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The Second Chance

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She remembers in her junior year, lying with her legs up on the wall. Chloe lay giggling and red-eyed next to her. They were looking at her ceiling, talking about nothing. Chloe had said, smile audible in her voice, that if she ever got rich, she would move into a penthouse somewhere. She liked the idea of being able to see the world from the very top. Not because she wanted to look down on everyone else, but just because. Beca remembers that now, looking down from the living room window of her penthouse in downtown Los Angeles. She’s not partial to the apartment, but Chloe was right. The view isn’t bad.

 

The phone in her right hand is still showing Aubrey’s text message. Remember, the get together starts at eight! Be there on time or don’t bother coming at all. It seems harsh, probably, but Beca’s used to it by now. The clock her interior designer picked out shows that it’s already coming up on 7:30. Beca knows that if she left right now, she would only be ten minutes late, but she doesn’t move from her spot in front of the window. Ever since she got the news of Chloe’s return she has been even more quiet and reserved than usual. She was lost in thought for most of the day. She’s been listening, even though she would never admit to listening to the dickhead’s music at all, to the sadder part of John Mayer’s oeuvre. She brings the glass of whiskey in her hand to her lips and drinks the remaining liquid in one go. Time to face the music.

 

*

 

The only thing Beca really enjoys about the whole having-a-ton-of-money thing, despite not having to worry about finances and being able to leave outrageously large tips, is being able to afford a driver. The Los Angeles traffic is horrific and she has never been one for driving in the first place. Her driver, Dan, is a friendly, middle-aged man, who shows her pictures of his daughters every time they talk, but leaves her alone if she doesn’t start the conversation.

 

By the time the car pulls over to the side of the road, in front of Amy’s apartment building, Beca’s over thirty minutes late. Still, she moves as slowly as possible without looking like a complete weirdo towards the elevator. She tells Dan to head home for the night, that she’ll take an Uber home, but she instantly regrets not just having him take her home right away. As the elevator climbs up to the seventh floor, Beca contemplates every decision she’d made in the past two weeks. Either way, as soon as the elevator doors open, Aubrey’s standing there with her hands on her hips. Beca jumps back at her sudden and surprising presence and then tries to play it off as if she hadn’t just been incredibly shocked at seeing someone standing in the hallway of an apartment building.

 

Finally. You are incredibly late, Mitchell.” Aubrey’s voice sounds annoyed, but it’s not as convincing as it would’ve been on a day where she hadn’t just seen her best friend again for the first time in a year. Beca doesn’t answer, just steps around her and walks to Amy’s front door. They enter together without another word. As soon as the door clicks shut behind them, Beca can hear a squeal coming from the general direction of the living room.

 

“Is that you, Beca?!” Chloe’s voice comes only seconds before her physical form barrels into Beca, almost sending both of them toppling to the ground. But Chloe holds Beca firmly in her arms. The sensations register one by one, for Beca, as if her senses are running a few seconds behind and have to catch up. Slowly, her arms come up to wrap around Chloe in return and she notes, in a deep corner of her mind, that Chloe feels the same as she had before she left. Two seconds later, her brain supplies the very useful information that Chloe has changed her perfume, but that the scent that has always seemed to linger underneath, has not. Beca’s not sure what she was feeling, but she knows that it’s a lot and she knows that she’ll likely be up all night processing all of it.

 

“Hey.” Chloe whispers in her ear, her breath warm on Beca’s ear, still not loosening her grip. It’s all a bit much, with the smell and the touch and the sound and the knowledge that Aubrey is looking at them from like five feet away, and the emotions, so Beca clears her throat awkwardly and pulls back a little. Chloe, ever attentive to Beca’s sensory needs, steps back.

 

“Hi.” Beca says, looking at a spot on the sleeve of Chloe’s cardigan. She clears her throat again and takes a deep breath. “It’s good to see you.” The quick glances at her face prove her suspicions that Chloe is sporting an incredibly wide smile.

 

“It’s good to see you too, Becs.”

 

*

 

“So, Chloe’s back.” Her voice sounds weird, she feels like, but her therapist doesn’t comment on it.

 

“How do you feel about her being back?” Rosa asks, voice soft and inquisitive as always. Beca looks at the bookcase in a corner of the small office. A new book was added to the row since the last time she was here.

 

“Uh, I don’t know. Happy, I suppose.” She fiddles with her fingers in her lap as she waits for an answer. When she doesn’t get one, she continues, “I’ve been feeling a lot of emotions about it, but I can’t quite figure out what.”

 

“Do you still have feelings for her?” The funny thing is, Beca doesn’t even pay her friends, and they are still so much more careful about the way they say things to her. She supposes that’s the nice thing about being a psychologist. You might have to deal with crazy people all day, but at least you don’t have to bother with niceties. You can just get straight to the point. The point being if Beca still has feelings for Chloe, in this case. Which. Is not an easy question.

 

“I mean, I don’t know. It’s been five years since she got married and moved to Sweden. I think I ought to be over it by now, you know?” She ends with a small chuckle, but stops smiling when she sees the serious look on Rosa’s face. She doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.

 

“I don’t think you ought to do anything at all, when it comes to your feelings. It has also been a year since she got divorced, correct?” Beca nods, but doesn’t see what that has to do with anything, exactly.

 

*

Chloe is busy the first few weeks after she gets back. Moving all of her stuff into Aubrey’s apartment, and then moving half of that stuff to storage, because it turns out a house in the countryside of Sweden has more space than a tiny two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. It’s actually good that she’s busy, because so is Beca. Beca has been busy for the last five years. She still has the same passion for music now, while she’s working with Frank Ocean and Hayley Kiyoko and earning six figures, as she did when she was just mixing together songs in her dorm room at Barden University.

 

So in the first few weeks they don’t see each other, because they’re busy. Beca never texts Chloe first, but she thinks about her all the time. And then she thinks even more so about why she can’t get the redhead out of her head in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle and if Beca had ever been paranoid that someone would be able to read her thoughts, that fear has now quadrupled in both fear and intensity. Chloe, on the other hand, texts Beca all the time. Granted, she used to text very often even when she was still travelling around Europe trying to ‘find herself’ after her divorce, but that was when there were things to text about. Like seeing an amazing starry sky in the Eifel mountains in Germany, or eating the best paella ever in Barcelona, or even meeting an Australian who insisted on wearing flip flops to a club and crying when he lost them while dancing. But now, Chloe just texts her about nothing at all. Just had cereal for breakfast. She’d send, followed up by a rumination on the superiority of American casual, sugar-filled breakfast foods over European ones. Beca never knows what to respond to things like that, so she usually doesn’t respond at all.

 

I really want to see this penthouse I’ve been hearing so much about. Wanna have dinner sometime next week? Chloe texts her after three-and-a-half weeks of not seeing each other. Beca, had she been slightly more in touch with her feelings, would have realized she somehow missed Chloe just as much in those three weeks as she had the past five years. Sure, she texts back.

 

*

 

Holy shit, Becs,” are the first words out of Chloe’s mouth as she enters the apartment. She looks around like a kid in a candy store, which is a look that she sports surprisingly often. She takes a few seconds to look around before she moves to hug Beca, who has been waiting patiently for it. Now that the hug doesn’t come as such a surprise, she sinks into it almost immediately. She pulls away not too long after, however, under the guise of having to check on the food. The truth is that the hug makes all the thoughts in her head that much more confusing. Chloe kicks off her shoes, drops them nowhere even near where the shoes go, and follows her into the kitchen. As Beca scrapes her whisk along the sides of the large bowl of pancake batter, Chloe peers into the oven.

 

“Pancakes and pizza rolls.” She remarks, her facial expression not visible for Beca and her tone ambiguous at best.

 

“Uh y—yeah. I know it’s not the most nutritious of meals, but it used to be your fa—“

 

“It was my favorite in college.” Chloe interrupts, turning around with a large grin. “I can’t believe you remembered.” The tone of her voice is affectionate, loving. Beca doesn’t answer and just gets to making pancakes.

 

Chloe connects her phone to the Bluetooth speaker on the counter without asking, and puts on a playlist of recent hits. Beca feels herself relax as she listens to Chloe singing along mindlessly while she walks around the apartment. Three songs later, her voice mixes together with those of Chloe and Sam Smith. Once they’re sitting down at the too-large-for-the-amount-of-visitors-she-gets dining table, Beca feels like she’s learned how to be around Chloe again.

 

“So when are you starting at your new job?” She asks, before stuffing an entire pizza roll in her mouth. Chloe giggles at her lack of dignity. Or, at least, that’s what Beca imagines she’s giggling about.

 

“Next Thursday. The principal said they usually have new hires coming in on Mondays, but apparently the last lady that had the job quit out of nowhere to elope with her fiancées brother and the seventh grade English teacher has been filling in. The kids are getting bored of Shakespeare, I guess.” Beca laughs, out loud, in a way that she can’t really remember laughing for a while, even though the story isn’t that funny. Especially not for the ex-kindergarten teacher’s ex-fiancée. But it’s Chloe Beale, and so Beca laughs.

 

“I still can’t believe you’re going to be able to afford the rent while working as a kindergarten teacher. Are you sure you don’t need me to help you out with anything.” Beca hates offering money to her friends. She doesn’t want them to feel like she feels she’s better than them. It’s just that she also does just have a lot of money and really the only difference in her spending between now and college is that she now orders her groceries online so that she doesn’t have to face cashiers, which she has a not so irrational fear of, and that she has a driver. That all means that she basically has a savings account bursting at the seams. Chloe smiles at the suggestion.

 

“That’s very nice of you, Becs. But you know Kristoff was a software engineer, right? And that I took half of his money in the divorce? Which was more than fair considering he was earning that money while banging some floozy in his office.” Chloe said in a completely casual, matter-of-fact way. There was no animosity to be found in her tone. Beca remembers hearing about it, when Chloe called her in tears a little over a year back to tell her that the asshole was cheating on her. She remembers thinking why would anyone in the world do that. Why would someone cheat if they already have Chloe.

 

“Yeah. Okay.” She just said, instead of any of the other things that she was thinking about.

 

*

 

After dinner, after Chloe insists on doing the washing up while Beca dries, even though she has a dishwasher, because that’s how they used to do it in college, they sit down on the couch together. Just like in college, Chloe sits much closer than what Beca believes is appropriate for two friends, but she doesn’t comment.

 

“So like, uh—how are you feeling since everything happened with Kristoff. I know it’s been like a year, but I haven’t seen you since before it happened and you seemed okay over the phone, but—yeah, you know.” Beca’s not very good at all this emotional stuff, and she knows that Chloe has Aubrey, or Stacy, or even her brother, to talk about all of this stuff, but she wants to be a good friend so she asks anyway. Chloe smiles at Beca like she realizes how difficult this is to talk about. An indulgent smile, that would have been insulting had it come from anyone else, but is only comforting now.

 

“I’m okay. I’m sort of glad it happened, in a weird way. We got married much too quickly anyway, we’d only known each other for like 10 months.” Yeah, Beca wants to say, I remember that one. They had met each other during the summer after they graduated college. When Chloe came back from her two week trip to Niagara Falls with some charming, hunky, Thor-looking fellow following her around, it was like the universe was making fun of Beca. Like it was saying, you had your chance and you decided to move to Los Angeles without ever telling Chloe how you felt and now you’re too late. Beca tears herself away from her thoughts and answers,

 

“Yeah. Well, I’m glad you’re not upset about it anymore.” Chloe looks at her with an indecipherable look in her eyes. If Beca could read looks, which she couldn’t, but if she could, she would be able to say that it was a mixture of impatience and understanding, of challenge and forgiveness. But even if Beca had been able to read looks, she would still have no idea what all those things meant in a more practical sense. Regardless, the look, to Beca, was as indecipherable now as it had been when she had received it in college.

 

“So tell me about your life, Mitchell. Your wildly successful life.” Chloe makes it sound simultaneously proud and sarcastic and Beca has missed her cheerful teasing. They talk, for the rest of the evening, about absolutely nothing, but it’s probably the best night Beca has had in a long time.

 

*

 

The following week, Beca starts working with a small, up-and-coming band. She was hired to make sure their album was the next big thing. They play love songs, mostly, but the songs are sort of catchy yet sort of different and Beca really feels like she can work with it. The one tiny itty-bitty problem is that every time they play one of their love songs, she just cannot stop thinking about Chloe. Which, you know, is a slight problem. Add to that the fact that every time they’re not playing a song, she checks her phone to find another text from Chloe about her new job. Sometimes she describes something one of the kids had done, sometimes she’s asking about Beca’s job, sometimes she’s just sending random thoughts or pictures of babies in animal onesies. Every single time Beca is distracted from her work.

 

On the third day of this cycle, she admits that she might have some residual feelings for Chloe.

 

*

 

The next few weeks go by in a blur. Beca is so busy with work that she stays up until 2AM most nights working on the album. And yet, Chloe has decided they have to see each other at least once a week and so Beca makes time to see Chloe at least twice a week. Sometimes it’s taking lunch over to the school Chloe works at, where they eat in the teacher’s lounge and every time someone asks, Chloe convinces them that Beca is some substitute teacher. Beca has no idea why, since it’s not forbidden for ‘outside people’ to eat there or anything, but she goes along with it regardless. Sometimes, Chloe comes over in the evening bringing take-out and they eat on the couch and then sit next to each other, working. Beca wears her clunky headphones and painstakingly obsesses over two seconds of a song while Chloe works on lesson plans, grades tests, and writes songs for the kids to learn their times tables or the States. It reminds Beca of college, like everything seems to do these days, when they would sit in Chloe’s dorm studying. Chloe would, inexplicably, not be able to study in any other place than her own dorm. They never took the same classes, but they quizzed each other using flashcards and honestly Beca didn’t give a shit about studying, but she gave a lot of shits about Chloe so she worked relatively hard to be able to answer correctly.

 

The bi-weekly appointments Beca used to have with her therapist have turned into tri-weekly, and they mostly revolve around Chloe now, which Beca finds both infuriating and liberating at the same time. Rosa is a professional, and she never says or even implies that Beca should ask her out or do anything, but only ever asks what Beca wants, thinks, feels. It’s very annoying.

 

*

 

They get drunk together on a Wednesday night, even though they both have to work early the next morning. It wasn’t entirely Beca’s choice. Chloe had come by, carrying a bottle of wine, a look in her eyes that Beca knew to mean ‘don’t ask’, and she had caved pretty much instantly.

 

“I really missed you, Becs.” Chloe slurs, half-cuddling Beca on the couch while Beca tried very hard to not think about all of the places of their bodies that were touching right now. “Sweden is a dumb country with dumb people.”

 

“Except for Avicii.” Her voice sounds raspy and emotional. Chloe laughs drunkenly as she moves to sit up. She brings her hands up to Beca’s face and holds it between them, gently. Beca swallows audibly, but Chloe doesn’t seem to notice. They stare into each other’s eyes and for a second Beca thinks she might do it. She might just lean in all the way until they’re both breathing the same air and then kiss—

 

“You’re a music nerd.” Chloe says then, suddenly, before bursting into a fit of giggles and falling back onto the couch. Beca sits back, as well, and can’t decide if she’s happy or sad.

 

*

 

A couple of months in Beca’s feelings calm down a little. Not that she doesn’t have them anymore, and she does still think of Chloe way too often, but it has reached the same point that it had sophomore year in college. A sort of quiet resignation. They are friends, and despite of what she feels and what she thinks Chloe feels as well at times, that is the only thing they will ever be.

 

In May, Jesse comes to visit from New York. Chloe decides they’re going out. Jesse, Aubrey, Chloe and Beca, all together, to a club that Beca is supposed to get them into using her “reputation and/or money”, as per Chloe’s requests. I mean she can get them in there, of course, but she is still dragging her feet. The club scene isn’t exactly her thing, which Chloe knows and which is why she gets (or, like, uses Beca’s connections to get) them a table far away from all the action, in the VIP section. She says it’s the perfect compromise. Beca doesn’t get overwhelmed by the large amount of people, but she and Jesse can still go and bust a move on the dancefloor. Aubrey is too uptight to dance in a club, even after all these years of loosening up. Honestly though, and if someone went back in time and said this to young(er) Beca she’d probably kick your ass, Beca doesn’t mind the prospect of spending time with just Aubrey either.

 

“—finally, I just told the guy the plot of the movie was not interesting enough and that no amount or quality of music could fix that. And then he put me in charge of writing an entirely new script.” Jesse was happy and giddy as ever. Like a young puppy let out to play with their brother and sister puppies for the first time. Beca was in love with her job, but Jesse had straight up declared that job the love of his life. Which meant a lot, coming from someone growing up with the idea that there was going to be one lucky girl who was going to fill that role. He was the kind of guy that believed in the music swelling and the planet aligning and all that stuff. Beca, on the other hand, didn’t really believe in any of it. Which was ironic, considering Jesse had been dating girls casually ever since he left college and Beca had been hung up on Chloe since she started college, but Beca didn’t like to dwell on that.

 

After Jesse told the fifteenth story about finding the perfect song for the perfect scene, Chloe thankfully dragged him to the dancefloor. Beca was sipping her rum and coke slowly. Aubrey looked at her with a strange, almost calculating look. Sort of strict, too, in a way that reminded Beca of her first year of a cappella at Barden. She shuddered at the memory.

 

“What was that?” Aubrey said with a half-smile and a raised eyebrow.

 

“Just had some war flashbacks to my freshmen year being bossed around by you.” Now, Beca understood the pressure that Aubrey had been under at the time. Her father, being the whole I-don’t-accept-failure type, and the fact that she literally projectile vomited during her last big performance. Of course her methods were questionable, but her motives weren’t wrong, and the Aubrey sitting across from her now was a wholly different person than the tightly wound, control freak with daddy issues that had been her a cappella instructor all those years back.

 

“Oh, don’t be a baby. That’s probably still the only cardio you’ve ever done in your life.” She rightfully pointed out. They laughed together and then fell silent. About a minute went by before Aubrey’s face grew serious again and she looked at Beca like she was about to say something important.

 

“When are you going to tell her?” She says, eventually, which is not at all what Beca was expecting her to say. More importantly, she has no idea how to even begin to answer that question.

 

“w-what?”

 

“Beca, I know. Jesse knows. Everyone knows. Chloe herself probably knows, too. And we’re all just waiting for you to tell her and I personally just don’t understand why you haven’t yet.” Aubrey seems to think for a second, but when Beca opens her mouth she shoots her a look that seems to mean that she’s not finished, “Look. Chloe’s my best friend. But you’re my friend, too. And I understood that you had trouble telling her in college and then Kristoff came along and you couldn’t anymore. But don’t you understand how incredibly lucky you are that you’ve been given a second chance? She’s here, now, and she cares about you a great deal, and regardless of what happens, I think she deserves your honesty and you deserve to know.”

 

So Beca goes home that night and cries in bed for a half hour because she has too many feelings she doesn’t understand, and then she texts Aubrey to say thank you for being real with her and then she goes to sleep.

 

*

 

She doesn’t really want to tell her, but she recognizes that Aubrey is right, no matter how difficult it is to admit.

 

“I’m going to tell her how I feel.” Beca tells Rosa during my sometimes-bi-sometimes-tri-weekly appointment. She nods with a small smile.

 

“That sounds like a good idea. I trust you already decided how you are going to say it?”

 

“Yes. Well, no. I had a couple of ideas but I couldn’t decide yet. I’m just afraid I’m going to mess it up, because talking isn’t really my strong suit, and I’m afraid the stress might make me go non-verbal. Which, like, doesn’t happen a lot but it has happened before, and this is a really stressful situation and a really bad time to not be able to talk all of a sudden and I—“ Beca recognizes that she’s sort of rambling, which she only tend to do when she’s very very nervous about something, which checks out.

 

*

 

Two weeks later Beca finishes the album. It’s set to drop in a few days and she doesn’t have another artist coming in for a while, so she has an uncharacteristic period of down time. Which she uses to hang out with Cloe. Like, a lot.

 

She grabs them lunch from this little sandwich place around the corner from Chloe’s school. The sandwiches are okay, but the coffee is amazing and considering Chloe has spent many a night complaining about the dire state of the coffee machine in the teacher’s lounge, Beca knows what her priority is.

 

She arrives at the school only a few minutes after Chloe got out of class. They’ve agreed to meet in front of the school so they could have lunch at a park nearby and enjoy the weather. Or like, Chloe said that’s what she wanted to do, and Beca agreed because she honestly couldn’t care less. She waits for a short while until Chloe comes bouncing out of the school, instantly moving to hug Beca. She squeezes as if they haven’t seen each other in forever, when in reality it’s been only two days. Never before has Beca felt this innate need to grab Chloe’s hands as they’re walking towards the park, even if just to give them something to do. She hadn’t planned to confess her undying love today, but it feels like the words are building up inside of her and they need a way out.

 

They find a small patch of grass near the entrance of the park and sit down. Chloe thanks Beca five times for getting coffee and lunch, as if it’s something incredibly impressive rather than just basic friendship, but she’s not complaining. As soon as they’ve settled in Chloe launches into a detailed description of her morning. She talks about the kids in her classes as if Beca has met every single one of them, and actually understands what it means when she makes statements such as “and then Abigail raised her hand to answer the question!”. Beca doesn’t ask. She just sits and listens, while her mind keeps repeating the words she wants to say. Over and over and over and over—

 

“Chloe, I’m in love with you.” Silence. From Chloe, that is. The noises around them; the chirping of birds, the rustling of leaves as the soft California wind makes them dance against and around each other, the honking of a car far away, keep sounding, but Chloe is silent, and Beca doesn’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad sign. She wants to say more, maybe explain what she means a little bit or even take it back or just say anything, but the words seem to get stuck somewhere between her brain and her mouth. It’s a solid five minutes before Chloe finally breaks the uncomfortable silence,

 

“I—uh—what?!”