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Bloody Secrets

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John Diggle's P.O.V.

 

CLANG-GLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

CLANG! SWISH!

 

John could tell he was getting better, but not by the fewer number of bruises he'd been walking away from these sparring sessions with. Stick fighting wasn't something he'd specifically trained in before the versatile vigilante started schooling him in eskrima.

 

But one arms-dealer had already gotten an arrow for trying to sell here, and with good reason. Part of saving their city was not letting the more indiscriminate weapons of war that becoming and being a soldier had made John Diggle an expert at enter Starling City's streets.

 

CLANG-GLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

CLANG-CLANG! SWISH!

 

Not that that meant he'd be handing in his handguns anytime soon, or that they didn't have some heavier firepower stored away down here either. (Much heavier firepower, actually; and it'd taken him a while to decide he'd rather not ask where the billionaire had procured it. Since some of the weapons were higher end than Special Forces could normally expect to be provided with, but also the sort of purchases that should've merited a visit from an A.T.F agent at some point.)

 

Regardless, complete reliance on firearms was never a good idea. The weapon could, after all, be taken away or unavailable when needed.

 

His time with the military, both the initial training and his later tours, meant that John was not helpless without a gun of some kind in his hands. All the same, it'd become clear to him early on that Oliver Queen was someone he should be open to learning a little from, if only to improve himself.

 

After who knows how many of these sparring sessions, John would like to think that he might last longer against the deadly Triad assassin that Oliver hadn't had any qualms about facing again at Merlyn Global. He refused to let that moment where he realized the knife the woman wielded could very well end his life, if not for the timely intervention of hisclient throwing a kitchenknife accurately enough to disarm her from across the room.

 

However, John was a realist too. China White wasn't someone he'd voluntarily engage in hand-to-hand combat with; not when knives were clearly her weapon of choice and brute strength definitely couldn't be relied upon against her.

 

Still, he'd keep learning.

 

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

 

He was getting a bit better at the variable acceleration. The weapons themselves were starting to feel like actual weapons rather than heavy toys that would hurt if they hit you. And maybe he did have a few fewer bruises than before.

 

CLANG-CLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

CLANGSWISH!

 

But if that was true—and it wasn't just that he was in slightly better shape and so might be recovering a little faster—then John Diggle did know enough about fighting in general to recognize that his employer and partner-in-crime was taking it easy on him. Especially since he knew exactly when it'd started.

 

Not that he wanted to talk about that. Not yet.

 

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

SWISH!

CLANG! SWISH!

 

"Do you know anyone else that you'd recommend for this?" Oliver asked out of the blue.

 

Diggle blinked at him, only barely managing to block the hit towards his abdomen as a result. "What?"

 

CLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

 

"From your time in the military," the vigilante replied, varying his blows, blocks and dodges without looking like he was concentrating at all. "Then you were a bodyguard for a few years. You must've met someone that might be worth approaching."

 

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

SWISH!

CLANG-CLANG!

 

Digg considered that as they traded several more blows, but instead of really trying to think of someone, he asked, "Why?"

 

SWISH! CLANG-CLANG! SWISH!

CLANG-CLANG! CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

 

"Because I'm starting to think Felicity needs protection, and neither one of us can provide it. Not all the time," Oliver grimaced as he spun around, but that grimace was more for what he was saying than the stick that Digg had just barely missed his head with.

 

SWISH! CLANG-CLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

 

"You could, obviously," the younger man continued.

 

CLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

SWISH! SWISH!

CLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

 

"But it's not like I can pay you to—"

 

"Guard your girlfriend?" Digg interjected.

 

Oliver promptly knocked his legs out from under him.

 

The former solider hit the mat hard, muscle memory making him roll off the impact almost entirely on instinct; the grin he'd delivered the retort with never leaving his face. It was a small grin that felt a little strange after all the dark thoughts he kept circling through since learning Deadshot wasn't six feet under. Strange, but not exactly bad.

 

The archer scowled down at him even as he offered a helping hand up. "I went to check on her after Merlyn Global."

 

"I know," John answered as he accepted the hand and pushed himself up at the same time, half-shrugging once he was on his feet again.

 

Though he was a bit relieved that Oliver had transferred both his eskrima into one hand to help him and was now turning to snatch his water bottle off the nearby table.

 

"Remember? You texted me about her phone." He looked over at the training equipment off to the side at the same time as the archer, specifically at the recently replaced dummy, and shook his head. "Still not sure how she even got it up there. I mean, she picked the tallest one. It's a foot taller than her. At least."

 

Oliver shook his head in agreement. "That's probably how she hurt her shoulder again." He grumbled, then took a few more gulps.

 

"Probably," John agreed as he grabbed his own sports bottle, downing some water himself, before he shook his head. "You mom knows you're seeing her, 'case you forgot."

 

Of course, he'd told Oliver that already. Because the fact that Tommy Merlyn and Laurel Lance had met Felicity had definitely interested the Queen matriarch. Even while she was apparently waiting for someone to attack the guest of honor that night.

 

When the younger man didn't respond, John added, "Might want to think about admitting you know her first name now."

 

"First..." the former playboy's scowl returned as realization dawned, and then he put his bottle back down before stalking back to the mats. He spun on his heel as John followed, bottle also left behind and fighting sticks already as ready as he could make them. "I'm not going to tell her that Felicity's the girl I was hooking up with when I first got back!"

 

CLANG! CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

CLANG-CLANG! CLANG!

 

"Alright," John met blow after blow with a lot more ease than he had a few months ago. At least that much improvement was apparent. "And what'd you think she's..." he dropped down to avoid another overhead strike.

 

SWISH!

 

"...Think she's gonna think after you hire a bodyguard for a girl she's never met?"

 

CLANG-CLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

 

"I wasn't going to tell her," Oliver growled.

 

CLANG! CLANG-CLANG! CLANG!

 

"Yeah?" John snorted. "Just like you weren't going to tell her where you were running off to every day and night? How'd that work out for you?"

 

Oliver's only response was to up the speed again, the metal sticks almost whistling as they whipped through the air in between the clanging collisions.

 

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

CLANG-SWISH! CLANG-CLANG!

 

"Look, man, I get it. Felicity's the kind of girl, the kind of person, you don't want to let anything near," John ducked down again, this time to kick out at the vigilante's legs, but pulled back quickly when the sweep was avoided. "Doesn't mean she's gonna let you get her a bodyguard."

 

SWISH! CLANG-CLANG! SWISH!

 

"I mean, she doesn't even like talking about self-defense lessons."

 

Oliver actually growled again at that; a harsh huff of breath that sounded distinctly animalistic rather than a word.

 

CLANG-CLANG! SWISH—

BAM!

 

The ex-soldier managed to block two of the blows that flew towards him and dodge the third, but the forth struck where a nice bruise would soon bloom.

 

"She needs one or the other," the vigilante grumbled. "Or both." He waited for his sparring partner to find his balance on the mat before he started up again—yet another example of how much easier he was taking it on his pseudo-bodyguard of late.

 

The emotionally scarred but driven young man John Diggle had decided to help hadn't had the patience for giving anyone time. But he'd had to learn—or relearn—it, at least a little bit, with Felicity. After all, trying to intimidate her hadn't worked at all. Meanwhile, flirting had gotten Oliver farther, but also made it harder to ignore the chemistry that just seemed to be baking between them.

 

John would've kept an eye on them even if it wasn't sort of fascinating to watch. That didn't mean that he'd missed the fact that the archer thought he'd failed by not killing the sniper who'd shot Andy as he'd once told him.

 

SWISH-CLANG!

CLANG-CLANG! CLANG!

CLAND-SWISH!

 

Not that Deadshot's continuing survival could actually be laid at Oliver's door. John had no doubt that the Hood had put an arrow in the sniper to keep him from completing his last mission in Starling City. Still, seeing those signs of remorse made it easier to accept the younger man's help. Even if the only help he was offering right now was in continuing unspoken apologies, implied promises, and a few less bruises here and there.

 

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!

CLANG! CLANG-CLANG!

SWISH-CLANG-SWISH!

 

John snorted as he backed off. "I'm not the one you have to convince of that." He stepped off the mat then, deliberately stopping their sparring session before he asked, "What makes you think she needs a bodyguard?"

 

That someone had hurt her, apparently right outside their door—though  she stubbornly refused to confirm that—had raised both their hackles. If anything, though, Oliver's protectiveness had increased even as she healed. And while John could understand the sentiment, the continuing growth was something he kept reminding himself to watch. In case Oliver went overboard, Felicity just freaked out, all the above, or worse; if there was a real necessity.

 

Oliver slammed his sticks down on the nearest free tabletop as he headed for his sports bottle again.

 

The same sports bottle that their I.T girl grinned at whenever she saw it, though they'd intentionally never asked why. John was pretty sure he knew. Learning after the fact that the man had been still in the process of recovering from a near-fatal Vertigo overdose at the time hadn't lessened the complete failure that attempted cover story.

 

"It was after midnight. When I got there, that night," Oliver finally started explaining. "I didn't even think she'd be up... but I wanted to check on her anyway." He gulped down some water, then shook his head as he went on. "She was just getting home. From jogging."

 

John blinked. "Jogging?"

 

Oliver snorted. "Said she had to 'clear her head,' so she went for a run." The sports bottle creaked a little in his grip, so he set it back down on the table. "Her house's only a few blocks away from the Glades, Digg. And she was running around there in the middle of the night."

 

Much as both of them would like to live in a city where a woman really could go jogging whenever and wherever she wished with the expectation of only losing her breath and some sweat, they didn't. Starling City was not that place. There were all too many places that were or could easily become the wrong place to be. And while any time could become the wrong time, the nighttime anywhere near the Glades was almost guaranteed to be bad. Maybe only a little less so with the vigilante occasionally intervening in muggings and putting arrows in thugs every now and then. Also something he'd only started because of Felicity. Unfortunately, that didn't mean most of the city's streets could be called safe.

 

Felicity knew that. If she hadn't, she should've learned it already, when someone cut her, whether she was willing to admit it or not.

 

John did have to frown at that himself. "Might be worth talking to her about, at least."

 

"I tried," Oliver scowled as he thought back on it. "She kept redirecting the conversation back to Tommy and me."

 

"She cares a lot more about everyone else then she does herself." John shook his head as he sat down. (On one of the spare chairs, not the especially comfortable computer chair neither one of them was supposed to touch.)

 

Oliver nodded, then added, "And she was dodging."

 

"Yeah, she does that, too," John acknowledged.

 

Because their I.T girl did have some secrets.

 

Then again, they all did. Something Oliver seemed to alternate between accepting or refusing to take into consideration, despite the years he wouldn't talk about being basically taboo. He was learning to be patient with Felicity, somehow, but John doubted he'd wait forever.

 

The billionaire sighed. "But she said she'll start taking lessons with you." He admitted, then chuckled. "And she mentioned she's pretty good at fencing."

 

John blinked again. "Can't say they taught that in Special Forces," he replied dryly, shaking his head. "Guess I could try watching Pirates of the Caribbean again, but if she's actually any good that wouldn't help much."

 

Though her having even so esoteric a martial skill in her background could go a long way towards explaining how she'd escaped some thug with a knife, and those times she'd manage to dodge around one of them unexpectedly.

 

"I have a little training with swords," the vigilante admitted, before he leapt up to start climbing his salmon ladder. The admission no more of a surprise than it was up for discussion as he threw his body into its next workout. "But it's not like she can carry a sword around all the time."

 

John nodded his silent agreement as he watched the younger man start the one exercise the former soldier didn't ever want to try. That ladder looked like an exercise in futility, whether it worked the whole body or not. Up, up, up, and down, down, down. Again, and again, and again. Just watching it on repeat, sometimes for hours on end, was irritating enough if John didn't make himself focus on something else. Give him a bunch of weights any day. And anyway; who the hell wanted to compare their body to a fish?

 

"I can, work with her, on that," Oliver continued in between jumps up the ladder, climbing more slowly than normal so that he could actually talk in between each thud and swing; though he was gradually gaining speed.

 

Swing... THUD!

 

"But you'll—"

 

"Go over the basics with her," John readily agreed.

 

Swing... THUD!

 

After another drink, he added, "Maybe try a lecture on avoidance and awareness, too."

 

"Probably a—"

 

Swing... THUD!

 

"—good idea," the acrobat approved.

 

Swing... THUD!

Swing... THUD!

 

John Diggle debated for a moment, then looked up again to watch the man for another few moments, till he reached the top all over again.

 

Swing... THUD!

Swing... THUD!

Swing... THUD!

 

After he started back down, John finally asked, "So you spent the night, again, but you're not calling her your girlfriend. What is she then?"

 

Swing...

 

Oliver stopped mid-motion on the bar, somehow locking himself in place.

 

Making the ex-soldier wonder (not for the first time) how one picked up notable gymnastic abilities while on a deserted island. So far all he'd been able to think of was that the former playboy might've taken to imitating Tarzan for some reason.

 

Then Oliver swung down, dropping back towards the cement floor, where he absorbed the impact with the cement in his knees, before answering as he stood. "We just watched a movie, Digg. Talked a little. Fell asleep on her couch. It was... nice." He sighed, shaking his head. "Tonight... It's probably a mistake—"

 

"No," John cut in firmly. "It's not."

 

"Maybe I shouldn't date her, Digg," Oliver argued with that frown that the older man had come to recognize.

 

That frown that came more from thinking about the past—his real playboy days much more so than the island he didn't talk to anyone about—than anything in the present or possible futures. It was about memories of how Ollie Queen had hurt Laurel Lance, even before getting her little sister killed. And memories of all the stupid stuff he'd done back then, in general, that'd made him so popular with the paparazzi and the tabloids.

 

What he didn't seem to get, as far as John Diggle could see, was that that wasn't who he was anymore. It was something Oliver had told others occasionally, but that didn't mean he completely recognized it in himself.

 

John raised an eyebrow at him. "Though you asked her."

 

"I did, but—"

 

"'But,' nothing." John interrupted again. "Sounds like you're trying to talk yourself out of it now, and there are plenty more reasons for that to be a bad idea, Oliver." He shook his head. "'Specially if you're really worried about bein' anything like the jackass you used to be."

 

The former playboy winced. "I don't want to hurt her—"

 

"Standing her up—"

 

"I wouldn't—"

 

"Or canceling at the last second's not a good way to avoid that," John finished firmly. "Why'd you ask her out in the first place?" He almost expected the younger man to blink at him in bewilderment, but when Oliver frowned instead, John frowned right back at him. "Oliver?"

 

Neither frown diminished as the blond shook his head. "She's been opening up more..." he sighed, looking away. "And there's something there... I just figured..."

 

"It was worth a shot," John nodded, understanding. "Maybe it is." He arched an eyebrow. "What's changed since last night?"

 

Even as he watched the younger man consider his answer for long than he probably meant to, John was still finding himself torn over missing that step. Because by not being here last night he could only take Oliver's words on whatever had actually led to them deciding to date. A potential problem not because it'd come as any kind of shock; the attraction between the two had been obvious from the moment he'd first seen them together, even with the pair trying to ignore it they looked liked magnets. No, the problem was it felt like it might've come too soon.

 

Too soon for the damaged man that John Diggle was still trying to figure out in some ways.

 

Though Felicity Smoak had proved more than once already that she could help Oliver Queen in many, many ways. The vigilante was lighter around her; amused and sometimes even happy in that way that John completely understood, even though he wasn't the one falling in love with her.

 

Too soon for the on-mission man who wouldn't seem to have the background that could've turned him into this soldier-like individual focused on righting his family's wrongs and saving their city. (Because whatever had shaped man and mission alike hadn't happened in front of cameras and summarizing tabloid journalists, unlike all of his life.)

 

But that light that Felicity had really brought into both their lives was like a balm against everything else they saw out there. In spite of all her secrets, her humor and good-nature helped burn away everything. All the corruption and turmoil that in some ways had become the norm here in Starling City... and maybe that was what their city really needed to be saved from.

 

It still seemed too soon for Oliver Queen. The same Oliver Queen that'd planned to hide behind his old playboy image as some sort of expected master disguise. Who'd soon be opening a nightclub to perpetuate that cover.

 

Verdant, named for the color of his costume or not, was supposed to add to his playboy image, and in some ways it depended on it, too.  So for him to start dating a woman a woman he'd presumably be serious about before said club even opened, could be problematic.

 

Not just because she worked with them and he'd better be serious about this. The gold-diggers and party-girls were one thing; if Oliver was an ass to them, John wouldn't feel obliged to at least try and give him a black eye. And Oliver most likely wouldn't feel obliged to let him.

 

Felicity was a bright girl. A very bright girl. And John didn't honestly think Oliver would ever want to hurt her. Nevertheless there were still plenty of ways this could go badly, and lead to a really awkward atmosphere in their hideout under the very soon-to-open nightspot.

 

"Nothing's changed," Oliver finally answered, shaking his head again. "But the mission—"

 

"Is all well and good," John interrupted, standing up mostly be back at eye-level with him. "But what about her?"

 

Oliver frowned, shaking his head slowly. "She said it's her choice." Somehow, he said that like it was a surprise.

 

"Her life, her choice? Yeah. Seems to be a mantra of hers." John shrugged. "Doesn't mean she's not right." He cocked his head to the side, hesitating for only a moment before deciding; the Hell with it, because letting the boy back out now wouldn't do any of them any favors. "Does saving the city mean we have to be unhappy?" He added quickly before the vigilante could respond, "Me? Felicity?"

 

Oliver's started nod immediately turned into a rough, negative headshake instead. "No. Of course not."

 

"Then why can't you be happy, too?" John shook his head when the younger man stared at him, though he wasn't sure the other man was seeing him. He was sure he was still listening though. "If she's willing to give it a shot, man, you should, too." He glanced at the clock the woman they were discussing had asked him to mount on the wall by the stairs early last week before all the craziness of assassination plots had started up. "And you'd better get going. Don't want to be late."

 

Oliver looked at the clock, too. "She just got out of work. Our reservation's for eight."

 

"Giving you plenty of time to go home, take a shower," John raised an eyebrow. "And admit to your mom that you're going on a date."

 

Oliver blinked, but thought it through before saying, "You think she might start looking into Felicity? Figure out she's been spending too much time here?"

 

John shrugged, "Yeah, on the first one. Who the hell knows, on the second. Either way, do you want your mom introducing herself to Felicity?" He asked, remembering the hopeful interest that'd blossomed on Moira Queen's face a few nights ago.

 

"No," the younger man replied evenly, then he sighed. "But Tommy told her, and—"

 

"And I had to give her Felicity's name," John interrupted, nodding again. "You already introduced her to Tommy and Laurel, man. It wasn't like I could lie and not risk that coming back to bite us."

 

"No, I know," Oliver sighed, slowly nodding. "And yeah, it's better if we try to control her...impression, I guess." He frowned. "I should probably mention that to Felicity."

 

"Yeah, probably," John snorted. "Not sure she'll be able to control her babbling when she's not in disguise."

 

That made a corner of the vigilante's mouth twitch upward. Then again, that was the affect most of Felicity's babbles had on Oliver. Apparently even in abstract. "She doesn't need to pretend anything with my mom," he shook his head. "If... this is going to work, at least this has to be something honest."

 

"Roger that," John approved, nodding again. "Which is why were you were going."

 

"Yeah. Okay." Oliver still hesitated a moment when he looked back at the ex-soldier. "You'll—"

 

"I already asked Turner to cover for me tonight, since your mom's staying in." John cut in, shaking his head when the billionaire blinked. "Having a driver'll help you avoid the paparazzi more than any of your flashy cars. And he might buy you some time by answering some of your mom's questions."

 

Oliver considered it a moment, his frown returning as he realized that this would essentially result in his whole first real date with Felicity being reported verbatim to his mother.

 

Felicity hadn't reported any problems at her day job in the few days that'd past since that eventful night. Oliver's mother hadn't come looking for her, or called her up to the office that Queen Consolidated maintained for Missus Queen. But that didn't mean she wasn't curious. If that curiosity hadn't translated to questioning Oliver yet, it was likely they had to thank whatever the woman was involved in. It didn't mean, however, that she wouldn't ask eventually.

 

"Thanks, Digg." Oliver nodded. He didn't move yet though. "What about you?"

 

"Little more exercise," John indicated the dummy he'd found Felicity's phone perched on top of a few days ago, shaking his head to dismiss the general confusion that still stirred. "Then I should stop in at Big Belly Burger. See Carly and A.J."

 

"Good idea," Oliver allowed with a nod as he visibly forced himself to turn towards the side entrance. "See you tomorrow."

 

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," John returned with a smirk, curious how the former playboy would respond to the normal ribbing. The friendly banter Felicity always liked to watch them engage in had been more for her amusement—and comfort—early on, but it'd grown on both of them.

 

So it wasn't a surprise that what he got back was a semi-amused smirk. What he was not unhappily surprised by, though, was that he could recognize that that smirk looked a lot like the small smiles Felicity seemed to surprise out of both of them, rather than the fake grins that the celebutant saved for the media and even, sometimes, for his family.

 

"Not sure we know each other well enough for that taunt yet, Digg," Oliver replied easily, as he put on his leather jacket over the t-shirt he'd quickly shrugged back on before. "And believe it or not, I usually let the lady lead."

 

John's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"

 

"It was easier back then. Less work; something I wasn't all that interested in," the former playboy frowned that thinking-back frown. "With a few exceptions." He shrugged.

 

Then he grabbed the helmet he probably wore on his motorcycle more for concealment than safety—both as the infamous vigilante and the famous Oliver Queen.

 

"But I don't want to try much of my old playbook with Felicity." He said, shaking his head another time, still frowning.

 

John considered him for a few seconds, then smirked. "Yeah, she might slap you," he said it lightly, deliberately as he shrugged. "Or start laughing at you." He blinked as he realized he really wasn't sure which one it'd be. "Can't really tell with that girl all the time. Some of her reactions are..." he thought about it, then finished, "Outside the norm."

 

"Lucky for us," Oliver agreed, his frown deepening as he added, "I'd rather she didn't do the midnight jogs after leaving here. Obviously."

 

An idea hit him then, making John frown back. "That's not why you asked her, is it?" he raise a disapproving eyebrow. "'Cause somehow I don't think she'll let you be more protective even if you make it to boyfriend status."

 

The archer scowled. "That's not..." he trailed off, shaking his head slowly. "That's not why I asked her."

 

"Good." John nodded. "'Cause I'm pretty sure that might be a good way to make sure she called Detective Lance. Or hacks everything he needs to throw us both in jail onto his computer."

 

Oliver didn't give that a second's thought. "She won't—"

 

"I know, Oliver," the former solider cut in, rolling his eyes. "Try not to piss her off too much anyway, okay?" John held his eyes for a long, pointed moment, then shrugged again. "You've already got one crazy ex-girlfriend that knows about all of this."

 

The vigilante made a face that was somewhere in between a scowl and a wince. "You know, we only went out on two dates. Didn't even finish the second one."

 

John snorted. "Yet before that bad 'second' you were showing her around down here. Helping her pick out a wardrobe and giving her hardware."

 

"You know that's not how it happened," Oliver sighed. "It was more complicated than that."

 

"Usually is," John shrugged. "At least we can be sure Felicity's not insane. Or bent on starting a gang war to get back at her father, uncaring of how many innocents would be in the crossfire."

 

Oliver didn't bother arguing anymore. His last attempt at a relationship, especially the woman it'd been with and the disaster it'd turned into could've easily become so much worse. Still could, since she was still out there. So that mistake wasn't really defendable. "Are you done?"

 

John immediately nodded; because Helena Bertinelli wasn't actually the point here. Anymore than attacking this man that was already at least something like a friend was. "Just keep in mind, Oliver; you don't want to hurt Felicity. Or piss her off, either." He smirked. "She won't turn us in, sure, but I think our tech girl's barely demonstrated just how dangerous her particular skills can be. And if you couldn't put your homicidal, criminal ex down, I doubt you'd be able to talk yourself into aiming an arrow at Felicity. No matter what she did."

 

"You're probably right about that," Oliver admitted, almost too quietly to be heard over the sounds overhead.

 

Not construction workers anymore; these were the decorators that Tommy had hired for the finishing touches. He'd kept on top of his job, prepping the club he was to manage for opening, despite everything that'd happened. Almost losing his dad and whatever was going on with him. Finding out Oliver was the vigilante... Still, he'd stayed on top of it all; done his job. Something that John had to admit, at least in his own mind, he was unexpectedly impressed by.

 

"Thanks," Oliver concluded with a respectful nod that the older man returned. "Enjoy your night off," he told him, turning towards the side exit again.

 

"Thanks," John replied, watching him till he rounded the corner.

 

The door opened and then banged shut a few seconds later.

 

Then John turned back towards the practice mats, heading for the new dummy.

 

There were several of the things down here, but this one was brand new. Very recently replaced after the vigilante had completely obliterated it. The whole thing, rather than just the arms, which they had plenty of refills for because that wasn't unusual. Oliver broke the limbs all the time. Sometimes John did, too.

 

BAM-BAM! BAM-BAM!

 

Then again, if Felicity had really reopened her still not fully explained knife-wound while climbing the old dummy and Oliver realized it, that did make more sense of the unexpectedly abrupt and violent end it'd come to.

 

It made John want to hit the replacement a little harder, too. Though, unlike Oliver, he was only attacking it with fists, feet, and some of his own limb lengths in between.

 

BAM-BAM-BAM!

 

It was also proof that those two pairing off would leave him at least a little out of the loop, and that almost made him regret requesting the switch with Turner tonight.

 

Only almost though.

 

BAM! BAM-BAM! BAM-BAM! BAM!

 

There came a point where this was supposed to happen.

 

Just because John couldn't justify telling Carly about any of this, that he didn't even really want to tell her, didn't mean Oliver and Felicity didn't have the potential to really hit it off.

 

And it was better if John wasn't there tonight. He wouldn't mind playing the part of his friend's bodyguard when that part needed to be played. Whether that friend was Oliver or Felicity. That was part of what he'd signed on for with all of this. Though hopefully shadowing Felicity, when they came back to that, didn't piss her off too much at both of them.

 

But he wasn't up for that tonight. Hadn't really been up for any of it since that night. Just that moment, really. When he'd learned his brother's killer was still out there. Somewhere.

 

Playing any role wasn't easy when his head was still spinning every which way.

 

BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM!

 

Plus, after 'tricking' his bodyguard into guarding his mother instead of himself, Oliver allowing Ricky Turner to drive them should hopefully calm his mother down.

 

John still felt a little bad for not somehow stopping Tommy Merlyn from unintentionally tattling on his secretive best friend. Only because that tattle could adversely affect Felicity. It was Oliver's fault, after all, that Tommy and Laurel had met Felicity and come to the assumption that they were dating already. Not that John could fault the couple for having eyes.

 

BAM! BAM! BAM-BAM-BAM!

 

Hopefully the switch with Turner would help handle Moira Queen by getting out in front of any belated reaction that might still be lying in wait. Any questions she had, after all, should be directed at Oliver, not Felicity, so giving her the opening of her driver taking them on their date tonight should get that ball rolling there. Whether Oliver confessed his plans beforehand or not.

 

BAM! BAM-BAM-BAM! BAM-BAM!

 

Besides, it was John's night off. They'd all agreed they were supposed to start taking those, and that extended to John pretending to be a bodyguard still.

 

It wasn't like Oliver couldn't look after himself, and Felicity, anyway. Apparently until she got her hands on a sword...which wasn't something he was thinking about anymore tonight.

 

Although thinking was what he really needed to be doing right now. Not about Oliver and Felicity and however awkward and/or perfect that might end up being.

 

About Andy.

 

BAM-BAM-BAM!

 

And Deadshot.

 

BAM-BAM-BAM! BAM-BAM-BAM!

 

Summarizing most of the thoughts after thoughts that'd been circling in his head since that night also, but that he couldn't really act on.

 

John still couldn't act. He didn't have anything to acton. But that didn't mean he shouldn't at least try to get his head back on straight.

 

BAM! BAM-BAM! BAM!

 

Felicity was looking for Floyd Lawton. John trusted that. Trusted her. Short time though they'd known each other. They'd saved Oliver by performing surgery and fixing the defibrillator. That, along with a bomb collar, a surprisingly successful undercover-op and everything else in between had bred trust, and the start of a friendship, too.

 

BAM-BAM! BAM-BAM!

 

And whatever Oliver Queen was hiding, John liked to think that he could trust the man with this. Since he did trust him with 'saving the city' outside the lines of the law.

 

With protecting the place he'd grown up in and come home to.

 

With protecting Carly and A.J.

 

John had to believe he could trust that when push came to shove the vigilante would help him find and bring his brother's killer to justice.

 

BAM-BAM-BAM!

 

It'd be easier, though, if John Diggle was sure that justice was what he wanted.

 

BAM! BAM! BAM!