The day the Bellas leave Beca and Chloe sit up until past midnight, drowning their sorrows in beer and veggie pizza until Beca thinks her stomach will never forgive her. In the morning, now that, like good and responsible leaders, they’ve seen all their girls off, they go their own separate ways.
And then they start their own separate lives.
Beca, newly single and perfectly fine with it, as she has patiently explained to almost every one of the Bellas over the last few days, is taking a road trip west for her first proper (and by proper she means adult) experience of LA. She’s a fierce, independent woman after all, with a new-to-her car only half owned by her father, and she’s going to tackle this trip the way she likes to think she tackles everything in life: with determination. And dignity. And… something else she hasn’t quite decided on yet.
She knows that Chloe’s going home and that’s all she knows. Beca is pretty sure that that’s because Chloe doesn’t know herself and not because Chloe is keeping anything from her, although if she was that would only be fair, what with the whole internship thing and all. So she’s not pushing too much, is what that means, because it seems like it’s a bruise and Chloe recoils when Beca pokes at it too hard.
Beca’s onto the last of the beer. The only reason she’s not off-her-face drunk is that they hadn’t had all that much to start with and in the morning she’ll probably be grateful for that. She finishes the last mouthful and sets the bottle down on the coffee table, and then turns her head.
“Chloe,” she says, with the kind of difficulty that comes after a few beers, “what are you doing?”
“Dunno.” Chloe’s sitting beside her with her heels on the sofa and her knees pulled up to her chin, hugging herself into a little ball.
“Okay.” Beca breathes in deep, like she’s getting ready to sing. She looks at Chloe, at every curve and shade of her face, and her stomach twists the way she’s been ignoring for years. “Chloe.”
“Are you okay?”
“I had too much to drink.”
Chloe’s always been a lightweight. “You need to go to bed,” Beca says, as much as, suddenly, she wants to just stay here all night. Together.
Chloe must be a mindreader, because instead of responding she just basically topples over sideways away from Beca, so that she’s lying on the couch and her feet, in her purple socks with pink penguins, wind up in Beca’s lap.
“Ew,” Beca says from habit. It’s not like she minds, really.
Chloe prods at Beca’s thigh with a toe and giggles.
“You really have had too much to drink, haven’t you?” Beca tips her head back and closes her eyes, putting in some more work on that whole breathing thing. Her mind, which has always been totally practical and not at all romantic, conjures up some image of a loft in LA, exposed brick walls and wood floors and the lot and Chloe, just like this. “Damn it,” Beca says, for herself.
“Nothing.” Beca yawns, to create a reason for herself to go to bed. She needs a reason. She’s been living with Amy and Amy’s clutter for three years, and then with Amy’s boxes, and now without anyone to tell her bad jokes until she falls asleep. Fat Amy, Beca thinks. She should have appreciated her more.
She should have appreciated everyone more, and especially Chloe. Chloe, who is now waving a hand around, reaching out to Beca maybe because she wants her and hopefully not because she’s drunk.
Beca lets Chloe’s hand grab her arm and she lets Chloe pull her down onto the couch as well. She could stop this. She could resist. She could be difficult and say you smell like beer and I’m tired. She doesn’t, and then she’s on her side and Chloe’s on her back and they’re practically face to face.
“What are we doing?” Beca whispers, taking stock of the situation. She’s pretty sure that if she risks opening her mouth to speak normally she’ll end up with a mouthful of hair. Beautiful, red hair. Hair that belongs to Chloe. Who is her friend.
“You can’t go upstairs.”
Chloe’s mumbling so much Beca can barely understand her, but she’s had lots of practice with Lily. “Why not?”
“‘Cause you’re drunk and you’ll fall down the stairs and break both your legs. And that will be very tragic.”
“You’ve been drinking.”
“This is true.”
“So you should stay here with me because this is the last night, and also because Stacie took all the fairy lights from our room and I won’t be able to see.”
“You don’t need to see when you’re sleeping.”
“Yes I do, or I won’t know what I dreamed.”
Beca thinks about this. “You’re really, really drunk,” she says. She is not thinking about Chloe’s adorable nose or the way her lips move when she talks or the way she wishes she could make Chloe laugh, right now, just to hear the sound of her.
Maybe she is actually drunk too, if a long slow emergence from denial could be counted as drunkenness. Drunk on Chloe says Beca’s helpful brain, with all the energy of Chloe-in-the-morning. It seems unlikely that it’s beer doing this to her.
One night, and one night only. They’ve done this before and it’s never been an issue. They’ve fallen asleep together on the couch at least three times, Chloe’s head on Beca’s shoulder, and Beca woke every morning at Audrey’s retreat to find her head resting against Chloe’s, and so if the butterflies in Beca’s stomach are reading anything into this they’re reading between the lines, over-reaching and over-reacting.
Beca breathes deep again and closes her eyes and drifts away to sleep with the scent of Chloe’s perfume lingering in the air around them.
In the kind of honesty Beca prides herself on, it’s the worst night’s sleep she’s had since they were on the plane coming home from Copenhagen and she’s not even sure that could be classified as a night.
It’s also not all that long ago.
But she’s got no room to stretch or move and she’s too cold in some places and too hot in others, and as intoxicating as Chloe is it’s not enough to keep Beca asleep against all odds.
Also they’d left the lights on, which shortened the odds against sleep significantly.
Beca gives up on any further attempts at sleep just after four in the morning and instead lies there, trying not to yawn so loudly she’d wake Chloe up, trying not to perve on Chloe while Chloe’s too out of it to notice and maybe even reciprocate.
(Definitely, thinks Beca, not the beer.)
Beca’s had, when she thinks about it, more than a few crushes on girls in her lifetime. But her feelings for Chloe had snuck up on her, ambushed her while she was having what had ultimately proved to be a good-friends-with-benefits kind of situation with Jesse, and she’d been too preoccupied to even notice. But now she’s noticing and she’s noticing right when everything’s coming to an end and it’s almost too much to bear.
She’s used to being alone but somehow, after four years, she’s let herself get used to being part of a group, and right now she’s really regretting that because it’s going to make the return to a solitary life that much harder.
“Bec,” whispers Chloe, groggy and more asleep than awake. “You crying?”
“You lie. I can hear you.” With what seems to be an almighty effort for someone as graceful as she is, Chloe turns onto her side so they’re face to face. “Bec.”
She’s on Beca’s side but with her here, looking like that, Beca’s going to lose this battle and maybe the war. “Just thinking,” Beca says, trying to fend off the tears. “That’s all. Too much beer. Not enough sleep.”
“You lie,” Chloe says, again, and she runs her hand through Beca’s hair as though she has every right in the world to be touching her that way. “I know what you were doing this year.”
“You know what I did last summer, as well,” Beca says, trying to swallow away the ache that’s been living in her stomach for months. She’d told herself it was about her fading relationship with Jesse, but maybe she was wrong.
Chloe strokes Beca’s head again and Beca closes her eyes, like a cat. “You were trying to leave the Bellas before the Bellas could leave you.”
That does nothing - nothing - for Beca’s mental state but make it worse. “Are you a psychologist now?”
“No, but I read a lot of books.”
“Yes, well, that’s what happens when you fail Russian Lit three times.” Beca makes herself sit up, because she is not going to have this conversation while cuddling with Chloe on the couch. Not that it actually counts as cuddling, because, well, it doesn’t, but she’s just not going to anyway.
Chloe sits up too. “Am I right?” she asks, quietly.
“Will you leave me alone if I say yes?”
“At least you’re honest.” Beca puts her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands and wishes she could go back to sleep.
In her own bed.
“So am I right?”
“Does it matter?”
“It might matter to you.”
“You really should go into psychology, you know.”
“No thank you.”
Chloe’s pretty damn persistent when she wants to be and Beca doesn’t need to be a genius to recognize those occasions. “I guess so. Yes. You’re right.” For a moment she thinks she might drown, and then Chloe’s arm is around her waist and she’s treading water again. “I’ll miss… us,” she says, and she knows that us means the Bellas but also that it means her and Chloe, together, like this, and that butterflies-tingling-adrenaline kind of feeling. She puts her head against Chloe’s and a hand on Chloe’s knee, because she has to put it somewhere and that seems like as good a place as any.
Chloe pats her hand. And then she yawns, which shatters the moment just a little. “What’s the time?” she asks, after a moment.
“I don’t know,” Beca says. “Too early. About five, I think.”
“We should go back to bed. Especially you, if you’re going to drive to… wherever.”
“Are you propositioning me?” Beca asks, before she can stop herself and before she can consider whether she hopes the answer will be yes. “Or, wait, what? Your bed or two separate beds or should I just stop talking because suddenly I have no idea what’s going on here.” Her heart is racing, she knows that much.
“Whatever you want, I guess,” Chloe says.
Beca can’t make decisions right now and it’s Chloe’s fault, what with blindsiding her with the emotional equivalent of a sledgehammer and all of that. “I don’t know. What do you want?”
Chloe’s silent for longer than Beca would have thought possible for her. “I don’t know. Just stop making me do all the work and tell me if I’m the only one who feels this.”
Beca’s a sucker for emotion. Sometimes. “Okay,” she says, and knows she’s not quite answering Chloe, not honestly and not yet. “Let’s go take a nap.” She lets Chloe pull her to her feet and lead the way up the silent stairs and into Chloe’s silent room and into Chloe’s silent bed with the green floral cover and then she sleeps, again, for a while.
But it doesn’t last and then Beca’s awake again, watching Chloe sleep and thinking until her head’s sore and her heart feels worse. If she wanted to try Chloe’s brand of psychoanalysis she could say that Chloe’s been so afraid to leave the Bellas because she can’t see anything beyond it, because she started a BA to buy herself time to think about a proper career and hasn’t found an answer yet, not after seven years, because she’s looking for something that will be as good as or better than the Bellas.
Beca hasn’t got an answer for Chloe either - not a proper one, but she does know that Chloe is so smart and determined she could probably take over the world if she had the confidence. And so maybe what she needs is someone else’s confidence for a little while - not like Fat Amy’s butt confidence, nobody needs Fat Amy’s butt confidence - but maybe like Beca’s.
Because Beca’s thinking of that image of LA life from last night and thinking maybe. Maybe it’ll be nothing but at least it’ll give Chloe a change of scenery, and it doesn't have to mean anything but maybe it’ll mean something, and maybe that something will be no regrets.
Chloe stretches and her face twists and Beca sinks and falls and thinks okay let’s do this with a kind of conviction she hasn’t felt in a long time.
But Chloe wakes up, and Beca says nothing, and they eat the last of the cereal and yogurt for breakfast, and Beca says nothing, and they make themselves the strongest coffees they can, and Beca says nothing.
Chloe goes to wash the dishes, to give the kitchen its last clean before they leave. Beca watches her knowing she should offer to help, knowing she should will her limbs into compliance rather than standing in the middle of the floor like some tree that’s been there since forever. Apparently she can make up her mind all she likes, but it’s worth nothing if she doesn’t have the words to go with it. And she’s never been good at words.
She’s still standing there like an idiot when Chloe turns to her and says “Bec, can you - “ But what Chloe wants Beca never does find out, because her impulsive brain kicks into gear and before either of them can do any thinking she grabs a glass from the counter and sits down on the floor with it.
“Beca,” Chloe says again. She’s suddenly inhumanly tall and her voice is impossibly far away.
Beca thinks she must already know what’s coming but she goes for it anyway, letting her hands and the rhythm take over, letting herself sing what she can’t say.
I got my ticket for the long way round
Two bottles of whiskey for the way
And I sure would like some sweet company
I’m leaving tomorrow, whaddaya say?
“You don’t drink whiskey,” Chloe says, when Beca’s done. “And you’re leaving today. And you don't have a ticket. You have a car. I have a ticket. A plane ticket.”
That’s exactly what Beca would have said if things had been backwards so there’s nothing she can do but look at up Chloe and beg her to see this for what it is: an invitation, a chance, a maybe.
And Chloe does, because she’s good like that. She sits down on the floor with more dignity than what Beca had used, and she pushes the glass out of the way and she takes both of Beca’s hands in hers. “I didn’t want that ticket anyway,” she says, and her smile might be the best Beca’s ever seen.