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    Deep Pivot Episode 35

    “Hello, Lieutenant.”

    Seo-joon nodded faintly with a slight smile. It had only been about ten days since he last saw him, but it felt strangely unfamiliar, as if it had been a whole month.

    “Hello!”

    Jeong-woo greeted Hee-min and Seo-joon brightly. Hee-min smiled as he approached him. Without giving Yeon-woo a chance to stop him, he naturally lifted the child up.

    “Are you Jeong-woo? You look so smart.”

    Jeong-woo, who didn’t shy away even when held by an unfamiliar adult, smiled bashfully.

    “Thank you so much.”

    Yeon-woo thanked Hee-min. Hee-min smiled sheepishly, glancing at Seo-joon.

    “Save the thanks for later. Give it to, well, someone else, not me.”

    Hee-min, carrying Jeong-woo’s breathing aid, led the way, bouncing him up and down.

    “Wow, our Jeong-woo has some cool stuff! Is this uncomfortable? Should the doctor get you a more comfortable and prettier one?”

    Considering his age of nine, it seemed excessive, but due to his smaller stature compared to his peers, the scene didn’t look awkward.

    “Wow! Hyung, look at this, it’s huge!”

    Jeong-woo, who had entered the hospital room a few steps ahead, bounced excitedly in Hee-min’s arms. Yeon-woo, who entered the room slightly later, looked at Seo-joon with a somewhat bewildered expression.

    “Why are you looking at me?”

    Seo-joon hinted with a smile and a nod of his chin that he should look around the room instead of at him. Feeling somewhat flustered, Yeon-woo looked around the inside. He had expected a shared room, but it was a private room equipped with a large queen-sized bed and a big TV.

    The room was the same size as the one that used to accommodate six patients, but now Jeong-woo was the only patient. Yeon-woo, looking perplexed, spoke up.

    “Oh, I didn’t expect it to be such a big room.”

    “We converted an unused lab.”

    “Is that even allowed?”

    Hee-min responded with a casual smile.

    “It was just sitting around like a storage room. Cleared out the stuff, brought in a bed and a TV. That’s about it.”

    Yeon-woo, alternating his gaze between Hee-min and Seo-joon, bowed deeply.

    “Thank you so much. I will work even harder from now on.”

    “If you try any harder than now, it might be too much. You’re already exceeding expectations, so don’t feel pressured, Yeon-woo.”

    “Jeong-woo, quickly thank the doctor.”

    “Thank you!”

    Still in Hee-min’s arms, Jeong-woo bowed his head, lightly bumping his cheek against Hee-min’s shoulder. Hee-min, who was naturally fond of children, couldn’t help but smile at the cuteness.

    Jeong-woo, peeking over Hee-min’s shoulder, silently grinned when his eyes met Seo-joon’s. Seo-joon returned his smile and discreetly showed the back of his phone, revealing the purple monster sticker that Jeong-woo had given him earlier. Jeong-woo beamed widely at this sign of their secret promise fulfilled.

    “I’m not in charge of Jeong-woo’s treatment; remember Dr. Yoon from the materials you received? He’ll be taking care of it. Let’s meet with him later and discuss it.”

    “Okay.”

    “For now, Jeong-woo will have to endure a lot. We have many new tests to conduct because the materials from the previous hospital weren’t sufficient.”

    “I’m good at tests!”

    Not even knowing what kind of tests they were, Jeong-woo declared confidently.

    “Oh, really? Our Jeong-woo is brave, huh? Then today, let’s do just one easy test with the teacher. How does that sound? I’ll give you a snack afterward.”

    “Sounds good!”

    “Song-hee, did you prepare what I mentioned earlier?”

    “Oh, yes. It’s ready.”

    Song-hee, who was playing with the remote and marveling at the features of the new smart TV, quickly turned it off and followed him. Seo-joon didn’t immediately follow them but instead looked at Yeon-woo, who was still surveying the room.

    Yeon-woo’s eyes wandered around the bed, table, and TV, seemingly in disbelief, before landing on Seo-joon. Caught off guard by the sudden eye contact, Seo-joon awkwardly turned his head.

    “Shouldn’t we go to the examination room too…”

    “Hospital bills.”

    Seo-joon and Yeon-woo spoke at the same time. Seo-joon paused as he watched Yeon-woo bow deeply in front of him.

    “…Thank you so much for what you’ve done, Lieutenant.”

    Seo-joon frowned slightly.

    “How did you find out? I used Hee-min hyung’s name.”

    “The staff at the billing center remembered your face, said you were the one who came with me.”

    “…Ah.”

    An unexpected factor. Seo-joon chuckled awkwardly in his surprise.

    “That staff member has quite the memory. I never went to the billing center while with you.”

    “They remembered you as the handsome one.”

    “Hmm.”

    “You might not know, Lieutenant, but… once people see your face, they rarely forget it.”

    Feeling a bit embarrassed, Seo-joon absentmindedly rubbed his chin. *Do I look unusual?* he thought, but no answer came.

    This is incredibly embarrassing. Seo-joon had thought it wouldn’t matter if Yeon-woo eventually found out, but getting caught so quickly was more mortifying and awkward than expected.

    “Uh, well… I recently received my first paycheck.”

    A tense voice came from in front of him. It was cautious.

    “I’m really grateful, I really am… but I’d like to return the hospital fees.”

    “There’s no need.”

    Seo-joon answered firmly.

    “Just accept it with peace of mind.”

    “…”

    “The reason I used Dr. Kang’s name is… because I didn’t want you to misunderstand. I also wanted to explain in person when the time came.”

    He chose his words carefully. But the more he tried to clarify, the more tangled his thoughts became.

    “I genuinely wanted to express my gratitude and apologize for the hard work you did at the scene last time, so… don’t overthink it and consider it as a bonus.”

    When he finished speaking and looked up, Yeon-woo still looked puzzled. He blinked slowly, lost in thought for a moment before finally speaking.

    “…Did you also help with Jeong-woo’s treatment, Lieutenant?”

    “Well, that…”

    Seo-joon wanted to come up with a suitable excuse, but as soon as he met Yeon-woo’s gaze, he found it difficult to lie. He parted his lips, and after a brief hesitation, he continued.

    “…It’s not that big of a deal. The medical staff here is very competent. There are quite a few similar cases. Hee-min Hyung also knew your situation and was eager to help.”

    “So, it means that you were the one who suggested it first, Lieutenant.”

    With an innocent face, Yeon-woo hit the nail on the head repeatedly. Seo-joon felt strangely cornered, even though he wasn’t being interrogated. *I guess I’m getting old. If it was going to be this easy to figure out, why did I even try to hide it?*

    “…Thank you again. I’ll take it gratefully without feeling burdened, as you said. I’m truly happy that Jeong-woo can receive treatment in such a good place. It’s something we’ve only dreamed of for a long time, and it’s a huge opportunity for Jeong-woo, so I wouldn’t refuse it.”

    After a brief silence, Yeon-woo gently held Seo-joon’s arm as he continued.

    “Still, it was a bit much to keep it a secret.”

    Rather than holding his arm, Yeon-woo simply grasped the corner of his sleeve.

    “If that staff member hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known until the end. Actually… I probably would’ve realized soon. I know it’s impossible to receive such benefits from insurance alone.”

    Yeon-woo didn’t appear angry, but he seemed to be choosing his words carefully, just like Seo-joon.

    “If you were worried about me misunderstanding… could I ask what kind of misunderstanding you were concerned about?”

    The direct gaze made Seo-joon uneasy for some reason. He almost instinctively avoided eye contact, but he managed to keep his eyes on Yeon-woo as he spoke.

    “The truth is… I wanted to lessen my sense of guilt. You seem to want to work as my personal guide, but I…”

    “Yeon-woo, when are you coming? Everyone’s waiting.”

    At that moment, Song-hee popped her head into the hospital room.

    “Should we just start without you?”

    Seo-joon unconsciously let out a deep sigh. No one was accusing him, and no one had done anything wrong, but he felt like he was finally free from a vague sense of tension.

    The conversation, left unfinished, faded away as Seo-joon took a step forward. Yeon-woo reluctantly followed him, finally letting go of his sleeve.


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