Beca wakes to shouting and feet trampling on the stairs. She opens her eyes just as Stacie leads the entire Bella army into the loft, arms up as she shimmies. “Good morning, Becs! Get up, we’re going SHOPPING!”
Beca might actually kill her. It feels like dawn and she just wants to rest a couple more days. Is that too much to ask? Chloe, taking up the rear of the parade of girls, gives her an apologetic smile and it cools the anger in Beca’s chest just a little. Not enough to completely rule out homicide though, because Stacie takes it upon herself to start digging through Beca’s clothes to find her an outfit. “I don’t want to go shopping with you, Conrad.”
“Too bad. Wedding is tomorrow and I need to get you looking razor fine. Up, up, upupupup--”
“Okay, stop pulling on m--OW, OKAY.” She lets Stacie pull her from the bed and even lets her shove her into the bathroom with an armful of clothes. Chloe’s laughter follows her in and she makes sure no one sees her smile as she slams the door shut with her foot.
When she emerges, dressed and incrementally more ready for it to be daytime, Chloe is already gone. The other girls are milling about at the top of the stairs, chatting. “Where’s Chloe?”
“Your girlfriend is off setting up for the big celebration and keeping Mamma supplied with tissues.” Stacie must notice her confusion. “Aubrey asked Mamma to give her away tomorrow. She’s been crying ever since.” She laughs. “Oh, god. We’ll have to have Eli follow her around with a mop when you and Chloe get married!”
Beca, who’s just bent over to pull her boots on, straightens so fast that she nearly knocks poor Emily down the stairs. “When-what-when we-- What?”
And just like that, Beca knows she’s screwed up. Stacie’s eyes light up and she pounces, grinning ear to ear. “Beca, is there something you’d like to share with the class?” Her voice is just low enough that the other girls don’t hear, but Beca shushes her anyways.
“Dude, shut up. No!”
“Did you actually ask her?” Stacie grabs her arms, leaning in to whisper, “I didn’t think you’d actually do it!”
“Dude.” Beca says again, glancing over Stacie’s shoulder. Emily is smiling serenely at them, hands clasped behind her back, but Amy is pushing through the crowd toward them. “I-- I will tell you everything when we get back to New York if you shut up right now. Deal?”
“Deal!” Stacie cheers. “Seal it with a kiss?” She puckers up and Beca shoves her off, growling.
“I didn’t say the kiss would be for you, Becs.” Stacie winks and, turning smoothly on her heel, loops her arms over Emily’s shoulders and pulls her into a searing, definitely not PG, kiss that has the Bellas hooting and cheering and leaves Emily red-faced and dazed when she pulls away. “Alright, bitches! Let’s go!”
“Nice one, Junk,” Cynthia Rose says, clapping Emily on the back as she passes. Fat Amy starts singing “Kiss the Girl” and Jessica and Ashley chime in to back her up, prompting all of them to join in.
Once the other Bellas have left, Beca finishes pulling on her boots. They’re a bunch of fucking nerds. But, okay, maybe she sort of loves them. When she looks up, Emily is still there, staring into space and grinning. “Dude. You broken?”
Emily shakes herself a little. “Hm? What?”
Beca laughs, tugging Emily’s sleeve. “Come on. You’re being too gay for even me right now.”
The front yard is, once again, full of people. This time, it’s the Trebles, cat-calling the Bellas as they pass by toward Aubrey’s car. Stacie blows Donald a kiss and he pretends to pass out, right into Benji’s arms. Lew and Dana are standing in the back of his truck, arguing over a tool bag, it looks like, while Jesse stands beside the truck, with his arms looped over the tailgate and a dopey grin on his face.
Mamma Beale is indeed teary-eyed and is fluttering about with Mrs. Swanson, directing a handful of Trebles as they carry chairs from the little shed around the corner toward the backyard. Mr. Swanson has Eli and Seth pulling what looks like party supplies from the back of his truck.
And there’s Chloe, in the middle of the yard with Aubrey, bouncing lightly on her heels like she always does when her excitement is at a level that she fears will scare those around her. Beca barely registers the grin on her own face as she takes a step to join Chloe. Maybe to kiss her. Or hold her hand. Anything she wants. Because that’s her girlfriend.
It seems Chloe has the same idea, because the second she spots Beca, she grins and hops forward to throw her arms around her neck. “Becs!”
“Chlo,” Beca laughs, gripping her hips. “Having fun?”
“So much!” Chloe sways them side to side, humming a little. “We’ve already got Stacie’s dress and invited everyone we think could make it on such short notice. Mrs. Swanson is handling catering. Aubrey and I have hammered out the procession order, I think.”
“You’ve been busy while I was sleeping.”
“I thought you deserved a little lie in.” She pauses to press a quick kiss to Beca’s lips. Then another, slightly longer. Then another.
Little shocks run down Beca’s skin, tightening her fingers until she’s got Chloe’s belt loops and she can tug slightly. Chloe lets out a soft sound, somewhere between a moan and a sigh, and Beca nearly forgets where they are.
“Good god, could you two save it for the after party?” Aubrey’s voice sounds a little too amused to actually be annoyed, but Chloe pulls away anyways, grinning.
“Sorry, Bree!” she chirps unconvincingly. Keeping one arm around Beca’s shoulders, she turns to face Aubrey and Mamma Beale, who’s just walked up with Eli.
“Okay, girls. I think we’ve got everything here under control.” Mamma Beale claps her hands together. “Gabby is just about to call around to see if we can get a DJ this late in the game.”
The idea springs to mind so quickly that she has no time to rethink it. This might have something to do with Chloe’s finger trailing distractingly up and down her neck, but Beca doesn’t focus (too much) on that as she says, “I could do it.”
Chloe gasps, stroking her hand up and down Beca’s back, proudly saying, “Oh my god, yes! Beca used to DJ before she became a producer!”
“But you’re walking in the wedding,” Aubrey reminds her with a lifted eyebrow.
“Guess I’ll just need help then.” Beca looks down at Eli and his eyes widen before she can even ask the question. “Eli? Wanna be my co-DJ?”
His gasp sounds so much like his sister’s that Beca can’t help but laugh. “Yeah! Totally! Dude, this is so cool! I gotta tell Seth!” He ducks his mother’s arm and speeds across the yard, yelling for his cousin.
Mamma Beale sighs, watching him go. “He officially loves you more than he loves us.”
Beca rolls her eyes and catches Chloe staring at her. It’s a look she knows well.
It’s the same way Chloe looks at her when she comes home later than she said she would, but bearing Chloe’s favorite bagels from that little place on the corner that never seems to close. Or when she catches Beca singing along to the radio in the kitchen. Or when Beca falls asleep on the couch and Chloe gently shakes her awake to send her to bed. It’s one of Beca’s favorite looks on Chloe and she had always thought it was too soft a look to find on a normal human. But Chloe is not normal and Beca kind of gets the look now. She smiles. “Why the face, Beale?”
Chloe’s nose scrunches up. “Maybe I just like looking at you.”
Aubrey, apparently not noticing that they are in the middle of a moment, says, “Do you have all the equipment you need, Beca?”
Breaking her gaze from Chloe’s, Beca blinks. “Uh, I just need some speakers. The bigger, the better.”
“I have some,” Jesse says, walking up. “In our attic. The big ones I used to have in my room when we were kids, remember?”
She does remember. They’d been his parents’ birthday gift to him freshman year and they’d spent many afternoons laying in front of those very speakers, jamming to whatever stupid songs Jesse thought were cool then. Mostly hip-hop songs he wasn’t fast enough to rap to, but she was. “Yeah. Old school, but I can make it work.”
“Awesome! For what?” Jesse shoves his hands in his pockets, rocking sideways into Aubrey, like a magnet let loose near metal.
“Beca’s going to DJ the wedding,” Aubrey answers him, her hand looping around his forearm.
Jesse’s eyes widen and he bounces on his toes. “Oh, man. The Beca Mitchell is doing my wedding. Man, I’m tweeting that right now!”
Beca snatches his phone the second he pulls it out. “Don’t you dare, Snitchson!”
“C’mon, Becs! I’m gonna be famous!”
“You’re gonna be dead too.” She leans back and finds Chloe there, keeping her from running. But Chloe loops her arms around and takes the phone, holding it even farther from Jesse and freeing Beca’s hands to fend him off. Chloe’s laughing in her ear and Jesse’s swatting at her hands to try and reach over her and it’s really kind of perfect.
But, as if sensing Beca’s happiness, Stacie swoops in out of nowhere to ruin it. “Beca! You’re with me and the boys today!”
“You heard me. Chop, chop! Into the Treble-mobile!”
Fat Amy’s voice rises above the chatter and the banging of folded up chairs against each other. “All wallet lesbians, please report to the red truck!”
Cynthia Rose laughs and breaks away from the group with Ashley. Stacie loops her arm through Beca’s and drags her after them, cooing, “That’s you, Becs!”
“Have fun, Becs!” Chloe calls cheerfully, waving.
“Kill me now,” Beca grumbles back, but she smiles when Chloe does.
Stacie releases her so Beca can climb into the bed of the truck--the only thing keeping her from complaining loudly about going anywhere Chloe isn’t, really. “Boys walking in the wedding! Let’s go! Pile up!”
Uni leaps the side of the truck easily and drops down next to Beca, grinning breathlessly. He runs a hand back over his huge hair. “Little Bit! Missed you!”
“Who are you again?”
He feigns being shot in the heart, groaning as the truck starts up. The other boys quickly climb into the bed, shoving each other to get comfy. Bumper tries to do a strange running horizontal leap in, but misses and ends up colliding painfully with the tailgate and what sounds like the hitch. Beca winces, watching him straighten up.
“I’m good,” he says, laughing nervously. “I meant to do that.” He clambers in, nearly stepping on her in the process, and settles between Jesse and Kolio. Cynthia Rose and Ashley hop in beside Beca and Cynthia Rose sends her a quick wink.
Jesse extends his legs and catches Beca’s foot between his as the truck ambles out of the driveway and Uni drops an arm along the side of the truck behind her head. “I’m getting married!” Jesse calls over the wind, throwing his arms in the air. The other boys cheer but Jesse doesn’t look away from her. “I’m glad you’re here, Becaw!”
Her hair whips around her face and fills her shirt and chest until she feels like she might burst. “Me too, dude.”
Stacie seems satisfied with the second shop they slip into, immediately snapping up an employee to be their personal assistant. She gives detailed instructions about color and cut and ties and the poor guy ends up ushering all of them into the dressing rooms in back, with his arms filled with outfits. Beca finds herself stuck in a tiny cubicle with Stacie as the employee brings in suit after suit. Mr. Swanson takes over keeping the boys in check and Cynthia Rose and Ashley disappear near the front of the store to look at ties or something. Somewhere along the line, Bumper and Donald are arguing over suede or crushed velvet, whatever that means.
“Okay.” Stacie hefts two hangers she snagged on their way in. “Cleavage or no cleavage?”
Beca stares at her.
“No cleavage. Got it. So put this on.” Stacie hangs the two suits--both dark blue--on the hook behind the door and digs into her purse to pull out a folded shirt. Beca’s shirt, she realizes as she shakes it out. The black one she’d brought along when she thought she was just going to be a guest at the wedding.
“Dude. Stop stealing my shit.” She tosses it on the tiny bench and whips off her t-shirt.
“I wasn’t stealing it! I was bringing it along for the very purpose of giving it back to you!” Stacie watches her slip it on and button it up. “We needed it to size you.”
“Tiny,” Uni’s voice chimes through the wall and Beca bangs it with her elbow. He laughs.
Stacie ignores them both, pulling Beca’s collar down to check the size. She sticks her head out and reports it to the bustling employee, who assures her he has something in the back. Beca grimaces. Her sizes are always in the back. Or the children’s section.
“Okay, take it back off.” Stacie snaps her fingers, wiggling them until Beca, rolling her eyes the entire time, gets the shirt off and sticks it in her hand. The employee returns with a neatly folded white button-up. Beca slips it on and lets Stacie button the cuffs. “Alright, Mitchell. Something I’ve been waiting to say for years now.” Stacie’s eyes glint and she grins. “Take your pants off for me.”
“I hate you.” Beca shoves off her jeans, glaring as best she can in just a shirt and underwear. “Quit looking at me. You have a girlfriend.”
Stacie’s grin softens and grows all at once. “Yeah. I do.” She turns away, fussing with the outfits she’d carried in with them.
“How’d that even happen?” Beca looks at herself in the mirror. The shirt fits perfectly. There must be a women’s section somewhere in this place. “You and Emily? I mean, I’ve got to ask, because I don’t know how I didn’t notice sooner. You guys are as subtle as a brick to the face.”
Stacie keeps her eyes on the suit, unfastening buttons to pull the pants from inside. “It’s hard to explain.” She turns and hands Beca the pants to slip into.
“You’re, like, Mensa level smart or something, dude. Try.”
Arms folded, Stacie leans against the wall of the cubicle, listening to the boys call to each other. “She...she’s different, I guess.”
Beca slips her thumbs in the waistband and pulls it away from her body a good six inches. Stacie scrunches her nose and shakes her head, so she slips them back off.
Stacie digs into the second suit and pulls the pants from them. “Flirting comes so naturally for me. And the vast majority of the time, I don’t actually mean it, so I don’t really think about it when I flirt with people. It’s just fun, you know? To fluster people.” She lifts one shoulder. “Everyone sees me as this sex fiend. Which, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely am.” She winks dramatically and Beca rolls her eyes so hard, she fears she may have finally gotten them stuck, like her mother had always said she would. “But the first time I flirted with her--back when she joined the Bellas--she didn't get flustered. She just got so confused. Like she couldn’t figure out why anyone would be flirting with her. Which was just insane to me, because she’s gorgeous and sweet and has this amazing voice and--” She stops and Beca thinks she might be blushing, but she turns back to the suits on the door before she can really get a look. “She’s just incredible and it confused me when she got confused by it. And I don’t know…”
Beca gives the pants a quick tug when Stacie turns back to look at her again. The bottoms bunch up on her feet and Stacie shakes her head again, so Beca strips.
“I didn’t want her to be confused by people liking her anymore, I guess.” Stacie shrugs, taking the pants and hanging them back up before passing both outfits out the door and giving quick instructions to whoever she hands them to. Once the door’s closed again, she smiles. “I just wanted her to know she was desirable. And then, suddenly, she was all I wanted.” She tucks her hands behind her back and leans against the wall, one knee bent, her heel pressing into the wallpaper. "I thought I was going to teach her something, but she taught me instead... I didn't know I could love like this." It's a deep confession, but said so easily. Simple fact.
They’re both silent for a minute, Beca turning over what she’s just learned and Stacie nodding along to the faint music playing from the speakers overhead. There’s a soft knock on the door and the employee slips a suit inside when Stacie cracks it open. Stacie quickly pulls it apart and hands her the pants. Beca steps into them. “How long?”
“Since she moved to New York seven months ago.” Stacie nods in approval of the pants and Beca tucks her shirt in. “I graduated before she did and moved up. Met you. Started working at the studio. Had some fun with some interns.”
“Don’t remind me,” Beca growls, stretching her arms up to loosen the shirt’s tuck in.
“Hoped I’d forget about her.” She says it like it’s a passing comment about the weather. “We were always just friends in school, you know. But then when she moved up there and started at the studio…” Stacie shrugs, smiling. “I put on that Conrad charm and talked my way into her pants. And, boy, she’s not shy in bed anymore, let me tell you!” She winks.
Beca groans, shutting her eyes in hopes of blocking out any mental images Stacie may try to force on her. “I really wish you hadn’t. Why can’t we ever have a normal heart-to-heart? Why are you like this?”
“Because it’s part of why you love me!” Stacie passes her the vest and tie and she slips them on. She fumbles the knot and Stacie takes it from her to fix it. She throws on the jacket and does up one of the buttons, turning to the mirror.
Huh. She sort of looks good. She turns to admire the cut of the jacket and Stacie wolf-whistles.
“Girl, damn, I’ve outdone myself. Out! Show the boys!”
Stacie opens the door and shoves her out before she can protest anymore.
Jesse’s standing in the hallway, wearing a tux that’s just a shade lighter than Beca’s or the other boys’ suits. His jaw drops when he sees her. “Holy-- Is that little Beca Mitchell?”
Uni’s head pops out of an open dressing room and he gasps, a hand fluttering to his throat. “How dare you look better than me!” He slides out in his socks and throws himself against the opposite wall, one arm up above his head and one leg cocked up. “What do you think? Ravishing?”
Beca tries very hard to keep a straight face. “I think you’re an idiot.”
Uni spins away from the wall and right into Jesse’s arms, forcing Jesse to dip him. “You wound me, Little Bit.”
“Damn, girl, you trying to steal my spotlight?” Beca turns to find Cynthia Rose and Ashley in matching suits. Cynthia Rose is nodding appreciatively and moves in to smooth Beca’s shoulders. “Shit, we gonna upstage the newlyweds!”
“Stacie, could you help me? These pants are definitely not long enough.” Ashley glances down at her bare ankles above her socks and Stacie quickly ushers her into a dressing room, summoning the store employee with a snap of her fingers.
Mr. Swanson keeps her from going change back into her own clothes and, once Ashley and Stacie are done, has them all group up at the end of the hall, in front of the three-way mirrors. “We need a picture! Get together! Stacie, you too. You picked out the suits.”
Beca gets sandwiched between Jesse and Benji, right in the front of the picture. She protests right until Mr. Swanson lifts the camera, then carefully smooths her face into her best deadpan. But Jesse grabs her cheek at the last second and she ends up half-grinning on accident. She stomps on his foot and he yelps.
She quietly asks Mr. Swanson to send her the picture once all the others have gone to change.
The suits and Jesse’s tux all end up in giant garment bags that ride up front with Mr. Swanson--after he insists on paying for them--so Stacie joins them in the bed of the truck for the ride back.
Shopping always makes Beca sleepy and wind in her hair does the same. So she ends up napping against Uni’s shoulder for most of the trip. Only once Mr. Swanson’s bumped up into the grass outside the Beale house does she wake. She climbs out, batting away Uni’s unhelpful hands, and climbs the stairs beside Ashley.
The house is practically empty, only Gran sitting in the kitchen, strumming on a guitar that looks older than Beca. She’s singing some song that Beca doesn’t recognize and she smiles as she sees where Chloe gets her voice from. Gran throws her a wink as she passes.
The backyard is chaos. The Trebles that weren’t part of the wedding party are spread out, carrying around folding tables and chairs as Mamma Beale stands on a the back porch and directs them. Nearly fifty chairs have already been set up across the yard, in perfect rows with their backs to the garage and a wide aisle between them. Up at the front, Lew and Seth are standing atop a small, raised platform, adjusting a large, flower-covered archway. More tiki torches than she can count have been stuck in the ground in a semi-circle around what Beca assumes will be the dance floor after the ceremony, and there’s a table off by itself near the garage that Beca assumes will be her setup. Eli is busily stringing fairy lights from one torch to the other.
Mamma Beale hugs her tight, sniffling a little.
“You okay, Mamma?” Stacie asks, patting her back.
“I’m just so happy.” Mamma Beale shrugs and Beca fears she’s going to start crying again. She really cannot do crying Beales. “Go! Go find someone to help. The girls aren’t back yet.”
Beca hurries over to Eli, clapping him on the back and signing, Need help?
He grins and adjusts the bundle of lights in his arms. “Please! There’s zip ties in my pocket.” He twists so she can grab some and, together, they start untangling the lights.
“Why do y’all have so many of these?” she asks after they’re halfway across the yard.
“They were Chloe’s,” he says, dropping the bundle to try and work out a knot. “She used to have them all over her room when she lived in the house. Then she went a little crazy in the garage when she moved in there and Mamma had to make her give some up.” He straightens, yanking on the wire. “Fire hazard.”
“Sounds like Chloe,” she says, laughing.
“What sounds like me?”
Beca turns and there’s Chloe, hands in her back pockets as she strolls over. The sun is setting now, but Chloe’s smile is bright in the dimming yard. She stops once she’s pressed into Beca’s side and bends to place a soft kiss behind her ear. It sends a shiver down her spine that’s chased by the warmth of Chloe’s palm a second later. Beca struggles to remember the question.
“Burning the house down,” Eli says, bending to pull on the lights some more.
“I never!” Chloe’s palm changes direction and slides back up to rest between her shoulder blades.
Beca leans into the touch, thinking momentarily of how proud her thirteen-year-old self would be of her right now. “You set the apartment on fire our second day in it.”
“Okay, that stove was malfunctioning, I told you!” Chloe’s eyes are wide and innocent, but Beca knows better. She catches Eli’s gaze and shakes her head. He laughs, but Chloe sees the movement too and her nails dig lightly into Beca’s back. “Beca Mitchell, you know that wasn’t my fault!”
“Sure, okay, Pyro. You gonna help with these lights or not?”
“It’s okay, Beca. You don’t have to lie for her.”
“Elijah!” They laugh and Chloe pouts, but only until Beca gives her a wink and a handful of zip ties.
The term “Bellas Slumber Party” really should have scared Beca more than it did, but she finds it’s actually pretty chill once they’re all up in the loft. The girls are spread out on what looks like the haul of someone who looted a pillow store. There are air mattresses covering the floor and Cynthia Rose has dragged a large TV from somewhere inside the house to set up on the dresser. She has no idea where the loveseat beside the desk came from or who got it up here, but she’s not complaining, because Chloe had immediately claimed it for Beca and herself upon entering. So here she is, curled up in the corner with her legs across Chloe’s lap, and her laptop open on her knees.
She’s got a wedding to DJ tomorrow, after all, and she hates movies.
No one bothers her once she snaps on her headphones and Chloe’s hands are warm on her ankles. They occasionally squeeze or a thumb strokes across the top of Beca’s foot, but otherwise, she’s left to work in peace for a while. Once the girls finally get around to putting on whatever dumb musical they’ve chosen, she does catch herself watching as the group sings along to every single song.
Which is when it stops being easy to tune them out and work, because Chloe is singing along too and Beca has always loved her voice. She pauses the track that’s playing and knocks one of the cups off her ear to listen to Chloe croon whatever song the main character is singing.
She remembers the first time she ever heard Chloe sing. It was when Beca still wasn’t sure what to make of this fiery redhead that didn’t seem to notice Beca’s disinterest in making friends. It was the first coffee date that Stacie had missed and the first few minutes had been filled with awkward (on Beca’s part) conversation about their jobs and their shitty apartment situations. Chloe lived too far from work and school and Beca was still living in the ratty little place she’d found when she’d moved to New York with only a hundred dollars to her name.
They’d hit a lull in conversation and Beca was trying to think of a plausible excuse to get the hell out of there, when Chloe had started singing along to the radio in the coffee shop. “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5. In her light green scrubs and her simple, black jacket. Curls bouncing as she bobbed her head to the beat. Fingers tapping between their coffees, and--coincidentally--between where Beca’s hands rested on the table. And it had been beautiful. Her voice, her hair, her tapping fingers. All of it.
So Beca had stayed and let herself nod along with the song, allowing a small smile when Chloe noticed and grinned across the table at her.
She shifts her laptop enough that she can lean in and press her lips to Chloe’s cheek.
The Bellas keep singing, voices rising and falling together in perfect harmony, but Chloe goes silent, lips stretching into a wide smile. “What was that for?”
“Don’t know.” Beca shrugs. “Love you.”
Chloe’s shoulders curl forward, like she’s trying to wrap around the words and pull them into herself. She twists until her legs are up on the loveseat with them and drags her hands down Beca’s shins. “I love you, Bec.” Her eyes drop to the laptop. “How’s it coming? Almost done?”
And she smiles that smile Beca knows so well. That stained glass smile. So, even though she’s only got half a playlist prepared, Beca shuts her laptop and slips it and the headphones onto the desk before sliding down a little to rest her head on the pillow she’d stolen from the bed.
Chloe drops into her side happily, draping an arm over her stomach and slipping one hand under her sleep shirt to spread warm fingers along her side. She still sings along to the entire movie, but now the lyrics are pressed warm into Beca’s collarbone.