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By Her Side

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“You can come in,” Fred said, pulling the covers up to her chin as she heard the footsteps outside the door. “I can hear you, you know.”

“I know you can,” Wesley said, as he walked into the room, holding a plate of chicken noodle soup and two soft-shell tacos. “Are you feeling any better?”

She shook her head, and her hair flapped against the side of her head. “I still feel like a demon sliced through me with one of its claws. Oh, wait, one did. Nevermind.”

“I wanted to check your bandages, if you don't mind.”

“Go ahead.” She took one of the tacos off the tray and nibbled at it, as his hands ran flat over the plain of her stomach. “Thank you for bringing these, by the way. It's getting really lonely up here, what with everyone else being so busy trying to take down this demon.”

He grunted and peeled back the corner of her bandage. “It appears as though you are healing quite nicely,” he said. “And Angel is hell-bent on getting him now that he's hurt you – as are we all.”

“That's comforting.”

“Indeed, it is,” Wesley said. “But I told them to go on without me today.”

“Why? I thought you'd want to be there when it was killed.”

“I believe you said it yourself. 'It's getting really lonely up here,' you said, and I dare say that I wanted to alleviate some of that for you,” he said. “Because I didn't just bring food and my charming company.”

“Oh?” She leaned forward slightly, and her face contorted at the pain of the bandage. “What else did you bring?”

He eased her back against the bed. “Stay there, and rest. I'll read to you,” he said, as he pulled out a sheaf of papers. “I think you will find this much more interesting than I will, and maybe you can explain it to me when I'm done.”

“So, it's not The Secret Garden then,” she said, “but I think that explanation can be arranged.”

He kissed her softly and shifted the papers on his lap. “The Properties of Interdimensional Fluidity and What It Means for the Potentialities of Time Travel.”

“Sounds fascinating.” She laid back and opened her eyes wide to look at him. “Please, continue.”

As he read, she rested there, her head propped up on her pillows. She nodded her head on occasion to mark a particularly salient point, and shook it with disapproval when something wasn't quite right. He finished, and looked over to her. “Fred?” he whispered.

“Yeah?”

“Are you feeling any better now?”

“Somewhat.” She grimaced. “Still hurts a bit, but I guess that's to be expected.”

“Rest, then.” He made motion to leave her to her rest, but she reached out her arm and tugged at his hand with two sharp, insistent tugs.

“Stay. Please. Stay.”

“Okay.” And he did, and he spooned her chicken noodle soup until she fell asleep, and then he held her hand as she fell off to a fitful sleep. If she wanted to have him by her side, then by her side he would be.