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It's a beautiful day, today. Beca remembers Ms. Kate telling the class that it is the first day of spring.

Spring should be nice, Beca thinks. The sun is a bright yellow, the trees are starting to get green all over again and the birds are happily chirping as they zoom past her porch.

She wants to tell her parents they should enjoy the beautiful day, too, but they have been screaming at each other ever since she came home from school.

She wants to tell them to stop, to tell them how much it scares her, but her dad never listens if she doesn't speak up.

He's always told her that she has to speak up in life or nobody would ever listen to her.

Only, Beca can't find her voice. It's drowned under her parents' shouts, somewhere deep where her small arms can't reach.

Like most days when it gets like this, she goes into her garden and sits on the soft grass. Sometimes she pulls it out in frustration, other times she zones out as she listens to the birds sing.

A group of taller kids walks past her driveway, and Beca snaps her head towards the source of noise. They are laughing and shoving each other and she thinks she recognizes them from school.

They are the cooler kids from fourth grade. She doesn't hang out with them, because she is just in second grade. They can add numbers in their heads while Beca still has to count them on her fingers.

There's no way she could hang out with them.

"Hi!"

Beca jumps a little, having cast her eyes back down to the small patch of grass she had torn off from the ground.

Looking up, she sees that one of the Cool Kids has walked up her driveway and is now standing just where the concrete meets Beca's lawn, as if it were a limit she wouldn't cross without permission.

Beca thinks the girl is pretty. Her eyes are very blue, like the sky, as they stare at Beca, and her pulled-up hair is a nice color; a blend between blonde and bright orange.

"Um, hi?" she echoes, eyebrow twitching in confusion as to why a Cool Kid would greet her.

"Are you okay?" she asks. Beca takes a second to observe her carefully. She's wearing a leather jacket over a The Simpsons shirt tucked in faded blue jeans, high top Chuck Taylor's on her feet.

Beca glances down at herself and briefly hates her mom for forcing her to wear her overalls this morning. And for styling her hair into pigtails, claiming it was the trend. They make her look like a baby.

She scrunches up her nose. Seriously, mother.

Beca shrugs, because she has been taught not to lie, and she doesn't really feel okay.

"You wanna hang out with us?"

Beca is sure a surprised gasp leaves her mouth upon registering the question, her eyes uncertainly flickering between the girl and the Cool Kids who hung back by the sidewalk.

She's been taught not to go anywhere with strangers, too.

So she shakes her head rapidly, and looks away, missing the way the older girl's shoulders slump slightly.

"Chloe, come on!"

Chloe. That's a pretty name, too, Beca thinks. She hates hers. Rebeca. Ew.

She wants to go by Beca, but her parents like to stick to Rebeca and, since it is the name on her school card, Ms. Kate and her classmates call her that, too.

She hears Chloe reply something to her friends, and then the girl is plopping down beside her on the grass.

Beca eyes her warily.

Technically she's not a stranger now that Beca knows her name, right?

"How come you're sad?" she asks out of the blue with a soft voice and even softer eyes, and Beca pauses. No one has ever asked her that before, not even her parents. It feels strange. "You just moved here, right?"

Beca nods. "Yeah. Two months ago, I think."

"You miss home?"

Portland is alright, she thinks. People are nice and the weather is okay, too. She just misses her friends back home, in Seattle. She hasn't made any real friends here, yet.

"No, not really," Beca sighs, wringing her hands. "I just miss my friends a little."

"I bet. You'll make new ones here!" She extends her hands towards Beca, and Beca spends a few seconds staring at it. Beca's pretty sure hers has dirt on it so she wipes it discreetly on her overalls.

(oopsie.)

Chloe's hand shake is confident, Beca notes. "I'm Chloe. What's your name?"

Beca purses her lips. Chloe the Cool Kid would probably never hang out with a Rebeca. This is it; her opportunity to flush her repressed identity down the drain once and for all, and start anew.

New city, new school, new name.

Steel blue eyes meet cerulean ones timidly. "My name's Beca."

Chloe beams. "That's a cool name, I like it!"

Thanks, Beca wants to reply but refrains, I chose it myself.

Just as Chloe opens her mouth to say something else, loud, angry voices rumble from inside the house and Beca winces, screwing her eyes shut. Out of habit, her hands come up to cover her ears, because she simply can't take the screaming anymore.

"Hey," Chloe bumps her shoulder against hers, seemingly unfazed by it all. Beca watches as she shrugs off her Ninja Turtle backpack -seriously, so cool- and takes out an item. "Want to listen to some music?"

Beca eyes the Walkman in Chloe's hands and nods again. She likes music. Taking the earbud Chloe hands her, she tucks it in her ear. She doesn't know the song that's playing but doesn't mind. She closes her eyes and lies back on the soft grass, trying to shut out the other noises she can hear and focus only on the beat.

She feels Chloe lie down beside her too, and they start to discuss the cloud shapes over the lyrics.

Chloe talks a lot, about nothing and everything.

She tells Beca she has a dog named Pongo and that she can come play with him whenever she likes, because Chloe's house, Beca learns, is just across the street. Chloe has two older brothers; Jeremy and Logan. They are both in middle-school and never hang out with her because they think she's a loser.

If they think Chloe is a loser, Beca doesn't know what that makes her.

Beca tells her it's okay, that Chloe can hang out with her whenever she likes, because she lives just across the street. Chloe laughs at that, and calls her weird but with a smile that tells Beca it's a good kind of weird.

"Shoot!" Chloe exclaims after a while, eyes widening as she looks at her pink Little Pony watch. "I'm going to be late for dinner!"

She scrambles to her feet as Beca sits up, taking her earbud off. She grabs the Walkman off the grass and hands it to Chloe, who waves if off.

"You keep it for a little while," she tells her with a small smile as she brushes the grass from her jeans. "Sounds like you need it more than I do."

Beca gasps. "Really?"

"Totes!" Chloe beams. Beca doesn't know what that means, and she sure isn't going to ask; how lame would that be. It must be a Cool Kid Expression™, she figures. "Just give it back to me whenever. I can borrow my brother's in the meantime."

Beca breathes out a quiet thanks instead, clutching the device to her chest.

"I'll see you tomorrow?"

Beca's eyes widen again. She can hardly believe it. Even despite the overalls and the pigtails, Chloe is willing to see her again. Eventually, once the shock has passed, she bobs her head up and down. "Okay,"

"Have a good night!" Chloe shouts over her shoulder as she skips down to the sidewalk.

Beca grins to herself. Looks like she's made her first friend.

/

They hang out everyday during the following summer and sometimes camp out in Chloe's backyard sharing snacks and stories while looking at the stars.

Chloe's family is kind and welcoming and Beca knows she can go there whenever she pleases. She often hangs out in Chloe's room until dinner time and Chloe's mother always asks her if she wants to stay and eat.

Beca says yes most of the time, because dinners at her own house are always tense, with her mom and dad barely speaking to one another.

She thinks maybe she liked it better when they were shouting, because at least her house wasn't so quiet back then.

One night during a game of Twister at the Beales' with Chloe's whole family, Beca wishes they could adopt her. She feels bad when she realizes she is a little jealous of how lucky Chloe is to have such a family; caring and united.

In the middle of the summer, her dad leaves. He leaves Beca and her mom on their own, for reasons that Beca can't quite apprehend. She thinks she hates him, and probably never wants to see him again.

The night after he leaves, she sneaks out of the house, crosses the street, slips through the fence and lies next to Chloe on the grass without saying anything, preferring to stare at the painted sky.

Chloe doesn't say anything, even when she twists her head and sees tears run down Beca's temple. She simply slips her hand into Beca's and gives it a squeeze.

Beca glances at her, sniffles and wipes her nose with the back of her sleeve.

"Chloe?" she asks softly, trying to get rid of the thickness in her throat. "Are you going to leave, too?"

Chloe turns on her side and shakes her head before resting it on her propped-up hand. "No. I'm not going to leave, Bec."

"But-but you're going to the grown-up school next year,"

"Yeah, and you'll join me in two years, right?" Beca nods. She's right. Beca is just being silly. "Besides, I'll still live across the street. We'll still meet up after school and watch Charmed like we do now. And watch a movie on Friday nights."

"Pinky promise?" Beca asks, flushing a little bit as soon as she realizes what she's said. Chloe is eleven now, she probably finds it stupid. But Chloe doesn't say anything, instead smiles and holds up her pinky to hook it with Beca's.

"I promise."

They look back to the sky above them, hands still linked resting on the grass between their bodies, and go back to counting the stars.

Chloe leans in and whispers in Beca's ear that they are both also made of star stuff, and they deserve to twinkle.

Beca loves it; it sounds almost magical.

/

The last day of summer comes too quickly, if you ask Beca. They spend it together in Chloe's room because it's pouring rain outside.

(they still spent the last hour trying to catch raindrops in their mouths.)

Chloe's room is yellow like the sun and her walls are covered with posters and pictures of her family.

Beca doesn't want the summer to end. Chloe is starting middle-school tomorrow while Beca is stuck with the small kids for two more years.

She doesn't like to think about how she won't get to see Chloe at recess. It makes her feel weird.

Like something heavy pressing on her chest and making tears rise in Beca's eyes. It's ridiculous, she knows, because she's nine now and she shouldn't be crying over such stupid things.

"Beca?" Beca looks up from Chloe's cool new Diddle notepad. She's sitting cross-legged on the floor while Chloe's lying on her bed. Dido's Thank You is playing from the radio set on Chloe's bedside table. "We're best friends, right?"

"Yeah," she answers, because Chloe is the person she trusts the most in the world, even though she's not entirely sure what the word means.

She just knows that trusting someone means that they won't leave, because her mom kept repeating to her dad that she didn't trust him anymore, and then he left.

She just knows she feels safe whenever Chloe is around.

"Okay," Chloe agrees simply. She's just turned her gaze back to the ceiling when she twists her head again, locking eyes with Beca. "Forever?"

"Forever," Beca echoes with a small smile.

Tomorrow will be different and scary, but Beca doesn't feel like crying anymore.

/

Her dad forgets about her tenth birthday. He doesn't call or send any present and Beca hates hearing her mom yell at him on the phone the following morning.

She meets Chloe in her tree house the Saturday following her birthday and chooses not to mention it to Chloe. She's noticed Chloe gets sad whenever Beca is, like she can't help taking a little bit of Beca's sadness away to carry it herself.

Beca knows there's an adult word for that, her mom once told her about it, but it was too complicated for her to remember.

Anyway, she doesn't want to make Chloe sad, so she doesn't say anything about her dad.

Chloe gets her Beyoncé's first solo album and they spend the entire night playing it in a loop on Beca's CD player as Chloe teaches Beca how to make scoobidous.

Her mom lets Chloe sleep over that night and they set up sleeping bags on the carpet floor because Beca's bed is too small to fit them both.

They get to watch a movie before bed while eating pop-corn and Beca thinks it might be her best birthday, yet.

/

Middle-school was kind of scary at first. The age difference is much more noticeable, and the fact that Beca looks as though she's two years younger than her actual age doesn't really turn the situation in her favor.

Chloe insists it's cute. Beca growls every time she says it, and shoves Chloe or tosses something at her in weak reprimand.

In middle-school, boys pretend to be cool by putting too much gel in their hair and girls pretend to be older than they actually are by wearing too much make-up.

The choice of clothing is also overall questionable. Beca doesn't really know where she stands in the fashion world, so she decides black is the safest choice.

Chloe's clothes are always colorful; with flowers or animals or characters from shows.

She's still her bubbly self and talks a lot, while Beca is often grumpy and quiet.

They are so different, yet they work so well. Beca likes to think Chloe is a sunshine while she's a little gray rain cloud.

That together they make a rainbow.

But that's terribly lame and mushy that she obviously doesn't tell Chloe or anyone else about it.

(not even her dumb cat.)

They don't really spend time together at school. Chloe hangs out with the popular kids, as she always has. Beca doesn't really like her friends, and sometimes doesn't understand why Chloe hangs out with them, but she doesn't say anything.

Beca hangs out with Benji and Lily, but sometimes they have weird conversations about Star Wars or Satan and Beca gets bored.

She likes music. She could listen to music all day long. Her dad, who didn't forget about her last birthday, got her her own Walkman. She often sits on the grass at lunch time to listen to it.

Besides, even though they don't hang out at school, she and Chloe always do their homework together and watch a movie on Friday nights.

So yeah, overall, middle-school isn't so bad.

"Get out of my way, loser,"

Beca just has time to register the words. The ice-cold drink hits her right in the face and she gasps, chest sharply rising up and down to acclimatize the temperature shock.

Her hands come up to her face to wipe the blue icy mess that's now dripping down her shirt.

"Leave her alone, Bumper!"

Beca can't see anything because of the slushie mix stinging her eyes but she would recognize Chloe's voice everywhere. Chloe's hand (she knows it, too) slides into hers, and Beca is tugged forward.

"Here," Chloe says gently after a brief walk down the hall, guiding Beca to turn around. Her back presses against something cold that she recognizes as the bathroom sink. She hears water running as she blinks to try and clear her vision. A fuzzy image of red hair and concerned blues appear in front of her. "Clean your eyes with this,"

A wet tissue is pressed into her palm, and Beca nods in thanks. Her hands are still shaking as she wipes the slushie from her eyes, and Chloe sees that obviously, because Chloe sees everything when it comes to Beca's emotions, and it's sometimes unnerving and frustrating, because Beca can't never lie about them.

"He's an asshole," Chloe mutters, and Beca chuckles, eyes moving along Chloe's features as the redhead helps her wipe off the rest of her face.

Chloe's eyebrows are knit together and her bottom lip is jammed between her teeth and Beca feels something strange happen in her belly when Chloe's thumb brushes along her forehead, but she can't really explain what it is so she doesn't think much of it.

Once her face is more or less clear of the blue icy liquid, Chloe nods and stands back, tossing the tissue in general direction of the trashcan in the corner.

"You okay? I'm sorry you got slushied, Bec."

"It's okay," Beca says with a shrug. It's happened before and it's bound to happen again. "I'll live."

Chloe purses her lips and sighs. "You want me to walk you to class?"

"No, Chlo," she hates it when Chloe feels the right to get protective just because she's older. Beca might be only twelve, but still, she can walk to her own classes herself. "I'm not a baby."

"That's not what I meant, I'm sorry."

"People are going to think I'm even more of a loser if I have a bodyguard, now," she means it as a joke, but the pain reflecting in Chloe's eyes makes her falter.

"You know you're not what he says, right?" Chloe frowns heavily. "You're not a loser, Beca."

"Yeah, well, everybody else seems to think so," she swallows heavily and clears her throat to get it rid of any emotion that might manifest in her voice. "I just want to be left alone. And Bumper to be slushied."

She cracks a smile, breathing out when Chloe does too. She still doesn't like seeing Chloe sad, especially because of her. She's pulled into one of Chloe's warm embrace then, something she's come to be familiar with, because Chloe hugs her a lot.

Well, she hugs everyone a lot, really. But Beca likes to think their hugs are special. Chloe always tucks Beca's head under her chin and the simple gesture makes Beca feel safe.

The following day, Bumper gets slushied right in front of everyone in the cafeteria. She's seen the boy who does it hang out with Chloe before. She thinks his name is Tom, but isn't sure. Anyway, he's very popular, more popular than Bumper, and Beca fails to understand why Tom would waste his time and money on a slushie.

But then she catches Chloe's eyes across the room and the redhead winks. Beca should feel upset that Chloe defended her when she didn't ask for it, but she can't help feeling satisfied as she watches Bumper dejectedly wipe the icy liquid from his face.

Beca grins back. Having an undercover bodyguard might not be so bad, after all.

/

"You know this boy, Jesse?" Beca finds the courage to tell Chloe on their walk home from the cafe. Chloe hums in the affirmative. Everybody at school knows Jesse. He's the dorky-popular freshman who comments their High School football games on Friday nights. "He asked me out, today,"

Her hands clutch her hot chocolate to-go tighter as she waits for Chloe's reaction. She wants Chloe to approve.

"He did?" For once, Chloe's reaction is unreadable. Dammit. "That's-that's great, Bec."

They turn silent as they walk into step. Fall fell on Portland, the trees turning to a beautiful orange color, similar to Chloe's hair.

"What did you say?" Chloe asks, briefly glancing at her.

"I, uh, I said yes. He's picking me up on Saturday, we're going to the movies," she explains, then chews on her bottom lip in thought. "What was your first kiss like?"

Chloe's step falters slightly, so Beca slows down and looks back. "It was, uh, nothing special, really. I was eleven and it was at the park. Neither of us knew what we were doing, I think."

Eleven?! Beca is fourteen and hasn't had her first kiss, yet. She doesn't feel the peer pressure or anything, but she's surprised Chloe's never told her about it.

She sighs as they continue down the street. "What if he sucks at it? What if I suck at it?"

Chloe giggles and it makes Beca smile. "You'll have plenty of other kisses, Beca."

"I know, I know," she scrunches her face in a grimace. "I just... I kinda want my first kiss to be nice."

She wants to say special, but she's afraid Chloe might make fun of her and call her a baby.

And it sounded less pathetic or corny in her head. She speaks again before her brain has the chance to analyze how lame she really is.

"A girl in my class said that her first kiss was super wet and that he used too much tongue."

Both girls pause and glance at each other, bursting out laughing when their eyes meet. Beca's wiping at the tears pooling in the corners of her eyes, sobering up when she catches Chloe staring at her with a look she can't quite place.

It's full of affection and it makes her heart do that weird fluttering thing.

Chloe doesn't say anything and they resume their walk in comfortable silence until they reach Beca's house.

"Hey Bec?" Chloe calls quietly just as Beca is about to turn around to hike up her driveway after they have said their goodbyes. She looks back questioningly. "Do you trust me?"

Beca frowns at the unexpected question, "Of course, dude. Why do you ask?"

She draws in a quick, shallow breath as Chloe steps closer and presses her lips to hers gently.

It's over before Beca can even think about what is happening. She just has enough time to close her eyes (all the people she's seen kiss do that, so it only seems natural) and taste the chocolate milk flavor coating Chloe's warm lips.

Chloe pulls back and smiles at her sheepishly, shrugging her shoulder. "I hope that was okay."

Beca has yet to blink when Chloe shouts a "See you tomorrow!" over her shoulder as she crosses the street towards her own house.

She doesn't stop thinking about it until she falls asleep that night. Chloe kissed her. And Beca might have wanted her do it again.

She thinks it's just a stupid crush. Besides, Chloe is her best friend and that would be weird.

She doesn't think about it in the morning, or when Jesse kisses her at the end of their date the following Saturday.

It's nice. He's nice.

He asks her to be his girlfriend at school the following Monday.

She says yes.

/

"No."

"Bec, come on, it'll be fun!" Chloe whines, pulling on Beca's wrist like an insufferable child. They are walking home after school on a Friday night. It's almost Christmas, and the streets are lit up with a bunch of colorful lights.

"Singing show tunes for pleasure after school hours?" Beca's nose wrinkles in a grimace. "No, thanks."

"Right, like you're not a closeted show tune fan. I heard you belt out Anything Goes in the shower the other day, y'know."

Beca feels red rush to meet her face, quickly moving down her neck when it runs out of space. It's dark, so hopefully Chloe's doesn't notice.

"Dude, you need to stop sneaking into my house unannounced."

"Sorry," Beca doesn't believe her for a second. "Anyway! Glee club would be so much fun. And I heard Jesse was going to become captain!"

"Ugh, no need to remind me. He talks about it non-stop. Besides, it's not because my boyfriend is in a singing club that I feel the need to be in it, too. I don't want to be attached to his hip all the time."

"Please?" Chloe's puppy dog eyes are on full display, and Beca groans internally. "For me? We could really use an alto, and your voice really slays."

"Compliments will get you no where, Beale," Well, expect reducing Beca into a melting puddle. "And you can't use that 'for me' bullshit all the time, got it?" She warns, pointing an accusatory finger at Chloe.

Chloe is already bouncing on the balls of her feet, a shit-eating grin splitting her face. "So that's a yes?"

Beca's shoulders slump in defeat as she sighs. "I guess."

As Chloe squeals and pulls her into a bone-crushing hug, Beca gets slightly unsettled by the realization that she would have never said yes had Jesse been the one to ask her.

/

Beca has time to register a blur of red hair and a shriek before she's literally tackled to the ground. Thankfully she lands on grass, so she doesn't break any bone or anything, but the wind is still knocked out of her lungs.

And Chloe is laughing happily above her, clutching a letter in her hand.

"Get off me, you weirdo," she grumbles, shoving Chloe off her. She laughs then, too, because Chloe's giddiness is too contagious not to, as she rolls off Beca and stands. "What's up?"

Chloe holds out her hands to help her up and shows her the envelope with a beaming smile. Beca recognizes the blue crown of the University of Columbia in the top corner and gasps.

"You got into Columbia!?"

Chloe's head bobs up and down, and Beca is the one to shriek this time and pull Chloe into a hug.

"Chlo, that's amazing!" Backing away, Beca keeps her at arms' length. "I'm so proud of you,"

She thinks Chloe might be blinking back tears, and maybe they are some in her eyes, too. It's been Chloe's dream ever since freshman year to get into one of the Ivy League Colleges and she busted her ass to get a high GPA.

She wants to become a doctor, and Beca is happy she's getting one step closer to her dream, even if it means that dream happens to be millions of steps away from Beca, on the other side of the country.

"Thanks, Bec," Chloe whispers, wrapping her arms around Beca in a softer, shorter embrace. "It means a lot to me."

"Of course," Beca murmurs as she squeezes back.

She tries not to think about how Chloe will move across the country in less than three months to start a new life. She tries not to think about how her best friend won't be just a walk across the street.

"Let's celebrate tonight!" Chloe exclaims, lightly jumping up and down when she pulls away.

Beca winces. "I can't... Jesse and I are going out and I can't really cancel because it's, like, our second anniversary or whatever."

"Oh! That's right!" Chloe exclaims, then pauses and raises an eyebrow. "Is tonight the night?"

"Dude, don't call it that," Beca grumbles, delivering a slap to Chloe's shoulder as she rolls her eyes. "I don't know, maybe. I feel ready, either way."

"That's all that matters," Chloe tells her with a reassuring smile. "And we can always celebrate another time, no biggie."

She notices the disappointment leaking in Chloe's tone and winces internally, but she can't cancel on Jesse, as he's been planning tonight for the last six months, probably.

"I have something for you," she says in hopes of bringing Chloe's spirits back up. Fishing inside her jeans pocket, Beca pulls out a USB stick.

Chloe's eyes light up, "New mixes?"

"Yeah. If you wanna have a listen. You don't have to."

Chloe takes the stick from her open palm and slips it into her back pocket. "Of course I do! I can save them and get a lot of money from it when you get super famous."

Beca rolls her eyes, but her insides are swooning. Chloe has always believed in her and encouraged her when Beca started to play around on a program during her last year of middle-school.

She's decided she wants to become a music producer and plans on going to Los Angeles after high school.

Chloe listens to every mix, and Beca always eagerly waits for her opinion on them, because it's the only one that matters.

For music, and for just about everything else.

/

Chloe leaves for New York in the middle of August. Beca manages not to cry as Chloe's parent's car pulls away from the driveway to drive her to the airport.

She spends the rest of the day mopping around in her room though, ignoring Jesse's text and calls or her mother when she tells her to come down for dinner. She's about to go to sleep when she receives a text from Chloe and smiles.

[9:32 pm] Chloe

Boarding the plane. I'm kinda scared, Bec. :'(

[9:33 pm] Beca

You'll be fine. College is going to be awesome. Send me pictures of your school, yeah?

[9:33 pm] Chloe

Totes! I'm glad I have your mixes for the plane ride. :D

Miss you already. :( 3

[9:33 pm] Beca

Miss you, too.

They talk everyday via text and call each other once a week. Beca keeps Chloe posted on high school drama and Chloe tells her all about New York City. Her excitement is palpable over the phone and Beca is happy for her.

When Chloe comes back for Christmas break three months later, she takes Beca out for hot chocolates at their usual cafe down the street from Beca's school.

She hasn't changed much, Beca thinks. She's still her bubbly and affectionate self, who talks at a mile a minute. They spend Christmas Eve day together wrapping presents for their families and friends while belting out Christmas tunes (yes, even Beca), and exchange their own gifts for each other right before their respective family dinners.

Chloe gets Beca a light grey, Columbia sweatshirt that looks so comfy that she puts it on immediately, causing Chloe's eyes to sparkle with joy.

She gets Chloe two tickets for the Coldplay concert in Portland in the summer. She's saved some money from her summer job to be able to secure those. Chloe gasps and tells her she's crazy, before pulling her into a smothering hug.

Beca laughs and holds on tightly, realizing just now how much she's missed her best friend.

"You can take whoever you want with you, by the way."

Chloe rolls her eyes. "You're so stupid sometimes, Beca Mitchell. I'm taking you,"

"Oh," Beca flushes and dips her head down. Her heart's doing that crazy thing again. "Okay, then."

The night before Chloe has to go back to Columbia, she texts Beca to ask her if she can come over. Beca is confused, because it's nearing ten PM, and they have already said their goodbyes as Chloe's flight leaves early in the morning.

When Chloe sneaks into her room through Beca's window (luckily her bedroom is on the ground floor of her house), Beca immediately notices her bloodshot eyes and the dried tear-tracks on her cheeks. She sits up in bed, looking at Chloe with concern and questions.

"Can I-" Chloe interrupts herself, as if to swallow back a sob itching to get out. She's wringing her hands and looks and sounds as though she might break down any second now. "Can I sleep here tonight?"

"Y-yeah," Beca nods, scooting over so Chloe can lie down. Chloe sits down instead, gaze fastened on Beca's comforter. "What's going on, Chlo? Did something happen?"

She rolls her eyes at herself. It's clear something happened, and it scares Beca, because Chloe doesn't usually cry, unless it's something serious.

"I..." Chloe clears her throat as fresh tears roll down her cheek and curl around her chin to drip down her lap. She sniffles and wipes her face with her palms first, then the back of her hands when once is not enough. "I don't want to talk about it. Can you... can you just hold me?"

Beca swallows heavily, her chest constricting in pain over witnessing such ache holding her best friend hostage. She nods again.

"Come here," she pads the space next to her and Chloe lies down on her side, drawing in a shaky breath as she sets her head down on the pillow. Beca shuffles closer, draping an arm around Chloe's waist as her front presses against Chloe's back. "Like this?"

She feels utterly stupid for asking, but then again she's never been the one to initiate affectionate moves and has no idea if this position is comforting enough for Chloe.

Chloe grabs her hand and laces their fingers together over her stomach. "Yeah."

"Okay," Beca whispers, using the hand previously propping her head to gently stroke Chloe's hair. "I've got you, Chlo."

Her words seem to unleash a storm of emotions inside Chloe, whose body starts to shake with silent sobs. Beca panics internally, unable to come up with any words to make her stop crying. She starts to gently sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow instead, keeping watch on Chloe until her breathing evens out.

When Beca wakes up the next morning, the spot next to her is empty, and she thinks for a brief moment that maybe she imagined things last night. She catches sight of a note lying on the pillow and grasps it.

Thank you for last night. I had to catch my flight and didn't want to wake you up so early. I'll text you when I land.

Love,

- Your Chloe

Beca's mind is assaulted with so many questions that her still sleep-fogged brain struggles to sort through.

And Chloe calling herself Beca's Chloe makes Beca's heart ache in a way she can't explain because it's never happened before.

Chloe calls her a few days later, but doesn't bring up that night, so Beca doesn't either.

They fall back into their routine of calling each other once a week and texting throughout the rest, exchanging pictures and videos and stories about their lives on their respective side of the country.

It doesn't fly above Beca's head that she's the one calling Chloe each time, just as she notices how the calls get shorter and shorter, Chloe coming up with something to cut it brief.

One week, Beca doesn't call, and a bitter taste settles in her mouth when Chloe doesn't reach out.

/

Beca breaks up with Jesse after Spring break.

She just doesn't feel for him what a girlfriend should feel towards her boyfriend. She loves him as a person and a friend, but she's not attracted to him romantically anymore.

She tries to put it into gentle words, but no matter how much she sugar coats it, the outcome is still the same.

It's ugly and messy. Jesse is heartbroken and Beca hates herself.

She tries to call Chloe the minute Jesse leaves her house because she needs Chloe to tell her she did the right thing. Her call goes to voicemail and Beca battles against the tears pooling in her eyes and the distress growing in her stomach.

[6:34 pm] Beca

Can you call me back when you get the chance? It's kind of important. Thanks.

An hour passes without any sign of Chloe and Beca spends it crying, rolled in a ball on her bed.

[7:42 pm] Beca

I really need to talk. Can you call me, please?

[9:35 pm] Beca

I need you.

Sleep eventually claims her, and when she wakes up around eleven the next morning, she scrambles up to get her phone from where it's charging on her desk. Her screen comes up blank, glaring almost mockingly at her.

Her background is a picture of she and Jesse when they went skiing in February and she hurries to change it before it brings back too many memories of the night before.

Once she's changed it, she scrolls through her Facebook, stopping on a picture Chloe's tagged in. It's obviously from last night, taken from a balcony over the dance floor. Chloe's dancing with her back pressed against some guy's front, her arms above her head.

Beca clenches her teeth and slams her phone down on her bedside table to prevent herself from texting Chloe what she thinks.

When Chloe calls her later the following evening, Beca almost wants to ignore it for the sake of it. Eventually, her burning fingertips finally give in and accept the call.

"Hello?"

"Hey Bec. Sorry, I was at a party last night and didn't hear my phone go off. You okay?"

Beca rolls her eyes as she angrily picks at a loose thread from her blanket. "Peachin'."

"What's going on?"

"I broke up with Jesse last night,"

"What? I'm sorry, sweetie. Wanna talk about it?"

She doesn't know if Chloe is truly detached from the conversation or if Beca's just imagining things. Either way, she doesn't feel like talking anymore.

"No, not anymore. I, uh, I need to go. Talk to you later."

Beca hangs up and throws her phone out of reach. She lies back down and cries most of the evening, ignoring Chloe's repetitive calling. She caves in and answers after Chloe's fifteenth attempt, a little more aggressively than she meant to.

"What do you want?"

There's a long pause on the other end, during which Beca thinks about hanging up.

"I'm sorry," Chloe's voice is small and barely audible. "You're right to be mad at me, I should have called you back earlier than that."

Beca scoffs, eyes rolling towards the ceiling once again as she bites out the next sentence, "Yeah, that would have been nice."

There's a long pause on the other end. "I... I said I was sorry, Beca."

"It's kind of late for that, don't you think? I needed you and you ignored me, Chloe,"

"Not on purpose!" Chloe cries out and Beca hears her scoff. It makes her even more mad, because she simply doesn't think Chloe has the right to be angry right now.

"Yeah, I saw that. You were too busy grinding with some guy at a frat party and probably fucking him afterwards!"

She regrets the words the second they fly out of her mouth and closes her eyes when the line goes quiet, save from Chloe's shallow breathing down the receiver.

"You know what, Beca, you don't have a clue what's going on. Go fuck yourself."

The hateful spat breaks her heart into two. Tears well up in her eyes when Chloe hangs up before she can get another word in.

She was out of line. She knows it, and tries to call Chloe back as soon as her phone lets her. Unsurprisingly, it goes straight to voicemail. She leaves countless messages and texts, begging Chloe to call her back.

The radio silence lasts a few weeks, during which Beca thinks she might lose her sanity. Jesse is giving her the cold shoulder and Chloe is ignoring her and Beca has never felt so alone as she does right then.

She feels her lungs fill with a surge of much needed air when Chloe's name lights up on her screen one Friday night, three weeks after their fight.

"Hi," she answers quietly, toying with the chords of her headphones hanging around her neck.

"Hi," Chloe replies as quietly. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry."

They both speak a the same time, and both laugh after a stretch of awkward silent.

"I guess we're both idiots, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess so. I'm very sorry for what I said. It was crass and out of line."

"I'm sorry for missing your calls that night. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, not too bad. Ready to move on from high school drama, though. Just one more year."

"I'm sure it'll fly by, Bec. Still planning on going down to LA?"

Beca nods, even though Chloe can't see it. "That's the plan. My dad doesn't want me to, though, but he doesn't get a say anymore."

"I hope it will work out. You deserve your talent to be recognized by someone big."

"Thanks, Chlo," Beca nibbles on her bottom lip, pondering on whether she should ask. She feels as though their friendship is still skidding over thin ice. "Are you okay, Chloe?"

"I'm fine, why do you ask?"

"I don't know, you-you seem checked out. You have since that night after Christmas and I'm kinda worried you're not telling me something that stresses you out."

"I'm.." Chloe pauses and Beca's ears prick in anticipation. Then, Chloe backtracks. "Just got a lot on my plate with school and finals. But I'm fine, I promise."

"Okay," Beca says, even though part of her wants to pry for more information. "Well, just think about the Coldplay concert, it'll be a nice reward after busting your ass off for finals."

"Yeah, about that," Beca frowns over Chloe's hesitant tone. "I'm not going to come home this summer, Bec."

"What? Why not?"

"I-I, uh, I have to go. I'm sorry. Talk soon?"

Beca's mouth gapes open wordlessly. "Yeah. Love you,"

"Love you, too. Bye."

Beca stares at the phone long after the call is disconnected. She can't shake off the feeling that there's something bigger eating at Chloe's insides.

On a whim, she grabs her computer and buys the first flight she finds to NYC, trying not to think of the consequences an impromptu trip across the country will have on her relationship with her mom and her school report.

But then she thinks about Chloe and Chloe not being okay, and that's the most important, or rather the only thing on her list of priorities.

Her mother is still asleep when she leaves in the early morning, so Beca writes her a note, stating she shouldn't worry and that Beca will explain everything when she gets back.

She manages to contact Chloe's closest friend at Columbia through Facebook, a chick named Aubrey, and get Chloe's dorm number as well as the code to get into the building.

Nerves come surging in when she stands in front of Chloe's dorm door. Maybe Chloe doesn't want her here, maybe she doesn't want to talk to Beca about whatever is troubling her. Maybe Beca has made a huge mistake in coming here.

She knocks anyways, because there's no way she's going home until she's made sure Chloe is okay.

The door swings open after a few agonizingly long seconds; Chloe is suddenly in front of her, shock written all over her face as she stares at Beca with her jaw hanging open.

"What-" she pauses to swallow. "What are you doing here?"

Beca shrugs, going for a sheepish smile. "Surprise?"

"Oh my God," Chloe whispers, closing the scant distance between them to wrap her arms tight around Beca's shoulders. Beca lets out a watery laugh and holds her just as tight around the waist, burying her face in Chloe's sweater and inhaling her scent. It smells and feels like home, and she wonders how on earth she's managed to make it nearly six months without a hug from Chloe Beale.

They remain laced for a long stretch, neither one willing to let go of the other. Eventually, Chloe backs away, eyes sparkling with unshed tears as she grips the lapels of Beca's jacket. "I can't believe you're here, Bec."

Beca breathes out in relief. The smile in Chloe's eyes tells her she's exactly where she should be.

"May I come in?"

"Shit, yes, of course, you must be dead on your feet," Chloe tugs on her hand to lead her through the threshold. Her dorm is tiny, but at least she has if to herself. "Sorry, it's kinda messy. I wasn't expecting anyone,"

"It's okay," Beca says as she tugs her scarf off from around her neck, all the while letting her eyes flit across the dim-lit room. Chloe was clearly studying when Beca came in, if the scattered papers on her bed next to her open computer are any indication. "This is a nice place."

Chloe rolls her eyes and shrugs. "It's not, but it's home,"

The sentence echoes deep within Beca. She can't wrap her head around the fact that Chloe would refer to this tiny room as her home and not her folks' house back in Oregon.

Her brain suddenly puts the pieces together and Beca can't fathom how dumb she has been when all the hints have been right in front of her: Chloe asking to stay in her room that night and refusing to come home for the summer.

When Beca pulls herself out of her thoughts, she realizes Chloe is sat on her bed, now paper and computer free, waiting expectantly. Beca shrugs off her jacket and holds it in her hand as she sits next to Chloe, placing the leather garment on her lap.

"Chlo," she murmurs, slipping her hand into Chloe's and squeezing her fingers lightly. "Did something happen with your family?"

The words alone seem to break the dam on Chloe's suppressed emotions. Beca watches as she clenches her jaw to try and glue it back together, but her eyes steadily fill with tears.

"I, uh, I have to tell you something," Chloe rasps out, voice tick with undeniable dread. She breaks eye-contact to look at her lap and their entwined hands. "I'm just scared you might hate me,"

"Chloe, look at me," she coaxes gently, using her free hand to tilt Chloe's chin up. She then moves it to cup her face. "There's nothing you can say that would make me think anything less of you. I promise that, whatever it is, it's okay."

"I'm gay."

Beca blinks. She's surprised, obviously, because she had no idea. Chloe has always been very popular with boys throughout middle-school and high-school.

Then again, she's never been in a serious relationship with any of them, that Beca knows of. She sometimes found herself wondering how it was that she had boyfriend when Chloe didn't.

It all makes so much more sense, now.

Realizing Chloe's staring at her with fear troubling her eyes, Beca berates herself for remaining silent one beat too long.

"That's it?" Beca asks with a soft smile, stroking her thumb over Chloe's cheek. "Damn, Beale, I thought you had killed someone or something. You scared the heck out of me."

Chloe is the one to blink, then. "You're-you're okay with that?"

Beca frowns in confusion and slight offense. "Why wouldn't I be?"

Chloe swallows painfully and Beca wants to kick herself again for stirring the conversation that way.

She's an idiot.

"Well, my parents aren't,"

"I'm so sorry, Chloe. I..." Words fail her despite her reeling brain and she hates herself for not being able to provide Chloe with the comfort she deserves.

Telling her her parents are tools won't make Chloe feel any better, even though Beca's brain is screaming at her to say it. She can't tell her they'll come around because it might not be true.

Biting the words back, Beca settles instead for something she's a hundred percent positive of. "I'm so proud of you, Chloe."

"You are?" Chloe's voice is small, buried under all the emotions mingled inside of her for so long. Her eyes though, speak volumes. They light up in hope that she heard correctly and it dawns on Beca how dreadful Chloe's coming out to her parents must have been.

"So proud," Beca repeats, leaning in to pull her friend into a gentle hug. She now knows she'll never stop telling Chloe that until she believes it herself.

Chloe breaks then, out of relief, Beca thinks.

Loud, previously restrained sobs rip from her body in waves. She crumbles against Beca and cries for minutes, maybe hours, Beca isn't sure. Beca simply holds her and rubs soothing circles along the spamming muscles in Chloe's back, whispering sweet reassurances in her ear.

"I love you so much. You know that, right? The fact that you're gay doesn't change the fact that you are the most important person in my life."

Chloe nods into her neck, exhaling a watery laugh against her skin. "I love you, too, Bec."

Chloe pulls away eventually and Beca dries the rest of her tears for her, swiping the pads of her thumbs under her bloodshot eyes.

"Thank you for telling me," Beca smiles. "Thank you for trusting me."

Chloe mirrors her smile and sniffles, pushing her hair away from her face.

"Have you known for a long time?"

"Yeah,"

It's all that Chloe says, and Beca doesn't push her.

"Wanna order a pizza and watch a sitcom?"

Chloe nods with a small smile. "I'd like that."

"Okay."

She lends Beca some pajamas and steps outside to order the pizza while Beca changes. They eat it in front of The Office, but Beca can't really focus on the show at all. Her mind is too busy sorting through so many questions.

The first and foremost is if Chloe realized she liked girls after she kissed Beca that night three years ago. If that kiss felt special for Chloe, too.

She wants to say it out-loud, but that would feel like backing Chloe in a corner, and Beca can't be that selfish, after all the things Chloe has been through. She settles for a lighter subject instead.

"So, you got a girlfriend?"

Smooth.

"Um, no." Chloe flushes, twisting her head to look at her. "There's this girl that I kinda like in my biology class but I can't really tell if she likes girls so I haven't said anything, yet."

"Does anybody else know?" Beca reaches across to slip her hand into Chloe's once more and rub her thumb across her knuckles.

Even if it stings that Chloe waited so long to tell her, she prays that Chloe told someone other than her parents.

She prays that Chloe found someone understanding enough to convince her that there was nothing wrong with her.

"Aubrey. Just-just a few weeks ago. She's been great about it," Chloe says after a beat. "I've wanted to tell you for such a long time I was... I was just scared you would never want to see me again, and I could have never lived with that."

"That would never happen," Beca emphasizes with a strong shake of the head and slightly wide, bewildered eyes. "You are Chloe freaking Beale, the best human being I know in the whole damn world. The kindest, most considerate and beautiful person I have ever met. Who you choose to love doesn't matter. As long as you are at peace with yourself, that's what matters. Fuck the rest."

Chloe opens her mouth to say something, but apparently decides against it last second. "Thank you, Bec. You don't know how much it means to me."

When Chloe yawns one too many times, Beca calls it a night and shuts the computer. She watches as Chloe rises from the bed and walks to her closet to retrieve an extra blanket. She spreads it out on the floor and Beca frowns when Chloe kneels down as though to lie on it.

"What are you doing?" She asks, propping herself on her elbows.

"I, uh, it's only a single bed and now that you know I thought you'd be more comfortable if I slept on the fl-"

Beca gapes at her for long seconds. She wonders what kind of crap Chloe's family has force fed her when she came out for it to make Chloe uncomfortable about sharing a bed with her. They have shared one on a regular basis since they were kids, for God's sakes.

"Oh my God, get in here, you weirdo," Beca says with a reassuring smile, shaking her head incredulously. She sees Chloe hesitate for a second or two, before she tentatively lies down next to her. She reaches over to turn off the bedside lamp and settles back down, leaving as much distance between them as the small bed allows. Beca blinks in shock. "Chloe,"

"Sorry," Chloe whispers, muscles relaxing against the mattress as she moves a bit so that her body isn't hanging over the edge of the bed.

"It's okay," Beca murmurs back, stirring onto her side to face Chloe. "You don't have anything to be sorry about."

After another stretch of silence during Chloe's eyes are fastened on the ceiling, Beca finally says, "Come here,"

She rolls onto her back and holds her arm open, curling it around Chloe's shoulder once Chloe has settled against hers.

She drops a kiss into Chloe's hair and feels the tension leave her body as Chloe lets out a long breath. "Goodnight, Chlo."

Chloe squeezes her waist gently. "Goodnight, Bec."

Beca doesn't sleep much that night. She holds Chloe, suddenly overwhelmed with the need to protect her.

She makes it a goal for the rest of her time here in New York to stir Chloe's thoughts away from the demons eating at her for the last six months following the drop-out with her family.

"So, you're going to show me around New York, or what?" Beca asks once they are done with breakfast the following morning. Chloe's eyes light up and she bites her lip as though to contain a squeal of excitement that Beca can still feel radiating off her body.

"Yeah, I'd really like that."

The week-end is simple. They stroll through Central Park and eat dinner with some of Chloe's friends from school. Monday comes sooner than either expected it, and Beca finds herself standing just outside of Chloe's campus, a cab waiting to take her to the airport stopped at the curb.

"Come see me anytime,"

Beca's eyes squint against the sun to get a better look at Chloe. "How does this summer sound?"

Chloe laughs, "Perfect."

Beca hugs Chloe for a long time.

She's not ready to have thousands of miles between them again.

/

They become even closer throughout Chloe's second year of college and Beca's senior year of high school.

Beca spends most of the summer in New York. She likes the vibe of the city and how New York seems to be a world of its own. It holds an incredible amount of creative energy and sense of freedom.

She can see why Chloe calls it home.

They go to museums and concerts, and Chloe even manages to drag her to a few Broadway shows. They get drunk on cheap beer while eating pizza and fall asleep on stomachs full of food and laughter, just like when they were kids (well, except for the booze part).

They share stories they have heard a million times already. They talk about their dreams, how big or little they may be.

Beca cherishes each giggle coming from Chloe, and the light sparkling in her eyes. She has never seen Chloe so happy and carefree that it tugs at her heartstrings.

She figures it has to do with Chloe accepting herself as who she is and Beca's chest soars with pride.

Because Chloe's made of star stuff and deserves to twinkle.

/

"What up?"

"Dude, stop greeting the phone like this."

Chloe giggles. "Sorry. Would you prefer, Hello my dear Beca, may I ask for the purpose of your call?"

"God, you're such a dork," Beca rolls her eyes, despite the stubborn smile tugging her lips upwards. Even though Chloe doesn't see it, she's pretty sure her voice betrays her.

Chloe's laugh is light down the line. "Seriously though, is everything alright? We talked on the phone yesterday. Not that I'm not happy to hear your voice, Bec."

Beca smiles. She didn't plan on calling Chloe, either. She just came back from an amazing month in New York where she spent so much time attached to Chloe's hip that they barely have anything left to say to each other.

But today on the first day of her senior year, her school had someone from an LGBT organization come in and talk about sexuality awareness and the struggle of coming-out. They watched a documentary afterwards, and Beca hasn't been able to stop thinking about it and how it must have been for Chloe.

"I was just calling to, um, tell you I love you and how proud of you I am."

And there's not a fiber in her body that is embarrassed about how corny or lame that may sound. The stunned silence on the other end prompts her to continue.

"You've told me that you've known you were gay for a long time and I can't begin to imagine how much of a struggle it must have been for you, before and after you came out to your parents. And I wish I had paid more attention, enough attention to know that something big was happening."

"Beca,"

"Let me finish, please?"

"Sorry."

"I just wanted to tell you that I'm so glad you were, like, comfortable enough to tell me. And I'm thankful that you trust me enough to share this kind of stuff."

"It felt so good to tell you, you know? Like I was alive again after spending six months doubting my very-self. Thank you for being so open and understanding and so amazing."

Beca breathes out slowly, tense muscles relaxing in relief.

"And Bec?"

"Yeah?"

"I love you, too. So much. You're the best-est friend anyone could ever ask for."

"Even though I'm awkward and grumpy?"

"Yeah."

"Ok, cool."

"Yeah, cool." Chloe giggles again, and the sound makes Beca's heart flutter. "What are you doing?"

"Just laying in bed, reflecting my life choices with my inner-idiot."

Chloe snickers. "How is that going?"

"It's... entertaining. You?"

"I'm actually," she hears Chloe hesitate. "Getting ready for a date,"

"What?!" Beca exclaims, scrambling to sit up against the pillow. "Someone asked you out?"

"It's hard not to be offended by the surprise in your tone, Bec." Chloe teases.

"Sorry, I... that's great, Chlo. Who is she?"

"You remember that girl from biology that I told you about months ago?" Beca hums in the affirmative. "And I asked her out, thank you very much."

"Nice," Beca says. "I'll let you get ready, then."

"Wait! I need your opinion on my outfit! Do you think a dress is too daring for a first date?"

"You're asking me for fashion advice? Chlo, there's a reason my entire wardrobe only has black items. I can't really go wrong with that."

"I'm asking you for your opinion because it matters to me," Chloe replies lightly. "But I'm not totally ready yet. I'll just send you a picture, k?"

"Sure. And let me know how your date went."

"Will do. Love you, Bec."

"Love you, too."

Beca is in the middle of pulling her hair out over an algebra problem (seriously, today was the first day of school) when her phone chimes with a new text from Chloe. She pulls up the photo and swallows thickly as her eyes roam over it.

The blue, flower-patterned summer dress Chloe chose makes her eyes pop out even more. Her hair cascades down her shoulders in natural waves, resting over the brown leather jacket that matches the color of her ankle boots. She's wearing minimal make-up and is smiling through the mirror. The kind of smile that translates her bubbling excitement.

Selfishly, Beca can't focus past the fact that she's not the reason behind that smile, but rather that chick from biology class.

She also can't believe how Chloe can make such a simple outfit look so fucking stunning. There's a familiar, overwhelming pull in her stomach, mingling with spikes of green seeping through every corner of her body.

She hates it.

Instead of telling Chloe how sexy she thinks she looks, Beca goes for a more friendly, appropriate response. Because they are best friends. Nothing more.

[4:15 pm] Beca

You look vry nice.

[4:15 pm] Chloe

It's not too much?

[4:16 pm] Beca

No, it's perfect.

Beca wants to add, you're perfect but that would feel like stepping over boundaries.

She groans, tossing her phone aside from her burning fingers, and drops her forehead to her desk, hitting it repeatedly over the wooden surface, as if to propel out the confusing thoughts invading her mind.

It doesn't work, and all she can think about for the rest of the night, is if Chloe kissed that girl, or if she's going to see her again, or if she's going to replace Beca in Chloe's life.

Chloe's text comes through just before she goes to bed. It's nearly midnight in New York.

[8:55 pm] Chloe

Date went super well! :D we're going out again tomorrow :))

Beca doesn't get a wink of sleep that night.

/

For once, Beca feels giddy about Christmas. It doesn't have so much to do with the holiday but rather the fact that she gets to see Chloe after four months apart.

She spots Chloe from afar at the airport, all bundled up in a heavy coat, grey beanie and striped scarf, eyes peering over the crowd to try and catch sight of Beca.

She does a few seconds later, and Beca chuckles as her big blue eyes light up. Chloe waves excitedly and meets Beca in the middle, engulfing her in that familiar embrace.

"I'm so happy you're here," Chloe breathes into Beca's coat. "I've missed you."

She holds Chloe just as close. "I've missed you, too."

They remain laced for a long time, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of JFK airport at Christmas time.

"So I don't get to meet Emma?" Beca asks as they walk out of the airport. The wave of cold that hits her makes her shudder and briefly regret Oregon's mild weather.

"No," Chloe says as she hails a cab. "She's down in Florida to spend Christmas with her family."

Beca hates herself for it, but she's glad she gets Chloe all to herself for the next week.

They catch a cab to Chloe's new place, a proper apartment now, and make dinner while catching up. Chloe has gotten better at cooking, and whips out an amazing rosemary chicken that has Beca's mouth water just from the smell as it simmers in the oven.

Soft music is filling Chloe's tiny but cozy apartment as they eat their food while trading light subjects of conversation. They retreat on the couch after changing into their pajamas to watch a Christmas movie on Chloe's small TV screen.

"What's up?" Beca asks when she notices Chloe's eyes have remained locked on her phone a minute after it chimed with a text message.

"I, uh, I just got a text from my mom," Beca knows Chloe has barely talked to her parents in the last year. "She wishes me a Merry Christmas and wishes I were here."

Beca remains silent, knowing the gears are turning in Chloe's head and it won't be long before she speaks again.

"Do you think I'm a bad person for not forgiving them?" Chloe asks brokenly, bottom lip shaking as tears pool in her eyes. Beca sits up, setting her hand on Chloe's knee.

"Forgive them? They are the ones in the wrong, Chlo. Not you. They should be asking for your forgiveness, not the other way around."

"It was horrible, Bec," Chloe chokes out, features crumbling as a sob wrenches itself out of her throat. Beca scrambles up to sit back on her heels, pulling Chloe's against her side into a mending embrace.

"They didn't even try to understand," she mumbles into Beca's chest, tears seeping in the front of Beca's t-shirt. "I knew they had their views about homosexuality, but I thought-I thought that maybe if it came to their daughter, they would act like parents and accept it," her fist curls into the hem of Beca's shirt as she gasps in pursuit of a proper gush of air. Beca's lips fall to her hair, her hand running up and down her arm. "God, I was so stupid."

"No," Beca counters immediately. "You were not stupid, just hopeful, and you had every right to be, because parents should always accept their children's differences."

She feels Chloe nod against her and slowly breath out, sobs steadily reducing to tiny hiccups.

"And maybe your mom is realizing that. Maybe... she wants to make amends, hence why she reached out."

"I'm not ready to talk to her, yet," Chloe mumbles as she pulls away. "I can't even think about them without having their hateful words echo in my brain, let alone talk to them."

"Okay," she tells Chloe simply, slipping her hand into hers. "You don't have to. Besides, you have your own family here, now. With Aubrey, Stacie, Amy and Emma,"

"And you," Chloe murmurs, squeezing her hand. She has that look of adoration in her eyes again that makes Beca feel as though she's the only girl on the planet. "Especially you."

"Yeah," Beca replies quietly, breathing altered by the heaviness of Chloe's words as they press against her chest. "You'll always have me."

"Pinky promise?" Chloe asks with a sheepish smile, letting go of Beca's hand to hold up her pinky.

She remembers that day when she was a kid where she wished the Beale family would adopt her because Chloe's parents seemed like the best ones on earth. She remembers being jealous of Chloe.

The memory is bitter now, as she witnesses the consequences of their hatred for their own daughter and picks up the broken pieces.

She remembers that pinky promise they made just after her dad left eight years ago. She remembers how safe she had felt when Chloe had laced her pinky with hers.

She wants Chloe to feel just as safe as ten-year-old Beca felt that night.

She rolls her eyes for show, but hooks her finger into Chloe's.

"I promise."

/

Of course, Emma turns out to be an amazing person.

And that makes it hard for Beca to hate her when she meets the girl for the first time upon flying to NYC during Spring break.

She's a tall latina, so ridiculously attractive that it makes Beca feel incredibly self-conscious the first time she sets eyes on her.

She's nice, too and considerate and very gentle when it comes to Chloe. And Chloe looks at her with obvious love in her eyes as she introduces her to Beca and it makes Beca want to throw up green.

She knows she has no right to feel that way. That she should be happy for Chloe, but goddamn it, it hurts.

They go to an end of the year party, held in the brownstone of one of Chloe's friend's super rich parents.

"Is Emma not coming with?" she asks when they get to the party.

"She's working. She might swing by later, though," Chloe tells her with a smile before pressing the doorbell.

Beca's first college party is... unique. She's not too much of a party person to begin with, and everyone is at least two years older than her (which makes it look like four, given her stupid height) so her nerves are running high. But she doesn't want Chloe to babysit her all night long, so she tries not to show it.

She breathes out in relief when she spots Aubrey and Stacie, whom she has spent some time with throughout her month in New York last summer. She's introduced to an Australian girl who calls herself Fat Amy, and who drags her towards the drink table a second later.

Beca skeptically glances down to the brownish liquid in the cup Amy thrusts in her hand.

"Drink this, and you'll feel like you can fight a dingo and a kangaroo at the same time. True story." The blonde tells her with a wink.

Beca lifts it up to her nose to take a whiff and her nose scrunches up in distaste. It's definitely stronger than the wine coolers she drank at the few high school parties she attended.

"I think I'm good with beer for now. Thanks, though," Beca smiles embarrassingly and hands the red solo cup back to Amy who shrugs.

The party picks up in intensity when it reaches midnight. Beca has been playing beer pong with Chloe, Stacie and Aubrey when everyone 'ooooh's at the song switch.

Beca recognizes the lyrics of No Diggity filling the room through the large, expensive speakers and she's suddenly being dragged by Stacie onto the make-shift dance-floor in the host's big-ass living-room.

"Are you having fun?" Chloe yells into her ear over the music. Beca doesn't usually dance, and doesn't really know what she's doing. Her breathing halts when Chloe sets both her hands on her hips to help her coordinate their movement to the beat.

"Yeah," she mouths back, forcing a smile through the rise in temperature her body is suddenly experiencing. Chloe grins back and lets go of her just as slim and tanned arms wrap around her waist from behind. Chloe looks over her shoulder, grin widening when she realizes it's her girlfriend.

They kiss deeply in greeting, but without it being inappropriate either, and Beca realizes that nobody around them really cares about seeing two girls kiss. She realizes she's actually the only one ogling at the couple and forces her gaze away.

She's thrilled Chloe got to a place in her life where she's comfortable enough to kiss her girlfriend in public. Beca just wishes that she didn't have to witness it, and it doesn't have anything to do with homophobia, obviously, but rather everything to do with her stupid feelings for Chloe.

Their intensity hits her like a truck, and the room suddenly feels as though it's closing in on itself. Beca feels her chest constrict as the seconds tick by and her feet remain frozen to her spot.

The memories shift like pieces of a puzzle in front of Beca's eyes. Everything makes sense now; the way her body and mind reacted to every little touch, look or attention Chloe gave her over the years.

The sunshine and the black cloud, the hot chocolate first kiss, the jealousy Beca felt whenever she had to share Chloe with someone else.

She realizes now she's always experienced feelings for her best friend. Feelings that have been pushed away because she couldn't really apprehend their meaning at the time.

But now, they are as clear as the day, written in black and white; she likes Chloe as so much more than a friend.

Someone bumping against her makes Beca snap back to reality and she bolts from the living-room, pushing past dancing sweaty bodies to reach the front door.

The air in her lungs is collected in short, fast gasps as she grips the stairs rail, folding on herself as though to make breathing any easier.

"Beca?" Chloe's soft voice reaches her muffle ears and Beca closes her eyes, grinding her teeth to keep the tears pooling in her eyes at bay.

She wants to tell Chloe to go away, to leave her alone, but the harsh words never reach her tongue, stopped by the guilt forming in her throat.

She tenses when she feels Chloe's hand between her shoulder-blades.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, I just-" she swallows back the sob barreling up her chest. "I think I drank too much."

It's a lie, because she hasn't even finished her second beer. But it's better for Chloe to believe that than having Beca sputtering the real explanation for her rushed exit.

"I'm gonna give Amy an earful for giving you that strong mix, I swear," Chloe sighs. "You wanna go home?"

Beca finally glances up once she's got a hold on her emotions and meets Chloe's worried eyes. "We don't have to."

"I'll go get our jackets."

Then, Chloe presses a kiss to her temple, a protective kiss that make Beca's insides churn with bitterness. It's clearly a motherly gesture and Beca hates it with every bit of her being, feeling as though Chloe still treats her like a baby.

And just like that, Beca knows her feelings will never be reciprocated, and she wills her brain to bury them somewhere out of reach.

It's just a stupid crush.

/

It's not.

Over the following agonizing week in New York, she catches herself thinking about all the little things she loves about Chloe.

The little things that make Chloe who she is, from the way she can't keep herself from singing or dancing (or both) whenever she cooks, or how the spot below her eye wrinkles when she smiles widely.

She thinks about how Chloe's lips would fit with hers. Delicate and warm and perfect.

She thinks it would feel nice to wake-up next to Chloe every morning, gently tracing the curves of her body as they trade lazy kisses.

But then, the black looming cloud is back above her head, drenching her giddy thoughts in sullen rain.

Chloe has a girlfriend, who makes her happy, and Beca isn't about to let her rickety, confusing feelings ruin that happiness by telling Chloe she thinks she might be in love with her.

As she tells Chloe goodbye by the curb before stepping into the cab, she's suddenly glad for all the miles separating Portland from New York.

/

The end of Beca's senior year is pretty much uneventful.

Her bags are packed for LA by mid-May, and all she wants is to get her diploma, take her car, and drive down south towards where her dreams can come true.

She's done with Portland and high school drama.

Chloe doesn't come for her graduation, but sends flowers and a teddy bear to her house that morning, along with a cute note with way too many emojis.

It warms Beca's heart and makes that stupid, giddy smile take over her features. She catches the curious look her mom gives her, but she doesn't comment on it, so Beca doesn't either.

Beca reluctantly lets Jesse (they agreed to be friends at the beginning of Senior Year and both realized they work better that way) and Benji drag her to the graduation party.

She's in the middle of losing to a beer-pong game when she feels her phone vibrate in her pocket. She's embarrassingly slightly drunk (it's barely ten), so it takes her a while to fish it out of her jeans.

Her screen tells her she has several missed texts and calls from Chloe.

[9:28 pm] Chloe

Becccc, I miss u :(

[9:30 pm] Chloe

I think im drunk.

She chuckles, but then her breath catches in her throat when her eyes read over the two latest text that just came in. She freezes to her spot by the door, amused features falling.

[9:44 pm] Chloe

I broke up w Emma after u came to visit last month

[9:44 pm] Chloe

Bc it wasn't fair to her

Beca doesn't know if her head is spinning from the last beer she had to down or because of the new information pushing into her brain.

She wants to ask Chloe what she means by that, but the three dots tell her Chloe is typing so she holds back. She registers Jesse shouting at her that it's her turn but she holds her hand up blindly, and walks away from the heart of the party to step outside.

The cool air doesn't do much in lowering her body temperature.

[9:45 pm] Chloe

I really need to talk to u

[9:45 pm] Chloe

about my heart and what it does every time u look at me

Beca's own heart is the only thing she can hear as it drums at a galloping speed in her ears. The three dots show up again.

[9:46 pm] Chloe

I hate myself for what I feel bc im terrfied it will scare u away

[9:46 pm] Chloe

im afraid of ruining everything bc meeting u was the best thing that ever happned to me

Beca slides down against the wall when her legs feel too wobbly to hold herself up.

[9:47 pm] Chloe

and I cant lose u, beca

[9:47 pm] Chloe

I might just die if I do

[9:48 pm] Chloe

but I also need to get this off my chest or else ill burst

[9:48 pm] Chloe

there's this part of me that thinks u might feel the same way

"Jesus Christ," Beca mutters shakily, blinking several times to make sure her eyes aren't playing tricks to her. She knows she should reply something, let Chloe know she's reading her messages, but her brain feels numb.

[9:49 pm] Chloe

im in love with u

Her phone almost slips out of her grasp as Chloe's written words reverberate against her skull and seize her heart in a painful grip.

[9:50 pm] Chloe

I think I have since we were kids

Beca thinks she might be experiencing a stroke as her breathing gets more and more shallow.

[9:50 pm] Chloe

I remember thinkin u looked adorable in ur overalls and pigtails

[9:52 pm] Chloe

im sorry. Im so sorry.

Beca doesn't know how much time she sits there, trying to process what just unfolded.

Chloe's in love with her. She's in love with Chloe.

And she's fucking zoning out in Jesse's backyard.

Eventually reaching her senses, Beca grips her phone and taps on Chloe's name to call her. She stands, pacing up and down the porch as it connects.

"You've reached Chloe Beale, I'm not available right now. Leave a message and I'll try to get back to you as soon as possible."

"Goddammit, Chlo," she mumbles, hanging up and trying again. This time it goes straight to voicemail, and Beca doesn't know if it's because Chloe is too scared to pick up (she would be shitting herself if the roles were reversed) or if her phone died.

Either way, she can't stand there and wait to find out.

Marching back into the house, any trace of alcohol seemingly gone from her system, Beca grabs her jacket and slips it onto her shoulders.

"Hey, Becaw! Where are you going?" Jesse asks her incredulously as he waves his red solo cup. "The party is just getting started!"

"I need to catch a flight to New York," she tells him while walking towards the front door. Jesse follows her.

"What? Now?"

"I need-" Beca sighs and pinches her nose. "I need to tell someone I love them."

She doesn't know why she shares the piece of information with her ex-boyfriend, but it somehow feels amazing to say it out-loud.

"About damn time," Jesse says, and Beca freezes on her spot. She spins around with a frown, not entirely sure she heard correctly.

"What?"

"It's Chloe, right?" Jesse continues with a lopsided smile. "That someone."

Beca's mouth gapes open. "How did you-" she falters, words not quite reaching her suddenly sand-paper tongue.

"Come on, I'm not stupid, Beca. It's always been Chloe, even when we were together. I wasn't dumb enough to think you joined Glee club for me or for the club itself, you hate show tunes. You never watched movies with me, yet you still insisted that you couldn't miss movie night on Friday's at Chloe's. And you've never looked at me the way you looked at Chloe," Jesse shrugs. "I never stood a chance. I realized that before we broke up, but I was too selfish to bring it up. I'm sorry."

Beca feels her own eyes widen at all the brand information thrown at her. Had she been that oblivious all this fucking time?

"You... why are you apologizing? I should be the one who's sorry, Jesse. For breaking your heart."

"It's all good," Jesse says with soft, kind eyes, and Beca is overtaken by the sudden need to hug him. She does just so, causing Jesse to let out a surprised noise before he gently squeezes back. "Go get your girl,"

He pushes her back encouragingly and Beca licks her dry lips as she nods. She hears him saying something about this being some serious rom-com material as the door shuts behind her.

She doesn't get to New York until early the next morning. She's sleep deprived and her body aches from the plane and the two cab rides.

Of course, when she gets there, it's raining, and Chloe isn't fucking home.

Beca's phone has died over the plane ride and she doesn't know Chloe's number. Strangely, she still remembers her parents' landline number from when they were kids and she would call Chloe to see if they could hang out. But that won't be of any help now.

She sighs in defeat, and turns around, about to go find a coffee shop down the street when she stops in her tracks. Chloe is standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to the door of the building where Beca stands.

She looks as frozen in her spot as Beca is, and they stare at each for long seconds. She doesn't know how long Chloe has been walking in the rain, but she's absolutely drenched, and it takes everything in Beca not to leap down the stairs and hug her to warm her up.

Chloe doesn't seem to care about her state though, as all she seems to be focused on is Beca.

"You're-you're here," Chloe says quietly, voice barely registered by Beca's ears over the pitter-patter of the rain hitting the metal emergency staircase along the building.

Beca is thrown back to that other time she flew to New York on a whim. Only Chloe can make her pull romantic shit like that.

"Well, it's hard to remain impassive when someone tells you they are in love with you over text," she starts, burying her hands into her pockets as she walks down one step. "Especially when you're just as in love with them."

Somehow, she hears Chloe's sharp inhale and comes to a stop in front of her, letting her hands drop to her sides. She steps closer then, so close that she and Chloe are sharing the same breath.

Beca's steel blue eyes lift to meet Chloe's cerulean ones timidly. The color in Chloe's is so intense that Beca almost loses her footing.

"Did you mean that?" she murmurs, not trusting the steadiness of her voice should she speak louder. Chloe nods faintly and Beca feels a much needed gush of air surge her deprived lungs.

Chloe's eyes tear themselves away from Beca's to flit down to her lips, and Beca thinks she might just lose it if she doesn't get to kiss Chloe now.

She thinks she's never wanted to kiss someone so badly.

Raindrops are sliding along Chloe's cheek, and Beca delicately reaches out to wipe them away, eyes glancing down to Chloe's lips and the water collected there. She lets her hand move on its own accord, settling on the side of Chloe's neck, her thumb rubbing the spot under Chloe's ear.

And when she kisses her, saltiness gathering on her lips as they gently slide along Chloe's, Beca remembers all those years of catching raindrops as a kid, and how they have never tasted better than these ones.

Chloe whimpers, shuffling closer to align her hips with Beca's. Her palm curls around Beca's hipbone, tugging her closer, the tip of their shoes bumping together.

Beca's hand tangles in Chloe's wet mess of curly hair, as the kiss vibrates through her entire body, igniting every fiber in her being.

They break apart to draw some oxygen back into her lungs, forehead resting against one another's.

"So, the overalls and pigtails, huh?" Beca's voice breaks the tense air. She grins when Chloe giggles.

"Oh yeah, big time," Chloe teases. Her hand leaves Beca's hip to cup her face and Beca can't help but lean into the touch. "I love you,"

Beca closes her eyes, letting the words ripple to every corner of her body. Of all the I love you's they've shared, this one is by far her favorite.

Beca kisses Chloe softly, just because she can. "I love you, too."

They kiss again, a little more hungrily and mostly led by the desire bleeding in their veins, until Chloe puts a stop to it before it gets too out of control.

Chloe clears her throat as her fingers dig into Beca's hipbone as though to ground herself. Her lips are parted, panting breaths hitting Beca's lips.

"I think we have a few things to talk about before-before we get side-tracked. I don't-I don't want to rush things when it comes to you."

Beca wants to laugh, because they have been dragging these feelings for each other for years now so this feels anything but rushed, but she knows what Chloe means.

That Beca is too important to Chloe to burn steps, and vice-versa. Not to mention that Beca has never been with a girl that way, and she's sure her nerves will catch up with her at some point, because it's Chloe.

She wants all their other firsts to be as perfect as their first kiss all those years ago.

She slips her hand into Chloe's, tucking her fingers in the space between Chloe's, briefly marveling at the fact that their hands still fit flawlessly, just like when they were kids.

"Okay," Beca agrees with a curt nod and a smile.

LA is suddenly the farthest thing in her mind, and she thinks that New York is just about as good of a destination for her dreams to come true, if it means Chloe is by her side.

"We've got all the time in the world, Chlo."