Jesse's apartment in Chicago is twice the size of the one she had in New York, and he pays half the rent. She takes up residence in the guest room and hands over the check from her former landlord for the security deposit refund to Jesse to cover her share of the first month she's there. He protests, and she punches him in the arm, and he winces and smiles and says "So you are still in there," as he accepts the check.
She punches him again and disappears into her room, and his laugher follows her through the door.
She's convinced her boss to let her work from Chicago, emailing back and forth with musicians in New York and video conferencing into the recording studio. It's harder on everyone, but she's good enough to be worth it, and all she has to do to stop her boss from complaining is to mention any one of the other production companies that contact her every few weeks with contract offers. Jesse blasts into her room at odd hours to run compositions by her, and she finds a small bar a few blocks away to hide in when she needs it, and she deletes Chloe's number from her phone.
It's still written safely on a post-it note that's wedged into a shoebox with a blue and yellow scarf and the remaining piece of a broken regionals trophy, but she pretends none of it exists anyways.
Six weeks pass, and Beca wraps a project early on a Friday and makes a pit stop at her bar on the way home. She's oblivious to the other customers as she sips on a beer and reads through the stack of project proposals that appeared on her desk that morning. She's paid her tab and is out the door before she realizes that her receipt has a business card stapled to it and the bartender's written Blonde, vodka tonic, asked me to give you her card. Get it, girl.
Beca snorts, rolling her eyes. Lisa had handed Beca a drink purchased by a man once—tall, handsome, sports agent—and never again after Beca had handed it back and muttered "I'm gay"; since then, she'd been on a mission to get Beca a girlfriend. When it came to strangers, though, she was a little more open than Beca was. Beca pockets the receipt and card anyways; she can consider calling Alex the interior designer tomorrow.
All thoughts of Alex the interior designer skip away, though, when Beca comes through the doorway to see Jesse sitting in living room with Micah.
"Hi," Micah says quietly. He's still wearing his winter coat and his cheeks are red from the wind.
"What're you doing here?" she says. She shrugs out of her own coat and hangs it up carelessly, avoiding his gaze the entire time.
"I was hoping we could talk," he says.
"I was telling him that now might not be the best time," Jesse said, moving over towards Beca.
"It's not," Beca says, flat and quiet. "I'm not getting back in the middle of this, not again."
"Beca, please," he says. "Just a few minutes. I just—I need to figure some things out."
"About Chloe," Beca snaps. "Who I have zero interest in talking about."
"Beca, please," he says again.
"Bec," Jesse says softly. "Maybe hear him out?"
"I promise I'll leave after that," Micah says.
"Fine," Beca mutters. "Jess, can you—"
"I'll go get some food," he says. He squeezes her shoulder reassuringly and grabs his own coat. Turning to Micah, he points a finger and levels him with a stern gaze. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you to keep your shit in line, right?"
"Right," Micah says.
"Good." Jesse presses a hand to Beca's shoulder once more, and then disappears out the door. Beca crosses her arms over her stomach, avoiding Micah's eyes.
"You wanted to talk," she says. "Talk fast."
"Beca," he says, strained and tired. "I just—Chloe, she—ever since you left, nothing has been the same."
"That's not my fault," Beca snaps. "Jesus, Micah, everything can't about Chloe. Have a goddamned backbone, will you? She's treating you like crap."
"I know," he says sharply. "I know. I just—I love her, you know? I don't want to risk that."
"Yeah, well, that's apparently not up to you, because she's screwing it up enough on her own."
"Come on, don't you think you're being a little hard on her? You're her best friend and you just left."
"No," Beca says. Her shoulder vibrate under her attempts to keep still. "Jesus, Mike, no. Did she ever even tell you what the hell was going on? We were sleeping together before she met you. We kept fucking after she met you, after you started dating, after you were practically living together. Half of that is my fault, but I'm trying to own up to it, but you just keep giving her a pass. Hell, you keep giving me a pass, and you should hate me."
"You're my friend, I don't hate you," Micah says. He scrubs his hands over his face, exhaustion settling over him visibly.
"Why not?" she shouts. "Stop being so goddamned nice, Micah! Be angry, be upset, be hurt, be whatever. Your girlfriend has been lying to you for your entire relationship. I was lying to you. I fucked your girlfriend in your bed, time and again, and you're just okay?"
"Of course I'm not okay!" His voice almost shakes the framed movie posters on the walls, and Beca flinches back.
"Good," she says quietly. "Now buck up and do something about it."
"No," he says, sharp and short. "I'm not going to lose Chloe like this. I'm not going to push her out of my life."
"Are you really even in it? Has she ever been honest with you?"
He slumps, sighing, and drops down to sit on the couch. "I guess not," he says. "But that doesn't mean that I don't love her."
"I know." It comes out a strangled whisper, and Beca blinks back the abrupt sting of tears. She moves to sit down as well, folding in over her knees into an armchair. "I do, too."
Micah laughs, dry and humorless, and his head flops back over the back of the couch. "God, we're pathetic," he says. "Too goddamned in love with a girl who's too goddamned in love with the whole world."
"That's not how it is," Beca mumbles. "She's just being a coward. It's not about her loving too much, it's about her being too fucking scared to deal with anything."
"Harsh," Micah says. His head lolls over to face her appraisingly. "But probably true."
"Why do you let her walk all over you?" Beca asks. "I mean, I did it because I was screwed up and trying to figure my own crap out, but you…dude, you've got your life together. What gives?"
"Jacob," he says after a long moment.
"Jacob," he repeats. "My brother. We haven't talked in…eight years?"
"Uh, okay," Beca say slowly.
Micah sighs, rubbing a hand over his eyes. "We had a fight when I was in college," he says. "It was about—shit, I don't even know anymore. But we got in a fight at Thanksgiving one year, and he started giving me the silent treatment, so I started avoiding him, and suddenly two years go by and he's living in Australia and won't answer my calls."
He barks out a laugh, shaking his head. "Yeah. It does. He's married now, you know? Wife, kids, nice house. I think Mom said they got a dog last year. I've never met his wife, or my nieces, because we don't talk anymore."
Beca is silent, chin propped on her knee and eyes uncertain. He sniffs loudly, wiping at his nose with the sleeve of his coat. "Anyways," he says eventually. "I just—don't want to lose anyone else like that, you know? Not over my stupid pride."
"Oh," Beca says. Her nose wrinkles as she considers his words, and then she shakes her head. "Man, that's stupid."
"Gee, thanks," he says wryly.
"It is," she insists. "I mean, yeah, it sucks balls that you and your brother never sorted your crap out, but that doesn't mean you should let Chloe keep treating you like a freaking doormat."
He shrugs. "Maybe not. But it is what it is at this point."
"No it isn't!" she says. "Come on, man, you're a good person, you deserve to be happy just as much as she does."
"So what should I even do, then?" he throws back. "No matter how this plays out, someone is going to get hurt. I go home to Chloe and we sort it out, and you get hurt. I lock you two into a room together until you come out a happy couple, and I get hurt. I walk away, and none of us are happy. What do you expect me to do? There's no way out."
"So what?" Beca exclaims. "Dude, really, don't be a moron. If you want to be with Chloe and be happy, then man the hell up and fight for your stupid relationship."
"I thought you loved her," he says quietly.
"I did," Beca retorts. "I mean—I did, and I do, and I probably won't ever really stop, you know? But she really fucked me up, and I don't think I'll ever trust her."
"Why should I?"
"Maybe you shouldn't," she says, throwing her hands up. "I don't know! Jesus, Mike, I'm the most emotionally incompetent person this side of the Rocky Mountains, how the hell should I know? The closest I've ever come to a real relationship was dating my best guy friend when I turned out to be gay, and fucking my best girl friend when she was dating someone else."
"Yeah, that was messed up," Micah deadpans.
Beca rolls her eyes. "What, are we at a joking place about that now?"
"Sure, why not. We're friends, after all. Even if we're friends who both got fucked over by the same girl."
"We're pathetic," she mutters.
"That we are. At least you did something about it. I still have no idea what I'm going to do."
Beca sighs. "Come on, let's go. I need a drink."
"I know a place. The bartender's gonna love you."
"I swear to God, if you take me to a gay bar—"
"Calm down, sparky, it's just a bar with a hot bartender. You'll like her, she'll like you, you'll get free drinks and she'll try to make me call the lady who failed to actually hit on me earlier."
It only takes five minutes to walk to the bar, and less than half an hour after that before Lisa's cajoled them through four rounds of tequila shots.
Beca wakes up to a mouthful of cotton. Groaning against the bright light, she spits it out and rolls over, right into Jesse's solid and sound asleep form.
"Shit," she hisses. "Shit, shit, shit." She scrambles out of bed, grabbing at her own shirt. "Oh, thank god." They're both fully clothed and Jesse grumbles in his sleep, rolling over and groping for a pillow.
Beca pads out of his room quietly, wincing as the creak of the door bites into her hangover. She's about to flop down into her own bed when she sees Micah sprawled out atop it, dead asleep and still in his suit.
"Christ," she mutters. She reroutes to the kitchen and fumbles with the coffee maker. Her phone whistles from the back pocket of her jeans, and she grimaces. It's a wonder it wasn't broken when she slept on it.
She has a handful of emails from work, what appears to be a text from Jesse at two in the morning telling her that he's parked outside the bar to come take them home, and a text from a number she doesn't recognize.
It was great talking to you last night. I'd love to hear more about your work over dinner sometime. –Alex
"Oh," she says, blinking owlishly at the message. "Whoa."
"Whoa what?" Micah mumbles from the living room.
"Do you remember me talking to a blonde lady last night?"
"Yeah, Alex," he says. He tugs ineffectually at his tie, trying to undo the knot, and eventually just yanks it over his head. "Nice chick. Super cute. Architect?"
"Right," she mutters.
"You gonna call her?"
"I'm not going to do anything but drink some coffee right now," Beca says with a groan, pressing her hands into her eyes. "Christ, how much did I drink?"
"More than me, that's for sure," he says. He slides up to sit on the counter, head resting against the cabinet. "I stopped counting after round six, which was about the time you got it in your head that you should have a drink for every time you boned my girlfriend behind my back as penance."
"Oh, God," she groans out. "Please tell me I didn't actually drink that much."
"Nah," he says with a laugh. "That was about the time your blonde architect came over to say hi on her way out of the bar, and you abandoned me to have another drink with her."
"Yeah, well, she's cuter than you," Beca mumbles.
"I think I'm going to leave Chloe," he says suddenly. Beca drops the coffee mug she's holding, barely catching it before it deflects off the conter.
"Maybe just a break," he amends. "I just… you're right, Beca, you've been right about all of this. Chloe was—is—using us, using me, and it's not cool. I love her, I really love her, but—I can't stay with her, not now, not when I can see."
"Oh," Beca says. "That's—uh, I mean, do I say congratulations or give you a high five or something?"
Micah laughs, kicking out and catching her in the hip gently. "Just tell me it's the right decision."
"It is," Beca says firmly. "It's gonna suck, but maybe you'll wind up in a bar with a hot blonde hitting on you in a few months and you'll forget all about her."
"Yeah, you think so?"
"Sure," Beca says. She pours two cups of coffee and hands one to him. "Worked wonders for me, yeah?"
"You forgot all about her?"
Beca sighs, slumping against the counter next to him. "No," she says quietly.
"Yeah," he says. "She's kind of fantastic."
"She really is," Beca says, wistful and sad, chest aching around a hole the shape of her bset friend.
"And really good in bed," Micah tacks on.
"God, yes," Beca says, even as her ears color red.
Jesse shuffles out of his room, yawning. Beca punches gently at Micah's knee and shoves off the counter, pouring another cup of coffee.
"Morning, lover," he says with a smirk, kissing her cheek wetly.
"Asshole," she says. She elbows him in the ribs, scrubbing at her cheek with her other hand as Micah laughs at them both. "Shut up, Mike."
"Be nice," Jesse says, patting the top of her head. "Or I'm leaving you at the bar at two in the morning next time."
"I hate you," Beca says affectionately.
"I hate you, too," Jesse says. "Mike, you sticking around a few more days?"
"I don't think so," he says quietly. "I should get back, I have—I've got a lot to do."
"You're sure?" Beca asks, brow furrowing.
"I think so," he says. "Like a band-aid, right? Should make it suck less."
"Maybe," Beca says. She eyeballs him skeptically. Jesse's gaze darts back and forth between them, but he stays blessedly quiet. "Do you have a flight back?"
"Yeah, actually," he says. He hops off the counter and drains the rest of his coffee. "I hopped on a corporate flight here from work, there's another one heading home this afternoon. I'm allowed to hitch if I pretend I'm working on something the whole way back."
"Ugh, jealous," Jesse grumbles. He jerks his head towards the bedrooms. "Go ahead and grab a shower if you want. I've got some clothes you can borrow if you want something clean."
"That'd be great," Micah says gratefully.
"Spare towels under the sink," Jesse says. He slaps Micah on the shoulder as he heads past them, and then turns to face Beca. "Okay, spill."
"Seriously?" Beca sighs out.
"As a shark attack."
"He's going to leave her," Beca says quietly, leaning against the counter. "I don't know if it's for good, or just for some distance to sort their crap out, but—yeah."
"Wow," Jesse says, whistling.
"Yeah," she whispers. "J, is this the right thing?"
"For who? I'm sure Chloe won't think so, but seeing as she's the one who screwed you both up, I don't think she's really earned that much of a say."
"Really," he says firmly. "Beca, you know I love Chloe, she's a great friend, but she treated you like crap. Do you remember how you were when you got here? She broke you. He looked just as bad when he showed up yesterday. Chloe is great and we all love her, but she needs to sort her shit out and stop using people like you and Mike to do it."
"Oh," Beca says, faint and unsure. "Okay."
"Anyways," Jesse continues. "You had a lovely lady vying for your attention last night even when you were leaving, if I do recall." He smirks when Beca flushes brilliantly. "Come on, tell me, tell me."
"Her name is Alex," Beca says, biting down on her lip and fiddling nervously with the handle on her coffee mug. "She's an architect—no, interior designer."
"What's she like?"
"She's—uh, she's kind of like you, actually. All earnest and nice and dorky."
"I knew I was your type," he crows, pumping his fist. "Ha! I knew it."
"Yeah, minus the whole lesbian thing," Beca retorts.
"Don't even care! My personality is glorious and you would totally want all up on this if I was rocking the lady parts."
"Oh dear God," Beca mutters. "I'm ignoring you. Go away."
"Deny it all you want, Beca Mitchell!" he calls after her as she heads towards her room. "You love me in all of my forms!"
"I'm ignoring you!" she shouts, shutting the door behind her and flopping onto her bed. After a few moments, she pulls her phone out of her pocket and thumbs through the text messages, landing on the one from Alex. Her finger hovers over the number, hesitating and jerking back and gravitating towards it at least half a dozen times before she finally takes a deep breath and dials.
It only rings twice before a cheerful "hello?" comes out.
"Uh—hi, um, is this Alex?"
"It is." There's a pause ,and a short laugh. "Is this Beca?"
"Uh, yeah," Beca says, and immediately pinches her own thigh at how lame she sounds. "Hi."
"I'm glad you called," Alex says.
"I—yeah, me too," Beca says. "Though I guess it makes more sense for me to say I'm glad you gave me your number."
Alex laughs again, and Beca smiles hesitantly. "I wasn't sure you'd remember who I was," Alex says. "We both got pretty drunk last night."
"Yeah, still feeling the downside of that," Beca says crossly.
"Bit of a hangover?"
"More like a nuclear bomb of a hangover." Beca smiles a little wider when it draws a chuckle from Alex.
"Well, I won't mess with your hangover and ask if you want to get lunch today, then," Alex says, easy and amicable. "Maybe tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow," Beca repeats stupidly, sitting up abruptly. "I—yes. I mean, tomorrow is Sunday, right?"
"It is." Amusement is obvious in Alex's voice. "If you're busy—"
"No!" Beca rushes out. "I mean, no, I'm not busy. Sorry. I'm, uh, not very good at this."
"Nobody is, really," Alex says warmly. "Some of us just fake it better htan others."
"Right," Beca says. "But yeah, no, tomorrow would be great."
"Awesome," Alex says. "Around noon?"
"Sure," Beca says. "Tomorrow at noon. Where?"
"How do you feel about sushi?"
"Um, I have no idea," Beca says hesitantly. "I've never had it?"
"Maybe another time, then," Alex says. "There's a Mexican place about a block away from the bar we were at last night. How about that?"
"Sure," Beca says again, and then pinches her thigh once more. "I mean, yeah, that sounds great. I know where you're talking about."
"Awesome," Alex says once more. "Then I will see you tomorrow at noon, Beca. Looking forward to it."
"Me too," Beca says stupidly. "Uh—I'll see you then."
"Bye, Beca," Alex says, her voice warm and smiling even through the phone, and Beca smiles into the emptiness of her room.
Beca sprawls back across her bed as the call ends, staring up at the ceiling. Outside her room, Micah and Jesse clomp around and chatter as Jesse tries to find a pair of jeans he doesn't mind giving up to Micah and New York. After long minutes of listening to them, she rolls off the bed and over to her desk, sorting through mountains of sheet music and notes to find a blank sheet of paper. Before she can stop herself long enough to think, she starts scrawling out a letter.
An hour later, the three of them head to the airport, and as she awkwardly hugs Micah goodbye, she presses the letter, folded sloppily into an envelope, into his hands.
"I'll give it to her," he says, offering her a small smile. He slides it into his coat pocket. "Look, Beca, thanks for—for talking some sense into me. You could have just told me to fuck off and then ridden off into the sunset with Chloe, but you didn't."
"Nah, I don't think I could have," Beca says. She shuffles her feet awkwardly, wishing Jesse would speak, but he remains steadfast and quiet at her side.
"Other people would have, though," Micah says quietly. "I don't think I really got it, not until now, how hard it was for you to leave."
"It is what it is," Beca says, shrugging.
"Yeah," Micah says with a faint smile. He mercifully drops the subject, turning his attention to Jesse and shaking his hand. "Thanks for everything, guys, really."
"Anytime," Jesse says. "Come back and visit sometime. We can all go out and get plastered." He elbows Beca in the ribs at that, and she shoves him in retaliation.
"Deal," Micah says, smiling wider. He hoists his bag over his shoulder and salutes mockingly before disappearing into the hangar. Beca watches him go, her arms folded over her stomach, and Jesse wraps an arm around her shoulders.
Beca stares after Micah, her shoulders stiff, for long seconds before she finally nods. "Yeah, I think I might be."
"Excellent. Can we get lunch?" he whines. "I'm starving."
"Fine," she says, rolling her eyes and following him back to the car. "Not Mexican, though."
"What? You love Mexican."
"I'm getting Mexican tomorrow," she mutters.
"You're—what?" He eyeballs her over the roof of the car for a split second before jumping up and down. "Oh my God! You have a date with the hot blonde architect!"
"Interior designer," Beca says shortly.
"Yeah, sure, I bet she wants to do all sorts of naughty things to your interior," he says.
"That doesn't even make sense!"
"Who cares? You're dating the female me! You're dating me with a vagina!" He jumps up and down again.
"I hate you," Beca mutters, flopping into the passenger's seat. He hops into the car, grinning broadly.
"No you don't," he sing-songs.
"I really do."
"Nah," he says. "You love me because you know I'm happy you have a date, not because you're dating someone who is apparently me with some minor biological differences."
"Gross," Beca says, punching him in the arm. "She's not that much like you."
"Hey, you're the one who said it," he says. He blows her a kiss and starts the car, driving out of the parking lot.
"She isn't," Beca retorts. "For one, she doesn't think movies are that great."
"What?" Jesse says. "Beca, no, you cannot go out with her."
"Too late." Beca sticks her tongue out at him childishly.
"That's terrible," Jesse mutters, sulking as he drives. Beca smirks and rolls her eyes, plugging her phone into the car and starting some music.
"Hey, Bec," Jesse says after a while. "What'd you give to Micah?"
Beca is silent, staring out the car window at the passing streets of Chicago. "A letter," she finally says. "For Chloe."
"You okay?" he asks quietly.
"Yeah," Beca says, taking a deep breath. "I just—I needed to say goodbye, I guess. I never said goodbye."
"Okay," he says. The music fills the space between them once more, and after a few seconds he reaches out and grips her hand briefly. She clings to him, not looking away from the window, and forces her mind to think of anything but Chloe.
I know you're going through a lot of crap and I don't want to add any of my crap on top of that, so I'll try not to say too much. Micah came here to talk to me about you. I think he expected me to come back to New York and steal you away from him, but I'm not going to do that. It's not because I don't miss you, because I definitely miss my best friend, and it's not because I don't love you, because as stupid as it makes me, I still do. But you hurt me, and we hurt each other, I guess, and we both need to get ourselves sorted out.
I need to figure out who I am now that I know I'm gay, because I figured out I was gay a week after the first time you kissed me but I never had a chance to figure out what that meant until I left. You need to figure out what your deal is, too, because you're not a bad person at all—you're a great person and that's why everyone loves you so much—but you weren't being good to me or Micah. I don't know if that's because you're scared that you might be gay, or bisexual, or something else, or if you have something else you need to figure out, but it wasn't doing anyone any good for me to let you keep using me to hide.
I'm probably only saying all of this because I think I'm still drunk from last night, but I think I needed to say it. Words aren't really my thing, you know that about me, but maybe since everything I've normally done has sucked, something different is the way to go this time. Anyways, I just wanted to say goodbye, I guess, and that I hope things work out for you. Maybe sometime we can talk, after I've figured me out and you've figured you out, but I still need this distance now.