A/N: For greenandpurplesharpies, who prompted me with a Bellas' Secret Santa. And many thanks to bitcaw for bouncing ideas with me!
Beca loves Christmas. Like, really loves Christmas in the way that means she's a total nerd for all things related to the holiday and she starts listening to Christmas music non-stop as soon as Halloween passes. Not that she would ever let anyone know that, of course, so Christmas music is buried deep inside her hard drive in a folder labeled old mixes. She's not even really embarrassed about it, per se, but her love for the holiday stems from her dad and that's a can of worms she isn't really interested in opening. Like, ever.
(There's also the fact that she doesn't want to go all nerd alert in front of the other Bellas - Chloe, to be specific. She has a reputation to uphold after all.)
Chloe loves Christmas, too, in a way that almost rivals Beca's love. When she asks Beca to go shopping for a Christmas tree, bake Christmas cookies, or curl up on the couch with hot chocolate and watch Christmas specials, Beca hems and haws, letting Chloe think she's actually managing to twist Beca's arm and it works out for the best for both of them. It's those wide, pleading blue eyes that do her in every time, as if she was ever going to say no to begin with.
During their first rehearsal after Thanksgiving break, Aubrey has a rare moment of relinquishing control and they split into three groups to host their own personal riff off. The main theme is holiday songs, but they have subcategories, too, and Team Jessica-Lilly-Denise-Ashley eliminate themselves when they throw out "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" during the Carols round. The ensuing battle between Team Chloe-Cynthia Rose-Beca and Team Aubrey-Stacie-Amy is damn near a fight to the death, with Chloe-Cynthia Rose-Beca taking the win when Beca and Chloe manage to finish "Baby It's Cold Outside" before anyone in Aubrey's group can jump in.
Beca suspects their win has less to do with them not being able to match a song and more to do with the fact that their jaws are on the floor while she and Chloe harmonize, but whatever. A win is a win, even when it comes with Fat Amy's unsubtle cry of lesbiannnnnssss at the end.
The lightheartedness of their practice sparks an idea with Beca and she spends the rest of her night designing invitations and decorating envelopes for a Bellas Secret Santa party. When she's finished, she asks Kimmy Jin to put the invitations in the envelopes at random so the identity of her own Secret Santa remains anonymous. It earns her a long, hard glare, but she eventually crosses the room and takes the invitations to fulfill the request.
"Just make sure no one gets their own name," Beca says as she watches her
"I know how Secret Santa works, Beca," she bites back, not even looking up. When she finishes she shoves the envelopes into Beca's hands and goes back to her work.
"Thanks," Beca mutters, but she's smiling anyway because she knows this is gonna be great.
Passing out the invitations without being noticed goes off without a hitch. She sneaks into the Bellas' rehearsal room early, leaving an envelope on each of their chairs, and when everyone arrives, they are thoroughly surprised and excited about the prospect of a party.
"You're invited to the first annual Barden Bellas Secret Santa Party," Aubrey reads from her card. "Please meet at the old swimming pool on Saturday, December 15th at 7pm."
"Holiday snacks and drinks will be provided, but feel free to bring something to share," Chloe chimes in.
"Secret Santa gifts limit is 25 dollars," Amy continues. "Your gift recipient is -"
"No!" Aubrey shouts. "It's secret."
"Who planned this?" Stacie asks, and Beca does her best to hide her smirk when everyone looks around the room, shrugging at each other.
"I like it," Chloe says with a smile when it's apparent that no one is confessing to being the organizer. "It'll be fun!"
Everyone murmurs in agreement, even Aubrey, who is still smiling at the invitation, reading over it one more time.
"So who are you buying for?" Chloe asks, looping her arm with Beca's as they exit the practice space.
"You know the point of Secret Santa is to actually be a secret, right?" Beca teases, elbowing Chloe lightly.
"So you have me!"
"Didn't say that," Beca tells her. She doesn't have Chloe, actually, she's got Aubrey, which is going to be a little bit of a challenge. She's up for it, though, especially since it'll probably gain her major points with Chloe.
(Okay, so her motives are a little selfish, but they are secondary motives, because her main motive is simply that she thinks everyone should get at least one gift that they actually enjoy.)
"We should go shopping this weekend."
Beca sighs. The only thing she doesn't like about Christmas is the actual shopping part of it; there's something about the vicious side of people that comes out at Christmastime just doesn't sit right with her.
"C'mon, it'll be fun. I already have the perfect idea for my gift, and I'll take you out for food after."
"I can't say no to free food," Beca concedes with a smile. "But I'm limiting the mall time to two hours. No more or else."
"Or else what?" Chloe prods.
"Or else you won't be getting your Christmas present."
Chloe does a little jump and kind of squeals, smiling brightly at Beca. "So you do have me!"
Beca shakes her head but doesn't correct her.
Beca shows up at Chloe's right on time Saturday morning, a mistake she should know better than to make by now. Chloe runs on her own time zone - Beca teasingly calls it Chloe Standard Time - where you can expect that any time she gives you actually means about 15 later than she actually says.
Chloe answers the door, hair still wrapped in a towel, wearing a white v-neck and shorts so short that Beca forgets how to breathe for a moment, forcing herself not to stare at perfectly tanned and toned thighs.
"Come in, come in," Chloe says, ushering her through the door. "Sorry, running late. Just got out of the shower; I'll only be a few more minutes."
"It's cool," Beca says, dropping onto Chloe's extraordinarily soft couch. "I'll be right here."
"Five minutes!" Chloe calls as she heads back into the bathroom.
As predicted, five is more like twenty(ish), and then there's another five minutes spent searching for Chloe's keys. Beca laughs to herself as she watches the older woman scramble about, looking for the keys, amused by her perpetual scatterbrained behavior. It's a trait she usually finds annoying, but as with most of the things Beca finds annoying, Chloe somehow manages to make it endearing.
"Ah ha!" Chloe exclaims, finally pulling her keys from the couch. She heads for the door, but suddenly stops and turns back to the living room. "One more thing," she says, flipping on the TV.
"One of your reality shows?" Beca teases.
"Ha. Ha." Chloe turns and sticks her tongue out at Beca. "Rudolph, actually. Aubrey used to watch all those classic cartoons with her dad every Christmas, so it sort of became our tradition during freshman year. Just need to DVR it so we don't miss it this year."
"She doesn't have them on DVD?"
"Nope," Chloe says, setting the program and switching the TV off. "Ready now!"
Beca smiles as Chloe takes her hand, thankful that Chloe just made her gift search a million times easier.
The morning of the party, she ropes Jesse into helping her decorate the pool with strands of Christmas lights, a fake tree, and various Christmas decorations. He gives her shit for it, joking about losing her reputation as the Bellas' resident badass, until she threatens him with Fat Amy. The look on his face is priceless.
After they finish setting up, Jesse sends her off to get ready while he picks up the snacks and drinks. She swings by her dorm and picks up her gift for Aubrey along with the two non-Secret Santa gifts for Chloe and heads to the other woman's apartment.
"For me?" Chloe asks when Beca hands her the two wrapped gifts.
"Yeah. For later, though."
Chloe smiles and leans down, pressing a lingering kiss to Beca's cheek. "You're the best," she tells her as she slides the gifts underneath the tree. She points to a gift bag that is there as wells and says, "That one's yours."
Beca is nearly bouncing on the balls of her feet, she's so giddy with anticipation of finding out what Chloe got her, but ever the one to downplay her feelings, she just smiles and says, "You didn't have to get me anything."
"Of course I did, silly. I just hope you like it."
"I'm sure I will," Beca assures her.
"So I've just got to do my makeup super quick and then I'm good to go. You want to wrap up some of the cookies to take with us?"
"Sure," Beca says with a nod, heading for the kitchen.
Chloe finishes before Beca, so she offers to gather their Secret Santa gifts and when Beca exits the kitchen, she sees Chloe trying to sneak a peek at the nametag attached to her gift.
Beca crosses her arms and leans against the wall, watching as she stares at the present in frustration. "Busted," Beca says, startling Chloe so bad that she almost drops the presents.
"Jesus, Beca! You scared me."
"You really think I was going to write a name so you could figure it out that easily?"
"No. Well, yes, actually. I did."
"I'm smarter than that, Beale."
"I see that now, Mitchell," Chloe shoots back, sticking her tongue out as she shrugs into her jacket.
"You know, I haven't even seen what you got for Secret Santa and here you are trying to open mine," Beca says, pretending to peek into the bag Chloe has put the gifts in, but the bag is quickly snatched out of her grasp. "See?"
"Yeah yeah. So who do think organized this?" Chloe asks as she locks her door.
The party is even better than Beca had expected. An hour in, they're half drunk on egg nog (spiked with the two bottles bottle of whiskey Jesse managed to get Unicycle to buy), chatting, riffing holiday songs - mostly with new and Aubrey-dubbed "aca-inappropriate" lyrics thanks to Fat Amy - and Beca's realizing how great everyone can be outside of the stress of practice. Even Aubrey is relaxed, swaying from a little too much to drink and giggling at Fat Amy's songs.
"Let's do presents!" Stacie exclaims suddenly and everyone flocks to the table where the tiny Christmas tree and presents are set up.
"So how should we do this?" Jessica asks.
"I guess we could open our gifts one by one and guess who we think our Secret Santa is," Aubrey suggests.
"Yeah, and but we can't find out for sure until everyone opens their presents," Chloe chimes in. "Or else the last people don't have as much of a surprise."
Everyone seems agrees with this statement, so Chloe hands out the gifts, her eyebrows raising in surprise when she realizes that Beca's present is going to Aubrey. When she finishes, she takes her seat next to Beca, shooting her a questioning glance, but Beca's only reply is a smile.
Lilly goes first and is a little too excited when she unwraps a book called 50 Methods For Starting Fires Without Matches. The rest of the girls are pretty terrified and it takes three tries before anyone realizes she's guessing Amy bought it.
Chloe unwraps her present next - one of those smell good shower gel/lotion/whatever baskets - and she takes a long hard look around the group before guessing Ashley.
Stacie nearly squeals in excitement when she opens her nail and cuticle care kit, saying she's "pretty sure" Cynthia Rose is her secret Santa.
Jessica, Ashley and Denise both get gift cards - guessing Stacie, Beca, and Aubrey, respectively - and Cynthia Rose gets an assortment of bandanas that she assumes are from Lilly.
Beca opens her present slowly, having always enjoyed the suspense of unwrapping presents. The small box holds two gifts - a flash drive and a handmade bracelet, spun together from old guitar strings and sheet music - and smiles brightly, knowing without a doubt it's from Chloe. She'd mentioned a similar bracelet a few weeks before after coming across it online and unless Chloe told her Secret Santa that, it definitely had to be her.
Amy gets some dance DVD that launches her into tales of a pirate dancer back in Tasmania that has everyone nearly crying with laughter before she guesses that Denise is her Secret Santa. Judging by the look of surprise on Denise's face, Amy's right.
Aubrey goes last and the smile that spreads across her face when she opens her gift to find The Original Christmas Classics DVD set is so contagious that Beca can't help but smile too. While Aubrey is still inspecting the DVD, Chloe turns to Beca, mouth hanging open in surprise. You're the best, she mouths, squeezing Beca's thigh gently.
"Chloe," Aubrey guesses, smiling at her, and Beca gives herself a mental high five for being able to pull off a gift that Aubrey assumed only her best friend would know to buy. Granted, she did get an unintended nudge in the right direction from Chloe, but she was still happy to have managed a meaningful present, even if her and Aubrey didn't always see eye to eye.
When they go back around the group, they find that Lilly, Stacie, Beca, and Amy were spot on with their guesses, but Stacie reveals she was the one behind Chloe's gift, Aubrey was Cynthia Rose's Secret Santa, and the gift cards were purchased by Ashley, Jessica, and Lilly. Aubrey's eyes go wide when she realizes the only person who hasn't spoken up is Beca.
"How did you..."
"Lucky guess," Beca says, shrugging off the importance of the gift.
"Thank you," Aubrey says, the smile from earlier returning to her face as she slips the DVDs into her purse.
After everyone has disbursed, going back to previous conversations and activities, Beca finds Aubrey refilling her drink. "My dad kind of sucks too," she offers awkwardly and Aubrey turns to look at her. Beca scratches the back of her neck, not making eye contact as she continues. "Chloe mentioned the other day that you and your dad used to watch those when you were a kid, but it's sort of become tradition for you two now. And, well, my dad kind of sucks too, but I still find myself holding on to traditions because of him too."
"Oh," is all Aubrey says in reply, and Beca feels more awkward than ever. She rarely opens up as it is, so to be telling this to Aubrey of all people is taking a lot. Chloe smiles at her across the pool, and it encourages her to go on.
"It's why I planned this."
Aubrey nearly chokes on her drink when Beca admits this. "You planned this?"
"Yeah. Our secret though," Beca says with a wink.
"Like anyone would believe me."
"True," Beca agrees with a nod, glad to have a bit of their banter back, because even if it doesn't have the bite she's used to, it's a lot better than the whole feelings.
"But honestly, thank you for that. As stupid as it sounds, it does mean a lot."
"No problem," Beca responds, smiling.
"You know, I just may have pegged you wrong, Beca."
"Yeah," Beca says, because maybe captain Aubrey was a little too crazy and intense for her, but just plain Aubrey wasn't so bad after all. "Me too."
"Can I steal you away for a minute?" Chloe asks Beca, slipping between her and Aubrey, and Beca's thankful for the interruption because she's fairly certain she's hit her sharing quota for the day.
"Sure," Beca says, offering a smile to Aubrey as Chloe takes her hand to guide her away. She follows Chloe up and out of the pool, coming to a stop behind one of the pillars.
"Thank you," is the first thing out of Chloe's mouth as she wraps Beca into a hug. "You really didn't have to do that for Aubrey."
Beca shrugs. "It seemed appropriate."
"It was," Chloe agrees, keeping her arms wrapped around Beca. "I told you she's not so bad outside of rehearsal. So... did you like your present?"
Beca doesn't miss the hint of hesitation in Chloe's voice so she reaches behind herself and finds Chloe's hand, squeezing gently. "Yes," she says honestly. "I loved it. Did you make the bracelet or -"
"I made it," Chloe cuts in. "The sheet music is for Titanium."
"You want me to wear your lady jam on my wrist?" Beca teases, her face contorting in mock disgust.
"No, I want," Chloe pauses and glances down for a moment, taking a deep breath before looking at Beca and continuing. "I want you to wear our song on your wrist."
She's confused for a moment, but when Chloe leans in and kisses her, it all clicks into place. She kisses back then, leaning up and into Chloe like this first kiss may be their last. (She really hopes it isn't)
She feels Chloe smiling against her mouth as they kiss and decides then that maybe, just maybe, this is the best Christmas ever.