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“Stupid cat,” Beca said softly as she stroked her unhappy feline’s head. “Not feeling great, huh?”

Bella scowled in the way only cats could and mewled pitifully, green eyes staring at her mom and willing her to understand what the issue was. She got up then and hobbled around Beca’s legs to rub against them, favoring her front, right paw.

“Can I see, Baby?” Beca asked as she gently picked the orange tabby up. “Let me see your paw.” She rubbed her thumb over the pads and between Bella’s toes, noting how the cat tried to pull away and squirmed in her arms. “Got a little bit of swelling there, huh?” Beca kissed the cat’s nose and then set her on the couch. “Let me call the vet and see if they can fit us in.”

Bella mewled in agreement and sat down, licking her painful paw and scowling again.

The brunette nodded and fished her phone out of her back pocket to dial her regular office.

“Perfect Paws Animal Hospital, how can I help?!” answered the cheeriest voice Beca had quite possibly ever heard.

“Hi, this is Beca Mitchell, my cat is favoring her front right paw and licking it a lot. It seems swollen. Can I bring her in this afternoon?”

“Hi, Beca,” the voice on the other end of the phone enthusiastically greeted. “Awwww… I’m sorry your fur baby isn’t feeling well. Our scheduler just stepped away for a moment, but let me see if I can figure this application out… hmm…”

Beca waited patiently. “I can bring her in any time this afternoon,” she prompted after some quiet muttering from the woman who’d answered the phone.

“Ok…” the woman replied. “Do you have a preference for any particular vet?”

The brunette nodded to herself. “Bella normally sees Doctor Schafer.”

“Ah…” the woman replied. “Doctor Schafer isn’t here today but… if it’s ok with Bella, I have some openings this afternoon? I’m Doctor Beale and I just joined this practice.”

“Oh,” Beca replied, surprised. “Vets don’t normally answer the phone.”

Doctor Beale chuckled softly. “Honestly, I’m just manning the desk for a minute while Aubrey’s taking a bio break. Ok, I don’t know how this works, so why don’t you just bring Bella by now? I’m free for the next couple of hours.”

“Sure, that’d be great,” the brunette smiled. “Thanks, Doctor Beale.”

“My pleasure… and since the appointment totes won’t be on the schedule, just tell Aubrey that you spoke to me on the phone when you get here.”

Did she just say totes?

“Ok… thanks again,” Beca replied. “We’re on our way.”

Xx

Bella was very unhappy, and she cowered right back from the door of her carrier as Beca sat it on the reception counter. “Hi,” she said. “Beca Mitchell and Bella to see Doctor Beale.”

“Hi, Beca,” Aubrey said with a smile. “Let me just get you checked in.”

“Oh, you won’t find us on the schedule,” the brunette replied. “I spoke to Doctor Beale on the phone, and she told me to bring Bella in. She didn’t know how to put the appointment in the schedule.”

Aubrey chuckled softly. “She’s a sweetheart but she hasn’t learned our systems yet.”

“How long has Doctor Beale worked here?” the brunette asked.

“Here, just since Monday,” the vet tech replied. “But I’ve known her a long time. She’s very experienced and amazing at her job.”

“Why thank you, Aubrey” a perky voice exclaimed and Beca turned, only to have her breath stolen right out of her chest. “Hi, I’m Chloe Beale. You must be Beca.” The woman focused on the carrier sitting on the counter. “And THAT must be Bella. Hey, Beca and Bella, that’s cute!”

Beca was staring. She knew she was staring. Like staring embarrassingly badly. But she couldn’t seem to stop herself. “Y-yeah,” she stuttered.

For some unknown reason, Aubrey was sniggering.

Doctor Beale was not at all what Beca had been expecting. The vet was on the shorter side… but still a couple of inches taller than Beca, which frankly wasn’t difficult… slender and gorgeous with twinkling blue eyes and wavy, red hair that spilled over her shoulders. She was wearing navy scrubs over a white, long-sleeved shirt and her smile was the largest, most perfect thing the brunette had ever seen.

Beca gave herself a mental shake and held out her hand. “Hi, Doctor Beale. Beca Mitchell.”

The redhead shook it. Her hand was soft, but her grip was firm. “So nice to meet you. Why don’t we get Bella into an exam room and take a peek at her paw?” Beca turned to pick Bella’s carrier up by its handle, but Doctor Beale put her hand gently on hers to stop her. “I’ve got her.” She carried Bella to the waiting room door and looked back over her shoulder with a grin. “C’mon, Mom, Bella’s gonna need moral support dealing with the scary vet.”

Beca found herself grinning too and trailed along after the redhead. She sighed softly then. Doctor Beale had a really great ass too. “Um… cool.”

They got situated in an exam room and the vet set the carrier on the floor, then sat next to it, legs crossed underneath her as she opened its door. Then she just waited. “So…” she said. “When did you first notice that Bella was favoring her paw?”

Beca took a seat on the floor opposite her. If Doctor Beale was surprised, she gave no sign. “Last night. I noticed she was limping a little. Then this morning, it seemed swollen, and she’s been licking it a lot.”

“Thanks for bringing her in so quickly,” the vet said softly, side-eyeing Bella and grinning a little as the cat peeked out of the carrier and meowed. “Hi Bella,” she said in a high, encouraging voice. “Aren’t you the prettiest girl… just like your mom.”

Beca blinked. Did she just say…

Bella meowed again and came further out of the carrier. Doctor Beale slowly held out her fist and waited again. “And she’s been eating, peeing and pooping normally?”

The brunette nodded. “Yeah, I haven’t noticed any changes at all.”

“Ok,” the vet smiled. “It’s probably an ingrown nail or abscess of some kind.” Then her smile broadened as the cat slowly crept closer and bumped her head against her knuckles. “Good girl, Bella. We’re going to be the best of friends.” She scooped the feline up and got up herself to place her on the examination table. Then she offered a hand to help Beca up too. “It’s cold down there.”

Beca let herself be pulled to her feet. “Thanks,” she said a little shyly. Then she groaned as Bella suddenly coughed and hacked a hairball up on the table. “Dude! Noooo!”

Doctor Beale laughed softly as she reached for some paper towels and cleaned it up. “It’s ok. It’s just a stress reaction. She’s fine.” Then she picked up the cat’s paw to examine it, holding it firmly as Bella protested. Beca began stroking her head and the cat relaxed a little. Then she mewled pitifully as the vet squeezed her paw to extend her toes and nails. “Hmmm… it doesn’t seem to be an ingrown nail.”

“I trim them once a month,” Beca mentioned quietly.

“You take really good care of her,” Doctor Beale replied softly as she eased the paw over to check for problems with the pads. “She’s in perfect condition and I can tell she’s very well nourished. Her weight is pretty perfect.”

“Wish I could say that about myself,” Beca chuckled but, as her dark blue eyes met twinkling light blue, the vet tilted her head.

“I dunno, Beca, I’d say you’re in pretty perfect condition yourself.”

Beca withdrew, pulling her eyes away and sitting on the bench on the other side of the table as her anxiety suddenly spiked. Doctor Beale cleared her throat softly. “So… since there are no signs of external trauma, I’m going to do an x-ray. Is Bella a house cat or does she go outside?”

“She’s a house cat,” the brunette replied. “And please, do whatever you need to, to make her feel better.” Beca’s chest suddenly felt tight, and she shook her head as she realized she was about to be hit with an anxiety attack. “Sorry… I…” She closed her eyes and pressed her hand to her chest as the attack crashed over her.

But then gentle hands were on her shoulders. “It’s ok, Beca,” the vet said softly as she crouched in front of the bench. “Open your eyes and look at me, ok?”

Beca tried but her brain was having a hard time processing signals. “I… fuck…”

“Just breathe,” Doctor Beale said. She took Beca’s hand and pulled it to her chest, stroking it’s back soothingly with the pads of her fingers. Beca managed to make eye contact and the vet’s gaze just froze her in place.

Bella meowed worriedly and jumped off the table onto the bench next to her mom, standing up on her hind paws to rub her head against Beca’s face. The brunette took a shuddering breath and then nodded. “Ok… I’m ok,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”

The vet smiled and backed off a little. “Don’t apologize. I know it’s scary when your fur baby isn’t feeling well.” She picked up the cat again and went back to the exam. “I definitely feel some swelling, so yeah, I’ll do an x-ray. I’m also a veterinary radiologist, so I can read the images right here.”

“Ok,” Beca agreed shakily.

Doctor Beale carried Bella to the exam room door and paused to look back with a reassuring smile. “We’ll be back in a jiffy. Won’t we, Bells?” She kissed the cat’s nose and then took her away, closing the door behind her.

Beca groaned and covered her face with her hands. “Dude, could you have embarrassed yourself any worse?!” she muttered.

Xx

Chloe was sitting at a computer, with Bella in her lap, rolling the wheel of the mouse back and forth as she examined the x-rays. She sighed and shook her head. There was something inside the paw, and it seemed to be filled with fluid, so she decided she’d try to extract some and have it tested. But she needed the owner’s permission for that. “Let’s get you back to your mom, huh?” she murmured as she rubbed Bella’s ears. “Are you her emotional support cat, Bells? She loves you very much.”

It wasn’t the first time Chloe had seen a pet owner have an anxiety attack and Beca’s had passed quickly, but she had a feeling it was because the brunette had had a lot of therapy. She recognized the signs of someone employing learned skills and wondered what had happened to the woman to leave her in need of help like that.

Chloe stood, carried the purring cat back along the hallway and ducked back into the exam room. She’d taken Bella’s measurements and weight before the x-ray and was very pleased with her condition overall. “Hey, Mom,” she said as Beca got up worriedly. “Bella did great.” She eased the protesting feline back into her carrier and closed the door. Then she went to sit on the bench.

“Is she ok?” Beca asked, a little breathlessly as she retook her seat.

“I think so,” Chloe smiled. “The x-ray showed something inside her paw, but it looks to be an abscess so, if you’re ok with it, I’d like to bring her back tomorrow and draw a sample of the fluid while she’s sedated.”

“But, Doctor Beale, what could have caused it?” Beca asked, totally blaming herself for her cat’s painful state.

Chloe realized what was happening and tilted her head. “It’s Chloe,” she said gently. “And it’s not your fault, Mom. It’s most likely just a small infection. When can you bring her back in tomorrow?”

“Um...” Beca thought about that, mentally reviewing the meetings and calls on her schedule. “I have to work during the day but depending on your schedule, I could bring her in after? I only live ten minutes away. I could be here by six-thirty, if that’s not too late?”

“That would be perfect,” Chloe replied immediately. “I can do the sedation, take the sample and then maybe we could... um... while Bella is waking up...” She looked down at her sneaker-covered feet. “Go get a coffee or...?”

Beca felt another wave of anxiety rise in her chest. “I... I’m not sure I can...” she admitted.

Chloe’s smile was beaming though. “Tell you what, how about I go get the coffee and bring it back here after I finish? We can hang out together.”

“You’d want... want to do that?” the brunette whispered, dark blue eyes peeking at the vet. Chloe was gorgeous and for the first time in a very long time, Beca found herself insanely attracted to someone.

“Totes!” the vet replied, still beaming. “But you know... no pressure or... like… anything weird.” She blushed a little and shook her head with a sigh. “I really need to grow a filter, Beca. It’s a problem.”

And Beca laughed. It was a full out, chest deep laugh of the kind she hadn’t heard from herself in longer than she could remember. “Um... well... you don’t have to pressure me to have coffee with you, Chloe. I’d… I’d like that.”

Chloe’s smile grew wider, if that was even possible. “Great... coffee... I’ll...” The vet stood and shook herself a little. “I’ll walk you out, Mom.” Then she stopped and went back for Bella’s carrier. “Almost forgot you, Fur Baby,” she murmured.

At checkout, Chloe hovered, holding the carrier as Beca settled the bill, then handed it over to her. “See you tomorrow at six-thirty,” she said.

“See you then,” the brunette replied. “Thank you, Doctor Beale.”

Blue eyes gazed back steadily at her. “Most definitely my pleasure, Ms. Mitchell.” Beca felt her cheeks heat a touch and swallowed as she turned and headed for the exit. The blue eyes watched her all the way out.

Chloe sighed softly and leaned on the reception desk, propping her chin up on her fist. Aubrey watched her for a moment and then chuckled softly. “She’s kinda hot, right? Did you ask her out?”

The vet sighed again. “Yeah...” she breathed dreamily but then she straightened. “She’s bringing Bella back tomorrow evening. I asked her to have coffee with me while we’re waiting for sedation to wear off.”

“Chloe?” Aubrey said. “You know it’s your day off tomorrow, right?”

But the redhead just smiled. “I know.”

Xx

It had been a long day of getting pretty much nothing done between her calls. Beca had sat in front of her piano for hours, trying to come up with a decent melody for a new song, but every time she thought she had something, her mind had wandered away and she’d finally just slammed the fallboard shut over the keys and moved to the couch to flop onto it, face down.

Bella limped to her and jumped up onto the couch to sit affectionately on her head. “Thanks, Baby,” the brunette muttered through fish lips. “How’s the paw?” The cat licked her paw and then mewled. “That good, huh? Well, Chloe’s gonna fix it, ok?”

Chloe.

Beca lifted Bella off her head and rolled onto her back to set the feline on her stomach. “She’s nice, right? You liked her. She’s pretty and kinda sweet.” The brunette chuckled softly. “Who am I kidding? She’s hot as fuck. And those eyes... Wow.”

Just then her phone dinged a reminder and she nodded to herself as she went to her laptop and logged into a special website. She waited a few minutes and then smiled as her therapist popped up in the video chat window for their daily therapy check-in. “Hi, Beca,” the woman said. “How are you?”

“Hi, Elise,” the brunette replied. “Up to yesterday evening, I would have said I was the same old but...”

Elise smiled. “Oh? What happened yesterday evening?” She chortled a little then. “And why the heck are you blushing?”

“Ugh...” Beca groaned and pressed her face into her hands. “I... I met someone.”

The therapist leaned forward. “Someone...?” she prompted with raised eyebrows.

The musician nodded slowly. “She kinda... asked me... on a kinda date?”

Elise pursed her lips. “Was that a statement or a question, Beca?”

The brunette sighed. “I think she asked me on a date. I mean... she suggested coffee and...”

“You said yes?”

“I was honest with her, like we talked about, Elise. I told her I wasn't sure and she... she said she’d get the coffee and bring it to me so we could hang out.”

The therapist smiled and tilted her head. “What did you say?”

Beca’s ears turned pink. “I said yes. I... I wanted to...”

“And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is progress!” Elisa exclaimed.

The musician laughed softly. “I guess I’m not a lost cause after all.”

The older woman’s face gentled. “Oh Beca, I never thought you were. The assault took your feet out from under you... left you with severe trust and intimacy challenges, but you’re also a strong, and dare I say stubborn, woman. I knew this day would come.”

Beca nodded slowly. “Thank you... but what... I know is just a first date but… what if she like... tries to kiss me or something.”

The therapist leaned back in her chair this time, tapping her pen somewhere off-screen. “You’re in full control of what happens, Beca. Let me ask you… what if YOU want to kiss HER?”

Dark blue eyes widened. “Uh...”

“Life doesn’t have to just happen to you. You can make what you want to happen, happen... if you want to kiss her, kiss her, with permission of course. If she gives any indication of wanting to kiss you, meet her halfway... or... kiss her first... or don’t, it’s your choice.”

“My choice,” the brunette murmured. “Yeah, yeah, it is.”

“Tell me more about her?” Elise asked.

“Well... she’s a vet. I met her when I brought Bella in. She’s sweet and very experienced... and she was amazing with Bella. You know how prickly she can be, but she took to Chloe right away.”

Elise nodded thoughtfully. “She sounds like a caregiver personality.”

“She recognized and helped me through an anxiety attack...” Beca smiled a little. “Which she actually caused by flirting with me. I was totally mortified but she played it off like it was no big deal... and asked me about coffee anyway.”

The therapist smiled. “It sounds like she’s interested in you. I think we can get rid of that question mark.”

“She has red hair,” Beca went on softly as if she hadn’t heard what her therapist had said. “And the bluest eyes and... she’s totally gorgeous… and like… so sexy. And she has super soft and gentle hands. And I’m attracted to her... like a whole lot. She's so smart too. She’s a radiologist as well and she read Bella’s x-rays right there for me.”

“Beca?” Elise said quietly, almost unwilling to break into her client’s thoughts.

Dark blue eyes came back from a faraway place. “Hmmm?”

“You’re talking about being attracted to and liking someone... and you’re not having an anxiety attack.”

The musician blinked and sat back in her chair in utter shock. “Wow,” she said, slightly in awe.

“Definitely progress,” the therapist grinned. “You should be very proud of yourself. What time are you seeing her?”

“Six-thirty,” Beca replied.

Elise looked at her watch and lifted an eyebrow. “It’s five-ten. How about we end our session now so you can get ready. I have a feeling you might want to dress up a little?”

The brunette blushed again. “Yeah... I think I do.”

The therapist nodded. “Have fun, Beca, and remember, you’re in control of your life. You can make whatever you want to happen, happen. And I want to hear everything tomorrow!”

“Thank you, Elise,” Beca replied with a smile.

Xx

Chloe was pacing back and forth, looking at her watch every now and again as the cleaning staff and vet techs bustled around getting ready to go home. It was six-twenty-five and she’d arrived a little early to prepare the procedure room and supplies for Bella’s... and Beca’s... arrival.

“Listen,” Aubrey said as she tossed her phone into her purse and slung it over her shoulder. “I’ve known Beca a while and she’s kinda... shy and skittish... so be patient with her, Chlo.”

“You mean Bella?” Chloe asked, eyebrows raised.

“I mean Beca,” Aubrey chuckled.

“Oh... well... I know how to handle skittish,” Chloe grinned. “But thanks, Aubrey.”

“Night, see you tomorrow.” Aubrey headed for the exit and then smiled as she met Beca on the way in, carrying a wailing Bella in her carrier. “Hi, Beca. Bye, Beca,” She winked at her and then disappeared out the door. The brunette looked back over her shoulder with a frown, then looked ahead to find Chloe standing in front of her and came to a sudden stop as she almost walked into her.

“Oh... sorry... Hi,” she said, a small smile lifting her lips as she pushed her dark hair back behind her ears. She was wearing jeans, a black leather button up shirt and boots.

“Hi,” Chloe replied softly. “You look... um... wow.”

“You too,” Beca said, her smile growing as she realized the vet looked different than the previous day. She was wearing dark eye makeup that made her blue eyes pop, and her pink lip was very attractive. “How are you?”

“I’m doing really well,” the vet said. Then she took the carrier out of her friend’s hands and lifted it to peer inside. “How are you doing, Pussy Cat?” Her blue eyes landed back on Beca then, eyebrows lifted.

“She’s doing ok. Still limping and licking her paw but she doesn’t seem any worse than yesterday.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Chloe nodded. “Let’s get started. Follow me, Mom.” She carried Bella into an exam room and settled her on the table this time, opening the door and smiling as the orange tabby immediately sashayed to her and rubbed up against her chest.

Beca swallowed, idly wondering for a moment if she could get away with rubbing herself against the vet too. She lifted her eyes from Chloe’s chest to her face and found a slight smirk there, then realized she’d been caught staring AGAIN. Her cheeks colored a little. “So,” she cleared her throat softly. “What’s first?”

“It’ll be quick and totally painless, I promise,” Chloe said reassuringly. “I’m going to give her a little gas and when she’s asleep, I’ll use a syringe to pierce the mass and extract some of the fluid.”

“The m-mass?” Beca said in shock. “Like a tumor?”

“I’m sorry, it’s just a medical term,” the vet soothed, putting a hand on the musician’s shoulder and squeezing gently. “I still think it’s just an abscess.” Then she took Bella’s paw and gently turned it over to examine it. “Ah... there.” She showed Beca a tiny bump on one pad. “I suspected that we might see that develop overnight,” she said. “It’s the head of the abscess... like the head of a pimple... and is most likely the entry point for the infection. Bella probably stood on something.” She picked the cat up and cuddled her, kissing her face. “I think draining the pus and a course of antibiotics is totes going to clear this right up.”

Beca laughed softly. “You know there’s no other adult in the entire world who says totes,” she teased.

Chloe winked. “There’s no other adult in the world like me, Beca.”

And Beca was inclined to agree as she let her eyes roam over the gorgeous vet. Then she realized that Chloe was wearing Levis with her scrub top... Levis she was poured into… and as she turned away to grab a paper towel, Beca’s mind almost derailed. God... her ass is… EPIC!.

“Ok, follow me. There’s only a skeleton staff here for emergency cases so no one will mind if you come into the procedure room with me.”

“I get to see you in action, huh?” Beca replied, her tone almost purring, and Chloe’s eyes shot to her, widening a little as she swallowed.

“I... um... yeah... it’s...” The redhead cleared her throat. “It’s a simple procedure.” She led the musician into another room and sat a not-very-patient Bella on the table. Then she quickly sized a gas mask and slid it over the feline’s nose and mouth. After a moment of struggling, Bella’s movements grew sluggish. “Good Girl,” Chloe murmured, stroking her fingertips along the cat’s head and rubbing her ears gently. “Just relax and sleep.” And in a count of ten, Bella was out cold. “See? Nice and easy,” she told Beca with a smile.

“Yeah, that was ok,” the brunette nodded.

Chloe eased Bella’s tongue out and to the side, then replaced the mask. She took a moment to pull a pair of nitrile gloves on and went to grab a kidney tray off the sideboard. She set it on the table next to the sleeping cat and lifted a cloth off to take out a syringe. “Feel free to look away if needles aren’t your thing,” she said gently. But she smiled as Beca’s eyes remained firmly on her cat. Then she paused, tilting her head thoughtfully. “Actually...” She set the syringe down, picked up two pieces of gauze and held them to Bella’s paw as she squeezed gently. “Maybe we can avoid the needle extraction altogether.”

Beca gasped as the little bump on her baby’s pad grew slightly bigger. “Wow.”

“Oh yeah,” Chloe chuckled. “We’ve got a popper here.”

“Wh... a what?”

The vet quickly listened to the cat’s heart with a stethoscope, then grabbed a different instrument and inserted its tip into the bump. She set it down to pick up the gauze again. “You might want to step back,” she advised. Then she squeezed Bella’s paw and the brunette grimaced as pus erupted from the pad.

“Lovely...” Beca said as a horrible aroma drifted to her.

“I know, right?” the vet laughed softly. Chloe wiped the pus away, grabbed some fresh gauze and squeezed again, watching more pus appear. She continued squeezing and wiping until finally, there was no more yellow nastiness, then used a saline solution to irrigate the area. “There,” she said, nodding in satisfaction. “Good as new. I’ll write a prescription for an antibiotic for her. A week should do it.” She took a moment to wrap a light bandage around Bella’s paw. “We’ll let it keep draining. She should keep this dry as much as possible.”

“Chloe... thank you so much,” the musician said. “I was so worried it was something really bad.” Tears rose in her eyes, and she wiped impatiently at them, but Chloe just came around the table, pulling her gloves off and tossing them into the kidney tray.

“Hey,” she said, squeezing the musician’s shoulder. “We have a saying in the medical community. When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not zebras.”

Beca blinked and then offered a watery smile. “You’re so weird, Dude.”

The vet laughed softly, tossing her red hair back over her shoulders. “Are you complaining, Ms. Mitchell?”

“Definitely not, Doctor Beale.”

Xx

Bella was still groggy when Chloe came back with two coffees and a bag of cake pops from her favorite coffee shop. Beca was waiting on the couch in her tiny office with the feline in her lap and she whiled the time away looking around at the knickknacks and pictures that littered the room. One picture caught her attention though. It was Chloe with Aubrey, and they were hugging each other. The blonde woman was kissing Chloe’s cheek. Beca suddenly wondered if Aubrey was the vet’s girlfriend. Shit, what if she is and I’m totally reading things wrong!

The door opened and the vet ambled in, shoving it closed behind her with her foot. “Hey... sorry it took so long. There was quite a line for this time of evening.” Chloe set two travel cups and a paper bag on her desk and went to a small locker to find a fresh t-shirt. She turned her back to the musician and pulled her scrub shirt off over her head. Beca couldn’t look away from the muscled back with smooth, tanned skin, broken only by the lacy straps of a sky-blue colored bra. When she didn’t say anything, Chloe looked over her shoulder, pulling the t-shirt down over her torso and twitching it straight. “You ok? You’ve gone quiet on me. Did the pus gross you out?”

Bella stirred in the brunette’s lap, breaking her revery, and she nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Sorry, I’m just not real chatty sometimes.”

The vet crossed the room, bringing the coffee and paper bag with her and taking a seat next to Beca. The musician suddenly caught a tantalizing aroma of light perfume and shampoo, and it made her head spin a little. “Double shot with vanilla creamer, right?”

“Thanks,” Beca said, accepting her cup and then grinning as Chloe took a cake pop out and shoved it unceremoniously into her mouth.

“I smove mese fings,” she mumbled as she chewed and then swallowed. “Too damn much. I swear I eat about a pound of these every day. I’m pretty sure I’ve already gained weight since I started working here.”

“I dunno, Chloe, I’d say you’re in pretty perfect condition,” Beca replied, offering Chloe’s words from the previous day back to her and making her swallow. There was that tone again and it sent a little shiver of pleasure through the vet’s body.

“You may not be much of a talker,” the redhead replied softly. “But when you do speak, you seem to know the right things to say.”

The musician blushed a little and looked down, taking a sip of her coffee. Then she pointed at the photograph, curiosity getting the better of her. “Is Aubrey your… um… girlfriend?” she asked, accepting a cake pop from her new friend and taking a delicate bite.

“Oh...” Chloe shook her head. “No... I mean... we used to date years ago in college, but we figured out we were better as best friends. I... um... I’m not seeing anyone right now...” She cleared her throat, light blue eyes lifting hopefully. “Except... if this coffee date goes well... maybe... you?”

Beca pursed her lips, navy eyes twinkling a little as Chloe finally set the record straight. “It’s going pretty well so far but it’s early yet. Don’t get your hopes up.”

The vet laughed softly. “You’re funny,” she said. “And adorable... and kinda beautiful.”

Beca took a breath as a wave of anxiety began to rise. “Oh no,” she murmured, pressing her hand to her chest. “Shit, Chloe... sorry, I...” Her breathing was elevated, and she shook her head, setting her coffee down on the floor.

Chloe was suddenly on her knees in front of her. “Tell me what you need,” she said quietly.

“I feel so stupid,” Beca panted. “I can’t even be in the same room with a gorgeous woman without fucking hyperventilating.”

“You think I’m gorgeous?” Chloe asked with a grin.

Beca froze and then couldn’t help but laugh at the wide-eyed delight on the vet’s face. It helped to dispel the anxiety and she slowly calmed her breathing. “You really are such a weirdo,” she said, but with an affectionate smile as she reached out a hand and pressed it to the vet’s chest. “And yeah, I do think you’re kinda gorgeous.”

“You’re ok though, right?” the redhead asked, shuffling closer on her knees. “You look a little pale.”

“I’m ok,” the musician nodded. “Thanks, Chloe, for being chill about my being a psycho.”

“I’m not complaining,” the vet replied. “But... if you’re comfortable sharing why you have anxiety, I’d like to know.”

Beca looked down and her hand fell away from Chloe’s chest. “I don’t talk about it,” she said.

“Ok,” the older woman said gently.

And Beca closed her eyes. She couldn’t say it. It was too hard, too much and she didn’t want to cause her anxiety to worsen. She also didn’t want to see sympathy or sadness in Chloe’s eyes, so she just nodded.

“Thanks for understanding.”

Chapter Text

“I’m really glad you agreed to this date,” Chloe said much later as she settled closer to her new friend. “I’m having so much fun.”

“Well… actually,” Beca admitted as she scrunched her nose sheepishly. “I wasn’t actually sure it WAS a date.”

“Oh,” The vet shook her head and sighed. “I really need to work on my asking-girls-out skills. I apparently suck at it.”

“No…” Beca replied with a little chuckle. “Honestly, I’m not in a great frame of mind about myself. You probably would’ve had to have stuck your tongue in my mouth before I’d believed it for sure.”

Blue eyes widened and Chloe sucked in a breath as a little smirk flattened her lips. “Is that an invitation, Ms. Mitchell?” Beca paused, her mind suddenly flashing back to what Elise had said to her earlier that evening. She could make what she wanted to happen, happen. And, fuck, looking at Chloe with her gorgeous face and gorgeous hair and gorgeous eyes and gorgeous smirk that wasn’t even annoying... she wanted a kiss to happen. But the vet was already holding up her hands, backpedaling. “Jesus, I’m so sorry, we’ve known each other like… five minutes. That was very…”

It made Beca just want to kiss her more.

She eased closer and pressed her hand to the vet’s chest, stopping her adorable rambling dead. “No… not an invitation,” she murmured, eyes on the vet’s lips. “But maybe it’s a proposition.”

Chloe blinked and then swallowed hard. “Um… really? Well, I… um… for real won’t turn it down if it is.” She waited patiently as Beca moved a little closer, then smiled as the brunette’s nose nudged hers.

“I’m nervous because I haven’t kissed anyone in a very long time,” Beca breathed, absently rubbing her fingertips along Chloe’s collarbone through her shirt. “I may be terrible at it.”

“I wholly doubt that,” the redhead replied, sounding just as breathless.

Beca’s lips hovered over Chloe’s, but she couldn’t bring herself to close the distance between them and she finally just shook her head. “I’m sorry… I…” she whispered.

Chloe hands were on her hips then, squeezing gently. “It’s ok,” she said. “We absolutely don’t have to… but… do… do you want me to…?”

“Um...” the musician replied, dark blue eyes full of uncertainly.

“I really, really want to kiss you, Beca,” the vet murmured. “Please, may I?”

Beca slowly nodded, nudging their noses together again in the process.

“Please, may I?” Chloe asked again, lips barely brushing the corner of the younger woman’s mouth.

“Yes, Chloe.”

“Please, Beca?” the redhead whispered one more time.

And as the vet had hoped, Beca surged forward impatiently and captured her lips, closing her eyes as Chloe’s hands tightened on her waist. As the kiss went on, their heads tilted, and tongues flicked out. Chloe moaned softly and tried to deepen the contact, but suddenly, Beca was drawing away and putting some space between them. “I… um... wow… sorry...” she mumbled, pressing her fingertips against her lips and shaking her head.

The vet smiled as she leaned closer again, resting their foreheads together as she caressed the small of the younger woman’s back. “I didn’t think I was that bad a kisser,” she said with a little smile.

Beca laughed softly. “Shut up. You’re a great kisser.”

Chloe slowly lifted her chin, brushing their lips together very softly. “Honestly, Beca, I don’t normally do this on a first date,” she murmured. “But I’ve been driving myself crazy, thinking about kissing you, all day. Sorry, NOT sorry.” She grinned impishly.

“Is coffee and cake pops in your broom closet really a date though?” Beca teased.

“Hmmm…” the redhead replied, tilting her head thoughtfully as her fingers scratched gently at Beca’s waist. “Let’s see… the ingredients of a date… food… drinks… talking… having fun with someone… kissing them…” She smiled broadly. “I kinda think we have all that covered. Are you saying the location doesn’t meet your standards, Ms. Mitchell?”

“Maybe,” the musician replied with a playful sniff.

“Then how about we change venue? You said you live ten minutes away? Take me to your place.”

Beca blinked. “Uh.”

Chloe’s eyebrows lifted. “Just to talk, Beca. I’d really like to get to know you better. Although,” she grinned happily. “Not gonna lie. If there was a little more kissing, that would be awesome too.”

The brunette eased back and separated from her friend again. “Chloe, would it be ok if we didn’t do that tonight? This was… already kind of huge for me and…”

The redhead kept the space between them but gently squeezed the musician’s hips. “I really would like to get to know you better and I’m glad to stay here, if you’ll stay with me?”

The look in Chloe’s eyes was enough to make Beca agree, and she nodded as it drew her closer. She eased her arms around the vet’s neck and brushed their lips together again. “What are we doing, Chloe?” she murmured. “We only met twenty-four hours ago.”

“I know,” the redhead breathed. “But sometimes, you just…”

“Feel it,” Beca finished for her.

“Right.”

Xx

It was close to six in the morning when Beca finally admitted she should leave. They’d talked about a lot. They’d shared jokes and funny stories as they’d sat on the couch, close together, and only when Beca was in danger of falling asleep, did they agree to call it a night.

“When can I see you again?” Beca asked, running her fingers through soft, red hair.

“How about…” Chloe began but a knock on the door interrupted her.

“Chloe?! You here yet?”

“One sec, coming!” Chloe called cheerfully and she grinned as the brunette reluctantly released her. She went to the door to open it. “Hey, what is it?”

Aubrey was about to answer when she looked over Chloe’s shoulder and spotted Beca on the couch. “I’m… sorry to interrupt,” the vet tech said, giving her friend a meaningful look. “But we have multiple emergencies coming in and we could do with an extra pair of hands.”

“Sure, I’ll be right there,” the vet replied. “Let me just change.”

Aubrey nodded and then stood on her toes to investigate the room again. “Good morning, Beca,” she said in a teasing tone.

“Morning,” the musician said, rubbing at red cheeks. She was fully aware of how the situation might look.

Chloe rolled her eyes and closed the door on Aubrey, who was laughing as she walked away. “Sorry about that,” she said as she went to her locker to take out a fresh set of scrubs. Beca couldn’t look away as the vet turned her back, stripped down to her underwear and then got into the medical apparel. A sudden ache between the brunette’s thighs made her get up and move closer to her friend.

“Tomorrow night?” she said, shocking herself with how much she wanted to touch the redhead. “Can I see you tomorrow night?”

Chloe leaned in and kissed her cheek. “I can’t wait. I get off at six, I think. Text me your address and I’ll come to you? I’d like to check on Bella’s paw.”

Luckily, the vet had remembered that Bella had needed food and a bathroom break during the night so the peacefully sleeping cat barely made a sound as Beca picked her up. “Will do. I know you’ll be busy, so I’ll text you later, ok?” Then the brunette caught the vet’s fingers. “Wait, I don’t have your number.”

Chloe grabbed her phone and handed it to her friend as she finished getting dressed. “Send yourself a text.”

“Ok,” Beca agreed as she did so and then… dropping one last chaste kiss on Chloe’s cheek, headed out. “Have a good day.”

“You too,” the vet grinned.

Xx

“I can’t believe you two had sex,” Aubrey stage whispered as Chloe paused at the door of the exam room, she was cleaning.

“We didn’t,” the vet protested softly. “We just stayed up all night talking.”

“Talking?” the vet tech repeated dubiously. “Really?”

“Really.” Chloe confirmed. “But… I do really like her, Aubrey. She’s amazing.”

“Are you seeing her again?”

“Tomorrow night actually,” the redhead said with a smile. “I’m going to bring wine and takeout to her place.”

“A sure way to get in her pants THIS time,” Aubrey teased but Chloe was unamused.

“Actually,” she said. “It’s not about that so maybe stop with the insinuation, ok?” Then she turned and walked away, blowing out a long breath.

“Chloe? What…?” But the vet was gone, and Aubrey frowned, unsure of what had just happened.

Back in her office, Chloe sat down at her desk and ran a hand through her hair. She knew she’d overreacted, but Aubrey’s teasing had just rubbed her the wrong way. She wasn’t sure why, but she felt protective of Beca and, even though she didn’t know what had hurt her, she feared something awful had happened and it made her want to just tell the world to fuck off and leave Beca alone. She fished her phone out of her drawer and smiled as she saw a text message from an unknown number.

Unknown: Hey Chloe. Guess who? Yep, the crazy hyperventilating cat lady! I hope you’re having a better day than I am. My muse just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate these days and I’m behind on a three-song commitment for an animated movie. Meh. Maybe you can be my inspiration. I certainly can’t wait to see you again. Bella says to tell you meow. XX

Chloe quickly added Beca as a new contact, then tapped out a response.

Me: Hey, Beca, so glad to see your text. My day has pretty much sucked. Those emergency cases we got in this morning were all dogs and were badly hurt. We lost most of them, despite our best efforts. This is the part of the job that hurts most and I’m only now getting a chance to sit down and process everything. I hope your muse comes back. I can only imagine how frustrating that must be and if there’s anything I can do to be your inspiration, I’m more than happy to help. Tell Bella to keep off that paw! XX

Beca: Oh, she is. She’s been lazing on the couch all day and there MAY have been extra treats for her this morning. I got her antibiotic too and gave it to her with her food

Me: Great job, Mom! Gotta get back to work. Totes no rest for the wicked! Laterz.

The vet put her phone back in her drawer and then went back out into the hallway to find her friend. “Hey, Aubrey?”

“You ok?” the blonde asked as she finished mopping the exam room floor.

“Sorry about a few minutes ago. I just… I guess I’m tired.”

Aubrey had a feeling that wasn’t the reason but didn’t push. “No worries,” she smiled. “I shouldn’t have teased like that. Beca’s a very sweet woman and she seems to like you too.”

“I hope so,” Chloe replied. She looked down then. “We didn’t have sex… but we did kiss a little.”

Aubrey just smiled. “Then she definitely likes you.” They paused as another head popped into the room.

“Doctor Beale,” Claire said with a grin. “Your next appointment is here. Cute little rabbit called Hecthare with overgrown teeth.”

“Oooooh!” Chloe squealed, grinning at Aubrey and then following Claire out the door toward the waiting room. “A witty bitty wabbit!”

The blonde could hear the owners laughing as her friend continued her overenthusiastic praise of their baby’s cuteness and smiled affectionately to herself. Chloe loved her job and it inspired everyone around her to love theirs too.

Xx

“I dunno, Bells,” Beca said softly as she lay on her back with her snoozing feline curled up on her stomach. “Think Chloe’s going to be patient enough to deal with my bullshit?” She’d given up, once again, on trying to compose and just decided to take a short nap before her daily fifteen-minute therapy check-in. She’d made tons of progress with Elise. Only eight months previously, she’d been doing full, twice daily sessions, so yeah… progress.

Her alarm went off, so she went to her laptop and logged into the telehealth site. Elise was already waiting for her.

“Tell me everything!” she said, before the brunette had even had a chance to say hello.

Beca just laughed and a big grin overtook her face. “Well, it was definitely a date.”

Elise’s face lit up. “Wow, I’m thrilled for you! How did it go?”

“Well firstly, Chloe is amazing. She treated Bella’s paw and she’s much better now. Then she got us coffee and cake pops and, after I kissed her, we chilled on the couch…”

“Woah! Woahwoahwoah!” Elise exclaimed. “Go back to the kissing thing please.”

“Oh, you heard that?” the brunette teased.

“Beca! You kissed her?” The therapist was almost vibrating with excitement.

“Yeah… we were flirting and… I just remembered what you said about making things happen. She was just so beautiful, I wanted to kiss her, and she seemed totally into it too so.... There were a couple of false starts but… I did it, Elise. I kinda freaked out a bit and she was very patient about letting us just chill and talk afterwards but… God… it was…” Beca sighed dreamily. “Really nice to feel that again. We ended up staying up all night talking.”

Elise’s smile was soft. “Beca, that’s huge. I’m so proud of you. Did you make plans to see each other again?”

“Yeah, tomorrow night. She’s coming here after work.”

The therapist nodded. “There’ll probably be certain expectations from a second date, Beca, but remember, you’re fully in control of what happens. If you want to kiss her again… or not… it’s your choice.”

“I almost told her about the assault,” the brunette said softly. “But I chickened out at the last minute. I didn’t want to see the way she was looking at me change.”

“How was she looking at you?” Elise asked quietly.

Beca blushed and grinned. “Like I was a meal she was dying to eat.”

The therapist laughed softly. “So, there’s definitely a lot of attraction between you. That’s fantastic.”

The musician nodded. “She told me she doesn’t normally kiss people on first dates, but she’d been thinking about kissing me all day.”

“Good for both of you. Nothing wrong with a little sexual chemistry. You’re young and single. Have fun, Beca.”

The musician nodded and leaned back in her chair, lacing her fingers over her stomach. “I... um...” She closed her eyes and swallowed. “I can’t stop thinking about having sex with her.” There was silence for a long moment, and she finally opened her eyes, surprised that her therapist hadn’t said something. Elise was just waiting with a smile. “Nothing to say to that, huh?”

The older woman shrugged but her smile stayed firmly in place. “It was a declarative statement, Beca. I was waiting for you to qualify or quantify it.”

“That’s a very fancy way of saying, go on,” Beca laughed.

“Go on,” Elise said with a little wave of her hand.

“Since the assault… desire, need, any kind of sexual interest, hasn’t been something I’ve experienced at all.”

“Mmm...” the therapist said.

“But this morning, when an emergency came in and she had to go help, she changed clothes in front of me and... I was... um...”

“Turned on?” Elise suggested.

“Yeah... very.” Beca blushed bright red as she leaned closer to the laptop camera and lowered her voice. “I used my vibrator when I got home for the first time in… let’s just say I was dusting cobwebs off it.”

The therapist tented her fingers in front of her face. “You know,” she said quietly. “You’ve made some significant strides in the last couple of days. Tell me how you’re feeling overall?”

“Hopeful, actually,” Beca replied after a moment’s thought. “It’s like... Chloe has thrown open a window in a dark room, letting sunshine and warmth inside.”

“A window,” Elise murmured. “Interesting way of putting it. A lot of people would say a door.”

“Maybe I’m not ready to walk through a door,” the musician mused.

“And having sex with her isn’t walking through a door?”

“I haven’t gotten there yet,” Beca reminded.

“Point taken,” the older woman chuckled. “Just remember...”

But Beca held up a hand. “I’m in full control of what happens and it’s my choice.”

Elise just smiled. “Exactly.”

Xx

Beca got up from her piano stool and paced agitatedly, phone pressed to her ear. “Yeah... no... things are... no...” She shook her head. “Dad, I’m ok, really.”

“I worry about you, Rebeca, I haven’t seen you in months and it’s almost Thanksgiving. I was hoping you’d come spend it with Sheila and me.”

The brunette ran a hand through her hair. “No, I know... I’ve just been... I’m trying to find inspiration for three songs for an animated movie and... with therapy and everything... it’s better for me to be somewhere I feel safe.”

“You don’t feel safe with me?”

Beca closed her eyes and shook her head, finally tired of the repeated line of guilt-evoking questioning. “Do you want to really know the truth, Dad?” she asked.

“Of course. I want you to always be honest with me, Rebeca.”

“Well, here’s the truth. Where you and Sheila live is the place where I was raped. I never want to see that place again.”

“But Beca, this is your home...”

“No, Dad, it stopped being my home when I moved to L.A. five years ago and DEFINITELY stopped two years ago when some guy decided to not take no for an answer! And that guy was never caught so I’m terrified that, if I go there, he’ll do it again. Is that honest enough for you? IS IT?!”

Beca ended the call and threw her phone across the room in anger. It bounced off the couch and hit the rug with a muffled thud, sending Bella scurrying under the couch with a startled squawk.

“Sorry, Bells.” Beca shook her head and squeezed the bridge of her nose as she just breathed deeply, in and out. Then she went to pick her phone up and call her dad back.

“Beca, are you ok, Honey?” he said as soon as he picked up.

“I’m sorry I yelled,” the musician said softly. “I... This is just so hard sometimes, Dad.”

“I know,” the man replied gently. “And I only want you to do what makes you comfortable. Maybe I could come visit you after Thanksgiving instead?”

Tears rose in Beca’s eyes, and she nodded. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Ok, we can talk about it later. Get some work done, Young Lady.”

The musician laughed softly, instantly catapulted back ten years to when she was a high school senior. Her dad had said that to her all the time. “Love you, Dad.”

“Love you, Bec.”

As she hung up, her phone dinged and she clicked on the message to read it, a broad grin spreading across her face.

Chloe: Hey... sooooo... I’m bringing takeout and wine tonight. What’s your preference?
Me: Oh, awesome. You read my mind. You choose. I’m not picky.
Chloe: Chinese?
Me: Yuck!
Me: Just kidding! Sweet and sour chicken please.
Chloe: You got it. I’ll bring a selection. See you at seven. Can’t wait.
Me: Me neither. See you then.

Xx

Chloe was practically bouncing along the hallway of her apartment building, grinning to herself as she tugged a little on her shirt to straighten it. She’d had just enough time to get home to shower and change before her date with Beca. She got into the elevator, and it took her to the first floor as she got her phone out to call in her takeout order. Then she looked at the address Beca had given her and copied it into her maps app. It was a ten-minute walk to the takeout place, then another ten minutes to Beca’s. Chloe was glad she’d paid a little extra for rent to live this close to her job and now, Beca too.

Food collected, the redhead stopped at a grocery store to grab some wine and then headed for her date’s apartment. It was a little before seven when she got there, but Beca was already opening the front door to smile at her. Chloe swallowed, attraction overtaking her as she climbed the steps to the porch to just gaze at the musician.

“Hey,” she said softly. “You’re a sight for sore eyes.”

Beca stepped onto the porch and took her friend’s hand, pulling her into the hallway and closing the door. The musician had the upstairs apartment, but she didn’t want to wait to go up, and instead, took the bags from Chloe's hands and set them on the floor.

“Hi, Beautiful,” she replied. “C’mere.”

The vet responded to the tone of the musician’s voice and moved closer to cup Beca’s cheek in her palm. “I think I might explode if I don’t get to kiss you right now,” she murmured, lost in the younger woman’s dark blue eyes.

“What are you waiting for?” the brunette asked, just as lost.

Chloe slowly ducked her head, pressing her lips softly against the smaller woman’s, then humming as Beca deepened the kiss. The vet eased closer, pressing their bodies together as she tilted her head...

“Ahem, ahem. Good evening, Beca… and Beca’s… friend?”

Beca jerked back in surprise, eyes wide as the unhappy face of her downstairs neighbor came into view. The woman was tapping her foot with arms folded in a disapproving stance.

“Oh... hi, Mrs. Dreyfuss,” she said, slightly awkwardly. “Sorry... I... um… this is…”

But Chloe just turned, her face beaming her most charming smile as she held out her hand. “Hi, Mrs. Dreyfuss. I’m Chloe, it’s so nice to meet you. Beca says you’re a great neighbor!”

Apparently, the vet’s bubbly personality and winning smile were enough to win over even the surliest of homophobic neighbors. The woman reached out and took Chloe’s hand to squeeze it gently. “At least you’re better looking than the other one,” she stated, then turned on her heel and went back into her apartment, slamming the door behind her.

Chloe blinked and then burst into laughter. “High praise indeed,” she said, shaking her head. “And who, pray tell, Ms. Mitchell, is the other one?”

Beca frowned. “I actually have no idea. I haven’t dated anyone since I moved in eighteen months ago. That’s so weird.” Then her face cleared, and she laughed a little. “She might mean a delivery driver. I went through a phase of eating sushi every day for like two months and it was always the same woman who delivered here.”

“NOW who’s the weirdo?” the vet teased as she took Beca’s hand and played with her fingers. “Mrs. Dreyfuss is kind of a passion killer, huh?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Doctor Beale,” Beca purred. “Watching you charm her was oddly sexy. Plus, I got to ogle your ass in those jeans when you turned around.” She pulled on the slightly-speechless-Chloe’s hand then. “Let’s go up. Bella’s been dying to see you.”

The redhead smiled happily as she picked up the takeout bags and wine. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing her too.”

At the top of the stairs, the musician’s apartment door was closed and, when Chloe pushed it open to carry her bounty inside, the orange tabby almost tripped her up in her excitement. “Careful, Bells,” Beca laughed.

The vet grinned and set the stuff down on the kitchen table before bending over and scooping the cat up into her arms to kiss her nose. “Hi, Bella,” she said in a high voice. “How’s the paw?” She looked at Beca. “I see she’s not limping much.”

“Maybe just a little,” the smaller woman replied. “But nowhere near as badly as before you fixed her.” Beca grabbed a corkscrew and uncorked one bottle, letting its red contents breath for a few minutes as she watched her date play with her beloved baby. She knew that Chloe was evaluating the frolicking feline and smiled as she nodded. “How does she look to you?”

“Everything looks good, I don’t see any issues. She’s putting weight on it and seems to be feeling minimal discomfort, which is what I expected.”

Aubrey was right,” Beca said softly.

Red eyebrows lifted. “About what?”

“You ARE excellent at your job.”

Chloe blushed a little and smiled. “Thanks. I love doing it.”

“Obviously so,” the musician replied. She sighed then. “I wish I could get over my slump. I’m seriously blocked, and I only have two more months to come up with something for this movie.”

“What’s the movie about?” Chloe asked curiously as she went to the kitchen table to pour two glasses of wine.

“It’s about two kids, lost on a desert island after their ship goes down. Their parents stick them in a lifeboat to save them and they end up on the island with a bunch of singing and dancing animals, who take care of them.

“How very Disney,” the vet chuckled. Then she blinked. “Wait, is it a Disney movie?”

“Pixar, technically, but yeah,” Beca confirmed.

“Also, very Blue Lagoon for a Disney movie,” the vet giggled, waggling her eyebrows.

Beca laughed softly. “So,” she went on as she sipped from her glass. “I need something sad and haunting, something upbeat and joyful and then a killer ending song. And I’m so intimidated because Sia and Ester Dean are writing the others.”

“Mmm...” Chloe said. “Quite the lineup. I bet they’re feeling intimidated too, having to write something to live up to yours.”

Beca chuckled, looking down. “Dude, you don’t even know what I’ve written.” Then her eyes lifted and widened in surprise as Chloe sang a chorus from one of her other Disney songs. It was cool that the vet had googled her but what really amazed the brunette was Chloe’s voice. It was stunning. Like full-on, no-shit amazing. Unable to stop herself, Beca started to sing with her, adding intertwining harmonies and making Chloe smile. When the last notes had trailed away, Beca shook her head in awe. “Chloe, you have a beautiful voice.”

“Thanks, but it’s not even close to how good you are.” She chuckled as the musician scoffed at her. “I’ve been singing all my life,” she shrugged. “Glee Club, a capella in college with Aubrey, karaoke... these days, it’s just for the shower.”

“I knew you sang in school but... holy shit, Chlo, you didn’t tell me you were THIS good.”

The vet shrugged and went to the kitchen table to open the bags of food. “Plates?”

“Upper cabinet to the right.”

“People called me the singing vet at my previous job and treated me like I was the life of the party and the best thing alive. But...” Chloe shrugged again as she opened the containers and laid them out. Beca went to join her at the table. “It was just because they wanted me on their team for karaoke competitions. It got a bit... old... you know? The expectations, the dressing up three times a week... the drinking.”

Beca slowly turned her date, pressing her hands to her hips and holding her. “Hey... can I just say something before my brain melts into a puddle?”

Chloe smiled as she rested her forearms on the musician's shoulders. “Sure.”

“You sing like that, you fixed Bella… you are the sexiest woman on Earth.”

The vet blushed and shook her head. “Second to you… and thanks, but you haven’t seen me covered in puke, crap and pee at the end of the working day.”

“That’s what showers are for,” Beca deadpanned. “I don’t have to.”

Chloe laughed and ducked her head to kiss her date. “You’re so funny.”

The musician just grinned. “So, is that why you left your last job? The karaoke expectations?”

The redhead shrugged again as she went back to making their plates. “Partially,” she said. “I’d just turned thirty-one and I’d been looking for a change of city as well as a change of practice,” she said. “I wanted to get out of Tampa and move to L.A. because Aubrey had moved here a few years ago and loves it. When she told me about the position opening at Perfect Paws, I applied and boom! I had a month to pack my shit, find somewhere to live and move practically all the way across the country. Totes doable, right?” She wrinkled her nose. “Wrong. I still have half my stuff in a storage unit back home. I thought Tampa was expensive, but the cost of living is so much higher here, I couldn’t afford anything as big as what I had there.”

“Mmmm...” Beca agreed. She’d struggled in L.A. too when she’d first moved but now the content of her bank account was more than enough for her to not have to worry about much of anything financially. “I had the same problem when I first moved here. But things get easier, Chlo, give it time.”

They carried their plates to the couch and Beca turned on some music. “No movie?” Chloe asked with a smile.

“I hate movies,” Beca shrugged.

Chloe tilted her head in wonder. “Yet... you score them?”

“Meh. I just like music.”

“So, you haven’t seen the movie you’re writing the songs for?”

“I’ve seen the storyboards and stuff but it’s just weird without music.”

“I’m glad I’m not the only weirdo in this relationship,” the vet chuckled. Then held up her chopsticks. “I mean... not that I’m assuming we’re...” She sighed and took a bite of orange chicken, chewed and swallowed, and then shook her head. “Do you really hate movies?”

“Nah,” Chloe grinned. “I was just messing with you.”

Blue eyes rolled. “So, I AM the only weirdo in this.”

But Beca just leaned close and pecked her cheek. “No, definitely not.”

Xx

It was almost midnight. Beca was lying on the couch in Chloe’s arms, the older woman spooned against her back as they watched some reruns of an old show. But neither woman was really watching. Beca was laser focused on Chloe’s fingertips as they drew little patterns on her stomach over her shirt and Chloe sighed softly as the smaller woman blindly reached her hand back to run her fingers through her hair and scratch idly at her scalp.

“Beca? Can I ask you something?” the redhead said softly. “I don’t want to upset you. I just want to understand something.” She felt the musician stiffen a bit and kissed her shoulder. “I don’t expect you to answer anything you don’t want to.”

“It’s ok,” the brunette replied. “You can ask.”

“The anxiety, the fearfulness of being touched sometimes... did someone hurt you? Are you... are you a survivor of intimate partner violence?”

“No,” Beca breathed. “Not... that.”

“Then what is it, Bec? Who hurt you?”

To Chloe’s dismay, the younger woman eased away from her and got up, but instead of withdrawing, Beca just went to the kitchen table to open the second bottle of wine and pour two glasses. Then she returned to the couch and waited for Chloe to sit up before snuggling back against her. “You’re going to need this. I know I do.”

The vet just nodded as she took the wine and waited for her friend to go on. “Two years ago, last month, I was visiting my dad and his wife in Atlanta. He’s a college professor there.” Chloe nodded. “I’d been out with some friends, drinking, having a good time, but I had an early flight back to L.A. the next morning, so I left them a little early in a bar downtown. I was walking along the street trying to get a cab when a guy approached me. He asked me if I had a cigarette. I told him no and kept walking but the next thing I knew, his arms were around me and he was dragging me down this like... dark alley. I was trying to scream but his hand was over my mouth.”

Beca took a shuddering breath and gulped her wine. Chloe just rubbed her arm, inwardly horrified but outwardly calm. “You must have been so terrified,” she murmured.

“I thought he was going to rob me and take off, you know? But... I felt something pinch my neck and then everything went hazy and fuzzy. I remember these weird images, and everything looked like it was skewed.”

Chloe swallowed, tears welling in her eyes. Beca sniffled but managed to hold it together.

“Then everything went black, and I don’t know... I guess whatever it was he gave me just knocked me right out. But then I started to come to... and things hurt and I... I opened my eyes, and he was kinda hovering above me, biting my breasts and... and I hazily realized... he was inside me. He was raping me.”

“Oh my God,” Chloe choked out, tightening her arms around her friend.

“I was too out of it to move or scream and it just...” She closed her eyes. “He finally got off me and ran, and all I could do was lie there, still paralyzed by the drug and staring at the stars. After what felt like hours, a woman putting out her garbage found me, covered in dirt, dress ripped open at my chest and with my underwear around my ankles. She called an ambulance and the police. There was an investigation, and I did a rape kit… but he hasn’t been caught. He was smart enough to wear a condom.”

Beca’s chest was tight, and her breathing was elevated. She knew that she wouldn’t have been able to get through the story without Chloe’s arms around her. “Oh Beca,” the vet whispered, pushing her hair back from her forehead and kissing it tenderly.

“So... I guess you get now why the whole physical contact thing is kinda hard for me.”

“I can’t even imagine how hard it must be,” the redhead murmured against the musician’s cheek. “You’re... amazing.”

Surprised navy eyes turned to look at the vet. “Amazing? Why?”

Shimmering light blue gazed back. “You survived and came back stronger.”

Beca nodded. “Yeah,” she breathed. “Maybe I did.”

Chloe gently wiped away her tears and kissed her temple. “Can I stay?” she asked softly. “Can I just hold you?”

Beca’s heart thumped in her chest, but she nodded anyway. “Let’s go to bed.”

Chapter Text

Chloe’s a bed limpet. That was the first thought Beca had when she woke in the middle of the night, dying to pee and with the redhead spooned tightly against her back. She reluctantly eased out of the warmth of Chloe's arms and slipped out of the bed, navigating a room lit only by the moonlight streaming in through the open blinds, to go to the bathroom. But when she returned a few moments later she changed her mind about her original assessment.

Chloe was now a bed starfish, taking up a good portion of the queen-sized mattress with her legs sprawled out and her arms over her head. Then, Beca swallowed hard as her eyes wandered over the shirt she’d loaned her friend to sleep in. It was pulled tight over the older woman’s breasts, and as they strained against the thin grey material, it made the musician suddenly want to peel the shirt off her.

Chloe stirred and slowly rolled onto her side, realizing the spot next to her was empty as her hand slid across the sheets. Then she looked up to see the musician standing in the center of the room. “Bec? You ok?” she asked quietly, slowly blinking gorgeous blue eyes, ethereal in the moonlight.

“Yeah,” Beca replied as she padded back to the bed and climbed under the covers again, lying on her back with the older woman pressed all along her side.

The vet smiled as she curled a lock of the brunette’s hair around her finger. “Needed some space?” she murmured.

Chloe’s eyes were so soft and sleepy that Beca couldn’t stop herself from turning into her chest to gaze into them and caress her cheek. “Not from you.”

Chloe smiled and tugged a little on the hem of Beca’s pajama top. “Is it ok if I kiss you?”

“Mmmhmmm...” Beca replied, then exhaled softly as Chloe’s tongue flicked teasingly against her lips before she captured them in a gentle kiss. Everything Chloe did was gentle, thoughtful, soft... but Beca needed more, so she laced her fingers into soft, red hair and tugged a little, deepening the kiss and dragging a sensual moan out of the vet.

Then Chloe sucked on her bottom lip, and it was the brunette’s turn to moan. “You’re so beautiful,” the vet groaned as she nipped the musician’s bottom lip with her teeth, then smoothed her tongue over it to soothe the sting. She was captured by the soulfulness of Beca’s dark blue eyes and took her time kissing the freckles peppered across the bridge of her nose. Then went back to her lips to nibble and lick teasingly.

“Fuck,” Beca whispered. “Chloe...”

“You need me to stop?” the redhead whispered, pausing all movement.

Beca took a moment to take stock. She wasn’t breathless, except from arousal. She didn’t think she was going to hyperventilate, and Chloe’s slow-moving hands against her cheek and neck hadn’t scared her.

“No,” she whispered. “I want you to keep kissing me.”

A smile overtook the vet’s face and she winked playfully. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

They kissed again, achingly slowly, and a pleasant throbbing took up residence between Beca’s thighs as she sucked lightly on the redhead’s tongue. Her fingertips trailed from Chloe’s cheek to her neck, down her chest and brushed against her breast, but she quickly pulled her hand back in surprise. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok...” the older woman murmured, trailing her lips along Beca’s jaw to suckle her earlobe. “You can touch me if you want to.”

Chloe’s hand curled around Beca’s hip, and her thumb stroked lightly against the tiny sliver of skin between her pajama pants and the bottom of her shirt. It left space for the brunette to look down and admire the redhead’s straining breasts again. “Wow,” she whispered and then grinned at the chuckle that moved through Chloe’s body.

“I’m glad you like what you see,” the vet said before going back to kissing the younger woman, a little more forcefully this time. She pushed her tongue into Beca’s mouth and then gasped as the brunette’s palm found her left breast and squeezed gently. Her thumb softly caressed the nipple, then flicked it.

Chloe growled unexpectedly and she pressed her chest harder into Beca’s hand as her hips canted forward. “God, Beca...” she groaned as her hand moved to the younger woman’s butt cheek to pull them together hard.

The move surprised Beca and she gasped as she pulled away, eyes wide. “Don’t...”

Chloe’s eyes shot open, and she eased back immediately. “I’m sorry,” she panted. Her pupils were blown, and she shook her head, trying to clear her lust-fogged brain. “Beca, I’m so sorry.”

But Beca caught her wrist as she tried to put space between them. “No, wait... Chlo... wait. I’M sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Blue eyes blinked. “Are... Are you sure you’re ok?”

The brunette smiled reassuringly. “I’m sure. You just surprised me, that’s all.” She looked down then. “It’s been a long time since someone’s touched me like that... for good reasons.”

A tentative smile appeared on the older woman’s face. “You kinda surprised me too with that little nipple trick of yours.”

They laughed softly together but Chloe didn’t try to kiss Beca again. Instead, she opened her arms and sighed softly as the younger woman moved into them to snuggle against her.

“Night, Chloe,” Beca murmured.

“Night, Becs.”

Xx

When Beca woke the next morning, there was no sign of her redheaded teddy bear, but she did have a text, which she opened immediately.

Chlocifer: Morning, Beautiful. I wanted to stay and wake up with you, but my shift started at 6 and I had to duck out at 5. You looked so peaceful, I didn’t want to wake you. Text me when you wake up?
Beca: Chlocifer, huh? Now I know what you were doing with my phone last night. I missed you this morning. Last night was pretty amazing.

It took a few hours for Chloe to respond and Beca remembered her friend had mentioned something about back-to-back surgeries she had to perform.

Chlocifer: Must be the devil in me 😈 Yeah, last night was the best time I’ve had in a long time too. When can we do it again?

Beca swallowed. She knew Chloe was asking about another date, but her body responded in other ways when she thought about having her hands on the gorgeous redhead again. She felt like she needed to talk to Elise about the moment when she froze though, so she decided to do some work for a while before responding to her friend.

Sitting at her piano, Beca was playing around with chords and runs when her mind drifted to Chloe again and when she came back, she realized she was playing something new that she’d apparently just come up with. She grinned happily and pulled out a clean sheet of music paper to write the melody down.

All during the day, Beca played and wrote and sang, barely taking any breaks and, when her phone alarm went off at five, she was amazed at how the hours had disappeared. She was also amazed to see quite possibly one of the best songs she’d ever written on several sheets of music paper. After grabbing a beer from the fridge, Beca went to her laptop and logged into the telehealth website. She only had a moment to wait before Elise’s smiling face popped up.

“Hi, Elise,” Beca grinned.

“Wow,” the therapist chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve seen your face look like THAT before.”

Beca frowned. “Huh?”

Elise laughed this time. “Sorry… you just look… happy.”

The brunette looked down as another grin tugged at her lips. “I… I think I might be.”

The therapist leaned forward slowly. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume it’s Chloe who’s the reason for that face?” She trailed off, eyebrows raised.

Beca blushed a little. “There are a couple of reasons but... yeah. She’s a big reason. We spent the night together last night, but nothing happened… I mean… well…” She grinned a little wider. “It was kinda awesome making out with her.”

“And you were ok?” Elise asked carefully.

The musician nodded. “Chloe did everything to make sure I was. I told her everything, Elise and… God…” she sighed dreamily. “She was so gentle and kind. There was only one moment when I froze up a little, but it was just because I touched her, and she reacted by pulling me against her hard…. But we got through it, and she was so sweet, just holding me while we slept.”

The therapist chuckled softly. “She sounds amazing, Beca. Does she have a brother, by any chance?”

Beca laughed and shook her head. “I don’t remember her talking about siblings.” She paused then to consider that. “She didn’t actually talk a lot about her family at all. I just know she’s from Tampa originally.”

The older woman nodded. “So, when you froze up, can you describe how you felt?”

Beca gave that due thought for a moment. “It was like… a flash of fear. It was just Chloe’s body reacting but, when her hips pushed into mine it just… scared me briefly. But I was ok, I got past it and she was really concerned that she’d scared me. She cuddled me the rest of the night.”

The therapist nodded. “Honestly, Beca, I think you did amazingly. And I’m so happy you’ve found someone who makes you comfortable. Take your time, ok? Move at a pace you’re ok with. It sounds like Chloe cares a lot about you so talk to her. Let her know what feels good and if there are things you might need a little more time for.”

“You mean sex,” Beca said, blowing out a long breath.

“You’ll know when you’re ready, Beca, and you’ll always have the choice to make it happen. It’s just important that you listen to Chloe and make sure she has what she needs too, ok?”

“Not everything is about me,” the brunette smiled. “I get it.”

“No,” the therapist nodded. “In the real world, it’s not… but you already know that.” She paused a moment, then bit the end of her pen. “Beca, you and Chloe seem to have gelled very quickly. Do you have any concerns about that?”

“Like… like we’re moving too fast or…?”

Elise tilted her head. “Do YOU think you’re moving too fast?” she countered.

“I hate when you do that,” Beca groused. “I’m not second guessing myself, if that’s what you mean.”

“That’s all I wanted to be sure of.” The older woman smiled. “When’s the next date?”

“No firm plans yet,” the musician replied. “But if I had my way, it’d be tonight.”

“Cool,” Elise nodded. “Well, time to let you go. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Beca.”

“Thanks, Elise. Bye.”

Beca ended the meeting and leaned back on the couch as she picked up her phone.

Me: As soon as humanly possibly.

The reply came back immediately.

Chlocifer: I thought maybe I’d been a little too pushy.
Me: No, Chloe. Today, you were my muse. I got almost all the first song written. If you’re free, I’m taking you out for dinner tonight to celebrate.
Chlocifer: Should I dress up?
Me: Definitely. Text me your address. I’ll pick you up at 7.
Chlocifer: I’ll be waiting.

After a quick shower, blow drying her hair and carefully doing her makeup, Beca slipped into a short, green dress and a pair of matching heels. Since the assault, it had been sometimes difficult for her to feel that she looked good but when Chloe looked at her, it was impossible to not feel sexy and she grinned to herself as she fluffed her hair a little. She called a cab then and gave the driver the address as she slid into the back and texted Chloe that she was on her way.

Beca took the elevator up to the vet’s floor and found her apartment door, taking a deep breath before she knocked.

“Just a sec, Becs!” she heard and waited patiently for the door to be opened. And DAMN, it was worth the wait. The portal opened to reveal Chloe in a dark blue silk dress that offered a delectable hint of cleavage. Her long, red hair was tossed in waves over her shoulders and her makeup made her gorgeous eyes pop. In fact, everything about her was just… perfect. “Hi… I’m so sorry, I’m running a little late. I…”

But before she could go on, Beca was already moving through the doorway to push the older woman against the closet door. “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” she groaned, lips hovering a hair from Chloe’s.

“Beca…” the redhead whispered, breath ghosting over the musicians’ lips as she gazed into her passion-filled, dark-blue eyes.

And then they were kissing desperately, pushing against each other, Beca’s heels giving her a rare advantage over Chloe’s bare feet. She nipped and sucked the older woman’s bottom lip as her hands squeezed Chloe’s hips. But eventually she eased back, lips kiss-bruised and glistening.

“If I don’t stop now, we’re not going to make it to the restaurant.”

Chloe moaned softly but slipped her fingers out of the brunette’s hair. “Ok... yeah.” She exhaled hard. “Just give me five minutes to finish getting ready. There’s wine in the refrigerator, if you want a glass?”

“Thanks, I’m cool,” the musician replied as she wandered into the living room to wait. The redhead’s apartment was small but nicely furnished in light colors. It just felt like Chloe’s personality. There were little mementos on dust-free spaces and photographs everywhere. Since a lot of the subjects of the photos had red hair, Beca assumed that they were her friend’s family.

“So, you DO have siblings?” Beca called.

“Yeah, loads,” Chloe called back. “Three sisters, three brothers. I’m the eldest. The youngest is seven.”

“You haven’t told me about them.”

Chloe’s grinning face appeared at her bedroom door. “I haven’t? Well… we’ve only known each other a few days, Beca. I would have gotten there eventually.”

“Right,” the brunette chuckled. “Does everyone in your family have red hair like yours?”

“Everyone except my sister, Zoe. She’s blonde and we always give her shit about being the milkman’s kid.”

The vet came back into the living room then, putting on her earrings as she held her clutch under her arm. “Have I told you yet how beautiful you look, Ms. Mitchell?”

“I don’t believe you have, Doctor Beale,” Beca purred in reply. “But thank you.”

Chloe exhaled and her eyes slid closed. “God, I love when you call me that. It sounds so sexy coming from you.”

“I’ll make sure to call you that when we’re in bed,” the brunette teased.

“Mmmmm…” Chloe smiled seductively. “Will there be sex too?”

Beca swallowed and withdrew a little as her gut reaction told her she wasn’t ready. Not yet… in the face of its reality. Her hands started to shake as she turned away from the older woman and focused on one of the photos on the sideboard. She jumped just a little as warm arms came around her waist to hold her gently. “Uh… I’m not sure… I’m sorry, Chlo..”

“Beca… it’s ok,” Chloe said gently. “We don’t have to do anything. I’m just so happy to be able to spend time with you.”

“No…” the brunette looked down and rested her hands on her friend’s forearms, caressing gently. “It’s not ok, Chloe. I can tell… you… you love touching and intimacy and I’m pretty sure after last night’s taste that you’re amazing in bed. I just… I need more time and I totally get it if you want to just find someone else to…”

The arms around her tightened. “Becs, stop.”

Chloe stepped around the younger woman and used two fingers to gently lift her chin. Serious but gentle eyes searched Beca’s face. “Yes, I love those things. I’m a very tactile and sometimes annoyingly affectionate person. But Beca… waiting for you to be ready? You’re more than worth it. I knew that the first time I met you in the waiting room at Perfect Paws. You took my breath away.”

Beca nodded a little and then lifted her eyes again. “I totally couldn’t tell that day.”

Chloe smiled sheepishly. “You didn’t see me pressed against the hallway wall, trying to catch my breath after seeing you for the first time. By the time I spoke to you, I’d had a minute or so to recover.”

“You’re so sweet, Chlo.”

They shared a lingering kiss, then the vet grinned widely. “Time to go.”

Xx

The restaurant was busy and despite having made a reservation, Chloe and Beca had to go to the bar to wait for their table to free up. Beca tried to stay calm and relaxed as they ordered two glasses of wine and then sat facing each other, knees touching as they chatted about their respective days. She told Chloe all about her new song and the vet told her friend about a litter of ten puppies which had been rescued from a dumpster and brought to Perfect Paws.

“Sometimes people are complete assholes,” she said unhappily. “What kind of person would want to just throw out little cuties like that. I spent most of the afternoon examining and chipping them.” She grinned a little then. “I named the smallest one Beca.”

“Seriously?” the brunette whined. “I’m not THAT small, Chloe!”

“True,” the redhead smiled, sipping from her glass. “You’re the perfect amount of small.”

Beca melted and she was just about to reach out for her friend’s hand when she was jostled roughly from behind. She froze and then took a deep breath, trying to relax her fight or flight reflex that was very firmly telling her to flee. And then it just got worse. A not-so-gentle hand landed on her shoulder, and she scrambled away from it, practically into Chloe’s lap.

“Hey, Baby,” a slurred, male voice announced. “Chill. I’m just trying to be friendly and say sorry.” The man moved closer and Beca closed her eyes, feeling an anxiety attack coming on as she just tried to breathe and rationalize to herself that some drunk guy in a restaurant in L.A. was not the guy who assaulted her in Atlanta. But through the fear-haze, she heard a clear voice speak up.

“I’m gonna need you to back off, Dude.” Chloe’s arms were around her, holding her close. “She doesn’t need anyone to be friendly with her tonight but me.”

“Oh,” the man went on. “Maybe I can be friendly with bothayas?”

Even through her panicked state, Beca managed to roll her eyes.

“I’m pretty sure we’re fine on our own, thanks,” Chloe went on firmly. “Now, how about giving the lady some space?”

“Meh, whatever, dykes,” he replied, wrinkling his nose. “Whatchyas need is a real man.”

Beca felt Chloe’s arms tense up. “Well, let me know if you see one,” the vet shot back, her tone unamused.

“Fuck you,” the guy spat angrily.

“Not even in your dreams,” Chloe replied breezily as their doohickey on the bar suddenly lit up and vibrated. “Come on, Babe. Table’s ready.”

Beca wasn’t ready to move just yet, but Chloe eased slowly to her feet, keeping one arm around her as she got them walking. “Are you ok?” she whispered into the brunette’s ear.

“I…” Beca licked her lips. “I’m ok. I just need some water.”

The hostess quickly led them to their booth, and they took seats next to each other on one side of the table. Chloe immediately poured her friend a glass of water from a sweating pitcher and Beca gulped it down. The vet refilled the glass, and the musician drank that down too, gasping as she swallowed the last mouthful.

“I’m sorry,” she said then, unable to look at Chloe but, when a gentle touch on her hand got her attention, she lifted tear-filled navy eyes.

“Why are you apologizing?” Chloe asked seriously. “You weren’t the asshole.”

“But… I freaked out…”

“Beca… in no place nor time nor situation is it ok for a man to put their hands on a woman the way he did with you.” She growled a little. “He’s lucky I didn’t punch his fucking lights out.” She scowled then. “He’s even luckier that I care a whole lot more about you being ok than I do about punching his face.”

Beca blinked, her head tilting as she watched her friend glare daggers toward the table where the man had been seated with his party. Then she smiled adoringly. “Chlo?”

“What?” the redhead replied, turning back to look at the musician, still scowling.

“You’re really hot when you’re glaring at assholes on my behalf.” The scowl was immediately replaced on Chloe’s face by emotions ranging from embarrassment to delight and Beca couldn’t help but tug her closer for a lingering kiss. “Thank for you standing up for me.”

“Always,” the redhead replied, slightly breathlessly.

Xx

“Ok, when you talked about how much you love sushi, I honestly thought you were exaggerating,” Chloe said as she watched Beca start on her third salmon roll.

“Oh yeah,” the brunette laughed. “It’s a problem. I eat it until I get sick of it and then find something else to eat for four weeks straight. Rinse, repeat.”

Chloe was also admiring her date’s dexterity with chopsticks. “You’re a really interesting person,” she said happily.

Beca tilted her head. “Interesting?” she repeated.

“Yeah,” the vet nodded. “You’re smart and gorgeous and amazing… but you’re also interesting, you know? To talk to. To spend time with. You’re kinda the whole package.” Chloe laughed a little. “Sorry, that probably sounded so weird.”

“No, actually,” the musician replied. “I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

“Heh,” Chloe grinned, obviously pleased with herself.

“For the record,” Beca went on. “I kinda think you’re the whole package too, Doctor Beale.” She leaned closer to her friend then. “And for the B side. To answer your question from earlier. Yeah… I’m pretty sure that, at some point, there will be sex... because I really want you right now.”

The redhead stared at her for a long moment, half-chewed sashimi in her mouth. Then she gulped it down. “You... you do?”

“Mmmm... so much.”

Chloe nodded, a beaming smile spreading across her face. “I’m glad it’s not just me.”

Beca’s hand landed on her thigh to caress softly. “Totes not just you.”

The redhead sniggered. “You said totes.”

The musician rolled her eyes. “No, I’m pretty sure I...” She thought back over what she’d just said. “Shit.”

The rest of the meal was amazing. Chloe talked about her family and about how she missed them, especially her youngest siblings.

“I video chat with them as often as I can,” she said. “But the time zone difference is hard sometimes. Every time I see them, they look so much bigger and older.”

“Your parents must have had you pretty young,” Beca said.

“Too young, yeah,” the redhead nodded. “My mom was only sixteen and my dad seventeen. You can imagine the lectures I got when I was a teenager about not getting pregnant.” She smiled then. “But they love each other... I mean, they must if they had six more kids together, right?”

The younger woman pursed her lips. “Either that or they don’t know how it happens. Maybe you should give them the birds and the bees talk?” she deadpanned, making her date laugh.

A comfortable silence descended on them, and Chloe sipped from her wine glass, her eyes far away. Then she focused back on her friend. “Beca... um... so... Thanksgiving. Do you have any plans?”

The musician shook her head. “Not really, no. I mean... I’m not going to Atlanta. I guess I was just going to stay here and do whatever.”

The vet’s face grew serious, and she took Beca’s hand, rubbing her thumb gently over her knuckles. “I know we’ve only known each other a few days, and this might be too soon but... honestly, Beca, I really like you. I haven't felt this way about anyone... maybe ever.” She swallowed nervously. “And I’d like to... um... I’d like us to be exclusive...” She rubbed her cheek sheepishly. “That sounded weird, didn’t it.”

Beca chuckled softly. “Doctor Beale, are you asking me to be your girlfriend.”

Light blue eyes twinkled. “Yep,” the vet replied. “I definitely am.”

The musician nodded. “Well, you know I’m not dating anyone but you.”

“Oh, me neither,” Chloe replied. “But I just want you to know that I don’t intend on dating anyone else.”

“The answer is yes,” Beca smiled, bringing their hands to her lips to kiss the vet’s knuckles. Truthfully, if Chloe has asked her that question after the first date they’d had together, she would have said yes right then.

“Cool!” Chloe exclaimed. “So, in that case, would you like to spend Thanksgiving with me in Tampa? I’m going for three days, and I’d really love you to come with me.”

“Like... to meet your family?” Beca asked.

“Yeah... if you’d be comfortable doing that?” Chloe waited patiently as she watched several emotions cross the brunette’s face. “They’re really sweet and welcoming, I promise.”

Beca nodded then, a smile lifting her lips. “I’d really like that, Chloe.” She swallowed then. “And... my dad is probably going to come visit sometime next month too. I’d like you to meet him.”

“Cool, I’d like that,” the redhead replied gently. “I assume he knows you’re gay?”

“Oh yeah...” The younger woman waved her hand dismissively. “Since I was like seventeen. How about your family?”

Chloe paused a moment. “Well... yeah... they know I date women but... I've also... I mean... I’m bisexual, Beca.”

The brunette chuckled softly. “Darn... I’ve finally found the one thing about you that isn’t perfect,” she joked.

“Hey!” Chloe exclaimed playfully. “No fair.”

Beca tilted her head and gazed into light blue eyes. “Ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent perfect isn’t bad though, right? I mean... I snore when I drink too much wine.”

The older woman grinned. “But those are tiny, adorable baby snores that make me want to just cuddle you more,” she said in a high, cutesy voice.

“Dude,” Beca stated flatly, and the redhead collapsed into laughter.

“Point taken. Ok. But yeah, my family knows I date women so all good there.” She smiled as their server came to check on them. “You want some dessert?”

“I think I’m too full,” Beca replied. “Maybe we could get the check and just take a walk?”

“You heard the lady,” Chloe told the server with a little wink.

Xx

The local park was almost empty at this time of night. Chloe and Beca held hands and talked quietly as they strolled a path around a small lake. It was almost ten-thirty when Chloe’s phone chimed and she pulled it out of her purse, frowning as she read the message. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I need to make a quick call.”

“Sure,” Beca nodded, moving to a bench to sit down and wait.

Chloe joined her, hit a contact and waited for it to be answered. “Hi, it’s Chloe, what’s up?” She listened for a while and then sighed softly. “Ok... there’s not much more I can do for her, I’m afraid.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Yeah, honestly, I think euthanasia is the only option we have left. I don’t want her to suffer any more than she already has and her coming back from this was always a long-shot.” She paused and then took a breath. “Do you need me to come in and do it now?” She looked at Beca sadly and the younger woman took her free hand, squeezing it in gentle sympathy. “Ok, well, if you need me, just call me back, ok? Alright, seeya.”

Chloe hung up the call and got up, pacing away from Beca to stand right at the edge of the lake and stare down into the dark water. She perched her hands on her hips and shook her head.

Beca got up and went to her, standing behind her to wrap her arms around her slender waist. “Want to talk about it?”

The vet took a deep breath and then blew it out. “When I went through vet school,” she began. “One of the most difficult things to learn was how to compartmentalize my feelings. I’ve been treating animals for a long time, and I’ve treated so many horrific injuries; lost so many as a result of those injuries... and I’ve been ok, you know?” The brunette pressed her forehead between Chloe’s shoulder blades and nodded. “But for some reason... euthanasia is still really hard for me. I’ve done a lot of them, and it hurts every time.” Beca nodded again. “But these dogs... we’ve lost all but one now. I had to euthanize four of them myself. It was a fucking dogfighting ring. They came in and... Beca... it was...” She swallowed. “They were in pieces. And I did everything I could... all of the vets did... but... something had completely ravaged them.”

The brunette eased her girlfriend back from the water’s edge and then stepped around her to take her into her arms and rock her slowly. “I’m so sorry, Chloe,” she said. “I can’t even imagine how awful that must have been.”

There were tears on the vet’s face, but she wiped at them impatiently and then forced a smile. “Sorry... this evening suddenly took a downturn.”

“No...” the younger woman replied. “Not as far as I’m concerned. Just being with you is...” She smiled. “You said earlier than you haven’t felt like this about someone in a while.”

“Maybe ever,” Chloe whispered.

“Well, I feel the same way and... I just want to be here for you the way you are for me.”

The redhead smiled. “Come back to my place?” she asked. “Stay with me?”

Beca chuckled softly. “Three nights in a row together, Doctor Beale?”

Chloe shook her head. “I totally get it if you want to go home or...”

“Chloe,” Beca interrupted. “I want to stay with you.”

“Good,” the older woman replied. “Because I got you a toothbrush.” Her smug smile made the brunette laugh.

“You’re kinda adorable, Honey.”

“Heh!”

Chapter Text

Chloe’s bedroom was tiny, especially with its queen-sized bed, and Beca sighed happily as they stood in the even tinier bathroom together, wearing long sleep shirts and brushing their teeth. It was incredibly domestic yet... at the same time... the space was charged with electricity, especially when their eyes met in the mirror.

“Have you been with more women or more men?” the brunette suddenly asked.

“I’m... not keeping count,” Chloe shrugged. “Why?”

“Just curious.” The redhead nodded and went back to brushing her teeth. Beca pointed her toothbrush at her. “But… like... if you were to guess?”

The older woman tilted her head. “Beca, does my being bisexual bother you?”

“No, of course not.” Beca's tone was warm. “I really am just curious. I’ve never had sex with a man.” She looked down and blew out a breath. “At least not voluntarily.” She looked back at her girlfriend then. “So, if you were to guess?”

“Do you mean had a relationship with or just hooked up with?” Chloe asked.

“Both... either,” the musician replied with a shrug.

Chloe slurped up a gob full of water, gargled it, then spat into the sink before smacking her lips and wiping them with a towel. “Hookups... more with men because historically for me, it’s easier. But my more meaningful relationships were mostly with women.”

“Aubrey,” Beca murmured.

Chloe leaned back against the countertop and crossed her arms, trapping the towel against her chest. “No... well... Aubrey and I did sleep together but... we kind of found out after a few weeks being in a relationship, that we drive each other insane. She’s totes anal and I’m too laid back for her. We work really well as friends though.” She shrugged then. “Besides, I think she really prefers men. She’s dating a guy now.”

“Mmm...” Beca replied. She rinsed out her mouth and then wiped it on the end of the towel peeking out of the older woman’s arms.

“Have you ever been in love?” the redhead asked.

The brunette thought about that for a moment and she couldn’t help but compare what she was feeling for Chloe, something that she wasn’t willing to name yet, to other women she’d been with. “No, I don’t think so,” she said softly. “My last relationship was kind of a disaster. It took me about a year to get over that. And then the assault happened. I’ve been single for about three years now.”

“I have too. I mean from a relationship perspective.” The redhead played with the end of the towel in her hands and then hung it back up. “I didn’t really expect to meet someone here so soon, let alone...” She stopped and swallowed. “Anyway, ready for bed?”

“Yeah,” Beca replied, taking the older woman’s hand and tugging on it. “Which side of the bed do you actually prefer?”

“I’m kind of a center sleeper. I’ve been told I starfish,” the redhead grinned.

“You do actually,” the musician laughed. “It seems you have two sleeping states. Limpet or starfish.”

They climbed into the bed and settled under the covers. It took Chloe exactly four seconds to gravitate to Beca and spoon against her. “Hmmm... I see what you mean,” she said with a little grin. Then she reached over to turn the light off and the room was plunged into dimness.

Beca squirmed a little to get comfortable and then closed her eyes, trying to relax, but the proximity of her girlfriend’s warmth shot warmth of another kind through her. “Chloe?” she whispered after a few moments of warring with herself.

“Mmmm?”

“Do you think you could...” She swallowed, suddenly anxious. “Uh... actually… never mind.”

There was quiet for a moment and then Chloe kissed her neck. “Whatever it is you need, Sweetheart, just ask.”

“Could you... um...” Beca rolled her eyes at herself, then forced the words out. “Touch me please?”

The older woman smiled softly. “I’d love to. I just didn’t want to push you into something you weren't ready for.”

Beca turned over to face her girlfriend and cupped her cheek, gazing into her blue eyes. “Chloe, I don’t want you to think I’m using you. It’s just... you’re the only person I feel comfortable enough to try this with. You’re completely within your rights to say no if...”

But Chloe lips were suddenly on hers, kissing her insistently. “I want to touch you so badly, it’s killing me,” she whispered in reply as she eased back. “Close your eyes and relax, ok? And tell me the moment you want me to stop.”

“Ok,” the younger woman breathed. Then she sucked in a breath as her girlfriend’s fingertips trailed down her cheek to her neck and their lips connected again. Chloe was so gentle, one hand curled around the back of Beca’s neck with fingertips scratching into her hair, while the other trailed downwards to trace delicate collarbones as she nipped and sucked at Beca’s lips, dragging a soft moan from her.

“Why is making out with you better than with anyone else?” the vet asked quietly. Beca knew it was a rhetorical question and her lips lifted in a little smile. “Can I touch your boobs, Becs? Cos, I really, really want to.”

New heat moved through Beca’s body, and she murmured a yes as the hand slowly caressing her chest slid lower to softly cup her breast and squeeze. She gasped as Chloe lightly pinched her nipple and kissed her again, sucking gently on her tongue, then pinching a little harder.

A flash of terrifying memory suddenly made Beca freeze, her hand moving then to capture Chloe’s wrist and stop her but this time, the older woman didn’t pull away. Instead, she leaned a little closer to murmur in her girlfriend’s ear. “It’s me, Beca,” she said. “It’s Chloe.”

Chloe,” the brunette whispered, and after a moment, she let go of the redhead’s hand, caressing it instead as the memory began to fade away.

“You’re so beautiful,” the vet smiled. She kissed her girlfriend again, letting her hand explore a little more and loving the little whine that escaped the brunette’s throat. “So soft and sexy.” Beca was trembling and she arched her back, pressing her chest harder into Chloe’s hand. “Mmmm... would it be ok if I touched you under your shirt?”

A sudden burst of bravery and overwhelming desire made Beca lift herself and pull her shirt off over her head, leaving her naked from the waist up. “Will this work?” she asked in a sultry tone as she lay back down.

“OhmyGodyou’resohot,” Chloe gasped out and before she could stop herself, she eased the younger woman onto her back, hovering above her on her knees and capturing both breasts in her hands. She eased her thigh between the younger woman’s and lightly pressed against her. She didn’t try to bear down; didn’t try to trap Beca underneath her and instead, let her set her own pace. She could feel through the younger woman’s underwear, how wet she was against her bare thigh.

Beca’s eyes were wide, and she swallowed as she just let the anxiety roll over her. “It’s Chloe,” she murmured as her dark blue eyes met Chloe’s light blue. “It’s Chloe.”

“It’s just me,” Chloe moaned. “God, Beca, you’re so incredible.” They kissed again, Beca’s hands clenching into Chloe’s hair and pulling the vet fully down on top of her. Her chest was heaving, her hips lifting to grind her core into her girlfriend’s thigh as Chloe caressed and rolled and pinched her nipples... but when the redhead’s mouth suddenly replaced her hand on one breast, the suction felt so amazing it was enough to drive Beca to the edge and she stiffened, body tensing like a bowstring. Chloe sensed it and moved up to murmur into her ear. “Take what you need, Baby. I want you to come for me.” With a series of rough thrusts into Chloe’s thigh, Beca came hard, crying out and then groaning through her girlfriend’s name. And then she was crying softly as the waves subsided and Chloe eased over to lie on her side and gather Beca into her arms, kissing her forehead and murmuring sweet reassurances into her ear. As the younger woman calmed and hummed softly in contentment, Chloe grinned happily. “Damn, I’m good.”

Beca laughed, shoving playfully against her shoulder. “Cocky, Doctor Beale. But yeah, Dude, you really are.”

They laughed together and then slowly sobered, just gazing at each other. “Are you ok?” the vet asked softly.

The musician leaned closer to kiss her girlfriend’s lips. “I feel like I can breathe again,” she whispered.

And Chloe just smiled.

 

Xx

Beca was lying awake, had been for a short while, with Chloe wrapped around her, fast asleep in the center of the bed. She felt slightly guilty since, after having experienced one of the best orgasms of her life, she’d fallen asleep without reciprocating, leaving Chloe, she was sure, hot and bothered. A half-smile came to her face, and she suddenly wondered if her girlfriend liked being woken up for sex. Then she chuckled to herself. As much as Chloe loved intimacy, it was probably something she’d welcome. Only one way to find out though.

So, Beca eased over to face the older woman, taking a moment to watch her face as she slept. Chloe always had a slight smile to her face, as if she was having amazing dreams, and it made the brunette's heart swell for her. She closed her eyes, suddenly confused. She’d known Chloe barely four days. She couldn’t be in love with her... could she? Beca decided to put that away for further thought later and instead, flicked her tongue against the redhead’s lips, then kissed them gently.

Chloe frowned adorably in her sleep and sighed softly, so Beca did it again, then licked slowly along the seam of her lips. The redhead was still wearing her shirt, so the musician cupped her breast through it, running her thumb gently over the nipple as she kissed her again.

“Mmmm...” A little, dopey smile rose to Chloe’s face as she stirred. “Someone’s eager for another round,” she murmured sleepily.

“Actually,” Beca replied, a husky tone to her voice. “Someone’s eager to make YOU come, Doctor Beale.”

“Oh really?” The vet’s smile was bigger now.

“Really,” the musician whispered as she eased Chloe’s shirt up and captured her breast in her mouth, running her tongue slowly around her nipple and then suckling gently on it.

The vet hissed and her hips jerked. “God, Beca.”

The brunette got onto her knees, easing Chloe onto her back and then encouraging her to sit forward so she could take her shirt off. The older woman lifted her arms and, as the t-shirt cleared her head, her hair cascaded in waves down her chest. For a moment, Beca was speechless at the beauty before her. Light blue, passion-filled eyes gazed up at her and then Chloe moaned softly as she cupped her own breasts and caressed them, knowing exactly what it would do to her girlfriend.

“Nuh uh, mine, Doctor Beale,” the musician whispered. She moved one knee between Chloe’s thighs and then eased down onto her, holding her hips as she kissed and licked her way down the older woman’s chest. The redhead’s hand was between Beca’s shoulder blades, blunt nails scratching aimlessly, and Chloe shivered as her girlfriend’s mouth moved lower to kiss her stomach and playfully nibble around her navel. Beca realized she’d found one of the vet’s sensitive spots when Chloe moaned and her hips lifted, seeking some way to relieve the sudden, insistent throbbing between her thighs. “Beca…” she groaned. “Fuck.”

Beca suckled on Chloe’s breast again as she let her hand roam further south, easing it between the vet’s thighs and closing her eyes as she felt the warm, wet material against her fingertips. “Is this ok?” she asked softly.

“Mmm… please,” the older woman replied, hips chasing Beca’s fingers. She was almost delirious with need, and she leaned up to kiss her girlfriend, locking her fingers into her hair. “Please, Beca,” she groaned against her lips.

“Lift,” the musician whispered, and Chloe nodded, lifting her lower body off the bed so Beca could slide her underwear down and off.

It was a lot and Beca took a moment to just breathe. She wasn’t scared, she wasn’t feeling anxious, she just wanted to savor the moment but her girlfriend, always so kind, just cupped her cheek. “It’s ok if you need to stop,” she said.

“Not a chance, Chlo,” the musician laughed softly. “I’m not that cruel.”

The redhead grinned and then bit her bottom lip as Beca’s fingertips barely skimmed through her warmth. “Ungh…”

“Or maybe I am,” the younger woman cackled as she barely brushed her folds again, making her girlfriend roll her eyes.

“Spontaneous combustion is a real thing, Becs,” Chloe deadpanned.

“Mmmm…” the brunette replied. “We certainly wouldn’t want that to happen, would we?” She didn’t wait for an answer and instead, leaned down to kiss her girlfriend deeply as she slid her fingertips into her wetness, moaning softly at the sensation. Chloe forgot what she was doing for a moment and her mouth fell open as a loud groan escaped her. Beca chuckled, peppering her face and lips with little kisses before moving back to suckle and worry her nipple, and gently push two fingers inside her.

Chloe gasped and her hips lifted off the bed again. “Beca…” she whispered, her eyes closed as the brunette withdrew and then pushed into her again. “Oh God…” Her fingers tangled in her girlfriend’s hair as she bit her bottom lip again. Beca’s fingers eased back and slowly wandered up and down her lover’s inner thighs before returning to slide into her again.

“I want to taste you,” the brunette murmured. “May I?”

Chloe nodded enthusiastically and grinned as Beca left a final kiss on her breast and slid lower. She opened her thighs wider and felt the younger woman part her soaked folds to place a gentle kiss on her clit. Then she circled it slowly with her tongue. Chloe shuddered as Beca’s tongue traced little shapes through her folds. The vet’s moans were constant now and the musician realized that what she really wanted was for this gorgeous, amazing, kind woman to come undone around her fingers. So, she pushed inside her again as she kissed her intimately, flicking her tongue against her clit and then suckling on it.

“Beca,” Chloe gasped. “For someone who hasn’t done this in a while, you sure haven’t lost your touch.”

“Thank you for the compliment,” Beca replied softly. “But you can reward me by coming for me.”

The vet’s eyes slid closed, and she nodded. “I’m already so close, Becs. It’s not going to take…” But Beca suddenly doubled down, sucking hard and thrusting her fingers harder and faster. “FUCK!” Chloe exclaimed. “Oh shit… Bec… don’t st… fuck… FUCK!” And the older woman came with a cry that echoed around the bedroom as her back arched off the bed. “BECA!”

The musician eased her girlfriend through the waves as her body convulsed and shuddered. Then Chloe just collapsed back onto the mattress, arms resting on the pillow above her head and chest heaving.

Beca kissed her way up her body and just settled on top of her, pressing her ear to the redhead’s chest and hearing the thundering of her heart subside as she gently caressed her damp skin. Chloe blew out a long breath as her brain booted back up and she started laughing. “Now I know what you meant,” she said, as her arms closed around her girlfriend.

“About what?” Beca smiled.

“I feel like I can breathe again.”

Xx

The next three weeks were a whirlwind for Beca and Chloe. The musician got three solid demos recorded for her commitment to Disney Pixar. She sang and played on them, of course, since the actual cast wouldn’t hear them until they were approved and finished.

Chloe’s rotation had moved to nights so, while she was a lot less busy at work, she didn’t get to sleep with Beca. But still, they managed to get together often, mostly when Chloe stopped by in the evening on her way to work. It just so happened that one evening, she came by just after five, while Beca was in her therapy check in with Elise.

“Sorry, Elise,” the brunette said. “Let me just see who’s at the door.”

“Sure,” the older woman replied, leaning back in her chair and chewing on her pen. Then she sat forward again as, through the video, she saw her client share a kiss with a stunning redhead, then drag her across the apartment by the hand.

“Elise, this is Chloe,” Beca said, smiling broadly.

“I’m so sorry to interrupt,” the vet said shaking her head as she ducked to peer into the camera. “This is personal time. I should go.”

“Actually, Chloe,” the therapist said. “It’s really so nice to meet you. To put a face with the name, as it were.”

“Oh…” Chloe chuckled softly. “Yeah, for me too. Beca talks about you a lot. You sound like an amazing therapist.”

Elise’s smile broadened. “And you sound like an amazing girlfriend.”

Beca was smiling as she kissed her girlfriend’s cheek. “She’s a keeper, huh?”

“That, she is,” the therapist nodded. “I’ve never seen Beca as happy as when she’s been with you.”

The redhead blushed and she caressed Beca’s cheek very gently. “I’m happy too.”

“Ok,” Elise said, watching them gaze into each other’s eyes and knowing she wasn’t getting her client back. “That’s today’s check-in done. See you tomorrow, Beca.”

“Bye,” the brunette replied absently and just before the therapist disconnected the video call, she saw their lips meet passionately.

“Awww,” she whispered, shaking her head. “Young love.”

Xx

“This is kind of exciting,” Chloe said as she walked hand in hand with Beca through the airport terminal toward their gate. Thanksgiving was the next day and they were both looking forward to just stuffing their faces and chilling together in Chloe’s childhood home in Tampa, Florida. “Being able to introduce you to my family, I mean.”

“You miss them,” Beca said with a smile. “Wish I could say the same about mine, except for Bella that is. I hate leaving her with a sitter. I already miss her so much.”

“I know,” the redhead nodded. “And yeah, I do miss mine. Especially the little ones. The older ones are a bit annoying sometimes.” She rolled her eyes playfully. “But I guess I miss them too.”

“So, how many will be there?” Beca asked.

“I spoke to my mom yesterday and she said it’s a reduced crowd this year. Most of my adult siblings are in long term relationships and two of them don’t live in Florida at all now. There tends to be on/off years when they go to their partner's families too, so all said, I think it’ll just be mostly my two youngest brothers and sister. So, it’ll be Melissa, she’s sixteen, Mark, who’s ten and Jack who’s seven.”

Beca nodded, tugging on Chloe’s hand as she spotted their gate and adjusted their direction. She took a moment then to gaze at her girlfriend as she took a seat in the waiting area and set her bag on the floor. The older woman looked adorable, in cutoff denim shorts, a green tank top and Adidas sneakers. Her red hair was pulled up into a ponytail and she was makeup free except for a light pink lip. The musician suddenly had an urge to climb into her lap to make out with her.

The lascivious thoughts must have been on Beca’s face though, because Chloe smirked sexily, also eying the brunette’s shorts, V-neck shirt and the slightly heeled sandals that somehow seemed extra-sexy on her. “I like what’s obviously going through your mind right now, Becs,” she said. “But remember, we’re in public and you’re famous. Wouldn’t want that splashed all over the front page of the tabloids, right?”

Beca chuckled. “I’m a far cry from famous,” she replied. “Besides, even if I was, I totally think it’d be worth it.”

A beaming smile lit Chloe’s face and she tugged her girlfriend into the seat beside her, leaning over to drop a chaste kiss on her cheek and then rubbing away the lipstick mark. “Later. I promise.”

The wait at the airport and the direct flight to Orlando were uneventful and Chloe had arranged for her dad to pick them up and drive them the hour home. But to her surprise, her mom was also at the airport waiting for them and Chloe grinned broadly as she kissed Beca’s knuckles and then let her go to jog to her parents and hug them hard.

Beca smiled too as she strolled up to them and set her bag down on the floor next to her girlfriend’s. “Hi,” she said, a little nervously.

Chloe’s smile seemed to grow even wider as she wrapped her arm around Beca’s waist and kissed her temple. “Mom, Dad, this is my girlfriend, Beca Mitchell. Beca... Tom and Maureen Beale, my parents obviously.”

“Mr. And Mrs. Beale, it’s great to meet you,” Beca said with a smile. “Chloe’s told me a lot about you.”

“Oh, call us Tom and Mo,” Tom replied with a warm smile. “You’re part of the family now, Beca.”

And then, to the brunette’s utter shock, Mo stepped forward and stole her from Chloe to hug her. Beca froze and a little sound escaped her but then she felt Chloe’s hand on her shoulder, caressing gently and she relaxed a little.

“Hey, Mom?” the vet said gently. “Remember what I said about grabbing Beca like that?”

Mo opened her mouth to apologize but Beca just shook her head. “No,” she said with a smile as she eased back from the hug. “Actually, it’s ok, Chlo. I don’t want to miss out on any amazing Beale hugs.”

Mo and Tom watched as their daughter practically melted in front of their eyes and she lifted her hand to brush her knuckles against her girlfriend’s cheek. “Ok then,” she murmured, light blue eyes infinitely soft.

The Beales exchanged a knowing look, then Tom bent to pick up both bags. “Let’s get going, shall we,” he rumbled, his deep voice making Beca smile again. He reminded her of her own dad a little. “Mark and Jack have been vibrating with excitement all day about seeing you.”

“How’s Mel?” Chloe asked, tangling her fingers with her girlfriend’s as they all strolled together toward the parking lot.

“Still in her everything's meh phase,” Mo replied. “But I know she’s excited to see you, Chloe. Even if she doesn’t show it.”

Chloe chuckled. “Mel’s the black sheep of the family, Beca,” she said. “Or at least she thinks so. But she’s sixteen soooo....” She shrugged and laughed a little.

“Totally get it,” the brunette replied. “I was so that girl when I was sixteen.”

“You should talk to her, Chloe,” Mo said thoughtfully. “I mean... technically... you’re almost old enough to be her mother, and she does look up to you.”

Chloe blinked and then shook her head. “Um... I think I’d rather just be her big sister, thanks.”

Beca looked at her girlfriend. “Am I getting the sense that... you... you don’t want kids?” she asked.

“Oh no... I totes want kids at some point,” Chloe grinned. “I’m just not ready to start practicing for it yet.”

For some reason, Beca was greatly relieved that Chloe wanted a family. Then she felt slightly weirded out by the feeling. But then Mo was taking her attention away from THAT subject.

“Beca, Chloe said you’re a musician. What kind?”

“Oh, well, I guess you could say I’m a composer. I score movies and write songs where needed.”

“Cool,” Tom replied, face lighting up. “Have you scored anything I might know?”

Beca rattled off a list, some of which even surprised her girlfriend. “Beca, that’s incredible,” Chloe breathed.

“Indeed,” Tom agreed. “And I’ve seen a lot of them. Are you working on something now?”

“I am, actually,” the brunette nodded. “I’m working on three songs for a Disney Pixar animated movie.”

Chloe’s parents were suitably impressed with that. Then Mo looked at her daughter. “And how about you, Baby Girl? You still like the new practice?”

“I really do,” the redhead replied enthusiastically. “They’ve been so warm and welcoming and having Aubrey there too is a huge bonus.”

“Chlo, do you think you could take a look at Duke while you’re here?” Tom asked. “He’s getting old and I’m a bit worried about him.”

“Of course,” the vet replied. “Poor Duke. He’s getting on alright.”

“Duke?” Beca asked, eyebrows raised.

“Oh... Duke’s our golden retriever,” Mo said. “He’s sixteen. We got him the same week Melissa was born. They grew up together.”

“Awww sweet,” Beca replied with a smile. “I love dogs. I can’t wait to meet him.”

Tom and Mo beamed at her, and Beca, who could see Chloe in their faces, knew they were going to get along famously.

She felt Chloe squeeze her hand and the taller woman leaned in to whisper in her ear. “They love you already... and so do I.”

Beca blinked and just gazed at her girlfriend’s smiling face. She swallowed hard and then just nodded. She hadn’t been ready for that. At all.

Not at all.

Xx

The car ride to the Beale family's home took about an hour. It was much closer to Tampa than Orlando, and Beca found herself enjoying the ride. She let the chatter roll over her, and it gave her a moment to think about what Chloe had said and to wonder what she’d meant. Sure, Chloe was very loving. She told Aubrey she loved her all the time so, it tracked that she’d say the same to Beca, right?

They'd been together four weeks now. ONLY four weeks, so it couldn’t mean anything else, right? Right. No other explanation. Yet, in the back of the brunette’s mind, niggling at her, was the memory of the adoring looks, the loving touches and endless kindness Chloe always gave her. Beca had tried to reciprocate with little caring things like dropping off coffee and cake pops for Chloe when she knew she was so busy with surgeries that she wouldn’t be able to get out herself. And going back to buy her the shirt she was currently wearing after they’d seen it in a store window as they were rushing by.

Those two events alone had led to heated make out sessions in Chloe’s office and in the alley behind the practice. THAT one had almost led to sex, standing against the wall. Chloe had totally been into it, but Beca had pumped the breaks with a little frown and a gentle shove against her girlfriend’s chest. It had only taken a moment for Chloe to realize that Beca wasn’t fond of alleys these days.

But, apart from kissing and an indecent amount of eye-fucking, they still hadn’t had sex since their first time. Beca certainly hoped that situation would change soon.

“Beca?” The brunette felt a squeeze against her hand, and she looked at her girlfriend.

“I’m sorry, I zoned out there for a sex... I mean... sec... what did I miss?”

Her cheeks were rosy, and the redhead grinned knowingly. “I asked if you wanted to go out this evening or stay in?”

“Oh...” the musician took a breath to regain her composure. “I honestly don’t mind, Babe. Whatever you want to do is fine with me.” She paused then. “Actually... maybe we could take your brothers and sister out? Give your mom and dad some time alone for a date night?”

Chloe’s face softened and she nodded. “That’s a really great idea,” she said. “Mom, Dad, how about you guys take some time to yourself while we take the kids out.”

“Thanks, Ladies,” Tom replied. “I think I’d really like to take my wife out to wine and dine her.”

“Cool,” the brunette agreed. “Where around here is fun for the kids?”

The vet thought about that for a moment. “Mom, can we take your car please? I’m thinking we could take the kids to that new fun center with the bounce house and bowling alley.”

Mo laughed softly. “Of course, and I think that’ll be just the perfect amount of meh for Mel too.”

Chloe snorted a laugh. “She thinks she’s all grown up but she has no idea how fu... um... flippin’ hard life can be.”

Beca had to agree. At twenty-eight, she’d experienced more than enough of life’s challenges and somehow, she sensed that Chloe had too. Even though she hadn’t mentioned anything specific.

“Have you spoken with Maura lately?” Mo asked and, to the musician’s surprise, Chloe’s face darkened considerably.

“No,” she said simply, looking out the window at the scenery speeding by.

Beca saw her throat bob in a deep swallow and on impulse, squeezed her hand and laid her head on the vet’s shoulder.

“Do you think that maybe you could reach...”

“No,” Chloe said again.

Mo sighed, but let it go.

Xx

“Holy guacamole!” Chloe exclaimed as she swept her little brothers up into her arms. “You guys are getting SO BIG! Like MOUNTAINOUSLY BIG!!! Have you been eating whole anvils of iron?!” She tickled them both, making them laugh hysterically.

Beca laughed softly as she watched the boys squirm and try to get away from their big sister. “Stoppit, Chlocifer!” the taller of the two giggled.

“Jeez, Chlo, you’re so extra!” another voice called out. “You saw them over video chat, like yesterday.”

“Shut up, Melissa!” the smaller of the two boys yelled and the girl rolled her eyes as she strolled down off the porch. To Beca's surprise, Melissa stopped in front of her, looking her up and down. “So, you’re the current girlfriend, huh?”

Dark blue eyes blinked. “I am,” the musician replied. “Beca Mitchell. You must be Melissa.”

“Guilty,” the girl shrugged, giving Beca another raking look. “And you’re exceptionally hot. My sister has apparently developed some taste since moving to L.A.”

Beca blinked again. “Thank you?” she replied uncertainly. She glanced over at Chloe who was watching the exchange with concern and quickly set the boys down to jog to her.

“Hi Mel,” she said, hugging her sister. “I see you met Beca.”

“Yeah...” the girl replied as she turned on her heel to walk back to the house. “Let me know when you’re done with this one, Sis. I’ll take her.”

Chloe’s face sobered significantly, and she took a step to go after her sister, but Beca grabbed her arm. “Chlo, wait,” she said. “Hold on.”

“She can’t say things like that,” the vet stated angrily. “That was rude and disrespectful.”

“Honey,” the younger woman said quietly. “Take a step back for a second. Did you know she likes women?”

“Uh...” The redhead shook her head slowly. “Actually no.”

“Then she might have just come out to you in the only way she knew how.”

Chloe blinked, her eyebrows lifting in surprise. “Wow,” she murmured. Then she cupped Beca’s face between her hands and kissed her. “Thanks, Becs,” A short distance away, Mark and Jack started whistling and catcalling. The vet laughed softly and slid her hand down Beca’s arm to grasp her fingers. “Come meet the boys.”

And the only word the brunette could use to describe the boys was adorable, because once she reached them, they both suddenly turned shy. “Hi, Guys,” she said, hugging one, then the other. “It’s so great to meet you. Chloe has told me all about how amazing you are. Mark, you’re a gamer, right? What’s your favorite game?” She listened with a smile on her face as he enthusiastically told her about his favorite game and all his stats. “Epic. And Jack, you’re into comics, right?”

“Yeah, Superman and Batman,” the seven-year-old replied. “The Joker is my favorite villain.”

“I’m kind of partial to Harvey Two Face myself,” the musician replied. “I like how indecisive he is. Reminds me of myself a little.” She laughed softly as she felt Chloe's arms come around her and she leaned back into her as she swayed them.

“You’re really pretty,” Jack said shyly, and Mark elbowed him.

“Dude, you’re not supposed to say stuff like that to girls,” he hissed.

“Actually,” Chloe said. “It’s ok to SAY nice stuff to girls. You just shouldn’t TOUCH them without permission, ok?”

“And thank you, Jack. That’s very sweet of you,” Beca added.

Chloe winked at him. “I think she’s really pretty too, Bud.”

Beca felt an indescribable emotion roll over her as she looked at the three redheaded siblings, one of whom was holding her so close, and tears of gratitude welled in her eyes. “I... uh... I could use some water, Chlo,” she said, voice slightly choked.

The vet kissed her temple and nodded as she glanced over at her parents, who were standing in front of a flower bed talking. “Hey, Guys, can you take mine and Beca’s bags up to my room please? They’re in the trunk of Dad’s car.”

“Sure!” Mark exclaimed and he and Jack took off running toward the SUV.

“They’re so wonderful, Chloe,” Beca said as they walked hand in hand toward the house.

“They’re good kids,” the vet agreed. She led Beca into the kitchen and got her a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, then waited as she gulped down two-thirds of it. “Becs, are you ok?”

“Yeah,” the musician nodded. “Just a little overwhelmed by how amazing your family is.”

Chloe smiled. “They can be just as infuriating as amazing,” she chuckled. Then she tilted her head. “Thanks for stopping me going after Melissa. My judgement was a little clouded there for a moment.”

“Just experience,” the brunette shrugged. “I remember what it was like figuring stuff out at that age. Plus...” Beca stepped closer to her girlfriend, putting her hands on her hips. “I get the feeling that what your mom asked you in the car kind of threw you. I’m here if you want to talk about it.”

The redhead blew out a long breath. “Thanks... and yeah, it did.” She changed the subject then. “So, is it ok if I get you settled in our room and let you relax, while I go talk to Melissa?”

“Of course, Babe,” the younger woman replied.

Chloe led them upstairs and to a room that, when she pushed the door open, made Beca suck in a happy breath. It was a light and airy space with a large bed covered in stuffed animals and throw pillows. “Beca,” Chloe deadpanned. “These are my friends, The Stuffies.”

“Awwww...” Beca laughed softly. “So cute.”

The vet rolled her eyes. “As you can probably tell, my mother loves to embarrass me.” She went to the bed and gathered up the toys, then tossed them carelessly into the walk-in closet making Beca laugh again.

Their bags were sitting on the bed too, so the brunette went to her girlfriend to kiss her gently on the lips. “Go,” she said softly. “It’s probably eating her alive.”

“Yeah,” Chloe replied. “It probably is.” She nodded and with a grateful smile to her girlfriend, went to find her little sister.

Chapter Text

Melissa was lying on her bed, earphones firmly in place as she listened to blaring heavy metal music and sucked now and again on an electronic cigarette.

Chloe knocked loudly and then pushed into the room, immediately smelling the odor of strawberries and frowning a little. Melissa took off her earphones and glared at her sister, obviously expecting a fight. But, to her surprise, Chloe just crossed the room and lay down on the bed next to her, fingers laced on her stomach. “I was pretty furious at what you said at first,” the older woman said after a moment of staring at the ceiling. “But then Beca asked me if I knew you weren’t straight, and I realized I didn’t… and I’m sorry for that. I haven’t been here for you and I’m so sorry.”

Melissa shrugged, drawing a little closer to her big sister to lean against her. “You’ve been busy, Chlo. Moving to L.A. and everything.” She looked at her then, matching blue eyes holding each other’s. “Sorry I was a bitch. I was scared of... of... letting you down or something. I thought it would be better if you were angry instead of disappointed.”

Chloe lifted her arm and Mel squirmed into her for a hug, tucking her arm around her waist. “Honey, why would I be disappointed? You know I’m bisexual. Besides, telling your truth isn’t about letting other people down, it’s about letting yourself down if you want to come out and don’t.” She paused a moment, stroking her sister’s hair. “Have you slept with anyone yet?”

“No... but like... I’ve made out with a few people,” the younger Beale replied. “I know I don’t like guys. I just... I was confused for a while. I kissed guys and didn’t get what the big deal was but, then I kissed a girl, and it was... amazing... and it was kinda confusing. But I get it now.”

“Mmmm... I thought kissing girls was amazing too,” Chloe admitted. “Except, I also kind of liked kissing guys, so there was THAT,” she chuckled.

“And you’ve had sex with both guys and girls, right?” Melissa asked.

“Not at the same time,” the vet deadpanned and then grinned as her sister laughed and poked her belly. “But yeah, I have… and honestly, for me, sex with men can be great and all but... I enjoy sex with women more. I feel like there’s a...” She paused and tilted her head. “A deeper connection maybe? Especially when you have feelings for them. I don't know. It’s just how I feel personally.”

“Do you have feelings for Beca? Or is she just a...”

“You probably shouldn’t finish that sentence,” the vet interrupted quietly.

“Oh...” Melissa breathed. “Then I’m doubly sorry, Chlo.” There was quiet between them for a long moment, then the girl lifted her head to look at her sister. “Do you love her?”

Chloe blew out a long breath. “I’ve never been in love like this before and it’s kind of crazy because I’ve only known her a month. But everything just feels so right.” Tears welled in her eyes, and she laughed softly as she wiped at them with the back of her hand. “God, it feels so fucking good to actually say that out loud. Don’t tell Mom I swore like that.”

Melissa squeezed her sister’s waist. “I won’t… and I’m happy for you, Chloe. I really am.”

“And I’m proud of you,” the vet replied. “I know it wasn’t easy figuring all this out alone and, I really am so sorry I wasn’t here for you. You can call me any time you want though, you know? If you ever need to talk?”

“I tried talking to Zoe about it...” Mel said, and Chloe rolled her eyes. The girl laughed. “Yeah, she kinda didn’t get it. Michelle wouldn’t either.”

“They’re both as straight as they come,” the older redhead agreed. “Not their fault. They just are.”

They chuckled together for a moment and then just lay quietly again. “For what it’s worth,” Melissa finally said. “I think Beca has feelings for you too. The way she was looking at you… I think I’d class it as devouring you with her eyes.”

Chloe grinned and then shrugged. “Maybe, but... she’s been through a lot, and if she does have feelings for me, I don’t think she’s ready to express them yet.”

“She’ll get there,” the girl said. “Just give it time.” She was quiet for a moment, then she quietly warbled. “Bechloooeee.”

They smiled at each other, then the older woman patted her sister’s butt. “Ok, Shrimple, get up. Beca and I are taking the boys to that new fun arcade place and I’m going to need help wrangling them.” She paused then and mock glared. “And don’t think for ONE SECOND that I don’t know you’re vaping. Quit that shit.”

As predicted, the girl rolled her eyes. “Meh.” But there was a new twinkle in them as she grabbed her stuff and followed her sister.

Xx

Beca and Chloe were sitting on a leatherette sofa, laughing together as Melissa and the boys bounced like fiends on a large trampoline. Jack kept falling over and landing on his head and a couple of times, Chloe’s butt came off the couch to run to him, convinced he’d broken his neck. But each time, he just giggled and started bouncing again.

“Your sister’s awesome at that,” Beca said, resting her cheek against the older woman’s shoulder.

“She’s a gymnast,” Chloe shrugged. “Under all that baggy stuff she wears, she’s really fit and muscular.”

“She’s really sweet too, the way she apologized to me.”

Chloe sighed. “I feel like the worst sister in the world, right now. I should have been there for her, but I was so wrapped up in L.A. and my new job and...”

“Me...” Beca supplied.

“Us...” the redhead corrected.

“Us...” the musician repeated with a smile.

“I have to do a better job of being there for them all,” Chloe went on.

“Being the eldest comes with a lot of responsibility, huh?” the brunette asked, kissing her girlfriend’s upper arm.

Chloe took a breath to reply but she was suddenly interrupted by a voice she had zero desire to hear.

“Chloe Beale... and Chloe Beale’s... friend?”

Beca thought it was a ridiculous question, since she was leaning against her lover with her hand on her mostly bare thigh.

Light blue eyes lifted and hardened. “Fuck off, Maura.”

Beca was momentarily shocked. She’d never heard Chloe sound so cold and dismissive.

“Jesus, come ON, Chloe, it’s been years. Get the hell over it,” came the exasperated reply and Beca immediately felt the tension coil through her girlfriend’s body, as her seldom-seen temper flared.

But before Chloe could explode, Beca got up and crossed her arms, cocking one hip. “Hi, I’m Beca, Chloe’s girlfriend. And you are?”

“Maura Bradley. Chloe and I grew up together. Her mother and mine have been best friends for thirty years.”

“I see,” Beca replied, sweetly. Then her tone hardened a little. “Well, since Chloe obviously doesn’t want to speak to you, I suggest you continue on your way and leave her alone.”

“Mmmm... feisty mouse,” the woman chuckled, looking Beca up and down. The musician suddenly felt like punching her.

“You don’t know the half of it, Lady,” she replied and with a little scoff, Maura turned on her heel and walked away.

When she was out of sight, Chloe got up. She was visibly shaking, and she looked at Beca with uncharacteristically hard eyes. “I need some air. Could you watch the kids until I get back, please?”

“Of course... but Babe, are you ok? You seem...”

“I’m fine,” Chloe interrupted and then walked away.

Melissa came up behind Beca, putting a hand on her shoulder and making her jump a little. “Um... maybe give her some space, ok? Maura used to be her best friend and... she pulled some shit that Chloe hasn’t been able to get past.”

“What happened?” the brunette asked but Melissa just shook her head.

“That’s Chloe’s story to tell.”

Xx

Beca kept stealing looks at her girlfriend during dinner. They were all squished together in a booth, Jack sitting in Chloe’s lap, and they’d ordered enough pizza to feed a small country, but the vet had barely eaten anything and, while she was participating, a couple of times one of the boys had asked her something and Beca had had to nudge her to bring her back from wherever her mind had gone.

After dinner, while Chloe was in the bathroom, Beca discretely gave Melissa fifty dollars. “Hey, could you keep the boys busy while I talk to Chloe, please? I don’t think she’s ok.”

The younger Beale nodded. “Take her out to the batting cages. She’s a great hitter and it might help her to get out her frustration.”

“Thanks,” the musician replied and smiled as Melissa wrangled the boys toward the Go Karts.

“Don’t tell me you sold the kids while I was gone,” Chloe joked when she got back to the table. “Not that I’d blame you or anything.”

“Nah,” Beca grinned. “I just bribed them to get some time alone with you. Mel told me you like the batting cages and I wanted to see how sexy you look hitting balls.”

The vet chuckled. “Ahhh,” she said. She leaned down and kissed Beca softly. “I’m sorry I’ve been so distracted.” She held out her hand then and the musician slid out of the booth to clasp it.

“I’m just a little worried about you, Chlo. You don’t seem yourself but I’m not going to push you to tell me or talk about anything you don’t want to.”

They made their way to the cages and Chloe chose slow-pitch softball. She tied her hair into a loose knot and got into a helmet. Then she chose a bat and warmed up her shoulders while Beca went to add some more money to their fun card.

The vet swiped the card though the pad near the entrance to the cage and then took her stance, waiting for the first ball. As it came toward her, she stepped into it and swung but totally missed. She shook her head and waited for the second, which she hit off-face and sent into the gully. “Shit.” She closed her eyes and settled herself, then concentrated on the third ball and swung, making a solid connection and sending it sailing over the roof of the pitching machine house.

“Nice,” Beca grinned.

“I’m a little rusty.” Chloe hit ball number four solidly, smiling as she felt herself find her groove again. Over and over, she hit, and she started a new round before she began talking. “Maura was my best friend in high school,” she said, keeping her eyes on the pitching machine. “We were always together, hanging out, doing homework together, sleepovers, shopping, the usual teenager stuff.” She solidly hit another ball. “And over time, as I realized that I wasn’t exactly straight, I also realized I’d developed a crush on her.” ::THWACK:: “But I couldn’t tell her, you know? I thought she’d think I was weird or… she’d hate me or something.” ::THWACK:: “So, there was another friend of ours, who I kind of confided in when we got drunk one night. She promised she wouldn’t say anything.” ::THWACK::

Beca closed her eyes, shaking her head as she realized where the story was probably going. “Mmmm.”

::THWACK:: “Fast forward a couple of weeks and Maura called to my house one evening. She told me Jill had told her what I’d said and that she was crushing on me too. Then she said we should go to senior prom together… like as a date.” ::THWACK:: “I was pretty ecstatic. I was single at the time and hadn’t accepted any offers of dates so, scared to death, I got dressed up and waited for Maura to come to the house.” ::THWACK:: “She picked me up, corsage and all, and we rode to the prom in a limo. As we were going inside, she rubbed my back and told me not to be nervous… that we were going to have fun.” ::THWACK:: “In the gym, after a while, I noticed people looking at me weirdly and then pointing and I couldn’t figure out why. But, eventually, one of the girls from my softball team realized what was happening. She came up behind me and pulled a piece a paper off my back to show it to me. The word DYKE was written on it in big old red letters.” ::THWACK:: ... ::THWACK:: … ::THWACK:: “And then I realized that Maura had humiliated me, then left me alone to be with her real date and just laughed with everyone else. Practical joke, right? No big deal. Just some Carrie shit.”

“Oh, Chloe,” Beca whispered, grasping her fingers into the chain link fence as she watched her girlfriend quickly wipe her tears away on the bottom of her shirt and take her batting stance again.

::THWACK:: “I just left out of there, too embarrassed and devastated to even just hang out with the softball team. They’d been really kind to me when they’d found out.” ::THWACK:: “Next day, Maura and I had a blowout argument and I told her to stay the hell away from me. It’s been that way ever since.”

Chloe stopped hitting balls and came out of the cage, taking her helmet off and putting it, and the bat back onto a hanger. Then she sat down on a bench, head bowed and leaning her forearms on her thighs. “I know it happened a long time ago, Becs… and it’s probably really petty… but I don’t know if I can forgive her. She REALLY hurt me.”

Beca slowly moved to stand in front of her, stroking her damp hair back from her forehead. “What she did was despicable,” she said softly. Light blue eyes lifted, the pain of it all still haunting them. “You don’t owe her anything.”

Chloe eased her arms around the brunette’s waist, nodding against her stomach. Beca held her, rubbing her back gently. But then closed her eyes as Maura’s voice grated instantly on her nerves. The woman was pulling a pair of batting gloves on, two cages down.

“Guess you finally admitted you’re a dyke, huh, Chlo? You sure were in the closet for a while. Did it take Feisty Mouse to do it, or did you come out… ?”

But she gasped as she suddenly found herself shoved against the chain link fence, Beca’s hands fisted into the front of her shirt. “Shut the fuck up,” the musician growled. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Maura held up her hands. “Ok, ok! Jesus, Beca. Let me go.”

“You’re lucky I didn’t take your head off, you bitch,” the musician retorted as Chloe came up behind her and put her hands on her shoulders.

“Babe, she’s not worth it,” the vet said softly. “Really.”

“No… but, Chloe, you ARE,” the brunette said fiercely.

Maura blinked and gained sudden clarity as she recognized the smirk on Chloe’s face for what it was. The redhead was happy and had someone who obviously cared about her. At thirty-one, Maura had two divorces under her belt and a prescription drug problem to add to that.

“I’m sorry about prom,” she suddenly said. “Chloe, I’m sorry.”

“What?” the vet said, tilting her head. Beca’s hands eased out of Maura’s shirt, and she stepped back into Chloe’s body like a human shield, reaching back to wrap both hands around the curve of her thighs.

“I’m sorry about prom night,” the woman said again, shaking her head. “I rationalized it as a joke, but I knew it was cruel and I’m not proud of it. I was just afraid that someone might think that I was gay too and I reacted badly. I’m sorry, Chloe. Really.”

Chloe slowly approached her former best friend. “I’m not gay,” she said quietly. “I’m bisexual, but you never gave me the chance to figure that out, senior year. It was a crush, not fucking true love, and because of you, it took three years for me to let myself fully embrace who I am.”

Maura nodded unhappily. “I’m sorry, Chloe.”

The vet nodded. “I… I believe you, but… we can’t be friends again, Maura. I need to try to let all that high school bullshit go.”

“But you’re the one who got out of here, Chlo,” Maura said, chuckling bitterly. “You’re the one who’s living a life in L.A. with someone who obviously cares about her, in a career she loves. Your mom talks so proudly about you all the time. I’m still stuck here with two ex-husbands, two kids who hate me and a minimum wage job. Who won in the end, huh?”

“I can still punch her for you, Chloe, if you want me to,” Melissa suddenly piped up fiercely. None of the women were sure when the kids had gotten back.

Chloe shook her head, mindful of their little brothers. “Thanks, Mel, but nah. I think Maura and I have an understanding now. Punching is never the answer.”

Maura smiled slightly. “Maybe we… and Feisty Mouse here… can talk more before you leave for L.A.?”

Chloe blew out a long breath. “Ok…” she finally replied. “Come over to the house when your mom is visiting.”

“Will do,” the woman just nodded and finished putting her gloves on. She winked at Beca then and stepped into the cage to begin her batting session.

Chloe took Beca’s hand, kissing her knuckles. “Thanks, Becs,” she said softly. Then she looked at her sister. “And thanks, Mel, for being my tough baby sister… who’s totally not a baby anymore. When the heck did that happen, huh?”

The musician smiled and wrapped her arm around Chloe’s waist, leading them all toward the Mini Golf course. “Come on, Beales,” she said. “I’m going to kick your butts at Putt Putt.”

“In your dreams!” Jack yelled back and Beca grinned at his adorableness. Chloe just laughed softly and kissed her temple.

Xx

It was dark when they pulled up outside the house and Jack was already half asleep in Melissa’s lap. They got out of the car and went inside, then grabbed a drink in the kitchen. “Ten o’clock,” Chloe said. “Time for Beale Boys to hit the hay.”

Mark tried to protest but his yawn gave him away and finally he just nodded. “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Brush your teeth and get into your pjs. I’ll be up to tuck you in, in a minute,” the eldest Beale ordered. “Mark, make sure your brother doesn’t fall asleep in the sink please.”

Melissa headed for the living room and flopped onto the couch, turning on the TV and setting it to a movie. A Golden Retriever, Duke, Beca suspected, joined her there, putting his head down on her thigh and gazing at her adoringly as she rubbed his ears. Chloe just leaned back against the kitchen table, rubbing tiredly between her eyes. Beca gave her some space and then smiled as light blue eyes lifted to meet her dark blue.

“Today was a long week,” the vet said. “But thank you, Beca, for everything.”

“I didn’t do anything but lose my temper… twice,” the brunette replied, somewhat sheepishly. “And I would’ve let Melissa punch Maura. Not a great example for the boys.”

Chloe chuckled softly. “It still means a lot to me that you stood up for me like that, Becs.” She straightened then. “What do you want to do? Watch a movie down here or go to bed?”

“I kinda want to snuggle on the couch with you for a while. Chill with Melissa.”

“Ok,” the redhead smiled. “Come on.”

They headed into the living room and Chloe sat down on a loveseat, pulling Beca into her lap and then kissing her softly. Melissa sniggered and shook her head. “You two are way too gross,” she teased. Then she took a breath. “Do you think maybe…” She trailed off and Chloe lifted an eyebrow at her. “Could we go on a double date maybe?”

Chloe’s eyebrow lifted higher. “Keep talking.”

“I’ve been seeing this girl and… she texted me a little earlier to say she’d like to, you know, go out on a proper date on Friday night but…”

Beca smiled. “You need a little moral support?” she ventured.

“Yeah, maybe.” Melissa blushed. “You know… no big deal. I just think… it would be easier to be ourselves in a restaurant with an older same-sex couple there, you know?” She scratched her cheek awkwardly.

Beca nodded soberly. “Chloe, we definitely have to support the baby gays. It’s our solemn duty.”

Melissa playfully flipped her off, making her laugh.

The vet’s face eased into a beaming smile. “Go ahead and arrange it,” she said to her sister. “Pick somewhere nice for Friday night where we have to dress up. It’s on me, ok? But you’re not wearing any baggy shit.” She narrowed her eyes. “And no alcohol.”

“Uh… Babe, I don’t think we brought any dress up clothes, did we?” the brunette asked.

“Mom has stuff. We can improvise.”

“Cool,” Melissa replied with a beaming smile that was so much like Chloe’s, it made Beca smile happily. “Thanks, Guys.”

“Hey, Sweetie?” the older woman said then. “Do Mom and Dad know?”

Melissa sighed and shook her head. “Can you please help me tell them? I’d like it to go better than my coming out to you did.”

“Tomorrow, Shrimple,” Chloe replied with a chuckle. “I promise.”

And Melissa just grinned.

Xx

It was three in the morning. Beca was woken by frantic knocking at the bedroom door, and she sighed as Chloe also stirred in her arms. There was another series of knocks and Chloe sighed this time. She pulled back the covers and padded to the door to unlock and open it. Then she scooped her youngest brother up into her arms and carried him back to the bed to sit in her lap. “What’s up, Honey?” she asked softly. “Bad dream?” She glanced back over her shoulder as Beca gently rubbed Jack’s back.

“There’s a monster under my bed,” he replied, rubbing at his tear-streaked face with one hand as he clutched at his big sister’s t-shirt with the other. “I ran here and barely made it alive.”

Chloe tried very hard to not smile and bit her lip instead. “Oh no, that’s awful, Buddy. You want me to come and get it for you?”

“Can I just sleep in here with you and Beca?”

Chloe looked back over her shoulder again and smiled as Beca nodded. “Sure, you can sleep in here with us. Do you need to use the bathroom before you go back to sleep?”

Jack nodded shyly so Chloe stood and carried him to the ensuite. “Go on,” she said and waited outside for him to finish, flush and wash his hands. “Good boy.” Then she took him by the hand and brought him back to the bed. She climbed in, settled back into Beca’s arms and then smiled as Jack climbed in and snuggled against her chest. She tucked the bedcovers back into place and then kissed his forehead. “Love you, JackSparrow.”

“Love you, Chlocifer. I miss you,” the little boy replied sleepily, and the vet’s breath hitched in her chest. He was asleep a moment later and Chloe just hugged him closer.

“He ran past every other room in the hallway to come to you,” Beca said softly. “That so sweet, Chloe.”

“Yeah,” the redhead murmured in reply. “He’s my sweet boy.”

Xx

Thanksgiving morning. Chloe woke first and checked the clock on the nightstand. It was only a little after seven and she smiled happily. Jack had slipped back out at some point, probably to sneak downstairs and see what food was being prepared. Beca was breathing softly against her hair and Chloe hummed contentedly as she turned over and pressed herself into her girlfriend’s chest.

A little sleepy smile lifted the musician’s lips. “So…” she murmured, eyes still firmly closed. “The million-dollar question… when was the last time this bed saw any action?”

Chloe giggled and buried her face into the smaller woman’s neck. “Don’t ask… the answer is too embarrassing.”

Dark blue eyes appeared; their eyebrows hiked. “Oh, now I DEFINITELY need to hear that story.”

Chloe sighed but she was still smiling. “There’s no story. The answer is… never.”

“Never?” Beca repeated in surprise.

“Never,” the vet nodded. “I left home for college when I was seventeen. I haven’t lived in this room much since, so I’ve never had sex with anyone in this bed.”

“I… surely you’ve brought people home with you since then? Spring break… or any break?” the musician said incredulously.

Chloe just shrugged. “Nope. There’s never been anyone I wanted to bring home.”

The brunette’s eyes softened. “So, not only am I the only person you’ve brought home to meet your family, which is such an honor… but I also get to pop this bed’s cherry with you?”

Chloe’s eyes darkened as her heart picked up a little. “Cocky, Ms. Mitchell.”

“You love it, Doctor Beale.” Beca captured Chloe’s earlobe between her teeth and then suckled it softly.

“Mmmm…” the redhead nodded. “I do.” She exhaled then as her girlfriend’s fingertips wandered down her chest to barely brush her breast. “But if we do this, Beca, we have to be really quiet. The kids...”

“Mmmhmmm…” Beca was already pressing her gently into the mattress and she ducked down to lift the redhead’s shirt and then bite softly along the faint ridges of her abs. She felt Chloe’s fingers lace into her hair, but the vet didn’t make any sound other than a soft exhale… until Beca licked a path from her navel up to her sternum, then took a sharp right to nibble on an already hard nipple. Chloe squeaked and Beca grinned into her breast as she continued the playful assault. She felt Chloe’s hips buck and suspected that being silent was maybe turning out to be more difficult than the vet had thought.

“You know,” the brunette said softly as she switched to the other breast. “You have a killer body, Chloe. I wanted to fuck you the first moment I saw you.” Light blue eyes widened but Chloe still didn’t make any sound as her girlfriend nudged her thighs apart. “I lay in bed that night, staring at the ceiling while I wondered what you looked like under those scrubs.” She eased Chloe’s underwear to one side and brushed her fingertips against her folds. “I wondered what you’d taste like and feel like when I slipped inside you.” She explored a little deeper and felt Chloe’s clit peek out against the pads of her fingers. She caressed it slowly and chuckled as the redhead’s hips bucked again. “I wondered what your beautiful face would look like while you rode out the waves of your orgasm.” Chloe gasped and her right hand moved to her mouth. She bit on her knuckles and exhaled raggedly around them. Beca got onto her knees, slipped her fingers inside her girlfriend as deep as she could and bit down on her shoulder, definitely leaving a mark. “But you know what? All the thinking and fantasizing I did…” She rubbed the fingers of her other hand purposefully against the redhead’s most intimate bundle of nerves and twisted her fingers inside her, stretching her gently. Chloe whimpered and bit on her knuckles again. “Everything I thought about, everything I longed for…” She curled her fingers, dragging their tips along Chloe’s walls with every retreat as she suddenly picked up her pace. “Pale in comparison to how it really feels when you come around my fingers.” She ducked down then and put her mouth on her girlfriend, sucking hard on her clit.

Chloe’s hand gripped into Beca’s hair, and after only moments, she arched her back off the bed, mouth open in a silent scream of ecstasy. Then she curled into the brunette as the waves continued, pulsing through her body, blowing her pupils wide open and finally ripping a quiet but desperate groan from her as she bit her bottom lip. Her breathing had turned to ragged gasping and she shook her head as she tried to catch her breath. “Fuck, Beca,” she said quietly into her girlfriend’s neck as Beca retreated and eased them over onto their sides. Chloe’s body vibrated every now and again as it came down from its high and Beca held her, smiling as the gentle caress of her damp fingertips along the sensitive skin of Chloe’s back caused her lover to squirm and giggle.

And the words lay heavily on Beca’s tongue. The look in Chloe’s eyes when they came face to face and gazed at each other made the trio want to spring from her lips. When Chloe smirked sexily, obviously pleased with herself that she’d managed to stay quiet, Beca wanted to scream them from the rooftops.

Instead, she swallowed and arched an eyebrow. “Impressive, Doctor Beale,” she said instead.

“The quiet or the orgasm?” the vet asked, voice slightly scratchy.

“Yes,” Beca grinned.

The vet nodded. “Becs, that was fucking incredible. BUT my knuckles are going to be all bruised to hell.”

“Worth it?” the musician asked innocently.

“Oh, totes!” Chloe exclaimed and then they both collapsed into laughter.

After a few minutes of snuggling, Chloe pulled back the bedcovers and disappeared into the bathroom to turn on the shower. Beca hiked herself up on one elbow, frowning a little. Surely, they didn’t have to get up yet?

Then Chloe was back and dragging her out of the bed to lead her into the bathroom, carefully locking the door behind them. The vet slowly lifted her shirt off over her head and then wiggled her underwear down her legs to step out of them. She let Beca ogle her body for a moment and then slowly stalked toward her. “Off,” she ordered, and Beca’s eyes widened as she got out of her shirt and sleep shorts just in time for her lover to shove her into the stall and under the hot water. Chloe pushed her against the cool tile wall, pinning her hands above her head, and pressed her thigh between Beca’s, ducking her head to kiss her deeply.

“My turn to fuck you,” she growled into the smaller woman’s ear and Beca’s knees almost gave out.

“Wait… wait…” she panted, anxiety suddenly crashing over her. “Slow down, please, Chloe… please…”

And then she was in her lover’s arms, gentle hands caressing into her hair as the water cascaded over them. “Baby, I’m sorry,” the vet said softly. “I didn’t think.” She stepped back and out of the cubicle. “I’ll just shower when you’re done,” she said, then unlocked the door and went back into the bedroom.

“But…” Beca blinked, then her legs moved, and she followed her lover to find her leaning on her chest of drawers with her head bowed, dripping on the floor. “Chloe?” Light blue eyes lifted and Beca almost gasped at the pain in them. “Chloe,” she whispered and went to her to pull her into a hug. “Fuck, Chloe, I didn’t mean… I wasn’t pushing you away, I swear.”

“It’s ok. I screwed up,” the redhead replied shakily. “My fault.”

But Beca shook her head and eased back, lifting Chloe’s chin and forcing her to make eye contact. “You did nothing wrong,” she stated. “I WANT you to slam me against the wall and fuck me until I can’t stand.”

“But…” Chloe swallowed. “You…”

The musician smiled. “Just keep reminding me it’s you when you do it because…” She took a deep breath, savagely shoving down the fear inside her. “I’m in love with you, Chloe, and I want you to be the one who makes me feel. Even if it’s a little bit of fear. I’m my bravest self with you holding me.” For a long moment, the redhead couldn’t breathe, and she wondered vaguely if she was having her own brand of anxiety attack. But then, Beca was kissing her gently. “Breathe, Baby.”

Chloe gasped in a breath and her heart began to ease its thunderous pounding in her chest. Her face crumpled into tears, and she pulled her lover closer, burying her face in her damp skin and kissing her neck. “You… you’re in love with me?” she asked, almost incredulously.

Beca nodded, finally allowing herself to admit her feelings. “I love you and it’s terrifying, Chlo… but you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me too,” the vet replied, face beaming now. “I love you too, Becs. So much.”

Then they grinned at each other and Beca dragged her girlfriend back into the bathroom. The lock snicked shut behind them.

In hindsight, Chloe wasn’t sure they were very quiet.

Chapter Text

Thanksgiving morning seemed brighter, shinier, sunnier, more beautiful. Chloe hadn’t been able to wrestle the smile off her face since that morning and she was singing softly as she helped her dad put the turkey into the infrared cooker.

“I’ve missed that, Baby Girl,” Tom said with a smile.

“Missed what?” Chloe asked, eyebrows hiked.

“Hearing you sing like that. You sound happy.”

“Oh... I am,” the redhead grinned, white teeth flashing.

“Does Beca have anything to do with that?” her dad asked carefully. “You two seem... very happy... this morning.”

“Definitely. We told each other how we really feel,” the vet replied. “Knowing she loves me as much as I love her is just... amazing.” Then she spotted a frolicking golden retriever and put two fingers into her mouth to whistle to him. “Hey, why don’t I look at Duke now? I might need you to help me if he doesn’t want to cooperate.”

“Sure,” Tom replied. “And you know, Baby Girl, I’m really happy for you. Beca’s lovely.”

“Thanks, Pop.” Chloe said happily as the big dog lumbered up the three steps onto the back deck and sat at her feet. She reached for his leash hanging next to the door. “Hi, Dukey,” she said in a high voice. “How’s my smiling boy?” She ruffled his fur and kissed his nose as she got down on her knees. Then she clipped his leash to his collar and gently wrapped the leather length two loops around his snout. “Just as a precaution, since I don’t have a muzzle,” she explained at her dad’s surprised look. “If I touch him somewhere painful, he might bite reflexively, and I’d really like to keep all my body parts intact, thank you very much.”

“Ah, got it,” Tom agreed. “Learned that the hard way, did you?”

“Yep,” the vet replied. She showed him the scars she already had. “Not all dogs of course. This one…” She pointed out the evidence of double puncture marks in the web between her right thumb and index finger. “Was a fuck you from a very pissed off snake.”

“Watch your language, young Lady,” her father teased as she stood Duke up and started running her hands over his hind quarters.

Chloe snorted softly. “I’m an adult, Pop. Get over it.”

Tom grinned. “Fair enough.”

She’d just started manipulating Duke’s right hip joint when he growled a warning to her and then whimpered. “Ooookay, Dukey,” she soothed, rubbing his ears. “I suspect his arthritis is worse. In fairness though, he’s in great condition for a sixteen-year-old. I’ve seen dogs half his age in much worse shape, but I think you need to take him in for a full geriatric workup. The vet will check joint fluid and maybe take some x-rays to see if the arthritis is any worse. Some things, I just can’t diagnose through a physical exam but send me the x-ray images and I’ll review them as a second opinion.”

“Thanks, Baby,” Tom agreed. “I’ll call on Saturday and make an appointment for him to be seen.”

“Cool,” Chloe nodded. Then she went on with the physical exam. She was almost done when she suddenly paused and ran her hand over Duke’s chest again. “He has a mass right here,” she said. She leaned closer and tried to get her fingers around it through his fur to manipulate it. It was fairly mobile, and she nodded to herself. “It feels like it might be a fatty deposit but get them to check that too, ok?”

“Hey, Chloe?” her dad said softly.

Light blue eyes lifted. “Mmm…?”

“I’m so proud of you, Doctor Beale, you know?”

Chloe smiled and leaned in to give him a one-armed hug. “Thanks, Pop.”

Just then the kitchen door opened and Beca came out onto the deck, carrying two glasses of iced tea. She handed one to Tom. “I come bearing drinks,” she stated. “I reckoned turkey stuff must be thirsty work.”

Tom and Chloe flashed her identical grins and the vet unmuzzled Duke before getting up and dusting off her knees. She wrapped one arm around her girlfriend’s waist then and dipped her a little to kiss her as she eased the glass out of her hand. “Thanks, Becs.”

The musician’s cheeks turned pink, and she cleared her throat as she looked furtively at Tom. He laughed and held his hands up. “This is all new to us too, Beca. Chloe’s never brought anyone home before so… just go with it and we will too, ok?”

The vet swallowed a mouthful of sweet tea and then shrugged. “Toldja.”

Xx

Beca was sitting on the front porch with Mo, rocking gently as they watched Chloe and Duke race madly around the huge front yard, chasing Jack and Mark with their football.

“TOUCHDOWN!” Mark yelled, doing a little victory dance as he slammed the ball into the ground. “We beat you, Chlocifer!”

“Dude!” Chloe exclaimed, skidding to a stop and bending over, chest heaving. “No fair! I’m old, I can’t keep up with you!”

Mo snorted and exchanged a look with her daughter’s girlfriend. “Is she still running five miles every day?”

“Almost every day, yep,” Beca chuckled. “She’s totally faking. It’s so adorable how great she is with the kids. She’s going to be an amazing mom someday.”

Her eyes met her girlfriend’s, and she received a little wink. Beca melted and just gazed admiringly at the strong body that, only a few hours earlier, had come undone under her touch. She wanted so much to feel that again.

“You wear your thoughts on your face,” Mo said with a little laugh. “So, I assume what I thought I heard happening this morning in Chloe’s shower was actually happening?”

The musician turned red and covered her eyes with her hand. “I’m so sorry. It totally wasn’t planned. She… she told me she loves me for the first time and… we…”

But the older woman just squeezed her forearm gently. “It’s ok. She may be my daughter, but I do have eyes. She’s a gorgeous woman, Beca. I get why you can’t keep your hands off her.”

Beca turned redder and just shook her head. “I’m still sorry.”

“Why?” Mo chuckled. She leaned on the arm of her chair, gazing at the musician with a smile. “Look, Honey, you’re head over heels in love with each other and you’re both consenting adults. If you want to fuck... fuck!! How do you think Tom and I ended up with seven kids?! Probably the only reason we don’t have more is because Tom got a vasectomy after I got pregnant with Jack.” She paused then and glanced around. “Don’t tell anyone I swore like that... or that I just made myself sound like a nymphomaniac.”

Beca laughed helplessly. “No, Ma’am.”

Then she laughed again as Chloe hopped up onto the porch, dragged her out of the rocking chair and sat down, pulling her back down to sit sideways in her lap with her legs over the wooden arm. “Hi, Beautiful,” the redhead beamed, chomping playfully at Beca’s neck and making her giggle uncharacteristically.

“Yuck… you’re all sweaty,” the brunette teased, wrapping her arm around her lover’s neck anyway and leaning against her chest.

“Guess I need another shower,” the vet replied, waggling her eyebrows. Her palm absently rubbed the brunette’s stomach under her shirt.

“Down, Girl!” Mo stated with a laugh.

Chloe looked at Beca questioningly.

“She knows,” the musician said. “We weren’t as quiet as we thought we were.”

The vet blinked. “It was Beca’s fault,” she said, pointing innocently at her girlfriend. “She made me do it.”

The brunette rolled her eyes. “Right. Thanks for that, Babe.”

But Chloe just smiled. “I love you.”

Mo chuckled as Beca stared at her girlfriend, slightly speechless at how easily Chloe said the words. “I love you too,” she replied after a moment, lifting her hand to caress a slightly flushed cheek.

Xx

The family was settling down at the large dining room table to eat dinner, when a surprise visitor made an appearance. Chloe squealed as she jumped up and ran into a man’s arms to hug him to within an inch of his life.

“Tommy!”

“Hi, Chlo.”

Thomas Beale, Junior, next eldest to Chloe at twenty-nine, was dressed in a dark grey suit. He was tall and very handsome with the same red hair and blue eyes as almost all his siblings.

“I didn’t think you were going to be here,” the vet said.

“Wanted to see you,” he replied, eyes a little unfocused. It was only then that Chloe realized he’d already been drinking, and she frowned a little.

“T…”

But he eased out of her arms and went to greet the rest of the family. He went around the table until he reached Beca and paused, holding out his hand.

“Hi, I’m Tommy. We haven’t met…” He eyed the brunette appreciatively. “Because I’d definitely remember you.”

Chloe rolled her eyes, but Beca just smiled at him and took his hand to shake it. “Beca Mitchell, Chloe’s girlfriend.”

“Ah,” Tommy nodded. “My sister obviously has exquisite taste in women.”

Beca inclined her head gracefully. She got the impression that Chloe’s brother was trying to flirt with her, and she thought it safer to not respond.

The vet had taken her seat next to her girlfriend again, arm wrapped around her shoulders almost possessively. The musician saw the potential for a pissing match, so she squeezed Chloe’s thigh under the table. “Hey,” she said softly and then smiled. The redhead smiled back.

“Mom, can we talk about what we’re thankful for now?” Jack asked, oblivious to the sudden tension.

“I think that’s a lovely idea,” Mo replied. “Dad can go first.”

Tom smiled “As always, I’m grateful for my kids, my beautiful wife and my health. And I hope I get to say that again next year.”

Mo went next. “I’m grateful for this family, how close we are and how we love and support each other.”

All eyes moved to Chloe then. “I’m grateful for all the blessings in my life… my family, my friends, my new job… and this year, I’m grateful that I’ve found someone to bring home to meet you all. Thank you for welcoming her. Love you, Becs.”

The brunette melted and placed a chaste kiss on her girlfriend’s cheek. Then she realized it was her turn. “I’ve been through some bad stuff in my life,” she said softly. “But I wouldn’t change that now because it brought me to all of you. I’m grateful for that and I’m so grateful for Chloe, who’s shown me that falling in love can be as natural and easy as breathing air.” Tears welled in her eyes. “I thought for a long time that I could never have that.” Her voice was stolen by emotion, and she was suddenly embarrassed, but the look in Chloe’s eyes as she caressed her cheek, washed it away. “I love you, Chlocifer.”

The expressions of gratitude went on as Beca leaned against her girlfriend, smiling at the gentle pressure of lips against her head.

Xx

Chloe was yelling at the football game on TV and Beca laughed when she started throwing popcorn at it. “For fuck’s sake, Dude, are you blind?!”

“Language!” Mark, Jack and Mo all exclaimed at the same time.

Chloe clapped a hand over her mouth and settled back down, squashed between Beca and Melissa on the love seat. “Sorry,” she mumbled against the neck of her beer bottle. She was a little tipsy, she realized, and maybe a tad too invested in the blaring game.

Beca laughed a little and then eased out of her seat. “I need some air, Chlo. I’ll be back in a few.”

Chloe kissed her knuckles with a smile and then suddenly found something else to yell at the TV about. The brunette chuckled and headed toward the kitchen. She grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator, then left out the back door and trotted down the steps of the deck. It was dark and she strolled across the grass, lit by moonlight and the glow from the house, toward a fence to sit up on it and gaze up at the stars. She was happy to sit alone for a few moments and let the family enjoy the game together. So many people together were a little overwhelming, but her heart swelled with unexpected affection for all the Beales she’d had the honor of spending time with.

“Hey, you ok?”

Beca looked over her shoulder to see Tommy strolling toward her, a beer in his hand. He was slightly unsteady on his feet and the musician made a mental note to ask Chloe what was going on with him.

“I’m fine,” she replied with a smile. “Just getting some air and looking at the stars.”

He joined her to lean on the fence, looking up at the sky too. His head was even with her shoulder, and he head-butted it gently with his forehead. “They’re pretty, just like you.”

“I don’t know about that,” Beca replied carefully, avoiding eye-contact with him.

“I do,” he said, slurring just a tad. “If you weren’t with my sister, I’d ask you out on a date in a heartbeat.”

Beca nodded. “But I AM with your sister,” she reminded him.

Tommy straightened and sidled closer, moving into her personal space and suddenly making her feel very uncomfortable. Anxiety began to needle at her chest. “What she doesn’t know about won’t hurt her,” he said, leaning even closer as if he was going to kiss her.

Beca leaned away. “Tommy, stop,” she said firmly. “I’m gay and you’re drunk. You’re not making good choices right now. Don’t do something you’re going to regret.”

A grin stretched his lips. “Oh, I think I’m making stellar choices and I never regret anything,” he replied as he went for her lips again, grasping her hip in his big hand as her hands came up to protect herself. But then there were running footsteps and he was suddenly being hauled back by his collar. “What the…” He turned and barely saw the knuckles headed for his face before they connected solidly and took him straight down.

“Asshole!” Chloe exclaimed as Beca gasped and hopped down from the fence. “Get up!”

Tommy was on his back, holding his nose. “Jesus, Chloe! What the hell?!”

The vet bent over and grabbed him by the front of his shirt, dragging him back up and onto his feet. He towered over her as she pulled her fist back again, but Beca grabbed her arm and hung on. “Chloe! Baby, stop!”

It did stop the vet and instead, she pointed a finger into her brother’s face. “You have no idea what she’s been through!” she yelled. “You have no clue what she’s had to survive! Leave her the FUCK alone! Do you hear me?!”

“I hear you, Chloe, Jesus Christ,” Tommy exclaimed and then turned to head back into the house, holding his bloody nose. He passed his parents as they came to see what was happening but just held up a hand and kept walking when they tried to question him.

Chloe’s chest was heaving, and she grasped her hands into her hair as she tried to calm down. Beca wrapped her arms around her waist, going cheek to cheek with her lover as she hugged her gently. “It’s ok, Chlo,” she said. “He didn’t hurt me. Breathe, ok?”

“What’s going on?” Tom asked. “What the hell happened?”

“Ask your alcoholic, piece of shit son!” the vet spat angrily. All five-foot-four of her was vibrating with energy she didn’t know what to do with.

Beca tried to soothe her by rubbing her back. “Tommy’s drunk,” she told the older Beales. “He tried to kiss me, and Chloe hit him.”

Mo tutted and shook her head. “Tom, go see if Tommy needs to go to the E.R. If he doesn’t now, he might after I’m done with him.”

Her husband nodded and headed back into the house.

Then the older woman moved closer to Chloe and Beca. “Firstly, Beca, are you ok, Honey?”

“Yeah,” the musician replied. “I’m ok, thank you.”

Chloe was calmer now and she looked at her mother, light blue eyes welling with tears. “Sorry,” she said, shaking her head as she wrapped her arms around Beca and clung to her. “I just… saw red… I… he shouldn’t have touched her. No one should have ever hurt her.” Tears were trickling down her face now.

Beca rubbed her girlfriend’s back gently as she looked at Mo. “I was attacked in the street and raped two years ago in Atlanta,” she said. “It’s taken a lot of therapy and a lot of kindness and understanding from Chloe to get me to where I am now… to be able to accept her touch without having a panic attack.”

“Oh Sweetheart,” the older woman said, reaching out to caress her cheek. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Then she looked at her daughter. “What can I do, Chloe?”

“Just… get him out of here please,” the vet asked. “I’ll talk to him later but I… just can’t right now.”

Her mother nodded and then kissed her cheek. “Do you need some ice for that hand?”

Chloe looked down at her bruised knuckles. “Uh… I think maybe I do,” she winced as she opened and closed her fist. “Thanks, Mom.”

“Crap, is it broken?” Beca asked.

“Nah,” the younger Beale shrugged. “It’s probably just sprained.” She sighed then and shook her head. “I need some time alone with you, Beca, can we hang out in our room for a bit?”

“Of course, Babe,” the musician replied.

Mo nodded. “I’ll bring the ice up to you.”

“Thanks.”

Xx

Chloe was very upset as she sat on the bed, Beca taking a seat beside her. “I’m so mad at him,” she said. “But not just because of what he tried tonight with you. I… I think I’ve been mad at him for a long time, Becs.”

The brunette nodded, gently combing her fingers through the vet’s long, red hair. “You said… is he really an alcoholic?”

“Yeah,” Chloe nodded. “He started drinking in high school and I had to pick him up, trashed out of his mind, from parties a lot. Then I went to college, and he didn’t have anyone to moderate him. I should have told my parents, but I didn’t, and it got worse. Then he got married and divorced and it just got even worse. He shows up drunk to everything. He stole money from Mom and Dad... from me… even allowance money from Mel so he could get a beer one day.” She shook her head. “He’s been to rehab; he’s had a poor liver health diagnosis… but he just keeps drinking. I’m…” She sniffled a little. “I’m so scared I’ll lose him, and I can’t do a thing to stop it.”

There was a knock at the door then and it slowly opened to let Mo come inside. She had an ice pack wrapped in a dish cloth in her hands and she brought it to the bed to sit on the edge. “My Baby Girl,” she said, stroking her fingers through her daughter’s hair. “I know you don’t want to hear this but… you know there’s nothing we can do for Tommy. Until the day he makes the decision for himself, he’s not going to stop drinking.”

The younger Beale nodded. “Yeah, I know.” Then she hissed with pain as her mom pressed the ice pack to her hand.

“And he has to learn that his actions while drunk, have consequences,” Mo went on. “Tonight, he got himself punched. And I certainly don’t blame you for punching him for making a move on Beca.”

They looked to the door then when Melissa came in and crossed the room to sit on the other side of Beca on the bed. “Hey, Slugger,” she grinned. “Heard you knocked six-foot-four-inch Tommy on his back with a single punch. Either you’re superhuman or he’s a pansy-ass.”

“It’s the first one,” Beca stated, making Chloe chuckle and blush a little.

Then Melissa tilted her head. “But I thought punching was never the answer, Chlo,” she teased. “Guess we got a peek at the real Chlocifer.”

The vet rolled her eyes but then something occurred to her. A segue had presented itself. “You say that now but just you wait until someone comes on to YOUR girlfriend like that.”

Mel totally took the opening. “I see your point, Sis. If anyone tried to kiss Hailey like that, I’d probably punch them too.”

Beca smiled to herself as Mo’s ears perked up. “Hailey?” the older woman said. “Melissa Beale, are you dating someone without telling your mother?”

“Um… yeah… kinda,” Mel replied. “We’ve been dating a few weeks now.”

“Actually,” Chloe said casually. “Beca and I are double dating with them tomorrow night.” She felt a whole lot better, now she had something else to think about, and helping her baby sister was something she could definitely focus on.

“Actually, that reminds me,” Beca added. “Chloe and I were wondering if we could borrow something to wear please, Mo? Neither of us brought double-date-worthy outfits.”

“Oh… of course, feel free to go through my closet,” Mo replied with a smile. “And Mel, you’re going to have to wear something killer to impress Hailey.”

And it was done. Melissa looked gratefully at her sister and Chloe just grinned back.

Xx

Chloe was very quiet as she and Beca lay in bed. The room was softly illuminated by one lamp and Beca just snuggled against her, softly rubbing her chest. “Dude, a lot’s happened the last two days,” she said.

Chloe snorted a little laugh at what struck her as possibly the understatement of the year. “Totes. I didn’t expect everything to just…” The vet trailed off as her light blue eyes met her girlfriend’s dark blue. “It’s a lot. I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with Maura, or Tommy’s bullshit.” She kissed the musician’s forehead. “I’m sorry you had to see me lose my temper so badly like that, Beca. I honestly can’t remember the last time that happened. I don’t want you to think that’s what I’m like and not want to be with me.”

“I’M not sorry I saw that, Chloe,” the petite brunette replied. “You were protecting me, right?”

“I…uh…” The vet blushed a little and bit her bottom lip. “Yeah, I guess I was.”

They were quiet for another moment and then Beca began to sing quietly.

“I got my ticket for the long way ‘round.
The one with the prettiest of views.
It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers,
It’s got sights to give you shivers,
But it sure would be prettier with you.”

Chloe’s eyes filled with tears, and she bit her bottom lip again as she shakily took a breath. “Beca”, she whispered.

Beca kissed her forehead. “I’m not going anywhere without you.”

Xx

Black Friday. Chloe was dozing and Beca was in the shower when a fist pounded hard enough on the door to make the vet jump.

“Holy sh…” She sat up and scowled. “It’s too early! Go away!”

“Chloe Beale, stop fucking your girlfriend and open this door right now!”

“Oh my God,” the older woman sighed. “OK, OK!” She got out of bed and went to the door to unlock and open it, leaning against the jamb with her eyebrow raised. “Seriously, Micky?”

But her sister just laughed and threw herself into her arms for a loving hug. “Hi, Chlochlo.” Michelle was next eldest after Tommy at twenty-six, and the tallest of all the girls. “Where’s this woman the kids won’t shut up about?”

With impressive if unplanned timing, Beca opened the door of the bathroom and stepped into the bedroom wearing only a short towel, with her long dark hair dripping down her chest. Micky smirked. “Wow, SHE’S with YOU?” she teased. “She’s obviously WAY too good for you!”

Beca stopped and turned at the new voice, eyebrow hiking. “Oh God… ANOTHER Beale?” she asked Chloe jokingly.

Micky laughed and punched her sister’s shoulder. “I like her already.”

The brunette chuckled as she crossed the room to hold out her hand. “I’m Beca. Sorry I’m not wearing pants… or actually anything at all.”

Chloe grinned. “Becs, this is Michelle, but she prefers Micky.”

The two women shook hands and Micky beamed the Beale smile. “Nice to meet the first person my sister’s ever brought home. Congratulations for putting up with her.”

“Shut up, Beeotch,” the vet laughed. “And get out so Beca can put some clothes on.”

Micky held up her hands and backed off. “Sure. Oh, and Mom says breakfast is ready and to not let it go cold.”

The older redhead nodded. “Hey… is Tommy here?”

“I haven’t seen him… why?”

“He and I had a fight last night,” the vet said. “I’m not ready to talk to him.”

Micky looked at Chloe’s bandaged hand and put two and two together. “Oh shit! Please tell me you punched him, Chlo!”

Beca blinked and looked back and forth between the two sisters.

“Um… yeah... I punched him.” Chloe said sheepishly.

“What did he do THIS time?” the younger redhead asked. “Let me guess, he showed up to dinner drunk and said something to piss you off?”

“No, it was worse than that,” the vet replied, biting her bottom lip as she glanced at Beca. “It’s over now. I’m just not ready to talk to him. I’m still too pissed off.”

“Ok… Oh, hey, did you hear Mel came out?” Micky said.

Chloe chuckled. “Beca and I are double-dating with her tonight.”

“Sweet!” the younger Beale said. “Anyway, get your butts downstairs before Mom sends the bloodhounds to find you.” She grinned. “And yes, I’m talking about Mark and Jack.” She turned on her heel then and walked away.

Chloe closed the door and shook her head. “I’ve just realized that you’ve now met all of my crazy family members except Zoe. I have no idea how that happened. I thought Tommy and Micky were supposed to be out of state for Thanksgiving.”

“It’s cool though,” Beca smiled. She went to the closet and pulled out fresh skinny jeans, a black t-shirt and a red flannel, then dropped her towel to get into her underwear.

“Mmmmm…” Chloe hummed softly, coming up behind her and cupping her breasts as she leaned in to kiss her neck. “Being as hot as you are, should be illegal, Ms. Mitchell.”

The musician chuckled as she turned and playfully shoved her girlfriend away. “Go shower, Doctor Beale.”

Chloe beamed back at her and went to do just that.

Xx

“Holy crap, Chlocifer!” Micky exclaimed as Chloe and Beca ambled into the kitchen to join the family for breakfast. “You broke Tommy’s nose?!”

Mel sipped her coffee and then looked over the rim of the mug as the vet and musician took seats at the table. “Asshat.”

“Asshat,” Jack repeated.

“Hey…” Chloe warned them. Jack looked down contritely. Melissa just smirked.

Beca looked around the table. “Why do you guys call her Chlocifer?”

“Because…” Micky chuckled softly. “Growing up, she was always the one keeping us on the straight and narrow. She was annoyingly good for us and therefore evil. Hence, Chlocifer.”

“She saved my life once,” a male voice said and they all looked toward the kitchen door to find Tommy there, a Band Aid across the bridge of his nose. “I got alcohol poisoning and she brought my stupid ass to the hospital. I probably would have died if she hadn’t found me.” Chloe sucked in a pained breath at the memory as her brother rounded the table to kneel next to Beca. He brought a bouquet of flowers out from behind his back and spoke quietly. “Beca, I’m sober. I haven’t had anything to drink today, and I want to sincerely apologize for what I said and did last night.”

Mo and Tom, who’d been quiet so far, looked at each other in surprise.

The man shook his head. “It apparently took my big sister punching me to finally get it into my thick skull that I need to change. I’m checking myself into a recovery facility, but I wanted to apologize to you… and to you, Chloe… before I go. I’m really sorry.”

Beca smiled softly. “It’s ok, Dude,” she said. “We’re ok.” She took the flowers and brought them to her nose. “These are beautiful, thank you.”

For a long moment, the vet just gazed at her brother. Then she looked down and smiled a little. “You sprained my hand with your stupid face,” she said. Then she got up and pulled him up onto his feet to hug him around the waist. “But I forgive you.”

Just then the kitchen door opened, and a blonde head stuck itself into the room. “Sorry, I’m late,” Zoe grinned. “What did I miss?”

The vet blinked and then went to hug her little sister. “Oh my God,” she said. “I can’t believe… you’re all here,” she said.

But Tommy just smiled. “Of course we’re all here. You’re here, and we all wanted to see you. We miss you, Big Sister. Don’t you know that you’re the glue that holds us all together? You fix us, Chloe.”

Chloe’s eyes filled with tears as she gazed speechlessly at her siblings. Jack was looking at her like she was the thing he loved most in the world. Like ice-cream. “I love you guys,” she sniffled then. “Thank you.”

Tommy nodded and smiled back at her. Then he looked down. “I need to get a cab and get going.”

Chloe locked eyes with her girlfriend, communicating silently with her. Beca just smiled and nodded slightly. “Not a chance,” the vet said. “I’m driving you.”

“But… you should stay with Beca…” Tommy protested but Chloe shook her head.

“Beca totes gets it. I’m driving you. Dad, can I borrow your car?”

Tom nodded and tossed his keys to her. “Go on.”

Chloe nodded in reply and then went back to Beca’s side to crouch next to her chair. “I’ll probably be a couple of hours or maybe a little longer,” she said quietly.

Beca let everything and everyone in the room fade out as she looked into Chloe’s gorgeous blue eyes. Then she held her cheeks and leaned in to kiss her. “Take care of him. You know where I’ll be when you get back,” she replied. “Right here, waiting for you.”

“I fucking love you,” the vet stated, not caring an iota who might be listening.

Beca grinned happily. “I love you too, Babe.”

Chloe straightened then and went outside to wait as Tommy said his goodbyes. As the kitchen door swung shut behind them, the vet heard her girlfriend’s teasing tone. “This is all of you guys now, right? No more surprise Beales?”

And the family just laughed along with her.

Chapter Text

Chloe flopped onto her bed on her stomach, legs dangling out over the end as she groaned softly. “I don’t think I have a single tear left to cry,” she stated. “My family is ridiculously sweet.”

Beca chuckled from the window seat, where she was messing around with music arrangements on her laptop. She’d moved upstairs to let Chloe have some time alone with her siblings after she’d gotten back from dropping Tommy off and getting him settled. Now the musician had earphones draped around her neck and had shed her flannel to reveal the band t-shirt she was wearing underneath. Chloe thought it was both sexy and adorable. “I can believe that,” the brunette said.

“I want to get a haircut, Becs,” the vet said after a thoughtful moment.

Dark eyebrows lifted. “Like… now?”

“Yeah,” Chloe nodded. “Now, before our double date tonight. I’m about three months overdue and I can’t ever seem to find time for it. Want to come with? Get caffeinated?”

“Mmmm...” Beca set her gear aside and got up to amble over and flop on top of her girlfriend, forcing a little oof out of her.

“How much do you want to get taken off?”

“A few inches, I think,” the vet said thoughtfully as Beca ran her fingers through the soft, red length.

“Hey, Chlo?”

“Mmmm?”

“Are you happy?”

Chloe smiled reflexively up at her. “Yeah, very, why?”

The brunette sighed softly. “Because I want you to be, and I want to make sure that you’re getting what you need from... us. I know I’m still a little squirrelly and…”

“You love me, right?” the redhead interrupted quietly, holding their eye contact as she absently ran her fingertips along the neck of her lover’s t-shirt.

Beca grinned. “A totally disgusting amount actually.”

Chloe beamed back at her. “Then I’m happy and I totes have what I need.”

“That’s it?” the brunette asked, surprised.

“That’s it,” Chloe replied simply.

“You’re still a total weirdo, Chlo,” Beca joked.

“Maybe,” the vet laughed. “But I’m YOUR weirdo.”

Xx

“Wow...” Beca blinked and then swallowed as Chloe emerged from the hair salon, slipping her purse on over her head. “Babe.”

“You don’t like it?” the vet asked, eyebrows lifted.

“On the contrary,” the musician replied. “Wow… Chloe… you look absolutely stunning.”

Chloe had had several inches cut and her hair now fell in waves that barely brushed her shoulders. Somehow, it made her light blue eyes pop even more. She accepted a coffee from Beca with an almost sheepish grin and then tangled their fingers together. “Thanks, Becs. Want to take a walk with me? Do some shopping?”

The musician didn’t have to be asked twice. They strolled along the street, stopping every now and again to look at clothes in store windows, and ducking into small boutiques for Chloe to oooh and aahh over accessories. Beca rolled her eyes affectionately when her lover found a little porcelain llama and couldn’t resist buying it for her. The vet bounced on the balls of her sneakers and hugged it to her chest.

“You should call her Chloe,” the brunette said.

Chloe’s eyebrows lifted in question. “Why?”

“Because she’s sweet and adorable and... oh my God... what have you turned me into, Doctor Beale?! Why am I being so mushy?!”

Chloe laughed and wrapped her arm around Beca's waist to guide her out of the store and back into the street. “I seem to have that effect on people named Beca. Besides, my llama’s tiny. I should call her THAT instead.”

“Shut UP, Dude! I’m not that small!” But the musician wrapped her arm around her girlfriend in return and grinned at her.

They turned a corner, almost bumping into a man walking in the opposite direction and Chloe stopped dead as she recognized him. “David, wow,” she said softly, separating herself from Beca as she held up her hands in reflex.

“Chloe?” A smile rose to the man’s face, and he swept the vet up into a bear hug that made her bones creak. “Holy shit! How long has it been?”

“Too long,” Chloe laughed. “Put me down before you squash me to death.” Her feet touched the ground and she looked at Beca then, who was just watching the goings on with an amused look on her face. “Beca, this is David Swan, a very old friend of mine from high school.” She tangled her fingers with the musician and drew her closer. “David, this is Beca Mitchell, my girlfriend.”

Thick dark eyebrows lifted. “Girlfriend, huh? Was I that bad in bed?!”

Beca looked down, flattening her lips and desperately fighting the urge to roll her eyes.

But Chloe didn’t hold HER eye-roll back and gave him a little affectionate shove too for good measure. “Yeah, you have a tiny dick, Swan.”

He chuckled then. “Sorry, it’s really nice to meet you, Beca. Chloe and I were just friends, I swear. How long have you two been together?”

“About a month,” the musician replied.

“Best month of my life,” Chloe added with a beaming smile.

“You look happy, Chlobo,” the man nodded. “You look... really good.”

“You too, Davy.”

Silence stretched between them then and Beca's eyebrows lifted. “We should go, Honey,” she said.

Chloe nodded. “Right. Um... it was so great to see you, David.”

“You too, Chloe. Seeya.” And with a last smile over his shoulder, David continued on his way.

“What was that?” Beca asked. “I thought he said you two hadn’t ever...”

“We didn’t,” the vet replied with a sad smile. She took her lover’s hand to keep walking. “But I was always aware of how he felt about me.”

“Ooohhh…” Beca murmured.

Xx

Maureen Beale was about the same height as Chloe but was two inches taller than Beca so the borrowed pants the musician was wearing were slightly too long. However, she solved the problem by also borrowing a pair of heels. She was wearing one of her own shirts and had accessorized with jewelry offered by Mo from her jewelry box.

Chloe was wearing dark skinny jeans and black heels with a flowing white shirt and a long gold pendant that dipped into her cleavage. Beca couldn’t keep her hands off her. It was almost weird but every time the brunette looked at her girlfriend, she was hit with a wave of desire. She’d found Chloe desirable since the first moment she’d seen her, but there was something about her new haircut.

“Holy shit,” Beca murmured as she put her hands on the vet’s hips and pressed her forehead to the back of her neck. “You’re SO hot.”

“Jeez, Beca,” the vet teased. “If I’d known cutting my hair would garner this reaction, I’d have done it sooner.” She dabbed perfume on her wrists, neck and then playfully into her cleavage. “I’d better go see if Mel is ok. She looked a bit nervous earlier.”

“She looked a bit green actually,” Beca chuckled softly.

“Mmmmm... I’ll be back.”

Chloe ambled out of the bedroom, fixing her sleeves, and headed for her youngest sister’s room. She tapped lightly on the door and waited for permission to enter. Melissa was standing by the window and was ready to go.

“Hey.”

“Wow,” Chloe said softly. “When did my baby sister grow up into this gorgeous woman?”

Mel was wearing a black strapless dress with heels. Her red hair was up in an intricate braid and a gold pendant was nestled at her throat. Her makeup, done by Beca, highlighted her light blue eyes and her lipstick, a shade darker than she normally wore, added a touch of maturity to her face.

“Beca helped me,” the younger Beale said with a smile. “She’s really cool, Chlo.”

“Yeah, she really is,” the vet beamed. She moved closer to her sister then and rubbed her upper arms. “How are you feeling? Nervous?”

“Yeah,” Mel breathed, rubbing her slightly sweaty palms on her thighs. “I don’t want to screw up or look stupid in front of Hailey.”

Chloe nodded and then sat down on the bed. “Let me share some older sister wisdom with you?”

“Ok,” the girl nodded.

“Try to relax... because I can guarantee she’s having the same worries.”

“Oh...” the younger Beale breathed.

“Just follow mine and Beca’s lead. Everything’s going to be great. I promise.”

“Ok,” Mel nodded again. They both looked at the door then as Beca knocked on the door jamb.

“Ready to go?” she asked with a smile. “Shouldn’t keep a lady waiting.”

“That’s right,” Chloe agreed. “C’mon, Kiddo.”

They headed downstairs and, after some sage advice to Mel from Mo, headed out to pick Hailey up. Beca and Chloe sat in the back while Melissa carefully drove, and they waited as the younger Beale went to Hailey’s front door, anxiously shifting from foot to foot as she rang the doorbell.

“This is kinda adorable,” Beca said quietly as she leaned against her girlfriend. “Do you remember your first relationship?”

“Yeah, I do,” Chloe chuckled. “But I’ll tell you about it another day when we have more time.”

“Ok,” the brunette replied amiably.

Then Melissa and Hailey were getting into the car, looking over their shoulders at the two older women. “Hailey, this is my sister Chloe. And this...” She grinned impishly. “Is my sister-in-law, Beca.”

Dark eyebrows shot up as Beca blinked, but Chloe just laughed softly. “Hi, Hailey, it’s really great to meet you.”

“Absolutely,” Beca added as she recovered from Melissa’s teasing. “Mel’s told us a lot about you.”

“You too,” Hailey replied with a smile, her soft green eyes landing affectionately on her girlfriend. “She really loves you guys.”

Mel cleared her throat and smiled. “They’re ok,” she allowed. “Meh.”

The eldest Beale laughed again and rolled her eyes. “High praise indeed. Let’s get going, Shrimple.”

“Ok, Chlocifer.”

The sisters grinned at each other, then Melissa started the car to drive them to the restaurant. When they arrived, Mel and Hailey looked nervously at each other for a long moment but Beca just cleared her throat and tugged on Chloe’s hand.

“Come on, Guys. Nothing to be worried about. Let’s go in.”

They all got out of the car and the younger girls preceded Beca and Chloe into the restaurant. Mel smiled at the hostess. “Hi, I have a reservation for four under Melissa Beale please.”

“Sure! Follow me please,” the woman replied. She grabbed some menus and led the women to a cozy booth. Beca and Chloe slid in on one side of the table, and Mel and Hailey on the other.

“Great choice of restaurant,” Chloe said as she picked up a sweating pitcher of ice-water and poured them each a glass. “It’s one of my favorites.”

“Mine too,” Hailey said a little shyly. “My parents took me here for my sixteenth birthday.” She smiled a little. “Melissa told me you’re a vet, Chloe? Do you like it?”

“I love it,” the redhead immediately replied. “Training as a vet was the best decision I’ve ever made.” She looked at Beca then and leaned in to kiss her softly. “Well, maybe the second best.”

The musician melted, and she shook her head as a slight blush heated her cheeks. “You’re such a mush ball, Dude.”

“Gross,” Mel teased, but then she froze as Hailey leaned close to her and cupping her jaw, kissed her too.

“You’re the exact same type of mush ball as your sister, and you know it,” the younger woman said as she eased back with a smile.

Beca pursed her lips, impressed. “A woman with a brass pair. I love it.”

Melissa laughed softly and laced her fingers into her girlfriend’s.

As their chuckles wound down, the musician looked over the cocktail menu. “So, any idea what college courses you want to take? Do you have any career aspirations, Hailey?”

“Actually,” the girl said. “I... um... I want to be a vet.”

Chloe’s ears perked up. “Really? That’s so cool. Tell me more!”

“Well,” Hailey went on. “I really love animals. I always have. And taking care of them is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’d really appreciate some insight and advice, Chloe, if you have any?”

Beca gently elbowed her girlfriend. “Go on, Doctor Beale. You know you want to!”

“Welllllll...” the older Beale mused. “There’s so much... Jeez. Well firstly, it’s not an easy job. You need to be prepared to take the awful with the amazing… the bites with the licks, so to speak… and frankly, you can’t really be afraid of anything. I handle everything from dogs to birds to snakes and large spiders.” She pulled up her sleeves and held out her arms, turning her hands over and back. “You have to be prepared to get scars.” She pointed out the small and larger white marks on her tanned skin. “But most of all, you have to be willing to do the hard things for the good of the animal. You have to be ready to stay up all night with them if they’re in the ICU. And you have to be ok with euthanasia, if it’s the best thing for them.” Chloe felt Beca’s hand on her thigh squeeze gently and she smiled sadly. “That’s the hardest part of it for me.”

“Euthanasia is?” Hailey asked.

“Yeah,” Chloe nodded. “I know when I recommend the decision, it’s the right thing to do but...” She frowned. “Every time I see the pentobarbital syringe...” She shook her head. “I just find it hard to deliberately take an animal’s life, I guess.”

“You have a soft heart, Chlo,” Melissa said, Beca nodding her agreement. “I totally get why that’d be hard for you.”

The redhead nodded too. “But the good news is, as an overall career, it’s very rewarding and once you have experience under your belt, it’s a job you can do anywhere.”

Hailey nodded, obviously giving it some thought. Then she looked at Beca. “And Mel said you’re a composer?”

“Yeah,” the brunette replied. “I write music and songs for movies and TV shows.” She rattled off her list and the girl’s eyes widened.

“That’s so cool. You’re like famous!”

“Nah,” Beca shrugged. “I suppose you could say I’m successful, but I’m not famous.”

“She’s also modest,” Chloe said with a smile as their server came to take their drink orders.

“So,” Beca said after a moment. “Where did you guys meet? School?”

“Actually no,” Mel said, squeezing her girlfriend’s hand. “We don’t go to the same school. We met at a gymnastics competition. Hailey kicked my ass.”

“Pshaww...” the girl laughed. “I didn’t kick your ass, Babe. You came in like a fraction behind me.”

“It was her eyes though,” Mel added. “After I got over losing to her, I had to talk to her because her eyes were... are... amazing.”

“Awww...” Hailey said with a smile. “It was that for me too. You Beales and your blue eyes.”

“I know, right?” Beca sighed a little dreamily. “It was that for me too.”

“Really?” Chloe asked. “What else?”

“Well... honestly, it was the whole package. You’re kinda gorgeous, Chlo.”

“Mmmm...” Hailey added as she gazed at Melissa. “You too. Mel.”

The two Beale girls were blushing and Beca decided to let them off the hook by picking up her menu again. “I’m starving. How about we get an appetizer? What do you think?”

“Onion rings,” Chloe and Melissa said together and then fist-bumped each other with matching grins.

Beca tilted her head. “How about something a little healthier than onion rings?”

The redheads looked disappointed for a moment and then Melissa looked at the options. “How about the spinach dip? Spinach is healthy, right?”

Beca looked back dubiously at her. “Hmmm... ok, I’ll approve,” she joked.

The older Beale nodded. “Good choice. Good for you, Hailey?”

“Perfect,” the girl replied, as the server set their drinks on the table.

“Thanks, we’ll take the spinach dip and onion rings appetizers too,” Chloe said, then squirmed as Beca poked her side. “What? We never actually said an absolute no to the onion rings.” She rubbed her side and took a sip of her cocktail, studiously ignoring the side-eyed glare her girlfriend was sending her way, but she finally gave in and sighed. “Sorry, Becs.”

*cough* “Whipped.” *cough*. Beca and Chloe glared at Melissa, who held up her hands and sniggered. “Tell me I’m wrong.”

Light blue eyes rolled. “Screw you, Shrimple.”

“Back at you, Chlocifer!”

Beca and Hailey just looked at each other and sighed.

Xx

As their dinner plates were being cleared away by their server, during a lull in the conversation, Chloe watched as Hailey and Mel smiled at each other and laced their fingers together. “How are you doing,” she asked softly. “Are you enjoying being yourselves as a couple?”

“I was really nervous about this, but it’s been amazing,” Hailey said softly. “Thanks, Bechloe, for doing this for us.”

Beca leaned closer. “Sorry… what did you call us?”

“Bechloe,” Melissa repeated with a little laugh. “I coined it earlier as your ship name.”

“I see,” the brunette said thoughtfully. “Sooooo… does that make you two Melley? Or Halissa?”

Chloe sniggered behind her cocktail glass. “Both of those sounds like awful medical conditions.”

Her sister sighed. “Of COURSE you had to go there.”

Beca put her hand on her lover’s thigh. “I kinda like Halissa.”

“Bechloe is cooler,” Hailey said. “But Halissa is definitely better than Melley.”

“Guys, why are we even talking about this?” Mel stated. “It’s not like anyone is going to actually use it.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Beca teased. “Especially when I tell Jack and Mark.”

The younger Beale looked horrified for a moment. “You wouldn’t!”

“She totes would,” Chloe commented as she picked the cherry out of her drink and bit it off its stalk.

“Popping your cherry, Chlo?” Melissa shot at her.

But the vet just winked. “Oh no, that was YEARS ago, Baby Girl,” she said. “Almost longer ago than you’ve been alive.”

“Seriously?” Mel asked, suddenly interested. “Spill, Sis! You were sixteen when you lost your virginity?”

“Pssh,” Chloe scoffed. “You don’t want to hear about that.”

“We do!” the younger Beale exclaimed.

“Uh… pretty sure you don’t. It was with a guy. And it kinda sucked anyway.” The vet shrugged. “Dessert anyone?”

The younger girls let the subject go as they looked at the dessert menu to check out their options.

“Chloe?” Beca said softly. “Is that something you don’t want to talk about?”

The vet looked at her lover and leaned in to kiss her forehead. “Not with Mel… not yet. I don’t want her to have any expectations one way or another. I just want her to have her own experience.”

“You’re an amazing sister, Chloe,” the musician smiled. “Your siblings are so lucky to have you.”

“Lemon meringue pie!” Hailey exclaimed. “My favorite! Want to share with me, Mel?”

“Whatever you want to do, Babe,” Melissa replied with a smile.

Chloe perused the menu and then looked at Beca before leaning close to whisper in her ear. “I think I’d rather have you for dessert,” she said. “I could get some chocolate ice-cream and hot fudge sauce to lick off your body? Make a BecaSundae?”

“That could get very sticky,” the musician replied, eyes half-lidded. She leaned in and kissed her lover deeply, then eased back, popping her bottom lip sensually. “Sounds amazing.”

As they parted, they realized that the two younger girls were staring at them, eyes wide. “You do THAT in public?” Mel asked, finally blinking.

“No… not usually,” Beca replied with a blush as she caught her breath. “Sorry… I got a little carried away.”

“Lucky me,” Chloe grinned, ears a little pink.

Everyone leaned back in their seat and took a sip of their drink simultaneously.

Hailey cleared her throat then. “So… dessert?”

Xx

“Tonight was a lot of fun,” Beca said quietly into the dimness, eyes closed as Chloe’s fingertips trailed up and down her bare back.

The redhead chuckled softly. “You mean the dinner… or the dessert?”

“Yes,” the musician stated as she let herself relax bonelessly on her lover. Her body was still tingling but along with that sensation, a comfortable lethargy swept over her. “I think I drank too much.”

“You didn’t drink THAT much,” Chloe replied with a frown. “Just a couple of cocktails, right?”

“Five,” Beca stated. “I drank five cocktails, Chlo.”

“Ha! I wasn’t paying attention,” the vet replied.

“Oh… and thanks for paying for dinner, Babe. I’ll get the next one.”

“Welcome,” the redhead smiled. “Thanks for coming down here with me. I know it wasn’t for long but... it was really nice just relaxing with everyone.”

“It was,” the musician agreed as she cupped her lover’s breast and caressed gently.

Chloe sighed softly and closed her eyes. “We’re not moving too fast, are we, Becs?”

The caresses stopped and Beca propped herself up on one elbow to gaze down at her lover. Her face was impassive, but her heart was clenching in her chest. “Are you having… second thoughts about us?”

“That... just it,” Chloe said slowly. “I’m not. At all. In fact, I want to move forward with you but, having only been together almost five weeks, it might be way too soon to ask.”

“Fuck, Chlo, you’re not... like... proposing or something, are you?” Beca asked, eyes wide.

The redhead laughed softly. “Well, I can see from your reaction that THAT wouldn’t be the right thing to do.” She kissed the smaller woman’s forehead. “But no, I wasn’t going to propose. I WAS, however, going to ask you something else.”

“Go ahead,” Beca nodded.

“I... um... I hate sleeping without you. Can we... um... can we trade nights at each other’s places so we can sleep together?”

“How about five nights together and two of space?” Beca suggested. “I sometimes need...”

“You don’t have to explain,” Chloe said gently. “Time alone is healthy too. Plus, when I'm working nights, I’ll probably stay at mine so I can sleep during the day.”

“Cool. We’ll get into a rhythm,” the musician smiled. “I’ll clear half a drawer for you and an inch of space in my closet too.”

“Generous,” Chloe stated seriously. “We should probably ask Bella’s permission too. She’ll also be splitting her nights between two places.”

The brunette laughed and shook her head. “She loves you more than she does me. She’ll be thrilled.” she tilted her head then. “I just realized something. You’re a vet and a total animal lover... who has no pets. What’s THAT about?”

“I know,” Chloe said ruefully. “I wanted to get a dog but... my hours aren’t exactly conducive to having one.”

“Then,” Beca said as she softly kissed her lover. “We’ll just have to share Bella.”

“We’re going to have kids together some day too though, right?” the redhead asked nervously.

The musician was quiet for a long moment. Chloe got even more nervous as she waited for an answer. “I think... when we’re both ready, Dr. Beale, we’re going to move in together and get married and have kids.”

A held breath whooshed out of the vet. “You really see that future for us?” she asked, pressing their foreheads together.

“I can’t see the future, Chlo,” Beca smiled as she caught the tear that spilled from her lover’s eye on her thumb. “But it’s what I daydream about.” She chuckled then. “Wow, I can’t believe I just admitted that. Told you I drank too much.”

“I love you,” Chloe whispered, voice stolen. “And I can’t wait to have those things with you.”

“We’re gonna make it, Chlo.”

“God, I really, really hope so.”

Xx

Chloe bit her lip and gazed out the window as Tom pulled his truck out of the driveway and headed toward the airport.

“Are you sad, Chloe?” Jack asked. He was nestled in his eldest sister’s lap and was holding her hand against his chest.

“A little, Buddy,” the older Beale replied with a deep swallow. “I’m going to miss you all.”

“Then just come home.”

Beca smiled. To a seven-year-old brain, that made perfect sense.

Chloe swallowed again, tears welling in her eyes. “I can’t, JackSparrow,” she replied. “My life with Beca and my job are in Los Angeles.”

“Do you love them more than me and Mark?” Jack’s bottom lip quivered.

“Of course not,” the vet replied softly. “But, when kids grow up, they have to make their own life. To have their own family. I want that with Beca in Los Angeles, Jackie. I love Mom and Dad… and all our brothers and sisters but I’m a grown up.”

“I know,” the little boy sighed. “And I like Beca. She’s pretty and she’s nice to us.”

Beca pretended not to hear but a smile spread across her lips as she looked out the opposite window.

“She’s all of those things and much more,” Chloe told him. “And I promise, during summer break next year, you and Mark… and Melissa if she wants to… can come and stay with us in Los Angeles for a week. We’ll have a lot of fun, ok?”

“Ok,” Jack nodded, then snuggled closer to his sister. “Love you, Chloe.”

“Ditto, Baby boy.”

Later, after tearful hugs at security with Mo and Tom, Beca and Chloe made their way to their gate and took seats, their bags on the floor between their feet. Beca didn’t say anything, but instead, held her lover’s hand and let her just…

Be.

Chapter Text

“Oh shit!” Aubrey exclaimed as the toy dog she was holding squirmed out of her arms. Luckily Chloe was there to catch him before he hit the floor on his fully casted, right front leg. “Thanks, Chlo.”

“No problem,” the vet chuckled as she handed him back. “I almost dropped this rascal myself earlier. He’s the squirmiest dog I’ve ever seen; hates being held.”

“Speaking of squirmy,” the blonde went on as she eased her charge into a cage and closed the door. “How’s Bella doing? Paw all healed?”

“Absolutely,” Chloe nodded. “She’s good as new.”

“Beca must be relieved.”

“She is. Neither of us expected the infection to come back but, leaving the drain in a little longer, and the extended run of antibiotics seems to have cleared it for good, I think.” She grimaced. “I hope.”

“And… um… how are things with you and Beca?” Aubrey didn’t see the affectionate eyeroll her friend shot her way.

“Everything’s fine, Aubs. The past three months have been… an adjustment, I’ll admit… but things are great.”

“That’s what happens when you slowly move in together. You should just ask her to make it official.”

“We haven’t moved in together,” Chloe protested. “We just… we happen to sleep in the same bed sometimes.”

“Every night!” the vet tech laughed.

“Not every…” Chloe paused as she rethought that. For the first month after Thanksgiving, they’d spent a few nights a week together but since Christmas, it’d become every night and they’d even stopped asking who was going where. Chloe always just ended up in Beca’s bed, spooned against her with Bella curled up at their feet. Simple as that. “Huh.”

“Right,” Aubrey laughed. “Jeez, Chloe, just ask her already.”

“Ask who what?” Beca asked as she (with her usual impeccable timing) popped her head into the Pet Hotel section of the practice. She handed over a cup each to her girlfriend and friend. “I come bearing coffee.”

“Thanks, Babe,” Chloe grinned. “And um… Aubrey was just… uh…”

Aubrey tilted her head and gave her best friend a pointed look. “Aubrey was wondering why Chloe seems to have no balls these days.”

“Balls… about what?” Beca asked uncertainly as the redhead glared at the vet tech.

“Nothing…” Chloe said quickly. “Don’t listen to her. She’s crazy.”

Beca shrugged as the vet shook her head in exasperation. “Ok then.” She turned to leave, then stopped suddenly and turned back to lift a hand in question. “Hey, by the way, I was just thinking on the way over here… you’re sleeping at my place every night anyway so... what do you think about officially moving in together?”

Chloe’s eyes widened. “Uh…”

Beca nodded. “No big deal if you don’t want to. I…” She nodded again as she headed back out the door. “We can talk about it later. Seeya.”

Aubrey started laughing helplessly. “Now SHE has balls.”

The vet shook herself out of her surprise and went after her girlfriend. “Becs, wait.”

The musician paused and turned around, eyebrows raised. “Yeah?”

“Of COURSE I want to move in with you. You just caught me off-guard. Aubrey was just saying I should ask YOU.”

“But… my place is bigger…”

“Right,” Chloe laughed softly. “I want us to live at your place but… I didn’t want to just invite myself, you know?”

Beca nodded and her eyes grew infinitely soft. “I love you, Chlo,” she said. “You could’ve asked. I would’ve been thrilled.”

“Good to know,” the vet replied, almost shyly. “And I love you too.”

“Let’s talk about it this evening,” the musician said then. “I have to get home for a video call with Disney-Pixar. They accepted all three songs and want to talk about next steps.” She couldn’t help the happy grin that stretched her lips.

Chloe hugged her hard and kissed her temple. “That’s amazing, Becs! Congratulations!”

“Thanks. Gotta run, Beautiful. See you tonight.”

“Later!”

Xx

Chloe was frowning, looking at a forgotten price tag on the garment in her hands. “Beca, did you pay three hundred dollars for these?”

“What?! No! Of course not!”

Light blue eyes narrowed. “Becs.” The vet showed her girlfriend the tag, tilting her head in question.

Dark blue eyes lowered. “Shit... Ok… yes.”

“Babe,” Chloe sighed. “I know you’re being an amazing girlfriend, but I really don’t need you to do stuff like this for me.”

Beca got up and walked to the bedroom window to gaze out as Chloe set the pair of admittedly gorgeous silk pajamas down. “I know... but...”

The vet sighed and shook her head. “Becs, they’re fabulous… really… but I don’t need to wear three hundred dollars of silk on my back when I’m sleeping… especially since I’d rather just sleep naked with you.”

A little smile lifted Beca’s lips as she nodded and moved back to the bed to sit down. “Can I tell you something, Chlo?”

Chloe nodded immediately. “Of course, you can tell me anything.”

“I felt alone for a long time. Before the assault… before I graduated college… even before I went to college… I’ve always felt some form of alone. And now that I’m not, I want to do things like buying the woman I love nice stuff.” She paused as she thought about the ring that had been tucked away in her underwear drawer for a few days. She and Chloe were together pretty much five months now, but she wanted to wait for a while… to feel Chloe out a bit more about being ready… before she…

Chloe chuckled. “Earth to Beca?”

“Sorry.” The musician laughed a little. “Got caught up in my own head there for a sec. Anyway…”

“Beca… are you rich?” the vet suddenly asked.

The unexpected but honest question hovered between them, and the brunette suddenly realized it was something they’d never really touched on.

“Define… rich?” Beca asked slowly.

Chloe thought about that. “Right at this moment, I have about eight hundred dollars in my checking account and about twelve grand in savings. Do you have more than that?”

Beca nodded a little sheepishly. “I’m not sure how m... um... probably... yeah.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket and logged into her banking app. She honestly didn’t know how much she had in her accounts. “Well, I have about a hundred and eighteen thousand in my checking account, which is mostly royalties from my music deals… and um…” Her eyes lifted to Chloe’s face, but the vet was just smiling. “I have about three million in savings and my investments are healthy too. I’d have to ask my accountant about that though.”

“Ok… wait…” Chloe laughed. “You could’ve just said ‘I have an accountant’ and it would’ve answered my question.” She kissed Beca’s lips gently. “I no longer feel conflicted about the pajamas.” They shared a smile, but then Chloe sobered. “But Beca, I don’t want you to feel like you have to spend a lot of money on me, ok?”

“I don’t feel like I HAVE to, Chloe, but… I’d like to. I’ve never had someone I wanted to do this for before… so please… let me?”

The redhead suddenly realized something. “Before you, I’d never had someone I wanted to bring home to meet my family,” she said softly. “And before me, you’d never had someone you wanted to spend your wealth on. I totes get it.”

The brunette smiled. “Good, so I guess I’m not taking the pajamas back to the store?”

Chloe just grinned and started to strip.

Xx

Beca’s Dad had arrived at sunrise and now, in the early Los Angeles morning, the Mitchells sat quietly facing each other in a booth, the remnants of their breakfast bussed to one side. At the table’s center, a small velvet box, with its lid open, sat sedately. The ring inside it twinkled gently in the light from the sun streaming through the restaurant window.

“It’s gorgeous, Beca,” John said softly. “When are you going to ask her?”

The musician snapped the box closed and put it back into a zipped pocket in her purse. “We just officially moved in together last weekend,” she said. “And I know I should wait a little longer but, I love her so much, Dad. I want to marry her.”

“And she feels the same way?”

“I know she loves me. I feel it every single moment we’re together… but marriage… it’s a big step, right? We’ve been together six months now and, even though I’ve loved her since probably our first date… it’s a lot and maybe… maybe I should wait a little longer... right?” Beca was conflicted. She knew what she wanted but what if it wasn’t what Chloe wanted yet? She didn’t want to ruin what they had by jumping in too fast.

Her Dad was quiet for a while but then he looked down. “I wanted to propose to your mom at the end of our first date,” he admitted. “But I waited three months.”

“How did I not know that?” Beca asked with a smile. “I just assumed you did the whole ‘wait two years’ thing.”

“We hadn’t lived together before we got married and boy was that an adjustment, I’ll tell you.” The man smiled. “But we made it work and we were happy for a long time.”

The musician looked down. “What changed?”

John shook his head and absently smoothed his beard down. “It was simple, Beca. I met Sheila and fell in love with her the way you love Chloe… with that all-consuming fire. Your mom and mine’s spark had just gone out over the years and, while I still love her to this day, I realized I wasn’t IN love with her anymore. I know I handled the whole thing badly, Becs, but all I could think about was being with Sheila.”

Beca leaned back in her seat and nodded slowly. “I still don’t agree with what you did, Dad,” she said. “But maybe… maybe I understand WHY a little better. I can’t imagine not being with Chloe.”

“Well, I certainly can’t wait to meet her,” her dad replied. “I’m just sorry it’s taken so long. I really wanted to get here sooner.”

“You’re here now. That’s all that matters.” Beca looked at her watch. “Actually, she should be finishing her night shift now. Want to go home and meet her before she has to get some sleep?”

“Absolutely,” John replied with a smile. He tossed enough cash onto the table to cover their meal and a generous tip, then slid out of the booth. “If she’s asleep when we get there, don’t wake her though.”

“Yeah, good call, Dad.”

Xx

Chloe was pacing anxiously back and forth in the living room. She’d just gotten home from work and Beca had texted her that she and her dad were ten minutes away. Now, for some reason, an irrational fear that Doctor Mitchell wouldn’t like her was weighing heavily on her.

“Calm down, Chlocifer,” she told herself. “You know it’s going to be ok. I mean… if he doesn’t like you, it’s not like Beca is going to leave you or…” She stopped pacing and swallowed hard as sudden uncertainty made her feel like throwing up. What if Beca DID leave her? “No, stop,” she told herself firmly. “Beca loves you, Idiot.” She was so busy being anxious that she didn’t hear her girlfriend’s key turning in the lock.

“Hey, Chlo,” Beca said as she led her dad into the living room.

The vet jumped and whirled. “Hey!” she said, much too loudly. “Hi, sorry…” She laughed a little. “I… didn’t hear you come in.” She stepped forward quickly, hand extended. “Doctor Mitchell, it’s an honor to meet you, Sir.”

John looked amused for a moment. “Likewise, Doctor Beale,” he said formally as he firmly shook her hand.

Beca chuckled softly. “Chlo, your energy is making me itch. Breathe, Honey.”

“Sorry,” the redhead said sheepishly, then blew out a long breath. “I’m ridiculously nervous for some reason.”

John smiled and squeezed her hand again, gently this time. “Call me John. Honestly, Chloe, you’ve made my daughter happier than I’ve ever seen her. I already love you for that.”

The vet blinked and then swallowed as unexpected tears rose in her light blue eyes. “Wow,” she said softly. “Thank you, John.”

The musician went to her and hugged her, dropping a chaste kiss on her lips. “How was your night, Honey?”

Chloe smiled widely. “I treated my first chinchilla in years. It was epic. His name was Clyde and he had a little eye infection.”

“Poor Clyde,” John said sympathetically.

“Right?!” the vet said. “But we fixed him right up with antibiotics. He was so soft. I couldn’t stop rubbing his coat against my face. I think his mom thought I was a bit crazy.”

“You ARE a bit crazy, Chlo,” Beca teased. “Hey, you want me to make you something to eat before bed?”

“Oh, yes, thanks, Becs. I was going to stay up and visit with you both for a while, if that’s ok?”

“Aren’t you tired, Sweetie?” John asked.

“I’m kinda hyped up actually,” Chloe deadpanned. “It’s the chinchilla’s fault.”

Beca grinned, shaking her head. “She’s actually not really kidding, Dad. Furry things make her seriously hyper.”

The man chuckled softly. “Well, why don’t we sit down, Chloe, while Rebeca gets your breakfast.”

The brunette rolled her eyes. “You know, there isn’t a single person in this world who calls me that other than you, Dad?”

“Good, ‘cos there’s no one other than you who calls me Dad.”

Beca smiled and ambled away into the kitchen. Chloe sat in an armchair and tucked her legs up underneath her as she pulled the sleeves of her shirt down over her hands. She was still a little nervous about being alone with her girlfriend’s father, but she took a deep breath and smiled. “So… you’re a college professor, John?”

“That’s right,” John nodded. “And, just like you, I love my job…”

Xx

It was almost noon and Chloe had been up twenty-two hours. She was snuggled against Beca on the sofa and was barely able to keep her eyes open as she listened to John sharing stories about her lover as a child. Then the brunette was gently shaking her awake.

“Baby, you need to get some sleep, ok?”

“I’m sorry,” the vet murmured. “I wanted…”

Beca kissed her forehead and smiled. “Don’t apologize. You’re a trooper, Chlo, but it’s time to sleep now. I was thinking we could go out for dinner tonight, if you’re up to it?”

“Definitely,” the redhead smiled, perking up a little as she dragged herself up off the sofa and dropped a kiss on the top of the musician’s head. “See you both later.”

“Sweet dreams, Chloe,” the man replied with a smile.

Ten minutes later, the vet was in bed, leaving Beca and her dad to talk alone. “She’s amazing, right?” the musician said with a soft smile.

“She’s even better than I’d hoped,” her dad admitted. “Smart, beautiful, kind, funny… I can see why you love her so much. And she obviously loves you too. I’m just so happy for you both, Beca.”

“Thanks, Dad,” the brunette replied. “So much has changed in the last six months. It’s…” Just then, Beca’s phone rang, and she looked at the screen with a frown. “Sorry, excuse me. It might be work.” She hit the answer button. “Hi, this is Beca.”

“Ms. Beca Mitchell?” a voice on the other end of the line said.

“Yes, speaking.”

“Beca, this is Detective Jesse Swanson. You may not remember me but…”

“Atlanta P.D.” Beca interrupted softly. “I do remember you.”

John sat forward in his chair as he watched his daughter listen intently. Suddenly, her face blanched and her eyes widened, then the phone fell from her suddenly nerveless fingers to bounce on the thick rug under her feet. Her Dad could hear Detective Swanson still talking and he picked up the device. “Excuse me... Detective, Beca’s not able to talk right now. I’m her father. What’s going on?”

Beca felt like throwing up. The anxiety in her chest was making it hurt intensely. “Chlo,” she whispered. “Chloe?” she said a little louder as her vision began to skew. “Chloe?!” she called, pressing her hand against her chest and trying not to pass out as she desperately tried to pull more air into her lungs. “CHLOOEEEE!!!!!” she screamed then, blindly reaching out and a split second later, her girlfriend was kneeling in front of her, holding her close.

“I’ve got you,” Chloe said. “Just breathe, Baby. Breathe with me. We’ve got this. Just breathe.” She rocked Beca as she looked at John confusedly. The man was still on the phone.

“Thank you, Detective,” he said calmly. “We’ll get back to you.”

“What the hell is going on?” the vet demanded as John kneeled next to them, his hand on his daughter’s shoulder.

“That was one of the detectives from Atlanta P.D.,” the man said, his voice shaking a little. “He called because… they think they’ve finally identified the guy who assaulted Beca.”

“Oh my God,” Chloe whispered, hugging her lover tighter and kissing her temple. “Oh my God, Baby.”

Beca was crying softly, clutching at Chloe’s shirt like a lifeline and Bella suddenly appeared from under the couch, where she’d been sleeping. She mewled unhappily as she jumped up onto it and squashed herself onto her mom’s lap. Beca was still unable to speak much but at least her breathing was coming a little easier now and her hand automatically moved to rub her baby’s soft, furry ears. “They want…” She sucked in a breath and tried again. “They want me to come there to try to identify him and, if it’s him, they want me to testify.”

Chloe nodded gently. “That’s a good thing, Becs, right?”

“I… I don’t know if I can… I… I don’t think I can face him again. FUCK, Chlo.” The anxiety was pressing down on the musician again.

“Hey,” John said softly. “You don’t have to decide right now, Honey. I told Detective Swanson we’d get back to him. You have time to think about it.” Beca looked terrified and he rubbed her shoulder softly. “Chloe, why don’t you and Beca take some time to yourselves and get some sleep. I’ll just put on the game and relax here until you wake up. We can talk about this later tonight.”

“Thanks, John,” the vet replied with a grateful nod. “Help yourself to anything in the fridge or cupboards. There are bottles of beer and white wine chilling if you want some.” She eased to her feet, bringing Beca, who was holding Bella, with her as she headed toward the bedroom.

“Sleep well, Ladies,” John said and then took a seat on the couch as they shut the bedroom door behind them.

Chloe didn’t even bother undressing her suddenly exhausted girlfriend and, instead, just lay them down, spooning against her as she always did. After a few moments, she felt her younger lover relax a little against her and just held her closer. “I love you,” she whispered. “We’ll get through this, Becs. I promise.”

“Chlo,” Beca whispered back. “If… if I decide to do this, I’ll need you to come with me. You know I’m always my bravest self when I’m with you.”

“I’m here for you,” Chloe replied, eyes filling with grateful tears. “And I’m never letting you go.”

Beca just nodded and closed her eyes, sighing softly. Moments later, they were both asleep.

Xx

It was almost seven when Beca wandered back into the living room with Bella in her arms. Chloe was still asleep, and she smiled as she found her dad also dozing on the sofa, a small number of empty beer bottles on the coffee table and the end of a football game playing on the TV. It was getting very close to Superbowl, and it was one of his favorite times of the year.

The musician took a seat in an armchair and rested her head against its back as her sweet orange cat curled up in her lap and went back to sleep.

“What do you think, Bella?” she murmured softly. “Do you think I should do it?” She closed her eyes. “I… I was feeling so good about things. Really making progress with my life. Would going back to Atlanta cause a setback for me emotionally? Psychologically?”

The long but restless nap had allowed her enough rest to be able to think rationally again so she just sat and let her mind drift for a while. Then she rubbed Bella’s ears again, making her purr loudly.

“I think I have to do this, Bells. I have to do it for me. Because I’ll always be some level of scared if he’s out there. And I think I need to fight for me… for justice for myself. But I REALLY need to talk to Elise first.”

John cleared his throat softly to let her know he was awake. “Hi, Honey. Sleep well?”

“On and off,” the musician replied with a shrug. “I’m trying to not wake Chloe. She works so hard and was so tired, I thought it best to just get up and let her sleep.”

Her dad nodded and stretched a kink out of his back. “Well, sounds like you and Chloe are going to be staying with Sheila and me?”

Beca nodded. “I have to think about this, Dad. And I need to talk to my therapist. But, if she feels like it won’t set my recovery back, then... yeah... I’ll do it.”

John smiled proudly. “Good girl.” He paused then and shook his head. “No,” he added gently. “It’s been a long time since you were a girl. I’m so proud of the woman you are.”

“Thanks, Dad,” the musician replied. Then she smiled as Chloe emerged from the bedroom, yawning sleepily and running her hands through her tousled red hair. It was so adorable, and her heart swelled with love for her girlfriend.

“Did I hear someone say dinner and alcohol?” the vet asked. “I’m starving.”

“Yeah,” John replied with a chuckle. “Let me take you both out tonight. Having two beautiful women on my arm can only do wonders for my reputation.”

“Ok... ewww...” Beca stated, scrunching her nose.

“Alright, sounds good,” Chloe grinned. “Let me just shower.”

“Me too,” Beca added. “Won’t be long, Dad.”

“Take your time,” the man replied. “I’ll be here.”

Chapter Text

Beca was different, withdrawn. Chloe was worried about her. They were sitting in the living room, open pizza box sitting on their laps as they ate quietly... or as Chloe ate really. The musician hadn’t eaten much at all in the few days following the news from Detective Swanson and especially not since her session with Elise the previous day.

Chloe desperately wanted to ask what she was thinking, feeling, what she’d talked about with her therapist, what Elise had said... but Beca was searching internally, and the vet realized that there wasn’t really anything she could do except to be there as her partner’s rock of support IF she wanted to talk.

“Beca,” she said softly. “Please try to eat a little more? For me?”

The musician sighed but she picked up a slice and nibbled on it. “I just don’t have a lot of appetite right now,” she replied.

“I know but...” The redhead trailed off and looked down, biting her bottom lip anxiously. She didn’t want to push but...

“I know you’re worried about me, Chloe, but... I don’t think anyone can really understand what I’m going through right now... you know?” Beca turned a little to make solid eye contact. “You’re not doing anything wrong, Baby. I promise. My...” She swallowed. “My sleeping in the other room is nothing to do with you. I just... I feel so...” Sudden tears trailed down her face, and she shook her head.

“Hey,” Chloe said softly, reaching out to caress the wet tracks away. “I miss you, Becs, but I get it. I get that you need some space and it’s ok.”

Their eyes met and held for a long moment. “But it’s not ok,” the brunette whispered. “It’s not, Chloe. I know it hurts you.” Light blue eyes lowered but Beca eased her lover’s chin up to make eye contact again. “I know it hurts you and I’m sorry.” Chloe’s throat bobbed in a deep swallow, but she didn’t deny her girlfriend’s words. “Chloe... can we have sex? Please?”

The blue eyes widened a little. “Beca... you don’t have to...”

But the brunette covered the older woman’s lips with her fingertips. “Please?” she asked. “Just... please... make love to me, Chlo. I want to try to get past this before the memories of him swallow me whole again. I need to feel something other than fear of him. I need to feel the love of my life inside me.”

“Oh Becs,” Chloe whispered as she caressed the younger woman’s face. “I love you so much.” She drew Beca to her and they kissed deeply for timeless moments as her lover clung to her, pressed into her, told her without words how much she needed her. Chloe’s hands went to the hem of Beca’s t-shirt to lift it off and toss it aside, then explored her soft skin until they found bare breasts. The brunette moaned as her lover’s thumbs stroked softly over her nipples, teasing them to hardness and the vet smiled against her lips. “Want to take this to the bedroom?” she asked in a breathy whisper. “The bed might be more comfortable.”

Beca nodded and started to move but her lover just grinned and stood to scoop her up into her arms. The brunette squeaked but then laughed softly as Chloe carried her to the bedroom and laid her gently down.

“That was hot, Babe,” Beca said, tugging the redhead down on top of her and then rolling them over so she could swing a knee over Chloe’s hips and straddle them. “You’re SO fucking hot.” There was a predatory look to her eyes that made sudden heat shoot to Chloe’s core. She reached up to caress her lover’s face and grinned as Beca playfully snapped her teeth at her fingers. But then the musician lowered herself and pushed the neck of the vet’s t-shirt aside to bite down on her shoulder.

Hard.

The sting of pain shocked Chloe a little and her hips bucked in response as unexpected arousal coursed through her. “Fuck, Becs…”

But Beca didn’t pause. She did it again and this time Chloe gasped and then moaned, her nails raking down the younger woman’s back hard enough to leave red trails.

“I don’t want to be afraid, Chloe,” Beca said after a moment.

Light blue eyes opened, and the vet frowned a little. “Of me?” she asked.

“Of sex,” the brunette clarified. “I trust you more than anyone else in the world, Chloe. You know that, right?”

“I know,” the redhead nodded, tears welling in her eyes. Trust was the greatest gift Beca could give, and she knew it. “And that feels so amazing, Becs.” She sat up and wrapped her arms around the younger woman’s waist as she ducked her head to kiss along her collar bones. Beca’s breathing hitched and her fingertips stroked the back of the vet’s neck in encouragement. Chloe sighed against her skin and then nipped her shoulder. “Give yourself to me,” she said. “Unconditionally.”

Beca drew back a little. “What?”

“You said you don’t want to be afraid. Make the decision to give yourself to me.”

“Chloe…”

The vet’s hand roughly slid between the brunette’s parted thighs and cupped her. “I won’t hurt you…” Chloe grinned a little. “Unless you want me to.”

Beca’s lips flattened into a little smirk. “So, if I said I… um… wanted it a little rough…?”

“I want what you want, Becs,” the redhead replied seriously. “Do you want me to be a little rough with you?”

The musician nodded. “But don’t restrain me.”

Then the breath whooshed out of her as Chloe suddenly flipped her over and then pounced on her, growling playfully. She quickly pulled her own shirt off and then slid lower to bite her way down the centerline of Beca’s abs. The brunette's hips lifted, and she groaned softly as her girlfriend eased her onto her front and pulled her shorts and underwear off. “Get on your hands and knees,” Chloe said huskily, then got off the bed and went to her side of the closet.

Beca watched her with half-lidded eyes but then swallowed hard as Chloe opened a box on the top shelf and pulled out a dildo and harness the younger woman hadn’t seen before. She brought them to the bed and set them in front of her lover as she sat down next to her. “I’ve been fantasizing about using this with you,” Chloe said softly. “But Beca I want to be sure that it’s ok. I know penetration might be…”

But Beca reached out a hand to cup her cheek. “Just not from behind,” she replied just as softly. “I need to see that it’s you.”

But Chloe just smiled. “I wasn’t going to,” she stated. “I just wanted to see how sexy you looked naked on your hands and knees like that.”

Beca laughed and swatted at her girlfriend’s shoulder. “Beeeotch.”

The redhead’s smile widened, and she stripped out of the rest of her clothes to settle the harness around her hips and set the toy into it. She slid one end of it inside herself, then tightened everything and climbed onto the bed. Chloe sucked in a breath as Beca touched the toy almost curiously. The musician’s dark blue eyes lifted then. “Don’t be gentle.”

But Chloe scooted back to lean against the headboard. “You’re in control,” she said.

“I am,” Beca replied. “I want you, Chloe.”

The redhead swallowed but then nodded and pulled her lover to her for a rough kiss. She nipped her lips and tongue and then deepened the contact as she eased the brunette onto her back and settled between her thighs. The toy pressed down into the mattress, moving inside Chloe and she moaned softly as Beca’s hands roamed over her. They were all over each other, driving each other’s arousal higher until Beca’s breathy voice broke the quiet of their groans and whimpers of pleasure.

“Please, Chloe.”

The vet nodded and as she kissed her lover again, she moved onto her knees and slid her hand between their bodies to caress her fingertips through Beca’s folds. The younger woman was soaking, so she slowly eased the head of the toy into position. “Are you sure?” she asked, one last time.

The brunette nodded, biting her bottom lip as her lover’s hand caressed over her breast. “Please,” she said again. Then her eyes slammed shut as Chloe slowly rocked her hips forward to ease the toy inside her. “Oh… God…” she choked out, gripping her lover’s shoulders and pulling her closer.

“Becs…” Chloe whimpered as a bolt of pleasure shot through her and she rested her chin on the younger woman’s shoulder, holding still for a moment to let them both acclimate. Then she pulled her hips back, paused a moment and pushed back in, a little harder this time.

Beca gasped and her hand curled around the back of the redhead’s neck as she shifted a little to wrap her legs around her waist, locking her ankles at the small of her back. “Yes, Chloe!”

Chloe’s breathing deepened as she pulled her hips back and speared forward again. The musician cried out and closed her teeth on Chloe’s shoulder and she just stayed there, eyes tightly shut as the redhead picked up a rhythm, whimpering as Beca began moving to meet her and take her deeper.

The brunette reveled in the scent of her lover, Chloe’s shampoo, perfume… and the heady smell of sex… invaded her senses. “Oh…” she whimpered as a sudden bolt of pleasure hit her.

“Bec? Are you ok?” the vet gasped.

“Yeah, I’m ok… fuck… don’t stop, Chloe.” Her fingers tangled into the older woman’s hair, and she gasped again as each thrust hit her in just the right spot. “I’m… clo… close… God…”

Chloe was breathing hard, a combination of the exertion and the arousal that was pushing her close to her own orgasm. “Me… too…” she panted, then grunted as she felt Beca’s legs tighten around her. It changed the angle a tad and she groaned loudly as her climax hit her unexpectedly, making her shudder and her hips jerk irregularly. “Beca…” she moaned. “Oh my God…” But she didn’t stop and a few thrusts later, the musician followed her over the edge, grasping hard at her shoulders and crying out her pleasure into her ear.

They slowed down then, just slowly rocking together as they held each other tightly, sweat dampened skin tingling and sensitive.

“I love you,” Chloe mumbled tiredly into Beca’s neck, nuzzling gently.

Beca was smiling but then she chuckled as she teased gently. “Good thing you’re all about the cardio, Chlo.”

The redhead grinned in reply as she eased back and unbuckled the harness to drop it on the floor by the bed and was about to move away a little when Beca just pulled her closer.

“Wait…” the brunette urged. “Just… stay like this a while? I don’t want to let you go yet.”

Light blue eyes sparkled gently. “I’m NEVER letting you go, Beca,” Chloe replied. “I want…” She blinked and then smiled. “Yeah…” she grinned widely, tears welling in her eyes. “Beca, will you marry me?”

The brunette was momentarily stunned. Then she scowled. “No! I mean… Yes!... I mean… fuck, Chloe!” She laughed helplessly and shook her head.

Chloe blinked. “Um… was there an actual answer in there?”

Beca smiled and her face gentled. “Yes, the answer is yes.”

The vet grinned wildly and was about to seal the deal with a kiss when Beca put a fingertip against her lips. “But your timing is a little… unexpected, Chlo.”

“Oh?”

The brunette slid out from under her girlfriend and went to her underwear drawer to pull something out, then hopped back into bed as the vet rolled over onto her back. Beca flopped onto her and Chloe’s arms closed around her again as they wiggled to get comfortable. “I was waiting for the right time to propose to you.”

Light blue eyes widened. “Oh no… did I… I totes stole your thunder, didn’t I?”

The musician laughed a little. “Well, I actually… I was gonna do the whole one knee thing…” She produced the ring box and opened it. “I even got one of these.”

The redhead gasped and her hand moved to her mouth as her eyes welled all over again. “Becs,” she whispered.

“Chloe Beale, will you marry me… also?”

“Yes!” the vet exclaimed, offering her left hand. “Yes! A hundred thousand times yes!”

Beca laughed. “So eager, Doctor Beale.” She eased the ring out of the box and slid it onto her finger, then kissed it. Chloe gazed at the diamond and platinum band and shook her head in disbelief.

“It’s beautiful, Becs,” she whispered, voice stolen. “I love it so much.”

“Good,” Beca replied, her own eyes filling. “Because I want you to love it as much as I love you. And I love YOU so much.”

They kissed deeply, and as their hands began to roam again, Beca felt like herself for the first time in days.

Chloe had, as always, banished her demon for one more night.

Xx

Jesse Swanson wasn’t a particularly imposing cop, but he was kind and he listened without interrupting. Beca remembered that from the first time she’d met him, when he was new to the job of detective, and she hoped he hadn’t changed in the two and a half years that had passed since. She also suspected that he still liked her. Even though he’d been nothing but professional, he looked at her in THAT way as he held his hand out.

“Beca, thanks for coming in. It’s good to see you again.”

“You too, Detective,” Beca replied. “I think you’ll remember my dad, John Mitchell… and this is my fiancée, Chloe Beale.”

“Ah,” Swanson said with a tight smile. “Fiancée… congratulations to you both.”

“Thanks,” Chloe replied with a somewhat tight smile of her own.

John cleared his throat. “So, Detective, we’re here. What can we do for you?”

“Indeed. Thanks for making the trip so quickly, Beca, Chloe.” He offered them seats at his desk and John stood behind them with his hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “I wanted to show you some pictures and hopefully, if our suspect is among them, you’ll be able to pick him out.”

“But I did this last time,” Beca said, frowning. “I can’t identify anyone.” She looked at Swanson. “Wait. The suspect you identified… You actually picked him up?”

“We picked him up as soon as we knew when you’d be able to get here. He’s in a holding cell now.” Swanson pointed at the screen facing Beca and changed a setting for it to mirror his own. “I’m going to slowly scroll through some photos. I want you to look carefully and tell me if you recognize anyone.”

The musician nodded and then smiled as Chloe took her hand to lace their fingers together. “Ok, I’m ready,” she said.

One by one, the photos went by. Beca examined each one, shaking her head before the detective moved on the next. But then one man caught her attention and she held up a hand. “Wait. Stop there.” She leaned forward in her chair and looked closer at his face. Then she leaned back and closed her eyes. “I was cold,” she said struggling to pull back the memories. “The concrete I was lying on, was leaching all the warmth from my body. I remember staring at his chest as he was raping me and wondering how warm his leather jacket was.” She laughed a little bitterly and shook her head. “I was kinda out of it.” Her breathing hitched then as her eyes filled with tears. “He was wearing a baseball cap too, but it slipped back and I remember a forehead scar that was visible underneath it. I remember it because it was shaped like part of a star… like only three points of it… like this guy’s.” She pointed at the screen as she opened her eyes. “This is him. This is the guy who r…” Her voice broke as her anxiety spiked and Chloe pulled her into her arms to hold her close.

“Breathe, Becs,” the vet said softly. “Just breathe, Baby.”

“E-Elise,” the musician gasped, and Chloe nodded quickly.

“Detective, I need a private room for Beca to make a call.”

The detective was up and indicating an interview room in a split second and Chloe managed to get her fiancée into it before sitting her down and Face Timing Elise. They’d already prepared the therapist for a potential call, and she picked up immediately.

“Beca,” she said as the younger woman cried softly. “I’m so proud of you.” Chloe tried to make a discreet exit, but Beca grabbed her hand; desperately needed her to stay. “No matter what happens, you’re doing the right thing. You’re standing up for yourself. You’re seeking the justice you deserve. He no longer has any power over you, Beca Mitchell. You are powerful and amazing, and you are, most of all, loved.” Elise’s eyes went to Chloe. “You people who love you just as you deserve to be loved. That man no longer has any hold over you. Isn’t that right, Chloe?”

Chloe nodded and brought Beca’s hand to her lips to kiss it. “I love you so much, Beca Mitchell. That man is nothing. He’s nothing in the face of YOUR power and OUR love.”

“I know,” Beca nodded. “He’s nothing and you’re my everything, Chlo.” She looked back at her therapist. “Thank you, Elise.”

“I’m here whenever you need me, Beca. Night or day. How are you feeling? Better able to breathe?”

“Yeah,” the brunette agreed, feeling a lot more peaceful. “It seems I’m able to navigate the anxiety attacks quicker, if Chloe is with me.”

“She’s your touch stone,” Elise said with a smile. “She grounds you.” Then she grinned widely. “Let me see that gorgeous ring again?”

Beca chuckled and showed her hand off while Chloe blushed a little. On her vet’s salary, she’d be paying for the engagement ring until she was forty but, the look of joy on Beca’s face when Chloe had proposed again, officially with the proper jewelry this time, had been priceless.

“Chloe committed herself to financial servitude for it,” she joked.

The vet laughed. “She’s only half joking. Totally worth it though.”

Elise smiled and nodded happily. “Ok, Ladies. I need to get going but call anytime you need me.”

“Thanks again, Elise,” Beca replied gratefully. “I know I can do this. I know it, when I have you both to support me.”

“You’re welcome, Beca. And I mean it, call whenever you need me.”

Beca ended the call and then turned into her fiancée for a hug. “Thank you too, Chlo. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’re welcome, Baby,” Chloe replied, taking the brunette’s hand to lead her back to the detective’s desk. He stood immediately; concern etched across his face.

“Are you ok, Beca?” he asked, rounding the desk to put a hand on her shoulder. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, thanks,” she replied with a smile, then eased away from his hand and took a seat next to Chloe. Their hands immediately found each other. “I have everything I need. Where's my dad?”

Swanson took his seat again. “He went to grab some coffee. He’ll be right back.” He picked up a pen and tapped it on his desk. “So... the good news is, the guy you identified from the photo is the same guy we have in the interrogation room right now.”

Beca’s chest began to ache again, but she just took a deep breath and nodded. “How did you find him?”

Swanson leaned back in his chair, frowning unhappily. “I wish I could take credit for that,” he said quietly. “But the truth is... he made a mistake. He flew under the radar for a while but then couldn’t help himself. He raped another girl but this time, he was interrupted and left the condom behind in his haste to escape. We were able to get DNA and match him to a family member... good old-fashioned forensics. Then we were able to link him to you by…” The detective paused, frowning a little.

“Matching it to the saliva they found on my... around the bite marks?” Beca said succinctly, then glanced at Chloe, whose jaw was clenched in anger. The healed teeth marks on Beca’s breasts were barely visible but they were still a stark reminder of her assault every time she looked at them in the mirror.

“Right,” the detective nodded.

“Who is he?” Chloe asked suddenly. Her blue eyes were cold chips of ice.

“Chloe, I’m not sure I should...” Swanson began, but the vet shook her head, slamming one palm down on the desk and making everyone jump.

“Who the FUCK is he?”

The detective leaned on the arms of his chair, fingers laced together across his belly. “The suspect’s name is Michael Myers. He’s forty-four and....” Swanson looked down and shook his head. “He’s a high school teacher from the greater Atlanta area.”

Beca snorted derisively. “Michael Myers... like the fictional serial killer? How apt.”

“A teacher...” Chloe whispered. “What if he...” She couldn’t go on, upset as she suddenly felt.

“We’ll be investigating that too, I promise,” the detective replied succinctly. “This is pretty much an open and shut case with the amount of evidence we have, and we can tie him to six assaults thanks to his pathological need to bite his victims. But we’re hoping that maybe more victims who didn’t initially report their assaults, might come forward.”

Beca sat forward in her chair. “What if I made a statement encouraging any other victims to come forward? On television or...”

Swanson smiled. “That would be hugely helpful, Beca.”

Chloe squeezed her fiancée's hand in encouragement but didn’t say anything.

“Let’s do a press conference,” the musician said. “I’m not famous but, if the reporters introduce me in a way that sparks people’s interest, it might make other women come forward.”

“I have a contact I trust who might be able to make that happen,” the detective nodded. “Let me make a call and I’ll get back to you. Are you staying with your dad?”

“Actually…” Beca said softly. “We were going to but… the memories…” She looked down. “It was a little too much for me, so Chloe got us a hotel downtown.”

Swanson smiled. “Good. And I’m glad you’re happy together, Beca. Congratulations again.” The two women smiled as he got up. “Let me drive you back to the hotel so your dad doesn’t have to detour downtown.”

As the women got up, John ambled toward them. “Doing ok, Becs?” he asked, ducking his head to look at his petite daughter’s eyes.

“As well as can be expected,” the brunette replied. “I think I just want to go back to the hotel and take a nap. Detective Swanson’s going to drop us off.”

“Ok, Honey,” her dad nodded. “Call or text me later, ok? Just to let me know you’re ok.”

Beca’s hand found her fiancée’s again as she nodded. “Sure will, Dad.”

For a long moment, the older man looked at his soon-to-be daughter-in-law and she nodded too. “I’ve got her, John.”

Doctor Mitchell took a deep breath, then released it. “I know you do, Kiddo.” He kissed the top of Beca’s head, then Chloe’s and ambled away again.

Xx

The hotel room was bright and spacious, but Beca hardly noticed as she crawled onto the bed in her underwear and lay down with her arm tucked under her head. Chloe came out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her slender frame, and she took a moment to dry off before getting into a long t-shirt and joining her lover.

“You don’t have to stay with me,” the musician smiled as the vet helped her out of her bra and kissed the light strap marks away. “But that DOES feel good, Chlo.”

“Mmmm…” the vet smiled as she spooned against Beca’s back and held her close. “I could do with a nap myself. I think the time zone difference is getting to me.”

Beca snorted a laugh. “A likely excuse, Doctor Beale. Look, Babe, I know you’re worried about me but it’s really ok. I’m going to be ok.” She smiled a little. “The police will build their case against Myers and it’ll all be over then.”

Chloe nodded her agreement but, deep inside her, there was a sense of unease she couldn’t shake. She thought about it for a while, then chalked it up to her worry that Myers had assaulted school kids and closed her eyes to relax with her lover and try to let it go. Beca was already breathing slowly and deeply, and Chloe realized that she’d dozed off; unsurprising since neither of them had slept well the night before.

Xx

“He did WHAT???” Beca almost yelled.

Swanson perched his hands on his hips and shook his head. “Myers attempted suicide last night, Beca. He’s in intensive care and they don’t know if he’s going to make it.”

“You have GOT to be FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!” the musician did yell this time.

The detective took a seat on a chair next to a small writing desk and crossed his legs. “I think he knew we have him by the balls. He probably also knew that, if he was convicted, he wouldn’t survive prison. Rapists rarely fare well.”

“How did he do it?” Chloe asked softly, arms wrapped around herself. She seemed very upset and Beca wasn’t sure why.

“He used bedsheets to make a rope and…”

The vet lifted her hand to stop him. “Got it.” She walked to the window and pressed her forehead against it as she looked out over downtown. “Fuck.”

“Even if he does make it,” Swanson went on. “He might have brain damage. He can’t stand trial if he’s not deemed capable.”

“This is a fucking nightmare,” Beca growled, pinching the bridge of her nose. “But you know what? I still want to do the press conference. I still want to encourage any other victims to come forward.”

Chloe nodded silently from where she was, then turned to look at her fiancée. “We should just go home,” she said. “After the press conference, there’s not a whole lot else we can do here.”

“Agreed,” Beca replied.

Swanson nodded and got up again. “I’ll let you get back to your morning, but I’ll call you when the press conference is set up.”

“Thanks, Detective,” the brunette said as she walked him to the door to see him out. Then she went back to Chloe, wrapping her arms around her and hugging her. “Talk to me.”

“About what?”

“Come on, Chlo. I can tell you’re very upset. Want to tell me why?”

The redhead rocked them a little as she returned the hug. “I had a friend when I was a kid,” she said. “Her name was Taryn and she was my bestie. We did everything together… were pretty much inseparable… and then one day, when we were about thirteen, my parents took our family on an impromptu vacation. When we got back, Taryn and her family were gone. I tried calling and texting and then I finally went over to her house but… everything was gone. The house was empty. My mom told me they’d had to move away suddenly for her dad’s job. I was devastated and I couldn’t understand why Taryn hadn’t told me or tried to call or anything.”

Chloe stopped talking and Beca squeezed her gently. “What happened to Taryn, Chloe?”

“I found out a few years later that… she’d been raped by an older guy… a teacher from another school and she’d ended up pregnant with his kid. She…” The vet swallowed hard. “She committed suicide.”

“Oh Chloe, I’m so sorry,” the brunette whispered. “That’s so awful.”

“I know it’s not rational, but I keep thinking that, in addition to assaulting you, he could have assaulted Taryn… and I want to just…” Chloe clenched her fists, vibrating with anger. “I want to fucking kill him, Beca.”

“Hey,” Beca said softly. “Babe, I believe in karma. I believe that what is meant to be, will be. Myers is going to hell… be it from his self-inflicted injuries or be it from what’s inflicted on him in prison. He’ll pay, one way or another.”

“You’re so strong, Beca,” the redhead whispered. “You amaze me.”

“I wasn’t always like this,” the musician chuckled. “We have Elise to thank for that.”

“Remind me to send her a fruit basket.”

“I think she’d prefer chocolate,” Beca mused.

Chloe grinned. “That too.”