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This is how it starts: with a heat-of-the-moment kiss backstage after the USO tour, when Beca pulls Chloe to her because she just can’t take it anymore. 

Because there’s been this tension building between them for years and Beca’s sick of Jesses and Chicagos getting in the way of figuring out what, exactly, it means.

So she closes her eyes and jumps off the cliff head-first, reeling Chloe in by her hand and covering her mouth with her own. Time freezes and Beca hangs there, suspended, for a single terrifying second before Chloe kisses her back.

She crash lands, then, and keeps crashing, over and over, as Chloe threads her fingers into Beca’s hair, traces along the shell of her ear, hitches Beca’s leg around her hip, pulling her up onto her toes.  

***

Beca is the kind of person who finds comfort in heading down a known path. She sets goals and lays plans and, while she’s willing to deviate from them when it makes sense, she generally knows where she’ll end up.

Tonight, she knows where she’s going when Chloe links their fingers together and pulls Beca to a taxi, to the hotel elevator, to Beca’s own room. 

She knows where it’s going when Chloe walks her backwards until her thighs bump against the bed. 

She knows where it’s going when Chloe helps her shimmy out of her skirt, when Chloe’s boots land heavily somewhere on the carpeted floor.

She knows where it’s going when Chloe’s mouth scorches a wet trail down her body, when all Beca can do is fist her hand in Chloe’s hair and try her best to be quiet. 

So yeah, she knows where it’s going. 

But she doesn’t know where it will lead.

***

This is where it leads: to love bites and sore muscles and sated, sleepy smiles.

To a heady few weeks of awe-stuck happiness. Back in New York, back in their apartment where they’re now free to share their bed exactly as they’d like, thanks to Amy jetting off somewhere before coming home. 

Beca still doesn’t know what this is, but she knows that this is exactly what it’s meant to feel like. 

They spend full days in bed, and when their empty stomachs can’t be ignored they venture out onto dark streets for slices of pizza or cartons of Chinese food or chicken and rice from Beca’s favorite food truck. They sleep tangled up together, even when it’s sticky out and their feeble air conditioner can’t muster more than a cool breeze. They keep their phones on Do Not Disturb and sit together in the bath, Beca leaning back against Chloe and closing her eyes, trying her best to commit every sensation to memory.

Because three weeks are almost up and she’s worked it out; she knows where it will lead, now.

Soon, it leads to emails and voicemails that can’t be ignored.

It leads to signed contracts and packed bags and an ambiguous goodbye.

It leads to missed FaceTimes and unsatisfying phone calls and this heavy feeling in Beca’s chest, like she’s trying to give a part of herself to too many people and disappointing everyone.

***

This is how it ends: with two short texts letting her off the hook.

Chloe [10:03 p.m.]: it’s okay, becs

Chloe [10:03 p.m.]: we tried

***

(Beca isn’t sure she wanted to be let off the hook.)

(She isn’t sure what they were trying for, either. Or that she tried her best.)

(The only thing she’s sure of is that she’s never felt worse.)

***

Eventually, it gets better. Gets easier.

They go back to being friends. 

And it works, for a while. Because Beca’s traveling a lot now and it’d be impossible to see Chloe in this stage of her new life, but it helps to know she’s there, at the other end of the phone.

It’s for the best, she tells herself.

***

(It’s a lie.)

***

This is where it comes to a head: in the upstairs bathroom of Beca’s rented house, during the after-after party to celebrate her album release.

She’d invited the Bellas to come out a few days early to hang out in LA and of course they all agreed -- even Amy, who’s living in Saint Tropez now, apparently.

Even Chloe.

Chloe, who Beca knows has been trying her very best to act like everything is okay between them. 

Chloe, who pretended not to notice that Beca hugged her for a little too long or, once she finally pulled away, that her gaze dropped to Chloe’s lips. 

Chloe, who must have known that Beca was following her up the stairs, because when she walks into the bathroom she doesn’t bother to shut the door.

Beca steps inside the small room and closes the door behind her, stands there with the doorknob pressing into her back. She watches Chloe, who’s at the vanity, palms flat on the marble countertop as she stares down at the sink.

The silence stretches on and on, and Beca doesn’t know how they’ll ever get past it.

Then Chloe makes a quiet sound -- something between a whimper and a sob -- and it cuts through Beca like a knife. Beca rushes over and tugs on her wrist until Chloe turns around to face her. Her eyes are wet, and the knife twists in Beca’s chest.

“I’m sorry,” Chloe says, tensing her jaw and glancing up at the ceiling. “I thought I would be okay with just being friends but… All I can think of when I’m around you is how badly I want to kiss you and how I can’t do that anymore.”

And Beca gets that feeling again, like time has frozen, or like she’s watching this moment unfold from afar, like it’s happening to someone else.

Because she should be the one apologizing. The one saying those words. The one confessing how she feels.

It hits her then, out of nowhere. 

She always knew what this was.

She always knew where they’d end up.

She just didn’t know she knew it. Her mind’s fun like that, sometimes.

Beca steps in and cradles Chloe’s face in her hands. She rubs her thumbs across her cheeks, smoothing the tears away.

“What if we could, though?” she asks softly. 

“Beca…” Chloe lets out a shuddering breath. “We can’t. It’s too hard,” she says, even as her hands land on Beca’s waist. “We- we tried.” 

“I should’ve tried harder,” Beca whispers. She rests her forehead against Chloe’s, eyes squeezed shut. “I was so dumb, baby, I didn’t know. But I can try harder, okay? I promise. Let me try?”

Beca can tell Chloe’s silently warring within herself, struggling with what to do next. Her body betrays her, though, because her arms close around Beca, pulling her closer.

“You didn’t know what?”

And that’s when Beca starts to cry. She holds Chloe against her as she tells her all the things she didn’t know, saving the one chief among them for last. 

When she’s done Chloe doesn’t move a muscle, doesn’t take a breath, doesn’t make a sound. 

(Beca’s plummeting again, down, down, down.)

Then, with a sharp inhale, Chloe tilts her head to the side and finds Beca’s lips. Their cheeks are wet and they’re both trembling, but Beca thinks it’s the best kiss she’s ever had.

It feels like a beginning.

***

She knows where it’s going, now.

She knows where it will lead.

***

(She can’t fucking wait to get there.)

***

This is how it really starts: with Beca’s voice breaking as she reaches the last item on her long list of confessions.

“I didn’t know I was so desperately in love with you, Chlo.”