Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Rated: R

Summary: The guys find themselves in a dark, dark place.

Feedback: Yes, please...at dawn_twilight@hotmail.com

Dark Room

by Twilight (Dawn)

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Part One

"Jim?" Blair listened in the darkness. He woke up to find himself in pitch black, with no recollection of how he got there.

Taking a calming breath he called out again, only hearing his own voice, his own panting breath.

"Oh, man. Where am I?" He felt around the ground, crawling barefooted on hands and knees until he ran into a solid object. Lifting his hands, he felt the uneven surface, standing and walking, hand outstretched, running along what must be a wall.

He made it to a corner and continued on, tripping over something protruding from the floor, falling and smashing a bare knee against a hard object. Pain jackknifed up his leg and he doubled over, sitting on something hard and rigid.

A plank of wood butted up against his back and as the pain in his knee faded, he followed the wood with his hands, finding steps leading up. Using hands and knees he climbed up until he hit a door, but the knob wouldn't budge. He banged on the dusty wood, coughing and sneezing and screaming until he was hoarse.

"Anybody...please." He whimpered on and off for a while, wrapping his arms around his bare chest. Wondering if he should try to find a way out from the bottom of this room. He must be in a cellar, but why?

Last he remembered he and Jim were having lunch. They were following up on a lead from a snitch, but the promised meeting never happened. They had waited two hours before calling it quits and stopping for lunch on the way back to the city.

He slid down the steps one at a time until his feet tapped the dirt floor. The room smelt musty and as he worked his way around the room again, he bumped into something soft, something that gave as he leaned down to find what was blocking his way.

Feeling slightly cool skin under his fingertips, he pulled his hand back quickly, taking a steadying breath before running his hands along the form on the floor again. He touched a face, than a clothed chest, two arms and legs, both shoes still in place.

Crawling and sliding fingers back up the body; something cold and hard pressed into his hip...a gun?

"Oh God...Jim?"

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Part Two

Blair knelt over the prone form of his friend, searching frantically with fingertips for Jim's pulse point, sweaty hands holding his friend's neck, fingers pressing.

"Jim, please don't do this to me." The cool of the dirt floor permeated his bare knees, spreading up his legs and chest. "Come on, man."

Something wet and sticky clung to his fingertips and Blair pulled his hand away, wiping it against his boxer shorts, smearing the fluid on his only article of clothing. Reaching in the darkness, he found the spot again, a bleeding wound on Jim's temple.

Pulling his partner's coat up and over, he used the tip to wipe and press against the flow. "Come on, man. Wake up."

Once he was sure the bleeding had stopped, he shifted to his behind and searched Jim's body again, making sure he wasn't bleeding anywhere else. His partner was fully clothed, but damp.

The ground he was lying on seemed a little muddy in this section of the cellar and Blair wondered if it had been used to grow root vegetables. Hope surged, because if that was the case, there should be a hatch leading outside...

Maybe whoever had tossed them in here had forgotten that.

Standing, he gripped Jim under the arms and pulled him slowly across the floor, heading to where he thought the steps were. It was so dark that he couldn't see anything. Not even a crevice or the space under the door at the top of the steps let any light in.

While setting his friend down on dryer ground, his hand raked across Jim's wrist and watch. Searching the round surface, he pressed in the tiny button to illuminate the watch face.

The time read 3:45 a.m. and cast enough light to get a look at Jim. His partner's face was covered with bruises and bumps, both his eyes were swollen shut, his nose was crooked, broken and his top lip was split. An ugly gash ran from his hairline to around his left ear and he had a huge lump on the back of his head.

Blair took the watch from his friend's arm and moved downward, looking for more injuries. His leg lay at an odd angle, his pant torn and bloodied at the knee. Heat rose from his stomach and chest, bruises already yellowing.

Deciding that he needed to help his friend first, he straightened the left leg, ripping the pant to make sure the bleeding had stopped.

"Oh, god."

A white bone shined in the eerie blue light.

How can I fix that?

Checking Jim's pockets, he found the truck keys and the tiny flashlight on his key chain. Setting the watch on the end of the step, he shined the small beam around the dark room. Shelves lined the far wall and Blair searched them, looking for something, anything to use as bandages, hoping to find a first aid kit or some medical supplies.

Coming up empty, he moved around the walls, looking for some kind of hidden door. An old radio sat in one corner and he reached for it, turning it on and hearing mostly static. He turned the old side dial, finally finding a local news station.

The D.J said something about an upcoming snowstorm and then switched to the music, Sixties Bebop. Flicking it off again, fearing he would drain the batteries he continued around the room. Sacks of grain and file dirt stacked under the wooden stairs leaked, causing the earthy, musty smell.

And then he saw it. Hanging among an assortment of other tool was a small hand axe. He pulled it down, holding it close to his chest.

The flashlight flickered out, plunging the room in darkness once again. Blair pocketed the keys and grabbed up the watch, making his was carefully up the steps.

"I'll be right back, man."

Slowly he reached the top, pressing his head against the cool surface. Hearing no noise he took a step back and swung the axe.

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Part Three

Wood cracked and splintered, small shards flew around Blair's head and face. He had been steadily at it for what seemed like a long time. Sweat streaked done his neck, a few strands of hair stinking to his neck. His arms ached, muscles twitching and spasming from shoulders to lower back.

I'm not going to be able to move tomorrow.

Making little headway, he decided to rest and check on his partner. Moving slowly done the steps, one plank of wood at a time, he carefully knelt by Jim. A few gentle taps to his face produced no response.

"Come on, Jim. Wake up and help me out here."

Heat poured from his friend. Steady waves of shivers coursed through Jim's body.

Determined to get out of this room, Blair went back to the top and started once again with the axe. After a while, the tool sank in and refused to budge. Pulling and twisting, he finally got it free, seeing a faint glow of light through the hole he made.

Taking the watch from his pocket, he pressed the light button.

6:10a.m.

He chipped away a few more sections, now able to stick his hand and arm through and feel the other side of the door. His knuckles grazed over the bolt lock and he tugged with all his might, hearing the locking mechanism give.

Pushing the door open, he looked around a deserted and dilapidated kitchen. Leaves and other debris littered the floor. An old style stove stood in one corner, a broomstick and shovel leaning against one black side.

The back door was hanging from one hinge, a few windowpanes broken and missing. Looking out he could tell that a few inches of snow had fallen, the predawn light shining against the virgin white.

Moving in the other direction, he stumbled over an old area rug, twisting his sore knee. A few fumbled steps and then he steadied himself, searching the front room. All the closets were empty, the steps leading to the top floor missing a few too many steps.

The front door was open too and he shivered, almost forgetting his state of undress in the exhilaration of being free of the dark room. Finding nothing but trees and a dirt road in the front, he closed the door the best he could and moved back to the kitchen.

Making a better circuit of the room, he found an old box of matches in one of the cabinets. Checking the stove, he found a mound of ashes in the bottom. The pipe seemed clear, so he went to the back and stepped out into the bitter cold.

I should have grabbed Jim's jacket.

Shaking a little, he tiptoed quickly across the small, enclosed yard to a corps of trees. A few fallen branches scattered the ground, some already covered with snow. Picking out as many dry pieces he ran back to the house and piled them, using one to prop against the door, keeping it closed.

Blair dug some of the ashes out, tossing them in a pile. Feeling certain that the stove was reasonably ready; he stuck in a few of the branches, grabbing the matchbox. Striking the first, he sighed, nothing happened. Several tries later and he tossed the whole box across the floor.

"God."

Giving up, he made his way back down the steps, seeing the room more clearly with the morning light seeping down from the kitchen.

Jim looked terrible and Blair felt worse, knowing that there wasn't a whole lot he could do to help.

He sat beside his friend, back pressed against the bottom step, one hand cradling his head.

What do I do now? Come on, think.

A shrill ring broke the silence and Blair jumped, fumbling in his friend's pocket, finally pulling the object from under Jim's side. A hysterical giggle bubbled up as he flipped the phone open.

"Uh...hello?"

"Sandburg? Where the hell have you and Jim been?"

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Part Four

"Sandburg...come on Blair."

Steady pounding vibrated through his head. Had he fallen asleep?

"Blair. Can you hear me?"

Simon? Was the cell phone still on? No, the voice was too close...how did Simon find them so fast?

He could feel softness under his head and shoulders but his chest ached. What was going on?

Slowly he opened an eye, the other one felt thick and heavy. The room was dark, only a small shaft of light drifted in from the hallway.

Swallowing was tricky, but he managed to croak out, "'im."

"Jim's down the hall in another room. You're going to be okay." Simon sat off to the side, leaning forward in a plastic chair, holding a magazine.

"How did...how did you find us, Simon?" Talking hurt and when he tried to shift over, nothing seemed to work.

"What do you mean? You where right on the I-5."

What? Looking down his body, he could see his leg lifted, encased in white plaster. "How'd that happen?"

His friend sat back, dropping his rag magazine on the side table. "You're worrying me here, Sandburg. You broke your leg in the crash."

"We crashed?" He twisted his torso, trying to see Simon better. "But what about the cellar?"

Standing suddenly, Simon reached for the call button. "Hello, I need a doctor in here."

"Tell me what's going on Simon...how did you find me and Jim...how did we end up in that cellar?" The look his friend sent his scared him more than waking up in that dark room. "Is Jim okay? What about his leg and and his nose. He broke his nose."

Sighing, the captain shook his head. "Jim has a broken nose and he hurt his back a little in the crash, but you're the one with the broken leg."

Looking down again, he knew his leg was in traction, but it didn't hurt and he didn't remember breaking it. Did he? The more he tried to remember, the more he became confused. They had gone to check out a lead...when the guy didn't show, they came back toward town, stopping for lunch and then...and then...

He remembered being scared because Jim was in trouble. "What about the cellar, Simon. It was really, really dark and and cold."

"That's right, son. It was dark. You and Jim went off the road around Junction Creek. The car flipped and you were trapped. Jim was thrown clear, but you were stuck behind the steering column."

His heart skipped and stuttered. That's not what happened, it couldn't be. He was fine, cold but fine. Jim was beaten up... "Jim. I want to see Jim." It came out a little raspy, a little panicked. Simon got up and squeezed his fingers. Blair noticed the elbow to wrist cast for the first time. "Please, Simon. I need Jim."

"Okay, kid. Just hold on and I'll see if he's awake. He's been in to see you a few times, but was dead on his feet."

The doctor came in as Simon left and he spoke briefly with the older woman as he passed.

"Hello, Mr. Sandburg. Do you remember me?"

Shaking his head, he could feel his face flush, sweat beading up in his face and forehead.

She smiled kindly at him and for a brief second, he thought that he had seen her before...somewhere.

"I'm doctor Cunningham. I've been taking care of you for the last few days. Do you remember you were in a car accident?"

No, he didn't. He and Jim were coming back into town, he was driving because Jim's truck was getting new tires...it was snowing...

"It's okay. You got a pretty good bang on the head, but you're going to be fine."

"Hey, Chief." His friend ambled around the doctor leaning on a cane, his nose packed and taped. Sinking into the chair, he grabbed up Blair's hand. "You're going to be okay. Calm down, huh."

The doctor checked a few monitors and made a few notes in his chart before turning to leave, patting his good leg through the thin sheet covering him.

Blair's eyes stayed glued to his partner's pale face. His nose was broken for sure, a little black and blue, but his eyes weren't swollen and his leg seemed fine.

Simon stuck his head in the room. "Hey, Jim? I'm heading back to the station. I'll be back this afternoon to spring you."

His friend nodded, still squeezing Blair's hand, periodically rubbing up his arm.

"Feel better, Blair."

"Yeah Simon. Ahh...thanks." Blair tried to move again and Jim stood slowly, bringing the bed up and adjusting a few pillows. When he got close enough, he grabbed Jim's gown, pulling and tugging, trying to get it around enough to check out his stomach.

"Hey, hey." Jim grabbed his hands. "It's okay, I'm not hurt that bad."

"But I saw them...I I saw the bruises on your chest."

"No," Jim moved the chair a little closer, sitting carefully. "I'm a little banged up, but you got the worse of it, Chief. You hurt your chest and stomach on the steering wheel. Your leg was trapped under the wheel by your knee. You got a pretty good knock to the head and a nice shiner...When the car rolled; I got thrown. The doc said I was pretty luck. Probably because I landed in a mud puddle."

"Mud..."

"Yeah, buddy. Remember, you were a few feet from me. I kept talking to you, trying to keep you awake, I kept shining the little flash light from my key chain into the car, so you would know I was there." Jim started with the rubbing again. "You couldn't really see me. The car was at a weird slant and it got dark out pretty fast."

Thinking hard, he pieced together the time from getting in the car after lunch and driving back toward Cascade. The radio was fritzing. He could only get the oldies channel, but Jim seemed to like the songs, singing along to some. The snow was coming down harder...Jim's phone rang..."Simon called."

"Yeah. We were almost back and he was checking in on us. That's when a car coming toward us veered out of control, tail spinning on a patch of ice. You had to pull a hard left to get out of his way, but he caught the tail end of the Volvo. We went over the embankment."

Tears sprang to his eyes...the more he thought about the drive, the more the memories of the dark cellar vanished. Shivering a little, he turned his head to look at the ceiling. "It seemed so real."

"The cellar?" Surprised, he turned back to his friend, rubbing at his nose and eyes.

"Yeah, but how..."

"After you finally passed out for the final time, you kept mumbling about being in a cellar. I didn't get all you were saying."

"It's all a little jumbled, but I thought we were trapped in a cellar. I was really scared, because you were really hurt and I, I got the door open, but I couldn't..." Jim patted his arm again.

"Hey, hey. Slow down. You hit your head. The mind can play some weird tricks on you, you know?"

Resting back a little further into his nest of pillows, he nodded. "It just seemed so real, man. Smelt real."

"What did it smell like, Chief?"

"Moss and dir..."

"Dirt. Like in the forest around Junction Creek?" Jim leaned forward, resting his arms on the mattress.

"Yeah...I guess."

They fell into silence for a while. Blair rested his eyes, lolled by the soothing rubbing and gentle fingers on his arm and shoulder.

"How long?" He said after some time.

Jim let go, shifting with a grimace. "It took awhile to get you out. I gotta tell ya, the Volvo is trashed."

He nodded, closing his eyes. "I'm tired."

"Go to sleep, I'll be back to visit later." Jim stood slowly, shuffling to the door. "I'm going home today, but you’re going to be in here for a little while."

"'Kay. I'll see you, man."

Alone, he drifted. It hadn't happened, just some mind trip caused by a head injury.

Later, when he opened his eyes again it was dark...too dark..."Jim!"

The End

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