27. The Last Song

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A/N: The next to last chapter of book one is upon us! I've already got ideas for a sequel, and for another separate Sweet Pea story, so this is not the end.

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        The 6 weeks to graduation flew by, and just like Dr. Sanders promised, Sweets managed to turn in his last assignments by correspondence. Graduation day came, and as Sweet Pea got ready to walk, I sat on the bed, watching him alternate between two different button ups with a smile on my face.

"You know they're the exact same shirt, right babe?" I chuckled and stood up, taking a few seconds to steady myself before walking over to him and taking one of the hangers out of his hand, "One of them is just a little newer is all."

Sweet Pea sighed and took the shirt I left in his hand off the hanger and frowned, "I feel bad that you're not walking with us babe. This is your graduation too, and- "

"And I'll be on those bleachers, watching everyone I love graduate with my Uncle FP. I'll be so proud of you for getting that 4.0 you were striving for," I carefully tied his tie for him, "and I'm sure that our daughter will be doing backflips in here because she is just as proud of her daddy as I am for doing what's best for us."

Sweets looked down at me and smiled, "You always know what to say, don't you?"

He glanced around the hotel room and sighed, "I just can't believe this is our last night in Riverdale. Come tomorrow, we're loading up what little we have, and we'll be settled in an apartment in Seaside this time tomorrow."

I nodded and squeezed his hand. I knew this was a bittersweet thing for him. On one hand, he was doing exactly what he had dreamed of doing; getting out of Riverdale and starting a new and better life. But on the other hand, he was leaving behind his family, and even if his Serpent status was just inactive and not revoked, it was still a lot to take in and process.

Sweet Pea was about to respond when Uncle FP knocked and then came in with Jughead in tow. FP did a double take when he saw Sweet Pea's outfit and smiled, "I never thought I'd see you in a tie. It's a good look for you. We need to get going, though. You and Jug have to be there early, and Ally Cat and I need to get some good seats."

The ride to Riverdale Stadium was filled with joking and laughter, but there was a sadness behind Sweet Pea's smile. He looked out the windows at all the landmarks as we passed them, and I know that in the back of his mind, he was quietly remembering everything he had ever done there and to an extent saying goodbye.

We got to our seats, and FP sighed, "I'm glad you managed to get your diploma, even if I wish you were walking today, too. But I am proud of you, Ally Cat."

"Why?" I scoffed, "I did the exact same thing Mom did. Got knocked up my senior year and mailed it in."

"Allyson," FP turned to me and frowned, "You did more than mail it in. You were here for a full school year only, and you managed to almost clench honors. The only reason you didn't is because you had to exempt out of exams and fell a few points shy. You did all that under extreme pressure, and you came out of something that would break most people completely relatively unscathed. You are a lot stronger than your mother, and I am VERY proud of you. Do I wish you could have held off and gone to college, gotten a job and maybe gotten married before starting your own family? Sure, but I know you're safe with Sweet Pea. I knew it from the second he came to me and told me about the baby, and how he had a plan to get you and her safe, but he wanted my blessing first- both as his boss and the closest thing you have to a father figure."

I didn't realize I was tearing up until FP smiled and gently dabbed at my eye with his handkerchief. I leaned forward and hugged him, tight and whispered, "We're still Serpents, uncle. If you need us, tap us."

The graduation ceremony seemed to take forever. I saw everyone I know walk across that stage, symbolically crossing the bridge into adulthood. After the closing statements were made and the caps were thrown, FP and I headed back to the truck. He had sent a mass text to everyone letting them know to head there because neither he nor I had the patience to navigate the crowd trying to find everyone. After everyone got to us, we got in the truck and headed to the quarry for what FP called a "graduation clusterfuck for all his brat kids".

The party is what anyone would expect. FP grilled and there was beer. People took pictures and gave speeches. It wasn't until the end of the night that Sweet Pea stood up and raised his bottle, causing everyone to stop and look over at him with curious looks on their faces. Sweet Pea was a man of few words- at least, in public venues, so a speech from him was not only rare- it was almost unheard of.

Sweet Pea cleared his throat and shifted his weight uncomfortably before he began, "This year has been crazy for all of us. We all did our fair share of growing up, got past old prejudices, and in the end we all realized we have a lot in common. We're all going our separate ways, now. Some of us are holding down the fort here, some of us are going off to college...," Sweet Pea looked around and paused when his eyes met mine and smiled, "But we're all moving forward. I want to take this time to announce something. In case any of you are blind- or just smart enough to not ask a woman about her weight, in about three months Ally and I are welcoming a little girl. As exciting as this new adventure is for me, it's made me realize some things. In the Riverdale we have today, I can't guarantee my daughter's safety. I've taken a job in Seaside. I am still every bit a Serpent and will keep Southside with me in my heart. But to protect my wife and child, I have to step back. On that note, FP, did you have anything to add?"

FP stepped up after, and with a smile on his face retired as king of the Serpents and gave Jughead the reigns. I was only half listening, though, because as soon as Sweet Pea sat down he asked, "How did I do? FP told me I had to address leaving with everyone, and to take myself formally out of the running for replacing him."

"You did just fine, baby," I whispered into his ear as I leaned against him, "And I'm so proud of you for doing it. I know how much that took."

Our night ended shortly after, and the next day we moved to Seaside. Uncle FP and Jug followed and helped Sweets unload our boxes (I was forbidden from touching anything and resigned to sitting on the couch, telling them where things went and being the judge of what was centered on the walls). By the end of the day, the apartment looked like home for us, and as we curled up in bed that night, Sweets played with my hair and smiled.

"Our next chapter starts tomorrow, babe. Are you ready?"

"Sweet Pea and Ally Cat, oddity shop managers. Unlikely, but fitting," I smiled and yawned, "But then, stranger things have happened, I'm sure."

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