Sliding in just before Christmas! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season regardless of how/what they celebrate or if they don't celebrate at all! 3 Thanks, as always, to my lovely, loyal Experimenters for sticking around to watch me continue this ridiculously long fic. I'm sorry it's been so long between updates. I'm trying to do better! And thank you to my wonderful beta ecaftraf.
Beca fires off a text to Jesse when they land, then sends another once they've arrived safely back at the house. Chloe did the same with Aubrey. Beca knows this because she spent the flight, layover, and the drive back to Barden unable to stop herself from stealing glances at Chloe. Glances that, granted, weren't always as surreptitious as she'd have liked, but Chloe never called her on it. She only ever smiled in return or used Beca's caught gaze as an excuse to talk to her.
It made Beca feel on edge. A little like there was a poisonous spider in the room and, even though everyone could see it creeping closer to them, no one was saying anything. They were just carrying on their conversations like normal, unconcerned with the life-altering - and potentially life-ending - thing approaching from the rear.
Why wasn't anyone screaming or running away?
Cynthia Rose makes it to the front door first, Beca behind her and Chloe and the rest of the Bellas behind the two of them. Keys already out, because she's always prepared like that, Cynthia Rose slides the appropriate one into the lock and twists, pushing the door open and stepping over the threshold. Beca follows her in, dragging her suitcase along with her and leaving behind the very early morning light in exchange for the darkened hallway of the house she's called home for the past three years.
While the woman ahead of her starts climbing the stairs, Beca pauses to flick the light on and floods the interior with a pale light. Cynthia Rose lets out a grunt of annoyance and throws Beca a dirty look from the landing.
"Sorry," Beca calls after her, but whatever Cynthia Rose mutters in return is drowned out by the other women making their way inside the house, each of them expressing their own sighs of relief at finally being home.
There are various boxes stacked in the hallway, different names scribbled on the side to spell out what belongs to who to avoid confusion. Beca glances at them as Jessica and Ashley brush by her on their way to the stairs and feels a heavy sense of finality settle squarely on her shoulders.
Which is quickly joined by a pair of hands.
"You okay?" Chloe asks, having stopped behind Beca in the hallway. The other Bellas move around them, like streams of water parting around a boulder that's stuck solidly in the middle of a river, and Beca watches them go. The heat from Chloe's hands seems to sink into Beca's muscles, melting away some of the heavy pressure that has settled there.
"Yeah, just tired." And she is, in so many ways. Beca can feel the exhaustion pulling on her, hands reaching up from the ground below, trying to drag her down into some quicksand pit of Despair Lite. Each grain made up of confusion, apprehension, longing, uncertainty, and all the synonyms therein.
"Did you forget where your room is?" Chloe jokes, letting her hands fall slowly away from Beca's shoulders and trailing them down her arms in a manner that might appear absent, but that Beca knows isn't.
Beca wants to ask if Chloe will let her stay in her room if she says yes.
"Impossible," Beca says, looking towards the ceiling as a loud thump and then a yelled, "I'm okay!" travels down to them. "I just have to follow the sound of Amy's… well, everything. Existence?"
Chloe chuckles at that and Beca feels an inexplicable sense of loss nudging at her from the inside as she resigns herself to the fact that she won't be sharing a room with Chloe tonight.
It almost concerns her, how upsetting she finds this.
But she's too tired to feign ignorance.
She remembers how Chloe had sounded that last night at the hotel. The clear tremor in her voice and undeniable tears that Beca could hear when she spoke. The memory tugs sharply at her, like a needle pulling thread, and even though she knows they should probably talk about why Chloe was upset, she doesn't know how to bring it up. Not in a way that won't risk upsetting Chloe again.
And Beca finds that she never wants to risk that again if she can help it.
Turning to face Chloe, Beca sees an exhausted-looking Emily trailing in behind them.
"I'll get her set up on the couch," Chloe says, tilting her head slightly and smiling at Beca in a way that makes her skin warm. She asks if Chloe wants help but is told to go and get some sleep, and Beca aquiesses with a nod because she knows better than to argue.
The trek to her room seems to take longer than usual. The distance between Chloe's and her own feels gaping, like they're miles from one another, and though Beca does her best to ignore the disappointment gnawing at her gut, she evidently doesn't do a very good job of masking it.
"You look like someone died," Amy deadpans, frowning slightly, as Beca breaches the top of the stairs. Then, when Beca only blinks at her, Amy's frown smoothes out into an expression of wide-eyed concern. "Did someone die? Did Legacy wander into the street and get hit by a car?"
Beca rolls her eyes and makes her way over to her bed, shooting Amy a warning glance on her way by.
"You need to lay off Legacy."
"Where's the fun in that?" Amy scoffs, shuffling around on the bed until her legs are dangling off the side facing Beca.
"I'm serious." Beca rolls her suitcase to the foot of her bed and leaves it there before hoisting her bag off her shoulder and laying it carefully on the mattress. She pulls out her computer and headphones, leaving them on the bed while she places the bag on the floor and gently nudges it under the frame with her toe. "She's got enough going on with taking over as captain, nevermind all the usual teenage angst. Just give her a break, okay?"
"Are you asking as my captain or my friend?" Amy asks, cryptically, and Beca doesn't even look around as she answers.
"Whichever will get me the least amount of butt confidence or armpit love applied to my person."
"They will both result in equal amounts," Amy slowly replies.
"Okay, then I'm asking you as someone who has enough dirt on you to embarrass you for three lifetimes." She turns to Amy then, raising an eyebrow in challenge. "Ease up."
"Alright, alright, I'll leave her alone." Amy holds her hands up, palms facing toward Beca.
Beca disappears into their shared closet to change and when she exits, Amy is already under the covers, facing away from Beca and breathing with the evenness of sleep. Beca shakes her head, amused, but exhaustion is calling her name too. She climbs into bed, propping herself up slightly on her pillow after dragging her laptop and headphones towards her, and eventually she falls asleep with the sounds of the Brat Pack in her ears.
It's late into the afternoon by the time they're all awake again. Some had risen earlier than others, but Beca clings to sleep as long as she possibly can. Even Amy is up and about before her and idly Beca wonders if the reason she's so tired is because she's more than just physically drained.
She's eventually severed from slumber by the low din of the other girls talking two floors below her and pushes herself up into a sitting position so that she can lean against the headboard. She takes the required few moments to wake up properly, rubbing at her eyes and stretching as she yawns. She can't make out anything that's being said downstairs, but they're laughing and the sound makes her smile. It fades as she looks around the room, though.
Amy's belongings have almost all been packed away into various boxes, as well as a startling number of duffle bags, and her side of the room appears barren and lifeless compared to how it usually looks. While it's true that Amy isn't going far - she'll be staying with Bumper in what Beca wishes Amy hadn't called their 'sex pad of love' - it feels like the ending of a significant chapter in Beca's life. Which, of course, it is.
Sharing a room with Amy had most certainly not always been easy, but it had always been entertaining. For every time Beca has wanted to smother her with a pillow, there's a moment of ridiculous joviality to counterbalance it. Countless late nights spent analysing the pros and cons of nineties boy bands and which among them were the best, ranked first by cuteness, then by talent.
She knows it's not like she's never going to see Amy again. Knows that Amy, much like a venereal disease, is a hard thing to get rid of once she's latched on. And honestly, Beca is fine with that. More than fine. She doesn't want to lose touch with any of these women. They've become her family, as much as she resented that idea in the beginning, and she wouldn't change one moment with them for anything.
Okay, except maybe Amy flashing the President. They could probably have done without that.
Except, Beca thinks, then they never would have been expunged from Barden's a cappella roster, thus driving them to find a way to be reinstated, and they never would have ended up at Aubrey's boot camp. There would have been no cramped tent quarters, no whispered confession that Beca had mistakenly taken as offhanded. Chloe would never have come to find her that first night in her room, a question on her lips that, thinking back on it, never did actually get asked. But Beca had gotten the general gist and agreed anyway.
"What are friends for, right?"
Looking back, she knows her easy acceptance of Chloe's request hadn't been as altruistic as she'd thought it was at the time. It couldn't have been, not with how quickly she'd responded. Not with how little thought she'd put into the idea before saying yes. And Beca will never admit it to him, but Jesse was probably right to question her like he did when she first told him what was going on between her and Chloe.
She wishes he was here, now that she's maybe ready to actually talk about things and not brush him off like he's acting crazy. And sure, she can call him, but it's not the same. There's something about talking to Jesse in person, being in his presence, that puts her at ease. He's kind of a hiccup in Beca's behavioural habits in that way; with anyone else, she'd much rather pour any emotional thoughts into a text. There's something about being in the same room as him, though. Something that makes things marginally easier to talk about.
And so she wishes he was here right now, because Beca suddenly feels like she has a lot to say.
With a sigh, she tosses the covers away from her body and pushes herself into a sitting position, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. She rests her elbows on her knees and takes a moment to rub her hands over her face, wipe the sleep from her eyes.
Flo, Cynthia Rose, Jessica, and Ashley are all leaving today. The knowledge weighs heavily on Beca and makes her first movements of the day sluggish and lazy, as though dragging everything out will somehow elongate the remaining hours and give them all more time together. It's a ridiculous idea, but it makes her feel better for a few seconds.
She hates goodbyes.
She showers and changes, then goes back to her room to toss her laundry in the hamper before heading downstairs. Or at least, that's the plan. Her phone rings as she's trying to get the hamper to close, cursing herself for not doing laundry before they left for Copenhagen.
"Aubrey," she mutters to herself, after picking up her phone to see the blonde's name lighting up the screen. She swipes to answer and presses the phone to her ear. "Hello?"
"Hi, Beca." Aubrey sounds cheery, bright and awake, and Beca grimaces at the imagined sunshine her tone manages to manifest like it's the real thing. "Were you able to get some sleep?"
"I, uh," Beca pauses, caught off guard by the question. By the whole phone call, actually. She and Aubrey didn't exactly talk a lot, not verbally, though they did text frequently. "Yeah, I did. You?" On the other end of the line, Beca hears Aubrey's affirmative hum and then there's a beat of what Beca feels is uncomfortable silence. "So," she drawls, "what's up?"
"Are you alone right now?"
Beca frowns, stalling mid-step on her way to the flight of stairs leading down to the second floor. She straightens and, pointlessly, glances around the room.
"Yes?" she sounds suspiciously uncertain, she can hear it in her voice, but Aubrey doesn't mention it.
"Okay, good. Good." There's silence again then, but before Beca can ask if something's wrong Aubrey says, "You lied to me, Beca."
Inexplicably, because she has no idea what Aubrey is talking about, Beca's stomach feels like it drops through the floor. All the way down to their definitely haunted basement and maybe a few feet into the earth itself.
"What? When? What?" she sputters, walking backwards until she can sit on the edge of her bed. Her heart has started to race and her mind is already going back over everything she's said to Aubrey over the last couple of days.
"I asked you if Chloe was seeing anyone," Aubrey finally supplies, bluntly, when it obviously becomes apparent that Beca isn't going to catch on.
Somehow, Beca's stomach manages to sink further. With widening eyes, she opens her mouth to say something, to argue maybe, but there are no words waiting to helpfully offer themselves up as tribute. The resulting silence is long and painful, and she briefly wonders if she can get away with hanging up and then refusing to answer her phone for the rest of time. Or at least until she can change her number. But no, she quickly realises how ridiculous that is; Aubrey would just get in the car and drive to Barden. Then they'd have to have this conversation in person.
Beca's suddenly glad there's a phone and a nice length of distance between them.
Finally finding her voice, Beca manages to stammer out an, "Aubrey, we're not-"
"I know. Chloe told me it isn't like that," Aubrey interjects and Beca finds herself unexpectedly stung by the comment.
It's telling and far too complicated for this moment, and so Beca swallows it down and pushes forward.
"Look, I don't know what else Chloe told you but-"
"It's not about what she told me, Beca," Aubrey interrupts, again, and Beca has to bite the inside of her cheek to stop herself from snapping. "What are you…" Aubrey pauses briefly and for a few horrible, agonising seconds, Beca thinks she's about to get a variation of the 'What are your intentions with my daughter?' speech. "Look, I actually don't want to overstep this time, believe it or not," Aubrey starts again and Beca huffs a small laugh at that. "You're both adults, I'm just concerned. For both of you. Because I know Chloe."
"I think I know her pretty well, too," Beca interjects, irritated. She hears Aubrey sigh on the other side of the line.
"I know you do. Apparently in ways I never will." Aubrey's tone is a sarcastic drawl and Beca can't tell if it's supposed to be a joke or an annoyed jab at her and Chloe's secretivity about the whole thing. "I just... I guess I just want to make sure you're both okay."
Beca's first instinct is to ask why they wouldn't be.
Her second is to wonder what Chloe might have said or done to make Aubrey think they might not be.
Because they were fine, weren't they? Chloe hadn't told Beca otherwise and they'd promised to talk about it if things got weird.
But then, Chloe had been pretty upset that last night in Copenhagen and they hadn't talked about it. Something had obviously happened during Chloe's talk with Aubrey and as much as Beca wanted to know what that was, she'd avoided asking, not wanting to upset Chloe again. But maybe she should have pushed a little, tried a bit harder to get some kind of answer, because now she's flying half-blind with a water-logged map, its once clear and set destinations washed out into a guessing game of where to go next.
"Is…" Beca's voice cracks and she has to clear her throat before trying again. "Is Chloe okay? Did she say something-"
"Beca, are you okay?" Aubrey sounds a little annoyed, like she's tired of waiting for Beca to understand why she's calling.
Aubrey is genuinely concerned about her. She's not calling Beca to get more information on how to be there for Chloe. She's calling Beca to be there for Beca.
"Oh," Beca breathes. "I, yes?" She's not sure how to answer that question.
"That doesn't exactly sound convincing."
Truth be told, Beca doesn't know if she's okay. She is in the sense that nothing's really wrong, but she can't help feeling that things aren't quite right either. Everything is off kilter, shifted from where it's supposed to be, and Beca isn't sure which way to slide things in order to get them into the correct position.
She's not even sure what shelf things are supposed to be on anymore.
"I don't know," Beca hears herself responding, blinking in surprise when she registers that the words have left her mouth.
"You don't know?" Aubrey's tone is probing, rather than condescending, and Beca feels something tight in her chest loosen a bit.
"I don't…." With a sigh, Beca shuffles around on her bed until she can lie flat against the mattress, knees bent and pointed towards the ceiling. "I don't know."
Silence. And then…
"Alright, so, you don't know if you're okay," Aubrey clarifies, before expanding. "What do you know?"
Beca's stomach flips and rolls at the thoughts the question conjures. Each one a few frames in a huge, infinite zoetrope, and they flash through Beca's mind like lightning.
That first kiss, well, second, technically. Though the first time, when Chloe had placed a chaste kiss against her lips, had obviously sparked something inside of her, it's the second kiss, the one Beca had initiated, that she really thinks about. The softness of it, the newness, the brazen and unexpected excitement it had coaxed to life within her.
Parking, laughing, making out like kids who had no idea what they were doing or where they were headed, but not caring either.
Watching old music videos and talking, enjoying the other's company.
The Trebles final pool party. What it had felt like to kiss Chloe underwater and, later, taste chlorine on her skin.
Talking outside of her father's house, facing the fact that she'd been jealous and what that might maybe mean. Then their kiss at the empty pool later that night. Looking back, Beca thinks that maybe that's when everything started to fall, not into place, but fall nonetheless.
Having Chloe with them while she and Emily recorded their demo. It had felt important that she be there, that she be part of that moment, as important as it was.
Every second they'd shared in Copenhagen. From Chloe teasing her about watching porn to Beca kissing her in the rain. Being unable to restrain herself and practically attacking Chloe in their shared bathroom. She remembers the way Chloe had told her she loved her after Beca gave her the mix - quiet and raw - and how Beca had felt the world stop when she said it. How her chest had hurt and her stomach had lurched, and how badly she'd wanted to say it back but couldn't because her words had been stolen.
How indescribably intimate that night at the hotel had been, spurred on by Titanium and a desire that couldn't be denied. How terrifying and freeing it had felt to give in to something that had been pulling at her. To trust Chloe with herself like that. To trust Chloe with anything and everything, because Beca knows it's all safe with her. Chloe would never hurt her.
And Beca doesn't ever want to hurt Chloe, either.
That's the one thing she knows for certain.
"That I don't want to hurt her." The confession is quiet, makes her sound small, and she swallows reflexively against the sudden lump in her throat. The truth in that statement, the idea that she could one day end up doing that very thing, makes her blood run cold. Slips the pointed tip of an icicle between her ribs and pierces flesh in a way that rips the breath from her. She tangles the fingers of her free hand into the bedspread beneath her.
"Is there any reason to think you will?" Aubrey asks after a long moment of nothing and Beca half-heartedly scoffs at the question.
"I don't know if you know this," Beca lifts a hand to her face, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger and squeezing her eyes shut, "but I'm not the best at managing my emotions. I usually shut people out or, like, punch collegiate a cappella has-beens in the face."
"Or try to storm off and get caught in bear traps," Aubrey supplies with a feigned helpfulness that makes Beca roll her eyes. "So, there are emotions to be managed here?"
Beca feels like she's been caught, like she's talking to a shrink who is far too insightful for their own good.
"I-" her words catch, breath hitching, and she covers her eyes with her forearm, forcing the words out of her mouth. "Yeah. I think so."
"You think so?" Aubrey sounds a little annoyed by that and Beca's hackles rise like familiar defenders.
"Jesus, Aubrey, it's not like I've ever been in this situation before." Beca's jaw hurts from clenching and she tries to keep the volume of her voice low. "I don't want to mess shit up, okay?" She doesn't quite know how to put everything she's feeling or wants to say into words, but after a few moments of floundering, Beca settles on, "I don't want to do something that'll end with me losing her. I can't-" Beca sniffs, emotion suddenly swelling, and she screws her eyes shut in an attempt to keep the tears at bay. "I don't think I can risk that." Beca isn't sure when exactly she became so fearful, only knows that it's there now and it's real. The way it coils behind her ribs like a snake readying to strike.
Aubrey is quiet for a while, mulling on thoughts Beca can't pretend to even guess at.
"Beca, can I be brutally honest with you?" she asks and Beca almost laughs, rubbing her fingers hard into her forehead.
"I don't know why you'd choose this moment to stop."
"You need to figure your shit out." It's brash and slightly cutting, and not really what Beca had expected Aubrey to say.
"No, no excuses," Aubrey brushes off Beca's indignance with the ease of swatting away a pesky house fly. "Beca, we both know Chloe. She's not… you can't afford to mess around with this."
"I'm not messing around with anything, Aubrey!" Beca snaps, a whispered yell. "Jesus christ."
"Will you just listen to me?"
"Sure, if you stop talking to me like I'm an idiot."
"Well, if you'd stop behaving like one-"
"Great talking to you, Aubrey. Really." And Beca's pulled her phone away from her ear and has her thumb hovering over the 'end call' icon when she hears Aubrey's voice again.
"Beca, wait." She sounds tired, maybe a bit remorseful, and despite herself, Beca does as asked, and she presses the phone back to her ear. "Look, I'm sorry. It's just that, Chloe's leaving."
"Yeah, you don't need to remind me."
"And I don't… I guess I don't want either of you to regret any missed opportunities." Aubrey's words, careful as they are, strike a chord with Beca. Settle down somewhere inside her with the gentleness of truth, whilst simultaneously bringing curiosity to the forefront of her mind.
"Has..." Beca pauses, shuffling about until she's sitting up against the headboard and adjusting her fingers so that she's gripping the phone a little tighter. "Did Chloe say something to you?"
Beca's heart rate spikes, the organ thumping against the inside of her ribs.
"I think you two should talk," is Aubrey's evasive answer and Beca kind of wants to scream. It wells up inside of her like a tidal wave. "Talk to her, Beca. It's just Chloe." And Beca wants to laugh at how absurd that statement sounds to her. "She's easy to talk to."
Aubrey isn't wrong about that; Chloe knows more about Beca than any other person on the planet for precisely that reason. Chloe is kind, considerate, and so good.
Beca doesn't want to damage any of that.
And maybe Aubrey's right. Maybe Beca should say something before it's too late. It doesn't take a genius to look back over everything that's happened the past few weeks and realise that there's a good chance Chloe might be having similar feelings. Beca can admit that.
But it terrifies her.
And so maybe it'll be better - easier, her mind spits - if she doesn't say anything. If she just closes herself off to this like she's done with so many things before and lets Chloe leave without breathing a word about anything, that would be safer than opening up and pulling Chloe in only to drag her down. Safer than accidentally doing something stupid and tripping Chloe up, leaving her on the ground with scraped knees and a bruised heart.
"At least think it over." Aubrey ends the call after that and Beca sighs her relief into the heavy air of the room.
Minutes pass before she moves and she keeps her thoughts blank for the majority of them, needing the time to unwind her mind. There are flickers here and there, though. Fragments of would-be thoughts that all involve red hair and blue eyes.
She might have stayed there for the rest of the day if Amy hadn't bounded up the stairs like twelve over-excited toddlers, pausing at the top to catch her breath.
"We're… Legacy… Bella oath," she rests her hands on her hips and bends forward at the waist, a wince scrunching her features. "Downstairs."
Right, they were supposed to officially welcome Emily into the Bella family today. It was basically just going to be a very watered down version of the quote unquote ceremony Beca herself had participated in four years earlier, only this time it would be Chloe and herself asking Emily to recite the oath and-
"Oh god," Beca springs to her feet, "the oath." And she slips past Amy to jog down the stairs, hoping she can get to Chloe before the redhead goes full Aubrey on the poor, unsuspecting Legacy. She doesn't think the girl will quite recover from the idea of her throat being ripped out by wolves.
It goes about as well as expected. Which is to say, Amy is going to be covered in bruises and Emily is, well, confoundingly ecstatic by the purpling mark on her elbow and her newfound status as Bella captain. She's practically giddy, actually, and they all find it a bit contagious until Flo tells them she needs to call a cab.
Then it's a steady stream of Bellas retrieving their belongings and piling them into the hallway, waiting for rides that will take them to the airport and then miles and miles away from the place where they had all become a family.
The backs of Beca's eyes start to sting at the sound of the first car horn. Everyone hugs Flo, who tells them that she thought they were all weird and crazy when she first joined the group. She tells them that nothing has changed, except for the fact that she's leaving with many more sisters than she had when she arrived.
Stacie is the first to break. The dam crumbles with a choked sob and that's it. Beca swipes away tears as Flo turns to wave back at them from the end of the driveway. Beside her, Chloe just lets hers fall.
And so it goes. Cynthia Rose is next, her already rough voice holding steady through each goodbye until Chloe wraps her in a tight hug. She flashes them a peace sign over her shoulder and leaves with a, "Later, bitches!"
Amy's face is beet-red by the time Jessica and Ashley drag their cases outside.
"Do we have to do this again?" Amy asks. "Can't you just stay?" And it's supposed to be funny, a stupid joke, but it comes out so sincere and makes everyone cry harder instead. They both hug Amy for a long moment, and then another, longer moment, when Amy refuses to let them go. Stacie wraps them up, pulling them, predictably, right against her chest. Beca and Chloe take their turns then and, eventually, they watch the last cab drive away.
"That was a load of horseshit," Amy announces once the silence has gone on too long and Beca turns to see that she still has tears streaming down her face. "I need alcohol." She sniffs loudly and disappears back inside, presumably to look for booze.
"You guys feel like take-out?" Stacie asks, pulling her cellphone out of her pocket. Eyes puffy and red, Chloe nods but follows Amy into the house without saying anything. Stacie's eyes flick questioningly to Beca.
"Orange chicken, extra spring rolls." Beca supplies the information without hesitation, without actually having to think about it, and she wipes the remaining tear tracks from her cheeks. "I'll get the ginger beef with noodles. Maybe order a wonton soup, as well. Chloe might..." Realising she's saying more than she needs to, Beca trails off, thanks Stacie, who is already dialing the number of their favourite Chinese place, and heads inside as well.
The mood is somewhat somber before the food arrives. Beca, Stacie and Amy are all sat around the living room, sprawled across various seats that would usually have had someone else sitting in them, while one of Beca's mix CDs plays quietly over the stereo.
She'd sat down on the couch with her back to the armrest and stretched her legs out across the cushions, propping her elbow up on the back of the couch to hold her head against her open hand, and that's exactly where she is when the doorbell rings.
"I'll get it!" Chloe's voice reaches them from another room and Stacie pushes herself up out of her seat, grabbing her purse and dashing to the door in an attempt to get there before Chloe can try to pay. The sight makes Beca smile. A smile that only widens when she hears the two women in question arguing at the front door and a delivery guy laughing nervously at the sight.
It gets sorted, one way or another, and Stacie and Chloe enter the room carrying four paper bags between them. The food is dispersed, Chloe hands Beca's to her so that she hardly has to move from her position, and Amy is already halfway through porno-moaning over hers before Beca can get the lid off her own.
And there are plenty of other places to sit, of course there are, but Chloe simply lifts Beca's legs and slides in underneath them. She lays them across her lap and balances her container of food across Beca's shins.
"Why does this feel like my last meal? Like I'm going to be dragged to the gallows once I'm done?" Stacie muses, not looking up from her food as she pokes at it with a white plastic fork.
"Because your life is about to be rendered as meaningless as it would be if you were on death row." Amy's answer is as blunt and honest as ever, her love for take-out apparently not enough to overcome her feelings of forlorn moroseness.
Beca balls up a napkin and throws it at her.
"Life isn't about to become meaningless, Jesus." She can see Chloe side-eying her in her periphery. "Is it going to suck not seeing each other every day? Yes. But we're not… losing each other. We're just going in different directions and that doesn't mean our paths won't cross again."
Amy regards her with a tilted head, mouth hanging slightly open.
"That was surprisingly insightful," she says, in a manner that suggests Beca has never said anything intelligent before.
"Thanks," Beca bites out, mock-frowning.
"Well, I still hate it." Stacie heaves a sigh, then pops a forkful of food into her mouth.
"All good things come to an end." Chloe's words pull at Beca, turning her attention to the redhead before she gives her body the command to do so. As though tugged by gravity or something equally as heavy.
She finds Chloe already looking at her, a small, sad smile playing at the corners of her mouth. Chloe shifts a hand until it's resting on her thigh, just behind the container of food she's eating out of, and the fingers of Beca's free hand clench into a fist when Chloe gives her leg a squeeze.
It's not sexual. It's not even playful.
It's just a moment.
And it makes Beca think of another, one rooted not so distantly in the past.
The two of them standing together in a fancy hotel room, Chloe's arms wrapped around her from behind. Chloe's voice, sad and small, a whisper.
"I don't want this to end."
Beca hadn't known what she meant, not exactly. Hadn't known which version of 'this' - The Bellas, Barden, Worlds, what was happening between us - Chloe was talking about. Hadn't known which one she wanted Chloe to be talking about.
But she knows now.
Sitting on a couch with her legs stretched across Chloe's lap, Chloe's hand warm against her thigh, Beca knows.
And she doesn't want it to end either.
Later that night, Amy bids them a hurried farewell as she speed walks out through the front door and into Bumper's waiting arms. Beca knows that Amy would like them to think that it's just because she can't wait to get laid, but Beca isn't dumb. Amy just doesn't want to cry again.
Stacie stays up a while longer and the three of them chat about a handful of inane topics. It's easy and comfortable, and Beca finds herself laughing more than once. But even then, in the back of her mind, she can't help thinking how quiet the house is.
Once Stacie leaves, it's just Beca and Chloe. They're still in the same position they've been in since Chloe sat down, though they're minus the food containers now. Chloe looks thoughtful, a little sleepy, sad around the edges. Her thumb had started stroking back and forth over Beca's knee before Stacie had even left the room and it continues into the minutes of companionable silence that follow her departure.
"I'm tired," Chloe murmurs, breaking the quiet. Beca glances at her - as if she's ever really looked away - and there's something in the expression on Chloe's face that speaks to more than just being physically tired here in this moment.
"Ready for bed?" Beca's query is met with a curiously intent gaze and Chloe doesn't so much as blink for a long moment as she looks at her.
"No." Chloe's easy, simple answer is bookended by a motion that catches Beca off guard.
Chloe shifts to the side and pushes herself further up the couch until she's nestled between the back of it and Beca's side. She pulls her legs up, slips one beneath and one between Beca's, then lies her head against Beca's sternum and splays a hand across her stomach. Beca can feel the muscles beneath jumping at the unexpected touch.
"Is… is this okay?" Chloe sounds so small, so unsure, and Beca realises that she's just lying there as stiff and stupid as a thick plank of wood.
"Yeah." She clears the frog from her throat and lets her arm fall to curve around Chloe's back. "It's okay."
And she closes her eyes as she tries to school her breathing, to calm her thumping heart so that Chloe doesn't hear it. Tries to keep the pricking tears at bay, the ones that tell her this will all be over soon, done and dusted. The ones that remind her of Aubrey's phone call and her advice, and how she's too afraid of losing Chloe to take it.
She hears Chloe sigh, feels it, and tentatively brings her other hand up to cover the one Chloe's resting on her stomach.
Tomorrow, Beca thinks. At least they still have tomorrow.