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“Chlo, have you seen my phone?”

Chloe looks over her shoulder to find her flustered wife glancing around the room, the very object she’s looking for tucked in her hand. Smiling softly, she walks over and plucks it from Beca’s hold. “Right here.”

Beca’s eyes roll towards the ceiling and a light huff puffs past her lips. “Thanks. I’m late and I’m nervous and--”

“You’ll be fine,” Chloe emphasizes as she steps closer, smoothing the lapels of Beca’s blazer with her palms.

“Where you goin’, mommy?”

Beca turns around at the small voice, their five-year-old son having just woken up and standing in the kitchen doorway. His brunette hair is sticking out in all directions and his pajama top is askew, sleep lingering in his gaze.

“I have a really important meeting,” Beca explains as she crouches down to his level.

Tommy’s brow furrows in an adorable way. “On a Saturday?

“Yep. But I’ll be back for lunch, alright?” She presses a lingering kiss to his forehead, then pushes to her feet. “Okay, I gotta go.”

“Wait!”

“Chloe?”

Aubrey’s voice sounds muffled, miles away. Chloe’s bloodshot eyes momentarily slide up to watch the blonde take quick strides across the room, then settle back on the stained tile of the waiting room floor.

Chloe swallows as Aubrey sits next to her, her hand loosely curling around her forearm.

“Where’s Tommy?” She croaks out.

“I dropped him off at your parents’,” Aubrey says, quietly, a slight tremor in her voice.

Chloe nods. “Can you— can you drive me home?”

The ride is silent. Chloe spends the entirety of it staring blankly out the window, barely registering the street lights zooming past. On her lap lies a ziplock bag containing Beca’s things: her phone, wallet, watch, and her wedding ring.

Her feet carry her to the front door of their (her) home on their own accord, and Chloe doesn’t realize she’s been clenching her car keys since reaching the hospital until Aubrey gently pries them from her grip to unlock the front door.

She freezes in the threshold, the silence she’s met with sucker punching her in the gut. Her ears start to ring and her vision blurs.

“I’m home!”

Chloe shuts the door behind her, a shiver running down the length of her spine as some of the freezing cold from outside lingers in her bones. It’s warm and cozy inside though, and her heart glows as she hears her wife’s voice carrying through the house from the kitchen.

“Who’s that, baby? Is that mama?”

A pair of unsteady feet rush across the tile and the hardwood floors, growing closer as her son rounds the corner, a look of pure elation crossing his face at the sight of Chloe.

Chloe bends down to scoop him up, blowing raspberries into his neck and eliciting a string of giggles from the eighteen-month-old. “I’ve missed you, my sweet boy.”

“Missed you,” Tommy echoes, nestling his head in the crook of her neck as she props him against her hip, carrying him to the kitchen.

“Smells good in here.”

Beca glances over her shoulder briefly, casting Chloe a soft smile. “Hey, you. I hope it tastes as good as it smells.”

Setting Tommy down when he squirms to go back to his toys, Chloe steps up to her wife and loops her arms around her waist, propping her chin over her shoulder. “Thanks for making dinner, babe.”

Lowering the heat under the pan, Beca then turns around, winding her arms around Chloe’s neck and pushing a kiss to her lips. “How was your day?”

“Uneventful. Glad it’s the weekend, though. How was yours?”

As Chloe snaps back to the present, her new reality slowly trickles in. The shock of it all starts wearing off as the fact that Beca is truly dead seeps through her skin, her muscles and her very bones, until it reaches her heart and her lungs, drowning them in suffocating grief.

That’s when she breaks.

Her knees hit the tile floor but she doesn’t register any pain besides the one from her insides caving in. Sobs wrench themselves from her throat and she soon struggles to breath.

She feels Aubrey wrap her arms around her frail, trembling frame and leans against her, her fingers curling in the opening of Aubrey’s coat.

It feels like half her heart is missing, and she wonders how the other half is supposed to keep beating.

She wonders how she’s supposed to be.

*

“Mama!”

They reach her parents’ house an hour later or so, Chloe isn’t sure. She packed a bag with enough clothes for herself and Tommy for a week, unsure when she’ll feel ready to go back home.

“What’s wrong?”

Tommy inherited Chloe’s ability to read other people’s emotions, and he freezes as soon as he catches a glimpse of her features. Chloe sucks in a deep, shaky breath and picks him up to carry him to the couch. She sits down beside him, smoothing her hand over his brunette curls.

“Mommy was in an accident, baby,” she manages to whisper past the huge lump lodged in the middle of her throat. Her nose pricks with a new round of tears, but Chloe somehow holds it together for now.

Concern stares back at her in the form of a furrowed eyebrow. “Is she okay?”

“She’s not coming home, sweetheart. Her boo-boos were too big, and…” a couple tears topple down Chloe’s cheeks. “...there’s nothing the doctors could do to make her feel better. She died.” Those tears topple over the rim of her eyes as those two words echo back to her, making it all too real. Beca is dead. “She’s a star in the sky like Nana Mitchell now.”

“They’re together?” Tommy asks, quietly.

Chloe nods, swiping the back of her hand over her cheeks. “They are, baby.”

Tommy is silent for a little while as he processes everything. He eventually glances back at Chloe. “Can I go play with my toys?”

Chloe knows kids don’t necessarily deal with grief the same way adults do, so she can’t hold her son’s detachment over the situation against him. She nods, holding him against her for a bit longer and kissing his forehead. “Of course.”

The next few days are filled with administrative tasks, management of her bank accounts and a bunch of other things that need to be canceled. Chloe is thankful actually, to have things that keep her mind busy and away from the tsunami of emotions threatening to engulf her all.

“How about we call it a day?” Aubrey asks gently, her hand coming to rest between Chloe’s shoulder blades.

Chloe has spent the day writing Beca’s eulogy. The sheet of paper in front of her is covered in scribbles and ink smudges from a few traitorous tears. “I can’t. I-I need this to be perfect,” she croaks out, tucking a strand of hair that falls into her eyes behind her ear.

“You also need sleep, Chlo.”

“I’m okay,” Chloe insists and takes another sip from her coffee as her tired, bloodshot-eyes scan the words in front of her. She hasn’t slept more than a couple hours in the last two nights, anyway, so attempting to go to bed seems pretty futile if all she’s going to do is curl into a ball and cry.

*

The sky is a moody grey the next day.

Chloe holds Tommy’s hand in her own as they sit in the front row, her brain not quite registering the words uttered by the celebrant as she stares at the mahogany casket in which her wife lies.

She feels a squeeze to her upper-arm about halfway through, and glances over to Aubrey, then to the celebrant, who is looking at her expectantly. Chloe drops a kiss into Tommy’s hair and rises to her feet, taking a few shaky steps to stand in front of the audience.

Her hands tremble as she holds her speech between her fingers. She attempts to clear her vision and takes a deep, centering breath. “When I first saw Beca that day at the activities fair, everything in my head went quiet. To this day--” Chloe’s voice cracks as her throat shrinks, clogging with emotions. A sob bursts free and her chest feels like it might implode any second. Her eyes find Aubrey’s, and she shakes her head faintly, wordlessly letting her know she can’t keep going.

Shooting to her feet, Aubrey comes to stand by her side, and gently plucks the paper from Chloe’s trembling hands to resume the reading. “I still wonder to this day what it was that drew me in. If it was the glare, or the mocking smirk, or the fact that she called a cappella lame. We couldn’t be more different. She was a grumpy mess and I was a bubbly disaster, but somewhere along the way, we fell in love.”

“She was my best friend. The rain cloud to my sunshine, and the best partner in life I could have asked for.”

Chloe’s body shakes with silent sobs as Aubrey continues, her collected and steady voice gradually fading away as another memory swoops in.

“Anyone see you?” Chloe whispers when Beca sneaks back into her bedroom, armed with snacks.

“No, I’m tiny,” Beca jokes as Chloe rolls her eyes. She climbs back into bed, careful of the computer set up at the foot of it. “Everyone’s asleep. A wonder with the sounds you were making.”

Chloe giggles and reaches out to pinch her waist. “Stop being so smug.”

“You like it,” Beca states cheekily, and Chloe can’t contradict her. She leans in to brush a kiss to her lips.

“When do you think we should tell the girls?”

Sneaking around has been a lot of fun, but Chloe is getting tired of having to keep herself in check whenever Beca is in the same room.

“I think most of them already know,” Beca points out with a soft chuckle. “Your heart eyes are showing.”

“Yet it took you two years to notice them?” Chloe teases, unable to keep her smirk at bay.

Beca’s eyes roll towards the ceiling. “I was an idiot.” She gazes back at Chloe, an odd look in her features.

“What?” Chloe asks when Beca remains silent.

Beca licks her lips and clears her throat. Her fingers start to play with Chloe, and she’s focused on her own movement, like she feels vulnerable about what she wants to say and can’t bring herself to meet Chloe’s eyes. “I just-- I didn’t expect you. College was supposed to suck, but here you went, breaking into my shower and making me love acapella. And you.”

Chloe feels the air flood out of her lungs as she blinks. “You… you love me?”

Beca’s gaze finally slides up to meet hers. “Yeah. I love you. Like… it’s hard to put into words how much.”

Chloe leans in to kiss her, slow and infused with all the love she carries in her heart for Beca. “I love you, too.”

People slowly trickle away from the casket, until it is just Chloe and Tommy. She takes his hand and crouches down to his level. “Do you want to put a flower over it?” She asks, rubbing her thumb over the back of his hand.

Tommy nods and takes it from her other hand, setting it gently on top of the wooden surface. “We need to sing a song,” he decides, quietly. “Mommy likes songs.”

Chloe blinks back the tears pooling in her eyes. “I think that’s a great idea,” she croaks out, smiling at him. “Which one should we sing?”

“The rainbow,” he says without hesitating. Somewhere Over the Rainbow has been his lullaby since his first day home from the hospital.

“Okay,” Chloe agrees, clearing her throat. Tommy starts, and Chloe joins in in harmony, her voice wavering halfway through the song. She hugs her son tight when they finish, and presses a kiss to his forehead. “I love you so much, little man. Wanna go with Aunt Aubrey for a bit?”

Tommy nods and walks away towards his godmother, leaving Chloe on her own.

She sucks in a sharp breath. “I never thought I would have to say goodbye so soon,” she says, a sob barreling past her throat. “I pictured us growing old and spending time with our grandchildren on a farm somewhere upstate. And now, you’re gone and I’m not-- I’m not ready for this, Beca. I can’t live without you. I don’t know how to raise our son without you.” A handful of tears topple down her cheeks when she slams her eyes shut and Chloe grits her teeth as a mixture of sadness and anger seize her insides. It feels so raw. Her body shakes with silent sobs as she reaches out to lay a hand on the casket. “I love you. I’ll always love you.”

She can’t bring herself to say goodbye; she doesn’t think she ever will.

*

The next few weeks are incredibly hard. Chloe wants to curl up in a ball as soon as she wakes up, curl up in those sheets that still smell like her wife. But life goes on; if not hers, Tommy’s, and that draws Chloe out of bed each morning.

She takes him to school every morning, then spends the rest of her day wallowing in her grief while swiping through photos and videos of their family. It feels like she’ll never run out of tears, and her eyes are in a constant state of puffiness.

Tommy is a lot quieter, as though shrinking in on himself, and that worries her. She gets a call a month after the funeral about Tommy getting into a fight at school, and Tommy refuses to tell his teacher why.

Chloe takes him home and sits him down on the couch, kneeling in front of him. “Can you tell me what this was about?” She asks softly. “I promise I won’t be mad, baby.”

Tommy remains silent, gaze fastened on his jeans. Eventually, he speaks. “I want Mommy.”

Chloe’s heart falls through her stomach, and she’s left wordless for several beats as her vision blurs with tears. She can’t save her son from that suffocating ache, and she feels like the most awful mother in the world.

“Did you feel that?”

Chloe grins, moving her hand slightly to the left. “Oh my goodness. He kicked!”

The last six months have been true bliss. After many tries and a miscarriage, they decided that Beca would be the one to carry. It only took one attempt for them to be graced with a positive pregnancy test.

Beca chuckles. “This is getting very real.”

Chloe glances away from Beca’s bump to focus on her face. She tilts her head to the side. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”

A sigh flits past Beca’s lips. “I’m freaking out, a little bit. I just-- I feel like I’m going to suck at this mom thing. We’re going to be responsible for a whole human being. That’s pretty mind blowing and I don’t know if I have the abilities to do a good job.”

Chloe smiles, wrapping her fingers around Beca’s. “The fact that you’re worried about doing a good job already speaks volumes about what kind of mom you’re going to be,” she says softly. “We’ll probably make mistakes. Every new parent does. But I know we’ll do our best.”

Beca’s shoulders slump as she blows out a breath. “You’re the best partner I could have hoped for. You’re going to be an incredible mom.”

Chloe snaps out of her memory when Tommy springs off the couch and runs up the stairs to his bedroom. She hastily wipes at her cheeks and follows slowly, hearing his sobs from the end of the hall. Throat tight, she pads inside his room and sits down on the edge of his bed, resting a gentle hand on his back.

“Why did she have to go?” He eventually asks, sniffling. “It’s not fair.

“I know it’s not, baby,” she croaks out, stroking his brunette hair. She moves to sit against the pillows. “Come here.”

Tommy shifts so he’s curled up against her side.

“Can you tell me where it hurts, sweetie?” She asks softly.

“In my chest,” he mumbles into her shirt.

Chloe rubs his back in slow circles. “I want you to think of a happy memory of Mommy, okay? Something that makes you smile. Can you do that? Take your time picking it.”

Tommy is silent for a while. “Okay, I have one.”

Chloe nods. “Okay. Close your eyes and imagine this memory is playing out in front of you,” she instructs as she shuts her own eyes.

“Fuck!”

Chloe looks over her shoulder. “Are you okay??”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll live,” Beca calls out from down the hall.

Chloe abandons her own box and pads over, lingering in the doorway as she watches her girlfriend, clad in denim shorts and plaid shirt attempting to put their bed frame together.

“What are you staring at, weirdo?” Beca asks with a smirk when she catches her staring.

“My hot girlfriend,” Chloe replies, not missing a beat.

Beca rolls her eyes, but Chloe can see the top of her cheeks darken. They’ve been together for two years and Beca has yet to master the art of not getting flustered over compliments.

“How ‘bout we pause here for tonight and order some pizza? The bed frame will still be here tomorrow.”

Beca meets her eyes. “And where are we going to sleep?”

Chloe shrugs. “We can just set the mattress in the living room.”

Beca nods. “K. I’ll take a quick shower before dinner.” She pushes to her feet, brushing a quick kiss to Chloe’s lips on the way.

Chloe grabs onto her waist, chasing her lips into another one. “Hey,” she whispers when she pulls away. “I’m really happy.”

Beca smiles. “Me, too. Roomie.”

Chloe puffs out a breath, swiping her free hand over her cheeks.

“That pain in your chest, it’s really intense right now because we don’t know how to live without Mommy. But we’ll learn to, because we have to keep living. Mommy would want that,” she pauses to press a kiss to Tommy’s head. “That pain will one day lessen, but sometimes it will get intense again. When it does, I want you to think about that memory that makes you smile,” she says gently. “You can have several memories of Mommy that make you smile. Tuck them in a very special drawer in a part of your brain, and open that drawer whenever you feel sad. Like the sun pouring out to chase a dark cloud away.”

“Okay,” Tommy agrees.

“We can also make a box of Mommy’s things that you can keep under your bed or in your closet and look at whenever you feel like it. Would you like to do that?”

Tommy nods, and just before bedtime they go through the many pictures of her phone, selecting the ones he wants to be printed out for the album.

“I’m small,” he observes when they come across a picture of the three of them at the hospital.

Chloe smiles and clears the lump from her throat. “Yeah. You were just two days old. That was right before we brought you home.”

“I can’t stop staring at him,” Beca murmurs from her spot on the edge of the bed, gazing down at their baby sleeping soundly in the bassinet. “I know we’re supposed to sleep when he does but I just can’t.”

Chloe chuckles as she climbs in behind her, hooking her chin over Beca’s shoulder. “He’s perfect. I still can’t believe you made that.”

“Dude, me either,” Beca whispers, chuckling as well. “Definitely worth all that pain, though.”

“Look, he’s smiling,” Chloe observes with a soft gasp. “Probably a fart, but it’s cute.”

Beca snickers, then grimaces as she lies a hand on her sore stomach. “Ouch, babe, don’t make me laugh.”

“Sorry,” Chloe says, brushing an apology kiss to her cheek. “I love you.”

Beca leans back against hers slightly, catching her hand and lacing their fingers loosely. “I love you, too.”

Chloe brushes a kiss to Tommy’s forehead. “Time to sleep, baby.”

Tommy nods and burrows deeper under the covers, looking up at her with those same blue eyes as her wife’s. “Goodnight, Mama.”

“I love you, little man.”

“Love you, too.”

Drawing the door shut behind her, Chloe pads across the room to the master bedroom and sits down on the edge of the mattress. She left the closet door open this morning, and is met with the sight of Beca’s collection of plaid shirts hanging on the top rack.

She plucks the red one from its hanger, rubbing the pads of her thumbs over the fabric for a moment.

“I don't want to know the reasons why love keeps right on walking on down the line…” Chloe belts out in her spatula, her hips shimmying to the rhythm as she stands by the stove clad in her panties and one of Beca’s plaid shirts. “I don't want to stand between you and love… Honey, I just want you to feel fine.”

“Nice moves.”

Chloe whips around, a sheepish smile curving her lips. “How long have you been standing there, weirdo?”

“Long enough to appreciate the sight of my girlfriend wearing only my plaid shirt,” Beca says as she pushes off the doorway she was leaning against.

Her hands find purchase on Chloe’s hips once she’s close enough, running up her sides underneath the shirt as she leans in for a deep kiss. Chloe melts into it, her palm resting on the side of Beca’s neck as her lips part to welcome Beca’s tongue in a gentle stroke. The kiss ends naturally a handful of seconds later, chills lingering at the bottom of Chloe’s spine as Beca rubs the tip of her nose against hers.

“You like?” She husks as Beca’s hands drift down to squeeze her buttcheeks, her mouth skipping in featherlight kisses along Chloe’s jaw.

Beca hums. “Like is an understatement.”

****

Chloe brings the shirt to her nose. Tears slide down her cheeks as her eyes flutter shut, a brief comfort wrapping itself around her soul like a security blanket as she breathes in Beca’s scent.

She slides it on over her t-shirt and shuffles into bed, the memories of Beca bleeding into her dreams.

*

The next couple of months prove to unfold pretty much in the same way. Weeks seem to blend together, and if it wasn’t for having to take Tommy to school, Chloe wouldn’t even know what day it is. She sometimes wakes up in the morning, her brain fogged up with sleep, and experiences a few blissful seconds of obliviousness.

Her new reality rushes in as soon as the veil lifts, and it feels like her heart crumbles all over again.

Beca isn’t here. Beca will never be here again, and Chloe has to learn how to be without the love of her life.

She starts going to therapy three months after the funeral. It’s only when she gets there and starts talking that she realizes how much pain she has been bottling inside, for Tommy’s sake.

“I like those,” Tommy says as he points towards the orange carnations.

They haven’t been to the cemetery since the funeral, and Chloe wasn’t sure she felt ready yet, but Tommy asked if they could go visit Beca.

“Good pick, buddy,” she murmurs, smoothing his curls with her palm. “I think she’d love those.”

 

“What’s your favorite flower, Mama?” He asks once they’ve paid for the flowers, sliding his small hand into hers as they walk out of the shop towards their parked car.

“Chloe Beale.”

A proud grin breaks across Chloe’s features as she hikes up the few steps leading to the stage and walks across it to accept her diploma from the Dean’s hands. A feeling of accomplishment like she has never experienced before floods her, and tears prick behind her eyes as she moves her tassel from left to right.

She’s done it; she is officially a vet.

The ceremony draws to an end, and as family members congratulate their loved ones, Chloe sees Beca approach.

“Hey, Dr. Beale,” she says, a smirk curving her lips before she steps forward to hug Chloe tightly. “I’m so proud of you.”

Chloe sinks into Beca’s arms, basking in the surge of love emitting from Beca’s words. “Thank you.”

Beca backs away and holds up a bouquet of pink peonies, and Chloe positively beams.

“You got me flowers.

Beca rolls her eyes, her cheeks pinkening. “Yeah, yeah. No big deal.”

“I love them,” Chloe says once her amusement fades away. “Thank you, baby.”

“I love peonies. Your mom used to give me a bouquet every year for my birthday,” she tells her son as they reach the car.

“But who’s gonna give you one this year?” Tommy asks, brows knitted together.

Chloe musters a smile, trying to conceal the pang of sadness she feels in her chest as she realizes all those little traditions were not going to exist anymore. “Nobody. But that’s okay.”

They reach the cemetery a little while later, Chloe’s grip on the steering wheel tightening as they round the corner. She inhales sharply and closes her eyes for a moment, in a weak attempt to collect herself.

Hand in hand, she and Tommy make their way to the oak tree, standing proud and tall over Beca’s grave. Chloe feels her chest constrict and forces a puff of breath out, swallowing around the lump forming in her throat.

Tommy kneels onto the dry grass and sits back on his heels. “Hi mommy. I hope you like the flowers I picked out. I think they’re really pretty.”

Chloe brushes a kiss to her fingertips before laying them on the cool stone, a tear rolling down her cheek and dropping from her chin. “Hi love.”

She strolls about to give Tommy a handful of minutes on his own to tell whatever he wants to Beca, catching the tail end of the conversation when she heads back.

“Don’t worry, I give Mama lots of hugs to try to make her less sad.”

Chloe sits down next to him and kisses his forehead. “Wanna sing Mommy a song?”

It becomes their new tradition. Every Saturday, they go visit Beca, and Tommy tells her about his week, and they sing her a song of his choice. Little by little, the noose around Chloe’s heart loosens. It takes many therapy sessions, a lot of support from her friends and colleagues, but mostly, time.

When Aubrey first mentions dating, fifteen months after Beca’s death, Chloe gets upset. If the pain lessened a bit, it all still feels so raw; she can’t even think about her wife without crying.

“She would want you to be happy, Chlo,” Aubrey tries softly.

Chloe shakes her head, teeth sinking in the inside of her cheek. “I don’t need anyone for that. Tommy and I are fine on our own.”

“But--”

“Just drop it,” Chloe snaps, surprising even herself. Her shoulders slump with a sigh, and she wills her tone to be softer. “I’m just-- I’m not ready. Okay?”

Aubrey nods, apologetic. “Okay. I’m sorry I brought it up.”

The first time she finds herself interested in someone -- one of Tommy’s classmate’s dad -- a couple of months later, Chloe panics. Guilt instantly floods her insides, and she feels like she’s betraying the love of her life for considering getting romantically involved with somebody else.

A few sessions with her therapist manage to convince her that it’s okay.

She downloads a dating app three months later, but lets it sit there without making a profile for a couple more weeks. When she finally does, it only takes an hour for her to strike up a conversation with one of her matches.

The guy is funny, attractive and seems really sweet, so when he asks her out on a date a couple of days later, Chloe says yes.

It’s not until she’s dressed and ready to head out that she realizes she’s still wearing her wedding band. She freezes in the doorway as she stares down at it, swallowing thickly.

She should take it off, right? Going on a date wearing a wedding ring would be weird since he has no idea Chloe is a widow, and Chloe isn’t sure she’s ready to talk about it.

“I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness,” Chloe murmurs as she slides the white gold band onto Beca’s ring finger. “As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you.”

Beca puffs out a breath, meeting Chloe’s gaze before she takes Chloe’s ring and holds her hand, repeating the same phrase as she pushes the band against her engagement ring. Chloe blinks back the tears burning behind her eyes, her heart positively brimming with unparalleled happiness.

Cynthia-Rose grins. “I now pronounce you wife and wife,” she says, and Chloe releases a watery chuckle. “You may kiss.”

Their friends and family cheer as Beca cups Chloe’s cheek to join their lips in a soft, loving kiss. “I love you,” she whispers across Chloe’s mouth, resting her forehead against hers for a moment before they part.

“We’re married!” Chloe blurts out, thrusting the hand holding her bouquet up in the air as the small crowd erupts into more cheers.

Beca laughs. “Oh God, you’re such a weirdo.”

Chloe sticks her tongue out. “You know you’re stuck with me forever now, right?”

Chloe blinks, her teeth grinding together to keep the tears from flowing. She takes hold of the band and starts pulling gently, only to change her mind before it can completely slip it off her finger.

Releasing a breath, she leans back against the closed door, her head tilting against the surface as her eyes flutter shut. Tears roll down her cheeks, dropping from her chin onto the hardwood floors.

A knock on the other side of the door startles her. “Mama?”

Chloe hastily swipes her thumb over both cheeks and opens it, crouching down to Tommy’s level. She musters a smile. “What’s up, little man?”

Tommy frowns, playing with the hem of his pajama top. It’s something he does whenever he’s shy or nervous. “Is the babysitter nice?”

Chloe chuckles. “She is. Very nice. But it turns out I’m staying here tonight.”

“What about your friend?”

Chloe’s shoulder lifts in a half shrug. “I’d rather hang out with my favorite dude.”

“Are you sad, Mama?”

Chloe inhales sharply. “A little.”

“You miss Mommy?”

More tears pool in Chloe’s eyes. “Yeah. I miss Mommy a lot.”

“You should think of a happy memory,” he states wisely.

Chloe threads her fingers through his chocolate curls, smiling fondly. He looks so much like Beca, with the same shade of eyes and hair. “You’re absolutely right. Can you help me with that?”

Tommy’s eyes light up. “When I rode a bike for the first time.”

“You know, might as well fasten bubble wrap all around him,” Chloe quips as she watches in amusement as Beca double checks that Tommy’s elbow patches are well secured.

Her comment earns her a glare. “Bite me, Beale.”

“Excuse you, it’s Mitchell.”

“Mama, look! I’m a ninja turtle!” Tommy says as he shows off his knee and elbow patches proudly.

“You’re rocking the look, little dude,” she murmurs with a fond smile. “Go get your bike from the garage, then we’ll head to the park.”

“K!” The almost four-year-old dashes towards the garage door, and Chloe sets her cup of coffee down to walk over to her wife and loop her arms around her waist.

“Breathe,” she whispers into her ear, feeling how tense Beca is.

“He’s growing up way too fast,” she mumbles as she leans back against Chloe.

“I know,” Chloe murmurs. “Maybe we should have another one.”

Before Beca can reply, Tommy is calling for them. “We’re circling back to that later, Mrs. Mitchell.”

They head to the park across from their house, Tommy vibrating with excitement as he walks by his tiny red bike which, for the first time, doesn’t sport any training wheels.

“You’re sure you’re ready?” Beca asks when they make it, Tommy sitting on his bike.

“Totes!” He exclaims, and Chloe sees Beca roll her eyes.

“You should tell your mother to put a dollar in a jar every time she says that,” she jokes, though it flies right over Tommy’s head.

“It’s a bad word?”

Beca nods. “Like everything that starts in aca.”

Chloe is the one to roll her eyes this time. “Don’t listen to Mommy, baby. She’s joking.” She glances at Beca. “Are you running by his side or should I?”

Beca snickers. “You know how I feel about non-horizontal cardio.”

“What’s horizontal cardio?” Tommy pipes up, his eyes squinting against the sun.

“Something Mama is addicted to,” Beca says.

Chloe shakes her head, chuckling as she pushes her phone into Beca’s palm. “Here. To film.” She bends down to grab one side of the handle and the back of the seat. “Ready for take-off, little man?”

“Don’t let go ‘til I say!” He rushes out as they slowly start to roll on the flat bike lane.

“I won’t,” Chloe assures him as she jogs beside him.

They pick up speed, and Tommy pedals faster. “Let go, Mama.”

Chloe does, jogging for a bit more in case the bike falls over, but Tommy is soon going too fast for her pace. “Go Tommy!”

“You’re doing it!” She hears Beca shout, and Tommy cheers as he keeps pedaling. “Not too fast, baby!”

Tommy listens a bit too well, and as soon as he loses momentum, his bike slows and wobbles, Tommy thankfully falling on the grass side.

“You okay, baby?” Beca asks as she jogs over.

“Can I do it again?!”

Chloe hums. “That was a really good day, huh?”

A grin spreads across Tommy’s features. “Yeah.”

Chloe kisses the tip of his nose. “How about we order a pizza and eat in front of the TV?”

“Can we watch The Lion King again?”

Chloe smiles and pushes to her feet. “Of course we can.”

The only time Chloe manages to forget a tiny bit about the hole left in her heart after Beca’s death is when she’s working. Her days at the clinic are usually pretty busy, between consultations, emergencies, and visiting the local animal shelter twice a week.

Two months have ticked by since that failed dating attempt. Chloe found the courage to take off her ring, wearing it on a chain around her neck instead. There’s still a faint line where it used to be, a reminder of what she has lost.

But Chloe keeps moving. For Tommy’s sake, and her own.

“Oh, what a cutie,” she gushes when her next patient steps inside the consultation room with his owner. She crouches down to pet him, then looks up towards the woman. “What’s his name?”

The brunette smiles. “Cody.”

Chloe nods and pushes to her feet, only realizing how attractive the other woman is once she’s at her level. She clears her throat and breaks eye contact, motioning towards the table. “Let’s get him on here. I’ll lower it.”

Once the Australian shepherd is on the table, Chloe checks his heart and ears, brushes a comb through his fur for any sign of fleas, trims his nails and finally, preps a syringe for his shot.

“Are you new in town?” She asks as she rubs the injection spot.

“Yeah, just moved from North Carolina.”

Chloe nods as she disposes of the needle. “Welcome, then. This guy is in excellent health. Can I give him a treat?”

His owner smiles, and Chloe finds herself staring again. “Of course.”

They run into each other again at the store a week later, on the ice cream aisle. Chloe is still wearing her forest green scrubs after a long day at the clinic, having made a quick stop to get a few things before she heads to pick Tommy up from daycare.

“The salted caramel brownie is amazing.”

She turns around at the familiar voice to find Cody’s owner. “Oh, hi.”

“Hey Dr. Beale.”

“I’ve never tried that one,” Chloe says, trying to ignore the warmth pooling in her belly. “I’ll take your word for it.”

“Oh, the pressure,” the woman quips with a soft laugh as Chloe plucks the ice cream tub from the fridge and sets it into the basket tucked in the crook of her elbow.

Chloe chuckles. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name last time.”

“Naomi,” she says, extending her hand.

Chloe nods and shakes it. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too,” Naomi murmurs. A beat of silence follows as they stare at each other. “Hey um, this might sound too forward but, would you like to get a coffee sometime?”

Chloe doesn’t feel that sense of dread she experienced whenever she thought about going out with someone. Instead, butterflies take off in her belly. Her lips curve in a small smile. “Sure. Do you have your phone?”

She punches in her number before handing the device back to its owner. “Sorry, I have to run to pick my son up from daycare,” she says as she hitches her thumb over her shoulder.

Naomi doesn’t seem fazed by the fact that she’s a mom, and smiles. “No problem. See you around, Dr. Beale.”

Their coffee date ends up being really nice, lasting over two hours. Naomi is funny, sweet and interesting to talk to, and their chemistry is undeniable. So when Naomi asks her if she wants to do that again sometime, she says yes.

Sometime happens to be that next Saturday. Chloe gets a babysitter for Tommy and wears jeans with ankle boots and a white blouse under a daim jacket. They go eat dinner this time around, and Chloe feels a bit nervous, but the two glasses of wine before the food even gets here help with that.

Chloe can’t remember the last time she’s laughed so much; most definitely before Beca’s death, and she’s missed feeling this light and carefree.

The dread is back when Naomi’s lips brush against hers in a light kiss. They’re sitting in Naomi’s car, parked on the curb of Chloe’s house. Chloe tenses, and Naomi must feel it, as she backs away almost immediately.

“I’m sorry, I thought…”

Chloe swallows, glancing down to her lap. “No, you thought right,” she murmurs, her thumb absentmindedly rubbing the side of her bare ring finger. “I thought I wanted this, too. I just…” she inhales sharply through her nose. “I lost my wife just over two years ago. Car crash. And you’re the first person I’ve dated since.”

“Oh,” Naomi lets out, shoulders slumping. “I’m so sorry, Chloe.”

Chloe musters a small smile of gratitude. “I like you. I really enjoy spending time with you, but I’m not-- I’m not there when it comes to physical stuff, yet. I guess I need more time.”

Naomi nods. “I understand. Thank you for sharing that with me.” She licks her lips, falling silent for a moment. “Do you still… wanna hang out?”

Chloe feels relieved that her needing time doesn’t have Naomi running for the hills. “Yeah. I’d love that.”

She heads up to the house a minute later and washes up for bed, settling under the covers and plucking her phone from the bedside table. The text from Naomi displayed across the screen makes her smile.

I had a great time tonight. Have a good night, Chloe.

She is about to reply when the door to her bedroom creaks open, Tommy popping his head in.

Chloe cocks an eyebrow. “What are you doing up, baby? It’s past midnight.”

Tommy pads inside. “I had a scary.”

Chloe sighs and pats the space next to her. “Come on up.”

Tommy climbs in next to her, snuggling into her side. “Did you have fun with your friend?”

Chloe hums, brushing a kiss to his hairline. “I did. Was it okay with Julie?”

Tommy nods. “She’s nice,” he says. “I saw Mommy earlier.”

A frown creases the space between Chloe’s eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

“A rainbow in the sky. I saw it in the garden when I was playing.”

Chloe’s heart swells in her chest. “She’s watching over you,” she murmurs, blinking back the tears burning behind her eyes. “Always.”

Summer chills to fall, and soon enough, nearly three years have passed since that dreadful day.

“Hi love,” Chloe murmurs, sweeping away the auburn and golden leaves from the top of Beca’s headstone. Tommy already visited just before, Chloe finding it important that he gets to talk to Beca without her listening in.

She sets the bouquet of flowers in that same spot and sits down in front of the grave. The sun hides behind a dark cloud, and Chloe fights off a chill, tugging the sleeves of her cable-knit sweater over her hands.

“Tommy is doing good. He just started first grade and he’s learning to read,” she says, chuckling. “I’m sure he’s told you all about it. He’s growing up way too fast. I see a little bit more of you in him every day. He’s smart, and protective and he loves being sarcastic. And he loves music. He listens to your songs a lot.” She glances down, smiling. “I’m glad he has them to remember you by.”

She takes a pause, fiddling with the hem of her sleeves. “I uh, I met someone. Her name’s Naomi and we’ve been together for four months. She’s… really good to me.” Her tongue darts out to wet her lips as tears well up in her eyes. Her heart feels heavy. “She’s not— she makes me happy. But nobody— nobody could ever replace you.” She swallows the lump in her throat, glancing down at her lap once again. “I wish-- I wish we could have one more moment together,” she croaked out. “I wish you hadn’t been taken from us so suddenly. I wish I could see that smile of yours one more time. I keep replaying that last morning, around and around in my head to try to remember what that last kiss felt like.”

“Wait!”

Beca turns around, cocking an eyebrow. “Did I forget something?”

Grinning, Chloe brushes a soft kiss to her lips. “This.”

Beca’s eyes roll towards the ceiling, but her smile tells Chloe she loves it. “You’re a dork.” She chases Chloe’s lips in another kiss, tenderly brushing her nose against hers. “Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

“I wish I could... have just one more minute with you,” she murmurs, more tears toppling over her cheeks as she blinks.

The sun breaks through the clouds, and Chloe looks up to find a rainbow arching its colors in the bold sky overhead. She thinks back on Tommy’s words and a smile surfaces on her tear-stained features as she breathes in the soothing air around her.

Something akin to peace settles within her, perhaps for the first time in three years.

“Thank you, love,” she whispers, giving herself a moment before she rises to her feet.

She lies a kiss on the tips of her fingers and rests them on the cool stone, the drops of rain falling around her echoing on the dead leaves carpeting the ground. She murmurs a gentle goodbye and makes her way to the gate, smiling at the sight of Tommy and Naomi huddled under their umbrella. Tommy jogs to her and extends his arms towards her.

“Did you see the rainbow, Mama?” He asks once she’s propped him on her hip.

Chloe brushes a kiss to his forehead. “I did, baby.”

Naomi smiles when they make it to her level. “Are you okay?”

Chloe nods, her own lips curving in a soft smile as she looks at her girlfriend. “Yeah. Thanks.” She slides her hand into hers and laces their fingers. “Shall we go get hot cocoas?”

As they walk away from the cemetery, Chloe realizes it’s okay to love more than one person in her lifetime. She also knows that her grief will never completely go away, just like the cracks in her heart will never be fully stitched back up.

But she will learn to live with it, to carry it. Memories will come and go, and while they were painful once, Chloe now feels grateful to have had all these years and moments with the love of her life that she will cherish forever.