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The group number went fine. Rough, at first. But by the time Amy and Jessica brought it home, the crowd was feeling it.

Honestly, Beca was just happy that they didn't complete fuck it up.

And there was no feedback after the performance, so even though Posen was fuming, Beca got away with her little addition.

Then the brunette was picked to sing first, which was a surprise. Beca sang Joan Jett, rooted in place on the stage, focusing on the melody.

"Can I just say that it's, like, really cool to see you grow and change?" Katy Perry asked her as the song came to an end.

"I mean, personally, I miss the cup, but yeah," Plaza added, and the audience laughed. Beca gave a little eye roll before turning to Posen.

Beca could tell she was still mad about the group performance. But instead of running at her with it, Posen laughed quietly to herself.

"You know what, Mitchell?" she finally said. "Something changed in you this week, and it came through in your performance and in the way you worked with everyone. Good job."

Beca blinked in the bright stage lights as the crowd clapped.

"Seriously?" Beca laughed, and Perry and Plaza joined the audience in laughing. She brought a hand to her face and was surprised when her fingertips came back wet with tears.

When did she start crying!?

"Beca, can you please just take the compliment and get off my stage?"

"You don't have to tell me twice," Beca laughed, and she quickly turned to run off. The crowd clapped and laughed again as she made her way to the camera to ask for votes.

"Quite an emotional performance!" Jesse said as she approached.

Beca tried to stop laughing, but she couldn't.

"I honestly didn't even know I was crying," she gasped through broken breaths. "Jesus, it seems like I do this every week."

"Any reason for the tears tonight?" Jesse prodded, and Beca sighed. She took the mic from Jesse and looked dead into the camera.

"I messed up, and I'm sorry," she said. "I hurt you. I want to make things right."

"Uh, who are you, and what have you done with Beca Mitchell?" Jesse laughed, stepping into frame. Beca brushed her hair behind her ear and smiled sheepishly.

"It's been a long road for me, Swanson," she sighed. "And I ain't there yet."

"Uh huh," the host replied with a laugh. He nodded towards her ear.

"Cute earrings."

Beca turned her head to show the black and gold spiral gauges and gold ear cuff.

"Someone told me I didn't wear enough gold," she said simply. "I figured I owed it to them to give it a shot."

Jesse shooed her off, and Beca went to the green room backstage to watch the rest of the show.

Stacie ran through Total Eclipse of the Heart like Beca knew she could then joined the younger woman backstage. She was able to conjure up two tiny bottles of tequila somehow, and the brunettes shared a drink as they watched CR rock out.

Then Jessica performed, and she seemingly took Beca's advice and limited her bobbing.

So far, everyone was getting positive remarks, and Posen shocked everybody by saying that this was the best week yet, performance-wise. When Emily got called up, Beca watched the teenager push herself out of her comfort zone, moving around the stage as she performed Call Me.

She even kept her eyes open for some of it too.

It was awkward still, but it was the most anyone had seen from the girl since her audition.

When she came to the green room, Stacie and CR cheered loudly and pulled Emily into a large group hug.

But Beca could see that Emily was looking for someone, and when the teen's eyes fell on her, they both smiled broadly.

"Thank you," Emily said through her grin. "I'm not sure I could've done that without your help."

Beca rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, well, don't get used to it."

Amy, Ashley, and Chloe were still onstage waiting to perform, and Perry called Amy forward. A hush fell over the green room as the camera stayed on Ashley and Chloe.

They were in the bottom two.

Chloe was in the bottom two.

Beca liked Ashley. She had since the beginning. And Jessica was back there with them, and she was obviously extremely worried about her friend.

But Chloe couldn’t leave.

Was Stacie right, that the show didn’t work if Chloe was sad? Did the voters not vote? What was going on??

Beca tried to pay attention as Amy sang her song. Then after too, when the Australian received a serious amount of praise for her song selection. Amy said that Beca helped, and CR gave her a little punch in the arm. Stacie threw her arm around Beca's shoulders.

"We couldn't have made it through this week without you," the taller brunette said softly. "We owe you a lot."

But Beca had stopped listening again.

She was watching the screen, as Jesse amped up the crowd.

Somebody was going home, and that somebody could be Chloe. She was freaking out. Chloe was talented enough to win this competition, and everybody competing knew it. If this came down to something stupid like the voters took her side instead of Chloe’s-

Well, Beca was about to go onstage and tell them to kick her off instead.

Because Chloe belonged on the show more than anyone else. More than any other performer. Chloe was the single most talented singer they had on the show, and if the viewers didn't -

Posen jumped in over Jesse by saying no one was leaving this week.

Oh, Beca sighed. Guess I don't have to cut a bitch.

Ashley sang her song, and then Chloe sang hers, but Beca could barely see through the adrenaline coursing through her veins. The night literally couldn't have gone any better, but that brief moment of fear when she thought that Chloe was leaving had left a lasting impression on Beca's nerves.

All of the women were staying for another week until two would get cut at the same time at the end of the next show, someone said.

And the group number went well, and she performed her best.

Still, she couldn't help but feel amped up.

Because they almost kicked off Chloe!

Chloe!

The most talented one there!

She tried to tamp down her reaction as the women piled into their SUVs. Chloe wasn't leaving, and Beca knew that the redhead probably wasn't even really in the bottom two. They probably just did that to make everybody nervous.

She worked on her breathing in the backseat, squashed between Stacie and CR, as thy made their way across town.

Not home, though. Unlike last week when Beca went home with the Junks, she figured she deserved a night out.

(Well, that, and Stacie threatened to post her video of Beca drunkenly singing We’ve Got The Beat with Jessica from a couple days ago.)

She probably wouldn't drink that much, but she still wanted to go. And maybe it wouldn’t suck. CR was talking to her again, and Stacie wasn't threatening to hit her, so she felt okay.

Plus, she wanted to hear if they played one of her songs again.

Their car arrived at the nightclub last, and she followed the other contestants upstairs to their VIP section. Plaza had gotten everybody drinks, and - instead of shooting back the liquor like she had before - Beca just sipped the shot of tequila.

It was nice to listen to good music and good conversation.

She'd even chanced a look at Chloe a few times.

The redhead had only met her gaze once, though. Chloe's eyes passed over Beca slowly, almost hesitantly, as the redhead took another shot.

But then Chloe smiled - a small one, but still - and Beca let herself smile back.

She might have a chance to make things right between them after all.

The club was packed, and where Beca thought her housemates would be tearing up the dance floor, they pretty much stayed upstairs for the first hour. They sipped mixed drinks and bopped to the music as they sat.

"It was a long night," Ashley lamented loudly when Amy called them boring.

"I want to celebrate, but I also kind of want to cry?" Jessica added, and Beca saw Chloe nod.

"I'm just happy all my ladies are still here," CR said cheerfully, and Stacie agreed. "But at some point, we're really gonna have to sneak Emily into this club."

Jessica and Ashley laughed and agreed, but Stacie looked wary.

"Do you think there are minors in here?" she asked nervously. "Because I don't vet my make-out partners, and I don't want to go to jail."

The group laughed as the P!nk song came to an end and a thudding bass kicked in, along with a distorted voice that they all recognized.

Beca's remix of Flashlight started to play in the club.

Beca was nearly deafened by the shrieks around her. CR and Stacie were on their feet first, followed closely by then Jessica and Ashley. Amy was already halfway downstairs when CR pulled Beca up.

"Ah!" Stacie screamed, pulling out her phone. "I gotta record this!"

Beca let CR and Ashley pull her downstairs and onto the dance floor, and she screamed the lyrics with her cast mates. No one else in the club knew the words, but their group did, and there was a little circle of them, dancing and singing in the center of the dance floor. Even Beca joined, and out of the corner of her eye, she could see Chloe grinning madly.

Beca looked around then to see the all of smiles on the faces of the women she'd come to know, and she smiled back.

She felt like she had friends.

Real, supportive friends.

The song came to an end, and she felt her phone ring in her pocket.

She glanced at it to see it was Emily.

She laughed and pushed through the group, making her way through the crowded club and out the front door to the sidewalk.

"Hey, kid," Beca said when it was finally quiet enough for her to be heard.

"They played my song!?" Emily shouted. "Stacie sent me a video! I didn't even- when did you-"

"I sent it to Plaza earlier this week," Beca replied. She could hear the grin in her own voice. "I didn't want to get your hopes up or anything, but I thought they might play it. I guess they played all the other ones."

"Beca! Oh my god!" Emily screamed. "I can't thank you enough!"

"It was all you, Emily," Beca said seriously. "That's your song. Those are your words. This is your moment."

The teenager went on for a few more minutes, and Beca let her as she stood outside the nightclub. The weather was starting to turn, and it was getting a little warmer. But it was still too cold to stand outside much longer, especially since Beca had left her coat inside.

She started to tell Emily that she had to go when she looked up towards the door.

And there, watching her, was Chloe Beale.

She was looking up through her lashes, and she was biting her thumb as she smiled at Beca. Emily was still talking, but Beca wasn't listening anymore.

Her thoughts were occupied elsewhere.

Specifically, on a very real wish to be a certain nail trapped between a certain pair of lips.

"I, uh, I gotta go," she rushed into the phone. Emily was saying bye, and Beca hung up, only breaking her gaze on Chloe for a second as she shoved her phone back into her pocket.

When she looked back up, the redhead was closer.

Much closer.

"I was looking for you," Chloe slurred, and if she wasn't standing within arm's reach, Beca probably wouldn't have heard her. Chloe rolled her tongue over her lips, and Beca watched the slick muscle trace across them. She coughed and blinked, yanking her gaze off the redhead as she gazed across the street.

"Well, you found me," she said, laughing awkwardly. She turned back to Chloe and squinted.

"What, uh, what can I do ya for? I mean, what can I do for you? What- uh. What's up?" she said, popping the P of her last word.

Chloe stepped further into Beca's space, and the brunette moved backwards. Her back met brick, and she inhaled sharply. The redhead stood at her full height and put a hand next to Beca's head.

"I was thinking 'bout you, thinking 'bout me," Chloe breathed, and Beca could smell the tequila on her breath. She closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath as Chloe continued to lean in.

"Chloe-"

"Thinking 'bout us," the redhead whispered, and Beca could feel her breath against the shell of her ear. She felt Chloe chuckle, and the upturned corner of her lips glanced the ear cuff Beca was wearing.

A spark shot through Beca like she was shocked, followed quickly by one of those stubborn thoughts.

This isn't right.

Chloe traced her tongue over the piece of jewelry, and Beca felt her breath catch as she gasped. Panicking, she rolled out from underneath the redhead, who fell forward slightly in her drunkenness.

And as hard as it was to ignore her body - which was screaming at her to go back into Chloe's arms - Beca knew in her heart she'd made the right call.

Because Chloe was really, really drunk.

"Chloe," she whispered. She closed her eyes again, dreading what she was about to say, but she couldn't do it. She couldn't be with Chloe when she was like this.

"I don't want to mess this up again," Beca said. "I like you, Chloe, but I can't do this. Not here, not while you're- well, while you're drunk. Remember last time we were drunk here? It's not- I want it real."

Beca sighed as she opened her eyes. Chloe was leaning against the brick, one arm cushioned under her head, staring at the wall.

She wasn't looking at Beca, which made everything easier. At least for the moment.

"Maybe we can talk tomorrow?" Beca huffed. She hugged her arms around herself and kept her feet planted on the concrete. She didn't really trust her limbs at the moment.

Because Chloe was pushing off the wall, and she opened her eyes, and they were full of tears again.

"I thought you wanted me," Chloe hiccuped, and Beca squeezed herself tighter.

All she wanted to do was take Chloe into her arms and never let go.

Ew.

"Chloe, I want you so bad, it's not even funny," Beca laughed helplessly.

"Then kiss me," Chloe pushed, stalking towards Beca. "Kiss me, right now."

"I can't do that," Beca sighed. She stepped back again as Chloe got close. "Not like this."

Chloe stopped, swaying slightly, and her somber expression slowly contorting into one of anger.

"Beca Mitchell, I want you to kiss me!" she yelled, and Beca looked around. There were a few people out, but they weren't paying attention.

But that didn't mean Beca wanted to have this conversation here, in the state that they were in.

"Can you please ask me that tomorrow?" she tried, and Chloe flared again. She started to move towards Beca again, and the brunette began to worry that Chloe was going to test her resistance again.

And she didn't know if it would hold.

She stepped back and doubled down.

"Why don't we go inside, get some water?" she said quickly. "It's probably time to head back to the house anyway-"

Chloe laughed loudly, and Beca winced.

"What do you want from me, Mitchell?" she demanded, and when Beca didn't respond, she barked out another laugh.

"This is ridiculous," she said incredulously. "You're ridiculous. You do all that stuff that really makes it seem like you like me, and then you take it all back. I'm done."

The redhead started pacing back into the club.

Fuck!

"Chlo-"

"No, Beca," she shouted down the sidewalk. A couple people were looking now, but Beca didn't care.

She couldn't take advantage of Chloe, but she couldn't lose her.

"Do you want to be with me, right now, or don't you?"

Beca went to say that absolutely, yes, of course she wanted to be with her - but now? Right now? Beca knew it wasn't right.

Chloe took Beca's silence as an answer, turning heel and stalking back into the club. Beca went to follow, to try to find someone to take care of Chloe - Stacie, maybe - but she lost track of Chloe in the crowd. She went upstairs to try to get a better vantage point, and she was scanning the crowd when someone pulled her by the arm.

Beca glanced over to see that it was Aubrey Plaza.

"Hey, the DJ wants to meet you!" she shouted. "He has a break right now!"

"Gimme a second," Beca responded, still looking for Chloe. She spotted her at the bar where she was ordering another drink, and Beca sighed.

At least I found her.

"What? I can't hear you!" Plaza shouted. "Come on, we only have like two minutes."

Beca glanced between the dark-haired celebrity and the redhead down below. She groaned and pulled out her phone, quickly scrolling to Stacie's message thread.

Chlo's drunk, she typed quickly as Plaza pulled Beca across the mezzanine. She went to type another one for good measure.

At the center bar.

First floor by the dance floor.

Still being led, Beca typed out a final message.

Can you get her some water?

Stacie sent back a line of positive emojis (sparkles and smileys, mostly, but that was good enough for Beca), and Beca clicked her phone off with a sigh of relief.

Just like Stacie trusted her to be honest about music, she trusted Stacie to look out for her friend. It was easy to remember, considering she'd been on the other side of that loyalty before.

"Luke, this is Mitchell, the musician I was telling you about," Plaza shouted. Beca finally looked up to see that they were behind the booth, in another VIP section. There were a couple people around, but Plaza seemed to be referencing the guy sprawled out on the couch in front of them.

Luke was older and blonde, with a jaw that was chiseled like a statue. There was an attractive woman draped over each of his shoulders, and he whispered something to one of them before he stood up.

"Mitchell," he grinned, and Beca was caught off-guard by his British accent. "You've got a serious ear for music."

"Uh, likewise," Beca replied. She pulled her phone out of her pocket to check if Stacie had said anything else.

There were no messages, so she clicked it off.

"Listen, I'd love to introduce you to a buddy of mine," Luke continued. "He works over at Residual Heat. He's heard your stuff, and he wants to hear more."

Beca bobbed her head in a sort of nod. The music was loud, and her mind was still on Chloe.

"And I'd love to hear you spin," the DJ went on. Beca brought a hand up to her ear and started pulling at her gauges. "Do you have a set?"

"Sure," Beca said.

Wait, she didn't have a set.

She sucked in a deep breath and choked on her own spit.

"I mean," she coughed. "I can make one?"

Luke laughed and clapped a hand over Plaza's shoulder.

"This one's got spirit," he said cheerfully, and Beca couldn't tell if he was being serious or sarcastic.

"I already talked to Javier," Plaza said. "He said she could try a half hour on a Wednesday, if you'll vouch for her."

Luke nodded and turned back to Beca. She resisted the urge to check her phone again.

"Tell you what," he said, reaching into his back pocket. He pulled out a money clip and slipped something off the end, handing it to Beca. She turned it over in her hand and saw that it was a business card.

"Send me something this week. I'll have my guy come by if your set is legit."

Beca nodded again. She tried to focus on what they were saying- to be here, to realize and participate in her literal future in the music business, but she couldn't stop thinking about Chloe.

Did Stacie find her?

Was she okay?

"Yo, dude," Plaza nudged her.

"Right," Beca blinked out of her thoughts.

"Thanks, man, I really appreciate it," she said to Luke, and the tall guy grinned good-naturedly.

"I always like finding someone new," he said with a shrug. "And being where I am and in the job that I'm in, I get to do that. Plus, any friend of Plaza's is a friend of mine."

"Oh, we're not friends," the dark-haired celebrity replied, and Beca momentarily flushed with panic again.

"We're sisters. Twins, actually," she deadpanned. "We were separated at birth, because our parents got divorced, but we reconnected when we were sent to the same summer camp. Then we switched places. She's actually the real Aubrey Plaza."

"Uh huh," Luke nodded, eyes wide and full of sarcasm.

Beca looked between the two of them. There was obviously some joke she wasn't getting, and neither of them were letting up or letting her in.

"We're not actually twins," she said slowly. "I'm on Plaza's show."

Luke laughed as his attractive friends rejoined the conversation. One of them handed him a shot.

"You're back on, baby," she hummed, and Luke shot back the brown liquid.

"I need something by Sunday, Mitchell," he said as he walked back towards the booth. "Don't fuck this up."

She nodded, and the two of them watched Luke resume his place behind his equipment. She was about to check her phone again when she felt Plaza elbow her sharply.

"Ow!"

"Dude! Have you never seen The Parent Trap?! What the fuck is wrong with you?"

*****

Beca laid her head down on the countertop of the pool house kitchen.

Putting together a set honestly shouldn't be this hard.

She knew it was just her nerves, once the reality of the literal life-changing conversation she'd had last night actually sunk in this morning. She was obviously worried she wouldn't be good enough for Luke or for his producer friend, which lead her to stare dumbly at her barely-not-blank screen.

She'd started with her mixes that she knew Luke played - the 212/Bust A Move mix, and Release Me vs. Bulletproof.

And she had to get from one to the other, so she found some other 90s hits.

Sir Mix-A-Lot, always a crowd favorite. And she had a mix with Jump by Kris Kross.

From there, she had Shut Up And Dance vs. Moves Like Jagger, that was a good mix for this kind of club.

But what about the popular hits? Did she need to work in Bruno? Or Sheeran?

Or, god forbid, Miley?

She used Ex's & Oh's by Elle King in a mix, but it was with Nice Guys Finish Last by Cobra Starship, so Beca didn't know if it was accessible.

And what about Rihanna? How was she going to fit her in?

Actually, anywhere after The Weeknd would be fine, and The Weeknd could go anywhere.

But what about Taylor Swift?!

Beca groaned. She knew what this was supposed to sound like. She knew what Luke had been playing at the club. She could hear all the bits and pieces, and she knew where she should put them, where they belonged in the arc of a set. But she had so many ideas- so many thoughts about how it could all fall into place, and she couldn't make sense of any of them.

A half hour set was the longest thing she'd put together.

And it was more than a little daunting.

In the back of her mind, Beca knew there was really only one way to get through this. She needed to get her shit together, make her best run at it, and then ask her friends for help.

But she wasn't ready for that yet.

So she spent another hour recording her Fuck You remix while simultaneously hiding away in the pool house. Away from prying eyes.

And away from Chloe.

Beca hadn't seen the redhead since they fought last night. When she got back to the American Idol VIP section, all she'd found was a very wasted CR and Amy duo. She called Stacie, who confirmed that she'd gotten Chloe back to the house and that the rest of the women had left too.

So she'd lured the stragglers into an SUV with the promise of Taco Bell, which, thankfully, was not only still open but also cheap enough that she could actually buy it for them.

The only person who had come to see her in the pool house was Emily, and that was only to heap praise and gratitude on the older brunette. Beca reiterated that Emily was the one who had all the great ideas and kicked her out of the pool house before the girl melted into a puddle.

Because Beca could ignore most of the ridiculous praise, but she wouldn't be able to ignore tears.

And then the aspiring DJ had set to work on her setlist for Luke, and the whole thing was driving her insane. She couldn't straighten out her thoughts.

So she decided to go take a nap.

It was hours later and long after dark when she awoke in her suite.

"Beca!"

Was that real, or was that in her dream? She'd been dreaming about something, a pool of light, bright lights, like the edge of a stage-

"Beca! Come out here!"

That was - unfortunately - very real. Someone was yelling at her from the living room.

Beca rolled off her bed and threw on some (freshly washed) pajama bottoms.

"This better be important, because I was asleep," she grumbled as she trodded into the kitchen. The remaining competitors and Ms. Junk were spread out across the living room with cans, cups, and carryout scattered around them.

"Somebody recorded last night's episode!" Emily said. "We're all going to watch it together!"

Beca yawned and rubbed her eye.

"Yeah, I'm not gonna do that."

"Ohhhh, no," Stacie called, jumping over the back of the couch and blocking the way back to Beca's room. "You're not getting out of this."

"Yeah shorty, you have to stay!" CR added. She was rounding the dinner room table, and the look she gave made Beca feel like she was going to be flanked if she tried to run the other way.

"It wouldn't be the same if we watched without you," Emily pleaded.

"Say, is there a way to check who recorded this?" Katherine said, apropos of nothing.

"Fine, I'll stay!" Beca said, and most of the women cheered. They pulled Beca to the couch and resumed their spots.

Amy and Jessica were on the far side, stretched out over the wide length of the U. Emily was tucked in the corner next to Stacie.

Chloe was in the middle, with Amy on her other side, and then CR, further down.

Only Katherine stayed off the couch again, choosing instead to sit behind it in the wide office chair from the desk.

Beca noticed Chloe hadn't moved from her spot on the couch. She’d had barely even glanced over her shoulder when Beca had come out, choosing instead to keep her gaze turned down on her phone in her lap.

Beca didn't know if that was a good sign or a bad sign, but it didn't feel encouraging.

And depending on what they put on the episode, what made it to air from the last week?

She wasn't sure if she wanted to watch with anyone, but especially not Chloe.

But the opening credits were already rolling, and her castmates were cheering, and Amy was pouring her a mysterious mixed drink. Begrudgingly, she sat down on the couch as well.

(Next to CR, on the front edge of the couch, so she could leave quickly if she needed to.)

(…and so she couldn't see everyone's reactions, because they were sitting behind her.)

The episode started with the group number, and Beca tried not to cringe. It was the best they could've done under the circumstances, but she still didn't love their medley performance. Most of the women had done okay though, and by the end they were all singing along, even Beca.

They had flashed to Posen too, when Beca added Bulletproof into the mix, and it was fun to see the blonde's reaction up close.

With the size and resolution of the living room TV, Beca could almost see the blood pumping in the judge's forehead vein.

Beca was up first to perform, and the producers didn't edit in anything before the brunette's performance. She was shocked, to say the least.

She knew Gail said she didn't know if the Tuesday interview would make it to air, but Beca thought they'd put in something.

It was probably for the best that they left it out, Beca thought as she watched herself perform. I need to talk to Chloe myself.

She finished up and got her feedback, along with a couple kudos from her competitors in real time. Amy made some crack about her fashion sense, and Beca turned to tell the Australian to that she could take her comments and stick them "down under" when she heard Jesse through the TV.

"Quite the emotional performance!"

Oh wait.

Shit.

"Any reason for the tears tonight?"

Beca whipped her head back forward and stared at the floor in front of her.

"I messed up, and I'm sorry. I hurt you. I want to make things right," Beca heard herself tell the camera. She winced and kept her eyes trained down, training her gaze onto the contents of her cup.

"Hah! Gaaaay!" Amy hollered, and Beca heard a few people laugh. Stacie gasped.

"Are those the earrings?!"

"Damn, you got it bad, huh?" CR chimed in, earning more laughs.

"Oh my god," Beca mumbled before chugging her drink.

She didn't chance a look back, but she didn't leave. If that was all they were going to show, she could make it through. The after-performance interview was embarrassing, but it wasn't the end of the world. And depending on what was going on with Chloe, maybe she could still fix things.

But that was a pretty big "maybe."

Stacie was next, and Beca was surprised again when she saw that somehow, a camera had caught her helping Stacie rehearse at the house on Monday. They had been upstairs, and the camera POV was from the top of the stairs, so Beca figured that they just hadn't noticed someone come up.

They were laughing, and then Beca was telling Stacie that she should switch up the chorus. She played the leggy brunette in, and Stacie went high, but Beca stopped her and made her sing it low, building through her "Forever's gonna start tonight" lines so the chorus/bridge was suspended roughly.

The episode cut to a talking head of Stacie.

"Look, Beca was going through it," she sighed. "But she knows her music. She helped me pick my song, and then she helped me rehearse it. And we had a lot of fun. I'm glad she decided to suck less."

The women in the room laughed as the Stacie onscreen started to perform.

Beca turned to flick Stacie off across the pit, and the older brunette blew her a kiss in return.

She couldn't help glancing at Chloe, but the redhead was watching the screen with a focused, pensive gaze. Beca could see that her brow was knit, like she was confused or angry. But Beca couldn’t figure out why her behavior would upset the redhead.

Shouldn’t Stacie forgiving her be a good thing?

Or was this the same anger from their fight?

God, it was all so confusing.

No wonder she hadn't had a girlfriend since high school.

The show continued with more performances and talking heads. True to her oblivious nature, Beca didn't realize that the other competitors - her housemates, her friends - were all grateful for her help during the week. But seeing and hearing it all at once, watching her play piano for them and seeing them take her feedback, she felt a sense of pride.

She'd never considered herself a "helpful" person, but here she was, coaching and teaching.

It was different, but it wasn't bad.

It was actually kind of nice.

Amy nailed We Belong, and instead of Jesse's onstage announcement that they were down to the final two, they had the host dub over a bumper for the commercial.

"When we return, we find out who's going home," he said dramatically. "And we find out the real story of Chloe Beale and Beca Effin' Mitchell."

The screen cut to Chloe, eyes flaring at dance rehearsal, then to Beca in the hallway behind the stage.

"-loving Chloe, truly, and fully-"

Then the screen went black, and the streaming service started playing a commercial for some hospital drama.

The room was quiet. Beca blinked at the ceiling and rolled her lips tight.

"I think I'm good for the night?" she squeaked, standing and spinning a little, just enough to see CR on the couch. "This was fun, but-"

"Oh, now you're gonna bail?" Chloe cut her off. "I don't think so. Sit."

"Yeah, okay," Beca sighed. She felt a hand at her elbow and looked down to see Amy was reaching for her cup.

"Refill?" the Australian offered.

Beca nodded, and Amy poured the contents of her own cup into Beca's.

"I think you're gonna need it more than me," Amy replied to Beca's incredulous face, and the brunette heard CR sigh.

Beca didn't respond as she turned forward. The commercial was soon over and, after a brief interlude, Jesse was back onstage.

He was teasing the reveal, dragging out the decision on who was going home when Posen cut him off. That much Beca remembered, but she didn't remember that there were cameras in the green room.

So when they showed a split screen of Ashley and Chloe onstage next to a video of her reaction, she blushed.

She didn't realize she was that upset at the idea of Chloe going home.

She looked like she was about to punch a baby.

Ashley performed I Think We're Alone Now and teared up as she asked for votes. The show cut to a talking head where Ashley had an expletive-laden expression of relief, which made the women laugh.

But the levity didn't last long.

The camera was back in the hallway, on Beca, and she could tell it was the Tuesday talking head.

"I sang I Hate Myself For Loving You, by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I tried to switch to Time After Time on Monday, but Carl didn't let me. I'm glad he didn't." Beca said with a smile.

In real time, Beca saw self-doubt flash through the eyes of her former self, but it didn't hold.

"It wasn't enough. Cyndi Lauper doesn't bring enough self-loathing to the table, at least for where I was."

The camera cut to Chloe in the dining room.

"Beca's incredibly talented," the redhead said, conflict pulling at every corner of her face. "I honestly think she could win this competition. But that's only if she decides she wants to. I tried to help her, but she wouldn't listen, and that's not my problem anymore."

The scene went back to the stage, where Jesse called Chloe up to sing. She stepped up to the mic and smiled broadly at the crowd.

But Beca could see that it was hollow, that the expression didn't reach her eyes.

She was faking it.

She was hurting.

"It was a heartbreaking week in the American Idol house," Jesse said in the voice over as Chloe waited to start, and Beca rolled her eyes.

If she knew him better, she'd kill him.

The scene cut back in the hallway with Beca.

"There's something about self-pity, about the way that it doesn't hold up under pressure. I wanted to feel bad, and the women in the house - one, in particular - they wouldn't let me feel bad for myself. They wanted the best for me. And a part of me hated myself for it."

The camera cut to a close up as they jumped in dialogue.

"I was hurting them, but I didn't want to give in."

The scene cut again, and they were in the dining room on Saturday morning.

"I don't think I could ever forgive her, no," Chloe was saying. "I think she needs to grow up."

The camera shifted to focus on a pajama-clad Beca at the bottom of the stairs behind Chloe. She looked crestfallen, and Beca watched as her past self took a deep breath before continuing on towards her bedroom. Beca's voice came on again over her retreating form, then they were back in the hallway with her.

"I promise you, if I ever get a chance to sing a song about loving Chloe, truly, and fully, you'll know."

Chloe's song started, and the redhead was killing it, but the room was silent.

"What the fuck was that, Beca?"

Beca whipped around suddenly to see that Chloe had gotten to her feet.

"What do you mean?" Beca replied. She felt drunk, but she knew it was an adrenaline spike at the situation.

But then she remembered Amy had given her a few drinks.

So maybe she was a little tipsy.

But mostly she was on edge and confused.

What was Chloe mad at? Was it last night, or the way Beca had talked to the cameras instead of her?

Was she ever going to get a chance to make this right?

"You professed your love for me to a camera crew, and then you rejected me an hour later?"

Chloe was furious, with tears streaming down her face. Red fury, from her chest to her locks, and she was blinking angrily against the tears. She crossed her arms over her pajamas.

Beca shook her head as she tried to backtrack.

"They recorded that interview on Tuesday," she tried to explain. "And they cut some stuff out. I wasn't talking about, like, being in love with you."

"Girl fight!" CR yelled.

"Oh, so you don't have feelings for me?" Chloe cried. "At least that explains why you completely shut me down last night!"

"I didn't- I couldn't- You weren't-" Beca stammered. "Stacie, you were there!"

She looked to the brunette for help, but Stacie waved her off.

"This has been a long time coming, and I'm staying out of it," she replied. "But I will say, Chlo, you were pretty fucked up. Did you guys talk last night?"

"She basically threw herself at me!" Beca yelped, and the group turned to Chloe. The redhead scoffed.

"I only went to find you because you wrote that stupid mash-up about me!"

"Oh, so that was about Chloe?" Emily asked.

"Oh yeah, absolutely," Amy replied, and Jessica hummed in agreement.

"That does make sense," Ashley added. "Very romantic, Beca."

"Okay, can we just-"

Beca clapped her hands over her face and let out a frustrated yell. She dug the heels of her palms into her eyebrows.

"Look, I- I'm not good at this," she said helplessly. "I'm not good at any of this! I don't do, like, words and stuff! And I haven't had friends like this in a long time. Or, like, more than friends. Ugh! Okay."

Taking another deep breath, Beca faltered, blowing the air out in a huff.

"I haven't really let anyone in, in, like, a long time. I built up these walls, you know? And I haven't let anyone penetrate them, get past the defenses, in- in forever."

"Not a good enough reason to use the word 'penetrate,'" Amy cut in.

Beca groaned and turned her full attention on Chloe.

"Can we go talk somewhere? Please?" she asked, and Amy whined.

"No, don't go!" she pleaded. "This is better than the show!"

"No, it's fine, I get it," Chloe shot back, and Beca felt herself deflating. Chloe moved around the far side of the couch, and Beca tried to come around to meet her. She grabbed Chloe's arm, but the redhead shook it off.

"I don't want anything to do with you!" Chloe barked, and Beca stepped back.

"Just leave me alone."

Chloe took off up the stairs, leaving Beca and the rest of the women in silence, save for the TV. The audience was cheering after Chloe's performance.

"Great work, as always," Plaza deadpanned. "Can you try not being perfect next time?"

The audience laughed, and Beca turned back to watch the feedback play out. The scene cut to Katy Perry's single, and the celebrity was frowning slightly.

"Chloe, you have a great voice, and you're very talented," she started, and the audience clapped. She waved them off and resumed addressing the performer onstage.

"But tonight, I saw something new in your song," she said. "You didn't believe that. You didn't feel that. It wasn't real to you, so it wasn't real to me."

The crowd booed, and Beca watched in awe. She must've left last night before they gave Chloe feedback, or the camera turned off or something.

Because she would've remembered this.

"I had a really hard time with it," Chloe agreed. Her eyes were cast down, darting back and forth like she was chasing a thought.

"You're losing yourself," Perry said. "You need to find her, so you can keep her with you."

Chloe nodded and walked offstage. She got to Jesse, who put a protective arm around her. She fell into the hug and closed her eyes.

"It's been a wild night," Jesse said. "Anything to say to the fans at home?"

Chloe opened her eyes and addressed the camera.

"I need your votes more than ever y'all," she sighed. She sucked in a breath and let it trickle out of her. "I wanna go after what I want."

"That's the spirit!" Jesse replied. He gave Chloe a tight squeeze and sent her on her way.

"Well, folks, another exciting night on-"

The TV cut off, and Beca blinked out her focus off the black screen. She looked around to find that Katherine was pointing the remote at the TV.

"Thanks for that," Beca said seriously.

Ms. Junk just gave a small, sympathetic chuckle.

*****

"Okay, let's get started!"

It was Friday morning. Bright and early and altogether unwelcome as far as Beca was concerned.

She leaned forward against the back of the couch, opting to stand behind it instead of her usual removed spot, and she stifled a yawn.

She'd barely slept, and yet she was here - full dress, full make-up.

And devoid of caffeine.

She grabbed her tea off the floor behind her and took a swig.

"We're doing a 60s and 70s week!" Posen said cheerfully. The competitors tried to muster up some enthusiasm, but obviously they were having trouble getting into the spirit this morning.

Beca wasn't even sure if Chloe had reacted to the announcement.

Beca glanced over at the redhead. It was annoying, but even now - even as distraught and confused as she was - she could never quite get over the way Chloe looked in morning light. It was ethereal, like she was shining from within. And sometimes inexplicably so, like today. Chloe wore a black and blue sweater with dark jeans to match her clouded expression, and there wasn't all that much light flooding in from outside.

But Chloe still emanated with brightness.

Rain pattered on the windows as Posen talked about "trusting the process."

Not for the first time in the last ten hours, Beca cursed herself for not handling last night better. She should've talked to Chloe right after the show. Or before, when the redhead reached out, after the group warm-up.

Anytime really, before Chloe had gotten too drunk.

But Beca didn't know what they were going to put on the air, and it's not like she planned to watch the episode with the group when she set it up to auto-record.

And she didn't know what Chloe was feeling.

She wasn't a mind-reader, for god's sake.

"...and instead of a big group number this week, we're switching it up!" Posen finished with a flourish, and Beca tuned back in, noticing immediately that something was off.

The blonde judge looked tense.

Tenser than usual, even.

"It'll be smaller groups - duets, actually!" Posen grinned maniacally.

Whatever, Beca thought. Duets might actually be fun.

Beca let her mind wander again. Chloe remembered Wednesday night, so Beca knew she wasn't completely out of it.

And there was a saying, wasn't there?

"Drunken words are sober thoughts"?

But then why did Chloe get so mad when they watched the show?

Shouldn't she be happy that Beca felt the same?

Maybe if Beca put some real thought into what she wanted to say about how she felt about the redhead, maybe she could make it work.

But Chloe thought she didn't want to be with her.

If the redhead could watch what Beca had said on the show and still think that Beca had anything but a big, stupid crush, what did she think?

"They don't need to be actual duets, and they don't need to be exclusively sung by women," Posen went on. "We want you to have fun with these, so don't be afraid to mix it up!"

And was Chloe really coming on to her, at the club last night? Beca thought back to the feeling of Chloe's tongue against her ear, and she shuddered.

She was insanely attracted to the woman.

But it was more, wasn't it?

Was it more for Chloe too?

Because the Chloe from a week ago, the one from the interview that they aired Wednesday, that one said she would never forgive Beca.

"But remember; we're cutting two people next week. The reason we're doing duets is because we'll cut the pair of performers who have the lowest votes!"

Beca thought about how she felt. It was more than lust, and, god, it was more than a crush at this point. The last few weeks had been hell, and it wasn't just because Chloe wasn't all over her.

It was the absence of Chloe. It was the fact that she was so near, and yet Beca couldn't even talk to her.

That hurt. More than she realized.

She had missed Chloe a lot.

"Stacie and CR, you'll be paired together," Posen was saying.

"And Ashley and Jessica, of course."

If Chloe hadn't been avoiding her - if they would have just talked like everyone told them to - Beca's sure they would have figured it out by now.

As soon as Beca had seen the show and believed that what they had was real, she should have just forced Chloe to talk to her.

But then she hadn't, she realized. Instead, she made it all weird again by talking to the show about it instead of Chloe.

And that was why Chloe so mad.

Maybe she was having the same doubts that Beca was, about doing the whole relationship-for-views thing.

"Amy and Emily, I want to see something good out of you two!"

But Beca wasn't. She wanted all of it. But with Chloe was so mad from last night, Beca wasn't sure she'd get the chance to say anything. She certainly wouldn't get any time away from the group; Chloe wouldn't let that happen again.

If they just had a chance, to get in the same room together, to be alone-

"And Beca and Chloe," Posen finished with a grimace. "You'll be our last duet pairing."

Beca looked to Posen, then over to Chloe, who was gaping at her.

Well, that'll do it.