~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Blackout
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~Ring!~

Jim jerked awake.

~Ring!~

Sliding his eye mask off, he rolled over and grabbed the phone on the
bed table. Soft morning light hung like a haze in the room, and he
glanced at the clock perched next to the phone. 6:21 a.m.

"Ellison."

"J-Jim?"

He sat up straight. The voice was unmistakable. "Sandburg?" He frowned,
extending his hearing even though he knew what he'd find. Sure enough,
the downstairs bedroom was empty. Blair hadn't come home from the party
last night.

"Please... Can you c-come...?"

Jim shot to his feet. Something was terribly wrong. His twenty nine year-old
partner suddenly sounded like a scared five year-old. "Where? What's
wrong, Chief? Where are you?"

"I... I don't know for sure. A hotel. Uh... Hold on a second." Soft
rustling. A thud. "It says 'Roadside Inn.' I guess th-that's where I'm
at. C-Can you please come get me, Jim? And..."

Roadside Inn? The name didn't ring a bell. "In Cascade?"

"I... I guess so. Hold on... It... It says..."

"Look, Chief, why don't you go ask the clerk? Are you hurt? Can you go
to the office and find out the exact location?"

"I... I can't... "

"Why? Are --"

"I... It says 221 Harrion Road. Yeah, Cascade. C-Can you bring me some
clothes?"

A coldness settled in Jim's gut. "Clothes? Blair..." He wanted to ask a
million questions, but he only had time for the most important ones.
"Are you hurt? Do you need me to call an ambulance before I go? Are you
in any danger now? Should I bring backup?"

"N-No... No backup. Just... Just you, Jim. Please. And no ambulance. I'm
okay, I think."

*You think?* "What's the number of the hotel you're at? Is it on the
phone?"

"Y-Yeah... 555-3232. Room 201."

"Okay. Hang on, Chief. I'm on my way."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jim drove like a madman, his thoughts chaos as he swerved through
traffic. A small duffel bag sat on the floor beneath the dash board. He
had taken only enough time to stuff socks, shoes, underwear, jeans, and
a shirt into the bag.

What was Blair doing at a hotel on the outskirts of Cascade without
clothes? He itched to call the room back, but he needed to keep both
hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road. Speed was of the essence --
for him, at least, if not for Blair. Even if the kid insisted he was not
in any immediate danger, the tone of his voice had spoke of fear and
confusion

Something had happened, but he'd just have to wait until he saw Blair to
find out what.

Ten minutes later, he skidded the truck to halt in the parking lot of
the Roadside Inn. Grabbing the duffel bag, he jumped out of the cab, his
eyes searching the second-story doors. The Inn was really more like an
old, open-outdoor motel. Jim found the numbers 201 and charged up the
stairs, extending his hearing as he ran to the door.

He could pick up Blair's elevated heartbeat and shallow breathing, but
the room was otherwise quiet. "Sandburg?" He knocked twice on the door,
then tried the knob. It was unlocked, so he stepped inside, his eyes
immediately adjusting to the darkened room.

Blair sat on the only bed, his back against the headboard and the covers
cloaked around him like a cocoon. He looked up at Jim, his eyes tinged
with red. "Th-That was fast."

Jim dropped the duffel bag on the floor and sat on the edge of the
mattress. "You okay, Chief? You want to tell me what happened?"

Blair eyed the duffel bag. "I... I'm not sure. Just, um, let me get
dressed. Okay?"

Jim nodded. "Sure, buddy. I even brought you shoes."

"Thanks." Blair slid off the bed, but kept the covers around him. They
snagged beneath Jim's weight, and Blair tugged a little, still avoiding
Jim's gaze.

Quickly, Jim rose to his feet and freed the covers. Blair stooped and
grabbed the bag, then shuffled to the bathroom. The door closed, and Jim
listened as his partner got dressed. Blair's breathing and heart rate
were both faster now, but he seemed to be moving much too slow. The bag
unzipped slowly, followed by the soft rustling of clothes. It took Blair
well over five minutes to get into his jeans, shirt, and socks, then
another three minutes to slide into the sneakers and tie the laces.

Finally, the door opened and Blair stepped out, the empty duffel bag
hanging from his right hand. His gaze to the floor, he walked over to
Jim, set the bag on the bed, and then wrapped his arms around his torso
and faced the door. "C-Can we go now?"

Jim moved closer to Blair, but stopped about a foot away. "Wait a
minute, Chief. You need to tell me what happened here."

Blair shrugged, his head low and his curls hanging forward. "I said I
don't know. I... I don't remember. I just... " He swallowed and closed
his eyes. "I just woke up here. No clothes. No wallet. No car. I can't
remember much."

"What's the last thing you *do* remember?"

"I was at Kelly's Pub with some friends. We were all sitting up at the
bar, and I ordered a beer. We joked around some, then it all gets fuzzy
after that. I don't remember much."

Jim nodded, his stomach tight. He didn't like the conclusions his brain
was forming. "Okay. First, I'm gonna call Simon and have a forensics
team sent over here. Then, I'm going to take you to the hospital."

Blair's head shot up. "Do... Do you really have to call Simon?"

"Something happened here, Chief. We need to find out what. A forensics
team will be able to dust for prints and search for other evidence.
Don't you want to know what happened to you?"

Blair swallowed and dropped his gaze back to the floor. "I... I guess.
It's just embarrassing. I'd rather not everyone found out."

Jim stepped forward and placed a hesitant hand on Blair's shoulder. The
young man didn't respond at all to the touch. "I'll have Simon keep it
as hush-hush as possible." He pulled his cell phone out of his jacket
pocket. "Now, let me make that call, and then you and I are heading to
Cascade General."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The doctor looked up from her chart. "Have you taken a shower since last
night?"

Blair shook his head. "No... Not that I remember."

"That's good." She scribbled a note on the chart, then looked back up at
him. "Please lay on your stomach and try to relax. When we're done here,
I'll call the lab and ask about your test results."

Blair's face grew hot, but he nodded and rolled wordlessly onto his
stomach.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hours passed by more slowly than Jim could have imagined. He passed the
time mindlessly. He paced. He went to the vending machines. He checked
in with Simon. He checked his voice mail. He went back to the vending
machines. He browsed the gift shop.

And he eavesdropped.

He tried not to, but his reserve only lasted an hour. Then impatience
nagged at him. Finally, concern got the better of him, and he rose
anxiously from his seat and extended his hearing, sending it along the
hospital corridors. Babies crying. Voices murmuring, some yelling.
Machines beeping. Phones ringing.

And, finally, Blair's voice. "Rohypnol?"

"Yes. That's --"

"The date rape drug, I know. But... I don't understand."

"From what you told me, it sounds like someone drugged your drink at the
bar. How well do you know all the friends you were hanging out with?"

"Uh, some are good friends. Others I barely know. It was just a group of
us... but... You said I wasn't --"

"No, there's no evidence of penetration."

"And... And the, uh, tests?"

"Well, the tests for STD's will take a few days, some a few weeks. I'll
let you know as soon as they're in."

"And the drug? What did it to me?"

"Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine with sedative effects. It often leads to
amnesia, as it has in your case. After-effects include headaches,
nausea, tremors, and, sometimes, strange nightmares. Take some Excedrin
with a small meal for your headache, then get some rest."

"O-Kay. But, uh... about the STD's..."

"Yeah?"

"I mean, I know I can't even tell you if it was a guy or a woman, or
anything at all about what happened, if anything happened, but, uh, just
in case... I mean... Is there anything I should not do? You know... I
mean obviously I know what *not* to do, but..."

"You want to know if you could have gotten something that's contagious
outside of sexual intercourse? Like through touch or saliva?"

"Uh... Yeah."

"Don't worry, they're called sexually transmitted diseases for a reason.
Just don't do any deep kissing with anybody until you get your test
results back, and if you notice any rashes or scab-like oddities, please
contact me or your regular doctor --"

The sharp ring of his cell phone slammed into Jim's skull, and he
dropped into his chair, one hand going to ear as he shook his head, his
brain reeling from more than just the sudden noise. On the third ring,
he reached into his pocket and yanked out the phone, flipping it open.

"Ellison."

"It's Simon. Forensics lifted some prints. The place had been pretty
clean, obviously wiped down. Most of the ones we recovered were yours or
Sandburg's, but we got one off the edge of the end table that belongs to a Rainier student. Jason Culver."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim heard the distant squeak on tile accompanied by the pounding of a
familiar heartbeat, and he quickly grabbed a magazine from the table and
opened it to a random page. Guilt gnawed at him. He shouldn't have
eavesdropped, but he had, and now, after listening into that delicate
conversation, he felt like he'd violated Blair's privacy.

Okay, he *had* violated Blair's privacy.

The double doors opened and Blair shuffled into the waiting room, alone.
His eyes met Jim's, and his arms slid protectively around his torso.

Rising from his seat, Jim forced a small smile on his face and met his
partner halfway. "Are you, uh, all finished here?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah. Did you, uh... Did you hear?"

Jim raised his eyebrows and shifting on his feet. He was caught, and he
couldn't lie. Not to Blair. Not now. "Just some. Not everything."
Swallowing his discomfort, he decided to change the subject. "Simon
called. Forensics lifted some prints. Do you know a Rainier student
named Jason Culver?"

Blair's brow furrowed, and he shook his head. "No... I don't think...
Wait." The crease in his brow deepened. "Maybe... Maybe he came with our
group last night. I think Sherry introduced me to a Jason, but I can't
be sure."

"Sherry?"

"A fellow T.A., Sherry Sanders. I've known her for a couple of years. A
bunch of us went out last night, but you know how it is. People invite
other people and soon it's a big group. I only knew a few people out of
the group."

"Who else out of the group do you know by name?"

Blair studied his sneakers. "Uh... Kelly Benke. Kevin Taylor. Dave
Simmons. That's it."

Jim frowned, worried by Blair's behavior. Everything about the young
man's body language screamed withdrawal. Bending his knees to get a look
at Blair's face, he lowered his voice. "How are you doing, Chief? You
okay?"

Blair barely glanced at Jim. "No, I'm not okay." He took a deep breath,
finally raising his head to meet Jim's eyes. "I have to go to school
there every day. These are my friends, some my students. Kevin's an
undergrad in one of my classes. When you go questioning them all about
this, they're going to figure out what happened. It'll be all over
campus. It's bad enough it's all ready all over Major Crime, I'm sure.
Now there's no place I'll be able to show my face. How would *you*
feel?"

Jim didn't know quite how to respond, so he went with his gut. Slowly,
he reached out and gently cupped the back of Blair's neck. "I won't
question them right away, okay? We'll bring in this Culver kid, and if
we get a confession out of him, maybe I won't need to question the
others. But, I gotta say, Chief. I'm damn curious about how your friends
could let this happen. When he slipped you that mickey, it had to have
been obvious you were under the influence. But somehow they just let you
leave."

Blair shrugged. "It's a bar, Jim. The music was playing. Half the people
were drunk themselves. Probably no one even noticed, and if they did,
they just figured I was drunk along with everyone else." He took another
deep breath and dropped his gaze. "So, uh, did you tell Simon about the
drug... and the other stuff you heard?"

Jim shook his head. "No, Chief. That's information I never would have
gotten if I hadn't been eavesdropping. I'm sorry for that, but I was
concerned, that's all."

Blair swallowed. "I know. It's okay."

"But I would never turn around and divulge that information to the
captain or anyone else. Not unless a life depended on it. He can get it
through the regular channels."

"Thanks, but, uh... Well, I guess you might as well tell him. It's not
like he won't find out, anyway. This *is* a criminal investigation. And
I'd rather the guys know I was drugged than..." his voice dropped off
and he shrugged. "Well, you know.. rather than have them think something
else."

Jim nodded. "Okay, Chief. However you want to play this, that's what
we'll do. The captain's having Culver brought in now. I'd rather
interrogate him right away than have him cool his heels in a cell and
get his head together... or decide to invoke his Fifth. But... uh...
What do you want to do? I mean, I don't think you should be left alone
right now, and the station's probably not a good place for you, either.
I heard the doctor, you need rest. How's your headache?"

Blair sighed and rubbed his brow as if reminded of the pain. "Still
there and still going strong. Just drop me off at the loft and I'll
crash. You can head to the station."

Jim cocked his head and studied his partner, searching Blair's face for
the truth. "You sure?" He didn't like the idea of leaving Blair alone,
but he sure as hell didn't want to risk Culver slipping through their
hands.

If Culver had wiped the hotel room for prints, that meant he had at
least some sense. If he had too much sense, he'd ask for a lawyer and
refuse to answer any questions. With Blair's amnesia, the only evidence
might end up being that fingerprint -- not enough to convict.

Jim was determined to get a *confession* out of the kid.

Blair nodded. "Yeah. I'll be out like a light. I feel weighed down, you
know? Heavy. Doc said the drug hasn't completely left my system yet."

"Okay. I'll get you to the loft so you can sleep this off, then head to
the station. But you call me if you need anything. I'll try not to be
too long. All right?"

Blair managed a tiny smile. "I think I can manage to be by myself at
home for a few hours, Jim. Thanks."

~~~~~~~~~~~~
John Culver wasn't exactly what Jim expected, but, then again, as a cop
Jim had learned to expect the unexpected, so he wasn't all that
surprised by the clean-cut, academic-looking young man with wire-rimmed
glasses seated opposite him in the interrogation room.

He smiled at the young man, and it wasn't even faked. Ten minutes ago,
just before Culver had been brought up, Brown had informed him of the
fruits of the search of Culver's apartment and car. Two bottles of
Rohypnol pills had been found stuffed in the back of the kid's sock
drawer, which gave Jim hope that the young man didn't have as much sense
as he'd initially feared.

It also meant their case was much stronger now, and Culver would likely
not slip away.

Jim leaned back in his chair, his smile growing wider as he watched the
kid shift nervously in his seat. "You know, Mr. Culver, that was quite a
clever hiding place."

The kid swallowed. "W-What do you mean?"

"Your sock drawer. Very original." He almost chuckled when the kid
paled. "We found your bottles of Rohypnol -- the same substance found in
Mr. Sandburg's system. Oh, and we have witnesses who saw you leave the
bar with Sandburg." That last part was a lie, but a reasonable
deduction. He knew he'd gotten it right when Culver covered his face
with his hands and groaned.

"Oh man. I didn't do anything, I swear."

Jim's smile vanished and he leaned forward, his voice ice. "You drugged
and kidnapped Blair Sandburg, took him to a hotel room, stripped him
naked, and then did what? Huh? You want to go up on assault, kidnapping,
and rape charges? Attempted murder?"

Culver's head shot up. "I didn't try to kill him! That stuff's not
deadly. And I didn't rape him, I swear."

Jim rose from his chair and pressed his palms flat on the table, his jaw
tight. "I know for a fact he didn't consent."

Culver shook his head violently. "No, no. I mean, I... I...." He
swallowed. "I didn't do anything to him. I was going to, but then when I
got his jeans off, his wallet fell out and I saw his police I.D. I
freaked. I didn't know he worked with the cops. I thought he was just a
grad student. So... So I got the hell out of there."

Jim's eyes narrowed and he honed all his senses on the kid, focusing
most on his hearing. Culver's heartbeat was fast but steady, and Jim
dared to hope that the young man was telling the truth. "What about his
clothes?"

"I tossed them all in the trash. I... I didn't want to leave any
evidence and I thought maybe there would be some of my hair or skin
cells or something on them, you know, because he was so out of it I had
to practically drag him from the car to the hotel room. But I didn't
hurt him, I swear! So I took everything I could and wiped the place
down."

Jim's smile returned. "But you missed a spot, and we've got your
fingerprints at the scene of the crime, and now the Rohypnol in your
room, and witnesses. You're going down for this, Culver. Big time."

"But I didn't touch him! All I did was steal his clothes."

"Kidnapping. Attempted Rape. Assault. Theft."

"Please... please.... Look, man, can't I... I mean, can I talk to a
lawyer? Maybe I could cut a deal or something?"

Jim tilted his head and studied the young man. "You'll get your lawyer.
The D.A. will decide what charges to file. Now you get to go back to
your cell."

He'd gotten the confession -- remarkably easier than he'd thought it
would be. The D.A. would still want to know *where* Culver had gotten
the Rohypnol, but that could wait for another session. Right now, with
the confession secured on tape, Jim just wanted to get back to the loft
and make sure his partner was okay."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim glanced at his watch as he trotted toward the elevator of his
apartment building. 1:02 p.m. Since this had technically been his "day
off," he would be taking tomorrow off, with Simon's blessing, to keep an
eye on Sandburg. As he pushed the UP button, he tuned into the loft two
floors above.

What he heard sent him running to the stairs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jim thrust his key into the lock and flew inside, heading straight for
the source of the commotion. He could hear Blair crying, muttering
something, his voice tinged with hysteria. Blair's was the only other
heartbeat in the loft, but what had urged Jim to race up the stairs had
been the loud thud, followed by a startled cry, followed by a crash.

"Blair!" He pushed through the French doors and stopped just inside the
doorway as his brain took a moment to make sense of the situation.

Blair lay on the floor, the covers wrapped around him like a tight
cocoon, trapping his arms as he flailed against the restraint. He was
near-hysterical, but still very much asleep. The table lamp lay in
pieces on the floor next to him, and a cut in his forehead oozed blood.
Some chunks of the porcelain crunched beneath his weight, and Jim moved
quickly, hoping the sharp edges hadn't sliced through the covers and
into Blair's flesh.

In one smooth motion, he swooped down, avoiding the glass as he grabbed
the covers near Blair's shoulders and pulled the young man up, then
wrapped his arms around Blair to secure him in a solid hold as he slid
him away from the dangerous debris.

"Sandburg, hey, hey. Take it easy." He sat on the floor, his back
against the wall, and held his struggling partner to his chest. He
couldn't quite make out the words escaping Blair's nightmare, but
whatever it was, it was bad, its grip tight. Keeping his voice steady
and calm, he spoke into Blair's right ear. "Easy, Chief. Come on, wake
up. You're okay. Shhhh. Wake up, Blair. It's just a dream."

Blair suddenly went rigid, then, just as suddenly, collapsed limply
against Jim. His heartbeat took a nose-dive, and Jim almost panicked,
but then the rhythm steadied out and Blair tensed.

"Huh?"

"Blair?"

"J-Jim?" His voice was thick and shaky.

"Yeah. You okay?"

"Whu happ'nd?"

"Bad dream, I think." He slid out from beneath Blair and lowered the
young man's shoulders to the floor.

Blair yielded easily, all the tension suddenly gone from his body. The
covers were still wrapped tight around him, but he didn't seem to
notice. His eyelids drooped even as his eyes tried to focus on Jim's
face.

"Headache."

Jim nodded, his eyes honing in on the small cut in Blair's temple. "It
looks like you hit your head. Can you stay here a moment? Will you be
all right?"

Blair closed his eyes and nodded. "Uh-huh... Tired."

"Try to stay awake for me. Okay?"

"Uh-huh."

Jim rose to his feet. "*OKAY?*"

"Mmmm-hmmmm."

"Open your eyes, Chief.... Chief?" He frowned. Blair was out cold again,
but this time he looked to be sleeping peacefully.

Blair would be okay for a few minutes. He hurried to the bathroom, wet a
hand towel, and rushed back to the room. Sandburg was still sleeping
soundly, snoring slightly, and Jim began cleaning the head wound. When
he finished, he swept up the pieces of porcelain on the floor, then
untangled Blair from the covers and, with a grunt, lifted the young man
into his arms and settled him back into bed.

That accomplished, he left the room long enough to grab the cordless
phone, then sat on the edge of Sandburg's futon mattress as he dialed
the hospital.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He felt himself shaking. Was his bed moving? Sleep tugged at him,
reluctant to release its grip. But the shaking continued.

"Wake up, Sandburg."

He groaned and turned onto his side, away from the noise, but something
pulled him back.

"Chief, c'mon. Wake up."

"Hmmmm? G'way."

His arms were tugged, pulling the rest of his body upward. His eyelids
felt glued shut, but he forced them open. A blurry image filled his
vision, and he blinked the fuzziness away.

Huh? Was that a shoulder.

"You awake?" The voice was close, just above his right ear. He looked up
to see Jim gazing down at him.

"Huh?"

"Come on." More tugging. He got his sock-clad feet to move, but he
leaned heavily on Jim. Then he was at the kitchen table, being pushed
into a chair. He dropped his head onto the table and closed his eyes.

"Oh no you don't." More tugging. He was forced upright, then winced when
two sharp blows stung his cheeks.

"Owww." He opened his eyes narrowly and glared at Jim. "Tired. Leave me
alone."

"You've... sleeping for hours.... high dose... I... with the doctor...
You...  nightmare... head, but not hard...  concussion... let you
sleep... get some food and fluid... you stay awake?"

Blair blinked. He thought he got the gist of what Jim had said, but he
wasn't sure. "Huh?"

"Food." Jim said, speaking very slowly. "Doc said the drug can.... 24
hours... usually 8... sensitive... aggressive... nightmares... Okay?"

"Huh?"

Jim sighed. "Just stay awake."

"Okay." Awake. He could do awake.

Jim turned to the counter and began clanging around with pots and bowls,
or something. That was good. Food was good. He could eat. Just as soon
as he took a nap. His head contacted the table with a light thud.

"Hey!" More tugging. Man, this was getting annoying.

"Tired."

"I know."

Why was he so tired? "Wasn't this tired after h'sp'tal."

"Because... gave you... but... wear off... sleep makes you...."

What was up with the *sound* going in and out? "Huh?"

Another sigh and Jim rolled his eyes to the ceiling. He took three deep
breaths, then looked back down at Blair and spoke very, very slowly.
"You are a bit more sensitive to the drug than most people. Effects can
last for up to 24 hours, but the drug can be in your system for up to 72
hours."

Okay. That was nice to know. "Twenty four hours?" Hey, his tongue seemed
to be working better.

"Yep. So once I get you fed and watered, you can go back to bed."

That sounded *very* nice. "Okay."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim flipped to the news, then tilted his head when he heard Blair groan.
He listened as Blair stretched and yawned and, finally, shuffled into
the living room.

"Hey."

Jim turned around. Sandburg stood by the kitchen island, his hair messed
and his eyes rimmed with red. "How are you feeling?"

Blair smiled. "Like a million bucks, but my head hurts a bit. Still..."
He yawned the rest of his words. "Feeel wewy wested."

Jim chuckled. "I bet." He patted the empty sofa cushion next to him.
"Come sit, Chief. I have some good news."

Blair raised his eyebrows and shuffled over to the sofa, easing himself
on the cushions and leaning against the arm of the couch. "Yeah?"

"We arrested Jason Culver, and he gave us a full confession."

Blair's eyebrows dropped back down, and he swallowed, glancing quickly
at the television. "Oh? That's, uh... that's great. Guess that means I
don't have to go to court... Not that I could testify to anything, since
I don't remember anything. But what did he confess to? I mean, did you
get --"

Jim smiled gently. "It's okay, Chief. The doctor didn't find any
physical evidence because there was none to find. Culver just managed to
get your jeans off, then your wallet fell out and he saw your police ID.
He freaked and took off."

Blair's jaw dropped open, a look of intense relief flashing across his
face. "You... You sure? I mean..."

"The doctor's findings support his story, and I checked him out with my
senses. I'm as sure as I've ever been, Chief -- He was telling the
truth."

A slow smile lifted Blair's mouth, and his eyes glistened with moisture.
"Oh, man... I... That's..." He swallowed and shook his head, running
trembling hands over his face. "Damn, I..."

Jim shifted closer to his partner and grabbed his shoulders, giving the
young man a reassuring squeeze. "I know. It's okay. I would be, too."

Blair nodded, lowering his hands to grab Jim's forearms. "Thanks, man."

"Don't mention it, partner."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

END