By Your Side

By Joanne_Lupin

Romance / Drama

Chapter 1

Tara Maclay wasn't even supposed to be on the Emergency floor of the hospital that night. She usually worked in the rehab facility, two floors up, but she was covering for a friend, a fellow nurse whose family had flown in from England that afternoon. He'd be back the next day, but he'd wanted to spend one evening with them. Tara had stepped up- she loved working where she did, but sometimes she wondered what the excitement and constant flow of emergency care was like.

She was chatting with another nurse when a man and a woman burst in. The man was carrying a bundle in his arms. Red hair peeked out from under the cloth. "Please, someone, help!" the man called. Right away, Tara and the other nurse, along with a few others, sprang into action. They carefully placed the bundle on a stretcher and started checking vitals.

"She- she's blue. Barely breathing. She said- she said she would stop; she'd been clean for a few days, b-but then we couldn't reach her and we found- we found her-" The woman broke down into tears. Tara placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"It's okay, ma'am. Can you and your friend tell me some things?"

"We can, sure. C'mon, Buff." The man wrapped an arm around his trembling friend and supported her as they followed Tara to a more quiet area. They sat down.

"Okay, first off, what are your names?"

"I'm Xander," the man said, "and this is Buffy."

"Okay. And your friend?"

"Willow. Willow Rosenberg."

"Do you know why she passed out?"

"We think it was, um, a heroin overdose."

Tara noticed that Xander seemed calmer than Buffy, who was crying terribly hard. "Buffy, would you like to go sit down somewhere else?"

"No, no, p-please, I need to b-be here f-f-for Willow."

"Okay…" Tara frowned slightly. "How long has your friend been using?"

"Off and on for, god, longer than we probably know," Xander replied. "We noticed the track marks maybe… three years ago?"

"How old is she?"

"Twenty-five."

"Weight?"

"I dunno, maybe ninety pounds?"

The questions went on for a while. Once she was certain she'd gotten all the medical information she could, Tara sent Xander and Buffy to the lobby and went in to relate the information to the others.

When Tara arrived, Willow was stable, but still unconscious. She was hooked up to all sorts of monitors and machines. Tara studied her. She was very pretty, certainly, despite the pale, dirty skin and greasy hair. And she was tiny; her bones were clearly visible. She was just like many other heroin addicts Tara had seen in her work, but there was something that sparked her interest. She couldn't put a finger on it, but it was definitely there.

Dr. Osbourne tapped Tara on the shoulder. She hadn't seen him there. Sighing, she shook her head to clear it. "Nurse, I don't think we'll need you in here. You're free to go."

Tara nodded. Whatever hold the patient had on her was pushed to the back of her mind.

It was only later that night, when she was back at home and nearly asleep, that she remembered that heroin addicts go to rehab centers. She worked in a rehab center. Not only that, but she did the regular vitals and meds for patients K through S.

She realized that she probably hadn't seen the last of Willow Rosenberg…

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