Actions

Work Header

B-Side

Chapter Text

[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.

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.

 

 

[senior year]

 

 

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.

Those motherfuckers.

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?

Correction-

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.”

Everything!”

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?”

“Extra Beca-like?”

“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’.

 

Chapter Text

[worlds]

 

A whole college was always big enough for two people to unconsciously hide in. Chloe put down her juice box and wondered where Beca could be.

The professor down from all the seats in front of her droned on and on and on. Her phone buzzed and she tried to ignore it, Chloe had sworn she’d pay attention in all her classes this year.

But she was so full of thoughts about Beca, and that one night where Chloe was sure Beca loved her back. Her phone kept on buzzing and Chloe was disgusted with herself. She shouldn’t be allowed to think about Beca that way when she wasn’t around.

The phone kept on buzzing, and it wasn’t a phone anymore. It was Beca’s legs wrapping around her waist as her giggle brushed over Chloe’s ear and her damp underwear pressing into Chloe’s stomach.

It was buzzing, Chloe dug her knuckles into her eyes, buzzing.

Panting and tightening with a small cry.

Buzzing. Buzzing.

Sweaty, soft, forgiving.

Buzzing.

 

Chloe jerked up and walked out of class.

 

 


 

 

It was a week and a half later when they talked about it for the first time.

Chloe watched Beca become even more fumbling and awkward for days, and decided she should do something about it. It was such a curious balance, Beca’s carefulness and Chloe’s fast and furious decisions, when she looked at Beca and remembered what all this was about. Because underneath those spikey ear monstrosities, Beca was still someone four years younger with bleeding care (that she would never admit to) at the wrong places.

A noisy kitchen counter filled with leftovers from the past week was where Chloe found Beca that night, in the space between Flo showing Jessica how to do a handstand by the wall and Stacie balanced dangerously on a chair, changing the ceiling light bulb. Beca was flailing her arms beside the chair, her head barely reaching Stacie’s knees but barking out threatening things (“I swear to god, Stacie, if you break the chair or your neck, I am going to shave your head in your sleep.”)

Chloe stayed by the door with her grey bag slung over her sore shoulder, just taking everything in for a moment while no one saw her.

These moments that she loved more than four-beats and full notes. These moments that made her think of songs and that songs would surely make her think of years later.

Because songs weren’t about quick-cook boyfriends or Tom or the first girl she ever kissed, behind the door of classroom P-8 in the north building. Songs were about their World’s mix playing near the stove, because Beca made them all listen to it daily. It was Lily picking at a spot by the fridge with a spoon, Ashley setting the time of the microwave to heat up day-old tortellini pasta and Fat Amy surely somewhere downtown with Bumper.

“Stacie get your stupid long legs back down here!” “What did you say, Beca? I can’t hear people below five foot three!” “Fuck you, Conrad.”

Songs were about Beca, just being there in their kitchen every night with the same eyeshadow and the same headphones and the same scowl.

 

Chloe had to leave her quiet spot and rush into the kitchen, however, when Flo flipped down from the wall and kicked the chair and Stacie flapped her arms as Beca gave a panicked squeak. Stacie was fine, thank goodness, when she slammed down into Beca’s shoulder and Chloe’s hands.

“Told you that was a death wish, Stacie,” Beca grumbled as she rubbed her back. “Hey, Chlo.”

Chloe smiled back gently at Beca’s strained expression, hoping to ease some of the tension she saw there. They did whatever they did, but Chloe would take everything back in an instant to keep them the way they were. So, as Ashley took the pasta out from the microwave and wrestled the plates away from Lily, Chloe nudged Beca softly with her elbow.

Beca hummed and glanced at her. The closeness at the bottom of her look made her skin tingle, and Chloe was sure that feeling would never really go away.

“We’re cool, right?” And she winced internally at how childish she sounded for once.

Beca looked back at her, but with an extra furrow to her eyeliner. For a sheer, flying moment, Chloe was positive Beca was going to shake her head and go away and come back with a grand romantic gesture, but only for her this time.

Beca nodded, then.

“Yeah, dude. We’re cool, of course we’re cool.” Chloe could see Beca knew what she was talking about by the colour in her cheeks. “You’re my best friend, Chlo,” she said in a low voice, drowned by Stacie’s loud protests to Jessica for eating all the pickles, “we’ll always be cool.”

Chloe nodded too, allowing herself a smile as well. “Yeah, okay. Good.”

 

 


 

 

However, Chloe was almost positive this wasn’t friendship. But this couldn’t be love.

 

Somewhere in between, it was the mess that was them.

Sometimes, Chloe found it just the smallest bit harder to breathe when she leaned too close to Beca, suddenly hit with the debilitating terror that she would surely love this girl more than her future spouse.

(And sometimes, she was almost sure Beca loved her back.)

Chloe should be smarter than this, she really should. She was top of her class throughout high school and she loved cross word puzzles and she’d been in college for way longer than she should have. But all that and later, she couldn’t help but still mistake Beca’s small smiles as butterflies in her stomach and her quiet ‘weirdo’s as ‘I love you’.

Because all Chloe wanted to do sometimes, was to scream ‘I love you too’ right back.

So much.

So much more than I ever should be able to love.

It was so confusing and made Chloe a little sad.

Because Beca would be so gentle and giggly with her, and Chloe was so sure Beca was never like this with anyone else. But then, Beca would go ahead and choose someone that wasn’t her—someone that was Jesse. And Chloe couldn’t do anything about it, because in all honesty, she liked him. (As much as she could like someone dating Beca, anyway.) He was always a good guy.

 

Why are you my friend if all I do is confuse you?

Why am I your friend if it pains me not to be your girlfriend?

 

Chloe ran a hand through her hair and told herself to stop being so emotional. She told herself to stop chasing after things just to feel alive, she told herself not to wince at the word girlfriend, but she couldn’t bring herself not to care excessively about Beca.

 

It’s alright. I’ll keep being your friend.

 

 


 

 

No one really paid attention during classes anymore. The professor’s monotonous voice was only a backdrop while the whole room buzzed with whispered conversations and excitement.

Chloe could feel it down it her bones, everything was changing.

Even in classes where a student didn’t jump up and do some grand and idiotic gesture to make all this memorable, no one really paid attention. There was a paper in front of her, but she wasn’t sure what to do. Winter had already left, giving place to gentle spring nights with the girls yelling Seasons in The Sun on the staircase.

Chloe zoned out looking at the pretty sunset outside, almost wanting to take a nap.

 

So seven years in this place was still only just a flash of youth gone by.

 

 


 

 

The night before graduation, Chloe couldn’t sleep. It didn’t feel like the end, but it was everything an end should have looked like. There was no neat little narrative showing the next great season to come, only a quiet night and a dull pain that took form in a girl sleeping on the couch.

Beca, fast asleep on the couch (‘I’m going to stay up too, dude, I’m co-captain!’), looked younger than she’d ever been. As the other co-captain, Chloe told herself she’d do something.

So at one in the morning, she sat on the carpet and under the light of her faint phone screen, writing out small postcards to each of the girls. The USB key was permanently attached to her keychain these days, playing in her earphones now.

The small pencil stub scratched on the paper and the playlist stayed on repeat, every song passed by dozens of times until she knew all of them by heart (she already did anyway, the week after Beca gave it to her, actually). Chloe knew the stories behind every one, the reasons why Beca chose them, and the stumbling explanation from Beca as she insisted on adding more every few months. (The third song reminded Beca of movie nights, and the nineth, the exhilaration after a performance.)

Everything was a blur. It was repeated and classic and overused, but Chloe still entertained the fast-forwarded moments rushing by in her head as she looped her letters carefully on every message.

Fat Amy drinking all the sisters’ blood at initiation and terrifying both Beca and Aubrey.

‘I’ll miss hearing about your crazy stories and being horrified by them.’

Stacie forcing them all to watch a horror movie and no one being able to sleep alone for three days afterwards.

‘I don’t know who I’m going to slap for inappropriate comments at the worst moments now.’

Jessica and Ashley putting on Christmas lights last year, singing too many songs and not paying attention to the ladder, and ending up with matching scars on their calves.

‘I can tell you guys apart now.’

And Beca, Beca everywhere, in every song, in every smile she remembered.

Activities fair, a sarcastic comment, the auditions, a late blur of dark clothes, competitions, tight braids, coming home, plucking the guitar, coming home, home, home, home.

 

She watched the light behind the curtains go from pitch black to faint to bright, and she wanted to cry on random increments—because this will never come back again, because this was really the final countdown.

 

Raising her head, she watched Beca breathe slowly, in and out, felt a little creepy and then a little sad. She could barely imagine a life without being able to feel all the girls in someway or another everyday.

They were getting older, and their youth was stretching on thin. Chloe was at a point where she didn’t know how much longer she could just shrug and say the excuse of ‘we’re still young’ to keep on loving Beca.

 

 


 

 

The simple and beautiful things Chloe could hold onto as the college life came to an end became less and less obvious. Endings never happened the way they should.

But there were always the surprisingly soft green gowns, sitting in the kitchen eating popcorn with the Bellas, and Beca’s laugh, airy, gentle, and exasperated as Emily ushered them together on the front door steps to take a final picture.

 

 


 

 

On the plane ride, everyone just knew that Beca and Chloe were sitting together. They swapped places, because Beca wanted to look out the window (and Chloe wanted to look at her.)

This was all going to be worth something, Chloe said into Beca’s shirt as she held her tight, despite the hollowing cavities in our chests.

This was all going to be worth something, we are going to make it.

 

And it really was, when their hands touched in Denmark, when the lights fell over the yellow cloth still tied to their wrists, when their voices wrapped around their last hurrah.

It was worth it still, when Chloe stood beside Beca with a lump in her throat and shuffling in the back, when decades of voices rose and echoed family, when flashlights waved and all she saw was glory.

 

Love was all that their song would make Chloe think of later.

And love was there when Beca’s eyes curved into crescents of raw joy when the trophy was solidly heavy in their hands.

 

 

[the tour]

 

So when Beca said she was going to New York, Chloe came too.

Fat Amy as well, but the more the merrier, right?

In their tiny apartment, Chloe and Beca settled down, and she knew they were supposed to want way more, but the way they shared a bed felt better than a castle.

 

 


 

 

Their life together was the best in the worst ways.

Sometimes, even, if Chloe was feeling up to something as she came home after a few drinks, she’d walk up to where Beca was cutting up fruits in the tiny kitchen and wrap her arms around her. Beca would jump a little, and then go soft and keep on doing whatever she was doing. It didn’t just feel like hugging a person from behind; it felt more like holding onto all of Chloe’s youth.

And when Amy came home, still in her ridiculous costume and singing too loudly, they’d jump apart, as if caught in something far worse.

Those warm nights around the kitchen reminded Chloe of quietly plucked guitar strings and quiet Fleetwood Mac songs.

It wasn’t all kindness and good, through some empty nights Beca stayed at the studio late and Fat Amy was wilding god-knows-where, as Chloe stood alone at the stove wondering when making food for one had become more agonizing than efficient. Dropping her spoon into a cup of instant noodles and counting the floating bits of carrot trying to figure out where life was taking her. And crying, a lot of crying, staring into the wooden cabinets that were far too small to hold a family.

Other times, all that didn’t matter anymore, like Christmas morning, where she’d woken up to Beca and Amy whisper-singing Last Christmas. Happiness looked so drastically different from what college-Chloe had excitedly imagined, but it showed up nonetheless. On the cards slipped into their dollar-store stockings, in the burnt cookies smoking in the oven, and between the individual Jenga blocks that toppled down at two in the morning as Chloe laughed so hard her stomach hurt. When her parents showed up for a surprise, she didn’t forget about Amy and Beca’s nervous smiles and polite handshakes that were waved off into a hug, and the enormous smile plastered on Beca’s face when her parents loved her music playing in the next room.

On New Year’s, it was a loud pumping pop song in their cramped living room as Aubrey arrived with a suitcase in one hand and Stacie in the other, then Cynthia in a Hawaiian shirt, then Flo, and Lily, and Jessica, and Emily, and Ashley. And they were enough, they still felt like belonging in such a visceral way.

They all jumped when Fat Amy all but crashed into the door with two bottles of wine and a loud howl. The complaints from their neighbors in the next days didn’t stand a chance against the drive of a tribe of acapella nerds missing each other for a whole year.

They were crowded hip to hip and knee-deep in unstoppable giggles when Aubrey finally finished the jello shots and put them in the fridge. Beca tore open the wrapper of the popsicle in her hands and sat down with a huff. “My legs are tired.”

“They wouldn’t be if you came to the gym with me,” Chloe was quick to reply.

The roll of Beca’s eyes made the others snicker. And then Flo started complaining about Beca being the only one having a popsicle and started raiding their cupboards.

The half-hour full of slurping that followed was the most peaceful time Chloe had known since they moved to New York. And Beca, staring out the window at the fire escape, said “We’re the happiest people in the whole fucking universe right now.”

 

It was the last time they were gathered so neatly together, Chloe thought. For a long time, the smell of sweat and sticky candy was grilled into her shirt that day; the smell of happiness.

 

 


 

 

Winter in New York was cloudier and colder than they had anticipated. Even in the depressing weather, though, there was Valentine’s Day.

And Chloe has been single for way too long.

But when Beca suddenly appeared at the door to her room in sweats and hair sticking out everywhere asking for her help, she decided to just stay in that night.

A romantic dinner for Jesse. A flight coming soon.

He’s always thought I was not romantic; I need to show him.

And Beca pulling a soft-eyed look that Chloe couldn’t say no to. (She never could really say no to Beca anyway.)

 

 

But the carefully placed candle light flickered on the walls hours later and Beca slumped into Chloe’s side.

“Bec…”

She only got a small sigh in return. Jesse didn’t show.

Work emergency.

So of course Chloe had to go fumbling under her bed to pull out the bottle of wine she kept hidden, of course she put on Beca’s favourite songs and got a bunch of chocolate chip cookies.

And when she finally got a laugh out of Beca around midnight, eating Lucky Charms and dancing around the kitchen island, warmness pooled behind her ribcage.

They flopped down on the floor, not caring if it was a bit cold, and breathed heavily with big smiles.

“Thank you, Chloe. Really.”

Chloe shook her head, a bit dizzy from everything. “It’s nothing.”

Beca lifted a hand and tugged on Chloe’s sleeve. “You’re my best friend, Chlo.” Their eyes met and Beca’s sparkled a little in the dim light, making it suddenly a little hard to breathe. “You’re my favourite person. You make me glad I exist.”

All Chloe could do was give her a small smile and ruffle her hair. She accepted Beca’s playful glare with an arm slung across her shoulder and a light kiss to her forehead.

She knew this was only another of being Beca’s good friend, but she didn’t think she could ever look at Beca and not feel a swoop in her stomach.

 

And in that moment, it really felt like love.

 

 

“That’s it.”

Beca shakily stood up two hours later, pulling herself off the ground with the arm of the couch.

Chloe frowned. “What?”

“I’m breaking up with Jesse.”

Chloe was just about to wave it off, because Beca never really broke up with Jesse. He was too nice of a guy, all boyish grins and romantic gestures, without any real faults than ‘we get into fights sometimes’. But Beca grabbed her arm and squeezed it with her slightly cold fingers and repeated it again.

“I’m breaking up with Jesse.”

She said it in such a manner that Chloe felt as if it had nothing to do with Jesse and everything to do with her. She wasn’t sure if that was good or not.

“That’s…” She was at a loss for words for a moment. “That’s good, Beca. I’ll, um, I’ll have ice cream and Victorious queued up to watch as soon as it happens.”

“No.”

“What?”

Beca shook her head firmly and crossed her arms. If the moment wasn’t so heavy, Chloe would’ve laughed at how much she looked like a petulant child. “I’m breaking up with him. Now.”

“Now?” Chloe frowned again and patted her hand around them on the carpet before finding her phone. Squinting down at the glowing screen, she frowned even deeper. “It’s…almost one in the morning, Becs.”

 

But Beca still broke up with him. She was so adamant about it too, a Beca so different from the one that shared a Valentine’s dinner with Chloe just hours ago. She was driven up until the moment the dial tone cut off and Jesse’s bright voice called out ‘hey Becaw!’.

And that was one more moment where Chloe was selfish, thinking about herself more than Beca. When she reached out slowly and clasped onto Beca’s hand, threading their fingers in the still silence. She met Beca’s gaze with courage she didn’t have, and gave her a sad smile.

The “I want to break up” that rolled off of Beca’s tongue sounded present and cutting, not travelling into the phone to another city but instead staying right there in their stupid apartment and circling Chloe’s head.

But she was only human, right?

 

 


 

 

Her flight attendant costume scratched at her skin dumbly under her scrubs.

Maybe Chloe should reconsider exotic dancing?

 

All thoughts like that flew out their two-story up window, however, when Emily called them with her excited childish voice and talked about a reunion.

But when they were all there, squeezed between the rest of the audience this time, it didn’t feel like going back. It was hopeless and lifeless—like dead stars on earth looking back at the sky. Their new and sparkling faces sung a song with an unfamiliar upbeat, making Chloe think of freshman Beca, for some reason.

The one who persisted that she like loneliness, and left people before they could leave her. (Look, you’re not the only thing that can destroy me!) (I can too! I can even better!) She felt now-Beca tense and wide-eyed right next to her, their old clothes resting pathetically dark in the parts where the stage lights will never shine. She wondered if Beca felt this too—this strange new life none of them have seemed to fall into step with yet.

This song reminded her of the receipts in her old purses, of restaurant flyers, gum wrappers comics and all the nostalgia they were too afraid to let go. (Look, you’re not the only thing that can define me!

 

Chloe could vaguely recall Beca slumping behind the group with a grumpy expression as she herself stared eagerly into army-boy’s eyes. She tried not to read too much into it, because Beca was being as equally as friendly with turtle-boy.

Unfortunately, it was as if even their clumsy riff-off was telling them indirectly that times had changed, and things did not work the way they used to. And back in their rooms, (separate this time) Chloe found herself facing Beca with a cold expression and the bed between them.

Chloe felt her anger build up behind her eyes and she clenched her jaw. She saw red shaped like their tiny-ass apartment and that annoying English man, and she could swear she heard Beca huff something about stupid city names.

(But she couldn’t get her hopes up, she just couldn’t. It was too late, it was too long gone.)

Instead, she lashed out with her frustration bubbling over.

“You’re just freaking blind, Beca. Everyone can see how talented you are, how great you are -” she shook her head, trying to shake the sadness seeping out from the corners of her eyes, “-everyone’s gonna love you, because they’d be stupid not to, you’re going to meet greater people, more interesting people-”

Chloe inhaled shakily and sighed.

“-and you’re going to forget all about me.”

 

And maybe that was why Chloe winced at herself every time she smiled sweetly at Chicago, but channeled all the passion she had to him. Handsome, sweet, tall Chicago. Handsome and new and pretty and perfect.

She really liked him; she really did. A tiny part of that affection might have been rooted in something else, something so much deeper, but that made Chloe force out a sudden impulse to drown herself into this man. And it was enough.

Something so deep that it practically (forcefully) slowed time frames and played classical music whenever Chloe looked at his face.

 

Beca stared at her with wide eyes and no more coldness. "It would..." she cleared her throat, "take a miracle for this to work."

Chloe clenched her jaw, but from the deep and raw things stirring in Beca's eyes, she was sure Beca knew what they were both thinking. 

 

 


 

 

They made up soon after that, like all the times before. How, Chloe wasn’t sure, but they were so constantly there in each other’s lives that all these countless unfinished arguments were just swept under one enormous carpet. And as they continued their tour, Chloe watched Beca slowly build up and away.

Beca was so different from where they started.

Chloe watched from afar as Beca grinned and talked to various quasi-famous singers and producers, and she was so proud. Was Beca awkward? Of course. But the people seemed to find it as endearing as Chloe did, and Chloe didn’t whether to love or hate that.

She was so happy for Beca it made her sad all over again.

Fuck, she could see Theo strolling into Beca’s view and for a sheer moment, she just wanted to let it go and be the possessive monster she wanted to be. Beca looked over at her before engaging in the conversation with Theo, and Chloe revelled in the warm gaze she was met with for a moment. When Beca turned to talk to Theo, Chloe knew Beca knew she was staring.

And Chloe knew Beca knew how she stared, because she’d stared that way for many times before this. And Chloe knew Beca cowered to the look, because Beca’s wasn’t completely blind.

(But she was tired of being unarguably Beca’s for so long, and it was the reason she wanted to jump into a new passion called Chicago.)

 

And then they were all in high heels and fancy clothes, and Theo asked for only Beca to follow him.

Chloe narrowed her eyes and stuttered.

 

As she talked to Chicago instead, she supposed she was already lucky enough to have even met Beca. So she had long learned to let it go when things like that happened.

You’re always gonna be there for each other, right?

The man talked and Chloe’s eyes were on the other side of the room. Oh well. Nothing new.

But he just kept on talking.

And you’re never really alone.”

She supposed she was already lucky enough to have even met Beca, so maybe there weren’t nearly enough luck on her side for them to ever actually be together. And she would hate Beca if she could, but she couldn't. 

 

The ending was close; Chloe could feel it pressing onto her ribcage as she smiled sadly.

 

 


 

 

That night, in their hotel room, they were both a little buzzed from the non-stop champagne of polite toasts and attempted schmoozing.

“God,” Beca sighed, her black dress still clinging to her body as she laid in their bed, staring at the ceiling, “Will all this ever be for anything?”

Chloe couldn’t quite wipe away the goofy smile from her face as she turned her own head to stare at Beca’s profile. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” she waved to herself, “all this. My whole life, I was just, like, dreaming of LA and everything it meant, what I could do there without parents and stupid divorces and stupid college.”

Chloe hummed, a silent hum as she listened to Beca talk about their future in this misty darkness. Her arm inched closer, and Beca naturally lifted her head for it to curl around her shoulders. She could so easily ignore the looming future, just like she always did when she was with Beca. Except that this time, Beca was talking about it, and Chloe suddenly was hit with the unpleasant thought of maybe not being to be this close to Beca and the Bellas forever.

All of the proof that she was young and crazy and so happy once were all washed out and delicately put into the human form of Beca.

“It sounds childish, but I wish we could all stay together, forever.”

Chloe had to chuckle at that, and poked Beca’s side. “I always knew you secretly loved us.”

Beca huffed. “Only sometimes.”

They laid in silence for a bit, until Chloe felt something wet drip over her hand. A sniffle followed, and when she looked over, she crumbled just like she did six years ago, whenever Beca cried.

“It’s the alcohol,” Beca grumbled, wiping at her eyes furiously with the back of her hands, “I’m not actually crying.”

Chloe felt like she was going to cry too. Everything was ending so quickly, out of nowhere. This wasn’t even an ending, but it felt like the end of something. She was going to cry, she was sure of it, she was going to cry and Beca was going to cry harder and everything was going to seem too real.

Instead, somehow, she whispered, “You know you’ll always be my best friend, that much can’t ever change. Even if you start hating me when you’re all famous and cool, ‘cause you’re still gonna be you, and honestly,” she sighed, “that is all the reason for you to always be someone to me.”

 “Damn,” Chloe added after a moment of thought, “that became deep real fast,”

 

In all objectivity, it sounded like a love confession.

Chloe wasn’t sure if it was or not.

 

But then, Beca breathed softly. “Chloe…”

And Chloe’s name never sounded as pretty as it did, coming out of Beca’s mouth. She was almost positive that the word itself was only brought into existence to be said in this exact moment, in this exact hotel room.

There was a drunkenness that came with her nervous excitement, one that kept on buzzing between their faces so close to each other. Chloe gripped her excitement in her hand and told Beca everything no one ever knew.

“Whoever you become and whatever city you end up in…” Beca curled in closer to her, and Chloe wiped the last of her tears away with the pad of her thumb, not used to such a surprisingly intimate touch. “I think I’ll always love you. You’re my friend until the end.”

 

Out of nowhere, Beca kissed her.

Short and gentle and warm, a real one, unlike the one so many years ago as they were furiously terrified of getting older. This time was like the moment simply swallowed Beca, like she couldn’t contain it anymore, and she just had to kiss her.

She pulled back and flopped down after just one moment that split Chloe’s being down the middle and started giggling. A joyful, relieved laugh, that made Chloe’s insides go hot.

“I didn’t have much luck in my shitty life, Chlo,” Beca said now, barely a whisper this time. Chloe’s name said so reverently, filled with everything. From the fateful duet in the showers to their hands intwined, holding in everything they never said. “But when everything sucked, you were a good thing. Things will keep on sucking, but you’ve gotta know…”

Beca exhaled. “You are the best thing I’ve got going.”

 

Chloe did hear Beca quiet “I love you too” afterwards, but they didn’t talk about how scared or silent or real it sounded.

 

 


 

 

Whatever absurd thing this tour was throwing at them in the form of a kidnapping and an exploding yacht and Fat Amy's ( honestly, unsurprising) karate moves, it couldn't beat the moment Chloe stepped onstage. It was where everything lied, and the rush of applause would never get old. She closed her burning eyes and wished the moment would last forever; to live forever. The cheers of the crowd were boxes checked off their never-ending successes, screaming long live, long live, long live this love that lived in song.

 

Beca’s warm and slippery voice invited them over, and all Chloe knew was music and family and red-rimmed eyes. Her whole life melted into song and intertwined with voices she loved more than the world. Her life had never felt so heavy and adored before. 

Don't think that I'll be back again, I just hope you understand.

 

It was almost funny, how Beca could ruin months of preparation with such a tiny gesture.

It was almost funny, how Chloe ran up to Chicago after the performance to kiss him, almost funny, how he dipped her with a hand on her waist, almost funny, how she didn’t feel anything at all.

It was almost funny, how all she felt was regret when Beca was so quickly not the last person to have kissed her anymore. Her desire for Chicago drove her onward, because there were memories far too good with Beca that Chloe was far too scared to remember in those moments.

It was almost funny, how all the motivation to kiss Chicago was another person, another girl, who was smart and funny and beautiful in all the ways that mattered more to Chloe than handsome stubble ever will. How everyone that wasn’t Beca now were only mistakes with different names.

Except, it was not funny at all and Chloe knew exactly the way they will hurt in the same places at whatever end that inevitably will come.

 

The song was too short, and life passed by too quickly. In a mess of hugs and broken voices, they were old and fading.

I don’t belong to you, and you don’t belong to me.

All was unfinished, but the years have already gone.

 

 


 

Chloe was able to make the eighteen-year-old join her acapella group, but she couldn’t stop the twenty-five-year-old from leaving their home.

Not when such a label reached out, not when the label was in LA, not when all of Beca’s dreams had suddenly come true in an email and a phone call.

Especially not when all she ever wanted was for Beca to be happy.

 

 


 

 

The day Beca left, the sky was empty. Emptier than it had been when she left home for college, and emptier than it had been when Tom broke up with her in a simple text.

We’re going to be fine, Chlo.

We’re only twenty something.

We still have all the rest of our lives.

Chloe wanted to believe every word Beca said, but she also knew that they only knew about Stacie’s pregnancy three months after she found out. Things weren’t ever able of going back to the way they used to be, and even the old list of songs queued up in her phone stopped making sense.

What hurt the most was the mornings that used to be fresh beginnings slowly turning into a tedious repeat of days. The first day that Beca wasn’t in their shared bed as Chloe awoke, she reached over by habit and only touched cold sheets. And for a minute, Chloe’s hand dipped and wiggled sadly, as if trying to scoop back time.

What hurt the most about losing the final bit of together-ness was the next three months only being an empty loop of that day.

 

 


 

 

This was where it was ending, Chloe could see it so clearly now, as Beca’s crying face started being the only thing that made sense. It was so sudden and without warning, because only a moment ago, Chloe was in the middle of the Bellas’ glory days, and the next moment, it was gone.

They were different people and they weren’t ever going back, and Chloe wasn’t sure that was ever going to start making sense.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

[new york]

 

But still, life kept on running by. The show must go on.

Chloe cleaned her stove and made her bed, and she sat down on the balcony that was suddenly way too big and added new cities to her weather app. She knew Beca, and she knew Beca would be scared to call too much, but it still hurt. And she thought back to all their unfinished arguments that were stuffed right back down their throats, and she missed them. All of the harsh words seemed thousands of times better than the never-ending silence these days.

So all she did was smile sadly at the couple of texts, updating her on the recent changes and the new place Beca visited. And she added them to her weather app. Like an always present deity watching over Beca for all of her lifetimes.

 

Six months after the tour, Chloe finally agreed to go on a date with Chicago. And it wasn’t so bad. There was a second one. A third, a fourth and a fifth.

But no sixth.

Because when he kissed her on her front doorstep, his stubble scratched her chin, and when he laid on her carpet in the evenings, he would only talk about being in the army. When they were in bed, he was careful and respectful, but he didn’t take his time to learn about Chloe.

And he liked hunting.

That bothered Chloe a little. Especially when she was looking at the anatomy of a rabbit every day in her veterinary textbooks. Every time she reread their long text thread, Beca would love her all over again.

 

 


 

 

Chloe quit vet school a few weeks later. She was moping and a bit lost. Beca drove for three hours from her latest work trip to come back to their small apartment, and for three days, it was like she never even left. They ate ice cream through the night on the old and familiar little pull-out couch, talking about the future like they were kids again.

Chloe felt better after that. Much better.

They smoked again, for the first time since senior year. One cigarette for the two of them, just going back and forth on the front steps of Chloe’s tiny apartment. Honestly, she hated the taste of smoke. But she loved Beca, so she guessed it was alright. She looked over as she shuffled slowly closer to her side, refusing to really meet Chloe’s eyes. Everything about this was reckless, so reckless.

They should know better, they really should.

“Do you still have the songs I gave you?” Beca asked, her voice just a bit scratchy.

“I do,” Chloe answered, “Of course I do.”

“Okay.”

They swam in silence for another bit, the excitedness from skipping out on responsibilities wearing off and the fresh night wind bringing everything that actually mattered back. It was all so heavy.

Chloe watched the cigarette tremble in Beca’s thin hands. “Tell me about the west coast,” she finally said, ignoring the dull ache it brought.

Finally, she saw Beca brightening a bit, despite the way it twisted her insides unpleasantly.

“It’s great, Chlo. It’s everything I dreamed it’d be. I-” Beca smiled a little, bringing her hands up to gesture, and it made Chloe smile too. “I don’t even know how to describe it, honestly. It’s just- so…dreamy. You know?”

Chloe chuckled. “I don’t, actually, but I’m happy you’re happy.” She nodded, as if emphasizing her point. “Truly, Becs.”

Beca seemed to catch on something sad in her words, because she gave one last smile and dropped her hands in her lap, pulling on her fingers.

Chloe was reminded of the night Beca had given her those songs. On their snowy balcony, just on the edge of leaving that innocence forever, when Beca had looked up at her with those eyes. The snow falling. Beca laughing. Their songs playing. Back when she knew it wouldn’t happen, but she let her self crazily dream of times where they just, magically, somehow, would work out, and go on dates, and grow old together.

The snow that fell on Beca’s hair had painted her head white, and that in itself, Chloe thought now, was a kind of forever. She’d seen Beca, all grins and beautifully white hair, and it would have to suffice for the ‘rest of their lives’ in her head.

“I’m cold,” Beca said, breaking the quiet.

“Let’s go inside.” Chloe stood up and dusted off her pants, holding out her hand for Beca to naturally wrap her slightly smaller and colder one in it. (It meant everything, actually.)

 

They went inside, hands and fingers pressed together, Beca’s hand now decently warm. But while Chloe stuck her key in her lock, she listened to Beca complain about the chill stuck in her clothes, suppressing a smile. They were closer to thirty than college days now, yet Beca still went about these things in such juvenile ways. “Aw, I’ll warm you up, Becs,” Chloe still said, playing into Beca’s grumbling, opening her door and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. Beca leaned further into Chloe than she should’ve.

Her bed’s white sheets rippled out as they tumbled over it, Beca’s weight a burning and desperate mess pressing down into her lap. It was barely real, yet all that existed in Chloe’s world that night. Her hand was strong and steady where Beca’s waist was humid and pliant, and the tears she could feel on her shoulder brought her back strangely to the day they had met.

What if this time, I asked you to stay?

Beca’s face flushed the most beautiful shade of pink. Her skin, shadowed under Chloe’s own quick breaths, was a soft field of milk and for a moment, it almost looked as transparent and fragile as it felt under her fingers.

Beca panted her name, and it sounded better their songs.

Chloe wouldn’t stop, she murmured quiet encouragements, melting into Beca’s same breathless urging, but she didn’t stop. Her own lips tasted like salt, from whose crying, she wasn’t sure.

What if this time, I asked you to stay?

And what if this time, you said yes?

 

Chloe quit vet school, and spent three days playing hooky from life with Beca. She canceled all her subscriptions and filled out all the forms.

She no longer had to stare at the anatomy of a rabbit every day, but she did not call Chicago back. Chloe listened to Beca breathe, pressed into her front and was sure she had passed by her whole life.

 

 


 

 

Beca had to fly back to LA the next day. Chloe watched her breathing under her covers, morning light pouring in from the blinds they didn’t bother to close last night. She desperately tried to slow down the dawn breaking in, but the world around them was waking up, and pretending like nothing was wrong couldn’t work anymore. She hated how Beca looked incredibly innocent and helpless in the glow of a new day that didn’t belong to Chloe.

As Beca woke up and subconsciously pushed her way into Chloe’s side, Chloe thought of all the songs that would be ruined because of this love. As Beca slipped off her bed and put on her shirt, Chloe could feel their past slither away from her bones.

 

With all of her bags packed (all barely unpacked anyway), Beca still couldn’t quite meet her eye or be carelessly sarcastic.

“Promise me we’ll stay in touch. Promise me we’ll always be friends. Promise,” Chloe said, by their yellow cab, in a voice she couldn’t recognize.

Beca regarded her with eyes so sad Chloe couldn’t breathe and answered, “Of course. You were always my best friend.”

 

But no one ever called Chloe ‘dude’ anymore, and she found herself missing it.

Beca tried her best to send texts, and she had proudly stated, “You’d be so impressed how much less awkward I am these days”.

No one filled up empty spaces with guitar and songs, and Chloe sang karaoke looking at boys staying over, but thought of another girl instead. She listened to songs she didn’t even like and manage to make herself love them only because Beca used to. (She wondered when music itself was going to stop being permanently associated with Beca.)

Beca, in turn, told Chloe that all the worries and stress she had before moving were proving to be kind of dumb. She said that it wasn’t difficult to meet people or to create in a big studio.

Chloe wondered when she would get old enough to understand why they never had a chance. (Because time should give explanations, and time always healed. That was what they said, right?)

 

Chloe couldn’t get over how polite and strange Beca’s emails had become.

And Beca never mentioned anything about her love life.

 

 


 

 

“I’m going to cut my hair,” Chloe said into the phone.

What?

Aubrey’s voice on the other side was more confused than anything.

“I’m cutting my hair,” Chloe said again, scissors in her hand and standing above the kitchen sink. She was trailing her fingers through the long strands and sectioning them clumsily.

Oh. Um. Okay? You go, I guess.

Chloe hummed into the phone and listened to the clip-clip of the scissors and watched her bright hair fall into the sink.

Chloe?

“Yeah?”

Have you talked to Beca lately?

Her hands stilled and she breathed shakily. But just for a moment, before she went back to chopping her hair until the ends frayed and the sink turned red.

“Not really. But I hear she’s doing pretty well.” She was, actually, she really was. Their old group chat lived a burst of conversations when a video of Beca singing to her own mashup blew up on social media. It continued with messages of congratulations, excitement and inappropriate comments (courtesy of Fat Amy and Stacie, of course), as Beca rode it out and started promoting a single. If Chloe chin didn’t tickle with the clipped ends of her hair, she could scroll through her notifications and feel as if nothing had changed at all.

 But still, Chloe fussed over her hair, the one thing in her hands, the one thing she could chop and chop away and still own and have control over.

 

On a story a few days later, however, Beca replied and said ‘it looks so good, Chlo!’. And Chloe was certain that cutting her hair was the absolute right idea.

 

 


 

 

She was cutting up avocado and filling her toast with the pieces when she hummed and realised how less often she sang along to songs these days.

But Chloe couldn’t, however, stop herself from picking up the phone right away and dial that one number without a second thought the day she heard Beca’s song come on the radio and ran a red light. She found that her world was quiet, only as she waited for Beca’s voice to fill it up again.

Beca answered on the first ring, and Chloe squealed into her small car and Beca yelled right back.

Dude! That’s my song! Oh my god! That’s me, that’s me, that’s me!

Chloe laughed, and she was positive Beca almost started crying right there. And as she listened to Beca being so unabashedly excited and high-pitched on this side of the country; the present slammed into her so hard she almost started crying too.

I made it, holy shit, Chlo. I made it.

If only Beca knew just how far she was going to make it just then. It was still, always, that never-ending story, retold so many times as Beca’s song slipped into the chorus she’d written. Life tortured writer, writer tortured words, words tortured listeners.

It’s good art because there’s real feelings in it, Chloe had almost heard her old professor say in the back of her head. She wondered briefly who gave Beca the feelings to make music about, these days.

The car was disturbingly silent after Chloe hung up the call and made Beca promise they were going to see each other the next day off they shared. Everything was moving so fast, but it felt like it was only yesterday when Beca had tears streaming down her pretty face as they packed her whole life in New York into cardboard boxes. And now, she was a bigshot in the music industry with a song on the radio and grocery stores.

It was a beautiful day.

Chloe really wished she could’ve been there to see the pure joy on Beca’s face when she heard her song on the radio—she would’ve given anything to see Beca’s face, instead of being stuck in her small car listening to Beca’s trembling voice.

It was such a devastatingly beautiful day.

 

And after that, they went a month without any calls. Who was she to keep Beca back in the name of love?

 

(Chloe could physically feel Beca forgetting about her.)

(Why couldn’t they just grow out of each other?)

 

Chloe was angry at herself when she searched up ‘Beca Mitchell’ on Wikipedia again in June, and she was angry at herself when she found every new girl that she tried to take home having brown hair and smart mouths.

And sometimes, deep into the nights and when the air conditioning didn’t work well and Chloe woke up in a sweat, all she could think of was Beca after two months of not even clicking on her Instagram.

Her default thought; her always-there piece of nostalgia.

 

 


 

 

Chloe always knew it was only a matter of time that Beca was seen by the world and had crowds of people celebrating her talent.

Chloe always knew she believed in Beca more than she believed in herself.

Sometimes, she still dreamed of Beca running away from her grand life as a quasi-celebrity and showing up at her front door. Dressed in loose band-tees just like she used to in college, not the fancy skirts and blouses she was in on the covers of magazines. She so selfishly wanted to see Beca come running back to tell her that nothing could compare to their noisy kitchen and cold pizza. How the loudest bars only made her miss Chloe all of a sudden, and how she couldn’t listen to that one song without a pain in her chest.

Chloe made so many new friends, from all over the place, who talked differently and sang different songs. When she scrolled down their social media, she still saw Beca’s news, and she still listened to all her songs.

She was older and wiser, but she just couldn’t grow out of it.

Maybe it was just a twenty-first century thing.

 

 

Chloe sat at a big table with these new friends from school, in a loud restaurant with so many people. They were good and kind and welcoming, but they always felt a little to the left of what Chloe felt at home with.

She wrote it down to being too used to the Bellas after so many years.

“A toast!” One of them yelled into their table, raising a glass.

The rest of them cheered, and Chloe did too. She’d been very happy with her life for the past year. Apart from quitting vet school, she’d settled down, and New York was where home was now.

(It wasn’t that she couldn’t be happy without Beca. They missed whatever they had, and people moved on. Chloe could miss her terribly and still be happy with her life.)

(It was only, sometimes, the thought of Beca came at the most unexpected times and made Chloe do a double take.)

(Like tonight.)

“Beca Mitchell?” One of the guys at her table was in an animated conversation when Beca’s name made Chloe whip her head around. She was just about to ask him how he knew Beca when she remembered that Beca was practically a star now. Of course people would know her.

It still felt so weird.

“Yeah, I saw her on that show last week,” the guy said and whistled and clicked his tongue. “Hot as fuck. And that voice? Damn.”

Chloe couldn’t help but grimace, and turned to talk to the girl on her right side.

 

 


 

 

Another had year passed when she left those crowded dinners, and it was winter all over again.

But suddenly, Chloe was twenty-nine and still in school, standing in her kitchen making coffee for a stranger, and the smell of it just really wrapped her up for a second. For a second, she didn’t feel at home in her own skin, and couldn’t for the life of her think of a place that could actually feel like home.

Because safety and happiness used to be a living room full of girls singing stupid love songs and scheduled practices and brown hair and shy eyes. It came as easily as a number stored on the top of her phone and a knock to a door. But now, that safeness was fading from her memory the way she couldn’t exactly remember the exact pacing a once perfected choreography.

She was so young yet the oldest she’d ever been, and her parents’ house would probably never feel perfectly home again either, and for two short minutes, Chloe was stuck in a whirlpool, turning and turning and so lost.

 

“Hey, you good?”

She turned back to the stranger on the other side, the girl that she took out to dinner just the night before.

“Yeah. Yeah. Of course.”

And nostalgia washed away like last night’s unfamiliar giggles, Chloe went back to pouring coffee. She breathed in and breathed out and she was fine.

She had to be.

Chloe was years away from the fateful nights of college graduation and Worlds, a new girl sitting across her kitchen counter and a new laugh tinkling through her morning routine.

The girl wore her own shirt, from last night, crumpled and frayed, she didn’t steal one from Chloe’s closet clutching a mug of coffee Chloe made for her.

It’s a little too sweet, but it’s fine, don’t worry.

They made careless conversation over the sizzling stovetop; Chloe couldn’t shake the distinct feeling of unbelonging.

If you could just watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chloe never had a favourite movie. Movies were like songs, each one special and unpredictably winding itself around people, making them feel things.

And she remembered how gently Beca was curled against her, how adorable her snores rumbled against the skin of her neck, the tender weight of her limbs draped over her own.

“Wall-E,” Chloe said over her shoulder. “I could watch that every night for the rest of my life.”

The girl raised her eyebrows. “Really?”

Yes. Because I used to watch it with the best friends in the entire world. I love things because someone else loved it first.

“Yeah. I never finished that movie. I want to know what happened in the end, anyway.”

Unfinished.

Chloe wondered what the grand finale could bring.

 

 


 

 

The same thoughts on a loop, through the long months and in between the cracks on other people’s names. Work, bus, coffee, friends, work, bus, coffee, friends. She found a job at a nice school with nice people and nice kids, and really, Chloe really thought this was the best way her life could have played out. Because even though she missed the thrill of performing sometimes, she was content, and it was all that mattered.

But Chloe’s hand slipped on her phone in the cold and an old playlist started playing. She barely noticed until a lyric danced by and a thought knocked the wind out of her.

What if Beca came back one day?

It was so random. Chloe hadn’t felt that hurt in her ribs for so long.

What if she looked up walking home from the train on afternoon and Beca was just standing there under the roof of a coffee shop eating a croissant just like she used to? What if Beca laughed and talked and walked just the way she did when they were young?

And what if Beca stood up and told her all the things she’d always wanted to hear, but Chloe was with someone else?

But minutes later, Chloe shook her head and laughed at herself for being so stupid. They exchanged the rare phone call on birthdays and others, but Beca was busy and so was she. Chloe stopped by the coffee shop and bought donuts to share with her girlfriend because she wanted her to drop by.

She thought about her new girlfriend, how nice she was. How her brown hair shone under street lights and how she was just the right height to rest her head on Chloe’s shoulder.

Something in the pit of her stomach twisted gently in nostalgia.

 

She was still walking home in New York traffic; Chloe saw a lone cigarette on the side of the road and her mind wandered back. She couldn’t believe how close yet at once how very far they were now.

The last she heard from her, Beca’s real ‘home’, (a comparatively modest apartment) was still in New York, only a couple gradually-fancier blocks away from their old home together, back when each other was all they had.

But the last she saw of Beca on the news, she was on a tour and riding waves of success and talent. Just as Chloe always knew she would.

It made her so proud of Beca, yet so sad.

Because the person Chloe knew better than herself suddenly became almost nothing at all. And they were in different cities, living different lives and meeting different people. And she could no longer glare at guys to looked at Beca for too long and she didn’t know what Beca’s favourite show was anymore or who she liked to hang out with after work—

 

Chloe took a deep breath.

 

She wished Beca could see her, how nicely she was doing now. That was all.

She wished Beca would know that no matter how far they got from each other, all the gentleness they once shared was real and true, and the soft spot behind Chloe’s thumping heart was still reserved just for her.

And Chloe really hoped Beca thought of her sometimes.

 

 


 

 

Because really, all she ever wanted was to be someone to Beca.

She still wanted her name to pop up on Beca’s phone and she wanted to know what was going on in Beca’s life and she missed the way Beca sighed into her shoulder on chilly nights, and she knows they couldn’t be together, maybe ever, but…

All she ever wanted was to for Beca to like her.

 

 


 

 

Chloe only then realized she had stopped walking and was staring at a pigeon who was staring right back.

She didn’t love Beca. She wasn’t in love with Beca.

She only loved Beca because she was her best friend during the best years of her life. It was an old and rusted love that belonged to the years that Chloe seemed like the only one to remember so well.

A bit dizzy from the tiring day and the biting wind, on a whim, Chloe took out her phone and opened their texts.

Hey, Bec,

Chloe paused and bit her lip, barely feeling it with the stinging breeze suddenly on her face.

 I miss you.

I miss being friends with you.

And I

A loud honk made her jump a little. When she looked back down at her phone, she realized how stupid this was. She shut it off, not bothering to delete the text, letting it rest in a pathetic ‘draft’ written in red.

An orphaned draft, and as Chloe walked with her head down against the unforgiving wind, an orphan of a favourite friendship.

 

But Chloe, like all responsible adults, left her stupid emotional bullshit by the curb and brought her scarf up to her chin.

She had a girlfriend’s apartment to go to and donuts to bring.

(The term ‘girlfriend’ was so weird.)

 

(And Chloe was able to convince herself she wasn’t so in love Beca. Ever.)

 

 


 

 

Chloe watched Beca’s face grin through the television and her whole being trembles with something great.

Beca Mitchell, in big black block letters, the rising star in music.

The only light from the living room came from a lamp in the far corner behind the couch, spilling unforgivingly onto her. She was supposed to be out tonight, a cheap but cozy little restaurant that her friends from work invited her to. But it was the big awards and she just…couldn’t miss it.

Not when the Bellas’ group chat suddenly blew up the moment they announced Beca was nominated last week.

 

Beca, who stayed up until three in the cramped bathtub because it was the only place with enough privacy.

Beca, who lived on coffee and bread for a month and a half to save up for a new computer.

Beca, whose ears turned bright red whenever someone complimented her work.

Beca, who was now in a fancy black dress on her television screen, getting interviewed by some big shot host about her latest tour, who had crowds of people cheering for her.

 

The woman on the screen now smiled with grace and controlled emotions, whose ears only turned a light shade of pink when the crowd chanted her name. She had shed her wide-eyed puppy look. The woman who Chloe didn’t really know anything about anymore.

And her head buzzed again, with the same things.

That this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Their night talks, their drunken giggles, their inside jokes and their special looks across the room—

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Beca laughed politely at a joke on screen and it reached out, grasping onto Chloe’s clenched jaw.

But it is the way things are now.

 

 


 

 

Stacie happened to be swinging by so Chloe met her and her adorable son in a coffee shop someway down the street. It had been a while Chloe had gotten sad because of Beca again, but she guessed it had to come sooner or later. A teenager with badly dyed hair took away their plates as she stared into a face from the best days of her life.

Chloe found out that Beca kept up her end of the promises. She still talked with all the Bellas as often as she could, but she was also just too busy, too often.

Stacie told her that Beca was living her best life, but she missed them. She said that Beca did change, but not in a bad way. She said that they just needed to text first sometimes, because that awkwardness never changed, and Beca never knew when to reach out.

Friendships were a double-sided thing, and Chloe didn’t even know she was the one that pushed less these days. 

She felt a pang in her chest when she realised that Stacie knew Beca so much better than she did now.

“Really?” Stacie looked at her although she thought she’d grown two heads. “You haven’t seen Beca in more than a year?”

“Yeah. I guess so. Wow,” Chloe shook her head, “I didn’t even realise it had been a whole year.”

“Wow. Yeah.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Why is your face like that?”

“No reason. I just…you were always closest to Beca, you know?” Stacie played with her hair and fidgeted, that much hadn’t changed. “You guys always had…something special.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

Chloe sighed.

She played with the corner of a napkin and shook her head. “I was the only one, back then.”  The only one who loved her so hard, who always chose her unconditionally. “But so many people love her now, everyone adores her now. I’m just…anyone else.”

 

The way Stacie shot her a sympathetic look meant that she understood everything Chloe had left unsaid. Chloe always knew the Bellas were aware of whatever mess that was Beca and her.

She wasn’t sure what she was mourning: their rusting friendship or the broken futures.

 

 


 

 

At thirty, Chloe wasn’t exotic dancing, but rather in a room with a group of seven-year-old’s, chalk on her hands and finally content with her life.

She stood behind her wood desk and watched all the different kids, a couple of them talking as if she wouldn’t notice as long as they were whispering. One of them met her gaze and his head snapped down, immediately pretending he was paying attention to the math problems all along.

She raised her head and looked out the window; it was a nice day in New York.

Chloe always liked to put a bit of background music on rare quiet periods where students were all working (or as much work as a second-grader could do). For a moment, she was brought back to her last classes in college, young and excited, and a little sad because it meant leaving the Bellas. When she was still able to stay out until morning and always knew someone was back home waiting on her.

Back to the present, Chloe looked back to her students and smiled. It was her turn to watch them grow up.

She looked down, and an old USB key was sticking out from her laptop on the desk, the source of the soft music playing in the classroom. It was red and worn out, but the pink sticker could still be made out, along with the scribbly handwriting that only faded a little.

(Chloe made sure to always hold it in a way that didn’t smudge the sharpie.)

The black letters of ‘for Chlo’ glowed in the afternoon light.

Chloe had a new date later that night.

And according to the news, Beca had a new beau as well.

 

New York was loud and busy and dirty, just like Los Angeles, and the skyscrapers didn’t cry over fading love.

 

 


 

 

On her birthday, she had friends over and made dinner for everyone. As she was opening a bottle of wine, she wondered how this became her idea of a party instead of those crazy and dangerous nights out.

Blowing out the candles on her modest cake, Chloe stared at the numbers three and one, mismatched and colourful. She was officially finished with another whole decade of her life. She closed her eyes and almost wasted a wish on someone again, but instead pulled back and wished for everyone she loved to be always content and safe.

Then, she indulged herself in hard alcohol as soon as Julia suggested it, thinking about all her college and high school friends’ birthdays she’d missed.

Through the fuzzy laughter in front of the television and a few board games, Chloe distinctly remembered putting on Titanium and dancing with Gabrielle, and flopping down on the floor and squinting at her phone, finger hovering over a contact. And pressing send when she couldn’t really make the small letter in the box get through into her head.

 

 


 

 

Chloe woke with a hangover and a wave of genuine confusion. But it turned into a flip in her stomach when a name that her phone had missed terribly slid to the top of her notifications.

 

Chloe [1:12 AM]: Hey, Bec, I miss you. I miss being friends with you. And I

Beca [2:02 AM]: I miss you too.

Beca [2: 10 AM]: Are you drunk texting me?

 

Chloe groaned into her pillow, but still texted Beca back right away. Somehow, for the weeks after that, they kept texting. Much like their first meet-up, Chloe supposed it took another sudden and somewhat forceful entry to bring them together (again). Chloe frowned at herself in the mirror when she caught herself smiling way too wide after a fateful ‘ding’ from her phone.

Each ‘ding’ was just another reminder of all that they had missed, and maybe each closer and closer paced dings were desperate attempts to bridge that gap.

 

Even when they’ve both moved on, deep into their lives without each other and away from their childish love, Chloe still played Beca’s music from the USB. It reminded her of innocence and somehow felt like her.

And even when Beca had left the city and the late-night talks, even when Chloe had been up later and longer with far different people, she couldn’t shake the gentle reminders of her everywhere.

And no matter how far she’d strayed and how numb she thought she became, Beca was all over her and stuck to all her years. She was in the way Chloe made her coffee and how she sang, in both the way she made her noodles and her twin-sized bed.

Because Beca was too important for too long, and the side-effects were too dumbly strong.

 

 

It really wasn’t even remotely noticeable, it just a text. Which turned into two and then three, and then a thread coming back to the top of Chloe’s phone just where it used to belong.

A thread that stayed active and present all night long when her girlfriend broke up with her over a cup of coffee and a ‘you just don’t seem completely devoted’.

 

 


 

 

When Chloe saw Beca again, it was at Cynthia Rose’s wedding.

 

It was only a few weeks later. The brides were gorgeous and the decorations were breathtaking, but nothing could beat the perfection of when Beca turned around and shyly gave her a smile.

She looked somehow even smaller and prettier, and her hair grew longer and Chloe almost didn’t recognize her from behind. The last time they did this felt like centuries ago, but as soon as Beca opened her mouth and called out her name through crowds of people—

It was as if she was only waiting for Chloe after Tuesday practice, wanting to stuff in a quick dinner at a convenience store before studying all night for midterms. Their decade of history melted into the lifting corners of Beca’s grin.

 

 


 

 

“Hi. Chloe. Wow, I-I don’t even know what to say.”

“It’s nice to see you.”

“…You too.”

 

 


 

 

Chloe was woken up at seven in the morning by her phone after leaving the wedding afterparty and singing with the Bellas again, after Beca scrambling to give Chloe a hug goodbye (voluntarily too, and it still made Chloe warm and happy). However, when she saw Beca’s name on the screen, her stomach still automatically flipped and settled lost somewhere with her useless brain.

She was breathless for no reason when she answered with a reverent “hi”.

As she listened to Beca stutter exactly like she used to and clumsily invite her to come to one of her shows the next month, Chloe could feel her face being split by her smile and her whole room lit up by the happy morning light.

(Beca invited all the Bellas, actually, but the way she asked made Chloe feel like the only one that really mattered. Just like she used to.)

And to her ecstatic surprise, Beca stayed on the phone with her. It started with a nervous ramble, but it continued and grew into an actually conversation talking about things that actually mattered. Chloe was smiling so hard she couldn’t feel her cheeks, and she was smiling so hard she suddenly felt a tear dropping down to her mouth.

It had been so long since she’d talked to Beca like this. Yet it was although nothing ever changed at all. And Chloe didn’t know if she could make it out alive this time if Beca ever stopped.

She listened to Beca slowly open up, like so many times before, with tears streaming silently down her face. They talked for so long her phone burned just like her chest.

Sometimes I’m sick and tired of everything, Chlo, you know?

Sometimes, all I ever do is eat and sleep and sing.

Chloe nodded along and hummed. She comforted Beca and laid back onto her pillows with her phone held so tightly in her hands, afraid to let go.

Sometimes, I’m so scared of ending up hating this one thing I’ve loved.

Chloe was supposed to go out and do her laundry and check out a few book stores for her classroom, but instead, she stayed in bed, curled into her comforter and hanging onto her phone like a kid.

Her whole life felt better somehow, even when she talked until her throat hurt.

I miss you, Chloe. I’m so sorry we lost touch.

 

“I miss you too, Beca,” she answered. “You have no idea.”

 

And things stopped turning cold from loneliness when she had people she wanted to see again. To trace the corners of their smiles again, to watch them laugh like children again, to love them like they were young again.

 

 


 

 

There were moments where Chloe thought she was going crazy. Like when Beca rose to the stage in all her glory, these days later, the Bellas and her screaming louder than any of the other fans around them. She was going crazy when Fat Amy lifted Flo to ride on her shoulders, when Aubrey let her hair down in waves and laughter, when Stacie’s top cut scandalously low, when Lily stood stone-still in the crowd, when Jessica and Ashley sang along to the songs like they’d never been apart at all.

The deja-vu it gave her no longer hurt as a pain in her chest, but a warmth in her head, squeezed in between twenty thousand of Beca’s fans.

(Well, not exactly. Beca did make sure they all got the best seats right up in front.)

What Chloe didn’t expect, was for Beca’s eyes to dart around more than usual, or for them to light up so beautifully when it caught sight of them. And then Beca laughing and starting another song—one that was freakishly familiar. Chloe couldn’t think of where she’d heard it, but she was sure it was in her past, somewhere. 

Maybe a lazy afternoon in on the couch, where Beca hummed it and Chloe offhandedly told her it sounded incredibly great.

Beca’s voice didn’t change throughout the years. Her talking voice was low, slippery and smart, but her singing voice, oh, her singing voice was still something else. It a different kind of pure and clean, as if she had never been hurt in her whole life.

 

Beca opened her closed eyes, and searched for Chloe again, maybe, probably, unconsciously. The lyrics tumbled out without her thinking about it, product of millions of rehearsals.

But they all said one thing as she crossed Chloe’s gaze.

This is you; all this is you. Telling the world things I couldn’t tell you to your face.

Everyone hears this,

But only you understand.

Over head, the lights flashed and danced around Beca’s skin. Her eyes fluttered again, losing Chloe’s serious eyes for a moment.

This is all there is, my words and your voice,

You are still the only one who makes my coffee just how I like it.

And then the lights flash off and the stage goes dark.

 

 


 

 

You already know which songs are about you.

 

 


 

 

It felt like a lifetime before the lights flashed back, another familiar melody swimming around them. The Bellas gasped too, Chloe couldn’t help the incredulous laugh from tumbling out of her tired mouth as she caught sight of the yellow bandana tied around Beca’s wrist. It was so cliché.

Everything just like it used to be.

Lifetimes ago, their happiness crossed again, with Beca in a wide grin and hopping down the stage to hold her hand out. And Cynthia catching onto the song without hesitation, the rest of them holding back tears and following too. The crowd roared. Chloe was young again.

I will not let you go,

I will not give you up.

 

Loving something right was losing herself and then finding it again at the perfect time.

 

Gotta have some faith in the sound,

It’s the one good thing that I’ve got.

And at the end, with a roaring crowd and the Bellas with their arms blocking out the whole world around them, Chloe was still the first one to take Beca into her arms. But this time, she did what she couldn’t do last time.

 

It’s the one good thing that I’ve got.

 

She only paused for a second to look at the glittering happiness in Beca’s eyes before kissing her on the mouth. Their future was big and wide and terrifying.

And their future was so small and unimportant and short as soon as Beca kissed her back.

 

This was how it was supposed to be.

 

 

[how it ends]

 

 

Chloe loves Beca.

 

 


 

 

This is including every single form of love possible. She looks at the world and she sees Beca, and she loves her until she can’t bare it anymore.

 

Beca loves Chloe too.

 

Gentler and quieter, never loudly or unabashedly, but Chloe feels it now, in the way Beca always turns pink and the way she would only let Chloe hug her for too long. In many little bits over the years they didn’t even notice until Beca was looking her in the eye and pushing it in front of her face.

 

There was a time where I was so sure I was unfit for any human relationship.

That was what Beca said so many years ago.

But she looks at her now, and loving someone is suddenly the easiest thing in the world. Beca’s sudden bouts of nervousness are translated into Chloe soft whispers. (“I’d do it all over again if you asked me to. I still consider you my best friend.”)

(The term ‘girlfriend’ wasn’t weird anymore. It rolled out easily and Chloe couldn’t get enough of saying it.)

 

 


 

 

On this rainy November night, the Bellas are crowded into Beca’s big house again, and when the lighting hits just right, it’s almost like nothing has ever changed. And in a way, it never did.

As soon as the movie started, Chloe couldn’t stop smiling.

Fat Amy chews her popcorn rudely, and Stacie is lounged across a loveseat, her long legs hanging off the side, but her stomach now bulging with yet another baby bump. Jessica and Ashley share a blanket and shoots disbelieving looks at Emily who is going on and on in a shrill voice. Cynthia Rose sits on the carpet, hands behind her head and humming along with the theme song with Flo and Lilly...

She isn’t sure where Lilly disappeared to.

 

And Beca is right here.

Beca is a weight on her lap and a safeness in her chest and a blanket that feels suspiciously like love.

Chloe smiles down at Beca snoring softly with her hand tangled in her own, and made a shushing motion towards the others when they look over with knowing smirks. They were never meant to sleep apart.

 

No one tell anyone else that big bad Beca is only a puppy in disguise.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

[beca’s mixtape]

 

Beca was always so horrible at saying stuff out loud.

At the fair, on that first day, what she actually wanted to say was, “you look so pretty”, but what came out instead, was a feeble “sorry, I don’t even sing”.

 

 


 

 

And what Beca had told the Bellas was true, she never had a lot of friends that were girls. Now that she got it, she never knew what to do with it. College was turning out to be so surprisingly a good time (most times), and she was pretty sure it was mostly because of Chloe. She loved the Bellas so much, she would never admit that out loud, maybe ever, but god, she was sure she was the happiest she ever was because she loved them.

And while she laid hopeless in Chloe’s bed so many times that first year, she complained about everyone and everything.

But what she really meant was “since lonely Christmas’s and sad Halloweens, I’ve hated happy things. I never liked how exciting life can be until I met you”,

Chloe always watched her and cared for her with such blatant favoritism. She soaked in it and Beca never told her that it was her favourite thing in the world when Chloe chose her over everyone else. In between crowds, on initiation, on giving solos, and her gaze, no matter amidst how many people.

Beca really wanted to make Chloe know just how important she was to her, but instead, all she could think of to say was retelling the spots that hurt in her past. And Chloe, being kind, sweet, Chloe, sat and listened and stroked her hair.

I’ve never felt intimacy like this before.

“You’re so weird, dude,” Beca said instead, earning a playful swat from her.

 

 


 

 

She saw Chloe fail Russian Lit when she knew Chloe knew it like the back of her hand. It was even arguably one of her stronger classes. Sometimes, Beca allowed herself to daydream and think Chloe did it because of the special way she looked at her in between practises.

Beca wondered if Chloe knew she was originally going to drop out of college after a year too.

But she didn’t.

And Beca wondered if Chloe knew why.

 

 


 

 

There really wasn’t much of a moment where Beca hit herself on the forehead and found out about her own debilitating crush on Chloe (no, she wasn’t smart enough with her own emotions for that).

But if there was one pivotal moment where she frowned and went, “hey, this doesn’t feel right”, it would have been on that fateful night after that boss in her intern year told her that “any kid with ears and a laptop” could do what she did.

On her small green bed in the far side of the room, Beca prodded her laptop. When that didn’t work out, she picked up a pencil she found somewhere on the floor and took a deep breath, preparing herself to squeeze out lame, poetic lyrics about love and emotional bullshit.

Nothing musical came out because she kept zoning out.

Beca repeated ‘romantic comedies, sappy, and cute’ in her head like a mantra trying to hypnotize herself into writing a love song, but her mind kept wandering away to someone else.

God, she felt horrible and incompetent, but she did sit there and steadily daydream about Chloe for an hour.

 

 


 

 

“No, but seriously,” Aubrey demanded, staring straight into her trembling, punk soul, “what is your objective opinion on Chloe, Beca?”

“What the fuck, dude? I mean, I subjectively have a fat crush on her.”

“She’s cool,” Beca answered, “she’s one of my best friends here.”

 

 


Beca sniffled a little after the bear trap scare. Around the fire in the woods they sat, all the people she loved the most in life, all condensed into one small circle and one song with many voices.

She felt so great and so small at the same time. She was so tired of only knowing how to lash out, run away or fumble over awkward words. She wanted to be sunshine-y and bubbly and easy to talk to, so she could tell everyone how much she appreciated them.

She was scared to sit beside Chloe, because she’d messed up, saying all those things. But she was so not used to not sitting beside Chloe, not being right by her side.

And then Chloe started singing first and looked at her so adoringly, Beca felt although she was going to evaporate.

Chloe’s voice assuring her ‘it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine’.

Beca sang back, eyes sweeping around the fire at all the faces that shone and Chloe’s hair that was glowing brighter than the fire itself. I’ll be better, I’ll be better, I’ll be better.

I promise.

Beca wasn’t sure how Chloe tolerated her at all. Someone so grand and open and pretty as Chloe. Beca wasn’t sure anyone else would ever be so good to her, she couldn’t fathom how Chloe never gave up on her after each lash-out.

She slept next to Chloe that night, damned all the body parts pressed into her when Chloe’s were so close and assuring. She could almost swear she heard Chloe sigh when she took Beca’s hand and held it until they fell asleep.

 

 


 

 

What Beca really wanted to say, instead of singing the chorus of a song she’d already sung so much, was “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that I met someone I wanted so much with in a time where I was so helpless”.

Chloe made her want to do better. That was something she’d never wanted to do, not since her father reeled in all his rage and left with two boxes and a bag, not since she pierced her ears and got tattoos after her mother ignored her tears for three months.

Beca wanted to be better.

 

Graduation made Beca want to cry. She considered doing just that, for a minute, just to have Chloe fuss over her red-rimmed eyes and shield her with a soft arm. But she didn’t and Emily ushered them all into a group (one last time) and Beca just looked grumpily ahead. Chloe was there, and there never will be a second person to be so unreasonably good to Beca.

What she really meant when she punched Chloe’s shoulder that night to get her attention, was ‘You passed by and so nearly became my whole world.’

“I need someone else to help pay the stupid expensive rent in New York, dude,” Beca said instead, offering her a tentative grin and a handshake. “Roomies?”

 

 


 

 

Two years after, in the taxi on the way back to a part of their lives that they all desperately grappled onto, Choe held her hand. Beca squeezed it in intervals and at red lights, as nervous as ever.

Her flight attendant uniform was less rigid and it held her steady instead of suffocating her the way it used to.

When they saw Emily’s face and the ones of the new and unrecognizable Bellas, Beca felt Chloe squeeze back really hard. Two years later, and Chloe was still somehow here, not letting go of her hand until she absolutely had to.

She thought back to their conversation stuffed in their tiny bathroom while Amy was changing in the living room.

“You quit your job?”

“I fucked up, Chlo.”

“No, no, no, Beca, come on.”

Chloe’s voice was so gentle and her hand on Beca’s cheek was so warm. Her body was leaning to close and the sink pressing into Beca’s back was so cold. And the words she repeated made Beca wonder what universe she had saved in her past life to deserve a friend like this.

You’re not a fuck up, Becs.

We’re gonna be fine.

I swear you’re enough.

I promise.

And hot into the tour, three champagnes in, and Beca didn’t even feel alive until Chloe took a hold of her and pushed her into a fucking wall. Beca had Chloe’s strong fingers gripping her chest, and all she knew to do was stare her best friend dumbly in the face.

When Aubrey came asking about what they were doing, and they both spun around so quick and said nothing together, it actually felt like something more. For a split second, Beca almost wanted it to be. But her cheeks were still hot and burning, and she blamed it on that.

Like she always did, like she always hated she did, Beca wandered off.

She might be emotionally stunted, but she wasn’t incredibly stupid. This thin line between the two of them had been cracking since New York, Beca didn’t know what to do anymore.

Beca met Chloe’s steady gaze as she walked around making small talk (she didn’t know how she tolerated it) with superficial people, and her stomach churned. When Theo walked on over, Chloe looked like she was going to come over and get her knuckles bloody with his pretty face. Beca could feel Chloe’s hot stare on her as she listened to Theo tell her about the great music stuff Khaled had.

She was so overwhelmed it actually hurt. So she left and found her solace in giant headphones and a sound board.

 

 


 

 

Beca never really understood why she was pulled in by Chloe so helplessly until their last night in the hotel. She hated herself for it most times, she always awkwardly felt like an alien only recently taught about feelings and how to deal with them.

Beca was mostly confused but willing to be pulled in; Beca never really understood why she so often felt like she loved Chloe so much she would burst, until she tilted forward and pressed their lips together—

And then it was all clear.

And it was the simplest thing ever.

So clear it pressed into her head and made her laugh and giggle. She just had to look at Chloe and she felt like the happiest person in world. It was as simple as that.

And Beca knew, as soon as there was light in the horizon, she would see all the complications again, but right now, in the dark, the two of them were the only things that existed.

 

 

What she had told Chloe that night, she’d meant every word. Beca could feel her own cheeks burning, and she couldn’t quite believe the sentimental bullshit coming out of her mouth, but it was suddenly so important to her that Chloe knew.

Chloe was always the one good thing that she’d got, even when she fucked up.

 

 


 

 

Beca didn’t exactly know how she got famous, but one moment she was logging in long hours at the studio, and then the next, fans were clicking share on that one video, and she blew up.

On her first big show, she was brought onto her stage in a rising platform, dramatic and bright.

After her first show, Beca went back to the changing rooms and cried a little in front of the mirror.

She remembered writing that last song after leaving New York, leaving Chloe, and leaving behind everything she had that ever felt like home. And tonight, the crowd knew how to sing it back to her in waves and roars, but the people she had wrote it for weren’t there.

She wasn’t even sure where they were.

The audience was excited and loud, screaming and yelling her name, waving their hands in millions of flashlights under the dark stage. It was everything that glory felt like, but Beca just felt like something was missing.

Her heart was filled so full with love and song it burst and now she was sad again.

 

 

Beca didn’t remember when she got famous, but she remembered how.

It was all the tiring days and longer nights in New York, ranting about her latest dumb client to Chloe over cold pizza. It was Amy dropping by sometimes, out of nowhere and without warning, with the wildest stories and biggest hugs, calling Beca’s boss such creatively horrible names just to make her feel better.

It was the days huddled together over one phone at five percent under a blanket when New York got too cold, calling Aubrey and Stacie and telling each other about their respective shitty apartments.  

(It was also everything that she wrote about in her songs.)

 

 


 

 

To Beca, big, rising star in music Beca, when it came to Chloe, she still wasn’t good enough. Because when she heard Chloe’s happy voice through the line, she was just a college loser all over again, dark eyeshadow and an inability to feel too much. Even with the bright lights framing her name these days, she felt so raw and naked when she talked to Chloe. And Chloe, to her, was still that beautiful, kind and outgoing older girl, the one she’d looked up to and was secretly intimidated by.

Calling and keeping the distance between them short was the hardest thing ever, until she bit her lip and finally picked up the phone and called Chloe before she could chicken out again. And then it was the easiest thing ever, because it was Chloe.

All these years later, as Beca was clad in pearls and silk and fancy clothes, they both had bright and promising futures. Chloe was still the one that could make her feel eighteen again with a simple hello.

Beca would give all her fame and glory to bring back the feeling of having nothing but Chloe to herself.

 

 


 

 

Beca had never been so nervous going on a stage before.

Not when she was in the ICCA’s, not on her first stadium tour, and not when she performed for Obama (again, later in her career).

Her tight black dress was squeezing all the air right out of her lungs. The flowing material of whatever that she had over it didn’t help either.

It was going to be so different on the stage tonight, because the people that really, really mattered were here. The people that made her sing the way she did today, the people who watched her grow up and then away.

Beca rose onto the stage the same way she did on her first big show, greeted with an immediate roar from the crowd.

Suddenly, it wasn’t so bad.

The music flowing around was one everyone knew well, and people sang with her as she hit the high notes. The audience was excited and loud, screaming and yelling her name, waving their hands in millions of flashlights under the dark stage. It was everything that glory felt like and this time, nothing was missing.

Suddenly, all the lights seemed brighter, and they didn’t hurt her eyes anymore, they were just beautiful. Beca no longer saw beauty and thought Chloe needed to be there for it to be really beautiful. Everything was complete. Everything was the way things should be.

It was all whole and happy.

Somewhere in the crowd was Chloe. And everything was going to be okay.

 

 


 

 

Beca’s phone trembled with guilty text notifications on the third Christmas away from home. She was buried neck-deep in a thick blanket Chloe had gotten on sale last week, the snow piling up outside. She still disliked Christmas; this constant reminder that her family will never be whole and happy like the ones on postcards and hallmark movies.

Chloe, heating up milk in the kitchen, held a lingering gaze over her. “What’s wrong, babe?”

“Christmas.”

And then home came in the form of Chloe putting extra mini marshmallows in her hot chocolate and bringing it to her, pressing a long kiss on her forehead. It was Chloe calling her parents last night, and her parents asking for Beca right away, greeting her the warmest ways and sending them matching handmade sweaters.

Safeness was Chloe almost lifting her off the couch and putting her further to the right with hands hooked under her knees and back to make room for herself, saying, “It’ll be okay. I’ll be your family, Beca.”

Beca gave her a crooked smile.

Chloe continued, “I’ll eat you out for an hour and we’ll watch Tom and Jerry cartoons for the rest of our lives.”

“Will you come home with me for New Year’s?” Beca suddenly blurted out.

 

 


 

 

There isn’t really a moment Beca stopped and planned everything out meticulously and decided that marrying Chloe was the best thing she could do with the rest of her life either.

She was sitting down, trying to write another song, prodding at her laptop. She couldn’t find a pencil no matter how hard she tried, but the lyrics are threatening to spew right out from her head. She feels herself being able to voice her exact thoughts for once, and it was a thrill that burns a hole in her chest.

In the end, she steals an eyeliner from Chloe’s makeup bag sitting up on her chest of drawers, thinking about how Chloe is going to make her buy a new one the next day, and ends up with this:

I love you.

A song is too long,

And a lifetime, not enough.

 

Beca squints at the horribly scribbled words on the back of an ad talking about bee-hive removing and hums to herself.

 

She loves her so much. And that is all songs sound like these days.