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Ripped at Every Edge (But You're a Masterpiece)

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"Ms. Topaz, perhaps if you paid attention in class instead of staring at Cheryl, you serpents wouldn't be so looked down upon."

Toni flushed, whirling around, but not fast enough to miss the satisfied smirk on Cheryl's face as several of her classmates laughed. She crossed her arms, anger bubbling in her chest. Everyone knew her teacher, Mr. Lewis, had a thing against the Southside students, and of course in his eyes Cheryl Blossom could do no wrong. 

Once he had turned his attention back to the board, Toni turned to shoot the redhead a glare. She got a grin in return before the other girl looked down at her hands, nonchalantly picking at her nails. Toni curled her hands into fists. God, how she so badly wanted to wipe that stupid smirk off her face. Cheryl thought she was so much better than her and-

"Ms. Topaz."

Toni snapped her attention back to the front, and she found Mr. Lewis standing right next to her desk, an eyebrow raised. He slammed a detention slip down so hard the kid in front of her jumped. "I will see you after school today."

Before she could even think to stop herself a bewildered, "Seriously?" escaped her lips. 

"Would you like to be here on Saturday too?" 

Thankfully, the bell saved her from having to respond. Mr. Lewis growled out, "Don't be late," and went back to the front of the room. 

Yeah, this was her life now. Ever since Southside High got shut down, detentions had practically been handed to the serpents every week. The northsiders loved it, because of course nothing ever happened to them. Toni and her fellow serpents decided to stop caring for the most part, considering whether or not they actually followed the rules didn't matter, since they got in trouble for breathing. Not to mention the other students, the ones who weren't scared of them, constantly picked fights with them. 

The boys mostly dealt with the bulldogs, but Toni was fighting an entirely separate battle against one Cheryl Blossom. Ever since Toni had gotten here the redhead decided to spend every day trying to get a rise out of her. And the serpent was ashamed to say that most of the time it worked. Cheryl was just the most infuriating person she had ever met, so most of their classes were spent bickering, which led to the teacher always scolding Toni. She couldn't wait till the day where she managed to get under Cheryl's skin so the girl could leave her alone

Toni shoved her things into her bag, throwing it over her shoulder. She crinkled the detention slip in her hand heading out of the classroom to find Sweet Pea waiting for her. She waved the paper in his face angrily. 

"Look at this crap! He literally gave me detention for not looking at the board for two seconds."

Sweet Pea grabbed her wrist to pluck the paper from her hand, reading it over. "Dude, what about your uncle?"

Toni ran a frustrated hand through her hair. "I don't know! He's gonna lock the door by the time I get out."

"Want me to get detention too?"

"Why are we getting detention?"

They both turned as Fangs joined them. 

Sweet Pea handed the slip over to him. "Well thats crap."

"Right?!"

"Enjoy detention Cha-Cha. It's almost cute how you can't seem to keep your eyes off of me. Maybe if you weren't a snake I'd find you adorable."

Toni spun around to glare at Cheryl, who was standing there with a satisfied smile on her face. 

"Don't flatter yourself. Everyone knows the only reason I got detention was because Mr. Lewis hates me."

"With good reason."

She felt Sweet Pea bristle behind her. "We haven't done shit to you Northsiders. Maybe if you all could get your heads out of your asses you would see that."

Cheryl rolled her eyes. "God, must you all use such vulgar language? And the Southside is nothing but trouble, anyone with half a brain knows that." 

Toni took a step closer. "You know what Blossom-"

Before she could finish her sentence, Reggie and Chuck, the most bull-headed bulldogs in the school showed up on either side of Cheryl. 

"Is this scum bothering you Blossom?"

Sweet Pea and Fangs moved in half a second, standing at her sides. "This has nothing to do with either of you," Fangs growled. 

"Well it looked like you two snakes and your little serpent princess were bothering Cheryl here, and we're not one to let someone be harassed on this school property." Reggie crossed his arms with a smug smirk. 

Cheryl, to her credit, looked equally as annoyed as the serpents were at their arrival. "I don't need your help, Reginald, I can take care of myself." 

Reggie ignored her, moving closer into Sweet Pea's space. "You should back off before you start a fight. Me, I'm fine with whatever happens since I've been looking for an excuse to pound your faces in." 

Toni rolled her eyes. "God, you sound twelve."

"You don't belong here," Chuck snapped, disregarding what she said. "We're going to get you guys out of this school eventually. No one wants you here, not even the teachers."

She knew what Sweet Pea was gonna do before he did it, and Toni's hand quickly shot out to grip his forearm. Just in time, since not a moment later she felt his arm jerk forward, his hand curled into a fist and aiming straight toward's Reggie's head. She struggled to hold it back considering how much bigger than her he was, but he stopped moving when his eyes met Toni's. 

She pushed him back slightly, further from the bulldogs, pressing a hand to Fangs' chest to pull him with them. She subtly shook her head, silently begging that they don't do anything that would wind up with all of them expelled. 

When she looked back at Chuck and Reggie, she was somewhat surprised to find Cheryl had slipped away. She figured the girl would've loved to stick around and watch the drama, considering the redhead practically lived and breathed drama. 

"The Southside Serpents aren't going anywhere any time soon, assholes. Get used to it."

She moved away, yanking the boys with her by the sleeves of their jackets. Sweet Pea shoved her away. 

"Come on Tiny, you should've let me put them in their place!"

"And get kicked out of school while your at it? Giving them exactly what they want?"

"Well what are we supposed to do then?" He crossed his arms. "Just keep our heads down and take it?"

"No we fight them every step of them way, just not physically. At least," Toni lowered her voice slightly. "Not on school property. You want to fight them, make it somewhere where teachers can't interfere. And you can't send anyone to the hospital, Pea. That's just gonna get you arrested. And for the love of god, don't fight them alone, take other serpents with you."

Fangs nodded. "She's right. We aren't backing down, but we gotta be smart about this. We have to work together so they don't win." He clapped a hand on both of their shoulders. "In unity there is strength, right?"

"In unity there is strength," they echoed, turning to head towards the cafeteria. 

Jughead looked up as they sat down. "What took you guys so long?"

"Northsiders." Sweet Pea grumbled, still fuming from their words. 

Jughead frowned. "What happened?" 

Toni shook her head at him, shooting Sweet Pea a look that she knew he would understand. Cool it. Addressing Jughead again, she said, "Don't worry about it. Not a big deal."

He raised an eyebrow, clearly not convinced. "Are you sure? Cause I can talk to Archie-"

"God, Jones you're not a northsider! Archie Andrews isn't a serpent, we don't need his help."

"Seriously Sweet Pea? I'm just trying to help, not all northsiders are bad."

"Andrews is a Bulldog. Not only that but he's friends with Reggie. He isn't gonna do squat to help us."

"If I talk to him, I could convince him to get them to stand down and leave us alone."

"Like that would ever happen."

"Hey guys, maybe calm down a bit? People are looking and the lunch monitor looks like he's real close to coming over here," Fangs intervened. 

"Yeah, besides Jug, Sweet Pea's right." Jughead looked at Toni his eyebrows raised, incredulous look on his face. "We aren't gonna go begging for help. We resolve this on our own."

He scoffed, shaking his head and yanking his beanie off his head, raking his hands through his hair. "You guys are being ridiculous. I think I'll go sit with Betty today."

Jughead stormed off and Sweet Pea snorted at his retreating form. "Yeah, now he's gonna go sit with his Northsider friends."

Toni reached over the table to smack the side of his head. "You aren't much better. God, can't you go one day without picking a fight? The northsiders are one thing, but we can't be fighting amongst ourselves."

"I hate it when you're all smart and reasonable," he grumbled. 

"Well someone has to balance you out."

"Then what am I here for?" 

Toni grinned and looked over at Fangs, a thoughtful hum escaping her lips before she shrugged teasingly. "Moral support?"

He punched her arm, causing all three of them to burst out laughing as she hit him back. 

When they calmed down, Sweet Pea frowned, his face turning serious. "So Tiny, what're you gonna do about detention? Cause I'm not sure you can crash at mine, my mom's getting off early and you know she doesn't like anyone near her when she gets off of work."

She shrugged, snatching Fangs' bag of chips out of his hand and eating some. "I'll figure it out, I always do."

Fangs didn't even protest as she ate his chips, knowing she didn't have a lunch. "I would offer my place-"

Toni shook her head, cutting him and trying to get rid of the guilty look on his face. "You have too many siblings, there is hardly space for your family, much less an extra person. Look, don't worry about it guys, I'll find somewhere to crash."

"Alright fine, but text us where you end up so we know your okay." Toni smiled, handing Fangs his chips back. 

"God, why does your uncle have to be the actual worst person ever?"

She chuckled in response. "We may never know." 

****

Detention was as horrible as normal, since she was basically the only one there. Sweet Pea and Fangs offered to get detention too, but she told them not to worry about it. 

Toni leaned against the outside of the school, her motorcycle parked a few feet away and she mindlessly scrolled through her phone. She had already finished her homework here, trying to kill time before she had to figure out where to crash. Sweet Pea had already checked an hour ago and her uncle's trailer was indeed locked, but that was already expected. She wasn't gonna go to her grandpa's trailer, because he always insisted on taking the couch and that wasn't good for his back. Jughead wasn't home today since FP had fallen off the wagon, so their trailer probably wasn't the best place to be. She could always knock on random doors and hope one of the serpents let her in. 

Her phone started ringing though, and seeing the caller ID she answered. "Whats up Sweets?"

"Have you found a place yet?"

"Nope. I'll probably knock on doors until a serpent lets me in. If not, I'll probably sleep outside a trailer."

"Tiny, there's no way I'm letting you sleep outside. It's supposed to rain tonight anyway."

"Well I don't have any other options. I told you-"

Toni stopped when someone cleared their throat, and she looked up to find a certain redhead standing in front of her with her arms crossed. 

"Tiny?"

"I've gotta go Sweets, I'll call you later." She hung up, stuffing the phone into her back pocket and mimicking Cheryl's pose. "I'm so not in the mood for this right now Blossom. Why are you even here, school ended hours ago."

"Not that its any of your business, but I had Vixens practice." She gestured to her outfit. "If you used your eyes you might be able to tell." 

Toni gave her a quick once over, realizing she was wearing a yellow and white shirt with really short blue shorts. She swallowed, quickly looking back up and seeing the other girl's smirk. "What do you want?" She growled through clenched teeth.

"I heard you needed a place to sleep."

Toni's eyes widened disbelievingly at how Cheryl's eyes seemed to soften a fraction. "Are you offering?" She scoffed. 

"I know a place. Follow me on that death machine of yours." She gave Toni's bike a disapproving look before sauntering away to her red convertible. 

The serpent debated following for a while, there was a chance this was a prank or something, because in what universe was Cheryl Blossom ever nice to any of the serpents? But honestly, she didn't really have much to lose at this point, so she huffed and shoved her helmet over her head. If anything happened, she had her pocket knife tucked into her serpent jacket and she knew how to fight better than some of the boys in her gang. 

She followed Cheryl until she pulled up at Pop's, where she got out of the car and waited for Toni at the door. 

Toni raised an eyebrow. "You're taking me to a diner? I haven't eaten here before, but I'm pretty sure they don't offer free housing."

Cheryl rolled her eyes, looking increasingly annoyed even though she was the one who dragged Toni along. "God just shut up for a second, will you? Also, I'm ignoring the fact that you've never had food from here, thats just a travesty."

"This is a northsider hangout," She grumbled back while they headed inside. 

Cheryl ignored her, leading her to the back of the place towards a phone booth. "What's your favorite flavor of milkshake?"

"Uhh chocolate?" Toni was becoming increasingly confused as to what was going on when Cheryl pushed the wall open, revealing a staircase. 

"Veronica Lodge runs a speakeasy down here. Its quite a booming business, even though there's no actual alcohol. At least...most of the time." The redhead flicked the lights on, revealing a bar and multiple tables, a stage, and couches lining the edges. 

Toni looked around as they walked further. "And does Lodge know that I'm here?" 

Cheryl shrugged. "She will in bit. Her and two other Vixens are meeting me here to hang out."

Toni's eyes widened, immediately on edge. "Whoa, what the hell? I'm not here to get stuck in a room with bunch of you stuck up northsiders."

Cheryl rolled her eyes, smirking lightly. "What's wrong, scared we're gonna rip you apart?" Toni snorted. "Relax, its not like I want to hang out with you. You can do something in a corner or whatever. You're free to leave anytime you want, but good luck finding another place to stay. I'll be back." 

She headed back up the stairs, leaving Toni to walk over to one of the couches and sit down. The furniture was nice, ridiculously soft and comfortable. It was probably more expensive than all of her things combined. She sighed, dropping her bag on the ground. It wasn't ideal, spending the night in a northsider speakeasy surrounded by northsiders, but it would have to do for now. 

Cheryl returned, carrying two milkshakes. She handed the chocolate on to Toni, taking what she guessed was strawberry for herself. The redhead walked away to sit at the bar, not even addressing Toni, who was staring dumfounded at the milkshake in her hands. 

The serpent shook her head, quickly standing up and following Cheryl. "Wait hold on a second, what is this?"

"A milkshake," she said as if explaining something to a child. "Do they not have those on the Southside? A milkshake is a drink made of-"

Toni rolled her eyes, cutting her off. "I know what a milkshake is, I mean why'd you give it to me? and offer me a place to stay? Why are you being so nice to me?"

Cheryl shrugged, taking a long sip of her drink. "I don't know your reasons for not having a place to sleep, but if its anything that I think it could be...I know what its like to have a messed up family." She shrugged again. "And the milkshake is so you don't start whining for food any time soon, cause I know you didn't eat lunch."

"What, how do you know that?"

Toni's mind was spinning, trying to wrap her mind around everything she was learning about Cheryl and trying to link it to everything she already knew. 

The redhead was saved from having to respond by the sound of heels clicking against the ground, announcing the arrival of Veronica, followed by Betty Cooper and Josie McCoy. They both turned around, the other girls seeming to stop short at the sight of Toni. 

"Um, Cheryl? Care to explain what a Southside serpent is doing in my speakeasy?"

Toni fought to suppress an eye roll at the girl talking about her like she wasn't even there, like she wasn't an actual person. 

Cheryl strode over to them, talking in a low voice that Toni couldn't quite manage to catch, but she saw Veronica shoot Cheryl a surprised look before her eyes fell on Toni, giving her a quick once over, the other girls doing the same. Toni felt strangely exposed, not to mention out of place, in this fancy speakeasy surrounded by privileged northsiders talking about her. 

Veronica finally nodded. "Okay, just don't cause any trouble."

Toni actually did roll her eyes at that. They really did think the absolute lowest of the serpents. She gave a mock salute, grabbing her milkshake from where she left it and dropping down on the couch in the corner. She found an outlet and plugged her phone out before pulling her camera out of her bag, flipping through some of the photos she had taken earlier in the day. Toni realized sunset would be approaching soon, and she had never captured from the Northside before. 

She stood quickly, pulling the strap of her camera around her neck and tying her hair up, heading back towards the stairs. 

"Where are you going?"

She heard Betty call after her, but she only waved a hand and said, "I'll be back."

Toni stepped out of Pop's, glancing around with a grin at everything around her. It was like a blank canvas to her, filled with things she had never photographed before, and with the sun slowly creeping lower and lower in the horizon, it was perfect. She crouched down, snapping photos of anything and everything that attracted her eye. Eventually, when the sun was halfway gone and painting the sky in beautiful shades of reds, pinks, and oranges, she shimmied up a water pipe so she could stand on the roof of the diner to capture it. Soon, the light had faded and she jumped back down to head inside, her eyes glued to the camera screen as she flicked through the photos with a satisfied smile on her face. 

She stepped into the speakeasy, ignoring as the girls looked at her and instead went to her phone, finding it blowing up with calls and messages from Sweet Pea, Fangs, and a few from Jughead. She answered as Sweet Pea called again, rolling her eyes and growling, "I'm fine."

"Jesus, answer your phone! Last I heard you didn't have a place and then you go dark?! I thought you had gotten snatched by Ghoulies or some Bulldogs!"

"Oh my god you sound like my parent or something. I was just outside taking photos of the Northside, and besides I'm not defenseless, christ."

"I know that." His voice softened. "I just got worried." 

Toni bit her lip, immediately feeling guilty for snapping. "I know, I know, sorry. I'm okay, Pea. I'll text Fangs so he stops freaking out too."

"Alright." He cleared his throat, hardening his voice and going back to normal. "You better show me some of the dope pictures you took tomorrow."

She grinned. "I will, don't worry. They came out pretty nice."

"Well, see you tomorrow then. Night Tiny."

She hung up, bringing a hand up to rub her temple before shooting Fangs a quick text. After taking a breath she whirled around and crossing her arms when she heard Cheryl say something. 

"Your phone wouldn't shut up. You're boyfriend is way too overprotective."

Toni grit her teeth. "He's not my boyfriend."

At this Veronica let out an incredulous, "Really? Because when a guy spams your phone like that it usually means he's into you."

The thought of her dating Sweet Pea made her wrinkle her nose. "Not that its any of you northsiders' business, but I prefer girls anyways."

Betty let out a disbelieving hum. "Does he know that?"

"God you're all so infuriating! He's like my brother!" They shot each other amused looks, which only further pissed Toni off. 

She went back to the couch, shrugging out of her serpent jacket and laying down, shoving earbuds into her ears. God, she knew this was a bad idea. 

She finished looking through her photos, deleting the ones that didn't come out so well. Toni pursed her lips, her tongue poking out as she paused at a photo, trying to figure out what looked off about it. The lighting seemed okay, but the angle was a little iffy-

Her train of thought was interrupted by Veronica approaching her. "We're heading home now. Pop's gonna lock up the store and leave at 11, so after that you'll be on your own until tomorrow morning. Don't mess with any of my stuff. Also, don't tell any of your friends about this place. A lot of the Bulldogs spend time here so a serpent showing up won't end well."

Toni nodded without looking up until she felt a hand grip her shoulder. She tensed and looked up at Cheryl, who had taken Veronica's place, with a raised eyebrow. 

"Type 0834 into the phone upstairs to unlock the door if you ever need a place to crash another night. Except on weekends since the place will be full of people those days." 

"Okay. Thanks," She mumbled, her eyes going back to her camera. She heard the vixens leave, and finally let out the breath she didn't realize she was holding. How could Cheryl go from being the absolute worst to surprisingly kind in a matter of seconds?

She shook her head, trying to rid her thoughts of the redhead by turning up her music. 

 

Chapter Text

When Toni went to school the next day, she didn't know why she expected things to be any different, but she was still a little disappointed when the only time Cheryl looked her way was to sneer and make a snide comment. She hadn't even walked into the school yet, but she could already feel the holes being burned into the back of her head. At least once the day was over, it was finally the weekend.

She met back up with Fangs and Sweet Pea, who immediately asked where she had spent the night.

"Some abandoned place on the Northside."

Fangs nudged her shoulder, a smirk growing on his face. "So what was it like, going to the dark side?"

"Did the northsiders have claws?"

Toni snorted, pushing Sweet Pea's shoulder slightly. "You guys are ridiculous."

They walked through the doors to find a huge group of kids gathered around the middle of the hall, where the school crest was painted on the floor. The three serpents exchanged a glance before shoving their way through the crowd, the other kids steering clear and staring at them with bewildered eyes. Toni's own eyes widened as she looked at the bright green snake, clearly forming an s, painted over the symbol.  She looked over to Fangs and Sweet Pea, hissing out, "Did either of you do this?"

They both quickly shook their head, Sweet Pea's brow furrowing as he looked around. "We're not idiots. Where's Jones?"

Toni looked up, finding Jughead's beanie-wearing head over the crowd. She grabbed the other boys' arms, pulling them towards him. He looked up at their arrival.

"Good I was looking for you guys."

He led them into a classroom where all the other serpents attending Riverdale High were gathered. Sweet Pea crossed his arms. "Who the hell did this?"

They were met with silence, all the other serpents looking around.

"Come on guys, seriously who was it?" Jughead prodded further.

One of the serpents in the back crossed his arms. "Jones, if any of us did this, we would be owning it."

The other murmured agreements.

"Well then who else has the motive to paint a serpent s over the school symbol?"

The room was quiet, up until Toni sat bolt upright, reaching out to grip Fangs' shoulder. "The Bulldogs. They want to get us out of here. The school's gonna blame this on us without a second thought and probably suspend us all."

Protests and shouts of anger rang through the room, calling for bulldog blood. They stormed out of the room and ran right into Principal Weatherbee.

"Serpents. Follow me to my office."

Toni exchanged a worried glance with Jughead when nobody moved, but when Weatherbee turned and asked, "Should I call security?" everyone began moving.

Once they were all crammed into the small room, the principal sitting at his dest, he folded his hands in front of him. "I trust you all know what this is about?" When nobody responded, he continued anyway. "This is defacing of school property, and whoever is responsible is facing a weeks suspension." His gaze slid from one face to the next, studying them. "Well if no one comes forward, then I suppose I'll have to suspend all of you." He raised an eyebrow.

"Principal Weatherbee, this wasn't any of us. The football players-" Jughead tried to explain, but the principal only raised a hand and cut him off.

"So all of you would like to get suspended? Very well then, starting-"

"It was me."

All eyes turned to her, and Sweet Pea quietly whisper-yelled, "Tiny what are you doing?"

Ignoring him, she moved closer to Weatherbee, who had turned to look at her. "I was angry about getting detention yesterday and since I got out late I did it since the school was mostly empty and I knew no one would see me."

It was silent for a moment before the principal said, "Ms. Topaz, I have to say I'm disappointed. Well, then I suppose the rest of you are innocent in this case. Go finish this school day. Your suspension will start Monday."

As soon as they were far enough from the office, Fangs grabbed her arm and pulled it sharply. "Why would you do that? You weren't actually the one who did it!"

"I know, but if all of us got suspended it gives those assholes exactly what they want. Gives them free rein of the school for an entire week. We can't fight this if we're suspended! Besides, I have the highest grades so I'm the only one who could afford to miss school."

"This is bullshit, you shouldn't be taking the fall for this!"

"I know, it sucks Pea, but it was the smart thing to do! Just rub it in the northsiders' faces that their plan didn't work." She grabbed his shoulder. "Let's go to class."

She could tell most of the serpents were still fuming, but several of them clapped a hand on her shoulder or called out their thanks as they passed by her.

Toni eventually made it back to class, feeling all eyes instantly slide over to her the moment she walked in. She hugged her jacket closer to her chest, plopping down in her seat as nonchalantly as she could.                                              

She could already tell it was going to be a long few weeks.

****

Monday came around quickly, and Cheryl instantly noticed the absence of one Toni Topaz. Everyone put two and two together, and based on the fact that the pink haired serpent was the only serpent missing from the halls of Riverdale Hall, she must have taken the blame for the graffiti.

Cheryl hated how aware she was of Toni's absence. Every class period she found herself distracted by the fact that Toni wasn't there for her to talk to, even if it was just to bicker. She would walk down the halls with that better than you smirk and no one specific she wanted to direct it at. She hated how much of her day she spent talking to or glaring at the serpent, and now that she was gone she hardly spoke at all during school. Don't get any ideas, she was still the HBIC and demolished anyone in her path, but it was nowhere near the amount of before. And rumor had it that it would be like this for at least the entire week.

On Tuesday, on another day that seemed to last an eternity, she headed to Pop's after school. She planned on hiding out in the speakeasy until late at night, enjoying some alone time. Veronica told her, Betty, and Josie that they were welcome to use the place anytime they wanted, and it had become Cheryl's go-to place when she didn't want to deal with her mother and let down her school persona. She could relax without having to put on an act, finally taking a breather.

But as she descended the steps into the speakeasy, she furrowed her brow to see the light already on. As far as she knew, none of the other girls were going to be there today.

She stopped short when she looked over and saw none other than Toni Topaz curled up on a couch. She looked hurt, her lip bleeding, and the side of her face red, looking likely to swell up in a few hours. And judging by the way the girl was laying down, her ribs weren't doing so good either.

Cheryl debated turning and going back up to pretend she never saw Toni there. The serpent was asleep, she would never know.

She bit her lip, looking between the girl and the door, before letting out a huff and setting her bag down. She might as well stay until she could get a serpent to pick her up because Toni was clearly in no shape to be riding that death bike of hers.

Cheryl moved behind the bar, grabbing a rag and wrapping ice cubes with it. She filled a cup with ice too, taking all of them over to where Toni was laying. The girl's face was relaxed, although a bit furrowed from pain, most likely, and Cheryl wasn't really sure on how to go about waking her. She reached a hand out slowly, before quickly pulling it back.

God, what was she doing?

Before she could back out, her hand fell carefully on the serpent's shoulder, nudging her slightly.

Toni woke up almost instantly, her eyes widening in in panic and hands flying up. Cheryl quickly backed up, giving her room and holding her hands out in front of her.

"Hey, hey, calm down."

Toni held back a hiss of pain, blinking grogginess from her eyes as she looked around, her mind slowly catching up. Her eyes widened at the sight of Cheryl.

"How long ago did school end?"

The redhead checked the time. "A little less than an hour."

Toni cursed, stretching her arm towards her bag to grab her phone, but as the motion pulled at the skin of her ribs she let out a pained groan, immediately recoiling.

Cheryl rolled her eyes. "Yeah maybe don't try to do that." She knelt by the couch placing the rag with ice over Toni's stomach, letting her adjust it to where it hurt. She held out the glass. "Hold some of these to your face. It'll help with the swelling." She grabbed a few of the pillows on the other couches. "You should try to sit up a little. Laying down like that isn't good."

Toni eyed her skeptically before allowing Cheryl to grab her arm, carefully pulling her upright. She placed an ice cube on her cheekbone, sighing in relief. "How do you know how to do this?" She breathed.

Cheryl turned away there, walking back behind the bar. She bit her lip, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, then shrugging lightly. "I've been hit a couple times. Believe it or not serpent, my life isn't perfect."

Toni didn't respond, and they fell into an uneasy silence as Cheryl came back over, reaching out with a paper towel to gently wipe away the blood dripping from Toni's upper lip. She seemed to realize what she was doing, cradling the other girl's cheek while her lips were dangerously close, and she quickly cleared her throat, backing up. She pushed the paper towel into Toni's hand, telling her to finish cleaning it.

She went up the stairs before the other girl could respond, ordering a large basket of fries and sitting at the counter as she waited. Her fingers thrummed on the counter, wondering what she would answer when Toni inevitably asked that one question.

Why are you being so nice to me?

Cheryl dreaded that question because she didn't even know the answer herself. Why was she helping Toni? Ever since they had met they had done nothing but tear into each other, class after class.

Her train of thought was interrupted by Pop bringing the fries with a warm smile. She paid him, thanking him for the fries and heading back down the stairs. Toni had apparently given up on using the ice on her face and instead popped a cube in her mouth.

Cheryl rolled her eyes at that, pulling a chair over next to the couch and resting the basket in her lap. "You know I gave you those for your face, not for you to eat."

Toni smiled sheepishly, biting down on the ice with a crunch, quickly swallowing it. "My bad. Can you pass me my phone?"

The redhead held out a fry. "Eat something first."

The serpent raised an eyebrow. "What are you, my mother?"

Cheryl rolled her eyes, something she seemed to be doing a lot lately towards Toni. "No, but from the looks of you, you haven't eaten anything in a while, and if you're going to heal you need to have energy in your system."

Toni couldn't seem to think of a convincing argument to that, so she huffed and plucked the fry from her mind, quickly eating it. "There, now can you pass me my bag?"

In lieu of a reply, Cheryl held out the basket, coupled with a glare, prompting her to eat more. As they shared the fries, the northsider couldn't help but ask. "So what happened? Too bored without school so you decided to pick a fight?"

Toni clenched her jaw, a scowl twisting her face. "My uncle didn't take my suspension so well."

Cheryl slowly nodded, taking in this information. Instead of traveling down the uncle road, she instead asked, "Why'd you do the S anyway? You must've known you would get suspended."

"I didn't do the S!" She snarled, more aggressively than she meant to. Taking a breath, she continued. "Your Northside football players were trying to get all of us suspended. We all would've ended up suspended if I didn't tell Weatherbee that it was me."

"Why would you take the blame for that?"

"Wasn't about to let the Bulldogs win. Besides, the serpents are my family, I would readily die for them."

Cheryl didn't know what that felt like. What it was like to be so loyal to a group of people, to love them so much to be willing to sacrifice her own life for them. Granted, if she could bring JJ back at the price of her own life, she would gladly take the deal, but Jason was gone. Now, there wasn't anyone she cared about.

The redhead finally grabbed Toni's bag, handing it to her and taking note of the other girl's wince. "You need to call your friends?"

Toni bit her inside of her cheek, staring at her phone screen before reaching up to rub a frustrated hand through her hair. "They're gonna do something stupid."

Cheryl shrugged. "So just stay here for a while and tell them you decided to head out of town for a bit. Show up to school Monday and say you fought some guy in a town far from here, so they can't do anything about it."

The serpent looked at her shocked. "How the hell did you think of that so fast?"

She smirked. "I guess I'm just smarter than you."

Toni scoffed, shaking her head. "How do you know I can stay here? Won't your friends wanna come down? And what about when the place is actually open?"

"Don't worry, I can take care of that."

Toni paused at that but eventually nodded. "Yeah, okay." She shot Fangs and Sweet Pea a text, letting them know that she was using the suspension to ride on her bike out of town for a while. "Hopefully I won't hurt this bad by Monday."

"You'll at least look better than you do now."

"I'm insulted, Blossom."

"You look like a mess right now, Cha-Cha. Can't be mad at me for speaking the truth."

It was nice, being able to talk with Toni and let the easy banter flow without the aggressiveness and spite that was always present at school.

Cheryl searched her bag for a painkiller, grinning triumphantly when she found one and handed it to the girl. After Toni had swallowed it she looked up at Cheryl.

"Why are you acting so different towards me now?"

There it was. That dreaded question, only worded differently.

When the redhead didn't respond, Toni spoke softer. "I thought you hated me."

Cheryl crossed her arms, heading to her bag so the other girl couldn't see her face. "Who said I don't? This doesn't make us friends. Believe it or not, I'm not a monster. I'm not going to leave someone bleeding and barely able to move by themselves, regardless of who they are."

Toni didn't answer at first, and when Cheryl looked over she found her staring up at the ceiling, an unreadable look in her eyes. "If you're staying out of pity or guilt or whatever, you can leave."

Cheryl scoffed at that, shaking her head. "God, get over your pride."

They fell into a tense silence as Cheryl settled down on the couch next to Toni's, looking over every time she heard a soft grunt of pain. The spot was perfect since she could keep an eye on the girl without her even knowing. She found herself back in this spot the next day and the one after that. She would come bearing clothes and various foods, sometimes snuck out of Thistlehouse, sometimes bought upstairs, and make sure Toni ate some. She always left food behind for Toni to eat in the mornings, when Cheryl wasn't there, but when she returned it was exactly as she left it.

She didn't know why Toni wouldn't eat, and she didn't ask, considering they hardly spoke. She would give the girl more ice for her bruises, noticing as the swelling in her face slowly died down and the cut on her lip eventually faded into a scab. But they wouldn't say much, Cheryl only murmuring quietly to urge Toni to eat or not lay in the same position for too long, and Toni muttering her thanks.

Cheryl was scrolling through her social media while Toni had some sort of novel in her hands, and eventually, the quiet didn't feel as awkward. It was almost comforting. Cheryl had always appreciated the quiet since it allowed her a moment to breathe, but sharing that silence with someone else made her feel warmer than she cared to admit. Just the knowledge that someone was sitting nearby, someone who didn't degrade her at every turn (though they argued, it wasn't the same as what her mother put her through), someone who didn't instantly bow down at her feet.

So maybe that was why she was being nice to Toni because the girl didn't instantly cave when she sent her glares, and instead threw one back. While most of the school steered clear from her path, Toni was a boulder in the middle, stubborn and defiant and telling her to go around. She actually treated her like a person, not a creature to be terrified of. Yes, Cheryl knew most of the school was only scared of her because she made it that way, but Toni stared straight into her eyes when she was at her most vicious and didn't flinch.

"You know Cha-Cha, I don't hate you."

She didn't know where the words came from, and part of her was angry for ruining the silence, but the other urged her to have an actual conversation with Toni, who was currently sitting up slowly and turning to look at Cheryl, one eyebrow raised.

"You don't?"

"Part of me did, I think, when you first got here. Because you were so...confident in yourself. You never cared what people thought of you, you were just yourself." Cheryl let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding. She didn't know why she was telling her this, but for some reason the thought of Toni thinking Cheryl hated her was suddenly unbearable. "And I hated that because you were something I could never be. I turn into another person at school because I'm so terrified of what would happen if someone learned who I really was. I hated that about you, so I tried to tear you down. And when I found out that-that you were into girls too, and were so proud and open about it I hated you even more, because I could barely admit it to myself, much less to the entire school. I hated everything you stood for."

Cheryl didn't know how Toni suddenly moved so fast, but before she knew it the girl was sitting next to her. If the serpent was surprised by her sudden confession, she didn't show it and instead tentatively placed her hand over the redhead's. Cheryl reached up quickly to wipe away tears she didn't realize had fallen.

"I never really hated you," Toni whispered, so soft and gentle that more tears slid from Cheryl's face and replaced the ones she had just wiped.

Toni wrapped an arm around Cheryl's shoulders, pulling the girl into her side. Cheryl actually let out a whimper at the action, not having realized how touch starved she was. It had been so long since someone had even really touched her, much less given her hug, and she had grown used to it.

Until now.

Now, when she finally let out a sob that had been building in the back of her throat for months and allowed herself to be held by a Southside Serpent.

****

Cheryl didn't realize she had fallen asleep, but when she woke up she was nearly on top of Toni, her head resting over the girl's chest. Her head hurt from her fit of tears earlier, and she carefully wormed her way out of Toni's grip, being mindful of her still healing ribs. She didn't understand why Toni let the redhead lay like that, considering how much weight the position was putting on her torso.

A glance at her phone told Cheryl that it was almost midnight, and she cursed herself for not realizing how late it was. She began gathering her things quickly, knowing the earful that awaited her if her mother was still awake.

Whether from the sound of movement or the lack of warmth on top of her, Toni slowly blinked her eyes open, sitting up to watch as Cheryl put things away.

"Hey."

Cheryl looked over at the sound of the soft voice. "I have to go. It's late."

"Are you okay? You kind of fell asleep before we could talk."

"Nothing left to talk about." She shrugged. "We don't hate each other."

"Cheryl..." Toni's protest trailed off as she took in Cheryl's guarded look, even as the girl melted inside at the way her name fell from the serpents lips. Her tongue darted out to lick her lips, drawing Cheryl's eyes there for a moment before she quickly looked away as she slung her bag over her shoulder. Before she could leave though, Toni called out. "Tomorrow's Friday. Do I need to clear out so the speakeasy can open?"

"No. I got Veronica to do a special event Sunday instead of opening today and tomorrow."

"Thanks." Cheryl walked all the way to the bottom of the stairwell before she was stopped again by Toni's voice.

"Will I see you tomorrow?"

Her tone was tentative and careful, but also somewhat hopeful. These past few days hadn't been completely horrible, and she knew that it was mostly due to Cheryl's company.

The redhead hesitated for a long moment, her back turned and hand gripping the railing of the stairs tightly. Eventually, though, she spoke.

"You will."

And with that she climbed the stairs, disappearing through the door.

Chapter Text

Toni spent most of Friday catching up on schoolwork that had been sent for her to complete during her suspension. Once she finished, she pulled out her camera and started taking random photos of things around the speakeasy to satisfy her boredom. She was crouched down, trying to get a lower shot of a glass on the table, when she heard the door open.

True to her word, Cheryl did show up. She placed her things down and raised an eyebrow at Toni.

"Glad to see you up and about."

The serpent flashed a smile, shrugging. "It was time to get off my ass."

Cheryl's nose wrinkled as she came closer. "It's time for you to shower. Lucky for you, my wretched mother is leaving town for the weekend, and once she does we can get you clean."

"We? You gonna help me shower, Blossom?" Toni teased.

The other girl rolled her eyes, reaching forward and flicking Toni's ear, even as her cheeks flushed. Trying to change the conversation, she picked up the box of pizza she had brought, placing it down on the table Toni was just trying to photograph. "Eat up. Then we can head out."

They sat down at the table and dug in. "So what's been going on while I've been missing from school?"

She's heard a few things from texting with Sweet Pea and Fangs, and from what she heard the Bulldogs were pissed off that their plan didn't work. Nobody could go down the hallway without some sort of verbal fight going on. Nobody dared to get physical for fear of getting suspended or expelled. At this point though, tensions were so high it was only a matter of time before something happened.

Cheryl shrugged. "The usual. Northside and Southside drama. I try not to get too involved."

Toni actually snorted at that. "You try not to get too involved? Literally, as soon as we walked in you told us that nobody invited us ragamuffins to your school."

The redhead waved a hand. "That was a long time ago."

"It was like, two weeks ago."

Cheryl looked away, trying to seem as nonchalant as possible. "That was before I learned that some serpents aren't completely unbearable."

Toni pressed a hand to her chest. "I'm flattered, really." She grinned as Cheryl threw a piece of crust at her.

"Shut up Toni."

Toni gasped dramatically there, leaning back and pointing at Cheryl. "That's the first time you've called me by my actual name!"

"No, it isn't. I'm sure I've called you Toni before."

"Uh, yes it is. Its always been Cha-Cha or serpent or snake. Topaz on rare occasions."

"Well, I wasn't the only one! You've hardly ever called me Cheryl."

"But I've done it at least once before."

"God, you're infuriating."

Toni laughed as Cheryl rolled her eyes and shook her head. They finished eating, talking about whatever came to mind until Cheryl stood from her chair. "Let's go, we can leave the rest of this pizza here for Ronnie and some of the boys to finish, they're swinging by the place later. We should head to Thistlehouse, my mother has most likely left by now.

Toni gathered her things together, slipping her serpent jacket over the shirt she was borrowing from Cheryl. She probably looked like a mess, her hair in a half-assed bun, sweatpants that were way too long for her (Toni hated how much taller Cheryl was), and a still healing face. She really hoped none of the annoying Northsiders who went to Riverdale High saw her, or she would never live it down.

She slung her backpack over her shoulder, retrieving her helmet from where it was tucked away in a corner. As soon as Cheryl saw this, she crossed her arms.

"There is no way you are getting on that bike."

"There is no way I'm leaving my baby here. I'm perfectly capable of riding."

"You're still healing!"

"I've healed enough to be able to sit upright on a bike for one ride! Cheryl, I know way more about riding a motorcycle than you do, so trust me when I say I'll be fine."

Cheryl looked like she still didn't agree, but instead of replying she only huffed and began leading the way up the stairs. They bid farewell to Pop, Toni jokingly thanking him for harboring a fugitive in his basement, and headed outside, Toni's eyes lighting up at the sight of her bike. She climbed on, shoving her helmet over her head.

"Don't go too fast."

Toni rolled her eyes. "Don't worry mom, I won't."

She flipped the visor down, revving the engine and taking off. Cheryl followed behind her in her red convertible, honking every time the serpent got too far ahead. Eventually, Toni realized she had no idea where she was going and slowed down, trailing back and trying to ignore the smirk Cheryl gave through her window. It was nice to finally be back on her bike and finally out of the speakeasy. She felt like it had been an eternity since she had last stepped foot into the sunlight. She felt different too. Toni supposed that made sense, considering she was on the Northside about to go to Cheryl Blossom's house, the same Cheryl Blossom who had spent the past weeks bickering with Toni ever since they had met.

Things were definitely different.

But it had only been a few days. It was ridiculous how things could change so quickly and how everything you thought you knew about someone could absolutely turn a different direction.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Cheryl slowed down to type a code and open a gate, and Toni gaped at the sight of the huge mansion. They pulled up, the pink haired serpent craning her neck to try and see all of it.

"Cheryl, holy shi-"

"Language, Cha-Cha. And you haven't even gone inside, calm down."

Cheryl led them inside as Toni followed awestruck. The place was probably bigger than most of the trailer park. Once they entered Cheryl's room (which was bigger than Fangs', Sweet Pea's, and Toni's trailer combined) Cheryl left to get her clothes so she could shower. Toni walked around the room, running her hands over the silk sheets of Cheryl's bed and looking at the few personal items Cheryl had on the walls and dresser. A trophy from a Vixen victory at a competition next to a photo of the squad, a series of photos pinned up of her and her brother and a few with Josie, sometimes with Veronica. Resting on the bed a sketchbook was flipped open, a pencil laying on top of it. Toni cocked her head, moving her head closer and finding that it was a drawing of the inside of the speakeasy. It was only drawn in pencil, but the amount of detail was remarkable, from the shading and the way every single piece of furniture was drawn. Off to the side, Toni saw that Cheryl had drawn the pink-haired serpent laying on one of the couches, but it didn't seem finished.

"I put the clothes and a towel for you in the bathroom so..."

Cheryl trailed off seeing what Toni was looking at. She looked over at Cheryl, a small smile on her face. "Did you draw this, Cheryl? It's amazing."

The redhead blushed in response, snatching the sketchbook off the bed and flipping it closed. She quickly put it away in a drawer with a shrug. "There wasn't much to do down there."

"I'm serious Blossom! You're talented."

"Whatever, miss professional photographer. Just go shower."

Cheryl laid down on the bed with a sigh as Toni went into the bathroom, the girl's words replaying in her mind.

It's amazing.

You're talented.

When was the last time someone had told her anything like that? God knows her mother had never. When a young Cheryl had shown Penelope one her drawings, she was only sneered at.

That will get you nowhere, Cheryl. Stop that little hobby of yours and do something useful with yourself for a change.

She had cried to Jason about it for hours, and his comfort was the only thing that stopped her from abandoning her sketchbooks altogether.

Don't listen to her, she wouldn't know beauty if it hit her in the face. And this artwork is beautiful, don't let mom make you think otherwise. Never stop drawing, okay Cher?

Before she knew it, tears were slipping down Cheryl's face. How she missed Jason. He was the only person who understood what it was like to live under the Blossom roof, the only person who understood the hell that Penelope and Clifford Blossom would put her through every day. Jason was the only person who ever praised her for her accomplishments, who acknowledged her existence, who was the steady wall she could lean on when everything else was crumbling. But then he died. And it felt like most of Cheryl did too. After his death, there was no one there for her to lean on. Instead, she spent countless nights curled up alone. And there was no one there to compliment her over something she did. Victory with the Vixens was expected, so no one congratulated her. Her mother didn't care about her grades, and she didn't dare show anyone her drawings. She felt like she was screaming into the void.

Until now.

Now, Toni looked at her art with nothing but awestruck eyes and said, "It's amazing," and "You're talented."

Toni was there at the speakeasy and held Cheryl and comforted her and now she said that to her. How had the redhead found herself in the company of someone so unequivocally good? Someone who Cheryl had done nothing but attack since they met, someone who still didn't flinch at her and was still willingly here in Thistlehouse.

"Hey, Bombshell? You have a brush I can use? My hair's a bit of a mess."

Cheryl sat up, quickly wiping her tears away as she heard Toni's voice from the bathroom.

"There's one in the top drawer on your right in there."

"Thanks!"

Toni came out of the bathroom, her wet hair up in a messy bun. "That felt like the best shower I've ever had in my life."

"Probably because you haven't showered in days." Cheryl scrunched up her nose at the thought. Toni tried not to think too hard about how adorable she found the expression.

"Well yeah, and the fact that it was with hot water." She grinned, plopping down on the bed next to Cheryl with a contented sigh. "God this bed is amazing."

They fell back into a gentle silence, Toni letting her eyes flutter closed for a moment and revel in the comfort and warmth of an actual bed. She didn't even remember the last time she slept in a bed, after spending so much time couch surfing. 

Cheryl noticed the girl beginning to drift off and decided to let her. She had a feeling Toni didn't sleep in beds too often. Instead, she carefully retrieved her sketchbook, flipping it open to a new page and leaning back against the headboard. Toni was sprawled at the foot of the bed, her face relaxed, and before Cheryl could even pause to think about what it could mean, she was drawing the pink-haired serpent. 

She didn't know how long had passed, long enough for her to manage drawing the curve of Toni's nose and the waves of hair around her head, but eventually, Toni stirred, and Cheryl quickly put her sketchbook away and picked up her phone instead. 

The serpent sat up, rubbing her eyes and blinking rapidly. "Hey sorry, didn't mean to fall asleep there."

Cheryl shrugged. "Don't worry about it. You must've been tired."

"Well, I'm not anymore. So tell me." A mischevious smile spread over Toni's face as she rubbed her hands. "What do you do for fun around here?"

That's how she ended up in a very intense game of Monopoly with the serpent, a game that lasted until almost two in the morning, both of them teasing and laughing the entire time. Their dinner consisted of snacks and junk food that normally Cheryl would have disapproved of, God knows her mother would have, but she found that at the moment she didn't care. Toni eventually handed over the last of her money over to the redhead, frowning. Cheryl was too tired to gloat and they pulled pillows and blankets from her bed, falling asleep right there on top of the board. 

****

The next afternoon, Cheryl found herself in the archery field behind Thistlehouse trying to stop Toni from hurting herself with an arrow. 

Or, in other words, trying to teach the serpent how to use a bow and arrow. 

"Cha-Cha, you need to relax your shoulder, otherwise you're just going to end up launching the arrow all the way into the forest."

Toni grinned widely, her eyes lighting up. "That sounds awesome."

"You're a child." Cheryl rolled her eyes, grabbing Toni's elbow and guiding it back into position. "You keep your face so close to the bow, you're going to cut yourself with the string."

"That can happen?" Toni glanced warily over, moving her face ridiculously far. 

Cheryl huffed. "Not that far. Oh my god, just release the arrow."

Toni straightened up, actually trying to aim now, and let go. She flinched at the snap of the bowstring so close to her ear, and the arrow didn't even touch the target. Cheryl covered her mouth to hold back a laugh when Toni turned to her with a pout. 

"I think you missed-."

"Shut up."

"But I don't know it was a little hard to tell-"

"Stop it."

"It looks like you didn't come too close to the target though."

"Shut up!"

Cheryl did laugh then, walking over to pick the arrow up from the ground. "Oh TT, when will you learn to listen to me?"

"I don't see that happening in the near future." She paused. "Wait, TT? That's a new one." 

The redhead shrugged. "Toni Topaz. TT. It fits." She took the bow from her hand, nocking the arrow. She pulled the string back, feeling the tension against her fingertips before releasing a breath and letting go. She turned with a satisfied and smug smile when the arrow found its mark in the center of the target.

 "You wanna listen to me now?" 

****

Almost two hours later Toni managed to embed an arrow on the outside of the target. They both cheered triumphantly and collapsed down in the grass in a fit of giggles. 

"You should watch out Blossom, before you know it I'm gonna be better than you at that." 

"Oh, I'm so scared. Not like you almost stabbed your own foot with the arrow or anything."

"Okay, so maybe I lack the precision-"

"And class."

"For archery," Toni finished with a glare. They laid in silence for a while, and the serpent wished she had brought her camera out with her so she could get some shots of the range and woods. Eventually, she rolled over to look over at Cheryl. "Okay, so we did your thing. Wanna learn how to use a pocketknife?"

"No." Cheryl's response was immediate. "I'd rather not learn how to use that barbaric weapon."

Toni rolled her eyes. "Fine." She paused, pursing her lips and thinking. "Oh! Come for a ride with me on my bike."

Cheryl narrowed her eyes. "I'd rather not die today."

"Come onnnn. Please? You're not gonna die, I'll go slow."

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"Please?"

The word 'no' was already on the tip of Cheryl's tongue, but it seemed to crawl back in her throat when she met Toni's soft pleading eyes and gentle smile.

"Fine."

"Yes!" 

The serpent jumped to her feet, grabbing Cheryl's arm and pulling the redhead up with her. Cheryl couldn't help the smile that spread over her face at Toni's excitement. They packed up the rest of the archery things and headed inside. 

"We have to eat something first, then we can go on your death-bike."

"Keep calling it that and I'll make sure to go extra fast just for you."

"Don't make me change my mind." 

Cheryl pulled out some leftover lasagne, setting it in the microwave to heat up. Toni ate quickly, denying Cheryl's offer for seconds and darting up the stairs. 

By the time she came back down, the redhead was washing the dishes. Toni had pulled on her boots and braided her hair back, her serpent jacket tugged snugly around her shoulders and camera slung around her neck. 

Cheryl raised an eyebrow. "Do you have to wear that jacket?"

"Won't go anywhere public without it."

She headed towards the door, Cheryl following her. "What if I don't wanna be seen in public with a serpent? I do still have a reputation to uphold."

They both paused at that, reality dawning on them. On Monday, they would have to go back to school. A school where the northside and southside hated each other. Toni's expression soured. She didn't wanna go back to class with Queen Bee Cheryl, she wanted to spend her time with the Cheryl that was playfully sarcastic and snarky and laid in the grass laughing with Toni. The Cheryl that liked to draw when she was bored, who giggled when Toni horribly misfired an arrow, and who did a tiny celebratory dance when she won money in Monopoly. But soon they would have to leave their little bubble away from the turf war. 

Eventually, she tugged her jacket sleeves and pulled them over her wrists, a habit she had picked up when she was little. "Don't worry about your reputation, Bombshell, I know a place in the woods we can drive to. No one will see us."

Cheryl's expression had similarly gotten serious and she silently nodded. When they got Toni's bike, the serpent held out the helmet. 

"There's only one?"

"Yeah, I didn't exactly plan to be having any passengers when I left my trailer."

"What about you?" 

"I've ridden before without a helmet. Also, I feel like you won't get on without a helmet."

Cheryl eyed the helmet being offered to her before sighing and taking it, pulling it over her head. Toni's scent quickly invaded her nose and she inhaled deeply, the smell strangely comforting. 

Toni climbed on her bike, holding a hand out to help Cheryl get on behind her. 

"Hold on tight." 

"But your bruises-"

"Don't hurt as much anymore. Would you rather fall off the bike?"

"This isn't a good idea. There's only one helmet, you're still healing, we should just go back inside."

In response, Toni revved the engine and urged the bike forward a bit. Cheryl yelped at the sudden movement, her hands instantly finding the serpent's waist to steady herself.

"Toni!"

"Don't let go!"

She glanced over her shoulder with a cheeky grin before driving off, the redhead's grip tightening as she leaned into Toni. 

After the initial terror faded, Cheryl found herself relaxing slightly and watching as the world flew by in a blur. Her grip on Toni never lessened though, and she let out a shaky exhale, leaning forward to knock her helmet against the serpent's shoulder. She felt some of the tension in Toni's back lessen at the action. 

The wind rushing against Toni was thrilling, and the lack of a helmet had her eyes watering and her hair whipping back, but somehow the only sensation she could seem to focus on was the feeling of Cheryl pressed against her back, and once the joyful laugh rang in her ears, a sound so carefree and happy, Toni knew she was a goner. 

That laugh that escaped Cheryl's lips had to be the most beautiful thing the serpent had ever heard. She realized she would be willing to do anything to hear it again. The thoughts that she had been pushing back this entire week were suddenly thrust right to the forefront of her mind, and there was no avoiding it anymore. 

She liked Cheryl Blossom. 

Chapter Text

The realization came with a whole mess of other emotions that almost had Toni crashing her bike into a tree. Cheryl's hands squeezing her hips painfully had her swerving to the side to avoid it, before composing herself and throwing a smirk over her shoulder. "What's wrong, don't trust my driving?"

 

Cheryl didn't respond, but Toni just knew she was rolling her eyes.

 

She pulled up where the trail broke into a clearing, parking her bike and jumping off. Cheryl handed her the helmet and slid off, looking around. Once Toni left her helmet dangling on the handle, she turned and tilted her head towards the trees. "Come on, we have to go the rest of the way on foot. The forest is too thick to drive through, even for me."

 

Cheryl nodded, running her hands through her hair to straighten it out as they trekked on. They were quiet and Cheryl spent most of the time watching Toni since the other girl had her camera pressed up to her face and was snapping photos of various birds and plants. At one point she stumbled over a tree root and would have fallen on her face had Cheryl not reached out so fast to catch her arm.

 

Toni smiled sheepishly as she steadied herself, dropping her camera and letting it hang around her neck. "Sorry. This is why Sweet Pea and Fangs don't let me travel in the woods alone." She chuckled lightly.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

She shrugged, turning and leading Cheryl onward. "I get too wrapped up in my photos when I come here. Someone could easily come up to me and I wouldn't even notice. Some Ghoulies showed up one time and almost shivved me, but I managed to get away in time. Ever since that, the boys won't leave me in peace."

 

"Sounds like they really care about you."

 

"Well yeah, they're like my brothers. We take care of each other, they're just...protective, I guess."

 

"Brothers can be like that." Cheryl's voice quieted into barely a whisper as her eyes found the ground, teeth gnawing at her bottom lip.

 

It took a second for Toni to piece it together in her mind. She read about Jason Blossom's murder before, remembers how FP and a few other serpents helped cover it up after being threatened by Clifford. FP had told her to stay far away from the Blossoms, how their family was dangerous territory. The fact that Jason was Cheryl's brother seemed to just click in her brain because she never thought of her as someone mourning. She seemed so strong, so sure of herself, but it never occurred to Toni the amount of pain she must've been in with Jason getting murdered only a year ago.

 

"I remember reading about what happened to Jason...I'm so sorry Cheryl."

 

She pursed her lips, blinking rapidly. "Jason was protective too. It could be overbearing at times, but I knew it came from a good place." 

 

If you had told Toni a month ago, or hell even a week ago, that she would be walking through the woods with Cheryl Blossom and listening to her talk about how good her brother was, she would have laughed in your face. 

 

But now, living this moment, Toni wouldn't change a thing. Especially not once she saw the way Cheryl's face, one that was previously twisted in an attempt to try and hide her pain, lit up when they reached their destination. 

 

They had reached a cliffside overlooking Riverdale, the town seeming so small from up there. You could see the border between the north and south side, the buildings turning from pristine and well taken care of to destitute worn down trailers. 

 

"Wow..."

 

Cheryl gazed out at everything in awe, walking over to the ledge and sitting down. Toni followed after her, sitting cross-legged on the ground at her side. 

 

"Yeah."

 

"How have I lived in this town my whole life, but never once found this place?"

 

The serpent shrugged. "You saw how deep into the forest you have to go. Not to mention remembering where to turn so you end up here instead of the other side of the woods a mile outside of Riverdale." 

 

"How did you find this place?"

 

Toni grew shy there, shifting uncomfortably and licking her lips. "Uh, my parents first brought me here when I was little. They used to spend date nights here. My dad proposed in this clearing." She shrugged again, the corner of her lip twitching. "Its always been important to me. I don't know how my parents found it." 

 

She looked over at Cheryl. "Nobody else really knows this place exists, so I would appreciate it if you kept it that way."

 

The redhead immediately nodded. "Of course."

 

They shared a moment of peaceful silence before Cheryl broke it again. "Why are you showing it to me?"

 

Toni tugged at her sleeves, keeping her eyes glued on the town below them. "I don't know. This place has always been an escape for me...Something tells me you could use an escape like this." She glanced at the other girl and found her looking at her with the softest look on her face, an expression that a while ago Toni never would have thought she was capable of making. 

 

"Thank you, TT."

 

Her lips curled into a small smile and she tilted her head. "I'm glad you found me in the speakeasy last Tuesday."

 

"So am I."

 

"You think we could ever be friends without worrying about what other people thought about it?" She tried to keep her tone light, but she couldn't stop the hope that slipped into it.

 

Cheryl tucked her knees carefully to her chest, her hands curling around her ankles as she gazed out at Riverdale. "I've never had a friend like you..."

 

Toni tilted her head. "What about Veronica and Josie?"

 

Cheryl gently sighed at this, shaking her head slightly. "Those girls are my squad, and don't get me wrong, they are important to me, but they don't really know me. We're all so obsessed with fitting into the status quo, I think we've all lost a bit of ourselves. It's a nice change, spending time with you. Nowadays most people don't want to be anywhere near me."

 

Her words made Toni promise to herself not to act on her newly discovered feelings. Cheryl needed a friend more than ever, and Toni wasn't going to risk ruining that for her over a ridiculous crush. Someone just needed to be there for the redhead and Toni swore she was going to be that person as long as Cheryl wanted her to be, in whatever way she could be. 

 

So she nudged the Blossom gently with her shoulder. "Well, that's unfortunate cause they're really missing out on someone sensational."

 

The redhead's smile widened as she glanced gratefully over at the pink-haired serpent. "Thank you, Toni." 

 

Toni grinned back before they both turned back to the view, the shorter girl standing up to snap a few pictures. As Cheryl closed her eyes, inhaling deeply with a small smile on adorning her face, Toni managed to capture the expression. 

 

Soon Cheryl opened her eyes again, watching the town as her mind wandered. 

 

"Can I borrow your camera?"

 

Toni raised an eyebrow, her grip on it subconsciously tightening. This camera meant the world to her, she spent over a year working to save up money to pay for it, she hardly let anyone lay a hand on it. 

 

Clearly sensing her apprehension, Cheryl tried to reassure her. "I'll back away from the edge, I'll stay sitting so I can't drop it and you can be right next to me. I just want to use it to look closer."

 

Toni bit her lip for a moment before slowly pulling the strap off from around her neck, scooting away from the edge. Cheryl followed her until the serpent seemed satisfied with the distance and handed the camera over to Cheryl, who smiled softly and brought it to her face. 

 

 It was amazing, seeing how small Riverdale looked from up here. How small everyone was. But she used the camera lens to look closer. She saw people on the Northside filtering in and out of Pops, wandering down the streets, arm in arm with a person they loved. A mother pushed a grinning child on a swing set, a father eating ice cream with his daughter a few feet away. She looked over at the Southside and saw a group of serpents tossing a ball back and forth as they talked and laughed, their bikes parked in a group next to them. Sunnyside Trailer Park seemed bursting with life as she zoomed in, a little boy climbing onto the roof of a trailer with a joyful smile as an attentive parent watched him. People sat around a pile of logs as someone tried to light it and start a campfire. They all wore the serpent-emblazoned jacket proudly around their shoulders, and Cheryl caught sight of Sweet Pea and Fangs play fighting as others look on with small smiles on their faces. She had never seen the boys, or any serpent for that matter, without the guarded and threatening looks they wore at school, and it felt strange to see what they were really like. 

 

They were people. They were people, just like anyone else, with emotional ranges that stretched farther than being an intimidating gang member. She understood what Toni meant now when she said the serpents were her family, because out there, sitting around a sparking fire together, they definitely looked like a family. 

 

Suddenly feeling like she shouldn't be watching a moment like that without them even knowing, she lowered the camera from her face and handed it back to Toni, who let it hang from her neck again. 

 

"We should head back. It's getting dark." 

 

Cheryl reluctantly nodded, shivering as the wind blew through her hair. As they walked back toward the trees. 

 

"You cold? You can borrow my jacket if you want, but you'd have to handle the serpent symbol on your back until we get to your house."

 

Cheryl's lip twitched at the joking tone of her voice. "I'm okay Cha-Cha." She glanced around, on edge. "Can we hurry though? Walking through the woods in the dark is creepy." 

 

Toni laughed lightly. "Want to play music so the silence isn't so eerie?" Once Cheryl nodded the serpent pulled out her phone, flipping through Spotify. "You cool with Halsey?" At the redhead's confirmation, she pressed play, and they continued their trek through the woods with music playing from Toni's phone, only loud enough for both of them to hear. Cheryl giggled as Toni's hands gestured to the music, and the girl didn't even seem to realize she was doing it. 

 

Eventually, they made it back to her bike and sooner than Cheryl would've liked they were back on the trail, speeding between trees. They went faster than before, so the redhead just closed her eyes, leaning her head against Toni's shoulders and letting the gentle thrum of the engine against her legs lure her into a peaceful sleep. 

 

Toni pulled to a stop at Thistlehouse, glancing back when Cheryl didn't move. She smiled softly, sliding off the bike and catching the taller girl's head before she fell forward. She blinked quickly as her eyes fluttered open and she sat herself up. 

 

Toni gave her a soft smile. "Hey. We're here." 

 

She turned the engine off, the silence seeming almost deafening. The redhead tugged the helmet off and handed it to Toni. They headed inside and decided to watch Netflix, bundling blankets up in the living room and getting bowls of popcorn. Eventually, they both agreed on watching Friends, so they settled comfortably in. They watched almost an entire season before passing out. 

 

****

 

Toni slowly awoke from the sunlight streaming in through the giant living room windows. She carefully sat up, trying to stifle a groan as her joints popped and the sore skin around her ribs stretched. 

 

Cheryl was on the other side of the couch, awake already, but it didn't look like she had gotten up yet. She gave a lazy smile as Toni completely woke herself up, setting her phone down on the coffee table. 

 

The serpent looked at her with a ridiculously dopey grin, and it might've just been a result of early morning delirium, but something about waking up to the sun shining right on Cheryl's face had her feeling disgustingly content. 

 

"Hey."

 

Cheryl chuckled lightly at the simple greeting and the wide smile on the other girl's face. 

 

"Hi." 

 

Eventually, she moved, pushing the blanket off her lap so she could stand. "My mother should be returning around noon, so we should hurry if you want to get breakfast with me."

 

Toni cocked her head to the side at the word choice. Breakfast with me. Cheryl seemed to register it at the same moment it left her mouth since her cheeks became colored with a light pink.

 

"Get dressed Cha-Cha, we can go to Pop's for breakfast."

 

Toni buried her face dramatically back into a pillow. "That's too far."

 

"Well I think you ate all the food we have here, so we have to go out and get some," Cheryl teases. 

 

The shorter girl winced, feeling guilty for letting Cheryl feed her for so long. "Yeah, sorry abo-"

 

The redhead didn't even let her finish, cutting her off before the girl can apologize. "Don't worry about it, Toni. I was teasing. Besides, I'm not sure this house could ever run out of food. I'll go find something."

 

Toni looked up in time to see the fond smile playing on Cheryl's lips as she glanced at her before heading towards the kitchen. She tried not to think too hard about it. 

 

After a while, Toni managed to haul herself to her feet and upstairs towards Cheryl's room. She gathered her belongings that had been strewn around the area during her time spent there. She changed out of the clothes Cheryl had let her borrow, putting on her own and slipping the leather jacket comfortably over her shoulders. After shooting Sweet Pea and Fangs a text saying that she would be back later that day, she headed downstairs with her backpack in hand. 

 

Cheryl couldn't help the way her face fell when she saw Toni coming down the steps with all her things packed up. The week was really coming to an end. This time tomorrow they would be back at school, with everyone's judgemental looks and assumptions on who they were. 

 

She tried to eat slowly, trying to prolong Toni's departure for as long as possible, but their plates emptied anyway. 

 

She walked Toni to the door, leaning against the frame as the girl lingered right outside. 

 

"Thanks for everything, Bombshell."

 

"Thank you, Toni, for not making me feel like a monster."

 

The serpent gave a small smile, throwing a glance at her bike before letting out a breath. "So is this goodbye, back to being enemies?"

 

Cheryl pondered it for a moment, studying Toni's face. "I hope not. I hope things eventually change for good between the serpents and the northsiders."

 

"Yeah. Me too."

 

They both fell silent until Toni held out her hand and asked for Cheryl's phone, plugging in her number before giving it back. 

 

"For when things eventually change," she explained with a small smile. And with that, she turned and got on her bike, pulling out of Thistlehouse.

Chapter Text

Toni carefully pulled up at her trailer, dumping her things there and changing into new clothes before heading to the Whyte Wyrm where she was meeting the boys. She found them sitting on bar stools sipping beers, so she came up behind them, worming her way into the middle and slinging an arm around each of their necks.

"Hey losers," she grinned. "You miss me?"

They both laughed, Sweet Pea reaching out to mess with her hair. "Not at all, actually."

"It was great getting to take a break from you for a bit," Fangs added cheekily.

Toni rolled her eyes, shoving him out of his seat and stealing it. "Assholes."

"How was your trip?"

She shrugged. "Good, I guess. Didn't really do much."

"Well, at least you didn't have to do homework," Fangs grumbled over the lip of his beer bottle.

"Actually they still sent me stuff to do so I did do homework."

Sweet Pea snorted. "Nerd."

"Dumbass," she shot back without missing a beat.

"Smartass."

"Oaf."

"Hobbit."

"You really gotta bring my height into everything, don't you?"

He laughed. "Not my fault you're the size of little gremlin, Tiny."

He stood up quickly and bolted behind the pool table to avoid the smack that was surely coming his way.

Toni and Fangs followed him, small smiles on their faces, even as the girl shook her head. "You're a nightmare."

"You left me with him for a whole week!"

She turned to Fangs with a raised eyebrow. "Oh? I thought it was great to get a break from me?"

In response, he grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder, running around the bar with Sweet Pea chasing after them.

"Fangs! Put me down!" Toni laughed, watching as Sweet Pea jumped over a table, not even caring about the people staring at them. He managed to catch up to Fangs and snag the back of his shirt, pulling Toni from his arms. She winced as his hands gripped her ribs, but she tried to cover it with a chuckle.

"Oh my god, could you two put my feet back on the ground?"

"Wow, you don't weigh anything. It's like lifting a grocery bag."

"Like you've ever done groceries in your life."

She grabbed his ear and tugged, grinning triumphantly when he yelped and reluctantly set her down.

They eventually calmed down, sitting at a table together.

"So how are things with the Bulldogs? Did you manage not to pick a fight while I was gone?" Toni raised an eyebrow and pointedly looking at their knuckles.

"We didn't fight anyone, but it seems like you did. I saw your face when Sweet Pea picked you up." Fangs looked her over, his voice softening. "You alright Tiny?"

She shrugged. "Nothing I can't handle. You should see the other guy."

"And the other guy was..?" Sweet Pea prompted, sitting up straighter as his knuckles tightened around his bottle.

Toni rolled her eyes. "Just some guy who thought he was tougher than he was. Get out of fight mode, you oaf, he's not even in Riverdale."

He huffed. "Lucky him. This town sucks."

"Guessing things aren't going any better?"

"Honestly, it's been pretty quiet. It's weird. The Bulldogs haven't done anything big since they got you suspended." Fangs bit his lip. "We keep waiting for them to do something, but all that's happened are small fights that never get physical."

She furrowed her brow. "That's a good thing though, right? Could mean they've given up, that would be the smart thing to do."

"Or it means they're planning something big. You know, the calm before the storm and all that. Besides, it's not like the Northsiders are smart."

Sweet Pea snorted. "Yeah, they're all a bunch of stuck up demons who think they're better than everyone else." He held up two fingers to his forehead to mimic devil horns. Fangs laughed, nodding and doing the same, hissing for effect.

Before, Toni would've agreed and joined them. She would've jumped at the idea of making fun of the northside. But that was before. Now, she had met Cheryl and had learned that things weren't as simple as they seemed.

They weren't all a bunch of demons.

****

Cheryl strutted down the halls of Riverdale High with her Vixens at her side, the mob of students instantly clearing a path at the sound of their footsteps. It was like any other day of school.

Except it wasn't.

Because Toni Topaz was returning from her suspension today, and Cheryl had to use every ounce of self-control in her body not to turn at the sound of the pink-haired serpent's voice echoing down the halls as she laughed with the ruffians she called brothers. And during class, Cheryl almost traded the glare she usually sent Toni for a small smile instead. Almost. She still glared, and she swore she something flash behind Toni's eyes before the girl quickly covered it up, sending a dirty look back.

So everyone else thought it was like a normal day at school, but to Cheryl and Toni, things were very different. They had to force themselves to hate each other, Cheryl's sneers feeling like crumbling and Toni's scoffs feeling like breaking apart.

Cheryl almost managed through the entire week without breaking. But she couldn't help it. She couldn't help how free she had felt messing around with Toni, and the time they had spent together was more enjoyable than anything else going on at the moment. So on Thursday during her free period, she opened Toni's contact for what had to be the twentieth time that week and sent her a text.

Meet me at the spot around 6?

It only took Toni a moment to respond.

Hello to you too, stranger. Who is this?

Cheryl shook her head, trying not to be amused by the girl's antics. It didn't work.

You know who it is Cha-Cha

Are you joining me or not

Toni texted back a second later, causing Cheryl to reach a hand up to hide her smile from any staring teenagers.

I'll be there

Just added Bombshell to my contacts ;)

The redhead didn't bother responding and instead put her phone away to actually work on school. She found herself spending the entire rest of the school day waiting for the clock to turn so that she could go escape from reality.

When that much-awaited hour finally arrived signaling the end of Vixen's practice, she scooped up her bag, practically jumping into her car and taking off. She drove until the edge of the woods, parking there and sitting on the hood to wait for the serpent since she didn't have the path memorized. After what felt like forever, a motorcycle that was definitely going over the speed limit skidded to a stop in front of her.

Toni tugged her helmet off, placing a foot on the ground to stop her bike from tipping over. She gave a small grin, tilting her head. "Fancy seeing you here."

Cheryl rolled her eyes. "Took you long enough to get here."

She shrugged. "Had to finish up my shift at the Wyrm. Not my fault you're so impatient."

The taller girl wrinkled her nose, sliding off the hood to walk over to her. "The Wyrm? Isn't that a bar on the Southside?"

Toni nodded. "Yeah. Also the serpent hangout."

"Isn't you working there illegal? Considering you're not even old enough to drink?"

Toni scoffed, letting out a light laugh. "Not like anyone cares."

"God, I can't even begin to imagine the number of drunk men who try and sleep with a pretty girl who works in a bar."

A smirk stretched over the serpent's face. "Did you just call me pretty?"

Cheryl blushed furiously. "Uh-no-I mean-"

Toni laughed, reaching out to gently touch her arm. "Don't hurt yourself there, I'm just teasing, Blossom. Anyways, drunk and horny men just means more tips, which reminds me..." She reached into her bag, shuffling its contents around before pulling out a wad of cash, holding it out to the redhead who only stared at it with a raised eyebrow. "It's for all the money you paid last week to feed me. Like all the times you brought me dinner from Pop's and stuff."

"I don't want your money, Toni. Keep it, you need it more than I do. I have more than enough." Cheryl immediately denied the offer, pushing Toni's hand back.

"Come on, please just take it? I feel bad that you had to take care of me the last week and I didn't do anything in return."

The redhead shook her head again, smiling softly. "You did so much for me, Toni. Keep the money, you gave me enough."

The shorter girl huffed, glaring at her for a moment before relenting and pocketing the money. "Fine. You gonna follow me to the clearing in your car?"

"Actually...I was hoping we could go on your bike again?" Cheryl asked shyly with a timid smile on her face.

Toni grinned. "Not such a death-bike now, is it? Climb on." She held the helmet out, which Cheryl took without arguing this time.

They rode through the woods, the rush of wind around them as the colors flashed by in a blur settling deep into Cheryl's bones, and she felt like she could breathe again. Like she was always holding her breath around everyone else, but Toni was fresh air that she could finally allow herself to inhale.

She gripped Toni's waist, pinching the rough leather between her fingertips. Her eyes found the serpent emblazoned on the back, staring back and taunting her. Reminding her of how different they really were, and how even their smallest interactions that went past hatred weren't welcome at Riverdale High.

Without thinking she was reaching her hand out, using a finger to trace over the symbol. The serpents were so proud, and Cheryl wished she could understand how strongly they believed in this. She had noticed the way Toni's shone and the pride in her voice when she spoke about her Southside family.

When they had to get off to walk the rest of the way, Cheryl let out an exhale, watching her breath form in the crisp air. It was almost Thanksgiving, and the temperature had dropped since the last time they were out here.

Without a word, Toni slipped out of her jacket and held it out Cheryl.

"I'm fine." The redhead shook her head, and maybe she could get Toni to believe it if her goddamn teeth would stop chattering. But she was only wearing the leggings, shirt, and hoodie from Vixen's practice and it was cold.

"Cheryl, I can tell you're freezing to death, take the jacket."

"W-what about you?" Cheryl cursed the stutter, but she was trembling and Toni knew it.

"I'm wearing long sleeves and jeans. Plus this beanie. Take the jacket, Blossom."

"But what if-"

"Nobody's gonna see you, we're in the middle of the woods."

Cheryl sighed, grabbing the jacket from Toni's hands, pulling it on. The serpent's frame was smaller than hers, so the sleeves didn't go past her wrists and it hardly reached her waist, but she still felt considerably warmer. She tucked her hands into the pockets, inhaling what might be her new favorite scent in the world. The smell of rough, worn leather, mixed with something that was so undeniably Toni Topaz. She smiled softly as they continued to trek on in a peaceful silence.

Whether or not they did it consciously would remain a mystery, but they walked closer than they had before, close enough that their arms brushed. Goosebumps spread over Toni's body and up her neck, and if you asked she would say it was because of the cold, not because her elbow kept almost knocking into Cheryl's.

And if you asked why she let out a quiet happy sigh, she would say it was due to getting away from everything, not because she was shuffling through the woods alongside Cheryl Blossom. Definitely not because the sight of Cheryl in a serpent jacket, her nose and cheeks flushed red from the breeze was such a heartwarming sight.

When they got to the spot, Cheryl sat down and pointed to the area in front of her. "Can I braid your hair TT?"

It's such a juvenile question, one you would ask at a middle school sleepover, but Toni found it endearing and nodded, smiling and settling between the redhead's legs as she played music from her phone.

Cheryl didn't have a brush, so she used her fingers to carefully card through the soft strands of hair, the diminishing pink mixing in with the light shades of brown.

"The dye is starting fade," she murmured, eyeing an area that was almost completely lacking of the color.

Toni hummed in response. "I know. I'll have to redo it soon."

"You do this yourself?"

Cheryl internally kicked herself as soon as the question leaves her mouth, because of course Toni does this herself, the girl probably can't afford to pay someone professional to do it.

But the serpent only shrugged. "Yeah. I wouldn't want to get it done by someone else cause they would make it so precise. When I do it, it's slightly messy and uneven, and I like that way. A personal touch I guess."

Cheryl nodded. "It looks good on you like that." She blushed lightly, but Toni didn't notice. The other girl only smiled lightly to herself.

The knots had untangled themselves, and it took Cheryl a moment to realize she was essentially just running her fingers through her hair and not actually doing anything. She pulled away, separating the loose waves and reaching to the top of Toni's head, tugging slightly and starting the braid.

"How did Thing 1 and Thing 2 react when you came back? Did they believe the lie?"

Toni rolled her eyes, chuckling lightly. "They have names y'know. And yes they did believe me."

"Yes but calling them by their names would suggest that I cared enough to learn their names. Which would be ridiculous, since I've hardly had a civil conversation with them."

Toni hummed again, but didn't say anything else.

They stayed like that for a while, Cheryl slowly and gently braiding Toni's hair, music playing softly in the background, and Cheryl just started talking.

She hardly said anything important, speaking random tidbits and gossip from school, but Toni just sat there and listened to all of it, letting out quiet reaction noises to show that she was listening. It was all stupid stuff like Maggie on the Vixen's squad is the fakest girl in the school and Juliana slept with Chuck last week.

Eventually though, the conversation shifted and they were trading stories. Toni talked about things she did with Sweet Pea and Fangs, and how she met both of the boys. In turn, Cheryl talked about Jason and how they used to sneak behind their parents back to get away with things. For the first time since his death, Cheryl could talk about him without feeling that familiar crushing weight on her chest.

They purposely avoided traumas, stories of parents and gangs and pain staying locked away in a box deep in the back of their minds. Maybe it wasn't healthy to never talk about it, never let it out, but at the moment they found that they just didn't care.

They didn't do anything to disturb the peaceful environment they had created for themselves, Toni's head having shifted into Cheryl's lap once the braids were done. The redhead was absentmindedly playing with the tips of her hair, running her finger over the intricate patterns she had created.
  
And what a sight it must've been, to see Cheryl Blossom with a Southside Serpent laying in her lap, said serpent's jacket tugged snugly around her shoulders. But there was no one there to see it, and it was comforting, knowing that this moment belonged only to them. 

Chapter Text

Cheryl walked into school feeling lighter than ever. She spent hours talking with Toni the night before, even texting her once she arrived back at Thistlehouse. For once, she was hopeful, because maybe she and Toni could still be friends even with all the drama.

Of course, this being her life, that came crashing down a moment later when Reggie approached her during her free period.

"Blossom!" He had a smug smile on his face, coming to slide into the seat across from her. He leaned forward, lowering his voice. "I know how to get the serpent scum out of our school."

His words made her heart stutter, but she kept her cool, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.

"This Ghoulie who hooks me up with Jingle Jangle told me he'd give me double for free if I used half of it to frame the serpents. Get them arrested." He grinned. "So I planted some drugs around the school and I'm gonna call Sheriff Minetta during lunch. Tell him I saw Serpents dealing drugs here and that they had a whole system in place. He's gonna be on his way to arrest all their asses."

"What?" Cheryl winced at the fear in her voice, quickly clearing her throat. "I mean, getting them arrested? Isn't that a bit much?"

Reggie furrowed his eyebrows at her. "Since when does Cheryl Blossom care about those snakes? I thought you wanted to get rid of them as much as I did."

"Of course I do," she hissed, even as her hands curled underneath the table. "I just have no interest in getting tangled with the legal system."

He leaned back, looking at her with narrowed eyes. She held her breath, letting out a relieved exhale when he nodded and said, "Don't worry Bombshell, I won't drag you into it. Besides, this shouldn't take long, the whole town wants to be rid of them. They'll be in cells by the end of the month, and this can finally be over with. Don't worry about it."

Reggie smiled one last time before getting up, leaving Cheryl sitting there, heart hammering in her ears. He was gonna make that call. She couldn't let this happen. God, they were going to arrest Toni. Toni's family.

She knew if she didn't do anything before the cops arrived, she would never forgive herself. So as soon as the bell rang, she jolted to her feet, practically sprinting down the hall.

She frantically scanned the faces, searching for the familiar soft brown eyes framed by pink hair. Finally, she spotted her walking by the lockers with Sweet Pea and Fangs.

Cheryl rushed to catch up with her, grabbing her forearm and yanking her back, harder than she meant to.

Toni turned, a pissed look on her face. "What the hell-Cheryl?"

Fangs and Sweet Pea turned, expression souring when they saw her.

She glanced at them before locking eyes again with Toni, who instantly looked worried by the expression on her face. "What's going on?"

"You need to get out of here, all of you, now. And get as many serpents out with you."

Sweet Pea scoffed. "Blossom, why would we ever listen to you?"

"Do you want to get arrested, Green Bean?"

Fangs stifled a snort into his hand, and even the corner of Toni's lip twitched up in amusement.

Sweet Pea crossed his arms, scowling. "It's Sweet Pea."

"Does it look like I care?" She looked at Toni. "I'm serious. Reggie's framing you guys with a stash of drugs, he's calling the sheriff at lunch. You have to leave." She pushed lightly on Toni's shoulder, trying to convey how desperate she was. "You have to get out of here."

"Why should we believe you? This is probably a part of some plan, you want us out of here more than anything." Fangs raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

Cheryl didn't look away from the other girl. "Please trust me." Her voice quieted slightly, almost into a whimper, and that was all it took for Toni to nod.

"Yeah. Okay. I trust you, Cheryl."

Sweet Pea let out an incredulous "What?"

"Um, since when do you trust Cheryl Blossom?"

Toni turned to glare at them. "I trust her. You two trust me?"

They both nodded as soon as the question left her mouth.

"Of course."

"That's a stupid question."

"So trust me when I say we should get the hell out of here."

Fangs was the first to sigh and nod, but Sweet Pea still looked skeptical. He held Toni's gaze, and they stared at each other for a long moment, Cheryl about to tell them they didn't have time for this, when the boy finally gave in.

"Fine. But if she's lying-"

Cheryl cut him off. "I'm not lying."

"But if she is-"

"I'll be the first in line to kick her ass." Toni's gaze on Cheryl was steady as she said this. "But she's not lying."

As they headed down the hall, Toni hung back long enough to place a hand on Cheryl's arm. "Thanks. For warning us."

Cheryl nodded. "Thanks for trusting me. Now get the hell out of here."

Toni smiled slightly before sprinting to catch up with boys.

****

"There's a lot of serpents here, how are we gonna warn all of them?"

Toni ran a hand through her hair. They had ducked into a closet right by the door, trying to figure out what they should do. 

"I don't think we can. Did you text Jughead?"

Sweet Pea nodded. "Yeah. He's on his way out the back and trying to get as many of us out on his way." 

"Honestly, I think we should just get out of here," Fangs furrowed his brow, cracking the door open to see out. "We don't know how long we have until the police get here." 

"We can't just leave everyone else behind!" Sweet Pea immediately countered. 

"We can't do anything if we're sitting in a cell!"

"A serpent never shows cowardice. I'm not running away from this."

"Leaving wouldn't be cowardice!"

Toni tried to tune out their arguing so she could focus on coming up with something to get them out of this. 

"Okay, I'm gonna leave. I can't end up in jail. I'm not gonna do that to my family."

"Did you forget the second law? Your family will be fine." 

"Yeah, they'll be taken care of, that doesn't mean they could handle losing someone they care about. Your mom probably wouldn't even notice you were gone."

Sweet Pea reached for the other boy's collar. 

"Hey!" Toni wedged herself between them, snapping out of her thoughts at the rapid escalation of the argument. "Stop, both of you. This is absolutely the worst time for you two to be fighting."

"Did you hear what he said to me?!" Sweet Pea growled, making a move to get around Toni.  

She blocked his path, trying to get his eyes off of Fangs.

"Yeah, I heard." She shot Fangs a glare over her shoulder. "It was a low blow, but we're all a little stressed, so let's calm the hell down and quit being idiots." She reached forward, grabbing Sweet Pea's arm and tugging. 

He finally turned his murderous gaze from Fangs and locked eyes with Toni, scowling and crossing his arms. "Fine. You're the sensible one, what's our move?"

Toni licked her lips, knowing Sweet Pea wouldn't listen to her if he didn't hear what he wanted. She turned so she could look at both boys, who were looking at her expectingly. Eventually, she let out a sigh. 

"Fangs, go." She tilted her head to the door. He raised an eyebrow in response. "You were right, you can't do that to your family. Get out of here."

"What about you guys?"

She looked at Sweet Pea. "We're getting as many serpents out of here as possible. Or trying to stop Reggie from making that call."

"No way, I can't-"

"Fangs, you have a load of family that needs you to be okay. As much as it sucks to say out loud, Sweet Pea and I don't have that."

"You have me." He whispered quietly. "I need you guys to be okay."

She smiled softly. "We will be, alright? We'll be careful, just get out of here." She reached out, pulling the boy into a hug, feeling Sweet Pea join in. Once the pulled away, she shoved Fangs to the door. "Go." 

He nodded, looking over his shoulder one more time before sprinting out the door. Once he was gone, she looked at Sweet Pea, squaring her shoulders. 

"Okay. Let's see if we can find Reggie. Go from there."

He nodded, walking forward when Toni pressed a hand to his chest. "Sweets, you can't hurt him." He scoffed, opening his mouth to argue when she interrupted him. "I'm serious. All it's gonna do is give him more evidence that makes us look guilty. We have to be smart about how we do this."

He clenched his jaw but nodded, and they headed out the door. "So what are we gonna do?"

Toni kept her eyes trained ahead. "First, we find Cheryl."

"What?" Sweet Pea looked at her. "Am I talking to Toni Topaz right now? The same Toni who used to rant for hours about how much she used to hate Cheryl Blossom?"

"Things change, Pea. She warned us about this, she can help us stop it. As much as I hate to admit it, we need Northside help." 

Finally spotting the head of red hair, Toni picked up her pace, coming to a stop in front of where Cheryl was talking to Josie. 

The Vixens stared at her with wide eyes. "Toni, what are you still doing here? Lunch starts in a few minutes and Reggie's gonna make the call."

Josie furrowed her brow. "Wait, what's going on?"

Toni ignored her. "I know, we need your help. Stall Reggie while we warn as many serpents as we  can."

Cheryl pressed her fingers to her temple. "Really? You just had to play hero, didn't you?

The serpent gave a wry smile. "You know I did."

The redhead nodded. "Okay. Okay! I'll see if I can distract Reggie. I can probably get Jughead's little detective gang to help me." She looked at Josie. "Can you find Ronnie and tell her to meet me in the cafeteria with Betty and Archie?"

Josie looked between Cheryl and Toni, dumbfounded. 

"Yeah, I know. They're suddenly friends and it doesn't make any sense," Sweet Pea said with a huff. "Stuff is going on though, so we'll figure it out later."

Toni pressed her lips together, trying to hide a smile as she exchanged a sheepish look with Cheryl. 

Josie eventually nodded slowly, saying, "Girl, you owe me all the details later." She shook her head before leaving. 

The other three headed towards the cafeteria, where Cheryl split off to find Reggie while Toni and Sweet Pea went to go talk to a group of serpents. It didn't take long to convince them that it was time to go, and soon they were on their way out. 

The lunch monitor gave them a skeptical look and stormed over. "Where do you all think you're going?"

Toni gestured for the others to keep going anyway before she turned and crossed her arms. "Something came up. Family emergency." She fought to keep her tone level because as much as she did to calm Sweet Pea down, sometimes she really wanted to tear some of these entitled Northsiders apart. 

The teacher, some lady she never bothered to learn the name of, scoffed disbelievingly. "A family emergency? For all of you?"

Sweet Pea stepped closer, his eyes narrowed. "The serpents are all a family."

She shook her head. "You all aren't allowed to just leave whenever you want. You two, come follow me to the office."

Toni snorted, grabbing Sweet Pea's arm and tugging it in the other direction, intent on finding the other serpents to get them out of here. Cheryl was waiting for them, tugging a red lip through her teeth. 

She grabbed Toni's shoulder. "Time's up. Reggie already made the call. You have to get out of here."

"Hey!" They turned to find the same teacher still following them. 

"Oh my god this teacher needs to get the hell off of our backs," Toni growled under her breath. 

"Don't worry Mrs. Dana, I'm taking care of these troublemakers for Principle Weatherbee." Cheryl forced a smile before trying to conjure a withering glare towards the serpents. 

The adult slowly nodded. "Alright, Ms. Blossom. Glad we still have students like you at this school." 

As soon as she was gone, Cheryl rolled her eyes, running a hand through her hair. "Can you guys get out of here now? The sheriff should be here any minute."

"Don't tell me what to do," Sweet Pea grumbled, crossing his arms and dodging Toni's smack. "There are still other serpents here, most of them eat lunch outside or find some random classroom."

They all froze at the sound of yelling down the hall. Toni could vaguely make out the noise of struggling and footsteps. Coming right in their direction. 

She cursed under her breath, grabbing Sweet Pea's arm and tugging him in the other direction, turning to gape at him when he resisted. "What the hell, Pea? We have to get out of here!"

She found him walking over to look out the clear windows. "Tiny, how are you planning on making it through that?"

Toni and Cheryl stared out at the mob of police cars. 

"Shit."

"They really brought that many cars for all of you?"

"Oh, we're so screwed. We're so screwed." 

Toni's mind was racing, running through the possibilities of what would happen if she got arrested. Either they all got sent to juvie, or got released and she most likely got the worst beating of her life. She pressed a hand to her temple. 

Sweet Pea cracked his knuckles. "Like I'm not going down without a fight."

"No! Are you stupid? That's just gonna make you look more guilty!"

"Both of you need to calm down and lower your voices," Cheryl hissed, dragging them down the hall. "So running is clearly no longer an option since you idiots waited so long. Time to hide."

"They're gonna turn the whole school upside down, Cheryl," Toni countered, even as she followed the girl. 

"I have an idea."

She shoved the three of them into the nearest closet, tugging at the leather around Toni's shoulders. "Take these off, hurry. Sweet Pea, hide behind that shelf with the jackets."

"What about Toni?"

"Just do it!"

"Damn, okay."

As they did what she said, Cheryl dug into her backpack, pulling out her Vixen sweater and tugging it over her head. She tied her hair up before pulling the hood over her head, effectively hiding her fiery red locks. 

"Um, Cheryl, wanna fill me in?" Toni whispered nervously, hearing footsteps getting closer to the door. 

"Check that closet! You don't where those snakes could be hiding," A voice growled. Toni's heart rate spiked. 

Just as the door was being thrown open, Cheryl was pushing Toni against the wall, crashing their lips together. The serpent let out a surprised squeak before understanding and melting into the kiss. Cheryl was pressed against her, trapping the shorter girl against the wall, so Toni could do nothing but bring her hands up to gently wrap around the redhead's waist. Too soon, Cheryl pulled away, calling out in her bitchiest tone, "Excuse me, do you mind?"

The redhead was blocking Toni from view with her body, so she couldn't see who had come in, but they let out an awkward chuckle. "Uh, sorry, we're actually looking for-okay." Cheryl cut his explanation short by kissing Toni again, and he quickly backed out the door. 

Once it was shut the Vixen backed away from Toni, who was hit with a rush of cold air in her absence. 

The pink-haired serpent ran a hand through her hair and tried to catch her breath, but her eyes kept darting to Cheryl's lips because she really wanted to do that again. She quickly looked away. It only happened so they wouldn't get arrested. It didn't mean anything, so calm the hell down. 

Sweet Pea emerged from behind the shelf, an eyebrow raised. "How did you know that would work?"

Cheryl shrugged, digging through her backpack again. "I had to stop them from seeing either of your faces in case they recognized you as serpents, and Toni was the smallest. Besides, the only thing that makes people more uncomfortable than finding two teenagers making out in a closet is them both being girls." She pulled out makeup wipes, folding one and cleaning the smudge of lipstick under her bottom lip while handing one to Toni.

 "The red got everywhere," she muttered somewhat sheepishly, avoiding her eyes, something Toni didn't notice because she was doing the exact same thing. 

"Those idiots saw the Vixens hoodie and knew I was a northsider so they moved on. Cause what northsider in Riverdale would make out with a Serpent?"

"Jughead and Betty are dating," Sweet Pea pointed out, side-eyeing Toni as she rubbed at her slightly swollen lips. 

Cheryl shrugged again. "The exception, I suppose. You two stay here. I'm going to see what's going on. I'll come back when the coast is clear." Without waiting for a response the redhead was out the door. 

Sweet Pea handed Toni her jacket back, watching as her fingers fumbled to grip the collar and almost dropping it to the floor. "Don't tell me you have a crush on Cheryl Blossom?"

She flinched, glaring at him. "I don't."

"Since when does Toni Topaz get all flustered over a kiss?"

"I just wasn't expecting it!"

"Uh-huh," He said, clearly not believing her for a second. "And you and Cheryl are suddenly friends because..?"

"It's a long story."

He scoffed, looking at the door. "Doesn't look like we're going anywhere soon." When Toni didn't respond, he rolled his eyes. "How did you manage to go from hating Cheryl, the viper bitch of the Northside, to having a total crush on her in what? A week?" 

"She's not a viper bitch, don't call her that. She's the only reason we aren't in jail cells right now."

"Doesn't change the fact that she's been talking shit about us since we got here. You even called her the ice queen of the Northside one time. You two have literally been fighting every second of school and now-"

"Just drop it, alright? You don't know anything," Toni growled, crossing her arms. 

"She's not your friend, Tiny, I wouldn't be surprised if she's been playing us this whole time." 

"You don't know anything about her!" She stormed over to him, grabbing his collar and tugging him harshly down to her level. "You don't know what you're talking about, you don't know her. So shut the hell up, Pea, before I throw you out of this damn closet and let you get arrested."

He grabbed Toni's wrists, tugging her hands off of him and backing up. He stared at her for a while, studying her face before he shook his head. "Wow. You're in deep with this girl."

She narrowed her eyes at him. 

"Liking her is one thing, but you actually looked ready to murder me just now."

"Yeah, cause you were being an asshole," she huffed.

"I can't believe you have a crush on one of the richest northsiders in Riverdale."

"I don't have a crush on her!" She rolled her eyes at the look Sweet Pea shot her. "Can't I be friends with someone without having a crush on them? Maybe if you actually knew anything about Cheryl, you would know she's not actually as bitchy as she seems."

"Yeah, okay, let's say I believe you-" Toni ran a frustrated hand through her hair, turning to pace around the closet. A closet that was starting to feel very suffocating. 

"Not saying I do, but if I did, you really think other people are just gonna except the northside princess and a southside serpent suddenly being friends. Not to mention if they were dating?"

"Betty and Jughead are dating and no one says anything! Besides, Cheryl and I aren't dating."

"Betty hasn't gone campaigning down the halls bashing the southside. Cheryl's practically an anti-southside celebrity at this point. Besides, you guys are both girls. People aren't gonna roll over and accept you guys."

"We aren't dating! Stop talking about it like we are!"

"Toni, cut the crap." He met her eyes. "You like her. Like, more than a friend. It isn't gonna work out the way you want it to and you're gonna get hurt. Look, just pause and think about this for a second. Don't you go through enough already? Haven't you been through enough? Is being close to Cheryl Blossom really worth it?"

"Shut up."

"Toni, I just don't want you to get-"

"Just shut up!"

She sighed, pinching her nose and sliding down a wall. "Be quiet for two goddamn seconds, will you? Things have been crazy and I just need a moment to breathe."

Sweet Pea silently nodded, sliding down to next to her. "Okay."

They sat there in silence for a while, Toni eventually pulling out her phone to tell Fangs and let him know that they were fine. Then, she opened Jughead's contact to text him. 

You get out okay?

His response came pretty quickly. 

Beanie Boy: Yeah, I'm with a few of the others back at Sunnyside right now

Beanie Boy: Talking with my dad to try and figure out what to do, where are you and SP??

Toni: Laying low at the school and waiting it out

She quietly showed Sweet Pea the messages. "How many serpents do you think are gonna arrested?"

He stared at the door. "I don't know. Probably at least a dozen of us."

"God this is so stupid! There are serpents here who are just freshman, kids who've never been arrested before. This isn't fair."

"We'll get them out, Tiny. We're not letting them get thrown in juvie for something they didn't do."

"It's not like they have any evidence aside from Reggie's call."

"Yeah. I'm sure the adults can think of something."

"We're gonna have to stay away from Riverdale High for a while until this dies down."

They both jolted to their feet when the door began to open, only relaxing when Cheryl slipped in. 

"The police are gone. Everyone's gathered in the cafeteria so you two have to sneak out of her fast before any teachers find you." The serpents nodded, standing and gathering their things. "My Vixens are going to notice I'm gone soon, so I have to get back. Don't do anything dumb."

Toni's lip twitched at her words, but she kept her eyes down as she followed Sweet Pea. She couldn't look up, couldn't look at Cheryl's face. She knew she wouldn't be able to stop her eyes from staring at those cherry red lips because god, that kiss had given her the most exhilarating rush. 

But as she walked past the redhead, Cheryl reached out to grip her forearm. "Toni." She said her name so softly, Toni almost didn't hear it. She looked up, finally meeting those brown eyes. 

"Text me later. So I know that you got out okay."

Toni nodded. "Okay. I will. Thanks for helping us."

"Of course." Cheryl's eyes flitted down, glancing at her lips before quickly finding the floor. "Be careful."

"I'll see you around Bombshell." 

Chapter Text

TT: made it back to the trailer park

Cheryl could finally breathe easy again. She'd been stressing since Toni left, worried she would get caught on her way out, and listening to Principal Weatherbee's talk about how 'Any sort of crime at this school will not be tolerated' was not helping her pounding headache. 

She was purposely pretending not to notice all the looks Josie was giving her since she really wanted to avoid answering the hundreds of questions the girl was surely going to harass her with. 

As soon as the principal finished his speech, Cheryl tried to slip away, but Veronica had come and linked their arms, dragging Betty behind her. 

"Speakeasy?" 

She glanced at Cheryl and Josie, raising an eyebrow. 

"Definitely. It's been one hell of a day." Josie nodded, coming up at Cheryl's other side and shooting her a smug look. "I could use a talk with you girls."

The redhead glared at her but nonetheless found herself lounging on a couch beneath Pop's half an hour later. 

Betty had just gotten off the phone with Jughead, sighing and plopping down next to Veronica. "Jug's with the other serpents at Sunnyside right now. 14 serpents got arrested, but considering the amount of them at Riverdale High, it's not as bad as it could've been."

"What are they gonna do?" Cheryl let the question slip without thinking, instantly regretting it when the other three girls give her a weird look. 

"Um, I don't know. Everyone's looking to Jughead since he's in charge so he didn't have much time to talk." Betty explained slowly, raising an eyebrow. 

"What even happened? Why did the cops show up, did the serpents actually do something?" Veronica questioned, looking over Betty's shoulder as she texted something to her boyfriend. 

"Of course not."

"Obviously not."

Cheryl winced when she spoke with the same defensiveness as her cousin. The blonde had an excuse for being defensive, she was dating a Southside Serpent. 

"What do you know about what happened?"

The redhead picked at her nails, avoiding the prying eyes. "Reggie framed them for selling drugs at school."

"And you know that because..?"

She tossed her hair over her shoulder, glaring at Josie. "You would think I was the one who got arrested with how you're interrogating me," she hissed. "And I know because Reggie came up and told me. And you should be happy he told me, otherwise your hobo and his friends wouldn't have gotten out." She directed the last statement at Betty, who was staring dumbfounded at her. 

"Wait, you warned them? Why the sudden change of heart?"

"Does it have anything to do with a certain pink-haired serpent?"

Veronica's mouth dropped open at Josie's question before her eyes fell on Cheryl again. "Spill."

She crossed her arms, locking eyes with the other girl. "Nothing to spill." It was a blatant challenge, one that Cheryl had no intent on losing. 

She tried to tell herself she just didn't want their judgment, but it was more than that. The time she had spent with Toni, that was hers. She didn't want to share it with them, to have those memories belong to anyone else except for her and Toni. They were for her to replay in her mind, to hug close to her chest, to only dig out when she was alone and in need of comfort. 

The only problem was she wasn't only pushing against Veronica, Betty and Josie were all staring at her expectantly, and she had to give them something or she would never hear the end of it. 

So she clenched her jaw, trying to avoid a big deal by saying, "Maybe I found out that not all of the southside is comprised of troublemakers."

"And how exactly did you come upon this information?" Cheryl wanted to hit the raven-haired girl for sticking her nose in business it didn't belong in. 

She, of course, had no intention of telling them the truth, would never tell them the state she had found Toni in without the other girl's permission. So instead, she shrugged. "I share multiple classes with Toni, I may have gotten to know her a little more."

Veronica's nose wrinkled. "Wait. The same Toni who you literally always bicker with and rant about to us?"

Betty scowled, crossing her arms. "Jug's friends with her. I'm pretty sure she wants to sleep with him."

Cheryl snorted. "Trust me, cousin, nobody besides you would ever want to sleep with your precious hobo. You're jealous for no reason." The thought of Toni dating Jughead made her want to gag. 

Josie nudged Cheryl with her shoulder. "You should invite her to hang out with us."

The redhead raised an eyebrow. "So you three can harass her?"

"If you're gonna be friends with her we should at least get to spend time with her."

"Besides she's a gang member, you don't think she could handle the three of us?" Veronica grinned, a teasing lilt in her voice. 

Cheryl narrowed her eyes. "Maybe when everything cools down a bit." 

They seemed satisfied with that answer and let the subject drop for the time being. 

Veronica had gotten them milkshakes from upstairs and they were talking, but Cheryl wasn't really paying attention. She was absently fiddling with her bracelet as she finally allowed herself to think back on the events of that day. 

That fear that had gripped her chest when Reggie approached her wasn't something she had felt in a long time. Before she had met Toni, she would have agreed with Reggie's plan, probably would have helped him accomplish it. The thought made her feel sick. The day had been stressful, and she could've landed herself in prison for helping the serpents, but she would do it all again. 

And then there was that kiss

She'd been ignoring all the feelings it sparked for the entire day, and the adrenaline had helped, but now? Now it was all she could think about. Kissing Toni had felt so right, the way the smaller girl's body slotted so perfectly into hers, the way her hands had settled carefully around her waist, it felt more perfect than any other kiss she had shared with anyone. Sloppy kisses from boys with alcohol on their breath at parties where the music was deafening, kisses that she only allowed so she could feel something would never compare to what she had shared with Toni. The sight of her own red lipstick smudged across the other girl's dark skin had sent a feeling she couldn't name straight to the pit of her stomach. 

Her thoughts were interrupted when her phone lit up with a text message. She reached over, smiling slightly as she read it. 

TT: Just got out of a serpent meeting and could use some quiet. Meet me at the spot?

She quickly shot back a text saying she was on her way before standing and gathering her things. 

"Well ladies, I must get home before my mother throws a fit. I'll see you tomorrow."

Betty stood too. "Yeah Jug's meeting ended so I'm gonna go catch up with him."

Josie raised an eyebrow at Cheryl but nodded nonetheless. The redhead ran up the stairs, fighting to keep the smile off her face. When Toni wanted peace and quiet, she still wanted to be around the northsider. She took a second, pressing her forehead against the steering wheel to calm the ludicrous grin that was threatening to spread over her lips. Her phone buzzed again, lighting up with another text. 

TT: Remember the path there or do you need the excuse to ride my bike?  ;)

Cheryl rolled her eyes, letting out a quiet chuckle before answering. 

I know the path by now I'll meet you there

And I still think that thing is gonna get you killed

She set her phone down and started the car, playing music softly from the radio. She drove the woods, parking her car next to Toni's motorcycle, helmet dangling from the handle. Cheryl smiled softly before beginning the trek. She took notice of how worn the path was, and her mind began to wonder. Wonder how many times Toni or her parents had traveled along it. Wonder how many times something had caught Toni's eye and she had paused to take a photo. Wonder how many times Toni had come here to escape from her life. 

Before she knew it, she had made it to the cliffside. Toni was laying on her back, leather jacket bunched beneath her head to act as a pillow. Her camera was placed carefully at her side, next to a lighter. The girl was gazing at the sky, which was slowly becoming darker as the sun set, a cigarette hanging loosely from her fingertips with an expression Cheryl couldn't quite place. Her brow was furrowed slightly, but her eyes were clear. Her teeth tugged a bottom lip between them, her mind in a place far from Riverdale. 

Cheryl stared at her like that for longer than she would've liked to admit, trying to memorize her features like this so she could draw them later. Even after all the time they had spent together, the redhead didn't see Toni like this very often, without a sarcastic or teasing smirk playing at her lips. Without those careful walls built up around her brown eyes. Walls that Cheryl was only able to recognize because she had the same ones. 

Eventually, she stepped into the girl's line of view, and that sly smile spread over her face again, the look in her eyes flickering. "Hey."

She sat down cross-legged next to her, and when Toni made no move to sit up, Cheryl looked down and found her staring up at the sky again. 

"Where's your mind at TT?" she murmured quietly. 

Toni brought the cigarette to her lips before answering, taking in a long drag. The northsider smiled when she even turned her head to the side to avoid blowing in Cheryl's face. 

"14 of us were arrested. They're just kids, it isn't fair."

And Cheryl wants to tell Toni all of them are just kids, themselves included. That no high schooler should constantly be in fear of being arrested, should be dealing with whatever is going through Toni's mind. 

She agreed, it wasn't fair. The way this town treats the Southside Serpents, to the point where lives are ruined because of it, makes Cheryl hate herself for ever being a part of it.  

She didn't say this though, and instead placed her hand carefully on Toni's arm. "We'll get them out."

And if Toni found Cheryl's use of we instead of you odd, she didn't comment on it. She only smiles slightly, nodding. "Thanks again, by the way. For saving our asses. Sweet Pea would never be able to get over his own pride and say it, but he's thankful too."

"You don't have to thank me, TT, it was the right thing to do." Cheryl is once again struck by how different she is from a month ago, how she would've let the serpents rot in a jail cell without a second thought, but she quickly pushes the thoughts aside. "Did you get interrogated as well? Over our...sudden friendship?" 

Toni nodded, rolling her eyes as she finally sat up next to the redhead. "Yeah Fangs and Sweets were real annoying about it. They tried to corner me after the meeting but I got out of there as soon as I could. What about you?"

"My fellow Vixens were just as annoying. Josie and Veronica want me to invite you the next time we hang out. My cousin thinks you want to sleep with her boyfriend."

The serpent snorted. "Yeah, that idea's been explored." She shuddered at the memory. "I've seen enough of Jughead's...parts."

Cheryl's lip twitched up at her word choice, but turned to look at her with a raised eyebrow.  "Wait, seriously? You've done that with Jughead? When?"

Toni shrugged. "A while back when him and Betty were in a fight and broke up. He was letting me crash at his place after my uncle locked me out, and things sort of happened. We didn't actually do anything. It was a PG-13 grope session, at best, but it's not something I want to repeat."

Cheryl nodded and picked at her nails, trying to seem as nonchalant about it as possible. Really though, jealousy flitted through her, envy that Jughead Jones of all people got to the honor of being with Toni in that way. She pushed the thoughts aside.

"The kiss I had with you was way better and it lasted like, a fourth of the time."

Her head snapped up to look at Toni, who seemed to realize what she was saying a second too late. Her cheeks flushed pink, and she quickly looked away, taking another drag of her cigarette. 

"Well you are a good kisser." Cheryl bit her lip as she said it, knowing she was playing with fire, fire that most certainly would burn when Toni inevitably rejected her. 

The night her mother had walked in on her and Heather flashed through her mind. 

You deviant girl, you shouldn't be doing these things!

She quickly looked away from Toni, letting out a shaky breath, silently berating herself for making things awkward. 

It felt like she had only blinked, but suddenly Toni was right next to her, a hand carefully placed on her cheek, turning Cheryl's head towards her. 

"T-Toni I-"

"I'm not gonna do anything you don't want to do, Cher." Toni's voice was gentle, soothing, barely above a whisper. The nickname was something new, and it made the redhead's heart flutter. The cigarette was put out, lying over Toni's jacket and Cheryl once again wondered how the other girl had moved so fast. 

Her breath hitched when Toni moved even closer. 

"I really care about you, and I-I just wanna be there. In whatever way you want me to be." The stutter betrayed how nervous Toni really was, how through all her bravado, she was as terrified as Cheryl was. "If-"

Cheryl finally closed that small distance between them, desperately pulling Toni closer with a whimper. She didn't realize that tears had began to slip down her face until the shorter girl reached up to brush them away. 

She wondered what her mother would say, what her friends would say, what Riverdale would say. She wasn't stupid, she knew the looks they would recieve, the judgement, but at the moment, for once in her life Cheryl found that she just didn't care what other people thought.

Because feeling Toni's calloused hands cupping her face, feeling the other girl's soft pink hair running through her fingers...she wouldn't trade that for anything.

Chapter Text

Too soon, they pulled away from each other. Toni let out a shaky breath and leaned their foreheads together, feeling Cheryl's fingers grip her hair tighter, keeping her close as if she was worried Toni would slip through her fingers.

They stayed like that for a moment, quietly basking in each other's presence, before the serpent broke the silence.

"Is this okay?"

Anxiety gripped her chest when Cheryl didn't respond at first, but the hands in her hair didn't let go either.

Finally, instead of replying, Cheryl just pulled Toni back in for another kiss. It ended much sooner, the redhead pulling away with a gasp before nodding furiously.

"This is more than okay. Can we just...take it slow?"

Toni gave a small smile, reaching back and grabbing one of Cheryl's wrists, gently prying it from her hair so she could intertwine their fingers. "Whatever you need."

Cheryl practically glowed at her words, melting under the serpent's touch.

The sound of a phone ringing and interrupting the peaceful silence they had caused them to jump apart. Cheryl ran a hand through her hair, her skin feeling hot. Toni fumbled for her phone before sighing and answering it.

"What do you want, Jones?" Her voice was harsher than she meant for it to be, but Jughead was interrupting her moment with Cheryl and that was cause enough to want to murder him.

"FP went down to the station, it's not looking so good. I'm trying to figure out who Reggie's dealer is. Could use someone else's mind on it."

Toni raised an eyebrow. "Cooper's not willing to help this time?"

"Betty's not with Cheryl Blossom right now."

She stopped short, looking over at the redhead before looking around. "What the hell, are you stalking me or something?"

She heard him laugh. "No, just Cheryl left the speakeasy as soon as the serpent meeting was over. Betty put two and two together."

Toni scoffed. "That girl really doesn't know when to mind her own business does she?" She muttered.

Jughead, either not hearing her or choosing to ignore her, continued anyway. "I just need you to find out all the details. Let me know when you figure something out."

"Copy that your highness." She rolled her eyes, dropping her phone by her jacket again. Her annoyance lessened as she heard Cheryl giggle lightly.

As if they were magnets, they scooted over so they were right next to each other again, Toni's hand finding Cheryl's

"What did the hobo want?"

"Wants to know who gave Reggie the drugs. But we can talk about that a little later."

"Why later?"

She leaned her head on Cheryl's shoulder, a happy sigh escaping her lips. "Because I like what's going on right now."

****

"How did this happen?"

"You know how this happened, you were there!"

"That's not what he meant and you know it. Stop being a stubborn ass."

"I'm the stubborn ass?"

"Come on you have to tell us eventually!"

"I'm not telling you anything. Wanna know why?"

"Why?"

"Cause there's nothing to tell!"

"She's lying straight to our face."

Toni rolled over on the couch with a groan, burying her head in a pillow. Sweet Pea and Fangs were sitting in chairs opposite her. Since they couldn't go to school they were all hanging out at Sweet Pea's trailer, something that Toni was quickly regretting.

"Jughead told us you were with Cheryl last night."

Toni sat up, throwing a hand in the air. "Does nobody in this damn town know how to keep their mouths shut?"

"Look, we just wanna know how you guys became friends and the nature of your...relationship." Fangs gave a crooked smile.

She raised an eyebrow. "You mean am I sleeping with her?"

"Well, I didn't say that but-"

"I'm not sleeping with her!"

"Certainly looks like you want to get there at some point."

She shot a withering glare at Sweet Pea, daring him to open his mouth again. He lifted his hands up in surrender, shrugging. "What? Just being honest."

"14 serpents were arrested and you two are harassing me with stupid questions. Can we maybe think about a way of getting them out?"

"Come on Tiny, you know there's nothing we can do right now." Fangs crossed his arms leaning back in his chair. "King Jones won't let us go after the Ghoulies."

Toni had eventually gotten around to asking Cheryl about what had happened and gave the information to the serpents. Most of them had wanted to fight the Ghoulies and find out who had given Reggie the idea, but Jughead wouldn't let them.

"It's bullshit. He's allowed to investigate but we aren't?" Sweet Pea scoffed.

"Your 'investigate' is to go over there and start a fight."

He rolled his eyes. "I just wanna do something. I'm not a person who runs away with my tail tucked between my legs."

Fangs stiffened, suspecting Sweet Pea was making a dig at him. He looked over, tense and expecting an argument, but the other boy didn't look at him, too busy pouting in his chair. Fangs looked at Toni, an eyebrow raised. She studied Sweet Pea for a second before shaking her head and mouthing let it go.

Apparently, the boys had had a conversation about what happened and they were supposedly okay. Toni wasn't sure whether or not she believed them yet. She loved Sweet Pea and all, but he wasn't really one who apologizes.

They fell into an uneasy silence, all three of them too lost in their own thoughts to say anything.

"Hey...why do you think the ghoulies did this?" Fangs frowned, slowly sitting up straight as his mind processed something.

"Because they hate us?" Sweet Pea offered.

The shorter boy shook his head. "There are a lot of serpents. 14 teenagers won't really do much when there's still a bunch of adults. Not to mention they had Reggie Mantle of all people plant the drugs. Why wouldn't they take care of it themselves? I don't know guys, something isn't adding up."

"Maybe they were going for Jughead or something."

Toni mulled over his words. "No, there are a lot of easier ways to get to Jughead. I think you might be right, something seems off." She looked over at Fangs, locking eyes with him as their train of thoughts joined.

Sweet Pea stood up. "Or maybe it was some rogue ghoulie who did this on all his own because he thought it was smart. They probably just wanted to screw with us. You guys are overthinking it. Can we please watch a movie or something now?"

Fangs huffed, digging his computer out of his backpack. They all settled into the couch together to watch some random horror movie Toni let the boys pick out.

She fiddled with the chain around her neck, imagining what was going on at school. The Bulldogs were probably gloating, knowing that now everyone thought the serpents were nothing but a bunch of drug dealers. The thought made her blood boil, fingers subconsciously curling around her sleeves.

"You okay over there Tiny? You look ready to kill someone."

She looked at Fangs, nodding quickly. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."

He raised an eyebrow. "We can watch something else if you want."

Toni shook her head, rolling her shoulders to try and ease some of the tension. "I'm good. Seriously." Bringing her feet up under her, she settled into trying to follow whatever was going on in the movie.

A few jumpscares and bloody scenes later, they had reached the end of the movie and Sweet Pea was on the phone ordering a pizza. Toni rummaged around the trailer, looking for the wad of cash the boy supposedly had. She heard her phone chime with a text and popped her head out of the drawer she was searching.

"Check if that's Jones with an update!"

"It's Blossom...woah."

"What is it?"

Sweet Pea looked over his shoulder. "What the hell."

She stood up, walking over to them and snatching her phone away.

A bunch of motorcycles are pulling up at the school, is this you guys? Because I swear to god if you were stupid enough to come back already you deserve to get arrested

Toni's brow furrowed before looking up at the boys. "Maybe the adults went to do something?"

She was about to text back that she wasn't there when her phone lit up with a call from Jughead. As soon as she answered, he started talking, his voice sounding slightly out of breath.

"Toni! We have a situation. The ghoulies are at Riverdale High, they're raiding the school. You have to get the serpents here."

"Woah what? Where are you?"

"I just got here, Betty called me. I need you to get the serpents here to help."

Her mind jumped to Cheryl, fear crawling into her throat at the thought of ghoulies getting their hands on the beautiful redhead.

"Okay, okay. Be careful."

She ended the call, already grabbing her keys and heading out the trailer. "We have to go defend Riverdale High. Ghoulies are attacking the place."

"They wanted to get us out of there so they could attack," Fangs muttered, running a hand through his hair.

They ran to FP's trailer pounding on the door and demanding a serpent meeting. Within the next ten excruciatingly slow minutes, most of them were gathered at the Wyrm. She itched to get out, not wanting to think about what could happen in the meantime. Cheryl hadn't texted her anything, was she okay?

With a growl, Toni clambered onto a chair and yelling, "Hey!" at the top of her lungs to get everyone to shut up. A hush fell over the serpents. "Right now, at this very second, Ghoulies are terrorizing Riverdale High and everyone in it. Everyone who can better get their asses into a car or on a motorcycle so we can go stop things from getting worse."

"Why should we care? That school is full of Northsiders after they chased all of us out. I say let the Ghoulies destroy that building!"

A few voices murmured agreements.

Toni grit her teeth. "The ghoulies got us arrested in the first place, nobody here wants payback?" She raised an eyebrow. "Or do we sit on our asses and let them do whatever the hell they want now? You don't have to like it, but that school's the only way some of us are getting a damn education and I'm not interested in letting it get destroyed by ghoulies of all people. Now am I gonna have to go alone or are you all coming with me?"

Sweet Pea came up next to where Toni was standing and yelled, "No serpent stands alone!" which was met with an uproar as everyone stormed out.

She climbed down from the chair, letting out the breath she didn't know she was holding. FP walked by, clapping a hand on her shoulder. "Nice speech, kid."

Toni nodded. "Jughead's already at the school by the way."

He thanked her, following the crowd out.

She caught sight of her uncle standing across the bar. He took another sip of whatever alcohol he was drinking, sitting back down on a barstool. The burly man locked eyes with her, lips twisting into a sadistic smirk as he raised the glass in her direction in a mock salute. She shivered, wondering what would be waiting for her when she got home.

She felt Sweet Pea grab her arm, and looked up to find him following her gaze, his eyes narrowed at the sight of her uncle.

"Come on guys, let's go." Fangs pulled both of them out, having watched the entire interaction.

"You're crashing at my place tonight." Sweet Pea climbed onto his bike, tugging the helmet harshly over his head.

"Pea-"

He cut off Toni's protest with a growl. "I'm not joking. I will drag your ass there myself if I have to. You aren't going home to him. Not a chance."

She huffed as he tore out of the parking lot, protests dying in her throat at the thought of what the ghoulies were doing. Of who they could be hurting. She clambered quickly on to her bike and followed the mass of leather, heart thundering in her ears. 

Chapter Text

Riverdale High was chaos. Dozens of motorcycles were parked, and kids were rushing out to their cars in an effort to get away as fast as possible. Smoke curled out an open window of the school. Toni caught sight of a ghoulie chasing someone out of the building, a crazed look in his eyes. A chill went up her spine as she surveyed the area. Her eyes scanned the parking lot as soon as her bike slowed to a stop, finding the familiar parking space. Cheryl's red impala was still there, Cheryl was still there. A jolt of fear spread through her, and she quickly threw her helmet off, ready to rush through the doors of the building, her mind barely thinking of anything other than-

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl

"Toni." Sweet Pea's hand fell on her shoulder, holding her back. "Don't be dumb. We gotta stick together."

She met his eyes before looking out at the other serpents who were pulling out switchblades with mouths set in a straight line. 

"Stay in groups, nobody goes in alone."

Everyone murmured their agreement before splitting off, practically kicking down the doors. 

"Come on." Fangs flicked his blade open. "We should finish this as soon as we can."

Toni nodded and led the way, the boys on either side of her. Her eyes lingered on the untouched impala. 

"She'll be fine, Tiny. We'll get her out of there."

Pausing, Toni raised an eyebrow at Sweet Pea. "We?"

He huffed. "As much as I don't like her, you've already gone and gotten all attached. Not gonna let her get hurt now."

She gave a small smile. "Thanks." 

They strode into the school, the hallways full of books and papers that were strewn on the floor and frames that hung on the wall lay shattered at their feet. They heard yelling further down the hall.

"Damn..," Fangs murmured, looking around. 

Toni swallowed as she caught sight of a smear of blood across a wall. "We should keep moving." 

They checked in every closet and classroom they came across, most of them ruined. Toni felt panic constrict her chest more and more the longer they went without finding Cheryl. 

The trio finally made it to where most of the commotion was. The cafeteria was full of people fighting back with whatever they could get their hands on. Ghoulies and kids were already on the floor, hopefully unconscious. Toni tried not to think of the other option. She looked around, trying to find the familiar fiery red hair, standing on her toes to see over the heads. 

Letting out a frustrated growl, she turned to Sweet Pea. "Can you see her?" 

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl

He shook his head as Fangs asked, "Anyone know where Jughead is?"

"Serpent King nowhere to be found!"

They whirled around at the voice and faced four Ghoulies with maniacal grins across their faces, twirling knives through their fingers.  

"He's a smart little boy for not sticking around, we would've torn him apart." They shared a look, eyes glinting. "We'll tear you apart instead."

"How do people think serpents are the drug addicts?" Fangs murmured as they advanced. 

They didn't hesitate, ruthlessly swinging their knives like they were aiming to kill. Toni jumped back, on her toes to try and avoid getting stabbed. 

The Ghoulie flashed a sadistic smile at her. 

She could barely dodge a swing before another one would be coming moments later. He aimed for her head and she ducked underneath his arm, throwing her shoulder into his hip. He stumbled back with a grunt and Toni quickly bounced back to her feet, grabbing his wrist and twisting it, fast and hard. The knife clattered from his grip onto the floor. His other hand managed to hit the side of her head, making spots dance in her eyes. 

They both took steps back, the ghoulie rotating his wrist as Toni rubbed her cheekbone in an attempt to ease the pain. 

He shook his wrist one last time before setting his gaze back on the serpent, a murderous glare in his eyes, already done messing around. "Bitch!" 

She could hear her heart pounding through her skull, her entire body itching for her to run, to get the hell out of this place. This wasn't her first fight, and it probably wouldn't be her last, but Toni could never get used to any of it. So much was going on at once, overloading her senses. The yelling in the background, the screams, the sound of Sweet Pea and Fangs a few feet away fighting their own battles. The thought of them getting hurt made it hard to focus on her own problem. Then, of course, her thoughts screamed-

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl

She wanted to end this already, to find the redhead and get her far away from anyone who would hurt her. To get her far away from gangs and violence because Toni knew what it could do to a person. She knew what the ghoulies were capable of and Cheryl shouldn't be anywhere near people like them. 

The ghoulie came at her again, his attacks reckless and without thought. Toni blocked, kneeing him as hard she could in the stomach. He groaned, doubling over, and Toni took the opportunity to slide down, using her knife to cut straight through the muscle in his calf. 

He crumpled, clutching his bleeding leg, but Toni didn't even spare him another look. Two ghoulies were laid knocked out at Fangs and Sweet Pea's feet, the fourth turning and running as the three of them moved towards him. 

Sweet Pea snorted, cracking his knuckles. Toni reached out and carefully touched his arm. 

"You alright?"

There was a slice through his shirt, blood soaking the material. 

He pressed his hand over it. "Just a scratch."

Fangs grabbed Toni's shoulder, pulling her closer and inspecting her face. "Are you okay?" 

The words nothing I'm not used to crossed the girl's mind but she let the words die on her tongue and instead nodded and confirmed, "I'm okay."

"Come on, we've gotta go find Red before Tiny loses it." 

On their way out a ghoulie came up behind them, wrapping his arms around Toni and pulling her into his chest. Bile rose in her throat as his teeth grazed her ear. "What's a pretty girl like you doing here?"

She kicked her foot back, feeling his knee pop. He hissed, his grip loosening. Before Toni had even squirmed away Fangs was ripping him off of her, slamming him into the wall. 

Fangs pulled back slightly before shoving him forward again, and Toni saw his head thud against the wall. He threw the disoriented ghoulie to the ground, looking at Toni again and giving her a once over to scan for injuries. 

They moved on, Sweet Pea giving a harsh kick to the ghoulie as he struggled to get back up. 

"For the record, I could have handled that." Toni peered through the window of a classroom, huffing when she didn't find anything. 

"I know that." Fangs rolled his eyes. "I just hate seeing people touching you. Especially like that." His nose wrinkled. 

Toni's lip curved, a fond smile threatening to spill over her face. She found Sweet Pea looking at her with a crooked grin, silently agreeing with Fangs. 

"You two are going soft," She teased, advancing further down the hallway. Eventually, the sounds from the cafeteria faded out. 

Sweet Pea snorted. "Like you're not head over heels in love with the head bitch." 

She shot him a glare over her shoulder. "Watch it. She's not a bitch."

"Oh, so you didn't find anything wrong with the first part of that statement?" 

Toni flushed, looking away. 

"You aren't-"

"Shut up." She straightened, cocking her head to the side and straining her ears to listen. 

The boys, sensing the immediate change in atmosphere, sobered up quickly and moved closer to her. 

"I heard something," she whispered. "Someone."

They stood stock still against the lockers, listening for something to break the eerie silence. 

A sharp cry of pain had Toni's blood run cold. 

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl

She took off at a sprint down the hallway. 

She turned a corner, shoving open the door of the first classroom she came across, eyes scanning the area with frantic eyes. 

Toni felt Sweet Pea grab her arm, pulling her to a stop. 

"Let go of me!" She growled. "Cheryl's hurt, someone's hurting her, she could be in pain, or-or-" 

Her vision got blurry. 

He cut her off, both hands on her shoulders. "Toni, look at me, hey, hey, look at me. We're gonna get to Cheryl, alright? But you have to calm down first. You're making way too much noise, ghoulies are gonna hear you coming from a mile away and it might make Cheryl worse off," he said, his voice a hushed whisper. 

She swallowed, nodding and taking a few breaths to steady herself. 

A whimper, followed by a string of hissed words had the trio's heads snapping towards one of the classrooms further down the hallway. 

They quickly approached, knives clenched tightly in their hands as Toni counted down on her fingers before Fangs threw the door open. 

Toni's heart clawed up her throat. 

A ghoulie had Cheryl pressed against the wall, blood trickling from the corner of her lip. He was playing with the hem of her shirt with one hand, the other holding a bloodsoaked knife against her stomach. 

They both turned and looked at the doorway as soon as the serpents stepped in, Cheryl with a tear-stained face and eyes wide and terrified as she breathed out-

"Toni."

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl

Toni allowed relief to seep into her for a moment because Cheryl was right there, she was alive, but then her gaze landed on the ghoulie and her grip on the knife in her hand tightened. 

"Get your hands off of her before I cut them off." 

Her eyes darkened and she took a slow step closer, flipping the blade in her hand. 

The ghoulie's eyes darted from Cheryl to Toni, to the two boys behind her, as if weighing his options. 

"Sorry, did I fucking stutter?" Toni bared her teeth, moving even closer.  

Making a decision the ghoulie spoke up. "Take another step and I'll gut her like a fish." He looked down at the knife pressing just above Cheryl's bellybutton.

The redhead's eyes squeezed shut, letting out a shuddering breath. 

Every muscle in Toni's body tensed. 

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl

"If you hurt her, we're going to rip you apart." Sweet Pea snarled from behind her. 

Cheryl's eyes opened, darting over to the boy in surprise. 

"You three should get out of here," the ghoulie spat in reply. 

Fangs studied Toni, knowing he had to be blind to miss how much she really cared about the redhead. Their connection ran a lot deeper than he was expecting, and he shared a look with Sweet Pea, both of them realizing the same thing. "Not without Cheryl." 

"You wanna carry her dead body out?" 

"No!" The anger seemed to seep out of Toni, rapidly changing into desperation. "Come on, just let her go!"

Cheryl looked over at Toni, eyes wide. The girl looked like she was unraveling, her words coming out absolutely petrified. At the thought of losing Cheryl. The redhead had never seen the serpent like this, so vulnerable and openly afraid

A smirk slowly grew on the ghoulie's face as he seemed to notice how much power he held. "Well maybe if I could get a little something in return. I'm sure a lady like you could think of something." 

"Absolutely not, asshole." Sweet Pea growled. 

"Then get the hell out of here!" 

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl

"If I gave you what you wanted would leave Cheryl alone?"

"What?"

Sweet Pea and Fangs reached forward, grabbing Toni and pulling her back. "No way in hell are you-"

Suddenly, Cheryl's hand darted out and smacked against the arm holding the knife against her. He wasn't expecting anything, especially sudden movements from her, and she used the opportunity and shove him back and scramble out of his grip. 

Toni didn't waste a single second, as soon as Cheryl was away from him she was rushing forward and slamming into the ghoulie. She yanked the knife out his hand and punched him in the jaw, grabbing his jacket and pulling him to her face. 

"You lay a hand on Cheryl again, I'll slit your throat, got it?"

She didn't let him respond, throwing him to the ground. Fangs grabbed her before she could do any more damage, tilting his head in Cheryl's direction. 

Toni looked over, instantly softening. 

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl

The girl was sitting against the wall, her knees tucked up to her chest and taking in shuddering breaths. One of her hands was clutching her side, and Toni noticed the blood sticking to her shirt for the first time. 

She rushed over, pulling Cheryl into her arms and pressing her forehead to the redhead's temple. "God, you can't scare me like that," she whispered quietly. 

Cheryl pulled away slightly, looking hesitantly at Sweet Pea and Fangs. 

Toni, understanding immediately, said, "Guys, I'm sure the other serpents out there could use your help."

Sweet Pea grabbed the ghoulie, dragging him to his feet. He squeezed Toni's shoulder as he passed by, giving Cheryl a nod. 

"Be careful Tiny."

She smiled at Fangs as he followed Sweet Pea out, closing the door behind them. 

As soon as they were gone Cheryl melted completely into Toni, burying her face in the serpent's neck. 

"T-Toni he was going to-"

"Shh, I know baby." 

"If you hadn't gotten here when you did..."

Toni placed a gentle kiss on the top of Cheryl's head. "Don't think about that, alright? I did get here, you're okay, he isn't touching you ever again. I'm right here."

Cheryl sniffled, letting out a soft cry. 

After a moment, Toni straightened slightly. "Cher, are you bleeding? I saw you holding your side." 

She pulled away, tugging up her shirt to show a cut across her side. "H-he got mad when I kept fighting back."

Toni clenched her jaw, swallowing down her anger. "We should get that cleaned up." She slipped her hands under Cheryl's knees and back, picking her up. The redhead gasped, wrapping her arms around the other girl's neck. 

"How is this even possible I'm taller than you."

Toni carefully set her down on top of a desk. "Not by that much!"

"You're like four feet tall," Cheryl giggled. 

The serpent rolled her eyes. "Ha ha." Even as she said it, her lips spread into a small smile. She dug around the room, eventually finding the first aid kit. 

She walked back over to Cheryl, standing between her legs and carefully tugging her shirt up to reveal the cut. As she cleaned it, the redhead watched her, studying her face. 

"You're staring at me, Blossom," Toni murmured, a teasing lilt to her voice. 

Cheryl only bit down on her lip. "Would you really have done it?"

Toni paused, not meeting her eyes. "Done what?"

"You know what I mean. What the ghoulie was asking for. Would you really have done it if it kept me safe?"

She swallowed, going back to cleaning the blood off of Cheryl's skin. 

"Toni."

"Look, I don't know, probably! Wouldn't it have made the most sense? So that we both walked out alive?" 

"You really would have...given up-"

"Yeah," Toni whispered, looking down. "I really care about you, Cheryl." 

Cheryl reached forward, grabbing Toni and pulling her closer. Their lips connected in a slow kiss, one that screamed hundreds of different emotions at once. Toni sank into her. 

Cheryl Cheryl Cheryl