A small, blue Honda comes to a stop on the curb, its gently purring engine falling silent soon after. It’s Thursday, and Beca’s just arrived back to the Bella house after her shift at the Residual Heat. Locking the door behind her, she stands on the sidewalk, taking a deep breath of warm, evening air. The shift was tiring, so she’s looking forward to spending the rest of the day relaxing. Hopefully, her favorite person will take some time off from revising Russian Lit to hang out with her. She has this stuff in her little finger anyway.
Walking into the house, Beca quickly sheds her jacket and puts her boots neatly by the wall. Upon entering the kitchen, she heads straight for the fridge, but is swiftly interrupted by a warm body enveloping her in a hug.
“Hi.” The greeting is whispered into her ear, followed by a happy sigh. “How did your shift go?”
“Hey, Chlo.” Beca hugs her best friend back, relaxing into her embrace. She’s still an awkward person when it comes to hugs, but Chloe is an exception. “It was fine, I’ll tell you more later. And thanks again for letting me borrow your car.”
“Of course.” Chloe pulls out of the hug to send her a wide smile. “Anything for you.”
As soon as Chloe says it, Stacie and Amy run into the kitchen with stupid grins on their faces. Beca braces herself for what she knows is going to happen.
“Anything for you, Beca!” Stacie exclaims in an exaggerated tone, putting her hand on her heart (or rather, her left boob) for a greater effect.
“You’re my favorite, Beca!” Amy adds, making obnoxious kissy faces at them.
Beca rolls her eyes, already tired of their antics. “Guys, stop.”
“What? We’re just hungry,” Amy says, putting on an innocent tone. “Gingah was gonna make pancakes for us, until her Beca-bear came home and distracted her.”
“I’m not...Don’t call me that,” Beca protests halfheartedly, her attention focused on Chloe. She’s standing by the stove now, a spatula held in one hand. She still has a small smile on her face, but Beca can see it’s a little bit strained.
“They’ll be ready in a moment, Ames.” Chloe looks up from the pan for a moment to meet Beca’s gaze. “I’ll make some for you, too, Bec.”
Beca smiles at her gratefully, but it soon turns into a grimace at more giggling and kissing noises Stacie and Amy are making. Thankfully, the two of them get bored quickly and return to the living room.
Walking the few steps over to Chloe, Beca says quietly, “Don’t worry about them, alright? You know they don’t mean it.” Chloe only nods in response, so after a second of hesitation, Beca puts a hand on her back, leaning in to place a small kiss to the redhead’s cheek.
Still not used to making such bold gestures, Beca quickly makes her escape from the kitchen. Just before leaving the room, she glances one more time at Chloe, and notices that her cheeks are now slightly flushed. Probably from the heat of the stove, Beca figures. But the smile on her face is back to being bright and happy. Mission accomplished.
She heads to her room to change, Stacie and Amy’s teasing voices echoing in her brain the whole time. Their behavior wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; all the girls have been teasing her and Chloe about favoring one another over the rest of the Bellas pretty much since Beca’s freshman year. Such comments were always in good fun, the girls obviously recognizing the special connection their captains shared. At first, they used to focus most of their attention on Beca, as apparently her grumbling protests were hilarious to witness. Until one day, by the end of Beca’s second year at Barden, when, after a particularly relentless bout of teasing, she finally admitted that yeah, Chloe was her favorite so they can all suck it. The hollers and whistles sounded for good fifteen minutes, but when they eventually got over it, the girls shifted their attention to Chloe.
Initially, the comments directed at her were few and far between. And then got decidedly more frequent and bolder after Beca and Jesse broke up, at the beginning of Beca’s junior year. Most of the time, Chloe would take it all in stride, but recently Beca has noticed that some of these words would get to Chloe. It wasn’t anything clearly visible, and anyone else would probably miss it, but she could tell when Chloe’s smile was a little bit off, or when her lower lip trembled a tiny bit. Every time it got to this point, Beca would threaten the Bellas with additional cardio—while hating herself for sounding like Aubrey—to get them to stop. It worked like a charm, every time without fail. She just hopes she won’t have to resolve to it tonight.
Now clad in comfortable sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, Beca follows the smell of freshly-made pancakes into the living room, where everyone is already sprawled over various furniture and floor, focused on the plates in their hands.
Chloe instantly notices her arrival, patting the space next to her on the loveseat. “Come here, Becs, I saved you a seat,” she says with a sweet smile.
“Of course you did,” Amy mutters in a volume she considered discreet. Meaning, loud enough for the whole room to hear.
Deciding to ignore her, Beca gratefully accepts the plate Chloe’s handed her, digging in with an eagerness betraying her hunger. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to have more than a few bites before other girls join in on the teasing.
“Oh, Beca, your stash seems to be bigger than mine,” says Jessica.
“And you have extra syrup on them. Someone must really like you,” adds Ashley.
Beca blinks at them mid-chew, but more comments come before she even begins to think of a response.
“Isn’t it Chloe’s t-shirt?” Stacie asks, pointing to the shirt Beca was wearing.
Beca looks at herself, too, only now noticing that it is indeed Chloe’s. She might have stolen it from her some time ago. So what? She likes the way it smells, no big deal.
“Yeah, well, Chloe wears mine, too,” she begins to defend herself, quickly realizing that it’s not the best course of action, judging by the smirks she gets in response.
Feeling Chloe shift beside her, Beca throws her a quick glance. Her best friend looks slightly uncomfortable, which she’s trying, and failing, to cover with a smile.
“Whatever, let’s just eat,” Beca says, not really believing it would work. Miraculously, it does, and the girls fall silent for a while. Beca squeezes Chloe’s thigh and the redhead’s body relaxes slightly against hers.
Sometime after everyone has finished eating and lazy murmurs of quiet conversations fill the living room, Beca stretches from her slumped position, grimacing at a sudden pain that goes through her neck. Automatically, Chloe’s hand goes to the back of Beca’s neck and starts to massage the tense muscles it finds there. An involuntary hum escaping her throat attracts the attention of some of the girls sitting nearby.
“Ooh, I want a massage, too,” CR says from her place on the couch between an armrest and Stacie.
“You might have trouble convincing Chloe to take her hands off of Beca for long enough to give you one,” Stacie immediately pipes in with a mock contemplative look on her face.
Chloe’s hand stops at that, her whole body leaning forward towards Stacie. “That’s not true! Are you in pain, Cyn? I could-”
“In my country, massages were reserved only for royalty,” Flo chimes in from where she’s sprawled on the floor.
“Well, from how she treats her, short stack might as well be her queen,” Amy snickers, causing other girls to laugh as well.
“Stop it, guys.” Beca tries to intervene, seeing Chloe’s face fall slightly more with every word.
It doesn’t have the desired effect this time, the Bellas becoming more and more relentless in their teasing. The only one who doesn’t join in is Emily, who sits beside Flo, looking as if she can’t understand what’s happening. Beca closes her eyes, trying to tune out all the noise enough to gather herself. She opens them abruptly when she hears Stacie’s words.
“Do you give full-body massages when you two disappear in your room for so long? Because I’d love to watch, though it’s probably a private show, isn’t it?”
Chloe’s blushing now, a sight so rare, it makes words stick in Beca’s throat, so she can’t even threaten Stacie with cardio. Although, she’s one of few Bellas who actually wouldn’t probably mind. Before she gathers herself, Amy delivers the final blow.
“Nah, we would hear if something like this was happening. In Chloe’s dreams, though-”
“Amy, shut the fuck up!” Beca shouts, the sheer volume, as well as the obvious anger in her voice making everyone fall perfectly silent.
It’s too late, though. Chloe’s face goes white; a stark contrast to her recent flush. Her lower lip trembles visibly and her eyes are full of tears. She opens her mouth to say something, but no sound comes out.
“Chlo-” Beca takes a step toward her, her fingertips just making contact with the older girl’s hand when she bolts, running up the stairs so quickly that Beca remains standing for a few seconds with her hand still outstretched, trying to make sense of what’s just happened.
After she’s shaken out of her stupor, she’s met with anxious and guilty-looking faces. Beca shakes her head in disbelief.
“Beca, I didn’t mean-” Amy says hesitantly, but Beca’s had enough.
“Shut it,” She growls, her body shaking with barely contained rage. Her body feels hot and her fists are clenched so tightly, she’s sure she’ll have indent marks from her fingernails. “What the fuck was that?! Chloe’s the sweetest, most selfless person on this planet; she’d go through fire for every single one of you. She goes out of her way to make sure you’re all happy and cared-for, and that’s how you thank her?!”
By the end of her rant, Beca’s a bit out of breath. She looks around, most of the girls not even meeting her gaze. Her anger and frustration lessen somewhat at the genuinely ashamed expressions on their faces.
“Not cool, guys.”
With that, she turns on her feet and rushes upstairs.
Stopping in front of Chloe’s bedroom door, Beca takes one more calming breath and knocks softly. She waits for a few seconds, but no response comes through. At that, she hesitates for a moment. Maybe Chloe prefers to be left alone. Should she give her some space?
No, she quickly dismisses the thought. Her best friend was clearly upset when she left. She probably needs her. Knocking once more, she calls, “Chlo? It’s me.”
This time, she hears a quiet, “Come in.” Pushing the door open, she walks into the room and the sight she’s met with makes her heart clench painfully.
Chloe’s lying on her bed, bundled in sheets and facing the wall. Her back trembles with silent sobs, and an occasional sniffle can be heard.
Not wasting any more time, Beca closes the door behind her and approaches the bed. She doesn’t have to think of her next moves; over the years, they kind of formed a routine. Beca’s learned early on that touch was what calmed Chloe the quickest. No matter if she was sad, anxious, or angry, physical contact worked wonders every time. At first, Beca would offer no more than an awkward pat on the back, maybe a brief squeeze of hand if she felt Chloe really needed it. Gradually, she adjusted to her friend’s lack of boundaries and the need to show affection by touch, and she started to feel more and more comfortable initiating it herself. More than that, somewhere along the way, Beca’s come to enjoy Chloe’s touch. At times, she even finds herself craving it. But now’s not the time nor place to think about it. So she slides on the bed behind Chloe, slotting her body against her and putting her arm over Chloe’s waist, and waits.
It doesn’t take long for Chloe to react. After a few more sniffles, her breathing evens out, her body tensing a little. Then, in a quick flurry of movements, she turns towards Beca, pushes her onto her back in the process—Beca doesn’t put up any fight—and drapes herself over Beca’s body like a koala, limbs all over her and her face hidden in Beca’s neck.
Beca puts her left arm over Chloe’s right, draped over her waist. Her right hand starts running up and down Chloe’s back in a soothing motion. She feels Chloe practically melt in her embrace.
She doesn’t know how long they lie like this. Chloe’s warm body pressed tightly to her own has lulled her into a calm, sleepy state. Eventually though, Chloe shifts slightly in her embrace and Beca knows it’s time to loosen her hold. With a quick kiss pressed to Beca’s cheek, Chloe gets up and disappears in her tiny en-suite.
When she gets back, her face is free of make-up and her hair is neatly brushed. Her eyes still look a bit red and puffy, but there’s a small smile on her face and Beca thinks she looks beautiful.
Beca’s now sat with her back against the wall, watching Chloe as she goes back to bed. And the girl apparently still needs to have some physical contact, as she sits next to Beca, so close that their thighs are touching, and she slips her hand into Beca’s.
“Thank you, Bec. I really needed that,” she says quietly, looking at Beca with this soft smile she seems to have reserved specifically for her.
Beca smiles back. “Anytime, dude.” She’s glad she’s sitting down, or else the close proximity and Chloe’s sincere gaze trained on her would make her knees buckle. “You know they didn’t mean anything wrong, though, right? I mean, their behavior was shitty and I’m definitely making them run laps until they pass out, but...They love you, you know? We all do.”
Chloe hasn’t taken her eyes off of her the whole time, and when she says, “I know. I love you, too,” it takes everything in Beca not to choke on her breath as it sticks on the way to her lungs. Because it feels as if the words mean more than they appear to, as if they were directed to Beca personally. Suddenly, there’s tension filling the air between them, and is she imagining it, or has Chloe just glanced at her lips?
Three loud knocks break the silence so abruptly that Beca and Chloe jump up, both looking at the door. Their hands, Beca notes, stay intertwined.
“Chloe? Can we come in?” sounds from the other side and Chloe exchanges a glance with Beca before calling back, “Yeah, come in!” Beca hears something that sounds like disappointment in her voice, but the door opens before she has the time to think about it.
The Bellas come in one by one, standing close to one another in the small space in front of the bed. Their expressions are ashamed but determined as they all look at Chloe. Stacie, who stands at the front of the group, takes in a deep breath, seemingly about to speak, so Beca gives her a warning look, trying to communicate ‘Don’t fuck this up,’ without saying the actual words. Stacie seems to get it, as she gives her a small nod in acknowledgment, before fixing her eyes firmly on Chloe.
“Chloe,” she begins, her tone sure but gentle, “on behalf of all of us, I’d like to apologize for how we acted. We’re really, really sorry that we’ve upset you. It was only ever meant to be harmless teasing, but we took it too far. We hope that you can forgive us.”
Beca thinks the speech sounds quite formal, but honestly, maybe she should have expected nothing less from Stacie. Anyway, it seems to be working for Chloe, who’s practically vibrating, looking like she’s barely holding back from leaping out of the bed and hugging all the girls
“Of course I forgive you! It was nothing, really, I overreacted-”
“No, Chloe,” Stacie quickly interrupts. “You didn’t. We made you feel as if you didn’t care for us enough, when the truth is, you’re the best friend we could ever ask for.”
“Legs is right. You’re pretty cool for a ginger,” says Amy, which prompts other girls to chime in as well.
“Yeah, you always know how to comfort us when we feel down.”
“And you give great relationship advice.”
“You never tried to sell me for a chicken.”
Beca blinks at the last comment. She never knows if Flo’s joking or not.
“We love you, Chlo!” all the Bellas exclaim in a perfect harmony, which ends up being the last straw for Chloe, as she rushes to hug the girls, tears shining in her eyes. This time, Beca notes, they’re happy tears.
Beca watches the scene thoughtfully for a moment. Something still doesn’t add up.
“Ok, so like...Why all of this, then? If you’re not really jealous or whatever?”
Her question makes the girls break the group hug and exchange looks. Stacie seems to hesitate for a moment, her gaze falling at Beca, before quickly moving to Chloe. Beca’s brow furrows when the tall girl whispers something in Chloe’s ear. Whatever she’s said to her makes Chloe glance at Beca as well, then nod slightly at Stacie.
Seriously, what’s up with that?
“I’m still making you do extra cardio for making Chloe cry,” she grumbles. The girls look like they might protest, but one stern look from Beca makes them all leave the room in a hurry.
As soon as they’re alone again, Beca looks at Chloe expectantly.
“Care to share what was all this whispering about?”
Chloe’s wide smile fades as she rejoins Beca on the bed. She looks unsure of herself, maybe even a little scared.
“You don’t have to tell me,” Beca says gently, taking Chloe’s hand in hers. “But whatever it is, I won’t judge you. You know that, right?”
Chloe nods in response, squeezing her hand once. She takes a deep breath, as if to steel herself, before speaking quietly.
“Bec, the reason why the girls have been teasing us so much is because they know something, and they wanted you to know it as well. And I got so upset, because I was scared of your reaction. Well, I also thought that I’ve been a shitty friend and haven’t been paying them enough attention, which, as it turns out, is not the case. Though maybe there is something to it, it’s not like I see anyone else when I’m with... Anyway, I was worried that you would freak-”
“Chloe!” Beca exclaims, effectively ending Chloe’s rambling. “Dude, slow down, It makes no sense,” she adds in a softer tone.
Chloe’s eyes widen, their intense blue distracting Beca for a second when she looks directly into her own.
“What I’m trying to say is that they’re right. You are special to me, Beca.”
Beca remains silent, feeling as if she’s missed the punchline.
“Yeah, well, I know that, Chlo. You’re my best friend, too,” she starts slowly, “But I don’t see what’s wrong with that. Jessica and Ashley are best friends, too, and no one gives them shit for that.”
“It’s not the same!” Chloe begins so sound frustrated, her red curls bouncing wildly when she shakes her head. “I mean, maybe it is, I’m still not sure about them...” she trails off, her brow furrowing in thought before she refocuses on Beca. She has this intense look in her eyes which makes it impossible to look away. “I like you,” she whispers, her voice wavering slightly.
Beca looks at her for a long moment, searching for words. Finally, she says, “Duh. I’d be kinda worried if you didn’t.”
Chloe blinks at her, dumbfounded. For the first time since Beca’s known her, she looks completely at a loss for words as she sits still beside her. Finally, she says, “You’re really dense sometimes.”
And then she puts her free hand on the back of Beca’s neck and pulls her in slightly. Before Beca realizes what’s happening, their lips meet for one, brief, wonderful second. And then she pulls away just as quickly, a mixture of hope and fear on her face as she looks at Beca.
“I hope it was okay? I figured it would be easier to just show you what I meant...” Chloe says quietly, her eyes flicking between Beca’s eyes and lips a few times, making her insides flip. “Say something, please,” she pleads quietly when Beca doesn’t respond.
Beca opens her mouth, trying to say the three words that have been running through her head for some time now, every time she was around Chloe. What comes out, though, is, “You’re my favorite.”
Maybe it’s the tone of her voice, or the look in her eyes, or something else entirely. Whatever it is, Chloe seems to get her meaning, as her anxious expression transforms into one of pure happiness—a blinding smile and sparkling eyes.
“You’re my favorite, too,” she says, her voice impossibly soft.
Beca’s still adamant about making the Bellas run laps. But maybe—she thinks as Chloe pulls her into another, deeper kiss—maybe she will buy them all ice-cream afterward.