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pinball machine and a queen, i nearly took the bus (tried to keep my hands to myself, said it's a must, but who can ya trust?)

Chapter Text

Maple sugaring season had come and gone, and things were still at full swing at the Blossom Maple Farms, despite the fact that the stickiness of the summer air matched the stickiness of the maple syrup. School had ended for the summer break, allowing throngs of teenagers to congregate in places like the town square, or Pop’s diner, or picnicking on the banks of the Sweetwater. The trials and tribulations of school have been put aside for three blissful months, with the exception of those who were in summer school, and a red-headed jock and his illicit paramour. 


Rumors were swirling about the potential sale of the Drive In land, but the Mayor remained mysteriously silent on the subject, refusing to even comment on the potential to the paper of record. Thus, business remained as usual, with the typical fare being shown. 


To an outsider, Riverdale seemed like the perfect town, filled with loving and caring families. The pinnacle of Americana. A place where pulling yourself up by the bootstraps still managed to mean something. Especially with the upcoming fourth of July festivities. Every year the town gathered to watch as a display was put on over the Sweetwater. It was a time for both sides of town to come together, as one, their prejudices abandoned for one blissful day. 


But our story doesn’t start on the fourth of July. That tale would indeed be a tragic one. One that (if it were to occur) would irreparably shatter the tenuous peace of Riverdale. Fortunately for us, our story begins on July 2nd, an ordinary, summer, day.


Alice Cooper bit back a sigh as she spotted the car that was parked haphazardly on the side of the road, nicely blocking the entrance to Fred’s construction company, and she scowled at the intrusive vehicle, as if her best glare could convince the offensive automobile to move even the slightest bit to allow her station wagon to enter the construction site in order for her to finish her daily tasks. 


Being neighborly to Frederick was one thing, Alice reminded herself, allowing bounced checks from his business to the Register’s advertising department was entirely another ball game. Or, at least, it would be if Alice believed in debasing oneself by utilizing sports metaphors. She decidedly did not. 


She gave the horn a delicate tap. It was clear to her that the vehicle was occupied -- the poor Volkswagen was practically vibrating in response to whatever carnal actions were taking place within it -- and she was feeling charitable (Polly had broken up with the Blossom boy, and had managed to be a polite, well behaved, child for the first time in months, which Alice might have found suspicious had she not been distracted by Things To Do). It was summer, after all. A time of love. 


Or foolishness. 


Alice had been young once. 


She had been foolish.


She had had her afternoons in the back of cars. Her stolen moments. 


She would allow the young couple this. 


She was certain that Riverdale would show its cruelty to them sooner, rather than later.


Alice really didn’t want to deal with Fred. She had better things to do with her time. 


The Beetle was periwinkle in color, she noted, and she pursed her lips in disapproval of both the color scheme and the fact that an individual would own such an antique car and park it so haphazardly on the road, as if the mood striking was more important to the twosome it contained than proper road safety. Their hazards weren’t even on. Alice was tempted to anonymously call in a tip to the Sheriff. It would serve him right for not allowing her to tag in on those investigations. 


She caught a glimpse of red hair. 


Alice scowled. 


She recognized that red hair, and if Archibald Andrews had had the gall to corrupt Elizabeth the day before she left on her internship, Alice was going to rip him to shreds and serve him to her guests at the next neighborhood block party on toothpicks. And who on earth had gotten Archibald such a hideous vehicle? If Fred had been purchasing antique cars and not properly paying the Register their money, Alice was going to fillet him. Such frivolities were unacceptable. 


Archibald was a menace behind the wheel. He had taken out several of the neighbors’ mailboxes when Fred had been teaching him how to drive, and several years off of Alice’s life when she’d seen what he’d done to her hydrangeas. If the state of New York had actually given Archibald a license, she was going to revolt. Goodbye article after article deriding the Southside of town, hello article after article complaining about the lax standards that New York State demanded for their drivers. Alice could practically see the headlines now. She was certainly thinking them.


Corrupting her daughter’s youth and conning some poor, senile DMV employee into giving him an unencumbered license? One, if not both, of those things had to be stopped. 


She drew in a deep breath, in an attempt to center herself, and pulled a prescription bottle out of her purse, needing the additional push towards sedation. It would do her no good if she castrated the Andrews boy in front of enemy territory, after all. No. Alice needed to wait. Lure him into a false sense of security. 


Alice prided herself in being an example to emulate, and she turned on the station wagon’s hazard lights, before she unbuckled her seat belt, and exited the vehicle, handbag in hand. Her eyes flashed with non-amusement. 


Archibald Andrews was not a suitable choice for Alice Cooper’s daughter. She didn’t care if he wasn’t that Blossom boy. Alice was not going to stand idly by while Elizabeth made the same mistakes her sister did. 


She rapped on the passenger’s window -- not once, not twice, but three times -- not that that buffoonish oaf paid her any mind, and she bit back a sigh. 


“I know you’re in there, Archibald,” she directed into the vicinity of the Vokeswagen. “If you don’t open this door right now--”


“Mrs. Cooper?” Archibald blinked up at her with his typical, vacant, expression, and she bit back a sigh as he attempted to evade her notice of his traveling companion. “I’m kinda, you know, busy right now.”


“With my daughter?” Alice commanded. “I swear to you, Archibald--”


“Oh, no, not with Betty,” he said. “Have you met Ms. Grundy--I mean, Geraldine?” 


“Archie, I don’t think this is very appropriate--” 


Alice peered suspiciously into the interior of the vehicle, her gaze locking on a woman entirely age inappropriate for someone of Archibald’s age group to engage in relations with in general, let alone someone that Alice recognized as a member of the Riverdale High School faculty! This Grundy woman was entirely correct, in that it was incredibly inappropriate for her to be fraternizing with students outside of school grounds, in a manner that required very little clothes to be worn by either party. 


“Do as I say,” Alice said. “Do as I say and I won’t call the Sheriff. I have him on speed dial, don’t you know?” She forced herself to affect a pleasant, yet no nonsense, tone. “Archibald, you are to step outside of this vehicle, and you are to leave your shirt where it is,” she instructed. “Do not touch anything, don’t do so much as breathe. Do I make myself clear?” 


Archibald gulped. “Crystal, Mrs. Cooper.” He scrambled out of the car. 


“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Grundy claimed. “I was only giving him a ride home!”


“Do rides home typically involve shirtless minors -- who are your students -- and yourself in a state of disrepair involving carelessly tossed brasieres?” Alice demanded. “It’s been awhile since I engaged in inappropriate at best carnal pleasures and I seem to manage to give my children’s friends rides home without losing articles of clothing and steaming up my windows! I certainly would take special care to do so if I was an employee of the Riverdale Public School System.” She scowled. “You get out of the car, too.” 


“I don’t think so--”

“Ms. Grundy, I would do as she says--”


“I thought I told you to be quiet, Archibald,” Alice hissed. “Why are you constantly incapable of listening to me?”


“You can’t be serious,” the woman said. Alice narrowed her gaze. “He’s not even one of my students--I’m allowed to date who I want--”


“Not when ‘who you want’ is a fifteen year old boy whose diapers I used to change,” she informed her. “How dare you question my level of seriousness? Do you have any idea to whom you are speaking? Get out of the car now before I take matters into my own hands and bring you straight to the police.” 


In Alice’s opinion, that was what needed to be done anyway, but she was more than willing to pawn off parenting Archibald to Frederick if he was able to do so with any sort of aplomb. Given that Fred and Mary had spent 15 years disappointing Alice with their liberal, lax, parenting skills, she was entirely dubious that he would manage to do so. But giving him the opportunity was the least she could do. Especially since she needed to deal with his bounced checks. 


If opportunity knocked, who was she to slam the door in its face?


“You wouldn’t dare--”


“Oh, I think that I definitely would,” she said. “And I assure you, not one of us involved would be happy about it.” She sighed. “Surely you want to make this easier on yourself? I mean, I’m sure that this is all a misunderstanding, and I would hate to make sure that the facts weren’t one hundred percent correct before I published the article I will be writing for tomorrow’s paper. Child predators? In our Riverdale?” She scoffed. “I mean, but you say that you’re not a child predator, right? So it won’t be any trouble for you and Archibald to accompany on my errand to Fred? Did you know Fred? He’s Archibald’s father. I’m sure he’d be very interested to brought up to speed.” 


“Fine,” Geraldine said. Her tone was clipped. Alice sensed it was really not fine at all. She really didn’t care. “Archie has been wanting me to meet his dad. I suppose that I can indulge him.” 


“Isn’t that so sweet? She wants to meet your father.” 


Alice slipped on a pair of rubber gloves (a good journalist was always prepared) and grabbed on to Archibald’s bicep with one hand, and that woman’s with the other. If that Grundy woman thought Alice was going to be implicating herself in this debacle, she had another thing coming. 


“I beg your pardon?” 


“I said that I don’t see what the big deal is,” Fred Andrews repeated, seemingly oblivious to the alarming heights Alice could feel her eyebrows rising to, and the glances that those insipid minions that he had replaced FP Jones with were exchanging with one another. It was a cold day in hell that Alice wanted to agree with people that had clearly conspired with Fred to ensure FP went down a path of debauchery, but that day had clearly come, much to her silent horror. “Why can’t she give him a ride home?” 


“Their ‘ride home’ didn’t involve much if any clothing!” Alice exclaimed. “I don’t understand how your mind works, Fred! Selling materials from your job sites is a crime worthy of tar and feathering and trumped up charges designed to ensure that you could fire someone whose child was in the hospital, but your child being groomed and sexually violated by a person in a position of authority is ‘not a big deal’? Perhaps if you examined and worked on your priorities, Archibald would not be in this situation, and you would not be forced to parent for once in your life.” 


“Don’t tell me you believe him!”


Alice drew in a deep breath. “Believe whom? I don’t have to believe people when I have front row seats to a showing of pornography!”


“I’m talking about FP Jones,” Fred said. Alice gaped. “He’s a drunk, Alice. I don’t even think that there were medical bills to pay. He just had excuse after--”


“We are not focusing on FP now,” she interjected. “We are focusing on the fact that your son and one of the teachers at his school are engaging in highly inappropriate sexual acts. Stop trying to distract me by dredging up things that have nothing to do with this situation.” 


Except for the fact that Alice would bet her house on Elm Street that if Jughead was the one who had been sexually assaulted by a teacher, FP would have actually done something about it, even if his actions were through dubious, illegal, means. 


“I tried telling Mrs. Cooper that it’s not inappropriate,” Archie insisted. “Geraldine and I, we have something real, Dad. It’s not just a summer fling. We see a future together.” 


And Alice saw a future with a bottle of tequila. That didn’t mean that either future was in any way shape or form a good thing to be encouraged. 


“Did she tell you that?” Alice demanded. “Go ahead, Geraldine, share with the class what you and Archibald have been discussing.” 


Geraldine cleared her throat. “Just that when my divorce is finalized, and Archie graduates high school, we’re going to become an official couple. Archie is going to become a world famous musician, and I am going to return to my studies at Julliard.” 


“You do realize how utterly ridiculous this sounds, right? You can’t seriously think that this dalliance is in any way appropriate for your child to embark upon? Does the name Mary Kay Letourneau mean anything to you?” 


“It’s complicated, Alice.”


“What, precisely, is complicated about this? There is nothing complicated about it at all! You turn her into the Sheriff and let the wheels of justice take over--”


“That’s only if Archie’s not happy with things,” Fred said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him having a crush, Alice. Better on Geraldine than Betty.” 


“Fine,” she said, after a moment. “If you want to be involved in this foolish game of whatever the hell these two have going on, you be my guest. If you think for one second that I am content to just wait around until things aren’t complicated? You have another thing coming.” 


She drew in a deep breath. “By the way, Fred? Your checks keep bouncing. You don’t want to make Harold angry.” 


“Aren’t you going to apologize?” 


“Apologize? Hah.” Alice rolled her eyes heavenward. “I have nothing to apologize for.” 

Chapter Text

“What do you mean by that?” Fred demanded, his tone entirely too whiny for the circumstances, and Alice sneered in his direction. “You aren’t Archie’s parent--he’s my son. Just because you think that it’s appropriate to keep your daughters under lock and key doesn’t mean that I have to be so restrictive of my son.” 


“You can’t be serious? You really think that allowing Archibald to be groomed by a sexual predator is being a good father? What if Mary was here? What would she say?” 


“Mary left,” he spat. “I’m his father.” 


“Believe me,” she said, and she rolled her eyes. “I am entirely all too aware what you are, and who you are in charge of failing to parent.” Alice crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I don’t particularly care what you think of me, Fred. I am well aware about your feelings about people of my pedigree, and I don’t appreciate how you handled the situation with FP. I let that slide! He’s better of leading a den of snakes than being your lackey. I cannot let this utter lack of regard for Archibald’s safety and his...this is ridiculous!”

“Of course it’s ridiculous,” he said. “I’m not going to change my parenting just because you don’t like Archie’s girlfriend, Alice. Just because she has a past? She’s not the only one here with a past, now, is she? You think I don’t remember all about you, Alice? How you--”


“I am telling you now, you need to be quiet, Fred,” Alice hissed, her tone deathly low. “Shut the fuck up. You want to be an accessory to a crime? Fine. Be my guest. I will not be a part of it.” 


“She’s not wrong, Fred--”

“Vic, she has this stupid grudge against my teenage son--”


“I’m just saying, it ain’t right. A teacher and a student. And it wasn’t right what you and FP’s old lady did to get him busted, neither.” 


“Vic! We don’t need--”


Alice unbuttoned her blouse ever so slightly, allowing herself to reveal a sliver of cleavage, and she glided across the office’s floor to where Vic and the other moron stood, a beatific expression on her face. 


“Frederick,” she cautioned, her voice honeyed. “If Vic wants to tell his story, why don’t we let him? Certainly it would be more preferable to my lecturing of three brick walls.”


“I’m telling you,” Vic said. “FP’s old lady came around all pissed off that he wanted to go straight, that he wanted to take on more of a leadership role here at the company. I had to admit it was almost refreshing to think about. Fred only likes to do things how his dad did them back when he was alive. We barely convinced him to upgrade to that computer.” Alice could see that the computer in question was essentially a large paperweight. She bit back a sigh. “Freddie here, he got real pissed off at that--”


“The way my dad did things was fine--”


“Are you forgetting that your father dropped dead back in the nineties?” Alice said flatly. “Why on earth would you not want to innovate things? I wouldn’t be surprised if he was alive when that computer was made.” Alice was not happy. “Are you telling me that you and Gladys Jones conspired together to frame FP for crimes that he did not do?” 


“He’s a Southsider. It wasn’t that difficult.” 


“And then you fired him because, what? That useless washed up torch singer couldn’t be assed to consider a life that wasn’t a life of crime? After all the sacrifices that I made for FP, you couldn’t ever be happy with him getting ahead? You just had to put a stop to him getting past where he was born, the life his parents brought him into?”


“It’s just business, Alice--”

“No. It’s just you banking on FP not knowing the proper channels of how to do things, and this shit ass town playing into your plots! First FP, now you letting your son fuck his music teacher because you don’t like how half of this room, not just me, disapproves?” 


“Well of course you don’t--”


“I am leaving, Fred. Don’t you dare say another damn word.”


Alice knew it was juvenile to slam the door behind her, but slam the door behind her she did, and smirked with satisfaction when the slightest bit of force made the door fall off its hinges. To say she was annoyed was a massive understatement.


She was, in fact, blinded by rage as she stalked in the direction of her car, somehow managing to wait until she had gotten into the vehicle to take her pack of menthols out of her purse and light one up. She was in approximately no state to drive. 


Or to notice the pickup truck that had pulled up beside her (that had seen better days). 


“I just don’t see what the big deal is, Dad.” Alice forced herself to abandon her seething rage to glance over at the truck beside her, her eyes widening at the occupants. Fortune had indeed smiled upon her. “You can show him your AA chips. Make him give you your job back.”


“You don’t understand, boy. It doesn’t work like that. Fred...he won’t believe me. He just sees this stupid jacket, you know?” 


“Oh, I know,” Alice purred, as she slipped out of the station wagon, and leaned against the driver’s side door of the truck. “In fact, I’m glad you’re here,” she continued. “I was going to go looking for you, but, fortune, as always, favors me.” 


“Alice Cooper,” FP drawled. “What brings you around here?”


“Sorry, Mrs. Cooper,” Jughead interjected. “I’d really like Dad to get a job--”

“As would I, Jughead,” she informed him. “Unfortunately I have just been given some information that makes my endorsement of this place of employment for your father even less likely than it was before. However, I have a solution for you.” 


“For me?” FP echoed. 


“Well more practically for Jughead,” Alice allowed. “My source at Town Hall informed Harold and me that the drive in is closing,” she said. “Elizabeth tells me that you work there, Jughead. We have a part time photographer position open at the Register. I’m willing to hire you a paid intern and I will speak to Waldo Weatherbee about ensuring that it counts for class credit.”


“You’d do that for me?” 


“Of course,” Alice said. “Unlike some people we know my offers don’t come with conditions attached.”


“What are you talking about?” FP questioned. “You know something I don’t know about Freddy?” 


“I know several things,” she corrected. “I may need to utilize you and your...methods of dubious legality,” she sighed. “But we certainly can’t talk about it here. Why don’t the two of you come over?”


“Whatever makes you happy, Alice.”

“Are you sure you want to be seen with me?” FP asked Jughead tiredly, as he parked the truck on the street in front of the Coopers’ house, not wanting to follow Alice immediately in. “I understand if you’d rather go home, boy. Or to the drive in.”


“It’s fine, Dad,” Jughead said. “It will be good to be able to say goodbye to Betty. She’s going to California tomorrow.” 


FP liked the Cooper girl entirely more than he liked Red, but friends were so difficult for Jughead to find that he didn’t dare dissuade the boy from making whatever ones he could, even though the thought of him being friends with Fred’s son made his skin crawl. 


“I just wanted to be sure,” he said. “I know that I screwed up. I just...I’m really trying this time.” He scrubbed at his beard. “For you, and for your sister. I can’t believe that she’s coming home.” 


“I don’t think it’s that much of a surprise,” Jughead said softly. “Mom was making her do drug runs for her. They were living in a chop shop. I’m surprised it happened as late as it did.” He sighed. “When is she getting here, again?”


“Couple of days.” FP squinted off in the distance. “Ain’t that Alice’s older one? Margaret, or whatever?” 


“Yeah, Dad, that’s Polly. Why do you ask?” 


“What the hell is she doing with that Blossom drug runner?” 


Jughead pursed his lips. “What are you talking about, Dad?” 


“Mustang wanted us to get together with Blossom’s son about having some of the Snakelets start dealing big time. I told him no. We don’t do that shit.”


“That’s Polly’s ex,” Jughead said after a moment. “Jason Blossom. Are you sure he’s a drug dealer?” 


“He ain’t her ex,” FP said. “Do exes look like they do, boy?”


“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said after a moment. “Except for the fact that I am sure that Mrs. Cooper is not aware of this extra curricular activity of Polly’s, given that she isn’t locked away in her room. Someone should tell her, Dad. Might as well be you.”




“It might be believable coming from your mouth,” he said. “Given your proclivities as of late? She’d never believe that I had any intel at all.” 


“Damn straight you don’t have intel.” 


FP ruffled Jughead’s hair before he climbed out of the cab of the truck. It was clear that neither Alice (who was unlocking her front door), nor her daughter and Blossom (who were making out with each other on Fred’s porch) had been made aware of the other’s presence. It would have been comical if he didn’t sense that Alice was about to blow. 


At least Alice was sane. 


The same could not be said for the Cooper girl. 


Jughead glanced over at the couple and wrinkled his nose. “Gross,” he mumbled. “Now, Dad, remember, we are guests in the Coopers’ house. Let’s not have a repeat of last time?” 


“Well, son, Hal Cooper moved out, so, last time won’t be happening,” he said. “But...duly noted. It was immature of me to throw that pie at him.” 


“It was a waste of food!” Jughead exclaimed. “You ruined an entire peach pie because you didn’t like a comment that he made. You need to work on priorities, Dad.” 


“Will the two of you stop bickering?” Alice said. “I have more important things to deal with than...what the hell are they doing together?”


“Seems like they’re putting on the show for the neighborhood,” FP quipped. “Want me to scare them?”

“You know what?” Alice said. “I am so tired. I’m just going to pretend that I didn’t see that.” 


“You know he’s a drug dealer, right?” FP asked. “Blossom calls them Sugarmen.”


“I said I would deal with it later. Not another word about them.”

Chapter Text

“Did you just see them walk right past us?” Polly said bitterly. “Like we don’t matter at all?” 


Jason shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t care for your parents,” he said. “They ask too many questions.”


“FP Jones is not my father,” she said flatly. “He’s just some guy that my mom keeps around because she’s bored. You know perfectly well that my dad is Hal Cooper. Those jokes aren’t funny, Jason.” 


“I’m just saying,” he said. “Why the hell wouldn’t he let us do that damn drop then? It would have made things ten times easier if he had let that Mustang punk ass give us those damn drugs. Now we had to resort to stealing my dad’s. He’s going to be so pissed off if he finds out, Polly, and--”


“But he’s not going to find out,” she said, her tone both blithe and bitterly pointed. “Surely you wouldn’t be so stupid as to ruin our only chance of getting the money and getting the hell out of here?” 


Jason bit back a sigh, and he scraped his hair back from where it had fallen out of place. He didn’t understand why Polly was so obsessed with leaving Riverdale behind and raising their baby in that farm she had heard about from his grandmother further upstate. Everyone knew that Nana Rose was crazy. Except, apparently, for Polly. Who expected him to abandon his entire life simply because he knocked her up. 


“I just think that you’re overreacting a little bit,” he said after a moment. “I mean, why can’t you  just tell your mom that you’re pregnant? If she’s willing to debase herself and associate with the leader of the Serpents, why do you think that it would be beyond her to tolerate the fact that she’s going to be a grandmother? Why does having the baby have to be the solution to this to begin with, anyways?” 


“What are you saying, Jason? That you want me to handle things? Maybe go to that appointment that my dad offered to pay for?” Polly demanded. Her eyes flashed. “I don’t understand you. The Farm is our future and Riverdale is our past. I just don’t understand why you don’t see that?” 


“Would going to the appointment have been the worst thing in the world?” Jason chanced to ask, as Polly’s crucifix (which was dangling from her neck) caught a dangerous glint in the light, which he had to notice matched the sudden fire in her eyes. He gulped. “I’m just saying, Polly. We’re teenagers. Do you really want to be tied down by a kid for forever? Together?”


“How dare you?” She demanded. “Why don’t you see that this baby is the chance for us to be tied together, forever? They can’t say anything bad about our relationship because you’re the father of my child, Jason. We can finally be happy.” 


“Relationship?” Jason demanded. “Polly. What the hell are you talking about? What relationship? We were only fucking because I’m the captain of the football team and you were the head cheerleader. There was no relationship. There is no relationship. Didn’t I make that clear when Cheryl took your spot? What we had was over?” He shook his head. “Just because the damn condom broke doesn’t mean that we’re going to be a happy family together, and moving away to the farm won’t change that. I said I would try for the drop with the Serpents. You’re on your own if you want to do the drop with the shit you stole from my dad.” 


Maybe he had been slightly too harsh. Jason didn’t really know. He also didn’t really care. “How do we even know if the baby is mine? You’re all over the book, Polly. It could be any one of them!” 


“How dare you cast aspirations against my character?” 


“Aspirations? You’re the one who expects a little pink plus sign to bring us back together!”


“I want to apologize for them,” Fred told Geraldine and Archie, after Alice had rather explosively stormed out of the office, leaving a broken door in her wake, which Fred thought was a complete and utter overreaction. “Alice is trying to come to terms with the fact that her children will be the product of a broken home,” he said smoothly. “She doesn’t approve of the unorthodox manner in which Mary and I conduct our marriage.” 


“It’s fine, Mr. Andrews,” Geraldine said. “I understand that our relationship might raise some people’s brows. That’s why Archie and I decided that we’d keep our relationship a secret until after he graduated high school. He’d be legal then, and it wouldn’t appear to be wrong. We just had a lapse of judgment, because I was led to believe that no one came to visit the construction site.” He watched as she leveled Archie with a glare. “You can imagine my surprise when we were disturbed.” 


“Well, you know what it’s like,” Fred said with a shrug. “You bounce a few checks and people get mad at you. And it’s not like Hal actually has a problem with it,” he said. “If he did he would say something. We were neighbors for decades, until she stole that house out from under his nose.” 


“I told Betty that her parents were going to get back together,” Archie supplied. “I mean, why wouldn’t they? You and Mom are planning on it, right? When you convince her to move back? I mean, you would think that living so close by would make it easier for her parents to stop with their whole...divorce thing. Mrs. Cooper heard me and she gave me that look that she gave me when I threw my shoe at that bird. It was eating my sandwich!”


“You did throw a shoe at a trumpeter swan, Archie,” Fred said, and he ran his hands through his hair. “The actual problem is that Vic opened his big mouth and told her about what Gladys and I did to FP. She’s going to tell him and it’s going to be an utter disaster.” He shuddered.


“You’re sure that’s the only problem you have?” Geraldine asked, her eyes wide, and her gaze unblinking. “You’re really okay with this, with what Archie and I have?”

“Like you said, you’re going to wait until he’s legal,” he said. “I don’t see why I should stop Archie from being happy.”


Fred honestly didn’t see where Alice got off judging anyone at all for their relationships, given that she had married Hal Cooper during their senior year of high school, while she was locked up in that nunnery giving birth to FP Jones’ bastard child. Where the hell did she get off complaining at all about Archie’s relationships? At least he wasn’t getting people pregnant, or doing drugs. There was nothing wrong with a perfectly platonic relationship between a teacher and a student. And if Alice complained? Oh well. He’d go on the record to deny that anything had happened.


Clearly it was a slow week at the Register. Alice must have decided to find a new type of crime for her papers to sell. 


“Thanks, Dad,” Archie said. “You mind if we head out?” 


“I want to ask you a hypothetical question,” Alice said, after she had shooed Elizabeth and Jughead out of her house with money for the Bijou and Pops in their little hands. Polly and that boy hadn’t dared to show their faces inside of Alice’s home, so she didn’t dare tempt fate and go out to glower at them, not when she had actual issues that she needed to deal with. “May I?” 


“You can do whatever the hell you want, Alice,” FP said. “You always do.” 


She dropped down on the couch beside him, and she tucked her legs under her. FP had eaten his way through the crudites that she had hastily plated for him, she noted with satisfaction. It was good for him to eat vegetables. 


“What would your reaction be if Jughead was engaging in inappropriate behaviors with a person in a position of authority?” 


FP coughed. “You know I’m a gang leader, right? What--”


“Not a person like you,” she said. “FP, why would I not directly state if you were the problem here?” She sighed. “Not a gang leader. More like. A teacher. Or a Scoutmaster.” 


“I’d beat their goddamned asses,” he said, his tone low. “I would make it look like an accident when they got eaten by a damn snake.” 


“Would you call the police?” 


He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, Al. That depends on the crime that was committed. It would definitely be handled, though. I tell you that.” 


She watched him shove a carrot in his mouth. 


“Something happen? You kill someone? Did you kill Cooper?” 


Alice rolled her eyes. “No, I did not debase myself by killing Harold,” she said, her tone prim. “I was simply trying to ensure we were on the same page before I tell you about the latest debacle the morons next door have involved myself in.” She sighed. 


“What did Fred do?” FP demanded. “Did he try to fuck you?” 


“Don’t be so crass,” Alice said. “As if I would debase myself by sleeping with Frederick. I may be a divorcee FP, but I have some standards. Why would I sleep with the man who fathered one of the thorns in my side?” Alice sighed. “Do you want to hear about the disaster that was my morning, or not?”


He chuckled. She scowled. “I’m sorry, Al, it’s not funny that you had a disaster of a morning,” he said. “I just think it’s funny that your standards lower to include me, but not the boy next door.”


“You’re much more appealing than Frederick, Forsythe,” Alice purred. “But that is neither here nor there,” she said, her tone apologetic. “I have discovered that Archibald and his music teacher are engaged in a highly inappropriate physical relationship.” 


“What? How the hell do you even know that? Were you spying on them?” 


Alice arched a brow. “I reject those accusations,” she said. “I do not spy on people, I merely follow the boundaries set forth as the head of the neighborhood watch, and for that matter I had the great misfortune of happening upon them in the wild, if you will.” She wrinkled her nose. “Perhaps all of this could have been avoided had Archibald and his unfortunate excuse for a paramour hadn’t been parked in my direct path to...explore themselves. I just thank God that the important parts were covered when I interrupted them.” 


“And? What did Fred do?” 


“Fred?” Alice let out a bitter laugh. “Fred seems to think there’s nothing wrong with telling Archibald and that woman that he sees nothing wrong with their relationship, like it’s not grossly inappropriate for a student to be fucking a damn teacher. They fed him some bullshit about how they were going to wait until after Archie graduated to go public, but, even so, it’s just wrong.” She pursed her lips. “I told him that I was going to go to the Sheriff.” 


“And you haven’t?” 


“No. Not yet,” she said. “I was going to, but then I saw you and Jughead. And I needed to stop you from making the biggest mistake of your life.” She sighed. “I don’t want you working with him again. I understand that you want to be legally employed, that you want to do right by Jughead, and by Jellybean. But you can’t go work with him again. I won’t stand for you working for the man that conspired with your estranged wife to ruin your life,” Alice said. “Your replacement told me. How he and Gladys couldn’t stand that you didn’t want to be a Serpent anymore, so they planted evidence that you were selling materials from the job sites on the side, how he screwed you out of the business you legally owned by not giving you equitable terms when he released you from the company. And Fred said he didn’t see any damn thing wrong with it because it was what Gladys wanted.” She shook her head. “Heaven forbid either of them had gotten their heads out of their damn asses to realize that you were doing right by your family, that you deserved the chance to do right by them.” 


“You’re sure?” 


Alice nodded. “I have never been more certain of anything in my life,” she said. 


He chuckled bitterly. “He called me the other day,” he said. “Said that he’d seen me hanging around you. That he wondered if maybe he’d made a mistake. Firing me and shit. The only reason I considered it at all was because I didn’t want Jellybean to realize we lived in that shithole trailer. I thought maybe I could swing a place on the Northside if he gave me an advance. He was willing--”


“Fred doesn’t have two cents to rub together,” she informed him. “He is in arrears to the Register for several thousand dollars, FP. I don’t know how he expected to be able to pay you, but…” She shook her head. “I think it would have been a bad idea.” 


“Well, of course it would have been a bad idea,” he said. “Most of my ideas tend to be.”


“Not all of your ideas, Jonesy,” she purred. “Just...half of them. Roughly speaking.”


“You’re real generous, Al.”