Author's Note: That's it for Christmas 2014! If the muses strike, I may do one-shot follow ups on future holidays. Thank you for hanging with me and for all of your wonderful reviews!
12 Days of Christmas
Twelve Drummers Drumming
"On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – twelve drummers drumming."
Drums bring the beat of life, the thunder of the heart. One can hear them in all human endeavors – life and death, war and peace, but most of all one hears the drum in the rhythm of love.
"I'm going to go change," Felicity sighed as they made it home after work. "I thought the day would never end. Can I just say now how much I hate reviews? Explain this; justify that; you spent how much on what? I swear, don't the board member ever read the memos and reports we send them? If they're not going to bother going over the reports in the first place, why do we bother?" She held up a hand. "Never mind, I know why and that we're protecting ourselves by it, but…." Her voice trailed off as she threw up her hands. "I hate feeling like no one's bothered to actually look at the darn things when they're a pain and a half to actually do!"
Oliver got out of the car and came to open her door. "They read them," he told her as he helped her out of the car. "They're just making sure we know what they say – instead of us letting 'underlings' do all the work."
"You have to sign off on those things," she frowned. "Do they really think you'd just sign them without reading them? Or that I'd let you?"
"They might have been right about me once," he pointed out. He never hid from the memories of his previous lifestyle, but she wished he would let it go – he wasn't that person anymore.
"I doubt even at your most obnoxiously playboyish that you would have been that stupid," she disagreed. "You would have wanted to make sure you would have the money to keep playing."
"Felicity," he chuckled. "I almost lost the entire company last year."
"We were busy," she told him, her chin going up in defiance even as she poked a finger into his chest. "I don't want to hear another word about it. You weren't out partying or whatever. We were dealing with an actual crisis." Then she paused. "Or, well, several crises."
He reached over, pulling her into a quick hug. "My eternal optimist," he smiled before brushing a kiss over her forehead.
"I try," she offered, leaning into him for a moment.
The door beside them opened. "On the front porch, Ollie?" Thea scolded him with a teasing lilt in her voice. "What kind of example are you setting? Hmm?"
"A good one," he told her, his smile turning smug. He shifted his hold on Felicity so he held her against one side and his free arm reached out to draw his sister into the other side. "Probably one of my better ones, right, Speedy?"
"Don't you know it," Thea replied, grinning up at him. She gave him a quick hug. "I'm headed out." Oliver opened his mouth but she kept talking over whatever he wanted to say. "Roy's meeting me at Verdant. We're…going to have a talk."
Oliver's eyes narrowed, but Felicity pinched his side and he turned that gaze on her before sighing. Thea laughed and he rolled his eyes at her. "I'm outnumbered," he grumbled.
"And I love having someone to outnumber you with," his sister told him.
"I'll bet." He tightened his hug and kissed the top of her head. "Tell him I'll talk to him later."
"Uh, no," she replied. "I don't need him getting weird because you're pulling the big brother card."
Oliver drew in a breath, but Felicity spoke up. "You only get to fuss at Roy if I get to give a warning to Thea," she told him.
"Felicity, her accounts are tied to mine," he reminded her.
"Your point?" she asked, giving him a pointed look. His mouth opened and then snapped closed as he thought the better of what he was about to say. Her smile turned self-satisfied. "That's what I thought."
"I adore you two," Thea shook her head before she gave her brother another hug and then moved to throw her arms around Felicity. She started towards the garage but stopped and turned back. "Hey, Ollie?"
"Don't do something stupid like letting her slip away, okay?" Thea didn't wait for an answer, but slipped away.
"I don't intend to," he replied anyway, though only Felicity heard him. She smiled up at him and he brushed a kiss over her lips. "Go change," he told her. "I'll see you in a few minutes."
"I'll be quick," she agreed before heading upstairs.
This time a simple envelope waited for her on her vanity. It held the final charm – a simple drum crossed by drumsticks – and she hurried to attach it. Her smile grew bright as she turned the bracelet so she could see all of it. The collection gleamed in the light, a full set now adorning her wrist. She might have to keep the Christmas spirit all year so she could continue wearing it. Then the envelope caught her eye once more and she pulled out the note, eager to see the last message for the season.
"Felicity – I am not sure I can put into words what this holiday has meant to me, and I know I can't put into words my feelings on this gift I have for you. Please meet me in the library?"
Her fingers trembled a bit as she tucked the note into her memory box. He'd been so good about finding words for every other day that this sudden inability caused her to catch her breath. What could it mean? The note sounded…good, not foreboding, so it had to be something good, right? She gave herself a shake.
"Well," she murmured to herself, "you'll never find out fluttering around here."
She made her way down to the library, mind whirling and refusing to settle. Oliver waited for her, leaning against the wall as he stared out the window. He'd lost his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, but other than that he appeared to have been waiting all this time. Her bare feet made little noise on the floor, but he still heard her, turning to give her a private little smile as she came up to him. He pulled away from the wall, opening his arms. She stepped into them, giving a light hum of happy approval as his warmth surrounded her. Her head settled above his heart while his chin came to rest on the top of her head.
They stood there in the silence and relaxed in each other's presence.
"Felicity," he began after several minutes of quiet, still holding her to his chest. "I want to tell you something…and then ask you something." His voice sounded hesitant, almost unsure, but he never stumbled or stopped as he continued. "This has been the…happiest Christmas I remember having since I was a kid. Even before the island, it had become too much about showing off and too little about real family or love or anything else. You gave that to me – a gift none of mine could touch." She stirred, but he tightened his arms. "Let me finish," he told her, "or I might never get it said." He paused, long enough for her to nod, before speaking once more. "It's…too soon for the question I want to ask you – I still have this…fear like a knot inside me."
This time her arms were the ones that tightened. She wanted to speak, to soothe him, but he'd asked her to let him talk – and only her silence seemed to be letting him get the words out.
"So I have a…different question, a precursor question." He pulled back from her and looked down to meet her gaze, his eyes an open book.
Her breath caught at the variety of emotions shining in them – the hope, the fear, the longing, the worry – but most of all she saw the love. Everything inside of her stilled as her heart and mind came together with a sudden surety of knowledge. She knew what he wanted to ask, but she also knew what he would ask. "Ask me," she told him, not able to raise her voice above a whisper. His eyes widened and her smile trembled with joy. "Ask me."
Oliver took a deep breath as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small square box. "I want this to work," he told her. "I intend to find a way to make it work – to make us work. You and me – with everything that includes – the company, the night work, the ridiculous circle of family we keep collecting. I want the future, but I want the present too." Another breath. "I can't…I don't feel I can ask you the big question yet, but…I want you to know I intend to, that I will." He gave her a shaky smile. "There is and will be no one else for me. We're it, Felicity…and I want you to let me give you that promise." He held out the box.
Felicity never looked away from him as she took the box with shaky fingers. She opened it before finally turning her eyes downward to see the light flash red as it caught on a deep red ruby. "Oliver," she breathed out his name.
His free hand came up to cup her cheek. "Please let me make you that promise."
She leaned into his touch, eyes sparkling as she looked back up at him. It took her a couple of times before she could get her voice to work, but she nodded as she blinked back happy tears. "Yes," she managed. "Yes, I'll let you."
He took the box back from her and pulled out the ring. Tossing the box onto a nearby table, he lifted her right hand and slid the silver ring onto her ring finger. He pressed a kiss to her fingers and then held her hand against his heart. "Felicity."
It was one word – just her name – but he said so much. She could see a future in his eyes, heard the promise in his voice, and felt the honesty of both in the beat under her fingertips. Now the tears spilled over, but her smile lit the room. "I love you, Oliver."
He pulled her in close, leaning down and kissing her in a soft, sweet, simple exchange. Passion would come later, so would exuberant delight. For now they basked in the warm joy of two people who had found and accepted their place in life and rejoiced in the sharing. He leaned his forehead against hers. "And I love you, Felicity."