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    The ceiling light of the hospital’s small examination room flickered, making that dull buzzing sound of electricity that was about to go out. Aurora Jones sat rigid in her seat, occasionally shaking from her nerves. She felt so sick. So, so numb.
    “Rory—” Her brother began before the door flung open. A nurse quickly shuffled into the room with another woman in tow, who shut the door quietly behind her. The nurse gently stated that she needed to go over a few things with them before they could finish paperwork, and how sorry she was to inconvenience them during this difficult time. Peter glanced over to Rory, who just stared straight ahead into nothingness, before answering the nurse’s questions. Rory had them completely tuned out, only hearing the ringing of the unclarity of their voices in her ears. She shivered again. After a while, she focused her hearing.
    “Is there a next-of-kin that we need to notify?” The nurse asked.
    “It’s just us.” Peter stated, staring blankly into the void as he absentmindedly squeezed his sister’s hand. Rory snapped back to reality.
    “My uncle,” Rory choked out hoarsely. Her throat was froggy from being silent for so long. “FP Jones.” The nurse nodded and made her way to the door.
    She wasn’t sure how much time had passed before the nurse had dipped out of the room just then. She saw Peter shaking hands with the woman who remained with them. The woman’s other arm held a thick black binder with papers sticking out of it.
    Was it supposed to happen this way? First my best friend, and not even a couple weeks later, my own mother? Why wasn’t I crying? Why hadn’t I cried?
    “Miss Jones,”
    Am I a sociopath?
    “Miss Jones!” She was snapped to reality by the shrill voice of the woman in front of her. She mumbled an apology sheepishly. “Since you’re still underage, you’ll be sent into foster care,” Rory rapidly shook her head in both protest and utter confusion. “Unless you’d rather be with your uncle?” She suggested. “He has a record... but he is your only surviving family. I don’t know for certain if they’ll allow it.”
    “Can I not live with my brother and my dad?” She asked quizzically.
    “Unfortunately, no, your stepfather isn’t biologically related to you, and he and your mother split up long before her untimely death so he isn’t technically considered your stepfather,” The woman stated, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. Rory stared blankly at the woman in front of her. What did she mean they weren’t biologically related? “I’m sorry, I thought you would have known that. You didn’t find it odd that you two have different last names?” She asked condescendingly.
    “They told me that they had a fight during our birth, and Peter was born first, before the fight. She said that by the time that they made up my birth certificate was already finalized, and it cost too much to have it changed,” Rory stated vacantly. Peter shifted stiffly. Her mind began to race, but she somehow managed to shove it to the back of her mind when the woman rudely snapped her fingers in front of her face. Peter hadn’t said a word. “Did you know about this?” She asked, her words dripping with agony.
    “I found out a couple of months ago.” He sighed before burying his head into his hands. She felt like the knife in her chest had been twisted. He’d known for months and he didn’t bother to tell her, her own twin brother... She felt betrayed.
    “Well apparently I’m the last to know important details about my own identity,” Rory scoffed with tears welling up in her eyes. She clenched her fists, almost relishing in the pain of her nails digging into her palms to calm her nerves. “I’m not going to live with a bunch of strangers, so don’t even think about putting me in a home,” Rory said ardently. “Why can’t I live at my house?”
    “Despite the fact that you’re a minor— “
    “I’m seventeen!”
    “That isn’t the legal age of adulthood,” she sighed, rubbing her temples with her fingertips. “Like I was saying, despite the fact that you’re a minor, you guys were already several months behind on rent.”
    “So, you would put an orphan on the streets?” She asked, shooting daggers at Peter on the word “orphan.” He avoided eye contact.
    “No, I would put an orphan with surviving family or a foster family, like I gave you the choice of. To be completely honest, your landlord was extremely gracious to let you both continue to live there rent-free for as long as you did,” The woman suggested. Rory never bothered to learn her name. She had more important things to worry about, like if she was a sociopath or not, and who the fuck she’s been calling “dad.” “So, we can try to place you with your uncle, then?”
    “Yes, make it happen. Please.” The ugly truth was that she was conflicted. Her mother worked her entire life to keep them out of the southside, away from the crime and gangs that she grew up around. She worked double shifts for them to barely scrape by, living in a small house on the edge of the northside. And now it seemed like all of her hard work was for nothing. There was too much piling on at once. She needed to interrogate Peter and to confront her “father,” but she couldn’t deal with that right now. Not now. It’s all too much.

***

    Clouds of cigarette smoke enveloped Rory as she stepped into the White Wyrm. Rock music, laughter, and the clacking sound of pool balls seemed to shake the space from the ground up. She made her way to the bar.
    “Ava? I haven’t seen you here in ages! You look great.” The bartender called to her. She sucked in a sharp breath and looked behind her to see if there was someone else there, and that it was just a coincidence. But no one was there, it was just her.
    “I’m not Ava,” She rasped, her voice kind of breaking mid-sentence. She still couldn’t cry. Even at the sound of her name. “I’m her daughter.”
    The barkeep’s smile grew even wider, though she couldn’t understand why considering she had never seen this man in her life. “Little Aurora, right?” Rory gaped at him for a moment.
    “Uh, yeah. Rory is fine. Though not quite little.” She awkwardly chuckled and glanced around anxiously.
    “Oh, sorry. I made you uncomfortable. I met you a couple times when you were a little girl. Before your mom stopped coming, that is. How is Ava, by the way?”
Her eyes darted down to her thumbs as she twiddled them idly. “She passed away... a couple days ago.” He went silent and his smile quickly disappeared. The man shifted uncomfortably.
    “I... I am so sorry to hear that. I’m not the best at comforting people... Can I get you a drink instead?” He offered, trying to joke some light to the uncomfortable situation he had just placed himself in.
    “I’m only seventeen,” She half smiled. “I’ll have a Shirley Temple though,” His smile crept back onto his face. “... What?” She asked hesitantly.
    “It’s just that that’s what your mom used to order when we were all teenagers, and when she was pregnant with you.” Rory smiled at him. She was instantly grateful for that smile coming back onto his face, for that little tidbit of information about her mother that made her insides feel warm, and her eyes welled up. This is it, she thought. I’m finally going to cry. I’m not a sociopath. Then... nothing. “I’m Hog Eye, by the way.” He extended his hand. She didn’t let the nickname throw her. Being somewhat close to the “culture” of the Serpents made the things like weird nicknames familiar to her. She shook his hand gingerly.
    Suddenly, the doors of the Wyrm burst open and two boys swaggered toward the bar. They were loud, pushing each other over and joking around obnoxiously. They looked familiar, most likely from the new wave of students that came over from Southside High a few months ago. They were shouting profanities toward the petite girl wiping down the bar, and she flipped them off before starting a conversation with them. The taller of the two boys caught Rory staring and she immediately snapped her head down to the Shirley Temple that Hog Eye had slid in front of her. She stirred the ice around with her straw.
    “You lost, Northie?” She ignored him, fully knowing that he was addressing her. A bar stool scraped across the wood floor near the end of the counter before she heard shuffled movements coming her direction. “You hear me talking to you?” He said a little louder.
    “Leave her alone, dude.” The pink-haired girl from behind the bar rolled her eyes. She gave Rory an apologetic look. Her eyes were big and soft, and she seemed to be truly genuine with her expression. The boy scoffed at her with a smirk and leaned against the counter next to Rory.
    “I asked if you were lost. You deaf?”
    “And what if I was? What would you do?” Rory turned to him with an amused expression. He gazed at her with his mouth slightly agape for a moment as he tried to grasp for a response. “Right.” She snorted before taking a sip of her drink. A thick black curl hung loosely between his furrowed eyebrows.
    “Sweet Pea, cut it out. She’s having a hard time.” The girl piped in again. Rory was kind of annoyed that she had eavesdropped on her and Hog Eye’s conversation, but then again, they were in the center of a bar and weren’t talking in privacy.
    “Sweet Pea?” Rory raised an eyebrow with a smirk, turning toward the boy with her entire body now. She needed this distraction. Even if it was sure to turn out as an annoying encounter.
    “Yeah, don’t let the name fool you.” He replied flatly.
    “He’s a dick.” The other boy spoke up for the first time, then grunted when Sweet Pea kicked backward, hitting the boy in the thigh. He pushed Sweet Pea’s shoulder in return, but his eyes never left hers and he didn’t even budge, aside from his shoulder jerking forward.
    “If you’re going to be in my house, I need to know who I’m letting in.” He huffed.
    “My name is Aurora, my friends call me Rory,” she sighed, deciding to humor him. Sweet Pea snorted mockingly. She narrowed her eyes at him. “Is something funny?”
    “Aurora? You mean... like the Disney princess?” She rolled her eyes at his response.
    “At least I’m not named after a vegetable.” She muttered. The two other teenagers laughed. Sweet Pea crossed his arms over his chest as he mumbled for the others to shut up through gritted teeth.
    “I’m Toni Topaz. This is Fangs Fogarty.” The girl piped in and motioned with her elbow as she wiped out a pint glass. Fangs gave a lazy salute with a coy smile. Sweet Pea was visibly growing increasingly more agitated.
    “Look, Northsider, you aren’t welcome here —"
    “Sweet Pea!” A loud voice boomed from across the room. “Are you giving my niece a hard time? Where is your Serpent hospitality?” The room grew nearly silent aside from the music as FP filed toward us. Sweet Pea’s jaw instantly went slack as Fangs slowly walked backward, knocking a bar stool over. Sweet Pea quizzically looked from Rory, to FP, and back again. She smiled sweetly.
    “Did I mention that I’m a Jones?”

 

 

Chapter Text

                “You’re late!” Midge exclaimed playfully as Rory approached the booth where she sat in the relatively empty Chock’lit Shoppe. Rory laughed, mumbling a brief apology before sliding into the booth. Midge already had a milkshake of Rory’s flavor choice waiting for her. She immediately took a sip, relishing in the cold, creamy strawberry deliciousness. Midge smiled at her briefly before it faded into a frown.

            “What’s wrong?” Rory asked, growing concerned. Midge’s eyes scanned Pop’s to make sure there was no one eavesdropping before sighing.

            “I just don’t know what to do about Moose,” she put her chin in her hand and stirred her milkshake absentmindedly. “I love him, but something is just… off. But with Fangs… Oh, Rory, with Fangs it feels so right. The passion. The spark. The hunger –”

            “Okay, I don’t need to know that part!” Rory laughed before reaching across the table to grab her hand. Midge smiled before it quickly faded away again. “Do you love Fangs?”

            “No, I don’t think so. But he gives me something that Moose just… doesn’t. Even before, when things were good, it just felt odd. Awkward. Clunky,” she shrugged and shook her head. “What do I do?”

            “I think you need to be honest with Moose. It isn’t fair to keep lying to him, especially when he’s being faithful to you. You guys need to talk about it.” Rory squeezed her hand sympathetically.

            “Yeah, you’re right… as always,” She rolled her eyes and sniffled. Rory grinned and looked down into her milkshake and took another sip. “Do you think I’m a sinner?”

            “A sinner?” Rory snorted, almost spitting her milkshake back down into the cup. “What the hell are you talking –” She looked up to meet Midge’s eyes. She was cut off by her own blood-curdling scream. Her best friend’s cold, dead eyes emptily stared back at her. Blood and decay covered her face and body. Five knives were plunged into her torso, and two pairs of scissors pinned her arms in a “T” into the back of the booth.

            “I am back from the dead,” Midge’s corpse hissed monotonously. “All those who escaped me before will die.”

            Rory sprang up from the bed in strained sobs, screaming from the flashes in her head. Jughead burst through the door with his switchblade flicked out, his hair disheveled and one eye half-closed. Once he saw that there was no physical threat, he put the knife away. FP pushed past him and held his niece tightly to his chest, stroking her hair in attempt to calm her. Jughead sat on the end of the bed. She had stopped screaming, but the sobs carried on. She thought of the couple of nights that this occurred when her mother was alive, before her death. How her mother would climb into bed with her and stay with her the rest of the night. But she was gone too. And she wouldn’t have even been gone if Midge weren’t gone in the first place. She sobbed harder. After a while, FP convinced Rory to lay back down. He moved to the chair in the corner of the small room and nodded for Jughead to leave before laying his head back. He stayed there for the rest of the night.

            In the morning, Rory rubbed her swollen eyes and headed down the hall toward the kitchen. Living with Jughead and FP was… different for Rory. When she arrived, it was clear that the trailer was in a state of constant disarray from the busy lives of the two men that lived there, but Rory had started to clean things up to keep herself busy when she wasn’t at school. It had been a few months since she started living there, but the nightmares hadn’t gone away. It was always the same dream over and over, an “alternate” ending to the very real last conversation she and her best friend had before the musical that fateful night.

            “Hey sugar,” Gladys chirped. Rory smiled faintly at her formerly estranged aunt and mumbled a “good morning.” “How’d you sleep?”

            “Like a baby.” Rory smirked bitterly. She knew she had heard her screaming last night. If both FP and Jughead heard her, there was no way that Gladys and Jellybean hadn’t. They hadn’t even been back in town for long and Rory was already done with the whole situation. Something felt wrong about her presence. Plus, she and Rory’s mom had never gotten along, so Gladys had almost the same passive-aggressive attitude toward her most of the time.

            “Good,” Gladys smiled, taking a sip of her black coffee. “FP is out back. He has something to show you.” Rory gave a tight-lipped nod in response and exited the trailer. It was a bit nippy outside, and she was only wearing a cotton tee and some pajama pants. She crossed her arms over her chest. She heard some banging noises from behind the trailer so she followed them. FP stood among a medium sized Airstream camper trailer with the doors and windows wide open, and a few packed boxes sprawled around on the ground outside of it.

            “What’s all of this?” Rory spoke up, as FP hadn’t noticed her standing there. He looked up and beamed at her, immediately walking in her direction.

            “Hey squirt, how are you feeling this morning?” He asked, pulling her into his side and giving her a chaste kiss on the forehead.

            “I’m okay,” she smiled up at her uncle. “How’s your back?” She asked sheepishly.

            “Oh, don’t worry about me. Me and that chair are very well acquainted. Jellybean used to have nightmares when she was a little girl.” He reassured her. She suddenly felt very burdensome. She had been sleeping in Jellybean’s room since she moved in, but now that they were back in town, Jellybean had been sleeping on a cot in the living room.

            “I think JB and I should switch living arrangements. It’s her room after all.” Rory insisted.

            “That actually brings me to the reason I had you come out here,” FP grinned, pulling her with him toward the Airstream. “Your mom didn’t like living in the trailer with me and our old man when she was a teenager. ‘Hostile environment,’ and all that. I don’t blame her,” he sighed and absentmindedly rubbed his jaw thinking just how hostile that environment could be most of the time. He shook his head to get the memories out. “This was hers. I kept it when she left, just in case she ever wanted to come back… Now it’s yours.”

            “Mine?” She blinked at him, dumbfounded. He gave a nod and motioned for her to go inside.

            “Check it out. I got most of the boxes out, and we can take out anything else you want,” FP suggested as she looked around. She oddly felt like she was giving her mom a hug, just being inside the eclectic trailer. It was almost untouched by time, aside from all of the dust. It made her feel… Happy. She turned to her uncle and gave him a sudden, almost rib-crushing hug. He stumbled backward slightly and froze for a second before hugging her back. She mumbled a thank you into his chest. “You now have your own space. There’s a mini fridge that I had laying around, and the bathroom is back in the little ‘room’ behind the bed, but you’ll have to come inside for meals and showers, and to hang out with us, of course.” He chuckled.

            “Thank you so much Uncle FP. I don’t know what to say.” Rory sniffed. He waved his hand to stop her from thanking him. Her phone buzzed in the pocket of her pajama pants. She rolled her eyes when she pulled it out and looked at the screen. Two texts from Peter to add to the however many unanswered previous messages. She hadn’t spoken to him in a few months, since her mom’s funeral.

            “You should talk to him. He’s been coming around and asking for you,” FP sighed. Rory scoffed in return. “He lost her too.” She sighed and wiped a tear from her cheek, hesitating before finally texting him to meet her at Pop’s in an hour. FP rubbed her shoulder, then ducked out of the trailer. Not much time passed before Jughead appeared at the door and knocked on the frame before coming inside.

            “Nice camper. Very… Bohemian.”  Jughead chuckled, looking around the camper. He had never been in here before. In fact, the only knowledge he had of it before was that it was behind the trailer covered in tarps his whole life.

            “Thanks,” Rory laughed, curling up into one of the two armchairs. “It’s all my mom’s stuff. I almost feel like I’m in a museum. I’m too afraid to touch anything because I might knock it over.” Jughead furrowed his brows and moved to sit in the chair adjacent to his cousin.

            “You need to make it your own,” he began carefully. “This is your space. You live here now.” She nodded with a sigh and thanked him. He patted her shoulder in return.

***

            When Rory walked into Pop’s, she could already see Peter waiting in a booth. She furrowed her brow and looked down at her phone at the time. She was early. He was even earlier. She frowned and started walking in his direction, and asked Pop Tate for her usual as she passed him at the counter. She suddenly came into contact with a body, which made her stumble backward, but the person didn’t budge at all.

            “Watch where you’re going, princess.” Sweet Pea scoffed, pushing past her.

            “Fuck off.” Rory spat as she rolled her eyes and flipped him off, anger bubbling in her chest. She took a deep breath before sliding into the seat across from her brother. He already had her milkshake waiting for her.

            “You’re late.” He teased as he watched Sweet Pea exit the building with narrowed eyes.

            “You’re late!” Midge exclaimed playfully.

            Rory shook the flashback out of her head and pushed the milkshake away from her slightly. Peter frowned. “I’m early. You’re too early.” She retorted, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning back against the seat.

            “How are you?” Peter asked timidly. Rory smiled bitterly.

            “Peachy,” she laughed. She took a breath. He lost her too. “How are you?”

            He shifted to gaze out the window. “Peachy.” They sat in silence for a moment. What am I doing? Rory thought to herself.

            “Let’s talk about it.” Rory sighed, placing her folded hands on the table. He continued to stare out the window, but she saw a single tear slip down his cheek.

            “It was my fault,” He rasped out before clearing his throat and wiping his face. “If I had just skipped the movie at the Bijou and went with her to the fucking store, none of this would have happened. I could have held them back. I could have pulled her out of the way of the crowd. She wouldn’t have tripped and wouldn’t have been… I could have just —” His voice broke as he choked out a silent sob. Rory furrowed her brow, shaking her head. Her heart felt like it broke all over again just watching the sight in front of her. She reached across the table to grab his hand and squeezed it.

            Rory laughed before reaching across the table to grab her hand. Rory squeezed her hand sympathetically.

            Rory gasped and jerked her hand back as if she’d been shocked. She shook the memory out again. It felt like her lungs had just collapsed and her heart rate was rising significantly. Peter quickly reached across to grab her hand before it got too far. He faced her now, looking her in the eyes.

            “I’m so sorry, Aurora. I’m sorry that our mom is gone because of me, and I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you about dad. I have been so angry about it and had to keep it to myself, because we were ‘never supposed to know.’ I’ve been so hurt. You’re not the only one that was hurt by it! I am your biological twin brother. We are related. And I’m the one that’s stuck without you because ‘dad’ has legal custody over me. I’ve been drowning without you.” He sobbed quietly, making sure not to attract extra attention from the other patrons of the restaurant. Rory stared back at him, silent tears streaming down her face.

            “It isn’t your fault. You’re okay.” She cooed as she squeezed his hand. A waitress came by and put food on the table in front of them. Peter quickly wiped his face and cleared his throat, but Rory didn’t even bother. Peter stared down into his food, absentmindedly playing with his scrambled eggs. It remained silent between them for a while until Rory lifted a piece of bacon and playfully tried to “force feed” it to him. He laughed and took the bacon from her hand.

            “I missed you.” He smiled.

            “I missed you, too, you freak of nature.”

Chapter Text

            “So… what’s it going to be like for you to be living in your girlfriend’s old house?” Rory chuckled awkwardly as she set a box down on Jughead’s new desk. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.

            “I’d rather not be in this situation at all, honestly. Maybe it would be different if my mom got the money without all this drug shit, and with actual good intentions. I don’t know. The only ‘good’ thing about this, the way I see it, is that we’re no longer packed in like sardines,” He stated sarcastically, opening a box labeled “books.” Rory nodded and watched him carefully. She knew how stressful this situation was for him and Betty. He stared down blankly into the box for a few moments.

            “Jug?”

            He snapped out of his trance and looked up at her. He mumbled a quick apology before holding up The Nancy Drew Secret Code book. Rory shifted uncomfortably.

            “Jughead, why do you have that?”

            “Betty didn’t want anything to do with it after… you know,” he replied and shot her an apologetic look. “We were going to burn it, but time escaped us with Archie’s trial and everything else that started happening.” Rory honestly hadn’t even immediately thought of this as the Black Hood’s house. Perhaps her subconscious made the decision for her to only think of it as Betty and Alice’s. Jughead immediately shoved the book back into the box. “I’m sorry.”

            “Don’t be, I understand,” she sighed and sat down on his bed, and then paused for a moment. “I never thanked you.”

            “What? What do you mean?”

            “I never thanked you, or Betty, for catching him… Though I don’t exactly know how to thank someone for finding out that their father is a psychotic serial killer. I know that Midge would have been grateful, too.” Rory shrugged and looked out the window. She could see Archie going at it with his punching bag in his room. He stepped back after a particularly hard swing and noticed her gaze through the window. He gave her an awkward wave as his cheeks flushed. She smiled back at him.

            “You don’t have to thank us, what are you even talking about?” Jughead walked over to sit next to her. She shrugged and gave him a weak smile. He lightly elbowed her in return.

            “We need to figure out how to get the Airstream over here, because you know I’m not sleeping in this godforsaken house.” Rory joked, changing the subject. Then the bedroom door suddenly swung open. Gladys’s eyes appeared slightly over the box she was carrying. She cackled, causing the teens to exchange confused glances at each other before looking back to the woman who had just entered.

            “Oh, that thing isn’t coming over here. Sorry, babydoll, but it’s an eyesore.” She laughed, setting the box on the ground by the doorway.

            “What… What do you mean?” Rory stammered, genuinely confused.

            “There’s no place for it here. It can’t go on the street, or in the driveway. The neighborhood committee wouldn’t allow it. There is no other place for it besides where it is right now.” She stated. Rory stared at her aunt with her mouth slightly agape. She turned to Jughead, whose eyes were narrowed and his jaw was clenched.

            “Can it go in the backyard, or something?” Rory pleaded softly.

            “I just now got myself my first, nice backyard. There isn’t enough room to have it back there.” She insisted.

            “Auntie, I really can’t live in this house…” Rory stated, her knuckles turning a pale shade of white as her bones pressed tightly against her skin.

            “Oh, I never expected you to. I can’t imagine what living in your best friend’s killer’s house would do to you. I’d never get any sleep if you did, for sure.” She chuckled. Rory felt like she’d just gotten the wind knocked out of her by her aunt’s words. Gladys had just confirmed that she had indeed been hearing Rory’s screaming from her nightmares and couldn’t care less about her wellbeing, and she so insensitively brought up Midge’s death. It’s like she was trying to get rid of her all along.

            “Mom.” Jughead warned lowly, standing up from his bed with his fists tightly made.

            “What?” Gladys feigned innocence as she strode over to him and tucked a loose strand of hair behind his ear, then exited the room. Rory blinked a few times, practically baring a hole into the floor with her stare. She had no words for what just unfolded.

            “Rory, please ignore her. I do,” Jughead offered, trying to break her from her trance. She shrugged in response. “We’ll figure it out, okay? We’ll talk to my dad.” He stated, and she nodded in return.

            “Hey, look who I ran into at Pop’s!” Betty smiled as she stepped through the threshold with two boys. She carried two takeout bags full of burgers, Fangs and Sweet Pea towered behind her holding drink carriers. Rory and Sweet Pea locked eyes. He raised an eyebrow at her.

            “Princess.” He addressed her mockingly.

            “Can I please catch a break? Jesus Christ!” She groaned as she rolled her eyes.

            “Actually, it’s ‘Sweet Pea,’ but I’ll take it.” He responded with a smirk. Jughead and Betty shared an awkward look between them, one that Rory ignored as she pressed further.

            “Well it’s a good thing that I’m not a believer, because if I was, I would be fucked.” Rory laughed bitterly.

            “I don’t think that would be the only reason that you’d be fucked.” Sweet Pea immediately fired back.

            “You’re a fucking thorn in my side.” Rory spat.

            “More like a pea under your mattress, like ‘Princess and the Pea.’” Fangs snorted, cracking up at his own joke before immediately stopping with a fake cough, due to Sweet Pea’s glare.

            “He’d would be so lucky to get anywhere near my mattress,” She said sarcastically before turning to face Sweet Pea. “You’re actually insufferable. You know that, right? Why are you even –”

            “Let’s eat!” Jughead interrupted, walking between the to of them over to Betty. He gave her a quick kiss before taking the bags from her.


 

            Rory stood outside of her dad’s house, kicking gravel around before pacing back and forth. She had been ignoring all of his calls and messages, and didn’t even speak to him at the funeral seven months ago. But she had put this off for long enough. She needed to get it out of the way and finally discuss things with the only father that she has ever known. However, she’d been outside of this house for thirty minutes and still hadn’t made any progress toward the door.

            “I can’t do this.” She laughed bitterly to herself before turning to walk the other direction, back toward the Cooper – the Jones’ household that was about a mile and a half away. The front door opened just as she was about to take her first step to toward her exit.

            “Aurora?” Her dad called out to her. Still facing the other direction, Rory’s lips pressed together into a tight line. “Aurora, is that you?” He sounded tipsy, but not quite drunk. She sucked in a breath through her teeth before turning on her heel toward him. His eyes lit up at the sight of her as he supported himself against the doorway, glass of scotch in hand.

            “Lance.” She said flatly, nodding once to him in acknowledgement. His beaming smile instantly fell and he straightened.

            “Are you here to see Peter?” He asked, hopeful that it wasn’t the case.

            “Yes… Yes, I am.” Rory lied. His expression seemed to sink further.

            “He isn’t here… He’s with Lara.” Great. The one time she needed to use her brother as an excuse, he was out with his girlfriend.

            “Oh,” She simply stated. They stood in silence for a moment. Rory began to panic. “Well, see you later.”

            “Wait!” He pleaded. “Would you like to come inside and wait for him? He’ll be back in a bit. They’re both coming here after they finish their dinner.”

            She nodded curtly after a moment, trotting up the steps of the porch and straight through the doorway without making eye contact. He reeked of alcohol when she passed him, and smelled like he hadn’t showered. She moved to the living room that was straight off to the left side of the foyer, opting for the furthest seat from the place he always sat. She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding when he took a seat where she predicted instead of trying to sit closer to her. They stayed in an extremely uncomfortable silence for several minutes, and Rory constantly found herself looking at the clock on the mantle of the fireplace. It seemed like time wasn’t moving. She couldn’t take it anymore.

            “I’m going to go.” She stood suddenly, which even surprised herself. Am I really chickening out?

            “Come on, stay. Let’s catch up, talk about things. Please.” Lance grasped at the fleeting moment with his only daughter, who had only said these few words to him for the first time in almost a year. A sudden anger surged through Rory and she quickly sat back down.

            “Okay, you want to catch up? Let’s!” She began, slapping her knees and plastering the fakest smile she could muster onto her tormented features. “Where shall we begin? The part where you took my siblings away from me when you and mom split? Or sticking me with a tumultuous time bomb of a woman for years in a run-down shit hole we couldn’t even afford, while you lived in this perfect house with my brothers? Or maybe we should go back to the very beginning? You know, the part where you’re not even me and Peter’s father! That part is rich. It really adds to the shit show that is our lives. Please, take your pick. A magnificent tragedy, I have become, don’t you think?” She spouted in almost a complete blur, angry tears spilling down her cheeks. He sat silently and stared at her, looking like he’d been kicked in the ribs.

            “I…” He began. She leaned forward and plopped her head onto her hand, pretending to be hanging onto every word that was about to come out of his mouth. “I am so sorry Aurora. For everything. God knows I have made mistakes, and that I have made your life difficult,” He said softly, and she scoffed at the word ‘difficult.’ “I never intended for you to find out, not either one of you. Your mother and I intended for that to be our secret.”

            “Wow Lance, that makes everything so much better. Thank you.” She cackled. He winced at the use of his first name by her for the second time in that short time frame.

            “I may not be your father, but I am your dad. I raised you. I changed your diapers. I soothed you when you’d cry in the middle of the night. I taught you to ride a bike, and I put the bandages on when you’d fall and scrape your knee. I checked for monsters under the bed. And I never loved you any less than I would have if you were actually mine.” He said genuinely with tears brimming his eyes. Rory couldn’t keep eye contact with him. She looked away as she broke into heart wrenching sobs. He moved toward her, wrapping her into a tight hug, which made her sob even harder. Her tears broke his heart. Hell, her tears even broke her own heart. She calmed after a few minutes and avoided eye contact, unintentionally shifting her gaze to Lance’s open laptop on the coffee table, where she could see a picture of her mother’s beloved car under a “For Sale” post on Craigslist. She furrowed her brows and broke out of her dad’s embrace.

            “What the fuck is this?” She hissed, holding up his laptop toward him. His mouth opened, then closed again. He had nothing that he could say to diffuse the anger that she was about to throw at him.

            “I need the money for your brother’s boarding payment.” He stated carefully, though obviously lying.

            “Are you joking? Like hell, you need the money!” She said sarcastically, gesturing at the house they were in. “Take it down, that car is mine and Peter’s.” She demanded.

            “I’m not taking it down.” He sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. Rory scoffed in disbelief as she pushed herself up from her seat and stormed out of the house, the screen door banging closed behind her. She could hear him calling after her but she kept walking, glancing toward her mom’s covered car off to the side of the driveway. As she passed it, Peter and Lara stepped out of Lara’s car that had just pulled up.

            “Rory –”

            “Not now Peter. I’ll see you later,” she said adamantly as she walked past them. She pulled out her phone and dialed the only person she could trust with the situation at hand.

            “Hello?” The voice on the other end of the phone said, muffled from the obvious chewing of food.

            “Hey Jug, do you know how to hotwire a car?”


            At midnight, on the dot, the sounds of two motorcycles and shifting gravel pulled Rory out of her unfocused, anxious leg jiggling. Two motorcycles? She shook her head. Her nerves must have been making her hear things. She pulled a black beanie over her messy brunette waves, completing her all black ensemble; she was ready to commit a crime, her first crime, and she was going to look damn good doing it. She gave herself one last anxious glance-over in the full-length mirror before grabbing her bag and heading out the camper door. And, sure enough, her mind wasn’t playing tricks on her, for there stood Jughead Jones accompanied by Sweet Pea… Whatever his last name is.

            “What the hell is he doing here?” Rory hissed at her cousin.

            “What? You asked if I knew how to hotwire a car. I don’t. He does.” He put his hands up in a defensive pose.

            “WikiHow exists for a reason! You couldn’t have thought of anyone else?” She whined.

            “I’m literally standing right here,” Sweet Pea stated flatly as he leaned up against his bike, flicking his switchblade open and closed. “Do you want my help or not?”

Chapter Text

            Rory rolled her eyes as she took the bag of tools from the back of Jughead’s bike and slammed them onto Sweet Pea’s. He raised his eyebrow at her mockingly.

            “What? Don’t want to ride with me?” He smirked.

            “In your dreams.” She mumbled, climbing onto Jughead’s motorcycle and securing her arms loosely around his waist. She’d never ridden on a motorcycle before, but her nerves were replaced with annoyance at the cocky boy on the bike next to her.

            “Cheerleaders.” Sweet Pea grumbled, which caused Jughead to stifle a laugh. Rory jabbed her cousin in the ribs, which made him curse and jump slightly.

            “Just drive.” She instructed through gritted teeth, and he obliged, instantly revving up the engine and slowly pulling away. As they neared the house shortly after, the boys, who were driving side by side, looked to each other and nodded before turning off the headlamps to their respective bikes before slowing to a stop at the end of the driveway.

            “That’s it right there,” she whispered, pointing toward the covered car at the top of the driveway near the house. After a moment she sighed. “How are we going to get it out of here exactly?”

            “I’m here for a reason, am I not?” Sweet Pea scoffed.

            “No, I mean that you guys both brought your bikes. Who’s going to drive the car?” The boys exchanged confused glances before pointing at her. “I don’t know how to drive.” She threw her hands up in defense.

            “Oh my god, you’re useless.” Sweet Pea laughed loudly. Rory opened her mouth to fire back, but Jughead held up his hand with an annoyed expression as he focused on the house. The two enemies shifted their attention to where Jughead’s gaze was zeroed-in, and saw that a light had flicked on in the bedroom that Rory knew to be her father’s. Her eyes widened and she tugged both boys by their leather jackets into the hedge to their right. They groaned, ending up piled on top of each other as Rory crouched safely beside them. Sweet Pea pushed Jughead off of him.

            “Look,” Jughead whispered after situating himself. “I’ll drive, you can take my bike back. Okay?”

            “I can’t even drive a car, what makes you think I know how to drive a motorcycle? Before tonight, I’ve never even been on one of those.” She sighed.

            “We’ll figure it out. I’m going to go scope it out. Stay here and wait for my signal.” Jughead instructed before running in a crouch up the driveway.

            “Completely useless.” Sweet Pea rolled his eyes.

            “Shut the hell up.” She spat, balling her fists tightly. Her nails dug into her palms. She was so ready to punch him in the jaw already.

            “You shut the hell up.” He retorted childishly with an amused smirk.

            “Make me!” Rory replied, equally as childish, raising her voice slightly as her anger grew. He stayed silent for a moment, and his eyes never left Jughead as he waited for his signal.

“Fine, but you might moan a little.” He stated simply before leaving the bush toward Jughead. Rory’s mouth practically hit the dirt under her feet before her face twisted in disgust.

She shook the thought out of her head before following after the two boys. Jughead pulled the cover off of the car in a quick swoosh before pulling the Slim Jim tool out of the tool bag and jimmied it between the metal of the door and the window. He carefully pulled it up, unlocking the door of the driver side. Sweet Pea slid into the driver’s seat and took some different tools from the bag: a hammer, a flat-head screwdriver, a phillips-head screwdriver, and wire cutters. He put gloves on before jamming the screwdriver into the ignition and tapping it into place with the hammer and then twisted it. Rory winced. She hadn’t even considered the fact that this would definitely damage the car. Jughead noticed her reaction, and assured her that they would fix anything that needed to be fixed later, before signaling for Sweet Pea to continue. He took the phillips screwdriver and unscrewed the panels surrounding the steering wheel to give him access to the wires before snipping them with the wire cutters and tying the ends together, which created a couple sparks before the engine roared to life. Sweet Pea grinned at his handiwork before Jughead slapped his shoulder with encouragement.

            “So, I’ll drive it to your old place in Sunnyside?” Sweet Pea asked Jughead, and just before he agreed, Rory practically choked on air.

            “As if I’m letting you drive my mom’s car.” She scoffed. He raised his eyebrow at her quizzically. Jughead groaned.

            “We’re not doing this right now. I’ll drive the damn car. Rory, you’re riding back with Sweet Pea.”

            “Like hell, I am.” She scoffed.

            “You’re either riding with him or he’s driving the car. Take your pick. We don’t have time for this.” Jughead demanded, pointing at the upstairs window’s light that was now on again.

            “Fine! Hurry up, you idiot.” She grumbled before jogging toward Sweet Pea’s motorcycle. Sweet Pea rested his head back against the head rest before cursing under his breath and climbed out of the car, walking in the same direction. He swung his leg over and sat down on his bike, but she hesitated, standing awkwardly with her arms crossed over her chest and a scowl on her face. He shot her a bored look as he waited. She rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh before climbing on behind him, sitting as far back from him as she could. Her butt was practically hanging off of the back of the motorcycle.

            “You’re going to want to hang on.” He said in an obvious tone.

            “I’m good.” She spat sarcastically.

            “Suit yourself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He smirked before the engine purred on, and he sped off into the road. Rory squealed as she flew backward. Before she could fall off, Sweet Pea’s arm reached behind and pulled her against his back. She instinctively wrapped her arms around his torso in a near death grip, her breaths heavy. She felt the vibrations of his laughter against her chest. She inhaled sharply, breathing in a slight scent of sweet, yet musky cologne. He smells good, at least. She cringed at the thought of how she held onto him, and kept her eyes screwed shut until he dropped her off back at her camper. Jughead arrived a few seconds after.

            “See you around, princess.” He smirked again, before revving his engine and speeding off. Jughead waved at her from the back of Sweet Pea’s bike, sitting backward as he gripped onto the seat with his other hand. If he smirks at me one more time…

            “Don’t count on it.” She uttered to herself before heading inside and taking the hottest shower she could bear to disinfect herself from being pressed up against the Serpent.


 

            Since losing her mom and Midge within a couple weeks of each other, Rory had been detached socially. The remaining friends that she had left decided that she was “too much of a downer” to be around, so she had been a homebody for over half of a year. Jughead had done his best to constantly invite her out with him, Betty, and Archie, but she always declined. A couple days after stealing the car, however, Jughead wasn’t having any of it.

            “Get dressed.” Jughead more than suggested, walking into the camper without knocking.

            “Dude,” Rory jumped slightly in surprise, clutching her chest. “I’m not going anywhere. I don’t feel like it.”

            “Sorry, but you have no choice,” he challenged her. “A few of the Serpents are having a little… soirée at the new HQ.” She scrunched up her nose.

            “I’m okay, thanks though.”

            “I don’t care if you don’t like the Serpents, or that you want to confine yourself to this tin can. Tonight, you’re coming out and socializing. It’ll be good for you. Maybe you’ll even see a side of us that you would have never expected,” He offered. “Plus, there will be free food and booze.” Rory rolled her eyes and grinned.

            “Say no more, I’ll start a shower.”


 

            Despite it being a Serpent gathering, Toni and Cheryl sat cuddled up on one of the couches among everyone else. However, Jughead and the other members didn’t seem to mind too much… at least, concerning Toni’s presence. Cheryl’s attendance was another story, due to the tension caused from The Pretty Poisons attacking Sweet Pea and Fangs a couple months prior. Rory, on the other hand, couldn’t care less, except maybe about Fangs. Fangs was nice. Fangs was good.

            Other than her cousin, she didn’t really talk to anyone most of the time, aside from Betty, who was perched onto the arm of Jughead’s chair while she stroked his hair lovingly. In all honesty, Rory solely came for the snacks and alcohol. She mostly stayed in a corner of the main room, practically glued to the armchair while she sipped on whatever the hell Fangs was making. All she knew was it was fruity and dangerous, since she couldn’t even taste the alcohol in it. As the night went on, most of the Serpents had cleared out one by one, leaving Rory, Jughead, Betty, Fangs, Sweet Pea, Cheryl, and Toni. And so, Cheryl, being Cheryl, made possibly the most predictable, Cheryl-like suggestion.

            “Let’s play a little game,” Cheryl grinned devilishly, grabbing an empty liquor bottle. “Truth or Dare with a twist. Pull out your Chapstick, dweebs. Everyone, sit in a circle.” The way she spoke made it clear that it wasn’t a suggestion. Jughead raised an eyebrow at her before rolling his eyes and turning to Betty for approval. He was too tipsy to protest and get into it with the crimson-haired vixen in front of him.

            “Go ahead, I’ll sit this one out.” Betty smiled at him with an amused expression.

            “Don’t be silly, dear cousin. Those in relationships will only be kissing their partners, no matter who the bottle lands on. I would never disrespect mon amour that way by locking lips with one of you slime balls,” She chirped before kissing Toni on the cheek. “You’re playing.” Betty rolled her eyes in return and slid down onto the floor next to Jughead.

            “So, the only people that can kiss anyone else are Sweet Pea, Fangs, and Rory?” Toni asked with a humored grin. Fangs winked at Sweet Pea playfully, but Sweet Pea didn’t notice. His eyes were fixated on Rory with a thoroughly irritated expression plastered on his face. A thick curl hung loosely between furrowed eyebrows. Rory was about to protest, but she did some quick math in her head and figured that there was only a 14% chance that the bottle would even land on her. Plus, kissing Fangs wouldn’t be such a bad thing. He was handsome and nice. But… Midge. She frowned and shook the thought out of her head. It’s just a game. She wouldn’t have cared. She would have gladly joined in. She plopped onto the floor between Toni and Betty and chugged the rest of her drink. Cheryl smirked. She was fully aware of Sweet Pea and Rory’s issues, but what could she say? She had an affinity for chaos. And she definitely wasn’t a fan of Rory, and everyone knew that.

            “Who’s first?” Betty asked timidly.

            “Since you were the first to chime in, spin away.” Cheryl smiled sweetly, taking a sip of her vodka cherry. Betty tensed up before placing the bottle in the middle and spinning it clockwise. It spun quickly, blurring together to look like a disk. It slowed to a stop between Rory and Betty herself, so Rory would have to choose.

            “Truth or dare?” Betty asked in a mocking tone before giving Cheryl some side-eye. Rory giggled at this and pretended to be deep in thought before choosing the latter option.

            “Switch shirts with Toni.” She laughed, seeming to not be able to think of anything else. Rory grinned and turned to Toni, who was on her right.

            “Okay, we’ll be right back.” Rory shrugged before moving to get up, but Fangs stopped her.

            “You have to do it right here. Sorry, but those are the rules.” He tsk-ed playfully. She turned to her left with a confused expression. Betty shrugged with a grin, agreeing with Fangs. Jughead chuckled before covering his face with his hands. Rory rolled her eyes before tugging her shirt over her head and playfully tossed it at Toni before pulling Toni’s shirt on, which earned a wolf whistle from Fangs and an encouraging Ow! from Betty. She felt exposed, due to Toni’s shirt solely being black mesh that showed her black lace bra, but she was too tipsy to care. She instinctively wrapped her arms around herself, and Jughead shrugged off his Serpent jacket and placed it around her shoulders.

            “Now you have to kiss.” Cheryl smiled sickly, keeping eye contact with Jughead, who shifted uncomfortably with narrowed eyes.

            “You said –” Betty began.

            “Slight rule change,” she interrupted, which elicited a warning look from Toni, which she ignored. “Kiss Rory, and not just a peck.” Betty turned to Jughead with a well-kept, raised brow before he rolled his eyes and shrugged. Rory winked playfully at her before they locked lips in a mocking, pseudo-passionate kiss, receiving laughter from the others.

            “Damn, Betty. I knew us Jones’ were irresistible but that kiss,” Rory proclaimed melodramatically. “Lucky you, Jughead.”

            “Shut up.” He grumbled in return. Rory chuckled before spinning the bottle herself. When it landed on Toni, she asked the question, to which Toni picked dare.

            “Do a handstand for one minute.” And she obliged, earning applause from the group.

            “Now kiss.” Betty blurted with a fake smile, mocking Cheryl. Before Cheryl could protest, Toni grabbed Rory’s face and planted a quick, drunken kiss. A fire lit in Cheryl’s eyes as she crossed her arms over her chest and stared straight ahead. Toni placed her hand on her thigh as she whispered something into her ear, which caused Cheryl’s expression to soften and a smile to appear.

            “Okay, no more couples kissing other people.” Jughead instructed, growing increasingly annoyed with the whole thing. A few more rounds went by without Rory being selected, much to her appreciation. Jughead was dared to give Betty a lap dance, which was sloppy but hilarious, due to his drunken state. Cheryl revealed how she’d initially gotten into archery, and it wasn’t as interesting of a story as Fangs was hoping for it to be. Sweet Pea was dared to sit in only his boxers for the rest of the game, and he and Fang’s begrudgingly gave each other a quick peck before they wiped their mouths dramatically. It was finally Sweet Pea’s turn to spin the bottle, and it landed on Rory. Great.

            “Truth.” Rory answered nervously, honestly afraid of what Sweet Pea would dare her to do. The group booed. It was only the second truth of the game. He thought for a moment before smirking.

            “Assuming you’re not a virgin, who is the last person you slept with? And who took the ol’ v-card?”

            “That’s two questions.” Rory shifted uncomfortably. This was no better than if she had picked dare after all.

            “Just answer them, you grumbletonian.” Cheryl sighed in annoyance. Rory glared at her.

            “Uh, Reggie Mantle.” She mumbled after a long pause. Most of the group made gagging noises, save for Betty and Sweet Pea.

            “For which answer?” Fangs inquired.

            “Both.” She shrugged. She felt more exposed than the shirt made her feel. Sweet Pea stared blankly at her.

            “Kiss.” Cheryl smirked devilishly. This was her plan the all along, and it was finally playing out right in front of her.

            “I think it’s time I get going –” Rory spoke quickly, but before she could stand, Sweet Pea crawled across the circle to her, placing his hand gently on the back of her neck and crashing his lips to hers. What the fuck! She faltered, completely shocked, but then came to her senses and lightly pushed him backward, though she intended to do it much harder. The group was dead silent as Sweet Pea, unfazed, stood and pulled his jeans on before calmly walking out the door and riding off on his motorcycle.

Chapter Text

            “Rory, hey. What are you doing here?” Archie beamed, taking out an earphone as he approached his porch. He was sweaty and carrying a gym bag with a boxing glove hanging out of it.

            “Hey Red,” Rory smiled. “I came to see Jughead next door, but he and FP are out chasing a lead for laced Fizzle Rocks, or something. I would have hung out with JB, but she’s out with a new friend, so it’s just Gladys at home…” She chuckled awkwardly.

            “No roller skates today?” He winked playfully. She simply shook her head no, and her smile faltered slightly. She hadn’t roller skated since Midge died. The memories of their time spent at the Riverdale Roller Rink plagued her conscience every time she even looked at a pair.

            “It’s a long walk back. I didn’t know where else to go.”

            “Oh, no sweat. You can hang out here until he gets back,” he grinned and held out a hand to pull her up from the front steps. She mumbled her appreciation and took his hand. He didn’t let go as he led her into the house. She waved to Mr. Andrews, who was in the living room on a business call. “Here, we can go hang out in my room. Is that okay?” He asked carefully. She nodded with a small smile before he led her up the stairs. Archie could be an idiot sometimes, but he had always been a gentleman. It truly separated him from the other jocks in Riverdale. He closed the door behind them once they stepped into his room. “Is it cool if I take a quick shower? I’m kind of gross right now.”

            “You don’t need to ask my permission, it’s your house. Go on.” Rory raised a brow before grabbing a book from his bookshelf and taking a seat on his bed. He grabbed a pair of sweats before trotting into the bathroom and closing the door behind him, and she heard the shower start shortly after. After sending a quick text to Jughead to let him know her whereabouts, she opened up Archie’s copy of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Rory sighed in contentment. At least he has good taste. Why couldn’t Reggie be more like Archie? She didn’t even feel any time pass before Archie cleared his throat.

            “Find a good one?” Archie asked. He leaned against the doorframe of the bathroom with his sweatpants hanging low on his hips and his towel around his neck. Water from his hair dripped onto his scarred chest. He looked kind of beautiful.

            “I did.” Rory caught herself staring, plastering a grin onto her face. He pushed his shoulder off the doorframe and walked to sit next to her and leaned over to look at the page she was on. Water dripped onto her shoulder, which made her jump ever so slightly, but he didn’t notice. His breath was hot near her neck.

            “You’re either a fast reader, or I was in there a lot longer than I thought,” he joked before getting serious. “Can I ask you something?”

            “Uh, yeah, sure. You trying to give me a panic attack, Andrews?” She joked nervously. He grinned.

            “I was just going to ask how things were with Reggie.” Ugh.

            “Ancient history.” She rolled her eyes.

            “Oh? Because that’s what you said last time. You know, before we –,” He stopped, glancing down at the bed beneath them. Rory’s cheeks flushed and she bit her lip to hide her laughter. He raised his eyebrows at her as he held back laughter of his own. “And then you guys kind of… reconnected.”

            “That was a mistake and a half.” She sighed.

            “Wait, Reggie or us?” He asked quizzically.

            “Reggie,” Rory clarified. “Why do you ask?”

            “He’s avoiding any talk about girls lately. I didn’t know if he and Ronnie were back together or if you two were…” He shrugged and trailed off, seeming to not be saying something.

            “Or with Josie?” She suggested cautiously.

            “That obvious?” He sighed and ran a hand through his damp hair. She gave him a weak smile. “I don’t know. We’re on the rocks. I don’t know if we’re even an official couple or not. She tells me one thing and then acts a completely different way, totally standoffish and avoids the question when I ask her. But then she got pissed when Veronica came by yesterday to give me something to wear at my match tonight? Maybe I should tell her not to even bother coming.” He exhaled put his head in his hands. Rory placed her hand gently onto his bare back, rubbing small circles in an attempt to comfort him and put her head on his shoulder. His skin was hot to the touch. She wasn’t sure what to say to make him feel better.

           Archie seemed to freeze before slowly looking up at her. She carefully removed her head and met his eyes. The unresolved tension in the air was thick. Rory swallowed hard. They didn’t say anything, just stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment. And suddenly, he was leaning into her. His lips lightly brushed hers, and they both hesitated before locking lips. He instantly relaxed as she sighed into the kiss. This definitely wasn’t her intention coming here. He ran his tongue over her bottom lip, and she obliged to his silent plea and let him in. As their lips moved against each other, he took the book from her lap and tossed it onto the floor before guiding her to move to lay back on his bed. He tasted like spearmint, and it was obvious that he’d brushed his teeth before leaving the bathroom. He settled between her legs and he pulled them to wrap around his waist. He supported himself over her on one forearm, his other hand firmly held her hip. Rory’s hands moved up to tug at the wet hair at the nape of his neck, which elicited a low groan from the back of his throat. The pair became more feverish as the heat started to rise. He moved his lips to kiss along her jaw and down her neck before sucking at the spot that he remembered she liked as he squeezed her hip. She moaned softly, involuntarily bucking her hips up to grind against his. He groaned again and pulled away from kissing her with his eyes closed, and his eyebrows furrowed in concentration. She attached her lips to his collarbone and ran a hand down his toned chest to gently palm his erection through his sweats.

           “Jesus,” he sighed, barely audible. He flipped them over so she was straddling him as he sat up, and he ran a hand up her leg to squeeze her ass. Before the situation could progress further, the door swung open, and Archie practically jumped ten feet as he scrambled off of her to lay beside her. He grabbed a pillow and placed it over his groin.

           “God, seriously? A warning would have been nice in your text, Rory.” Jughead groaned, shielding his eyes before heading back downstairs. They knew he was absolutely livid. Rory and Archie lay there panting, absolutely mortified, before stifling laughter.

           “I think you should talk to Josie.” Rory said between heavy breaths. He nodded to himself with his eyes closed with a heavy concentration in attempts to diffuse his… situation. There was a brief silence.

           “At least Sweet Pea wasn’t the last person to kiss me, now.” She let out a sigh of relief and scrunched her nose up in disgust. Archie’s eyes snapped open.

           “Wait, what?”

           Rory pushed herself up from his bed and leaned back down to give him a quick peck on the cheek before heading toward his bedroom door.

           “Have a good match tonight, Andrews.” She winked before trotting down the stairs. He laid in his bed, his chest still heaving from their activity, with the thought of Sweet Pea and Rory kissing. He frowned.


 

           Not wanting to deal with his mother, Jughead suggested that they go back to Rory’s camper to work on their history homework. After they finished, Betty met up with them to help assess the damage the car took from the hotwiring incident.

           “What’s the verdict? How bad?” Rory asked with a slight grimace on her face, prepared for the worst. Betty wiped the little grease from her hands with a rag that Jughead handed her before he said something about going inside for a minute.

           “Surprisingly not that bad. Sweet Pea knew what he was doing. Otherwise, this could have cost hundreds.” She shrugged with an impressed grin.

           “At least he knows how to do something.” Rory grumbled. It was silent for a few moments. Ever since the party a couple weeks prior, she avoided Sweet Pea as much as she possibly could. If she saw him anywhere, she either hid or walked the other direction to keep herself from letting him have it in the middle of the hallway at school.

           “So, that kiss.” Betty smiled coyly.

           “Ours?” Rory winked playfully, though she knew that wasn’t what she was talking about. Betty raised her eyebrow. “Don’t remind me, please,” Rory exaggerated a gag. “I’m just glad that I kissed someone else to get that memory further away from me.”

           “Wait, who did you kiss? When?” Betty gushed excitedly. “Was it Reggie?”

           “Ugh, no, it was not Reggie. But I don’t kiss and tell.” Rory winked.

           “Apparently not, if it’s Archie Andrews we’re talking about.” Betty pouted jokingly. Was she just testing her and she knew already? Surely Archie hadn’t said anything… Rory’s mouth fell open before realization hit.

           “Jughead, can you never keep anything to your goddamn self?” She yelled loud enough for him to hear inside, but didn’t get a response. She took a breath before turning back to Betty, who had a sly grin on her face. “I’ve been avoiding him even more than usual, lately. Detention for decking someone in the middle of the hallway isn’t a good look. Plus, Cheryl’s looking for literally any reason to kick me off the squad.”

           “Would you even care?” Betty asked before quickly catching herself. “I mean, it’s not like you enjoy it anymore. What’s making you stay?” Rory thought for a moment. Betty was right. She hated cheerleading now. Maybe she always had. She shrugged, kicking the pebbles underneath her feet. Before they could continue their discussion, sounds of a motorcycle started getting louder before coming into view.

           “Fuck’s sake,” Rory cursed under her breath as Sweet Pea pulled up and slowed to a stop before kicking the stand down to steady the bike. “What are you doing here?” She groaned.

           “Looking for Jughead. He told me he was here.” He replied, tightening his jaw and avoiding her annoyed expression before finally meeting her eyes. An uncomfortable silence hung in the air for several minutes. Betty kept fidgeting, but the two others ignored it, holding each other’s hard glare.

           “I’m… going to go check on Jug,” Betty broke the silence. “Behave.” She hissed at Sweet Pea, who scoffed in return. He seemed to relax his shoulders, but barely. Once it was just the two of them, Rory couldn’t hold their staring contest any longer. She grabbed the rag that Betty had left and turned her back to him, pretending to be tending to smudges.

           “Convertible… nice,” Sweet Pea tried to make small talk after a while longer. It was obvious that he did not want to be trying. “What is that, a ’66 Chevy Camaro?” He honestly hadn’t gotten a good look at the vehicle when he helped steal it in the middle of the night

           “’69,” Rory corrected him monotonously, finishing wiping the car down and stretching the cover back over it. “But at least you know your cars… for the most part.” She added passive-aggressively and shrugged.

           “Still can’t drive?” He smirked mockingly. She pressed her lips in a tight line and inhaled slowly. Everything is fine. You are fine. He’s just trying to get you to react. “I mean, I can teach you… If you want. If that’s something you’d be interested in, or whatever.” He fumbled, looking off into the distance. She cocked her head and spun on her heel to face him.

           “Oh, so you’re trying to be nice to me all of the sudden?” Rory asked flatly, narrowing her eyes in suspicion. “I hope you don’t think that kiss meant something. It was part of a game, and against my will, after all.”

           “Oh please,” he sneered. “I’m not – I mean I guess I am, but look. You are kind of my leader’s cousin, so I can’t just disrespect him by always getting into it with you.” Sweet Pea shrugged. It was incredibly obvious that he was put up to this.

           “So it isn’t about just respecting me.” She scoffed sarcastically as she leaned back against the covered car, crossing her arms over her chest. He stared at her blankly for a moment before rubbing his face with both of his hands as he let out a frustrated groan.

           “You make me so angry so quickly, it’s remarkable.” He spat.

           “I’m not even the one that said something!” She retorted defensively.

           “Yet here I am, boiling with hate.”

           “No one asked you to come here, so get your sorry ass back on your bike and –” She gritted her teeth. As he opened his mouth to fire back, Jughead’s voice boomed over them.

           “Sweet Pea, we’re leaving. Now.”

           “Leaving so soon?” She feigned sorrow.

           “You should probably come too, come to think of it.” He sighed.

           “Why?” Rory groaned.

           “My dad just called. One of his guys just picked up Mambo, and apparently it isn't pretty.” Rory felt the color leave her face. “When did he even get back?” He asked her.

           “He… What?” Before she knew it, she was on the back of Sweet Pea’s motorcycle, speeding toward the northside. In the moment, she didn’t even care about how she was clinging onto him. Her thoughts ran wild and her heart felt like it was going to explode as Jughead’s words ran through her head: One of his guys just picked up Mambo. When did he even get back? When she regained focus, anxiety immediately took over her body. They were at her and her mother’s old house. The windows were boarded up, but other than that, the only thing that was out of place that she directly noticed were three words across the brick in black spray paint:

           THIS WAS HOME

           Her eyes scanned the scene before landing on a hunched over, handcuffed figure sitting on the front stoop. Mambo Hale.

           “Nicky?” Rory breathed inaudibly, climbing off of Sweet Pea’s bike and darting toward her younger brother. She crouched in front of him and grabbed his face with both of her hands. His green eyes seemed cold as they bore into hers at first, but they almost instantly softened and began to water. He looked so different since she had last seen him. He looked so much older, though only two years had passed. “Mambo?” He choked out a sob, leaning forward into her shoulder to shield himself from the audience around them.

           “Please, take the cuffs off of him!” Rory pleaded. The deputy stared back at her, unimpressed. Sweet Pea narrowed his eyes at him before the deputy gulped and took out his keys to remove the handcuffs from Mambo’s bound hands. Once freed, his arms flew around Rory, gripping the fabric in his fists as he shook violently from his quiet sobs. Her eyes stared straight ahead, breath hitching in her throat at the sight of the front door, a chilling message that her brother must have marked etched into the wood.

           THE WORLD’S NOT SAFE ANYMORE.

           What could he possibly mean by that? Her trembling hands ran through his hair and rubbed his back in attempts of soothing him.

           “I’m here… I’m here.”