Characters: Harry, Murphy
Spoilers: None in specific, I picture it set sometime after 'Second City'
Summary: Head injuries can be enlightening.
Author's Note: Done for the 3rd challenge @ dresdenflashfic. The prompt word was 'darkness'.
That, if you are unaware, is the precise sound that a head makes when it forcibly connects with a concrete wall. Sadly, it is a sound I am very familiar with, as my head frequently makes contact with all sorts of heavy objects. As a wizard, you’d think that it’d be less of a risk in my profession than say, being turned into a frog or having your throat torn out by a cute werewolf. Nevertheless, and maybe it’s just me, I’ve found myself waking up with a screaming headache and no recollection of what just happened more times that I care to remember. And, considering the circumstances, it may just be that I actually don’t remember a few of the times.
Ka-thunk! was the last sound I heard before waking up in darkness. I was used to this, too. General procedure is as follows: 1) carefully make sure you were still in one piece (so far so good, aside from the headache and an urge to throw-up), 2) try to remember why you were knocked out (I was still a bit fuzzy on that) and 3) attempt to figure out where you are now (no idea, but I was working on it). I blinked several times to make sure my eyes weren’t just closed, but they were as open as they were going to get and there wasn’t a hint of light anywhere. Just darkness.
I decided that I must be in a closet of some sort, or a dungeon. Either possibility isn’t too farfetched in my profession. I set about tapping experimentally with my hands around my person to see what I could discern. Maybe I could find a light switch. A little to my right there was...hair. Curly hair, according to my fingers. I followed along the hair and found a forehead, a nose, lips, and a chin. None of these were scaly or slimy or on fire, so I guessed they were human. My hand brushed something metal and I followed a small chain down to a pedant. It was flat, cold, round and had a hole in the centre of it. An image flashed in my mind, instantly,
Whump! A good slap across the face. Definitely Murphy.
“What the hell are you doing, Dresden?” She yelled.
I groaned. The sound of her voice at that volume was grinding against my aching skull and that slap hadn’t done anything good for me. I put my finger to my lips, then realized it wouldn’t be helpful in the dark, and added a hasty ‘shhhh’ to it.
“I was just trying to figure who you were,” I tried to explain, in a whisper for my own benefit. It occurred to me then where my hands had been on her and I felt my cheeks flare up sheepishly.
“By groping me?!” She snapped. I could hear her moving, probably sitting up.
“Sorry,” I offered.
“Try looking next time,” she grumped. More shuffling noises and then a small chuckle. “You’re blushing.” Her voice above me now. I guessed that she was on her feet.
“Am not,” I immediately argued. “Wait...you can see me...not blushing?”
“You can see me,” I repeated, dumbly.
“How hard did you hit your head?”
“Oh! Shit!” Her voice was directing in front of my face now and a hand probed my head behind my left ear. I flinched. “That’s a hell of a bump.” I could feel her breath on my nose. “Your pupils are huge. How many fingers?”
“I can’t see.”
“No, I can’t see.”
A pause. “Wait, at all?”
“Uh, yeah, pretty much.”
“That’s bad, Harry,” Murphy said, solemnly. “Alright, I’m going to get us out of here. You need to get to a hospital. Sit tight.”
“Yeah, no problem.”
It was harder than it first seemed, sitting tight. There was a horrible silence that lasted for a long time and it made me progressively more nervous.
“Murphy?” I questioned the darkness, uncertainly.
I reached out blindly to find her, to make sure she hadn’t disappeared. Unless we were in contact, it felt like it might all just be in my head. Maybe I put her there because my brain decided it wanted company. My hand couldn’t find her. I felt sick.
“Yeah, I’m here, sorry Harry,” she said. She sounded like she was across the...whatever we where in. Room, hall, universe. Some of the panic subsided. “I was just trying to figure out where we are. It looks like a cellar of some sort. It’s night still, we can’t have been out too long. I bet Kidman’s long gone now, though. If he’s smart.”
Kidman. Kidman. The name was familiar to me. It took a moment for it to come back. He’d been running a sort of slavery ring, using magic to lure girls in and keep them docile. One of the girls’ mothers had hired me after her daughter went missing. Murphy and I had found the girls, got them out, but he was escaping. Murphy ran after Kidman and I went after her. We were in an alley; he turned back and threw a magical version of a grenade at us. I’d tackled Murphy to shield her and the blast was what had given me the latest ‘ka-thunk!’ to add to my collection. My brain twinged at the memory.
“Hey, you okay?” I asked, feeling like a jerk for not asking sooner.
“Yeah, I’m good,” she answered, breezily. She obviously wasn’t good, I knew that somehow. “I got knocked-out, like you. That was a hell of an explosion.”
Hell was a good word. “Yeah.”
More silence. I still felt sick, but I think it was more because I didn’t have Murphy’s voice to distract me from the pain. Her voice drowned out the pounding of my skull.
“Found the door,” Murphy said, suddenly. She was behind me now, having apparently crossed the room without my noticing. There was a loud ‘thump’. “We’re not getting out that way. Windows are too small to fit through.”
Her voice moved while she spoke and it ended in front of me again. I reached out experimentally and found her ankle. I quickly withdrew my hand once I’d made contact and she either didn’t notice or politely ignored it.
“Hey...do you remember what the graffiti on the wall in the alley said?” she asked, wandering away from me again. I couldn’t see her and she was making me dizzy with all the moving. “There was that really bright green stuff, with the skull?”
I thought back. The concept of neon green sent a sharp pain through my head. “Uh... ‘take no prisoners’?”
“That’s what I thought.” I caught a note of excitement in her voice. “We’re there still.”
“In the alley?”
“Near the alley. I can see the graffiti through the window over here. We must be in the building next to it. I can see your hockey stick, where you dropped it.”
It was my turn to get excited now. “Can you get it?”
“The hockey stick, can you get it? I know you can’t get out the window, but can you reach through it?”
“We’re trapped in a cellar and you want to rescue your hockey stick?”
“It’s a good stick!”
Murphy gave one of her sighs that I’m pretty sure she only sighs around me. I feel honoured to inspire that sort of tedium in people. She shuffled around for several moments before there was a great smashing of glass. I could hear all the little shards as they hit the floor. Murphy gave a few grunts of exertion, while I held my breath. It wasn’t a good thing to do, I needed my breath. My dizziness got worse, like the floor was tilting underneath me. After one particularly nasty lurch, I threw up, and then passed-out.
“Harry? Harry, wake up.”
A gentle hand patted my cheeks, one than the other. I groped out and smacked Murphy in the nose. She grabbed my flailing hand and pushed it back down to my chest.
“You okay?” she asked, sounding worried.
“Ugh,” I replied.
“You passed out again. You don’t look good. Can you squeeze my hand?”
“Ugh,” I answered.
“Harry, squeeze my hand.”
I did so. I also pushed my foot against her palm, pulled my foot against her grip and informed her of my birthday, address, the names of my parents and counted backwards from 20. I missed the number 13, but otherwise I passed all tests with flying colours. I struggled to sit up, but she held me down with her hand on my chest. One hand, that’s all it took to keep me under control.
“Stay still, you have a serious head injury, Dresden.”
I ignored her. “Did you get it?”
“The hockey stick.”
“God! Yes! I have it. And if you weren’t already half-delirious and sporting a lump the size of an apple, I would be happy to hit you with it! It’s a hockey stick, get over it.”
“Let me up,” I ordered. It wasn’t much of an order; I probably wouldn’t have complied with myself. “I can get us out.”
“You. Have. A. Head. Injury,” Murphy enunciated.
“Right, that’s why I need out,” I argued. “Let me try. You can hit me with the stick afterwards, if you want. Just let me try. Trust me.”
There was a bit of silence again, but Murphy’s hand was still on my chest, so it didn’t bother me this time. After several moments, she removed her hand and helped me to my feet. I wobbled badly at first and fell back down to one knee, but the second attempt kept me upright, largely due to Murphy’s grip around my waist.
“Gimme the stick,” I slurred, holding out my hand.
“Dresden - “
“Gimme.” She placed the hockey stick in my hand. “Alright, take me to the door, a bit back from it.”
She pushed me in the right direction. When we stopped, I moved my hand around until I found her shoulder, then stepped behind her and put the stick in front of us, holding it with my arms on either side of her hips.
“What are you doing?”
“Trust me. Get a hold of it, next my hands,” I instructed. She sighed heavily and then I felt her hands touch mine as she grabbed on. I shuffled in closer, getting a noseful of her hair. I resisted the urge to put my head on her shoulder and go to sleep. “You smell nice. Very clean.”
“Sorry, that’s the concussion talking. Okay, point the stick at the door, right in the centre.” I felt the stick move in my hands and adjusted my arms accordingly. “It’s aiming for the door?”
“The top, not the bladed end?”
“Okay, okay,” I said. “Moody. Alright. Hold on tight, don’t let it move. Here we go.”
I closed my eyes, even though it didn’t make a difference to my view and concentrated on gathering the magical force around me and into the stick. I could feel it drawing in through the blade and running up the shaft towards the tape at the top. I could almost see it. Murphy’s body tensed up, her shoulder hit my chin as it tightened.
“Relax,” I muttered. “Just stay still.”
I could definitely see the blue light now. Magic is half what you feel, not perceive. I took a few deep breaths and counted. 1...2...
I released the energy and there was a loud boom, the sound of a door flying open on squeaky hinges, then another boom and splinters of wood hitting the ground. Murphy gasped loudly, which I could feel as well as hear. She also swore, but I won’t repeat was she said. There might be children present.
“Work?” I forced out, completely spent now.
“What was that?” Murphy demanded, sounding scared.
“Magic,” I said, with satisfaction. I dropped my grip on the stick, but Murphy still held it where it was, unmoving. The world was spinning so fast around me that I felt like I could hear the whine of it. “Murph?”
“Yeah...” An automatic response, she wasn’t really listening.
“M’gonna pass out now.”
I did so, hitting the floor with another ‘ka-thunk!’ to my head. I woke up in a hospital with no hair and a hole in my skull (Bob had a field day with that). I also had my vision back, which was a good thing. Murphy had three broken ribs. Told you that she was lying. The doctors told me that it would be a long recovery and I was lucky to be alive. I was inclined to agree, except for the fact that I would now have to talk to Murphy about what she’d seen. Somehow, I suspected being unconscious for that might have been a better option.