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“What did you get into this time,” Arcade mumbled, fishing around in his first aid kit.

“A couple of radscorpions guarding their nest.” Boone’s gruff voice was more soft now. “Six got the worst of it. How the hell she was still standing is beyond me.”

“Well, if anyone can help her, it’s Julie.”

Arcade didn’t look up at Boone. He knew he’d stare if he dared glance up. Ever since Boone had walked in with Six a couple weeks ago, Arcade had found it hard to look away at all. He was always a sucker for the strong, silent, and handsome types, especially ones that had a kind of secret past. People like that were puzzles, Publix cubes just waiting to be solved and unlocked. Hell, Arcade didn’t even know his first name. Made the whole thing a little more exciting.

He’d have all the time to stare when he was stitching up the cut on his arm, but for now, he had to be all business. Hell, he needed to be all business while doing the stitching too. He was never a great practical physician, so he’d need to really focus. It did strike Arcade as odd that Boone had requested that he, specifically, help him out, but he didn’t mind. It certainly beat staring at an aloe leaf through a microscope until his eyes hurt. God, the things he would let this man do him after a glass of wine…

Boone cleared his throat. “So. You study plants.”

It was less of a question than anything else and Arcade cleared his throat as well as he looked up to make eye contact with the ex-NCR sniper. “You could say that, yes. I’m no biologist, but I try.”

“That’s interesting.”

Boone’s eyes were almost unreadable, but there was a genuine interest there that was so different from his usual apathy. Huh.

“I like to think so,” Arcade said as he drew a syringe of Med-X from his kit. “How do you feel about needles?”

Boone just nodded and after a quick test, Arcade steeled himself before taking Boone’s arm and feeling around to find a vein. Oh fuck, he was almost all muscle- Quick, quick, find that damn vein so it wasn’t like he was feeling him up. Hell, Boone just radiated hetero energy, god, why did he always fall for the straight ones-

Before he could fully panic, he found the vein and injected the Med-X. Boone didn’t even flinch as Arcade removed the needle and added to the bin near the door.

“We’ll have to wait a few minutes before it kicks in.” Arcade returned to his seat with a heavy sigh. “You might start to feel a little off, but don’t worry, that’ll just stop you from feeling this next part.”

“Good. The sooner I can get back out there the better.”

Arcade took his handy dandy cleaning cloth, soaked it with whiskey, and ran it over the wound, delicately scrubbing the area to get the rest of the blood off. Boone sucked in a quick breath at the first swipe, but went quiet after. Arcade could see his hands clenched and jaw set, holding back any kind of emotion and sound.

Arcade threaded his needle, took a deep breath and went to work. His hands were shaky at first, the first couple of lines uneven and wider than they probably should have been. But he got back in the swing and quickly sutured the wound shut, tying a neat, tiny knot at the end. He pulled a set of scissors out of his kit and cut the thread before beginning the clean up process. God, his kit really was in terrible shape, he needed to reorganize this whole thing-

“So, you stitch people up often?” Boone was… He was almost joking? Arcade’s surprised look was met with a slightly uncharacteristic twinkle.

“Not usually.” Arcade tried to keep his voice even and measured with as little subtext as possible. “Are you feeling alright, Boone?”

“Craig.”

“Sorry?”

“You can call me Craig,” he repeated.

“What do you mean, Craig?”

“That’s my first name. Craig Boone.”

“Oh.”

The barely present smile vanished. “What’s wrong?”

“Noth-nothing,” Arcade slightly stammered, feeling his face heat up as he stood and walked over to his research counter. “I just… I never got your name before. I thought it was just Boone.”

Craig stared at him for a moment before bursting out laughing. It was clear and deep, booming around the tent as the battle-hardened sniper laughed so hard that he nearly fell out of his chair.

“Of course I have a first name,” he wheezed, still hooting.

“I…” Arcade was left just starring as Craig tried to catch his breath. “Boo-Craig, you should probably stop laughing. You might tear your stiches and I don’t think I’ll be able to do them as good again.”

“I’m… trying…” he managed to get out before starting to laugh again.

Arcade just watched him try to calm down with a bemused expression. A question flitted across his mind (when was the last time Craig had laughed?), but he just waited out the storm and for him to calm down.

“I feel sort of weird,” Craig mumbled, blinking slowly and rubbing his face. “Like everything’s going a little fuzzy.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing.” Arcade was tinkering around the microscopes, making sure the alignments were right.

“No, this is… off.” Boone slipped a little, straightening himself up and then sliding down again.

Arcade sighed and stood, walking over and helping Craig sit upright in his chair. “Do you want to lie down?”

“You have really pretty eyes,” Craig mumbled, scooting up in his chair slightly and cracking open his eyes to squint at Arcade.

His face started to heat up again. “I think you should lie down for a little bit. You’re not yourself-“

“Why don’t you join me?” Boone made a vague grabbing motion. “I like to cuddle. It’s warm.”

“I really shouldn’t,” Arcade protested, helping Boone stand and walk over to one of the cots.

“Oh come on, ‘Cade… It’d be fun,” he half-whined. “I haven’t cuddled a guy since… since...” Craig yawned. “Since boot camp.”

Arcade blinked slowly as Craig rubbed at his eyes. Of all the people he’d expected-

“Arcade, you want to know a secret?”

“Uh, sure?”

Of all the people he expected to be okay with cuddling another man, it wasn’t Mr. Manly Man, middle name Toxic Masculinity I Don’t Need Anyone-

“I’m bi.” Craig was clearly trying to not laugh. “I’m so bi, Arcade, do you know what bi means?”

“Uh, yes-“

“I’m so bi,” he giggled, giggled, and placed a hand on his forehead.

“I think you need to sleep this off,” Arcade insisted, patting the pillow. “I’m going to get Julie-“

“No!” Craig grabbed his arm. “No, I don’t want to be alone.”

“I’ll be gone for two minutes,” he promised.

“That’s a promise?”

“Yes, I swear it on… Well, I don’t know what I swear it on, but I swear.”

“Okay. You should go get Julie.”

“That’s where I’m going.”

Craig released Arcade’s arm and started to slowly massage his temples.

“Arcade, I like you.”

He paused in the tent door.

“I like you a lot. From here to Reno.” He drew out the o in Reno and then sighed. “Why did I say that.”

“I think you’re high on Med-X.”

“I think you’re too smart.”

“That’s not the first time I’ve heard that.” Arcade sighed. “I’m going to get Julie now.”

“Okay… See you soon…” Boone gave a half-hearted wave as the tent flap fell shut. 


 

Arcade held the door open for Julie, whose mohawk scraped the top of the door.

“He’s over there,” Arcade said, gesturing vaguely as he refastened the flap.

She unpacked her doctor’s bag, sighing. Boone was mumbling under his breath, a mixture of expletives and hoping Arcade was coming back soon. Julie gave Arcade a knowing look and picked up Boone’s wrist to take his pulse.

“That feels funny.”

Julie stared at Boone, glancing back over at Arcade with a raised eyebrow. She let go of his wrist and pulled her stethoscope out from around her neck. Julie moved the stethoscope around, a look of intense concentration as Boone’s chest rose and fell. She checked his pulse again, nodding to herself, then frowning.

“He’ll be fine,” she declared, packing up her bag. “Just a little too much Med-X. Could have happened to anyone. Just make sure he’s propped up correctly and don’t give him any more. I’d recommend keeping an eye on him for the first hour or so after he falls asleep. If anything’s going to happen, it’ll be then.”

Arcade nodded curtly. “Will do. How is Six?”

She pursed her lips. “Bad. But not critical. She’ll pull through, but needs to stick around for more than a couple days. That scorpion venom really did a number on her.”

“Should I tell Crai-Boone when he wakes up?”

Arcade’s slip up didn’t make it past Julie and she barely smiled before returning to all business. “You might want to. I know he’s not exactly the type to stay in one spot for a while.”

She picked up her bag and headed for the door. Arcade took a seat next to Boone with a sigh, grabbing a book and cracking it open.

“Arcade?”

“Yes?” He pushed his glasses up his nose as he looked over at her.

“Next time, just ask me or another tech for help, alright? Wouldn’t want you accidentally killing the first guy you’ve even let look at you in a non-platonic way.”

He laughed sharply, swallowing and scoffing. “Uh, yes, of course, Julie. And he’s not- I mean- yes, I’ll make sure to ask next time.”

“Alright. Have a good night, Arcade.”

He sighed when he was alone again, kicking up his feet on another chair as he opened his book again. Ah yes, Top Down: A Textbook of Bottom Up Biological Physics. Another book with about a hundred pages of ramblings about an aloe plant. Just… just great. Just great. Such riveting bedside reading material. What was he thinking? What was he doing?

He snapped the book closed with a huff and glanced over at Boone. He was fast asleep, hand dangling slightly over the side of the bed. He sighed again, taking Boone’s hand to lift it up and set it down on his chest.

However, Craig’s hand clenched around his hand and when Arcade went to let go, his grip got tighter. Arcade’s eyes went wide and he tried to shake his hand free. It didn’t budge. He tried to pull his hand free, but Boone’s grip was iron.

Well. Looked like he was stuck here. Not the worst place to be for a couple of hours. Or… however long it took for him to wake up.