THIRTEEN || MERRY SNAKEMAS

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"What is all this?" Jughead asked as the gang walked into the Wyrm, presents piled high on the bar top and pool tables, many Serpents busy wrapping and tagging gifts.

"It's a Serpent tradition. Every year, we give back to the Southside. Toys for Tots. Meals on Wheels, kids and old folks living alone. The Hells Angels do it." Fallon replied, throwing Jughead an oversized teddy bear.

"I'm always down for charitable works." He shrugged, and then turned towards Toni. "Hey, have you seen my dad?"

"Why aren't you in school?" FP called as he walked in, making everyone snap to attention.

"It's a half-day before break." Jughead replied, and FP chuckled. "Well, in that case, you can hold down the fort here, Jug."

"Or I could come with you guys." Jughead tried, but his father scoffed. "Nice try. The answer's no."

"We do need another set of hands, boss." Tall Boy said reluctantly, and Fallon gestures to a smug Jughead. "There you go." She said, her friend stepping forward. "Let me pull my weight. Dad I don't know what the Snake Charmer has you doing—"

"Sweet Pea, you're with us." FP said, and Fallon's boyfriend left with the rest of the older Serpents, a furtive glance tossed over his shoulder at her.

________

"Did you open them?" FP asked the two young Serpents sitting on his couch when he got home, Fallon and Jughead stony faced. "No, Dad. Out of respect for you. But your parole officer, Mr. Walsh, he sure was curious." Jughead replied, and FP blanched.

"Walsh was here?"

"Yeah. Don't worry, Fallon got rid of him. But he already has heard that the Serpents are moving into narcos territory." Jughead snapped, and FP flared as he whipped open the duffel bags.

"Ta-da. Gift boxes." FP said, and Fallon huffed. "With drugs in them?"

"No, with gifts in them. For you two, Fangs, Jug's mom, and Jellybean. Christmas day, I thought we'd take a ride to Toledo and deliver them in person." FP scoffed, and Fallon felt a twinge of guilt.

"Dad, this isn't going to work. Today, it's gifts. Tomorrow, it's drugs or weapons or God knows what. And how long this is going to go on for?" Jughead said desperately, and FP slipped his jacket off.

"As long as Penny wants."

"And if her favors keep getting bigger which you know that they will, what happens when she asks for more Serpents in on this?"

"Then I'll bring more Serpents! You know what? You are right. This isn't going to work. You and I living together, so maybe you can go back to Fred's or to Betty's or to Fangs and Fal." FP shouted, and Jughead looked at his father with shocked eyes. Betty was an open wound and Fallon knew it.

"Betty? I split with Betty."

"Well then, what do you want me to say?"

"I just want you to let me help fix this mess that I made."

"Get this through your thick skull, Jughead. We are trapped. We've got no leverage. If that means I gotta be Penny's dancing monkey for the time being, then that's how it goes. Let me get some rest. I have a long night ahead of me."

The elder Serpent stomped back to the bedroom, and Jughead let out a heavy sigh as Fallon rested her head on his shoulder.

"What am I gonna do, munchkin?" Jughead asked Fallon, his old nickname for her making her smile sadly.

"I don't know, Sythe." She sighed, linking her pinkie with his. "I don't know."

________

"Penny Peabody has got my dad dealing drugs. I know this, 'cause she had me doing it before him. Now, she's roped in Tall Boy and Sweet Pea." Jughead told the younger Serpents the next day after school at the Quarry, all of them lounging on old couches and sitting on motorcycles.

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