It was too damn early in the morning for this.
All Kim Namjoon wanted to do was pee so he could go back to the warmth of his bed and sleep for another 45 minutes before he had to get ready for his shift at the hospital.
Instead, he found himself staring at his roommate and best friend Jung Hoseok pulling back his delicate features in a variety of embarrassing facial expressions in the mirror. From crossed eyes to duck lips to the tip of his tongue on his nose, Namjoon observed it all in borderline horror.
“You’re a grown man,” he reminded Hoseok, deadpan, from the hallway. His feet were getting cold and he could feel himself losing his grip on his temper.
Hoseok, unbothered by Namjoon’s early-morning grouchiness, pulled away from the mirror and flashed him a sunny smile. “The kids don’t know that! I want them to think I’m one of them. They need to trust me so that I can get closer to them.”
Namjoon’s horrified expression deepened and he let out a “tsk” sound. “You really need to be careful about saying things like that so carelessly.”
“Namjoon,” Hoseok switched his expression to a more sober one. “This is for work. How else am I supposed to know what the kids see unless I watch myself in the mirror?”
Namjoon sighed and shook his head. “Have you gotten any complaints so far? Has anyone run away screaming?”
“Then you don’t need to do THAT…” He waved a flustered hand at the mirror where Hoseok’s breath still left a small fog stain.
“C’mon it’s only my first week. I really want to be believable. I want to be genuine. I know what it’s like to be a scared little kid in the hospital. It’s my job to make everything better so I have to be better.”
Namjoon sighed again. He couldn’t argue with that. To be honest he was just happy to see that Hoseok had reached some sort of goal in his life at all. For years, Namjoon had been the successful and driven friend of their pairing. He attended medical school and graduated early (with honors, of course). He was already in his third year of practice at Severance Hospital in Seoul as a Cardiovascular Surgeon and looking at a promotion to hospital director within a few years’ time.
Meanwhile, Hoseok, the much more relaxed of the two, had dedicated his time to the arts. He was an incredible dancer and writer. He took gorgeous photos of his many travels and he often spent long hours composing music that he was too embarrassed to actually show anyone.
Namjoon was forever hounding Hoseok to stop being so aimless and wishy-washy. Eventually, he would have to dedicate his time to a real career and support himself. But these were just lectures. Having been life-long friends with Hoseok he knew, intimately, just how hard life had been for his friend, and found himself reserving judgement.
Hoseok had been very ill as a child. His heart hadn’t fully developed and he was forever receiving surgery after surgery; forced to spend endless months recovering in the hospital; unable to attend school or play like a normal child. Namjoon was his only friend in those days. Seeing Hoseok suffer so endlessly was the reason he decided to become a Cardiovascular Surgeon. He wanted to be better and do better than the doctors who cared for Hoseok. He was positive he could make life much easier for kids like him.
Of course, after spending enough time working in the hospital, sometimes with young children, Namjoon began to notice new members of the staff who called themselves Child Life Specialists. These people came in to the wards day and night, bright smiles on their kind faces, armed with games and toys and gentle touches to help distract the children from the scary medical procedures they were forced to endure. After watching the CLS staff in action, Namjoon knew, immediately, that this job was made for Hoseok.
Becoming a Child Life Specialist was the dream neither of them knew he had but once Hoseok learned that he could make a career out of being the embodiment of sunshine, there was no stopping him. He finally went to school. He was no longer aimless and adrift. He graduated and with a good word from Namjoon, was hired on as a CLS at Severance Hospital almost instantly.
It had been nearly a week since Hoseok’s first day and, now, Namjoon watching Hoseok try so damn hard in the mirror, wondered if he should give him any advice. Hoseok was a natural at the job. Warm, kind, engaging, empathetic and equipped with a smile that could light up the whole universe, there was absolutely no need for him to practice such goofy faces in the bathroom so god forsaken early in the morning…especially if it meant he was preventing Namjoon from doing his business.
“Hobi…” Namjoon sighed and put his hands on either of his shoulders. “I hate to tell you this but...you can’t get any better.”
Hoseok pinned him with a hurt expression.
“Because you are already the best,” Namjoon flashed him a dimpled smile before he roughed up his hair. “Now get out, I have to pee.”
Hoseok laughed and shoved Namjoon back on his away out of the bathroom.
He saw it almost as soon as he stepped into the cardiology ward.
A frantic looking young man.
A team of doctors and nurses wrestling a lifeless child from his arms.
The man was so desperate to keep her close he fell to his knees trying to wrench her away from the doctors’ hands.
The chaotic shouting seemed to echo off every surface, but the man’s pleading voice was loudest of all. It was doused in a type of anxiety that Hoseok still hadn’t become accustomed to, though he was growing all too familiar with it. Finally, after a pair of nurses assumed positions behind the man and gently wrestled his grasp loose, the doctors whisked the little girl away, out of sight.
Hoseok watched, heart nearly thudding to a stop, as the nurses helped the man up. He could barely support his weight on his own and their march toward him down the hall and into the waiting room was a slow one. Even so, Hoseok had to remind himself to get out of the way as the trio passed by him.
The man sunk into the chair, hands over his face, completely still; too still. One nurse left immediately to go help the doctors, Hoseok assumed. The other stayed by the man’s side and rubbed circles into his back as she whispered something to him.
Hoseok was so moved by the entire scene that he felt himself slowly gravitating toward them.
“Jung Hoseok! Where have you been? Seoula in the burn ward is getting her injections in five minutes. You should already be in the room with her.”
Hoseok snapped out of his trance and looked around. The CLS director, Dr. Chon, peered at him over the top of her wire-rim glasses. She tapped at her clipboard with a glossy, beige fingernail, unamused.
“Oh, right. I’m sorry. I was just on my way there now. Things took a little longer with Hyun Bin in the Oncology Ward.”
“I didn’t ask for excuses. I asked you to follow your schedule.”
“Yes, sorry. Sorry…” Hoseok bowed apologetically and chanced one final look at the man and the nurse but nothing much had changed.
He was still motionless.