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You Put Me On and Said I Was Your Favorite

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Vintage tee, brand new phone; high heels on cobblestones.
When you are young, they assume you know nothing…

Fall Semester, 2011

The afternoon sun was bright and the last vestiges of summer were in the breeze as Chloe exited the Administration building, fresh from the meeting she just had with her advisor and paused on the landing. Every senior had to have at least one discussion before midterms about where they were, credits wise, and if they were on track for winter or spring graduation.

Chloe knew this, had known this, since her freshman seminar. She had actually had numerous discussions with her advisor over the course of her time at Barden—from the most mundane minutiae to actual issues regarding her [ever-changing] major. But that day’s meeting was…different. She felt nauseous going into it, during it and even after. She took a deep breath to try to settle her stomach and reached for her sunglasses and her Blackberry in her bag.

As she went to put the glasses on, she glanced around the quad, noticing the various groups she’d come to know and appreciate during her tenure at Barden: the High Notes leaning on one another to cloud gaze; some of the water polo players making their way to the pool for afternoon practice; but one person—the sullen, sarcastic Beca (Chloe was able to find out her name after casually following Beca’s every move after leaving the Bellas’ table and snatching the Barden Internships clipboard off the table)—new to Chloe’s radar, but somehow already much more than a mere blip after meeting once at the Activities Fair, stuck out with her dark eye makeup and her vintage band tee, just beyond the Running in Circles club by one of the bigger oak trees.

Chloe watched as Beca methodically laid her bag down and pulled out her laptop and headphones. She tapped away at the keyboard for a few seconds, fingers nimble and mind focused as she found whichever file she wanted. Chloe’s head tilted while Beca slowly, carefully placed her headphones over her ears, completely shutting out the world as she lay back, closed her eyes and sighed, seemingly content.

Her heartbeat skipped a little, envious of Beca’s ability to relax so quickly. It seemed to Chloe that she had somehow lost her own ability to completely tune the world out and just…be for a moment or two. Well, since meeting Aubrey, anyway.

I need to talk to her. Pick her brain about…everything, Chloe thought as she finally descended the few stairs she was still atop.

She felt her phone vibrate in her hand. It was Aubrey reminding her of their evening run and their prep time for auditions the following week. She replied back with a simple I’ll be there and turned toward the dining hall for a quick lunch before her Russian Lit class. She slid her phone back into her bag, took a breath and strode away confidently, her wedge heels clacking on the stone sidewalk with every step.


But I knew you, dancin’ in your Levi’s
Drunk under a streetlight, I-
I knew you- Hand under my sweatshirt
Baby, kiss it better, right  

Senior Year: Fall Semester, 2014

“WE’RE GOING TO THE WORLDS!” Chloe screamed while she twirled her t-shirt over her head and flung it into the crowd before flinging herself into the pool.

Everyone looked on in equal amounts of shock, drunken hilarity and slight concern (that pool was a touch frigid.)

Beca, who was possibly the person most closely resembling sober at the party due to her late arrival after a hellishly intimidating first day at her [secret] internship, was more concerned than anything. She knew how Chloe could get when she drank, and it seemed like Chloe was going just a little too hard, too often with the alcohol lately; especially since they were only a month into the semester.

She coaxed Chloe to the edge of the pool and tried to convince her to get out, but Chloe insisted she wanted to enjoy her dip a little longer as Lilly handed her back her drink. Beca acquiesced as Jesse pulled her away but, still apprehensive, Beca made sure to keep an eye on Chloe the whole time.

It was when she noticed Chloe’s lips beginning to turn blue that she pushed away from Jesse—his protests falling on deaf ears—called for Ashley to grab a towel from inside, and practically dragged her friend out of the pool, making a mental note to have Benji or one of the other Trebles close the damn thing up for the year.

“W-w-what’d you do th-th-that f-f-for?” Chloe wondered through chattering teeth as Beca carefully draped the beach towel around her and rubbed her arms to try to circulate the blood and warm her up.

Beca smirked and replied, “Well, your lips look like you’ve been making out with a Smurf, so I figured it was the safest, smartest option. Can’t risk losing my co-captain before Worlds, right?”

Chloe quickly nodded in agreement and her teeth chattered some more.

Beca sighed heavily, the day fully catching up to her body and mind, and glanced at her watch. It was only 11pm, but she was exhausted. The guilt of keeping a secret from Chloe already weighing on her and it had only been a few days since she had officially taken the job. But with how Chloe had handled the news of having their nationwide appearances—most specifically, the Puppy Bowl—and their ICCA eligibility stripped away, the immense added pressure of the literal future of the Bellas on their shoulders, plus the fact that she’d [finally] admitted to purposefully flunking the past few years… Beca expected that Chloe wouldn’t take the news that Beca’s focus would be split particularly well.

She knew Jesse was ready to party ‘til the wee hours (his words, definitely not hers) but Beca just didn’t have it in her; not tonight.

Beca looked Chloe in the eye and whispered with the tiniest bit of hope, “Wanna go home?” To which Chloe eagerly nodded again and slightly stumbled trying to get up. She leaned heavily into Beca to regain her balance, getting Beca’s clothes sufficiently saturated in the process.

“Awesome…” she huffed out, only the tiniest bit annoyed. It was Chloe, after all. She couldn’t be mad for long.

---

They made their way home, just the two of them. Jesse had offered to drive, but Beca politely declined—he was in no shape to drive, plus she had a sliver of hope that the walk back would help warm (and sober) Chloe up.

Unfortunately…

“Well, you couldn’t be that man I ‘dored. You don’t seem t’know, seem t’care, whatcher heart is for,” Chloe warbled drunkenly, slurring words in between trying to get Beca to dance with her and swinging around light poles as if she were Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain. She took a deep breath and shouted, “BUT I DON’T KNOW HIM ANYMORE!”

Beca continued to guide her back to the house—with several additional musical and dance interludes. All the while she thought, If I were just a little bit taller and stronger, I could pick her up, throw her over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carry her home. But finally, they made it back to the Bella house.

After tripping up a few of the steps on the way to their rooms, exhaustion seemed to crash into Chloe like a ton of bricks; she could hardly stand up anymore and the cold was seeping into her bones.

Beca saw Chloe was near passing out so she worked swiftly; collecting dry clothes and pulling back the covers to make it easier for Chloe to get settled in for the night. She carefully extricated her friend from the wet denim and damp tank top, tossing them onto the small drying rack in the corner. She moved behind Chloe to unhook her bra and simultaneously held a dry hoodie delicately to Chloe’s front as the straps slid down her arms. Chloe thankfully had the wherewithal to take the hint while Beca relocated and tied the damp towel around Chloe’s waist, being sure to [respectfully] slide Chloe’s wet underwear down her legs and put a dry pair on.

Thank God it’s dark in this room, Beca grumbled in her mind as she felt her face flush. It was so dumb. They were both women. They’d already seen each other naked—more than once, if Beca was being honest. Chloe really had no boundaries and would barge in on Beca in the shower several times over the years under the guise of needing to discuss ideas for choreography and Beca had accidentally walked in on Chloe changing just as much. In her defense, she swore she heard Chloe say “come in” rather than “hold on.”

Chloe’s giggle broke her thoughts. “It’s ok, Becs. Nothing you haven’t seen b’fore, right?” A drunk, crooked smile adorned her face.

Beca laughed lightly and stood back up, untying the towel from Chloe’s waist and hanging on the hook on the door. She leaned down once more and helped Chloe climb into a pair of pajama pants before showing her to the bed. Chloe slid in easily onto her stomach and exhaled deeply, satisfied.

“Mmm, so good,” she practically moaned into her pillow before turning her hooded gaze back to Beca, who was quickly changing into her own hoodie and sleep pants.

Beca made her way to Chloe’s side and pushed a little hair out of her friend’s face. “You get some sleep, ok? Sweet dreams, nerd.”

When she turned and attempted to walk away, she felt Chloe tug on her arm. She tugged so hard, in fact, that Beca stumbled backward and landed on the bed.

“Chlo, I have to go to bed.”

Chloe slid further back in the bed, making space. “Your room’s so far, Becs. Just stay here.”

Beca paused for a moment. While technically her and Amy’s shared room was in the attic, the stairs were not even three paces from Chloe’s room. It was nearly midnight, though, and the thought of having to climb another set of stairs was agonizing. And Chloe did have the most comfortable mattress in the house… So, obviously, Beca climbed into her friend’s bed, just as she had done many nights before and snuggled down under the comforter, eyes closing quickly as her back sank into the mattress.

Chloe shifted slightly, turning onto her side, trying to get comfortable. Beca felt her move closer—Chloe really loved to cuddle, especially when she was cold.

Oh.

What Beca hadn’t expected was Chloe’s chilled hand to sneak under her hoodie and rest lightly on her stomach and her forehead leaning against Beca’s temple.

This is new.

She tried to keep her breathing even, but as soon as Chloe had moved closer, Beca’s heartrate climbed precipitously.

After a few lowkey deep breaths, Beca felt Chloe’s lips gently brush her cheek.

Not so new, there.

“Thank you for always taking care of me,” Chloe sighed, wistfully. “Maybe one day I can return the favor.”

Beca didn’t reply verbally; she couldn’t. Her heart ached with guilt again. So instead, she slid her hand over the spot on her stomach where Chloe’s rested and squeezed gently, three times.

Chloe exhaled, content, in return.


But I knew you, playing hide-and-seek
And giving me your weekends, I-
I knew you; your heartbeat on the High Line
Once in twenty lifetimes, I-

Senior Year: Spring Semester, 2015

Chloe knew it was coming; had felt it building for weeks, months. After knowing Beca all the years she had, worming her way into any and every open nook and cranny Beca let her see, Chloe Beale had a sixth sense about Beca Mitchell.

She had felt Beca starting to pull away and close herself off, little by little, since the start of the school year. Chloe figured it was just the normal process she had seen her friend go through over the years. She didn’t think too much of it at first, because Beca always came back around and let her back in… It wasn’t until Beca started staying out until 11 or 12 at night, for three or four days out of the week that Chloe realized this wasn’t normal.

She would try to talk to Beca about it, but Beca would brush her off with an “I was at the library” or “I was with Jesse” type of excuse. Again, Chloe accepted those for a while, but after about two weeks she knew something else was going on.

She tried asking Jesse multiple times but he blew her off, too. He repeatedly told her she needed to talk to Beca about it, because it wasn’t his place to say and he didn’t want to be in the middle of it.

Every time Chloe got a non-answer, she grew more and more stressed out. Which was really great, since she already had the weight of the world on her shoulders trying to figure out a way to beat Das Sound Machine at Worlds. So, she turned to the nearest stress reliever: alcohol. She would fill her trusty yellow cup with whatever they had on hand at the house and try to drink herself calm. Her liver was resilient. It was fine. Until it wasn’t…

“I’VE GOT MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO! Urgh…” Beca squawked and grumbled as she hid her face in her hands, attempting not to claw her own face off in frustration.

“What could be more important than this?!” Chloe cried back hurt.

Beca immediately threw up a wall. “Nothing, forget it,” she said, throwing up her hands.

Normally Chloe would back down, but she was sick of it; sick of whatever secret or secrets Beca was hiding. She was pissed, which was saying a lot, because Chloe Beale rarely, if ever, got pissed. She was just tired of the misdirects and the lies and she just wanted Beca back, damn it!

“No, you don’t think that we haven’t all realized you’ve been a little checked out lately?”

Amy walked over to Beca, nudged her shoulder and lightly said, “C’mon, Beca. Just tell her.”

Beca stared at Amy in disbelief and betrayal.

“I heard that! Tell me what?” Chloe’s voice shook when she asked. At that point she was terrified of what Beca could possibly be keeping from her. Was she sick? Was she pregnant or had she been? What the hell was going on?

With a “valiant” effort, Amy tried to deflect and defuse with, “Uh, you misunderstood me. I clearly said, ‘rum pum pugger, kirsh melon.’” But it was instantly obvious that Chloe wasn’t buying it, so she tried again. “Listen, I don’t want you guys to fight. You’re Beca and Chloe—together you’re Bloe. And everyone loves a good blowy. So…”

“Ok,” Beca interjected, mercifully, and turned back to a visibly upset Chloe. With a deep breath, the dam burst and the secret and feelings came tumbling out. “I’ve been interning at a record studio, and a legit music producer wants to hear my work. God forbid I have something going on outside this group!” In what was possibly the least tactful way possible.

Relief washed over Chloe for a moment upon hearing that Beca wasn’t in any mortal danger (and wasn’t pregnant with Jesse’s aca-child). But then the anger of having been kept in the dark for all those months and all the unnecessary worry and stress she’d endured (read: somewhat put herself through) flooded her brain again.

“Ok? So, why would you keep something like that from us?”

Beca, fueled by her own stress and anxiety lashed back. “’Cause you’re obsessed! You all are!” She turned towards the rest of the Bellas. “We’re graduating, and the only person thinking about life after the Bellas in me.” She turned to face Chloe again, who had closed in on herself a bit; arms crossed tightly in front of her abdomen, hurt and dismay splashed across her normally delicate features.

“What is so wrong with being focused on the Bellas?” Chloe didn’t understand why Beca was suddenly so obtuse. That group was her safe place, her home. She wasn’t sure if she would ever be ready to say goodbye to it. Her life had changed immeasurably because of it. She had met too many people who were too important to her life now because of it; Beca being the main one. Didn’t she realize that? Could she really not see how much she meant to Chloe? “This has been my family for seven years!” she whimpered as tears pooled in her eyes.

“Yeah, ‘cause you’re too scared to leave! Sack up, dude!” Beca, ever the emotionally inept idiot shot back.

Chloe nodded, ready to tear Beca a new one. “Ok, so you’ve been lying to us for the entire year and now you’re just gonna flake out? Now you’re gonna flake out when the Worlds is right after graduation?!”

“Oh, my god…” Beca groaned. “Enough about the Worlds. I ca- I am out of here.” She threw her hands up, turned on her heel and stomped toward the Bellas bus.

“Oh, ok. You’re just gonna leave now? You-”

Beca spun back around quickly. “We all have to eventually, Chloe! It might as well be now!” She turned again, heading back to the bus. The others, who had quietly watched their leaders completely melt down tried to warn her, but she didn’t want to hear it. “If you all knew what was good for you, you’d follow me!”

“Beca the sign!” Emily yelled out, but it was too late.

SNAP! WHOOSH!

Beca was caught in a bear trap as it swung twenty feet in the air. She screamed bloody murder, insisted she was going blind from panic, and that she was sure she was about to die.

Chloe gaped momentarily and then walked over with a smug grin on her face. “Well, well, well. Look who needs our help!”

The group gathered under their trapped co-captain, each of them trying to figure out the best course of action.

Not cool, guys!” Beca screeched.

“No, what’s not cool is you taking out your frustrations on us!” Chloe rightfully pointed out.

“Really?” Beca yelled back, still flailing. “That’s what you’re gonna say to me right now?! Help me! I’m dying. I’m dying.

SNAP! CRACK!

The old tree’s branch started to give way under the unexpected weight of a human captive and all of the unhelpful thrashing Beca had done. The rest of the Bellas (other than Chloe, and Lilly, who inspected the situation intently) screamed in horror at possibly seeing their friend fall a long way down.

Emily tried to suggest getting a ladder to help get Beca down, but Aubrey insisted they didn’t have any because of their innate suggestion of an unhealthy corporate hierarchy mindset that was counterproductive to her teambuilding method.

“Ok, if I’m about to die, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean any of that stuff I said!” Beca was in full on panic-mode. “I love all of you! I love all of you awesome nerds and I love being a Bella. I’m just so stressed out right now!” she cried. CRACK! The branch snapped again and Beca screamed. “AHHHHH!”

Chloe’s protective instinct kicked in and she set about trying to create a cheerleading cradle for Beca to fall into.

Unfortunately, Beca came tumbling down before Chloe got everyone set and Amy took the brunt of the weight. They looked up after Beca and squirmed her way out of the netting and saw Lilly hanging upside down with two very sharp knives in her hands.

“I sleep upside down, like a bat,” she said, as if that explained anything.

And in the end, it didn’t really have to. All the bad feelings had finally been released. There were no more secrets. The burden had finally been alleviated. Just about everything felt right, again.

Chloe helped Beca fully out of the net, picking the leaves and twigs out of her hair and gently cleaning off the dirt on her face. Beca immediately pulled her into a hug and quietly apologized, shaking a little while Chloe felt a few tears on her bare shoulder. She squeezed Beca tightly, but careful in case she was hurt.

“I’m sorry, too,” she whispered into Beca’s temple before she placed a light kiss to it.

Aubrey looked on, the faintest hint of pride in her smile. It was probably the biggest success/breakthrough she had ever managed during her time at The Lodge at Fallen Leaves.

She ushered everyone back towards the main lodge, allowing everyone access to the executive showers before dinner and the closing bonfire.


To kiss in cars and downtown bars
Was all we needed.
You drew stars around my scars
But now I’m bleeding.

New York City, 2017

She hated her job… Well… No… Yes? Sometimes. Beca sometimes really hated her job.

After interning with Residual Heat, Beca was able to land an entry level producing gig with B.F.D. Artists in New York City after graduation. It sounded like a great opportunity throughout the interview process: they would start her out with new talent and, if/when she proved herself, she would be promoted to more successful and established performers. B.F.D. had recruited her. They had sought Beca out. The executives had given her the wink and the nod. That was supposed to mean something.

But there she was, two years later, and she was still being given assignments like Pimp-Lo and his terrible beats and even worse lyrics. She was so tired. She felt like her talent was not being utilized properly and she was underappreciated. She was definitely underpaid. That wink and nod meant jack all.

But still, it was a job in the industry Beca had desperately wanted to be in since she could remember. The conversation with her dad all those years ago at Barden reverberated through her mind…

“I wanna produce music. I wanna make music, Dad.”

Beca sighed heavily. It would get better; it had to. That was her chosen profession. She would not burn out after two years. That would be ridiculous and embarrassing and lead to years of self-loathing and crippling doubt. No, that wasn’t happening.

For her own sanity, though, she couldn’t listen to Pimp-Lo for another second. She slammed her laptop shut and packed her bag for the evening. She needed a stiff drink (or several) and she needed to blow off steam.

---

The night started like most of their nights out: Beca, Chloe and Amy would get ready in their tiny, overpriced studio apartment; they would have a couple of pregame drinks; they would pick a hole in the wall bar and head over with a slight buzz.

The night progressed with the ordering of drinks and, after a while, they would commandeer a pool table or dart board for a few games. Then, inevitably, shots would be poured. They would dance to the jukebox or the band, if one happened to be playing at whatever establishment they chose. Mostly, it ended up with Chloe pulling Beca out to the floor to dance—and they would sip water every now and again, when they remembered. And then, another shot or beer or mixed drink.

That was also about the time Amy locked eyes with someone—or in a few instances, a group of people—and slipped out with a wink, a nod, and a, “I need to go spend some time with people who’re more interested in me than each other.” Those damn winks and nods that Beca never seemed to fully understand their meaning.

Then it would just be Beca and Chloe. Inebriated, faces flushed and the nagging reminder of sleep being a necessity, they would order an Uber or a Lyft and one last shot for the road.

---

About a year prior, a new step in the routine appeared. In the dark of the backseat, they started the ride looking out opposite windows but their heads lolled toward the middle; to each other’s gaze. They exchanged lopsided smiles through heavy-lidded eyes and, slowly but surely, they moved closer. They leaned in until Chloe’s hands gently cradled Beca’s jawline and their lips met. Beca felt like her heart had been injected with pure heroin in that moment; a jolt ran through her body. Her hands wound their way into Chloe’s hair, ultimately bracing themselves on the back of her neck so Chloe wouldn’t pull away too soon (as if that were at all likely to happen with the way tiny whines escaped her throat). It was perfect harmony.

The first time it happened, it was quick but sweet. They laughed it off like it was no big deal; a one-time thing. But then it kept happening. Eventually they stopped fighting it; Beca stopped fighting it. Chloe’s lips were just so soft and she was so good at kissing. She made Beca feel wanted and it was nice to be wanted instead of belittled or undervalued like she felt at work.

Short, timid kisses turned to longer, deeper kisses. Heartbeats raced; hands wandered over clothes—sometimes a finger or two would slip ever so slightly under a shirt or under a waistband. Breathy sighs slipped from unoccupied lips as one focused on the pale expanse of an unmarked neck.

Every now and then Beca felt…not bad. Not guilty. But…some way that didn’t sit quite right, in her soul. But then their eyes would meet and it seemed like Chloe was fine with it, happy about it, even. So, the “off” feeling would melt away for yet another night. “Besides,” her brain would try to reason. “What was a drunken make out (a few times a week) between old friends?” Chloe was too busy with pre-vet school training to date. Beca had zero interest in people, especially dudes, lately. It was mutually beneficial.

When they arrived home, they got ready for bed and then several possible scenarios could play out—mood dependent, of course.

Option one: they kissed until they fell asleep. Option two: they whispered about whatever came to mind. But the most likely was the last: they cuddled like they did back at Barden; enjoying the silence of their single room apartment, the slightly muted din of New York only sneaking in every now and again between breaths.

In the morning they had breakfast and, if it was a work day, departed for work as though nothing of major consequence had happened.

---

The dalliance continued through Beca quitting her job and Aubrey suggesting the USO tour. Right up until the moment when Chicago—she never understood why parents would name their kids after cities, but god she hated it—swooped in and Chloe, for whatever reason, was immediately mesmerized by his…generic good looks.

Sure, he seemed like a genuinely sweet guy. But Beca was positive they had nothing in common. And the Bellas were there for a job, kind of. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to open for DJ Khaled.

Beca was frustrated by Chloe’s waning attention. They went from hot and heavy to borderline frigid and what seemed like rare acknowledgements that they even were friends. And then there was the constant, gnat-like presence of Theo. It was like every time she turned around, there he was, trying way too hard to be charming or whatever. The guy didn’t take a hint.

Beca was focused on trying to keep the Bellas together, but Theo was relentless in diverting her attention to pretty, shiny things like expensive microphones and fancy recording equipment and blathering on about whatever came out of his turtle face. It was like no matter how hard she tried, either Chicago pulled Chloe aside or Theo ushered Beca somewhere.

She didn’t like it, but also didn’t know how to stop it. As much as she wanted to barge into Chloe’s room and demand her attention or grab her by the hand and lead her away while giving Chicago her death glare, that wouldn’t have been fair. Chloe wasn’t hers. Beca didn’t own her. They never had any sort of discussion of “rules” or labels when whatever happened, happened. It was a fluid situation. It seemed that there was an unspoken agreement that, when sober and in the light of day, they were just…friends.

Blech.

That word tasted off—foul, metallic even, on her tongue—now. Friendship didn’t describe the relationship, the bond, they had forged over all those years. Nothing made sense anymore. Too many lines had been crossed and blurred and too many nights had been spent with their tongues in each other’s mouths.

Beca needed to think.

---

She laid alone in her room, soundless. Lights off and pensive, she frowned at the ceiling and periodically clenched and unclenched her jaw. She went over her entire history with the Bellas and with Chloe; from the chance meeting at the Activities Fair and Chloe barging into her shower stall just shy of a month later, to that moment in the tent at the retreat when Chloe divulged—seemingly out of nowhere—that she wished she had done more experimenting in college and the subsequent knock-down, drag-out fight they had, and to when they (and Amy) rented their current apartment and Chloe suggested they just share a bed, since there wouldn’t be space for three. Memories were relived through a new, slightly shifted lens. Like when the eye doctor asked which was clearer, number one or number two.

And that’s when realization finally (so she was a little slow; sue her) hit. A freight train of repressed thoughts and feelings from her brain collided with her heart and she couldn’t breathe. It was her very own Cher Horowitz in Clueless, “Oh, my god… I love Josh!” moment.

Beca Mitchell loved Chloe Beale. Not just in a friend way. Not in a sisterly way. But full on, “hey, I could definitely spend the rest of my life with you and I’m not even sure if I believe in the institution or concept of marriage, but I’ll totally do it if you want to.”

But did Chloe feel the same way, anymore? Had she ever felt that way? Was Beca too late? The tour was over in a couple of days. She told herself that she would talk to Chloe after DJ Khaled had made his choice.


‘Cause I knew you
Stepping on the last train
Marked me like a bloodstain, I-
I knew you, tried to change the ending
Peter losing Wendy, I-

South of France, 2017

Gob smacked. It wasn’t an expression Beca ever used, but it was the only semi-accurate way to feel after Theo had, once again, whisked her away from the girls—with yet another unwanted flirtation attempt—to “talk,” only to bring her to see Khaled and be told that he had chosen her, not the Bellas, to open for him the following day.

Obviously, she was flattered, but at the same time she felt she was betraying her friends; her family. She couldn’t, wouldn’t do that to them. Not after everything they had all been through together. It was all of them or none of them, and she told Theo as much. But he insisted she think about it, sleep on it, and let him know the next morning.

Beca apologized once more and fled. She needed to find the Bellas. She needed to find Chloe.

---

Across town…

Chloe, Aubrey, and the rest of the Bellas (minus Beca and Amy) relaxed at a small café after they had done a little sightseeing and window shopping. They had decided to be adventurous and fancy and try absinthe for the first time, but struggled to determine how to prepare it properly.

Emily glanced at her phone and then set it back on the table. She looked to Chloe and asked, “Do you guys know where Beca is? Theo must have said something to her by now, the show is literally tomorrow!”

Chloe had been a little worried about Beca’s whereabouts, too. She had felt so confused and conflicted since they had arrived in Spain and she met Chicago. He was just so sweet and easy to talk to. Granted, she rarely heard a word he said when he spoke; her mind and eyes seemed to wander when he did. But he was a change of pace from her life the past couple of years.

She didn’t know what was going on in Beca’s mind when they had their moments in the backs of all those cars. Beca never talked about it and Chloe, forward as she could be—and usually was—was afraid to bring it up. Chloe enjoyed their tryst, immensely. She finally had gotten something from Beca that she didn’t fully realize she had been wanting all those years, but hadn’t really had the opportunity to pursue because Beca was with Jesse. But she knew how squirrely and apprehensive Beca could get if she felt ambushed by feelings; those walls went up and she became seemingly impenetrable. Chloe didn’t want to risk it, so she stayed quiet and let it continue; allowed the unresolved emotions to keep filling her heart until it burst. She figured the conversation had to happen at some point, but it never did.

So, they boarded a plane and there he was: dark hair, square jaw, aviator sunglasses and defined muscles below his uniform. His smile and cute laugh didn’t hurt, either. She could probably easily fall for this guy, if she let herself, and he seemed pretty interested. The only thing that stopped her was the uncertainty with Beca. They needed to talk.

Chloe shook her head, getting back to the moment.

“I know,” Aubrey replied, smashing and swirling the sugar cube into her drink.

“Guys, if Khaled picks us, it’ll be our last show together,” Chloe said with sadness that Aubrey echoed with her pout. Chloe shook her head and took a shaky breath, tears pooled in her eyes. “Bellas,” she began and raised her glass. “A toast!”

She waited for the others to join her before she continued, “They say that home is where the heart is, but you guys are the homes that my heart lives in. I am inside of all of you!” The rest of the girls exchanged awkward glances, but Chloe wasn’t done… “And it feels so good. Cheers!”

As they clinked glasses and exchanged “I love yous,” a strange, but dapperly dressed man with an accent approached them.

“Excuse me, are you the Bellas?” he inquired.

The group replied in the affirmative and he introduced himself with a kind, sly smile.

“My name is Henri. Chicago sent me to take you to the USO reception.”

“Chicago never mentioned any reception?” Aubrey responded as the others whispered their confusion.

Henri shook his head, “Something about an... announcement?”

The group instantly perked up, but Chloe still felt something was off.

“Um, we need to find our friends. Beca and Fat Amy?”

“Oh,” Henri jumped in quickly and nodded. “They are already there, with Chicago.”

“Oh!” That made sense to Chloe. She thought it was a little weird Beca hadn’t texted any of them about it, but maybe there wasn’t time. Everything was happening so fast.

The girls gathered their things and, even though Cynthia Rose looked a bit distrustful, she and the others followed Henri to his Mercedes limo van…

Only to be kidnapped and taken hostage by Fat Amy’s deranged dad on his yacht.

---

At the hotel…

Beca had spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the city, lost in thought. Her feet ached—she really shouldn’t have worn those boots—her lower back was very angry and she was emotionally exhausted. If she were being honest, the Khaled offer was so attractive. She could finally call the shots in her career; finally make the music she had always wanted to make. But when she tried to picture it, it felt incongruous. Beca had never once considered being a vocalist. She had always been a lowkey, behind the scenes kind of person. She loved using her gifts to help others find their light and shine.

Desperate for council, she sought out her friends. She started with Aubrey’s room, because she knew if she wanted the ugly truth, Aubrey wouldn’t hesitate to pitch slap her with it. But Aubrey didn’t answer.

Next, she went to Emily’s room. Because even though Emily was younger, she had kind of experienced the artist side of the music business. And her room happened to be right next to Aubrey’s. However, Emily didn’t answer either.

She tried Chloe’s next, but still no one answered.

Maybe they went to dinner already, Beca thought.

She made her way down the hall and decided to try one last room: Amy’s. Beca put her ear against the door and heard Amy’s voice. She took one more listen to make sure Amy didn’t have a “special friend” with her—two years in that studio apartment, she and Chloe had each definitely learned their lesson about just walking into the room without double checking. It seemed the coast was clear, so she walked in.

“Hey, Amy. Um, I need to talk to you about something. It’s kind of important.”

Amy was on the phone, but glanced back at her. “Oh, yeah, just a second. I’m on a call.”

“Ok,” she squeaked out.

Beca was grateful. That gave her time to try and formulate her thoughts. How would she start? Should she just come out and tell Amy about the Khaled offer? Should she start with the “I have a major toner for Chloe” stuff? And…why was Amy talking like that dude from Taken?

Meh, whatever. Just Amy being Amy.

She continued to glance around the room until Amy shouted “NOW!” into her phone and then ran to the chest of drawers to Beca’s left.

“Ok, so, I have kinda bad news,” Beca began, not at all concerned about Amy’s frantic movements throughout her hotel room. “Uh, and I know you’re gonna be fine, uh- And I know everybody’s gonna be fine, but, like—"

Beca paused after Amy rifled through the drawer and pulled out a…rappelling rope? Well, she’d definitely seen stranger things appear from Amy’s dresser, so she continued.

“Um, well, we didn’t get picked, man. And, you know what? Like, screw them! That’s not like, the whole story, there’s uh- er- uh—” Beca stuttered as Amy held up various articles of black clothing to her body, then continued to ransack her own room. “I don’t know… I still feel like I wanna tell you, ‘cause I think secrets are like, the worst, right? So, yeah…” she trailed off.

Amy, finally done collecting various items, agreed. “Yeah, it’s the worst. Let’s go.” She grabbed Beca’s arm and dragged her out of the room.

“Go where?”

“Don’t worry, we’ll change in the cab.”

---

After Amy made Beca do the hard work of paddling them in the tiniest rowboat Beca had ever seen, she stealthily made her way to the deck and waited until Amy’s dad and his goons were distracted enough to slide into the back of the group, just behind Chloe.

God, she smells good. Beca shook her head clear. Focus, Mitchell.

He walked back towards the girls and menacingly stated, “Ten minutes, ladies!”

Beca casually leaned out from behind Chloe and spoke earnestly.  “Guys, you know what we should do?” The Bellas turned around gaping at her surprise appearance.

“Where did you come from?” inquired Amy’s dad.

Huh, so that’s what Jessica and Ashley feel like…

“What?” Beca replied.

“You weren’t here before.”

Beca glanced around, “I’ve…been here the whole time. I’m just…small.”

Amy’s dad looked unconvinced, but the girls and even one of his henchmen nodded in the affirmative, so Beca took her chance to distract him before he could question it further.

“Just…if we only have ten minutes left,” she said as she rose to her feet, her voice taking on a saccharine tone. “I say we spend it doing something we love. Let’s go out like Bellas and sing one more song.”

She sent pointed glances in Chloe and Aubrey’s directions and hoped to god they would pick it up. She got her answer when they all immediately thought she was crazy and started questioning the timing.

Beca tried her best to recover. “I THINK WE SHOULD sing one more song, though.” She smiled sweetly and sent another pointed look their way.

Chloe looked like she started to get it, but the others were still confused.

“Oh my god,” Beca whispered to herself. “GUYS, I just wanna sing so bad.” She shot Amy’s dad a big, pained smile.

“Right,” Chloe agreed.

“You want to entertain me?” Amy’s dad snickered and glanced at his watch. “Knock yourselves out. Nine minutes!” He and his henchmen walked toward the chair at the other end of the room and the Bellas got back on their feet.

“Let’s make it a LOUD ONE, guys!” Beca shouted and signaled for everyone to huddle up, then angrily whispered, “You are terrible at reading signals!”

They worked together to quickly move the furniture to the sides of the room and jumped right into a Britney classic.

Their hips swayed and they made sure to stomp their feet loudly on the deck and the floor. Beca, Chloe and Aubrey took the solos.

Amy’s dad’s head started to bounce to the beat and Beca noticed that the henchmen’s shoulders were moving slightly.

The Bellas continued their perfect choreography. They were so in sync; muscle memory had taken over.

When Amy’s dad’s foot started to tap along, Beca knew it was over. They had them right where they wanted them.

As Beca moved to the front of the group, with her back to Amy’s dad, she and Chloe locked eyes. She could see the slight panic, but Chloe gave her an imperceptible nod. They were in this together, no matter what happened next; Chloe trusted her. Beca gave her a quick smirk and spun back around.

She hoped Amy was nearly done with whatever she was doing below deck, because the song was nearing its end. There was only so much improvisation you could do to a Britney song.

They did a whole verse worth of backing noise and that’s when the muffled booms started. They took that as a cue to wrap it up, and increased their volume at the same time. Beca and Cynthia Rose glanced up at the glass ceiling at the same time and noticed Amy’s silhouette. Beca and Chloe instantly switched the choreography to covertly direct the others out of the way so they could finally finish this.

As they crescendoed with “with the taste of your lips, I’m on a ride,” the Bellas parted like the Red Sea and Amy crashed through the ceiling with a fire extinguisher.

“FREEDOM!” she shrieked, and activated the extinguisher in her dad’s direction.

Beca yelled and guided the others off the yacht and into the water. After she made sure the others had made it out safely, she turned back for Amy, who was still spraying the device. She ran over and pulled her away.

“Amy, let’s go!”

They held hands and leaped over the side of the yacht as a huge explosion boomed and roared throughout the marina and a fireball started to engulf the top half of the boat.

Beca landed with a loud splash and when she surfaced, she heard Chloe yelling for her. She looked around and located her and then looked for Amy, to make sure she was ok after having first landed in their rowboat.

“You’ve been a very naughty girl, Turnip Top!” Amy’s dad yelled from the deck they’d all just leapt.

Sirens blared all around and a bright helicopter spotlight temporarily blinded them as the police converged on their location.

The girls reunited around the rowboat and waited to be rescued from the water. It was a long, long night of questions.

---

The next morning, on land…

The police had escorted the Bellas to a boathouse in the marina where Chicago waited. He greeted Chloe first and then checked on the rest of them. He informed them that the police had arrested Amy’s dad and that they would be able to leave in a short while. He looked reassuringly at Chloe before he stepped out to speak to the officers.

“I have no idea what just happened, but if Khaled doesn’t pick us after all of that, what are we doing with our lives?” Emily said, still shaken from the night’s events.

Jessica and Ashley giggled from their spot on the wall behind her, in total agreeance.

Beca looked down at the table, guilt stricken.

Amy glanced at her and knew what had to be done. “Uhhh, I think Beca has something she’d like to share with the group.”

Beca felt the heavy thud of the tire from the bus she’d just been thrown under bounce on her head and heart, along with the eyes of her friends waiting expectantly.

“Um…thanks, Amy.” She looked down at the table again before taking a quick breath. “Uh, yeah. I was gonna say something earlier, but we were involved in a hostage crisis,” she looked up briefly to Chloe who seemed to have a slight sadness in her eyes. “So, I just-”

“They picked her,” Amy blurted out. Beca gave her a look, but was also somewhat grateful. She was really bad about keeping things concise when she worried about hurting these people. Everyone paused and traded glances, a small smile peaked out on Cynthia Rose’s lips. Amy continued, “DJ Khaled and his team; they didn’t pick the Bellas, they picked Beca. So, yeah. So, they only picked her.”

“Yeah, but I said no because I feel exactly how you feel: you guys are family and you don’t walk away from family!” Beca emotionally vomited to her friends. She saw Chloe shake her head, confused, out of the corner of her eye. She was taken aback by the response she received.

“Don’t you want to make music?” Flo asked with a smile.

“No, I guess, but-” Beca stammered.

“Beca, you can’t say no! You’ve got to do it!” Amy interrupted again, looking around for the others’ encouragement. “Look, your real family doesn’t hold you back; they lift you up.”

Aubrey burst into tears and Beca tried to console her, insisting that it wasn’t important to her and that she wouldn’t take the contract.

Again, to Beca’s surprise, Aubrey clarified she was relieved. She never wanted to perform again, if she didn’t absolutely have to. She was tired of the constant nausea. She started happy crying and everyone else laughed with her.

Aubrey then relayed that, perhaps, she would move to Mykonos and become a birth coach. And the dam burst of everyone’s future, non-music related plans when this trip was done.

“You guys,” Chloe, ever the leader, stood up and cleared her throat. “I think it’s time that we go on with the next chapter of our lives.” She looked at Beca briefly then continued, “It’s time for us to move on, you know?” Everyone nodded. Beca looked wary. “I mean, we’re always gonna be there for each other, ‘cause we’re family. And I mean, I, for one, am very ready.” She smiled slyly. “I got the call that I got into vet school!”

“You got in!?” Beca shouted, overjoyed for Chloe. She was so proud and she hoped her smile conveyed that.

Chloe laughed, “Yes, I got in. I know. I’m a vet!”

The rest of the girls congratulated her and Beca looked over to Amy.

“What about you, Ames? You sure you’re cool with this?”

If any of them had said they weren’t ok with it, Beca had decided she wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t worth losing a friend over. Besides, if she could land a record deal once, why couldn’t she do it again, right?

“Are you kidding me? I just found out I got $180 million to put into Fat Amy Winehouse,” Amy returned.

Disbelief echoed around the room as they took in that random and shocking piece of news.

“Wait,” she continued. “I could do more shows: Fat Amy Adams; Fat Amy Grant—oh, that would be good for Christmas…”

Beca nodded and agreed.

“Beca…” Amy leaned on the table, closer to her, grabbed her hand and gave her a tear-filled smile.

“Don’t,” Beca interrupted. She could see where this was going. “I swear to god, don’t make that face,” she ordered through clenched teeth.

Amy’s face strained as she tried to comply.

“If you cry, I’m gonna cry!”

Chloe’s eyes welled up as she gave Beca a sweet, knowing smile. As tough and aloof as Beca had always tried to be, she was a marshmallow deep down.

“I’m not gonna do this with you today, so-” Beca’s voice broke as emotion started to overcome her. She noticed the others smiling warmly at her.

Oh, God. It’s too much…

“I’m not doing it,” Amy said with her own jaw clenched as her face contorted.

“I hate that face.”

“I’m not!”

A stern Beca replied, a single finger pointed like a mother admonished her child, “Don’t make that face!”

“This is my regular face,” Amy said back. Her face returned to semi-normal for a moment as she spoke. “You know how much I love you. You just get out there,” she paused for a moment to sniffle, “and you crush it. Okay?” Chloe was a silent crying wreck, nodding along. Beca clenched her jaw as hard as she could, shaking her head; trying anything and everything to prevent tears. “You crush it so hard that your nips tingle a bit.”

“She loves hugs,” Chloe shot out with a watery smirk.

“Don’t!” Beca shrieked, but braced for impact. If there was one thing the Bellas couldn’t resist, it was a group hug. “That’s not funny- I- urgh…” she protested, even as they all gathered around.

Chloe, of course, held on the longest and hugged the hardest. She squeezed her hand three times before she walked away.

Beca’s heart sank for a brief moment. She had wanted Chloe to hang back so they could finally talk.

After the show, then.

---

Later that night…

Beca waited backstage for her introduction. So many things raced through her mind at once. The trip had been an absolute whirlwind and it was almost over. After the show, everything changed.

A wave of panic and nausea hit her hard. Now she knew what Aubrey was talking about. It had never happened to her before. She was always at least somewhat confident before a performance, but she realized that was because she always had the others out there with her, to hold her up as she held them. It was time to do it on her own.

Had she ever properly thanked them for everything they’d done for and with her, over the years? She tried to remember. There was the time freshman year at Lincoln Center when she said she loved them, but Amy had kind of interrupted that moment. And then she did it again at Worlds before Beca really had a chance to say anything.

It’s not too late, she supposed.

“I introduce you to…Beca. Mitchell.”

Beca took one last breath, squared her shoulders and headed to the stage.

“Ooooh oooh Ooooh ooooh…” she looped her backing vocals, layering the varied oohs and mmms expertly.

The lighting effects started and she gazed out into the crowd. Her Bellas were front row, watching adoringly. Her heart raced faster and faster as she went down the line, eyes finally ending on Chloe.

Beca gripped the mic stand with her right hand and clasped the microphone with her left.

“Heaven knows I was just a young boy; didn’t know what I wanted to be.
I was every little schoolgirl’s pride and joy, and I guess it was enough for me.
To win the race? A prettier face! Brand new clothes and a big fat place on your rock and roll TV.”

She could see the pride on each of their faces and it gave her the confidence she needed. She knew she didn’t need them up there with her anymore.

“Today the way I play the game is not the same, no way.” She smirked, unlocking the microphone from the stand, and headed towards the audience. “I think I’m gonna get me some happy.” She grabbed Amy’s hand and pulled her up onto the stage as Theo signaled for the rest of the Bellas to join. “I think there’s something you should know.”

“I think it’s time I told you so,” Amy sang back as Beca put the mic in front of her.

“There’s something deep inside of me,” Beca continued and gestured for someone else to jump in.

Without missing a beat, Cynthia Rose sang out while the others harmonized, “There’s someone else I gotta be.”

“Take back your picture in a frame.”

“Take back your singing in the rain.”

“I just hope you understand-”

The girls joined together and swelled, “sometimes the clothes do not make the man!”

Just because Beca didn’t need them up there, didn’t mean she didn’t want them up there, one last time. That was her opportunity to say thank you. To show them just how much she loved them all. To let them know she would hold them close to her heart always.

“All we have to do now, is take these lies and make them true.

All we have to see, is that I don’t belong to you and you don’t belong to me. Yeah, yeah!”

Beca broke out from the line they had formed and began singing to each Bella individually. Taking care to have a special moment with each of them.

“(Freedom) I won’t let you down.
(Freedom) I will not give you up
(Freedom) Gotta have some faith in the- (yeah) have some faith in the sound.”

She grasped Cynthia Rose’s hand lightly and pulled her to the middle of the group.

“I think there’s something you should know,” Beca crooned out.

Cynthia Rose put her hand over her heart and sang back as she rejoined the line of Bellas, “I think it’s time I start the show.”

“There’s something deep inside of me.”

“There’s someone I forgot to be.”

“Take back your picture in a frame.”

“Don’t think that I’ll be back again.”

“I just hope you understand…” The group swelled again, “Sometimes the clothes do not make the man.”

The rest of the girls went soft with their harmonies as Beca prepared for her big moment.

“Oooohhhh. I will not let you down.” Tears filled her eyes as she looked at her family. They were, and always would be, everything.

They all put their hands in one last time as Beca yelled out.

“(Freedom) OOOOOOHHHH OOOH AYYYY!
(Freedom) FREEDOM! FREEDOM!”

The Bellas started crying and hugging, never once stopping their backing and harmonies.

“(Have some faith in the sound) Have some faith in the sound. Ohhh.
(Freedom) Fuh-reedom. FREEDOM!”

The song neared its ending, so Beca made a point to hug each and every Bella at least once.

“(All we have to do now) All we can do
(Is take these lies and make them true) make them true
(All we have to see) Ahh ooooh
(Is that I don’t belong to you) Freedom
(And you don’t belong to me) FREEDOM!”

The Bellas clustered together one last time, with Beca in the middle, and joined hands. 

“(Ohhh oh Ohhh oh Ohhh) I won’t let you down.
(Ohhh oh Ohhh oh Ohhh) I will not give you up.
(Ohhh oh Ohhh oh Ohhh) Gotta have some faith in the sound.
(Ohhh oh Ohhh oh Ohhh) It’s the one good thing that I’ve got.”

The harmonies faded out as Beca stepped forward, the lights behind her slowly dimmed until she was in a single spot.

“I won’t let you down. I will not give you up. It’s the one good thing that I’ve…got.”

The crowd erupted with thunderous applause. Beca smiled tearfully and clutched the microphone to her chest, overcome by emotion.

She turned around and was instantly sucked into a hug from Chloe, followed by another group hug. She felt Chloe’s heart racing, right along with her own.

What she didn’t see, however, was the broken smile on Chloe’s face.

“I love you guys so much,” Beca said as the group hug and the dam of tears finally broke.

They turned to face the audience for one last bow and wave and the Bellas left Beca alone on stage for her own special moment.

Chloe looked back for a moment at Beca and smiled, albeit forlornly, and headed to the backstage area.

After their discussion in the boathouse, Chloe realized she couldn’t wait for Beca any longer. Especially not when she was about to start veterinary school and Beca would probably have to move to LA to work with Khaled.

She paused in one of the arches and clutched her chest, willing herself to not have a complete breakdown right there. It could wait until she was back in the privacy of her hotel room.

“Chloe?” Chicago called out.

She exhaled and pushed herself off the wall on which she leaned. If she couldn’t have Beca, Chicago might do. She put on her best sultry smile and turned the corner, marched right up to him and pulled him by his tie for a kiss.

Little did she know, Beca was just behind her, primed to tell her every last squishy, disgusting feeling she’d had built up over the past six years.

It was like watching a car crash in slow motion. Beca wanted to look away or scream for them to stop or push him off the cliff the building was on—literally anything to make it stop. But once again, she was silent. She crossed her arms protectively and leaned against a pillar as Theo appeared.

“Hey, you were great-” he started, then followed her eyeline to the horror. “Oh, that’s nice.”

Beca glanced up disparagingly and made a disgusted face. He finally took the hint.

Work it is, then, Beca thought. If Chloe didn’t want her, that was just fine. She could compartmentalize and repress with the best of them.

“So, you work for me, now?” Beca questioned, half-joking.

“Yeah, you’re the boss,” Theo replied, awkward and unsure of what to do with his hands.

“That’s cool… Yeah.” Beca nodded in return.

Theo started to walk away, “I had some ideas…”

Beca followed and joked, “I’m gonna be a real handful, I gotta tell ya.”

“Well, I realized that from the beginning,” he jested back.

They headed to the green room to go over a few things before he had Beca driven back to the hotel.

As she headed out, he called for her, “Hey, Beca? This is gonna be a good thing, I promise.”

Beca gave him a curt nod and ducked out of the room, following her driver to the car. The last few days had been a roller coaster and she was exhausted in just about every way imaginable. She would take advantage of whatever rest she could come by, because her life was about to change drastically in so many ways—she probably wouldn’t have much time for sleep. She was about to have to take her own crass advice.

Sack up, dude.


But I knew you’d linger like a tattoo kiss
I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs
[…]
‘Cause I knew everything when I was young
[…]
Chasing shadows in the grocery line
I knew you’d miss me once the thrill expired
And you’d be standing in my front porch light
And I knew you’d come back to me

New York City, Mid-March 2019

It had been a bear of a week and Chloe was exhausted. She was in her second year of vet school, taking a full load and working part time at a small clinic near school to pay her monthly bills. She knew when she had originally applied that it would be a lot of work, but she thought her schedule would allow for slightly more free time than what she actually had. Thankfully it was spring break, so she could relax slightly for the next week.

Chloe covered a yawn as she clocked out of the clinic. She had a long subway ride to the Upper East Side—after the USO tour Amy used some of her newfound fortune and bought a “modest” 5-bedroom, ultra-modern townhouse in the posh neighborhood and offered Chloe a room, rent free, while she was in school—and she still needed to stop at the grocery store.

Chloe tugged her coat tight around herself and adjusted the beanie on her head; the night air was still chilled as New York’s harsh winter tried desperately to hold on. She headed up the block and checked her watch—if she didn’t hurry, she would miss her train and be stuck waiting another 20 minutes. She picked up her pace slightly, mindful not to slip on an ice patch, then made her way carefully down the subway entrance’s steps.

She swiped her MetroCard and jogged to her platform, her backpack bouncing with every step. She’d made it just in time and was grateful the car was mostly empty. She found a seat and lowered herself with a tired exhale.

---

Chloe made her way through the aisles relatively quickly, grabbing staples like pasta and sauce, soup, and bread, as well as some chips and salsa. She also picked up some fresh produce, for her daily smoothies. Unfortunately, her hurried pace didn’t matter much as only two lines were open and they were each three shoppers deep.

Sighing to herself, she stretched out her tired back and muscles and leaned for support on her cart. She couldn’t wait to get home and take a bath before getting into bed.

Chloe glanced around the checkout stands at the various magazines and tabloids. As blue eyes flitted from one rag to the next, they stumbled on one headline in particular:

Beca Mitchell Spotted Out with New Gal Pal: Exclusive Details!

She felt a sharp twinge in her heart and stomach. Beca had become a very touchy subject with Chloe since Europe…

---

Two years ago…

As Chloe expected, Beca moved out of the studio apartment they’d all shared only a couple of weeks after their return. Beca swore to Chloe that she’d keep in touch and would be back to visit before she knew it. And for a while, she stuck to her word.

Beca visited at least once a month for the first few months, and checked in via Facetime or text or email every few days. But then the visits stopped; the emails were sparsely detailed and Facetime calls went unanswered completely. Chloe would be lucky to get a text letting her know Beca was even still alive every week. They’d be accompanied by apologies and excuses of long days and nights at the recording studio, being stuck in production and style meetings all day or the time difference and Beca not wanting to wake Chloe so late in the night or early in the morning.

Chloe tried her best to be understanding, and for the first six months, she was. She knew at least some of what Beca was telling her was true. And she had encouraged Beca to pursue this dream—this was just part of the trade-off that came with it, she supposed. Chloe had her relationship with Chicago to focus on, anyway… Until she didn’t.

She hadn’t really considered the whole long-distance issue when she decided to dive into it headfirst. She also didn’t consider the fact that, having only known him for a couple of weeks, they would quickly run out of things to talk about. She realized they had very little in common and each of them had a hard time relating to the other’s experiences. Their conversations soon became stilted and awkward and the relationship, if you could even call it that, fizzled within two months.

The lack of a distraction in the form of Chicago made Beca’s ever growing distance that much harder for Chloe. She looked for other distractions, instead. She helped Amy with developing her next iteration of “Fat Amy Winehouse,” which included performing it in a tiny theater off-off-broadway—Chloe did the lighting work—over the summer. Every night her heart ached with sadness, but she got a little better at ignoring it. And then finally, she had the perfect distraction: school started.

She worked her ass off day and night and would sporadically send Beca pictures of any cute animals that were brought into her classes. Beca would sometimes send back an emoji or two, or an “Aww” like response. The exam prep was nothing like she’d ever faced at Barden. She wrangled Aubrey and Stacie to help her study over Skype sessions. Through it all, Chloe managed to pull in a 3.5 GPA her first semester, and her grades had only gone up from there.

---

Beca’s album released in April 2018 to big fanfare and went platinum shortly thereafter. She convinced the label to hold the release party in New York, on a Friday night, and invited all of the Bellas. Sadly, the others couldn’t get away. That left Chloe and Amy as the only Bellas, and when they showed up, they were shocked to find Beca with a girl on her arm.

“Did you know about this?” Chloe quietly hissed to Amy as Beca and the leggy brunette she was with made their way over.

Amy took a big sip of her drink and replied, “No, she never mentioned anyone. I figured she was still hung up on- Hey, Beca!”

Amy didn’t get the chance to finish her sentence.

“Hey, guys! Thank you so much for coming! It means so much,” Beca pulled them into tight but quick hugs.

Chloe smiled softly at Beca, taking in the subtle changes to her outward appearance since they’d last seen each other. “Of course, we came. We wouldn’t be anywhere else.”

Beca returned Chloe’s smile for what seemed a moment too long to the girl beside her, as she cleared her through, obviously annoyed.

Beca shook her head and apologized, “Right, sorry. Guys, this is Taya. Taya, this is Amy and Chloe.”

The woman now known as Taya appraised them (Chloe, mostly) with pursed lips and a lifted eyebrow before extending her hand to them. “Charmed, I’m sure.”

Chloe and Amy exchanged a look before they each shook her hand.

“Oh, there’s Theo,” Beca said as she looked just beyond where they stood. “I gotta go say hi to the label execs, but we’ll catch up later, ok? I’ve missed you guys.”

They nodded and watched Beca head off to the other side of the room, Taya struggling to keep up in her too high of heels for this kind of flooring.

“Well, that girl’s a major bitch, huh?” Amy said once they were alone again. “And she definitely wants to have you taken out back and jumped by security.”

Chloe nodded absentmindedly, still staring at Beca. “Wait, what? Why would you think that?”

“Oh, please!” Amy cackled. “She’s jealous a.f. of the Bloe, unresolved sexual tension you two give off when you’re around each other.”

“I- Our what?!” Chloe’s face burned bright red.

“Chloe,” Amy started as she stroked her hand down Chloe’s face. “You poor, in denial, queer ginger. Everyone knew you guys liked each other except you. Why do you think the rest of the Bellas and I went out of our way to always make sure you were paired up together?”

Chloe couldn’t believe it. Her friends knew all along…but they never said anything. And Beca liked her back? But how was Chloe supposed to know that? What good did that information do her now, anyway? Beca had clearly moved on.

“And then you both had the perfect opportunity to finally make it happen when we were in Europe last year, but then you went and got with Captain No Personality instead and let Beca move out to California.” Amy shook her head and patted Chloe’s shoulder. “Aca-believe it.”

Chloe was bewildered. She felt warm and uncomfortable and excused herself. “I need some air; I’ll be right back.”

---

Out on the balcony, Chloe leaned her arms against the railing, taking in all the lights of Manhattan and the muted sounds of traffic below. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She heard the glass door open behind her and the distinct clacking of heels on the concrete.

“Chloe, right?”

Chloe’s jaw stiffened for a moment before she turned around, a tight, fake smile plastered on her face.

“Yeah. We literally just met like,” Chloe checked her phone, “15 minutes ago.”

Taya smirked and sauntered over haughtily to her. “I just wanted to warn you to stay away from my girlfriend. You might have been what she wanted back in college, or whatever, but you definitely can’t compete with me. I was more than happy to help pick up the pieces you left after you got with…what’s his name? Dallas? She’s better now without you around, holding her back. Got it?”

Chloe glanced away and bit her tongue, the emotions welled up quickly. “Uh, yeah,” Chloe rasped. She cleared her throat and started to walk back inside. “Got it.”

She needed to get out of there, away from Beca, and quick; before she started sobbing in a room full of important music industry people.

Unfortunately, her plan of an Irish Exit was foiled when she saw Beca with Amy at the high top table they’d claimed earlier. Chloe needed her purse and it was right next to Beca’s elbow. She’d just grab it and run before anyone could notice the tears in her eyes.

She approached from behind and tried to snatch her purse swiftly, but Beca caught her arm.

“Hey, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you,” Beca said, hopeful to finally catch up with her favorite redhead. She’d been awful at keeping her promise of staying in touch and she wanted to make up for it.

“I’m sorry, I- I have to go. Amy, I’ll see you at home.” Chloe replied without even giving Beca a glance.

That instantly set off alarm bells. Chloe always looked Beca in the eye, even when she was mad or upset. She squeezed lightly on Chloe’s arm.

“Chlo, what? What is going on?” she prodded lightly and tried to pull Chloe toward her.

“Beca, please,” Chloe’s voice wavered. “I need to get out of here.”

Amy looked toward the balcony doors from where Chloe had just returned and noticed Taya coming back inside. She leaned closer to Beca and pointed out the likely culprit.

Beca turned and looked, and Chloe took the opportunity to escape with her attention diverted.

Beca’s head whipped back and forth, between Chloe’s retreating frame and Taya’s triumphant smirk. She slid off the barstool and marched over to her date, anger rising precipitously.

“Dude, what the hell?!

“What?” Taya replied, innocently. “I was just letting her know her place in your life. Which is nowhere.”

Beca’s blood was boiling. Yeah, Beca had been a shitty friend in recent months, but that didn’t give Taya the right to say anything to Chloe; let alone anything mean. No one put Chloe in a corner.

“You need to go. Now.” Beca said through clenched teeth.

“Baby, come on,” Taya worked her hands over Beca’s shoulders and arms. “I was just protecting what we have,” she said, cloyingly sweet.

Beca shook her arms free and stepped back.

“Look, I don’t know what this,” she gestured between the two of them. “was. But I know now that it was a mistake. You don’t mess with my friends, my family, and get away with it. Go back to L.A. tonight and lose my number. I don’t ever want to see you or speak to you again.”

Beca stormed away. She’d wanted to talk to Amy, but Amy was gone, too. Probably after Chloe. Beca didn’t blame her. So, instead, she hunted down Theo to let him know about the potential P.R. nightmare that awaited them in the morning.

---

Chloe, six blocks away by then, allowed quiet tears to roll down her cheeks in the back of the cab as she rode home. Mortified was possibly the best descriptor of how she felt. She was just thankful the ordeal hadn’t spilled inside, making a private scene very public—only a few people gave her a passing glance as she ran out, but they quickly went back to their cocktails.

She couldn’t believe Beca would be with someone so…so awful. It didn’t make sense.

Chloe had been hit with too much overwhelming information in a short period of time. She needed to decompress. She texted Amy that she’d made it home safely and ignored the texts from Beca that were blowing up her screen. She shut off her phone and locked herself in her room for the rest of the weekend.

---

With Beca having to leave the following morning, and Chloe not answering her calls or texts that night, they didn’t have the chance to patch things up until days later.

Beca struggled to focus during meetings with her team, which was especially unfortunate because as she had predicted, Taya had already leaked to the tabloids that not only were they an item, but that Beca had unceremoniously dumped her in front of everyone, for a simple misunderstanding.

“She’s seriously trying to make herself out to be the victim? And that I’m some kind of monster with an anger problem?!” Beca was incensed. “She seemed so normal in the beginning.”

The room went silent as side eyes were exchanged.

“What?” Beca asked, picking up on the awkward vibe.

Her team looked at each other, as if trying to decide who would tell her.

“Beca…” Theo volunteered to be the sacrificial lamb. “We tried to tell you a few times that Taya was trouble.”

Beca’s jaw dropped. “When? Name one-”

“After your second date, when she showed up at the recording studio and demanded she be let in?”

“That…was a miscommunication between me and her. I told her I’d see her the next day and she took that as-”

“Ok, how about the day of your album cover shoot that she tried to get in the photos?”

Beca’s face went red. Yeah, that had been embarrassing.

She sighed heavily. “Look, I have some other personal stuff I need to deal with. Do whatever you have to do to minimize this. Just please, please keep Chloe’s name out of the papers. She doesn’t need or deserve any negativity thrown her way.”

“Don’t worry,” Theo said as Beca headed out of the conference room. “We’re already handling it.”

---

Chloe finally picked up on Wednesday, and Beca apologized profusely. She made sure Chloe knew that she’d broken up with Taya that same night. She had to prod for a good hour before Chloe would tell her anything that Taya had said to her, and even when she did, Beca could tell that Chloe left details out.

“Chlo, you know that’s not- That I never- You never held me back from anything,” Beca stammered.

She heard Chloe sniffle on the other side of the phone, “I know, Becs. I guess it was just…a lot. I mean, you didn’t even tell Amy or me that you were seeing someone. And then it turns out to be a girl, which isn’t even the issue.” Chloe paused briefly, trying to choose her words carefully. “The issue was that she was awful. Plus, we hadn’t really been talking that often. It was like I didn’t even know who you were. And it felt like you didn’t trust me, or something, I don’t know. It just hurt…”

Beca bit her lip. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Chloe or Amy—they were her closest friends. She wasn’t really sure why she never told either of them. She meant to, but the right time just never appeared. Then, the longer it went on, the weirder it seemed to bring it up in conversation.

“I’m so sorry, Chloe.”

They ended the call seemingly on good terms. There was only so much reconciliation they could do on opposite sides of the country and the limited time they both had.

As final planning and announcements for Beca’s impending tour ramped up, Chloe had to disappear in her study hole for final exams. That, in turn, caused the strain in their friendship to appear more and more.

By the time Chloe was able to clear her head of school stress, Beca was on the road. And before either of them knew it, it had been months since they last spoke.

---

Mid-March, 2019

Chloe rolled her eyes at the headline. She didn’t know if Beca had a new “gal pal,” nor did she care. Beca could do whatever (and whomever) she pleased. Chloe. Didn’t. Care. She didn’t.

Maybe a little.

Mercifully, the checkout line moved and it was finally her turn. The faster she could get out of there and away from those stupid tabloids, the better.

---

Fifteen minutes later, she was neck deep in lavender bubble bath with a hydrating facemask on and a messy bun sitting atop of her head. Her phone played her “Soothing Tracks” Spotify playlist and the lights were dimmed. Chloe felt the tension melt from her shoulders and lower back.

The last thing she wanted or expected was for the doorbell to buzz.

BZZZZ!

“Noooo,” Chloe whined. She had just started to relax. She hoped they would just go away.

BZZZ! BZZZBZZBZZZZZZ!

Whoever it was, was very insistent.

Chloe grumbled as she got out of her tub and grabbed her robe. She hurried over to the intercom and buzzed back.

“Sorry, sorry. Give me two minutes and I’ll be right down.”

She made quick work of the facemask and headed down to the door. Chloe checked out the door window, but whoever it was faced the street and hopped from foot to foot, trying to stave off the chill.

Chloe cracked the door and the mystery person turned; their head lowered.

“Can I help you?”

Slowly, Beca raised her head. A pair of sad blue eyes shined brightly in the porchlight and met hers; Chloe froze, stared unblinkingly.

“Chloe,” Beca exhaled, sounding relieved. She threw herself into Chloe’s body and Chloe, still stunned, instinctually wrapped her arms around her, cradling her head. It was freezing out, so Chloe carefully maneuvered them inside, never once letting go of her.

“What are you doing here?” Chloe shakily asked, pulling back so she could see Beca’s face. Her heart was racing.

“I just-” Beca’s bottom lip trembled. “I needed to see you. I’ve missed you so much.”

Chloe watched as a silent tear rolled down Beca’s cold-reddened cheek. She couldn’t help herself as she wiped it away with her thumb; her body running on auto-pilot.

“I’ve missed you too,” Chloe replied and took a step back. She couldn’t think clearly standing that close to Beca. “But aren’t there other, more important people missing you right now?”

Beca immediately shook her head. “No,” she said without hesitating. “There’s no one more important than you right now.”

Chloe raised an eyebrow, dubious. “What about your girlfriend?”

Beca looked at her, puzzled for a moment, then she remembered that stupid tabloid cover Theo had showed her that morning. She’d rolled her eyes at it, suddenly knowing how Taylor Swift felt all those years. She couldn’t blame Chloe for questioning it, after the Taya incident.

“She’s not my girlfriend, I promise. She’s my choreographer, who is also very happily engaged to a dude.”

Chloe pursed her lips and nodded in acknowledgement. She looked like she was mulling something over. Beca stayed silent.

“How’d you know I’d even be home?”

“Amy told me. She said you were starting spring break and let me know what time you’d get home. So, I booked a flight and, well, here we are.”

Beca looked (and felt) so small and unsure. It was a stark contrast from the woman who’d owned her debut performance in France just a few years ago. No, this Beca reminded Chloe of the awkward one to whom she taught that ridiculously bad Bellas choreography when Beca was a freshman.

“Do you want a drink?” Chloe gestured behind her, Beca assumed in the general direction of the kitchen.

The last thing Beca wanted was a damn drink. What she wanted was Chloe. And Chloe?

“I’m gonna go get a drink…” she said, biting her lip and…was that a wink and a nod?

Beca’s eyes almost popped out of her head and she nearly tripped over her own feet to grab Chloe’s hand to stop her and spin her back around. It was a move straight out of a black and white movie. Beca hesitated for a split second before sliding her hand behind Chloe’s neck and bringing her down for their first kiss in far, far too long.

Chloe practically moaned into Beca’s mouth; the contact felt so good. Her hands slid up Beca’s back, over her shoulders and up her neck until they gently cupped Beca’s sharp jawline. Her thumbs brushed gently over Beca’s cheeks.

She pulled back after a short while and tapped Beca’s nose twice with her index finger, a small smile playing on her lips.

“About time, Mitchell.”

Beca smirked and pulled Chloe back in; they had a lot of lost time to make up for.

The End