Maybe This Christmas
A Sequel to 'A Snowfall Kind of Love'
For someone who met their husband because they were the only person not buying anything at his Christmas tree farm, Felicity could admit, if only to herself, that she maybe, perhaps, quite possibly had gone just a tad, just a smidgen, overboard with the Christmas decorations.
She blamed it on their businesses - how, as the owners of a Christmas tree farm, they needed to practice what they preached… or, in their case, decorate with what they sold. Plus, now that she was designing websites for local establishments, her first client being Dearden's Tree Farm, Felicity told Oliver that the more pictures she could take for the site's various pages, the better. So, she wanted photos of every kind of tree they sold, decorated to the nines, and she wanted shots of wreaths, and garlands, and even some of that mistletoe she struggled allowing anyone else to buy. She blamed it on what she still considered the best hot chocolate she had ever tasted, and she blamed it on the fact that everything, including the home of a Jewish woman, looked better in the glow of twinkle lights. And she blamed it on their unborn son or daughter, claiming the baby made her want to decorate, for, obviously, it was taking after its gentile side of the family.
However, as she took a deep breath, the smell of pine, and holly, and poinsettias still oh so special and meaningful to her despite her entire existence being saturated by their presence, rubbed the small of her back where it was starting to ache, and glanced around the small cabin where they made their home, Felicity knew that the real reason why she had made such an effort to create a magical Christmas environment was because of her husband. Because of Oliver. He told her that he didn't miss the hustle and bustle of what the holiday season used to mean for he and his family in Starling City, and she believed him. His honesty, especially with her, was never in question. And, despite only having met her husband the previous December, Felicity knew him; she knew him better than anyone else in the world, so it was just a fact that Oliver didn't like crowds, or loud noises, or prying eyes. Yet, at the same time, while he didn't miss anything about how he, and his parents, and his baby sister used to celebrate the holidays together, and while he didn't even miss the man he once was who used to enjoy those raucous festivities, he did miss the sense of family, of belonging, that those memories symbolized.
So, maybe Felicity couldn't give him back candycane licking contests with his only sibling, and she definitely couldn't make those homemade cranberry cinnamon rolls that his family's housekeeper made every year for Christmas morning, but Felicity could celebrate the holiday with her husband... even if it wasn't a part of her own belief system, and she could decorate their home for the holidays, and she could help him start new traditions with the family they were making together, traditions that would someday become memories even more precious than those of his childhood. Because, if Oliver belonged anywhere in this world, he belonged with her and their unborn child.
Shuffling - she no longer walked, and forget about any kind of movement that required a little get up and go - towards their bedroom where she kept all her computer and photography equipment, Felicity nearly surrendered to her body's desires and the roaring fire's persuasion to stop and sit down. The couch… with its mountain of flannel, and down, and fleece throws, and its pillows, and its overstuffed cushions... was oh-so-tempting, but Felicity knew, if she took a break now, even if she told herself it was only for a few minutes, any and all productivity for the day would come to a screeching, blaring halt. Nothing would please Oliver more than to come home and find her resting - even taking a nap, but she was pregnant, not incapacitated, and, if Oliver could work all day in the cold, and the snow, and the biting wind as he finished up their new, much larger cabin further up the mountain, then she could putter around the house, decorating, taking pictures, and working on her websites.
"Don't look at me like that," she chastised Val, their ten month old Siberian husky puppy. Well, if a dog who was 21 inches and pushing 40 pounds could be considered a puppy any longer…. "Just because you're too lazy to leave your dog bed all day, doesn't mean the rest of us are so inclined." She would swear the not-so-little white and gray fluff ball actually grinned at her, Val's crystal blue eyes glittering with mischief. As she passed the puppy by on her way through the living room, Felicity muttered under her breath, "worthless, pampered, spoiled, gorgeous daddy's-girl." Val merely rolled over onto her back, her legs hanging loosely in the air in the position that meant, 'please, mom, won't you rub my belly even though I'm supposed to be your dog even though I love dad more, but he's not here, so I guess I'll settle for you.'
And, yeah, Val's actions were that loquacious.
Just as Felicity was about to cross the open threshold into their bedroom, she thought she heard a noise. When she paused to listen, however, all she could hear was the fire, and the puppy's snores, and the distant sounds of the busy tree farm. It was too early and still too light out for Oliver to be coming back for the night, and it wasn't like either of them ever received visitors. While they weren't unfriendly or rude people, Oliver liked his solitude, and Felicity needed it for her peace of mind. Plus, they had each other.
"Val," she whispered, trying to get the husky's attention. "Is somebody at the door?" Perhaps that would've worked with any other dog, but Val knew better, and, besides, door meant going outside to go to the bathroom, and Val wasn't the most obedient dog when it came to her potty habits.
Felicity tried to convince herself that it was just the wind, or a branch snapping, or that cute little rabbit family she saw living in the woodpile when she went out to bring in some small logs for the fire earlier, but the hair on the back of her neck was standing up, and she had goosebumps. "You know, you're supposed to be the one whose hackles rise, who senses things, Val, not me. You're supposed to watch the house, guard me and the baby. This whole protector thing does not work the other way around, you big, furry lug." The puppy never budged. She never even cracked open a baby blue to glare at Felicity. "Ooh," Felicity groaned, fed up with trying to entice the dog out of her bed and towards the door. Stomping her way across the living room, Felicity tossed over her shoulder, "just you wait until I tell your daddy about this, Valentina Dearden."
She was still huffing from issuing her threat towards its uncaring, oblivious target, Felicity's Valentine's Day present from the past year, when she ripped the front door open with a little more force than necessary. Felicity fully expected to feel like an idiot as she yelled into the woods, but, instead, she found someone standing on her doorstep, fist clenched and lifted in preparation. She scowled. Apparently, the stranger - and there was no doubt that he wasn't from their small town, because he was not dressed appropriately for the weather - was about to pound on her door instead of respectfully knocking. That would always be rude, but during the holidays and on a pregnant woman's door? Triple rude.
She, however, was not. Rude, that is. "I'm sorry… about the yelling. It wasn't towards you." Turning to glance over her shoulder and finding Val still ignoring her and, at least, pretending to sleep if not actually slumbering, Felicity directed the rest of her explanation towards the husky. "It was towards my mollycoddled mutt."
"Yeah. Okay. Whatever." Despite trying to be patient with whom she assumed was a waylaid, out-of-town customer, the kid… well, young man, she supposed (even saying those words in her mind made Felicity feel so old, especially because she and the stranger were actually probably closer in age than she and Oliver were) was not doing himself any favors, and Felicity felt her scowl deepen. "I really don't care."
What someone who had such an amazing jawline had to be so grumpy about, Felicity had no idea. "Despite the similar decorations, this cabin is not a part of Dearden's Tree Farm. If you need assistance, you need to go back down to the main lot. Someone working down there will help you." If her voice was now devoid of its previous forced warmth, Felicity felt it was justified.
"Look, lady, I'm not here for a damn tree."
Okay, he was really starting to grind her gears now. "Well, we also sell wreaths, and garlands, fresh pine clippings, holly, poinsettias, and mistletoe. Plus, there might be some maple syrup left over from this past spring. I'm not sure, but someone else down at the lot can help you. If you just go there. Now."
"So, you do work here."
"No," Felicity argued with him. "Well, not exactly. I mean, I help out sometimes. But I don't work here. I'm not an employee; I'm an owner."
"Yeah, nice try," the punk snorted, rolling his eyes. "No, you're not."
"I know the owner."
"Well, apparently not," she fought back. Hands on hips, the toes of her right foot tapping the ever dampening (because the door was open) hardwood floor in an agitated, irritated manner. Finally, Valentina seemed to sense just how upset Felicity was, because she stretched, ambled to her feet, and then trotted over to stand beside her mother. "Because I'm the owner, jackwagon. Or, at least, one of them. And the other owner is my husband, and trust me when I say that he does not have the patience to know you."
Unimpressed… and sounding like he doubted her, the stranger queried, "your husband?"
Felicity threw her hands out in frustration. "Did I stutter?"
The kid (and, yeah, he was back to being a kid, because what else could she consider this punk? Certainly not a man.) narrowed his blue eyes while studying her closely - up and down, from head to still tapping toes. At least, while doing so, he kept his mouth shut. However, the reprieve didn't last long. Unfortunately. "Oh, I get it."
"Yeah. I highly doubt that," Felicity snarked.
"Some loser knocked you up, you work here because the actual owner felt sorry for you and gave you a job, and now you have some... obsession with him. He probably has no idea that you're even in his house right now, does he? That's why his dog wouldn't listen to you."
Maybe Felicity was a little more sensitive than normal because of her pregnancy hormones, but, in his way inaccurate summation of who he believed her to be, the stranger went from being rude to just downright hostile. While she still didn't feel threatened by him necessarily, and Valentina was still calm enough beside her, Felicity didn't feel comfortable either, and she definitely didn't believe that she'd be able to get him to leave voluntarily. She didn't know what he wanted or who he believed he was looking for, but she knew, at seven months pregnant, this was not something she should deal with on her own any further.
Backing up slowly towards the kitchen, Felicity tried to slam the door while moving away from the stranger, but he shot an arm out, preventing the door from closing. Yet, thankfully, he didn't try to enter or follow her either, though Val did, now staying tightly to Felicity's side. "Okay, if you're not here for a tree… or anything else that we sell, maybe if you told me what you want, I'd be able to help you."
"Nice try. But I'm not telling you anything, because I'm not going to be your latest gossip topic. Just tell me where I can find Oliver."
Felicity's unease turned to dread. Its weight settled into the pit of her stomach and made the kitchen island seem so far away. Logically, she knew that she was only a few steps from her destination, but, even after she made it there, Oliver was still several minutes out. While she waited for him, she needed to keep the stranger talking, get as much information from him as possible. "I don't know you, you won't even tell me your name, and you think I'm just going to send you after my husband?"
"Just… drop the act already," the jerk with a chip the size of one of their draft horses on his shoulder barked at her. "I know you're not Oliver's wife, because I know that he's not married. What do you think you can gain from continuing with this pathetic…." As he continued to yell at her, his own aggravation leaking out through his tone, through the tense set of his shoulders, through his gritted teeth, Felicity finally was able to reach for, grab, and then press the alarm which had been her target since she started moving towards the kitchen. "Hey, what the hell was that," the kid - and he did now look younger, perhaps just a teenager forced to grow up too soon - questioned loudly. Felicity watched as his fury turned into fear, but she couldn't focus on the transformation, because she also became paralyzed with her own anxiety. As soon as she pressed the alarm that would page Oliver and bring him back down to their small cabin, the stranger came inside of the house and straight towards her, his long strides quickly eating up the distance between them. "What did you just do?"
"No, I saw you press something," he insisted, reaching out for the alarm she still held in her hands behind her back. While he didn't necessarily hurt her, his actions were aggressive, and, once he had her arms in his grip, he held on tightly, wrenching them out and away from her and towards him. One by one, the stranger pulled her fingers away from the alarm before wrestling it out of her grasp entirely. "What the hell is this," he waved it in front of her face before, panicked, he tossed it aside.
"It's like a… like a beeper," Felicity explained. In her unease, in her apprehension, in her trepidation, her breathing became elevated, and she started to hiccup. "I'm only seven months along, and we don't… we don't have any reason to worry, but we're… we're in the middle of nowhere, and Oliver, he… he doesn't like to let me out of his sight for more than five minutes, let alone… let alone five hours to go up the mountain and… and work on the new cabin. So, I, I made this to alert him if… if anything went wrong with me or with… or with the baby." In explaining the alarm, Felicity not only bought herself some time, but she also provided herself with some reassurance. She managed to press it before the punk grabbed it away from her, which meant that Oliver was on his way. He'd be there, any minute now.
"So, you're saying that you didn't call the cops?"
"Oh god," Felicity moaned, now really scared. If this kid didn't want the cops to come, what was he running from? Why was he here? What did he want with Oliver? She knew that her husband's past was… colorful, yet they didn't use his mother's name or live in the middle of nowhere because they were in danger or hiding out. They just… wanted the anonymity, the privacy, the peace. After his life changing accident and five years stranded and lost from home, and after everything that happened to her because of her college ex-boyfriend, and her virus, and Brother Eye, neither of them could live the lives they once, years ago, had. But, now, there was somebody she didn't know and who Oliver had never told her about standing uninvited and unwanted in their home, and, while he hadn't physically or even verbally threatened her yet, he was a danger, an unknown, a risk nonetheless.
"Hey," the stranger shouted before grabbing Felicity by the shoulders and giving her a firm yet controlled shake. "I asked you a question! Did you just call the cops or not?"
"No," she tried to tell him, but it came out barely audible, and, scared or not, Felicity was not someone to back down. Shrugging his grip off, she raised her chin just as she raised her voice. "No, I didn't call the cops, but you're going to wish I had after my husband…."
"Oh, not this again," the punk kid moaned in complaint once more, throwing his hands up in emphasis. "You," and he pointed an accusing finger at her, "are seriously deranged. You're not married to Oliver!"
"Yes," Felicity screamed back at him. Why this was such a sticking point for the stranger, she had no idea. Holding up her left hand with its engagement ring and wedding band, cradling her very pregnant belly, and nodding towards the fireplace mantle which held an entire line of photographs with the two of them, Felicity and Oliver, posed together, she finished, "I am!"
For the first time since he had arrived on her doorstep, the jerk failed to have a comeback. As he took in picture after picture of Oliver and Felicity as a couple - even a few of them from their April wedding day, Felicity watched as, first, his brow furrowed and, then, his entire posture seemed to deflate. "But Thea… she never, she doesn't… you, and now there's a baby…?"
"Wait," Felicity ordered him. This time, it was the stranger's turn to back away from her, because, as she moved forwards to question him, he was determined to keep distance between them. "Did you just say Thea?"
"Yeah, Thea," the punk admitted, quickly regaining his confidence and crossing his arms over his chest. "As in Thea Dearden Queen - my girlfriend and Oliver Jonas Queen's sister, though, around here, he's known as Oliver Dearden."
Tilting her head and meeting the stranger's challenge, Felicity sassed, "well, he's also known as my husband, Val's daddy, and the father of my unborn child, so I think I win."
"Too bad his sister never once mentioned you or your kid, Blondie."
"And too bad Oliver never once mentioned you." Was it just Felicity, or was she and this... brat... competing over her husband?!
"Of course he didn't… not that I'm saying I believe you or anything, but Oliver couldn't mention me, because he doesn't know me. He ran away from his home, from his responsibilities, and from his family long before Thea ever met me."
"Well, Oliver's not the one who's obviously scared of the cops, and you're here now, too, far away from your home, your responsibilities, and your girlfriend, so who's running now?"
"That's exactly what I want to know," Oliver said as he silently made his entrance through the back, mud room door. As he came up to stand behind Felicity, one of his hands finding the small of her back… as it seemed to inevitably do these days, while the other wrapped protectively around her right shoulder, Oliver also demanded to know, "not to mention what you're running from and who sent you."
"Apparently Thea," Felicity whispered to him. "He claims they're dating." She wasn't quiet enough, however, for the younger man not to hear her as well.
"We are dating!" Felicity felt Oliver tense behind her. In response, the stranger defended, "I love her, and your sister loves me. Why else do you think she'd send me to you?"
"Honestly, I have no idea, because I didn't even know my sister had a boyfriend, and you haven't even told us your name."
"It's Roy." When they both remained silent, Roy expanded, "Harper."
So, another man of few words then, Felicity realized. Great. This - Oliver and Roy trying to talk to one another and settle whatever was going on - was going to go so smoothly.
Or, you know, not.
"Well, Roy Harper, I still don't know who you are. Like I said, Speedy's never mentioned you."
"Just like you've never mentioned to her that you have a wife… or that you knocked her up?"
To comfort him, to no doubt calm him down, Felicity raised her arms and wrapped both of her hands around the one of Oliver's still holding her shoulder. "No, I told my sister about Felicity. I write her letters. Felicity helps me email her. I just… Thea doesn't respond, and, apparently, she doesn't read them either."
"If you weren't sure if she was getting your letters, why didn't you just call her, or, I don't know, invite her to your wedding? Maybe go home and actually see her," the stranger, Roy, defiantly confronted Oliver, questioned him.
Softly, emotion evident in his tone, Oliver explained, "when I proposed to Felicity, I wanted nothing more than for my mother and sister to meet her, to be there the day that I made her my wife and a part of my family." The fact that her husband was actually revealing this information to his sister's alleged boyfriend told Felicity just how desperately he missed his only sibling, how deeply Moira and Thea Queen had hurt him. This, this was exactly why she had worked so hard and decorated so much in an attempt to give Oliver the perfect first Christmas as a married couple. "So, I called my mother, and I tried to tell her all about Felicity and the day we had planned for our wedding, but she didn't want to hear anything about it. Instead, she wanted to know her date of birth, where she was born, and her social security number so that she could have someone investigate her. No congratulations, no warm wishes, no joy for her son who, for the first time since that damn yacht sank, was actually happy."
"Well, that was Moira, not Thea."
"Do you actually think, after I refused to allow her to investigate my wife, that my mother would let Thea speak with me? That she would tell her about Felicity, about our wedding? I did what I could through letters and email, but Thea won't even meet me halfway. As for Starling City," Oliver addressed Roy's comment about returning to visit his family. "I'm never going back there. This - Felicity, our unborn child, they are my home now."
"We've answered all your questions now, Mr. Harper," Felicity rejoined the conversation. "So, I think it's time you start answering some of ours."
"Just… stay out this," the punk kid acerbically told her.
"You can watch your tone and what you say to my wife, or you can get the hell out of here and never come back," Oliver warned him.
"Fine," Roy relented, rolling his eyes but easily submitting to Oliver's commands. "Whatever." Looking at Felicity, he demanded, "what do you want to know, Blondie?"
Although she could feel Oliver strain towards the younger man, obviously fed up with his attitude, especially towards her, Felicity would not release her hold on him or step aside so Oliver could confront his sister's boyfriend. Instead, she kept her husband firmly within her grasp and refused to let go as she asked, "why are you here?"
"I, uh, I need a place to crash," Roy mumbled.
"To crash," she repeated in lieu of requesting further information.
"To stay, alright?! I need a place to stay."
"You freaked out earlier when you thought I called the cops," Felicity stated. "Are you in some kind of trouble?"
"Look, I didn't do anything wrong," Roy strongly defended himself.
"That doesn't answer Felicity's question," Oliver told him pointedly. "You're obviously scared of something, you claim my sister sent you, and yet my sister believes that I'm here because I'm hiding from the world, so, if Thea really did send you here, Roy Harper, what does she think you need to hide from?"
"It's been years since you've even set foot in Starling," the younger man yelled, clearly frustrated. It was apparent that he very much needed their help, yet, for someone who was there to ask for their assistance, Roy certainly didn't know how to make nice or get on their good side. "You have no idea how bad it's gotten."
"You're right. I don't," Oliver admitted. Felicity knew the state of Starling… and his own family's role in its decline... was yet another reason why her husband had left his hometown and never looked back.
"And I've never been to Starling City at all," Felicity volunteered. "It always seemed too cloudy to me, too rainy, too… grr." She even let go of Oliver's hand long enough to curl her own into claws. When no one responded to her commentary, Felicity said, "but, yeah, that's totally… not on point, so…."
Roy might have looked at her like she was an escaped mental patient, but Oliver dropped a kiss on top of her head. "Anyway," their uninvited guest continued. "The city and the people who live in it - the real, non-rich people - are being destroyed by those who do have money and power. There's never been enough jobs, and those that were once available are now being shipped overseas. People are homeless, starving, sick. And there's no place for them to turn, because the police and the politicians are corrupt. They line their own pockets by helping the crooks in fancy suits… guys like Malcolm Merlyn, Adam Hunt, and John Nickel… take advantage of the poor. For those of us who care, who want to help, there's nothing we can legally do."
"So, you've started to take action illegally," Felicity surmised not unsympathetically. After all, there was a time when she herself believed the injustices of the world needed to be fought that same way. Well, cyberly that same way. "You became a vigilante."
"And you got caught," Oliver finished her thought for her. For a husband who didn't say a lot and allowed her to do most of the talking, Oliver was really good at completing her sentences. But, then again, he was just good at completely her in general.
"I got caught," Roy confessed.
"So, my sister - the same sister who won't read my emails or open my letters - sent you here. To me. She didn't even consider, in doing so, what - no, who - she'd be putting at risk. I have a life here, a successful business, employees who depend upon me. More importantly, I have a wife, and a child, and a family!"
Before Roy could respond, Felicity spoke up. She finally moved out of Oliver's embrace, patting him twice on the chest in a reassuring manner before striding confidently towards their surprise guest. "Don't forget you have a spoiled rotten brat of a dog, too." On her way by said spoiled rotten brat of a dog, Felicity rubbed the husky's head. "Doesn't he, Valentina?" The two men in the room watched her with trepidation, unsure of what she would do next, while Val took the petting as an invitation to roll over onto her back once more, begging yet again for belly rubs.
Once Felicity reached Roy, she took him by the shoulders and pushed him back towards the front door. "And, now, you have another set of hands to help you with the new house and around the farm. Even with the baby, we should be able to get the apple orchard planted this spring now. And oh! Maybe we can start a pumpkin patch, too. For now, Roy, you'll have to sleep on the couch, because we only have the one bedroom, but the new cabin is much bigger, so you'll have your own space soon. Or, I guess, you could just live here by yourself after we move out. Either way, I'll start looking into schools for you after the holidays. Did you graduate yet? Do you have your diploma or GED? While it's not MIT, the local community college will be a good place for you to start. You can take all of your general ed courses there. And don't worry, we'll just tell everyone that you're our foster son… not that..."
"Hey, I'm not pretending to be your kid, and I'm not going to..." Roy started to protest, but Felicity talked over top of him and forced him to take off his red hoodie and motorcycle boots.
" … people pay much attention to Oliver and I. We mainly keep to ourselves, and we rarely leave our land. I know you're used to life in a city, but, if a girl from Vegas by way of Boston can embrace life on a Christmas tree farm, you'll adjust."
She paused to take a much needed… and, if she did say so herself, deserved breath, providing Oliver with the opportunity he needed to object. "Felicity."
"I know she's hurt you, Oliver, and I know that she's never even met me, but she's still your sister. I'm not condoning her actions in refusing to speak to you, and I hate that she believes you're hiding from your life by living out here. With me. But I have to believe that everything she has done is out of her own hurt and pain, because you love her so much, and, because I know how amazing and wonderful you are, how much I love you, I absolutely refuse to even consider the idea that she doesn't love you just as much as you love her. And Thea loves Roy, so we have to do this for her.
Hands on hips, brow furrowed, jaw clenched, Oliver asked, "and if he gets caught?"
She watched as her husband nearly growled, "and if he gets caught, Felicity?" She knew that he wasn't mad at her but was resentful of his sister's actions and the danger it put her and the baby in, that he felt defeated by the situation.
"Then we'll totally throw him under the bus," she promised.
"Hey," Roy yelled, looking between them in dismay.
Oliver ignored him and practically stalked across the room to take her, once again, into his arms. "You are entirely too kind hearted."
"Uh… she just threatened to turn me in to save her own hide," their guest argued. But, once more, no one paid him any mind.
"Or I might just see a little too much of myself in him to not want to keep him safe. This town, your tree farm, you, our family," Felicity whispered to her husband, "gave me a second chance. Now, I want to do the same thing for the boy your sister loves."
"You're staking a lot on the fact that he's even telling us the truth about being Thea's boyfriend."
"Oliver, he could've lied about being in trouble, but he didn't."
"He might not have lied, but he also really hasn't told us much either." Whipping his neck around to glare at the younger man, Oliver warned, "you will be telling us everything, and I mean every, last detail." Roy gulped, but he didn't argue. Threat leveled at their guest, her husband turned back around to meet her gaze. For several moments, he didn't say anything. Instead, he just stood there, his hands coming up to sooth against her burgeoning belly, to shield, and hold, and love, and to unnecessarily remind her of their unborn son or daughter. Finally, Oliver asked softly, "and if he gets caught, Felicity?"
"We'll do whatever we have to do to keep our family - you, me, our child, our impudent dog, and nowRoy- safe."
Oliver inhaled deeply. Dropping down, he leaned his forward against Felicity's, his eyes shutting, and he just held her and breathed her in for several seconds. Then, once calm and centered once more, he stood up straight, brushing a gentle kiss against her forehead before finally letting her go. Turning around to face Roy, he asked, "did you bring anything with you besides the clothes on your back?"
"I, uh, I stashed a duffle bag up in a tree a little further down the path."
Five minutes later, Oliver returned to the small cabin with Roy's lone duffle, the thin bag holding all of the younger man's worldly possessions. Even when Oliver and Felicity moved into their larger home a few weeks later, that duffle would remain… along with its owner. Cold, bitter, and blustery Roy Harper came to Oliver and Felicity that winter's day… and he never left.