Chapter 1: one
tw: child abuse, implied domestic abuse, homphobic slurs
Chloe's stomach growls at her for the third time in ten minutes as she clambers up the stairs to her ratty apartment, and she winces when her neighbour shoots her a mildly startled look before slamming his door shut behind him. It's been protesting at the lack of food all the way home from work.
Chloe wrestles her own door open and wrenches off her sneakers, tossing her keys aside as she does so. Stumbling across the room, she collapses into her mattress with a moan of relief, pulling out the leftover ham croissant that she managed to salvage when she left work for the night. Chloe can't help the sigh of appreciation that slips out between her lips when she bites into it — it’s cold by now, and slightly soggy, but it's free food.
She can't exactly afford to turn down free food, can she?
Chloe’s job at Starbucks barely earns her enough money to get by, and she's grown used to skipping meals since she's arrived in New York City. It’s been five months since she arrived, a heavy backpack strapped to her back and just $300 to last her... well, indefinitely. Finding a job wasn’t hard; everywhere’s looking for barista’s these days, but finding an apartment? That was a different story.
The shitty apartment Chloe’s holed up in now was the only place she could afford with her tiny budget, and that was without furniture. Her salary barely pays the rent, let alone provides luxuries like heating and electricity.
But it’s fine. She’s used to it.
Chloe forces down the croissant, ignoring the unpleasant taste. She doesn’t even like ham. As a wave of nausea rolls over her, Chloe chucks the last few bites into the bin and curls up on the thin mattress. A small shiver runs down her spine as a gust of wind blows in through the window; it’s broken, and her asshole of a landlord won’t pay to fix it.
Sighing heavily, Chloe scrubs a hand over her face and fights back the sob that crawls up her throat. She shouldn’t complain. She has a roof over her head and she’s not dying. Chloe knows that people have it worse than her, a lot worse, but the last six months of her life have been such a whirlwind and they’re only just catching up with her.
Chloe casts her mind back to that day, the one that changed her life forever. It haunts her, day and night. Just the thought of it causes tears to prick at the corners of her eyes and roll down her cheeks. Chloe claps a hand over her mouth to muffle a sob, choking back tears.
She hasn’t cried since that day. She’s been doing so well. She hasn’t broken in six months, and now here she is, a blubbering mess.
“Chloe! Get down here now!” Chloe flinches as her father’s voice booms up the stairs, his tone harsh. She slams her laptop shut and scrambles off her bed, tugging her hair out of its messy bun as she does so. Her parents prefer her hair down, so she doesn’t dare to keep it up around them. “CHLOE ANNE BEALE!”
Chloe stumbles down the stairs, pulling her cardigan round her slim frame as her heart rate speeds up. It pounds painfully in her chest, threatening to break out of her rib cage. Dread twists deep in her gut as she wracks her brains; what did she do now?
She enters the kitchen to see her parents standing together, their expressions angry. Even though Chloe’s used to the icy glares and disgusted looks, it still scares her every time.
Why do her parents hate her so much? She’s a good student, one of the best, even. She helps out at the local nursery for free, she donates any spare money to the homeless and she has nice friends. She’s a perfect daughter, according to her parents’ friends. It seems only they think so.
Chloe hovers in the doorway, too afraid to step over the threshold. She smiles weakly as her father beckons her closer, his eyes glinting with anger and something akin to malice. Her mother’s expression is less threatening, because Chloe knows the anger is a facade to get her father off her back
Chloe doesn’t blame her. How can she?
“We have something to talk to you about,” her father starts, stepping forward menacingly. Chloe takes a step back on instinct, but the raising of the man’s eyebrows makes her regret the movement instantly. “Get here.” He grabs Chloe’s wrist tightly and yanks her forward, the skin twisting and pinching in his grasp.
Her mother watches silently, avoiding Chloe’s scared gaze. “W-What did I do?” Chloe sobs, trying to rip her wrist from her father’s grip. There will be a bruise tomorrow, not that he cares.
“A little birdie told me you were gay.” He spits the final word with disgust, pure hatred raging in his eyes. Chloe’s body goes rigid as panic consumes her, suffocating her, pulling her under. Her blood roars in her ears as tears spill from her eyes and her shoulders shake.
“P-Please dad, I-I’m not. I’m not g-gay I swear,” Chloe protests, desperately trying to tug her arm free. Her foot shoots out and slams into her father’s calf, the impact causing him to yelp with pain.
“You’re lying! You’re a filthy little dyke.” The man lunges forwards and wraps his fingers around Chloe’s throat, forcing her against the wall. “You’re disgusting,” he hisses, tightening his hold.
Chloe brings a hand up to her throat, her slender fingers curling round her father’s thick ones. “Please, dad,” she begs, tears dripping down her neck and soaking into the fabric of her shirt
“SHUT UP.” The man squeezes Chloe’s throat tightly as he raises his other hand into the air and brings it down upon his daughter’s face. Chloe cries out as her cheek stings sharply, the skin already turning red. Her father releases his grip on her throat and slaps her so forcefully it she stumbles sideways.
The next slap sends Chloe tumbling to the ground, clutching her burning cheek fearfully. Her father towers over her, a menacing grin spreading across his lips. “Get out. I never want to see you again.”
Chloe doesn’t hesitate as she scrambles to her feet and sprints up the stairs, ignoring the pained look of regret her mother shoots her. The redhead has nowhere to go, but she’d rather be anywhere else than living with her father. Anything is better than the life she’s currently living.
Her father leaves the house as Chloe’s packing, presumably to go to the pub for a few drinks with his friends. He goes every night, comes back blind drunk every night, uses her and her mother as his punching bags every night. It’s routine now.
Chloe worries about her mother. If she’s gone, it means the older redhead will be the only one left, the only one there to ensure her father’s wrath. The poor woman is too fragile to stand up to him, but Chloe’s doesn’t blame her.
Twenty minutes later, she’s ready to leave. She straps her bag to her back and trudges down the stairs, her stomach flipping. She’s finally going to be free, free of her father’s constant abuse. It’s certainly a welcome feeling.
Chloe unlocks the front door and yanks it open, a gentle breeze washing over her as she sticks her face outside. She can almost taste the freedom. Heart in her throat, the redhead steps out of the house, grinning to herself as she—
Wincing, Chloe turns round to face her mother. She was planning to leave without saying goodbye; somehow she’d convinced herself it would be easier for the both of them if words were left unspoken. There was too much to say and too little time.
“Mom,” the redhead whispers gently, reluctantly walking back into the house. She leaves the front door open, a reminder of what’s waiting for her. Now that she’s allowed to leave — well, she’s being forced to — her body is itching to just escape from the hell-hole she’s been trapped in for her whole life.
“You were going to leave without saying goodbye.” It’s more of a statement than a question, but Chloe can hear the underlying hurt and confusion in her mother’s tone.
“Yeah. I just—There’s not much to say, is there? You never really loved me anyway.” Chloe shrugs and presses her nails into the palm of her hand to create a line of tiny crescents. She knows her mother doesn’t love her, and though it used to hurt, she’s made peace with it over the years. She can deal with it now.
“I’m sorry, Chloe. You’re a great girl.” The woman smiles sadly, her eyes pained and haunted. Chloe just shakes her head, tears slipping down her cheeks. She’s always known it, but hearing it now, spoken from her mother’s mouth, hurts more than she’d anticipated.
“I get it.”
And with that, Chloe turns and leaves. There’s no hug, no sad goodbye, no hurried kisses to her forehead, no grabbing her hand at the last minute. Her mother just stands in the doorway silently and watches her daughter walk away, out of her life.
Chloe still has nightmares most nights. She wakes up, tangled in her blanket, her soaked in a cold sweat. Her father’s menacing glare and forceful hits haunt her, weighing down on her shoulders every time she lies down. She’s been free for six months. Chloe knows no one can find her, yet she still worries the man will turn up at her door and drag her home with him.
Pained sobs escape her lips, echoing round the tiny room, bouncing off the thin walls. Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, Chloe curls into herself and pulls her blanket up to her chest, willing sleep to pull her away.
Luck seems to be on Chloe’s side, because minutes later, she feels her eyelids grow heavy. It’s probably more exhaustion than luck, but the redhead isn’t really sure she cares. All she wants to do is sleep.
Beca jolts awake from her nap as her phone starts to ring, the annoying ringtone echoing through her apartment, loud and clear. She yawns as she fumbles around blindly for the device, rubbing her eyes with her spare hand. She scoops her phone up from the floor and presses the green button, not bothering to check the caller ID.
“Yeah?” Beca mumbles, slapping a hand over her mouth to muffle another yawn. She leans back on the couch, arranging her blanket around her so she retains as much heat as possible. It’s getting cold, colder than usual for October. Even with top-notch heating, Beca’s apartment is still a bit chilly.
“Beca Mitchell, were you just asleep?” Stacie’s chirpy tone filters through the speaker, and Beca knows she’s getting ready to go out. It’s a Friday night, of course she is. The brunette is still as much of a party animal as she was when they were in college together, minus the sleeping around, of course. Beca's glad that Stacie finally matured and got herself a long-term girlfriend instead of having sex every night.
They'd always joked that Beca would be the one to get a girlfriend and Stacie would be the one that lived off one night stands, but here they are, their roles reversed. Beca's nowhere near as bad as Stacie used to be — she has the odd one night stand every few weeks or so, just to keep herself satisfied.
Beca tends to just drive to the nearest club, knock back one too many shots and seduce a woman (or two). They never go back to her apartment. Sex is often sloppy and rushed, both focusing more on function than foreplay. Beca always leaves immediately afterwards, desperate to get home and wash the smell of sex off her body; she always regrets her one night stands, but continues to have them anyway.
It's a routine though, and Beca likes routine. It's not exactly a routine she's proud of though.
Beca yawns again and groans softly. “Yeah, I was until you woke me up.”
“I can’t believe you! Aren’t you working tonight?” Beca mumbles a negative and pulls her blanket closer to her chest. She curls her toes into the couch and snuggles further into the corner of it, a wave of exhaustion washing over her. “Why don’t you come out with Aubrey and I? We’re going to a club.” Beca really doesn’t know why Stacie asks, because she knows what the answer will be. It’s the same as it always is. She supposes it's sweet of her friend to ask, but she's not due another one night stand till next week, so asking now really is futile.
Beca doesn't like going out to clubs, which is slightly ironic since she spends a lot of her time working at one. It's not that she hates clubs, as such, it's more that she hates going alone without a motive. If she's going purely to get drunk and have sex, it's fine, because she doesn't have to waste time. But when she goes with Stacie and her girlfriend Aubrey, it's just awkward. Beca just ends up standing alone in a corner with a beer, sending hopeful men and women away with a sharp glare.
Beca doesn’t blame Stacie for this, not at all. She has Aubrey and that’s brilliant. They’re a gorgeous couple, and Beca doesn’t know two nicer people. It just sucks that they have each other, and she has no one.
“Stacie, you know my answer.”
“But Becs, you never get out. You work most evenings, I appreciate that, but you never give yourself a chance to find anyone.” Stacie huffs through the phone, the sound followed by muffled words and a series of crashes. Beca can only guess at what stunt Stacie's attempting this time; despite her extremely good looks, she's significantly lacking in coordination. Stacie on the phone paired with trying to get ready is a recipe for disaster.
“Don’t think I’ll find anyone while drunk off my ass at a club, but sure, whatever you say,” Beca says wryly. “Look, I’ll come out next time, okay? I promise. I’m just tired tonight and I’ve already ordered takeaway.” It’s true, she does have a medium margarita pizza on the way. Beca doesn't admit that it was hurriedly ordered fifteen minutes ago in anticipation of Stacie’s call.
“I’ll hold you to that.” There’s more rustling on Stacie’s end of the line followed by another loud crash and a litany of mumbled curses. Beca smirks as Aubrey's voice floats through her speakers, scolding Stacie for attempting to straighten her hair while holding her phone. It's certainly a very Stacie thing to do. Beca knows Aubrey will want to speak to her, so she waits patiently for the couple to sort themselves out and mentally prepares herself for an argument with the blonde woman on the other end of the line.
Soon enough, Aubrey's voice comes crackling through Beca's phone, her tone firm and direct. It's very Aubrey. The blonde hasn't changed since Beca met her five years ago, even when she started dating Stacie. Sure, she's softened around the edges a lot, but she's still as no-nonsense and nearly as uptight as she used to be. Stacie's working on it though. “Beca Mitchell, you need to take a break from work. You work six nights a week, and spend most days at the studio. Please just take a break.”
Beca groans at the sudden attack, even though she'd anticipated it. It seemed that every conversation she had with Aubrey these days included some kind of comment about her work habits. The brunette loves Aubrey, she really does, but she's so tired of the blonde constantly going on about taking a goddamn break. “Wow, no ‘hi Beca, how are you this evening?’ then? I’m offended." Beca gasps, feigning hurt in an attempt to lighten the tone.
“Beca, can’t you take things seriously for once? Take a break," Aubrey snaps, clearly in no mood for jokes. Beca scrubs a hand over her face and squeezes her eyes tightly shut for a few seconds, willing herself to just wake up out of this nightmare conversation. (Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but Beca really is tired of these talks now. They're all the same.)
“Bree, you know it’s harder than that. My apartment is too big, too empty. There’s no point me being an internationally renowned DJ if I have no one to share my life and wealth with. It’s pointless. Working is my way of distracting myself, you know that." Beca's pretty sure she says exactly the same thing every single time, and she's still waiting for it to sink in. Aubrey used to be a workaholic too, before she met Stacie, so Beca knows she's familiar with the struggle.
Aubrey sighs heavily and clears her throat, preparing herself for another protest. “Beca, I get that, I really do, but you need to—”
Beca lets out a strangled sound of annoyance at the repeated words. “I’m tired. Have a nice evening with Stacie.” She hangs up abruptly and tosses her phone next to her on the couch. Letting her eyelids flutter shut, she reaches out to grab the television remote. Finally, some peace.
It's too quiet and she's lonely, but it's better than standing awkwardly in the corner of a club as men try to subtly slip drugs into her drink. Beca almost wishes she was working, a crowd cheering her on as she played her most popular mixes. Mixing at clubs is one of the only times she actually feels loved, like she's finally doing something right after years of being told by her father that she'd never make it in the music industry. She's happy when she mixes; she feels like she's proving everyone who ever doubted her wrong.
Beca sighs softly as the doorbell rings, the obnoxious noise filling her empty apartment. Time to enjoy a quiet night in.
Chapter 2: two
i am SO SORRY it's been so long. god, it's practically been years since i posted the first chapter of this. (jk it's been months, which is no better.) i've really been struggling with my mental health and it's sapped my motivation by 99.9%. i'm trying to write more, but it's hard. anyways, please enjoy :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Chloe gets home from work the next day, with dirty clothes and a rumbling stomach, she finds a letter lying innocently in her doorway, her name scrawled messily across the front. It’s clearly been hand delivered, since there’s no address or stamp. Chloe doesn’t know anyone who would send her mail - it’s not like her family are going to contact her after what happened.
Chucking her tattered bag to the floor, Chloe picks up the smudged envelope and rips it open, her heart in her throat. She’s half worried it’s a letter from her landlord, demanding the rent she’s been promising to pay for the past two months. The man is a complete ass, but Chloe’s hoping he’ll take some pity on her and allow her till the end of the month to get him the money.
(Chloe hates other people pitying her, because it’s almost always never genuine, but in this case, she’s desperate. She also has no idea how she’s actually going to find the money to pay the rent she owes.)
As she unfolds the letter, smoothing out the faded white paper, her stomach drops. She should have seen it coming, she knows that, but it’s all just so sudden. She’s lived here for six months, and now this has to happen. Tears spring into her eyes as she claps a hand to her mouth, trapping the sob that bubbles up in her throat.
I regret to inform you that, due to not receiving your rent payment for two months, you must leave your apartment. You have twelve hours to leave the premises, or I’ll call the police.
The letter slips from Chloe’s loose grasp as she staggers backwards and sinks down onto her thin mattress. She’s being evicted. Kicked out. It suddenly feels like six months ago all over again, a familiar sense of shame and embarrassment washing over her as her mind begins to wander, thoughts racing around her head at a million miles an hour, colliding and crashing violently.
She can’t leave, can’t live on the street. She doesn’t want to. She can’t. Chloe chokes on a sob as she stumbles to her feet, her legs aching as she moves towards the door. She rubs a trembling hand through her tangled red hair, takes a deep, shaky breath, and opens the door.
She has to at least try.
Chloe marches down to Mr Smith’s apartment on the ground floor as confidently as she can, her head held high, dried tear tracks still glistening on her cheeks. The redhead would wipe them away, but she’s worried they’ll just be replaced by fresh ones, which would be a lot worse, especially in front of her asshole landlord.
After steeling her expression and planting her feet firmly in front of the door, Chloe raises her hand and knocks once, twice, three times. “Mr Smith!” She yells, banging against the wood when she receives no reply. She knows he’s in there, because she can hear quiet murmuring — it’s a cheaply made building, so the walls are paper-thin.
There’s a series of crashes on the other side of the door, followed by a small cry, before it’s aggressively yanked open by Mr Smith. “What the hell do you want?” Chloe frowns and instinctively takes a step back when she sees him; he’s half naked, a pair of worn boxers clinging to his thick hips, and a cigarette is balanced precariously between his slimy lips. The redhead fights back a cough as smoke attacks her senses, and has to resist the urge to punch the fag from his mouth. (Chloe hates smokers; her dad always smoked at least forty a day. There was never a time there wasn’t a cigarette in his mouth, smoke billowing around the room.)
“Um, well I’m here about my rent,” Chloe starts, clutching the hem of her thin cardigan tightly as she wraps it around her skinny frame. The redhead swallows thickly and takes another step back; there’s just something about Mr Smith’s beady black eyes and thick, wiry beard that unsettled her greatly. A vaguely seductive voice floats out from inside the man’s apartment —“Mark? Are you coming back? I’m waiting for you.”— and Chloe wrinkles her nose in disgust. Of course he has a prostitute in there.
“What is it? The letter not clear enough?” Mark’s voice is deep and raspy in a way that reminds Chloe a little too much of her father when he’s drunk. An involuntary shiver runs down her spine, forcing her to curl into herself, her already high walls rising. Coming here was definitely a bad idea.
“N-No, it was, but— I’m just going to go. I’m clearly, uh, interrupting something,” Chloe says nervously, the words tumbling from her mouth in a jumble in her haste to get away from the man. As the redhead turns to leave, thick meaty fingers wrap around her bony wrist, tugging her back somewhat forcefully. Breath catching in her throat, Chloe turns around nervously, her heart pounding rapidly in her rib cage.
“How ‘bout I cut you a deal, Miss? I’ll let you stay in your lovely apartment for a little something in return.” Mark leers suggestively at Chloe, his hot smoky breath tickling her throat uncomfortably. She flinches and yanks her wrist from his sweaty grip, clutching it to her chest protectively.
Chloe stumbles backwards as quickly as she can, almost tripping over her own feet as tears well up in her usually bright eyes, blurring her vision. She turns on her heel and flees Mark’s apartment, his cruel laughter chasing her mercilessly as she tears up the stairs.
Just twenty minutes later, Chloe’s ready to leave. Everything she owns is folded neatly and tucked into the same backpack she carried on her back six months ago when she fled her home at her father’s demand. The only things left in the tiny room are her poor excuse of a mattress and the small, half-broken fridge. She has all her money (some measly $100) stuffed in the inside pocket of the bag, along with two stolen breakfast bars and a crumpled family photo.
Chloe’s only experience of being homeless is the freezing night she spent on the streets when she was just thirteen. She’d decided to flee after a particularly bad beating from her father, and had slept, curled up in the corner of an alley for the night. Despite her efforts to stay low, stealing discarded food — which was all perfectly good, thank you very much — and creeping around out of sight, her father had found her the next day and dragged her home, kicking and screaming.
She’d gone to bed with five new bruises and two new cuts that night.
Chloe has no idea how she’s going to survive the coming months — it’s nearly November, and the New York winters are brutal — but she attempts to steel her expression, and drown the emotion in her eyes. There’s no one around to see her desperate attempts — people like her are invisible on the bustling streets — but her ability to control her emotions calms her somewhat. It’s an art she perfected when she was just ten, and she’s only been getting better since.
At exactly 5:30pm, Chloe slams her apartment door behind her and trudges down the rickety stairs, her rucksack strapped to her back, not looking back once. What’s there to miss, anyways?
(Okay, apart from the roof over her head and the marginal warmth it provided. The roof leaked, and it was barely warmer than the icy streets, but it was something.)
Chloe swallows thickly and steps outside, trying to ignore the sudden shiver that shoots down her spine as a gust of wind sweeps around her. People shove into her as she turns and scurries down the street, all too focused on themselves and getting where they need to be to notice the dirty, malnourished woman weaving in between them.
The next two weeks really don’t go well.
Chloe likes to think she’s doing okay, likes to think that she’s getting enough food and sleep, likes to think she doesn’t hate herself for this, but she knows just about everything is wrong with her life right now. Sleeping in dark — and probably dangerous — alleyways huddled up with nothing but a threadbare blanket isn’t doing anything to help her health. She was already hungry — not starving, because she eats more than those poor children in Africa, even if it’s not by much — and weak before getting evicted, so spending her days on the cold streets of New York is agony.
Thankfully, she’s able to sneak the odd sandwich from Starbucks, but she’s trying to be more careful since one of her nosey co-workers caught her attempting to steal three tubs of pre-heated tomato and basil soup.
(“Hey you, ginger, what the hell are you doing?”)
Chloe whips around to see Adam standing behind her, an odd expression on his face, his eyes narrowed. She glances down to the small plastic pots of soup tucked under her arm and winces, realising how strange it looks.
“Just, um, throwing these out. Th-They’ve gone off,” she stammers, desperately hoping Adam won’t be able to detect the slight shake to her voice. The man squints at her disbelievingly and gestures to the soup, his brows furrowed.
“I put those in there yesterday. They’re definitely not out of date,” he says confidently, his head held high in that annoyingly cocky way Chloe hates. Her heart drops, because shit, she really didn’t plan for any of this. Adam isn’t the kind of guy to let things go easily. (He’s still mad at her for rejecting him for the nineteenth time. He really doesn’t get the hint.)
“Uh, well I’m just taking orders from Stephanie. If you have a problem, take it up with her,” Chloe lies, trying to keep the tremor from her voice. She steps back nervously, fighting the urge to pull her bottom lip between her teeth and chew on it to relieve some anxiety.
Stephanie is the manager, and probably one of the only people Chloe actually likes and considers a friend. The rest of them are somewhat hostile — all friends with Adam, no doubt — so Steph had taken poor Chloe under her wing when she started working at Starbucks, her spine curved forwards and her head tucked into her chest. They formed a strange but strong friendship, but Chloe refuses to let it grow outside work, politely declining all of Steph’s invitations to go out for drinks and whatnot. She just isn’t in the right place at the moment, let alone to have friends.
Of course, Stephanie didn’t actually tell her to throw away the perfectly good tubs of soup, but Chloe knows the brunette will back her up in the blink of an eye, so she’s not worried if Adam decides to ask her. (It’s unlikely that he will, he’s not that smart.)
Adam hums quietly and leers at Chloe, his smoky breath washing over her neck uncomfortably. The redhead flinches away, hugging the soup closer to her body as she shuffled backwards, wanting nothing more than to scrub the stench of smoke from her skin. She’s hungry, tired, and she knows she probably (definitely) smells; she doesn’t have the time or energy to deal with someone like Adam right now.
“Um, sorry, but I have to get back to work.” It’s not a complete lie; she still has half an hour left of her shift, but technically she’s finished all her jobs, so she’s just wandering around doing the odd job here and there. (But Adam doesn’t need to know that. Besides, he should be serving customers right now.)
“Hmm, what a shame. Maybe next time?” Adam winks suggestively and leans forward, his lips brushing against Chloe’s ear as he speaks. He skims a hand over the redhead’s wrist as he turns to leave, his fingers pinching at the skin for a split second.
As soon as he’s out of sight, Chloe crumbles, her body sagging against the counter as she sighs heavily. That was close.)
Chloe clutches her blanket closer to her chest, fingers curling into the thin polyester as she fights off the violent shivers wracking through her thin frame. Pale, wispy clouds form as she puffs out a weak breath, watching the pale vapour fly away against the inky November sky. She tips her head back against the brick wall behind her, wincing as her skull cracks painfully. It’s something though. It’s feeling. At least it’s better than the numbness seeping into her bones, devouring her piece by piece.
Clamping her hand over her mouth to stifle a yawn, Chloe sips carefully at the small bottle of water she snatched from work earlier. People stare at her as she sits there, tucked away in the alley, their gazes cold and uncaring. They all cling to the arms of their significant others as they walk past, afraid she might leap out and attack them. Chloe sighs. Why is that what they all think?
It’s not like she’s offended by it. Not really, anyways. She’s well past the point of caring.
Her bones ache, infected with a deep-rooted exhaustion that only worsens as each minute, hour, day passes. Hunger gnaws at her stomach, eating away at her insides as she draws her legs impossibly closer to her chest and breaths hot hair onto her trembling hands. Sobs crawl up Chloe’s throat, and she chokes, bringing her hands up to her neck, nails scraping painfully at the skin. As tears roll down her cheeks, dripping innocently down her grazed neck, splashing onto her blanket, she wonders what the hell her life has become.
Beca’s sat at the bar, perched on the high stool, her slim fingers wrapped around the neck of a beer bottle. The moisture seeps into her skin, a nice contrast against the hot, sweaty atmosphere of the bar. She was, of course, dragged in by Stacie and Aubrey, both intent on forcing her to let her hair loose for once.
Although Beca hates bars, she is due her monthly one night stand, so she supposes her being her isn't that bad. Usually she'd dancing with a girl by now, their bodies grinding together in the slick heat, blood rushing. But she’s not. Beca hates to think that she’s becoming soft, desiring more than just meaningless flings every now and then. Is quick, easy sex not enough for her anymore? Beca’s never wanted a relationship in her life — they’ve always seemed like too much work — but now she finds herself almost craving the simple domesticity of it all.
Beca startles she feels a soft hand touch her shoulder, and she whips round, fingers curled into a fist, to see an attractive blonde woman standing beside her, smirking. Her hair falls down around her shoulders in soft waves, and a tiny, tight black dress clings to her slim frame. Finally. Maybe someone I can try and forget about everything with, Beca thinks, relaxing her hand as she lets her own lips curl into a small smile.
“I couldn’t help but notice you’re alone,” the woman stars, pausing to take a sip of the vodka martini clutched in one hand. Beca knows it’s meant to be sexy, and it is, but it’s just so slow. What’s the problem with being direct these days? Everyone seems to dance around their feelings like fairies, instead of actually getting on with it.
Beca slips easily off her bar stool and holds up her hand to stop the young blonde from continuing. “Let’s cut to the chase. My name is Beca. What’s yours?”
The blonde looks mildly startled at the blunt words, but her emerald eyes sparkle as soon as the tension seeps from her shoulders. She knows she’s hit a jackpot with Beca. “Melanie,” she says, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth coyly.
“Great, nice to meet you Melanie. Now let’s fuck.”
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Chapter 3: three
I’M BACK BITCHES.
well. my only excuse is that my mental health has gone severely downhill and i haven’t had the motivation nor the energy to write this chapter. but a comment last week spurred me into action and i’ve spent the last few days writing this. i hope y’all enjoy it!
i don’t know what when the next chapter will come. i will write it, but i have exams in a few weeks and i just make sure i put what little motivation i have into revising for them. i’m sorry. but fear not, i will make sure i update before christmas at least :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Beca wakes up the next morning, her legs tangled loosely in bed sheets and her arm flung across someone’s warm stomach, she panics. Before she even has time to process what’s happening and where she is, she’s scrambling out of the bed, limbs flailing as she staggers to her feet. Her jaw drops in horror as her gaze lands on the smooth sleeping body sprawled across the bed, pretty face pressed into the pillow.
So that’s what happened.
(Well, more like who.)
Glancing at the clock on the nightstand, Beca realises it’s only 6AM and sighs in relief; there’s no way Madelaine? Marilyn? Maisie? — she has no idea — will wake up this early. It’s practically still night. In fact, she can even see the fucking stars in the sky. Clutching her arm across her chest, the brunette fumbles around for her discarded shirt and bra, holding her breath as she trips into the edge of the bed. “ Shit .” The curse word kind of slips out, as they always seem to with Beca, but the girl doesn’t stir -- thank god .
After yanking on her jeans and throwing on her shirt, Beca stumbles from the apartment, clutching her shoes in one hand and her bra in the other. Her phone starts blaring from her pocket, the irritating ringtone piercing the frosty silence. The brunette slides her phone into her hand and squints down at the screen, cursing silently under her breath as the name swims into focus. She can’t see shit without her contacts in.
And then she blinks, and she can just make out the Caller ID: Aubrey Posen. Fuck.
Leaning heavily against the wall in the foyer of the woman’s apartment building, Beca swipes her thumb across the screen and raises her phone to her ear, mentally preparing herself for the words of probable anger that are about to come. “Hey Bree, what’s up?” Somehow, her casual tone hides her hammering heart and the lump in her throat that won’t fucking go away, no matter how many times she swallows.
“Beca, are you okay? Where are you? You left last night with someone and you didn’t answer mine or Stacie’s calls.” Beca’s surprised to hear Aubrey’s concern floating through the receiver, and not the rage she’d pictured in her mind. (She really is awful at reading people, even after all these years. Perhaps she should do some research, or maybe even—) “Beca? Are you there?”
“I’m here, sorry. It was just a hookup, I’ve already left,” the brunette explains, cramming the phone between her cheek and shoulder so she can awkwardly fiddle with her watch and wish the conversation away.
Aubrey sighs through the phone, and Beca can literally hear her rolling her eyes. “A one night stand? Beca, those aren’t healthy, especially not for you. Mindless sex can’t heal you, you know,” the blonde scolds, her voice hardening as her mind drifts to an image of Beca working herself into the deep depths of depression with her unhealthy lifestyle. She shivers. She really doesn’t want that for Beca, the woman deserves so much better. The brunette is a good person underneath all that eyeliner and her tough facade.
“Dude, you’re the one who forced me to come out with you and Stacie. Don’t come yelling at me for having a one night stand. I’d have happily stayed in, but apparently that’s not good enough for you either. I won’t fucking bother next time.” Beca knows she’s being snappy, but it’s 6:15 and she’s not in the fucking mood to endure a forty-five minute rant from Aubrey about the importance of genuine social interaction.
(And no, extensive moaning and dirty talk do not count.)
Beca hangs up before the blonde can make any half-assed excuses and pulls up her keypad to dial for an Uber. She needs a fucking shower and another four hours of sleep.
All Chloe can think about is the deep-rooted chill in her bones, and the fact she hasn’t eaten in a week. Her stomach hurts , and she doesn’t think she’s ever been so cold. The air is frozen lace upon her skin, decorating the pale expanse like a detailed map, carving roads and trenches into the cracked landscape. It’s hardly surprising that she has a cold -- her nose is stuffed up, her throat is sore, and she’s pretty certain that sucking on snow for water isn’t exactly helping matters.
Chloe doubles over, her cough wracking through her thin frame, her heart rattling in her rib cage as her breaths form wisps in the cruel night. As people walk past, arm in arm with loved ones, laughing delicately as they rush into the nearest building, desperate for warmth, Chloe almost (read: really) hopes that someone will take pity on her.
But every time she dares to glance up, dares to even make eye contact with one of the stylishly dressed women prancing down the street, she’s met with cold eyes and curled lips. They take no pity on her, they have no feeling. They assume it’s her fault she’s out on the streets, her life ruined by drink or drugs, her money wasted on cigarettes and booze.
They just turn away, gloved fingers tapping at their phone screens, eyes cast across the street, fighting the spark of guilt that threatens to rise inside them. It’s squashed, just like the faint promise of a warmer day or decent food discarded on the street.
Chloe’s given up by now, too focused on searching the darkest depths of her mind for some semblance of a happy memory to cling onto. She doesn’t know what’s stopping her from staggering to the nearest bridge and throwing herself off into the abyss. Perhaps the hope still flickering in her chest, the knowledge that one day things could get better. Maybe her parents will forgive her, come back for her, tell her they love her.
The redhead knows it’s not true. She knows by now never to put faith in anyone; they’ll only let her down, cruel smiles stretching across their lips as she breaks down once again.
But it’s all she has. What else does she have to cling on to?
Beca’s at the club again.
She doesn’t know why — don’t ask her — but she suspects it has something to do with the seemingly permanent ache in her chest that has a fooled into thinking she craves something more. (She absolutely doesn’t.)
Aubrey and Stacie don’t know she’s here, which is probably for the best. She’s actually dancing today, ignoring the uncomfortable thumping low in her gut as she allows herself to be pushed from body to body, sweat dripping down her neck.
Before she really knows what’s happening, there’s a confident arm wrapped around her waist and she’s being tugged back into a woman’s — judging by the impossible softness — body. Beca doesn’t think about how little she wants to be here, doesn’t want to think about how unhealthy this is, she just throws herself back into the woman and grinds to the beat of the music.
She spins around, winding her arms around the— wow . The woman is seriously hot . Her rich, golden curls cascade onto her shoulders like honey, and her startling blue eyes twinkle like stars in the pulsating lights of the club. For a brief moment, Beca feels the breath knocked out of her, before she lets herself fall back into Hot Woman’s arms and allows herself to get caught up in the moment.
It’s probably (read: definitely) not a good idea to drown her loneliness in alcohol and a stranger’s soft, warm body, but sue her, she’s hurting . Beca thinks she has no reason to be in so much pain , but clearly her heart has another ideas. (Stupid ideas, stupid stupid ideas.)
They still haven’t spoken, which Beca thinks is probably for the best — she doesn’t want the woman to open her mouth and make her regret getting caught up in the moment. (The brunette has a rather annoying habit of going off people when they reveal their intelligence doesn’t match their beauty.)
“You wanna get out of here?”
Beca, of course, agrees.
They’re just leaving — after Beca hurriedly downs a few shots to try and convince herself that leaving with this stranger is a good idea — arms linked, breath mingling as they stumble out into the frosty night. Beca’s not that drunk. Sure, she’s tipsy, but she can (just about) think coherently and she still knows right from wrong.
(Ever since her first glass of wine when she was seventeen — she was at home, don’t come for her — she’s prided herself in being able to hold her liquor better than most.)
So when she walks into something that feels suspiciously like a body, Beca doesn’t assume it’s just her mind playing tricks on her. The street isn’t lit very well, but when she looks down she can clearly make out the outline of a woman, slumped over to the side.
Beca’s not good at affection. She’s not good at touching or being close to people in general. She even thinks she’d be an awful mother — she can’t take care of herself, let alone a dependent baby — but, like she said, she knows right from wrong. The brunette knows that stopping to check that this woman isn’t dead is definitely the right thing to do, even if the blonde woman is tugging at her arm to try and pull her away.
Glaring in the drunk blonde’s direction, Beca yanks her arm out of the suddenly tight grip. Wobbling ever so slightly, crouches down and presses two warm fingers against the (hopefully) sleeping woman’s neck. The pale skin is icy to the touch and her frail shoulders shake violently with shivers every few seconds.
There’s a pulse. It’s faint, barely fluttering beneath her fingertips, but it’s there , and that’s all that matters.
Beca supposes that taking the unconscious woman to the hospital is the next logical course of action. Successfully sobered, the petite brunette rises and moves to pull her phone from her pocket. She doesn’t want to further put the woman’s life in danger by driving to the hospital herself — if it was just her life in her hands she would probably risk it — so calling for a cab seems like the sensible option. (She thinks Aubrey would be proud.)
“Heyyy, wh-what are yous doiiinggg?”
Shit. Beca may or may not have forgotten about her.
“I have to take her to the hospital, she’s barely breathing. She could die if she stays here much longer.”
“So? She’s a filthy whore. Look at her out here; it’s her own stupid fault,” she blonde says, her lip curling up into a disgusted grimace. She tries to reach for Beca, her slender fingers curling around the brunette’s wrist, but she doesn’t manage to keep her grip for more than a few seconds.
Beca easily snatches her hand back to her chested and snarls at the blonde. “How dare you? Get away from me,” she hisses, glaring sharply before turning her attention back to her phone to call for a cab.
“Noooo, lookkk, just come home w-with me. I knnnow you waaant meeee.” The tall woman leans forward in an attempt to be seductive and pulls her bottom lip between her teeth. But Beca can’t see the golden hair and doe eyes she once had back in the club. All she can see are those harsh words scrawled across her face like a disease.
“I’m not coming home with you. Either leave or let me call you a cab to take you home.” The drunk blonde — finally — takes that as her cue to leave, and she stalks off into the night with one last longing glance at Beca.
The brunette wastes no time in dialling for a cab before scooping the redhead — she thinks, anyways — into her arms. She’s lighter than she looks, and weighs almost nothing, which Beca supposes checks out if she’s homeless. (Judging by the matted hair and threadbare coat, Beca has no doubt that she is.)
Swallowing thickly, the petite woman cradles the body in her arms and gently brushes tangled hair away from sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. She allows herself to cast her gaze down over cobwebbed eyelashes, stiff with the frost, to sharp collar bones peeking out from the woman’s thin jumper. There’s absolutely no doubt that the redhead is beautiful , despite the dirt streaked across her face and the smell of smoke and trash wafting from her torn clothes.
There’s a childlike innocence about her — whether it’s aided by her flushed cheeks and bright pink nose, Beca would rather not comment.
When the cab arrives ten minutes later, Beca’s freezing. She’s only in a thin black tee and a leather jacket — she hadn’t exactly anticipated sitting out in the cold. Everything is still a little hazy when she pulls the redhead onto the backseat — rather awkwardly, she might add — and mumbles the address to Brooklyn Methodist.
Beca spends the journey gently stroking the woman’s cheek and trying to warm her up with the hot air blasting from the tiny fan in front of them. And once she tells the driver to “hurry the fuck up” because she’s got a “dying woman in her arms” they actually start making some progress.
After an estimated fifteen minutes — Beca’s never been any good at Math, let’s be honest — the brunette thinks she’s become unexplainably attached to the redhead. She doesn’t want to be, trust her , but there’s this feeling stirring low in her gut and honestly she’s not too sure what to make of it.
Beca has, in fact, made a list of what she thinks of the current situation.
- The redhead is a complete stranger.
- She’s a complete failure when it comes to love.
- She has extreme abandonment issues.
- She doesn’t know how to even do relationships.
- She snores.
So yeah, it’s all a bit of a mess really.
She thanks the cab driver and shoves some dollar bills into his hand before pushing the door open and hauling the limp redhead into her arms. Now, the brunette prides herself in being stronger than she looks — she takes self defence classes and she even lifts weights (occasionally) — but she isn’t sure she’s strong enough to carry a dead weight all the way into the hospital.
And she also doesn’t know where the fuck she’s meant to go with a dying woman. She assumes the Emergency Department is her best bet, but it’s not like she frequents any hospital, let alone Brooklyn Methodist, so she supposes it’s up to her and her mildly foggy brain to find the way.
Ignoring the sharp ache at the bottom of her back, Beca walks quickly through the car park with the redhead cradled in her arms. The automatic doors slide open as they sense her presence, and she rushes forward into the brightly lit room, the overwhelming stench of bleach suddenly crashing into her. The brunette squints, because she doesn’t like light on a good day, let alone when she’s tipsy.
It’s clear karma is on her side — for once — because there seems to be some kind of reception desk ahead of her. She ignores all weird looks directed her way in favour of shuffling forward towards the robotic woman — she doesn’t fucking have time to care about judgement right now.
“Excuse me? I have someone here who’s probably dying and—” Beca looks up from Chloe’s angelic face to see the receptionist on the phone in front of her, not even looking up as she absent-mindedly taps away at her computer keyboard. “Hey, lady, I have a dying woman in my arms. Fucking help me or find someone who can,” she yells, pulling the redhead’s frail body closer to her chest as the receptionist suddenly springs up from her chair and dials a number. (Beca just hopes it’s a helpful one.)
“I’m sorry Miss, I was just—” She’s cut off when the person on the other end of the phone picks up and then everything becomes a blur.
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Chapter 4: four
IT’S BEEN SO LONG WOW I’M SORRY. i do have a very valid excuse; my poor mental health and chronic illness/pain have really gotten in the way over the past months and i’m like, barely living. but recently a few people commented on the last chapter of this asking for an update and y’know what? i was like fuCK IT i’m gonna write it. so i wrote this.
i’ve only just replied to comments on the last chapter (sorry!) and just wanted to thank everyone for their good wishes. i’m sorry to say i’m doing worse mentally and physically than last october (god, it’s been so long, sorry) but yeah.. i’m alive.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After two hours, a doctor comes out to speak to Beca. (Yes, she stayed with the redhead, don’t ask her why, because it’s definitely not that she’s become weirdly attached after a short taxi ride with her.)
The brunette is slumped down in a chair, eyelids fluttered shut — it is 2 am after all — when a young man shakes her shoulder. “Hi, I’m Doctor Higgins. Are you Beca Mitchell?”
“Uh, yeah. How’s, um… I don’t know her name.” Beca cringes internally, wincing at how awkward she sounds.
Chloe . The name suits the redhead, somehow. Beca’s not sure that’s even a thing; she’s probably just deluded.
“Oh, okay. How is she?”
The doctor purses his lips and looks down at his clipboard. (Why do doctors carry them everywhere? Beca has no clue.) “Well, Miss Beale doesn’t have any emergency contacts listed, which is a bit of a problem. She’s severely malnourished, and was hypothermic. Thankfully she seems to have a strong immune system, and she’ll be fine to go home with a course of antibiotics to fight off an infection to one of her cuts. She will need someone to take care of her for a while though, otherwise we’ll have to keep her here.”
Beca sits back and thinks for a moment, before— “I’ll look after her,” she blurts out. The doctor raises his eyebrows, clearly surprised at her boldly spoken statement.
“You don’t know Miss Beale, right?”
“Uh, well no, but I really don’t mind. She can’t really go back on the streets in her condition, can she?”
“She would die soon, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Beca decides she doesn’t really like the man’s beady eyes and seemingly permanent frown, but at least he’s honest. “Yeah, exactly, so she can come home with me,” Beca insists. She’s not entirely sure she’s making balanced judgements, but then again, she’s also not entirely sure she’ll think differently in six hours time (hopefully after a good nap).
“Okay, I’ll need you to fill out some paperwork, but that should be fine. You can see Miss Beale now, if you like. I’ll show you to her room.” The doctor promptly turns on his heel and strides off, leaving Beca to scramble up form the cold metal chair and hurry after him, desperately trying to drag her fingers through her tangled hair in a bid to make herself vaguely presentable.
Not that it will matter, because Chloe doesn’t know who she is, so why would she care? But Beca feels better knowing she looks slightly less bedraggled than before.
When she walks into the small room, Beca’s immediately struck by how pale and fragile Chloe looks. It’s no surprise, because the young woman was practically on her deathbed when she found her, but she looks a lot worse than Beca was expecting.
Her skin is almost translucent, stretched tightly across jagged bones. Her collarbones poke out from her hospital gown, like razor blades beneath her skin. Her hair is matted and dirty, messily framing her face.
Beca’s surprised to feel a tug in her stomach and an urge to take care of the vulnerable woman lying before her.
The doctor closes the door behind him, leaving Beca alone with a sleeping Chloe. She looks wildly innocent, eyelashes resting against her cheeks, chapped lips parted ever so slightly as she breathes deeply, inhaling the clean air.
Drawn to Chloe’s bedside, Beca pulls up a chair and leans forward, unable to tear her gaze from the redhead’s angelic face. Before she really knows what she’s doing, she’s lacing her fingers with Chloe’s slender ones and squeezing gently.
When she realises what she’s doing, she cringes internally; since when is she this soft? She’s never done any of this before, especially not willingly holding hands with a stranger. It’s uncharacteristic at the very least.
But it’s hardly a surprise, is it? She’s not oblivious to her recent heartache, or the fact her infrequent one night stands are no longer quenching her thirst for more . More what, Beca has no idea. (Perhaps more domesticity? She used to swear off relationships, but now she’s actually not so sure that was a wise decision.)
Beca rubs the back of Chloe’s hand absent-mindedly as she thinks, mind racing without any sign of slowing down.
But then Chloe stirs, eyelids fluttering as she wakes from her medication-induced slumber. Beca snatches her hand back as though scalded, tucking it down into her lap as she watches the redhead open her eyes.
“Uh, hi,” Beca says, forcing her lips up into an awkward half smile. It’s more of a grimace, really, but Chloe seems pretty out of it anyways, so it’s fine.
“Who are you? Where am I?” Chloe tries to push herself up in bed, suddenly overcome with a wave of panic. Her arms buckle beneath her, a pained groan escaping the redhead’s mouth as she falls back down.
Beca watches, anxious. (She doesn’t think she’s ever been this anxious about someone else’s well-being in her entire life.)
“You’re in hospital. I’m Beca, I found you passed out last night on the streets,” the brunette explains carefully. She watches Chloe process the information, realisation crashing into her.
“Shit,” she mumbles under her breath. “I’m fine, really.”
“Yeah well we both know that’s a lie, don’t we? You wouldn’t be here if you were fine. The doctor said you’re severely malnourished and you were hypothermic. Oh, and you have an infection or something.” Beca isn’t entirely sure she should be telling Chloe this, but her eyes are just so blue that it’s hard not to get sucked into them.
“Oh.” Chloe sounds sad, but perhaps resigned too. Beca knows it can’t be easy for her —to be homeless, that is. She’s never been there — not many people have — but something must have happened for her to end up this way, something terrible.
Despite living her whole life as a socially detached bitch, Beca finds herself wanting to discover more about Chloe; what makes her happy, her darkest thoughts, her strengths and weaknesses. It’s disgustingly soppy, but they’re thoughts that can’t be ignored.
Beca’s about to say something, she doesn’t quite know what, but something , when Doctor Higgins walks in, clipboard tucked under his arm. “Hi, I hope I’m not interrupting anything?” There’s a faintly suggestive lilt to his voice that makes Beca want to hide behind her hands. She shakes her head vigorously, not daring to look down at Chloe, who she’s sure is half out of it. “Well, Miss Beale, I’m sure Miss Mitchell has told you a bit of what’s going on. You need a course of antibiotics, and to be monitored for at least thirty six hours to ensure you don’t display any dangerous symptoms. Now usually we’d let patients go home for this, on the basis they’ll have someone to stay with them. If you have nowhere to go, we’ll have to keep you here, I’m afraid. You also need to be eating substantially more, or you’ll soon die.”
Chloe stares down at her lap, fingers winding together as she heaves in a deep breath. “Uh, I can’t really afford—”
“You can come home with me,” Beca blurts, hand pressing to her mouth moments later.
Chloe turns to her, stunned. “I couldn’t.” There are tears glistening in her bright eyes, a fire barely contained by a flimsy cage. It makes Beca’s heart ache , and she just wants to gather the redhead into her arms and soothe her troubles away.
It doesn’t quite work like that, though.
“You can. I’d be a terrible citizen if I didn’t look after you —I can’t let you stay here. No offence, but hospitals suck ass and debt isn’t exactly fun. My apartment is way too big for me and pretty lonely so, y’know, it’d be nice to have some company,” Beca babbles. Since when does she overshare? Jesus, she needs to just shut the fuck up before she says the wrong thing.
The brunette really isn’t prepared for the dazzling smile Chloe shoots her, wide and bright like the sun. Beca’s immediately sucked in by the woman’s charm, offering a tentative smile in response. “Okay,” Chloe accepts, a rosy blush blooming across her cheeks.
The first day Chloe stays at Beca’s, she tries her very hardest to be useful. Beca’s at work, eight till seven, and she has a lot of time to kill. She hasn’t exactly checked it’s okay to tidy up, but the younger woman’s apartment is a mess, so she figures it won’t do too much harm to just clear up a little.
She assumes Beca’s pretty wealthy, because an apartment like this in New York City costs just short of five million dollars. It’s stunning, like something she’s seen only in those glossy magazines she used to read when she was a teenager.
Beca was right when she said it was too big for one person; it feels vast and empty as Chloe stands in the living space, picking up wrappers and drained mugs. She wiggles her toes in the huge fluffy socks Beca had passed her the previous evening, along with some warm flannel pajamas. Chloe — at the brunette’s insistence — had spent half an hour in the shower, allowing the steaming water to coat her skin, heating her from within.
Even in the chill of the lonely apartment, the redhead is warmer than she’s been in months. And for that, she’s grateful.
Desperate to do more to thank Beca, Chloe goes through the food in the fridge and freezer. There’s no fresh produce, or anything she can safely cook with, but there are ready-made meals in the freezer, and she figures they’re better than nothing.
Just before Beca’s due home, Chloe heats up the meals in the oven and lays the table, digging out a few candles she’d found at the back of a cupboard. When she steps back, surveying her work, she finds she’s vaguely proud of herself. She knows it’s barely enough to begin to thank Beca, but it’s something, and she hopes it’ll be appreciated.
When Beca steps through her door to a spotless apartment and dinner sitting ready on the table, she almost cries.
“Chloe, what have you done?” She says breathlessly, shocked. She didn’t know what she expected Chloe to do today, but it wasn’t this . No one has ever done anything like this for her, and it tugs at her heartstrings a little more than she’s comfortable with.
Chloe’s expression drops. “You don’t like it? I’m so sorry! I just thought I’d do something to try and thank you, but—”
Still at a loss for what to say, Beca holds up a hand to quiet the redhead. She shakes her head fervently, stepping towards the younger woman. “No, no, I love it. I just— No one has ever cooked for me, cleaned up for me. I don’t really know how to thank you.”
Now assured Beca isn’t mad, Chloe allows her signature bright smile to creep onto her face. “You letting me stay here is more than enough thanks. Now, shall we eat?” She offers her hand to the brunette, who takes it, unable to keep a soft smile stretching across her lips.
comments + kudos = more chapters <3
Chapter 5: five
it’s been over 18 months since i last updated this i am SO SORRY. i hate that i cant make any promises with fanfiction anymore, life has a habit of just getting in the way. i can’t claim that i’m any better (i’m probably worse) than the last time i updated bUT i realised that i actually wrote the fifth chapter of this a while ago but never posted it. so, enjoy :)
It’s been a week since Beca brought home a reluctant Chloe to her apartment, and a week since their (romantic?) dinner. A week since Chloe’s almost-death, too.
Beca knows Chloe has found her neurotic fussing a little much, but the brunette would never forgive herself if things went south all because she neglected to take proper precautions.
Despite the rigorous demands of her job, Beca has taken to working from home more often, only popping into the studio if absolutely necessary. What good is being famous if she doesn’t have flexibility over her work? Theo has been a bit of a dick about it, but she’s his boss, and ultimately has the last say (much to his dismay).
Chloe has been angelic - there’s no other word for it. The young woman has not a fault about her, Beca’s sure of it. She listens to her when she insists she needs to lie down and keep off her feet, but whenever she’s out, the redhead takes it upon herself to cook, clean and do sweet - but wildly unnecessary - things for Beca.
Most notably, Chloe went out and bought snacks (with permission to use Beca’s credit card, of course), then built a blanket fort to surprise Beca with once she got back from work. The brunette had teared up on the spot and was barely able to restrain herself from sweeping Chloe up and kissing her on the spot.
But it’s been a week, and although Beca doesn’t want to admit it to herself, Chloe is technically well enough to leave. She can’t let her, though. What kind of person would she be if she let a woman back onto the streets in the middle of New York’s coldest winter on record?
It’s with this in mind that Beca pulls into the apartment complex driveway and switches off her engine. It’s 10pm; later than she’d planned on arriving home. She’s been so absent from the studio this week that Theo had managed to persuade her into making an appearance for a large chunk of the day.
She’d promised Chloe she’d be back at 8pm at the latest, yet here she is, two hours late. She had texted the redhead - yes, Beca bought her a phone as soon as they’d gotten back from the hospital, ignoring Chloe’s protestation - and had received a don’t worry, see you soon!! :)) in response, but she still feels bad.
Beca knows they need to have a discussion about what the future holds; Chloe had attempted to bring it up over dinner last night, only to be shut down with the promise that it would be spoken about soon.
If she’s honest with herself, Beca’s terrified of Chloe wanting to leave. She doesn’t think the redhead wants to be homeless again, but she also worries that she doesn’t like staying with her. What if living with Beca is so bad that Chloe is desperate to leave?
(The rational part of her brain says that it’s very unlikely, but still.)
If she was just a normal young woman, perhaps she wouldn’t be so afraid of Chloe leaving. But she’s not normal - she’s touch-starved and wrought with abandonment issues.
Oh, and she may be in love with Chloe.
The feelings had snuck up on her like a thief in the night, catching her unawares until two days ago when they’d been sat on the couch watching Mrs. America . When Beca glanced over to her, Chloe had been laughing, face illuminated by the TV screen, eyes sparkling, and all of a sudden the brunette had been hit by an overwhelming wave of emotion.
It had been so bad she’d had to excuse herself to go to the bathroom, wiping frantically at her eyes as she freaked out over liking the relative stranger that was currently living with her. She almost wished she’d never gotten involved with Chloe, but the thought of leaving the woman for dead on the sidewalk didn’t sit right with her.
What the fuck is she supposed to do with these feelings? Burying them seemed like the preferable option at the time, because it’s common knowledge that Beca Mitchell doesn’t do relationships, but Chloe . Beca now, after nights of lying awake with her thoughts spinning around her mind, thinks she would do anything for Chloe, including try a relationship.
Trudging up the stairs to her apartment, Beca wonders if she can justify putting the conversation on hold another night. But she can’t make up another excuse, and so she steels herself for what might be a painful night.
When Beca opens the door, she’s met with the sight of Chloe curled up on the couch, eyes glued to the TV screen. Some shitty reality show is on - apparently the redhead enjoys them; Beca couldn’t disagree more. The sound of the door catches Chloe’s attention, though, and she looks up from the TV.
Upon seeing Beca, a wide smile breaks out upon her face. “You’re back!”
“Hey, sorry I’m so late,” Beca says, dumping her keys on the side and kicking off her shoes. She pads across the room and sinks down into the couch beside Chloe.
Chloe pauses the show and turns her full attention to the woman beside her. “It’s okay. There’s a plate of food for you on the side. I ate mine already, sorry.”
“Oh my god you’re a star, thank you,” Beca says gratefully, pushing herself up to go and heat up the food. She’s starving, and hasn’t eaten since breakfast - not that she’ll tell Chloe that, the woman would have a fit.
“So, how was work?”
“Very busy. Though I don’t see how any of the stuff that needed doing required me to go to the studio. I wish I could have just worked from home and stayed with you instead.” Beca doesn’t really think about what she’s saying, and doesn’t consider the fact that she’s practically just admitted to loving Chloe’s company. (Which, as Stacie would joke, is “a bit gay”.)
“Mm, I wish you could have stayed home too,” Chloe says, cheeks flushing slightly. Beca isn’t looking, though, too caught up in her own inner turmoil.
Neither of them speak while Beca puts her chicken pie in the microwave. The machine hums and then beeps after two minutes, prompting the brunette to pull the plate out, muttering a soft curse under her breath as she touches the hot ceramic.
She once again takes a seat next to Chloe, then turns to look at her. “We need to talk,” she says slowly, stomach churning.
Immediately, the redhead’s face falls and she visibly draws into herself. She crosses her arms across her body in a protective manner, as though they will shield her from the coming conversation.
“It’s not— Please don’t worry, okay? I’m not mad or anything,” Beca reassures, pained to see the difference in Chloe’s manner. She definitely should have approached this more tactfully, but how else was she supposed to bring it up?
All she gets in response is an imperceptible nod. Chloe won’t even look at her now; her eyes are trained on her lap. The redhead bounces her leg slightly, another sign of her anxiety.
“It’s just that, you’ve been here for a week now, right? And we both know that you’re better. So, I’m not sure what you want to do now.” Beca has no idea what she’s doing - how is she supposed to successfully navigate a conversation like this when she has no practice? She also has no idea of Chloe’s life circumstances and how she ended up on the streets; she doesn’t want to stupidly say the wrong thing and upset the woman.
Chloe barely even looks up, but the bouncing of her stops, and Beca sees it tense up. “You want me to leave?”
“Um,” the brunette begins, trying to work out how to articulate that no, she doesn’t want Chloe to leave, but without revealing that she’s head-over-heels in love with her. And then she realises that she’s paused for way too long, because Chloe is shifting further away from her and into the back of the couch.
“It’s okay, I’ll be gone tomorrow morning.” Chloe’s voice is small and Beca thinks her throat may be choked with tears, but she can’t really tell because she has little-to-no experience of anything like this.
How was she supposed to learn about basic human interaction when her mum abandoned her at age six, and her dad was painfully absent her whole childhood? She grew up taking care of herself, forging signatures for school, keeping to herself with only her music to turn to; how was she supposed to learn what having a relationship with someone - platonic or otherwise - was like? It wasn’t until Stacie forced herself into her life, of course bringing along Aubrey, that Beca even had any friends.
“Wait, Chloe, no, that’s not what I—” Beca tries, desperate to right the wrong she’s just made.
“Bec, stop. I get it.” Chloe looks up then, and Beca can see the formation of tears in the corners of her eyes and her stomach lurches. She feels incredibly stupid; of course she’s said just the thing to make the redhead cry.
In her frustration, it takes a long moment for Chloe’s use of the nickname to circle to the forefront of her mind. She almost softens at it, her heart melting with love for the woman sitting beside her, but then she remembers that she’s just made her cry , and anger washes over her. “No, you don’t,” she grits out, desperate to make Chloe understand that the last thing she wants is for her to leave.
There’s a moment of silence. And then, “What?”
“I don’t want you to go,” Beca affirms, clasping her hands together tightly, rubbing her thumb forcefully across her skin.
“You don’t?” Chloe looks so terribly confused, unshed tears shining in her eyes; the sight makes Beca want to sweep her into her arms and rock her to sleep.
For a moment, a smile flickers at the redhead’s lips, and Beca begins to feel somewhat triumphant. But then Chloe’s lips drop, and she frowns. “But I can't really stay, can I?”
“Because— Because I can't afford to pay you rent or anything. I’ve already been intruding. I can't just move in .” She says it as though it’s such a wild idea, one that someone of sane mind wouldn’t even consider. Beca doesn’t dwell on that, though, because she doesn’t care whether the notion of Chloe, a woman she’s known for only a week, moving in is a deranged one. She just wants it to happen.
“Chloe, I don’t care. You can move in. If you want to, of course.” Beca pauses and licks her lips anxiously. “I won’t stop you leaving if that’s what you truly want, but the offer to stay is there.” It feels like she’s holding out a hand, reaching out for Chloe, waiting for her to grasp it and tell her that she’ll never leave her. Beca knows that’s not how life works, but she doesn’t care.
“I do want to stay, Beca, but I can’t just move in without giving you something in return.” Chloe is actually looking at her now, ocean eyes wide and imploring, seemingly begging the brunette to understand where she’s coming from. Beca shakes her head.
“You do give me something. You give me a lot of things, actually. This place is too big for one person, you can see that; you keep me company, you make me feel less alone. You cook and clean for me - that saves me hiring someone to come and do it for me. You do give back, Chloe. Just because it’s not in monetary form, it doesn’t mean it’s less valuable.” Beca doesn’t realise that she’s reached for Chloe’s hand until she feels warm, clammy fingers slip into hers. She grasps them tightly.
“Are you— Are you sure? I just feel so useless if I’m not paying you back. I wouldn’t be able to bear it.”
“If it means that much to you, you can owe me and pay me back once you find work and earn enough money, yeah?” At this offer, Chloe seems to brighten a little. “But seriously Chlo, I don’t want any money from you. I’ve got enough, I seriously don’t need more.” It’s the truth - Beca’s a millionaire. She doesn't even need half of what she’s got; taking any money from Chloe would feel like theft.
“Thank you, Beca,” Chloe says sincerely, offering a tentative smile.
“Of course, love.”
“Love?” Chloe questions, brows furrowing.
Beca wonders if she really is with it, because this is the second time she’s had no idea what she’s done until it's too late. Calling Chloe love ? It’s an almighty slip-up that she has no idea how to recover from.
So she does what she’s done her whole life, and what she does best; she runs. It’s definitely not what the situation calls for - she should be able to sit down and talk through this like the adult she is, but she can’t.
(The more that happens, the more Beca wonders if she needs therapy.)
“Oh shit, um— I gotta go. I’m tired.” Beca rises abruptly from the couch, her chicken pie barely touched. She dumps the plate on the side and walks swiftly across the apartment.
“Wait, Beca—” Chloe starts, turning around, confused. But by the time her gaze lands on where Beca had been standing, the brunette has disappeared, leaving only the sound of hurried footsteps in her wake.