Beca knew exactly what she was doing when she sat in front of Chloe. She knew Chloe would slide forward—she knew Chloe would rest her cheek on her shoulder, that she would wrap her arms around her waist and let out a soft sigh.
The Christmas music is loud, and the people are obnoxious with their candy cane sweaters and red Santa hats, and everything is annoying Beca right now. She’s not in the mood to party. Everyone else wants to go wild now that final exams are over. But Beca? Beca’s just tired. She just wants to curl up in bed with a solid playlist and slip into a coma.
Chloe had been sitting on the floor of the living room, leaning against the back of the couch as she spoke animatedly to Cynthia Rose. She’d noticed Beca looking out of place and waved her over, and that’s how Beca ended up where she is now, in between Chloe’s legs, arms securely around her. All Chloe had to do is pat the ground in front of her. Beca rolled her eyes, but of course she sat down. Of course she did.
She’s doing her best to act like this is a totally neutral thing, like she and Chloe are just absolutely this comfortable in their friendship, like this doesn’t make her heart pound like a gunshot.
Her focus is pulled partially back to reality when Lilly mutters something about a collection of toes. Chloe adjusts behind her uncomfortably. She whispers, “Did you hear-?”
Shaking her head, Beca mutters, “Nope.” Whatever it was, Beca really doesn’t need to know.
The song changes, earning a round of cheers from the drunk acapella nerds. Satisfaction soaks through her, and she sinks into Chloe a little further. Even if she can’t stand Christmas music herself, she takes pride in making a playlist everyone else enjoys.
Not that she’ll admit it—Beca likes this position because she can be perfectly complacent, looking as though she’s a passive participant in Chloe’s boundary-less wiles. As though this isn’t exactly what she wanted, because it is. There’s a small thrill that comes along with being Chloe’s best friend, the one Chloe is always attaching herself to in one way or another. The jokes, the sideways glances from other people when they see them together. The way she knows people wonder about them, if they could be more.
It makes Beca feel as though she has a claim on Chloe even if in the smallest way. Like Chloe has a claim on her as well. It makes them Beca and Chloe, and she loves being Beca and Chloe with her. She loves it perhaps even a little more because she knows she shouldn’t. Nationals are quickly approaching and everyone needs to be on their game—there isn’t room for anything else.
Stacie plops down on the carpet next to them, a red solo cup in her hand. “You guys are cute. Chloe, how come you never cuddle with me like that?”
A quiet sigh breaks past Chloe’s lips. “Beca’s a full-time job.”
The words tumble out of her mouth as though she doesn’t even have to think twice about it. Beca tries to act casual about the fact that Chloe definitely squeezed her leg when she said it.
This isn’t the first time Beca feels it, the pull who’s origin she can’t pin down. The string that ties them together was placed and laced a long time ago, but now it’s pulled tight. It’s double knotted, wrapped twice around her throat for good measure.
One hand is occupied with her beer, but the other one quietly finds its way to one of Chloe’s legs that frame her own. It’s another one of those subtle claims. A silent way of saying we’re friends, but we’re Beca and Chloe, too.
“I need another drink,” Beca mutters through a dry mouth.
“I’ll come with you!” Stacie chirps. “I could use another one.”
Beca doubts she really does need another one based on her balance alone, but she just nods curtly, still trying to regain her composure. She’s feeling the absence of warmth where Chloe had been behind her when her path is blocked by Bumper, Stacie close on her heels.
“You can’t break the rules at your own party,” Bumper says.
Beca does her best to ignore the grin on his face. “And that rule would be?”
He glances up and points to the threshold. Mistletoe dangles over Beca and Stacie like a promise and threat.
“I didn’t put that there,” Beca says flatly, knowing the culprit is probably Stacie herself or Amy.
She can feel the attention of the overly-packed room around them being drawn toward the conversation. An inadvertent glance to the side and she can see Chloe watching the interaction curiously from their spot on the carpet. Stepping forward to carry on, Bumper side-steps to block her.
“I don’t recall asking if you did.” Bumper raises his eyebrows in anticipation. “Are you and your friend going to make out now? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure it’s against the law to be under one of these and not make out.”
Her blood pressure rises steadily, her resting bitch face no doubt transforming into a plain old bitch face. “Dude, you graduated last year. The whole ‘predatory frat guy’ act wasn’t cute then and it’s just sad now.”
Stacie laughs behind her. “Didn’t realize you had such an aversion to kissing me, Beca.” She leans in close, always a flirt when she’s drunk. “Promise I’m good at it.”
This is just one big joke to Stacie, but Beca doesn’t find it funny. She rolls her eyes at Stacie’s suggestive tone, turning to tell her to find someone else when her eyes meet Chloe’s. Her gaze isn’t just curious now. There’s something else. Apprehension. She’s waiting, Beca realizes. Waiting to see what she’s going to do.
“Earth to Beca.”
A hand from Stacie waving in front of her face forces her to blink and focus.
“Kiss someone else. I’m sure whoever it is, they’ll be thrilled.” She pushes past Bumper, this time not waiting for permission.
Beca turns toward the trash bin, stopping her tracks to see Chloe leaning against the threshold. Her eyes are curious again. Always curious.
“Hi,” Beca says lamely.
Beca sets the bottles in the bin. “Amy is snoring and the room smells like vodka.”
“Lovely combination,” Chloe says. They look at each other across the dimly lit kitchen for a moment. It’s always too easy to be bold when they’re in a room full of people, but alone, Beca’s willpower is gone. Sometimes she can hardly stand to look at her for too long, afraid of what Chloe might see in her gaze. Chloe clears her throat. “Can I make a confession?”
She isn’t sure she’s ready for a confession, not from Chloe. “Yeah,” she murmurs against every instinct of self-preservation. “I mean, sure. You can do that.”
“The mistletoe was me.” Chloe winces apologetically. “I just thought it would be cute. I’m sorry Bumper made you uncomfortable. I actually don’t even know why he was here tonight. I mean, it’s a good rule of thumb that both participants should be willing. The last thing I would ever want is for someone to try to kiss you when you don’t want to be kissed.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to be kissed,” Beca blurts out. The words leave her mouth before she can think about where they might lead.
“Oh?” Chloe says.
“I just… didn’t want to be kissed by Stacie.”
Chloe nods. Beca stands there with a burning throat as Chloe mulls over this information. An uncertain stare coasts across to her. Almost like she’s considering doing something she shouldn’t.
Gulping, Beca wipes her hands on her thighs and averts her eyes. She has to push down what she’s feeling, she knows this.
“What about me?” Chloe asks finally. “Do you want to be kissed by me?”
She blinks at Chloe. Her icy blue eyes have no business being so warm, so inviting. Her gaze travels up to the threshold, and she realizes Chloe has been standing under the mistletoe this whole time. Looking back down, Beca realizes Chloe looks nervous. As though she’s trying not to scare Beca off.
“Beca...” Chloe’s voice is low and soothing. She moves closer to her, reaching out to touch Beca’s wrist gently. “Is this what you want?”
Beca swallows numbly. The touch is so small, but in a room without the safety of others, the excuse of a show, it breaks down every last bit of resolve she has.
“Yes,” she whispers.
The hand on her wrist is gone. Chloe let go, cupping her jaw softly instead. The last thing Beca sees are Chloe’s mesmerized eyes fluttering closed.
Their lips touch softly, experimentally. A ghost of a touch.
Her brain is telling her to think about precisely what she’s doing, to put a stop to this before it’s too late. But that’s not what she wants—not really. For once, she wants to do the thing she almost certainly should not do.
“You’ve thought about this, haven’t you?” Chloe whispers, thumbing gently brushing back and forth against her cheek. Beca pauses and opens her eyes. She’s thought about this a hundred times, but that’s more truth than she can handle right now. Chloe’s lips graze Beca’s with the smallest smile. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything.”
Beca responds by reconnecting their mouths, this time needier. It’s the unraveling of both of their willpower.
Chloe pulls away again, perhaps to say something again, but Beca finds herself leaning in, grasping Chloe’s neck, chasing her lips. She doesn’t want the kiss to end—she can’t let it end.
But the choice is suddenly ripped from her grasp as the stairs audibly creak. They pull away from each other in unison, eyes locked momentarily before both stepping away. Beca wipes her mouth before turning to grab an empty beer bottle from the counter, her back to Chloe.
A groggy-looking Lilly steps into the kitchen, a pair of bunny slippers on her feet. She murmurs something inaudible that could range anywhere from ‘just getting a glass of water’ to ‘I helped my best friend’s grandma bury a body in her backyard.’
Beca just nods like either of these are totally fine and normal and she definitely was not, under any circumstances, just making out with her best friend in the kitchen.
She glances back at Chloe. She’s leaning back against the counter, hands resting on either side of her hips. Beca can’t help but feel her face flush at the too-happy look on Chloe’s face. Their eyes meet and that look only intensifies, like a sun rising past the arc of the earth.
Lilly shuffles slowly out of the kitchen, almost unnoticed by Beca and Chloe.
The stairs creak again letting them know that they’re alone. It feels like the whole world is waiting with bated breath, waiting to see what happens next. Beca’s mind races, trying to figure out what to say now. They’re Beca and Chloe. They always joke about this, always hint at it, but it’s never been this before.
Suddenly a sweet kiss is being pressed to Beca’s cheek. It happens so fast she can hardly register it. Chloe steps back, smiling at her. “See you tomorrow, Bec?”
Beca hates herself for the way her hand finds the spot on her face where Chloe’s lips were just at. She drops her hand self-consciously and tries to look unaffected, though she knows there’s not a chance in hell she’s convincing anyone.
Her voice comes out weak. She doesn’t even know which way is up anymore. Chloe has turned her inside out. “Um. Yeah, sure, Chlo. See you tomorrow, then.”
She doesn’t know what ‘see you tomorrow’ means for them, exactly. Standing alone in the kitchen, Beca is left with the unshakable feeling that they are, undoubtedly, still Beca and Chloe. Perhaps in a different way.
Her hand drifts to her lips this time, touching them where she still feels Chloe. Maybe it’s okay to break things apart without worrying how to fit them back together, she thinks. Maybe they can be Beca and Chloe like this, too.