It's funny how things begin....This particular little obsession of mine began the afternoon my brother and I watched the final Kenshin OVA (Warning: While it is a superbly crafted piece of work....then ending will leave you feeling like you were run over by the Kleenex Mobile. ) Anyway, after we both managed to wipe our tears away and eat two containers of Double Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream, we sat down and began arguing whether this movie really did justice to the characters that my brother and I had grown to love. The answer of course...was HELL NO ! (What can I say....I'm a hopeless optimist....)
That night I couldn't sleep. (That's how upset I was about the ending...) So I pulled out a favorite book of mine, The Coming Plague by Laurie Garret. It is an incredible book about a group of Epidemiologist who struggle to keep the most lethal diseases known to man from becoming pandemic. Two of the doctors in this book were women....smart, sassy kick ass gals who faced down diseases like Brazilian Hemorrhagic Fever and Mutated strains of Tuberculosis without blinking an eye, or losing their inherent love of humanity. They were my inspiration for Dr. Mara Mogensen's character and the impetus for this story. I hope that you will read this with an open mind and understand that my first attempt at writing fan fiction if straight from the heart.
AS TIME GOES BY
(She's getting worse!) Kenshin frowned as he felt Kaoru's forehead. (The dried chrysanthemum isn't doing a thing for this fever....nothing is!) He winced as his wife moaned and tried to move away from him, her reaction causing his heart to contract tightly in his chest. (She doesn't mean it, the fever is causing this reaction...not my touch ...not me....)He tried to reassure himself that the distance that he had felt ever since he had arrived back home was the result of Kaoru's illness, and not a true reflection of her feelings for him.
Kenshin shook his head as he remembered the cool, almost detached look in her eyes as he had walked into the courtyard - finally home after nearly five months away on government business. He had expected her usual warm welcome home, a cheery smile and a hug - perhaps even a kiss or two to let him know that she had missed him as much as he missed her. This time....it was a forced smile, her face lined with worry and sorrow.(Kaoru....what is it? What's wrong?) When he had tried to embrace her, she had stiffened and imperceptibly resisted the contact between them. Kenshin had stopped, hurt and confused at this most un-Kaoru like reaction, unsure for the first time in years about how to approach his wife. (Gods! What is it?)
Kenshin's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps in the hallway (Kenji) He looked up to see a serious face peek around the corner. (I can't believe how much he's grown....he's not a little boy anymore.) Kenshin had been amazed at the physical changes that had taken place during the months that he had been gone. His son was taller, leaner and already showing the athletic coordination that he had inherited from both parents. There were other changes as well - these not so welcome. While Kaoru's response had been....restrained, Kenji's had been openly hostile - the boy had gone out of his way to let Kenshin know that he was not happy that his father was back. (Why should he be? - I've been gone for so long, he probably doesn't even recognize me.)
"Kenji - please come here." Kenshin smiled and reached out a hand to the doorway. "I need to talk to you about your mother."
"Is she going to die?" His son looked at him with an unusually somber expression, one that was far too mature for a five year old.
"No...of course not. She's just a little sick right now, and we are going to take care of her together." He watched as the boy hesitated for a moment, them walked over to the futon that Kaoru was lying on and knelt down. Kenji took his mother's hand in his and frowned.
"Mommy feels hot!" He looked up at his mother's still face. He could tell that she felt sick because she wasn't smiling. (She was smiling....until HE came back.) Kenji shot a dirty look at his father, hoping that he would leave soon.
"I can do it myself!" Kenshin closed his eyes at the anger laced voice. "I will take care of Mommy and you can go away."
"Kenji! That's enough!" Kenshin snapped, not wanting the conversation to continue. (I understand that you're upset, but I am still your father!) He looked over at his son and was shocked at the expression on the boy's face as undisguised hatred marred the childish features. Kenji's eyes were dark and his little hands clenched in fists as he glared at his father. (A five year old staring down the Hitokiri Battosai) under any other circumstance, Kenshin would have found this childish display of temper hilarious - this scene....this broke his heart. (He hates me. My own child hates me......)
The sound of Kaoru retching instantly reminded him that there were more pressing
matters to take care of this evening than dwell on his relationship with his son. He helped his wife into a sitting position and tried to help her as she vomited into a basin. Kenji backed away, now looking like a frightened little boy, as his mother groaned in pain. Kaoru opened her eyes and tried to focus on her husband, blinking several times before she gave up the attempt.
"Ohhh,....it hurts....it hurts....." She whispered as she pressed a slender hand against her abdomen. Her whole body seemed like it was ripping apart - from the headache that had been pounding since this morning to the muscle cramps that tore through her legs and made her want to scream out in pain. (This can't be happening! I can't let this hurt my baby!) Kaoru fought the urge to cry, knowing that it would frighten her son and husband. (Be calm......be strong.....you will be fine...and so will the baby...everything will be fine...). She clenched her teeth as another spasm wrenched through her. (Oh no, not again!)
Kaoru's eyes widened in pain as she vomited . This time it was pitch colored and smelled metallic. Kenshin nearly cried out. (It's blood!) He felt fear in settle into his stomach and start its slow spread throughout his body. Dr. Genzai had warned him that this might happen. It was a sign that the disease was spreading throughout her body...if a rash appeared next.....(No! Don't even think about it!) He carefully helped Kaoru lay back on the futon, wiping her face and mouth with a cool cloth. The cold water against her skin caused his wife to convulse and she screamed out in spite of herself. The sound of his mother's distress was too much for Kenji, who stood up and ran out of the room, crying loudly.
(This is too much!) Kenshin thought (I return home to a son who can't stand the sight of me and a wife who won't even let me know she's seriously ill!) Kaoru had not gotten out of bed this morning, saying something about being a little tired and needing some rest. By the time lunch was ready, Kaoru was delirious and unable to stand without assistance. A quick examination from Dr. Genzai had confirmed Kenshin's worst fears that his wife was seriously ill and had been for some time - at least a week (I should have been here!) His hands clenched the blanket that covered his wife's still figure and he willed her to be well, for this fever to evaporate , for her eyes to open. Tears stung his eyes as he fought the urge to take Kaoru into his arms and hold her close , protecting her from this unseen enemy that threatened the one that he held most dear. (She has Typhoid! It's too late for that....it might be too late for everything!) Typhoid fever was a lethal disease that the former assassin was all too familiar with. The fact that she was bleeding internally was a bad sign.(I should have never left....Oh Kaoru, I'm so sorry!) He knelt down next to her and took her clammy hand in his, hoping that the contact would bring some comfort, at least let her know that he was near.
"Kaoru." he whispered, "Beloved...please fight this!" his voice caught .."Don't leave me!!!"
(It's right here....waiting for me to see it......) Mara Mogensen screwed her eyes shut for a second as her mind reviewed that last ten pages of data. (What am I missing? I've got the spread pattern, morbidity table, enough pathology reports to last a lifetime, hell, I even know where the index patient came from!.....Think!.......What are the variables for this strain?) The young epidemiologist opened her eyes and swore. (Give it a rest ! At this rate, I won't be able to find my way out of a wet paper sack!) Mara sighed and slowly straightened up, her back and shoulders protesting the change in position. Glancing at the clock she realized that she had been working for nearly 9 hours without a break (And what do I have to show for it? Not a damn thing...How typical). Mara stretched for a second and then walked over to a well used couch (at least it looked like a couch before mountains of books, boxes and printouts covered it) that was haphazardly placed in the middle of her office. She looked at the couch for a minute...(Do I really want to move all that?) Then sat next to it on the floor. Within minutes she was asleep.
'Knock! Knock! Knock!"
"Go Away! I'm sleeping!"
"Knock! Knock! Knock!"
. "Get lost! I mean it!"
"What in the hell do you want?" Mara flung open the door, blurry eyed from lack of sleep and just plain old irritation. She squinted at the figure in the hallway before she realized it was the new employee from....... Accounting? (Great - A bean counter! Just who I don't want to deal with tonight!). The problem was she couldn't remember who she was.
"Dr. Mogensen, I apologize for the interruption." The woman spoke in a soft , cultured voice.
"Uhhh....don't worry about it....I was just trying to catch up on some sleep. What do you want?" Mara asked bluntly, as she tried to recall the woman's name.
"I need to ask a personal favor of you."
"Huh?" Mara looked at the accountant strangely. The woman just stood there, radiating a cool and almost serene presence that Mara would have been jealous of had she been really awake.
"It's of a...."discreet" nature. May I speak to you in your office?"
"Oh......that type of favor." Mara nodded and let the woman inside. She had one more than one occasion helped family members of hospital personnel who had found themselves in trouble. Usually it was teenagers who had been fooling around and gotten pregnant or a person who needed help in dealing with the effects of drug or alcohol addition. In Japanese society, both these problems created social embarrassment for patient and family, so Mara just bypassed the normal social service nets and took care of the problem quietly.
She closed the door and looked carefully at the woman. (She doesn't look like someone from administration....No, definitely not. She's much too classy to be an office stooge and isn't nearly annoying enough.) The woman was in a word "perfect". There wasn't an item on her that was out of place. From the intricate hairstyle she wore, to the lavender shawl that hung from one shoulder, she looked and acted like a woman who had her act together. Mara glanced down at her own attire (One well loved U2 concert T-shirt, a pair of blue jeans that have seen better days and my doc martin's - that's it!) She had long since given up trying to look "nice", and instead emphasized the "comfortable" approach to fashion.(Besides, outfits like this piss off the hospital administrators!)
"Well, do I pass inspection?" Mara jumped when she realized that the accountant (?) was talking to her.
"Yeah, I think so...I just have to be careful. The last "favor" I did for someone nearly got me fired." (Mara was in fact still on probation for dispensing medication to a homeless woman without written permission from the dispensary.)
"Then why do you do it?" The woman seemed curious. "Why risk your career for people who really don't have much to offer?"
"Because it needs to be done!" Mara snapped. "Unlike some people, I try not to base a person's worth of their financial or social standing. You should try it sometime!" She half expected the woman to walk out of her office in a huff and was surprised to see an amused - almost ...pleased expression on her perfectly made up face.
"Yes, I think you'll do just fine."
"What in the hell's that supposed to mean?" Mara put her hands on her hips and waited.
"It means, Dr. Mogensen, that I can trust you to take care of someone very close to me." The woman handed Mara an address and a man's name on a piece of paper. "I received word today that this man's wife is seriously ill and needs immediate medical attention. They are not in a position to go to a hospital nor can they afford a doctor. I was hoping that you could stop by their house this evening, if it's not too late."
"What's wrong with the wife?"
"I'm not sure....something about an infectious fever, perhaps."
"An "infectious fever"....that could be anything!" Mara snorted "I guess that means I'll be taking the everything with me." She jerked her head in the direction of an old, olive green duffle bag that was lying in the corner. "Looks like hell, but it's chock full of goodies!"
"Then, you'll go and check on them?" The woman walked over to Mara. "There may be....unexpected difficulties."
"Lady, that goes with the territory!" Mara sighed and walked over to the bag and hefted it on her shoulder. "It beats staying here all night, frying my brains."
"Kenshin! Kenshin! No....please...... don't go....Kenshin!!" Kaoru thrashed and moaned on the futon, her blue eyes bright with fever and memories so painful that they threatened to overwhelm her. (He's leaving me again.....he'll never be back.....) In her fevered delirium she could see him as he slipped away into the darkness, but for some reason, her limbs were like lead and she could not move.
"KENSHIN!" she screamed, her throat raw and sore and she struggled to keep her husband from disappearing. "Kenshin No!!!!"
Kenshin's worry had been replaced by terror. He could see that her body was weakening, that she was losing the struggle to this disease and that there was nothing that he could do about it. His heart nearly broke as he heard her cry out his name, knowing that it was his near constant absence from his family was causing her distress. He wrung the washcloth out and reapplied it to her hot forehead. Kenji was huddled in the corner of the bedroom, trying not to cry. He watched as Kenshin shook his head and applied another compress to Kaoru's body. At the touch of the wet washcloth she cried out and tried to wrench it from her head (It's too cold and heavy!) Kenshin reapplied the compress and caught her hand before she could rip it away. "Kaoru, please stop!... This will bring down the fever, trust me..I don't mean to hurt you..Shhhhh." Kenshin pleaded, desperate to ease the pain that wracked the frail body beside him. Kaoru's nose had started bleeding and wouldn't stop, she was wracked by chills even though her fever had risen, and her breathing was becoming ragged. His instincts told him that he needed to get Dr. Genzai here as quickly as possible, but he didn't have anyone to watch over his son while he was gone. (Who am I kidding, he'll be just fine.) He looked over at Kenji and sighed. The boy had not moved for hours, refusing to go to bed. He knew that his mother was in trouble and would not move, no matter how frightening the situation was for him. (You are as brave as your mother and as stubborn as your father!)
"Kenji! I need your help." Kenshin motioned the boy to come closer. "I need you to talk to Mommy and help keep this compress on her head." His son nodded and knelt down by the futon. "I need to go and get a doctor. I'm sorry that I have to leave you alone, but I need to hurry. Promise me that you won't leave your mother's side!"
The look that his son gave him was priceless. "I would never leave Mommy alone!" He looked over at his mother, and in spite of his brave words, started to sob. "She will be alright, won't she Daddy?"
Kenshin couldn't say anything. He managed to tousle his son's brown hair before he ran out of the room.
Mara had been surprised when the woman (Damn it! Why can't I remember her name?) offered to walk her to her car. Usually in these situations, the person asking for help did so with as much secrecy as possible, not wanting to attract any attention to themselves. Mara was somewhat of a social pariah in the hospital, and being seen with her was a sure fire way to slip a few rungs down on the corporate ladder.
"You sure you want to be seen with me?" Mara half joked as they made their way down the elevator. The woman turned to her and smiled.
"Of course." The elevator dinged and opened to the underground parking section. "Don't worry, doctor. No one will see us." She was right - the place was nearly empty. The only car in the section was a beat up, blue Toyota hatchback covered with bumper stickers. The woman smirked as she read one: Beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life on this planet!
"This is your car, I assume?"
"Yup! She might not look like much...but this old girl's a trooper!" Mara patted the dented hood affectionately. She carefully placed the duffel bag in the trunk and turned to wish the woman goodbye.
"Doctor, are you sure that you don't mind doing this?" The woman looked down at her left hand and saw a wedding band."Won't your husband be worried ?"
"No....I don't think so." Mara shoved her hand into her jean pocket and looked away for a second as a painful expression flickered across her face. "He's dead." An awkward silence followed.
"Oh....I'm so sorry for your loss." The woman said quietly.
"Yeah, me too - but there's not much I can do about it, is there?" Mara smiled tightly, wishing for a change in the conversation. Her husband's death was a topic that she didn't want or need to think about at the moment. She scratched the back of her head and sighed.
"Well, I'd better get going. Is there anything you want me to tell your friend?"
"Would you please tell him I hope he's happy?" The woman asked. "His life has been very hard since I saw him last.....I hope he can find some peace, like I did. He deserves it and so does his family."
Mara nodded . "I promise! Don't worry about him, or his wife...I'll make sure they're okay." She unlocked the door and hopped inside.
"Mara...you don't know how much this means to me.....Thank You"
"Don't worry about it - I'm glad I can help." She was about to drive off when she realized that she didn't know who the woman was. "Hey! I know this sounds dumb, but I can't for the life of me remember your name!"
The woman smiled as she turned away. "Tomoe . My name is Tomoe Yukishiro".
A man ran, no tore, through the dark streets of Tokyo. His mind was focused on one thing - one woman. Kenshin's mind screamed at him to hurry and find help for Kaoru before...before... (Stop!...Don't think, damn it!.... RUN!) He shut his eyes and increased his inhuman pace, denying even the idea of her death to form in his mind. Before long he reached the clinic. The sight before him stopped him in his tracks. A line of bodies trailed around the entrance of the clinic. Voices, some strong and desperate, others week with sickness called out for someone to help. Kenshin saw men , women and children lying where they had fallen. Many were dead or near death. He wildly looked around for Dr. Genzai and finally found him standing over the still form of a young woman. The girl's mother sobbed as the father picked up the body and held it close to his chest. Kenshin swore at the look of utter devastation on the man's face and heart as he turned and walked away, still holding what remained of his daughter. The doctor silently watched the couple leave. His old, weathered face also told of exhaustion and terrible sorrow. He looked up and gasped when he realized who was standing next to him.
"Kenshin! Why... what are you doing here?" his faced paled. "It's not Kaoru is it? Please tell me that she is feeling better!"
"She is much worse!" Kenshin's voice caught " I can't break her fever and she is showing sings of internal bleeding. Doctor, she's delirious and in terrible pain. What do I do - how do I help her ?" he begged.
The doctor bowed his head, and sighed. He rubbed his hands over his eyes for a moment, then slowly came to where Kenshin stood. He looked up at his friend and his heart ached at what he must now say to a man who was already no stranger to sorrow and terrible loss.
"You must prepare yourself."
Kenshin gasped and stepped away. He shook his head, horrified at Dr, Genzai's implication, the finality that such sediments suggested..
"NO! Surely there must be something else that I can do....You can't expect me to just give up and let her.......she can't.....I WON'T LET HER GO!" he screamed, fists clenched. His voice was so terrible that several people backed away, wanting to run from the amber eyed man in their midst.
"There is simply nothing more that we can do now. It is not in our hands. This illness is nearly impossible to treat....and when there are complications it is almost always fatal!" The doctor hesitantly put his hands on the younger man's shoulder, hoping that the contact would provide some cold comfort.
" Kenshin! Please try and understand, I am losing far more patients than I can save. Just look around you to see that I speak the truth. You know if there was anything I would do for my Kaoru I would. You have also done all that you can do for her my friend. Now you must try and prepare for what is to come - for her, yourself and your son. I am so sorry." He broke down and started sobbing. "I'm so sorry!" Kenshin backed away from the doctor and stumbled against another body. He ignored it and turned to leave. The expression on his face was almost unnatural, his countenance devoid of any emotions other than rage and a grief that defied understanding.
"It's not your fault......I am the one to blame for what has happened to Kaoru."
Kenshin stumbled away from the clinic - numb with the horror that he was going to lose her. (This can't be happening...She has to get better!) A part of his mind refused to accept what he had been told - denying even the possibility of a life without her by his side, in his arms, ......with Kenji. (Kami-sama! What will happen to my Kenji if he loses his mother?) He staggered, as though he had been run through, and fell to his knees. (Not now.... not after all that we've been though....not her!) There were so many things that had been left unsaid, things that he needed to tell her....How beautiful she was, how she made him laugh, that she completed him and made him whole.......that he loved her. He started to sob as he realized that since arriving home three days ago that he hadn't even done that for her. She would never know what she had done for him, how she had changed him and his battle worn heart for the better. Kenshin looked into the darkness and felt it mirror back to him what his life would be like without his wife, his Kaoru. He knelt in the dirt road and wept, crying harder than he ever had before. Kenshin lifted his tear stained face to the night sky as he choked out prayers out to the Gods that had seemingly forsaken him, unseen deities that had left him without hope and any chance for happiness .
"Please! Please don't take her from me - Don't take away the one person that I need in this world! I know that despite my best efforts, my soul is still stained with the blood of those I killed so many years ago, and as a result of that, I do not deserve her, I never did.......still, I beg you that she might remain here with me.....beside me. If not for me, then please spare her for the sake of our son! Please don't take her away."
"Dammit! I'm going to kill that woman!"
Mara looked at the address on the paper and then out the window. She was in the middle of an industrial park (A run down, nasty, desolate, God-forsaken industrial park!) and obviously the victim of a sick practical joke (Unless the woman's "friend" lives in a cardboard box in the middle of this intersection!) Mara rolled down the window and looked around once more, just to make sure that on one was around before she went back to the hospital and strangled someone with their purple shawl.
"Hey! Any one out there?" She bellowed into the night air. It was silent (Big surprise!) except for the sound of a transit bus that was making its way up the street. Mara shook her head and rolled the window up. She tried to turn her car back on and nearly screamed in frustration when she realized that the battery in her "trooper" of a car had died again. (How utterly typical! Like I didn't have enough crap to deal with as is!) She was so busy trying to start her car that she didn't notice that the transit bus had drifted across the traffic lanes and was headed right at her. Mara had enough time to look up, realize what was about to happen and close her eyes. She didn't even have a chance to scream as she was thrown into darkness as the bus smashed headlong into her Toyota at over 80 kilometers an hour.
(Typical......how typical......I really must have pissed someone of in my last life. First I can't find the strain variations, then I get sent on a wild goose chase to the back end of Tokyo and then this is the best part!...I manage to get plowed by a bus and killed.......how utterly typical.....what's next? Eternity in the dark?) Mara muttered to herself as she lay in a black void. Then she realized that her eyes were closed.
As she opened her eyes, two things became very apparent. She wasn't dead (Angel's don't wear black leather jackets do they?) and that she had no idea where she was - no idea at all. She sat up and gasped at the landscape around her. The concrete and asphalt of Tokyo's industrial park had been replaced by fields and a dirt road that she was lying in the middle of. She saw a brick wall, perhaps surrounding a home to the right of her and by the sounds to the left, assumed that a river was nearby.
"What in the hell......where...am I?"
She looked around again and was even more startled to see that her duffle bag was beside her. (What on earth is it doing here?) Mara gingerly peeked inside to confirm that is was indeed her duffle bag. It was too dark to really see much, but she could make out familiar shapes and the scent of iodine permeated the cloth. (Yup , that's my bag all right! Now how in hell did I arrive with it in the middle of this dirt road?.......Car-jacking) she finally decided.... (I must have been car-jacked by a maniac that was driving a bus.....who had an aversion to modern medicine......) Mara shook her head....no, that was to surreal even for her life. There had to be a perfectly simple explanation as to why she was sitting in the middle of a dirt road somewhere in the country. (Right.....a perfectly reasonable explanation my ass!) She groaned as she stood up, then tried to dust herself off . Mara stood still for a second trying to get her bearings. Then, without warning, it started to rain. Her grey eyes narrowed .
(How typical....what's next? Hail, pestilence - Oh I know! How about some fireballs from the sky? A perfect ending for a "perfect" day!) Well, I might as well figure out where in the blue blazes I am - beats standing here looking like an idiot." She picked up her bags and headed for the closest house.
When she came close she realized that is was an old fashioned Japanese home , complete with rice paper walls and everything.(Cool!) She walked into the courtyard and called out.
"Ahhh..... excuse me, sorry to bother .... is anyone here?"
There was no sound. Mara wondered what she should do. She was in Japan so she felt reasonably safe going inside (unlike in the US where she attended graduate school, the chance of running into an armed person were remote) If she ran into any trouble. she'd just explain that she was lost and needed some directions to the nearest phone and or police station. Mara carefully made her way to the door and quietly slid it open. She could see a light in one of the rooms.
"Hello?... ummm......anyone awake in there?" she softly called. She was surprised to see a little brown haired boy stick his head out of the door. He looked at her with a fierce expression for a second and then he saw her duffle bag.
"Are you the doctor?" His face brightened. "Come take care of Mommy, she needs your help!" He grabbed the lady's hand and pulled her in towards the bedroom.
Mara carefully walked towards to lit bedroom not sure what she would find. (How did he know that a doctor was coming?...) She paused at the door and took a deep breath and peeked inside. Mara gasped. The candle light revealed a young woman, lying on a futon, covered in a blanket. Mara looked at the sleeping woman and realized that she was terribly sick - a red rash covered chest, her breathing was shallow and erratic. She was shivering with fever and by the color of the vomit drenched blanket, she was bleeding internally. In short, this was a woman who was in big trouble. Mara put her duffle bag down and looked at the boy (You're a brave little guy to be taking care of her all by yourself!)
"What's your name?"
"Kenji...Himura Kenji." The boy smiled at her and motioned at the sick woman. "That's my Mommy. Her name is Kaoru. Are you going to make her feel better?"
"Well, I'm going to try Kenji. You're mom is very, very sick." Mara knelt down next to the woman and tried to figure out what disease was causing the symptoms. After a few seconds, she shook her head, frowning. (It looks like a classic presentation of typhoid fever......but, it can't be.... antibiotics would clear this up within a few days.....what is wrong with her?). She looked back at the boy for second then pulled out the piece of paper that the accountant had given her. (Himura Kenshin....I wonder if that's this boys father?)
"Is your dad here?"
"No. He went to go get the doctor." Kenji smiled up at her with a toothy grin. "He must have hurried real fast, cause you're here to take care of Mommy."
"Kenji, My name is Doctor Mogensen. You can call me Mara if you want. I am going to take a look at your mom and try and figure out why she is feeling sick , okay?" She smiled as the small boy eagerly nodded. Mara opened up her duffel bag and quickly pulled out several items. Then she carefully donned latex gloves and a mask.
"I'm wearing this so that I don't breathe on your mom." She motioned to the mask, knowing that it probable looked scary to the child. Mara slipped her stethoscope on and leaned over the woman, preparing to check her vial signs. She never made it that far.
Kenshin staggered into the courtyard. The task that was before seem seemed impossible to face. A part of his mind urged him to run, not to go back into that home that he now called his own, not to watch the woman that he had grown to love pass from this life. He wondered where he would ever find the strength to endure this (Do I even want to?) He shook his head, disgusted with the train of thought (Kenji needs me - no matter what, I can't let him down now!) He was about to walk into the house, when he realized something was wrong. (Someone is here!) Kenshin instantly froze as he saw that the main entrance was open. Looking at the ground he saw a strange set of footprints leading to the door. His amber eyes narrowed dangerously as he silently crept inside. (Idiot! I was in such a hurry to get help for her that I didn't even check the perimeter of the house!) It was a habit born out of necessity, one that he had, until this evening always followed without fail.
(I'm such a fool!) he snarled to himself.
Kenshin moved silently into the hallway as he strained his senses to try locate the intruder. There were muffled sounds coming from Kaoru's room and......(yes)..... he could sense a chi that was unfamiliar to him. Feral rage blossomed behind his eyes as he thought of what could be happening in the room (Kaoru, Kenji!) and it was all his fault! He reached down to where his sword should have been, and cursed when he remembered that he had not worn one for nearly two years. (It doesn't matter, I don't need a sword to protect them!) For the first time in years, Kenshin could feel the Battosai's rage and he willingly let it envelope him, knowing that it would enable him to protect his wife and child from danger. (No regrets, no holding back....I will not see them come to harm!) Kenshin snarled as he burst into the room without a sound.
(You bastard!) A man in black with a mask on was leaning over Kaoru's chest with a weapon that almost resembled a garrote. He realized that Kenji was sitting right next to him and knew that he needed to put distance between his son and the assassin before he could strike.
"KENJI!....MOVE!" Kenshin grabbed his son by collar and yanked him out of harms way before the boy knew what was happening. Kenji screamed out in fear as he landed in the corner of the bedroom, unharmed but afraid of the tone in his father's voice. The intruder looked up to see what the commotion was (That's all the time I need.)
In an instant, Kenshin was standing between the man and his wife's. A simple strike threw the assassin back against the wall. Kenshin advanced on the figure, his eyes blazing with hell fire.
"If you try and touch her, you will regret it !"
Mara looked up, and into the eyes of death (her death, more precisely). She gasped, and backed further into the corner - horrified at the expression of the man before her. He was a small man, probably a good seven or eight inches shorter than herself, and thin. A mane of red hair framed a face that was so fierce and cold - his eyes somehow glowed with an infernal yellow light that radiated hate and pain. He advanced on Mara, his fingers tightening into fists. Mara pulled off her mask and backed away again, hands up to show that she was unarmed, that she meant no harm. She had never been so frightened, so sure that her life was measured in seconds. (I really am amazing. Of all the houses I HAD to pick the one with a certified nutcase in it - bravo! Who needs to get plowed by a bus when you can be smeared across a room ?) She looked at the man again and hoped that he could be reasoned with.
"I am not trying to harm your wife. I am a doctor. I mean you and your family no harm !" Mara quietly spoke, hoping that the man could see that she was telling the truth. She backed away even more to try and calm the man's fears.
Kenshin's eyes, narrowed as he realized that the intruder was a woman, (It doesn't matter!) He could tell that she was terrified and confused at his reaction as he stepped towards her again. The woman backed away from him, her eyes widening in fear. She slowly spoke to him trying to tell him that she was trying to help... that she was a doctor......that she meant no harm. She reached down into an opening on the side of her pants. Before she could move again, Kenshin had her pinned to the wall, his hand across her throat.
"I will ask you only once, who sent you?" His voice was laced with a lethal intensity . The woman's hands tightened around his arm trying to help herself breathe.
"What?...I don't understand?"(Think! Show him the address....that should convince him!) She gasped as his fingers contracted against her windpipe, but managed to grab the piece of paper in her pocket and hold it up. Kenshin snatched it away from her without even a glance and threw it on the floor.
. "Who....sent....you? The man's voice somehow became more menacing.
"A woman at work......she said that she had a friend whose wife was sick. She gave me a name and address...I assumed that it was you. I'm sorry! I was obviously mistaken ...." The man's eyes narrowed at this response and his grip on her throat tightened. Mara tried to remove his hand from her but his grip was like steel.
"What was the woman's name?"
"You're hurting me.... I can't breathe.......please stop this! I was only trying to help her." Mara whispered. "Your wife is sick..."
"What was her name!"
"Tomoe....I think she said her name was Tomoe Yukishiro...." Mara gasped as the man's fingers clenched, cutting of her air supply. She whimpered as the man's face distorted with pain and fury, his mouth curling into a snarl.
"You Liar!" He growled, enraged beyond belief. "You'll have to do better than that if you want to continue living!" Kenshin fought the urge to twist his wrist that was around the woman's throat, knowing that the subtle action would snap her neck. (How dare you even mention her name....damn you!)
Mara shook her head frantically (Shit! Wrong answer!) She frantically clawed at the man's arm, but her gloves prevented her from drawing blood. (I.....won't let....you...) Mara's vision started to blur as the lack of oxygen took it's toll.
"No! Stop!" Kenshin jerked his hand back as his son darted in between him and the woman.
"Don't hurt her!" Kenji was screaming at him almost incoherently as he kicked his father in the leg and tried to bite his arm. "She was trying to help Mommy!" When these actions failed, he resorted to the time honored tradition of crying....loudly.
"Kenji! Get back!" Kenshin tried to push the boy out of harm's way. He loosened his grip on the woman's throat. Mara managed to gasp.
"Kenji....run!" She tried to grab the man's hand away from the boy. "Run!"
Kenshin's eyes widened as he realized that the woman was trying to protect his son.(Why bother protecting a target? Unless.....he isn't a target....) He released her throat and stepped back, letting the woman collapse in a heap on the floor. In a flash, Kenji was crouching next to the gasping woman, patting her back while he glared up at the father with an expression that would have been almost murderous had it not been on a five year old.
"She came to make Mommy better....and you hit her.....I hate you!"
Kenshin just stared as Mara massaged her throat, trying to breathe. (Unless...they aren't targets.....Kami-sama what have I done?) The expression on his son's face was searing itself into him, as was the look of pain and fear in the woman's eyes. (What have I done!) He stepped toward the woman and groaned as she whimpered and tried to back away. Kenji snarled at him and tried to hit him. Kenshin carefully caught the boys wrist and tried to reason with a five year old boy who had just witnessed his father nearly killing a woman. (Gently! He's seen enough of your violence to last a lifetime!)
"Kenji....stop.....shhhhh. I'm so sorry I scared you....I thought that this lady was trying to hurt you and Mommy." Kenshin spoke softly, trying to explain, hoping that both were able to understand." I didn't know that she was trying to help. Kenji...look at me..." He gently lifted his son's tearstained face. "I know I frightened you. I'm so sorry, can you try and forgive me? "
Kenji shook his head and then burst into tears again, burying his head in Kenshin's pant leg. His father just held him, sick with the knowledge that he had probably just ruined any chance for a healthy relationship with the boy. He looked over as the woman tried to stagger to her feet. She was still clutching her throat with one hand and by the expression on her face, was in a tremendous amount of pain.
"What is your problem ? You nearly killed me!"
"I thought that you were trying to harm my wife and son." (No point in apologies....what can I say to try and make things right?)
"Oh....so you decided to crush my throat! How considerate!" Mara spat.
Suddenly, Kaoru began convulsing on the futon, as another round of vomiting ensued.
"Shit! She's going to aspirate on that stuff! Help me roll her to her side." Kenshin and Mara quickly rolled Kaoru over and waited until the retching subsided. Mara took the woman's pulse and frowned. (She's getting worse.....I don't have time to banter with him!) She glanced over at the husband. He was gently wiping his wife's face and chest, oblivious to everything but the sight of her suffering. He winced as his wife cried out in her delirium and looked over Mara. The transformation was startling. One moment, he had been death incarnate - a man who radiated hate and the promise of pain in the glow of his amber eyes. Now....Mara was watching a husband holding his sick wife tenderly. Somehow, even his eyes had changed to a dark violet hue that spoke only of fear and grief. (What type of man am I dealing with?) Mara knew that if she ran from the situation, the woman would be dead in a matter of days. (And above all else....I swear that I will do no harm to my patient.) She recalled the oath that she had taken when she became a doctor (Her death will destroy this man and leave that little boy without his mother...) Mara sighed as she made her decision.
"I want you to listen to me carefully...If I don't treat your wife, she'll die. I'm going to try and trust you, even though you don't deserve it. You will need to trust me, and know that I will do everything to try and save your wife. Do we have a deal?"
Kenshin nodded in amazement. "You will help Kaoru?"
"I promised Kenji that I would." Mara tried to smile at the boy. "Didn't I?"
Kenji nodded in between sniffles. "Yes." "Okay then, why don't we work together and make your mom feel better." Mara talked in a quiet voice, hoping that it would help calm the little boy. She put on a fresh pair of gloves and a mask. "Kenji, do you want to help me take your mom's temperature?" The boy nodded eagerly. Mara helped him hold a digital thermometer and smiled when the beep caused to boy to jump. She glanced at the reading and frowned. (104.2 degrees - damn!)
"We need to get this down immediately. What have you been giving her for the fever?"
" Crysthanthemum tea."
"What ? Look, I know that you might be into herbs and "natural remedies" but she needs something stronger. I would like to give her some liquid Tylenol. It should take the fever down and lessen her pain. Is that all right?" Kenshin nodded "Please help me raise her to a sitting position."
Kenshin carefully lifted Kaoru into his arms and looked at the doctor expectantly (please let this work!)
" If I had the right supplies here I would put an IV into her. Still, this should work just fine. I need you to help me open her mouth.... make sure that she swallows all of the medication, I don't want her to choke."
Mara poured the medicine into the woman's mouth. She waited and then smiled in satisfaction as the woman swallowed the Tylenol without a struggle. She sighed to herself. (That should stop the fever and ease her pain) She was positive that the woman had typhoid. Now she had to determine the severity of the infection and whether or not the internal bleeding was caused by intestinal perforation. (Let's hope not.) She gently began to her examination, carefully explaining her actions in the attempt to calm both the little boy and his father..
Her hands dipped down to the pelvic juncture and she stopped. (Dammit...dammit to hell!). Mara closed her eyes and sighed (This is not good.....) She carefully placed her hands on the woman and felt the rounded lump in her lower abdomen again. She looked over at the husband quickly (Does he know?) Situations like this were risky......especially when the spouse was more than capable of physical violence (I can't risk another outburst. I'll wait until the woman wakes up.)
"What's wrong?" Kenshin asked, worried at the grim expression on the doctor's face.
"Her abdomen is very swollen from the typhoid. I will need to have her come into my office as soon as she's able to run some tests to make sure that there's no permanent damage. (That's right....lie through your teeth!) The good news is that I can't feel any sign of perforation. She should make a complete recovery within a week or two."
"She will live then?"
"Yes, barring any unforseen complications."
"I don't know what to say........." Mara could feel the man's gaze on her. " I am sorry." Kenshin said quietly. " I thought that you....were trying to harm her. I was nearly insane with the fear and grief that she was going to die and then to see a stranger.....trying to touch her ." He shut his eyes and willed his tattered emotions to be still. "This is all my fault. I wasn't here to take care of her, to take care of my son. He looked over at the tall woman and could already see the faint traces of a bruise where he had held her. (How can I make this right..not only to her, but to Kenji? My son saw everything! He will never be able to trust me again.) Kenshin covered his eyes with a hand and shuddered, trying to assimilate everything from the evening and finding that he was completely overwhelmed.
Mara looked at the man's violet eyes. They were shadowed with exhaustion and filled with remorse, and sorrow over what had happened. (Well I'll be damned, he might not be so terrible after all.)
"I know that this has been stressful for you, but blaming yourself isn't going to make the situation better!"
"I should have been here." Kenshin shook his head, refusing to accept the doctor's absolution.
"Yes, that's true, but you weren't and there's nothing you can do about it. Instead of arguing with me, why don't you go and put your son to bed. He's had a terrible evening and needs sleep." She watched as the red headed man carefully picked up his son, ignoring the boys cried that he needed to stay with his mother. (Sorry kid, but your dad's the one that needs some alone time with you.) Mara shook her head as Kenji continued wailing down the hall despite his father's attempts to calm him. (Oh, the therapy bills for this family are going to be out of this world!)
After a few minutes, Kenshin came back into the room and knelt by the futon. He looked at Kaoru's face and was relieved to see that she looked much better, her face showing no signs of the pain that had wracked her frame all day. Her fever too, was lessening, (What was that in that medicine?) Kenshin had never seen anything work so quickly. He gently brushed an errant lock of hair from his wife's face. It was much thinner than it should have been, a reminder of the illness and neglect she was suffering from. (I wasn't here to help you .) He gently kissed her forehead in silent apology and then turned when he realized that the strange doctor was staring at him
"He finally went to bed?" Mara asked as she carefully started cleaning up any traces of the bloody vomit, trying not to get any on her clothes.
"Yes. He was very tired."
"I can imagine." Mara grimaced as she pulled back the soaked blanket. The woman's yukata was drenched in blood and sweat. (What a mess!) "We need to get your wife cleaned up. Where do you keep your spare bedding and clothing?"
Within minutes, Kenshin had a freshly made bed waiting for Kaoru. He looked over as Mara cleaned Kaoru up with some clean water that she had found next to the bed. (I could have done that...she is my wife after all) For some reason, the doctor had insisted that she be the one to clean Kaoru up. Even now, she had positioned her body in a way that he could barely see his wife's form. (Perhaps she is just being modest...that must be it.)
Mara quickly finished and put a fresh robe on the sick woman (I don't think he saw anything. Luckily, she's still not showing much.) She quickly covered her with the fresh blanket before her husband could come over and help.(That will give me some time to try and figure out what I should do.)
Now that her task was finished, Mara realized that she too was in need of care. (My hell! What a night !) She was stiff, tired, in serious pain, and more than a little angry. (Any doctor could have, and should have prescribed an antibiotic regimen that would have cleaned this up without any "complications". It would have saved this family a lot of worry, not to mention me nearly getting strangled.) She reflexively rubbed her sore throat. (Dammit, I'm going to have on hell of a bruise come morning) She looked over at the husband and couldn't help but shoot him a dirty look.
"I think that your wife is going to be okay for the evening. I'm going to leave you with a bottle of the Tylenol and some antibiotics . Do you know if she's allergic to penicillin?"
"I don't know....I've never heard of a medicine by that name." He tried to ignore the look the doctor was giving him. "How does it work?"
"It kills the bacteria that are causing her illness and allows her own immune system to kick in." Mara looked at the woman carefully, trying to guess how much she weighed (I'll bet none of them have ever had antibiotics in their systems, better start with a low dosage...just in case there's a reaction.) She took out a capsule and handed it to the man, watching his reaction. Kenshin looked at the green, oval shaped object carefully. (What is this?)
"What do I do with it?"
"Put it in her mouth....and have her swallow it with a glass of water." Mara was almost exasperated (Holy hell, this man's either an idiot or he's never seen a pill before!) She walked over to the woman and tilted her head up.
"I need some water."
Kenshin nodded and quickly ran out to the well. When he came back with a bucket , the doctor looked at him like he was crazy.
"Let me guess, no running water in the house?"
"Running water?" Kenshin managed, not sure what the doctor was referring to.
"Never mind! Mara snapped. She put the capsule in the woman's mouth and carefully poured a bit of water down her patient's throat.
Kaoru reflexively swallowed, and gasped. After a second, she relaxed with a sigh and feel back to sleep.
"That should do it. She should be able rest for the rest of the night." Mara stood up and groaned in pain. "I need to get home and down a bottle of Ibuprofen before my throat swells shut. I'll be back in the morning to check on your wife." Mara knew she was being brusque, but her throat was throbbing, her stomach was sore from being shoved and she had not had a decent night's sleep in about three days (Hanging out with the dysfunctional granola family isn't helping either, I bet they don't even have a phone!) She grabbed the duffel bag and started stuffing her medical supplies into it. The pain in her throat worsened, and with it her temper.
Kenshin watched the woman wince as she swallowed . (She can barely breathe....Gods! , I'm lucky that I didn't snap her neck!)
"Doctor, I need to apologize..."
"Skip it! I'm not even in the mood to discuss what happened." Mara cut him off with a wave of her hand. "I recommend that you look into some anger management classes. You have some serious "issues" that you need to work out - preferably without the use of violence." Mara ignored the strange expression on the man's face. "I have only one more question for you before I call a taxi to take me home. Why didn't you take her to a reputable doctor when you realized how sick she was? You could have saved everyone a lot of grief, not to mention me nearly being killed! All she needed was a simple prescription and she would have never gotten this sick."
"I have been to the doctor, twice now . He told me that there was nothing that could be done for her! Do you honestly think that I would have allowed her to fall this ill if there was anything at all that I could have done for her ? I have never seen this medicine that you gave her, in all my life I have never seen anything work so quickly. Where did you get it?
"It's Tylenol, you can get it at any drug store." Kenshin frowned at her response.
" I have never seen any medicine like that in my life, nor has Dr. Genzai. If he had medicine like that then so many people would not be dying. Do you really think that we are so cold as to withhold something like that ?" Kenshin was becoming angry at the insinuations that this doctor was making."
"Dying!" Mara gasped, "What people are dying? This disease, while serious, should not be fatal at all. Antibiotics will clear it up in days. I don't understand....Why would any doctor..." She looked up at the man before her, eyes widening as her mind finally put the pieces together.(Why indeed? Just look around this room!) Everyone was dressed in traditional clothing, the room around her had no traces of modern conveniences, the room was lit by the light of a kerosene lamp (Why didn't I see it?) she thought (Because I were too busy avoiding being strangled and had a patient that needed attention....oh yeah). Little warnings went off in her head and she felt suddenly sick to her stomach. A dull ache filled her head as she realized what had occurred. (How in the hell did this happen?) She thought back to her conversation with the strange woman in her office (Is this what she meant by "unexpected difficulties" ?) Mara had a long list of things that she didn't believe in. (time travel, and reincarnation being near the top, along with the Easter Bunny and paying traffic tickets in a timely manner) The idea that she had somehow ended up in another era was "distressing" to say the least. (There has to be a reason, a perfectly logical reason for all of this.....) She glanced over at the man next to her and tried to ignore the strange look on his face.
"Am I still in Tokyo?" She whispered.
"Yes, of course." (What brought this up?) Kenshin backed away as he saw a combination of fear and disbelief settle in the woman's steel grey eyes.
"What year is it?"
"1886. Are you all right?" Kenshin asked as the woman's face turned ashy. She was trembling and biting her lower lip. He stood up and walked over to her. "What's wrong?"
Mara bowed her head fighting the urge to cry and or run away. (What am I supposed to do now? How do I get back home?).Her mind recalled a bus heading towards her... and then the feeling of darkness overtaking her.....transporting her. (Do I even have a home to return to?) She looked down into the concerned eyes of a man who only hours before had been inches from taking her life. (This is too much) her mind whispered (too much too soon - let's take a breather) and she promptly passed out.
Coming up in the next chapter......
Yahiko stumbled out of the house and flopped down on the stairs, too exhausted and sad to care where he landed. He wanted to put his hands in his head and bawl like a kid, but he was covered in blood, and the doctor had threatened him with his life if he touched anything or anyone before he washed. Despite her fatigue, he knew that the lady was more than capable of making due on her threats. (Gods! That woman is the most bossy, overbearing, opinionated....) Yahiko stood up and marched over to the well. (loud mouthed, order giving, man hating....) His tirade continued as he washed himself carefully, making sure that the dirty water was well away from the well and the dipper that people used for drinking (Over sensitive, sharp tongued, racoon faced.....) The list went on and on as he flung off his bloody gi and threw it in the wash tub. He was on the thirty-fifth character flaw when he heard someone coming out of the house. It was the doctor. Her expression was as despondent and worn out as his own......
HA! I bet you thought I forget the legal disclaimer....
Rurouni Kenshin is the exclusive property of Nobuhiro Watsuke and associated parties. The characters and are used as an expression of fan appreciation for the non-profit purpose of entertainment only and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the above listed entities. Original portions of this story (Including...but not limited to the character of Dr. Mara Mogensen) are the copyright of the author. This is a fictional story and any similarity with person(s) living or dead is entirely coincidental.
**I borrowed part of this disclaimer from SAGE (Authoress of the incomparable Citrus Grove)**