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the art of scraping through

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Beca has never felt much attached to cities; she’s never really understood why people write songs about their hometowns or uproot themselves simply to live in a place with no real goal other than being there. But she does like New York. It was only work that brought her here, but she likes its heartbeat and the way its streets feel brusque against the undersides of her shoes. It feels alive in the same way that Los Angeles felt like it was starting to drain something out of her.

Her apartment is garbage and regularly smells like fried chicken and beer – due in no small part to the literal fried chicken and beer she tends to bring home several nights a week from the take-out place downstairs – but it feels like home. Plus, her roommate works nights so they barely see each other, and she can mostly pretend she lives alone and that every creaking floorboard and broken light switch is her very own.

She tells herself she’s satisfied – with work, with the few friends she’s made, with being the adult she has for so long so desperately wanted to be – and doesn’t need anything else. She’s fine being independent, and she doesn’t miss having Jesse around.

And really, she doesn’t miss him. She misses the idea of him, of just having someone to call all the time and a name to use when she gets hit on in bars. In reality, there was something missing with him when they graduated, something she ignored for over a year even though all she got out of it was a huge phone bill and a few perfunctory orgasms when they were in the same city. Truthfully, it was mostly that Jesse was easier to keep around than to get rid of. Confirming his presence was easier than explaining his absence, and perfunctory orgasms aside at least she was having them, which is better than the semi-regular hours she now spends perusing vibrators online before deciding she’s still too chicken to actually buy one and have it end up on the doorstep of her apartment.

She knows Jesse is better left wrapped up in those strange, stumbling, shame-coated feelings of waning adolescence, she really does, but it’s also just super shitty sometimes to be alone.





However, what she doesn’t expect is to walk into work on Monday morning and find someone she never thought she’d see again sitting the studio’s waiting room. Someone who is apparently still responsible for stirring up a lot of decidedly not adolescent – or, as she has come to realize, straight – feelings in every part of her body.

Reed, who still wears sunglasses inside and is still responsible for keeping Beca employed in the music industry, walks into the room to find her slowly opening and closing her mouth like a suffocating fish at the woman sitting on the couch, and promptly ignores it.

“Great,” he says, his voice startling Beca into some modicum of professionalism. “Beca, you’re gonna take a moment to remind yourself right now that I pay for the roof over your head, then you’re gonna get your ass into the office and find the paperwork Kommissar needs to sign before we get this show on the road, okay?”

With what facilities she has, Beca nods, and when she gets into Reed’s immaculate office she breaks his cardinal rule (“Please just, whatever you do, place enough value in your existence to not sit in this chair,”) and sits down heavily in his chair.

Worlds was almost three years ago, but for the hammering of her heart and the sweaty flush she can feel at the base of her neck it might have been three minutes ago.

She remembers Reed talking about brokering some international record deal a few weeks ago, because he’d been so amped about it that he’d bought her lunch and not threatened to fire her all afternoon. But she didn’t realize that the person behind the deal was going to be the same person who still makes her feel like there’s something trying desperately to climb its way out of her body every time they’re in the same room.

Standing just as the door opens, Beca lets out something between a gasp and a groan as Kommissar steps into the room.

“Your boss, he told me he had to check the studio was ready, and that I should wait in here and sign these forms that you have so diligently retrieved for me.”

Beca swallows. She's still taunting, still sly and grinning with something dark and glittering, and still… super hot. She hasn’t changed a bit.

But Beca has – or, that is what she bolsters herself with as she sets her jaw and stomps over to the other side of the desk, throwing the papers down and gesturing to them only a little aggressively. “Do you need me to translate?” she asks, then immediately remembers – no, idiot, she speaks eight languages.

“No thank you,” Kommissar replies, “I speak eight languages, if you recall.”

Sneaky asshole.

Kommissar sits in one of the empty chairs and draws it closer to the desk, plucking a pen from Reed’s holder with long, deft fingers that Beca tries not to watch with Alice-like curiosity. She can’t help herself, though, and Alice in Wonderland is a pretty neat metaphor for the way she feels in Kommissar’s presence.

“So you have worked here long?” Kommissar asks, not looking up from the papers she’s reading over.

“Um, like three months. I was in Los Angeles after I graduated but Reed wanted… I think his words were, ‘to keep “murdered his nephew” off my Wikipedia page’ so he moved things to New York and offered me a job here.”

“And what is it you… do?”

“Whatever he asks,” Beca says, trying to keep the derisive tone out of her voice and failing miserably.

She watches Kommissar scrawl her signature across several of the pages in front of her and then set the pen down. Beca doesn’t have any time to ask questions of her own (top of the list: how single are you?) because Reed barrels through the door to inform them that the studio fucked up, they’ve got another appointment in there until after five.

“Really, you’d think twelve Grammys would be enough to make people listen, but here we are. I’m sorry, Kommissar, we’re gonna be in at nine sharp tomorrow,” Reed says, and Beca idly notes that the top of his head is shining the way it does after he’s just made a room full of people cower in fear.

“That suits me fine,” she replies, and gives a swift, crafty look to Beca before saying, “I do have a request though. I am unfamiliar with the city and feel I will take a while to settle in. Do you think it would be possible for me to borrow your… assistant for a while, to help me with things I might need?”

Clearly wanting to say no, but not wanting to upset his new client, Reed looks hard at Beca for a moment. Beca has no real idea what’s happening, or why Kommissar would want to request such a thing, and says nothing despite his piercing look.

“Fine. That’s fine,” Reed says finally. “I’ll outsource some of your work to the interns for two weeks, but then I need you back.”

“Perfect,” Kommissar says. She turns to Beca again. “I will, of course, compensate you for your time.”

Feeling rather like she just got hired as some kind of prostitute, Beca follows Kommissar’s beckoning arm out the door and into the hall, shutting the office door behind her.

“What the hell?” Beca asks when she can be sure they’re out of Reed’s earshot, and finds herself stepping just a little too close to Kommissar’s body as she does so.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Kommissar says, finding her way just a little closer to Beca, “You still think of us as competitors? I assumed better of you, Beca.”

Struggling to breathe the way she’s sure everyone confronted with a former nemesis responsible for kick-starting their journey a little further down the Kinsey scale does, Beca crosses her arms over her chest and grits out, “Well, I don’t know what you expect when you… you request me as your escort for two weeks, you beautiful Ger—jerk. Jerk.”

Kommissar grins in that familiar, infuriating way that causes Beca’s entire body to heat up like it’s about to boil over, and leans closer to her ear. “Darling you would know if I had requested you as an escort,” she says, voice like velvet and more than a little feral. Then she straightens up and hooks a finger through the neck of Beca’s t-shirt, pulling it down into a V. “I would have asked you to change your clothing into something a little… how is it you Americans say it? Like sexual.”

“Slutty,” Beca chokes out. “I think the word you’re looking for is slutty.”

She finds herself nodding her head for no apparent reason as she says this, her eyes travelling the length of Kommissar’s body because she can’t help but think of Kommissar similarly dressed in something… slutty.

“Mmm,” Kommissar hums. “We should perhaps not rule it out, but first – you must know a restaurant in this city that is not part of a chain, yes? I would like to go there.”

Without waiting for a response, she starts striding out of the studio with her stupidly long legs and vampire smile and Beca assumes she’s supposed to follow her. For a moment, she sinks back into the wall behind her, not sure what she’s trying to regain from the movement – dignity? Feeling in her extremities?

She shakes her head and sighs, finally pushing off the wall and following Kommissar out the door. She’s headfirst down a rabbit hole for sure.





Beca gets through coffee and an omelette without passing out, which she honestly believes is an achievement given the frankly erotic way Kommissar eats – well, anything, apparently.

They’re at her favourite place in Midtown, an unassuming hole in the wall wedged between an antique store and a place that proclaims it sells “real Brazilian human hair”, the way most places in New York are wedged between each other, and she felt oddly proud walking in the door. She’s still not sure what nefarious purposes Kommissar may have requested her for, but being thought of as someone who knows the city is something she didn’t know she would like so much.

And while the woman across from her makes her feel like burning down the nearest wooden building in some violent display of sexual attraction, she likes the way Kommissar looks at her as a challenge. She likes that she can see Kommissar’s pupils dilate when she watches Beca’s mouth, like there’s something about Beca that is drawing her in.

She’s not sure she’s ever felt someone get drawn in by her before.

The waiter places two drinks in front of them, and Beca looks at Kommissar. “These have alcohol in them, don’t they.”

It’s not a question, but Kommissar nods anyway.

Beca looks at the glass in front of her. She’s never tested it out, but she’s pretty sure that being even remotely buzzed around Kommissar is not going to be a good idea. In fact, she’s damn sure that she’s going to end up running her mouth off with insult-compliments within about five minutes of downing that thing, because she knows herself, and herself cannot handle her alcohol.

“How long are you going to stare at it, Beca, until it sprouts tiny wings and flies away?” Kommissar asks, before putting her lips around her own straw in a way that’s practically sinful. Beca feels her inner thighs clench unwittingly, and starts to drink.





She lasts roughly seven minutes before she asks.

“Why did you want me to show you around the city?”

Kommissar shrugs. “Do you not wish to be a tour guide? I’m sure your boss would be happy to have you return to work.”

“No, I just mean… there’s—why do you do that? Why do you have to make me feel so crazy?”

“Because it is so easy.”

She takes a final sip of her drink, then looks Beca dead in the eye.

“And because you like it.”





It’s a very stupid idea to go back to Kommissar’s hotel with her, but it infuriates Beca to think that Kommissar knows her so well after not seeing her in three years, after not knowing the shit she’s been through to get here, after—no. Beca stops herself as she closes the hotel room door behind her. She’s just mad because Kommissar is right, that she likes the way she makes all her senses flare and her insides feel like something caged. She likes the danger of it all, and despite Kommissar’s relatively fleeting presence in her life Beca likes her, too.

Three years ago she was, truly, Pieter’s slight mis-translation of a ‘heated mess’, and while she had enjoyed the thrill of having a sexy nemesis, she doesn’t want to think of the disaster it would have been if she had acted on any of her thoroughly confusing feelings.

She doesn’t feel confused now, though. And it seems that such a long time apart has done nothing to quell the tension Beca can feel between the two of them, so she doesn’t even let Kommissar speak before walking right up to her and trying a tactic that Kommissar has used so deftly on her in the past.

“So do I count as an escort yet?” she asks, low and teasing and just north of straight up dirty. It’s possibly not as satisfying because she lacks both Kommissar’s height and general presence, but Kommissar doesn’t seem to notice for once.

“Do you want to?”

Beca’s answer is two hands sliding roughly over Kommissar’s jaw, and a tug to bring their mouths together. It’s probably the smoothest move she’s ever pulled – though, with a history of pointy elbows and knees and awkward, hasty gestures of affection there’s not a lot of competition for that title.

Kommissar’s tongue strokes against her lips and she parts them wide in a way that makes her feel hungry; she slides her tongue against Kommissar’s with slow, heated intention, searching for fuel, for something to strike a match against. One of her thumbs moves from Kommissar’s jaw to her bottom lip, dragging it down and feeling the wet angles of her own tongue against her skin. She pulls back just a fraction, waiting until Kommissar’s eyes are open before she very deliberately takes her bottom lip between her teeth and bites down. Kommissar’s eyes flutter shut again, and just like that Beca feels more powerful than a god.

“You are still very feisty,” Kommissar says, and her fingers dig hard into Beca’s hips to draw her closer.

“You’re still in my head,” Beca replies, and when Kommissar grins at her Beca’s acutely aware that she’d like her to be somewhere else, too. Immediately.

There’s a part of her that’s chanting don’t—this’ll end badly, there’s no way back, Alice—but the stronger part of her that wants to feel just a little bit wicked makes her hands grab at the filmy fabric of Kommissar’s shirt, pulling it over her head. She sets her mouth to kissing every part of Kommissar she can reach, marking little bursts of colour into her skin with teeth and lips, her fingers fumbling with the catch of her bra before abandoning it to yank one of the straps down and get it out of her way.

Kommissar’s breath catches when Beca’s palm brushes over her nipple, and it’s the first hint of her demeanour cracking that Beca has felt so far. It makes her smile, and then it makes her push Kommissar back onto the bed. Beca’s own breath catches harshly in her throat when Kommissar reaches behind herself and undoes her bra, sliding it off her arms and dangling it from her fingers a moment before dropping it to the ground.

“Is that better?” she asks, and suddenly any hesitance Beca might have secretly been harbouring about the idea of actually, really having sex with another woman is gone – replaced with no small amount of aroused indignation. With a hand on Kommissar’s sternum, she pushes her down onto the bed and climbs atop her, letting her knees slide slowly either side of Kommissar’s hips. It's exciting, for once, to play this role - someone confident and dominant in not just shades but full Technicolor - and it pleases her that Kommissar, despite appearances, is so willing to let her play it.

Her hand slides up Kommissar’s ribs to cup one of her breasts, feel the weight of it in her palm, and then she makes sure Kommissar’s eyes are on her as she lowers her head and sends the flat of her tongue heavily across Kommissar’s nipple before closing her mouth around it. Beca feels her gasp, feels her fingers close tight around the back of her neck, feels her strain up into the feeling of lips against skin, against the nick of teeth and rough of hands and—somewhere, dimly, Beca recognizes that her hips are moving of their own accord, grinding hard into the jut of Kommissar’s hipbone like it’ll bring her absolution.

Kommissar’s hands pull on her face; pull her into a kiss that feels spell-like, travelling in currents down her arms, down her back, through her navel to the throb she’s sure Kommissar can feel against her hip.

And really, she could be a witch for all Beca knows, with her mysterious smiles and the uncanny ability to render her a babbling fool against her will.

Beca sits up and wrestles her t-shirt over her head, her eyes closing when Kommissar’s hands find their way around her breasts and then down over her belly, popping the button on her jeans.

“Oh no,” Beca says, grabbing Kommissar’s wrists. “This has to last just a little longer than five minutes.”

Kommissar grins, and Beca immediately goes for the zipper on Kommissar’s own pants, awkwardly tugging them down off one leg and forgetting the other when she distracts herself with nipping the inside of Kommissar’s exposed thigh.

There’s normally more nervousness involved with her sexual encounters, she thinks, tonguing a freckle near Kommissar’s knee. Normally more sweating and laughter and things that draw attention to the oddity of the situation to make it seem less weird. But this just feels strangely like… worship.

Kommissar’s hips are shifting near her head, and she still hasn’t really made a sound but Beca can tell she’s losing her grip.

Beca pops her head up, crawling back up Kommissar’s body to look down at her through the mess her hair has become. “You know what’s awesome?” she asks.

“What?” Kommissar drawls, her hands sliding up over Beca’s ass to sit against the pockets of her jeans.

“This time I’m going to get to see your face when you lose.”

Kommissar chuckles, and finds one of Beca’s wrists, directing her hand down to the heat between her thighs. “I don’t think either of us is losing here today, do you?”

Beca had known, obviously – scientifically – that Kommissar was probably going to be wet when her fingers found her. But she didn’t realize quite how much it was going to turn her on, and she lets slip a throaty gasp that mirrors the one Kommissar lets out at the feel of Beca’s fingers moving against her clit.

She doesn’t really know what to do—how to press, how to find a rhythm, but Kommissar’s hands finds its way back to her jeans and her finger runs down the inseam, barely even a feeling, and Beca almost comes right there, her nerves too taut and frazzled to contemplate Kommissar touching her.

Beca slides her fingers further, testing, and Kommissar’s hand finds her wrist again, urging Beca inside her, and it’s… just really fucking hot.

Kommissar manages to wrest a hand into Beca’s underwear, and she leans up to her ear to whisper, “Like this.”

Then her fingers are pressing in, thrusting in and out with a slow beat that makes Beca’s hips rock forward, something that sounds suspiciously like please, please falling from her lips as she buries her head in the crook of Kommissar’s neck, her own fingers erratic and desperate and soaking wet inside Kommissar.

It doesn’t take long, and she knows that anyone within a fifty-foot radius is probably able to hear her, but Kommissar purrs out, “Come for me,” against the shell of her ear and she does.

When she can breathe again, she does her best not to knee her partner anywhere tender as she clambers off her, registering somewhere that she miserably failed to achieve what she bravely decided to set out for, as she’s more than a hundred percent sure Kommissar did not get off just now.

However, she did, and it was pretty damn mind-blowing.

Beca is silent for a moment, just taking in the feeling of her heartbeat in her chest, the hum of the air-conditioning, Kommissar’s damp knuckles resting on the softness of her belly. It’s something akin to contentment, without the nagging feeling of what now? that she always dreads with… well, any encounter with anyone, honestly.

She clears her throat, just wanting to put one thing to rest. “So I know we weren’t serious back there or anything but I just wanna make sure… you’re not gonna like, pay me for sex, right?”

Kommissar laughs warm against her neck. “No, but I would like to take you out for a drink, and perhaps after that you would like to finish what you started.”