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待ってるやり直そう (i'll wait and try again)

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Jimin nods to Jungkook as he helps the woman down the hall. Oh Jeongsu’s old, frail, and has no family who live close enough to visit. Her stroke left her nearly immobile, but by some strange force of sheer will, she’s managed to overcome the laws a ninety-year-old woman should be bound by and is hobbling to use the restroom on her own.

“No bedpans,” she’d insisted. Up to that point she had been compliant enough, barely complaining as Cardiology poked and prodded and X-rayed her into the late hours of the night. The bedpan was the first thing she’d put up a fight about, and as much as Jimin preferred short, impersonal interactions with the elderly patients, this woman seemed keen on engaging him in conversation.

Now, Jimin isn't an asshole. He loves talking to his patients-- they're sweet and loving, most of the time. He just wishes his most talkative patients were ones he'd see anywhere but in an obituary after their stay at the hospital.

He passes Hoseok, who’s sipping from his tall tumbler of coffee at the nurse’s station. “Long night?” the elder asks rhetorically. Jimin’s been on since six.

Yes , it’s been a long night, he's thinking to himself, and Hoseok gets it. Outwardly, he laughs, as does the hobbling woman. She’d refused a walker or wheelchair, even started screaming and sobbing when one of their strongest nurse techs, Jungkook, offered to give her a lift. 

Jimin thought he understood where she was coming from, as much extra work as it was for him. Sickness was a terrible thing, but pity was leagues worse. From the way the woman carried herself, Jimin knew that she had been influential; rich, even. She seemed to be taking the stroke especially hard-- most old folks accepted their lot successfully and with relative grace, but the most active elderly were crushed by their sudden helplessness.

As they arrive at the restroom, Jimin motions for Jungkook.

“My shift ends soon,” he explains, and Jungkook gets it immediately.

“She probably won’t still be here when you come back, hyung,” Jungkook warns, pulling out his mobile to alert the charge nurse about the nurse switch. “They’ll have moved her to cardiology, or the ICU, or something.”

Jimin hears the restraint in Jungkook’s voice. They’re in a world where death happens freely and regularly. It's almost par for the course, as much as their hospital likes to preach otherwise to their investors. It leads to regular problems, though, like the rookie Jungkook not knowing how to breach the topic of this snobby old woman not lasting the three days until Jimin was scheduled to work again.

“Alright," he says, shrugging. "Take good care of her and the kid in 165, okay?”

Jungkook just nods. Jimin can't bring himself to be offended, either. A traumatized trauma nurse, he thinks to himself in the showers. It's clever, the type of pun Hoseok would have groaned at and threatened to ignore him over.

Jimin can't say he hates his job. He loves being a nurse, loves being able to light up the faces of weak little kids and bring peace to the families of men and women who’d lived a long and fulfilling life.

He really did hate the hours, though.

The drive itself isn’t too bad-- there’s a brief stint on the highway, but they’re far enough away from downtown that drunk drivers are few and far between. It’s the bone-deep exhaustion, the utter lack of motivation to do anything, let alone keep his eyes open, that terrifies Jimin when he wakes up sprawled in his scrubs the following morning.

After far too many nights lost to the throes of exhaustion, Jimin tries listening to the radio. He isn't sure if it'll keep him awake or lull him into driving straight into a tree, but it's a change of pace, at least. Before, the car radio had gone nearly unused, and he wasn’t even sure it would turn on after he’d gotten it back from Yoongi’s. At 2AM, though, after nearly falling asleep in the hospital parking garage, it was as appealing as the forbidden fruit. 

“-and it’s okay, you know, to not have a dream.”

 The voice through the stereo is soft, velvety, but Jimin can tell it’s powerful.

“Dreams are great and all, but it’s perfectly fine to live life just enjoying the flow, you know?”

If he spoke just a little louder, his voice would have a harsh edge to it. Powerful, almost like a politician, maybe. But the man kept his voice pitched down and whisper-soft. Jimin can hear the pop of his p’s through the white noise of the shitty car antenna, can hear the soft intakes of breath before every perfectly formed sentence. He must be close to the microphone, nose practically brushing against it.

“So this next song is for all of you kids who don’t have a dream, and... You know what?" He laughs, and it sounds like wind chimes pitched beautifully low. "It’s for the ones who have a dream, too. This song is for all of you, okay?”

A slow, jazzy track fades in. “Summertime in Kuala Lumpur, by Zack Kim.”

Jimin can't find it in himself to change the channel. He isn’t sure what it is about this man, who he hears refer to himself as Namjoon.

Who is he? What does he do for a living? Where does he live? Why does he do a late night radio show every night from 2 to 3AM?

“Have you ever listened to Namjoon on the radio?” he asks Hoseok one day, as they’re trading shifts. Hoseok is most honest when he’s tired, and he looks absolutely fucking beat today. He rolls his eyes, taking a long swig from somebody’s can of Redbull. It's certainly not his.

“I don’t listen to the radio, Jiminie. I don’t believe in modern pop music.”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “He plays stuff like jazz, Hoseok-hyung. It’s like, real music.”

He waves Jimin off, and he isn’t foolish enough to push Jung Hoseok's buttons, so he leaves for the showers without complaint.

On a particularly bad night, Jimin has just received a heart attack patient with a DNR order. Her family sobs at her bedside, screaming as her heartbeat fades into nothingness. Jungkook had been ready with the resuscitator-- his mouth is open as his eyes scan the clear order on her medical paperwork. Jimin takes one look at the woman's sobbing parents and comes impossibly close to telling him to fuck the order and start compressions.

She’s a mother of three, and her husband stands stony-faced as her sons break into sobs. “Mama!” one of them yells, burying his red face in his tiny hands. Jimin wants to coax a professional smile into his voice, wants to kiss the child’s tiny fingers and make him giggle. Instead, he turns to Jungkook. He's a muscle pig, gets teased for it, too, but it truly breaks Jimin's heart to see him look so small.

“Time of death, 23:12.”

-

The car ride home is stiflingly silent. Jimin wants so, so badly to turn the radio on, wants nothing more than to hear Namjoon’s voice talk him down from the borderline panic attack he’s been verging on all day.

He doesn't deserve it, of course. He killed a woman today, sat idly by as a 35-year-old human, at the height of her corporate career, with a family just about to bloom, died.

He gives in to his selfishness, turning the console on.

The woman's husband had confronted him afterwards, and Jimin had fully prepared himself to be slapped like a scene out of the dramas. If this were a drama, he knows he would be the antagonist, the unsympathetic nurse that let the main characters down.

Instead, the man wraps him in a hug.

"She never wanted to die while strange people were electrocuting her and breaking her ribs," he explains. "I know she could have lived, but thank you for honoring her wishes."

Jimin had stared at the man for a long, long time.

A song is playing, a haunting tune with plucked acoustic guitar and ambient woodblock. It’s more than halfway over, and Jimin swears he can hear what sounds like Namjoon in the background, faintly whistling along. He can’t help but smile, but the stony face of the woman’s husband flashes hot and bright in the back of his retinas, and he slumps over the steering wheel.

“That song was wonderful ,” Namjoon enthuses, with a chuckle. “eAeon is always a treat to listen to. One of the members is my buddy, actually, the lead singer. We went to high school together.”

Jimin chuckles, despite himself. It’s some sort of confirmation, he guesses, that this Namjoon from Busan who went to Namsan High School at the foot of the mountains really exists. His rockstar friend sounds equally as mystical, but he's a tie to the real world nonetheless.

Jimin remembers his high school had a rivalry with Namsan High. Maybe he'd seen Namjoon wearing the colors maroon and gold, sneering at Jimin's royal blue, or maybe it had been the other way around.

It's such a mundane thought-- Kim Namjoon with the molten silver voice and the most wonderful, reassuring compliments sitting in a high school basketball stadium, booing as the opposing team scores a three-pointer.

It's a given, ever since the accident, that Jimin cries when he sees a patient die. He requests a couple more days off. He always does, especially when it comes to DNR orders, so it’s no surprise to anybody in the department.

He surprises himself, though, that he's able to rouse at a normal time, eat three meals a day, and even keep up with his hygiene. Everyday like clockwork, he even goes for a 2AM drive to listen to Namjoon.

The music helps a lot more than he’s willing to admit to himself, and he finds himself almost ansty to get back to work by the time his self-imposed break is over.

“It’s okay to not have a dream,” Namjoon had told him, but he finds himself rejuvenated, wanting to work four or five nights a week. He’s promoted to charge nurse suddenly, and the department head catches him as he’s disposing of his face mask after visiting a patient with measles.

“Jimin-ssi, isn't it?” the man asks. Though his office is in the unit, Jimin doesn’t see him often. He works a corporate job, after all, and Jimin barely knows him well enough to nod to him on the off chance their schedules overlap. It’s strange though-- he catches himself about to ask the man if he knows anybody named Kim Namjoon. It’s force of habit; he’s been asking anyone who will listen, telling them about the mysterious 2AM program and how the radio host is so kind he almost seems like an intimate friend

“You’re sure you don’t want to move to day shift?” the man asks again. Jimin shakes his head again, just as passionately. The man, Kim Taehyung, if Jimin remembers correctly, looks uncomfortable, adjusts his collar with a small cough. He’s a corporate kiddo, Namjoon would say, with a little laugh. He isn’t sure how people can live without the want for more money fueling every action.

Kim Taehyung lets him pass, but he looks puzzled. Jimin's the nurse with issues, after all. As long as he does his job, though, nobody from corporate will even consider the idea of demoting him.

-

Everything is going great. Until suddenly, it isn’t.

“Hello, loyal listeners,” Joon says. It’s April, and the midnight air is muggy and frangnant with something Jimin cannot quite put into words.

“Hello,” he says back, adjusting his side mirrors. He always allows himself a moment of peace, just himself and Joon in the still parking garage, talking about how their days have been. He wonders, like he has found himself doing too often recently, why Namjoon doesn’t ask for callers to request songs or debate topics on the show like the other, flashier radio stations do. It can’t be an issue of equipment-- the morning programs from the same channel are interactive and boisterous, full of loud laughing and bold personalities.

Jimin really can’t be blamed for loving Joon’s insight so much. His worries mirror Jimin’s own, his reassurances snake themselves around Jimin’s exhausted frame and croon ballads of power into his ears.

Jimin has learned to stretch his commute to the length of an hour, taking the perfect combination of side streets and mountain paths to arrive in his own apartment no earlier that 3AM. Joon’s been in an electro-swing mood lately, and while it’s not as relaxing as the show’s usual jazz, Jimin can’t say he doesn’t like the funky tunes.

“I’d like to tell you all something,” Joon says. Jimin waits, but after a moment of silence, his hands hover over the radio console. Did something go wrong? His radio had never malfunctioned before, but the car had been nearly folded into an accordion. Perhaps there was damage Yoongi-nim hadn't caught?

Joon takes a deep breath, though, and Jimin has become so attuned to the man’s every habit that he feels the cold terror shoot like ice through his veins before he can comprehend why he is so scared.

“I’d like to tell you all something. Tonight will be the last broadcast of this show.”

Jimin holds his breath, and it’s like the entire world is teetering on its edge. The punchline in three, two...?

“Thank you for listening.”

Something clicks , and the station fades back into the bass-heavy dance music that would be playing at clubs any Friday night.

-

Jimin moves to the day shift soon after.

He isn’t sure what to call the sudden funk he’s found himself in. It’s not depression: he can still get up, is still a functioning adult. He just finds himself on constant edge.

The night after Namjoon’s radio show stopped broadcasting, Jimin had kept it on (just to make sure it wasn’t all a big mistake. He feels, somehow, that he’s upset Namjoon, has done something wrong in some way to make him stop so abruptly. Maybe he’d asked the wrong person about the program? The night shift did see some shifty visitors, and Jimin was friendly to everyone he saw.

When he hears a peppy young woman and her hour of uninterrupted dubstep, he has to pull over.

Cars pass him, honk at him (it's a two-lane road, but it's quite narrow), but he can’t even bear to move from his position. His hands hover above the gear, he’s about to get back on the road, doesn’t even know why his body has stopped him on the side of the road, when he hears the screech of rubber searing marks on pavement.

He looks up and watches a driver careen off the rocky path, their SUV tumbling with an ear-splitting crash down the side of the mountain.

He’s too shocked to scream, and it takes three cars that whiz by without stopping for him to snap out of it and call 119.

He’s not a climber, not a paramedic; he knows that there was realistically nothing he could do about the twisted mess of melted metal and steel that lie at the bottom of the cliff, but he can’t help but remember that night and he tells the crew on scene that he’s really sorry he can't help out but he’s going to head home.

His reputation as the traumatized trauma nurse precedes him, evidently, as the paramedics don't even question his exit.

Jimin doesn’t sleep that night-- he arrives at the door of Kim Taehyung’s office at seven sharp, dressed in his nicest clothes, the ones he saves for dates, and begs on his knees to be moved back onto the day shift.

He doesn’t ask anybody about Namjoon for a while after that. It’s utter stupidity, Jimin knows, to grieve the loss of someone you’ve never had a conversation with. Of course, Namjoon was so sweet and gracious that even the most selfish monologue felt like an engaging discussion, but he never met Jimin, never even knew that Jimin existed.

Why, then, does Jimin feel like he's lost his other half?

As the sky fades into oranges and darks too-early, so early that his day shifts feel like night shifts again, he looks back on the situation.

Joon most likely lives in Busan, and there are only three big radio stations within the city limits. He'd looked up the station (61.3 FM) and found it buried in a list of Incheon subsidiaries. Realistically, though, he had to work at one of those. It only makes sense.

He brings it up to Hoseok, whose frown deepens the more Jimin elaborates on his plan to stop by each of the stations the next time he has a break.

“It sounds like you’re trying to get an ex back, Jiminie,” Hoseok says, worrying his lower lip. “This can’t be healthy.”

Jimin entertains it for all of two seconds-- he and Joon holding hands, visiting art museums, kissing and touching to the beat of a jazz piano concerto in the backseat of Jimin’s sedan-- before snapping back to reality.

“If you listened to the show, you’d understand what I mean,” Jimin explains. “The guy was really friendly, and he had some great music taste.”

Hoseok shrugs. “I once said hi to the weatherman when I saw him at the store. I guess this is kind of like that?”

"Yeah," Jimin lies. "I think it might be."

His visit to MBC is, as he suspected, fruitless. He called in ahead of time, managed to frame himself as an amateur historian looking to tell the stories of suburban Busan. After a thorough search of the station's records, though, the best Jimin can come up with is a trivia program from 1987 hosted by a Moon Namjoon.

KKN and Busan E-FM yield similar results. Since both companies are nowhere near as massive as MBC, Jimin is able to request the audience of someone fairly high up on the corporate ladder. Two lengthy records searches later, Jimin is no closer to finding the identity of this Kim Namjoon guy than he was when he started.

He returns home that day with a resigned sigh. Driving has stopped scaring him, so he's able to turn the radio up on his way home. He hates to admit it, but 61.3's dubstep is growing on him.

He laughs to himself at the absurdity of Namjoon sitting beside him, head leaning out the open window, bopping along to the thumping beats. Would he tell Jimin about the intricacies of Skrillex? The melodies laced into the backdrop of the latest KREWELLA track?

Jimin has always known that his radio, salvaged from the wreck of his brother's car, was a ticking time bomb. Yoongi had told him from the start that it was just plain old, bound to break eventually.

He's just kind of angry that it happens right as Major Lazer drop the beat.

It leaves him disoriented, and he's never been as aware of his reliance on music to stave away his road anxiety as he is now.

He pulls up a playlist on Spotify before he starts twitching. He needs to get home safe and call Yoongi about getting the radio replaced.

-

"You told me you never used that old thing," Yoongi muttered, flashlight held between his teeth.  ev"But the wiring's fried. It looks like you've been listening to a lot of..." he trails off, checking the placement of the dial. "Uh, 61.3?"

Jimin groans. "Yeah, what's wrong with dubstep, hyung?" He expects Yoongi to laugh along, but he emerges from Jimin's car with a strange look on his face.

"You'd be pissed if a patient lied to you about their medical history, right?" he asks.

Jimin frowns. "When did I lie to you?"

"Jimin, when I was testing your radio last year, I set it to 61.3 FM. You're telling me you haven't used your car radio in an entire year, and your wiring looks like this? This is a sign of an underlying pro-"

"Hyung," Jimin cuts in. "I've been listening to that station every day. There was a show that used to be on the air, by some guy named Kim Namjoon. I'd listen to it every day when I was working the night shift."

Yoongi is silent for a long, long time.

"Hyung?" he asks, tentatively. He knows anguish when he sees it, and lord does he see it. He's surrounded by it at work, in his car, in his own fucking bathroom mirror every time he gathers the courage to peer into it.

Yoongi opens his mouth. He closes it, and slams the car door shut.

"Hyung, what's wrong?"

He smiles, but it's weak and wobbly. "Let's go inside for tea, okay? Hyung's getting kind of hungry."

 -

By all accounts, Kim Namjoon was uh-I-mean-kind-of an asshole. He was well-meaning, of course, but plain stubborn and dopey in the way that a puppy refuses to unlatch itself from its exhausted mother.

Min Yoongi graduated in '99, ranked second in his graduating class behind Kim Namjoon. They went to SNU together, like all best friends do; Yoongi was to become a surgeon while Namjoon wanted to study law.

They were picture-perfect sons, and their friendship was envied and whispered about for years to come.

"I'll bet this saying died out a couple years before you graduated," Yoongi said. He took a short sip of his tea. "But if you were best friends with someone, all your friends called you a Kim-Min. Someone told me about it at a reunion, and I was so shocked I nearly laughed in her face."

Namjoon went on to graduate early, and was offered a teaching position at SNU after he did his Masters' in Korean Literature. He stayed in Seoul while Yoongi travelled back to Busan to complete his residency. Though the pair were busy, they stayed close friends.

"And then," Yoongi said, running a hand through his hair. "Out of fucking nowhere, I got a call."

He's been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Namjoon tells him. He laughs, tries not to cough too much, but Yoongi can tell even over the phone that he's weak.

He has to resign from his position at SNU after just one semester, and that's what hurts him more than anything physical.

"He had to move in with his brother Seokjin," Yoongi explains, eyes glossy. "He was the most independent guy I knew, and he spent his last year living in his brother's guest room hooked up to a bunch of tubes."

That's what killed Namjoon, Yoongi maintains. 

"He was gone in less than a year. His brother couldn't bear it and moved out of the country. They'd already lost their parents, and Seokjin-hyung really had nobody left for him here."

Jimin detects, with a jolt, the same sort of fondness in Yoongi's voice that he teases Hoseok for after a conversation with Jungkook.

"I-" Jimin begins. He doesn't know how to phrase it, know how to tell Namjoon's real, genuine best friend that he feels like he was right there with him. "Why is the radio show on the air?"

"Oh," Yoongi says. He chuckles wetly. "He started that after his diagnosis. He got clearance to air them on some small station, but he ended them really abruptly just before he... you know."

"Do you think he knew?" Jimin asks, suddenly. Yoongi's eyes widen, but he fights to control his expression.

"I think he must have," Yoongi concludes. "He was a really smart guy. My dongsaeng, and smarter than every single guy our age."

Jimin looks down at his hands, clammy and useless in his lap. He wishes he could reach out to sip his tea, offer Yoongi-hyung comfort, anything.

"You listened to that radio show? Every single episode?" Yoongi asked. "Impressive. I could only make it though one hour before I started sobbing. We ask 61.3 FM to air them once a year, since it was on Joon's will."

Jimin swallows.

"This sounds so stupid, hyung," he manages, voice thin and cracking. "But I think I loved him. I think I loved Joonie."

Yoongi says nothing, but his silence is welcoming. Jimin doesn't know what he'd do if someone interrupted him at this point.

"Ever since the accident, I've been so fucking afraid; stuck in some sort of stasis where nothing gets any better or any worse. But thanks to you, and my friends at work, and especially Namjoon, I can drive through the night without having to pull over and cry. I got promoted, I learned that I really fucking love dubstep music.

I thought about it a lot-- when I'd finally meet Joonie. I was gonna recognize him by his voice-" at this, Yoongi smiles. "-and I'd hum the melody of that Debussy piece he really liked, and he'd turn to me with the biggest grin and give me a hug."

Yoongi's face is twisted in pity. "Namjoon does that to people," he laughs, but it sounds broken. "He makes people fall for him. I doubt you were the only one."

Jimin places his head in his hands. "I don't even know what he looks like. I fell in love with someone and I don't even know what he looks like."

Yoongi places his tea back on the platter and it clacks, shattering Jimin's reverie.

"If you really want to see, Jiminie, I'd be happy to show you."