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(Fund) Raising Hell
nnieohhhhyes
novel_concept26
Title: (Fund) Raising Hell
Pairing: Gen, side Beca MItchell/Chloe
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Nothing owned, no profit gained.
Spoilers: Mild ones for Pitch Perfect.
Summary: If they're not doing a car wash to raise the money for regionals, they sure as hell need another winning game plan--and fast.
A/N: Kay’s prompt, although I may have butchered it slightly. Or a lot. But the bare bones still stand.


“We need an idea we can work with, people!” Aubrey barks. Her hands on her hips, she is glaring at the lot of them, huddled uncomfortably in the tiny apartment living room she and Chloe share.

It’s barely big enough for two people, Beca thinks from her place on the floor, her back jammed up against the couch. To shove the entire team into one miniscule room feels an awful lot like an interrogation technique, but Aubrey is sporting that slightly-manic glint in her eye that usually sparks much worse. Beca supposes this isn’t half as bad as it could be. Yet.

On the couch above her, her knees propped on either side of Beca’s body, Chloe claps her hands excitedly together. “We could do a bake sale!”

No,” Beca and Cynthia Rose groan in unison. Stacie frowns.

“I like bake sales. But I thought we were going to do the car wash?”

“Car washes,” Aubrey tells her witheringly, as if speaking to a very young, impossibly stupid child, “only work if those doing the washing are fit. And some of us are…” She chews her lip thoughtfully, clearly considering the best way to phrase it. “Not on top of our cardio.”

“You’re right,” Fat Amy agrees amiably. “Denise, we’ve talked about this.”

The dirty look she earns is absolutely priceless. Beca jerks her head left before Denise can see her snort. Aubrey looks decidedly unamused.

“Brainstorming, people! We need to be brainstorming!”

“How about selling candy?” Jessica offers hesitantly. It’s probably the fifth time she’s spoken all year, and she looks utterly dumbfounded when Aubrey actually smiles in her direction.

Granted, it’s the sort of smile you’d see on a chainsaw-wielding scarecrow, but when it comes to Aubrey, you sort of take what you can get.

“Candy is good,” she encourages, nodding until Chloe’s head begins to bob as well. “But I think we can do better. Play to our strengths, ladies. What are we good at?”

“Bobbing for hot dogs,” Amy says immediately.

“Deck stacking,” Cynthia Rose admits with a furtive glance around the room.

“Mani-pedis!” Stacie squeals. Aubrey jams the heel of her hand against her eye socket.

“Something useful, aca-bitches.”

Lilly murmurs something from the far corner of the room, where she is half-lodged in an open DVD cabinet. Aubrey’s brow furrows, her hand cupping around her ear.

“I said,” Lilly repeats, huffing slightly, “singing telegrams. For Valentine’s Day.” She pauses. “Also, does anybody know a good arms dealer?”

Beca gawks at her. Overhead, Chloe gives a little stamp with both feet and announces, “Perfect.”

They turn as one mismatched entity, waiting for Aubrey’s take on the matter.

Their fearlessly-mental leader smiles.

***

Singing telegrams are so stupid, Cynthia Rose thinks. They’re actually selling remarkably well, for being the general laughingstock of the a capella world, but the fact of the matter is…it’s pretty goddamn humiliating, singing for their supper this way. She loves music, no doubt there, but for her own sake. Shelling out a wavering rendition of “Carry On My Wayward Son” to some sophomore on his way to English is not her bag at all.

Also, who picks a fucking Kansas song for Valentine’s Day?

They travel in one large pack, despite Beca’s suggestion that they maybe split off into pairs to attract less attention along the way (a solution to the humiliation that might have worked nicely, had Beca not been the one to bring it up), and all Cynthia Rose can think as they strut along in their stupid little uniforms is that they would make an amazing target for the paintball team.

She just hopes like hell the paintball team doesn’t cop to that fact.

“Why are we doing this, again?” she grumbles up at Stacie, who flutters her eyelashes.

“Because it’s romantic.”

She hates when Stacie does that faux-innocent voice and makes her eyes all big and froofy like that. Stacie is way too fucking hot for her own good, and it’s clear in the way she throws her shoulders back and stretches her neck that she is painfully aware of it. Stacie is exactly the kind of girl Cynthia Rose should be staying the hell away from.

But damn, does she have some killer knockers.

“Fuck romance,” she mutters, because it’s a damn sight better than admitting she actually kind of likes all this mushy bullshit—or did, before a certain dumb bitch yanked her heart out of her chest and shoved it into a blender.

Maybe their next song could be by Alanis. That feels like it would suit just fine.

(Fuck, if they’re going to do Kansas, they could sing just about anything at all.)

***

Stacie loves Valentine’s Day.

She loves everything about it, from the hearts, to the candy, to the endless parade of boys knocking down her door for a chance to throw presents into her lap. February is just about her favorite month, in fact, even if it did take her the better part of four years to learn how to spell it.

(She still remembers the haggard expression on her fifth grade teacher’s face as she explained the “bru” thing on the eighth consecutive day. After a while, Stacie just took to nodding and pretending to get it. The teacher would have to give up eventually.)

Stupid spelling aside, February brings snow flurries and hot chocolate and cards in the shape of adorable penguins clutching hearts. She can’t get enough.

Even if some of her Bellas cohorts are being real grumps about the whole thing.

“This is pointless,” Cynthia Rose is complaining—again—as they stump along through a snowbank. “Charging three bucks a song isn’t going to get us the funding Aubrey wants.”

“No one in their right mind would pay more than that,” Fat Amy observes. She steps sideways and slips a little, catching hold of Cynthia’s jacket to stay upright. “Who invented snow, and can I bitch-slap them in the tit? We oughta migrate out of this Day After Tomorrow wasteland until spring.”

Stacie saw that one; there were cute wolves, and a cute Jake Gyllenhaal, and a not-so-cute blizzard. She won’t be buying the DVD.

I think it’s fun,” she announces, ignoring the smirk Beca slides her way. Like Beca is one to talk; she’s been walking way too close to Chloe all week, her hand bouncing off of Chloe’s like she can’t go ten minutes without physical contact. Beca is the least hardass person Stacie has ever met.

It’s actually kind of adorable.

Aubrey, at the head of the pack, lifts their Musical To-Do List to her nose and squints. “We’re due in Smythe, room 408 in…eight and a half minutes.”

“To do what?” Beca asks, sounding apprehensive. Aubrey purses her lips, clearly disapproving of the answer.

“The Thong Song,” she snips off, closing her eyes as if to ward off a very real pain. Stacie claps her hands loudly, sharing a grin with Chloe—the only other person in the group to look as excited as she feels.

“I love Sisqo!”

Please,” a male voice interrupts, bored as can be. “Like you girly-girls could ever wrap your sensitive heads around the anthem that defined a generation of swag.”

“The Thong Song defined a generation for you?” Beca retorts. “Really? A whole generation.”

Bumper’s smile is about the most repulsive thing Stacie has seen since that breakfast burrito Amy insisted on scarfing down two hours ago. Lucky for her, the rest of his Trebles are so much cuter. She wiggles her fingers in Donald’s direction.

Aubrey shoves her aside, glaring forcefully enough to melt glass, or whatever. “What do you want, mouth-breather?”

Bumper makes a show of inspecting his (totally nasty, Stacie can tell even from here; he really should care more about the finer details of life if he’s going to be marketing his stupid sandals) fingernails. “There’s a rumor going around campus that you ladies are subjecting the fine people of Barden to a round of sub-par—what was it, again, Donald?”

“Chick-light telegrams,” Donald recites obediently. Bumper nods, solemn.

“Chick-light telegrams. I mean, whose lame-ass idea even was that?”

Lilly moves as if to grab for him; Beca catches her by the wrist, shaking her head almost imperceptibly. Aubrey sucks in her cheeks so hard, Stacie’s a little afraid her whole face will cave in.

They are not, on the whole, retaliating with the kind of vigor Amazonian badasses possess. At the very least, she expects better from Cynthia Rose. But if Cynthia isn’t going to step up…

“Excuse you,” Stacie snaps, jolting forward and feeling boundlessly proud of herself when Bumper actually takes a step back into a snowbank. “We are spreading Cupid’s cheer through the power of song. What have you done to give back lately?”

The pride in her heart only swells when he tilts his head and looks flummoxed for a moment. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Beca’s satisfied little smile, and, behind her, Aubrey’s eyebrows arched in challenge. It’s just so damn awesome, watching his toadie little face twist, that she kind of forgets for a second that Bumper is much smarter than he looks—

“You know,” he announces, leaning back and flicking a smirk at his buddies, “you’re right, Stephanie—“

“Stacie,” she corrects, but he’s already powering through. The smarmy little douche.

“We haven’t been giving back enough. Barden deserves to hear what real artists can do with epic pop stylings of the 90’s.”

“Say again?” Cynthia Rose growls, like they can’t all see where this is going. Stacie wonders if it’s too much to gasp in horror for the most predictable conclusion since Anne Hathaway decided she did want to be a princess after all.

“We,” Bumper says gleefully, crossing his arms over his not-so-defined chest, “will be delivering telegrams also. And for a dollar less than the going price.”

Screw it; like Gram-Gram says, drama is always worth its weight in salt.

Stacie is almost too busy gasping (her very best, thank you very much) to watch the way Aubrey’s whole head goes Valentine-heart crimson.

***

Damn it, Stacie! Just. Just damn it!

Aubrey has been shrieking the same phrase over and over for the better part of the hour, and she knows it must be losing its effect by now—mostly made obvious by the lazy way Stacie is filing her nails in the corner—but she can’t seem to find something that would better sum up their situation. The Trebles going in on the telegram business is bad; the Trebles charging even less is horrifying. How on earth are they supposed to compete with last year’s national-level champions at two bucks a pop?

Damn it, Stacie.”

“Will you quit that?” Beca interrupts, the way Beca always does. That infuriating little punk of a girl should have been out on her ass at week two, and if not for Chloe’s insane logic on the matter (“She’s excellent, Aubrey, and besides, we can’t keep the choreography even if we lose another girl.”), Aubrey would have been delighted to strip the scarf right off her throat.

Unfortunately, Beca is talented—when she tries, which is just about never—so Aubrey has to settle for glowering at her as violently as she is able.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s not helping anyone,” Beca goes on, sounding a lot like that kid in the front row of every class who is forever correcting the professor’s grammar. “Besides, it isn’t Stacie’s fault. Bumper had that plan in motion long before he ran into us.”

“And how do you know that?” Aubrey snarls. Chloe’s hand swishes through the air between them and squeezes her bicep reassuringly.

“Deep breaths, Aubrey.”

“I am breathing!” she snaps, and swivels her attention right back to Beca’s guilty face. “How do you know anything about Treble plans?”

Chloe’s gaze is darting between them, her teeth sunk into her lower lip. “We may have—“

We?” Aubrey is outraged. Chloe standing up for this insolent brat and her vocal cords is one thing, but actually hanging out with her? Without Aubrey? With a Treble?

“We,” Chloe repeats in her calmest voice, as if her tone can remove the tremor from her hands, “may have sat in on a movie night with that Jesse kid and his roommate.”

‘That Jesse kid’ happens to be the Treblemakers’ newest secret weapon. And his roommate? The weird kid with the magic?
“You went on a double date with a Treble and their mascot?”

Fury does not begin to cover it.

Beca blanches, looking as though she might be violently sick at the idea. “It wasn’t a date,” she spits. Chloe shoots her an oddly relieved smile. “Jesse just has this thing about movies, and I kind of hate them, so I asked Chloe to come make it not weird.”

“But now it kind of is,” Chloe adds, scuffing her toe on the carpet of their living room. “Weird.”

“It is very weird,” Aubrey corrects frostily. “It is obscene. Spending time with a Treble of your own accord, Chloe—you should know better.”

Chloe does know better. Chloe would never have pulled a stunt like this if not for the induction of charming little—

Beca tilts her head. “Explain to me what part of a movie night with a friend makes this our fault. Because I’m pretty sure Jesse telling us about Bumper’s plan to steal our thunder was actually kind of a good move. Not a dick one.”

“A move that you were disinclined to share with the rest of the group,” Aubrey reminds her. Beca flinches a little. It’s a deeply satisfying sight.

“It didn’t seem important.”

“Well,” Aubrey sniffs, “it was. You deliberately disobeyed my orders as captain, and now look what happened. Jesse clearly sensed your lack of care on the matter, and took that information straight to his dirtbag leader, and now we are—“ She slumps down on the couch, taking Chloe with her. “Screwed. Totally screwed.”

“Deliberately disobeyed?” Beca repeats, wearing an incredibly inappropriate smirk. “Who are you, Mufasa?”

“Beca! Not the time!”

Chloe chews her lip with more vigor than ever. “There’s a way to save this. There has to be. This was, like, the best fund-raising plan ever.”

Aubrey stares around at the faces of her team, each looking more glum and haggard than the last (except for Beca’s stalwart obstinacy, naturally enough), and sighs. “You’re right,” she admits. “We can salvage this. We just have to figure out how.”

“Well, we can’t lower our prices, that’s for sure,” Cynthia Rose pipes up. She’s been glaring at Aubrey with a ferociousness that actually borders on alarming all evening, but now that Aubrey has moved her ire off of Stacie and onto Beca, her expression seems to be clearing into something resembling helpfulness. “Dollar-menu telegrams won’t buy a scooter for regionals, much less a bus.”

It’s a valid point—not that Aubrey was considering lowering their fee in the first place. To charge less would be to admit a certain kind of defeat, as if the Trebles are somehow worth more than they are. There is absolutely no way Aubrey is ever treading in concession territory with those aca-assholes.

However…

“I might have an idea,” she says, and is shocked to feel herself smile. This isn’t a perfect fix, not even close; they’ll have to work their heineies off for it to be even slightly successful. And someone will have to put a kibosh on Chloe-and-Beca’s little Happy Time With Jesse habits, just to be on the safe side. But—

***

“A challenge?” Bumper turns his head this way and that, making a show of surprise. “You want to challenge us?”

The others—barring Jesse, who is looking more than a little anxious—titter in response. Aubrey tightens her jaw.

“Yes,” she says in a clear, steady voice that Chloe finds herself as envious of as ever. “A challenge. Whichever team gathers the most business in one week gets to keep their own winnings—“

“Earnings,” Donald pipes up. Aubrey shuts him down with a glare so fast, Chloe wonders how anyone could ever stand up to her.

“Earnings,” Aubrey amends, still scowling hotly. “The winner gets to keep their own earnings, and whatever the loser has managed to scrounge up, as well.”

Bumper taps his chin with a forefinger, but his eyes are serious. “You for real?”

“Absolutely.” Aubrey’s eye contact is unwavering. Out of the corner of her own eye, Chloe sees Beca blow out a breath.

“One addendum,” Bumper says at last. “Losers—which will be you estrogen freaks, let’s not kid ourselves—fork over their cash prize, and strip naked.”

Stacie gives another of her patented gasps. Cynthia Rose’s eyes flick up and down her frame, then dart back to the showdown of captains. Beca snorts.

“You’re insane.”

“I wasn’t finished,” he sneers. Over his shoulder, Jesse has propped his forehead against his fingertips. Chloe can’t imagine that’s a good sign. “Losers strip butt-naked and run across the quad. All the way across. At noon.”

Chloe darts an anxious look Aubrey’s way. She personally has no problem with the terms; there’s not an ounce of shame in her body, and even the cold doesn’t tend to bother her much. But this isn’t about her personal confidence levels so much as the good of the team, and there is no way Aubrey is going to agree to something this dire. They’re going to be back to square one, and then who knows how they’ll—

“Deal,” Aubrey tells him evenly, and, without pausing for even a second, spits into one hand and offers it. Bumper arches an eyebrow.

“You girls have some balls. I like that. Too bad it won’t save your breasticles from freezing right off.”

His buddies send off a few wolf whistles to punctuate the hand he slaps into Aubrey’s. Chloe glances back over her shoulder to find the other girls standing with varying degrees of horror. Lilly and Stacie look mostly all right, but Denise is coloring a vibrant shade of puce, and it’s entirely possible Beca is going to pass out right there in a snowbank.

Chloe remembers the discomfort etched into the girl’s pretty features in that shower. No, a nude stroll across campus will not go over well at all.

“My dad will kill me,” she whispers when Chloe steps into her personal bubble and slips a comforting arm around her waist. “Kill. With a machete, and possibly a blowtorch. And then he’ll toss my body into the nearest river.”

“It’s really more of a creek,” Chloe whispers back. Beca closes her eyes and groans.

“I’m sorry,” Aubrey hisses once the Trebles have agreed to the rest of her terms (the race begins tomorrow at nine sharp, and will continue until the same time next Tuesday; no bribes, no adding money from any player’s wallet, and absolutely, under no circumstances, is anyone to bring up a certain YouTube video to customers) and moved away. “I’m sorry.”

She doesn’t sound very sorry at all, but Chloe understands where she’s coming from. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity they’ve got here, and if she’d backed down, they never would have gotten past it. Bumper is the kind of leader who operates on scare tactics and sheer arrogance. The only way to beat that kind of jerk is to—

Well, to agree to a little naked hike every now and again.

“We’ll just have to beat them,” Aubrey goes on, as if Amy is not staring at her with slack-jawed horror. Denise wobbles a little, steadied only when Lilly leans against her shoulder.

“We’re going to lose,” she rasps. “And then I’m going to have to drop out of school and become a farmer, because what are we going to do?”

“Cut the hysterics,” Aubrey snaps. For a brief alarming second, Chloe is sure she’s going to slap poor Denise across the face, but all Aubrey does is give her shoulders a gentle shake. “We don’t even need to worry about this, because we won’t be losing. This telegram service is our fund for regionals, remember? We need this.”

They need it for a lot more than monetary reasons, Chloe thinks, reaching instinctively for Beca’s hand. This is about pride now, and respect, and honor.

And not watching Beca drop unceremoniously out of school to avoid showing her naughty bits off to the world.

“We’ve got this, ladies,” Chloe tells them all with her brightest smile. “We’ll kill!”

***

They’re not killing.

They’re not even maiming.

Lilly is wondering how much a bus ticket back to Ohio might cost.

They haven’t gotten more than three takers in two days, and two of those takers were teachers—so does that even really count?—and Lilly is pretty certain this is as downhill as it gets. Aubrey hasn’t cracked a smile in forty-eight hours, Beca’s eyes keep zipping around like they might shoot right out of her head, and Fat Amy has taken to droning low death marches under her breath whenever they spot another Treble giving a rousing performance of a Maroon 5 song to some pathetically swooning girls.

The death marches are actually kind of cool.

Lilly likes to sing along, even if no one can hear her.

“We’re doooooomed,” Stacie groans, letting her head flop onto Cynthia Rose’s shoulder. Across the street, they can clearly see Jesse and another Treble dancing around each other to the beat of some Usher song. Lilly briefly considers mashing some broken beer bottle into a snowball.

Nah; Chloe would do that sad-puppy-eyes thing, and Beca might hit her for throwing shit at her not-boyfriend. Not worth it.
Aubrey would probably help, though.

“We’re not doomed,” Aubrey is saying now, jamming each word out through gritted teeth. “We just need to step up our game.”

How?” Amy howls. “They’re Backstreet Boy-ing all over the place, and the best we can do is the world’s most pathetic Sonny and Cher routine.”

“I love Cher,” Jessica counters defensively. Amy rolls her eyes.

“Gaaaay.”

“We need to do something big,” Aubrey states, decisive and utterly ignorant of the wounded expression on Jessica’s face. “Big, and impressive, and—“

“A show.” Beca hasn’t spoken up in nearly two days. Lilly had almost forgotten what her voice sounded like.

Aubrey grinds her jaw, clearly drawing every scrap of patience she can from the air. “A…show?”

“Yeah. A show.” Hands stuffed in the pockets of her not-nearly-puffy-enough winter jacket, Beca is probably trying her best to look hardcore. With the earflaps of her hat pulled down and her Chloe-knitted scarf (they each received one for Christmas, but Beca seems to be the only one who hasn’t made like Lilly and set hers on fire), it’s not going terribly well for her. Although Lilly has to give her mad props for being ballsy enough to look Aubrey in the eye.

“What kind of show?” Aubrey grinds out. Chloe is doing that thing again, where she bounces on the balls of her feet and tries to stretch a hand in either direction to keep the peace. Lilly wonders if she’d even notice a snowball down the back of her shirt, with all that stress she’s been carrying around.

Before she can creep over and give it a shot, Beca says, “Well, I was thinking—we never said anything about bulk performances, did we?”

“We did not,” Aubrey allows, her spine still rigid. Lilly considers offering her an impromptu massage.

(Nope. She likes her hands way too much. They’re essential for committing all sorts of minor mayhems. It’s really too bad Donald is playing for Team Evil, because his hands look like they’d be excellent at Molotov cocktails and post-TP-ing backrubs.)

“I was thinking,” Beca goes on slowly, apparently not realizing that I was thinking is the worst possible phrase to come out of her mouth while Aubrey is standing there, “if we put on some kind of concert—I know it’s last ditch, I know we don’t really have the time, but it seems to me like the only real option—“

“We have five days,” Chloe chimes in. She’s standing so close to Beca’s side that Lilly’s amazed she hasn’t actually glued herself there. Honestly, do they think they’re fooling anyone? “Five days is a lot.”

“Five days is a sneeze,” Amy drawls. Jessica kicks her in the ankle. “Ow! Was that payback for the gay thing? I love my lezzies, I promise!”

“It’s long enough,” Chloe presses forward determinedly. “We could put together a whole setlist, charge actual admission—we never said anything about deviating from the price range, if we wanted to bump up to five dollars or something—and in one fell swoop, we’d make at least as much as the Trebles. Probably way more, since we’re way better.”

“And way hotter,” Cynthia Rose adds, staring at Stacie’s ass with absolutely zero shame. Stacie makes a noise of oblivious disagreement.

“I don’t know about that…”

Aubrey doesn’t look particularly convinced. “And how exactly do you expect to sell mass amounts of tickets to this thing? We can’t even get people to buy a song for their boyfriends since those no-talent hack-jobs took over.”

Lilly raises her hand hesitantly. Having ideas in this group is hard, what with their complete collective inability to open their ears, but every once in a while, sacrifices must be made.

“I’ve got an idea. But you’re probably not going to like it.” She pauses. “And I found some lint in the shape of Barry Manilow in my pocket. Wanna see?”

Aubrey only stares.

***

“So, on a scale of one to schwasted, how drunk was Aubrey to agree to this?” Fat Amy looks up from the poster she’s trying to make beautiful, grinning.

Trying being the operative word, because Stacie’s Photoshopping skills leave a lot to be desired. No matter how she pastes these pictures together, this winds up looking a lot less Moulin Rouge and a lot more Weekend At Bernie’s.

(Which Amy could so have starred in, if her mother hadn’t been all, “Ooh, drugs and murder are so inappropriate, ooh” about the whole thing.)

“Why does Lilly look dead?” Cynthia Rose asks from over her shoulder, clearly up on her wavelength. Stacie’s forehead wrinkles.

“I couldn’t help it. Have you seen her Facebook pictures?”

“Are we actually supposed to wear this stuff onstage?” Beca asks nervously. Chloe squeezes her arm. Amy wonders how many closeted lesbians can fit onto one a capella team before the fabric of the universe begins to rend.

“It’s just to get everyone’s attention,” Chloe reassures them all. Her eyes flick to Aubrey’s bedroom door, shut tight against their arts-and-crafts episode. Their fearless leader hasn’t emerged once all evening. Amy can imagine her in there, hunched and sweating over a homemade pipe bomb for when all of this blows sky-high right in their faces.

At least it’ll sound awesome in her tell-all autobio a few years down the line.

“How’s the setlist coming along?” Denise asks, her tongue poking out between her teeth like some ridiculous cartoon child. Amy makes a face at her back, pleasantly startled when Lilly glances up from her phone and mirrors the expression.

(Lilly could be a great ally someday, when she returns to conquer this country with only a shotgun and a hoard of kangaroos by her side. She makes a note to revisit the idea later, when there aren’t so many interlopers around to overhear.)

“It’s coming,” Beca mutters, returning her attention to her computer screen where it belongs. Chloe knocks against her shoulder, giggling when Beca shoots her a surprised, only slightly exasperated look in return. Amy rolls her eyes. They are so stunningly Ellen for one another, it’s not even funny. The best part is, they don’t even seem to realize it.

She would happily be the one to clue them in, but please; is she their therapist? Ain’t nobody got time for that. She has a life to maintain, and other people’s romantic problems are so not hers.

Besides, the most pressing matter at hand is this stupid concert, followed immediately by her hostile takeover of North America in the name of the Queen. Everything else is just going to have to play second fiddle for a while as she focuses on crushing those two goals.

“You really think we can pull this off?” Jessica asks quietly. Amy looks at her like she’s gone a little stupid in the head.

“Our competition,” she says slowly, enunciating every syllable, “is a bunch of ugly boys who smell like they sleep in a pile of jizzed-on sweat socks.”

I think they’re cute,” Stacie offers. Cynthia Rose makes a disgusted sound at the back of her throat and goes back to pasting photos onto a poster board.

“We know.”

“Especially Donald,” Stacie sighs, and flops sideways so her head is resting on the small of Cynthia’s back. Cynthia grinds her teeth together noisily. A few feet away, Lilly is silently glowering at the top of Stacie’s head.

Dram-a, Fat Amy thinks approvingly. Americans make this hostile takeover thing so easy.

“We’ll be fine,” Beca says without looking up from her phat beats. Her dedication would be inspiring, if not for Chloe’s fingers stroking rhythmically across the back of her hand. Amy pulls a face. If they start getting down and dirty right here, she’s leaving, naked campus runs be damned.

Frankly, she enjoys these girls a lot, but the orgy that would in all probability follow is so not worth the energy.

(It might, however, be worth the chapter in her best-selling tell-all. A little scandal never hurt a book sale.)

“I hear an awful lot of chatter out there, ladies!” Aubrey’s disembodied voice barks from behind her door. Denise and Jessica snap back to attention. Stacie hunkers down like a swatted puppy. Beca sets her jaw like she’s strongly considering punching right into Aubrey’s room and smacking her upside the head with her MacBook.

“I don’t see you helping, Princess,” Amy shouts back, undeterred by the slap Denise delivers to her leg. Beca’s expression relaxes into a grin. Chloe bites back a giggle.

Aubrey, thank god, remains where she is, keyboard clacking away behind her door. Which is for the best; Amy’s epic fight club plan isn’t meant to be put into practice until spring.

(Though she would probably make an exception for a charmer like Aubrey. A good roundhouse might just loosen her ass up a little.)

***

The tickets start to sell—but not for another couple of days, which about sends Aubrey off the deep end. Not that Jesse is supposed to know about that. Not that Jesse is involved in this extravagant plot at all. Because, of course, if he were that stupid, and Aubrey (or Bumper) found out, he could just kiss his pretty little ass goodbye.

He really likes his ass. He would like, if at all possible, to keep it intact. That ass is probably the best shot he’s got at winning Beca’s heart.

So, no, he is not involved—except for the part where he’s got a raging jones for “the enemy” (and he thinks Chloe is a total sweetheart, especially for how easily she seems to have squirmed under Beca’s thick skin), which means he can’t just ignore this developing situation. Particularly where the posters are concerned.

The posters, which were Lilly’s grand idea, look like they’re advertising something decidedly raunchier than a simple Valentine’s Day concert. The phrase ‘Barden Bellas’ is never used; nor are words like ‘a capella’ or ‘lady jams for all.’ Instead, images of the girls are displayed in proud, vivid colors, all of them clearly Photoshopped into getups more appropriate for a strip venue than a fundraising event.

Beca’s is particularly hilarious; it’s as if Stacie didn’t even try to make her photo (which was obviously stripped from a candid shot of her lounging on a couch in an incredibly unsexy fashion) look realistic. Which makes Beca’s eyebrows knit every time she sees it. Which makes Jesse smile.

“This is idiotic,” she tells Chloe, using an almost bored tone that lets Jesse know they’ve already had this conversation three times before coming over. Chloe, stretched out on Beca’s sofa-bed, shrugs.

“It’s going to work, though. Those posters have crazy amounts of sex appeal.”

“They’re crazy, all right,” Beca drawls. Chloe shrugs.

“We’ve already churned out more tickets than we expected.”

“Twenty,” Beca corrects, rolling her eyes. “We’ve sold twenty tickets. That is not magnificent by any stretch of the imagination.”

Jesse wants to tell them that it’s true, that the Trebles slammed through twenty buyers in a single day, but the number one rule of their secret friendship is no sharing team secrets. Any exchange of information, Chloe told him, could be perceived as treachery and result in expulsion if Bumper or—more dangerously—Aubrey were to find out.

“I like you,” she’d said cheerfully, ruffling his hair, “but the Bellas are my life. I’m holding to them at all costs.”

He keeps his mouth shut and tries to focus more on how pretty Beca is when she throws herself down beside Chloe and groans. “I thought this would go better.”

“It’s going to go fine,” Chloe reassures her, tucking her head against Beca’s chest and tangling their hands together. “We still have two days. Word will spread.”

“Spread how?” Beca’s voice is muffled by the pillow she appears to be trying to suffocate in. Jesse debates climbing over them to pull the bedding away from her mouth, but Chloe is already beating him to it. “It’s not like we have some crazy fan following like Benji to give awesome word of mouth.”

“I could ask Benji to—“

No,” Beca cuts him off, glaring. “That would be cheating.”

“Would you rather run ass-out across campus in below-twenty weather?” he asks, grinning. She fumbles for the nearest pillow and chucks it at him.

It’s really too bad there are all these dumb rules about a capella groups mingling, because these girls are awesome. Beca is just about the most interesting girl he’s ever met, and Chloe is…Chloe is one of a kind. He’s pretty sure the rest of the Bellas are equally great, and he would love to hear how they would sound together as a huge group—but that would be very much against Treble Code.

(It’s not even that Jesse gives much of a shit about Treble Code, but if he were to get kicked out, he’s pretty sure Benji would smother him in the night. His roommate owns just a few too many swords to play out that risk.)

Even so, Beca looks so forlorn over there in Chloe’s arms that he can’t just sit here and do nothing. “Have you made a Facebook page?” he offers. Chloe nods. “Twitter account?”

“We have done everything short of set Fat Amy up in the quad with a megaphone,” Beca snaps. He tells himself not to take it to heart; she just gets kind of snippy when she genuinely cares about something. And seeing her care so much about something like this is just plain adorable.

“If you lose,” he tries helpfully, “I’ll set up some blankets for you at the end of your run.”

Chloe laughs. Beca looks like she can’t choose between throwing something else and jumping off the bed to punch him square in the chest. He beams at her, trying not to find it too jarring when she turns up her nose, sniffs, and presses her face into Chloe’s hair instead.

“We’re dead,” her muffled voice floats up to greet him. “We are so dead, I don’t think there are even words for it.”

“Maybe the posters were a little much,” Chloe concedes. Jesse watches the pattern of her hand, stroking up and down Beca’s spine. It’s oddly hypnotizing to witness, and it seems to be sending Beca into a calm—or calmer, at least—little trance. He wonders if she’d ever be so receptive to his touch. That would be pretty great.

He’s been putting a lot of energy into not thinking too much about the nest of doubt in his stomach about that one.

(As for the posters being a little much—he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to bleach the images of Lilly and Fat Amy in matching corsets from his memory. Not to mention whatever Stacie thought she was doing, Photoshopping herself in that ridiculous feather boa on the back of a zebra. Maybe he’s just old-fashioned, but what?)

“What if no one shows?” Beca asks quietly after a minute of just staring off into space. “What if even those twenty people don’t turn up?”

“Then no one will be around to witness Aubrey’s head imploding in on itself,” Chloe explains with the straightest face Jesse has ever seen. They stare at each other for a long moment, Beca huddled between them like a dejected child, and then, out of nowhere, they’re laughing. A semi-hysterical laughter, maybe, born from the terror of failure and the idea that two-thirds of them will not make it to regionals, all because of a stupid bet, but all the same—

Beca’s face is streaming tears by the time Jesse can gather his strength enough to clamber onto the sofa and wrap his arms around them both. Chloe gasps for air, her face buried in Beca’s neck, and when Jesse pants out, “Oh my god, Stacie is going to naked-flirt with everything she passes,” she explodes into a fresh wave of giggles.

In moments like this, he couldn’t care less that these two are his biggest rivals on a team his own teammates would happily steer straight into the ocean. In moments like this, it doesn’t even bother him (much) that Beca never reaches for him, never calls him first, always seeming to duck into Chloe’s arms before he can get a word in edgewise. In moments like this, nothing bothers him at all.

Screw Bumper and his no-clapping, zero-support mandate; Jesse is buying a ticket to this crazy thing, and hoping for the best for his friends.

***

As far as Beca could tell two days ago, the Bellas were in the gutter, heading down the fast track to Naked Frostbite Central. As far as Beca could tell two days ago, they were royally and truly fucked.

So, when she pries back the curtain to take in Jesse and the other six people she expects to find in the audience (including her father, which more than infinitely embarrassing), and comes away with an eyeful of skeptical-but-seated strangers—

“What the hell is that?” she blurts to Chloe, who has both hands on her shoulders and is stretching to see around her. “When did that happen?”

Chloe shrugs, face lighting up with pleasure. “I guess the sex appeal thing worked!”

Beca is relatively certain sex appeal had almost nothing to do with it. Those posters weren’t doing jack-shit the last time she checked in. Nothing was.

“I don’t understand,” she mutters, turning back to the gap in the curtain. “How on earth—“

“That’s because you don’t understand the power of tradition,” Aubrey’s voice crows from behind them. Beca jumps, knocking her head against a wall and wincing.

“The fuck are you sneaking up on people for?”

“Language, Beca,” Aubrey sniffs. She’s dressed to the nines in her usual primly-pressed Bellas uniform, her scarf straightened around her throat. Standing beside her, Beca feels all of five years old, and more than a little resentful.

“Aubrey?” Chloe wraps a hand around her elbow, head tilted like a small, very confused dog. Beca can see the others edging in closer, each face more anxious and bewildered than the last. In the presence of an audience, Aubrey puffs up all the more.

“What did you think I’ve been doing these past few days, sitting on my ass? Didn’t any of you trust me?”

Hell, no,” Cynthia Rose replies, plain as can be. Stacie knocks into her gently, eyes big and worried. Aubrey’s forehead creases.

Anyway. It turns out, despite certain deeply unfortunate gastrointestinal events we’d all be better off forgetting, some of us still have friends in high places—“

“Friends?” Amy cocks an eyebrow. “Or former asylum roomies?”

Friends,” Aubrey repeats through her teeth. Chloe’s hand clutches at her elbow soothingly. “Friends who understand the fantastically eternal power of Bellahood. Friends who still have remarkable pull here among our peers at Barden, and who don’t mind shelling out five dollars for a stunning display of vocals and lady-talent.”

Beca frowns. “So, you’re saying…”

“We have an audience,” Aubrey announces, gleeful and just the least bit exasperated at the lack of comprehension in her teammates. “Are you grasping the enormity of the situation? We have an audience. Who paid. Cash. Money.”

Chloe is staring at her, slack-jawed. “You mean—“

Aubrey has never looked prouder of herself. If it wasn’t such a damn miracle, it might make Beca sick. “It took thirty-two emails and a semi-relentless stalking escapade via Skype, and I may have to fly out to Arizona to fit in a little personal slavery for Alice over Spring Break, but they came. Chloe, they came.”

Beca has absolutely zero idea who Alice is, or why she’d be worth all this fuss, but if she’s single-handedly responsible for filling those seats—and keeping the lot of them out of the snow without a stitch of clothing—she just might deserve a handshake.

Chloe has gone breathless beside her, fanning herself with her free hand. Beca eyes her uneasily, half-prepared for a fainting spell.

“I still think it was the posters,” Stacie says, tossing her hair back and adjusting her breasts. “I’m such an artist.”

“Yeah,” Amy tells her wryly, “I’ve never seen a zebra so cheerful.”

Beca glances back over her shoulder, peering out the sliver of curtain once more. “There are a lot of people out there. We’ve never performed for that many people before.”

She catches Cynthia Rose’s eye, and knows without having to ask that they’re both remembering the infamous frat party incident. Lilly swallows hard.

“Well, you’ll just have to get used to that,” Aubrey says mildly, shivering all over like a newborn puppy ten seconds from pissing on the carpet. “Regionals will have triple that crowd volume, and a panel of judges. A little preparation to go with our victory is really for the best.”

At least, Beca thinks with a stab of ill-placed amusement, they’re singing normal songs this time around. Normal songs not penned by the damn Bangles. Maybe it will make a difference.

Either way, it gives them the best shot she could have dreamed of for not humiliating themselves in the freezing cold.

She supposes Aubrey has sort of earned her moment this time.

***

They meet the Trebles at exactly two minutes before the required time on Tuesday morning. Cynthia Rose has to keep knocking at Stacie’s hands, preventing her from waving flirtatiously at various smirking douchecastles. With her other hand, she’s got a fierce grip on the back of Lilly’s jacket—because, for whatever ill reason, Lilly keeps making goo-goo eyes at that Indian kid like he’s her reason for lighting happy fires, or some shit.

Honestly, these straight girls are straight-up nuts.

At the head of their freezing little pack is Aubrey, head held high, flanked by Chloe on her right and (somewhat more reluctantly) Beca on her left. Chloe clutches their envelope of takings between pink-gloved hands, beaming around at anyone who dares catch her eye. Beca just keeps scuffing her boot against the snow and looking up at the sky as if to ask how she got into this mess in the first place.

“Ladies!” Bumper booms, strolling up until he’s all of five inches away from Aubrey’s nose. She glares down at him. “I hope you’ve come prepared to take your beating with the grace and class expected of Bella women.”

That kid who’s always dicking around with his unicycle sneers. Stacie pushes her chest in his general direction. Cynthia Rose yanks hard on her arm.

“Let’s get to business,” Aubrey snaps before he can take off on one of his usual rambling tirades. Fat Amy spreads her arms threateningly, baring her teeth when Bumper glances her way.

Christ, Cynthia is going to have to tackle all of these bitches to keep the blood from spilling.

She did not sign up for this shit.

***

They’re so cute in their ski jackets and knit caps. She knows she’s not supposed to find them cute—Aubrey would skin her alive if she could read Stacie’s thoughts right now—but they are. She wonders how much cuter they’ll be when they’re running buck-naked down the street.

She bets Donald, at least, has a great ass.

Ooh, or that Jesse kid. He keeps to himself, standing at the back of the group like he doesn’t entirely want to be lumped in with the rest, and that’s sexy. She hopes he’s buff under all those hoodies.

She tries to wave at him, but Cynthia Rose keeps batting her away. She rolls her eyes and bumps her with one hip, pleased when she stumbles and goes pink. Cynthia is cute, too, sometimes. In her own totally butch way.

Aubrey is signaling for Chloe to step forward; on the other side of their imaginary line, Bumper is doing the same for Jesse. Stacie, who hasn’t been paying attention for at least five minutes now, leans down to Cynthia’s ear.

“What’s going on?”

“They’re calling on their most trusted members to count the cash,” Cynthia hisses back, squirming against the heat of her breath. “Damn, girl, back the hell off of my space.”

Stacie beams. Cynthia Rose only calls her girl when she’s flustered.

Yeah, she’s almost as cute as that Jesse kid. Even if she does hate Valentine’s Day more than any normal human should.

***

Donald is looking at her.

Donald has been looking at her. Sneaking glances, rather, but still—a look is a look. And a look from a boy like Donald is enough to get the urge to whip out her Zippo pumping hard.

Lilly smiles. He looks away. Shy boys like Donald are even better.

Cynthia Rose slaps at her side, pointing vigorously to where Chloe and Jesse are bent over a park bench, riffling through stacks of cash. Right, she’s supposed to be paying attention. Of course.

But Donald keeps looking at her.

She’s starting to think running naked might not be so bad, if he’s watching.

***

Aubrey chews the inside of her cheek so hard, she’s sure she’ll start bleeding soon. It’s a terrible habit—Alice used to chastise her for it all the time—but right now, she couldn’t care less. This is it: do or die. The money is in the hands of the counters. In a few moments, Chloe and Jesse will return to the group with a verdict.

It’s like waiting for the presidential election to finish tallying. She wonders if Bumper will demand a recount. The weasely little jerk would probably slide a few of his own bills into the Treble stack if he did. She’ll have to keep an extra-strong eye on him.

Beca is shifting restlessly at her side, eyes glued to the back of Chloe’s vibrant jacket. Aubrey slides her a glance, irritable. Sure, the whole concert thing may have been Beca’s idea, but everyone had best not forget who got that money in the long run. Beca gave up almost as quickly as she’d gotten involved. Aubrey stayed awake for hours, harassing her former captain for a Twitter riot and a handful of personally-offered phone invitations. Aubrey got them here. Not Beca. Aubrey.

They’re all going to forget about that, she can just feel it.

This team can be so frigging ungrateful sometimes.

***

“How much do you have?” Jesse mumbles out of the corner of his mouth. Chloe thumbs through her stack again.

“How much do you have?”

“I asked first,” he says amiably, and Chloe thinks if her heart didn’t pound so damn hard for Beca, she would understand a crush on this guy. Jesse is darling, even if his friends and his slight sense of entitlement sort of suck.

“Two hundred and—“ She thumbs through one more time, taking care that none of the bills stick together. “—eighty-five dollars.”

She glances up. His face has gone slack, the amusement draining out faster than Beca can dodge one of Fat Amy’s bone-crushing hugs.

“Oh, sweet Jesus.”

***

Five dollars?” Bumper screams, his whole head looking an awful lot like a children’s balloon on the verge of popping. “What do you mean five dollars?”

Don’t say it, Jesse begs silently. Don’t anybody mention it.

Five dollars. They lost by five freaking dollars. Five dollars to give the girls the funding they need. Five dollars to strip naked and streak across campus in the middle of the midday class rush.

Five dollars, which was, hilariously enough—hah hah, everybody put your hands together now—the exact price Jesse may have paid to gain admission to one Barden Bellas concert a day or so ago.

Don’t anybody mention it, he thinks again, hopping out of his left sneaker and placing it reverently beside the right. Be cool, Soda Pop. His jeans slide down his legs, the material stiff and unpleasant as the wind strikes his legs. Fuck, this was not a good idea. All the Veronica Mars in the world can’t help him now.

Bumper crosses his arms over his sweater. “Well, it’s unfortunate, isn’t it?”

“What is?” Donald is half-trapped in his t-shirt. Benji reaches over and tugs it helpfully loose.

“That my, um, skin condition. Prevents me from spending time in direct wind chill.” Bumper is backing away slowly, shaking his head in mock-sadness. “I’m really sorry about this, guys—“

He trips over a shoe and slams right into Fat Amy. She bares a shark’s grin down at him.

“Going somewhere, Wonderbread?”

“Sure, he is,” Beca says cheerfully, pointing toward the Health Professions building. “That-away.”

“Skins, not shirts,” Stacie adds with a perverted little eyebrow waggle. Lilly high-fives her. Jesse’s torn between distress at the way she’s leering at Donald and laughter at Bumper’s dismayed expression.

“Now, boys,” Aubrey cuts in primly, eyeing them each in turn. “A deal’s a deal. You’re all going to play fair, right?”

He catches Chloe’s eye. She knows exactly how this played out. She knows who’s responsible for their win right now. One blue eye opens and closes in a lazy wink, her arm winding around Beca’s. Jesse can’t help but grin back.

To hell with it. They’re his friends, aren’t they? And what are friends for, but a sacrifice now and again? A little bared dick never hurt anybody--much.

Geronimo!” he screams, and, linking arms with Benji—who doesn’t even have to be here; what a pal—takes off running. If he moves fast enough, maybe he can outrun the cameras.

And, hey, if nothing else, Beca and the others are going to regionals.

He looks forward to whipping them fair and square.


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How does this have no comments yet? This makes me sad because it's so on point and funny and awesome and far and away anything I could have come up with when I gave you this prompt.

I love your Jesse and your Aubrey. Oh and especially your Stacie. Gen fic FTW.

This is really good!!! I'm slowly making my way through all the beca/chloe fanfic and you write so many of the BEST. :)) Thanks so much!

Awwwwwww. This is adorable. I love all the many perspectives and of course all the Beca/Chloe moments. Thanks!

This is amazing and I love it so much. YAY team shenanigans!

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