Alright, Stoners. This is it! The last chapter of this wonderful journey you've taken with us. I'm going to save any spiels for the end, so enjoy!
I hope that days pass easy and the moments pass slow
And each road leads you where you want to go
And if you're faced with a choice and you have to choose
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you
And if one door opens to another door closed
I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window
And if it's cold outside
Show the world the warmth of your smile
But more than anything
More than anything
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you're out there gettin' where you're getting' to
I hope you know that somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah this is my wish
Beca Mitchell sat amongst her counterparts in the black robes of Barden commencement. Her graduation cap was perched jauntily atop her head, the green and gold tassel hanging from the right side. Two days ago, Beca Mitchell became the proud recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree with her major in Philosophy and a minor in Business Administration. The degree itself had been conferred on her once the semester had ended; the ceremony was just a formality at this point.
Still, the accomplishment filled her with a sense of pride. She had labored through four years of education, over a hundred credit hours to earn her degree. The cord adorning her robe signified her graduation with honors and told of the effort she put in the long hours of toiling academia. It wasn't easy juggling work with school, but she did it. And now that cord meant just as much to her as the many platinum tracks and albums she had produced on the side.
Most importantly, she had fulfilled her promise to her mother. Not only did she fulfill that promise, but she had further solidified Molly Mitchell-Landry's desire for her only child's future. A long time ago, back when life was simpler and less star studded, Beca had cried when she realized she didn't know what to get her mother for her birthday. Molly, ever patient, had said in that supremely comforting Mom Voice of hers that she really didn't need anything as long as Beca was happy and healthy. Molly had said that when she blew out her candles, she only wished for one thing, and it was the same thing she wished for every year: that Beca's life became everything that she ever dreamed of.
As she grew older, looking back on her mother's entreaty, Beca could honestly say she had succeeded. Her life had become everything she had ever dreamed of. If she were to die this very moment, she wouldn't have a single regret – well, maybe just that she didn't have a lot of time with Chloe.
She thought back to the past four years that she spent at Barden and how they brought her to this point. It had been an interesting journey – so not what she had expected that very first day when she trudged onto campus full of latent resentment and antipathy towards a father who had just upended her life. Just as her mother predicted – just as Art had predicted – her time in college had given her something beyond the education. She remembered Art alluding to the notion when they had discussed her enrollment to Barden. At the time, she had dismissed the idea, but maybe her mother had pushed for college because she knew something back then when the idea was first presented. Maybe Art knew something too. Hell, maybe her father was even in on the conspiracy.
Regardless of the reasons why her parents – all three of them – were insistent on her advancing her education, Beca knew these last four years had become something she had never imagined, and she had enjoyed every minute of it.
Sitting amongst her peers, Beca thought back to the end of her first year, one that culminated in Aubrey and Chloe's graduation. That year was the beginning of everything; the first steps towards really cultivating the relationships that had shaped her time at Barden. But at the same time, Beca was also faced with the reality of college as well.
Every year, another class graduated, which meant people left. College was only the stepping stone for most people; a means to an end. But it was a testament to who was really invested in continuing relationships. There were people whom Beca never heard from again. That was fine. Perhaps their relationship was more on a superficial level. But there were other people who had continued to keep in touch, whether it was through texts or emails or social media. Those were the people she felt confident would be good friends beyond Barden. Those were the people like Aubrey, who despite their rough beginning had become one of her closest friends.
But still, she was hit with a hard reality at the end of that first year. It was difficult seeing people she cared about moving on. They had ingrained themselves in her life, their appearances had become such a part of the daily routine that the thought of their absence was hard to accept. She remembered that first taste of that revolving door reality at the end of her freshman year.
Beca looked around at the boxes that littered Chloe and Aubrey's apartment. She bit her lip, eyes taking in her surroundings. Evidence of Chloe and Aubrey's existence within the four walls of the girls' off-campus apartment had been neatly packed away into boxes, individually labeled and separated into "Chloe's Stuff" and "Aubrey's Stuff" as the two girls would eventually go their separate ways.
Chloe's things were haphazardly tossed into bins and boxes and would take a short trip to downtown Atlanta. Through her many contacts, Beca had called in a couple of favors and gotten them an apartment that placed them in Atlanta's downtown area. It was a perfect location, scant minutes away from Emory's medical school, just outside of the Barden campus, and right by many of the studios Beca liked to work from.
By contrast, Aubrey's things were packed tightly and labeled accordingly, ready to be shipped to New York where an apartment was ready for her right by Fordham's Lincoln Center campus as well as the law firm where she would be working as a legal assistant for the summer. It was in that moment, seeing all of Aubrey's stuff, that she truly understood just how far the blonde would be going. It was a bit disheartening.
Sighing to herself, Beca grabbed a box of things she had left at Chloe and Aubrey's during the course of the year and hiked it down to the truck to take it to their new apartment. As she closed the gate, turning back to the apartment building, Beca crossed the parking lot and found the group filing out, Chloe and Aubrey at the head. Chloe stopped before Beca and told her girlfriend that they were going to pick up some lunch to bring back while the rest of the guys ventured into the city to start moving some of the stuff. Nodding absently, Beca agreed to hang around and hold down the fort.
Making her way back up to the apartment, she poked her head in and found herself alone with Aubrey's father, Leland Posen. He was just as she pictured him to look. He wasn't a tall man, but he was imposing. Ramrod straight posture, not a single strand of his meticulously arranged silver hair out of place, and a steely glint to his hazel eyes. Even in his laid-back outfit of a gingham shirt fastidiously tucked into pressed jeans, a pair of casual Oxford loafers at his feet, there seemed to be an air of sophistication and elegance about him. And even in this informal setting, Beca could tell this image was just as meticulously crafted as everything else about him.
He looked pensive, hands on his hips, braced on the brown, leather belt looped through his jeans. She watched him, really taking him in. His relationship with Aubrey was painfully formal; Beca had caught onto that the moment Aubrey had introduced him. She remembered the moments they had together, lamenting over strained relationships with their fathers. Beca's had taken a step forward during the course of the school year, but Aubrey's had remained stagnant.
On the outside, Leland Posen was cold, aloof, keeping Aubrey at a distance, but there was something else lingering beneath the surface, like he was keeping himself away. It made Beca wonder why.
Aubrey was her friend. She admitted the fact without reservations, and Aubrey had been dogged in her mission to reunite Chloe and Beca. In reality, Aubrey was probably the only person who could have gotten through Beca's bull-headed, stubborn pride. Perhaps it was her turn to reciprocate. No one had the fortitude to challenge Leland Posen, that much was certain. But maybe, like how Aubrey fit her role, Beca was the one who could.
She entered the apartment, intent on engaging him in conversation. "Must feel kind of weird," Beca began. When he shot a glance her way, she continued. "Having Aubrey graduate then go straight to New York."
Leland's jaw ticked, and his mouth quirked. Beca supposed that was his facsimile of a smile. "She's simply following the plan," he commented. "This has been her life plan since she was in high school." He bobbed his head. "Well, almost. An Ivy league school was the original school of choice."
An eyebrow arched upward at his tone. "You don't want her to go to Fordham?"
"I want her to take no chances towards her success," Leland corrected gruffly. "New York has Cornell and Columbia, both liable options and both are sterling endorsements to any prospective employers."
Beca's head tilted. "It's not a bad school, you know."
"She's a Posen," Leland remarked simply. "She deserves the best."
The statement resonated, and Beca knew that it was time to assert herself in the conversation. Aubrey could yell at her later. "So…what?" Beca prompted. "You're not proud of her or something?"
Leland whirled, gaze narrowing to hazel slits. "Don't presume to know anything about my relationship with my daughter," he growled. "Of course I'm proud of her."
And there it was. He was unraveling. Men like that kept everything tight to the chest. But peel away the veneers and the facades, and they were just like anyone else: human. It was time to strip away Leland Posen and get to Aubrey's dad. Beca crossed her arms, merely gazing up at the man in front of her, completely unfazed by the display. "Mighty funny way of showing her."
Leland grunted, glancing away. He glowered at her, expression unreadable. "I don't see how this is your business."
Beca hitched her chin in defiance. "Of course it's my business," she remarked. "Aubrey is my friend, and I like seeing her happy. She's an amazing person who's persevered through a lot of hardship in her life." She leveled a pointed look to Leland. "Hardship that has primarily come from you."
Leland snorted, although he did deflate from his aggressive posture. "You wouldn't understand."
Beca shrugged. "If I shouldn't presume to know anything about your relationship with Aubrey, shouldn't you not presume what I would and wouldn't understand?"
Leland's gaze snapped back to Beca, and his head inclined in a silent 'Touché'. He sighed, seeing nothing but curious concern in her daughter's friend.
"I'm always proud of her," Leland repeated. "I push her as hard as I do because there's nothing else in my life more precious than Aubrey. I want her to be the best and never have to feel what it's like to be at the bottom and claw her way up. I've been there. It's not a good place to be."
Beca didn't speak, letting Aubrey's dad talk. She had a feeling he had never revealed all of this to his daughter.
"She's just like her mother," Leland murmured. "So beautiful and full of life and so determined. Annette would get that fire in her eyes too," he revealed. "When she wanted something with all of her heart, she would get that look Aubrey has. I see so much of Annette in Aubrey. I see parts of Annette, and I see a little of me, and…" Leland dropped his head, his jaw clenching, the pain evident in his features. He swallowed hard, his voice hardening, expressing the hurt that still lingered, even after all the years.
"…and I see how I failed Annette." He slowly shook his head. "I don't want to fail Aubrey."
Beca nodded. She could understand that, she supposed. A movement across the room caught her eye, and but she returned her attention to Aubrey's father. "Can I be straight with you, Mr. Posen?"
Leland eyed her closely but acquiesced with a short nod of his head.
"I didn't have a good relationship with my dad before I came to Barden," Beca offered. "We never understood each other and we thought we were too different to be able to. I thought my dad wasn't proud of me because I wasn't an academic like he was. Turns out, he was proud of me. He just didn't know what to say."
Leland pondered that for a while. His brow furrowed, and his expression became pensive. "I'm not sure I know how to convey that, either."
"That's what my dad thought too," Beca assured him. "Don't underestimate the power of verbal communication." She shrugged. "I didn't need an eloquent speech or anything. I just needed to hear the words. Aubrey's not a mind reader. She's not gonna know if you don't tell her."
Leland bristled slightly, and he seemed to steel himself; Beca could see where Aubrey got that impressive glare of hers. "I am proud of her," he stated strongly. "Aubrey is everything I ever wanted in a daughter. Even if she didn't have the success she does, I would still be proud of her. I would still love her and think the world of her. I just don't want her to settle for anything less than the best. She deserves nothing less than the best."
Beca glanced over his shoulder where Aubrey stood at the doorway, her mouth agape; she had heard everything.
"Good," Beca complimented. "I'm glad to know that." She reached out, laying a hand on the man's shoulder. "But I'm not the one that needs to hear it."
In the moment, she wasn't sure if it was truly a prudent decision to pursue that confrontation with Leland, despite the unintentional outcome of Aubrey witnessing his spontaneous outburst. But the next day, as the group celebrated graduation at Beca and Chloe's new apartment, Beca caught a glimpse of Aubrey's face after her father had pulled her out to the balcony and mustered up the courage to finally tell her how he felt. The rapture on Aubrey's features made it all worth it. She and Aubrey may have started their friendship on a combative note, but through the year, they had learned to appreciate the differences between them and cultivate a strong relationship.
In the end, Aubrey and Chloe had continued on with their lives. Sure, Chloe stayed in Atlanta, whereas Aubrey headed away to New York, but it wasn't the same. There was a bit of a void. Sometimes, Beca would almost halt in anticipation for Aubrey's ill-timed habit of entering a room while she and Chloe were engaged in their more amorous displays of affection.
That following fall, they held auditions for two new members of the Bellas, looking to replace Aubrey and Chloe. Seeing those girls in the spots where Aubrey and Chloe once stood was shocking and sobering at the same time.
People left, Beca found out. That was a given. But that didn't mean friendships had to end. Aubrey was a prime example of that, and Beca had countless others who had kept in contact even as they had departed the Barden campus for greener pastures. It was a sobering feeling that these people would only touch her life for brief moments, but she knew that the ones that stayed were the ones that truly meant something.
As she thought of the former Bellas, Beca could help but smile. She knew Chloe was out there in the crowd…somewhere. Beca was certain her girlfriend wouldn't miss today for the world. If she were to look around, she was sure she could spot that head of hair anywhere. Similarly, she knew Aubrey was in the stands as well, probably side-by-side with Jesse.
She shifted, trying to find the most comfortable position on the hard folding chair they had provided for the ceremony. One would think that if the administration forced them to sit for two hours outside in the heat, they would at least do the graduates the courtesy and provide comfortable seating. Her phone buzzed, and she drew it from the depths of her robe, looking down at the screen.
Beca stifled a chuckle. It figured Chloe would be able to see her from wherever she sat in the football stadium. She knew her girlfriend was bracketed amidst her family and Jules, and she wouldn't put it past Chloe that she and Art were passing a pair of binoculars between them trying to spot her amidst the graduates.
The keynote speaker – some local celebrity who was supposed to provide motivational wisdom to the graduates – continued to drone on and on. Not feeling any guilt whatsoever, Beca swiped her thumb across the screen to respond, typing out a quick message.
She could practically see Chloe roll her eyes.
YOU could have been the one speaking, you know.
Beca snorted. The administration had actually approached Beca to make the keynote speech stating that having a graduate who was also a celebrity deliver the address would probably be quite significant, but Beca had respectfully declined.
God, that would have been so embarrassing. Beca could barely handle the fact that some members of the press and media were probably staking out the graduation for the lucrative shot of her receiving her degree, she would hate for there to actually be video evidence of a speech.
Her phone buzzed again, and Beca glanced down to the screen.
It's almost over! I love you, and I'm so proud of you!
The message was punctuated with a flurry of emoji, including but not limited to multiple graphics conveying affection. The ridiculousness of the text made Beca smile, craning her head to try and catch a glimpse of her girlfriend.
They had lasted. To her immense surprise, she and Chloe had weathered all four years. Of course, it wasn't without problems, the biggest of which manifested itself Beca's second year of Barden and Chloe's first of Emory.
Beca huddled on her couch.
She refused to acknowledge the leak she had sprung from her eyeballs had anything to do with emotions. Namely emotions of despair and sadness that normally caused this phenomenon. She refused to acknowledge that there seemed to be a void in her life. And that void was in the shape of a redhead who had stopped speaking to her six days ago. She refused to acknowledge that was probably the result of a misunderstanding. She refused to acknowledge that neither her nor Chloe was particularly wrong in this scenario; conversely, neither her nor Chloe were particularly right in this scenario.
But that didn't matter.
Beca Mitchell was stubborn in her perception of superiority in the situation. She was right, and that's all that mattered.
Never mind that she hadn't spoken to Chloe in almost a week. Never mind that the desolation encompassed her will to function as a normal human. Never mind that an ache resided in her heart that began when she woke up in the morning and only dissipated when she succumbed to sleep.
She was right…
Her head lolled upward as the door to her apartment opened and Jules, Jesse, and Stacie entered. The three stopped short as they gazed upon the lump on the couch.
Beca looked, quite frankly, miserable. Her hair was even more unkempt than usual, sticking out from the hood of the ratty, blue New York Giants sweatshirt Art had given her the first time he had taken her to a game, and she wore a pair of gray sweatpants that definitely looked like they had seen better days. She was slouched down, eyes bare from their usual adornment of dark eyeliner and unseeing as she stared aimlessly at the television blaring some asinine reality show she wouldn't be caught dead watching had she been at full mental capacity.
Jules spoke first. "Dude, you look like shit."
Beca snorted. "Shut up."
"Seriously, Bee Sting," Jesse piped up. "You've gotta pull yourself together. Just go to her and apologize. This is stupid."
Stacie didn't add anything, merely picking up one of the free cushions and whacking Beca over the head.
Beca's face was dumbstruck as she registered what Stacie had just done. "What the hell?"
Stacie, Jules, and Jesse looked between each other. Jesse shrugged, looking at the other women.
"This is an intervention," Jules stated plainly.
"Because we care about you and want to see you happy, we're gonna just say it," Jesse added.
"You're being a pussy," Jules cut in. "This is stupid, and you just need to cowboy up and stop putting yourself through this misery."
Beca rolled her eyes. "Guys, I appreciate the concern, but Chloe and I are in a fight. It's no big deal."
"Sure," Jules conceded. She gestured to Beca's form sprawled on her couch. "But Im' starting to think you're part of the upholstry That's a big deal."
"You don't mess with epic love, Bee Sting," Jesse remarked. "Everyone knows that. You guys are Rocky and Adrian."
"Doesn't Adrian die?" Beca deadpanned.
Jesse scowled. "That's not the point," he insisted. "We're talking the type of love that transcends all things. Even death. For your sake and Chloe's, you guys need to fix this."
Beca rolled her eyes, directing her gaze to Stacie. "And what do you have to say about this?"
The brunette merely brandished her purloined cushion.
Beca slouched, limbs splaying outwards in a clear gesture of frustration. "Well what the hell do you want me to do?" Beca grumbled. "Although it's clearly not my fault, Chloe's been giving me the silent treatment all week!"
Stacie brought the cushion down again, catching Beca upside the head. The DJ yelped, ducking instinctively.
She shot a glare to Stacie, retreating back to her petulant slump. Jesse sighed, exchanging glances with his co-conspirators.
"What exactly are you two fighting about anyway?" Jesse asked. "Is it even worth it?"
Beca's surged forward, her posture bristling as she readied her bluster. Her mouth opened.
Beca blinked, and an expression of uncertainty crossed her face. Stacie chose that moment to swing the cushion again, this time bopping Beca on top of her head. Beca bared her teeth, growling at the other Bella before the fight was drained from her, and she slumped back down.
Jules crossed her arms. "You don't remember, do you?"
"Or even if you do remember, it's probably pretty stupid, isn't it?" Jesse ventured.
Stacie spoke for the first time, but when she did, it was disturbingly profound. "Is your pride really more important than Chloe?"
Beca's eyes snapped to Stacie, her eyes wide with indignation. She paused, really mulling over the question. That was the quandary, wasn't it? She had been so obstinate in her belief Chloe was in the wrong. But was it really worth it? If possible, Beca deflated even more. "Of course not," she mumbled.
Jules nodded in satisfaction. "That's what we thought."
The trio rotated to the entrance to Beca's apartment, and Beca followed their eyes. The door to her apartment opened once again, and Chloe was frog-marched through, wedged in between Cynthia Rose and Fat Amy, the rest of the Bellas trailing behind.
They placed the redhead in front of the slouching DJ.
"Alright, we'll leave you guys to it."
Stacie lashed out one final time, catching Beca across the face, a potent warning. Beca snatched the cushion back, throwing it at Stacie's head, swearing retribution in the future. She stared resolutely at her lap, arms crossed firmly over her chest. She refused to be the first to seek eye contact, lest it be perceived as weakness.
While Beca couldn't pinpoint the exact reason of their fight, she definitely remembered the source of their argument. Since they had gotten together, they had never really fought. Minor squabbles, certainly, but nothing like the intensity of this current disagreement.
Therefore, Beca – and she was sure Chloe as well – was taken aback by the forcefulness of their fight as well as the suddenness it occurred.
Between Chloe's demanding med school curriculum and Beca's long hours on Kai Maxwell's new album, they had a difficult time arranging schedules to accommodate one another. Chloe wasn't used to sharing Beca's attention, and Beca found herself out of her element around Chloe's fellow med school scholars. What made the situation worse was that Beca had caught the attention of a painfully gorgeous intern that she had an easy connection with. Similarly, a grad assistant for one of Chloe's classes was a little too obvious in his attraction. Tempers had flared when yet another date had been cancelled, accusations had flown. They had both said things they probably shouldn't have, and the confrontation had ended with both of them storming away.
"Amy says you haven't been eating," Chloe murmured, looking down at the DJ.
Beca still didn't meet her eyes, shrugging nonchalantly. "I eat," she countered, waving a hand at the mess that scattered her coffee table.
"Red Bull and Doritos do not make a balanced diet," Chloe chastised lightly, taking in all the junk food littering the surface.
Beca snorted. "Whatever. Not like you care."
Chloe's eyes flashed anger "Don't be stupid, Beca, of course I care."
"Don't call me stupid, Chloe," Beca retorted, eyes finally snapping to the redhead. She paused, really taking in Chloe's appearance. While certainly not as disheveled and unkempt as Beca, Chloe wasn't her usual flawless self. The bags under her eyes and her haggard appearance spoke volumes to how she was handling their separation as well. Still, Beca stayed resolute.
"Six days not talking to a person isn't the shining beacon of care and concern, wouldn't you say?"
Chloe threw her arms in the air, her posture screaming her exasperation. "God, you are so stubborn!"
Beca slumped back into the cushions, arms still crossed petulantly. "Yeah, well, that makes the two of us."
"I never stopped caring, Beca," Chloe said softly, sinking down beside the DJ. "One fight doesn't make me fall out of love with you."
Beca's posture relaxed, and she sighed. "I know. It's why I've been so miserable." She offered out an apology. "I'm sorry."
Chloe nodded. "Me too."
"For the record, I wasn't flirting with the intern," Beca grumped.
"I believe you," Chloe assured her. "And I'm not interested in the grad assistant. Why would I settle for him when I have you?"
"Damn right," Beca grumbled, her face showing her displeasure. "I'm fuckin' awesome." She sighed, head lolling back against the couch. "Look, I know I'm not too good at this relationship stuff, but I swear I'm trying, Chlo."
Chloe smiled, tucking a strand of Beca's hair behind her ear. She leaned in, lips brushing against Beca's sweetly. The simple touch sent a shockwave rolling through her body, as though someone dropped the lever and lit her up like a neon sign. Beca grabbed Chloe's hips, moving the redhead to straddle her lap. She guided Chloe down to her lips, craning her neck forward as though the movement would deepen their connection. She groaned as Chloe took control of the kiss, her tongue invading Beca's mouth, insistently drawing Beca's passion from its depths.
She could easily lose herself in Chloe. Beautiful, effervescent Chloe. She remembered lounging around in the middle of the day and watching a marathon of Chloe's favorite television show. Castle was the title, she believed. She wasn't sure what prompted the memory, but there was one scene she never forgot during the many viewings of the various seasons. Castle's daughter asked him how to know when you're in love, a question Castle subsequently posed to Beckett. Beckett's response was blithe and succinct: "All the songs make sense."
At the time, Beca had scoffed at the notion.
Boy, was she wrong.
This was the sort of thing those sappy, contrite love ballads championed. And, yes, she finally got what they had all meant.
"Shit, Chloe." Beca grunted, burying her nose in Chloe's cleavage, tightening her arms around the redhead's waist. "I fuckin' missed you so much." She leaned back, eyes entreating her girlfriend. "I can't handle being away from you this long. We can't ever fight again."
Chloe laughed. "Oh, but we will," she remarked. "You're a stubborn pain-in-the-ass, and I can hold a grudge like no other. I'm sure we'll fight many times down the line."
Beca sighed. "Awesome. Then I see misery and despair in my future."
Chloe's chuckle deepened. "So dramatic," she teased. "I'm more than certain the amazing times will vastly outweigh the bad." She kissed Beca's forehead. "Don't worry, baby," Chloe murmured, framing Beca's face in reverent palms. "We're still trying to figure this out, and we will."
Beca smiled. "Yeah," she agreed. "We will."
Chloe hummed. She shifted on Beca's lap, eyes glimmering mischievously when her movement prompted a moan from her girlfriend. "Look at it this way though," Chloe prompted. "We can totally have make-up sex now."
Beca's head popped up from her chest, and the DJ waggled her eyebrows. "Shower?" "Mmmm…you totally read my mind."
She would have been a fool to think that their relationship would be free of any hardships or fights. Their personalities were just too strong and decisive to think otherwise. But that was also what made them so amazing together. Chloe pushed her to go beyond her comfort zone. In turn, she offered Chloe a world only few were privy to.
To many, their relationship seemed odd, perhaps unimaginable. And it was probably beyond all reason, but they did last. But people didn't have to understand. Beca Mitchell and Chloe Beale made sense to one another.
That was all that really mattered.
As the keynote speaker descended the podium, Beca let her thoughts drift, not really listening. Her phone buzzed again, a notification popping up and alerting her to a new issue for one of her philosophy journal subscriptions. She smiled, opening the app on her phone and perusing the table of contents.
She was well aware that her degree in Philosophy didn't necessarily translate in application to her career in the music industry, and it was a concern that weighed heavily on her mind = once graduation loomed closer that this passion for philosophy was only a passing fancy that would wane once she left Barden.
Luckily, Dr. Graham had her usual words of wisdom and advice.
With her success in the music industry, Beca could appreciate the freedom she had in truly pursuing a degree of choice rather than a degree of necessity. While a Bachelor's in Philosophy would no doubt yield her with few enticing job prospects upon graduation, that factor was thankfully mitigated due to her chosen career. Therefore, Philosophy, while not the most practical of interests, was made a viable option for her.
It had taken her by surprise, Beca decided. This passion for learning an admittedly abstract and often contradictory area of study was not something she had imagined when she envisioned her college career. She had initially held such abhorrence for anything resembling intellectual pursuit that she figured she would that required the least amount of effort and the. Instead, her chosen area of study was one that glorified critical thinking and rational argument in the most intricate ways possible.
Looking back to that first year, Beca could easily credit Dr. Graham for cultivating her passion for philosophy. The professor was notorious for asking the questions that entreated the mind to form not only the common conclusion but every other possible rationalization.
Just as she had countless times throughout the many classes she took within the curriculum, Beca found herself outside Dr. Graham's office for assistance. Knocking on the door, she stuck her head in.
"Dr. G? You busy?"
Dr. Graham spun around in her chair, smiling her greeting. "Never too busy for you, my dear." She gestured to the seat in front of her desk. "What's up?"
"I'm having trouble," Beca admitted, slumping down into the cushion.
"With the latest assignment on existentialism," Dr. Graham inferred.
Beca lofted a sigh. "Kind of," she hedged. "I started my paper alright, the academic rationalization was definitely a breeze." She shrugged, scrunching a hand through her hair. "I think once I got to my own rationalizations, I had to take a step back and think. And I think I thought myself into a corner."
"Perhaps you're going through an existential crisis of your own," Dr. Graham offered jokingly.
"Maybe," Beca mumbled.
Dr. Graham's head tilted to the side as she caught the hitch in Beca's voice. Perhaps her offhand comment hit a little closer than her initial assessment.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
Beca looked down at her hands for a moment. "I guess," she conceded.
"What's on your mind?"
Beca sighed again. A canine tooth ventured out, sinking into the skin of her bottom lip. "When normal people graduate college, the idea is that they pursue something that's related to their major." She bobbed her head back and forth. "That's the idea, anyway."
Dr. Graham nodded. She didn't say anything, simply let Beca talk. She knew the DJ well enough to understand Beca would get to the point of her problem if she just let her talk.
"With me, it's different though," Beca continued. Her hands dropped down to her thighs, running up and down the fabric of her jeans. "When I graduate, I go back to my career…that has nothing to do with Philosophy."
Again, Dr. Graham nodded. She could see Beca's hesitation, and still remained silent, making sure not to speak in case breaking her silence would chase her student away.
"I guess…" Beca's eyes shifted to the side, looking out the window. The masses of Barden scattered the lawn outside of the Philosophy building and along the Arts and Humanities block of campus. She could admit she would miss all of this. Barden was an experience all on its own, and these three years had been something she had never anticipated. When she returned her gaze to Dr. Graham, there was a turmoil there that clouded the navy blue spheres. "I guess I'm afraid that once I'm done with Barden…" she shrugged, hands gesturing vaguely as she struggled for an eloquence that was escaping her, wrestled down by indecision and hesitancy. "That Philosophy won't…won't mean as much to me." Beca's hands dropped to her lap. "I don't know if that makes sense."
Dr. Graham nodded. "I see," she acknowledged. "It makes perfect sense," she assured her student. "And I imagine this paper I've assigned on our work on existentialism has only fueled those concerns."
Beca returned the nod. "This degree has come to mean something to me," she revealed. "I know I'm not going to need it, but I worked hard for it. And I chose to study philosophy because I liked it." She drew in a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "But what if once I'm away from Barden, I'm just not able to keep this interest I have in philosophy? What if I don't know how to incorporate it into my life now that I don't have to study it to earn my degree?"
Dr. Graham hummed her reply, her chin cradled in slope between her thumb and index finger. "That's a valid concern," she began. She leaned forward, arms folding on the surface of her desk as she regarded her student closely. "Beca, what does Kierkegaard say regarding life and how one should exist within it?"
Beca's brow furrowed as she processed the question, recalling the information she knew.
Danish dude, born in the early 1800s.
Widely acknowledged as the first existential philosopher.
"That each individual – not society or religion – is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it authentically, that is, passionately and sincerely," Beca recited dutifully.
"Excellent. And what does that mean to you?" Dr. Graham prompted.
Beca stayed silent for a moment, pondering her answer. Finally, she shrugged. "That in order for an individual's life to have been lived genuinely to its fullest extent, the individual must decide for himself or herself the direction and purpose," she answered. "That the decision of what a person's life means to him or her should not be dictated or infringed upon by societal or religious expectations, otherwise that person's life ceases to become authentically his own."
Dr. Graham nodded her agreement. "I think that's well-said," she complimented. "But you didn't answer my question."
"Sure I did," Beca countered.
"I asked you what it meant to you."
Beca's brow furrowed. She turned over the response in her head. She pondered the answer to that, knowing what Dr. Graham was asking. She was asking for Beca to delve deeper into her response, to really find the source of the matter and how she wanted to rationalize it to herself.
"I suppose that I'm responsible for making my life meaningful," Beca finally said. "That I choose the things that I believe will allow me to live my life the way that will give me the most satisfaction."
"That sounds better," Dr. Graham complimented. She tilted her head, eyes meeting Beca's directly. "The only person who can decide what is important, what's significant to sustain happiness in your life is you," Dr. Graham remarked softly. "Other people can influence you, guide you, even coerce you, but in the end, you decide what you want to get out of this existence." Dr. Graham smiled. "This passion you have for philosophy will only fade if you let it."
Beca accepted that, nodding slowly. "How do I keep that passion alive, though?"
"There are journals you can read," Dr. Graham offered. "And novels offer wonderful commentary with a philosophical light to the narrative; you can ask your father about those." She grinned. "But also remember, that you are immersing yourself in Philosophy just by asking 'Why?'"
Beca leaned back, a corner of her mouth quirking upward. She felt strangely comforted and oddly relieved. "Thanks, Dr. Graham."
"Anytime, Beca." Dr. Graham leaned back, a beaming smile on her face. "You came into this love of philosophy all on your own. I may have nudged you along…"
Beca chuckled. "Yeah, yeah…Existentialism and all that." She shook her head. "It's all about the subject matter with you, isn't it?"
"Certainly," Dr. Graham agreed. "But, like any educator, I can't help but enjoy when one of my formative minds show a passion for the material beyond just the grade." The glint in her eyes was of fond affection. "It has been a pleasure to educate you, Beca Mitchell."
Beca grinned. "Thanks, Dr. G. It's been a pleasure learning from you."
Perhaps it wasn't just philosophy that inspired her, she mused. Maybe it was the way Dr. Graham had presented philosophy to her that first day of class. Dr. Graham made her think, encouraged her to circumvent conventional thought processes and analyze not only other possibilities, but how they related to her own life.
She liked that. Rather than forcing her to think a certain way, Dr. Graham had taught her other ways to come to different conclusions, and it was something she applied to her work. Her creative processes had evolved with the knowledge she now had from years of classes, and even more people were starting to notice. Funny how all of this came just from a simple philosophy class.
Beca looked to the stage to find Dr. Graham amidst the rest of the faculty. In contrast with the student body in their uniform black robes, the various members of the Barden staff were adorned in the academic dress of the various universities from whom their degrees were conferred. Dr. Graham boasted the navy blue and gold of Berkeley, and she seemed to be muttering under her breath to Beca's father sitting beside her.
Beca's gaze shifted to her father. Warren Mitchell was similarly attired in his own academic regalia. His light blue gown was a definite contrast to the darker colors around him, lined with black velvet on the front and sleeves, the Columbia crown on the lapel. The four foot-long hood was lined in white in deference to his doctoral area of study. When she looked at him, she no longer felt the resentment that had festered in her younger years. Instead, it was with fond affection that Beca thought of Warren Mitchell. It was amazing how their relationship progressed throughout her time at Barden. They had finally found their common ground, and Beca really should have figured it would take academics to do so.
If someone told Beca that by the end of her four years of college she would have cultivated a close, affectionate relationship with her father, she probably would have laughed and punched the person in the face…or something. While Art still served as her primary father figure and the man she most associated with the paternal role in her life, Warren had become the type of close confidant she needed for the rigors of her academic life.
And with graduation looming, the rigors of her academic life were giving her a more-than rigorous workout.
Lunch once a week had become a routine for them, and Beca met her father at Fitz's, shuffling into the restaurant and dropping heavily into the seat across from Warren. He smiled his greeting and pushed a glass of water towards her. She certainly looked like she needed it.
"How are you?"
Beca sighed, letting her head fall onto folded arms. "Well, Dad, let's recap," she began. "I'm juggling an eighteen-credit course-load, arranging a dynamic setlist to ensure my National Champion a cappella group is able to four-peat, and working on a senior thesis that is supposed to encompass four years' worth of knowledge into a single working academic theory. Oh, not to mention the expectations of my record label to produce another multi-platinum, chart-topper for the latest sensation." she deadpanned. "So…yeah…no pressure." She huffed out a snort. "How do you think I am?"
Warren inclined his head. "I guess that was kind of a loaded question," he remarked with a wry grin.
Beca's shoulders rose up before settling down again, the breath whooshing from her lungs in a beleaguered sigh. "College sucks," she stated succinctly.
"Good news is, you're almost done," Warren reminded her. "Unless…"
A finger lofted, pointing authoritatively at her father as Beca's head remained buried in her arms. "Do not finish that thought, Dad," she commanded, the effect lessened by the muffled timbre of her voice.
Warren laughed. "You can't blame me for trying." He reached out and patted Beca's head consolingly. "Well, how are your classes going at least?"
That seemed to be the wrong thing to ask as Beca's head rolled back and forth in a facsimile of a negative gesture. "I did what I swore I was never going to do," she bemoaned.
Warren squinted, searching his brain for the source of that statement. There were a multitude of things Beca reneged her strong stance on during the course of her college career. "What?"
Another sigh rocked through his daughter. "Take a music class," she mumbled.
Warren blinked before he let out a surprised bark of laughter. That was certainly a surprise. He shook his head. "Why?"
"I needed a Fine Arts GenEd."
Warren couldn't stop the smile from spreading across his face, grateful Beca couldn't see it. He knew his daughter had long held strong to her stance not to venture into Barden's music curriculum for fear of diluting her perception of music. He could certainly understand that notion. "And you couldn't have taken Drama, or Art History, or Dance?"
Beca's head finally lofted from its cushion on her arms, and she snorted. "Yeah, because I totally want to be the sole reason that the university has to up its health insurance coverage with the recent spike in hospital visits due to my small, yet uncontrollable limbs."
Warren cocked an eyebrow. "You dance in your performances," he remarked.
"For, like, two seconds, and it's with a range of movement no more than a couple of feet!" Beca insisted. "Anything prolonged, and I'm useless and apparently dangerous."
"So what class is it?" Warren asked.
Beca scowled. "Intro to Popular Music," she answered. "I figured that would be the easiest one."
"Makes sense," Warren offered. "You do have an encyclopedic knowledge of music from the 20th century on."
"It was also the only thing that could fit into my schedule," Beca sighed. "I really wanted to take that metaphysics class."
Warren hummed. "That's the one you've been raving about."
Beca nodded. "There is now some truth when I state I am expunging the secrets of the universe."
Warren nodded his concurrence, familiar with Beca's oft-used comeback when asked the pedantic question of "What are you doing?" He took in his daughter's posture and expression. She seemed to be torn between annoyance and bemusement at her current predicament.
"That doesn't sound too bad," Warren offered. "I'm sure you're doing fine."
"I'm acing the class," Beca agreed. "In fact, it would actually be fun…" She preceded her statement encouragingly. Her expression shifted to a deadpan, and she finished the precluding condition. "If I weren't included in the course material."
Warren recoiled back in surprise. He cocked his head. "Seriously?"
Beca took out her music textbook, plopping it down on the table. Flipping to the page, she shoved the book in front of him. Warren's eyebrows shot skyward. Sure enough, in one of the sections was a blurb about Beca and her current contributions to the music industry.
"Huh," he drawled. "Will you look at that?" His head lofted, casting a cursory glance over his daughter. "That's actually kind of cool."
"It's humiliating," Beca groused, covering her face with her hands. "I was in Professor Vernon's PowerPoint and he asked me to do a guest lecture next week."
Warren cocked an eyebrow, trying to suppress the urge to beam at the fact his daughter's success was not only being recognized but was used as a teaching point in a university class.
"Bec, that sounds amazing!" Warren enthused. "I don't see the problem here."
Beca deflated, her eyes widening and her posture slumping. The sight of her caused Warren to flash back when little Beca would adopt that same expression. Beca sighed.
"It's stupid," she mumbled.
Warren smiled. "Bec, c'mon. Whatever it is, I doubt it's stupid."
Beca sighed again, her legs kicking slightly against the bottom of her seat. "What if…" She paused, leveling a stern glare to her father. "And you can't laugh."
Warren held up his hand in a silent vow of solidarity.
Beca rolled her shoulders, eyes lofting to the ceiling. "What if I'm included in the test material, and I miss a question about myself?" Beca answered. "I feel like I should automatically fail the course. Maybe even quit the music industry. Stop making music all together. Recuse myself to cheesy radio jingles."
Warren snorted, unable to completely hold back his laugh. Beca said it with such gravity, one would have thought someone had told she had to forfeit her Grammys.
"D-aaaaaad," Beca whined. "You said you wouldn't laugh!"
"I'm sorry, Bec," Warren apologized, patting his daughter on the arm. "But that's a little drastic, isn't it?"
Beca pouted, slumping forward once again, resting her chin on stacked fists. "No," she grumped. "That's the adequate magnitude of the shame and mortification I should experience."
Warren grinned. "Well, dramatics aside, I don't think that scenario is possible," he assured her. "I mean, if anyone would know something about you and your career, it would be you, right?"
Beca sighed and shrugged, acquiescing to his rationale. "I guess so." She nodded to the textbook. "I mean, I definitely didn't authorize this information; most of it is common knowledge. I guess I just hope whoever did the research was accurate," she commented. "I think it would be even worse form if I contradicted the validity of the textbook, right?"
"I suppose so," Warren mused. A thought struck him, and he grinned. "What does Chloe think about this?"
Beca rolled her eyes. "What do you think, Dad?" she asked rhetorically. "Of course she thinks it's the coolest thing in the world. Art, Jules, and Jesse think so, too. Although, Jules also says that she should have gotten a bigger blurb about her contributions to our work."
Warren chuckled. "I would expect nothing less." He nodded towards the open book. "I don't disagree, Bec," he remarked. "This kind of is a very cool thing. I mean, it certainly says a lot about the impact you've not only had on the music industry but musical history that you and your work are being used as a teaching tool."
"I guess," Beca mumbled. "Still embarrassing though."
Warren chuckled. "Well, I doubt the contributors ever thought you would actually be in a position where you would be learning this material in an educational setting," he rationalized. He smirked at his daughter. "Does my vote towards consensus opinion count? Because I say cool."
"Yes, Dad," Beca sighed. "Yours counts too."
"I'm so telling this anecdote during Dr. Miller's cocktail party," Warren gushed. "All her precious son has done is publish a couple of papers. My kid is teaching material!"
Beca's shoulders slumped as she lofted an exasperated gaze skyward, addressing the higher power that lorded over them all. "Why are parents so embarrassing?"
Beca's relationship with Warren had definitely surprised her, she mused as she stood with her row, making her way to the stage to symbolically receive the empty diploma cover. To think that her father had become such a strong presence in her life almost gave her pause with how surreal the idea was.
"Rebeca Kay Mitchell…"
Beca crossed the stage to stand in front of the president. Reaching for the empty diploma cover with her left hand, she shook the president's hand with her right before continuing along the line of faculty. Reaching her father, Beca stopped in front of him, gazing up into his beaming face, and she returned the smile, startled to find that she was overcome with emotion, almost to the point where she was crying. Warren's eyes glimmered with pride and his own sheen of tears as he held out his arms, and Beca stepped into his embrace. He felt warm and solid, his large frame folding against hers. She could feel his joy radiating through the hug, and it made her feel loved and exhilarated.
Warren pulled away, the tears liberally staining his cheeks. His smile widened, and he reached up to grasp the tassel dangling from the right side of her cap. With a fond, warm smile on his face, he moved it to the left.
"Congratulations, Bec. I'm so proud of you, and I know your mother would be too."
Beca's graduation party was – naturally – at a high-end club that was more than happy to cater to Beca and her needs and wants. It was a pretty small scale gathering, Beca's close friends and family. There were a couple of star-caliber guests, but nothing that would cause a stir in the media. It was nice seeing her two worlds come together as people like Damon, Vera, and Jules talked with normal graduates like herself. As she mingled with her friends, family, and guests, Beca thought back to the memories she had from the last four years. The actual day-to-day workings melded together in a mishmash of activity; she couldn't pinpoint when something happened unless it was truly significant. What really stood out in her mind when she thought about Barden, however, were the people.
It was the relationships she had cultivated throughout her four years, relationships that operated completely separate of her dealings with the music business that really prompted fond remembrance when she thought about Barden. There were fellow academics with whom she shared classes, there were people she knew through other students, and there were people she came across randomly while she experienced the nuances of Barden student culture. Either way, no matter how she met these people, no matter how briefly they may have touched her life, there was a connection that would always exist.
And, of course, there were the Bellas. That connection was one she was certain would last throughout the years. Beca looked to the rest of the girls, mingling with her other guests. She hoped this wasn't the last time all of them would see each other.
After this semester, they were all going in different directions. Amy was returning to Tasmania to take over her family's business before heading the expansion of an American office in either New York or Los Angeles. Cynthia Rose and Stacie would be continuing at Barden for their respective programs, Cynthia Rose to earn her Master's in Nursing, and Stacie to finish up her studies in Pharmacy Science. Jessica was headed to Los Angeles, oddly enough to actually sing backup for a rising recording artist – they had debunked Bumper's true profession in LA two years ago. Denise was starting work in downtown Atlanta. Ashley was leaving for Pennsylvania to earn her graduate degree. Lilly, not-so oddly enough, had kept mum about her plans after graduation, and Amy had she wouldn't be surprised if it was because some top secret government organization had recruited her to some covert ops mission. Sadly, no one questioned that line of thinking.
It would probably be awhile until they were all in the same room again. Chances were that there would probably be times where communication waned as life got in the way. Still, regardless of whether or not this bond they had cultivated through their four years together weakened, Beca wanted success to come to all of them. She sincerely hoped their lives became all that they dreamed of, just like her mother had hoped for her. She hoped that they would find other people who appreciated them and positively influence those peoples' lives the way they had all impacted hers.
Beca rotated, feeling a familiar presence beside her, and she rotated to find her stepfather gazing down on her.
Beca smiled, accepting Art's hug. "Hey, Art."
Art wrapped her even tighter, laying his chin on her head. "Congrats, Bee. I'm proud of you, kiddo."
Beca smiled, basking in the unequivocal love of her stepfather, the single constant in her life that transcended all other relationships. She sought his approval above everyone else's, and the past four years had only built upon the love and relationship they had. "Thanks, Art."
Art grinned, taking a sip of his beer. Beca looked at him, brow furrowing. His left hand still bore the simple, domed wedding band her mother had placed on his finger more than ten years ago. He had never taken it off, and Beca knew he had ever entertained the idea of ever marrying again. Art was that devoted to Molly.
"I wish she could have seen this," Beca murmured.
Art nodded, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "Me too," he lamented. "But you know she's proud of you."
Beca smiled. "I kept my promise."
"Just as I knew you would," Art agreed. He leaned down, pressing one final kiss to her head. "Love you, Bumblebee."
Beca poked him as he retreated, joining his brothers. "Love you, Papa Bear."
She leaned back against the table again, merely observing the party, basking in her friends and family. Beca wasn't isolated for long as a lithe, slender form draped herself in her personal space. Chloe grinned, dipping her head down to nibble on Beca's neck. Beca chuckled. "Hey there, pretty lady."
"You sure know how to throw a party, Mitchell." Chloe righted herself, pressing a proper kiss to Beca's lips.
Beca grinned, her palm sliding down to grope Chloe's ass. "Damn right."
Chloe giggled, settling into Beca's embrace. She took a sip of her drink, leveling a faux-serious look on her girlfriend. "So, Beca Mitchell," she began. "You've graduated college. What now?"
Beca thought about that. It was a fair question.
It was still early in her life, but she had accomplished a lot. Just like her mother wanted, her life had become all that Beca ever dreamed. So what else was there?
The answer seemed simple, she supposed.
She would keep dreaming. She would let new dreams manifest themselves; she would keep dreaming of bigger and better things. There was always something new to reach for, always something else that could challenge her.
And as she continued on, she knew she would have family and friends behind her the entire way.
Beca glanced sideways, seeing the big, blue eyes entreating her from their short distance away.
She would have Chloe.
In four short years, Beca Mitchell had won Grammys, produced platinum hits, graduated college, and found love.
But this was just the beginning.
There was more to come.
And she couldn't wait.
She looked at Chloe, a smile curving her mouth.
And she shrugged.
"Dunno," Beca answered. Her smile widened, and she turned to face Chloe fully, her hand held out. "Wanna find out together?"
Chloe beamed, her smile lighting up the room. She slipped her hand into Beca's.
It was answer enough.
And there we go! The end. That's it…for now. Until we start expanding in the spin-off, currently titled (tentatively) "Ghost Town and Haunted Love". The song used in this ending is "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts.
Before we sign off until CJ and I schedule a date for the Q&A, I just wanted to thank everyone who read, liked, favorited, followed, and reviewed this fic. This story has been nine months, sixteen chapters, and over 200,000 words of labored love, and we were happy to share in this experience with all of you. This fandom has been such a blessing and everyone who has shown CJ and I love has been so great. We are so, so, so glad many of you took a chance on us and this fic, and it continually blows our mind how you guys have embraced our little venture.
So, the Stone Hard universe is done for now, but I hope you guys join us for our next fic. It will be another AU entitled "What Came First, The Music or the Misery" and is based off the film (and novel) "High Fidelity." So stay tuned for that and other installments in the Stone Hard 'verse.
Again, thank you so, so, so much for everything, and we hope to hear what you think about this chapter and the rest of the fic here, on Tumblr, or give us a hey down at Twitter!
Until next time,