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she used to meet me on the east side

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Beca doesn’t think anything can top the way she feels after winning Worlds.

The elation starts to fade on the flight home, because her mind’s fun like that. She’s going to be one of those people who peaked early, who’ll rock up to her 20 year high school reunion drunk off wine coolers and yakking about that one time she won an acapella world championship in college.

Shit.

She shivers at the thought, pulls the sleeves of her hoodie down over her fists. No, nothing will ever top this. It’s all downhill from here.

Then Chloe leans across the arm rest, gives her one of those heartbreakingly earnest, hopeful smiles.

“So I’ve been thinking,” she says, squeezing Beca’s wrist. “I want to move with you to New York.”

And just like that, Beca is proved wrong.

***

Fat Amy plans to join them at first, but soon those plans fall apart because, well, Amy’s Amy.

“I’m definitely coming eventually though, Beca, I swear. I know you can’t survive long without me, and god knows Chloe doesn’t have any street smarts. I won’t leave you to fend for yourselves for long.”

There’s some street performance act she’s creating that the rest of the world isn’t ready for, apparently, so New York City is the only place to launch it. She just needs some time. Maybe in six months, she says. A year, tops.

And Beca loves Fat Amy -- really, truly loves her -- but she can’t help the butterflies that swirl in her stomach when she thinks about moving in with Chloe alone. (What is that about?)

“Guess that means Manhattan’s off the table,” Chloe says when Beca tells her.

They’re huddled together on Beca’s bed, surrounded by half-packed boxes, balancing the laptop across their thighs as they scroll through Craigslist listings. Beca nods and adjusts the search criteria to reflect their lower budget.

“Yeah.” She sighs, trying her best to act put out. “Guess so.”

***

“I wonder what you’re going to be like as a roommate, Bec.”

“What are you talking about? We’ve been roommates for like three years now.”

“I know, but this will be different. Just us, you know? No Stacie blasting her workout music or Flo hogging all the hot water or--”

“Hey, don’t start crying again.”

“I won’t! I won’t. I’m just saying, I don’t know what you’re like when it’s only the two of us. No one else.”

“Well when you inevitably get sick of my unfettered sparkling personality, just remember it was your idea to move to New York with me.”

“Ugh Beca, why do you always deflect when I’m trying to be serious?”

“See?! You’re sick of me already. Sure you want to sign up for this, Beale?”

***

They find a railroad apartment in Astoria.

Beca hadn’t heard of that before. Why you would design an apartment with all the rooms in a line, so that you have to walk through one to get to the next, is beyond her.

But the apartment is super adorable, to use Chloe’s words. It’s bright and cosy and two blocks from the N train. And, most importantly, it’s cheap enough for two recent grads starting out in entry-level jobs.

The matter of the bedroom situation doesn’t occur to Beca until well after they’ve emailed the signed lease. At first she’s just happy that they could afford two bedrooms on their measly budget. It just seems safer, what with her weird new butterflies and other long-ignored feelings.

But now, as they drop their suitcases in the living room-slash-kitchen and walk through the apartment for the first time, it dawns on her that one bedroom serves as the pass through to the other. And while it’s not like she had much privacy back at Barden, sharing a room with Amy, somehow this feels completely different.

Vulnerable, almost.

Maybe?

She’s not sure.

***

They flip a coin to decide who gets the more private room at the back.

Chloe wins.

She lets Beca have the room anyway.

***

That first night, Beca feels kinda tipsy even before she takes a sip of the cheap wine they picked up at the liquor store down the block. They sit on pillows in the empty living room and cheers with two jelly jar glasses they found in the kitchen cabinet.

They’d spent the day exploring their new neighborhood, Chloe practically bouncing on her toes as she typed the names of the shops and cafes she wanted to revisit in the notes app on her phone.

And while Beca’s not exactly the bouncing kind, she’s pretty excited too. She’s finally out of Georgia, finally in a city where she can work toward making her dreams a reality. Throw in her favorite person being by her side, and it almost feels unreal.

The apartment buzzer rings and it’s so loud that they both nearly jump out of their skin. Chloe recovers first, giggling at Beca, who’s still trying to get her heart rate under control.

“Holy shit,” she mutters, palm pressed to her chest. “We have to tape a sock over that thing or cut the wires or something. I won’t survive that happening again.”

The buzzer rings again, as if on cue, and Beca will fully deny it later but she shrieks a little bit.

Chloe collapses against Beca’s side and lets out a peal of laughter. She rests her temple on Beca’s shoulder and winds her arms around her waist, still giggling to herself.

“You still with us?” she asks.

Beca can feel her breath on her neck, which does nothing to help calm her frayed nerves.

“Barely,” she says, wriggling out of Chloe’s arms and standing.

“Aww, come back. That was just a joke. Don’t depart from this earth yet, okay? You can’t leave me, Beca.”

Chloe pouts up at her, batting her eyelashes and looking too damn sincere for someone who is definitely being sarcastic.

“Just departing this apartment, Chlo,” Beca says, fishing her wallet out of her bag. “That’s got to be the delivery guy with the Chinese we ordered.”

“Oh, right. Want me to come with?”

“No, I think I can handle it.”

“Okay. Be careful!”

***

They don’t have any plates yet, so they wind up eating lo mein and orange chicken right out of the red and white cartons. Thank god for the pairs of wooden chopsticks they found at the bottom of the greasy paper bag, because they don’t have utensils yet either.

“Do you think people actually do this in real life?” Beca asks, mouth half full of noodles. “Eat right out of the Chinese food carton?”

Chloe tilts her head to the side. “Well, we’re doing it now. Isn’t this real life?”

“Yeah, but these are extenuating circumstances,” Beca says, pausing to take another sip of wine. “In movies, whenever people are eating Chinese food, they’re always eating it directly out of the carton. But why would you do that if you have plates? Does everyone eat just one dish or do they pass the cartons around to share?”

“You’re so cute when you’re indignant.” Chloe winks at her and Beca narrows her eyes. “Speaking of, let’s swap. I want some noodles.”

They exchange cartons and Beca pokes at the chicken with her chopsticks. “Just saying, it seems impractical.”

“No, you have a point. Must be one of those movie magic things. You should take a pic and text it to Jesse -- bet he’ll love that.”

“Hah, yeah…” Beca shifts on her pillow and takes another gulp of wine, emptying her glass. She can feel Chloe’s eyes on her as she reaches for the bottle and splits what’s left of it between the two glasses. They really should’ve bought more wine.

“How... is Jesse?” Chloe asks, voice slow and soft, like she’s trying not to startle her. “You haven’t mentioned him today.”

And Beca doesn’t know why she was putting this off, especially with Chloe, who can read her better than anyone. (Or maybe she does know why, but doesn’t want to deal with that right now.)

“Yeah, about that…” she starts, watching the wine as she swirls it in the glass. “We decided the long distance thing wasn’t gonna work.”

Beca can imagine Chloe’s eyes right now -- all big and wide and wet -- but she can’t bring herself to look at her. In her peripheral vision she sees Chloe set her food down on the floor and scooch a few inches sideways before she pulls Beca into an awkward sideways hug.

“Dude, it’s fine,” Beca says, voice muffled against Chloe’s shoulder. “We knew it was coming. Honestly, it’s for the best.”

Chloe just squeezes her tighter and Beca knows this is one of those hugs that won’t end until she succumbs to it. So she relents, shifting toward Chloe and wrapping her arms around her. It’s still awkward, with Chloe’s knee pressing into her shin, but Chloe makes a little satisfied hum that Beca can feel in her chest.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I dunno, it just… didn’t come up?” Beca closes her eyes, involuntarily sinking further into Chloe. Maybe she needs a hug more than she thought. “I just got swept up in the excitement of us moving, I guess.”

“You don’t have to go through stuff like that alone, you know.”

“I know, Chlo. Thank you. And I’m sorry -- I should’ve told you.”

“Don’t be sorry.” Chloe presses her lips to Beca’s shoulder before gently moving away. “I’m just glad you’re okay. You’re sure you’re okay?”

Beca wraps her arms around herself, missing the warmth of Chloe against her more than she’d care to admit.

“Yeah,” she says, biting her bottom lip. “I’m okay.”

***

They sleep in their t-shirts between mismatched sheets on an inflatable air mattress in Chloe’s room. Before Chloe turned off the lights a few minutes ago Beca could hardly keep her eyes open, but now, lying in the middle of this empty room listening to the unfamiliar sounds coming from the street below, it hits her how far she is from home.

She turns onto her side and glances at Chloe to gauge her level of consciousness. Her eyes are closed and her features are soft and beautiful, but Beca can tell from the cadence of her breathing that she hasn’t fallen asleep yet.

“Beale, you awake?” she whispers anyway.

“Yeah,” Chloe whispers back, eyes fluttering open as a smile ghosts her lips. “Hi.”

Beca smiles in return, pulling the sheets closer and already feeling a bit better. “Hi.”

“Everything alright? Or did you miss me already?”

There are no curtains on the windows, but Beca hopes it’s dark enough for Chloe to miss the blush that spreads across her cheeks.

“Oh, uh. I was just thinking.... I mean, not to sound super lame, but like. We’re really alone out here, aren’t we?” Beca squeezes her eyes shut, cringing at herself. “You know, now that I say it out loud I realize how dumb that is, so never mind.”

The sheets rustle and then Chloe’s fingers are closing around Beca’s wrist.

“Hey, it’s not dumb,” she says, smoothing her thumb over Beca’s pulse point. Beca holds her breath, her whole body warming, and it takes a minute before she can open her eyes. When she does, Chloe tugs gently on her arm. “Come here.”

Beca stares at her, wondering how much closer they can get -- the air mattress is already cramped as it is. She doesn’t move a muscle, but Chloe doesn’t seem to mind. She inches closer to Beca, sliding forward until her head is on the edge of her pillow, her features nearly starting to blur.

She rests her arm across Beca’s waist, over the sheets, as Beca watches her with wide eyes, trying her best to quiet her shaky breaths.

“But we’re not alone,” Chloe says, slipping her foot between Beca’s ankles. “We have each other. Don’t we?”

Beca nods, gulps, hugs her hands to her chest. She wishes she could be like Chloe, so warm and affectionate. She thinks it would be nice to drape an arm around her, too. To fall asleep curled up together. She knows Chloe would like that. And… she knows she would too. But she doesn’t know what that means, exactly, and that uncertainty keeps her frozen in place.

But she decides she can enjoy the warmth and comfort that Chloe is offering. That’s what friends do, right?

“Yeah, no, you’re right,” she tells her. “We have each other.”

Chloe sighs contentedly, giving Beca a sleepy smile before closing her eyes. Beca watches her for a moment in the low light, feeling the warm weight of her arm around her, steadying her, making her eyes grow heavy again.

“I’m glad you’re here with me, Chlo,” she whispers.

“Me too, Becs.”

Beca falls asleep easily after that.

***

Both Beca and Chloe had negotiated the start dates at their new jobs to allow for a whole week to get settled.

Beca’s manager at Residual Heat’s east coast office wasn’t exactly thrilled about that, but her boss in Atlanta must’ve put in a good word because the new dude rolled over eventually. The job Chloe found at a nearby animal shelter was much more flexible, which suited her as she wasn’t sure of her long-term plans yet.

It’s kinda exhilarating, being in a new city with her favorite person. They spend the first few days getting lost on the subway, collecting Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupons, and ordering the cheapest beds they can find from Ikea.

Chloe handles the apartment decor, quickly brightening the space with paintings and plants and cute macrame wall hangings that she found at flea markets and second hand shops. Beca’s in charge of the sound system a.k.a. finding the best spots for her bluetooth speakers. She’s also in charge of figuring out how to get onto the roof, which was pretty easy once she saw the guys from across the hall sneaking onto the back stairwell with lawn chairs and a cooler.

And it’s surprising, really, how soon it starts to feel like home. The railroad-style layout of the apartment doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem as Beca initially feared. Chloe usually wakes up early to work out, so by the time Beca stumbles out of her room and walks through Chloe’s en route to the kitchen, the room is empty with the lights off and bed already made.

She doesn’t know what she was so worried about.

***

“We really need to go to a real grocery store, Chlo,” Beca says when she walks into the apartment on Sunday morning, half out of breath from jogging up the two flights. “The guy at the bodega already knows my name. That’s not a good sign.”

She sets the shopping bag on the kitchen counter and begins to unpack it -- smiling at the overpriced lip gloss that Chloe loves, which she bought for her as a little treat -- before she realizes said roommate hasn’t replied to her. Which is practically unheard of.

“What, no quip about how bodega guy is probably into me or something?” She grins and turns around, only to find that Chloe isn’t there. “Oh, I’m talking to myself now. That’s cool.”

She turns toward Chloe’s room and sees the door is closed.

“Hey Chloe, I’m home!” she says. “I made an okay joke out here about the bodega guy. You know what, never mind, you had to be there.”

Chloe calls out a muffled reply and Beca turns back to the groceries, singing to herself as she puts the cereal on the newly designated cereal shelf and slides a bottle of red pepper flakes onto the spice rack that Chloe found on the sidewalk on trash day.

She’s never been particular about keeping things organized or having a “streamlined kitchen flow,” as Chloe calls it, but she knows that Chloe does, so she’s happy to take the time to put everything in its proper place.

Once she puts everything away and hangs the bag on the reusable bag hook -- another idea of Chloe’s -- she makes her way back to her room. She can’t get the song she’s been singing out of her mind and it’s like an idea for a new mix is on the tip of her tongue. The song’s bridge is the key, she thinks, singing the verse again as she opens Chloe’s door.

“Ooh, that’s pretty,” Chloe says.

Beca jumps a little. “Oh hey,” she says, turning toward Chloe. “Sorry I kinda forgot you--”

She stutters to a stop as she comes to terms with the situation she finds herself in. Chloe’s standing at her dresser, over by the windows, in nothing but a bra and underwear. She’s bent at the waist, toweling off her hair, and Beca thanks every force in the universe that Chloe’s eyes are obscured by the towel because she needs a minute to school her features back into place.

Her whole body feels flushed and she gets this tight sensation in her chest, and it’s super confusing because Chloe is so beautiful but she’s pretty sure you aren’t supposed to get sweaty palms from looking at your best friend and, god, what even is happening right now?

Chloe straightens and turns to her, running her fingers through her damp hair. “You forgot what?”

“I, uh--” Beca stammers, fixing her eyes on the wall above Chloe. “I forgot to knock. I should’ve knocked. Sorry.”

Chloe laughs and shakes her head. “It’s fine. You know I don’t care.”

“I know but, I mean, you could’ve been…” Beca glances at her meaningfully before looking away again.

“Naked?” Chloe says, holding up her hands and wiggling her fingers sarcastically.

Beca huffs and finally meets Chloe’s eyes. “Yeah dude.” She sounds more annoyed than she means to, but it feels safe, so she goes with it. “You have a right to be naked in your own bedroom without me wandering in unannounced.” (Why is she gesturing with her arms so much?)

“Well that’s very considerate of you, roomie,” Chloe says sweetly, making Beca’s frown deepen. “But seriously, it’s not a big deal. Nothing you haven’t seen before, right?”

Beca scoffs, desperately trying to cling to her false indignation as that memory floods her mind. Her cheeks are definitely red now and she’s mad about it. Why is she still just standing here?

“Aw Becs, you’re so cute and flustered,” Chloe says, winking at her before finally pulling a damn shirt over her head. “Did Amy not change in front of you? Because I know she’s changed in front of, like, everyone else. On multiple occasions.”

“No, it’s not, ugh.” Beca pinches the bridge of her nose. “You know what, never mind. I’ll just knock next time.”

She turns swiftly and marches over to her bedroom door, muttering to herself about being an idiot.

“Come back soon!” Chloe calls after her. “Hey, what was that song you were singing? You sounded so good.”

Beca sighs and looks upwards for strength. “Put some pants on, Beale,” she says, before shutting her door behind her.

***

Beca leans back against her door, taking deep breaths and trying to ignore the fact that the whole leaning-against-a-door-you-just-closed-after-a-dramatic-moment thing often features in movies, too.

She can hear Chloe on the other side, humming the same song that Beca was just singing. And Beca’s flushed and guilty and confused, but she smiles.

This whole living together thing might be more complicated than she thought.