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Stained Glass

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The Bellas are piling into the back of Uncle Lew’s borrowed truck when Chloe joins them. Fat Amy, their usual driver, is standing beside the open driver’s door, shepherding the others into the backseat and the bed. “Alright, all aboard! Please keep your tits and bits inside the ride at all times. Stacie, I’m lookin’ at you!”

“Who isn’t?” Stacie winks, slinging her leg over the tailgate and perching on it while the others climb in. From somewhere behind the tailgate, Chloe hears Cynthia Rose sigh heavily.

Aubrey’s car pulls up into the grass beside them and Chloe rushes over to hug her. “The happy couple!” Jesse hops out of the passenger side, waving.

Aubrey doesn’t let her pull out of the hug right away and Chloe happily sinks into it, stroking her back. God, she’s missed her. “You okay?” Aubrey whispers, squeezing her. “I was so worried when Stacie called earlier. I couldn’t get away from work. If Jesse hadn’t been off, I would have just walked out.”

“Getting better and better. Don’t quit your job, Bree.” Chloe pulls back and loops her arm through Aubrey’s, leading her to the truck. Jesse’s standing in the bed, on the toolbox, bouncing the whole truck up and down as the Bellas laugh and cheer. As Chloe and Aubrey get near, he looks up and smiles at them, then looks over their heads.

“Oooh,” he coos, then throws his arms in the air. “Holy shit, it’s Beca ‘effin Mitchell! I’m having high school flashbacks!”

Chloe turns to lean against the bumper and almost misses the truck completely.

Because Beca is crossing the yard wearing black swim trunks, slung low on her hips, and a matching short-sleeved underarmor shirt that is tight enough Chloe can make out the ripple of muscle in her abdomen as she chuckles at Jesse. Her hair is down, tumbled around her shoulders. The shirt and shorts don’t quite meet, leaving a strip of pale skin that draws the eye and oh my god, has Beca always been that fit?

It’s like a model stepping off the cover of a surfing magazine. Chloe can admit she’d been a little excited to see Beca in a swimsuit--there’d never really been a chance for that in New York, even if Stacie always joked that Beca showers in her bathing suit ever since Chloe burst in on her. But she thinks maybe this is better. More Beca.

Also very attractive, it turns out. Chloe didn’t think she had a thing for surfers, but she’s been wrong before. And when Beca stops before her, lazily crossing her arms so that her shirt pulls up even further, Chloe knows she was wrong.

Then she remembers what Jesse said. “Wait, you wore this kinda thing in high school?” She reaches out, stroking the silky underarmor. And therefore Beca’s side, she realizes as Beca tips an eyebrow at her.

“I wore this in high school.” Beca lifts her shoulders and glances between her crossed arms at her outfit. “It’s not like I’ve grown.”

None of you has grown?” Stacie says, glancing very pointedly at Beca’s chest.

“Down, girl.” Beca smirks at Stacie and winks, though it’s Chloe that feels the expression all the way to her toes.

Cynthia Rose suddenly sits up from where she’d been laying in the bed. “Are you bitches done being flirty and cute? ‘Cause us single folk are ready for a swim.”

“Liar,” Stacie croons, pulling at the hem of her tank top. “You’re just ready for me to take this off.” She shimmies, showing more and more.

Cynthia Rose narrows her eyes, which are locked on the flashes of skin. “Girl, I plead the fifth.”

Fat Amy slaps the side of the truck and they all jump (except Beca, who simply leans around Chloe and Aubrey to glance at her). “Hey! Can you lesbos keep it in your flannels for ten minutes?” She climbs into the driver’s seat, muttering about “gay vibes” and “freakin’ surrounded”.

Aubrey squeezes Chloe’s arm. “I’ll ride up front so Amy doesn’t drive us into the lake instead of to it.”

The front door bangs open and Eli comes sprinting for the truck, wearing an outfit startlingly similar to Beca’s, except bright blue and green. He pauses long enough to hug Chloe and Beca (who awkwardly pets his head) before breathlessly leaping into the backseat next to Emily.

Mamma Beale waves from the porch. “Take care of him! And each other!”

“We will!” everyone choruses, waving.

When Chloe turns around, Beca’s already hopped up on the bumper, dodging Stacie’s grabby hands. “You riding back here, Chlo?”

Even if she hadn’t been planning to, the easy smirk on Beca’s face would have swayed her. “Yeah. Of course.”

They clamber in and Beca moves to the front, sitting on the floor and leaning her back against the toolbox. Jesse drops down to sit on it, his swinging leg whacking Beca’s arm. She shoves him away. Stacie settles across from Cynthia Rose while Jessica and Ashley sit beside her. Which means there’s a space between Beca and Cynthia Rose.

Instead of taking it, though, Chloe reaches down and pats Beca’s knees out of the way, then drops to settle between them, her back pressed to Beca’s chest. Which stops moving the second Chloe is pressed against it. She twists a little as Amy revs up the engine, tilting her head back to catch Beca’s eye. “This okay?”

“Mhmm.” Beca nods, breathing again. Then she turns her head away as Jesse starts chattering about the lake and how they used to go there in college. Amy takes off and Chloe slides down an inch to lay her head back on Beca’s shoulder. It’s much more comfortable than leaning against the walls of the truck bed and she happily commends herself for finding the best spot to sit.

They spend the ride laughing and fending off Stacie’s lewd comments to Cynthia Rose. As best they can. The truck bounces through a pothole and Beca’s hand falls to Chloe’s hip, bare skin to bare skin. And to Chloe’s surprise, she leaves it there. She’s laughing at Jesse singing “Feels Like the First Time” over the wind as he air guitars. And like she doesn’t even know she’s doing it, Beca’s fingers move across the dip of Chloe’s hip. She has a quick vision of Beca at her desk, hands poised over the soundboard, fingers pushing and pulling fader knobs up and down. And that’s exactly what it feels like she’s doing--absently making music against Chloe’s skin.

It shakes something deep in her core and she wraps her hand around Beca’s knee, trying to steady herself a bit.

Then Beca turns her head and her breath is warm on Chloe’s ear. She speaks low, so no one but Chloe can hear her over the wind. “Your friends are fuckin’ weird, dude.”

Chloe presses her lips together to keep from laughing. Jessica catches Stacie’s arm just as she starts to crawl forward toward Cynthia Rose, pulling her back.

“Are they a thing?” Beca says again, her lips brushing the shell of Chloe’s ear. “Because Stacie seems particularly set on making CR run for the hills. I thought she was bad with me .”

Her middle finger slides back as her fore and ring finger push forward. Chloe shivers.

“And Jessica and Ashley? You didn’t tell me this was a gays only event.”

Holding in her laugh is getting difficult. She can feel herself shaking.

“Oh my god. Please tell me Jesse is Aubrey’s beard!”

The laugh bubbles past her lips and Chloe bumps her head lightly against Beca’s, thrilled when she can feel Beca’s upturned lips against her ear.

“Can you two whisper sweet nothings later?” Stacie yells, kicking one long leg out to bump Chloe’s shin. “We’re here!”

The truck bounces down the side of a steep incline, cutting a path through the trees. It tilts and Jesse yelps, sliding across the toolbox. Beca snatches his shorts leg. He turns wide eyes and smile on her. “Awww, Becaw. You do still love me.”

She huffs and lets him go, pulling her hand back and laying it on Chloe’s stomach. “I’d just rather kill you myself. Drown you, maybe. Isn’t there a lake nearby?”

Jesse and the girls laugh.

Cynthia Rose slugs Beca lightly in the shoulder. “Man, I like you! You got a feisty one, Red!”

But Chloe can’t focus on anything besides the fingertips pressed to her skin. Because Beca is purposely, easily touching her. And she had let Chloe hug her back in the loft, even hugged her back, hugged her tighter. It’s like Beca’s time alone with the piano had put her at ease. Like she’s a whole different person.

Which Chloe doesn’t want. She loves Beca exactly how she is. She loves Beca’s cat-like distances and snarky comments. Her “don’t touch me” moments and her sleepy clinging. Her grumpy mornings and quiet nights. Those rare days when she’s hyped up on too much coffee and running around the apartment in Chloe’s bunny slippers, talking about runs and levels and harmonies. But she won’t lie and say that she isn’t enjoying this touchy Beca. She’s always wanted Beca to feel comfortable enough with her for things like this. And if she needs to buy them a piano for the apartment to keep her feeling this way, she absolutely will.

There’s a loud, rapid honking and Chloe twists to look over Beca’s shoulder. Another truck stops a little ways from them as Amy slows to a halt. The passenger door opens and Benji pops out of it, waving his arms over his head. “Bellas!”

“Trebles!” Stacie screams, standing and bouncing the truck.

More men that Chloe recognizes pour out of the truck, hooting and waving. The other Bellas rush to meet them. Chloe rolls to her knees and grabs Beca’s wrists, tugging her up. “Come on! You’ve gotta meet the boys!”

Beca scrunches her nose, going boneless. “Ew, boys. Hard pass.”

“Oh, shush. They’re great. You’ll like them.” She tugs again and Beca lurches forward, stopping herself with her elbows on her knees. Their faces are only inches apart now and Chloe grips her wrists tighter, suddenly finding it a little difficult to breathe beyond quick gasps of air.

“Hey, lady, I’ve got a girlfriend. Back off.” Beca grins, cocking her head to the side.

Chloe’s stomach flips and she eases forward. If Beca’s so open today, she’s going to soak it up. Just in case she can’t afford a piano for a while. Once she’s close enough to feel Beca’s breath on her lips, she stops. “You must like her a lot.”

It sends little jolts of lightning down her spine when Beca doesn’t pull away, just smirks. “Eh, she’s alright.”

Chloe growls and shoves her back, Beca laughing as she catches herself. “You’re such a jerk, Mitchell. I don’t need you here!” She pops up to her feet and climbs out of the truck. As she rounds the side, Beca gives a “hup!” and lands next to her.

“Liar.” She turns to walk backwards, tugging her shirt back down from where it had ridden up. “You adore me.” The heel of her sneaker catches on a rock and her arms windmill for a second. She manages to get her feet back under her before she bites the dust.

Chloe tries very hard not to laugh. She almost succeeds. “Yeah, Mitchell. Kinda.”

The Trebles haven’t changed a single bit. By the time the whole group has pushed through the last bit of trees to the lake, carrying snacks and speakers and pool noodles, the boys have ramped the Bellas up into a wild mess of hooting and horsing around.

Chloe ducks Donald’s swinging arm as she steps out of the trees with Beca and Eli. It’s exactly how she remembers it. The little boat dock still stands to their left, covered in strings of fishing line with bobbers tied down the whole length--redneck fairy lights run from support beam to support beam. The Jump Tree leans out over the water, the thick rope still hanging from one of the sturdy upper branches, swinging lightly in the breeze. Thick logs sit in the same circle they’d sat in during college, the small, rusted firepit somehow still standing in the center. Chloe takes a deep breath as all those nights spent here with the Bellas--and later on, the Trebles--comes rushing back. She squeezes Beca’s hand, pulling her forward.

As Jesse oversees the setup of the music on the dock, Aubrey and Emily take over the big tree stump by the water--the one that used to be their Jump Tree until it was hit by lightning her sophomore year and the Trebles had cut it down, sanded it, and sealed it to make them a table. Emily hefts a huge picnic basket onto it and Aubrey begins pulling things from it, dragging Stacie and Kolio in to help with a snap of her fingers.

Eli grabs Chloe’s arm just as Beca slips away, headed for the music system, attracted like a moth to a flame. She picks up a roll of speaker wire and stares at it like she’s not sure if it’s going to bite or not. Their “stereo system” is really just an old radio of Donald’s that runs on batteries and only plays CDs, hooked to some of Jesse’s old speakers. It’s old school, but it’s always worked for them. Jesse grabs the wire from Beca, talking quickly and pointing to it. Beca bares her teeth in what Chloe knows is her “I’m totally listening, yeah, yeah” smile.

“Can I swim now?” Eli says, tugging Chloe’s arm.

“Give me a second.” Chloe tugs at the knot at her hip, pulling off her coverup and tossing it over her favorite log by the fire, claiming her spot for later. “Okay, let’s go!” And she snatches him up, throwing him over her shoulder as she splashes into the lake. He’s gotten so heavy and she hugs his legs tighter. He squeals and slaps at her back.

The water is dark and she can only feel the rocks on the bottom, not see them. But it is also cold and she lets out a high-pitched screech as it closes around her hips, then her waist. She drops Eli and he sputters, gasping and flailing as he sinks to his neck. “Cold! Chloe! Ah!”

“EVERYBODY IN!” one of the Trebles screams and suddenly bodies are pouring into the water, screaming and cursing at the temperature. Chloe claps her hands over Eli’s ears until they settle down. Mamma lets them get away with a lot, but cursing is not one of those things.

When the splashing stops, Chloe looks up and finds everyone is in the water, except Beca who is still standing on the dock, pushing buttons on the radio. A second later, the opening chords of “Yeah!” by Usher ring out over the lake and everyone cheers. It’s like she’s been transported back to years ago as Aubrey crashes into her side and pulls her down into the water.

“Mitchell!” Stacie yells over the crowd. “Race me!”

“Race you?” Beca calls back, shaking her head.

Stacie pulls herself out of the water, attracting almost everyone’s attention as she rises to her full height on the dock, water droplets pouring down her insanely long legs. The fact that her bikini doesn’t look like it can actually do its job of keeping her covered probably also attracts looks. Chloe herself takes a moment to appreciate Stacie’s curves and straining bikini top as she breathes. The woman really is beautiful.

Then Stacie wraps her wet arms around Beca’s neck, hooking one wrist over the other, and bends forward until she’s eye level with her, her back arching down. The water doesn’t feel as cold anymore, so Chloe swims over and crosses her arms over the edge of the dock.

“Come on, Becs. Scared I’ll leave you and your tiny limbs treading water?” Stacie purses her lips at Beca, making smooching noises, then turns to smile as Cynthia Rose laughs.

So she doesn’t see what Chloe does: Beca glancing at Jesse and lifting one eyebrow.

Jesse pushes himself up onto Donald’s back and yells, “I’ve got ten on Beca!”

Stacie gasps, straightening up with both hands on her chest--not quite not cupping her breasts. “Jesse, I thought we were friends!”

“We are, Stace!” He pats Donald’s cheeks, grinning. “But I like an underdog.”

“Underdog?” Beca huffs, but Chloe can tell she doesn’t actually mean it. Her lips are turned down and her brow is furrowed. But when Beca frowns it’s more just a flat press of her lips and narrowed eyes.

More people start calling out bets and Cynthia Rose happily wades to shore to grab her phone and record them all. Meanwhile, Stacie starts stretching. Probably more for show than need, if her grin at the wolf whistles is anything to go by. Beca drops to sit beside Chloe’s arms on the dock, kicking water at Eli. He laughs and goes to splash her back but Unicycle appears and lifts him onto his shoulders and they’re off to play chicken with Emily and Fat Amy who is shouting something about “children fighting rings”.

Chloe slides to the side to cross her arms over Beca’s thighs instead, peering up at her. “What are you hiding, Mitchell?”

Her palms press down into the dock as she leans forward, her legs brushing either side of Chloe’s hips. “What makes you think I’m hiding something?”

“Your eyebrow.” Chloe reaches up to touch it, leaving drops of water that Beca closes her eye against. “You do a thing with it when you’re not saying something.”

Beca wipes the water drops away with the back of her hand. “You’re making that up.”

“I am not.”

“You can’t tell anything by my eyebrow.”

“I can tell a lot of things by your body, Becs.” She means it as a joke, but it’s kind of true. Beca’s easy to read for her.

That eyebrow twitches again. “That’s kind of stalker-y, Beale.”

“I just love you,” Chloe says, resting her chin on her arms and tilting her head to the side to keep eye contact. She catches the tips of Beca’s ears turning red and grins, squeezing her thighs. “You’re cute.”

“Shut the fuck up, I am not.”

“Alright, folks!” Cynthia Rose stomps down the dock, pausing to grab and shake Beca’s shoulders. “Bets are in! You all know the rules!”

“Uh, not all of us,” Beca protests, but Cynthia Rose is distracted by Stacie bending over to touch her toes.

So Chloe presses her arms into Beca’s thighs and lifts up a bit. “So. Races go from the dock to the rock and back.” She nods out toward the lake at the large boulder sticking up from the water maybe fifty feet out. “Simple.”

“Simple,” Beca parrots, nodding. Her eyes are still on the rock. “Who you betting on?”

“I didn’t bet.” The water splashes up Chloe’s back as Trebles pass by and she shivers. “Because you’re hiding something.”

Beca shrugs. “Maybe.”

“Come on, tiny DJ.” Cynthia Rose beckons to Beca, standing beside Stacie at the end of the dock.

“I’m up.” Beca’s thigh muscles tense but Chloe pushes herself higher out of the water, feeling playful.

“Kiss for luck?” She wrinkles her nose and grins, already sinking back down. Because as touchy as Beca’s been today, there’s no one around that needs convincing that they’re together. No Tom to run off. No reason for it to be anything but a joke.

But instead of rolling her eyes and pushing Chloe away, Beca follows. She tilts forward just enough to catch Chloe’s lips. And for the second time in two days, Chloe is too shocked to do anything but kiss back. Because even just this--just softly pressed lips and Beca’s soft exhale against her cheek--is good. Beca’s good at this.

Before Chloe can really do more than have the shape of Beca’s lips seared into her memory, Beca’s pulled back and sliding away. Chloe drops back into the water, the chill racing up her spine not completely from the lake. It was more of a firm peck than anything else, but it’s left Chloe kind of dizzy and shaken. Wanting, she realizes faintly, pressing her fingers to her tingling lips.

Beca and Stacie move to the end of the dock. Cynthia Rose steps between them, lifting her arms in the air. “Everybody ready?”

The Bellas and the Trebles burst into a long, harmonizing note that makes Beca jump. Eli’s warbly voice rises above the note. “GO, BECA!”

Chloe swims over beside Aubrey and Jesse. They’re standing near the front of the dock, Jesse wrapped around Aubrey’s back with his hands clasped over her belly, his chin on her shoulder. Chloe catches Aubrey’s eye and they share a smile. Aubrey’s hands slip over Jesse’s.

“Here we go, Aca-bitches! On the count of three!”

Stacie grabs Cynthia Rose’s arm. “Wait, on three or after three?”

Beca jumps again as everyone yells, “ON three!”

“Okay. One!” Cynthia Rose steps back to let Stacie and Beca take position. Stacie bends at the knees, glancing at Beca.

Something in Chloe’s stomach twists as Beca’s right foot slides back, the toes of her left foot just sticking over the wood and she curls over, her head near her knee. Her hands wrap around the edge of the dock as she waits. Stacie quickly adjusts, mirroring her position as best she can.


Beca turns her head just enough to catch Chloe’s eye. Then she winks . Chloe’s feels her jaw drop, but it’s really all she can do to remain standing right now. So she nearly misses Cynthia Rose scream, “Three!”

Beca and Stacie lunge forward at the same moment, disappearing in a resounding splash and cheer from the crowd.