SEVENTEEN

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"First things first, we need a cake!"

Toni took her attention off of the glass she was cleaning for a second to smile at Max's innocent words. The two, plus Betty, all teamed up to plan a party in honor of FP's return and retirement.

"You do know this is a Serpent party right? No one wants cake. They want booze. And a lot of it."

Max groaned and pouted. "But a cake coma is easier to recover from than a hangover."

Betty's mouth fell open as she took in her best friend's words. "Since when do you know what a hangover is like?"

With a shrug of the shoulders, Max smirked. "You heard Kev the other day, I'm dabbling in the dark arts." The three busted out into laughter.

Betty instantly cleared her throat and leaned in closer. "That reminds me. There's another reason I wanted to talk to you, Toni – beyond the party planning."

The pink haired girl was all ears now. It wasn't every day that a preppy Northsider such as Betty Cooper showed up the Wyrm with curiosity. This was going to be good. Even Max was intrigued to hear what her golden girl friend had to say.

"I've been walking the razor's edge since Jughead joined the Serpents. And all I've been thinking is ... you know, as soon as FP gets home, everything will get better because he'll be there to protect Jughead and make sure he doesn't get hurt."

"Yeah, I'm following you." Toni sighed, "I mean with FP out of the picture –"

"But that's my whole point." Betty intervened. "I do worry. So, I wanna keep an eye on Jughead, myself." She stopped to share glances with her fellow females, "Make sure that as deep into these snake-infested waters as he goes, he doesn't do something that ... you know, puts him in danger."

"So what? You wanna be a Serpent?" Toni tried to hold back the humor laced smile on her face.

"Holy shit. Betty freakin' Cooper wants to slither with the snakes." Max chuckled, her eyebrows raised in utter disbelief. This life they lived was full of surprises.

However, Betty didn't want to classify it as that. The thought of being apart of an actual gang was still an uneasy thought in her head.
"Let's say Serpent-adjacent. But, yeah. Part of his world, this world."

A deep feminine cackle came from behind the girls, causing Toni to roll her eyes. "Shut it, Byrdie!"

"Sorry, Sweet Valley High." The voice spoke. "If you wanna join the club, you gotta do the dance... Serpent dance."

Betty swiveled around on her seat and leaned closer, "Excuse me, Serpent dance?"

"It's an outdated sexist Serpent tradition!" Toni threw her hands around in a wild manner to exaggerate. "Tried to get it outlawed, but misogyny dies hard." She growled lowly, "You don't wanna know."

"Uh, yeah, I do." Betty turned around to watch the woman on the pole move her body, "I wanna know everything."

Shaking her head, Toni went back to drying off dishes. She poured a bowl of chips then slid it to the two girls sat at the bar. "Fine then. You spin around that pole in front of the leader, you're in. And now that FP's back, that means you dance in front of him."

Max crunched on the salty chips, like a kid with candy in a theater, and turned to her friend. "How's Jug going to feel? His girlfriend taking off her clothes at his father's retirement party. Sounds like an amateur porn video to me."

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