The tree was the most ridiculous thing Chloe had ever seen. It didn't really surprise her, considering that Amy had picked and decorated it, but that Flo could live with this hideous monstrosity in her living room, was surprising. She was quite sensitive in her aesthetics.
Chloe was grateful that Amy and Flo had agreed to host this year's Bellas Christmas Bash and almost everyone was here now. Only Emily had begged out to celebrate with her family - the loving Junks, nobody had hard feelings if you wanted to celebrate with that lot - and Lilly couldn't make it either (not that anyone really knew why she was being shady as per usual).
And then there was Beca. She'd initially said she'd come, but then something or other happened with her mom (and usually Beca wasn't cryptic at all and that was what really bothered Chloe) and now she wasn't here. And Chloe knew she should just be happy to have all her other friends and their... love interests with her, but somehow... this year... it couldn't really cheer her up.
She kept looking at the tree - so big and decorated with so much tinsel it almost doubled over under the weight - as she was cozily settled into the couch in her most comfortable clothes and a mug of egg nog, spiced up by Aubrey who'd taken over the kitchen.
Chloe sighed, listening to Last Christmas. Ah, yes, last Christmas when she and Beca had had that moment, and then another. And then Amy had caught them standing under the mistle toe and dared them. If her life had been a romantic comedy, last Christmas would've been the second to last chapter. Beca would've ended her relationship with that weird drummer she'd been dating since she moved to L.A. and would've confessed her love to Chloe by Valentine's Day. It would've been perfect.
Only, it didn't happen. Chloe's life wasn't a romantic comedy, it was a high-class drama where what followed a kiss under the mistle toe - a toe-curling kiss, a heart-burning kiss, a kiss that made Harry and Sally huff jealously - was just yearning and heartache. And today was even worse because Beca wasn't here even though she'd said they were okay. Well, not all was okay, obviously.
"Hey, Chlo, last chance to join us. We're almost done with the packaging party."
"No, I'm good. Thanks, Jess."
Jessica looked at her for a moment longer and Chloe tried to give her her most happy smile, but she had a feeling it wasn't convincing. Because Jessica could look right through the facade as she had to maintain a facade of her own. Asley had arrived with a young man and now Jessica was being painfully nice to him, even though everyone could see she felt dejected. And nobody had even known that there was something going on between her and Ashley because they'd always been close.
Much like Beca and her, Chloe had to admit. Of course, with Beca and her some of the Bellas had commented. Aubrey had tried talking to Chloe for weeks after what had happened last Christmas - to no avail. Chloe didn't want to talk to anyone about them, well, except for Beca who didn't want to talk at all.
Another sigh and a deep sip from her mug. She knew she'd have to come out of her funk if she didn't want to ruin the celebrations for everyone. But just another minute, half an hour tops, and she would be her normal, cheerful self. That was the plan. They'd sing and watch sentimental old movies, stay up all night and probably hand out presents whenever they felt like it. There was no real tradition unless chaos was their Christmas tradition.
Two hours later, Chloe was as close to drunk as she wanted to get that night. And that was still soberer than most of the others. The packaging party - Ashley's idea where everyone put all their presents in one big pile and then wrap any present they could get their hands on - had already seen most of them getting intoxicated. Hence the last presents from the pile weren't wrapped at tidily as the earlier ones.
It was all good, though. This crazy Christmas was a blast. They hadn't just wrapped the presents all willy nilly, they also put names on random presents so that only the very rare gift reached its original recipient. They traded some of the gifts, but it was clear to everyone that it wasn't about the gifts at all, it was about being together. Of course, Chloe would still give the headphones she'd gotten to Beca because she knew Beca had wanted these, but couldn't afford them on her sallary yet.
And there she was again, invading Chloe's thoughts. Because really, to Chloe it felt like there was a Beca-shaped hole in this party. She missed her smile, her laugh, her drunk singing, her even drunker beat-boxing. She missed her dancing close and looking at her. She missed her lips on her own. And it hadn't been this painful since those first weeks after last year's Christmas.
Chloe took a deep breath. She thought about retreating for a moment, just another half hour to get her feelings in check.
That was the moment the doorbell rang. Amy who'd been excitedly and quite drunkenly danced and hopped all over the place, poked her head into the living room from the hall that led to the bedrooms.
"Chloe, would you open the door, please?"
Chloe pulled her eyebrows together. She looked around for Flo, but she seemed busy... burying her tongue in the guy who'd come over from Guatemala for this occasion.
"Yeah, sure," Chloe said, getting up. She looked through the peep hole and her eyebrows jumped into her hairline. "What the... guys, it's Santa Claus."
The others looked back at her, Ashley giggled excitedly, Stacie bit her lip in a way that said, she wanted to say 'aww.' Chloe looked back at her suspiciously, but then opened the door.
"Merry Christmas, Santa," she chirped.
The small figure looked up at her, smiling sheepishly. "Merry Christmas, Chloe Beale. Would you... step out into the hall for a minute."
Chloe's heart started beating wildly in her chest. Beca... it was Beca! What was she doing here? Had she come for her? Was this... but no, or maybe. "What?"
Tiny Santa waved at her to follow her outside into the hall. Chloe pulled the door closed behind her.
"I'm Santa, dear," Beca said. She'd made her voice deeper and was pulling at her fake beard to mask her face better.
"Oh, of course." Chloe blinked at Beca. "What's this all about... Santa?"
"Ahhh, a friend of yours wrote me a letter last month, complaining... well, she thought that you were the most deserving among her friends to... be happy. And she thought that maybe I could help with that."
"Was it Beca Mitchell, by any chance?"
Santa shook her head. "It was Aubrey... Possen?" A tiny smile could be seen behind the beard.
"Posen," Chloe corrected and squinted her eyes at Santa.
"Right, I don't keep track of the naughty girls as much as the nice ones."
This made Chloe laugh despite herself.
"Anyway, Aubrey said you were the best person she knew and... I did some digging, send my spy elves out and... she's not wrong. You are a good person, Chloe. You are..." Santa sighed. "All your friends had the nicest things to say about you, you know?"
Chloe smiled. "That's sweet, but really, they're all lovely. They all deserve happiness at least as much as I do."
Tiny Santa nodded. "They do. And I think most of them already are. And they don't need me to... help them out... You know, your friend Beca - who couldn't be here tonight - she had the most things to say about you... Let me..." She started petting her suit for something, then pushed a hand into her coat and pulled out a... rolled up parchment. "Let's see." She unrolled the parchment, it was a long list, the end of it hadn't even unrolled as it hit the floor.
"Sweet, kind, lovely, beautiful, great kisser. Nobody deserves more than Chloe, she's..." A short look revealed to Chloe how nervous Santa was, how unsure about what she was doing. "She's the funniest and funnest, and the best friend anyone could wish for. She's always got my back, will listen for hours or just... give the best hugs. I love her hair, and her smile. Her eyes are ridiculous and... I keep drowning in them. I know I'm not in her league, but I would... I..."
The parchment fell from Santa's hands and then Beca pulled the beard from her face, pushing the hood from her head. "Chloe, I... I know I screwed up. Last year... I wanted so much to... keep kissing you. And it confused me because kissing you... felt the best, like nothing has ever felt like that. But I was with Chase and... I felt bad... I'm not good at this." Beca took a deep breath, then she reached out for Chloe's hands, holding them in her own. "It took me a little time, maybe too much time, to realize that I've had feelings for you for... far too long. And I felt bad about never acknowledging them, but also... kinda being untrue to Jesse and Chase because I never... wanted them the way I want you."
Tears sprang to Chloe's eyes, her whole upper body seemed to be on fire and she had a hard time breathing. "Really?"
"Yeah, I... I'm such an idiot!" Beca burst out.
Chloe laugh-cried-hiccupped. She shook her head, pulling Beca close. "No, you're... my Beca. You're the most beautiful person I've ever seen."
"Chloe--" but she didn't get to say more as Chloe captured her lips in a searing kiss.
Cheering came from behind her. Of course, the Bellas had been behind this... of course. Chloe turned. "Could you guys give us a minute?"
Most of the Bellas turned and walked back into the apartment, Stacie and Aubrey had to drag Amy with them. "Chloe and Beca sitting in a tree..." Amy was hollering.
Chloe had to giggle, turning back to Beca who smiled at her. Chloe had never seen her so beautiful. "It took you quite a while, you know?"
The smile vanished. "I know and I'm sorry."
"Just try and do better in the future. And now kiss me. I need you t--" And this time, Beca interrupted Chloe's ramblings with a kiss.
And all Chloe could be thinking was that this was her own Christmas miracle from her very own Santa Beca.