Disclaimer: It should be painfully obvious that I don't own Arrow.
A/N: This missing scene is brought to you because of the gracious request by CindyT63. We both agree that there is an obvious missing scene from Arrow 109: Years End. So, clearly, there are some spoliers for that episode. This is nestled between Oliver falling out of the warehouse window and the hosptial scene. Please, enjoy this delicious piece of hurt/comfort.
Warning bells were blaring.
In his head.
If he had an actual warning system in his head, it would sound like the klaxon at a nuclear power plant. Danger! Danger! Core is going critical! Melt down in ten seconds...
Oliver fumbled through the second story window without much real thought to the consequences. He sort of forgot he was on the second floor, actually. But, as a sort of booby prize, once he hit the dumpster, the warning bells stopped. Or were broken.
He tried to crawl forward and abruptly halted as agony ripped up the length of his torso. It was as if something were squashing his chest. Like a troll. A troll was stomping down on his ribcage. Oliver was having a very hard time breathing.
There were two types of pain vying for his attention. Three, if you counted the internal fire of broken bones. There was no reason not to. First was the white hot surface pain from the arrow wounds that was made worse by his smart maneuver with the doorframe and the ripping out of the arrows. Clearly a genius move, Oliver. You make such good decisions when you're injured...
The second pain was just inside his chest. The ribs. The heavy booted feet pounding pounding pounding.
The third pain was deep inside – past the ribs – right at the core. Core's gone critical... A searing agony that melted into his whole being.
Somehow the walkie ended up next to his lips. Oliver couldn't remember pulling out of his pocket. His hands were shaking.
"Dig..." He coughed and the kick of pain made his vision go white. "H-help...help..." The white turned to black and he drifted away on the mercy of unconsciousness.
Diggle was not what you would call a 'flighty' person. He tended to be that rock solid sort of guy – the guy who was always prepared for anything because he rarely overreacted. Calm. Steady. And as tough as nails. He was the static one of the two. Not that Oliver was flighty but the kid was a raging torrent of emotion and PTSD that he only just barely kept contained. He was constantly moving and John always worried what would happen if he were forced to stand still. Oliver's head might actually pop off.
But that was ok.
That's how this worked.
Oliver worked out his issues and got the bad guys while Diggle worked the support angle and, subsequently, also had a hand in getting the bad guys. He didn't have to be the macho action hero. It was how John was able to do what he did on a daily basis.
Like now, for instance.
When this was all said and done – assuming it all worked out ok – the only person who would realize Diggle's role in this would be Oliver. Not even the press would know of the Hood's special helper. His Alfred...
John peered over at the computer. It was still tracing the signal, pinpointing Oliver's exact location. While it searched, he was throwing medical supplies into a bag. Some bottles of water. A pair of pliers. A blanket. A jacket and a shirt. A towel. A flashlight. A pair of scissors.
The computer burbled a result and John mentally logged it away before he jogged out of the club. Even in this, he was not frantic. He wasn't bursting with excess nervous energy. He was simply moving quickly because quick movements were required. Any wasted time could prove to be disastrous for Oliver, especially since he hadn't even cleared the site yet. All that separated him from the cops was an abandoned warehouse. It was only a matter of time before they found him.
Diggle drove fast.
He parked a block away from the scene and slung the bag over his shoulder. The first order of business was to remove Oliver from the danger zone. Then he could start to piece together a plausible story if a hospital was required.
With military precision, Diggle snuck close to the warehouse. There was a disturbing lack of cops at the back. It was a gaping hole in the perimeter that the cops should have made. Well, then again, it was a small blessing. John darted in and started down the length of the outer wall. As he closed in on the man shaped lump next to the dumpster, Diggle came to a startling realization. Maybe the gap in the perimeter was intentional. Maybe they were giving the Hood an exit. Maybe they weren't all gunning for him like Lance was.
"Oliver..." John said quietly as he knelt down next to the younger man. He felt for a pulse first. It was there - albeit a little weak for his liking. "Oliver, man, you hear me?" John rolled Oliver over, very gently.
Queen stirred a little. His eyes flicked open and a groan rumbled out of his lips. He made the instinctual movements of trying to sit up but John put a firm hand on his chest and held him down. John knew all he needed to know – Oliver's spine was intact enough to move him. "Hang on, man. I got you."
Diggle hefted Oliver up and over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. Oliver groaned again. John trotted back towards the alley where the car was parked. He was spurred on by the grinding noise coming from Oliver's chest every time the man tried to take a breath. By the time he reached the car, Oliver was whimpering with every exhale.
When Diggle finally set him down on the ground behind the car, Oliver was one mass of tightly coiled muscle. His eyes were squeezed shut. His whole body was shaking. But it was his breathing that was the most alarming. It was fast and uneven. Oliver would suck in three quick tiny breathes and release it in a series snorts that were interrupted by more quick little intakes of air. His lungs were not inflating correctly. Only the left side was moving up and out properly. The right side stopped about halfway and quickly deflated again. It was like trying to inflate an inner tube and having all the air escape before you could plug it up.
Oliver coughed and his face became alive with pain, turning red. The muscles around his eyes and face tightened. His brow furrowed. But he didn't scream. Mostly because Diggle didn't think he could control his airflow enough to scream.
This lashed him into movement.
John laid Oliver flat. The man would definitely need a hospital. There was absolutely no questioning that fact. Which meant he would need to explain Oliver's condition. And make sure he didn't look like the Hood.
"Oliver, I gotta change your clothes, alright?" he asked. He didn't expect a response and he didn't get one. John unzipped the hooded jacket and pulled it off of Oliver's body, pulling a huffed moan of pain from the man. Diggle left the dark tee-shirt on. Before he pulled Oliver into the button-up dress shirt that he'd brought for just this purpose, he made note of the two ragged holes in Oliver's shoulder. Arrow wounds? John made the appropriate holes in the dress shirt and the leather jacket that he was about to put on. And the suddenly Oliver was grabbing his arm in a vicelike grip.
"...stopstopstop..." Oliver breathed, mouthing the words as clearly as possible. He hardly made an actual intelligent noise. But his eyes were open and fixed desperately on John. They were glassy. Pain filled.
John ignored them and pulled the jacket on. Oliver would forget the pain. The cops wouldn't forget his face if they connected him to the Hood. The arrows were gone which meant Oliver had removed them and left them at the scene. The cops would be looking for an injured man.
Speaking of arrows...
Diggle turned his attention to the arrow sticking out of Oliver's thigh. It was wrenched sideways. Probably a failed attempt to remove it. Diggle grabbed it firmly and yanked it out without a second thought. Oliver sort of convulsed with the movement, expressing the pain that his vocal cords couldn't. He started coughing again, hot tears of agony leaking down his cheeks. John grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
"Hang on man. Hang on. Ride it out," he muttered to Oliver. But then, with a huff, Oliver went limp. John sighed in relief. He didn't exactly enjoy causing that much pain but he didn't have time to be gentle. Time was of the essence.
Taking advantage of Oliver's unconsciousness, Diggle quickly checked for any other surprise wounds. He found a mess of bruises and some ugly lumps of broken bone on the right side of Oliver's chest. Broken ribs would account for the pneumothorax. Diggle flashed a light in Oliver's eyes. One pupil was bigger than the other and neither responded to the light. He was most certainly concussed. Then there were the three arrow wounds that would have to be plausibly explained.
Which meant he would have to find Oliver's bike. He normally parked it a good two blocks from wherever he ended up going as the Hood. John hauled Oliver inside the car and locked it up. The last thing he needed was some random person finding Oliver and calling 911 before he had a chance to set up the scenario.
And then Diggle was jogging around the surrounding blocks. He looked woefully out of place but not so much so that anyone was sending him more than a curious look or two. He found the motorcycle hidden behind a stack of wooden pallets half a block away. He squealed the tires as he drove it back to Oliver.
John was moving very quickly now – thinking three steps ahead. He stopped the bike just a few yards inside the alley and then he got in his car and slammed into the bike, sending it skidding down the road, further into the alley. With the bike properly scuffed and dented, Diggle dragged Oliver next to it. And then he decided to scoot Oliver just a little ways away from it. As if he'd been thrown from the bike. As if someone had hit him and driven away, yanking the bike away from Oliver. And then, because he still had to answer for the gaping holes in Oliver's body, John produced one of the wooden pallets. He smashed it up and scattered bits of it around his body. Then came the part that he was trying very hard not to think about.
"I'm really glad you're unconscious, man," he muttered to Oliver. He'd broken off three sizable splinters from the pallet and was poised over Oliver's shoulder. He shook away the cognitive dissonance. Yes, one was not supposed to stab ones boss with a wooden shank. But that's not what he was doing. It wasn't. He was covering up an incriminating wound. With a wooden shank.
Just do it, John.
Diggle shoved first one and then the other splinter deep into the arrow wounds. Fresh blood came dribbling out, soaking the dress shirt and jacket which was also good because it added continuity to the new clothes. And then he took the last splinter and jammed it into Oliver's thigh. Not deep enough to seriously injure him but deep enough to account for the arrow. And then Diggle smeared some of the blood on the other bits of the pallet as if some billionaire had smashed into it after flying off of his motorcycle.
Thank God Oliver was unconscious.
John grabbed the now scuffed helmet from the bike and was about to put it on Oliver when he froze. He almost forgot the face paint. It was such a massive almost-mistake, that Johns hands shook a little. He quickly whipped out the towel that he'd brought with him and scrubbed at Oliver's face.
Bike was in place. Oliver was in place. Oliver was still breathing.
Check, check, and check.
He pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911.
"My name's John Diggle and I have an emergency situation. Oliver Queen was just in an accident. He's unconscious and bleeding..." He gave them the location and snapped off quick answers to the dispatcher who assured him that help was on the way.
It took the ambulance a full seven minutes to make it to them. The alley was just barely wide enough to accommodate the emergency vehicle. Soon the quiet little alley was flooded with paramedics. They hoisted Oliver onto a gurney and strapped him down, immobilizing his neck. The way they flocked around the man was so drastically different then what John had just spent a half hour doing. They were fully focused on his physical wellbeing. Only one thing mattered – keeping him alive. If only John had had that pleasure. He had to take so many other things into account. He had to waste precious healing time to protect the Hood. But that's what he was there for. He was there to clean up the mess. To maintain the illusion. Like the obedient magicians assistant.
Diggle climbed into the ambulance with Oliver, refusing to be left behind. Because that was his job on stage. He was the overprotective bodyguard. If only they knew...
As the ambulance raced to the hospital, they punched a hole in Oliver's chest and stuck a small tube inside, re-inflating the lung. There was a whooshing sound and suddenly his lopsided chest was the correct shape again. Diggle watched it all, feeling very distant. He had a nagging sense of mistrust. Did these paramedics really know what they were doing? Were they really trying to help him? Did they see past the ruse? Would they look too closely as his back or thigh? Would they be able to tell that those wounds were not made by the pallet?
And then they were at the hospital and the medical personnel were racing Oliver inside. Diggle had to hurry to keep up. He followed them until a particularly tall male nurse was blocking his way and sending him back towards the waiting room. For half a moment, John was tempted to fight his way back to Oliver's side but then he promptly backed down.
He had to call Moira. And he did. In a calm voice, Diggle told her the story of the motorcycle. He threw in a handful of details on the spot to make it sound more convincing. He was following Oliver home. Someone pulled out in front of him and slammed into him. Drove off. No, he did not get the license plate. Black car. Average. Yes, he would ask the police if there was any footage from any street cameras. No, he didn't think there would be. Yes, he would be at the hospital all night. Yes, he would make sure they put him in a private room. Yes, the hospital was aware that it was Oliver Queen, the billionaire. Yes, Oliver had been wearing his helmet.
See you soon.
After he'd hung up, John allowed himself to feel a little overwhelmed for all of two minutes. And then he took that feeling and locked it away. He had a job to do. The Archer might still be out there. He might still be out for blood. The only thing they had going for them was that the Archer probably didn't know who the Hood really was. Even still...
Diggle spent the next fifteen minutes arguing with the head nurse until she finally let him hover outside the room where they were working on Oliver. They spent no more than a half hour on him before they moved him to a private room. Diggle followed them every step of the way and parked himself on the chair next to Oliver's bed. Doctors and nurses came in and out with x-rays and tubes and needles. All the while, Oliver was very pale and very still.
John realized that this was the first time he'd seen Oliver so motionless for so long. And that realization was chased by another – it wouldn't be the last time. Suddenly, Oliver wasn't just a hotheaded vigilante. He wasn't just a stupid billionaire. He wasn't just a walking paycheck or the means to a safer city. Suddenly, John felt like he was looking out for his brother. Like this was his brother, Andy, all over again.
Then again, it wasn't quite the level of brotherly love that one might construe from the current situation. Diggle certainly didn't love this man. Not in any sense. Not in a familial way and sure as hell not in a romantic way. As quick as the brother sensation had come, it was gone. Oliver was too self- centered for it to last. Or something like that.
So what did he feel towards this man? Professional respect? Obligation? Duty? All of those things. But there was something warmer there too – between them. Perhaps comradery was the better word. Their friendship was weird as hell but it was still a friendship. Even if Diggle didn't get a paycheck out of it, he thought he'd always go and help Oliver. For the sake of the Hood and for the sake of friendship.
An hour or two had passed. The doctor gave Diggle the prognosis and Mrs. Queen had just arrived. He wondered for a brief moment what had taken them so long. But then that thought was chased away. It wasn't important. Moira, Walter, and Thea came sneaking into Oliver's room.
Perhaps it was all the new people in the room. Perhaps they just had really good timing. Regardless, Oliver started to stir. Diggle was on his feet in a heartbeat.
Oliver's eyes snapped open and oozed panic. Noises of pain groaned out as he tried and failed to sit up
"Hey, relax relax. Just, relax," Diggle said quickly, pushing him down gently. He was vaguely aware that he was cutting Moira off from tending to her son. It was a little awkward. "You're safe. You're in the hospital," he continued.
"What happened?" Oliver managed. Alarm crawled along his features and John read the unasked questions all over his face.
"I back traced your signal and cleaned you up and got you out of there," Diggle explained quickly and quietly. You're cover is safe. No one knows you're the Hood. Oliver finally locked gazes with Diggle and grounded himself in the present. "You've got a pneumothorax, three broken ribs and a concussion. You're gonna be fine. And some people are here to see you." We'll talk about what happened later.
"What?" Oliver said, some panic coming back.
John finally backed away, letting Moira and Thea crowd in. Walter hung back behind them. "Are you alright?" Mrs. Queen was asking.
"God, you look terrible," Thea added.
"Well, thank God you were wearing your helmet," Walter said.
Oliver looked lost. His eyes flicked from his mother to his sister and then he found Diggle.
What's going on?
"I told them how you were on your bike and someone pulled right in front of you," John supplied quickly.
The story sunk in and Oliver accepted it with the grace of any decent improv actor. He was up to speed again. John's work was done for the moment. He snuck out of the hospital room, leaving Oliver to deal with his family alone. They'd probably want a few privet moments.
He didn't go far. He settled on the chair just down the hall from Oliver's room, maintaining his vigil on the vigilante. The illusion was intact. Oliver was going to be ok. He could relax again. He could be static again. Strong and silent and static, just waiting until he was needed again.