Rating: PG-13, for language
Notes: This turned out way too long, wow (this is at least 10,000 words, and I have no idea how that happened). This was supposed to be just some mindless fluff that developed a story line on its own. I underestimated my Jesse/Beca feels, apparently.
Also, I'm still trying to nail both their voices, forgive me. Anyway. Sort of AU, I guess?
Beca hates a lot of things about Jesse Swanson.
She hates how he's always in her dorm room.
It's like, c'mon, she already has a bitch of roommate to deal with, she doesn't really need his annoying ass in here, too. She hates it, how he always shows up at the worst times – seriously, he's the Guy With The Most Horrible Timing In The World – like when she's busy making a new mix, or sleeping in the middle of the day, or skipping classes she couldn't care less about, or not making papers she should've handed in days ago.
He doesn't even knock like any normal person would; he thinks he has free rein to barge in whenever he wants, like they're friends. Okay, so maybe they are, and maybe they banter a lot and hang out outside of the radio station after their respective rehearsals – but she doesn't think they're that close that he can just show up and invade her personal space anytime he wants to, armed with his laptop and bags of microwavable popcorn and DVDs. He doesn't even listen to her complaints; usually he just smiles at her like an idiot until she's done spewing dry insults, then plays whatever movie he's brought that she's never seen, and it's annoying beyond belief.
She tells him as much one day when he's nestled comfortably among her pillows and blankets, his laptop balanced precariously on his knees. "You are always here."
He waits for Rhett Butler to finish his sentence, mouthing cheerfully along ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn") before he looks up at her, a bit of popcorn sticking to the corner of his same annoying grin. "So you do notice my presence. I'm flattered, Beca."
"Seriously," she says, deadpan. "Always here. Always."
He shrugs, slaps a finger on the spacebar to pause the movie. "Well, the air conditioning's better in the girls' dorms."
"Don't you have, like, someone else to bother? Is Benji fed up with you, too?"
"I'm actually doing this for your benefit, Beca. I know you're always insanely bored because you have no concept of fun on a daily basis, so I come here to bestow you with the pleasure of my company."
She scoffs and stands to hit him with one of the big-ass pillows he brought her last week, leaving the new mix she's working on open on her computer. "Really? 'Cause I was thinking the opposite. I think you come here to enjoy my super fun company."
"Beca, please," Jesse says, popping some kernels into his mouth and jokingly rolling his eyes at her, "don't flatter yourself."
She can't help it; he looks so stupid, with popcorn bits sticking to his cheek, and she kind of laughs a little. He catches her wrist in his hand and tugs until she's almost falling over him on the bed, and she braces her hands on his surprisingly strong chest to catch her balance. "Jesse! God!"
Jesse completely misses the point, though. "C'mere and watch the rest of this movie with me. That's the whole point of moviecation, you know."
"Yeah, but you seem to forget that I don't care about moviecation," she grumbles as she sits reluctantly on the bed, and he just tugs her closer to him, like it's second nature or something, like it's totally natural to have his skin touching hers.
"That's why I brought over some Clark Gable eye candy, if that's what you're into," Jesse says, then throws the blanket over both of them and adjusts his computer more comfortably on his lap. "Now be quiet. This is one of the greatest movies ever made, and I want you to pay attention."
"I'll probably fall asleep after fifteen minutes," she tells him, but she settles down in between her big-ass pillows, anyway.
She hates his DVD collection.
It's not his movies she hates, if she really thinks about it – she doesn't hate movies, she just thinks they're boring as fuck and nothing has ever held her attention for more than an hour. So even if stuff like Mean Girls 2 – which she didn't even know existed before he tried to get her to watch it once upon a time – and Showgirls are in his collection, she doesn't really care, because she's indifferent to them. All movies are so goddamn boring to her; it's actually kind of amazing how that is.
But no, she absolutely hates how he's so freaking anal about his DVD collection. He treats it like a shrine of sorts, like some very valuable treasure, and he even has an Excel file on his computer that lists all his movies, the date he's watched them, and the rating he's given them.
She doesn't even know why she's friends with this dork.
"You are so weird," she says as she scans his database with partially-disguised interest. "God, it's even in alphabetical order. No, wait – first it's according to genre, then according to year, and then in alphabetical order. Wow."
"So I categorize everything; I like order in my life, Beca," he says in a half-offended tone.
"I'm surprised you didn't categorize according to, like, director or something."
"You know, that's not a bad idea," Jesse muses, complete with a finger to the chin, then starts scrutinizing his Excel list and making a separate category for "director."
She plants her head on his desk and groans loudly to his equally loud laughter.
She hates how he knows her schedule.
She has no idea how he got a hold of it because she sure didn't tell him, but he knows when her world history lecture ends and in which building it is ("My English Lit class is just in the next building," he'd explained when she'd first found him waiting outside the building with his laptop). He knows at which corner of the library she prefers to cram her papers (he's snuck up on her more than once as she's banging on her keyboard at a fast, angry pace, shoving his hand away when he tries to find the ticklish area under her ribs). He knows what time Bella rehearsals end (she's found him lurking outside the auditorium at least once a week, much to Aubrey's annoyance). He knows where her favorite coffee-slash-study place is on campus (buys her tall lattes and argues one-sidedly with her about the good and bad points about the films she's fallen asleep on during moviecation nights). He knows which spot on the quad she claims as hers at 2PM on Tuesdays and Fridays when she's skipping class (drops by with a towel and a backpack full of juice pouches; sprawls out on his chest, watching movies on his laptop while she makes mixes, his arm brushing against her thigh).
"Don't you have class or something?"
"Nope," he replies, not even lifting his eyes from his laptop screen.
"No Treble rehearsal?"
"Even if there was, I wouldn't be telling the enemy."
She rolls her eyes. "How many times do I have to tell you that I couldn't care less about going to the ICCAs?"
"You tell yourself that, sure," he nods. "Also, if I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to get rid of me or something."
"Of course I'm not," she says, but her sarcasm is lost when he beams up at her like he's actually touched or something, then shushes her because "Spock's mom is about to die, don't interrupt!"
She smiles a little to herself as she turns back to her mix, his fingers tapping out the beat to the Star Trek anthem on her thigh.
She hates how he thinks of his life as a big, elaborate movie.
"There are no happy endings to life, you know," she tells him as she tries to reach a particularly high shelf to place the newly restacked CDs.
"Sure, there is," he says in a lazy drawl, reaching up and replacing the CDs for her. "Damn, you are tiny."
"My height is irrelevant in this discussion."
"I'm not saying it's a bad thing," Jesse says. "It's actually kind of cute how you're only, what, four feet tall?"
"I hate you, and please don't ever use that word to describe me ever again."
"What's wrong with being called cute?"
"Cute is something you call your dog or…old people. Not a nineteen-year-old girl."
"Well, since you said please."
They're quiet for a few minutes, then she says, "Seriously, though. Life isn't like one of your movies. There are no happy endings to everything. If there were, I would be in L.A. right now instead of standing around in some dark, dinky room stacking CDs with the biggest geek known to mankind."
"Hey, now," he laughs good-naturedly.
"I love how you think I'm kidding."
"This is just like a prelude, Beca," he says, smiling at her from across the room where he's going through a new crate of CDs. "Like a prologue. We're not at the end of the story yet. There's still time to do stuff, fix things. Make sure you get that happy ending instead of just standing around waiting for it to happen."
She goes over that as she walks over to lend him a hand, watching his face and the sincerity in his eyes. He kinda does have a point, not that she'd ever mention that to him and give him the satisfaction.
"That's why I'm spending so much time trying to woo you," he says, effectively breaking the small amount of respect she's just starting to build for him, "because I know I'll get the girl in the end and not for lack of trying."
There isn't an eye roll big enough for the universe.
She hates how he's so goddamn stubborn about being sick.
She's just dropping by his room one day (his dorm was on the way to the radio station, okay, she just happened to be passing by), and he's sitting in bed while Benji tries to force a thermometer into his mouth.
"Dude, I'm not sick," Jesse is saying in protest when she opens the door to find them in a position that resembles wrestling; really, she half-expects Benji to mount Jesse any minute and swing an uppercut. She kind of tries to hide her smile when he looks up and grins when he sees her. "Hey, Bec."
"Don't call me Bec," she says, then plops down on the bed beside him. "What's going on, dweebs?"
"Jesse has a fever," Benji says, frowning down at the thermometer in his hand. "I think. He won't let me take his temperature, so I can't know for sure."
"I don't have a fever," Jesse objects, trying to stand up, then falling back down on the bed, rubbing his head. "Ow."
Beca places a hand on his forehead only to find it burning. "Yeah, definitely not sick," she says dryly. "I could fry an egg on your forehead, idiot."
He shrugs, then sniffs a little. "I'm hot, what can I say?"
She rolls her eyes, then takes the thermometer from Benji. "I'll take over from here."
Benji looks at her gratefully, then rolls his eyes at Jesse as he leaves, muttering something about being late for class and medicine on his bed. Beca laughs a little as she pushes Jesse down on the bed, and his body is so tired and weak that he doesn't even protest.
"Damn, Shawshank," he complains weakly as he's buried amongst his sheets. "Look at you being all strong and masculine."
"I'm sorry, is my masculinity bruising your ego?" Beca says sweetly, then pulls his blanket to his chin and grabs the pills from Benji's bed. "Okay, you need to take these. Come on, sit up."
"He's been trying to make me take those for the past half hour." Jesse frowns as he tries to support himself with shaky arms. "But I'm not sick. I can't be sick. We have rehearsal this afternoon; Bumper will kill me."
"Yep, he probably will," she says, then laughs at the look on his face. She pours him a glass of water and says, "Drink up, genius."
"You're a modern day Mother Teresa," he says, and dutifully swallows the pills she thrusts at him. "Or Florence Nightingale. You'll, like, nurse me back to health so fast I won't even remember how sick I was. No, wait – you're Doogie Howser. Yeah, definitely Doogie Howser."
"I refuse to be affiliated with someone called Doogie Howser," she retorts, fluffing his pillows a bit, then grabs his open laptop from his desk and settles down on the bed beside him, rustling the sheets as she settles in. "Now shut up. What movie do you wanna watch?"
"You're actually offering to watch movies with me?" She can see him grinning in her peripheral vision – seriously, always. grinning. – and she has to bite the inside of her cheeks to keep from smiling back. "What about the radio station?"
"Eh, Luke'll survive on his own. And I'm not offering to watch withyou; I just really want an excuse to fall asleep in the middle of the day and skip intro to philo – again."
"Wow," he says in a fake-awed voice. "Beca Mitchell, I am shocked. You are such a scoundrel. You know, with your ear spike and dark makeup, I never would've guessed."
"Shut up," she says again, tongue caught between her teeth as she clicks on Hot Fuzz because she refuses to watch Reality Bites even though that's what he keeps pointing to like an idiot.
"I've been dying for you to see that, Beca!" he says in a voice almost like a whine, and she laughs against her will. "I've been dying to see if your heart really is made of stone."
"I've got a thing against rom-coms on principle," she deadpans, and Jesse ("Why am I not surprised?" he says, to her amusement) hasn't got an eye-roll big enough for that.
She hates the way he performs.
Okay, so technically, there's nothing wrong with it. Judging from the looks of some of the female (and some male) population in the karaoke bar the Bellas and Trebles are hanging out at tonight, he's doing a banging good job on the stage. He's singing some song she's not really familiar with (she's not a big Supremesfan, okay – she knows Jesse will not leave her alone about this when she tells him later), and he's running his hand down his chest and looking over in her direction with a smirk that looks weird on him but works –in, like, a completely dorky way.
"You totally boned that fine piece of ass," Fat Amy says from behind her, her breath tickling the back of her ear.
She can't explain why she chokes on her vodka and her face turns a bit red (okay, a lot red, but if anyone asks, she'll totally deny it). "What! Amy!"
"I'm just saying," Amy says, throwing her hands in the air in mock-defense, "you could cut the sexual tension between you two with a knife."
She frowns and turns back to the stage where the Trebles are finishing their performance to wild applause ("Don't clap," Aubrey hisses at a starry-eyed Stacie, "we never clap.") and Jesse's walking in their direction with the biggest, stupidest-looking grin on his face. He looks…dare she say it, striking – or something – against the blue lights from the stage that she literally feels her mouth go dry – but only for like a second, because god, she's so not going there. She's just surprised, is all; she just didn't know he could, you know, clean up so well.
God, she wishes she could douse bleach all over her brain.
"Becaw!" he shouts from six feet away, attracting the attention of curious Treble fangirls, and she fights to keep her face neutral and hides behind her drink.
"Keep your voice down or people will think we're friends or something," she says.
"So," he ignores her comment as he grabs a seat from the adjacent table and drops into it in front of her, "what did you think?"
She shrugs, nonchalant. "I've seen better."
Some random girl sidles up right then, cutting off what Beca knows is supposed to be a semi-offended, snappy retort, asking Jesse for – Beca has to rub her ears, she thinks she heard wrong the first time – an autograph.
Jesse, of-freaking-course, is ecstatic, and Beca watches him as he signs two more pads of paper and some random guy's forearm under his seemingly badass tattoo. Jesse's eyes are bright and his lips are stretched wide, and he looks so happy that Beca can't help but smile at the stupidity of it all.
"At least some people appreciate my superior talents, huh?" he throws over his shoulder at her as he poses with another random chick, and her eyes travel across his face, his jaw line, his neck, his mouth. His mouth, for crying out loud. It's not like he got a haircut or changed anything drastic about his appearance, but he just looks so different, for some reason.
"You know," Fat Amy's breathing down her neck again, "staring at someone that intensely could be misconstrued as rude – and in some cases eye fucking – in other countries."
Beca huffs at her and turns back to the stage where Chloe is currently grinding on some random guy as they duet, feeling the blood creep up her cheeks. She finds her eyes sliding over to where Jesse is still obliviously chatting with the gaggle of girls looking up at him adoringly, and Fat Amy's nudging her from behind, and god, she wants to beat herself up over this. She doesn't know why she can't stop staring at him.
He notices her looking and rejoins her at the table, nudging her ribs with his elbow. "Stop staring at me," he says. "I know I'm dashing and debonair and handsome and all…"
She scoffs, the sound natural yet weird coming out of her throat just now. "On the contrary, Swanson."
"It's a bit distracting, you know. I have to say, I am extremely flattered even though I almost forgot the lyrics earlier because you couldn't take your eyes off me."
"In what world would I be staring at your face voluntarily?" she retorts, arms crossing in front of her chest, turning away so she wouldn't see the smirk on his face. "Keep dreaming, buddy."
Ten minutes later, she's doing it again.
God. She frowns as she tries to shove his hand off her arm ("See! You are staring!"). She avoids his gleeful expression and ignores him for the rest of the evening.
She hates how he does stupid things to surprise her.
If there's anything she hates more in the world than frilly dresses and Taylor Swift songs, it's surprises. Surprise birthday parties, surprise divorces, surprise stepmoms, surprise plans for a college education. Really, her life hasn't really given her much reason to love them.
But with Jesse, it's different.
He always surprises her by sneaking juice pouches inside her bag, or suddenly rapping (badly) at the top of his lungs as they're walking across the quad to grab lunch, effectively embarrassing her to death. He surprises her by bursting into song out of nowhere ("I have a soundtrack for every important aspect of my life, Beca," he says after singing Save Me once he got out of a grueling math pre-final), or greeting her with ice cream and pizza at her dorm after a particularly rough rehearsal. Sometimes he would invite her out of campus on weekends and bring her to these authentic music stores selling old records and cassette tapes, and he would laugh at the astonished look on her face as she fingers each one of her favorites.
He even surprises her by playing the piano one night, after they stay behind at the auditorium after Bella rehearsal. He sits down on the piano bench and plays random notes that soon blossom into admittedly beautiful melodies.
"You wrote that?" she asks, and she doesn't know what to make of her own tone of voice.
"Yeah," he replies, gesturing at her. "Come sit."
She gingerly plops down on the piano bench beside him, listening closely to the music. "I didn't know you played the piano."
"I want to score movies, remember?" He has a look of concentration on his face as his fingers glide gracefully across the keys. "Kind of necessary for me to learn at least one musical instrument."
"I guess," she murmurs, but her train of thought is broken as she gets lost in the sweetly haunting melody that seeps from beneath his fingers.
She catches him smiling out of the corner of her eye and she tries hard to deny the fluttering in her chest. (It doesn't mean anything.)
She hates his friendliness. She hates who he makes friends with even more. Case in point: Gina from his Film 101 class.
Gina is…there's nothing to say about her except that Beca hates her with a fiery passion. She's blonde and tall and giggly, and she flirts with Jesse like every single day.
Beca doesn't know why this girl won't take a hint, or why she doesn't have a single shred of self-respect. It's like she's always watching Treble rehearsals with her little friends and practically throwing herself at Jesse, like that isn't embarrassing at all.
She's dropping by the rehearsal studio where the Trebles are just finishing up for the day after getting Jesse's text to wait for him, and she's getting an obvious side-eye from Bumper, but she doesn't really care. What she's paying attention to now is how Jesse is sitting at the piano, looking up at a Bambi-eyed Gina who's practically purring and spreading her legs in front of him. (Okay, not really, but with the way she's looking at him she might as well be.)
It is so fucking sickening that Beca stops short of entering the studio and makes a gagging sound she doesn't think is too loud before turning around abruptly to leave, ignoring the looks the other Treblemakers send her way as they file outside.
Jesse hears her, though, his eyes lighting up as he leaves Gina mid-sentence and jogs over to her. "Hey, Bec!"
"Stop calling me that," she mutters, and she honestly doesn't know why she's so annoyed.
"Hey, where are you going?" Jesse's fingers latch onto her arm, and she roughly shakes it off. "Beca?"
"You two are so fucking–" she shakes her head violently. "Disgusting. You are disgusting."
"What – who?" Jesse looks genuinely confused. "I'm disgusting? What did I do?"
"Yes, you are!" She throws her hands up in the air exasperatedly. "You and the fucking Barbie doll airhead, PDA-ing all over the place. It's disgusting."
"Gina?" Jesse follows her outside into the cool night air, and she wraps her scarf more tightly around her neck, and it's strange, how she's feeling exposed and vulnerable. Her heart is thumping hard in her throat and she has no real idea why except for a faint inkling at the back of her mind that she refuses to acknowledge. "Gina from my film class?"
She wrinkles her nose in distaste, crosses her arms as she walks as briskly as she can. "Oh, is that her name? I didn't know. I don't really care."
His laugh stops when he notices the look on her face. "I don't get it; why are you so mad?"
"I'm not mad!" she huffs, slapping his hand away from her shoulder.
"Okay!" He throws his hands up in surrender. "You're not mad. You're totally being pleasant and happy right now, I can see that clearly."
She snorts. "Look, all I'm saying is don't you dare go blaming me if you get crabs from fornicating in public with Gina," she sneers over her shoulder as she stalks away, leaving him dumbfounded.
She's so fucking frustrated, but mostly with herself.
She hates how she doesn't know why she got mad in the first place.
"Hey," Jesse says tentatively as he walks inside the radio station, juice pouch in hand. "Entering enemy territory. Don't shoot."
She rolls her eyes and drops the crate on the apparently semen-speared desk, not that she'd even care to check. "You are such a weirdo."
"I do get that a lot." Jesse's practically tiptoeing towards where she's standing, his hand extending towards her with a slightly scared expression on his face. It's almost funny if she isn't so goddamn nervous for no reason at all. "I'm here, waving an imaginary, hypothetical white flag in surrender, offering a truce. And an invitation."
She bites her tongue to keep from smiling as she takes his offered Capri Sun. "Seriously. Never met anyone like you."
A smile tugs on the corners of his lips. "Coming from you, that's practically a 'You're perfect, Jesse Swanson' admission, so I'll take it."
"Hardly," she says, but her mouth forms into a smile around her straw. "So? What invitation?"
"I'm going downtown this weekend, to buy my parents a gift," he says, perching on the edge of the desk. He looks visibly more relaxed seeing that Beca's not about to attack him. "It's their 25th anniversary next week."
"Oh." She feels a stupid lump in her throat. "That's cool."
"So, you wanna come with?"
Why not, really? And he's kind of looking at her so hopefully, it's kinda hard to turn down. "As long as you don't sing on the bus. Again. Actually, let's make that a rule: no singing in public places ever again. That's an ultimatum, Swanson, or I'll go all Shawshank on your sorry ass."
He laughs. "I'm sorry, but I can't guarantee that, Beca Mitchell. Unless you can guarantee to stop biting my head off every single day, then sure, I'll try to suppress my urges to break out into song, no matter how much it will inevitably pain me."
"Can't guarantee that, either," she replies, then ducks her face behind her curtain of hair. "Speaking of, I'm sorry for…y'know, being all up in your business the other night, after your rehearsal."
Jesse shrugs, his shoulders visibly drooping in relief. "Whatever I did, I'm sorry, okay?"
She tries to hide her smile. "You didn't do anything wrong. I'm sorry. It was just me being an asshole, okay? Don't make me say it again."
"Even more than usual?" he asks, then laughs at her scowl. "It's okay, Bec. Besides, I knew you'd be jealous of other girls like Gina eventually."
She practically spits out her juice. How does he even – "What?"
"Beca, Beca," he says, laying a consoling hand on top of hers, which she snatches back instantly. "It's okay. It's perfectly natural to feel possessive of me, with me being such a hot commodity among the female population and all, what with my voice, and juice pouches, and Rocky…"
"You are the most delusional, most insufferable–"
"…but it's perfectly understandable. And don't despair, m'lady," he grins at her as she grabs the crate from him and starts stalking up the stairs, "I'm all yours, through and through!"
"Over my fucking dead body, Swanson," she yells down at him as he laughs, but she bites her lip, quickly snatching up the collar of her plaid shirt to hide the violent flush that creeps up her neck.
She really, really hates him.
She hates his taste in everything.
Okay, so maybe not in music (even though she's seriously side-eyed the fuck out of the One Direction album she's found on his iTunes playlist; "It's perfect boy band music for the Trebles!" is not a good enough excuse). And maybe movies, too, even though she has yet to stay awake for one (Jesse is beyond offended by the way she always falls asleep halfway through moviecation nights). But in clothes for women? Or furniture? Or anything else, really? Nope, his taste basically sucks.
"Do not get that tea set, I am warning you, Jesse," she says, grabbing his shoulders and redirecting him towards the door. "It is beyond ugly and your parents will not appreciate it, trust me."
"But it's vintage!" Jesse says, his voice almost whiny, but he lets Beca drag him out of the store. "It's an antique! Think of all the history! The Queen of England could have used that tea set, for all we know."
"Why her tea set would end up in Atlanta is beyond me," she says with a roll of her eyes. "Seriously? That was the ugliest tea set I've ever seen."
"But my sister sent me a photo of a tea set that looks like that one." He frowns down at her, feigning a condescending look. "She told me Mom was admiring it. Which means she would really appreciate it if I got it for her as an anniversary gift. I can already see the look on her face when she opens it at the party."
"Nope, I'm not gonna let a nineteen-year-old college alt girl with dark makeup – although she does have a scary ear spike that can be used as a weapon – talk me out of this," he says, marching back into the store. "Especially one who's only four feet tall."
"I'm five feet," she retorts as she huffs and follows him reluctantly back inside.
She watches him fret over the set, constantly reminding the saleslady to take care of it and handle it carefully as she puts it inside a box. His eyes are excited as he jabbers on to the very patient saleslady about how he's giving it as a present for his folks and how there's going to be a big anniversary party this coming weekend.
She's known about the party since he invited her to go shopping a couple of days ago. She knows it's a big deal; apparently the Swanson family is big, and is living in different parts of the country, so this is going to be a huge reunion of sorts. She knows his big sister's flying home from L.A. for this, and that he's super excited to see her again and his new niece, who he's never even met. She knows he's prepared a speech to deliver during the dinner (sat her down in his dorm and read it aloud to her against her will), and that his sister's asked him to bring a plus one if he likes.
And it's annoying beyond belief how she finds it annoying that he hasn't even considered inviting her.
It's not like she really even wants to go (Aubrey's calling a big rehearsal this weekend to prepare for regionals, but they're performing the same old routine anyway, so she could use an excuse to ditch); she'd rather sit in her room and make new mixes. But the fact that he's known about the plus one for three whole days and hasn't even invited her to go with him is driving her insane.
"So," she says, as she's working on a new mix to give to Luke, and Jesse's lounging on her bed, going over some of his notes. She's literally having a little war inside her head right now; it's like her tongue's dying to say the words, but her brain's trying to fight them back at the same time. Her brain loses in the end. "What time are you and Gina off to Athens tomorrow?"
His brow furrows as he lowers his notebook. "What?"
She regrets talking already. Stupid, stupid, stupid. "Nothing. Never mind."
"I'm not taking Gina tomorrow," he says, and he genuinely looks confused. The poor kid. "I'm going alone."
"Oh." She doesn't know what it means when she almost smiles behind her hair at his answer.
He eyes her, looking a cross between curious and suspicious. "Why do you ask?"
"Nothing." She rolls her eyes, but it's halfhearted. "Go back to world history."
"Beca." She can see it in his eyes, in the way his mouth is curving into a cheeky grin (so. Fucking. Annoying.) that he's about to say something to embarrass her immensely. She quickly grabs her pillow and whacks him on the face with it, practically tackling him on the bed. She wonders how much it'll hurt if she tries to knee him in the balls.
"Don't even think about it, Jesse," she almost growls, the pillow muffling his laughter.
"Bec – Beca–" He swallows a lot of air once he manages to shove the pillow off his face, looking thoroughly amused, and she scowls. "Did you want to–"
"Ugh, I hate you. Please go away and go bother someone else."
She retreats to her computer and chooses the safety and privacy of her headphones, feeling exposed and embarrassed to the tenth degree. She should have never opened her big mouth, motherfuckingdammit.
Jesse, however, reaches out and gently tugs her headphones off. "Beca."
"You know, I was going to ask you," he says, really slowly, sounding unsure, almost nervous. She's never heard Jesse use this kind of tone of voice before, and it's a bit unsettling. "To go with me. But I didn't think you'd want to go."
He laughs a little, looking adorably awkward, and she leans back in her chair, her cheeks unbelievably warm. "Why not?"
He looks at her pointedly, and okay, she has a pretty solid guess. "You're Beca," he says like some sort of explanation, and she understands completely. Maybe he has a point.
"Um." She refuses to look him in the eye for this. She's already terrified enough as it is, which in theory is completely stupid; she has no fucking reason to be scared, but she is. "I mean, since we're practically friends or whatever, I would've said yes."
A smile forms in his face, soft and shy. "Yeah?"
There's something warm growing in her chest, threatening to envelope her, and she turns away a little but not before flashing him a tiny smile. "Yeah."
She hates how he makes her heart thump painfully inside her chest.
The anniversary party actually turns out to be…fun.
Well, telling Aubrey about having to miss practice was not (if it weren't for Chloe and Fat Amy, she wouldn't be here at all; she honestly thought the vein in Aubrey's forehead was going to pop), and the drive to Athens in the car Jesse borrowed from Benji was slow as hell ("Who drives at sixty miles per hour?!"). But sitting there in the passenger seat in a black dress she's borrowed from Chloe (who smirked knowingly when she told her what she needed it for), listening to awesome music (well, listening to Jesse singing along to aforementioned awesome music) with the windows rolled down and the wind in her hair – it's a different kind of high she hasn't felt in such a long time.
The party itself isn't that bad. When they arrive, Jesse's immediately smothered in his mother's arms ("Oxygen, Mom, oxygen!") and she's instantly dragged to several members of his family to be introduced. Of course, his parents keep introducing her as their son's girlfriend, to her mortification and Jesse's intense blush, even though they keep telling her she's not, at all. She doesn't think anyone believes them.
There are so many fucking people, more than she's normally accustomed to interacting with on a daily basis that she feels a bit overwhelmed; Jesse never leaves her side, though, a casual hand resting on her lower back giving her room to breathe. She doesn't know what to say when Jesse's Aunt Mandy starts chatting her up about Fifty Shades of Grey, or when his grandparents ask too many questions about her "relationship" with their grandson; she does enjoy, however, sitting with his cheerful sister and his parents who tell stories about Jesse as a kid that make him groan and go red in the face, much to her amusement.
An old Elvis song starts playing over the speakers, and Mr. Swanson immediately holds out a hand to his blushing wife, leading her to the dance floor. Jesse's sister Candace soon follows, beaming at her husband from across the room as she takes photos of her parents.
Beca smiles a little as Jesse's parents sway to the slow strains of the music, and deep down she wonders why her parents couldn't have worked as well as Jesse's seem to do; wonders how Mr. and Mrs. Swanson still look so in love even after 25 years.
She gets a little teary-eyed, which is fucking embarrassing, and the last thing she needs is to start bawling like an idiot in front of Jesse's family. She turns to find Jesse watching her with a look in his eyes she can't comprehend. "What?"
He shakes his head, smiling. "Nothing. Want to dance?"
She frowns, the "no" already starting to form on her lips, but he's already taking her hand in his, gently lacing their fingers together as he pulls her to her feet.
"I'm not good at this," she mumbles, feeling shy and self-conscious.
"You'll be fine." He smiles down at her, eyes twinkling, arms circling her waist to pull her close, but not too close that she feels smothered. "I'm really glad you're here."
"I'm not," she says, but it's a bit sleepy and lacks the sarcasm she usually injects into their conversations. He laughs.
"My parents keep embarrassing me. I'm sorry for how they've been introducing you to everybody."
"It's fine. They're…kind of cute, actually. You know, for old people. And they tell great stories of a certain someone who still wet his bed in fifth grade."
"Fifth grade wasn't my greatest year, okay," he protests. She looks up at him through her eyelashes, a tiny smile playing around the corners of her mouth. She has a weird, sudden urge to run her hand through his tousled hair, put her feet on top of his and let him sway her around the dance floor.
"Went deep into the archive for this song," she comments instead.
"It's my parents' song or whatever. It was playing at their wedding, I think. Kind of makes you think of how old they really are."
"That's sweet. They're great people."
"Oh my god, you do have a heart," he says, feigning relief. "I was worried there for a while. It's good to know."
"Shut up," she advises, then in a burst of courage steps forward and presses her tiny body against his, feeling his warmth all over her skin. "Thanks for bringing me here."
A smile stretches across his lips. "There's no one else I'd rather be with right now."
It's cheesy, it's so fucking cheesy, but it's Jesse; and Beca, weirdly enough, doesn't seem to mind at all.
He's quiet while they dance, and Beca can see how the rest of his family is watching them now instead of his parents, all wistful smiles and misty-eyed gazes. She feels her face turn red of its own accord and buries it against his shoulder.
"Your family's staring."
"Now you know where I get it from." His arms tighten around her waist then, and she feels his lips brush lightly on the top of her head.
"Don't get any ideas," she warns.
He chuckles against her hair. "I won't." He starts humming along to the music, and she closes her eyes, until soon he's singing softly in her ear: "Wise men say… only fools rush in…"
His voice is soft and beautiful, and the implication is so solidly clear this time, and Beca tries really hard to fight the feeling growing in her chest at a fast, overwhelming pace. She's so not ready for this, she's so fucking scared, but there's something about the way that Jesse's holding her right now that makes her not want to be.
"But I can't help…" Jesse's voice trails off into a low hum, and Beca buries her nose in his chest and tightens her arms around his neck.
She hates how he's friends with the Bellas.
Bellas and Trebles are just…not supposed to be friends, okay? Especially if Aubrey and her ultra-rigid rules has anything to say about it. But Jesse, inexplicably, is an outstanding exception. She can see it when she watches her friends laugh at his antics: they genuinely like Jesse, and it's equal parts weird and endearing.
A frustrated Aubrey's just left for her dorm, muttering something about trying not to blow, whatever the hell that means, and the rest of the Bellas are still hanging around the studio, gulping down water and resting their tired feet. Fat Amy peers out the door and frowns.
"Hey, Beca," she says, "your boyfriend not coming to pick you up tonight?"
Beca looks up from her iPod to see the girls all smirking at her. "That's funny. You'd think I'd know if I had a boyfriend."
"How in denial can you be?" Stacie says with a roll of her eyes reminiscent of Beca. "And Jesse's just, what, your best friend or some stupid shit like that?"
"He's not even that," she says, even though he actually kind of is.
Chloe huffs. "Then what is he to you? Because the fact that he likes you is surprising to no one at all."
"He is kinda hot," Stacie muses, almost to herself. "I wouldn't mind getting freaky with him."
Beca doesn't mean for her fists to clench on her lap, but they do, and Stacie balks under her impenetrable glare.
"It's not like I'm actually going to do anything," Stacie says defensively. "I knew he was yours from the riff-off."
"He's not my anything," Beca says, then hates herself for the pang in her chest. What the fuck is happening to her? "Okay? Nothing. He's just – I dunno, this annoying guy I have to work with. An acquaintance. That's all."
"Sure wish I had a distant acquaintance who I work with five hours a day," Fat Amy says offhandedly. "Who walks me to class… picks me up from rehearsal… hangs out at my dorm to watch movies… who took me as his date to his parents' wedding anniversary…"
"That was not a date," Beca protests weakly, even though she knows it'll fall on deaf ears.
"Face it, Beca," Chloe sing-songs as she smirks at her, "you totally have a full-on toner for Jesse. We can see it from all the way here."
"Let's not – let's not make that word happen, please," she says, but she doesn't think anyone hears her because they're all laughing now. She really hates these girls, too, sometimes.
When Jesse arrives ten minutes later, breathless and apologizing because Benji had an "emergency" he doesn't seem to want to disclose, Beca just grabs his arm and steers him outside as Fat Amy lets out a loud wolf whistle.
"Yeah, you go get that dick, Beca," she shouts as a confused Jesse follows her, throwing an incredulous glance back at the group of giggling girls.
"They're insufferable," she mutters as she adjusts the strap of her bag on her shoulder. "Why are they even friends with you; god, this is all your fault."
He looks like he doesn't understand what's just happened, but he just grins at her and offers her his Treble hoodie against the cold, anyway.
She hates him for befuddling her thoughts. Like, can't-sleep-at-night kind of befuddlement, and it's driving her crazy.
Beca's…not really had a boyfriend before.
Sure, she's dated. The people she hung out with in high school consisted of three guys and a girl who had a band (excluding her, because that was so not her thing) and played inside a dark, smelly garage and in a couple of bars in the weekends. She's dated two of those three guys, and a bunch of others, too; guys who wore a lot of black and had tattoos all over their arms and piercings on their noses. She liked them, she supposes, but those "relationships" were so casual and she wasn't serious about any of them at all, mostly because she still kept them at a distance and refused to be attached to anyone. When she left high school, she cut off all her ties and never looked back.
Jesse is…not at all like them. He's different. He's a nerd and he's weird and he keeps singing in public all the damn time, but –
Maybe she likes different.
(It scares and exhilarates her at the same time.)
She hates him for saying all the right things at the worst times.
It's like when he knocks her on her door at three in the morning. She stumbles out of her tangles of sheets and curses when she stubs her foot on Kimmy Jin's mysteriously empty bed.
She opens her door and Jesse almost crashes into her, obviously having been leaning against it. "Heyyyy, Becaw."
"Oh, god," she says as she tries to keep him upright, which is not an easy feat for a girl who's as small as she is. "Are you drunk?"
"Nah." Jesse hiccups as Beca struggles to drag him to her bed. She fixes him a look as she pants under his weight. "Okay. Maaaaybe."
"Ugh. Worst night to be drunk, Swanson." She wrinkles her nose as he drops face down on her bed. "I have an exam tomorrow morning. I know you know that I normally wouldn't give a shit, but my dad's been breathing down my neck about my grades, you know. Don't you have your own dorm room to go home to?"
She's rambling, she knows she is. Her mouth's kind of on autopilot right now because there's this little worry signal lighting up inside her brain that is so annoying she can barely think straight. Jesse's not a big drinker. Where he's come from, how he made it to her dorm, why he's in her dorm, is all a mystery to her.
Jesse just grunts, his face buried in her pillow, and she sighs. Of course he's not the best conversationalist right now.
She sits gingerly on the bed beside him, running a hand down his spine as she rummages in her desk drawer for some aspirin. She swipes the bottle of water beside her computer and nudges Jesse's side as gently as she can. "Hey," she says softly, "sit up. Drink this."
She slides her arm around his back as he tries to oblige, looking at her with a sleepy smile. "You're all blurry."
She fights a smile as she pops the aspirin in his mouth and helps him chug down some water. "Aren't I always?"
"Still pretty, though." He's still looking at her, still smiling. "Even though you're all blurry again. You're still the prettiest girl I know."
Beca feels warm all of a sudden. "Okay, someone's extremely drunk. Just crash in my bed, okay? I'll sleep on Kimmy Jin's and just face her wrath tomorrow."
"No," he groans, his arm shooting out to wrap around her waist, pulling her downwards until she's half-lying beside him. "Stay right here."
Beca's heart is thundering in her chest, she can barely hear her own voice saying, "Okay. I'll stay." She lays her head on his shoulder, and they lie there quietly for a minute, the silence only broken by their steady breathing. She closes her eyes as Jesse's fingers play with the ends of her hair.
"I was with – with Bumper and the guys," he mumbles into her hair. "We went out for d-drinks and I guess it went too far…"
"Yeah, try way too far."
"They were…kinda goading me."
"What do you mean?"
"Kept trying to ask…if you were my girlfriend."
"Oh." Beca doesn't know what to say to that.
"So I told them…you're not."
"Okay." Why the fuck is this stupid lump still in her throat? "That's obvious enough."
"They…didn't believe me, though. Said it was obvious to everyone. I dunno but like – I kinda want you to be."
Beca lifts her head for a minute and ends up with his nose mere inches away from hers. Her head is spinning and her heart feels like it's trying to burst out of his chest, but he's looking at her like – like he can't look away, or something.
"I know – you don't like me that way, I know." Jesse sighs. "Sometimes… it's like you don't like me. At all."
"That's not true."
"But you're – I dunno, Bec." He's staring at her again. "You're beautiful. You're perfect. I don't know why I… I dunno. I just wanna be with you…all the time."
"Jesse." Her heart's pounding so loudly in her ears, and she swallows the enormous boulder in her throat. "Shut up. You just called me Bec, again, but I'm not gonna slap you because you're drunk. Maybe tomorrow."
"Am not." He balks under her pointed look. "Okay, I am. But it doesn't change anything."
"Jesse," she says again, and this time it's in a whisper. Her throat's all closed up and her hand lifts to rest on his cheek, her thumb stroking his skin in gentle circles. "Go to sleep. You're gonna beat yourself up over this tomorrow. If you even remember this."
"I don't care." He frowns as he settles deeper into her sheets and wraps his other arm under her ribcage, keeping her in place, sharing her body heat. She wonders if he can feel her erratic heartbeat and just doesn't care. "Beca, I think… I think I'm in love with you."
Her eyes soften as his eyes inevitably flutter closed. She's freaking out inside but she doesn't feel the need to bolt; she feels locked in place, just watching his face for a long moment.
"Sweet dreams, dork," she whispers. She smiles a little and tucks her head under his chin.
She hates how he doesn't remember a single fucking thing about what happened in her dorm room.
"No. Why, did I say something stupid?" Jesse frowns from his position on her bed where he's trying and failing to read Les Miserables so he can have a grasp of the film when he sees it. "Wet the bed? Tried to make you sleep on the floor?"
She frowns, too, feeling frustrated as she turns back to her computer. "Yeah, you did all those things."
"No wonder you're in such a bad mood." She glares at him and his eyebrows lift. "Okay, woah. You know the saying if looks could kill…"
"It's just–" She bangs her pen down on her desk, making him jump a little. "How can you not remember?" When he just looks confused, she lets out a frustrated sigh and prepares to fit her headphones over her ears. "You know what, forget it, it's not – it doesn't matter."
She doesn't know why she's so fucking bothered over this, at all. So Jesse fucking told her he's pretty much in love with her – which no one's ever said to her, ever – but he was drunk and so out of it he was probably just talking to make sounds.
It shouldn't make a difference. She's not supposed to care.
Jesse's kind of frowning at her from her bed, putting his tattered book down on the bedspread. "What's going on? What did I do that night, really?"
"Nothing," she mutters. She's already drowning out his voice with some badass Midnight Oil she's intent on focusing on tonight. She can't look at his face right now. She wishes she doesn't know why. "It's nothing at all."
She can feel Jesse's eyes boring into her, trying to comprehend, but she keeps her face neutral and stoic. She thinks it kind of works when he just says, "Okay." Then, later, completely out of the blue: "Have you seen Say Anything?"
"Anti-rom-coms, remember?" She doesn't look at him. "Or just plain anti-movies."
His mouth quirks upwards a bit, and his back hits the mattress once again, his book held in front of his face. "I see."
She should've read into that, but it's Jesse and he's always saying weird things, so she doesn't think much of it.
That's probably her biggest mistake.
She hates how he doesn't miss a clue.
When he doesn't show up at the radio station one afternoon, with no note, no text, no explanation whatsoever, she should've seen it coming.
When she texts him to ask where he is, and his only reply is, "sorry, busy. see u tonight, got a great movie," she knows she definitely should've seen it coming.
She's sitting at her desk working on a new mix when loud music starts blasting from outside, right under her window.
"What the hell is that?" Kimmy Jin mutters irritably from where she's typing on her computer.
Beca doesn't know, either. That is, until she hears him.
"Oh my god." She flies to the window and glares down at a grinning Jesse, looking up at her with a boom box in one arm, the other waving wildly in the air.
"Hey!" he says, totally oblivious. "Check it out. I'm channeling John Cusack."
"Fuck. Jesse! Get inside!" Beca's sure she's going to die, especially when Kimmy Jin peers out the window from behind her and gives a haughty sniff.
"Oh, great, it's him," Kimmy Jin says with a roll of her eyes. She grabs her purse and her laptop. "Just don't have sex on my bed and turn our room into a brothel, Beca," she reminds her before fleeing the room. It's not the first time she's given that warning.
Beca rests her forehead on the window pane and glares down at Jesse, who's blissfully singing along to Nat King Cole from beneath her window, unaware of the looks he's certainly attracting from all around. He is such a freaking weirdo and she hates herself for finding that endearing.
"I'm gonna kill you," she tells him. "I am this close to actually killing you."
He just grins and taps on the 'stop' button. "That's my girl."
She just really hates everything about him.
"I hate you," she says as she drops on her bed and covers her face with her pillow. "My face is so fucking red. Everyone was staring. I fucking hate you."
"Watch your language, Becky," Jesse says with a laugh as he sits down beside her. "Your face looks a pleasant shade of 'kill me now'. It's a fantastic color on you."
She groans. "Good to know."
"Face it, though," he says, kicking his shoes off and making himself at home on her bed, just like always. "You totally loved it. I totally could've passed off as John Cusack."
"John Cusack – whoever he is – did it better."
He gasps dramatically, falling backwards on the bed, their arms touching, legs dangling off the edge of the mattress. "I resent that. On both counts."
She lifts herself on her elbows and watches him watch her. "Where did you even get a boom box, anyway?"
"The dude has a record player. You shouldn't be so surprised."
"And that song? Really?"
"L-O-V-E is the bomb."
"'The bomb'? I don't know why I'm friends with you."
He laughs, then tugs her back down. "Lay with me for a minute," he says, so she does.
She's close to falling asleep when she feels his fingers thread in her hair. "Hey, Bec?"
"Stop calling me that."
"Gina asked me out."
She sits up hurriedly, runs a hand through her hair. She knows her eyes look crazy right now, but she can't help it – why is he saying this to her now, when they're having such a nice, quiet moment where she doesn't feel compelled to kill him?
"I'm not gonna go," he says, sounding defensive.
"Why are telling me, then?" She is so fucking annoyed right now, even though she knows she doesn't really have a right to be. He isn't hers the same way that she isn't his. She hates him for doing this to her, hates him for telling her he's in love with her and forgetting about it, hates him for making her feel all these gross feelings she can't just wish away just like that.
He's looking at her, but she can't read his eyes. "I don't know."
She doesn't know what compels her to do it – maybe it's the moment, or her total annoyance at his admission, or maybe it's the way he's looking at her right now – she doesn't really know. All she knows is that her hand's lifting of its own accord and touching the back of his neck, bringing his face closer to hers until her lips are pressing into his.
His eyes widen, but he kisses her back, cradles her chin in his hand, his other arm moving to encircle waist.
"Beca," he says against her mouth. He's shaking, and she smiles a little as she runs her thumb over his lips. She thinks she's shaking, too; this is scary beyond belief, but Jesse's just staring at her again and she feels her heart burst inside her chest. "What are we doing?"
She really doesn't want to talk right now, so she just says, "Shut up, Jesse," and moves to kiss him again.
She hates rom-coms with a passion, and she doesn't believe in all that cheesy movie fairytale bullshit. But she swears she sees sparks.
Okay, so maybe…she doesn't really hate him all that much.
She's nestled against his chest on the blanket he's spread out on the grass, at her spot on the quad at 2PM on Tuesdays and Fridays. She's skipping intro to philo – again – but really, what is she supposed to gain from that class, anyway? Besides, Jesse's brought over some large burgers from Luke's favorite diner and two large bottles of coke, and this beats that stuffy old classroom any day.
"You are such a delinquent," he says lazily, his hand playing with her hair. "Always cutting class."
"You weren't complaining when we were in your dorm this morning."
"Ah, well." He grins down at her. "There certainly are perks. Like making out with a hot goth girl who's not allowed to ride the roller coaster because she doesn't make the height limit. But don't worry, it's kind of adorable."
"You are so asking for your DVD library to be rearranged. I'm going to burn all your Audrey Hepburn movies."
"It's kind of cute how you think you're such a little, tiny badass."
"What did I just say?"
He laughs, and she feels his lips press into the crown of her head, his throat humming some song she's heard before but can't place.
"Is it okay if I sing you some Miss Saigon right now?" he says, but he doesn't wait for her answer before he's singing: "You are sunlight and I moon…"
She punches him in the gut, effectively cutting off his song. "You are quite possibly the biggest dork in the world."
"You're forgetting Benji. And his cape full of birds."
"Still not as bad as you."
He grins, then leans down to capture her mouth with his. She closes her eyes and loses herself in the moment.
She only pulls away when he says against her lips, "Don't kill me, but I think your dad just passed by."
She looks up, flustered, and waves clumsily at Dr. Mitchell, who's smirking a little as he walks off with an armful of books and papers. She punches Jesse again once he's out of earshot.
"You couldn't have told me before you kissed me? I'm never kissing you in public ever again."
"But then I wouldn't have gotten to see your priceless face," he says, before doubling over in laughter.
She kisses him to shut him up, and grins wickedly when he moans as she nibbles on his bottom lip.
"You are an evil person," he complains, wrapping both arms around her waist. "Sometimes I really hate you."
She looks up at him and just smiles, cups his face and kisses him again.
References: Gone with the Wind (1939); Mean Girls 2 (2011) (although it would do you good to forget this film ever existed tbh); Showgirls (1995); Star Trek (2009); The Shawshank Redemption (1994); Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989-1993); Hot Fuzz (2007); Reality Bites (1994); Say Anything (1989); The Supremes; Save Me by Dave Matthews; I Can't Help Falling in Love with You by Elvis Presley; Midnight Oil; L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole; Sun and Moon from Miss Saigon;Les Miserables by Victor Hugo; A Song For You by The Carpenters
Summary referenced from 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)