Before Bandit, Beca wouldn’t have classified herself as a dog person.
It’s not like she ever had anything against them – a detail she was always quick to specify whenever the subject arose. She just didn’t have dogs growing up and, as a result, felt generally apathetic toward them as a species.
Sure, she liked dogs who she knew personally – she had a fondness for her childhood friend’s black lab and her cousins’ shepherd mix. But she never got why people (like, say, Chloe) would go nuts over random dogs they saw on the internet. And she definitely didn’t understand how dog owners acted about their “fur babies,” catering to their every need and even letting them lick their mouths, knowing full well where those tongues had been.
Then she and Chloe adopted Bandit, and everything Beca thought she knew went out the window.
Okay, maybe not everything. She still doesn’t go gaga over random puppies in the countless Instagram videos Chloe makes her watch. (“Sorry, Chlo, but that dog is a stranger. He’s cute and all, but I don’t have, like, a connection with him, you know?”)
But otherwise, she’s become the overattentive dog mom she once secretly judged. She’s always buying Bandit toys and treats and, occasionally, dapper sweaters. She researches the best dog food brands for growing pups. She brings him to the dog park to make sure he’s properly socialized (and has the opportunity to make some friends).
And ugh, yes, fine – she’s even let him kiss her on the mouth once or twice...
(Whatever. Shut up.)
Chloe doesn’t hide how “incredibly precious” she finds these developments. She likes to say that Bandit has Beca wrapped around his little finger. (Even after Beca points out that, technically, he doesn’t have a finger for her to be wrapped around.)
The thing is, no matter how much Beca dotes on him, you wouldn’t know it based on how much he favors Chloe.
Chloe swears this isn’t true. She points out that Bandit tends to gravitate toward Beca’s side of the bed over the course of the night, and he always sits beside Beca while they eat dinner. (Beca refrains from admitting that the latter is because she sneaks him table scraps.)
“Besides, the two of you are so alike,” Chloe says one night. They’re sitting up in bed, with Bandit dozing by their legs. “You’re practically the same person.”
“First of all, I know he’s our son but…” Beca leans forward and covers Bandit’s ears “...he is not a person,” she whispers. “Secondly, how, exactly, are we the same?”
Chloe juts out her bottom lip, like she thinks it’s cute that Beca doesn’t understand something that’s very obvious.
“Gosh, where do I even begin…”
“Alright, calm down.”
Chloe smiles and cards her fingers through Beca’s hair, scratching Beca’s scalp lightly when she leans into her touch.
“You both like to be pet, for starters,” she says, biting her bottom lip and looking far too smug.
Beca scoffs and shifts away just long enough to make her point. (Chloe, thankfully, sees right through her and continues playing with her hair.)
“I mean that’s gotta be fairly common – I don’t know if that counts,” Beca says, even as she feels the fight go out of her with every stroke of Chloe’s fingers. “What else you got?”
“Hmm, let’s see. You both hate the cold. You both get super grumpy when you’re tired or hungry. And…” Chloe licks her lips as she traces the shell of Beca’s ear “...you both whine when you don’t get what you want.”
Beca swallows thickly, feeling her cheeks heat up. “In my defense, last night was bordering on cruel and unusual.”
Chloe curls her fingers around the back of Beca’s neck and pulls her in. “Aw, Becs,” she murmurs as her nose nudges her cheek. “I’m not just talking about last night.”
And Beca’s still not convinced, but Chloe’s lips are right there and she can’t resist lifting her chin and kissing her.
(It’s ridiculous, really, how many of their disagreements end like this.)
A few minutes later when a panting Beca takes Bandit by the collar and leads him to his dog bed in the other room, he whines the whole way.
When she gets back Chloe’s eyeing her with the world’s biggest smirk.
“Can it, Beale,” Beca warns, settling in her lap. “I don’t want to hear it.”
Chloe squeezes her ass and tugs her closer. “I didn’t say anything…”
The following Sunday Chloe fills in for a coworker at the animal shelter, leaving Beca and Bandit to fend for themselves all morning.
It takes Beca 30 minutes to lure Bandit away from his spot by the door where he sits and awaits Chloe’s return. She has to pull out the big guns – his favorite chew toy filled with peanut butter – to distract him from keeping vigil. They pass the next few hours working on his tricks (he’s almost mastered the finger guns/playing dead thing) and dozing in front of the TV.
Beca’s flipping through the channels when Bandit lifts his head from where it’s resting on her lap to look longingly at the door. He turns back to Beca and whimpers pitifully, fixing her with round, sad eyes.
“Tell me about it.” She sighs, scratching beneath his chin. “I miss her too.”
The walk to the shelter doesn’t take as much time as Beca was anticipating.
The trip is on the longer side for Bandit, but based on the way he’s been tugging on his leash he doesn’t seem to mind. Beca thinks he’s as happy as she is to be out of the apartment. And she thinks seeing Chloe – and the shelter where he once lived – will be a nice surprise.
They’ll just have to kill some time before Chloe’s shift ends and then they can walk home together as a family.
When they round the corner and the shelter comes into view Beca sees a shock of red hair in the fenced-in yard. Chloe’s standing in the middle of the turf with a dozen-odd dogs around her, all laser-focused on the tennis ball in her hand.
“Look, Band!” Beca says in this embarrassingly high voice (one that she didn’t even know she had until they brought him home). “See? Who is it?” Bandit starts jumping up as he walks, energized by her change in tone. He looks up at her, equally confused and excited. “Look,” she says, pointing toward Chloe. “There’s Mama!”
It takes a few more seconds for Bandit to spot her, but when he does he lurches forward, nearly tugging the leash out of Beca’s grasp. He pulls them all the way up to the side gate, where he suddenly stops.
Beca calls over to Chloe, whose jaw drops when she sees them. Chloe hops a little bit as she waves before jogging over. Beca smiles to herself as Chloe lets them in through the pair of safety gates. She just loves making her light up like that. It still kind of amazes her that she has that effect on Chloe.
“Hi!” Chloe leans in to press a quick kiss to Beca’s cheek. “Wow, what an awesome surprise.”
“Yeah well we got, like, super bored and maybe kind of missed you,” Beca says, glancing to the side like it’s no big deal. “It was all Bandit’s idea, really.”
Chloe rolls her eyes fondly. “Bandit always has the best ideas,” she says, playing along. “Wait – is he okay?”
Beca looks down to see that Bandit is sitting slightly behind her with his eyes cast downward. It’s incredibly weird, considering he’d normally be trying to leap into Chloe’s arms and lick every inch of her face upon being reunited with his favorite parent.
“I have no idea. When he saw you from the sidewalk he lost his mind, per usual.”
A couple of the shelter dogs come up to sniff him and he ignores them too. When the dogs turn to rub against Chloe, who pats each one, Bandit snuffles loudly, eyes still trained on his paws.
Beca’s on the verge of getting freaked out when it hits her.
“Aww poor baby,” she coos, gently stroking his head. “Those are just your mom’s coworkers, buddy. You’re not being replaced.”
Bandit groans dejectedly and turns his back on them. Beca stifles a laugh behind her hand as Chloe gasps and shoos the other dogs away.
“Oh my god, is that what he thinks?” She kneels in front of Bandit and gently takes his head in her hands. He still won’t quite look at her. “Bandit, I love you.” Chloe kisses his forehead before closing her arms around him in a loose hug. “I’d never replace you, my dramatic boy. Please believe me.”
Beca’s heart warms as she takes in the scene unfolding at her feet. She can’t believe these two dummies happen to be the two people she loves most in this world.
Chloe peppers the side of Bandit’s face with kisses and he finally relents, licking her neck and cheek in kind. Chloe giggles as he finally leaps on her, resting his front paws on her shoulders as he whimpers and whines, tail wagging so fast it whips Beca’s shins.
“Man, we need to work on his self esteem,” Beca says, watching as Chloe play-wrestles a now-elated Bandit onto his back. “Or get him into puppy therapy or something. That was an insane overreaction.”
“Hmm, was it?” Chloe glances up at her and winks. “It actually reminded me of someone else I know.”
After his brief crisis of confidence, Bandit goes back to normal. He even runs around and plays with the other dogs while Chloe finishes her shift.
But when he hears Chloe tell Beca it’s time to go, he stops in his tracks, tail straightening like he’s on alert. His eyes track Chloe as she goes to put the balls away in a container by the shelter door. When she closes the lid he pushes his way through the other dogs to get to her, snares the bottom of her jacket sleeve in his teeth, and tugs her backwards toward the gate.
Beca laughs so hard her ribs ache. She takes out her phone and records a shaky video of Bandit forcibly pulling his mom away from the pack.
“And you think you’re not his favorite parent,” Beca says.
Chloe huffs. “And you think he’s not exactly like you.”
They’re cuddling on the couch after dinner, relaxing with glasses of wine and a snoring Bandit curled by their feet, when Beca remembers Chloe’s remarks from earlier.
“Hey Chlo?” Beca’s voice is a touch breathy, thanks to the gentle way Chloe’s raking her fingers through her hair. Chloe hums in response and Beca clears her throat before continuing. “When Bandit was having his little meltdown earlier you implied that he was acting like me. Twice.”
Chloe chuckles. “I’m pretty sure I stated that outright, actually.”
“Ugh fine, whatever. But like, please explain.”
“Okay, well… he was jealous.”
Beca takes a sip of wine, raising her eyebrows as she waits for an elaboration that doesn’t come. “Explain more.”
“You really can’t remember a time when you acted like that?”
“Nope. Not a one.”
Chloe presses her lips together, like she’s trying not to smile. She moves her fingers from Beca’s hair to her shoulder, where she massages a knot by the base of her neck. Beca has to stop herself from moaning.
“Here, allow me to jog your memory – at Cody and Ty’s roof party last summer, when you avoided me because I was talking to that girl Tabitha. And as soon as she and I stopped sharing a chair, you marched right over and marked your territory.” Beca bristles and Chloe arches an eyebrow. “This is according to you, by the way.”
“No, nuh-uh.” Beca waves her hand through the air dismissively. “That whole situation was, like, way more complicated than that.”
“Okaaay. Then how about this – at your coworker’s birthday at the Primrose. I was talking to some guy and you literally grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the bar.”
Beca grumbles, feeling her cheeks flush. “I wouldn’t put it quite like that…”
“Please, it was basically the human version of biting my sleeve and tugging me away from another handsome dog.”
“...I knew you thought he was handsome…”
“Oh my gosh, see?” Chloe loops her arms around Beca’s waist and presses her nose to her temple. “You’re jealous again just thinking about it.”
Beca frowns for about two seconds before giving in and sinking into Chloe’s embrace. “You sound far too pleased by this,” she mutters.
“I like that you get jealous, sometimes,” Chloe says softly. “And I like that you’ve passed that trait onto our son.”
“Oh my god. Okay.”
“Who is literally the same person as you.”
“Not a person, Chlo.”
Chloe slips two fingers under Beca’s chin and angles her face toward her. Her eyes drop to Beca’s mouth and she leans in close.
“Yes he is,” she says, breath ghosting over Beca’s lips.
Beca sighs, feeling the fight go out of her.
“Yeah,” she whispers. “He is.”