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Stained Glass

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Yes. Absolutely. Is that really a question? Is this really happening? I love you! This is insane!

Every answer that springs immediately to mind, Chloe ropes and tucks down. Because Beca’s grinning like she knows the answer and she absolutely adores this confident, wild Beca. But this is insane, right? Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn’t feel it, like she thinks it should. Either way, she tamps down the flame dancing up her spine and smiles. “Ask me again when this is over.”

She groans. “You’re killing me, Beale.” But Beca breaks away, still grinning, and bends to grab the bat she dropped. There’s a hatchet in her left hand, a holster strapped to her thigh, and a spattering of what looks like blood across her forearms and neck.

This is probably a very inappropriate moment to find her as sexy as Chloe does, but she can’t help reaching out to stroke a hand down Beca’s side as she moves past.

Stacie wraps her in a quick hug. “Jesus, it’s good to see you. Let’s get the hell out of here.” She spots Aubrey and hurries to throw her arms around her, lifting her off the ground.

“Hey, Stacie,” Aubrey sighs into her hair, hugging her tight.

Stacie puts her down and glances around. “Leave it to Aubrey Posen to get kidnapped and emerge with an army.” She eyes the woman wielding two fish warily. “What are we doing?”

“We’re getting these ladies up the hill to my house. Away from this.” She motions back to the market that’s still ringing with shots.

“You must be Beca.” Chloe turns to find Flo grabbing Beca in a quick hug, avoiding the hatchet. “I’m Flo. You look whiter than in your pictures!”

“Uh, I’m...sorry?” Beca awkwardly shrugs.

“It’s okay. Now, don’t blink too much. She doesn’t like that.”

“Who doesn’t like wha--”

But then Flo steps aside and Lilly takes her place, leaning forward over Beca until she’s forced to arch her head back to avoid touching. Chloe places a hand between Beca’s shoulder blades to let her know it’s okay. Beca relaxes minutely, but still flinches pretty hard when Lilly sticks out her tongue and boops the tip of Beca’s nose with it. Then she smiles and grabs Beca’s hand with the hatchet and just holds it. It’s Lilly’s “I’m happy” face, but Beca looks like she’s just been told the date and time of her death and she has no idea what to do with the information.

Chloe laughs. “She likes you.”

Beca turns to glare at her, a plea for help in the twist of her lips. “I, uh, like her too,” she says as Lilly waves the hatchet-filled hand she’s captured around a little.

“Alright! Up the hill, ladies! Get up there and stay together! Don’t let anything stop you! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” Flo’s translating, but it’s Aubrey in her element, commanding a huge group of women, and Chloe moves to her side to help her usher the group along. It feels weirdly like Bella practice back in college.

Except for the gunshots and screaming.

Stacie takes the lead at Aubrey’s command, taking off at a fast jog up the hill. Cynthia Rose and Jessica stand on either side of the group, circling their arms to get the women moving faster. The last woman’s just cleared the parking lot when Chloe turns to do a quick headcount before they follow. Lilly isn’t there. She spins around, staring at the twenty or so women running up the hill, waving around knives and fish, following Stacie. “Where is Lilly?”

Beca blinks and looks down at her hand. “I swear, she was just holding my hand.”

“Sissy?” Mickey’s back near the docks, arm raised to point. She hurries over and follows his gaze just in time to see Lilly slink into the hallway all the way across the building where the shots are still echoing from.

“Oooh, they’re ‘bout to get it,” Amy sings.

The screaming grows louder and Chloe winces, grabbing Aubrey’s arm. “We can’t leave Lilly.”

“I really don’t think Lilly needs our help, Chlo.” But Aubrey stays put. “We should--”

“Incoming!” Amy points up the hill where a four-wheeler is barreling toward them. “Take cover!” Amy takes off like a linebacker, headed for the little pickup parked near the water. But Chloe doesn’t follow, because she recognizes the whipping red hair easily.

“It’s Aunt Dana!”

“About time,” Beca growls, waving her bat in the air.

Aunt Dana slides to a halt in the gravel. Behind her, looking like he might throw up, is Jesse. As soon as she stops, he rolls off shakily and staggers a few steps away, taking a deep breath through his nose. But then he spots Aubrey, who’s already pushing through the group to get to him, and all unsteadiness disappears. They collide hard, barely keeping their feet.

“Bree,” he gasps, fists wrapped in the back of her shirt.

“Reunions after we get all of you out of here? Please?” Aunt Dana leaps off the four-wheeler. “Aubrey, I’m thrilled to see you, but we have a problem.” There’s another spurt of gunfire and she sighs. “Another problem. Kommissar is on her way here, right behind us. She’s figured out my team is here. You guys have to go. Come on.”

“Lilly’s still inside,” Jessica says, stepping forward.

Aunt Dana eyes the bloodstained hunting knife in her grip. “I swear, I leave you guys alone for ten minutes! I’ll get Lilly. You go.” She hurries past them and around the corner into the market, pulling a gun from her waistband. It jolts something in Chloe’s stomach to see Aunt Dana checking the clip with quick, easy movements. After the last couple days, she kinda thought nothing could surprise her anymore.

“Does anyone else hear an engine?” Amy asks, forearms leaned on the hood of the pickup. “Just me?”

As soon as she says it, Chloe hears the building hum, growing louder fast. Flo points up the hill and Chloe turns just as a dark Suburban flies over the crest, bouncing so hard that sparks fly from the front bumper as it drags the concrete. The Bellas scramble back, behind the pickup, onto the docks, against the building. Beca’s hand closes around Chloe’s elbow and tugs her back toward the water, until they’re standing on the grassy bank, as far from the gravel of the parking lot as they can get. Mickey appears at her other side, shaking hard and rubbing the heels of his palms down his thighs over and over, like they hurt. Chloe grabs his arm to try and steady him.

But then Beca is slipping the hatchet into Chloe’s right hand and moving between her and the parking lot. She twists her wrist, then flicks it, spinning the bat handle in the circle of her fingers again and again anxiously. Chloe can almost picture her at the plate, stands filled with cheering spectators and Beca alone in the dirt, psyching herself up for the first pitch.

The Suburban skids off the road and into the parking lot. The driver's door opens and Agent Anderson--Kommissar--jumps out, gun drawn. Aubrey lifts her own gun and ice crackles under Chloe’s skin as the two women face off.

“You don’t want to do this, little girl.” Kommissar stays half behind the door of her Suburban. Her accent is thicker than it was at the house and Chloe wonders if anything about this woman had been real. “I have been trained for years with this.”

“So have I,” Aubrey calls back, unmoving.

“Is your skill so sure that you would risk your fiance’s life?”

It’s only then that Chloe realizes, with a sinking feeling, that Kommissar is aiming beside Aubrey. At unarmed Jesse. For a man facing down a gun, he looks remarkably calm, but Aubrey takes a small step to the side toward him.

Kommissar’s gun hand twitches a little. It’s hard to tell from this distance, but Chloe thinks her finger tightens around the trigger. “Ah! Nein, you stay where you are. Humans are so easy for bullets to pass through. It makes no sense to use yourself as a shield.”

In front of her, Beca’s feet shift a little, placing herself more firmly between Chloe and Kommissar.

“Now. Put the gun down. Ah, slower. Yes. Put it down and kick it here.” Aubrey complies, cheeks pulled in like she’s biting them. It’s a face Chloe used to see in Bella practice, when Aubrey was doing her best to stay calm. The gun slides through the gravel and Kommissar ducks out to grab it, her own gun never wavering. She tucks the second gun into her pants and kicks the Suburban’s door shut. Her grin is perfectly even and white and Chloe really hates it. “It seems that was your only gun or you would not have given it up so easily. Good. Now, all of you, backs to the building.”

But before they can move, Mel comes around the corner, gun raised. “Gun down, bitch!” Only then does Chloe realize that the building is quiet.

Kommissar’s gun swings around to her instead. “Melanippe. So good of you to join us.”

“Put the gun down, Kommissar.” Mel’s voice and hands are steady, despite the blood caked around her sleeve and splattered across her legs. “Nobody else has to die here.”

Aunt Dana and two other agents step out from behind her, guns leveled and expressions calm. The dark-haired one moves until she’s standing beside Beca. They share a quick glance and nod, like they know each other.

But Kommissar just laughs. “Oh, Melanippe. You are wrong again. Even without my branch of the operation, business will continue. You have done nothing here today but slow the people I work for down.” She turns her other hand over and reveals a small metal ball with a red button in the center. Her thumb lays over the button and the dark-haired agent beside Beca stiffens. “I’m afraid everybody else has to die here. Blowing up the place and everyone in it was a backup plan I wasn't too thrilled about, but here we are.”

There’s a sudden string of quiet, angry Spanish from under the pickup and Amy calls out, “I would like a second opinion!”

Mel and her agents lower their guns just a fraction. “Look, just let the civilians go and we can talk,” Mel says, voice softer. She releases her gun, letting it spin on her finger as she lifts her hands to the side. “Okay? This doesn’t have to go down this way, Greta.”

Kommissar sighs and Chloe notices a flicker of movement behind her, on the road. Lilly, on all fours, slinking toward the Suburban. The other two agents slowly lower their guns to the ground and lift their hands. Aunt Dana doesn’t budge.

Kommissar turns then, gun shifting from Mel, and Chloe finds herself looking straight down the barrel. “Come now, Dana.”

Beca’s still in front of her, but where it had warmed her insides before, that thought terrifies Chloe now. She drops the hatchet she'd forgotten she was even holding and grabs Beca’s shirt, tugging her back until Beca’s back bumps her front. Chloe slides out to the side a little, enough that Beca’s no longer really blocking her. The gun shifts to follow her at the same time Beca does, but Kommissar bares her teeth. “Quit moving, Little Mouse. Dana and I both know who the better shot is.”

“Okay,” Aunt Dana suddenly says, lifting her hands. She crouches and places her gun on the ground.

“Kick them into the water,” Kommissar commands, weapon swinging back around to the agents. They comply, though Chloe hears the little blonde mutter something that sounds like, “I just got this one” before she toes her gun off the riverbank. Kommissar nods. “Now. I’m sorry it had to be this way. But I really do not like the idea of your American prisons.” She lifts the metal ball above her head.

Lilly appears atop the Suburban like magic and launches herself onto Kommissar’s back, taking her to the ground. The metal ball goes flying and Jesse leaps on top of it, almost cat-like. Kommissar screams and Lilly hisses and the gun goes off.

Mickey slams into Chloe’s side with a grunt. Beca catches her and then they’re all falling, Mickey hitting the ground and rolling a few feet away. Everything stops when Chloe sees the patch of red left in the grass where Mickey landed. “Mickey?” He doesn’t answer and it’s all too similar to those nights in the car, driving around Florida with the windows down, screaming his name. It feels like her heart’s been sucked into her head and she can feel it beating in her ears, too loud to hear anything but the fact that she can’t hear Mickey. “Bubba!”

He groans, facedown in the dirt, and Chloe scrambles to his side to turn him over, air filling her burning lungs painfully fast. Mickey’s face has bits of grass stuck to it and he spits out some more. “Ow,” he says, glancing down at the red patch spreading down his side.

Chloe yanks his shirt up and the rapid drumbeat in her ears slows drastically, because Mickey’s side is bleeding, but it looks like the bullet barely grazed him. “Jesus, Bubba. It’s okay, you’re okay. It’s just a scratch.” She tugs his shirt back down and presses it against the wound.

“I’ve got it,” Mickey insists, moving her hand to press his own there.

“No! Beca!” Jesse yells.

Chloe spins, fear gripping at her ribs all over again. Somehow, in her distraction, everyone has moved. Beca is a few feet away, scrambling to her feet. Most of the girls are on their knees or flat on the ground, Lilly is curled up in a ball beside the Suburban, Aunt Dana is knelt beside her, and the little blonde agent is supporting the dark-haired one, who looks dazed. Blood drips down her forehead.

Mel’s arms are wrapped around Kommissar’s waist, trying to keep her away from Jesse, who is backed up against the building. But Mel’s arm is dripping red and Kommissar digs her fingers viciously into the wound. Mel screams and Kommissar breaks away.

“Jess!” Beca’s voice echoes around the parking lot and she takes a few steps forward, nodding. The bat swings up over her shoulder and Chloe realizes what’s happening a split second before Jesse pitches the small, gray ball at Beca.

“No!” one of the agents yells, but it’s too late.

Beca moves, stepping into the swing like a professional, her back foot ripping grass out of the ground as she twists and brings the bat singing through the air with a powerful yank. The swing connects with a sharp crack and the device goes flying far over the parking lot and disappears into the trees across the road. Everyone goes still for a moment, Kommissar paused with hands wrapped in the front of Jesse’s shirt.

The building doesn’t blow up for a good fives seconds and the relief in the group is tangible. Beca, frozen at the end of her swing, bat hanging from her hand, slumps. Aunt Dana’s eyes slip closed and her head drops forward. There are sighs all around and someone--Jessica, Chloe thinks--whispers, “I think I peed my pants.”

Cynthia Rose leaps onto Kommissar’s back in the moment of quiet and brings her crashing down, face first into the gravel. Mel hurries to help her and Aubrey throws herself across Kommissar’s kicking legs.

A police siren sounds somewhere close by and every bit of tension slides from Chloe’s body when she sees blue and red lights racing over the hill toward them. She looks around, doing a quick headcount.

Lilly is sitting up against the Suburban now, nursing a bloody nose with Aunt Dana checking on her. Aubrey and Jesse are together, helping hold down Kommissar who is writhing and spitting in German. Cynthia Rose is sitting on Kommissar’s back, talking to Mel, who’s smirking and nodding along. Amy is standing nearby, watching Flo climb out from under the pickup. Jessica is with the little blonde agent, helping her tend to the cut on the other agent’s forehead. Stacie, Emily, and Ashley are up in the hills, safe.

Beca’s head is tilted back toward the sky, eyes closed. Deep breaths lift her chest as she taps the bat against her leg and Chloe counts with her. In for seven, out for six.

Chloe drops down into the grass beside Mickey, sucking in a shaky breath of her own. There’s laughter bubbling in her chest and she can’t bring herself to keep it down. So she laughs, a little high-pitched and hysterical. But it feels good. She’s shaking, but everything just feels good. It’s over. Her girls are alive and safe and it’s all over. Everything will go back to normal. Aubrey’s going to get married and-- Chloe opens her eyes at the thought, grinning.

Beca leans over her, face upside down, dark hair hanging around her. She tucks a strand behind her ear and smirks. “You okay, Beale?”

Chloe laughs again, because Beca is beautiful and blood-spattered and leaning casually on a baseball bat and everything is just funny and feels so right. “You’ll have to stop calling me that.”

One of Beca’s eyebrows lifts. “What? ‘Beale’?”

“Yeah.” Chloe lifts a hand and Beca lays the bat on the ground to crouch so Chloe can reach her cheek. “I think I’ll take your name.”

Beca’s eyes widen and Chloe vaguely notes Mickey’s head lifting from the ground to turn toward them. “Dude, is that-- Are you--? You don’t have to--”

“Yes, Beca Mitchell.” Chloe laughs, dropping her hands to her stomach as it flutters. “I’ll marry you.”