Beca stiffens as she hears the noise once more, hand pausing in the middle of writing in the whiteboard. She cocks her head to the side slightly, straining her ears, thinking she's imagining it - but no, there it is again. Another giggle, and another whispered comment. Out of the corner of her eye, she can just about see the Bellas suppressing smirks, whispering amongst themselves; when she turns back around, they instantly adopt serious expressions and start nodding at the board as though they're paying attention.
She gazes at each of them in turn, seeing if any of them crack, but nothing happens.
'What's so funny?' she asks Amy in irritation, who also seems to be unable to keep a straight face.
'What do you mean?' is her innocent reply. Beca scowls and turns back to the board. They've still not completed their arrangement yet, and Regionals is getting ever closer. The Bellas seem content to sit back and watch Beca tear her hair out for the most part, since, in Stacie's words, 'You're the one that won last year, not us.' It's a pretty Stacie-type comment, but she can't help but assume it's a reflection of some kind of bitterness among the Bellas - maybe they're secretly resentful about her taking over last year? That seems unlikely, but it doesn't stop her feeling paranoid.
And it's especially difficult to ignore the paranoia creeping up on her today, when the Bellas continue to whisper and smile about something. Does she have something on her face? Are they laughing at her inability to run the Bellas, her ideas? She has no idea. But the longer it goes on the worse she assumes. After the fifth time this happens, she finally loses her patience.
'Alright,' she snaps, whirling around. 'Does anyone wanna fill me in what's so hilarious yet?' She sees the girls glance at each other, exchanging looks she can't read. 'Do I have bird shit in my hair? Did I turn up in my underwear and I just haven't noticed?'
'No, nothing like that,' says Cynthia Rose.
'Is there a "laugh at me" sign on my back?' she asks, craning over her shoulder to try and see. As far as she can tell, there's nothing, but she hears Amy mumble, 'Getting warmer...'
Beca sighs, stomach twisting. 'You know what? I'm really too tired to deal with this. Can you guys just quiet down for a bit and, I dunno, actually help me out here?'
Stacie's straight face cracks first, and she giggles, 'Oh, I bet you're tired.' The other Bellas join in, although she notices Mollie looks confused, and Lauren is just bored. That settles it - it has to be an "Old Bellas" thing. Beca just stares at them all, trying to keep a neutral expression that doesn't betray how much being on display like this is getting to her.
Eventually, they seem to notice how pissed off she looks, and finally quieten down. Amy comes over and slings an arm around Beca's shoulders. She looks back at the Bellas, lips twitching, and then drops her voice to say, 'Umm, Beca... Look, we love you, but...'
Beca tries not to show any emotion outwardly, but inside she's suddenly sure that Amy's next words are going to be "But we don't want you to be Captain anymore", or something. She can't believe they're going to kick her out. After all that time and effort trying to make friends with them, and the drama they managed to get through last year - she thought they were over that now -
'... But isn't that Chloe's sweater you're wearing?'
It takes a moment for Amy's words to sink in, but when they do, Beca looks down in horror to see that they're right - this is the sweater Chloe was wearing yesterday. Several emotions hit her at once. Embarrassment is the primary one, because their guess is miles from the truth (Chloe's apartment was hot; they were wearing similar items of clothing; they took them off. They just must have gotten mixed up at some point). She's amazed she managed to get halfway through practice without even noticing. Beneath all that, though, Beca feels a strong sense of relief at the revelation that they're just being dorks again, not trying to kick her out.
God, she's an idiot.
Realising they're all watching her, Beca tries to own it. She puts her hands on her hips and lifts her chin, ignoring how her cheeks are flaming. 'Yep, it is. So what? We thought we'd get a headstart on the clichés.'
They crack up. 'Oh my God, that's adorable,' Stacie coos. 'You two are like, the cutest couple.'
'Is that like a thing for lesbians?' asks Amy. 'Sharing clothes? Maybe I should be a lezzer, might increase my wardrobe size.'
'You should,' says Cynthia Rose, wiggling her eyebrows. 'It's freaking awesome. If you want, I can show you.' Amy makes a disturbed face and the X sign with her fingers to ward back Cynthia Rose, who is winking and making lewd gestures at Amy.
'Is that what you were all giggling at?' When they nod, she rolls her eyes. 'Christ, am I that boring that you find that to be the highlight of your day?'
'We weren't laughing at you,' Stacie assures her. 'It's just adorable.'
'It's nice seeing you happy,' Cynthia Rose confirms.
'And getting some,' Amy adds.
It's an oddly touching statement, besides the "getting some" bit. 'Aww... Guys.' She sees Lauren screwing up her face in disgust to Mollie, whose eyes widen when she notices Beca is watching. 'Is there something wrong, Lauren?' she asks sharply, causing the girl to jump in surprise.
'N-no,' she mutters.
'Are you sure? Because it sure looked like it.' Amy nudges her in the side with her elbow. Beca realises she's making the others uncomfortable and forces herself to relax.
'Anywho, if Beca is done trying to be threatening -' Beca scowls at Amy when she says this - 'I think that'll do for the day. Class dismissed!' The Bellas exchange puzzled looks, but Amy flaps her hands at them. 'Go on, get going!'
She notices the others looking at the time on the way out with looks of confusion. Indeed, when Beca checks the time for herself, she discovers Amy dismissed them early. 'We had like fifteen minutes left!' Beca exclaims. 'Why'd you dismiss them?'
'Ah, not like we were getting anywhere anyway,' says Amy with a shrug. 'We were basically just watching you mutter at the board and laughing at your sweater.'
'But we still haven't finished the set!'
'Yeah we have,' points out Amy. 'We did that last Tuesday, remember?'
'No, we finished a first draft of the set list,' says Beca, her teeth gritted. 'It needs more work. It's not done yet.'
Amy groans. 'Bec-a, we've revised it, like, ten times. I'm starting to have nightmares about it!'
'It's missing something, still. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm still not happy with it - but to be honest, it'd go a heck of lot quicker if you guys could actually help me.'
Amy blinks. As a rule, Amy is generally unflappable in the face of Beca's antics, but right now she looks annoyed. She puts her hand on her hip, gazing down at Beca. 'What are you on about? We offered suggestions, but you kept shooting them all down. After a while we figured it was easier just to let you handle it until you got all your perfectionism out of your system.'
'Perfectionism?' Beca splutters. 'I'm not a perfectionist!'
She rolls her eyes. 'Hmm, does this sound familiar to you? "I don't know, none of this is hitting the right mark for me. I'm thinking we should just scrap the whole thing and start from the beginning." Because it should. Because that was you, two weeks ago. After we'd spent three hours working on it.' Her meaningful, slightly crazed, stare bores into Beca's eyes. 'Jessica nearly cried. I had to stop Cynthia Rose from strangling you in your sleep.'
'... Oh.' Beca winces, replaying the last few weeks with the Bellas and realising Amy's right. 'Uh... I guess I have a habit of doing that.'
Amy laughs and fondly leans her forearm on Beca's shoulder with all her weight, making Beca's knees buckle slightly. 'Wow, you reallyare bad at this.'
'Sorry,' says Beca, embarrassed.
'No prob,' she replies easily. 'We know simple communication is a problem for you sometimes.'
'Watch it. I'm still the captain, even if I'm a shitty one.' Suddenly, Beca remembers something and slaps her forehead. 'Ugh - speaking of poor communication, I forgot to tell them about the Riff Off date changing to next week. We don't have practice until Tuesday, how am I going to let them know?'
'It's not that big a deal. Send them a text. Or use the Bellas Facebook group!' she suggests, face brightening.
'No,' says Beca flatly.
'Aw, why not? I made it for you.'
'I refuse to post on that site again after Jesse logged into my account and set my movie interests to a load of porn films.'
'You're no fun.'
'Tell you what,' says Beca eventually, seeing Amy's disappointed look, and wanting to make it up to her for being a complete shithead, 'why don't you handle getting that message out? You'd probably be better at that than me anyway.'
Amy's smile grows devious. 'Sure thing... Cap'n,' she replies, with a salute and a wink.
Beca suddenly gets the ominous feeling that granting Amy complete control over the message she sends out to the group might not be such a great idea.
BELLAS DO THE RIFF-OFF
OCTOBER 12TH 10:30-11:30PM
THE QUAD NEAR THE BACK OF CAMPUS WITH THE WEIRD PHALLIC STATUE THING IN THE MIDDLE
FYI the riff-off will NOT be at the pool this year cause of some dick tricking a drunk freshman into diving into it last year.
Don't let the time above fool you, cause we Bellas are planning an OBLIGATORY (!) after party after our win - AT CHLOE'S APARTMENT (because she is a DOLL and kindly offered to put us up for the night). BYOB, BSFA (bring snacks for Amy, but no red vines plz because they fuck my stomach up).
And yes, Beca, this after party is OBLIGATORY. Hence the capitals for emphasis. OBLIGATORY.
See you all there darlings!
Beca has to read the post several times before the full implications of Amy's short but unusually informative Facebook event sink in. A Riff-Off after party has apparently been organised by Amy, to be held at Chloe's apartment. When the hell did they organise that together? And why did Beca know nothing about it?
She was already on the way to Chloe's when she got notification of this event. Not that they'd organised anything in advance; Beca is intending to put her new key to good use and surprise her with a visit. She'd gone back and forth several times, wondering whether she would be imposing if she did so - but then again, Chloe obviously has time to be organising parties behind her back without even telling her, so she probably has time to spend with Beca one way or another.
She's not sure why it bothers her so much. Obviously Chloe is an honorary Bella, being an ex-captain and all - and Amy has just as much right to organise all kinds of events for the girls that she wants to. Heck, Beca told her to do it. But it just feels weird that the two of them are conspiring without her - and jeez, conspiring? Behind her back? She sounds like a jealous asshole, not wanting her girlfriend to interact with other people besides her. Except... Even that doesn't sound quite right. Beca's not jealous of Chloe and Amy organising things together. She's just upset that she had nothing to do with it.
'Chlo, you -' But Beca trails off quickly when she realises Chloe is, in fact, not alone. And for a moment, her stomach lurches, and mind runs away with all sorts of paranoid possibilities. Thankfully, however, it only lasts for that one moment. The phantom girl or guy she had been imagining disappears when she realises Chloe is just talking to Aubrey - on Skype, for that matter.
Neither of them have noticed her, so she stands there watching them for a few moments. The ensuing conversation does little to assuage her growing insecurities.
'So you haven't told her yet?' Aubrey's asking, a hint of scorn in her voice.
'No... I'm afraid she's going to get mad. Don't look at me like that, Bree. I don't think she'd approve.'
'I'm not sure I approve either! Chloe, you shouldn't really keep this a secret from her. That's just a recipe for disaster.'
'Oh, like you're one to lecture me on relationships,' snaps Chloe, and there it is, the confirmation that they're talking about her that she'd been fearing. Beca's heard enough. Feeling sick, Beca slams the door shut. The sudden noise causes Chloe to jump violently, and Aubrey swears over the line. 'Oh, hi, baby!' says Chloe, her voice going a little high-pitched. 'H-how long have you been standing there?'
'Just got here,' Beca says slowly, setting her bag down and walking over to the couch. She keeps her gaze steadily on Chloe, raising an eyebrow slowly to make it perfectly clear that she overheard and knows Chloe is up to something. 'Everything okay?'
The smile Chloe gives her is nervous. 'Yeah, of course,' she says, grabbing Beca's wrist with clammy hands and tugging her over to sit down. 'How was Bellas practice?'
'Fine,' Beca replies shortly. She sees Chloe share a worried glance with Aubrey via the computer screen.
'Have you guys completed the set list?' Aubrey asks encouragingly.
To Chloe's credit, she's very good at taking Beca's monosyllabic answers and pretending they're having a full conversation. 'That's great!' she says, baring her teeth in a grin that almost looks real. 'You'd been worrying about it for ages.'
Well, if Chloe is going to pretend that nothing's wrong, then Beca might as well actually ask the question on her mind when she first came in here. 'Chloe, when exactly did you tell Amy you'd host this "Riff-Off after party" - which I hadn't heard anything about, by the way - at your apartment?'
Chloe looks somewhat relieved, which Beca takes to mean that she thinks that's why Beca is mad. 'Amy asked if I knew anywhere you could go, and I offered my place because I'll be working a late shift that day. And I just wanted to help out - I don't feel like I've been supporting you guys as much as I want to.' Chloe bites her lip. 'Should I not have done that?'
'I dunno,' replies Beca moodily. Another thing she hadn't known - Chloe obviously wouldn't be able to attend the Riff Off if she was working. 'Do what you want - it's your apartment. And I'm not even sure if I'm going to go, anyway.'
'You have to go,' Aubrey interjects; Beca had almost forgot she was there, as she was too busy watching Chloe with narrowed eyes. 'If it's a Bellas-specific event, it's unseemly for the captain to duck out. Why do you think I stayed for that awful sleepover we had last year?'
'Awful? You were having the time of your life,' says Chloe with a smirk. 'That is, until you ended up yelling at me because you thought I'd been dating Beca behind your back the whole time...'
Aubrey flushes slightly. 'I never claimed to be perfect,' she says, lifting her chin in a lofty manner. 'Besides, I had good reason to believe that was happening. Anyway! So - the Riff-Off, huh? How are the Bellas doing, Chloe? Do you think they'll pull it out the bag this year? Ignoring last year's mess with the rules, that is...'
'Of course! She and Amy are aca-awesome captains,' says Chloe, wrapping her arms around Beca from behind and giving her a sweet kiss on the cheek. Beca barely responds, which does not go unnoticed by Chloe or Aubrey. 'You should hear the new arrangements they've been working on.'
'Well, you can show me when I come to visit in two weeks,' says Aubrey. 'And they better be good, Mitchell - we need to keep up that winning streak this year.'
'We will,' Chloe assures her.
Okay, this has gone on long enough. Beca smiles falsely, breaking free of Chloe's embrace and leaning towards the laptop. 'This has been nice, Aubrey, but do you mind if I borrow my girlfriend for a bit? Thanks, see you next week,' she says, and promptly slams down the laptop lid.
Chloe's jaw drops. 'Beca! Why did you do that?' She starts to reach for the laptop again to open it back up, but Beca stops her.
'What were you and Aubrey talking about when I came in?' she asks bluntly.
Chloe winces. 'Oh... So you did hear, huh?'
'Yeah. I did,' Beca growls. 'So if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to know exactly what the hell you're keeping from me.' For a little while, Chloe doesn't answer - her mouth opens and shuts a few times, but for the most part she just sits there worrying her lip with her teeth. 'What happened to being honest with each other?'
'We are!' says Chloe. 'But...' Her voice grows small. 'I can't tell you.'
'What?' Beca exclaims. 'Why not?'
'I just can't. It's kind of delicate at the moment. I don't want to ruin anything.'
'Oh, so I'd ruin it, would I?'
'No! That's not what I'm saying. Look, please just trust me,' Chloe pleads. 'I know it's hard, but please believe me when I say I really wouldn't be keeping this from you unless I thought it was a good reason.'
'But Aubrey knows.'
'Aubrey's my best friend.' At Beca's stony expression, Chloe grimaces. 'That was a bad choice of words - please don't be like that. All I mean is that Aubrey and I ... There's just some stuff I can tell her that I can't tell you, and vice versa. I bet there's stuff you've talked to Jesse about before telling me.'
'No,' replies Beca stubbornly, although she's already thinking back to that one conversation she had with Jesse a little while ago, about Luke's family. Chloe seems to read this in her face, nodding triumphantly.
'There, you see?' Beca looks away, but Chloe grabs her hand. 'Please, Bec, I just need some time to think about this. I'm sorry I told Aubrey and not you, but she understands what I'm going through a bit more.' That stings - the reminder of all the things Beca has never had to cope with which Chloe has experience with.
Beca lifts her head, studying her face. It really isn't like Chloe to be so reticent; normally she's extremely open with Beca about her life. Whatever it is has to be big, so maybe she shouldn't blame Chloe for not wanting to involve Beca. She probably would just mess it up.
In the end, Beca says slowly, 'Just tell me this. Are you in trouble?'
'Are you ill? Or is someone else in trouble or ill?'
'Um, no, I guess not.' When Beca frowns, Chloe amends it to, 'I mean, no, no one else is in trouble or ill.'
'... Okay,' Beca says reluctantly, in the end. 'I won't ask any more. But I'm not happy about it, so don't make this a habit.'
'I won't, I won't, I promise. You're amazing, Beca. Thank you.' She attacks Beca's face with kisses before making straight for her lips. Whether she's trying to distract Beca or just show her appreciation, their conversation seems to have made Chloe rougher than usual; Beca feels fingers press into her jaw, directing her this way and that, and Chloe's tongue pushes its way into her mouth with little preamble.
It's a little overwhelming. And not in a particularly pleasant way.
'I love you,' Chloe murmurs - and okay, no, this has to stop. Beca pushes Chloe away by the shoulders, albeit gently. She looks ashamed when Beca does this. 'Sorry. I shouldn't have said that.'
Chloe's never apologised for saying she loves Beca before. She doesn't like it. 'No, you don't have to say sorry. I'm just...' Beca sighs, frustrated. 'I still can't, you know? But that's just one thing in a long list, I suppose...'
'Is it?' asks Beca dubiously.'
'But don't you ever get tired of it? Of me? And be honest,' she adds, when it looks like Chloe might try and dismiss her again.
'No,' says Chloe, but this time, she's hesitating. 'I mean, some parts of it are more difficult to deal with - oh Beca, don't get mad, you said be honest,' says Chloe with a sigh, when Beca's face falls.
'I'm not mad,' she replies quickly. 'What is it that's difficult?'
'It's nothing big.'
'If it's bothering you, I want to know. Maybe I can work on it.'
'But it's really dumb. There's really no point in worrying about it.' Beca arches an eyebrow, and simply stares at Chloe until she buckles under the pressure of Beca's unimpressed gaze. 'Fine,' she blurts out, 'Sometimes... When I kiss you, and we end up having to stop...'
Beca doesn't think she likes where this is going. 'Uh, yes?'
'... I have to... Count. In my head, I mean. There. Are you happy now?'
That was not what she was expecting. 'Count?' says Beca, surprised. 'Why the hell do you have to count?'
'Because...' Beca has never seem Chloe look so embarrassed, and wonders what it could possibly be to get to Chloe this much. 'I have to think of something else, or things get...' She makes a cute little noise, throwing her head back in frustration. 'Ugh! Or I won't be able to help myself, okay?'
Beca laughs, thinking she's joking - but then she sees Chloe shut her eyes. 'Oh my god. You're serious? What, it's that easy for you?'
'That's not what I meant!' Chloe says, shaking her head rapidly and groaning. 'I don't want to lose control around you, okay? And sometimes it's harder to keep a lid on things so I have to distract myself somehow. But how well that works depends on how long I've been thinking about something that day... And how long it's been since I last - you know...' She ducks her head into Beca's neck in embarrassment. She can feel the heat of Chloe's cheeks radiating off her.
Beca snorts a little, even though her mind is currently running away with those images. 'Seriously?'
'Don't laugh,' Chloe whimpers.
'I'm not, I'm not. I'm just... Surprised? Then again, maybe I should've seen that coming from someone who told me what their "lady jam" was in only our second meeting.'
'It's not my fault,' Chloe protests. 'I have a high sex drive, okay? And I don't want to scare you off.'
That's true, actually; Beca hadn't really thought about it at length before, but Chloe definitely is much quicker to get turned on than Beca is. It's never really occurred to her how much of an issue that is, compared to her general reticence. She asks slowly, 'Does it bother you that I can't -'
'No, of course it doesn't,' Chloe interrupts, apparently anticipating what Beca is about to ask. However, Beca can sense that she's still hesitating.
'What are you not saying?' Her stomach twists in worry. 'Hey, don't keep stuff from me again.'
'I'm not, Beca.'
'You are. You have that look on your face... There's something you're not telling me.'
Surprisingly, Chloe puts up no further fight than that, perhaps knowing Beca would hound her until she knew what it was either way. 'Look, it's not that it bothers me, per se - because it doesn't -'
'Here we go.'
'Let me talk, okay? It doesn't bother me that you aren't ready for sex. Honestly. But - sometimes, I feel... I wish I was ...' She mumbles the word, averting her eyes. Beca tilts her head in confusion, not having heard. Chloe screws up her face and finally says, louder, 'I wish I was irresistable to you.'
Silence falls, and any levity that had been briefly built up from Chloe's little counting issue dissipates completely. Beca sits back, her brow knitting; she clears her throat. 'Chloe...'
'Sorry,' says Chloe, paling. 'Maybe I shouldn't have said that.'
'N-no, probably not.' Beca responds, pushing her hair back from her face with suddenly jittery hands.
'I'm really sorry.'
'I don't even know what to say to that.'
'Just forget I said it,' Chloe pleads. 'It was a dumb, stupid thing to say. I'm sorry.'
'I don't know how to forget it,' mumbles Beca. 'You know this is hard for me, don't you? I can't just -' She breaks off, not knowing the words to communicate the tangle of thoughts Chloe's statement has brought with it: Chloe is irresistable, but then again she obviously isn't if Beca can resist her - but then she has to resist Chloe or she knows everything's going to get fucked up again like last time, and just the thought of that makes her insides squeeze in terror -
Chloe's cold fingers on her cheek pull her back to the present moment.
'I know. I know. I'm so sorry, baby - I was being selfish,' Chloe says, looking as worried as Beca feels right now. 'Honestly, let's just forget about it.'
She kisses Beca again, then, as though trying to make her forget it. And even though Beca tries to kiss her back, to distract herself, it doesn't work: she can still feel the thoughts creeping in at the edges of her consciousness.
And they keep repeating in the back Beca's head - a constant buzz, like a wasp in her ear - even hours later, when she's excused herself from Chloe's apartment and is walking home. They're still there, when she's lying in bed listening to Cynthia Rose snore, mechanically replying to Chloe's texts asking if she's okay.
She isn't. And yet, it's so stupid how this one off-the-wall comment from Chloe seems to have gotten stuck in her brain and dislodged a whole other load of issues with it. She's overreacting, she knows that. She knows she just needs to get over it and grow the hell up. However, no matter how much she tells herself that, how firmly she berates herself for being such an idiot, she just can't snap out of it. She can't stop thinking.
Chloe thinks you don't want her. She thinks you not being able to have sex with her means you don't love her. Your stupidity is making her insecure. How could you fuck this up? The one good thing in your life. You're a fucking mess.
How could you ever think you deserved her?