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love tastes like spring and blood

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A daffodil.

Yellow and white.

Wrinkled and wet petals.

It smelt sickly sweet for something that had just been in her haven't-toothbrushed-just-yet-mouth. Beca wasn't stupid. 

The last time she'd witnessed firsthand the effects of the Disease, she'd cried in the hospital waiting room after calling 911 to the sight of her mom covered in a sea of purple hyacinth, sour vomit, and her own blood.

She should’ve known she’d face the same fuckery.

 


 

Unrequited love. You’re the only one. The sun is always shining when I’m with you.

Those were the most common meanings for daffodils.

Beca didn’t need to Google what was happening to her—books and journal articles and online forums scattered around her high school home still lived in the back of her eyelids. She’d read and heard plenty about the Hanahaki Disease—she just didn’t think she’d have to suffer from it.

Her mom had told her once—pre-surgery—that flowers were dangerous little things. They held so much wonder and beauty in their petals but hid so much weight and pain in their thorns.

The first time she'd coughed out a daffodil, she'd recognized the flower immediately.

It was the only flower her mother never seemed averse to.

As soon as the DJ had felt the smooth slimy petals hit her palm, she'd crushed the evidence as fast as she'd coughed. 

"You okay, Bec?" Warm ocean blue turned worriedly at the sound.

It was their last rehearsal for the President’s birthday performance. Beca was kind of fucking tired and stressed but she thought she’d been hiding it pretty smoothly and managing well enough. It helped that the Bellas were more in tune with each other and better focused this year—so Beca wasn’t as stressed as she used to be (still, the all nighters and early mornings she’s had to pull to get their setlist perfect while applying for different internships for her senior year were starting to catch up to her).

Her eyes were starting to pull at the weight of having to keep them open, though, and she’d yawned three times in five minutes, so her co-captain had banned her from the rest of the practice (she’d said it much nicer, of course. And much gentler, too, but Beca had grumbled and protested about being a team and needing to help before her butt had been pushed into the seat and she’d sort of just slumped over and taken a little nap).

She’d woken up to the sound of Chloe going through their “cool down scales” (as the redhead had fondly called it) and her steely blue gaze blinked owlishly before managing to focus on the glowing ginger at the center of the room (truthfully, her eyes would’ve found Chloe even if the supersenior were in the furthest corner of the room, cloaked in shadows and hunched over for some odd reason or another. Her gaze always seemed to find Chloe).

Red hair was piled into a messy bun, showing off the ginger’s smooth tanned neck and the sparse freckles scattered down her spine. Beca watched the way warm ocean orbs glowed under the bright fluorescent lights and full pink lips curled into preciously proud smile. The DJ's thin lips tilting lightly at the way tan hands waved gracefully as she guided the girls through the exercise.

And then her throat started to tickle and her nose scrunched at the feeling before a cough slipped past her lips.

Three petals.

A familiar flower.

Yellow and white.

“You okay, Bec?” the junior was brought back by the sound of her favorite voice cutting through her thoughts.

Beca could feel her throat start to clear just a bit at the soothingly smooth voice and nodded stiffly, stilted smile sliding into place.

“Swallowed wrong,” she'd managed to clear her throat without another slew of petals escaping.

Chloe seemed unconvinced, but the supersenior let it drop before turning back to the growingly restless group.

Beca’d pulled out her phone and pulled up Google.

Daffodils.

Unrequited love.

You’re the only one.

The sun is always shining when I’m with you.

She never knew she could hate the flower that taught her mother to love again. 

 


 

Stacie was the first to find out.

They were all moving back in to the Bella’s house after the horrible Muff Gate incident and were being called in to the university dean’s office later that week. Now, the girls were just arriving from the rest of their vacations, none of them still over the fact that Amy had flashed the president of the United States.

Beca and Stacie were the first Bellas to arrive—Beca, having hitched a ride with her dad, and Stacie, having to do some extra paperwork for her scholarship. The two had greeted each other with a bear hug from Stacie and an awkward back-pat from Beca before they separated to their respective rooms.

Aside from Chloe and Amy, Stacie was one of her closest friends. They’d spent their first year in the Bella house as roommates before draw lots were forced on everyone for the next few years (thanks to Lily, obviously. They’d considered giving her the solo room the year before but realized that it might not be the safest thing to leave her completely unsupervised, and so Chloe got the solo room indefinitely because everyone felt kind of bad for the supersenior—and most (i.e. Beca) secretly hoped it would help the redhead focus on her studies and eventually graduate).

So once Beca had unpacked and set up all her mixing equipment in her room (with Amy this year—and Beca didn’t know if she was happy because she got along pretty great with Amy or terrified because, come on, it’s Fat Amy), she set off to invade Stacie’s space.

Even before they’d roomed together in their sophomore year, Beca and Stacie had formed a close bond through the magical powers of superglue, rubber gloves, and Rhianna. After the Bonding™ (as the taller brunette had dubbed it), Stacie started inviting Beca to the Bellas’ clubbing nights and to frat and sorority parties that the scholar was often invited to. As much as Beca had first refused to attend (she’d been successful in rebuffing everyone else’s invitations—even Chloe’s, back then), Stacie was seventy times more stubborn than the DJ, and the shorter brunette was eventually forced to tag along every now and then.

Despite her initial protests, Beca learned to enjoy her time with the nerdy, sex-driven brunette and had even DJed for a few of the parties they attended. Sure, she was weirdly social and kind of crude and graphic—especially when it came to sex—but she was honest and blunt and smart in ways people never gave her credit for. The pair clicked in a way Beca never had with others—not even with Chloe. If Chloe made her feel all warm and safe, Stacie reminded her to get her head out of her ass and remember that life wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies but that some-fucking-how things were going to be all right.

Stacie was the realism to Beca’s pessimism.

So the two were pretty close. Kind of. Beca tried not to label it.

“Did you know that the new registrar is just a year older than us?” Stacie greeted the Bella captain, who’d entered without so much as a knock or warning.

Beca’s nose scrunched at the randomly stated information—she knew what it meant when Stacie used that fake-nonchalant voice. “Ew, Stace. No.”

The taller brunette looked up from the papers she was going through to quirk a brow and smirk. “Mm, a little too late for that, shorty.”

Beca fake gagged before flopping on to Stacie’s bed, making herself comfortable as the scholar returned to her paperwork.

“So when are the others arriving?” Stacie asked casually, pen flying across the stack of papers as she flicked through them half-heartedly.

“Most are coming in tomorrow like Cynthia-Rose, Flo, Ashley, and Jessica. But Amy’s arriving over the weekend and nobody knows when Lily’s getting back but hopefully after Flo’s arrived.”

“What about Chloe?”

Beca paused, the slowly-turning-familiar tickle in her throat made her nose scrunch as cold blue scanned the ceiling idly while a small smile curled thin pink lips. “She said she’s arriving later tonight if her flight doesn’t get delayed again.”

“Cool, so is she taking a taxi here or is her beau for the sem fetching her?”

A cough escaped the brunette before she could even cover her mouth.

It was pink. Bright and pink and three petals overlapping easily over the other.

Beca crushed the petals in her hand before looking up to find the brunette staring wide-eyed at her. The DJ grimaced as she shrugged and tried for a smirk. “Ta-da?”

(Stacie sent her the contact details to a nearby surgeon later that night.

Chloe had asked her what the message was, leaning over and invading her personal space in the way only Chloe Beale could get away with. But unlike most attempts, Beca switched off her screen and smiled innocently at the redhead, sliding her phone out of reach and muttering “Nothing” before playing their newest Netflix binge.)

 


 

The evening she’d gotten accepted into her internship, she’d hovered in front of Chloe’s door with the acceptance email ready on her phone—all nerves and excitement and worry.

With a shaky breath, Beca let herself in with a gentle, “Chlo?”

Opening the door slowly, the first thing Beca hears is the soft sound of breathing. Cold blue spotted the mess of red hair spread all over white sheets, smooth tan limbs splayed out tiredly around them.

Chloe was dead asleep, books and papers and highlighters and pens scattered around her on the bed and some fallen flat to the floor. A fond sigh slipped past her lips, smile quirking slightly at the sight before picking up the scattered work and materials and placing them carefully on the redhead’s sidetable.

With a gentleness (always and only) reserved for Chloe Beale, Beca moved the redhead into a more comfortable position, pale fingers gently combing flyaways back before bundling her up in her blanket and picking up her things again to leave on her work desk. Shooting the redhead one last smile, the brunette turned to the materials in her arms and tried to arrange it as neatly as she could. She put separated and organized the geography notes from the literature reviewers and the history books from the mass communication books and the—notes and outlines on Das Sound Machine as well as notes on the most frequent World Champions of A Capella competitors.

Placing the materials on the desk, Beca took the Worlds notes from the pile and scanned through them with a sigh. It was obvious that Chloe had been working on it for weeks—the creases and erasures and fading ink made it obvious that it was the focus of the redhead’s attention over their little break after Muff Gate. And though the supersenior’s determination and drive was always something Beca admired (read: loved), she hated seeing it bring the redhead added stress and anxiety. Chloe was already overworking herself with the Bellas and taking part-time jobs and extra units to graduate with a double degree—adding this whole Muff Gate mess felt pretty much like watching the redhead self-destruct.

It felt a lot like the vines wrapping around her lungs.

The increasingly-familiar sensation made its way into the DJ’s throat as her thoughts started to worry about the redhead and Beca was quick to drop everything in her hands and rush out the door. She managed to reach the nearest bathroom just in time, locking it before she started retching out petals and petals and flowers and flowers of azaleas.

She ended up clogging the toilet bowl.

(Stacie’d helped her clear it all out, tossing a slimy, crushed half-flower into the garbage bag with an exaggerated gag as her gloved fingers held it all as far away from her as possible.)

 


 

The day before her internship, Beca took Chloe out to the new coffee shop that had opened up during the start of their ICCA victory tour (that no Bella mentions ever in front of, or anywhere near the redhead). It was comfy and hipster and kind of bright but warm in a way that kind of reminded Beca of Chloe. Or maybe it’s because she was watching the way warm ocean eyes lit up at the sight of the café and tan fingers danced gently over the furniture and décor of the shop.

So, not the worst way Beca’s ever spent her Sunday morning.

The younger Bella captain moved ahead to the counter to order their drinks and breakfast (Warm vanilla tea latte and two slices of banana bread for Chloe and black coffee and a sticky cinnamon roll for Beca) while the redhead found them a table in the corner by the window. She’d hoped to finally have a moment to tell the redhead all about her internship no matter how many horrible scenarios she’d conjured up in her head had protested.

After paying for her order, Beca turned back to find the redhead staring out the shop, a tired, gentle smile curling full pink lips.

And that’s when it hit her.

She loves her.

Despite the sick, twisted vines growing and shifting in her lungs, the brunette hadn’t really let the reality and meaning of it all sink in until then.

She was in fucking love. With Chloe Beale.

Chloe Beale, who’d shot her those big, ocean blue eyes and nearly made her say yes because who the fuck could say no to that? (But she did, somehow. At first.)

Chloe Beale, who’d barged into her shower and basically threatened her to sing (sure, she can look back at the moment fondly now, but in that moment then, she thought she was going to fucking die).

Chloe Beale, who’d managed to convince her that being in an a capella group might actually be fun (okay, maybe “fun” was a bit of a stretch, but Chloe made the whole first year of being a Bella a hell of a lot better than Beca’d imagined it’d be).

Chloe Beale, who’d believed in her completely and undoubtedly even when she couldn’t believe in herself (even before she’d burst into her shower—Chloe admitted (victory-drunk and confetti-stained) to thinking that Beca was someone the Bellas needed with just one look).

Chloe Beale, who’d seen her at her best (three-time ICCA champion, most requested DJ on and off-campus, actually making the fifty thousand laps around the auditorium without collapsing right after) and at her worst (sleepless nights and horrible diets just to finish a single transition and blend, tear-stained days and innumerable bouts of insecurity and anxiety at the overwhelming thoughts and standards placed on her tiny shoulders, labored mornings and burning lungs and aching muscles as she pushed herself to her limits).

Chloe Beale, who was her best friend. Her co-captain. Her partner-in-crime. Her snuggle buddy. Her confidant. Her sunshine and shoulder to cry on. Her constant.

Beca Mitchell loved—loves—Chloe Beale.

(Beca blames the way she’d rushed into the toilet and puked her guts out with a stomach flu she got from her dinner the night before. Chloe didn’t believe her, but the toilet didn’t clog, and the brunette had been able to flush down any evidence that suggested otherwise.

Despite Chloe fussing over her and turning their order to take out so she could force Beca into bed, the only thing in her head was that she was completely, undoubtedly in love with her best friend.)

(She didn’t tell her about the internship.)

 


 

Jesse drove her to Residual Heat.

She’d asked Stacie at first, but the tallest Bella had a tutoring orientation she couldn’t miss and had promised to drive her the next time. So, she’d gone to her ex.

Despite their awkward stint as a couple in their first and second year, the breakup had actually brought the two closer and Beca knew that Jesse would help her out and not bug her too much about telling the others.

He was driving her to the studio, talking about his own internship at a small film company when Beca’s phone had buzzed and she’d stopped teasing the Treble for a second to answer.

“Hey Chlo,” she replied with ease, Jesse grinning childishly when he realized who was on the other end of the line (she may have just realized she loved the woman, but that didn’t mean that her toner wasn’t noticeable for the last few years).

“Bec, where are you?”

“Um, I’m with Jesse. He needed help with his internship.”

“Aw, but it’s movie night, Becs!”

“Shit, sorry, Chlo. Slipped my mind. I’ll be back as soon as we finish this thing.”

“Alright, but you owe me a date!”

Beca’s nose twitched at the familiar tickle in her throat. “Course.”

“Okay, get home soon!”

“See you.” Beca gagged at the familiar feeling in her throat but managed to tamp down the petals and keep her lungs at bay.

Jesse stared at her curiously, a mix of worry and confusion tinting his brown eyes. “You okay?”

Gulping down the lump in her throat, Beca nodded with a grimace. “Just fine.”

The Treble looked skeptic but let the subject drop, turning the corner and parking just around the bend. The DJ grabbed her things and slid out of the car, poking her head back in to shoot a quick thanks before the deep frown on her ex’s face made her freeze. “What?”

Jesse turned to her, frown still set, eyebrows furrowed, “You know you can always talk to me, right, Beca? We may not be dating anymore, but I’d like to think we’re still best bros.”

A genuine smile quirked thin pink lips as the Bella nodded, pulling away before Jesse added, “And if not me, you should at least talk to Chloe.”

(Her throat itched at the knowledge that she couldn’t.)

 


 

The DJ arrived at the Treblemaker’s place right in the thick of the party. She could see the Bellas scattered around the pool, recognized some of the other acapella nerds, and made her way to the bar to start off the night.

She’d bumped into Jesse by the bar.

“Becaw!” the Treble captain crushed her in a bear hug. “You made it!”

Beca pulled away with a grunt, shaking her head as an exasperated smile quirked her lips. “Couldn’t miss our last hood night party.”

Jesse nodded enthusiastically, flopping back on to his seat and returning to his drink. “Chloe asked me where you were. You haven’t told her about your internship?”

“I was going to—” Beca shook her head, grabbing a beer. “I mean, I will. Just, a lot’s been happening. She’s locked in on how to win the Worlds. I just need to pick the right time.”

Jesse stared for an uncomfortably long time before nodding once, as if making up his mind. “Fine, but I’m expecting a written report on this talk by next week.”

Beca rolled her eyes in reply, shaking her head as she nodded sarcastically and gave him a mocking salute. “Yes boss.”

“C’mon. Let’s get stupid together while we still can,” Jesse grinned boyishly at her, Beca sighing exaggeratedly before letting the Treble captain drag her to the dance floor.

At the sight of their other captain, the Bellas cheered and yelled, pulling her into their circle and shoving random drinks into her hands as they celebrated their last hood night as Barden Bellas.

The night blurred into a wild mess until the only thing Beca could feel was a burning fire in her throat and lungs.

Stacie finds her retching into a bush at the side of the Treble house late into the night. The leggy brunette was crouched by her side in seconds as Beca assaulted the Treble’s hedge.

Acacia blossoms.

They were whole this time.

The Bella captain gagged and retched into the bushes as tears pricked the corner of her eyes and all she fucking wanted was a goddamn second of fucking air.

Stacie held her hair back and shooed away any other concerned partygoer or stumbling drunk until the bitter taste of bile and beer and acacia blossoms were all that was left in her mouth.

Stacie helped the shorter woman up before slipping an arm around her waist and throwing Beca’s arm over her shoulder. “Let’s get you home, Mitchell.”

All Beca could do was grunt in reply as she let the younger Bella lead them out the house and back to their own place. The Bella captain could barely even remember what had triggered it this time—the only thing she knew was that her shirt smelled of vanilla and apples and tequila.

 


 

She found herself in Chloe’s bed the next morning—the redhead herself still deep asleep with a tanned arm slung over her waist. She started to panic, throat bubbling and building with petals as her eyes flew about the room before they landed on her completely covered (if not a little rumpled) attire. The panic (and petals) started to ebb as she realized that Chloe was fully clothed, too, and she had not had sex with the woman she loves while drunk.

And then she’d wheezed out a flower.

A red carnation (thanks Google).

She’d grimaced at the petals before crushing them in her fist and slipping out of the redhead’s room—careful not to disturb the peaceful slumber the woman seemed to be in.

Beca was still Googling about the flower she’d quickly thrown out when she bumped into Stacie in the kitchen. The taller Bella took one look at the captain before sliding her a mug of coffee and patting on the empty seat next to her.

The two sat in comfortable silence, the sound of a few Bellas getting ready for their day filling the still morning air. Beca was halfway through her coffee when Stacie finally opened with, “If I say her name, will you start puke-gating again?”

The Bella captain rolled her eyes before elbowing the woman. Her sarcastic laugh followed by a scowl as she finished her drink. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t cough out any blood.”

“It hasn’t reached that stage yet.”

“Yet? You’re going to let it?”

“Do you seriously think I’d let myself forget her?”

Beca took the stilted silence as her answer.

Her decision wasn’t just because Beca loved her. Beca had seen firsthand how effective a successful surgery was and it pained her every day to see the emptiness in her mother’s eyes and how hollow everything seemed afterwards. She hated how she’d mention her father and find no semblance of recognition on her face. She couldn’t bear living with that kind of lapse in her life.

How could she forget early morning drives and singing to her latest mixes as they drove to the farthest grocery just to have more time together before heading back to the Bellas? How could she let go of the memory of seeing Chloe listen to her mix for the very first time—ocean orbs twinkling brightly under the low-light as the redhead practically danced in her seat? How could she let herself forget that Chloe drank Chamomile and honey in the evenings? Or that the redhead needed an extra blanket to cover her feet because they always got cold so easily? Or that she carried around a pack of gum and mints and wrapped the mint in a stick of gum before eating it because Alice had told her that her breath smelt like egg once?

How could she ever let herself forget about Chloe Beale?

She stood and dropped her mug in the washer before Stacie finally broke the silence. “You should tell her. Hiding it isn’t doing anyone any good, Beca.”

“Because everyone wants to hear that they’re best friend’s dying, right?” a wry smile tiredly curled at thin pink lips. “Because that’s all I am, Stace. Her best friend.”

“You don’t know that.”

“And you don’t know if the opposite is true, either.” Beca sighed, shoulders sagging as she shook her head and made her way out the room.

“You can’t just give up, Beca.”

Beca replied with a red carnation wrapped around her middle finger.

 


 

“So I think we should spy on the enemy.”

Beca didn’t bother looking up from her screen, merely humming in reply to her co-captain’s sudden appearance.

“Becs?” Chloe repeated, dropping on to the brunette’s bed and leaning forward to grab her attention.

Cold blue met warm ones as she slipped her headphones off. “Yeah, I heard you. You want us to spy on…? Who are our enemies, again? I mean, do we have enemies?”

“Das Sound Machine, Bec!”

“Enemies is a bit of a stretch, don’t you th—”

“They stole our victory tour!”

“More like Amy made us lose all our—”

“It is disrespectful for a capella groups to take each others’ shows!”

“They were offered our spot, Chl—”

“But that didn’t mean they had to accept it! God, Beca, it’s like they don’t have any sense of human decency!”

“Okay, now that’s just a little—”

“Are you defending them, Rebeca Mitchell?”

Raising her hands in surrender, the younger Bella bit her lip to keep a fond smile from showing. Sometimes, Beca couldn’t help but find the redhead’s ire and rants adorable—especially when she used an excessive amount of arm movements and would run a hand through her hair almost every other time she lifts her arms and how her eyes would light up so brightly they could rival the fucking sun.

The DJ could feel the petals bubbling in her throat.

Chloe threw her head back with a groan, bouncing on her bed before crawling over to take up her “spot” on Beca’s bed and slumping on to the brunette.

“Becaaaa,” the redhead whined, pouting as she curled into the younger woman and Beca could feel the flowers start climbing her throat. Beca (softly) slammed her laptop closed before sliding it off her legs and jumping to her feet.

“I ate Amy’s burrito,” Beca rushed in explanation before she flew down the stairs and puked yellow tulips into the closest toilet bowl (thankfully, Beca had actually eaten Amy’s “all natural” burrito for lunch and she remembered to lock the door when Chloe followed after her worriedly, knocking softly and cautiously asking her to open the door. Beca didn’t, but she managed to clean up any and all evidence of flower petals before she finally let Chloe witness her hot mess).

 


 

Beca was mixing Christmas songs in her head.

Sammy wanted something to set Snoop Dogg’s album apart and dammit Beca was going to deliver. Hopefully.

Maybe.

She was fucking trying, okay?

The younger Bella captain was too busy trying to find matching beats in her head that Flo’s question barely made her flinch. But then the voice she could recognize from fifty feet away (lies. Beca isn’t supergirl) called it “scouting the competition” and Beca distinctly remembered the phrasing being vastly different just the day before. So she looks up as Legacy’s speaking to shoot her co-captain a knowing smirk and Chloe—always attuned to the shorter brunette—turned to her in seconds. Beca watched as ocean orbs finally took note of the DJ’s smirk and caught the redhead’s replying eyeroll (proudly learned from the brunette herself), shooting her co-captain a triumphant grin in response.

Chloe’s focus didn’t stick with her though (and it would have hurt if this was second or third year Beca. Unfortunately, senior year Beca was more concerned with making Sammy happy than having her best-friend-who-she’s-kind-of-definitely-in-love-with’s undivided attention), and she returned to ranting about the stupid DSM team.

The DJ turned back to mixing in her head when she reached the end of the escalator and heard Chloe scold the tallest Bella. Beca’s concentration was broken completely at the sight of one of her closest friends practically fucking a car.

“Keep it in your pants, maybe,” Beca rolled her eyes (half-annoyed, half-fond) as she sped past to catch up to her co-captain. As much as she loved Stacie, she’s heard enough of the stories to know that a physical demonstration was just asking for a Muff Gate 2.

Beca quickly matched pace with the striding redhead, her co-captain determined and focused as she corralled the group to a table or two. The younger woman pursed her lips, trying to hide a smile at the steely gaze in her co-captain’s eyes as they jumped around the room. Because as sweet and soothing and warm as Chloe Beale was, Beca knew that the woman was a fighter—and it filled her with such admiration and affection that she could feel the vines squeezing at her lungs. No matter how busy or distracted Beca was, she always had time to admire Chloe Beale.

The brunette caught her cough before it ripped out her throat, covering her mouth quickly and hiding the flower in her fist with an ease that could only come from too much practice.

“You okay, Bec?” Chloe turned from her spot across the tiny table.

Beca shrugged, lips quirking slightly to a grimace. “‘M fine. Just surprised at all this fancy dramatics for a little car show.”

The lights started to fade and spotlights flickered, grabbing everyone’s attention before the redhead could push any further.

 


 

The performance was kind of fucking amazing. And intimidating. Much like DSM’s leader.

Kommissar was annoying… and intimidating and stunning and distracting and she didn’t make Beca puke out flowers just by existing (sure Beca stuttered and stumbled, but that was only because she had 20/20 vision. Kommissar reminded Beca of Stacie in a way that both women were annoyingly tall and gorgeous—but where Stacie made Beca feel confident about being a human being, Kommissar made Beca feel like she would crush her with her pinky if she didn’t vomit words instead of flowers every ten seconds (but seriously, Beca was trying)).

Beca couldn’t quite decipher the look Chloe gave her afterwards—whether it was frustration or annoyance or hurt. The redhead had slipped into the passenger’s seat and told Stacie to drive and Beca hadn’t been able to talk to the supersenior since they got back home.

So Beca grudgingly trudged into her room and Googled up the cheapest places to get an “I don’t know why you’re mad at me or if you’re even really angry at me but I’m sorry either way” cake around town and she searched up the crushed petals in her pocket as well as everything the internet had about DSM.

($19.98. Petunias. And they had a fucking Wikipedia page, Tumblr fan blogs, and their own damn website.)

 


 

Beca remembered a time when watching Chloe gave her extreme bouts of inspiration and passion. When watching Chloe Beale do everything and nothing was Beca’s favorite part of her day just because it both amused and melted her stone-cold heart. When Beca took to memory every little thing about the redhead just by watching the way she interacted with the world.

Now, she still feels all those things, just, with an added bonus of flowers, flowers, and oh fucking shit, look! More flowers!

So, on their first rehearsal day (and every other day in between) the younger Bella captain did everything in her power to keep from staring too long or focusing too much on the redhead. Not that Beca succeeded very much, but at least the effort had kept her from spitting out a new tree or something.

So Beca’s been keeping her distance.

When Chloe slides easily into the space next to her, her lungs do this weird thing where she feels the vines tighten but suddenly finds it so much easier to breathe.

Chloe Beale has broken her.

“I think we’re good for today, what do you think, Bec?”

Beca nods, stuffing her cellphone back into her pocket (a stressed text from one of her co-workers telling her to get her ass to the studio asap) before letting her arm drop. She claps her hands twice and calls for all the Bellas to “get the fuck in here, nerds.”

Chloe leads their ending huddle and Beca spares her co-captain one last look before rushing to pack her things. She doesn’t even notice the Legacy until the freshman speaks up. “Hey, is it weird we never got around to singing today?”

“Well it’s tough to sing when we don’t have the arrangements and that’s on me,” Beca grimaces just slightly. “So thanks for reminding me.”

Chloe breezes by, seemingly just as busy and rushed as her co-captain. “Yeah Bec, we’re going to need those ASAP so we can start nailing down our choreography.”

“Right on top of that, Chlo,” Beca manages to sound calm and collected despite her thoughts jumbling from all the work and shit she has to balance. The Legacy’s words fly over her head as she throws her bag over her shoulder and gets another harried text. She barely remembers what she says to the freshman before she’s out the door and rushing to the studio.

(The first person she wants to tell after Sammy offers to listen to her work is Chloe. Then she remembers that Chloe doesn’t know about all this shit.

And then she coughs out a pink camellia.)

 


 

They’d lost the riff off and Chloe was ripping Emily a good one.

Emily looked ready to cry. “Sorry, I panicked. I understand if you want me to crawl under a rock and die.”

“Hey, we don’t want that,” Beca assured the freshman, turning pointedly to the redhead as she repeated, “We don’t want that.”

Chloe huffed, crossing her arms over her chest as Benji appeared and timidly asked Emily if she wanted to dance with him for a bit. The Legacy looked warily at the co-captains before the DJ shot her a reassuring smile and nodded, pale hand guiding Chloe away by the elbow to give the freshman some room.

The redhead was still pouting moodily when Beca finally found them a free table, pulling a chair out for the supersenior before grabbing some drinks and taking the seat next to her.

“It’s not her fault, Chlo,” the brunette’s voice was soft, calming. “I should’ve been on top of her training more and given her more songs to practice on. If there’s anyone you should be mad at, it’s me.”

Ocean blue eyes squeezed shut as a sharp little huff left full pink lips, tan fingers reaching blindly for Beca’s pale ones. The DJ was quick to react, placing the drinks on the table before gently taking the redhead’s hand in hers and drawing soothing circles into tan knuckles. The two sat in silence as the party hit its peak, the deafening noise and vibrations under their feet fade into dull background noise for the Bella captains.

“I—” Chloe started after a sigh, jaw clenching as ocean orbs squinted through narrow slits. “I’m sorry.” Beca gave her hand a quick squeeze of assurance. “I know it’s not anyone’s fault. I’m just frustrated and mad and projecting it on everyone.”

Beca nodded in reply, both in understanding and because she knew when the redhead needed to sort through her thoughts. Chloe may have been the talker between them, but that didn’t mean she didn’t need some quiet every now and then.

Tracing slow, lazy circles on the back of her tanned hand, Beca let the supersenior sift through her thoughts as she held on gently. It wasn’t the first time Chloe had gone on a war path. The redhead was known for her fiery little bursts, burning out just as fast as she’d light up. And followed by every fiery little outburst was the calming constant of her co-captain.

If there was anyone in the group—or even on campus—who could calm the redhead as fast as she’d burst, it was the little DJ.

Beca knew the little things that triggered the redhead, was always hyperaware of the way tan shoulders would stiffen and smooth jaw would clench. She knew to hold out a hand when warm ocean eyes would flash, knew to draw slow circles on tanned knuckles until her breathing evened out, knew to stand a little closer when the supersenior would draw to her full 5’4”, knew to speak in slow but firm replies, knew when to give her space or pull her close, knew—Chloe Beale. Beca knew the redhead inside and out—just like the way Chloe knew her.

Whereas most people found the supersenior intimidating, Beca saw her co-captain’s overly extreme passion as something always worrisome—maybe inspiring at times—but normally something worrisome if not occasionally amusing (and on the rare occasion she’d admit to herself—sexy).

The gentle squeeze on her hand brought the brunette back from her thoughts, steel blue eyes meeting ocean orbs before the redhead rested her head on her co-captain’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry.” Beca strained to hear the older woman’s raspy apology, but hummed in reply before turning to place a reassuring peck on the redhead’s crown.

It was moments like these—the tender and vulnerable moments. The moments where the world was just them. When nothing else mattered but the breath ghosting her collarbone and the warmth resting on her head. When she didn’t have to think about the panic-inducing burden of graduating and the crushing fear that her music wouldn’t make it in the “real world.” When the only music that mattered to her in those moments was the sound of soft breathing and a steady heartbeat nestled over her own.

It was moments like these that reminded her how impossibly in love she was with her best friend.

“I’m sorry, too, Chlo.”

She swallowed back the petal that tickled out her throat.

 


 

Beca missed Chloe.

Not that the redhead was ever far away, but the whole keeping distance and hiding secrets schtick was tiring without her best friend to help her carry the burden with. Except she couldn’t do that. Not when her best friend was the one she was hiding from in the first place.

Keeping her distance from her co-captain was excruciating.

Habits and routines were abruptly cut off, and it seemed like the supersenior barely even noticed as the hustle and bustle of preparing for Worlds kept everyone in the house busy.

She missed their late night cramming and whispered secrets in warmly colored beds, missed the buttered croissants and weird smelling teas sitting right across her every Wednesdays and Fridays, missed waiting on the quad bench with two mugs of coffee on Mondays and Thursdays, missed hearing the top 20s hummed randomly around her every time they did chores together, missed the Netflix binging and cuddles that came with it, the morning coffees that were accompanied with the faint smell of Chloe’s vanilla perfume and apple lotion, the books scattered haphazardly across her desk (that had nothing to do with her majors), and missed the faint smell of vanilla and apples that had long since disappeared from the hoodies she’d stolen from the supersenior. She missed doing everything and nothing with her redhead. She missed how Chloe made things better.

She could really use that right now.

She’d been staring at her laptop for what felt like an eternity—trying to come up with something “new” and “original” to impress Sammy because apparently her entire life’s work was just a bunch of songs piled together like the piece of shit she actually was and now she had one last chance to make a mind-blowing song for an award winning music producer while balancing her work as a graduating student and being co-captain of an acapella group that’s basically her family and could very well be retired all because Amy flashed the entire world and to make sure her family didn’t die in the drain out of embarrassment they had to compete against the best of the best around the world and she has to make music for that shit while she can’t even make music for her own boss and she can’t even ask her best friend for help because she is very much in love with her and it’s very literally killing her and so—ah fuck.

Pale, slender hands shook strongly as Beca felt a pressure pushing heavily on her lungs. She barely noticed the tears falling into her lap or the sharp sound of a knock on her door before it was thrown open.

“Hey shortstack, Amy said she wasn’t coming home tonight so she—Beca?” Stacie froze at the sight of her, eyes wide as the box of pizza nearly slipped from her grasp. The taller Bella blinked slowly, jaw clamping shut. “Should I—do I call Chloe?”

Beca didn’t know if she replied, steel blue eyes squeezing shut as trembling fingers gripped at the fabric right over her heart. Dragging slow, deep breaths from her lungs felt like carrying Fat Amy around campus (an unfortunately lost bet that she will never make the same mistake of repeating) as the brunette tried to focus on finding air and not more anxiety.

The world was a muffled haze around her. The only sound she could comprehend was the shaky breaths leaving her mouth and the blood rushing to her ears and the harsh thump thump thumping of her heart.

The pain squeezing her lungs felt completely different from the usual vines and thorns she’d become familiar with. This pain overwhelmed her senses to the point of numbness. Dull, broken numbness.

Warm thumbs gently padding away her tears shocked her enough into stillness, steel blue opening to find deep ocean orbs swimming with worry. The brunette found herself wrapped in the redhead’s warm embrace, shaking fingers flying to the redhead’s sweater as she let herself be rocked in the older woman’s arms. She doesn't remember if the supersenior says anything, the sound of her sobs ringing drowningly in her ears.

Somehow they fall asleep, a tangle of limbs and tears.

(Beca wakes up surrounded by petunias. She manages to quietly clean everything up before slipping away, grabbing her things, and tucking the redhead under her blanket.

They don’t talk about it.)

 


 

Emily found out next.

Kind of.

“Hey Beca, I’m kind of confused with how to do the verse in this part can yo—oh my god.”

The Bella captain looked from the freshman down to the vomit and flowers spilt on her desk, hastily wiping the last few traces away with some tissue and dropping them into the overflowing bin by her feet. Beca grimaced back at the freshman. “It’s a, uh, new magic trick I’m trying for the upcoming show?”

Beca can actually see the stars dim in Legacy’s eyes. “Then why is there puke?”

The older woman could only reply with a sigh, shoulder slumping as she wiped the gunk off her lips and spit the leftovers into the bin. She waved for the freshman to enter, readying herself for the onslaught of questions she was sure the rookie would have.

“Are you okay?”

Huh.

Cold blue eyes stared warily at the younger woman, waiting for another dozen set of questions—but they never came. Legacy stood worriedly by the steps waiting for her reply.

“Um, yeah. I’m—I’ll live.”

Emily nodded slowly, lips pursing before her eyes met steel blue. The legacy’s voice was soft, careful. “I don’t know what’s going on—if this is, like, a fever dream or a nightmare or something—but if it isn’t then… we’re here for you. All of us Bellas. And if you need, like, to take a break or have less work then we’re willing to, like, I know I’m new and everything but clearly you aren’t feeling well—”

“Legacy.”

“—and, like, I really look up to you because you’re Beca Effin’ Mitchell and maybe that’s adding to your stress—I don’t know—but, like—”

“Legacy.”

“—we’re a family and families are supposed to be there for each other and maybe we’ve been pushing each other a little too hard on this whole Worlds thing—”

Legacy.”

“—which, understandable considering the entire Bella existence is resting on our shoulders right now and—oh my god—is this helping? I don’t think this is helping maybe I should just—”

Hey! Legacy! I’m fine. We’re good.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, I—I’m also… good.”

“Good… And thank you. I know you’re all there for me.”

“Yeah, yes! Great. Good.”

Beca nodded in reply, slender fingers tapping rhythmically on her leg as she pursed her lips and let the awkward silence stretch—wondering if the Legacy wanted to talk about anything else. Seconds blurred into minutes as the two waited for the other to start, but when the Bella captain realized that the freshman really wasn’t going to ask any more questions, she cleared her throat and cautiously stood up. “Do you… need… anything else?”

The younger woman blinked owlishly, having clearly been lost in her own thoughts. “Um… uh… no! No, I’m good, sorry.” Emily nearly slipped down the steps as she turned to leave. “I’ll—uh, if you need anything! I’m just downstairs!”

(Emily hadn’t brought up the incident at all since that awkward moment and Beca had thought the Legacy had burned the memory away until their bi-monthly Bella Movie night came up.

The Bella captain was curled up against her co-captain, eyes on her dimmed phone instead of the television screen. Slim, tan fingers combed gently through her hair as Chloe’s focus stayed glued to the film and it felt much like any other movie night in the Bella house.

And then Emily yelled.

“Hanahaki!”

Beca tensed at the word as Amy yawned a half-hearted, “Gesundheit, Legacy.”

Chloe’s fingers stilled at the slight movement, warm blue eyes peering down at the brunette in concern. The redhead whispered, “You okay, Bec?”

The DJ hummed in reply as she tried to relax, cold blue searching through the dim room to find the Legacy curled in the corner with her own phone turned on bright. But other than that random moment, the freshman kept the incident to herself.)

 


 

“There’s a full house out there! How’d we get this gig again?” Legacy entered the dressing room bouncing with excitement, beam bright as she watched the other Bellas in various stages of their own make-up transformations.

“They called us.” Chloe paced casually in the center of the room, trying hard to play off her nerves.

Beca was having her hair fixed up by Cynthia-Rose, trying hard not to turn and placate the anxious redhead. Trying her best to hype up the girls, calm Chloe and her own nerves down, and stay still so CR could get the damned painful hairstyle in place, Beca tried to give a speech (which is a horrible idea, because Beca is shit at speeches. Better than Chloe, but still shit).

“You know what, guys?” the DJ winced, trying not to pull away from their rapper. “I know we’re trying a lot of new stuff, but I feel like we’re going to get out there, feel the energy, and we’re just going to nail all of it!” She held back a whimper, eyes squeezing shut as she grit the pain away. “Sorry, these braids are so tight.”

Chloe walked into the DJ’s view, shaking her head. “I don’t know. I have many doubts.” The eldest Bella’s movements grew more frantic. “We’ll fail here, we won’t win the Worlds and then there will be no Bellas and then…” Breath hitching as the redhead’s breathing started to pick up. “My life—will—have had—no—”

Chloe sputtered off, a frustrated squeal escaping her before she turned aggressively on her heel. The Bellas stared at their co-captain in confusion before Flo tried to finish the redhead’s sentence for her, “Malaria?”

Chloe turned sharply towards the Guatemalan. “Meaning, Flo! Meaning!”

“What? No, Chlo, you know that’s not tr—holy fuck! Ow-ow-ow-ow!” Beca fell back into her seat, biting back the curses she was ready to throw as CR half-heartedly apologized while tying up the finishing touches to her hair.

The redhead let out a harsh sigh, tan fingers rubbing her temples as she bit back another complaint. Ocean blue orbs squeezed shut as the supersenior tried to collect herself, teeth sinking into full pink lips as she took a sharp breath in. Shaky breath out, stilted breath in. Warm blue opened at the feel of cold slim fingers wrapping around her wrist, ocean orbs meeting striking cold ones as her co-captain quirked a brow and asked two simple words.

“Restroom break?”

It was their favorite code word.

Restroom breaks were for slipping away from a drunk dude hitting on you at 1AM at the club. Restroom breaks were for social breathers at Bella parties. Restroom breaks were for strong, gentle hugs away from sympathetic stares at being asked why they weren’t graduating again. Restroom breaks were for panic attacks at being overwhelmed at family reunions. Restroom breaks were for Beca and Chloe.

The redhead nodded numbly, letting the shorter Bella pull her gently out of the dressing area and into the nearest empty room.

The supply closet was cramped and cluttered and could barely fit the pair, but Beca was tiny and managed to squeeze herself in at just the right angle before switching on the lights and locking the door behind them. Cold blue eyes winced at the harsh white that filled the room, steel blue slowly adjusting to the glaring light giving smooth tan skin a pale ghostly tint.

Beca could feel shuddering vibrations passing through her arm as steel blue rose to find ocean orbs stinging red.

“Chlo, hey, I’m right here.” The brunette twisted awkwardly to slip an arm around the redhead and let her cry on her jacket, mentally biting back the urge to joke about needing a retouch afterwards. Beca had never been good with emotions—she was still pretty shit at it—but for Chloe, she’d always try.

She’d try to find soothing words that could ease away the shake in her shoulders, try to learn the different ways to get shaking hands to still, try to keep the reflexive sarcasm and humor to a minimum, try to find ways to piece her back together with hugs and whispers. Try to tamp down the petals scratching at her throat.

Throaty sobs died down to sniffles as the supersenior pulled away, pale thumbs gently brushing over running mascara and stray tears.

Chloe choked out a laugh. “I’m a mess.”

“A hot mess.” Beca smirked crookedly despite the worry tinged in steel blue.

The redhead chuckled, shaking her head as she leaned in for another hug—less desperate than the first, but just as strong. She whispered into the jacket she’d soaked, “I’m sorry.”

Beca held her tighter—to take the pain, take the burden, take the insecurities eating away at her—petals tickling dangerously up her throat. “I’m sorry, too.”

(The second they stumbled off stage, Beca rushed out of that embarrassment of a performance, Chloe’s confused and slightly upset shouts growing faint as the brunette crashed into the closest toilet. The rumbling noise of the few free Bellas rushing to check on her drowned under the echoing sounds of her puking a fresh stream of purple hyacinths.)

 


 

The girls were packing for their impromptu retreat (which took Chloe only three hours to plan and finalize as soon as she’d announced it after their senior center failure) and while most of the girls were packing, Beca had decided to take a quick little break from listening to Fat Amy complain about how much air was in potato chip bags to walk around a bit and clear her head. Her thoughts felt like livewire.

Her mind jumped from one weight to the next, every problem and insecurity that’d been building up inside starting to tear away at her. Juggling with passing all her courses to get through senior year, having to come up with a final project to graduate, getting her resume and portfolio together, trying to save the Bella name, figuring out how to keep her Bella family together as graduation looms closer, trying to impress her boss at a job where she feels underappreciated and untalented and useless as fuck, and then there’s the whole being in love with her best friend thing that’s literally killing her.

She’d tried to solve that last one after her panic attack a couple weeks ago. She’d scheduled an appointment from the surgeon Stacie had sent her the details to all those months ago, hoping to, at the very least clear some things up about her condition.

She’d been hoping (against all the odds and research she’d done herself) that she had other options. Any other option.

“But what if,” she could feel the clinical chill despite Barden’s crisp night air. “You tell the person and they don’t love you back. Is it, does it affect the—you know—growing inside me?”

“Unfortunately there have been no cases of patients surviving if their feelings are not returned, whether vocally or physically expressed. As far as our research shows, either the feeling is mutual and plainly expressed to both parties or the thorn growing tumor is removed.”

Beca could remember the murmur that had left her lips—a little too loud in the eerie silence of the medical office. “Along with my memories.”

“Along with your memories, yes.” The doctor gave her a few minutes to process, the silence drowned by the heavy pounding rising from her chest, to her neck, to her ears. “Look, Ms. Mitchell, I understand that this procedure is a life-altering decision, but you’ll need to give us your answer soon as we can only perform surgery while the thorns are still small and haven’t punctured any of your internal organs just yet.”

She doesn’t remember her reply, but she remembered staying so quiet the rest of the day that none of the Bellas had tried talking to her—even Chloe. The redhead had simply let her be until nightfall, when she tiptoed into her and Amy’s room and slipped under her covers with her.

But Beca still couldn’t talk about it with her.

If she told her about just the disease then Chloe would want to know who she loved so they could talk it through like adults, if she told her about everything—including her feelings—then the possibility of rejection could literally kill her, and if she went through with the surgery now, then she wouldn’t remember her co-captain. Her Bella senior. Her supersenior. Her best friend. Her Chloe.

She could never risk Chloe.

The familiar squeeze of her lungs had her wheezing, hand flying to her chest as she stopped by the side of the road. She’d wandered so aimlessly around campus, stuck in her thoughts, that even she couldn’t quite place where she was.

Lost.

She was lost.

Lost in her thoughts. Lost in life. Lost in love. Lost hope.

She didn’t even notice the first iris slipping past her teeth. Her knees buckled as she fell to the pavement, the sting of cement numbed by the burning in her throat. The sour taste of her leftover breakfast mixed strangely with the bittersweet taste of iris and a tangy iron aftertaste.

Petals splashed on to the ground by her knees, arms bracing themselves as acrid white vomit and iris-petals-turning-whole-flowers left her lips, spots of red swimming in to her vision as she puked and gagged.

The smell of stale flowers mixing with vomit and blood surrounded the brunette, stray tears dropping in to the mess as the DJ puked away days of meals and insecurities and feelings. After dry-gagging for a few minutes without any flower escaping her throat, the brunette stood on shaky feet, leaving the mess of flowers, puke, and blood as she groggily tried to find her way back.

(It was only when Beca was buried in her jacket near the back of the van, on their way to some lodge an hour or two away, that she realized she’d coughed out so much blood. It was the first time she’d ever done that.

Maybe it was a little too late for her after all.)

 


 

Beca couldn’t focus on the Bellas.

She couldn’t really focus on anything but the burning image of red spots mixing slowly into lumpy white and staining on barely recognizable iris petals. Even the amazing song she desperately needed to show her boss was thrown to the back of her mind—knowing that if she didn’t find a way through this stupid disease soon, she wouldn’t have the opportunity to even make a song much less show it to her boss.

She needed answers—and a solution.

Surely some researcher or surgeon had found something that could save her or at least make it so she lasts longer. After all, she only went to the nearest surgeon, not the best.

So she needed answers. Which meant she needed service. And a place to charge her laptop.

She stepped off the van cautiously, steel blue searching through their surroundings for any sign of modern living. “I need to find somewhere to charge my laptop.”

Trying to steady her shaking hands, the shorter Bella captain gripped her laptop tighter and turned to her co-captain. “How’d you hear about this place?”

“From yours truly.” The pair looked to their left, Beca’s eye’s widening half a second before her mind caught up to what she was seeing. “Hello Bellas.”

Beca couldn’t shake the disbelief from her voice as she rushed to her former Bella captain, “Aubrey!”

Chloe came bounding in close behind her, the Bellas all crowding in for a hug—even Emily. Beca let herself get swept in with the excitement—though she and Aubrey had started on rough terms, they’d slowly moved past their differences after Pukegate 2.0 and became much closer friends after the blond had graduated. Sure, much of their bonding was thanks to Chloe, but eventually the two could sit in a café together without the redhead and even manage to enjoy themselves (though the friendly jabs and teasing never wore off no matter how many times Chloe pouted her disapproval).

Beca followed through the motions of being back under their formerly cutthroat captain, zoning in and out of her lecture and speech until she pulled out a fading blue plastic recycling bin. Aubrey frowned as she waved the bin for emphasis, “No distractions—and that means you must sever all ties to the outside world. I need you to surrender your cell phones, tablets, pocket organizers,” the blond walked down the line, letting the Bellas place their gadgets gently into the bin before moving on to the next. “Smart watches, laptops, everything. No exceptions.”

Aubrey came to a stop in front of the DJ, eyes dropping to the laptop clutched to her chest before quirking a blond brow in silent question. Beca hoped her hands had stopped shaking by then, clearing her throat as she tried to hide her desperation. “But I need this.”

Despite the blond’s usual commandeering nature, she softened at whatever she saw in the brunette’s face. “Trust the process, Beca.”

But my life is literally on the line, she wanted to say, instead, reluctantly placing her laptop and phone into the bucket because, well, she couldn’t quite bring herself to admit things just yet. Aubrey handed the bucket over to some employees waiting at the side before clapping her hands and turning back to the antsy group of ladies. “Okay, then. Ladies, get ready to be transformed!”

 


 

Beca woke up at midnight unable to breath.

Feeling the press of bodies around her, she barely remembered not to jolt as she quietly sat up and slipped out of the tent. She managed to stumble to the nearest bush before gagging out a gardenia, air slipping in to her throat greedily before she felt the familiar twist in her lungs and she was coughing out another handful of flowers and blood. No vomit this time, but that simply added to her worries.

She wondered if it was safe to slip back into the tent, knowing that the gardenia most probably appeared because of who she was sleeping right next to. She was honestly surprised the tent hadn’t drowned in gardenias—the memory of her favorite redhead’s breath blowing softly behind her leaving her restless most of the night—but she was thankful for the small victory despite waking up thinking she was half a second away from death.

She had a feeling today was going to be a long day.

 


 

“Okay,” Aubrey’s smile was strained but perfect, hands falling to her hips as the Bellas waited for her next instructions. “That was two steps away from being almost fine.”

“I’m sorry,” Beca finally snapped, teeth grinding instinctively to keep the bubbling in her throat at bay. She’d coughed out some jonquil and carnations in between some of their breaks and the whole flower-gagging and blood-coughing wasn’t really helping her keep her spirits or energy up. She was tired and dizzy and moody as fuck. “What are we doing?”

“We’re rediscovering our sound.” Chloe’s tone was soft—understanding despite Beca’s exasperation.

“Are we?” Beca couldn’t stop the way her voice pitched, all the frustration and brokenness seeping in to her words—slipping to find a way out even if she was attacking the wrong thing altogether. “Cause it feels like we’re singing songs that would never go in our set.”

“Beca, come on—”

“No, none of us know how to beat Das Sound Machine, but I know it’s not going to be by doing this.”

Aubrey tried to step in, her tone that of a concerned friend instead of the former Bella captain. “This is just an exercise on finding harmony, Beca. Sometimes you have to break things down before you can build it back up again—”

“I’ve got more important things to do!”

The Bellas scattered at their captain’s explosion, realizing that the pot had finally boiled and that the things that needed to be said long ago were finally hitting the surface.

Chloe turned to her co-captain. “What could be more important than this?”

Beca’s jaw grinded shut, shaking her head as she dropped her hands in defeat. This wasn’t how she wanted Chloe to find anything out. “Nothing, forget it.”

“No,” Chloe was done waiting for Beca to open up first. She was done letting her best friend pull away. “You don’t think we haven’t all realized you’ve been a little checked out lately?”

“I’m not—” Beca paused, steel blue orbs straying to Stacie’s insistent browns before going back to warm blue. The brunette sighed, clearing her throat as she decided to get at least some of her burdens off her chest. “Okay. I’ve been interning at a recording studio and a legit music producer wants to hear my work, God forbid, I have something going on outside this group!”

(Stacie’s brows rose judgingly at Beca’s admission, fully aware that the shorter brunette had ignored the more important news she had wanted her to share.)

“Okay,” Chloe’s voice broke slightly, throwing Beca off her anger faster than it sparked. “So why would you keep something like that from us?”

“Cause!” Beca sounded more desperate than mad. Cause that’s not the only thing I’m hiding. Cause I don’t want to bother you all. Cause you deserve better. Cause I’m dying. “Cause you’re—I’m—agh! Fuck it!”

Beca turned sharply, hand flying to her chest at the familiar squeeze in her lungs—her heart beating thunderously in her chest as blood rushed to her ears. A panic attack? Another bout of hanahaki? Both? Fuck it, she didn’t care at this point.

“Oh, okay, you’re just going to leave now?!” Her co-captain called after her.

Beca could feel the sting her eyes and the petals climbing up her throat, she didn’t even have the time to throw back a reply before cyclamens and blood left her lips. Beca heaved as her knees buckled and she fell to the ground, hands barely catching her face from meeting dirt as the flowers and blood started clogging up her throat.

She could hear the faint sounds of people calling her name, her vision swimming with green and red and white before all she saw was black.

(The steady beep of a monitor and a warm, strong grip on her hand woke her up hours later. Her breathing felt heavier and muggy and her eyes felt too heavy to open, but she managed to squint a bit of sight into her cold blues before stifling a groan at the stinging white that hit her—her groggy stirring just enough to get the redhead napping lightly next to her up and alert.

“Bec?” Chloe’s voice was hoarse and worried as she leaned in and loosened her grip on her hand.

Beca hummed in reply, unable to even open her mouth as a tangy dryness kept her tongue stuck.

“Right,” the cold, sterile air replaced the warmth in Beca’s hand as the redhead picked up a cup of water and offered her the straw. “Here.”

The room was silent save for the soft slurp of the straw, Beca finishing the whole cup before falling back with a wince. They paused, Beca listening to the soft click and slide of the cup as Chloe put it away. She licked her lips slowly, grateful for the cool touch of her tongue to soften the dryness. She knew Chloe was waiting for her—watching her. She could feel the redhead’s burning gaze as she finally turned her head to meet ocean blue.

She didn’t really know what to say, or how to say it, so she settled for the words she thought she’d never be able to say. “Sorry.”

Chloe blinked.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated, voice soft and gravelly as she adjusted to speaking again after who knows how many hours. Steel blue followed the shaky breath and straightening back of the redhead, teeth nibbling nervously on her lip as she waited for her reply.

Chloe’s voice shook. “I thought you were dead.”

Beca stared helplessly as ocean orbs started to water and the sobs Chloe had been keeping since they arrived at the hospital finally broke free. “I thought you were dead.”

The DJ’s weak murmurs of apologies were drowned under the redhead tears.)

 


 

She’d only been confined for half a day before she was finally released, a wry smile reaching her lips once she’d stepped out of the hospital. The drive back to the lodge was stifling and tense, the doctor’s parting words heavy on everyone’s mind.

Aubrey was behind the wheel, knuckles white as she focused on everything but the two tear-stained women at the back. Stacie sat shotgun, alternating between staring out the window and checking on the blonde. Beca and Chloe sat side by side, knees touching, pale fingers intertwined with tan ones. Chloe stared blankly at her co-captain, ocean orbs swimming with disbelief and worry and relief—taking Beca in as if it’d be the last time she could ever see her (which felt like it was).

Beca’s steel blues emptily traced her shoes, memorizing the scuff marks and dry leaves still stuck in the gaps. She knew everyone was holding back from all their questions, which she was thankful for because she wasn’t even sure what she would say.

She had three months left—five if she did an isolation cleanse. That meant staying away from everything that could trigger her disease—people, places, pictures, things. Anything and everything that could trigger a reaction.

So, she had three months left.

She could still hear the carefully practiced monotone of the doctor’s silvery voice, the chill that rolled through her as the words slowly settled in, and how she regretted asking Chloe to step out while the doctor gave her her diagnosis.

It was unsettling, knowing she had a deadline for her life—and how she wasn’t as scared as she thought she’d be.

She had broken down, right after the doctor had left her and Chloe had returned to pick her up. The only sound she managed to make were the sobs that ripped out of her, lessening slowly and softly into raspy breaths and shaking hands. She remembered the warm embrace Chloe had pulled her in, the gentle rocking and shaky promises, the dry throats and watery eyes, the slow-settling peace and “You’re still right here, Bec. We’re here together. It’s okay. You’ll be okay”s.

She remembered why it was worth it.

(She ended up telling the girls a simplified version of all the details, eyes focused on the steady campfire and knee pressed groundingly into Chloe’s tanned one. Thankfully, the grim news seemed just enough to help the girls break out of their funk and get their shit back together—individually and as a group. Emily had offered to help her with the song she needed to make, even going as far as saying she’d write a whole EP if she was willing and the mood started shifting back to normal at the youngest member’s enthusiasm and excitement. Soon enough, everyone felt comfortable enough to share their plans, too.

“After I graduate,” Stacie nodded determinedly. “I’m going to do the hardest job there is.”

Fat Amy smirked. “Let me guess, be a working mum?”

“No?” the tallest Bella’s brows furrowed. “I mean repairing propellers on nuclear submarines. It’s why I majored in naval engineering.”

“I thought you were taking pre-med?” Jessica-Ashley asked gently.

Stacie shrugged, “I couldn’t handle the amount of emotional detachment it needed with patients.”

The others nodded in understanding before Cynthia Rose bounced in her spot with a grin. “Well, I’m moving to Maine to get hitched and you’re all invited!”

The Bellas cheered, thrilled. Even Beca’s smile was a little brighter, knowing that all her friends—her family—had great plans and promising futures ahead of them.

Flo stood dramatically, grabbing everyone’s attention. “After I graduate, I aim to open up my own business, although there’s a chance I will be deported. If that happens, I will try to re-enter the country, but will probably die at sea so…” And Beca thought her news was bad. “Let’s live for tonight!”

“Right,” Chloe muttered, low enough for only Beca (who was practically melted to the redhead’s side) to hear. The supersenior spoke up after everyone’s cheers for Flo had died down. “Well, I know you all may have noticed that I’ve been a little too scared to let go.”

“It was really hard to miss, actually. I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard at least one of your professors leave a voicemail.” Beca shot Amy a challenging glare, the Australian miming zipping her lips before waving for the redhead to continue.

“Yeah, well, Flo’s right.” Beca turned in time to catch warm ocean blues staring at her with a sad, soft light. “We don’t have forever. We all need to move on at some point. So, this year, I will graduate.” Chloe turned back to the Bellas, eyes lit with the familiar passion Beca had first fallen for. “The Worlds will be my swan song.”

“I’m proud of you,” steel blue stared affectionately at the redhead, Beca clearing her throat and turning to the rest of the girls as she added, “All of you. And… this is gonna sound lame balls but… When I think of this—of being a Bella—it won’t be the performing or the competitions that I’ll remember. It’ll be you weirdos.” Beca could feel the warm grip from Chloe’s hand give hers a gentle squeeze, the brunette shooting her co-captain an appreciative smile before turning to her Bellas—her family. “I’m going to miss you guys.”

The chorus of “Me too”s had everyone tearing up, the girls understanding that it meant more than just separating ways. With a watery voice, Beca heard Chloe start to sing.)

 


 

Watching Fat Amy get it on with Bumper from across the campus lake was weird—sweet, if not incredibly dramatic, but definitely still weird enough to be scarring. When she realized that the newly established couple weren’t going to stop, she nudged Emily off the steps and waved for her to get in the house. Beca was already halfway to the door when she noticed Chloe hadn’t moved.

“Chlo,” slender pale fingers gently brushed over the redhead’s shoulder, Beca’s voice soft as she tried to get her co-captain’s attention. “You don’t want to go in?”

The redhead stood, shooting her a strained smile before stepping off the front porch. “Think I’ll just take a walk for a while. Don’t want to stay around knowing that that’s happening across the lake.”

“I can go—”

“I just,” Chloe cut her off, both women wincing at how harsh she sounded. “Sorry, I just—I need some space to think.”

“Uh yeah,” Beca’s hand dropped to her side. “Yeah, sure, dude.”

“I’ll be back in a few,” the redhead tried for a reassuring smile before turning on her heel and walking down the side path. Beca watched her go, lips twisted in thought before an animalistic yell brought her back and reminded her of why she was standing in the first place.

The brunette retreated to her room, thoughts muddled on that strained interaction. Because it wasn’t the first time her co-captain had been weird around her.

Ever since they’d gotten back from their “retreat” at the lodge, Chloe had been oddly distant. Not in a particularly noticeable way like avoiding her or ignoring her completely, but the redhead had been getting lost in thought more and more often around her.

She’d never stay in a room alone with her for longer than 15 minutes. She’d stopped wandering into her room at random hours of the night just to talk. She’d become vague whenever Beca asked her about her day or what her plans were. She was even distracted during rehearsals and planning for Worlds.

Something was off with Chloe Beale, and Beca was frustrated that she couldn’t figure out what it was.

She thought she’d done something at first, looked back on everything she’d said or done only to come up blank. Ever since the lodge, she’d come clean about everything—well, almost everything. But every question Chloe had about her disease or internship, Beca answered openly. She didn’t have much to lose anymore, what with three months left to live.

Yet despite her looming deadline, Beca couldn’t bring it in herself to tell Chloe how she felt.

It felt… too big to explain. Too big to just say. It felt like something three little words didn’t have the depth she felt to really describe every big and little thing Beca felt for her.

Like how she cherished every one of their late night cramming sessions and treasured whispered secrets in warmly colored beds, how she looked forward to the buttered croissants and weird smelling teas sitting right across her every Wednesdays and Fridays, how some of her favorite moments were waiting on the quad bench with two mugs of coffee on Mondays and Thursdays, how it felt like home hearing the top 20s hummed randomly around her every time they did chores together.

She treasured the Netflix binges and cuddles that came with it, the morning coffees that were accompanied with the faint smell of Chloe’s vanilla perfume and apple lotion, the books scattered haphazardly across her desk (that had nothing to do with her majors), and the faint smell of vanilla and apples that had long since disappeared from the hoodies she’d stolen from the supersenior.

She loved how kind she was—how patient she was with everyone around her—or how creative she got when it came to finding ways to get things done, or how she’d get this certain fire in her eyes when she set her heart on something. She loved how even when she was stressed and hitting almost Aubrey-level-controlling during rehearsals, she still softened enough to worry about everyone and make sure they still spent time together outside of Bella work and cared about everyone’s personal lives and studies, too.

Beca sputtered as her thoughts started to spiral, the sharp pain in her chest bringing her back to the photo-covered walls of her room. She had just enough time to grab the bin by her bed before red carnations left her system.

Red carnations.

My heart aches for you.

I miss you.

 


 

Beca was confused by the sight of messy brown hair and a boyish grin waiting for her outside the studio.

“Jesse?”

“Hey,” the Treble half-waved, half-peace-signed. “Chloe told me we needed to talk.”

Beca paused, head tilting as her brows furrowed slightly at the seriousness in his tone. “We do?”

Jesse stood straight, frown marring his lips as he parroted, “Do we?”

“I don’t know?” Because Beca really did not fucking know.

Jesse turned to his car, gears obviously turning confusedly in his head. He turned back to her with a shrug. “I’ll drive you back and we figure out what Chloe wanted?”

“O-kay,” Beca drawled slowly, following him into his car before finally asking the question that first popped into her head at the sight of him. “So, what exactly are you doing here, Jesse?”

“Chloe called me up, told me that you had something to tell me?”

“I never told her that.”

“Maybe it’s one of her Chloe vibes or something?”

“What did she tell you, exactly?”

Jesse straightened in his seat as he tried to mimic the redhead, pitching his voice to a chirpy falsetto. “Hey Jesse, do you have plans today?” The brunette changed back to his regular voice. “Uh no, I gave the Trebles a break after Lincoln Center, why?” Back to his horrible Chloe impersonation. “Awes, congrats, by the way! Thanks! Um, I called cause was just wondering if Beca’s talked to you recently? Uh, no, not since she told me her boss was letting her produce Emily’s song. Oh, okay. Uh, I was wondering if you could talk to her. Why, what’s wrong? Nothing! Nothing, I think. Just, I think you two need to talk to each other. Uh, sure? I can call her up after her work? I think it’s best if you two talked face to face? Today? Yeah? Um, sure, I guess? Awes, thanks Jesse! And then she hung up and I made my way here.”

Beca stared long and hard at her ex’s face. “For the love of everything in the universe, never do that again.”

Jesse shot her a childish grin and shrugged before focusing back on the road. “I’ll make it my Vegas act.”

The Bella captain wrinkled her nose at the idea, shaking her head before a fond smile quirked her lips. “I’ll miss your dorky ass, dude.”

Jesse nodded in agreement. “So is the reason Chloe called me because you’re getting suspiciously sentimental?”

“Fuck off,” she laughed, pausing before realizing why Chloe had been keeping her distance since the lodge. “Oh shit.”

“What?”

“I’m dying.”

“That’s a bit dramatic, Beca, it’s just graduation.”

“No, Jesse, I’m dying.”

“What?”

“Pull over, this is a shit load of details.”

The Treble followed confusedly, pulling over and turning on the emergency flashers before turning to face the Bella.

Beca took in a steadying breath before meeting brown eyes. “Jesse, I’m dying. I have this thing called Hanahaki disease which is like this sickness that makes flowers and vines and shit grown in your organs because of unrequited love. And I’ve had it for so long that even getting surgery to remove it won’t work anymore. The doctors said I only have a couple months left to live and I—I think that’s why Chloe’s been keeping her distance from me and told me to talk to you.

“See, at first I thought I did something or said something to make her upset but then I realized that she was distancing herself because she didn’t want to get hurt. I’m dying and she’s going to lose me, so maybe she’s trying to distance herself to get used to a life without me? And she made me talk to you because you’re, like, my best bro and stuff so she wanted me to tell you this before I—y’know.”

Jesse didn’t have a reply to the Bella captain's awkward head-slicing gesture. Instead, he pulled the DJ into a hug and cried. Only managing a few “What the fuck”s and “You’re such a dumbass”es before managing to pull himself together. He pulled away, noting the small thumb wipes Beca made to the corner of her eyes before wiping his own eyes dry with his sleeve.

He sniffed. “That was a shit load of details.”

The pair chuckled at the small emotional reprieve before Jesse fully processed everything again. “So,” he let the words roll over again in his thoughts. “Who’s the lucky person?”

“Huh?”

“You know, the one you’re so in love with that you’re literally dying for them?”

“Oh, that person.”

“Beca, you know I know who it is even if you don’t tell me.”

“Then why the fuck ask?”

“So you can hear yourself say it.”

The DJ paused, feeling the familiar squeeze in her lungs and prickle in her throat. “I—” a dry cough left her. “I’m in love with Chloe.”

Acacia blossoms left her lips.

Jesse’s eyes widened at the flower before looking back at the Bella. “Damn, you weren’t kidding about the whole flowers growing in your guts shit.”

Beca shot him a wry smile. “This is a good day.”

Jesse shook his head, turning off the flasher as he started to pull back on to the road. “You know, you should tell Chloe.”

“I’m dying, dude. Telling her might make me die faster—immediately, even.”

“I think you’d be surprised, Becaw. Life has a weird way of working out sometimes.”

“And it has a weird way of falling apart, too.”

 


 

Standing in her graduation gown watching her Bellas introducing each other to their families felt surreal. As if she were seeing a future she never really thought possible. Jessica and Ashley were introducing Flo to their parents, Fat Amy was talking to Lily’s family (though the Asian herself seemed MIA), Cynthia Rose was introducing Emily to her family and fiancée, Stacie and Aubrey were catching up with Stacie’s family (who had nearly bear-crushed Beca at the sight of her. She’d met them a handful of times and quickly got along with Stacie’s sister, which annoyed the leggy brunette to no end), and Chloe was taking pictures with her mom and oldest brother.

“Hey cheesecake.” Beca turned to see Chloe’s second brother, Arthur, strolling up to her with a grin. “I hear a double congrats is in order.”

“Thanks, dude, but it was a team effort.”

“Chloe said you’d say that. Humble as always, Mitchell.”

“Someone has to teach you the basics, Beale.”

Arthur chuckled in reply, shaking his head as he stood next to the Bella captain. His own familiarly ocean eyes stared fondly at his family. “Promise me you’ll take care of her?”

Beca didn’t miss a beat. “Of course, always.”

She gulped down the flowers tickling her throat.

 


 

The Bellas were sprawled across the performance area, limbs spread and sweat dripping as their five-minute break turned into twenty. Beca sat at the ledge of the stage, feet swinging and head thrown back as she leaned back on her arms and concentrated on keeping herself from melting. Though Copenhagen wasn’t as hot as Chloe had thought it’d be, the day had been sunny since they'd started their tech dress and going through round after round of rehearsals was just enough to get her to break a sweat.

They’d just finished one round of the whole set with the proper and final blocking before Beca finally called a break. Her girls and some of the past-generation Bellas (those who were able to arrive early, at least) were mingling or resting around the performance grounds, their laughter and warmth calming her from all the stress and anxiety of having a couple weeks left to live (and from having the entire Bella sisterhood on the line of their performance).

Beca was listening to the light murmurs and distant giggles before a soft thud had cold blue orbs opening in lazy curiosity.

“So, how are you, Beca?”

The brunette hummed in reply, turning back to the sun as she closed her eyes and offered a half smile at the former Bella captain—her former Bella captain. “‘M good.”

Aubrey smiled softly, nodding despite Beca’s inattention. “That’s nice…” Beca could hear all the questions the blonde was too polite to ask. “Y’know, you gave us all quite the scare at the lodge.”

The brunette couldn’t hold back her smirk. It felt good to know that time wouldn’t change that nosy little part of her favorite aca-dictator. “Just say it, Aubrey. I can hear your brain ticking.”

Aubrey chuckled, shaking her head before giving in. “Fine. I won’t beat around the bush.” The blonde paused, as if her next words held too much weight on her tongue. “It’s Chloe, isn’t it?”

Beca didn’t even flinch at the tightness in her chest. “Yeah.”

“So that’s it? You’re just going to go without telling her?”

The DJ could feels the petals crawling up her throat as she finally sat up and opened her eyes, fingers gripping the ledge as she shook her head weakly. “If you had,” she whispered, trying to keep the petals at bay. “One chance, one literal chance, to tell your best friend you loved them and risk immediate death at even their gentlest rejection, would you really risk your feelings and theirs?”

“It could be different you know—not every story’s a tragedy.”

“I just—” Beca wheezed, hand flying to her stomach as she readied herself for the feeling she’d grown so familiar with. “I don’t care if she turns me down, but I do care about how she’ll blame herself if I die when she does.”

“Beca—” The pity in Aubrey’s voice was drowned by the sharp coughs that left the brunette’s small frame.

(The Bellas rushed to her side when they saw the daffodils hit the ground by her feet, the older-generation Bellas standing shocked and confused at the sight—though Aubrey noted some pity and grief reflected in some of the other older women. The competition medics arrived soon after Beca had stopped, taking the current Bella captain gently to the clinic tent to get her vitals checked.

Aubrey stayed with Chloe as the redhead hovered near the DJ, worry and confusion clear in her ocean blue eyes.)

 


 

“Hey, Bec?” The Bella captain turned to her co-captain, brow raised at the timid tone in the redhead’s usually sunny voice.

“Yeah, Chlo? You okay?”

Her co-captain shot her a shaky smile, biting her lip before ocean blue fell to the floor. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Um.” Warm blue met cold steel orbs determinedly. “After this, can we talk?”

Beca felt her heart stutter—for what, she didn’t know. “Sure, of course, dude.”

Chloe’s smile brightened just the slightest, voice still soft despite the group performing loudly on stage. “Awes.”

“Yeah, awes.”

(Beca didn’t notice how the vines didn’t tug.)

 


 

“Thank you, Beca,” Mrs. Junk shook her hand once more. “For not only taking care of my daughter, but for keeping the Bellas alive.”

The shorter woman grinned, the high from winning an international competition with her girls—her family—still buzzing in her veins. “It was a team effort, Mrs. Junk, and Emily helped me a lot with getting the set together.”

The youngest Bella beamed and blushed, practically melting at the praise from her biggest Bella idol. She let the legacy gush as her attention fell on the redhead waiting anxiously in a quiet corner, away from all the celebration. Beca excused herself with a hug from both women before making her way to her co-captain, grin still wide and eyes still bright.

“Hey Red,” she stopped in front of her, thumbs in her pocket as she smirked up at the redhead. “So, we did it.”

Chloe’s smile was soft with a hint of… something. “We did.”

Beca rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet, smile dimming slightly at the way slim, tan hands shook. The brunette cleared her throat, hoping to ease the tension. “So, you wanted to talk?”

Tan hands froze, Chloe’s jaw tensing lightly before she nodded. “Yeah.” The redhead paused, steeling herself with a deep breath before ocean orbs met cold blues firmly—Beca still managing to find the slightest shake of worry in the redhead’s sure gaze.

“I—” Chloe cleared her throat at the tremble in her voice, mouthing silently to herself before trying again. “I thought it was Jesse.”

“What?”

“The flowers—your sickness—I thought it was Jesse.”

“Ho—what?”

“You were so distant this year, and I know it’s equally my fault too, but when you admitted that Jesse knew about the internship and that you’d gone to him for help I thought—I thought it was Jesse. I thought you were still in love with him.”

Steel blue eyes widened in realization. “The car ride two weeks ago.”

“Yeah,” Chloe’s lower lip slipped out from between her teeth, warm, firm gaze turning soft as she admitted, “I thought it would solve things—make it go away. I—I could never just watch you die, Bec. You’re my—I—I love you too much not to do anything.” A watery laugh left the redhead’s lips. “I—I’m in love with you and there you were just accepting your death because some stupid asshole was too damn blind to love you and I thought getting him to talk to you would fix it but—” a sob ripped out between them—neither of them could tell you who. “But it didn’t. You still have it. And I—I went over every little thing I knew about you again and again trying to figure out who. Who do you love? Who were you so fucking in love with that you were willing to let this stupid damned disease take you? Who was the stupid asshole that had you so wrapped around them that you’d let them do this to you?”

More tears and wry laughter slipped past the redhead’s shaking lips. “And I normally don’t like to jump to conclusions about other’s feelings, but I—I need to know, Bec.”

A steadying breath, shaky and slow and wet. “Is it me? Am I the stupid asshole?”

Beca only noticed she was crying when the salty taste of a stray tear slipped on to her lips, the brunette only managing a nod before the pair found themselves crying in each other’s arms.

There was a weight in Beca’s chest that the brunette knew wasn’t from her disease. It didn’t feel heavy and constricting like she was used to—whether it be from flowers growing in her organs or panic attacks setting in to her bones. This one felt calming—certain—in ways Beca couldn’t explain even to herself. Like smelling the salted ocean deep in your lungs and feelings the weighty, slipping scratch of sand dragging through her feet. A certainty of feeling again.

A certainty of life.

The two clung to each other like lifelines—as if the other would disappear, as if words could be taken back, as if actions could be changed. The crowd and stage and Bellas were a numb buzz in the echo of their sobs-turned-slowly-to-sniffles. By the time the two managed to peel away from the other, two shoulders were sporting a messy wet stain, and the co-captains could only chuckle at the ridiculousness of their appearance (and the weight lifted off their shoulders).

Beca gently wiped at the mascara trailing Chloe’s cheeks, a small sniff and raspy chuckle twisting her thin pink lips. She cleared her throat, her thoughts leaving her lips before she could fully process everything.

“It’s always been you.” Despite the calm seeping slowly into her system, her veins roared with the words she’d kept bubbling in her heart. “I lo—I’m in love with you. I don’t know how, but I know that I am. And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you—about this or the internship or anything and everything else. I was—am scared. I’m still scared and I’m sorry. I love you and I’m sorry. I’m so—”

Beca choked on her own words sniffing hard and staring at the sky in hopes of fighting away another set of tears. A gentle tug on her hips reminded the brunette of the loose embrace she was still in, stumbling slightly forward and deeper into the redhead’s hug.

Chloe shushed her gently, tan arms holding her closer—tighter. “It’s okay, Bec. You’re okay. I understand. I get—I mean, it took me a while to think about why you’d keep something like that. But I got it eventually.” Beca missed the older woman’s warmth when she pulled away to stare into her own steel blues. “You were scared for me, right? That if I didn’t love you back and you died, I would blame myself for the rest of my life?”

The younger Bella could only manage a small nod, silently in awe of the way the redhead could always read her mind. She was pulled in again, a gentle peck dropping on her crown as Chloe mumbled into her hair, “It’s a good thing I figured it out and love you too, then, huh?”

Pale arms gave tan shoulders a gentle squeeze in reply. The two incapable of coming up with any more words to describe the relief and joy and contentment and love of being in that moment.

And for the first time since that first petal had squeezed out of her lungs, Beca felt like she could breathe again.