Chloe’s always been kind of high strung.
She knows this about herself.
She’s held herself to impossibly high standards for as long as she can remember. When she came in second place to Keisha Smith in the fifth grade spelling bee, Chloe cried herself to sleep for a week. Her parents were at a loss -- they’d always told her that trying her best was the only thing that mattered. That was good enough for them.
The only problem was it wasn’t good enough for Chloe.
So of course she puts pressure on herself when it comes to her first real job.
She feels kind of silly about it, since she’s just an adoption counselor at the local animal shelter. It’s a job she took because it sounded super fun -- and it would buy her time to decide what she really wanted to do with her life.
It isn’t setting her down a career path, like Beca’s job is. But it doesn’t matter -- when Chloe decides to do something, she’s all in.
And so the first time Chloe is admonished by her supervisor, she takes it pretty hard.
“I still think you did the right thing, Chlo,” Beca says as she tops up Chloe’s wine.
Chloe had texted Beca about the whole ordeal earlier in the day and Beca had arrived home from work with a bottle of Chloe’s favorite sauvignon blanc and three different flavors of Pocky.
Beca always tries to act all nonchalant about these little thoughtful gestures, but they aren’t little to Chloe.
They basically make her heart want to burst.
“Really? I don’t know.” Chloe rubs a crick in her neck before taking a sip from her glass. “Maybe Denise is right. My job is to place the animals in forever homes. And that guy definitely would’ve taken Sammy.”
Beca wrinkles her nose. The end of a Pocky stick is sticking out of the corner of her mouth, like a skinny candy cigarette. Chloe bets Beca probably thinks it looks badass, but in reality she just looks stupid cute.
“Your job is to place animals in good forever homes,” she says. “And you got a bad vibe from that guy. And you, like, never get bad vibes from people. It’s practically unheard of. So I think you were right to trust your instincts.”
Chloe smiles, feeling her cheeks warm. “You really think so?”
“I do.” Beca nods firmly before sucking the Pocky nub into her mouth and biting down with a soft crunch. “Also, screw Denise. That lady is, like, so annoying. I haven’t even met her, but I feel fully confident about that assessment.”
Chloe tips her head back and laughs. She loves when Beca gets all indignant -- especially when it’s done in her defense.
“She’s actually not that bad.”
Beca rolls her eyes. “Please refer to my previous statement about you never getting bad vibes from anyone.”
Things with Beca have been… different lately.
Something shifted between them once they moved to New York. Chloe tries not to think about it too much, or mull over what it means. She’s always preferred living in the moment over self-indulgent analysis.
But it doesn’t alter the fact that something has changed. And she knows it’s not on her end.
She’s always been in love with Beca.
Still, she tries not to think about it. To just go with it.
What will be, will be, right?
She just goes with it when Beca laces their fingers together in a bar on the Upper East Side, in front of her coworkers.
She just goes with it when Beca holds her in bed, after she wakes her up from a nightmare.
She just goes with it when Beca lets her touch her at the karaoke place, where she tugs on Beca’s belt loop and makes her gasp.
She just goes in it when they come to an unspoken, but decidedly mutual, decision that Chloe should exclusively sleep in Beca’s bed.
And maybe it’s all a bad idea, in the long run. She has a feeling Aubrey thinks so, anyway.
But just going with it has been working for her.
So why should she stop?
(She knows why she should stop.)
(Honestly, she just doesn’t care.)
(There’s no one else she’d rather break her heart.)
They finish the bottle of wine and most of the Pocky.
Chloe’s happily tipsy. She was pretty bummed out, earlier -- she’d even cried in the break room -- but now she feels soft and light.
Thanks to Beca.
They’ve moved to the couch, where they’re watching The Office on Beca’s laptop, which is sitting on the coffee table. Beca had turned off the overhead lights to eliminate the glare on the screen, and Chloe lit a couple candles in the kitchen so they wouldn’t be completely in the dark.
(Chloe almost thinks that it’s sort of romantic, but she just goes with it.)
Beca had cued up The Office before Chloe sat down, and it’s another thoughtful little gesture to add to the list. Because The Office is Chloe’s comfort show, and Beca knows it’s exactly what she needs right now.
Chloe sinks into the couch as they watch the theme song play through -- something they always do, even though Netflix lets you skip the intro now. It’s become something of a tradition to hum along to the upbeat melody, and tonight is no exception. Chloe can’t help but glance over at Beca, who’s chewing on the string of her hoodie and bobbing her head along to the song as she hums.
It’s so adorable that Chloe could so scream into the nearest pillow.
Instead she turns back to the screen before Beca notices she’s staring. When she realizes what episode it is she squeals a little bit, and it’s almost as good as pillow-screaming.
“Oh god, of course. ‘Casino Night,’” Beca says. She turns to Chloe and raises an accusatory finger. “No crying this time, okay?” Beca drops her hand, brow furrowing. “Wait, that came out wrong. I don’t mean that in, like, an emotion-policing way. It’s just that you already cried today and I don’t want you to cry again because of some dumb show.”
And it’s exactly the wrong thing to say if Beca doesn’t want any tears shed tonight, because Chloe’s eyes start to sting.
“This would be a good kind of cry, though,” she says, lashes fluttering. “So no promises.”
Chloe winks, and it’s hard to tell in the light from the screen, but she thinks Beca’s cheeks color as she turns back to the show.
“Casino Night” is easily one of Chloe’s top 10 Office episodes.
Top five, even.
Okay, top three.
Up until this point in the series, the Jim and Pam romance had been so measured and anguished. She lives for the steady drip of flirty moments, while the angst of Pam’s engagement to Roy tinges every scene.
It hurts in the very best of ways.
(And fine, maybe she relates to Jim, just a little bit.)
“Casino Night” is when the dam bursts -- when Jim finally tells Pam how he feels, standing across from her in an empty parking lot. He looks so earnest and vulnerable, and Chloe doesn’t care how many times she sees it -- it will always make her cry.
But the scene is still 20 minutes away, and Chloe could cry for a different reason: the crick in her neck has gotten worse.
She tilts her head to the side, stretching the muscle as she works at the knot with her fingers. She’ll have to buy a Groupon for a massage, later -- she knows from experience that this kind of stress-induced ache won’t go away on its own.
The angle is awkward -- her arm doesn’t really bend that way -- and she huffs in frustration when her fingers slip from where she needs them.
She glances over to find Beca looking at her, concern written on her face.
“Yeah, totes.” Chloe grimaces as she slowly tilts her neck from side to side, seeing if that will help. “I just have this knot I can’t get out. But it’s fine.”
Beca presses her lips together and nods subtly to herself. Chloe prides herself on being able to read Beca better than anyone, and she knows she’s just made a decision. But for the life of her, she couldn’t guess what it might be.
“Um. I can help?” she says, eyebrows rising.
Chloe bites the corner of her lip, unsure of what, exactly, is being offered (and if she’s supposed to answer). Then Beca grabs a throw pillow and tosses it onto the floor in front of her.
“Here,” she says, motioning toward the pillow with her chin. “Sit.”
“Oh!” Chloe can practically feel her eyes lighting up. Her heart starts beating faster, despite her reminder that she’s just going with it, per usual. “Um, yes. Okay. Great. Sure, yeah.”
She cringes at her monosyllabic rambling as she moves to the floor, settling on the pillow. She leans back, and when her back rests against the couch she realizes that Beca has parted her legs so Chloe can fit in between them, and it makes her whole body flush.
She feels Beca card her fingers through her hair, sweeping it out of the way so she has room to work. Chloe holds her breath as Beca’s hand lands lightly on her shoulder. It just rests there for a few beats, and Chloe’s worrying that Beca’s changed her mind when she feels her thumb move to the side of her neck.
Beca presses gently to punctuate the question, and Chloe’s eyelids drift closed.
“Yeah,” Chloe says. Her voice sounds breathy and she giggles in an attempt to cover it. “I’m impressed, Becs. You found the spot on the first try.”
“Well, not to brag, but I’m kind of a pro at this.”
Chloe wishes she could see Beca’s face -- she loves when she gets cocky like this. She almost asks how Beca achieved this pro status, but luckily it hits her that it must have been Jesse before the words make it past her lips.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” she says instead.
In response, Beca presses her thumb against her neck more firmly, putting blissful pressure right where she needs it, and Chloe can’t help the clipped moan forms at the back of her throat.
She holds her breath for a few beats, wondering if the sound made Beca uncomfortable. But then Beca’s thumb presses into her with even more force, this time moving in a slow, tight circle, and Chloe has to bite the inside of her lip to keep quiet.
“Not too hard?”
Chloe clears her throat. “Nope. That’s perfect.” She swallows as Beca’s thumb keeps working out her knot. “You’re really good at this, Becs.”
Beca huffs out a quiet laugh. “Told you.”
Beca’s hand shifts and soon her other fingers join in, massaging where Chloe’s neck meets her shoulder. They also serve to provide leverage for Beca’s thumb, which digs in even deeper. This time Chloe catches the moan before it escapes from her lips (but just barely).
It’s just that Beca’s touch feels so good. Chloe kind of can’t believe she’s doing this -- that she even offered it -- and she doesn’t want it to end by freaking Beca out with pornographic noises.
She needs to distract herself. So she opens her eyes and tries to focus on the episode. Pam just beat Jim at poker, and Chloe chuckles at their flirty banter.
She’s glad she has something to keep her occupied, because soon Beca’s hand is on the move. It glides down from her neck toward her shoulder, fingers slipping beneath the collar of Chloe’s sweatshirt. Chloe lolls her head to the side to give her more room to work, but she can tell the fabric is getting in the way.
Beca’s hand leaves her, and Chloe can’t help the disappointment that settles in her stomach. The crick in her neck is definitely gone, but she was hoping the massage would last for a little longer.
Then Beca tugs on the side of her hoodie.
“Do you, um, want to take this off?”
A grin spreads across Chloe’s face, and she twists to look up at Beca.
“Beca Mitchell! Are you asking me to get undressed for you?”
Beca’s throat works as she narrows her eyes. “Oh my god, dude. Don’t make it weird.” She gestures toward Chloe’s sweatshirt. “Your hoodie was just, like, getting in the way. But whatever. Never mind.”
Chloe’s heart swells as Beca flounders. She knows it’s a tad mean, but she gets so much joy out of watching her stutter and stammer at her salacious advances. They both know there’s no real intent behind them, but Beca still gets flustered every single time.
It’s beyond precious.
“Mm, getting in the way, riiight.” Chloe winks at her. “Like I haven’t heard that before.”
She’s rewarded with the sight of Beca’s eyes widening before Chloe turns her back to her, facing forward. Then Chloe grips the bottom of her sweatshirt, arms crossing at the wrists, and pulls it up over her head in one fluid motion.
(And if she arches her back in the process, who can blame her?)
Her traitorous pulse is picking up again as she drops her hoodie on the floor and straightens the spaghetti strap tank top she’s wearing beneath it. Then piles her hair into a messy top knot, securing it with a hair tie from her wrist.
“Better?” she asks.
“Hah, uh, yeah. Thanks.”
Beca doesn’t resume the massage right away, but Chloe tries to be patient. She takes slow, deep breaths and hones her attention on... whatever Michael is doing on the screen.
(Shut up. She can only hone her attention so much, given the circumstances.)
When Beca finally touches her again, it’s with two hands. Her thumbs start at the top of Chloe’s neck, just at her hairline, and pull downward with just the right amount of pressure, tracing twin paths along her spine. At the nape of her neck they go their separate ways, smoothing along her shoulders and a little ways down her arms.
Beca repeats the motion again. The third time she does it, Chloe lets her head fall forward.
“This okay?” Beca asks, though she must know that it is, because there’s a hint of laughter in her voice and her hands are already kneading the muscles in Chloe’s upper back.
“More than okay,” Chloe says, not caring how eager she sounds. “I’m sorry I doubted you before. Your fingers are magic, Bec. Like, literally, never stop.”
Beca laughs softly, and Chloe can practically imagine the blush blooming on her cheeks. Truth be told, she loves flustering Beca with compliments just as much as flirtatiousness.
“I don’t know about that,” Beca replies. “I’ll need my hands back at some point. Like, for sleeping and eating and showering.”
And for the first time tonight, Chloe thinks this might have been a bad idea. Because she’s in a candlelit room with the girl she’s been in love with for years. A girl whose hands are working miracles across her bare skin, relieving a day’s worth of stress and making her feel soft and languid.
A girl who she is now imagining in the shower.
“Oh, right.” Chloe giggles, squeezing her eyes shut. “I guess hands are, like, vital to living your life.”
She cringes at herself. How did she become the flustered one? She’s never the flustered one!
One of Beca’s fingers snags on Chloe’s tank top strap, and it snaps back against her shoulder. Chloe shivers and sucks in a sharp breath.
Her ‘just go with it’ mantra is repeating in her mind, but in this moment it isn’t much use. Because she wants to go with it by turning around and sitting up on her knees, by threading her fingers into Beca’s hair, by pulling her down to kiss her.
And yeah, Beca has been different lately. She cuddles with Chloe every night, resting her arm across her waist, or rolling over and backing into Chloe so she can spoon her.
And the mornings are something else. It’s like Beca is braver in her half-asleep state, hitching her knee over Chloe’s thigh, letting her hand slip under Chloe’s t-shirt to trace lazy circles on her side.
It drives Chloe mad. It’s heady and luscious and sets her on fire.
And, honestly, it feels too good to be true.
So Chloe knows she shouldn’t press her luck. As much as she may want to.
Through the laptop speakers, Chloe hears Jim telling Pam that he’s in love with her. That he’s sorry if it’s weird for her to hear, but he needed her to hear it.
He needed her to know. Once.
“I… I can’t,” Pam tells him.
Chloe’s always loved the way she says it; how there’s a question in her voice.
(How much hope there is, in that.)
From her spot on the floor, Chloe lifts her head and leans forward, causing Beca’s fingers to still. She cranes her neck and smiles up at her.
“I’ll give you your hands back now.”
“Oh.” Beca blinks and lets her hands fall to the couch. “You sure? Like, you’re good?”
Chloe nods. “I’m good.” She moves back to the couch and rolls her shoulders before tilting her head from one side to the other. There’s isn’t an ounce of tension left in her. “God, like so good. You turned me into putty.”
Beca meets her gaze briefly before glancing away, like she’s suddenly fascinated with what’s happening on the show. Chloe bites her lip as she smiles to herself, sensing an opportunity to restore the usual balance.
“I can’t believe in all the time we’ve known each other, you haven’t done that to me before,” she says, gently poking Beca’s side. “You’ve been holding out on me.”
Chloe watches Beca’s face as she breathes out a sigh. “You never asked,” Beca says, shrugging one shoulder.
“Well the secret is out now. And I’m gonna use it to my advantage.”
Beca glances up toward the ceiling before training her eyes back on the screen. “You do that, Beale.”
“And you know,” Chloe says, lowering her voice and leaning in. “I’m always happy to return the favor.”
Beca looks at her (as expected) with her brows adorably knit. Chloe smirks before she continues.
“I’ve been told my back rubs are well above average by, like, everyone I’ve been with,” she says. Beca’s lips part in surprise, and Chloe taps the tip of her nose with her finger. “And I know how tense you can get, Becs.”
Beca laughs incredulously, jaw dropping as she glances around the room, probably trying to think of a witty comeback.
Chloe schools her features into the picture of innocence. “Just saying.”
Chloe tucks her legs up under her and rests her cheek on Beca’s shoulder as they watch the final scene.
She hears Beca’s breath catch when Jim kisses Pam; feels the sigh she lets out when Pam kisses him back.
“Okay I have to admit, that shit is pretty romantic,” Beca says once it ends. “How are you doing down there? Any waterworks?”
Chloe smiles and presses her lips to the fabric of Beca’s hoodie.
“No,” she says. “Not tonight.”
One day, she’ll be brave like Jim.
One day, she’ll tell her.