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it always leads to you in my hometown

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you could call me "babe" for the weekend

 


 

“Hey you,” Beca greets, leaning over Chloe’s shoulder to press a kiss to her girlfriend’s cheek. “I got the wine.”

Chloe grumbles, lifting her aching neck for the first time in what feels like hours. She shoves her textbook away and opts instead to sigh happily as she hooks her arms around the back of Beca’s neck - blindly, with minimal injury - and keeps Beca in place for a moment longer. “I got you,” Chloe murmurs playfully. She grins, all aches from school forgotten when Beca whines a little into her skin. “What wine?”

“Dirt cheap red. Your favorite,” Beca teases, placing the bottle on the countertop as she rounds the kitchen island.

“You spoil me.”

“Well, I could spoil you—”

“No, we live and die like regular people.”

Beca groans. “What’s the point of being a Grammy-nominated artist if I can’t even pop a bottle of Dom every now and then?”

Chloe sticks her tongue out at her girlfriend before glancing forlornly at her textbooks. She wonders if she can squeeze in an additional half an hour of studying, but as usual, whenever Beca is around, her willpower seems to ebb away with startling speed. Instead, Chloe stands, stretching her arms above her head. She immediately catches the way Beca’s eyes drift to her bare exposed midriff before Beca quickly refocuses on unpacking their take-out dinner. Chloe decides then and there that she’d rather have some fun with Beca in other ways. Sliding behind the counter to stand behind Beca, Chloe heaves a sigh and presses her chin into her girlfriend’s shoulder. “Have you even had Dom before?” Chloe slides her hands around Beca’s middle, pressing gently on Beca’s stomach so her hips jut back against Chloe’s. “Or is that just something you say to all the girls?”

Beca scoffs, but it comes out as more of a wheeze.

Chloe stifles her grin. “What was that?” Her hands drift to where Beca’s shirt is tucked loosely into her jeans. Slowly, she tugs at the fabric, relishing the sensation of Beca leaning further into her.

Even after a year of this—the bliss of being able to kiss her whenever she wants; the bliss of being together—Chloe still finds it so surreal that Beca chose her. That they chose each other and found each other through it all.

“Thought you were hungry,” Beca murmurs, bracing herself against the counter as Chloe pops the button on her jeans. She tilts her head, granting Chloe easier access to her neck. “Nevermind,” she rasps quickly when Chloe huffs a little giggle against her skin. “Just...shut up. Don’t say anything. Keep doing that.”

Chloe grins, spinning Beca around so she can kiss her thoroughly, letting her tongue push past Beca’s lips with reckless abandon. Beca moans quietly lifts her arms up around Chloe’s shoulders as Chloe hoists her up onto the counter, shoving their containers aside haphazardly.

Chloe loves their life.

 

* * * * *

 

By the time Chloe is done with finals, it is close enough to Christmas—like, dangerously close—that Chloe knows that she has to ask now or forever hold her peace.

She twists in bed to face Beca who is still for all intents and purposes dead to the world. Chloe can’t help but smile even as nerves begin to overtake her at the thought of even asking Beca the million-dollar question. Carefully, Chloe lifts her hand to brush the messy strands of Beca’s hair that trail over her cheek and mouth, moving ever so slightly with each puff of breath that escapes her lips.

“I know you’re faking being asleep,” Chloe whispers. “You’re not a good actress.”

Beca cracks an eye open to peer balefully at Chloe. “I know you’re desperately trying to figure out how to say something to me. All that tossing and turning. I need my beauty rest.”

Chloe pouts. “That’s no fun. How can you tell?”

“You get all twitchy.” Beca sighs, turning so she can lift a leg up over Chloe’s hips, straddling her lazily. “And you sigh a lot. It fucks with my sleep.”

“Fucks with your sleep,” Chloe echoes. “I like the sound of that.”

Beca rolls her eyes and leans down to press a kiss against Chloe’s lips. “What’d you want to tell me?”

Chloe momentarily forgets what she had on her mind just moments ago, mostly due to the sight of Beca’s eyes trained on her own so intently and lovingly—a far cry from what freshman Beca would have done—and partly due to the way Beca’s thighs tense against Chloe’s side tantalizingly, like a reminder of what they had gotten up to just the afternoon before.

Sufficiently distracted, Chloe lets her hands trail up Beca’s thighs slowly at first, then letting her nails scratch up the exposed skin not covered by Beca’s sleep shorts. “Ask me a different question first,” Chloe requests, deciding that she needs a few moments of peace with her girlfriend while she has the chance.

Beca’s brow furrows. “Okay, weirdo. Uh. Why are you hiding something from me?”

“Beca!”

“Fine! What were you dreaming about this morning? I woke up a little earlier than you before you got all squirmy.”

“Oh that’s easy.” Chloe grins and sits up, nearly dislodging Beca in the process. “I was just dreaming about you. How nice our life is. How I can’t wait to get out of Davis and move with you to L.A. when I’m done with school.” She leans up to steal a kiss from Beca. “How lucky I am to have a girlfriend who is willing to spend long stretches of time with me in boring old Davis while I finish boring old school. Boring old me.”

“Yeah I guess life can get pretty boring up here.”

“Definitely. Not all of us can be superstars.”

“I have like two good songs.”

“That’s two more good songs than a lot of other people.”

“Are you flirting with me? This early?” Beca pretends to be offended.

Chloe wrestles with Beca for a moment, forgetting what she had intended to ask as she flips them so she can pin Beca to the bed.

 

* * * * *

 

Chloe forgets about it until she is rudely brought back to reality in the middle of her late morning jog.

“Chloe? Sweetie? It’s mom. I’m taking down final numbers for Christmas. Are you coming home, yes or no?”

Chloe slows her jog, expelling a heavy breath. She had forgotten to ask Beca. “Uh, shit, sorry mom.”

“Language.”

Chloe cringes. “Sorry,” she apologizes once more.

“Christmas, dear? You coming?”

“I…”

“I know you’d usually rather skip out, but it would mean a lot to your father if you came home this year.”

“Why?” Chloe finds herself asking the question before she can stop herself. She barely bites back the sharp words on the tip of her tongue, but her mother catches them anyway, she’s sure.

“We miss you,” is the sickeningly sweet response. “And besides, I’m sure you would love to leave that tiny apartment and spend some time in a nice bedroom for a change.”

“Mom...” I want to spend Christmas with my girlfriend. Our first Christmas. Together. It would mean the world. Chloe can’t say any of that however. Instead, she manages a weak “Can I bring my...friend?”

The lengthy pause is enough to make Chloe feel real fear she hasn’t felt in a while. “A friend?” her mother finally asks. That perfected tone of practiced nonchalance and judgement all rolled into one. Chloe hadn’t necessarily missed it. Especially not directed at her.

“A friend from Barden. Yeah. She’s like. Uh. She’s not super close with her family and this time of year is really hard for her.” Half a lie. Beca loves Christmas. Chloe knows that. But she also knows that Beca isn’t the biggest fan of big family shindigs so she hopes that Beca can forgive her for this later.

“Oh no,” her mother trills sympathetically through the phone. “A dead parent?”

Chloe nearly laughs from the shock of hearing that. “No! Her parents are just divorced.”

Her mother hums thoughtfully. “Well. That might be worse.”

Chloe tries not to laugh. She really does. But she manages a snort. For at least 90% of the year, she tends to forget how insane her family is. Just this conversation alone with her mother is shaving a few years off her life. Beca would have a field day with this. “Well. But that was long ago. Some people just aren’t big on the holidays.”

“Well. Okay. I’m sure there’ll be enough room. Your father is always happy to have more people around. And I’m sure your friend will be a wonderful addition.”

Chloe catches the unspoken words. Your friend will behave herself, won’t she? She won’t cast a bad light on our family? “Yeah, she will be. Her name’s Beca. You’ll love her.”

“I’m sure I will.”

Chloe isn’t sure either of them believes that.

 

* * * * *

 

Chloe steels herself as she enters the suspiciously quiet apartment. Typically that means Beca is either tinkering with her music or she’s hiding. “Baby?” Chloe spots Beca hunched over her laptop on the couch. “Babe,” she calls again.

Beca slowly lifts her headphones off her ears, registering Chloe’s voice. “What’d I do?”

“I...you know how we thought it’d be nice to spend Christmas together this year?”

Beca nods slowly, seemingly retreating into the comfort of her headphones around her neck. “Right...you said it was because it’s our first Christmas together as a couple and we needed to create amazing memories.”

“I’m so happy that you listen to me when I talk.

“It benefits me when I listen to you.”

“Right. So, uh, my mom called while I was running and I might have agreed to us going back to my parents’ place for Christmas? I think? Maybe?”

Beca’s eyebrows rise so far up her forehead that it’s all Chloe can do to stop herself from reaching out to gently press them back down. “Oh, that’s um.” She clears her throat, eyes darting around nervously. “I...I guess I don’t have any plans.”

“I can totally tell them you can’t make it. But I know my mom and my siblings would really want to meet you. I really want them to meet you.”

“I thought we weren’t doing family stuff until next year.” Beca blushes at the words leaving her mouth, aware of how stupidly sappy it makes her sound—the fact that she’s planning future holidays with Chloe.

Chloe internally swoons at Beca’s subtle hint that she wants to spend future holidays together. “There will be other years,” Chloe confirms, reaching out to rest a hand on top of Beca’s.

“I know...I just want to have time to make a good impression, you know?”

“Yeah,” Chloe drawls teasingly. “I know you made a super good impression on me when we first met. That broody, misunderstood crap really worked on me.” Chloe is only half-joking because it did kind of work, not that she’d confirm that to anybody except herself. And Beca. And maybe Aubrey. It’s fun to see Beca get all squirrelly.

“Chloe! I’m being serious.” As if Chloe doubts the already serious expression on Beca’s face, she frowns for added effect. “What if they hate me?”

A brief, fleeting thought passes through Chloe’s mind. The thought that yes, that is a possibility. “No,” she says instead. “They’ll love you.” Her stomach twists at the thought that she hasn’t even told Beca the entire truth yet. “Just like I love you. But we don’t have to do this. I know we talked about this being a Christmas just for us. Our first one,” Chloe adds with an exaggerated whisper that elicits a tiny laugh from Beca.

Beca relaxes. “I would love to go home with you for Christmas. But you need to prep me first. Tell me everything about your siblings so I can study up. They’ll be the easiest to crack.”

“You’re good at cracking people,” Chloe promises.

“I think I’m spectacularly bad at cracking people, honestly.” Beca pauses. “Hey, wait, what do they know about me already? I mean. Other than the fact that we’re dating.”

Chloe hums, walking over to start the coffee maker. “Not sure that much about you came up, so I guess you’ll really have to make a good impression.”

Beca frowns at that response. Not quite the response she expected.

She’ll need all the help she can get.

 

* * * * *

 

...Help that comes in the form of Aubrey Posen. Unfortunately (or fortunately).

Beca foregoes pleasantries. “Thanks for meeting me, Posen. I need your help.”

Aubrey continues skimming the menu, not bothering to look up at Beca. “Yeah, I was promised a free meal. So of course I’m here.”

Beca rolls her eyes. “You’ve been getting a lot of those since you moved near Chloe...but this is about Chloe. I need your expertise on all things crazy Beale family. I know you guys have visited each other’s families before.”

Aubrey lowers the menu slowly, eyes lighting with interest. “You’re meeting Chloe’s family?”

“Yeah, it feels like the right time.”

“And Chloe knows you’re meeting her family?”

Beca fixes Aubrey with a suspicious look. “Yeah, she was the one who invited me. Are you okay? You’re being very not-Aubrey-like right now. I just need you to tell me what to do, which you’re very good at doing.”

“Beca, wait. Tell me everything. Are you meeting Chloe’s entire family? Not just like. One or two siblings or cousins or something?”

“No, it’s like this big thing at Chloe’s family house in Utah. Like this big mansion cabin thing. Some rich people shit.”

“Okay first of all, definitely don’t say that.”

“What? Rich people shit?”

“Yes.”

Beca mock-salutes. “Got it. Anything else? Preferably something useful? Something helpful?”

“Here’s something. What has Chloe told you about her family?”

“Honestly...close to nothing. I just never thought much of it because I don’t talk about my family that much either. She knows all the stuff with my dad.” Beca frowns. “It’s all I’ve been thinking about over the past couple of days...which is why I’m here otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting my time.” Beca flashes a smile to let Aubrey know that she’s joking. Mostly. “I just don’t want to embarrass her, okay? And I know you have her best interests at heart too. So help me just...not fuck this up.”

Aubrey softens. “I’m sorry. I know how important this must be if Chloe invited you. And it’s a big deal. Your first Christmas together. Officially. It’s...it’s why it’s kind of hard for me to even tell you this because I know you won’t mess it up. But I also know that I think Chloe has a lot more to tell you herself. And it’s important that you talk to her about it.”

Beca peers at Aubrey with some trepidation and curiosity. “Now I’m a little worried.”

“I don’t know how to say this any differently...but Chloe’s family doesn’t know she’s into women. Which leads me to believe that they probably don’t even know that she’s in a relationship with you. Like an actual relationship and not just a friendship. You know what I mean?”

“She...what?” Beca’s head is spinning from that short burst of information from Aubrey. “But she’s been in relationships with women before, right? Like serious ones?” As she asks, Beca realizes that she hadn’t seen Chloe in any real significant relationships over the course of their close and tumultuous friendship.

Aubrey shrugs. “No, not really. Chloe hasn’t ever been close to her family so even if she had some serious relationships, guys or girls alike, she would have never brought them home. You’re the first.”

Beca sinks back in her seat, weight sinking in her stomach. “Lucky me.”

“Lucky you,” Aubrey echoes dryly. “No, seriously,” she says at Beca’s glare. “You know how my dad kind of sucks? Well he’s a giant teddy bear compared to Chloe’s dad.”

“Oh my God, is he in the army too?”

Aubrey snorts. “No. Worse. He’s a politician.”

Beca almost laughs, but she remembers Chloe had talked about it a few times while they were in school together. “Oh...oh right...okay she’s mentioned that a few times. I just forgot. But I don’t understand why that matters.”

“Honestly, you guys might have a lot in common. He cares a lot about his image. Isn’t that what celebrities do?”

“Shut up, I do not care about my image.”

“So I wouldn’t find your publicist as one of your top most recent calls on your phone?”

“Well, that’s because she’s handling mine and Chloe’s relationship. We’re not ready to come out yet. Maybe in a few years while my career—” Beca cuts herself off, furrowing her brow. “Wait, stop distracting me! Why wouldn’t Chloe tell her parents? I’m kind of still stuck on that because she’s like the last person I know that would be...I don’t know…”

“Closeted?”

“I guess. Yeah. I don’t know! It’s weird finding out your very open and proud girlfriend is kind of deeply fucking closeted.”

“Are you mad?”

Beca sighs. “No, of course not. And thank you for telling me. I just wish she told me herself.”

Aubrey glances down at the table before she looks back up with sincerity in her eyes. “I only told you because I am...concerned Chloe would never get around to telling you before you quite literally walked into the lion’s den. So to speak. I don’t think she’d go that far, but I know how hard it is for her to cope with being around her family. Especially around Christmas.”

“No,” Beca says quickly. “No, it’s—yeah. Thank you for telling me. I’ll talk to her about it. I don’t think she’ll get mad at you or anything because, well, she’s Chloe. I’m just...surprised, still.”

Aubrey peers at her. “What else are you thinking?”

Beca shrugs. “Honestly? Right now, I just want her to know that I’ll be there for her. I’m not scared of some dumb politician father.”

Aubrey smiles, affection written all over her face. “Really?”

“No, I’m fucking terrified. But hell yeah, I’ll be there for her.”

 

* * * * *

 

“What’d you get up to today?”

Beca looks up to see Chloe wearing a cheerful red sweater and an incredibly fluffy santa hat. “I had lunch with Aubrey. Nice hat. Volunteering go well?”

Chloe gasps, dropping her bag on the counter. “You what?! Without me? Beca Mitchell, how could you! My best friend and my girlfriend.” Chloe clutches her hands over her heart dramatically. “Behind my back.”

Beca flushes. “Stop that. Don’t say it like that.”

Chloe giggles, reaching out to pinch Beca’s cheek as she joins Beca on the couch. “I’m joking. What’d you talk about?”

“That’s actually what I want to...hey,” Beca calls, pulling Chloe’s arm as Chloe begins to get up, presumably to get something from the kitchen. Beca is both enamored and exasperated by Chloe’s hyperactive ways most of the time. “C’mere. Can we talk?”

Chloe settles back down, though a tinge of worry creeps across her face like the slightest of shadows. “About?”

It takes Beca a moment to steel herself. “About how you didn’t tell your family that we’re dating.”

The color drains from Chloe’s face, but she makes no move to pull away from Beca. “Aubrey told you.”

“She did,” Beca confirms with a nod. “For what it’s worth, she’s sorry.”

“No. It’s fine,” Chloe says quickly. “I...I’m sorry. I know I said I did.”

“It’s okay,” Beca assures her quickly. Beca tamps down the uncomfortable sensation rising in her chest. “I’m not upset. Like. Not that upset. Mostly a little confused.”

“I don’t know how to say any of this. It feels weird because I never talk about this stuff.”

“Try,” Beca urges. “I can’t believe I’m the one asking you to open up to me right now.”

Chloe laughs before she takes a shaky breath. “I mean. I do want to talk to you. About all of it. But our lives have just never really…”

“Chlo, we can talk about it now. It’s okay.” Beca watches as Chloe takes a steadying breath. Then another. She reaches a hand out to rest on Chloe’s thigh. “No pressure, babe.”

“I’m not close to my family,” Chloe says by way of explanation.

Beca nods sagely. “I know how that feels.”

“Right, well. I was just never the favorite, you know? Third out of four kids. And I didn’t want any of the jobs that would make me an upstanding citizen or whatever it was that would make my dad look good. Whatever would help his campaign. The life of being a senator’s daughter.”

“Chloe…”

“I just really hate the spotlight in that way. It’s like I always have to make sure I’m covering my tracks. Everything I did growing up mattered so much. I felt like I needed to be perfect all the time. So when it came time to being the kid that made my dad the most proud, I just let all my siblings fight over the title. It was easier to move a thousand miles away from home and pretend like I wasn’t losing my mind by taking seven years to complete my undergraduate degree.”

“Okay, I get that. I get that a lot. You know I do.”

Chloe flushes. “I know.” She smiles, reaching out to tuck a strand of hair behind Beca’s ear. “I know, Bec. I mean. I guess it wasn’t all that bad. Seven years and I got to keep you. My parents basically paid for me to flirt with you for an extra three years in school.”

Beca can’t help but return Chloe’s smile, comforted by the simple touch and Chloe’s efforts to alleviate some strain despite her earlier anxiety. “I just wish we talked about this. You know. Like before I agreed to going back with you for Christmas.”

Chloe deflates a little, her hand falling away from Beca’s head. “We really don’t have to go. Or I guess...you don’t have to go. I shouldn’t have spoken for you like that.”

“I mean…” Beca clears her throat. “I would love to meet your parents. As your friend and as your girlfriend.” Beca likes the way Chloe’s cheeks turn slightly pink at her words. “You’ve already met my parents and you know I think my dad is a dick like at least sixty percent of the time. Dysfunctional as my own family is, all families kind of suck.”

“I’m just not...out to them,” Chloe admits quietly. The moment the words slip past her lips, she blinks as if stunned by her own admission. She reaches out to hold Beca’s hand to stabilize herself. “You know that, right? We’d have to be like…”

Beca shrugs. “I mean it’s not that different than how we are now whenever we go out, right? We’re friends to the public. We’re friends whenever we go out. We can be friends in front of your family for a little while longer if it’s what you need. I promise it’s okay, Chlo.”

“I hate hiding you,” Chloe whispers before leaning in to kiss Beca softly. “Especially after all this time,” she continues, lips brushing against Beca’s gently as she speaks.

“Me too. I hate hiding you too.” Beca hums, reaching up to tangle her fingers in Chloe’s hair, enjoying the sensation of Chloe’s lips moving languidly against her own. She thinks of her own Christmas plans, letting it fuel the smile on her lips as she presses another desperate, soft kiss against Chloe’s lips.

 


 

now i’m missing your smile, hear me out
we could just ride around

 


 

The last bit of time leading up to their trip to Park City is spent hectic gift-shopping and packing. Beca lets Chloe take the lead, having no idea what would be appropriate to buy for a family that seemingly has everything. Beca nervously skirts around the topic she wants to broach again because she isn’t sure if there’s more that Chloe needs to tell her. She is afraid to push, which simultaneously makes her feel ridiculous because it’s Chloe. Chloe is the open book out of the two of them. Everybody is quick to point that out. But before Beca realizes, their flight date is there and Beca barely has time to ensure her own gift to Chloe is tucked away neatly in her bag, away from Chloe’s eager eyes.

“Not too late to back out,” Beca suggests lightly as Chloe drives their rental car up the long driveway. “Like literally, just tell me and I’ll help you put this car in reverse.”

“Are you nervous?” Chloe asks, unbuckling her seatbelt.

“Are you surprised?”

Chloe giggles. “No, I guess not.” She slips out of the car and rushes around to open the door for Beca before moving to grab their suitcases from the back.

Beca follows Chloe’s lead and trudges up the path to the front door, marvelling at the sheer size of the house. It looks more like a wooden fortress, foreboding and intimidating as it looms over them.

“Make sure you don’t make eye contact with Avery, she’s the worst.” Chloe pretends to gag.

Beca laughs. “Chloe, come on. She can’t be that bad. I remember meeting Hailey at our grad party. She was nice.”

Chloe grumbles under her breath. “She can be nice when she wants to be.”

Beca has no idea what to expect, in all honesty. She realizes now, right on the porch of Chloe’s family’s very fucking expensive house, that she really hadn’t learned anything substantial about Chloe’s family over the past almost-decade of knowing Chloe. Chloe, who has developed a near-notoriety for being an open-book for as long as Beca has known her. Sometimes too much of an open-book.

And yet, Beca ponders as she watches her girlfriend (secret girlfriend!) lift her arm to ring the doorbell, here she is about to help Chloe keep quite possibly one of the biggest secrets Beca has ever been asked to keep. In front of her girlfriend’s parents too. Beca glances at Chloe’s hand, wondering if it is too late to just grab Chloe’s hand just once more before—

“Chloe! My baby!”

Beca blinks and watches as Chloe is swept up in what looks to be an extremely tight hug, a hug delivered by a woman sporting Chloe’s exact hair colour, give or take a handful of visible silver strands.

“Mom,” Chloe murmurs, returning the hug tightly. For as long as she has gone without seeing her mother—sparse contact over the years and even fewer in-person meetings—Chloe still feels familiar warmth and comfort in her mother’s arms. Though recently, she has found her own warmth and affection in—”Mom,” she says softly, drawing back. “Mom, this is my...Beca. My friend, Beca.”

Chloe’s mother smiles, turning to fix Beca with intense, sharp eyes, though the pleasant smile that rests on her lips seems to offset the gaze a little. Barely.

“Hi,” Beca says, holding out a hand. “I’m Beca. Um. But Chloe just said that. I don’t know why I said it again. It’s nice to meet you.” For as long as Beca talks, she notes awkwardly that Chloe’s mother doesn’t take her hand and is about to draw back, letting the murmured “Mrs. Beale” die on her lips as she glances down. Before she can fully retreat however, Beca finds herself engulfed in a hug. Nowhere near as tight as Chloe’s hug had looked, but a hug nonetheless. She is too stunned to do more than gasp quietly, even though she wants nothing more than to turn around and stare at Chloe with wide, pleading eyes.

“Please, call me Michelle. Thank you for coming home with Chloe, Beca. I know how hard the holidays can be for children of divorce. I hope our family will be a good substitute for you this year.” Before Beca can protest or even begin to say anything to that, she and Chloe are being dragged over the threshold and into the warmth of the house. Beca barely stops herself from dropping her jaw as she takes in the giant foyer and beautiful wooden finishings.

“Anybody else home?” Chloe asks nonchalantly.

“Avery and Corey are home and I think we’re expecting Hailey and her boyfriend soon enough. Tomorrow afternoon.”

“Oh, she’s bringing a boy home?”

“That’s one boy more than you’ve ever brought home, Chloe.”

Beca does her best not to immediately look at Chloe, but she senses the way Chloe stiffens beside her almost immediately. She drops back a step, lifting a hand to brush up Chloe’s back comfortingly, pleased to note that Chloe relaxes almost immediately before she cuts Beca an appreciative look over her shoulder when her mother isn’t looking. Beca smiles back.

“Well where are the wonder twins,” Chloe asks dryly, skipping over her mother’s words for the time being.

“Out for lunch. You and Beca should get some rest. Your father is working right now and we can all catch up at dinner. You can show Beca the guest bedroom.”

Chloe bites her tongue and steels her expression, waiting for her mother to turn away before she whirls to face Beca with an excited smile. “Come on, I’ll show you my room. I’m sure it’s being used for storage since I’m never home.”

“This house is huge, Chlo.”

Chloe laughs at the panicky eyes Beca is shooting her as they ascend the stairs. “What?”

“This house. There are sconces.”

“The fact that you noticed says more about you, I think,” Chloe teases. She bumps Beca’s hip with her own, dropping their bags on the bed. “I could nap and we’ve barely been here fifteen minutes.”

Beca smirks after making sure the door is locked. She places her hands on Chloe’s hips, stopping her from unpacking. “Thought your mom said the guest room was for me only?”

“I guess she did say that.”

“She did.”

Chloe places her hands on Beca’s hands, stopping them from wandering too close to the button on her jeans. “So we should probably behave.”

Beca nods, kissing the side of Chloe’s neck. Chloe’s grip on her hands slackens. “Probably,” she agrees softly, waiting for a cue from Chloe telling her to stop.

Chloe turns in her arms, immediately moving to hold Beca’s head before she kisses her thoroughly, both of them a mess of muted giggles and messy kisses as they tumble onto pristine white sheets.

 

* * * * *

 

Beca is happy to see the smile on Chloe’s face. Chloe is practically beaming up at her as Beca descends the stairs, finally, all dressed up for dinner with Chloe’s family. She had promised Chloe she would pack her favorite outfits and she can tell Chloe appreciates the slim-cut leather jacket atop a nice white dress.

Chloe glances around to check for any lingering or lurking family members before she reaches out to pull Beca into a quick hug. “You look amazing,” she whispers loudly, reaching around to squeeze Beca’s butt playfully. “This jacket. Incredible. Showstopping.”

“Shut up.” Beca swats Chloe’s hands away and steps back so she can fully appreciate the fitted slacks and slim-fit top Chloe has opted to wear. She is pleased by the fact that Chloe has yet to don her coat. “You look…”

Chloe grins, eyebrow rising. “I look…”

“Um. Awesome,” Beca decides. She clears her throat, reaching out to snag her scarf from Chloe’s hands. “You look awesome.”

Chloe’s jaw drops. “I look awesome? What are you, twelve?”

“You know what I mean,” Beca complains.

“No, I don’t think I do.”

Beca is about to reply, always eager to keep up any kind of banter with Chloe when they are interrupted by a new voice: “Chloe, you actually made it. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own two eyes.”

Chloe barely has time to reply before she is swept in a hug that doubles as a headlock when her brother’s arms envelop her. She chokes, shoving at him uselessly. “Knock it off!”

Beca flounders, wondering how much of this is actually sibling rivalry or Chloe being legitimately distressed. She settles on somewhere in the middle and steps forward into the fray to support Chloe. At least emotionally. “Hi, I’m Beca,” she calls out in a tone that sounds braver than she truly feels.

Chloe grumbles to herself when she is freed and allows Avery to hug her while Corey turns his attention to Beca. “You’re a lot smaller than I expected.”

“Corey, shut up.”

“She is.”

“She’s smaller than she looks like in the tabloids,” Avery comments, hooking her arm through Chloe’s.

Chloe’s cheeks flush as she shrugs out of her sister’s hold. “You read the tabloids? I don’t believe that for a second.” It is meant to be teasing, but the hint of protectiveness drips from her voice cannot be helped, so ingrained now in Chloe’s very nature when it comes to Beca.

“Well, isn’t the saying that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the tabloids?” Avery asks, eyes flashing towards Beca. Beca falters, unsure as to what to do with the expression she receives: it is somewhere between playful and foreboding.

Chloe clears her throat. “Where are mom and dad? Aren’t we leaving soon?”

“So eager.”

“Uh...so. You’re a doctor,” Beca says, turning to Corey so she can ignore the way Chloe and her sister have already begun to argue under their breaths. “Wow. That’s cool.”

Corey smiles, somewhat disarmingly. Beca wonders if perhaps he isn’t as irritating as Chloe had made him out to be. Perhaps Chloe had been wrong about her brother being—

“I am,” he acknowledges. “It was a hell of a lot more work than I thought it would be. But of course, I could never do what Chloe does.”

Beca’s jaw tightens at the condescension in his voice. Never mind. “She’s only in one of the best veterinary programs in the country, but yeah. Cool.”

“Oh of course. And what do you do, Beca? Make music, was it?”

Beca barely has time to interpret that when Chloe’s parents sweep into the foyer, tall and imposing in their own way. Beca blinks as startling blue eyes cut through her for a moment before Chloe’s father is gesturing for all of them to head out the door lest they be late for their dinner reservations. Beca doesn’t miss the firm hand he plants on Chloe’s shoulder as they pass through the door, nor does she miss the way Chloe glances up at her father, uncertainty dancing in her eyes.

“Great,” Beca murmurs to herself.

 

* * * * *

 

Dinner itself is less than stellar.

Beca finds herself mostly too intimidated to talk to either of Chloe’s parents or either of Chloe’s siblings. She settles on making awkward eye contact with Vanessa, Corey’s wife, before she decides that she’d also rather not engage in any excessively awkward in-law (kind of) conversations.

Her conversational decision ends up being made for her sooner than she expects. “Beca, tell me about yourself.”

“Oh,” Beca says, nearly dropping her fork. “What would you like to know?” Chloe kicks her foot swiftly. “Ow, sorry, I mean I can tell you…” she glances at Chloe reproachfully. “...things.”

“Beca and I met at Barden,” Chloe begins unhelpfully.

“How wonderful,” Avery says. “I met my husband in university.”

Beca does her best not to look directly at Chloe who has noticeably stopped eating. Chloe’s parents, dearest Robert and Michelle Beale in all their imposing glory, do not seem to even bat an eye, still focused on Beca with laser focus.

“Right. I met her because I joined the Bellas.” Beca decides that skipping over the shower invasion is probably for the best. “And one useless degree later, here I am.” Beca swallows hard when she catches the twitch of Chloe’s lips. “Not that...all degrees are useless.”

Robert looks skeptical. He lifts his wine glass, somehow managing to look down at Beca even though they are all seated. “And now you sing for a living?”

Beca is used to hearing that kind of tone from a variety of people. The doubt and the second guessing. She lets it roll off her back, no harm done. “And now I sing, but I prefer the term ‘making music’. I like working with other artists. They can do the singing since it’s apparently so easy.”

Chloe inhales sharply like she is stifling a laugh. The sound draws attention away from Beca and Chloe quickly covers her mouth like she is coughing. “Beca’s actually up for a Grammy next year,” Chloe says, pride in her voice.

Beca beams back at Chloe, lighter already.

“A Grammy? That’s impressive.” Robert glances to his wife. “That’s impressive right? I can never keep up with all the awards these days.”

Chloe rolls her eyes and begins to aggressively cut into her chicken. Beca watches with wide eyes as Chloe continues massacre-ing the poor piece of meat on her plate.

 

* * * * *

 

“I think Beca and I are going to take a walk around the shops for a bit. We’ll catch a ride home.”

“Oh sweetie, are you sure? It’s a little chilly tonight.”

“Mom, it’s fine. We’re both still a little wired from the trip up here and it would be nice to unwind.”

Michelle smiles before kissing Chloe’s cheek. “Okay, hurry home.”

Beca waves at the departing family, waiting until they are firmly out of sight before turning to Chloe with a raised eyebrow.

“What?” Chloe asks.

“That was horrible.”

“No, it wasn’t. That was pretty normal.”

“Are we going to talk about how you said like two sentences?”

Chloe expels a frustrated breath. “Like I said. Normal.”

“Normal,” Beca parrots back. “Your parents walked all over you. And me.”

“I know. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine, it wasn’t so bad. Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Chloe sighs. “Yeah. I am. That honestly wasn’t even that bad. They’re like that. It’s in their nature to be condescending about pretty much everything.” Chloe’s lips twist into a self-deprecating smile.

“Especially me, huh.”

Chloe giggles, reaching out to intertwine their fingers so she can pull Beca along. “Yes, that’s exactly it. You’re a celebrity. The worst kind of person. Unless you help my dad with his campaigns, obviously. Let him cite you as one of his biggest supporters.”

Together, they giggle as they walk away from the restaurant, falling into a comfortable silence. Beca realizes it really isn’t all that bad, as she walks along the snow-lined streets. The Christmas decorations along the store fronts and the lamp posts only add to Beca’s Christmas cheer, thankfully refilling some of her reserves. She likes being able to hold Chloe’s hand when they have relative anonymity—when they don’t have to worry about not being out to the world.

Glancing at Chloe, Beca notes that Chloe looks infinitely more peaceful as she strolls along the quiet streets. They peer occasionally into darkened stores, darting into the occasional store that still remains open. It feels nice, seeing a bit of where Chloe grew up. Beca smiles, trying to imagine what it would have been like to grow up with a young Chloe Beale.

“What are you thinking about, Bec?”

“How nice it is to be able to hold your hand.”

Chloe smiles, tightening her grip on Beca’s hand. “I like it too.”

We could be doing this all the time. Beca inhales, wondering if now is a good time to bring up her plan for the new year. For the first time, she hesitates a little, wondering if she is overstepping some unspoken boundary. It worries Beca to some degree as she considers all the things she hadn’t known about Chloe’s life before this trip.

“What’s on your mind?” Chloe asks quietly as they slow to a stop in front of a small park bench. She pulls Beca to sit, both of them huddling close on instinct. “I feel like there’s something on your mind.”

“There always is,” Beca admits. She tilts her head so she can lean against Chloe’s shoulder comfortably, the wool of Chloe’s jacket scratching against her cheek.

“You can talk to me about anything.”

Beca sighs. “I was just thinking about how this almost doesn’t feel that different from being in L.A., but yet, it’s so different.”

Chloe’s arm comes up around Beca’s shoulders. “I know. I do want to tell my parents about us, but it’s just...there’s always been something holding me back. I’m sorry.”

It nags at Beca’s mind until she can’t help but ask the question that plagues her; the question that has plagued her since she found out about this large secret. “Is this...why you suggested keeping our relationship under wraps and out of the public eye? When we talked about coming out in an interview?”

Beca remembers that moment clearly. They had sat down with Beca’s publicist and weighed the pros and cons of coming out. Chloe had been attentive and careful with her words. She had been caring and supportive of whatever decision Beca landed on and they ultimately erred on the side of caution, opting to keep Beca’s personal life out of the spotlight as much as possible. But looking back, Beca isn’t quite sure that she recalls whose idea it really was.

Chloe says nothing for a moment. That moment expands into minutes that pass slowly. Beca’s mind wanders as familiar and distant memories plague her mind. The familiar insecurity of not knowing whether she would be good enough (good enough for her father, her mother, the Bellas, Chloe—the list felt endless at times, but somehow Beca knew it would be irreparably painful if it was Chloe who was ashamed of her). The familiar hesitation. The familiar rebricking of the wall around her heart.

Chloe gently eases her out of her mind. “Yes and no. I knew that my parents would be more than likely to keep tabs on me even though I barely have contact with them. They have alerts on all our names just in case something exciting or important pops up with our careers. Understandably, nothing exciting has really happened in my life recently, except you.” She presses a kiss to the side of Beca’s head. “I can practically hear your mind buzzing. I’m not ashamed of you, but I’m sorry that it definitely does seem that way. I just...wanted us to be us and only us for a little while longer. Our friends know.”

Beca nods, but her heart still continues to race. “But why not just talk to me about this? This is happening to me too.”

Chloe nods, inhaling deeply. “I know, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. Aubrey told me I shouldn’t have kept any of this from you. It’s a bad look. I was just scared that my parents would cause trouble for us if they found out and I was really just so happy to be able to date you at all. And us dating and you starting to really build a name for yourself...it made sense. I thought I was protecting you too.”

“I can protect myself,” Beca whispers. She struggles to stay leaning against Chloe’s side. It is simultaneously comforting and scorching to the touch, but she would rather have Chloe wrapped around her than not at all. “And I want to be able to protect you too. It feels like...a lot, you know?” She sniffles, unaware that her eyes had begun to water excessively. “A lot to keep from me.”

Chloe gasps softly. “Please don’t cry, Bec. I’m so sorry. I know I should have been honest with you from the start.” She tilts Beca’s head up, moving her hands so she can wipe the few tears that linger at the corner of Beca’s eyes. “I’m so sorry. I...knew this whole trip would be hard, but I never wanted you to feel hurt by this.”

“I feel like I’m just learning a lot about you all at once...which is crazy because I’ve known you for like...close to a decade.”

Beca lifts her eyes to meet Chloe’s gaze head-on when she notes that Chloe doesn’t respond immediately. Chloe watches her, eyes glistening with emotion and her own unshed tears, and simply holds Beca’s eyes for an extended moment. Chloe takes a breath, like she is about to say something more, so Beca braces herself.

However, Chloe says nothing. She does nothing except lean in to brush a soft kiss on Beca’s lips, letting the air slowly dissipate from their lungs. Beca’s heart races, reaching up to grip Chloe’s upper arms as she sinks further into the kiss. Their first public kiss. It lights Beca with renewed warmth and saps some of the lingering sadness from her. Even in the darkness and the quiet of Chloe’s hometown—a far cry from Los Angeles—the significance of this kiss is not lost on Beca.

When Chloe pulls back, she brushes her thumbs across Beca’s cheeks affectionately, smiling shyly at the expression on Beca’s face. “Was that okay?”

“I...yeah. Yeah it was very okay.”

Chloe laughs. “I’m sorry. I just really wanted to kiss you. I know this doesn’t make everything okay, but I just wanted you to know that I think about kissing you all the time. And even when we’re not together, I’m still thinking about it. You deserve everything, Beca.”

Beca hates how romantic it sounds—how romantic Chloe makes everything sound, even with the simplest of sentences. It is part of Chloe’s charm and what draws Beca to her. Chloe’s passion is addictive and contagious on the best of days.

“I love you,” Beca whispers before tugging Chloe in for another kiss.

“I love you, too.”

 

* * * * *

 

Aubrey
Did you guys make it in one piece?

Aubrey
I assume you haven’t been totally wrecked by Chloe’s family. Yet.

Aubrey
Are you alive, Beca?

Beca huffs out a laugh despite herself upon seeing Aubrey’s texts. If somebody told her a few months ago (hell, a few years ago) that she would be finding comfort in texts from Aubrey, Beca would have laughed in their face. Or at least held some measure of disbelief.

Though her and Aubrey have forged a friendship over the years, it was hardly something that Beca considered to be one that was particularly powerful or poignant. It just so happened that Aubrey and Chloe were close and because of that Beca was close to Aubrey by association.

She listens for the sound of the shower running from Chloe’s bedroom before hitting Aubrey’s contact information.

“You’re alive.”

“I swear, her family is going to eat me alive. When we got home, her sister stared so hard at me that I thought lasers were about to start shooting from her eyes.”

“You’re being dramatic, Beca, but I get the sentiment.”

“I didn’t realize how bad Chloe had it...I learned some new things tonight.”

Aubrey sighs. “I knew this should have come up before. I love Chloe and I think you two are great for each other, but she needs to work on her communication skills. Never thought I’d be saying that about her instead of you.”

Beca rolls her eyes. “Thank you. I’ll take a compliment from you whenever I can get it.”

“Look...just be there for her as best as you can. Don’t bring that back with you when you go back to California. Your lives can be as separate as you need them to be. Chloe probably just needs to do this for herself. This is all about catharsis, Beca.”

“It’s barely been a day and I feel like I don’t even recognize her.” The moment it leaves her mouth, Beca realizes how bad it sounds. “I didn’t mean it like that...I just feel totally blindsided by everything even though we kind of talked about it before we even left for this trip. Also, her dad’s a dick. He wouldn’t shut up about politics all throughout dinner.”

“Wait ‘til he finds out you and Chloe are in a relationship.”

“Well, if Chloe has any say in that, that’s not happening this trip.”

Aubrey doesn’t say anything immediately. “Did she say that?”

“I feel like it’s implied, even after just one day.”

“I’m sure it’s not—”

“She’s not going to do it, Aubrey. But like you said, this is cathartic for her." Beca shrugs despite Aubrey not being able to see her. "What’s another week of hiding and pretending I’m not totally in love with her?”

“Well at least you can pretend all you want in that nice house.” Aubrey's voice is sympathetic. Beca wonders if she would have hated that back then—back when they had been more carefree—and whether she would have anything to say. Now, she accepts the sympathy, gratitude coursing through her.

Beca perks up when she hears Chloe’s shower stop running. “I should go. Chloe’s done with her shower.”

“Oh, you didn’t join her?”

Beca groans. “Goodbye, Aubrey! I am hanging up.”

 

* * * * *

 

The next day, Beca weasels her way out of going to the airport to pick up Hailey. She intends on using the moment alone to work on a song she had been putting off, but she ends up napping instead.

The sound of her phone ringing incessantly startles her out of her slumber and she sluggishly moves to press the device to her face.

“Yeah,” she grunts.

“Beca, it’s Mona.”

“Oh, hi. Is something wrong?” Beca sits up, rubbing her face tiredly. “What’s up?”

“No, nothing too pressing. I just wanted to confirm that we’re set for the interview with Billboard in January. And then the late night shows.”

Beca sighs, rubbing her face tiredly. “The...the um, coming out stuff. Right.”

“Yeah. If it’s what you feel is right, we can make it work. I think you’re in a good spot. And you and Chloe wouldn’t have to deal with fall-out.”

Chloe. Beca is reminded that she had planned all this with Chloe in mind. However, recent events seem to indicate that maybe Chloe would want otherwise. Chloe had always spoken of them being able to be a public couple freely and without hesitation, so Beca had thought this would be a wonderful gift to present to Chloe, just as Chloe begins to finish up with the second half of veterinary school and their lives are finally able to really and truly take off.

“Beca?”

“Um, yeah. That’s...do you mind if I get back to you?”

Mona pauses awkwardly. “Did something happen?”

“No, no. I just don’t...holiday stress, you know? I want to have a clear head about all of this. Me and Chloe will get back to you.”

“Okay, if you’re sure. I just wanted to let you know that everything’s in place before Christmas day, like you asked.”

“Yeah, that’s great. Thank you,” Beca says quietly. “I gotta go. Thanks for calling.”

Beca is about to wander downstairs and make herself a cup of coffee when her door opens a crack and Chloe pokes her head through. “Hi you. Who were you talking to?”

“Oh, uh nobody. Just checking my voicemail.” Beca brightens when she sees the Starbucks in Chloe’s hands. “Oh you’re the best ever.”

“I know.” Chloe hands the cup to Beca, sitting next to her on the bed. “What were you up to?” Her eyes trail up the side of Beca’s hair. “Other than napping, lazy.”

“It’s the holidays. I can nap if I want.”

“Sure you can.” Chloe leans in to peck Beca on the cheek. “Your bed head is cute.”

“God you really should stop saying shit like that to me while we’re here.”

“Hey, can we just talk for a moment?” Chloe asks suddenly.

“Yeah. What’s up?”

“I...I just want you to know that if you’re upset by anything or upset about anything, you can talk to me about it. And you can tell me if something’s bothering you.”

“I know that,” Beca says quietly.

“Is there...something on your mind? And I don’t mean just from this trip. Since before. You’ve been so busy with a lot of things, I feel like we haven’t had time to touch base.”

“No,” Beca says after a moment. “It’s nothing.” She holds off on telling Chloe about what had been her original Christmas gift idea.

Chloe holds her gaze for a minute, eyes searching. She softens and leans in to press a soft kiss against Beca’s lips. “I love you, Bec.”

“I love you, too.”

 


 

who can tell which smiles I'm fakin' and the heart I know I'm breakin' is my own

 


 

The next few days breeze by. Beca attempts skiing with Chloe’s family but she can barely keep up. She notes the competitiveness between Chloe and her siblings and takes it upon herself to cheer Chloe on from the metaphorical sidelines, usually with a glass of mulled wine in her hand. Or hot cider. The house’s location in Park City makes it a prime location for snowboarding and skiing, which Beca supposes explains why she sucks ass at skiing and why Chloe’s so good at it.

A couple days before the big Beale Christmas dinner, Beca busies herself by helping out around the house as much as possible and as far as her household expertise lets her go. Chloe is entirely too amused with Beca’s attempts at cooking and finally takes pity on her and drags her off to play with the dogs in the backyard.

Beca finds herself alone with Michelle in the late afternoon, both of them taking on the task of baking.

“Hi Mrs. Beale, Chloe told me you might want some extra hands to help make cookies. I promise I’m actually good at...some parts of baking.”

“Beca, of course. And it’s Michelle as long as you’re here. Chloe’s friends are family.”

Beca nods slowly, wondering if she is about to step into another trap. She shrugs it off, opting to take wins when she can instead. “Where’s everybody else. I’ve barely seen Hailey since she arrived.”

“My children are such interesting characters. I think they must all be scattered off doing their own thing—you’d think the fact that they made the trip up at all meant that they’d spend time at home with their mama.”

Beca bites her lip before responding. “Well, I mean, Chloe has really been excited about helping out and cooking and prepping for the party.” She feels like it is important that Chloe’s mother sees how much Chloe actually tries.

Michelle softens. “No, you’re right. Chloe has always been a sweetheart, especially around the holidays. I know she hasn’t been around much the past few years, but I was so happy to know that she was coming home.”

“I know she’s happy to see you,” Beca says quietly. Chloe hadn’t said as much—not in those explicit words—but Beca had noted that Chloe hadn’t been so wary of her mother as much as she had complained about her siblings and her father.

Michelle smiles. “Thank you for saying that Beca. I know the holidays are stressful, so I’m glad that Chloe has a friend. I’m glad it’s you.”

Beca smiles back, deciding not to read that much into it. She has enjoyed the last couple of days of peace even as she walks on the very slightest of eggshells around Chloe. This little moment with Chloe’s mother sparks warmth and hope in Beca once more.

Later, Beca relays the experience to Chloe as they lounge in the living room by the roaring fire. Beca tries not to ogle too hard as Chloe tosses some firewood into the fireplace, arms flexing beneath the long-sleeve shirt she’s wearing.

“I’m glad that she likes you,” Chloe says, settling back down next to Beca on the rug. “She doesn’t like a lot of people.”

“Guess I have a way with parents.”

Chloe scoffs. “Sure. Who was it that called me because she was so terrified of Jesse’s parents?”

Beca cringes. “Shut up. I was a child.”

“You were definitely not a child.”

“Who’s a child?”

Chloe tilts her head up to frown at her sister. “Mind your own business.”

“What are you two gossiping about?” Avery asks, ignoring Chloe. She perches on the couch to the side, nursing a mug. Beca offers a hesitant smile, wondering if Chloe and her sister are about to argue again.

“You,” Chloe says shortly. “You’re back early.”

“The men are smoking their cigars or something. I don’t know what they get up to in dad’s study. If you ever brought home a boyfriend, maybe he’d be able to join them, Chloe.”

Chloe grunts in response, staring hard into the fire. Beca turns away from Avery, uncomfortable with the expression she sees on her face.

“Beca, do you have a boyfriend?”

“No she doesn’t,” Chloe responds before Beca has a chance to even formulate an answer in her mind. “Just ignore her, Beca. She’s going to try her dumb lawyer mind games on you.”

“You’ve never trusted me, Chloe.”

“Have you given me a reason to? You once ratted me out to mom when we were kids just because I ate the last ice cream bar.”

“You did.

“Well you didn’t have to tell her.”

“Do you have siblings, Beca?”

“I have a step-brother, but he’s in high school and thinks he’s too cool for me.”

“Oh, how cute.”

Chloe brightens at that. “He is cute. Beca’s adorable with him. Bec, show her a picture. Especially the ones where you’re both younger.” She practically shoves Beca towards Avery, ignoring the wide-eyed expression they both shoot her. For a moment, there is peace as Chloe watches the two halves of her world collide, bonding over embarrassing photos and hot cocoa.

It’s almost perfect.

 

* * * * *

 

Dinner that night is in the comfort of the home. Beca marvels at the spread of food laid out in front of her and contemplates asking for some recipes, but she decides to wait until a less tense time. She can sense the tension radiating from nearly all around the table. Shockingly, she feels most comfortable seated next to Hailey who offers her a slight smile as she settles in her seat.

Unsurprisingly, it is Avery who breaks the peace with a sudden interjection, jolting Beca and Chloe from their little footsie game under the table. “You know...Dad, I actually think I have somebody in mind who may be able to help you with your campaign.”

Chloe stops herself from rolling her eyes and instead nudges Beca once more, mouthing the words “suck up” discreetly. Beca smiles and shakes her head at Chloe.

“Oh really? Who? One of the partners at your firm?”

“No. Beca.”

Chloe sputters and Beca drops her napkin on the floor. She freezes at the number of eyes directed at her. “Me?” she squeaks out. “Oh, no. I hate politics.” She smiles, flashing her teeth. “No offense.”

“That’s not true. One of his platforms for his campaign is the abortion debate. Aren’t you a big supporter of Planned Parenthood?”

Beca can practically hear the steam leaving Chloe’s head. She discreetly rests a palm on Chloe’s thigh, squeezing once to ground her girlfriend. “Well, yes. It’s a cause I believe in. They offer great resources and services for people who really need them.” She faces Robert. “It’s great you support them.”

It is as if ice has spilled down the backs of everybody sitting at the dinner table. Beca feels the chill and immediately clamps her mouth shut, this time unable to stop herself from looking at Chloe for help. Chloe’s cheeks are incredibly red, but at this moment because her eyes are downcast, Beca has no idea if Chloe is upset or embarrassed, but she’s willing to bet that Chloe is a mix of both.

Corey scoffs, barely sparing Beca a glance. “Typical.”

“She didn’t know any better,” Avery says sympathetically.

“Maybe a few more years in school like Chloe here and you’d be more aware of what’s going on,” Robert suggests.

Chloe’s cheeks flare up at the dig from her father, but again, she says nothing.

“Oh, you know these celebrity types,” Robert says dismissively, clearly intent on continuing. “They stand up for what’s popular without really looking into the true facts.”

Beca clenches her fist. “That’s not true.”

“Beca, it’s okay to live a certain kind of lifestyle. Just know that our family frowns upon that.”

“So many lifestyles,” Avery adds, smiling at Beca from behind her wine glass.

“I don’t know what kind of lifestyle makes me different from you,” Beca replies boldly, glaring right back at Chloe’s incessant sister. “But I’m sure I’m a hell of a lot happier than you.”

“Ask Chloe how she feels about that.”

“Beca, stop,” Chloe murmurs before Beca can reply.

“Chloe...”

Beca,” Chloe repeats with some strain in her voice.

Beca barely has time to dwell on that—Chloe opting to silence her instead of standing up for her—before Chloe’s family clearly decides more bombs need to be dropped on the dinner table.

“Chloe had a little…” Hailey lowers her voice. “A little scare at the end of high school. She was already spiralling anyway, but I guess that was part of her little break.” It isn’t said maliciously, just as if she is stating a fact.

Still, Beca hadn’t heard that before. She sits, stunned once again by another secret kept from her. Another Chloe Beale secret. “She’s...I didn’t know that,” Beca admits. “But it’s her story to tell,” she says to Hailey, attempting to keep a cordial tone. Hailey nods in agreement and says nothing more.

Avery seems to leap on the opportunity. “Well, I mean it’s not her brightest moment. And to think she was probably in line to be prom queen in her senior year too.”

Corey, ever the outstanding older brother chimes in as well. “Please, Chloe never wanted any of that. She never wanted anything, isn’t that right?”

Beca hates this. She hates seeing the way the words rip into Chloe with each flinch her girlfriend directs at the plate. She hates not knowing what Chloe is thinking. She hates not being able to protect Chloe from this barrage—she hates that they’re here at all. “She’s your sister. Why are you talking about her like this?” Beca demands, heat rising in her cheeks.

“Chloe understood the pressures of what it meant to be a part of this family.”

“That’s—”

“No, Beca,” Chloe speaks up again, this time more firmly. She places a hand on Beca’s forearm and the shock of being silenced once more by Chloe herself stuns Beca into compliance. “They’re right, obviously. I had a pregnancy scare before graduation and I was terrified because I was still just a kid. And I had no idea if I’d be able to make it on my own. So I took the first offer that gave me a scholarship just in case my parents wouldn’t support me. Because that is something they’d do.” Chloe stands from the dinner table, eyes ablaze with uncharacteristic anger. “Isn’t that right? As long as it gets swept under the rug, right dad?”

Chloe’s father doesn’t respond, at least not right away. He takes his time, spearing a vegetable with his fork and lifting it to his mouth slowly. The entire table seems to wait with bated breath as Chloe stares down her father who cannot even be bothered to briefly acknowledge his child’s outburst.

“Well, everything worked out, didn’t it, Chloe? You got what you wanted and all we’re trying to do is enjoy a peaceful family dinner. So how about you stop embarrassing yourself and your friend and sit down so we can get back to dinner. Please make sure this is all out of your system before tomorrow’s dinner party.”

Chloe scoffs, disbelief shining in her eyes. “I don’t even care about that right now. How can you sit there and talk to me like that?”

“Honey, it’s Christmas. Maybe you can just sit down and control yourself. We can talk about this later. Privately.”

“Why?” Chloe demands. “Just say whatever it is that you need to say in front of Beca. She’s my guest. I give you permission.”

Beca doesn’t really want to hear any more. She fixates on the pretty poinsettia being used as the centerpiece.

“Yes, she is your guest. So you should set a good example. We wouldn’t want Beca getting the wrong idea.”

“I don’t think Beca’s the one Chloe’s worried about getting the wrong idea,” Avery murmurs, just loudly enough to be heard by everybody.

Chloe fixes her sister with a murderous glare. Beca quickly moves the knife further away from Chloe’s twitching hand.

“I’m not hungry,” Chloe says simply. “Merry Christmas everybody.” She storms out of the dining room.

Beca blinks awkwardly at her plate, wondering if she should leave. She figures she’d rather deal with the turmoil that Chloe harbors instead of her family. “I’m going to go check on her. Sorry,” she apologizes quickly.

“Chlo?”

“Let’s go outside,” Chloe says abruptly. She tosses Beca a sweater and scarf. “I can’t stand being in this house.”

Beca is getting really tired of having nearly zero answers, but she fears what will happen if she pushes Chloe too far. “We need to talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Nothing?” Beca exclaims. “I could write a book based on how much there was to talk about.”

“I can’t talk about it right now,” Chloe says sourly. “I don’t want to.”

“Well, I think we’ve all done things we’re uncomfortable with over the past few days.”

Chloe shoots her an exasperated look. “Beca, please. Not now.”

“No, we’re outside like you wanted. Just stay so we can talk about whatever the fuck that was.”

Chloe looks like she might be on the verge of ripping out her own hair. “She’s so fucking annoying,” Chloe rants, ignoring Beca. “I knew she was up to something. She’s always up to something.”

“Forget about her,” Beca urges. “Let’s talk about this. Us. I feel like I’m learning something new about you every day like some fucked up advent calendar.”

“Forget about her?” Chloe echoes. “I can’t just forget about her—she’s literally a plague on my life and she basically lives to torture me.” Chloe glances up when she sees her sister exiting the house. “I’m going to talk to her. Stay here.”

“No, Chloe! Chloe, just stay—” Beca grabs at thin air as Chloe all but darts away, hell bent on confronting her sister. Beca groans and stomps after her temperamental girlfriend, already exponentially more annoyed than two seconds ago.

“What the fuck was that?” Chloe demands, grabbing her sister’s arm. She tugs her away from the doorway. “Are you crazy?”

Avery yanks her arm away. “I see how you look at her, Chloe.”

Chloe falters, nearly taking a full step back. “What?”

“The way you look at her. At Beca. Like you’re in love with her.”

Beca wraps her arms around herself, not wanting to see whatever emotions pass across Chloe’s face. The silence is telling enough. Beca tries not to let it get to her, reminding herself that this is all temporary and the high stress would be enough to drive anybody insane.

“You had everything,” Avery says when Chloe doesn’t respond. She sounds rather victorious about the fact, too. “You were the most liked out of all of us. You were popular in school. You were the cutest and then the prettiest. Everybody loved you.”

Chloe exhales sharply. “You’re still jealous. After all these years. I can’t…” She lifts her hands into her own hair, gripping tightly. “I can’t believe this. You’re still jealous and this is some kind of messed up revenge scheme.”

“I googled Beca out of curiosity because I was surprised that you were bringing somebody home at all. Mom said it was a friend, but you rarely bring people home. Just that weird blonde girl, a couple years ago. The general’s daughter.”

Beca would laugh under normal circumstances at the fact that Aubrey is being referred to as “the weird blonde girl” but she can sense an impending breakdown from either Chloe, her sister, or herself, so she chooses to remain silent.

“I’m surprised dad hasn’t figured it out yet then,” Chloe says defiantly. “Whatever it is that you think you’ve figured out.”

Avery laughs, loud and obnoxious. “Please. You know he’d rather die pretending he knows nothing about you than admit that you’re fully dating a woman and presumably living with her.” She turns to Beca. “Weren’t you living together in New York?”

“We were just friends,” Chloe says quickly before Beca can respond. She belatedly realizes that it isn’t the best thing to say, but now that the words hover in the air between them, there is nothing she can do to take them back.

“And now you’re not.” Avery sighs. “Please, Chloe. We all know. It’s so obvious and written all over your face that you’re in love with her. I don’t know why you bother to pretend.”

“Because I know what it’ll be like for Beca when you guys get your hands on her and I don’t want that for her.”

“Want what? The moment mom and dad find out about you, they’ll probably insist on sending you money just to stay out of their lives.”

Beca’s heart pounds at that. She knows how hard it is for Chloe to accept that she’s more than just a black sheep in her family. This is borderline disownment and she’s sure she has an idea why anybody would actively encourage it, but she isn’t sure she wants to voice it.

“That’s what you want though, isn’t it?” Chloe demands, looking very much like she might break something—possibly her own sister. “Then once I lose my share in the will, you get whatever you want.”

“You never wanted to be part of this family anyway!” It explodes out of Avery with force, startling all of them considering that Avery is closer to Beca’s size and height. “You never respected dad and you never—”

Chloe’s fists clench at her side. “—I’m as much a part of this family as you! Fuck you! You’ve always been jealous and insane and even after everything, dad still tolerates me more even though you’re trying so desperately to follow in his footsteps.”

“Well, you should pick one then. Dad or your girlfriend. You can’t have both even though that’s what you came back home to do.”

Before Chloe or Beca can respond or even react, Avery storms back into the house.

 

* * * * *

 

Beca locks herself in her cozy little guest bedroom for the next two hours. She sends Chloe a text letting her know that she’s okay and that she would rather not be bothered for the next little while. By the time Beca opens the door for Chloe to enter, she has about ten messages of apologies from Chloe and a very exhausted girlfriend throwing herself into her arms.

“I asked you to stay and you went to confront her instead. Then, when given the chance to defend our relationship, you couldn’t.”

“Beca, I’m so sorry.”

“You’ve been apologizing so much lately,” Beca comments quietly. She sits on the bed, not bothering to ask Chloe to sit down next to her.

“Would you rather I...not?”

“No, I just wish that you didn’t have things that you need to apologize for. This isn’t what I had in mind when I thought about spending Christmas with you.”

Chloe sniffles and shuffles forward a little so she is standing closer to Beca. Beca looks up at her, eyes swimming with emotion. “I’m sorry,” Chloe whispers. She kneels, sliding her hands up Beca’s jean-clad thighs. “I’m sorry, Bec. I never wanted...I’m so scared of losing you. That’s the one thing I’m most afraid of. Did you know that?”

Beca shakes her head.

“Well, I am. I’m so terrified that one day I’ll just wake up and my life will just have changed completely. I lived like that for so long in high school that I never knew if I’d ever be able to start over again. Then I met you in what was supposed to be my last year of university. And you changed my life.”

“You changed my life, too.”

Chloe smiles, still resting her hands on Beca’s thighs. “I always worried that I wouldn’t be able to find somebody.”

“I just need some time to myself. I think. I don’t know. Maybe I should go somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else?” Chloe echoes. “You can’t leave, Beca. I’d be so worried.”

“Because you’re afraid who I might blab to about our relationship?”

Chloe flinches and steps away, arms coming up to wrap around herself. “No, that’s not what I’m worried about. Why would you say that?”

“Because I don’t know what to believe! You tell me one thing and then you treat me like crap in the next second.”

“I didn’t…”

“I just wanted you to be honest with me,” Beca says quietly. “That’s all I wanted. You’re all I’ve got on most days and I thought we were at that point in our relationship—fuck, even just our friendship—where we could be honest with each other.”

“You’ve been hiding things from me too,” Chloe points out, her voice rising. “What about all those phone calls from your publicist? Or all those secret meetings that you used to take in L.A.? What about those? You don’t let me in, Beca and you’ve always been like that!”

“Because I was looking for a house for us to move into! Because I was figuring out how I could come out with you by my side in the new year!” It explodes out of Beca louder than she intends, but at this point she isn’t sure that she cares and it seems that Chloe doesn’t care either. “I was working on bringing you the certainty of our future together because that’s what I want and it’s what I thought you wanted too.”

“It is,” Chloe says quickly. She sniffles, reaching out for Beca’s hands. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

“Stop apologizing!”

Chloe steps back at the volume of Beca’s exclamation. “I...I want that too. All the things you said. I didn’t know you were looking at houses. That’s what I want too. I hate...hiding you. Or even thinking of what we’re doing as hiding because it’s just so against what I want and what I need. It was so much easier to pretend we had our own little bubble.” Chloe begins to cry in earnest, hastily wiping away the tears that slip down her cheeks. “And I just wanted you and loved you for so long that I felt like I could just keep you a little longer. Does that make me a bad person?”

Beca aches at the sight of Chloe breaking down in front of her. “I love you, Chloe,” Beca murmurs. “I think we just need to reevaluate things when we get back to California. And maybe I should just go somewhere else for the time being.”

“I’ll come with you,” Chloe declares. “We can get a hotel room or something.”

“No, you should stay. I’m...kind of tired,” Beca admits. “I’ll stay tonight. Do you think we can revisit this tomorrow or something?”

Chloe looks like she wants to protest, but she clamps her mouth shut and nods. She hesitates before dropping a kiss to the corner of Beca’s mouth, light and gentle. Beca senses how she lingers and she wants nothing more than to pull Chloe in for a real kiss, but she’s feeling kind of raw at the moment, so she lets the hurt create a bit of a rift between them.

Just temporarily.

 


 

the road not taken looks real good now
and it always leads to you and my hometown

 


 

Just a day before Christmas and Beca finds herself wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the Beale family Christmas party. A huge event, she’s told.

Beca is grateful for one thing: Chloe’s attempts to talk to her privately are thwarted by the sheer amount of work Chloe’s mom has her doing. Beca willingly accepts whatever tasks are available to her.

She isn’t sure she can handle one more kicked-puppy expression from Chloe however. That expression is as effective as ever and Beca hates herself for being weak. She doesn’t even find any joy in not talking to Chloe, she just isn’t sure she can keep her emotions in check long enough lest she expose their little secret (though after the previous night, she isn’t sure how much of it remains a secret at this point).

Beca pushes herself away from the kitchen counter and makes her way down the hall, not bothering to see whether Chloe is following her. She picks up the pace and walks further down the long hallway, digging out her phone as she goes.

“I didn’t know who else to call,” Beca whispers, gripping her phone tightly. She ignores the sound of Chloe’s voice calling for her down the hall and quickly ducks into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. In a house this big, she figures she has at least five minutes. Maybe more.

“Beca, what’s going on?”

“I’m sorry, I know you probably have your own shit going on...Christmas and all...but I really didn’t know who else to call.”

“Beca, what?” Aubrey shuffles around for a moment, static crackling through the phone, then, “Wait, what is happening right now? Where’s Chloe?”

“Looking for me, I guess.”

“Why’s she looking for you?”

“Because we had a fight. Kind of. It was more of an...emotional outburst.”

“Any particular reason why?”

Beca sighs, waiting a beat as she listens out the bathroom door for sounds of approaching footsteps. She deems it safe enough to exit and quickly grabs her jacket from the front hall before stepping out the front door into the brisk cold. She is stunned because she comes face to face with—”Aubrey?”

“Surprise!” Aubrey sounds entirely too cheerful for somebody who likely just came off a last-minute flight. “Thought you two could use a friend.”

“I...yeah.” Beca reaches out for a hug, gratitude coursing through her. “Thank you.”

“Aubrey, what are you...what are you doing here?”

Aubrey gently steps away from her hug with Beca and turns to face Chloe with a serious expression. She softens upon seeing her best friend looking so small and unsure as she stands there, shivering in the night air. She tries to convey everything to Chloe with her eyes, mindful of Beca still standing next to her.

Aubrey’s lack of response is enough for Chloe. “You came for Beca,” she says softly.

“Chloe…”

“No, it’s…” Chloe swallows with difficulty. It is so hard, seeing how Beca is angled away from her in order to hide the distress and pain on her face. “It’s...thank you for coming.” She is sincere in thanking Aubrey because she knows how badly Beca needs somebody who won’t disappoint her for once. “I’m just going to…” she trails off, wiping at her tears hastily before turning and darting back into the house.

“It’s okay,” Aubrey says to Beca as she stops her from following Chloe. “It’s okay. I’ll go check on her. But first I want to make sure you’re okay.”

“She needs…”

‘You’re my friend too. Chloe knows that. Chloe also knows that she hurt you even if she didn’t mean to.”

“I hurt her too,” Beca whispers. “I know I did. I didn’t mean to get upset. I just want us both to stop hurting for these people who don’t even give a shit about her.”

“I know, Beca.”

“Are we going to be okay?” Beca hates how small and insecure she sounds.

Aubrey nods, pulling Beca in for another hug. “Yeah. I know you guys will be okay. Should we go inside? Or somewhere else? It’s kind of cold out here.”

“You’re just gonna walk inside?”

“Yeah. It’ll be okay.”

Beca bites back a laugh at the memory of Aubrey being referred to as ‘the weird blonde girl’. “Yeah,” she agrees slowly.

When they re-enter the front hall, Chloe is pacing in front of them, chewing on the edge of her thumb. “Bree,” Chloe whispers in gratitude before she flings her arms around Aubrey’s neck, engulfing her in a tight hug. “I’m sorry. Thank you for coming.”

Beca lingers back awkwardly, letting the two have their brief moment. She knows how important Aubrey is to Chloe and vice versa. “You didn’t have to take time out of your own holiday,” Beca says softly. “I’m sorry for dragging you into this.”

Chloe frowns, drawing back from the hug. “How were you dragging her into this?”

“You both confided in me,” Aubrey reveals. “But I think you don’t give each other enough credit. I hate seeing two of my best friends hurting over all of this when it’s just a lot of miscommunication. I know you both want the same thing.”

“I can’t believe you’re still playing mediator after all these years,” Beca comments.

“Feels like we never left Atlanta. Somebody should sing.”

Beca smiles at Chloe. “Sometimes I think about if we had just dated while we were in school.”

“I think about that too.”

“Would today be any different?”

Chloe shrugs. “Maybe? I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know that I don’t want to spend another Christmas not knowing what it’s like to kiss you under at least one mistletoe.”

Beca blushes, glancing at Aubrey who is now thankfully fiddling on her phone and ignoring them. “I don’t see any mistletoe.”

Chloe softens. “I just want to kiss you on Christmas morning.” She draws closer. “In the afternoon. And then again in the evening.” She is standing so close to Beca now that Beca can feel the warmth of Chloe’s breath wash over her skin.

“We didn’t have to do that here,” Beca murmurs, lifting her hands to Chloe’s waist. “We could have spent Christmas in Davis or LA and nobody would ever have to know.”

“I just wanted to have it all.”

“You should have talked to me,” Beca points out, just once more because she can.

“I know.”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish you opened up to me more. I want to be there for you through this. You shouldn’t have gone through this on your own.”

“It’s my own fault—”

“—Your parents and your family being dicks about who you like? That isn’t your fault.”

“I don’t want to hide you,” Chloe promises. “I’m not ashamed of you. I don’t know if you ever said whether you felt like I was, but I just want to be clear that I’m not ashamed of you.”

“Thank you for saying that. I could never be ashamed of you either.”

Chloe softens, leaning in to press her forehead against Beca’s. “I know. I’m sorry. C’mere,” Chloe whispers, pulling Beca closer. Beca sniffles, tucking her face against Chloe’s neck for a moment just to relish the warmth of being held by her girlfriend as snow falls around them outside the walls of the house.

“You know, if my parents never talk to me again, I’d be okay with that,” Chloe says quietly. Beca feels the slight laugh rumbling through Chloe’s chest. The lightheartedness of it after the strain of the past week makes Beca light with warmth and passion once again.

Beca tilts her head up to meet Chloe in the middle for a kiss. Immediately, Chloe whimpers a little against her mouth, her arms tightening around Beca’s back as she holds her close. Beca can’t help but expel a short, breathless laugh against Chloe’s mouth before sucking in a breath and immediately pressing her lips back against Chloe’s once more. Chloe’s hold on her is tender and romantic and all-encompassing. Beca sinks into Chloe’s body, gripping the back of Chloe’s head to hold her in place, wanting to cherish this kiss for a moment longer.

“What’s going on here?”

Chloe gasps, tearing her mouth away from Beca’s. “Mom,” she says. “Hailey.” To her credit, Chloe’s younger sister does not look particularly upset or surprised—a stark contrast from the expression on Chloe’s mother’s face. “I’m, um…”

“Sorry,” Beca apologizes because she has no idea what else to do or say.

“Chloe? What’s going on?” Michelle peers at Aubrey as if just noticing her. “Aubrey Posen? What are you doing here?”

“Hi,” Aubrey greets, too stunned to speak.

“Chloe, I’m going to ask you once again: what is going on? Why were you kissing your friend?”

“Mom!” It is Hailey who speaks, exasperation and frustration in her voice. “Isn’t it obvious? Chloe and Beca are dating. They’ve been dating for a while. Or at least figuring out their feelings for each other. Which you would know if you saw them interact like...at least once.” She rolls her eyes at Chloe. “I had you booked the moment I saw you all over her at your grad party.”

“That was a few years ago,” Chloe starts to say. “How did you—”

“I’m not dense like the rest of them.”

“We weren’t even…” Chloe glances at her mother who still looks shell-shocked. “We weren’t even together...then. Mom, I…” She lets Beca go and steps towards her mother. “Mom, say something. Please.”

“I just...I don’t know what to say, sweetie. You and Beca are…?”

“For a year now,” Chloe admits. “I…” Chloe steadies herself and tries to calm her racing heart. “I thought that having Beca here and pretending that she was just a friend would be a good way to ease you guys into the idea. And because it was Christmas...I thought I’d be able to get what I wanted most this year, which was just you guys accepting that I’m in love with her. Some love and acceptance from my own family for once.”

Beca smiles. “I love you, too, Chlo.”

Chloe exhales, turning back to smile at Beca. “I know.”

“I need to understand, sweetie,” Chloe’s mother says desperately. “I don’t understand how this happened. How did you—? What will your father say?”

“I was hoping to tell him myself,” Chloe murmurs. She looks at her sister, appraising her. “And I would love it if you supported me.”

Hailey doesn’t hesitate. “I will. I like Beca. Always thought she was interesting.”

“...Mom?”

“I need some time. Your father doesn’t have to know about this.”

“I don’t want to hide it from him,” Chloe says quickly. “He’s going to find out.” She reaches out to hold Beca’s hand. “I’m not hiding it from anybody anymore.”

“He doesn’t need to know,” Michelle reiterates.

Chloe figures out what’s happening. “You’re going to pretend this never happened,” she says slowly. “You’re going to pretend that I never said any of this and that you never saw anything. You’re going to do what you always do.”

“Hailey, come on. We should go pick up that wine.”

“We’ll figure it out,” Hailey promises as they sweep past Beca, Chloe, and Aubrey. “I’m sorry, Chloe.” She reaches out to hold Chloe’s hand. “I love you.”

Chloe nods, too choked up to speak, but she squeezes her sister’s hand gratefully before letting her go. She stares forlornly at the front door, torn between rushing out and begging for some kind of sick forgiveness from her mother or simply turning away and never looking back. She doesn’t realize she is crying until Beca reaches out to brush tears away from her cheeks.

“Chlo, it’s okay. Please don’t cry.” Beca pulls Chloe into her arms, allowing Chloe to cry against her shoulder.

“Let’s just go,” Chloe murmurs quietly.

“Where? Do you want to go to the living room and sit down?”

Chloe shakes her head, smiling at Beca with tear-stained cheeks. “No, I want to go home.”

“Home? As in California?”

Chloe nods. “I just want to be able to start the rest of my life with you and forget all of this. My parents pretending this doesn’t exist isn’t what I wanted...but it’s the best I’m going to get. And I don’t want them influencing how happy I am with you because you’re...it for me.” She says it all so simply. Factually.

Honestly, It isn’t anything Beca hasn’t heard before, but it still throws her whenever Chloe says I love you like that. It throws her that this woman is hers (and that she is Chloe’s—but not in a weird possessive shit type of way) and she can come home to her for the rest of their life. For all the Christmases to come.

Still, she wants to be sure. “Chloe, are you sure? I know how much it meant to you that we spent Christmas day with your family.”

“If we leave soon, we can spend Christmas day together. Just the two of us. You make me happy.” She glances at Aubrey. “And Aubrey can come home with us.”

“Davis is my home too. But I think you two need some time to yourselves.”

“Okay,” Beca agrees. She can’t look at Chloe for too long or she’ll start crying. Those damn puppy eyes. “Let’s go home.”