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“Any messages, Gina?” 

 

Beca Mitchell strode out of the elevator, high heels clicking on marble flooring on her way to her office. 

 

Her assistant rushed to walk alongside her, notebook opened as she handed Beca her second coffee of the day, which Beca took with an appreciative smile. 

 

“Mr. Mendes needs to push back his meeting to Thursday, and Mr. Hozier-Byrne is waiting for a call back, preferably before 2 as he’s five hours ahead.” 

 

Beca rounded the corner to her office and dragged her leather desk chair back, shrugging off her woolen trench coat and draping it over the back. “Got it, remind me what I have planned today?” 

 

“You’re having lunch with Mr. Zimmer at the Plaza to discuss Jesse’s project, and apart from the weekly team meeting at five, you’re expected at Edgy Reggie’s party from 10 pm at the Sapphire.” 

 

A groan surfaced from Beca’s throat and her eyes slammed shut as she plopped down on her chair. “I forgot about that. Luke can’t go?” 

 

Gina winced and shook her head. “Family dinner.” 

 

“Family dinner, my ass. His whole family lives back in fucking England,” Beca muttered before she could help it, throwing her assistant an apologetic smile. “Sorry. Thanks, Gina. Hold my calls until ten, please?” 

 

“Of course, Ms. Mitchell.” 

 

As she did every morning while sipping her coffee, Beca listened to demos over the next hour, forwarding them to Luke if any of those yet-unknown artists spiked her interest enough to sign them into their label. 

 

The rest of the day consisted of two meetings, a dozen calls, countless email exchanges, and not enough studio time. A thick blanket of darkness had veiled the city by the time she closed her laptop and called it a day. She stretched her neck and took a moment to gaze at the lit skyscrapers through her floor to ceiling windows, sighing softly. 

 

It was sometimes weird to think about how this was her life. How the asocial, grumpy freshman from twelve years ago had made it to the top of the music business and now co-owned one of the biggest labels throughout the country. 

 

Scratch that, throughout the world.  

 

Snapping out of her daze, Beca stood and slipped on her coat, plucking her phone off the desk to call herself a Lyft home. She had just about time to take a shower and eat dinner before heading to that stupid party. 

 

*

 

Beca could think of a million things she’d rather be doing right now as she strode down the wet sidewalk towards the lit GIRLS red neon sign in the distance a couple of hours later. 

 

She told herself one drink, an hour tops, then she could head home, put on her pajamas, and finish that true-crime TV show she started yesterday. 

 

“Name?” A dude bulkier than the freaking Rock asked her as she made it to the club door. 

 

“Um, Beca Mitchell. I’m Edgy Reggie’s producer.” 

 

Her artist had privatized a strip-club for his celebration party over his album hitting Platinum, and Beca couldn’t not show up, as... well, he was an important client and brought her label the big bucks. 

 

The guy checked his clipboard and nodded, hitching his thumb over his shoulder. “You’re good to go.” 

 

Casting the bouncer a nod, Beca ducked inside the dimmed, crowded club, wincing at the crappy music heavily pumping through the speakers. Three girls in bikinis and heels stood on platforms, twisting their bodies around dancing poles as dozens of dudes reclined back in leather sofas, shamelessly ogling their forms. 

 

Beca’s nose crinkled as she scanned the room for her artist. 

 

“Yo, Beca!” 

 

Her gaze snapped to the left corner, catching sight of Edgy Reggie (he didn’t want to change his stage name, no matter how much Beca insisted) waving her over. 

 

“Hey,” she cast him a tight-lipped smile, tucking her straight hair behind her ears. She nodded at the other dudes sitting around the low table. “What’s up.” 

 

“Guys, this is the girl behind the magic of my album,” Edgy Reggie explained, throwing an arm over her shoulders before Beca could squirm away. “She is fire.

 

Beca chuckled awkwardly, then pointed over her shoulder. “I’m gonna go get myself a drink.” 

 

Maybe two come to think of it, so she could get herself through this. 

 

She headed to the bar and ordered an old-fashioned, fishing in the inside of her coat pocket for her credit card.

 

“Thanks,” she muttered when the barmaid (also clad in a bikini that left very little to the imagination) came back with her drink, handing her her card just as the club’s speaker made an announcement. 

 

“Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome to the stage… Ariel! ” 

 

The crowd cheered and hooted, Beca glancing over her shoulder to see what all the fuss was about. 

 

There was no amount of alcohol that could have prepared her for the scene unfolding before her. 

 

There, on the main stage, strutted in a redhead, only wearing a silver g-string and high heels. Beca would have recognized that shade of hair anywhere, and while the lighting in the club was low, there wasn’t a doubt in her mind that this girl -- Ariel -- was her former best friend. 

 

Her former best friend who had dropped from the face of the Earth almost five years ago, without so much as an explanation. She hadn’t just stopped talking to Beca, but to all of them, even Aubrey. She was nowhere to be found on social media and when Beca had tried calling her after six months without news, she found out Chloe’s phone number had been disconnected. It wasn’t like they talked on a daily basis before that. After three years spent living on opposite sides of the country, the texts started coming further in between, their communication coming down to a few check-ins a year and on birthdays, until they eventually stopped. 

 

Fearing the worst, Aubrey had called Chloe’s parents, who assured her she was fine, working as a vet in NYC and in a committed relationship. While relieved, the news stung Beca, as it was clear Chloe had deliberately ceased contact. 

 

It took some time, but Beca eventually stopped thinking about her so much, especially when she started getting successful as a music producer and pouring her time and energy into her projects. She soon won her first Grammys, Gold, and Platinum records featured in notorious magazines and talk shows. She could stop working tomorrow and money wouldn’t become an issue, but Beca didn’t like to boast about her fortune, or fame, for that matter. 

 

Despite being insanely busy, she still kept in touch with the other Bellas in their group chat, but she hadn’t seen any of them in a couple of years, missing the last reunion because of her job. 

 

Beca’s mind steered back to the present, where the once most important person in her life was currently dancing for money. Men were staring hungrily at her as she sensually moved around the pole or bent over with her ass in the air to collect dollar bills from the floor, and Beca suddenly felt sick. 

 

This couldn’t be her dream job, right? Something had to have happened for her to settle for this. 

 

Beca grabbed her drink and knocked it back, flagging the barmaid down for another as her mind reeled as to what to do. 

 

She needed to talk to Chloe. In private. Tonight, as soon as she finished… parading in front of these disgusting fuckboys. Only… she wasn’t sure Chloe wanted to talk to her. 

 

“Hey,” she said when the barmaid came back as an idea struck. “How do I get a private lap dance with one of the girls?” 

 

The girl raised a surprised eyebrow. “Backroom, hun. Who do you want?” 

 

“Ariel.” 

 

The platinum blonde let out a curt laugh. “Ariel doesn’t do lap dances, babe.” 

 

Beca’s eyebrows knitted together in a heavy frown. “Why not?” 

 

“Because she’s the boss’ favorite.” 

 

Beca didn’t know what that meant exactly, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to find out as another wave of nausea swept over her insides. “Is your boss here tonight?” 

 

The barmaid scanned the room quickly, nodding. “He’s the guy over there in the suit.” 

 

“Thanks.” She took her drink and headed over to where the fifty-something dude was talking to another guy. Stepping up to them, she ignored their glares over her interrupting their conversation. “Hey. Are you the manager?” 

 

The dude who looked like he ran a mafia mob turned a bit more towards her. “What’s this about?” 

 

“How much for a private dance with Ariel?” 

 

His gaze flickered over Beca’s shoulder towards the stage, then sized Beca up, unimpressed. “She’s not available, kid.” 

 

Beca gritted her teeth at the condescending tone of his voice. “Not even for ten grand for twenty minutes?” 

 

He slow-blinked, then burst out laughing. “Yeah, right.” 

 

“I’m being serious. Ten grand, twenty minutes. Alone in a room, just the two of us.” 

 

The man’s expression hardened. “And I said she’s not available .” 

 

“Twenty grand.” Hell, she’d throw half a million on the table if that’s what was needed to talk to Chloe. After a beat, she added, “And no touching. That’s not what I’m here for.”

 

The manager seemed to consider her offer for a handful of seconds. “You got the money?” 

 

Dammit. She couldn’t withdraw that much right now, she needed to call her bank. “Tomorrow night.” 

 

He smirked, snickering. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

 

He turned back to his buddy, leaving Beca grumbling under her breath as she turned around and stalked out of the club. She couldn’t stay. She couldn’t stand the sight of Chloe objectifying her body for money. 

 

As soon as she got home, Beca fired up her computer and typed in Chloe’s name in her browser. Apart from old stuff on the Bellas, she found nothing relevant. Chloe appeared to still be MIA from any social media. 

 

Beca grabbed her phone and scrolled through her contacts, bringing the device to her ear. 

 

“What’s wrong?” 

 

“How do you know something’s wrong?” 

 

“We call each other twice a year on our respective birthdays and stick to the Bellas chat for the rest.” 

 

Beca nibbled on her bottom lip. “I found Chloe.” 

 

A long stretch of silence on the other end of the line followed. “What?”   

 

“I saw her tonight, Aubrey.” 

 

“Where??”

 

“At a strip club. She’s… a stripper.” 

 

“What? Did you talk to her?” 

 

“No. She was performing on stage. But I will. I’m… buying a lap dance from her tomorrow. I figured… she’ll have to listen to me since she’s being paid for it.” Her eyes slammed shut, scrunching up her nose. “I don’t know. It might be a bad idea, but-- I just wanna make sure she’s okay, you know?” 

 

“Yes, of course. Keep me posted?”  

 

“I will. Talk to you soon.” 

 

Beca shuffled to bed after that, but sleep never came. Her mind kept reeling about Chloe, about what she might say to her once they were face to face, and the possibility that Chloe might shoot her down and refuse to talk to her. 

She spent her Saturday trying and failing to make some progress on an ongoing project, willing time to tick faster so she could head back to the club. Mid-afternoon, she headed to the bank to withdraw twenty grand, tucking the envelope in her purse. 

 

“Why does it feel like you’re doing something illegal, Beca?” She muttered to herself on her way out of the bank, slightly paranoid about carrying so much cash on her. 

 

The club was just as crowded when she got there around 10 pm. A different girl danced on the main stage and the manager was nowhere in sight, so Beca perched herself on a stool at the bar, ordering herself another old-fashioned. 

 

“Is your boss around?” She asked the barmaid, a different girl from last night. 

 

“Who’s asking?” 

 

“Tell him the person who wants Ariel is here.” 

 

The girl’s eyebrows shot up at that but she didn’t say anything, nodding before strutting away. Beca sipped at her drink for the next twenty minutes, keeping her back to the stage. 

 

The manager eventually appeared in her peripheral, and he leaned an elbow over the counter, lacing his fingers. “So what’s so special about Ariel?” 

 

Beca slowly set her drink down and fished for the envelope, pushing it towards him while keeping her gaze straight ahead. “I like redheads.” 

 

He plucked the envelope off the counter and peered inside. Twenty stacks of ten hundred dollar bills in exchange for twenty minutes with Chloe. 

 

He nodded. “Follow me.” 

 

Beca finished the rest of her drink, the alcohol managing to muffle her nerves some as she followed the manager towards the back of the club, and down a set of stairs. Her heart pumped hard in her ears and her palms started to sweat as she was led inside a dimly lit room with a handful of sofa chairs and a small stage with a dancing pole, some kind of music that seemed straight out of a porno carrying through the speakers. A spiral staircase was tucked in the right corner, and she guessed that is where the strippers made their entrance from. 

 

Beca wondered how far things usually went in these kinds of private rooms.

 

She wondered how far Chloe went. 

 

She cast the guy a tight-lipped smile and a nod before he closed the door, and paced the room for a little while, eventually lowering herself on one of the leather chairs and wiping her palms on her designer slacks. 

 

The clicking of heels over metal made Beca’s spine snap straighter. She resisted the urge to look over her shoulder as the steps grew nearer, digging her nails into her thighs as a new round of nerves gripped her insides. 

 

“Good evening, sweetheart,” the huskiness of Chloe’s voice made Beca swallow, and she felt a hand run over her shoulders as Chloe approached from behind. 

 

Glancing up, Beca met familiar, ocean blues. 



Chapter Text

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“Fuck, harder.” 

 

Delicate fingers fisted into silk sheets, gripping on for dear life as Chloe felt the telltale signs of her orgasm around the corner. A rough hand pressed on the back of her head and angled her face into the pillow, applying enough pressure to cut off her oxygen intake. 

 

The lack of air reaching her lungs paired with Marco’s cock slamming in and out of her roughly drove Chloe over the edge, and she came with a throaty cry, her body slumping like a rag doll against the mattress, then spasming with each wave of intense pleasure. 

 

The hand over the back of her head vanished and Chloe huffed a chuckle, her chest rising up and down as she attempted to catch her breath. 

 

Marco rolled onto his back next to her, in an equal state of satiation. “You’re fucking incredible,” he murmured, shifting onto his side and curling his hand around Chloe’s hip as he dragged his teeth over Chloe’s bare shoulder in a light bite. His hand rounded her hip bone and headed south, Chloe swatting it away before it could reach its destination. 

 

“Time out,” she husked with a breathy laugh, casting him a smirk over her shoulder. “You know I need to save some energy for tonight.” 

 

Marco only groaned in response, flopping back in his initial position. “Speaking of tonight…” 

 

Chloe shuffled to the edge of the bed and grabbed the short straw laying on the bedside table, leaning in to snort the line of coke next to it. She shifted onto her back, her hair fanning over the pillow as she glanced at her boyfriend. “Yeah?” 

 

“This girl came to the club last night and asked for you.” 

 

Chloe’s eyebrows knitted together. “Who?” 

 

Marco shrugged, propping a hand behind his head. “I dunno, some brunette with an attitude. Reminded me of an angry chihuahua. Offered twenty grand for twenty minutes.” 

 

Chloe’s eyes popped wider. “Holy shit, seriously?”  

 

“Mhm. I told her I’d believe it when I saw it. Said she was coming back tonight.” 

 

“I thought you didn’t want me to do that stuff anymore?” 

 

Marco rolled onto his stomach, his hand resting on Chloe’s ribs as he took one of her nipples between his lips and gave it a tug. “That’s the best part,” he said as he popped the nub free. “No touching, she said.” 

 

Chloe cocked an eyebrow as she ran her fingers through his dark hair. “Just a lapdance? For twenty grand?” 

 

“Like I said, I’ll believe when I see it.” 

 

He pressed a rough kiss to her mouth and shuffled out of bed, putting on a fresh pair of boxers. 

 

“Where are you going?” Chloe asked, content in lying there for another hour as the cocaine effects started swirling around her insides and quietened her mind. 

 

Just a little every day, to keep the demons away. 

 

Marco glanced over his shoulder as he pulled on some pants, buttoning them up. “You know I don’t like it when you ask too many questions, sweetheart.” 

 

Chloe rolled her eyes. She knew better than to meddle with his business. “Fine.”  

 

Her phone rang just as the door clicked shut, signaling Marco’s departure, and Chloe hurried to put on a t-shirt, propping herself against the headboard and quickly combing her fingers through her sex-mussed hair before answering the FaceTime call. 

 

She smiled as her mother’s face popped up on the screen. “Hey mom. How are you?” 

 

“I’m good, honey. You look tired though, everything alright?” 

 

Chloe nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just went out with the girls last night and didn’t get much sleep. How’s dad?” 

 

“He’s okay, the nurse is just finishing up with his sponge bath.” Her mom glances off screen. “Oh, here he comes.”

 

The sixty-year-old appears a few seconds later. “Hey Chlobear. How are ya?” 

 

A fond smile spread across Chloe’s lips. “I’m okay, dad. You look good. How is the new chair working for you? Is it easier to drive around compared to the old one?” 

 

“This thing is like the Porsche of electric wheelchairs. You really didn’t have to, it must have cost you a fortune.” 

 

“It’s okay, dad. I can afford it, and I want to make things easy for you guys.” 

 

“The clinic is running well, then?”

 

Familiar guilt swooped in over lying to her parents about pretty much every aspect in her life, but Chloe had learned to ignore it over the years. “Yep.”

 

“I hope you’re still keeping some of that money you make to splurge on stuff for yourself as well.” 

 

Chloe chuckled. “Don’t worry dad, I’m not miserable.” 

 

“Alright, good.” 

 

“Are you planning on visiting us soon? We haven’t seen you in almost a year and a half, baby,” her mom chimes in. 

 

“I don’t know yet, mom. I hope I’ll be able to fly over at Christmas.” 

 

“And how is Marc? We’d love to finally meet him in person.” 

 

Chloe swallowed. “He’s good. Busy with work.” She cleared her throat. “Listen, I have to go run some errands, but call back next Saturday?” She blew a kiss towards the screen. “Love you!” 

 

Her mask slipped as soon as the call disconnected and Chloe felt tears burn behind her eyes. Those calls were always the hardest. She shook them off and stood from the bed, peeling her shirt over her head on route to the ensuite bathroom. There, she turned on the shower to let the water warm up while she relieved herself on the toilet. 

 

The hot spray felt divine on her aching muscles, and she closed her eyes as she hummed a song, blocking out the rest of the world for now. 

 

Marco was MIA for the rest of the afternoon, and around five, Chloe stepped out to run some errands and swung by the bank to put some money on her parents’ account. She headed to the club after dinner, using the back entrance as she always did and setting her stuff by her vanity in the locker room. 

 

“Hey Ariel,” Serena greeted with a smirk through Chloe’s mirror. “I heard about the twenty grand. Who do you think it is? Some kind of loaded cougar?” 

 

A snicker puffed past Chloe’s lips as she shook her head. “I have no idea.” 

 

She was intrigued, though. Women rarely visited strip clubs, let alone requested a lap dance, but Chloe wasn’t nervous. Men were another story, especially in the downstairs room, as Chloe learned the hard way. 

 

“Here,” Serena said, setting a shot glass filled to the rim with clear liquor in front of Chloe. 

 

“Thanks.” Chloe clinked the glass against Serena’s and knocked it back. Force of habit meant it easily slid down her throat, spreading warmth throughout her stomach. 

 

The rest of the girls soon trickled in, chattering filling the room as they got ready. Chloe had had the same make-up for the last four years and a half: a smokey-eye which brought out the blue, mascara and bottom eye-liner for some fierceness. A touch of gloss and bronzer, some hairspray to give her red mane some fluff, and she was good to get dressed. 

 

She usually danced topless in a g-string, but tonight Chloe decided not to reveal the goods right away. After stripping and slipping on her show underwear, she plucked a vibrant red see-through kimono, which she left open to expose a sliver of her abs, the valley of her breasts and her upper-chest. 

 

The chatter died down when Marco stepped inside, the rest of the girls scurrying to head out. Chloe spared him a glance before focusing on putting her high heels on. 

 

“You look exquisite ,” he drawled, sliding up behind Chloe and pressing himself against her. “Can’t wait to have you all to myself tonight.” 

 

Chloe smiled, briefly leaning back against him as he dragged his lips up the side of her neck. 

 

“She’s downstairs.” 

 

She nodded and flashed him a wink as she walked around him towards the door leading to the VIP room. Closing it once she’d stepped on the staircase platform, Chloe slowly ascended, strutting towards the woman sat with her back to her. 

 

“Good evening, sweetheart,” she husked, sensually running her hand over her client’s covered shoulders as she walked around the chair, and spun around to face her. 

 

Chloe’s smirk slipped from her lips as soon as she registered the familiar face, and she recoiled, taking a step back as though she had been burned. Her ears started to buzz and it took a handful of seconds for her clouded mind to come up with words. 

 

She wasn’t expecting to open a door to her past tonight. 

 

“What--what are you doing here?” She asked when her brain rebooted, wrapping her kimono tighter around herself as her show stamina suddenly vanished. 

 

Beca scowled. “What are you doing here?” She questioned back, pushing to her feet. 

 

“I work here,” Chloe stated, unnecessarily so as that fact was pretty obvious. 

 

Beca shook her head faintly, something akin to confusion swirling in her eyes. “What happened?”

 

“What do you mean, what happened?” Chloe spat out coldly. “There’s nothing wrong with being a stripper, Beca.” 

 

Beca . That name almost felt foreign on her tongue. 

 

“No, I…” Beca puffed out a breath and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a stripper, I just--” The muscle in her jaw snapped as she gritted her teeth. “Fine , I think stripping is a degrading job, and I hated what I saw last night, you… using your body for cash.” 

 

Chloe nodded slowly, lips pursed in a thin line as anger trickled down her veins. “Good. Thank you for giving me your opinion. What else are you here for? I doubt it’s for a lap dance.” 

 

Beca was the one to physically recoil this time. “I’m here because I’m worried about you.” 

 

“No need,” Chloe muttered. “I’m fine.” 

 

Beca’s shoulders sagged. “I…” she released a heavy sigh. “Why did you disappear? All these years without a word and I’ve been racking my brain for what I could have possibly done, for what the Bellas and I could have possibly done to deserve that.”

 

The word picked at a scab Chloe believed to be healed over. She stiffened and clenched her teeth, breaking eye-contact as she tried to ignore how heavy her heart suddenly felt. “It had nothing to do with you guys.” 

 

“Chlo…” Beca approached, stopping in her tracks when Chloe took a step back. “I still care about you, you know? It doesn’t matter whether it’s been five, ten, fifteen years, I’ll always care about you and your safety. You were my best friend.” 

 

“Exactly. Past tense,” Chloe muttered, blinking furiously when she felt tears pricking behind her eyes. She met Beca’s steel blue gaze, her own an icy shade. “I’m not the same person anymore, Beca.”

 

“I don’t buy that,” Beca said. They stared at each other for a stretch, Beca’s eyebrows knitting together in a frown. “So that’s it?” She asked, her voice wavering slightly. “You’re not interested in reconnecting? At all? Even with Aubrey? Because she’s worried about you, too, and I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.” 

 

Aubrey’s name pulled at Chloe’s heartstrings, but she pushed against the wave of nostalgia flooding her being. 

 

“You’re wasting your time and your money here,” she eventually mumbled. “I think you should go.” 

 

She recognized the hurt flashing in Beca’s eyes and cast her own gaze down. A business card appeared in her line of vision a handful of seconds later. “If you change your mind. I’m always down to grab a coffee. I mean that.” 

 

Chloe hesitated for a stretch, then reached out to pluck the business card from Beca’s fingers. She gave a faint nod, her eyes remaining fastened to the carpet as Beca walked out, the door clicking shut behind her. 

 

A sob wrenched itself from Chloe’s throat as soon as it did, and she turned towards the wall, leaning her forearm against the surface and dropping her forehead over it as she battled with an oncoming panic attack. 

 

Once she had more or less composed herself, Chloe headed back upstairs. She had about five minutes before her show, and she sat down in front of her vanity and fished for her viale of coke inside her purse, using Beca’s business card to hastily make a line. 

 

She usually stuck to alcohol before her show, but she needed something stronger to take the edge off. She wiped her nose when it was done and tossed the card into her purse. 

 

“Ariel, you’re up in two.” 

 

Chloe pushed her chair back, grabbing the vodka bottle from Serena’s vanity and pouring herself a shot. 

 

The next handful of hours passed by in a blur as she danced and talked with clients, charming them into buying her drinks as she got a commission for each order. She finished her shift pocketing $500 in cash, and made it home just after five am. 

 

The early night’s events caught up with her as she stood in the bathroom taking her make-up off, her conversation with Beca going around on a loop in her head. Footsteps soon drew her back to the present, and Chloe glanced at Marco through the mirror, then down to the three stacks of hundred dollar bills he set next to the sink.  

 

“That’s your cut,” he said, then reached for something else in the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He laid Beca’s business card on top of the bills, then leaned back against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest. “What’s this?”

 

“You went through my stuff??” Chloe questioned, a defensive edge through her tone. She swore she had put the card in her bag before leaving the locker room.

 

Marco licked his lips, his calm demeanor sending an unpleasant chill crawling down Chloe’s spine. “You know her?” 

 

“I knew her. Back in college.” 

 

“What did she want?” 

 

Chloe furrowed her brow, turning back to the mirror as she plucked her earrings out. “To catch up. Doesn’t matter, I’m not gonna use it.” 

 

Seemingly satisfied with that answer, Marco leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her temple. “Coming to bed soon?” 

 

“Yeah. I’ll be right there.” 

 

As she stared at her own reflection through the mirror, she found herself wondering if there was indeed a piece of Chloe Beale left within her, like Beca seemed to believe. 

Chapter Text

“Bec?” 

 

Beca hummed absentmindedly, blinking out of her daze and twisting her head in the direction of the voice. 

 

Sarah smiled gently as she leaned against the doorframe of the kitchen. She cocked an eyebrow, giving a pointed look towards the sink. “I think the pan is clean.” 

 

Beca glanced down, stilling her movements. She had been scrubbing that pan for probably ten minutes now, her thoughts completely consumed by Chloe and what she was supposed to do next. 

 

Chloe clearly didn’t want to see her, and Beca wasn’t going to wait by the phone when it was clear that Chloe was far from okay. She was thinner than Beca remembered, and the look in her eye, the lack of light in those once bright blues, chilled Beca to the bone. 

 

She looked… broken. As though her spirit had repeatedly been battered until all that was left were mere pieces of her old self. 

 

If there were any left at all. 

 

Beca couldn’t stand the thought of not doing anything, and she needed to come up with a plan to help Chloe without driving her into a corner and risk losing her forever. 

 

“What’s going on?” Sarah questioned, pushing off the doorframe and padding over. She rested her hand between Beca’s shoulder blades, her eyebrows knitted together in concern. “You’ve seemed off today.” 

 

Beca released a sigh, setting the pan down into the sink and reaching for the dishtowel laying next to her on the counter to dry her hands. “I’m sorry, I’m just… worried about a friend.” 

 

Sarah nodded slowly. “Do you want to talk about it?” 

 

Sarah was unexpected, to say the least. Beca was a workaholic, and her career was too time-consuming for her to get into the whole dating thing. But Sarah, who happened to work as a barista in Beca’s favorite independent coffee shop, had somehow managed to convince Beca to go out with her. One dinner surprisingly turned into a second date, then a third, and it just like that, it had been almost a year since they officially got together. 

 

Sarah was gentle, patient, understanding, overflowing with positivity, but most of all, incredibly kind. She reminded Beca of Chloe, sometimes. And maybe it was those similar personality traits that drew Beca to her in the first place. 

 

They didn’t live together. Beca could feel that it was the next expected step on her girlfriend’s end, but she didn’t feel ready to commit, yet. She liked her own space, her solitude. So Sarah spent a few nights a week at Beca’s place, like tonight, and Beca was fine with that. 

 

“Not really,” she replied, casting Sarah an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, it’s just-- complicated right now.” 

 

“You need to stop apologizing,” Sarah murmured, her expression soft and loving. Beca let her shoulders sag, ready to apologize again. “I understand. But if you do change your mind and need to let something off your chest, I’m here.” 

 

Beca nodded. “Thanks.” 

 

“Are you coming to bed?” 

 

“Not yet, I wanna get some work done, first.” She leaned in to peck Sarah’s lips. “You go ahead, I’ll join you soon.” 

 

Walking across the living room and past the huge floor to ceiling windows looking over Central Park, Beca made her way to her home office, her happy place. She had bought the Manhattan condo two years ago, making it a requirement during her house-hunt to have a large room with plenty of light and enough space to store all her records and her music equipment. It was also where she kept her Grammys and other prizes, away from the attention as nobody really stepped into her office.

 

She usually popped a blues album on the record player, enjoying the soothing instrumentals while she replied to various emails, but not tonight. Tonight, she grabbed a yellow legal notepad and her headphones from her desk and curled up on the leather couch tucked in the far corner, then scrolled to her Spotify playlists until she found the one she was looking for. 

 

she is magic

 

Beca couldn’t remember the last time she had listened to her Chloe playlist, one she had made back in Barden when she was hopelessly in love with her best friend. They were songs that reminded her of Chloe, or songs that Chloe liked. Or used to like, at least. 

 

As lyrics she knew so well poured into her headphones, blocking out the rest of the world, different ones flowed out of Beca’s heart, materializing on the paper in front of her in black ink as she scribbled across the page. Lyrics about friendship, unrequited love, and regrets for listening to her brain and not her heart all these years ago. 

 

It was pushing on two am by the time Beca called it a night. Her eyes burned, her mind felt mushy, but her soul felt a tiny bit lighter. Music had always been her therapy, and writing songs had always proved more efficient than paying a licensed professional, even though it had been years since Beca had last finished one, for lack of inspiration. 

 

Or rather, because of the absence of her muse. 

 

*

 

She woke up five hours later to a stiff neck and sore back, the bright sunlight pouring in from the windows lining one of her office walls drawing her from her sleep. She had meant to go to bed, before deciding to close her eyes for five minutes right on the couch. 

 

Straightening with a groan, she grabbed her phone and turned it over, hoping to see a text from an unknown number on her screen. 

 

Aubrey Posen [6:23am]

Any news? 

 

Aubrey Posen [6:37am]

Should I come to New York? 

 

Aubrey practiced family law up in Boston. She and Beca saw each other a few times a year, whenever Aubrey was in the city. Bella reunions were a bit more scarce now, with the girls being scattered all around the country. Their last one dated back to a year and a half ago, on the Fourth of July. 

 

Beca ran a hand over her face and heaved out a sigh, swiping her thumb across the screen to unlock it. 

 

Beca [7:16am]

No news yet. I think I’m gonna wait a few days before I head back to the club, if she doesn’t call in the meantime that is. The manager gave me serious sleazy vibes and I’m sure he could blacklist me if I’m too insistent. I don’t think there’s any need for you to come down for now. I’ll keep you posted. 

 

Hitting send, Beca pushed to her feet and shuffled out of her office, hanging a left down the hall towards the kitchen. A note next to her coffee thermos sat on the island. 

 

Missed you last night, but I hope you got whatever you needed done. I had to leave for my shift, you’re welcome to swing by for your second coffee of the day and your morning kiss ;) have a good day!

Sarah xx

 

Guilt swooped in over picking old feelings about an ex-almost over her girlfriend, and Beca let her head hang forward, releasing a grown. She was far from an expert at this relationship thing, but she cared about Sarah a lot and didn’t want to mess that up. 

 

Beca shook off the sleepiness lingering in her bones and the stiffness in her muscles with a long, hot shower, then got ready for her day. She usually got to the office at 8 sharp, but it was already 7:54 by the time she was out the door, and her commute lasted about twenty minutes, so she wouldn’t get the chance to stop by Sarah’s workplace. 

 

To: Sarah 

I’m sorry, I got caught up in work last night and ended up falling asleep on the couch around 2. Come over tonight? I’ll cook dinner. Have a good shift.

 

Her morning was spent in the studio canning vocals for girl in red’s new album, a project Beca was stocked about as she was BMLJ’s most promising artist for this year’s Grammy Awards. 

 

“That was awesome, Marie,” Beca spoke into the microphone, giving her a thumbs-up through the glass. “Let’s take a lunch break and resume in an hour?” 

 

“Sounds good,” the younger woman agreed with a smile as she took off her headphones. 

 

Beca headed back to her office down the hall and checked her phone for any new messages (finding none important), before shrugging on her thick winter coat and screwing her beanie over her head. 

 

“I’ll be back in an hour, Gina!” She told her assistant on route to the elevator. 

 

As Sarah’s workplace was just five blocks south from the label, Beca figured she would eat lunch there as she wasn’t able to stop by that morning. She stopped in the convenience store across the street from the coffee shop to buy Sarah her favorite magazine as she knew her break was coming up soon and she’d have something to read. 

 

Beca was scanning the press stand for that specific magazine, not paying attention to the person walking into the store until they spoke. 

 

“A pack of Marlboro, please.” 

 

Beca would recognize that voice anywhere. Her head snapped up so fast she felt something in her neck pull, and she was rounding the stand before she even registered giving her feet the order to move. “Chloe?” 

 

Chloe glanced over to her right and froze for a second, before fishing for a twenty in her jacket pocket and handing it to the cashier. “Are you following me or something?” 

 

Given their last encounter, Beca wasn’t surprised by Chloe’s snark, so she gave as good as she got. “You came in after I did, so maybe I should ask you that question.” 

 

Chloe stuffed the cigarette pack and the change into her pocket. “What do you want, Beca?” 

 

“To talk,” she replied, softly. “One coffee, that’s it. And if you decide you really don’t want me in your life, then I won’t bother you again. I promise.” 

 

Chloe seemed to ponder on that for a few beats. “One coffee.” 

 

“There’s a shop right across the street.” 

 

Taking her to the place her girlfriend worked at? Probably not the brightest idea, but she was afraid Chloe might go back on her decision if they spent too long finding someplace else. 

 

When Chloe nodded, Beca took the lead and stepped outside, forgetting all about that magazine as she racked her brain about what she should say. Tactfulness wasn’t her greatest suit; Aubrey would be so much better at this. 

 

They stepped inside Devocion and Beca picked a table in the corner, shrugging off her coat and draping it over the back of her chair. Chloe kept her jacket and beanie on, a bit hunched on herself as she sat down in the chair opposite Beca’s. 

 

“Beca?” 

 

Beca glanced towards Sarah as she approached, wearing a waist apron with the café logo on it. Her dark blonde hair was woven back in a French braid, a few strands escaping, and curiosity swirled in her green eyes as they flickered to Chloe. 

 

Okay, in hindsight, bringing Chloe here was a terrible idea. 

 

“Hey, um, Sarah, this is Chloe, a friend from college.” She cleared her throat. “Chloe, this is my girlfriend, Sarah.” 

 

“Nice to meet you,” Sarah replied brightly, her smile fading a little when all Chloe offered was a distant nod. Sarah met Beca’s gaze briefly, clearing her throat. “What can I get you guys?” 

 

“My usual. You want anything to eat, Chlo?” 

 

The nickname rolled off her tongue so naturally, Beca didn’t even catch it. 

 

Chloe shook her head. “Just a black coffee.” 

 

“Coming right up.” 

 

“Thanks,” Beca said as Sarah spun around on her heels, her focus shifting to Chloe. “So um, I wanted to apologize for the other day and putting you on the spot at the club. I just… wasn’t sure how else to talk to you.” 

 

“I can give you some of the money back if you need it.” 

 

Beca furrowed her brow, not having expected that. “No, no. I… it’s fine. I don’t care about money.” 

 

Something flashed in Chloe’s eyes at that, something Beca couldn’t quite pinpoint. 

 

Sarah came back with two coffees before she could analyze it further, setting the mugs down on the table. “Your club sandwich will be here in a few, babe.” 

 

Beca nodded, casting her a small, appreciative smile. 

 

Chloe straightened a bit in her seat, cradling the mug with both hands. “I’m not sure what you expect me to say or do, Beca.” 

 

Beca licked her lips. “I was hoping we could… hang out from time to time. I’ve missed you, Chlo. So has Aubrey.” 

 

The mention of Aubrey made Chloe lookup. “Does she live in New York, too?” 

 

“Um no, in Boston. She’s a lawyer. But she’d come down to have coffee, or lunch, or whatever you feel like doing. In a heartbeat.” 

 

Chloe shook her head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” 

 

What little hope flared in the pit of Beca’s belly upon Chloe showing interest in Aubrey’s life vanished. “Why not?” 

 

“I told you. I’m not the same person anymore. I’m-- I’m not…” 

 

Beca tilted her head to the side. “You’re not what?” She pressed gently. 

 

Chloe’s gaze fleeted out the window as her rather calm demeanor now radiated agitation. Her knee started bouncing and her fingers tightened around the mug, and it was as though Chloe was battling against her own thoughts. 

 

She was itching to reach across the table to rest her hand over her wrist in a sort of grounding gesture, but something told her that would have the opposite effect. 

 

“Chloe?” Beca attempted once more, her voice as soft as she could muster, as it seemed like Chloe was on the brink of bolting. 

 

The tear slipping out of Chloe’s eye tore her heart into two. “I-I have to go.” 

 

Her chair screeched as she pushed it back roughly, and she was nearly out the door by the time Beca scrambled to her feet. 

 

It was lunch-hour rush in one of the busiest avenues in Manhattan, and Chloe had already disappeared in the crowd when she reached the exit, leaving Beca to helplessly wonder how in the hell someone like Chloe, once the epitome of sunshine, found herself trapped in so much darkness. 

 

Chapter Text

six years ago

 

Chloe glanced up at the Girls neon sign and adjusted her purse over her shoulder, sucking in a sharp breath. She wasn’t sure why she was so nervous; it was just dancing, right? Chloe loved dancing. Granted, it would be in a bikini and heels with mostly middle-aged men watching, a far cry from her performances as Bella, but she could do this. 

 

She didn’t have much of a choice, anyway. 

 

Money had been really tight lately, as it turned out living in NYC was really expensive, and her parents couldn’t help her much, given that they had already financed her seven years in Barden and her dad had health issues. 

 

It was one of her colleagues at the coffee shop Chloe worked at who told her about stripping. The money was a lot better and the hours were flexible, so Chloe could go to class during the day, study for a bit at night then head to work. Sleep would be scarce but… it was either that or she wouldn’t be able to pay rent this month. 

 

Sucking in a deep breath, Chloe pushed the door open and found it locked. It was only seven pm, but she didn’t want to bother the manager later in the night when it got busy. She knocked on the surface several times, the door eventually opening after a minute or two. 

 

“Yes?”  A slightly older woman popped her head out. “What can I do for you, honey? We don’t open ‘til nine.” 

 

“I know, um, I was hoping to see the manager? I was told there was an opening for a stripper position.” 

 

Her gaze swept over Chloe’s figure, and she smiled before opening the door wider. “Have a seat, I’ll call him.” 

 

present time

 

“Marco, turn off your fucking phone,” Chloe groaned, patting the space next to her to wake him up.

 

The blaring alarm was jamming into her skull like a goddamn sledgehammer. When her hand only met soft sheets, Chloe’s eyes opened, instantly squinting against the blinding light. Marco wasn’t there. Not that it was much of a surprise, as he often slept around.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

“Fuck,” she muttered as she sat up, eventually locating the offending object and swiping across the screen until it turned silent. Chloe flopped back against the mattress, legs twisting into the sheets as she angled her face into the pillow. Her head was pulsing from a raging hangover and her mouth felt as dry as the freaking Sahara, but Chloe didn’t feel like moving. 

 

She didn’t feel like living.  

 

Each morning felt like having to claw herself a way out from underneath the rubble. Each morning felt like she had fallen a little bit deeper during the night. 

 

All of that because of one wrong step, and a tumble. 

 

five and a half years ago

 

Multiple Sclerosis. 

 

Chloe remembered the day her parents told her about it. She was eighteen, it was a warm evening in the summer. She had been stargazing, like she often did during those peaceful nights, making the most of Oregon’s gorgeous skies before she moved to Atlanta for college. 

 

Her mom called her inside, sitting her down at the table. Chloe could immediately tell something was wrong. 

 

Her dad was sick. Multiple Sclerosis, the doctor said. Chloe had heard of it, but she wasn’t sure what it meant. Her dad explained it was something to do with the brain and the nerves. He was starting to lose feeling in his right arm, and it would only get worse with age.

 

The news crushed Chloe; her dad was her best friend, her adventure buddy. He took her on camping trips before she could walk. They went fishing together, played ball on the nearby court, or went for runs on the beach on Sundays. He often talked about how excited he was to do all these things with his grandchildren in the future. 

 

Since his disease was late-onset, it progressed quickly. Her dad could no longer walk, and she could tell her parents were struggling with affording treatment, homecare, and equipment to make their lives easier. 

 

“More shifts, huh?” Greg, the club’s manager, asked her as he reclined back in his leather chair behind his desk, folding his hands over his stomach. 

 

“Yeah, I’m a little tight on money and would like to work two more nights a week.” 

 

She would figure out how to juggle stripping with school. She just would. 

 

“I don’t have any more shifts available, unfortunately. However…” he pushed to his feet and rounded his desk, leaning against it as he faced Chloe. “Clients like you. I’ve stopped counting the number of times they requested you for something private. So there’s always that option to make extra cash.” 

 

“Something private?” Chloe cleared her throat. “What um-- what does that entail exactly?” 

 

Greg smirked. “Anything goes for the right amount of money.” 

 

Chloe knew the more she thought about it, the most likely she was to chicken out. So she agreed. 

 

“You look like you’re going to be sick, hun,” Martha, the oldest stripper of the bunch, said as she approached Chloe. She sat in front of her vanity, mentally preparing herself to go into one of the VIP rooms with a client. “You need to pull yourself together, babe. The client won’t enjoy it if you’re nervous.” 

 

She reached inside her purse and produced a tiny zip-lock bag with a bit of white powder in it. 

 

“Helps to take the edge off, especially on your first time,” she added when Chloe glanced at her in shock. 

 

“I don’t-- I don’t do that stuff.” 

 

She knew drugs got around the club. Most of the girls used. Crack, ecstasy, heroin, meth… you name it, Chloe had seen it go around. But she promised herself she’d never go down that route. 

 

Martha shrugged. “Suit yourself.” 

 

Chloe lasted three weeks before snorting her first line. 

 

present time

 

“Fuck, where is it?” Chloe muttered to herself as she rummaged through her bag, eventually tipping it back so its contents spread over the mattress. 

 

She spotted the tiny bag and snatched it, smearing some of its content onto the small mirror laying on her bedside table. Her hand shook as she used an expired credit card to make a line, then grabbed the straw. 

 

You know that first cup of coffee of the day you can hardly function without? Well, that is what cocaine had become to Chloe. She used to justify her actions by convincing herself she could stop anytime she wanted to. But it was already too late. She was hooked, and it was too fucking hard to stop. 

 

As she plopped back on her bed and attempted to relax while the coke worked on her nervous system, Chloe thought of Beca. 

 

five years ago

 

Bree 💕

 

Chloe groaned at the name flashing on her vibrating phone and flipped it over, curling up in a ball on her bed. She had been ignoring most of the girls for the past few weeks. Every glance at the group chat reminded her of how much of a failure she was. 

 

Aubrey had just passed the bar. Beca had been nominated for a Grammy. Cynthia-Rose was a music producer. Stacie, a space engineer. And so on. 

 

They were all successful in life, while Chloe? 

 

Well, Chloe had dropped out of vet school. She was a stripper who pleasured men for a living. She lived in a tiny box apartment and spent her grocery money on coke. She got drunk pretty much every night and had absolutely no prospect in life. 

 

Their yearly Bellas reunion was just around the corner, and Chloe hadn’t replied yet, which was no doubt the reason behind her best friend calling this morning. And yesterday. And the day before that. 

 

Chloe couldn’t go. For the same reason, she couldn’t go home to her parents. 

 

The thought of it only fed that shame eating away at her soul. 

 

present day

 

Chloe hadn’t allowed herself to think about the Bellas in a long time, as it only brought heartbreak, regrets, and even more shame over how she had left things. 

 

But then Beca showed up out of the blue, and Chloe’s shield instantly materialized. She saw it right there in Beca’s eyes; the pity over what Chloe had become. That unspoken reminder that she was a failure made Chloe want to crawl out of her own skin.                                                                                          

 

Chloe wasn’t planning on using that business card. Even though Beca was on her mind near constantly, she couldn’t bring herself to call her. And then they bumped into one another last week, and despite the snark, what was left of the Chloe from six years ago within her thought it might mean something. 

 

A coffee. Coffee was fine, to start with. 

 

Sarah was unexpected, yet another proof of how together Beca’s life was. But Chloe pushed through the discomfort swirling around her insides, up until the money comment. Up until it further dawned on her that they now belonged to two very different worlds. 

 

Beca was probably a multi-millionaire. Aubrey was a lawyer. And Chloe? Well, Chloe was still just as worthless as she was five years ago. That shame she had somehow managed to bury all that time came right back around to slap her in the face. 

 

So she bolted, figuring this was the last she would see of Beca Mitchell. 

 

Except Chloe couldn’t stop thinking about her.

 

Grabbing her computer, she sat up against the headboard and balanced the device on her thighs, allowing herself to look Beca up for the first time in five years. 

 

Various photos of Beca on the red carpet and a Wikipedia page popped up, and Chloe clicked on the page, swallowing the lump forming in her throat as she scrolled down. Fifteen minutes later, she somehow found herself on YouTube, typing in the same name and clicking on the most popular video. 

 

Something unraveled within her as she heard that voice for the first time in half a decade. An array of emotions released, but one stood out over the others as it was a feeling Chloe hadn’t experienced in a long time: peace. 

 

Music hadn’t felt like music for a long while; Chloe had lost her connection to it somewhere down the road. She had grown numb to it, just like with most things that used to make her happy. 

 

But this… Chloe had forgotten what it felt like to be moved by lyrics. To feel comforted by a melody that felt like a warm blanket over her soul. Soon tears were slipping out of her eyes and Chloe didn’t do anything to stop them. She curled up in a ball and played Beca’s albums on shuffle for the next three hours, basking in that temporary moment of serenity.                                                 

 

When it eventually stopped, Chloe plucked Beca’s business card from her bedside table and grabbed her phone, blinking several times to clear her vision so she could punch in the right numbers. Her heart echoed in her ears as she waited for someone to pick it up. 

 

“BMLJ, Tara speaking, how may I help?” 

 

“H-hi, this is Chloe Beale. I was wondering if I could speak to Beca? Beca Mitchell.” 

 

“Hold please.”  

 

Chloe started picking on her nails, battling with the little voice inside her head encouraging her to hang up. Beca was probably too busy to--

 

“Chlo?” 

 

Chloe’s chest tightened at the nickname, and her voice stuck to her throat. “Hi.” 

 

“What’s wrong? Are you crying?” 

 

“No, I… I mean yes, I am crying but I-- I just listened to your music and-- it’s amazing, Beca.” 

 

“Oh.” Beca sounded surprised. A few beats of silence follow. “It means a lot that you liked it, Chlo.” 

 

It took Chloe a handful of seconds to realize she was the one supposed to say something. “I um, is this a bad time?” 

 

“No, no. What’s up?” 

 

Chloe sucked in a sharp breath as she picked at a loose thread on her sleeping shorts. “I um, well I was wondering if we could see each other sometime next week? I’m sorry about the other day, I wasn’t-- I wasn’t feeling great.” 

“You don’t need to apologize. And yeah, that sounds great. How about Thursday for lunch? Or a walk in the park, if you prefer.” 

 

“A walk in the park sounds good.” 

 

“We can meet next to the Roosevelt statue in front of the Natural History Museum at 12:30?”

 

“Okay.” 

 

“Chloe?”

 

“Yeah?” 

 

“I’m really happy you called. See you on Thursday.”  

 

Chloe’s smile felt like the first genuine one in too long. “See you on Thursday.” 

 

“What’s going on on Thursday?” 

 

Chloe jolted, looking over her shoulder to find Marco standing in the doorway. “Jesus, Marco. You scared the crap out of me.” 

 

two years ago

 

“I’m Marco, the club’s new manager,” the dark-haired man introduced himself, extending a hand towards Chloe. 

 

Chloe shook his hand. “I’m Ariel.” 

 

“You really are as beautiful as they say.” 

 

She glanced through the mirror and met his eyes; unimpressed. “Is it a habit of yours to hit on your employees?” 

 

He chuckled. “No. I guess you’re the exception.” 

 

Chloe wasn’t interested. At first, anyway. But Marco had apparently set his sights on her, and well, Chloe felt lonely. They played around each other for a few months, eventually giving in to their attraction towards each other. One night’s shenanigans blossomed into more, and Chloe found herself falling for her boss. 

 

And she believed him when he told her he loved her. He was the buoy in her storm, the hand that was pulling her from underneath the rubble. Chloe was so blinded by that that she didn’t pick up on his toxic behavior right away. 

 

“Here’s a thought,” he murmured one morning as they lay in bed in his luxurious condo. 

 

Chloe raised an eyebrow. She was definitely still drunk from last night, her recent hit of coke causing her mind to float blissfully. 

 

He set his chin on her hipbone as he lay on his stomach, looking up at her. “I don’t want you to work in the VIP room anymore.” 

 

“Are you jealous or something?” Chloe slurred, smirking to mask how desperate she was to stop working in the VIP room. It had crushed her spirit. “You know I can’t afford to only live on lapdances and the stage. I have rent and bills to pay.” 

 

He licked his lips, a soft smile spreading across her features. “I know. Which is why you should move in with me.” 

 

Chloe rolled her eyes. “We’ve been together only four months.” 

 

“But I love you,” he said, almost desperately. “And you love me too, right? We’re good together, baby.” 

 

A sigh flitted past Chloe’s lips. “Even if I do move in, I still have to take care of my dad.” 

 

“I know that too. And I want you to get a cut from the nightly profit, too.” 

 

Chloe should have known it was too good to be true, yet she agreed. 

 

It was another year before the veil lifted and Marco showed his true character. 

 

present

 

Marco ignored her. As he usually did. “What’s going on on Thursday?” He repeated his tone calm and collected as always. 

 

“I’m meeting up with Beca.” Not waiting for an answer, Chloe stood and padded out of the bedroom and towards the kitchen. It was nearly five, and she hadn’t eaten anything yet. 

 

“The chick from the 20 grand lapdance?” Marco followed, crossing his arms as he leaned against the counter while Chloe rummaged through the cupboards for a snack. “What’s her deal?” 

 

“What do you mean, what’s her deal? We’re just gonna catch up. I told you, we used to be friends in college.”

 

Marco’s features hardened. “I don’t want you to see her.” 

 

Chloe grabbed a box of crackers and rolled her eyes. “I don’t remember asking you for your opinion.” 

 

Marco approached, pinning her between his body and the counter. “Don’t talk to me like that, Chloe.” 

 

Chloe gritted her teeth and glared at him, standing her ground. “I never complain about you sleeping around with other women and you lose your mind over me meeting a friend? You don’t control me. I’ll meet her if I want to.”

 

She moved to get past him, yelping when he yanked her back by the arm. The anger swirling in his eyes made her choke on her saliva. 

 

“I don’t think you realize how much I’ve done for you, Chloe. If it weren’t for me, you’d still be giving blowjobs for a living.” He didn’t need to raise his voice; the truth behind his words was powerful enough as they wormed their way into Chloe’s brain. “Does she even know you’re a drug addict? That you can’t go more than five hours without a hit?” He continued, seemingly finding it satisfying to break through Chloe’s armor. “Maybe she’s just looking for a charity case.”

 

Chloe warred with her mind not to believe him, shaking her head as her insecurities muffled her anger towards Marco. “That’s not-- that’s not true. You’re wrong.” 

 

“Am I?” 

 

Chloe remained silent, doubt seizing her. She didn't know Beca anymore, after all.

 

“That’s what I thought.” Marco’s hold loosened. “Think about your dad, sweetheart. It would be a shame if you suddenly found yourself without a job and no money to provide for him. You know no other strip club will want you if I fire you. And that’s all you can do, isn’t it? Using your body to charm men into giving you money.” He squeezed her hip, leaning in closer so he was whispering the next bit directly against her ear. “So I would listen if I were you.” 

 

He walked away then, but his words remained, trapping Chloe’s mind in an invisible prison. 

Chapter Text

As the rest of the day ticked by, Beca kept replaying the events at Sarah’s coffee shop over and over, unable to pinpoint what she could have said to make Chloe bolt like that. She managed to focus on her tasks at hand over the afternoon and headed home around 6, groaning as soon as she stepped inside when she remembered she had promised Sarah to cook her dinner. 

 

She pondered on canceling for half a minute because all she felt like doing was taking a long shower and eating pizza in bed, but she already felt guilty about a lot of things these past couple of days. 

 

So she took a quick shower instead and put on some comfy jeans and a plaid shirt, tossing her blow-dried hair in a messy bun atop her head. With one of her favorite blues records playing throughout her home, Beca set to work to make creamy salmon pasta with spinach, nursing a much-needed glass of wine as she cooked. 

 

“Babe?” 

 

“In the kitchen,” Beca called out over the music, lowering the heat on the boiling water and dropping a handful of spaghetti in. She smiled as Sarah brushed a kiss to her cheek. “Hey.” 

 

“Hello you,” Sarah murmured, squeezing her hip as she walked past her to set a bottle of wine on the counter. “Smells delicious.” 

 

“Hopefully it tastes good, too.” Not that Beca was worried; she had been making this dish for a few years. “Wine?” 

 

Sarah hopped onto the counter next, humming. “Yes, please.” 

 

Beca opened the fridge and took the bottle out, reaching on the tip of her toes (shhh) for a glass in the cabinet over her head. She poured some wine in and handed it to Sarah. “Sorry I disappeared earlier.” 

 

After Chloe had left, Beca wasn’t in the mood to eat or finish her coffee, leaving a $20 on the table on her way out. 

 

“Was that the friend you told me about yesterday?” 

 

Beca puffed out a sigh. “Yeah. She’s…” It’s complicated, Beca was about to say, but she figured she owed Sarah some details after what happened at her workplace. “She’s in a bad place. And I wanna help her, but she doesn’t seem to want any help. I don’t know what to do anymore.” 

 

Sarah covered Beca’s hand with her own, the pad of her thumb stroking her skin back and forth. “Has it been a long time since you last saw each other?” 

 

“Over six years. We fell out of touch about five years ago. Well, she cut us all out of her life nearly overnight.” 

 

Sarah tilted her head to the side. “Us?” 

 

“The Bellas, from college. Chloe and I were co-captains.” Beca swallowed around the lump forming in her throat as a wave of nostalgia hit her with full force. “She just… she was my best friend.” 

 

“I’m sorry, baby. Maybe give her some time and she’ll come around?” 

 

Beca doubted that, but she nodded anyway. “Yeah, maybe.” She shook her head, squeezing Sarah’s hand as she mustered a smile. “Enough about me. How was your day?” 

 

As the next week ticked by, Beca started to lose hope. In true Beca Mitchell fashion, she threw herself into work to avoid dealing with her emotions, staying at the office until midnight most days. 

 

A knock on her open-door one night made her jolt. She had lost herself in the view and her own thoughts, unaware someone was still at the office. 

 

Beca spun her chair around to face the door, finding Luke in the doorway. “Why are you here so late?” 

 

“I could ask you the same thing,” Luke pointed out, inviting himself in. He set a sheet of paper in front of Beca, then plopped down in the seat on the other side of her desk. “This is incredible. You’ve got to record it.” 

 

Beca glanced down at her own handwriting, heavily regretting showing Luke that song she wrote a few days ago. “I don’t know, man.” 

 

“What?” Luke asked, incredulous. “Becky, you haven’t been able to write a lyric for the past three years and now that you’ve got a platinum record worthy song, you don’t want to use it?”

 

Beca nibbled on the inside of her cheek. “It feels too personal, I’m not sure I feel like sharing it with the world.” She glared at him next. “And stop calling me Becky, this is getting old.” 

 

“I’m serious, this might be your best work yet,” Luke insisted. “Think about it?”

 

“I will. Now get out of my office,” Beca muttered, glaring playfully.

 

“You got it, Becky,” Luke teased, easily catching the stress ball Beca tossed at his head, chuckling at her poor attempt. “You should go home and get some sleep.” 

 

“Yeah. Night.” 

 

“Goodnight.” 

 

*

 

It turned out Sarah had been right. 

 

When Beca wasn’t expecting it anymore, Chloe called. And she sounded like Chloe . Hope flared within her once more, but she tried not to let it engulf her whole being. While Chloe reaching out was an enormous step, Beca threaded carefully, knowing a lot could happen in five days. 

 

She wished she had been wrong, but as it pushed 1 pm that Thursday afternoon, it was pretty clear Chloe wouldn’t show. Beca didn’t have her phone number or any other way to contact her. Her heart felt heavy as she headed back to BMLJ for her meeting with Jesse regarding his movie score, and her head was too full of thoughts to completely focus on work. 

 

“Earth to Beca.” 

 

Beca hummed, snapping out of her daze. Jesse was staring at her in a mix of concern and curiosity. “Sorry.” 

 

“Do you wanna do this another time?” 

 

“No, no,” Beca insisted, straightening up. “I’m okay.” She hated how well Jesse knew her, and heaved a sigh when he gave her that look. “It’s Chloe.” 

 

“Chloe Beale?” Jesse asked. “She’s in New York?” 

 

“Yeah. I found her a couple of weeks ago. She’s a stripper at some hyped club in Times Square.” 

 

“Holy shit, seriously?” 

 

Beca proceeded to tell him everything over the next ten minutes, Jesse hanging onto every word. “Am I stupid? Trying so hard to help someone who clearly doesn’t want to be helped?” 

 

“No, you’re not stupid. You’re a softie under that tough exterior and you care deeply about the people you love. Especially Chloe. I was in the front row, remember?” 

 

Beca grimaced, some of that decade-old guilt surfacing. “Dude…” 

 

“It’s fine. I’m definitely over all of that, but we both know Chloe is too important for you to just give up. And from how you described her, and that phone call? It sounds like she still cares, but she lost herself along the way and is now in so deep she has trouble coming back on her own. Maybe she just needs to hear that asking for help isn’t giving up, but rather refusing to give up.” 

 

Those words echoed deep within Beca, and she found herself nodding, filled with newfound energy to fight for this. “I need to go by the club. Tonight. Her boss might kick me out if I show up inside, but maybe I can wait by the back door?” 

 

“I’ll come with you.” 

 

“You don’t have to, man. It might be hours before we see her.” 

 

“That guy sounds creepy, you shouldn’t go on your own.” 

 

Beca sighed. “Okay, fine. I’ll pick you up around ten.” 

 

*

 

Beca felt like they were on a stake-out as they waited in her car hours later, parked across the back alley of the club. Winter had definitely settled in in NYC and waiting in the cold for hours in freezing temperatures didn’t seem like a great plan. 

 

She texted back and forth with Aubrey, who once more offered to come down, but Beca was concerned Chloe might think they were ambushing her. 

 

It was pushing midnight by the time a familiar figure stepped out of the building through the side door. Chloe was on her own. 

 

Beca slapped Jesse’s arm to wake him up. “She’s here.” 

 

They both stepped out of the car and crossed the street when it was clear, Beca telling Jesse to wait by the corner as she tentatively approached Chloe, slipping her gloved hands inside the pockets of her dark grey wool trench coat. 

 

She was smoking a cigarette, clad in her glitter dress under an open fleece jacket. Her gaze flickered to Beca when she spotted her, her posture turning rigid. “What are you doing here?” 

 

There was no bite to her tone but soft curiosity, which reassured Beca further. 

 

“Can we talk?” 

 

Chloe glanced over her shoulder towards the door as she nibbled on her lower lip. “Five minutes, then I have to go back inside.”

 

She met Beca on the other side of the alley, the orange glow of the lamp post over their heads allowing Beca to trace her features. “You didn’t show earlier.” 

 

Chloe dragged on her cigarette. “I changed my mind.”

 

“Is that the truth or did someone tell you not to?” She wasn’t dumb; after meeting Chloe’s boss and knowing she was his favorite, she had an inkling the two were somehow involved. And that guy just gave off a crazy possessive vibe. Chloe’s silence was her answer. “Chlo…” 

 

“It’s more complicated than you think,” Chloe murmured, licking her lips. 

 

“Then explain it to me,” she demanded, a desperate edge to her tone. 

 

“Why are you doing this?” Chloe croaked out. “Why won’t you leave me alone?” 

 

Her question took Beca by surprise, and her mouth moved wordlessly for a few beats. “Because I care about you. And you’re not okay, Chlo. I want to help.” 

 

“Beca…” 

 

She thought back on Jesse’s words. “Asking for help is not giving up, Chloe. It’s refusing to give up. And I’m here. You just have to say the word, I’ve got you.” 

 

Chloe shook her head, closing her eyes briefly. “I’m not--” Her eyes were filled with so much sadness when they found Beca’s that Beca had to remind herself to breathe. “I’m not worth it.” 

 

Those four words felt like a knife lodging itself inside Beca’s heart. They stole all the air from her lungs and brought tears to her eyes. “What?” She whispered, her voice nowhere within reach as a huge lump formed in her throat. “That’s not true,” she said, with more forcefulness this time around. “It’s not, you hear me?” 

 

Chloe kept shaking her head. “You don’t know me anymore.” 

 

“Maybe I don’t know this version of you, but I know Chloe Beale is still in there, somewhere. I heard her on the phone the other day, remember? And I can see her now, under all those layers of sadness and lack of self-worth triggered by outside factors. I know her soul hasn’t changed, deep down. It couldn’t have, because you are the purest, kindest human being there is, and that has to still be somewhere in there.” 

 

“I’m broken, Bec,” Chloe cried, her eyes filled to the rim with tears threatening to spill over. “I’m a drug addict. I don’t--” A sob spilled from her throat. “I spend all my money on coke and all I know how to do anymore is show my breasts for money.” 

 

A tear rolled down Beca’s cheek as she reached for Chloe’s hand. “Then I’ll help put you back together. Piece by piece, for however long it takes. Whatever it takes, Chlo. I promise.” 

 

“Chloe?” 

 

Both their heads snapped towards the open door, where Marco stood. His features hardened when he saw Beca there, and Beca released Chloe’s hand, looking over her shoulder towards Jesse, who made his way over. 

 

“What is she doing here?” He spat out as he climbed down the set of steps. 

 

Chloe visibly swallowed, her fear radiating off her. “She’s just leaving.” 

 

“No, I’m not,” Beca stated, loud and clear as her eyes shone fiercely. “I’m not going anywhere without Chloe.” 

 

“You fucking homewrecker,” he muttered, crossing the alley in quick strides. Chloe stepped in front of Beca, as though to shield her with her own body. The anger swirling in his eyes shot a chill down Beca’s spine. “Move, Chloe.” 

 

Chloe shook her head. “You should go back inside, Marco. Please don’t make a scene, it’s not worth it.” 

 

Beca had never understood the expression ‘to see red’ until now; until she witnessed Marco backhanding Chloe with so much force she staggered back with a cry. 

 

Unparalleled rage filled her, the kind of rage she couldn’t control. She stepped forward and raised her fist, clocking him in the face with a mean right hook. She wasn’t sure if the cracking sound came from her knuckle or his nose breaking, the pain in her hand muffled by the adrenaline coursing through her veins. 

 

Marco stumbled a few steps backward with a grunt, his eyes screwed shut as he covered his nose with his hand. But Beca wasn’t done, taking advantage of his dizzy state and stepping forward to knee him in the balls as hard as she could so he couldn’t walk until they were all safely inside the car. 

 

“You guys get into the car,” Jesse ushered them, keeping an eye on Marco as he doubled over in pain. 

 

“Chloe, come on,” Beca coaxed urgently, grabbing her hand and pulling. To her surprise, Chloe didn’t fight her. She seemed absolutely shell-shocked, even once they reached the car, as though her legs were carrying her on their own accord and her brain was miles behind. “Get inside, Chlo.” 

 

Jesse jogged over a few seconds later and slid behind the wheel without Beca having to ask him, and she climbed in the backseat beside Chloe, relief washing over as the doors locked behind them and the car pulled onto the road towards safety. 

Chapter Text

Chloe didn’t register any of it. Her ears were buzzing with adrenaline and her body felt like it wasn’t even her own anymore, but her legs worked on auto-pilot as she followed Beca to the car. 

 

As Jesse drove away from the club and Chloe somewhat calmed down, the situation slowly dawned onto her, sending her thoughts into a spiral. 

 

She had just fled from Marco. She probably didn’t have a job anymore. She was homeless. 

 

But before she could full-on panic, a gloved hand slid inside of hers, grounding her some. Her eyes flickered up and met Beca’s. “You’re okay. We’re heading to my apartment, you’ll stay in my guest bedroom.” 

 

All Chloe could muster was a weak nod. All of this felt surreal. 

 

They arrived at Beca’s place less than ten minutes later, Jesse taking a left and driving into an underground parking lot. Once the car was parked, Chloe stepped out, standing back while Beca told Jesse to drive himself home and that she would come to pick up her car tomorrow. 

 

“I’m up on the twelfth floor,” Beca said as she hit the elevator button. 

 

“Is your hand okay?” Chloe asked, only remembering now that Beca punched Marco. 

 

Beca made a fist then splayed out her fingers, wincing a bit. “It’s not broken at least. I’ll be fine.” 

 

They stepped inside the elevator, Chloe’s eyes remaining fastened to the carpet as it rode up to the right floor. She followed Beca down the hall and stood back while she unlocked her door. Chloe stepped inside after her, her eyes scanning the huge open-plan space with floor to ceiling windows. 

 

She remained by the entrance while Beca went to get something from the kitchen, reappearing with something wrapped in a kitchen towel. “For your cheek.” 

 

Chloe nodded, taking it and pressing it to her cheekbone. 

 

“The bedroom is right there down the hall,” Beca directed, motioning for Chloe to follow her. She hooked a right and hit the lights, revealing a soberly decorated large room with a queen-sized bed. “I’ll go get you some clothes to sleep in.” 

 

Chloe nodded, stepping further inside the room and lowering herself on the edge of the mattress. She realized she was shaking slightly, but she couldn’t tell if it was from leftover adrenaline or her body starting to crave a hit. 

 

“Here,” Beca said as she rounded the corner, setting a pair of folded sweatpants, a simple t-shirt, and her Barden hoodie down on the comforter. “The bathroom is right across the hall, I put some clean towels on the counter if you want to take a shower, and a toothbrush. I have my own bathroom so feel free to use this one whenever you want. Help yourself to anything, the kitchen cupboards are stocked up with plenty of snacks and the fridge with sodas.” 

 

“Okay,” Chloe whispered, briefly meeting Beca’s eyes. “Thank you.” 

 

“You don’t need to thank me,” Beca assured her softly, casting her a small smile. “I’m heading to bed. I’ll see you in the morning?” 

 

Once again, Chloe nodded. She watched Beca step out of the room and stared blankly at the wall in front of her for a while until she started feeling the physical toll of the night’s events creep up on her. She stood up, stepping out of her stripper heels and unzipping her dress. A shower would wait until morning. After changing into the spare clothes Beca had lent her, Chloe swung by the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her heavy make-up off. 

 

She crawled into bed a few minutes later, willing her body and mind to relax enough that she would find some sleep. The next hour was spent tossing and turning, trying to silence her craving for cocaine and her visceral need to bolt. 

 

But she didn’t have anywhere safe to go, or any money to buy anything. 

 

Chloe slipped out of bed and crossed the hall to the bathroom, opening the faucet and cupping her hands under it to gather some water to splash her face with. 

 

“Snap out of it,” she muttered to herself as she stared at her own reflection in the mirror, gripping the edges of the counter with both hands. 

 

Dark circles were permanently etched under her eyes from sleep deprivation thanks to the cocaine allowing her to go days without resting. Her cheeks were hollowed out from her weight loss and her skin a ghostly pale. She looked nearly ten years older than her actual age. 

 

Familiar voices wormed their way into her mind, chanting, whispering, cackling devilishly. 

 

Worthless. Ugly. Dumb.

 

A sob echoed against the bathroom walls as Chloe let go of the counter to hold her head between her hands, fingers pulling on her hair. 

 

“Pull yourself together,” she mumbled next as her mind warred with those parasites having made a home in her subconscious. “They’re lying.” 

 

Chloe knew trying to sleep was a lost battle, so she padded to the living room. If she couldn’t have cocaine, alcohol was the next best thing. Something strong, preferably, something that could muffle all those insecurities.

 

It took her less than two minutes to find Beca’s liquor cabinet, and she fished out a bottle of whiskey, plucking a tumbler from the cupboard above the sink. She reached for the remote and turned on the TV at a low volume so she could focus on something else than her own thoughts, settling for CNN as she poured herself a third of the glass and knocked it back. 

 

Familiar, comforting warmth filled her belly and spread to her limbs and chest as Chloe poured herself another, nursing this one slowly as she curled up on Beca’s couch. It took four drinks for exhaustion to gain the upper hand on Chloe’s anxiety, and she fell asleep on the couch, the near-empty bottle sitting on the coffee table. 

 

She woke up sometime later to someone shaking her shoulder. The light was bright behind her closed lids, and Chloe scrunched up her nose, curling up tighter on herself. 

 

“Chloe, wake up.” 

 

That voice didn’t belong to Marco. The realization drew Chloe’s mind from its foggy state and she opened her eyes to find Beca sitting in front of her. Slightly disoriented, Chloe slowly sat up. She caught sight of the bottle and guilt coupled with shame surged her insides. “I’ll--I’ll replace that.” 

 

Beca frowned. “What? No, that’s-- you don’t need to do that.” 

 

Chloe’s shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t-- I was craving something, and…” she trailed off, inhaling sharply as she felt her chest constrict and tears burn her eyes. “I think-- I think I need help.” 

 

It was odd, that feeling of instant relief as soon as she uttered the words. As though a huge weight she didn’t know was there just lifted from her chest. 

 

“Okay.” Beca reached out to set her hand on Chloe’s knee. Her expression was soft, her eyes warm, and Chloe immediately felt comforted. “We’ll get you help. I was on the phone with a rehab upstate earlier, they have a spot on Monday.” 

 

Monday. As in three days from now. 

 

“I can’t-- I don’t have fifty grand, Beca, and there’s--there’s--” She cut herself off, shaking her head as emotions rose to her throat and made her voice waver. She needed to work. She needed to provide for her dad. “I have to work.” Upon catching Beca’s confused look, Chloe sucked in another deep breath. “My--my dad is sick. He has late-onset MS and they can’t afford treatment on their own.” 

 

Realization dawned on Beca’s features as she nodded slowly, empathy swirling in her gaze. “How much money is the treatment?” 

 

“I give them two thousand dollars a month to cover what’s left after insurance.” 

 

“Do you know their bank account information?” Beca asked as she grabbed her phone, swiping her thumb over the screen to unlock it. “I’ll set up an automatic transfer each first of the month.” 

 

Chloe’s mouth slowly opened in shock. “What?” She croaked out, her bottom lip trembling. “I can’t ask you to pay for it.” 

 

“You didn’t,” Beca said softly, glancing up. “I’m offering. And I’m covering the rehab cost as well.” 

 

Chloe blinked twice in slow succession. “I don’t-- I don’t--” she started to object, but reason quickly gained the upper hand. She couldn’t afford any of those things, and she couldn’t afford to stay like this, either. She was legitimately afraid she might die if she continued down that path. “I don’t know what to say except thank you, but that doesn’t seem like enough. I’ll pay you back though. Every cent of it.” 

 

“I don’t want you to worry about that,” Beca murmured, squeezing her knee gently as she gae Chloe a tight-lipped smile. “The best way you can thank me is by focusing on getting better.” 

 

A few tears rolled down Chloe’s cheeks, and she was at a loss for words for a little while as her heart swelled in her chest. 

 

She hadn’t felt that in a long time. 

 

“So um, next Monday?” She asked then, swiping her thumbs over her cheeks. 

 

“Yeah. It’s an hour drive away, I'll take my Monday morning off to drive you. The program is thirty days,” Beca explained. “The nurse I had on the phone told me that detoxing yourself on your own before that could be dangerous and advised against it. I wasn’t sure… what type of drug you’re taking, but she said it didn’t matter. You could go through a cold turkey kind of thing and while I’m not exactly comfortable with you continuing to use until then, it’s what’s best, according to her.” 

 

Chloe sniffled. “I don’t have any with me. Some of my stash is at the club and the rest is at Marco’s place.” 

 

“Right, um… do you know when he isn’t there? You probably need to get some stuff, right?” 

 

“He’s at the club most nights. Usually gets there from 9 pm, so we could go after?”

 

“I’ll text Luke and Jesse to come with us for reinforcements in case he’s there. I kneed the guy in the balls, he must be pretty pissed.” Beca cleared her throat, eyeing Chloe. “Will you be okay until tonight? You know, without taking anything?” 

 

Chloe nodded. “I’ll manage. I just need distractions or else I get really agitated.” 

 

“Okay. I can definitely help with that,” Beca said, taking her hand back. “I was gonna make breakfast, are you hungry?” 

 

“No, not really. I could drink a coffee, though? After I shower.” 

 

Beca smiled and pushed to her feet. “You got it. Take your time.” 

 

Trusting other people had been a recurring issue for Chloe in the past few years, but she willed herself not to start doubting Beca’s intentions. After her shower, Chloe headed back to the main room, her step faltering upon walking past an open door. She tentatively peered inside, quickly realizing this was Beca’s office. Her eyes popped wider at the sight of the five gramophones sitting on a shelf, among framed gold and platinum records. 

 

She stepped further inside to take a closer look, her heart making a painful lurch as her gaze fell on a picture of the Bellas after their first ICCA win. Chloe reached out to pluck the frame off the surface, a wave of nostalgia sweeping over her as she thought back to that day. 

 

“You okay?” 

 

Chloe jumped a little, glancing over her shoulder as she hastily but carefully placed the frame back where it had been. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry.” 

 

“It’s fine, Chlo,” Beca assured her softly. She nodded towards the leather couch in the corner. “Have a seat, I’ll bring you your coffee.” 

 

Chloe nodded and crossed the room, admiring the hundreds of records neatly tucked in a built-in library on the opposite wall. 

 

“You can pick something to listen to, if you want,” Beca told her when she returned with two cups, twin curls of steam rising from them. She set Chloe’s on the small table in front of the couch and curled up on one end while Chloe picked a record. She ended up going for Rumours, one of her all-time favorite albums, and took it out, setting it on the record player. 

 

The opening chords of Dreams filled the room as she lowered the stylus on the edge, and she padded to the couch, cradling her mug between her palms. 

 

“Fleetwood Mac. Always been one of your favorite,” Beca observed with a soft expression as she lifted her mug to take a sip. “How are you feeling?” 

 

“I’m okay.” Chloe knew the first telltale signs of craving would hit her sometime around midday, but she would hang in there. “You made it, huh? To the top?” 

 

Beca broke eye-contact, her cheeks reddening. “I was lucky to come across amazing people throughout my career.” 

 

Chloe knew Beca’s sheer amount of raw talent was the root of her success, but Beca still seemed to be her humble self. “Do you speak to Aubrey often?” 

 

“Once in a while. More so in the past two weeks as we tried to figure out a way to help you. Otherwise, we still have the group chat, and we’re planning a reunion this summer.” 

 

“Oh,” Chloe let out upon finding out the girls still hung out together. Her heart ached in her chest over everything she had missed, but she only had herself to blame for that one.

 

“And you’ll be there,” Beca added with a soft smile. “With us.” 

 

Chloe swallowed the lump forming in her throat; the road to recovery was bound to be a long and tumultuous journey, but maybe having a goal in sight was what she needed to stay on track during low moments. 

 

“The nurse said cellphones wouldn’t be allowed for the first two weeks, but I’ll give you Aubrey’s number for the next two, okay? She would love to hear from you.” 

 

Chloe nodded, her lips curling in a hint of a smile. “Yeah, okay.”

 

She spent the rest of the afternoon hauled up in Beca’s office (she weirdly felt at ease there), curled up on the couch and listening to soothing records as her body and mind battled against an array of negative feelings and sensations. 

 

Around 10 pm, she and Beca drove to Marco’s place accompanied by Luke and Jesse. Chloe kept a key under the mat for those nights she was so drunk or high she usually forgot them at the club and was grateful to find it there. 

 

“I’ll be quick,” she told Beca, heading into the bedroom to get a duffle bag from the bottom of the dresser and throwing a bunch of comfy clothes into it. 

 

She knew that even if Marco did come home nothing would happen with Luke and Jesse being there, but that didn’t stop sweat from trickling down her back as she grabbed her essentials as quickly as she could. 

 

“Okay. I’ve got everything,” she said as she met them by the door about five minutes later, slightly out of breath. Her anxiety was through the roof, not lessening even when they got back into the car, but she tried not to let it show. 

 

It was only when she was able to take a hit back at Beca’s apartment that Chloe was able to calm herself down. 

 

“Are you alright?” Beca asked a while later when Chloe eventually emerged. 

 

She sat on the living-room couch, her laptop balanced on her thighs. 

 

Chloe nodded, tugging on her sleeves as she shuffled to sit on the end of it. She didn’t take as much as she used to, not seeking that euphoric state she needed while she was at work. Just enough to deal with the darkness swirling inside her. “Thank you.” 

 

“Are you hungry? I was thinking of ordering pizza, with pineapple on one half for you weirdo.” 

 

Chloe snickered. “Yeah, I could eat a little.” 

 

Monday came before Chloe realized. She packed a bag and slid in beside Beca, staring out the window most of the drive as they headed upstate. Nerves sprouted in her belly as Beca parked in front of the fancy-looking facility, and Chloe puffed out a breath. 

 

Beca cast her a reassuring smile. “I’ll go check in with you.” 

 

Nodding, Chloe stepped out and grabbed her bag from the trunk, slinging it over her shoulder. They walked through the glass sliding doors and headed towards the desk, where a friendly-looking man greeted them. 

 

“Hi, my name is Chloe Beale, I’m here, um, to start rehab.” 

 

She felt Beca’s fingers gently wrap around hers as the man checked his computer, and let her tense shoulders sag. 

 

“Right this way, I’ll show you to your room, Ms. Beale. Your friend can come, too.” 

 

“Thank you.” 

 

She didn’t let go of Beca’s hand as they followed the employee up some stairs and down the hall. The room was bright and spacious, with a queen-sized bed and an amazing view of the forest behind the building. Chloe set her bag down on the mattress and looked around as the man went through basic rules, giving him her phone when requested. Chloe would be allowed to call someone during bad days with the phone downstairs, though.

 

He left shortly after, and Chloe inhaled sharply as she turned towards Beca. “I guess I’ll write you a letter?” She asked, her voice wavering slightly. 

 

“I’d love that,” Beca murmured. “You’re going to nail this, Chlo. I’m just a phone call away if you need to talk, alright?” 

 

Chloe nodded. “Yeah.” She stepped up to Beca and pulled her into a hug, closing her eyes as she relished in their closeness. “I’ll see you in a month.” 

 

Beca backed away, smiling. Her eyes shone with unshed tears. “I’m so proud of you for doing this,” she whispered, squeezing Chloe’s hand as she took a step back. “See you in a month.” 

 

Chloe fought to hold onto her emotions until the door shut behind Beca, breaking down as soon as silence surrounded her. 

 

For the first time in six years, she was on her own, and the month ahead might be her hardest challenge, yet.

 

Chapter Text

Leaving Chloe on her own was the hardest thing Beca had had to do in a long time, but she knew it was necessary. Seeing Chloe in that state that first morning at her apartment had shattered her heart and further made Beca realize how far down the rabbit hole Chloe had fallen and how urgently she needed professional help.

 

So she had spent the next couple hours researching and calling rehabilitation centers in the state. The one in Chappaqua seemed really nice infrastructure-wise, and the nurse she had on the phone took the time to answer every single one of Beca’s questions, which prompted her to ask for availability before speaking about it with Chloe, as she read online that open spots in luxury rehabs were often scarce. 

 

Relief swept over her when, upon waking up, Chloe herself stated she needed help, prompting Beca into broaching the rehab topic without waiting any further, especially since a spot was opening up so soon. 

 

As she walked to her car, Beca tried to focus on the fact that Chloe would be supervised by a team of professionals who would help her through this difficult journey, and she would be right there in thirty days, ready to help her friend through the next steps. 

 

Because rehab was just the first chapter of Chloe’s recovery. Beca knew there would be cravings lingering even after she was out, AA and NA meetings for at least a year and possibly for the rest of her life, and given the abusive relationship she had been in, probably a fair amount of therapy sessions as well. 

 

She wiped her tears away as she slid back behind the wheel and grabbed her phone to text Aubrey. 

 

Beca [10:38am]

I just dropped her off. The center seems great, I think it was a good pick. 

 

Aubrey’s reply came shortly after. 

 

Aubrey [10:39am]

She’ll be okay. She’s lucky to have you, Beca. 

 

Beca [10:39am]

Lucky to have us. I’ll talk to you soon, Aubs. 

 

“Pull yourself together, Mitchell,” Beca muttered to herself, blowing out a breath as she locked her phone and dropped it into the console pocket, buckling up before pulling out of the center’s driveway. 

 

Work once again managed to distract her from worrying too much about Chloe, though her mind inevitably wandered to her during every small lapse in focus. 

 

She came back to the label following a meeting with one of her artists to find an envelope sitting on her desk, bearing Chloe’s handwriting. Shrugging off her jacket, Beca draped it over the back of her chair and sat down, tearing it open and unfolding the sheet of paper inside. 

 

A smile spread across her features as she started reading. Chloe had been in rehab for five days.

 

Dear Beca, 

Before you ask, I’m okay. I won’t lie and say it’s been easy, but I’m hanging in there. Taking it a day at a time.

The team here is truly amazing, I don’t feel alone at all. I start my days off with breakfast. I don’t have much of an appetite still, but I know that will slowly come back. Then I have a session with the therapist and a medically monitored detox session with the head doctor here. Before lunch, I have a 12-step meeting with a group of people who are going through the same things as me. 

In the afternoon, I have a psychiatric care session, art therapy, which I really enjoy, then a yoga class before dinner. The days are packed, so I don’t have too much downtime to spiral. It’s when I’m alone in my room that it’s the hardest, but I’ve been thinking about my goals and the people I love. Speaking of, the therapist suggested I made a list of the things I look forward to once I’m better. I thought I would share it with you. 

  • Be healthy when I visit my mom and dad
  • Go to the Bellas reunion this summer 
  • Visit Europe
  • Be happy

I found the mp3 player you slipped inside my bag. I listen to your mixes every time my dark thoughts get a little too loud. Thank you for that. 

And thank you for everything else. It doesn’t feel like enough, but thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I’ve known for some time that I needed to get help, but I was stuck. 

I hope you’re doing well.

Chloe xx  

 

Beca blinked back the tears blurring her vision and cleared her throat, setting Chloe’s letter aside and grabbing a blank sheet of paper to write her reply. 

 

Hey Chloe, 

You have no idea how happy I am to read those words. I’m so, so proud of you, Chlo. Thank you for trusting me, I know it wasn’t easy to ask for help, after everything you’ve been through. 

All those things sound amazing. I bet your parents will be thrilled to see you, and I know the Bellas are going to lose their freaking minds. 

I’m doing well, thanks. Work has been busy as usual, but I just got back into songwriting, which hasn’t happened in a long while. 

Keep sending news, yeah? Only one more week until we can text and three before I see you again. 

Stay strong. 

Beca x

 

The next letter came the following Thursday, ten days into Chloe’s rehab. 

 

Hi Beca, 

You’re writing again?! That’s AMAZING. I’m so happy for you. And excited to listen to it. Your music is incredible, and it needs to be out there. 

It was one of the things that opened my eyes to my situation, you know. Music hadn’t felt like music anymore for so long until I listened to your album, and I felt at peace for the first time in years. Like when I was back in Barden, in the Bellas house, surrounded by my best friends. And it felt as though a version of myself I didn’t know was still there suddenly resurfaced. 

That’s why I called you. Because I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. I’ve made many mistakes in the last six years, but cutting you and the Bellas out of my life was one of the biggest of my life.

Along with caving to cocaine and alcohol, and getting involved with Marco. 

And I wanted to see you, I really did. But he got jealous, and he knew all the right things to say to make me feel like I was nothing. It’s odd, looking back now that I’m no longer between his claws and now that my mind is no longer clouded by booze and coke. He had a lot of leverage on me with our living situation and my dad’s condition, but I still feel weak for letting him win for so long.

Anyway. I wanted to apologize. For the way I acted when I first saw you, and for ghosting you six years ago. I’m so sorry, Beca. You didn’t deserve any of that.  

Rehab is still going okay. I had a really tough few days, but I feel slightly better now. I didn’t experience any physical symptoms, my thoughts have been the hardest to deal with. I’ve been very irritable and feeling depressed, and the need to take a hit has been incredibly strong. I’m thankful to be here, otherwise I would have relapsed already.

The staff here says the week-mark off any drugs is the hardest, and I’m proud of myself for making it to that point. I know there is still a LOT of work, but I’ll take any accomplishment, however small it is. 

I’m starting to think about what I want to do once I’m out of here. I don’t think I have the will and energy to go back to vet school, but I would love to become a vet tech. It’s two years, but maybe it could be shorter since I already did a year of vet school. 

I hope you’re doing okay.

See you in two weeks. 

Chloe xx

 

Beca re-read the letter a few times, a watery smile stuck to her features. It sounded like the Chloe she once knew was slowly coming back to life, and it made her heart swell with relief and pride. Since she had another fifteen minutes before her next meeting, she grabbed her pen and a blank sheet of paper. 

 

Hey Chlo,

I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I’m so proud of you. What you’re doing takes a lot of courage and you’re absolutely right, each small accomplishment should be a celebration.

I can totally picture you as a vet tech by the way, and I think that's another amazing thing to look forward to.

You won in the end, by leaving him. You weren’t weak. You just happened to be vulnerable and surrounded by bad influences. He took advantage of that. It’s not your fault, Chlo. 

And as for you apologizing, there’s no need. It’s all in the past, now, and I really want you to focus on the future, okay? 

Two weeks. Stay strong, Chloe. 

Beca x

 

Her eyes once more swept over Chloe’s words about her music, and it felt like the push Beca needed to finally record that song. After sealing the envelope and writing the rehab centre address on it, she grabbed her phone. 

 

To: Luke

I’ll record the song.

 

Once Chloe got her phone back, Beca received a selfie a day, which never failed to make her heart burst. Chloe definitely had more weight on her than the last time Beca saw her, and her complexion gained some color back. 

 

Her progress amazed Beca, though she wasn’t surprised; this was Chloe Beale, one of the most determined people she knew. She just needed a little help to be pulled from the rubble. 

 

“What are you smiling about?” Sarah asked as she padded to the couch where Beca sat, setting a glass of wine in front of her on the coffee table. 

 

“Oh, um, Chloe just sent me a picture,” she explained, angling her phone towards Sarah so she could see it. 

 

She had told Sarah the main lines of Chloe’s struggles without going into details, like Chloe’s dad’s condition or the fact that she was paying for his treatment and Chloe’s rehab. 

 

“She looks healthier,” Sarah noted with a soft smile. 

 

“Yeah…” Beca breathed, taking one last look at the photo before locking her phone and setting it aside. She leaned in to grab the glass of wine, freezing at Sarah’s question. 

 

“Were you and Chloe… just friends in college?” 

 

Beca slowly straightened, memories from graduation night flashing in front of her eyes before she could stop them. Her jerk reaction was to lie, for reasons she couldn’t explain. “We… had sex. Once.” 

 

Sarah nodded slowly, and while Beca was still not the best at reading other people’s emotions, it’s like she could see the cogs churning in her girlfriend’s mind. 

 

“It was a long time ago,” Beca added softly, shrugging. “We were young, drunk, and had just graduated so we were feeling pretty euphoric. It didn’t mean anything.”

 

Except it did, at the time. But Beca was too much of a fucking coward to admit that to Sarah because she was afraid of the consequences. Just like she had been too much of a coward to admit her feelings to Chloe, back then.  

 

She had been waiting for this for so long, yet all she felt in that moment when she woke up naked next to Chloe, was panic. Overwhelmed at the thought of getting herself into a committed relationship. She had broken Jesse’s heart already, what told her she wouldn’t do the same to Chloe. Maybe she wasn’t made for relationships. And Chloe’s friendship was too important to be jeopardized. 

 

So before Chloe could open her mouth, Beca had chuckled, making a comment about how drunk they were the night before, and asking Chloe if they were cool. 

 

And that was that. They said goodbye a few hours later as each Bella went their way, and she and Chloe fell back into their friendship dynamics of sending each other funny memes and cute baby animal pictures. They never talked about it, but Beca’s feelings never went away. 

 

Not until Chloe walked out of her life, anyway. 

 

“Sarah,” Beca murmured when the blonde remained silent, laying a hand on her forearm. “I don’t have feelings for Chloe. I care about her, but as a friend. Like the other Bellas.” 

 

Sarah briefly shut her eyes. “God I feel like such an asshole,” she whispered, shaking her head. “I don’t know why I felt the need to ask that. Chloe has a lot going on right now, I shouldn’t be making things about me.”

 

“It’s okay,” Beca said, running her palm over Sarah’s skin soothingly. “You don’t need to apologize.” She pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Let’s head to bed? You’re staying the night, right?” 

 

The smile on Sarah’s lips made Beca relax. “Yeah. I’ll stay.” 



*

 

Beca drove up to the rehab center that following Monday. It was even colder up there, but she waited outside of her car, bundled up in her wool trench coat, thick scarf, and beanie, warm ankle boots on her feet. A wide smile broke across her features when Chloe stepped outside, and she pushed off her car and walked towards her, meeting her in the middle. 

 

“Hi,” Chloe murmured as she sunk into Beca’s arms, holding on tight. 

 

“Hey,” Beca replied, backing away after a few beats so she could get a real look at Chloe. “You look good. Healthy.” 

 

Chloe nodded, a small smile curving her own lips. “Thanks. I feel better, too.” 

 

Beca took Chloe’s duffle bag from her and placed it in the trunk, then slid into the driver’s seat. “Ready to go home?” 

 

Chloe blew out a breath. “More than ready.” 

 

The hour drive back into the city was mostly silent. Chloe seemed to be in her own world as she stared out the window, and Beca wouldn’t push her to talk. 

 

Beca had cleared the liquor cabinet yesterday, giving it all to Luke. She only drank occasionally, and she could definitely go without it if it meant making things easier for Chloe by not having any sort of temptation in the house. 

 

“Are you hungry?” Beca asked when they finally made it to her place. “I have chicken parm pasta leftovers from last night that can be heated up in the microwave.” 

 

“Not really. Maybe later,” Chloe murmured. She perched herself on one of the stools, patting the one next to it. “Can you sit for a bit? I need to tell you something.” 

 

Concern creased Beca’s forehead as she moved away from the fridge and did as she was told. She tried not to worry upon catching the seriousness in Chloe’s features, but she couldn’t help it. “What’s going on? Is it your dad?” 

 

“No.” Chloe cleared her throat, focusing on her hands as she spoke. “At the start of last week, I started feeling weird. I was nauseous and couldn’t keep any food down, so the doctor decided to run some tests.” 

 

Beca’s heart lurched to her throat, bracing herself for Chloe telling her she was sick, or something.

 

“I’m pregnant, Beca.” 

Chapter Text

The term rollercoaster didn’t seem strong enough to describe the last six weeks of Chloe’s life. 

 

Seeing Beca again. Leaving Marco. Getting clean. Finding out she was pregnant. 

 

She felt like she needed to stop and take a minute to remind herself to breathe, but the weight pressing on her chest prevented her from sucking enough oxygen into her lungs.

 

“You’re…” Beca blinked twice in slow succession. “...pregnant. With a baby.” She grimaced in the next beat, releasing a breath. “Sorry, I-- I wasn’t expecting that.” 

 

Chloe couldn't blame her for being shocked. She swallowed thickly and cleared the lump from her throat. “I made an appointment for an abortion. Tomorrow.”

 

Tears sprang up into her eyes before she could stop them as her own words echoed back to her, and she lifted a hand to her mouth to muffle the sob itching to come out. 

 

“I’m sorry,” she croaked out, shaking her head. 

 

“Chlo…” Beca murmured, setting a hand over Chloe’s back and the other one on Chloe’s. “You don’t need to apologize. What you’re going through is incredibly hard, and… if an abortion is what you feel is the best option, then that’s what you should do.” 

 

Chloe had always wanted to have kids one day, but this was the worst possible timing. She didn’t have a place to raise that baby, or a job, not to mention that she was a recovering addict. 

 

She nodded along to Beca’s words, as though attempting to convince herself further. 

 

“Do you want me to come with you?” Beca asked then. “To the appointment?” 

 

Chloe hesitated, nibbling the inside of her cheek. “I don’t want you to miss work because of me.” 

 

“You’re more important than work,” Beca argued softly as her thumb stroked Chloe’s knuckles back and forth. “And I don’t think you should be doing this on your own, you know? But I don’t want to overstep either, so it’s completely up to you.” 

 

Chloe sniffled and reached up to shakily wipe her tears away. “I… I think I’d like it if you could be there.” 

 

“Done,” Beca instantly said, nodding firmly. She cleared her throat following a few beats of silence. “So um, is there anything you should do for your recovery? Now that you’re out of rehab, I mean.” 

 

“The therapist there recommended one in the city, I need to call and book an appointment. I’m going to my first NA meeting in two days. Otherwise, I’ve been told having a routine could really help? Like go for a morning walk, do some yoga, cook, clean… that sort of stuff. But all I want to do right now is crash for a few hours.” 

 

Beca nodded. “Sounds like a plan. Let me know if I can do anything to make things easier on you, okay?” 

 

Chloe managed a small smile despite how heavy her heart felt. “I’m already so grateful for what you’re doing for me, Bec.” 

 

“It’s what friends do. Help each other out.” 

 

Chloe ended up sleeping for four hours straight. She had never felt so exhausted in her life, and she guessed it was a mix of the physical and emotional toll of pregnancy and rehab finally hitting her. She didn’t eat much for dinner and mostly pushed her food around in her plate, knowing most of it would come back up as it had for the last few days. 

 

She and Beca got to the clinic ten minutes before Chloe’s appointment that next morning, and after filling out the paperwork, they were led into an exam room, where Chloe was asked to change into a paper gown. She sat down on the edge of the bed once she was changed, her eyes sweeping over the many baby pictures lining the wall. 

 

Her attention shifted to the door when it opened, a middle-aged woman stepping inside. 

 

“Hello, Chloe,” she greeted with a soft, reassuring smile. “I’m Dr. Harris.” 

 

“Hi,” Chloe returned quietly. “This is my friend Beca.” 

 

“Nice to meet you both,” Dr. Harris said as she approached. “I was told you’re here to terminate your pregnancy?”

 

“I-- yes.” 

 

“Okay. As one of the nurses probably told you over the phone, I need to check how far along you are first so we can figure out if a procedure is required,” she explained, setting her chart down and snapping on a pair of gloves. “When was your last period?” 

 

“I-- I’m not sure.”

 

She used to take the pill. But when you’re fortunate if you remember to eat one meal a day, it’s also easy to forget to renew your birth control prescription. That was just another detail among the many in her life that seemingly had ceased to have consequences or meaning the further she slipped down that rabbit hole. 

 

“Okay, that’s alright, Chloe," the doctor assured her. "Can you lie down please, and put your feet in the stirrups? I need to do a vaginal ultrasound so we can see better.” 

 

Chloe nodded, scooting back and lifting her feet. She reached for Beca’s hand as nerves sprouted in her belly, immensely grateful for her presence. 

 

“This might not be the most comfortable feeling, but I’ll try to be as gentle as possible,” Dr. Harris said as she placed a condom over the wand before slowly inserting it. She tapped a few keys on the ultrasound machine, gently moving the wand around until a clear image popped up on the screen. It was another minute before she spoke again. “Okay… given the size of the embryo, you’re about seven weeks along, Chloe.” 

 

Chloe puffed out a breath as a kaleidoscope of emotions swept through her. This was her baby , up there on the screen, and the sight of it suddenly made her question everything and ask something that she would regret shortly after. “Does it-- does it have a heartbeat? Can I listen?”

 

The doctor glanced at her. “Are you sure?” 

 

“Yeah,” Chloe confirmed. “I’m sure.” 

 

Nodding, Dr. Harris pushed another key, and the most beautiful sound filled the room a second later. A steady, strong woosh woosh. Tears sprang to Chloe’s eyes, and she felt a squeeze to her hand as she attempted not to let them fall. Her own heart constricted in her chest, so hard it was nearly painful. 

 

“Turn if off, please,” she croaked out, shaking her head as her lids slammed shut, those tears sliding down her cheeks and curling around her chin. 

 

The doctor shut off the machine and withdrew the wand a few seconds later, patting Chloe's shin. “You can put your legs down, Chloe.” 

 

Chloe nodded and straightened, taking the tissue Beca offered her and blowing her nose with it. 

 

Dr. Harris watched on, her eyes soft. “You still have some time before making a decision.”

 

“Did it look healthy?” She found herself asking, then figured she should explain. “I just got out of rehab. I did cocaine and drank a fair amount of alcohol on a daily basis up until four weeks ago. And I was given um...” Chloe scratched her forehead as she raked her brain for the medication name. “Gabapentin for the first two weeks of rehab to help with withdrawal.” 

 

Dr. Harris’ features remained professional as she nodded slowly. “The heartbeat is strong, and I didn’t catch anything abnormal. The risk of miscarriage is more present than for other pregnancies as the drugs crossed through the placenta when you were still using, and that up to twelve weeks. Problems could occur during and after the pregnancy. But the baby could also be perfectly healthy, since you stopped in the early stages of pregnancy. It’s hard to tell.” 

 

Chloe’s mind swam with all these possible scenarios, and she didn’t know whether to listen to her brain or her gut feeling. “How-- how much time do I have to decide?” 

 

Dr. Harris slipped her hands into the pockets of her lab coat. “Abortion is legal up to 25 weeks in New York state. Up to ten weeks, you can take a pill, past that a surgical procedure is needed.” 

 

Chloe sniffled, swiping the back of her hand under her runny nose. “Okay. Thank you.” 

 

Dr. Harris cast them both a tight-lipped smile. “Of course. I’ll leave informational pamphlets at the desk for you to read, as well as my phone number should you have any questions.” 

 

“Thanks,” Beca said as the doctor walked out, then focused back on Chloe, reaching out to brush her hair back behind her ear. “I’ll give you a few minutes to get dressed? I can go get those pamphlets in the meantime.” 

 

Chloe nodded, her insides caving in as soon as the door clicked shut behind Beca. She gripped the edges of the exam cot hard, her nails digging into the leather and her breathing turning chopped as a mix of panic and sadness unleashed within her. 

 

It all seemed unfair, but she knew her own recklessness was the root of the situation she found herself in. 

 

She eventually managed to calm herself down enough to get dressed, meeting Beca by the desk ten minutes later. The walk home was silent, and Chloe was grateful Beca didn’t push her to talk. She didn’t even know how to process her own thoughts, let alone speaking them aloud. 

 

A few days passed.

 

Aubrey offered to come down, but Chloe declined, as she felt either too on edge or depressed as she continued working through living without drugs.

 

Chloe slept a lot, and tried to keep herself busy the rest of the time. One hour each morning consisted of hugging the toilet while she puked her guts out, and the rest of her day was spent craving that warm embrace of the rush cocaine once brought her. 

 

The temptation was there. She knew there was a store on the corner of Beca’s street that sold booze, and she knew there was enough change in the bowl by the front door to afford at least a couple beers. 

 

Yet, she couldn’t bring herself to. Not after seeing that tiny blob on that screen and listening to its heartbeat, because the biggest part of her wanted this. She knew it deep down, but she couldn’t silence those same voices that had been making her life hell for the past four years, telling her that she was bound to fail at this like she did with everything else. 

 

Chloe woke up that Saturday morning to a churning stomach. Scrambling out of bed, she stumbled to the bathroom across the hall and made it just in time to empty the contents of her stomach into the ceramic bowl.

 

She slumped back against the wall afterwards, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand as she reached out to flush the toilet with the other. Chloe glanced up when Beca appeared around the corner, a sympathetic smile curving her lips as she stepped closer and handed Chloe a steaming mug. 

 

“Ginger tea. I read it helps with morning sickness.”

 

Chloe accepted it with a quiet thank you. She cradled the mug between her palms, her head tilting back against the tile behind her as she exhaled. “You can sit, if you want.”

 

Beca nodded and lowered herself next to her in the tight space, their thighs and shoulders touching. “Do you… want to talk?”

 

Chloe sucked in a sharp breath. “I feel… lost ,” she rasped out, her head rolling to the side to look at Beca. “Before the appointment, I was so sure terminating the pregnancy was the wise option, but then I saw it on that screen and heard its heartbeat and…”

 

“You realized the wise decision is maybe not what you want?” Beca supplied when Chloe trailed off. 

 

“I’ve always wanted to be a mom,” Chloe whispered before she broke eye-contact, focusing on the mug she held in her hands as she blinked away the tears filling her eyes. Beca knew that. “But it’s crazy to even consider it, right? I don’t have a job, I don’t have my own place, and I’m still battling with my own mind because I crave something. All day, every day since my last hit.”

 

“But you didn’t cave,” Beca pointed out softly. “I know it’s only been four days since you got out of rehab, but you didn’t cave, and that’s already an accomplishment of its own.” 

 

“I just… I don’t want to harm this baby more than I’ve possibly already done,” Chloe admitted quietly. 

 

Beca nodded, and reached out to take one of Chloe’s hands, tugging it into her lap gently. “If keeping this baby is what you want to do, those things you’re worried about have solutions. You may not have a place of your own, but I’m not kicking you out. Even with a baby. This is home for you as long as you want or need it. A job shouldn’t be too difficult to find. Maybe it won’t be the greatest one on earth to start with, but it will be something to get your head back in the game,” she paused, tilting her head to the side and seeking Chloe’s gaze. “And what you just said? About not caving because of the baby? I can’t think of a better proof of your ability to be a great mom. You’re already putting that baby before your own needs, and I can’t even fathom how great and out of control those can become, and I think that’s admirable." Another pause. "And for what it’s worth, I think you should trust what your gut tells you. I listened to my brain instead of my heart once, and ended up making one of the biggest mistakes of my life."

 

Chloe let Beca’s words resonate within her, basking in the temporary peace they brought her. There was no doubt about where her gut feeling lay on this.

 

“I feel like I’m turning your life upside down,” she whispered after a while, sniffling. “You’ve done so much for me already, I don’t want to keep abusing from your generosity, or jeopardize your relationship with Sarah.” 

 

“You’re not abusing anything, Chlo. I promise,” Beca murmured with a squeeze to her hand. A stretch of silence settled between them, until Beca spoke again. “You still have a few weeks to think about it. Just know that whatever you decide to do, I’ll support it.” 

 

Over the next week, Chloe found herself picturing what it would be like, caring and nurturing for that baby and raising them. For the first time in five years, cocaine wasn’t the first thing she thought about when she woke up, or the last thing on her mind before going to sleep. 

 

For the first time in five years, it felt like she had purpose, in trying her best to be the mom her child deserved. That meant staying clean, leaving those demons behind where they belonged, and getting her life back together one day at a time, for that innocent being that came to light in the darkest time of her life. 

 

She woke up earlier than usual that morning, and headed to the bathroom to pee, pausing as she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror. A soft gasp escaped as she lifted her shirt and ran her palm over the barely perceptible swell in her lower belly. It wasn’t there yesterday, and Chloe felt tears pool in her eyes. 

 

Happy ones. 

 

“Hey there, little bean,” she croaked out, her heart swelling against her ribcage as she rubbed slow circles over her skin. “We’ll be okay, won’t we?” 

 

She puffed out a long breath, a watery smile breaking through. 

 

One day at a time. 

Chapter Text

“Chlo?”

 

Beca called out when she came home that evening, pizza box in hand. She dropped her keys into the bowl by the entrance and toed off her boots, rounding the corner to the living room.

 

She had noticed a definite shift in Chloe’s overall demeanor ever since Chloe decided to keep the baby. 

 

A light in her eyes that wasn’t there before, which reminded her of the Chloe she once knew, who was slowly coming back to life. 

 

It was weird and a little scary to think about how a newborn was going to be living with them in six months. She didn’t know how involved Chloe wanted her to be, but Beca was ready to help, whether it be with prepping the room, shopping for little Bean, or getting up at night to change diapers and feed them a bottle. 

 

“Hey,” Chloe greeted softly from her spot on the couch, clad in sweatpants and Beca’s Bellas hoodie she had kept since that night. “How was work?” 

 

“Good.” They’d just finished layering the song, but Beca chose to keep that to herself, as she wasn’t sure she was ready for Chloe to hear it, yet. “How was your NA meeting?” 

 

Chloe smiled and grabbed her purse, fishing for something in it. She produced a chip, showing it to Beca. The words 60 days clean and serene were written on it, the NA logo on the other side. 

 

Beca beamed. “Holy shit, Chlo! That’s amazing!” 

 

She knew some days weren’t easy, even if Chloe’s overall mood seemed brighter, and she was insanely proud of her friend. 

 

“Yeah, I’m... “ Chloe shook her head. “I honestly didn’t think I would make it that far, when I got out of rehab,” she paused, meeting Beca’s eyes. “Thank you. For believing in me, and supporting me. I honestly-- I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for you.” She fiddled with the chip and smiled softly. “Now let’s make it to six months.” 

 

“Six months,” Beca echoed, nodding. “That sounds like a great goal.” She tilted her head to the side. “Have you talked to your parents today? How’s your dad?” 

 

“Yeah. He’s good, I think. I feel like he wouldn’t tell me if he was in pain, though.” 

 

“Did you tell them about Bean?” Beca asked softly. 

 

“No, I… I really want to tell them in person, once I’ve… told them the truth. Which is why I wanted to ask you…” Chloe nibbled on her bottom lip, clearly hesitant. “Would it be okay if I borrowed some money so I could visit them? I hate to ask this with everything you’re doing for me, and I promise I’ll pay you back when I get a job.” 

 

“Chlo,” Beca said gently, smiling. “Of course it’s okay. I’m glad you’re visiting them. That’s the first goal on your list, isn’t it?” 

 

Chloe nodded. “Yeah. And I was also wondering if-- you’d like to come with me? I know you’re busy, so I totally get if you can’t.”

 

Beca pondered on that for a few beats. She was touched that Chloe offered for her to come along, and she hadn’t taken a break in a long time. “I’d love to. When did you want to go?” 

 

“Ideally before I start showing to the point where I can’t hide it anymore,” Chloe answered with a cringe as she rubbed the small bump hidden under her hoodie. “I guess I should be good for another month and a half or so?” 

 

Beca hummed. “Memorial day weekend is in three weeks, I could take Thursday and Friday off so we have three whole days there?” 

 

“That sounds perfect,” Chloe murmured. “I also wanted to know if it was okay if I invited Aubrey over for dinner next weekend? Now that I feel a little better.” 

 

“Of course. I’d love to see her, too. But I can totally hang out at Sarah’s if you guys want a one on one evening?” 

 

Chloe shook her head. “No, no, you can stay here.” She cleared her throat. “Is Sarah… okay with the situation?” 

 

“I uh, I haven’t told her yet,” Beca said. “About the baby, I mean. I wasn’t sure if you were okay with me telling her, yet.” 

 

“Oh. No, you can tell her.” 

 

“Okay, I will when I see her tomorrow,” Beca said. “I bought a bacon-mushroom pizza with pineapple on one half. You hungry?” 

 

“Starving. I don’t know what it is with Bean, but I can’t stop eating.” 

 

Beca chuckled and pushed to her feet, giving Chloe a boost up. She padded to the island and opened the box, then headed to the cabinet to get two plates out. “Are we watching The Bachelor? ” 

 

She froze in her motion when Chloe zoomed down the hall, the sound of retching reaching her ears next. 

 

“Shit,” Beca muttered, setting the plates down on the counter before following after Chloe. She knelt by her and gathered her hair in her hand, rubbing her back in slow circles. 

 

“Bean doesn’t like mushrooms,” Chloe mumbled once she was done, reaching up to flush the toilet. 

“Are you sure it’s not the pineapple on pizza thing? Now that’s gross.” 

 

Chloe threw her a playful glare as she rested her back against the wall. “It’s definitely the mushrooms.” 

 

“I’ll go toss the pizza and open up some windows to clear the air. Want some ginger ale?” She had stocked up on that since it seemed to help Chloe with her morning sickness, which was lessening now that she had reached the end of her first trimester. 

 

“Sure, thanks.” 

 

Beca came back a minute later with a can and offered it to Chloe, lowering herself next to her. “Are you excited for your appointment next week?” 

 

Chloe took a sip. “Yeah. And nervous. Less so now that I’m past twelve weeks, but I’m scared something bad might pop up on the screen.”

 

Beca’s hand came to rest on Chloe’s thigh. She had read into the possible complications cocaine use during pregnancy could have on a baby: premature delivery, malformations, weaning at birth… cocaine wasn’t as bad as opiates, and Beca had read that only 3-5% of babies had birth defects, but it was still enough to trigger some worry. 

 

“Want me to come with you?” She asked, always cautious when it came to not overstepping. 

 

Chloe covered Beca’s hand with her own, a small smile curving her lips. “Yeah.” 

 

Beca smiled back, then reached for her phone in her pocket and pulled up the app she was looking for. She angled her screen towards Chloe. “Bean is the size of a lemon this week.” 

 

Chloe cocked an eyebrow. “You downloaded an app that follows the baby’s growth?” 

 

“Yeah.” Beca’s nose crinkles in awkwardness. “Is that weird?” 

 

“No,” Chloe says, shaking her head. “I think it’s sweet. Bean’s going to have the best auntie in the world.” 

 

Chloe’s words made Beca’s heart swell, and she cleared the sudden emotions rising in her throat. God , that baby wasn’t even born but she knew she was already a goner. Which was weird to think about, because she couldn’t stand kids. But this was Chloe’s, so it was bound to be adorable, even despite Marco’s genes. 

 

“Aunties,” she corrects after a while. “All twelve of them.” A smirk curves her lips as she shrugs. “I’ll just be the coolest one.” 

 

Chloe raised an eyebrow. “The one Bean will come to for dating advice?” 

 

Beca’s nose scrunched up. “Yikes. I’ll swing that one over to Stacie. No , Aubrey. Can’t trust Stacie with dating advice.”

 

She looked down at her phone when it lit up with a text from Sarah, saying she had just got off work and asking Beca if she wanted to come over to her place and whether she had eaten dinner yet. 

 

“Is that Sarah?” Chloe asked softly. 

 

“Yeah… she asked me if I wanted to go over, but--” 

 

“I’ll be fine,” Chloe assured her with a soft chuckle. “I’ll probably pass out on the couch around 8:30. You should go.” 

 

Beca nodded. “Okay.” She pushed to her feet, sliding her phone in her back pocket. “See ya, Beale and Bean.” 

 

She smiled at the sound of Chloe’s giggle on her way out, sliding her boots back on and grabbing her keys before slipping out. Sarah lived a fifteen-minute car ride away on a good traffic hour. Beca parked in front of her building, having stopped on her way over to grab sushi from her favorite place. 

 

“Hey you,” Sarah greeted as she opened her door. 

 

Beca smiled, pecking her lips as she stepped inside. “Sushi?” 

 

Sarah groaned, plucking the paper bag from her fingers. “You’re the best.” 

 

Beca chuckled. “Long shift?” 

 

“Yeah,” Sarah breathed out as she padded to her living area, setting the bag on her kitchen counter. “Beer?” 

 

“Sure.” 

 

They caught up on their respective days while they ate, low music playing from Sarah’s speaker. 

 

“How’s Chloe doing?” Sarah asked as she cleared up their plates. 

 

“Pretty good, I think.” Beca twisted around on her stool, tracking Sarah with her eyes as she cleared her throat. “She’s uh, she’s pregnant.” 

 

There was a notable pause in Sarah’s movements, before she gently set the plates down on the counter. “Wow,” she let out as she turned around. “Is she… keeping it?” 

 

“Yeah,” Beca replied. “I didn’t tell you before now because she just reached twelve weeks and the risk of miscarriage was pretty high up to that point.”

 

Sarah nodded slowly. “Is she okay?” 

 

“It’s a lot, but she seems to be adjusting pretty well. If anything, the fact that she’s pregnant is helping her stay strong against her cravings.” 

 

“Good, that’s good,” Sarah murmured. She nibbled on her lower lip, something she often did when she was nervous or irritated about something, Beca had noticed. “So um, is she going to stay at your place?” 

 

Beca furrowed her brow. “Well, yeah. She doesn’t have a job and barely just got back on her feet, I’m not going to kick her out.” 

 

“No, of course. I mean, long term,” Sarah corrected herself. “Because she isn’t going to move out when the baby is born either, I’m guessing.” 

 

Beca tilted her head to the side. “Does that… bother you? The fact that Chloe is around?” 

 

“I just--” Sarah sighed, glancing down. “I’m not sure where I fit in all this.” 

 

“What do you mean?” Beca questioned softly, sliding off her stool and taking the few steps separating her from Sarah. 

 

“I guess I was hoping we would move in together, somewhere in the near future.” She shrugged. “We’ve been together for over a year and we haven’t even broached the subject.” 

 

A soft sigh flitted past her lips.

 

“And I feel like a jerk, again , because Chloe obviously can’t be on her own right now, and what you’re doing to help her is remarkable and it makes me love you even more, but… I want a relationship with a trajectory, not a flat line. Those sleepovers a few times a week, and having some of our clothes at each other’s place, it just doesn’t feel like enough anymore. At least not to me. I want us to start building something real, you know? Not… with your best friend and her baby living right across the hall.”

 

Beca licked her dry lips, swallowing. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know-- I had no idea that’s how you felt.” 

 

“Bec, is that what you want, too?” Sarah asked then, softly, almost shyly, as though afraid of Beca’s answer. “Because if it’s not…” 

 

“Yes,” Beca said, nodding. “Of course it is.” At least she believed so. She had always struggled when it came to commitment, and that was probably the reason why an uncomfortable feeling spread in her belly at the thought of moving in with Sarah. “We’ll figure something out, I promise.” 

 

Beca spent the drive home playing her conversation with Sarah over and over in her head. She understood where Sarah was coming from, and was even surprised Sarah had stuck around when Beca was so emotionally stunted when it came to expressing her feelings. She hadn’t given much of a thought to wanting to change things so soon, as she felt comfortable with the pace they were going. 

 

A heavy sigh puffed past her lips when she made it inside her apartment. She changed for bed, washed her face and brushed her teeth, settling in bed just past eleven. A knock at the door pulled her attention away from her phone. 

 

“Come in,” she called out softly, smiling when Chloe’s head popped inside. “Hey. What’s up?”

 

Chloe shuffled in and sat at the foot of the bed, seemingly deep in her thoughts. “I’m-- I’m struggling.” 

 

Beca straightened a bit from her slouched position and set her phone aside. “Come here, Chlo,” she coaxed, patting the space next to here. “Cravings?” 

 

Chloe sat against the headboard, drawing her knees to her chest. She tugged on the ends of her hair, then started to bite at her nails. She was shaking. “I keep— finding reasons as to why I should— I should take something, telling myself one drink won’t hurt the baby and it would just be to—to take the edge off.” She reached inside the front pocket of her hoodie and handed Beca a twenty dollar bill, unable to meet Beca’s gaze. “I-I stole this from the bowl by the door to go buy myself a bottle.”

 

Beca swallowed and plucked it from her fingers, making a mental note not to leave any money laying around either.

 

“Thank you for telling me,” Beca murmured, imagining how hard it must be for Chloe to admit that she almost slipped up, and knowing how important for her recovery it was that she reached out.

 

Among the many things Beca had read about addiction, one thing stuck with her: the opposite of addiction is connexion, something Chloe had lost for a long while when she let her job and her toxic relationship consume her. But she wasn’t on her own anymore, and Beca believed that was a vital step to her recovery.

 

“You’re the strongest person I know, Chlo. What you’re doing is incredibly brave, and I’m in awe of you every single day. There’s no shame in thinking about it. It’s a normal part of the process. What is important is the fact that you didn’t let the addiction win.” 

 

Chloe shut her eyes and nodded, her shoulders slumping as she released a long breath. 

 

“Have you tried… singing it out? Or… dancing it out?” 

 

Chloe shook her head. Beca pushed to her feet, grabbing her phone and shuffling through her playlist. Florence + The Machine’s Shake It Out started to play from her built in speakers as she rounded the bed and extended her hands out. 

 

“Come on, Beale,” she coaxed once more when Chloe hesitated, holding out both hands. 

 

Chloe eventually relented, but she stood there, seemingly unsure of what to do. The carefreeness that once inhabited Chloe was nowhere in sight, and Beca’s heart broke upon realizing it. 

 

But she wasn’t giving up. 

 

She broke into her robot dance routine, knowing perfectly well it didn’t go with the music at all. Acting like a dork did make Chloe crack a timid smile, which prompted Beca to keep going, grinning when Chloe started swaying to the beat, slowly at first as she closed her eyes, taking it all in.

 

“Shake ‘em out, Chlo,” Beca said, reaching out to increase the volume as the chorus hit. 

 

And Chloe danced. For real this time, without any chains holding her back as she let the music and the lyrics carry her, spinning around as she sang to the top of her lungs. 

 

“Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back

So shake him off, oh whoa…”

Chapter Text

The knock at the door made Chloe jolt. 

 

Aubrey was here, and Chloe was a nervous wreck. Even if Aubrey had shown nothing but support in the texts they had exchanged over the last couple of months, Chloe was bracing herself for judgment. It had become her default setting over the last couple of years, to always expect people to think the worst of her. 

 

It turned out Aubrey couldn’t make it for dinner that weekend and instead offered lunch on the following Monday, so Beca was currently at work. Meeting her alone made Chloe even more nervous; Beca had become her rock, her lifeline over the past couple of months, and someone Chloe actually trusted, and she would have been more comfortable with her being present. 

 

She wiped her hands on her apron and padded to the door, sucking in one last deep breath before pulling it open.  Her friend looked the same as Chloe remembered her, except for her hairstyle, which evolved into a neat bob and matched the lawyer persona well.

 

“Hey Chlo,” Aubrey greeted softly, eyes soft and smile shy. 

 

“Hi,” Chloe breathed out when she remembered she should say something, blinking. 

 

Before Chloe could step aside, Aubrey stepped forward and pulled Chloe into a loose hug. Chloe’s first reaction was to tense for a brief moment, eventually wrapping her arms around Aubrey’s back, in turn, her shoulders relaxing as she exhaled. 

 

“Thanks for having me over,” Aubrey said as she backed away.

 

Chloe nodded with a small smile and took a step back to let Aubrey through. “Come on in. I uh-- I made chicken pasta. Do you still like that?” 

 

Cooking had been one of the activities Chloe had rekindled with since finishing rehab. Following a recipe was a good distraction from her cravings. 

 

“I do. Sounds yummy.” 

 

“You-- you’ve been here before, I imagine?” Chloe asked as she shut and locked the door behind them, leading Aubrey to the main room. 

 

Aubrey shrugged off her jacket. “A few times, yes. I think the last time was for Beca’s birthday last September.” 

 

Chloe nodded once more, then remembered her manners. “Can I offer you anything to drink?” She asked as she padded to the fridge. “We have water, flat or sparkling, coke and fanta.” 

 

“Sparkling water is good,” Aubrey said as she perched herself on a stool, resting her chin over her propped-up hand. “How’s it been living with Beca?” 

 

“Good,” Chloe replied as she reached for two water glasses in the cupboards, the water bottle in her other hand. “She’s been really amazing with trying to make me feel at home. It’s weird though because I can’t pay rent or groceries. I still feel like I’m taking advantage of her generosity.”

 

Aubrey hummed. “I get that. But you’re not. Beca wouldn’t offer all those things if she felt like you were taking advantage. And we all know you’re not. You’re getting back on your feet and could use all the help you can get, which I’m sure Beca is happy to give.” 

 

Chloe took a deep breath and nodded. She uncapped the bottle and poured some water into both drinks. 

 

“How have you been feeling otherwise?” Aubrey questioned then. 

 

Chloe shrugged, breaking eye-contact. “It’s been a real rollercoaster, to be honest. Somedays I feel fine, other days it feels like I’m drowning. If it weren’t for Beca’s support or--” The baby , which she had yet to tell Aubrey about. She swallowed, forcing herself to meet her friend’s gaze. “A few days before the end of rehab, I found out that I was pregnant.” 

 

Aubrey blinked twice in slow succession, much like Beca had done. “You are? I mean--” 

 

“I’m keeping it,” Chloe cleared up before Aubrey could attempt to reword her question. “I know it probably sounds crazy and irresponsible given my situation and who the father is, I--” 

 

“I think you’re going to make an amazing mom, Chlo,” Aubrey murmured before Chloe could finish. “And yes, your situation is tricky right now, but it won’t forever be that way. And the father might be a dick whose balls should be fed to wolves, but you and I both know that a  baby sharing your genes can’t be evil.” She tilted her head to the side. “Are you going to tell him?” 

 

Chloe froze. She hadn’t dared broach the subject with her therapist for fear of her telling a judge, and she didn’t know what she was allowed or not allowed to do. “Do I… have to? I mean, legally?”

 

Aubrey shook her head. “No, you don’t have any obligations to. The father’s name on the birth certificate can be left blank, and that means Marco will have no rights over the child.” 

 

Chloe nibbled on her bottom lip as she processed that information. “What if he finds out? Can he get custody?” 

 

“He’ll have to submit a petition to the court through a lawyer in order to have a DNA test done,” Aubrey explained. “After that, a judge decides if he has the right to have custody, but I really don’t see how he could, given his track record. I had a friend at the precinct look him up, and he’s been convicted several times for drug dealing and violence.” 

 

Relief swept over Chloe upon hearing that. The thought of Marco having any influence on that child gave her nightmares. “Okay. Good.” She cleared her throat when her brain caught up with the rest of Aubrey’s sentence. “I didn’t know he was a criminal.” But she wasn’t surprised, now. “I wouldn’t have-- he was really good to me at the beginning, and by the time his true personality surfaced, I had nowhere to go.” 

 

“He was toxic,” Aubrey said as she nodded. “A manipulator. He probably loved the hell out of you at first, bombarded you with sweet messages and calls and flattery? And little by little, the connection faded and you started to feel meaningless? Unworthy?” 

 

Chloe could only nod faintly, because Aubrey had just put into words what her relationship with Marco felt like, without Chloe telling her any of that stuff. 

 

“I come across so many people with the same profile in my job, and the victims, men or women, always blame themselves. But they shouldn’t. You shouldn’t.” 

 

Her therapist had already told Chloe that many times, but Chloe’s default thinking made it hard to grasp that. Being with Marco felt like chaos reigned in her head, her emotions, her body, her life, and he found a way to make her believe it was her own fault. 

 

Chloe mustered a soft smile, feeling more than ready to stop talking about that for now. “Should we eat?” 

 

The conversation thankfully transitioned to easier subjects. Chloe caught up on the last six years of Aubrey’s life, feeling a little lighter and more at ease around her friend now that it was clear Aubrey held no grudge or judgment towards Chloe for cutting her out of her life. They found themselves reminiscing about their college days, two hours zipping by without Chloe once thinking about her cravings. 

 

“I’m just a call away, alright?” Aubrey said as she slid her jacket back on. “And if you ever want to come to Boston for a weekend, I have two guest bedrooms.” 

 

A genuine smile spread across Chloe’s lips as she nodded. “I’d love that.” Chloe was the one to initiate the hug this time, letting it linger. “Thank you for coming down, Bree.”

 

Aubrey smiled back. “It was my pleasure. See you soon, Chloe.” 

 

Bean’s thirteen-week-check-up took place the following day. Chloe was set on having as many tests done as possible at this stage, with an NT scan to help assess the baby’s risk of having complications such as Down syndrome, other chromosomal abnormalities, and major congenital heart problems, as well as full blood work to rule out cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs.

 

Bean passed their scan with flying colors, much to her relief. The heartbeat was strong, and Bean’s features were unmistakably human this time around; Chloe could make out Bean’s head and their nose and the round belly and tiny feet.

 

She went home with three pictures, and Beca insisted one should go up on the fridge. 

 

The following month was punctuated with more therapy, NA meetings, and the visit to Oregon. Chloe felt more at home in Beca’s apartment with each passing day, though she tried her best to stay out of the way whenever Sarah was over. 

 

On the day of their departure, Chloe was beyond grateful Beca agreed to come with her, as telling her parents the truth felt incredibly daunting. 

 

They landed in Portland a little after four that Thursday, renting a car to drive the two hours to Newport, where Chloe’s childhood home was located. As Beca parked the car in her parents’ driveway, Chloe was rooted to her seat with nerves. 

 

Beca’s hand on her leg snapped her out of it. “Hey.” Chloe turned her head to the left, meeting Beca’s soft eyes. “Breathe. In and out.” 

 

Nodding, Chloe inhaled deeply through her nose and released the air through her mouth, closing her eyes. She reached for the door handle next and stepped out, swallowing thickly as she let her leaned legs carry her to the front door. She pressed the doorbell and stepped back, instinctively reaching for Beca’s hand. 

 

Her mom appeared on the other side a handful of seconds later, and she engulfed Chloe into a hug before Chloe could even utter anything. 

 

“Hi mom,” she croaked out, her eyes fluttering shut as she released Beca’s hand to hug her back tightly, basking into the instant comfort being in her mom’s arms brought her. 

 

Alice pulled away but kept Chloe at arms’ length, her gaze sweeping over her features. “It’s so good to see you, baby.” Her focus shifted to Beca, and she embraced her next, keeping it a bit shorter. They had met each other before when her parents flew to Atlanta for Chloe’s graduation. “Welcome to our home, Beca.”

 

“Thanks, Mrs. Beale.” 

 

Chloe’s mom glared playfully, tutting. “It’s Alice to you. Come on inside.” 

 

They stepped into the house, a smell Chloe knew well drifting from the kitchen: her dad’s famous lasagna, Chloe’s favorite. 

 

“Hey Chlobear,” her dad greeted as soon as they rounded the corner, smile bright and eyes sparkling as he sat in his electric wheelchair by the couch. 

 

Tears pricked behind Chloe’s eyes, and she crossed the distance between them, bending down to hug him. His working arm drifted up to snake around her back. “Hi, Dad,” she whispered, emotions trapping her voice in her throat. “I’m so happy to see you.” 

 

“Me too, sweetheart,” he murmured, his own voice wavering. “I made your favorite. Well, your mom made your favorite under my supervision, ‘cause she would have messed it up otherwise.” 

 

“Hey,” Chloe’s mom objected, drawing a chuckle from both Chloe and her dad. 

 

Chloe straightened, hitching her thumb over her shoulder. “You remember Beca, right?” 

 

“Of course I do,” Mike confirmed as he made his chair go forward, then extended his hand. “How are you, Beca?” 

 

“Hello Mr. Beale,” Beca greeted, shaking his head. “It’s nice to see you again.” 

 

“You, too. And it’s Mike. No Mr. Beale around this house.” 

 

Beca laughed, nodding. “Got it, Mike.” 

 

“I hope you guys are hungry, we’ve made enough food to last us until next month,” Mike commented as he moved towards the table. 

 

After freshening up, she and Beca sat at the table just as Alice pulled the lasagna out from the oven, then grabbed the salad and the wine bottle from the counter. 

 

“Wine, Beca?” She asked, holding up the bottle. 

 

“I’m good, thanks, though.” 

 

Chloe glanced at her. “You can have some if you want.” 

 

Beca shook her head, smiling softly as she unfolded her napkin and draped it across her lap. “I’m okay, I promise. Water’s fine.” 

 

Chloe caught her parents sharing a confused look over the exchange, and she cleared her throat, knowing it was probably best to get this over with. “Mom, you should probably sit down.” 

 

Concern creased a frown on Alice’s forehead as she set the bottle down and lowered herself next to Chloe’s dad. “What’s going on, Chloe?” 

 

Chloe took a deep breath, and she felt Beca’s hand cover her own under the table. She flipped hers over and wrapped her fingers around Beca’s, grateful for the grounding contact. “I um--” she swallowed, unable to figure out where to start even though she had practiced her speech countless times leading up to their visit. 

 

Shame and guilt rushed through her, digging their claws into her heart and lungs, making it harder to breathe. 

 

“Chloe,” her mother’s voice pierced through the buzzing in Chloe’s ears. Chloe looked up from her plate, finding soft eyes. “Whatever it is, you can tell us.”

 

Chloe closed her eyes and sucked in a sharp breath, forcing herself to own up to her situation by looking at her parents while she spoke. “I have a drug problem. Had. I’m--I’m in recovery. I got out of rehab a couple of months ago.” 

 

A heavy silence settled over the room as Mike and Alice processed the news. Chloe felt like bolting out of the house as she watched her dad swallow thickly, and her mom’s jaw-dropping. She felt a squeeze to her hand and remembered to breathe. 

 

“Oh Chloe,” her mom whispered and got up to sit in the vacant chair on the other side of Chloe, taking her other hand as she tilted her head to the side. “How long have you been struggling?” 

 

Chloe cleared her throat. “About five years. I never-- I never graduated from vet school. I dropped out.” 

 

Her father frowned, his mouth moving wordlessly for a few beats. “But-- the money you gave us for my treatment every month?” 

 

“I was a stripper,” Chloe admitted quietly. “That’s how I got introduced to cocaine. How I met Marco. How I... made so much money.” She was hit by an array of emotions -- shame, fear, and somehow, relief -- right then, and a sob burst out from her throat before she could reign it in. “I’m s-sorry I lied to you for so long.” She released Beca’s hand to cover her mouth, her body shaking as she crumbled under the weight of her feelings. 

 

She didn’t fight it when her mom pulled her into her arms, rubbing her back in slow circles and whispering reassuring words into her ear. “It’s okay, sweetie. Breathe. We love you. No matter what.” 

 

It took a few minutes for Chloe to be able to get her breathing under control, straightening when she did and taking the tissue Beca offered her. 

 

“You must have a lot of questions,” she murmured, licking her dry lips. She still had the baby bomb to drop, but one thing at a time. Thankfully she wasn’t showing that much yet, and her large hoodie kept her small bump concealed. 

 

“Thank you for telling us,” her father murmured, and Chloe saw him wipe a tear away when she looked up. “I can’t imagine how hard that must be, as for deciding to seek help.” 

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t do it before. I was ashamed and lost and--” she shrugged. “I wasn’t myself.” 

 

“How are you feeling now?” Her mom asked softly, pushing Chloe’s hair behind her ear. “You said it’s been two months since rehab?” 

 

Chloe nodded, sniffling. “Ups and downs. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Beca. She’s the one who encouraged me to get help, who paid for rehab, continued paying for your treatment, and I’ve been staying at her place while I get back on my feet.” 

 

Both her parents’ focus shifted to Beca, gratitude swirling in their eyes. 

 

“She’s been incredibly strong and responsible,” Beca said, smiling softly. “Hasn’t missed a therapy session or NA meeting since getting out of rehab.” 

 

“And this Marco…” her dad trailed off in a questioning tone. 

 

“He’s out of my life. He wasn’t a good person, but I failed to realize that.” 

 

“More like he hid it well,” Beca corrected gently. Chloe met her eyes. “Remember what Aubrey and your therapist said about how you didn’t have to blame yourself for that?” 

 

Chloe nodded. “Right.” 

 

“Did he… hurt you?” Mike asked next, a tremor in his voice as he seemed to brace himself for the answer. 

 

“Not physically.” It wasn’t exactly the truth, but Chloe didn’t think that slap was worth mentioning. “Just… emotionally. He knew how to get into my head, and the drugs didn’t help. They have this funny way of having you believe whatever it wants you to. Logic and reason no longer existed for me when I was at my lowest. I was ashamed of lying to you every time we spoke on the phone, but the paranoia over you not wanting to talk to me again if I told you was stronger.” 

 

She was sure her dad had a lot more questions and probably wondered if his treatment and their financial problems pushed Chloe into taking that job, but he remained silent, clearly mulling everything over. 

 

“We could tell you looked tired every time we called, but we never…” Alice trailed off, shaking her head as a few tears rolled down her cheeks when she blinked. “I’m so sorry.” 

 

“No,” Chloe croaked out, having feared this: her parents blaming themselves. Her heart felt incredibly heavy as she sandwiched her mom’s hand between her own, glancing at her dad briefly. “I don’t want you guys to feel guilty and think that you should have noticed. I hid it well, especially the first few years. Then it sort of derailed, that’s why I stopped visiting. Please don’t apologize.” 

 

“Did you take that job because you felt like you had to help us?” Her dad asked, just as Chloe had predicted. “With my treatment?” 

 

Chloe took a deep breath. “I took it because NYC was expensive and I was struggling a bit with rent. And when your health worsened, I asked for more shifts to help out.” She didn’t want to get into what she was asked to do for more money. She couldn’t . Her dad would be eaten away by guilt if he knew how much of a toll working in the VIP room took on her. The whole truth would hurt him more than a small lie. “It’s when I started doing drugs that everything fell apart. It’s not on you, dad. I promise.” 

 

Mike swallowed and ran his hand over his face as he visibly tried to keep a hold on his emotions. “You’re my daughter, you shouldn’t have had to provide for me, or to put yourself first.” 

 

“Dad, please,” Chloe whispered, feeling her throat shrinking. “I wanted to help. I just… made bad choices and met the wrong people. It’s not your fault.” Her eyes found her dad’s. “Please tell me you believe that?” 

 

Her father remained silent for a stretch as he stared at her. He eventually offered a faint nod, but Chloe wasn’t sure if he was being honest. 

 

Her mom reached up to wipe her tears away, sniffling. “What… what can we do to help you through your recovery?” 

 

“Being part of my support system, like you unknowingly have since I got out of rehab,” Chloe murmured with a small smile. “And dealing with more of my visits,” she added, knowing they would both be all for that.

 

“You are always welcome to move back here, Chlo. For as long as you want,” she offered. 

 

“I…” she cleared the rising lump in her throat as she briefly glanced down to her lap. “There’s something else that I need to tell you.” Another deep breath. “I’m four months pregnant. With Marco’s baby. But he’s not going to be involved. I’m going to raise them on my own.” 

 

There. Everything she was ready to share was out there in the open, and Chloe felt incredibly lighter, despite her heartbeat picking up as her parents once again fell silent. She really couldn’t blame them, after everything she had just dumped on them. 

 

“I know it’s a lot,” she added, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “And I know my decision to keep it might come across as strange, but I couldn’t get rid of it, and this baby is giving my life purpose again because I want to be a better person for them.” 

 

“I think you are incredibly brave,” Alice said after a little while, reaching out to catch a tear falling on Chloe’s cheek with the side of her pointer finger. “And I’m failing to find words to express how proud of you I am.” 

 

Chloe sniffled, wiping her nose with the back of her hand as her gaze met her dad’s once more. She could tell he needed more time to work through everything, and maybe they could talk about it some more the next day, once he had slept over it. 

 

“That kid is going to be the most spoiled grandchild of all Newport,” he joked with a soft smile, his words loosening the nerves in Chloe’s stomach.

 

Chloe released a watery giggle. “I love you guys.” 

 

“We love you, too, Chlobear,” her dad murmured, and after embracing her mom tightly, Chloe stood up and rounded the table to hug her dad. 

 

They eventually dug into dinner, the conversation shifting to the baby, whether it was okay, what the risks there were, when was her due date... Her parents offered to turn the office into a nursery if Chloe wanted to move back in with them, to which Chloe answered that she would think about it. She had been concerned about how much the pregnancy and having a newborn baby around would affect Beca’s life and her relationship with Sarah, and this would be another alternative to which Chloe needed to give some serious thought. 

 

Chloe and Beca headed upstairs shortly after dinner, both feeling exhausted as their mind and body were three hours ahead. After showing Beca to the guest room, Chloe changed into her pajamas and washed up for bed, knocking on Beca’s door on her way back to her own bedroom. 

 

She pushed it open upon hearing a soft come in , finding Beca lying on top of the comforter, already changed in her sleeping wear. 

 

“You okay?” She asked, smiling as Chloe sat down on the edge of the mattress. “That went pretty well.” 

 

“Yeah, I…” she swallowed, shaking her head in leftover awe. “I have amazing parents. I didn’t think they would be so understanding.” 

 

“Of course they’re amazing. They raised you.” 

 

Chloe bowed her head as blush bloomed in her cheeks. She cleared her throat. “I think my dad is a bit shaken up and part of him feels to blame, but I’m hoping he and I can talk some more tomorrow.” 

 

Beca nodded. “Yeah. I think that’s a good idea.” 

 

Chloe let out a small sigh, and she reached out to squeeze Beca’s hand. “Thanks again for coming here with me.” 

 

“Not a problem. I’m hoping you’ll show me around the town at some point, take me to your favorite spots.” 

 

“We can definitely do that tomorrow,” Chloe agreed, her smile genuine. “Goodnight, Bec.” 

 

“Night Chloe. Night Bean.” 

Chapter Text

Beca woke up the next morning to the birds singing, which was odd, until she remembered she wasn’t in NYC, but in Oregon, at Chloe’s parents’. A glance at her phone told her she had slept later than she usually did, and she burrowed herself deeper beneath the covers, exhaling a sigh. 

 

The smell of breakfast eventually lured out of the warm cocoon, and she made a stop at the bathroom before heading downstairs. 

 

Chloe’s mom was cooking at the stove, and she looked over her shoulder when Beca approached. “Oh, good morning, Beca. Did you sleep well?” 

 

Beca wasn’t usually one to talk in the mornings, at least not before she had her morning coffee, but she mustered a smile and made an effort. “Morning. Yes, thank you.” 

 

“Chloe told me you drank coffee in the morning. I put a mug out for you on the table, there’s fresh coffee in the pot. You like pancakes?” She asked as she flipped one in her pan. 

 

Beca could tell where Chloe (or at least college Chloe) got her morning energy from, and she stifled a chuckle as she moved to pour herself a much-needed cup. “Yeah. Pancakes sound great.” She leaned against the counter, cradling her mug between her palms. “Where’s Chloe?” 

 

“Talking with her dad out on the back porch,” Alice said, adding the freshly made pancake to the pile. She turned off the stove and wiped her hands on her apron, focusing on Beca. “We didn’t have the chance to yesterday, but Mike and I wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for what you did for Chloe. Thank you really doesn’t feel like enough. I’m not sure where she’d be without you.” 

 

“You really don’t need to thank me. I’m just glad she’s doing better.” 

 

“And for taking over those payments, too. It-- it feels like too much and…” 

 

Beca shook her head. “Like I said to Chloe, it really is okay, Mrs. Bea-- Alice. I don’t want to flaunt my money around, but I’m more than able to spare 2000 dollars a month, and I’m happy to spend it helping people who need it, like you and Mike. So please, accept it?” She smiled softly. “I know how much you mean to Chloe, and I’d do anything for her.” 

 

Before Alice could reply, the door at the back of the kitchen opened and Chloe stepped inside, holding it open to let her father wheel in. She cast Beca a smile. “Hey, you. Sleep well? Mom didn’t attack you with questions, did she? I told her you needed coffee first.” 

 

“I behaved myself,” Alice mumbled, sticking her tongue out before going back to her pancakes. 

 

Beca chuckled. “She did.” 

 

After breakfast, Beca helped herself to a shower, before Chloe whisked her away to show her around town. They drove down the main street, and Chloe parked in front of the local high school, cutting the ignition and stepping out. . 

 

“I feel like you were Head Cheerleader,” Beca said as she shut the door. The smell of the ocean made her smile and breathe in deeply. It was really nice to get out of the city for a bit. 

 

Chloe smirked, shaking her head as they headed down the sidewalk of what looked like the main street. “Nope.” 

 

“Softball? You had to be some sort of athlete.” 

 

“Wrong again.” 

 

Beca hummed as she thought. “Track?” 

 

Chloe slipped her hands inside her jacket pockets, walking backward so she was facing Beca. “You’re looking at Oregon’s 400m State Champion for the year 2006.” 

 

Beca’s jaw dropped. “ Seriously ? How come you never told me that??” 

 

Chloe’s shoulders lifted in a shrug. “Never came up. I’ll show you my trophy when we get home.” She pointed across the street. “This is the cafe my friends and I went to every weekend to gossip about the boys.” 

 

“Gossiping about boys, huh?” Beca asked, smirking. “Who was your high school crush?” 

 

“This guy named Ian. He was on the swimming team.” 

 

Beca cut her a glance. “You guys ever dated?” 

 

“He asked me out once. Then he asked another girl to prom. I was heartbroken.” 

 

“Aw.” Beca grinned. “Did you cross off the love doodles featuring his name from your notebooks while belting out to songs from your break-up playlist?”

 

Chloe shoved her shoulder as Beca laughed. “Shut up. I didn’t have a break-up playlist.” 

 

“But you had one for songs you liked getting off to?” Beca couldn’t help but tease. “Weirdo.” 

 

A bright laugh burst past Chloe’s lips. “I can’t believe I burst into your shower.” 

 

A fond smile spread across Beca’s features at the memory. “And I can’t believe I still auditioned knowing my stalker was part of the group.” 

 

“I wasn’t a stalker!” Chloe cried, her jaw-dropping. She giggled. “I just… sort of ignored the boundaries.” 

 

“Which is what stalkers do,” Beca pointed out with another smirk. “It’s cool. I’m glad you did, in hindsight. I got to meet the people who would end up becoming my best friends for life.” 

 

Chloe narrowed her eyes, amusement flashing in her features. “When did you get so cheesy?” 

 

A groan flitted past Beca’s lips. “Ugh. Gross, right?” 

 

As Chloe laughed, Beca realized how much she had missed the banter. Every little piece of Chloe Beale surfacing never failed to make her smile. 

 

Chloe’s step faltered when they came across a baby shop, her eyes lingering on the window. 

 

Beca smiled, nudging Chloe’s shoulder with her own. “We can go in if you want?” 

 

A matching smile spread across Chloe’s features as she nodded, and they both stepped inside the medium-sized store.

 

“Jesus, kids need that much stuff?” Beca asked as she glanced around the various items, muttering an apology when the employee glanced at her. 

 

Stifling a giggle, Chloe headed to the onesie section and browsed through the rack. “Oh Bec, look,” she said, holding up a simple, white onesie that read little bean in cool lettering. The smile that lit up Chloe’s face as she looked at the item was the first one Beca had seen reach her eyes since Chloe had been back in her life and the sight of it made her heart swell.

 

Chloe must have felt her staring, and she glanced up curiously. “What?”

 

“Nothing,” she cleared her throat. “You’re just… glowing.”

 

“I think you should get it,” she added not to make it awkward. “It’s adorable.”

 

After their stop at the store, she and Chloe headed to the wharf for lunch. It was a sunny, warm spring day, and they sat on a bench in front of the sea to eat their sandwiches as Chloe shared more memories about growing up in her hometown. 

 

“So how did you and Sarah meet?” Chloe asked following a lull in the conversation. 

 

Beca finished chewing her bite and swallowed, washing it down with a sip of soda. “I used to go to the coffee shop pretty often for lunch. We would talk for a bit each time. I was clueless to her flirting, it was only when she left her number that I realized she was into me.” 

 

Chloe chuckled, eyeing her with a raised eyebrow. “You? Clueless to flirting? That doesn’t sound right.” 

 

Beca’s eyes rolled skyward as she fought back a smile. “Bite me, Beale.” 

 

Chloe giggled. “Sorry. She seems like a great girl, though.” 

 

“Yeah,” Beca breathed out, trying to ignore the way her stomach flipped. “She really is.” 

 

And she meant that. She cared a lot about Sarah, but ever since their talk about a month ago, she had been questioning her own commitment to their relationship, going back and forth about what she wanted. The fact that she had been so oblivious about Sarah’s needs to take the next step because she felt comfortable with where they were at was the first red flag that she wasn’t all in. 

 

People should feel the need to move forward after fourteen months together, right? 

 

Sarah was kind, funny, loving, and everything Beca imagined in a significant other, but whenever she found herself trying to picture their life down the road, two, five, ten years from now, her mind went blank. 

 

“You okay?” Chloe asked, her head tilted as she gazed at Beca. 

 

“Yeah,” Beca breathed out, shaking those thoughts out of her head and focusing back on Chloe. She cleared her throat. “What’s next on the list, Beale?” 

 

After buying ice-creams from her favorite shop, Chloe took her to her favorite beach, and they headed home around three, as Chloe felt like taking a nap. 

 

Over the next two days at her parents’, they baked, took walks in the forest or by the sea, and had movie nights with Alice and Mike. Beca made sure to give the three some family time as well, spending a couple of hours every day working on her laptop in the guest room. 

 

That last night in Oregon, she found Chloe on the swingset in the garden, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Beca approached with two hot chocolates, handing one over before lowering herself on the other swing. 

 

“I’ve yet to find a prettier sky than this one,” Chloe mused aloud, craning her neck to look at the starry darkness above them as she cradled her mug between her palms. 

 

“It’s pretty dope,” Beca agreed softly. She glanced at Chloe, and finally plucked the courage to word the thought that had been going in a loop in her mind since their first night in Newport. “Have you given some thought about moving back here?” 

 

She was hoping Chloe would stay with her, to be completely honest. They had just rekindled, and Beca didn’t want her to live on the other side of the country. She could also feel some sort of attachment to Bean, which sounded ridiculous as they weren’t even born yet. But she also understood that Chloe might want to be with her parents, someplace that is close to her heart.

 

“I don’t know yet,” Chloe admitted, clearing her throat. “I’m concerned about disrupting their lives with a newborn baby. Mom’s already got so much on her plate with taking care of dad, and I don’t know if me being around while I’m still recovering is the smartest idea, with my dad feeling so guilty. I want him to focus on his health. But I guess it would be simpler, right? For you, I mean.” 

 

Beca shook her head. “I told you you could stay as long as you’d like. My place is your home, and I…” she cleared her throat, shrugging as her gaze flickered back to the stars. “I like having you around.”

 

“I like living with you, too,” Chloe admitted, smiling softly. “And I like my therapist and my NA group.” 

 

And having a routine was essential for a recovering addict. 

 

“Then it feels like a no-brainer,” Beca concluded, the edges of her lips curling into a smile.

 

“What about Sarah?” Chloe asked after a moment. “Are you sure she’s okay with me living with you?” 

 

The mention of Sarah made Beca’s heart squeeze with guilt. The last few days only further confirmed how she felt. She wasn’t missing her like she was probably supposed to, even though it had been ten days since they had last seen one another, as Beca had been too busy to do anything besides working, eating and sleeping that week leading up to their trip. 

 

She had been sending Sarah check-in texts because she felt like she had to, not because she wanted to. 

 

Beca needed to sack up and be honest with Sarah, something she had been delaying because she was a coward and terrified of breaking her heart. But she knew deep down she was doing more harm than good right now by running away from how she truly felt. 

 

She knew deep down, that Sarah deserved someone better.  

 

“Yeah,” she replied absent-mindedly, swallowing, then mustering a smile. “Don’t worry about that.” 

 

She sent a text to Sarah later that night, asking if she could come over after they landed in NYC tomorrow night. The following morning, she and Chloe grabbed an early breakfast, as they needed to be in Portland at ten. 

 

“You’re welcome back here anytime, Beca,” Alice said, pulling back from the hug. 

 

A genuine smile spread across Beca’s features. “Thanks, Alice.” 

 

“Bye dad,” Chloe murmured, leaning in to hug him tightly. 

 

Mike closed his eyes and hugged her back. “Safe travels, Chlobear. Love you.” 

 

“Love you, too. So much.” She embraced her mom next, echoing the same sentiment before sliding into the passenger seat and shutting the door behind her. 

 

Beca slid behind the wheel and started the car, pulling out of the driveway and onto the main road as Chloe waved to her parents. 

 

“You okay?” She asked after a moment, glancing at Chloe briefly. 

 

“Yeah, I’m good,” Chloe replied with a firm nod. “Thanks for coming with me.” 

 

“No problem. A break from the city was pretty nice.” 

 

They landed in NYC a little bit after 8 pm. Beca had the cabbie drop Chloe off at her apartment, then headed to Sarah’s, riding the elevator to her floor. 

 

She knocked on the door and stepped back, wiping her sweaty palms over the denim of her jeans. Her stomach was in knots, and she wished she could fast-forward the next twenty minutes or so. The door swung open a few seconds later, Sarah standing on the other side. 

 

“Hey you,” she greeted with a small smile. 

 

“Hey,” Beca murmured, kissing Sarah’s cheek out of habit on her way inside. “How was your day?” 

 

“Same old,” Sarah said as she shut the door, then moved towards the kitchen. “How was the trip? You want a beer?”

 

“It was nice,” Beca replied as she followed, leaning against the counter. “No thanks, I’m good.” She took a deep breath, knowing she had to do this now before she chickened out. 

 

“What’s up?” Sarah asked as she closed the fridge and turned around, leaning against the opposite counter.

 

Beca cleared her throat, nibbling on the inside of her cheek. “So, um. I’ve been thinking a lot about us moving in together and I…” Honesty. Honesty was the best policy. Rip off the band-aid. “I don’t see myself getting there.”

 

Sarah visibly swallowed, and she nodded slowly, glancing down at the floor for a few beats. Given her reaction, Beca could tell she had been sort of expecting it.

 

“I’m sorry,” Beca murmured, a lump rising in her throat. “I know I gave you false hope by saying we would figure something out, I just wasn’t sure how I felt up until recently.” She grimaced. “The last thing I want is to hurt you. But you deserve someone who can be all in.”

 

The tear running down Sarah’s face broke Beca’s heart. She blinked back her own, exhaling slowly. She had expected Sarah to yell, to shout things at her for leading her own, but to her surprise, Sarah remained scarily calm. Stoic, even. Her reply stunned Beca into silence.

 

“Like you seem to be all in with Chloe?”

 

“What?” 

 

Sarah’s eyes rolled towards the ceiling. “You’re oblivious to that, too?” When Beca didn’t say anything, she released a soft laugh. It was anything but humorous. “I see the way you look at her, Bec," she croaked out. "I know the both of you living together was something that just happened because Chloe didn’t have anywhere to stay, but I can tell you like having her around. I can tell you have feelings, even if you don’t seem to realize it yet. I was hoping I was wrong, but you not hesitating on going on that trip when we hadn’t seen each other in over a week made it pretty clear that Chloe would always come first.” 

 

Beca’s brain was stuck on the first part. Did she really look at Chloe differently? Feelings? She cared about her, sure, but-- “That’s not—”

 

Sarah swiped her palm over her cheeks, nodding. “And you’re right. I deserve someone who looks at me the way you look at Chloe. Like I’m their person. Someone who loves me as much as I love them.” 

 

“Me ending things doesn’t have anything to do with Chloe,” Beca said softly, truly believing that. She knew the next words were going to sting, but she needed Sarah to believe it, too. “I just… don’t see this going anywhere.” She hung her head, feeling like the worst person in the world for breaking someone’s heart. “I’m sorry, Sarah.” 

 

“Yeah. Me, too.” Sarah cleared her throat, pinching her lips together for a moment, seemingly trying to keep a hold on her emotions. “I think you should go.” 

 

Beca nodded, another apology laying on the top of her tongue. She swallowed it back knowing it probably wouldn’t make Sarah feel any better, and pushed to her feet, quietly walking out of Sarah’s apartment. 

Chapter Text

Chloe was surprised to hear music drifting through the apartment when she got home from her late-afternoon NA meeting that Thursday evening. 

 

It had been four days since they had come back from Oregon, and Beca had spent most of her time at the label, often coming home after Chloe was down for the night and leaving before she was up. She always left a note and texted Chloe throughout the day to check on her, but Chloe could tell something was off. 

 

She rounded the corner to find Beca cooking at the stove, and smiled. “Hi.” 

 

“Hey you,” Beca greeted with a matching smile. “You hungry? Making a stir-fry.” 

 

“Starving. This baby is making me eat for three,” Chloe mumbled as she walked past Beca to pluck a bottle of sparkling water from the fridge. She uncapped it and took a sip, leaning against the counter. “Are you alright? I couldn’t help but notice you’ve seemed off since we got back.” 

 

Beca nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. I uh,” she cleared her throat as she reached for two plates in the cupboard over her head. “I broke up with Sarah the other night.” 

 

Chloe’s eyes popped wider in shock. “Oh.” 

 

Beca set both plates on the island, then opened the cutlery drawer. “Yeah… and I kinda threw myself into work, because that’s what I do to cope with my emotions.” She grimaced again, meeting Chloe’s eyes. “I’m sorry I haven’t been around much.” 

 

Chloe shook her head. “No, no, it’s okay. I’m sorry, Bec.” She wondered what the reason for the break-up was, but she doubted Beca wanted to get into that. “Are you sure you’re okay?” 

 

“Thanks. Yeah. It’s, um, life, right?” She shrugged a little as she turned off the stove. “We just weren’t looking for the same thing.” 

 

Chloe nodded slowly, then pushed off the counter. “Okay. I’m here if you wanna talk, alright?” She hitched her thumb over her shoulder. “I’m just going to freshen up, I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.” 

 

Beca had scooped food into each plate and poured water into two glasses when she got back clad in comfier clothes, and Chloe perched herself on the stool across from Beca. 

 

“Thanks for making dinner,” she murmured as she dug in.

 

“No problem. Did your NA meeting go okay?” Beca asked as she stabbed a couple of vegetables with her fork. 

 

Chloe chewed and swallowed, then took a sip of her water. “Yeah, it went fine. My sponsor is amazing. We’re meeting for coffee tomorrow morning. Well, tea for me.” Decaf just wasn’t the same.

 

“Cool.” Beca smiled. “I was thinking we could get a start on the nursery soon? Have you thought of a color for the walls?”

 

“You wanna paint the walls?” Chloe asked in surprise. “We don’t have to do that, you know. I don’t want you to be stuck with a nursery-looking room once Bean and I move out.” 

 

Beca shrugged. “I have another guest room, and I kinda want Bean to have their own room whenever you guys come to visit.” 

 

Chloe’s heart swelled against her ribs. She wasn’t sure what she had done to deserve someone like Beca back in her life, but she wasn’t going to screw it up this time around. And she had thought about what she wanted Bean’s nursery to look like, but didn’t allow herself to daydream about it until now. “I like those beige walls the way they are, but I was thinking of a woodland theme? Something gender-neutral, for sure. A few animal frames, maybe an animal mobile above the crib?” 

 

“That sounds nice,” Beca said, smiling. “Are you going to find out the sex at your next appointment?” 

 

“I think so, yeah.” 

 

“That’s the 26th at 3, right?” Beca asked, surprising Chloe once more. Upon catching her look, Beca added, “I wrote it down in my planner.” 

 

It was one thing to have written down, another to remember it off the bat like that, but Chloe didn’t even know why she was surprised. Beca had been nothing short of amazing since Chloe decided to keep the baby, between keeping track of the baby’s growth on her app or making sure to pick up ginger ale every time she went grocery shopping.

 

“Oh. Yeah, the 26th at 3.” 

 

As Chloe further settled into her second trimester, her constant exhaustion gradually faded away. She felt more energized from the start of her fifteenth week, which felt like a breath of fresh air. As her OBGYN saw nothing against it, she started each day with a morning fitness walk followed by a yoga session, then settled down to have some breakfast as she read her book. After lunch, she either had a therapy session or an NA meeting, except for Wednesdays and over the weekend. 

 

The cravings were still there, sitting somewhere at the back of her mind, but she continued pushing through, for the baby’s sake first and foremost, but also because she didn’t want to disappoint her support system and risk losing them forever if she did fall back into old habits. The taunting was strong, every time she walked in front of the liquor store or a familiar street corner where she would get the good stuff, but she resisted, and never hesitated to call Aubrey or her parents when her resolve wobbled a bit too much for her liking. 

 

“Shit,” Chloe muttered as she tried buttoning her pants up, her more than noticeable belly getting in the way. She had just reached 17 weeks, and her bump seemed to have popped a little more overnight. So had her boobs. She could also start to feel some movement going on in there, which was absolutely mind-blowing. 

 

Not ready to accept defeat yet, Chloe grunted at the effort of bringing these two stupid pieces of fabric closer together, exhaling with a sigh when they didn’t budge. 

 

“Chlo?” Beca called out, a knock on Chloe’s bedroom door following. “We should get going.” 

 

“I know, I just-- can’t get my pants to button,” Chloe muttered with a huff. 

 

A pause. “Can I come in?” 

 

“Yeah.” 

 

The door was pushed open, and Beca appeared, leaning against the frame. 

 

She Beca looked amused, causing Chloe to glare at her. “Maybe wear a dress?” 

 

Chloe’s nose wrinkled. “I only have stripper dresses.” That she should definitely donate, or get rid of. 

 

Beca hummed. “Mesh shorts?” 

 

“I guess, yeah.” 

 

“We can go buy some stuff after your appointment if you want?” Beca suggested as Chloe wrestled out of her jeans and slid on a pair of shorts Beca lent her. 

 

“Yeah, definitely.” She needed bras, too. “Okay, I’m ready.” 

 

As her last ultrasound at 13 weeks, Chloe didn’t have to change when they got there, and she laid down on the cot as they waited for the tech to come in. Beca stood by her side, scrolling through her phone. 

 

“So the Bellas’ results are in: 6 say boy, 4 say girl. I said girl.” 

 

Chloe had broken the news to the girls when they came back from Oregon and had once again received nothing but support. Bets started coming in over the gender, the due date, and whether Bean was going to come out with ginger hair. 

 

Chloe chuckled as she rubbed her bump with her palm. “You only said girl because I told you I felt like it was a girl.” 

 

Beca smirked. “They don’t have to know that.” Her expression softened as she pocketed her phone. “You excited to find out?” 

 

“Yeah,” Chloe breathed out. She was more anxious to hear about how Bean was doing and braced herself for bad news. 

 

“Hi there,” the tech greeted as she came in. “How are you doing, Chloe?” 

 

“Good. Hungry all the time.” 

 

The other woman laughed as she rolled the ultrasound machine closer. “Let’s take a look at that baby. Can you lift your top up for me and lower your shorts a little bit?” 

 

Chloe did so, reaching for Beca’s hand as the tech squirted some of that cold gel onto her tummy. 

 

“Alright, let’s see…” the woman drawled out as she moved the wand until she got the perspective she wanted. “Here we go.” 

 

“Oh my gosh, they got so big,” Chloe murmured in awe. 

 

“They’re moving around quite a bit,” the tech observed with a smile, pointing at the baby’s kicking legs. 

 

Beca gasped and tore her eyes away from the screen to glance at Chloe. “Can you feel that?” 

 

“Yeah,” Chloe confirmed, blinking back the tears pricking behind her eyes. “Feels like butterflies taking off in my belly.” 

 

“Strong heartbeat,” the tech continued. “Baby’s in the perfect position to tell their gender if you want to know?” 

 

“Yes, please,” Chloe said with a nod. 

 

“Looks like you’re having a baby girl, Chloe.” 

 

“A girl?” Chloe croaked out, a lump rising to her throat. The gender didn’t matter to her but knowing made it feel a thousand percent more real. She felt a squeeze to her hand and found Beca smiling down at her. “We’re in trouble. I was a handful as a kid.”

 

Beca chuckled. “If she has your eyes, I definitely am in trouble. Won’t be able to say no to anything she asks for, I’m warning you now.” 

 

The way they talked, it almost sounded like they were going to raise Bean together, and Chloe’s heart did another funny thing. Over the last couple of weeks, she had been experiencing weird feelings for Beca that went beyond the friendship line, but she was convinced it was just her hormones acting up like they did with her libido. Chloe felt aroused pretty much all the time, it was getting ridiculous. She also cried in front of a Budweiser commercial because the puppies were cute, so her body and emotions were definitely out of whack. 

 

The doctor came in shortly after, easing Chloe’s worries when she assured her the baby looked healthy, with normal measurements all around. They scheduled another ultrasound four weeks from now, and she and Beca were on their way with three copies of the ultrasound, one for Chloe, one to put on the fridge, and one Beca requested to store in her wallet. 

 

Beca drove them to Target next, and instead of heading to the maternity clothing section, Chloe went straight for the baby stuff, pulling a chuckle from Beca as she pushed the cart alongside. 

 

“Okay, I wanna buy everything,” Chloe mused aloud as she put a onesie back on the rack, even though she found it adorable.

 

“I know you’re still uncomfortable with it, but please don’t restrain yourself because it’s my money,” Beca said, as though reading Chloe’s thoughts. “I haven’t really had anyone to spend it on, so it’s my pleasure to get Bean whatever they need. Crib, car seat, changing table, stroller, clothes… you name it.” She smirked, nodding towards the rack. “So get that rainbow onesie, because it’s the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.” 

 

Chloe giggled and nodded, her eyes shining with unspoken gratitude before she reached for the onesie. It was scary to think of how small her baby girl was going to be as a newborn, and Chloe was so glad she wasn’t doing this on her own. 

 

She selected five more, all animal-themed ones, then moved onto shirts and pants, showing Beca what she thought was cute to get her avail. She kept in mind that the Bellas and her parents were probably going to go overboard with gifts and paced herself on the quantity of stuff she dropped into the cart. 

 

“I feel like we should get the crib, stroller, and car seat from like, a special store?” Beca chimed in as they strolled through the blankets/swaddles section. She scrunched up her nose. “I don’t think I trust Target brands when it comes to sturdiness. I actually strumbled across a car seat that looks amazing, it goes from that to a stroller in just a few folds and clicks.” 

 

Chloe cast her an amused look. “How did you stumble across that, exactly?” 

 

Beca’s cheeks reddened. “By looking up the best strollers on the market.” She cleared her throat when Chloe giggled. “I just have a lot of time to kill on the subway.” Another grimace. “Is that too invasive?” 

 

Chloe shook her head, reaching out to rest her hand on Beca’s forearm. The contact of her skin under her fingertips made Chloe swallow as her body immediately reacted. Freaking hormones. “Not at all. I promise.” 

 

Chloe managed to walk away from the baby part of the store before she bought the whole thing, and headed to the maternity wear, buying a couple of jeans with an elastic waistband, a belly band, a few bras, and a pregnancy pillow. 

 

“Your total is $843,50,” the cashier announced once he had rung everything up, and Chloe swallowed thickly, glancing at Beca with slightly wider eyes. 

 

“It’s fine, Chlo,” Beca insisted as she swiped her credit card through the device. She thanked the cashier and grabbed most of the bags, letting Chloe carry the two lighter ones. Everything easily fit into Beca’s large trunk, and Chloe slid in the passenger seat, buckling up. “Any particular craving for dinner? We can stop for take-out on the way home,” Beca said as she slid her sunglasses over her nose before pulling out of their parking spot.

 

“I could go for a burger and fries. And a milkshake.” 

 

Beca grinned. “Cool, I’ll stop at Shake Shack.” 

 

Once they got home, they hauled everything upstairs and stored it in the nursery for now, and Chloe changed into sweatpants and Beca’s Bellas hoodie which she had never given back, picking an episode of The Office for them to watch. 

 

“Oh, I forgot,” Beca said after they were done eating, pushing to her feet. “Stay put.” 

 

Chloe did as she was told, giving Beca a curious look when she walked back to the couch with a package. Setting her milkshake on the coffee table, Chloe plucked it from her hands. “What’s this?” 

 

“A little something for Bean,” Beca murmured as she sat back down beside her, folding one leg underneath and hugging the other to her chest. “I ordered it when we got back from Oregon and forgot to give it to you.” 

 

Chloe ripped the tape over the opening and peered inside, fishing the box out. “Belly headphones?” She asked even though that’s what it said on it, her voice wavering slightly as emotions once again rose to her throat. She could blame that on the hormones too, right? 

 

Beca nodded. “I read that babies can hear from 18 weeks on, and I thought it would be cool if Bean listened to music before she’s born. And you know nobody takes picking out a pair of headphones as seriously as I do, so I thought I was the right guy for the job.” 

 

A watery chuckle burst past Chloe’s lips. “This is amazing. Thank you .” She leaned forward to hug Beca, holding her tight. Her scent did another number on Chloe, and she inhaled sharply, willing her body to chill out as she backed away. “For this, and for today…” She couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled so much. “I really don’t know what to say besides thank you.” 

 

“You’re welcome, Chlo,” Beca said, a soft smile curving her lips. “I’m just happy you’re finding your way back step by step.” 

 

Chloe nodded, exhaling. The light at the end of the tunnel was just in sight, and while it was another long way to reach it, she felt like she could, and that on its own felt like a victory. 

Chapter Text

It didn’t take long for Beca to realize that Sarah was right. 

 

She probably had been oblivious to her feelings for Chloe or chalked them up to close friendship because Sarah was in the picture, but as soon as her guilt over breaking-up with Sarah faded away a couple of weeks ago, it felt as though a veil lifted. 

 

Her whole being lit up every time she saw Chloe, and she craved those soft moments with her, either talking about Bean, or working on the nursery, or cuddling up on the couch. 

 

Beca didn’t know if Chloe felt the same way, and even if she did, she was probably miles away from being ready to launch into a relationship, between the baby and her recovery. 

 

She focused on her music in the meantime, writing three more songs to go with that one piece she came up with the day after she saw Chloe again. One was about being brave, another about getting redemption, and the last one about finding happiness. All about Chloe, and how much her journey inspired Beca. 

 

Beca came home pretty late from the office that night, wrapping up the final versions of all four songs with Luke. She found Chloe on the couch watching a sitcom and padded over. Chloe was now shy of 22 weeks and sporting the most adorable baby bump. 

 

They had worked on the nursery over the last two weekends, hanging cute, colorful pictures of several woodland animals and sticking colorful, minimalist tree wall decals on the opposite wall. The crib, changing table, and car seat had been ordered, and Beca was planning a surprise baby shower with Aubrey, a month after the Bellas reunion, which was taking place in two weeks at a cabin upstate. 

 

“Hey,” Beca murmured, plopping down beside her. “How was your day?” 

 

“Pretty good. Bean and I went for a walk, then we met up with Aubrey for lunch, and napped for most of the afternoon. She’s kicking like crazy right now, though.” 

 

Beca grinned. “Yeah?” She cleared her throat, hesitant. “Can I… feel?” 

 

“Of course,” Chloe said softly, taking Beca’s hand and setting it on the left side of her stomach. “That’s where her foot was just a second ago.” 

 

Beca folded her legs under her and sat back on her heels to be more comfortable, silence descending upon them as they waited. After a minute, she glanced at Chloe. “Maybe it’s not strong enough to be felt from the outside, yet?” 

 

“No, it’s not that. I think she’s stopped.” 

 

“Oh,” Beca let out in slight disappointment. Just as she was about to pull her hand away, she felt a light tap against her palm and gasped. “Oh my god, I felt it!” 

 

A giggle burst from Chloe’s mouth. “That was a strong one.” 

 

“That’s amazing,” Beca mused aloud, her voice sticking to her throat a bit. Yes, she was about to cry over Chloe’s baby kicking, that’s how soft this whole thing had made her. “Jesus Beale, your kid is turning me into a giant puddle of mush.” 

 

Chloe chuckled, moving Beca’s hand to a new spot and keeping hers on top. Bean kicked again, pulling another gasp from Beca. 

 

“Does it hurt?” Beca found herself asking, her gaze sweeping upwards to watch Chloe’s expression. 

 

“It’s a little bit uncomfortable whenever she kicks in the ribs, but other than that, no.” Chloe moved her hand to another spot, tracking the next kick. “How was your day? You’re home pretty late.” 

 

“Yeah, Luke and I added the finishing touches to my EP.” 

 

Chloe’s eyes lit up. “When is it going to be out?” 

 

“We still have to get the art for the cover, so probably in a couple of weeks, right after the Bellas reunion.” Chloe nodded slowly. “Are you excited to see the girls?” 

 

“I’m… a bit nervous to be honest. What are they gonna think?” 

 

Beca smiled. “They’re going to think that you’re a badass.” Chloe broke eye-contact, shaking her head as looked down to her lap. “Hey, I’m serious. None of them are going to judge you. And just like Aubrey and I, they’re going to be so happy to have you back in their lives.” 

 

Chloe hesitantly met her gaze. “You really think so?” 

 

A firm nod. “I know so.” 

 

Chloe managed a smile and a faint nod. “Okay.” 

 

The following two weeks were busy for Beca as she focused on promoting her EP and tied some loose ends before the Bellas reunion so she wouldn’t be bothered that weekend. Early on that mid-August Saturday morning, they set off to Lake Placid, having planned to meet the Bellas there by lunchtime. Chloe didn’t mention anything, but Beca could tell she was nervous from all the cooking she had done in the past few days, enough to feed an army. 

 

She was glad, however, that Chloe used that as a stress-reliever as opposed to falling back into bad habits. 

 

They made it to the cabin Beca rented just before 1 pm, and Beca heard Chloe suck in a sharp breath as soon as she killed the engine, her expression similar to when they made it to her parents’ two months ago.

 

“It’ll be okay,” Beca murmured, covering Chloe’s hand with her own and squeezing it. She was a bit worried about there being alcohol, as Chloe insisted they shouldn’t have to restrain themselves for her sake. 

 

“Thanks,” Chloe breathed out, flipping her hand over and holding Beca’s for a moment. “Okay, let’s do this.” 

 

Most of them had made it there last night as they were flying in, shouts and laughter carrying from the backyard, where the outdoor pool was. It was sunny and way too hot for Beca’s liking, but she didn’t say a word, as being pregnant in that weather was definitely worse. 

 

If Chloe was uncomfortable with the temperature, she didn’t let it show, looking gorgeous in her yellow maternity summer dress. 

 

Stepping inside, they set the food bags on the kitchen island and Beca walked towards the open bay window, Chloe following behind. 

 

“Hey nerds,” she called out as she stepped out on the patio just as Amy made a cannonball, the splashing water nearly drenching her. “Dude!” 

 

“Sup Shortstack?” Amy greeted as she emerged a few beats later. 

 

“Chloe!” Beca turned around to see Stacie striding over and hugging Chloe tightly. “I’ve missed you.” 

 

“Hey Stace,” Chloe murmured, embracing her back. “I’ve missed you, too.” 

 

As Beca had predicted, the Bellas took it all in one stride, greeting Chloe like it hadn’t been over six years since they last saw one another and making her feel like a part of the group without a second thought. 

 

Now able to relax, Beca helped herself to a drink, watching from afar as Chloe met Stacie’s three-year-old daughter for the first time, a fond smile etched in her features. It was clear from that first exchange with Bella that Chloe would rock this mom thing, given how much of a natural she was around kids. 

 

After lunch, the girls made the most of the pool, either playing various games in the water or sunbathing in the lounge chairs. Beca was content soaking it all in at the table, sipping on a margarita. Her gaze often wandered to Chloe as she chatted with Jessica while reclining on a chair, clad in a bikini with one hand rubbing her belly. 

 

It was easy for her thoughts to escape towards what it could be if she and Chloe were to become something more. Raising Bean together, buying a house somewhere outside the city, getting a dog, possibly getting married...

 

“Oi, Mitchell.” 

 

Beca snapped out of her reverie, clearing her throat in embarrassment as Stacie plopped down next to her. “What’s up, Stace?” 

 

“You good?” She asked, cocking an eyebrow. “You looked like you were having a moment.” 

 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Beca assured her and smiled, setting her drink down before pushing to her feet. She wanted to get in on the pool action, but her bathing suit was upstairs in her overnight bag. “I’m gonna go change.” 

 

“Be quiet if you’re going upstairs?” Stacie asked. “I just put Bella down for her nap.” 

 

“No problem.” 

 

Beca headed to her room and changed into her bikini, sliding her denim shorts back on and grabbing her sunscreen as she didn’t want to resemble a lobster tonight. As she quietly headed down the hallway towards the stairs, she couldn’t help but freeze when she heard her name behind a door left slightly ajar. 

 

“Feelings? For Beca?” 

 

It was Aubrey’s voice. Beca knew she shouldn’t eavesdrop, but she really couldn’t get her feet to move, curiosity rooting them down. 

 

A sigh that belonged to Chloe followed. “I was convinced it was just my hormones going wild at first. But then something happened the other night when she felt Bean kick for the first time. You should have seen her reaction, Bree... she was completely moved by it, and it’s like I felt my heart double in size. And I think about her non-stop, even when I need to… take care of myself.” 

 

“Oh my god, ew, Chloe!” Aubrey hissed while Beca nearly choked on her saliva, her entire body feeling as though it just caught on fire. “I don’t need to hear that .” 

 

“I’m sorry!” Chloe whispered, stifling a laugh. “What I mean by that is that it’s not just platonic love or gratitude because of everything she did for me lately. I’m physically attracted to her, too. It feels exactly the same as it did in Barden.” 

 

Beca’s heart stuttered at that. Chloe had feelings for her back then, too? 

 

“Are you going to tell her?” Aubrey asked softly. 

 

“I…” Chloe hesitated. “I want to. But I’m just getting my life back together, I’m not ready for a relationship yet. And I’m also… scared she might not feel the same way.” 

 

Beca forced herself to walk away, knowing that what she was doing wasn’t right. Her brain reeled from the onslaught of information all evening long. She was physically there, but her mind felt thousands of miles away, her thoughts going back and forth between that night at Barden, and if she should tell Chloe about how she felt. 

 

She retreated to her room before the others, not that it surprised anyone as she was, along with Aubrey, considered the grandma of the group. She had just slipped into bed when a knock sounded at the door.

 

“Come in,” she called out softly. 

The door opened just wide enough for Chloe to step inside, and she shut it behind her, padding over to the bed. “You okay? You’ve seemed off tonight.” 

 

Beca nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay. I promise.” She patted the space next to her. “Wanna hang out here for a bit?” 

 

As Chloe nodded and shuffled to lie next to her atop the covers, Beca felt her heartbeat quicken. It was odd, knowing for certain Chloe had feelings for her and holding the cards in her own hands. 

 

“Today was a lot of fun,” Chloe murmured as she sat propped against the pillows, bracing a hand over her stomach. “You were right. The girls don’t care about my past.” 

 

“Well, your past doesn’t define you,” Beca said with a soft smile. “I’m glad you’re having a good time.” 

 

“Are you nervous about tomorrow? About your EP coming out?” 

 

Beca shook her head. “Not really. I didn’t write those songs with the goal to hit the top of the charts, so I don’t exactly feel any pressure.” At Chloe’s slight tilt of the head, she added, “I wrote them because they helped me work through some of my feelings. Especially the first one.” 

 

Twisting her head to the right, she grabbed her phone and her headphones, plugging them in before gently setting them over Chloe’s ears. She puffed out a breath and pressed play, willing her ratcheting heart to chill the fuck out as Chloe closed her eyes and listened. 

 

The song only lasted a few minutes, but it felt like the longest of Beca’s life. Chloe’s lids slowly opened, and she lowered the headphones so that they hung around her neck, her gaze full of questions. 

 

“It’s about us,” she whispered, no doubt having picked up the few hints woven into the lyrics. 

 

Beca swallowed, nodding. She had never felt at ease pouring her heart out, and she sucked in a deep breath through her nose, puffing it out through her lips. “You remember when I told you about listening to your gut?” Chloe gave a faint nod. “That’s what I should have done that morning after because not telling you how I felt was the biggest mistake of my life.”

 

She briefly glanced down. “I had broken Jesse’s heart just a little while before, and I was scared that I just wasn’t made for relationships. So I didn’t say anything, because I couldn’t break your heart, either. I would have never forgiven myself if I did.” 

 

Chloe remained silent for half-a-minute, processing Beca’s words. “I knew you were in love with me,” she admitted softly. “And I had the feeling you were just scared, so I didn’t push you. I figured… you just needed time, and I was ready to wait for you. But then…” she cleared her throat, her eyes flickering down. “My life skidded out of control.” 

 

Beca’s heart suddenly feels heavy with the weight of regret. She can’t help but wonder how different things could have been, had she been honest with Chloe that morning. But she willed her mind to come back to the present because there was no point in wallowing in the should-haves and what-ifs. Not when she was being given a second chance. 

 

No chickening out this time. She wasn’t a kid anymore. 

 

“I want to be with you, Chlo,” she murmured, her throat shrinking with emotions as she forced her gaze to remain locked with Chloe’s. “These past few months… living with you and being by your side through this journey-- it made me fall in love with you all over again.” 

 

Chloe closed her eyes, and a few tears toppled down her cheeks. She released a long breath. “I want that, too. I do,” she croaked out, and something that had been poking at Beca’s heart suddenly vanished. Chloe reached out to swipe her palm over both cheeks, her other hand sliding into Beca’s. “I just need some time. I need to find a more stable mindset before I open that door.” 

 

“I know,” Beca whispered, blinking back her own tears. “And I’ll wait, this time. For however long it takes. I promise.” 

 

“I know,” Chloe echoed, her thumb slowly stroking Beca’s knuckles back and forth. “I trust you.” 

 

They shared a soft smile, and Beca didn’t think she had felt this light, ever. 

 

“I guess I should head to bed,” Chloe said after a moment of comfortable silence. 

 

Beca nodded. “Okay.” Releasing Chloe’s hand, she rubbed her palm over Chloe’s belly gently. “Night Bean.” 

 

Chloe stood up and cast her short wave when she made it to the door, shutting it softly behind her. 

Chapter Text

“A bit higher.” 

 

Beca pushed the small mountain-shaped shelf an inch higher, looking over her shoulder as she held it. “Like that?” 

 

Chloe nodded, smiling. “Perfect.” She walked over and handed Beca the drill, watching as she skillfully made a hole into the wall and inserted a dowel. “I didn’t know you were handy with tools.” 

 

Beca snickered. “Basic things only.” She twisted the screw in and hung the shelf, taking a few steps back to observe her work. “That looks cute.” 

 

Chloe glanced around the room, nodding as she absent-mindedly rubbed her belly. She had just reached thirty weeks, and Bean’s arrival was scarily close. The nursery was coming along nicely, the crib having just been delivered today, while the rest was pretty much done. 

 

The closet was full of onesies, tops, pants and a few dresses, swaddles, blankets, and loveys, and the dark oak changing table (matching the yet to be assembled crib) was stocked up with diapers, wipes, bodysuits, and a variety of creams and oils. 

 

Chloe had channeled her stress into reading as much as she could about newborns, what to do and not do, and while she had experience with babies from back when she was a teenager, she was relieved not to be doing this on her own.

 

“It does,” Chloe agreed, loving the subtle woodland theme she went for and all the love they poured into making this safe place for Bean. “It’s really cozy.” 

 

“Alright, now onto the big project,” Beca said, nodding towards the large package laying on the floor. “You’ll get to see how limited my knowledge of tools really is.” 

 

Chloe laughed and helped take the different parts of the cribs out of the box, then headed into the kitchen to get them some refreshments. 

 

The last six weeks had been really good. The Bellas welcoming her back with open arms had definitely helped with Chloe’s recovery, and her talk with Beca, that promise that she would wait for her to be ready filled Chloe with a renewed sense of self-worth and made her fall in love with Beca a little bit more. 

 

Chloe was now just over six months sober. The nagging for booze and snow sat somewhere at the back of the brain, and she doubted it would ever go away, but she was getting better at not listening to it. 

 

She stifled a laugh at the sight of Beca looking awfully perplexed by the instructions when she walked back into the room. “You good?” 

 

Beca chuckled. “Yeah. Just trying to make sense of this.” She glanced up to Chloe, accepting the glass of homemade lemonade with a smile and setting it beside her. 

 

“They sent us two baby monitors?” Chloe asked as she sat on the floor, noticing the two exact same boxes. They had ordered a bunch of stuff from the same website, and quite a few boxes had come with the crib while Chloe was at her NA meeting, and Beca had put everything in the nursery. “We only ordered one.” 

 

“No, um, I figured one more would be handy,” Beca said as she picked up one of the crib ends and two of the four legs, along with four bolts. “So I hear Bean when she cries at night, too.”

 

Chloe shook her head. “I can take care of nights. I don’t want your whole sleeping rhythm to be thrown off because of Bean, you’ve got work, too.” 

 

“I know, but I’m concerned the lack of sleep might mess up with your recovery if you handle it on your own. I’ve read some horror stories about some babies waking up every few hours and that for six months.” Her focus shifted from the crib assembling to Chloe. “I meant what I said when I told you you wouldn’t be on your own with this. But I don’t want to overstep either, so I want you to tell me if you need me to back up a little. I promise I won’t be upset.” 

 

Chloe’s heart swelled with more love. She didn’t know why she kept being surprised every time Beca showed her how dedicated to the both of them she was. Still, she felt a little guilty for disrupting Beca’s routine, but she knew Beca was right. 

 

“You’re not overstepping,” Chloe assured her, softly. “And I want you guys to bond, so I think you taking care of her without me might be a great way to do that.”

 

“Okay,” Beca murmured, smiling as she went back to her task at hand. “The label already knows I’m taking two months off once she’s born, so I’m around to help out. Maybe she’ll sleep through the night by the time I have to head back.” 

 

Chloe chuckled. “We can always dream.” She cleared her throat. “I was also thinking about Bean’s guardians, in case something happens to me, and I’d like for you to be one of them.” 

 

Beca paused mid-screwing in a bolt and met Chloe’s gaze. It was clear she was moved, and it made Chloe smile. “Of course. I’d be honored.” 

 

“Aubrey will be the other guardian, just so you know. So if I die, you’ll be seeing a lot more of her.” 

 

Beca’s nose wrinkled. “Is it too late to backtrack?” She asked with a soft laugh. Chloe knew she was just joking, as she and Aubrey got on really well, now. “I think Aubrey is a great pick. At least I know I won’t have to be the bad cop. But let’s hope she and I never have to be Bean’s guardians. I’m good with just being the cool aunt.”

 

The crib was easier to put together than they had originally thought. It only took Beca forty-five minutes, and once it was all done, Chloe grabbed the mattress and set it inside.

 

“It’s just missing one thing,” Beca said, casting Chloe a smile before she left the room, coming back a minute later. “Close your eyes.” 

Chloe did so, and it sounded like Beca was fumbling with something by the crib. 

 

“Okay, open them now.” 

 

Chloe let out a soft gasp at the sight of the animal mobile set up above the crib. A fox surrounded by mountains and clouds. “Beca…” 

 

“I wanted to get Bean a gift, and you mentioned an animal mobile, so I had this custom made with a friend of a friend.” 

 

“It’s perfect,” Chloe whispered, blinking back the tears pricking behind her eyes. She was used to crying over the smallest of things by now that she wasn’t embarrassed anymore. Wrapping an arm around Beca’s waist, she leaned her head over her shoulder, basking in the warmth and peace being in close proximity with Beca brought her. 

 

“I think so, too,” Beca murmured, her own arm coming up to wrap around Chloe’s back as she brushed a soft kiss to her forehead. 

 

*

 

Summer chilled to fall over the following week. Chloe was thankful for the cooler temperatures, as her body felt like a furnace on its own, she didn’t need any additional heat. Now thirty-one weeks, she had started to waddle, much to Beca’s amusement, it seemed, even if she only claimed to find it adorable. She also got winded after walking up a single flight of stairs and was insanely grateful for the elevator in Beca’s building. 

 

Hanging a left when it reached the right floor, Chloe headed down the hallway, pulling her keys out of her jacket pocket and sliding them into the lock. 

 

“SURPRISE!” 

 

Chloe jolted slightly, her hand shooting up to her chest in shock. Most of the Bellas stood in Beca’s decorated living-room, beaming at her. Above them hung a cute oh baby banner and a table was laid out with various snacks and a cake. 

 

“Oh my gosh, you guys!” She exclaimed as soon as she regained her composure, stepping further inside to hug each one of her friends tightly. “Did you do all this?” She asked when she got to Beca, awe leaking in her tone.

 

“Aubrey helped,” Beca said, nodding towards the blonde standing to her right. 

 

“Thank you,” Chloe murmured as she pulled away, embracing Aubrey next. It had taken some time for them to find their way back to how they used to be after so many years apart, and Chloe was so grateful Aubrey gave her a second chance. “Love you, Bree.” 

 

“Love you, too.” 

 

The afternoon was filled with fun activities such as onesie decorating, a Name that Tune game with songs that had the word baby in it, and a cupcake decorating contest. Towards the end of the day, Chloe was coaxed into opening the girls’ present, starting with the one Jessica set in her lap. 

 

“This is from all of us,” she said, smiling as Chloe peered into the bag. 

 

She fished the item out, her heart bursting in her chest as she unfolded the blue and gold onesie which bore the Barden Bella B. “Oh… I love it. Thank you .” 

 

The girls definitely spoiled Bean, gifting Chloe with a bunch of adorable onesies, animal stuffies, mittens, swaddles, a bear winter jumpsuit for those freezing days ahead of them, and an expensive-looking electric swing.

 

“This is too much,” she croaked out once she had unwrapped the large box, shaking her head in disbelief as the girls simply waved her concern off. 

 

“Oh, that’s from your parents,” Beca chimed in as Chloe reached for the second-to-last present. 

 

Tears pooled in her eyes (she had honestly lost track of how many times she’d cried in the last couple of hours) as she took the familiar item out of the bag. “It’s my baby blanket,” she told the girls as she unfolded the mustard blanket her mom had knitted while she was pregnant with her. She traced the name she had picked for her baby girl, which her mom had added in white lettering in a corner. Chloe smiled as she brought it to her nose; it smelled like home. 

 

The last gift was a pampering kit for Chloe, as well as a few items she would need for after labor. 

 

“I learned some stuff about childbirth that I wish I’d never known while looking for items to add to this,” Amy said with a grimace, drawing a giggle from Chloe. “I didn’t know things could tear like that down below.” 

 

Chloe winced along with the rest of the Bellas, her chuckle coming out strained. “Thanks, Amy.” 

 

Beca ordered pizzas for everyone, and the girls stuck around until nine pm, helping to clean up the living-room before they left. Chloe changed into her pajamas and made herself some herbal tea for her and Beca, joining her on the couch. 

 

“You okay?” Beca asked as she took one of the mugs from Chloe. 

 

“Yeah,” Chloe breathed out, curling up on the opposite end of the couch. “Thank you for today. It was so nice to see the girls again. I’m really lucky.” 

 

“You’re welcome, Chlo.” She motioned towards her lap. “C’mon, hand me those feet.” 

 

Chloe giggled, setting her feet on Beca’s thighs and biting back a moan as she started kneading the sole of her right foot. It had become a sort of a ritual these past few weeks, for Beca to give Chloe a foot rub while they chilled on the couch after dinner. “Am I going to lose those privileges once I’m no longer pregnant?” She teased. 

 

Beca smirked. “We’ll see.”

 

“I heard back from my old vet school, this morning,” Chloe said, following a few minutes of comfortable silence. She had been communicating back and forth with the advisor over there, who finally heard back from the head of the department. “Since I did two years of vet school already, I’d only have to do one more year to become a vet tech. They offered for me to jump into the school year in January, but that feels a little too soon after Bean gets here, so I think I’ll wait until September next year,” she explained as she rubbed her bump. “But I definitely plan on getting a part-time job waitressing or something by next spring, as soon as Bean is old enough go to daycare.” 

 

Finding a good daycare with availability had been a headache, but Chloe had luckily found a spot at the one she had set her eyes on in the neighborhood. 

 

“That’s great news,” Beca mused aloud, smiling. “I’m proud of you.” 

 

“I wouldn’t be where I am without you, Bec,” Chloe murmured, returning her smile. A groan flitted past her lips a second later. “Ugh, I need to pee again.” 

 

Beca chuckled as Chloe heaved herself to her feet and waddled to the bathroom. She had just shut the door behind her when a sharp pain in her lower belly made her double over, her hand shooting out to grip the counter while the other one cradled her bump. 

 

Panic gripped her insides as she slowly straightened when her head stopped spinning, letting go of her stomach to dip her hand past the waistband of her sweatpants. Her fingers met something warm and sticky, and Chloe’s heart lurched to her throat when she pulled them out, eyes zeroing on the blood. 

 

“No, no, no,” she muttered to herself, forcing down the lump forming in her throat with a hard swallow. She called Beca’s name, her voice wavering as tears rose to her eyes. 

 

“What’s wrong??” Beca rushed out as she rounded the corner, the sight before her answering her own question. Her eyes widened, and she paled, freezing for a couple of seconds before setting into motion. “I’m taking you to the ER. I’ll grab your shoes and coat.” 

 

Chloe gave a faint nod even though she wasn’t sure she registered Beca’s words. Her feet seemed rooted to the floor while Beca’s hurried steps faded. She couldn’t move. She kept staring at her bloodied hand as the most dreaded, terrible, gut-wrenching feeling seized her entire being. 

 

“I can’t--” she found herself saying when Beca appeared in her line of vision. The air got stuck in her throat before it could reach her lungs, just as her words died before it reached her tongue. She couldn’t lose her baby. “ Bec. ” 



“I know,” Beca murmured as she helped Chloe slip her jacket on. Her own hands were shaking. She bent down to guide Chloe’s feet into her sneakers, one by one, then grabbed a towel from the cupboard under the sink. 

 

Another cramp made Chloe cry out, and she felt more blood seeping out of her, in a greater amount this time around. She felt it dripping down her legs and choked on a sob, clutching at her stomach. 

 

The elevator ride and walk to the car was a blur, and Chloe found herself blankly staring out the window as Beca rushed to the hospital, hoping with all her might that her baby would be okay.

Chapter Text

Beca had never felt blood-running cold panic as she did when she saw the blood on Chloe’s hand. She tried to remain level-headed for the sake of taking Chloe safely to the hospital, white-knuckling the steering wheel as she drove, all the while talking with Dr. Harris through her car Bluetooth system to let her know what was going on. 

 

A nurse was waiting by the ER entrance with a wheelchair, and they rode up to the obstetric floor, the silence in the elevator deafening. They were led to an exam room and Chloe was asked to change into a gown, being given a pad and disposable underwear, which Beca helped her put on. 

 

The bleeding wasn’t as bad, but that didn’t mean it lessened her worry. If Chloe lost the baby… Beca wasn’t sure she would come back from it. 

 

“Hello Chloe,” Dr. Harris greeted as she came in a couple of minutes later, casting them a soft smile and a nod. She rolled the ultrasound machine closer. “Let’s take a look. Anymore cramping since we were on the phone?” 

 

“No, just those two times,” Chloe answered, reaching for Beca’s hand as she lifted up her gown for the doctor to apply the gel. 

 

Beca watched Dr. Harris like a hawk as she focused on the screen, looking out for any hint in her features that could indicate something was wrong. After what felt like the longest minute of Beca’s life, the doctor finally spoke. 

 

“The ultrasound looks normal Chloe, no evidence of placental abruption, but I’d like to run some bloodwork to be sure,” she explained, glancing at Chloe as she lifted the wand and set it aside. “We’ll monitor you and the baby closely until we get the results, alright?” 

 

Placental abruption. Beca had read about that in the baby book, but she couldn’t remember how serious of a condition it was. She nonetheless puffed out a breath as the doctor didn’t look too alarmed, and squeezed Chloe’s hand. 

 

Chloe nodded. “Okay, thank you.” 

 

A nurse came by shortly after to strap a band around Chloe’s belly, which tracked the fetal heart rate. The steady beeping sound coming from the machine further allowed Beca to relax, and she remained by Chloe’s side as the nurse collected a few samples of her blood to be sent out to the lab. 

 

As the nurse departed, Beca let go of Chloe’s hand to tuck a strand of red hair behind her ear. “Do you want anything to drink or eat?” 

 

Chloe shook her head. “No. I’m okay.” Her lips curved into a small smile. “Thanks, though. You should sit down, I think we’re going to be here for a little while.” 

 

Nodding, Beca glanced behind her and grabbed a stool tucked in the corner, reaching for Chloe’s hand as she sat down. “Should I call your parents?” 

 

“No, not yet. There’s no point in worrying them before we know more.” 

 

“You’re right,” Beca murmured, nodding once more. 

 

Silence descended upon them, save for the rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor. Beca rubbed Chloe’s knuckles back and forth, hoping the movement was somewhat soothing. 

 

Dr. Harris came by ten minutes later and checked the numbers. “I’m still waiting on the lab results, but the heart rate’s good. I’ll come back to check on you in half-an-hour.” 

 

“Thanks, doc,” Beca said before she walked out, casting her a grateful nod. She turned back to Chloe. “I’m going to get myself something to drink, okay? Sure you don’t want anything?” 

 

“Maybe some sparkling water?” 

 

Beca smiled. “You got it.” 

 

The vending machine was just down the hall, and Beca got herself a coke and Chloe’s water, heading back to the room a mere minute after she’d left. 

 

“One sparkling water,” she said, setting it on the bedside table. 

 

“Thank y--” The rest of Chloe’s sentence was cut off by a sharp cry as she doubled over, and Beca’s heart lurched to her throat when the beeping on the monitor increased. 

 

She rushed to the open door, nearly colliding with a nurse coming in. “We need some help, the heartbeat, it--”

 

“I’m paging Dr. Harris,” the nurse interrupted as she read the monitor, then checked under the blanket, revealing a large pool of blood. 

 

Beca paled, her eyes zeroing on the amount seeping into the sheet while Chloe curled up in pain. 

 

“What’s going on?” Dr. Harris asked as she strode in. 

 

“Gush of blood, heart rate’s dropping,” the nurse told her urgently as she kept her eyes on the monitor. “Now in the 60’s.” 

 

“We’re going to the OR,” Dr. Harris announced as she clicked the bed railing into place. “Chloe, it looks like your placenta has abrupted and your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen. I need to perform an emergency c-section.” 

 

More nurses rushed in, and Beca didn’t know where to stand as they bustled around her. She jumped out of the way when they pushed the gurney towards the door. 

 

“Bec,” Chloe cried, fear flashing in her gaze as she was rolled away. Beca snapped out of her daze and grabbed her hand, walking alongside the gurney. 

 

As much as she wanted to, Beca couldn’t tell her everything was going to be okay, instead of saying the only thing she was sure of. “I’m here, Chlo.” 

 

They reached the flapping doors which read OR in big letters, and one of the nurses stopped Beca from going further. “You need to get suited up first, honey. Follow me.” 

 

Beca swallowed and nodded, her shaky legs somehow managing to carry her to a room on the right. “Shit, I forgot-- she can’t have any morphine.” 

 

Chloe had told her that a few weeks ago when they talked about possible complications during labor. 

 

“The doctor probably knows, but I’ll go tell her right away.” 

 

Before the nurse left, she gave Beca a pair of scrubs, a hair cap, mask, and booties to put over her shoes. Beca slipped everything on, and then, she waited. 

 

She paced up and down the room, her hands wringing together as she tried to focus on her breathing and not the many terrifying scenarios popping up inside her brain. The nurse finally came to get her after what felt like an hour when it was probably just ten minutes and led her to the OR through a side door. 

 

Chloe laid on a different bed in the center of the room, a sheet blocking her view from the chest down. An oxygen mask had been placed over her mouth and nose, and she turned her head when Beca approached, tears swimming in her eyes. 

 

Various medical staff buzzed around the crowded room, cleaning, shaving, sterilizing, but Beca chose to focus on Chloe because that was her only job here. Being there for her, during what was probably the scariest experience of her life so far. She sat on the stool provided and took her hand, pressing a lingering kiss to the back of it. 

 

“I’m shaking all over,” Chloe’s voice wavered as she spoke. 

 

“That’s normal, sweetie,” a nurse let her know as she stopped by her. She patted Chloe’s shoulder, the crinkling at the corners of her kind eyes indicating she was smiling beneath her mask. “It’s just the anesthesia working.” 

 

It was another five minutes or so before the procedure started. Beca remained wholly focused on Chloe, one hand clasped around hers while the other rhythmically stroked her hair, and she spent the next ten minutes murmuring sweet nothings to her while the doctor and nurses worked to get Bean out. 

 

“Here we go.” Dr. Harris’ voice caught Beca’s attention, and she pushed to her feet to see her take the baby out and hand her to another doctor standing nearby. “Baby’s out, Chloe.” 

 

“Is she okay?? Why isn’t she crying?” Chloe stammered, twisting her head to look at Beca. “Bec, tell me what’s going on,” she pleaded, tears seeping out of her eyes and running down her temples. 

 

Truth was, Beca wasn’t sure what was going on. A team of three people was working around the incubator, and the man was talking about a tube. She watched as he inserted a tube down Bean’s throat, attaching a bag to it. It was a mere ten seconds before they rolled the incubator away and out of the room.

 

That same nurse popped in on Chloe’s other side. “Your baby isn’t breathing on her own, so they had to intubate, Chloe. She’s being taken to the NICU.” 

 

A sob wrenched itself from Chloe’s throat, and Beca’s heart fell through her stomach as she once again felt absolutely powerless and unable to find the right words. 

 

Chloe’s head rolled back towards her. “Go with her, please,” she croaked out. 

 

Beca hesitated, as she didn’t want Chloe to be on her own either. 

 

“I don’t want her to be alone,” Chloe added, squeezing her hand. “Please. ” 

 

“Okay,” Beca agreed with a nod. She bent down and pressed a kiss to Chloe’s forehead despite the mask on her face. “I’ll be back soon.” 

 

She followed the nurse out of the room, her legs feeling even weaker than before. “31 weeks is good, right?” She blurted out as they walked down the hall, needing some sort of reassurance before she lost it altogether. “The odds of surviving… they’re high at this stage, right?” 

 

“95%, yes. They’re running tests as we speak to assess her health and decide what treatment she might need if she does.” 

 

Beca nodded, sucking in a deep breath. They reached the NICU waiting area shortly after. “It might be a while before a nurse comes to get you, you can dispose of your scrubs in the bin over there and have a seat.” 

 

“Okay. Thank you.” 

 

Beca took off her scrubs, cap, and mask, then took a seat, her knee bouncing up and down as she waited. It was probably another hour before someone came to get her, just as Beca was getting stir-crazy. 

 

“Are you baby Beale’s other mom?” The middle-aged woman clad in dark purple scrubs asked. 

 

“Um, no, the guardian,” she stated awkwardly as she stood, clearing her throat. “The mom’s next of kin.”

 

The doctor nodded. “I’m Dr. Miller, the attending physician. The baby is stable as we speak. Her brain scan came back clear and her heart is strong and steady, showing no defect. She however can’t breathe on her own because her lungs haven’t developed enough, and her birth weight is very low. This is our main concern as of now. She’s being fed with a tube, and how well she fares over the next week will depend on her ability to gain weight.”  

 

Beca’s throat constricted and she swallowed thickly as she nodded her head, processing the information. Bean wasn’t out of the woods, and the next week would be crucial.

 

“Am I allowed to see her?” 

 

“Of course.” The doctor turned and hit a button to open the doors, and they stepped inside an airlock with a large sink. “You have bacterial soap here, wash your hands and forearms for thirty seconds, then rinse and dry with those clean towels over there. A nurse will come to get you in a minute.”

 

“Thanks.” 

 

Once the doctor had left, Beca did as instructed, meticulously washing her hands, under her nails and up to her elbows, then rinsed the soap off and dried her skin with the towels provided. 

 

She then followed the nurse inside the room to the right incubator, her heart squeezing at the sight of the tiny baby hooked to a handful of wires and a ventilator. Sensors were taped to her chest, and she had a tiny tube lodged in one nostril. A small hat sat over her head, and she only wore a diaper. 

 

“Am I allowed to hold her hand?” Beca asked as she sat down on the chair next to the incubator. 

 

“Of course. You can talk to her, too,” the nurse said with a soft smile. “As Mommy won’t be able to get out of bed for the next 24 hours, I’m sure she’d appreciate a few photos and videos if you want to take some. I’m around if you have any questions.” 

 

“Thank you,” Beca murmured, watching the other woman walk away before focusing on Bean. She watched her chest steadily rise up and down for a minute, before slowly reaching up to slide her hand through the hole on the side of the incubator. She gently held Bean’s tiny hand, stroking the back of it with the pad of her thumb. 

 

“Hi, Bean. I’m your auntie Beca,” her voice shook as emotions gripped her throat. “I need you to be alright, okay? Will you do that for me? If you’re strong like your Mama, I know you’ve got what it takes.” 

 

She didn’t know how long she would get to stay, so Beca took a bunch of photos and videos with her phone to show Chloe. She hung out with Bean for another hour, telling her all about her Mama as she held her hand.

 

“I need to go check on your Mama, but I’ll be back soon Bean, okay? Hang in there,” Beca said softly, retracting her hand and gazing at the newborn for another few beats before pushing to her feet. 

 

A nurse led her to Chloe’s recovery room when she asked for her at the desk, and Beca rounded the corner to find Chloe sitting in bed. 

 

Beca walked over and gently sat down on the edge of the bed. “Did the doctor come to talk to you?” 

 

“Yeah, she said the bloodwork came back normal, and the main concern was feeding.” She sniffled. “Were you allowed to see her?” 

 

Beca fished her phone out of the front pocket of her hoodie, selecting the video she had of Bean. “Here.” 

 

She couldn’t imagine how difficult it must feel for Chloe not to be able to meet her daughter just yet, and she held Chloe’s free hand as she saw Bean for the first time, through a phone screen. 

 

“She’s so small ,” Chloe whispered, tears pooling in her eyes as she ran her finger over her daughter’s face. “I wish I could see her.” 

 

“Tomorrow. I’ll keep her company until then,” Beca murmured, squeezing her hand. “Are you in pain?” 

 

Chloe wiped a tear falling down her cheek away and shrugged. “A bit sore.” 

 

Beca tilted her head to the side, having the feeling Chloe was downsizing her pain for her sake. “Did they give you anything for it?” 

 

“They offered, but I said no,” Chloe said. “I don’t want to touch any of that stuff again.” She cleared her throat, continuing before Beca could argue. “The um, the doctor said giving Bean some of my breast milk would help. Will you get my breast pump from your place?” 

 

“Yeah, of course. I’ll go right now. I’ll also grab you a couple of change of clothes and your toiletries. Anything else you might need?” 

 

“My phone charger and my robe, please.” 

 

Beca smiled. “You got it. I’ll be back soon.” She stood and brushed a kiss above Chloe’s eyebrow, closing her eyes as Chloe leaned into the touch. “Get some rest, Chlo.” 

 

It was pushing six am by the time Beca made it home. Ignoring the need for sleep after an all-nighter, she took a quick shower, then packed a bag with Chloe’s things. The hospital wasn’t far, so she figured she could always come back to get more stuff in case she forgot anything. Right now, all she wanted was to be back by Chloe and Bean’s side. 

 

Even if she knew Chloe might not eat much, she stopped by her favorite bagel place on her way back to the hospital, along with a cup of coffee after googling whether it was safe to have some while breastfeeding. She got herself one as well, with a double shot of espresso that would hopefully get her through the morning. 

 

Chloe was asleep when Beca reached her room, and Beca didn’t want to disturb her. She set the bagel and coffee on the bedside tray, along with a note. 

 

Went to check on Bean. Be back in a bit with news and more photos. 

Beca xx

 

Once at the NICU, she followed the same protocol of hand-washing and sat down next to Bean’s incubator, where she was bound to spend the next few weeks. 

 

“Hey Bean,” she whispered, smiling as the newborn legs moved. She slipped her hand through the hole, stroking Bean’s tiny fingers. “Where was I? I think I was just about to tell you the time where your crazy mom burst into my shower…” 

 

Chapter Text

Chloe woke up sometime mid-morning. She was a bit drowsy, but memories of what had transpired earlier that day quickly sprang back to mind as soon as she tried to sit up and a blinding pain shot through her stomach. 

 

She couldn’t feel her legs, and she had a catheter put in. 

 

The c-section felt like a surreal out-of-body experience. Despite being awake, Chloe couldn’t seem to grasp what was actually happening. It felt like a bad dream, and her brain couldn’t grasp it as reality.

 

Twisting her head to her left, she caught sight of a note and winced as she grabbed it. A soft smile curved her lips, and she reached for her phone next, seeing three photos and a video from Beca. 

 

All of Bean, along with a message dating from three minutes ago which made Chloe smile with relief. 

 

Beca [11:04am]

Bean is doing good. The nurse told me she’s doing well with feeding. Strong like her Mama. 

 

The day was long, as Chloe could do nothing besides laying there or pumping milk. Beca visited every couple of hours, but Chloe would rather have her keep Bean company while she couldn’t. She texted her parents and the girls to tell them Bean was born but still in the NICU, and facetimed with Aubrey. She slept some more afterward, but towards the end of the day, she started feeling anxious to meet her daughter. 

 

“You should go home and get some rest,” she told Beca when it pushed ten pm. 

 

Beca stifled a yawn. “I’m okay.” 

 

Chloe gave her a pointed look. “You look exhausted, Bec. You haven’t slept in over 36 hours. I’m fine. Bean is doing good, and the nurse told me she'd keep me posted frequently throughout the night. Besides, they won’t let you stay at the NICU all night.” 

 

Beca seemed to hesitate, eventually relenting with a sigh. “Fine. I’ll keep my phone on though, so call me if there’s anything.” 

 

“I will.” She smiled when Beca bent down to kiss her forehead, leaning against the contact. “Night, Bec.” 

 

Despite her anxiousness, Chloe managed to catch a handful of hours of sleep. As promised, the nurse had kept her posted on Bean’s health, and nothing alarming had popped up. Beca was back at 6 am, armed with a coffee and a bagel. 

 

“Oh man, I love you,” Chloe mumbled, taking the coffee from her. The one from yesterday was cold by the time she woke up, and she appreciated that first sip in close to seven months. 

 

“Are you talking to me or the coffee?” Beca teased, smirking. 

 

“The coffee,” Chloe replied, sticking her tongue out. “Did you manage to get some sleep?” 

 

“Yep. Seven hours.”

 

“Ready to go see your baby?” The nurse asked as she breezed inside Chloe’s room with a wheelchair. 

 

Chloe beamed. “Yes, more than ready.” She sat up with a grimace and turned, letting her legs hang off the side of the bed while she waited for the discomfort to pass. Then, with Beca’s help, she shrugged on her robe and lowered herself in the wheelchair. 

 

Her heart picked up with anticipation as she was rolled down towards the NICU. She thoroughly washed her hands, as did Beca, and Beca took over with the wheelchair pushing duties, slowing it to a stop in front of the right incubator. 

 

Tears filled Chloe’s eyes, but she managed to blink them away so they wouldn’t blur her vision as she took in the sight of her daughter for the very first time. “Oh my goodness,” she breathed out, reaching out through the hole to touch her hand. 

 

“Hi, Bean. I’m your Mama,” Chloe choked on that word, tears spilling down her cheeks despite her best attempt to make them go away. “Hello. You’re okay,” she soothed when the newborn scrunched up her face and kicked her legs. “Mama’s here.” 

 

The NICU nurse standing by observed the scene with a smile. “Do you already have a name for her?” 

 

“I do,” Chloe replied, unable to tear her gaze away. “Marleigh June Beale.” June was her grandmother’s middle name, and Chloe wanted to honor her in some way. “Aka MJ. Or Bean.” 

 

“I feel like Bean is going to stick around,” Beca commented with a soft chuckle. 

 

“I’m not able to hold her yet, am I?” Chloe asked the nurse as she wrote down Marleigh’s name on a small board. 

 

The woman shook her head. “Not until she’s stable enough.”

 

Chloe nodded, pushing her disappointment away. While she was aching to hold her, she felt grateful enough that they were both okay after that huge scare. 

 

“She’s so small,” Chloe repeated to Beca when the nurse left. Marleigh’s tiny fingers wrapped around her pointer one and Chloe smiled. “That’s right, Bean. I’m right here. I’m not leaving.” 

 

Except she obviously had to during the night, but she was right back as early as she could, gazing at her daughter for hours on end. The odds were looking good, with Marleigh gaining weight every day and her lungs getting a bit stronger, too. She was switched to a C-PAP ventilating machine instead of a tube down her throat on the third morning. 

 

Chloe was discharged on her fourth morning, and once visiting hours were over at the NICU, she reluctantly left Marleigh’s bedside and drove home with Beca. 

 

“You alright?” Beca asked as she pulled out of the parking lot. 

 

Chloe nodded, wiping a tear away. “Yeah. It’s just-- weird to leave her behind. I know we’ll be back first thing tomorrow morning, but… it’s not the same.” 

 

“Yeah, I get it,” Beca agreed, reaching over to hold her hand. 

 

It had been three days, but Chloe was still extremely sore from her c-section. Simple things such as getting out of the car by herself were difficult, and she found herself in a pickle as she stood in the bathroom, unable to take her clothes off. 

 

“Bec?” She called out over the sound of the shower running. “Can you come in here for a sec?” 

 

Beca popped her head inside a few seconds later. “What’s up?” 

 

“Can you lower my leggings for me?” Her nose scrunched up. “I can’t bend over.” 

 

“Yeah, of course,” Beca said, stepping inside and shutting the door behind her. She slid them down and Chloe stepped out of them, then undid the last few buttons of her shirt and shrugged it off. Her incision looked pretty raw, and she was sporting a five-month bump, but that didn’t bother her. She knew it would deflate with time as her uterus went back to its normal size. “Can you um, do you mind getting in with me?” Her cheeks heated up over the request. “I can’t raise my arms at all.” 

 

Beca smiled sympathetically. “Yeah, of course.” She stripped down to her underwear and a sports bra while Chloe stepped under the hot spray in just her underwear. 

 

It wasn’t anything Beca hadn’t seen before, and she really needed to get her nipples rinsed off after pumping. 

 

“Oh my god, this feels amazing,” she gushed as soon as the spray hit her sore muscles. It was her first actual shower in over three days, and Chloe felt gross. She felt the loofah against her back, rubbing in slow circles, and bit back a moan. While Beca did her back, she was able to wash her front and her face with slow, calculated movements so she didn’t strain her incision. 

 

“Shampoo?” Beca asked. 

 

“If you don’t mind.”  

 

“Tilt your head back a bit if you can.” 

 

Chloe did so, holding back another sound of satisfaction as Beca massaged her scalp, working the shampoo through her red curls. She stepped back under the spray to rinse it off, then turned the water off. 

 

“I’ll go get you a towel,” Beca said, stepping out and reaching for a large towel under the sink. She wrapped it around Chloe’s body, then grabbed another one for herself. She wordlessly helped Chloe dry off and once in her bedroom, helped her dress once more and towel-dry her hair because it turned out being able to raise her arms was handy for a lot of things. 

 

“How you feelin’?” Beca asked ten minutes later when Chloe padded to the kitchen. 

 

“Better,” Chloe said as she poured herself a glass of water. She nibbled on her bottom lip. “Anxious, though. I don’t like being so far away from her. I just hope she’s okay.” 

 

Beca nodded. “They would have called if she wasn’t.” 

 

“I know.” Chloe cleared her throat. “I didn’t get a chance to thank you properly, but you were my rock during the c-section. I was terrified, but having you there with me and knowing you were looking out for her after… it really helped. So thank you.” 

 

“Of course,” Beca murmured. “I’ll always look out for my favorite girls.” 

 

Chloe smiled and stepped up for a loose hug. “I’m going to get some sleep.”

 

“Goodnight, Chlo.” 

 

Chloe was greeted with great news when they reached the NICU the next morning. Marleigh was deemed stable enough to spend some time outside of the incubator, which meant Chloe would get to hold her. 

 

“Skin-to-skin contact is very beneficial at this age, so you’re welcome to open your shirt to lay her directly on your chest,” the nurse told Chloe as she opened the incubator and fiddled a bit with the wires. 

 

“Okay,” Chloe said, taking a seat on the chair in the corner and undoing her buttons. She gasped when the nurse gently transferred her into her arms. 

 

Marleigh fussed for a bit while the nurse adjusted the CPAP over her head, then settled down, curling up against Chloe’s chest. 

 

“Hello my sweet girl,” she whispered, brushing a kiss to her red hair. Her heart felt fit to burst, and happy tears stung behind her eyes as she gently rubbed her back. “I love you so much.” 

 

“Smile for the pic, Mama Chlo,” Beca requested as she held her phone up. Chloe looked up and did so, finding it hard to keep her eyes away from Marleigh more than a few seconds at a time. “Can I send it to the group chat and your parents?” 

 

“Yeah,” Chloe breathed out, her gaze flickering back down to Bean. She cleared her throat and started to sing softly. 

 

“She's got a smile that it seems to me

Reminds me of childhood memories

Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky

Now and then when I see her face

She takes me away to that special place

And if I stare too long, I'd probably break down and cry…

Whoa, oh, oh

Sweet child o' mine.” 

 

It took another ten days for Marleigh to be taken off the ventilator. Chloe spent every day at the NICU, holding her, singing to her, reading her stories, or simply holding her hand. Beca wasn’t there all the time, tying up loose ends at the studio so she could take four weeks off whenever Marleigh got to go home. She still made it to keep Marleigh company while Chloe headed to her NA meetings or therapy sessions because Chloe didn’t want to miss any. 

 

Marleigh couldn’t feed on her own just yet and was struggling to regulate her temperature, those being the two milestones she needed to reach before being cleared from the NICU. 

 

“Chlo, she doesn’t like it when I’m the one doing it,” Beca mumbled, looking slightly panicky as Marleigh fussed while she tried to change her diaper. “Or maybe she just doesn’t like me, period.” 

 

Chloe had done it quite a few times by now, but it was Beca’s first attempt at changing a baby diaper in apparently, ever. 

 

Chloe rolled her eyes, stifling a laugh. “She likes you. Now open the diaper.” 

 

Beca did, grimacing as a foul smell escaped from it. “Holy shit. Dude. That’s nasty.” She folded the dirty diaper and put it away, then gently grabbed Marleigh’s kicking feet. “How can someone cute like you make something so stinky? I feel like your Mama knew that was a bad one and let Auntie Beca do the filthy job. Don’t you think?” 

 

Chloe wasn’t sure how much more her heart could take. It seemed to swell a bit more with each interaction she witnessed, and would soon run out of room in her chest. 

 

Wipes and a clean diaper later, Beca lifted Marleigh into her arms. “We did it, Mar!” She showed her hand to the two weeks old. “High-five? No?” Beca smirked as she sat down in the rocking chair. “You’re hard to impress, MJ.” 

 

Over Marleight’s third week in the NICU, Chloe tried breastfeeding for the first time. It took a good minute to get her to latch on properly, but once she did, she was a real trooper. 

 

“How does that feel?” Beca asked as she sat in the opposite chair, observing the scene before her. “Does it hurt?” 

 

“No. It’s a bit weird, but it doesn’t hurt,” Chloe said as she gazed down, obsessed with the way Marleigh’s ears moved back and forth as she nursed. 

 

“Oh, Aubrey’s here,” Beca said when her phone buzzed. “I’ll go get her.” 

 

By this point, Beca was considered the other parent by the NICU staff, so they were allowed an additional visitor. Marleigh’s stomach was still fairly small, so Chloe was done feeding by the time Aubrey arrived. 

 

“Hi,” Chloe greeted with a bright smile as she paced around, rubbing Marleigh’s back to get her to burp. When she did, Chloe pressed a kiss to the side of her head. “Good job, Bean.” She focused back on Aubrey. “Wanna hold her?” 

 

Aubrey’s head bobbed up and down. Chloe didn’t think she’d ever seen her best friend this excited, though she could tell Aubrey was trying to conceal it. Once she’d sat down on the chair previously occupied by Beca, Chloe gently lowered Marleigh down in her arms. 

 

“Oh my gosh,” Aubrey gasped, cradling her in the crook of her elbow. Marleigh was much more alert now, her big blue eyes staring up at that new face. “Hello, Marleigh. I’m your Auntie Aubrey.” 

 

Tears pricked behind Chloe’s eyes as she snapped a few pictures. She had about a thousand of Marleigh by now. 

 

By the fourth week, Marleigh was wire-free and was moved to an open incubator. She still needed to gain more weight until they could go home, but it was only a matter of a couple of weeks at most. Chloe now got to dress her, her first official onesie being the Bella one. She snapped a photo and sent it to the group chat, then had Beca snap one of the two of them as Chloe was wearing Beca’s barden hoodie, too. 

 

They were cleared to go home when Marleigh reached five weeks and doubled her birth weight. She still looked unbelievably small once she was strapped in her car seat, ready to set off. Chloe gifted the nursing staff with a basket full of goodies and a heartfelt note for their devotion and kindness over the six weeks Marleigh spent at the NICU. 

 

“You got it?” Chloe asked as Beca slid the car seat into position once they reached her car. 

 

A click was heard and Beca cast her a smirk. “I’m a pro already.” 

 

Chloe chuckled and slid in the backseat so she was by Marleigh’s side for the ride home. They reached Beca’s place just after eleven that morning, Marleigh having fallen asleep in the car. 

 

Their first afternoon home unfolded smoothly. It was weird and a bit scary to take care of Marleigh without having a nurse nearby, but Chloe knew it was just a question of habit. 

 

“How’s the water?” 

 

“Good, I think. You should check it, too,” Beca said as she turned off the faucet. 

 

Chloe dipped her hand in, then lowered Marleigh into the baby plastic tub they had set up in the master bathroom one. Marleigh started crying as soon as her butt touched the water, her features scrunching up. 

 

“Oh no, it’s okay,” Chloe soothed. “I’ll be quick, Bean.” 

 

Beca started singing to distract Marleigh from crying. 

 

“Shorty get down, good Lord

Baby, got 'em open all over town

Strictly biz, she don't play around

Cover much grounds, got game by the pound.”

 

Chloe stifled a laugh and bit back a comment because it was actually working, Marleigh settling down while she rubbed a cloth over her body, then gently shampooed her hair. 

 

“I can’t believe you sang that song,” Chloe said, shaking her head as she rubbed Marleigh dry a few minutes later. 

 

“Hey, it worked,” Beca argued softly, huffing a laugh. “My girl’s got good taste.” 

 

After putting on a fresh diaper and a onesie, Chloe fed Marleigh, then swaddled her. The baby didn’t stir as Chloe lowered her into her crib after singing her to sleep, and she turned on her night light and the baby monitor before quietly shuffling out of the room. 

 

First day home from the hospital? Nailed it. 

 

Chapter Text

A shrill cry pulled Beca out of her slumber with a startle. It had been a month, but she had yet to get used to being awoken by baby cries. Tonight was her shift, and she swung her legs to the side and she pushed back the covers, her bare feet hitting the carpet floor and carrying her across the hall. 

 

“It’s okay, Bean,” she soothed as she picked Marleigh up, cradling her against her chest as she headed down the hall towards the kitchen. She fished a pouch of breast milk from the fridge and expertly poured it into a bottle with one hand, all the while trying to soothe Marleigh’s cries by rocking her lightly. Setting the bottle inside the warmer (best purchase they had made), she hit the button and paced the living room while it heated up, pressing soft kisses over Marleigh’s velvety hair. 

 

Once the milk was at the perfect temperature, she padded back to the nursery and settled into the rocking chair, shifting Marleigh to the crook of her elbow and bringing the teat to her lips. 

 

“Here we go,” Beca murmured, her tone full of love and affection for the three-month-old as Marleigh’s cries subsized to coos as she fed, her big blue eyes locking with Beca’s. She was a carbon copy of Chloe, and Beca was truly obsessed. “Much better, huh?” She smiled. “Listen MJ, tomorrow I have to go back to work. It sucks big time, and I’m going to miss you so, so much, but I’ll come back at night, okay? I’m not abandoning you, or anything. I’ll never do that. I promise.” 

 

Once Marleigh was done, Beca changed her and sang her a lullaby, gently lowering her in her crib. Marleigh had the habit of sleeping with her arms up by her head, and it was the most adorable thing. 

 

Come morning, Beca was definitely reluctant to go back into the office. Chloe and Marleigh were doing tummy time in the living room when she rounded the corner to pour her coffee into a travel mug. 

 

Chloe smiled and picked Marleigh up, carrying her over. “Ready for your first day back?”

 

“No,” Beca mumbled as she screwed the lid back on, pouting a little. “Send me photos and videos, alright?” 

 

Chloe giggled. “I will, don’t worry.” 

 

“Come here, Bean,” Beca said, plucking her from Chloe’s arms. She kissed her forehead. “I love you.”

 

As though sensing her sadness, Marleigh wailed as soon as Beca transferred her back into Chloe’s arms, making Beca’s departure a thousand times more difficult. She spent her first meeting of the day with her mind wandering to the two people she left at home, daydreaming about going back home later that day. 

 

“Knock, knock.” 

 

Beca looked up from her computer, grinning at the sight of Chloe and Marleigh. She was just about to leave for lunch. “Hey! What are you guys doing here??” 

 

“We thought we would come to have lunch,” Chloe said as she stepped inside and placed a bag on Beca’s desk. 

 

“Oh my god, she’s a bear ,” Beca gushed as she walked around the desk to take Marleigh from Chloe once she was out of the chest carrier. The baby was clad in the most precious bear fleece winter suit, complete with a hood sporting round ears. She kissed Marleigh’s cheek. “Hi, Bean. I’ve missed you.” 

 

“How was your first morning back?” Chloe asked a few minutes later once she was settled down in the chair opposite Beca’s desk, nursing Marleigh. 

 

“Busy,” Beca said once she’d swallowed her mouthful of poke rice. “But good. It’s nice to get back into it, even though I miss you guys.” 

 

“We’ve missed you, too,” Chloe murmured with a soft smile. “Maybe we’ll do this lunch thing regularly. It’s nice to be outside. We can meet at the park when it gets warmer, too.” 

 

Beca smiled. “That sounds like a great idea.” 

 

*

 

It was strange, for someone as workaholic as Beca to be looking forward to the weekend, now. She and Chloe had a pretty good routine down. During weekdays, she would wait for Beca to come home to start Marleigh’s nighttime routine: bath, feed, and playtime. On weekends, Beca usually spent her mornings entertaining Marleigh so Chloe could have a lie-in and she and Marleigh some bonding time. She also made sure to come home earlier on the days Chloe had therapy or NA meetings, so she could watch Marleigh. 

 

Her absolute favorite thing was whenever Marleigh fell asleep sprawled out on her chest while she lounged on the couch. 

 

“Oh my goodness,” Chloe murmured the first time she was there to witness the scene. She whipped out her phone. “Don’t move.” 

 

Beca chuckled. “Couldn’t even if I wanted to. She’s been passed out like this for an hour. Sorry, I didn’t get a start on dinner yet.” 

 

“Don’t worry about that. Did everything go okay?” 

 

Beca nodded. “Yeah. We did tummy time, then had a snack, and then decided we were too tired to do anything else, so we passed out on the couch.” 

 

Chloe smiled as she sat down next to them. She brushed a kiss to Marleigh’s forehead, then one to Beca’s cheek. “You guys are so cute. Oh, I went to pick up the birth announcements from the photographer, check this out.” Chloe pulled out a stack of pictures, handing one to Beca. 

 

 

“Oh my god, she’s adorable,” Beca said, smiling fondly as she gazed at Chloe. “You really said copy and paste, huh?” 

 

Chloe laughed. “I know. It’s pretty crazy. Part of me is glad she doesn’t look like him at all,” she admitted. “Not that I would love her any less but, yeah…” 

 

“I get it,” Beca murmured. 

 

When Marleigh woke up, they let her play on her own on her mat for a bit while they worked on dinner, singing along to the music playing. At now four months old, Marleigh was able to start eating solid food, which they were trying for the first time tonight.

 

“Tonight’s menu is a carrot, sweet potato, and parsnip puree,” Beca commented as she stirred the homemade concoction with a spoon. “Doesn’t sound too bad, does it, Mar?”

 

Chloe had her phone ready to record, and Beca scooped half a spoon, blowing on it then presenting it to the baby. Marleigh closed her lips around it and paused, a perplexed expression flashing on her features once she seemed to realize this definitely didn’t taste like milk. Beca chuckled and backed away a bit, half expecting Marleigh to spit it right out, but the baby ended up swallowing and opening her mouth for more. 

 

They gave her a bath afterward, and read her a story. Marleigh usually woke up for a feed around ten pm, which Chloe handled while Beca washed the dishes after their own dinner. She changed and washed up for bed afterward, messing around on her phone for a bit. 

 

A knock on the open door made her look up. 

 

“Hey,” she murmured. “All good?” 

 

Chloe nodded. “Yeah, she’s down.” She padded over and laid down, shifting to her side. 

 

Beca set her phone aside, mirroring her position. “What’s up?” 

 

“You’re amazing, you know that?” Chloe said. “Like… since the start. With taking me in, paying for rehab and my dad’s treatment, being by my side through my recovery and pregnancy, and now this-- raising Marleigh like she’s your own. You’re…” she shook her head. “I want to find the words to tell you how grateful I am, but I don’t think those exist.” 

 

Beca’s heart swelled with Chloe’s words. She smiled, blinking back the tears burning behind her eyes. “I know you’re grateful, I promise. And since we’re telling each other what we think…” she grabbed Chloe’s hand. “I’m in awe of you. Since day one. Accepting to go to rehab, keeping the baby, being a kickass mom. Marleigh is incredibly lucky.” 

 

“Thank you,” Chloe murmured. “I just hope I won’t mess up.” 

Beca nodded, squeezing her hand. Chloe had expressed concerns about being able to remain sober once she would stop breastfeeding a few months from now. “I know you’ll do your best not to.”

 

“Can I…” Chloe hesitated. “Can I sleep in here tonight?” 

 

A soft smile curved Beca’s lips and butterflies flapped in her belly. “Yeah, of course. I’d love that.” 

 

As Chloe got settled under the covers and turned on her opposite side, Beca waited for a few beats, then draped an arm across her middle, shuffling closer. “This okay?” 

 

“Yeah,” Chloe breathed in the darkness. Her fingers loosely laced with Beca’s. “Goodnight, Bec.” 

 

*

 

“I’m home!”

 

“We’re in the kitchen!” Beca called out as she stood by the island, Marleigh propped on her hip. Today was an important day, but the five-month-old didn’t seem all that aware. “Happy one year of sobriety!” 

 

Chloe’s eyes widened, taking in the sight of the cake that bore the same sentiment. “Oh my god,” she breathed out, tears pooling in her eyes. “You remembered.” 

 

Beca rolled her eyes. “Duh. Of course, I did.” She glanced at Marleigh. “Can you say happy one year of sobriety mommy?” 

 

Marleigh reached out for Chloe in response, emitting the cutest cooing sound. 

 

“Close enough,” Beca decided with a soft laugh. She smiled at Chloe. “How do you feel?” 

 

“Good. Proud,” Chloe said, beaming. 

 

Beca nodded. “As you should. I’m also freaking proud of you, Chlo.” 

 

Marleigh rested her tiny hand on Chloe’s cheek when a tear slid down, big blue eyes focused on her mom. Chloe exhaled a watery chuckle. “It’s okay, Bean. Mommy’s alright.” 

 

Beca grinned, taking the knife. “Shall I cut this bad boy?” 

 

“One sec,” Chloe said, stepping closer to pluck the knife from her hand and set it on the table. Before Beca could ask her what she was doing, Chloe’s lips were on hers in a soft kiss that stole the breath from her lungs. 

 

It was short, chaste, but sent Beca’s mind for a spin. 

 

“I love you,” Chloe murmured as she pulled away, brushing her nose against Beca’s. “Thank you for being so patient with me and going at my pace. But I feel ready now. To start something real, with you.” 

 

Beca blinked. “Can you say that again?” 

 

“Which part?” Chloe asked with an amused smile. 

 

“The… love part.” 

 

“I love you,” Chloe repeated, resting her forehead against Beca’s. “And I want to be with you.” 

 

Beca closed her eyes, basking into the pool of happiness spreading inside her as those words danced in a loop in her mind. She reached up to cup Chloe’s cheek, cradling her face tenderly. “I love you, too.” 

 

*

 

“Hey. Breathe,” Beca coached, taking Chloe’s hand at the red light. 

 

Today was Marleigh’s six-month-check up, and as always whenever they went to the doctor’s, Chloe was terrified something might be wrong. 

 

It had been two weeks since Chloe’s kiss and confession, and they’d been taking things slow. They hadn’t had sex yet, but Beca was in no rush at all. She knew Chloe would probably be more reluctant with that aspect of their relationship given everything she’d been through (Beca guessed, as Chloe never broached the topic), and she was once again following her lead. 

 

Chloe nodded, puffing out a breath as instructed. “Thanks.” 

 

Beca couldn’t help but feel slightly nervous as well as they waited in the doctor’s office. Marleigh seemed and looked healthy; she rolled over now, made different sounds, and reacted to her name. Nothing indicated a failure to thrive, but something could be wrong with her heart, her lungs, or her liver without any physical sign showing up. 

 

“Good afternoon,” Dr. Gazzola greeted as she stepped inside the exam room. “Hello, Marleigh. Wow, you’ve gotten big since the last time I saw you!” 

 

Chloe chuckled. “She eats really well.” 

 

“Good. Are you still nursing?” 

 

“Yes. Once in the morning and in the evening before bed. The rest is solid food.” 

 

Over the next twenty minutes, Dr. Gazzola dotted down Marleigh’s weight and height, inquired about the milestones, and listened to her heart and lungs. Beca’s eyes widened when she said it was time for the shots. 

 

“Shots?” She asked, paling slightly. “Again?” 

 

Marleigh’s three-month-check up had been traumatizing for Beca, as she had felt powerless against Marleigh’s distress after getting two shots. 

 

“Want to hold my hand?” Chloe teased, though Beca knew it was hard on her, too. 

 

“Shut up,” Beca muttered, throwing her a glare. 

 

Chloe held Marleigh in her lap while the doctor administered three shots. Marleigh cried, but it wasn’t as bad as last time. 

 

“You were so brave,” Beca gushed as she put her onesie back on while Chloe asked the doctor about any signs of defects because of the drugs having passed in the placenta the first three weeks of pregnancy. Marleigh cooed, holding on a chunk of Beca’s hair and pulling it to her mouth. Beca chuckled and picked her up, propping her onto her hip as she focused on the doctor’s words. 

 

“I see no signs of defects so far. She hit all the six-month milestones, her weight and height are good. She’s as healthy as can be.” 

 

Chloe’s shoulder slumped, and she mustered a smile. “Okay. Thank you so much.” 

 

They strapped Marleigh back inside her car seat and carried it out to the car, Beca’s hand finding Chloe’s on their way out. 

 

“Wanna stop at Chick-Fil-A for lunch?” It felt deserved after that emotional hour. 

 

Chloe grinned. “Heck yeah.” She leaned in to kiss Beca, and Beca wasn’t sure when or if she’d ever get used to that. 

 

After lunch, they hung out at the park as it happened to be one of the first warm days of the year. Marleigh was getting a lot more curious and talkative, and putting everything within reach in her mouth, including rocks, they soon found out. 

 

“And that’s a dog,” Beca said as Marleigh sat in her lap. “Can you say dog? Or woof?” 

 

“Da!” 

 

Beca chuckled and glanced at Chloe to find her snapping a picture or filming. “Are you capturing more material to further destroy my reputation, Beale?” Beca asked, narrowing her eyes. 

 

Chloe giggled. “Don’t worry, I’m keeping this one for myself.” 

 

On their way out of the park, they ran into someone Beca never thought she’d see again. 

 

“Oh, hi.”

 

Beca blinked. “Hey, Sarah. How, um, how have you been?” 

 

“I’ve been good.” She cleared her throat, her eyes falling to Marleigh as she chilled in her stroller, munching on a teething toy and seemingly unaware of the awkwardness surrounding her. 

 

“This is Marleigh,” Chloe provided with a soft smile. 

 

“Wow, she looks just like you,” Sarah said. 

 

“Can I… talk to you for a minute?” Beca found herself asking, pointing over her shoulder. She sent Chloe a smile before she and Sarah stepped away. Beca rubbed the back of her neck. “I uh, wanted to apologize. You were right about my feelings for Chloe, I just-- I was oblivious. I’m sorry I unconsciously led you on more than I should have.” 

 

Sarah nodded. “Thank you for saying that. And it’s okay. The first couple of months were a bit rough, but then I met someone, and…” she smiled, glancing at the ground. “I’m really happy.” 

 

Beca’s shoulders slumped as that last bit of guilt she wasn’t aware she was carrying until now dissipated. “Good. I’m really glad to hear that, Sarah.” 

 

Sarah looked back to where Chloe was, crouched down in front of Marleigh and talking to her. “You guys make a beautiful family.” 

 

Beca smiled. “Thanks. It was good to see you,” she said, meaning every word. “Take care of yourself, Sarah.” 

 

She headed back to Chloe and Marleigh, taking Chloe’s hand as they resumed their way to the car. 

 

“You okay?” Chloe asked after a few beats. 

 

“Yeah,” Beca breathed out, lacing their fingers as she kissed Chloe’s cheek. “More than okay.” 

Chapter Text

Chloe couldn’t remember a time where she’d been happier. Just over a year ago, she found herself on the verge of giving up by letting the drugs and the emotional abuse consume her whole, and now… she felt at peace. 

 

Fulfilled. Brave. Loved. 

 

Beca and Marleigh were her whole world, and Chloe still had a hard time truly believing that this was her life, now. 

 

“The itsy bitsy spider, went up the water spout,” Chloe sang as her pointer and middle fingers walked up Marleigh’s stomach. “Down came the rain and whoop!” Her fingers disappeared. “ Washed the spider out!” 

 

Marleigh giggled, her laughter Chloe’s new favorite sound. She was completely obsessed with her daughter and the new things she discovered every single day. Marleigh now slept through the nights and was otherwise a very chill baby, who loved cubes, lady fingers, rolling over, and listening to Beca or Chloe sing. 

 

Chloe gasped when she heard the door open. “Who’s that?? Is that Auntie Beca?” 

 

Beca soon rounded the corner, grinning as she slung her messenger bag over her shoulder. “Hi! You’re still up!” 

 

Marleigh cooed and flailed her arms towards Beca, who lifted her from the bed and held her close. Chloe had witnessed plenty of moments like these between the two, but they never failed to make her heart swell. 

 

“I was waiting until you got home to put her to bed,” Chloe murmured with a smile, knowing how much Beca loved to take part in Marleigh’s bedtime routine. “I already changed her diaper, if you wanna sing her to sleep?” 

 

Beca nodded, and Chloe stood up, pressing a few kisses to her daughter’s chubby cheek. 

 

“Goodnight, my love,” she murmured. 

 

While Beca put her down, Chloe changed for bed. Ever since they got together, Chloe had been sleeping in Beca’s room. They hadn’t gone much further than making-out so far, and Beca proved to be incredibly patient while Chloe found her footing again when it came to intimacy. 

 

Beca flopped down face first on the bed when she came back ten minutes later, drawing a giggle from Chloe as she slipped under the sheets. “You alright there?” 

 

Beca’s groan was muffled by the comforter. “M’tired. Picky artists suck .” 

 

Chloe smiled in sympathy as she reached out to knead Beca’s shoulder. “At least tomorrow is Saturday? You get to sleep in.” 

 

Beca rolled her head to the side. “Yeah.” She propped herself up on her elbows and craned her neck to brush a kiss to Chloe’s lips. “Hello.” 

 

“Hi there,” Chloe breathed out, giggling softly. She dipped back in for a longer kiss, and Beca hummed as she shifted to her side, her hand falling to Chloe’s hip. 

 

Their slow, exploratory liplock soon turned into something heavier, tongues dancing together and hands roaming under clothing. 

 

“Wanna slow down?” Beca asked as she laid on top of her, panting slightly.

 

Chloe shook her head and tugged her down into another hungry kiss. Her hips rolled against Beca’s, and Beca groaned against her mouth, her hand slipping under Chloe’s shirt to run up her side. 

 

Chloe wasn’t ready for her arousal to be chased away by a wave of panic. She tensed under Beca’s touch, memories she thought she’d gotten rid of flashing behind her eyes, and was pushing Beca away in the next beat.

 

“Sorry,” she whispered when she realized what she’d done. Embarrassment coated her cheeks with red, and she avoided Beca’s gaze as she sat up. “I’m sorry.” 

 

“Hey, no,” Beca murmured as she sat back on her heels. “It’s okay. You don’t need to apologize.” 

 

Chloe scratched at her forehead as she drew her knees to her chest. She could feel the craving for some coke rise within her, to make her forget about those nights. She pressed her palms to her eyes. “Fuck.”  

 

“Do you… wanna talk?” Beca asked after a few beats of silence. 

 

Chloe opened her eyes to find twin twinkles of worry staring back at her. She glanced back down to the comforter. “I think… I think I’m dragging some trauma from-- from the stuff that would happen at the club. With--with the customers.” 

 

Beca nodded slowly, reaching out to slide her hand into Chloe’s and squeezing. Chloe drew in a shaky inhale.

 

“I… I got used to my body being used in various ways, but never for my own pleasure,” she explained, looking down at their joined hands. “It was just pure sex, whatever the customer wanted me to do to them. Sometimes it was too rough, but I couldn’t say anything because I really needed the money,” she whispered, a sense of shame gripping her insides. “And I think… that I blocked it all out at some point. It felt like my body didn’t belong to me anymore, and now…” She blinked back the tears pricking in her eyes. “I’m having a hard time reconnecting with it.” She thought it wouldn’t be a problem, as she had taken care of herself when her pregnancy hormones went wild, but being intimate with someone else was a lot different. “It’s not that I don’t trust you,” she said, eventually looking back up. “I do. It’s just... a me thing.”

 

Beca blinked back her own tears. “What I want the most is for things to feel good for you when we do take that step,” she murmured. “And if you need more time to get to that letting go point, then we’ll wait. And if you never reach it, then that’s okay, too. I don’t… need sex to be happy, you know? I’m already happier that I ever thought I’d be, thanks to you and MJ.” 

 

“You really mean that?” Chloe asked, quietly. “About the sex part?”

 

Beca nodded. “I do. I promise.” 

 

Chloe hoped she would feel comfortable having sex again at some point, but it felt incredibly reassuring to know Beca wouldn’t leave if she never did. 

 

“Thank you,” Chloe murmured, not surprised but still in awe of Beca’s love and patience for her. “I really don’t deserve you.” 

 

Beca smiled. “That’s weird, I was telling myself the same thing about you earlier today.” 

 

Chloe’s cheeks warmed, and her heart swelled in her chest. “I love you.” 

 

“I love you too, Chlo.” 

 

*

 

Spring warmed to summer. 

 

With Marleigh growing more and more curious about the world around her, they spent a lot of time outside, whenever the temperatures were bearable. Marleigh was obsessed with dogs, squealing every time she saw one and crawling after it in hopes of catching up before Chloe or Beca would snatch her back. 

 

She was already showing a mischievous side, and Chloe knew her toddler years were bound to be interesting. 

 

“Do you ever see yourself living elsewhere?” Chloe found herself asking one afternoon at the park. 

 

They laid on the blanket in the shade of a large oak tree, Marleigh having fallen asleep between them. The eight-month-old could sleep anywhere as long as she had her lovey. 

 

Beca glanced at her. “Elsewhere than New York, you mean? Or like, another country?” 

 

“Other than New York. Like, somewhere where we could have a garden, and maybe a dog. And where we don’t have to drive over an hour to find a forest.” 

 

Beca smiled as she folded an arm under her head. “I like the sound of that. I have the label to manage, but a lot of stuff can be done from home. So maybe somewhere within a two-hour-drive from here so I can come down twice a week?” 

 

Chloe nodded. “Maybe after I’m done with college?” 

 

She was going back to vet school in a few months to get her vet tech training, and that would take her a year to complete before she could apply to jobs. 

 

“Sounds like a good plan babe,” Beca said. “We could start looking in the new year?” 

 

Excitement swirled in Chloe’s stomach over the knowledge that Beca was on board, and she beamed. “Yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Beca murmured. “Maybe somewhere around Poughkeepsie or Beacon? With four bedrooms and a space to make an office or a studio?” 

 

“Four bedrooms?” Chloe asked, cocking an eyebrow as an amused smile tickled the corners of her lips. “How many kids do you see us having, exactly?” 

 

Beca chuckled. “Maybe three? If you want to, I mean. I’m also perfectly happy with our family as it is now.” 

 

Chloe’s heart felt fit to burst over Beca’s words. “I think three is a good number.”

 

They headed home around six and had dinner, then gave Marleigh a bath and read her a story before bedtime. Chloe stepped into the kitchen a bit after, where Beca was washing the dishes. 

 

She wrapped her arms around her waist, pressing a few kisses along the side of her neck. “Come to bed?” 

 

They hadn’t had sex since their talk, but continued to explore through make-out sessions that gradually got more intense. Beca was incredible, always in sync with Chloe’s feelings and regularly checking that she was okay. Chloe could feel herself getting more and more comfortable with the idea of taking that step, and she was thinking she was ready to give it a try tonight. 

 

Beca hummed. “I’ll be right there.” 

 

Chloe was lying atop the covers when Beca rounded the corner, and she set her book aside, raising a curious eyebrow when Beca remained in the doorway, gazing at her with a look Chloe couldn’t identify. “What?” 

 

“You’re beautiful,” she murmured. 

 

Chloe felt her face warm up, and she rolled her eyes softly. “Get over here, weirdo.” 

 

Beca laughed and stepped closer, climbing onto the mattress and crawling over Chloe. “Is that what you meant by here?” 

 

“Yes,” Chloe breathed out as she looped her arms around Beca’s neck and craned hers to brush her smiling lips against Beca’s. She bent her knees and wrapped her legs around Beca’s waist, a thrill of pleasure coursing through her as Beca’s hips met hers in a gentle roll. 

 

Chloe took the lead and deepened the kiss, skimming her tongue over Beca’s bottom lip. A moan spilled into the liplock as Beca answered with equal enthusiasm, one hand drifting down to rub her outer thigh. 

 

“I want this,” Chloe breathed out after a while, her lips kiss-swollen and her eyes darkened with lust. 

 

Beca kissed her softly. “Are you sure?” 

 

Chloe’s head bobbed up and down in a near desperate nod. “Yes.” 

 

“We can stop at any time,” Beca murmured. “Promise me you’ll say it if you’ve changed your mind?” 

 

Chloee reached up to cradle her cheek. “I promise.” She sat up and whipped her top over her head. Her body was different; she still had some lingering baby weight, but she considered herself too thin before the pregnancy, and she liked how she looked now. 

 

“Jesus,” Beca rasped as she took in the sight before her. 

 

Chloe couldn’t remember the last time someone had looked at her the way Beca was doing now, with so much love and desire it made her breathing hitch. 

 

Beca leaned in, re-attaching their lips together as her hand roamed up and down Chloe’s side in a featherlight touch, enticing goosebumps in its wake. Beca’s lips then traveled along the edge of Chloe’s jaw and down her neck in hot, open-mouthed kisses. A moan spilled past Chloe’s parted lips when she latched onto her pulsepoint, and her back arched off the bed, searching for some kind of relief where she needed it the most. 

 

Beca continued to explore, kissing her way down Chloe’s chest, towards her breasts. While her palm wrapped around the right one, she swirled her tongue around Chloe’s left nipple, drawing a gasp from Chloe. 

 

“Too sensitive?” Beca asked, lifting her head. 

 

“No, no,” Chloe assured her. “It’s-- it feels really good.” 

 

Smiling, Beca dipped back in and spent the next minute focused on her left breast, until she noticed Chloe squirming underneath her. “Okay?” 

 

“Yeah, I just-- I might come if you keep going like that.” 

 

Beca puffed out a breath, her cheeks turning redder. “Can I touch you?” 

 

“Yeah,” Chloe said, then pushed a kiss to Beca’s lips, her whimper swallowed by Beca as she slipped her hand between Chloe’s legs and cupped her. Chloe broke the kiss to take a sharp inhale as Beca moved her fingers in a light stroking motion. 

 

“Okay?” She asked as she rested her forehead against Chloe’s. 

 

“Yes,” Chloe breathed, raking her teeth over her bottom lip. Her hips tilted towards the contact, seeking more pressure. Chloe stilled Beca’s hand after a handful of seconds and sat up to shimmy her underwear down her legs. “Better.” 

 

Beca smiled and placed her hand to its initial position, a moan surfacing from her throat as she felt Chloe’s slickness. “Can I-- I wanna taste you.” 

 

At a loss for words, Chloe could only nod, her breath growing shallow at Beca’s request. She watched as Beca slithered down, leaving kisses in her wake, until she settled on her stomach between Chloe’s legs. She kissed her way along Chloe’s inner thigh, slowly but surely reaching her destination. 

 

“Oh,” Chloe let out at that first exploratory lap through her folds, propping herself on her elbows to get a better view. One set of fingers gripped a fistful of the sheets while the other tangled through Beca’s hair. A gasp followed soon after, any ounce of apprehension left in her dissipating. “Baby.” 

 

The groan Beca emitted against her sent a zap of pleasure down Chloe’s spine. Her fingers tightened around the sheets as Beca alternated between lapping at her and stimulating her clit with licks and flicks. Beca clearly knew what she was doing, using the right tempo and pressure to draw out Chloe’s pleasure and not bring her to that climax too quickly. 

 

Mewls and whimpers echoed against the walls as the coil grew tighter and tighter with each ticking minute. Chloe’s elbows gave out at some point as her body started shaking with her incoming orgasm. 

 

She knew it was going to hit her like a freight train, yet was taken aback by its power as she released a throaty cry. Her body spasmed with each wave of intense pleasure as she let herself go, Beca’s name tumbling past her lips in a sweet prayer. 

 

“Oh my god,” she breathed as she basked in the lingering haziness following her climax, attempting to regulate her breathing. 

 

Beca made her way back up, capturing Chloe’s lips in a deep kiss before flopping onto her side. “Are you okay?” She asked, running her fingertips along Chloe’s side.

 

Chloe hummed, smiling. “Mmm. Okay is definitely an understatement,” she murmured as she chased Beca’s lips for another kiss. Once she had regained feelings in all four limbs, Chloe rolled on top of her. “Your turn.”

 

Chloe wasn’t sure at what time they fell asleep, wrapped up around each other as they basked into their newfound connection. There was one thing she knew for sure, however, and it was that the future had never looked so bright. 

 

Chapter Text

“Come on Bean, you can do it,” Chloe encouraged, holding her arms out towards Marleigh as the one-year-old stood, Beca sitting behind her. 


Marleigh grinned and took an unsteady step, then another one, before falling on her bum. She giggled and pushed back to her feet to make the remaining three steps to her mom, collapsing into her arms. 


“Oh my goodness, you’re walking,” Chloe gushed as she peppered her face with kisses. “Where did the time go??” She set her back down, facing Beca. “Wanna do it again?” 


Beca grinned, extending her arms this time. “Come to Auntie Beca, MJ!” 


Chloe smiled, holding Marleigh’s hips as she spoke close to her ear. “Go to Mama.” 


Beca froze and met her eyes, a silent question swirling in them as they simultaneously filled with tears. Chloe’s smile simply widened, and she glanced away from Beca to focus on Marleigh as she toddled to Beca, squealing as she did. 


“You-- really?” Beca asked as she held Marleigh against her. 


Chloe nodded. “You’re not her aunt, Bec. You’ve been there since day one, raising her with me. I know it can’t be official on paper yet, but to me, you’re Marleigh’s other parent.” After a pause, she added, “If you want that, that is.” 


Beca visibly swallowed, and a couple of tears spilled down her cheeks. She cleared her throat, seemingly at a loss for words as she glanced at MJ, leaning in to kiss her chubby cheek. 


*


Beca wasn’t a fan of the cold, but she had to admit that a white Christmas was pretty dope. 


So was Christmas in the Beale fashion. They had spent the day before baking cookies, singing Christmas carols, and once it was dark, had gone out to Rockefeller to see the tree. 


Beca woke to the sound of babbling through the baby monitor that morning, and after finding Chloe sound asleep, turned the device off and slipped from under the covers. She padded to the nursery across the hall and smiled at the sight of a wide-awake Marleigh staring up at her with those big blue eyes. 


“G’morning, Bean,” she murmured, bending down to pick her up. Turned out Marleigh was still a bit sleepy, cuddling into Beca as soon as she was in her arms. Beca brushed a kiss to her forehead. “Merry Christmas.” 


She walked down the hall towards the living room and turned on the tree lights, knowing how obsessed Marleigh was with the colors. 


“Look at aaaaall the presents, Mar,” Beca said as she pointed to the various piles of gifts she and Chloe had hustled to wrap last night. “I think most of it is for you, baby.” 


Marleigh babbled incoherent things, pointing to the tree. Her features broke into a wide smile as she looked at something over Beca’s shoulder, and Beca turned around to see Chloe padding over. 


“Merry Christmas,” Chloe said, leaning in to kiss Beca’s lips, then Marleigh’s cheek. 


Marleigh had a blast opening her presents, even though she looked definitely more entertained by the wrapping paper than the gifts themselves. Beca felt nerves sprout in her belly as she stood up to pour herself more coffee, plucking the small box laying under the tree and handing it to MJ. 


“This is for Mommy,” she whispered, pointing to Chloe. “Can you go give it to her?” 


“Ya!” Marleigh exclaimed and walked over to where Chloe sat. 


Chloe glanced at Beca questioningly, then at her daughter. She took the box, her hand shaking lightly. “Thank you, baby.” Her eyes met Beca once more, then widened as she opened the box to find a sparkling diamond ring. Not any ring; her grandmother’s. “Beca…”


When she finally tore her gaze away from it, Beca had shuffled closer. “That business trip I took to LA a couple of months ago? It was actually to Portland. I wanted to ask your parents if they were okay with me asking you an important question, and your mom insisted I had this ring. Chloe…” she took a deep breath, shifting from a sitting position to down one knee. “You are everything to me. This past year and a half have been my happiest yet, and it’s all because of you. And I want to make this, us, to become a forever thing,” Beca paused, smiling as happy tears stung her eyes. “Chlo, will you marry me?”


Chloe choked on a watery chuckle. “Yes,” she whispered, crushing the distance between them to press a lingering kiss on Beca’s lips. “I love you.” 


Beca beamed. “I love you, too.” She laughed when Bean crashed their embrace, wrapping an arm around her. Her heart felt fit to burst from happiness. “And you.” 


*


They started house hunting as soon as Chloe secured a vet tech position in the clinic she was completing her internship in, in Stamford, Connecticut. After a couple of months’ search, they found a lovely farmhouse in Westchester County, just outside of Bedford, located an hour from Manhattan and thirty minutes from Stamford.


It was built in the 1900s in the New England housing style, complete with the traditional covered porch, metal standing seam roof, rafter tails, and barn-style garage. The interior had been fully renovated, giving way to a fresh and modern spin. 


“There’s a greenhouse, too, and a cottage,” Chloe said with a soft gasp as they wandered about the three acres that came with the property after visiting the inside. Marleigh was just ahead of them, exploring. “We’d have enough space for a dog, and maybe some goats and chickens?” 


Beca chuckled. “Goats and chickens? Since when are we having a farm?” 


Chloe giggled, shrugging. “I really want Bean to grow up around animals.”


Beca smiled and kissed Chloe’s cheek. “Fine, we can have goats and chickens. I won’t be going around the chickens, though. They kinda scare me.” 


“Really?” Chloe asked, unable to stop herself from snickering. 


Beca glared. “Don’t make fun of me, Beale.” 


“Mommy!” Marleigh called out, holding up what looked like a daisy. “Look. Pwetty.” 


Chloe crouched down to her level, smiling. “Very pretty. Do you like it here, baby?” 


Marleigh nodded her pigtails bouncing with the movement. She pointed to the swingset. “We go there?” 


Chloe pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Go ahead.” 


They signed the papers a few weeks later and were set to move there the following summer, after Chloe’s graduation.


All the pieces of her puzzle were finally coming together, and Chloe couldn’t feel happier.


*


“You ready to clap, Bean?” Beca asked as she and Marleigh sat in one of the back rows, among the other students’ families. “It’s almost Mommy’s turn.” 


“Mommy?” Marleigh asked, pointing at the stage. 


“Not yet,” Beca murmured, smiling at her impatience and brushing a kiss to her head. 


Two students later, Chloe walked across the stage. 


“Mommy!” Marleigh called out as the Dean handed Chloe her diploma. She clapped from her spot on Beca’s lap, beaming. Chloe waved and blew them a kiss before she headed down the steps leading off the stage. 


The ceremony ended forty-five minutes later, and Beca and MJ met up with Chloe by the side of the stage. 


“Congratulations, baby,” Beca murmured, kissing her softly. “I’m so proud of you.” 


Marleigh dutifully gave her mom the flowers she and Beca picked up this morning. “Congwatulations, Mommy!”


Chloe bent down to pick her up. “Thank you, my love. I feel like this calls for ice cream. What do you say?” 


“Yes! I want four scoops!” Marleigh declared, holding up three fingers. 


Beca chuckled, holding up four fingers herself. “That’s four, Bean.” 


Marleigh copied her, grinning “Four scoops!” 


Beca tickled her sides, drawing a string of uncontrolled giggles from the toddler. They settled at the park with their ice cream, enjoying the warm June afternoon. 


Chloe cuddled close to Beca as they watched Marleigh play with her toys ten feet away. “She’s growing up way too fast,” Chloe murmured. 


Beca hummed. “Is that your subtle way of telling me you’re ready to have another kid, Beale?” 


A giggle flitted past Chloe’s lips. “No. I think we’re just on the brink of getting a case of the terrible twos, so it’s probably best if we only have one kid to handle for now.” 


Beca laughed. MJ was definitely showing some temper and had already given them a taste of what toddler tantrums could be like. “That’s probably wise. And maybe we could get married first, too?” 


With the house hunting and Chloe finishing up her school year, they hadn’t really talked about it. 


“Can we do it at home? I really want my dad to be there.” 


Her father’s condition had stabilized over the last year or so. They had visited him a few times since MJ’s birth, and Beca could tell he was relieved to be able to hold his granddaughter and interact with her despite his condition.


“Of course we can,” she murmured, brushing a kiss to Chloe’s forehead. “I was also thinking… that we could stay there longer this summer? Two weeks is going to fly by, and if we stayed a month then maybe your mom could take some time off?” 


Alice had been caring for her husband for the last five years, and Chloe had shared that she was worried it was taking too much of a toll on her. 


Chloe lifted her head from Beca’s chest. “Would you really be okay with that?” 


“Yeah,” Beca said, brushing a kiss to the corner of her mouth. 


“Mama,” MJ called as she walked over, holding a rock. “Pwesent.” 


Beca held out her hand, smiling. Marleigh had an obsession with rocks, lately. “Thank you, baby. I love it.”


MJ snuggled in between the two of them, curling up against Beca’s chest. 


“You tired, Bean?” Beca asked softly, dropping a kiss on her hair. MJ didn’t answer, her breathing evening out a few seconds later. 


Beca shared a look with Chloe and smiled. It felt odd to think of how, ten years ago, she was convinced music and success would be the key to her happiness. And it had been, for a good five years, up until Chloe came back into her life. 


This, what they built together since then, brought Beca to another level of happiness she didn’t know was possible. 


*


They got married on a warm September evening, at an orchard with the ocean as a gorgeous backdrop. 


Marleigh was supposed to be the flower girl, but she changed her mind last minute, refusing to go first and clinging to Chloe, who ended up picking her up before she walked down the aisle alongside her father. 


Beca’s father walked her down the aisle next, and Chloe heard Marleigh gasp. “Mama looks pwetty,” the two-year-old whispered. 


“She really does,” Chloe agreed quietly, tears of happiness already filling her eyes as Beca came to a stop in front of her. 


“You look…” Beca faltered, shaking her head as what looked like awe flashed in her features. “Incredibly beautiful, Chlo.” Her focus shifted to MJ. “And you’re the cutest flower girl ever.” 


Marleigh giggled and motioned for Chloe to set her down, but she remained by Aubrey’s side. They recited their vows in front of their closest friends and immediate family, exchanging rings and somehow managing to make it through the ceremony without bawling their eyes out. 


“I now pronounce you, wife and wife,” Aubrey said, a beaming smile breaking across her features. “You may now kiss.” 


Chloe grinned and cupped Beca’s cheek, stepping closer and pressing a lingering kiss to her lips as their friends whistled and hooted. 


“Yuck!” Marleigh exclaimed, and Chloe found her peeking through her fingers when they parted. 


She laughed and picked her up, she and Beca kissing each cheek before they started down the aisle under the applause of their loved ones. 


*


“Where we going?” 


Beca smiled as she laced Marleigh’s shoes. “We’re going to the courthouse, Bean.” 


“Wha’s that?” 


“It’s where big decisions are made, by people we call judges. Today we’re meeting with a judge who will decide if I can become your real mom.” 


They had tried to explain that to Marleigh since signing the petition for Beca to adopt her, but Marleigh had argued that Beca was already her Mama. It had been a long process since their wedding, with background checks and a visit from the child protective services. 


“I hope the judge says yes,” Marleigh said as she swung her legs. 


Beca smiled. “Me, too.” She kissed her forehead and picked her up, heading down the stairs. Part of her expected Marco to show up out of the blue, but she knew that was unlikely, as he probably didn’t know of Marleigh’s existence. 


Nerves sprouted in Beca’s belly when they sat down for the final hearing. Marleigh sat on her lap, asking questions about the room they were in and being a welcome distraction as they waited for the judge. 


“And that?” 


“That’s a gavel,” Beca said. “The judge hits it when he makes a decision, or sometimes, when there’s a lot of people in the room and they’re talking too loud, the judge will slam it on their desk to request silence.” 


They stood when the judge walked in, the middle-aged woman motioning for them to sit down while she reviewed their file. 


“Mrs. Rebecca Mitchell, is it still your intent to adopt Marleigh Beale and become her other parent under the eyes of the law?” 


“Yes, your honor,” Beca answered, her voice shaking slightly as emotions swirled in her chest. 


“Mrs. Chloe Mitchell, do you still consent to Rebecca adopting your daughter and giving her, her last name?” 


“I do, your honor.” 


The judge motioned for them to come forward. “Sign here, and here.” 


Beca sucked in a sharp breath, meeting Chloe’s eyes before she took the pen and scribbled her signature at the bottom of the document. Chloe did the same right after, casting Beca a smile. 


“You say yes?” Marleigh asked, looking up at the judge. “Mama is my real mom, now?”


The judge chuckled, smiling warmly. “She is. Congratulations.” 


Beca wiped a tear sliding down her cheek. “Thank you.” 


She pulled her family into a long embrace as soon as they stepped out of the courtroom, basking into the moment.


“Can we go get ice cream, now?” Marleigh asked, breaking the silence. 


Chloe smiled and kissed her daughter’s cheek. “I think that’s a great idea.” She slid her hand into Beca’s, raising it to her lips and dropping a kiss to her knuckles. “Come on, Mitchells. Ice cream’s on me.” 


*


Fall was Chloe’s favorite season. It got incredibly beautiful in Westchester once the tree adorned their golden and scarlet leaves, and one of her favorite things to do was sit on the porch swing while nursing on a cup of coffee or tea, sometimes reading a book, other times watching her daughter play with her dad in the backyard, like today. 


Her parents had moved to the East Coast six months ago, as they wanted to spend more time with Marleigh. It made sense that they moved into the cottage on Beca and Chloe’s farm, so Chloe could be around to help her mom out. They had fully renovated the interior, with a fully-equipped kitchen, master bedroom, and cozy living and dining room. Marleigh was thrilled to have her grandparents around. She loved to play games with her grandpa and do farm tasks with her grandma, like feeding the chickens and goats, collecting eggs, or gardening.


“Go fish.” 


Marleigh made a disgruntled noise as she reached for another card. She huffed dramatically when Mike asked her for a card she had. “Grandpaaaa.” 


Chloe looked over her shoulder when she heard approaching footsteps. She smiled at her wife as Beca sat down beside her, and reached over to stroke her growing belly.


Chloe released a content sigh. “Do you ever feel like… pinching yourself? Because this feels too good to be true?” 


“Every morning when I wake up next to you,” Beca said, a teasing lilt to her tone. 


Chloe giggled. “Corny.” She turned her head to look at Beca. “When I was at my worst, I thought my life as it was back then would be it. I thought that I was far too broken to come back from it,” she paused, glancing at Marleigh and her parents and blinking back the tears threatening to blur her vision. “And now I have all this, and sometimes I can’t believe that this is my life. I feel incredibly grateful and lucky. More than I can put into words.” 


Chloe had been clean for nearly five years now. She hadn’t touched cocaine or alcohol since her first day of rehab and the cravings were no longer there. She sometimes thought about it on difficult days, but that’s all it was: a thought. It drifted away nearly as soon as it materialized, because Chloe was stronger now, and she knew how to handle the fleeting temptation. 


Beca pressed a kiss to her temple. “You fought for that, Chlo. First by leaving Marco, then going to rehab, and being determined to keep your head above the water through the bad days that followed.” 


Chloe’s free hand slid inside Beca’s. “Thank you for believing in me. For believing that there was still a piece of the Chloe you once knew in there.” 


Beca lifted their hands and pressed a lingering kiss to Chloe’s fingers. “I love you.” 


“I love you, too.” 


Their peaceful, heartfelt moment was soon over when the tornado that was their four-year-old ran up to them. 


“Mama,” Marleigh said as she settled on Beca’s lap. 


“What’s up, Bean?”


“How did you and Mommy meet?”


Beca hummed. “We went to school together. Mommy forced me into joining this singing group.” 


Chloe gasped. “I didn’t force you, Beca Mitchell.” 


“You burst into my shower,” Beca muttered as Marleigh giggled. 


“While you were naked?!” 


“Yep,” Beca said, widening her eyes at their daughter. “Can you believe that?” 


“Was it love at first sight?” 


“No. It was something deeper than that. For me at least. Something that grew slowly in my heart. So slowly that it took years for me to realize it.” 


Years?? ” Marleigh gasped. “That’s a long time.” 


“Yeah. I was an idiot.” 


Chloe giggled. “We were both idiots.” 


“But now you’re together, and that’s what’s important, right?” 


Chloe narrowed her eyes at MJ and reached out to ruffle her red hair. “When did you get so smart?” 


Marleigh shrugged, then dashed off to go back to her grandparents, drawing a chuckle from both Beca and Chloe. Beca glanced at Chloe, squeezing her leg. “You alright?” 


“Mmm.” Chloe rested her head on Beca’s shoulder, her hand finding Beca’s stomach once more in hopes of feeling a kick or two. “More than alright.” 


-fin-