A/N: So sorry for the delay in the update, I had the plague (okay, I was just really, really sick) and this semester work is insane. I just wanted to make sure I didn't rush it, since it's the last chapter and you all deserve better than a quick wrap up. Thank you all for the wonderful feedback, and I'm kicking around the idea of a sequel, but I suppose it'll depend on what you folks think. Thanks for embarking on this journey with me, I've had a blast, and for those of you who have asked, there's around 5 other fics I'm drafting, so you haven't heard the last of me (insert evil cackle here). Now, without further ado, the final installment for Music Within.
When Chloe awoke the next morning, she felt just as tired and drained as she had when she collapsed into bed the night before. She usually perked up at the morning light dancing through the blinds. In fact, she generally enjoyed watching the dust particles dance and twirl before her eyes in a ballet meant only for those patient enough to watch the dance unfold. Today, however, she frowned at the brightness and tried to retreat back into sleep. Finding no reprieve, she silently cursed Aubrey's habit of leaving the window open. Sighing, she pulled the pillow over her face and tried to block out the light and daytime noises, desperately seeking some relief from her thoughts of Beca and Jesse. They trampled through her brain, unrelenting, reminding her constantly how her life had been uprooted and her heartstrings plucked violently to the point of exhaustion. She just couldn't wrap her head around it. She loved spending time with Beca; the moments seemed to fly by and blurred together into white hot memories filled with a happy satiated feeling. But then, even if Beca had told Jesse everything, it was as though he somehow knew her thoughts; those mixes somehow spoke directly to her. Was she that transparent? Biting her lip, she remembered the night she (almost) spent with Beca. It didn't seem like the younger Bella was that drunk, but what if the connection she felt was all in her head? Sighing in frustration, she pulled the corners of the pillow down tightly on either side of her head to let out a brief scream. Just when she was starting to feel centered, the safety net of her pillow was torn harshly from her arms. Blinking, she saw Aubrey towering over her, hands on her hips, a look of concern and consternation on her face.
"You skipped class again, Chloe. What is going on with you, anyway?" Relaxing her posture, the blonde softened her tone. "Really, moping is totes not who you are. I'm the one that's supposed to be the Debbie Downer. Me, cheering you up? Really weird for me." She smiled, but behind the teasing was a heavy layer of concern. In the four years she had known Chloe, she had never acted like this, and driven by the natural controlling tendencies she was raised with, Aubrey was at a loss at how to fix the situation. Sighing, she tossed the flash drive and the note she found taped to their door onto Chloe's stomach. "I hope you figure your stuff out. Or at least fill me in, girl."
Chloe nodded, absently sliding her hand to cup the drive. She tossed it onto her desk, not wanting to deal with anymore of the drama, and sat up, eyes beginning to well with tears. The words started pouring out, and before she knew it, the redhead was sobbing onto her roommate's shoulder, barely able to get the words out. "She...she didn't say anything, Aubrey. She just stood there."
"Well," Aubrey began, choosing her words carefully, "What did you want her to say?"
"Ugh. I don't know! That it was a mistake. That she was sorry. That she loves-" Chloe stopped herself abruptly clasping her hand over her mouth as her eyes grew wide. She knew it was an accident to let the words out; words, once spoken, were real. As long as the emotions were tied to her thoughts and thoughts alone, it was an idealistic fantasy, and though her heart hurt, it couldn't truly be broken. Once made real, concrete and visible, that made the heartbreak real as well. By admitting that the one thing she wanted more than anything was for Beca to love her too, Chloe was making herself unequivocally vulnerable. But it was too late; the sentiment was out, and Aubrey's raised eyebrows registered her surprise at the admission of her previously emotionally guarded best friend.
"So you really do love her, don't you?" Aubrey asked with a touch of awe in her voice; it was true that she personally didn't really care for the brunette, but if Chloe felt so deeply for her, well, there must be something amazing she was overlooking.
Sniffling, Chloe just nodded, her face damp with tears and smudged makeup. Feeling a jab of pain from her palm where the plastic ridge of the UBS drive was digging into her tightly clenched fist, the redhead relaxed her grip. She tossed it onto her desk, and Aubrey picked it up, along with the small note that had accompanied it. Looking carefully at the words, recognition dawned in her eyes as she remembered where she had seen lettering like that before. Smiling widely, with a twinkle in her eye, she handed the drive back to Chloe as she grabbed her notebook and headed to the door for her next class. Before leaving, she turned and spoke candidly, "You should listen to this. Who knows, it might surprise you." With that somewhat cryptic message she was gone, and Chloe was left alone with her slowly breaking heart.
Grabbing her laptop from her desk, she settled against the wall on her bed, and slid the drive into her USB port. There were a few files, but one in particular caught her eye. It had been saved as "I'm completely in love with you, Chloe, I just thought you should know", and Chloe rolled her eyes, fully anticipating Jesse's voice or something equally difficult to process at this time, but she clicked anyway, desperate to seek some kind of closure or understanding. The song brought neither, but after listening to the mix, she found she had both goosebumps and a fluttering in her stomach. After the second time through, the song seemed to have struck a magical chord that could mend her heart, piecing the fragments together with notes and a melody that enchanted and healed her. Unconsciously grinning, she pushed play a third time, and jumped eagerly from her bed, fixing her makeup and hair hastily, and thumbing through her closet for something presentable. As soon as the chorus mash-up began again, she found herself humming along to the lyrics:
"If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark,
dark summer, leaving me here on my own
It's a dark, dark summer, now you've gone..."
Hitting pause, she shut her laptop almost reverently as she headed out her door, finally feeling as though the broken part of her had been made whole.
X X X X
When she arrived at Beca's room, her trademark bubbly smile and confidence had returned, and she knocked impatiently, waiting for the door to open. Kimmy Jin's annoyed expression was the first thing she saw, but everything else seemed to blur together. Beca's back was turned to her, and her headphones were buzzing with sound. Her fingers swiftly and deftly manipulated the dials on a soundboard, and her eyes were closed as she felt the music course through her. Watching for a moment in sheer awe, Chloe's heart swelled, transfixed with the image of this person who had captured her heart and soul in so many ways. Gathering her courage, she walked over and gently removed Beca's headphones. Not knowing where to begin, Chloe gestured to the dj equipment and simply said softly, "I didn't know you were into this." Beca nodded, not quite knowing what to say.
Glaring at the two of them, Kimmy Jin stood abruptly, and said with irritation, "This is incredibly awkward Beca, even for you. I'm going to the library." WIth that, she was gone, and Chloe and Beca were left alone with tension so thick it threatened to suffocate them.
Chloe opened her mouth to speak, the words and thoughts flying through her mind. How long had Beca liked her? Did she mean the sentiment she saved the file under, or was that a ploy to just get her to listen to the song? What was Jesse's involvement? Despite being able to fully form thoughts, the translation to spoken words was impossible, and Beca watched as Chloe opened and closed her mouth a few times. Laughing softly at the normally verbose redhead's evident inability to speak, Beca sat down on her bed and crossed her legs, motioning for Chloe to join her. When Chloe softened her expression and giggled, Beca felt slightly more at ease. Chloe eased onto the bed, her knees touching Beca's, prompting the brunette to flash a crooked smile.
Beca looked down at her comforter, absently picking at invisible lint and said, "You know, I'm not so good with the talking. I'm better with music. But you already know this. Music, that's what feelings sound like. And...and I meant every note."
Chloe's eyes began to glaze over with tears threatening to spill. Beca, worried she had said the wrong thing, leaned away, her brow furrowed in confusion. Chloe could see Beca withdrawing and rebuilding her walls, and she did the only thing she could think of. When words are not enough, all that remains are actions. The redhead placed a tentative hand on Beca's knee, and shifted her weight to move closer. She could smell Beca's shampoo, undertones of white tea and ginger, and she closed her eyes for a second, basking in the scent that reminded her of the time she sang with Beca in the shower. Opening her eyes, she saw Beca's steel blue eyes burning with desire, a desire fueled by uninhibited passion. Taking a deep breath, Chloe leaned closer achingly slowly, pausing when she could feel Beca's breath on her own lips. Holding the pose for what felt like an eternity, Beca uttered a single word.
"Please," she said with a vulnerability and need that dispelled any fears Chloe may have still harbored.
With a soft sigh, the older girl closed the gap pressing her lips to the dj's, and the electrifying jolt she had experienced the night of the party returned, sending tingles from her lips through her heart and body. The intensity made her veins feel like they were flowing with fire, and she swore she heard music. Unlike their previous kisses that were tainted with the acrid burn of alcohol, Chloe tasted nothing but Beca, and found that far more intoxicating than any amount of liquor.
Beca settled her hands on Chloe's hips, and, leaning into the kiss, began to take control. Her tongue snuck out to swipe across the redhead's bottom lip, and with a soft moan, lips parted and their tongues were touching. Softly at first, then with more confidence, Beca slid her tongue over Chloe's teeth, sucking gently on her bottom lip. She had waited so long for this, and to her relief, her eagerness was matched fervently by Chloe's. Beca slid her hand over Chloe's back, resting at the base of her neck, securing their kiss. As Chloe felt her desire rise, her own hand found its way to the back of Beca's head, entwining her fingers in soft dark hair. Their kisses continued to deepen, until suddenly Beca pulled away slowly. Seeing the worry in Chloe's vibrant blue eyes, Beca placed a soft chaste kiss on her lips, and took a deep, albeit shaky, breath. She needed to say something before she lost the courage.
Hesitating for just a second, she spoke softly, "I love you, Chloe. Probably for longer than I realized. My life is music, it always has been, but you..you're the song my heart has been searching for." She hoped it sounded less cheesy than it seemed to her, but Chloe's reaction seemed to indicate that she at the very least wouldn't be facing rejection immediately.
Chloe's smile couldn't be larger or brighter, and she leaned back into Beca's waiting arms. "For someone who says words aren't their thing, you're amazingly romantic Beca Mitchell. It's totes one of the million reasons I love you."
Hearing Chloe speak those last three words relit the fire within Beca, and with a smile to rival the cheerful redhead's, she smirked, and said "A million? You'll have to tell me them sometime. But not right now." She finished her sentence as she reconnected their lips, their heartbeats creating a beautiful drum cadence for their rhythmic breathing. Sorting the details and answering questions could wait until later; for now, the two lovers were content to listen to the music within, two distinct songs from two individuals blending perfectly and seamlessly into a mashup of monumental proportions.
(But like a favorite song, there's always repeat ;) )