A/N: It's been a while. But I'm back... or at least, I'm going to try to be. Teeheehee. If any of you have been reading my update notes on my author's page, you'll know about my plans for updating my current projects. This chapter is on that list. So far so good. I'm making progress. BE HAPPY! And be happy in a review, if it suits you... :P


The Faint Hearted – V

By ancient-relic

-::-

Kagome groaned lightly, her eyelashes fluttering against her cheeks as she struggled to open her eyes. She struggled to remember everything she could leading to falling asleep again… and felt her face heat up in embarrassment as she succeeded.

The boy, Silverhair, had appeared in her room- how he had found her, and how he had got there remained a mystery- but a sharp pain in her chest had reminded her she shouldn't have let herself get so worked up, and she had blacked out. Kagome forced her eyes to focus as she looked around her room, and she was pleasantly surprised to find that Silverhair seemed to have disappeared to wherever he had come from.

Rolling slightly over to her side, Kagome smacked the little red call button that would summon Kaede via her special pager. Moments later a figure waltzed into the room, but it wasn't Kaede.

"Miroku?" Kagome rasped, her throat still dry from sleep.

"Good morning, Kagome," Miroku replied pleasantly. "It's good to see you're up."

"Where's Kaede?"

Miroku didn't answer her question immediately- instead handing her a small dixie cup of water, and waiting patiently for her to chug it down.

"Kaede is taking her bi-weekly day off," Miroku said, raising an eyebrow in question.

Kagome quickly did some mental math, and wrinkled her nose. "Isn't today Friday?"

Miroku gave Kagome a scrutinising look, and scribbled some things down on the clipboard he held in his hands. Glancing at her over the top, his eyes shone with concern.

"Today is Monday, Kagome." Miroku said slowly. "You've been sleeping for almost 72 hours."

Feeling slightly nauseous, Kagome swallowed thickly. It'd been almost four weeks since she'd blacked out for over 24 hours… and with a sinking feeling, Kagome realized that her condition was likely to go downhill again.

"That's not good," was all she managed to croak, turning her head away to glance at the wall. Her eyes were stinging, and she knew there was no way she could meet Miroku's face without her tears overflowing.

"No, it isn't. We had hoped that the worst had passed, to be honest, but-"

"That the worst had passed?" Kagome felt her frustration turn into anger. "Miroku, I'm in the terminal ward! The WORST will only pass once I'm DEAD!"

"Kagome," Miroku winced, putting out his hands pleadingly. "You know what I'm talking about. You haven't shown such aggressive signs of deterioration in a long time- you know we wondered whether or not you were in some kind of remission, right?"

"Just get out." Kagome's voice was dead- defeated. "Your optimism is disgusting. I'm just waiting to die, Miroku. And you know it. Stop trying to get my hopes up."

With that, Kagome rolled completely over so she faced the wall, tugging at her IV. Miroku stared sadly at her trembling shoulders for a moment, before shaking his head in defeat and leaving her room.

-::-

"Just the person I was looking for," a woman's voice spoke loudly in his ear, startling him from where he was working on preparing several packages for Miroku.

"Excuse me?" he forced himself to be polite, but his voice was still slightly frosty. Just because he was doing his community service, didn't mean he had to do it joyfully.

"You're the kid who called in the emergency for Kagome the other day, right?" the doctor crossed her arms across her ample bosom and pinned him with a fierce stare. Suddenly, he recognized her.

"Dr. Osakoi," he acknowledged.

"Listen, kid, you can call me Kagura." She waved her hand. "We're all pretty easy-going here, as you've probably noticed. It's the terminal ward, so we like to keep things as pleasant as possible."

"Doctor Kagura," he repeated his greeting with a nod of his head, but his eyes never lost their calculating gaze. Neither, he observed, have hers.

"Anyways," she continued, taking a seat on one of the plush chairs across from him at Miroku's desk, "I'm pulling rank, so to speak."

"Excuse me?" he repeated.

"I know why you're here. I know what you're supposed to be doing. And I also know that you're probably ready to pull out your hair. You don't seem the type to be stuck with court-ordered community service. And it seems a little unfair to me that you're stuck doing such laughable things," she gestured to the hole-punch and stapler.

Although his expression didn't outwardly change, inwardly, he was fighting the grin that wanted to stretch across his face. Finally, he sighed. Maybe this experience will prove to be useful after all.

"So I've decided to assign you a task of my own. Miroku's just a lazy asshole who hates paperwork. We shouldn't encourage his behaviour, after all." Kagura smiled dangerously, her eyes flashing.

As she adjusted her position and crossed her legs, he realized that this was not the sort of woman to be messing with. Perhaps he could grow to actually respect her. She was every inch a femme-fatale, from her dangerously good looks to her killer figure, and intelligent to boot, if her occupation was anything to judge by.

"Remember the girl you caught? Her name is Kagome. The nurse that usually takes care of her, Kaede, has been called away on some business at another hospital. I would like you to look after her in Kaede's place while she's away."

"Why me?" he asked, folding his hands atop the papers he'd been working on previously. "Isn't that something I'd need to be…" he paused to search for the right word. "certified for, or something?"

"Technically, yes." Kagura replied, sitting back and letting her aggressive posture relax. Unconsciously, he felt himself doing the same. "But currently, Kagome will simply need to be kept in bed. Her most recent episode has weakened her more than she knows, and she's in no condition to be on her feet. All you'll need to do is make sure she stays in bed, short of going to the bathroom, and make sure she keeps up with her lessons."

"Lessons?" he cocked an eyebrow, part in curiosity, part in disbelief.

"We like to make things pleasant," Kagura allowed. "It provides a sense of comfort and security if things continue on as normal as possible."

Normal, he snorted. In a terminal ward?

"Also," Kagura continued. "Kagome has proven to be… rather explosive, since waking up. She's usually quite upbeat and positive, but I have reason to believe that she's on the brink of a dangerous bout of depression. I think you will be able to stop that from happening."

"I'm not a therapist," he couldn't help retorting. "I don't think I'll be of much assistance."

"I think you'll be of more help than you know," Kagura chuckled, rising from her spot. "All you have to do is keep her in bed, make sure she keeps up with her school work, and make sure she is fed and watered. Press the button for a nurse or attendant if anything goes wrong. And if all goes well, perhaps I can persuade the appropriate people in your favour,"

Kagura glanced at him meaningfully over her shoulder as she finished, before disappearing out the door. "Win-win situation, kid. You've got until lunchtime to finish your to-do list for Miroku. I'll meet you outside Kagome's room before the lunch break is over to give you a brief history of everything you need to know, as well as the full breakdown of your assignment."

With that, Kagura disappeared out the door, her white doctors coat snapping crisply around her. He stared at the door for a long moment before turning back to the pile of papers in front of him, his mind whirling.

-::-

When he entered the room, she'd been sound asleep, and was facing the far wall. It looked like a defensive position if ever he'd seen one- and he wondered what she'd fallen asleep thinking about. Slumping into a chair by the foot of her bedside, he placed the pile of file-folders that the doctor had handed him, and set about to reading.

Well, based on these reports, she's smart. She's sixteen, so that would put her in Grade 10, but she's been covering material that I learned last year, and even some of what I studied at the beginning of my term. He gathered, reading through her progress reports and educational history. Her handwriting seemed neat enough, and ne noted doodles of random landscapes along the sides of most of her assignments. There was also one recurring doodle of a large tree, with a Torii gate behind it.

Finding nothing else of particular interest in her first folder, he quickly leafed through several of the others, finding her proficient in every single subject save biology. Curious. He glanced at Kagome's sleeping form; she'd rolled over at some point onto her back, and now had her hands clasped across her stomach protectively.

Placing her school folders to the side, he picked up the last folder; which, according to Kagura, was a summarized history of her medical and mental health, for his eyes only. Inside the folder was a single sheet of paper.

Either not much is wrong, or she wasn't kidding when she said condensed. He thought, scanning through the few paragraphs there.

'Kagome Higurashi, aged 16. Terminal heart condition. Admitted at age 6 with heart attacks and seizures. Left heart chamber slowly deteriorating. Responding positively to cell shock treatment. Repeated right ventricle failure. Vein deterioration. Massive haemorrhaging. Unstable left lung. Possible signs of anaemia. Easy bruising. Open heart surgery and vein replacement.'

It seemed to be a point form list of the various issues and problems that Kagome had suffered through, he gathered as he read. She has some kind of heart problem, then. As he continued to read, it began listing Kagome's mental history.

'Escaped the hospital a total of four times. Sent home once. Returned after a seizure with signs of mental instability and neglect. No familial visits since 13th birthday. Shown severe signs of depression and Obsessive Complusive Disorder. Resuscitated after an attempt to take her own life. Signs of bi-polar mood swings. Refusal to take OCD medication. Threatened psychiatrist. Physically attacked psychiatrist. Refuses to speak of anything dating prior to 13th birthday and her last visit home, or her family. Rapid cell deterioration. Expectancy; 17 or 18 years of age.'

That was unexpected. He closed the folder abruptly, tucking it under the pile of school related files. She didn't seem so… troubled the first time we met.

Glancing over to her form on the bed, he was surprised to see her staring back at him warily. She hadn't moved save opening her eyes, and he simply stared back at her unflinchingly, waiting for her to speak first.

"Where's Kaede?" her voice was soft, and so near to a whisper that he almost leant forwards to hear better.

"She's been called away on personal business." He said simply, leaning backwards and crossing his leg, adopting a comfortable position.

"Probably Kikyo again," Kagome murmured, closing her eyes wearily, and rubbing at her face. "Why are you here?"

"I'm here as her replacement,"

Her eyebrows shot up behind her bangs as she gave him a disbelieving look. "Seriously?"

He felt the corner of his mouth quirk up in reaction, but he didn't quite let himself smile. "Seriously."

"How old are you?" she shifted backwards a little, propping herself into a position closer to upright so she could see him better.

"Eighteen."

"Are you even qualified to do Kaede's job?"

"Not really," he shrugged, sitting through her relentless questions.

"Then why are you here?"

"I've been ordered here." He said. "It's this, or a juvenile detention facility."

"Wow," her disbelief turned into surprise, borderline approval. "You're practically a criminal. What did you do?"

"I saved my brother the trouble of making himself look pathetic in a bar fight." He said, sitting up and resting his elbows on the chair arms. "Why are you here?" he asked. "You never answered me the other day."

Kagome slumped backwards and gave him a stone-faced look. "I'm sick."

"Obviously," he said, gesturing to the IV and the heartbeat monitor. "I answered your questions; it's only fair you answer mine."

"I've got a terminal heart condition," she said after a long pause. "Either way, I won't be stuck in here for much longer."

The conversation died off awkwardly, and Kagome gave a big sigh before turning to look past him, and out the window. The sky was overcast, but the afternoon was still bright despite it. Dark clouds hovered on the horizon, threatening a rainstorm; possibly even a thunderstorm. The wind brought them closer, slowly but surely. The silence in the room was broken as Kagome's stomach rumbled loudly, and he turned to look back at her.

Kagome's face flushed, and she patted her stomach with a sheepish smile. "Do you think you could go grab me something…? They should still have the lunch stuff out in the caf."

"Sure," he said slowly, rising slowly. "Wait here." He gave her a pointed look, and headed for the door. She gave him a narrow-eyed look in response.

"See you," she gave him a little wave.

-::-

As he made his way back to Kagome's room with her lunch, he took a quick stock of what he'd gathered.

Salad with a light Italian dressing, orange juice, and apple wedges with caramel sauce. A light enough lunch I suppose. He looked up from the tray just in time to dodge a nurse who was rushing down the hall, apparently in a great rush to get somewhere.

"Rude," he growled under his breath, turning to glare at the nurse over his shoulder.

As he turned the corner into the hallway with Kagome's room, he was surprised to find Doctor Kagura talking to several security guards several feet away. He passed them, sending them a curious look, but Kagura either didn't see him or ignored him. His step faltered as he stepped into Kagome's room, where Miroku was bent down on the floor, gathering various papers.

The whole room was covered in papers, and the sheets trailed on the floor. The heartbeat monitor was flat lining, and the IV was leaking in a steady rhythm on the floor. Kagome was noticeably missing. And the folder with her medical history- Only for my eyes- was lying open on her empty bed, the only file that hadn't been thrown about the room in rage.

What have I done?

tbc.