It’s been a little over two months since the World’s Final and that night at the campfire when Chloe had decided she would in fact graduate that year. And she did. But now she has no idea what to do with her life.
She had said on that night that she would either pursue her dream of teaching underprivileged children or she would become an exotic dancer. But now neither choice seems to fit.
Beca and Amy are leaving for New York and she’s staying behind - just like she stayed behind when Aubrey graduated and moved on with her life. Now here she is again in her dorm room at the Bellas’ household feeling lonely and very close to having another anxiety attack. Because she’s lost. And very unhappy.
So when her phone rings and Aubrey’s name pops up on the screen right on cue, her racing heart slows down a notch and she feels like a weight lifted from her body.
“You know,” she answers the call with a smile on her face, “sometimes I think you have special powers, Aubrey.”
“What?”, Aubrey giggles on the other side of the line.
“You always seem to call or text whenever I’m close to losing my mind. It’s like you can feel that I need my best friend to talk some sense into me.”
“Glad to know we still have a connection like that,” she laughed. “But why are you feeling shitty?”
“Oh you know, the usual. Kinda stressing over what to do with my life. Nothing new.” Chloe shrugged. “What about you? What’s up?”
“I’m… fine,” she drags the word making Chloe know something is not fine at all.
“Clearly not. What is it, sweet pea?”
“I kinda need your advice on something. It’s nothing bad, really. And seems kinda dumb now that I know you’re going through a hard time.”
“Shut up, silly. Nothing is dumb coming from you. And I need a distraction anyway. So what is it?”
“Okay, then…” Aubrey sighs. “Well, do you still have that nerdy ‘I watch Animal Planet 24/7’ knowledge?”
“Uh… I guess?”
“What do you know about bats?” Chloe fidgeted a little.
“Yeah, bats,” Aubrey says with the utmost seriousness. “Those tiny black creatures with fangs that may or may not turn into vampires. Or night vigilantes.” Chloe laughs at her friend’s antics.
“Batman doesn’t really turn into a Bat, Aubrey.”
“Why is he called The Batman then?”
“It’s not The Bat- You know what, nevermind. I know the basics about bats. Why?”
“I’ve been having trouble with them lately. There are a few of them here and they’ve been flying too low and getting stuck on my porch. It’s the third time this week.”
“Geez… What are you doing about them?”
“That’s the thing… I’m not doing anything because I’m dead scared of them.”
“Wait, don’t you have any vets there? You know… because of the bears?”
“Not here. We have some on standby in case something happens. But it’s the weekend and none of them is answering and there’s a bat clinging to my doorknob right now.”
“No shit,” Chloe giggles. “How can I help you, Bree?”
“I don’t know… What do you know about them? What can I do? How do I make it go away?”
“Well, I know they’re actually pretty harmless. And they’re more scared of you than you are of them.”
“I highly doubt that,” Chloe can practically hear the terror in her voice.
“Anyway," she laughs. "Bats have a hard time flying from the ground, so you need to pick it up, gently, and put somewhere higher like a tree or something.”
“Like a tree? I know you have plenty of those there.”
“You want me to pick it up?" Aubrey says in a high pitched voice. "With my own hands?”
“You can try picking it up with your feet too, but I guess that’s a lot harder.” she jokes.
“For serious, Chlo!”
“Come on, Bree!” she laughs, “It’s no big deal. You’ll see they’re very cute.”
“Chloe! There’s no fucking way I’m picking that thing up! What if it bites me? It could be sick!”
“It won’t bite you if you’re gentle-”
“No!” Aubrey cuts her mid sentence. “I’m not doing this! I won’t get anywhere near that thing.”
“Fine!” Chloe gives in and after a moment contemplating what to do next, she thinks better of it. “Okay, then! I’m coming over to help you deal with the tiny black creature on your porch.”
“That’s more like it!” Aubrey says triumphantly.
“Alright, alright, can you hold your shit together for forty minutes or so till I get to you?”
“Yeah, but now you’re wasting time on the phone. Bye!”
As Chloe arrives at the Lodge at Fallen Leaves, she goes straight to her best friend’s cabin, like she has done so many times before, and finds her waiting at the front porch.
“Hey, you!” Aubrey greets her with a warm smile and the she runs to hug her tight.
“I missed you so much,” Chloe says burying her face on her best friend's neck.
“I missed you too, Chlo!”
Over the years since Aubrey graduated from Barden, she and Chloe keep in touch as much as possible, but it isn’t the same thing as their years together there. Often college itself and life get in their way and they end up only calling each other or facetiming once in a while. But meeting in person is a rare occurrence, especially these days and even after their get together for the World’s.
Not wanting to let go just yet, they stay in each other’s embrace with nearly no space between them.
“I think you look prettier than the last time I saw you, Bree. How's that even possible?” Chloe lifts a hand and gently tucks a strand of hair behind Aubrey’s ear.
“Aren’t you the charmer?” Chloe notices the blush creeping up on her face. “You look great too, Chloe. You always do.”
“So, you want me to help you deal with your new pet?”
“Yes, please!” she answers eagerly. Chloe allows her hands to linger for a moment more on her shoulder and immediately misses the contact when she untangles herself.
In the back of the cabin, they find the tiny black creature screeching while holding on to the doorknob, as Aubrey had said it would be.
“It’s been like this for over an hour now,” Aubrey tells her. “I thought maybe by now it would have gone away by itself.”
“No, he’s too scared and fragile to do it on his own.”
“He?” she questions but it goes unheard as Chloe gets closer to the animal.
“Hi there, little one. I’m gonna help you find your way back to your fam,” she speaks calmly to him and then turns back to Aubrey. “Do you have gloves? Very thick ones. And towels or any fabric that can be ruined.”
Aubrey returns a few minutes later with the items and hands them to her.
“How are you planning to do that?”
“Oh I’ll just wrap him with the towels,” she answers while putting on the gloves and approaching the bat.
“Be careful, Chlo…”.
Chloe does as she said, wrapping the bat in the towels, like a burrito she thinks and smiles to herself, with Aubrey watching everything from behind her with a very concerned and scared frown on her face.
“See?” she turns back to Aubrey, holding the bat like a baby. “Is he still scary, Bree?”
Aubrey takes a look at him, tugged in Chloe’s arms, and he really doesn’t seem all that threatening now.
“He looks like a kitten,” she says and Chloe giggles.
“Aw yes, he does! Come on, let’s go find the highest tree to put him on.”
They walk side by side into the forest, so close their arms keep touching. It doesn’t bother Chloe and it doesn’t seem to bother Aubrey either since she doesn’t make a move to put some more distance between them. They haven’t had time to meet in person since the World’s Final and she won’t take this for granted.
The only time they break apart is when they finally find a tree Chloe deems worthy. Aubrey watches her from a few steps behind her, still somewhat wary of the creature. She laughs softly at Chloe cooing gentle words to the animal as she carefully puts him on the highest tree they found nearby the cabin. He stays still for a moment, paralised with fear, and only moves once Chloe takes a few steps back.
He makes a screeching sound and starts climbing up the tree fast, the sudden movement and noise scaring Aubrey. She grabs Chloe’s arm and together they watch as the bat goes higher and higher up the tree. She smiles at the moment they’re sharing - she wouldn’t have imagined that her day of self loathing would end up like this, saving a bat and snuggling with Aubrey in the middle of a forest. She was in her element here. Nature, animals and the person she loved the most. This is the happiest she has been in weeks.
Aubrey’s hands slide down her arm until it meets her own and Chloe intertwines their fingers.
“There he goes,” she says softly.
Aubrey is a little lost in the moment. In the feeling of Chloe so close to her again, after such a long time; of their hands clasped together; her smell, her warmth, everything about Chloe resurfacing feelings she thought she had overcome. She’s so lost in her own feelings she doesn’t notice Chloe staring intently at her feeling the same things too.
“What now?” Chloe gently tugs on her hand.
She is brought back from her trance and tries hard to not focus on the proximity of their faces.
“You think he’ll come back?” she circles back to the 'safe' topic.
“Miss him already?” Chloe teases and Aubrey rolls her eyes playfully.
“I just don’t want to have to deal with him while you’re not here…”
“Then perhaps I should not go anywhere tonight… You know, just in case…”
They lived together for four years. They shared a house and a room in the past, and sometimes even a bed. They even had sleepovers after Aubrey left Barden. So this wouldn’t be something new or unusual to them. But for some reason, this time it feels different. The way Chloe is staring at her, the soft blush on her face, the way she asks so carefully as if testing the waters, and how fast her own heart is beating right now. It’s not the same as all the other times they did this. So Aubrey can barely contain the smile (and the blush) that spreads through her face.
“Yes, that would be perfect,” she said softly.
“Yay!” Chloe pulls her even closer and kisses her on the cheek, “Girl’s night!”
Both smiles grow bigger and warmer in each face.
The pair return to the cabin and after Aubrey makes them coffee and hot chocolate, they settle on the swing at the back porch where the bat had previously been. It’s late afternoon, the sun is setting, the warm breeze is cooling, so they snuggle together just reveling in each other's presence and warmth.
Aubrey has been struggling with her feelings for Chloe for years. During her first year at Barden, when she realised she had a crush on the girl that had just become her best friend, she convinced herself she would eventually get over it. She kept telling herself that it was just a silly crush and it didn’t mean anything.
But as the time went by, the stronger the crush became until she couldn’t deny anymore that she was helplessly in love with Chloe. She dwelled on whether she should tell her or not, but seeing Chloe jumping from one guy to another, she was pretty convinced that she wasn’t looking for a stable relationship (let alone with a girl). Eventually she figured out that Chloe did go out with girls too, but at that point their friendship was so important to Aubrey, she couldn’t risk ruining everything by confessing her love. So she kept it to herself all those years.
And once she graduated from Barden she was sure that now she could get over her feelings. Because now they wouldn’t be seeing each other everyday, she wouldn’t have to avert her eyes from a naked Chloe that just got out of the shower, she wouldn’t have to calm her nerves every time Chloe would climb up her bed at night and cuddle with her. Now she could actually just be by herself and not be completely inebriated by Chloe's every move.
As she quickly learned though, it wasn’t going to be that easy. It took months for her to get used to not being in her presence at every waking moment. And Chloe wasn’t satisfied with the new arrangement either, as she called everyday and tried to stop by the lodge every weekend. They missed each other so much that this distance that was supposed to heal only hurt more.
So Aubrey just gave in. She gave up trying to get over Chloe and just accepted that she would always have this unrequited love and settle for being her best friend. If this was all she could get, then she would make the best of it.
Today though, these feelings were too much. It's the first time they see each other in months, and there is something different. She doesn’t know what. But she can feel it in her heart something has shifted in their relationship.
“So, do you want to talk about what was bothering you today?” She tries to go back again to what she considers a safe topic. Or anything that doesn’t make her think about all the things she’s feeling right now.
“I don’t even know anymore,” Chloe laments with a sigh. “About anything. I thought by now I’d have decided what to do with my life and maybe be on my way to it. But I’m just as lost as I was that day at the campfire,” she admitted sheepishly.
“You said you wanted to teach kids. What’s changed about that since then?”
“Well, I thought about it. But you know me, Bree. How the hell am I supposed to teach kids? The first child that stomps their feet and pouts at me, I’m just gonna stomp my feet back at them and cry!”
“It would be a scene!” Aubrey laughs agreeing. “Have you ever considered vet school? You’re good with animals. Always have been.”
“Uh I don’t know. I don’t think I could ever put an animal down if I had to.”
“Yes, you could,” she says firmly and gets a questioning look from Chloe. “It wouldn’t be easy, of course. But you’re so caring and dedicated. If you ever have to, you’ll do it with more love and respect than anyone else.”
She makes a pause to let Chloe absorb the thought.
“And you would know with certainty that you’ve done everything, that you fought till the end for them.” She holds Chloe’s hand in her own and gives a soft squeeze before continuing. “After that, you will inevitably cry. But for the right reasons. And when it comes to it, you know that you can always come to me and you’ll have a shoulder to cry on. I’ll make you hot chocolate and we’ll watch movies until you feel better and ready to start again.”
Chloe stares at her lovingly, feeling the gentle rubbing of Aubrey’s thumbs and considering every word she just said. There’s a lot of thought to put into that. As much as she loved animals, she always dismissed the idea of being a vet because she never thought she'd be able to do the hard part. But the way Aubrey put it… it makes sense. And the thought of coming back to Aubrey after a day at work just makes her heart swell with love.
“That’s why we’re a match,” She finally says. “You always know what to say when I need some wisdom. You were always the smartest one.”
“I'm not, though,” Aubrey looks down at their hands and plays with their fingers. “The smartest one, that is. It’s just that I’ve been raised like that. To have my shit together all the time. Not knowing what to do was never an option.”
“And I’ve been raised on a much looser grip so… bullshit my way through is the only way I ever knew.”
They remain like that for what feels like eternity — not that any of them would want it to end anyway — holding hands, their expression mirroring each other. A thought occurs to Chloe and she swallows hard, trembling with anticipation.
“Can I try something?” she asks.
“Close your eyes.”
Aubrey stares at her with a quizzical look in her face.
“Just trust me,” Chloe softly encourages.
She smiles and does as she’s told. Chloe let go of her hand and gently cups her face. She can feel Aubrey tensing up, breath coming out in ragged puffs and, for a split second, reconsiders what she’s about to do. But this is it. This is the moment and she can’t back down now.
Turning her face slightly, she places a delicate kiss on Aubrey’s rosy cheek and grins when she notices a smile perking up her face. Spurred on by her reaction, Chloe continues pressing gentle kisses over the expanse of Aubrey's smooth face. She moves up and lets her lips softly touch her eyelids before going further to leave a lingering kiss on her forehead and then slide down to kiss the tip of her nose. And as she goes even lower, her own lips ghosting Aubrey’s, she can sense Aubrey’s breath caught in her throat.
She stops there, one hand gripping Aubrey’s waist now while the other continues gently holding her face, as if giving her some time to gather her thoughts and backs off if that’s what she wants. But Aubrey doesn’t pull away. In fact, she opens her eyes and holds their gaze. Before Chloe could overthink any further, she’s closing the gap until their lips finally touch. Aubrey simply melts into the kiss.
She really wants to deepen the kiss but she’s afraid it could be too much yet and she doesn’t want it to be overwhelming. So she reluctantly pulls away. Aubrey seems breathless, but she’s smiling at her and there’s a soft, but clear blush on her face.
“Are you okay with this?” she asks panting.
“Yeah,” Aubrey answers resting their foreheads together.
A moment passes where they just stare at each other, taking in every detail of that moment, so much unsaid but everything extremely clear. They can have this conversation — they have to have this conversation — just not right now.
Aubrey takes her hands on her own, bringing them closer to her lips and kissing each of them. Chloe smiles tenderly at her and caresses her cheeks. Aubrey leans into the contact and she pulls closer, so close they can feel each other’s breath — it smells like chocolate and coffee and cinnamon and everything sweet she loves the most.
It’s Aubrey who goes for the kiss now and this time she doesn’t think twice before deepening it. The kiss was more needy, unrestrained, all those years of (not so) secretly pining over each other coming in full force now. Their hands travel freely all over their bodies, pulling impossibly close with not one ounce of hesitation to be seen.
They don’t know for how long they were making out, but at this point the sun has gone down completely. When they finally break apart, Aubrey timidly looks down trying to hide the redness that took over her face, but Chloe gently lifts her chin and kisses her again. It’s soft but firm.
“I wanted to do that for a while,” Chloe confesses.
“Me too,” she is unable to contain her smile from growing wider. “For so long…”
They lay back on the swing, holding each other close, cuddling and exchanging caresses and more kisses, making up for the lost time, laughing softly at silly things and forgetting about anything else in the world. Any worries they had that day completely vanished from their minds.
“I love you,” Aubrey blurts out. “I always have.”
Chloe's face splits in the biggest smile she can muster, tightening her hold on Aubrey as if afraid of letting go.
“I love you too.”