This isn't me really being back, but I managed to finish this and, considering the end of chapter two, thought you would like to see what happens next. This will also help draw attention to the fact that I am, technically, on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, as stated on my profile. So I'm sorry, and I love you all.
P.S. I need some baby/pet name suggestions so if you have anything, help me out?
MIDDLE PT 2
Beca can't remember the last time she slept.
She thinks about it, head on her arm, trying to remember, but it's like her whole life is this hospital room and she doesn't know what came before it. Only vaguely does she even know their story, of how she and Jesse had gotten to this point. She thinks about singing and parties, of road trips and tiny apartments, long work days and long sleepless nights. Promotions and surprise proposals and whispered promises. She fleetingly recalls the feel of his skin on hers, how brightly his smile shines, and she struggles to remember the exact shade of brown his eyes are, hidden away from her view by his own mind.
Falling restlessly into a strange oblivion, Beca clings to the only thing she can; her memories.
Her eyelids are heavy, but there's this feeling, something she can't explain through her exhaustion and foggy brain, that tells her to open her god damn eyes right this second.
The room is blurry, and it's too bright and clinical, so she squints and groans quietly, rolling her head so her face is buried into scratchy blanket. Her back is roaring in pain, like she's slept funny again. She always manages to do that on a weekend.
Something strokes her hair, and she smiles despite her dry and sore throat.
Beca straightens up with a jolt.
Memories are flooding back. The phone call from Benji. The guilty pleasures mix. The chair, the clock, the room and the doctor and the shaking and the beeping and the praying and –
The bed. He was in a bed. He is in a bed.
Choking on her breath at the sight before her, she hesitantly squeaks out, "Jesse?"
It's a dream. This must be a dream.
Even if she hasn't yet remembered his eyes so perfectly…
Please don't let this be a dream.
One side of his battered face lifts weakly. "Hey," he whispers, wincing as he tries to lift his hand again. "Miss me?"
Tears spring hot and fast to her eyes and she sobs as she realises that Jesse is really alive; his eyes are open and he's talking and he's watching her fall apart at the seams but she doesn't care, because Jesse is alive.
"You idiot!" she sobs, gripping his hand tightly and lifting herself to press kisses across the healthier looking side of his face. Her lips brush the chapped, rough surface of his own. "Don't you ever do that to me again!"
Jesse's fingers wrap around her hand and he nods minutely. "Yes ma'am."
A bubble of giddy laughter rises from her gut.
Pressing her forehead to his, she allows herself to breathe properly in what feels like a day and a half, her inhales shaking and her exhales trembling. Her hand runs through his matted hair. Inside her chest, her heart finally begins to beat again.
A tear falls on his cheek as she pulls back to slap his good shoulder, ignoring his indignant, "Hey! Ow, that hurt!"
"I'm so mad at you," she insists in a broken voice, kissing him again just because she can, now. "How many times have I told you to not let Benji drive?"
Jesse's eyes darken with concern. "Oh God – Benji – tell me he's okay. Is he okay? He's alive right?"
She nods, her thumb stroking over his cheekbone. A smile blooms. "Yes, he's alive. Though probably not for much longer; with all of his pacing these past two days I think he must have worn away his feet to stubs."
Jesse frowns, wincing as he breathes too hard and it hits his ribs. "Two days?" Beca sees movement in the window at the corner of her eye, but she can't bear to look away. "How long was I out?"
Beca squeezes his hand and lets herself sink back into her chair. "The… The accident was two days ago. They uh…" Beca wipes her nose, trying to think of how to tell him all that had happened. "You were taken straight to surgery. I think… Donald and Stacie know more than I do, but you're… It was pretty bad. The doctor said you were fine but…" More tears fall as she remembers those agonising hours. "You wouldn't wake up, Jesse. You wouldn't open your eyes."
She loses herself in her sobs, and Jesse pulls weakly on their joint hands until she's buried her face in his neck, crying out for the life she had thought she'd lost with him. He still smells like Jesse despite all the other horrible chemical smells, and it's the first thing she's found truly comforting. She can now see the light at the end of the tunnel; she can now begin to feel just the tiniest bit positive, and as Jesse tells her over and over how sorry he is; that he loves her so, so much, Beca finally sees what Jesse has seen all along; their future.
Beca walks on stiff legs to the waiting room, tear stains on her cheeks and her clothes a rumpled mess from the days spent at Jesse's bedside. She doesn't want to leave him, not ever again, but she knows to give his parents some time with him while she finally faces everyone else.
Waiting there, she is surprised to see so many of their friends, who turn to her with reigned in hope in their expressions. Letting out a shaky breath, she manages to say, "He's awake."
The small crowd visibly relaxes, and Stacie's arms are around her a second before everyone is just hugging and crying and thanking the universe for letting him survive. Beca loses herself in the comfort and the love her friends bring, letting their touch and words and presence lull her into a feeling of security that she has forgotten how to feel since hearing of the accident.
Benji stands to one side, watching anxiously, and she breaks away from the group to approach him, taking his hands in hers and flashing him a watery smile. "You owe me a new car, Apples."
She's not forgiven him yet, but it's a start. For now, her sole focus is getting Jesse better.
"What do you see?" Jesse whispers late at night a week later, after Beca confesses to her flashforward of their life together.
"I see what you see."
He chuckles, and it's such a glorious sound that she replays it over and over in her mind until it's ringing in her ears like a beautiful melody. "Yes, but I want to know what exactly."
Beca rolls her eyes as she runs a fingertip over one of his nails, enjoying the simple pleasure of feeling his body heat so close to her as she lies in the tiny gap of space in his hospital bed. "We're going to have a very understated, quiet little wedding ceremony at the courthouse –"
"Liar," Jesse breathes. Beca just presses her cheek harder into his good shoulder to hide her smile.
Beca lets the truth fill the darkness surrounding them. "I see us being happy."
"We are happy."
"Yes, but I see us being happy forever." Beca shrugs as the seriousness of the moment weighs down on her. "You know, the kind of happy that means you'll love me even when I'm 93 and have saggy boobs and wrinkly skin and I foam at the mouth like a rabid dog."
Jesse laughs quietly. "I can just picture it – how great an old lady you're going to be. Always complaining."
"I am not always complaining!" Beca glances up at him, and in the near complete darkness of the room, she can almost pretend that they're just lying in their bed at home together, that he isn't attached to a morphine drip or covered in dark blue bruises and heavy white bandages. "I thought – I thought you were going to… You know."
Jesse kisses her forehead, fingers tracing a soothing beat through her hair. "And leave you here with an incomplete movication? Never."
"Jesse," she sighs, shifting carefully so she can lean up without hurting him. She can just make out the white of his eyes, reflecting in the cracks of light through the closed blinds. "I'm serious. I was really, really scared."
"I know," he says heavily. "I wish I could go back and kick myself awake for you."
The silence wraps around them again, and Beca listens to the beating of his heart, letting the sound lull her into a sense of safety and security. With every pump comes a reminder that he is alive and that he's with her, but just to make sure, she runs her palm up and down his arm, letting herself feel the warmth of his sensitive skin.
"I saw this brown brick house, with a red front door and these little gnomes around a pond by the pathway to the porch," she confesses after some time has passed and Jesse's breathing is perfectly even. "When I opened the door, this dog came skidding into the hallway in excitement and scared the cat lazing on the stairs, and there was this ridiculous coat rack and all these pictures on the wall – It was gross, like something out of a 'How to be the Perfect American Family' guidebook – and I went into the kitchen and there you were. Jesse Swanson, the biggest kid in the world, losing a game of football to your infant son and daughter."
Beca looks up at him, taking in his closed eyes and gentle snoring, and she presses a kiss to the curve of his jaw. "I'm such a stereotype," she murmurs to his sleeping form. "What the hell have you done to me, James Swanson?"
Physio, for lack of a better phrase, sucks ass.
And she's not even the one getting it. She's just the one trying in vain to make this in anyway easier for him.
Jesse is constantly frustrated with himself. His body won't do what he wants it to, and everything is ten times harder than it should be – than it used to be – and every time his knee gives way or his shoulder locks up, he growls and grunts and smacks his hand against the wall. The therapist, Janine, is gentle and calm, easing him through, encouraging him, and Beca sits in the corner of the room, back to the wall, watching and trying not to let the pain she sees in him reflect in her. Jesse needs her to be strong for him, so she puts on a brave face and flashes him a smile every time he looks her way.
Since the hospital had let him go, she has become less his fiancé and more his 24 hour nurse. She doesn't mind too much. Their apartment building has a lift, so it's easier to wheel him between appointments, and she had sent his mother home a week prior, insisting she was capable of taking care of her son alone. Both their employers had been understanding, with Beca's work being sent home to complete while Jesse slept or watched his endless supply of movies.
Jesse cries out in pain, and Beca is pulled out of her thoughts to jump to her feet, rushing to his side as he clutches his left shoulder with his hand, doubling over as he breathes heavily through his teeth.
"Come on, Jesse, you can do this!" Janine's hand is on his back as Beca stops a few paces away.
"Stop pushing me! I can't do it, why can't you just face that?!" Jesse hisses angrily.
"Because it's not true. I know it's difficult, Jesse, but –"
"You know it's difficult?" Jesse straightens up a little, still holding onto his shoulder, a fire in his eyes that she's never seen. "What the hell do you know about it?"
"Jesse." Beca's hand gently rests over his right, drawing his anger away from the physiotherapist as he turns in surprise, like he'd forgotten she was here. "Jesse, take a breath."
He softens after a long moment, gazing into her eyes in a way that makes her uncomfortable but that she holds, exaggerating her breathing enough that he matches her, both inhaling deeply in time with each other. Lacing her fingers with his on his shoulder, she slowly curls her fingertips in to his palm, gently prying the hand away and to his side.
"Jesse," she whispers again. He swallows thickly, and there's emotion struggling to hide away from his expression that shows just how hard he is trying. Seeing how he watches her, how her touch is calming him, it occurs to her why he's always trying so hard – to appear strong and happy, to hide away the anger and the bitterness, to try and get past what his injuries are holding him back from. Jesse is trying to protect her.
It tears at her chest, but she keeps her exterior placid, instead offering him a watery smile.
Letting go of his hand, she presses her palm to his left hand instead, never breaking their locked gaze. "Jesse, hold my hand."
He frowns. "I can't."
"You can. I know you can." Beca places her other hand on his cheek and steps closer, their bodies mere millimetres apart. "All you have to do is curl your fingers."
"Beca." His voice is strained, the defeat growing in his eyes. "Please… I can't."
Rising to the balls of her feet, she closes her eyes with great effort and kisses him as meaningfully as she can.
His fingers twitch.
"I believe you can do this." Her palm presses harder against his. "Prove me right."
His bites his lip with the effort, and Janine is hovering close, preparing to cut in, but Beca is known for her determination, and she is determined to get him to this.
"Hold my hand," she says again, more force in her tone.
"I can't," he says through gritted teeth.
"Hold my hand, Jesse."
"Just hold my hand." Blue eyes bore into brown. Anger flashes, white hot and directed right at her.
"Stop pushing me."
"I'm not pushing you." Her lips narrow. "Just hold my hand Jesse, it's not like it's difficult."
"Beca," Janine says hesitantly, but Beca gives her a look that makes her back down.
"You have no idea," he growls at her. "You don't know what it's like Beca."
"So?" She shrugs. She sees him crack. "Stop being such a baby and just hold my hand."
She steps down. "Okay," she says simply, turning away.
"Don't walk away from me!" Jesse pulls her back to him. "You don't get to just give up!"
"Then don't walk away –" But he's stopped by her finger over his lips, a beaming smile growing over her face as she nods towards the floor. Jesse frowns, confused as to why she's smiling when he had thought they were arguing, and looks down.
There it is; his hand gripping hers.
"Oh my – That – What?" Jesse looks back to her, a delighted grin on his face that wipes out all the resentment. "I did it. I did it!"
"Yeah you did," she says smugly, biting her lip around her smile as he throws his good arm around her waist and hugs her with a giddy laugh.
Over his shoulder, Janine mimes an applause. "Thank you," she mouths.
"How did you know?"
Beca twists her head back to look up at him from her position beside him on the couch, laying across the worn cushions with her head in his lap and his hand in her hair. "Know what?" she asks sleepily when he doesn't continue.
"That you could get me to do it. Hold your hand."
Beca shrugs, turning back to Dorothy skipping up the yellow brick road. She runs her thumb along the side of his left hand. "Because I know you."
"But how did you know that I'd only manage it by getting angry?"
"I didn't make you angry." Her gaze is steady on the screen, her voice full of fake nonchalance. "If there's one thing I've learnt about you over all these years, it's that you love me. You love me enough to have waited all those months back in freshman year of college, and you love me enough to have been so… So patient with me. Throughout our time together, you've done nothing but wait for me, for marriage and whatever comes next and… Well, everything." She sighs softly, unsettled by how serious the conversation has become at her hand. "You sat outside our apartment for two days when I threw you out. Guys just… They don't just do that. I know that you love me, and that you're not about to let me leave any time soon. All I did was… Use that to my advantage."
Jesse is quiet for a long time, but she does not turn around. When he speaks, his voice cracks with something she can't detect. "So you used how I feel about you to make me angry?"
Beca rolls over, looking up at him as he smirks at her. "Well that's the mean way to put it…"
Laughing, he pulls gently at her chin until she's leaning up to him and he can hold her neck, kissing her sweetly. "Just one of the many reasons why I love you."
She blushes, settling back into her previous position and pulling the blanket up to her chin. "Shush, Dorothy's just about the meet the lion."
He laughs again in that way that lets her know he's about to say something ridiculously cheesy. "There really is no place like home."
"This is nice," Jesse comments in a forced casualness that makes her smile in amusement.
"Yeah; if you like over-the-top, clichéd, ridiculously expensive –" When Jesse stares pointedly at her, she stops and rolls her eyes. "Come on, you're telling me you'd like us to have this kind of wedding?"
He winces at the thought. "Well, no, but… It can give us ideas."
"On what not to do."
"I can't believe you are being so harsh about one of your best friends' wedding."
Beca looks around at the large ballroom they are standing in, the dinner tables now pushed away to create room for the large dance floor and DJ setup (Beca has left her laptop to reel out a few pre-mixed tracks while she has a break). Leaning into his chest, they watch Chloe spin giddily in her full skirted strapless wedding gown. There are fairy lights everywhere, and the amount of silky fabric adorning the walls and tables is enough to keep a sweat shop going for a good three months.
"I'm not being harsh, it's just not my personal taste. But it suits her." Beca shrugs. "This wedding screams Chloe."
Jesse smirks. "I wonder if Bill even got a look in."
"Nope." Beca grins back at Jesse as he starts swaying to a very familiar mix from many years before, and she turns in his arms to lean up and gently kiss him, her blue bridesmaid dress swooshing with the movement (she had firmly put her foot down when pink was suggested). Jesse stares at her in that adoring way she's taken seven years to become even remotely comfortable with. She bites her lip, blushes, and looks away, remarking quietly, "I love you, you know."
"I know." When she looks back, his eyes are clouded with concern. "Is something wrong?"
Her hand trails with a ghostly force over his injured shoulder, thinking back on all the physical therapy and pain and frustration on both their parts. Through his suit, she can still feel the strappings that keep the fragile joint more secure. "I just…" Leaning into him so he can't see the worry lines creasing her face, she mumbles, "I was so close to losing you."
He hears, just about, enough that her fingers trail through the ends of her curled hair, and he clings to her tightly. There are no words he can say to heal the wound that his accident has left, no apologies or more treasured moments together to rid her mind of the memory of seeing him that way. Jesse will bear the physical scars for the rest of his life, but Beca will harbour the emotional ones forever.
Jesse tries anyway, peppering kisses on her cheeks, nose and finally, lips. "I can't imagine how terrified you must have been, Bec – Hell, the thought of the situation reversed…" Jesse's face twists nauseously and she kisses him again in reassurance. "Point being, just… Remember that I'm here still. I will always be here, and we will always be together; even when we've taken our last breaths, I believe that we will be together in whatever comes next. You and I… We're destiny. And that means you can't get rid of me even if you wanted to."
He looks so serious, so determined for her to understand, that the moment presses down her unbearably until tears are leaking from her eyes and she's thrown herself even closer to him, clinging to his neck and whispering, "Good thing I don't want to then, hey?"
Jesse chuckles and opens his mouth to reply, but they are interrupted by the enigma that is Not-So-Fat-Anymore Amy (she blames her sister for having babies and having to chase them around the Australian outback for hours on end. Beca thinks it's more to do with her job as a personal trainer, of all things). "Come on, lovebirds. This is Chloe's wedding, not yours. Let's go get funky!" And just before she's walked away, Amy turns back and quickly adds, "Oh, and Beca, Chloe is requesting a Bellas reunion on the karaoke so… Get that flatbutt moving."
Amy drags Beca's arm, tearing her away from Jesse's hold, and Beca shots him a look that says No karaoke at our wedding. Ever. Jesse eagerly nods and waves her goodbye.
"You bought us a house." She stares blankly at the scene before her. "You just… Went out and bought us a house."
The tiny little brownstone is watching her, with its peeling white frame windows and creaking, aged front door. The front yard is blanketed in red and orange leaves, almost completely hiding the little pavestone path up the lawn to the narrow little porch. The roof has missing tiles and there's a smashed pane of glass in one of the upstairs windows, and she's pretty sure that's a wasp's nest peeking out of the guttering.
"Jesse…" She is about to argue, to tell him off for going behind her back this way, but she can feel herself… She'd never known it was actually possible to fall in love with a piece of property, but that's the only way to describe the way her heart beats faster every time she blinks and the house doesn't disappear. Instead, she weakly tries to argue, "There's no way we can afford this. Not after all your medical bills and your therapies and all the time off work…"
"I've sorted it." Beca raises her eyebrows in concern, unable to look away from what might just be their dream house and see the smirk she can hear in his voice. "It's fine, Bec. So we take out a mortgage and a tiny loan from my parents? It's not that big a deal."
"Jesse!" She spins around to face him, appalled. "We can't be in that much debt! You're still paying off student loans!" He shrugs, running his hands down her arms to lace their fingers together. "Are you crazy?!"
"I'm crazy about you."
She shakes her head. "This isn't the time to –"
"Beca, six months ago, I saw how short life can be." When she winces, he squeezes her hands. "We've been stuck in that tiny apartment for too long. We're getting married, Bec. We need a home. I'm not wasting any more time – we love each other, we're together, we're making more money now, even if there's been a few complications along the way. The house needs a lot of work, and it's not going to be an easy job, but we can get family and friends involved and we can get this back to its former glory – this house can be ours Beca. Don't you want that?"
Damn him and his eternal optimism.
Biting her lip, she looks at the splintered fencing and the gate hanging precariously from one of its rusted hinges. "You're still healing," she feebly offers up as an argument.
"I'll take it easy at first. And Benji can help! He definitely owes me." Jesse's eyes are alight with the passion of his mission, trying so desperately to make her see what he sees, and she does – she sees it all, can see how beautiful they can make this house with a bit of TLC and a lot of hard work… But as the self-declared pessimist of their relationship, she sees the flaws he's purposefully ignoring, and she feels them dig their claws in, making her doubt his dream.
"We can do this," he insists when he sees how hesitant she is, and the sincerity and the love in his eyes is enough. With extreme force she pushes the doubts away, letting his image become theirs, and with a nod of her head, Jesse whoops loudly and kisses her soundly, holding her to him ecstatically. She's too excited to even think about rolling her eyes and calling him a weirdo.
"Alright, guys, take five, get some coffee, we'll meet back for the instrumentals after." Beca lets go of the red button and leans back in her chair, stretching her arms above her head as she lazily calls, "Come in!"
Jesse's cheesy grin appears around the door. "There's my beautiful girl."
"What do you want?" she asks carefully with a roll of her eyes. Jesse steps into the room, kissing her in greeting.
"What, a man can't drop by his fiance's work for purely innocent reasons?"
An eyebrow arches in response. "We're not having sex in the cupboard again. It took weeks for those bruises to fade –"
"Okay that's not what I meant, but now you mention it…" Jesse leans over her in her chair, pressing her into the backrest as he kisses her passionately. Her fingers get lost in his hair and she welcomes the stress-relief that his touch brings her, his hands roaming along her sides, and a craving builds in her gut as she pulls him closer…
"Mm, no, Jesse, I can't," she says regretfully as she pushes him away with a hand on his chest. "I have so much work to do, maybe later –"
"Okay," he says in resignation, and he steps away to the little couch a few metres away, straightening out his shirt and falling heavily into the well-worn leather. "That actually isn't why I came. I wanted to remind you about dinner tonight."
Beca spins smoothly in her chair to face him again. "For our anniversary? It's cool, I remember." When it's Jesse's turn to raise an eyebrow in doubt, she grimaces guiltily. "Okay, so your mother reminded me with a card this morning - but I do know now!"
Jesse just laughs lightly, not at all surprised with her incompetence at remembering important dates. "Do you even know how many years?"
Beca looks to the ceiling as she calculates on her fingers. "Eight? No. Nine. Nine years." She looks at him in surprise. "Wow, nine years, has it really been that long?"
"Yup," he says with a smile, popping the 'p' in a way he knows annoys her. She'd comment, but she gets distracted by the realisation that they've been engaged for three years, and were together for six years before that… Nine whole years with Jesse. The thought makes her smile.
"Jeesh. Okay, well, I'm good with wherever you booked."
"And…" He stretches out the word, waiting for her to frown as she tries to think what else she might have forgotten. "We should probably discuss the wedding."
"The wedding?" Her frown deepens. "But we've been discussing it plenty."
Jesse shakes his head. "Not really, though. We actually need to focus on it; get the ball rolling. We've been sitting still and letting life's little obstacles get in the way –"
"- I'd hardly say your accident was a 'little obstacle' –"
"- When we should be focussing on getting it organised so we can be legally bound to each other."
She gives him an unamused look. "Don't describe getting married as legally bound."
"Point being," Jesse says with a wave of his hand, "That we should start talking about the future more. We live so much in the present that everything is getting away from us. Bec, we're 27 already, and there's so many things we haven't done."
Beca presses her fingers into her temple as a headache begins to grow behind her eyes. "I know what you're getting at, but we're not old, Jesse. 27 is nothing!"
"It's over quarter of a century."
She groans and turns back to her mixing board. "Can we focus on one thing at a time please? Wedding first. Sprogs later."
A ghost of a smile reflects in the glass window in front of her as Jesse watches her back. "I knew you were getting broody."
"I am not broody," she says indignantly.
"Please!" He just laughs when she chucks a crumpled up napkin his way. "You fawn over Aubrey's girls at every chance you get, and Stacie's little boy. Our old neighbour and her set of twins. When we went to visit Amy last month you were all over her niece and nephew, and what about when you were melting all over Donald's expecting girlfriend? There was Ashley's baby last Christmas and you were bouncing all over the place with Chloe last week when her test was positive, and that man from PR you were talking about whose wife is expecting their fourth –"
"Alright, for one, I get the picture so stop listing all the people we know with children," she snaps. Taking a breath, she continues more calmly, "And secondly; that doesn't mean I'm ready for us to have our own. Babies are fine when their other peoples, because you get to hold them when they're cute and give them back when they're a crying, poopy mess. I mean, come on, Jesse, it's taken me nine years to be okay with marriage; you think that babies are going to automatically come easily to me?"
"I'm not saying now, I just think we should talk about it." Jesse comes towards her to kiss the worry lines between her eyebrows away. "Don't get yourself so worked up. You don't need to panic; it's only a conversation." Chatter echoes through from the studio, and Jesse presses his lips to hers. "You need to get back to work, as do I. I love you, and I'll pick you up at six."
"I love you, too!" she calls after him, and sighs when the door gently closes behind him.Babies. Bluergh.
No fuss, she told him. It has to be quiet, with no more than about a dozen people between them because the sure embarrassment it's most likely going to cause shouldn't be viewed by anyone that she can't lovingly yet violently threaten. There will be no overpriced dress and veil, no tuxes, no flowers or bridesmaids or best men or elaborate cakes or basically any kind of wedding staple. She wants minimal; she wants to put her signature next to his and have a crap ton of alcohol and that is as far as she will let it go.
She gets about two and a half of these wishes granted.
Really, Beca should have known; who takes a pre-wedding vacation to Greece anyway? Jesse had insisted it would be good for them, and she had suspected that he'd wanted to calm her nerves a little before they returned and visited the courthouse. She'd let him drag her to the airport and force her to watch all these ridiculous movies (suspiciously marriage-themed) and she'd let him babble away about a thousand different things on the drive to their little hotel, hidden away in some remote area that she thought was actually pretty perfect.
But then, four mornings into their fortnight away, Beca had woken up without him, and, instead, to Chloe's face looming alarmingly close over her, a manic smile on her face with eyes full of pure evil, a collection of make-up brushes in one hand and curling tongs in the other ("What are you doing here?!" she'd shrieked, jumping up and spotting even more of her college acapella group crowding the door. Chloe had shrugged, informing her that they were her "unofficial bridesmaids" before yanking the sheets away and literally dragging her out of bed), and she had realised the horrific truth all too late.
Jesse was essentially forcing a beach wedding on her.
(No, there definitely was not a part of her that was a tiny bit impressed that he'd managed to successfully keep the whole thing a secret. Because she could read that boy like the back of her hand, and yet she'd missed every single suppressed sign…)
She'd hated him for the two whole hours she got forced into a chair and attacked with all these torturous devices. She'd hated him when Stacie forced this Grecian styled, white and floaty floor length dress over her head. She'd hated him when she looked in the mirror and saw her own (admittedly actually quite… beautiful) reflection.
She'd basically hated him the entire morning, right up until the second she had been led to the end of the little wooden aisle, flanked by a dozen or so fold out chairs full of their friends and family, and she'd seen him standing at the end of the walk under this flowery archway with his ridiculous grin, completely confident in himself and looking far too good in a white shirt and beige trousers.
Then… Or now, really… Well, she doesn't think she's ever loved him more.
"You look beautiful, Beca," her dad whispers gruffly as he holds out his arm.
"I can't believe you didn't tell me about this," she complains quietly, but she loops her arm through his anyway, blushing as he looks away to hide his watery eyes.
Walking down the aisle after her now-official bridesmaids in their matching but colour-alternating dresses, her hands shake at her side. Her face is a scarlet red with part-embarrassment, part effort to not let this emotional grin actually break her face.
Which is probably why, as soon as she reaches him, she aims a forceful punch right into his good shoulder.
"Ow!" he exclaims as he rubs it through his shirt, cautiously backing away a half-step as she glares at him with shiny eyes. "Honestly, woman, why do you have to be so vicious?"
"What the hell is all this?!" She gestures around them, to the man holding an open book with eyes full of panic; to the little gathering of their favourite people, who are watching and laughing (apart from Jesse's mother, who is already crying); to the dress and the archway and the bridesmaids' outfits and the waves gently lapping at the shore.
"It's a wedding," he says with this smartass smirk she wants to kiss right away.
Beca rolls her eyes. "I can see that. I meant why are we a part of it."
Jesse steps closer, taking her hand and interlocking their fingers gently. "We're not so much a part of it as the main attraction."
She tries to pull her hand away, but his gentle grip is surprisingly strong. "You promised…"
But she can't finish her sentence, because he's staring at her in that way that makes her feel vulnerable and terrified and loved and safe, like she's the only person in the world he truly gives a damn about, and… Well, since they're already here, and everyone's made the effort…
"I can't believe you did this," she says instead, and his smirk slowly grows into an elated grin, one she mirrors because how can she not. It makes it pretty difficult to kiss him when he pulls her closer by her hand, but they make it work.
"Are you sure you have to go?"
"You know I do." Jesse's bottom lip juts out and she kisses it gently, smiling softly up at him as his arms around her waist tightens, trying to imprison her there. Beca shakes her head as he starts to widen his eyes, cutting off his puppy dog eyes and inwardly cursing Shrek 2 for teaching him that trick. "It's only for a few days, you'll be fine."
"Beca," he sighs her name, using one hand to try and relinquish her hold on the small suitcase beside them. "I won't be fine, you know I won't. Who's going to stop the kitchen fires or the bathtub floods if you're not there?"
Kissing him quickly again, she uses the loosened hold around her to her advantage and slips out of his grip. "You're just going to have to be extra careful then."
Jesse's fingers stay tight around hers, trapping her hand around the extended handle of the suitcase. "Do you promise to come back to me? You won't run off with any handsome Englishmen?"
Rolling her eyes (she knows he's just talking now in the hope of keeping her around a tiny bit longer), she lets him eagerly pull her back to him. "I chose you over Luke, didn't I?"
"Yeah you did," he says smugly against her lips, kissing her gently. "It's because of my sweet moves, right?"
Beca slaps his chest as he starts swaying his hips right there in the middle of the airport, trying not to laugh at the self-righteous grin that takes over his face. "I'm starting to think I made the wrong choice."
She feels his smile against the skin nape of her neck as he clings to her. "Now I know you don't mean that."
"Jesse," she groans, but it tails off into a breathy chuckle as his eyelashes purposefully tickle her, "You have to let me go or I'm going to miss my flight."
"That's the plan."
"I'll get fired."
"Then you'd never have to leave me."
"If I get fired we can't afford our mortgage." He shrugs, still busy running his lips up her neck, and she knows she's going to have to bring out the big guns. "Without my income, we'll have to sell your movies to pay -"
"Fine." He groans unhappily, lifting his head from her shoulder to give her one last lingering kiss. "I'll miss you."
Beca smiles at the adorably distraught look on his face. "You better." Extracting herself from his hold again, she brushes her hair away from her face nervously – her first international gig, no pressure – and offers him one more smile. "Okay, I'm going. Be good?"
"I always am."
"There's dinner in the fridge, all you have to do is put it in the microwave," she tells him, stepping back slowly.
"Beca, I'll be fine, I promise. I think I can look after myself for four days." She raises an eyebrow, remembering the words he had said to her not a few minutes before about fires and floods.
"Benji will be over tomorrow just to make sure." Grimacing a little at the way he raises his eyebrow at her, she shrugs. "What? Someone has to make sure you don't burn down the whole building." She snaps her fingers. "Oh! And make sure to take off the foil covering the plate before you heat it up."
Jesse closes the small gap she had managed to put between them, rubbing at the furrow between her eyebrows with his thumb. "Stop worrying and go get on that plane before I change my mind, throw you over my shoulder, and race you straight back home."
Kissing him hard, she feels herself relax with every stroke on her hip bone from his strong fingers. Jesse will be fine without her (but will she be fine without him? It's a whole new country thousands of miles away, and she's become rather clingy on the nerd - will she be okay without him holding her hand on the flight as she panics about an engine falling off or the back of the plane ripping off or somehow crash landing on a deserted island where they'd get attacked by polar bears and smoke monsters and kidnapped by -)
"You're worrying again aren't you?" His fingers slip between hers and he brings their joined hands up, kissing her knuckles lovingly. "The plane is fine; you can do this, okay? Lost was just a tv show, things like that don't happen –"
She cuts him off with a glare, doubt still lingering in her expression, but takes a deep breath before letting go of his hand and shaking her shoulders to get rid of the residing tension. Jesse gives her an encouraging smile. "I love you."
Jesse grins at her. "I love you too. Now go!"
Beca's never really seen herself as the 'mommy' type. Where a mother is supposed to be warm and open and nurturing, Beca keeps more to herself. Sometimes, she finds it difficult to look after even herself - never mind another life. She is more driven by her career than her uterus. In her mind, love is not handed out on a whim; you have to earn it.
And even though she's really, really mad at Jesse, she can feel herself melting into a pile of warm goo on the original floorboards of their home, because those big brown eyes are staring up at her so desperately…
"Fine," she growls, shifting her gaze away from the cocker spaniel puppy in fear that her heart might explode in her chest. "You can keep the damn dog."
Jesse grins up from where he has been crouched in the hallway, making ridiculous baby noises, for twenty minutes. "I knew you couldn't resist." And then he turns to the puppy again, rubbing her tummy as her tail wags into a blur. "I told you she'd love you, didn't I? Yes I did. Yes I did!"
"Oh my God…" Beca rolls her eyes, wandering off into the kitchen. The sound of claws tapping wood follows her, and she looks down to find the puppy, who Jesse has already decided to call Maisy, looking up at her imploringly. A pained pause begins, as Beca tries to look away and Maisy just seems to stare harder, until she's on her back and Beca is gingerly petting her.
"Shut up," Beca mumbles when she feels rather than sees Jesse's ecstatic smile.
Owning a dog is harder than she thought it would be.
"Maisy!" Beca shouts. "Maisy, come here!"
Guilty puppy eyes appear around the door frame of the living room, tan ears extra droopy, to see Beca pointing at the sofa with a scowl on her face. "Maisy, what is this?"
Maisy creeps around the door slowly, edging towards her on sad, oversized paws.
Beca glances helplessly between the eight month old puppy and the tattered remains of one of her most prized record sleeves. The water stops running upstairs, and instantly she is demanding the presence of the other guilty party.
Jesse wanders in a few minutes later with his towel wrapped around his waist, a questioning eyebrow raised until he sees the mess on the couch and the quivering body of the puppy he had promised would be as good as gold. Beca fights hard against the smile at how his eyes widen and he as wallows nervously, offering her a grimace as his wet hair falls onto his forehead.
"What are you going to do about this?"
Glancing between them, Jesse shrugs and bends to pick Maisy up, tucking her under one arm and scratching behind her ears with his other hand.
"What?" He shrugs again. "She's a puppy, and she's teething. Give her a break!"
Beca balks. "Are you serious?! That used to be my limited edition Johnny Cash! Do you know how expensive that was?!"
"I'll buy you another one if it's that important."
"I'm serious, Jesse," Beca says angrily. "I'm fed up of that dog. Take her back to the shelter."
Jesse gasps dramatically and presses Maisy's head against his chest, covering her ears. "Beca, don't say such things!"
Her fingers rake through her hair. "She's ruined three rugs by peeing on them, as well as chewing on your desk and my record. And she's been digging up the garden again. She's a menace!"
Jesse keeps quiet, calculating just how serious her threat is. He sighs after a long moment, walking Maisy towards the couch so she can see the chewed up remains of the record. "Maisy," he says too seriously, "This is very naughty. Bad dog!"
The dog presses her white head into his chest again.
"Yeah, I know you're sorry, but there's no use saying it to me. It's mommy's record, and you need to say you're sorry to her, too."
Beca crosses her arms as Jesse turns towards her, holding Maisy out towards her until a pink tongue makes contact with her nose. "I'm sorry, mommy," Jesse says in a squeaky voice, and Maisy increases the intensity of her imploring gaze until Beca has given in and ruffled her ears, glaring at Jesse over the spaniel's head.
"You're unbelievable," she says, but Jesse just grins at her, placing Maisy on the floor so he can wrap his arms around her and kiss her soundly. His hair is wet under her hands, but she gives in anyway – because that's what she is now, a soppy mess – and the towel drops to the floor, Maisy squeaking in surprise from underneath.
"So," Stacie says as her wine glass clinks against her wedding band, "You and Jesse are finally playing happy families, huh?"
"No," she responds immediately, but her gaze is locked on Maisy as she darts around the garden after the gaggle of children at the barbeque.
"You know, it's only a matter of time before he talks you into babies, too."
Beca chokes on her sip of wine and Stacie pats her back lightly, smirking as the smaller brunette splutters. "No!" she says weakly around her coughs. "Jesse knows my feelings on kids."
"Honey, I don't think even you know your feelings on them."
"Don't be stupid." When Stacie continues to look pointedly at her, Beca nudges her with her elbow. "Please, Stace, it's not something I'm exactly programmed for, is it?"
Stacie shrugs. "Neither was I, but look at me now; three and half."
As Stacie rubs her swollen belly, Beca watches Maisy again, tongue lolling out of her mouth as she runs about happily. At eighteen months, she is almost fully grown, but she still has the demeanour of the little ball of fur Jesse bought home a year ago. She's mischievous but cuddly, and Beca is actually quite fond of returning home after a long day at work to fall into the Couch, Maisy settling over her lap dot be stroked. Their system means that Jesse generally plays with her until her energy is depleted, and then Beca gets the calm, sleepy dog that she can relax with and not have to worry about discovering another one of Jesse's chewed slippers.
Across the garden, she catches Jesse watching her, and she feels a hint of déjà vu as he winks at her across the space.
"Face it," Stacie continues, "You're not getting any younger and –"
"Stacie, I'm only thirty." Yet Beca winces, because it seems like only yesterday that she was grumpy eighteen year old with an attitude problem.
"And you've been with Jesse for what, twelve years?"
"Whatever. Point being; when are you gonna pop out some sprogs for him?"
Beca casts a glance back to her friend doubtfully. "Having kids is a little bit more meaningful than that."
Stacie laughs, her long hair falling over her shoulder across her cosy jumper. "Yes, I suppose. I really think you'd make a great mother, though. I mean, look at how happy you've made Maisy!" Her hand raises to point at the dog that is darting between their large group of friends, sniffing at greasy fingers and for the possibility of dropped food.
"What's up, girls?" Jesse appears behind them, an arm around both their shoulders, innocent brown eyes flicking between them.
"Oh, nothing much," Beca says casually, leaning into him so she can't see Stacie roll her eyes. Jesse glances suspiciously between them again but says nothing more, and Beca excuses herself to talk to Chloe, curled up in a garden chair away from the rest of the group. She hopes that maybe now she can get the thought of babies off of her brain.
Nine days later, Beca is staring at the positive pregnancy test in a state of complete disbelief.
"Fuck," she whispers as she mindlessly pets Maisy lying beside her, and then, much louder, yells, "Jesse!"
Remembering that he isn't actually home, she rushes to her phone downstairs to call him up, and fifteen minutes later, he crashes through the front door, a panicked expression accompanying him as he skids to a stop in the kitchen.
"Beca?" Her back is to him, her breathing level to keep herself calm, but his hand lands on her back and she wonders idly if the baby can feel it, and then she goes into overdrive.
"Woah!" Jesse steps back as she spins around in the breakfast bar stool, wide eyes watching him nervously as she wordlessly hands him the stick.
He stares for a long, long time, the atmosphere heavy and full of something she can't put her finger on.
"You're…" His voice cracks and he coughs to clear his throat. "Beca, you're… We're having a baby?"
Beca takes a deep breath. "Yes."
He finally looks up at her, eyes shining. "You're pregnant?"
"Five tests can't be wrong." Pulling the other tests out of her pocket, Jesse grabs them eagerly, eyes scanning over the five little pink pluses. She braces herself for the no doubt very energetic reaction.
A smile flickers across her face. "That's what I said." He's still standing perfectly still, and fear niggles at her insides. "Jesse, please react."
Arms wrap around her and the stool disappears underneath her, and he laughs giddily into her ear as he spins her around. "Beca, I can't believe this!"
She clings to him, hoping to hide her nerves from his ever-observant eyes, but when he puts her down to look at the sticks again, he spots it as she half-expected him to.
"Beca?" He strokes her cheek, his tone loving and gentle. "It's okay to be excited. This is good news."
She chews on her lip. "Is it?" She can't help the doubt leaking through her defences, because she's scared and has no idea what she's supposed to do. "What if we're not ready?"
"We're ready," he says immediately. He points at the ball of fluff in the corner, chewing on a toy, completely unaware of the life changing moment. "If we can look after Maisy, we can raise a baby."
"They're not really the same thing."
"Bec, we can do this." His lips press to her forehead as he pulls her in for a hug. "You're going to be an amazing parent, I just know it. This baby is so lucky to have you."
Burying her face into his shoulder, she lets herself believe him, even if just for a minute or two, and sure enough, a flicker of excitement ignites in her stomach. She's got Jesse, after all. They can totally do this, right?