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Practice Makes Perfect

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Chloe knew something was up when Beca’s telltale combat boot footfalls stomped through Baker Hall--past her own room--heavier than usual.

She wasn’t sure why. After an entire stressful year teeter tottering between keeping Aubrey from blowing a gasket and making sure no other girls dropped out, the new Bellas finally found their sound. Sure, it may have taken an empty swimming pool, an awkward get to know you icebreaker (way overdue, in Chloe’s opinion), and unfortunately, a puke snow angel.

They’d figured out their new hot Bellas look thanks to Jessica and Ashley’s brilliant designer brains and they were all excited to hop a plane to NYC for redemption.

Which is why it didn’t make much sense for Beca to be in a bad mood. Pushing to her bunny slippers, Chloe pulled a Barden hoodie over her PJ t-shirt and made her way to Beca’s room, knocking a few times.

“It’s open,” Beca called.

Chloe stepped inside with a wide smile. “Hey!”

(No Kimmy-Jin in sight. Awes.)

Beca sat on her bed with her laptop, headphones hanging around her neck. “What’s up?”

“Oh, nothing! I just wanted to check in and make sure you were okay. You kinda do this thing where you walk harder when you’re upset or angry about something…”

Beca frowned. “I do?”

“Yeah.” Chloe’s nose scrunched. “So what’s up?”

Blowing out a hard breath, Beca unlooped her headphones from her neck and raked her hand through her hair. “I dunno. I’m not--good at talking about...y’know. Personal stuff.”

“Oh!” Brightening, Chloe skipped over and hopped on the bed beside Beca. “That’s okay. I’m super good at it, so we balance each other out.” She paired that with a wink. “I won’t tell anyone, if you wanna talk about it?”

Grumbling under her breath, Beca set her laptop aside and pulled a pillow onto her lap instead. “Uh…” She picked at a frayed hem, shrugging. “I guess I kinda screwed things up with Jesse.”

Jesse. Right.

Chloe’s stomach twisted but she schooled her focus on Beca. “How so?”

Beca winced. “Oh, y’know. Just being my normal, charming, super emotionally available self.” Her grin didn’t meet her eyes.

“Hmm…” Chloe searched Beca’s eyes. “So you like him, right?”

“Yeah?”

Chloe’s eyes narrowed. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Yes, I’m sure.” Beca cleared her throat.

“Okay then. So...do you want my advice on how to unscrew things up?” Her brows wagged.

Sighing, Beca’s smile pulled sincere. “Sure. As long as it doesn’t involve barging in on his shower.”

Chloe laughed. “No, silly. You’ve gotta do a grand romantic gesture! Y’know, something public and thoughtful and meaningful.”

Beca groaned. “Oh god. You’re right. He’s a giant movie nerd. He’d love that.”

“Yep!” Satisfied, Chloe twisted to face Beca, folding her legs pretzel-style. “You should do it at ICCAs since he’ll be there. Maybe...oh! Maybe something to do with our set. He’ll be watching, right?”

“Yeah, I’m sure he will be…” Beca puffed out a disbelieving chuckle. “Oh, wow. Okay, yeah. I have an idea. It’s kinda crazy, but...it might work?” She bit her lip for a beat. “There’s a song. It’s from that movie…” She shook her head. “Nevermind, I’ve got it. So I’ll sing that part and he should be really into it.”

“Totes! And then you can run into the crowd and lay a big smooch right on him.” Chloe tapped her lips.

Beca’s face fell. “Um…”

“What? It’s part of the grand romantic gesture, Beca.”

With another grumpy huff, Beca pulled her pillow up to smother her face as she mumbled a barely coherent reply.

Chloe emitted a light gasp, softening. “Did...did you just say you’ve never kissed anyone?”

Head hanging, Beca dropped the pillow into her lap. “Yeah. Don’t tell any of the girls, okay?”

“Of course not!” Chloe reached out and settled her hand on Beca’s knee, squeezing. “That’s nothing to be ashamed of, though. Some people are late bloomers or aren’t interested in that stuff at all!”

“Yeah, but…” Beca’s face flushed. “I want to. I wanna be good at it. I just--I have no idea where to start, and YouTube tutorials contradict each other--”

“I can teach you!” Chloe burst. “Seriously, I’m super skilled. Do you wanna try it?”

Beca’s cheeks reddened even further. “Dude, what--” A strained laugh puffed free. “Are you serious?”

“Beyonce serious.” Chloe cleared her throat and sat up straighter. “So do you want a lesson or not?”

“Uh…” Beca cleared her throat. “I guess?”

“Cool. Okay. So… Kissing 101 with Love Professor Chloe Beale is now in session.”

Beca groaned. “I already regret this.”

Cackling, Chloe shuffled forward. “First of all, you gotta relax, Bec. Relax your body, relax your lips. Nobody likes kissing lips that are too puckered and stiff. Oh! That reminds me...chapstick. Do you have any?”

Blinking, Beca reached behind her to pull out a tube of Burt’s Bees.

“Perf! Go ahead and apply some. My lips are already moisturized. I’m always prepared,” Chloe said with a slight shimmy.

“You would be.” Beca applied some chapstick and set it aside. “Okay, so. Relaxed lips.”

“But not too relaxed. Like--you wanna be an active participant in the kissing, right? Not just frozen.” Chloe hummed. “Don’t worry about tongue stuff yet. That’ll happen after your first kiss and probably naturally. So you don’t have to worry about getting all slobbery and stuff like that.” She wrinkled her nose.

“Right, no tongue...got it.”

“Here, try it on my hand.” Chloe held up her hand and kissed the back of it to demonstrate before holding it out to Beca. “Kiss it.”

Beca snorted. “Dude, I’m not gonna kiss your hand. That’s weird. Can’t I kiss my own?”

“No, missy. Then I can’t tell if you’re puckering appropriately and keeping that tongue where it belongs.” She shoved her hand in front of Beca’s mouth. “Kiss it!”

Sighing, Beca leaned forward and puckered her lips--all while keeping them relaxed and not too stiff--and brushed a kiss to the back of Chloe’s hand. “There. How was that?”

“Great!” Chloe pulled her hand back so she could clap. “You’re such a good student. This is fun!”

“Super fun,” Beca deadpanned. “What else do I need to know?”

“Hmm…” Chloe squinted. “Oh! Hand placement. Super crucial. Turn and face me, please.”

Beca set her pillow aside and shifted to mirror Chloe’s position.

“So you wanna touch your kissing partner somewhere. It’d be pretty awks if you just kinda left your arms hanging at your sides. If you’re sitting, even something as simple as putting your hand on her knee--”

“His knee,” Beca corrected, blushing again. “Sorry, go ‘head.”

Chloe pulled her lips inward for a beat. “Right. On the knee, or bicep. I’m gonna show you how, don’t freak out.”

Beca rolled her eyes. “Go for it.”

Chloe placed her hand on Beca’s upper arm. “This works,” she said. “Or the side of the neck or face cup--like this.” Her other hand reached up to gently cradle Beca’s opposite cheek. “You could also put your hand on his chest…” Chloe’s hand slid from Beca’s bicep to rest just beneath her clavicle, “--up here, nowhere near the boob or man-boob area. Or if he’s wearing a jacket, grip up one or both lapels. Or his tie, if he’s wearing one. But be careful there, accidental chokage if you’re too enthusiastic.”

Nodding slowly, Beca muttered to herself as though committing all of that to memory.

“Honestly, though? Just go with what’s comfortable! If you wanna loop one or both arms around his neck, that’s cool too. Thread your fingers through his hair.”

“Got it.” Beca blew out a hard breath. “Those are some good pointers.”

“I’m kind of awesome at kissing,” Chloe said, her chest puffing out for a beat before sobering with a smirk. “So let’s see it, hot shot. Kiss me.”

“What?” Beca croaked. “You really want me to--”

“Hell yeah, c’mon. I won’t tell anyone. I mean you don’t have to, of course--but it might help to know you’ve got a good kiss under your belt with a highly experienced professional assisting.”

Beca scoffed. “You’re so weird.”

“Kick me out if you want,” Chloe said with a sigh, shrugging as she feigned a yawn. “Or I could just sit here ‘til you work up the courage to give me a smooch. I just brushed my teeth, y’know. Minty fresh.” Another patented Beale winks shot Beca’s way.

Biting her lip, Beca wrung her hands in her lap. She hesitated before reaching out to settle one hand on Chloe’s upper arm, locking gazes and pausing halfway. Meeting Chloe’s ocean blues with her blue-greys, she swallowed the lump in her throat.

“You’re doing great.” Chloe offered an encouraging smile, her voice carrying in a soft whisper. “Don’t forget to close your eyes once you make contact.”

Nodding, Beca summoned every ounce of courage she wasn’t sure she possessed and reached up with her free hand to brace against Chloe’s cheek. Tilting her head slightly to the right to make sure their noses didn’t crash, Beca pressed her soft and not-too-puckered lips against Chloe’s and closed her eyes.

Chloe responded in turn, resting an encouraging hand against Beca’s neck, her thumb affectionately skimming her jawline. Sucking in a shaky breath through her nose, Chloe marveled at the sensation of Beca’s lips on hers--her first ever kiss. She wondered if Beca knew that Chloe would cherish it just as much, being Beca’s first kiss.

Her practice first kiss, she mentally corrected herself.

After a suspended moment that felt far longer than the ten or so seconds it was, Beca slowly disengaged and her lids fluttered open. She sucked in a hitching inhale, reaching up to brush a stray lock of chestnut behind her ear. Her voice carried with a soft rasp. “So...was that okay? Good, um--lip pressure and no slobber and my hands were fine?”

It took Chloe a beat for her brain to reboot, her smile hitching wide. “It was more than okay,” she assured her, giving Beca’s leg one last squeeze before pulling her hand back into her lap. “It was perfect.”

In that moment, Chloe’s insides twisted. The kiss wasn’t perfect because it was technically on point--it was perfect because it was Beca. They had a habit of falling into perfect sync and apparently this was no different.

“Cool,” Beca sighed with relief, reaching up to rub at the back of her neck. A dazed sort of expression crossed Beca’s eyes--one Chloe couldn’t place.

One she wasn’t sure she should place.

Ratcheting up her sunshine smile, Chloe hopped up from Beca’s bed. “Well, there you have it. Not so complicated, huh?” At least Beca seemed more relaxed and less stressed now. That was something. “I’m gonna get some sleep. See you tomorrow!” Chloe strode toward the door.

“Hey, Chlo?”

Chloe paused with her hand on the doorknob, looking back. “Yeah, Bec?”

Beca’s expression once again carried a mix of emotion--some of which Chloe had never seen in Beca’s eyes before. After another long moment, she flashed a tight-lipped smile. “Thanks.”

Chloe swallowed hard, nodding. “Anytime.” Wincing at her word choice, she giggled. “I mean, you’re welcome.” Chloe slipped out of Beca’s room and shuffled back to her own, her brow creasing. Butterflies continued swarming in her belly, triggering a wave of nausea upon picturing Beca using her tips to kiss someone else.

No. Chloe shook the thought, forcing a deep, steadying breath. She did the right thing. Beca was one of her favorite new friends, after all. Chloe wanted to help her out. She wanted her to be happy above anything.

Even if Beca’s happy was kissing Jesse next time. And maybe…

Maybe Chloe would get another turn someday. Another chance to kiss Beca.

Maybe.