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girl, put your records on

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The story was supposed to go like this:

Beca had plans.

Plans to go to L.A. Plans to get into the music industry and make a name for herself. Plans to leave New York and everything that came with it behind her. Plans to cut off all of her ties and never become attached to anyone ever again. Plans to leave and never look back.

That is, until her dad decides to put his foot down and makes her go to Barden University without her consent (“It’s for free, Beca!” he’s said, like that’s some form of consolation). Without her having a say in any of this.

And she hates it, how she’s had to pack her bags and move away, not to L.A., but to Atlanta. Atlanta.

She absolutely loathes everything about college.

That is, until she meets the Bellas.

And Jesse.

It’s then that she starts to think: maybe she has a reason to stay, after all.

 

::

 

It’s weird, being called someone’s girlfriend.

It starts out very randomly, one evening as she’s waiting for the Trebles to finish up with practice, leaning against the wall of the rehearsal studio and fiddling with her iPod. She overhears some of the a capella groupies (that’s actually a thing) whispering about themselves, sending her furtive glances.

“I think that’s Jesse Swanson’s girlfriend,” one of them says with malice in her tone. (She doesn’t look, but she thinks she hears the voice of Slutty Gina, who’s always had a huge crush on Jesse; seriously, that girl just won’t stay the fuck away.)

She stops scrolling through her playlist and looks up with a frown. The girls clamor up (Gina doesn’t look embarrassed, though, and Beca’s seriously considering walking over to slap her or something), but she just keeps still, thankful that the cool wall of the building is supporting her frame, because she actually feels a little dizzy.

Girlfriend.

She’s Jesse Swanson’s girlfriend.

Beca’s never really been anyone’s girlfriendbefore. It’s kind of freaking her out a little.

To be honest, she’s not even really sure where they stand. It’s only been a month since they kissed in her dorm after he pretended to be John Cusack and held a boom box outside her window, and a week since her big cheesy gesture at the ICCA finals. And okay, they’ve been pretty much inseparable since then, and yeah, there is some making out and stuff, but. They’ve never really referred to themselves as an actual couple, even though she supposes Jesse probably wants to.

It’s kind of frustrating, that she doesn’t know exactly what they are.

Jesse appears then, effectively stopping her train of thought. He looks tired, but he’s dressed in a fresh T-shirt that hugs his body in all the right places and there’s a grin that lights up his face at the sight of her.

“Hey, Million Dollar Baby,” he says, before leaning down to press his lips to hers. She breathes in the scent of him, fingers clutching the front of his shirt as she leans her body involuntarily closer to his. She totally doesn’t practically melt in his arms, though; nope, he only wishes.

“That’s Hilary Swank to you,” she says after she pulls away, feeling a little breathless. He just smirks at her, like he’s actually smug about his effect on her (the bastard), then wraps his arm around her waist, pulling her close.

“Dinner?” he asks, and she nods, leaning her head slightly on his shoulder, the chilly night breeze cooling her suddenly warm face. She places her left hand in his back pocket, and he sings a little as they walk, some cheesy song she prefers never to hear ever again. She pokes him in the side, but it does nothing to stop him, the volume of his voice just going higher to annoy her more.

“We have got to do something about this relentless singing in public thing,” she says with a grimace, but he just laughs.

It’s so natural, when they’re being like this. It almost feels like second nature to her; she can’t even imagine a day without him anymore, can’t even imagine a day when he’s not there to annoy her or sing in public or force her to watch movies she doesn’t want to watch.

(She tries not to smirk when they pass the groupies. She tilts her head and presses a kiss to Jesse’s chin, and yep, this is so much more satisfying than throwing a punch to Slutty Gina’s irritated little face.)

 

::

 

 “You have a lot of crap,” she complains loudly, looking down at the mountains of DVDs resting at her feet. “Can’t you just leave all these stuff here? You have copies of them on your laptop, anyway, so what’s the point?”

He gasps dramatically from where he’s sitting cross-legged on the floor, trying to make room in his luggage for a couple of his books. “They’re not crap, as you so classily put it,” he says, and she rolls her eyes at him. “And yeah, but Benji’s not going to be here for the summer and I don’t want to leave them all behind…”

She sighs, then drops to the floor beside him, punching him hard on the shoulder. “I can’t believe I offered to help you pack. I can already imagine you picking each movie up one by one and telling me the synopsis for each one.”

He grins mischievously. “You know me so well. And remember the system. Action films here, sci-fi there, classics there, you know the drill.”

“By genre, then year?” she deadpans.

He smirks. “Then alphabetically.”

She groans, because he really is a pain in the ass.

She proceeds to listlessly pick up DVDs and stack them on top of each other, barely giving them a cursory glance. She doesn’t want to know how many in these piles she’s been forced to watch over the past year; it makes her shudder just thinking about it. “Sometimes I wonder why I put up with you,” she says, but there’s an affectionate tone in her voice she seems to use only around him.

He grins at her, and okay, her heart rate speeding up over his freaking smile is getting a little ridiculous. “You know you’re gonna miss me, so, yeah, those words have no effect on me whatsoever.”

“You wish,” she scoffs, slapping his hand away as he tries to pinch her nose, but his words sink into her mind, and deep inside she registers that she’s beginning to panic a little.

It’s actually really stupid, the way she’s panicking. She knows she’s babbling, she knows she’s just giving him these snappy comebacks because she doesn’t really want to face the fact that they’re both leaving for the summer; he back to Athens and she to New York. She knows it’s not that far – technically–but it feels weird, feeling like this. Feeling like she’s going to lose something, feeling like she already is.

How long was summer vacation again? Three months? How many is that in days? Like…ninety?

Ninety days? Oh god.

It’s not like she’s counting or anything, okay, but still…that seems like an awfully long time to be away from Jesse, even if his constant, often-annoying, ever-cheerful presence in her life makes her head want to explode – in a good way, she thinks.

God. What is happening to her?

She pauses in her movements to watch him. He’s humming softly, a random tune she supposes he’s made up for one of his “life soundtracks”, not even looking at her as he examines the backs of his DVD cases like he hasn’t watched every single freaking one of them at least three times. He smiles to himself a little, probably remembering some random line or scene, and she stares at the contours of his face and the tilt of his lips, the slope of his cheekbones and the childlike innocence in his eyes.

There’s a lump in her throat, and god, can someone get her some water or something? “Hey, Jesse?”

“Yep?” He looks up at her, brows furrowed, the DVD of Annie in his right hand. He’s sitting there on his dorm room floor, cross-legged and wearing boxers and a stupid R2D2 T-shirt she’s given him a week ago; his hair is sticking up in all directions, and there’s still a hint of that smile dancing across his lips that makes him look so much like…likesomeone she wants to keep coming home to, or something.

She shakes her head, looks down at the DVDs scattered in front of her. Now she’s forgotten his system for his DVD library, so she’ll have to start all over again. Just great. “Nothing.”

She can feel his eyes burning holes on her head, though, so she looks up with a frown. He’s giving her that look again. The same look he gave her that day in her dorm when she kissed him for the first time, and something swells like a balloon inside her chest, pounding a smooth, steady beat. “What?”

“Just want to make sure you’ll survive without me for the summer,” he says, and damn it, it’s like he’s guessed what’s on her mind. Or maybe he just knows.

She scoffs a little, but his smirk tells her he’s not buying it. “I’ll live. The real thing to worry about here is if you’ll be an even bigger dork than you already are and bring twice as many movies back here to Barden, thus making me help you organize your database. Again. Because that was so much fun the first time.”

“Please, Beca, be more sarcastic, I don’t think you’re up to par,” he says with a roll of his eyes, and he scoots closer to her, wrapping a strong arm around her lower back, his fingers resting gently on her stomach.

She smirks. “I’ll try.”

He grins against her hair, and she feels his lips press gently against her temple. “Don’t wear too much dark makeup and come back wearing twice as many ear spikes, okay? Those things tend to scare people off, and by people I mean me.”

“Sure, as long as you stop being a dork and a grade-A pain in the ass, because that tends to annoy the hell out of people, and by people I mean everyone.”

“And don’t be too much of a gangster.”

“Right, because I just scream gangster to people.”

“Yeah, you’re very street.”

“Right?”

“And don’t be too sarcastic.”

“But it’s what I do best.”

“And don’t cry over The Breakfast Club toomuch without me.”

“I’ll try to keep the tears to a minimum.”

He laughs against her ear, and her hand covers his, their fingers tangling together. It kind of scares her how this doesn’t feel weird at all, how it feels so natural and right.

“Don’t be too much of a dork without me,” she says, her voice soft. She hates sounding like this, like she needs him in her life, even though deep down she realizes she really kind of just does, and that isn’t something that would make her feel weak.

He smirks against her neck, but she sees his eyes soften. “I’ll try.”

 

::

 

He sends her postcards and letters over the summer.

Postcards. And letters.

Honestly, what era is this dude from? Who still does that?

“In the age of the Internet and mobile technology, you are possibly the only teenager left in the world who still uses postage stamps. Or actually goes to the post office.”

Jesse just laughs at her, his image on her laptop screen grinning as he throws pieces of popcorn into the air and tries and fails to catch them with his mouth. “It’s important to appreciate the ancient times, too, Beca.”

“My mom was being nosy about those damn letters. She kept asking me whom they came from.”

“Did you tell her about what a stud I am?”

“I told her about the Star Wars dolls.”

“Action figures,” he corrects. “And?”

“Nope. Dolls. Call ‘em what they are.”

“They’re action figures, okay?”

“Doesn’t make a difference. I’ll never get over the fact that you have an actual Princess Leia doll.” It’s true; she’ll never, ever forget the look on his face when she discovered it hidden somewhere under his bed. The perverted freak.

“It’s a collector’s item, Beca! And it’s not like I got the gold bikini one.” He makes a face at her, and she sticks out her tongue in a really immature way, but hey, this is Jesse, and she can act like a dork in front of him in ways she can never act like to anybody else. It’s comfortable, and oddly freeing. “Anyway, what did your mom say?”

“Do you really wanna know?”

“It depends. Did she agree that I’m a stud?”

“Stop saying ‘stud’. Seriously.”

“You’re avoiding the question,” he observes. “She totally loves me already.”

She makes a face at him, and he laughs, because honestly, is he a freaking mind reader or something? Yeah, so her mom maybe kind of thought that owning Star Wars dolls (because that’s what they are) was kind of adorable when Beca had caved and told her about “this huge dork I work with at the radio station”. Beca had shot her a dubious look at that one; she doesn’t understand her mom sometimes. And she’s never ever gonna tell him her mother said that.

“Do you tell her about how much you miss me already?” He laughs, and she can tell he sees the way blood rushes immediately to her cheeks. “You totally do, don’t you?”

“Wow, your ego is oozing out of my computer screen.” She rolls her eyes. “Don’t be so full of yourself, buddy.”

He gives her a knowing look, like he just knows that she’s bluffing, and – okay, fine, maybe she does miss him. Sometimes. Maybe. A little. Not even. No, not at all.

It’s just too weird, okay? It’s only been two weeks since they’ve left campus for summer break, and it’s weird, not having Jesse barge into her room at seven in the morning and start singing loudly to wake her up in time for class, effectively annoying her to death and prompting her to throw her big-ass pillows at his face. It’s weird, not having him sitting across from her over lunch as they argue relentlessly about the movies he makes her watch (or he argues, anyway; mostly it’s just him going, “Zero Dark Thirty is one of the greatest films of the year!” and her replying with a bored, “Yeah, okay, but I really don’t care.”) It’s weird, not having him try to steal her earphones from her to listen to the mixes she’s currently making, or leave juice pouches with little notes in her bag or on her desk or at the radio station. It’s weird, not hearing his voice as he yells “Becaw! Becaw!” like some deranged idiot from across the quad, or not seeing in person how his lips stretch into a grin and how his eyes brighten when he sees her.

It’s just really weird, not being with him, period. She wonders when he’s become such an integral part of her life, when she’s let him in so completely when she’s never really needed anyone before. She’s doesn’t think she’s ever even really missed anyone before, so this is so beyond her comfort zone.

“Just say it,” Jesse says, a teasing tilt in his voice, “and I’ll drop it.”

Yeah, she’s never gonna say it, so she just makes a stupid face at the screen which he reciprocates. Sometimes she’s glad no one can see them when they’re getting like this. They could be pretty dorky.

He starts singing to her (“You’re gonna miss me when I’m go-o-one!”) and she grimaces (“Dude! Stop!”), which he of course ignores. She rolls her eyes as he starts raising his eyebrows suggestively at her, tapping out an uneven beat with his fingers. She wishes she were there in Georgia right now to clobber him for being such a dork.

She spares a glance at the calendar tacked to her wall above her computer.

Two weeks down…two months and two weeks to go.

(But it’s not like she’s counting.)

 

::

 

The summer passes by in a blur, and Beca is caught in traction, balancing her time between mixing and her internship at a music store and group chatting with the Bellas and Skype-ing with Jesse on a daily basis where he manages to convince her to watch movies with him, to her chagrin and (very) reluctant acceptance that maybe they’re not half-bad.

She hates to admit it, but…she’s kinda looking forward to going back to Barden. Partly because the Bellas are going to kick some serious butt this year (she’s already got ideas for a set list drawn up and consulted with Chloe and Aubrey, just in case), and because she’s going to be rooming with Fat Amy (which is surely going to be…interesting), but mostly it’s because of this big dork of a guy who still…likes her, despite her being like this. Sometimes even because of her being like this.

(But yeah, she’s never, ever telling Jesse that.)

Excited to see me tmr? ;), her phone beeps.  

She scoffs and ignores her mother, who’s both frowning and smirking as Beca puts down her spoon and fork to tap out a reply. Not really.

It’s okay, Beca, comes his reply, I know how embarrassing it is to admit how horrible it’s been being away from me. I understand. You don’t have to say anything.

She rolls her eyes, types out, DORK, and tries to hide her smile behind her hair when he replies with, You know you love it. xoxo

Yep, she’s definitely looking forward to going back (and yup, she’s still definitely not telling Jesse anything).

 

::

 

Hey, where are you?

In my dorm. Kingsley, across from Baker Hall. Where are YOU?

On which floor is your new room?

3rd. Why?

She shouldn’t have felt the need to ask.

Someone starts singing (loudly), right under her window, and she knows all too well whose voice it belongs to from the very first loud (she really needs to emphasize this) note. She knows the song all too well, too, remembers how a complete stranger started singing it to her from the backseat of a car this time last year.

“Don’t you cry no more, no!”

There he is, the dork.

“I’m gonna throw a boot at you one of these days, you know,” she says once she’s at her window, trying to glare down at him standing like an idiot on the grass, oblivious to the judgmental side-eyes and amused smirks he’s currently attracting.

“I’ll try not to let it hit me,” he says, and he’s grinning stupidly up at her, his arms held wide as if to catch her. “Hey, Beca.”

She tries hard not to smile, tries to ignore the warmth blossoming beneath her ribs. It’s a futile attempt. “Hey, dork.”

 

::

 

She falls backwards onto the bed, and he climbs on top of her, a tangle of arms and legs and skin itching to touch skin, lips tracing a path from her mouth to her jaw as her hands bury themselves in his hair.

“I missed you,” he says against the delicate skin of her neck, his lips attaching onto a particularly sensitive spot that makes her moan in response. She feels his mouth stretch into a smirk against her skin, and she slaps him on the side of the head, feeling her face start to become warm. Way to ruin the moment.

“I didn’t,” she says breathlessly, and she tugs at his shoulders to bring his face up to hers. She stares at him for a minute, breath against breath, and she figures that she’ll probably never get used to the look in his eyes and the things it does to her heart. (She can’t believe how much of a sap she is these days; she still really hates him for this sometimes.)

He smiles, finger tracing the outline of her left ear. “You got another piercing.”

“Yeah, I figured that when you’re being extra-dorky, I could scare you off with another ear spike.”

“Scare me off?” He grins, laugh vibrating against her skin, making her shiver. “Yeah, no, never gonna happen.”

 

::

 

It’s kind of scary, how easily they fall into a pattern at Barden.

Beca’s just not used to any form of stability in her life, okay? She used to be. But then her parents started shouting behind closed doors into the wee hours of the morning, and then soon there was no more shouting, and even sooner, no more Dad.

Her mother was depressed for weeks, and Beca started ripping out every picture of her father that her mom’s stuck in an old photo album and dumped in the attic.

She’s become closed off, cynical, brandishing biting words like weapons and hiding behind large headphones and letting music drown out the world around her. She didn’t use to need friends. She didn’t use to need anyone.

But then Jesse walked (no, persisted) his way into her life with his vast-bordering-on-freaky knowledge about movies and his wit and his voice and the smile she pretends she doesn’t like.

Jesse, who comes to pick her up from her dorm every morning to walk her to her first class, munching on bagels he’s brought as they walk across the grounds; her in a sleepy, grumpy mood that’s slightly lessened by his annoyingly cheerful disposition and bright smile and warm kiss hello. Jesse, who buys her lunch and makes her eat everything (“You’re too thin, Beca!” he’d admonish, frowning at her from across the table, pushing a plate full of food in her direction) until she’s complaining and making him share with her. Jesse, who brings an endless supply of juice pouches and popcorn and DVDs, as they lay down on the grass beneath her favorite tree, sharing ear buds as they listen to her new mixes. Jesse, who swings by after Bella rehearsals, waving a white handkerchief in the air and yelling, “Enemy coming through! I mean no harm!” like the idiot that he is. Jesse, who makes her pancakes for dinner and snuggles with her on her bed, the lights off as they watch a new movie Beca (sometimes) tries hard to pay attention to.

Jesse, this humongous nerd who endlessly quotes movies he’s seen a dozen times, brings her jars of M&M’s instead of flowers, talks loudly over her during her radio show, replaces the CDs on the topmost shelves she can’t reach because “you’re too tiny for your own good.”

Jesse, who still knows her schedule by heart even though she has no idea how.

Her life at Barden’s become kind of…normal.

She thinks she likes it that way just fine.

 

::

 

Honestly, though, no matter how badass she likes to think of herself, Beca thinks they’re probably one of the dorkiest…pairs, couples, whatever-the-fuck-they’re-supposed-to be-called (she’s not one for assigning labels) around.

It’s mostly because Jesse’s dorkiness rubs off on her in every way possible, of course, but she has to admit the things they do always walk the line between cute and disgusting…and Beca hates being even mentioned with both those adjectives in the same sentence.

“You’re, like, the power couple of the a capella world,” Chloe tells her over Skype one evening; Aubrey, uptight, okay-maybe-she’s-her-friend-now Aubrey, grimaces a little at her words behind Chloe’s back.

Beca feels like she’s going to throw up. “Ew. Ew. Don’t ever – don’t ever say those words to me ever again.”

“But it’s true! The other Bellas fill me in on what you guys do for dates every week.” Chloe smirks at her and winks. Actually. Freaking. Winks. “I never knew you were such a softie, Beca.”

“They’re not – I swear, I’m going to kill those bitches for tattling…”

“How adorable is it that Jesse sleeps over at your dorm? I mean, Fat Amy’s told me countless of times how she’s come home to your room and found Jesse sprawled over your bed while you actually film him sleeping. Kind of creepy, by the way, but whatever floats your boat, I guess.”

“I did it because he was snoring! It was a form of blackmail, and in case you don’t know–”

“And the daily juice pouches and notes he gives you? Adorable.”

“Chloe, I swear to god–”

“He leaves her juice pouches?” Aubrey interrupts with the tiniest of smirks. It turns out there’s something more annoying than condescending Aubrey, and it’s smirking Aubrey.

“Yeah, Capri Suns with little notes stuck on them, isn’t that cute?”

Beca runs a hand over her what is sure to be red-as-hell face. She doesn’t know why she’s even agreed to a Skype chat this evening when every conversation she has with the two grad school roommates almost always ends up like this. “Oh my god, please stop–”

Aubrey looks particularly (and weirdly) interested in this part of the conversation. “And what do the notes say?”

“Fat Amy told me she read one of them one time when Beca was out–”

“Wait,” Beca’s eyes widen, “Fat Amy did what?

 “–and it said something cheesy like, ‘Beca, I know you’re–’”

“Okay, I’m hanging up on you now,” Beca says loudly, and actually does end the conversation despite Chloe’s sudden protests and Aubrey’s offended face.

When Jesse comes by later with a juice pouch and a little note, Beca grabs them from him with a snarl and a grouchy, “People think we’re cute. Cute, Jesse. This is a problem.”

Jesse laughs, “I think that was meant to be a compliment, Beca, not a problem.”

“Well, I guess,” she says, though her face says differently, “but–”

“Relax, Bec,” he smiles, leaning over to kiss her forehead, “I don’t want you to go hurting yourself by thinking too much.”

She huffs and pushes him away from her, “Don’t call me that,” but she sips on the straw noisily and tries not to smile at his dorky little note (“light of my life despite the pale skin, sunshine despite the black mascara (sorry, the store ran out of apple juice, so you’ll have to settle for grape)”) before she pockets it and mentally thinks of a new hiding place for them.

(She’s going to kill Fat Amy if she ever even attempts to reads them again.)

 

::

 

The minute he’s planted his feet on the sticky, beer-splattered table, she already knows where this is going.

“Jesse,” she hisses, eyes wide, suddenly at a panic, “Jesse, get down from there!”

He just beams down at her (more like smirks, like the bastard that he is), taps the microphone twice with his finger, and points at her.

“This is for you, Beca,” he says, and Beca feels her face burst into flames when the people in that karaoke bar start whistling and whooping loudly, the spotlight suddenly trained on her standing like an idiot in front of the table with her arms crossed stubbornly in front of her chest.

(Someone’s actually howling, and she doesn’t need to turn around to know it’s totally Fat Amy doing it. Some friend.)

Jesse starts singing (and oh god, this song, really?), making exaggerated movements and arm gestures, wagging his eyebrows at her in a completely dorky way that is so him that Beca can’t help the stupid smile that forms on her face, even though she tries really hard to fight it.

Jesse stoops down and leans over the edge of the table, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he grins down at her. He tugs playfully at her crossed arms, but she refuses to untangle them, her lips fighting off a grin and failing pathetically.

“No, dude. No,” she says, when he tries to pull her up on the table beside him. The Bellas converge on her, urging her on, but she refuses to budge. No way is she getting on that table and singing this ridiculously cheesy song with him. In front of people. Well, drunken people, but still. He might be her…boyfriend(boyfriend!)but, no fucking way. “Don’t even try.”

So he just shrugs, and she laughs a little when he makes a pouty face at her (“Not gonna work, dude. Keep trying.”) She’s staring at him again, she knows, but he’s looking at her like she’s his whole world and her heart’s betraying her, beating erratically inside her chest.

“…just the way you look tonight,” Jesse finishes with a flourish, bowing grandly at the applause, and Beca fights to keep her face neutral when he jumps off the table and stands in front of her with a goofy smile.

The Way You Look Tonight? Really?” is the first thing she says, trying not to notice the way the dim lights reflect off his eyes, making them sparkle into a pleasant hazel, trying not to notice the way his jeans hang low on his hips and his shirt fits snugly on his torso.

“Thought you needed some cheesy but amazing Frank Sinatra music in your life,” he says. “Come on, ‘and that laugh that wrinkles your nose, it touches my foolish heart?’ Best lyrics ever. And like, totally describe you.”

She totally doesn’t turn red at that. “Your taste in music is embarrassing. You’re embarrassing.”

“So was I good,” he says, ignoring her comment, his fingers tugging on her belt loops and pulling her closer until her hips are cradling his, “or was I good?”

“You were…” she smirks a little when he leans down and nips at her ear, “passable.”

Passable?” Jesse pulls away instantly, looking incredulous. “I was just passable? I think I’m offended.”

“Eh. You’ll get over it.”

“Beca!” He feigns hurt. “How could you?”

She grins and stands on her tiptoes (his “You are so tiny” grants him a slap on the side of the head) to catch his bottom lip between her mouth, earning a groan.

“The death of me,” he complains when she pulls away, smirking. “You are going to be the death of me.”

(“Someone’s getting laid tonight,” Fat Amy sing-songs as she passes them, and Beca sorely wishes that the dirty dish rag she’s thrown in her friend’s direction had hit its mark.)

 

::

 

“You two are so couple-y,” Ashley comments offhandedly, as the a capella groups are singing loudly (and drunkenly) to Ke$ha’s Tik Tok at aca-initiation night. Jesse’s just left Beca’s side for the first time since they’ve arrived, off to go get them some drinks; he’s disappeared somewhere in the crowd of Trebles.

Beca frowns. “We are not.” But she’s questioning it at the back of her mind.

“Um, you so are,” Stacie says with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “Like, totally cheesy, head-over-heels-in-love kind of couple-y.”

She wrinkles her nose, but she knows her face is flaming. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Jesse and I are not cheesy. God.”

“Oh, yeah?” Stacie holds up her hand, counting off on her fingers. “Uh, the staying over, the M&M’s, the movie dates, the flirty banter over the radio – which I happen to know your dad listens to – and–”

“Wait, my dad listens to my show?” Oh god, oh god. Oh god, okay, what have she and Jesse said on-air that would be too embarrassing for her dad to hear? Think, think, think.

Stacie apparently knows what’s going on inside her head, because her mouth curls into a knowing smirk. “Jesse called you his b–”

“Wait, stop, don’t say it!” Beca places her hands over her ears, knowing she looks as embarrassed as she feels. She remembers now, and oh god, oh god, oh god. Jesse. Swanson.

“But don’t you want to–”

“Do you want to do extra cardio tomorrow?”

Cynthia Rose watches her with amused eyes. “Wait, why, what did he call her?”

“He called her his b–”

Beca doesn’t wait to hear what Stacie has to say; she’s already scurrying away, her face burning, hearing the laughter and teasing remarks being called out to her from behind her by the other Bellas, who are supposedly her friends.

“You’re all running laps all over the studio tomorrow!” she yells over her shoulder, before she slams into something warm and familiar-smelling.

“Woah, where’s the fire?” Jesse says, eyes twinkling as he hands her a cup of cheap beer. “You look a shade of, I don’t know, fire-engine red.”

She punches him hard on the forearm, effectively making him spill some of his cup’s contents on the sleeve of his hoodie. It feels oddly satisfying, considering this is all his fucking fault. “You are banned from the booth during my show. Banned. And I don’t care what Luke the two-time senior says.”

“What?” He grins at her, not looking fazed at all. So annoying. “Why?”

“My dad freaking listens to the show, that’s why!”

“But how does that even–”

“And from now on,” she says, trying not to soften instantly (or, like, turn into a mush) when Jesse’s free arm goes around her waist, lips pressed together to stifle laughter, “no more fucking nicknames.”

She feels him smirk into her hair, and ugh, he is such a bastard. “No promises, Becky.”

He totally weasels his way into the booth the next time she’s there, and calls her a string of embarrassing names he’s fucking written down on a piece of paper before she can stop him and turn off the damn mic.

(Her dad – and the Bellas, of-fucking-course – give her an unusually hard time over that one, and when she punches him in the gut the second they’re off the air the following day, Beca thinks it’s totally justified.)

 

::

 

When Jesse tells her he’s taking her out for a fancy date on Friday night, Beca loathes how she spends the best of her week actually fretting over it like some insane teenage girl.

“Can’t we just go out for pizza like we always do on Friday nights?” she tries to plead to him, sounding exasperated. And maybe a little desperate.

Jesse is stubborn, however. “Nope. No way. I want us to actually go out on a fancy date. Come on, Beca, just give me this, please?” He looks at her, wide-eyed, and she swallows. Hard. “I’ll swing by your dorm on Friday at 6pm and we’ll make a special night of it. It’s gonna be great, Bec, you’ll see.”

She knows there’s no use arguing with him when he’s got that face on, so she just sighs and says, “Don’t call me Bec.”

She’s been dreading the stupid date for three days now, and it isn’t until Wednesday that he tells her to dress up on Friday night, and she momentarily panics – and you know, maybe throws a tantrum?

“I didn’t sign up for this, Jesse!” she exclaims. “You are not forcing me into a dress.”

“Come on, Beca,” Jesse flashes her that stupid puppy-dog-eyes look again, and seriously, damn him to the ends of the earth. “Please? I’m dressing up, too; we can both look fancy and stupid and awkward together. It’s just one night!”

“How is this supposed to be a fun date?” she grumbles, but she’s already relenting when he grins at her and leans down to catch her mouth in a kiss. She hates this fucking nerd and his ability to wrap her around his little finger, because damn it, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

So on Wednesday night, she finds herself cursing up a storm while Fat Amy watches her interestedly from where she’s lounging on her bed across from Beca’s, sucking on a spoon she’s just raised from her large tub of Ben & Jerry’s.

“I don’t have anything decent to wear!” Beca says between a string of choice words, sounding harassed and panicky as she goes through her untidy closet. Why the hell does she own so much black clothing?

“I’d lend you something to wear,” Fat Amy offers, “but you have kind of a flat butt and unusually large melons, so I don’t think you’re gonna fit into any of my sexy date clothes.”

Beca sighs.

She goes to Jessica first, because Fat Amy’s going to be of no help whatsoever.

“I’d lend you a dress of mine, Beca,” Jessica says, “but…”

She gestures to her closet, the right side of which is stuffed with a bunch of girly, flower-patterned dresses with laces and frills that has way too many bright colors for Beca’s liking.

She goes to Stacie next. She knows it’s a big mistake even before she goes in her dorm room that practically reeks of sex. Beca actually feels dirty standing in the middle of the room, a pile of Stacie’s clothes and underwear lying at her feet.

“I’ve got a bunch of sexy-ass minis,” Stacie says eagerly, bouncing on her heels, her boobs inevitably bouncing, as well. “They’ll look perfect on you.”

She rummages through her closet, then emerges with a slightly see-through, barely-there nude dress with a deeply plunging neckline and nothing covering the back.

Further frantic knocking on other people’s doors two hours later reveals that yeah, none of the Bellas would be of help whatsoever.

So she phones Chloe. Sweet, reliable, law school student Chloe, who lives only an hour away from Barden.

“Stop stressing, Beca,” Chloe says, her voice soothing in her ear. “Look, I don’t have any classes tomorrow. I could drive down, and we could shop downtown, make a day of it?”

That’s how Beca ends up in a tiny black dress Chloe forced her to get because it “accentuated her curves” and “brought attention to her biggest assets” (read: boobs). The dress is a bit too short for her liking (she keeps tugging at the hem uncomfortably as she stares at herself in the mirror), but Stacie’s come over to fix her hair and her makeup and lend her a pair of killer three-inch shoes that she sincerely hopes won’t be a source of embarrassment for the evening if (when) she falls flat on her face.

She hates dressing up probably more than Justin Bieber’s “music” (and that’s saying something), and she’s already blaming Jesse so much for this.

When Jesse calls to her from her window (“Juliet, oh Juliet”) like a total idiot, she makes a face at Stacie and Fat Amy and (slowly) makes her way downstairs. There are actual butterflies in her stomach. Butterflies. She doesn’t even know this kind of shit happens in real life, but there they are, fluttering uncontrollably. Fucking hell. This is Jesse. This is just Jesse.

She really doesn’t know what to make of the look on his face, though, as she (awkwardly) walks towards him across the grass, praying to the gods that she doesn’t trip in these damn shoes.

She makes the mistake of looking at his face, because damn. This nerd can clean up so well.

“Hey,” she says, feeling the most awkward and nervous she’s ever been in her life, and this is just ridiculous. This is just Jesse, for crying out loud. Why is her voice so high-pitched right now?

He’s just standing there, though, in his neat button-down shirt and his hair windswept, his wide eyes trained on her face, like – like he can’t get enough of her, or something, and it maybe kind of takes her breath away.

“Um.” He clears his throat and laughs a little, scuffing his shoes shyly against the floor, and god, how is it possible that he looks even more endearing right now, when he’s being like this? She’s supposed to hate him for forcing her to go on this stupid date. “You – um.” He looks down at his feet for a second, looking flustered. “You look beautiful, Beca.”

He flashes her a lopsided smile, and – yeah, okay, she doesn’t totally hate him, even if she does feel the redness start creeping onto her cheeks. She doesn’t really know what to do with her hands, though, or her feet which are fucking dying in these heels and it isn’t even six-thirty; so she just raises her eyes to his, her heart literally stuttering at the look on his face.

Or something less cheesy, you know. Whatever. She’s totally not cheesy.

“Wish I could say the same, Swanson,” she says, but there’s a nervous tilt to her voice, and her lips curve into a shy smile despite herself. “I hope you didn’t do anything cliché, like bring me flowers or chocolates or some shit.”

“Don’t worry.” He smiles, then pulls out a juice pouch from somewhere inside his coat. “I know you have an aversion to anything bright and colorful and remotely girly, so…”

She just laughs, really loudly, then leans in to kiss him.

(“You’re perfect,” his note reads.

That one totally goes into the memory box she pretends she doesn’t have stashed in her underwear drawer, and she hopes to god Fat Amy doesn’t find that.)

 

::

 

(She totally enjoys the date, no matter how over-the-top he’d gone, bringing her to this super fancy place where they’re easily the most immature and out-of-place couple there. They choose a table out in the garden, yellow lights dotting the landscape, and she stomps on his foot when the waiter asks for their order, and he points to random dishes on the side of the menu written in French.

She doesn’t remember exactly what they talk about; they mostly spend the night sending snarky retorts back and forth, and she just remembers how his foot brushes her calf under the table, how his fingers dangle casually over hers, how his eyes twinkle as he smiles at her from across the spread of unfamiliar dishes.

They go out for drinks, after, because they could only pretend to be some fancy-shmancy couple for so long, and he sings loudly and drunkenly along to the jukebox, and she joins him, smiling over the music and the way their voices blend into a beautiful harmony. Maybe it’s the alcohol, or maybe it’s the song, but Beca doesn’t really want to think anymore, just knows that she feels…happy. Happy in a way that she hasn’t been in a long while.

He rolls the windows down on the drive home, and she kicks off her shoes and sticks her head out the window, shouting into the otherwise quiet night while Jesse laughs and compares her to his pet dog from home, their fingers tangled loosely together above the console.

She kisses him goodnight, pressed against the door of her dorm, and he fingers the skin of her hipbones above her jeans, and she smiles into his mouth when he whispers her name like a promise.)

When the Bellas ask how the date’s gone, she just shrugs and makes them do scales for thirty minutes, just so they’d shut up.

 

::

 

She realizes that he knows so much about her, even things she hasn’t told him. And she tells him a lot, which – yeah, is another thing entirely, and it’s just weird, how she’s letting him in so much, something she hasn’t done in over four years. With anyone.

“I can’t believe you don’t have Facebook,” Jesse says. “Your dad has Facebook. I’m friends with your dad on Facebook. Isn’t it supposed to be teenagers on Facebook and not adults?”

“Can you manage one sentence without mentioning the word Facebook?” she says, lazily stretching on Fat Amy’s empty bed. “And it’s not like I made a ton of friends in high school, you know. I don’t need a stupid account. What’s the point? You post dumb status messages like ‘Eating lunch at Chipotle’ or upload photos of your food and like each other’s posts and shit – and for what? I can socialize just fine on my phone, thanks.”

“Yeah, and you do a lot of socializing, by the way,” he says, smiling at her above the laptop screen. “Anyway, you should be glad you don’t have Facebook. Your dad posts a lot of embarrassing stuff.”

Well, that sounds interesting. Except if her dad’s been posting photos of him and the step-monster, and then it doesn’t really sound interesting anymore. “Yeah? Like what?”

“Like…your baby photos?”

What?”

She’s on top of him in an instant, fighting to snatch his computer away; Jesse tries to shield the screen from her, slapping her hands away and upsetting his bowl of popcorn in the process. “Beca!”

“My fucking dad posts fucking baby pictures of me!” she huffs, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “I have every right to look at them.”

She threatens to castrate his balls, and that’s how they end up scrolling through her dad’s entire album (and there are 47 fucking pictures in that album; thanks a lot, Dad). Beca’s hands are in front of her face, and Jesse’s laughing like an idiot beside her, pressing ‘like’ on each and every photo, like he knows it’s his number one job to annoy the hell out of her.

“Look at this one!” he croons, pointing at a photo of four-year-old Beca in a frilly pink dress, holding a microphone to her lips; it’s captioned ‘my baby girl giving us a one-of-a-kind performance’ and has about 56 likes. “Aww. You’re daddy’s little baby girl.”

“Oh god, stop.” She tries to close his laptop, but he shoves her away, clicking to the next photo. “Jesse!”

“Hey, here’s one with your mom.” He smiles at the screen, where a slightly older Beca is grinning, gap-toothed, as she hugs her laughing mom around the neck. “That’s so adorable.”

She’s honestly surprised her dad put that photo up; it was from so long ago. “Shut up. No. I am not adorable.”

“You are.” He pinches her unusually red cheeks, and she scrunches her nose in distaste. “You were pretty close with your mom, huh?”

A shoulder lifts. “I guess so. Before.”

“What’s she like?”

“Like a mom.” Jesse’s just staring at her, waiting for more, and she rolls her eyes, but she’s not really annoyed. Nor is she uncomfortable, which is…weird. “Jesse, come on.”

He shrugs a little. “You just never talk about her.”

“There’s not much to tell.” Her bottom lip’s caught between her teeth, and she looks down at her hands. “I’m not exactly the best daughter.”

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s true.” She sighs. “It’s a long story.”

“We’ve got all day.” He smiles a little, then puts down his laptop, walking over to her and wrapping his arms around her waist, burrowing his nose in her hair. “I love long stories.”

Beca doesn’t know why, or how, but she ends up talking, and talking and talking and talking, and Jesse’s just lying there, holding her, nodding, murmuring, kissing her on the cheek and on the nose and on the temple when he feels her heart start to break.

When she stops to catch her breath, feeling suddenly tired and drained, she realizes the room is bathed in darkness, and her eyes are unusually (embarrassingly) wet.

Jesse’s there, though, to kiss her tears (mostly unshed, mind you) away.

 

::

 

Jesse’s life goal is probably to annoy her.

It’s during regionals, and the Treblemakers are doing an insane rendition of What Makes You Beautiful (and she’ll never, ever forgive Jesse for agreeing to this song choice); she’s got her eyes trained on him, watching him move and swagger across the stage like he owns it.

He catches her staring, and he smirks, pointing in her direction just as he sings, “Baby you light up my world like nobody else” (really? This song? This freaking song?), making her face burn when several people in the audience turn to stare at her in amusement.

She retaliates by doing an extra-sexy-slash-slutty hip roll against Stacie’s hips when it’s the Bellas turn on the stage, and when she notices his face has gone pale, she flashes a smirk in his direction, blowing him a kiss.

After (after they win, of-fucking-course), she’s just untangled herself from the jumping and screaming circle of Bellas when she notices Jesse standing in the corner being mobbed by a couple of groupies. (Slutty Gina is nowhere to be found, thank the heavens).

He’s smiling easily, looking like he has no idea whatsoever of his charm and its effect on other people. She just stands to the side and watches him in amusement, hands crossed in front of her chest as he tries to sign girls’ wrists and foreheads, and smiles at every camera being shoved in his face with all the patience she wishes she has.

When he notices her, though, he instantly leaves his fangirls and makes his way to her, smug grin on his face. She feels a little smug herself when she notices the groupies staring at her, if she’s being honest.

“Has this been happening long?” she asks once he’s within earshot. “Do I need to be worried?”

“What, my legions of fans clamoring for my autograph?” He grins easily down at her, hands latching on to her waist. “Yep, can’t help it if they’re dazzled by my good looks and voice. You should be very worried.”

“Do I need to, like, take care of any of them? Like say, Gina, for example?”

He laughs at the hopeful tone in her voice, a deep belly laugh that makes her smile. “I don’t think you notice this but…” he leans down to peck her lightly on the lips, “you’ve kind of got me wrapped around your tiny little finger, so. No other girls for me. Only you.”

“You are so fucking cheesy,” she groans, but she doesn’t deny the fluttering in her chest. And he’s looking so damn attractive right now with his shirt untucked from his jeans and his hair pointing in different directions and that fucking charming smile, that she doesn’t hesitate to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him deeply, right then and there.

He moans when she licks slowly along his bottom lip, fingers digging into the flesh of his back, and they only pull away when Fat Amy and Kolio start making extremely inappropriate comments about their equally inappropriate behavior in public.

Jesse laughs at her embarrassed face, then wraps his fingers around hers and kisses them, and she doesn’t miss the way he doesn’t let go of her hand the entire night.

 

::

 

(Sometimes, she really hates herself for being so damn guarded.)

She freaks out a little when he tries to ask her why she hates her dad so much.

“I don’t hate my dad, it’s just–” She sighs, exasperated. “You wouldn’t understand, okay? So stop asking me about him.”

She wishes she hadn’t turned to look at him, because he looks a little hurt at her outburst. “I’m sorry, I just – I’m trying to understand, Beca.”

“Well, you won’t.” She tears her gaze away. She really, really likes him, and she hates how she’s hurting him right now, but she can’t do this. She can’t talk about her dad, can’t talk about how she woke up the next morning after a particularly nasty fight between her parents and found a fucking text message telling her he’s in fucking Georgia, can’t talk about how he left their home without so much as a goodbye. “So please do me a favor and shut up.”

She knows she’s seriously fucked things up when he doesn’t speak up for five minutes, and she finally looks up from her computer screen when he stands up from Fat Amy’s bed and picks his jacket up from the floor, face impassive.

“I’ll leave you to your mix, then,” he says, his voice quiet, and he doesn’t meet her eyes.

“Jesse,” she begins, her voice a little hoarse, but he just forces a smile and leaves, without so much as a goodbye.

She doesn’t try to stop him.

 

::

 

She’s moping.

She knows this. And it’s annoying, because she does not mope.

It’s even more annoying when the Bellas notice.

“Yo, Beca,” Cynthia Rose says, frowning at her from across the rehearsal studio, “are you okay?”

Beca looks up from where she’s currently staring at her blank iPod screen, the saddest, most disgustingly depressing songs she could round up into a playlist blaring in her ears. The Bellas are all looking at her, some curious, some worried, others cautious. They’ve probably been wanting to ask her this for a while, seeing as she’s been unusually irritable ever since they’ve started rehearsal. “What?”

“She asked if you were fine,” Jessica says. Carefully, slowly. Like she might lash out at any minute, and truthfully with the way she’s feeling like utter shit right now, the possibility doesn’t seem far-fetched.

“What are you talking about?” She brushes them off with a careless wave. “Of course I’m fine.”

“Mm-hmm, and listening to Coldplay is the very definition of okay,” Stacie says from above her shoulder, leaning down to snatch her iPod away, quickly pulling out the attached ear buds and holding it out of her reach. The bitch. “The Scientist, Beca, really? If that doesn’t scream d-e-p-r-e-s–”

“I’m not depressed,” she huffs, trying to snatch back her iPod. “Stacie!”

“Right, okay,” Stacie says, nodding. “And the very fact that Jesse hasn’t been by to pick you up after practice since Saturday doesn’t have anything to do with your sudden love for sad music?” She dangles the iPod in front of Beca’s flushed face.

“Stacie,” Ashley says reproachfully, “really?”

“What? It’s true. There is some depressing shit right here–”

“Take your foot and stuff it in your mouth, woman,” Fat Amy says, surprising them all. “Seriously, flat butt, what happened? You’re listening to suicidal music – what? Let’s face it, Coldplay songs are a tiny bit suicidal – you started eating all my ice cream – seriously, Beca, a post-it with ‘Fat Amy’ means it’s Fat Amy’s – and you’ve stopped singing in the shower–”

“I’ve never done any of those things, and how did you even–”

“Aaaand you’re in denial and in a worse mood than usual, and I actually live with you.”

She sighs, trying to avoid the eyes of the other girls, because this is so not a conversation she wants to be having right now. It’s hard enough ignoring and being ignored by Jesse, trying to stop herself from flooding his phone with pathetic messages and voicemails that’ll just give away how much she misses him with a dull ache that’s not really going away.

She blows out a tired breath, slumping down in her seat. “I’m an idiot.”

She really is.

 

::

 

Her dad starts noticing, too.

“You’re not eating anything.”

“Huh?”

“You’ve barely touched your dinner,” Dr. Mitchell observes, gesturing to her plate. “It’s Mexican, your favorite, and you’re barely eating.”

She shrugs. She feels so tired, and she tries not to glance down at her phone, sitting beside her plate, dark-screened and silent. “I’m just not very hungry.”

Her dad follows her gaze. Then he says, gently, “Everything okay with you and that Jesse boy?”

She throws down her fork, exasperated. “Okay, seriously, am I that obvious?”

She’s not sure why, but she relaxes a little when her dad laughs, a soft chuckle that she associates only with him and childhood memories and torn up photographs, locked in attics and collecting dust. “You’ve barely talked since you got here, and you’ve been scowling all morning – which isn’t anything new, really, but–”

“Thanks a lot,” she scowls, to her father’s amusement.

“Is there anything, anything at all, that you’d like to talk to me about?”

Her father’s watching her, looking concerned, and okay, maybe he’s not that bad, and maybe she’s really liked spending time with him the past few months, even though sometimes he annoys the hell out of her with his lectures about family and life and college, like he has any right to talk about any of those things. But no, she’s not talking about Jesse with him. This is too much, too fast.

She shakes her head.

“Okay,” Dr. Mitchell sighs. “I won’t push it, Bec.”

“Thanks.”

They fall into a discomfited silence. Beca scrapes her fork against her plate, trying to pretend that she doesn’t know her dad’s watching her, trying not to think about how she’s fucked up and just wants her nerd back. Trying not to think about how, the last time she was here with Jesse, he had tried to diffuse the awkwardness by delivering bad pun after bad pun. How he had laughed really loudly at Beca’s old home videos and had shaken her dad’s hand politely on their way out the door.

“He means a lot to me,” the words spill out of her mouth before she can stop herself. She blushes heavily and doesn’t meet her father’s eyes.

Her dad’s looking at her, a gentle smile playing on the corners of his lips. “I know.”

 

::

 

She doesn’t know why, but her feet lead her down the familiar path to Jesse’s doorstep.

(Okay, maybe she does know why.)

She’s an idiot, she knows. She keeps pushing him away even though she doesn’t really want to, just because it’s easier. She tries to keep herself from falling too hard, too fast, when she’s already there to begin with. She’s already in too deep to keep fighting it back from bursting into the surface.

There’s nothing there to hide behind anymore, because Jesse sees through her, through her dark makeup and her clothes and her big earrings and sarcastic remarks.

She takes a deep breath, trying to calm her heartbeat, and knocks smartly on the door.

She doesn’t get an answer.

 

::

 

She’s thinking the worst, so she’s totally caught off-guard when she opens her bedroom door to find him sitting on her bed, reading the back of an old Billy Joel record.

Jesse stands up once he sees her. A huge bouquet of daisies is grasped in his hand.

He looks adorably awkward, standing there in a Chewbacca sweatshirt too big for him, one hand shoved in his pocket while he stares at her, and okay, maybe she did miss him. Like a hell of a lot.

“Flowers, really?” is the first thing out of her mouth, and motherfuckingdamnit, why did she say that, of all things?

A corner of his mouth quirks up, though, and he holds the bouquet out to her, looking sheepish. “Well, yeah, I figured since we went to that fancy date I should pull out all the stops, go all typical cheesy romance movie cliché now.”

“I’m still allergic to anything colorful,” she reminds him, but she accepts the flowers, anyway.

“Yeah, and anything fun.” He’s smiling, and her heart literally aches.

Why does he have to do this? Why does he have to bring her flowers which she would normally hate but doesn’t; why does he have to look like such a freaking dork like he’s the one who screwed things up; why does he have to be so damn nice all the damn time?

“Um.” Her eyes drop to his lips.

She sees his Adam’s apple bob up and down. “Yeah.”

They meet halfway, her body molding perfectly against his, lips touching with both fervor and want, fingers tangling in his tousled brown hair and arms skimming the skin of her back.

“I’m sorry,” she breathes against his mouth as he runs his fingers up and down her spine, tantalizingly slow, “I was such a dick.”

“I shouldn’t have pushed you,” he replies, and Beca watches the way his eyes darken and dilate when she brushes a shaky hand against the front of his jeans. “When you obviously didn’t want to say anything. I shouldn’t have pushed you.”

“It wasn’t your fucking fault, okay?” She bites her lip to hold back a gasp when his hands trace her waist until they’re on her stomach, gently pushing upwards until they’re resting at the edge of her bra. “Don’t – it was me. I fucked up. I’m sorry.”

He shakes his head, leaning his forehead against hers and kissing the tip of her nose, heartbreakingly gentle. “You’re impossible sometimes,” he says, but there’s a smile on his face.

“I know.” She nips at his bottom lip. “I know.”

He pushes her gently backwards, and her hands are pulling at the front of his sweatshirt, tugging on the hem until it’s lying in a heap on the floor. She falls amongst her pillows, and he follows, kissing his way from her exposed stomach to her wrists to her collarbones to her neck.

She’s shaking all over, and she tugs at his hair, bringing his eyes directly in front of hers. “I’m done pushing you away, okay?” she says, breathlessly. “You…”

You mean a lot to me, are the words she can’t bring herself to say, but she thinks Jesse understands, because he smiles a little before kissing her again.

 

::

 

She thinks there’s probably something weird about waking up and finding her…boyfriend’s face inches away from hers, eyes open as he takes her in.

“What–” She laughs a little, pushing at his bare chest under the blankets. “Stop staring at me, you weirdo.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with what I’m doing…” Jesse smirks, entwining his fingers with hers and bringing them to his mouth, kissing them gently. “Besides, you were snoring like a pig and drooling. It was cute.”

“I was not. I don’t snore or drool.”

“You do, and I have the pictures in my phone to prove it.”

“If any of those find their way to Facebook, I swear to god…”

“I’m already attaching them to a mass email…”

She slaps his chest again, and he laughs, his breath hot on her face. His eyes are both warm and bright at the same time, his dimples deepening as his lips stretch into a grin. Her eyes follow the shape of his face. She can’t stop staring at him.

“Okay, I know we haven’t seen each other in a few days,” he says, “but am I that good-looking that you can’t stop looking at – hey, ow.”

“Must you always ruin the moment?” she scowls. “Just give me one nice, quiet moment where you’re not annoying the shit out of me, please.”

“But that’s what I’m here for,” he says, goofy smile intact. “I’m Jesse, your b – uh, the number one nuisance in your life that you can’t live without.”

She smirks. “I noticed that.”

He feigns innocence. “Noticed what?”

“Your slip-up. You almost called yourself my–”

“Well, I thought you might–” He pauses, bites his lip. “I don’t know.”

Her eyes soften, and she reaches out a hand to cup his jaw, thumb drawing gentle circles on his cheek. “I’m not gonna bail,” she says, voice quiet, “if that’s what you’re worried about.”

He bites his lip. “I know.”

(It’s still weird, being called someone’s girlfriend.

But it’s Jesse.)

“Okay,” she says. She smiles. “I just want you to remember. I’m not gonna bail. And I’m probably never going to.”

And she really, really means it.