The flow of cold air via the air condition was cascading down on Seokjin in a heavenly way, and he was unashamed to be half blocking one of the main hallways, soaking it all in. The nurses were probably giggling at the sight he made, or the receptionist might be snapping pictures of him—Yoona seemed to be a master at stockpiling blackmail material on him. But Seokjin blocked it all out. All that mattered was that he’d just come from outside, from a luncheon that had been more business than pleasure, and because of that, he’d spent an hour and a half sitting on a veranda in hundred-degree weather, arguing for the clinic’s consideration via a private donation.
So now he was inside, enjoying his clinic’s air conditioner, taking a moment to himself before he had to launch into his afternoon appointments.
He was also doing his best to block out the sound of Hoseok’s voice.
“Stooppppp ignoring meeeee!”
Seokjin cracked an eye open, peering over at the younger man. “You’re so lucky I even let you back here. I could make Jonghyun manhandle you out the front door at any second.”
Hoseok rocked back on his feet with a wide smile, and then he flicked the visitor’s badge that was currently clipped to his shirt. “Nah, come on, Jin. I’ve got a special badge, see? You gave it to me. That means I get to come back here.”
Back to the employee area of the clinic, he meant, and it was true Seokjin had been the one to give him the badge. Of course, by now all of Bangtan’s core members, and even the more trusted fringe members who had endeared themselves to Seokjin over time, had badges. And even if they didn’t, Namjoon and Hoseok and all the others, especially Jungkook, came around more than often enough for everyone who worked there, and even some of the patients, to know exactly who they were.
No one was going to manhandle Hoseok out the door. Especially Jonghyun, who rather liked Hoseok and the other boys, and who snuck pieces of candy meant for the children, to Taehyung every time he visited.
“That badge can be revoked,” Seokjin told him bluntly, but it was just a bluff.
“You wouldn’t,” Hoseok declared confidently. “Now come on, I came all the way down here to talk to you. Help me. Please. Help me Kim Seokjin, you’re my only hope.”
The air conditioner still felt good against his sweat sticky skin, but enough was enough, and it was something of note that Hoseok was standing in front of him. Hoseok’s responsibilities in Bangtan had all but skyrocketed the moment the expansion of territory had happened, and as a result, Seokjin saw less and less of the man. And if anyone was coming by to pick Seokjin up after work, like frequently occurred, it was typically Taehyung.
Seokjin had put a stop to Jungkook’s incessant need to be the one to pick him up from the clinic the moment his little brother’s classes had gotten intense at the university. Jungkook, for all his hesitation in going to college, was flourishing at the institution. He was even showing promise in his required mathematics and science classes. Neither did Jungkook want to admit, but he was picking up Mandarin at a rapid pace.
Maybe Jungkook would get bored with college soon enough. Or maybe he’d finish the music classes he was most focused on, and not sign up for another semester. But for the time being. Seokjin thought it was enough that Jungkook was balancing school and Bangtan. He didn’t want Jungkook having to worry about transportation duties. Especially since Seokjin still had his father’s car. Part of him had been completely unable to part with it, and he wondered if he ever would.
Plus, if he really wanted anyone picking him up, he wanted Namjoon.
Seokjin didn’t think there was a proper or right way to actually explain how full his heart felt, just thinking about his boyfriend. Namjoon had become impossibly important to him in the time they’d been together, and even love felt like an understatement.
Namjoon was the one. They joked about it all the time—Namjoon joked about having known Seokjin was the one for him from the start. But now Seokjin was starting to really feel and understand it. He wanted to grow old with Namjoon, and have children with him, and do everything in between.
Mostly he just wanted Namjoon to have time for him currently. But he’d already decided he wasn’t going to get himself worked up over the canceled dates and sad apologies. Namjoon constantly understood when Seokjin had to put his clinic and patients first. So now it was Seokjin’s turn to understand and accept that Bangtan was still in the middle of a transitional period, and that was eating up all of Namjoon’s time.
It wouldn’t always be the way it was now, and Seokjin clung to that.
“Jin? Seokjin? Doctor Jin?”
“Sorry,” Seokjin apologized to an unsure looking Hoseok. “How about we go back to my office? I’ve got some time for you, if you need it.”
Suddenly Hoseok looked desperate now, and he practically wheezed out, “Oh, I need it.”
Seokjin’s private office was located at the far end of the first floor, the furthest room from the front reception area, the waiting rooms, and the examination rooms. Seokjin had picked the office on purpose, and had held his breath for the room even after he’d let Jonghyun go first when the selection time came. Seokjin had wanted a room that was secluded in a lot of ways, private, and quiet.
“Come on it,” Seokjin said when they reached the office. He pushed open the door and held it until Hoseok was inside.
Seokjin smiled at him. “First time in?” There were plenty of reasons or Bangtan’s members to be in and out of the clinic at all times of the day, but only a few of them had been back to his office, or had needed to.
Jonghyun had partially put a ban on it, too. At least as far as Namjoon was concerned. But Seokjin thought that was rather hypocritical. Seokjin had caught Jonghyun and Kibum more than once on clinic grounds, enjoying each other’s company, to say the least. But the one time Jonghyun had walked in on Namjoon and Seokjin, suddenly there’d been a new rule.
“Hypocrite,” Seokjin had murmured to Jonghyun after he’d agreed that there’d be no hijinks in the clinic of any kind, during normal operating hours.
Jonghyun had laughed back, “I’m a traumatized hypocrite, then. Jesus, Seokjin, you’re like my little brother at this point. And no one wants to see their little brother getting hot and heavy with his boyfriend. I’ll sacrifice having Key here if it means guaranteeing I’ll miss that.”
A little wide eyed, Hoseok walked the edge of the office, admiring the awards and pictures that spanned the shelves. “This is so cool.”
Seokjin gestured to a corner of the office that boasted an impressive number of photos of Seokjin himself, all of them with babies in his arms. He explained, “These are my favorite pictures. These are my kids.”
Hoseok looked from the pictures to Seokjin. “Not biologically, right?”
“No,” Seokjin assured. “But I call them mine because I delivered them all. All these babies. And half of them are named after me.”
“Cool,” Hoseok repeated again. Then he dragged himself away from the decorations in the office, to one of the two plush chairs that were situated in front of Seokjin’s mammoth desk. “Now, help me.”
“With what?” Seokjin sat in his own chair, sinking into the plushness of it. The screen saver on the computer atop the desk was going, but he knew if he nudged the mouse even a little the previous quarter’s reports would be glaring back at him, reminding him that all the information needed to be consolidated for the upcoming staff meeting.
He did his best not the nudge the mouse in any way.
“Jin,” Hoseok started, “you’re a really good boyfriend, right? I mean, you seem like it.”
Seokjin felt his eyebrows climb high on his forehead. “This is not the direction I expected the conversation to go.”
Hoseok seemed to ignore his comment, and pressed on, “So in light of you being a really good boyfriend, I need your opinion. Your advice. I want you to help me decide what to do for mine and Tae’s upcoming anniversary.”
Seokjin couldn’t help leaning forward at that. “Your anniversary?” The notion was so sweet, and it served to remind Seokjin that for as inconspicuous as Hoseok and Taehyung kept their relationship, they very much had one.
And a healthy one at that. Seokjin was constantly surprised by the amount of affection and respect they showed to each other. They were considerate to each other, even when they didn’t agree, and each of them seemed to go out of their way to do special, nice things for the other. Seokjin had seen a lot of relationships in his life, but few of them measured up the way that Taehyung and Hoseok’s did.
His own and Namjoon’s, notwithstanding.
Hoseok held up two fingers. “Next month it’ll be two years for us.” He huffed a little. “Coulda been longer, you know.”
“No.” Seokjin shook his head. “How so?”
“Tae never told you?” Hosoek looked surprised. “Tae loves to tell people this.”
This was a nice and welcomed distraction, Seokjin decided. He’d been inundated as of late with all kinds of new problems to handle, ones that the clinic had never faced before, and his stress levels were building. He was starting to feel overworked again, even though they’d added two new doctors to the roster, and another nurse, not to mention a handful of interns.
So just sitting and talking with a friend, was nice. He didn’t sit and talk with Hoseok enough.
Wringing his hands together, Hoseok allowed, “I might have been … a little … dumb when I was younger. A little. Just a little.”
Seokjin arched a skeptical eyebrow.
“Apparently,” Hoseok rushed out, “Taehyung was sending me signals and messages he liked me for ages before I got clued in. I mean, really obvious messages. He kept saying how nice he thought I was, and how handsome. He asked me out to lunch a couple times. He wanted to meet my family. He …look, the point is, I thought he was just a really nice guy. Taehyung’s always had a reputation of being really nice—authentic in a way that most people aren’t.”
Seokjin bit back a laugh. “So, Taehyung was practically coming onto you, and you thought he was just being nice?”
A hint of sadness crept its way onto Hoseok’s face, something devastating in a way, and then Hoseok offered up, “Sure I did. It’s Taehyung, you know? He’s super-hot, and charming and funny. He’s generous and just awesome. He’s got a good reputation for a reason. So even if I thought for a second that he was into me, I talked myself out of that right away. I told myself, how could someone like Taehyung, ever be into someone like me? I denied. I put distance between us. I kind of was a jerk about it.”
Seokjin leaned his elbows up on the top of his desk and said firmly, “Don’t talk down about yourself, Hoseok. Don’t put yourself down.”
Hoseok avoided his gaze as he said, “I’m not saying I’m worthless or anything. Come on, Jin, give me some credit. I’m just saying back then I looked at myself and saw someone pathetically ordinary. Then I looked at Taehyung, who was everything better than what I was, and I just didn’t see a chance in hell.”
“Obviously Taehyung felt differently.”
A small smile pulled at Hoseok’s mouth. “Taehyung has a way of seeing stuff in people that they don’t see in themselves. You’ve got that thing, too, kinda. You see the best in people. You see the second chances they deserve. Taehyung just sees the traits and qualities in people that have always been there, but that maybe need a little rubbing to make shine.”
In a delighted way, Seokjin wanted to know, “What clued you in that Taehyung had a thing for you?”
Hoseok blushed a dark red and he looked so cute Seokjin wanted to tease him.
“Come on,” Seokjin prodded. “How’d you finally get it?”
“I didn’t.” There was a fuller smile on Hoseok’s face now. “Tae was out on a date with another guy, and they were going to the movies. I used to work at the movie theater. And you know, Tae tells this way, way better than me, but I guess Taehyung just figured enough was enough. He left his date sitting in the theater, with the movie going, and marched right up to me at the concession stand. He told me honestly that he liked me. He said he wanted to know if I liked him—romantically. And when I said yes, he grabbed me by the front of my shirt and kissed me.”
“In front of everyone,” Seokjin surmised.
“I got fired,” Hoseok said with a shrug. “I hated that job anyway. And Tae’s worth it. He’ll always be worth it.”
In a lot of ways, Hoseok’s words were startling. They served to remind Seokjin that Bangtan hadn’t really been around all that long. At least not in the version that it was now. Compared to some of the other groups, Bangtan was practically newborn. Namjoon had been doing his best to put together the components that would become Bangtan for years, and Yoongi had been there with him from practically the start. But it hadn’t been that long ago that people like Hoseok and Taehyung were just normal kids.
“That’s pretty adorable,” Seokjin said. It was the kind of story that was made for telling one’s grandchildren on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Though Seokjin was certainly not going to be telling his own grandchildren that he’d met his future husband after said man had been shot. Seokjin didn’t think that was appropriate at all for children.
“So, you want my help with planning a good anniversary?”
Hoseok gave a strong nod. “It has to be something really, really good, okay? This is Taehyung we’re taking about. So, I want to go somewhere. I want to take him somewhere.”
Seokjin questioned, “Like on vacation? Is this a good time for that?”
“Well, yeah.” Hoseok looked confident in his answer—more confident than Seokjin felt. And he elaborated, “I’ve been pretty hands on with everything over the past few months, and it’s all going as smoothly as possible. I mean, there’s been hiccups here and there, and when you’re dealing with people it can always get a little rough. But things seem like they’re good to go. I talked to Suga about this already. He said if I want to take Tae somewhere, now’s a good time.”
Seokjin laced his fingers and nodded. Yoongi’s decision on something was almost as iron clad as Namjoon.
Still, he was a little surprised. Even with things going as well as possible, there was still a tenseness floating around in the air. Things with Infinite still seemed so raw and fresh, and it wasn’t as if everyone in that gang had been dealt with.
Seokjin still had nightmares of Sunggyu, standing in the kitchen, blowing his own brains out. But he had even worse nightmares of the members of Infinite who’d slipped away, and the people out there who still might be holding grudges against Bangtan for being the upstarts that they were. Bangtan was dominating in a lot of ways, and that kind of dominance so early in life bred dissent.
Neither was Seokjin even attempting to hide who Namjoon was to him, in the same way Namjoon and the others had stopped hiding behind their names. In a lot of ways, the secrecy had become impossible, but in others, it had been a deliberate move of transparency.
Most of the time now Seokjin could go a whole day without seeing anyone of significant rank in Bangtan lurking around. But others he could have his every move watched, and it was all out of uncertainty.
Bringing himself back to the situation at hand, Seokjin asked, “How far do you want to go? Do you want to stay in South Korea?”
Anxiety was back on Hoseok’s face, and he offered up delicately, “I don’t have a lot of money. I want to take Tae somewhere special, somewhere great, but I’m working on a budget.”
Seokjin realized he didn’t really know a lot about Hoseok. Well, he knew who Hoseok was as a person, but his information on Hoseok stopped there. He didn’t know anything about Hoseok’s childhood, or his family, or anything outside of the scope of Bangtan. And that made him sad, because Seokjin considered Hoseok to be a good friend.
Seokjin tapped his fingers along the top of his desk.
Hoseok added, “I mean this in a good way, you know? But you’re used to working with pretty much no money. Because of the clinic. You’re really good at being innovative and creative with the budget you have. That’s why I think you’re the perfect person to help me figure something out for Tae.”
Suddenly Seokjin felt invested in making sure Taehyung and Hoseok had a great second anniversary. There’d been there for him through the worst of it. They’d risked their lives for him. They deserved something great.
“Like maybe something near the beach?” Hoseok posed. “Tae loves the ocean, but we practically never get to go. So, if I could take him to the ocean for a couple of days, that would be great. Just, we gotta keep in mind, renting a place near the water is really expensive.”
Seokjin frowned for a moment, then suggested, “I have an uncle, Hoseok. My father’s older brother. I reconnected with him at my father’s funeral, and I’ve been talking with him frequently since then.”
Confused, Hoseok offered up, “Okay …”
Of course Hoseok didn’t know what he was getting at. With a sigh, Seokjin made to clear up, “He’s pretty much everything my father ever wanted Jungkook and I to be. He’s an investment banker, and he’s partnered with a practice that’s based out of Tokyo. So he’s practically never in the country. In fact, he won’t be for the next three or four months—maybe not until the Christmas holiday.”
Hoseok went to say something, but Seokjin held up a finger.
“The last time I talked to him, he thought I needed to take a break from the clinic. To take a vacation. And that’s rich, of course, coming from him. He’s a huge workaholic. Anyway, my point here is, he wanted me to take Jungkook and go stay at his vacation house in Jeju. Honestly, Hoseok, if I vouch for you, I don’t think he’d had a problem with you and Taehyung using it for a week or so.”
Hoseok’s jaw dropped.
“I’ll give him a call this afternoon,” Seokjin decided. “If you can handle getting yourself and Tae there, then the place is yours. Trust me, my uncle won’t care. The house practically sits empty the whole year round. My uncle bought the property for a wife that he’s been divorced from for a decade now.”
Uncertain, Hoseok asked, “You think that would be okay?”
“I promise,” Seokjin said, and he was more than confident. His uncle had practically been clinging to him since Seokjin’s father had passed, and that had given Seokjin a lot of insight. He hadn’t known it, but his father and uncle had been quite close. His father had told Seokjin’s uncle he was dying long before he’d told anyone else. And if anything good was coming from Seokjin’s father passing away, it was that the rest of the family was pulling in tight. Seokjin had been getting calls from aunts and uncles, cousins, and everything in-between, for months now.
Hoseok suggested, “We could take the train. There’s a line that runs the length of the coast down to the south, and then there’s a ferry that runs out to Jeju Island.”
“It’s beautiful this time of year,” Seokjin added. “If you go, you’ll have a great time.”
Seokjin could physically see the relief flooding Hoseok’s body.
He warned, “You’re still responsible for making it special, Hoseok. Only you can do that. But if I can help you out like this, then the place is yours for the week you choose. Just let me know the dates so I can relay it to my uncle and get the code for the alarm system for you.”
Seokjin had barely gotten to his feet before Hoseok rounded the desk and swept him up into a big hug.
“Thank you,” Hoseok practically shouted into his ear. “Thank you, Jin!”
“You’re welcome.” Jin hugged him back tightly. “You and Taehyung did so much for me, and you’re still doing so much for Jungkook. So, think of this as me trying to repay that to you.”
Hoseok scoffed and drew back, “This isn’t us squaring things away, Jin. You and Jungkook are family. Family just does for each other. No debts, okay?”
“No debts,” Seokjin echoed.
Hoseok was rounding back to his seat when a knock sounded on the door to Seokjin’s office.
Joy’s head poked in a moment later, and Seokjin offered her a full and encouraging smile. She’d only been working at the clinic for a few short months, and she was one of the new hires that had come on after they’d moved locations. But she was a quirky and fun receptionist, always on time, and always kind. She’d come highly recommended by the clinic’s new OBGYN.
“Just your friendly reminder,” Joy said cheerfully enough, giving Hoseok respectful acknowledgment. Although Seokjin didn’t think they’d ever had any real interaction before. But there wasn’t anyone who worked at the clinic now who didn’t know Bangtan’s tie to the clinic, or Seokjin’s tie to Bangtan. “Yoona sent me to remind you that you’ve got a two o’clock consult in less than twenty minutes, and you’re booked for three hours of walk-ins after that.”
Seokjin sighed. “I remember. It’s in my calendar.”
Joy brightened even further. “Yoona also said to let you know that she knows you haven’t been using your google calendar. She has administrative access to it, and she can see whenever you log in and look at it or make changes. She wants you to practice being a better liar. Or, you know, start using your calendar.”
Hoseok let out a long whistle. “Vicious.” He pointed to Joy and told Seokjin, “I like this girl.”
“You’re taken,” Seokjin reminded. Then he swung back to Joy and promised, “I’ll start using the calendar, okay? And kindly remind Yoona that not only do I sign her paychecks, but I dictate her hours.”
Joy laughed a little. “Will do, boss. Oh, and you’ve got a final draft of the flyer for the community social and fundraiser we’re hosting at the end of the month in your inbox. You need to give your ultimate okay on it, so we can start mass printing and get them out into circulation.”
She was gone a second after that, and Hoseok careened towards Seokjin to ask, “Is that your personal assistant?”
“No,” Seokjin denied right away. “She’s a receptionist who’s basically doubling as a general secretary.” He frowned. “Do you think I need one?” He was just a doctor. Doctors didn’t need secretaries. Then again, he was doing the bulk of the clinic’s administrative business. And as they expanded, it took up more and more of his time.
Hoseok only laughed. “I don’t know. But what’s this social thing?”
“Social and fundraiser,” Seokjin corrected. “It’s a big party, honestly, that the clinic is hosting in a couple of weeks. We’re going to shut down for the day and host a big event for the community based on the services we offer. We’re going to do some educational things, some informative things, hopefully raise some money, and try to get the community a lot more involved. We’re hoping a lot of kids will be there and they’ll get to know the doctors here, so they’ll be less scared when they have to come and visit us.”
“That’s pretty neat,” Hoseok observed. “See, this is what everyone is always talking about, Jin. You’re such an awesome doctor.”
Seokjin tried to brush off the praise by saying, “I’m kind of hoping members of Bangtan will be there, discretely, of course. It would be really nice if you guys could mingle in with the general public. A lot of people are still completely traumatized by what happened with Infinite, and the territory shakeup, and honestly, I don’t always get good feedback in the comment box when you guys come around.”
Something that looked a lot of disgruntled offense settled on Hoseok’s face. “Excuse me?”
“I just want,” Seokjin interjected, “everyone to feel comfortable with everyone, and for tensions and nerves to cool down, and for people to feel comfortable coming here.” He added quickly, “Yoongi said he’s going to bring his sister. You should feel free to bring any siblings or cousins.”
Again, Seokjin realized he didn’t know enough about Hoseok to personally invite anyone. Hoseok didn’t seem put off, however, when he said, “I’ve got three kid sisters. Well, Sowon is sixteen, so she’d probably bean me in the head if I called her a kid. But the other two are still little. How about I bring them?”
Three sisters? In that moment, Seokjin decided that his lack of knowledge about his friends and their lives wasn’t going to stand. He was going to be a better friend to them all, and he was going to start with Hoseok.
“I’ll get you a flyer, okay?” Seokjin promised.
It was nice that for some time after, Seokjin got to simply sit with Hoseok and chat with him. They weren’t talking about anything important, or anything business related. They were able to just pass the time easily, with laughter and comradery, and it was what Seokjin needed to reenergize himself.
“I appreciate you coming down here,” Seokjin said when they were leaving his office.
“What?” Hoseok asked. “I appreciate you. You’re the one doing some nice stuff for me and Tae. I’m the one who came down here to bother you on your break.”
Seokjin gave him an honest look. “You’re never a bother, Hoseok. You’re family, right? That’s what you and the others are always saying.” Bangtan was a family. Never more had Seokjin believed in such a thing.
“I’m thankful all the same,” Hoseok said, unclipping his badge as they reached the final checkpoint before the waiting room. “Have fun with Namjoon on your date tonight,” Hoseok said in a cheeky way, offering Seokjin a wink.
He was off towards the front door of the clinic before Seokjin could offer any kind of response.
Not that Seokjin probably would have had a response. He and Namjoon had had plans for dinner before. In fact, they’d rescheduled many, many times. But Seokjin was hoping that this was the dinner that would stick. And it was almost two. Usually Namjoon had enough consideration to call earlier than two, if he was going to cancel.
Hope wasn’t a bad thing to have, and Seokjin had hope for their dinner date.
In the meanwhile, he had a two o’clock consult to get to.
And contrary to what Yoona obviously thought about his timekeeping skills, he was more than capable of making it to his consult on time, and looking unhurried at that.
The thing was, ever since Seokjin had opened his clinic, the original one, back in Infinite’s territory, where he’d been worried that he wasn’t going to be able to pay the electricity bill some months, things had always had a way of catching him off guard. There was always something happening, something unexpected and frankly, always something that was easily categorized as an unnecessary complication.
That was why, just fifteen minutes into his consult, Seokjin practically hit the ceiling when the door to the room slammed open and startled him so badly his heart gave a lurch.
“What is your problem?” Seokjin demanded, more scared than anything else. He eyed the frantic looking intern in the doorway. And for the life of him, Seokjin couldn’t place his name. But he was one of the new ones, sent the clinic’s way for a summer program because some of the bigger hospitals were full up. The kid had been at the clinic less than three weeks, and Seokjin had had little to no interaction with him. Jonghyun had been the one to give the go-ahead on the kid, like he did with most of the interns.
Seokjin’s patient in the room, an older woman that reminded him just a touch of Namjoon’s grandmother, looked just as startled as Seokjin felt.
“Sir,” the intern gasped out, looking so scared that Seokjin felt a heave of seriousness. “Doctor Kim. You have to come quick. There’s this kid, his friend just brought him in. He’s bad. You have to come.” The intern turned on heel and dashed back to where he’d come from.
“I’m sorry,” Seokjin offered to the woman, and the hurried after the intern. If something major was happening in his clinic, he was going to be at the forefront of it.
By the time Seokjin tracked the growing commotion on the first floor to the patient waiting area, he was just quick enough to hear Hongbin asking, “Are you an actual medical intern, or are you just pretending to be one?”
Seokjin could have gotten sidetracked by that alone. Because Hongbin was terribly professional at all times, even when he was having a disagreement with someone, and regardless if he was talking to a peer, or someone he respected, or anyone younger than him. Hongbin had been Seokjin’s pediatrician for four months now, and he’d brought a calmness to the clinic that they’d desperately needed. He’d also brought a reinforced air of respect.
Seokjin could have thought for hours on the sharp tone to Hongbin’s words as he knelt over a teenager laying on the ground, twisting around and groaning in pain, while the very intern that had come to retrieve Seokjin, practically had an anxiety attack on the spot.
Seokjin needed to talk to Jonghyun about taking overflow from the hospital. They were probably going to have to start screening their volunteer interns a little more harshly.
“What’s going on?” Seokjin asked, kneeling next to Hongbin, working with him to assess the teenager in pain.
Hongbin was pulling up the teen’s shirt to reveal a discolored and distended area of his abdomen as he stated, “Kid practically came tumbling in here.” Hongbin gave a nod to a nearby teenager who was holding himself tightly. “Friend brought him. He’s obviously in extreme pain, and if I had to hazard a guess, Doctor Kim, on first glance, the kid looks like he ruptured something.”
Seokjin was inclined to agree. Without any kind of proper examination, the swelling, the discoloration, and the sheer force of pain the teenager was complaining of, all looked like something had broken internally. This was obviously an emergency situation.
But Seokjin was quick to say, “We’re not an emergency room, Doctor Lee.”
The teenager’s friend let out a wail, “He just doubled over outside! He just started freaking out on me. Oh god. Is he going to die? You have to help him. This is a hospital!”
The clinic wasn’t a hospital, and that was a fine distinction that mattered in every way possible, when presented with an emergency case.
“Scoot back,” Seokjin ordered to Hongbin, and then leaned forward himself to trace the distended skin. His fingers moved diligently, and quickly, to the upper left quadrant of the teenager’s torso.
Hongbin offered, watching Seokjin’s movements, “Spleen?”
This was not a hospital, Seokjin reminded himself. They couldn’t handle the cases that a hospital could. But Seokjin was most certainly feeling the boy’s spleen, and it felt abnormal. If he was facing what he suspected he was, the teenager didn’t have long.
“You,” Seokjin called out, looking to the teenager’s friend. Seokjin did his best to ignore the crowd that was forming around them, watching the spectacle unfold. “Has your friend been in any accidents lately? Has he suffered any blunt force trauma? Has he been injured in any way over the past few days?”
The injured teenager’s friend seemed shell shocked, and gave no answer as his eyes grew wider and more panicked.
“Move,” Jonghyun announced loudly to the crowd, practically smashing into the traumatized teen. He caught the kid by the shoulder and demanded, pulling him closer to Seokjin and the patient, “Take a good look at your friend. Doctor Kim probably has minutes to properly diagnose him and get started on some kind of treatment. Do you hear the way your friend is screaming? That’s the kind of screaming you do when you’re in serious trouble. So answer Doctor Kim’s questions, and save your friend’s life.”
Jonghyun was certainly being a little heavy handed, but Seokjin wasn’t going to fight him on it. A ruptured spleen, which was what he suspected, progressed to an advanced stage, could be more than just an emergency situation. And he also didn’t think, by the volume of the cries of pain, that this was something that had come out of nowhere. Seokjin suspected the teen had been hiding pain for some time, and just let it advance too much without thinking of the consequences.
“He hit a railing!” the kid’s friend belted out suddenly. “Two days ago.” The kid sucked in deep breaths. “We were skateboarding and he lost his balance. He hit his ribs on some railing. But he said he was okay! He swore to me he was okay! He said he just got the wind knocked out of him.”
Jonghyun caught Seokjin’s eye. “If this kid is in trouble, we don’t have time to get him into a CT machine for a proper scan. He needs a FAST assessment. And he needs it now.”
Seokjin careened back, looking for the nearest nurse, but there were so many people clustered around now it was impossible to make out any of them. At least, until Seokjin’s newest nurse, who was something of a superstar among the other nurses and receptionists, knelt down next to Seokjin.
Moon Bin was practically everything that Seokjin had ever dreamed of in a nurse, though that was a statement made without discrediting any of the other girls who’d been with him from the start. But Moon Bin, who had a way of slurring his name together into the nickname Moonbin that had just stuck after only a few short days, was an absolute superstar. He was always dependable, extremely knowledgeable, and practically two steps ahead of Seokjin whenever Seokjin needed him to be.
Now was no exception.
Moonbin offered, “There’s an ultrasound machine in exam room three. Doctor Bae saw a patient less than an hour ago, so it’s there, prepped, and ready to go. I can run ahead and get it set up for you now, and for a FAST assessment, if you need.”
In truth, Seokjin had hesitated in hiring Moonbin, when his resume had come across his desk months back. Seokjin wanted to say gender had nothing to do with it, because he’d worked with countless male nurses in the past, and gender had no bearing on skill. But gender had mattered, at least a little. Because Seokjin thought the clinic had a good thing going. They were far from perfect, but all the pieces were clicking into place.
The last thing Seokjin had wanted to do was introduce a young, extremely attractive, exceptionally charming male nurse into a pool of single, ready, and interested female nurses. There was no rule at the clinic about inner-dating, but that was also probably the case because no one at the clinic had dated before. And Seokjin didn’t want to have to invent a new rule because of a mishap.
But then, of course, Jonghyun had breezed his way past Seokjin’s desk, barely paying attention in the first place, and commented, “Moon Bin? I didn’t even know he put an application in to fill the position that opened up. Huh. That’s crazy. I wonder if Dongmin knows.”
“Dongmin?” Seokjin had been thrown for a second. “You mean Eunwoo? Our anesthesiologist?” As far as Seokjin was concerned, anyone outside of a gang had no purpose using different names. Seokjin had been confused for days when Dongmin had begun introducing himself as Eunwoo, and everyone had just gone along with it like it was perfectly normal to use a different name professionally. But Seokjin had let it all slide because the clinic could only really afford an anesthesiologist about half as much as they needed one, and Eunwoo was overly generous with his time, his fees, and his availability.
“Yeah him,” Jonghyun had replied. “That’s his boyfriend. Huh. Small world.”
Seokjin hadn’t hired Moonbin because he was Eunwoo’s boyfriend, in the end. He’d just hired him because he was the best candidate.
“Go now,” Seokjin said, giving Moonbin a verbal push. “We’re right behind you.”
As Seokjin and Jonghyun prepared to lift the weakly struggling teen on the ground, Seokjin could hear Hongbin calling out to Yoona, “Get Doctor Cha on the phone now! We may have an emergency surgery here, and we won’t have time to get the kid to the hospital.”
Seokjin and Jonghyun lifted, and Seokjin added to Yoona as they passed by, “Eunwoo went out to lunch with Krystal today, but they said they were just going around the corner. That was an hour ago. They should be back any second. Find him. We’re going to need him.” A FAST assessment would tell him for sure, but Seokjin’s gut was hardly ever wrong, and he had a feeling he was dealing with a ruptured spleen in need of emergency surgery.
It took less than ten minutes for Seokjin to find what he was looking for, via the ultrasound machine.
Next to him, Jonghyun made a low sound and said, “This is the worst I’ve seen in a long time. Either that kid hit the railing hell of a lot harder than his friend thinks, or this kid is just really, really unlucky.”
“He needs surgery,” Seokjin said, eyes narrowing at the ultrasound screen in front of him. “And he needs it now.”
“Well,” Jonghyun replied, “good thing we’ve actually got a surgical area now, right? Let’s go save this kid’s life.”
It had been a while since Seokjin had performed a splenectomy. In fact, he’d only done a handful before on his own, and assisted on a few others. But he was familiar with the procedure, and he was confident he could complete it. There was no other choice. There was a possibility the teenager might die before they could get him to a hospital for the procedure, and even though Jessica was the clinic’s trauma surgeon, it was her day off.
That meant Seokjin was taking the lead.
“We’re ready to go,” Eunwoo said, just after that, returned from lunch just in time to put the kid under. He was carefully situated up at the head of the teenager, who was now sedated, and several sets of eyes were now fully on Seokjin.
Lowly, firmly, Jonghyun offered, “It’s been a long time since I did one of these, and none of them as bad as this, but I can take over if you need.”
Seokjin almost felt offended. Adrenaline, the good kind that got his heart beating faster in a way that made him feel alive, and not like he was dying, was racing through him. He felt primed, and ready to go.
And he was in his element.
“Get me the laparoscope,” Seokjin ordered, thankful they’d purchased the instrument in the last round of ordered equipment. With the amount of bleeding from the rupture going on in the teen, Seokjin was more comfortable using the tool, than attempting anything open.
Jonghyun gave Seokjin a pointed look. “I hope the kid’s spleen isn’t too big for the laparoscope. It looked okay sized in the ultrasound, but we won’t know how bad the damage actually is until we get in there and see.”
Seokjin arched up a little on his feet, steadying himself. “Then let’s take a look.”
Being in surgery was like being in a time warp. For Seokjin, despite the clock on the far wall ticking the seconds by, time had no meaning. The only thing that mattered, as he diligently and patiently performed techniques he had trained for, studied, and practiced, was the patient.
Of course Seokjin cared about Jonghyun who was situated across from him, double checking his work for safety’s sake, and offering opinions when they hit bumps during the surgery. And he certainly cared about the nurses assisting, and Eunwoo who constantly kept them abreast of the kid’s vitals. But really what Seokjin focused on, almost trancelike, was the patient.
“If you tell me,” Jonghyun said sharply, a little more than an hour after the surgery had begun, “that you aren’t going to go out with me to the bar after that mess, then I’m going to walk through the front doors and never look back.”
The two of them were perched up on the roof together, stripped free of their scrubs and surgery protective gear, soaking in the sun after the frigid temperature of the surgery room. Seokjin was reminded of how hot and uncomfortable he’d been before, only hours earlier, during his luncheon. And now he was all too quick to take in the hot sun, and fight back the post-surgery chill that always came.
“Can’t,” Seokjin said easily, relishing in the normal beat of his heart. Sometimes it took a while to come down from the surgery high. “I’m going out with Namjoon tonight. How about this Saturday? My treat?”
“My treat,” Jonghyun insisted. “You were the brilliant surgeon in there.”
Seokjin snorted. “I removed a spleen.”
“You removed a ruptured spleen, which caused a medical emergency in someone who’s not even technically an adult yet, and you got it out invasively, repaired some damage while you were there, and saved that kid’s life. That’s not just removing a spleen.”
Seokjin found himself arguing weakly, “Any competent doctor could have done what I did. You could have.”
Jonghyun bumped his shoulder. “But you did. Now that kid is recovering in our ward. He’s going to be okay. And when he’s a little more stable, we’ll transfer him to the nearby hospital, and he’ll be perfectly fine—barring any recovery complications. So let me buy you a damn beer, okay? And don’t sell yourself short.”
He’d said the same thing to Hoseok earlier.
“Saturday,” Seokjin offered up again. “Unless Kibum is going to be in town.”
“Saturday it is. He won’t be back until next week. Something about Paris fashion week? Or some big Paris event. I don’t know. I can’t keep up.” Jonghyun gave a heave as he raised himself up to his feet. He rotated his shoulder and said, “You know this completely screwed up our entire afternoon. We’re going to be absolutely backlogged on patients, we just diminished our walk-in rate, and that’s on top of not even knowing who to call for this kid to let them know that he’s going to be okay. I mean, doesn’t it strike you as odd that the kid’s friend isn’t giving up the information, either?”
Seokjin agreed, “The kid is trouble. That’s what you’re trying to say, and I agree. It just matters what kind of trouble.”
“This clinic has had enough trouble,” Jonghyun said.
“Say it one more time for the heavens, please.” Seokjin let Jonghyun pull him up.
But then there was an awkward pause between them. Jonghyun’s head tipped up towards the too warm sky, and Seokjin asked him if anything was wrong.
A smile settled on Jonghyun’s face and he said bluntly, “We saved that kid’s life, Seokjin. You saw the state of his spleen. He had half an hour—maybe a little more, before it killed him. You and me, as a team, and all the others, we saved that kid’s life.”
The sun was quickly starting to feel too hot, but it didn’t matter, because Seokjin laughed a little and said, “You’re right. We did. So … good day?”
Jonghyun nodded firmly. “Great day.”
Seokjin couldn’t argue.