A/N: We're still hovering around a G rating, so those of you looking for the smut... sorry. ;) Hang in there though, it's coming.
If Beca thinks about it, and she has, Chloe cuddling up to her hadn't been all that different from the way the redhead usually interacted with her. It was really just hugging. Horizontal hugging, as Amy might say, and after the initial awkward whatever it was that had gripped Beca started to fade, it became easy to lie there. Feeling the steady warmth of a solid presence at her back and the barely-there weight of a hand on her hip. They continued talking, voices hushed as though they were lying in the middle of a library, and Beca felt herself growing evermore comfortable with each passing minute.
Not that she'd really been all that uncomfortable to begin with. Which was probably something worth examining. Maybe. Later.
They talked a little about Beca's internship, what she'd been doing there so far - "Oh my god, Beca! You met Snoop?!", "Well, no. I mean. I think we made eye contact?" - and Chloe had basically reaffirmed what Amy had told Beca word for word. And it had made Beca smile, because even if some hoity-toity, super successful music producer guy didn't think she had what it took, her friends at least believed in her. She hasn't been able to say that too many times in her life thus far, about anyone. The Bellas make up for it though. Amy would scream Beca's name via megaphone from the top of an open air bus if given half the chance and Chloe's belief in her is so vehement that it makes bright blue eyes shine whenever she's handed the opportunity to sing Beca's praises. Something she had done quite literally on a number of occasions over the years, much to Beca's chagrin.
They talked about Chloe and if there was any specific place she wanted to teach – there wasn't – and she'd told Beca that she would go wherever the music needed her. Beca had smiled into the pillow beneath her cheek and compared her to Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2. That had thrilled Chloe to no end. Then they'd laid there quietly while the redhead whispered Lauren Hill lyrics under her breath and the melody drifted over Beca's skin like silk.
The passage of time wasn't something either of them had been paying attention to, so neither was sure how long they'd been up there when Fat Amy bellowed something about "going out for ice cream. Or pizza. Or pizza and then ice cream" up at them. Beca had mentally questioned how Amy had even known she was there – no one had seen her come in – and Chloe, ever the mind reader, had told her that Fat Amy had been in the room when she had arrived at her stake out spot. So, Beca had sat up and pushed herself off of the mattress, Chloe following suit a few seconds behind. She'd felt strange, heavy and light all at once, and had rolled her head back as if trying to work out a crick in her neck. She'd retrieved a jacket from the closet and returned to find the redhead still perched on the end of the bed, a wide smile painting her lips.
Beca had freed her hair from beneath the collar of her coat and felt the heaviness receded a little.
And then they'd gone for ice cream. All of them walking along the street like a mismatched mob of new-adults, ready to unleash themselves upon the world. Or at least Amy upon the ice cream vendor. Chloe had looped her arm through Beca's and it had stayed there until they'd been forced to part for one reason or another.
And Beca hadn't minded one bit.
But then, she rarely did when it came to Chloe.
She's still thinking about that when her last class lets out at three-fifteen the next afternoon. Why there's a difference when it's Chloe. She's had years to figure out the answer though and if she hasn't by now, then the bubbly redhead who doesn't know the meaning of 'personal space' is probably going to remain a mystery to her. Beca isn't too bothered by that, she's never been one for puzzles and the idea of wanting to pick apart a person to figure out what makes them tick has never appealed to her. Which only adds to her confusion right now because she wants to see the inner workings of this thing between her and Chloe pretty badly. She wants to know exactly what it is that the older woman wants out of this, but Beca doesn't know quite how to ask that. She isn't good with words unless she's mashing them together over a base line.
She isn't good with being trapped inside her own head either and the idea of being alone with her thoughts right now is not at all appealing. That's how she ends up crossing campus and letting herself into one of the dorm buildings.
She can smell popcorn the second she enters the hallway leading to Jesse's room. It's impressive, because his dorm is at the other end and it isn't like he keeps it filled with the stuff. Maybe he just eats it that often? Or he's dropped enough butter onto the carpet that it's soaked in and penetrated so deeply that no steam vacuum in all the world would be enough to get the smell out. Honestly, she finds the smell kind of nauseating now. She supposes being in a relationship with someone who forced you, and she uses the term loosely, to endure an abundance of overexposure to the universal 'movie-food' might do that to a person. She pushes down against the mini wave of revulsion that rocks her stomach when she reaches his door though, and brings her hand up to knock.
She has no idea what he says when the door is opened, because his mouth is so full a piece of popcorn actually falls from it and hits the toe of her shoe. Slowly, she glances down at it, then back up at him. His grin only widens and he steps aside, a silent request for her to enter. Something she thinks twice about before agreeing to.
"So, I feel like I might need to stage some kind of intervention?" She says, nose crinkling in a regretful manner as she turns to watch him close the door.
"And why is that?" Only it doesn't actually sound like that when he says it and she stares at him for a few seconds before she's able to piece his question together.
"Because I'm pretty sure that your diet is like, ninety percent popcorn right now and that's... not cool." He drops back down into his spot on the bed – identified by the laptop and popcorn bowl placement – and rolls his eyes. "Seriously, why don't you have scurvy?" He grins at her and tosses another piece into his mouth.
"Because I'm not a pirate?" Beca's tilts her head and glowers down at him. "Also, corn is a vegetable."
"I'm pretty sure when you slather it in butter and enough salt to kill a cow, it sucks out any lingering nutrients." She wanders over onto Benji's side of the room, side-stepping a huge wooden box that has rectangular slits carved out of it on all four sides and which she really hopes is part of one of his magic acts.
"Are you majoring in food studies now? Because I feel like such a dramatic shift should really have been done with my consult." Beca's eyes travel over the incredibly elaborate, and oddly passionate, Star Wars display. She wonders what a person does with so many lightsabers.
"I don't know, are you majoring in being a pain in my ass?" She tosses the question carelessly over her shoulder, hears him crunch the popcorn between his teeth a few times before he replies.
"Maybe, but I've been majoring in that for a while now." Truer words may never have been spoken. She pivots back around to face him and sees him closing the lid to his laptop.
"I can leave if you were in the middle of something." Jesse shakes his head.
"I was just watching Jaws. What's up?" Hands clasped in front of her in an uncharacteristically unsure manner, she crosses the short distance between them and sits down on the end of his bed.
"How can you watch the same thing over and over again? The ending never changes, the big shark still gets blown up." Because yes, that was one movie she had actually seen prior to having him force-feed her as many as she could stand while they were dating. Which hadn't accumulated to any great amount. His expression changes to one that is by now quite familiar; he's about to wax poetic about the struggles of a burgeoning director and studio pressure and what is one of the most iconic soundtracks of all time.
She might have heard this exact speech before. She might have heard it about fifteen times.
"You know what? Never mind." And she doesn't want to be rude but she isn't sure she can stand hearing it, again, right now.
Because this is no mere social visit. Beca has come here with a purpose. Something that she really needs to talk about, but is entirely unsure how to broach.
She isn't even sure what she and Chloe are doing, so trying to explain it to someone is probably going to be difficult, but the walk over here has made her realize that she needs to say something. There are too many thoughts swirling around inside her head at any given moment, bumping into one another and throwing her off balance, and maybe if she can get a few of them out then those ones will leave her alone. Free up some room.
"Does Benji ever play with those things?" Is what she says instead, nodding to the lightsabers above the absent roommate's bed. Jesse eyes her suspiciously before answering.
"No. The sabers are strictly a hand-free zone. You can look at them and imagine yourself playing with it, but any actual touching is a no-go unless you have special gloves." He lets the silence hang for all of five seconds before, "Beca, are you okay?" She turns her head to look at him, perhaps a little too quickly, and plasters on a smile.
"Yeah. Yeah, no, I'm totally cool." But he just keeps looking at her. Through her. Like he knows she's full of shit. Any other day, she'd be able to roll her eyes and brush the look away with a sarcastic remark, but this was why she was here. What was the point in lying when she'd come here to tell the truth? Not that she's lying, she is fine. Just a bit confused. Overwhelmed, maybe.
"Really? Because you're acting like someone slipped a teaspoon of crack into your coffee." He's exaggerating, but she realizes that she is a bit twitchy. Awkward, more so than usual. "Look, if there's something you want to talk about, then I'm here for you." He reaches over and puts his hand on her arm. It's warm and gentle, and huge against her small frame. "If there's something but you don't want to talk about, that's fine too." He leans back against his pillows and pulls the popcorn bowl onto his lap. "We can just sit here and you can ridicule me over my dietary decisions some more." He flashes her one of his mega-watt smiles, the kind of smile that had won her over in the first place, and she feels herself deflate. Her breath leaves her as a whoosh of air.
"You have to promise not to freak out." She warns, glancing askance at him. Jesse raises his eyebrows but nods in agreement and Beca licks her lips as she searches for the right words. "Okay, so, back-story. When we were at that retreat thing, Chloe kinda of..." she stumbles there, muttering a series of exhales, "she made a comment about how she regretted not experimenting more in college." It leaves her in a rush and she hopes he catches it, because she doesn't think she'll be able to convince herself to say it again. He pauses mid chew and this time only one eyebrow goes up. "But I mean, that's Chloe right? She's always saying and doing stuff like that, so I didn't really think anything of it. Until she sort of found me the other day and," she reaches around to rub her neck with her hand, "asked... me?" A beat of silence follows, a rather long one, and it stretches out far enough that Beca eventually relents and looks over at Jesse.
He doesn't look like he's freaking out. He doesn't look much like anything, actually. His face has gone blank and his gaze has turned distant. Glazed, even. Her eyes narrow and she throws her body towards him, one fist landing heavy against his shoulder.
"Ow!" He yelps, bringing his hand up to rub at the abused area, though not before depositing more popcorn into his mouth. "What the hell?!"
"You know." She settles back on the bed, shuffling around a bit so that her body is angled towards him. He opens his mouth, probably to protest, but she shoots him down with a very pointedly raised eyebrow of her own. "I kinda need you to be serious right now." He nods, but his smile is still slanting towards a smirk.
"I can be serious." She watches with a mix of caution and scepticism as he shuffles across the bed until he's sitting beside Beca, his back against the wall, opposite her shoulder. He brings the popcorn with him. "Okay. So, Chloe came to you and asked you to experiment. With her. Sexually." Beca cringes and rolls her eyes.
"Well, she wasn't talking about science." She brushes the end of her nose with the knuckle of her index finger. The motion is a little too quick, too jerky, it betrays her unease. Which is really annoying for someone like her. Someone who likes to play their cards close to their chest and reveal as little as possible about themselves. She doesn't like having ticks or tells or anything that can give anything about her away. It's infuriating, but it's also something she's had to get used to. Because Chloe is far too astute for her own good and Jesse is almost as bad.
"Which is good, because you'd be zero use there." She throws him a sarcastic laugh and then the finger. "What are you looking to get out of me here, Becs? Did you want to just get this off your chest or are you actually asking me for advice?" He makes it sound like the latter would be the most touching, unexpected thing anyone has ever asked of him. It makes her want to punch him again.
"Dude I swear, if you're not going to-"
"I am being serious!" He cuts her off with a chuckle and bumps their shoulders together. "You've just got to give me some feedback." The thing is, she doesn't really know why she's come to Jesse with this. He's her friend, yes, probably her best friend besides Chloe – but jesus, don't tell him that – and she knows he'll never judge her for anything, but what is she actually expecting him to say? What does she want him to say? He's watching her patiently as she chews away on her lower lip like she's digging there for the answer. "Are we talking hand-holding and a little bit of making out, or under the sweater, over the bra action?" She covers her face with her hands and groans loudly into them. "Or like... is she wanting all four bases covered?"
"I don't know." It's muffled, but he catches it, and he rubs at the bridge of his nose while he thinks on which metaphor to use next. In a flurry of motion, Beca throws her hands down. "Am I insane for agreeing?" He blinks at her in surprise.
"You agreed?" And she stares right back, steely blue eyes wide.
"Well, yeah. I mean," her brow creases slightly, "we're like, really good friends and it's not, it isn't like, oh my god, should I have said no?" Panic. Beca isn't as familiar as some with that particular feeling, she's pretty laid back when it comes to most things, but it grips her pretty fiercely in that second. Shakes her like a dog with a chew toy. "Oh my god." She drags a deep breath in through parted lips and between clenched teeth. "Was that just a really dumb thing for me to do?" Jesse's eyes seem to have somehow gotten rounder the longer her looks at her and she's almost positive she sees him physically shake it off before he speaks.
"Beca, chill. I didn't say that, I was just surprised." His gaze is imploring and she rolls her shoulders, forcing herself to try and relax. He takes a few seconds to gather his thoughts, looking around his room and letting his eyes land on everything that isn't Beca. She can tell by the way he's shifting that he's thinking something, something specific that he doesn't quite know how to say, and it makes her feel jittery. She brings her hands together and toys with her fingers to give herself something to do. She hates waiting. She hates silence, though more specifically the kind of empty silence that's spent waiting for someone to say something or something to happen. He parts his lips and she sees his brow furrow ever so slightly before he speaks. "Why?" The question, or maybe the way he says it, rubs her the wrong way and she feels her hackles rise along her spine. This wasn't what he was supposed to be doing.
"What do you mean, why? I just told you." Her tone is biting and argumentative, which is really only a ninety-degree turn from the way she usually sounds, but he bristles against it regardless of whether or not he's used to it by now.
"That's not what I'm asking." He glances sidelong at her and she doesn't know what to make of his expression. It's weirdly guarded or withdrawn, neither of which she's accustomed to seeing when it comes to Jesse. He's always so wildly open about how he feels about everything, even if he isn't actually talking about it, and she realizes that he's kind of like Chloe in that regard. He reaches around to the back of his head and rubs his palm over the short, prickly hair at the nape of his neck. "Did you agree just because Chloe asked you? Or because this is something you want to do?" Her face twists into a look of utterly frustrated confusion.
"What are you... dude, that's, that's like the exact same thing."
"It really isn't." She wants to throttle him.
"I want to because she asked me, jackass. Because we're friends." Jesse seems to contemplate her words for all of three seconds before he shrugs his shoulders and dips his hand into the popcorn bowl for the millionth time.
"Alright, you're friends, that's cool. Benji and I are friends too though and if he asked me something like that out of the blue, I'd have to at least think about it for a few days. Then I'd probably say no-" She interrupts him with a guttural sound she brings up from low in her throat.
"You're a guy though." He can tell by the way she says it that she means for that to be the end, like that says it all, and so he waits. With an exaggerated eye roll, she says, "It'd be different for you." He's strangely offended by the implication.
"Would it?" And he's got that damn eyebrow raised again. Beca glares at it, silently devising a plan to break into his room in the dead of night and shave it off while he's asleep. "Because Benji and I are really good friends too." Unable to hold herself still any longer, Beca lurches to her feet and throws an arm back out towards him.
"But guys are weird about this stuff." She says and she genuinely doesn't understand why he's being so difficult about this. All he had to do was tell her she hadn't made some stupidly huge mistake entering into this thing with Chloe. That once the redhead had it out of her system, things would revert back to their usual brand of normal and they'd always have something that bonded them outside of the Bellas. In addition to being 'a friend alongside whom she took the a cappella world by storm' Beca would also be 'that really awesome friend that did something pretty cool for her when they were in college'. She isn't sure why the distinction is important but knows, unequivocally, that it is.
"You're pretty weird about stuff too, Bec." Jesse points out gently. He shrugs his shoulders and she stops pacing back and forth in front of him. He looks almost guilty, but she doesn't get a chance to wonder about what he's going to say before it's leaving his mouth. "You were never really that into me." And it hits her like a slap, sharp and stinging against the side of her face. A familiar anger bubbles beneath the surface, rising high enough to turn her cheeks red and leak out into the room.
"Jesus Jesse!" Disbelief taints the words like a metallic tang on her tongue and she does her best to ignore the way his face has crumpled into an expression of remorse. Because of course he didn't mean it that way, but it's struck a nerve regardless. "You aren't God's gift to women!" At that he visibly recoils, but the movement is largely lost in her periphery as she stalks towards the door and throws it open. It slams with ease behind her and her legs may be shorter than the average, but they do a really good job of taking her away from places she doesn't want to be.
She makes it halfway down the hallway before she stops dead, an anvil of guilt dropping right into her stomach and rooting her to the spot like a Looney Tunes' character. She tips her head back and stares up at the ceiling for a five count before she turns around. Her head drops down hard against the door and she winces at the thudding sound it makes. A heartbeat later it's being cracked open and she stares morosely up at Jesse.
"I'm sorry. I'm an asshole." It's an ever-developing skill Beca has found, this whole 'people' thing. How to talk and act around them when you don't actually want them to just leave you the hell alone, which has been something she's had to get used to in and of itself. She's still prone to snapping, probably because of that. It's hard to un-train yourself of a lifelong habit, but these days she doesn't freeze up when he pulls her in for her hug and instead returns it, pressing her head into his chest. And then because he knows her like he does, knows that she's done talking for right now, he turns her around by the shoulders and sends her back down the hallway with a pat to her backside.
"You need to talk to Chloe." He calls after her and Beca releases a breath she feels like she's been holding for days.
Yes. Yes she does.