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Break the Walls Down

Title: Break the Walls Down
Paring: ?
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2086
Summary: The trials and tribulations of a Healer-In-Training.

Justin’s hair was still dripping from the shower he had taken after his early morning swim when he arrived at St. Mungo’s. Though his lungs still ached a bit from the pace of the swim, he jogged up the stairs. His floor was quiet. That was a good sign. He made a triumphant sound when he got to the lockers and hastily put his things away. Still jogging, having now forgotten his aching lungs, he moved to grab his charts and begin on rounds.

“Heard it was you, today,” Owen said when he caught up with Justin a little later in the morning. Owen was the Healer in charge of the Healers-In-Training on Justin’s floor.

Justin grinned abashedly and looked up briefly from his patient.

“Second time this week?” Owen asked, signing off on the procedure Justin had listed on the patient’s chart.

“Third,” Justin corrected him.

Owen chuckled and put the chart back at the foot of the patient’s bed. “I’d avoid the tea room today, if I were you.”

Sure enough, at lunch, Padma Patil was barely disguising her glare of displeasure that was pointed in his direction.

“She’s going to hex you,” August, a Healer-In-Training on the fourth floor, said, looking nervously over at Padma. “I don’t know why you antagonize her by trying to beat her to work.”

To be honest, Justin was not sure why he did it, either. He had never been a competitive person, before coming to work at St. Mungo’s. He had been happy enough to work hard and not brag about his grades, which were always excellent, though he was not sure that anyone (besides Ernie and his professors) ever knew that. He supposed it all went back to the war, as most things did.

As a Muggleborn, he had, of course, not been allowed to attend Hogwarts for his last year, but he did not like to think about that year. It had been mostly luck that he had gotten into the program when he did. He had just so happened to meet Professor Sprout in Diagon Alley while shopping for school things on the same day that St. Mungo’s met with the school to ask them for recommendations to the program. She wrote him a letter, and the hospital admitted him on the condition that he finish his schooling. So he lived at Hogwarts and studied for his job on his off time. He would apparate into London on the weekends to sit for the exams with the other trainees.

He supposed that was where it all began, on the day he had shown up to check the score on the most recent exam and Patil was ahead of him.

“He’s not even here,” she had said resentfully. “It’s like he’s too good for it.”

“He’s still at Hogwarts,” someone else had chimed in, “because-”

“Special treatment,” she had huffed before walking away without noticing Justin.

That had soured the feeling of getting the best marks on the exam. Justin had always been second before, and, at that point, he knew to whom.

That was where it had begun, and it only intensified their second year in the program when they were actually together. She was too used to being right about everything, he had decided. Sometimes he wondered if it would ever end, if it would just go away once they became full-fledged Healers, or had they had too much practice competing for that to ever happen?

~*~


“Come to bed,” El purred into his ear as she leaned over to wrap her arms around his neck.

Justin smiled and turned his head a bit. “Soon. This is my last case from today.”

She started moving her hands over his chest. He loved it, but it was distracting.

“Just five minutes, El. I promise.”

She let out an indignant breath. “You’ve been working since you came home from work. I’m pretty sure the idea is that when you’re home, you’re done working.”

“They’re going to ask me questions about my cases tomorrow,” he explained. “I have to know.”

“You have to know more than that woman, you mean.”

“We had different cases,” he said defensively, though she was right. They were still competing in quantity.

El seemed to know what his answer meant. She did not respond to it, just hovered silently behind him.

“I’ll be in bed soon,” he repeated.

She sighed and walked away, but when he did join her in bed, she rolled over to kiss him like always.

“It won’t always be like this,” he told her. “The last set of exams is this spring.”

“You should spend more time trying to impress me than that mad woman.”

He grinned. “I’m not trying to impress her, and I thought you were impressed.”

“I may remember having been impressed once,” she said, painting a pensive expression on her face.

“Is that a challenge?” he asked her.

“I don’t know,” she said, smiling. “You’ve been working hard all day. Are you even up for it?”

Even though she was right: he was tired, and there were only a few hours left for sleeping, he found himself nodding. “That’s the kind of challenge you don’t turn down.”

~*~


When he woke up, afternoon light was streaming in past the curtains. The Healers-In-Training were on a night rotation. Justin found it disorienting. They had had some exciting cases come in late at night, but he never felt right waking up like this, when much of the day was done. He stumbled into the shower and started the water out cold, trying to shock his system.

He felt a little more put to rights when he made his way down to the kitchen to make some breakfast. He was surprised by the sight of boxes stacked in the hall.

“Christmas shopping, love?” he asked, spotting El as he grabbed for the eggs out of the refrigerator.

She jumped and spun around. He could not read the expression on her face. “Justin-”

“Don’t worry. I didn’t see what any of them said,” he told her, smiling.

“I’m moving out,” she blurted.

He dropped an egg on his foot. “What?”

“I can’t do this anymore.” He voice wavered and he did not trust himself to look up at her, so he busied himself cleaning up the broken egg.

“Can’t do what exactly?” he asked. He tried to make his voice steady and neutral, but he did not fully succeed at hiding the edge in it.

“This relationship,” she replied, straightening her back. He knew that meant she had made up her mind. “You’re always working, even when you’re home. When you go on nights, I go to work before you get home and you’re gone before I get back. I know it’s not your fault, but I don’t want to do it anymore.”

“But we’re so close,” he protested. “I get some time off after the holidays. We’re going to take that trip. And it’s only a few months until exams and I’ll have a better schedule once I’m done with training.” He realized that his thoughts were sounded jumbled as they tumbled out of his mouth, but he was desperate to say them all, to give her every reason why she should not leave.

“I know all of that,” she said. “But I don’t believe it will get that much better. You’re still going to work a lot. You’re still going to be obsessed with that woman you work with.”

He laughed incredulously, though there was not anything funny about it. “Is that what this is about?”

“No,” she said firmly. “It’s about time. I want it. You don’t have it.”

“But I’ve been doing better,” he protested. “We’ve been going out once a week. I’ve only been doing a few hours of work in the evenings. I can get better still.”

She shook her head. “I’ll be out by the time you’re off work.”

She left him feeling empty and more dazed than when he had woken up.

~*~


The party was in full swing by the time Justin got there. It was the day after New Year, the horrible holiday season was over for the Healers-In-Training, and they were all meeting to celebrate the beginning of their time off. He was not much in the mood to celebrate, and, in fact, he was dreading his time off. He had thrown himself into work in the weeks since El left; the prospect of spending lots of time in their flat alone was not a pleasant one. He was showing up just to make an appearance, and he was more than happy to be swept up by August into the crowd.

He was surprised, to say the least, to see Patil weaving her way toward him when August left to get himself another drink. Glancing around anxiously, lest she be on her way to hex him, he realized he was cornered just as she arrived.

“Happy New Year,” she said. He could tell by her breath that she had been drinking, quite a bit.

“Happy New Year,” he replied courteously.

She leaned up against the railing he had been leaning against before she showed up. Justin was not sure she remembered he was even there, so he stood awkwardly, wondering when August was coming back.

“I like you,” she said, suddenly.

“God, you’re drunk, Patil,” he replied, laughing.

“Justin, you’re not listening,” she insisted.

He was taken aback. She had never used his given name before. Maybe she had at Hogwarts. Memories before the war were foggy still. He recovered quickly and laughed again. “Seriously, you’re going to be pissed off when you remember this.”

“I’m not,” she chirped. “It’s the truth.”

He was about to make an excuse to go find August when she leaned in and whispered exaggeratedly, “I think you’re very nice.”

“Okay,” he said. “Thank you.”

“Do you think I’m nice?” she asked, batting her eyelashes at him.

“Patil, we don’t really know each oth-” he started and was saved by the return of August and Patil’s sudden disappearance.

She reappeared, propped against Owen, when Justin was on his way out of the party.

“Justin!” Owen called out. “Can you take her home?”

“Er,” he hesitated, glancing at his wobbly coworker. “Sure. I suppose.”

She grabbed onto his arm when he got close and he was surprised at how heavy she felt, for such a small person.

“Where do you live?” he asked when Owen had returned to the party.

She giggled, slumping against him even more so he staggered to the left.

He tried again. “I’m going to take you home. Where do you live?”

Patil giggled more, forcing him to wrap an arm around her middle to keep her upright.

“I’m serious, Patil. If you don’t tell me, you’ll have to go home with me.” He forced his voice to be stern, though the ridiculousness of the situation was not lost on him.

When she started gasping for breath, he rolled his eyes and apparated them both to his flat. She staggered, pushing his hip roughly into the corner off his table and causing him to gasp sharply.

“Let’s get you in bed,” he said, through gritted teeth as he guided her down the hall to his bedroom.

Her giggles had stopped; she swayed silently beside him as he pointed out the toilet and pushed her onto the bed. Justin rummaged about to find some bedding for himself, and when he turned, she was half undressed.

“Damn it, Patil,” he hissed, holding the sheets up in front of his face. She started giggling as he made his way out of the room and set up camp on the sofa.

It was the sound of her swearing that pulled him out of a deep slumber in the morning. He groggily pulled himself upright just in time for her to storm into his living room.

“What did you see?” she asked him. “What did you touch?”

He held up his hands, a little offended that she would think he would take advantage of her. “Nothing. You just slept. You wouldn’t tell me where you lived.”

“That’s not surprising,” she said, raising her chin defiantly.

He rolled his eyes. “You’re welcome.”

She thanked him stiffly and showed herself out. Justin wondered if she would remember the things that she told him the night before until he drifted back to sleep in the comfort of his sofa.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
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end_unplanned
Jul. 28th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
She's not! It had nothing to do with her!
qicaarmy
Apr. 12th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
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