She knows Chloe is one of those people that, once she decides on something, throws herself fully into it. Like being a convincing fake girlfriend. So was that why she’d practically melted into their kiss? Was that why she’d held onto Beca like she was all that was keeping her standing? Like she was so intent on the press of their lips that she couldn’t function outside of it? Or was all of that real?
Because Beca totally understands, if that’s the case. Without the wall, she would have ended up puddled at Chloe’s feet, she’s sure of it. And if she knew for sure that Chloe was into it too?
It’s a lot to process. But she’s able to shove all of that aside the second she sees Chloe flinch back a bit when Tom reaches across the table for a slice of ham.
Because she wants to ask Chloe if she was the only one that had trembled inside when they kissed, but first, they need to talk about Jesse’s dick cousin.
So when dinner ends and everyone starts pouring out the doors, Beca makes sure they’re the first to hug Mr. and Mrs. Swanson, then Jesse, then Aubrey (who will be joining them back at the Beales’ later), and they’re out the doors and to the van before Amy’s even unlocked it. Beca turns and puts her back to the van so she can watch the doors. Chloe stops nearby, hands folded neatly in front of her, smiling and nodding at the Trebles that are tumbling down the steps and toward their vehicles. She’s calm and composed as usual, but more subdued, like her mind’s far away. And Beca can’t stand it.
“Chlo.” She waits for Chloe to look at her, eyebrows up. “Want a hug?”
For a moment, she doesn’t move or react. Then she smiles, taking half a step closer. “You’re very touchy-feely tonight, Becs.” Her hand flutters up and she lays the back of her fingers against Beca’s forehead. “Hmmm. No fever.”
“Shut up and get in here, Beale. Before I change my mind and cuddle CR the whole way home.” Beca hooks her hand over Chloe’s elbow, pulling down and in until Chloe’s stumbling into her space and catching herself on the van, hands on either side of Beca, just shy of being pressed against her. “I thought this is what you’ve been working on.”
“It is,” Chloe giggles, her chest brushing Beca’s.
“Well?” She drops farther down against the van, boots on either side of Chloe’s heels, and turns her palms out, shrugging. “Aren’t you going to celebrate your victory? I, Beca Mitchell, just asked for a hug.”
Chloe closes her eyes, leaning her head back a little, her smile wide. “Who was it that said, ‘I don’t know, I never thought I’d get this far’? Plankton?”
“I have no clue what you’re talking about.” But she can’t think much past the pale slope of Chloe’s neck or the small sapphire pendant resting between her collarbones so. “But I do know you had a rough night.”
Chloe’s eyes open and her face goes carefully blank.
“Don’t do that.” Beca isn’t sure it’s the right thing to do, but she reaches out for Chloe’s hips and just holds her. Chloe doesn’t pull away. “You never do that.”
“Shut people out.”
A car honks and Chloe glances at it, waving at Uni in the driver’s seat as he pulls away. Then she sighs and pulls her hands from the van, dropping her weight onto Beca’s chest, which suddenly fills with flames. Chloe’s fingers slide up the back of Beca’s arms until she can hook them over her shoulders from behind. It’s natural for Beca’s hands to settle against the dimples in Chloe’s lower back and she threads her fingers together to keep them from shaking.
It looks uncomfortable, though, the way Chloe’s pressed into her but her head is pulled back, neck straining enough to keep their faces apart. Beca lets her head clunk against the van window so Chloe has room to breathe or move. She doesn’t seem to want to do either.
“I’m sorry,” Chloe says. “For not telling you everything sooner. I will. Tonight.” Her eyes are drifting across Beca’s face, like she’s mapping it out--slow and methodical.
Beca frowns. She’s heard Chloe say some weird shit over the years, but this is the weirdest, she thinks. “Dude, no. Don’t be sorry. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. Ever.” Chloe’s brow is furrowed, her scar dark in the shadows of the driveway. “Really. I only mentioned it because, like. If I can help or whatever… You don’t have to tell me anything except, like, what I can do, I guess.” She lifts one shoulder and Chloe’s fingers slip off of it to trail down her shoulder blade. It all sounds stupid to her and she isn’t really sure what she even said.
Chloe’s smiling again, so close. And her fingertips are light as they trace the curve of Beca’s shoulder blade, dipping down toward her ribs. “I know, Bec. You’re the best, you know.”
Beca scoffs. “Of course I am. Nobody else is even in the running.”
Laughing, Chloe digs her nails in just as her fingers reach Beca’s rib cage. It sends tiny shocks through her torso, tensing and releasing every muscle so fast that it leaves her a little breathless. “You’re a nerd, Beca Mitchell. I love you.”
It’s not an unusual thing for Chloe to say. She says it all the time--when Beca brings her lunch at work, when she’s going to bed at night sometimes, when Beca takes a nap instead of folding the laundry and wakes up with the basket being dumped on her face and Chloe playfully scolding her. And she says it to strangers and puppies and Stacie and Emily and that old lady that bags groceries at the corner store. In fact, she’s pretty sure she’s heard Chloe say it to every Bella within the last two days. But this time it pulls at something in Beca’s chest and physically moves her forward. She has just a second to register the startled look in Chloe’s eyes before she closes her own and leans into her, lifting her chin to reach for Chloe’s lips.
She jerks back and her head thunks against the van. She groans, closing one eye against the pain crawling down her neck and she reaches for it, pressing on the spot that’s flaring the most.
“Beca!” Chloe gasps, hands immediately moving to pull her own away so she can inspect the damage.
“Son of a bitch,” Beca grunts, looking up through one watering eye to find Jesse hopping off the last step, teeth bared in an apologetic grimace.
“I’m sorry,” he says, leaning in to look at the back of her head too. “I didn’t mean to disturb.”
“And yet,” Beca snaps, trying to take her hands back from Chloe’s to rub her skull. But Chloe holds firm, both of Beca’s wrists trapped in one hand as the fingers of her other hand dance lightly through Beca’s hair. Actually, that kinda feels better. She stops fighting.
The other Bellas have arrived, moving around Jesse to pull open the van doors and pile in. He hugs Emily, returning her massive grin. Seriously, how does she smile that much? Then he turns back to Beca. “Yeah, sorry. But Aubrey is going to be following you guys back for movie night and I’m going out with the boys. Was coming to tell you guys to take care of my lady, you know? I know how Bella movie nights can turn into unplanned trips to music festivals in other states and running out of gas in the middle of a scene from Jeepers Creepers or something.” He shrugs, big stupid grin still on his face.
“Of course we’ll take care of her, Jesse. And that was just once!” Chloe’s fingers have magically found the exact spot the pain is radiating from and they rub small circles into it. Beca tries not to moan. “I’ll make sure she texts you when we make it and when she leaves to head home.”
“I’ll walk her out to the car my damn self, if you promise never to scream at me again,” Beca grumbles, glaring up at him.
He nods happily as he backs away, nearly skipping. “Deal, Becaw. Have fun!”
She flips him off. Chloe waves. “Bye, Jesse! Be safe! Take care of yourself and the boys!”
His salute spins his whole body around and he bounces off toward one of the cars idling nearby.
“Come on, let’s get you home and ice this.” Chloe releases Beca’s wrists and leans in, pressing a soft kiss to the still throbbing back of her head. It helps. Aubrey’s little car pulls up next to them and she honks once. That doesn’t help. Amy honks back. Beca wants to bash both of their faces in.
Cynthia Rose is still waiting outside the van for them to climb in first. They tumble in, Beca accidentally clipping Jessica’s shoulder with her foot and not so accidentally pulling Stacie’s hair on the way. Once they’re settled, Chloe twists and wraps her arm around Beca’s shoulders, sliding her fingers up into her hair to continue softly rubbing what Beca assumes is going to be a knot later. She sighs and sinks into the touch, not sure when her hand landed on Chloe’s thigh. But Chloe’s other hand has found it and she’s playing with her fingers, tapping across her knuckles to a beat Beca doesn’t know. Her head stops hurting before they’re even on the road.
“So then we called the Trebles and it turns out they had also decided to road trip randomly to the music festival. Luckily, they were nearby and picked us up.” Stacie laughs, reaching forward to smack Amy’s arm. “We never let Amy fuel up on her own again.”
“Okay, I definitely put the thingy in the tank hole. I remember that part.”
“Don’t call it a ‘tank hole’,” Beca groans.
“But then Emily was babbling something stupid about a man being on fire or something--”
“He was! There was a guy across the road burning wood and his sleeve caught fire!”
“Which he put out!” Amy huffs, slapping the wheel. “But the point is, you distracted me and I forgot to actually do the rest of the fueling up thing. It’s not my fault. It’s Legacy’s.”
Emily twists in her seat to throw Chloe a desperate puppy dog look. Chloe lets go of Beca’s hand for the first time since they left the Swansons’ to pat Emily’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Emily. We know it wasn’t your fault.”
Fat Amy parks up on the grass and the Bellas start pushing to get out, groaning and hiking up their dresses. Beca ends up bouncing on one leg, her other foot caught in Jessica’s seatbelt, and Cynthia Rose grabs her under the arms to keep her up.
Once they’ve all tumbled out, Aubrey parks behind them and Chloe waves her over. She trots up with a small tote bag in hand, “Barden Bellas” emblazoned on the side. “Come on, Bree. You can change in the garage with Beca and me.”
So they split, the rest of the Bellas running to claim the bathrooms inside to change into movie night attire. (“Out of the way, less talented folk! I call bathroom first! These panties have been climbing up all night!”) Beca follows Chloe and Aubrey through the house and out into the backyard. They’re chattering animatedly about something wedding related, Beca thinks, because they keep mentioning bouquets, so she hangs back and lets them talk, pulling her shirt free of her pants.
Chloe lets them into the garage and offers the bathroom to Aubrey first, who graciously accepts. Once the door shuts, Chloe grabs Beca’s shoulders and whips her around to sit on the bed.
Beca winces as her head throbs with the movement, leaning back on her loosely-curled fists. “Ow, dude. Is this how you give puppies their shots? Because I’m filing a complaint.”
“Hush, you.” Chloe’s hands cup her face and for a wild moment, Beca thinks she’s going to kiss her. Right here in the loft, with Aubrey barely ten feet away, behind a very thin bathroom door. But then Chloe’s fingers slip up into her hair and start feeling for the bump. “How’s your head?”
“Better now that I’ve been thrown down on a bed.”
Chloe pauses just long enough for Beca to notice and look up. But once their eyes meet, Chloe smirks and whispers breathily, “You want me to show you being thrown down on a bed, Mitchell?”
As appealing as that sounds, teasing back sounds even better to her right now. So she purposely takes a deep breath and lets it out in a sigh. “Oh, Beale. It’s cute that you think you’d be the one doing the throwing. I was a pitcher.”
A light flickers to life in Chloe’s eyes that she can’t quite name. Her lips spread in a sinfully slow smile and her fingers dip down into the back of Beca’s collar. “Were you really?”
Beca tilts her head, lifting an eyebrow. “You sound surprised.”
Chloe shrugs, fingers dancing distractingly around to her collarbones. Her bottom lip disappears between her teeth. “I...would have assumed a different position.”
Well, that’s an innuendo if she’s ever heard one. A blatant, clear come on. And it is ridiculously sexy. It takes a couple moments longer than Beca would like to force out her next question. “What position?”
Chloe’s gaze has dropped to her mouth and she can’t help but copy her, watching Chloe’s teeth work over her own lip for a moment before releasing it with a soft sigh. “Shortstop.”
She’s laughing at her own joke before Beca can even clock what she said. She swats at her, but Chloe dances back a few steps, bare feet patting on the hardwood floor. “Dude, not cool!” She falls back across the bed to grab a pillow and launch it at her.
“Come on, it was funny! Admit it!” Chloe catches the pillow, using it as a shield against the next one.
“Beca! Say I’m funny!”
“I’m not in the habit of lying, Beale.”
“Mitchell!” Chloe hits her with her shield pillow and Beca curls into a ball to defend herself, yelping.
The bathroom door opens and Aubrey steps out, wearing a pair of pajamas that kind of look like a business suit, except pale blue. She smiles at them. “Bathroom’s open.”
Chloe hits Beca one more time and leaves the pillow where it lands, grabbing some clothes from the top drawer and closing herself in the bathroom, but not before sticking her tongue out at Beca.
Beca pushes the pillow off, glaring at Aubrey’s grin. “She started it.”
Aubrey shrugs. “Are we surprised?”
“No, definitely not.”
They laugh and Aubrey settles in the desk chair, back straight and one leg crossed over the other, hands cupped around her knee. It’s quiet for a few awkward seconds and Beca studies Aubrey’s profile. Chloe’s told her so much about this girl that Beca feels like she knows her. The General’s daughter. The fearless leader of the Bellas. The girl that can projectile vomit across rooms. Okay, maybe she knows a little too much about her. She thinks for a moment about a story Chloe particularly loves retelling where Aubrey got drunk and went toe to toe with a bear in the middle of the resort she runs. She’s scanning actual Aubrey into her imagining of it--her blonde bun wobbling dangerously on her head as she waves around a shotgun and yells, “My father always said, ‘If you can’t punch them, shoot them in the face!’”--when Aubrey speaks, jolting her out of it.
“Is this really all you need to produce music?” Her eyes trail across the large headphones hooked over the laptop screen and the Maschine sitting beside the mouse.
Beca shrugs even as she shakes her head. “There’s a ton more stuff, but this is all I needed for the work I’ll be doing here, you know?”
The desk chair creaks a little as Aubrey turns, nodding and still eyeing the equipment. “It’s really nice of you, to be here for Chloe.”
Unsure how to respond, Beca turns her gaze to her boots, tapping them together. She finds the words somewhere between taps four and five. “I’m glad I came.”
The chair creaks again. “You know, when Chloe first told me about you, she said you were bitchy and mad at the world.”
Beca stops tapping her feet.
“Of course, she used much nicer words.” Aubrey’s smiling now. “I was...wary, the first time we met. And I was fully prepared to have to fight you. Because Chloe makes wars sound like playground disputes, so I had this whole idea of you. Much darker and ruder than Chloe’s version. But then I saw Jesse’s reaction.” Her smile turns softer, her eyes locked on the little porthole window above the bed. “If the two people I love most in the world both love you… Well.”
Emotional stuff makes her queasy. (Unless it’s Chloe, but that’s a completely different, very unfair matter.) She bends down and starts unlacing her boots, speaking to them, because that’s easier. “Yeah, well. I was expecting a control freak with a weak ass gag reflex. But you’re pretty alright too.” That might have been too much, but Aubrey laughs.
“I feel like, in another life, we would have been enemies.”
Beca sits up, kicking her boots off and carrying them over to their spot by the fridge. She risks looking up, hoping not to catch Aubrey’s eye. It’s weird, talking like this to someone she barely knows. “Well, I’m glad we’re in this one.”
Aubrey nods formally, looking at Beca’s equipment again. “Me too, Beca.”