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right where you left me

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she’s still twenty-three inside her fantasy;

how it was supposed to be.

 


 

It’s about old friends, everything, all of it.

She is only young once, and it is such a good thing that the Bellas have taken up so much of it. Chloe loves the music and the people with all of her young, beating, acapella heart.

It’s such a big world, so much to do, so many people to love, so many songs to sing. However, Chloe is happy enough just singing on the top of her lungs with Beca pressed into her side, a huge loopy grin on her face, and the acapella nerds that surround her are so loud she can’t even hear her own voice.

She remembers spotting Beca at the fair and her first thought being ‘wow, she’s short’.

She remembers crossing paths with her again a night home from the library, introducing herself, and Beca replying with ‘dude, how do you even remember me?’.

She remembers not moving on and shoving aside Beca’s shower curtain over the clean voice singing Titanium.

Suddenly, it is the initiation party of the beginning of her senior year and she isn’t quite sure she is ready for everything it means, but when this new alt-girl with racoon eyeliner is buzzed enough to not push her away when Chloe wraps her arm around her waist, it is good enough.  Oh, Chloe is terrified of this year going past in a blink of an eye, and she can already feel herself sinking into Beca Mitchell’s I’m-too-cool-for-this-but-I’m-actually-just-a-huge-dork smile but she has a feeling everything will end well.

Good endings for good people.

Right?

(Which sounds like something the boy with floppy brown hair chasing Beca around would say, with is unfortunate for something coming out of Chloe’s mouth, but she really does believe in happy endings.)

Beca threw her head back and laughed. Chloe stares at her and wonders who she put that red checkered skirt on for, tonight.

(No, no. Girls can do things just to feel pretty. But Chloe just can’t but wonder.)

Some nostalgic pop song that is incredibly loud booms through the speakers that are who-knows-where, and Chloe joins the small crowd of people around her bursting into song. Screaming out lyrics in a jumbled mess of words, she sees even Aubrey letting her tightly wound ponytail down and Stacie groping her boobs in a way that was completely inappropriate for the song, then Fat Amy yelling something about crocodiles and jumping into the pool, splashing water all over a very disgruntled looking Lilly. Cynthia Rose is looking very suspicious, fiddling with the punch and Jessica and Ashley are doing some ridiculous circle dance around Bumper, who is screaming and flailing, trying to escape.

Chloe closes her eyes and keeps humming to the song, making sure she wouldn’t ever forget this crazy and tiring happiness of Barden.

“Chloe!”

Her eyes open and Beca is swaying tipsily in front of her, holding her hands out. Instinctively, Chloe grabs onto to them and pulls them closer together.

Beca grins stupid big and Chloe has to wonder for a moment if this was the same person that called acapella lame just a week ago. “Chloe!” She shouts again.

“I can hear you, Beca, you don’t need to shout!”

Beca frowns, “Oh.” And Chloe wants to smooth the crease between her brows. So she does, encouraged by whatever it was that she put in her jiggle juice. Beca doesn’t even flinch, just keeps talking. “I think you were right!”

Chloe laughs. “Oh, I always am.”

Beca rolls her eyes. “I think we are really going to become fast friends.”

Jesse stumbles in between them, and Chloe wants to dump her jiggle juice all over his stupid floppy hair, for a second. But Beca just laughs, and the sound twists itself around Chloe’s already alcohol-covered insides and stays there. Beca looks like she’s having fun, and Chloe begrudgingly decides it’s fine for now, as long as she keeps laughing that way, with her eyes creased into crescent moons under the pressure of happiness. 

She still feels a need to have Beca’s attention, though, even if she isn’t really sure where it comes from. So, on her way to Aubrey who is starting to look tired and grumpy, eyeing the messy college boy porch like she is a frat boy away from vacuuming the whole thing, Chloe walks around and presses herself into Beca’s back.

She barely feels Beca stiffen, and when Beca sees it’s her, she relaxes completely, even leaning a little into it. Chloe smiles smugly, although she doesn’t really know where that came from, either.

“For the record, I’m very glad we became fast friends,” Chloe says, leaning forward, into Beca’s ear. She ignores the spike that pokes her chin as soon as Beca turns her head away from Jesse.

Their noses brushing, Chloe isn’t sure if the pink on Beca’s face is from liquor or herself, but she revels in it, either way.

“That’s…” Beca licks her lips, and Chloe’s look never wavers. “That’s good, Beale.” She clears her throat and finds the composure to quirk and eyebrow. “I’m a goddamn pleasure to be around, I’ll have you know.”

Chloe smirks. “Oh, I’m sure of it.”

And then she steps back, chuckling to herself as she turns around and sees Aubrey stacking solo cups into a neat pile in a corner just outside the sliding doors. Now she’s gotta go take care of that mess.

 

The months pass dizzyingly quick; Chloe blinks and they are in an empty pool with Beca rolling out a slightly awkward verse of rap that echoes all around the place, and it is almost the greatest thing she has ever heard (Beca’s shower rendition of Titanium being the best, Chloe isn’t sure she can ever shake of those echoes from her head).

Beca sings to the boy with the boyish grin and Chloe backs her up. They’ll always back her up. Beca is laughing as she sings the chorus, spinning around and around at all the people singing right along, and Chloe watches her experience her first taste of glory with an equally wide smile.

 

Chloe blinks and she’s sitting on the chipping floorboards of Beca’s dorm with all the Bellas. She blinks again, more forcefully, when Stacie sends an overly exaggerated wink towards Kimmy Jin in an effort to clear that particular disturbing sight from her mind.

Even though Aubrey has her arms crossed in a steely posture standing by the foot of the bed, Chloe can see that even she worries about Beca.

“Do y’all think Beca’s gonna get herself aca-bitches in prison?”

Aubrey gasps a bit too dramatically for such a comment, but Chloe wouldn’t expect any less from her. “Cynthia-Rose! Don’t say that!”

Cynthia-Rose shrugs over the faint sound of Jessica and Ashley humming a surprisingly good Jailhouse Rock. “Just sayin’.”

Fat Amy swats Stacie’s arm with force just as she is beginning to bite her lips and wiggling her eyebrows at a glaring Kimmy Jin. “I bet our pale little deejay will do well in prison,” she chimes in.

“Hell yeah she would,” Stacie says, finally joining in on the conversation.

Aubrey rolls her eyes in a way that is so freakishly similar to Beca’s that Chloe had to stifle a snort in the back of her hand. “Okay, guys, we’re here to-”

But before she could ever finish, the door opens and a very frazzled looking Beca Mitchell steps in. Looking tired, frustrated and without any prison bitches. But Chloe is sure she will always live and die for the moment Beca looks up and sees them there, suddenly with the prettiest smile, saying, “You guys waited up for me?”

Chloe pushes off the couch. She isn’t sure why she cares so much. “Of course we waited up for you.”

Beca is just so interesting to her for some reason. Like Chloe knew her from somewhere, but she isn’t sure where. She keeps grappling around her head every time she sees Beca’s eyes crinkling up again in happiness and it is a confusion she wants over and over again.

“They’ve been here for hours, Beca,” Kimmy Jin says with a glare that could almost match Aubrey’s and Beca’s. “This dorm is always a madhouse.”

She walks out the door while Beca makes a face.

And Chloe stays after everyone’s gone, because Beca looks like she doesn’t want to be alone. Beca doesn’t say anything. She just lets Chloe stay. She pulls out two beers and nachos from under her bed and salsa from behind a stack of books and lets Chloe keep her own headphones around her neck as they talk.

Beca doesn’t cower away the entire night and Chloe never lets her leave her sight. She lets Chloe listen to all the tracks she has on her laptop, and Chloe swears she is flying.

 

Chloe blinks and she’s in a hospital bed, and Beca is grumpy and spikey all over again, acting like she doesn’t care, but comes to visit Chloe with various playlists and a whiteboard. She watches Beca scratch the back of her neck and apologise to all the Bellas, and Aubrey handing over control. Chloe stands up for Beca. And she can feel the thrill all the way into her bones when she favours Beca over everyone.

She knows Beca is plotting something with her mixes grumbling something about Jesse and Chloe just watches from afar. They sing in the empty pool again, but without any big audiences, without the reins in Aubrey’s hands. Beca blends two love songs together with flicks of her wrist marking the beat and she looks only at Chloe. There is something hauntingly familiar about all this, and there is a spot Chloe’s brain keeps skipping, and she doesn’t know why. She writes it down to the feeling of belonging.

That night, Chloe calls her once they are all in bed and they just talk. She can’t quite recall all the details of the call, even though during it, she swears she would never forget any seconds of the entire thing. They call and laugh into their pillows until Chloe’s phone burns almost as much as her heart.

 

Chloe blinks and the lights are shining down on her, Beca in front of her doing some dance move Chloe had spent hours behind her practising, Stacie is spinning on one leg to the right, and Fat Amy is making lewd expressions in the center.

Hands are waving and punching the air in the audience, cheering and screaming for all their strict rehearsals under Aubrey’s harsh training, and it’s all worth it.

Beca’s music pulses through the room, and Chloe’s hair flies around her as she spins and steps into formation, flying with abandon and she feels young and free and everything else that she’s been chasing for the past year. She meets Beca’s eyes as Beca’s voice carries through so, so much, as she throws her fist up into the air and the crowd erupts in a roar.

Jessica and Ashely are laying beats in the back and it intertwines with Fat Amy’s rap, just all the times they did it in the empty auditoriums as the sky outside got dark. Beca watches her puppy-like boy that is smiling back at her in the audience, but Chloe doesn’t feel uncomfortable.

Backstage, all the velvet curtains block out light and fades the applause that is still never-ending. Fat Amy is already shouting something about vodka, celebration and Bumper’s face, but no one is freaked out because all of them are still jumping and whisper-yelling ‘oh my god’s. No one is paying attention to anyone, but they are so alive and present.

Chloe slings an arm around Beca’s shoulders, and Beca doesn’t even stiffen anymore, she just leans in and looks back up at her with the biggest grin.

Dude!

The high-pitched squeaky voice in which Beca says it makes Chloe giggle and press their foreheads together.

And then Beca kisses her, still with the biggest grin, their teeth clinking together a little bit. She pulls back and doesn’t look unsure at all, just happy. The world keeps spinning.

The Bellas keep whisper-screaming unintelligible things at each other, Aubrey’s got her hair down, and Beca’s face just turned bright red, but she is still smiling.

So Chloe kisses her again while they are still mostly blocked by Stacie’s impossibly long legs, and their teeth don’t clink this time.

 

Chloe blinks and she’s still at Barden.

They don’t talk about the kiss. But she feels Beca opening herself up, offering herself up to Chloe more than before. It’s in the way Beca only gives her a half-hearted glare when Chloe ruffles her hair playfully now and in the way she is already laying in Chloe’s bed instead her own when she’s having a bad day.

And honestly, Chloe is alright with that. She’ll stay far enough away if that’s what Beca needs. It makes her stomach flip, actually, even only when Beca sits down with her at the counter and drinks her overly sweet coffee in silence.

So yeah, it’s enough.

It doesn’t ruin Chloe too much, it really doesn’t. In a way, she supposes she is a little (very) similar the Treble chasing Beca around, romanticising every little bullshit thing and easily amused so often. (Jesse. His name is Jesse. She’s got to remember that.) And they both have the tragic tendency to keep coming back to grumpy little deejays.

It is immediately after their third national title, sitting in Chloe’s bed while Beca folds paper airplanes with Chinese takeout menus and Chloe has her Russian Lit textbook laid on her crossed legs that spring really hits that year.

“Let’s go take a walk.”

Chloe sits up in an incredibly quick movement that makes Beca laugh, throwing the textbook straight to the floor. “Hell yeah.”

 Beca starts idly shoving aside the pile of airplanes further and scooting over to the side of the bed. “Where do you wanna go?”

Chloe shrugs, grabbing a jacket from the pile of clothes by the bed. “Don’t care. We’ll end up wherever we end up.” She smiles to herself as Beca does as well. The crewneck’s sleeves flop around Beca’s fingers and she looks maddeningly cute.

Chloe peels a clementine as they stroll past graffitied benches and Beca makes a face as they walk by a couple making out way too intensely on one of them. Chloe stuffs a piece of fruit into Beca’s mouth to cheer her up, earning herself a surprised little grunt and a swat on the arm.

“Dude!” Beca splutters, a cheek sticking out like a hamster, and it just makes Chloe giggle harder. She chews it with a lot of force and squints at Chloe in a way that is surely meant to be menacing, but Chloe really can’t help it but laugh more when Beca just looks more and more like an angry hamster. “Rude.”

“It’s an excellent orange, excuse you.”

Clementine.”

Chloe rolls her eyes. “Oh my god, you’re so annoying.”

Beca rolls her eyes harder, as if it’s a competition. Still, she uncrosses her arms and tugs on Chloe’s sleeve, opening her mouth. “Gimme another one.”

“Say please.”

“No.”

“Then you won’t get one.”

“I’ll tell everyone you found Diego from Ice Age crazy hot.”

Chloe makes a face. “He was a very handsome tiger. I’m not ashamed.”

“So do I get another slice?” Beca asks, batting her eyes and almost walking into a lamppost.

Chloe snorts. “No. Say please.”

Beca grunts, crossing her arms again and choosing to watch where’s she’s walking now. The image of a grumpy Beca stopping anyway in the middle of walking to pick a dandelion from the side of the road makes Chloe want to take her face in her hands and yell at her for being so cute.

Instead, she rolls her eyes again and stuffs another two slices of clementine into Beca’s mouth.

Muffled by her full mouth, Beca manages to push out a “thanks, you weirdo who find tigers handsome”.

They come back to Chloe’s room with pockets full of random leaves and grass and a few flowers, Beca happily humming. Chloe doesn’t bother with her Russian Lit anymore, and uses its unreasonably heavy pages to press all the things they’ve collected.

“You know that we’re not really supposed to press them in between pages of a book we use often.”

Chloe shrugs. “Meh. It’s Russian Lit. It is a book we don’t use often.”

“It’s your textbook, dude!” Beca says with a bit of a scolding tone, suddenly making Chloe have an Aubrey-styled déjà vu. “Of course you use it! You’ve already failed twice, are you gonna use it to press flowers instead of actually reading it?”

Beca raises an eyebrow, all high-school sweat-pants and Chloe’s own crewneck, standing in Chloe’s room like it was her own. Chloe really couldn’t think of anything better, and she solemnly says, “Yes, I am going to use it to press flowers instead of reading it.”

Beca just sighs and flops down on her bed again.

After a few moments of silence, Beca speaks again. “You wanna go sneak a round of Mario Kart on Stacie’s Xbox?”

Chloe is already at the door in a second, throwing her jacket back on the pile beside her bed. “Hell yeah.”

 

Chloe blinks and Beca is going further and further away. She asks Jesse about it at the party, but Jesse looks like he genuinely thought Beca was with her.

Legacy is a vibrating mass of excitement and happiness, but even that could not quite bring Chloe back from the sinking in her stomach from having everything about the Bellas cancelled.

She spends the party weaving through crowds looking for a silhouette of smaller-than-average brown hair instead of singing and dancing and trying to bum a cigarette off the loner guys by the fences. (She usually only does that to share it with Beca later, anyway.)

Chloe finds Beca eventually. (She always does.) (Eventually.)

She plops down on the bit of grass beside her, blocked from the flying solo cups and screams by two trees. “Hey, Becs. Where were you?”

Beca’s eyes widen and snaps up from the solo cup she’s brooding into, like she wasn’t expecting Chloe to find her at all.

“Um,” she pauses, scratching her nose, “just…hanging with Jesse. And I made a stop back at the library and kinda lost track of time.”

Chloe frowns but doesn’t push.

They sit in silence for awhile, something that happens more and more often since this year had begun. It isn’t uncomfortable or awkward, not particularly. But it does bother Chloe. It’s…unusual.

“You know that Jesse’s got it bad for you, right?”

Beca, for the second in an extremely short stretch of time, looks like a deer caught in the headlight. After just barely avoiding choking on the sip of whatever was in her cup, Beca blinks rapidly before hesitantly shaking her head.

Chloe sighs, a tiny bit frustrated. This oblivious little motherfucker. “What do you think of him?”

Beca hesitates again. “I…” she pulls out a fistful of grass absentmindedly, “I don’t know.”

“Okay.”

This is supposed to hurt, Chloe is sure. But with all the romantic comedies stored in her head and desperate love stories, she just, still, revels in all the twisted beauty of young love and how dumbly it grows on both sides. It thrills her endlessly just to sit on humid grass next to Beca, not touching but almost. Even the way Beca rubs her thumb over the grasshopper on her forearm knocks Chloe the fuck out.

Compared to the boring meet-cute, Chloe thinks she’d much rather watch a rollercoaster of pining, unreasonable kindness, and a good ending.

She’s more interested in exciting and charming destruction, and maybe that’s where she is going about it all wrong.

So when Beca stops pulling on the poor grass blades and twists her head carefully to look Chloe in the eyes and asks, “Do you think I should give Jesse a chance?” Chloe doesn’t tell her not to.

There is kind of uncertain hope in the way Beca asks it, indirect and fearful. Her eyes are rough with whatever it is that pulls Chloe in, that she doesn’t really understand.

She thinks back to what she was talking about on the phone with Aubrey just yesterday evening. “Chloe, I can see your toner for Mitchell through the line.” “…No you don’t.”

“Why even, Chloe?”

“I don’t know, Bree. I just want to give her a happy ending.”

Chloe smooths Beca’s skirt with the palm of her hand, blazing hot even in the fall chill. “He genuinely looks like a cool guy.”

Beca nods. “If you think so.” She smooths over her skirt, in the place that Chloe had just touched moments ago. “I think I trust your judgement more than I do mine.”

 

Chloe blinks and Beca is dating Jesse. And now she is around even less, gone to work on God-knows-what and then somewhere with Jesse.

Chloe runs into Tom outside the north building and doesn’t bother to stay polite. She flirts and Tom plays along like he always does.

 

Chloe blinks and they are yelling at each other on yellow grass, a lake behind them and all the Bellas piled onto one chair, witnessing their parents fight. From the corner of her eye, she sees Cynthia Rose smirking with Stacie, and Fat Amy awkwardly patting Emily on the back, who is the only one that looks terrified.

They are in the middle of nowhere, trees surrounding their clearing in the forest and Aubrey stands with hands on her hips. They are in the middle of nowhere, nothing is familiar, their phones do not really work, and Chloe is terrified of change.

Chloe knows the ridiculousness of their fight, it scrapes at her guts, but it makes the hurt that’s resonating in her voice as she asks Beca why she didn’t tell her all the louder.

As Beca starts walking away, she wonders if Beca is ever going to find something important enough to not walk away from. She wonders if Beca is lashing out like a child still, or this is just an accumulation of all her frustrations.

But Chloe feels better soon enough, as she listens to Beca shouting down “I love you—I love all of you; I love being a Bella!”.

(Even if the only times Beca says those things are when she’s stuck in a net, hanging from treetops.)

Chloe looks at Beca while she sings the cup song with all the Bellas again, and she sees Beca smiling back, so warmly.

When they all brush their pants as the fire flickers away, Chloe stands and puts a hand on Beca’s back. The girls filter away, Aubrey giving her a look and then walking the other way.

A few crickets chirp in the distance, and although the nearest lamppost is hidden by a few leaves, Chloe stays seated, just trying to see if Beca will say something first.

“I’m sorry,” Beca says.

Chloe bites the inside of her cheek. “It’s okay now.”

“I just-” Beca shakes her head, “I’m really am sorry. I don’t know how to be tired without being angry. I don’t know how to be angry without throwing a tantrum like a child.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Beca kicks at a pebble by their feet. “I…I don’t know.” She licks her lips and Chloe can physically feel the thoughts ricocheting in Beca’s head. “I think…I think I just wanted to see if I can survive without telling you something first.”

Chloe is genuinely surprised at that. “What?”

“I, uh,” Beca pauses again, “You know I used to run away from home all the time when I was a kid? When my parents were throwing dirty words at each other and the whole kitchen was reeking of anger and I played in the backyard instead.” Chloe doesn’t know where she is going with this. “I climbed over the bushes and the picket fence and hid behind the neighbor’s trees. Sometimes it was an old man living further away. And I’d stay there, sitting, forever. It was only, like, ten minutes, but it felt like forever to me.”

A bird chirps nearby. Chloe shakes her head; she doesn’t know what for.

Beca continues, not looking at her, at the ground instead. “And then I went back. They never notice I was gone. But I was, you know? I had run away. And I run away just to swear in my ten-year old head that I was in control of something that wasn’t burning my house to the ground.”

“So you wanted to leave me?”

It’s Beca who shakes her head this time. “I dunno. I think…I wanted to know what it felt like to not have you before I really didn’t.”

“That’s stupid.”

“I know.”

“And cheesy.”

Chloe smiles smugly, hidden by the shadows when Beca releases a strained laugh beside her. The forest beyond is blurry, like a dream. She finally reaches for Beca’s hand, gripping onto it hard because suddenly, it feels like a reality that is slipping away, her brain grappling for something to ground itself.

“Chloe.”

“Yes?”

“I’m scared as fuck to leave too, you know? This really is the one time I’ve ever felt like belonging. The only one.”

“Beca.”

“Yeah?”

“We’re family. Don’t run away.”

“Okay.”

Chloe doesn’t think she’d mind, waiting on Beca forever.

 


 

The building is nice, a lot of polished wood and stone countertops, rocking chairs and loveseats in the corners.

Beca hands her driver’s licence to the man at the front desk. He must be new, because he doesn’t greet her with a soft smile and enthusiastic hellos as the usual lady does. Instead, he takes in her information with wide eyes, his head snapping back up.

“Beca Mitchell?”

Beca laughs a little, scratching her neck. “That’s me.”

“Oh god,” The guy inhales so hard Beca is afraid he might pass out for a second. “I’m a huge fan, oh my god, I’ve listened to your music everyday growing up-”

“Oh,” Beca waves her hand, “Stop it. You’re just reminding me how old I am.”

The man is flustered for a moment, eyes even wider, if that was even possible.

Beca chuckles, although genuinely worried about all the emotional rollercoasters she is making him go through right now. “Relax, I’m kidding. I’m here to see Chloe Beale? She should be in her room or in the common area right about now.”

“Yes! Yes, of course, right this way, Miss.”

Beca waves her hand at him again, nodding a thank you. “Beca is alright. Miss makes me feel way older than my sixty something years, you know.”

He nods so quick, in a way that kind of reminds Beca of younger Emily. “Yeah, yes, of course!”

 

 

Beca sits down on the rocking chair beside Chloe. She doesn’t say anything yet, just taking in Chloe’s face and her faraway look. She sighs to herself, angling her body towards Chloe gently. (She has a bad back, she can’t risk cracking it halfway to not even talking to Chloe yet.)

“Chloe?”

Chloe mumbles something, hands gripping onto the handle of the chair in a phantom world. Beca sighs again. She’s been sighing way too much lately.

“It’s okay, I’ll wait for a bit,” she says, smoothing down the wrinkles of her dress that reaches her ankles. “I don’t know why I ever wanted to know what it felt like to not have you before I really didn’t. I was always an idiot though, that’s nothing new.”

She sits in silence for a little, gazing out the window at the garden that surrounds the residential care facility, sprouting little flower buds at this time of year.

“When the doctor said you’d be always reliving younger memories, I didn’t know it’d be this intense, dude,” Beca tries to joke, “I haven’t even gotten the chance to annoy you about being all old and dementia-y, and you’re already back in your twenty-somethings.”

Chloe is not looking at her still, flowery blouse cascading down her arms. Beca hears the doctor's voice in her ears, a resounding pound of Alzheimer's, old age, fatigue, and whatever else scientific bullshit terms that will never justify Chloe suddenly starting to lose all the bits that make her Chloe. 

“God this sucks, I was not prepared for you forgetting things. For you not remembering things. ” Beca says again. “God, this…” her voice breaks a little, “this really sucks, Beale.”