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For Once, A Heartbeat Stops Twice

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Tennouji Rina pulled into the parking lot of the hospital's basement. A comfortable moment of silence, then her phone’s ringer went off.


“Shit.” She fumbles reaching for her phone, the sound already annoying her. “Hello, what can I help with?”


“Ah, Rinari! Could you help Shioti and Ai with a missing patient of hers? We have no clue where she went, she refuses to take her medication as well, so-”


“I’m on my way.” Rina hung up and got herself ready to find this missing girl. She usually didn’t run into these types of situations, but when she did, she knew she had to help find the person quickly. 


As she walked through the parking lot towards the elevator, she found that she wasn’t alone; a girl a couple of years younger than her with pale blonde hair stepped out the elevator and started to walk towards her. Rina waved, and she waved back, slowing down to talk with her.


“Hey, you seem to be in a rush, what's up?” 


Rina’s lips pressed themselves together. “I have work, and I need to start on my rounds.” 


The girl laughed. “Sorry, sorry, my bad.” Her Japanese was slightly accented, as if she’d grown up overseas. Rina didn’t press her about it, that would be rude of her to do so. “So, what’s your name? You’re really pretty~ ” 


Great, she definitely was from overseas, based on how fluent her English was. Rina frowned.


“I don’t give my name out to strangers.”


“Oooh, very serious, I see.” She smiled. “Mine’s Mia, it’s nice to meet you, strange doctor I don’t know the name of.” 


Rina just ignored her, she was already late and Shioriko would probably kill her if she was any later. 


“I’m sorry, I really have to go to work now, goodbye.”


Making her way to the elevator, she quickly pressed the buttons for the second floor. 


Mia… That name was familiar to Rina, but something about it felt too little to really care about.


A light bulb moment. Bingo.


That's where Rina remembers her name from. Mia Taylor, daughter of the Taylor family, who ran a major music producing agency and also happened to be the daughter of the founder of the hospital she worked at. She'd never met the daughter, for some reason she was away from the public eye. All their children seemed to be. She probably wouldn't have realized where she’d heard that name if she hadn't done a background check on the hospital before accepting the job.


The elevator door opened, and standing in front of it was Ai and Shioriko.


“Rinari! Thank god you’re here!” Ai said, looking quite nervous.


“Good evening, Tennouji.” Shioriko nodded in Rina’s direction, and Rina nodded back out of respect. Although she wasn’t close friends with Shioriko, she still liked the fact they treated each other with respect.


“Which patient is it, Ai-san? Is the situation serious?” 


Ai cleared her throat. “So… turns out Shioti made a mistake.” She laughed nervously and Rina tilted her head, as if asking what mistake she’d made.


“I’d assumed she was here for an overnight stay, turns out it was only a small appointment, and she’d already started leaving by the time Ai called you…”


Rina facepalmed and let out a small sigh of relief. Thank god she didn’t have to chase around some poor girl.


“Why was she in here, by the way?” Rina asked, curious about this patient of Shioriko’s. 


“She has Familial dilated cardiomyopathy, it was just a routine checkup.” 


Rina’s eyes widened. “How old is she?”

“She’s twenty-two, diagnosed when she was sixteen.”


Rina blinked. That was rough. The condition was basically a ticking time bomb, and getting diagnosed this young… It had a very poor prognosis.


"So I'm assuming she's on the transplant list?"


"She should be, but…she doesn't want a transplant."


"Huh? Why not? She could have a long life with a transplant. Why doesn't she want one?"


"Like I said,'' Shioriko took a breath. “She was diagnosed when she was sixteen, been on meds since then and has had to get surgeries every now and then just to make sure everythings ok. She's currently stable but could deteriorate at any time. I've been trying to get her to agree to get a transplant, but she's adamant on this. Says she doesn't want anymore surgeries because she's tired. Said she just wants to enjoy life as it is and not be tethered to machines." Shioriko sighed. Such patients were always hard. Doctors couldn't force them to do something if they were set against it.


"I'm sorry, such patients are hard. You see them wither away in front of you, completely helpless. I hope your patient changes her mind."


Shioriko nodded. "Let's go for rounds." That effectively ended the discussion.



“You’re back, strange doctor I don’t know the name of!” Mia seemed to be too excited to see Rina. 


“Why are you back, Mia-san?” Rina narrowed her eyes. “Do you seriously have nothing better to do than stand around a hospital car park? No school or anything?”


“Nope, not really! I graduated school years ago, so I’m just trying to make every day count!”


So cheesy. Rina had to stop herself from rolling her eyes.


“By the way, what’s your name? You never answered my question.” 


“Please, I told you, I don’t give my name out to strangers,” Rina deadpanned at Mia, who just grinned in response.


“I told you mine! I’ll keep calling you strange doctor if you don’t give it!”


Rina sighed. “It’s Rina. Tennouji Rina.”


Mia laughed. “See, that wasn’t so hard! Now we know each other’s names!”


“That doesn’t mean anything, I could be lying for all you know.”


Mia smiled, then pointed to Rina’s lanyard. “You have your name around there, I was just seeing how long it would take you to tell me personally.”


Rina sighed again. “Why do you hang out here, anyway? It’s not the… best place to hang out if I’m being honest.”


“My parents work here, and I don’t really have any friends to hang out with, so I loiter here when I can.”


That was… kind of depressing. Rina offered a small smile. 


“Well, sorry to cut this short, but I have to go home now since my shift is over.” Rina began walking towards her car, then turning around. “See you, Mia-san.



The following week, Rina ran into Mia again.


She looked more tired than last time she saw her, with dark under eyes and looking pale in complexion. 


Rina didn’t say anything about it. It wasn’t her business to ask about.


“Are you stalking me, Mia-san?” 


Mia laughed. “Pardon me, Rina?” 


“You seem to be here every time I come to do my shift.”


Mia faked a gasp. “How did you know?” She laughed again. “I’m kidding, I’m not stalking you. I just hang out here a lot, that’s all.”


Rina pressed her lips together. “Sure…”


Mia had a smile on her face that implied that she was not hurt by her comment.


Rina stood quietly, lest she said something out of line again. They both got off at the cardiology wing and she frowned as she entered Shioriko's cabin. Was she a patient? Or was Shioriko getting a visit from the administration? Either way, she didn't have time to think about this. She had two valve replacements to do before a few appointments. She walked into her cabin and got ready to face the day.



Seems like the elevator wasn’t the only place she’d be seeing Mia. As she started her lunch break, she decided to go up to the rooftop for once in her life.


Seeing Mia there made her a bit annoyed if she was being honest.



Mia turned around and smiled at Rina. “Rina! You finally dropped the honorific off my name, that’s great!”


Rina sighed. “Would you like to join me for lunch? I have twenty minutes.” She held up two sandwiches, causing Mia to raise her eyebrows.


“Oh my, the famous Tennouji Rina wants to have lunch with me? I’m honoured.”


Rina turned around to leave, making Mia call out in a panic. 


“Wait! Sorry, sorry, I’ll be serious. I’d love to have lunch with you.” She walked over and Rina handed one of the rolls to her. She unwrapped it and took a bite.


"Oh, this sandwich is nice! Much better than the one at the cafeteria. Did you make this?" Rina shook her head.


“Ai-san made it for me, she grew up in a family-owned restaurant.” 


Mia hummed as she continued eating. "I probably shouldn't be eating this, but you only live once."


Rina tilted her head. “Are you vegetarian?"


"Eh, Something like that. Let’s go with that idea.”


Rina didn't know what she was meant to interpret from that vague answer but she assumed that she probably shouldn’t ask what it meant.


Mia coughed a bit, then got up, brushing away the crumbs of what was left of the sandwich. 


Rina shook her head. She really was a strange girl.



Somehow, despite Rina insisting she didn’t like having lunch with Mia, she actually grew around to liking it. She even started bringing extra for the other girl, who seemed to have grown fond of her.


Rina wasn’t that worried when Mia didn’t come to lunch with her one day. She figured she’d finally found something else to do than loiter around a hospital. The second day, though, she was more worried. 


Her day got worse when Shioriko mentioned a new patient in the ICU.


“Another ICU patient? That’s, like, the third one this week, right?” Ai asked as the three of them walked down the ICU hallway.


“Yeah, but this is a high profile case.” Shioriko sighs, “It's the cardiomyopathy case I mentioned a while back. She had an acute exacerbation. It seems she's been outside often and she developed an infection from somewhere."


“Oh man, that’s horrible,” Ai replies before glancing a look at Rina. “Rinari, this is your stop. We’ll catch up with you later, okay?”


“Mhm, see you guys later.” Rina waves them off and makes her way to her cabin area. 


Shioriko must have been here earlier, she left the files for the new patient in ICU. As she picked it up, the name of the patient caught her eye. 


Mia Taylor. Wait, that can’t be right? 


A quick glance through the file soured her mood. She was the patient with cardiomyopathy. The one who was one misstep away from death. She clenched her fist, and tried to get her emotions under control. Mia didn't seem to be sick in their encounters. She didn't give her an inkling into her ill health. Here Rina was, thinking she was an administrator of some sort. But to be fair, Mia didn't owe her anything. They were just strangers, who happened to share a few sandwiches. But it still hurt knowing.


Rina almost runs out the door and out into the unit. She walked up and down the hallway, peering into each room until she found her, lying in bed, connected to too many wires and tubes to count, and looking so, so frail.