Alright, people! Here we are with the second chapter. I have to say, I love the response I'm getting from you guys. I know it's a bit of a jarring idea that Beca and Chloe start the fic broken up, but it's absolutely and completely necessary for the story.

On that note as well, I should warn you that Beca is not the Beca of Stone Hard. You are going to see a woman who is not the most mature person emotionally. Because of that, she is going to do things that are going to make you shake your head. I know I'm asking a lot, but you guys are gonna have to trust CJ and I that it is gonna get better. Just as a warning, that point is only going to be solidified in a scene in this chapter. It's not enough to push our M-rating just yet, but just a heads up, the story will eventually get there.

This one is for certain going to be quite a ride…


CHAPTER 2

She dumped me.

She dumped me.

She dumped me.

I wish I could say that this is a foreign concept for me, that my savvy womanly wiles are strangers to the concept of rejection, that my fragile heart is innocent to the arrows from the cruel quiver of pain and suffering.

…Yeah, right.

Fortunately, this isn't even the worst of my many breakups over the years. I could easily list five women who have made their callous disregard for my delicate emotions more viscerally memorable.

Sorry, Chloe. You haven't even cracked the top five. Maybe you'd slip into the top ten, but there are other breakups that have cut deeper, that resonate stronger, that really burned when I immerse myself in the memory.

It started with Shannon McNeil back in high school. I had known I was gay before, but once I saw Shannon McNeil, there was no going back.

My first venture to the shark-infested waters of romance was with a girl I can honestly say was the type who made the songs make sense. It's not easy being closeted and even harder being out in high school, but she was the first girl who I thought would be worth coming out in public.

So I did.

That was my mistake.

She dumped me.

And two days later, she was dating Darryl Dawson, captain of the lacrosse team. The day after that, she lost her virginity to him. He was everything I wasn't, the type of guy any person would want to be associated with.

Talk about your blindside hit-and-run.

You know…now that I think about it…

They all were.

xxx-xxx-xxx

Beca's mouth opened.

And closed.

She blinked.

Her eyebrows drew together, as she struggled to process the events that had just unfolded.

Her senses seemed to sharpen despite the fog that had overtaken her mind. Chloe's perfume lingered, the click of Chloe's heels echoed in her ears. Vaguely, she registered Jesse and Amy voices, once loud enough to carry to the second floor, fade into shocked silence as Chloe strode past, no break in her stride, no waver in her gait. Beca leaned over the railing, watching Chloe open the door to Throwback and slide through.

The jingling of the bell resonated through the silence, a devastating sort of finality in the auditory signal of departure, deceptively cutting in the delicate cadence.

Confusion was the prevalent emotion, the most prevalent feeling that she could identify. Everything else was white noise.

Unconsciously, she descended the stairs to the main floor as if the action would bring her closer to the redhead who had exited minutes earlier, as though the action would bring some clarity to her jumbled mind. Jesse and Amy watched her warily, unsure of how their boss would react to the latest developments.

Beca turned to her two employees, still in shock. "What the hell just happened?"

Jesse summed up the situation simply and succinctly.

"Dude. Chloe just dumped you."

Beca nodded once.

That's what she thought.

xxx-xxx-xxx

She wasn't sure how long she stood in that position. Time seemed irrelevant. There were pockets of sound that registered vaguely in her hearing, the bustling of movement that crossed her vision, but Beca was aware of all of it. Her mind was set on repeat, the scene a myriad of flashes that all culminated in Chloe walking out the door.

"See, babe? Beca's fine."

Beca blinked as voices preceded the rather boisterous entrance that consisted of her older sister Maggie, her sister's fiancé, and their younger brother Dillon. As the trio charged forward, the focus quite clear towards intent, Maggie's fiancé Garrett Wade waved a hand at Beca, pleading with the eldest Mitchell to ease her pace.

"She's right here, unharmed." Garrett's longer legs staved off Maggie's full-speed charge. "You can calm down now."

He rolled his eyes fondly, sweeping back the sides of his suit jacket to brace his hands on his hips, one hand curved against his LAPD-issued sidearm, the other bracketing the gold badge signifying his status as a detective for the city's finest. Garrett hitched his head towards Beca, appealing to his fiancée. "Since we have ascertained the fact that Beca is not in mortal peril, you clearly don't need police presence. Can I go?"

"Jesus, Detective, are you not looking at her?" Maggie scolded him, one hand flapping towards her sister. "She doesn't look fine."

Dillon had been watching the proceedings with humor, his hands shoved in his pockets and a grin on his face as he reveled in Maggie's irrational distress. He looked to Beca and his brow furrowed in a genuine show of concern and piped up from beside his sister. "Yeah, dude. For all her crazy, Mags looks onto something." He nodded to his older sister. "Becs, you alright?"

Beca rubbed the back of her neck, her face falling as the encounter was pushed again to the forefront of her mind. "Chloe just dumped me."

Maggie barely stopped herself from lunging forward to her sister and wrapping Beca up in a comforting hug.

"Harsh," Dillon breathed out. "I told you that was her we saw storming away," he directed to his future brother-in-law, backhanding Garrett lightly on his arm. "There's no mistaking that red hair…Or that awesome ass…Ow!"

Garrett sighed, retracting the hand that just smacked Dillon upside the head, and turned a sympathetic gaze to Beca. "I'm sorry, Mini. Are you alright?"

The use of the nickname, an ode to both her height and her status as the younger sibling, shook Beca from her stupor, and she bared her teeth at Garrett. "Don't call me that."

Garrett smirked. "At least we know you're alive."

Beca jerked back in surprise as her older sister nearly bowled her over. Maggie finally succumbed to the impulse that had seized her from the moment Beca didn't answer her first call. "God, I was so worried! Why haven't you been answering your phone?"

Beca's arms flailed as she fought to maintain her balance, and she patted Maggie gingerly. "Sorry. I was in the studio."

Dillon perked up. "Oooh! Who you working with?"

Beca smiled, shaking her head at her younger brother. "New up-and-comer," she answered. "No one famous yet."

A corner of Dillon's mouth turned upward in that charming Mitchell smile. "He will be once you're done with him."

Beca grinned at her brother's confidence, sobering slightly as it brought back the rest of the events that brought her to her current predicament. Maggie, ever sensitive to her siblings, wrapped Beca up in another embrace. This time, it radiated of Maggie's inherent warmth rather than her frantic anxiety. She cradled Beca gently, pressing a kiss to her sister's hair. Beca relaxed for the first time that day, sagging against her sister's larger frame.

Maggie sighed, laying her head atop Beca's. "What happened?"

Beca huffed out a breath. Wasn't that the question? "…I don't know."

Maggie and Dillon exchanged a look, communicating without words. Maggie tightened her grip, her mouth curving downward in a pensive frown.

xxx-xxx-xxx

Alton Mitchell's prediction came true as Maggie's solution was to take Beca out to lunch to get her mind off of things. Although the Mitchell siblings provided her an escape, it didn't chase the memory of the day.

Garrett had returned to work, departing with a kiss for Maggie and a strong hug to Beca before the Mitchell siblings walked the short trek to one of Beca's favorite diners not too far from Throwback. She was greeted warmly by the wait staff and immediately ushered to what had become her usual table.

Presently, Beca sat at her seat, picking absently at her pasta salad. She was still in shock, unsure of how she should be reacting to the events. Maggie sat beside her younger sister, eyes surveying Beca closely.

Dillon stretched his long frame across his side of the table, carelessly scarfing down a burger. He looked very much like the collegian he was in the gray t-shirt proclaiming his allegiance to his university's athletic department stretched across his broad chest and a cap colored in the Pacific Coast University navy blue adorned with the familiar shield logo perched backwards atop his dark hair.

He fiddled with the white Power Balance bracelet around the wrist of his right hand, leaning forward to brace his forearms on the table.

"So what's the deal, Becs?" he asked. "I thought you and Chloe were solid."

Beca huffed out a sigh and shrugged. "So did I."

Maggie cocked an eyebrow. "So what the hell happened?"

Beca's lips twitched, curving in a frown. "I have no fucking clue."

Maggie's eyebrow inched higher. "Really? Breakups don't come out of nowhere, honey," she mused. "Something sparks it."

Beca grumbled beneath her breath. She ducked her head down, scrunching a hand through her hair. "I…may have blown off Diedrick Hale's release party."

Maggie waved a hand, prompting Beca to continue.

Beca grunted. "And I may have inadvertently slighted the president of the label in the process."

Maggie's lips pursed, and it was clear she expected Beca to continue even further.

Beca let out an exasperated sigh. She cursed relentless older sisters and their innate ability to pick up on the little emotional nuances. "…And she may have personally extended the invitation."

Dillon was the first to respond, cackling and leaning back against the booth. "Oh, that's good. Nice going, dumbass," he chided. He winced as Maggie's foot impacted sharply with his shin, folding forward in pain. "Jesus, Maggie."

The eldest Mitchell leveled a death glare. It was response enough.

"I'm just saying," Dillon grumbled, rubbing his shin. "Not a good move on Beca's part."

"Why didn't you go?"

Beca scoffed, rolling her eyes. "I was working with an artist," she answered.

Maggie's eyes narrowed as she appraised her closely. She could read her sister without even trying, but she didn't have to be intuitively perceptive to know how evasive Beca was being.

"And you thought this artist was more important than Chloe?"

"I thought making the label more money was more important than a publicity appearance," she countered.

"And Chloe didn't factor into this decision?"

Beca's jaw ticked, and she glanced away. Leave it to Maggie to drive straight to the heart of the problem. She didn't have to look at Dillon to see that he was wholly interested in her answer as well. Rolling her shoulders back, she quirked a sardonic smile.

"Not at the time, no."

Maggie hummed, nodding slowly. "So, your girlfriend, whom you claim you love, asks you to be at the release party for an artist – an artist I remember you playing an important part in recruiting to the label – and you decide that it's not worth your while to attend."

Beca deflated, fiddling with her fork. "Okay, it sounds worse when those are the terms you use…"

Maggie huffed an exasperated sigh as she shook her head. "Why do you do this?"

"What?" Beca grunted.

"Why do you insist on sabotaging your relationships?"

"What do you mean?"

Maggie adopted that all-knowing look. "Doesn't this seem a bit familiar to you?"

Beca's confusion was palpable. Her brow furrowed, and she shook her head to convey her ignorance.

"Beca, haven't you noticed that you have never broken up with a girl? That the girl has always been the one to break up with you?"

"C'mon, Maggie." Beca canted her head. "That's ridiculous."

Again, Maggie focused an all-knowing look onto Beca. "Is it? Can you honestly say that you've ever broken up with someone?"

Beca opened her mouth automatically to retort. Then she actually considered that point.

Well, there was…

No, wait.

But, she also…

No. That wasn't one either.

…Huh.

"Whatever," Beca dismissed. "None of them would have worked out anyway." Eager to change the subject, she turned to their brother watching the conversation with interest. "How're you doing, Dill Pickle?"

Dillon shrugged, his brow furrowing slightly. "I'm alright, I guess."

This time, it was Beca and Maggie who exchanged glances. Maggie spoke, eyes narrowing at the youngest Mitchell. "Talk, Dillon."

Dillon sighed, disliking the fact he was now the center of attention. He took off his cap, raking a hand through the dark brown hair that was common between all three Mitchell children before plopping it back on his head. "It's nothing compared to what Becs is dealing with."

Beca shook her head. "Dillon, my problems aren't more important than yours."

Dillon smiled, knowing that Beca said it with the utmost sincerity. "Do you remember that recruit I housed last year?" Dillon asked. "Jason Landry?"

Beca nodded. "Yeah. Some hotshot, five-star quarterback from Pasadena you guys were trying to woo from USC."

"Well, he ended up signing here. Coach said they were going to redshirt him freshman year and give him time to develop."

Maggie nodded. "So…?"

Dillon shook his head. He sighed, fiddling with the strap of his watch, a finger circling the black face. "They didn't redshirt him."

The underlying statement was clear. Dillon took that lack of action to mean they expected the new kid to play, creating a quarterback competition for the upcoming season. Beca laid a hand on Dillon's well-muscled arm, patting comfortingly. "Dillon, that means nothing."

"Then why not redshirt him?" Dillon dropped his head, playing with the discarded straw wrapper on the table. "Coach is high on the guy," he mumbled, shaking his head. "Talks him up all the time, calls him the best athlete he's ever seen, the future of the program."

"Maybe they want him to gain experience behind you," Maggie reasoned.

Dillon blew out a breath. "Maybe. I'm not gonna lie, the guy's good. Faster than I am, stronger arm, quicker…I can't help but feel like they're trying to replace me, though. It's not a good feeling."

Beca snorted, nodding slowly. "I certainly understand that."

Dillon huffed, his mouth curving in that Mitchell half-grin. "Yeah, I guess." He lolled his head back. "You know, this happened my sophomore year," he remarked. "Remember? I was challenging Brent Garrison for the starting spot, and Coach went with Brent because he was a senior. Tie goes to the upperclassmen, he said."

Beca smirked. "Not this time?"

"I don't think so," Dillon sighed. "There's a lot of weight behind Landry. He's a local guy, All-American in high school…I don't think PCU's had a higher touted recruit than him."

Beca sympathized. They all had their things. For Dillon, it was football. Since he was a kid, all he wanted to do was play. He took pride in being the starting quarterback for the Pacific Coast University Argonauts, right up there with the Notre Dames and the Penn States, and the Alabamas of the FBS when it came to storied football programs. He was the captain of that team, the seasoned veteran who was the steady presence, leading them through the rough times of mediocrity and rebuilding to their recent success.

"What are you gonna do?"

Dillon sighed again. "What I always do. Head down, nose to the grind, and just keep moving forward." Dillon dropped his head, removing his cap and running a hand through his tousled dark brown hair before plopping it back, fiddling with the crown. When he looked up again, he had that fire in his resolute gaze. They all had it when that smoldering flame of determination flared within them. His green eyes flashed with resolve. "He may have more talent than I do, but I can make sure he doesn't work harder than I do."

Maggie smiled, reaching across the table and pushing at his head playfully. "Atta boy, Pickle."

They settled back to enjoy their lunch, talking idly about Maggie's wedding preparation. It was nice to talk about something other than their prospective problems. As Beca leaned back, avoiding Maggie's lighthearted swipes as she jokingly asked if she could wear a tux rather than a dress as Maggie's maid of honor, she felt a warmth that eased the angst of her earlier encounter.

That warm feeling was abruptly interrupted as Beca's phone rang shrilly. Beca glanced down at her phone, resisting the urge to groan. "Hang on, it's the label." Accepting the call, Beca raised the device to her ear. "Beca Mitchell."

As the conversation continued, Beca's expression grew stormier and stormier until a scowl made its way to prominence on her features. Maggie and Dillon exchanged a look. There could only be one person on the other end of that phone that could cause such a change in attitude from their sister. Ending the call, Beca tossed her phone on the table, reaching for her jacket.

"The president wants to see me."

Dillon smirked. "Someone's in trouble," he singsonged teasingly.

Beca's mouth mirrored his movement, curving into a rueful, crooked smile. She reached into her pocket and peeled a series of bills, throwing them onto the table to pay for their meal. "I'm always in trouble. The millions upon millions of dollars I bring into the label will never change that."

Dillon reared back, slapping hands with Beca as she threw on her jacket. "Yo, B, any chance I can get an invite to an after party or something?"

Beca rolled her eyes, smacking him upside the head. "Keep dreaming, Dill."

xxx-xxx-xxx

Beca threw open the doors to the president's office, resisting the urge to throw…something. For a twenty seven year-old music producer who had accrued so much success, the president of Gold Monarch Records seemed to take great pleasure in treating her like an insolent child. And if she heard the name Landon Perry one more time…

She made her way back to the lobby, tense posture and purposeful steps a clear beacon to the people around her to stay away. It was a well-known fact amongst the staff that talking to Beca after a meeting with the label's executives was a very quick path to a vicious tongue-lashing.

She stopped by the receptionist's desk, leaning against the counter. She mustered up a smile for the young man in the seat. "Hey,Quincy."

Quincy nodded with a smile and returned the greeting. "Hey, B."

"Any messages for me?"

"Yeah. I just put some into your box." Quincy rolled over to Beca's inbox, plucking a few papers. He handed them over to Beca with a smile. "Here you go."

Beca flipped through them, frowning at a couple of the senders. A rhythmic clicking caught her attention, and she turned her head to the sound. She followed the Christian Louboutin pumps up the long, slender legs, to the flare of swaying hips, finally settling on the gorgeous face of the label president's personal assistant. She greeted the producer as she approached Quincy, leaning over his desk and passing over a folder with some instructions.

"Beca."

The seductive tone caught her interest, and Beca focused on the ice blue eyes that stood out against the smooth, mocha-colored features. Sarah, her brain vaguely recalled. She was a young woman, gorgeous in that exotic sort of way. Beca remembered the first time she met Sarah and since that first day, the other woman wasn't shy about making her interest known.

"Hey, Sarah," she returned.

Sarah shot out a smile. "You recuperate from your encounter with the boss?"

Beca huffed out a snort. Her mind went back to the meeting she had just exited. It was equal parts frustrating and irritating.

Your records have outsold everyone in the business…"

You're the hottest producer out there…

Oh, but stop trying to break the mold Gold Monarch has laid out for you.

She shrugged slightly, choosing to just dismiss the question without much more elaboration. Who knew what Sarah would say to her boss despite the obvious attraction the other woman was practically emanating. "It is what it is," she brushed off. "Nothing new, you know?"

Sarah propped a hand on her hip, directing a playful look to the smaller woman. "Aren't you getting tired of getting called into the principal's office?" she teased.

Again, Beca shrugged. "I figure I should make things interesting," she remarked. "I'm not a puppet, and I certainly can think for myself. Besides, it's pretty clear my style works."

Sarah inclined her head. "Yeah," she agreed. "No one can deny your style doesn't sell…in many ways." She sidled up beside Beca, her intent clear. "Many, many ways."

Beca glanced up into the ice blue eyes that surveyed her with clear interest. She smirked, reclining against the desk. "I think it's more my talent that can't be denied," she corrected. False modesty be damned.

"Well, your talent sounds like it you got a tongue-lashing," Sarah commented humorously.

Beca chuckled. "Just another day. I'll recover soon enough."

"Maybe I can help?"

Beca's eyebrow arched upward, but she didn't answer. She merely studied the other woman. Sarah slowly and deliberately rolled her body upward, the movement highlighting the dips and curves of the physical manifestation of her womanly wiles. She winked, sashaying away. She shot Beca one more meaningful look, entering the women's restroom in the hallway.

Beca felt her ego surge with the implication. Hey, free game. She had just been dumped. Quite callously too. She turned to Quincy. "I'd be stupid if I didn't follow, right?"

Quincy's eyes widened. "Girl, I will frog-march you there myself if you don't get your ass in that bathroom."

Beca smirked, squaring her shoulders.

Alrighty then.

xxx-xxx-xxx

Beca squeezed her eyes tight, concentrating on the task at hand. She kept the rhythm, despite her mind being elsewhere, the rampant thoughts unable to break her tempo. Her leather jacket and zip-up sweatshirt were on the floor, leaving her in just her Henley that Sarah had a hand shoved under and curved against her breast.

God, Sarah was hot, and damn, did she feel good. But even in the midst of their hot tryst, Beca couldn't shake the feeling that this was all wrong.

The timbre of the voice breathing heavily in her ear was higher in pitch, the cadence of the moans was off. Her face was buried into a mocha-colored neck, the incorrect shade; much too dark, and the smell wasn't a delicate, flowery scent, rather something sharp and spicy.

She pressed her face further in Sarah's neck, refusing to look into her eyes, knowing that the one she would be greeted with wasn't the face she wanted to see. Her hips thrust harder, guiding her hand deeper as the other hand palmed Sarah's thigh, driving the personal assistant harder against the stall door.

The rhythmic slap of skin on skin was the only sound that accompanied Sarah's whimpers. She could feel the wetness surround her fingers, muscles clenching tightly around the digits in a vice grip. Sarah was enraptured, drowning in her pleasure, and Beca could feel her reaching climax.

Release came in a sharp, single cry.

That wasn't right, either. She heard a different orgasmic indicator. It was like a crescendo, building in intensity until it spilled over in a final signal of pinnacle bliss.

She felt the kisses pressed to her face and schooled her features.

"You're just as amazing as advertised."

Beca mustered up a cocky smirk, canting her head slightly. "Well, you know, reputations tend to come by honestly."

"I gotta get back to work. They'll wonder where I am."

Beca smirked, stepping back. Sarah sidled by her, careful to initiate as much contact as possible before she exited with a coy glance over her shoulder.

Beca watched her go, her smirk wavering on her face. She let out a deep breath, swallowing hard.

While Sarah may have reached her climax – quite ferociously; she could pat herself on the back for that one – Beca could hardly say the same for her own condition.

Physically, she felt everything. The tingles from the contact of skin on skin, the sharp sting on her neck where she had been bitten in an effort to muffle the sounds of pleasure, the wetness on her fingertips from Sarah's arousal.

But emotionally…

Nothing.

She had felt absolutely nothing.

The ghost of red hair and bright blue eyes lingered in the consciousness of her mind, clenching her libido in a vice grip that she couldn't escape.

But it was more than that.

There was no emotion, no connection.

It had been enough before.

It wasn't enough now.

Beca exited the stall, her movements methodical, almost mechanical as she washed her hands and left the bathroom. She made her way to the elevators, entering the car. As she descended down to the ground floor of the building, leaning against the rail, eyes fixated to the ceiling, Beca struggled to absorb exactly what had just happened, and when she pushed open the doors to the building, Beca finally let her façade crumble, and she hung her head.

Taking deep breaths, she gathered herself, pushing away the stifling feeling of remorse and shame creeping its way into her consciousness. It had been an impulsive moment of weakness, an almost out-of-body experience, fueled by her unconscious desire to recapture some of the self-esteem and confidence shattered with Chloe's rejection. Now that she had truly allowed her consciousness to rule her actions, the guilt threatened to overwhelm her.

Throwing her hood over her head and sliding sunglasses over her eyes, she trudged down the street and towards her car.

xxx-xxx-xxx

On the other side of the city, Chloe Beale slid out of a cab, tipping the driver and shouldering her briefcase. She nodded at the doorman as he opened the door for her with a tip of the cap and a small bow. The small restaurant was upscale and sophisticated, catering to the executives and other high end suits that gravitated in from the surrounding buildings. She certainly wasn't out of place amidst the business suits and shiny designer shoes of the other patrons.

Chloe glided through the restaurant, heedless of the eyes from men and women following in her wake. She reached her table, leaning in to press a kiss to the blonde woman standing to greet her.

Chloe descended down in her chair, dropping her briefcase beside her. She exhaled slowly, shooting a tired smile to her best friend.

"You have no idea how much I needed this," she murmured, smiling up at the waiter as he placed a vodka-cranberry cocktail in front of her. She took a drink, propping her chin in her fist.

The blonde cocked an eyebrow, a small smile curving her lips. "So bribing you with alcohol is the only way to get you in front of me?" She chuckled. "I see how high I rank on your list of priorities."

Chloe chuckled. "I'm sorry I haven't been more attentive to you," she apologized. "Who would have thought Aubrey Posen was so high maintenance."

Aubrey smirked, rolling her eyes. "Well, I need my Chloe time." She grinned. "After all, everyone else gets a piece of you."

Chloe shot her a pointed look. "I could say the same for you, Miss Posen."

Aubrey hummed her agreement, not bothering with false modesty. "Well, if it means that we're in high demand, I certainly don't mind."

Chloe couldn't argue with that. Aubrey Posen commanded her chosen career in the same vein as Chloe did in the world of media PR. If an artist wanted to book a gig, Aubrey was the person you wanted in her corner. There was no talent agent in Los Angeles more efficient and effective.

Aubrey reclined back in her chair, crossing long legs as she regarded her best friend closely. "So…word around is that you dumped a certain alt-girl producer."

Chloe cocked her head. She extended her arm, peering down at the face of her watch. "That only took you one minute and fifty-two seconds," she teased. Her expression sobered, and she nodded. "I did."

Aubrey arched an elegant eyebrow. It was a surprise. For as much as she wasn't quite sold on Beca Mitchell, she couldn't deny the diminutive producer made her best friend happy. Or so she thought. "What happened?"

Chloe flicked a hand through her hair. "She blew me off."

"Diedrick Hale's release party," Aubrey inferred.

Chloe nodded, swallowing hard. It was clear their breakup was still raw. "She claimed her time was better utilized with another artist making more money for the label."

Aubrey's business sense saw the rationale. "Well, she's not wrong," she commented.

"No," Chloe conceded. "But you and I both know she did it the slight the president."

Aubrey snorted. "Yes, she seems wholly intent on burning all bridges." She sighed. "I just don't understand her. For someone so successful and so intuitive to the politics within the industry, she seems to intently resist all forms of authority being lorded over her."

Chloe smiled indulgently. "You know Beca," she chided. "She's always been the champion of the rebellious misfits. Success and fame isn't going to change that."

"How'd she take it?"

Chloe pursed her lips, and she shook her head. "I didn't stay long enough to find out. I think I shocked her. But it's over. We're done."

Aubrey frowned. There was a hesitancy in Chloe's voice. She could tell the conviction was lacking in her tone. She caught Chloe's expression, the regret in her pinched features. The redhead looked away, and Aubrey cocked an eyebrow.

"You're still in love with her, aren't you?"

Chloe smiled sadly. "Of course I'm still in love with Beca. When she's not driving me up the wall, she's passionate, she's romantic, and she's incredible in bed…"

Aubrey rolled her eyes. Unfortunately, she had been the recipient of Chloe's recounts of Beca's sexual prowess. According to Chloe, their relationship had never lacked in physical contact. She squinched her eyes shut, waving a hand through the air, shaking her head insistently. "Stop. Don't go any further. I get the point."

"Sorry." Chloe ducked her head, frowning to herself, letting out a deep breath. "I just…I'm just…I can't do this anymore."

"What do you mean?"

Chloe gestured vaguely. "Beca's not happy," Chloe admitted. "And I don't know what to do to make her happy."

Aubrey's expression softened at her best friend's distress. "Is that really your job though? Beca's a grown woman. You're not responsible for her happiness."

"No," Chloe acknowledged. "But I'm tired of thinking as though I'm not enough. Even when she's with me…I feel…I don't…" she sighed, her head lolling back against her chair. "I have this feeling like she's not all there, you know? Like she's not entirely with me, maybe like she's not giving me all of herself."

Aubrey nodded. "And you're tired of playing second-place to an aberration that you can't even identify?"

Chloe smiled ruefully. "Exactly."

"So that's it?" Aubrey asked. "After all this time, you guys are just…over?"

Chloe sighed. "Well, I seriously doubt it'll that easy," she admitted. "There's a lot of history and a lot of feelings still. But, you know Beca." Chloe smiled sadly. "She has absolutely no problem bouncing back."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Aubrey drawled. "You're not an easy person to get over."

"Maybe not," Chloe sighed. "But apparently I'm easy enough to let go."

xxx-xxx-xxx

Back at her apartment, Beca laid out on the rug in her living room, spread eagle and staring aimlessly up at the ceiling. She drew in a deep breath, lolling her head to the side. Chloe's things were thrown in a bunch of garbage bags and lying by the door, waiting for the redhead to come pick them up. She had come home to that, and it was clear the redhead had been around to pack up the things she had accumulated through the years she and Beca dated.

Four years.

Four years unraveled in a seemingly innocuous moment.

A moment she had yet to truly understand.

She felt as though someone had stolen all the oxygen from her lungs and she was operating on limited air.

She felt like arrows had punctured holes in her heart and were bleeding her dry.

As though he felt her distress, her dutiful companion sidled up to her. She met luminous blue eyes imploring down from a furry face. He dropped his head down, nuzzling against her with a rumbling purr. She sighed as he clambered onto her chest. Absorbing the comfort he offered, she absently scratched distractedly at his soft, light gray fur.

"Aw, thanks, Smokey Robinson. You'll never leave me, will you?"

Smokey's entire little body vibrated with the force of his purr, and his paws kneaded at her sweatshirt in obvious concurrence. Beca sighed again, cradling her kitten against her chest.

"Yeah, I thought so."

"Beca?"

Beca's head lifted up as Stacie let herself in, laden down with bags of groceries. Stacie's eyes automatically went to Beca on the living room rug, her normal brooding spot. Shifting her grip on the bags, she made her way to the kitchen, setting her boon on the island in the center. Beca rumbled a barely intelligible greeting, choosing to continue wallowing in her indignation and misery.

"Hi to you too," Stacie drawled, sorting through the various bags. She glanced down as Smokey wound around her legs, nuzzling her calf in greeting. "And hello to you, Mr. Smokey." She glanced over at her best friend still sprawled on the rug. "Hayles is coming over after her shift. I figured seeing her in the uniform would make you feel better."

Beca grunted, her feet wiggling absently as her eyes strayed back to her ceiling.

Stacie's lips curled into a sympathetic smile. "How're you doing?"

"Peachy," came the derisive snort.

Stacie rolled her eyes. "And we wonder how you find yourself in these positions."

Beca sighed. "Sorry, Stace." She ran a hand over her hair, ruffling the unkempt brunette strands.

Stacie chuckled, crouching down beside Beca and dropping a kiss to the top of her head as she handed the erstwhile brunette a Jack and Coke, heavy on the Jack. "No biggie, babe. I've become immune to the Beca Mitchell idiosyncrasies."

Beca huffed a rueful laugh. "That doesn't sound too encouraging."

"Don't worry, Mitchell," Stacie assured her, stretching out beside Beca. "I still love you."

"If you say so," Beca snorted, stretching against the rug.

"Yo, Mitchell!" Both jumped as two strong thumps resonated on her closed door. "Open up!"

Stacie rolled her eyes, hefting up off the floor to head to the door. She yanked at the handle, shooting a pointed look to the woman on the other side before retreated back to the kitchen. "Dork. Why the hell didn't you just use your key? People might think Beca's in trouble."

Hayley Wade sidled through the doorway, her hand braced on her gun belt. Garrett's younger sister had followed her brother into law enforcement to also become one of LAPD's finest. Not for the first time, Beca marveled at how well her ex-girlfriend filled out her uniform.

Hayley arched an eyebrow. "Right," she drawled, glancing around Beca's multi-level penthouse apartment that spanned the entire top floor of her high rise. "Because Beca's multiple neighbors would totally have issue with it." She glanced over to the woman in question, sprawled out on the floor, still nursing her Jack and Coke.

"Yikes, Becs, you look like shit."

"You get dumped by your girlfriend and see how flawless you look," Beca grunted back.

"Chloe dumped you?" Hayley's brows drew together as she crouched down, petting Smokey Robinson in greeting.

"You don't talk to your brother, do you?"

"No," Hayley shook her head. "We don't typically cross paths when I'm walking the beat. Why?"

"Cuz he saw the aftermath. I figured he would pass the word along." Beca sighed. "Maggie went all crazy older sister and came to Throwback looking for me. She brought Garrett and Dillon and they all caught me right after Chloe left."

"Ouch," Hayley lamented. There was a beat before she asked the blatantly obvious follow-up question. "What the hell did you do?"

Apparently, the question wasn't as obvious to Beca as she surged upward indignantly. "What makes you think it's my fault?" she challenged.

Hayley leveled a dry look at the music producer. "First-hand experience."

Stacie shrugged her concurrence. "Can't say I disagree."

Beca snorted. "This is what I get for having two ex-girlfriends as my best friends."

Hayley chuckled and disappeared into one of the spare rooms where Beca kept her and Stacie's extra clothes. "You're the one who couldn't shake us, Beca," she tossed back over her shoulder.

"I'd like to think it was a coerced arrangement," Beca drawled. "And I've been paying for it every since."

Hayley spoke over the sound of Velcro disengaging and buckles releasing as she divested herself from the uniform and accoutrements of her station. "Your life is better with me and Stacie in it," she stated plainly. "Recognize it."

Beca sighed, reaching out to cuddle Smokey Robinson closer, scratching aimlessly at his fur and seeking comfort from the one person who was always on her side. There certainly wasn't any arguing when Stacie and Hayley teamed up. And it certainly wasn't as though she could argue with the fact. Hayley reappeared in the living room, a pair of LAPD sweatpants slung low over her hips and a sports bra molding to her torso. Beca's eyes raked over the slender, athletic build, scanning over the leanly muscled biceps and chiseled abdominals before Hayley threw a cut-off t-shirt highlighting The Clash over her head.

She moved to the kitchen, accepting a Jack and Coke from Stacie, thanking her with a kiss to the cheek. Moving to the living room, Stacie propped herself against the foot of the couch while Hayley wedged herself in the corner.

Hayley took a sip of her drink, propping her head on her fist. "So what happened?"

Beca took a deep breath, recounting the story, the confusion clear in her tone and posture. She blew out a deep breath.

"She just…she dumped me. And it was just like…she didn't even think about it. She just told me it was over." Beca's jaw clenched. "She said I needed to take a look at myself and figure out how to be happy."

Hayley and Stacie exchanged a look over Beca's head. While the words were different, the message seemed eerily familiar. Stacie sighed, throwing an arm around Beca's shoulders.

"I'm sorry, sweetie."

Beca sighed. "Yeah, whatever."

Stacie shook her head. "You don't get to do that, Beca," she chastised. "We're not just anyone. You don't just get to brush this off."

Beca grunted, and her posture turned acquiescent. "I don't even know how it got to this," she admitted.

"Well, it was definitely a bad call not going to the launch party," Hayley began. "Especially since Chloe invited you personally."

"Yeah," Beca grumbled.

"It was probably the last straw," Stacie remarked.

"How was I supposed to know it was the last straw when I had no idea I had wasted the other straws?"

"Look, Beca, we know you're not an inconsiderate person." Hayley's eyes met Beca's strongly. "Was slighting your boss really worth hurting Chloe?"

Beca swallowed hard. She ducked her head. "I didn't even think of Chloe."

Stacie hummed. Inwardly, she sighed. Sometimes Beca was truly the most oblivious person. "Good going."

"Whatever," Beca grunted. "She wants it to be over? Fine." Beca canted her head, the irritation clear. "I don't need her. We're over."

Hayley and Stacie exchanged another look, this one full of worry. That tone was never good. It screamed of Beca in her most self-destructive mode. History served tried and true when Beca got that glimmer in her eye and that set to her jaw. While Beca Mitchell the producer could evoke and portray the deepest of emotions through the simple process of creating a captivating rhythm and beat, Beca Mitchell the person often had the emotional wherewithal of a single-celled organism.

Needless to say, Beca post-breakup was never a pretty sight.

But it was her way of dealing, her way of disconnecting and wiping the slate clean to pursue another interest.

…Even if it never resulted in the most prudent of actions.

Even now, they could tell that Beca was already headlong into her descent to disparity as she fidgeted, refusing to make eye contact. Stacie narrowed her eyes.

"What did you do?"

Beca played innocent, shrugging negligently. "Dunno what you're talking about."

"You're squiggly," Hayley stated plainly. "Dude, we know you better than that. You've either done something that's made you guilty or you're guilty because you've done something."

"Weird circular reasoning," Stacie remarked.

Hayley shrugged in response.

They both looked to Beca, waiting for her answer. For the second time that day, Beca cursed her highly intuitive and ridiculously perceptive social circle. She sighed. "I may have done Sarah in the bathroom at Gold Monarch."

Hayley's jaw dropped. "You fucked the president's personal assistant?"

"Yeah." Beca drew out the word in a long exhale.

Stacie leaned forward. "And…? How do you feel?"

Beca didn't answer verbally. She simply shrugged.

Stacie shook her head slowly. There was something lingering, she could tell, and she knew Hayley could as well. Still, pushing Beca would only make her retreat, so Stacie kept the conversation light. "Wow," she drawled. "You finally got hooked. She's been chasing you since you met her."

"Back in the game, I guess," Beca quipped blithely. "My welcome back into bachelorette life." She smirked. "I was always good at being single, you know?"

Hayley and Stacie exchanged one final look. It was one of utter trepidation. Mentally, both girls braced themselves. They predicted a messy clean-up on the horizon.

It always was.

xxx-xxx-xxx

Jesse and Amy sat on the front counter of Throwback, eyes fixated across the room. Over by the bar, an interesting exchange was unfolding before their very eyes.

Jesse shook his head. "No way," he insisted. "There's no way."

"I dunno, Spielberg," Amy drawled. "That right there is a bitch in heat."

Beca was leaning casually against the bar. For someone so small in stature, she had a way about her that could fill the room with her presence. Her lips were curved upward in a smirk, and her navy blue eyes were narrowed slightly in a seductive, smoldering stare.

It shouldn't work.

It was too cheesy, too hokey.

And yet it was.

The tall blonde was completely enthralled by the music producer, hanging on to her every word. From the moment the blonde had entered the shop, it was like a predator locking in on its prey. Beca had zeroed in on the woman, greeting her as she walked through the store but had kept her distance, playing coy and slightly detached.

Immediately, Amy and Jesse had started taking bets, throwing their opinions on the outcome. Jesse was adamant to the fact that Beca would not succeed in her gradual yet shockingly smooth seduction. Amy, on the other hand, was confident in the seemingly inexplicable charm of their gruff and prickly boss.

They couldn't hear what was being said, but it was clear in the blonde's posture and constant impulse to touch Beca that there was a good amount of interest. They could see Beca smirk, saying something to the blonde. The woman leaned in, coquettish expression decorating her unfairly gorgeous features, lip captured between straight, white teeth. She sidled closer to Beca, leaning across the brunette to grab one of the cardboard coffee sleeves and a Sharpie, making sure her breasts brushed against Beca. With deliberate movements, she wrote down her number, sliding it over to Beca. The blonde leaned down, whispering something in Beca's ear, lips brushing sensually against the lobe. With a flirtatious wink, she turned, sauntering across the store and out the door, throwing one more smile to the producer.

Beca watched her go, a predatory glimmer dominating the navy blue gaze. Her smirk widened as she glanced down to the coffee sleeve, sliding the cardboard into the back pocket of her jeans. Pushing off the counter, she made her way past her employees towards the sound system.

"Looks like someone's over her heartbreak," Jesse grumbled, slapping a twenty into Amy's palm.

That clearly was the wrong thing to say as Beca tensed, stormy navy eyes sparkling with ire snapping in his direction. Jesse gulped, his shoulders rising slightly to his ears. Beca's gaze narrowed.

"Heartbreak?" Beca scoffed. "Please." She bristled, canting her head in clear defiance. "Chloe Beale does not warrant feelings of heartbreak."

"Whoa…" Amy muttered, watching Beca storm away to her office, then out the door to her next recording session. She turned to Jesse, delivering a solid punch to his arm. "Good show, you drongo. Way to make the boss spit the dummy."

Jesse spread his arms as Amy followed suit, disappearing into the depths of the store. His face reflected his confusion. "What did I do?" He lowered his arms, shaking his head. "And what the hell did she say?"

xxx-xxx-xxx

The atmosphere in the studio was even tenser than usual. From the moment she had walked into the booth, Beca's demeanor screamed her aggravation. She was terse and easily irritable, her movements short and curt. Her tone never wavered, but it had the underlying bite of her irritability. One would never accuse Beca of anything less than the utmost standard of professionalism. Still, it seemed as though the normally unflappable producer was fraying at the edges.

The unfortunate subject of her ire was the female R&B artist known simply as Cynthia Rose. She was semi-successful, a budding star with a raspy voice and amazing stage presence who was looking a breakout single to push her into the realm of the elite. Normally, she and Beca worked well together, Cynthia serving predominantly as a songwriter, and their history featuring multiple collaborations for other artists. This was the first time they had worked together for Cynthia Rose's album.

"No, no, no!" Beca pushed herself back from the mixing board throwing her arms in the air. She whirled on one of the sound engineers.

"Do not tell me you touched the levels. There's a reason I set them the way I did. You know what sound we're trying to go for here!"

He held up his hands in clear surrender, knowing that now was not the right time to argue with a clearly irrational Beca. To retort would only rile her up even further and she would descend even deeper into whatever funk was currently stifling any and all interpersonal skills she possessed.

It had been a difficult recording session to say the least, and Beca was tougher than usual. Nothing seemed to satisfy her, and it was clear everyone was fraying at the edges.

Beca rose from her chair, cutting the tape with a sharp snap of her wrist. She glared at Cynthia Rose through the glass.

"CR, I'm telling you straight up. You gotta give it some break. You're ascending too quick to the high note. You have to give it some sort of break otherwise there's no drama to play off of."

Cynthia's posture reflected her own frustration as she squared up to Beca from the other side of the glass. "Beca, and I'm telling you, that's not what I was thinking when I wrote it," she shot back. "It's meant to build steadily to the crescendo. To break up the build breaks the tempo, and it's gonna take away from the climax."

As they continued to argue, Elena sidled through the door to the sound room, responding to a 911 text from Cynthia Rose.

"CR, I'm the goddamn producer of this album," Beca growled. "I know what it will need to make it fucking platinum. You may have written amazing songs for other artists, but now your ass is on the line, and we don't know even know if you have what it takes or even–"

Elena's eyes got wide, and she intervened before Beca crossed a line she couldn't erase and permanently damage a good friendship.

"Hey!" She surged upward, grabbing Beca by the arm. She forcefully pushed the smaller brunette out of the sound room and out into the hallway. "Beca, take a walk."

Beca huffed and complied, storming through the hallway and turning the corner to move deeper into the building.

xxx-xxx-xxx

Her current location was empty as Beca stewed, arms crossed over her chest. She ran a hand over her face, propping her forehead on a closed fist. She banged her head on her fist, muttering angrily to herself.

"Christ, Mitchell. Forgot to pop a Midol before coming in?"

She groaned. Awesome. The absolute last person she wanted to see. Beca lofted her head, meeting the mocking, squinty-eyed gaze of Landon Perry.

Objectively speaking, he was a good-looking guy. Artists, especially female ones, had a difficult time seeing past the flowing ebony locks, piercing dark eyes, and chiseled jawline to uncover the mediocre talent and true nature of the handsome producer.

From personal experience, Landon Perry was a douchebag, and Beca certainly wasn't shy to share her opinion about what she thought of her rival.

For the people employed at their record label, everyone knew an artist wanted to work with either Landon or Beca. The shiny suits preferred Landon. He was safe, he was reliable…and he did everything the label brass told him to do.

The artists, however, preferred Beca. She was a maverick, comfortable with taking the risks that ensured a hit record, even if it differed with the sound the label sought to produce.

"Keep walking, Perry," Beca growled.

"A bit overwhelmed? Can't hack it with the big boys?" Landon shook his head, the smirk clear on his face. "No, I get it. It's a shame though."

Beca couldn't help but laugh. Nothing could be further than the truth. "You're sure you're not talking about yourself?" She jabbed a thumb into her breastbone. "Because I'm hacking it just fine."

She really disliked Landon Perry, and her current aggravation was fueling her aggression towards him. Normally, she wouldn't let him bait her like this. But it seemed as though everything was raining down on her at once. Emotions once kept in check, were running rampant in a manner that she wasn't sure what she was supposed to feel.

Beca chuckled derisively. "You know, for the all the effort you've put in being the label's bitch, you're not doing so well in the popular or critical vote. How about you talk to me when you've won a Grammy?" Beca held out a hand. "Let's not even shoot that high. You can talk to me when one of your records gets certified gold."

Landon reddened, and he hitched his chin in defiance. "Trophies don't mean anything."

Beca inclined her head sardonically. It was clear he certainly didn't believe that notion even if he claimed otherwise. "Right." Beca drawled. "Only people who don't have them say stuff like that." Her smirk widened, hands out in supplication. "I mean, you're right. It's absolutely ludicrous that an artist would pick a producer who has won Grammy awards," she gestured to herself before turning the gesture on him, "over one who hasn't. How's that fared for you, by the way?"

Landon bristled. "Trophies or not, pretty soon, the label's gonna get tired of your shit," he commented. "They'll decide that your rebellious schtick is old, and they'll drop you. Then no one will want to work with you."

"Maybe," Beca agreed. "But at least when they do, I can still say I've accomplished more than you have." Her lips split into a derisive smirk. "So that'll be something."

She was getting to him. It was plain to see in the fact that his carriage tensed, and he looked away. That was her dagger; even with all the preferences afforded to Landon, he still had not managed to gain recognition in the ways Beca had. Things like Grammys, AMAs, and Billboard awards had escaped his grasp, most of the time to land in Beca's. She seemed to thrive on defying the label, and the critics and public ate it up. They loved the reputation she had accrued as a maverick amongst producers.

Landon advanced on her, eyes glinting intently. "I'll have my day, Mitchell," he promised. "And when I do, I am going to make sure I fully enjoy rubbing your face in it."

Beca smirked. "You're gonna have to have your day many times over to even register on my 'I give a fuck' radar, Landon. But if it makes you feel better, you can hold onto that."

Landon growled, bristling. He was about to retort when another voice joined their conversation.

"Is there a problem here?"

Landon straightened, flashing a charming smile to their new company. "No, Elena, of course not. Just a friendly conversation between colleagues."

Elena nodded slowly, nonplussed. "Whatever you say, Landon." She leveled a meaningful glare to the other producer. "I'm sure you have an artist waiting for you," she drawled. "I don't think it would be a good idea to keep him waiting any longer."

Landon cleared his throat. "Of course." He threw out a sickening smile. "You ladies have a good session."

Elena waited until Landon had disappeared before she tugged her client into an empty conference room. Elena whirled on Beca, a finger digging into her chest. "What the hell?"

Beca crossed her arms, leaning against the table. "What?" She scowled petulantly.

"Beca…" There was a clear warning in Elena's tone.

"I was just doing my job," Beca protested. "This is CR's first album and–"

"No, no, no, no," Elena snapped, cutting Beca off with a slash of her hand. "Don't give me that. That was not you doing your job. That was something else."

Beca tossed her head, breath whooshing out in exasperation. "Elena, c'mon. Don't make this into something it isn't."

"No, you come on, Beca." Elena leveled a stern glare at her client. "I am not stupid, and I know you a hell of a lot better than that. What is going on?"

Beca shook her head stubbornly. "Nothing."

"No," she insisted, rounding on the smaller brunette. "I'm not up for taking your bullshit today. You're going to tell me what the hell is going on." She poked a finger into Beca's chest. "Talk."

Beca's lips tightened, and she ducked her head. "Chloe broke up with me."

Elena's eyebrows drew together in concern. "Oh, geeze. Beca, I'm sorry."

"I'm fine," Beca answered blithely. She waved a hand. "I just had a rough day, and it compounded with everything going on."

Elena's expression shifted to mirror her dubious demeanor.

"Seriously, Elena, don't worry. Chloe doesn't even make my top five."

Elena hummed her dissent. "So why does it seem like you're more irritable than usual. I know you don't truly think Cynthia Rose is a hopeless case."

Beca shook her head. "Of course I don't." She closed her eyes, hanging her head. Inwardly, she cursed herself for losing control the way she did. Battling her emotions, Beca clenched her jaw, glancing away. "I'm still…" she cleared her throat. "Chloe's…she was such a prominent part of my life. I'm still getting used to the idea of…you know…" She waved a hand. "Dealing with not having her around and stuff."

Elena's tone and expression was skeptical. "Uh-huh."

Beca bristled at the implication, and she adopted a blithe, dismissive posture. "Look, I may be adjusting to stuff, but it's not like I'm still hung up on her or anything," she protested. "Trust me, Chloe Beale is not on my radar." Beca puffed herself up in a blatant show of bravado. "I'm sure it'll be no problem getting over her."

Elena eyed her closely. "Are you sure about that?"

Beca swallowed hard, dropping her eyes. It was clear she hadn't fooled Elena in the slightest. Hell, she wasn't even sure if she had fooled herself.

That was the question, wasn't it?

xxx-xxx-xxx

Romance.

It's tricky. It's hard.

Anyone who tells you they've got a fail-safe plan for wooing women is full of shit.

You would think since that first devastating breakup with Shannon that things have gotten better, that I've gained some sort of clarity towards my understanding of women, that I've cultivated some sense or instinct towards the subtle nuances of the female human condition.

Not really.

If anything, I might have gotten dumber towards the whole thing.

And I've noticed a pattern. Since that first breakup, all my romantic ventures that have imploded seem to have some element of the debacle with Shannon McNeil.

You'd think I'd learned by now.

You'd think somehow I'd get it.

Then I remember a truth.

And the truth is that women are infinitely complicated creatures. Not even one of their own can understand them.

Maybe that's my problem.


BECA'S TOP 5 BREAKUPS (in chronological order)

Shannon McNeil

Stacie Conrad

Vivienne Blake

Hayley Wade

Alexandra Lind


And there we go! Again, this is going to be a rough journey, but it's one where Beca really does have to grow up. And as she continues through this fic, she is going to learn a lot of things about herself. Thanks so much for sticking with us though! As usual, feel free to let us know what you think here, on Tumblr, or on Twitter. We always look forward to hearing from you guys!

Until next time,

*ISP