A/N: Contains spoilers for Episode 2x23. This will be a multi-chapter fic, at this stage I'm aiming for about 10 chapters.
Diggle reaches down from the interior of the seaplane to offer Felicity a hand. She smiles as she takes it, scrambling up. He notices the smile doesn't quite reach her eyes, but he says nothing and helps her buckle in to the passenger seat behind the pilot's seat.
"All good?" Oliver asks over one shoulder, running through the pre take off checklist. Digg wrenches the plane door shut, securing it tightly and clambers over to sit beside Oliver.
"All good. Let's get home." He slips a headset on and hands another over the back to Felicity. She accepts it, but doesn't put it on.
Oliver methodically runs through every step on the checklist before easing back on the throttle and taking the plane out onto the water. Within seconds they've picked up enough speed and they're airborne.
Despite the noise of the cockpit, Digg can hear Felicity retching into one of the many sick bags she insisted bringing along. He looks over to see her face has turned ashen and he mimes for her to try and sleep. She nods miserably, holding her stomach and trying to settle back against the lumpy seat.
Oliver doesn't speak as he manoeuvres the plane out of Lian Yu's small bay and out over the China Sea. The two men remain silent, one focusing on the horizon ahead and the other wondering just what happened between his two friends on the beach. Based on the set of Oliver's jaw and the sad acceptance in Felicity's eyes, he's guessing more of the same dance that he's been watching the past two years.
Digg checks on Felicity every few minutes, and twenty minutes into their trip back to Hong Kong, he can tell she's fallen asleep. Her unused headset dangles from one hand and even if she wakes up in the next moment, she won't be able to pick up what he says to Oliver over the noise of the engines.
"You don't have to hide it for my benefit, you know." He says.
"Hide what, John?" Oliver says calmly, the muscle twitching in his jaw suggesting he is anything but calm.
"Your feelings for Felicity. I won't feel like the third wheel."
Digg waits a beat, then two. Then three. He silently counts to seven before Oliver finally replies.
"That's not why."
"So you admit it? You do have feelings?"
"Jesus, Digg." Oliver sighs, taking one hand of the throttle long enough to run it over his chin, wincing ever so slightly as he presses too hard on the vicious bruise purpling his jaw.
"It's not that simple. This whole thing with Slade just proved that whomever I'm with is a target. He would have killed her, you know. Right in front of me." His gaze flicks away from the horizon long enough to catch Diggle's eye. The calm exterior Oliver projects so well has been stripped back to reveal a mixture of misery and agony.
"But he didn't. You bested him. Hell, she bested him. She's stronger than you give her credit for. She's not some damsel that needs you to save her." Like Laurel. The unspoken comparison sits heavily between them.
"I know that, Digg. She's one of the bravest people I know. But I can't risk it, I can't risk her. She's in danger as it is just being Oliver Queen's PA, let alone working with the Arrow."
Diggle groans under his breath. Oliver Queen, martyr in love. He thinks back to the women he's seen Oliver with since the Island. Each of one of them with baggage, adding their burdens to the load already weighing on Oliver's shoulders. Half of them deranged killers, or sisters.
"You're making a mistake, you know. This life we lead, yeah it's dangerous. Anything could happen and I get why you want to protect her." Digg glances over to Felicity on the back seat, her glasses slipping down her nose and her lips parted slightly.
"But life's too short. You need to take these chances for happiness when they happen."
Oliver shakes his head. "You're not listening. She's too important, I can't risk her."
Digg felt his fists tensing up. Now he realised why he always let Felicity do the big reasoning speeches.
"She's already at risk, Oliver. And we can protect her, not that she needs much help protecting herself. Just let yourself be happy, man. For once, put yourself and her first." He claps an unclenched hand on Oliver's shoulder and then leans forward to switch off his headset. He'll let Oliver stew on his words back to Hong Kong.