It never occurred to you that you might not be the protagonist, the one that everyone cheers for. You try your best to be a good man, someone nice, caring, friendly, funny, charming, and cute. Certainly you think you're not a bad catch, but if a girl didn't want you, you would never force her to do anything that she didn't want to. It's a bitter feeling then, when you seriously begin to doubt and consider that maybe you're not the romantic lead for Beca. Maybe she really doesn't want you at all in the end.
Benji's voice breaks you out of your reverie, his clear and bright tones striking against the darkness you feel within. You smile for the first time today, because once again Benji's managed to unintentionally get on the same wavelength as you.
It's Regionals and your palms are sweaty, but knowing that you have the Treblemakers' full support helps a bit. The Barden Bellas have gone first with an excellent mash-up, as expected, in fact, you've been betting on it. It's not that you want to beat the Bellas (well yes, that too), it's more that you want a chance to let Beca know how you feel. Music can get to her in a way that your words can't.
A thunderous applause follows the Bellas' performance, and you hear the announcers talking, "John, those girls were smoking tonight!"
"Well, Gail, it must be those skirts."
Beca passes you, sweaty and exhilarated, and offers a smile with a quick, "Good luck!"
"Thanks," your voice is small and quiet. The Treblemakers take their places on stage, and you focus your energy on concentrating on the song as you try to stop yourself from searching the audience for Beca.
The beat and bass starts, Benji's humming high above the rest of the voices. Then you grip the microphone tightly as your voice comes out a whisper, "I come home in the morning light."
Benji is by your side in an instant, his hand comforting against your shoulder, joining in to help build your confidence up, "My mother says when you gonna live your life right? Oh mother dear we're not the fortunate ones. No mother dear we're not the fortunate ones." Your voices mix together and harmonize perfectly.
Now, your eyes now search out Beca's eyes in the crowd. "And girls just wanna have fun. Oh, girls just wanna have fun." She notices, of course, that you're staring right at her. "Oh girls just wanna have fun. Yeah girls just wanna have-"
"That's all they really want!" The rest of the Treblemakers have joined in with you now, their voices blending softly and simply. "That's all they really want! That's all they really want!"
As you fade to background and let Benji to take the lead, you notice Beca has torn her eyes away from the stage, and she's looking at the girl next to her. Her eyes trail up to Chloe's easy smile and bright eyes that are shining so blue that you can see it from the stage. Then as Beca's hand settles on Chloe's wrist, you think maybe it's not fun that Beca's been searching for all this time. Girls don't just wanna have fun. Maybe, they just want to get by with as little heartbreak as possible.
Your next lines come out a little too easy, "Some boys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world." You never wanted to be the antagonist, though. "I want to be the one to walk in the sun." And you know what you're meant to do.
"Oh girls just wanna have fun." When the lights cut off and the stage goes black, you feel very alone for the first time ever. The rushing of your fellow Treblemakers congratulating each other, the deafening approval from the audience, the exclamations of excitement from the announcers, all blur around you. This is what it feels to lose. To really lose.
And yet, the Treblemakers beat the Bellas out for first place at Regionals.
"The intricate mash-up the Bellas performed was wonderfully sophisticated and exciting, but the Treblemakers, oh the Treblemakers! Their version of Cyndi Lauper's upbeat song was completely transformed into something so emotional and simple. They've turned a song about free spirited girls into a sad ballad about girls with commitment issues without changing the lyrics. You can really feel the heartbreak and longing."
"Yes indeed, Gail. Girls just can't quite capture deep emotions that well!"
You're walking Beca back to her dorm in an uneasy silence.
"Great job, you guys were amazing."
You laugh and mumble, "Thanks."
"No matter what I do, I seem to hurt you, Jesse," she's saying, her hair tossing and flying in the wind.
"I've been selfish this whole time. If you want to have fun, then you should. College should be enjoyable."
Beca's hand flies up to her face to massage her jaw, "Not if it hurts you. I couldn't do that to a friend."
The word friend burns itself into you, "I just wanna know, why Chloe?"
"What do you mean?"
It's difficult to discern what she's thinking with her emotionless mask pulled so tightly against her face. "You said you didn't want a relationship, but you do with her. You just don't want it with me."
"Jesse," her face breaks into an open amusement that you can't wrap your head around. "Chloe and I aren't, like, we aren't a thing, you know?"
"She likes you a lot, and you haven't dumped her aside yet," you speak slowly as if you were talking to a toddler. "Don't you know what that means?"
"It doesn't mean anything," she's saying, and it's more to herself really. "We have a good time. That's it."
You're laughing now, but it's not genuine, it's more out of disbelief, "You can't even see it, Beca. Her eyes when they look at you, your expression when she says something funny. I've been so blind all this time, but you're worse off than me."
"Jesse, you're just trying to convince yourself that I'm in love with her so that you can feel like you're justified in getting over me," Beca says and she's pegged you down quite well. If she's perceptive enough to figure that out about you, why can't she see what's right in front of her?
"I never said you were in love with her," you point out, "I didn't mention love at all."
Her expression goes dark and closes off, clearly unwillingly to talk about this further. She stops in her tracks, crossing her arms defensively, "Yeah, you did." Then those hazel eyes soften and she shakes her head.
"How much longer are you going to lie to yourself?"
"It doesn't change anything, Jesse. I care about her too much to fuck this up," she's looking at the ground. It should hurt that she likes someone else, but you're just so glad she's finally being honest with you.
"So why not me?" You just need to know what you've done wrong.
Beca looks up at you, stormy expression and a quirked mouth, "You both make me happy." She struggles to say the next bit, as if testing the words on her tongue, "But she makes me feel alive."
"Okay, I think I get it now," you say, and it's true, you do. "In my head, I was the male lead, the one who gets the female lead, you. But it's unfair to expect that from anyone. What I really want is for you to be happy." It's difficult for you to say it all, but in the end, you're sure you mean it. "Chloe is right for you. She's the kind of person who will try her best to never hurt you."
"No, Jesse," she shakes her head adamantly. "No one is right for me, because I can't," she waves her hands in the air, at a loss for words to explain. "I just can't even imagine it. What it means, what it requires, all that. I just can't."
"Whatever floats your boat, then," you offer her your hand, and the two of you walk the rest of the way in relative silence.
It never fully leaves your mind though. You're a sucker for happy endings, what can you say? Somewhere deep inside, you know it's because you're still in love with Beca, and that's why you want her happiness so much. Well, you get your chance at the Semifinals.
The Bellas snatch up first this time, but both groups still advance. Just as the Treblemakers are pulling out of the parking lot you spot a mass of red hair leaning down to check an obviously flat tire. So you roll down your window and call out, "Need a ride, Chloe?"
"That would be amazing," her face breaks into a weary smile.
It should be awkward, right? But Chloe's just an amazing person, and she makes your doubt fade away so easily, you don't even notice it. You can understand why Beca's in love with her, really. She even manages to invite Benji into the conversation effortlessly, which is, from personal experience, not a simple task. The other Treblemakers don't really know what to make of her, beautiful and the supposed "enemy", and not too long ago you would've felt like that as well.
Maybe you feel sorry for her, or maybe you feel a connection to her; you've both fallen for this sophisticated, emotionally-stunted girl that runs away from relationships and feelings. That's probably what causes you to invite her for a drink at the local Starbucks.
"So how does it feel to lose to the Bellas again?" Her tone is teasing as she sips her hot chocolate, a fitting drink for her, sweet and warm.
"Not so bad, 'cause I know we'll crush you guys at the Finals," you reply with fake arrogance and the two of you chuckle. Everything just flows naturally with her, like she is the conductor and the rest of you are the symphony, following her every direction and movement.
"I never apologized to you," Chloe's voice takes on an odd quality, something like regret.
"I've been flaunting around whatever it is I have with Beca," her light eyes are downcast, unable to meet yours. "There's probably nothing that hurts more than that for you."
It's odd to hear her apologize. At one point you would've taken it, cherished it even, and taken it as a sign that you were doing the right thing waiting for Beca. "No, you've helped me really."
"Let's take a walk," you gesture towards the door. "My legs are falling asleep." After the two of you scramble out, running out into the chilly night air, you continue, "She likes you a lot, you know?"
"Yeah, I mean we're best friends."
"No, I mean, she really likes you," your tongue trips up and you stumble for your words. "Like she loves you."
"It doesn't matter," Chloe's eyes dull a moment, the blue glossing over like ice, and it's sad to see eyes that usually shine so bright have the light snuffed out of them. "We're fine how we are. I'm not…I'm not going to ever be more than the over-friendly bestie."
And why the hell not?
You don't get a chance to ask her though, because at that moment, as you two cross the street, a car rams into her side, causing her to fall heavily against you and then to the ground with a crack. While the man driving the car climbs out in a panic, calling for an ambulance, you're surprising calm and collected. You carry Chloe to the side as she bites her lip hard, to keep from yelling out. The ambulance finally arrives and takes the girl away, as you wander around aimlessly.
As the man who hit her insists you hitch a ride with him to this hospital you take a detached look at your own phone, and you know this is it. This is your chance to make things right.
And so you call Beca.
After the pandemonium's died down, and you've left Chloe at the hospital with Beca, you head back to your dorm. And the only constant in your life is there, Benji, with warm and comforting arms, and a crooked smile.
"Thanks, man," you say.
"Why'd you do it?"
You look at him with a forlorn expression, "Because I'm just a subplot in her story."
Benji looks at you unflinchingly, "I think you're looking at it wrong. Maybe it's not that you're not a main character in Beca's story, maybe it's that she isn't a main character in yours."
His words make it all click in your brain. You finally understand it now.
"You're right, Benji."
He just smiles.
It doesn't matter what the audience likes, or wants. Because you have your own story and it's just about you. And you? You can live with that.
As Chloe and Beca work on the choreography and the details of the mash-ups for the Bellas, they grow close in a way neither of them expected. Like Aubrey, the brunette gets stressed under the pressure of leading the Bellas, except it's not a redemption she seeks, but rather a way to prove that they're not a fluke. That they can win the championships twice in a row because they are good. Beca frays by the edges, her hair untamed and greasy, her eyes wild and dark bags lay underneath. There are even a few times she wears the same T-shirt two days in a row. In these panicked instances, Chloe rushes to her side, a gentle touch to the back and a whispered insurance in her ear. The returning smile brings a matching one to her face. It's a comfortable give and take routine for them.
Then some nights the two of them will lay curled in bed, too tired to do anything else but splay their limbs across each other. Those are the moments that Chloe cherishes the most, the ones where Beca unwittingly lets down her guard and a different side is shown. Surprisingly, she is tough and soft, unforgiving yet yielding, bitter but also loving. The contradictions make for a blurry outline, but Chloe thinks that her understanding of the other girl is beginning to gain detail and substance.
On one such night, they lie in bed whispering about the upcoming Semifinals, and the conversation takes a turn that is unexpected, but not unwelcome.
Beca's fingers cold and delicate trace her forehead, sweeping unruly strands of her hair out of the way, "Where'd you get this scar from?" Her thumb swipes reassuringly over the line, which sends a jolt to Chloe's heart.
"Snowboarding," the reply is automatic, something she's always answered.
Chloe chuckles, her hand coming up to fist tightly in the brunette's loose shirt, "That makes me sound clumsy."
"Well how'd it happen?" The inquisitive look from the older girl prompts Beca to elaborate, "I like knowing these things about you." The why behind that is too scary to consider.
"I was afraid to go down the hill," Chloe buries her nose into Beca's neck, her words becoming muffled. "It was high up and I'd never been snowboarding before."
"I can't imagine you scared of anything," the brunette tightens her embrace around the other girl. "You're the most fearless person I've ever met."
"I was little," she defends teasingly. "But my older brother thought I just needed some encouragement. It wasn't out of malice, he just gave me a little push and I slipped sideways and hit my head on the board."
"Oh, he definitely felt terrible about it. He was bawling the whole time I was getting stitches." The two girls share a laugh. "But I guess I realized maybe I wouldn't have gotten the scar if I had been brave enough to give myself the push."
"Or maybe you'd have hurt yourself more," Beca's voice is light and joking, but Chloe thinks it perfectly describes their two contrasting mindsets.
"We went snowboarding again the next year and I went down the hill by myself," Chloe whispers, trailing kisses under Beca's jaw. "It was worth the risk."
Neither of them says anything for a long time, they just lay there as sleepiness takes a hold of them. As Chloe's eyes flutter shut she swears she hears Beca whisper under her breath, "I just never want to give you any scars."
It's in this moment that Chloe realizes she can't trick herself anymore into believing that this is nothing. This is something, she's not sure what, but it's something because she's fallen for Beca. Fallen in a way that is scarier than that first time at the top of that hill.
Semifinals is exhilarating, the crowd's excitement sweeping Chloe off her feet as she gets lost in the pulsing and yelling people. She finds herself screaming and cheering with the rest of them. The incredible feeling of being immersed in music is only disrupted when she finds her tire flat. It has the potential of making tonight a bad night, but luckily Jesse offers her a ride in the big Treblemakers' bus.
Afterwards, the two of them head for a drink and as they talk about Beca on the walk back to campus, Chloe feels remorse. She's basically taken away all of Beca's affections from him because she's been selfish and greedy. Therefore it must be Karma when, as they're crossing a street, a car without its headlights on speeds towards her, and there's no time to react before it has ran into her side.
It's actually not as bad as she initially thought. Sure her arm is bent at an awkward angle, but she's broken bones before. The shock slowly fades away and the pain is searing up her arm, and she buries her face into Jesse's shirt, trying to stifle her sobs. Vaguely, she hears him muttering in her ear, but she's not really sure what exactly it is.
Only as the paramedics arrive and are taking her away to the hospital does she think she knows what he was trying to say.
I'm the ending, you're the beginning.
He knows too, then, that Beca is fated to end up with him. Chloe is just what she needs to start out with. For some reason this time when the redhead thinks of this, it hurts more than the physical pain in her arm.
Honestly, it's just a broken arm. Really, Chloe's a bit embarrassed that the guy overreacted, she's not hurt other than that. The x-rays are the most painful part, as she has to move her arm a lot, but the doctor tells her she's lucky and something about not needing surgery. She's released from the hospital after they finish putting a cast on her arm. To her surprise, Beca is in the waiting room pacing and wringing her hands when Chloe walks out into the lobby.
"You're okay?" In a flash, the brunette is by her side, examining her body for damage. "Your arm?"
"I broke it, but I'm fine," Chloe wants to laugh, but the panic in the other girl's eyes stops her.
"Thank God," a whoosh of air escapes Beca as she holds her chest, as if she's barely standing up. "I was so fucking worried."
"I'm really fine, Beca."
"Jesse made it out like you were dying," her thumb jabs over her shoulder towards the man in question. Chloe's eyes find his, and she's surprised to see him sheepishly shoving his hands into his pockets. "I thought you were dying. I thought, maybe-"
The usually tough girl is close to tears, and Chloe can't bear to see her cry, so she hugs her awkwardly with her unbroken arm. "Hey, it's fine, I'm okay."
Beca leans forward and kisses her full on the lips in front of everyone in the lobby. It's not that people are staring (well a couple of college guys are gawking, but other than that, no one's really noticed), it's the fact that she's kissed her in public and they're both sober.
"I love you," it's such a fast whisper that Chloe almost doesn't catch it. "I really do." The redhead is so shocked she isn't able to reply. "Please, please say it back."
The neediness and vulnerability in Beca's voice spurs her to action, "Of course I do. Of course I love you. You should never doubt that."
"I'm scared I'll hurt you, or that you'll hurt me," this is it, where Beca breaks things off, right? "But when I thought maybe you were dying, I felt like you were slipping through my fingers. And I'm scared of relationships and love and all that. And even more, I'm scared of losing you. But the worst thing possible is when I imagine being without you. I know I can't do that."
Chloe's breathe catches in her throat and she doesn't know what to say. So she directs her attention towards Jesse and sees his eyes, deep and morose, and she understands what he's done. The biggest sacrifice he can give, and Chloe knows that she would never be able to do that. That no matter what she does with her life, she'll never measure up to Jesse in her own mind.
Like her brother, Jesse saw Beca at the top of the hill, too afraid to take the plunge, and so he gave her a gentle nudge. But unlike her brother, he must know that Beca will never come back up that hill. Never come back up to him. He's given her his part, he's given her the chance to be the star.
As her lips find Beca's again and again, she can't help but think that the glare of the spotlight is soothing as it illuminates her, instead of burning and scalding as she had imagined it would be.
"Take me home, then."
When she looks back towards Jesse, she sees him mouthing the words again. I'm just the ending, you're the beginning. And she understands. He signifies the ending of a relationship for Beca, and she represents the beginning. It's not that he's giving Beca away (she's not an object, so it's not possible), it's that he's reassuring her that she's not a side story. She's more than that.
Beca takes Chloe back to the redhead's apartment where she dotes on her, and feeds her, waving the spoon around ridiculously. Maybe she should mind, but Chloe can only think about how happy she is. How incredible this has all been. How incredible it is that they can have fun with feelings.
When she tells Beca, "You have changed my universe forever. And I love you for that," it's the most genuine thing she's ever said.
Later, as Chloe lays on her uninjured side with her face buried in Beca's embrace she's not worried about subplots, or main characters, or plot devices. Her fingers trace over Beca's bare stomach as she writes her own story where anything is possible.
And Chloe's okay with that. More than okay with that, in fact.
A/N: Thank you again to everyone who has read/reviewed/favorited/followed this story! You are all the best inspiration I could ask for. Please leave a review if it should suit you.
Also, I'm on tumblr: amiphobic . tumblr . com. If you're curious, in the "FF Extras" section there's a link to the song, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" covered by the Maine, which is what the Treblemakers' performance was based on. Thanks for sticking with me! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask me on Tumblr/FF.