Note: This fic is not inherently sad, but it's not a happy fic, either. It's a life fic, one that focuses on Beca's difficulties in coming to terms with her sexuality – which she will not label in this fic – as well as depicting struggles that she and Chloe go through in developing their relationship. Themes of guilt, shame, and self-hatred are discussed, as are depictions of homophobic attitudes and comments directed toward several characters. I chose to write it this way because these are real struggles and challenges faced by many in the LGBTQ+ community. I will place trigger warnings in chapters that are more intense or contain slurs and homophobic language. I hope that, by having these issues in fic form, we can explore the LGBTQ+ experience through Beca's eyes and find strength to face those struggles together, and eventually, be freed.

Thank you to everyone who has shown interest in and support for this fic, and a MASSIVE thanks to amlev/acabellas, because without her it wouldn't even exist. Stay litty, fam!

TW: Homophobic slurs/hate language

Beca's first crush is on Dylan Erickson. They're in kindergarten, and she likes him because he shares his Oreos with her at lunch. He's cute, with dark skin, brown curly hair, and chocolate-colored eyes, and he always swings with her outside at recess. He holds her hand on the way to the lunchroom and she likes the way that makes butterflies erupt in her tummy. She's pretty sure she loves him; at least, she gives him the "I love you" hand sign from across their kindergarten room every now and then.

Everything changes when a new girl, Melissa Simmons, joins their classroom following winter break. She looks a lot like Beca, with brown hair and dark blue eyes, and Beca doesn't miss the double-take Dylan does when he first sees her. It makes Beca angry, and when Melissa smiles right back at Dylan, her blood boils.

Beca doesn't like Melissa.

But Dylan does. It isn't long before Dylan invites Melissa to play with him and Beca on the swings at recess. Beca tries to be a good sport about it, she really does, but the little smirk adorning Melissa's face as Dylan pushes her on the swings tells Beca everything she needs to know.

Once recess is done, it's time for them to head to lunch. Beca reaches out a hand to Dylan, expecting him to hold it like always, but he doesn't. Instead, he turns to Melissa, leaving Beca to trail behind as the three of them make their way to the lunch room. And Beca tries not to let it bother her when Dylan spends most of lunch time talking to Melissa instead of her, but when Dylan opens his pack of Oreos and hands one to Melissa, Beca sees red.

She stands and shoves Melissa off her chair and down to the gross floor of the lunchroom. She does it because she's in kindergarten and because she's pretty sure she loves Dylan, and nothing has ever felt better in her short life. She fully intends to continue to the fight, but then Melissa starts crying and the lunchtime supervisors all rush over, concern written across their faces, and Beca knows she's in trouble. Sure enough, before she can even blink, she's being sent to the principal's office, feeling Dylan's eyes on her back as she goes.

She's scolded, but only lightly; they are in kindergarten, and she hadn't done more than push Melissa. Her real punishment comes after, when she returns to her classroom – lunchtime is over by then – to see Melissa and Dylan sitting together at the same table, hand-in-hand and talking to each other like they're the only people in the room.

After school, Beca goes home utterly distraught at the apparent ending of her first relationship. Immediately after stepping off the school bus, she flings herself into her mom's arms. Her mom simply sinks down, wrapping her in a big hug as she cries and chokes out the story. She tells her mom everything, even how she pushed Melissa, needing to get it all out. Her mom only holds her tighter, her fingers running through Beca's hair as they sit on the curb outside their house.

When Beca is finally cried out, her mom pulls a Kleenex out of nowhere and helps Beca wipe her face. She tells Beca that it's okay to be sad, but that she can't let it make her sad forever. When she tells Beca that that kind of thing with Dylan and Melissa happens sometimes, and will probably happen in the future, Beca nearly bursts into tears all over again.

But then her mom says, "I'll always love you, no matter what," and Beca smiles, then screeches when her mom lunges forward to tickle her sides. They both fall to the ground laughing until the tickle attack ends and leaves them both straining for air against the grassy ground.

Later, sitting at their kitchen table between both her parents and eating her mom's homemade chicken noodle soup, Beca can't remember why she ever cared so much about Dylan Erickson.

Beca doesn't think much about boys for a little while, beyond the occasional realization that they have cooties and are generally covered in some form of dirt. It's not until she's in the 4th grade and Nick Walker moves to her school from Michigan that she finds herself thinking that not all boys are bad. Nick is blonde, blue-eyed, and incredibly athletic even for the 4th grade. He immediately becomes involved in every after-school sport Beca's relatively small school has to offer and already shows promise to become a high school sports star.

Pretty much every girl in Beca's grade and in the grade below are beside themselves over Nick Walker. If Beca's honest with herself, she doesn't really see why. Sure, he's cute, but the more Beca hears about Nick, the less she likes him. Beca's more of a reader than a runner, and Nick seems to only talk about sports, sports, and more sports.

She mostly admires Nick's looks from afar as he "dates" girl after girl in their grade. Her best friend Kelsey shows her a notebook of hers with "Mrs. Kelsey Walker" written in cursive all over the pages. She seems scandalized that Beca hasn't done the same. So, Beca tries it, but after her second "Mrs. Beca Walker" scrawled near the top of a page, she decides she's not really that invested and would prefer not to ruin a notebook.

When Beca's in 7th grade, she finally gets her period a week before she turns 13. It feels like everyone else had gotten theirs much, much sooner; Alexis McMahon certainly had. At 13, Alexis looks like a 16- or 17-year-old and is the talk of the school. She's blonde, tall, and very pretty, with curves and stylish tops and skirts that make Beca's hoodies and jeans look like trash bags.

It's no secret that all the boys like her and that most of the girls are jealous of her. Beca wonders sometimes if she's jealous of Alexis, too; she certainly spends more time than totally necessary thinking about her and looking at her. It's hard not to, when she has three of her classes with Alexis, one of which is gym class.

Kelsey, still her best friend, is in gym with her too, which is fun. They're on the soccer unit right now, and Beca loves playing on offense with Alexis and Kelsey. Mostly, she likes to watch Alexis, but she also likes to show off a little; she's pretty good at soccer, and she's filled with pride when, during one particularly good play, she gets the assist when she passes the ball to Alexis, who scores a goal.

Alexis smiles at her, nodding happily, and it makes Beca's chest feel kind of funny and fluttery. She keeps staring at Alexis, even after Alexis turns away to reset in the middle of the field. She doesn't even realize she's doing it until Kelsey steps up beside her and hisses, "Careful Beca, someone's gonna think you're lesbo."

Kelsey's words sting and Beca flinches away. She doesn't really understand what Kelsey means, but she knows enough not to want to be called that in front of everyone else. And especially not in front of Alexis. So Beca shakes her head, laughs, and brushes it off, not quite meeting Kelsey's eyes.

She lets her friendship with Kelsey fade gradually after that without really acknowledging – even to herself – why exactly. She starts to withdraw, not letting herself stare at anyone she finds attractive, boy or girl. She doesn't want people to assume anything, even though she's not a "lesbo" at all.

Beca doesn't let her eyes linger on Alexis again.

Beca's parents divorce when she's 14. On the day her mom kicks her dad out of the house for cheating on her with one of his TAs, Beca blasts her music at full volume through her earbuds. It's the first time she uses music to drown out the sound of her thoughts.

She'd liked to spend time with her dad; he'd spontaneously take her to get ice cream with a wink and a "don't tell Mom," (which seems ironic now, considering it turned out there were lots of things he didn't tell her mom) and whenever she couldn't sleep, he used to sit on the floor next to her bed and hum "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles until she finally drifted off.

But as she watches Warren – that's what she decides to call him from now on, now that he's undeserving of the "dad" title – walk down the driveway and out of her and her mom's lives, Beca shoves those good memories and warm feelings of her father away and locks them in a tiny box where they can't hurt her. A strange hollow ache replaces those feelings, opening in her chest and startling her with its emptiness.

As Warren gets into his car and pulls away, Beca's mom glances over at her, eyebrows drawn together. Beca tries hard to school her expression but knows she didn't quite fake it well enough when her mom pulls her into a hug and whispers, directly into her ear, "I'll always love you, no matter what." Beca focuses on the warm arms wrapped around her, the only secure thing in her life in that moment.

Later that year, the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes out. Beca and her mom go to the opening weekend together, both dressed in Hogwarts robes (Gryffindor, of course) her mom had found at a secondhand store. Beca's sure they're both feeling Warren's absence, but they don't talk about it. Instead, Beca loses herself in the excitement of the crowd at the theater and spends her time surveying others' costumes. She's not sure if she's more excited for the movie or if her mom is; she hasn't seen her mom smile this much since Warren left.

The theater is crowded and she ends up squished between her mom and an older teenage girl. The girl has an annoying tendency to giggle and fan herself whenever Daniel Radcliffe comes on screen – which is a lot. While he may be kind of cute in the right lighting, Beca finds herself more focused on Emma Watson than anyone else. Hermione is definitely her favorite character.

Beca doesn't see Warren on her 15th birthday. There's a rumor floating around that he's stopped seeing his TA and started dating someone more age-appropriate. It doesn't matter to Beca, though. She takes the $50 out of the card he mails her and then throws the actual card in the recycling without reading it. Her mom doesn't say anything, though Beca knows she sees the card in the bin. The double-chocolate cake she makes for Beca is massive that year.

At 15, she gets her first kiss from Drew Metrie under the bleachers at the homecoming football game.

They were sort of dating, she supposes. At least, he'd asked her to homecoming three days prior. The short notice had been annoying, but thankfully, her mom was able to take her to the mall in time for them to find a blue dress that mostly matched her eyes.

The football game is the night before the dance. Beca hadn't been planning on going to the game, but Drew had insisted. At the game, they sit awkwardly on the bleachers with several of his other friends and their dates. Everyone seems to know each other really well; they talk through most of the game, Drew becoming involved in a heated discussion about… something (Beca doesn't know or really care), which leaves her to stare at the field in front of her in quiet boredom. She's pretty sure Drew had forgotten she's even there. That is, until the third quarter, when he turns suddenly and grabs her hand to lead her down and behind the bleachers.

The kiss is good, she supposes. She doesn't have anything to compare it to, but it's still nice. Drew keeps his tongue in his mouth – thankfully – and cups her face gently with his hands. She loops her arms around his waist, and is actually kind of disappointed when he pulls away first.

He smiles at her shyly before they return to his friends on the bleachers. He keeps talking to them, leaving her sitting on the end of the group, but she doesn't really mind. Her lips – actually her whole body – feel warm and a little tingly for the rest of the game. She does really like Drew Metrie, even though they don't talk much.

The next night, Drew drives to her house to pick her up for the dance. Her mom insists on taking way too many photos of her and Drew, who's wearing a suit that's a little too big for him. The tie matches her dress, though, which is unexpected. Drew helps her down the front steps of her house, even though her heels aren't that high, and he opens his passenger car door for her, helping her climb inside.

The dance is surprisingly fun, considering it's being held in their high school's gymnasium. They dance together and with groups of their friends. It's really more jumping up and down than dancing, but Beca prefers it that way. The few slow dances that the DJ does play are a little awkward; she and Drew just stand and revolve slowly on the spot. He kisses her again at the end of the last slow song of the night, and again, she finds herself liking it more than she'd expected to.

After homecoming weekend, though, nothing really comes of it. She sees Drew in the hallways sometimes and they always greet each other with a smile and a wave, but nothing more. They only hang out one more time, grabbing dinner one Friday at a local pizza joint, but it's pretty obvious it's just as friends. They stay in touch and text occasionally, but that's it. He doesn't kiss her again.

Just three days after Beca turns 16 and get her driver's license, her mom dies in a car accident. Everyone knows you're not supposed to swerve for animals; it's one of the first things Beca learned in her driving classes. Yet, witnesses to the accident said that's exactly what Beca's mom did when a family of ducks tried crossing the highway in front of her.

It's the worst day of Beca's life.

The day of the funeral is a close second, though. She hates having to stand there as scores of people file past, telling her how sorry they are. She gets tired of hearing it after a while and does her best to tune it all out by thinking of music she likes, interwoven with her mom's voice whispering in her ear, "I'll always love you, no matter what."

The realization that she'll never hear her mom's voice again makes her mentally blast her favorite music as loud as she can, trying desperately to fill that hollow ache tearing through her chest, reappeared and renewed, a thousand times worse than when Warren left them. She's not sure this ache will ever ease.

She moves to live with Warren and his new wife of less than six months, Sheila. They're only half an hour away, so she doesn't have to switch schools. Not that that really matters; she withdraws from people after the accident. She blocks everyone out, telling herself she doesn't care when even the friends she'd been closest to eventually give up on her. With her earbuds in and at full volume almost constantly, she builds a wall between herself and everyone else, using music as a crutch.

Living with Warren again is difficult. It makes her angry, and it also makes her sad because it reminds her of how it used to be. She hates seeing how affectionate he is with Shelia when she so clearly remembers how he used to be like that with her mom.

Sheila "the step-monster" is truly unpleasant. She doesn't try to hide how much she resents that Beca had come to live with them. She never says anything in front of Warren, but the glares she often sends Beca's way are clear enough indication. Beca tries not to let it bother her; the feeling is mutual.

Beca's with Warren and Sheila, trailing beside them in the mall one day when two men holding hands, clearly in a relationship, exit a store ahead of them. The sight makes Beca feel wistful for some reason, but makes Warren's expression harden and Sheila's mouth twist. Glaring, Sheila mutters something that Beca doesn't fully hear, but she makes out the words "perverted," and "in public." She then asks, more loudly, which of the men is the "woman in the relationship."

It makes Warren glance quickly at Beca and away before laughing once. Beca frowns at the tiled floor ahead of her; she doesn't see humor anything Sheila said.

During her junior year of high school, Alicia Harrison – a girl in Beca's grade – comes out as bisexual. She's teased mercilessly by her peers, many of whom imply she's sleeping with the entire student body. Others say she's doing it for attention and that bisexuality isn't real. Beca never joins in on the teasing, but she doesn't stop it when she sees it happening, either.

She makes sure to never mention Alicia in front of Warren or Sheila.

Beca's 17 and a senior when she meets Carrie Lawson.

It's only Beca's second day of work at the music store in the mall, but she already hates it. Her boss is an overweight, middle-aged man who always has some sort of stain on his shirt. His eyes linger too long on her recently-developed chest for her comfort, but she really needs the money. She isn't sure what she expected – it's not like she could make her mixes while on the job – but spending all day trying to sell CDs to people is somehow worse than she thought it would be.

She's already been yelled at by two different customers for being too slow on the register, still needs to learn the layout of the store and merchandise, and has had to restock shelves of Justin Bieber three times already, which, ew. People need to learn what real music is.

The only bright spot in her work life is her coworker, Carrie. Carrie goes to the neighboring town's high school, which is why they haven't met before. Beca would certainly remember if they had; Carrie is even shorter than her, blue-eyed, sandy-haired, and very pretty. She's also incredibly funny, kind, and just as into music as Beca is.

They bond quickly over how creepy their boss is and how crappy everyone else's music taste is. As they get to know each other over the days and weeks, Beca learns that Carrie lost her mom about three years ago to cancer. They bond over that, too. Carrie is easy to talk to; so easy that she becomes the only person Beca opens up to. They text almost constantly and eventually start to spend time together outside of work, too.

Carrie begins to hug her a lot, sometimes even coming up from behind her while she's at the register and wrapping her arms around her waist and pressing close to her back. Sometimes Carrie will brush her fingertips along Beca's arm or across her lower back. Beca's surprised to realize how much she likes the affection; she can't remember the last time she let someone hug her. At her mom's funeral, maybe? It's not like she lets Warren or Sheila touch her, and she's driven away her friends. It's been a long time since someone touched Beca, and she's missed it.

She tries not to overthink it.

But then, suddenly, it's all she can think about.

She misses Carrie's touch, Carrie's presence, Carrie's voice, Carrie's perfume. She misses her friend, even when they only go hours or a few short days without seeing each other between work shifts. Carrie calls her "my little DJ," and that makes Beca's chest feel funny. Carrie touches her more and more, texts her more and more, sends her heart emojis more often than Beca would have tolerated from anyone else. Once, Carrie steps up behind her and brushes her lips to Beca's cheek, leaving a burning imprint before spinning away with a laugh.

They're not dating. They don't talk about it. It's just a thing.

Until it isn't anymore. Carrie doesn't show up for work one night, and she doesn't reply to Beca's texts. When she still doesn't reply hours later, Beca calls, only for it to go to voicemail. When Beca becomes truly desperate, she tries Facebook, then email, only to get silence in return.

It's not until almost a week later – a week filled with fear and stomach-churning anxiety – that Beca's boss bothers to tell her that Carrie had quit. Her parents had heard rumors of Carrie having a girlfriend at her high school and had shipped Carrie away to live with her religious grandmother, without access to her phone or the Internet. Lip curling with mirth as he tells the story, Beca's boss growls, "Good riddance. Don't need a dirty dyke in my store."

The words hit Beca like a truck. She has to hold onto the register for support as the words sink in. The idea that Carrie's absence is due to her having a – a girlfriend sends the room spinning. It's only made worse by the realization that she's more than a little jealous of this girlfriend.

The thought makes something ugly and unbidden rise within her, something she doesn't want to address now or ever. Beca instantly shuts down that line of thought before it can really form, locking it behind a cement wall where it presses and strains to be freed, but she keeps it restrained. The touches hadn't meant anything. They had been brought on by emotional vulnerability and shared trauma. They'd been emotionally close; surely it was just natural for them to be physically close? It doesn't mean anything beyond that.

She isn't into girls. She isn't bisexual. She's certainly not lesbian. Even the word – so often sexualized or ostracized – feels dirty to her. What she feels for Carrie isn't gay; they were just good friends. Beca tells herself that over and over again until she believes it, until she's almost convinced herself. She's straight. That's all there is to it. She shoves Carrie forcibly from her mind, locking her into a little box of her own.

She quits her job a few days later. It doesn't matter anyway, not when she's graduating so soon and moving to LA (assuming Warren gets over his college kick).

Through sheer force of will, she maintains that she is straight as an arrow and that Carrie – whatever that whole thing had even been – was just a fluke.

Then, at 18, against her will and recovering from her past wounds, Beca meets Chloe Beale.