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It takes Felicity all of an hour to make the arrangements, sitting up in bed with her back against the headboard, a netbook on her lap. It's a little cold in her apartment this morning; she never did get around to replacing that window after all, but she gets up anyway, tugs on some slippers, wraps a blanket around her shoulders and turns on the space heater, aiming it towards the living room and kicking her dirty laundry into the corner by the nightstand.

Oliver's dead to the world on her couch, one arm out of his jacket and the other in, like he'd given up halfway through taking it off and just passed out. His boots are still on, tracking mud all over her cushions, and his Arrow mask is sitting in a puddle of melted snow by the front door, and Felicity just sort of stares at the whole tableau for a moment, amused and arrested by the tight satisfaction in her chest, like who cares if that chenille throw was forty dollars, at least it's her throw that he's drooling on. She likes that.

Digg's in the kitchen, already up and making coffee. He smiles kindly at her when she shuffles in, snagging her favorite mug from the shelf and holding it out for her to take.

"I can't believe you buy Sundollar coffee," Digg murmurs, quiet enough so his voice doesn't carry into the living room.

"Yeah, so what, I had a gift card. Don't be a snob," Felicity chastens, poking his shoulder until he shuffles out of the way, letting her at the coffeemaker. "How'd you sleep? You could've shared the bed with me, you know."

Digg makes a face. "Not likely. You kick."

Felicity shrugs. It's a fair criticism. "So," she says, setting against the counter, mug in one hand, "I decided something this morning."

Digg leans next to her, a reassuring warmth at her shoulder. "Oh yeah?"

"Did you know Oliver's family has a cabin in Whistler?" Digg looks blank. "British Columbia? Spot of the 2010 Olympics?"

"Oh." Digg still looks blank. "Okay, that's...interesting."

"We're going." Felicity puts on her firm face. "I booked the plane tickets already, don't argue with me."

Digg takes a long sip of coffee, eyes rolling lazily over the face of her fridge, the magnetic poetry holding up takeout menus and a tiny calendar from the dentist's office down the block. "It's three days before Christmas," he finally says, smiling like he's got a secret, "that had to have been highway robbery."

"Uh, yeah," Felicity says, a little uneasily, "did I ever tell you the story about how I hacked my credit card company and gave myself a bunch of frequent flyer miles? Mm. Youthful indiscretion."

Digg chuckles. "Nice."

Felicity shrugs bashfully. "It was nothing."

"He'll fight you on it, for sure."

"Who cares. Does this look like the face of a woman who cares?" Felicity points at it, for clarification, in case he's confused on the location. "There is no caring involved here whatsoever."

"Well, if you don't care then I don't care." Digg takes another long sip. "It'll be nice to have a white Christmas. It hardly ever snows here."

It'll be nice to get away, is what he doesn't say, but Felicity hears it all the same. She scoots a little closer to him, pressing her arm against his side, and slurps her coffee. In the living room, something falls to the ground with a dull thud, and she imagines the mud splatter on her carpet from Oliver's boot. That's gonna be fun to wash out.

"It'll be nice to have a break," she says, and the words sound scraped-out hollow, worn to their bones, rattling out between them like the clatter of Oliver's bow, falling to the concrete at his feet.

"Yeah," Digg says.

 

 

Don't come after me, he'd said, which he says a lot so it's not like Digg or Felicity really listens anymore. It's just kind of a formality at this point for him to say it, to remind them over and over that he doesn't want them to bleed in his service, that he doesn't want them to bleed, ever. That he doesn't think he's worth bleeding for.

Felicity remembers kneeling on the roof of the police station last night, grit creeping up her legs and arms until it was everywhere, dirty slush and mud beneath her fingernails and between her knuckles, messy smudges all over her beautiful tech that hurt worse than the jeans that are now surely ruined. She remembers staring at the fog of her own breath and listening to the sounds of the fight over her earpiece, thinking of all the ways Oliver and Digg could die. An arrow to the throat, a knife between their ribs. A hesitation, a moment of indecision. Blood dripping over their eyes at the wrong moment. A gun, a bomb, a dagger, a drug. She saw it all in techicolor, different variations on a theme, all of them ending with the same inevitable conclusion, a conclusion she tries very hard and usually fails not to think about.

They came back, they always come back, but she thinks that the waiting and the worrying are damaging all the same, wonders if years from now she'll be able to trace every long night in the lines on her face and hands. Oliver's purgatory might have been that island, and Digg's in Afghanistan, but Felicity's are those nights, every hour spent on the edge of her seat, listening to every fight with bated breath, waiting to hear, waiting to see.

It's always the same, the same fight with different players, the same close calls, the same thought in that split second after she hears Digg cry out or the sound of Oliver's body hitting the ground - no, wait, not yet, I'm not ready. She doesn't know how to bring that thought into the light of day, how to hash it out and turn into action. Not ready? How does she make herself ready? She'll never be ready. She could live for a thousand years and never, never be ready.

Don't come after me, he always says. Like he thinks it'll make a difference.

 

 

Oliver doesn't protest nearly as much as they'd thought; if anything he still seems so out of it when he wakes up that Felicity is halfway convinced that he still thinks he's dreaming.

"Whistler," he says absently, "Thea broke her ankle there once, when she was nine. Dad was trying to teach her how to ski."

"There will be no skiing on this trip," Felicity tells him firmly. They're in his room at the mansion, and she's pulling clothes out of his closet, tossing them into an open suitcase on the bed. Oliver's just sort of sitting there, watching her do it, listless and vacant with deep bruises beneath his eyes that make Felicity's determination all that more sure. "Can you picture me on skis? Talk about tempting fate."

"You wouldn't be so bad," Oliver murmurs. "There's a trick to it. You're more graceful than you look."

"You flatter me, but nuh uh," Felicity replies. "No skiing."

Oliver mumbles something else, his head falling back against the wall with a loud thunk that makes Felicity wince. She nobly resists the urge to check his pupils again; he'd just snap at her anyway, and probably make the headache he won't admit to having even worse.

"Come on," she orders, just to tear him away from whatever moment he's in, just to get his eyes back in this one. "Help me fold this, we only have an hour to get to the airport."

"We could have chartered a plane," he says, moving slowly up next to her. Felicity watches the way he holds his torso out of the corner of her eye critically, anxiety spiking deep in her gut. "Roy and Thea did."

"Private planes freak me out," Felicity says. Oliver glances over at her, tilting his head to the right and huffing to himself. "Bring lots of sweaters."

"Yes, Mom," he mutters. Felicity rolls her eyes.

They take Felicity's car, to try and avoid as much attention as possible, even if that means that Oliver has to sit squished up against the back window, practically straddling their suitcases. Traffic is light, mostly because half the city's been shut down since the power blackouts last week, and the highway's still closed until the firemen can clear out all the wreckage. Felicity sits up front, next to Digg, and aggressively sings along with the radio until Oliver and Digg lose that tight-eyed look of tension, distracted into laughter.

Digg gives Oliver a knit cap and sunglasses to wear, which don't actually help at all since that's pretty much the worse disguise ever, and the second time he catches somebody snapping their picture with their cell phone, he just tugs them off with a grimace and tosses them into Felicity's purse. His movements are still slow and sluggish, and Digg has to catch his shoulder a few times as they walk through the terminal, pulling him back on track as he starts to list sideways, eyes half-lidded.

"Are you sure you're alright," Felicity hisses, hustling him down into the nearest chair once they reach the gate, "I knew we should've taken you to the hospital - "

"I'm just tired," Oliver says, reaching out and snagging her wrist. "It's - whatever. Fine."

Felicity plops down next to him reluctantly, still frowning in consternation. Digg shoots her a look, moving to loom over them protectively, shielding them from the other people at the gate.

"Wake me when - " Oliver waves a hand vaguely at the gate, voice trailing off into nothing. Felicity trades another look with Digg.

"Yeah, boss," Digg says, "we got you."

Oliver smiles faintly, and he doesn't let go of Felicity's wrist.

 

 

Christmas isn't just Christmas for Oliver anymore, nothing is just anything, for Oliver. He always gets so weird around the holidays, that flimsy keep-it-together layer he wears over his real personality gets even thinner than usual. Arrow business gets a little more desperate. The days get a little longer.

And that's just normal. This year, he's been hanging on by the skin of his teeth so obviously that Felicity is frankly shocked that nobody else has seemed to notice.

The whole trip, Oliver seems utterly unaffected by his surroundings, drifting in Felicity and Digg's wake like a ghost. He wanders around the cabin for a few minutes when they first walk inside, watching them putter around the foyer, turning on lights and dumping their bags by the couches.

"I should call Thea," he says, out of nowhere, as if it's just occurred to him that he even has a sister, let alone that he should talk to her. "I should - "

"Your phone's in Felicity's purse," Digg says kindly. Oliver blinks at him owlishly, then turns to wander in the general direction of the kitchen. Felicity has to physically ball her hands into fists to keep herself from reaching out.

"Right," she says hollowly, watching Oliver fade away into the kitchen, "right, um - "

"Let's unpack," Digg offers, touching her forearm lightly with one gloved hand, urging her away. "C'mon. It's okay." Felicity nods at him, breathing deeply.

Apparently there's a secret Christmas fanatic lurking deep down inside of Digg that Felicity never knew about, because they find a stash of decorations hiding in a closet and he goes kind of nuts. There's tinsel, and a Christmas tree, and wreaths for the door, and Digg goes all military on that business, pushing his sleeves up to his elbows and divvying up duties like a true CO.

Oliver wanders in after a half hour or so, his phone still blinking in his hand, and gets instantly recruited for window-cling duty, which he takes on with grim determination.

"These were Thea's," he tells them, using one of Felicity's face wipes to wet the backs, because apparently licking them would be too unseemly but putting up a meticulously arranged window-cling nativity scene on the wall-sized mirror in the living room is just fine, "she loved these stupid things; she'd bug our parents to buy them for every holiday. Pumpkins for Halloween, hearts for Valentine's Day."

"How is Thea?" Felicity asks. She's long done with the tinsel, sitting perched on the couch watching Digg make faces at the Christmas tree lights. "She and Roy make it to Bermuda okay?"

Oliver nods, ducking his chin into his chest. "Yeah," he says. "They're just fine."

Digg chuckles, pushing right through the heavy weight that falls over the room suddenly, something he specializes in. "Can't exactly picture what Thea must've been like as a kid," he says.

"She was shorter," Oliver says. Felicity laughs, surprising herself with it.

"John, you're doing that all wrong," Felicity says suddenly, "the plug has to go at the bottom, dummy, so it can reach the outlet."

"You wanna do it?" Digg offers. "You can do it. I'm a gentleman, I'll step aside if that's your heart's desire - "

Felicity shuts her mouth so quickly her teeth audibly click together. Digg shoots her a triumphant look and turns back to his lights.

"You're gonna end up redoing it and you know it," Oliver says, his voice warmer than it's been all day. "There's no point in trying to resist."

"Not the point," Digg says stubbornly.

Oliver makes a face at Felicity, stretching his mouth out awkwardly, and she covers her mouth to stifle the laugh.

"I see you two, you know," Digg says, eyeing them over his shoulder. "Santa sees you, too. Just sayin'."

"Who cares about Santa," Felicity says flippantly. "What's Santa ever done for me?"

"Amen," says Oliver.

 

 

Felicity spends the lion's share of Christmas Eve in the kitchen, trying and failing to make a pumpkin pie. She burns two crusts before she figures out that she probably shouldn't bake the crust separately, huh, and ruins another attempt because the bowl of filling slips and she ends up wearing most of it.

"I'm out of evaporated milk," she says in dismay. Digg laughs and nudges her out of the way.

"Hey," he says, shooing her away, "step back. Let me shine."

Felicity laughs and holds up her hands. "Have at it, Master Chef." Digg nods righteously, and then proceeds to whip up a batch of cookies out of nowhere. He's just full of surprises this Christmas, apparently.

Felicity sets up her tablet on the counter with a holiday music YouTube playlist and hops up on the counter by the microwave, commandeering a bowl of discarded chocolate chips before Digg can steal them away.

"So hey," Digg says, sliding the pan of dough into the oven, "this is good. Idea, I mean. A good idea."

"I hope so," Felicity says honestly. "I mean - Oliver seems better. A little less zombie-like than before, which is - good. I think."

Digg shrugs, leaning against the counter and brushing the flour off his hands. "He's working on it," he says. "It's, you know. A constant thing."

Felicity nods. "I'm surprised you didn't already have plans," she says carefully. "With Lyla, or Carly…"

Digg shakes his head sharply, a wordless sign to back off. Felicity smiles apologetically.

"Well, I'm glad you're here," she says, leaning in to kiss his cheek. "It's good to get away."

"Wouldn't be anything without you," Digg says generously. Felicity smiles happily and chomps another handful of chocolate chips.

Oliver wanders in after a while, still in sleep pants and a threadbare SCU t-shirt, eyeing them bemusedly and heading straight for the pot of coffee, growing lukewarm in the percolator.

"Just as the cookies are ready, and after all the work is done," Digg says pointedly. "Rich people, I swear."

"I can't help being born with privilege," Oliver says, and snags a cookie. "Hey, this is good, Felicity."

"Don't look at me," Felicity says, pointing to Digg. Oliver turns to him, smiling slyly. "Handsome and good with his hands." She stops short. "Wait, crap - "

Digg and Oliver's laughter overrides whatever backpedaling she might have attempted. It's a nice sound though, so she doesn't mind much.

"Hey, are we doing gifts?" Felicity asks, the idea occurring to her suddenly. Both men look at her with identical expressions of indulgent exasperation. "Did you two get me gifts? Aw, jeez - "

"Just because you don't celebrate Christmas doesn't mean we still can't buy you stuff," Digg says.

"But I didn't get you two anything!"

"Well, you don't celebrate Christmas," Oliver says. "So you can't complain. You just have to...respect our beliefs."

"Pretty sure that is logically flawed."

Digg shrugs, like, well what can you do, you're getting presents whether you like it or not. "Hey, you know what," he says, "it's Christmas Eve, guys."

"And it's snowing," Oliver adds, gesturing at the window. Sure enough, white bits of fluff are falling from the sky, building up in little piles on the windowsill. All three stop to look for a long moment, arrested by the strange moment of contemplation.

"Well, that's very...festive, I guess," Felicity says. "Can I have another cookie?"

Digg laughs, waving his hand at the counter.

"Have at it," he says.

 

 

That night, Felicity wakes up choking on nothing, tasting copper in the back of her throat. She sits up in her unfamiliar bed and breathes for a few minutes, waiting until the stars fade out from the edges of her vision.

When she goes downstairs for some water, Oliver is there. He's awake, and staring at the fire. Felicity looks at the blanket on his lap, his hands clenching in the fabric, and kind of wants to cry.

"You're up," Oliver says, not turning around. Felicity jumps, startled.

"I was being quiet," she says, padding over in her bare feet. Oliver rolls his eyes, holding his blanket open in invitation. Felicity slides in gratefully. "One of these days my ninja skills are gonna get so good I'll just sneak up behind you and - bam! Bunny ears."

"Looking forward to it," Oliver murmurs, settling back into the cushion, looping his arm around the back of the couch easily. "Couldn't sleep?"

Felicity shakes her head, crossing her arms across her chest. "Dreams."

Oliver moves his hand slightly so he's touching the back of her shoulder softly. Felicity smiles down at the floor.

"It doesn't get better," Oliver says, "you just get used to it."

"I'm getting there," Felicity admits.

Oliver is quiet for a moment, his face scrunching up weirdly.

"I know you're worried about me," spitting the words out like he had to push them out all at once or risk not saying them at all. "I'll be fine, though. I'm not going to lose it."

"I know that," Felicity says, taken aback. "That's not - I just worry. It's like my thing. You brood, and Digg thinks too much, and I worry."

"Mmhm." Oliver looks down at his lap and his shoulders hitch, like he's struggling for breath. His face twists into a grimace.

Felicity reaches out and touches the side of his face without even realizing she's doing it, something deep in her chest shifting painfully when he leans into her, the muscles in his cheek twitching.

"I keep thinking, you know," he says, tilting his head in invitation. Felicity slides her hand up to his hair, shivering a little at how his stubble scrapes against her palm, scratchy and sweet. "Where you both could be right now, other than with me. I can't help it."

"Alone," Felicity says automatically. "Painfully alone. Both of us."

"You don't know that."

"Pretty sure I do," Felicity says gently.

Oliver turns to look at her and she keeps her hand on his neck, his pulse point against her wrist. "I keep thinking about a lot of things," he says, eerily blank. His Adam's apple bobs. "I can't help any of that, either."

Felicity sighs, snuggling in a little closer. "I know," she says sadly. "Yeah. It's okay."

"It's never going to be enough," Oliver says, "is it."

"Probably not," Felicity replies, leaning in. Oliver closes his eyes and meets her halfway, foreheads knocking together. "But you know, maybe that's what makes it mean so much."

His fist clenches, open and close, up and down, against her leg. Felicity lays her hand over it and it loosens beneath her touch.

"Yeah," he says, "you are the smart one, after all. I should probably trust you."

"Hey, now you're catching on," Felicity says.

 

 

In the morning, Felicity startles out of sleep suddenly, her heart beating rapidly in her chest. Oliver's head is a warm weight on her lap and Digg's sitting across from them, legs propped up on the ottoman, watching CNN on mute. Starling City recovers today from a devastating explosion on Interstate 47, the headline says. More details, plus the Green Arrow's latest appearance, after the break.

"Morning," she whispers. Digg smiles and waves the remote at her.

"Merry Christmas," he whispers back. Felicity smiles faintly, letting her head fall back against the cushion.

Digg looks at them fondly, eyes roving over them with something fierce and sharp in his expression.

"You should go back to sleep," he says. "If you can."

"Sleeping in on Christmas," Felicity mumbles sleepily. Oliver shifts on her lap slightly, and her hand falls from his shoulder to his neck as he readjusts. "That's a tradition, right?"

"Sure," Digg says, voice rumbling with amusement. "That's right."

"Could get used ta it," Felicity slurs, and falls back asleep, feeling safer than she's ever felt.

(If that's what Christmas is really about, she thinks, then she could definitely get used to it.)

 

 

Felicity's tablet starts shrieking halfway through their late Christmas breakfast, and she hops up from their pow-wow of toaster strudels and Cutie oranges to check it.

"It's Lance," she says, spine straightening instinctively. "There was a riot in Lamb Valley early this morning. He needs help with the collateral damage."

"Casualties?" Oliver asks sharply. She turns, just in time to catch the veil fall back across his face.

"Two," Felicity says heavily. Behind Oliver, Digg slumps slightly, expression falling. "Two teenage boys, one shot by police and the other in some kind of fight. Both are in critical condition at Starling General."

"So much for a lazy Christmas," Digg says ruefully.

"We can exchange presents on the plane," Oliver says, all business. "Felicity, get on the line with Lance, let him know we won't be back until late tonight."

"Already done," Felicity says, tapping absently. "There's this thing called secure email, you know. No phone calls or voice modulation required."

"We are truly living in the future," says Oliver dryly.

"No one likes a smart ass," Felicity replies in a sing-song, and heads up to pack her bag.

Later, at the airport (a chartered plane this time), Oliver catches up to her, snagging her wrist in one hand. She turns around in surprise and he automatically steps back, face turning contrite.

"Sorry," he says, "I just wanted to - thanks. For all this."

"Oh," she replies, "thanks. For your thanks. I mean - yeah, um."

Oliver smiles, a quick quirk of his mouth. It's a world away from how he was a few days before, alert and aware, life back in his face and eyes.

"It was a nice Christmas," he says softly.

Felicity smiles back. "Yeah, it was," she replies.

"Don't think this means you're getting out of your presents, though," Digg chimes in, a few feet behind them, wrestling with his awkward suitcase.

Oliver squeezes her wrist once before he lets it go, sending sparks shooting up her arm. She shivers.

"I would never," Felicity says, with the utmost certainty, and when they turn to go, she turns with them.