John Diggle's P.O.V.
John didn’t particularly like to work-out this late. It got the blood pumping and pretty much required a shower before bed unless he wanted to do the laundry early this week.
Worry for the employer that he’d accepted as a friend—almost as soon as he'd accepted his crusade—often kept his heartbeat fast enough as it was. When the daredevil didn’t do something to make it stop for a second or two instead.
BAM-BAM! BAM! BAM-BAM! BAM!
But since they’d brought Felicity into the loop, the computer genius had understandably taken over most of the tech support—including the comms, leaving John to either hover over her shoulder with his arms crossed to keep himself from pacing most of the time.
The blonde didn’t mind him hovering. She’d never even given him a sideways glance about it, which would strike him as odd since she didn’t have any sort of military or intelligence background, but it wasn't any odder than how easily she'd fit into the vigilante's mission, too. Genius I.Q, Las Vegas childhood, M.I.T education and a couple years bored in the I.T department of Queen Consolidated didn't exactly translate to how she'd accepted pretty much all of this with relative ease.
Then again, Felicity's family history and at least a certain number of personal history yet untold hung in the balance, too. And just like she'd accepted Oliver's ridiculous excuses each time they went to her for various kinds of tech help wasn't all that different from her accepting that John just needed to know what was happening rather than waiting for her to tell him. She seemed to worry about both of them enough to explain how she’d understand the bodyguard needing to keep an eye on their boy himself even if it was over her shoulder.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
John couldn’t do that now though. Not when he knew his eyes would be straying to the blonde herself more often than the computer screens.
Felicity may not mind him watching over her shoulder, but he was sure she’d notice if he was specifically watching her. Her situational awareness was better than he ever could’ve expected from any tech specialist, after all, and even the most ordinary people could usually sense when someone was watching them. They might not know what the sixth sense that was making the hair on the back of their next stand up was, but that didn't mean they didn't feel it.
BAM! BAM-BAM! BAM!
So here he was, pulverizing the punching bag with steady combinations that his body knew well enough to do without much thought involved, while Felicity kept track of the comms while working on her computer and Oliver was out scouring the streets for any signs of his psycho ex. John's eyes were firmly zeroed in on that bag, but his mind was working through their tech genius.
He could be worrying about their latest problem, of course, but he'd already said his piece on the mobster's bloodthirsty daughter—a few times to the fool that'd thought he could save her by dating her—and he didn't want to waste any more thought on that woman than he absolutely had to.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
The woman that he had welcomed to the team was much more worthy of thought. Funny, sweet, super smart, but open-minded and beyond resourceful, she was all but a godsend when it came to rounding off pretty much all the areas of their little team that the archer and bodyguard couldn't cover even half as well, if at all. But there was a lot about Felicity Smoak that just didn’t make sense.
John had tried not to focus too much on it at first. He liked the girl even back when she was just the Q.C. I.T girl that Oliver probably went too for far too much tech help. He’d suspected from the very first time he saw the two of them together that the chemistry sizzling the air between them had a lot to do with why the vigilante kept going back to her. Oliver would flatly deny it, John was sure, but that was why he’d never bothered to bring it up. If only out of curiosity to see how it might eventually play out.
That, and it'd been reassuring, really, to see that smile that the billionaire couldn’t stop from appearing around the babbling blonde. Enough so that all her disbelieving looks and eye-rolls weren't worth worrying about when she so clearly had no intention of not helping the Queen heir no matter how stupid the story he told. The ex-soldier knew what war could do to you, so watching even a brief conversation lift a little of the weight off of the vigilante’s shoulders, even if it was only for a very short time, hadn’t been something he’d wanted to mess with.
BAM! BAM! BAM-BAM!
John had never imagined, of course, that Oliver would have to resort to telling Felicity the truth in order to escape the police after his mother shot him at the company his family owned and the genius kept insanely long hours at. He’d never forget just how shocked he’d been when she’d appeared in the basement, blood covering her shirt and her hands, her eyes alarmed—but for the man bleeding out in the backseat of her car, not the gun the surprised former soldier had instinctively drawn on her.
As shocking as it’d been though, it had been even more of a relief. Once the billionaire had stopped coding on the table—and all the machines in the Foundry were working correctly. Because if mere moments in her presence made the vigilante’s world a little brighter, than having her around more often could only help all the more.
The solider had been surprised again, of course, when the tech girl had challenged the vigilante on the very first name he'd decided to cross off the List once his G.S.W had just finally healed. Not because her questions hadn't made sense, or because he'd thought for a moment the archer might hurt the girl, but because it'd been such a change.
Sure, she'd played the part of concerned nurse to a decidedly impatient and unhelpful Oliver very well for a number of weeks before that. Her real and not at all hidden concern the time the man had been stupid and tried to work himself back into shape far too soon—tearing open his wound and losing blood again in the process—had probably done more to make the man take it slow for at least a little while longer than anything John Diggle could've said to him could have.
It hadn't been a problem when the other archer had put the vigilante in the hospital for the holidays. For one thing, Oliver hadn't had his confidence shot by an unexpected beating—even though his mother shooting him, quickly rationalized as 'she was defending herself,' had hit some keys to reset him back to his mother's willing involvement in anything bad being impossible. For another, his family had known he was hurt and he hadn't had to hide it, though all their worry over him had undoubtedly been even more aggravated by the fact that they had lost him before. And then there was Walter's kidnapping to consider, too. Still, that his mother had had a copy of the List, and Walter's questions about it had led to him being kidnapped couldn't be denied, so it'd taken more than a few arguments to keep the billionaire from pushing himself too far while his body was on the mend. How she'd gotten him to agree to not even trying hooding up again until he wasn't hurt anymore, John Diggle wasn't entirely sure, even though he'd been there for every one of their arguments about it. The only thing he could say for sure was the she'd somehow gotten the vigilante to agree that there would be no more vigilantism until he could climb that 'stupid salmon ladder of his' without fault or further injury. And that night when Oliver had been ready to head out again had been the first time he'd been able to meet the requirement.
Felicity challenging the vigilante that night, the first time the Hood came out again, and about the List, had been something else entirely. It had seemed like quite a change from the pretty girl that just cocked her head to the side or occasionally gave the billionaire a sideways look or sigh at some of his more bizarre requests.
BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!
But Felicity Smoak really was a genius. With a mind for much more than just her computers. So Digg had never ruled out whether or not she hadn't called 'this' all along. Or at least some time before she found the man in the green Hood bleeding out in the backseat of her car.
It was hard to say when, exactly, she might’ve figured it out.
Oliver had been going to her for computer help before his bodyguard even found out that his employer was more than just a billionaire who’d come back from the dead as an escape artist.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Both the vigilante and the tech genius had mentioned the first request he’d made of her had involved a bullet riddled laptop, which had contained evidence that’d told Oliver that Deadshot was targeting the UNIDAC auction. That the Hood had later stopped the sniper—even if it had unfortunately not been permanently—wasn’t exactly something she could have missed.
Another very likely possibility was when Oliver had had her hack into Blackhawk Security for him. First ever to break through their firewall, Knox had said. No matter what it was Felicity had found there for the Queen heir, she couldn’t have exactly missed that men from the same company she’d hacked were behind the armored car heists and they—like Deadshot—were also stopped by the vigilante.
The Royal Flush Gang—as the media had dubbed the family of thieves that Oliver tried to help in his father’s memory but had ultimately had to stop—were in the news enough, too, for everyone in Starling to at least know of them. That the leader of the gang was the same former Q.C employee Oliver had had Felicity look up couldn't have escaped her attention unless she didn't pay attention to the news. And given how she seemed to track it all better than Oliver and Digg combined now, it wasn't likely she didn't watch it before she joined the team.
BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!
Click-Click. Click. Click.
Still, the only time Felicity Smoak had really questioned the billionaire on one of his bizarre requests was when he'd brought that giant ass needle still two-thirds full of Vertigo to her at Q.C. Her point there had been a good one, though, they really should’ve put the drug in a bottle or something. The Count’s deadly cocktail would’ve been suspicious enough without it coming to her in a needle that looked more like a weapon than a medical instrument of any kind. The look she’d given Oliver that time had all but said, ‘I’m trying to pretend I don’t already know you’re the vigilante, but you’re really, really not making it easy.’ And that was before the billionaire’s pathetic response of ‘I ran out of sports bottles.’
That had been a lot more direct than the time she didn’t pretend to believe the billionaire was having her look up an old friend for him when he clearly didn’t know anything about the man that’d once worked for his father but had eventually become a bank robber along with the rest of his family. Then again, it’d been even more blatantly stupid than just Oliver’s inability to actually tell a lie well to her. Not to mention analyzing chemical compounds probably wasn't the sort of thing anyone asked the average Q.C I.T specialist for—looking back she'd probably had to head to Applied Sciences to even do it, and while John wouldn't put it past her to be able to run the sample herself even if she had to hack her way in or just say it was for a member of the Queen family—it'd been asking a lot more than any sort of basic computer work. Still, she'd come through and she'd come through fast.
So it was possible that they shouldn't have been surprised that as soon as her plausible deniability was blown out of the water, whatever it was that’d had her holding her tongue before was gone, too.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
All the same, the blonde clearly had some secrets of her own.
Her learning how to wield a sword for some fantasy recreational hobby could’ve made sense, if she hadn’t been trying so hard to not show how good she was. That fall of hers had been a thing of beauty, really: she couldn’t have fallen on her face at a better time, because even if her face hitting the mat had been uncomfortable her sword hadn’t been anymore a threat to herself or Oliver than his had been to her at that exact moment in the very brief handful of minutes when the vigilante hadn’t been holding back and it had kind of looked like maybe she still was.
BAM! BAM-BAM! BAM!
John Diggle didn’t know anything about swords that hadn’t come up in movies, and he couldn’t entirely say that he considered entertainment a good source material. Not when he’d spotted plenty of things movie-makers had gotten wrong regarding soldiers, the Army, or Afghanistan. Or all the above all at the same time.
He did, however, know sports. And anyone good enough to keep up with Oliver Queen when he was swinging a weapon of any kind around would’ve been steered into competing even if she’d started off learning how to wield a sword for fun. Yet she said she never had. Not that she’d chosen not to because she was focusing on her schoolwork, or that she’d tried it once but didn’t like it. No, she’d said she’d never done it at all, which just didn’t add up. A hot girl like her swinging a sword around back when Xena was still big would’ve been beating the event coordinators off at the very least. The only question would be whether she was using a wooden sword then or her Loud Voice.
Probably her Loud Voice, which he'd so far only seen once. That was the time Oliver seemed about ready to try exercising too soon, again, and she stopped him before he could hurt himself all over again.
BAM-BAM! BAM-BAM! BAM-BAM!
Click-Click. Clack... Click-Click.
For some reason Felicity didn’t want them to know how good she was. Just like she didn’t want their help with the cut on her shoulder, even though changing those bandages would’ve been a lot easier for another person that could use both hands.
And John for the life of him couldn’t come up with any good reason for either one of her choices there.
Maybe Oliver was right and she’d learned how to use a sword because of her grandfather. Even though the man was murdered years before she was born... if it was some sort of family tradition even before that it would’ve made sense.
Her hiding that someone had hurt her if it had anything to do with how her grandfather had died, didn’t make nearly as much sense.
She had to know they’d protect her. For all that she’d argued against Oliver putting an arrow in a little boy’s father, she’d barely said a word about the knife wielding assassin. Someone who wanted to hurt her would surely fall closer to the assassin than the white-collar criminal who happened to be a single father.
Click-Click. Click-Click. Click.
So why didn’t she want them to know that she could fight, let alone that she knew how because she needed to?
No reason that really made sense came to mind.
It couldn’t be because she didn’t want them to worry—or if that was it, it definitely wasn’t working and wasn’t going to.
She might think that it’d make Oliver more protective her, rather than less. And if anyone was trying to hurt her, she’d be right. The vigilante’s over-protectiveness probably would go a story or two higher up the skyscraper it'd already become. John’s certainly would, too. But even not knowing for sure, both of them were already worried and protective.
What he knew she was working on in the spare time she didn’t really have didn’t help.
BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!
The sniper that’d shot John’s little brother without meaning to.
The sniper that’d never missed his target any other time since then, save for when the vigilante had interfered at the auction and stopped him with an arrow in his eye. An arrow in the eye that he'd somehow survived. Just one more instance of Karma and Lady Luck getting really mixed up.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
John had already dried up most of his own resources. The only friend he hadn’t yet called about it was his ex-wife.
Not because Lyla couldn’t help. Given her many promotions in the last few years she had to be pretty high up in ARGUS by now. So she undoubtedly could help him look for an international assassin. But she’d want to know why, and John wasn’t any better at lying to her than Oliver was with Felicity.
So the sound of the tech genius’s keys clicking away was hard to ignore for long.
Finally John just stopped, because while he didn’t think he should just come out and ask about one of the things on his mind, he might as well ask about the other. “Find anything yet?”
“Hmm?” Felicity blinked at him as she looked away from her computer screen, but then started shaking her head without awaiting response as his question registered after the fact. “No, he’s still looking for her. Don’t think there’re too many more places he can check though.”
The vigilante had been scouring the city for hours now. With what sounded like no luck whatsoever. So calling it a night soon wouldn't be a bad idea.
“Then he won’t be out too much longer,” John nodded, crossing his arms just to have something to do with them. “But that wasn’t what I was asking about.”
This time she didn’t blink, but she did wince. “No, sorry. There really hasn’t been much about Deadshot. Even on the Dark Web. Any of them.” Felicity held her hands up quickly. “I am still looking though, really,” she reassured him, shaking her head. “But I don’t know how much longer it might take.”
“Thanks for doing it,” John nodded, not letting himself sigh. “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate already with all of this.”
Felicity shook her head. “Don’t be silly. I’m happy to help.” She cocked her head to the side. “Oliver would be, too, you know.” She said it easily, like she wasn't at all uncomfortable with their teammate not knowing they were still looking for the assassin just yet. But she did seem to have plenty of secrets of her own, never mind how readily she'd kept the vigilante's, so keeping another for a friend might not be much of a hardship for this girl who, other than all the secrets she clearly had, seemed so honest most of the time.
“Not yet.” John shook his head again. “He’s got more than enough on his plate, too.” He frowned at her in concern. “But it’s not silly to notice that you’re burning the candle at both ends, Felicity.”
She shook her head quickly. “No, I’m—”
“It’s almost one in the morning, now. You have to be at work for nine, don’t you?”
Felicity shrugged, like such thoughts weren't worth worrying about. “Like you said, he’ll be back soon.”
But sleep deprivation wasn't something you could just keep shrugging off. Eventually the exhaustion would hit you, and it'd hit you hard. Looking at the blonde as he considered it, John was surprised he didn't see bags below her blue eyes. But women were sometimes adept at hiding such things with make-up, and Felicity had her glasses, too.
“This isn’t the first time you probably won’t be in bed before two or three though.” John told her firmly, not liking the realization at all. “It’s a good way to make yourself sick.”
It was one thing for the bodyguard and the billionaire to not get some shut-eye till about the time the sun started to come up sometimes. Neither one of them had to be up in the early morning hours if they didn't want to be. Oliver was his day job, and now that he wasn't set on losing him anymore Digg could trust him to be where he said he'd be when needed. Felicity, on the other hand, had another whole job she had to be on time for every day, no matter how late she stayed at her computers the night before.
“I’m fine, John, really,” the tech girl told him with a small smile. “You don’t have to worry about me.”
“I will anyway, so will Oliver,” John told her, shaking his head. “We might worry less if we can be sure you’re okay.”
That was starting to edge towards the worries he wasn't supposed to ask her about until they were sure they weren't letting their healthy paranoia create problems that weren't really there, but it just slipped out that way.
Felicity snorted, “Unlike either of you, no one is shooting at me on a regular basis,” she shook her head. “And it’s not like I can tell anyone at work that I need to cut my hours back because of my new night job.”
“Why not?” John shrugged when she raised an eyebrow at her. “You can say you’ve taken over all the tech support for Oliver’s new club. Your supervisor wouldn’t dare question you needing the time for a member of the Queen family.”
“I’m not sure he actually has even that much self-preservation,” Felicity shook her head. She seemed more amused than annoyed, though she'd had one or two unflattering things to say about said supervisor before. Never to Oliver, who might do something about it, though.
"He didn't before, right?" John double-checked.
"I never told him about Oliver before," the blonde shook her head. "He only knows about a few of the times he stopped by, not what it was really about or how often it happened."
Because all too many of the favors the billionaire had asked for had traced very easily back to the vigilante, and for reasons still not said the genius had obviously been covering for him. Which still didn't tell him when, exactly, the blonde had figured it all out, but that made it seem like it must've been a lot earlier than Oliver definitely thought.
The bodyguard frowned, “Then we tell him," he indicated their teammate via a nod to their comm station, which was obviously muted on her end.
Her soft humming had supposedly made it hard for the vigilante to concentrate on intimidating some street thug a little while back, so the vigilante had made her promise to keep her line muted unless she had something to say. What'd impressed John the most about the B.S there was that he'd actually been able to make himself ask the I.T girl nicely, even though if called on it he'd probably have to confess that the thug in question had been plenty scared of the infamous vigilante.
"If the man’s enough of an idiot to give you trouble, straightening him out is the least Oliver can do.”
“Like you said,” the blonde shook her head. “He has enough on his plate.” She went on with a sigh before he could say anything else in argument. “I’m sorry I haven’t found anything about Deadshot yet. I am looking. And I have a few more things to try, it just takes time.”
“I know,” John shook his head. “No apologies necessary.” He assured her, before pressing on. “But you really should cut back at Q.C, Felicity. It’s not like Oliver can’t pay you for working here if you need the money.”
“It’s not about the money,” Felicity shook her head, continuing matter-of-factly. “It’s about perception.” She sighed when he blinked at her, then went on to explain. “Everyone at Q.C knows about Oliver coming to me a lot for tech help, so my helping with the setup here at Verdant makes sense. But there’s already enough water cooler gossip about us without adding me working regularly at the nightclub. A nightclub doesn't need regular tech help, like a lot of other places they're fine with occasional consultations.”
That made his frown deepen, “Are your co-workers bothering you that much?”
Because everything else she'd said made sense, but something about that part had sounded a little off. Like she'd realized she hadn't meant to say it as it was coming out, like one of the innuendoes that frequently popped out around Oliver, so she'd started talking faster to get past it. The reputation the billionaire came back home planning to hide behind could've all too easily caused problems for Felicity. Problems that might get worse before they got better when it got out that she was dating the former playboy. Which would definitely happen when she was at his side for Verdant's grand opening.
“Not especially,” Felicity denied, and then sighed again. “But they never really noticed me before, you know? I was used to almost everyone eventually coming to me when they hit a block they couldn’t stumble over on their own, but now that it’s known that Oliver comes to me specifically for technical support a lot more of the higher ups want me, too.” She shook her head. “It was a little easier being more unknown, but Mister Steele had already noticed me anyway, so this was bound to happen.”
“But the water cooler gossip wasn’t.” John kept on it because that was the problematic part of the situation. “Not without Oliver’s old reputation.”
“That’s part of it,” she allowed, then shrugged. “But it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
Making him feel a little better only because the motion didn't trouble hurt—didn't seem to make her shoulder hurt—so it was one less thing to worry about. What she was saying, however, was still worrying.
"It does bother you," John frowned, and followed up firmly. "And you shouldn't have to handle it alone."
The idea grated. Though their friendship was still somewhat new, with plenty of secrets still left untold, Felicity had started to feel like family very fast. Almost from the very start, she'd been like the little sister he'd never known he'd wanted. And no matter what she wasn't saying or why, she was a good person who didn't deserve to be so unnecessarily burdened by the pettiness of people with nothing better to do than make up and spread spiteful stories.
"Not as much as you seem to think," Felicity told him, her voice gentle as she held his gaze only a moment. But she went on again before he could try to press her more. "I’ve got a few more things to try to find Deadshot, but I can’t do them here. Can you take over the comms?"
"Sure," John agreed readily, as was expected of him.
He knew she was using that expectation to make herself an exit from the unfinished conversation. But if he'd learned anything in the weeks of working with this woman, it was that she was as smart as she was stubborn. She wouldn't be tricked into sharing, and she wouldn't share before she was ready to.
“Arrow,” Felicity said into the comms then. “I’m going to head home early tonight, Freelancer’s taking over… Right… Yeah, you too. Good night.” Then she turned to take the Bluetooth out of her ear and quickly handed it to him.
“Let me know what I can do to help,” he told her as he accepted the device and just as quickly put it in his own ear. Even though their vigilante wasn’t supposed to get into trouble tonight, he was quite capable of finding it even when he shouldn’t. "And get some sleep. You wanta be well-rested for the opening, and we start your self-defense training the day after that."
The blonde's nose wrinkled a little at the idea, likely more the training than the club opening. Her interesting sparring session with the archer hadn't seemed to make their I.T girl any more eager to start 'basic' self-defense with the former soldier. Really, John was pretty sure she knew she'd revealed too much of her Xena-like abilities, because she'd gotten too quiet about all of it. Even now she was keeping quiet as she got ready to go.
All of it, though, would still have to stay on the backburner until the problem of the Bertinelli bitch was solved. So John didn't say anything more as he un-muted the comms. (He wasn't willing to waste time needing to do that later just because the vigilante might not like the sound of his breathing.)
Though John did, of course, watch Felicity while she walked out—via the now fully operational security system that covered every possible angle both inside the club and out. He wasn't surprised when one of the bouncer's was quick to walk her out to her car. He'd made a point of the back alley and the employee parking lot both being under their watch just as much as the main entrance, V.I.P section, dance floor and the bar.
Though Matt was lucky the vigilante wasn't here to see him trying to flirt with Felicity, who was too nice to just shoot him down. No one hired to work at Verdant was on the List, though those names weren't all corrupt rick people. That was part of the background check for all employees, and Merlyn had kept using the computer system Oliver had setup—courtesy of Felicity—so they could be sure about that. But the bouncer would've probably been doomed to a terrorizing meeting with the Hood anyway, even though all he'd done was win one of Felicity's polite smile as he helped her into her car...
If asked, said vigilante would probably be more than willing to redirect his attention from the futile search for Helena Bertinelli to what was troubling his girlfriend.
His bodyguard and vigilante-partner would have preferred to keep the focus on their I.T girl, too. But the return of this particular—psycho—ex had the potential to become a real disaster all too easily.
So far, Felicity had said all the right things, she was good at that. And she clearly didn’t want either of them to interfere in her real world job, no matter how much it was Oliver's fault or how easily he could help. Ignoring her wishes wouldn't help, there could soon come a time when that would have to change. It might be sooner than Felicity herself liked, once Oliver realized her being tied to him was having a negative impact on her career in his family's company.
But right now they should stay focused on the woman that a part of John still wished Oliver Queen hadn’t been quite fast enough to save a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, in this case, the archer was very, very fast and plenty chivalrous enough for that pretty face to make all the difference.
Felicity Smoak, at least, they could be sure didn’t need to be feared. Feared for and respected, of course, but the odds of her trying to start a gang war or something equally insane were a great deal lower than they were for Helena Bertinelli.
For all they knew, the Huntress might decided to just try and blow up the whole courthouse while her father was inside—it wasn’t like she gave a damn about civilian casualties or any other kind of collateral damage that shouldn’t be written off by anyone.
Then again, the bitch might just as easily put a call into the Major Case Squad’s vigilante task force, promising the identity of the Hood in exchange for her father’s murder. That the D.A and the S.C.P.D couldn’t legally accept such an exchange under any circumstances was neither here or there. If she made that call, it’d be all the proof they’d need about her knowing that information. Then the Vigilante Taskforce would have to go after the ex-mob princess all the harder just because she’d have to be easier to catch than the Hood had been thus far.
If she told Detective Lance he was right, and that the Hood really was Oliver Queen, all of this would be over. John Diggle would definitely go down with him at this point, and Felicity Smoak might, too. Oliver’s family would lose him again, if not to prison then to those that wanted revenge on the vigilante or just wanted him to not be a problem in the future.
And whatever the hell was going on in Starling City, pitting some of the city’s leading lights against each other and getting others kidnapped right out of their own office buildings would remain a mystery. One that none of them would be able to put any effort into solving. So Walter Steele would remain missing and presumed dead. And any hope of trying to help their home become a better place to live again through vigilantism would be all but impossible…
So they had to find Helena Bertinelli.
And John Diggle had to hope that Oliver would be able to aim that arrow straight when he had to let it fly.
Deadshot, Queen Consolidated, and all the secrets of Felicity Smoak could wait. For now.