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Clouded Judgment

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Chloe couldn’t sleep that night. She gave up pretty quickly after tossing and turning trying to find a comfortable position. She was thinking too much and feeling so many things all at the same time. There was no way she was getting any sleep soon.

So here she was in her study nursing her fourth glass of whiskey. It was past 3am and she shouldn’t be drinking but if she was really being honest, it was the only thing stopping her from killing someone.

She’s annoyed that her left hand can’t swirl her drink as well as her right could. She feels her anger start rising again as she downs her drink.

“I’m gonna kill her.”

Five hours before…

Beca just dropped off Chloe. The moment she settles in her pick up, Chloe was on the phone with Kommissar while she watched Beca’s car disappear from her rearview mirror. She knows she had to go back for the money before she could head home so she soldiers on. Kommissar doesn’t let her go and stay on the phone with her until Chloe’s parked in the garage of the warehouse.

She was genuinely surprised to see Kommissar’s motorcycle also parked there. Chloe doesn’t remember her saying anything about meeting her here. If she did, it would’ve saved her the trip and Chloe would have been home by now.

This should annoy Chloe but at this point, she was too tired to feel anything. She finds Kommissar seated in the middle of the warehouse and Chloe can see the bags of money already by her feet.

They look at each other but Kommissar doesn’t move nor say a word but she saw Chloe arrive.

“What are you doing here?” Chloe says trying to sound casual. “I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.”

She was tired of arguing with Kommissar. She sighed and just decided to grab the money and go. She figured everything Kommissar had to say she already said on the phone. But before she can take another step, a knife was flying her way. She swipes at it with her hand as a reflex and it cut her.

Chloe stares at her hand and could see blood seep out from the cut. “Are you out of your mind?!”

Kommissar scoffed. She stays where she is and holds out another knife. She’s throwing another one towards Chloe. Chloe had to think fast. She looked around and tumble rolled to her left. She flipped the table to use as a shield.

“Stop that!”

“Don’t worry. I only have about seven left. Think of this as a good reflexes exercise.”

Chloe hears another two that hit the other side of the table.

“Have you completely lost it?” Chloe shouts from behind the table.

“I don’t know Chloe. You tell me.”

Chloe looked down at her hand again. There was so much blood dripping from the diagonal cut that went from her pointer and middle finger to the middle of her palm.

“Goddammit Sar.” Chloe said under her breath.

She was looking for something to wrap her bloody hand in but had to forget about that for now when things became a little too quiet. She can hear Kommissar’s footsteps coming closer and a hand was on her shoulder. “Come on. Get up.”

Kommissar pulled Chloe up but Chloe pushed her as soon as she found her footing. “What is your problem?”

“My problem?” Kommissar was surging forward throwing a combination of punches at Chloe. “What is my problem?”

“I understand you’re mad. I already explained everything over the phone.” Chloe said in between dodging and blocking the punches. “I don’t know what else you want me to say. I don’t want to fight you. Stop it.”

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately Chlo. So I figured maybe I can beat it out of you.”

The blood was staining Kommissar’s knuckles and arms. Chloe winced from the pain coming from her hand. She dodged and blocked all but one that got her straight in the jaw. Chloe instantly puts a hand over her cheek and raised a brow at Kommissar.

Kommissar smirked and shrugged. “Oops.”

“Are you happy now?” Chloe asked.

“Not quite.”

Kommissar and Chloe were well versed with hand-to-hand combat. They trained together for years so they were extremely familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Kommissar was better with her hands and grappling. Chloe made sure to keep her distance but Kommissar was still able to connect another left hook and an uppercut to her body.

Chloe winced some more. She won’t show I as much but those hurt. Kommissar was out for blood. Chloe knew she wasn’t playing around with her. “Fine. You wanna fight? I’ll give you a fight.”

It was Chloe this time that went on a series of combinations of kicks and punches. She was even able to grab one of the light stands and used it as a fighting stick. She had a bit of an advantage now cause she was more proficient in Kali.

She got a few swipes to Kommissar’s body and face. Kommissar was stunned for a bit but kept surging at her and threw some more punches her way. Chloe was blocking them better with the light stand. She ends it with a counter turning sidekick, which hits Kommissar square in the stomach. She could’ve kept going but she didn’t.

Both women stood about two meters apart and were both out of breath. Kommissar was still bent over clutching on her stomach.

Chloe’s had enough and threw the light stand away. “This is ridiculous. What are we even doing?”

Kommissar stood up straighter now. She can taste blood in her mouth. “Yeah no you’re right. This is absurd.” She says as she wipes blood from the side of her lips. “You and that bloody stick.”

Chloe chuckled. She let her guard down for just one second and she let out a big ‘oof!’ as Kommissar tackled her. Chloe’s back slammed on a wooden bench that breaks and Kommissar falls on top of her. They both groaned and Kommissar rolled off of her.

“What’s wrong with you?” Chloe elbowed Kommissar’s side.

“What’s wrong with you?” Kommissar snapped back at her.

“Unbelievable.” Chloe tried to feel where it hurt. “My back ow and fuck my hand.”

They were both slowly sitting up. Kommissar reached in her pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. She hands it to Chloe. “Here. For your hand.”

“You’re a lunatic you know that?” She takes the hanky anyway and wraps it around her hand.

“About Beca. I’m not your mother. I’m not gonna tell you who you can and cannot date but I sure do hope you know how serious the situation was earlier.”

“You think I don’t know that? If I were just another second too late, Brett would’ve pulled the trigger on her.”

“That’s not even the worst case scenario. They would’ve killed you too if it came down to it.”

“I know. I know what we’re dealing with here.”

“Really? Cause it doesn’t look like you do. You sure you weren’t followed this time?”

“For the record, if they let me drive here earlier it wouldn’t have happened. I would’ve spotted her from the get go.”

Kommissar sighed. “Carter told me what you did.”

“I know what I did. But it was my fault. I was the reason she was here.”

“Tell me then. What are you planning with this whole thing? You want to be friends with her, get to know her, maybe date her? She’s an agent Chloe, you can’t just go sneaking around behind her back.”

“I don’t know Sar. She’s just so sweet and sincere and I don’t know why I’m being like this. I don’t even know her. I feel like everyone’s jumping to conclusions and I think I want to find out for myself what’s there.”

“Chloe I’m not saying you don’t deserve to have a life but you’re you and she’s her. You sure you can handle that?”

“I don’t know.”

Kommissar got up first and helped Chloe up. She then grabs a bag of money and hands it to Chloe. “I’ll deliver the money to the guys. Here’s your share. And this is my share for the cleaners and your medical bill.”

Chloe grabbed the bag with her uninjured left hand. “Thanks I guess.”

“I think you should call Luke.” Kommissar said pointing at her hand.

“Fuck you. I’ll deal with it.”

“No I really think you should call Luke.”

Before Chloe could ask why, she gasped and looked down. Kommissar stabbed her right forearm and walked away laughing.

“Try explaining that to your girlfriend.”

 

***

Beca jolted awake and had to take in her surroundings. The events of last night physically and emotionally drained her so much that she fell asleep on her couch. She looked for her phone first to check the time.

She found it on the floor and picked it up. She was pretty sure she’s forgotten to set an alarm again. The time was 7:30am and she did forget to set her alarm. She was going to be late for their meeting with Aubrey at 8:30 this morning.

She was supposed to be rushing but she saw something else in her notifications that caught her eye. She stared at the two text messages from Chloe and quickly opened her messages.

Beca (10:28pm): So I tried calling and that didn’t work. I thought I should try sending a text before showing up at your work. Are you free for dinner tomorrow?

Beca’s actually forgotten she even sent that text but she was so glad that she did.

Chloe (3:03am): I can’t tonight.

Chloe (3:11am): But I can do Friday. What time do you finish work?

Beca was too excited about Chloe’s text that she didn’t really bother with the time.

Beca (7:38am): Friday as in tomorrow? That sounds good to me. Pick you up at 6? Or is that too early?

She jumped from her couch and placed her phone on the table. She really had to get ready for work. But her phone buzzed. Beca whipped her head to look back at her phone.

Chloe (7:39am): 6 is okay if you don’t mind waiting a little. I’ll be coming from a meeting. How are you btw?

Beca (7:39am): Okay done I’ll see you tomorrow. Do photographers not sleep?

Beca ran to the bathroom with her phone. She was in the middle of removing her clothes when she hears her phone ring. She rushed back to her phone she left near the sink. It was Jessica looking for her.

“I know Jess. I’m up I’m up. I’ll be there before you know it. Just stall a bit for me, will you? See you soon.”

Then she heard giggling on the other end and it wasn’t Jessica’s. She quickly looks at the caller ID and it was definitely not Jessica.

“Bad time then?” Chloe said clearly amused.

Beca squeezed her eyes shut and banged her head on her bathroom mirror a couple of times.

“Can I call you later? I’m just gonna go drown myself in the shower now.”

Beca hears Chloe laughing some more. “You do that. I was just checking to see how you were. I know last night was intense.”

“Don’t worry. I’m okay. Are you forgetting I work for the FBI?”

There was a pause. “I wish I could. I’m glad you’re okay. Have a good day at work Bec.”

When Chloe ended their call, Beca could only look down at her phone. If this is what will get her into trouble at work this morning, Beca thought it was well worth it.

***

The pain meds were wearing off again and Chloe couldn’t move. Her back was killing her more than her hand at the moment.

“Chlo?”

Chloe heard Lily calling out for her. She groaned a little. “Here.”

“Oh my god. Are you okay?” Lily found her lying on the floor in her room. “Did you sleep on the floor?”

“It was more comfy than the bed. My back’s killing me.”

“Luke told me what happened. Why didn’t you call me?”

“I was basking in the pain. It was the only thing stopping me from killing Kommissar.”

Lily could only laugh at her friend. She did have the tendency to be dramatic but she knew she wasn’t kidding.

“I’ve had all my shoots today and tomorrow moved to next week. Can you do something for me?”

“Of course. What do you need?”

“My car keys are on the counter, can you get my car cleaned please?”

“How bad is it?”

“Not that bad. But it definitely needs some professional cleaning.”

“Okay. Anything else? I smell whiskey in here. Have you even eaten?”

“I’m on the floor and I literally cannot move. I’m just waiting for Luke to check on my dressing.”

“Okay. I’ll get you something to eat first then take care of your car. Stay there and don’t move.” Lily snorted and Chloe rolled her eyes at that.

“And refill my decanter?”

“You know it.”

“Love you!”

Chloe barely heard Lily’s response.

“Laughing hurts.” Chloe tries to turn and get up. “Ow. Nope. Everything hurts.”

***

Beca made it to their garage parking at 8:30 on the dot. She was rushing to find a park and was getting fidgety. She hated being late for anything.

It was another meeting about the reaper. There were five of them in the room. There with Beca were Aubrey, Jessica, and two younger agents Andrew and Ben. Aubrey had her back facing them when Beca snuck into the conference room easily. Or that’s what she thought.

When she was seated, Aubrey called her out. “Nice of you to join us Mitchell.”

“Sorry I’m late. Please proceed.”

Aubrey glares a ther then nods and lets it go. They had much more important matters to discuss.

She cleared her throat. “As I was saying. We don’t have confirmation yet that the reaper has accepted the job. However they also haven’t said no. Until we receive any confirmation, we will assume it is going ahead and that it’s happening in about two weeks sometime on the weekend of the 12th.”

Beca raised her hand asking for permission to speak.

“Yes, Mitchell.”

“How sure are we about that? What’s stopping them from coming tomorrow or the next day or any day actually?”

“Well, we’re not sure. You’re right they can come tonight, tomorrow, whenever they want. However, it’s in the profile that the reaper tends to follow instructions so that’s what we’re hoping for.”

Beca nods and flips through the brief. It’s ironic how calculated the reaper was but very reckless at the same time.

“Starting today I want all hands on deck. A group of agents have been monitoring everything within a two-block radius. I trust you’ve been reading the reports. As you know the safe house is in an isolated location and based on the reaper’s profile, that works in our favour. She may also come alone and most likely to attack at night.”

Aubrey was looking at Beca as if expecting her to interrupt again with a question. She didn’t have any.

“There’s another four who are monitoring the CCTV footages and listening to everything going on inside the building. We do have eyes and ears in the place but we can’t rely on them when the time comes. If this group is as professional as we think they are, they’ll easily be able to disable them.”

Everyone nods. This was very common and in the two years Beca was on this case, they never got recordings or proper sightings of the reaper.

Aubrey continued. “There are also currently three field agents who have gone undercover around the area. They’re profiles are all in the brief as well. There are too many variables and we’re not sure of the when, who and the how but one thing we are sure of is the where. So we will buckle down on that.”

Beca was unusually quiet. She was getting excited. She didn’t expect to feel excited about this. Are they actually going to get this guy? Will they finally be able to close this case?

“From page six of the brief is a map of the area, the building’s layout, and a list all known businesses and amenities and the neighbours. The goal is to be ready whenever the reaper decides to show. Now as much as we would love to catch the reaper alive, your safety is paramount. If there’s a threat to your life, you have permission to shoot.”

Beca’s mouth opened and closed. It was weird for some reason Beca didn’t want the reaper dead. There were so many questions that will be left unanswered. More than anything, she would love to have a sit down interview with her.

“Finally this weekend get ready and pack clothes for two weeks. On Monday, you will not be reporting here. We will all be staying at the apartments, which are about five blocks from the safe house. “

Nobody argued and everyone just nodded. There was no room for mistakes.

Aubrey looked around the room. “Any questions?”

***

All Beca did at work was prepare reports. By the time she got home, she’s been reading the brief like a bible. It was the first time since Aubrey told her about their plan that she actually believed it would work. Her suitcases were lying around the living room as well. She figured she should start packing this early, which was very unlike her.

She was in the middle of familiarizing herself of the building’s layout when she heard her doorbell ringing. She was expecting guests.

“Please tell me that’s not the pizza from last night?” Beca said when she opened the door to her two best friends.

“The one and the same.” Jessica proudly showed off the pizza she was holding.

Jessica and Ashley didn’t even wait for Beca to let them in. They just walked right in and made themselves at home. Ash went straight to put the beers in the fridge and Jess set the pizza down on the coffee table.

“So where were you last night?” Jessica asked as soon as all three of them were around the table.

“I uhm.” Beca knew they were going to want to know where she was. You’d think she’d be prepared with an answer.

“Oh my god sweetheart. She’s blushing.” Ash was nudging Jessica’s side.

“Yeah she really is.”

“Yeah yeah very funny. I will tell you two all about it but please no interruptions. Let me tell the whole story first then you tell me what you really think about all this. Don’t hold back”

So that’s what Beca did. She told them exactly what happened that night from ending up outside Chloe’s studio after work up until her phone call with Chloe this morning. She was actually expecting herself to sound crazier when saying it out loud but it wasn’t that bad.

When she finished, she couldn’t read her friends’ expressions.

“You can speak now.”

Jessica had to put her pizza down. “Oh my god Becs are you okay?”

“Yeah I mean that guy wasn’t really going to shoot me, right?” She waited for Jess and Ash to nod with her. “Come on it was a photo shoot.”

“I don’t know Becs. That sounds like shady stuff to me. You said so yourself, Chloe saved you.”

“Yeah she did.”

“Did you ask her anything else about the job? At least what magazine it would be on?”

“Why? Do you think she’s not telling the truth? Why would she lie about something like that?” Beca’s voice was rising.

Ashley held Jessica’s arm to stop her from saying anything else. “We don’t know and we’re not insinuating anything.”

Beca slumped down in between the two of them and crossed her arms.

“All we’re saying is that maybe you just want to check this girl out before you start anything with her. You’re a federal agent Becs. You don’t want to jeopardise that.” Ash put a hand on Beca’s lap as comfort.

Jess sighed and did the same thing. “Of course we’re not saying that she’s a criminal or something. We’re just looking out for you, okay?”

Beca then put her arms on both their shoulders. “I love you guys for that and last night was an unfortunate incident I admit. I promise to be more careful before diving into this but trust me too. I have a good feeling about Chloe and I really really like her.”

***

The next day in a different location and with another group of people, another meeting was taking place. It was the first time Kommissar and Chloe were going to see each other in person since Kommissar literally stabbed her.

Lily and Luke were there too. When Chloe entered she greeted them both but didn’t even look at Kommissar while Kommissar was on her desk busy looking at papers.

They didn’t even try to acknowledge each other.

Luke and Lily watched them and waited until Lily couldn’t take it anymore. “Guys this is absurd. You can’t be fighting when we’re on the verge of saying yes to a job. If you don’t make up right now, we vote no to this job. Right, Luke?”

“Yes. Everything Lily said.”

Kommissar sighed. “You’re right.” She put down the papers she was holding. Chloe was just looking at the bandages around her hand and lower arm.

Kommissar looked directly at Chloe. “I’m sorry. I was so mad I don’t know. I shouldn’t have done it. It was uncalled for.”

“Shouldn’t have done what, Sar? Throw knives at me, stab me or slam me on the bench. Which one of those shouldn’t you have done?”

“For all of it Chloe. I’m sorry. I was out of line. So if you don’t want to do the job or you don’t feel confident because of your injury, I’ll understand. We all would.”

Chloe looks at Lily and Luke who both gave her encouraging nods. She takes a deep breath and stands up. She walks over to where Kommissar was standing and offered her left hand.

Kommissar was surprised Chloe was so forgiving. She reached for Chloe’s hand and they shook on it. In one swift motion, Chloe pulls out an ice pick from her back pocket with her right hand and stabbed Kommissar with it. She stabbed her at a spot just between her shoulder and collarbone. Chloe twisted the ice pick then pulled it out just as quick. The stainless steel now covered in red.

Chloe then drops the ice pick and grabs Kommissar’s right shoulder with her injured hand. She pressed her thumb on the wound and watched Kommissar wince in pain.

“There. Now we’re even.” Chloe pressed one more time before letting go.

“Jesus Christ you guys.” Luke said who was now in between them.

Lily was on Chloe’s side and grabbed her hand to put pressure on her cut as it started bleeding from using too much force.

“No it’s okay. I deserved that. We’re good now.” Kommissar assured everyone. She then asked Chloe. “Right? Anything else you want to get out of your system?”

“Nope. We’re good.”

“Okay.”

Chloe then started laughing out of nowhere. She finds the absurdity of the whole situation funny. Kommissar shakes her head but joins her anyway.

“I swear you two are gonna end up killing each other someday.” Lily said but she was glad the two we’re okay now.

“All right so let’s take a break.” Chloe then pointed to Kommissar’s shoulder. “Luke you take care of that first. Then when you’re done with that, can you take a look at this?”

“Of course. This won’t be long.”

“Good. Okay. I’m going to go lie down for a bit. My back is killing me.”

“What about the job?” Kommissar asked Chloe.

Chloe rolled her eyes. “You can confirm it with the client. We’re doing it.”

***

Beca was excited to see Chloe again but she’s not going to deny that Jessica and Ashley’s words got to her. She started overthinking but she didn’t know how to ask Chloe or even bring it up. She didn’t want to accuse her of anything.

Beca (6:02pm): Hey. I’m outside your studio.

Chloe (6:05pm): I’m almost there. You can wait for me inside.

Upon receiving Chloe’s text, Beca turned the engine off and stepped out of her car. She looked around all of a sudden being a little too paranoid. She had to catch herself. This wasn’t a good mindset going into their date. Beca wasn’t even sure if it was one.

She enters the studio and the lights were all on but there wasn’t anyone in.

“Hello?”

A familiar guy was standing behind the counter. “Hello how can I help you?”

“Oh hi. I’m a friend of Chloe’s.”

“Oh you must be Beca. She should be here any minute now. Can I get you anything?”

“I’m good thank you. Who are you?”

“Oh. I’m Jerry. I assist Chloe from time to time.”

Beca nodded. “Right.”

Beca waited for almost ten minutes. She was getting anxious. She had to remind herself Chloe did warn her that she was going to be late. She jumped up when she heard the chimes of the door open.

“Bec. Hey. Sorry just give me one second.”

“No no take your time.”

Beca watched Chloe walk to the counter. Chloe was wearing a short black halter dress with black heels and she had her coat over her arm. She suddenly felt insecure with what she was wearing. She had her ripped skinny jeans with boots and a leather jacket over her sleeveless top.

Chloe smiled at her before turning to the guy at the counter. “Hey Jerry. Thanks so much for covering for me again.”

“No worries. You’ll be back by Monday right?”

“Yes. I will be here first thing Monday morning.”

“Okay. All good. I cleared my weekend for you.”

“Thanks Jerry.” Chloe turned to Beca and smiled. “Have you met Beca?”

Jerry just shrugged. “Yeah we’ve met.”

Chloe introduced them anyway to make sure.

“Jerry this is Beca. Beca this is Jerry. He was also the one who assisted me at Jessica’s wedding.”

“Oh right. That’s why you looked familiar.” Beca went to shake his hand. “Hi it’s nice to meet you officially.”

“You too.”

Chloe smiled at their interaction. “You good to close up?”

“Yeah I got it. You guys go have a good one.”

“Thanks Jer.”

Chloe opened the door for Beca. “After you.”

“You look nice by the way.” Beca said. She tried her best not too sound too shy.

“Thank you. So do you.” Chloe said with no problems.

Chloe then puts her coat over her shoulders. That’s the only time Beca noticed Chloe’s arm. Chloe’s palm and lower arm were wrapped in bandages.

“Oh my god. What happened to your arm?” Beca was reaching for Chloe’s hand. “What happened to your hand?” She held onto it not knowing where to hold her.

“It’s okay. Just an accident in the kitchen.”

“What accident? How? Are you okay? This looks painful.”

Chloe was caught off guard by how careful she was with her. She was being so gentle barely holding her by the wrist not wanting to hurt her.

“It’s okay. I’m okay. It’s just one of my clumsy moments.” Chloe tried to pull away slowly.

“Clumsy moments?” Beca then saw what Chloe was holding. A magazine. “What is that?”

“Oh. Yeah. Do you want to see? I mean I guess now it’s safe to tell you since it’s already out.”

Beca recognised the woman and her family on the cover right away. She can’t even begin to explain to Chloe how relieved she was. “Oh my god. It’s real. You’re on the cover of a magazine.”

“Not me. Don’t be silly Bec.”

“Wow. This is a big deal.” Beca was flipping through the pages, looking for more photos of the family.

“What did you mean when you said it’s real? Of course it’s real.”

“Nothing. Don’t mind me. I’m fangirling over you.” Beca said to her without looking up.

“So you had to see the magazine first to be impressed with me?”

“No. I’ve been impressed believe me. Now come on, I parked over there.”

Chloe let it go but she really found that comment odd. She followed Beca to her car. “Speaking of. Where are we going?”

“I hope you like steak?” Beca said while opening the door for Chloe.

“Thank you and I love steak.”

Chloe settled in and watched Beca run around to the driver’s seat.

“So I’m assuming you went to the doctor for that?”

Chloe laughed. “Yes I did. It was hard to get the blood off the seats, the steering wheel and the console. It was a bloody mess I tell you.”

“Are you crazy? You drove yourself to the hospital?”

“I wasn’t going to call an ambulance for this.”

“So you drove yourself instead?” Beca was shaking her head in disapproval.

“Yeah. I wasn’t going to lie around bleeding.”

“Call me next time.”

“What?”

“Promise me you’ll call me next time.”

Chloe didn’t respond and Beca persisted.

“When you have another one of your clumsy moments call me, okay?”

Chloe nodded. “I’ll keep you in mind for the next one.”

“Good. I want to be there for you. Was that why you were up when you texted me at 3 in the morning?”

“Yeah, I was getting stitches for this guy.” Chloe said pointing to her arm.

Beca inspects Chloe’s arm some more. “How the fuck do you stab yourself?”

“I’m very clumsy.”

***

Beca made reservations at this restaurant. It wasn’t that fancy but it wasn’t a cheap restaurant either. They were being served with wine and stuff.

“It’s good to see that you’re okay.” Chloe eased into their conversation.

“Now you’re the one worrying about me? You’re the one with the banged up arm.”

“You have to admit though even for an agent like you, last night was intense.”

“I’m tougher than you think you know.”

“It’s okay to admit you were shaken up by it.”

“Oh don’t get me wrong. You saw how I was right after. But I’m really okay now.”

“Okay. Good.”

Beca watched Chloe struggle with her steak but she doesn’t complain. Beca can see she was trying her best. She dropped her knife and fork. “Hand me your plate.”

“Why?” Chloe looked up from her plate.

“Just hand me your plate, Chlo.”

Chloe did what she was told and watched Beca cut up her steak for her. It was a very sweet gesture and it was these little things that tugged at Chloe’s heartstrings.

“How are you supposed to work with that hand?” Beca asked as she worked on Chloe’s steak.

“It’s getting better.”

“Is that why Jerry is watching your shop for you this weekend?” Beca was a bit reluctant to finish her question. It was obvious she was fishing.

“Not really. I’m actually flying out to Hawaii first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Oh. Wow. Hawaii. Work?”

“Yeah. Destination wedding. But I’ll be back by Monday. I usually stay longer but there’s just so much to do next week.”

“That’s cool. Do you go there a lot for work?” Beca passed Chloe her plate back.

Chloe smiled at Beca when she reached for her plate back. They ended up just staring at each other. Then Chloe cleared her throat and looked away. “Yeah actually. I go to Hawaii almost four times a year just for work alone.”

“That’s awesome. I’ve never been.”

“Really? Maybe next time you can come with me. I’ll let you know when I get an offer.”

Beca raised her eyebrows at this. She was waiting for Chloe to say she was kidding or something. “If my schedule permits it, then I’d like that.”

“Cool. You can be my assistant again.” Chloe winked at Beca.

“So I was quickly going through the magazine. Are you okay with not getting the credit for your work?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think I saw any mention of you or your studio in the magazine but I could be wrong.”

“No you’re right. It’s not there. I don’t know. I don’t do it for the recognition. I'm not too fussed about those things. I like what I do and it’s enough for me when my clients are happy with my work.”

“I still think you should take credit for them.”

“It’s enough for me that the people who matter know.”

“So how did you get into photography?”

Chloe wiped her mouth with a napkin quickly. “Well.”

They spent the rest of the night talking and laughing. They talked about anything under the sun getting to know each other slowly. For once, they were just Beca and Chloe. Chloe tried to be as open as she could with Beca. Beca avoided talking about work and spent most of their dinner gushing about Jessica and her family and how they took her in. Chloe talked about her family and how hard it was living away from home.

Time flew by and the next thing they knew Beca was dropping off Chloe back to her studio. Beca parked right behind Chloe’s pick up.

“Well thanks for dinner. It was very good.” Chloe said when Beca pulled the brake.

“Thanks for saying yes. Can I ask you something?”

“Sure. What is it?”

“Why’d you say yes to dinner with me?”

Chloe shrugged. “I figured what’s dinner between friends, right?”

Beca chuckled at that. Friends. “Is that what this is?”

Even Chloe herself had a hard time convincing herself but she nodded anyway.

Beca continued. “I really enjoyed tonight but will I make it weird if I was hoping this was a date?”

“No. But I don’t think I can give you what you want.”

“Do you even know what I want?” Beca intentionally glanced down to Chloe’s lips when she said it.

“You just said it.” Chloe whispered back.

Beca licked her lips and started to lean forward. Her lips curved upward when Chloe wasn’t moving away. She closed her eyes expecting to meet Chloe halfway for a kiss. She’s wanted to kiss Chloe since the first time she saw her again at the wedding.

But then she heard Chloe unbuckle her seatbelt and Beca opened her eyes. Chloe leaned back and put a hand on Beca’s shoulder. “I’m sorry but what if friendship is all I can offer right now?”

Beca saw she was flushed so she couldn’t figure out what was holding her back. She respected Chloe though and leaned back to her own seat. “You know what, I can do friends. But I will be honest, I don’t want to be just your friend but I want you to be a part of my life so if that means being your friend then I can do that.”

“But I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Either way you will.”

“I don’t want to hurt you anymore than I already have.”

“I can handle it. I may not look it okay, but I’m a tough one. I’ll be okay no matter what.”

“Okay then. I guess that’s settled? I should really get going now.” Chloe leaned in to give Beca a kiss on the cheek. She lingered and knew it was a mistake to look at Beca.

The moment their eyes locked, Chloe unconsciously bit her lip, which made Beca bite her own lips as well copying Chloe. Chloe’s grip on Beca’s shoulder tightened. She really did want to kiss Beca but she knew she couldn’t cross that line again. And the way Beca was looking at her wasn’t helping.

She reminds herself of the situation and clears her throat. “Sorry. Thanks for dinner again. I really enjoyed tonight too.”

“You’re welcome.”

“My treat next time when we’re both free?”

“I’d like that very much.”

***

Chloe was in the first flight out to Hawaii. She sent a text to Beca that she landed in one piece and they were sending texts sporadically to each other all weekend. Chloe was always locked in when it came to work be it taking photos or her other job. But this time, there was something going on with her. She wouldn’t call it being in a funk but there was something off about her and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

She loved being a wedding photographer and she loved weddings. She loved being able to witness love, celebrating love and commemorating it by her photos.

There were several photographers hired for the wedding and Chloe was assigned to take pictures of the groom and catch his every reaction. This was an unusual request but it wasn’t uncommon. Folks who had extra money to spend tend to hire more photographers so as not to miss any moment on their wedding day.

It started out like any other. Chloe was able to talk to the groom, Keith, briefly before the ceremony started to introduce her self. Keith was friendly and was very nervous. It was sweet. Chloe would see how his eyes light up at just the mention of his bride, Kristie, and how his voice changes when he talks about her. Or the way his eyes crinkled at the thought of her.

Chloe caught his reaction the moment he saw Kristie walk down the aisle. How he was trying so hard to keep it together and failing terribly. Chloe’s personal favourite would be when she catches Keith looking at Kristie without her knowing. Another one of her favourites is when she catches them laughing together. It’s always like they were in their own little bubble.

Chloe wished that someone would look at her the way Keith would look at Kristie. She wanted what they had. She wonders if Kristie knew. Then she caught them lock eyes and shared a quick moment for them selves in the middle of everything. It was a very intimate moment.

Chloe looks down at the photos she took and smiled. “Of course she knows.”

***

Beca spent most of her weekend drowning herself with work and packing. She tried her best not to keep replaying her dinner with Chloe and how it ended. She’s been trying to figure out where she went wrong or what she could’ve done better.

She knows its close to impossible but she had to try to set aside whatever it was with Chloe cause starting tomorrow all her focus must be on the reaper’s case.

Chloe (11:51pm): Are you awake? Can I call?

Beca was in the middle of packing and reviewing her notes when she saw the text. She hasn’t heard from Chloe since that afternoon. Her fingers had a mind of their own and pressed dial.

Chloe answered on the second ring. “Hey, everything okay?” Beca asked as soon as Chloe picked up.

“Hi. I hope I didn’t wake you or anything.”

“No no, I was awake. I’m just doing some last minute things. I procrastinated all day.”

“Oh. So you’re home?”

“Yeah. Just preparing for work. But don’t worry I have time to talk.”

“Okay.” Chloe was hesitating about something and Beca didn’t want to scare her away.

“So what time is it there?” Beca tried to make small talk to make Chloe a little comfortable.

“Close to midnight.”

“Really?” Beca double-checks the time on her phone. “Huh. That’s odd. Here too. I always thought Hawaii was ahead or behind by three hours or something.”

“It is. It’s behind three hours.”

“But it’s midnight here too.” It didn’t take Beca long to put two and two together. “Wait wait wait. Are you home?”

“Sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“If you’re asking whether I’m home in LA then yes but if you’re asking whether I’m home in my house, then no.”

“Oh. Are you at the airport then? Do you need me to come pick you up? I can do that. I don’t mind.”

Chloe sighed. “This is so stupid I’m sorry.”

“What? Wait. What do you mean? Chlo whatever it is. It’s not stupid. I can get in my car right now and come get you.”

“I’m outside your door.”

“I’m sorry. What?”

“I’m outside your door.” Chloe repeated. “I’m sorry I told you this was stupid.”

“No no. Stay where you are. I’m coming.”

Beca didn’t even care she was in her sweats or that her hair was up in a messy bun. She started running to her front door anyway. She only dropped her phone when she opened it and saw Chloe in the flesh.

“Oh my god. Have you been waiting out here long?” Beca looked around and saw Chloe’s pick up parked in front of her house.

“Not long. Hi.”

“Did you come here straight from the airport?”

“Yeah.”

“Come in, come in.”

“Actually I just wanted to tell you something.”

“Well you can tell me inside. Come on. I promise no funny business.”

Chloe laughed at that a little. She can’t believe Beca said that but she got distracted when she saw all the clothes in the lounge area. “Are you going somewhere?”

“Yeah. I’m going away for work for about two weeks actually.”

“Oh. Did you want me to let you finish first?” Chloe knew better than to ask Beca about work.

“No. Chloe it’s fine. I just need to stuff ‘em in a bag. Is everything okay? I mean I wasn’t expecting to see you again so soon after you know.” Beca couldn’t hide that she was worried. Chloe wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t serious.

“I know. But there was something I couldn’t stop thinking about the whole time I was there and it was disrupting my work and that whole thing felt so new to me.”

“Okay. What is it? How can I help?”

“I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” Chloe said it as if it was the most normal thing to say.

“Oh.”

“I know this isn’t fair after what I said. And I know I said friendship was all I could offer and I shouldn’t really be here. But we both know that’s bullshit especially with how much I want to kiss you right now.”

Beca was still in the middle of processing the fact that Chloe was here, that she was okay and that she was here because she wants to kiss her.

“I still don’t know if I can offer you anything more than friendship and it’s not you I swear. You’re nothing short of amazing and anyone would be lucky to be with you.”

This was very unusual for Beca. She wasn’t used to Chloe being the one rambling between the two of them.

“So I’m sorry for coming here unannounced. It was just driving me crazy and I had to figure this out cause if I’m distracted it’s going to affect my work and I can’t have anything affecting my work.”

Beca could see Chloe’s hand was still wrapped in bandages. She reached for it. “You sure it’s not because of this?”

Chloe looked down at her hand that Beca was holding and starts shaking her head. Beca was rubbing her thumb over her wrist and Chloe found it distracting. “No. I wish it was that easy.”

Beca took one step closer to Chloe. “Can I say something?”

“Please.”

“Stop apologizing and feeling bad for being here and for telling me how you’re feeling. I like knowing what’s going on in that pretty head of yours.”

Chloe rolled her eyes at that. She tried to pull her hand back but Beca just held on to it tighter.

“You’re not taking advantage of anything if that’s what you’re thinking. I stand by what I said. If friendship is all that you can offer then I’ll accept that. If there’s more but you don’t know yet or aren’t too sure about then that’s fine with me too. You don’t have to figure it all out right now. I can just be there with you while you figure it out. Maybe we can even figure it out together.”

When Beca felt like Chloe was about to protest, she shook her head and gently kissed the spot that her thumb had been caressing. “I want to be there with you while you figure it out and in case I haven’t made it clear, I’ve been wanting to kiss you too.”

Beca placed both of Chloe’s hands around her neck and wrapped her hands around Chloe’s waist like they were about to slow dance to something.

“How about we take things slow, at our own pace and see where it takes us? No expectations, no labels, no overthinking, no rules and no pressure. We just get to know each other and enjoy each other’s company. What do you say?” Beca sounded hopeful.

“Like friends with benefits?”

“No not like that. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind… that. We kinda did that already anyway and if it happens then I’m all for it but that’s not what this is about. This is more than sex. I want us to be something more exclusive, between just the two of us. Cause what’s the point of doing this if we see other people, right?”

“Right. So we tell each other if we do cause like you said this is pointless if we get to a point where we want to see other people.”

“Yeah. Exactly.” Beca was nodding.

“Okay.”

“Okay?” Beca tried to keep it cool.

“Why do you sound surprised?”

“Nothing. I just can’t believe you’re here and that you were in Hawaii, an actual paradise, but you were too caught up thinking about me.”

Chloe caught on to Beca’s teasing and started tracing the back of Beca’s neck with her fingers. “Now let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. You weren’t all that I was thinking about.”

“Shh… let me have this.”

Chloe just laughed at Beca’s antics but there was a shift in the tension between them.

Beca looked straight into Chloe’s eyes. “This would be the perfect time to kiss me you know. You have my permission.”

Chloe froze. There was nothing left of her resolve at this point. She already knew she was in trouble. She would just have to deal with the consequences later.

Beca was patient. She didn’t push Chloe any further than that. She said her peace. She wants this to be Chloe’s choice. So when Chloe gently tucked her hair behind her ears and cupped her cheek, Beca almost forgot how to breathe.

Chloe finally gave in. She closed her eyes and leaned in to kiss Beca. Beca met her halfway and kissed her back. Their kiss was gentle at first but not tentative. It wasn’t demure as well. They were open mouth kisses and it was a slow build as if they were getting to know each other again.