Chloe figures she should probably be happier right now.
It's three weeks before her wedding. She's standing in a dressing room with Aubrey fawning over her, smiling a sad smile with a sad look in her eyes and Chloe wonders why she isn't happy.
It's all very nice, but something isn't right. Maybe it's the dresses? They're all very…poofy. Chloe doesn't really like dresses that take up that much space.
Yeah, it's probably the dresses.
(Or maybe it's all of this. Maybe it's him. Maybe she's overthinking things.)
Chloe watches herself in the mirror. Aubrey was adjusting the dress she's trying on but now she's standing still, looking at Chloe in the glass. She's back at it again with that sad look, and Chloe wants to ask about it but she doesn't.
Instead, she wonders if maybe Aubrey has heard from Beca recently. Because Chloe hasn't.
"Hey Aubrey?" Her voice is smaller than she'd like it to be. Her friend blinks out of her thoughts and turns away from the mirror to look properly at Chloe.
"Something wrong?" Aubrey's eyes are soft now, and the sad look is gone, replaced with concern. Chloe wonders why her first assumption is that something is wrong.
This is a happy day. Why would something be wrong? There's no room for the ache in her chest, or the nerves in her belly, or the wondering why Beca hasn't called in so long.
"Um, have you heard from Beca? I know she's been busy," Chloe's voice cracks, "but it's been months since the invitations were sent out and she still hasn't rsvp'd."
"Oh." Aubrey looks uncomfortable, and Chloe's heart breaks a little more because she knows what Aubrey's going to say next. "Well, she's not coming, Chlo."
"But it's my wedding. She's supposed to be my best friend, my - I don't know." There isn't a word that describes what Beca means to Chloe. "I need her to be here."
"I can talk to her again, but -"
"- You've spoken to her?" Chloe asks, and this is worse than the little crack in her heart. This is more like a chip breaking off. Aubrey tenses. Chloe's voice is shaky and her eyes are glassy, and so Aubrey takes her by the arm and sits her down.
Chloe has always assumed that it wasn't just her that Beca had cut out of her life.
"She's really busy right now, Chloe. She doesn't really have the time -"
"- No. Beca would've made time for me. Just like she would've made time to call or text or answer the phone. What did I do, Aubrey? Why won't she talk to me anymore?"
"She's healing, Chlo," Aubrey says gently, squeezing Chloe's hand. "She'll come around. Give her time to heal."
Chloe doesn't ask why Beca needs to heal. She wants to, but she keeps her mouth shut and powers through the rest of the day, even though it hurts.
Beca knows about the heavy amount of baggage she's been lugging around. And she's cold and bitter about it, feeling like atlas, carrying the weight of her world on her slumped shoulders.
She feels bad sometimes, about negative energy she drags around, rolling off her and scaring away anyone who considers breaking down her walls.
But then she remembers her dysfunctional family and her trust issues and her dead mother. She remembers her adhd, her depression and anxiety and anorexia, all of which led to a self-harm mess that never really went away and the two suicide attempts from her teenage years.
So yeah, her negative energy is somewhat justified, and she's perfectly content being bitter and heartless. (Isn't she?)
She thinks it probably started when her mom died, and her dad moved on to Sheila so fast it was like her mom had never existed.
She will always remember the late nights curled against her mother's chest, listening to her heartbeat and her whispered promises that everything was going to be okay. Beca resents her mother for making promises she couldn't keep.
Her mom died, and a part of Beca went with her. She watched them lower her mother into the ground. She wishes sometimes that she'd been cremated. That might've been easier. The coffin would've been empty.
She was only twelve, but she ended up in the hospital the morning after the funeral, a stomach full of heartbreak and her adhd pills.
(They took her off the pills after that. She couldn't be trusted with them anymore.)
She watched as her father forgot her mother and they moved halfway across the country and she lost all her friends and everything she'd ever known.
She realized that she had no control over her own life.
She wanted control. So she took it.
She started small. It was really easy to stop doing her chores and ignore her piling up homework. She lashed out at her father and Sheila. She refused to attend family game nights or do the dishes after dinner or watch movies on Saturday evenings with them.
Then she changed her wardrobe to fit her mood. Threw out all the color and traded it in for dark colors and long sleeves and ripped jeans.
She stopped eating shortly after. Not entirely; family dinners were something she just couldn't seem to get out of. But she skipped breakfast one morning, and the hunger in her belly felt good. Like, really good. So she skipped lunch. And she kept skipping, one meal at a time.
The easiest thing to control was her body. She stole the sharp scissors from the kitchen drawer and dragged it across her skin, watching in fascination as little bead of blood came through the cuts.
It wasn't enough, so she cut deeper.
(She went through a lot of bandaids before the cuts got big enough that they wouldn't cover them.)
Half a decade later, she meets the Bellas, and things get a little better. She's been clean for a while and she stays clean - until she doesn't. The relapses happen more and more and the pain feels better and better each time and the blood is so much more satisfying than she'd remembered.
And then she falls in love with Chloe Beale. Dazzling, unattainable, Chloe.
It happens sometime between singing in the showers and "I think we'll be really fast friends" and winning Nationals but she's scared so she runs off stage and kisses him instead because he likes her, and Chloe doesn't.
Beca had never really considered she could be gay before. Sure, she's never exactly enjoyed being with guys; their kisses are rough and the sex is beyond unsatisfying and she wants something a little softer than a hard chest and big hands.
So honestly, she should've known sooner.
She dates Jesse anyways. And if they feel more like friends who occasionally have boring sex, well that's okay, before she's never been a romantic person, so Jesse doesn't suspect that her heart isn't in it.
Hiding loving Chloe is not always easy. The red-head is so touchy-feely with everyone but especially her, which is both a blessing and a curse. It's so easy to let Chloe barrel past her walls and take up residence inside.
Chloe is the first constant in Beca's life since her mom died. Her presence is a comfort, and Beca can relax around her even when she's on guard, careful not to linger in her touches or get too close. She can't let Chloe realize just how much she means to her.
Even still, it's Chloe's hugs and cuddles and cheek kisses that help get Beca through college.
And then Beca grows up. She and Jesse split (mostly because she's in love with someone else and he can tell she doesn't love him like she should), and Beca gets a real job and watches the Bellas fall apart. They keep in contact, but it isn't the same.
But still, she has Chloe. Dazzling, unattainable, Chloe. Who is like the sun, and Beca is so covered in burns that she can't see clearly.
And then Chloe is gone. Beca watches her lips touch his, and she knows her time with Chloe is washing away.
She breaks down that night, stumbling away from the scene and collapsing on the concrete. She sobs into Aubrey's shoulder and scratches at her skin until her cuts open and bleed. Aubrey takes her back to the hotel with gentle hands and soft eyes.
She doesn't mention the cuts.
Instead she covers her arms with bandaids and wipes her tears and tells her to be strong. She tops it off with one of her father's weird sayings and tells Beca to heal.
So she tries. She cuts off all contact with Chloe. Cold turkey. It's the worst thing she's ever done.
She starts cutting again. It's not just the relapses, it's real, consistent, and she tells herself that she won't do it because she's not weak she's not weak she's not -
She breaks the blades out of her razor.
Maybe she is weak. Maybe she always will be. Maybe she just has no reasons to stay strong.
Her friends have pulled away and moved on and the love of her life has slipped through her fingers without ever really being there in the first place, and her mom is dead and her father and step-mother hate her.
Nobody has ever really stuck around.
And Beca is touch-starved and hungry for love and she's weak.
She tries to overdose on some of those over the counter pain meds. She swallows a handful before she is too tired to keep going, so she curls into herself on the couch and falls asleep.
She doesn't dream that night.
She wakes up. It's her third attempt at taking her life, and it's anticlimactic and pathetic. She gets up, and she goes to work.
Her work's been slipping. She takes too long to finish projects and her songs are getting more and more depressing and her boss is starting to look at her weirdly.
She comes home, and she doesn't eat. She hasn't eaten in days. Maybe she should starve herself to death. Maybe that would work.
(She's falling back into old habits. Her anorexia was never treated and never truly went away, and now it's back with a vengeance.)
Her apartment is a mess. The fridge is empty save for some stray bits of leftover takeout, and there are dishes in the sink when Beca hasn't even eaten recently, and she hasn't done laundry in a while.
There's a pile of tissues by the bed, soaked in dry blood. There are razor blades in the same condition on the bedside table.
Aubrey calls, and the first time Beca doesn't answer the phone.
When she finally answers the phone, she's only just gotten the invitation. She tells her she isn't coming. Asks her to hug Chloe and tell her congratulations and I'm happy for you.
Aubrey doesn't try to persuade her.
Not until a few months later, when she calls again as Beca is on the floor by the bed, staring at the small dot of red on the carpet. It's still wet.
She could get it out, if she's quick. She doesn't bother.
Beca is dragging thin lines across her wrist and down her arm towards her elbow. The lines get deeper and deeper and criss-cross over the old ones which are still healing and still red and raw.
She almost doesn't feel the pain. She's glad she does, though.
She's also glad when the phone rings. She's been alone for a while.
"Hello?" She croaks. (Her voice hurts. She hasn't spoken in the last few days. Her boss told her to go home, get some rest, and come back with a clear head and maybe a therapist. It seems people at work are starting to notice the circles under her eyes and the weight loss and the blood that sometimes seeps through her sleeves if her scabs open during the day.)
"Shit, Mitchell, you sound like death," Aubrey says, and Beca doesn't laugh. She feels like death, too.
"Why are you calling?" She asks. There's a pause. Beca almost hopes she just called to talk. She misses the Bellas.
"Please come. To the wedding. Chloe needs you there."
"Chloe hasn't needed me in a long time, Aubrey," Beca whispers. Her voice is scratchy.
She thinks (hopes) Aubrey will deny it. She doesn't. Instead, she says: "The Bellas all think you're dead or something,"
"I tried to be."
Beca hangs up. She won't go. Of course she won't go. Why on earth would she go?
The wedding is on a Saturday the next month, and Beca arrives on Friday. She misses the rehearsal dinner and the bachelorette party. She can't face them all yet. Not until it's absolutely necessary.
She's packed light. She only plans to be there for the weekend. Arrive the day before, leave the day after. In and out. Quick and painless.
She's packed her darkest shirts (in case her scabs open) and her longest sleeves (to hide the cuts a little too far up her wrists) and her baggiest clothes (to cover up the weight loss).
She doesn't tell anyone when she's arriving, or even that she's coming, so nobody picks her up at the airport. Just as planned. She books a room in a different hotel from the other guests. The room feels dreary. Everything is dreary, these days.
Beca showers off the feeling of the plane and pulls on some pajamas. It's still early, but she doesn't plan on going anywhere.
She calls Aubrey.
"I'm here," She says. There's a long pause.
"Really? I thought you weren't going to come. You didn't rsvp."
"I lost the invitation," Beca lies. It's been sitting on the table since last month, collecting dust. She never even opened it, but she couldn't bring herself to throw it away. She should've shredded it at work in the brand new paper shredder.
"'I'll see you tomorrow?" Aubrey asks, and Beca confirms it before she can pause to think better of it.
"Yeah. Text me the address?"
"Sure. And Beca? It'll be okay."
She hangs up the phone without saying goodbye.
Beca had figured black wouldn't be appropriate for a wedding (although this feels like it could be her funeral), so she brought a blue dress she's had since college.
(It's the color of Chloe's eyes. But that's not why she brought it, or bought it in the first place. Obviously. Whatever.)
It's long sleeves and lacy and just reaches her knees. She pins her bangs back and covers the bags under her eyes and she's ready to go.
It's a short cab ride to the church. Briefly, Beca remembers Chloe telling her, whispered late at night, that she would never want to marry in a church. She wanted to get married by the beach.
They're nowhere near the beach, here.
There's nobody waiting outside to greet her. She tries to be discreet as she heads inside, but she's found very quickly by a squealing Stacie and a stressed Aubrey.
The younger girl slams into Beca, who nearly falls over at the force of the hug. Aubrey stands back, watching the interaction with a sad expression that Beca doesn't let herself ponder on.
"We missed you so much, Beca!" Stacie grins, her breath hot and smelling like wine as she pulls back. She holds her friend at arms length and examines her. Beca is uncomfortable. She's only been here a few minutes and she's already been scrutinized. This was a bad idea.
"Beca?" Stacie says, and Beca has to strain to hear her voice over everyone else. "Are you okay?"
"I'm great, Stace," Beca lies, plastering on a smile and moving on to Aubrey. The blonde folds her into a hug, much more gentle than Stacie, like she's worried about breaking her. It's suffocating.
"Just breathe, Beca. You'll be fine," She says into Beca's ear. Ignoring her, Beca pulls away and crosses her arms over her stomach. She can't remember the last time she was hugged. It feels weird. All of this feels weird.
Her stomach hurts. Maybe it's because she hasn't eaten since Wednesday. Or it's nerves.
Coming here was a bad idea.
It's starting to get overwhelming, the way that Stacie and Aubrey are watching her like she's going to fall apart at any moment, and maybe they're right because she can't stop herself from stepping backwards a few steps, turning around, and running.
She doesn't make it very far.
She falls hard against the side of the church, bracing herself against the brick, and she presses the back of her hand against her mouth to fight the bile riding in her throat.
Her legs are shaking. She's so much weaker than she remembered. Sh can barely stay on her feet.
"Beca?" It's Aubrey. Fucking Aubrey, who got her into this mess.
"You don't look good," Aubrey continues, and Beca barks out a laugh and turns to face her.
"Yeah. You've lost weight."
"I haven't been eating much."
"I'm not hungry."
Aubrey sighs. Beca lets her shoulders sag, and she shakes her head and asks: "Why did you ask me to come? You know I'm not strong enough for this."
"Chloe isn't happy," Aubrey admits. "She's only marrying Chicago to make him - and her parents - happy. I was hoping you could - I don't know - do something. She won't listen to me."
Anger starts in Beca's toes and leaps upwards into her skull like a new flame. She's livid. Her eyes light up with anger and she hasn't felt this much emotion in so long, she's been so numb, and she almost sobs as it washes over her. She spits out the words she really doesn't want to say.
"You brought me here to stop her wedding? What the fuck, Aubrey?"
And great, now Stacie is out here, with Emily behind her and Cynthia Rose behind Emily.
"No, Aubrey. I came here because -" Beca's voice breaks a little "- because, I don't know , I thought, maybe, I could finally let her go. I could heal, get over her, or whatever.
"But I get here and you say you actually just want to use me to ruin her happiness - to stop her wedding ? You know how much Chloe means to me and you used that to get me here and that was a dick move. I'm not helping you, and I can't stay here. I'm gonna go drive off the road or something. I don't know. Whatever."
Beca blinks back tears and chokes in her sob and pulls out her phone to call a cab.
"Beca, please. I know you aren't in a good place right now, but -"
"- Right now?" Beca laughs humorlessly. "I've been a fucking mess my whole life, Aubrey. I've been wasting space for a long time, and I just, I can't do it anymore."
There's a quiet moment, and Beca lets the anger flood out of her.
People must've heard her yelling, because there's a few of the Bellas trying to usher a small crowd back into the church. Great. Humiliation crests in Beca's lungs.
She wishes she'd taken more pills that night. She wishes she hadn't woken up.
"I don't think you're a waste of space."
"With all due respect, Aubrey -" Beca freezes. That wasn't Aubrey's voice.
That was a softer voice, sweet like honey but sounding sad like a raincloud even though Beca's supposed to be the raincloud in their friendship because Chloe is the sun.
She doesn't move. She imagines Chloe standing behind her, wringing her hands, dressed in her wedding gown, looking like a sunrise (like a new day; a new beginning).
She imagines Chloe, and her soft red curls and her sparkling blue eyes and she wants to cry because she misses her so much and there's nothing she can do about it.
Beca doesn't move, doesn't even really breathe. Nobody speaks, although Beca knows that Aubrey is still here and she briefly thinks that she really hopes everyone else has been successfully pushes back inside.
She wishes she were alone. And that she had her adhd pills (she's been back on them for a few years), but it's been a while since she's picked up her prescription and she ran out ages ago. Overdosing on those had been painful, but easy.
Beca kind of wants to turn around just to see her, but she also wants to sink into the ground and wait for Chloe to walk away.
She doesn't want to (yes she does), but she turns around.
Chloe isn't dressed yet, but she looks beautiful in her sweatpants and a t-shirt that Beca thinks used to belong to her. Her hair is pulled back into a low bun, all neat and pretty without a hair out of place. Her face is bare, and her eyes are shiny.
Beca shivers. Is it cold out? (No.)
Chloe is looking at her with something in her eyes that Beca doesn't recognize, and she thinks to herself that maybe this isn't her best friend anymore. Chloe is different now. She's getting married. She's grown up. (But she's still Chloe, of course she is, and Beca still loves her a disgusting amount.)
"Beca?" Chloe whispers, tilting her head and dropping her hands to her sides. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. 'M fine," Beca lies. She figures Chloe can tell, figures anyone with eyes can probably tell, but whatever. She doesn't care much anymore.
Chloe looks sad though, and she seems to deflate a little more after Beca lies, and in a desperate attempt to fix it, Beca says: "I'm actually not that great right now, Chlo."
Maybe the truth will start to fix things. Maybe it'd be easier to let things break apart even more. Maybe everything should just stop. Maybe -
"I'm sorry, Beca."
What, what ? Beca is suddenly angry again, and she clenches her fists and takes a deep breath but her voice is still shaking as she says: "Why are you sorry? None of this shit is your fault."
Chloe shifts her weight. She's clearly nervous, and she won't meet Beca's gaze. Which is fine; Beca doesn't really want to look her in the eyes now anyway.
"Bec, I don't know what I did to make you hate me, but I promise I'm sorry and I would never hurt you on purpose. Please let me fix this," Chloe says, and she's whispering by the end of it and her lip is starting to quiver just a little and Beca feels a crushing amount of guilt slam down on her.
Chloe is hurting, and it's her fault. She always assumed Chloe would be fine if she left, and would eventually forget about her. (Everyone else always has. Beca leaves, and nobody gets hurt. Except her. She always gets hurt.)
Chloe tries to meet her eyes. Beca looks away.
"You didn't do this, Chloe. This is all on me, it's my fault."
"I don't believe you," Chloe whispers, like the words pain her to say. Her voice is soft but also hard in the early spring morning, which is warmer than Beca thinks it should be. "Maybe you could've walked away from someone else, but not this. Not us. We were special."
The past tense hurts.
"You just vanished. I came home and you were gone and you didn't even say goodbye. I never heard from you and you didn't answer the phone. You -" Chloe's voice cracks "- are so important to me Beca, and I needed you and you weren't there. Why?"
"Please don't ask me that," Beca says quietly, staring at her shoes.
"Why not," Chloe says, and it's not a question so much as a plea.
"Because if you ask, I will tell you, and I don't want you to know. Not today. Preferably not ever."
"Bec…" Chloe trails off. Her expression is one that Beca hasn't seen often on her friend's face, but can still recognize: heartbreak. It makes Beca's stomach churn.
She wants to throw up, but she hasn't eaten in days.
"We used to tell each other everything," Chloe whispers, and yeah, Beca really wants to throw up.
Trust me, Beca almost says. You don't want to know.
But Chloe has no reason to trust her anymore.
"Knowing would only hurt you," She says instead. She looks up, and Aubrey is gone, and Beca can't remember her leaving.
The only response she got was silence. Minutes tick by, and Beca is building up the courage to call that cab and get away from here when Chloe speaks up.
"I did look, you know." It's only when Beca furrows her brow that Chloe continues. "For you. I looked for you. I only stopped because you clearly didn't want me in your life anymore and I didn't want to be a nuisance. But then you show up here and I don't know what to think anymore."
Beca pokes her tongue into her cheek and bites on it hard.
"Aubrey made me come," She admits. Chloe's face hardens, and suddenly Beca wishes she'd kept her mouth shut. She keeps talking. "And I, uh, I wanted to see you. Just for a minute, I guess, to make sure you were happy. That's all I want."
As quickly as she'd hardened, Chloe softens. Her eyes lighten and she almost smiles.
"I'm trying to be," She says. "It isn't really working."
Deflating, Beca takes a shuffling step forward without really processing what she's doing. She's staring at the ground as she says: "I'm sorry. I guess I thought it would be best for both of us."
"In what universe would you leaving me be a good thing?" Chloe says, her voice reflecting her pained expression. She looks confused and sad and it breaks Beca a little and she wants to confess everything, from the messed up childhood to the relapses to the falling in love to the running away.
But she doesn't. Instead, she deflects, like she's always done.
"You should probably get back inside. The ceremony is starting soon and you aren't even dressed."
"I know what you're doing, Becs," The older girl scolds, her voice gentle like she's talking to a spooked animal. She comes closer in small steps. "Avoiding the question doesn't work with me. So please, tell me, why did you leave?"
Beca starts to talk without really thinking about it.
"Being around you was starting to really hurt. Aubrey told me to heal, and I tried. I thought maybe getting away from you would help, but it just made things worse."
"Beca…why would you - oh my god you're bleeding!"
Beca hadn't realized she'd started scratching at her arms through the fabric. She trips over herself trying to get away from the rapidly approaching red-head.
Chloe grabs her hand to stop her, jolting Beca into her chest. The younger girl yanks her hand free and stumbles backwards, but Chloe is faster.
Before Beca fully processes what's happening, Chloe's dragged her around the side of the building and pulled her down to sit on the grass. Beca's legs cross under her and she gently untangles their fingers to tuck her arm against her chest.
Maybe she's not thinking straight, or maybe she's just really tired , but when Chloe reaches out to take the hand back between both of hers, she lets her.
It's probably a really bad idea, but she lets Chloe roll up her sleeve with feather-like fingers. Beca watches the fabric drag up her arm, exposing pink scars and ugly open wounds and peeling scabs.
Shame crawls up Beca's throat and into her mouth and out of her lips.
"I'm sorry," She says.
She can't make herself look up at Chloe, who's still holding Beca's hand. The older girl doesn't cry, but she pulls Beca into a hug and ugh now Beca's crying. She hates crying. It's gross.
"Oh, Becs," Chloe murmurs against her shoulder, and Beca knows now that Chloe is crying after all, because she can feel her tears against her skin. She isn't sure how long they sit together, crying silently, and even though she's hurting, Beca has missed this. Not this, the crying and bleeding and hurting, but this, the soft touches of her best friend and the way Chole smells like sugar cookies and honey shampoo, and the warm feeling of home that comes when Chloe is near.
"Beca?" Chloe whispers at last, and Beca's heart sinks. She considers deflecting again, making another comment about the ceremony starting soon (which it probably is, and Chloe really should get back inside and get dressed), but she decides against it when Chloe meets her gaze with watery eyes and a broken smile.
"I've been doing it since I was a kid," Beca says slowly, testing the waters. Chloe doesn't say anything, but her soft eyes are encouraging. "I - uh - my mom died. When I was twelve. I tried to, um, overdose on my adhd meds after that."
Chloe is silent, but her fingers tighten around Beca's, and she drops her head onto the younger girl's shoulder. It feels so familiar, and Beca's heart constricts.
"I came home from the hospital and I felt all…fuzzy? Like the static on the radio; empty air. My dad moved onto Sheila within a few weeks and we uprooted to Georgia, and I lost…everything."
There's a long pause in which Beca takes in a few shaky breaths. Chloe doesn't say anything, doesn't push, and Beca pushes the next words out of her mouth.
"I was raised Methodist Christian, and I never really believed in God, but I wanted to believe in a Heaven so I could think that there was a place for my mom. I thought if Heaven was real, then maybe my mom could come get me and we could both go there together.
"I stopped believing in that really quick, and abandoned religion altogether. I spiraled from there, I guess," Beca finishes, whispering the last few words. She wants to be done, but she has so much more to say. She's never said any of these things out loud, and confessing to Chloe feels like the weight of her world is shifting a little, and maybe, she isn't carrying it alone anymore.
She knows it won't last. But maybe she can hold onto it for just a little longer.
"I felt like I didn't have any control, so I…tried to…change it, but my methods were kind of stupid."
"Coping isn't stupid, Beca," Chloe says softly, squeezing her fingers, and Beca falls a little more in love with her. And because objects in motion tend to stay in motion, she keeps falling, and faster as Chloe continues: "Everyone makes some bad decisions to try and stop from hurting. It's okay."
Beca bites at her lip. The blood on her arm is not so wet anymore, and she watches the trails darken as they dry.
"I stopped doing things when people asked. I stopped eating and I changed my clothes and cut my hair and I started…hurting myself. I was hospitalized one more time, when I was sixteen, because I tried to drown myself.
"I was in a psych ward for a few weeks, and they threatened me with a feeding tube so I started eating half-normally again. Things got kinda better. Then I went to college and I joined the Bellas and for a little while I forgot about being so fucked up."
An arm slips across Beca's back and wraps around until a warm hand is settled on her hip. Chloe breathes against Beca's shoulder, which is still damp from her tears.
"And then I went and screwed shit up again. I kissed Jesse -" Chloe tenses up a little "- because I was scared, and because he liked me and I guess I was settling. I knew I would never be enough - never be liked that way - by the person I really wanted, so I kinda gave up.
"And I guess I crashed. I started back up pretty slowly, relapsing here and there, skipping only some meals so nobody noticed. Then we broke up, and it was like I was slowly starting to breathe again. Us and Fat Amy were living together and it was great and it was probably the happiest I've ever been."
Just when Beca is considering what to say next, Chloe asks: "What changed?"
Beca hesitates. She's made up her mind.
"I can't tell you that, Chlo."
"Why not?" Chloe asks, and fuck , she sounds hurt.
"Because you deserve a happily ever after, and I won't take that from you. I don't want to ruin this special day anymore than I already have. Speaking of, you really should get in there, people are going to send out a search party soon -"
Beca swallows hard, and Chloe must be able to see her indecision, because she says: "This day was never going to be happy for me, Beca. You can't ruin it, I promise."
"You kissed Chicago."
"What?" Chloe's voice is a little strangled, and she sounds a little breathless as she says it.
"I chose that song for you," Beca almost whispers. "There's a lot of debate about it, but some people think that Freedom '90 is a, uh, coming out song? That's why I picked it. I didn't want my life to go by without ever telling you, even though I know you never returned my feelings, but I thought I'd sing it and maybe have enough leftover courage to tell you, but then you kissed him and I just - ran. Aubrey told me to get out, and heal, and I went about it all the wrong way."
Beca is still talking, but Chloe has glassy eyes and she's staring down at their hands.
"Things got really bad after that. I don't know if I've ever been that bad. I started really cutting again, I tried to overdose, and I've barely slept or eaten in months and I'm honestly surprised I'm still functioning, and now I'm here, and I've totally ruined your day and -"
"What feelings?" Chloe asks, sitting up straight as she cuts Beca off.
"You said, that, I never returned your feelings. What did you mean?"
"Please, Beca. I need to hear it."
Beca doesn't move. She doesn't say anything for a long time, and when she realizes that Chloe's still holding her hand she pulls away.
Cut your losses, Mitchell, She tells herself. Get as far away as possible. Don't look hurt. Don't cry. Again.
"I was in love with you. Am, in love with you. Probably always will be."
Beca doesn't know what she expected, maybe disgust or anger or pity, but instead she gets a smile. It's small, and weak, but it's there, and it shouldn't, but it breathes oxygen onto a little flame in Beca's chest and it sparks and shoots up into her throat.
Chloe is looking down at her lap when she speaks next, and her words are quiet enough that Beca has to be really listening to hear them.
"Maybe, that happy ending, that you say I deserve, could be…ours? I mean, if you want."
Beca isn't certain she's heard Chloe right, but she knows she has so -
"Don't say that, Chloe," Beca says, her voice hurt. "You're literally getting married today, it's not fair of you to drag me back here and get me to confess my darkest secrets and then give me hope like you aren't about to take it away. That's not fair."
Chloe's voice wobbles as she responds: "Beca…"
The way she says her name sounds like a prayer, like a whisper in the wind. It's said with love and sadness and something Beca doesn't recognize.
"I mean it," Beca says, trying to be firm but her resolve is wavering. "You kissed him, Chloe, and now you're marrying him. You don't have to say these things to make me feel better, or whatever it is you're doing. You're hurting me."
"If I could go back in time and not kiss him, I…actually probably wouldn't. I'm not sure if I can heal what I broke when I kissed him, but I'd like to. I don't want to have to turn back time to fix us."
Beca is quiet for a minute, and so Chloe keeps talking.
"If I'd known you loved me, I would've kissed you, Beca, not Chicago."
"Why?" Is all Beca trusts herself to choke out.
Chloe's eyes are oh so soft when Beca looks up at her, and she's smiling that little Chloe smile that Beca fell in love with.
"I thought that after seven years, if you were going to have feelings for me, it would've happened by then. So I kissed Chicago -"
"- I still think his name is stupid," Beca grumbles, and Chloe's quiet laugh is everything. Chloe is everything.
"I'm in love with you, Beca. I have been, and probably always will be," Chloe says softly, mirroring Beca's words from earlier.
"Can I -"
Chloe groans loudly, letting herself fall over backwards until her head hits the grass. Beca swallows her laugh and turns around.
"Damnit, Aubrey," Beca mutters. The blonde quirks her lips into a smirk.
"Did I interrupt something?"
"Nope," Chloe sighs, sitting back up and pulling herself to her feet. She offers a hand to help Beca up. "Just confessions of undying love. What did you need?"
"The ceremony is supposed to start in half an hour. If you're getting married today, you need to be getting ready, like, an hour ago."
"Oh," Chloe says in a strangled voice, and Beca lets her shoulders sag, and she prepares to say goodbye. There's a lump in her throat that feels suspiciously like resignation.
She closes her eyes and when she opens them, Aubrey is gone and Chloe is facing her, head tilted to the side as she watches Beca with a sad smile.
"I'm sorry," Chloe says. Beca breaks a little further.
"It's okay," She murmurs. "I understand. He's Chicago , your soon-to-be-husband. You love him. Go get married. Just, be happy, okay?"
Beca is looking at the ground when she finishes, and makes to walk away. Then there's a hand on her wrist pulling her back, and suddenly she's wrapped up in a tight hug, and Chloe is shaking against her.
"Chlo? What's wrong?" Beca whispers, pulling away enough to look her best friend in the eyes, searching them for an answer. Her baby blues are watery and sad.
"I'm not choosing him, Becs. I told you, it's you. It will always be you."
Something twists in Beca's stomach. Something like fear and hope at the same time.
"You aren't just saying that? Because I really would understand if you didn't -"
Beca's words abruptly stop and she lets out a muffled - "oh" - against Chloe's lips.
The red-head laughs softly, and they're both smiling to hard to properly kiss.
Bumping her forehead against Beca's, Chloe whispers: "I've missed you."
"I'm sorry," Beca breathes, and she always knew walking away from Chloe would be the hardest thing she would ever do, but she'd never thought it could hurt Chloe just as much. The feeling is overwhelming. "I'm so sorry."
"Hey, hey," Chloe says, slipping her arms around Beca's waist and pulling her back into a gentle hug. The smaller girl folds herself under Chloe's chin and curls her fingers into the fabric of Chloe's tee. "It's okay. It hurts now, but it'll be okay."
Chloe pauses, and the soft pads of her thumbs swipe across Beca's cheeks, and oh, Beca hadn't noticed she'd started crying again.
"I won't marry him. We'll go home, and we'll heal, okay? Together. It'll all be okay."
"You're sure? I'm a mess, Chlo. I'm depressed and anorexic and and covered in scars that probably won't ever go away, and my trust issues are a whole other story -"
"-I'm sure. You are a beautiful soul, Beca, and I am not giving up on you."
Beca sobs, but it doesn't feel like it's coming from her mouth. She hears the sound but never felt it leave her lips.
What she feels are fingers laced with hers, breath warm against her ear, arms holding her broken pieces together, and a beating heart starting hers back up again.
It's Chloe. Dazzling, maybe attainable, Chloe. It will always be Chloe.
"I love you, Chloe, so much," Beca chokes out. She's not crying anymore, but Chloe is, and Beca struggles to find the words for what she wants to say next. "I just…I need you to know, I was always going to come back. I was never going to leave forever. I just wanted my feelings to stop."
"It's okay," Chloe says, wiping away her tears and leaning down to press her lips against Beca's forehead. Beca shuffles into her touch, and wonders how she could possibly deserve this kind soul's love.
"It's not okay, I hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you."
"I hurt you too, so…call it even?" Chloe says, her eyes sparkling. Beca laughs breathily, but she nods a few times and wipes the remainders of her tears from her eyes and cheeks.
"Come on," Chloe says, her blue eyes a little brighter. She gives Beca's hand a gentle tug. "Let's go."
"Where?" Beca asks, letting Chloe lead her back towards the front of the church. Her heart crashes into the bottom of her stomach when she sees Aubrey standing on the sidewalk with Chicago standing by her side.
Beca attempts to unravel her fingers from Chloe's, but the older girl tightens her grip and Beca gives up. She glances up at her, to see Chloe with determination in her eyes, looking bravely at Chicago.
"Chicago?" She says as they stop before him, and Beca shuffles a little closer to Chloe as Chicago stares at her. She swallows hard, puts her walls back up, and stands up straight.
She ignores her shaky inhale, and glances over at Aubrey. The blonde gives her a smile and a short nod, and Beca rolls her shoulders back and pulls on her protective badass cover.
"What's going on, Chloe?" Chicago says, his eyes confused.
"I thought I'd bring him out here so you guys wouldn't have to walk through everybody," Aubrey explains. Beca hadn't thought of that, and suddenly she's so grateful for the girl who once hated her. "I'll leave you guys to talk."
"Thanks, Aubrey," Beca says softly as the blonde passes by her with a gentle brush of her hand on Beca's shoulder. She meets Beca's eyes for a brief moment, and nods imperceptibly.
When Aubrey has slipped back into the church, Chicago turns back to Chloe, and asks: "What are you doing out here? The ceremony starts really soon."
Beca can tell that Chloe needs a bit of courage, so she squeezes her hand three times and smiles when Chloe glances down at her. The red-head straightens her shoulders, steeling her gaze, and squeezing Beca's hand back, three times.
"I can't marry you today, Chicago," She says, and Beca knows that was hard for her, and she's so proud. Chloe has always wanted to make everyone happy, but she can't here.
"Alright, I guess we can reschedule. I mean, everyone is already here and everything is paid for, so I don't think this is a good idea, but if you need some time that's okay," He says, but he shoots Beca a look that says he blames her for this. Beca wants to shrink back, but she holds her ground and clenches her jaw and stares back at him.
"No, Chicago," Chloe says gently. She looks so uncomfortable. "I can't marry you, at all."
There's a pause during which the man furrows his brow and seems to realize something. His lip curls a little, and he sets his gaze on Beca, but he speaks at Chloe.
"You're cheating on me. With her ."
"Chicago -" Chloe starts, her voice almost desperate.
"No, Chloe. I always knew she liked you, but I thought it wouldn't be an issue anymore when she disappeared. I was worried she'd show up when you insisted on inviting her here, but then she never responded so I thought everything would be okay. But she came anyway, and I don't know what she said to you, but -"
"- Please stop." At Chloe's voice, he falters, but he keeps going.
"Come on, Chloe, you aren't even gay. She's brainwashed you or something."
"You're right," Chloe starts, and Beca tenses up. "I'm not gay. But I am bisexual."
"You didn't tell me that," Chicago says, his voice low like he's fighting back anger.
"You didn't ask," Chloe shrugs. "In fact, you never really asked much. Do you even know me?"
"Of course I know you!" The man protests.
"What's my favorite color?" Chloe asks quietly, glancing down at hers and Beca's joined hands. Chicago hesitates.
"Blue," He says decidedly.
"Yellow," Beca says, her voice soft but sure.
"She's right." Chloe gestures to Beca with a jerk of her head in the smaller girl's direction.
"Our engagement," Chicago says solidly, and he sounds so certain and hopeful that Beca almost feels bad for him. But not quite. That was a really stupid answer. Everyone who knows Chloe knows that the Bellas mean the world to her.
"Sitting around the campfire with the Bellas at Aubrey's retreat," She interrupts. "We were singing the song I auditioned with, When I'm Gone ."
"What does this even prove?" Chicago says, huffing a little. "She's known you for most of a decade, I've only known you for about eight months."
"It shouldn't take you most of a decade to learn those basic things about me. I've known you for eight months , Chicago. I've been falling in love with Beca for eight years ."
There's a long pause. Beca's heart is screaming, and she clenches her hand down on Chloe's.
"Let me get this straight," Chicago starts, and oh boy, Beca can tell this isn't going to go well. "Not only are you cheating on me, but you're a dyke."
Beca growls low in her throat and before she realizes what she's doing, she's launched herself at him, and Chloe is grabbing at her arms and holding her back.
"That's right, Chloe," Chicago smirks. "Control your guard dog."
Chloe's arms loosen, and she lets go of Beca, who lunges at Chicago. Her left hand closes into a fist and hits him solidly in the jaw.
Chloe's fingers ghost over the bruising skin on Beca's knuckles, She flexes them slowly before Chloe sets the ice pack down over her hand and presses it onto the swollen area. Beca hisses in pain.
"That was stupid, you know," Chloe murmurs.
They're sitting on the floor of Beca's hotel room. Chloe had called a cab and they'd gone to the drugstore, picking up an ice pack and some bandages. Chloe had wrapped Beca's arm delicately, wiping away the blood with a wet tissue and wrapping the gauze tight.
"I know," Beca replies.
"I mean it was stupid, but also kinda amazing. And hot, not gonna lie."
Beca's soft laugh makes Chloe smile widely.
Beca's chest hurts. She missed this.
"Beca? Stop thinking so hard," Chloe whispers, reaching over to tuck Beca's hair back behind her ears. Beca snaps out of it, her gaze meeting Chloe's, and the ache in her chest doesn't hurt as much.
"I love you," She says.
"I love you too, you big softie," Chloe says, her eyes sparkling.
"Hey! I'm not a softie, I'm a total badass," Bec says indignantly, and all of a sudden Chloe is up close, her nose brushing Beca's, and she whispers softly, her breath warm against Beca's lips.
"Well then, would this total badass let me kiss her?"
Beca reaches out, grabbing onto Chloe's shirt around her hips and pulling her close, tipping her head up to meet Chloe halfway.
It's Chloe. Dazzling, in-love-with-her, Chloe. It's always Chloe.