Beca's not sure how long it will take to retrain her brain. Even with all of Chloe's affirmations of her feelings permanently tattooed in her memory she still catches herself holding back. She still has to remind herself she's allowed to touch, and kiss, and look. She doesn't mind though, because remembering that Chloe wants her to do those things will always be welcome.
Chloe, on the other hand, doesn't seem to need such reminders. Beca thinks it's because she's not nearly as versed in the art of restraint. Doesn't have as much practice under her belt. This doesn't bother her either. She quite likes being taken by surprise with Chloe's more lustful impulses.
It's easy, being with Chloe. She can never spend too much time with her. Never seems to want the same amount of space or separation she'd wanted with others.
Being without her is harder. Sometimes Beca can almost convince herself that the time Chloe spends away from her will be long enough to make her realize she doesn't want Beca after all. She supposes the years she spent telling herself Chloe could never want her are responsible, and she'll need to retrain her mind on that way of thinking as well. But she's working on it.
Thankfully, Chloe doesn't seem to want to spend any more time away from her than is necessary. And Beca's heart always leaps at how happy Chloe is to see her again.
She's been spending more and more nights at Beca's apartment, much to Beca's (and Ginny's) approval. And Beca loves waking up in Chloe's arms. It thrills her that Chloe still reaches for her in the middle of the night. Chloe's kisses to the back of her neck are better than any alarm tone she's ever had.
It's how she wakes up Monday morning the week of Thanksgiving. There's pressure at her hip, fingers squeezing at the jut of bone, and lips are at her spine. She lets out a sigh when the lips travel upward, her backbone directing them in a path up her neck. It's how she tells Chloe she's awake.
"Good morning," Chloe whispers. It's rough and still thick with sleep. It tells Beca its owner hasn't been awake long.
"Morning," Beca says back. She stays in the same position, quite happy to let Chloe continue kissing the skin she finds facing her. The hand at her hip slips upward too, under the camisole Beca fell asleep in. It ventures across previously unexplored skin, up and up until it halts just below a certain line the two have yet to cross.
"Chloe?" Beca asks uncertainly. She's been patient these weeks they've been together. She's been happy, moving along at any pace Chloe wanted to set for them. But she's also always been happy to continue. Always happy to offer up any part of her body Chloe wanted to explore. And this time is no different.
"Can I?" Chloe asks. Her knuckles brush the underside of Beca's skin in a way that makes her next breath uneven.
"Yes," Beca says, willing herself not to be embarrassed over the eagerness in her voice. And Chloe's touches have grown bolder and bolder every day since that very first confession on Beca's couch. Her kisses have traveled farther and farther away from Beca's lips. She's left her marks across Beca's skin and been proud of them. But this is still different. This is new.
Warm fingers travel across Beca's chest, experimenting with various amounts of pressure and lingering in certain places longer than others. And Beca's heart beats furiously, like if it just thuds hard enough, Chloe can hold it too. She has no doubt that Chloe can feel it, but she makes no effort to calm it down. She's happy to give these beats to Chloe.
"Your skin is so soft," Chloe whispers. Beca smiles but doesn't comment. She thinks anything would probably feel soft under a touch as gentle as Chloe's.
"Is this... okay?"
Beca turns over then, happy that Chloe keeps her arm securely around her.
"More than okay," she says. Her words are breathless, and Chloe smiles at the way they leave Beca's throat.
"I don't think I was done yet, you know," Chloe says, pulling Beca closer both with her arm and the devilish glint in her eyes. Beca lets herself be led, puts up no fight against entering Chloe's orbit.
"As much as I would love to not be done here," she starts, letting her own arm fall over Chloe's waist, "you, madam, have someone to pick up at the airport."
Chloe lifts her head to look over Beca's shoulder at the alarm clock sitting on her bedside table. She groans at the little red numbers on its display.
"Why must Aubrey have chosen the very earliest flight into JFK?"
Beca laughs. Doing anything early in the morning had never been an issue for Chloe in the past. She's rather pleased with the idea of it being a problem now only because Chloe doesn't want to leave her bed.
"If she didn't she wouldn't be the Aubrey Posen we know and love," Beca says playfully. "Now go get dressed before you get distracted again."
Chloe tuts at her, but still doesn't leave her bed without a kiss first. Beca stays a few more seconds, curling up in the warmth Chloe left behind. She's going to miss falling asleep and waking up together the next few days.
"Are you sure you don't just want to tell Aubrey right away?" Chloe asks, seemingly reading Beca's thoughts. She's standing in the doorway of Beca's ensuite bathroom, a toothbrush hanging out of her mouth and her voice adorably muffled with toothpaste.
They'd agreed weeks ago, when it was decided the Bellas would be spending Thanksgiving in New York, that they'd keep their relationship a secret until everyone was all together in one place. Chloe said she liked the idea of being face to face with them when she tells them, in her words, that she 'finally got her shit together.'
Beca smiles at her now and gets up, amused that she's already proposing breaking the deal just so they don't have to hide anything for the three extra days Aubrey is staying with Chloe first.
"I really don't have a preference over when or how we tell them," she says, scooting by Chloe with a light touch at her hips and grabbing her own toothbrush. "But I know you do. Even if you don't think you do right now."
Chloe finishes with her teeth just as Beca starts, and after rinsing she looks at Beca in the mirror and sighs. "I know, and I'll be glad we stuck to the plan on Thanksgiving day. I just kind of hate I have a whole week off of work and can't stay here with you."
Beca smiles through her toothpaste and then finishes with her routine quickly so she can put herself back in Chloe's immediate space.
"You'll have fun with Aubrey. I have to work today and tomorrow anyway," she says as she pulls Chloe in. She hooks her wrists together at Chloe's lower back.
"And we're still on for meeting up with you on Wednesday?"
"I'll be all yours," Beca confirms. "Well, and Aubrey's."
Chloe laughs and brushes Beca's wild hair from her eyes. "I don't think I much liked the way that came out."
"How might I make it up to you then?" Beca teases.
"You could try kissing me. Better bring your A game though or I'll believe your heart's not really in it."
Beca laughs at the absurdity of such a statement. Her heart could never be out of it. But then she leans in anyway, finding Chloe's lips in a way that's become familiar. She kisses her in the way she's had time and practice enough to learn Chloe likes. The way that always leaves her chasing Beca's lips whenever they eventually retreat. The way that draws sighs from her throat.
It's when she feels Chloe's hands start to wander that she stops. They navigate down her back on either side of her spine, only stopping when the material beneath them is that of her shorts instead of her top.
"Someone," she says heavily, smiling against Chloe's mouth, "is handsy this morning." She places one final kiss there before withdrawing, looking steadily at Chloe who looks back shamelessly and with her hands still on Beca's backside.
"I can't help it! You can blame our impending separation."
"Hmm," Beca starts, backing out of Chloe's arms but holding eye contact. "Blame, or thank?"
Chloe rolls her eyes, reminding Beca resolutely of herself, but then she follows.
It takes longer than it should to say goodbye, and even after skipping breakfast Chloe only manages to get out the door with just enough time to make sure Aubrey doesn't have to wait.
Beca puts herself together more efficiently after Chloe's gone, no longer distracted by wandering hands or tempted with skin begging for her kiss.
And the rest of that day and even the following day seem to smile upon her because they don't drag on and on. She's productive and organized during her time at the studio. She takes Ginny for a walk in the now cold weather, but Ginny still loves it. She makes dinner for herself and it's surprisingly pretty good (she's been practicing more cooking ever since she learned she'd be the Thanksgiving host). And everything is dotted with Chloe's texts. Broken up by messages which nicely punctuate the passing of their time apart.
Messages that leave her smiling.
Chloe: Miss you. Can't wait to see you tomorrow.
Messages that make her laugh.
Chloe: Aubrey just got FIERCELY hit on by a woman who is at least sixty in this bar. I have NEVER seen her struggle that hard for words. It was hilarious.
Messages that make her squirm in her seat.
Chloe: God I want you. Can I stay over Thanksgiving night?
By the time Wednesday afternoon rolls around, she's itching to see Chloe again. And she knows that Chloe's texts will have made it that much harder for her to keep her hands to herself while they're in Aubrey's company.
She walks into the restaurant they're meeting at for lunch and immediately spots them. She turns down the assistance of the maitre d' and makes her way over, keeping her eyes on Aubrey.
"Hi!" she greets when she's close enough. Aubrey's returning smile is wide and she's on her feet in seconds, wrapping Beca in a hug far tighter than she expected.
"I'm so happy to see you," she says in Beca's ear. And it makes a little guilt wriggle uncomfortably underneath her skin. She'd always thought of Aubrey as her friend after the trial of her first year as a Bella was over. But she thinks maybe she always thought of her more as Chloe's friend. And she thinks maybe that was unfair, because nothing about this hug seems at all disingenuous.
"Me too," she says when Aubrey eventually lets her go. Chloe hadn't stood up during the interaction, and Beca slides into the opposite side of the booth they'd been sitting at without any more of a greeting than, "Hey, Chlo." She figures that's a friendly enough hello for two friends who see each other somewhat frequently.
Their lunch together is easy. They talk about Aubrey's life down at the retreat she still runs. About Beca's work and the feel of her next album. Chloe doesn't add much, pretty much already knowing everything being discussed. But every time Beca catches her eye she's smiling.
When it's time to go, and after Beca's interacted with the few fans brave enough to approach her, Aubrey excuses herself to the ladies' room. Beca and Chloe wait for her in the booth with secret smiles on their lips.
"You look beautiful today," Beca says quietly. She interlocks her own fingers together to keep her hands from reaching across the table for Chloe's.
"Thank you. So do you."
She allows herself to let her eyes stay on Chloe longer now. She was afraid to give much more than cursory glances before. Afraid Aubrey would be able to see the love in her eyes before she wanted her to.
When she sees Aubrey approaching again she stands, and they walk out of the restaurant together.
"Thank you for lunch, Beca," Aubrey says, pulling her into another hug.
"It was my pleasure," she responds. "So I'll see you both tomorrow then. Do you have everything you need?"
They'd agreed to split the food making duties between the three of them.
"We got it covered, Becs. Are you sure you won't need any help?" Chloe asks, a smirk aimed in her direction.
"Rude," Beca says. "I got this."
"Of course you do," Chloe says, and then she pulls Beca in for a hug too. Beca wills herself not to smell Chloe's hair but can't help the smile that blooms on her lips when Chloe whispers in her ear.
"See you tomorrow, babe."
She gives a louder goodbye after that, and then Beca watches her walk away arm in arm with Aubrey. She finds herself more impatient than ever for the moment everyone will know Chloe's hers.
The next day is hectic in the hours immediately preceding the arrival of the other Bellas at Beca's apartment. She only almost burns something twice but she's worried the whole time something will go wrong and all they'll have to eat will be turkey and dessert. But in the end it all comes together decently. Pinterest for the win.
Chloe and Aubrey arrive first, laden with glass dishes and the big foil baking pan that surely contains the turkey.
"Beca! This place is beautiful!" Aubrey says, setting down the food she carried in.
"Told ya," Chloe says, not looking up from the table where she was arranging trays. It makes Beca smile.
"And you must be Virginia! Chloe won't stop talking about you," coos Aubrey, crouching down to a happy Ginny. She always loves meeting new people.
Beca watches them fondly for only a few seconds before the next knock is heard at her front door. The Bellas start arriving in quick succession after that. And Beca's heart feels fuller and fuller with each new person. Emily is first. She barely gets over the threshold before she throws herself into Beca's arms with all the same enthusiasm Beca remembers. She doesn't let go for a long time. Beca's guilt squirms again, but she knows she won't let the same amount of time and space between them again, so she tries to shove it aside and just enjoy the moment.
Cynthia Rose, Flo, and Stacie are next. CR offers a one-armed hug and her ever-present easygoing smile. Flo greets Beca with an anecdote about how the living room is bigger than her entire childhood home. Stacie kisses both cheeks, and even leans in a third time but is distracted when Chloe suspiciously runs into her arms before her lips can land again. Beca suppresses the laugh that threatens to erupt from her lungs.
Jessica and Ashley also arrive together, to no one's surprise. They come in bearing more wine than Beca expected two people of being able to carry. But everyone cheers when they just keep placing bottles on the table.
Lilly comes in alone, not even bothering to knock. Beca doesn't even see her come in. She's only made aware of her presence when two thin arms wrap around her middle from behind and the words, "It smells like family," are whispered in her ear.
Fat Amy is last, and is twenty minutes late. She comes through the door with an unsurprising "The party can start now!" and everyone cheers again.
The apartment is full of smiles and laughter. More laughter than Beca's sure it's seen since she's lived in it. She can't remember the last time she felt this happy.
When they finally all settle down, Beca directs them to her dining room. She'd added the leaf into the center of the table to make it longer, and extra chairs to accommodate everyone. It was a tight fit, but this group of girls had never really minded being close. Chloe sits down next to her with a sweet smile, and Beca has to remind herself she's not allowed to take her hand yet.
There's some amount of appreciation for how good the food looks, and then the wine is poured. And then Beca clears her throat to catch the attention of the room.
"Speech!" Amy shouts, making everyone laugh.
"Um, no," Beca says, flushing. But she does have something to say. "But I did just want to say that I'm so glad all of you are here. I can't believe I let so long pass by between us, but I'm glad I pulled my head out of my ass because you nerds are... pretty irreplaceable."
"Damn right," Cynthia Rose says, throwing Beca a wink.
"So today," Beca goes on, feeling less embarrassed now, "I'm thankful for you."
The same sentiment is thrown back at her from ten different people, and they all take sips of their wine to toast the occasion. Then, they dig in.
Dishes are passed around until everyone has a little of everything, and Beca feels relief after the first bite of her stuffing. It's as good as she could have hoped for.
And it seems like a hundred different conversations are going on at once, with everyone talking at the same time. But Beca wouldn't change a thing about it. From her place at the center of the table she's able to talk to nearly everyone, but she mostly talks to Emily who sits across from her. She wants to hear every minute detail of her career, and Beca ends up promising to take her by the studio before she leaves New York on Sunday. It feels like college again, promising to take Emily to a music studio with her family surrounding them.
It's during a lull in conversation that she hears it. She'd been wondering how the announcement would be made, perfectly happy to leave it up to her girlfriend to break the news. Chloe's voice cuts through and over all the others when she speaks.
"Stace, could you pass the sweet potatoes? Oh, and Beca and I are a couple, by the way."
The reaction is instant. Stacie stops halfway in handing over the dish, her arm holding sweet potatoes hostage in midair. Aubrey drops her fork. It clatters loudly on her plate. Emily squeals. Jessica, Ashley, and Flo all look at them with dropped jaws. CR laughs. Lilly just keeps eating, and Amy does a legitimate spit-take.
"What?!" Aubrey and Amy say together. By now everyone is smiling. Emily is looking at them with all her teeth on display, her hands clasped together at her heart.
"Surprise?" Beca says. But then she finally gets to touch how she wants to. She puts her hand in Chloe's lap, and it's instantly taken up by both of Chloe's.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Becs," she says, leaning in. And Beca's never been super big on public displays of affection, but right now there isn't a bone in her body telling her to be modest. She lets Chloe kiss her soundly, barely registering the hoots and yells from her guests. When Chloe pulls back, it's Aubrey's voice she registers first. And she doesn't think she's ever heard anything nicer come out of her mouth.
"Finally figured it out, huh Chlo?"
Beca smiles at her blonde friend, grateful for such subtle approval.
"Better late than never?" Chloe says, repeating words Beca said to her weeks ago.
Amy stands up then, drawing the attention of everyone from her place at the end of the table.
"Could we raise our glasses again?"
Beca smiles, preparing for what will surely be a ridiculous speech but raises her glass nonetheless.
"Nobody in this room has suffered more than I have watching these two goofballs not be together," she starts. And Beca holds her glass high still, thinking an argument could be made that she suffered the most, but she holds her tongue anyway.
"So let me be the first to say, FINALLY!"
All the Bellas laugh, but Amy still stands.
"I won't wish you the best, because if there's any couple who doesn't need it, it's you two. But Chloe?"
Chloe leans forward then, her arm across the back of Beca's chair.
"Take care of my girl, would you?" Beca huffs at the insinuation that she can't take care of herself, but the entire table knows it's for show.
"I promise," Chloe says sincerely, placing a kiss at Beca's temple.
Amy raises her glass an inch higher then before she states, to the amusement of the room, "To Bhloe!"
There's a loud chorus of "To Bhloe" around the room and they all drink again, breaking down into laughter at the silliness of the toast.
A hundred questions come their way then. How did it happen? Who kissed who first? How long have they kept their secret? And Beca entertains them all, happy to boast the story of how she finally wound up with Chloe Beale.
"Wait! This is important," Stacie states loudly after Chloe admits sheepishly to her reaction to Beca's Miami performance. She leans forward on her elbows, her hands under her chin.
"What's Beca like in bed?"
The whole table erupts into laughter but Beca. She's only too quick to begin her reply.
"Stacie! We are not about to talk about-"
"I don't know. I haven't found out yet," Chloe starts at the same time and cutting Beca off.
"Chloe!" Beca says, dropping her face in her hands. But as the seconds go by she can't hold back the laughter, and when she looks up they're all smiling at her.
"Well damn girl what are you waiting on?" CR asks jokingly. "Beca won't bite." And then, after hearing her own words she adds, "Well, maybe she will. I can definitely see Beca having a few surprise kinks. It's always the quiet ones."
They laugh again and Beca stands up, shouting "Dessert!" and taking herself into the kitchen before her blush reaches her cheeks. She can hear them all joking as she uncovers the various desserts Chloe and Aubrey brought with them.
"So," a low voice says in her ear, while familiar arms wrap around her from behind, "do you bite?"
Beca laughs and spins around.
"Guess you'll have to find out," she says, snapping her teeth shut for effect. She doesn't mean anything by it. Doesn't want to imply any sort of impatience or expectation.
"Then let's hurry with dessert, shall we? We can see them all again tomorrow."
And Beca thinks if she'd had anything to drink at that moment she'd have pulled an Amy and done another spit-take. But she's not about to say no when the idea being proposed is one she's fantasized about more than she'll ever admit to.
Chloe kisses her then, leaving her wholly unsatisfied, and begins taking more food to the dining room.
Beca tries to put her less than innocent thoughts aside for the remainder of the time the Bellas are with them. Of course, jokes are made here and there, but Beca's starting to think she might have been the most surprised of the group to learn Chloe wants to be with her. Everyone else just sort of accepted it and moved on. The energy doesn't feel much different now than it did before the announcement, with maybe the exception of a few more smiles aimed in their direction.
After she's finished dessert, she leans back in her chair, looking around at her family. They're talking over one another and laughing at inappropriate jokes. Drinking wine and already making plans for the next reunion. Chloe puts her hand in Beca's lap and smiles before leaning in Stacie's direction and talking in a low voice. Beca looks at Ginny next, passed out under the table from so much excitement (and probably a belly full of table food she's never allowed to have).
And when she looks up again, she smiles.
Her apartment has never felt more like home.