she manages to bring it back as she cradles his cheek in her hand affectionately with a nod.

 

“i’m fine, arch. i promise.” she says gently. his eyes soften, and he leans in and presses a kiss to her forehead before he sighs and nods towards the bar.

 

“ronnie’s in there somewhere…she was freaking out all night about you, t. she almost called the police…you know she loves you, right? i know you two haven’t been talking for the last two weeks, but she does. she hasn’t been coping very well without you.” he murmurs, and the look in his eyes tells toni that veronica might need to call off this whole fuckbuddies arrangement with the red haired boy.

 

he cares about her. it’s clear in the way he’s talking. toni sighs and nods, turning to face the bar as she does.

 

“i know.” she whispers. he says nothing, but gives her shoulder an encouraging squeeze before he claps his hands together.

 

“i gotta call the boys and tell them you’re okay. we missed you, tiny.” he says with a warm smile that toni quickly returns.

 

“i missed you guys, too.” he grins and makes his way outside, pulling his phone out of his pocket as he does, and toni takes a deep breath in before she walks into the bar with tension and nerves pulling her back straight.

 

the whole bar is a mess, bottles strewn all over the place and chairs stacked in a corner haphazardly, and toni allows herself to mourn for just a moment.

 

it’s dead. she’s never seen the bar this dead before. there’s no life in it whatsoever…

 

you can fix this, toni. cheryl can fix this…

 

toni focuses her gaze on the figure standing in front of the bar, wiping glasses, the swing of a blonde ponytail almost hypnotic with each movement-

 

“betty?” the figure spins around, and betty cooper’s eyes immediately water as she sets the glass down and runs forward at top speed. she barrels into toni, who grunts, but wraps her arms around the blonde girl to steady them both as betty cries into her shoulder loudly.

 

“god, you scared the fucking shit out of me!” she whines, her voice muffled by toni’s jacket, and toni blinks in surprise before she’s grinning and burying her head into betty’s shoulder as well.

 

“wow, i must’ve. i think that’s the first time i’ve ever heard you swear.” she chuckles. betty growls and pulls away, glaring at her angrily, but her bottom lip is trembling with emotion as she looks at toni’s face with concern.

 

“what happened? your lip-.”

 

“i’m fine, betty. i promise. i’m sorry for scaring you, i kind of broke my phone last night, that’s why i wasn’t answering.” she says apologetically. betty purses her lips, but nods once and wipes away her tears swiftly.

 

“i’m just glad you’re okay and safe. i know yesterday was probably hard for you…” betty sighs and leans in a little closer now, dropping her voice as she looks over her shoulder quickly.

 

“veronica’s really upset that she wasn’t there for you, t. she feels horrible. when you weren’t answering her phone, she started panicking big time. i think…i think it’s time you two talked.” she says with a soft smile. toni returns it and interlaces their hands, giving her fingers a hard squeeze.

 

“i know. that’s why i’m here, b. where is she?”

 

“upstairs in the apartment. she hasn’t left since you called me telling me you were okay.” betty looks up at the stairs that lead to the apartment she and veronica share together with a frown of concern, and toni sighs and purses her lips before she lets go of betty’s hand and makes her way toward the stairs. she climbs them slowly, her eyes boring into the door that’s slightly ajar before she clears her throat in an attempt to warn veronica of her approach.

 

“ronnie?” she calls out softly, pushing the door open slowly. she moves right, down the tiny hallway and pokes her head around the living room to find veronica at the window smoking a cigarette.

 

and god, the look on her face…

 

she looks distraught. her cheeks are stained with tears, fresh ones falling as she turns to face toni with a look of anguish. her expression hardens for only a moment before she’s turning back to face the window, a sniff escaping her as she takes a drag from her cigarette.

 

“ronnie…” toni steps forward cautiously, her heart aching at the sight of her best friend looking so defeated…

 

and despite the fact that veronica has all but ghosted her for the last two weeks, has left her feeling like complete and utter trash to the point where she was drinking every night just to fucking cope with the pain…toni finds it easy to forgive her, just like she found it easy to forgive cheryl.

 

because it’s veronica. this girl is the only reason toni is still standing on two feet. if veronica hadn’t taken in her in all those years ago, god only knows where toni would be right now…

 

she sits down at the window sill opposite veronica and turns to face her, her knees drawing up to her chest as she settles in, and veronica still doesn’t say a word, but she reaches down for her pack and holds it out to toni, who smiles and takes one before she lights it up and takes a drag. she feels her muscles instantly relax, a heavy sigh escaping her before veronica turns to face her with a trembling bottom lip.

 

“are you okay?” she asks hoarsely.

 

toni blinks back her own tears and licks her lips before she nods.

 

“i’m fine, ronnie. i promise. i’m sorry for scaring you, i broke my phone last night, that’s why i wasn’t answering.” she explains firmly. veronica simply purses her lips and nods, and she sniffs and flicks ash off the cigarette out of the window before looking at toni once more.

 

“did…did you at least have someone? you weren’t alone?” she says shakily. toni clenches her jaw and again, nods once.

 

“yeah.” she says simply, not quite wanting to divulge the identity of the person in case it causes a fight again. veronica, however, is smarter than she looks, because she scoffs and finishes off her cigarette, throwing it out of the window before she shakes her head and closes her eyes with a deep inhale.

 

“the pipe is still fucked, and it’s gonna cost about twenty grand to fix it. that on top of water damage to the bar and restocking all our booze…we’re looking at about fifty thousand dollars, toni.” she says in a low voice.

 

toni’s heart stops.

 

fuck…fifty grand? where the hell were they supposed to get that kind of money? there’s only one way, really, but god, how is she supposed to get veronica on board with letting cheryl buy the bar?

 

just try, toni. just fucking try…

 

“i’m so tired, t…” veronica groans, and she presses the palm of her hands into her eyes, her forehead sinking onto her perched up knees. toni reaches out and brushes her fingers through veronica’s hair gently.

 

“i know, v.” she whispers. veronica looks up at her, and toni doesn’t even have time to prepare herself before veronica’s launching herself into toni’s arms, hugging her close and crying into her shoulder just like betty did less than five minutes ago. toni hugs her close and allows herself the freedom to cry as well, her eyes burning from all the tears she’s shed in the last twenty four hours.

 

“i’m sorry, toni. i’m so sorry, i’m such an idiot-.”

 

“you’re not, v. you had every right to be mad, i’m the one that’s sorry.” toni breathes, rubbing the raven haired girl’s back soothingly, but veronica whines and pulls back, her hands reaching up to cradle toni’s face as she shakes her head.

 

“n-no, you have nothing to be s-sorry for, i…fuck, i shouldn’t sit here and get mad about who you sleep with, toni, and it’s n-not like you knew, you were just as upset as i was when you found out why she was there.” veronica shakes her head again, the guilt in her eyes evident, and toni gives her hands a squeeze before lifting them to her lips and pressing a kiss to her knuckles.

 

“we both fucked up. but it doesn’t matter, v, because i love you and i love this fucking bar. and it’s gonna die if we don’t work together to fix it.” she says passionately through clenched teeth. veronica licks her lips and swallows thickly before she wipes away her tears and nods.

 

“you’re right.” she whispers. toni gives her an encouraging smile, and she returns it before she hugs her knees close to her chest, but keeps one of her hands interlaced with toni’s.

 

“some guy came in here the other day trying to buy the bar off us as well. he said he was willing to buy us out for two million…he wants to tear this whole building down and refurbish it to build an apartment block…i told him to shove his money where the sun didn’t shine, but that deal is looking more and more appealing with each passing second, t. we’re losing money like crazy and i don’t know how much longer we can keep going on like this.” veronica croaks out, her voice cracking constantly with fatigue and emotion. toni frowns, and she finds herself hesitating before she squares her shoulders and takes a deep breath in.

 

she might lose cheryl, but she has to try…

 

“cheryl’s still interested, ronnie.” she says quietly. veronica stiffens slightly, her expression immediately turning stony, but toni squeezes her hand with a sigh and gives her an encouraging nod.

 

“hear her out, veronica. i’ve spent the last two weeks so angry at her, but last night…last night when i was all alone and felt so fucking helpless…” veronica winces, but toni keeps talking, a smile lighting up her face at the thought of how easily cheryl saved her last night.

 

“she found me and took me in. she looked after me because that’s the kind of person she is, ronnie. and she told me the reason why she wants to buy the bar, and it’s…it’s a much better fucking reason than wanting to build apartments. she cares about this place, and she just wants to help. her deal also doesn’t include us losing our jobs or the bar.” she says firmly. veronica’s brow furrows, and she hesitates for a long time, clearly battling two different decisions in her mind. toni waits patiently, her nails scratching veronica’s wrist lightly before the raven haired girl finally sighs loudly and nods once.

 

“can you call her and ask her to swing by the bar today? the sooner we fix this, the sooner we can get back on track.”

 

toni’s heart soars.

 

“i…yeah, of course, i’ll message her now, alright?” veronica nods and gives her a small smile, and toni leans in and presses a kiss to her brow gently, trying to contain her excitement as she does.

 

“she’s a good person, ronnie. just like you.” she whispers. veronica scoffs and looks up at her sadly.

 

“i’m not a good person, t. i threw my best friend out of here like she was dirt just because i can’t get over my ego-.”

 

“this bar means the world to you, v. i understand why you were upset, you had every reason to be mad. it wasn’t about ego, it was about pride.” toni says softly. veronica sighs and pulls another cigarette out of her pack.

 

“same shit, t. same shit.” toni frowns, but says nothing as she pulls out her phone and shoots a quick text message to cheryl.

 

you [11:45]
hey, how soon can you get to the bar? veronica’s willing to talk about a deal.

 

“are we okay, toni?” veronica whispers. toni pulls her gaze away from her phone and looks at the raven haired girl with a smile.

 

“we will be, ronnie. we will be.” veronica smiles at that, and toni’s phone buzzes in her hand as she drops her gaze back down to see cheryl’s reply.

 

bombshell [11:46]
i’ll be there in half an hour, t.t.

 

-----------------

 

toni hates this.

 

the tension in the air is thick, veronica staring cheryl down with her arms crossed over her chest, but cheryl is equally staring her down with a raised eyebrow and her back straight and tall. it’s a complete and total power play, and toni finds it ridiculously hot, but also ridiculously annoying.

 

“guys…i know there’s a lot of unresolved tension here, but can we maybe focus on the bar and the fact that it needs help, please?” toni pleads, looking back and forth between the two businesswomen anxiously. betty is standing beside toni looking equally disturbed with a frown on her face.

 

cheryl had walked in five minutes ago and had greeted betty with a smile, the both of them talking easily before veronica had come down the stairs from the apartment, which had led to this. toni knows veronica wants to give cheryl a chance, is probably just sizing the redhead up, but toni knows cheryl won’t give in so easily. at this point, they could be here for hours.

 

veronica sighs and finally relaxes a little, running a hand through her hair as she shrugs.

 

“yeah, you’re right. guess i just associate that face with a lot of pain and suffering.” she grumbles, looking up at cheryl with a raised eyebrow. cheryl purses her lips.

 

“well perhaps i can change that.” she offers a hand out to the table behind them, and veronica rolls her eyes, but nods at betty, who pulls a chair back and sits down, veronica sitting beside her a moment later. toni pulls a seat out for cheryl, who gives her a warm smile before they sit down beside each other, and veronica raises an eyebrow at toni, but says nothing about it before she looks at cheryl with a sigh.

 

“i’m sure toni’s told you all about the bar’s current predicament.” she says firmly. cheryl interlaces her fingers and rests them on top of the table with a sorrowful nod.

 

“yes, she has. i’m willing to work on a deal with you to help fix the pipe and the plumbing throughout the entire building. but i’d also like to discuss potential ownership of the bar as well. i’d be a fool to let this place go, veronica. you’ve built up quite a rapport throughout the streets of brooklyn, and this bar has so much life to it…it’d be a shame for everything to fall apart over something as simple as piping issues.” cheryl says with a frown. betty nods, impressed, and she turns to look at veronica, who bites down on her lip before taking a deep breath in.

 

“this bar is home to me, cheryl. to betty, and josie, sweet pea, fangs, reggie, jughead, archie…toni. it’s not just a workplace, it’s a family. you don’t fuck with family.” she reiterates strongly. cheryl’s smile is almost dazzling as she reaches out and takes veronica’s hand in her own, giving it a firm squeeze.

 

“i know, veronica. i can see how much you all care about this place. i’ve told toni this, but…the first night i was here, seeing how busy it was, i saw the potential in this place and knew i needed to find out more. but i also want you to know that befriending toni wasn’t a simple business play…i enjoy her company thoroughly, and the way she talks about this place, from what i saw that night i was here, the way you all worked together so seamlessly…you’re a cohesive unit. a family that operates and entertains because you enjoy it. this isn’t just a job to you, and i respect that so much. as i told toni, it’s more than a job to you guys, it’s like you’re letting each customer take a little piece of you with them when they leave this place, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. if i can help, i will. it’s not fair to lose something so special over something so small as money.” cheryl’s voice is so strong and filled with complete and utter dedication and power that toni finds herself staring at her in awe.

 

veronica and betty look equally starstruck, and veronica licks her lips and exchanges a look with betty, who sighs before she leans in a little closer.

 

“if you don’t mind me asking…you’re clearly a businesswomen, but we’re not exactly going to go into this blindly. how many businesses have you owned and how many of them have been successes?” betty says sternly. veronica raises an eyebrow again and looks to cheryl, who simply grins back and reaches down into her bag, pulling out an entire folder of papers and resting it on the table.

 

“i was born in business, betty. my mother and father own the blossom maple syrup company, so i’ve had an eye for business since i was a child. i run three establishments as it is, my most recent one is a diner i built up from scratch. i own a five star restaurant in manhattan named ‘skyline’-.” betty gasps audibly, excitement all over her face as she looks at veronica gleefully.

 

“ooh, i’ve always wanted to go there! i’ve heard the food is fantastic!” she exclaims. veronica looks at her in amusement as cheryl chuckles and winks at her.

 

“i’ll be sure to book you in as soon as i can.”

 

“oh my god, yes please, i’ve been trying for years.” betty whines, and veronica rolls her eyes, the smile still evident on her face as she waves her hand nonchalantly.

 

“alright, alright, so a restaurant in manhattan…” cheryl gives the papers about the restaurant to betty, who overlooks them happily before she holds up another stack to veronica.

 

“a nightclub also in manhattan called ‘escape.’ those papers detail the earnings we’ve amassed and the success rate of each business, as well as ratings on online forums. everything’s there.” she says with a cocky smile. toni rolls her eyes at her, which causes cheryl to grin sheepishly before she pulls out the last stack of papers.

 

“this is for the diner a few blocks from here named ‘jay jay’s diner’. it’s a recent establishment, so not much exists on it yet, but i’d like to take you all for breakfast there one day.” cheryl smiles as she watches betty and veronica comb through the papers almost obsessively, the both of them frowning as they read, and almost a full ten minutes pass before betty looks up at veronica and gives her a simple nod.

 

“she’s good, ronnie. and she’s right, she’s clearly got an eye for business.” she says simply. veronica raises an eyebrow before she purses her lips and looks at cheryl, leaning in closer to the redhead with a sigh.

 

“and what exactly is your offer? because some guy came in here a few days ago looking to buy this place off us, and he was offering two million, which i have to admit, is pretty tempting.” she says firmly. cheryl frowns and looks at toni, who simply shrugs.

 

“i didn’t know anything about it until today.” she says. cheryl purses her lips, but nods and looks at betty and veronica sternly.

 

“well, for starters, i won’t be looking to tear the place down and put you out of a job. i’ll help with the financial problems, make sure this place is back up and running, and i’ll still have you two running the place as normal. nothing will change, i promise you. all that will is the papers, which will include my name on it.” cheryl says softly. betty licks her lips and looks at veronica, who frowns and looks at cheryl for a long time.

 

“how much do you want?” she asks. cheryl shrugs.

 

“i’ll willing to take as low as ten percent.” she says simply. veronica’s eyes widen as betty coughs loudly, looking at cheryl in complete and utter shock.

 

“what? that’s…cheryl, that’s almost nothing-.”

 

“i’m aware. like i said, this place is too special to go under over something as simple as money. and i already have three businesses to my name, running a fourth is going to be tough enough without people i trust operating it as they always have. this bar is a success story, betty, why would i interrupt with it at all? i just want to be here to provide financial support to keep this place running. how much goes toward the place itself?” cheryl asks. veronica sighs.

 

“about sixty percent-.”

 

“that won’t be the case anymore. fifty toward the workers, fifty toward the place itself. my ten can go toward all of you as well.” cheryl says firmly. toni blinks once in shock as betty scoffs in disbelief.

 

“are you saying you won’t get any profit from this place?” she asks. veronica rolls her eyes and shakes her head.

 

“no, she’ll get a profit. she’s just willing to share it with the rest of us equally instead of taking most of it. goody two shoes.” she grumbles with a grin. cheryl simply winks at her.

 

“okay…that’s definitely a much better offer than that douchebag gave us.” betty murmurs to veronica, who nods firmly as she turns to look at betty. the two have been best friends since they were kids, so toni knows they have this crazy ability to talk to each other without saying a single word, and it looks like that’s exactly what they’re doing now, the both of them staring intently at each other for a few moments before veronica finally purses her lips and nods.

 

“okay. give us a few days to think about it, alright? it’s not just us that needs to decide, it’s everyone else, too. i know toni’s vote…” she teases, giving the pink haired girl a smirk that toni replies to by poking her tongue out at her.

 

“but i wanna make sure the others are okay with it, too.” veronica concludes. cheryl simply nods and gives her a small smile before nodding down at the papers in their hands.

 

“you can keep those if you’d like to go over them further. i’m glad you’ve given me the chance to truly fight for this, veronica. all i want is to help keep this place open. for it to close down for good would be a travesty on the neighborhood. no doubt you’ve already gotten several complaints about the remaining shut for the last two weeks?” cheryl asks sadly. veronica sighs before she chuckles darkly.

 

“you don’t know the half of it. but hopefully we can re-open soon.” veronica says firmly. cheryl nods once.

 

“hopefully. i’d like to give you money to repair the pipe regardless-.”

 

“no way, red. this bar isn’t a charity case, if you’re gonna give us the money to repair the pipes, you need to be getting something in return.” veronica murmurs. cheryl frowns, but says nothing else on the matter, and toni gives her hand a reassuring squeeze as she smiles.

 

they did it. they actually did it, holy shit-

 

“out of curiosity, who is this man who came by with an offer? did you get a name?” cheryl asks in wonder. veronica shrugs.

 

“i think he said his name was nick st. clair. he said he’d give me a few days to think…” veronica trails off, eyes widening as she looks at cheryl, and toni looks at her in confusion before she turns to look at cheryl.

 

cheryl who is suddenly gripping the table tightly, a soft gasp escaping her as her eyes widen, and toni immediately shuffles forward, her heart pounding at the complete and utter fear and dread in cheryl’s eyes.

 

“y-you…you can’t…” cheryl’s voice cracks, tears immediately falling down her cheeks, and toni is frozen in shock for a few seconds, wondering what on earth is causing cheryl to react like this before she reaches out and grips cheryl’s shoulder.

 

“hey, cher, what’s wrong?” she asks softly. cheryl looks up at her, a soft whine escaping her lips as she purses them and grips toni’s hand in her own tightly. toni winces slightly, but watches as cheryl’s eyes flutter closed, her bottom lip trembling now as she clutches it between her teeth in an effort to stop it.

 

“you can’t take the deal, veronica, please…” she breathes out. veronica frowns, betty equally looking at cheryl in concern as toni inches even closer and brushes cheryl’s hair back from her face slowly, tucking a lock behind her ear gently.

 

“cher, what is it?” she whispers. the red haired girl whines once more, shaking her head as she chokes on a sob, fresh tears falling down her face and betty looks at veronica, who exchanges a glance with blonde before she leans in closer and takes cheryl’s hand that’s resting on the table.

 

“hey…talk to us, what’s wrong with this nick st. clair guy?” she asks sternly, but not unkindly. cheryl audibly swallows before she looks up at veronica pleadingly.

 

“he’s…the worst kind of human, veronica. he’s done horrible, horrible things, and if you let him buy this bar, god only knows what else he’ll do. please, don’t sell the bar to him.” she gasps out. toni’s looking at her in sadness and shock. she’s never seen cheryl this vulnerable before, this upset, this scared. the girl always put up a front of having complete and utter control over anything and everything in her life but right now…

 

right now she’s trembling, shaking and crying in panic and despair, and toni has no idea why.

 

“why is he horrible? cher, what did he do?” toni whispers, her fingers squeezing cheryl’s tightly, but cheryl shakes her head again and lets out a choked sob, inhaling a shuddering breath as she bows her head.

 

she’s completely and utterly incapable of talking, and toni’s heart is pounding so fast.

 

who was this guy? why was he causing such a visceral reaction out of a girl who toni has never seen break once in the weeks she’s known her?

 

“you’re not just saying this shit to get me to give you the bar, are you?” veronica scoffs.

 

toni’s heart stops.

 

and unbelievable anger and rage sweeps through her entire body.

 

“what the fuck, veronica?” she growls, staring at the raven haired girl in disgust, who hesitates and goes to open her mouth again-

 

the loud sound of a chair scraping on the concrete echoes out before it collapses to the ground, and toni turns to see cheryl standing and retrieving her bag, another choked sob escaping her-

 

“cheryl, wait!” but the red haired girl dashes out of the bar before toni can even grab her, her heels clacking on the ground loudly as she makes her escape. the sound of the door slamming shut echoes as toni stands and watches her go in surprise.

 

“ah…shit.” veronica sighs behind her, and toni turns to see her running a hand through her hair with a guilty expression on her face.

 

toni hesitates, torn between following cheryl and staying behind as she looks back and forth between the door and her two best friends sitting down at the table.

 

“seriously, ronnie, you’ve gotta learn not to say what’s on your mind all the time-.” betty starts, but toni interrupts her with a glare and a scoff.

 

“why the fuck would you say that?!” she hisses. veronica rolls her eyes, that guilty expression still on her face, but toni knows she’s already got a defense lined up.

 

“okay, it wasn’t the best thing to say, but how do i know she’s not making this shit up to make sure i give the bar to her and not this nick guy?!” she demands, lifting her head up high as if that’s a good enough excuse to accuse a girl of lying about something that’s clearly traumatized her.

 

“that’s pretty fucking good acting if she was faking it, ronnie.” betty says softly, looking at the space that cheryl just vacated with a sad look in her eyes that toni is kind of tempted to smack off her face.

 

“what the fuck is wrong with you two? who cares if she’s lying, she’s giving you guys the best fucking deal and you-.”

 

“i care if she’s lying, toni! i’m not about to give the bar to someone we can’t trust!” veronica barks. toni glares at her angrily.

 

“why would you think she’d lie?! it’s not some award winning actress in front of us, ronnie, it was cheryl-.”

 

“a businesswoman who has probably lied her way through a million different deals! god, you’re getting so defensive and you don’t even know what this bad thing is, toni! you’re just so blinded by how much you like her, you can’t even see-.”

 

“don’t you start.” toni growls, a fist slamming down onto the table in her anger. her injured wrist throbs despite the fact that she’s hit the table with her good hand, and veronica glares up at her before she sinks back in her chair and crosses her arms over her chest.

 

“why do you want her to buy the bar, anyway? do you really think you two can start something if she’s the owner? she’ll be our boss, toni, and what’s the number one fucking rule of this place? no boyfriend or girlfriend drama in the bar.i’m not about to go changing that just because some fancy rich girl from manhattan wants to own it.” she says with a tone of finality. toni grits her teeth, clenches her fists to stop herself from punching veronica’s lights out, not wanting to do something that will damage their newly repaired relationship.

 

“you’re unbelievable, veronica.” and with that, she turns on her heel and ignores betty calling out her name, making her way out of the bar to jump on her bike and make a straight line for cheryl’s apartment.

 

she’s not going to do what she did last time. she’s not going to ignore cheryl anymore. cheryl needs her right now. and toni can think of nothing more than being there for her.

 

she kickstarts the bike to life and sits on it before she pulls her phone out and sends the red haired girl a quick text message.

 

you [13:21]
i’m on my way, cher. i’m sorry. xx