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“I'm late.”

 

“For what?”

 

“No, oh my god, Beca. I'm  late .”

 

“You're- oh! Oh. You're… oh.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Oh shit, dude.”

 


 

How Chloe ends up pregnant isn't important, or that's what Chloe tells them. The short version is, “Drunk one night stand,” while the long is something that has been brushed off so many times, Beca's pretty sure she's starting to see the scuff marks.

 

She doesn't push for the full story, either. At first, it's because Chloe is so emotional. Not upset. Not exactly. More scared and uncertain. And any time the subject was brought up, Chloe would get teary-eyed and Beca would swiftly shift the conversation.

 

After that, though, Beca doesn't ask because it doesn't seem to matter. As Chloe gets over the shock and starts accepting the fact that she's going to bring a child into the world, that she's going to be a mother, the how's of it really don't seem to matter anymore.

 

The Bellas, scattered though they are, are too busy sharing baby names and nursery designs in the group chat to ask questions. Beca has told them all a hundred times that even though Amy had graciously moved out - except it wasn't gracious at  all  - that still doesn't mean they magically have a room for an actual nursery.

 

Cynthia Rose jokes, "Well then, baby-daddy better start looking for a bigger place," referring to Beca, and it's funny. It's a joke and everyone laughs, and things go on without much change.

 

Except…

 


 

“I bought you some of those prenatal vitamins you were talking about? I couldn't remember if your book said what brand, though, so I asked the guy at the pharmacy and he said these were the best.” Standing in front of a seated Chloe, Beca offers the bulky bottle to her but Chloe doesn’t take it. She just stares up at Beca with wide eyes that begin to water. “What?” Beca frowns. “Are these the wrong ones? Because I can-”

 

Chloe grabs her by the arm and tugs, pulling Beca down into an awkward position that leaves her bent at an almost inhuman angle as Chloe hugs her tightly. It hurts her back and makes a muscle in her neck spasm uncomfortably.

 

She still doesn’t move.

 


 

“Okay, so, the Pimp Low thing didn’t work out,” Beca announces as she enters the apartment after work. Chloe’s lying across their bed, an open book in her lap, and she glances over at Beca with a curious tilt of her head. “I think my boss could see I was ready to kill him, so she shifted me over to a different project.” Beca dumps her bag by the door and kicks off her shoes. “And I think this one is actually going to be pretty awesome.” She pads over to the bed and immediately crawls up to lie next to Chloe, turning her head to look at her. “Hi.”

 

“Hey,” Chloe says with a grin. “Can you tell me anything about it?” Chloe shuffles over until she can rest her head on Beca’s shoulder.

 

“Her name is Vanessa. She’s this really incredible trans woman. Just dropped out of college to follow to her dream of becoming a singer and she’s got a  killer  voice, dude.” Dropping her head so that her cheek rests against the top of Chloe’s head, Beca continues. “I think she’s the real deal. It’s so refreshing to have someone wanting to sing about, like, important shit. Or just, stuff that doesn’t involve bending over, you know?”

 

Chloe lets out a laugh but doesn’t say anything.

 

“You okay?” Beca finally asks, reaching over with her hand and tapping across Chloe’s knuckles with her pointer finger.

 

Chloe hums and for a few seconds, Beca thinks that's the only answer she's going to get. But then Chloe is murmuring, "I'm glad you're here," into the side of Beca's neck and Beca feels her breath catch in her throat on its way out.

 

“Of course,” she manages, after a moment’s struggle. Then, clearing her throat, she adds, “What do you want for dinner?”

 


 

Beca wakes to the sound of vomiting.

 

It's become a fairly regular occurrence since Chloe hit the six-week mark and everything Beca's read says that it can last for about another eight. Her body seems to move before her brain has really registered what it's doing and she clambers out of bed with her eyes still half closed, stumbling towards the area of the toilet.

 

She reaches Chloe just as she wretches into the bowl again and Beca makes her presence known by kneeling down beside her and resting her hand on Chloe’s back. Chloe lets out a sad little whimper that makes Beca’s heart hurt and Beca rubs wide, soothing circles between her shoulders.

 

“I want to die,” Chloe mutters, miserable, head still half lost inside the toilet.

 

“No, you don’t. You want to stop feeling like shit,” Beca reminds her. “There’s a difference.”

 

They sit there for a short while until Chloe feels certain enough that she's done throwing up to flush the toilet one last time and attempt to stand. Beca beats her to her feet and offers her both hands, helping her to her feet.

 

Chloe’s face is ashen and her forehead is smeared with sweat, red curls sticking to the skin. A wave of sympathy crashes through Beca, hitting her square in the chest and making it ache, and she tells Chloe to rinse her mouth and get back in bed.

 

A few minutes later, Beca brings over a full glass of water with a straw in it, some soda crackers, and a bowl half filled with cool water and a washcloth.

 

“I love you,” Chloe groans, grateful, and Beca rolls her eyes as she sits down on the end of the bed.

 

“Yeah, yeah. Roommate of the year.” She brings the glass as close to Chloe as she can without dumping it and pops the straw into her mouth, waiting for her to take a few generous sips before setting it on the bedside table and reaching down for the washcloth.

 

After wringing it out, she presses the cloth to Chloe's forehead and smiles at the small sigh that passes Chloe's lips.

 

"You're an angel," Chloe murmurs, eyes closed. Beca lets out a snort and taps her hand against Chloe's hip, silently asking her to move.

 

Chloe does as she's told and lifts her backside off the bed so that Beca can tug the blankets back then draw them over Chloe's body again. She re-wets the cloth and carefully stretches it back across Chloe's forehead before climbing into bed beside her.

 

"Need anything else?" Beca hears Chloe’s answering hum, recognises it as a lazy ‘no’ and lies back.

 

There’s silence for a few moments, in which Beca finds herself listening to the cadence of Chloe’s breaths, and then there comes a quiet, “I’m really glad you’re here.”

 

And Beca’s heart isn’t sure what to do; stop, skip, explode. It finally settles on beating a little faster as Chloe’s hand finds Beca’s in the dark and Beca’s voice returns to her.

 

“Me too.”

 


 

“Beca? Are you awake?”

 

The soft voice reaches Beca through the fog of sleep and has her sitting bolt upright in bed, rubbing at her eyes and making a handful of inarticulate noises before any real words surface.

 

“What? I- yeah. You okay? What’s wrong?” She turns her head to look down at the darkness beside her and waits for her eyes to readjust.

 

“Nothing.” Chloe’s expression, her face illuminated by the sliver of streetlight shining into the room, is unworried but sheepish and she gnaws on her lower lip as she blinks up at Beca. “I’m just-” Chloe rolls onto her back with a sigh and stretches, rubbing a hand over her stomach. “I’m hungry.”

 

And she looks so… Beca isn’t sure there’s a word for it, but she feels the tug at the corner of her mouth and lets the small smirk happen. Planting both hands against the mattress, she twists her upper body and looks down at her friend.

 

“What for?” she asks, without a hint of animosity.

 

“Is that take-out place still open twenty-four hours?”

 

That take-out place is four blocks away.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Four blocks isn’t that far in a cab.

 


 

Chloe shifts anxiously in her seat at the kitchen table and Beca glances at the back of her head from where’s she’s standing in the kitchen, seeing nothing but red curls but picturing the nervous lines creasing Chloe’s features.

 

“It’s gonna be okay, Chlo,” Beca tells her, for what feels like the hundredth time that morning alone. The kettle she’s been waiting for bubbles to a boil and at the sound of the switch automatically clicking off, Beca lifts it and pours the steaming water into the mug she’d already prepared.

 

“Stop saying that,” Chloe snaps. “You don’t know that it will be.” Behind her, unseen, Beca purses her lips and dunks the tea bag into the mug a few times before letting it steep.

 

Instead of saying anything else, she picks up the mug and walks over to where Chloe is sitting, setting it down in front of her. Chloe looks at the steam rising out of the mug and then up at Beca.

 

"It's chamomile mint. It's supposed to help settle your stomach and calm nerves." Beca pauses and then quickly amends her words. "Not that you're not calm." She sniffs, avoiding eye contact and poking the tip of the tongue into the inside of her cheek. "You're obviously just, like, the epitome of calm." She clicks her tongue and then flashes Chloe an overly exuberant smile.

 

“I’m sorry.” Chloe deflates, grabbing Beca’s hand and pulling her down to sit in the chair next to her. “I’m just freaking out.”

 

“They’re your parents, Chlo. They love you.” Beca squeezes the hand in hers. “This isn’t going to change that. They’ll probably be excited that they’re going to be grandparents!”

 

“Will you stay?” Chloe blurts, her bright blue eyes wide and wet.

 

And Beca Mitchell has never been good with her  own  parents but how can she say no?

 

“Of course.”

 


 

“Pregnant?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Beca watches as Chloe tries to smile through the fear in the agonisingly long seconds that follow her reveal. Chloe’s parents look at one another on the other side of the screen.

 

“Oh, honey, that’s wonderful!”

 

“Congratulations, baby girl!”

 

There’s relief, Beca sees it on her face, and then….

 

“When do we get to meet the father? We didn’t even know you were dating anyone!”

 

Chloe’s expression shifts and it’s not enough for anyone else to notice, but Beca does.

 

“Oh, um, there’s isn’t- I’m not-” she shakes her head and takes a deep breath. Beca picks that moment to squeeze her hand reassuringly and Chloe looks over at her. “It’s just me,” she manages, not looking away from Beca until she adds, “Just me and Beca.”

 

Beca spends a few extra seconds staring at Chloe’s profile before swivelling her head back towards Chloe’s parents, who are blinking at Beca with a surprise that confuses her.

 

“Oh. I didn’t realise you two were-”

 

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that, dear.”

 

“Oh! No, of course not. Of course not. I’m just-”

 

“Surprised, is all. But happy!”

 

“Mom, dad, no. Beca and I aren’t- she’s just helping me. As a friend.” It’s not until the end of Chloe’s clarification that Beca’s brain fully registers what just happened, what was implied, and if she didn’t know any better she’d swear Chloe is blushing.

 

“Oh.”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, honey.” Chloe’s mother spends the next thirty seconds apologising, while Beca tries to hold her eyeballs inside her head through sheer force of will alone.

 


 

Chloe asks Beca to come with her for her first ultrasound, so Beca books the day off work and texts Vanessa to let her know that their meeting will have to be pushed back a day. Vanessa is as chipper and cheerful as always, even through text messaging, and she tells Beca that it’s fine. Now she can meet her mother for a coffee date.

 

Chloe gets a cab to the hospital and is already there when Beca arrives.

 

“Sorry,” Beca greets her, breathless, as she slips in through the door of the examination room. There’s a curtain separating the bed from the view from the door and Beca stares at it for a second. “God, I really hope you’re Chloe behind there.” The resulting laughter ensures Beca that she has the right room and she peeks around the side of the curtain to find a smiling Chloe reclining in the hospital bed. “Did I miss anything?”

 

“No.” Chloe shakes her head. “The nurse just brought me in here and got me all set up.” She gestures to where her legs are propped up and covered by a blanket and Beca’s eyes widen momentarily. Chloe laughs.

 

“See, this is why I’m never getting pregnant.” She takes a seat beside the bed and drops her bag to the floor.

 

“Because of stirrups?”

 

“Yeah, see. That’s not a word that should be used outside of cowboy movies and dude ranches.”

 

They're interrupted by the doctor entering the room. She's a friendly-looking East-Indian woman that seems utterly delighted to be doing the first scan.

 

“I do keep a box of kleenex on the table just behind you,” she jokes and Beca glances over her shoulder to find that yes, she does. “It can be quite emotional for some people and I won’t have my patients using their sleeves or gowns to soak up their tears like savages.”

 

She’s funny and she makes them laugh and, most importantly, she keeps Chloe calm.

 

When she applies the gel to Chloe’s stomach, Beca experiences a moment of awkwardness as she glances around the room, inexplicably unsure where to look, and so her attention isn’t on the monitor when the strong, thumping beat of a tiny heart suddenly fills the space.

 

“And there… is your baby,” the doctor says and Beca’s head twists so that her eyes can find the monitor and see the grainy, black and white image.

 

And it is, it's a baby or a vaguely baby-like shape. She hears Chloe gasp beside her but Beca can't tear her eyes off the monitor. The fluttering heartbeat seems to fill her head and then trickle down into the rest of her body, thrumming through her.

 

Chloe reaches for her hand, grasps it, holds tight.

 

Beca reaches for the tissues.

 


 

Aubrey comes to visit. There’s nowhere for her to sleep now that Amy’s moved out and taken her bed with her and Beca isn’t sure why, but she feels like Aubrey is silently blaming her for that. For them not being in a larger apartment. In fact, she feels like Aubrey is judging her the entire time she’s there. She doesn’t say anything, of course. She’s all smiles and excitement, nattering about all the things she’s read about the different stages of pregnancy and how they’ll affect Chloe.

 

As if Beca hasn’t spent hours upon hours reading all that information out loud to Chloe from a book for expectant mothers while they lie in bed.

 

But Beca can feel it. That same stagnant air that had lingered between them during their one and only year together at Barden. Beca wants to ask about it, but she doesn't. She'll never admit it out loud, but she's always been kind of terrified of Aubrey. She also kind of loves Aubrey now - another thing she'll never admit to - and she knows it would hurt to hear her say anything negative about Beca after all this time.

 

They go shopping for maternity clothes. At seventeen weeks, Chloe is starting to outgrow her wardrobe - happily so - and Aubrey spends a week’s wages on Chloe in one store alone.

 

Chloe is hidden away in a changing room in the fifth store of the day, leaving Beca and Aubrey alone on the backless couches in the middle of the oval-shaped space when it happens. There are doors on all sides of them, but they seem to be the only three people in the store right now and Beca's thankful for that.

 

“What are you doing?” Aubrey’s tone is more inquisitive than it is accusatory, but Beca frowns at her all the same.

 

“Playing Angry Birds?”

 

“No, Beca.” Aubrey rolls her eyes. “I mean with Chloe. And no one plays Angry Birds anymore.”

 

I  do,” Beca snaps, automatic, and only after does she register what Aubrey had said. “Wait, what do you mean, ‘With Chloe’?”

 

“You know what I mean.”

 

“I literally have no idea what the f-”

 

“This playing house thing. Like you’re a couple waiting for their baby to be born. Like this is a real thing for you.” Aubrey’s gaze is unfaltering as she scrutinizes Beca, looking genuinely curious as Beca’s brain tries to leak out of her eyes.

 

“What are you talk-”

 

“You know she’s in love with you.”

 

"She-" For one horrifying second, the entire room spins around Beca, dialling down the volume of her voice and making her feel like she might pass out. "What?" Sweat beads down along the back of Beca's neck, slinking under the collar of her shirt and making the material stick to her skin.

 

And Aubrey has the audacity to roll her eyes.

 

“Oh, please. It’s been going on since her  first  senior year. If you hadn't kissed Jesse, she totally would have made a move. I know you're oblivious to a lot of things, Beca, but even I don't think you're dense enough to have missed all the signs. So, please, stop pretending and just-"

 

Aubrey looks at her then, really looks at her, and maybe it’s the paper-white shade of Beca’s face or the way her mouth is hanging open like a door with a broken hinge, but something clicks into place. Aubrey’s cheeks burn a shade of red Beca isn’t sure she’s seen her wear before.

 

“You’re… not pretending.” Aubrey’s comment is useless and Beca continues gaping, wordlessly. “You actually  are  this dense? Oh my god, Beca!”

 

“Why are you yelling at me like this is my fault!”

 

“Why are you so, so, so-”

 

“Dense?!”

 

Stupid !”

 

“Guys?”

 

They look up in unison to find Chloe standing in the open doorway of her changing room, wearing one of the five outfits she’d take in there with her. She’s watching them with some concern and Beca’s suddenly frozen by the fear of her having heard that entire conversation.

 

“Super cute, Chloe!” And just like that, Aubrey is standing and rushing over, fussing over Chloe - who seems to immediately forget anything might be amiss - and acting like she hasn’t just turned Beca’s life on its head.

 


 

“I didn’t mean to freak you out.”

 

“I’m not freaked out.”

 

“Beca, you’ve spent the last day and a half wandering around like a chicken with its head cut off.”

 

“How is that different from my normal state?”

 

“Look, maybe I'm wrong.” Aubrey Posen never admits to being wrong. Never does anything close to admitting such a thing. Beca sends her a hard, sidelong look. “We don't really talk about it anymore, so maybe she moved on ages ago.”

 

“Anymore?” Beca arches an eyebrow, her mind conjuring up all sorts of scenarios involving the two talking late at night. About Chloe's feelings. For her.

 

“We're best friends, Beca. Of course we talked about it.”

 

“But not anymore. Why?”

 

Aubrey offers her a shrug.

 

“I didn't think it was healthy for her to fixate on you when you clearly weren't interested. I told her she needed to put her feelings for you to bed.” Aubrey words stir something inside Beca. Something that feels a little bit like anger. “She got upset and said it wasn't that easy, and if I couldn't understand that, then maybe we shouldn't talk about it anymore.”

 

“And you knew I wasn't interested… how, exactly?” Beca's hackles are raised and she swipes her tongue across the front of her teeth, annoyed. Aubrey frowns at her, confused.

 

"Because you were with Jesse," she says like that explains everything.

 

And maybe it should, Beca thinks. But it doesn't. Inside her head, things are screaming at her, at Aubrey, demanding to know why Aubrey thought it was okay to take that decision away from her.

 

As if there'd been something to decide in the first place. Which there hadn't been, because Beca hadn't known.

 

But if she had?

 

“That doesn't- you had no right to-to-”

 

“Beca.” Aubrey silences her with a single word and a sombre, stern tone. “Would it have made a difference?”

 

Beca doesn't know.

 


 

Aubrey leaves and Beca goes back to doing everything the same way she had before their former captain had arrived.

 

Excepted everything is tainted now. It's not really a bad thing though, so maybe stained is a better descriptor. Marked.

 

It doesn't change anything, though. She's still committed to being there for Chloe through all of this, to doing whatever she can to help, to make Chloe and the baby feel safe and comfortable.

 

“Guess who got the keys to our new place today?”

 

And if that means having to endure the horrors of apartment shopping, well, she’s done that. She expects Chloe to welcome the sight of shiny new keys dangling from Beca’s fingers with at least a little excitement, but she barely looks up from her place curled up on the bed.

 

“Why are you doing this?” The question is quiet and, at first, Beca isn’t sure she’s heard right.

 

“What?” She drops her hand to her side and closes her fist around the keys, taking a step forward. Chloe looks at her then and Beca thinks maybe she might have been crying. Her phone is next to her head, screen on and displaying what Beca recognises as the messaging app.

 

“You don’t have to do all of this. You don’t have to do any of it.” She sounds sour, like Beca’s done something wrong and hasn’t apologised. “Taking care of me like...” she swallows, then continues. “Buying me vitamins and getting us a bigger apartment?”

 

“Don’t you want to live with me?” It’s not the question she should be asking, it’s not even the one she wants to ask, it’s just the first one that comes out of her mouth.

 

“That’s not- god damn it, Beca!” Chloe’s up then, getting to her feet a little more slowly as of late, and grabbing her coat before Beca can blink.

 

“Hey! Where are you going?” Beca turns, grabs Chloe by the arm and flinches away when Chloe yanks out of her grasp.

 

“For a walk.”

 

“Chloe, it’s like nine o’clock.”

 

“I can tell time, Beca. I failed Russian Lit, I didn’t fail clocks.”

 

And she has no idea why Chloe is so angry, but it makes her panic. It makes Beca's pulse race and her palms sweat, and her mind screams at her to fix this. Fix whatever she did wrong because mad is an unusual colour on Chloe, scary and strange, and it clashes something terrible with her personality.

 

“Chlo, please. I don’t know what-”

 

“Exactly!” Chloe half screams, rounding on Beca with tears in her eyes. “You don’t know.”

 

She slams the door when she leaves.

 

Beca feels like she’s been punched in the gut. She’s inexplicably winded, so it takes her a few seconds to come to her senses, but when she does, she’s making sure she still has her keys and is following in Chloe’s wake.

 

She hangs back, keeping some distance between them so that Chloe doesn't immediately realise she's being followed and gets even angrier. Beca is so out of her depth here, but she wants to make sure Chloe's okay. So, she trails after her for a couple of blocks, until Chloe steps into an all-night diner and forces Beca to make a decision.

 

The bell above the door announces Beca’s arrival in such a way that the small tinkling sound might as well have been a foghorn. The two other customers in there both look over, as does the woman behind the counter, but Chloe doesn’t pause in her ordering.

 

Chamomile tea. If Beca weren’t so panicked, she might smile. Chloe hands over her two bucks and turns to find a table without waiting for the change. There are plenty of seats to choose from and Beca knows there’s no way Chloe didn’t see her on her way by, but she takes a seat against the far wall anyway.

 

Taking that as a good but very fragile sign that it’s okay for her to stay, she takes her turn with the woman behind the counter and orders a cup of coffee. When it’s handed to her, she pivots around to face the largely unpopulated space and her eyes flit from Chloe’s table to the empty ones around her. Like it’s Beca’s first day at school and she really wants to sit next to the pretty girl who seems nice, but Beca doesn’t have the nerve.

 

Chloe takes the decision out of her hands, as she has done so many times before for the better, and uses her foot to kick the chair opposite her out from under the table, the mug in her hands not even swaying with the motion as she takes a sip.

 

Beca quickly takes a seat before the offer is rescinded.

 

They sit in rare awkward silence, with Beca unable to stop herself from glancing at Chloe every few seconds and Chloe steadfastly staring out of the window over Beca’s shoulder in between sips of tea. Beca’s brain works overtime as the minutes pass, trying to think of what she did or didn’t do and what she could possibly say to undo whatever damage she’s done.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Beca blinks in surprise, certain she hadn’t given her mouth the command to speak and oh. That’s because those words had come from Chloe. Beca’s brow furrows.

 

“Why are you- what?”

 

“I shouldn’t have….” Across from her, Chloe sighs. Hands curled around the mug, she rubs a thumb up and down along the side of it and stares into the dark liquid. It’s clear to Beca that she’s been crying. “I know you’re just trying to help.”

 

Beca allows herself to slowly nod but doesn’t say anything. Chloe stays quiet for a short while then, seemingly going over her words with a fine tooth comb before speaking them.

 

“I’ve just been thinking about a lot,” another pause, another, heavier sigh, “a lot of stuff today and it kind of… swallowed me up. I guess my hormones don’t react well to being digested.” Chloe tries for a smile and mostly succeeds. “I’m sorry I yelled.”

 

“It’s okay,” Beca says, automatic. The need to reassure Chloe overriding everything else. “Is it- do you want to talk about it?” Chloe swallows hard at the question but seems to consider it for a nano-second before shaking her head. “Okay. That’s fine.” Tentatively, Beca reaches across the table between them and rests her fingers against Chloe’s wrist. “But if you change your mind, you know I’m here for you, right?” Chloe bobs her head and flashes Beca a watery smile and Beca feels brave for a moment. “I love you, Chlo.”

 

Chloe’s body seems to freeze in place but Beca isn’t afforded the time to deduce whether or not it’s an illusion before Chloe’s hand is turning in hers and lacing their fingers together.

 

“I know. I love you, too.”

 

“But, you know,” Beca takes a deep breath to force the words out, “if you don’t want to live together, that’s fine. You can take the keys to the new place or I can move out or-”

 

“No.” Chloe’s grip on her hand is suddenly fiercely tight. “No, I don’t want- please. I can’t do this without you.”

 

Silence. Staring. Beca’s heart thuds a handful of times behind her ribs and then, “Okay.” Beca smiles. “In that case, I can’t wait to show you around.”

 


 

It's shocking, the amount of difference a few hundred square feet can make. It still isn't a room at The Four Seasons by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a solid standard Hilton in comparison. There are a small kitchen and living room, a full bathroom, and two bedrooms with walls and doors; things that Beca had almost forgotten what it was like to have.

 

So, they don’t have to share a bed anymore and Beca insists Chloe takes the bigger room so that there’s enough space for a crib when the baby comes. The first few weeks consist of them mostly unpacking boxes and getting settled. Beca scours Craigslist for a pullout couch that fills two specific points of criteria; doesn’t look like rats have lived in it and doesn’t look like it belongs to a serial killer.

 

It takes a while, but she finds one and enlists a newly reunited Amy and Bumper’s help to move it in. They’re surprisingly helpful and Beca isn’t sure what exactly has happened in the months that they’ve been apart, but Bumper acts more and more like a human being every time Beca sees him. It’s as frightening as it is refreshing.

 

They eat Chinese food out of boxes and Chloe puts up photographs of the two of them, their families, and the Bellas. Beca puts away their mismatched kitchenware and sets up her computer in one corner of the living room at the request of Chloe, who complained that if the computer was in Beca’s bedroom, she’d never see her again.

 

They spend evenings lounging on their blood-free Craigslist couch, reading out baby names and their meanings from various internet lists and looking for affordable cribs and other baby things.

 

It’s peaceful and domestic, and entirely unstrange.

 


 

She arrives home one afternoon to find Chloe, twenty-seven weeks pregnant, dressed in paint-splattered overalls and applying a fresh coat of deep purple to one of her bedroom walls.

 

“Purple is neutral, right?” She asks Beca, turning to greet her with a smile and a streak of bold royalty across her left cheek.

 

Beca feels her stomach tumble, sudden and unexpected, like the floor just disappeared from under her feet and she's falling.

 

“Uh, yeah.” She clears her throat and nods. “Yeah, I think so. It looks great.”

 

Chloe beams, happy, and Beca spends another few seconds staring at her before leaving with the excuse that she needs to shower.

 

When she gets to the bathroom, she turns the shower on and sits on the closed lid of the toilet, pulling out her phone.

 

She texts Aubrey.

 


 

Chloe goes into labour at thirty-six weeks.

 

She’s sitting on their couch watching trashy T.V. while Beca makes stir fry in the kitchen a few feet away.

 

“Beca?”

 

“Mm?”

 

“I think- my, my water just broke.”

 

Beca whips around so fast that her arm catches the handle of the frying pan, sending it and its contents to the floor with a clatter.

 

“What? Your- but it’s too- it’s not, it’s not time yet.” Immediately, she’s panicking. She’s read up on premature births, of course she has, just in case, but she never actually expected it to happen. The logical side of her brain knows that it’s not uncommon to go into labour this early but the other side is screaming at her like it’s on fire.

 

“Becs?” Chloe’s voice snaps her back to reality and Beca’s eyes fix on the sky blue ones staring at her from the couch. “I need you to stay calm for me, okay?”

 

With a resolute nod, Beca turns off the burner, leaves the food where it is on the floor and tells Chloe to sit tight while she gets the bag they’ve had sitting in preparation for this ever since Beca read that it was a good idea to have such a thing.

 

Once Beca has the bag in hand and is about to return to Chloe, she fires off a quick text to Aubrey before calling a cab.

 

"Are you deaf?! I said she's in labour and you're telling me twenty minutes?!" That's how Beca reenters the room, prompting Chloe to stare at her with wide eyes. "It's fine," Beca says, calmly, hanging up and dialling another number. "Everything is fine." She flashes Chloe a smile. "Hey, Ames? You busy right now? Baby's coming."

 

Amy makes it to them in five minutes and they're arriving at the hospital after a terrifying ten-minute journey that usually takes twenty-five. Then Beca's hopping out of the car before it has even stopped and running off to find a wheelchair. It doesn't take too long to find one and she helps Chloe into it before throwing a thank you over her shoulder to Amy and taking off toward the entrance again.

 

“Short-stack!”

 

Beca turns to find Amy approaching them carrying the very important duffle bag that Beca had left in the truck. She hands it off to them and makes a show of asking Chloe if she needs her to stick around and make sure Beca doesn’t forget anything else. Chloe laughs but waves her away.

 

Amy leaves them and then Beca’s hollering for a nurse as they enter the hospital.

 


 

Chloe goes into labour six hours after arriving at the hospital. They wheel her away and Beca watches her go, wanting to follow but rooted to the spot. For some reason, they’d never actually discussed whether or not Chloe wanted Beca in there with her and so she’s left sitting alone in the waiting room, anxiously bouncing her knee between bouts of texting Aubrey and some of the other Bellas.

 

She’s nervous and terrified, and uncertainty claws at the pit of her stomach like a rabid cat. She wants to stand and find someone she can ask if Chloe’s okay, but she’s too afraid to.

 

She isn’t left waiting too long, though. Two hours and thirty-six minutes after they took Chloe away, a Doctor is entering the waiting room and asking for her. She gets to her feet so quickly she almost falls flat on her face. He smiles at her and tells her that Chloe is asking for her.

 

Beca doesn’t remember the walk to Chloe’s room, has no idea how she makes it from point B to C, but once she gets there, any concern over that matter flies away. She could have been teleported by aliens and she wouldn’t care.

 

Chloe is lying back in the bed, looking exhausted but beautiful, and she’s staring at an incubator that’s standing near the bedside. She looks up when Beca enters and smiles, sleepy but stunning, and lifts a hand to beckon Beca over.

 

“Someone wants to meet you,” she says, her voice hushed, and Beca feels like she almost glides forward without giving herself the command to move. Then, Chloe’s hand is in hers and she’s staring down through the clear enclosure at the tiny, pink, slumbering bundle of life that Chloe just brought into the world.

 

And Beca hears someone’s breath hitch, only to realise it had been her own when a tear rolls down her cheek. She feels the hand holding hers squeeze gently and turns watery eyes on Chloe.

 

“She asked for you specifically,” Chloe jokes and Beca gasps as another tear escapes.

 

“She?” The question is strained but Chloe understands and nods, and Beca turns back to the little girl in the box. “Is she okay?”

 

“The doctor said she’ll be fine, but they’ll keep her in for observation for a while.” Chloe sighs. “Then we can take her home. Our little Ava.”

 

And something heavy presses itself into Beca’s chest. Like handprints weighted down into wet cement, it leaves its imprint there, solid and static. Indelible.

 

Permanent.

 


 

It’s ten days before they can bring Ava home. Chloe spends as much time as she can at the hospital with her daughter, but Beca has to go to work and she feels the loss more acutely than she thought possible.

 

It gets even worse once Ava is home with them.

 

On the third day that Beca is forced to leave them both alone, she gets so anxious that she tells her boss she has to leave at lunch for a doctor appointment.

 

Chloe laughs when she tells her, then pulls her in for a long hug that they only pull back from when Ava’s cries reach them from Chloe’s room. They follow the sound to the crib Beca had put together in front of the purple wall and Beca stands back to watch as Chloe reaches in to pick the baby up. Immediately, the crying stops. Beca smiles.

 

“You know, you’re kind of a natural,” she says, as Chloe turns towards her.

 

“You’re not so bad yourself, Becs.” And then Chloe is handing Ava off to Beca, who is always startled by this exchange and momentarily freaks out, envisioning herself dropping the baby or something equally horrid. Chloe chuckles at what must be a look of terror on Beca’s face and then whispers for her to relax as she steps in close to place Ava into Beca’s arms.

 

“I think you’re giving me too much credit,” Beca insists, staring down at the fragile bundle now in her grasp.

 

“I don’t think you give yourself enough.” Chloe’s voice is low and quiet, reverent almost, and it makes Beca look up at her again with a gentle frown that melts away to nothing when Chloe smiles and leans in to kiss her.

 


 

All of the Bellas make it to the shower, even Emily who should be too busy graduating from Barden to attend. Chloe is thrilled and Beca would be happy just because Chloe is if she weren’t so glad to see them, too.

 

Everyone fusses over Ava and fights to be the next person to hold her after Amy, who steadfastly declares that she, “basically delivered her, so.” And while the Bellas are busy making cooing noises, Beca and Chloe watch from where they’re standing side by side leaning against the kitchen counters.

 

“So,” Beca starts, a little awkwardly, and Chloe turns her head to look at her. “Did um, did you want to tell them? About, uh,” she drops her voice a few octaves and leans in closer. “About us?”

 

Chloe smiles at Beca and it’s the kind of smile that makes Beca feel like she’s missing out on a joke, but before Chloe can say anything, Ashley is yelling at them from the living room.

 

“Can you guys stop making out for two seconds and tell Stacie to let someone have a turn holding her!”

 

Beca blanches. Chloe laughs.

 

"Yeah," Chloe feigns a wince and flashes Beca an equally fake apologetic smile. "If you think I didn't immediately send everyone a group message the second you left the room to tell them all you'd finally let me kiss you, I don't know what to tell you, Becs." Chloe shrugs and pushes off the cabinets. "It's like you don't know me at all." She turns with a wink and leaves Beca to gape, and Beca spends a few seconds doing her best goldfish impression before she realises Aubrey is staring at her, smiling.

 

"Hey, I want to take a picture to commemorate the moment." Cynthia Rose gets to her feet and pulls out her phone, looking over at Beca. "We need the baby-daddy over here!"

 

Beca blows out a breath and shakes her head.

 

“Yeah, yeah. I’m coming.”