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serendipity

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serendipity (noun): the effect by which one accidently stumbles upon something truly wonderful, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated.

***

Beca hikes her equipment bag higher on her shoulder as she prepares herself for the ascension to her apartment. She lives in an old building; five flights of stairs, no elevator.

With what she makes in a year, people would think she lived in a fancy condo overlooking Central Park. But this apartment has a sentimental meaning; it's where she wrote her first songs, celebrated her first album with her closest friends, and she can't find it in herself to leave it, or her roommates, even though they can be huge pains in the ass, sometimes.

Her tired legs manage to drag her up to the door of the three-bedroom she shares with Stacie and Jesse. The fact that she can't find her keys in her bag is nearly enough to make Beca break down and cry.

She's never felt so exhausted.

She wants to plant face-first on her king-size bed and sleep for the rest of the year.

It's May.

The thing is, as drained as Beca is, she can't seem to find sleep when she needs to. And it's starting to show; on her face (hello, attractive dark circles that no concealer, how expensive it may be, can hide), in her quick irritability around incompetent people and her incapacity to think clearly.

Not to mention that her label has been pressuring her to release her second album, but apparently fails to realize that it takes a lot more than free time to write songs. She hasn't been able to come up with any worthy lyrics for eight months now and Beca is losing sleep, and quite possibly, her sanity over it.

She feels blank, numb, and can't quite pinpoint why she feels that way.

She has friends, she loves her job, and her lifelong dream of making it big in the music industry has been fulfilled.

Yet, Beca feels empty, as if something was missing. Something that could fill the void within her. She would like to find it, under whatever form it may materialize.

Sliding the key into the lock, Beca isn't prepared for what greets her. Stacie and Jesse, her two best friends and roomates, are standing in the middle of their living-room, a big-ass sign that reads 'INTERVENTION' in big, red letters hanging above their heads and taking most of the living space.

Beca pauses, blinking twice to make sure her brain hasn't started to make things up. "What am I looking at?"

"Stacie and I are staging an intervention."

Beca's eyebrows would fly up to her hairline if she wasn't so done with everything.

What she said; huge pains in the ass sometimes, these two.

"A what now?" she questions with a groan, dropping her bag next to the door and her keys in the bowl. "Look, I really don't have time for this, I need to work on the albu-"

"Exactly!" Stacie interrupts, hands shooting up in the air and hitting her own thighs when she drops them back to her side. "Your job is eating you up, Beca! When is the last time you came home before nine? When was the last time you've properly slept?"

Beca shrugs. "I don't know." A sigh flits through her lips. "I'm fine, guys, I promise."

"We get that music is your passion, Bec," Jesse adds in that patronizing tone that reminds Beca of her father. "But you need to listen to your body when it's screaming for a break."

Beca folds her arms over her chest, feeling her walls building back up brick by brick. That nagging voice in her head tells her they're right and she doesn't like it one bit.

"You need to take a break before your dream becomes a nightmare. That's why we're doing this. We're pulling the plug."

Beca scoffs at Jesse's words. "What, you're going to prevent me from getting up in the morning and going to work?"

"If we have to," Stacie states with a firm nod. "I have a few pairs of handcuffs in my bedroom."

Beca grimaces. The walls in their apartment aren't thick enough to drown out Stacie's adventurous one night stands.

"Gross."

"The point is," Jesse's serious tone gets her back on track, away from the images she certainly does not want to pop up in her head. "You need to take care of yourself before your health draws any serious consequences from it."

"So what am I supposed to do? Stay here all day long like a caged lion?"

"Don't be so dramatic," Stacie tuts with an eyeroll. "We were more thinking along the lines of a trip. Fly to an exotic place and unwind for a few weeks. Maybe... meet someone."

Beca knows if looks could kill, Stacie would be dead on the spot. That's prohibited territory. Yes, she's alone. It's been that way for years, and Beca is fine with it. Finding love, or her soulmate, or something as trivial is not on her list of priorities right now.

Of course she's had the occasional boyfriends here or there; Jesse being her most serious relationship to date. But that ship has sailed long ago, for both of them, and they realized they worked much better as friends.

Plus, she's busy.

Since her album release and the unparalleled response that followed, Beca's schedule has been increasingly hectic with its promotion, a US tour and the making of her second album.

So yeah, she's just a little bit famous.

People recognize her everywhere she goes, even when she does simple things, such as going grocery shopping. She doesn't really like that aspect of success but figures it comes with the territory. She's fine with it, now that she's gotten used to it.

Expects for the paparazzi. These people shouldn't even be graced with the honor of being called people.

"I..." Beca's words die on the tip of her tongue as she processes her friend's words. She feels the oncoming headache press against her frontal lobe and clenches her teeth. With a resigned sigh, she lets her shoulders slump. "I need to sleep on that. I'll see you guys in the morning."

Hours later, Beca lies awake, hands folded over her stomach as she stares at the patch of orange light shaped on the ceiling by the ray of street light filtering through the gap in the curtains.

Jesse and Stacie's advice keep worming their way into her mind, driving it restless. Maybe they are right. Maybe she does need take a break.

A break from her job, a break from New York, the fame, and the life she's led so far.

Reaching for her computer, Beca sits up and balances it on her lap as she clicks it back to life.

Without so much as a second thought, she opens up her browser and searches for flights.

She's not the kind of person that does this; picking out a random flight and abandoning her routine or her responsibilities overnight.

But Beca suddenly feels the pressing need to come out of her comfort zone and embark on something bold and unpredictable.

She wants to get away, to discover new things and new places.

As her eyes scroll over the page results, she realizes she has no idea where she wants to go. As nice as an exotic island sounds, Beca knows perfectly well she'll get bored out of her mind after two days spent lounging on the beach.

She needs to find a place which offers rich heritage and culture.

After more browsing, Beca finds herself clicking on a flight to Paris in a couple days. She knows the more she thinks about it, the more likely she is to back down.

Mere minutes later, her credit card payment has been granted, and the confirmation e-mail is sitting in her inbox. Beca briefly wonders if her passport is actually valid, then remembers she had to get one two years ago to suffer through her dad and the step monster's wedding in Mexico.

"What the hell am I doing?" she whispers to herself, blinking at her computer screen. It's too late now; she has just spent $200 on a plane ticket with no return date.

But that's not really the point. She doesn't really care about the wasted money if she decided not to go in the end. The point is, she made up her mind about this impromptu trip, and Beca is too stubborn to go back on her decisions.

Not going through with her plan would feel like a failure, and she doesn't have it in her to take another one of those.

Besides, she has always wanted to visit France. Living off of fine wine and gourmet cheese for a couple weeks seems like a proper way to unwind.

As she finally feels sleep starting to claim her, Beca makes a mental note to look for her passport tomorrow, and maybe buy an English to French dictionary.

/

"Am I crazy?" Beca wonders out-loud as Stacie drives her to the airport thirty-six hours later. Her friend chuckles, flicking on her blinker to get off the highway towards JFK. “I'm completely crazy.”

"Nah. I'm proud of you for doing this, going on an adventure. Besides, I heard somewhere that French people are sexy as hell."

Beca rolls her eyes and sits back, attempting to swallow back her anguish as the airport comes into view.

"And you can always come home whenever you want if you don't like it, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, I guess."

Once she stands in front of Security, a cap screwed on her head and sunglasses covering her eyes, her ultimate weapons against paparazzi recognizing her, Beca can feel the nerves twisting her guts in waves.

"You'll be fine," Stacie assures her with a smile, squeezing her arms as she pulls back from the hug. "This is a good thing!"

"Yeah, okay." Beca nods, more to her benefit than Stacie's. "It's a good thing, yeah."

"Let me know when you land, alright?"

Beca takes a deep breath. "I will. Bye, weirdo."

Beca spins on her heels before she can beg Stacie to take her back to their apartment and forget about this whole thing.

"Love you!" she hears from behind her and waves at Stacie blindly, knowing she is still perfectly capable of changing her mind if she turns around.

Here we go.

/

Despite the jet-lag, Beca sleeps for nearly two whole days when she gets to the French capital.

It dawns on her how sleep-deprived she has been all this time. She wakes up on the third day feeling a bit more rested, and energetic enough to explore the city.

After stretching and lounging some more in her hotel room bed, Beca showers (for the first time since she got here, too, so she's slightly grossed out), dresses, makes sure to slip her credit and key card, some euros, her sunglasses and her phone (data switched off as to not be bothered by anyone back home) in the pockets of her jacket before she's out the door.

Towards a new adventure!

But first, coffee. The adventure can wait until after she's got her caffeine fix. She's only human.

She realizes fives minutes into her quest that she forgot her English to French dictionary in her hotel room. She shrugs to herself, figuring she will manage without it.

As she walks further down the street, Beca tries to wrack her brain for any leftover French from high school. She knows the basics, like please, thank you and goodbye, but it pretty much stops there. And she doesn't want to be that person who can't bother trying to speak the language of the country they are in and expect everyone she meets to speak next-to perfect English.

She's about to step into this nice little coffee shop in the corner of a busy street, eyes cast down on the map she picked up at the visitor's center, when she collides with someone walking out.

The coffee they are holding spills onto Beca and its owner's shirt with the impact.

"Oh my God!" Beca exclaims, gasping both from startle and the hot liquid seeping into her shirt. So much for a good start to her vacation. She immediately bends down to pick up her map and the book the person was holding. "I'm so sorry! Shit, no that's English... Je suis...” Beca pauses to think and grunts. “Ugh, what's the word again! Oh! Désolée?"

Beca glances up for the first time since the encounter and nearly chokes on her saliva upon finding the bluest eyes she has ever seen staring down at her.

"Ce n'est rien," the woman replies with a kind smile while Beca stands. Her hand is warm and soft as it cups Beca's elbow to pull her to the side, and Beca wonders what she is doing, before she realizes they were blocking the door. It appears Parisians are in a rush to get their coffee in the morning. "Je ne regardais pas où j'allais."

Beca blinks twice in slow succession. She knew French language sounded sexy but, hot damn, she thinks she might be experiencing a slight fever from how hot her body feels all of the sudden.

Also, she has no clue what that stranger just told her.

"Je..." She curses under her breath, shoulders dropping in mild-frustration. "I'm sorry, I don't speak French."

"Oh, vous ne parlez pas français?" Beca frowns, shaking her head helplessly. "Well that's okay, we can always speak English."

Beca's jaw hangs open. Scowling, she glares at the other woman. "You knew I could only speak English from the beginning and you kept this charade going?"

The redhead shrugs with a coy grin, "Yeah. You looked cute, all flustered and embarrassed."

If Beca managed to reign in the blush until now, it certainly gains the upper hand. The heat radiates off her cheeks and moves down her neck when it runs out of space.

She briefly wonders if all French people flirt so easily, or if it's just that one.

Beca clears her throat, hoping her voice doesn't go into that squeaky tone that makes her sound like an animated character whenever she gets embarrassed.

"I'm not cute," she mumbles with a shudder, then promptly moves on. "But I'm not a jerk either, and I did ruin your coffee along with both our shirts so I could buy you another one? Coffee, that is."

The stranger waves her off, "Don't worry about it."

Beca isn't having any of it. It's the least she can do. "Is it just black?"

The woman seems to hesitate, before giving in to a smile. She nods. "Yeah. Thanks."

She doesn't follow Beca inside, and when the brunette steps back outside with two to-go-cups, she hands one of them to the stranger, along with her book, which she awkwardly kept in her hand after picking it up. She notes it's a book about photography.

"Thank you."

"No sweat. Have a nice day."

After offering an awkward wave, Beca chooses a seat on the terrace bathed in the morning sunshine. One of her eyebrows hikes up when the woman swiftly sits across from her.

She decides, here and then, that French people are super weird. Like, hello, boundaries?!

Beca pauses, cup mid-way to her mouth. "Um, yes?"

"So, what brings you to Paris?" The woman asks breezily, as if inviting herself to a stranger's table and striking up conversation was the most natural thing to do. Beca's mouth opens and closes several times, not sure if she should ask her to find another table or actually answer the question.

She lowers her coffee. "Uh, I needed a break from life, I guess?"

What the hell?

The woman hums. "That's a loaded answer," She attests with a slight frown, and Beca really can't contradict her. Her demeanor brightens a second later, a beaming smile spreading across her face. "I'm Chloe, by the way!"

Beca stares down at the hand thrust across the table, before slipping her own into it with a wary expression. That girl is way too enthusiast for Beca's liking, yet she can't find it in herself to tell her to go away.

Huh.

"I'm Beca."

"Is this your first time here, Beca?" Chloe asks, leaning forward in interest. Beca feels slightly victimized by the blues staring at her and the way her name on the stranger's tongue makes a chill run down her spine.

She really needs to pull herself together before this gets out of hand.

"Um, yeah. I basically bought the cheapest last-minute flight that could get me out of the US."

"Wow," Chloe lets out, sitting back. She looks like she wants to inquire some more, but to Beca's relief, she doesn't. Not that she would have answered them anyway, but she could go without having to bite Chloe's head off. It would feel like kicking a puppy. "Well, Paris is a great destination. I've lived here for a while so I can tell you what's worth seeing or even show you around, if you'd like!"

Beca tries not to wince. The offer is nice, but still, super weird, not to mention straightforward. "I, uh, no, that's okay. Thanks, though."

"Oh." There's that kicked-puppy expression Beca dreaded. She has to hand it to this Chloe girl, it's quite well mastered and it makes Beca squirm in her chair in guilt. Nonetheless, Chloe gives her a small smile as she stands. "Okay, then. Well, I hope you enjoy the city!"

"Wait!" Beca calls out after a stretch. She closes her eyes, scrunching up her nose. She really has no clue what she's doing.

There are strong chances this woman is a crazy fan of hers who recognized her and now wants to drag Beca to a secluded alley to... kill her?

Okay. Now she's being irrational. Why would her fan want to kill her?

Beca tries to convince herself this is a good idea. Maybe having someone from the city showing her around wouldn't be so bad. It's so big and versatile that she wouldn't know where to begin.

Besides, she did tell herself she would try and do something new during this trip.

Apparently, trusting a complete stranger is that something.

"I guess it could be nice of you to show me around."

The tiny squeal that leaves Chloe's mouth as she bounces on the balls of her feet makes Beca reevaluate her decision. It's kind of too late now, so she pushes her wariness aside and offers Chloe a tiny smile.

"Can I finish my coffee first before you drag me around?" she asks with a smirk, motioning towards her cup sitting on the table.

"Oh! Totes!"

Oh great, she even speaks the language of the youth. Beca internally shudders.

What was she thinking, agreeing to this?

"So you said you grew up here?" Beca prods, settling for a neutral conversation opener as Chloe slides back into her seat. "How come your English is so perfect?"

"Well, both my parents are American, but I was born here. We lived in France until I was about ten, then moved to the US because of my dad's job. I moved back here a couple years ago after college for my own job."

Beca nods, taking a sip before asking, "What do you do?"

"I'm a photographer," Chloe states simply. Beca realizes the bulky bag strapped to her back most likely contains a camera and not a gun. Or a telescopic shovel to bury her body once Chloe's killed her. "I find that Paris offers a lot more subjects to work on than any other cities in the world."

Beca could easily argue with that. Her heart and soul lies in New York. The Big Apple is incredibly versatile, populated with eclectic and vibrant souls. Each part of the city has its own character and flavor and Beca could not see herself live anywhere else.

"What about you?"

"Mm?"

Chloe giggles. "What do you do?"

Okay, so maybe not a crazy fan after all. Unless she wants to remain undercover for whatever reason.

Beca decides not to dwell too much on that.

Speaking of undercover, Beca ponders on whether she should tell this near-stranger her real job and risk having Chloe look her up online and start acting weird (well, weirder). She likes being simple. That is the point of this trip after all, to stir away from fame as much as possible.

She realizes she has been silent for a long stretch when she notes Chloe's quizzical expression.

"I'm uh, undecided. I work in the music industry but I'm in between jobs right now."

There. Not a total lie, but not the complete truth either. That will do for now.

"You work in music!? That's awesome! Like, a producer of some sort?" Chloe's eyes grow comically wide and Beca tries not to wince. She should have gone for janitor or accountant. Something too boring to draw any interest from her new acquaintance, who lets out a sudden sharp gasp that startles Beca. "Or a singer! Are you a singer?!"

"No," Beca interrupts before Chloe can get any more excited. She will not hold herself responsible for the girl fainting. "I'm at the bottom of the scale and I needed a break from my job, hence why I decided to up and leave. I ended up here."

Okay, she might be stirring away from the truth. But then again, it's not like she's going to see this woman again after a couple hours spent touring the city, so it doesn't really matter.

Next thing Beca knows, Chloe's hand is somehow covering hers and it takes everything inside her not to snatch it back and curl it into her chest, protecting it from the assault.

"Well, I think you've made an amazing decision. Nobody should suffer from a stressful job."

"Yeah, I guess."

"Alright! Can we go, now?" Chloe asks and Beca is glad for the change of subject. She doesn't like when conversation stirs towards her too much.

Besides, Chloe child-like excitement is palpable and it makes Beca chuckle.

"Yes. Wanna give me back my hand?" she prompts with a pointed look to where Chloe is still holding onto her fingers.

"Oh!" she lets out, retracting it as if burned. Flushing lightly, she adds a sheepish, "Sorry."

"No need to apologize, I didn't hate it."

Beca clears her throat. She sounds less and less like herself. Maybe she does have a fever after all. That would explain the delirious things her brain is not filtering properly.

"Good to know," Chloe tells her with a wink that Beca can feel ripple all the way down her toes. She stands and Beca follows suit after testing the capacity of her tingling limbs, taking both empty cups to throw them in the nearby trashcan. "Any place that you would like to tick off from your list first?"

"Um," Beca tucks her hair behind both ears as they start down the street. "I don't have a list, per say. Like I told you, I came here on a whim and haven't looked up anything about the city, really."

"Oh, well that's okay," Chloe says, angling her body toward Beca's as they fall into step. "Any specific interest that I should know about so I can nail this guide thing?"

Beca purses her lips as she thinks. "Architecture, art, and music, obviously. I like bookstores, too."

Chloe's entire features light up at that, as if Beca had just told her Christmas was tomorrow. She seems like the kind of girl who, unlike Beca, gets excited over the holiday.

"I know exactly where to begin," she grasps Beca's hand to tug her along and Beca thinks she really doesn't need to be led around like a child, yet she can't find it in herself to complain.

She tries to ignore the way her heart quickens when, after a few seconds Chloe doesn't let go, and prays that her palm doesn't get too clammy.

/

The day turns out to be the opposite of what Beca expected. As they left the café, she was already bracing herself for awkward lengths of silence, or even worse, small talk.

None of this had the time to occur though, as Chloe barely allowed herself to breathe while she entertained Beca with tales of her city through undeniable enthusiasm.

She first took Beca for a stroll along the Seine, where small pop-up shops take up most of the docks. Beca learned that they are called the "Bouquinistes de Paris", people who sell used and antiquarian works. They stopped to visit Notre-Dame-de-Paris, which is just as impressive as Beca expected it to be.

It got even more entertaining when Chloe threw fun facts about the history of the monument here and there, all the while without coming across as a show-off. She clearly loves her city and knows it like the back of her hand, and Beca finds herself hanging onto every word coming out of her mouth.

"I want to show you something," Chloe says when they step out of the cathedral's shadows and into the warm sunshine.

"Wait, I'm confused," Beca starts as she lowers her shades, Chloe's head turning towards her questioningly. "Isn't that what you've been doing the whole time?"

Giving Beca an eye-roll, Chloe shoves her lightly as Beca snickers. "Smart-ass. Come on,”

She grabs Beca's hand once again and excitedly pulls her towards the center of the square, stopping once they stand by a concrete circle on the ground adorned with a bronze star in its center. A French sentence wraps around its edges, but Beca doesn't know what it says.

"What am I looking at?"

"This basically translates as 'Starting point to all French destinations'. It's the point from which distances are measured from Paris to other cities in France. Mile zero, if you prefer," Chloe looks up at her and shrugs. "I like to think that all roads lead to Notre-Dame."

Beca smiles. "That's cool."

And she doesn't say it to be polite; she genuinely thinks all those fun-facts Chloe shares with her are interesting and worth knowing. She starts to think that letting a near stranger lead her around the city wasn't so bad of a decision, after all.

That this impromptu trip was exactly what she needed.

"I think so, too." Chloe beams, then gasps, like she does every time she's struck with an idea. Beca can almost see a light-bulb materialize above her head each time it happens. "I should take your picture in front of Notre-Dame, that would be a nice souvenir!"

Beca winces. "No thank you, I'm not one for pictures."

She was never really one to begin with, refusing to smile when her parents would coax her into getting her picture, even at a young age. The few bad experiences she's had with paparazzi over the last couple of years have made her wary around cameras. It got to the point where she nearly experiences PTSD whenever she sees a camera flash, even if she isn't the one taken in picture.

"Oh," Chloe's tone is again laced with disappointment and while Beca would like to accept the offer, it's too much of a stretch out of her comfort zone.

"Come on," Beca is the one to say for once. She jerks her head towards... somewhere. "I'm getting hungry. You know a nice place for lunch?"

A gentle smile graces Chloe's lips as she tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear when a gush of wind blows it into her face. "Of course."

They end up in a small bistro tucked in the corner of a quiet street that screams French to Beca but isn't full of tourists seeking this type of typical establishment.

It looks like a place for locals mostly, and one that Chloe often frequents judging from the way she greets the man behind the counter.

His name is Fernand and Chloe eagerly tells him about how she's made a new friend while Beca blushes like an idiot just from being the center of attention.

They sit at a table in the small inner courtyard and Chloe helps Beca choose her meal off the French menu as apparently this place is even too local to offer an English version.

Beca isn't about to complain. She could hear Chloe speak French all day long. She ends up going for a roast beef with a potato gratin and ratatouille. Chloe orders the same, along with a bottle of red wine.

They spend the next hour trading light subjects about themselves over delicious food.

Every time Chloe speaks, Beca finds herself captivated by all the little things that make her who she is. Chloe talks a fair amount, but without sharing too much about herself either. She mostly speaks about the places she's seen and the things she loves about Paris without sounding self-absorbed.

As lunch progresses and Beca finds herself wanting to know more about her.

As she watches Chloe laugh at one of her comments, bright smile, blue eyes sparkling and cheeks tinted pink from the wine, Beca thinks that she might be experiencing a small crush.

Beca gulps. The sun must be getting to her. Or maybe the wine.

Either way, she doesn't do crushes. That shit usually leads to feelings, and, nope.

Plus, she's known the woman for a grand total of three hours.

They spend the rest of the day milling about, Chloe taking pictures as they go and Beca watching Chloe take pictures with a stupid grin on her face, all the while scolding her heart to stop this ridiculous charade.

As the afternoon stretches into the evening, she knows her time with Chloe is about to draw to an end, and Beca isn't ready to part ways.

Luckily (even though she doesn't see it that way at first), fate decides otherwise.

Beca is aware of the first flash before Chloe is, and stops dead in her tracks. Noticing that Beca isn't by her side anymore, Chloe halts too, looking back at the brunette with a puzzled expression.

Beca doesn't know if they are in a busy part of Paris where many celebrities hang about or if it was somehow leaked that she is in the French capital, but she sure as hell knows she wants to vanish from this place as quickly as possible.

"Beca?" Chloe asks, confusion etched in her features from the abrupt halt.

"Mrs. Mitchell!"

The first shout shakes her to the core. More flashes, and soon both women are surrounded by a handful of people equipped with heavy cameras, practically shoving their lenses into her face.

"What are you doing in Paris?"

"Are you here on vacation?"

"Who's the girl?"

If Chloe looks genuinely shocked by Beca's dramatic identity reveal, she soon kicks into gear. Grabbing Beca's hand gently, she laces their fingers and lightly tugs to get Beca moving.

Beca doesn't really register what happens in the next few minutes. They quickly wind through small streets and alleys, steadily outrunning the mob of photographers chasing after them.

Eventually after a few minutes or half-hour, Beca can't be certain, Chloe stops at a building door and pulls it open, walking up a couple of stories before unlocking and pushing another door open.

Once inside, Beca bends at the waist, bracing her hands over her knees as she breathes in and out deeply, trying to get her nerves under control. When she finally does and looks up, Chloe is nowhere in sight. Beca figures she is most likely standing in Chloe's living-room.

It's small and cozy, but the high ceilings give it an impression of unlimited space. The walls are white and plain, but the green plants, the colorful, vintage pieces of wooden furniture and the framed pictures tastily arranged around the room give it plenty of life.

Steps on the creaking hardwood floors snap her attention to the doorway behind her. Chloe has taken off her jacket and shoes, and is walking towards Beca with a glass of water in her hand.

"Here," she offers it to Beca, who takes it with a grateful smile and gulps it in one go before joining Chloe on her couch. The redhead observes her for a few seconds, drawing one of her knees to her chest and wrapping an arm around it, chin resting on top. "So you're pretty famous, huh?"

Beca closes her eyes. Of course Chloe would think differently of her now. There's no way they can keep acting like the carefree people they were today now that she knows.

She gives Beca a small, genuine smile before her eyes flick to the high windows.

"Those paps aren't going leave the area right away. It's known to attract many celebrities, especially around dinner time. That's why they were around here. You should take your jacket off. I'll see if I have anything I can cook for dinner."

Chloe stands before Beca can say anything. She's by the doorway of her kitchen, Beca assumes, when the brunette finds her voice.

"You're not going to ask me what I do?"

Chloe pauses and spins on her feet, head tilting to the side."Do you want to tell me what you do? Because it doesn't seem like it,"

Her tone isn't bitter, but light and understanding. It's comforting.

"And I don't really care that you're a celebrity. It doesn't change the fact that I enjoy being in your company,” Chloe purses her lips, brow furrowing. “Wait, are you some sort of famous porn-star?”

Beca knows she's probably turned the same shade as her red plaid shirt. “Um, no. That's not it.”

“I'm just teasing you, Bec,” The nickname has Beca raise an eyebrow. Chloe doesn't acknowledge it and adds, “So, would you like to stay for dinner?"

Beca's mouth opens and closes several times without any actual word being produced. She eventually nods.

"Awes!" Chloe exclaims, resuming her journey out of the room. Beca hears the clatter of pans knocking together and Chloe's soft voice humming a tune she doesn't recognize.

She finally gets rid of her jacket, leaving her in her stained tee and her shirt. Beca then takes off her shoes, because her feet are killing her after all the walking, and tucks them neatly by the door before tentatively hovering by the kitchen doorway.

Sensing her presence, Chloe looks over her shoulder and smiles again, that smile that warms Beca's insides and calms her at the same time.

"I hope you know by now that I don't bite."

Beca rolls her eyes at herself and takes a few steps forward, slipping her hands into the back pockets of her jeans as she comes to a stop in the middle of the room. There's no island or table for her to sit at, so she moves a couple steps to her left to lean back against the counter.

"What were you humming just now? It didn't sound familiar."

Chloe glances at her briefly as she retrieves two wine glasses from the cupboard over her head, and then her silky voice is filling the room once more.

"La caille, la tourterelle, et la jolie perdrix, et ma jolie colombe, qui chante jour et nuit... " Beca feels her mouth dry up, eyes following Chloe as she moves around to get the wine out of the fridge and pour some in the glasses. "Auprès de ma blonde, qu'il fait bon, fait bon, fait bon. Auprès de ma blonde, qu'il fait bon dormir."

Beca blinks when she realizes Chloe's singing has drawn to an end. She accepts the glass of wine extended to her and considers downing it in one go in hope of cooling down her system.

Instead, the warm, rich liquid coats her tongue with a strong, pleasant grape flavor and heats her stomach as it goes down. There's no biting aftertaste like with the cheap wine she used to get drunk on in college.

"Your voice is beautiful," she compliments, voice thick with something she can't quite place.

Chloe shrugs, but her cheeks get pinker as she sets up a chopping board and takes a tomato out of the paper bag she set on the counter while she sang. "It's nothing special."

"Being in the music industry, I think I know what I'm talking about," She says somewhat smugly before she really thinks it through. Chloe pauses, cocking an eyebrow at Beca over her shoulder.

"Are you flirting with me, Beca?"

Beca licks her lips, shuffling awkwardly on her feet. She can feel her heart picking up in pace. "I don't know, is that-is that cool?"

Beca groans internally at her wording. She considers facepalming.

"Yeah," Chloe's breathy tone travels the length of her spine in a shiver. Her eyes are twinkling with amusement when she adds, "It's cool."

Beca swallows and takes another gulp of her wine. She feels giddy all over, much like a teenager when around their crush.

"Good to know."

Chloe chuckles. "Are you going to just stand there or help me?"

Beca's eyes widen and she sets her glass down immediately. "Right! Of course, what can I do?" she stops panicking when Chloe's giggle reaches her ears and squints at her. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," Chloe is quick to dismiss. "You're just very cute when you get flustered."

Beca growls and attempts to glare at Chloe, but somehow she knows it doesn't come across as intimidating as she aims it to be.

"Tomatoes, you can chop the tomatoes while I take care of the pasta."

Chloe leaves the room for a bit, which provides Beca with a bit of time alone to get a hold of herself. This woman is doing strange things to her, things that she hasn't felt around anyone in a long time. She feels comfortable around her even though they've only just met and knows there's no other place she'd rather be, but in the intimacy of Chloe's home, graced with Chloe's presence.

Music is filling the apartment when Chloe comes back, and Beca quickly recognizes Chet Faker's Talk is Cheap. She smiles fondly; clearly Chloe not only has good taste in home decor, but in music as well.

Chloe is now wearing a white shirt and navy, loose fitting yoga pants, and her hair is pulled up in a messy bun.

Such a simple and relaxed look, yet Beca thinks she is absolutely stunning.

"I figured you might want to change into a clean shirt?" She says, and only then does Beca realize she's holding said shirt. She nods, taking it with a thakful smile.

"Thanks."

"Bathroom is down the hall to the right."

Beca quickly changes and pulls her coffee-free plaid shirt back over the clean one. She takes a minute to gather up her courage, praying that her awkwardness won't ruin the rest of an already-perfect day, save for the paparazzi ordeal.

Because she knows she wants to kiss Chloe before the night is over.

Chloe isn't in the kitchen anymore when she comes out of the bathroom. Beca finds her in the living room, stretched out over the corner of the L-shape couch while she fiddles with her phone.

"Already googling me?" Beca deadpans as she settles on the opposite end, sitting indian-style across from Chloe.

Chloe snickers, training her eyes away from the screen towards Beca. "Get over yourself. And no, I like to keep a little bit of mystery."

"Oh, okay. Cool." Beca accepts in pleasant surprise, lifting her wine glass off the table (Chloe has moved it there, she assumes) to her lips and taking a sip. "Are we done cooking already?"

"Pasta with homemade tomato sauce isn't exactly rocket science," Chloe tells her with a small laugh. "I hope you weren't expecting something too sophisticated."

"It's perfect, Chloe," Beca assures her, because it is.

It's simple, but Beca can't remember the last time she ate a home-cooked meal. She has been living on take-out and restaurant outings for the last couple of years.

They share a soft smile, and Beca breaks eye-contact to take in her surroundings with more attention than when she last was in the room. "Did you take those pictures?"

"Most, yes. A few others are from photographers who inspire me."

Beca rises to her feet to take a closer look at the frames above the fireplace.

"Do you always shoot in black and white?" she asks curiously, noticing the repetitive pattern in each frame.

"Most of the time, yeah."

It sounds as though Chloe wants to say more, to explain why it is so, but restrains herself, perhaps out of concern of sounding boring or obsessive. Beca tilts her head, glancing back at Chloe.

"Why's that?"

The beaming expression on Chloe's face tells Beca she was right. She sits back on the couch, slightly closer from her initial spot and listens intently as Chloe  unravels her love for black and white film.

"Well, it's a format that suits any type of photography; portrait, landscapes, architecture and it works out no matter how poor the light is, while the quality of a colored picture... really depends on the amount of lightning you have. That's for the technical aspect.”

She pauses to take a breath, pulling a chuckle from Beca. She notes how Chloe's voice changes when she speaks about photography; it shows through her tone that it's something she needs to live, just the way Beca needs music.

"What I love the most about black and white is that you have nothing to distract you when you look at a picture. Your eyes don't have to take in each and every color; their focus can be on the subject of the photography only, and that's how you can truly capture the essence of the work."

Beca couldn't agree more. Her brain fails to register some of Chloe's words as she is too busy losing herself in the blues of Chloe's eyes. Too busy counting all the different shades and the dots of sapphire mingled here and there.

Yes, Beca comes to the same conclusion in her head, color can be extremely distracting.

She blinks, ears and brain trying to pick up the conversation where they left it off.

"-love the subtlety of tones black and white provides." Chloe falls silent, an amused smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "Are you okay? You seemed off in your own world for a bit."

Beca clears her throat, shaking her head to organize her thoughts. "Something like that. Sorry. I did listen to everything you said though, and you seem to know your subject very well."

Beca grimaces; what a boring thing to say. She really needs to step up her game.

"It's captivating. Your work, that is," she adds bashfully before Chloe can say anything and points to the picture next to the window. "I think my favorite is the one with the two kids whispering to each other over there. You can tell they are up to no good from the expression on their faces. Nice catch.”

Chloe follows her line of sight and smiles fondly. "Oh, yeah. They were dumping their school books in the fountain a second later to see if they floated. Their mom was not amused. I took this at the Jardins de la Tuilerie. It's a place worth checking out."

"Well, if my guide says so," Beca smiles lopsidedly, glancing at Chloe. "I should definitely do that."

A beeping noise cuts through their eye-bond. Chloe is up and moving before she can, saying something about the pasta being ready. She comes back a few minutes later with two plates, two sets of cutlery and the bottle of red wine tucked under her arm, which Beca takes from her and sets down on the table after re-filling both glasses.

"Netflix?" she prods as they sit on the floor, legs stretched out under the glass coffee table and back resting against the couch.

"Sure,"

They both decide F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is a safe bet for an enjoyable meal. Beca has seen every episode maybe once or twice, while the show appears to be Chloe's religion. She seemingly can't stop herself from echoing some lines here and there, each time whispering a sorry to Beca when she catches herself.

Beca is too busy falling for the girl head first to be bothered by it. In fact, the amusing quirk adds to the rapidly extending virtual list of things she finds endearing about Chloe.

Plates are cleared up at the end of the episode, Beca insisting on doing the dishes while Chloe runs down to the street to buy a fresh baguette from the boulangerie to go with the cheese for dessert.

"I almost expected you to come back with a beret on top of your head."

Beca quips when Chloe comes back, slightly panting from running up the stairs, she assumes, the bread tucked under her arm. Chloe winks at her in response, rosy-cheeked from the now-cool outside air.

They settle back in the living room where Beca consumes just about enough cheese to slip in a coma. She can't help herself, that shit is delicious and probably what heaven is made of.

Beca's phone interrupts Chloe in the middle of a story and she glances at it to see it's her manager calling. She turns it off and apologizes to Chloe, motioning for her to keep going, only to have the device go off a mere twenty seconds later.

"I'm sorry," Beca states sincerely, knowing she will keep calling. "I should take this."

Chloe waves her off with an understanding smile. "Do what you gotta do."

Beca steps out into the building hall to take it, only coming back ten minutes later after a chaotic conversation.

"What's wrong? Bad news?" Chloe asks, straightening from her spot on the floor. Beca sighs and sets her phone down as she sits back by Chloe's side.

"Have you ever wished you could start again from scratch?" she speaks quietly, gaze fastened on the coffee table glass surface.

"Many times.”

"But it's not always possible, is it?" Beca counters, aware that she is being evasive. There are tears begging to be shed, pooling into her eyes and threatening to spill over.

"I think it is, to some extent. Possible, but not always easy. It's hard to tell when I don't know what you are referring to," Chloe says softly, bumping her shoulder against Beca's gently. "Do you want to talk about what's eating you up?"

Her features are sincere and reassuring when Beca finally holds eye-contact.

"It's totes fine if you don't. I'm aware you've only met me today and I'm basically a stranger to you," Chloe's shoulder lifts in a shrug, then adds, "But sometimes it's easier to open up to strangers than to people you care about and who care about you."

Beca pauses to think about how true that is, although she knows in the back of her mind that Chloe has become a lot more than a mere stranger over the last few hours.

She closes her eyes briefly, cursing when a tear escapes to run down her cheek.

"Dammit."

Dipping her head down to try and hide her raw emotions, Beca is aware the damage is already done when she feels Chloe's hand on her shoulder, thumb brushing over her collarbone. Beca lifts her head timidly, finding blue eyes staring at her with genuine concern.

"You really weren't kidding when you said you needed a break from life, huh?" Chloe murmurs with a frown, hesitating for a beat, then reaching out to wipe Beca's tears for her when more slip out.

Beca half-laughs, half-sobs, eyes rolling into the ceiling as she sniffles. Her teeth grind together in embarrassment. "No."

"Can I give you a hug?" Chloe asks sweetly, and Beca wants to laugh for real this time, because it shouldn't be allowed to have so much adorableness wrapped up in one single human being.

An overly affectionate person that the normal Beca would avoid like the plague. She realizes just now that Chloe has managed to worm her way past the fortifications Beca spent years building around herself, under just a few hours.

However, instead of making a dash for it before her heart can get caught in this mess, Beca nods, eyes slipping shut when Chloe wraps her arms around her.

The embrace is warm and mending. Not too tight and not too lose as her hands rub up and down Beca's back in a soothing manner.

She can tell Chloe is a hugger, and a good one at that. She catches herself thinking that staying like this for hours wouldn't be so bad.

"God, I'm so sorry," Beca says through a shaky inhale when she backs away. She wipes her cheeks with the hem of her sleeves and wills the next ones to remain at bay. "I'm such a mess. You probably think I'm a weirdo by now."

“No,” Chloe is quick to counter. She laughs curtly. “Well, not a weirdo in the deprecating sense of the word. Everybody has weird aspects about them. That's what makes them who they are. Imagine just how boring the world would be if everyone fit in the same mold.”

Beca chances a look at her. Chloe's gaze is soothingly warm, and it makes Beca's anxiety settle.

"And there's nothing wrong with being a mess," Chloe continues. "Everyone's a mess in their own way and that's okay. We're allowed to be messy, we're only humans, after all. It's okay not to be always strong and bad-ass when life throws you curve balls."

She takes Beca's hand and winds her fingers through Beca's, her thumb running over her knuckles so gently that Beca feels as though Chloe is stroking her heart back down to a normal rhythm.

"I'm a mess, too. I have no idea what I'm doing with my life most of the time. I cry a lot. I laugh a lot. I try to embrace my weirdness as best as I can. I've learned that it doesn't help to wallow on negative things, even if it's hard no to. So I try to focus on the good things, even if they sometimes only represent a very small part of my day."

Chloe breaks her speech, reaching out with her free hand to delicately push a strand of Beca's hair away from her face. Her fingers brush against Beca's temple when she retracts them, and Beca reigns in a shiver.

"What was the best part of your day, today?"

Beca could give multiple answers: the street concert they stumbled upon after lunch, the Italian ice-cream they bought off a vendor on the docks or the small chapel from the 16th century they found nestled between two buildings.

All these answers however, no matter how much time Beca spends analyzing them, lead her back to their common root.

"Um, you."

She hears Chloe's breathing itch and feels her thumb freeze over her skin. Beca's suddenly slams back into full-panic mode, heartbeat reaching a galloping speed and ready to jump out of her chest.

She's ruined it.

But then, Chloe's lips stretch into a shy grin and her eyes sparkle.

"You totes just stole my answer," She murmurs with a tiny laugh that has Beca's mouth break into a smile, shoulders dropping in relief. "Beca?"

Beca simply hums, voice abandoned somewhere she can't reach. Chloe's eyes hold such intensity; big, blue and innocent, that it makes the words on her mind die before they can even reach her tongue.

"I would really like to kiss you, but I don't want to scare you away."

Beca swallows, tongue instinctively darting out to lick her lips.

Instead of giving her a verbal answer, Beca leans in slowly, ears buzzing and breathing shallow as she brushes a kiss against Chloe's mouth, tentatively at first, testing the waters.

She blames her boldness on the wine, maybe, although it's mostly desire and not alcohol coursing through her veins as Chloe makes the rest of the distance to fully press her lips against Beca's.

Letting go of Chloe's hand to find her jaw, Beca holds Chloe's face loosely to tug her closer just as their lips part slightly to move against each other in gentle and flowing movements, broken apart by sporadic intakes of oxygen.

Beca shudders, the kiss hitting every nerve in her body until she feels it all the way down her toes.

Chloe's own hand comes to rest on the side of Beca's neck, the soft stroking of her thumb over her pulse point drawing a whimper swallowed by Chloe's mouth. As the kiss intensifies with a stroke of Chloe's tongue over the seam of her lips, Beca feels the surroundings steadily disappear around her as her brain and senses now all revolve around Chloe and all the things Chloe makes her feel.

As though none of it matters; her drastic decision to up and leave and abandon her responsibilities overnight. As though she's exactly where she needs to be.

"Bec," Chloe whispers across her lips when the kiss starts skidding out of control. Nipping gently at Beca's bottom lip, she then completely backs away.

Beca's eyes linger shut for a moment longer.

She's afraid she might crash with bittersweet reality when she does open them. Afraid Chloe might not be there, afraid that maybe she was just a figment of her imagination because of how good, yet foreign it all felt.

When she finally finds the courage to slide them open, Chloe is still here, orbs boring into hers with a curiosity about them that makes Beca feel slightly self-conscious.

Her mind is still trapped in a foggy maze as it tries to sort out exactly what she's feeling, or more accurately why she's feeling that way; lighter and tingling all over. Kissing someone has never really led her to such a state before now.

"You okay?" Chloe asks her when Beca remains silent a beat too long. Beca nods, feeling another surge of confidence and leaning in for another kiss, albeit shorter and more chaste than the one previously shared.

"Yeah. I..."

Her lips are still numb from the best kiss she's ever experienced. She wonders if it also has something to do with the fact that it was her first kiss with a woman.

She wonders if it felt as amazing for Chloe. Before doubt can overtake her, Chloe's lips are back on hers in a bruising kiss, one void of any self-restraint.

Beca feels the apprehension peel away from her shoulders as she responds just as ardently, her burning need for the redhead evolving into something untamable with each stroke of Chloe's lips against hers.

Chloe's hands, Beca blankly registers, are everywhere all at once in the minutes that follow; tangled in her dark hair, running over her neck, slipping under her shirt to trace the muscles in her back.

Intoxicated by the fire lighting her whole body, it's only when they stumble in Chloe's bedroom much later, hasty in getting the other free of their clothing, that Beca's self-doubt comes surging back.

Of course, Chloe senses it. She seems to have this ability to read Beca's emotions without fail, and it feels both amazing and nerve-wracking.

"We can stop right here if you want to," she tells Beca, putting a stop to their frantic actions by setting both hands on Beca's torso.

Chloe is out of breath, pupils fully blown and lips kiss-swollen, and Beca thinks she has never wanted anything as much as she wants Chloe right now.

"I do want to," she rasps out, marking her words with a lingering kiss that has Chloe whimper. "I just... I've never been, this way," God, she feels like a sixteen-year-old about to have sex for the first time. "...with a woman before."

The abrupt need to dig herself a hole in the floor is painful as realization dawns in Chloe's features.

But then she smiles softly, calm and reassuring and Beca releases a much needed breath, though the shake in her hands is still very much present.

"That's okay, we can go slow. And if you don't feel comfortable, we can totes stop, alright? No questions asked."

Beca wonders how the earth was graced with such an incredible human being. She wonders even more how she was lucky enough to cross paths with her.

Beca nods faintly, noticing a shift in Chloe's intentions. Her moves are a bit more calculated and less reckless and Beca draws comfort from it.

As she lies back on the mattress long minutes later, Chloe's body hovering above her and lips tracing every curve and dip of her body, Beca thinks she might be in heaven, and Chloe hasn't even touched her yet.

When she finally does, with her fingers first, hesitant and slow, then her mouth, then her tongue, and again with her fingers, Beca is pretty sure she forgets her own name.

The sounds escaping her mouth and booming off the thin walls are foreign, and so is the sensation that overtakes her body when her climax nears.

It burns into the pit of her stomach, the flames reaching higher with each stroke of Chloe's fingers. It's so intense that Beca has to grip a fistful of sheets with one hand, while the other shamelessly grip the back of Chloe's head to make sure she stays exactly where she is and keeps doing that thing with her tongue.

Beca finally comes undone with a cry, her eyes rolling to the back of her head and her toes digging into the mattress.

As Chloe kisses her way back up her body, tender and attentive, Beca feels overwhelming haziness trickle down her limbs.

She figures she must look stoned or something similar because Chloe looks at her with an amused glint in her eye as she settles down next to her. Beca can taste herself on Chloe's lips when she kisses her, and feels her arousal prick through her skin.

She wants to reciprocate, she really does, but her body isn't completely responsive.

"You should get some sleep," Chloe whispers, the circular pattern she is drawing along Beca's back encouraging Beca's lids to drop. Beca starts to object, but Chloe placates her with her lips on hers. "It's not like I'm going anywhere."

Beca nods, kissing Chloe again before she turns onto her opposite side, tensing slightly then relaxing as Chloe's body rests close against hers, her arm draped over Beca's middle. Chloe drops a kiss on Beca's bare shoulder and sighs contently.

Just before she falls asleep, Beca thinks she's never felt better laying in someone's arms.

And also, women are awesome.

/

Beca gets harshly woken up from her deep slumber with the shrill ringing of her phone. She grumbles some sort of profanity into her pillow as her hand slaps blindly against the bedside table surface to locate the offending device.

"Hello?"

Her voice is raw and thick and sounds more like a truck driver's than her own. She clears her throat, rolling onto her back. The ceiling is not the one she has been waking up to in the past few days. As she looks around, the events of last night all come back at once, assaulting her brain with visuals that make her dizzy.

"Beca? Are you there?"

"Yes, Stace," she mumbles, rubbing the leftover sleep from her eyes. "You familiar with time difference?"

"What? I thought you were the one ahead. It's six am here.”

Beca pulls her phone away from her ear to look at the time. It reads 11:22. Well, shit.

"No actually, I, um, I overslept, that's all."

"Well, that's good. Feeling more rested?"

She remembers falling asleep late, or early in the morning, body aching in all the right places. The mere though of it has her cheeks color to a deep crimson.

"Yo, Mitchell?"

"Yes. I'm... rested."

This was quite possibly the best night's sleep Beca's had in the last two years. She doesn't know if it has to do with the mind-shattering orgasm Chloe gave her or the fact that Chloe's embrace felt like a safe cocoon afterwards.

"So how's Paris?"

Dazzling blue eyes, feiry red hair and pearly white smile.

Beca pauses. She can't remember being so full of sap.

She catches sight of movement in her peripheral and twists her head towards it, eyes falling on Chloe who is lingering in the doorway, unsure if she can come in. Beca waves her over with a small smile, and watches Chloe walk over, noting that she's wearing nothing else but Beca's plaid shirt.

It's a... distracting sight.

"Paris is..." she trails off as Chloe lies next to her, body angling towards Beca's. Beca gulps at the sudden rise in temperature her body experiences. "Paris is... unexpected."

She feels Chloe grin against her skin as she presses a feather-light kiss on Beca's pulse-point, then another, and another. Stacie's voice sounds farther and farther away as Beca closes her eyes and cranes her neck to give Chloe's lips better access.

"Good unexpected?"

Chloe's hand creeps up her side, slipping under Beca's shirt to run over the smooth and toned skin of her abdomen. Beca hisses because Chloe's hand is freezing, wincing the second the sound escapes her mouth when she hears Stacie gasp.

"You met someone!"

Chloe's grin only gets wider, having clearly heard Stacie's deafening shriek, and Beca narrows her eyes, her jaw dropping at Chloe's audacity when she moves swiftly to straddle her lap. Beca's hand falls to Chloe's bare thigh on its own accord, thumb brushing over smooth, tan skin.

"Maybe?"

Chloe flips her hair to let it rest over one shoulder, and Beca feels her mouth dry up at the sight. Chloe's innocent eyes are now sprinkled with a touch of wickedness that only drives Beca's desire to a further threshold.

"What do you mean, maybe?"

Beca watches with bated breath as Chloe leans down, her lips trailing along her jaw, and down her neck. They stop to pay particular attention to that spot below her ear they became acquainted with last night. Beca's body arches off the mattress in pursuit for more as a throaty moan escapes her mouth.

She is so screwed. There's no way Stacie is ever going to let her live that down.

Yet, part of her likes the fact that she's the scandalous one for once.

"Oh my God, I'm interrupting a booty call, aren't I? Are you with him now?!"

Oh, well. Beca is too far gone to backtrack now, so she might as well go all in.

"It's a she, actually, and yes, I am," Chloe pulls away, eyebrow arched in surprise at Beca's own audacity.

The stunned silence at the end of the line is quite comical and Beca can't say she isn't proud of leaving Stacie dumbstruck. She's never said anything to her friend about her attraction to women, because there was never really anything concrete to talk about, until now.

"Stace, I'm gonna have to let you go."

Stacie's squeal is cut off as Beca ends the call, tossing her phone somewhere on the mattress to be able to cup Chloe's neck with both hands, tugging her down for a kiss.

"Good morning," Chloe murmurs, drawing back just enough to rub her nose against Beca's.

Beca hums from somewhere low in her throat, "I'll say,"

Her phone goes off in a series of chimes, no doubt from an avalanche of text messages from Stacie.

They both laugh, and Chloe slides off Beca's lap to lie back on her side, Beca mirroring her position and curling a hand around Chloe's waist. She can't resist slipping that hand under her shirt to rub her thumb over her hip bone.

"Sleep well?"

Beca nods. "Better than I have in a long time. Thank you for that."

She briefly wonders if it sounds as though she's thanking Chloe for giving her that orgasm, and hopes Chloe knows she's refering to the entire evening.

Chloe licks her lips and hums, "My pleasure," She kisses Beca's again, fingers combing through her disheveled dark tresses. "I have fresh croissants and coffee waiting for you in the kitchen."

Beca moans in anticipation, then pauses, eyeing Chloe's lack of clothing. "Tell me you didn't go outside dressed like this?"

Chloe rolls her eyes. "No, I put some pants on, Bec."

"Okay, good."

Chloe giggles, rolling over onto her stomach and pushing on Beca's shoulder to pin her to the mattress. She folds her arms over Beca's stomach and sets her chin down on top of them, looking up at Beca through her eyelashes.

"What do you want to do today?"

Beca likes the fact that it's a given they're spending the day together.

Beca shrugs, running her own hand over Chloe's hair as it cascades around her shoulders. "Dunno. Do we have to go outside?"

"You didn't come all the way to Paris to stay inside, did you? Besides, it's beautiful out."

Beca's eyes flicker to the window to confirm that fact. The sun is already high in the immaculate blue sky. She gazes back at Chloe, raking her teeth over her bottom lip.

"I didn't come to Paris to end up in some gorgeous woman's bed, either, yet here I am.”

"Smooth," Chloe drawls out, cheeks tinting lightly over the compliment.

"You're the smooth one," Beca retorts with a tut, "Dragging me around and making me fall in love with-" she clears her throat, catching herself last second before she comes across as a psycho. "...Paris."

What she thinks she might be feeling is crazy and beyond anything realistic. Maybe she had a stroke last night that left her with a fried brain.

If Chloe notices her near slip-up, she doesn't let it be shown. Beca thinks back to Chloe's initial question, eager to stir her own mind away from her absurd and dangerous thoughts.

"This is going to sound silly but... I don't feel comfortable strolling the city now that the paps know I'm here. At least not until it blows over. Usually takes them a couple days to lose interest."

Chloe's brow twitches in concern. "They are really that bad over in the US?"

"Yeah. I've had my fair share of bad blood with them. Some of them are real scums. And I came here to try to avoid all of it, the fame, the fans, the paps. Hard to shake off, apparently, even across the ocean."

Chloe nods, still refraining from asking any questions. While Beca appreciates her discretion, she feels like she needs to come clean, mostly because she doesn't see herself letting go of Chloe just yet.

"It was my manager over the phone, yesterday," she starts explaining, choosing to focus on a curl of Chloe's hair she's twirling around her finger. "I didn't give much notice before I came here. I kinda abandoned my responsibilities overnight and my label isn't very happy, rightly so. It was very unprofessional on my part, but I needed a break from it all.”

“You don't have to justify anything, Beca.” Chloe tells her with a sincere smile.

Beca sighs and nods, running her free hand over her face in frustration. “I just wish I could make music for the whole world to enjoy without having strangers burst into my private life, looking for saucy information they can then sell."

"I get it," Chloe says, head bobbing up and down as much as it can given her position. "The entertainment industry is filthy, and I'll never understand why people are so interested in celebrities' lives, to the extent that so-called photographers make a living out of stalking them. Stalking you. It disgusts me."

"It goes beyond my comprehension, too," Beca shrugs, finally meeting Chloe's eyes. "So now you know. I'm a musician and singer, known as B. Mitchell. I'm less known in Europe, which is why you've probably never heard of me-"

"I've heard of you, I just didn't know what you looked like," Chloe is quick to correct, eyes slightly bigger and twinkling. "When I was back in the US for a little while last year to visit my parents, I think I heard one of your songs on the radio and checked the other ones out on Spotify. Your sound is amazing, Beca.”

And it's genuine, Beca can tell. It's not Chloe falsely fawning over her because she's has just learned Beca is one of the rising stars of her generation back in the States.

"Thank you." Beca says with a small, but honest smile.

“And you must be raising in fame here too, if the paps are showing interest.”

“I guess,” Beca offers, not sure how she feels about that information. "Anyway, I've been trying to write songs for my second album and the label has been pressuring me for weeks. I didn't realize I needed a break until my friends staged an intervention," she chuckles, shaking her head at the memory. She guesses she should thank them when she gets back. This trip has already gone beyond all expectations. “I just wanted to be a normal person for a few weeks. But apparently that's too much to ask."

Chloe hums in understanding. "I'm sorry."

"It's fine. Great things have already made up for it," she husks out, her hand drifting from Chloe's hair to stroke her cheek. Chloe angles her head to press her lips to the hollow of her wrist in wordless appreciation.

"Here's an idea," she starts, sitting up to rest back against her heels, pulling Beca's hand onto her lap to play with her fingers as she goes on. "I'm supposed to drive down to Toulouse tomorrow for this work thing and I have nothing planned for the rest of the week after that. How would you like to come with me? The south of France is much quieter, and you won't find any paps as long as you avoid Saint-Tropez or Cannes. There's not much there to see, anyway. In the area I'm thinking of, you'll find lots of scenic hikes, cute villages, amazing food..."

As if Beca wasn't already convinced, she adds with a sheepish shrug, "And me."

"I..." Beca doesn't recognize herself. This is surreal, how willing she is to go on an impromptu trip with this person she's known for less than twenty-four hours. "Yeah. I'd like that. Are you sure, though? You don't have to do that for my sake."

"Are you kidding?" Chloe asks, her tone rising a notch in excitement, Beca guesses. It's endearing how her voice translates her emotions each time without fail. "I'm totes sure. Otherwise I wouldn't have offered."

"Okay," Beca nods, perhaps more to convince herself. "Does that mean we can stay inside all day today, then?"

Chloe frowns in the most adorable way. "Won't we get bored?"

Smirking, Beca sits up on her elbows to capture Chloe's lips in a much bolder kiss than the one they previously shared. Chloe's eyes are hazy when she pulls away.

"I can think of a few ways to keep us entertained."

She did mean to reciprocate.

/

The rest of their morning is spent lazying in bed, trading kisses that get slightly out of hand and end up with Beca respecting her promise. They eventually get up around noon to get breakfast, the late spring temperatures warm enough to eat it on Chloe's balcony.

"Do you mind if I take a shower?" Beca asks as they retreat back inside.

"Of course not. You know where the bathroom is. Towels are underneath the sink."

Come to think of it, she should probably swing by her hotel room to get fresh clothes. Especially when her plaid shirt is still being held hostage by Chloe, who apparently decided to parade around her apartment (and on her balcony, thankfully mostly secluded from neighbor's view) wearing only that and tiny shorts.

Hey, her home, her rules. Beca isn't about to complain about the free show.

Chloe's legs are long, tanned and toned and Beca really has a hard time keeping her eyes off them. Especially when she thinks about how they were wrapped around her shoulders earlier this morning while her head was-

Beca chokes on her saliva as she feels a new wave of arousal travel the length of her body, peaking in a familiar throb between her legs.

"Beca?"

She snaps out of her daze and realizes she's been standing in the middle of the kitchen for a long stretch, gaze fastened on thin air.

"Well, I need my shirt back if I wanna have something to wear after my shower," she recovers with a lopsided smile, awkwardly shuffling on her bare feet.

"Oh! Right," to her horror (well, that's a stretch), Chloe starts unbuttoning it right in front of her, and Beca knows for a fact she isn't wearing anything under it. Chloe slips it off her shoulders and hands it to Beca as she struts past her, aiming for her bedroom.

It's been thirty hours, and Beca has lost count of how many times she has died in that span.

Come to think of it, that shower can wait.

/

"Bec?" Chloe's whisper coaxes Beca out of her slumber. She was lying on the couch with her head on Chloe's lap as the redhead read her book, and somehow, encouraged by the scraping motion of Chloe's fingers over her scalp, her eyes slipped shut and she fell asleep.

Beca hums, not trusting her voice to be particularly attractive with the leftover sleep, blinking up at Chloe. She quickly assures herself there isn't a line of drool down the corner of her mouth by swiping the back of her hand over her chin.

"I need to go my gallery to develop some film," she says, and Beca is surprised it's the first time she mentions she has a gallery. Chloe shared a lot about her yesterday, yet omitted that important piece of information. "You can stay here and hang out if you want, or you can come with. I'm pretty sure there are no paps waiting for you downstairs."

"Yeah, I'll come with," It would feel weird to be in Chloe's home without her. "Do you mind if we swing by my hotel first? I really need to get some clothes."

"We can totes do that." Beca's shoulders shake with silent laughter, causing Chloe to stare down at her. "What?"

Beca sits up, rotating to face Chloe.

"You sure say 'totes' a lot,” Chloe looks slightly offended by the use of air-quotes. “Is it how young people talk these days?"

"Look at you go, grandma," she mocks with an eye-roll. "Besides, I'm older than you."

"Exactly why 'totes' sounds weird," she fires back, snickering when Chloe shoves her shoulder. "Seriously, I've never heard anyone say it before. Where did you pick that up?"

"Oh, it's a Chloe Beale thing. I started saying it in college and wanted it to become the new trendy expression, y'know, kind of like in Mean Girls when Gretchen wants fetch to happen."

Beca frowns helplessly. "You've lost me."

"Mean Girls? The movie?"

"Okay, here's a fun fact about me," Beca grimaces. "I hate movies."

"What!" Chloe's eyes grow wide with astonishment. "How can you not like movies? It's like not liking... puppies!"

Beca has a sudden college flashback and shudders. "Funny, my best friend said the exact same thing to me during our first year of college."

"Well, he's right!" Chloe exclaims. "You're such a weirdo, Bec."

"Yeah, yeah." She pushes at Chloe's thigh with her feet, both as reprimand and to get her going. "Go put some pants on so we can go."

"You're bossy," Chloe pouts and Beca really has to keep those butterflies in check. They flap away madly in her belly every time Chloe does something endearing. "But fine."

She leans in to kiss the corner of Beca's mouth before she gets up and Beca tries not to let her thoughts drift too much on how they act like a couple.

It doesn't work.

Plus, she kinda likes it.

Crap.

/

"Chloe?"

Beca calls out when she steps inside the gallery. It's all white walls, high ceilings and hardwood floors and nicely decorated, not that Beca is surprised after being introduced to Chloe's tastes back at her place.

"Up here!" Comes from the top of the metal, spiral staircase tucked in the corner left to the entrance. Beca walks further in and closes the door behind her, locking it with the spare key Chloe gave her when she dropped her off at her hotel.

Beca took an hour to discuss calmly with her manager and producers and asked them to give her a week to herself so she could unwind, and surprisingly, they didn't argue.

Maybe everyone but her noticed she really did need a break, after all.

Stepping further into the large space, Beca takes the time to look at the framed pictures lining the walls. Some are of historical building, others of street scenes or portraits, all bathed in a compelling light that makes it hard for Beca to tear her eyes away. She doesn't know much about photography, but she can tell Chloe is incredibly talented and has a way of telling stories through her camera.

"Did you get lost?" Chloe's voice drifts through the duplex, tone light with amusement, stirring Beca away from her reverie. She spins around and marches towards the staircase.

Once upstairs, she finds Chloe in an open area, hunched over a large working space with various cameras and rolls of films laid in front of her.

"Hi," Beca greets quietly, slipping her hands into the pocket of her jeans. Chloe glances up, sending Beca a bright smile that makes her weak in the knees.

"Perfect timing!" she exclaims as she straightens. "I was about to step into the darkroom."

Beca vaguely remembers hearing that term. "Oh, okay."

"Care to see how photographs are made?"

Beca nods, curious to find out more about Chloe's element. "Sure."

"This way," Chloe grabs a case full of films and walks to another room that is separated from the one they are in by a thick, black curtain.

She pushes it back and lets Beca through before sliding it shut. Beca follows her to another wide wooden work-space where three trays are laid out, each filled with liquid.

"So I've already done the boring part of taking the film roll out of the camera and fix the images with chemicals. Now I have the negatives strips. Those are very sensitive to direct light, so that's when the concept of the darkroom comes in."

Chloe hits a light switch, plunging the room into darkness for a second, before it's bathed in red light. It takes a bit of blinking for Beca's eyes to adjust to the change, while Chloe takes out said strips and lies them on a lightbox.

"I usually start each week by giving myself assignments, either themes or places. Last week, I decided to photograph people in the subway. It's called the Metropolitain, here, or Metro for short."

Chloe explains as she arranges some instruments in front of her. Beca steps closer, gazing down at the strips of negatives.

"There's a particular series that I like from last Thursday. I was about to go home, and I caught this couple kissing just by the side of the entrance. Now the fun thing about a couple kissing in public is that the people around them will usually avert their eyes, as if to give them a sense of privacy, even though they chose to kiss in a public setting in the first place," Chloe laughs lightly and waves her hand, as if to refocus. "Anyway. I'm stirring away from the subject, sorry."

She grabs a sort of magnifying glass and hands it to Beca.

"You can take a look."

Beca bends down, pressing her eye to the lens and running it over the glass. The ten negatives show the same two people, at different stages of their kiss.

"So I've selected one photo out of all of these already," Chloe says, taking one of the negative strip when Beca straightens. "Now, I need to place it into the enlarger to project the photo on the easel and adjust its size."

Beca watches on as Chloe goes through all those steps. She fiddles with the enlarger until her print is the size she wants, then turns to look at Beca.

"Okay! Want to print a photograph?"

Beca's eyes grow wider as she points at herself and looks over her shoulder, as though expecting someone else to have materialize in the room. "Me?"

Chloe chuckles. "Yes, you. Theory is totes boring, practice is the fun part."

"But what if I mess up? I'll ruin your photograph."

The trust in Chloe's eyes is unsettling and Beca can feel it seeping through her cracked shield once again.

"Don't worry, we'll start with a test print. Besides, you won't mess up," she assures her, tilting her head towards the table. "C'mon."

Beca takes a step closer to stand next to Chloe.

"Okay, take the paper and place it in this first tray, which is the developer," Chloe instructs. After wiping her sweaty hands on her jeans, Beca does as she's told. "Now this needs to immersed as much as possible, so you need to rock the tray back and forth to spread the solution evenly."

Once the paper is in there, Beca grips the tray with both hands and moves it back and forth. Little by little she can see ink appear on the previously white paper and the image become clearer with each second.

It's mesmerizing, watching it turn from a simple sheet of white paper to a black and white picture. Beca starts to understand what the hype about photography really is.

"Good, that's one minute. Now you take this," Chloe hands Beca a pair of tongs. "Grab the paper gently, preferably in the corner because the image isn't fixed yet and you don't want to damage it. Then you transfer it to the next tray, which is the stop bath," Beca follows the instructions, extremely focused on the task. "Rock for about ten seconds, that's it, and then same thing, onto the next tray to fix the image, for one minute."

"Okay."

"You're a natural," Chloe observes as Beca completes the last step. She briefly takes her eyes off the task to share a smile with Chloe and whisper a thanks. "Now I need to check and set the contrast and exposure I want, but I need light for that."

Beca's eyes feel assaulted by the sudden harsh, white light and blinks several times to get used to it once more. Chloe takes the print, humming and tutting as she studies it. She then does a few things that she doesn't spell out to Beca, and Beca figures it's because it might be too technical.

She's fine with that. Watching Chloe work is quite captivating, and she's not certain she'd be able to focus on the information provided should Chloe explain.

"Ready to do it again?" Chloe asks with a beaming grin that Beca mirrors a second later. She nods, more confidently this time. Chloe hits the lights, and Beca goes through all the steps without Chloe having to say much.

"Now what?" Beca says once she's taken the picture out of the fixer.

"Now we rinse it," She directs Beca to a bucket filled with, Beca guesses, water, and plunges the picture in it. "It needs to stay there five to ten minutes."

"That was cool," she says as she turns to look at Chloe. Her eyes chase the shadows on Chloe's face, tracing her features. "What do you love most about photography?"

Chloe leans against the counter and crosses her arms over her chest, taking a moment to analyze Beca's question before she speaks.

"When I was little, my mom had this photograph book of Robert Doisneau. He was a humanist photographer who only shot in black and white, and mostly scenes of the daily life back in the 50's. I used to flip through it and imagine the stories behind the pictures,” she reminiscences with a smile. “I love how photographs have the ability to tell stories through an unmoving frame. And how that story will vary depending on the person who looks at it. It's different from a movie or a book, where the plot is imposed to the reader or spectator. I think photography, like paintings, gives another stretch to one's imagination.”

Chloe pauses and clears her throat, eyes flickering to the clock to monitor the time before setting her gaze back on Beca.

“That's mostly why I focus on street photography. You usually have a lot more to look at than the subjects of the pictures. I like busy surroundings and being able give people who look at my work material to create a story of their own.”

Beca nods, finding it near impossible to tear her eyes away from Chloe. Much like yesterday, she's hooked on how Chloe's passion about photography shows through her body language whenever she talks about it.

"But what I love the most about photography is how much it tells about people."

Beca's ears perk up in interest, "How so?"

"Well, a photograph can't capture people's voice, so it fails to convey what people say about themselves. But what we say isn't always an accurate reflection to what we feel or think, whereas I think non-verbal communication reveals just as much, and maybe even more. The way people act, dress, how they move or stand, speaks volumes, and body language is most of the time unconscious,”

Chloe pushes off the table and makes the scant distance separating her from Beca to stand directly in front of her.

“Because the body doesn't know how to lie, right? And because a photo doesn't have a voice, it gives us even more chance to study that body language. There's nothing to distract us."

Beca's is too wrapped up in Chloe's tale to realize how hard her breathing is getting. It doesn't help that Chloe is nearly invading her personal space. She nods faintly, finding it impossible to blink, as if afraid to miss something if she did.

"And while a photograph cannot record body movement over time, it still manages to catch the essence of a person displayed through that silent language.”

Chloe shrugs, suddenly coming across as though she's self-conscious about what she's sharing. The dim lighting makes it feel a lot more intimate, as though Beca's being exposed to a part of Chloe's life that few people get to see.

“And, I don't know, I find there's something exciting about being able to capture so many emotions at once. A single shot has the power to show and express so much about someone without them realizing it.”

Beca swallows, Chloe's words and proximity pulling something in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes drop to Chloe's lips, but Chloe pulls away with a smirk before she can close the gap.

"Picking up a camera changed me and the way I see the world. We live in this high-paced society where everyone is too busy to look past the scuff of their shoes.” Chloe continues, walking away from Beca and towards the work-space where her material is laid out. “On my first outing with a camera, I looked around me to observe the things I wanted to capture through the lens,”

She lifts up her camera and cradles it between her hands.

“I started to observe people more and try to read their emotions in order to give some sort of meaning to my work. And while doing that, I realized how much we come across everyday without taking the time to truly look at it, how we live in a world that promotes egocentricity and self-absorption,”

She looks up at Beca, mouth curling in a small smile.

“How many people we meet but never really see.”

Beca now understands how Chloe is able to tell her emotions so easily, even from the start.

She sees Beca. Like no one else ever has.

It's as comforting as it is terrifying.

Swiftly hit by a surge of magnetic, compelling attraction for the woman in front of her, Beca's body stirs towards Chloe on its own accord, without her brain being completely aware of its doing, trapped in its own foggy mess.

Taking a step closer, then another until the tip of her shoes bump against Chloe's, Beca's hand wraps around the back of her neck gently, tugging Chloe's head down as she tilts hers up.

She kisses Chloe with no intent of pulling away until her lungs are burning from lack of oxygen.

The world yet again falls away. The kiss is soft and smooth, a slow ballet of lips she has come to crave.

She registers Chloe's quiet whimper as her hand falls to her waist, arms hooking in the middle of her lower back.

Beca's own hand sinks into Chloe's hair, thumb brushing against her cheek as they both share one shaky breath, only for Beca to dip forward again, chasing Chloe's lips with a tiny bit more of urgency.

Chloe's fingers are running up and down the base her spine, pulling her closer until there is no space left between them and Beca can feel Chloe's heart beat against her own.

It's steady and calm while Beca's is out of control and hammering against her ribs.

The sound of the timer breaks the kiss, and Beca feels Chloe smile against her lips, which are pressed to hers one last time before she slowly peels herself away, the tips of her fingers running over Beca's abdomen as she walks past her get to the other side.

Beca's eyes remain shut a second or two. Her hand comes up to her mouth, trembling fingers tracing her still tingling lips as she wills her body to come out of its paralyzing daze.

The harsh white lights switching back on are a much more efficient tool for that, and Beca painfully jerks back to reality. Chloe stands next to her, hanging the picture to a thread extended across the ceiling and beckons Beca over.

"Good job," she says, eyes leaving the pictures to glance at Beca and bumps her hip against hers. "You printed a picture."

Beca nods, although her brain is still fuzzy and her ears muffled. She has a hard time processing Chloe's words, and she's glad Chloe doesn't bring up the kiss, because she wouldn't know what to say to explain herself.

She knows Chloe felt what she felt. It wasn't like any other kiss she shared with anyone else before, it wasn't like any of the kisses they have shared the previous night.

It was something that belonged to another dimension, a dimension that Beca has tried, and successfully managed to stray away from until now. A dimension that can bring happiness and fulfillment, but also, in most cases, heartbreak and sorrow.

She knows the door leading to it is best kept shut as to not let herself be sucked in. But somehow, in the depths of her brain, Beca knows it's too late.

There's little chance she'll come out of this unscathed; she's already skidding to wreck.

/

Afterwards, she waits downstairs while Chloe finishes up cleaning her equipment and takes another few minutes to study the photographs lining the walls.

"All done!" Chloe exclaims as she bounces down the stairs in a spiraling flurry that makes Beca feel lightheaded. She extends something to her with a smile, "You almost forgot your picture,"

Beca furrows her brow, looking at the item. The photograph has been placed under glass and framed in a light-brown wood contour. She takes it, snapping her eyes up to Chloe.

"I can't take this. It's your photograph."

Chloe shakes her head with a fond smile. "I merely pressed a button. You were the one who printed it, you did most of the work."

Now Beca doesn't know much about photography (though a lot more than she did yesterday), but she knows enough to tell that adjusting camera settings and finding the right composition for a picture is the most challenging aspect in photography.

Just like writing the songs is the most time-consuming part in the making of an album, while getting to sing them is the fun outcome.

She is well aware Chloe is just saying that so that Beca accepts the gift.

"Besides," Chloe continues before Beca can express her objection. "Take it as a souvenir from Paris. Two people kissing next to the Metropolitain sign? You can hardly get much more French than that."

Beca runs her fingertips over the framed picture, the love radiating off its two subjects undeniable to the naked eye.

Their feelings for each other are almost see-through, just as Beca's are starting to become for the woman behind that picture.

/

Roadtriping to the south of the country with Chloe turns out to be a lot of fun. Not that Beca thought it wouldn't be, she was just worried that maybe they would run out of things to say during the seven-hour-trip to Toulouse.

Chloe does most of the talking, and Beca is more than content just sitting back and listening to her tales. Whenever they come across a silence spell, Chloe cranks up the volume on the radio and sings along to whatever is playing.

Chloe singing French songs does things to Beca's heart that are slightly concerning.

It's either on overdrive or flat-lining, which is a real inconvenience.

She can't even think about what would happen to her if Chloe happened to speak French to her while they are in the bedroom. At this point, she's sure Chloe reading out the instruction manual for a dishwasher in French would turn her on.

Once Chloe has pulled onto the highway and her hand is now free from having to switch gears every couple minutes, Beca reaches over the console to hold it.

It took a lot of persuasion between she and her inner-awkward, but after debating it over for a few minutes, she decided to go for the leap.

Her breathing halts for a few seconds, resuming when Chloe laces their fingers together. She can see the smile tugging at the corners of Chloe's lips and her shoulders sag in relief. It mustn't go unnoticed by Chloe, who giggles quietly.

"What?" Beca asks, finding Chloe's eyes over the top of her sunglasses.

"You're cute," she replies with a smirk, her eyes moving back to the road. "Has anyone ever told you that?"

"Yes. They're dead, now."

"Uh oh. Should I take it back then?"

Beca makes a show of letting out a resigned sigh. "I guess I can let that one slide. That's strike one, though. Walking on thin ice there, Beale."

"Oh wow," Chloe visibly thrums from Beca's words as she squirms a little in her seat. "And how many strikes am I allowed exactly?"

Beca pretends to think it over. "Hm. Three."

Beca knows what Chloe is going to say before the words even reach her tongue. “And what happens if I reach that number?”

Beca is now the one to squirm. She wishes she had a better comeback, but her wit is currently unavailable. “I'll have to think about that.”

Chloe hums. “I don't know if I'll be able to restrain myself from calling you cute. See, I like to acknowledge the truth when I see it before my eyes."

Beca sighs, shaking her head at Chloe with a fond expression. That woman is definitely something else and the list of things Beca likes about her keeps getting longer and longer.

But not long enough to hide her biggest flaw, one so obvious it fills most of Beca's mind.

Chloe lives in Paris. A whole ocean and several time zones separates them.

"You okay?" Chloe asks her, like every time she does whenever Beca zones out, Beca has noticed.

"Yep," she replies, ignoring the bitter taste on her tongue and hoping it doesn't translate in her smile as she squeezes Chloe's hand. She tries to banish the thought from her mind and enjoy the moment. "Perfect."

/

It turns out that Chloe's 'work thing' in Toulouse is opening another gallery and she's hosting a private viewing in her new space tomorrow night.

She's successful enough to open a second gallery and Beca is thrilled for her; Chloe is obviously incredibly talented and deserves the recognition.

"Is this okay?" Chloe asks as she walks into the living-room, wearing a burgundy, floor length dress adorned with a white flower or leaf pattern, Beca isn't sure. Her cleavage is generous without being too much, and her hair is down, styled in soft curls resting over her shoulders.

Beca wasn't really prepared for the sight, and her book nearly falls from her grasp when she looks up. Her mouth dries up, heartbeat picking up as her eyes rake along Chloe's body.

Okay is definitely an understatement.

"Y-yeah," Beca's voice isn't more than a rasp, and she clears her throat in embarrassment. "Yeah, it's..." Hm. Her brain must be on strike. "yeah."

Outstandingly eloquent Beca is back and thriving.

Beca sighs, slightly frustrated about the effects Chloe has on her neurons. She eventually manages to thread a whole sentence.

"You look beautiful, Chloe."

"Thanks, babe," Chloe says before she turns around, going back to where she came from, while Beca blinks dazedly, willing her heart to stop doing those stupid somersaults over the term of endearment. She pops back in the doorway, a light jacket over her shoulders. "Ready to go?"

Beca nods and rises to her feet, following Chloe out of the house. Before Chloe can open the door, however, Beca catches her wrist to tug her towards her, and kisses her.

Chloe's lips taste like the peppermint she just took, cool and warm at the same time as they respond eagerly to Beca's. Chloe pulls her closer and Beca feels herself sinking into her hold, the kiss lingering much longer than what she intended.

"What was that for?" Chloe breathes against her mouth when they part, her forehead seeking rest over Beca's.

Beca doesn't really know, so she shrugs. "Just felt like it."

Chloe hums, tongue darting out to run over her bottom lip. "Well, you can 'feel like it' whenever you want."

The night turns out to be a huge success. Beca watches from the sidelines as Chloe shakes hands and accept every compliment with humility, a light blush coloring her cheeks over each praise of her talent.

Chloe's on cloud nine for the rest of the night. She introduces Beca to a couple of childhood friends who came for the occasion. Beca doesn't know what title Chloe gives her, as her knowledge in French doesn't go that far.

She doesn't even know what title she wants to be given. She hasn't quite worked out that fact yet, and Chloe probably hasn't, either.

She doesn't miss the way Chloe hesitates over it, though, but doesn't bring it up, instead stepping outside for some needed fresh air.

As she sits on the steps of the building next door, Beca catches a middle-age couple waking down the street. They are laughing, clearly inebriated and overly happy as they hold each other close.

The man stops in the middle of the street and pulls his significant other close, kissing her sweetly.

As she observes them from the corner of her eye, Beca catches herself thinking that she wouldn't mind getting a taste of that same happiness, too.

/

Over the following days, she and Chloe visit nearby towns and villages, walk old streets and see old things, holding hands or trading kisses whenever Chloe isn't snapping pictures.

It has become Beca's new favorite thing, watching Chloe take pictures. She loves how Chloe's brows knit together as she goes over the settings of her camera, or how her eyes light up whenever she sees an interesting composition.

Beca pretends not to notice when Chloe snaps a few pictures of her as she takes in the panoramic view they are graced with after a steep hike up a mountain.

She doesn't mind, because she trusts Chloe and her intentions.

"You're not being very discreet," she tells Chloe a while later though, when Chloe does it again as they sit at the terrace of a small bistro. Beca was laughing at Chloe's goofiness when she heard the telltale sound of a picture being snapped.

Beca stares at her pointedly, mouth shaped in a playful scowl, and Chloe at least has the decency to look like a deer caught in the headlights.

"I can't help it," she offers with a light shrug, taking a sip of her glass of wine. "When I see a beautiful subject, I need to immortalize it."

Beca blinks. She doesn't recall ever being called beautiful in her life. The medias never use that word or anything close to that range to describe her physical appearance. Sexy, maybe, but not beautiful. Her father has never called her that, either. She didn't know it would feel so unsettling to hear it be said by someone else. That someone else being the person she actively has a crush on, nonetheless.

Beca rolls her eyes for show, but her heart is thumping in her ears. She extends her hand, curling her fingers towards her several times in a beckoning gesture. "At least let me see the damage,"

Chloe reluctantly passes her camera over and instead of looking at the pictures she's taken, Beca raises the camera to her face and snaps one.

"What are you doing?" Chloe says, face flushing as she turns it away from the lens, using her red hair as a curtain.

"Giving you a taste of your own medicine," Beca smirks and takes a glimpse at the picture she took. "Yep, gorgeous."

The flush reddening Chloe's face is somehow satisfying. "Stop it, Bec."

"You started it," Beca fires back, raising an eyebrow to challenge Chloe into voicing a comeback. “Besides, you shouldn't feel self-conscious about anything, or you're clearly not seeing what I'm seeing.”

Chloe visibly swoons, before she leans across the scant distance separating them to grab the lapels of Beca's jacket and kiss her repeatedly. The small and broken up kisses eventually become longer and deeper, to the point where Beca feels intoxicated and craving for more.

"And if you keep going," Beca manages to butt in between gentle strokes of Chloe's lips against her own. "You're starting something you won't be able to finish."

"Says who?" Chloe rasps, pulling away enough for Beca to catch a glimpse of her darkened eyes.

"The fact that we are in public?" she proves her point by tilting her head towards an elderly couple at the next table, who, to her surprise, are staring at them with small smiles and twinkling eyes, as if happy to witness such a disgusting amount of affection.

Beca's blush is intensifying by the second. Chloe titters and Beca kisses her again, more appropriately this time.

"Let's get out of here."

She laces her fingers through Chloe's when they step into the street in direction of Chloe's car. The wind has picked up in intensity, sending a ripple of goosebumps over Beca's skin. She lets go of Chloe's hand to wrap an arm around her waist instead and press their bodies together in search for warmth.

She can tell Chloe smiles as she tugs Beca closer with a smooth hold of her hip. When Chloe's car comes into view, she stops to whisper in Beca's ear,

"Race you?"

Beca's nose scrunches up. They're grown adults. "Uh, no. We're not five."

She sees Chloe's pout and makes a sudden dash for the car, catching Chloe's gasp and squeal before feet hammer against the ground behind her, echoing the sound of her heart in her ears.

Beca slaps her hand over the roof of the car, chest heaving up and down from the impromptu hundred-yard-sprint, as Chloe crashes into her in a screeching halt, all giggles and equally panting breath.

Beca joins in on the laughter too, the muscles in her stomach turning sore and her cheeks aching from smiling so wide.

"You cheater," Chloe exhales into Beca's neck, teeth gently nipping at the flesh. Beca squeaks and jumps away from her, only to have Chloe's strong arm tugging her back by the waist and pinning her against the driver's door.

She captures Beca's lips in a burning kiss that leaves her hanging and chasing for more as Chloe steps away teasingly, fusing their mouths together again mere seconds later.

As they kiss like two teenagers under an olive tree in the glow of the late afternoon light, Beca feels her worries and troubles vanish into thin air.

She feels the past Beca slowly slip away into oblivion, making way for another version that she has yet to get acquainted with.

Someone more carefree and lighthearted.

She hasn't felt this alive in a long time.

/

Chloe's childhood house is nice. It's not very modern, made out of old stone, but it's homey and welcoming. It's located in a very small village just outside of Toulouse, of which name Beca can't even begin to try pronouncing.

It must have like, three-hundred inhabitants because everyone seems to address each other by their first name. Everybody knows Chloe and Chloe is well inclined to make small talk with every person they cross path with, mostly old friends of her parents'.

The owner of the bakery, a woman in her sixties, even insists on sharing an embarrassing story about a seven-year-old Chloe to Beca, one morning when they walk there to buy a fresh baguette for breakfast.

Although Beca wasn't looking for gossip when they walked into the shop, she finds the story extremely entertaining, especially with how Chloe's face steadily turns crimson as Denise's tale progressed.

There's a little garden at the back of Chloe's house where they usually go in the afternoon to read or nap, seeking refuge from the heavily beating-sun under the shadow of the willow tree tucked in the far corner.

Today though, Chloe's out on a hunt for things to photograph while Beca decides to stay in, mostly because they have been attached by the hip for the last seven days and she's glad to have a little time to be alone with her thoughts.

Thoughts that are quickly pouring out and put into lyrics on a sheet of paper, the first ones Beca has written in eight long months.

It's late when Chloe comes back, all sun-kissed skin and bright smiles as she strides out of the house clad in a polka-dot summer dress, towards the table where Beca has spent most of her day.

"Whatcha doing?" Chloe asks, tone breathy as she bends down to kiss the back of Beca's neck on her way to the chair across from Beca.

The spot tingles from the cool contact on her slightly burnt skin. A glass of white wine is set on the table and Beca notices Chloe is holding her own as she smoothly sits down, peering at Beca through her shades.

"Um," Beca looks down at the dozen sheets of papers all dotted in black ink, forearm instinctively twisting to hide them from Chloe's curious (but not prying) eyes. She knows the words are the reflection of what she's feeling deep inside and isn't ready to open that door into her heart, just yet (or, you know, ever). "Just some song ideas."

Chloe hums as she takes a sip of wine, lifting her feet from the grass to prop them across Beca's lap.

“Wanna go out for dinner or stay in?”

“No, I'd rather stay in,” Beca tells her after a moment of thought, leaning back in her chair as she runs her hands over Chloe's shins. “I can cook something.”

Chloe raises an impressed eyebrow. “You can cook?”

It's been a while since she's last done it, but Beca nods confidently anyway.

That's how they find themselves in the kitchen an hour later, both jamming to No Diggity as Beca whips something up at the stove, while Chloe goofily shimmies her hips to the beat.

The fact that she's changed into one of Beca's plaid shirt (it's become a thing, apparently) and very short shorts doesn't help Beca in focusing on her task of chopping vegetables. She's slightly concerned she might lose a finger over it if she doesn't get a grip.

As the song switches to something calmer, Chloe hops onto the counter next to the stove to nurse the rest of her glass of wine as she tells Beca about her day and the pictures she took. Chloe's legs are swinging, her toes occasionally tracing the back of Beca's thigh.

“Knock it off,” Beca warns after the third time, her glare faltering in strength when she catches Chloe's cute expression. She covers the simmering Alfredo sauce with a lid and moves to stand in between Chloe's legs.

Running her hands over the smooth skin of Chloe's thighs, she hooks them just above her butt as her eyes rake over Chloe's body, paying particular attention to the cleavage peaking through the unbuttoned two top buttons of the garment.

She doesn't think she has ever seen anyone able to make a plaid shirt look so good, so she tells Chloe so.

"God, you're sexy," she husks out against the shell of Chloe's ear, teeth grazing the lobe. Chloe's legs lock around her waist as Beca moves down to kiss the wine from her lips.

Chloe's cheek bones are reddened when Beca backs away, from the wine or the compliment, Beca isn't sure. The blue of her eyes is slightly darker, her pupils blown and her breathing slightly shallow.

She looks absolutely gorgeous, and Beca feels bare from the way Chloe is gazing at her through lush eyelashes.

She feels her insides flutter and her heart do that weird somersault thingy.

"I..." Beca stops herself before the words tumble out and ruin everything.

"What?" Chloe inquires with a curious tilt of the head.

"Nothing,"

It's not nothing. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It's huge, and completely surreal and Beca doesn't want to believe it's true.

She's in love with Chloe. There's no nuance about it, it's as clear as black ink on a white sheet of paper. It's overwhelming and calming at the same time.

A shift happens in Chloe's eyes right then, but Beca can't place what it is. The expression is fleeting, quickly hidden behind a small smile before Beca can analyze it some more.

She thinks Chloe might be onto her and her heart's shenanigans, but the redhead doesn't prod any further, instead leans in to capture Beca's lips in a lingering kiss.

/

"This better be important."

Comes Stacie's sleep-laced voice at the end of the line. Beca couldn't sleep. Her thoughts have been wired ever since that fleeting moment in the kitchen last night.

Shortly after the sun rose, she got up and settled on the terrace, grateful for the dew temperatures cooling her body down.

"I fell in love with her," Beca rushes out, and God, it feels so good to say it outloud, even to the wrong person. "I fucking went and fell in love with her."

She knows it's the middle of the night in NYC, but she couldn't wait any longer, the truth wanted out. Beca can picture Stacie right now, ripping her sleep mask from her eyes and sitting up in bed in a flash, remaints of sleep vanishing over the shocking confession.

"Are you fucking joking me?"

"She's... she's out of this world. She's kind and talented and she just... she gets me." Beca groans, dropping her forehead into her palm. The cicadas morning chant echoing in the garden almost sounds mocking. "God, what do I do Stace?"

"Okay, first, take a breath, it sounds like you're about to have a coronary," Stacie advises in a deadpan tone. "You fell in love with her, so what?"

"So what?" Beca parrots incredelously. "What do you mean, 'so what?' Did you not just hear what I said?"

"I did. And I don't know why you're freaking out about it. Isn't falling in love a good thing? Is she not into you or something?"

"No, that's not it. I think she may have feelings for me, too, I just..." Beca grits her teeth, trying to put into words the tangled mess of emotions bubbling in her chest and making her squirm in frustration. "That's not me, I don't fall in love."

"Says who? You? Because you've had much experience with love?"

"Well, with Jesse I-" Beca begins to sputter out, before getting rudely interrupted by maniac laughter.

"Come on, no offense to either of you but that was never going to work out. You two were together because you were comfortable with one another, and it eventually ran its course."

Beca can't argue with the fact that Stacie makes a valid point. It indeed felt comfortable with Jesse. To have arms wrapped around her at night and be coaxed into gentle kisses. Sex was okay, but she's never felt the crave for it, not like she does when it comes to Chloe.

"I..."

"I think it's a great thing. You've been all about work for so long, Beca. Allow yourself to let loose a little bit. Stop overthinking everything all the time and believing that opening your heart is necessarily going to hurt you. Not all people are capable of heartbreak. And from what you've told me in a few words, that girl seems pretty amazing."

A smile tugs on her lips on its own accord at the mere mention of Chloe. "Yeah, she really is."

"Oh my God, this is totally Rom-Com material. So what is she like in bed?"

"Okay, I'm hanging up now." Beca threatens, even though she's secretely thankful for the lighter subject.

"No, no! I'm sorry, don't hang up. I was just wondering since you'd never been with a girl before, correct?"

Beca sighs almost in a dreamy-way. The things Chloe do to her. Her skin tingles in memories of that first night. And who is she kidding, all the nights that followed.

"Yes, correct. She was... patient and gentle and," heat blooms in her cheeks over her own words, "gave me a few pointers and wow." Her eyes screw shut in mortified realization. "Why am I even telling you this?!"

"Ugh, I'm SO jealous."

Beca smirks. It's not everyday she gets to brag about her sex life, to Stacie of all people. "You should be."

"Alright, no need to rub it in," Stacie grumbles. "Seriously though? You deserve whatever Chloe is giving you. So embrace it and stop stressing out. Everything will work out."

Beca takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. "Yeah. Thanks Stacie."

After ending the phone call, Beca slips back into bed as quietly as possible but the movement still makes Chloe rouse from her slumber. She stirs onto her side and presses her body against Beca's as she lies on her back.

"Where'd you disappear to?" she mumbles, voice laced with sleep. An arm is draped over her waist and warm lips lie a kiss upon her shoulder.

"Couldn't sleep," Beca whispers back, letting her hand run up and down Chloe's forearm. "Called my friend Stacie from New York."

Chloe's eyes open and gaze up at her, hazy and slightly unfocused. "Do you miss home?"

Beca shakes her head. "No, not really."

She is starting to think home is more about a person than a place itself.

/

Back in the capital, they fall into an easy routine. Chloe spends her days either at the gallery or on the hunt for her assignments. Beca sometimes goes with her, or stays in in Chloe's home, dotting pages and pages with lyrics and music notes.

She can't seem to stop. It has been so long since she's last felt this sparked, and distinctively knows what, or rather who, is the muse behind her newly found inspiration.

She doesn't know what will happen when she has to go back to the US or even when will that be, and doesn't want to think about it. Chloe doesn't ask questions and they manage to dance around the subject.

They seem both content as it is, their unspoken agreement to enjoy their relationship – or whatever it is she and Chloe are doing – day by day.

Chloe shows her bits and pieces of her city to Beca each day, through strolls in the evenings, solving enigmas from a pocketbook called 50 enigmas to get to know Paris, or other crazy ideas.

“You want to go to a cemetery?” Beca's skepticism colors her tone. Chloe came home from work all excited about it ten minutes ago. “At night?”

Chloe is pulling her hair up into a bun, the motion causing her shirt to ride up and expose her toned stomach. Beca briefly forgets about skulls and dead people and feels herself flush bright red when Chloe catches her.

She winks, tossing Beca's jacket at her, clearly impatient to get going.

“It's underground ossuaries, Bec.”

Beca rolls her eyes as she shrugs the leather on. “Same difference. Dead people. At night.”

“Oh my gosh, don't be such a ball-sack, Beca,” Chloe huffs, grabbing her keys off the counter as Beca shoves her feet into her sneakers. She pauses, arching an eyebrow towards Chloe.

“Ball-sack?” she echoes with a grimace. “Nobody says that, Chlo.”

“I know. Everyone says pussy, which is a bit ironic when you think about how the female sexual organ is the strongest and most amazing piece of anatomy in the world.”

Beca chokes on her saliva in bewilderment. “Oh my God.

“What?” Chloe cries with a laugh, her innocent expression a great contrast to what she's claiming. “Clearly, and against all the bullshit society is feeding us, men are the weak ones, right? One pinch and they're on the floor,” Chloe even demonstrates, bringing her pointer finger and thumb together. “I mean, come on. Women are pretty incredible.”

Beca wonders how this woman is even real; a wicked and daring persona with next to no filter wrapped in a fuzzy layer of cuteness and sunshine. Not to mention extremely smart.

Sigh. It's official; Beca needs another page for her list.

She straightens, and tugs on the lapels of her jacket to adjust it over her shoulders as she comes to a stop in front of Chloe. Hooking her thumbs through the belt-loops of Chloe's jeans, Beca tugs her flush against her and brushes Chloe's lips with her own.

“I agree. Women are amazing. You are incredible.”

“Okay!” Chloe announces after a beat, slightly red in the face. “Let's go before I rip your clothes off.”

Beca hums, wiggling her eyebrows. “Now that's something I'd be more inclined to let you do instead of dragging me to a fucking... what's the word? Ossation?”

Chloe opens the door and lets Beca through so she can lock it behind her. “Ossuaries. Comes from the word 'Os' which means bone in French.”

Beca shudders exaggeratedly. “Lovely.”

The visit of the... ossuaries, commonly called by Parisians, Les Catacombes as Beca learns from her private guide, turns out to be interesting and fun, even though it's creepy as hell and Beca isn't sure she'll be able to go to sleep tonight.

“The French resistance used this place during World War II, mainly to hide out from the Germans,” Chloe tells her as they venture further down into darkness. “They would escape detection by the spies and could plan secret attacks on Nazis. The weird thing is, the Germans also used it, but the tunnels go on for so long that neither party was aware of the other.”

Beca glances at Chloe in wonder. “How do you know all this?”

“I like history,” Chloe shrugs as they steadily continue down the tunnel. Beca is comforted to see that the site is pretty popular and that they aren't the only knuckleheads crazy enough to do this at night (not that it makes much of a difference once underground, it's just the vibe it gives off).

Beca still jumps a foot from the ground when Chloe trails her hand up her arm without warning. She's wearing that mischievous expression that clearly indicates she wanted to spook Beca. Beca shoves her, snapping her head to the side to glare at the teenager who dares snickering at her.

“Little brat,” she mutters under her breath, narrowing her eyes at his departing back.

“Beca!” Chloe chastises.

“What? It's not like he understands what I'm saying.”

After their cheerful activity of the night, they grab sushi on the way home and get comfy in Chloe's living-room to eat it while watching a French movie called Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain.

Yes, Beca agreed to watch a movie, because she's fucking weak and Chloe's puppy dog-eyed expression is a dangerous and efficient tool. Plus, Chloe insisted that Beca has to see this particular movie at least once in their lives, and so far Chloe's tastes have proven to be pretty cool, so Beca indulged.

The movie is nice and has a different dynamic compared to the ones Jesse has force-fed over their one year as a couple and eight years as friends. Beca doesn't love it, but she kinda likes having Chloe cuddled into her side.

“I love the music,” Chloe whispers absent-mindedly over one scene, as if afraid to speak over it. A blanket is draped over their laps even though it's twenty-five degrees Celsius outside.

Chloe insisted it was, along with pop-corn and cuddling, the mandatory item while watching a movie.

“Yeah,” Beca breathes out as her eyes finally glance away from Chloe to focus back on the screen. She doesn't know when or how this Amélie chick got the guy, too enthralled by Chloe mouthing along with the words to notice.

She brushes her lips over Chloe's temple, then adds quietly, “I love it, too.”

/

“Bec?” Chloe's voice barely reaches Beca's ear over the sound of the computer set between them on the mattress.

Somehow, somewhere between trading kisses and light confessions, May morphed into June.

Beca doesn't plan on going back to the US right away, but the fact that she's writing songs seemed to reassure her team, who stopped blowing up her phone to know what was up with her.

The temperatures are steadily becoming hotter, and Beca wishes they could go back to the south of France to benefit from the ocean.

The large window in Chloe's room is wide open, cool air and chatter from the street below filtering inside as they lie in bed.

She and Chloe spent their Sunday away from the beating sun, preferring to lounge in Chloe's apartment watching TV shows, eating snacks or breaking into impromptu dancing sessions.

Oh yeah, they had sex, too. Several rounds, because sex with Chloe is amazing and Beca feels like she needs to catch up after a decade spent wondering what all the hype was about.

“Hmm?” Beca hums absentmindedly, fingertips running up and down Chloe's arm in further acknowledgment. Chloe lifts her head from Beca's shoulder and leans forward to pause the episode of Supergirl they have been watching.

She sits up, pivoting to face Beca and sitting back on her heels. “I wanna ask you something, but you don't have to say yes just because you feel like you have to. It's totes fine if you don't-”

“Chlo,” Beca interrupts with a patient expression as she straightens against the headboard, interest peaked. Chloe isn't one to ramble, that's more Beca. “Just ask,”

Chloe takes a deep breath that makes Beca slightly nervous. “I was wondering if– if I could shoot you. As in, a photo shoot. Here, at my place. I've wanted to ask for a while I just... I thought you might get mad at me for even asking given your wariness about photographers.”

“Chloe,” Beca repeats and Chloe stops herself by sinking her teeth down on her bottom lip. It's an intriguing sight, witnessing Chloe be so shy and unsure about something. “I wouldn't get mad at you over something like this.”

The visible slump in Chloe's shoulders tells Beca how nervous she was about her reaction.

“And regarding your request, what – what, um, would it be for?”

Chloe reaches across her lap to squeeze Beca's hand. “Just for us.”

Beca sucks in a quick breath as Chloe moves to lie back down by her side, body angled towards Beca's. She presses a quick kiss to Beca's shoulder and cradles her chin in her propped-up hand, fond eyes meeting Beca's confused ones.

“Why?”

Chloe shrugs, as though the answer is written in bold letters. “Because you fascinate me.”

There's this sort of awestruck rasp in Chloe's tone that makes Beca's head dangerously spin.

“I do?”

“Yeah,” Chloe confirms coyly, dragging her fingers up Beca's arm. “You intrigue me like no one else has, before. You come across as someone distant and you have this shield around you that makes it difficult to perceive what you really think or feel,”

Chloe's touch is distracting as she trails her pointer finger along the curve of Beca's neck. Beca's brain jumps between getting lost in the sensation and focusing on Chloe's words.

“I usually try to stir away from people who give off a kind of cold, guarded vibe, but I couldn't stay away from you Beca, and I'm still trying to figure out why.”

Chloe pauses, her blues intense as they slide up to lock onto Beca's.

“Why my mind and body react so strongly to you.”

Beca draws in a shaky breath, chest heaving up and down under the effects of Chloe's scrutinizing gaze.

“It's mostly all in your eyes,” Chloe resumes, hand hiking up to trace one of Beca's eyebrows with the tip of her finger. It then runs down the edge of Beca's jaw, over the bump of collarbone, goosebumps raising in its trail. “Their intensity is... breathtaking. Sometimes I feel like you can see right through me when you look at me.”

Chloe's hand comes to a rest just below her left breast and Beca is afraid Chloe might feel just how hard her heart is thumping against her ribs.

“Like you can tell exactly what I'm thinking. Which I'm not used to, because I'm usually the one who gets to do that. But I was thrown off from the start, because I couldn't read you.”

Beca wants to interrupt and tell Chloe she can; that she reads her like no one else she knows has ever been able to. That she easily wormed her way in, past Beca's walls, and went right to her heart.

But Chloe continues, oblivious to the fact that said heart is about to beat out of Beca's chest and into her palm.

“I feel like I don't know much about you, yet I kind of love that you are a mystery. You don't share a lot about yourself, but you've got me hooked every time you say something,”

Thankfully, or so Beca thinks, Chloe's hand is restless. It slides back up, away from Beca's chest to cup her jaw tenderly. Her thumb grazes over Beca's bottom lip.

“You make me feel things that I haven't felt with anyone before, without giving me everything I need to feel that way,” Chloe shrugs when she falls silent, lips bending in a crooked smile, “Like a beautiful riddle.”

A barely there whimper flits through Beca's lips, cutting through the thick, almost suffocating atmosphere.

“Okay,” she agrees with a faint nod, surprising not only Chloe but herself.

Beca should be ticked off by how comfortable Chloe makes her feel and how deeply she trusts her after such a short time, but she can't find it in herself to come up with even an ounce of bitterness over that truth.

“Okay?”

“Yeah. When do you want to do it?”

Chloe looks as though she's still thrown off by Beca's answer. She sits up on her heels abruptly, drawing an amused chuckle from Beca. “How about now?”

Beca smiles at the obvious eagerness flashing in Chloe's eyes.

“Sure.” Glancing down, she realizes she's only wearing a simple black tee and her underwear. “What should I wear?”

Chloe is already up and moving, and Beca feels lightly dizzy just watching her. She thinks Chloe might be a little bit nervous, and it's somehow comforting, because she's suddenly anxious, too; but from excitement, mostly.

Chloe pauses to shoot her a broad smile. “Anything you're comfortable with.”

Beca smirks, “You need to give me back my shirt, then.”

Chloe looks down at her attire (Beca's signature plaid shirt coupled with simple black lacy underwear, her favorite outfit ever since Beca barged into her life, it seems) and has the humility to blush.

“And what should I wear?”

Feeling bold, Beca stands up to join her at the foot of the bed. Her hands hike up Chloe's sides to meet above the valley of Chloe's breasts. Her fingers pop the first button of her shirt.

“You never seem too shy to venture around naked, why start now?”

She pushes her own shirt off Chloe's shoulders, catching it before it drops to the ground, and it takes everything in her not to give in and let her eyes drop to Chloe's chest.

She kisses Chloe hard then, pulling away just before Chloe can even think about deepening it. Beca steps away, delighting in the way Chloe looks so worked-up. She pulls her tee over her head, leaving her standing in her underwear.

She's never felt at ease exposing her body to anyone before. It always felt so forced and unnatural with her previous partners that Beca avoided being in minimal clothing at all costs.

But now, standing next to completely naked in front of Chloe, she takes her time, relishing in the way Chloe's darkened eyes roam shamelessly over her body.

Beca knows Chloe wants to step closer and touch her, judging from the way she bites on her bottom lip and shuffles on the balls of her feet, her entire body buzzing with desire.

She doesn't though, but the way her eyes burn through Beca is just as efficient as Chloe's hands if they were on her skin.

It makes Beca feel as though she's the only woman to walk on this earth.

She's never sought it, never felt the need for it, yet it is incredibly empowering and brings forth another surge of confidence.

Shaking herself out of her daze, Beca slips into her shirt, laughing when Chloe blinks several times in succession.

“Get dressed, your weirdo,” she says, tossing her abandoned tee at her.

Beca is no stranger to photo-shoots, obviously. They take a while to be set-up, and she always ends up scrolling through social media as she waits for everything to be ready, like the diva she has become.

Watching Chloe set up her equipment is endearing though. The redhead (who decided to change into yoga pants and Beca's tee, her hair up in a messy ponytail) is extremely focused on her task as she positions the lights and reflectors around the room. She does catch Beca's gaze every so often and sends her a cute smile or a wink.

They start with a few test shots, and Beca feels herself relaxing a little bit more with each one.

Perhaps it's because of the music drifting throughout the space from Chloe's speaker, or the fact that Chloe talks about nothing and everything as she clicks away.

“Red pandas? That's cute.” Chloe states as she moves around Beca while the brunette sits against the wall, on knee tucked into her chest, her chin propped on top.

“Would you mind wearing your hair down for a couple shots?” Chloe requests as she lowers her camera to let it hang around her neck. “It has a natural wave to it and I think it's sexy when it's down.”

Beca shakes her head as she tries to control her rapidly increasing heartbeat, reaching behind her to let her hair loose from its elastic band. “What's yours?”

Chloe smiles and crouches to comb her fingers through Beca's dark auburn curls. “Otters. Can we do a couple shots standing up?”

Beca nods and rises to her feet, back resting against the deep gray colored wall behind her. “Otters, though? Why?”

Chloe gasps at Beca's skepticism.

“They are so cute! They hold hands while they sleep not to drift away from each other. I mean.. if that's not the most adorable thing, I don't know what is.” Beca laughs, shaking her head slightly as Chloe takes another few shots. “Besides, they make the funniest nose.”

Lowering her camera again, Chloe obviously has to prove her point by imitating the noise an otter makes, hands coming up by the sides of her face to impersonate their paws.

“Oh my God,” Beca blurts out, her growing grin taking up half her face. The muscles in her cheeks are starting to feel strained from all the beaming. “Are you for real?”

Chloe sends her a cute smile and steps in front of Beca to adjust her shirt the way she likes. She pops another button open. “This okay?”

Beca has never met such a considerate photographer. She nods. “You certainly like manhandling me, Beale.”

“Busted.” Chloe deadpans, then falls silent for a few shots. “Would you mind sitting on the window ledge?”

“Sure.”

“What job would you be doing if you weren't a bad-ass musician?” she continues as she clicks away, moving around Beca to switch angles.

“I don't know,” Beca admits in all honesty, pursing her lips as she thinks. “Music has always been the something I was attracted to. I don't... I don't think my life would have the same meaning if I couldn't make music for a living,” she catches up with her words, rolling her eyes at herself. “That was cheesy.”

“Not at all,” Chloe replies quietly, drawing Beca's attention back to her. “I feel the same about photography, really.”

Beca runs a hand through her hair to fluff it. “So you wouldn't see yourself doing anything else?”

“Not really. I guess if I had to, I would be a vet. I've always loved animals and been a strong advocate for their well-being, so that would only make sense.”

She pauses and looks at her view finder, lips pinched together as she hums.

“What is it?” Beca asks, shifting in her spot. Maybe she's sucking at this and Chloe isn't satisfied with how the photo-shoot is going.

“Nothing,” Chloe offers in response and Beca believes her. She watches Chloe step closer, instinctively tilting her head up when Chloe lowers hers for a kiss. “I love this shirt on you, babe.”

Beca still needs to learn to accept compliments and terms of endearment being directed at her. For now, her face is burning from the attention.

“Well, maybe I could wear it more often if you weren't stealing it all the goddamn time.”

The wink Chloe sends her makes Beca's insides feel funny. Those fucking butterflies again. “You love it.”

The shoot continues smoothly, broken apart here and there by stolen kisses, song jamming sessions and goofy hairstyle changes attempts. It feels so natural that Beca nearly forgets Chloe is taking pictures. She's switched outfits a couple times, now wearing a dark gray tee and black ripped jeans as she lies on her side across the width of Chloe's bed.

“Ce n'est pas moi,” It takes a second for Beca to realize Chloe is speaking French and another to acknowledge she's reading out the quote inked on the inside of her arm, which is extended in front of her. It's the first time Beca hears it in perfect French and it sends tingles underneath her skin, as though shaking the tattoo awake. She catches Chloe's eye when she lowers the camera. “It's not me.”

Beca breaks eye contact, lifting her arm above her head to look at the quote and trace it with her fingers like she's done many times over the years.

"Yeah, I...” she shrugs as the bed dips.

Chloe settles next to her, photo-shoot seemingly on hold for now. The unwavering intentness of Chloe's gaze makes her slightly self-conscious, especially about what she's about to share. She takes a deep breath.

“My dad, he... he was the best dad a daughter could ask for during the first ten years of my life. He was my hero. I wanted to be like him when I grew up but then...” she hears her voice break and clears her throat to try and erase her slip-up. “He left. Out of the blue. He left my mom and I and never looked back.”

Chloe's eyebrow furrows as she slips her hand into Beca's. “I'm sorry,”

“He breached my trust. Towards him, towards anyone else who would waltz into my life after that. I started to despise how fragile his actions made me. I wanted to hide that vulnerability aside and eventually built these walls around me to protect myself.”

“But it wasn't really you,” Chloe cuts in before Beca can say in. She nods, looking down at their entwined hands.

“Exactly. It was just a facade at first, but the longer it went on, the more I believed I had become this angry, bitter person. I had this tattoo done to remind myself that past the mask, I was still a good person.”

“I can attest to that,” Chloe tells her with a soft smile. “That you are a good person. Selfless, caring and kind.”

Beca feels her cheeks warm up and leans in to press her lips to Chloe in silent appreciation.

“Can I ask why you got it in French? I noticed it during our first night together but didn't want to pry.”

“Thank you for that,” Beca says, then smiles fondly. “My grandmother was French. She um, she was from Be-Besan-something.”

“Besançon,” Chloe provides with a nod.

“Yeah. But she fled to the US with her parents during the war. I think she was only four at the time. She didn't speak much French, at least she didn't speak it with me, but I knew how important her roots were to her, even though she spent the most of her life in the States and married an American man."

Beca clears her throat when she feels it clog up with emotion.

“We were very close. She was a very wise woman. She used to tell me that I should always strive to become the best version of myself. To be kind and tolerant to others. So when I started closing in on myself, I didn't want her to be disappointed in me, even though she had passed a few years before that,"

Beca pauses to trace the quote once more, the memories of her grandmother tugging at her heartstrings.

"I got the tattoo in French as a nod to her, as if to tell her that it was okay, that I didn't forget about what she said. It became a sort of secret bond between she and I. I wanted her to know that I was still a good person, under all those layers of bitterness. And that I would always try to do my best to be a better one.”

She sighs, trying to come up with the right words.

"And maybe, I still relate to this tattoo even now. I'm still guarded around most people I meet. It still takes a lot of time and effort for me to trust people, until I let them see the real me. I want to, but there's always this part of me backtracking, for fear of getting hurt. I'm not- I'm not a bad person, I just... I don't let people in.”

"Being wary about trusting people does not make you a bad person," Chloe's words are marked by a squeeze to Beca's hand. "Trust is something that someone has to work for in order to get it. And once they have it, they should keep it safe."

Beca nods, eyes sliding up to meet Chloe's. She gets slightly short of breath by the obvious love staring back at her. It's raw and untouched, its intensity causing the tangled mess of emotions inside Beca's chest unravel.

She realizes just then that the many things she's feeling for Chloe are maybe not so crazy. That maybe, Chloe feels exactly the same way.

“Yet here I am, sharing all those things with you, things that I haven't shared with anyone before. You – you burst into my life when I least expected it and managed to worm your way past the walls I spent years polishing off and... I don't, I don't even feel upset about it. I feel... comforted in fact, by how well you get me. By how well we work together even though we have known each other for, what, five weeks?”

Smiling gently, Chloe nods her head.

“Chloe?” Beca asks tentatively after a stretch of silence, but it really is useless, because Chloe is staring at her with the utmost attention. “I...”

The words die on her tongue, reigned back in by the anxiety bubbling in her chest. Beca screws her eyes shut, wincing at how ridiculous she is being. It shouldn't be so hard to share her feelings, yet she doesn't think she has been so scared to confess anything the way she is now.

That's how important Chloe has become to her.

“Hey,” Chloe's soft tone anchors her down when she feels herself slipping away. She lets go of Beca's hand to cup her cheek tenderly. “It's just me.”

“I think- No. I know,” Beca gulps. “That I fell in love with you along the way.”

She registers Chloe's sharp inhale and closes her eyes to avoid having to look at Chloe's expression. She can't take rejection. The mere thought of Chloe not feeling the same way has her stomach clench painfully.

The panic unleashing inside of Beca makes words tumble out of her mouth before she can get a proper grip on them.

“I fucking fell in love with you and it's crazy because I don't know how to love someone the right way and the things I feel for you scare the fuck out of me and -”

"Bec, Beca-" Chloe interrupts, shooting a hand to Beca's mouth to cover it with her fingers. "Stop. Baby," She laughs lightly, her fingers slipping away. "Take a breath and start over, it's not like I'm going anywhere."

Beca's chest deflates as she exhales, closing her eyes for a beat to try and organize her jammed-up thoughts. She eventually stirs back on her side, one hand under her cheek while the other balls into a fist, resting between their bodies.

"Sorry. I'm not used to sharing my feelings."

"You don't say," Chloe teases lightly, leaning in to kiss the corner of Beca's mouth. "For the record, I'm kinda scared, too."

Beca's eyebrows raise in surprise. "You are?"

"Yes," Chloe confirms with a shy nod. "This is kinda surreal, how in love with you I am after such a short time."

"Wait-" Beca feels her own eyes widen. "You are?"

Chloe shakes her head lightly, a fond expression lighting up her eyes. "You're kinda dense sometimes, aren't you?"

Beca laughs before she can stop herself. "Shut up,"

She rolls onto her back, away from Chloe, but Chloe only follows her, promptly laying on top of her.

She kisses Beca to placate her.

"I know that our situation is unexpected and challenging, and I can't tell you where this is going because like you said, there's literally an ocean between us," Chloe sighs, her hand moving up to hold Beca's jaw. Beca lets her eyes slide shut, sinking into her touch. "So how about this, I enjoy spending time with you and I know you enjoy spending time with me, too and right now we can just focus on that. Are you comfortable with that? Enjoying our time together without necessarily figuring out what comes next?"

“Yeah,” Beca breathes out, squeezing the dip of Chloe's waist gently. “As long as it means I get to spend time with you.”

Chloe giggles, nudging her nose against Beca's. “Okay, cheese-ball.”

Beca ignores the teasing and swoops in to press her lips across Chloe's in the softest of kisses.

One that steals her breath and gives it back all at once.

One that speaks a thousand words. Or rather, three, little in their size but great in their meaning. Words that Beca never thought she could bring herself to say out loud.

Beca pulls away, resting her forehead against Chloe. "I love you,"

“I love you, too, Bec.”

Three little words she never thought she needed to hear so badly.

They shatter the vice wrapped around her heart and allow it to soar with the amount of love she holds for Chloe.

It settles in her chest, beating calmly against her ribs.

She feels bare, yet safe. It's a strange, unsettling feeling, but she wouldn't trade it for anything.

/

“Where are we?”

Beca asks absently as she and Chloe stroll in a narrow cobblestone street tucked away from the Parisian bustle and hustle. It's so quiet that Beca can actually hear the birds chirping as they hop along the ivy woven through an arch they've just walked under.

“I don't know,” Chloe replies with a cheeky grin, skipping ahead and spinning around to walk backwards. She slips her hand into Beca's to tug her along.

“What do you mean, you don't know?” Beca questions with a frown. She slips her Ray-Ban back over her nose as they leave the shadows provided by a tall building. “I thought you knew the city like the back of your hand?”

Chloe walks towards the side, stopping when her back finds the wall of a house. “Paris is big city. I still have plenty of places to discover.”

Beca steps closer, the scuff of her shoes bumping against Chloe's, and sets her hand by Chloe's head on the wall, while the other curls around the curve of her waist.

“So what you're saying is,” she drawls out, gaze jumping back and forth between Chloe's eyes and mouth. She leans in to breathe the words against Chloe's lips. “we're lost?”

She registers Chloe's shaky inhale, unable to resist a smirk at the sound. “Not necessarily. But that's the beauty of it. You can have no idea where you are, but still be exactly where you need to be.”

“Mmm,” she purses her lips, then dips in to kiss Chloe chastely. “I think you just don't want to admit you are a cheap guide and you're just bullshitting me with a corny saying.”

Chloe's jaw drops as she gasps, delivering a playful slap to Beca's shoulder. “How dare you, Beca Mitchell!”

“I'm kidding,” Beca laughs, squeezing Chloe's hip. She nudges her nose against Chloe's and kisses her again. “I don't mind getting lost as long as it's with you.”

Chloe wraps an arm around her shoulder and pulls her closer, as much as possible without crushing the compact camera hanging from her neck between them.

“Now, who's the corny one?”

Beca shrugs. She's past pretending how big of a cheesy dork she is, by now.

“Guilty as charged.”

/

Sex with Chloe is something she never stops craving.

Sometimes it's gentle, other times more daring, but it never fails to teach Beca things about her own body that she wasn't aware of before.

The way it lights on fire by a simple stroke over her lower abdomen or how her blood turns to scorching hot when Chloe's lips brush against that spot on her neck.

Or the way her desire barrels through any ounce of self-consciousness in her body whenever Chloe touches her.

"Chlo," Beca croaks out, pulling away from the kiss as much as she can given the fact her head is already buried in the pillow behind her. Her back arches, encouraging Chloe's hand to move lower as it rests by the waistband of her panties. She can't believe what she's about to say but, "Speak French to me."

The way Chloe's eyes darken with lust over the request makes Beca swallow painfully. Chloe's tongue darts out to lick her lips, and then she leans to husk out in Beca's ear, "Je vais te lêcher jusqu'à ce que tu jouisses au moins une centaine de fois."

Beca whimpers, Chloe's raspy tone and words magnifying the ache between her legs to something nearly unbearable. She's certain her underwear is ruined, by now. Her hips lift off the bed on their own command, wordlessly begging Chloe's still hand to move down.

"What did you say?" Beca pants out, teeth sinking down on her lip as Chloe's fingers dip past the lace material and find wet heat.

"Probably the dirtiest thing I've ever said in my life," she admits with a sheepish grin. Then, she leans forward and murmurs the answer to Beca's question just as her thumb expertly circles Beca's clit. "I'm going to lick you until you come at least a hundred times."

Beca's eyes roll back. “Oh, dear God,”

She is sure the sound that rips from her insides doesn't even belong to her; it's almost animalistic. She wants Chloe to do whatever she's just done with her fingers again. And again, and again, until her quivering body finds release.

She barely has time to catch her breath as Chloe is already kissing her way down her body with determination. True to her promise, she does heavenly things with her tongue, not giving Beca a moment of reprieve until she's come undone more times than she can count; until she is left a shaking mess.

“Fuck,” she croaks out, muscles still spamming in waves in the aftermath of the she-doesnt-how-many-this-one-makes orgasm. Chloe's tongue is still running over her, gently this time, coaxing her down from her high. “No more. I... can't.”

She hears Chloe chuckle somewhere in the thick fog surrounding her ears and wants to make a snide comment but her brain is currently on strike. Chloe kisses up her stomach, chest and finally rolls onto her side by Beca.

“You okay?” she asks, a blend of concern and amusement in her eyes. Her fingers are tracing patterns along Beca's lower stomach and Beca can feel the touch echo in her toes. “Because I believe we still have ninety-four to go.”

“Ninety-four-” Beca whimpers, twisting her head to meet Chloe's eyes. Has she really come six times in a row? Or was it just one big orgasm that dragged on for twenty minutes? “You kept count?”

“Yeah, you didn't look like you were capable of, so,”

Beca shoves her shoulder and rolls her eyes. “Stop being so smug,”

“I can't help it. I love getting to watch you get your release,” Chloe whispers, pressing an open-mouth kiss to Beca's neck, then another to her collarbone. Beca's breathing catches in her throat as Chloe's hand moves lower over her stomach. “You look so beautiful when you do, the way your lips part and your back arches and how your hips press against my mouth. I don't get tired of watching. And the sounds you make... the way my name is ripped from your insides..." Chloe shivers. "Goodness.”

“Fuck,” Beca moans as her heart-rate steadily picks up. She knows she's blushing by now and it takes everything in her power to seize Chloe's hand before it can inch lower. “Give me a breather, Chlo.”

“Sorry,” Chloe murmurs, sheepishly biting on the corner of her mouth as she retracts her hand. She kisses Beca softly, resting her forehead against Beca's when they part. “Hey Bec?”

“Mmm?”

She is getting slightly cross-eyed from counting all the shades of blues staring back at her.

“Je t'aime,” Chloe whispers, kissing Beca on the forehead, “Un peu,” on the nose, “passionnément,” on the chin, and on the lips. “à la folie.”

/

When mid-July rolls around, Beca knows well-enough that she can't keep avoiding her responsibilities. She needs to get back to the real world, no matter how painful it might be.

While Chloe is at her gallery on a Monday afternoon, Beca sits down for an hour-long video-call with her producers and her agent and they agree on the plan regarding her second album, a plan that would delay as much as possible her return to the States.

They need to have the vocals in by mid-August, so they can hope for a release just before December and aim for a Grammy nomination in March next year.

Two weeks.

That's all she has left before she crashes back to reality. Before she has to leave Chloe, who has become the reason she falls asleep at night and gets up in the mornings.

Beca is still trying to wrap her head around the fact that she won't get to see Chloe everyday when that very person walks through the door that evening.

“Hey,” she greets quietly as she sets her keys down on the counter by the entrance. Beca wants to send her a smile, but it comes out strained and tense, barely noticeable over the pain in her chest that she knows is reflecting in her eyes.

Chloe tilts her head to the side and smiles sadly, too. She walks to the couch, from where Beca has barely moved since the call ended. Her phone is still clutched in her hand, as she sits hunched over, elbows braced on her knees.

Chloe takes a seat next to her, tucking one leg underneath her body while the other dangles off the couch. She lies a soft kiss on the back of Beca's neck, resting a hand over her opposite shoulder.

“What did they say?”

“Um, I have to go back to New York in two weeks,” Beca replies shakily.

Chloe hums and sets her chin on Beca's shoulder. “We'll figure something out, baby.”

Beca turns her head, resting the side of it against Chloe's as her eyes slip close. Chloe smells good and feels warm against her, and Beca instantly feels a tiny bit calmer.

“Promise?”

“Yeah. I promise.”

And Beca believes her with all she has.

/

Beca zips up her suitcase with a heavy sigh. She pushes against the onslaught of tears and rises from her crouched position, looking around the room to make sure she hasn't forgotten anything.

It's her last night in Paris, and her last night with Chloe, at least for a while.

She can hear Chloe hum a tune in the kitchen and clenches her teeth to keep herself from breaking down.

“Get it fucking together, Mitchell.”

Blowing out a shuddering breath, Beca leaves Chloe's bedroom in direction of the kitchen. She stands by the doorway for a few seconds, watching Chloe sway to the music coming from the speakers as she stirs whatever is cooking on the stove.

She steps closer, letting her fingertips trail over the counter as she comes to stand behind Chloe. Beca wraps her arms around Chloe's waist and presses her lips to her covered shoulder, breathing in her scent.

“You smell good,” she whispers, resting her forehead against Chloe's shoulder-blade. Chloe leans into her embrace and lies a hand over hers. “Dinner doesn't smell too bad, either.”

“Oh, I'm glad,” Giggling, Chloe turns into her arms and drapes hers over Beca's shoulders. “How's packing going?”

“Um, all done.”

“I'm not sure,” Chloe says, twisting in Beca's arms and reaching behind her to grab an envelope from the top of the micro-wave. “I think you forgot this.”

Beca frowns and lets go of Chloe waist to take it. “What's this?”

Chloe shrugs. “Nothing much, just a little something as a souvenir.”

Beca opens the envelope, taking out a bunch of Polaroid pictures. Flipping through them, Beca notes there are some she remembers taking with Chloe, and others that Chloe took without her noticing, like the one where she's asleep cuddled into Chloe's side while Chloe is wide awake and smiling at the camera.

Most have a caption, written in Chloe's neat cursive at the bottom.

The last one of the pile is a snapshot of she and Chloe kissing. She recognizes the background as the garden at Chloe's childhood home with its willow tree and blue picket fence.

It's not really a kiss. Beca is grinning against Chloe's mouth, and she can tell from Chloe's dimples that she's about to crack a smile, too.

The photograph strums deep within Beca. It tells a story, of how she found the one thing she has been seeking all this time. How that something turned out to be someone.

And how letting that someone go is bound to be the most difficult thing she has ever done in her life.

A droplet falls onto the picture, and it's only then that Beca acknowledges the tears pooling in her eyes and blurring her vision.

“Baby,” Chloe's whisper makes her look up to find Chloe staring at her with a frown. She cups Beca's cheek, stroking her thumb over wet skin.

“I'm sorry,” Beca mutters, stepping away. She wipes her tears with her palm, then with the back of her hand. “This is our last night together and I'm a blubbering mess.”

“It's okay,” Chloe's hand wraps around her wrist to tug Beca back towards her gently. “I cried twice in the bathroom today, y'know.”

Choking on a watery laugh, Beca grips the lapels of Chloe's shirt to pull her closer. She rests her forehead against Chloe's chest as Chloe wraps her arms around her waist and sways gently from left to right.

“We'll figure something out,” she mumbles into Beca's hair, pressing her lips to her temple.

“You keep saying that,” Beca mutters with a sigh as she backs away to seek Chloe's gaze. “But even if we figure something out, I'll still live in New York and you here in Paris. That's still a five-hour plane ride away, at least, and several time zones. It's not-” a frustrated sigh flits through her lips. “Long distance relationships aren't easy, Chloe.”

Chloe frowns, letting her hands drop to her side as Beca starts to pace. “It can be if we have faith in each other.”

Beca scoffs, and stops, crossing her arms over her chest. “That's bullshit. I'll get to see you once every three months at the most. I'm going to get incredibly busy with my album and you with your galleries and-”

“What are you saying, Beca?” Chloe's voice breaks over the words, propelling a spike directly to Beca's heart. For the first time, she sees bits of vulnerability in Chloe's eyes and it makes her falter. “Are you saying that's it's not even worth a shot?”

“No,” she murmurs weakly, shaking her head as she takes quick strides to meet Chloe. She takes both of Chloe's hands in hers and swallows painfully at the sight of Chloe's tear-filled-eyes. “No, I'm sorry, that's not what I meant. I do, I do want to give this a try, I just... I don't think we realize how challenging it's going to be,”

“We'll make it simple,” Chloe insists, squeezing Beca's usually steady hands. She sets her forehead against Beca's and draws in a quivering breath. A few tears run down her cheeks, curling around her chin and dropping onto their laced hands, tucked between their bodies. “I promise, we'll find a way. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Okay.

/

Beca has never hated her alarm-clock as much as she does the following morning.

The sunlight is already filtering through the small gap left in the window curtains. She blinks against the harsh invasion and blindly slaps at her phone to silence it.

Burrowing herself deeper under the covers, Beca shuffles closer to the warm body sleeping next to her. She hears Chloe's breathing get more uneven; a telltale sound that she's slowly waking up.

“Can we just ignore our responsibilities and stay here?” Beca mumbles groggily, hooking a leg between Chloe's and squeezing an arm around her waist as Chloe lies on her back. Nudging her lightly, Chloe frees her arm to wrap it around Beca's frame.

“No, because you, my bad-ass little musician, have a kick-ass album to record and I can't wait to hear it.”

“You're right, I just feel... I don't know."

There is probably no word in any language able to define what she's feeling; apprehension, dread, sadness, hope, love... all of those are blended in a inextricable web nesting deep in her chest, wrapping around her lungs and making any trade of air difficult.

“I know,” Chloe's lips brush against her forehead. “I feel the same way.”

Lifting her head from Chloe's chest, Beca cups her jaw and tugs her down for a morning kiss that lasts longer than it should given that she needs to get up in five minutes if she wants to make it to the airport in time.

“I have to get up, baby,” she whispers against Chloe's lips, backing away before Chloe can even think about deepening it. “As much as I'd like to stay here and do a little bit more of that, there's a cab coming to pick me up in two hours.”

“A cab?” Chloe questions in surprise. “I thought I was driving you to the airport?”

“I know but... we both know that will make it only harder. Besides, paps are likely to be there, and you want to be able to kiss me before I leave, don't you?”

A sudden switch in position makes her squeak as Chloe rolls them over to lie on top of her. Having Chloe's very naked body press against her own doesn't help Beca's battle with her inner-self to get up.

“That, and a lot of other things I want to do with you, Beca Mitchell.”

The fact that Chloe doesn't add before you leave to that sentence doesn't fly above Beca's head. She pushes a strand of hair away from Chloe's face, marveling at how beautiful she is, hazy-eyed and voice leaden with leftover sleep.

“I love you,” Beca murmurs, letting her fingers trail down Chloe's jaw. Chloe dips down for a gentle kiss, lips brushing over Beca's and skipping down her chin, the column of her throat, the- “Chloe,”

“Sorry,” Chloe offers sheepishly, reappearing in Beca's line of sight. “Can't help it. You're just too irresistible.”

“Oh my God, I need to get away from you,” Beca mutters, the tip of her ears surely having turned red from the intensity of Chloe's gaze. “If we get up now I'll make us breakfast.”

“Sweet,” Chloe kisses her again, and again, before she scrambles off the bed and makes a dash for the bathroom. Beca laughs, eyes trailing after the redhead. She hears the sound of water running, and then Chloe's head pops in the doorway. “You coming, or...?”

Yep, that woman will be the death of her.

/

“Call me when you land, okay?”

Beca nods.  Her carry-on is at her feet, and her suitcase and guitar case are already in the trunk of the cab waiting for her by the curb. Her passport feels heavy, burning a hole in her jacket pocket as she stands in front of Chloe in the lobby of her building.

“It'll be late here by the time I get to,”

“I don't care,” Chloe says quietly. She grips the lapels of Beca's leather jacket to pull her closer and leans down to slur in her ear, “I left a little something to remember me by in your suitcase.”

Beca groans, knowing from Chloe's tone that that little something is far from innocent.

“And now I wish I had left you something sexier than my plaid shirt,”

Chloe nibbles on her bottom lip, “It's plenty sexy.”

“On you?” Beca archs an eyebrow as her arms snake around Chloe's waist to pull her flush against her. “Heck yeah.”

“Okay, sweet-talker,” Chloe inhales, twisting her head to glance at the cab, then back at Beca. Beca feels the playful atmosphere shift into a much more serious one. “I'm really glad you bumped into me that day,”

Tears prick behind Beca's eyeballs, but she grinds her teeth together and curls her toes to keep them at bay. At least for now.

“Yeah, for once my clumsiness got me somewhere,” she attempts to joke, but the bitterness coloring her tone fails to make it funny. She casts her eyes down to her watch and closes them briefly. “I have to go,”

“I know, just...” Chloe's voice catches on a sob and it takes every ounce of strength left in Beca not to give in to the onslaught of emotions ripping at her chest. “Just another minute?”

Beca nods, kissing Chloe softly before lowering her head to the crook of her neck. She lies another kiss there, against Chloe's pulse point. “I love you,”

“I love you, too.”

They remain laced for a measureless moment, breathing each other in. Beca eventually finds the strength to step away, not before squeezing Chloe's waist.

Tears topple down Chloe's cheeks, but she doesn't make any move to push them away, so Beca doesn't either. “I'll see you soon, right?”

“I'll hold you to that,” Chloe gives her a firm nod and manages a small smile that lights up her tear-streaked features. “You won't be rid of me that quickly.”

Beca leans up to press her lips to Chloe's one last time, their taste salty with mingled tears.

“Okay, go,” Chloe says, pushing lightly at her chest in encouragement.

Beca nods, more to herself than to Chloe. She picks up her carry-on and shoulders it, turning around with every intent of walking to the cab.

Faltering when a sob reaches her ears, Beca spins around and takes a couple of strides towards Chloe to pull her down in a searing kiss, one full of promises for the time apart to come.

Chloe whimpers, fingers tangling in Beca's dark tresses when her hands fly up to cup her neck.

“Okay, okay,” Beca breathes heavily as they part. She rubs her lips together, in an attempt to remember what Chloe's taste like.

Chloe kisses her again, softly and shortly, nudging her nose against Beca's sweetly before being the responsible one and taking a step back. Her hands run down Beca's arms until she's suddenly out of reach, arms falling limp by her sides.

Curling her own hands into fists to keep herself from bolting forward again, Beca locks eyes with Chloe one last time. She pivots on her heels and marches away, her heart breaking further and further with each step, until it finally snaps as she slides into the car and thickly orders the driver to drive away.

Away from Chloe.

Away from the best thing that ever happened to her.

Beca simply hopes it's a new chapter beginning now, not the end of their story.