Senior year isn't really going the way Beca thought it would.
Not that she thought it was going to be easy (well, she did a little bit). She just didn't expect the Amy thing. None of them did, obviously.
It was supposed to be a easy year — the Bellas coasting their way to another national title, Beca graduating and moving her life to Los Angeles.
(There's a Chloe factor that Beca's trying really hard to not think about.)
But it doesn't happen like that all.
Beca applies for the internship because Jesse tells her to, because he says it'd be crazy not to. She applies for it because he brings the flyer back from the career center, the paper all wrinkled from being shoved into his backpack. He bursts into WBUJ booth while she's sitting hunched over her laptop, trying out a new mashup that's sounding all fucking wrong. It's been hard to focus since everything that's happened — Chloe's been grinding her teeth at night while she sleeps, and — maybe Beca needs a vacation to recover from the summer vacation she's just had.
"Look what I found. It's perfect for you," Jesse announces, throwing down the flyer next to the mic. "A real label. Residual Heat. They're famous. This is the internship you were made for, Bec."
"Please," Beca says, though her traitorous gaze slides over anyway, because, hi, Residual Heat. "You know how these things are. It's a lot of hustling for coffee and sifting through junk mail for no money."
Jesse's undeterred. "Everyone's gotta start somewhere," he says.
He drops into the chair next to hers, and takes her laptop without asking. She makes a feeble sound of protest, but he blocks her hand with an arm, and she can see that he's typing in the record label into Google anyway. He tilts the screen to show her the internship application on the website — Beca can tell at a glance that she's qualified. Maybe the one thing she'd ever really be qualified for. It's not like anyone else was going to hire her with a BA in music theory anyway.
"You should do it," Jesse says.
"Maybe," Beca mumbles, knowing that she probably will. Just for the hell of it. Even though they're probably going to get a million applications and she's just fucked anyway.
Jesse sighs and stands up, slinging his bag over his shoulder. "Okay. Well. Let me know how it goes, Mitchell."
"Yeah," she says, setting the flyer aside. "Of course. And, um, thanks. For thinking of me."
"Just looking out for my best friend," he says at the door to the booth. He taps twice on the frame, and leaves.
She goes to the library after her show's over — ostensibly to finalize her class schedule for the semester, but really she just hides in an unassigned carrel and fills out the application.
This could really be something, she thinks as she attaches one of her mashups to the email, hope leaking into her despite herself.
Chloe comes to bed looking the way she always does these days, haggard and exhausted, worn down by the endless barrage of damage control she's had to do. She sits on the edge of her bed and pulls bobby pins out of her hair, piling them next to the lamp on the nightstand. Beca shifts a little from her position, already tucked in beneath the covers. She watches the back of Chloe's neck as Chloe moves, wispy curls of red hair against her skin. Beca sits up and scoots forward, dropping a single soft kiss to the top of Chloe's spine.
"You look tired," she says. "Let's go to sleep."
They turn off the strings of white Christmas lights and the lamp, and settle in together in Chloe's twin bed, their bodies pressed close. By some miracle, Chloe's managed to hold onto her single attic room for the last three years — and even though it's tiny and cramped, Beca loves it. If only for the reason that Chloe has no roommate.
"I'm really worried they won't let us perform again," Chloe whispers in the dark, her voice quivering. She turns her face ever-so-slightly, so Beca can see her shadowed eyes.
"It was an honest mistake," Beca says, trying to be reassuring. She doesn't quite feel it though — she's not sure what she feels. Maybe she's worried too much and she's hit her limit.
Chloe doesn't seem to have a limit for how much she can worry about the Bellas. Logical, for someone who's failed three times on purpose just so she can stay to sing with them (and maybe partially for Beca, though they have decidedly not talked about that possibility) — and maybe Beca's been too selfish about it. Maybe that's why she hasn't pushed Chloe to graduate as much as she should have. She's not sure she wants to do this without Chloe; she's not even sure she can.
"How was your day?" Chloe asks after a long silence. Beca would almost think that she had fallen asleep except that she knows how Chloe sleeps by now, the way her breath slows and softens, how her body goes slack.
"Fine," Beca says quickly. Too quickly. She winces. She just — she's not hiding anything. She has nothing to hide, and Chloe's distracted enough with the Bellas as it is, and the internship could amount to nothing anyway.
Chloe says nothing though. Too preoccupied to notice. Instead she kisses Beca's shoulder, her lips soft and warm through the thin cotton of Beca's t-shirt. She buries her nose in the crook of Beca's neck, turning so she can throw an arm over Beca's hip. Beca relaxes into Chloe's touch.
"Love you," Chloe murmurs as she drifts off, and Beca's heart pangs guiltily in her chest.
"Love you too," she says, squeezing Chloe's hand.
Sometimes Beca thinks about being without Chloe. Because she's going to graduate, and surely she's not naive enough to think that they're going to, you know, make it. People do, of course, but it's not — Beca wants to bank on realism, not fantasy.
It would be hard, she tells herself, but she could do it. Probably. Maybe.
And then she thinks about how they were apart for weeks this summer — Chloe doing fieldwork for her environmental sciences professor in Grenada — and Beca slept poorly the whole time.
So. She guesses she's fucked.
She makes it through the interview round pretty well. At least she thinks so. She schedules it for when Chloe's in class and she "borrows" her dad's car from the faculty lot by swiping the keys from his office while he's teaching. Beca waits for five minutes, sipping water out of a plastic cup, by the receptionist's desk — and then she's swept in for a handwringing ten-minute interview. He looks at her resume, asks her a few questions, and never takes off his sunglasses, but at least it's not an unmitigated disaster.
Beca has a low bar these days.
She's idly going through ideas for a setlist in Chloe's bed when Jesse texts. Thank god Chloe's not there to intercept her phone because what pops up on the lock screen is:
how did ur interview with RESIDUAL HEAT go
Beca starts to reply when he sends a follow-up.
oops autocorrect capitalized it
Haha. It was fine. I think? She sends it with a nervous-looking emoji.
thats my girl
Not your girl.
thats chloe's girl
Better, Beca thinks. She starts texting him back, but the door opens below, and Beca hears Chloe's heavy tread on the narrow stairs. She pockets the phone instead, going back to scribbling in her notebook, trying to look like she's been doing something important. Chloe dumps her bag on her desk and crawls into the bed, her forehead against Beca's thigh. She sighs, and it sounds so tired that Beca can feel her heart twinge in response. She brushes Chloe's hair out of her eyes, pushing it back.
"Why did I decide to stay in college again?" Chloe asks, pressing her face against the bed, her voice coming out all muffled.
"Because you're the coolest super-super-super senior around?" Beca says with remarkable false cheer. "Or, um, you just can't get enough of the collegiate experience."
Chloe raises her head, squinting at Beca like she's trying to figure something out. Crap, Beca panics. She knows. She knows that Beca's going for this internship, and now she's mad that Beca didn't tell her, and not that Beca actually did anything wrong, but now she totally feels like she did because she didn't tell Chloe.
"You know," Chloe says, "you're right. We're in college. I've spent the last month worrying about the Bellas and not even thinking about anything else. It's gonna blow over. I mean, we'll have auditions and we'll get new blood and it'll be fine. We just — we have to concentrate on our tour. We deserve that tour. We should have fun."
"Yes," Beca says, relieved. "Yes. Chlo, you've been running yourself into the ground. I mean, you were starting to freak me out."
Chloe laughs, and even though she still looks like she wants to collapse and sleep for several years, it sounds kind of amazing to Beca. "Come here."
She doesn't wait for Beca to move though; she just pushes herself up and kisses Beca, messy and forceful, pushing Beca back against the pillows. Beca slides a hand into Chloe's hair, tightening her hold when Chloe nips at Beca's lower lip.
"Um," Beca says breathlessly, Chloe's face still very close to hers, "actually, you know, in the spirit of all the honesty here, I should probably tell you something. It's, like, not a big deal at all. I don't even know why I — "
She's cut off by Chloe's phone ringing.
"Don't get it," she says, even though Chloe's already reaching for it.
Chloe's face goes white when she sees the caller ID, and she scrambles off Beca in about half a second. "Hi? Yes, this is her. Okay. …Okay. Yes. We will…be there. Thank you so much."
The moment's gone, Beca knows that when Chloe puts the phone down. Her face is all scrunched up with worry again. Beca had been so close to telling her — but. Well. Another time then.
"We have to meet with the National A Cappella Association representatives. They've decided on the 'necessary measures', they said. It's next week. Shit." Chloe twists her hands together in her lap.
"We'll be fine. It won't be a big thing."
"It will," Chloe says miserably, and lies down, closing her eyes. Beca takes her hand, rubbing her thumb against Chloe's knuckles in what she hopes is a soothing gesture. "Wait, was there something you wanted to tell me?"
Beca falters. "Um. N-nope. Nothing. I mean. Nothing that can't wait."
She gives Chloe a flash of a smile, and Chloe doesn't ask anything else, so yeah. Beca will just tell her later, that's all. If there's anything to tell at all.
It's a long week.
By the morning of the meeting, Beca's almost relieved. She just wants it to be over. At least it means Chloe will stop freaking out. It's been making anxiety flare up in Beca, hot and unsteady. She wakes up early, with a sudden craving for cookies, and crawls out of bed without waking Chloe up. Beca quietly heads down to the kitchen.
She's digging through the cabinets for last year's Girl Scout cookies — she definitely hid a sleeve of Thin Mints behind a stack of plates they never use — when Cynthia Rose walks in to get a glass of water.
"You know, I think Jessica found those," she says in between sips, observing Beca standing on the counter, elbow-deep in a cabinet.
Beca, annoyed, climbs off of the counter. "Fuck. I was really hoping no one would find them this year."
"So what's up with you?" Cynthia Rose asks. "You've been really, I don't know, distracted."
"What? No, I haven't," Beca says immediately.
Cynthia Rose gives her a look, one that reminds Beca that she's not Beca's girlfriend who can be fooled by kissing or Bellas business. "Uh, yeah. Classes have barely started and your brain's elsewhere. Is it the meeting we have today? I know Chloe's been — you know."
"Yes. That's it. Definitely. The meeting."
"Good. I thought — never mind."
Beca finds an unopened bag of Sun Chips in the pantry and sets it down on the island. "What?"
"I thought — you know, you're graduating this year, and Chloe's…" Cynthia Rose trails off, looking uncomfortable. "You guys have been together a long time, that's all. You've probably talked about it."
"Oh." The chip in Beca's mouth suddenly loses its taste. "Uh."
"…Man, what's been going on with you two? You haven't talked about it?"
"I don't — um — let's not — " Beca mumbles, her heart going very fast in her chest.
Cynthia Rose throws up her hands. "Sorry for bringing it up."
"No, it's, uh, no. It's fine." Beca gives Cynthia Rose her best "it's fine" smile. She picks up the bag of chips. "I have a lot of work to do, so."
"Yeah, no, cool."
Beca backs out of the room, clutching the Sun Chips tight between her hands. She leans against the wall once she rounds the corner. Her head's killing her.
Yeah, they should probably talk about it, but Beca would also rather kill herself first. She's not sure she's ready for the conversation, to hear Chloe tell her no, she can't go with Beca.
Which, well. It'd suck. To put it mildly.
It's unfair anyway. It shouldn't be Beca deciding what she wants; it should be the two of them. If Chloe even wants that, which she might not. Maybe she wants to stay with the Bellas, and the thought of Chloe being here without her makes Beca feel nauseous.
It's just — she doesn't like thinking about the possibility of not being with Chloe. The idea of that cracks something open in Beca's chest.
It makes it hard to breathe.
She gets the internship.
It almost makes it worse in a way because Beca wanted it. She wanted it more than she could admit to herself. She wanted it in a way she had wanted so few things recently.
She tries to not let her imagination run away with her, but it's hard. She's walking across campus and fantasizing about her life as a music producer, winning her first Grammy, hearing the single she produces on the radio. And Chloe, of course. Chloe's there, in the fantasies — Chloe, beaming at her from the audience. Chloe sitting in a recording booth, singing and smiling at Beca through the glass. Chloe kissing Beca in their own apartment.
It's gross. Beca's gross. She's lost her fucking mind. It's a college romance, and those don't last.
The night before the internship starts, Beca tells Chloe she feels like she's coming down with something, and spends the night in her own bed. It feels strangely too big for her, and she tosses and turns sleeplessly until Amy throws a pillow at her from across the room.
"Shut up. You're thinking too loudly," Amy says, voice drowsy.
Beca lies awake for hours after that, staring at the ceiling, and wondering.
"So," Jesse says, when Beca bums a ride off him the next morning. "Haven't told Chloe yet?"
Beca cringes, looking out the window. As if she wasn't up half the night thinking about the very same thing. Chloe should be the one driving Beca to work right now. She should be the one kissing Beca goodbye at the curb, telling her that she's going to do great. And Chloe would be — if only Beca could get her shit together enough to just say something.
"I'm going to tell her," Beca says.
"Is everything all right between the two of you?"
"Oh my god, what is this, a counseling session? Yeah, everything's fine. We've just been busy with all the shit happening with the Bellas."
It comes out sharper than Beca intends, and Jesse lapses into silence. Beca leans back in the seat, knowing that she should apologize, but unable to form the words in her mouth.
He still hugs her when they get to the studio though. Because he's just better at being a friend than Beca is. The thought makes her shrivel inside a little, but she appreciates it all the same. He tells her he'll pick her up in a couple of hours, and Beca shoulders her bag nervously, staring at the front door of the building. Well, at least if she gets fired on her first day, she can avoid broaching the topic with Chloe altogether.
we have a new bella!!!!!!!! her name is emily and she is so cute!!!!!! she's a legacy!!!!! Beca grins at Chloe's enthusiastic texts, hiding in a bathroom stall during a break. Her hands are coffee-stained and gross.
I'll see her at hood night? she sends back.
Her phone pings again. Chloe's sent her a kissing face.
Beca gets to Hood Night an hour after it starts, the party already in full swing. The Trebles' backyard is teeming with people, spilled drinks everywhere. There's an impromptu game of Beer Pong happening at one end. Beca walks around a puking freshman and helps herself to a beer. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches a glimpse of Chloe's red hair, bright in the glare of the party lights. She winds her way through the crowd.
"Hey!" Chloe's already drunk. Beca can tell by the way she angles her body towards Beca, throwing an arm around Beca's waist. "I missed you today," Chloe slurs into her ear, her cheek hot against Beca's own. "Where've you been?"
"Whoa, careful." Beca pulls them back a few steps, away from the edge of the pool. "I was, um, just busy. Talking to my dad. You know. Errands."
Chloe nods, her eyes very blue. "You almost missed your last Hood Night, Bec."
Your last, not our last. Beca forces a smile. "You thought I'd miss this? No way."
"Drink up," Chloe grins. "I want to have my way with you later."
Which is such a dumb and cheesy thing to say, but it still works. Beca can feel her ears heat up as she takes a gulp of her beer. Chloe grabs her by the lapels of her blazer and pulls her in, so close until Chloe's smile is all Beca can see — all she can focus on.
"I like you a lot," she blurts out, feeling like an idiot.
Chloe's smile widens. She leans her forehead against Beca's, ignoring the crush of people around them. "I like you a lot too," she says. "Some people might even say I love you."
"Some people might say that?"
"Yeah, some." Chloe kisses Beca, tasting of alcohol and heat.
It's annoying how fast the time goes. Beca feels like she blinks and it's midterms. Blinks again and it's Thanksgiving. She's been fetching snacks and making copies and doing a million miscellaneous things at Residual Heat three days a week, spending the rest of her time trying to come up with a half-decent set for Worlds and rehearsing with the Bellas. All between actual classes, of course.
Not that any of it really matters. Mostly Beca thinks about what her boss said about her flash drive of demos, her best mash-ups; she has no original voice. Fuck, she should just give up now.
By the time fall finals roll around, Beca's so stressed she can actually feel her stomach twisting itself into knots. She knows it's not physically possible, but hey, maybe she'll disprove them as a medical marvel. That happens, right? She camps out in the Bellas living room, surrounded by textbooks, and eating a giant Costco-sized bag of cheesepuffs, getting orange dust all over her notes. She barely notices when Emily comes in and sets up her own study nook in an armchair in the corner.
They work in silence for ten minutes, Beca munching on puffs, and Emily flipping through a binder.
"Um," Emily says, clearing her throat. "I just. Uh."
Beca looks up. Emily's got her startled expression on. Beca suspects it might just be her face. "I just wanted to say that, uh, you and Chloe are really great together. Like, a good team."
"Thanks," Beca says, a cheesepuff halfway to her mouth. "I guess."
"I'm not trying to be weird," Emily says, being totally weird. "You guys work really well together. I feel like you two could do anything, you know? After you graduate."
Goddammit. Beca wishes people would stop saying this shit to her when she has food in her mouth. She wipes her fingers on a tissue. "That's still a little while away."
"But this semester went by so fast. I can't believe I've already been a Bella for three months."
"It happens," Beca mumbles. She wishes Emily would take the hint.
Which she does, shockingly enough. Emily opens her mouth as if she wants to say something else, but she closes it again, and turns her attention back to her binder. Beca looks down at her own work, words swimming in her vision, and doesn't seem able to read a thing.
"You really think we could do anything after we graduate?" she asks, toying with her pen.
Emily gives her a half-smile. "Yeah, of course. You're Beca and Chloe. Our fearless leaders." She says it with a little bit of a self-deprecating eyeroll.
"…Thank you." Beca swallows. "That's…actually really nice to hear."
Emily shrugs. "Of course. You guys are gonna be great."
That night Beca falls asleep before Chloe gets home, bone-tired from jangling nerves and studying until her eyeballs hurt all day. She wakes up to Chloe's even breathing against her neck, her body curled around Beca's. It's early — Beca can tell from the angle of the sun against the wall — and she's warm and tucked in and happy. It's hours before she has an exam, and Chloe's sleeping soundly. There's a decided lack of teeth grinding.
Beca lies still for a few minutes, trying to go back to sleep. She gives up and is trying to decide the best way to extricate herself from the bed so she can find some breakfast when Chloe shifts and blinks.
"Hey sleepyface," Chloe murmurs, her voice scratchy and rough.
"Hey yourself. You're the one that just woke up."
"You were passed out when I got home. Didn't even react when I got into bed."
Chloe slides a hand up the front of Beca's tank top, running her fingers across Beca's stomach. Beca shivers, feeling the muscles there tighten in response. It's a little ridiculous how easy she is. Chloe likes to tease her about it, how she can sometimes just look at Beca and Beca will go all red. She thought it would fade with time, but if anything, it's worse.
Also — they haven't had sex in two weeks, so. It's kind of worse than usual.
"Do we have time?" Beca says, her voice already hitching, Chloe's thumb hooking beneath the waistband of her cotton shorts.
Chloe grins. Beca feels it against her neck. "Plenty of time," she says.
Beca turns her face to kiss Chloe, her eyes fluttering closed.
Beca takes her work home with her over Christmas. She opens presents and puts on a Santa hat and Snapchats selfies to Chloe, but she also spends Christmas Eve in front of her laptop, thinking dully about the Bellas setlist. It's raining in Portland, cold and damp, making Atlanta seem like a faraway dream. Beca sits at the kitchen table with a big mug of coffee and scrolls through the pictures Chloe sends her — beach, Chloe's dog, more beach, another picture of Chloe's dog, Chloe baking cookies and looking unfairly pretty, and the dog.
They have a semester left, Beca thinks, and her stomach clenches. A semester until she's flung out into space, away from Barden and Chloe. It's not that she's not ready to leave. Beca's itching for the rest of her life to start, but how can it be her life without Chloe?
She practices saying it in the bathroom mirror: "I've been doing this internship. I want you to graduate with me. Let's move to LA together."
But she predictably chickens out when Chloe FaceTimes her later and instead Beca tells Chloe about her mom's new obsession with Ticket to Ride, and what she's been binge-watching on Netflix. Chloe laughs, loose and happy, her hair framing her smile. Beca suddenly misses her, the feeling catching in her chest.
"Just a few days left until I see you," Chloe says, when they say goodbye.
Beca touches the phone screen impulsively with her thumb, as if that could somehow connect her to Chloe. All she does is smear the glass. "Bye."
Their two-year anniversary comes at the end of January.
It sneaks up on Beca in a way. She couldn't really have imagined this scenario, them still together two years after Chloe caught her by surprise and kissed her against the side of the library. Beca had been holding a vanilla latte and it spilled all over the ground the moment Chloe's hand brushed her cheek, staining the ankles of Chloe's jeans (she claimed not to mind). Chloe had laughed at Beca's face, flushed and hot, and Beca had scrambled forwards and clumsily kissed Chloe again, knocking their teeth together in her hurry, and Chloe had made this noise low in her throat.
Beca still remembers it with vivid clarity.
This year she gets the girls to clear out of the house for the night. The place is dark and quiet without anyone else there, and Beca makes grilled cheese sandwiches and sets the table so it looks like the image she pulled off of Pinterest. It's not very Beca, the homemaker stuff, but she can at least make an effort. Even if grilled cheese is kind of the extent of her culinary abilities.
She's lighting the candles when Chloe gets home, the back door closing. Beca rushes into the kitchen, feeling awkward and embarrassed — it's lame, it's totally lame, she still has an apron on — but stops at the sight of Chloe's face.
"You are fucking adorable," Chloe says, after a long minute.
Beca goes red and lets out a small choked laugh. "Happy anniversary."
Chloe sets her bag on the island and crosses over to Beca, pulling her close by the pockets of her apron. "I was going to take you out to dinner tomorrow night."
"Well," Beca says, because she can't help but be this person, "I win?"
Chloe's heels give her a few inches on Beca, and she leans in to drop a soft kiss on the corner of Beca's mouth. "I'm not opposed to that, necessarily. Tonight, at least."
Beca threads her fingers through Chloe's. "I mean, don't expect anything big. It's just grilled cheese. I'm not trying to undersell myself — it's great grilled cheese, but at the end of the day — "
"Shut up, Beca," Chloe says, fondly, and Beca does.
"How are you still pulling this off?" Jesse asks, the two of them huddled over a table in a drafty corner of the library.
Beca shrugs, pulling her hoodie tighter around her. She's freezing and she still only has half-assed ideas for the Bellas latest performance. "I just tell Chloe I'm studying. I mean, I am sometimes." She feels stupid and horrible confessing it to Jesse though. Ugh.
"So at this point you're just hoping that she never finds out."
"No," Beca protests feebly. "I, um. I'm waiting for the right moment."
"Yeah, I'm convinced. Sure."
Beca rubs at her temples. "I know, okay? Don't, like, rub my face in it. She has this laser focus on Worlds right now, and I'm… I'm trying not to do anything that reminds her that…um. I'm graduating."
"Oh, come on, Beca," Jesse says, tilting his chair back. Beca kind of wishes it'd fall. "There's no way she's not graduating this year. She basically stayed for you."
Which — nope — Beca is not even going down that road. She takes a breath. "Chloe stayed for the Bellas, and right now there's only Emily left next year. It's gonna be hard for her to build the group back up. Chloe might want to stay to see them through."
Jesse doesn't say anything, which probably means that Beca's right.
"I gotta run," she says to him, and throws her laptop into her bag.
They add a few hours to her Residual Heat schedule in March. It's not that many in the grand scheme of things, but Beca's overworked as it is. It's nice that they don't think she's totally useless — she had kind of given up hope on contributing anything to the music world after the humiliating beatdown by her boss — but.
It does mean she has to tell Chloe she has to be late to their Thursday afternoon rehearsals.
"Why?" Chloe asks, putting down her book. She leans back against the pillows on her bed. "You don't have any classes then. It's not on your Google Calendar."
"I, uh, it's something for my English seminar. It's stupid, but I have to go. It's only an hour." Beca avoids Chloe's eyes as she changes into her pajamas, pulling a t-shirt down over her head.
"Bec," Chloe says, sounding almost hesitant. "What's…going on with you?"
That's it then. That's the moment Beca's been waiting for. There's her opening. She swallows, steeling herself.
"I… Um. Nothing. It's just stress. I'm stressed. With the Bellas and school."
"You've been saying that all year."
"Well, it's been true all year," Beca snaps. She immediately regrets it.
Hurt flashes across Chloe's features, and then her expression goes still. Too still. "Everyone's stressed," she says.
"I know," Beca says. She looks down at her feet. "I'm fine. I promise."
She half-expects Chloe to keep pushing at her, almost hopes for it, because she can't bring herself to say the words. But Chloe goes quiet instead, picking at tented sheet draped over her knees.
"Chlo?" Beca asks.
"I think you should go sleep in your room tonight," Chloe says, leveling her gaze with Beca.
Beca bites her bottom lip, shifts her weight from foot to foot. Chloe doesn't move. Beca gives her a tight nod. She gathers up her clothes from the back of Chloe's desk chair, picks up her phone and computer and the other myriad things that she's left in Chloe's room. There's a lump forming in her throat, threatening to make her actually cry if she doesn't get away in the next thirty seconds.
Amy's still awake when Beca stumbles into their room, trying not to trip on her laptop's power cord.
"Whoa. Kicked out of bed?" Amy says. She puts her phone down.
"Yeah." Beca drops everything on her desk, heedless of the mess, and collapses onto her bed. God, it's comfortable. She forgets that sometimes. "I got more hours at the internship and I had to tell Chloe that I need to come late to Thursday rehearsals."
"What? You told her about the recording studio?"
"…Not in so many words."
Amy makes an exasperated sound. "You should really stop lying to Chloe."
"I know. Fuck, I know." Beca turns over onto her back, staring up at the ceiling. "I'm trying and no one believes me. I don't know why I can't tell her. I mean, I kind of know, but I can't…make myself stop."
"You're just scared," Amy says, as if it's obvious. Which — come to think of it — it probably is. Beca's just always the last fucking person to find out. "Man up, Mitchell. This is your girlfriend. She's going to still love you."
Beca closes her eyes. She feels sick. "Yeah. Probably."
They make up by the time they have to go their disastrous performance. Or at least in theory. Chloe doesn't say anything specific to Beca, but there's something missing between them, this strange chasm. Beca's not good at this — she's not good at saying what she wants — and she's not sure how to fix it.
The truth, maybe, but she doesn't get a chance to before the Bellas crash and burn.
Chloe won't tell her where they're going on the Bellas retreat. She just says "somewhere great" in this vague way and gives Amy the address so she can put it into the GPS. Beca packs a bag for two days and sits in the back of the bus, listening to RAC on her phone. She falls asleep against Chloe's shoulder halfway through the drive. It almost feels normal, but there's something in Chloe's eyes that's still putting Beca on edge.
It's what makes seeing Aubrey a relief. She's still Aubrey, still predictable.
The communal tent is less nice.
Beca holds herself still, sleeping so close to Chloe with the rest of the group there. She's used the two of them spooning, entwined together. This is just…uncomfortably weird.
"Don't, like, do any sex stuff while we're here, okay?" Amy says, before falling asleep.
"Oh my god," Beca mutters. She's never been further from being in the mood.
Chloe giggles, very softly in Beca's ear. Beca's shoulders relax.
The team-building exercises aren't the worst things Beca's ever done. Plus, Chloe seems normal with her again, so that's off Beca's plate. But Aubrey drives them insanely hard — it's giving Beca PTSD flashbacks to rehearsals from last year. Like the time she almost threw out her back doing choreography and Chloe had to help her hobble back to her dorm, teasing her gently about being an old man.
Still, if someone had asked Beca what she thought an Aubrey-run boot camp would be like, Beca probably could have told them that it'd involve obstacle courses and trust falls.
They're taking a water break in the middle of the afternoon when Amy comes up to Beca, leaning against a tree trunk away from the rest of the group. She nudges Beca with one mud-caked elbow.
"Now's a good time to tell Chloe," she says.
"What? Are you insane? There's nowhere for us to go," Beca hisses.
"No, that's good. You're forced to confront your problems. Can't run from them. Just tell her. Chloe wants to know."
Chloe walks up to them, holding a box of granola bars. "Tell me what?"
Oh, fuck. Of course this happens.
Amy looks between the two of them. "Um. You know what, Beca, I think you've got it. I'm just gonna…" She edges away, but not before giving Beca a very obvious Meaningful Look. Beca's going to murder her.
"It's fine," Chloe says before Beca can get a word in. "I don't need to hear it."
Chloe sighs. "I don't know what it is, Beca. I don't know what you're not telling me, and it sucks. I wish you would. But I can't make you be less checked out. I can't force you to want to stay.. So it doesn't matter if you tell me or not. I'm just…trying not to care."
And that, for some reason, hurts worse than anything. Beca takes a deep breath.
"It's…really dumb," Beca says. "I — I've been interning at a recording studio."
Chloe blinks at her.
"Residual Heat? Do you know it? Not that that matters. Um. I just, I don't know. I couldn't figure out a way to tell you. I tried. I mean, I tried once, but it was when all the shit with the Bellas was happening, and I didn't want to freak you out more — "
"Why would that have freaked me out? Beca, that's great news. I thought you would've told me something like that. I mean, that's huge."
Beca avoids looking at her. "I thought… We didn't… We haven't made plans for after graduation. My graduation. I know. It doesn't even make sense. I just thought — this was my post-graduation plan. Trying to figure out what I'm doing next."
"You're graduating in like a month and a half. Of course you should be planning."
"I don't want to plan without you," Beca says, a little bit squeaky, feeling like the words are wrenched out of her. She can't meet Chloe's eyes. She keeps them trained somewhere in the vicinity of Chloe's knees instead.
Chloe goes quiet, still holding that box of granola bars. Her fingers tighten around the edges.
"I," Chloe starts, and pauses. She puts the box down and takes a step forward, into Beca's space, putting a hand on Beca's shoulder. "Why would you have to plan without me?"
It makes Beca dizzy, like she's suddenly been dropped from a very tall height. She raises her gaze very slowly, until she can see the point of Chloe's chin, the soft set of her mouth. "I thought — I wasn't sure — "
"Ask me," Chloe says.
Beca has to take a breath, and then a second one. "I want, um. I want us to be together after graduation. I want you to come with me to LA. I… Will you?"
Chloe brushes Beca's hair back from her temples. "Yes," she says simply. "Of course."
"You're an idiot," is how Aubrey summarizes the situation to Beca's face later that night.
Sure, yeah. Beca guesses she might have a point.
The morning after their fireside rendition of Cups, Beca wakes up early and gets dressed before everyone else. She carefully extricates herself from the tent, stretching in the glow of the morning light. She makes sure to stick to the path when she heads into the woods — there's a vista Aubrey told them about — and she wants to get up there and back before breakfast.
She walks for twenty minutes before she gets there, her muscles straining when she starts up the side of a steep hill. Beca doesn't stop until she crests it, but she has to lean over with her hands on her knees, breathing heavy. The trees clear away and Beca can see across Aubrey's whole empire, the guesthouses and the precisely-marked paths, the lake on one side and the campground on the other.
It's gonna be okay, Beca thinks, sitting down in the dewy grass. Everything's going to be fine.
She gets an offer of employment from Residual Heat. It's a nice thing to have, even if it doesn't pay super well. Beca turns it down with a little regret. It's time to move on from Atlanta, move on from Barden. Her boss eyes her suspiciously from behind his desk.
"Really? LA?" he says, his sunglasses resting against his chest. "Are you sure?"
"I think so," Beca says, because there's no way she can be sure, but she won't know until she goes either.
He shakes his head. "Well, I'll give a couple of places a call for you — and make sure you send them your demo. I can't promise you anything though."
"I know. It's okay. Thanks," Beca says.
"Are you really sure?" he asks again. "Because I'd rather have you around than Dax."
Beca looks out at the rest of the office. Dax is at the conference table, head bent over his laptop. He's wearing suspenders today. She feels a little bad for him sometimes. Sometimes.
"I'm sure," she says firmly.
Beca and Chloe pack up their rooms together, putting their non-immediate items into boxes marked for a moving pod. They're going to ship it all before they go to Copenhagen — Chloe's aunt who has a little house in Venice said she would put it all in her garage. This feels final. Beca's been living in the Bellas house since her sophomore year, and it's weird to see her room barren of her things. It's even weirder see Chloe's.
"I'm gonna miss it here," Chloe says, taking down her Christmas lights, and the framed prints on the wall.
Beca empties Chloe's bookshelf, wedging the books tightly into a box. "This feels so strange. It's hard to picture us anywhere else. I feel like this is going to be your room forever."
"I should mark it, don't you think?" Chloe grins.
"Dude," Beca laughs.
Chloe picks up a pen from her desk, peering around the room for a good place. She moves the dresser a few inches into the middle of the room and bends down behind it. Beca watches her back, Chloe's shoulders moving beneath her t-shirt as she scribbles something.
"Done," Chloe says, sitting back.
chloe beale + beca mitchell, Beca sees when she peeks in, squinting through the dust to make out the tiny letters Chloe's written on the baseboard.
"What do you think?" Chloe asks.
Beca turns around to face her. "Gross," she says with a grin. "Disgusting."
"You're disgusting. You're all sweaty."
"I think you're kind of into that."
"I think I'm kind of into you," Chloe says, fingers still curled around the pen, her eyes bright. "Since I'm moving across the country for you and all."
"I can believe that," Beca says, and reaches for Chloe's hand.
"I told you to tell her months ago," Jesse says, the night before graduation.
They're sitting at the tiki bar in the Trebles backyard, the house all lit up again. It's their end-of-the-year party, and the traditional send off for the Treble seniors. The Bellas are scattered throughout the party; Beca sees Chloe talking to Cynthia Rose and Lilly by the back door. Beca knocks back the rest of her drink and punches Jesse on the arm — hard. He recoils, wincing.
"Ow! God, how do you hit so hard? You're like a foot tall."
"Don't tell me 'I told you so.' Don't be that person."
Jesse rubs at his arm, grimacing. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry. But it worked out for the best."
"I guess," Beca says begrudgingly.
"So are you guys ready for Worlds? You sound really good in rehearsal."
Beca sighs, looking down into her empty cup. "As ready as we're gonna get. There's nothing left to do but get on a plane and go to Copenhagen. I hope we're ready. I mean, I hope for Emily's sake that they reinstate us."
"Your sake too," Jesse reminds her. "You're a Bella for life."
He slides off his stool to get them fresh drinks. Beca taps her fingers against the bar top. Who knew this was where'd she end up when she started college. All she remembers about her first day is how much she didn't want to at Barden, how she was so angry and resentful and bitter.
Who knew that too-friendly redhead manning the weird a cappella table at the activities fair would turn out to be the love of her life.
Copenhagen feels like something out of a storybook — despite the fact that there's nothing to eat except fish (which Amy cracks a dirty joke about, waggling her eyebrows meaningfully at Beca and Chloe). Beca hopes this is what the rest of her life will feel like, almost magical, with Chloe's arm around her shoulders. It feels grown-up in a way, even if it's a very strange kind of grown-up, an in-between place where they don't quite have to worry about insurance and bills yet. For now, Beca's content to wander the narrow cobbled streets with Chloe.
It's a great vacation. It's even better after they win.
"World a cappella champions," Beca says to Chloe at the after-party, swaying drunkenly from side to side. She's grinning so hard her cheeks hurt; it's felt that way for hours. "That's a thing and we are it."
"Sooooooo it," Chloe drawls. She kisses Beca messily.
"Come on, we're taking pictures!" Stacie hollers, grabbing Beca by the wrist. She yanks so hard Beca almost falls over.
The lights of the club pulse hot, neon colors. Beca lets Stacie drag her over to a corner booth. She's sticky from dancing and adrenaline, her heart thumping fast. Cynthia Rose takes out her phone when they all pile in together, squishing Beca between Amy and Emily.
"Okay, but no social media," Aubrey warns, still wearing her Bellas scarf. "Don't put drunk pictures of yourself up on Facebook."
"We're world champions!" Chloe yells. "We do what we want!"
"Nope, still a bad idea. Don't do it," Aubrey says loudly.
Emily takes out her own phone, passing it to Cynthia Rose. She's pink-cheeked, her lip gloss smeared — probably from kissing Benji — if Beca had to hazard a guess.
"So what's next, Captain?" Beca asks her, pitching her voice over the music.
"You and Chloe are still captains for a few more days," Emily says.
"Nah, I want to pass the torch now. You can be captain."
Emily glances happily around them. "I'm not sure yet. I have some time to figure it out. It'll be fun, I think."
"It's going to be some of the best years of your life," Beca says, and thinks that she really does mean it.
"All right," Cynthia Rose says, holding her arm out as far as she can reach. "One, two, three — "
They drive into Los Angeles on a hot, oddly-muggy evening. Chloe pulls their car into her aunt's driveway. The windshield's dirty from driving through the desert, and Beca feels this odd humming excitement beneath her skin, but they've made it — thousands of miles and thirteen days later — they're finally here. Beca brushes potato chip crumbs off her lap and tries to tug her wrinkled shirt straight to meet Chloe's aunt, already pushing open her door to wrap Chloe in a huge hug.
They walk to the beach after dinner, when the sun's hanging low in the sky, and the air around them has started to cool. The temperature seems to drop the closer they get to the ocean. It's almost pleasant by the time they reach the boardwalk. Beca takes off her flip-flops when they hit sand, holding them loosely in one hand, the other twined with Chloe's. They stroll down to the water's edge together, the waves lapping at the beach.
"California, Californiaaaaa, here we coooooome," Chloe sings quietly, teasingly, because she's been playing it the whole damn drive and Beca wants to never hear the Phantom Planet song again. "You should've arranged that one for the Bellas."
"I almost made a California mash-up once," Beca says. "But it seemed kind of self-serving."
Chloe pulls Beca close with one arm, tucked in against her side. She turns her head and kisses Beca's ear. "Aunt Jenny said we can stay as long as we need to, but I think we should start hunting for an apartment, like, tomorrow. When's your interview at that recording studio again?"
"Next Monday. It gives us a couple days to find a place." She leans into Chloe's touch, warm. "Do you think we've just made a huge mistake? Moving out here? Like, what if they don't want me, and then I can't find a job in LA — I mean, I don't think it'll happen, but what if it does?"
Chloe shrugs. "Then we'll deal with it. We can figure it out."
Beca nods, squinting at the setting sun on the horizon. "Okay."
"Beca, together we can do anything," Chloe says.
Beca turns to face her. Chloe's smiling, the bridge of her nose peeling from an old sunburn. Her hair's falling out of its messy bun. Beca's chest suddenly feels too tight, making it hard for her to breathe. She touches Chloe's cheek, resting her thumb against Chloe's jawline.
"Got it," she says, and when she leans in to kiss Chloe, Chloe meets her halfway.