Chapter Seven

Seamus ran his fingers through his hair as he made his way through the hospital hallways, releasing a tense breath of air. Absently drumming his fingers on the clipboard, he stopped outside the door of the next patient, rereading the room number as a precaution. Almost unconsciously, he avoided looking at the patient's name; it made his job too personal in the event that they didn't survive.

"Hello," he began, opening the door and walking towards the bed and stopping abruptly. "Ah...Harry?"

The esteemed Harry Potter glanced up, his green eyes faded with exhaustion and stress. Seamus's throat constricted, and he found himself struggling to breathe. Who was the patient?

"Hey, Seamus," Harry greeted him with a wan smile. "Well...we needed to leave someone behind with him, at least until a trusted Healer came along, and so I opted for staying. Hermione and Ron have got Rose to take care of, and Ginny was exhausted."

Seamus forced himself to breathe enough to manage his next question.

"Um...but...don't you have James to deal with and...Albus on the way?" he asked, frowning.

"James certainly is a rambunctious fellow, but he's less needy than Rose at this stage of life. It was still rather alarming when we had to get up and disapparate, though," chuckled Harry humorlessly. "Well, I've got a pregnant wife and toddler to get back to, so..."

"Bye," murmured Seamus, staring at the figure on the bed.

"Bye," replied Harry, standing and disapparating.

Seamus made his way numbly to the bedside, staring. Please, don't let this be the nightmare again, he thought frantically, begging whatever heavenly deities there were to prevent the cruelty. The familiar sight of Dean's face, twisted with the agony of dying, flashed before his eyes. 'It's your fault, Shay,' he choked out every time. 'I only wish...'

"Dean?" he asked, his voice an octave higher than normal.

The figure stirred, slowly returning to consciousness, and turned over, his face coming into the light.

"Seamus," whispered Dean.

Seamus's breath hitched in his throat, and he swallowed a sob. Carefully, he lifted one hand to touch Dean's face, his fingers brushing over it gently. Deep cuts were scattered freely across his face, and an ugly bruise was forming on his forehead. Closing his eyes, Dean lifted a hand to Seamus's, touching it lightly. A jolt, almost like electricity, shot through Seamus at the contact, and he snatched his hand away, plucking out his wand and waving it for a quick body scan.

"What...what happened to you?" asked Seamus, his voice trembling.

"Don't blow me up," was all Dean could manage before lapsing back into unconsciousness.

"I'll try not to," he promised, mustering a small smile.

Seamus quietly tended to the wounds covering Dean's body, using a Vulnera Sanentur and tracing his wand over the wounds and sealing them. His hands quivered with pent-up anger. Whoever had hurt him like this... Probably me, thought Seamus with a cringe. When all the superficial injuries were gone, Seamus waved his wand again, scanning the brain and taking care to keep breathing. Quickly, he repaired any remaining damage and backed away, sliding his wand back into his pocket and doing his best to quietly exit the room.

"Stay," Dean blurted out, his eyes snapping wide open. "Please, Seamus. Stay."

Seamus nodded. What he wanted to do, yearned to do, was take Dean in his arms, kiss that broken tone away, hold him there forever.

"Okay," he finally replied.

Dean closed his eyes again, burrowing into his pillows with a sigh. There was a long silence.

"Could you...could you sit there?" he requested, his voice almost shy.

"'Course," answered Seamus, forcing his limbs to move.

Stiffly, he approached Dean, bending his knees so that sit on the bed. Its springs squealed, the mattress giving way.

"Thanks," mumbled Dean.

Seamus swallowed.

"What...what happened to you?" he inquired weakly.

Please, please don't let it have been self-inflicted, he begged any and all merciful spirits there were. Dean didn't respond, however, not for a long while, and when Seamus looked at him in askance, he jumped. Those solemn brown eyes were regarding him, examining him.

"I was upset," he finally relented.

Seamus felt something in his chest tighten, and his heart nearly stopped.

"You...you did that to yourself," he whispered, feeling the blood drain from his face. "Please tell me you didn't try to...try to—"

"I didn't try to kill myself," Dean cut him off flatly. "Why would you care, though? I'm just another game, right?"

Tears rose in Seamus's eyes.

"I'm sorry," he apologized, blinking back the tears.

"I don't know as sorry can fix anything anymore. It's a bit too late," murmured Dean, clenching his jaw. "You hurt me, Seamus. You hurt me a lot, and I don't know how you can ever fix it."

"I know," he forced out, a silent sob racking his body.

"Why, though, Seamus? Was our friendship throughout all those years just so worthless that you cast it aside to toy with me?"

Dean lifted his eyes to meet Seamus's, a desperately pleading gleam in them, and the internal war that had been raging within him exploded.

"You were supposed to think that," he blurted out, slapping a hand over his mouth.

"What...?"

"Nothing!"

"What do you mean?" demanded Dean angrily. "I'm done dancing around it, Seamus! If you can't give me a straight answer—"

Ha. Straight. That's funny.

"Fine!" cried Seamus hopelessly. "I...you...it was for your own good."

"Oh, yes, because kissing me like that—like I've wanted to kiss you for years, by the way—and then telling me it's all a fun game is for my good. Fantastic logic."

Seamus shook his head as if to rid himself of confusion. It didn't work.

"You didn't say years," he objected stubbornly. "You just said 'awhile now.'"

"What difference does it make?" snapped Dean. "Get to the point, Finnigan, or don't at all. Ever."

"I thought it was a passing infatuation," mumbled Seamus.

Dean narrowed his eyes.

"Since when have I been one for passing infatuations? I thought you knew me better," he bit out.

"Yeah, well, when did you start...y'know...liking me?" challenged Seamus.

"Just about right after I got over Ginny," returned Dean, "Which makes it, yes, years."

"Still not nearly as long as I've loved you. How do I know it hasn't been an on and off thing, a rebellious phase you'll eventually get over? How do I know it's not just your silly game, something you want to experiment with secretly for a little bit and throw away when you get tired of it?" laughed Seamus humorlessly. "How do I know?"

Dean stared at him, bewildered, and Seamus glowered.

"You just...you just said..." he coughed, struggling with words.

"Said what?"

"You love me."

"Congratulations. You've bloody figured it out."

Dean looked down, hesitating, and Seamus felt his anger waver. He rarely saw Dean so vulnerable, so...afraid.

"I...I've figured something else out, I s'pose, though I've probably known it all along," continued Dean, fiddling with the covers.

Seamus's heart skipped a beat.

"What's that?" he managed, his voice pathetically weak.

"I love you, too," burst out Dean, finally meeting Seamus's gaze.

Being the graceful, ever-prepared wizard he was, Seamus tripped over his feet and his words simultaneously.

"I...you...what?"

"I love you, Seamus Finnigan, and I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner," reiterated Dean sincerely.

He stood up from the bed, swaying slightly, and Seamus instinctively leapt up and supported him, still processing the words. Blue eyes wide, he turned to stare at Dean, who mustered a smile before pressing his lips tightly against Seamus's. It was even better than Seamus remembered, with warmth and love and explosions—internalized ones, though; he'd get fired if he actually blew anything up. Gently, carefully, he entwined his arms around Dean's neck, hugging him closer, leaning forward and up. Dean turned them around quickly, pressing him up against the wall and immobilizing him rather effectively. They broke apart for air, sucking in ragged breaths.

"You're certainly...certainly experienced," gasped Seamus.

"You're not so bad yourself," replied Dean, grinning.

Seamus grinned and kissed Dean again. This one was more heated, less of tender sweetness and more of desperate longing, a need to make up for the years they'd lost. Dean tilted his head to one side, deepening the kiss, and ran his fingers through Seamus's already-rumpled hair. Seamus squirmed to one side, forcing a loud groan from Dean's mouth, and laughed quietly.

"Dean," he whispered, his tongue darting out to trace Dean's smile.

"Seamus," Dean whispered back, biting down on Seamus's lower lip.

Seamus gasped, eyes fluttering wide open, and laughed again, breathless.

"I get the feeling this is against the rules. Might get sacked," he chuckled.

Dean detached himself, disappointment visible in his features. Seamus proudly noted his uncharacteristically mussed state, his bright eyes, his heavy breathing.

"Oh. Sorry."

"Don't be," Seamus told him fiercely, grabbing hold of his hand. "Never be sorry for this. I'm not. I won't be, even if all my superiors walk into this room right now, see us, and fire me. I love you, Dean Thomas, and by Merlin, I'm not sorry."

Dean smiled, a truly beautiful expression that lit up his entire face.

"All right," he agreed, "I'm not sorry, either...but perhaps it would be best if you didn't get fired. I don't plan on being the one financial supporter in this relationship."

Seamus stared.

"Re...relationship?" he repeated, oh so very astutely.

"You didn't plan on friend zoning me, did you?" asked Dean, amused.

"Of course not!" protested Seamus quickly.

Dean grinned.

"Didn't think so. That makes it an official relationship, then, doesn't it?" he pointed out, his grin growing.

"Well, I'd like to officially ask you, then," replied Seamus, holding Dean's gaze. "Dean, will you be my boyfriend?"

"I, Dean Thomas, take you, Seamus Finnigan, to be my lawfully...er...lawful boyfriend, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until either death or relationship issues do us part," promised Dean with a solemn nod.

"Practicing, then?" he laughed.

"What better time to do so?"

"Well, maybe after the marriage proposal, but I'm not objecting. Oh, and speaking of this whole relationship thing, when are we breaking it to the others?" inquired Seamus.

Dean thought for a moment.

"How about an elaborate mistletoe 'accident' at the holiday party directly following a staged fight involving dangerous hexes?" Dean suggested.

"Sounds perfect."

"My ideas always are."

"Just like you, then."

"Opposites attract. Makes sense as to why I love you."

"Hey!"

Laughing, Dean kissed Seamus, effectively eliminating any further complaints he may have had.