Wonshik whined as he slipped from his dreamless sleep. It was quiet, and it was warm. Something wasn’t right. Where was he? He sat up quickly at a stabbing pain. Movement only made it worse. It extended up through his whole body and he clutched his heart trying to calm down.
“Easy, easy. Lay back down.”
Wonshik was in a hospital, surrounded by other beds with curtains serving as partitions. There must have been a window behind him because light was pooled about him. The gentle sunlight also shone on the person in front of him. Clean, dressed in white, beautiful. This was not a field doctor. What happened to him to allow a trip to the hospital? Was he discharged? The man eased him back into relaxing on the bed. His hands were large but gentle. This was not a field doctor. His features were sharp, not in a masculine sense but more of a… magical manner? Like all those features shouldnt manage to coexist on one face. He was brunette. His bangs were pinned back behind his ears so there was nothing obstructed his vision. He had a sympathetic look, eyes full of compassion and mouth tugged into a worried frown. This was not a field doctor. He sat down on the bed beside Wonshik.
"How bad is the damage, doc?"
"I'm just your nurse." As he spoke, the nurse tapped Wonshik's thigh. His hands were cold. Wonshik reflexively looked to that large hand.
His heart plummeted to the floor. That would explain the pain that woke him up. The nurse's hand took up his thigh, rested over bandages, bandages that wrapped around his whole knee. The rest was gone. His left leg just stopped at his knee. Wonshik felt sick. The nurse took his hand away. Both sat folded in his lap. Wonshik's mind was a mile away.
"What happened…?" The nurse sighed, looking away.
"You came here due to severe bleeding and hypothermia. It was cold, you were shot. It took time for someone to get you and bring you here. By the time you did, this was the best the doctor could do." His voice was soft, apologetic. Wonshik ran a hand over the top edge of the bandages, breathless. He didn't remember it, any of it. He knew he was fighting… getting sluggish. The field was snowy, right by a river that had nearly frozen over. Men shouting. Guns. Grenades. Snow was red and brown, soiled. Then, he woke up here, one limb short.
The nurse had a file in his hands now.
"The cold damaged your nerves, it would have been more difficult keeping it." Wonshik stared again, trying to picture what he'd look like now, how Taekwoon would respond when he finally came home. He'd be on crutches, or even worse yet, a wheelchair. He'd have to be helped out of the seat of the car. He couldn't have the elder bound into his arms. Wonshik slowly tilted his head up to look at the nurse.
"Did you call anyone? Do they know what happened?" Jaehwan blinked before rising from the bed and nodding. He put the folder on the nightstand.
"We contacted your family, as did your captain." Wonshik's heart fell right back into its spot on the floor. He didn't know yet. Taekwoon didn't know he was hurt. Wonshik could have died and no one would have told him.
"I need to talk to someone, please. They're not family but he has to hear this." Wonshik moved like he was ready to climb out of bed. He stopped at his own realization. The nurse put a hand to his shoulder.
"You can make a call after I reapply your bandages. They have to be cleaned and replaced." Jaehwan pulled over the night table, apparently it had wheels. Atop it were bandages, scissors, what Wonshik assumed was his disinfectant.
"Do I have to watch?"
"No, but someday you'll need to know how to do this yourself." The nurse took his leg and unwound the bandage with ease. He'd done this a lot. Wonshik didn't want to, but he naturally watched the nurse's motions. Fresh stitches were revealed.
"What do I call you?" Wonshik tried to sound conversational. Fear was edging his tone.
"Your title, name. I don't think you want me calling you nurse sunshine." The nurse looked up with brows raised.
"Sunshine?" Wonshik pointed behind him.
"The light shining on you. Very magical." The nurse ducked his head, going back to unwrapping Wonshik.
"Nurse Lee. Jaehwan."
"I could find that much out in your file," Jaehwan muttered, sneaking a glance up at Wonshik with a small smile.
"Cheeky," Wonshik spat back, playful. Jaehwan grabbed the disinfectant from the table, unwrapping the dark glass bottle.
"It's a trait of mine. You'll want to grab onto the sides, I'm afraid this stings." Wonshik grabbed the sides of the bed tightly. He forced himself to focus on Jaehwan's face and not his own leg.
"Fuck!" Wonshik swore and the noise echoed in the spacious, quiet hospital room. Jaehwan just silently continued, sanitizing his stitches before grabbing the fresh bandages. It burnt. It felt like Jaehwan had popped open a bottle of pure alcohol and poured it onto his fresh scars. It felt like he had lit Wonshik on fire. Wonshik's knuckles were white with how tightly he grasped onto the bed sides. He heaved for breath coming down from the assault on his nerves.
"It will get easier once you heal." Jaehwan was winding the bandages tightly.
"Do you have to do that everyday?" Wonshik asked with his head still hung and still wheezing for breath.
"For now. You'll heal and then it'll just be bandages. Then, nothing. You should only be here for a month." A month. He could handle that. It was better than being out in the field. There was no time to recover there. Just keep going, going, going. He could handle this big, silent, empty room for a month. He laid back in his bed in a sudden wave of exhaustion. At least there was his nurse. He seemed like polite company. Jaehwan stood up and threw away the old, bloody bandages. Wonshik ran a hand over his left thigh. "Do you still want to make that call, Wonshik?" Jaehwan asked once he returned to the soldier's bedside. Wonshik nodded, staring up at the ceiling.
"Yes, yes I still need to talk to him." Jaehwan nodded. He excused himself.
Jaehwan returned with a wheelchair, and also another man behind him. He was big, enough to be another soldier himself. He had a baby's face however, limiting his intimidation.
“This is nurse Han. I just got him so you could get in as painlessly as possible.” Wonshik looked to nurse Han with wide eyes. He was supposed to lift up the bag of bricks that was Wonshik? How strong was this man? Han came to his bedside and gestured him over, summoning him to the edge. Wonshik dragged himself over.
“Count of three. One,” he slipped his hands under Wonshik’s legs, well, leg and a half, and around his back, “Two, three.” Wonshik squeaked as he was hoisted up like a bride. He made it look so easy. Han placed him into the wheelchair as gently as he could. Wonshik looked at him in awe.
“How did you not get drafted?” Han gave a short laugh. He had a delightful smile.
“We are sincerely short on doctors, and someone has to lift up all these big soldiers.” Wonshik flushed. He wasn’t able to dwell on it though. Jaehwan turned his wheelchair around for him and began to walk down the room, in between all the beds.
“Thank you for the help!” Wonshik called, looking back to the larger nurse. He laughed and waved him off.
“No problem!” Wonshik sat back probably in his seat, grasping the armrests. At the very last bed was another man, asleep. He slept through Wonshik basically screaming in the empty room?
“You are very polite,” Jaehwan complimented. His pace was quick as he pushed Wonshik along.
“If he didn’t help, I would have had to crawl into the chair.” Jaehwan giggled and Wonshik thought of it fondly as tiny bells chiming.
“Who’s to say I couldn’t lift you?” Wonshik scoffed, amused.
“You’re the size of my sister and I probably weigh as much as two of you.” The nurse pouted his lips and huffed. He had wheeled Wonshik to a front desk. A woman was filling paperwork and Jaehwan pulled down the phone for him. He looked expectantly with his hand on the rotary wheel. Wonshik eagerly dictated the number, praying Taekwoon was home. Jaehwan turned the wheel for each number, respectfully jiffy about it.
“Hello? Who is this?” A woman’s voice had answered. Not Taekwoon’s mother, not his own, not his or Taekwoon’s sisters. This was an absolute stranger. Wonshik was desperate though.
“Is there a Jung Taekwoon?”
“Not here no. Did you dial wrong?” Wonshik drew in a breath, trying to not seem upset. That was fine. Taekwoon couldn't be upset if Wonshik couldn't contact him, right?
“Yes, yes it appears so. I’m sorry for the interruption, ma’am.” He handed the phone back to Jaehwan, silently asking him to hang it up.
“Where is this hospital?” Jaehwan blinked.
“Saemon? No wonder it didn’t work.” Wonshik ran hands over his face, groaning. Jaehwan put down the phone and immediately squatted beside him so he could be eye level in the wheelchair.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay. I can send out a letter for you. I’ll even make it priority if this friend is so important to you.”
“You don’t need to do that,” Wonshik spoke into his hands.
“You said he needs to know. This is an emergency.” Wonshik grabbed the armrests as he was suddenly turned around and rushed back to the room. Jaehwan was basically jogging down the hall at this point.
“You really don’t need to write for me,” Wonshik spoke as he looked up at the ceiling. Jaehwan hushed him, sitting at the table beside him with a pen and paper.
“Hush, you must rest. I shouldn’t have been moving you around so much after your surgery in the first place. Now, just dictate and I’ll write.” His voice was chipper. He was determined. Wnshik racked his brain for what to have Jaehwan write.
“Dear Taekwoon,” he started before spelling the man’s name for Jaehwan. The nurse was a quick writer. He was probably a secretary in some past occupation.
“I wish this letter could reach you under better circumstances. I’m back home, but I’m in the hospital in Saemon. Even now, I’m having my lovely nurse write this for me.” The compliment earned him a smile from Jaehwan before he went back to quickly writing. “I hope to see you as soon as possible. Having my closest friend beside me would truly help at this point. I don’t think I myself would be the best company, but I would give anything for you to just be here to fret over me.” Wonshik became distracted in his words. He saw Taekwoon in his mind and just poured out as much of his heart as he could. It had been a year. His heart was flooded with longing every time he heard the name. “They told my family when I first arrived, but I doubt they will come. Just one familiar face would mean the world to me. I am in good care by my nurse,” he looked to Jaehwan with a smile, "but we’ll have to get acquainted. I think you’d like him. He’s full of smiles. I woke up to him in the sunlight and it was like he was surrounded in fairy dust.”
“Sir..” Jaehwan looked at him with wide eyes, embarrassed. Wonshik just smiled, very satisfied with himself.
"He's got the best bedside manners ‘ve ever seen. I’ve only been awake an hour and he’s already won me over.” Jaehwan blinked. He could not move, could not talk. He was pretty sure he had died right at that moment. Wonshik was still looking at him, still smiling up at him from his bed.
“Do you… you want me to write that?” Wonshik hummed, putting arms back behind his head with a smile.
“Absolutely.” Jaehwan stared at the paper before hesitantly writing. This was going to be a nerve invoking job.
“Is that all you want to say?” Wonshik opened his eyes, dropping the smile and making a more innocent, sincere expression.
“Would you tell him what happened? Exactly? He’ll be scared if he doesn’t know what actually happened to me.” Jaehwan nodded, turning back to the paper in determination and quickly summarizing his patients condition.
“Wonshik was admitted into the hospital at two am with severe nerve damage from acute hypothermia, internal bleeding, and wounds from shrapnel. The surgeons assessed him and determined the best action for his health was removing the affected leg. We estimate he will be here for a month of recovery, after which he will have to attend physical therapy."
"After waking up and me cleaning his wounds, his first notion was to speak to you. He was very adamant and we made a failed attempt at the phone before writing this letter. He obviously cares for you, and I hope you can be here soon to accompany him. I will do my very best to care for him in your absence. You have a very, very charming friend. Do write back for your friend." Jaehwan put down his period with satisfaction before sitting up and looking to Wonshik. Words were on the tip of his tongue, but they fell off silently as he saw the soldier asleep. His arms still served as a pillow and soft snores rumbled. He still had to sleep off the pain medication. Jaehwan looked back to the letter in his hand. His handwriting was legible, the contents were exactly what Wonshik requested. Jaehwan folded the paper and stepped away from the bed once more. He moved to the nurses office where he could find a desk of materials, envelopes included. He had to do this for Wonshik and do it well. This was an important mission. He thought fondly of his new patient as he filled out the return address. Such a pleasant man. Charming, handsome, loyal. He was a perfect package.