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Stained Glass

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The tires squeal as Chloe practically drifts to a halt, not bothering to actually find a parking spot along the long driveway. There are too many other cars, not enough time, and nobody should be leaving right away. She hopes.

She jumps out, barely remembering to grab the keys, and sprints for the front porch, holding the small cardboard box out in front of her to keep from jostling it too much.

The door flies open before she even reaches the steps and Eli hops out, twisting to get his suit jacket on. It’s a brand new suit—his last growth spurt making a whole wardrobe change a necessity—and she takes a moment to admire how it sits on him. He looks more and more like their dad every day. Except for right now, because that annoyed look on his face is all Mamma. “Shit, Chlo. Late to your own funeral!”

“Shut up,” she laughs, hopping up the steps. “And quit cursing!”

“I’m sixteen and who exactly taught me these naughty words? That’s right. Your lady.” He rolls his eyes in a perfect imitation of Beca. Leaning forward to grab the box from her, he says, “What is thi—Oh my god!” His voice squeaks at the end and he tugs it close to his chest with one long arm, reaching down in with the other.

Chloe pops up on her toes to match his height and looks down into the box too. One of the three little kittens inside is batting at Eli’s fingers and puffing up its orange fur as best it can. “They were on the side of the road.”

“Oh my goooood,” Eli croons again, tickling the little black one’s chin. “I love them. I love you,” he says to the puffy gray one as it blinks sleepily at his hand. His voice drops to a whisper. “I’m naming you Davy Jones, dude.”

“Eli.” He looks up. She grins. “We can play with them later.”

“Oh, shit, right.” He tucks the box under his arm and grabs her hand. “Come on!”

They race inside together, hurrying into the kitchen.

Mamma looks up from the stove and gasps, hands flying up. “Where have you been? Oh, my Chloe!” She snatches Chloe in a hug that makes her ribs creak in protest. “I was so scared. Everyone’s so worried!”

“I’ll tell them you’re here,” Mickey says and she realizes he’s standing over by the stove, wearing Mamma’s favorite pink apron over his button-up. His hands are steady as he puts the lid back on whatever’s simmering on the back burner. Untying the apron, he swoops in as Mamma finally releases her. “Hey, Sissy.”

“Hey, Bubba.” She hugs him back hard before letting him head out the back door, grabbing his suit jacket on the way.

Mamma is circling her, eyeing and prodding her hair. “Thank goodness, the pins held. It looks great. Let’s get you dressed. Come on. Where were you?”

“Saving kittens!” Eli says, shoving the box under her nose. “Can I keep the gray one?”

“I-You—” Mamma sputters, looking torn between wanting to swoon over the kittens and wanting to rush them all out the door. Her hands twist in the air between them and finally, she gives in and chooses. “Well, we’ll talk about it tonight. Just—Oh, it yawned. Awww.” She reaches into the box and scoops the gray one up, tucking it under her chin.

“Mamma!” Chloe loves them both, she really does. But she’s about to take the kittens from them and strangle them. Her family, not the kittens. She’s absolutely taking at least one of the kittens home with her. Their new house needs a pet. Besides Beca, who keeps saying she doesn’t count even if she does require regular petting and special Beale Breakfasts at least once a week.

Putting down the kitten—begrudgingly—Mamma nods. “I got you. Right. Yes. Kitten later. Getting dressed now.” Eli runs off with the box and Mamma reaches up to cup Chloe’s cheeks, thumbs stroking over her temples. She’s so small and her blue eyes—Chloe’s eyes—are shimmering with tears already. “My Chloe. You’re getting married.”

Love swells warm and gentle in Chloe’s chest and she curls her fingers around Mamma’s wrists. “Yeah, Mamma. I am.”

Mamma pats her cheeks, blinking rapidly. “Well, it’s about damn time.”

“Beca, I swear to fuck, if you don’t stop squirming, I’m going to purposely stab you in the tit with this thing.”

Beca stops fidgeting so that Stacie doesn’t do just that. She’s never been one for idle threats. It’s very hard to stand still while her best woman pins a flower to her chest and her goddaughter clings to her leg and sings “You are my sunshine” into her thigh. “Celine, you’re pulling my pants down, kid.”

Celine wraps her tiny hands around Beca’s knee and leans as far back as she can, blonde curls falling back off her face. The only thing more ridiculous than Jesse naming Beca “godfather” of this little runt is his constant quoting of the Godfather movies whenever he drops her off. And how easily the kid can manipulate Beca into doing exactly what she wants. She has a theory that Chloe had abducted her just after birth and put her through a fast-paced, rigorous training in how to make Beca do whatever she asks. “Bec?”


“Why can’t I marry you?”

It’s a question she’s been asking for nearly a year now, ever since wedding planning had started. And Beca answers like she always does. “Because I love your Aunt Chloe.”

Celine sighs heavily and it’s just so Aubrey. “Fineeeee. Can we play Planes?”

“Not right now, Tiny Swanson,” Stacie says, finishing with the flower on Beca’s chest. “It took me an hour to get Aunt Beca dressed. We’re keeping her bubble-wrapped until she’s done with her vows.”

“I-uh, I’ll play Planes, kid.”

Beca looks up at her father. He’s stopped at the top of the loft stairs, nervously smoothing his palms over his tie. It’s still a little weird, him being around. She hadn’t ever pictured him at her wedding—not that she’d much pictured getting married until Chloe came into the picture.

She’s grateful, really, that Chloe had made her go home for Christmas year before last and sort of make up with him. They kind of float around each other when they’re in the same room, but Chloe’s usually pretty good at pulling them both out of their orbits and into her own. And Beca finds she doesn’t really hate it. He’s not that bad. She forgot he was kinda funny.

Celine bounds over to him and he sweeps her up into the air, swishing her back and forth. She giggles and stretches her arms out as wide as she can. Chuckling, he continues wagging her about. “Chloe’s here, by the way. There was a, uh, kitten-related incident, I believe?”

She wasn’t really worried. It’s not like she thought Chloe was gonna stand her up or anything. But Aubrey’s wedding still sits in the back of her mind sometimes, even if it’s become a big joke among the family. And the odds of a repeat performance are low, but if anyone was going to have two kidnappings within a decade, it would be the Bellas.

Wait. Kitten? “Oh, Jesus, I’m getting a pet, aren’t I?”

Her dad laughs. “Eli’s running around outside with a box of kittens as we speak.”

Stacie pats Beca’s shoulder. “Sorry, Mitchie. You’re about to become a stereotypical lesbian.”

“Stop calling me that.”

“You’re dad’s here. I can’t call you Mitchell. It gets confusing.”

Stacie looks great, in her blue dress, with her perfect makeup and hair. Beca ducks away to glance at herself in the mirror again. She’d let Cynthia Rose braid some of her bangs back and managed to talk Stacie down to simple eyeliner and some lip gloss. But now she wonders if she should have gone for a little more.

Reading her mind, as she does, Stacie drops her arms around Beca’s shoulders and hugs her from behind. “You look amazing, Becs.”

“You do,” her father says, carefully placing Celine on her feet. She runs off to find her shoes, which she had lost somewhere between joining them upstairs and latching onto Beca’s leg. He takes a few cautious steps forward and stops just within arm’s reach, looking down at her. His eyes trace her face and her suit slowly, taking her in with a crooked smile. “You look just like your mother.” He tilts his head, squinting. “Well, if she’d ever worn a suit.”

“Thanks, Dad.” He glows like he always does when she calls him that. The weird warm feeling in her gut makes her feel fidgety again and she shoves it down by ducking out of Stacie’s hold and grabbing Celine as she runs past, flinging her into the air.

Celine squeals and Stacie yells, “Beca, do not wrinkle that suit!”

“Come on, kid. Let’s get you downstairs.” Her father claps his hands once and holds them out and Celine happily flops into them. He gives Beca one last shiny-eyed look and heads down the steps, chatting about birds with Celine.

Beca pats her tie. She turns to Stacie, looking down at herself. “Okay. Last check over. How do I look?”

When the silence goes too long, Beca looks up. And Stacie is crying. Like, legitimately crying. Lips quivering, tears tracking down her cheeks, nose scrunched up behind trembling fingers.

“Oh my god, dude.”

Stacie shakes her head. “My baby’s getting married. I just.” She takes a rattling breath. “I’m just so proud.” Breathlessly, she adds, “And you look so cute in your little tux.”

Beca just stares at her.

Stacie blinks away the tears, frowning. “Aren’t you going to tell me to shut the fuck up, because you’re not cute?”

Beca smooths down her tie one more time, shrugging one shoulder. “Maybe tomorrow.” Because it warms her chest in the same way her dad had. Which is stupid, because it’s Stacie. Stacie, who tries to make Beca play fuck, marry, kill with past presidents. Stacie, who walks naked around her apartment even when there are visitors. Stacie, who once told Beca they were going to get coffee, but instead marched her into a lingerie store and tried to force her into an honest-to-god corset.

But then again it’s Stacie. Stacie, who had urged Beca to tell Chloe how she felt in the first place. Stacie, who brought Beca to the hospital last year when she had kidney stones and Chloe was in Georgia, visiting the family. Stacie, who had asked Beca to be her best man by standing on top of her car with a poster board.

So she smiles and pulls Stacie into a hug, letting the taller girl squeeze her too tight.

Chloe stands in front of Mamma’s bathroom mirror, staring at herself.

The dress is beautiful. White and cream. Lace back and arms. Fitted waist, long, flowing train. A simple crown of white flowers that Mamma and Aubrey had braided into her curls. And she feels gorgeous. She feels elegant and stunning.

And she feels ready. They’d decided early on to wait until after Stacie and Emily had tied the knot, which had taken a few years because Emily’s single had taken off and then there was the album and then the tour. And then Beca had blown up, needing to attend parties and suddenly making lots of money, and then Chloe had graduated and gotten her job at Best Friend’s Animal Hospital… It’s just been a long time coming and Chloe is completely ready to reach the finish line.

Aubrey’s reflection steps up behind her and she smiles, balancing baby Stevie on her hip. Stevie’s holding her favorite yellow cup (which had been Chloe’s until Stevie laid her little blue eyes on it) and chewing happily on the lip of it. Aubrey grins, stroking Stevie’s dark hair. “You look beautiful, Chlo.”

“Thank you.” She turns, presses a quick kiss to Aubrey’s cheek and Stevie’s head. “So do you. And you, little lady.” Stevie’s little dress matches Aubrey’s perfectly.

“Are you ready?”

“I’m more than ready.”

“Good. Because Flo keeps calling Emily’s new security guy ‘immigration’ and Amy is eyeing the food table like it put on lingerie just for her.”

Chloe grimaces, laughing. “That’s a...very vivid description.”

Aubrey shrugs. “It’s not mine. It’s what she keeps saying about it.” She jiggles Stevie around as she gurgles. “I’m gonna go drop this one with Laura and Carmilla, then make sure Beca is blindfolded so we can get you to the garage.” She stays another moment to grasp Chloe’s hand. “You look so beautiful. I love you, Chlo.”

“I love you too, Bree.” Chloe holds her hand until she’s too far out of reach to continue and lets it slide away. Then she’s alone, in her mother’s bathroom. In her wedding dress. On her wedding day. She moves quickly out of the bathroom and leans over the cushioned chair under the window in Mamma’s bedroom to peer into the backyard. The chairs are set up, the archway is built, Uncle Lew is jovially showing guests to their seats. Seth—who is still upset that Eli’s taller than him now—is kneeling beneath the arch, taking photos down the aisle with his big, fancy, brand new camera.

Eli is at his DJ table with the box of kittens, fiddling with his equipment (all of which Beca had bought for him a few years ago when he’d decided deejaying was the next skill he wanted to learn). He’s signing with Sarah as she helps him run wires under the table and adjust the speakers. She’s happy they became best friends after his brief crush on her years ago. She’s good for him and doesn’t mind his tendency to pick up a new hobby every other week.

She watches Aubrey join the crowd, weaving through until she finds Mel, Laura, and Carmilla. Mel’s dressed in a suit to match Cynthia Rose’s and Laura and Carmilla are wearing gorgeous dresses. Laura practically snatches Stevie away, spinning her around as Carmilla watches them fondly.

Some of her coworkers are among the people taking their seats and she smiles as she sees Waverly tugging her very tall girlfriend between the chairs, chattering rapidly. Some of her old teachers are in the crowd. Ms. McKinney, their ex-neighbor. The Trebles. Aunt Dana, in her pristine suit. Gran is already sitting in the front row, a plate of snacks in her lap.

Almost everyone she’s ever loved, filling her backyard. Almost.

Just as she had on Aubrey’s wedding day, and Stacie and Emily’s, and Cynthia Rose and Mel’s, she pictures what it would have been like if her dad were there. He would have given her away, taken his seat beside Mamma. At the end of the row, of course, so he wouldn’t block anyone’s view. He would have playfully threatened Beca and she would have threatened him right back. They would have loved each other. During the father-daughter dance, he would have cried and pretended he wasn’t. He would have switched places with Mr. Mitchell to dance with Beca, but only after Mamma had come over and forced him away. He would have eaten all of the bread rolls, made Eli play Whitney Houston, danced with Mamma until he was complaining of exhaustion—then once more, because he never could say no to her. He would have made Beca sing with him to the songs he really liked. She wouldn’t have fought very hard.

He would have been so proud of Mickey and Eli. And her. And Beca. And all the Bellas. God, he would have loved Celine and Stevie.

“You okay?” Emily pauses in the doorway, looking radiant in her bridesmaid dress, her hair braided down over her shoulder. A year on tour had darkened her skin a bit and worn down some of the baby softness in her face, but she’s still Legacy to Chloe. Still one of her baby Bellas.

“Never better,” Chloe assures her, stepping away from the window.

It never fails to amaze her how easily Emily smiles, how widely. “You look aca-amazing!” Excitedly, she motions for Chloe to spin. “I’m so jealous. I should have done the lace back for my wedding.”

“You looked perfect, shush.”

Emily laughs, taking Chloe’s hands and swinging them. “Are you really okay? You looked a little...I don’t know, when I walked in.”

Chloe shrugs, because she is okay. Really. She’s thrilled, excited, ecstatic. But… “I just wish my dad was here, you know.”

Softly, Emily squeezes her hands. “I know, hon.” She pulls Chloe into a careful hug and Chloe tries very hard not to let herself sink too deeply into it. Emily’s hugs are a lot like Mamma’s hugs. Hard to want to get out of. And she’s already late. But...maybe another couple moments won’t hurt.

It’s more than a few moments before Emily strokes a hand down her lacy back and straightens up. “Come on. They’re ready for you.”

Beca takes her place beneath the arch, reading over her vows one more time. The creased, faded paper shakes a little in her hand and she huffs a breath through her nose. Pull it together, Mitchell.

Ashley’s hand closes around her wrist, squeezing once. “You good?”

She folds the paper and slips it back into her pocket. “Yeah. I’m good.”

With a smile, Ashley nods and steps up. She raises a hand to Eli in the back. He waves back and moves over to the side door of the garage, sticking his head in. A few moments pass and then he moves back over to his table with Sarah and hits play. The music starts and Beca’s heart stops. Stained Glass by Jon Guerra. It’s not her style usually, but it’s a song Beca picked because Chloe loves it so much and she’d stripped the lyrics from it, but the words are there in her mind.

Uni and Celine appear at the end of the aisle, each with a basket of flowers and big grins on their faces. They throw way more flowers than they need to and when they reach the end of the aisle, Uni overturns his basket right over Beca’s head before lifting Celine so she can do the same.

“Congrats, Little Bit.” He winks and sends Celine off to stand on Chloe’s side, right near where Beca’s dad is seated.

He catches her eye and smiles tightly, eyes glimmering.

Jessica and Lilly make their way up the aisle next, each of them carrying a ring on a little satin pillow. They’re the same pillows Mamma Beale and Chloe’s dad had used for their wedding and Beca eyes the glinting gold against the faded lace as they pass—Jessica going left and Lilly taking a spot behind Beca.

CR and Flo look adorable together and both flash her bright grins on their way up. Cynthia Rose slugs her shoulder gently as she moves behind her.

Then it’s Mickey and Jesse. Beca tries not to laugh as Jesse holds Mickey’s arm like it’s his damn prom date and he’s a giggling school girl. He even pretends to blush as he passes Benji and Donald in the crowd, waving to them. Mickey bends to give Beca a quick hug and she tries very hard not to roll her eyes when Jesse clasps his hands to his chest and bats his eyes at them both. She fails when Jesse throws his arms out and tugs her into a tight hug, muttering about his “Little Beca” being “all grown up”. She swats him away and he moves to stand beside Cynthia Rose.

Amy practically drags Emily up to the arch, both of them humming along to the music and giggling about whatever monologue Amy is giving as they approach. Beca lets them both hug her, accepting the soft kiss Emily places on her cheek with a smile. Because these idiots are her idiots and it’s her day, even if that sounds stupid.

Stacie and Aubrey step out next and Beca’s stomach curls in on itself, sudden anxiety gnawing at her ribs. They look beautiful and they stop halfway up so Aubrey can give Stevie, who is sitting on Uncle Lew’s lap, a quick kiss.

Aubrey hugs her first and nearly unravels her right then by whispering, “I’m so happy it’s you, Bitchy,” in her ear. She breathes through the prickling behind her eyes and awkwardly pats Aubrey’s back until she releases her hold.

Stacie doesn’t hug her so much as move to stand beside her and drop an arm around her shoulders, tugging Beca into her side. “Ready?”

And she worries for a few seconds that she might not be, because as Ashley motions for everyone to stand, it’s not really butterflies in her stomach, but more like a shark frenzy. It tears at her insides and leaves her breathless and a little hollow, shaking. But then Mamma Beale and Chloe are there, at the end of the aisle, and Chloe’s eyes track over the crowd to fix on her like she’s the only one there. Like nothing and no one could be more important to her. Like Beca’s a destination that she’s desperately been trying to get to. And the frenzy calms to a gently rippling pool of warmth that grows with each step Chloe takes.

By the time Chloe steps up beneath the arch, the tips of Beca’s fingers and toes are warm and tingling. She’s still shaking, but it doesn’t bother her as much because Chloe is smiling that smile.

Mamma Beale swoops in to hug what little breath she had left out of her. When she pulls away, she cups Beca’s cheeks and whispers, “My Beca.” Two simple words, but they burn down Beca’s throat and behind her eyes so hard that she can’t help but tear up. Mamma Beale brushes thumbs along the corners of her eyes and Beca blinks rapidly, clearing her throat. She’s got to talk in a minute, she reminds herself.

Chloe falls into Mamma Beale’s arms easily, tears coursing down her cheeks that she knows Chloe isn’t ashamed of at all. And when Mamma Beale releases her with a quiet, “My Chloe,” she gives a soft, smiling sob.

In what Beca feels like is only a few moments, Mamma Beale has taken her place beside Gran, Eli has lowered the music until it fades out, and Ashley is stepping up to them, hands clasped.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join these two in aca-matrimony!” Everyone laughs at the now familiar beginning. It’s how Ashley had started all of the Bellas’ weddings and it rattles something in Beca’s chest so hard that she automatically reaches out for Chloe just to keep standing. Because this is real. It’s happening. She’s marrying Chloe Beale.

Chloe catches her hand in both of hers and lifts it to her lips, doing little more than smiling against Beca’s knuckles. Beca finds she can’t really tear her gaze from Chloe’s. She thinks maybe she should be looking at Ashley, but Chloe doesn’t seem to be inclined to look away either. So they don’t.

“Beca and Chloe would like to thank you all for coming. Now, before we begin, I would normally ask for objections, but Chloe has made it clear that all objections will be ignored. So.”

The crowd laughs and Chloe giggles, squeezing Beca’s hand and grinning so widely that it makes Beca’s cheeks ache. Or maybe that’s her own, answering smile. It’s hard to tell.  

Ashley waits for the laughs to die down before continuing. “Beca and Chloe have prepared their own vows today, to be given with the rings. And Beca’s asked if you’ll go first Chloe.”

That gets Beca to look at Ashley (glare at) and Ashley winks.

“Of course,” Chloe says around a laugh, pulling Beca’s attention back. She keeps hold of Beca's hand as she turns away, accepting the ring Jessica offers her. Her fingers slide down to wrap around Beca's wrist, their palms pressed together, as she slips the ring on. Beca takes a deep breath, watching the plain gold band settle into place. Like it was always meant to be there.

Chloe reaches for Beca’s other wrist and tugs until her hands are pressed together and Chloe can use them to pull her a couple inches closer as she leans in. For a brief moment, Beca thinks Chloe’s going to kiss her right then and there, and her hands curl into fists, jolts of lightning dancing up her arms and spine, but instead, Chloe just crinkles her nose like she always does when she’s too happy to contain it. “Beca Mitchell. I’ll keep it short, like you.”

“Seriously?” Beca hisses, trying to fight the grin off her face so she can glare properly, but it fails miserably when Chloe giggles again. She can hear Stacie laughing behind her and entertains the idea of kicking her leg back and catching her in the knee.

Chloe sobers and her pinkies sweep soft across Beca’s fisted hands. “From the first moment I met you, I knew we were gonna be really fast friends.” She squeezes once and Beca relinquishes her fists, opening her palms for Chloe to slip her hands into. “And I’ve never been happier to be right. Because you are one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. You are the wildest mashup of bold and shy and funny and grumpy and so, so incredibly sweet.” She grins and Beca answers it with her own. “You make me more myself than anyone ever has. You are understanding and honest. You always know what to say or do when I’m down and when I’m happy?” She laughs. “I know I can be a bit much, but you never make me feel like that. And I love you like I love music. And we all know how much I love music.”

“Hear, hear!” Cynthia Rose calls out and laughter rolls through the crowd.

Chloe waits for Beca to meet her eyes again. “I feel like you and I have been dancing to our very own beat for a very long time. From the moment you woke me up on the subway until now. And this is my favorite song. You are my favorite song, Beca. And I never wanna stop singing with you.”

It’s probably the biggest compliment Chloe Beale could give to anyone in the world and it settles tight around her ribcage so that she has to suck in a deep breath to keep from having her air squeezed out.

“Beca?” Ashley prompts and the shaking that had eased in Beca’s hands returns. She clears her throat and focuses on Chloe. And the words she’d been scared of forgetting for weeks are just there, in the crinkle of her nose and the way her blue eyes flicker back and forth between Beca’s own. In that smile.

“I’ll keep it even shorter. Because I’ve never been very good at words when they mattered.” She takes another deep breath and sees Chloe is already tearing up again. It makes her laugh and Chloe echoes it, a tear slipping free to run down her cheek. She turns to take the ring from Lilly, giving her a quick smile. She slips it onto Chloe's hand and watches as Chloe's thumb tucks under to rub against the bottom of the ring before she clasps Beca's hand again. “I never thought I’d be here, doing this," she says, looking back up to Chloe's shining eyes. "Never thought I’d be this lucky.” Chloe’s hands are trembling too, she realizes, and she grips them tighter. “And I think I’ve been trying to tell you how much I love you from day one, but I couldn’t figure out how to say what you really meant to me. But when I was freaking out and begging Stacie to help me write my vows and very nearly paying Emily to do it for me...I kind of figured it out.” She lets Chloe take one hand back so she can swipe at her eyes. The hand returns as quickly as it left. “You, Chloe Beale, are like stained glass to me. It is so beautiful, how colorful you make the world.”

Chloe’s entire face softens and her hands jump from Beca’s own to grip the lapels of her jacket, fingers curling into the fabric and tugging just hard enough to bring Beca into her space. And Beca lets her hands rest on Chloe’s hips, squeezing gently.

Ashley steps back up to them and spreads her arms. “And so, by the power vested in me by I now pronounce you married! You may kiss the bride!”

Chloe barely lets Ashley finish before she’s yanking Beca that last inch and pressing their lips together. Beca definitely isn’t complaining. Everyone is cheering and yelling and Beca loops her arms around Chloe’s waist, lifting her off the ground, because she knows it will make Chloe laugh. Sure enough, Chloe laughs against her lips and wraps her arms around Beca’s neck before kissing her again. Flower petals are hitting her face and she hears Lilly give what sounds like a pterodactyl screech while Amy tries to rope everyone into a rousing rendition of “For she’s a jolly good fellow”, but she ignores it all for the moment. Because she just married Chloe Beale.

When Chloe does pull back from the kiss, she’s giving that stained glass smile and Beca grins. “I know that smile. What you want, weirdo?”

Chloe’s fingers trail down her cheek and her bright blue gaze passes over Beca’s lips to settle on her eyes. “You. Forever.”

Beca pulls her closer. Because she’s never said no that smile. And they both know it.