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The Endless Game

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"Aubrey."

He needs a moment to come to his senses. Everything's so bright, so devastatingly overwhelming. Light hurts and the silence rings in his ears. Dull, piercing pain in the back of his head comes in waves, flooding him over and over with unpleasant sensations.

"Aubrey."

He hears the voice, but it's coming from so far away he isn't even able to locate its source. Looking around is too painful to continue doing it, besides it's completely senseless, coming he doesn't see anything. What was bright a moment ago becomes dark and there's only blackness all around him.

He feels the ground he is half-sitting, half-lying on. It's rough and cold, like shattered and uncleaned tiles. He remembers something like that, but can't settle on from where. Some basement? Sewers?

"Aubrey!"

Someone's touching him and shaking his arm. He wants to hide, to make it stop, because the shaking makes the pain worse, but he manages to stay where he is. Besides, he wouldn't be able to run even if he wished to do it.

He frowns and slowly opens his eyes again. The vision is blurry, but this time it's not all dark. He sees a person right in front of him. The contours aren't present, so he squints and tries to distinguish the figure from its surroundings.

The realization comes soon after.

"Jessica," he mumbles as he recognizes the red hair and enormous eyes, currently filled with nothing more but concern and fear.

"Jesus," she utters with relief and closes him in a hug. He's not sure of what's going on, every touch coming to him with slight delay. "You scared the hell out of me!"

He frowns deeper. The only thing he knows is that this situation is really strange. Something bad happened, something he cannot recall. And now...

...dark, damp place, the pain, her concern...

...now they are surely in danger.

He blinks few times, trying to regain the vision completely. When he does, it doesn't help much. The place they are in really looks like sewers. Green mold covers the walls, there are pipes everywhere and this irritating hum of water flowing nearby is driving him crazy. Or rather would drive him crazy if he was able to focus on it, but he's got a big problem concentrating on anything. His mind is strangely tired, pain still pulsing through his skull with amazing regularity.

He needs to check what this strange wetness covering the back of his head is. But maybe later, there are more important things to do now.

"Jessica," he says firmly and breaks the hug, keeping his arms on her shoulders and looking her straight in the eyes. He's never seen her like that – fragile, almost devastated. Red strands of her hair are obscuring the view, so he gently removes them from her face. Her eyes are glistening, fear making them even bigger than they originally are. She's almost shaking, but tries hard not to.

God, she's beautiful.

But that's not relevant right now, he remembers.

"Tell me what happened."

She frowns.

"You... you don't remember anything?" she asks, her voice still, but on the verge of quivering.

"I don't remember anything from the moment we left the diner," he says, trying to recollect the memories that seem shattered all over his mind.

"Well." She swallows, regaining the calm attitude. "Do you remember the case we were working on?"

"Mostly, but..." He has holes in his memory, big holes that make it hard to have a full picture of anything. "It's not entirely here." He points at his head and smiles apologetically.

She smiles too, the gesture brightening her face. The fear subsides slightly, leaving a place for some peace to appear.

"Slight concussion, I guess," she says, still smiling. Strangely, it doesn't seem weird.

"That would explain a lot." So, this wetness is probably blood.

Later. Later he's gonna check. Now he needs to focus and understand something else.

"You'll get over it." She waves her hand dismissively and he believes her. He'll get over it as soon as she tells him what happened and how they ended up here. After a moment of silence she realizes he's waiting for her to start. "So, Sewer Boy, get a grip, 'cause it's gonna be one hell of a ride."

She strikes him playfully on the shoulder – he really tries not to react while the wave of pain rushes through his bruised body – and begins telling a story.