[how it began]
Stacie was the one to indignantly put Wall-E on that night when she found out both Chloe and Cynthia Rose had never watched it.
And Beca had been forced to curl up with everyone else once again.
Grumpy, spikey, sarcastic Beca, who wore too much eyeshadow, who didn’t know how to take a compliment, was strewn over Chloe’s lap and Chloe was looking at her with such utmost fondness that the other Bellas didn’t even know where to look anymore.
No one knew what the end of the movie was about.
[the barden bellas]
Chloe loved Beca.
This was excluding the complications of all of the confusing variations of love.
It just was that…she loved her. As simple and confusing as that.
The way Chloe loved Fat Amy and Stacie and Lilly and Jessica and Cynthia Rose and Ashley and Aubrey and vanilla ice cream and icicles. She loved the way Beca walked and talked and the way she was so more much wit such a small body should ever be able to hold.
The first time that Chloe saw Beca, she thought Beca looked a like a forlorn and slightly pissed off racoon. In the nicest way possible.
It was a story told hundreds of times, with different words and to different people, but being worth told again, as Chloe thought of the exact shine of confused wonder on Beca’s face that afternoon.
Because there Beca was, on the crowded campus, wandering and looking around, and there Chloe was, next to a wound up and practically buzzing Aubrey. The afternoon light hit their faces and Chloe saw her. For a good hard moment, she had an absolute certainty that Beca definitely didn’t belong here in this noisy, superficial place.
The urge for this small grumpy girl to like her was of the utmost importance, all of a sudden. As if someone looking that harmlessly grumpy was too endearing not to mess with.
Naturally, Chloe broke into a great smile and held her hand out and called out an enthusiastic, “Hey!”
Aubrey was slightly disgruntled and raised an eyebrow when Chloe continued, “Any interest in joining our a cappella group?”
The moment the small and serious-looking girl skimmed over her flyer and a half a smirk appeared on her face, Chloe was unquestionably and absolutely positive that she would be perfect for the Barden Bellas.
The quiet audition room reminded Chloe of that day in the showers. How she tilted her body just enough to feel how warm Beca’s skin was as she turned off the shower behind her.
How Beca’s singing voice was different than her normal one. Sweet, floaty, innocent, and it made Chloe’s skin tingle.
You can sing!
How Beca jumped, and of all things, said “dude” so loudly and yanked the curtains closed.
Now, the steady rhythm of Beca’s clapping interrupted the silence (again) and the yellow cup rang out through the auditorium as Chloe couldn’t help a wide smile spread across her face. A careless glance told her that Aubrey didn’t look so happy, but for once, she didn’t care.
Beca’s clear voice wrapping around Chloe’s head was more gripping than any silly little audition song she could come up with.
She took up the entire stage, yet looked so small, sitting there with her legs crossed.
(Chloe wasn’t sure why she was suddenly noticing so many things.)
It was simple, really. Chloe thought Beca looked cute and took a liking to her.
That was how it started, at least.
Chloe watched Aubrey losing her shit over their choreography and absentmindedly rubbed her neck. She had nodes.
Chloe loved everything so strongly it was hard to differentiate things clearly, but music was always there with a burning passion, and it had let her down this time.
Then there was that night Beca somehow got arrested, and Jesse didn’t make it. He called her dad, and he didn’t know how to comfort Beca exactly the way she needed to, and Chloe forced everyone into Beca’s dorm with a rare but stern glare. She watched Beca open up her computer, and even if her throat was still sore from that night’s performance, she finally had the scorching love for music lick at the pain again.
After all the girls had gone, Chloe hung around.
The music jumping from your fingertips is an unwavering belief that upholds my life.
And then Beca laid, all her skin against Chloe’s in a way that made it hard to breathe.
“Because my mom never hugged me, Chlo.” Her breath came out in soft puffs and gentle whispers. “And my dad was angry, all the time, until he wasn’t anymore, because he left us. And now he’s happy and calm and he doesn’t yell anymore.” A pause.
“Because he isn’t with us anymore.”
Chloe’s back pressed into the headboard and her front pressed into the soft fabric of Beca’s shirt. She rubbed her thumb in little circles on Beca’s forearm and listened to her voice that only trembled a little bit. Chloe wasn’t sure how they ended up in this position, because Beca used to flinch away the moment someone looked at her too adoringly.
She remembered gently shooing Aubrey out the dorm with a few murmured promises she’ll take care of her and then turning around to find Beca sitting cross-legged on her rolling chair, fingers twisted together in her lap and gaze flitting unsurely from Chloe to the wall.
She remembered asking quietly, “Do you want me to leave too, Beca?” She remembered the way Beca’s name flipped on her lips and floated in the dead air. And Beca shaking her head and fixing her into wide, sad eyes. “No. No, don’t go.” Beca barreled straight into her arms afterwards.
Beca’s dependant weight held in her arms took Chloe back to the first Bella practices, where Beca ran her mouth at the worst times, where Aubrey glared so much Chloe was sure she was going to need eyedrops. The muffled music stumbling out of the big headphones hanging from Beca’s neck played a song Chloe recognised. She thought of sliding up behind Beca just because she could, and taking her cold hands, moving them to the choreography while Beca grumbled and turned pink.
Now, though, all that mattered was to keep listening to Beca as she said, “Nothing terrifyingly bad ever happened. It was always this sad little trudge until someone exploded and yelled and slammed a table and then someone apologized.”
A soft patter of rain swept by the window.
Chloe wedged herself into Beca’s heart in small bits like these.
She wished she could find a way to phrase the feeling that Beca was so much more than she thought. But she guessed it was good some feelings couldn’t be translated into words.
When Beca started singing something completely different during the regionals, Chloe gaped at her with wide eyes just like all the other girls. But she wasn’t exactly mad, she was just taken aback, and she couldn’t help but almost want to back Beca up when Aubrey yelled at her.
However, rationally, Chloe was annoyed too, and Aubrey was her best friend. Her neurotic and kind of crazy best friend, but her best friend nonetheless.
She saw Jesse approaching, and before she even had the time to wish that he could maybe give Beca some comfort, Beca turned around and yelled at him. Chloe had a sudden rush when she saw that even Jesse couldn’t get past the scratchy exterior of Beca that she had slipped past so easily.
As Chloe watched Beca disappear behind Benji, she bit the inside of her cheek until it tasted a little like blood. Against all logical reason, it was horrible, not being able to unabashedly favour Beca for once.
But when she got that message from Aubrey, she forwarded it immediately to Beca without a second thought and defended it vehemently.
Aubrey’s eyes were wide when Chloe opposed her so openly. “She makes us better.”
She makes songs mean things.
Songs were written to be felt. Music was written to be loved.
And then they descended into chaos, but Chloe couldn’t have been happier to see Beca walk awkwardly through the door, even half drenched in sweat and smelling like throw up.
Beca made life flow a little easier.
Chloe was there with a safe bed and strong arms whenever Beca fought with Jesse, when Beca fought off tears coming home and didn’t want the other girls to see. Weeks after that one fateful punch into that man’s face, Jesse seemed to still be distant. Despite him seeming like a genuinely nice guy, Chloe was still sort of wary. (If he couldn’t deal with Beca lashing out once, what is he going to do for the rest of his life?) (Because, come on, it was Beca. Her love language is basically pulling away.)
(Except for when it comes to Chloe, so it seemed.)
“You know,” Beca whispered an hour later, her breathing evened out and no longer filled with panic, “there was a time where I was so sure I was unfit for any human relationship.”
It was a rare occasion where she sidled up first, resting her head on Chloe’s shoulder and silently wetting the shirt there with tears she refused to admit were there the morning after. Chloe tried so hard to not think about the girl clinging to her and focus on stroking her hair and trying to make her laugh.
“I swear to god, I’m going to leave this place one day.”
Chloe chuckled softly. “You will. I’m sure you will”
After all, good things were never meant to last.
Chloe knew that Beca always thought she said the right things, but she had no idea how to phrase the way she crumbled completely when she cried, or the way she fearlessly favoured Beca everywhere.
Instead, Chloe tried to make Beca see how much she cared when teased her about the stash of Taylor Swift and CDs full of sweet love songs she accidentally uncovered in her night stand drawer.
The music that Beca blasted in her room was always the self-proclaimed badass type. Radiohead, the Smiths…Kesha, David Guetta…Matchbox Twenty, followed by a bunch of smaller artists that Chloe didn’t even know. But after her discovery, the songs she’d sometimes hear coming inexplicably from rooms of their house suddenly made sense, and from time to time she’d catch Beca humming ‘what you’ve been looking for has been here the whole time…why can’t you see, you belong with me’.
At Fat Amy’s birthday party, Bumper somehow crashed it with a bunch of sheepish-looking Treblemakers. Chloe saw the way Beca avoided Jesse’s somber looks and chose instead to trail closely behind her.
Whichever idiot decided to play Just The Way You Are so loudly from a speaker in the kitchen made Chloe dance too closely to Beca, gravitating around her much like she always did, only much closer. She remembered, then, the night months ago with the same song pulsing in her bloodstream, back in the empty pool but that time, it was Beca leading, and Chloe couldn’t be prouder.
It made Chloe see the way Beca’s eyes shone and how she danced closer too, and it made Chloe hear, clearer than ever, what Beca whispered into her ear. “Thank you for texting me that day. Thank you for always sticking up for me.” And the music wasn’t loud enough to distract Chloe from the blush that stained Beca from chest to forehead.
Beca took her hand first, almost skipping around the crowds into a corner where Chloe ate her up with her eyes. It was Beca who pulled Chloe into a hug first, her hands gripping onto the fabric of her white shirt so tightly, as if Chloe would evaporate. (As if Chloe wouldn’t have given anything to relive that moment forever.)
Her hot breath tickling Chloe’s neck was testing her worst limits, dancing over this line that was barely even there since the start. “I’m so glad I met you too,” she whispered, and it took Chloe a good few moments to realise Beca was referring back to the last time they were in this position.
They were only blood and bones and bad timing.
If only Beca told her stuff like this when she was sober too.
Beca smiled again, but sadly now. “It sucks that you’re leaving.”
Chloe raised an eyebrow, pulling a little away to look her in the eye. “Says who?”
Beca chuckled and shook her head, leaning back to the wall behind her like her legs simply couldn’t hold her up anymore, that the acknowledged news of Chloe being a senior weighed so incredibly heavily on her. Chloe’s hands didn’t leave her waist yet.
“I’m drunk,” she said.
It was curious, Chloe couldn’t smell alcohol on Beca’s breath. But still, she nodded and leaned in to pull Beca up and into another tighter hug.
“I’ll miss you too.” She pressed a kiss into Beca’s hair. And then one on her cheek. Nothing was close enough, Chloe wanted to mold them together, with music pumping into her blood. “You know you can always call me if you’re sad.”
Beca’s hands were clammy and cold when she cupped Chloe’s cheeks. It was dark but Chloe could still see the red that was stamped, permanently, it seemed, on Beca’s face. Just to make it last even longer, she pressed another kiss on the corner of Beca’s mouth.
In the gentle light of May, Chloe sat in her classroom and picked up her pencil. The Russian Lit test laid innocently on her desk, and yet, all she could think of were movie nights and black headphones and Taylor Swift love songs.
And in the end, she wrote gibberish and handed in the copy within ten minutes.
She walked back to the house with her head low and her hands in her pockets. Thoughts of the future swirled around her head in pressuring circles and condescending voices. But the moment she stepped in; she was greeted with an uncharacteristically giddy Beca.
“Chlo!” Beca even let out a little giggle, (Beca never giggles sober) making Chloe smile helplessly as well. The sound of that laugh swallowed all of her worries, just like the intro and the bridge to a song she’d permanently associate with Beca. It reminded her of why she was so afraid of leaving and it tasted like friendship.
“I figured out that mix I was telling you about last week-” Beca took her hand and dragged her upstairs, “-you’ve gotta come and take a listen!” She kept babbling about big gestures and whatever they talked about last night and making things up to Jesse.
Any worries about Russian Lit and boys and life after this faded as soon as Beca gently placed her headphones over Chloe’s ears, fingers brushing against skin.
Chloe wanted to hate herself for it, but she just couldn’t when it made her this happy.
Chloe wished they were in a classic rom-com cheesy movie Beca didn’t like sometimes. She could fast forward until the very end then, and just be able to see if they’d always be this close.
She forgot from time to time, so caught up in college and the Bellas, that she was still just a dumb kid sometimes.
That she didn’t really know anything.
Her future was so big and wide and terrifying.
And her future seemed so small and unimportant and short whenever Beca grinned at her.
Chloe’s gaze followed Beca as she ran off-stage and towards Jesse’s wide grin. She knew where Beca was going, she knew what was to come out of all this, and she couldn’t help scoff a little. Their soundtrack was Breakfast Club and slow ballads, and those songs didn’t remind Chloe of anything. Those songs tasted of nothing at all.
When Beca threw her arms around Jesse and kissed him on the mouth, Chloe still got a little sad. She swept her eyes across the stage and the cheering audience—Jesse was handsome, sure, he was taller, and he seemed less clingy than her.
But Chloe was almost sure he didn’t love Beca half as much as she did.
They started living together, getting a house and two other national championships. Chloe stayed, and stayed, and stayed. She wasn’t ready to go and Beca kept sitting out on their balcony at nights before big competitions, telling Chloe things she’d never heard before, about how scared she was.
Like on Beca’s junior year, back on that balcony, (it always surprised her to no end how balconies could just keep getting smaller and smaller) when they looked at the stars and Beca said she wanted to run away.
And ten minutes later, she murmured into the crook of Chloe’s elbow, “I wanted to run away. Run away to LA, to be something great, to show everyone I’m something…but in the end, nothing worked because I could be in LA or locked in our bathroom, mom and dad and Sheila and everything is still going to be stuck all over me.”
Beca shivered. “I’m never going to stop being…me. I won’t become someone, I’ll just be…me.”
What am I still doing here?
It hung in the air, between the both of them, not sure who that confusing despair should belong to. Their darkness matched up and overlapped with satisfying edges. Chloe guessed that was why she hugged Beca even tighter.
Chloe pressed her lips to her head and stayed there for a few seconds. “I think you’re someone. I think you’re so great. I think you’re going to do great things.”
That was when the lines to friendship blurred, Chloe always thought.
When she started to shuffle through a side of Beca that only she had the chance to see. When she flips through the pages of all their deepest secrets that paralleled each other, their worry lines matched and…out of nowhere, she was falling.
Two months later, at two in the morning by the foot of Beca’s bed.
“I wonder if heartbroken love songs where the singer sounds like she’s crying will ever stop reminding me of my parents.”
Chloe silently thought of the soft songs she’d heard through their thin walls.
Beca folded herself under Chloe’s covers that she just knew will smell faintly like her for the rest of the week.
“It’s because they still loved me, you know? It’s because I remember being six and crying and asking my mother not to take her rage out on me, and then I also remember being eight with a fever and my mother holding my hand through the night telling me it was going to be alright.”
Chloe never really knew what to do. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a doctor, and she grew up in a suburb with lots of trees and children on her street. A private school and family dinners at their grandparents’ house two blocks away every Thursday night.
But Beca told her that she always said the right thing somehow, and Chloe was glad to know that.
There was that sudden snowy night when Chloe came back to the house low and moody from a late day and a headache, she washed her face above the kitchen sink and wanted to hurl. She heard a loud curse on the stairs and then a swirl of Beca-shaped awkwardness half stumbling, half slipping down it and landing unsteadily. Their eyes met across the ugly green couches Amy had insisted they buy from a thrift store and Chloe laughed for the first time that day.
And that night, a bit before midnight, she was sitting on her bed when Chloe learned that besides mixing, Beca could also play the guitar. So while her headache persisted and she had to lie down, while Amy was at Bumper’s and Stacie was at a bar and while Jessica and Ashley whispered downstairs, Beca softly fingerpicked a tune.
It was so nice to see Beca in a different light and late at night, so different from the thick eyeliner and sarcastic comments she usually sported during their first year.
So many things ran through Chloe’s foggy mind, because oh, looking at Beca made her go stupid in that moment and she didn’t even know why.
It made her lose the concept of personal space and giggle too much. Watching a strand of Beca’s hair fall from her bun, Chloe wanted to single-handedly stop time and stay in bed with Beca forever. Never go to work, never grow older.
Beca suddenly looked up and met her eyes and turned a little pink. “Dude. You’re staring.”
Because you look hot.
Because I want to.
Because you’re beautiful and you don’t even know it, you fucking idiot.
Chloe wanted to say so many things, under cover of the night and darkness. How mesmerizingly Beca could pull her in. How she wanted to hug Beca so tight they would melt into each other. How the sweet smell of whatever shampoo she used made Chloe lightheaded, and how she wanted to build a universe with Beca’s equalizer bars as trees and radio station microphones as bus stops. A universe with just the two of them and cheap CDs.
Chloe raised an eyebrow. “You’re a dork.”
Chloe rested her head on the headboard while Beca sang songs from Adventure Time and she was so sure in that moment, she couldn’t be anywhere else that would feel more like home.
Beca’s senior year slammed into them like a truck, and it was as much of a pressure on Chloe as to Beca. Chloe wouldn’t have anymore reason to stay after this.
And then Fat Amy’s torn suit fiasco slammed into them even harder, and Chloe often wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all if she wasn’t scared to death the Barden Bellas wouldn’t even be a thing in Beca’s last year.
What bugged Chloe the most was all of a sudden seeing Beca less and less. She was almost sure it was nothing, but she couldn’t help from the occasional frown and search of the house, and a “has anyone seen Beca today?” to all of the girls. Sometimes even Jesse, who still sported a light on and off relationship with Beca this year.
Their first party of the year and last crazy start of competitions, Chloe couldn’t quite shake the lingering feeling of unsettlement. She’d been used to Beca suddenly pulling away and ricocheting between normality and saving face, but lately, she just knew something was off, something in Beca had shifted places, and Chloe hated not being the first to know.
She asked Jesse, and he seemed genuinely surprised, thinking Beca was with her instead.
But when Beca finally did show, it was with the most carefree and content grin. Chloe saw her when she was trying to force herself to have more fun than she really did, and felt a wave of relief. Then, Beca bounded over, already aloof and a bit giddy, saying something about legacies.
There was no audience to perform for, no role to play, as Beca raised her arms and twisted her hips. Chloe pulled her in with a long arm and squeezed Beca against her, cheek on cheek, side to side. She just had to, in that moment.
Chloe decided that whatever Beca wasn’t telling her must not be something too incredibly bad, because if Beca was this loose after whatever it was, she would let it be. As Beca started dancing with even bigger movements and a wild howl of laughter at the quicker, louder songs, Chloe found it harder to breathe if Beca wasn’t the closest she could possibly be.
She was glad that they somehow always ended up right next to each other during most parties. She wished she could protect her from everything to have her laugh the way she did when she was drunk everyday.
Das Sound Machine.
Chloe glared at them through flashing blue lights and cheering people. Her arms crossed so tightly she could barely breathe, and she especially didn’t like the way Beca’s eyes flittered over the blonde woman’s body.
And she glared at them harder when Beca did her flustered thing and was so cute it hurt, but it wasn’t directed at her. (She could hear Beca in her head: I’m not cute! I am a terror! I make people shake in fear!)
So her determination to absolutely destroy the German team didn’t completely root from a desire for acapella glory. Big deal. Chloe started planning their routines around beating DSM with a white-hot passion.
While the riff-offs came, she glared at them just as hard. How dare they make Beca blush as hard as she can?
How dare they insult the Bellas?
In her defense, a lot of various bits in Chloe’s life were clashing that night, from squinting at DSM to glancing at Beca having the time of her life at their (last?) riff-off to seeing Jesse in the crowds eyeing Beca.
God, she couldn’t imagine not having dumb and over-played riff-offs with acapella nerds every now and then. Maybe that was what made her jump out from behind Fat Amy and sing We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together into that German guy’s face as she looked past him at Jesse. A quick scan behind her and her voice almost cracked in a chuckle as she saw Beca dancing and mouthing the words. She remembered the first nights she played it in Beca’s room, having the time of her life watching Beca struggle not to pretend to know every word and beat drop like the back of her hand.
(She knew finding those Taylor Swift CDs in Beca’s closet would have eventually led to something great.)
Chloe never stopped calling Aubrey, but she also knew that their weekly calls had slowly dwindled to two a month. Graduation terrified her not only in entering the whole world, but leaving her own.
Chloe called Aubrey a month into the year, confused and amused. “I think I have a dumb crush on Beca.” And was met with an even more amused laugh from the other side. “You just realised?”
Chloe called Aubrey a week later, annoyed and nervous. “I get why you were such a terror running this team. This is impossible.” To be met with a sigh and a stern voice. “You can do better, though. You have Beca and all your perkiness.”
Chloe called Aubrey, other times, in her room with Beca on her bed who bounded over as soon as she heard Aubrey’s voice, but denied missing her at all. “You miss me, Mitchell. It’s fine, you don’t have to say it, I feel it telepathically.” Beca’s pout and her best friend’s teasing made Chloe feel like the luckiest person alive.
Chloe called Aubrey when Beca broke up with Jesse again, hopeless. “I know she fucks up a lot and needs reaffirmation all the time and sometimes I just want to be the kindest that anyone has ever been to her.” And was answered with a hum and no advice. “I don’t even know what’s stopping you.”
“Pining on overdue things, Beale.”
“It’s called romance!”
“Chloe!” Beca’s voice shot through the hall and busted through her door with a matching smile. “It’s snowing!”
The first snow of that winter, Chloe was pulled from her room and frowning over choreographies by Beca. Beca was so excited over something that should have been Chloe’s thing, but no, badass Beca got excited over even less than Chloe, and Chloe saw that more and more the longer she knew her.
She let herself be willingly led to the back balcony because it was rare seeing Beca so giddy lately. Between the Worlds and whatever Beca had been hiding from her (because yes, of course she noticed Beca sneaking out every other day in a smart outfit and hair curled too strictly) Jesse had been distant since their last breakup.
“Isn’t it pretty?”
Beca shivered a little in her tank top, and Chloe couldn’t help but smile. “It is.”
“I loved first snows,” Beca said, “but I always told people I hated it because it felt lonely not having anyone to watch with.”
Again and again, Chloe was surprised how easily Beca said these personal things to her now. In a selfish way, Chloe was smug; she was sure no one, not even Jesse, had this side of Beca. This soft and emotional and quiet side was all her’s.
Beca huddled closer to Chloe and stuck her hands in her pockets. A warmth gripped Chloe’s chest and she felt so incredibly content.
Beca turned to her and pulled her hands out, a small USB stick in her palm.
Chloe raised her eyebrows and almost wanted to tease her a bit just to see her squirm, but decided against it. Instead, her lowered her head to catch Beca’s eyes and smiled. “It that for me?”
Beca hummed and motioned for her to take it. When their hands brushed, Chloe’s eyes never left her face, and for a sheer, reckless, moment, she was certain Beca’s gaze was going to drown her right there.
Beca had a way of looking at her that made her feel like the only thing that mattered.
When she tore her eyes away and down, she let out an audible ‘aww’. The device had a pink heart-shaped sticker on the side and ‘for Chlo’ scribbled in sharpie.
The snow kept falling, thick and sticky, onto Beca’s brown hair and clinging onto her lashes. Chloe blinked and her body screamed for them to go back inside, but she wanted to stay here forever. She never wanted to leave Barden, to leave their little Bella house, to leave this weird friendship that kept crossing onto something more.
Without hopes and dreams or great accomplishments, Chloe would willingly stand here in the painful cold until they were both dumb and old.
The youthful glow on Beca’s face couldn’t be deterred by her slightly awkward stance, hands wringing and carefully rambling about how she really, really hoped Chloe liked it.
And in that moment, Chloe didn’t mind Beca not loving her back at all.
When they finally got back inside, Beca shivered and Chloe gave her one of her own sweaters, and the sight of Beca in it made her heart skip a beat.
Chloe bit the inside of her cheek when she found that whatever she was feeling was getting a little out of hand.
When Cynthia Rose’s hair caught on fire a couple of months later, and even their singing had begun to go downhill with Chloe pushing too hard and Beca pulling away too far, Chloe called Aubrey defeatedly. Aubrey didn’t answer, and Beca was even quieter than usual.
The doom of all the Bellas leaving Barden and pressure of Worlds had Chloe in her bed and staring at the ceiling, trying to fight off the onslaught of tears. Frustration clawed its way out and leaked from the corners of her eyes as the whole house was silent. She wasn’t succeeding at much lately.
A soft knock at her door interrupted her thoughts.
Beca trudged into her room with a nervous grin and a big mug of something hot, a panicked look flashing across her face when she saw that Chloe had been crying. She hurried in faster, letting the door click shut behind her and rushed to put the cup down with a few whispered ‘oh fuck, that’s really hot’s, and crawled onto the bed. By the time Beca leaned in with the utmost concern printed on her features and was lifting her hand to wipe a stray tear away from her cheek, Chloe was already smiling.
She liked to think that she was the one who taught Beca how to be so sweet.
“Did we suck so much we made you cry?” Beca asked, and if she didn’t look so seriously worried, Chloe would have laughed at her brows drawn so tightly. Only Beca ever took her emotions bubbling over crazily often with such seriousness. “What do you wanna do?” Beca asked, “We’ll do whatever you want.”
Chloe smiled softly at Beca and her blunt caring.
Beca continued, whether on a nervous ramble or a wave of concern, Chloe wasn’t sure. She was flopping down to stare at the ceiling with her, and honestly, it was all that mattered. “You know what, fuck college, fuck the Worlds. We can stay here and watch the food network for the rest of our lives.”
“I’m just…” Chloe searched for words that weren’t synonyms to I kind of really fucking like you, you idiot, “stressed. Yeah.” She paused. “Stressed.”
“Oh, okay. I get it.”
“I know you do.”
Chloe could see Beca fidgeting a bit then, not sure how to comfort her anymore. Chloe wanted to tell her that thinking of walking quietly past everyone’s doors and making tea and coming into her room with that nervous grin was already so much more than enough.
She ultimately decided to help her out a little. “And you? You seem extra Beca-like lately too. Anything wrong?”
“You know,” she smirked, “moody, quiet, all that mysterious eyeshadow that holds your musical talent becoming a shade darker.”
“Oh shut up,” Beca quipped right back, but shrugged self-consciously right after. “You know, Jesse and I haven’t really been together since November. Worlds. Making those mixes. And making sure you don’t go completely nuts. That kinda stuff.”
Chloe nodded her comprehension. “Everything’s so hard.”
Immediately after, she realised her mistake and leant over to swat the ‘that’s what she said’ right out of Beca before she could open her mouth. She laughed at Beca’s squeaky yelp, and winked at the glare shot her way.
When they finally settled down, Chloe no longer felt a double-edge dagger in her chest that tasted of frustrations. She pulled Beca into her front and whispered for her to stay.
It brought her back to Beca’s freshman year, both of them whispering the same words and curled in the same positions. The night with Beca’s bruised knuckles between her own fingers and now Beca was a senior that had clumsily learned how to comfort people as well.
She didn’t want to fall asleep despite the tiredness that had been weighing on her shoulders since last week—she didn’t want to miss a moment of the night where Beca was curled against her in soft snores. But the white noise of a television somewhere upstairs and Beca’s steady breathing were too perfect not to fall asleep to.
Her phone lit up with one more good thing. Aubrey’s name printed small letters and a short message, ‘Come to my retreat, then’.
She grinned widely when the girls saw their old captain and Beca was the one who leapt into Aubrey’s arms first, even faster than Chloe herself. Beca wore a brighter smile for days, and Chloe’s own spread even wider when Aubrey cut into her severe-leadership look again, making Beca jump back and her bun bobble in surprise.
The first night reduced Beca right back to a grumpy little mess, and Chloe adored the crease on her forehead so much. She knew her obvious giddiness would annoy her, but she couldn’t help it. Everything was blurry, and Beca’s sarcastic comments were the only things that she could see without worrying in the pressure of everything that year.
Chloe didn’t know what they were anymore.
Maybe all that and so much more was what made her tell Beca about her regrets of not experimenting enough. And maybe that was the stifled but sad little chuckle she gave when Beca’s eyes widened and grumbled something along the lines of ‘you’re so weird’ before turning around.
All she did on the second night was stare at Beca’s head and fail at sleeping.
The third night, Chloe could feel Beca’s frustration bubbling underneath her pursed lips, but all she could bring herself to be was glad they were falling asleep under the same sky.
Beca didn’t sleep next to her that night, and Chloe frowned.
She wasn’t even sure what set off their fight, the strained and public fight with words that wanted to be shouted but weren’t. Chloe wasn’t sure if she would ever to able to yell at Beca, it was all the blame on this silly and severe little crush she still sported.
Chloe was hurt that Beca didn’t let her be the first to be ridiculously happy with the internship for her more than anything. She didn’t do anything about this silly love because she wanted to be around for Beca, but she was absent for something so important…her mind swam with the future. She was poked in a sore spot by an already frustrating Beca, a sore spot that looked suspiciously like a future they wouldn’t share together.
Sack up, dude!
But then Beca was swept into a net and was shouting apologies back down.
Chloe knew they had lots of unfinished half-arguments like that one.
They weren’t meant to become each other, because Beca and her were as different as the worst things in existence, and that made them so great. Because Beca knocked realistic sense into her, and she took off Beca’s edge.
The camp fire sparkled and crackled, and they talked about a future they didn’t know shit about. It was everything Chloe ever imagined college would be.
She remembered nights she sang outdated songs by outdated bands in car rides back to campus, and mornings she sang loudly, trying to get the girls to wake up.
She sang Beca’s cup song with only Beca in her eyes. It wasn’t a love song, so far from a love song, but there was love, just by their voices, looking for a way in.
And then they sung songs the whole ride back (of course they did), very loudly and definitely annoying the hell out of the driver. Fat Amy’s voice pierced Chloe eardrums even though she was sitting two rows away and with Beca’s earphone in one ear. She was sure that wouldn’t be able to think of anything else in the future when she heard Riptide and Drive By, but this happy and torturous bus ride.
“Do you think they’ll get tired soon?” She heard Beca whisper, between a Michael Learns To Rock chorus, leaning close and letting her breath run in puffs over Chloe’s ear. With a light scowl but a crinkled smile, she grumbled, “they’d been going at this since our McDonald stop. Do they ever get tired of singing?”
“You’re the captain here, Beca. You should be supporting the excessive singing.”
Chloe knew the eye roll was going to come before Beca did it. “They just, like, sing all the time, dude.” Beca flicked the baseball cap hanging low over Chloe’s face. “Nerds.”
Chloe gasped playfully and whipped her cap off, pushing it on Beca’s head instead. “You’re so rude. I’ll tell the driver to stop and throw you out the window. You’d fit and I can lift you with an arm.”
“Like you actually would.”
Chloe grinned and pushed the rim of the cap down further, making Beca squirm and bat at her hand with a curse. “I would. But you’re too cute.”
“I hate you.”
“You love me, Mitch-”
“-LADY, RUNNING DOWN TO THE RIPTIDE, TAKEN AWAY TO THE DARK SIDE-”
Beca winced and burrowed her face into the soft hoodie over Chloe’s shoulders. “Make that stop.”
Chloe just laughed and hummed under her breath, lightly passing a hand over Beca’s head, although soothing a small animal. She wanted Beca to stay so cute and simple all the time, she wanted to shield her from everything so badly, but she couldn’t, and it sucked.
Instead, she whispered softly into the top of Beca’s head, “You’re so cute it hurts, Becs.”
“Shut up, dude,” she replied with red bleeding over the tip of her ears.
The truth, was that Beca was already so tough, and Chloe was a wonderful childhood and a bright personality rolled into one, unable to know what it felt to hear doors slamming or dull thuds of fists against tables. But she wanted to keep Beca in the palms of her clean hands, and hope that she wouldn’t have to be any tougher ever again.
Chloe barely kept track of how many times Beca and Jesse has broken up already.
Beca would come home (home was where all the girls lived together, now) with a crease between her brows and Flo would ask her what was wrong and she would answer “broke up with Jesse”.
And then she’d make up with him when he arrived on the doorstep with flowers that smelled too strongly and then break up with him three months later grumbling at the phone. Those moments tasted of classic blink-182 and long legato notes.
(But they were still back together.)
(And as much as Chloe hated to admit it, she understood why.)
But Beca hadn’t gotten back with Jesse their fight right after the riff-offs. It barely counted as a fight, and they’ve been apart for so long that Chloe sometimes got the stupid illusion that Beca was all her’s. There was something about one of the Green Bay Packers that Jesse hated? Chloe wasn’t too sure. She knew Beca was a little heartbroken and lost and panicked, and she wasn’t very sure why.
Beca and Chloe, never a ‘them’, just a series of very close and almost-there looks.
There was one night where the Bellas left the auditorium in cheerful conversations and Beca asked Chloe to stay and go over the songs and make a rough try of the mix. She agreed, of course she did, she cannot not concede to that tentative smile of Beca’s, and they played the same songs over and over and over.
It turned into a sad talk about their terrors and how they dug into the corners of this last year. Emily’s song hummed alone in the far side with Beca’s laptop, it couldn’t be more fitting. Chloe still tasted something bitter as she thought of how the young girl melted Beca so easily.
We will never be this young again.
It turned into a slow walk to a grocery store and cheap wine from Walmart. Chloe couldn’t exactly remember how they got it, just that it steadied her all through Beca’s sad eyes and meaningful sentences. It was the inherent romance of walking into a grocery store and laughing at every little nothing with Beca by her side. It was the inherent of romance of—suddenly—everything when Beca was beside her.
Maybe it was just two young idiots wishing to want and to be wanted.
It turned into close whispers and giggles hiding in a public bathroom, with a couple ‘why did you lock the door’s and ‘oh, do you not want me to?’. Their flirting skimmed too close and Beca leaned forward too sweetly and Chloe looked at her like they were about to kiss.
So they did.
It should have been us.
It turned into a whimper that Chloe caught between her teeth, wanting to hear more. Fumbling tongues and finding a double-edged dagger back in her chest. Her breath washed hotly over Chloe’s face while she stood, all her weight on her hands by Beca’s head.
This wasn’t love. This couldn’t be love.
A chuckle, a gasp, then a giggle. Chloe’s quick intake of breath when Beca bucked up was painful and lust-filled. It was so easy to hold her hips and bring them closer over and over. It was so scary how she couldn’t stop.
Messes of words were wrung out of Beca against her will, shaking helplessly when Chloe’s jeans brushed into her. I miss you, fuck, I miss you, I’ll miss you so much, Chloe couldn’t stop whispering, and she wondered what that even meant.
When Beca’s eyes opened and met Chloe’s again, they were full of simple joy and she actually laughed. It turned into a weak hum and into a sob and tears falling down her red cheeks. Chloe didn’t notice she was crying too until Beca raised her hand and wiped clumsily at her chin.
Their laugh ripped apart their sobs, until emotions were only a long mess that never ended.
Beca grinned as well, however, and the song playing in the grocery store was loud and anticlimactical, full of messy staccatos, not unlike Chloe's heartbeat. And maybe that was why there was no lingering questions between them at all. It reminded Chloe of impending graduation and tasted like salt and the girl she’d do anything to shield.
Beca grinned back, and Chloe read it as ‘I love you, too’.