Original prompt: open ficlet. Anybody, anywhere.


Arcade is a noticer. He supposes they all are, in their own way. As As a doctor, his particular speciality lays in noticing why people do the things they do; how and why they hurt. Case in point:

Boone absentmindedly cooks extra food for Charlie whenever he's the one at the campfire. It's clear he hasn't had much in the way of female companionship since meeting her; it's also clear the last of that companionship was a woman who ate for two.

He's positive Charlie knows exactly what's going on. She doesn't voice any complaints, make any comments, just takes the plate and demolishes it, even if she has to stare out over the fire for an extra twenty minutes until something in her gut finally shifts and she can pack the rest of it in. The pair of them can spend days looking like they want to tear each other's throats out, but if it's Boone's turn to do the cooking, no matter what moody snit they're in Charlie's invariably going to end up stuffed to the seams.

Arcade doesn't think the sniper realizes what he's doing, or that the only time he smiles, actually smiles, not a rictus or bared teeth or a contemptuous twist of his lips, is when she sets the plate down clean. The rest of his face can be a thunderous mess, but that little tiny, reflexive little grin will always break out for just a split second when he notices she's finished everything.

He could find Boone's behaviour almost sweet if he hadn't seen the stretchmarks down on Charlie's belly the last time he had to patch her up, so old they're invisible to everything but someone who knows what they are, someone trained to see a body's history. It's why he's positive that Charlie knows what Boone is doing and why she plays along. Why her eyes go dead for the same split-second he smiles. He's filling up a hole in himself by digging the one in her deeper every time, and she lets him. Arcade thinks she'd let Boone dig her hollow, and if he tried to stop it all he would do is make things worse for the pair of them. It's like watching a wound fester, one that's seeped into his own heart.

Sometimes Arcade really wishes he couldn't notice anything at all.