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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 three 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 mid 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 the heart of new york, and a nightclub in manhattan.” 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

Chapter Text

“are you miss antoinette topaz?”

 

toni skids to a halt and almost falls flat on her face as the receptionist stands up from behind her desk at cheryl’s apartment building, her eyes wide as toni grips the counter to balance herself before she nods furiously.

 

“y-yes, that’s me!” she pants out, her shoes squeaking on the linoleum floor from the rain that had begun to pour once again as soon as she had jumped on her bike back at the bar.

 

cheryl hadn’t responded to her text, and toni’s worried. the look in cheryl’s eyes had been heartbreaking, filled with fear and despair and anguish and every sad or horrified emotion that exists in the english dictionary, and toni wants nothing more than to help the red haired girl like she helped toni last night. she’s scared of what she’ll find once she gets up there, and it’s even possible that cheryl hadn’t come back here, but she has to try.

 

the receptionist purses her lips and nods once before she’s stepping out from behind the desk and making her way over to the elevator, toni following behind her helplessly as she presses the up button.

 

“miss blossom informed me to let you in if you came around.” she says with a smile that immediately sours when she sees toni’s been tracking water after her, but toni can’t find it in her to care as she swallows the lump in her throat and nods again.

 

“thank you!” she breathes. the girl nods once, and as the elevator doors open, toni steps inside and watches the girl press a card to the card reader, which turns green with a loud beep. the girl steps outside of the elevator before the doors shut and doesn’t even look back at toni as she makes her way back to the receptionist desk. toni lets out a sigh of relief and sinks against the back wall of the elevator, exhaling deeply as she does.

 

she feels horrible. she has no idea why cheryl had some a reaction to this nick guy’s name, but she knows it can’t be anything good from how out of control of her emotions cheryl had become. in the weeks she’s known her, cheryl hasn’t once broken her façade, but the pain in her eyes is unlike anything toni has ever witnessed…

 

whoever this nick guy was, he ruined her life, toni can tell.

 

the doors swing open, and toni immediately steps out, glancing around for any sign of bright red hair-

 

“cheryl?!” she calls out, her voice echoing slightly in the gigantic glass penthouse. she bites down on her bottom lip hesitantly before making her way around slowly, her boots still squeaking on the ground as water drips from her rain soaked body. she makes a beeline for cheryl’s bedroom, her heart thundering in her ears at this point, and she can hear the faint sound of what sounds like water…

 

water that definitely isn’t the harsh rain outside. it’s softer…

 

shower.

 

toni pushes the door to cheryl’s bedroom open slowly, her eyes falling onto the bed where she and cheryl had spent hours together, and she swallows thickly before turning right toward the bathroom, where the sound of water gets louder.

 

“cheryl?” she knocks on the door before she twists the doorknob, opening it slowly.

 

cheryl’s curled up naked in the corner of the gigantic shower, loud sobs escaping her as she hugs her knees closer to her chest, and toni’s heart utterly breaks.

 

she drops her bag from her back, lets it fall to the ground with a loud thunk that has cheryl looking up with wide eyes, and as soon as they land on toni, her bottom lip trembles and she buries her head into her arms once more, unable to even look at the pink haired bartender.

 

“cheryl…” toni doesn’t even bother taking her clothes off, she’s already wet from the rain outside. she unlaces her boots and pulls them off, however, before stepping into the shower and cautiously making her way over to cheryl. the spray from the showerhead hits her, and she shivers from the heat of the water compared to the cold rain outside, goosebumps rising on her skin immediately. she crouches down until she’s right beside the red haired girl, not a care in the world for the water currently soaking her already wet body as she reaches out to touch cheryl’s shoulder lightly.

 

“cher, what’s wrong?” toni whispers. toni’s eyes roam over cheryl’s body, over the red scratch marks all over her skin, and toni swallows thickly but doesn’t say anything.

 

where did these marks come from…

 

cheryl chokes on a sob, her whole body trembling underneath toni’s touch as she presses herself into the wall further with a shake of her head.

 

“i c-can’t-.”

 

“okay, okay, just…what can i do?” toni reaches out to brush her hair back from her face, but cheryl shrinks further into herself, practically melding herself to the shower wall as she whines lowly.

 

“j-just s-stay…please?” toni barely hears her words, spoken so softly and with none of the confidence that toni is so used to hearing from her, and toni blinks back her own tears and sits down beside her with a nod.

 

“okay.” she breathes. she doesn’t touch the girl, is honestly too afraid to, and cheryl whimpers and reaches out to grip her hand, interlacing their fingers and squeezing so tightly that toni’s pretty sure she loses circulation to her hand within seconds, but it doesn’t matter.

 

she purses her lips and waits.

 

two hours pass. the hot water eventually turns ice cold, but toni doesn’t move a muscle. cheryl keeps toni’s hand clutched between hers. toni doesn’t complain. she’ll stay here forever if that’s what cheryl needs…

 

finally, the red haired girl twitches, a sniff escaping her as she reaches up and turns the water off before she curls back into herself once more. silence fills the bathroom, toni waiting patiently as she looks at cheryl to see her digging her nails into her bare thigh, the scratch marks looking even worse underneath the cold water that’s now hitting her skin. she’s clutching her bottom lip between her teeth, water dripping down her face from either tears, or the water, toni isn’t sure-

 

“toni…” cheryl’s voice sounds so small that toni finds herself inching closer before she can stop herself, her wrist throbbing with the movement as she grips cheryl’s shoulder cautiously.

 

the red haired girl flinches, but leans in closer to her touch, allowing toni to wrap an arm around her shoulders as she buries her head into the crook of toni’s neck. her lips press gentle kisses to toni’s wet skin, her fingers digging into toni’s soaked shirt to pull herself impossibly closer before she whimpers and pulls away to look toni in the eyes.

 

her own are bloodshot, the red contrasting brilliantly with the chocolate brown of her eyes, and toni licks her lips before she brushes cheryl’s hair back from her face with her injured hand gently.

 

“we don’t have to talk about it.” toni says hoarsely, her voice cracking from lack of use. cheryl bites down on a trembling bottom lip before she leans in and kisses toni’s cheek lightly, a simple brush of her lips against the heated skin.

 

“i’m s-.”

 

“don’t say sorry, cheryl. don’t you dare. there’s nothing to be sorry about. i just want to help you. you were there for me last night…let me return the favor.” toni says firmly. cheryl’s throat bobs as more tears fall down her face, and she lets out a shaky breath before she suddenly pulls herself up and over toni’s body, straddling her lap and wrapping her arms around the pink haired girl in a tight hug. toni immediately wraps her arms around cheryl and pulls her closer, her nails scratching down cheryl’s bare back gently and soothingly, and it isn’t until cheryl’s fully relaxed into her arms that she finally speaks.

 

“nick st. clair is an awful person, toni. veronica can’t give him the bar.” she breathes, her voice surprisingly steady for how hard she’s shaking against toni right now. toni presses a kiss to cheryl’s hair.

 

she doesn’t want to push her, not one bit, but what made nick st. clair so awful?

 

“cheryl…what did he do?” toni whispers softly. cheryl lets out a small sob against toni, holding her close once more and tensing up as soon as toni finishes talking, and once again, toni is patient, draws patterns into the bare skin of her back until she relaxes again.

 

she’ll wait forever if she has to.

 

“i…he…toni-.” cheryl chokes on her words, and toni has a horrible, sinking feeling that she knows what cheryl’s about to say…

 

cheryl pulls back and looks toni in the eyes with tears streaming down her face.

 

“he raped me, toni.”

 

her heart absolutely drops.

 

toni freezes against her, feels every single muscle in her body tense up immediately, an unbelievable anger building quickly in her stomach and spreading throughout every inch of her as she looks into cheryl’s eyes and sees nothing but pain and sorrow.

 

“cheryl…” toni’s voice breaks before she can stop it, tears falling down her cheeks, and she can’t think of anything to do or say. what the fuck is she supposed to say?

 

how…god, how could someone do this to her? this girl was nothing but good, for this to happen to her…

 

“he can’t get the b-bar, toni. if he g-gets ownership of the wyrm, he gets ownership over all of you.” cheryl manages to gasp out through her hiccups and tears.

 

she’s…she’s still looking out for them? she’s telling toni about something absolutely horrible, something absolutely vile that happened to her, and she’s still looking out for them?

 

“cheryl, don’t worry about that now, i…fuck, come here, j-just-.” toni’s crying loudly before she can stop herself, her arms pulling cheryl in as close as possible, because she doesn’t know what else to do.

 

cheryl responds eagerly, almost collapsing against her, her whole body shaking and the sound of her teeth chattering echoing in toni’s ear, but toni doesn’t mind because she knows, has no doubt that cheryl needs affection of some kind, right now and fuck, toni is more than happy to give it. cheryl buries her head into toni’s neck as toni holds her close and doesn’t let her go for a single second, not caring about how her muscles ache or how the weight of cheryl sitting on top of her hips is hurting.

 

toni doesn’t say she’s sorry. she knows no amount of apologies from anyone will ever make this okay. she was violated, attacked by this…this filth-

 

cheryl doesn’t cry again. toni isn’t sure why. maybe she’s shed enough tears over the pain she’s endured. maybe she’s exhausted, her body too weak to cry anymore. toni doesn’t care what cheryl does at this moment. whatever she needs to do, toni doesn’t care, for her to tell her this…for her to care so much about toni and the bar and the others to reveal something like this…

 

she needs to get her out of the shower, her body is ice cold-

 

“cher, can you move?” toni asks softly. when cheryl simply whines and shakes her head, toni grits her teeth and adjusts cheryl in her lap, hooking one arm under knees while the other wraps around her shoulders. toni thanks every god she knows for the ridiculous strength in her body after years of dancing on top of a counter and lifting boxes of alcohol, her legs digging into the ground as she grunts and manages to steady herself enough to begin walking. cheryl lets out a little gasp of surprise before she’s wrapping her arms around toni’s neck in an effort to lighten the weight of her body in toni’s arms, and toni smiles before she leads her into her bedroom and carries her over to her bed. thankfully, the blankets are already pulled back, and toni lays her down on the sheets before grabbing the blanket and pulling it over cheryl’s naked body in an effort to warm her up. she goes to move, but cheryl grips her hand with a low whine and tugs her back.

 

“d-don’t leave-.”

 

“hey, hey, shh, i’m not going anywhere. i’m just gonna take these clothes off so i don’t get your bed wet, okay? shh, it’s okay…” tears fall from the side of cheryl’s face into her hair, and toni licks her lips and gently eases her grip out of cheryl’s before she makes her way to the bathroom. she grabs her bag and her boots, moving them into the bedroom before she quickly slides her serpent jacket off her shoulders and drops it beside the bag. she takes off her shirt and jeans, leaving her only in her bra and panties, and she’s contemplating borrowing some of cheryl’s clothes, but cheryl’s crying again, and fuck-

 

toni rushes to her side and immediately moves under the blankets, the warmth welcoming, and cheryl curls up into a ball with her back turned to toni as she sobs openly. toni blinks back her own tears and wraps an arm around her waist, pulling her as close as possible as she presses kisses to the back of cheryl’s shoulders.

 

“t-toni, he-.”

 

“shh, cheryl. you don’t have to tell me anything you’re not ready to tell, okay? i’m here, and i’m not going anywhere. you don’t have to explain a goddamn thing, and that…that fucker isn’t touching or coming anywhere near you or that bar again, cheryl. i promise.”

 

“he raped me, toni.”

 

if toni ever gets her hands on this guy…

 

the sun sets with toni and cheryl wrapped up in each other’s embrace in silence, cheryl’s cries eventually fading until it’s just toni with her arm wrapped around cheryl’s waist, holding her close with the red haired girl drawing circles into the back of toni’s hand.

 

the sound of a phone ringing causes them both to jump slightly, and toni doesn’t realize it’s hers until cheryl taps her hand and tells her.

 

“your phone, t.t.” she mumbles. toni blinks away the fatigue and exhaustion and jumps up from the bed, rushing to her bag to grab her phone.

 

it’s veronica.

 

toni frowns and looks at cheryl in hesitation. cheryl is staring blankly at the window, at the sun that’s setting with dark clouds looming ominously on the other side of the horizon, and toni takes a second to simply stare before she answers.

 

“yeah, v?” she manages to croak out, scratching at her brow absentmindedly as she does.

 

“hey…i feel like a fucking asshole.” veronica grumbles, her voice filled with guilt and regret. toni simply scoffs.

 

“you should. because you are one.” she growls. veronica sighs, and toni can hear the sound of her puffing on a cigarette before she talks again.

 

“i’m sorry. i really am, i didn’t mean to upset cheryl. is…have you seen her?” veronica asks softly. toni sighs and looks once again at the red haired girl, who is still staring out of the window blankly.

 

“i’m with her now.” toni whispers, concern gripping her tightly as veronica sighs again.

 

“is she okay?” veronica croaks out. toni’s about to respond when cheryl suddenly speaks up.

 

“tell her, toni.” she whispers. toni blinks once and looks at her in surprise, and cheryl finally moves her gaze away from the window and looks at toni with the saddest fucking smile she’s ever witnessed.

 

“tell her so she knows…the kind of person he is.” she breathes, her eyes closing as she turns under the covers to look up at the ceiling. toni blinks back her tears, the phone trembling in her hands as she exhales shakily and finally responds.

 

“no…she’s not okay, veronica. you can’t sell the bar to that son of a bitch. he…he hurt cheryl, ronnie. he…” toni trails off, can’t even bring it in her to repeat the words cheryl told her, but veronica…veronica is a smart girl…

 

“toni, please don’t tell me he raped her…” veronica breathes. toni’s silence confirms it, a choked out sob escaping her, and toni hears veronica sniff on the other side of the phone, the both of them too distraught to say a single word for a few moments before veronica finally speaks.

 

“i’ll talk to the others tonight. even if they don’t agree with selling the bar to cheryl, that lowlife isn’t getting his hands on it. i’m not even mentioning his deal to them…fuck, toni, i’m so sorry-.”

 

“you didn’t know, ronnie…it’s okay.” toni says solemnly, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath in to try and get her emotions under control.

 

“toni…stay with her. stay with her for as long as she needs you. and tell her i’m so, so, so sorry…” veronica whispers. toni nods once, pursing her lips as her eyes land on the red head who is still looking up at the ceiling in despair.

 

“i will. bye, v.”

 

“bye, toni.” she ends the call and throws her phone on top of her bag with a sigh before making her way back to the bed. as soon as she’s crawled up under the covers, cheryl turns away from her again, facing the window with a soft sigh, and toni frowns before she reaches out to brush her hand over cheryl’s bare shoulder.

 

“cher…do you want me to leave?” she asks softly. cheryl whines and reaches up to grab the hand on her shoulder, shaking her head against the pillow furiously.

 

“n-no, d-don’t-.”

 

“okay, okay, i won’t. i’ll stay right here, just…if you need anything-.”

 

“i just need you to stay, toni. please?” cheryl finally turns to face her, eyes filled with desperation and fatigue, and toni doesn’t know what else to do but nod and brush the tips of her fingers over cheryl’s cheek lightly.

 

“then i’ll stay. as long as you need me, cheryl. even if it’s forever…as long as you need me.”

 

cheryl doesn’t say another word the entire night. night eventually falls and thunder comes, so reminiscent of the night before where their roles had been reversed, toni crying in cheryl’s arms about her dead parents and now…

 

god, how toni wishes this never happened to the girl in her arms right now…

 

cheryl had fallen asleep at around midnight, her body eventually caving in to the exhaustion and fatigue, and toni’s trying to sleep, but it’s impossible. all she can think about is the pain cheryl’s been through, the heartache and the despair and the fact that she still had a fucking kind heart despite it all…

 

toni knew cheryl blossom was a special girl, but this is beyond special. this is bravery and kindness and good in its purest form.

 

cheryl stirs in her arms, toni brushing the tips of her fingers up and down the pale skin where the scratches are now scabbing over. toni still doesn’t know how they got there, and her fingers brush over the marks gently, cheryl eventually whining and burying her head into the crook of toni’s neck before her lips press a kiss to her pulse.

 

“i…it’s like i could f-feel him on me again…i had to w-wash it off…” cheryl croaks out, something wet splashing onto toni’s skin where her head is buried.

 

that’s why she was in the shower…the scratch marks…

 

“shh…i’m here, cher, let it out…” toni whispers, her lips pressing a kiss to the crown of cheryl’s head softly.

 

“i c-cried about it for s-so long, toni…i’m t-tired of crying…i’m just…tired.” cheryl says softly, her arms moving to push herself up so she can look toni in the eyes. toni reaches up and cradles cheryl’s cheek with her hand, her thumb brushing away the tears gently.

 

“then sleep. rest your body and your mind, cher. i’m right here, and i’m not going anywhere. no one’s gonna hurt you while i’m here, i swear to you.”

 

and for the first time since this afternoon, cheryl smiles.

 

“i know no one will. i feel safe with you, t.t.” she whispers. toni returns her smile somewhat shakily and leans up to press a kiss to the corner of her mouth.

 

“come here…” she pulls cheryl down softly, cheryl sighing against her before she rests her head on toni’s chest, and it doesn’t take long this time for the both of them to fall asleep, wounds on both sides struggling to heal through the pain of trauma and grief.

 

we’ve both lost so much…why the fuck isn’t life fair?

 

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

 

the sound of murmured voices has toni being pulled out of her sleep rather abruptly, her eyes still burning with fatigue and all the tears shed yesterday and the night before, and she groans and turns over to see cheryl fully dressed with a full face of make up with her phone to her ear, a frown on her face as she bends down to sleep her heel onto her foot.

 

“alright. i’ll be there in ten minutes, jay jay. i love you, too.” cheryl smiles as she ends the call, and when her eyes land on toni, her smile only grows wider.

 

“good morning. i’m sorry i woke you-.”

 

“no, it’s okay. you heading off?” toni asks softly as she sits up slowly, the joints in her back cracking slightly with the movement and causing her to wince. cheryl purses her lips and nods.

 

“i can’t afford to take another day off work. you can stay here if you’d like-.”

 

“no, i…i should get to the bar, see what the guys decided.” toni murmurs, a hand reaching up to brush her pink locks back from her face. cheryl nods once, and toni hesitates, not sure if she should say something about last night or not when cheryl decides for her by walking over to the other side of the bed and bending down to press a kiss to toni’s lips.

 

“keep me updated?” she whispers against her. toni nods numbly, and before she can say anything, cheryl’s leaving the room, grabbing her bag and slinging it over her shoulder as she does.

 

toni sits there in stunned and concerned silence for a few moments before she finally throws the covers off herself and makes her way over to her bag.

 

she lights up her phone to see a text from veronica asking her if everything is okay, and she quickly sends a reply telling her that she’s not sure, but that cheryl’s at least safe…she’ll be with her brother today, toni’s pretty sure that’s a good thing…

 

but it’s clear and obvious that cheryl was avoiding discussing last night, and toni doesn’t mind, because of course she fucking doesn’t, but she doesn’t want cheryl to shut her out at the same time. she wants cheryl to be honest and open with her about her feelings, especially considering cheryl had begged her to do the same less than two days ago…

 

toni sighs and sends another quick message telling veronica she’s on her way, and she goes to reach for her clothes, but one touch of them tells her they’re still soaking wet from yesterday.

 

“fuck.” she sighs and grabs her phone.

 

you [09:02]
is it okay if i shower and borrow your clothes?

 

cheryl’s reply comes through less than ten seconds later, and toni finds herself smiling at the fact that cheryl’s so quickly texting her back.

 

everything feels so strangely domestic despite everything that’s going on behind the scenes.

 

bombshell [09:02]
of course, toni. my penthouse is your penthouse. there actually might be a bra in your size in the third drawer of the dresser. xx

 

toni smirks and raises an eyebrow.

 

you [09:03]
you get a boob job or something, bombshell?

 

she watches the three dots before she’s laughing loudly at cheryl’s reply.

 

bombshell [09:03]
of course not, ma cherie. it’s a bra i wore when i was thirteen and still growing, should be perfect for you.

 

there’s a cheeky winky face emoji after it, and toni shakes her head in amusement before typing out a reply.

 

you [09:03]
i’m hurt, bombshell! i’m a tiny person, but even you have to admit my boobs aren’t that small…

 

she puts a sad face emoji, and she can almost see the smile on cheryl’s face as her reply comes through.

 

bombshell [09:04]
they’re perfect, toni. in fact, i’m pretty sure they’re my favorite thing about you…other than your lips, of course. thank you for making me smile…you have a habit of doing that and i’m eternally thankful for it…btw, send me a photo of the outfit you pick out. xx

 

toni finds herself smiling softly, and she sends a quick thanks with a kissy face emoji before she drops her phone into her bag and rummages through the third drawer. she finds the bra cheryl was talking about, and manages to find lace underwear that matches the color, before she moves to cheryl’s wardrobe.

 

she picks out simple black pants and a white button up blouse before she moves to the bathroom. she avoids showering in the corner she spent all of last night in, the memories causing a brick to form in her throat that she tries her best to swallow down.

 

she’s happy to distract cheryl from her pain with cute text messages, but she knows cheryl is going to need someone to talk to, and toni’s more than happy to be that person…but perhaps spending time with her brother today will be good for her, too. toni knows they’re close, cheryl has mentioned her twin brother a handful of times to toni, has talked about how jason was the only person who was really there for her throughout her life…maybe he can help her get through the pain of yesterday.

 

toni finds herself questioning if jason knows of what nick st. clair had done to cheryl, and she frowns and quickly washes her face before she’s turning the shower off and stepping out of it, grabbing a fluffy towel as she does.

 

she quickly gets dressed, shoves her hair up into a messy ponytail and takes a quick photo of herself in the mirror, the phone covering her face before she sends it to cheryl asking if it looks good. she grabs her serpent jacket, lets out a sigh of relief when she finds it’s dry, and she throws she hesitates before throwing her wet clothes into the hamper in the corner of cheryl’s room. she’s sure the red haired girl won’t mind. she slips on her boots, sighing with how out of place they look compared to the rest of her outfit before she leaves the penthouse altogether.

 

she throws her bag over her shoulder and makes her way down to the parking lot beneath the building, and she’s about to jump onto her bike when cheryl’s reply comes through.

 

bombshell [09:39]
god, you look stunning, toni…can you swing by the apartment when i’m done at work? i’ll message you when i’m on my way back. i want to hear all about your day. xx

 

ugh, she’s perfect, she’s fucking perfect-

 

you [09:40]
ditto, cher. let me know.

 

she shoves her phone into the pocket of cheryl’s pants and peels out of the parking lot. she drives back to her apartment first and regretfully takes a fifty dollar note out of her savings for her trip to australia, her heart aching that it’s come to this now.

 

god, they need to get that pipe fixed…

 

she uses the money to refuel her bike before finally making her way to the bar. the boys are outside, sweet pea, fangs, reggie, archie and jughead, all of them wearing their serpent jackets, even jughead, to toni’s surprise, and they all grin widely when toni pulls up.

 

“hey, tiny!” fangs immediately wraps her up in a warm hug, sweet pea and reggie joining it as toni giggles and pushes them off gently.

 

“yeah, yeah, i missed you guys, too. where’s ronnie?”

 

“inside with betty and josie. hey, she told us last night about this cheryl girl you know wanting to buy the bar…can we trust her, tiny?” sweet pea asks gruffly. toni’s about to answer when fangs grips her shoulder and nods his head.

 

“yeah, we can trust her, dude. i met her the other night when i went out with tiny, she’s a good person, and she’s hot as fuck. i think she could do great things with the bar.” he says with a wide smile. toni finds herself beaming up at him happily, and sweet pea sighs as reggie shrugs and lights the cigarette between his lips.

 

“man, whatever it takes to get that pipe fixed, i’m down. i’m surviving on scraps at this point, and this place is my home. i don’t wanna lose it.” he says with a frown, looking up at the bar fondly. archie sighs and gives his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

 

“yeah, same.” he says firmly. toni’s eyes land on jughead, and he smiles at her before reaching out to squeeze her elbow.

 

“how you holding up, toni? haven’t seen you around.” he says with concern. toni shrugs, but gives him a smile nonetheless.

 

“i’m alright, jug. i’m sorry the bar went to shit right after you got hired.” she says sadly. jughead shrugs.

 

“eh, it’s still better than my old job. besides, if we take cheryl’s deal, we should be up and running soon, right?” he asks with a frown. toni grins.

 

“really soon. i gotta get in there, see my girls. love the representation despite the heat, boys!” she says, looking up at the glaring sun above them that’s only slightly threatened by the dark clouds that are still fading from last night’s storm, and archie cheers as toni chuckles and walks into the bar.

 

she finds betty, josie, and veronica all at the bar, the three of them talking quietly before they look up at toni’s approach.

 

“hey!” veronica jumps up immediately and rushes over to her, enveloping her in a hug that toni returns with a sigh.

 

“i’m sorry, toni-.”

 

“stop, veronica. it’s fine.” toni tells her with a small smile, but veronica frowns and shakes her head before gripping toni’s hand tightly in her own.

 

“how is she?” she asks softly. toni sighs, wants to tell her that she’s not sure, but she knows it’ll only leave veronica feeling more guilty than before.

 

“she’s…okay. she went to work this morning and she’s with her brother, she’s really close with him…hopefully spending the day with him will make her feel better.” veronica runs her fingers through her hair, pursing her lips and nodding before betty and josie walk up to join them.

 

“hey, girl…” josie smiles sadly and hugs toni tightly, toni sinking against the girl tiredly as josie rubs her back comfortingly.

 

“veronica filled me on everything that happened yesterday…seems like you really care about this girl, toni.” she says softly. toni pulls away and gives her a small smile that josie quickly returns.

 

“she’s a good person, josie. we can trust her to look after the bar.” toni says thickly. josie exhales deeply before she nods.

 

“hey, if my girl trusts her, then so do i. besides, we need to get that pipe fixed, we’re going on almost a month without opening those doors, and mama’s gotta pay for her record deal.” she says with a chuckle. toni smiles and looks to veronica and betty, who grip each other’s hands before they look at toni with determined expressions.

 

“we’re gonna take cheryl’s deal. the boys agree that we need help and so does josie. it’s a good-.”

 

the door to the bar bursts open, causing all the girls to jump slightly before they turn to face the intruder.

 

a young man walks in, curly brown hair atop his head and his green eyes flashing as he grins widely and saunters inside. he smells of money, the coat he's wearing probably more than toni earns a night in the bar as he looks around the place with his nose wrinkled in disgust.

 

toni frowns in confusion and looks to the others for some explanation on who this guy is for only the briefest second before she hears veronica growl beside her, the raven haired girl immediately tensing up as the guy begins making his way toward them slowly.

 

“miss lodge! good to see you again-.”

 

“get the hell out of here!” veronica barks, her gaze almost murderous. toni looks at her in shock, not understanding what's causing this reaction when she sees betty glaring at this guy as her fists clench tightly, and if betty cooper is staring at someone like she's seconds away from murder, then whoever it is must be the most vile, most disgusting person to exist...

 

it slowly dawns on toni that the only reason they’d be reacting like this is if-

 

“you son of a bitch!” toni launches forward, nothing but anger and rage flooding her entire body, and she has every intention of slamming her fist into nick's body over and over again until her knuckles are bruised and bloody, but veronica wraps her arms around her and pulls toni back immediately, holding her close to her chest as toni fights against her with a growl.

 

it’s him, it’s him, i’m gonna fucking murder him-

 

“let me go, veronica!” toni screams, her legs kicking out in an attempt to get away, but the raven haired girl keeps her hold firm as she shakes her head and whispers into toni's ear.

 

“you’re not going to jail over this scumbag, toni!” she hisses. toni's about to say that she doesn't give a shit if she gets thrown into the slammer, that she's more than happy to go if it means she gets to tear this man apart-

 

nick st. clair looks at them with wide eyes, his expression shocked before he frowns at all of them with his arms outstretched.

 

“ladies, whoa…to what do i owe this hostile welcome?” he asks in surprise. veronica and betty both scoff as veronica nods at him over toni's shoulder, her arms still tight around toni's body to keep her back.

 

“i told you to get out and never come back the first day that ugly mug of yours stepped foot in here, st. clair! i fucking meant it! get out!” veronica glares at him with all the fire of a thousand suns burning into him as betty steps forward and rests an arm out over toni, veronica and josie protectively, ever the little soldier hellbent on keeping her friends safe.

 

“we’re not selling you this bar, nick. we've heard through the grapevine what you're truly like, and there's no way we're doing business with you. not after what you did to cheryl.” she hisses, green eyes ablaze with justice and determination. toni finds herself relaxing slightly in veronica's arms, proud of the venom and hostility in betty's tone as nick scoffs in disbelief and looks at them with wide eyes before running his fingers through his curly brown hair.

 

“cheryl? as in cheryl blossom? you have got to be kidding me.” he growls, shaking his head before he looks up at them angrily.

 

i'm gonna knock his teeth out-

 

he rests his hands on his hips and steps forward with a roll of his eyes.

 

“listen to me, i don't know what she told you, but i can guarantee it's probably the same thing lie she's told a hundred other people. you can't believe her, alright? cheryl blossom is nothing but a compulsive liar.” he hisses, his eyes filled with anger, and god, veronica needs to let her go-

 

how dare he even say her fucking name-

 

“that’s not true!” toni growls, struggling once again in veronica’s arms, but betty’s joined her best friend in holding toni back now, the both of them panting slightly from the exertion of stopping toni from launching at the boy and ripping his eyes out with her nails as josie scoffs and crosses her arms over her chest, looking at nick angrily.

 

“you’ve got ‘douchebag’ practically written on your forehead, white boy. why should we believe you?” she says with a raised eyebrow, eyes filled with apprehension. nick smirks and looks at all of them individually before he replies with a nod.

 

“did cheryl at all mention that we used to date while she was discussing me with you?” he says firmly.

 

toni freezes in veronica’s arms.

 

they...what?

 

he's lying, he's lying, cheryl would've said something-

 

she hears josie gasp, sees betty look at veronica in surprise, and toni has no idea what veronica's face looks like right now, her back still pressed tightly to the raven haired girl's chest as she clears her throat and looks at nick once more, her hold on toni still not loosening.

 

“so? it doesn’t excuse what you did!” she exclaims angrily. nick rolls his eyes again and shakes his head.

 

“oh come on, i didn’t do anything to her! i never hurt her! cheryl got mad at me when i broke up with her, so she decided to spread a rumor that i raped her because that’s the kind of spite filled, emotional wreck she is. she almost ruined my reputation, but luckily, no one believed her because everyone knows she’s a crazy bitch-.”

 

toni launches forward with a growl, and now all three girls are holding her back as the door busts open once again and the boys file in. nick raises his hands in surrender immediately as they look to see the girls holding toni back, and sweet pea growls and steps forward with a crack of his knuckles-

 

"stand down, sweet pea!" veronica yells loudly. sweet pea pauses, his jaw clenching as the boys standing behind him equally prepare themselves for a fight. nick swallows thickly, looking terrified before he lets out a little laugh, and god, the fucking sound-

 

“i’m gonna knock his fucking head off-." toni growls, trying to push herself through the girls, and nick's eyes land on her.

 

“i don’t know who you are, lady, and i don’t really care who you are, but don’t you think i’d be in jail by now if i really did rape her? however, here i stand, in your bar, and the reason why is because cheryl never pressed charges! and she never pressed charges because she knew she was lying! it’s pretty simple, ladies! she’s just trying to stop me from getting my hands on this place because she’s still trying to get revenge on me for breaking up with her! god, she’s pathetic…” he straightens out his coat and runs his fingers through his hair before he’s looking at veronica with a raised eyebrow, and god, toni wants to murder him, why isn't veronica letting her go-

 

“i came in here to tell you that i’m raising the offer to four million. choose wisely, miss lodge. don’t go making a deal with cheryl blossom that you’ll regret. that woman is a cocktail of psychotic instability. she’s already sunk her claws in one of you…” he eyes toni with a smirk that causes her to try and break veronica's hold again before looking at the girl holding toni back once more.

 

“don’t make the same mistake your friend has. see you around.” he gives them a nonchalant wave, looks at the boys apprehensively before he turns on his heel and leaves, giving them one last smirk before he turns down the hallway. the door slamming shut echoes out once again, and it's silent for a few moments before toni growls and finally manages to break out of veronica's grasp. she's making her way straight for the door when archie grabs her arm and tugs her back.

 

"he's probably long gone, t. don't go risk getting arrested for a guy like that." he says with a clenched jaw. toni glares at him, but before she can say anything, veronica's speaking up suddenly.

 

“reggie, you still got that friend at the station?” veronica says, her voice trembling slightly. toni turns to look at her in confusion, watches as reggie frowns, but nods once.

 

"yeah, he can help us. what do you need?" he asks roughly. veronica runs her fingers through her hair before she sighs and nods back.

 

“ask him to get as much dirt as he can on nick st. clair. i need to know who’s telling the truth here.” she says firmly.

 

she needs what now?

 

veronica believed him. veronica fucking believed him, what the fuck-

 

toni’s rage boils over before she can even think of trying to stop it.

 

“who’s telling the truth? what the fuck are you talking about, veronica?!” she shouts, turning back toward the girl and rushing forward so quickly that fangs grabs her immediately around the waist and holds her back.

 

"whoa, tiny, calm down-."

 

"don't tell me to calm down! you fucking believed him?!" toni screams, glaring at veronica as she's once again trying to fight out of someone's grasp. veronica clenches her jaw, but sighs and steps forward slowly until she's closer to toni.

 

“i’m not saying i don’t believe cheryl, but i need the evidence-.”

 

“evidence?! you saw how she reacted yesterday! she spent all fucking night crying in my arms and you need fucking evidence?!” toni roars hysterically, her nails scratching into fangs’s arms to get him to let go.

 

what was wrong with her, why was she doing this-

 

"tears aren't evidence of shit, toni! you think i believe nick? not one fucking bit, but this is business and i need to make sure i make the right choice-."

 

“oh, fuck you, veronica! that girl has done fucking nothing but try to help us from day fucking one and you keep shutting her down for what?! that fucking piece of shit!? you didn’t see her last night, you didn’t-.” toni’s emotions get the better of her at the memory of cheryl curled up in the corner of the shower, her throat catching as tears well up in her eyes.

 

cheryl...i need to see cheryl right now-

 

veronica sighs and reaches out to grip toni's shoulder, and she growls and tries to shove her off, but veronica glares at her and grips her chin tightly, refusing to let her look away.

 

“hey! stop being a stubborn asshole and listen to me! this is my home, toni! this is all of our homes! i can’t go giving it to someone i don’t trust. i need to know who the fuck is telling the truth.” she says firmly, her grip on toni's chin only tightening with each word. toni’s bottom lip trembles as fangs finally lets her go, and half of her wants to swing her fist right into veronica’s face, but the other half of her wins.

 

veronica lets her go, looks into her eyes as toni stares at her for the longest time.

 

“you take nick’s offer, veronica, and i will never forgive you.” she breathes. veronica’s eyes widen for the briefest moment before she’s sighing and looking at toni sadly, reaching out to grip her shoulder tightly.

 

“i have to do what’s best for business, toni.” she says softly.

 

toni doesn’t hesitate.

 

she slaps veronica's hand away and rips her serpent jacket off her shoulders, bundling it up in her arms before she shoves it into veronica’s chest so hard, the girl stumbles back from the force, and before any of them can call her back, she’s exiting the bar, wiping her tears away from her cheeks as she does.

Chapter Text

toni doesn’t text cheryl, and she isn’t sure why.

 

instead, she makes the drive back to manhattan, back to cheryl’s apartment, and when the receptionist lets her up into the penthouse, she heads straight to cheryl’s bedroom and curls up under the covers. part of her feels like she shouldn’t be just letting herself into cheryl’s home without telling the truth, but the second cheryl’s scent hits her, toni finds herself leaning in to the pillow cheryl was sleeping on last night for comfort, as if cheryl is here with her right now, brushing her fingers through her hair, whispering words of comfort into her ear…

 

she cries for a long time, the missing weight of her serpent jacket only making her cry harder every time she thinks about it, and she knows she needs to stay focused on when cheryl comes back, to be there for the red haired girl who has helped her through so much, who has been through so much, but she can’t stop thinking about the fact that she just walked out on her family.

 

how could veronica be so cruel? the logical part of toni knows that veronica’s only doing this to make sure the wyrm ends up in the right hands, but why would cheryl lie about something like that? it’s not something you lie about at all…and even if she did date nick, it gave him no right to do what he did to her, veronica herself had said it. so why was she making reggie dig up dirt on him? why was she so determined to know the truth?

 

why didn’t she trust toni enough to trust cheryl?

 

part of her feels nothing but fear and terror over the fact that she had shoved her serpent jacket into veronica’s arms, all but effectively quitting the bar, and she hates the part of her that wants to call veronica and beg for her forgiveness because the other part of her knows there’s nothing she should be sorry for. she’s done nothing wrong, it’s veronica who is in the wrong here, and she knows it…

 

toni isn’t sure when she dozes off, exhausted from days of crying and a hurricane of a thousand different emotions, but she’s woken up suddenly by the feeling of fingers brushing through her hair softly and the sound of a delicate voice in her ear.

 

“toni? it’s me…” she opens her eyes blearily, blinking away the dried tears and the sleep as she looks up to see cheryl’s face slowly come into view, a small smile playing on her lips as she leans in and presses them to toni’s forehead in the most tender kiss toni’s ever received from the red haired girl.

 

“the receptionist told me she let you back in, she said you looked upset.” cheryl says, frowning slightly as she reaches a hand up to brush her thumb over toni’s cheek affectionately. toni rubs her eyes, her throat dry and her whole body shaking as she looks at cheryl with hesitation.

 

she’s smiling…she’s happy, no doubt from spending the day with her brother, and toni doesn’t want to ruin that…

 

you have to tell her.

 

“cher…” toni’s voice is weak, and she hates it, hates the entire situation that they’re both in, but she powers through it and looks up at cheryl, whose expression slowly turns to one of deeper concern as she takes in the sadness on toni’s face.

 

“what happened?” she asks immediately, sitting down and shifting closer until she’s sitting down on the edge of the bed right beside the pink haired girl. toni takes in a shuddering breath before she reaches out and grabs cheryl’s hand in her own, intertwining their fingers, a beautiful contrast between pale and caramel.

 

“i went to the bar. the boys and josie said they’re happy to sell the bar to you, and veronica and betty were seconds away from telling me they were gonna take your deal, but then…” toni trails off, licking her lips and subconsciously scratching her nail into cheryl’s wrist before she looks up at the girl with tear filled eyes.

 

“nick st. clair walked in.” she whispers.

 

cheryl immediately tenses, fear and anger flooding her eyes as she breathes in deeply through her nose and closes her eyes. her fingers close around toni’s sharply, as if she’s trying to ground herself once more to reality, to will away the memories that hit her, and toni sits up and uses her injured hand to grip the back of cheryl’s neck comfortingly, not even caring how her wrist aches, her nails scratching at the baby hairs there gently.

 

it’s quiet for a few moments, and toni can feel cheryl beginning to shake beneath her hands. she feels lost once again, unsure of what to do or how to help the girl before her, and she feels horrible about it. cheryl had done so much for her, and fuck, all toni wants to do is help her, but instead, her existence in cheryl’s life has only brought up terrible memories from the past. if cheryl had never met her…

 

“what did he say?” cheryl croaks out, her voice trembling slightly. toni bites down on her bottom lip and scoots closer to her, trying her best to convey that she’s right there with her, that she’s not alone…

 

“veronica yelled at him to get out immediately. i almost punched his lights out, but the girls held me back. nick raised the offer to four million…and betty told him we weren’t going to do business with him because of what he did to you.” toni says in a low voice. cheryl’s grip on her hand tightens, and she still hasn’t opened her eyes, her teeth clutching her trembling bottom lip before she purses them and nods.

 

“she mentioned my name to him?” she whispers. toni leans in and rests her forehead on cheryl’s shoulder, breathing in her scent, that expensive perfume mixed with something else that toni absolutely adores…

 

“yes.” cheryl turns her head and presses her lips to the crown of toni’s head, her hand squeezing gently as she sighs against her.

 

“and he told you i was a liar.” she concludes. toni simply nods, leans in impossibly closer, wishes she could escape this situation altogether and just curl up under these covers with cheryl where it’s peaceful, no pain, no suffering…

 

cheryl reaches for her chin, gripping it between her fingers and lifting her head up until they’re looking at each other in the eyes.

 

“what else did he say?” cheryl whispers. toni swallows thickly, her eyes moving back and forth between cheryl’s before she answers.

 

“he said you two used to date. that when he broke up with you, you got mad and made up the lie that he…that he raped you. he said you never pressed charges because you knew you were lying, but cheryl, he’s the liar, i know he is, i don’t-.” cheryl’s grip on her chin tightens as her jaw clenches, effectively cutting toni off, and she smiles and shakes her head.

 

“i know you don’t believe him, toni. and i’m thankful to you for it. but i think…i think it’s time i was honest with you about what happened between me and him. i don’t want to give you any reason not to trust me.” cheryl whispers, the look in her eyes filled with determination despite the tears splashing down her pale cheeks, tinted red with blush that’s slowly beginning to fade due to the moisture.

 

“cheryl, you don’t-.”

 

“i do, toni. i need to do this. i need to give veronica a reason to trust me, too.” cheryl says softly. toni reaches up and brushes away cheryl’s tears with the back of her fingers, tries not to get angry thinking about her best friend as she grinds her teeth together.

 

“i threw my serpent jacket at her and left. she…cheryl, she doesn’t believe nick, but she doesn’t believe you, either, and it pisses me off that she’s doubting you after everything you’re offering her. she said she wants to find out who’s telling the truth.” toni growls, still in disbelief over veronica’s actions.

 

how could she do this to cheryl? to toni?

 

cheryl purses her lips and says nothing for a few moments before she sighs.

 

“she has every right to want to know. i understand her doubts, t.t. she’s scared to give the club to someone disloyal and dishonest. i’ll…i’ll tell her my side of the story, too, but first i want to tell you…i know you’ll listen to me without any judgement.” cheryl says firmly. toni sighs and gives her a small smile.

 

“of course, cher, you can tell me me anything…i’m so sorry about veronica, she’s-.”

 

“your best friend and your family, toni. and the girl i’m going to be doing business with in the near future, but only if i start being honest with her. i have to prove to her that she can trust me.” cheryl says with a sad smile, but toni shakes her head, which forces cheryl to let go of her as she moves her hands up to cradle cheryl’s face instead.

 

“no, cheryl, you don’t owe her a goddamn thing! you don’t have to force yourself to tell her just because she’s being a stubborn asshole-.”

 

“i’m not forcing myself to do anything, toni. i want to do this. nick st. clair has been running around for years ever since it happened telling people that i’m a liar. and that was fine, i didn’t care what people thought. if people were going to believe him, then i didn’t want them in my life. but this is something i’m willing to fight for. i’m not going to roll over and let him make you all believe i’m a liar. i refuse to let him win this round.” cheryl says fiercely, her teeth gritted and her eyes flashing with anger. toni lets out a shaky breath and purses her lips, her eyes searching cheryl’s face for any signs of hesitation, but she finds none whatsoever.

 

“cheryl-.”

 

“enough, toni. after this, we’ll go to the bar and we’ll tell veronica everything, but right now…i want to tell you first.” cheryl says with a tone of finality. toni hesitates before she sighs and reaches into the pocket of cheryl’s pants and pulls out her phone, looking at the time. it’s four in the afternoon, and toni licks her lips, feeling like she doesn’t have much else of a choice. this is cheryl’s decision and she has to respect that…

 

cheryl smiles and looks her over before she leans in to press a kiss to toni’s cheek.

 

“you look good in my clothes.” she whispers against her skin. toni finds herself smiling for the first time since this afternoon as she rolls her eyes.

 

“don’t butter me up. i’m not happy with veronica, and i still feel like you don’t owe her an explanation at all.” she grumbles. cheryl sighs and presses another kiss closer to the corner of her mouth this time.

 

“you’re protective, toni, and i absolutely adore that about you, but i won’t let nick take this from me. he’s already taken too much already.” cheryl’s voice trembles at the last sentence, her eyes closing as stray tears fall down her cheeks, and toni keeps her eyes on cheryl before she leans in and rests her forehead against cheryl’s.

 

“you’re wrong. i’m only protective of the people i care about, cheryl.” she whispers. cheryl lets out a soft gasp, her eyes roaming over toni’s face before she leans in and closes the gap between them. toni grips the back of her neck and pulls her closer, deepening the kiss as cheryl whimpers against her and pushes her down onto the bed. toni finds the weight of cheryl’s body on top of hers comforting, her hands fisting in cheryl’s hair lightly as she spreads her legs to accommodate the girl between them. cheryl pulls away a few moments later, gasping for air as she rests her forehead against toni’s, the both of them breathing each other in.

 

“are you sure you want to do this, cheryl?” toni whispers against her lips. cheryl smiles and kisses her softly, completely different from the kiss they just shared as she nods against her.

 

“yes.” she says simply. toni sighs, but pulls cheryl closer down to her body, enveloping the girl in a hug that she has no intention of letting go of. cheryl wraps her arms around her waist and rests her head on toni’s chest as the pink haired girl waits patiently for cheryl to begin.

 

“whenever you’re ready, babe.” she whispers. cheryl nods against her firmly despite how hard she’s shaking against toni. the pink haired girl presses a kiss to her hair and holds her closer, rubbing comforting circles into her back as she does. cheryl takes a few deep breaths in and closes her eyes, sinking her head back down onto toni’s chest and gripping the girl’s sides for comfort before she begins talking.

 

“i met nick st. clair six years ago at a charity event that both our parents forced us to go to. we were both young and bored out of our minds, so when our parents introduced us to each other i mistook our mutual boredom for chemistry. i thought he was amazing, that every goddamn word from his viper mouth was pure perfection. he played the perfect part of charming, and i stupidly fell for it. my parents and his parents were happy to see us getting along, and his mother insisted that nick ask me out on a proper date, which he did.” cheryl licks her lips and interlaces her fingers with toni. she begins playing with them subconsciously, as if using them as an anchor to keep herself from breaking down as she exhales shakily and ploughs on.

 

“a few dates later, and nick decided to make it official. he asked me to be his girlfriend, and i accepted without hesitation. i knew it would make my parents happy, and i thought it would make me happy, too. i thought he as a good person…but i would soon discover that i was very wrong.” cheryl swallows thickly, her nails digging into toni’s skin, and toni feels her heart break as she brushes her fingers through cheryl’s hair comfortingly.

 

she doesn’t want cheryl to be reliving what he did to her...but cheryl wanted to do this. god, she can feel how much this is hurting her…

 

just keep comforting her, toni…

 

“i was still a virgin when i met him, and after a month of dating, he…asked me if we could take the next step. i told him the truth, that i didn’t feel quite ready yet, that i thought it was too soon, that i wanted to get to know him more, and at first, he respected that. but as the months went by and i still felt unsure, he began to grow…impatient.” cheryl’s voice is low now, almost a whisper, and toni wishes she could block this entire conversation out of her mind, doesn’t want to hear about how that filth hurt the most amazing girl she’s ever met, the girl in her arms right now, recounting the most horrific tragedy of her life…

 

but cheryl needs her to listen right now, so as much as it hurts, she does exactly that, her fingers brushing up and down cheryl’s arms lightly.

 

“he invited me over to his place for dinner and he poured me a glass of wine. i took a few sips, and the next thing i knew, i was waking up in his bed naked with him passed out beside me.” cheryl whispers. toni’s heart clenches, but before she can process what she’s just heard, cheryl keeps talking, unable to stop now that she’s begun.

 

“i was sore and covered in bruises, and i knew…i knew what he had done to me. i snuck out of his room and called my brother, and jason came running to get me. as soon as he got there, he jumped on top of nick and beat the life out of him…i had to pull jason off, he was so mad, and i was scared he was going to kill him…” cheryl closes her eyes, her tears falling as she swallows the lump in her throat, and toni feels pride sweep through her that jason had so readily beaten the life out of the boy who had done this to his sister.

 

every story cheryl tells about him, she finds herself liking jason more and more.

 

“jason took me home and i told my parents what happened…and…” cheryl trails off, her tears falling faster now, and toni frowns and touches her cheek as cheryl looks up at her in despair.

 

“they told me not t-to say anything. my p-parents have business with the st. clair’s, and they s-said jason hurting him would make things shaky enough. they t-told me to simply end things with him and leave it at that.”

 

toni looks at her in complete and utter horror.

 

no…no, no parents could be this cruel…no parents could be this cruel to do something like this to their own daughter, no, it wasn’t possible…

 

god, this was why she wasn’t close with her parents, why she barely spoke about them, why jason was held in such high praise in her eyes…her twin brother was the only person who cared enough about her to do something, the only person who believed her, the only person who stuck by her side-

 

her own fucking parents?

 

“cheryl…” toni brushes her hair away from her face as cheryl cries loudly, shuddering gasps escaping her as she looks at toni and shakes her head.

 

“god, i w-wish every single d-day that he had just cheated on me instead, t-toni! the pain from that would’ve been s-so much more manageable than what he d-did! and for my p-parents to d-do that...and god, he s-said…he said that i was his girlfriend, that he had a right to my body, to take me as he pleased-.”

 

“shh, shh, i’m here.” toni coos softly, anger and rage flooding her at the words cheryl is telling her. she wants nothing more than to find nick st. clair, hunt him down and beat him within an inch of his life like jason had, but she knows cheryl needs her now more than ever, she soe continues brushing her fingers through cheryl’s hair as gently as she can, whispering soft words of comfort as she blinks back her tears of rage.

 

“i’m so sorry, cheryl. i’m so, so sorry…” toni whispers, tears immediately welling in her eyes before she can help it. she feels helpless, horrible, unable to do anything to help this poor girl.

 

god, her own fucking parents…

 

“cheryl, god, why would your parents-.” toni starts, but cheryl shakes her head.

 

“that’s not even the worst of it, toni…my parents are a complicated story. they weren’t expecting twins, and they always saw jason as their golden child. i was just…the spare one. if it wasn’t for jason, god only knows how much worse they would have treated me growing up…i shouldn’t have expected anything less when i told them what nick did to me. jason and i only talk business with them, other than that…he told me they aren’t worthy of having either of us as children.” she breathes, eyes glazed over in pain as she visibly winces. toni reaches up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear softly.

 

god, that boy did so much for his sister…toni wants to meet him, wrap her arms around him and thank him for looking after cheryl, even if she’s sure jason would probably stare at her in complete and utter confusion…

 

“jason really is your saving grace, isn’t he?” toni murmurs with a smile. cheryl hiccups and looks up at her with a smile as well, her fingers reaching out to brush across toni’s lips before she purses her own and shakes her head.

 

“he’s not my only saving grace anymore, t.t…” she breathes. toni inhales sharply, her heart pounding in her chest as cheryl leans down to kiss her, lips urgent against her own. toni runs her fingers through red hair, brushing it away from cheryl’s neck to scratch the skin there affectionately as cheryl’s nails dig into her sides before she pulls away breathlessly and looks at her with tears still clinging to her eyelashes.

 

“toni…what you said before…about not being able to see each other anymore if i buy the bar…” cheryl’s whole body is trembling against her now, her voice shaking just as much as her body is and toni purses her lips before she presses them to the smooth skin of cheryl’s forehead.

 

“i pretty much quit, so it doesn’t matter anymore.” toni mumbles against her skin. cheryl sighs and relaxes against her with exhaustion, her face buried in the crook of toni’s neck.

 

“that bar is your home, toni. and veronica’s family. you’ll sort this out, i know you will.” she whispers. toni swallows the lump in her throat thickly, her arms tightening around the redhead slightly.

 

she’s right. toni knows she is. but what veronica did…

 

“i don’t wanna focus on veronica right now, cheryl. i wanna focus on you. what you just told me…you’re so brave, cher, so fucking brave…” toni croaks out, blinking back tears as cheryl’s lips press a kiss to her pulse point softly.

 

“what he did to me…it changed everything, toni. if you had met me before him, you probably would’ve hated me. i was a spoiled, stuck up princess who didn’t care about anyone but myself. but after what happened…the trauma of it all, it took a toll on me. jason made me see a therapist, who in turn, recommended a program to me, a group of sexual assault survivors who met twice a week to work through their pain. that program did so much for me, toni. it helped me realize my worth, helped me see how to be kind despite the pain i’d suffered…” cheryl pushes herself up once more to look toni in the eyes, a smile playing on her lips.

 

“it helped me learn to take the days where i felt like dying and turn them into a strength to keep pushing forward. there’s always something good in this life, toni, always. pain is temporary, and sometimes, so is happiness, but the great thing about this life is that we get to choose what’s temporary and what’s not. i choose to make my pain temporary. i choose to make my happiness last. which is exactly why i fought so hard to keep you in my life. you make me happy, toni. happier than i’ve been in a long time. and maybe i shouldn’t have spammed you with messages, maybe i should’ve respected your wishes to ignore me after what i did, but i just couldn’t let you go-.”

 

“no…i’m glad you fought for me.” toni interrupts breathlessly, her heart pounding against her chest as she tucks a lock of red hair behind cheryl’s ear softly.

 

“cheryl, you make me happy, too. i’ve never felt this way about anyone before…for years, i’ve hid the pain of what happened to my parents, and i’ve…i’ve done stupid things to cope. i’ve slept around-.”

 

“toni, there’s nothing wrong with that.” cheryl says with a frown, but toni chuckles and shakes her head.

 

“no, i don’t mean it in a slut shaming way, i mean it more in the sense that i never bothered to form an emotional connection with anyone because i was too scared to. i didn’t want anyone to get close, i didn’t want them to see…to see the real me. but all it did was make me feel worse…and then you came out of fucking nowhere like a punch to the gut, and all i could think about was getting to know you.” cheryl scoffs at that, her eyes boring into toni’s with sadness as she sighs.

 

“i bet now that you have, you wish you’d never met me instead. i’m a horror story, toni topaz.” she murmurs. toni’s heart breaks at those words.

 

she really didn’t see…she didn’t see it at all…

 

“you really don’t see it, do you? how special you are…” toni whispers, her fingers brushing through cheryl’s hair as she stares at the girl before her in wonder.

 

fuck, toni…you’re falling headfirst, aren’t you? diving straight off the cliff with no clue on how sharp the rocks are at the bottom…

 

but she does. she knows how sharp the rocks are…yet they’re still here, in each other’s arms, soft touches and kisses that have toni’s mind spinning and her heart racing.

 

maybe she’s it, kid. maybe she really is it…

 

“if there’s anyone who doesn’t see how special they are, it’s you, t.t.” cheryl says softly, a sad smile on her lips as she brushes her thumb over toni’s bottom lip, her teeth gnawing on her own in hesitation before her lips replace her finger in a gentle kiss.

 

toni returns it eagerly, her arms snaking around cheryl’s waist so she can spin them over until cheryl’s back lands on the bed with a soft thump, a giggle escaping her as toni hovers above her with a smile of her own.

 

“there’s that laugh i’ve been missing…” she murmurs, her index finger poking the dimple on cheryl’s cheek playfully. cheryl laughs lightly again, her cheeks flushed and her tears long gone as she runs her hands up and down toni’s back.

 

they kiss just a little longer, content to stay wrapped up in each other’s arms, the both of them pushing through their pain to enjoy this moment here and now, where they’re together, where they’re happy…

 

but of course, it doesn’t last forever. the shrill ring of toni’s phone breaks through, causing toni to groan against cheryl’s lips before she pulls away and reaches into her pocket for her phone.

 

her eyes land on veronica’s name, and she bares her teeth and shakes her head.

 

“i’m not answering.” she grumbles, throwing the phone down onto the bed and snaking a hand around the back of cheryl’s neck to pull her to her lips once more, but cheryl surprises her by wrapping her fingers around toni’s wrist with a shake of her head.

 

“answer it, toni. you can’t ignore her forever.” she says softly. toni scoffs and sits up slowly, cheryl mirroring her as she runs her fingers through her hair.

 

“i can’t keep letting her get away with being a complete and total bitch, cheryl. she can’t expect me to forgive her every time she pulls this shit. what she did-.”

 

“was make sure her business, her home, wasn’t sold to someone she can’t trust. i understand where she’s coming from, toni. i’m not saying don’t be mad at her, but at least let her try to fix things. she wouldn’t be calling you if she didn’t care to do so.”

 

toni hesitates, her eyes darting down to her phone where veronica’s name is still flashing before she rolls her eyes and sighs.

 

“fine.” she grabs it and answers it, tries not to smile as cheryl takes her hand and raises it to her lips, pressing a kiss to her knuckles before she caresses her hand against her face.

 

“what, ronnie?” toni deadpans. veronica sighs loudly on the other end of the line, and when she talks, toni can barely understand her.

 

“i’m an asshole.” she grumbles. toni rolls her eyes. she can practically smell the whiskey on her breath from here…

 

“i don’t really wanna do this shit right now-.”

 

“please, toni, i’m so sorry. you can’t begin to understand how fucking sorry i am, reggie got in touch with his friend at the station and the shit he said about st. clair…toni, come home, please. and bring cheryl with you so i can give her the longest apology i’ve ever given anyone before.”

 

veronica’s voice is laced with regret and urgency, and toni looks up at cheryl to see her smiling sadly before she nods once. toni frowns before she licks her lips and pinches cheryl’s cheek with the hand she’s holding to her face playfully.

 

“you’re drunk, ronnie, i can hear it in your voice. sleep it off, we’ll come by tomorrow when you’re sober and you mean it.” toni grumbles. veronica sighs again loudly into the phone before she replies.

 

“yeah…okay. that’s fair. toni…toni, toni, please don’t be mad at me…you threw your serpent jacket in my face, you’re not quitting, are you?” veronica whines, the sound of ice clinking in a glass echoing in the phone. toni frowns before she hears another voice from a distance.

 

“veronica, you’ve had enough, come on…” betty says softly, her voice getting closer as veronica begins crying loudly.

 

“we lost toni, b…i’m such a fucking fuck up-.” there’s the sound of a small scuffle before another loud sigh echoes in the phone.

 

“hey…i’m sorry, t. she’s-.”

 

“a mess, yeah, i can hear that. look after her tonight, betty, and make sure she’s sober tomorrow. i’m not bringing cheryl by if she’s drunk off her face like this.” toni says firmly, looking up into cheryl’s eyes to see nothing but sympathy shining in them.

 

“i will, don’t worry. just to clarify…you weren’t quitting when you threw your jacket at veronica, were you?” betty asks, her voice low and filled with concern. toni chews on the inside of her cheek before she sighs.

 

“it depends on how good veronica’s apology is tomorrow. see you, b.” and with that, toni hangs up, a loud sigh escaping her as cheryl presses a kiss to the palm of her hand.

 

“are you sure you’re up for seeing her tomorrow?” cheryl asks softly. toni smiles.

 

“i was about to ask you the same thing.” she murmurs. cheryl sighs and simply nods, leaning in close to kiss toni’s lips.

 

“i’m gonna be just fine. although i’m worried about what this police officer said about nick…if he’s attacked other girls, toni…” cheryl whispers, her eyes filled with sadness. toni’s heart sinks at the thought, a loud sigh escaping her as she grips cheryl’s hand and squeezes it tightly.

 

“his parents pockets must be deeper than you thought…” she says firmly, but sympathetically. cheryl blinks rapidly, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip before she exhales shakily and nods.

 

“we’ll get our answers tomorrow. you’re welcome to stay, t.t. i have to go to the club tonight to show face, i won’t stay long-.”

 

“no, i should head home. this’ll be the third night i’ve stayed here if i do, i should probably sleep in my own bed.” toni sighs. cheryl purses her lips, but nods understandingly before a playful smile takes over her features.

 

“my bed not good enough?” she teases. toni barks with laughter loudly.

 

“are you kidding me? this bed feels like heaven compared to my crappy one, but still…i just feel like i should be home. i’ll see you at the bar tomorrow, okay?” toni says reassuringly. cheryl nods again, leaning in with a smile to kiss toni softly before she pulls away.

 

“i’ll miss having you by my side tomorrow morning.” she whispers. toni’s heart melts, and part of her is contemplating taking cheryl’s offer and just staying here, but she knows it’s best if she doesn’t. she doesn’t want to appear clingy, and definitely doesn’t want cheryl to think she’s taking advantage of her luxurious lifestyle. but more than anything, after spending so much time together for the last three days, after all the emotional ups and downs of the last seventy two hours…maybe some time apart would be good for both of them.

 

“don’t worry, bombshell. you’ll see me bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow, ready to kick veronica’s ass if we have to.” she says firmly.

 

cheryl laughs fondly before pressing another kiss to her lips.

 

“i’m not a violent person, t.t…but you’ll definitely have a cheerleader in your corner.”

 

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

 

toni’s woken up the next morning by the sound of her phone going off.

 

she grumbles and reaches under her pillow for it, blinking the sleep out of her eyes, but all her attention is immediately placed on her phone when she sees the number the message is from.

 

bombshell [09:54]
would you mind giving me your address, t.t.? i don’t see a point in us showing up separately…besides, i’ve been looking for an excuse to ride on that bike of yours again for weeks now. xx

 

toni finds herself grinning widely before she can stop herself, and she quickly yanks the charger out of the bottom of her phone and unlocks it, typing out a quick reply with the grin never leaving her face.

 

you [09:54]
you can ride my bike any time, bombshell.

 

she follows it with a winky face emoji and her address before it quickly dawns on her that her apartment is a fucking mess.

 

“shit.” toni scrambles out of her bed and quickly runs around her bedroom, picking up the clothes strewn across the stained carpet floor and shoving them into the hamper at the corner of the room. she sweeps cigarette ash off the window sill and grabs a perfume on her dresser, spraying it all over the room to get rid of the smell of tobacco. her phone rings again, and she looks down with a grin at cheryl’s message.

 

bombshell [10:01]
behave, t.t. i’ll see you soon. xx

 

toni laughs to herself before she types out a reply.

 

you[10:01]
ah, where’s the fun in that!? can’t wait to see you!

 

she adds a kissy face emoji before she opens a new message and sends one to betty telling her that she and cheryl will be at the bar within an hour.

 

she’s nervous, of course. she has no idea what’s going to happen the second she enters that bar hand in hand with cheryl, but if veronica doesn’t collapse to her knees and immediately grovel at cheryl’s feet, toni’s turning right back around and taking cheryl with her.

 

after everything veronica’s done, she should be glad toni’s even agreeing to meet up with her.

 

don’t get angry now, toni…cheryl wants you to fix things, and she’s right at the end of the day…

 

toni sighs and quickly sets about cleaning the rest of the apartment up, and she’s just straightening a stack of magazines when there’s a soft knock at the door. toni’s heart thunders in her ears, sweat quickly building on her brow.

 

cheryl’s about to see her home.

 

fuck, don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic-

 

god, she’s brought so many girls to this apartment without a care in the world what they thought of her shitty place, but this one…this one was so different…

 

toni cleans her palms on her shorts, realizes she’s still in her pajamas and curses herself for forgetting to at least change out of them before she makes her way to the door and opens it sheepishly.

 

cheryl’s standing before her, wearing a simple white summer dress with short heels on and her hair falling down her shoulders in soft waves, barely any makeup on and a smile on her face.

 

toni blinks a few times in surprise.

 

she’s so used to seeing cheryl looking absolutely immaculate in public, wearing the most expensive and bougie clothes with a face full of makeup, but now…

 

she looks so carefree. completely relaxed and loving every minute of it as she bites down on her bare bottom lip and leans in to press a kiss to toni’s cheek before holding up a brown paper bag.

 

“good morning, t.t. i brought donuts.” she says cheerily. toni chuckles under her breath and steps aside, sweeping her arm to welcome cheryl in.

 

“welcome to my shitty abode.” she says with a sigh. cheryl rolls her eyes, but walks in all the same, her eyes moving over the place fondly as she takes it all in.

 

“it’s hardly that, toni. we all start somewhere…it’s small and quaint, i like it.” she says softly, looking around with a smile slowly creeping onto her face as she does. toni takes the bag from her hands and sets it on the table as cheryl’s eyes land on the door that lead to her bedroom.

 

“ah, is that where the magic happens?” she teases, quirking an eyebrow at toni, who laughs and shrugs.

 

“and the tragic. it’s not much compared to a penthouse.” toni leads her over to her bedroom, opening the door and watching as cheryl walks in as if she’s always lived here, eyes landing immediately on toni’s bed with a smile.

 

“penthouses aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. sometimes something small is better.” she sighs, looking around the place before she makes her way over to the dresser. there’s polaroid photos stuck to the mirror of toni and the others, dozens of them…ones of her and veronica and josie and betty, ones of the boys, ones of all of them together…

 

"did you take all of these, t.t.?" cheryl asks breathlessly. toni feels her cheeks turn red as she nods once.

 

"yeah. with a shitty like, hundred dollar polaroid camera." she grumbles. cheryl's eyes widen, and she turns to look at toni with a soft smile.

 

"you're an amazing photographer, t.t. just think of what you could do with a proper camera..." she whispers. toni scoffs and shakes her head.

 

"yeah, i know..." she says simply. cheryl’s smile only grows more fond the longer she stares at the photos before she finally turns to look at toni with a sigh.

 

“penthouses are nothing compared to a place that feels like home. this feels like one, t.t.” she says softly. toni frowns and makes her way over to cheryl, immediately reaching out to wrap her arms around cheryl’s waist gently.

 

“your penthouse feels homely.” she says with a shrug. cheryl chuckles and reaches up to brush her thumb of toni’s cheek, leaning in to replace it with her lips a second later.

 

“it feels expensive, is what it feels like. money makes the world go ‘round, but it doesn’t make us happy. the people in our lives do…look at you in those photos, toni, you’re happy. a king sized bed and a luxury apartment don’t come close to that.” she says, spinning in toni’s arms to look at the photos stuck to her mirror once more, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip carefully. toni sighs and pushes herself up onto the tips of her toes to rest her chin on cheryl’s shoulder, her arms pulling her in closer as she does.

 

“i guess you have a point…” she mumbles. her eyes land on one of her and veronica both laughing, veronica’s index finger poking at the dimple on toni’s cheek, and she swallows the lump in her throat quickly before she clears it and smiles at cheryl in the mirror.

 

“come on, let’s enjoy those donuts before we head out, yeah?” cheryl can probably tell that she’s avoiding talking about the raven haired girl, but she doesn’t push the matter and instead lets toni grip her hand and lead her back to the living room, where they both collapse on her couch and begin talking while eating.

 

as soon as they’re done, toni sinks back against the couch with a resigned sigh, knowing that there’s nothing in their way now to heading to the bar, and cheryl reaches over and grips her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze before she smiles at her.

 

“come on, t.t. we should go…” toni purses her lips and nods once.

 

“let me get changed, i’ll be back.” she makes her way to her bedroom, her hand slipping out of cheryl’s grip as she enters her room and quickly throws on jeans, a tank top and her usual boots. she shoves a bandana into her hair before she makes her way back out into the living room to find cheryl still sitting down, her eyes on her phone. toni grins and skips over to her, and cheryl smiles up at her and stands just as toni reaches her and wraps her fingers around her wrist, about to drag cheryl to the front door when cheryl suddenly tugs her back, a hand reaching up to cradle her cheek as she kisses her deeply.

 

toni makes a small sound of surprise before she melts into the kiss with a smile, hands gripping cheryl’s waist to pull her closer, and it’s a long time before cheryl finally pulls away a little breathlessly, her forehead resting against toni’s for a brief moment before she sighs against her.

 

“toni, if veronica ends up accepting my deal today…if we end up not being able to see each other anymore…” cheryl says, her voice thick with emotion, but toni shakes her head and presses another kiss to her lips.

 

“she can go screw herself. after everything she’s done, she has no right to tell me who i can and can’t have a relationship with.” toni says firmly. cheryl sighs, pulling back to look into her eyes with a sad smile.

 

“if it gets in the way of business-.”

 

“it won’t.” toni says through gritted teeth, refusing to let the idea of this get into cheryl’s head. after everything veronica’s done, there’s no fucking way she’s gonna let toni lose this as well…

 

cheryl sighs again, but says nothing more and allows toni to lead her out of the apartment, toni grabbing the helmets and her keys on the table next to the door as she does. she hands one to cheryl as she leads her to the garage to her bike, and cheryl smiles as she shoves her helmet on and lets toni get on first. as soon as she’s secure, toni shoves her helmet on as well and smiles as cheryl grips her shoulders and straddles the bike behind her, grunts slightly when cheryl presses her chest to toni’s back and wraps her arms around her waist tightly.

 

“hang on, bombshell.” she says with a grin, and she hears cheryl chuckle in her ear before she turns the ignition and the bike roars to life.

 

“wouldn’t dream of letting go, t.t.”

 

toni peels out of the garage at a slightly faster speed than normal, laughs when cheryl digs her nails into toni’s waist before she’s slowing down and weaving her way through the traffic. cheryl relaxes against her the longer they ride for, and toni can see her smiling in the rearview mirror as she closes her eyes and rests her head on toni’s shoulder. toni finds herself smiling at the sight, and she speeds up just a little bit, ignores the usual honks of anger from the cars around her before they finally arrive at the bar.

 

toni sighs as she pulls into the parking lot in front of it, her eyes landing on the boys gathered at the front of the bar. all of them are there, sporting their serpent jackets and smoking cigarettes as usual when their eyes land on toni pulling up.

 

reggie immediately makes his way over to them, looking concerned and also a little angry, and for a second, toni winces, thinking it might be her he’s angry with, but the second she turns off the bike and kicks the stand down, he comes to a stop in front of her and shakes his head.

 

“that nick st. clair kid shows his face around here again, i’m beating his ass into next year.” he growls, cracking his knuckles threateningly as toni removes her helmet with a sigh.

 

“guessing your cop friend had nothing nice to say?” she says firmly. reggie scoffs, and his expression softens as he looks at the person pressed close to toni’s back, her hands finally relaxing from around toni’s waist as she removes her helmet.

 

reggie blinks a few times in surprise before he’s smiling, and toni rolls her eyes because she’s seen this smile a hundred times before from him, the little sleazebag-

 

“and i’m guessing you’re miss cheryl blossom? an honor…” he says all charmingly with a wink, extending his hand, which cheryl takes as he lifts it to his lips and presses a kiss to her knuckles.

 

“cut the bullshit, mantle, she’s not interested.” toni grumbles, swinging her leg off the bike and holding her hand out for cheryl to take, which she does with her other hand, a laugh escaping her as she climbs off the bike as well.

 

“she’s right, i’m afraid. there’s only one serpent i have my eye on…” cheryl says, looking at toni fondly, and reggie looks between them both before he crosses his arms over his chest and huffs.

 

“dammit, t, you always get the pretty ones.” he murmurs, shaking his head and taking the cigarette resting behind his ear to put to his lips. toni grins widely.

 

“of course i do. i’m always a sight compared to your ugly mug.” she teases. reggie gasps in mock horror, lifting a hand to his chest before he grins and looks to cheryl once more.

 

“see how rude she is to me? i’m reggie, by the way.” he says simply. cheryl smiles back at him with a nod.

 

“nice to meet you, reggie.” toni takes her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze before she nods toward the other boys.

 

“come on, i’ll introduce you to the hounds of justice, otherwise known as the security team. and then you’re telling us everything your cop friend said.” toni says to reggie, who frowns before he nods once and lights up his cigarette. toni leads cheryl over to the other boys, who all look up at their approach. fangs grins widely and immediately holds his arms open for cheryl, who blinks once in surprise before she’s smiling and walking right into his arms for a hug.

 

“hey, cheryl! it’s good to see you again! i’m happy we’re doing business with you, after spending the night at that club of yours, i gotta say…you know how to keep a place running.” he says, pulling back with a wide smile. cheryl smiles fondly back at him before she’s cocking an eyebrow and crossing her arms over her chest.

 

“hmm, yes, i heard all about your night at my club. have you called kevin back?” she says with a smirk. fangs’s smile falters, and sweet pea laughs loudly and claps him on the shoulder, whistling sympathetically as he does.

 

“nice job, dumbass. guess who’s banned from the rich girl’s club now?” he says with a grin, before he’s extending his hand to cheryl with a lopsided smile.

 

“sweet pea, nice to meet you.” he says gruffly, and cheryl takes his hand with a smile and a nod as she introduces herself. she moves to jughead next, to takes her hand with a polite smile, and cheryl looks to toni in confusion when she hears his name.

 

“does everyone here have nicknames or something?” she asks, looking at the other boys. jughead laughs and shakes his head.

 

“nah, just a nickname i’ve had since i was a kid. my name is…not the best.” he says with a sigh, and toni rolls her eyes.

 

“it’s better than ‘antoinette.’”

 

“i think ‘antoinette’ is a beautiful name.” cheryl says fondly, looking to her with a smile, and archie grins at toni cockily, but says nothing as he steps forward and extends his hand.

 

“archie. nice to meet you, cheryl.” she takes his hand, a knowing look in her eyes as she nods at him with a smile.

 

“a pleasure. now, reggie, i believe you have a story to tell.” cheryl says, looking toward the man in question with a frown on her face. reggie finishes off his cigarette and runs his fingers through his hair, smoke billowing from his mouth as he sighs.

 

“i’ve got a buddy with the nypd, we’ve been friends since we were kids…he’s done favors for us every once in a while, helps keep the bar from getting shut down when we get a little bit too rowdy, things like that. we pay him back with free drinks and entry…anyway, i asked him about this nick st. clair guy…apparently the guy’s been charged with a number of assaults, both physical and sexual. he’s also been charged with arson and drug possession, but his parents have been bribing the commissioner to keep him out of the slammer. apparently they’ve funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into keeping their son’s criminal record under wraps. every single case against this guy has fallen through from ‘lack of evidence’, otherwise known as ‘bullshit’. he’s been getting away with it for years, t. the son of a bitch is untouchable at this point.” reggie growls, his jaw clenching as he looks to the other boys, who all look like they’re ready to hunt nick st. clair down and lynch him from the nearest tree.

 

cheryl swallows thickly and looks to toni solemnly.

 

“i knew his parents were doing something to keep him out of jail, but this…god knows how many other girls he’s victimized.” she says hoarsely, blinking back tears as she does. toni grips her hand and gives a gentle squeeze before she looks to reggie with a sigh.

 

“thanks, reggie. for everything.” he purses his lips before he looks toward the bar and nods at it.

 

“ronnie’s waiting inside. she’s pretty hungover, but betty and josie kept the alcohol away from her. she feels pretty shit for what she did.” he says firmly. toni scoffs.

 

“good. at least she’s owning up to the fact that she did a shitty thing.” she deadpans. reggie nods in agreement, and archie sighs before he reaches out and grips both cheryl and toni’s shoulders in each hand.

 

“give her a chance to apologize, alright? when you threw the jacket at her yesterday, tiny, she collapsed to the ground and spent an hour crying with it in her hands. she begged us to bring you back, but we knew you needed time to cool off. i don’t think you realize how much you mean to her, toni. you’re her best friend, her sister…you’re family.” archie says softly. toni feels the guilt quickly rise in her, but she pushes it back down and raises her chin to look archie square in the eyes.

 

“family doesn’t treat each other like that. i’ll hear her out, archie, but it’s not me that she needs to beg for forgiveness, it’s her.” toni nods toward cheryl, archie’s flicking to the redhead with worry before toni sighs and squeezes his wrist gently.

 

“if cheryl can find it in her incredibly kind and beautiful heart to forgive ronnie, then…i’ll think about doing the same.” and with that, toni grips cheryl’s hand in her own and pushes past archie, making her way to the entrance of the bar with the boys watching them go anxiously. as soon as toni pushes the door open, cheryl’s grip on her hand tightens, and toni gives her a reassuring smile before she makes her way into the bar.

 

betty and josie are sitting at a table, the both of them looking concerned, and toni’s eyes land on their hands rubbing the back of someone with black hair who’s bent over the table, sobbing into her hands loudly-

 

“toni!” betty jumps up from her chair, a smile lighting up her face as she takes in toni and cheryl, and at the sound of her name, veronica’s head snaps up, her eyes bloodshot and tears running down her cheeks-

 

toni’s eyes land on the her serpent jacket in veronica’s arms, and she feels that pang of guilt hit her once more before she’s crossing her arms over her chest and raising an eyebrow.

 

“i’m not dead, you know. stop being overdramatic.” she grumbles, scuffing her foot on the ground and avoiding eye contact with the raven haired girl. the sound of a chair scraping on the ground echoes before there’s the sound of footsteps, and toni barely looks up in time before a small body is colliding with her own, smacking into her harshly as toni stumbles back from the force with a grunt.

 

veronica hugs her close, crying loudly in her ear incoherently, and toni sighs, but doesn’t hug her back.

 

she’s not getting off that easy-

 

“i’m s-so s-sorry, t-toni-.” is all toni manages to understand, and she looks to cheryl, who is watching all of this go down with a sad expression on her face, and fuck, toni wishes cheryl wasn’t so goddamn forgiving, but she can already see the sympathy in cheryl’s eyes before veronica’s even begun her apology-

 

“i’m not the one you need to be sorry to, ronnie.” toni says simply, still not hugging the raven haired girl back, and veronica hiccups before she pulls away from toni with a sniff, looking her in the eyes sadly before she bites down on her trembling bottom lip and turns to look at cheryl.

 

“cheryl…” veronica breathes, her eyes wide with tears still falling down them as she swallows thickly, her face screwed up in an effort to stop herself from crying again, but she fails miserably, a choked out sob escaping her before she can stop it.

 

“ch-cheryl, i…i d-don’t know wh-what i was th-thinking i j-just-.”

 

“wanted to make sure the bar was going to the right person. i understand, veronica. but i wouldn’t lie about something like that.” cheryl says firmly, but not unkindly, a hand reaching out to grip veronica’s, which she takes eagerly with a shuddering inhale of breath.

 

“i kn-know, but h-he just…fuck, i sh-should’ve known he was v-vile from the b-beginning, but he j-just sounds so convincing-.”

 

“i know. i’ve fallen under his charm before.” cheryl says with a sigh, that same tired look flashing in her eyes every time she talks about or even thinks of nick st. clair. veronica’s chin wobbles as she nods once, and she steps closer to cheryl, her eyes pleading as she looks at the red haired girl.

 

“cheryl, i d-don’t want you to think i’m just apologizing so you’ll b-buy the bar, or to w-win toni back. i want you to know…fuck, d-deep down, from the bottom of my f-fucking heart, how truly s-sorry i am. it’s not that i d-didn’t believe you, cheryl, i just…god, i j-just wanted to know the truth, but the s-second i said it, i realized how f-fucking stupid i s-sounded…” veronica says shakily, her grip on cheryl’s hand tightening until the girl winces and purses her lips.

 

“it’s not stupid, veronica. you barely know me, for all you know, i could’ve been lying. but i told toni the full story yesterday…and i’m willing to tell it to you, too-.” cheryl starts, but veronica shakes her head vehemently, a choked out whine escaping her.

 

“no, no, i don’t need to hear anything. i believe you, cheryl. unequivocally and wholeheartedly. after what that cop said about the charges he’s had dropped against him by his f-fucking parents…there’s no doubt in my m-mind that he’s exactly the scum you s-say he is.” veronica hiccups, her eyes filled with anger and rage. cheryl clenches her jaw and simply nods once, and toni raises an eyebrow and looks at veronica, who turns to face her now with an apologetic look in her eyes.

 

“toni, you have every r-right to be m-mad at me…cheryl’s done n-nothing but want to help us from day one and i just k-kept throwing that generosity back into her face…and worse than that, i didn’t trust you enough to know you were bringing someone good to us. i…fuck, i h-have no excuses for my behavior. i’m just fucking praying that you’ll find it in yourself to forgive me for everything i’ve done.”

 

toni purses her lips, looks to cheryl, who gives her a smile and an encouraging nod, and toni rolls her eyes before she sighs loudly.

 

“it’ll take me some time, but…you’re my family, veronica. as much as you fuck up, you’re still my sister, and i still love you. just, fuck…stop being so neurotic and stubborn. start trusting people, ronnie. i know shit’s been sideways for you your whole life, but shit, it’s been that way for me, too. it’s time we both stop using our pasts as an excuse to be shit people and start focusing on trying to be better. look at all the shit cheryl’s been through and she’s still fucking here, forgiving you and trying her best to save this place even though she has no emotional connection to it whatsoever.” toni says, smiling at the red haired girl fondly, and veronica closes her eyes and swallows thickly before she nods once, a hand reaching out to grip toni’s tightly.

 

“i know…i know, i’m so sorry, toni…”

 

“i know you are, v. just fucking promise me that you won’t pull this shit again. not everyone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes all the time…not everyone’s like your father, ronnie. learn to trust again.” toni says firmly. veronica opens her eyes, looks at toni with a clenched jaw at the mention of her father before she sags in defeat and bows her head.

 

“you’re right.” she mumbles. toni grins.

 

“i usually am.” she says with a shrug. veronica sighs and runs her fingers through her hair, and cheryl reaches out to grip her shoulder tightly.

 

“veronica, i’m still up to buy the bar and fix the pipes if you’re willing to let me. i still want to help…” she says softly. veronica hiccups once again and looks at her in wonder, eyes narrowing before she scoffs and shakes her head.

 

“god, if i were you, i’d be kicking my face in and telling me to shove my bar up my ass after how i’ve treated you.” she says glumly, and cheryl chuckles before she simply shrugs.

 

“i can still do that if-.”

 

“no! no, we’ll take your deal!” veronica says eagerly, her fingers closing around the wrist of the hand on her shoulder. cheryl laughs a little louder this time, but she’s beaming as she nods once and moves her hand down to give veronica’s a squeeze.

 

“then let’s sit down and talk business. are you up for that?” she asks with a frown. veronica hiccups again, but wipes away her tears and immediately slips into business mode, squaring her shoulders as she does.

 

“i am. let’s do this.”

 

cheryl smiles and makes her way over to the table where betty and josie are still standing, and she extends her hand to josie with a warm smile.

 

“cheryl. it’s nice to meet you.”

 

“josie. i hope you’ve got a way out of this mess for us, sweetheart. we’re sinking and fast.” josie says with a sigh. cheryl purses her lips, but nods with determination.

 

“i’ll do my best.”

 

toni’s whole body is buzzing with an excited energy, but it quickly fades when she takes her seat and notices betty watching the both of them with hesitation before she sighs loudly and shakes her head.

 

“i have to say something first.” she says firmly. cheryl looks to her with a frown, and toni’s heart immediately sinks.

 

“betty…” she says in a low voice, knowing exactly what the blonde girl is about to say.

 

no, come on, please betty, don’t do this…

 

“i’m sorry, t…but you know the rules. and if cheryl buys the bar, she’s effectively our boss…your boss. we made a promise when we opened this bar that it would be a relationship free zone. appear available-.”

 

“but never be available, i know the stupid fucking rule, betty!” toni snaps angrily. cheryl immediately reaches out and grips her hand, and when toni looks at her, she sees nothing but defeat shining in her eyes.

 

no, no, no, this isn’t fair-

 

“b…come on, maybe just this once we can let that rule go…” veronica says, looking to her best friend pleadingly, most likely because she’s scared this will make toni mad enough to quit for real this time, but betty shakes her head furiously.

 

“no, ronnie. remember what happened last time we made an exception of that rule? josie’s boyfriend got pissed about the customers flirting with her and he knocked out five of them before he was arrested.” betty says with a clench of her jaw, and josie sighs and looks at her guiltily.

 

“hey, i told chuck not to do it-.”

 

“and he did anyway, and we got slapped with a five thousand dollar fine. that’s the last thing we need right now.”

 

“cheryl’s not about to go punching out some guy’s lights for flirting with me when she owns the fucking place, betty!” toni argues. betty sighs and runs her fingers through her hair.

 

“i’m sorry, toni. i wish things were different-.”

 

“you can’t force me not to be in a relationship with someone i care about!” toni cries out, and fuck, she’s got tears in her eyes and she does not want to fucking cry right now-

 

“toni, i wouldn’t care if it was some random person on the street, we’ve never stopped you from being in a relationship, you’ve just never chosen to be in one! i wouldn’t be saying this if cheryl wasn’t about to buy the bar and become an owner! i’m sorry, but it’s the way things are and the way they always will be.” betty says with a tone of finality. toni finds herself slamming a fist down onto the table in her anger, and cheryl immediately rests a hand on her thigh, nails digging into her skin to calm her down.

 

“this is completely unfair! veronica’s been fucking archie for over a year now, i don’t see you telling her to stop! and what about you with jughead? you think i haven’t noticed the looks you two give each other?” toni growls, her anger getting the better of her now. her whole body is shaking, but she’s not about to fucking back down, because this isn’t fair-

 

“veronica and archie don’t have feelings for each other! but it’s pretty clear to everyone with eyes that you and cheryl definitely do! you care about each other a lot, toni! i’m sorry…i really am so, so sorry, but if we want this to work, you two can’t…you can’t see each other, i’m sorry.” betty says firmly, but toni can hear the guilt in her tone as she bows her head with a sigh.

 

toni’s about to argue. she’s about to scream that they’re all fucking blind if they think archie doesn’t have feelings for veronica. she’s about to yell that it’s not fair to stop her from having something real for once in her life over a simple fucking job…

 

but cheryl’s squeezing her thigh again, and when toni looks at her, she sees she’s crying, a sad smile on her face as she reaches up and cradles toni’s cheek affectionately before she’s turning to face betty with a sigh and a nod.

 

“it’s okay. you’re right, betty, you shouldn’t have to change the rules just because a new owner is coming in. i accept your conditions. toni and i will no longer see each other. our relationship will be strictly professional.”

 

toni’s heart stops. and then, simply put…breaks.

 

tears are falling before she can stop them, and she bites down on a trembling bottom lip as cheryl looks at her apologetically, eyes filled with sadness as she brushes her thumb across toni’s cheek.

 

“ch-cheryl…why?” toni croaks out, her voice cracking as cheryl brushes away the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand.

 

“because if i don’t help now, you’ll all lose your jobs and your livelihoods, and i’m not about to be selfish and take away this place you love, the jobs you love just so i can have something i want more than anything…it’s not fair to any of you, to dangle a solution in front of you and take it away because i’m not getting what i want. you love this bar more than anything in the world, t.t…” cheryl whispers, tears still falling down her cheeks as she continues to brush away toni’s tenderly. toni bites back a sob and looks up at cheryl, and with the utmost sincerity, utters out her next sentence with a shaky smile.

 

“that might not be true anymore…” she whispers.

 

cheryl closes her eyes, a soft whimper escaping her as rogue tears from her eyelashes fall, and toni shoots one last pleading look towards betty and veronica, both of whom refuse to look her way.

 

“please…” toni begs softly, but cheryl’s gripping her hand once again, and when toni turns to face her, she leans in, a hand cupping the side of toni’s neck before she’s crashing her lips against toni’s desperately.

 

one last kiss for the road…

 

no, this can’t be it, it can’t be, please…

 

she pulls away all too quickly, all too suddenly, and toni almost leans back in to claim her lips once more before cheryl’s exhaling shakily and turning to look at betty and veronica with a nod, wiping her tears away as she does.

 

“you have my word. as owner, i’ll focus all my attention on the bar and the bar only. toni?” she says, looking to the pink haired girl with an encouraging nod and a smile.

 

and once again, toni wants to scream that it’s all unfair, that this is bullshit, that she shouldn’t have to fucking sacrifice a relationship for this place, but deep down…fuck, deep down, cheryl is right.

 

she loves this fucking bar. she loves the fucking people that work at this bar. and if cheryl can fix it all by being an owner…

 

she has to give her up.

 

so toni squares her shoulders, wipes away her tears, and tries her best not to break down crying as she looks at cheryl one last time before looking at her two best friends, trying to force herself to see things for their perspective.

 

this wasn’t personal. it was for the good of the business. for the good of the bar…

 

for the good of their home.

 

“our relationship will stay professional. i promise.”

Chapter Text

“well…this is it.”

 

toni purses her lips and exhales through her nose, trying to will her racing heart to calm down as veronica bounces nervously on the balls of her feet and adjusts the vest top she’s wearing that shows off her chest.

 

it’s been a month now. a month since cheryl bought the bar and immediately began funneling money into fixing the pipes, and not only had it been completely repaired, but cheryl had even paid the extra to have the bar’s entire plumbing system replaced and updated so the problem wouldn’t arise again in the future. there wasn’t a single second where there weren’t people working in this place to get it in tip top shape before summer ended.

 

and somehow, they succeeded. for the first time in almost two months, the doors of the whyte wyrm were about to open. they’ve spent the last week letting the locals know, handing out flyers on the streets and informing their regulars of their grand re-opening. toni knows tonight is going to be fucking busy, and she’s anticipating not getting a single second to breathe as she touches up her eyeliner and smiles at veronica as best she can in the mirror.

 

“we’re gonna be okay, ronnie. we’re probably gonna get smashed with people, but we’ve got this.” she says reassuringly. veronica gives her a lopsided smile and leans in to squeeze her shoulder as the door to the back room opens-

 

and cheryl blossom walks in, wearing tight black leather pants and a red crop top with sleeves that fall off her shoulders and also expose the creamy white skin of her stomach. her hair is curled to perfection, pinned at the left side with the rest hanging from the right, her signature cherry red lipstick covering those plump lips as she smiles at them both widely.

 

and god, toni can't stop staring.

 

“that line outside is only getting bigger, if we’re gonna open our doors, we’ve gotta do it now.” cheryl says softly. toni averts her gaze, clearing her throat and trying her best not to stare any longer at the redhead as veronica bites down on her bottom lip and wrings her hands nervously.

 

“damn, this is gonna be insane.” she murmurs. cheryl makes her way over to veronica, and toni watches them in the mirror discreetly as cheryl grips veronica’s bicep and squeezes it lightly.

 

cheryl and veronica had surprisingly bonded during the month cheryl’s been the owner of the whyte wyrm. despite everything veronica had done to her, cheryl, with her ever forgiving soul, had worked and collaborated with veronica incredibly well, something veronica was more than pleased with. cheryl had meant what she said about betty and veronica continuing to run this as they always did, but the two girls also appreciated and sought cheryl’s input on things as well, willing and wanting to let her have her say and wanting her expertise in the side of business things. cheryl got along well with josie as well, and the boys had practically adopted cheryl as their own, particularly sweet pea and fangs, who were now just as close with cheryl as they were with toni. it’s been…good.

 

it’s been more than good, it’s been fucking amazing, and toni hates herself right now for feeling so…shit. so absolutely fucking shit…because everything was working out perfectly, but that didn’t change the fact that toni fucking misses her.

 

stop it, this is the grand re-opening of the fucking bar, you need to focus on what’s important…

 

“we’ve got this, ronnie. jason’s in the bar talking with betty, josie and the boys, by the way, i hope you don’t mind me letting him in early.” cheryl says warmly with a kind smile. toni bites back a smile at those words.

 

jason blossom had come into the bar to meet them all last week, and just as toni had predicted, jason was every bit the amazing man that cheryl had described him as. it was clear that he loved his sister dearly, his eyes shining with fondness every time cheryl so much as spoke, and toni would be lying if she said she didn’t think he was incredibly handsome. he seemed like the full package, just like his twin sister.

 

“it’s your bar, cher, remember? you can invite whoever you want whenever you want.” veronica says with a smile, gripping her hand and giving it a squeeze before she sighs and leans in to wrap her arms around cheryl tightly with tears in her eyes.

 

“i can’t thank you enough, cheryl. this is all thanks to you…we wouldn’t even be opening today if it wasn’t for everything you’ve done.” veronica whispers. toni blinks back tears as she hears cheryl chuckle and watches her rub veronica’s back gently.

 

veronica’s right…cheryl had done so much for them in the last month, and even though toni fucking hates it with everything in her, she had kept her promise of only having a professional relationship with toni. they barely spoke unless it was about the bar, and toni hasn’t gotten a text from her since last week when she asked toni if she could swing by the bar for some help carrying boxes of booze.

 

toni doesn’t want to be mad about it, but she can’t help it. did cheryl even miss her? she knows it’s irrational and stupid to be thinking like this, but fuck, the girl remained as stoic as ever whenever she was around toni. she barely even made eye contact some days…it’s only making toni feel fucking worse…

 

“you’re welcome, ronnie.” cheryl says simply in a soft whisper. veronica pulls away and smiles as she touches cheryl’s cheek affectionately before she exhales deeply and fluffs up her hair in the mirror.

 

“alright. i’m gonna go make sure everything’s in place and then we’re gonna open the doors, yeah? we’re on in fifteen, t.”

 

“got it.” toni grunts out, her eyes focusing now on her winged eyeliner and not the gorgeous red head behind her as veronica makes her way to the door and exits the room, leaving cheryl and toni alone with nothing but silence around them.

 

toni swallows thickly, hears the sound of cheryl’s hoop earrings jingling slightly as she moves behind her, and the sound of a heel clopping on the ground right behind her hits her ears before nails are digging into her shoulder.

 

goosebumps immediately erupt up toni’s spine at her touch, causing an involuntary shudder as she sucks in a shaky breath and looks into the mirror to see cheryl watching her with the saddest fucking look in her eyes.

 

“i just wanted to wish you good luck tonight, t.t…” she whispers, her voice breathy and shaking slightly as she purses her lips before giving her a smile. toni does her best to return it without crying as she nods once and bows her head to look at her hands in order to avoid her gaze.

 

“thanks…” she murmurs softly. toni’s pretty sure this is the first time they’ve been alone in over a month, and fuck, cheryl just touching her is sending her mind into overdrive. cheryl sighs loudly before she’s letting go of toni and pulling out the chair beside her to sit down in it. she feels cheryl’s hand curl under her seat before she’s forcefully turning it until toni is facing her, and before toni can say anything, cheryl’s tucking a finger under her chin to make her look up into her eyes.

 

her eyes that are brimming with tears as they search toni’s desperately, perfect white teeth clutching her bottom lip anxiously, and god, toni wants to fucking kiss her so hard that her lipstick comes off in smudges.

 

she can’t do this. she can’t do this, this isn’t fair, this last month has been fucking torture-

 

“toni, i…i just wanted to say that you look amazing.” cheryl breathes, pausing for a long moment in between sentences, and toni knows that’s now what she was going to say, but doesn’t comment on it. instead, she purses her lips and shakes her head, her chin still gripped between cheryl’s fingers as she can’t help but let out a soft whimper.

 

i can’t fucking do this…

 

“don’t say that. don’t say nice things and wish me luck and…just stop, please, cheryl. it’s just making me miss you more.” toni manages to get out shakily, her voice cracking and trembling with emotion as she finally tears her face out of cheryl’s grip and looks up at the ceiling, blinking rapidly to rid herself of her tears before they fall. she can’t see cheryl’s face, but she hears her let out a deep sigh before her hand is resting on toni’s knee, perfectly manicured nails digging into the skin through the ripped sections of her jeans.

 

“toni, we promised veronica and betty-.”

 

“i know we promised, doesn’t mean i can’t miss you!” toni snaps angrily without meaning to, regret immediately flooding her as she looks down and takes in cheryl’s expression. she winces, hurt shining in her eyes as she leans back in the chair before she’s pursing her lips anxiously, and an apology is on the tip of toni’s tongue when cheryl’s bottom lip trembles.

 

“jason’s in the bar, he can’t stay long, so i should go see him off…” she says in a low voice, tearing her gaze away from toni quickly. toni bites down on her bottom lip and simply nods once before she jerks her head to the side to the door that leads to the outside of the building where she usually takes smoke breaks.

 

“i’ll be out there if he wants to join me before he leaves.” she murmurs, and before cheryl can say anything, she grabs her pack of cigarettes off the table and makes her way outside, a pang of guilt coursing through her that she quickly ignores by looking up at the beautiful sky.

 

the sun has set over the horizon now, it’s orange rays casting over it and lighting the sky with light blue hues that slowly fade into darkness. twilight is toni’s favorite time of the day…back when she had her camera, she used to take endless amounts of photos of the sky during this time of day, and the photos would come out looking breathtakingly stunning. she still has them somewhere in her apartment, stashed in a box and forgotten about along with all the other photos she’d taken during her short lived career as a photographer. toni had to sell her camera to make rent back before she’d started working at the bar, and as badly as she wants to buy another camera, she wants to go on her holiday to australia more.

 

she just wants to get away more than anything…away from this fucking place, away from everything…

 

it hurts too much. being around cheryl, not being able to touch her or kiss her or do anything other than talk about the fucking bar, it just…it fucking hurts.

 

toni thought she could do this, but the truth is, it’s only getting harder every single day that she sees the redhead. she’s not sure how much longer she can keep doing this for-

 

“cheryl was right, you do smoke almost as much as i do.” toni jumps slightly, a soft gasp escaping her as she turns to the door she just came out of to see jason blossom standing before her, his red hair gelled back and his bright blue eyes observing toni with a smirk before he steps closer to her, pulling out a zippo lighter from his pocket as he does. he’s wearing a suit that looks like it costs more than toni’s entire apartment, glittering slightly under the sun’s fading rays and a deep black with leather shoes that also shine brighter than toni thinks she’s ever seen any shoes shine.

 

“that suit looks like it cost more than my bike. going somewhere fancy, blossom?” toni says with a smile. jason chuckles before he shrugs.

 

“got some gala event that i was supposed to be taking cheryl to, but she wants to stay here for the grand re-opening. it’s okay, though, i don’t mind going solo…but i wasn’t gonna miss out on her big day.” he says with a warm smile. toni returns it before pulling a cigarette out of her pack and placing it between her teeth. jason chuckles again and flicks the lighter open, the flame dancing between them as toni leans in to light her cigarette. as soon as it’s burning cherry red, she pulls back and takes a puff before looking at jason with a grin.

 

“you blossoms have a habit of lighting people’s cigarettes, don’t you?” she mumbles, taking another drag and watching fondly as jason laughs and rolls his eyes.

 

“cheryl does it to you too, huh? i think she just likes watching the flames from the lighter…and i just realized that makes my sister sound like a total pscyho.” he says slowly, eyes wide and smile fading as he purses his lips, and toni laughs lightly and shakes her head.

 

“don’t worry, she’s definitely not a psycho.” she says fondly despite herself. he smiles and lights his own cigarette, leaning back against the wall as he does before he looks up at toni and nods at her.

 

“we didn’t get a chance to talk alone last week when we first met, but i’ve heard a lot about you, toni. i’ve never seen my sister so smitten with someone before.” he says firmly, blue eyes locked with toni’s as she swallows down the lump in her throat and tears her gaze away from him a moment later, taking a drag from her cigarette wistfully as she does.

 

“yeah, well…it’s not gonna work out, unfortunately.” she deadpans. she hears jason hum behind her, and when she turns to face him, he’s frowning and nodding slowly.

 

“yeah…cheryl told me you two kind of aren’t allowed to see each other anymore. she spent about four hours crying in my arms the night she bought the bar. i thought she would be happy, but all she could think about was you.” he says softly, looking up at her with a sad smile.

 

toni bites back a whimper and looks away before her body betrays her and exposes the tears that immediately fall down her cheeks.

 

four hours…toni’s pretty sure she spent about the same crying in her own apartment, but at least cheryl had someone’s shoulder to cry on…she’s glad jason was there for her…

 

this is fucked up, it’s all fucking fucked up-

 

she sniffs and wipes away her tears discreetly, taking a drag from her cigarette and looking up at jason once more with as best a smile as she can manage.

 

“it’s for the good of the bar.” she murmurs, and jason hums before he pushes himself off the wall and steps closer to her. as soon as he’s close enough, he reaches out and grips her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze before he looks her in the eyes with a genuine smile.

 

“i think…that if you two are meant to be together, it’ll work itself out. and i also think that two people who feel this way about each other always find their way back. regardless, in whatever way, whether it’s as friends or as something more, you have to be a part of my sister’s life, toni. i haven’t seen her this happy in years. you bring that out in her. and i’d be an idiot to tell her not to fight for you in whatever way she can, and i’d be an even bigger idiot not to tell you to do the same.” toni swallows thickly and simply nods, her smile turning more into a grimace before jason finishes off his half done cigarette and looks down at the rolex on his wrist.

 

“i should head out. i’ll go say bye to cheryl…good luck tonight, toni. and please…think about what i said, okay?” he murmurs softly. toni simply nods again, and he punches her arm lightly before he makes his way back inside the bar through the side door. toni can hear loud boisterous cheers around the side of the building, and she licks her lips and quickly finishes off her cigarette before she makes her way inside.

 

maybe jason was right…maybe if she and cheryl were meant to be together it would all work out…but does she have to suffer so much right now?

 

she takes a deep breath in and forces herself to focus on what’s important. the bar was opening for the first time in seven weeks, tonight was going to be fucking insane…that’s what’s more important than anything right now.

 

she pushes open the door to the bar, watches as jason hugs cheryl goodbye before he’s waving a hand to all of them, and toni notices the boys are nowhere in sight, which means they must be outside about to open the doors. that’s why people were cheering…

 

this really is it…

 

“where do you need me, v?” jughead asks, popping his head out from the door that leads to the cellar where all the booze and glasses are. it doesn’t hit toni that this is technically jughead’s first shift, but he looks more determined than anything as he crosses his arms over his chest, his beanie still sat upon his head.

 

“right by the bar, jug. we’ll be filling up those trays with glasses, if you can wash them and get them back out here asap, that would be great.” veronica says, pointing to the empty trays at the edge of the bar’s countertop. he gives her a salute and a grin.

 

“on it.”

 

“alright, this is it. we’ve got this ladies!” veronica says, waving betty, josie, toni and even cheryl forward. they huddle together in a group, veronica putting her arms around betty and cheryl’s shoulders as josie reaches out and gets cheryl’s other side before pulling toni into it. toni avoids cheryl's gaze as betty closes the circle by throwing her arm over toni’s shoulders, and veronica lets out a shaky breath and nods.

 

“we work together, just like we always have, and we put on a fucking show! cheryl, i don’t want you to have to work, but-.”

 

“no, whatever you need me to do, ronnie.” cheryl says firmly. toni bites back a smile at that as veronica frowns before she’s nodding once.

 

“you have any experience bartending?” she asks. cheryl blinks once, and toni can’t help the laugh that escapes her as veronica chuckles and shakes her head.

 

“it’s okay, we’ll have you on booze duty, then. you’re gonna be lifting a lot of alcohol, red, i hope you’re ready.” veronica says sternly. cheryl simply grins.

 

“lucky i’m more of a strength training gal than a yoga one.” she teases. veronica rolls her eyes, but she nods at each of them as she licks her lips nervously.

 

“we can do this. toni, josie, you two are on entertainment duty. dance your asses off, and when your feet start bleeding, work ‘em harder. i’ve got a fat fucking stack of tip money and pancakes ready for you when this night is over. they have pancakes at this diner of yours, right?” veronica asks cheryl, who quickly nods once. cheryl had promised to take them all to jay jay’s diner for breakfast, and honestly, toni’s already looking forward to it despite the long night ahead of them.

 

“remember to hydrate too, though, please! you too, cheryl!” betty says quickly, causing all of them to roll their eyes as josie mutters ‘yes mom’ under her breath, and toni laughs, all thoughts of her pain over cheryl erased as excitement quickly takes over.

 

this is it, all this torture, all this pain, it was for this. her job, her family, her home…back in business.

 

“alright then ladies, there’s nothing else to it. we’ve got this! serpent jackets on!” veronica yells, and toni grabs hers off the counter top and puts it on, relishing in the familiar feeling of the leather on her skin as josie, betty and veronica do the same. veronica frowns and looks to cheryl, who simply chuckles and shakes her head.

 

“we’ll see if i’m worthy of one after tonight, yeah?” she says with a grin. veronica laughs loudly before she nods at her, impressed.

 

“i like your attitude, red, but you’re already worthy of one in my eyes. i’ll get one made for you once this night is over, if we survive it!” she says, winking at the red haired girl.

 

cheryl with a serpent jacket? oh fuck, please no...

 

she's just gonna look ten times fucking hotter, this is so fucked...

 

veronica turns to the similarly red haired boy waiting for the go ahead at the entrance to the bar.

 

“let it rip, archiekins! let the heathens in to their favorite spot in hell!” she yells, and archie grins widely as he whistles once to sweet pea and fangs outside.

 

toni lets out a shaky breath, watches as cheryl moves to stand beside jughead, her eyes wide and her face just a little green with nerves as the doors open-

 

and a flood of people immediately rush in.

 

archie and reggie help keep them under control, but they’re all cheering loudly, immediately crowding around the bar and shouting words of welcome and praise and thanks as veronica laughs and grabs the megaphone under the bar. it echoes with static for a second before her voice echoes loudly.

 

“you didn’t think we were gonna be gone forever, did you?!” she roars. the crowd screams as veronica laughs and looks at toni, who grins and takes the megaphone off her before she jumps onto the stepladder beneath the bar and jumps on top of the counter, the crowd screaming even louder once they see her.

 

“the whyte wyrm ain’t going anywhere, baby! we’re here to fucking stay, so let me here some noise for your favorite hellbar!” toni screams, and the raucous cheers are almost deafening as josie, betty and veronica begin taking orders.

 

“we fucking missed you guys!” toni’s eyes land on one of their regulars, cindy, who is right at the front with a wide smile on her face, and she points down and winks at her before raising the megaphone to her lips once more.

 

“we fucking missed you guys, too! pipes are a goddamn bitch, but they’re looking better than ever now!” she says, grinning as the crowd cheers.

 

“who’s the redhead?!” someone shouts, a few eyes turning and landing on cheryl at the end of the bar beside jughead, who, to toni’s complete and utter surprise, grins and raises a hand to wave flirtatiously at the crowd.

 

well then…

 

there’s the sound of loud wolf whistling and cheering at the sight of her, a few of the men oogling her in awe that toni can’t help but grin at because really, she can’t fucking blame them-

 

“that redhead is the reason this bar is still standing! welcome the newest owner of the whyte wyrm, cheryl blossom, ladies and gentlemen!” toni yells into the megaphone, looking at cheryl with a grin and a wink as she blushes at the crowd screaming for her. one guy, a regular named joe, slams his fist on top of the bar and points at her with a wild grin.

 

“hell yeah, buy her a round on me, ronnie!” he screams. veronica laughs and pours him a shot of vodka before she pours another for cheryl, holding it out to her, and cheryl looks at her with wide eyes before she takes the shot and steps forward, tapping it against joe’s glass and downing it quickly. her face instantly contorts in disgust for half a second, and toni jumps down from the bar and rests the megaphone on it as another regular, richard, shouts out as well.

 

“me, too, veronica! buy her a shot on me!” he says, slamming a twenty down on the bar that veronica happily takes. toni watches as cheryl groans, looking at jughead as if he can rescue her, and she laughs and makes her way over to her, forgetting everything about their past in this one moment and grabbing an empty beer bottle beneath the bar before holding it up to her.

 

“take the shot then pretend to chase it with this! spit the alcohol into the beer bottle and they’ll never know!” she yells into her ear over the screaming crowd. cheryl takes the beer bottle from her, looking stunned before she grins down at it, and jughead leans into them both and nods at the bar.

 

“cheryl, you should get in there! i’ll handle restocking booze and the glasses, it looks like they love you! it’ll help garner more tips!” he yells over the noise. toni frowns, but veronica turns to face them and rests a hand on cheryl’s shoulder.

 

“not a bad idea, jug! i’ll show you the ropes, cheryl!” veronica says, handing her the vodka shot, which cheryl quickly downs before spitting back into the beer bottle. toni’s about to turn to start serving drinks before she feels a cold hand grip her own, and she turns to see cheryl looking at her nervously.

 

“what if i screw it up, t.t.?” she yells anxiously. toni smiles and gives her hand a reassuring squeeze, wishing she could do more to comfort her…

 

but music quickly begins blaring over the speakers, and toni knows it’s time for her to do her goddamn job.

 

“you’ve got this, bombshell! i know you do!” she says reassuringly, and she sees cheryl’s face relax into a smile as she pulls herself out of her grip gently and jumps back up onto the bar, swinging her hips in time to the music thundering through the speakers. the crowd immediately explodes at the sight of her, and toni grins and mouths along to the words, falling down to her knees and crawling across the bar as she does.

 

“‘i used to like liquor to get me inspired, but you look so beautiful, my new supplier, i used to like smoking to stop all the thinking but i found a different buzz…’”

 

josie jumps up onto the bar a moment later, a bottle of vodka in her hands as she shouts over the screaming crowd.

 

“open up!” she sing songs, grinning as a crowd moves closer to her to get just a splash of the liquid that falls from the bottle as toni continues dancing as hard and seductively as she can. it works perfectly, the crowd so enamored by josie and toni that none of them pay attention or get annoyed at the wait times for drinks while veronica quickly shows cheryl the ropes. toni is dripping in sweat, but she refuses to stop, and she grins at jughead, who is clapping and cheering for her with a wide grin on his face.

 

another song begins blasting through the speakers as soon as the last one is done, and at the sound of a familiar drum beat, toni crows loudly and turns to the crowd, pointing at them before she looks at betty.

 

“megaphone!” she yells. betty grins and grabs it, handing it up to her as toni looks up at josie with a grin.

 

“now, i know you guys aren’t gonna let us dance to this song by ourselves! it’s a classic, so i better see your fucking feet moving, people!” she shouts, grinning as they all cheer before she drops the megaphone back onto the bar top and slides on her knees closer to josie, gripping her hips as the girl grabs a microphone off betty and begins singing the lyrics.

 

“‘hey pretty baby with the high heels on, you give me fever like i’ve never, ever known!’” josie sings, the crowd singing along with her as they dance together, and toni spins in josie’s arms, lets her sling her arms over toni’s shoulders and press her chest to her back as she struts across the bar with josie still singing right behind her.

 

toni looks at cheryl, watches as she grabs a beer for a customer before taking his five dollar bill with a dazzling smile, and when she looks up at toni, she really can’t help herself.

 

she sings to her, her back turned to the crowd as she continues swaying her hips, but she’s looking right at the red haired girl with a smile as she does.

 

“‘the way you make me feel, you really turn me on, you knock me off my feet, my lonely days are gone!’” cheryl watches her in awe, and toni swears she can see tears in her eyes before she quickly spins around to face the crowd once more, her body throbbing with pain, but she pushes through it and keeps dancing.

 

it’s a welcome distraction from everything, from cheryl, from the bar, from her parents, and god…

 

god, she’s missed this so much.

 

“if you missed the whyte wyrm, let me hear you make some fucking noise!” toni screams so hard, she feels her voice box tear, and when the crowd goes absolutely fucking nuts, toni finds herself smiling through the pain.

 

it was worth it. despite everything…

 

it was worth it for this.

 

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

 

“holy shit.”

 

toni watches with wide eyes as betty counts the last of the money, and she looks up at everyone gathered around one of the booths at jay jay’s diner with a gigantic grin on her face.

 

“five grand. five fucking grand in just tips, guys!” she says excitedly. toni’s heart leaps at those words, and the boys cheer loudly as betty begins counting out five hundred for each of them to take home. they’d agreed that for this night only, the boys would share in their tips as well until they started getting paid properly again after being shut for so long, and now that toni sees how much they’ve made, she doesn’t mind agreeing with those terms one bit. the boys needed to survive too, and they more than earned it with their work tonight. reggie and archie had banded together to kick out more than a few people who were too drunk and trying to start fights, and sweet pea and fangs had been extra careful with letting people in, checking id’s and turning away a few teenagers who had tried to sneak in.

 

apart from those hiccups, however, the night had been a complete and utter success. it didn’t stop. not for a single moment did the bar quiet down, and toni’s not at all surprised at the five grand of tips they’ve made. people had been shoving money at them the whole night, and she can barely feel her fucking feet, her whole body still throbbing with pain, and she’s in need of a shower, her skin sticky and gross from a mixture of sweat and alcohol, but fuck, it feels good, it feels normal…it feels like home.

 

having cheryl by their side had been a huge help, and she quickly had gotten the hang of things, had even leaned across the bar a few times to kiss a customer’s cheek with a grin, her red lipstick staining their skin as they would cheer loudly every single time. toni feels like she should have been jealous, but seeing cheryl having so much fun had erased any thoughts of anger from her mind every time she saw it, a grin lighting up her face that still hasn’t faded even though the night is done. cheryl had been watching her, too, toni had seen it every time their eyes met while she was dancing, and there had been a couple of moments where cheryl had been slightly frozen for a few moments, watching her in almost a trance before veronica had poked her back with a finger to bring her back to reality.

 

it makes toni’s heart leap, the thought that cheryl was maybe still feeling the same way she was, but toni had noticed betty staring at them both a lot throughout the night, and toni hadn’t been able to read the expression on her face, but she can’t help but worry that maybe betty is thinking that this isn’t working out. that she and cheryl can’t work together without letting their feelings for each other get in the way…

 

“damn, how much did we actually make then?” archie says with a chuckle, effectively pulling toni out of her thoughts. cheryl grins widely as veronica takes a sip of her coffee with a shrug.

 

“i’ll count everything once we get back to the bar, but at this rate, i think it’s safe to say we’re officially back in fucking business!” she crows, slamming her fist on the table repeatedly before throwing an arm around cheryl and gripping her chin with her hand to press a kiss to her cheek.

 

“you’re a fucking lifesaver, blossom!” she cheers, all the boys and josie and betty cheering with her as reggie raises his glass of coke and holds it out to the middle of the table.

 

“to cheryl blossom!” he says loudly. they all grab their glasses, clinking to his with a cheer.

 

“to cheryl blossom!” they yell, toni grinning at the blush that quickly forms over cheryl’s cheeks as she ducks her head shyly.

 

“thanks, guys.” she murmurs softly with a smile. her eyes move up to meet toni’s, and she simply raises her glass to her and takes a sip again before veronica stretches and yawns loudly.

 

“man…i’m fucking beat.” pretty much everyone groans in agreement, and toni’s struggling to stay awake at this point, but the sun is shining brightly outside as she lights her phone up and looks at the time. it’s seven in the morning, the diner getting busier and busier with people grabbing breakfast before work, and betty looks to cheryl with a warm smile.

 

“this place is amazing, cheryl. we’ll have to make this our new breakfast spot.” she says in that soft tone of hers. veronica nods furiously, but nudges cheryl’s shoulder cheekily.

 

“definitely. although, roberto will probably say we’re betraying him, so we’ve gotta alternate.” she teases. cheryl chuckles and shakes her head.

 

“whenever you guys want, these doors are open for you. you’ll also eat here free of charge, i’ve already let my head chef and waitress know.” she says with a smile. josie chokes on her soda and looks at cheryl in surprise.

 

“seriously? okay, guys…i might be in love with this girl.” she says with a scoff of disbelief at cheryl’s generosity, and toni belches out a laugh as reggie winks at cheryl.

 

“get in line, josephine.” he teases. cheryl blushes again, and toni feels that spark of jealousy that she’s been repressing all night rear it’s ugly head, her chest burning as she stabs her fork into her pancakes and chews on it to stop herself from punching reggie in the face. she knows reggie won't try anything, he respects and loves toni too much, but still...it fucking hurts. thankfully, betty hands toni her five hundred before she hands another stack to cheryl, whose eyes widen before she shakes her head.

 

“no, i don’t need-.”

 

“cheryl, i know you’re loaded, but you deserve this. you worked your ass off tonight, and the bar wouldn’t have even had the night it did tonight if it wasn’t for you. take it, please.” betty says eagerly. when cheryl hesitates again, veronica rolls her eyes and takes the money, grabbing cheryl’s hand and dropping it into her open palm before closing her fingers around it.

 

“you either take it or it’s going in the trash, red. go on.” she says firmly. cheryl sighs, but takes the money, shoving it into her purse as reggie checks his phone with a loud yawn.

 

“alright, this has been fun, but i need some serious shut eye before we open again tonight. something tells me we’re gonna be even busier considering it’s a friday night.” he says with a sigh. archie, sweet pea, jughead and fangs all nod in agreement, all the boys standing before jughead looks to betty with a soft smile.

 

“i’ll swing by once i’ve slept to help you guys clean up.” he says. betty purses her lips and nods once, seemingly incapable of words as veronica rolls her eyes and winks at him.

 

“see you then, juggie.” he chuckles and shoves his beanie on before he’s following the boys out of the diner, all of them saying their goodbyes before they exit.

 

“i should head out, too, all that singing has got my voice feeling hoarser than hay…get it?” josie says with a wide grin. toni snorts into her pancakes as betty roars with laughter and veronica groans.

 

“that was horrible, get out of here before i fire you.” she deadpans. josie laughs and leans across the booth to kiss her cheek.

 

“you would never. bye guys!” josie jumps up, stealing one last fry before she makes her way to the door, leaving cheryl, betty, veronica and toni alone in the booth.

 

toni takes one last bite from her pancakes as veronica and betty glance between both her and cheryl sheepishly, trying their best to be discreet, but failing miserably, and toni rolls her eyes and is about to tell them to quit it when cheryl sighs loudly and sinks back against the booth, closing her eyes as she does.

 

“ugh, i so don’t want to catch a cab all the way to manhattan, especially in this peak hour traffic. i’ll probably fall asleep in the cab and end up in jersey.” she groans.

 

“or in some serial killer’s basement.” veronica laughs.

 

“you can just stay at mine.” toni blurts out before she even thinks of it. she freezes with her hand hovering over the basket of fries, her mouth suddenly very dry as she looks up to see cheryl, veronica and betty all looking at her in surprise.

 

shit, say something, anything-

 

“uh-.”

 

“that’s a great idea! there’s no point in you heading to manhattan, cheryl, you’re gonna be back at the bar tomorrow night, right? you said you’d be here all week. might as well stay close.” veronica says quickly, her eyes flashing with excitement and eagerness. cheryl swallows loudly before she purses her lips and nods, and betty is looking at veronica like she’s grown another head, her expression a mixture of surprise and anger.

 

toni finds herself once again speaking before thinking.

 

“nothing’s gonna happen, betty, keep your ponytail on. we made a promise, we’re keeping it.” she grumbles. she finds herself not regretting the words despite her racing heart, especially when veronica snorts into her waffles and looks at betty with a grin. betty’s cheeks turn red as she ducks her head in embarrassment.

 

“i…i didn’t mean-.”

 

“like she said, keep your ponytail on. go on you two, get some shut eye.” veronica says, a certain look in her eyes that toni can’t read as cheryl bites down on her lower lip and looks at toni eagerly.

 

“are you sure, toni?” she says softly.

 

no, no, i’m not, i probably won’t get any sleep because i’ll be trying to stop myself from fucking kissing you the whole time-

 

worth it.

 

“yeah, of course. let’s go.” toni says with a reassuring smile despite not feeling sure at all herself. toni stands up at the same time cheryl does, and veronica and betty quickly slide out of the booth to allow cheryl to exit, the both of them collapsing back down as veronica waves cheerily at them.

 

“see you in the afternoon!” she calls out, and as soon as toni and cheryl are at the door, she looks back to see betty whispering to veronica under her breath with a frown, veronica shrugging with a grin as she eats everyone else’s leftover food.

 

wow. veronica lodge, you sneaky little bitch.

 

for once, it seems, her best friend was in her corner.

 

toni grins to herself as she makes her way to her bike, cheryl trailing behind her, and she pulls her helmet off the handle and hands it to cheryl, who frowns at her.

 

“you didn’t bring a second one?”

 

“i didn’t think i was gonna have a passenger. it’s fine, my place is like a ten minute drive away, i’ll go slow.” she says with a smile, pushing the helmet closer to cheryl, who sighs before she takes it and shoves it onto her head. toni jumps onto the bike first, and she hears cheryl inhale sharply behind her as she grips toni’s shoulder and settles herself behind the pink haired girl gently. as soon as her arms are around toni’s waist, toni finds herself blinking back tears at the familiarity of it all, a grunt escaping her chest as she shoves her keys into the ignition and revvs the bike to life.

 

she tears out of the parking lot, slowing down once they’re in traffic, and cheryl’s grip on her tightens as toni makes the slow drive back to her apartment, her mind racing and her heart thundering, and not from the adrenaline of riding her bike without a helmet.

 

cheryl’s coming back to her place to stay the night…fuck, is this how cheryl felt every time toni stayed over at her apartment? nervous and excited at the same time?

 

no, because back then, you two were actually something. now you’re nothing…just business partners, or co-workers, whatever you wanna call it.

 

toni can behave. she can. nothing was gonna happen, she’s speaking it into existence right now. her and cheryl were simply going to sleep, recover and revive and get prepared to do this all over again tomorrow. it’s fine. everything’s fine.

 

toni pulls into the parking garage of her apartment, bringing the bike to a stop and kicking the stand down before she turns the ignition off, and cheryl doesn’t move for a few moments, causing toni to look over her shoulder at her.

 

“cher? you fall asleep on me?” she says with a chuckle. cheryl squeezes her waist with a loud sigh.

 

“no.” she mumbles before she lets her go and swings her leg off the bike. as soon as she’s properly off, toni follows suite, taking the helmet from cheryl’s hands once she takes it off and leading the way to the stairs up to her apartment.

 

as soon as toni opens the door, she throws her helmet and keys onto the dresser beside it and lets out a loud sigh, shedding her serpent jacket and throwing it onto the dresser as well. cheryl stands there somewhat awkwardly as toni closes the door behind her, moving her hand up and down her arms with her teeth clutching her red stained bottom lip, and toni purses her own before she nods toward her bedroom.

 

“you can shower and sleep in my room, i’ll take the couch-.”

 

“don’t be silly, toni, we’ve shared a bed before.” cheryl says softly.

 

toni’s heart sinks.

 

no...no, no, nope, she can't do that, she absolutely fucking cannot-

 

“i…” toni trails off, swallowing thickly as she looks up to see cheryl watching her intently, something shining in her eyes that toni hasn’t seen in weeks.

 

something’s changed. between the diner and the drive here, something has fucking changed-

 

“that’s probably not a good idea.” toni says hoarsely. cheryl takes a step closer, inhaling sharply through her nose as she does.

 

“why not?” she breathes, eyes moving over toni’s face before focusing solely on her lips. toni’s mouth suddenly feels very dry, and she licks her lips before averting her gaze down to her feet, scuffing her boot on the ground to distract herself from grabbing cheryl and pinning her to the wall.

 

“because we’ll both end up breaking our promise to veronica and betty. because…” toni’s voice cracks, and she clears her throat before a finger is suddenly tucked under her chin and her head is lifted up by cheryl slowly, their eyes meeting as she exhales shakily and drops her hand from toni’s face.

 

“because i won’t be able to resist you.” toni croaks out. the soft gasp that escapes cheryl has toni’s mind spinning, and when she bites down on her bottom lip, toni can’t help herself.

 

she reaches up, her thumb brushing just under her bottom lip, and cheryl releases it at her touch, toni entranced by the way it bounces beneath her finger before she’s tracing the pad of her thumb over it lightly. cheryl’s eyes close at her touch, a soft sigh escaping her before she opens them and toni sees nothing but affection and lust shining in them.

 

toni, you said you’d behave, you said you’d fucking behave-

 

“i miss you so much, toni. the whole ride here, holding you again, it…fuck, i just miss you.” cheryl whispers, tears immediately brimming in her eyes as they search toni’s, grief hanging unspoken between them both over the past month they’ve spent apart.

 

fuck, fuck, fuck-

 

“i miss you, too.” toni whispers back. a soft whimper escapes the red haired girl as she steps even closer, and fuck, toni can see the tears clinging to her eyelashes-

 

cheryl’s head ducks down as toni’s hand drops from her face, and toni closes the gap between them with a moan, her hands immediately flying up to tangle in red locks as she captures cheryl’s bottom lip between her own hungrily.

 

and god, it’s exactly how toni fucking remembers it, the push and pull and the perfect fucking synchronization of cheryl’s lips against hers, the way they slot together like puzzle pieces…toni’s heart is pounding against her chest painfully, and she’s crying before she can stop herself, out of happiness or sadness, she’s not sure, all she can think, feel is cheryl-

 

they haven’t even lasted two minutes alone.

 

nice job, topaz.

 

toni’s pushing her back towards her bedroom, cheryl’s back slamming against the door, a hiss of pain escaping her before toni silences it with another deep kiss that has cheryl gripping at the hem of her shirt, tugging on it harshly in an attempt to get it off her-

 

toni pulls away from her, lets her slide it up and off her body before she’s grabbing the doorknob and twisting it, cheryl’s lips attacking hers the second she leans in close. toni pushes them backwards, her hands gripping cheryl’s waist, and god, the feeling of cheryl’s skin beneath her fingertips, brushing over the exposed, creamy skin of her sides from that fucking shirt that’s been exposing her midriff all night…

 

you were a lost fucking cause from the beginning of last night, toni.

 

cheryl’s nails dig into toni’s back, causing her to wince as she pulls away, but cheryl takes the opportunity to attach her lips to toni’s neck, sucking harshly at her skin and pulling the loudest moan from her as she tips her head back to give the red haired girl more access to it.

 

“cheryl, fuck-.” toni chokes out, teeth clamping onto her bottom lip and a whine escaping her when cheryl sucks on her pulse point, teeth scraping over the skin she’s just bruised before she reaches for the button of toni’s pants.

 

“w-wait.” toni manages to get out. cheryl immediately pauses, collapsing down onto the bed and staring up at her breathlessly, and toni reaches down and unzips her boots, flinging them off her feet unceremoniously and grinning when cheryl laughs at how they bounce across the room and land with a dull thud on the carpet. cheryl simply tucks her left foot behind the heel of her right to pull off her own shoes, and as soon as they’re off, toni’s pushing her down onto her bed, wincing when it squeaks loudly as cheryl giggles beneath her.

 

god, that laugh…

 

toni takes a moment to simply stare, eyes roaming over cheryl’s face, fingers brushing over the slight wrinkles under her eyes from fatigue, but smiling at the happiness shining in them, chocolate brown swimming with delight that has toni leaning down to brush her lips against cheryl’s softly.

 

“tell me you’re sure you want this.” she murmurs, her hand cupping the side of cheryl’s neck and her nails scratching at the back of it delicately.

 

cheryl doesn’t hesitate for a second.

 

“i want this, toni. i want you. i always have and i always will.” she whispers softly. toni can’t help the tear that falls, but cheryl quickly reaches up and brushes it away with her thumb and a smile.

 

“what about the rule?” toni mumbles, her hand sliding under cheryl’s shirt to scratch at her skin, causing the red haired girl to arch her back off the bed to get more contact with her.

 

“fuck the rule, i’m the owner, and i’m vetoing it as of this moment.” she breathes, pulling toni down for another kiss as her hands reach for the clasp of toni’s bra. toni laughs against her, a shiver runs up her spine as soon as cheryl’s nails scratch over her skin, the straps slipping down the second she’s let the clasp loose, and she’s pulling it off toni’s body and flinging it over the side of the bed before she spins them around, settling down between toni’s legs and kissing her desperately.

 

“are you sure-.”

 

“don’t even ask me, this last month has been fucking torture.” toni growls, mimicking cheryl from a moment ago and gripping the back of her neck to pull her down for a kiss that has cheryl collapsing against her with a loud groan. cheryl quickly traces her kisses down toni’s jaw, back down to her neck, which she savagely attacks while her hands unbutton toni’s jeans properly this time, her fingers sliding the zipper down before she’s tugging on them. toni lifts her hips off the bed as cheryl pulls away from her to pull them down, toni’s breath hitching at the action until they pool down on the floor at her feet. cheryl kisses her way back up toni’s body, hands interlacing with toni’s as she pulls them up over her head and pins them to the bed, smiling into their next kiss.

 

“you’re…wearing too…much…” toni pants out between kisses, groaning when cheryl bites down on her bottom lip and tugs at it harshly, and cheryl pulls back and sits on her hips before she tugs her shirt off, pulling it up and over her head quickly before moving back down to kiss her, barely giving toni any time to appreciate the white lace bra she’s wearing.

 

not that she cares.

 

she’s reaching behind cheryl’s back and unclasping it a second later, tugging it down her arms and throwing it over the side of the bed to join her own.

 

her hands immediately cup cheryl’s breasts, both hands full of the soft flesh as cheryl whimpers into her mouth, her nails digging into toni’s sides, and it’s this constant mess of soft and harsh, need and want, affection and passion, but god, it’s everything toni’s been craving her whole fucking life.

 

a month. a whole fucking month without this-

 

toni’s pretty sure she fucking blacks out when cheryl dips her hand into her underwear, pulling the lace up for a brief second before plunging her fingers in and circling her clit with the pads of three fingers, and toni’s whole body erupts in goosebumps as she cries out, one hand cupping the back of cheryl’s neck while the other grabs a fistful of the sheets beneath them. cheryl licks a clean line over her neck to her jawline, a shiver erupting up toni’s spine at the action as she presses down harder with the hand down her pants. toni’s trying to make a conscious effort not to squeeze her thighs together, but it’s getting harder to focus with cheryl breathing heavily in her ear, her teeth biting down on toni’s earlobe-

 

“take them off.” toni groans out, because that fucking underwear is constricting cheryl’s hand movements, she knows it is-

 

cheryl obliges, immediately hooking a finger into the lace and tugging them down to toni’s knees, where she uses her feet to push them down until they’re completely off. cheryl doesn’t waste time, immediately picks up where she left off as she presses soft kisses to toni’s neck.

 

“god, cher, don’t stop, please!” toni begs, her toes curling when cheryl’s hand moves further down and she plunges two fingers inside her with no warning, her thigh pressing into her hand to push in harder and deeper. cheryl’s mouth moves down to her chest now, lips immediately wrapping around a nipple and sucking, and fuck, this is too much-

 

fuck betty, fuck veronica, fuck the bar, i need this fucking girl in my life-

 

cheryl picks up the speed of her thrusts, her face buried into the crook of toni’s shoulder as the pink haired bartender cuts her back up unintentionally with how hard her nails are digging into her skin, it’s just that she’s been wanting this for four fucking weeks now, and cheryl is fucking perfect-

 

toni’s on the cusp of climaxing, she can feel it-

 

cheryl pulls back, watches toni’s face closely as her mouth drops open, her brow furrows and her whole body trembles, a loud moan escaping her as her thighs clamp around cheryl’s hand, and toni can feel herself clenching around cheryl’s fingers, fuck-

 

god, nothing compares to this, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing-

 

“let go for me, t.t. that’s it…good girl…” cheryl whispers, a smile lighting up her face as toni moans loudly at the sound of those words, her whole body shivering against cheryl as she pants breathlessly and collapses onto the bed in a useless heap a few moments later, sweat dripping from her brow and covering her body in a slick sheen. she opens her eyes lazily, smiling up at the red head above her adoringly as cheryl leans down to kiss her lips softly.

 

“you’re so beautiful, toni…” she breathes, lips moving up to kiss her cheek, her brow, her forehead, small pecks over every inch of her face that she can reach as she slowly detaches her fingers from inside her. toni whines at the loss, her hands moving up cheryl’s back in a gentle caress before she grips the back of her neck and pulls her down for proper kiss.

 

“cheryl?”

 

“yeah, babe?” toni bites back a grin.

 

“take off those fucking pants.” she whispers against her lips.

 

cheryl inhales sharply before she moves off toni to stand at the edge of the bed, and toni quickly moves up closer to the headboard of her bed, resting her head on the pillow and watching as she takes the leather pants off, pulling her underwear down with it. toni simply takes in her body with a smile before she holds her hand out and curls her index finger, beckoning her forward. cheryl grins and moves closer, and toni pulls her down back on top of her, lets cheryl straddle her waist as she kisses the skin between her breasts before she wraps an arm around her waist and spins them around on the bed until cheryl’s on her back. her red hair is splayed over the white sheets, her breathing heavy as toni doesn’t waste time and immediately begins kissing down her chest, desperate for the taste of her skin after four fucking weeks without it.

 

she bites down on the skin of her ribs, relishing in the moan that escapes the red head’s lips before she moves further down. she hooks cheryl’s legs over her shoulders and immediately licks up her folds, and the second the taste of her hits her tongue, toni’s moans are mingling with cheryl’s across the bedroom.

 

“god, i fucking missed the taste of you…” toni murmurs, causing cheryl’s back to arch off the bed at her words before she continues. her tongue dips into cheryl’s opening, and cheryl’s hands immediately fly down to grip her hair, a cry of pleasure tearing from her lips as she attempts to push toni in closer.

 

toni grips her wrists and pins them down to the bed before she continues, alternating between dipping her tongue inside cheryl and moving up to her clit, and it isn’t long before toni can feel the inside of her thighs heating up on either side of her head-

 

with a loud cry of her name followed by consistent moaning, cheryl’s thighs clamp around her ears and her body shakes as she climaxes, toni and her talented tongue not stopping until cheryl’s fully relaxed on the bed once more. toni gives her one last lick, cheryl shuddering beneath her before she pulls her tongue back into her mouth and savors the taste, cheryl watching her in complete and utter awe before she props herself up on one elbow and pulls her in for a kiss.

 

they kiss almost lazily for a few minutes, caught up in each other’s embrace, sweaty bodies entangled until toni finally pulls away with a sigh.

 

“we need to sleep, cher.” she murmurs against her lips. cheryl hums softly before she nods once.

 

“we should probably shower first, t.t.” she says softly. toni smiles and nudges her nose playfully with her own.

 

“think you can behave yourself enough to shower together?”

 

“of course, t.t.”

 

cheryl’s a fucking liar.

 

toni doesn’t blame her, really. her shower is tiny and cramped, but somehow kind of perfect for fucking, which is exactly why cheryl sinks down to her knees about a minute into their shower and eats her out until toni can’t fucking breathe anymore, the water rushing over her face and body adding to the overwhelming feeling of drowning in perfection before she returns the favor because she can’t get enough of cheryl fucking blossom.

 

finally, as they forgo towels and decide to let the hot summer air dry them, limbs entangled in the sheets and naked bodies pressed together, and at nine o’clock in the morning, exhaustion finally wins, but not before toni presses a kiss to the many bruises forming over cheryl’s neck, and mumbles into her skin, her arms wrapping around cheryl’s waist tightly.

 

“i don’t think we can keep our promise, cheryl.” she whispers simply.

 

and cheryl simply chuckles and presses a kiss to the crown of her head, her hands moving up and down toni’s bare back in a gentle caress.

 

“promises are made to be broken, toni.”

Chapter Text

“fuck.”

 

toni purses her lips, but continues with unwavering determination, the beauty blender in her hands bouncing off the bruised skin of her neck harshly in an attempt to cover up the black and blue hiding underneath the golden brown color.

 

but it’s useless.

 

“you’re a goddamn vacuum with those lips of yours, bombshell.” toni grumbles, looking at the perpetrator, the culprit of the cavalcade of bruises covering her skin with a wide smile. cheryl bites down on her bottom lip sheepishly before she pushes herself up off the closed toilet seat and stands behind her, wrapping her arms around toni’s waist and resting her chin on toni’s shoulder.

 

toni tries to ignore how low she has to bend to do this, but it’s impossible to miss. it’s nothing short of comical how short she is compared to the red haired girl.

 

“you haven’t exactly left me unmarked yourself, t.t. to be fair though, my skin bruises way easier than yours does…” she mumbles, lifting her head and examining her neck that’s spattered with black and blue just the same as toni’s.

 

they had woken up only an hour ago thanks to veronica ringing them and telling them to get their butts to the bar to help clean up and get prepared, and cheryl had informed her that she’d left her makeup in the back room of the bar when she had gotten ready last night.

 

so they really have no choice but to walk into the bar with their bruises on full display, because if toni can’t hide her bruises with her makeup despite her dark skin, there’s absolutely no hope cheryl will be able to, either.

 

maybe they can sneak into the back room without betty and veronica seeing, but toni hates that idea with a passion. why do they have to sneak around like a bunch of teenagers, like betty and veronica are their parents they have to hide their relationship from? it’s the unfortunate circumstance they’re in, but it’s also the stupidest thing toni’s ever heard.

 

not that toni regrets any of it. she’s pretty sure this is the happiest she’s been in a long time. god, waking up in cheryl’s arms, hearing her groan at the sound of toni’s phone ringing only for her to fall back asleep before toni had even finished her phone call with veronica…

 

waking the red haired girl up with gentle kisses to her neck and face, hearing her giggle against her and feeling her scratch her nails down her bare back before kissing her softly with those gorgeous, plump lips of hers…

 

toni doesn’t want to let this go. and selfishly, part of her wishes she didn’t have to work tonight, wishes she could just spend the day in her bed, wrapped in the sheets with cheryl by her side…

 

“toni, if by some miracle, they don’t notice our bruises…how long do you think we can keep this from them?” cheryl whispers, her lips at toni’s ear causing a shiver to run up the pink haired girl’s spine as she rests her hands on top of cheryl’s around her waist.

 

“i don’t know. i wish we didn’t have to…” she murmurs. cheryl sighs and presses a kiss to her shoulder, her brow furrowed in worry as she looks up at toni in the mirror.

 

“i wish we didn’t have to, either.” she says softly. toni purses her lips, but says nothing as cheryl hums against her skin, her eyes moving down to her neck with a chuckle.

 

“it doesn’t look too bad.” she says sheepishly. toni raises an eyebrow at her.

 

“it hasn’t covered shit, cher. maybe you’ll have better luck, your makeup is bound to be way more expensive than this cheap shit.” toni teases, causing cheryl to roll her eyes before she grips toni’s waist tighter and spins her until the bartender is facing her. toni smiles and wraps her arms around cheryl’s neck, lips almost automatically moving up to kiss her bruised neck gently as cheryl runs her fingers through her pink hair. it’s silent between them for a few moments, a comfortable silence that has toni smiling as she continues kissing cheryl’s neck before the red haired girl sighs and pulls back, fingers tucking under toni’s chin to make sure they keep eye contact.

 

“i really can’t stay away from you, toni. i tried so hard, i tried to ignore you, i tried to focus on the bar like i promised, but i just can’t do it. i…i have to have you, toni. not just as an employee or co-worker, but…as my best friend, my lover, my strength, my happiness…i’ve never needed anyone as much as i need you.” cheryl says, her voice strong, but filled with affection as her eyes roam over toni’s face adoringly.

 

toni takes a deep breath in, trying to calm her heart down, but it’s useless. tears are already forming before she can stop them, and she blinks rapidly in an attempt to expel them, licks her lips and looks into cheryl’s eyes for any trace of regret or hesitation.

 

she finds none.

 

“cher, are you asking me to be your girlfriend?” toni whispers.

 

and cheryl’s responding smile is goddamn life changing.

 

“yes.” she whispers back simply.

 

her girlfriend…cheryl wants her to be her girlfriend. not just a fuckbuddy, not just someone to sleep with when she’s feeling down, not just some girl to stare at and wolf whistle at…

 

her girlfriend. someone she wants to come home to after a long day at work, someone she wants to cuddle with in bed and kiss in the mornings, someone she wants to spend her spare time with-

 

“toni, why are you crying?” cheryl breathes, her face filled with concern as she wipes away toni’s tears with the back of her hand.

 

toni bites down on her trembling bottom lip and finds herself laughing as she shakes her head.

 

“i…i don’t know…it’s just, no one’s ever wanted me in that way before, cher. no one’s…just ever wanted me.” toni manages to choke out. cheryl’s smile falters, sadness quickly taking over before she leans in and presses a soft kiss to the corner of toni’s mouth.

 

“toni…”

 

“no, i know why, cher, it’s cause i never opened up to anyone like i have with you before…you’re the first person i’ve ever felt like myself around. i’m just so glad that you still want me despite all my bullshit.” toni laughs through her tears, and cheryl’s smile is so goddamn soft that toni finds herself wrapping her arms around her waist and burying her face into her neck, cheryl sighing as she rubs soothing circles up and down her back.

 

“don’t be silly, toni, please…everyone has baggage. it all depends on if you’re willing to help the person you care about shoulder the weight of it. and i’m willing to, t.t. because you’re just…amazing. and i care about you so much, i need you to know that.” cheryl breathes. toni simply nods against her, incapable of words as she presses a kiss to her pulse point. cheryl chuckles, her lips resting against toni’s brow before she hums softly.

 

“you never answered my question, ma cherie…” she whispers. toni frowns in confusion before she pulls back and looks cheryl in the eyes.

 

“isn’t it obvious?” she says simply. cheryl rolls her eyes as she rests her hands on toni’s waist, pulling her closer as the pink haired bartender wraps her arms around her neck gently.

 

“it is, but i want to hear you confirm it.” she teases. toni giggles and presses a quick kiss to the corner of her mouth.

 

“an irrevocable and unconditional ‘yes’, cheryl.” she says with a grin, and cheryl’s smile only widens as she crashes her lips against toni’s, holding her impossibly closer as she does.

 

her girlfriend…cheryl was her girlfriend.

 

as exciting as it was…it was also terrifying. not so much because toni’s never been in a relationship before, but because…well, she works at a bar where she’s hit on twenty four seven, and sometimes flirting with the customers was a necessary thing to do to avoid fights and get more tips. but cheryl had witnessed that last night, had done her own flirtatious banter with a few of the customers, had watched toni flip her hair in front of a guy’s face and shake her ass for the crowd to stare at in awe, and she had clapped and cheered along with everyone else.

 

they could do this. toni knows it. they could have a relationship without the bar getting in the way.

 

she’s just praying betty and veronica don’t get in her fucking way…because no matter what, toni’s not letting go of this. she refuses to.

 

cheryl makes her happy. and toni’s not letting go of that.

 

not even for the bar.

 

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

 

“toni, shh…”

 

“it’s okay, it’s clear, come on!”

 

giggling like a bunch of school girls, cheryl and toni sneak into the back room, the both of them shushing each other as toni closes the door as quietly as possible behind her while cheryl searches the table for her makeup bag. as soon as she finds it, she grins and collapses down into one of the chairs in front of it, hands immediately reaching for her concealer to cover up the bruises on her neck before she pauses and stares at her neck with a sigh.

 

“you know, t.t, i really don’t think even concealer is going to work. they're so dark...” cheryl whispers with a frown, looking at the bruises under the lights around the mirror with a wince as she brushes her fingers over them delicately. they contrast so deeply against her pale skin, toni can’t help but agree, and she sighs and plops down into the seat beside her and simply shrugs.

 

“then fuck it. let’s just go out there and tell them we’re dating and they just have to deal with it.” toni grunts. cheryl bites down on her lip, but before she can reply, her phone rings loudly, echoing across the back room and making toni’s heart drop as she looks to the door that leads to the bar anxiously with a wince.

 

fuck, betty and veronica totally know they're here now-

 

cheryl grabs it and immediately answers it, her eyes wide with panic.

 

“hello? yeah, i’m here, sorry, jay jay, give me a second…” cheryl stands and grips toni’s hand in her own, gives her an anxious look before she walks toward the door that leads outside, and toni hesitates to follow her out for only half a second, but even that half a second costs her greatly.

 

the door leading to the bar opens, and toni sees a flash of blonde before she sees betty walk through, her eyes wide before they land on toni and she visibly relaxes with a loud sigh.

 

“oh, it’s just you. veronica and i thought someone broke in. where’s cheryl?” betty asks, making her way over to toni with a smile, and toni, like an idiot, ducks her head down and avoids her gaze as she nods toward the door that leads outside, clearing her throat awkwardly as she does.

 

“it was her phone ringing, she went outside to answer it.” she mumbles, looking into the mirror before she rests her elbows on the table and cups her hands around her neck as inconspicuously as possible. betty simply sighs loudly.

 

“and is there a reason why you two are sneaking in through the back door?” she asks firmly. toni licks her lips and shrugs once again, her heart pounding as she continues to avoid eye contact with betty, and it’s silent for a long time before toni hears the sound of the chair beside her being pulled back. she hears betty plop down beside her before she speaks.

 

“toni, i think i’d be able to see the hickeys on your neck from jupiter. you can stop hiding them.” she says with a loud sigh.

 

ah….fuck.

 

toni lifts her gaze up and meets betty’s eyes, but instead of anger there’s…a smile.

 

she's smiling...this is a good sign, right? she's smiling, she's-

 

“i…betty, please don’t be mad-.” toni starts urgently, but betty shakes her head with a sigh.

 

“i’m not mad, toni…i think we all kind of saw this coming. i just…” betty licks her lips, her eyes roaming over toni’s face, but all toni can process is that betty said she wasn’t mad.

 

she’s not mad. this is a good thing, isn’t it?

 

she’s not mad-

 

“what you have with cheryl…is it real, toni? because i love you like a sister and the last thing i want is for you to get hurt. and if you two date and then you break up, it’s going to be so awkward and i don’t want that-.” toni cuts betty off by reaching out and gripping her hands, and she makes sure that her next words are filled with nothing but truth because she's desperate.

 

she needs betty to see that this wasn't some fucking fling, this wasn't some one night stand. cheryl was real for her, cheryl was someone she could see herself having a future with, and fuck, as much as it terrified her it also exhilarated her.

 

“it’s the most real thing i’ve felt in a long time, betty. maybe even ever. and it’s the same for her, too. she makes me feel…i don’t even know how to put it into words, b. she makes me feel…whole. i've never felt this way about anyone before in my life.” toni whispers, tears welling in her eyes that she immediately blinks away, but one stray tear falls down her cheek, and betty smiles before she reaches up and brushes it away with the pad of her thumb.

 

“then i’d be the worst sister on earth if i kept you apart. if she makes you happy, toni, then…go for it. that rule…i just don’t think it’s a rule that works anymore. jughead and i have been getting closer, too, and i don’t know how much longer i can justify us not going out on a date for the bar. and archie’s got it bad for veronica, a blind person can see that…”

 

toni’s heart is pounding so loudly in her ears, she can barely hear.

 

wait...what? no, betty was pulling her leg, she wasn't possibly implying-

 

“betty, are…are you saying what i think you’re saying?” toni breathes.

 

and betty smiles and reaches out and tucks a lock of hair behind toni’s ear affectionately with a small nod.

 

“we're vetoing the rule-.”

 

toni jumps on top of her, hugging her close as she tries her best not to start sobbing, because fuck, this is everything she’s wanted since she first fucking met cheryl, and now…

 

they could be together. it wouldn’t get in the way of their jobs, they could actually be together-

 

holy shit, holy shit, holy shit-

 

“there’s gonna be some conditions! we’ll talk about it with ronnie outside, everyone’s here.” betty says with a laugh, rubbing toni’s back as she swallows the lump in her throat and pulls back.

 

“betty, thank you.” toni croaks out. betty sighs and grips her hands, bringing them up to her lips to kiss her knuckles with a smile.

 

“of course, toni. seeing you and cheryl for the last month, you’ve both been so down about this whole thing…i felt horrible, and so did veronica. we realized how stupid it was to keep you two apart and after seeing how well you both did last night, it just seemed like a lost cause. you two were made for each other, it’s pretty obvious.”

 

toni smiles, unable to contain her happiness. they could be together...no more stupid rule, this was-

 

the door behind them opens and cheryl walks back in, distracted as she shoves her phone into her back pocket.

 

"sorry, t.t, jason was just checking up-." she freezes the second she looks up and her eyes land on betty, and when she sees toni crying and sniffling, cheryl lets out a whimper before she’s rushing over and dropping down onto her knees in front of betty, much to both of their shock.

 

“betty, don’t fire her, please, it was my fault-.”

 

“wait, what? cheryl, no, i’m not firing toni!” betty says, laughing a little in surprise as cheryl blinks a few times before she lets out a groan of relief and looks at toni with a frown.

 

“but…you’re crying-.”

 

“because i’m happy, cher…betty’s vetoing the rule.” toni whispers, reaching up to touch cheryl’s cheek and brushing the pad of her thumb over her cheekbone.

 

they can be together…no sneaking around, no bullshit, they could just be

 

“really?” cheryl breathes, her eyes wide as she looks back and forth between betty and toni. when betty rolls her eyes and nods, cheryl squeals and wraps her arms around betty, embracing her tightly as betty chokes from the pressure of her hold with a laugh.

 

“thank you, thank you, thank you-.”

 

“stop, i don’t know why you’re thanking me, as if me and veronica could stop you two from seeing each other, anyway. you two totally had sex this morning, i can see the hickeys, you heathens.” betty says, laughing loudly as cheryl turns bright red and looks at toni with a sheepish grin that has betty rolling her eyes.

 

“come on, you two, everyone else is here, might as well make the announcement now.” toni and cheryl grin at each other before toni grips cheryl’s hand in her own, interlacing their fingers tightly with a smile.

 

they can be together, they can do this, holy shit…

 

as soon as the door opens, toni’s eyes land on the boys gathered around the bar, josie and veronica behind it as they turn to watch them come in. veronica’s grin is evident as she sees cheryl and toni hand in hand, and she laughs loudly before she winks at betty.

 

“told you they’d hook up.”

 

“yeah, yeah, i thought they’d be able to resist, clearly i was wrong.” betty says, giving veronica the finger with a roll of her eyes, and toni cocks an eyebrow and looks at her two best friends with a smirk.

 

“please don’t tell me you guys actually bet on this.” she says with a grin. betty shrugs.

 

“not a bet, more of a bragging rights competition. anyway, guys, we have some news.” betty nods at veronica, who looks at each of them individually before her eyes land on cheryl and toni with a soft smile.

 

“due to recent circumstances, such as our girl toni falling head over serpent jacket for cheryl, betty and i have made the executive decision to…lift the no boyfriend no girlfriend rule of the club. you guys can bring your significant others here, under strict rules that they have to understand that once they come in here, they can’t get mad about customers being a little flirty. it helps us get tips and helps us keep the bar afloat, so if someone fucks with that, they’re out of here.”

 

it’s quiet for a few moments.

 

and then-

 

“fuck, finally!” jughead jumps up, grabs betty by the elbow and tugs her forward, crashing his lips against hers eagerly as veronica rolls her eyes and josie stares in stunned silence. the boys wolf whistle, and cheryl and toni squeeze each other’s hands with a grin as betty pulls away from the kiss noisily, her eyes glazed over before she smiles at jughead softly.

 

“god, i’ve been wanting to do that for two years now…” jughead whispers. veronica scoffs.

 

“yeah, yeah, you two can date now. just don’t slobber all over each other during bar hours, please. and keep your hands to yourself, juggie, if you see some guy flirting with b, don’t get involved. let archie and the boys handle it.” veronica says sternly, but she’s smiling all the same, and jughead sighs, but looks to betty and smiles as he presses another kiss to her lips.

 

“i’ll try my best.” he murmurs. veronica looks over at cheryl and toni now, raising an eyebrow at him.

 

“that goes for you two as well.”

 

toni nods, but cheryl smiles and leans in to kiss toni’s cheek gently.

 

“toni can handle herself.” she says firmly. toni smiles, leans up and kisses the corner of her mouth as veronica sighs and throws her hands in the air.

 

“alright, well, let’s celebrate then! to new couples and friendships and all that gooey, soft shit that i’m honestly incapable of articulating!” she slams down ten shot glasses on the counter top and grabs a tequila bottle, sliding it across the shot glasses as everyone leans forward to take one.

 

toni still can’t believe it. betty and veronica just lifted the rule, the rule that they’ve fucking lived by for the last three years so toni could have a relationship with cheryl?

 

god, despite everything they’ve been through…the fact that betty and veronica were tossing aside the rules of the bar for her…they did care about her.

 

they did want her to be happy…

 

it's felt like all they cared about was keeping toni down for the last four weeks, even though deep down toni knew it was for the good of the bar, but fuck, for them to actually be doing this...

 

it means a lot to her.

 

"guys..." toni croaks out. everyone looks up at her, and toni has no idea how to even begin to put into words how she feels. so she simply swallows the emotional lump in her throat and nods at betty and veronica.

 

"thank you...i love you guys so much." she whispers. betty and veronica smile before veronica raises her glass.

 

“we love you too, kid. salut!” veronica yells, slamming her shot down onto the counter top before raising it to her lips and draining it dry, and everyone else does the same, toni beaming from ear to ear as cheryl takes her shot before leaning in to press a kiss to toni’s temple. toni smiles up at her, still in disbelief that this was all happening, and cheryl giggles against her before veronica skips over to them and bumps her hip against toni’s.

 

“sooooo…are you two official yet?” she asks with a grin. toni rolls her eyes.

 

“i think it’s obvious, v.” she says with a chuckle. veronica's grin only widens.

 

“okay, good! because look, i love you both, but watching you two mope around the last month has been torture.” veronica groans. toni’s about to respond when the boys suddenly bark with laughter.

 

“yeah, i’ll drink to that. you two have got it bad for each other.” reggie laughs, archie and sweet pea nodding in agreement as fangs grins at them both.

 

“i knew you two were gone for each other from the second i saw you at the club together. you’ve been a lost cause from day one, tiny. hey, by the way, can i bring kevin by the bar? we’ve been talking but we haven’t had a chance to meet up cause i’ve been so busy here.” he asks cheryl, who smiles and simply nods.

 

“i’ll make sure he has next friday off so he can make it.” she says simply. fangs’s grin grows impossibly wider.

 

“thanks, red!”

 

cheryl simply winks at him before she wraps her arms around toni’s waist, pulling her in close for a kiss that has toni melting into her embrace.

 

they can do this now, out in the open, in front of their friends, they didn’t have to stay a secret, only during bar hours, but who gave a shit about that? god, this is everything toni wanted, everything she’s been craving-

 

“well, then, isn’t this cosy?”

 

toni’s heart stops.

 

that voice sounds hauntingly fucking familiar.

 

they were all too busy laughing and celebrating to hear the sound of the door at the entrance of the bar opening.

 

toni turns, every inch of hair on her body standing up like a dog with it's hackles raised as she comes face to face with the last fucking face on planet earth she ever expected to see again.

 

standing, right smack in the middle of the dancefloor-

 

son of a fucking bitch-

 

nick st. clair. back again with that smug fucking smile and that fucking face-

 

toni growls, any traces of happiness gone and anger and rage completely flooding her as she jumps forward, but veronica grips her elbow and pulls her back immediately, shaking her head as she glares at nick with nothing but hatred.

 

“don’t! stay with cheryl, i’ve got this.” she hisses.

 

oh god.

 

oh god-

 

cheryl…

 

toni immediately turns toward her girlfriend, and her heart breaks completely at what she sees.

 

cheryl is as pale as toni has ever seen her, all the color drained from her face, her eyes wide with fear and panic, and as soon as toni steps into her line of vision, cheryl’s eyes fall on her, her bottom lip trembling as tears fall down her cheeks.

 

no, no, this isn’t right, why is he here…god, this wasn't okay, cheryl shouldn't have to stare her fucking attacker in the face again, not in this place, this place was supposed to be safe-

 

“cher, hey, don’t look at him, okay? focus on me, i’m right here…” toni reaches up, smiling as best as she can as she wipes away cheryl’s tears. cheryl nods against her, sniffling lightly as veronica’s voice echoes across the bar.

 

“you’re not welcome here, now get the fuck out!” she barks. toni hears nick st. clair scoff, and god she wants to turn around and lay her fists into every inch of his body-

 

but cheryl's hands are around her wrists, trying to anchor herself as she closes her eyes, and toni leans in and presses a kiss to her jaw softly in an attempt to calm her.

 

“you seriously sold the bar to her, miss lodge? after everything i told you about her-.”

 

“hey newsflash, asshole, the only fucking liar here is you! now i said you’re not welcome here, if you don’t leave in the next five seconds, i’m calling the police.” veronica hisses.

 

and nick simply laughs.

 

“the police? how terrifying! i’m truly trembling in my five thousand dollar boots, miss lodge.” he says derisively, and god, the sound of his smug fucking voice, toni wants to fucking murder him-

 

cheryl’s nails dig into toni’s forearms, stopping her from turning around and doing exactly that, and her girlfriend must read the anger in her eyes, because she looks at toni pleadingly as she shakes her head.

 

“he’s not worth it, t.t.” she breathes.

 

toni smiles through her rage.

 

because she knows. she knows nick st. clair isn't worth a single cent of all the fucking money he brags about having, but the thing is...

 

she was.

 

“you are, cher. you’re worth everything…you’re stronger than what happened to you, okay? don’t let him bring you down, not for one second. you’re worth so much more than he is, baby, you have to know that. don’t let the pain of what he did to you overshadow who you are. don’t let it dim your light, please, cher…you’re so amazing, you have no idea…he’s not worth a second of your pain, but you’re worth every second of your happiness. don’t let him take that away from you. he’s already taken so much…don’t let him take that, too.” toni whispers, genuine care and support dripping from every single syllable she utters.

 

she needs cheryl to understand…she needs her to understand just how fucking special she was…

 

and cheryl must. because toni sees something shift in cheryl’s eyes as soon as she's finished talking.

 

her jaw clenches, her eyes harden, and toni watches as she raises her head high with a look of determination shining in her eyes that toni has never seen before, her eyes landing on nick, who is still mouthing off to veronica, and toni only catches the back end of his sentence.

 

“…you know your bar is going to collapse under her care, right? she’s insane, miss lodge, you’ve made a mistake-.”

 

toni feels her anger flare, but one look at cheryl has her stepping aside instead of rushing forward.

 

because she sees nothing but six years of pain shining in cheryl’s eyes, and she’s not about to be the one to stand in it’s way. this isn't her fight. it's cheryl's.

 

cheryl steps forward, tosses her brilliant red hair over her shoulder as she does, fists clenched and heels clacking on the ground, and nick trails off as his eyes land on her making her way over to him, a smirk instantly lighting up his face as he looks her up and down.

 

“good to see you again, ch-.”

 

WHACK.

 

toni jumps, josie screams, veronica gasps, betty covers her mouth with her hands in shock and the boys immediately rush forward.

 

nick is howling in pain on his knees, clutching his nose as blood spurts through his fingers and dribbles down his chin, thick tears streaming down his cheeks as cheryl raises a hand to stop the boys, all of them screeching to a halt before she grips nick by the collar of his shirt and lifts him closer to her face until they’re inches apart.

 

“get the hell out of my bar before i kill you, you insignificant, complete and utter piece of trash! i am not the same eighteen year old girl you raped and tortured with your malevolency! i can have your neck under my six inch heels and add the pressure to snap it within seconds with no hesitation!” she hisses with complete and utter venom. she throws him to the ground, nick groaning in pain as he turns onto his stomach and tries to crawl toward the entrance of the bar with blood still flowing from his nose like a fucking faucet, and the boys look at veronica expectantly, as if waiting for her to tell them to step in-

 

but veronica grins and shakes her head, leaning back and watching the show happily as she pours herself another shot of tequila. toni’s heart is pounding against her chest, but watching cheryl right now…

 

she’s cautious, of course she is, but cheryl’s taking charge of something traumatic that happened to her, and fuck, it’s magical to watch. she's frozen, incapable of moving at all, so in awe of what she's witnessing...

 

cheryl takes each slow step toward nick's retreating figure with purpose until she's pressing the tip of her heel right into the base of the back of nick’s neck, the boy writhing in pain beneath her as she places her hands on her hips to steady herself and leans down a little so her voice can be heard.

 

“you can expect to hear from my lawyers, by the way. i think i’ll be pressing charges against you after all. and i don’t give a damn what deal my parents have with your family…you’re going away for a long time for what you did to me and those other girls you’ve hurt, nick. i’ll fight until my last breath to make sure of it. sleep with one goddamn eye open, and count your final days of freedom. they began ticking down the second you walked in here, thinking you have any kind of authority over me or this place. am i understood?” cheryl applies more pressure with every word until nick is crying beneath her. he nods vigorously, choked sobs escaping him until cheryl finally lifts her leg off him and steps back, her chest heaving with deep breaths and sweat dripping from her brow as she licks her dry lips once.

 

nick scrambles to his feet, and runs straight for the door as archie yells out.

 

“you show your face around here again, and you won’t leave this neighborhood alive!” archie roars, his face contorted in rage as he clenches his fists. sweet pea, reggie, jughead and fangs looking equally pissed off.

 

the girls are simply watching cheryl in stunned silence.

 

toni included.

 

cheryl is visibly trembling, a soft whimper escaping her, and at the sound, toni feels like her body reboots, her legs moving forward automatically until she reaches her girlfriend.

 

“cher-.”

 

cheryl collapses into her embrace, and to toni’s surprise, she isn’t crying.

 

she’s shaking, god is she shaking, and she’s breathing heavily against toni as she wraps her arms around the pink haired girl’s neck and buries her face into the crook of her shoulder, but she isn’t crying.

 

instead, she presses a kiss to toni's neck before she’s whispering softly.

 

“d-did you see that, t.t? i p-punched him!” she breathes, her voice shaking violently, but it’s also…filled with excitement.

 

toni blinks, tries to process cheryl's words before she chuckles and rubs her back as she nods.

 

“yeah, it was pretty hard to miss, babe. good shot. pretty sure you broke his nose, blood was gushing out like a leaking tap, it was brilliant!”

 

cheryl giggles against her, and toni thinks it must be the adrenaline and the shock from what’s just happened that is warranting this reaction as cheryl pulls back and looks at her. the tears fall after that, but she’s still smiling as she bites down on her lower lip to stop it from shaking.

 

“i…every other time i’ve seen him since that d-day t.t., i’ve frozen up. he’s always m-made me feel so small, so w-weak, but when…when you s-said that to me…all i c-could think about is how r-right you were. and then i just-.”

 

“punched him? broke his nose?” veronica chimes in with a grin. cheryl lets out a breathless laugh as she nods.

 

“yeah.” she whispers. and then her eyes widen as she slowly begins to process what she just did.

 

she punched someone. she broke their nose. she caused someone harm...

 

“oh god…i broke his nose.” she croaks out. toni reaches up and brushes her hair back from her face before cradling it in her hands gently.

 

“yeah, you did. and you should’ve broken every bone in his body, too. he’s lucky he’s walking out of here with just a broken nose, cher.”

 

“amen to that. son of a bitch…” reggie growls, cracking his knuckles angrily as he does. cheryl bites down on her shaking bottom lip anxiously.

 

“what if he presses charges-.”

 

“you were never here. right guys?” veronica grunts out, the boys grinning as they shrug and look at each other.

 

“haven’t seen cheryl here since last night.” sweet pea says with a grin. cheryl lets out a whimper of relief as toni reaches out and grips her hand.

 

“we’ve got your back, baby. no matter what. and if you were serious about pressing charges against him for what he did to you, then i’m with you every step of the way. reggie, you think you can get in contact with that cop friend of yours, find out if we can get any info on the girls who reported nick? we’re gonna need all the help we can get.” reggie frowns, but nods once.

 

“i’ll ask him. i can’t guarantee he can give us anything, but he can at least give us the names of the people who fought to get him arrested. they’ll no doubt be more than happy to help cheryl out.” toni nods, and cheryl finally smiles shakily as she looks at toni softly.

 

“god, toni…i’ve never punched anyone before.” cheryl whispers. toni finds herself laughing.

 

“seriously, bombshell, where the hell did that come from?” toni asks with a smirk. josie rolls her eyes and steps forward with a grin.

 

“this place is rubbing off on her, it’s about damn time. like toni said, he’s lucky he’s only walking out of here with a broken nose. i was about ready to sink my claws into him, stupid ass white boy. good job, cheryl.” josie leans up and presses a kiss to cheryl’s cheek, toni growling playfully at her best friend at the action, and josie winks at her and saunters over to sweet pea as betty sighs and looks at the blood on the ground.

 

“well, we should probably clean this up…”

 

“not it!” the boys yell loudly just as veronica, josie and toni all raise a finger to their nose. betty groans loudly, and cheryl chuckles and shakes her head.

 

“i’ll do it, betty-.”

 

“nuh uh, bombshell, we’re going into the back room to take a breather, come on.” toni grips her hand and drags her to the back room, cheryl sighing as she follows along, and it’s quiet before-

 

“NO FUCKING IN THE BACK ROOM!”

 

“shut up, veronica!”

 

toni gives her best friend the middle finger and grins when she barks with laughter before she pulls cheryl into the back room and shuts the door behind them.

 

toni pushes cheryl down onto the nearest chair and ducks down until she’s sitting on her haunches. she grips cheryl’s hands in her own, feels she’s still shaking before she presses a kiss to her knuckles and smiles.

 

“do you need some water, baby?” cheryl swallows thickly, but shakes her head, and toni nods as she grips cheryl’s knees and tucks a lock of red hair behind her ear.

 

“can you breathe for me, then?” cheryl purses her lips and nods, takes a deep breath in through her nose before she’s exhaling shakily from her mouth, and toni waits patiently, breathes with her for a few moments before cheryl’s not trembling so violently anymore.

 

she knows the adrenaline is starting to wear off now, so she needs cheryl to just keep breathing, to keep herself in check...

 

“good girl, you’re doing so well, cher…” toni grips the back of her neck and leans up to press a kiss to her forehead, and cheryl grips the lapels of her jacket and pulls her closer, breathing against her heavily before she smiles cheekily.

 

“that’s my line.” she whispers. toni frowns.

 

“what is?”

 

“‘good girl…’”

 

“oh yeah? since when?”

 

“don’t think i’ve forgotten how loud you moaned or how you shivered against me when i said that to you this morning, t.t.” she teases. toni feels her cheeks immediately flush as she bites down on her lower lip to stop herself from grinning.

 

“don’t know what you’re talking about…”

 

“mm, i think you do. is there a praise kink you have that you’d like to tell me about, toni?” toni hesitates, but she notices cheryl's breathing is evening out, and she swallows down her pride and embarassment.

 

“is this banter gonna help calm you down?” toni whispers. cheryl’s smile falters, and she closes her eyes and exhales shakily before she purses her lips and nods.

 

“it’s helping…”

 

“in that case, fine, i have a praise kink, but if you say anything, i’m not having sex with you for a week.” toni grunts out, but she’s grinning as cheryl laughs and presses a kiss to the corner of her mouth.

 

“as if you could resist.”

 

“hey, i lasted a month, a week is nothing compared to that.” cheryl chuckles before she leans up kisses her properly this time, but then she’s trailing her lips over to toni’s ear, and when she whispers, toni feels a shiver run up her spine.

 

“thank you, t.t. for everything. i’m okay, i promise.” toni frowns, but pulls back to see cheryl smiling at her softly, her body no longer trembling as she lets out a deep sigh and wipes the tears from her eyes.

 

“are you sure, babe?” toni whispers back. cheryl nods and cradles toni’s face in her hands.

 

“i’m sure. it felt good…hitting him. and i was serious when i said i want to press charges against him. he can’t be allowed to roam around free when he’s hurt so many people, toni. he has to pay for what he’s done. i’ve been hiding from him and what he did to me for six years, but now…now with you by my side, i feel like i can get through anything.”

 

toni feels her heart flutter, and she grips cheryl’s wrists and gives them a light squeeze as she presses a kiss to one of her palms.

 

this girl...she was so surreal, god, toni was fucking obsessed...

 

“then you’ve got me, cheryl. i promise you’ve got me. and i’m so fucking proud of you, you have no idea…” cheryl smiles at that, and her eyes roam over toni’s face for a few moments before she sighs.

 

“you know what i can’t wait for?”

 

“mmm?”

 

“this night to be over so we can go back home and snuggle up in your bed and just sleep. for tomorrow afternoon, when i wake up cuddled up against you, knowing that i’m yours and you’re mine, and nothing, not this bar or it’s stupid rules, or nick fucking st. clair can get between us. that’s what i can’t wait for…” cheryl whispers.

 

it’s on the tip of her tongue, really.

 

those three words.

 

toni, however, doesn’t feel the need to say them.

 

they always say there’s a hundred different ways to say ‘i love you’.

 

toni feels like what cheryl has just said is one of them.

 

so instead of those three words, she leans in and kisses her, thanks all the gods she knows for letting her run into this red haired beauty before her that day at the liquor store, even thanks them for all the goddamn bumps in the road that have led them to this moment right here…and to the moment that will come tomorrow morning and afternoon…and the moment the day after that, and the day after that…

 

and so when she pulls away with a breathless gasp, instead of those three words, she smiles and rests her forehead against cheryl’s.

 

“i can’t wait either, babe. because you’re right. i’m yours, and you’re mine, and nothing is gonna change that, okay?”

 

cheryl smiles, kisses her once more, so softly, it’s barely a brush of their lips against each other’s as she nods.

 

“mmm, okay…so that praise kink of yours, what else gets you off other than ‘good girl’?”

 

“wow, ruined the moment, babe…ruined the moment…”