There's always a point where the lack of sleep gets to Beca. It's usually around 4, 4:30 AM on Wednesday, after she's been scribbling ideas down on Post-Its and keysmashing her frustration in her office. It's the point where Chloe, lying on the couch between her desk and Beca's, starts stringing words together that make no sense. That's usually when Beca shoves the sketches aside and grabs a blanket, her eyes twitching with exhaustion, and prepares to bunk down on the empty patch of carpet by a potted plant. It's always been like this on Tuesday nights (Wednesday mornings, Beca supposes) -- Chloe on the couch, Beca on the floor -- napping fitfully until around 7, when they can find some coffee.
"Your turn," Beca mutters sleepily to Chloe, turning over to drool into her pillow, when her phone alarm goes off.
"Oh god," Chloe groans, but Beca can hear her shuffling and getting up from the couch.
Twenty minutes later, Beca is staring at her computer screen through glazed-over eyes. Jason Segel's hosting this week, and apparently she was writing some sketch where he's playing a zookeeper, and all the animals are sentient. She vaguely remembers asking Chloe before she passed out if it sounded too much like human trafficking, but she can't recall if Chloe answered.
Her jaw cracks as she yawns. She rereads what she's got in Final Draft and adds another line for Chloe -- playing an animal rights activist.
"Coffee," Chloe says, staggering in through the open door. She shrugs off her coat and simultaneously plunks a Starbucks down on Beca's desk, narrowly missing her lamp.
"Bless you," Beca mutters, and takes a quick sip. It burns her tongue. "Oh, FUCK."
"You never wait," Chloe says. She takes the cap off hers, letting it steam out into the windowless room. She takes rabbit-quick gulps of her latte. Beca averts her gaze. She knows what it looks like. She's been working with Chloe for three years; she's pretty much got it all memorized by now.
Beca drinks the rest of her coffee despite scalding herself. Chloe's right. She's too impatient. It bleeds over into her writing sometimes. Lorne's admonished her for it before. She doesn't give enough time for the joke to land, for the audience to catch up. She has to remind herself that even though her brain's already moved on, sometimes she has to give everyone else a second.
The caffeine settles into her blood, giving her exhausted brain a little kick. She sets the cup aside and adds another line to the sketch. Chloe circles around her desk, leaning against her chair as she reads over Beca's head. Beca hears her intake of breath, her little quiet laugh. Something in her chest catches. It's like she waits for it, Chloe's laugh, with every joke she writes, every time she performs.
"You could make a human trafficking joke. Just to acknowledge it," Chloe says quietly, her mouth close to Beca's ear. People think Chloe's the nice one, and it's mostly true, but she also comes up with the most vicious stuff.
"Too harsh?" Beca asks, swallowing hard.
"Not if you phrase it right."
Chloe pulls her desk chair over, nestles her head against Beca's shoulder. It automatically makes Beca tense up, even though they're both still so tired, the computer screen flickering in her vision. Beca bites down on her lower lip, breathing slowly.
"Okay," she says, "tell me how to phrase it."
Beca's pretty much had a crush on Chloe since her first day at SNL. Maybe even before that -- when Chloe auditioned for the show, and Beca saw the tape. She's not involved in the audition process at all, but it's still nice to be kept up-to-date on what's happening. When Chloe does come in, she introduces herself to Beca with a big smile and Beca stares at her, shaking her hand dumbly, thinking about how blue her eyes are. They put her in Beca's office, put another plaque on the door, and -- that's it. That's the beginning of Beca's hopeless, unrequited crush.
Fuck, right? And just her luck that they'd move her three feet from Beca, in the same windowless closet Beca's had for over a year and a half.
She's on edge for the entire first month, feeling like she can't get comfortable at her own desk. She ends up working out of other people's offices a lot, crashing on their couches during Writing Nights, doing her rewrites while watching rehearsals in 8H. When she does work with Chloe in the room, she keeps feeling like she's being watched. Whenever she glances up, Chloe darts her gaze away.
"What?" Beca asks finally. She's been restructuring Jesse's music festival sketch, breaking it down and trying to piece it together. She's got a pounding headache, and Chloe's been eyeing her weirdly for almost an hour now.
Chloe gives her a hesitant look. "I just -- I wanted to say… You're my favorite writer."
It's definitely not anything Beca thought she'd say. "...thank you?"
"Your sketches are really funny," Chloe continues. "You wrote some of my favorites last year. That one where you played adult Violet Beauregarde? I almost peed myself."
Beca's cheeks feel hot. "I co-wrote that with Jesse."
"Still." Chloe smiles, which is this amazing thing Beca wouldn't mind seeing more of.
It's easier after that. Beca starts writing for her, picking up on the little things Chloe does or says. The first time she turns in a sketch written specifically for Chloe, everyone laughs at the table read, and Beca struggles to keep the triumphant grin off her face. She and Chloe bring out the best performances in each other -- it's something electric when they're facing off onstage. And Chloe has a knack for rewrites, for taking something Beca's come up with and adding just that little something to make it great.
None of this helps with the crush, of course.
Beca's the one who auditions for the Weekend Update spot first. She's always wanted it. It suits her, the witty punchlines, the pacing, the deadpaness and the straight man role. Lorne brings in a couple other cast members to read with her, but it only clicks into place when Chloe takes the seat next to her. They bounce jokes back and forth to each other, comfortable, like it's just them in their office.
"I'm excited about this," Lorne says, pleased, after they get it.
"Me too," Beca says, and has to hide that she's shaking with relief.
Chloe reaches over and takes Beca's hand in hers, squeezing it tight, behind Beca's back.
The zookeeper sketch goes over well at the table read. Lorne doesn't betray any emotion, but when you know, you know. Something in the air changes, and some of the other writers chuckle. Chloe leans over Beca's script and draws a smiley face in the margin while Beca eats lo mein from a takeout container. Chloe smells good even though none of them have showered, like she still smells clean and perfumey, which is a weird talent that Beca wishes she could pick up. She had to take a dryer sheet to her clothes in the bathroom before the readthrough. Just a normal week in the life of Beca Mitchell.
By the time they're leaving 30 Rock at 9:30, Beca's thinks she might be high from lack of sleep. The streetlights seem be floating above her. Chloe grabs her hand and drags her onto the pavement, twirling, singing. No one walking by even bats an eye. That's New York. Beca's laughing -- and then wheezing because the winter air stings her lungs. Chloe wraps her arms around Beca, her hair loose around her face, spilling out from beneath her hat. Beca quiets, pressing her nose against the lapel of Chloe's coat. It's February, and there's gray slush all over the sidewalks, and all it's done this year is snow.
"Bec," Chloe says, and Beca thinks she feels it rather than hear it. "Hey."
"Whaaaat?" Beca laughs, slow, dragging the word out.
"I got a pilot," Chloe says. "Harriet called me this morning."
Chloe presses on. "Nothing's definite, but. You know. I've talked to Lorne. We're thinking...maybe it's my last season."
Beca pulls away from Chloe. "You're leaving?"
"Not definitely. Nothing's definite. They'll probably pass on the pilot anyway -- "
"They won't," Beca says. Because it's Chloe, and people stop her at the grocery store and in airports, and there was a Buzzfeed article about her, and she had a movie come out in November and she's on the cover of Marie Clarie this month. Leaving SNL is inevitable.
"Beca -- "
"It's a good thing," Beca says. "Really. It's -- this is… Congratulations." She gives Chloe her best smile, barely even sarcastic. "I'm happy for you."
"Don't be like that. I'm not dying," Chloe says. She hugs Beca again, tight and warm. "Like I said, it's not definite."
Beca doesn't say anything. She's so tired she can feel it in her bones.
They don't talk about it again until Saturday, before the dress. Beca knows she's been purposefully avoiding Chloe -- hiding while in plain sight, pretending to be invaluable and necessary at rehearsals and rewrites. She has to rework the zookeeper sketch -- it's not hitting quite the right rhythm -- and instead of finding Chloe (or going back up to their office), she has Jesse do it with her. She sits in an uncomfortable chair next to his desk, her laptop burning through her jeans.
"Chloe would be better at this," Jesse says, chewing on the end of his pen. She hates it when he does that.
"She's busy," Beca replies, short. "Come on, help me think of a better wording."
There's no way to avoid the Update meeting though, obviously, so Beca chews on her everything bagel while they call down the jokes. She went through the news clippings yesterday and wrote down some one-liners, but they're never that good when she doesn't have Chloe to bounce ideas off of. Now she probably won't have Chloe at all, after this season is done. Fuck, she thinks, god, she is never going to be funny again, and it's just going to be the end of her career as she knows it. She'll have to move back in with her mom in Portland, maybe actually go back to grad school -- like she told everyone for years she was thinking about while she did stand-up at open mics.
"Don't be like this, Beca," Chloe says to her quietly while Graham and David are debating with Chris about some joke for the incoming winter storm.
"I'm not being anything," Beca says. "We've got so much white powder this winter that Lindsay Lohan is thinking of relocating to New York," she interrupts the boys.
Lee makes a face. Graham shrugs. Chris shakes his head. Beca already knew the reaction before she said the words.
"Worth a shot," Beca says, unfazed.
"You're my best friend," Chloe says to her, seriously, as they're getting ready to go on for Update.
Beca blushes, trying to make sure her shirt collar is straight. "Please. You've got Aubrey."
"Beca," Chloe grabs her arm. "You're my best friend on this show. Don't...make this hard for me."
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Beca nods, looking down at the floor. "Yeah," she says. "I'm sorry. I'm just -- I'm gonna miss you."
"I haven't gone anywhere."
Not yet, Beca wants to say. It's on the tip of her tongue. But she swallows it, and offers Chloe a smile instead.
She tries to be as unobtrusive as possible about leaving the after-party at Buddakan. It's been a long week, and she doesn't have the energy to stick around. She doesn't really want to listen to Chloe explaining about her pilot again. It makes her feel sick to hear it, even as her whole self knows how selfish she's being. Beca never claimed she was a good person. She wants to go home and catch up on the TV episodes on her DVR, turn her brain off. Be selfish. She wants to lie on her couch and punch things and not feel guilty about it. She has two beers with Jesse by the bar, and is signing her tab when Chloe finds her.
"You're going?" Chloe asks.
"I'm tired," Beca says by way of explanation. "Tell everyone goodnight for me."
"Give me five minutes. I'll come with you."
So Beca does. She waits outside the restaurant, resting her head against the brick wall. Chloe seizes her arm once she's outside, and they walk down 9th, in the general direction of Beca's apartment. It's a walk they've done before, hundreds of times, coming from a variety of places. Sometimes they'll take a cab if it's far, but mostly Beca likes to walk afterwards. She's still buzzing from the show, and the walk helps her clear her head.
"You think you'd ever move to LA?" Chloe asks.
It's a conversation they've had before in vague terms, nothing ever that serious. Now it feels different.
"You know I would," Beca answers. "If there was something good enough for me to leave SNL."
"Everyone leaves sometimes," Chloe says.
"Yeah, I guess. I think I have a while to go."
They walk on in silence for a few minutes, and stop at a crosswalk, wait for a line of cabs to drive past.
"I don't want to leave New York," Chloe says, her tone wistful.
Beca's heart clenches. "Don't," she whispers.
Something in Chloe's expression shifts. She takes two steps into Beca's space, so close that Beca has to draw in a quick breath. She leans in.
It takes Beca a second to realize that Chloe's kissing her, that her lips are soft against Beca's, and her fingers are brushing Beca's chin. Beca presses back into her, pulse spiking, her gloved hands clutching at Chloe. She opens her mouth and it's messy suddenly, Chloe scraping her teeth against Beca's lip, the kiss wet and rough and amazing. Chloe pulls back first. Her cheeks are flushed and she's breathing hard, her eyes bluer than Beca's ever seen them.
"I -- was that on purpose?" Beca asks, like an idiot.
Chloe makes a teasing face. "No, I tripped and fell on your mouth." She pauses, considering, and kisses Beca again. Gently this time. "I'm not trying to make things difficult," she says, quietly. "I've just wanted to do that for a long time."
"Yeah. Me too," Beca says. She can't tell how she's feeling -- simultaneously elated and terrified, this weird mixture that makes her stomach flip over. She wants to pull Chloe against her and kiss her again and again and again. "Chloe. What do we do?"
"We'll figure it out," Chloe says, kissing the tip of Beca's nose.
A year later:
"So?" Beca asks, grinning, putting her feet up on the couch in Chloe's trailer. "How's it feel to be a Golden Globe-winning actress?"
"Don't make it sound like I'm a movie star," Chloe laughs.
"It's still a Golden Globe," Beca says.
Chloe gets on the couch, draping her body over Beca's. Her smile warms Beca from the inside out. She kisses Beca's ear on one side, and then the other. "And you?"
"What?" Beca breathes, distracted.
"How does it feel to produce and write for a Golden Globe-winning television show?"
Beca tangles her fingers in Chloe's hair. "It feels amazing," she says. "It feels fucking amazing."