They've been together for three hundred and twenty seven days, though Chloe doesn't know this until she looks at the calendar later that night. It's a Tuesday. They're in a dressing room, unfamiliar and distractedly clean, and Chloe's singing Disney songs loudly. She stops when Aubrey says you know, sometimes it's really hard to love you.
This isn't said conversationally, not jokingly, not even in Aubrey's bitchy voice, the one she uses when she wants things to hurt. This is said quiet and defeated, and Chloe doesn't know what she could possibly say in response. She doesn't say anything, doesn't do anything, just seizes up, and pretends she isn't listening to the sound of Aubrey getting up and leaving the room. Leaving her, and even if that's melodramatic and kind of not true, not technically, Chloe's still breathlessly afraid.
I don't mean to, she tells the room. I don't mean to make you mad. But it wasn't anger in Aubrey's voice, wasn't anything that easy. Anger Chloe's used to; she knows when to push past it and when to leave it alone, mostly. This isn't anger, this is something scarier, something like not being in love.
Chloe's sitting there, shaking, helplessly in love, and she says I don't mean to, I don't mean to.
There aren't any apologies. There's just the show, Aubrey behind her, Chloe mechanically following the dance moves the routine dictates, not ever looking back. There are Aubrey's hands, white knuckled, and there is Chloe's voice, quavering ever so slightly on a note she usually has down. When the show is over, there is changing into ordinary clothing, back to back, never facing, and there is the bus ride to Barden.
There's not looking at one another as they enter the room, the same room, and as they take separate beds. Aubrey showers first, then Chloe, and when Chloe comes out of the shower, Aubrey's already in bed. She's pretending she's asleep, but Chloe knows what she sounds like when she's asleep. This isn't it.
Chloe crawls into bed, the other one, after turning out the lights, and she says Bree. Aubrey's still quiet, but Chloe can practically feel her eyes slide open in the dark, adjusting. Aubrey, I know you're awake. Aubrey doesn't say anything, and Chloe whispers I love you, loud enough that Aubrey will hear but not loud enough to make it something heavy, something that will stand in the way of things. Chloe can feel it settle hard against their chests anyway.
Go to sleep, Aubrey says finally, but Chloe can't.
Chloe hasn't slept at all by the time morning's come. She's stared at the ceiling, and she's stared at Aubrey's bed, and she's closed her eyes and tried to stare into herself. Aubrey hasn't slept either, and they both startle at the alarm, fake waking even though they're not fooling anyone. Aubrey snores and Chloe talks in her sleep, and it's been quiet all night.
Aubrey's dressing in a corner, her back to Chloe. Chloe just watches, her hands loosely fisted, feeling like a voyeur even though she's memorized those shoulder blades, the knobs of that spine. She's memorized it all, and right now she feels like she'll forget if she doesn't keep looking, so she looks, and she looks hard.
When she changes, she can feel Aubrey's eyes on her back.
When they get to the auditorium for practice, they spread out; Aubrey helps the sopranos and altos and Chloe stays with the others. She's tired, but more than that, she's sick to her stomach, waiting for the end, waiting for Aubrey to come out and lay it all out, to tell her why it isn't possible to love her.
Aubrey doesn't come near her until she has to, until they reach the end of practice and everyone is gathered by the white board, and by that time Chloe's almost angry. Almost, but mostly scared, mostly terrified. Aubrey won't meet her eyes, and that's all the rest of the Bellas are trying to do, to catch her eyes and glean some sort of information. Chloe keeps her eyes on Aubrey.
They do one run through as a whole group that night and it is probably one of the best they've had. Aubrey hits every single note, and Chloe fills herself with every one of the songs words, comforted by the fact they're not her own. At one point she leans in close to Beca, too close, and her lips brush her cheek. Aubrey never falters. Chloe wonders if she'd even looked at them at all.
Beca's weird roommate is apparently at a friend's dorm for the night, so Chloe is crashing at Beca's to avoid Aubrey. Chloe wouldn't be able to sleep if she hadn't been awake for thirty-six hours, if she couldn't hear Beca's steady breathing from the bed across from her. She wakes up feeling more exhausted than when she'd fallen asleep and she almost thinks she deserves it, deserves some sort of punishment for managing to sleep through the breaking of her heart.
When she stumbles down the hall to her and Aubrey's dorm, Aubrey's there on the couch, feet tucked up beneath her. Fat Amy is fast asleep beside her, face hidden in the curve of Aubrey's shoulder. Chloe wonders if Aubrey slept through the breaking of Chloe's heart as well. She wonders if they both slept through Aubrey's heart drifting away.
Aubrey, she starts.
Shh, Aubrey says, you'll wake Amy up.
There's nothing that Chloe wants more right then than to wake Amy up. She wants to yell and scream and throw things and burst into tears and shake Aubrey and make her love her again, but instead she just nods, turns right back around to Beca's dorm and climbs into Beca's bed.
Beca mumbles incomprehensibly, shifts to give Chloe room. Beca, Chloe whispers into the back of her neck. No one loves me, Beca Mitchell. Chloe whispers because if she raised her voice any, it'd be shaking. She knows this because she's been whispering for the past two days.
I love you, Beca murmurs, but it's not the same. It's not even close to the same.
Is it someone else? Chloe asks, and she searches Aubrey's face for a flicker of guilt, for some sort of change. Is it something I did? What is it?
It isn't anything, Aubrey says, and there's nothing in her face but weariness, nothing there for Chloe to find, to pick apart and put back together and make her own. It just happens.
But it doesn't. It doesn't just happen. It can't. People can't love one minute and then forget that the next. It doesn't work like that to Chloe. She doesn't understand it. She doesn't understand how she can sit here, so in love, and Aubrey can sit across from her, expressionless and empty of everything she felt for Chloe.
How long have you felt like this? Chloe asks finally, and she doesn't whisper. She doesn't whisper, and her voice is shaking, and Aubrey can only look away.
Awhile, she says, and Chloe thinks oh, can only nod even though all she wants to do is shake her head, to throw her arms around Aubrey and refuse to let her go, to press her back against the bed and change her mind.
Please, Chloe says, and she doesn't know what she's asking for, not exactly, but she knows she needs it like breathing. Aubrey turns back to look at her, and her face is screwed up like all she wants to do is cry, and she shakes her head, says Chloe I can't, and her voice is shaking too.
Aubrey's been whispering this whole time; Chloe's just been too busy searching for meaning to catch her pitch.
She doesn't quit, doesn't abandon the Bellas. It's the most selfish and the most selfless thing that Chloe's ever done, the most masochistic and greedy and helpless thing she could ever do. She watches Aubrey's back, the brush of her hair against her neck, the flex of her muscles under cloth, and she thinks love me again, love me, I'll do anything at Aubrey. Aubrey never turns around, but Chloe can't stop thinking it.