iv. four calling codes
(code orange: mass casualty accident)
Joohyun dashed through the hallways of the hospital until she was outside the building, instantly recognized by the other doctors whom she'd returned their greetings to. She was highly respected in her workplace, and it was evident in how everyone looked at her with such admiration; although Joohyun never let it get to her head.
"What is it?" Joohyun asked between pants. She’d hurried straight from the doctors' mess as soon as she'd heard the call from the intercom, leaving her lunch untouched.
There were a handful of doctors and nurses waiting out along the outside of the emergency department's intake. Granted it wasn’t very often that they got a code orange at their hospital, whatever warranted it needed everyone on deck.
"Bus hijacking, eventually led to a chain reaction car crash. We're expecting at least a dozen injured," Seungwan, fellow doctor and best friend, said.
Joohyun's face twisted with concern, chewing her bottom lip by force of habit. She mentally prepared herself for what was to come. She’d been having what Joohyun would consider a mundane shift– week even– up until the code had been signaled. Their job as physicians was as much of a rollercoaster as one could imagine. One moment, you'd be closing in on the latest gossip at the nurses' station, then pulling a metal rebar out of a man's thigh the next. Joohyun pored over the memory and willed not to cringe.
Three ambulances drove up into the threshold of the intake as the atmosphere filled with incumbent urgency. The doors were hailed open and Joohyun immediately attended to a middle-aged woman sporting a soft collar and scratches on her face– if the large piece of glass impaled onto her upper arm was any indication, had come from even smaller fragments. As a team wheeled the woman inside of the hospital, Joohyun began instructing them one-by-one. All in a day's work.
Joohyun drew the curtain behind her and smiled at the elderly man on the hospital bed. "How are you feeling, Mr. Kim?"
"Better now, thank goodness," he replied. He gave Joohyun a wrinkled grin.
"That's great to hear," Joohyun said thoughtfully. She nodded towards his foot wrapped in elastic bandaging. "Good news is, it's only a minor sprain."
Mr. Kim's shoulders dropped in relief, as if he'd been carrying a truckload of rocks all along. He'd been one of the more fortunate patients, coming out of the accident with just an ankle sprain. He was also the only patient, however, that didn't have any family come for them. Joohyun understood the imminent burden that staying any longer would be for him.
"So we'll just let your morphine drip finish, and as long as the pain doesn't worsen or have any other complications, you'll be good to go," Joohyun said. "I'll also give you a prescription to help with the pain and swelling."
Mr. Kim let out a pleased sigh. "Thank you so much, doctor."
Joohyun gave him a tight-lipped smile. "We'll check up on you in a bit, alright? Make sure to get some rest for now."
She closed the curtain as she left the room, satisfied with herself. Thankfully, they hadn't lost any of their patients. Mr. Kim had been the last one she had to check on before she could take her break and hopefully get something in her stomach ahead of any emergency.
Determined to do so, she gave a heads-up to the residents, entrusting them to take care of the patients during the short time she'd be away. Just as she finished giving the last of her reminders to the chief resident, Sooyoung, someone approached her.
"Hi, sorry, excuse me, is it a bad time?"
Joohyun turned to come face-to-face with Kang Seulgi. Detective Kang Seulgi.
The detective had become a familiar face for Joohyun at the hospital and the emergency department in particular, but never really had the opportunity to speak with her. She’d frequently come to question some of the patients, visit any of her admitted co-workers, or less often, get herself treated. Joohyun thought it was strange how she'd never treated her at least once. Though with the way Seulgi stood before her, bracing her arm in a guarded position, Joohyun knew that was about to change.
Joohyun's expression softened in time as she shifted in a more relaxed stance. "Detective, no, not at all. What can I do for you?"
"I was hoping you could take a look at my shoulder. It's nothing major, but I could ask one of the other doctors if you–"
"No, no, it's not a problem," Joohyun interjected, patting Seulgi’s good shoulder. "Do you mind if I take a look in my office though?"
Seulgi shook her head. "Lead the way."
"Yup, it's dislocated, all right."
Joohyun had Seulgi remove her jacket and shirt, leaving her in a sports bra for a better look. The detective had bruises, old and new, and scratches here and there. She’d been right, about there being nothing too serious– except for the fact that her shoulder was out of its socket. With a few questions, Joohyun deduced that she’d dislocated it not because of a car crash but during a scuffle she had with the suspect.
"Why didn't you let a paramedic check your shoulder? They would've at least given you a sling, you know."
"There were too many injured earlier, everyone had their hands full, it was a mess," Seulgi answered coyly. "And at the time, it wasn't hurting much, but now it's kind of bothering me."
"Must be the adrenaline wearing off only now," Joohyun said.
Joohyun moved her chair closer to Seulgi’s, getting a more stable hold on her upper arm. Her skin was warm to the touch, which caused Joohyun to become oddly conscious of her calloused fingers. Maybe it was the presupposition that she’d known Seulgi for a while now without a single interaction. That the detective possibly had this predetermined familiarity of her.
"We're gonna put your shoulder back where it should be. You won't even feel the slightest pain, I promise," Joohyun reassured her.
Nostrils flaring just the tiniest bit, Seulgi tried not to look too doubtful, then nodded. "Okay."
"We're gonna talk through this entire thing, okay? I just need you to relax first," Joohyun said as she squeezed her bicep softly.
"Relax, yeah. I can do that." Seulgi blew out a breath, making Joohyun break out into a smile. Her arm was still tense against her body. To relocate her shoulder painlessly, Joohyun needed to completely relax the muscles around the joint before she could pop it back into its socket.
"Relax, detective," Joohyun chuckled, giving light pats to Seulgi’s arm until she did. "Okay, perfect."
Joohyun's hand went to the inside of Seulgi’s elbow and pulled down gently to get some traction. She looked to the detective for any sign of pain, but Seulgi simply grinned. Her other hand kneaded the muscles on her shoulder and worked out the tension there.
"So, how long has it been since you've been stationed here?" she asked.
"I got transferred three months ago, so I'm still in that period where I'm both still kind of adjusting but also getting a hang of how things are around here," Seulgi replied. She bent forward slightly when Joohyun moved over to her upper traps. "What about you? How long have you been a doctor here?"
"Three years, actually."
"Wow," Seulgi mused. "That explains this whole office, I guess. Are you like, a chief of something or…"
"Head of the emergency department," Joohyun said. Seulgi’s muscles now relaxed, she'd begun moving her arm in different directions– outward, inward, forward, backward– in the slowest fashion. "You still okay?"
Seulgi nodded. "Yeah, all good."
"I know you said that you're still adjusting, but how are you finding everything here so far? And don't worry, I won't tell," Joohyun kid.
"Busier than ever, that's for sure. Sometimes my colleagues say that I do my job too well, but I don't know if they always mean it as a compliment."
"Don't let it get to you. I'm sure you're doing terrific. It's nice to know that there are people out there actually making an effort to keep everyone feeling safer," Joohyun said as she flexed Seulgi’s arm forward. "Although I will admit that I might start thinking that you're a doctor from how much I see you in here."
They both laughed knowing she was right. Even Seulgi was aware of how much she frequented the hospital, and saw the doctor just as many times.
A sudden yet subtle clunking sensation shushed Seulgi. She looked at Joohyun with a wide set of eyes, who smiled back at her.
"Try moving your arm outward for me," Joohyun said, demonstrating the movement. "How does it feel?"
"I don't feel anymore pain…" Seulgi said with surprise. "That's amazing."
"Try not to dislocate it again," Joohyun said mirthfully.
Seulgi nodded and smiled as she got dressed, pulling on her shirt then jacket. "Thanks for fixing me up again, Dr. Bae."
"Again?" Joohyun looked confused.
"Ah. You probably don't remember, but you patched me up after my first real case here. Bullet graze to the side, needed a couple stitches." Seulgi raised her clothes, revealing a sizable scar that went from the angle of her rib to just the side of her spine. It seemed to have healed decently, but some discoloration was still apparent.
Even upon seeing the scar, Joohyun couldn't recall treating Seulgi at all. Maybe the detective had caught her on an awfully busy day. One where her patients blurred together the moment her shift ended.
"It was nice meeting you, Dr. Bae. Formally," Seulgi said, reaching out her hand.
Joohyun took her hand and gave it a friendly shake. "You too, Detective."
As she watched Seulgi walk out of her office, Joohyun realized the extreme feeling of softness and comfort that'd been present for a while now. Since she'd been in the same space as the detective. It was strange and unexplainable, but perhaps there was good reason for a sense of presupposed familiarity after all.
Almost inevitable that they'd see each other again, Joohyun wished that the occasion would arrive sooner.
"It seems like you and Detective Kang are getting along really well," Seungwan said in a tone caught between goading and just stating. She took a second to glance at her friend before opening her locker.
Joohyun thought of ignoring her, but knew that if she took her chances and Seungwan was indeed in a teasing spirit, things would only get worse. "We're…taking things slow," she admitted.
"Hm. You two do make a cute couple though." Only having gotten a few belongings, Seungwan closed her locker. She and Joohyun began their way out of the room when Seungwan noticed the latter burning from neck up. "Oh my god…hey, are you blushing? Dr. Bae is blushing over her little detective girlfriend– oh my god, who would've thought!"
"Seungwan, please stop," Joohyun groaned, swatting Seungwan's hand. She was lucky enough that nobody else was around to hear Seungwan's high-school esque outburst. "And she's not my girlfriend. Like I said, we're taking things slow."
"Too slow, apparently," Seungwan muttered under her breath. "Ah, speak of the devil! Code purple incoming!"
Code purple? Joohyun thought. Seungwan always came up with these odd ideas…
"Joo- Dr. Bae, Dr. Son."
Joohyun stopped in her tracks. Her conversation with Seungwan had distracted her from noticing that Seulgi had also been walking down the same hallway. She could only bring herself to acknowledge Seulgi’s presence with a small wave, suddenly finding herself stuck in an awkward situation with her best friend and not-yet-girlfriend.
"Just call me Seungwan," she said forwardly with a cheeky grin. "I know you're here to take my friend on a date, so drop the formalities."
At that, Seulgi looked taken aback, shy. "Oh, I-"
"Anyway, I'll go ahead, have fun!"
Seungwan left shortly thereafter, saying her goodbyes to both women. Joohyun and Seulgi stood awkwardly for a moment then Joohyun said, "I guess we haven't been as subtle as we thought."
They began to walk towards the exit, side by side, awkwardness gradually fading with each step.
After the car crash incident, they'd become mutually intrigued and– owing to a rare bout of boldness from Seulgi– kept in touch with each other, even outside of the hospital. Coffees in the morning, lunch in between breaks, it wouldn't be long until dinner dates followed too. Being with Seulgi seemed to sate the impulse within her of feeling the same sense of comfort Joohyun had since the first time.
"Is that a bad thing?" Seulgi asked.
Joohyun looked up, barely, to meet Seulgi’s eyes head-on and shook her head. "Not at all."
Another moment of quiet passed before Seulgi spoke again: saying, "So how have you been? Tell me about your day."
Joohyun swore she could feel her heart melting.
(code blue: cardiac arrest)
No big smile, no hug, not even a short greeting.
"That man is a very important piece of a very important case. I need him alive at all costs," was the first thing Seulgi said to her as she emerged from the treatment room.
Joohyun had an inkling of the case. The murder of some local politician's son. Despite its high-profile disposition, it was clear that the authorities withheld from releasing too much details to the press.
Seulgi was a great detective who loved what she did, that much she knew. It wasn't her first encounter with high-profile cases either, much less a homicide, but Seulgi looked more tense than usual.
"Is he a witness or a suspect?" Joohyun asked.
The detective crossed her arms as her features steeled, saying nothing.
Joohyun sighed. "Seulgi, regardless of who this man is, he's still my patient. There's no need to worry," she assured, then challenged, "Unless you don't trust me?"
Seulgi chewed the inside of her lip. She knew she had no other choice now but to tell her when Joohyun put it like that. "He's one of three suspects of interest."
"You okay? You seem on edge," Joohyun said gently, putting a hand over Seulgi’s crossed forearms. 'I haven't seen you like this before,' was left on the table. It wasn’t the time nor the place.
"No yeah, I'm fine," Seulgi managed a smile and placed her hand on top of Joohyun’s, much to the doctor's delight. "He's awake now right?"
"Yeah, but he's still very weak at the moment," Joohyun pointed out.
"I'm just gonna ask him a few questions, that's all," Seulgi contended, already taking a step towards the entrance.
Seulgi was headstrong whenever she decided on something, and Joohyun was well aware that any effort to stop her would prove to be ineffectual.
"Alright…just don't push too hard, okay? He might not be able to handle it yet," Joohyun said, plaintive.
Hours before, the police were in pursuit of the suspect which didn’t last very long, when he'd suffered a hypertensive crisis in the middle of the bout and collapsed in the middle of the road. He was brought right away to the hospital where Joohyun had been the one to examine and treat him. The way officers hovered about was telltale of her new patient's background. In her years as a physician, Joohyun had her fair share of treating crooks. Outwardly, no doctor should compromise their standard of care. Each patient had to be treated equally. Inwardly, each doctor was different.
"But perfectly fine helping with the murder of an innocent kid, yeah," Seulgi scoffed humorlessly.
Joohyun looked at her with a pleading gaze. "Seulgi…"
"Okay," Seulgi relented. "I promise."
Joohyun stood silently at the back of the room while Seulgi ran down the facts. The suspect, Mr. Han, was their getaway driver. Surveillance footage had caught him near the crime scene using a cab he also used for work, and tracking him down hadn't taken the police long. Everything about it spelled out a contract killing. Out of the three suspects, Mr. Han was the only one in custody. However, Seulgi was less concerned with his partners and wanted to know the person who'd hired them. But the man hadn't uttered a single word.
Seated on a chair beside Mr. Han's bed, Seulgi pulled out some photos, placing down a pair on the overbed table.
"How do you know this man, Mr. Han?"
"I don't- I don't know." He looked away and it was obvious that he felt immensely nervous. Joohyun took a quick glance at the beeping monitor.
"How about this guy?"
His associates, Joohyun thought. Mr. Han stayed silent, eyes roving place to place with fear. At this, Seulgi let out a sigh that told Joohyun that her patience for him was wearing thin.
"Okay," Seulgi said. She unveiled the rest of the photos in her hand as she spread them across the table. As she did, Mr. Han visibly stiffened.
Curious, Joohyun looked at the photos. She wasn't too close to get all of the details, but close enough to see the gruesome nature of them. Joohyun then understood better why Seulgi was so worked up about this case, more than she'd ever seen before. The amount of blood in them was sickening, Joohyun could only imagine how much of a mess the actual crime scene was. But what was more abhorrent was the fact that in spite of the amount of blood depicted in the photos, there was no body in them. Not an intact one, at least. Every image, the ones that had one, showed a different limb. Each appendage wasn't too far from one another but the intent was clear– a lousy attempt to cover up their crime. If Joohyun's profession didn't render her stomach callous to the macabre accounts of the human anatomy, she'd be hunched over a trash bin by then.
“Here, look at these,” Seulgi said. The man, as expected, did the opposite; but Seulgi’s uncompromising hand grabbed him by the jaw and forced him to look anyway. “I said look, you bastard. How does it feel to know that you were a part of this?”
Joohyun watched the color drain from Mr. Han’s face, startled herself by Seulgi’s brashness. She knew that Seulgi had made her a promise, but still remained alert should she have to step in.
“Just to give you a little insight, here's what he looked like.” Seulgi unveiled another photo, this time of a young man. “I heard that he was a great kid. Played varsity basketball, got good grades every year…Before you and your friends turned him into this,” she said, pointing to the horrid set of images once more.
Mr. Han’s eyes and hands trembled, and after some time, finally spoke in an equally shaky and faint voice. “I didn't know…”
Like she was front row to an olympic spectacle, Joohyun had been turning side to side during the exchange; and with Mr. Han's most recent response, she knew it would do nothing but unintentionally rile Seulgi. Joohyun contemplated stopping them then, a foot already shifted to move forward, but Seulgi spoke before she could do anything else.
"Didn't know what? Speak up, Mr. Han. Who hired you?" Seulgi’s tone was apathetic to any discomfort the man showed.
"He told us it'd be easy-"
"I need a name, Mr. Han!"
All of a sudden, the monitor beeped wildly just as Mr. Han began to hyperventilate. Joohyun rushed to the bedside as a nurse also entered the room. "Blood pressure’s spiking," she stated. "Mr. Han, relax. It's alright, it's done now. Breathe…"
The beeping and the man's breathing slowed after several cycles with Joohyun's guidance, who offered reassuring words to him. After a while, Joohyun exchanged a quick few words with the nurse as well, stealing a glance at Seulgi. Even then, her stare was cold and indifferent, only moving back slightly to let Joohyun do her job.
"I think that's enough questions for now. You may leave, Detective Kang," Joohyun said formally.
Joohyun turned around fully, her shoulders demonstrably assertive. "As Mr. Han's doctor-in-charge, I'm telling you it's best for his well-being that you leave this room," she responded, leaving nothing to debate.
Seulgi took her leave without another word.
No big smile, no hug, not even a short greeting. That was how Joohyun mentally insisted herself to be if Seulgi– stubborn and questioning– approached her.
She exited the treatment room with the nurse, Yerim, at her side when she saw Seulgi standing across the hall, waiting. Gone was the icy expression on her face, now replaced by her usual gentle one, though Joohyun could see a trace of guilt.
"Dr. Bae," Seulgi called out softly. Embarrassing as it seemed, it was enough for Joohyun to forget whatever plans she had in giving the detective the cold shoulder.
Joohyun kindly dismissed Yerim before walking up to Seulgi, and led her to a quiet corner. Facing one another, Joohyun waited for Seulgi to speak up.
"Joohyun." Seulgi cleared . "I'm sorry for earlier. I promised I wouldn't get carried away, but I still did, and," she raised her arms in defeat, "I should've listened to you the first time. I'm sorry."
Joohyun stepped forward and wrapped Seulgi in her arms, taking the latter by surprise. "Are you alright?"
She should've realized earlier. Why Seulgi had been so worked up lately, and so withdrawn and unlike herself. This case was slowly getting to her, and it was high-time before she caved in to the pressure and exhaustion of it all.
"I understand how hard it is, especially when someone so young is involved. They had so much life ahead of them, and suddenly it's cut short like nothing. In such a horrible way, too."
Joohyun pulled away and held Seulgi’s hands. "You want to do everything in your power to give that kid's family justice, and you are, Seulgi," she said, "You're going through a tough time right now. And I may not know what to do or how to make you feel better, but I can assure you that I'll stay by your side until you do."
Seulgi exhaled deeply and briefly closed her eyes. Joohyun hoped it was relief replacing what had been so much tension inside her.
"I don't know what to say," Seulgi confessed before allowing a small smile to tip her lips. "Thank you…It's just been a rough couple of weeks."
"Mm, I know. Come here." Joohyun gathered Seulgi into her arms again, rubbing her back as if she wanted to take away the rest of her burdens. "Take the couch in my office, try to get some rest. I'll let you know if something comes up."
Seulgi nodded against her head without a hint of reluctance. The tiredness had been slowly seeping through her body anyway. If she stayed in Joohyun's arms for any longer and just closed her eyes, she was confident she'd fall asleep. "Okay."
When they separated, Joohyun took Seulgi’s hand with the intention of walking her to her office. But coming from Mr. Han’s room was the urgent beeping of the patient monitor that alerted them both.
"Code!" Yerim shouted from the room.
Seulgi's instant reaction was to look to Joohyun in hopes for some answers. "What's going on?"
"He's going into cardiac arrest, I have to go," Joohyun said hurriedly before squeezing then letting go of Seulgi’s hand. She jogged the hall and to the room. "We need a team in here!"
Seulgi felt herself weaken on the spot, the panic mixing in for an ugly combination. Consciousness flirted with her, waning on and off as she saw figures rush into the room behind Joohyun. She battled to keep herself upright and her eyes open, but could feel her faculties slipping away regardless. At last, Seulgi succumbed to weeks of fatigue and mindlessly accepted her deliverance, lagging to the floor as everything faded into darkness– the last thing she could remember, Joohyun's voice shouting the word 'clear.'
She regained some degree of consciousness feeling blank and unjustly calm. A few moments was all it took for her to discern her previous passing-out and that her head was lying on Joohyun’s lap.
Joohyun looked down at her and smiled. “Hey.”
“Where are we?”
"My office," Joohyun replied as she swept the hair from Seulgi’s face.
Seulgi sprang up with a frantic look. “Mr. Han-”
“Hey, hey, calm down,” Joohyun cooed, cupping her cheeks. “He's okay and resting. He’s just been under a lot of stress.”
Seulgi relaxed with a nod. Sitting next to Joohyun, she asked, “How long was I out?”
“Uh, well, five hours. My shift just finished thirty minutes ago,” Joohyun said. Despite wanting to watch over Seulgi herself, Joohyun knew that she couldn’t just drop everything– her patients– although the other doctors would've understandably covered for her.
"You should've woken me up…"
"You know I couldn't do that. You looked like you really needed the sleep. Not to mention, very pretty," Joohyun finished, smiling.
Seulgi chuckled, shaking her head a bit.
Joohyun slid down to Seulgi’s hand and played with her fingers. "Also…" she started, "Mr. Han asked me to tell you that he'd like to speak with you as soon as possible."
"What? Did you talk to him?" Seulgi asked in disbelief.
Joohyun's little smiling shrug gave up more than her having said, "Just as any doctor would to their patient."
With renewed vigor, Seulgi jumped to her feet and grabbed her jacket hung over the armrest. "You're a miracle, you know that?" Seulgi beamed as she began walking away– right before returning to Joohyun, bending down, and pressing a kiss against her temple.
"I'll be right back."
Joohyun knew that she should've been frightened of being alone in a room with a murder suspect, and even more terrified to sit on their bedside. Especially after everything she'd learned from that interrogation. However, years of treating other people had taught her that each individual was a complexity– extending farther than their injuries, or their crimes. And Mr. Han wasn't an exception.
"Your vital signs have been stable thus far, but you still need to get lots of rest," she told him, patting him on the wrist. It'd been a few hours after he'd coded, and showed steady progress since then.
The man looked up and met her eyes. "You've been so kind to me, when you could’ve done the opposite. I know it’s your job, but you can't fake sincerity," he said, face filled with conflict. "Why?"
Joohyun sighed as she looked away, like she suddenly dealt with her own inner conflicts. Then, she finally spoke up.
"I didn't always want to become a doctor. And when I'd begun to, it wasn't for noble reasons either. I wanted the status, the prestige, the money. I saw everything as a payoff for my efforts in school. I wasn't top of the class for nothing, right?" Joohyun chuckled. She could only laugh at her former self now. She hadn't even opened up to Seulgi about this.
"And then during my first year as an intern, a girl my age came into the ER in the middle of the night with a baby in her arms. The baby was pale and listless, and the mother was panicked. I treated the baby– it wasn’t even that difficult– she just needed some fluids and antibiotics, but the look on the mother's face when her child was finally smiling again…" She gazed out of the window. The sun was just setting, nearly kissing the horizon.
"That really got to me, it was such a precious sight. My eyes were opened. Believe it or not, I felt happy to be a doctor for the first time." The corner of tilted up slightly at the memory. "No matter how far out you think you are, it's never too late to change. That's what I realized that night."
Joohyun looked back at the man, who was staring at his own clasped hands. "I treat you with kindness because deep down, we're all alike as human beings. Not good, not bad. Just human."
She let out another sigh, but this time of satisfaction. "The colors are beautiful," she said, pointing out the vibrant mixture of hues in the sky.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mr. Han looked outside as well.
In a small voice, he started, "The man who hired us, he told me that they just needed a getaway driver to complete their plan. He said that we'd just go there and take a few things from their house to scare them off, send a message. So I took the job because I needed the money. For my kids."
He bowed his head and gripped the blanket tightly in his fists as Joohyun listened. "I had no idea that they would…they would do that. I swear. I just drove the car, just like they told me. Apparently, the kid was awake when he shouldn't have been, and our boss couldn’t afford any witnesses. It was a matter of wrong place, wrong time."
"I know what I did is unforgivable, but if I could make things right, I would. And now I'm scared that they'll come after me too if I talk," he confessed.
Joohyun enveloped the man's worried hands in an effort to offer some comfort. "I'm afraid we can't undo the past, Mr. Han. Life goes on, whether we like it or not, but you can still do the right thing. Just tell the authorities what happened. They'll protect you. I promise."
Another period of silence passed, but Joohyun didn't mind. She had time.
"Let the detective know that I'll be waiting for her," he finally said.
"I will," Joohyun assured him. They sat in silence for a long time, mulling over the conversation they shared. When the sun finally dipped below the horizon, Joohyun thought of how Seulgi would fill in the quiet.
"Tell me about your kids."
(code omega: life-threatening blood loss)
It happened while Joohyun and Seulgi weren't working.
The two women had arranged to go on a date on a day both of them didn't have work; which for people like them, didn't come by that very often.
They decided to first have dinner at a niche, cozy restaurant Joohyun could only guess how long Seulgi searched for. Seulgi had even blasted her phone with reviews of the place, not that Joohyun needed much convincing anyway. She was just excited to spend time with her no matter what they did.
Dusk had just come by when they finished eating, on their way to the cinemas next. Joohyun's hands were tucked around Seulgi’s arm and they walked in a more than comfortable silence.
She was content with the happy simplicity being together brought. Just months ago, if somebody were to tell Joohyun that she’d have someone to be with like this, she would've laughed in their face. She hadn't attempted dating in her years of studying, and everyone who thought that they had a chance all walked away empty-handed. She was simply too busy. Or perhaps, thinking with her arms wrapped around the woman beside her, nobody in the past was right for her.
One thing did bother her though. Although they were obviously dating, Joohyun didn't know if she could call Seulgi her girlfriend. They never really had the conversation. It was her first time dealing with something like this– a relationship– so she had no idea if it was automatic, or if labels should be a big thing at all for them. Still, Joohyun couldn't deny that the matter bugged her, but was too shy to bring it up to Seulgi. At her age, she needed that kind of certainty.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a piercing scream, shaken out of stupor. She and Seulgi looked across the road and saw a woman, her daughter, and a man sprinting away from them.
Without a second to waste, Joohyun and Seulgi ran towards the mother and daughter, assessing the situation. The woman was bleeding profusely from her upper thigh, drenching her slacks. "My bag-" the woman choked out.
"Call 911," Joohyun said as a few people gathered around them. She went down on her knees and ripped the woman’s pants for a better ocular. "She's been stabbed," she said to no one in particular, placing immediate pressure on the wound using the same piece of fabric she'd torn.
Joohyun noticed Seulgi, whose eyes flitted from the scene to the culprit repeatedly. The man hadn't gotten too far yet, and that Seulgi could still catch him if she left now; but Joohyun knew that she wouldn't just leave her. So she gave her a nod, saying, "We'll be fine. Go."
Like it was all she needed, Seulgi sprinted off. She looked back to the woman in front of her groaning in pain. Joohyun could tell she was in too much pain to even talk. "You'll be okay, Ma'am," Joohyun told her reassuringly, then faced the young daughter who'd been holding her mother's hand, "What's your name?"
"You're a brave girl, Yeonjoo. We're going to help mommy, okay?"
The little girl nodded, eyes filled with tears. Of course she was terrified.
"Lie mommy down for me, Yeonjoo," Joohyun instructed, "watch out for her head- good job."
She peered down at her hands and noticed that the bleeding hadn't stopped. "Yeonjoo, look inside my bag and find a pen," then looking up to the group of bystanders, gestured to one of the men and ordered, "You, come here and continue putting pressure as soon as I lift my hands."
Joohyun removed the scarf on her neck and unraveled it. "Keep putting pressure," she said, ripping the woman’s pants higher and wrapping the scarf around her thigh tightly, closer to the groin. She took the pen from the little girl and quickly made work of the makeshift tourniquet with several twists.
Joohyun finished wrapping the wound with some bandaging that Yeonjoo had found in her bag as a final touch, satisfied with their work. She thanked everyone who'd assisted her, especially Yeonjoo, who seemed calmer now.
"Mommy will be alright?" the small girl asked.
As the hopeful sounds of an ambulance echoed from a distance, Joohyun nodded confidently. "She will."
Then, she looked down the length of the dimly-lighted street, as she hoped the same for Seulgi.
Keeping up with the man proved to be harder than Seulgi wished, now that night was beginning to fall. They'd been running for a good five minutes at least, with no sign of stopping.
Theft-related crimes had a tendency to spike during the holiday season for obvious reasons. It was a phenomenon that unfortunately couldn't be helped. Robbing somebody was one thing, but to go as far as hurting them? Seulgi felt her blood boil at the thought.
She saw the thief run straight into a night market and cursed under her breath- but suddenly realized that she was familiar with it. This specific market followed a linear path, and there was only one way the man could go out. Seulgi hesitated, deciding whether she should chase him head on or go around in hopes of beating him, but also risk losing him entirely. Eventually, Seulgi followed her instinct, and made the risky turn.
Surprised was an understatement to describe the look on the thief's face when he realized that Seulgi was running towards him. He stopped and staggered backwards which led him to his own demise as he slipped on the fishwater-covered ground. Seulgi gained in on him as he rushed to stand up, barely getting to when Seulgi grabbed him by the shoulder. What Seulgi didn't account for was the penknife in the man's hand, slashed on the arm as he turned around.
Ignoring the stinging pain, she caught him off-guard, pulled him directly, and stripped the knife away from him like a toy. Seulgi gripped the sluggish punch that he threw and clenched her bloodied fist as she threw one in retaliation, knocking him straight on the nose. The man stumbled back and Seulgi took advantage of this, ramming him down onto the ground facedown; and put him in the classic shoulder-twisted, wrist kinked, and foot-on-his-back to keep him still.
"," Seulgi muttered, pressing harder with her foot as she reached down to get the woman’s purse and wore it over her shoulder.
When she pulled her cellphone out of her coat pocket, the thief wriggled underneath her foot. Seulgi twisted his arm even more in response, earning an agonized whine. "Stay still, will you," she said annoyedly, then in a completely different tone, spoke in the phone, "Joohyunnie!"
"If it weren’t for you, she might've bled to death," Seungwan said.
Joohyun nodded in kind. "I'm glad she's okay."
They were able to get to the hospital just in time and get the woman under a surgeon's knife. The operation went smoothly and swiftly, with manageable internal damage. Her condition had stabilized and now was resting in the ward. As for the culprit, Seulgi made sure to keep him grounded until the police collected him. By the time they'd arrive, he was tied up in plastic twine.
"Is that her daughter?" Yeonjoo was playing a hand game with Seulgi, both of their laughs emanating through the hallway.
"It's nice that she's already laughing," Seungwan said happily.
Joohyun grinned. "That's Seulgi for you." The detective looked their way and smiled widely.
Seungwan nudged her shoulder and teased, "Hey, don't be here getting baby fever or we'll end up with an actual code purple."
"Be quiet, you," Joohyun quelled as she rolled her eyes.
"You do know why I call her code purple, right?"
"Of course I do," Joohyun replied, "what do you take me for?"
Seungwan giggled. "Alright, alright. I have to go make my rounds. See you Tuesday?"
"Doctor-unnie!" The girl had a quite literal skip to her step as she greeted Joohyun.
The doctor gently tussled the girl's hair and gazed down at her with a warm smile. "Yeonjoo, how are you feeling?"
"Good! Can I see mommy now?" Yeonjoo asked.
"Mhm," Joohyun nodded, "But she's still sleeping, and we want to make sure she gets lots of rest."
"Okay!" she answered in a hushed tone, placing her index finger in front of her lips as a show of obedience. Joohyun held her hand as they headed towards her mother's room when the child tugged her hand. "Unnie, I have a question."
"Is Seulgi-unnie your girlfriend?"
Joohyun froze. She shot a look at Seulgi, who shrugged and shook her head frantically. "What was that?"
"I asked Seulgi-unnie but she said she doesn't know!" Yeonjoo complained.
This time, Seulgi stepped in in an attempt to salvage the situation. She patted the crown of the litle girl's head. "Well, Yeonjoo, that's something your doctor-unnie and I have to-"
Joohyun figured: If you want something, you might as well get it yourself.
"Yes, she is," Joohyun said. "Seulgi-unnie is my girlfriend."
Seulgi stared at her in disbelief.
"I knew it!" Yeonjoo triumphed with a giant smile. She started off again, pulling both Joohyun and Seulgi with her. "C'mon, let's go to mommy!"
While Joohyun happily chatted with the girl, Seulgi walked along glibly, trying to digest what Joohyun had just said.
"How's your hand?" Joohyun asked.
Seulgi raised and slightly flexed her bandaged hand. "Kinda hurts but not too bad."
They sat on a bench just outside of the hospital for some fresh air. It was cold and chilly out, but still offered some comfort after such a long, winding evening. Joohyun was like a human heater anyway with her much larger coat, Seulgi tucking herself into her as her body absorbed Joohyun's warmth.
"It's a shame our night didn't go as planned, but I'm glad we were there when we were," Seulgi said.
Joohyun crossed her arm with Seulgi’s and squeezed her thigh. "Me too. And there'll be other days, so don't worry too much."
Turning around to face her, Seulgi finally addressed the elephant in the room. "So…are we gonna talk about earlier?"
"What part," Joohyun teased, "The food, the nice interior of the restaurant, my perfect first aid, or your pursuit through the night market?"
"You know what…"
"No, I don't think I do, detective," Joohyun persisted. This playful side of her really came out naturally when she was with Seulgi.
Seulgi sighed lightheartedly. "Did you mean it?"
Joohyun's chin tipped upward, smile on her lips. "Calling you my girlfriend? Yeah…unless you have a problem with that?"
"Not at all, doc," Seulgi said softly.
"Alright, then," Joohyun whispered back, breaking into a full smile.
Seulgi leaned in slowly and kissed her. The kiss eventually became more teeth than lips at one point because of the wide grins they both wore.
It was the sweetest kiss they'd ever shared.
(Was that her pager or her heart thumping against her chest?)