A/N: Did I hear someone say they wanted jealous Chloe? ;)
Note: If you have any comments on me using single quotation marks, please Google British practice of single versus double quotation marks before doing so.
'You are… physically flawless.'
For a moment, you're pretty sure you blacked out and started hallucinating. All you can do is gape at Beca, trying to ascertain the real meaning behind what she just said. Surely Beca was trying to psyche them out, or something, because there's no way Beca would seriously tell some woman she just met that she was "physically flawless". Not unless it was some odd attempt at getting under their skin by flirting – unconventional, not at all like Beca and probably better left to Stacie or Cynthia Rose – but even that seems more likely than Beca losing her mind over Kommissar, of all people.
Except it's not. Beca seems as stunned by her words as you feel, and you can already see her cheeks starting to heat up. You stare at her; you know she can see you doing it, but suddenly she won't meet your gaze, or even the gaze of the German robot standing in front of her.
(Who is not even that attractive. Seriously, Beca? You picked her for your sexual awakening?).
You spew some bullshit trash talk but your mind is definitely not on Das Sound Machine, or even the exceptional performance they just put on. You're not even thinking about how you're going to beat them, although that's at the back of your mind and making your stomach churn whenever you allow it more than a second of thinking time.
All you can think is, what the hell just happened?
Beca, naturally, gets a lot of teasing about it on the bus home. With good reason: Beca isn't exactly the calm and collected one of the group (that accolade goes to Lilly, although perhaps too far in the other direction) but she's also not the most likely to lose her head when she gets frazzled. Especially not over someone else's attractiveness. Even less so if that someone is female.
Especially over someone who is not you, is something you are definitely not thinking, while you try in vain to block out the sounds of the other girls gossiping about the subject. They can't resist themselves, and maybe if you weren't so damn confused about the whole thing you would join in just for the look on Beca's face. Oddly, however, Beca isn't getting as embarrassed about the whole thing like she normally would. Far from shrinking back in her hood and grumpily fending off the teasing, as you would have expected, Beca seems to be taking it all in her stride. In fact, if you didn't know any better, you might even think she seemed oddly proud of the whole thing.
It's a good thing you do know better, because the Beca Mitchell you know is straight. Completely. You should know; you probably know more about Beca's sexuality than she does. Could write a paper on it, even; if you were taking a Beca's-Inner-Feelings class instead of Russian literature, maybe then you'd actually graduate. Beca doesn't like women. There's no point even getting a little bit upset about it: everyone has at least one girl crush in their life, right?
Even so, you don't like the way Ashley and Jessica are looking at you sympathetically throughout the whole conversation like they know something you don't. Or the way Lilly leans towards you and whispers, 'I can take her out, if you want.' You're already aware that everyone knows how you feel – you can admit you're not exactly subtle, about anything at all –but it's still it's like an unspoken secret in front of Beca. Despite having the observation skills of a thumbtack, she can be surprisingly sharp when it comes to you.
Everyone thinks you're jealous. And you're not.
(Except you are, insanely so. You know it's dumb. You can't help it.)
'I didn't think she was that pretty,' falls out of your mouth before you can stop it, sounding less coolly dismissive of the topic and more like a petulant child who has lost her toy. Unfortunately, the other Bellas pick up on this easily and a few smirks start appearing. At least they hide them in their fists or duck their heads down so Beca won't see.
'Dude!' exclaims Beca. There are two very uncharacteristic spots of red in her cheeks as she stares at you, eyes wide. 'Not that pretty? Are you blind? She was like a Greek fucking… goddess, or something.'
'It'd be a German goddess, really,' Amy notes. 'Do they even have goddesses over there?'
'Claudia Schiffer,' Cynthia Rose, this time, who as usual can't resist a conversation about hot women.
'I meant the religious kind, but uh – whatever floats your boat, CR...'
'DSM lady could float my boat,' Beca says, sniggering at her own innuendo, which turns into a full on laugh when Cynthia Rose whoops and high fives Beca.
'I'll get you over to the dark side yet, Beca.'
'If the dark side has her there, count me in.'
'What about Jesse?' Stacie asks, and you can't help but follow this part of the conversation because yes, exactly - what about Jesse?
'He can come too,' says Beca, grinning, and that's it. You have had enough.
'God, can we drop this already?' You get surprised looks from the other girls from the amount of anger in your voice, which you couldn't quite keep down. Seems you're having a lot of trouble with that lately.
'Don't worry Red, I'm sure Beca thinks you're hot too,' says Amy, winking. She gets a sharp elbow in the side from Beca for her comment, and those spots of red are starting to look like massive circles by now.
'It's not that,' you say, blushing too - even though it is. 'In case you guys haven't noticed, DSM weren't just physically amazing – although I disagree about that part - they were aca-amazing. And we need to figure out how the hell we're going to beat them. All of us,' you add, and if your gaze wanders to Beca at all it was totally accidental. 'So that means no distractions. How are we going to do that if you're all too busy drooling over the competition?'
The silence that follows is stunned, and you can't think why. In your mind, you were perfectly justified in say that because really? Flirting with the competition? If Aubrey were here, she would have a heart attack.
Still, you can't help but wonder if she went a little too far. Especially when Beca's smile slips away, and she murmurs something that sounds suspiciously like 'Wow, harsh,' under her breath.
The rest of the ride is awkward and quiet, after that, and no more jokes are made. Instead there's hastily stifled coughs and the others staring at the two of you when they think you can't see. Emily in particular seems like she might cry at any moment, brazenly watching the two of you with an air of desperation throughout the whole trip home.
You're probably crushing her dreams of a Bella sisterhood right now, but you can't bring yourself to care. It seems to you like that started fizzling about the time you entered your seventh year of this crap.
You're a ball of stress by the time you all arrive home, and all you want to do is crawl into bed and never come out. However, you know you're going to need all the time you can get to work out how you're going to beat Das Sound Machine at the Worlds. You need to start planning now.
'Alright Bellas, everyone get your laptops and iPods, we have a long night ahead of us - whoa, where are you going?' you ask sharply, as Beca makes a break for the staircase. She turns around, a guilty expression on her face. It's as though she thought no one would notice if she left quickly enough.
'Sorry, I'm not trying to be rude. I've just got stuff to do,' she says. She does seem tired, and you nearly soften and let her go. Until you remember the Worlds, and how sick you felt while you watched DSM perform, and no, Beca is not allowed another free pass just because you can't resist her hangdog expression. Not this time.
'What stuff?' you demand, one hand on your hip. 'Can't you wait? We're having a Bellas meeting.'
'Right, of course we are.' She tips her head back and groans. 'Sorry, remind me what this unnecessary meeting is about again?'
'How we can kick Das Sound Machine's asses, duh.'
'Can we leave it until tomorrow?'
You can feel yourself losing your temper with Beca. It's not something that happens very often, but you're grumpy and worried and Beca is an easy target right now. 'Why?' you snap. 'Are you saying you have something to do which is more important than this? Than us?'
'Ugh, oh my God Chloe - it's not like that. Listen, can you just -' she stops suddenly, and makes a noise of frustration. You're probably better off not knowing what she might have been about to say, yet you find yourself wanting to know the end of that sentence. It feels like you've been waiting for it for a while.
'Can I just what, Beca?'
She meets your glare full on. Her jaw shifts, words forming at her lips. You think she might actually man up and say what she's obviously been holding back from you for a while, and feel your shoulders start tensing in wait of it.
But once again, Beca just shuts down. 'Nothing,' she says on an exhale, and turns to face the stairs again. She speaks with her back to all of you. 'Look, I'm co-captain too, alright? I really don't want to have a meeting right now. And since I handle most of the arrangements, you're probably out of luck.'
It's a low blow, and Beca knows it: that's why she won't look you in the face, and why you don't even dignify it with a response. You just let her go, watch and seethe as she stomps up the stairs on her own. You clench your jaw so tight it feels like your teeth might break, because she's just so maddening…And yet there's still some part of you that wants to run right after Beca, wrap your arms around her and just beg for things to go back to how they were.
You feel a hand on your shoulder. It's Amy. 'You want me to go talk to her?' she asks, smiling sadly.
'No…' You put your fingers to your temples and rub them as you sigh. 'Just leave her, she's obviously in a mood.' Like so often these days. Not that you can talk.
'Man, it sucks when you guys argue,' says Cynthia Rose mournfully. 'It's like watching my folks fight.'
'That'd be one messed up family if Chloe and Beca were your parents. I mean, if anyone would be their lovechild, it's Legacy over there,' says Amy, nodding at Emily. The girl looks delighted at the very idea.
It's an obvious attempt to make you smile, and you appreciate the attempt, but talking about you and Beca having a "lovechild" hits just a little too close to home right now. You change the subject. 'Do you guys actually want a meeting right now?' The other Bellas exchange nervous looks with each other, and it's plain from the long extended silence that the answer is "no". Your shoulders slump. 'Right, okay.'
'Nothing personal, C. We're not siding with Beca,' Cynthia Rose tells you quickly. 'It's been a long day, is all. '
'Cynthia Rose is right, we're all seriously tired and unmotivated right now. We'll be able to plan much better in the morning if we're well rested.' Emily, bless her, is as ever the voice of cheerful optimism. Normally you'd find it sweet, or at the very least mildly endearing but right now you just want to slap that hopeful smile off her face. When did you get to the point where assaulting the freshmen started sounding like a good idea? Maybe you spent too much time with Aubrey during her captaincy.
'And you probably shouldn't worry about Beca,' Emily goes on, very unhelpfully. 'I think she's just upset because of what you said on the bus.'
'She deserved it,' you reply defensively, crossing your arms.
'Ehhh…' says Amy, closing one eye and shaking one hand.
'I dunno, Chloe,' says Cynthia Rose. 'I mean I'm all about the team and all, but Beca was just messing about. Except you kinda went all "green eyed monster" on her ass. It was pretty obvious you were jealous.'
You can't help but blush. 'Oh my God. No - look, I honestly don't care,' you say, knowing even as you say it that it sounds feeble, even without the others averting their eyes, and Amy muttering something under her breath about a river in Egypt. You can't help but gnaw on the pad of your thumb a little nervously, however, thinking back to how Beca seemed completely bowled over by Kommissar. Maybe there's something you're missing, even if you do consider yourself a connoisseur of women. You ask, '… Do you really think she was that hot?'
Amy pats you again, which seems to be her main method of comfort. You're half expecting her to feed you a dog biscuit at any moment. 'Hey, if it helps, I think Beca's probably just got a German fetish,' she tells you seriously. 'I mean I'm sure I've heard her at night listening to Kraftwerk, and "working her craft" if you catch my drift.' She winks.
You giggle at Amy's typically weird sense of humour, as do some of the other girls. 'Thanks, Amy. Really needed that image.'
'Just doin' my duty, Red.' She looks around at the others. 'So… Emergency aca-party, anyone, to drink away our sorrows? If we're free to go, I mean,' she adds hastily. 'I'm down for rubbing salt in our wounds if everyone else is.'
'No, it's fine…' you say. 'We'll meet in the morning. I think I'm going to stay here though, you guys can go.' A few of the Bellas start wandering away immediately, but you see that Stacie is biting her lip, regarding you with an inscrutable expression. You arch an eyebrow, and she puts up her hand hesitantly.
'Well,' she says, sounding unsure, 'it's just a thought, but have you ever thought that maybe you should just tell her -'
'Nope,' you interrupt her, popping the "p" with how aggressively blunt your response is. You can feel your blush creeping all the way down your neck. 'Any other questions? No? Okay, I think I'm going to head to bed. Let's meet bright and early tomorrow to discuss our plan, yeah?'
You quickly leave the room before they can ask you anything else, making a run for the stairs. Hardly dignified, but if you stay any longer you just know they'll stay on the subject. Then they'll probably get you drunk and probably talk you into crying about your feelings for Beca and then egging you on to calling her up and serenading her at 2am. It's happened before.
You had been intending just to go to bed and scream into a few pillows, maybe call Aubrey – but on your way to your room, you pass Beca's. And you can't help but pause. Some strange force takes over your legs and leads you to the bottom of the staircase leading up to her room – luckily it doesn't have enough power to get you to actually go up it, but instead you end up hovering creepily on the landing.
You can faintly hear the sound of Beca pacing up and down upstairs, which she only does when she's extremely stressed. Something's going on with Beca and you have no idea what that is. Not long ago you wouldn't even need to wonder because you were so clued up on everything that happened in Beca's life, whether she wanted it or not.
Things are changing so fast. And all you want to do is run up there and beg for things to slow down, just a little.
Suddenly you hear footsteps on the staircase, too quick for you to reorganise your thoughts and run away; you come face to face with Beca. You wonder for a moment if she somehow sensed you were out here, but she looks as surprised to see you as you are to see her.
'Um, sorry,' you say reflexively, even though you have as much right to stand in the hallway as she does to pace in her room. 'I was just on my way to bed.'
'It's cool. I was just going to…' She gestures vaguely behind you in the direction of the bathroom, and you mutely step aside so she can get by. You think that you ought to go to your room and avoid this whole situation, but you've already been caught; it won't matter if you stay here. So you just wait. It's probably about time for the two of you to talk, anyway.
When Beca emerges again, she doesn't look wholly unsurprised to see you still standing there.
'Huh… You're still here,' Beca notes, but not unpleasantly. 'You listening to me pee? Kinda weird.'
You can't even think of a witty or teasing response to make. A long enough silence follows that Beca frowns, rubbing her shoulder nervously.
'You… want to come to my room? Talk about the set?' she asks kindly, after a moment, and you know it's an olive branch. You nod and follow her upstairs to the room she shares with Amy.
Once inside Beca makes a beeline for her prime mixing position, back against the headboard and Mac on her knees, while you perch on the end of her bed. You wonder how the hell it got to this point that you're perching on her bed instead of curling up at the headboard with her. From the way Beca watches you, she might be thinking the same thing.
She pats the space next to her, raising her eyebrows. You blink. 'Are you sure?'
'What, you're asking now?' she rolls her eyes. 'Just c'mere, Beale.'
Obediently you crawl up to sit by her side, still with an unusually respectful distance between the two of you. Beca pokes you in the side in a way that counts for friendly for her.
'Hey. So, I'm sorry about – well, you know,' she says briskly. You can tell she's nervous about saying it by the way she taps her fingernails on the edge of her Mac, one foot tapping to a beat only she knows in her head. Apologies are like pulling teeth with Beca, but she's become much better with them over time. 'I was being kind of a dick, I think. I was just, you know, my head was all messed up and I wanted some space, but I probably shouldn't have taken it out on you -'
'It's okay, Beca,' you interrupt, grabbing Beca's fingers. 'I'm sorry too.'
She gives you a rather watery smile, and you wonder if she's been worried too.
You ask quietly, 'Do you think we can actually beat them?'
'Sure,' says Beca. When she sees your unimpressed face at this lackluster response, quickly backtracks. 'I mean, yeah, of course we will. It's gonna be hard, but we'll manage. We always do.' When she looks at you, for a moment it feels like when Beca was a freshman and you were trying to salvage what was left of the Bellas for what you thought would be the very last time. You'd sat in this position in Beca's old dorm room at 2am, wracking your brains for songs and the best way to transition between them. It had all felt so hopeless back then, just like it does now. But you pulled through, because of Beca.
You smile back.
Beca leans back into the headboard, settling in and skimming her fingers over the keyboard. 'So,' she says, any ideas?'
It feels nice to just sit with Beca and talk. Especially about music, which you haven't done one-on-one for a while. It was the thing that brought you together in the first place, but Beca is always so solitary when she is really getting into a mix that it's almost a privilege getting just getting to be near her while she does it.
As time passes you get closer, until you're cuddled up to her side, head tucked just into her shoulder. One leg is tangled haphazardly with hers, and you almost start to forget how the events of earlier sit heavy in your stomach. It's easy when you're joking around with Beca and throwing ideas back and forth.
Occasionally a silence will fall, however, when Beca's looking up a mix she did a few months ago on her Mac or trying to think through the best way to link two songs. And then you remember, and suddenly the sound of Beca's humming under her breath and the warmth of her cheek on the top of your head is unbearable.
You've felt jealous before. How could you not? Beca has been dating someone else for more than half of your friendship. But you got over that. Jesse is too likeable to be jealous of for too long, and besides, he's a guy. And Beca is straight. Totally, completely straight.
Or so you thought.
It's weird. Before now, it felt like you could almost (almost) put aside the romantic feelings when just being around Beca was so good, so fulfilling – it was enough to be her friend. That made it easier to stuff your feelings away into a box of "never going to happen" and just pretend that was all it was. It was okay that you pined over her for so long, because Beca was firmly into the "straight girl" category in your head. It was just a fact of life, like the sun rising in the morning: you loved (love) her, and that was all there was to it because you knew nothing would ever come of it.
Maybe you're overreacting. In fact, you're certain that you are. But you can't help the pang you feel thinking of how Beca looked at Kommissar, the same way you're certain you've looked at her before now. It was so out of the blue that it's made you wonder again - dusting off the "never going to happen" box and poring over it all over again for new developments.
The whole thing makes you jealous, definitely.
But it also makes you hope. Even though it shouldn't; even though you thought you squashed all of that out of yourself all over again. Because Beca is graduating and probably heading off to L.A. after this year, and you may never see her again. You don't know. You don't know anything.
'Chlo?' says Beca in your ear, and you realise she's been speaking for a few minutes and you didn't even notice.
She sits straighter, and you move with her to keep your head on her shoulder. 'I was just asking about the set, but it doesn't matter. Where were you just now? You've been acting so weird today,' she says, frowning at you.
'That's me – I'm weird,' you joke, but it just comes out as bitter.
Beca isn't fooled. 'Something wrong?'
'Nothing major,' is your immediate answer, even though you know Beca won't take it as one. So you go on to say, 'I'm just stressed. About DSM, and college, and…' You sigh. 'Other things.'
'Yeah, you and me both, Beale. You wanna talk about it?'
'I don't know,' you reply. 'Do you?'
'… Not really.'
You know she's keeping something from you. You're not a fool. You've seen and heard Beca on the phone to someone or other, and how she sneaks back in late at night when she thinks no one will notice. Something big is going on inside Beca – maybe lots of things, you have no idea – but she won't tell you. She's right next to you, but you feel like she's miles away.
'A-alright,' you say. As these thoughts have started creeping into your consciousness, you can't help the waver that keeps creeping into your voice, and Beca can't help but notice it.
And she asks. 'Are you sure you're okay?'
You can't lie to her. You've never been able to. The words just die up in your throat.
Beca shuts her laptop and puts it to the side, scooting to face you while you try your best to absorb all your attention in a loose thread in her bed sheet. You know your hands are shaking, and your breathing is getting laboured, but you pray for just a little of that patented Mitchell obliviousness just this once.
Of course, Beca always just seems to know when it comes to you.
'Chlo,' Beca says softly. She places a hand on your knee. 'What's going on?'
You look at her, and she gives you a tight but reassuring smile. Freshman-Beca never would have shown such open care about you, but Senior-Beca touches you easily. You brought that out of her – not Jesse, who still makes Beca scrunch up her nose in distaste when he wraps his arm around her in public or kisses her in front of the Bellas. Your friendship brought Beca out of her shell and helped her move forward with her life. Except now it feels like she's moving on without you; except Beca's been so distant this year, barely interested in the Bellas. It's like you don't even know her anymore. Everything feels like it's falling apart underneath you. You have no idea where your life is going anymore, or even if your best friend is going to be there by your side. Life without Beca feels unbearable, but it already feels like you're starting to live it.
And before you know it, you're suddenly starting to cry – and oh God, you hate yourself for it, because in all your years of friendship, not once has Beca ever known what to do when faced with a crying Chloe. True to form, when Beca sees the tears starting to form in your eyes and the sniffles start coming, her own eyes widen. 'Oh shit, Chlo, please don't cry.'
'I'm sorry,' you sob, trying to hold it back to no avail.
Beca jumps off the bed then and rushes out of the room, and for a moment you wonder if you've finally scared her away. But then she's back with a wad of toilet paper in her hands, which she unceremoniously shoves into your hands with a hasty, 'Here.'
You mumble your thanks, trying to stem the flow of your crying with the toilet paper. Unfortunately the tears are coming too thick and fast for this to do very much but provide something to hide your face in.
'Chlo…' Beca sounds physically pained just watching you. She rocks forward on her knees, wrapping her arms around you in one uncoordinated (but nothing compared to Beca's early hugs) movement. And she whispers into your ear, 'Dude, don't cry, you're going to make me start in a second.'
Oddly, you do want her to cry with you. You want Beca to tell you she's scared of losing you, the way you are for her. You want her to cry about the possibility of a future without you, like you've done many nights. If she cried too, maybe then at least you wouldn't feel so alone and terrified.
You don't know what makes you say it, but you do. It comes out in a messy rush of words that are almost incomprehensible, lost in Beca's hair. You'll wish later that it had, that you could pretend you said something else – anything else – than what petulant garbage fell out of your mouth at that moment. Yet you just felt like you needed to know: it had been in the back of your mind all night although you'd tried to ignore it.
For so long you'd thought Beca as straight. You'd accepted it. Not easily, mind you, but eventually you had. Except now she may well be having some kind of sexual awakening, and although it could just as easily be a phase (even though you know it isn't) it still hurts like hell to think of.
Because it wasn't because of you.
So you say it.
'Do you think she's prettier than me?'
There's silence, and then Beca stiffens in your arms.
It only takes that simple action to tell you that you've made a horrible, horrible decision.