They Stumble That Run Fast

Summary: Chloe is jealous. All she needs to realize it is a passionate kiss in a crowded theater in the wake of a fierce a cappella competition.

A/N: Prompt from Anonymous. Apparently my brain wants to turn this into a series. I'm not sure of how long it will be but I have a plot mapped out in my head. I guess we'll have to see!

[Part 1]

In spite of the blinding lights cast on-stage, the audience who got on their feet to clap and cheer the Finals winners enthusiastically and the wild arm flailing of her fellow Bellas, Chloe sees it. She does not just accidentally catch sight of it before shifting her gaze; she stares dead-on for an amount of time that brushes the line of inadequate. There, in the middle of the left row, Beca has found Jesse. She has run up to him just like in a movie's ending. A dreary, corny and oh-so fucking predictable ending where there are winners and losers. Having to witness their attached lips strikes Chloe just as a full-blown slap would.

She's the loser.

Something stirs in the pit of her stomach; a burning rage or a devastating sadness, or perhaps a bit of both. She tells herself she should not be feeling that way; after all, she has no right to. But as a universal rule concerning matters of the heart, logic automatically gives way to feelings.

Feelings aren't something rational. Not only are they not tangible, they are fickle and overpowering. At times, a dash of them can fill you to the rim while an overload makes you feel alone, and so very lonely. Other times, it's the complete opposite. And you don't know where you are. And perhaps it's supposed to make you feel that way; throw you off and split the earth below your feet, snatch your heart and rip it to shreds.

Times moves in slow motion. Chloe hears the crowd roaring, she sees the confetti snowing over her and littering the floor in which they danced only moments ago. She feels Aubrey's arms enfolding her numb chest and instinctively brings a hand to her friend's forearm. All of this has had the time to happen, but Chloe's attention is still enraptured by the left row. By the girl who chose the Hollywood ending.

A celebratory party is roughly organized by both the Bellas and the Treblemakers. "Bumper bailed. Rules don't apply anymore," was Jesse's first call as the freshly appointed Trebles leader. Because old habits die hard, they opt for the campus pool—which in the entirety of Chloe's time at Barden has never actually been filled with water—to throw their impromptu party.

The music is loud. Too loud. In fact, it is blasting in Chloe's ears in a way that drives her mad. She isn't even in the mood to get wasted, taking nothing but a tiny sip from the red solo cup that Cynthia-Rose hands her good-heartedly.

"You ok, there?" the fellow Bella probes, looking genuinely concerned.

She hasn't even got the time to make up some terrible lie that Aubrey chimes in, driving Cynthia-Rose away with a sweep of the hand.

"I need to talk to her a minute if you don't mind."

Chloe does not protest when her lifelong best friend drops next to her on the edge of the pool, her legs dangling limply alongside the redhead's.

"Figured you'd be a bit more thrilled to have won a competition that has literally been our lives for two years," she remarks sardonically.

Chloe smiles for a split second at the realization that indeed, this should be the best night of both their lives while it feels like everything but. "I never thought about what actually winning this thing meant," she shrugs. "You always overestimate your dreams, like they're going to solve everything." By that, she is unsure of what she means because she is actually freaking thrilled and proud to have won the a cappella finals, and really relieved to see that her efforts led her exactly where she wanted to be. Suddenly, her mood swings strike her as childish and egotistic, and she wishes nothing more than to backtrack.

"What's really eating you?"

She has already opened her mouth, but has stopped herself and the only thing that crawls out from her throat is a distraught croak. Jesse and Beca have started making out in the bleachers across from them, and this is the most loose that she's ever seen Beca. A bubbling loathing breeds within Chloe to the thought that Jesse has offered her one too many beers for exactly this purpose. The mere idea that he considers the girl his disgusts her. She takes several gulps of her cup, and to Aubrey's surprise, she jumps down from the edge of the pool and joins the crowd on the makeshift dance floor below.

She was hoping for the music to drown her—and perhaps make her pass out right in the middle of the crowd—or for the tightly crammed bodies to suffocate her so that her mind would blur. She partly succeeds. From the pit, she cannot see Beca anymore. She doesn't see Aubrey or Cynthia-Rose or Fat Amy, or anyone that reminds her of the Bellas. She wants to dance the night away, have the time of her life and perhaps wake up in someone else's bed by morning. She doesn't really care.

By midnight, she's wasted. She's the sparkly good-as-new Chloe again. Fat Amy has challenged her to down shots with her, so now she's unabashedly belting out random song lyrics with the girls and hugging whoever steps in her proximity. And she's happy. Or so she tells herself.

That is until the familiar silhouette she'd been ogling at the beginning of the night approaches the little happiness bubble she's built, threatening to blow it up.

"Having fun?" Beca asks, her trademark smirk on the lips. It's the one she uses when she's not a hundred percent sure she's welcome. She's right to use it, Chloe thinks.

But she giggles like an idiot nonetheless, perhaps because the alcohol has flooded her veins and she is not really herself anymore.

"Definitely a night to remember," the brunette continues in the slightly sarcastic tone she masters so well—because Beca still won't let go of it—while wholly unaware of her friend's inner struggles.

"Yeah," Chloe answers casually. Too casually. "Where's Jesse?"

It's almost unnerving that Beca shrugs like it's her last concern in the world. Her eyes lazily scan the premises, clutching the cup she was holding. When she finds him playing beer pong with Donald, Unicycle and Benji, she points with her available hand. "There. Poor Benji hasn't got a clue. He's in for a hell of a hangover," she chuckles.

When her eyes slip back to Chloe, with her dilated pupils, her crimson cheeks, and her intoxicated bliss, she adds, "...And so are you. How many drinks have you had?"

To this, Chloe chortles in self-derision, but also largely in drunkenness, "Too many."

"How many fingers?"

Beca presents her hand with three fingers showing for Chloe to count which she snatch playfully. "Shut up!" They giggle and it's nice to feel like everything is normal for a change, however fleeting the sensation might be.

"But seriously, are you going to be ok?"

Right there, Chloe cannot be more grateful that she is pissing drunk. Because with the slight taste of bile tickling her throat, the ridiculously few hours of sleep she's had last night because of insomnia, and the fact that Beca still hasn't claimed her hand back from Chloe's grip, she knows that she would have broken down. And nothing, absolutely nothing in this fucking world, could've made her stop.

When Aubrey cautiously closes the door to their dorm, it is around 3:00 am. Carrying her shoes in her hands, she attempts to tiptoe her way to her bed and given the amount of alcohol her liver is trying to dilute, even putting a foot in front of the other is no easy feat. Chloe stirs from her inebriated slumber just long enough to hear her friend's soft weepings as she pulls the covers above her head.