Beca takes a long sip from gin and tonic she’d ordered only five minutes ago, relishing the burn in her throat. Her lips curl up in amusement at Chloe, who’s walking back from the bar with more drinks in her hand.
“Where’s Amy?” Chloe asks when she nears.
Beca shrugs, looking around. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she already found someone to go home with. She’s done it faster than this before.”
“Fair enough,” Chloe says, sliding a shot of amber liquor across the table. “Here you go.”
Beca eyes it like it might detonate at any second. Her plans for the night did not involve shots. A couple beers, a mixed drink maybe, but definitely not shots.
“I hope you don’t think I’m taking that.”
Chloe slides it an inch further. “I do. Mostly because it’s already paid for, and because the Beca Mitchell I knew in college would never let a shot go to waste like this. And she wouldn’t let me do shots alone, either.”
“Alright, guess I’ll just have to take them all by myself,” Chloe sighs dramatically.
Lifting one to her lips, she holds Beca’s gaze in a way that feels too intimate and downs it with ease. That look is all it takes to remind Beca how affectionate Chloe gets when she’s drunk. The too-soft looks, the lingering hands. She swallows. She isn’t sure if she’s ready for that tonight.
Chloe reaches for the next shot, and Beca’s hand instinctively darts out and grabs it before she can.
“Fine,” she grumbles, “I’ll take the damn shot.”
Better me than you.
Downing the dark liquor, she can feel Chloe watching her. There’s a giddy smile on her face that makes Beca want to roll her eyes.
Chloe reaches for the third shot intended for their roommate—an obvious threat to Beca’s new ‘keep Chloe just sober enough to survive the night’ mission.
“Guess I’ll take Amy’s—” She pauses as Beca picks it up and knocks it back with no warning. “Oh.”
Beca winces and clears her throat. “God. Remind me again why people like whiskey?”
Chloe gives her a strange look and mutters some response about acquired tastes that Beca doesn’t register. There’s a man at the other end of the bar who has been annoyingly unsubtle about leering at Chloe since they arrived.
Not that it’s an unusual occurrence. Men look at Chloe all the time. Women look at Chloe all the time. When they walk down the street, when they do their grocery shopping as they count every penny. And yes, when they’re out at the bar, too.
It’s frustrating. Seeing how many people want Chloe, how many options she would really have if she only opened her eyes. The only saving grace of sanity Beca has is the way Chloe seems to rarely notice them back.
Beca averts her gaze, trying not to think about exactly why the prospect of people lining up for Chloe bothers her so much. She’s protective of her friend—there are a lot of jerks in this world, and she doesn’t want Chloe to get hurt, she tells herself. She tells this to herself over and over. She’s been telling herself for six months now, in fact.
It was six months ago that she and Chloe and Amy had been out at the bar, just a regular night. Midway through, a drink had been delivered to their table by the bartender.
“From the woman at the bar, the one with dark hair.”
Chloe had glanced over to her with a little grin, and when the woman at the bar raised her glass in Chloe’s direction, the little chuckle Chloe let out drove Beca through the roof. That was the night she realized, watching Chloe dance with someone else… she minded. She minded a lot.
Blinking back to reality, Chloe eyes her like she’s trying to figure out exactly what’s going on inside Beca’s mind.
“Ready to dance?” Beca mutters quickly, nodding to where everyone is crowded and bumping to the beat, drinks in their hands and smirks in their eyes.
“Ready?” Chloe laughs. “Have you met me?”
Before Beca can say anything else, Chloe is already hopping off her stool and leading Beca to the center of the dance floor. The song changes as they find an opening between bodies, and they pause as they wait to see what will play next.
“Oh my god, Goodies by Ciara. Yessss.”
“Dude, this song is ridiculously cheesy,” Beca chuckles.
“I think you mean that this song is a classic. A fucking 2000s anthem, if you will.”
And then Chloe is wasting no time shaking her ass while moving in a circle and Beca can’t keep the laugh bubbling in her throat from escaping. She covers her mouth with her hand, letting it slide up to cover her eyes as she laughs.
Chloe’s hand wraps around it, pulling it down from her face. “Hey, now, none of that,” she says through a smirk, still dancing.
Beca’s eyes drop down to her hips, and it makes her lightheaded. Jesus. Chloe has no idea, the effect she has.
Chloe’s free hand slips down to take Beca’s other hand. Suddenly she’s at Chloe’s mercy as she pulls Beca in, one of her legs sliding between Beca’s as she dances against her, trying to force her to do anything but stand there.
Feeling her cheeks heat through, Beca gives in, clasping her fingers with Chloe’s palm to palm and moving her own hips in sync with Chloe’s. She tries not to think about all the places Chloe’s body meets hers, but it’s useless. She always finds herself giving into Chloe’s touch, and the full-body touching of intimate dancing is no exception.
She tries to remind herself that they’re just dancing, just playing two parts of a role, but her body betrays her. It comes alive as Chloe’s hips sway with hers.
Sometimes it feels like Chloe is testing her boundaries, and as her hand slips to the back of Beca’s neck, that’s exactly what it feels like. She can’t stop herself from pressing closer, her pulse racing uncontrollably.
Another self-reminder—this is just how Chloe likes to dance. She likes to put on a show, and sometimes that means being a part of the show. That’s all.
Her hands find Chloe’s hips and she forces herself to push away visions of her tongue in Chloe’s most intimate places.
She stiffens as the guy from the bar approaches with a drink in his hand. Now that he’s closer, Beca gets a better look at him. She can instantly tell he’s the type who gets his power from his hair. It’s expensively set into a smooth blonde flow, and the carefree smirk on his face already irritates her. He reminds her of all the golden boys she’s met throughout her life—classically handsome and unwaveringly sure of his place at the top of the pile without ever having considered otherwise.
He leans in too close to Chloe under the guise of loud music. It gives Beca an irresistible urge to commit murder.
“Hey, I saw you at the bar earlier. You look like you could use another round.”
Chloe looks down at the drink he offers with disinterest. No, it’s more than disinterest. It’s a clear disdain. “Thanks, but I don’t take drinks from strangers. You enjoy it, though.”
She turns back to Beca, ready to continue like nothing interrupted them in the first place. That is until he leans in again.
“How about you dance with me, then? Then I won’t be a stranger and we can have that drink.”
Chloe gives a tight-lipped smile. “I’m not interested, but thank you.”
She doesn’t even get the chance to turn back to Beca before he says, “Come on, one dance isn’t going to kill you. I promise you’ll have fun.”
“I said I don’t want to,” Chloe says flatly.
His eyebrows draw together in frustration. “I don’t understand why you’re getting offended. You don’t come to the club and dance like a stripper on your friend unless you want attention.”
Beca doesn’t know what possesses her next, but her short little 5’2” frame is suddenly dwarfed in front of his easily 6-foot-plus height. “Can you leave my girlfriend alone yet or is being told ‘no’ three times not enough?”
Her jaw slackens as she realizes she just called Chloe her girlfriend. She clenched it again, trying to save face in front of this asshole.
He laughs in her face. “What, you think I was born yesterday?”
He looks between them with narrowed eyes. All she wants is to wipe that smug look off his stupid face.
On the list of things that happen without Beca thinking it through first, she turns to Chloe and connects their lips, Chloe letting out a little whimper of surprise against her lips.
It should have been a simple pretend kiss—it is a simple pretend kiss—but when her mouth meets Chloe’s, Beca forgets all about the role she’s playing. Chloe’s lips are soft and warm and so instantly addicting.
Whether Chloe forgets, too, or if she’s simply finding another way to test her boundaries, Beca can’t know. But when Chloe’s tongue brushes her lower lip, Beca’s mouth opens, inviting her inside.
It’s a mistake. It’s a huge mistake.
They pull apart, a little more unsteady than before. Beca blinks twice, avoiding Chloe’s gaze. She turns to the asshole across from them and shrugs as though she isn’t struggling for breath. “You get the picture now?”
“Whatever,” he eventually mutters, downing the drink meant for Chloe as he walks away.
“Jesus, that guy was an asshole,” Chloe says as soon as he’s out of earshot.
“Yeah,” Beca mutters distractedly. She’s suddenly thankful for the muted lighting, knowing well that her face is flushed. Her body is still singing in response to Chloe.
Chloe’s soft giggle brings her back to reality. “Beca, you were like one of those little Chihuahuas who thinks they’re a guard dog standing up to him.”
Beca rolls her eyes. She can’t help but glance back to the bar and see if he’s still watching. He isn’t, thankfully, instead sulking over a glass of dark liquor and looking for the next girl to aim for.
“That was cute, though. Seeing you all protective.” She smiles at Beca in a way that holds more than just appreciation. It makes a lump form in Beca’s throat.
Beca is trying to formulate a response when Chloe glances back, seeing him too.
“Come on.” She takes Beca’s hand again. Beca finds herself really wishing Chloe wouldn’t do that so much. Or, at the very least, she wishes she didn’t love it so much when Chloe did. With a mischievous glint in her eye, Chloe leans in. “I’m not done dancing with my girlfriend,” she teases.
Beca falters, a shock ricocheting through her chest. Something about Chloe jokingly calling Beca her girlfriend is so uncommonly painful. She tries for a smile that is far too tired and doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Um, all this music is actually giving me a headache. Maybe we can just go back to the apartment?”
Chloe’s smile falters, and Beca knows she can feel the way Beca doesn’t want to meet her eyes. “Sure… you want to go now?”
“Do you want some painkillers?” Chloe asks softly.
“For the headache.”
“Oh,” Beca says. “Um, no thanks. I think I just need to sleep.”
Beca slips her heels off and digs around for some shorts to sleep in. She stays focused on this—not on the sound of Chloe’s clothes hitting the floor, or the way Chloe stands on the other side of the bed in just her pink lace underwear as she pulls out a tank top to sleep in.
Beca slides between the sheets quietly, watching the muscles in Chloe’s back tighten and relax as she pulls the shirt on. Her heart pounds as Chloe crawls into their pull-out bed beside her.
Soft breaths fill the empty space between them. The silence is broken eventually by Chloe’s ever-enduring voice.
“Is everything okay, Beca?”
“Of course,” she mutters, not even convincing herself. “Everything is fine.”
“Will you please look at me, then?”
Beca closes her eyes and curses herself mentally for a moment. Finally, she turns over in the bed.
“Tell me everything is fine,” Chloe murmurs, searching Beca’s eyes.
“Everything is fine,” Beca whispers.
She presses her lips into a thin line. “Beca, you don’t lie to me. Please don’t start now.”
Her throat gets tight. Chloe looks so vulnerable on the other side of the bed. Her hand is tucked under her head, her red curls splayed out around her head as she looks at Beca with more love in her eyes than most people will ever see in a lifetime.
To be honest with Chloe, she’d have to be honest with herself.
Is it even worth it? Or am I just going to be hurt?
“I just didn’t like joking about…” Beca stutters. “About being your girlfriend.”
Chloe chews on her bottom lip. “You didn’t have to tell him that, Beca. You didn’t have to kiss me to get him to go away.”
Of course she didn’t have to do that. But she’d blurted it out anyway, hadn’t she? She’d done it all.
“I know.” Beca covers her face with her hands. She feels Chloe’s fingers lock around them and allows Chloe to pull them back down.
“None of that,” she says, just like she did at the bar. “If it bothers you this much, I won’t joke about it again. I promise.”
There’s an undertone of disappointment to Chloe’s voice that makes Beca pause. So much is happening that she can’t wrap her mind around.
She nods slowly, holding Chloe’s gaze for a moment.
The bedspread shuffles as Chloe rolls to face away from her. She isn’t certain if she should feel thankful… or disappointed.
Her fingers come up to her lips. She swears they’re still tingling from earlier.
Beca’s mind drifts back to the way Chloe kissed her in that bar. The way it had been her tongue to break past the barrier of their lips, not Beca’s. It was a kiss between lovers, as they were pretending to be, but it was a kiss that promised so much more to come. For them, that isn’t the case. But god, did it feel like it.
This is what it’s always been like with Chloe, though. They kept drawing the line further and further away, crossing it every time. The line isn’t even recognizable now—Beca has no idea where it lies. Chloe’s back is expanding and relaxing with each breath, and Beca only wants to reach out and touch it.
Which side of the line would that fall on? Is there even a line at all anymore?
Does she even want there to be a line?
Blue eyes peek over a bare shoulder. “Yeah, Bec?”
Beca opens her mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. Chloe turns a little further, looking at her in confusion before laying flat on her back so she can see Beca properly.
Beca should respond. Obviously. But she doesn’t know the answer to that question. She can’t think about that because she can’t think about anything other than what Chloe tastes like.
“Can I try something?” Beca asks suddenly, her voice unsteady.
Chloe’s eyebrows knit together. Finally she nods.
In the shadows their faces are so close that she can smell the lingering whiskey and sweat from the night. Scarcely able to breathe, Beca’s eyes flick down to Chloe’s lips. She wants them again. But it’s not even just that—it’s that she wants to be the only person who has them. She wants them to be hers and no one else’s.
Slowly, she lowers herself down until Chloe’s breath skates across her mouth. Her eyelashes flutter as she looks at Chloe nervously, so close to her now. Taking a deep breath, she closes the gap and captures Chloe’s bottom lip between her own.
Everything feels like it’s drifting. She can feel it, the line being drawn further again only to be crossed as soon as it’s laid. There’s uncertainty mixed in with the soft and smooth action, an edge of anxiety that comes from kissing someone you aren’t sure wants to be kissed. Except that Chloe’s hand is suddenly warm against her cheek, encouraging her as much as her lips do.
She has no idea where this bold streak is coming from—maybe tasting Chloe just once was enough to make everything else seem like nothing at all.
Chloe’s hands softly hold her face, kissing her so slowly, so adamantly refusing to be rushed. It makes Beca feel like Chloe is water in a desert. And she is, in a way. Beca has spent most of her life in the desert.
By the time they pull away Beca is drowning in the helplessness of it all—the complete and utter helplessness of being at someone else’s mercy. When she opens her eyes Chloe is just looking at her with a look of quiet surprise written on her face.
There’s a long silence and Beca begins to panic. Thinking that maybe the experiment is over, she draws her hands back, but Chloe’s hands dart to grab them and drag them back.
“It doesn’t have to be a joke,” Chloe whispers. She cups Beca’s cheeks and runs her thumbs over her cheekbones, her eyes softening. “You know that, right?”
Beca nods quickly, too quickly. Apparently she has zero ability to play it cool. Because she wants this. She wants to stop feeling so jealous every time someone looks at Chloe the wrong way—to stop torturing herself every time Chloe’s touch lingers just a little too long.
What she wants is more of this. More of her lips. More of her love. More of her everything.
“I want it to be real,” Beca murmurs, letting gravity pull her back to Chloe.
Just like before, it’s a kiss that promises so much more to come.