"Are you sure you want to do this?" her personal assistant Tess said.
Beca was standing at the window, looking out across the water at the Royal Palace on the other side. She was in the Stockholm Grand Hotel, the usual place to stay for visiting celebrities. She wasn't enough of a celebrity to get one of the fancy suites, where people like Madonna and Beyoncé stayed. But she was in a suite, even if it was small. And she'd got a nice view. All the houses she could see looked old. Like, real old. Older than the United States of America old. Pretty much everything she could see was also decorated with rainbow flags of varying sizes. Even the buses, of which there were way more than she was used to, had little Pride flags on them.
"No," she said. "But that's why I have to."
Being cowardly and clueless about her own feelings had lost her Chloe. She wasn't going to end up in the same situation again. If she ever again met someone she loved as much as she still loved her amazing redhead, that was.
"Someone may recognize you," Tess said. "Put a picture of you up on Instagram. Word may get out."
"I'm not that famous," Beca said. "And thousands of miles from home. Nobody will recognize me. And if someone does and posts about it, I guess that was meant to happen."
"Well, if your mind is made up," she said. "Here's you pass to all the Pride events. With your actual name on it, not an alias."
She held out a pice of paper in a plastic holder on a lanyard to Beca. Beca took it, and put the lanyard over her head.
"There are little decorative things you can put on the lanyard,” Tess said. "Like, to show if you're bi or lesbian or trans or into BDSM or whatever. Do you want one?"
Beca thought about it for a second. If she didn't display in some way why she was there, someone might think she was just an ally. That wasn’t what she wanted at all.
"Yes," she said.
"Which one?" Tess asked.
Beca drew a deep breath. She so wasn't used to thinking about herself this way. Much less talking about herself like it.
"Lesbian," she said. "Give me the one that says I'm a lesbian."
Stockholm was much warmer than she'd expected. It was late afternoon, and the temperature was somewhere in the high 80s. Which was maybe a little cooler than home in Miami, but nowhere near as much cooler as she'd thought almost two thousand miles further north would be. Not that she'd exactly thought there'd be polar bears in the streets, but she had brought her winter clothes. Which she didn't need at all. Still, the heat wasn't nearly as weird as the fact that it hardly got dark. It was seven in the evening and still full daylight. That was weird.
The main Pride area was normally some sort of sports arena. For the event, it had been filled with booths, stages, pubs, open-air restaurants and people. Lots and lots of people. Lots and lots of gay people.
Gay people like herself.
The thought was oddly exciting. If she saw a hot woman she particularly liked, she could flirt with her without worrying about her being straight. And there certainly was no shortage of hot women. Mostly tall ones. In skimpy clothing. Sometimes very skimpy. Apparently, Swedish people were not used to the weather being as warm as it was. And had very little modesty. She walked past two tall, blonde, curvy women dressed in nothing but body paint and shorts. Tiny shorts. While holding hands.
She kept looking at them for so long that she walked straight into someone.
"Oh!" she said. "I'm so sorry! Totally my fault! I wasn't looking where I was going!"
The person she'd walked into laughed.
"Don't worry," she said. "Those two were certainly worth getting distracted over."
The speaker was not very much taller than Beca. She was wearing leather pants, combat boots, a leather vest and a large selection of tattoos and piercings. Her hair was shaved on the sides and back, while longish on top. Her name tag wasn't sporting any kind of symbol, but her tattoos made it more than clear that her tastes swung to the Sapphic.
"Oh, totally," Beca said. "A lot of women here are."
Her victim's name tag said her name was Sara. Which, happily, Beca was reasonably sure she knew how to pronounce.
"Hi," she said, holding out her hand. "I'm Beca."
"Sara," Sara said, taking Beca's hand. "I take it you're not from around here?"
Beca shook her head.
"No," she said. "I'm from the US. Just here for a few days. Thought I'd give this thing a look."
Sara gave her an evaluating look.
"First time at Pride?" she asked.
Beca nodded. She gathered as much courage as she could.
"Yeah," she said. "I, uh, just recently figured out I'm…"
She drew a deep breath.
"…gay," she finished.
"Well, congratulations," Sara said. "Welcome to the sisterhood."
"It feels stupid," Beca said. "I'm almost thirty, and I only figured it out just now."
"Bah!" Sara said. "I was well over thirty when I figured myself out. You're doing good, girl."
She put her arm across Beca's shoulders.
"Let me buy you a beer," she said. "And introduce you to some friends. Coming out is worth celebrating, and you can't have a proper celebration by yourself!"
It turned out that when Sara said "some friends", she meant quite a lot of people. All of whom insisted on buying Beca drinks. And then she had to buy them drinks, and they had to buy some back again, and so on until everyone was pretty drunk. Beca tried to pace herself as well as she could, but that still left her pretty tipsy. Quite a few of the women also flirted with her, which felt great. She responded a little, and wanted to respond more, but as soon as she tried she started thinking about Chloe. Which totally killed her mood. Unrequited love sucked.
"I knew it!" a girl nearby suddenly squealed. "It is you!"
She was holding a phone and pointing at Beca. From the phone, Beca could hear the very familiar sounds of the Bellas' winning performance at World's.
"No, it's not," Beca said. "Totally not me. I have no idea what you're looking at."
"Yes it is!" the girl said. "You're totally Beca Mitchell! I, like, totally love your music!"
"Oh my God!" the girl said. "Beca Mitchell is gay!"
Beca turned to her.
"Ok, yes," she said. "I'm me. Beca Mitchell, that is. Is me. But please don't tell anyone I was here? Please? I'm …not really out yet? Like, to the world? I'm just here to be, like, out to myself? See what it feels like? If you see what I mean?"
The girl was really cute. Kind of Arabic looking. Tan skin, shiny black hair. Tala, her badge said her name was. She pouted at Beca.
"I guess," she said. "But!"
She waved her finger at Beca.
"In return, you have to sing for us!"
"Oh, no," Beca said. "I don't sing. I produce. I DJ."
"What do you mean you don't sing?" Tala said. "You won a world championship for singing!"
Beca gave her a stiff smile.
"Not by myself?" she tried.
Tala grinned back at her.
"That," she said, "we can fix!"
Of course there was karaoke. In a white plastic party tent with theoretically clear plastic windows to let the light in, full of foldable benches and foldable tables and a probably not foldable bar and a hopefully not foldable stage with a karaoke machine. And people. It took a while before the group Beca was with got to the front of the line. Time that a few of the younger women, who it turned out knew very well who Beca was, spent plying her with drinks and getting her to tell stories about the Bellas. It was hard to resist. A whole bunch of cute and friendly bi and lesbian women all paying attention to her and, more or less obviously, hitting on her, was kind of intoxicating. So when it was their turn to sing, she hardly even hesitated when they suggested singing "The Sign". At least she knew it. Really, really, really well.
"All right, all right," she said. "I'll sing it. But all of you have to be up there with me! And if you have a sudden urge to take some clothes off, I'll be totally fine with that."
She wasn't sure where that last bit came from. She wasn't one to try to bait groupies. Or to make even obliquely sexual suggestions to others. Which of course might be because she'd never really been honest with herself about what attracted her. Now, for the first time, she let herself feel all that. The feeling was intoxicating.
Someone next to her laughed. Another one of the tall, blonde, gorgeous women there seemed to be any number of.
"So you want to see some tits?" she said, her lips close enough to Beca's ear to actually touch.
Beca glanced down, theoretically to check out the woman's name badge. Which said Karin. It also hung more or less inside a very impressive cleavage. Which was barely hidden behind a thin white spaghetti-strap top.
"Sure wouldn't mind," Beca's libido said before her brain could stop it.
Beca caught herself, and quickly looked up, hoping she hadn't committed a faux pas. From Karin's smile, she hadn't.
"Well, let's get up on stage then," she said.
She grabbed Beca's hand and pulled her along up on the stage. Several more women joined them. And, to Beca's embarrassment, they all took their tops off. She had no idea where to look. It didn't help that for several of them, their boobs were right at Beca's eye level.
A hand landed at the small of Beca's back. She turned to look. It belonged to Karin. Who had pierced nipples, apparently. And a tattoo of a spider on her left breast.
"Are you sure you want to be the only one up here with a top on?" she said, smiling down at Beca.
Public nudity was really not in Beca's comfort zone. But going outside that zone was why she was here in the first place, wasn't it? Trying something new. Trying to get comfortable with who she was. Seeing where her limits really lay. Trying to gain the courage to talk to Chloe, if they ever met again. Would it be so bad to be topless if everyone else around her was too?
"Oh, what the Hell," she said.
She started unbuttoning her plaid shirt, accompanied by shouts and wolf whistles. Once it was off, she tied it around her waist before she unhooked her bra. With a deep breath, she let it fall, baring herself to the crowd. The sound rose suddenly and a lot. Beca couldn't help smiling. She waved the bra over her head. Feeling the warm evening air on her breasts was weird, but kind of nice. Nice and free.
"Who wants this?" she shouted.
There were too many responding shouts to tell them apart, so she just threw the bra randomly into the crowd.
"All right!" she shouted. "Are we singing or not?"
The first notes of "The Sign" started playing.
Once she'd started singing, it was hard to stop. The mix of alcohol, nakedness, music and general sexual tension was powerfully intoxicating. The audience was eating the performance up, to the point where nobody else even tried to get their turn with the karaoke machine. Since it turned out that the near-dozen women who had come up on stage with Beca knew practically the whole Bellas repertoire by heart, they just kept going, blending one song into the next.
They were about halfway through "Toxic" when Beca noticed, out of the corner of her eye, someone standing perfectly still right in front of the stage. Someone with long red hair. She turned her head, singing on autopilot.
Right there, only a few yards from her, standing frozen and staring at Beca with an expression of utter surprise and shock, was Chloe. Beca's voice stumbled into silence. She stood silent, staring back at the lost love of her life.
"Chloe," she breathed.
Suddenly, being topless felt less free and more exposed.
Chloe turned and ran away, vanishing quickly in the crowd.
"Chloe!" Beca shouted.
Her voice boomed out, amplified by the karaoke machine. The singing stopped. She jumped down from the stage and tried to run after Chloe through the crowd.
As soon as she managed to make her way out of the karaoke tent, she pulled her shirt back on. Chloe was nowhere to be seen, having vanished into the crowd of stupidly tall Swedish people. She grabbed the arm of the first person she saw. Which happened to be a big, burly guy in leathers. He looked down at her with a confused expression.
"Excuse me," Beca said, "but did you see a red-headed girl in a white sundress come past here a minute ago?"
He shook his head.
"Ok," Beca said, letting go of his arm. "Thanks anyway."
She looked around, trying to figure out who might actually have been standing there for a while. Across the path from the karaoke tent was a bar, with seating facing the path. Beca hurried across to the nearest table.
"Hi," she said to the group of people there. They were all older, in their fifties or sixties, and dressed like very conservative women of that age. If she were to guess, she'd say they'd spent most of their lives not dressing like that at all.
"Um, excuse me for barging in like this, but did you happen to see a woman about my age, red hear, white sundress, pass by here a couple of minutes ago?"
"Looked like she'd seen a ghost?" one of the women said. "Wore a performer's badge?"
Her voice was way deeper than most women's.
"Yeah," Beca said. "That must be her! Did you see where she went?"
Then the second sentence registered.
"Wait," Beca said. "She wore a what badge?"
"Performer," another of the old women said. "I think I saw her on stage last night. With that all-queer dance troupe from New York?"
"Oh, right, that was her, wasn't it?" the first one said. "She had a solo part, right? She was really good."
Beca stared at them. Chloe? In an all-queer dance troupe? As far as she knew, Chloe did live in New York, and she was most certainly a very good dancer. Her joining a dance troupe was not strange at all. But that kind of group? That was… Beca was not sure what it was. Surprising? Upsetting? Promising? All of the above?
"Please," she said. "Did you see where she went?"
"That way, I think," the first old woman said, pointing in the direction of the main stage. "I'm pretty sure the performers have dressing areas over behind the stages."
"Thank you!" Beca said.
She ran, as well as she could between all the Swedish people, who still insisted on being annoyingly tall.
Fifteen minutes later, Beca was standing staring at a poster taller than she was. At the top was statements like "by special invitation" and "sensation from New York" and "all queer all the time". The group's name was, apparently, Gay Movements. Most of the poster was a large photo of the entire troupe on stage, in the midst of what seemed to be a pretty acrobatic dance number. In the center of the stage Beca could clearly see Chloe. She was dressed in a costume that reminded Beca of one of the the more bondage-looking Amazons from Xena. She was holding on tight to another woman, who was shorter, thinner and dressed in many layers of sheer white cloth.
"Oh my God," Beca said to the world in general.
She didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or both.
"Hey, are you all right?" someone said behind her.
She turned around. Several of the women she'd been partying with were standing there, Sara at the front of them.
"Uh, yeah," Beca said. "I think."
"What happened?" Tala said. "You just ran off!"
“It’s a long story,” Beca said.
Seven years long. From the activities fair at Barden University, to Beca moving out of their New York flat. Seven years of what she had at the time thought was deep friendship. It wasn’t until she was living by herself in Miami that it really sunk in exactly how intensely she was missing Chloe. Along with that realization had come the one that she was not just missing a friend. She was in love with Chloe. Deeply in love. Far more in love than she’d ever been with anyone else.
At the time she’d thanked her lucky stars that she wasn’t living with her any more, because sharing a bed with her and not be able to touch would have been a much worse torture than just pining at a distance. To prevent herself from doing something stupid while drunk or desperate, she’d deleted Chloe’s number from her phone. She also got a new phone number of her own, although she was less sure why she did that.
She had intended to give her new number to one of the more trustworthy Bellas, like Cynthia Rose or Stacie. It was just that somehow she never got around to actually doing it. Now, many months later, standing there in front of that poster in Stockholm, it was slowly dawning on her that this might have looked kind of bad from the other side. Like Beca had got on the train to near-certain fame and just dumped all her old friends. She closed her eyes and groaned.
“Hey,” Tala said. “Is that Chloe Beale? From the Bellas?”
She was standing next to Beca, studying the poster. She turned to Beca.
“Was that who you saw back there?” she said. “You did shout ‘Chloe’, didn’t you?”
“I did,” Beca said. “And yes, it is her. Was her, back there.”
She looked pleadingly at Tala, Sara and the rest of the women behind her.
“I have to talk to her,” she said. “Is there a way to get in there? To where the performers are?”
"Not really," Sara said. "We're not supposed to be in there. Some friends of mine are guards, and they do take their job seriously."
"Can't you just call her and ask her to come out here?" Tala said.
Call her. That… Beca almost said that, no, she couldn't. But couldn't she at least try? It'd be late afternoon back in New York. She could try calling Stacie and ask for Chloe's number. Stacie might not give it to her, or even do more than hang up when she heard who it was, but she could try.
"I guess," she said.
Beca found a secluded spot not far from the guarded gate. She sat down in the gravel, resting her back against the fence surrounding the whole Pride park. Then she took out her phone, flipped to Stacie's page in her contacts and looked at it. The picture she'd chosen for Stacie clearly showed off the girl's ample cleavage. It was probably not the most obvious picture for a straight woman to pick. She kept looking at it while the phone tried to connect the call, wondering how she'd managed not to realize what excited her for so long.
"Whatever you're selling, I don't want any," the phone said, in a small tinny voice.
Beca quickly brought it to her ear.
"Stacie?" she said. "Uh, it's Beca."
There was a long silence.
"Beca?" Stacie said. "Are you OK? Where are you? What happened? You just dropped off the face of the Earth ages ago! We've been so worried! Amy thought you'd been kidnapped by a cult that brainwashes celebrities!"
"Er, I'm good," Beca said. "Well, I'm OK. Sorry about the disappearing act."
"So what happened?" Stacie said. "Aren't you allowed to talk to your old friends now or what? Cynthia Rose thought it was a PR thing, that they want to distance you from the Bellas because acapella isn't cool. Emily thinks you're doing drugs and are too ashamed of it to talk to us."
Beca couldn't help smiling a little.
"So you've been talking about me, huh?" she said. "Where there any more theories?"
"Well, Aubrey thinks you're just being an asshole."
Beca bit her lip.
"Yeah, ok, that's pretty close to the truth," she said.
She hesitated before she continued.
"What did Chloe think?" she said.
There was a hesitation from the other end.
"I don't know," Stacie said. "She insisted much longer than anyone else that you were just busy and would call again soon. When you didn't, she just fell silent. Last I heard, Amy said she'd dropped out of veterinary school and joined some dance troupe that's touring the world for the next year."
Guilt settled like a ton of lead in Beca's stomach.
"Do you have her phone number?" she said. "I need to talk to her."
"Well, unless she's changed it. Like some people apparently did."
"Can I have it? Please?"
Again, there was a noticeable pause before Stacie spoke.
"Beca?" she said. "Why don't you already have it? You guys were that tight, like total BFFs. I mean, you slept in the same bed, for fuck's sake!"
"Because I was not just being an asshole, I was also being stupid!" Beca said. "I thought I couldn't deal with seeing her again or talking to her or anything, so I deleted her number. Only now she's here, and I have to talk to her. Please, Stacie? I'll tell you everything later."
"Beca?" Stacie said. "Where is 'here'? Amy said Chloe's tour was all overseas. So not Miami."
Beca bit her lip again. She needed to stop that before she drew blood.
"Stockholm," she said. "In Sweden."
She closed her eyes and gathered all the courage she had.
"They're having their Pride festival right now," she said.
"What's that got to do with…" Stacie said before she interrupted herself.
"Oh," she added. "I see. You're both there."
"Yes," Beca said. "Only she's in with the performers where I can't go, and I have to talk to her. Stacie, please."
"All right," Stacie said. "I'll text you her number. But you'll owe me."
"Fine," Beca said. "Whatever that's in my power to give, you can have."
"Damn, you are desperate," Stacie said. "Hang on."
It was quiet for a while, then Beca's phone signalled that she had a message. Beca looked at it. A contact card for Chloe Beale. With shaking fingers, she saved it.
"Thanks," she said. "I'll call you."
"You better," Stacie said. "Remember, I have your new number now."
Beca sat staring at the call button next to Chloe's number for a good long while. Stacie's story combined with Chloe running off when she saw Beca wasn't exactly promising. It was perfectly possible that Chloe was deliberately staying in the performers' area so that Beca couldn't reach her. Perhaps there was no point in contacting her. Perhaps Beca should just give up, drink a lot and spend the night with one of the women who'd been flirting with her the whole evening.
Weirdly, thinking like that made the thought of calling easier. Since she had no chance anyway, she'd just be confirming that before she went to plan B. B as in Booze and/or Bitches. Before she could second-guess herself again, she hit the call button. It took a long time for the call to even start ringing. Which wasn't strange, of course. The signals would go across the Atlantic twice just so she could talk to someone probably less then fifty yards away.
"Hello?" the phone said.
It was Chloe's voice. Beca knew it very, very well. She could also tell from the wobbliness of it that Chloe was not far from crying.
"Chloe?" she said. "It's Beca. Please don't hang up!"
There was a long silence. Long enough that Beca felt the need to check that she hadn't been hung up on.
"Beca," Chloe finally said.
Her tone was tired and unhappy.
"Can you come out here?" Beca said. "I want to talk to you. I need to talk to you. Please?"
"Funny," Chloe said. "It hasn't felt like you needed that for the past year.”
"I know," Beca said.
Oddly, she felt mostly relieved. Chloe was actually talking to her. Which meant that there was still a chance.
"I want to apologize for that," she said. "A lot. I fucked up."
“Fucked what up?” Chloe said.
It wasn’t a question Beca was prepared for. An answer just slipped out of her.
“Us,” she said. “You. I hurt you. That was …really shitty of me. I’ve been really horrible to you.”
“All right,” Chloe said.
Beca blinked, confused.
“All right what?” she said. “All right that I was horrible to you?”
“All right, I’ll come talk to you.”
Chloe looked amazing and awful. Amazingly beautiful, like always. The awful part was the closed-off and wary way she acted. The sunny, perky girl that Beca had fallen in love with without even realizing it was still there, she could tell. But she was hidden. Covered by a cloud of sorrow. Seeing her both filled a void in Beca’s heart and ripped it apart at the same time.
“So,” Beca said, and then had no idea how to continue.
They’d sat down at a bar tent. Beca had gotten them both glasses of wine. Neither of them had touched theirs.
“You said you’d explain,” Chloe said.
She kept her arms crossed over her chest. It was not a Chloe gesture. At least not the old Chloe.
“Right,” Beca said. “Um, after I moved to Miami, and didn’t see you every day any more, I realized that I missed you more than I’d thought I would. A lot more. Like, constantly. More than I’ve ever missed anyone else ever.”
She didn’t look at Chloe while she spoke. Didn’t want to see her reaction, be it good or bad. She wasn’t sure which one scared her more.
“It took me longer than it should have,” she said. “But after a couple of months I couldn’t deny it any longer. I was in love with you.”
She looked up. Chloe was looking right at her with an expression she couldn’t read.
“I am in love with you,” Beca said. “Totally, hopelessly in love. And as far as I knew until tonight, you were straight. Or at least not the least bit interested in me. If you were, surely you would’ve shown some sign of that over all the years we’ve known each other. Or so I thought. So I decided, to help me deal with my feelings, to stop talking to you. I deleted your number. I got a new phone and a new number myself, and I started trying to deal with my newfound gayness.”
Her mouth was suddenly dry. She took a large gulp of her wine. It wasn’t very good.
“I’m releasing an album this winter,” Beca said. “It’s going to be a coming out album. Several of the songs are about loving women. The cover art has me kissing another woman. I don’t want there to be any possible doubt about which way I lean.”
She drew a deep breath. Saying that out loud to someone who knew her stirred up more emotions than she’d expected.
“I’m doing a bit of a tour right now,” she said. “When I saw that my show here in Stockholm was during their Pride week, I decided to go to the festival. To see what it felt like. To …practice, in a way.”
She looked at Chloe again, blinking away sudden tears.
“And then suddenly you’re here,” she said. “You. At pride. Part of an all-queer group, I’m told. And I can’t think of a way to combine that with you being straight, and I don’t know how to deal with that at all, but I had to talk to you, because suddenly it looks like I fucked up so incredibly bad, and if I don’t at least try to fix I won’t be able to live with myself, so…”
Her words trailed off.
“So I’m sorry,” she said. “More sorry than I have words for.”
Chloe put a finger on the edge of her wine glass.
“I need something stronger than this,” she said.
Beca was up from her chair before she’d even consciously decided to.
“I’ll get it,” she said. “What do you want?”
“The highest-proof shit they have,” Chloe said.
“Gotcha,” Beca said, and headed for the bar.
She was back a few minutes later with a tray. On it was a bottle with an intensely green liquor in it, a carafe of water and four glasses. Beca put it down in the middle of the small table.
“It’s absinthe,” she said. “Almost 140 proof. You’re really supposed to mix it with sugar and water, but I had them include two shot glasses.”
“A whole bottle?” Chloe said.
“You just said you wanted something stronger, not how much,” Beca said. “I thought it best to err on the safe side.”
“All right,” she said. “Pour me a shot.”
Beca poured them both shots. Chloe took hers and tossed it down in a single gulp. She grimaced and shivered all over.
“Fuck, that’s strong,” she said. “Another, please.”
Beca poured her another. Chloe took the glass, but this time just held it.
“So you’re gay,” she said.
“Took me long enough to figure that out,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, well,” Chloe said.
She downed the second glass.
“Another,” she wheezed.
“Maybe you should slow down a little,” Beca said. “That stuff is really strong.”
Chloe shook her head.
“Not yet,” she said.
Beca tossed down her own first drink. It burned like hellfire on its way down her throat.
“Oh, that burns!” she said.
Chloe downed her third, poured herself a fourth.
“Yeah,” she said. “Good job, there.”
Beca looked carefully at her. She still wasn’t smiling, but at least she no longer looked like an ice-sculpture version of herself.
“Chloe,” she said. “Whatever you want to say, you don’t need to be afraid. I’m the one at fault here. And I love you. There’s nothing you can say that I will not accept or forgive, or whatever else you need. I’m so sorry I hurt you.”
She sipped her absinthe. It burned her lips and mouth.
“Most of the songs on the album are really about you,” she said.
“I fell head over heels in love with you the second time we met,” Chloe said.
Beca frowned and tried to think back.
“That time you forced me to sing in the shower?” she said.
“Chloe!” Beca said. “That was eight years ago!”
Chloe nodded again, and drank again.
“Maybe we should try that sugar and water thing,” she said.
“Oh sweetie,” Beca said. “All this time?”
“All this time,” Chloe agreed.
“And then I just ghosted you,” Beca said.
“You kind of did.”
“I’m so sorry,” Beca said. “I really am. I wish I’d handled all that a lot better.”
“Yeah, well,” Chloe said. “I was the one who invited you to live with me, and who spent a couple of years sharing a bed with you without ever mentioning that I want to fuck your brains out.”
The words shocked Beca enough that she forgot how to breathe. It felt like her entire insides melted. She was pretty sure she flushed bright red.
“I, uh, have no plans tonight,” her mouth said before she could stop it.
And all of a sudden Chloe was smiling at her. Her wide, beaming, intense happy smile.
“Me neither,” she said. “Isn’t that a coincidence?”
Beca shook her head in an attempt to clear it a little.
"So I hear you dropped out of veterinary school," she said.
Chloe took the bottle, looked at her glass, frowned and put the bottle back.
"Yeah," she said. “I had to change my life."
She put her hands on top of Beca's.
"When I finally accepted that you had really broken off contact with me, I was really hurt and upset," she said. "But more at myself than at you. I was the one who'd had seven years to say something. To tell you how I felt. Give you a reason to stay with me. That I never took the chance… that was all on me. My mistake. My failure."
"I decided I had to change. Drastically, preferably. And even though I was never really in the closet in my own mind, in all the time I knew you I never did anything that showed that I'm bi. I had girlfriends and boyfriends before you, but after you appeared… no other woman measured up. There were a few guys, as you know, but they were more distractions and cures for desperate horniness than anything serious."
She had a distant look, and gently stroked Beca's hand.
"So that had to change," she said. "I had to be more obvious. And, well, dancing is one of the few things I can do really well, so when I heard that Gay Movements needed a couple more dancers for their world tour, I applied. And, obviously, was accepted."
She smiled at Beca.
"Also, I didn't drop out," she said. "Formally, I'm on sabbatical for the duration of the tour. It will even help me pay for vet school."
Beca smiled back at her. She took both of Chloe's hands in hers.
"So you're bi," she said.
"I am," Chloe said.
"And you're not all that angry with me."
Chloe shook her head.
"And you're in love with me."
"And I'm lesbian," Beca said. "Or as close as makes no difference."
Chloe's smile widened.
"And I'm ridiculously in love with you," Beca said. "And I've missed you so much since I left New York."
"So…?" Chloe said.
"Please be my girlfriend?" Beca said. "I know it's horribly impractical, what with us both being on tours, and we've never been on a single actual date, but… Chloe, it's us. How much better would we need to know each other?"
"Yes," Chloe said. "Of course I will be your girlfriend! Only…"
"Only what?" Beca said, suddenly afraid.
"Make sure to ask me again tomorrow?" Chloe said. "Because, wow, that stuff was potent, and I can feel myself getting drunker by the second just from the stuff I already drank. And I want to tell you unequivocally yes when I'm sober."
"Sure," Beca said, very relieved. "Although, if you're drunk already and not sure how much worse it'll get, I don't want to leave you unsupervised."
"I'll be fine," Chloe said. "It's not the first time I'm too drunk."
"I was going to suggest that you come with me back to my hotel room," Beca said. "Where I can make sure you drink plenty of water before you fall asleep, and give you Stacie's special hangover cure in the morning."
She stood up and gently pulled on Chloe's hands. Chloe got up too, even if pretty unsteadily. She frowned.
"I don't remember Stacie making any special hangover cure back in the Bellas house," she said.
Beca pulled Chloe really close, then got up on her toes so she could whisper right into Chloe's ear.
"That's because the cure is two to four orgasms," she whispered.
Chloe's looked at her, blushed, and looked away smiling.
"Oh," she said.
"Stay here for a moment, OK?" Beca said. "I want to talk to the girls I made friends with here before I leave. They've been sitting over there smirking at us the whole time, and I think they deserve some thanks."
"Sure," she said. "I'll be right here. Holding on to the table.”
Beca took a couple of steps away. Then, for some reason, she looked back over her shoulder. Chloe was standing there. Leaning on the rickety foldable table and smiling at Beca as if she was the most wonderful thing in the whole universe.
Beca stopped. She turned around. Chloe started to frown, and was just about to say something when Beca took a few quick steps back, grabbed Chloe by the sides of her head and kissed her. It wasn’t a romantic kiss. It was a needy, almost desperate kiss, as if she was dying of thirst and Chloe was the spring at the center of an unexpected oasis. She opened her lips, and Chloe’s opened too, and for a few delicious moments their tongues met and danced.
As she let go, Beca closed her eyes and let out a frustrated moan.
“Sorry,” she said. “I just lost control for a moment.”
Chloe let out a breath as if she’d been the one dying of thirst who had just gotten to drink her fill.
“Don’t be,” she said. “I’ve wished you’d do that for too many years.”
“I definitely plan to do it again,” Beca said.
“Please,” Chloe said.
She placed a quick kiss on the top of Beca’s head.
“Go talk to your new friends,” she said. “I’ll be here, waiting for you to return.”
Beca hugged her, hard and fast. Then she walked off to talk to Sara and Tala and Karin and the rest.
They didn’t let go of each other while they made their way out of the Pride park, into a taxi, through the streets of Stockholm and into Beca’s hotel room. They were holding hands, or had their arms around each others’ waists, or shoulders. In the taxi, they kissed, forgetting themselves so the driver had to tell them when they’d arrived. In the room, Chloe fell onto the bed, dragging down Beca on top of her. She stroked Beca’s face. Beca leaned into the touch like a cuddle-starved cat.
“I missed you so much,” Chloe whispered. “It felt like half of me was gone.”
“I’m back now,” Beca whispered. “I’m not leaving again.”
Chloe smiled at her.
“You have to, though,” she said. “I have my tour, and you have your tour, and I live in New York and you live in Miami.”
Beca lay down, relishing the feeling of Chloe’s body under her. Its softness and warmth.
“The tours are temporary,” she said. “The rest we can fix. Maybe I can record in New York. Maybe Miami needs smoking hot veterinarians. Maybe we both move to Los Angeles.”
“I want to be wherever you are,” Chloe said.
Her mouth found Beca’s, and for some time mouths, hands and skin took the place of words. When Beca’s hands started creeping in under Chloe’s sun dress, Chloe pulled her head back.
“Wait,” she said.
Beca pulled her hand out as quick as if Chloe’s skin had suddenly turned to molten iron.
“I’m sorry!” she said. “I should’ve asked first! I just got carried away!”
“Hush,” Chloe said. “It’s fine.”
She took Beca’s hand and placed it on top of her breast.
“See?” she said. “I want you to touch me. Naked, all over and a lot. I just want to be sober for our first time together.”
Due to the distraction of actually feeling up Chloe’s boob, it took Beca a few seconds to fully get what Chloe just said.
“Oh,” she said. “Right. Totally.”
She leveraged herself to the side, and fell the couple of inches down onto the bed next to Chloe.
“We should get you some water before you fall asleep,” she said. “Also, there’s one thing I want to do right now.”
“You’re being all sensible,” Chloe said. “And what is that?”
“I’m not being sensible, I just want you in shape to have a lot of sex when you wake up,” Beca said. “And I want to take a picture of us kissing that I can send to Stacie. She got me your number, and I want to let her know it turned out well. Really, really, really well.”
“Of course,” she said.
It took a few attempts to get the picture right.
Then they took a few more, just to make sure, before Beca sent the best of them to Stacie.
And then, finally, they both could fall asleep in the arms of their loved one.