Slade woke up with an almighty cough. He felt like his chest was on fire, and that he had to cough it out. Coughing away, and letting his lungs rattle in their cage, his eyes started to slowly adjust to where he was. As he had first woken he hadn’t remembered what exactly had happened, nor where exactly he was. However, as his chest eased and his eyes came into focus he saw Ruby in the bed next to him, her face still blackened with smoke. The memories of the day before
came back, flooding suddenly; the struggle to find Ruby in the saloon, dragging her body from the burning building, and the tiring and difficult journey bringing her to the mall. Remembering the events of the day before, Slade felt his chest swell with overwhelming worry and concern for Ruby.
He slowly swung his body round, letting his legs drop to the floor, noting that he hadn’t even bothered to take his boots off to sleep. He remembered staying up as late as he possibly could, wanting to see Ruby wake up, say something, do anything to prove that she was going to be okay, but his tiredness must have gotten the better of him, and Ruby must be in worse shape than the Mall Rats had said. That Eco guy had said that Ruby’s condition would improve, that it wasn’t too serious, but here she was, still unconscious. Slade looked across the room and that other girl, the one the so called doctor had been making a fuss over was still knocked out. Hell, if the Mall Rats couldn’t even look after themselves, then how on earth could they ever look after Ruby? Slade was now seriously beginning to regret bringing Ruby here. If this was the end of the road for Ruby… Slade would never forgive himself.
Slade slowly lifted his body up to stand, and felt an ache in his muscles. Yesterday must have taken more out of him than he had thought, but he wouldn’t complain about it. His problems were secondary in comparison to Ruby’s. He shuffled, exhausted, to the side of Ruby’s bed, brushing a stray hair from her forehead, his brow furrowed in concern for his…. For his what? Before now his relationship with Ruby had been intense but relatively uncomplicated, but now… only now he was thinking of what hole would be in his life if Ruby was gone.
He took her hand, gently stroking the back of it with his thumb. “Hey.” He said, his voice slightly shaky, but refusing to break down. “You gotta wake up Ruby.” He said, trying to gently coax her. “We’re in the city now, and there’s gotta be some new crosswords for you to do.” Slade felt his voice going again, and stopped and momentarily held his breath until he felt in control again. “Come on Ruby… wake up.” He didn’t know what good it would do talking to her, but he figured it was worth a go. If he could reach a part of her that was still listening, maybe, just maybe she would come around.