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blame it on the mistletoe

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Beca’s not a fan of Christmas.

Look, she’s not heartless. The idea of it is sweet – peace, love, candy and presents, and all the rest – but she’s not overly excited about the rest of it. She figures it’s a remnant of her childhood.

Her first years were magical. She was like every other kid in that respect – asking about Santa, making festive crafts with so much enthusiasm at school, having to restrain herself from ripping open her presents as soon as they arrived – and her parents only fed the fire. They made sure their Christmas tree was the largest tree they could fit into the living room and as adorned with as many decorations as possible. Her dad sang holiday season songs to her every time she requested, and her mom would make greeting cards with her when Beca was past the age of slobbering all over them. She loved Christmas more than she loved Disneyland.

Her memories of those earlier years, up to just after her 10th birthday, are illuminated in a warm, red-tinted glow. If she were to go all nostalgic, she’d say she can still recall hearing the unbelievably cheesy songs being butchered by her father; she can still remember being so excited through the night before Christmas, she was chastised multiple times by her parents. But nostalgia’s pointless, she believes, so she doesn’t say it.

It changed, obviously. Her parents falling out would do that, of course.

Her 11th Christmas was one of the worst she’d witnessed (even surpassing the time her favorite CD got broken the same day she’d received it). Her parents couldn’t even stop arguing for that special day. Beca opened her presents by herself while they rowed about some ridiculous thing that didn’t even matter. The conversations were all quiet and stilted, and she spent the evening alone (like she often did then).

The next year, her dad wasn’t even there. He was spending it with his new girlfriend and her son. He tried to make up for it by sending them a card and a present, but Beca threw them out.

(He’s better now, at the whole ‘not disappearing at Christmas’ thing, but she thinks her staying on and actually scraping through four years of college might have helped that significantly.)

Her mom attempted to make everything normal, but it wasn’t the same. The turkey wouldn’t be right, or her mom would talk too much. Beca had stopped believing so unfailingly in Santa Claus and started getting interested in music to occupy her mind.

Like ripping off a Band-Aid in one rough motion, Beca lost her enthusiasm for the holiday.

Actually, that isn’t… entirely true. She still gets the magic of Christmas. She always will; her heart sings a little bit when she hears the first Christmas songs being played on the radio for the year, and she does her best to buy the perfect presents for the people she actually gives a damn about. She happily (or merrily?) jumps on the chance to put up the decorations in the Bella house.

So, yeah, she’s Christmassy enough. It’s just the social interaction that gets to her.

She’s come a long way from the socially stunted alt girl she was in high school, but she’s still… iffy about the whole thing. The truth is, she’s never going to be as open (or, brave) as the Bellas and everyone else at college. However, social interaction gets especially draining at Christmas.

Visiting the family – definitely not her favorite past time. Her mom’s family had all but adopted her dad; they were naturally very frosty to the estranged family he’d left behind when they heard of the divorce. Those visits were always awkward, and she suspected a few of them blamed Beca for the separation. (The glares she sometimes caught them sending her way definitely didn’t point to the opposite.) When her mom dragged Beca along to visit her dad’s parents – because they actually understood the situation – it was better… until Beca, to her horror, found out that that they were the really conservative type when they started a homophobic rant.

(They advised Beca’s mom to not let her come back the year after. She was more than happy with that development.)

But it’s not just family. This time of year seems to unleash some hidden monster in people; as soon as the jingle bells ring, their eyes glaze over with some sort of animalistic hunger and they claw manically at any festive bargains they can find. Black Friday means she stays firmly within the confinements of her accommodation, and from then on until mid-January she tries not to go outside for extended periods of time if she can help it. It’s just too much of a risk – she’s sure she’ll get trampled if she sets foot inside of a mall or something.

Chloe, she knows, would immediately make a short joke about that. Beca rolls her eyes at the thought of it.

Her best friend and co-captain is kind of the opposite of Beca, in a lot of ways. Chloe is taller; Chloe smiles more; Chloe is much friendlier towards the general human race. High school Beca would have run as far away from high school Chloe as quickly as she could – because someone like Chloe should, in theory, be the most exhausting and irritating person the tiny DJ could come across.

But the super senior is all sorts of kind and wonderful to Beca, and she makes the brunette’s whole being dizzy and a bit overwhelmed. (And sometimes, when Chloe looks at her in a certain way, she finds it hard to breathe. Which, y’know, is totally fine.)

Beca and Chloe – or, “Bloe,” as Amy (quite unappealingly) dubbed them – share two loves in their lives: music, and holidays. Especially Christmas. But, where Beca finds the whole idea of being around people at Christmas time off-putting, Chloe loves it. Incomprehensibly, the ginger says it “adds to the experience”.   The DJ can never (and will never) be able to understand how it can improve the Christmas experience, so she puts it down to Chloe being way too kind about everything, as usual.

Chloe embraces everything about Christmas. She croons along to festive songs in the shower, and continues singing them throughout the whole day. She buys mince pies, gingerbread and eggnog in bulk, and dedicates a day to making gingerbread houses. She makes sure the Bellas have at least one Christmas jumper, and drags them around the stores if they don’t. And she goes all gooey when the topic of mistletoe comes up.

(She’s in love with a nerd.)

Of course, Beca secretly loves all of it. She’ll join in when she’s asked, and grumble about it just for show, but Chloe knows about her secret passion for the holidays, so she’ll invite Beca often. In fact, she’ll make Beca do anything for her. (Although, that’s not untrue any other time of the year.) However, Beca really does try to put her foot down when it comes to going out. She’ll moan and groan and even throw puppy eyes Chloe’s way – but it’s so hard to say no to the ginger. She always concedes.

That’s why she’s here against her own will, sat in a café and grumbling to herself about people while the super senior just laughs good-naturedly at her. Chloe wanted to come here – to “really feel the Christmas feeling” – and she almost went into a grumpy mood before Beca hastily agreed to going. (She was acting about the mood, of course she was. The frown disappeared quicker than Beca could apologize.) Now, they’re both sat in the corner of the Starbucks coffee shop, and the smile hasn’t left the ginger’s face since Beca relented.

The tiny DJ would much prefer that to a frown, of course. Even if it was a bit smug all the way through the journey.

And, okay, Chloe could’ve picked a worse place. The café itself isn’t so bad – it’s small, cozy. The rich tones of caramel and mahogany interior give it a vintage feeling, and Starbucks have adorned the place with festive decorations. But it’s just quite loud in here, and the people are everywhere, and she’s sure the cashier and the other staff member around kept staring at Beca and Chloe with a glint in their eyes.

(Also, who puts mistletoe on the entrance’s doorframe of a café? That plant only makes things super awkward.)

Chloe’s talking about one of her Christmases when she was young. It sounds as every little bit as wonderful as Chloe is painting it to be. Also, the Beale family sound insane. Who actively encourages a wrapping paper war between three brothers and two sisters? While they’re making Christmas dinner?

Madness. Beca’s mother would have a heart attack.

“It was something like out of a James Bond movie, Becs, seriously,” the co-captain continues, wiping off some of the whipped cream she left behind from her iced gingerbread latte. “Jason – he’s a dancer, remember? He was super flexible from, like, 3 years old. Yeah, he was impossible to hit, ‘cause he kept doing these weird moves to dodge the paper? I swear he leapt and did a forward roll over my new CD player.”

Beca smirks at that – because, only the Beales. The image she’s got of exploding wrapping paper and a super serious young Chloe focusing on targeting her siblings makes it all the more comical.

If she’s honest, she likes it when the ginger talks like this. It means the brunette doesn’t have to, primarily, but she also likes watching her best friend when she gets super into the story she’s telling. Chloe is nothing if not expressive; her eyes go wide and her hands move about in all sorts of different ways. They flap about when Chloe is really excited; she keeps them close to her body when she’s not feeling positive. She’s constantly reaching out to the person she’s talking to, if she can.

Those are general things, but Beca knows much more than just that. She knows that Chloe twists tendrils of hair with her fingers and thumb if she’s thinking deeply. She knows that the super senior will contort her lips to the side if she’s worried or feeling doubtful about something. She knows that when Chloe gets worried about the Bellas in particular, she hugs her shoulders and moves her hands up and down her arms.

“Guy should’ve been a stuntman,” Beca remarks, draining the last of her peppermint mocha latte. (She wanted something stronger and darker, but the ginger had already bought it for her. It wasn’t too bad, though.)

“I know, right?” Chloe responds, placing her forearms down on the table suddenly. The wooden table elicits a small thump. “I told him that, a few years ago, but he just really likes dance. Also he had this, like, massive crush on a girl at the time, so he wasn’t going to leave.”

“He really stayed for her?” the tiny DJ asks, crooking an eyebrow.

“It wasn’t just for her. I can understand why he did it, though,” Chloe shrugs, bringing her hands onto her lap. She bites her lip before leaning closer into Beca, curling ginger hair encapsulated by the beanie so close the brunette can smell Chloe’s shampoo. “They ended up getting married, so. Kind of wasn’t a bad decision.”

Beca relents. Chloe’s sparkling blue eyes, even more noticeable now Chloe’s colder and paler, are really close now and it’s wholly distracting her from forming coherent thoughts.  “Sure.”

The co-captain sighs in content and returns to her previous position on the black leather couch. “He’s always said a cappella could do with back-up dancers. It would give it some more pizazz. He’s totes right, obviously; he usually is.” A sliver of worry enters her expression. “I wish we could do that with our sets.”

Chloe hugs her shoulders and moves her hands up and down her arms, and Beca’s already on full alert.

“Jason wants you to break a few rules, then,” Beca replies. Her eyes swivel around the coffee shop and they stop on another couple right at the front of the café; they’re exchanging presents and being sickening about it. “Like those two. We’re not even close to Christmas Day yet.”

Chloe rather obviously turns to squint at them – and she breaks into a smile. “That’s adorbs,” she comments, and she relaxes. Beca breathes a silent sigh of relief.

She’s usually not that receptive to body language. That’s obviously a side effect of building bulletproof barriers against people in her earlier years, and it usually gets her by. But with Chloe it’s different – Chloe’s different – so she’s tuned to the super senior on a level even she didn’t expect to reach.

But, most of the time, she doesn’t get most people – and most people don’t get her in that way either. Her dad’s hopeless at guessing her mood, her mom does an alright job – so it’s just a few of her friends: the Bellas, mostly, with Chloe and Fat Amy being the main ones. (Jesse can usually figure it out, but her Treblemaker friend gets it wrong sometimes.) She’d expect it of the ginger – because when would she not? – and Fat Amy’s intuition sort of makes sense, too. Fat Amy may be unpredictable at best, but she’s also Beca’s roommate, so they’re pretty close.

Fat Amy was the one who made Beca realize her feelings for Chloe. It was their third year, and Beca was – once again – cracking under the weight of finals and, like, everything. She’d all but snarled at everyone to get out of her room while she was studying. (Actually, she thinks she did snarl at Stacie. That explained why she looked so shocked.) Chloe was the only exception – the ginger had brought her a cup of coffee and pecked her on the cheek before shooting a smile at Fat Amy and slipping back out of the room. It had taken five minutes for Beca to notice that the Tasmanian was staring at her.

“What – what are you looking at? Do I have something on my face?”

Amy just smirked. “You have your homo smile on.”

Beca reflexively spluttered, “I what?

“Your Chloe smile,” the blonde explained, from her place on her bed. She was supposed to be studying, but had been painting her toenails a (lurid) pink color. “Your lesbi-smile. Whatever. Whenever Chloe’s around, you make that soppy face.”

Beca could feel the blush spreading at the implication. “N-no, I don’t, Amy. I really don’t know what you’re talking about.” She adjusted her position and started reading through a new sheet.

“You’re hot for Beale, Beca, don’t deny it,” the Tasmanian grinned knowingly. “It’s as real as my three crocodile-fighting trophies.”

The tiny DJ glanced over at the trophies; they looked more than shabby, which didn’t exactly help Amy’s statement.

“Amy, I do not make a face like that!” Beca refuted, her pitch getting higher and as she tried – unsuccessfully – to deny it. “And if I did, then it doesn’t mean—oh my God, I totally make that face, don’t I?”

Amy nodded. “Your lesbi-smile.”

“Amy, I am not calling it that.”

The blonde always does have to choose ridiculous names for things.

Beca blinks and resurfaces from her little dip into memories, only to see her best friend waving at her. She realizes that Chloe is trying to get her attention. 

“Earth to Beca,” she grins, and that dazzling smile delays the brunette from being fully present for a few seconds longer. “I really lost you there for a second.”

“Sorry. Was just thinking.”

“About what?” the ginger enquires. “Ooh, were you thinking about presents? I was! I really wanna know what you got me.”

The tiny DJ sits up and crooks her eyebrow. She’s not going to tell Chloe, no matter what. These presents mean too much to give it away like that.

She’s never been great at buying people presents. She usually doesn’t put in much effort for people she’s buying for out of obligation – but when she buys for people she actually likes, she tries. She’s been thinking about presents for the Bellas since November, especially for Chloe. It’s the one she’s determined to get right.

She’s already made Chloe a mix. That’s one of the presents. But it’s a tradition for them now – a tradition that’s run for three years – because Beca likes to document the year by mashing the most prominent songs of their year together. Her best friend devours them quicker than she’ll swallow a cup of Jiggle Juice (which is a pretty impressive sight, no doubt about it), and Beca knows Chloe will squeal with delight and immediately beg for Beca to play it to her when she sees it.

It’s almost a non-present to the brunette, because they’ve established it as a Beca and Chloe tradition. It worked the first time, but she needs to give the ginger something more. She can’t effectively communicate her appreciation for the super senior otherwise.

Yes, okay, there are words, too, very clever. But that’s a no-go. Also, Beca thinks a speech is a pretty crappy Christmas present, unless it’s a marriage proposal. (And that’s not her present.)

Chloe likes hand-made presents. Beca knows this, because she’s said this a few times before. It’s often said at the time around Chloe’s birthday, because Aubrey always sends her some ridiculous present that Chloe fawns over every time. Every year, without fail, Chloe will receive something dainty and pristine like a glittering necklace or compact pieces of décor from the newly-qualified lawyer. Then Beca’s best friend will not stop grinning for the rest of the day and she’ll crow to the tiny DJ about how “hand-made things are the best, aren’t they?”

Not just hand-made things, either. Chloe is practical. She loves crafts, loves making her own things. She’s been gifted scores of drawing and painting utensils, with a few knitting needles and balls of yarn chucked in there too. The super senior will jump at the chance to get her hands on anything arty.

So, hand-made, hands-on things. Beca half-failed on the hand-made thing, but she thinks her best friend will appreciate how much effort she’ll have to put into keeping this present going.

(She hopes Chloe will appreciate how much effort Beca’s exercised to obtain this, too.)

To put it short, it’s a photo journal, big enough for Chloe to put in pictures of her seven years of college, at least. Happily, it has a dainty, excitable design that epitomizes the ginger so perfectly, with plenty of room for her best friend to both slip in photos and add notes.

When Beca saw it in a stationery shop window, she halted mid-step. Stacie, clearly not looking in front of her, completely bowled into her and nearly knocked the tiny DJ over.

“Dude.” Beca wasn’t able to say much more. Her head was spinning with the possibilities.

Stacie looked up from adjusting her boobs (still her natural reaction when she was ruffled by something), and followed the smaller brunette’s gaze to see the photo journal. Her eyes widened and she clasped her hand on Beca’s shoulder with a vice-like grip. “Oh my God, get it. Chloe might actually become brave enough to make a move and kiss you if you do.”

(And, really, that was incentive enough.)

So, it’s not technically hand-made – but, to overcome that, she’s personalized it even more. Beca's art is her music, but she’s attempted drawing nonetheless. It’s just a ladybird she doodled flying across the page, effectively making the journal a flipbook, but it took her an hour of her studying time because she was trying to be so exact. (What can she say? She’s a perfectionist.) And drawing two staves flowing across the front cover was even harder; they’re just lines with added notes, but she wanted it to be perfect. Chloe deserves nothing less.

She wonders when Chloe will notice that the notes blend together to make a duet of Titanium – Chloe’s soaring solo and Beca’s accompanying harmony. Beca thinks she may have to prompt the co-captain into singing it for her to realize it.

She can’t wait.

“Isn’t telling you breaking, like, fifty festive rules in your book, Chlo?” Beca retorts playfully. “You’d be a Christmas criminal!”

Chloe slumps dramatically, and pouts, “But I really wanna know!”

Beca laughs. “Just think of it like this: I’m saving you from yourself.”

“You’re too good for me, Becs,” the ginger beams – but this drops as she spies the time on her watch. “Oh, God, Beca, you’re going to be late for your class! We’ve been talking way too much.”

The tiny DJ frowns and checks the time on her phone – Chloe’s right. The two Bellas immediately stand up and get ready to go. As she grabs her coffee cup, a new thought crosses her mind and remarks, “Wait, how do you know my timetable? I swear you know it better than I do.”

Chloe, already having disposed of her cup and now just waiting for the smaller girl, sends an innocent smile Beca’s way. “I pay attention to the people I love, Beca,” she replies, as if this is common knowledge. “Also, you tend to forget what time your classes are anyway.”

Yeah, she does, purposefully. Damn Beale for making her punctual.

(Currently, Beca’s just trying not to focus on the first part of Chloe’s reply, because she’s blushing just at the implication and she does not need to do this right now.)

Beca shrugs and moves to throw her cup in the trash. And she tries but her limbs want to make things even more awkward in this situation – and she knocks into the staff member currently going around cleaning up any extra trash. The tiny DJ humiliatingly squeaks her apologies, but the Starbucks girl just laughs and tells her not to worry.

When she turns around and starts walking out of the café, she’s greeted with the sight of her best friend waiting impatiently for her in the doorway. The ginger looks so cozy, tucked in a woolen jumper, a vibrant purple padded gilet, gloves, boots, and that beanie. Chloe’s eyes are shining at Beca, and the sight of it puts a smile on her face (fine, her Chloe smile, because there’s still no way she’s going to call it her lesbi-smile).

When the tiny DJ reaches her, Chloe snakes her arm around the brunette’s and whispers conspiratorially, “See, going out of the house isn’t so bad, is it?”

Beca rolls her eyes and is about to reply – when the Starbucks girl she bumped into shouts after them, “Hey, you forgot the mistletoe!”

The two Bellas glance up in tandem, and Beca freezes. They’re still underneath the mistletoe, and that girl has drawn attention to them. Everyone is turning their heads around to witness the supposedly inevitable kiss now.

Shit, she’s going to have to kiss Chloe Beale. Her hands are shaking and she can’t think straight because she has no idea how to deal with that. She hasn’t had any time to prepare for that. She doesn’t notice how Chloe’s arm slips out from next to her own.

She starts rambling, something she always does when she’s panicking. “Is that mandatory? That’s – I don’t know if that’s a good idea, what if—”

But she’s not allowed to continue. Chloe just grabs her face with her gloved hands, rolls her cobalt blue eyes in the most adorable way, and brings her face to Beca’s.

And holy shit, that took her by surprise but she’s so glad it happened. This is everything she wanted with the ginger; she’s warm, gentle and every point of contact they have together sets off flares inside of her. The scent of Chloe’s shampoo fills her nose and she can feel the material of the gloves on her cheeks. Most importantly, she can feel the super senior smiling through the kiss. So Beca smiles too, she grins.

The tiny DJ can’t actually hear the customers’ reactions; nothing in the world currently exists for her outside of Chloe. Chloe, who is beaming at her now they’ve broken off the kiss. Chloe, whose giggles sound like coming home. Chloe, who is literally glowing right now – though that may be the glare of the Sun from the snow on the sidewalk.

It all reminds her that, yeah, she’s enamored with everything about Chloe.

“Just a harmless tradition,” the ginger winks, taking Beca’s hands in her own. Despite the snowy temperature of the day, Chloe is flushed with happiness. "Was that okay?"

The brunette nods, still unable to stop grinning. “Not to sound like an overeager teenager, but can we do that again?”

Chloe laughs, and kisses Beca once more.