A/N: Jeez, this took a long time for me to actually post. This is going to be a pretty slow build up kind of story (I mean it. SLOW. Don't say I didn't warn you XD), with a slightly odd format. You'll see. This prologue is somewhat different to the rest of the fic.
Warnings: There's a bit of swearing, I suppose, at least for this first chapter.
Enjoy. Or not.
Disclaimer: Surprisingly I don't own Pitch Perfect, even if an acapella musical is right up my street.
(also, thanks to Amie/marshmallowhobo for being my (now official) beta and motivating me. I'll just pretend I didn't forget to write this in initially...)
Now, here's something that was never a secret to anyone: Beca doesn't like being touched.
It's kind of the principle of the thing, the after-effects of too few hugs as a child or a result of the divorce or whatever bullshit Freudian excuse she comes up with when she's lying in bed at the dead of night. Sometimes she does that, wonders if she's broken or defective somehow, because it's just… so no, with the touching. No one else seems to have this problem – at least, no-one socially adept enough to actually have to deal with situations like this on a regular basis, rather than rocking back and forth in a corner in the face of social interaction or something. Beca's not the rocking back and forth type; she's more of a "glare until they back away" sort of gal.
It's not all bad. A nice handshake is fine. She can deal with that. As long as their hands aren't clammy and they don't try and shake her arm off her shoulder. She can also deal with hugs, sometimes –mostly from her mom, rarely her dad - although she won't ever give them out herself. Too many things to think about, like how long to hold on for and when to do it, and it's too much effort for something she doesn't even care about.
No one tries to push it; Beca supposes she just gives off a pretty clear "don't touch me" vibe, which is totally fine with her. People don't try to get too close to her, in any sense of the word. Or rather, she doesn't let them. She finds her life is much simpler when people are kept at arm's length – no interpersonal drama, no squabbles over not spending enough time together, etc. None of that soap opera crap. Just Beca and her mixes. It's not as lonely as some might think. Really.
Until Chloe, of course.
Someone like Chloe is her worst nightmare. Someone with soft fingers and softer embraces, too damn nice to come off as creepy like anyone else would when stark naked in a stranger's shower. Someone with seemingly no sense of personal boundaries, who touches without thinking, offers affection without needing to worry.
It's hugs, all the time, whether Beca is prepared to be knocked off her feet by the force of Chloe's embrace or not.
It's Chloe touching her while they talk, a pleasant smile on her lips as she's casually lacing their fingers together.
In Bella's practice, it's Chloe's hands on Beca's, guiding her movements even though she knows the steps. No, really, she does know them – Chloe just comes over to help her anyway and ignores her protests.
In her shower, too, it's Chloe, Chloe Chloeagain. Not that there was ever a repeat performance of her memorable first … exposure to Chloe's confidence (however justified) in her body, but now Beca can't even take a damn shower without remembering singing Titanium with Chloe whenever she drops the soap. Which is not really when she wants to remember Chloe, if there were ever a time when she would want that. Which there isn't. Shut up.
Don't get Beca wrong; Chloe is an awesome friend to have. Probably the best Beca's ever had, not that that says much. She's always so open and friendly, and life in the Bellas without her would certainly be a lot less cheerful. But to put it bluntly, Beca is both insanely jealous and completely petrified of Chloe.
It's a little irrational.
Okay, so it's completely irrational. So what? She's aware of that. It doesn't change how she feels. No one other than her could possibly understand how damn unfair it is that people like Chloe can just walk in and knock over all her carefully placed defences, defences she spent years crafting to award her with the perfect amount of space from the world. They're there for a reason, for God's sake, not so some redhead with an agenda for making everyone in the world happy to saunter past without a care in the world about what sort of turmoil she's putting Beca through. It's a constant war, between liking and genuinely caring about Chloe, wanting to give in to her easy affection, versus clinging onto the hard, familiar edges of her personal bubble. When Chloe touches her, she bypasses all that without even trying, leaving Beca dizzy and confused.
It shouldn't be this hard. For Chloe, it's not hard at all. She never worries about whether people are going to brush her off or think she's weird for touching them the way Beca does. In general, though, physical contact was never a big problem for Beca to deal with, since people wisely kept their distance. Until Chloe.
And then things got fucking messy.
It starts fairly normally, all things considered. Thursday night, only two weeks after she met Chloe and was sworn into the Bellas. Beca's bed. Side by side. Blanket on their lap. Chloe's fingers playing with hers on one hand; her other arm around Beca's shoulders and pulling her close, the strands of Beca's hair sifting between her fingers idly. She doesn't seem to notice or care that Beca is as stiff as a board and tucked right into the corner of her sofa-bed, trying to put as much distance between the two of them as physically possible. It doesn't really work since Chloe's arm weighs on her shoulders in such a way to make her fall into Chloe's body.
They're currently watching videos of random Youtube musicians, which is the one saving grace for Beca for this evening. It's a weird sort of a compromise they came to after Chloe learnt she hated movies. Normally she would be sceptical, but Beca can't say she minds this particular facet of the time they spend together compared to everything else since Chloe's music taste is surprisingly eclectic, if a little too inundated by acapella. It always gives her new ideas for mixes and arrangements they'd never use in the Bellas, which is useful… Sort of.
The whole evening was Chloe's decision, of course, once she found out Kimmy Jin had left for a few days.
(Family emergency or something. She didn't actually tell Beca; she just heard her speaking frantically on the phone to someone before she ran out of her dorm. She does wonder vaguely if she's alright, but figures she'll find out on her return.)
In any case, Beca hadn't really meant to drop the fact she wasn't there into conversation with Chloe, but she initially asked Beca to come over to hers and she'd blurted it out. Chloe had jumped right on that and basically invited herself, giving Beca puppy-dog eyes when she resisted at first. In the end, she'd relented. Mostly because Chloe's dorm has Aubrey in it, so this seemed like the safer option at the time. Home ground and all that.
She's starting to regret allowing Chloe to come here now, though, because she knows her bed is going to smell of Chloe again when she leaves. Seriously, the girl reeks – in the best way possible – of girly, floral perfume that has the annoying ability to get trapped in Beca's clothing and bed sheets, waiting to catch her off guard when she's trying to go to sleep.
It'd be alright if Chloe just smelt good, though. She could deal with that. What she can't deal with is the way Chloe has insisted on tangling their legs together even though her bed is wide enough for them to sit comfortably side by side without all the touching. Her arm has moved and her nails have begun to scratch against Beca's scalp in a way that's sickeningly pleasant and makes her want to both shiver and punch a hole in the wall.
The song ends – wait, when did they stop watching Mike Tompkins? – and Chloe sighs contentedly against Beca's skin, making goosebumps appear. As always, Beca laments the stupid involuntary reactions of her body – seriously, couldn't it tell the difference between Chloe's breath and cold wind? Jesus. She's like a teenage boy sometimes.
'What do you want to watch?' she asks Beca. Her mouth is way too close to Beca's ear for such an innocent question, her breath tickling.
Beca shrugs, forcing the lump in her throat down with a painful swallow. 'Don't know.'
'Okay…' Beca can tell Chloe is wearing a tiny smile, obviously a little amused by Beca's standoffishness for whatever reason. 'Might need a little more help than that, Bec.'
Bec. No one calls her Bec, except Chloe. She thought her name was short enough, but apparently not. Not that she minds, because even a syllable less of Chloe's breath on her neck is good news for her.
'I don't know,' she repeats stubbornly. 'You pick.'
Chloe hums thoughtfully. She readjusts her position so her knees are wedged below Beca's thighs, which she brought up to her chest a while ago to try and re-establish her personal bubble. No such luck. Chloe seems to slip and fit herself into any opening Beca leaves – she suddenly shivers. Better not finish that thought.
'Alright grumpy, we don't have to watch anything,' Chloe teases, resting her cheek on Beca's shoulder. 'Is there anything you dowant to do?'
Beca grunts non-committally, partly because she doesn't have a coherent answer, and partly because her brain has short circuited a little at how fucking seductive Chloe sounds without even trying. It might just be the mix of hormones and general awkwardness that is her brain when dealing with other people, especially attractive, touchy-feely girls like Chloe, but judging by the panicked rabbit beat of her heart she thinks she's probably going to die if Chloe does anything else to set her off.
Chloe, of course – fucking Chloe, who does whatever she wants with girls like Beca without any thought for what it might do to them - does just that. It's an innocent action, in theory; snuggling closer, pressing her chest into Beca's already crushed left arm, and passing her fingers delicately down Beca's other arm.
In practice, it's not quite that simple. That is, it'd be an innocent action, if her palm didn't accidentally (is it accidental? Beca doesn't know, and can't really think straight enough right now to consider it properly) brush the side of her breast.
Beca was not quite right about her dying if Chloe sets her off. However, she does jump the fuck away from Chloe to the other side of the bed - or, she would, but Chloe's arm is still around her and she just pulls Beca back to her like some sort of ridiculous human bungee cord.
'Hey, where are you going?' she asks, her voice light and playful and far too close to Beca's ear again. Her lips are nearly enough that she swears she can actually hear Chloe's lips separate to form each word.
Beca's lungs are struggling to get enough air back into them, but she manages to wheeze, 'Get off me...'
Chloe's brow knits. 'Come again?'
'Please, just get off me.'
'What? Why? Beca, what's wrong?' She tries to pull Beca even closer, probably out of some caring reflex, what she does for all her friends. Her normal friends, that is. But Beca isn't a normal friend of Chloe, and this simple touch meant with all the affection in the world is the very last straw for her nerves, for her hormones, and for that little girl hiding in the back of her brain who still freaks the fuck out when people touch her and has just been waiting for the last two weeks to jump out.
'Chloe, get the hell off me!'
That works. That really works. Chloe lets go off Beca so fast she nearly falls right off the bed. In a flash she's on her feet, walking back until her legs hit Kimmy Jin's bed, where she just stands, watching, her eyes wide and frightened and staring at Beca across the room. Beca herself is bright red in the face, shaking with barely suppressed emotion.
'I can't take it anymore! This has got to stop!'
'Stop what?' Chloe is obviously very confused about what just happened, which just makes Beca all the angrier. 'I don't know -'
'No you don't know, because you never think! I can't stand you how you're always touching me and invading my personal space! Coming into my shower, and the endless hugs, and the tickling and the – just, all of it! It's driving me crazy!'
Chloe gulps visibly, blinking fast. 'Beca…' She sounds absolutely heart-broken, just like Beca doesn't want right now. That whimpering voice gnaws at the frosty shell of a heart she still has, since yeah, no one with a heart wants to upset Chloe. 'Beca, I had no idea -'
'No, no, shut up, okay?' Beca mumbles, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes. 'I can't think when you do that…'
Chloe obediently clamps her mouth shut, biting down on her knuckle and looking like she's going to burst into tears at any moment.
'Okay,' says Beca, pulling her hands away, having regained her concentration. 'This is me, okay?' She jabs a finger in her chest. She then points at Chloe, who is pale and confused and distressed, but she forces herself to ignore that for now. 'That's you, waaay over there. This is a good amount of space between us right now, and it – it should stay that way, okay? I don't like it when people are so close I feel like Jesse should be composing some sort of romantic soundtrack to play in the background – and - and yeah, you're my friend, but I never gave you a free pass to do all that stuff! And yet you did it anyway even if I was obviously uncomfortable, and – fuck, Chloe. I just need you to leave me alone, and stop touching me for Christ's sake!'
There's a long silence where Beca waits for Chloe's reaction and her voice, which descended into yelling towards the end there, reverberates around the dorm room.
Disappointingly, Chloe merely utters a quiet, 'Oh...' Her voice is barely audible. Beca wouldn't even know she said anything if she hadn't seen Chloe's lips round into that single syllable.
'That's all you're going to say?' Beca brings her knees up to her chest again, wrapping her arms around them. Her explosions of anger are rare and always short-lived, followed by a quiet period afterwards where she remembers what an asshole she is. Usually that waits until the argument is actually over, though, but it appears her brain is getting a head-start on it today.
'I'm s-so sorry!' Chloe's voice trembles all over the place for just two words – actually trembles. Beca makes the mistake of looking up a little and oh, shit, Chloe's crying, and crying hard, her hand pressed to her mouth which is wide open and letting out noisy sobs. 'Beca, I never - I – I didn't think you minded!'
'Yeah, well.' She forces herself to look away or the guilt might make her throw up. 'I do. So, now you know, I guess.'
'I'm so sorry,' Chloe says again, babbling it to herself like an insane mantra. 'I'm so. Sorry.'
Beca nods, feeling numb all over. 'Right. Good.'
She keeps her eyes on a little spot on the wall next to her bed where the paper is peeling, never looking up even when she hears Chloe fumbling to put her shoes and coat on, muffling cries into her fist.
'Text when you get in,' Beca calls automatically just as the door opens, not really thinking about what she's saying.
There's a loaded pause.
For the first time since they became friends, Chloe doesn't hug Beca goodbye, just slams the door shut behind her, leaving Beca alone in the dark with that ever lingering floral smell.
Beca got what she wanted.
And she feels like absolute shit.