"Alright girls!" Aubrey yelled. "I think that's good for today."
It's five days until Christmas. Finals have wrapped and winter break has already started on campus. Aubrey, however, thought it would be beneficial for the team to continue practicing their routine up until the very last possible moment before everyone left for the holidays. Sensing she wasn't going to get much more out of the Bellas, the blonde concluded their rehearsal.
The rest of the Bellas let out a collective sigh of relief, while Fat Amy collapsed to the ground in exhaustion.
"Uhg…" Sounds of labored gasps of air filled the room. "One of you pitches might need to drag my sexy fat ass out of here," she says, breathing heavily. Fat Amy remains spread eagle on the floor as the other girls slowly make their way to collect their bags.
"And remember!" Aubrey shouts, "Just because we're on break for the next two weeks doesn't mean you can slack on cardio. We need to keep up our regimens for regionals next month." The blonde is met with a wave of grumbling at her comment, and something that sounds like "cardio-nazi" coming from Fat Amy's general direction on the floor.
"Oh lighten up Bree, it's the holidays!" Chloe says cheerfully, wrapping her arm around the blonde's shoulders. "Tis the season for cookies and eggnog."
Staring straight ahead to watch the Bellas leave, Aubrey huffs. "That may be, Chloe. But I for one don't want to deal with the holiday hangover that comes with that eggnog and what, undoubtedly, most of the girls will put into it. We've been working too hard to become complacent."
Fat Amy walks over to the pair, seemingly having pulled herself up off the floor and away from the brink of cardio death. "Ginge is right, oh fearless leader. This is a time for kicking back, spiking your nog and letting loose like a couple of ho-ho-hoes! You need to let your festive freak flag fly for once! Maybe find someone to jingle your bells." Fat Amy winks conspicuously. Aubrey just rolls her eyes and turns to retrieve her own belongings.
Most of the girls have packed up their bags and started filtering out of the room, each heading off to their winter break destinations. Chloe scans the room and sees Beca putting the last of her laptop equipment into her bag and bounces over to her.
"Hey Becs!" Beca raises an eyebrow at the redhead's chipperness.
"Chloe, you have far too much energy for having just finished a brutal three hour practice."
"It's just that holiday spirit, you know! It makes me so excited… Well, that and possibly the triple espresso I had earlier that's coursing through my veins." Chloe smiles brightly.
"And here I thought you'd be consuming nothing but gingerbread and peppermint the whole month." Beca teased.
"I may or may not have also had a gingerbread latte to go with that espresso…" Chloe said while shyly biting her lip, as if she were a child having been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. The brunette gives the girl her signature Beca Mitchell smirk. "BUT, like I keep saying: tis the season. It won't be Christmastime forever. Which is a shame, because it really is the most wonderful and magical time of the year!"
"Well I'm glad you're so excited Chlo." The brunette responds genuinely.
"I really am! I just can't wait to go back home and see all my brothers and my parents." Chloe's exceptionally wide smile causes Beca to crack a slight one herself.
"Hey Chloe, I gotta head off." Aubrey says as she hurriedly walks over. "I have an early flight in the morning and need to make sure I have everything packed."
"No worries Bree." The redhead says, leaning in to give the other girl a tight hug. "If I don't see you later, send my love to your parents and the rest of the family, and give them all big hugs for me."
"Same for me. Call you on Christmas day, and have a safe flight back home."
"You too. Love you Bree."
Aubrey and Chloe break apart from their embrace while Beca stands next to them, trying not to feel awkward and imposing as the two best friends say their goodbyes. Before she can turn away, Aubrey is suddenly staring Beca down, a tight-lipped expression donning her face as if she were holding back an insult of some kind. She loosens her jaw, however, and actually gives Beca a genuine smile.
"Merry Christmas Beca."
"Um... Merry Christmas Aubrey?"
"Is that a question?"
"Maybe? No? Sorry, guess I was a little thrown by your lack of an insult."
Aubrey raises an eyebrow at Beca. "I'll have you know, I'm completely capable of extending kindness, even to you, Beca Mitchell." She pauses for a moment, "Just don't get too used to it."
"Then I will treasure this moment forever." She deadpans. Aubrey sighs and turns to leave.
"Whatever hobbit. Enjoy your trip back to the island of misfit toys," she says over her shoulder as she makes her way towards the exit. Beca rolls her eyes.
"Well that extension of kindness didn't last long." The brunette mumbled as she watches the doors shut, the sound echoing throughout the now almost empty rehearsal space.
Chloe playfully bumps into her shoulder, directing her own eyes toward the door the blonde just exited through. "You know, if you weren't such a tiny ball of sarcasm... and Bree could remove that stick from her butt," she adds on for good measure, "You two might just get along."
Beca lets out a loud chuckle. "I doubt that."
"So…" Chloe says cheerfully as she turns to face the shorter girl. "What's on the docket for your Christmas vacation Miss Mitchell?"
"Uh, I don't know. I guess work on a bunch of my mixes and see if I can pick up some hours at the station. Kimmy Jin's gone for break, so at least I get the room to myself, that's a bonus."
Ever since her parents divorced when she was 12, Beca hasn't been a fan of celebrating holidays, especially Christmas. Before, it had always been such a special time her life, a time when her parents were happy and in love, a time when they would all travel to a cabin back home in Maine and spend each Christmas together laughing and enjoying one another's company. But now, there's just an emptiness in her heart where those memories lay, buried beneath the years of anger, sadness and resentment after her father left. When her mother died when she was 16, it made experiencing any holiday that much harder, not having anyone left in her life who she cared about or who cared about her. So, she simply chose to be alone and keep herself busy when any holiday occasion came up, hoping it would pass the time quickly and she could just get through to the next day.
"What?! You mean you're staying here by yourself all break? What about going back home to be with your family?" Chloe asked, shocked at the thought of the brunette being alone during such a happy time of year.
Beca felt uncomfortable at the question and shifted on her feet as she stood next to the redhead. Looking into the older girl's bright blue eyes and seeing a mixture of shock, concern and curiosity, the tiny DJ contemplated whether or not to explain exactly why she planned on being alone for the holidays. Beca has spent a good number of years constructing impenetrable walls around herself. After her father walked out, she closed herself off from the world, her desire for communication and interaction with others completely fracturing the day the door shut behind him. Beca's mother had been the only exception to her change in demeanor. To this day, Beca was not one to open up to anyone about her feelings or most of the things that ran through her mind on a daily basis. She had essentially locked her heart up in a box and thrown the key away the day her mother died.
And now, as she stood in front of Chloe, who was looking expectantly at her after several moments of silence between the two women, Beca found herself surprised at the problem she was facing. It wasn't that she had to explain why she would be alone… The thing Beca was having a problem with was the fact that some part of her really wanted to be honest with Chloe in this moment and tell her everything.
She wasn't sure where this sudden desire to open up to Chloe even came from. Beca has only known the bubbly senior for just a handful of months, but she became instantly aware of the lack of boundaries the other girl had. Not that asking someone what their plans for Christmas are was crossing any kind of line. In fact, Beca feels stupid for even having such in-depth thoughts about the very simple question. But she can't help but feel insecure, knowing that such a simple question requires such a complicated and personal answer.
But ever since the redhead barged into her shower and inserted herself into Beca's life, the brunette could sense something changing within her. Without even realizing it, Chloe had been slowly chipping away at Beca's walls, and Beca now finds herself less guarded with the girl. If anyone were to ask, she'd deny it until her last breath… but part of Beca has even come to enjoy the fact that Chloe tries so hard to knock her barriers down and get closer to her.
"Beca?" Chloe speak softly at first. She notices the shorter girl's eyes seemed to have drifted off, lost in her own thoughts. "Becs!" She says louder, shaking the girl out of her reverie. "You okay there? Kinda lost you for a bit."
"Oh, uh, yeah… sorry. Just― just thinking." She replied. Looking back up into those piercing cerulean eyes― seriously, how are they so damn blue! She sighs heavily, deciding to open up for once. "The thing is, I don't really have any family to go home to. My dad left when I was twelve―I mean yeah, he's around now, trying to reconcile our relationship... but I can't imagine being around him and the step-monster for 5 minutes, let alone Christmas break for a whole week. And well, my mom died when I was 16, so…" She trailed off quietly. "Holidays are just kind of depressing for me, so I tend to spend them alone, occupying myself with whatever I can to pass the time til they're over."
Chloe simply stood there in a bit of shock and awe, not expecting something that personal and in so many words to come out of the brunette's mouth. She knew the younger girl had a hard time opening up to anyone about anything, and to hear this declaration of private information, she felt her heart swell at the thought that it was her Beca chose to share with.
Beca, for her part, continued to avoid eye contact with the other girl, feeling extremely vulnerable after the word vomit that just came out of her mouth. Before she could convince herself to run out of the room, she felt two strong arms wrap around her shoulders and envelop her smaller body.
"Thank you." Beca heard the words mumbled against her shoulder.
"For what?" She asked, leaning back to look at Chloe.
"For opening up to me." She simply stated. "I know that's not easy for you. And I can understand why you would want to avoid these times of the year that are kind of meant to bring families together." She pauses, looking directly into Beca's steel blue eyes. "I'm also sorry about your mom." The redhead dragged her own hands down Beca's arms to her hands, giving them a comforting squeeze.
"Thanks." The edge of her mouth rose slightly, giving Chloe a sad, but appreciative smile.
The two women simply stood there for a few moments, gazing into each other's eyes and letting the comfortable silence fill the space between them.
"Oh!" The redhead suddenly lit up. Beca looked alarmed at the quick turn of emotion. "Why don't you come spend the holidays with me?!"
"Yeah! I'm sure my parents wouldn't mind." The redhead was practically bouncing on the spot, still grasping Beca's hands in her own, and gazing at the shorter girl with an excited sparkle in her eyes.
"I don't know if that's such a great idea, Chloe." Beca says reluctantly, withdrawing her hands from Chloe's and shoving them in her back pockets. "I don't really wanna intrude on your family's time together, and I don't think I could even afford the ticket right now anyways. Besides, holiday spirit really isn't my thing."
"I'm pretty sure I've got enough holiday spirit to spare for the both of us." Beca rolls her eyes and slightly shakes her head, knowing that's a true statement.
"And you won't have to worry about any of the costs. I'm inviting you as my guest, and on super short notice, so I'll take care of it all. Come on Becs!" Chloe continues. "We can make snowmen, decorate cookies... It'll be so much fun!" Beca groans at the redhead's suggestion of activities and fun, but Chloe continues, speaking more seriously and sincerely.
"I'd just hate to think of you spending this whole break holed up in your room all by yourself."
"So you'd be thinking about me on your vacation, huh?" Beca teased, displaying a small grin.
"Oh shut it!" Chloe laughed, glad to see the shorter girl reverting back to her normal, snarky self. "Besides, you haven't lived until you've experienced a Beale family Christmas!" Chloe punctuates with her 1000-watt smile.
"I dunno, I just―" Beca runs her hand through her dark brown hair, trying to come up with any other viable excuse to not go. Knowing that Chloe now knows the real reason she'd spend Christmas alone, there's really nothing else for her to say that would sound remotely convincing.
Seeing that she's got the younger girl backed into a corner with no reason to decline her offer, Chloe juts out her lower lip and gives Beca her signature pouty face, knowing that Beca can never resist her when she pouts. "Come away with me Bec, pleeeease?"
Dammit Beale, the pout? Uhg… I just know I'm gonna regret this. "FINE! I'll go. Happy?" The brunette says, resignedly.
"Yay!" She squeals in excitement, throwing her whole body into the tiny brunette and wrapping her up in a tight hug.
"Chlo, I― Uhgh...I can't… breathe." Beca manages to stutter out, flailing her arms at her sides. "It's okay, you don't need oxygen right now," Chloe says, unconcerned as she maintains her death grip around the DJ.
At first, Chloe had felt the brunette stiffen at the contact of the hug, but as she slid her arms up to rest around Beca's shoulders, Chloe could feel the younger girl relax instantly into her embrace.
After knowing Beca for even a short period of time, Chloe came to learn of the brunette's aversion to contact and invasion of her bubble. "This is your space." The DJ gestured her hands out toward the senior one afternoon in the quad when the two Bellas had been spending some time together bonding. "And this is my space." Beca spread her arms out wide and rotated in a large circle, illustrating to the other girl what her bubble was. "Invade my space, and you may get smacked." At the time Chloe just shook her head playfully and mumbled, "We'll see about that."
She had always been a touchy-feely person, never really acknowledging boundaries with other people. But Chloe also wasn't completely oblivious. Even she recognized that walking into the girl's shower stall naked and practically forcing her to sing her lady-jam certainly qualified as shattering any and all boundaries between the two of them. But part of her believes that "the shower incident," as Beca refers to it, is what has allowed Chloe to get closer to the brunette, to have Beca become more comfortable with her constant displays of affection. It's given her the ammunition she needs to break through those barriers Beca has so strategically placed around herself.
And over time, the redhead has noticed the ease at which Beca has fallen in with her touches. Touches that she occasionally reciprocates, and sometimes―though rarely―even initiates. It's in those moments that Chloe truly acknowledges how Beca's walls are slowly coming down, and how she is the cause of that… and it's those small moments that make Chloe's heart swell.
"I know holidays aren't really your thing Becs, but I promise you…" Chloe says as she finally releases the smaller girl. "I'm gonna make this your best Christmas ever!"