Title:Doughty
Author: Aimee5
Fandom: CSI
Rating: PG-13 (for a few bad words)
Warnings: Spoilers up to season 7 finale; GSR; team; angst
Summary: Flashes of what they did next. Post-ep for 7x24 Living Doll.
Disclaimer: Characters are property of CBS, story is mine.

Author's Note: Thanks to Jess for the beta! I don't usually write in the present tense, but this didn't want to be written in anything but. I used to write CSI fic regularly, now only every now and then; I hope I've still managed to keep them in character, and that the style isn't too confusing. Feedback is wonderful, if you want to/have time, but no worries if not.
A/N 2: doughty, adjective: marked by fearless resolution.

--

It has been a day. Twenty-four hours. 1440 minutes. 86400 seconds.

It feels like forever.

Though his mind will not stop, his body is tired. He lies on the sofa, with trembling blue eyes.

--

Warrick knows the miniature better than the back of his own hand. He knows every dent in the car, what the sand feels like, and the name of the colour of paint spread across the top. He knows where she bought it from, he knows when, he's seen how. He knows everything but the place it represents, and this helplessness is destroying him.

--

She is still reeling. It's Nick and a transparent box and glow sticks and ants all over again. Except this time they can't see Sara. This time they can't know for sure that she's alive, and she's surprised to find how much of a difference that makes. It hasn't sunk in yet and she's not sure it will, until they find her (because they will find her). She now knows that if the worst is to happen Natalie will have destroyed two people, not just one.

--

He's out there, sirens blazing, willing the desert to be scared enough of him to give up her location. Sand, he realises, cannot feel fear nor hear sounds, but it makes him feel he is doing everything he can. He has as many law enforcement officers as he could get his hands on out in the desert, and it still isn't enough.

--

He doesn't want to think that his friend could be experiencing anything as horrible as he did. He hopes there aren't any ants where she is.

--

He thinks of Sara as his mentor, though he'd never admit it to her (well he might, when they find her, just to see her smile). He feels so privileged to have been welcomed in to this group, to be truly a part of it. He remembers when he watched them from afar, appearing so indestructible. Now, he knows better. They are human, and they are vulnerable just like him. They only show it to each other. Now he is one of them, he sees it.

--

Nick wonders, as he drives across another mile of desert, whether she's too hot. It rained heavily last night, and he hopes that perhaps she managed to drink enough sandy water to stave off dehydration just a little longer. He wonders whether the car is heating up and burning her, or whether she's nicely tucked in the shade. He wonders if she knows that he's out there, that they're out there, searching for her.

--

The miniature is taunting him. It's sitting there, in its perfect replica glory. He thinks it should be helpful as well as exact, and give him map locations, a tell-tale signpost, anything.

--

He can't sleep. He doesn't want to sleep; he needs to find Sara. Catherine has confined him to the break room, but he sneaks out anyway, coffee in hand. He finds the miniature in the layout room, with Warrick. His face drops further when he learns that there's nothing new to learn.

--

She wonders how long Grissom and Sara have been together. She wonders when she slipped as his best friend and neglected to notice. She wonders whether he needs her anymore, and then she wonders just how much of a bitch she must be to have thought something like that at a time like this.

--

He phones Nick from his car; if he's honest he wants to gossip about the newly discovered relationship, if only to provide a little light relief. Instead they detail what they see outside of their respective windshields; it stops him (and probably Nick, too) from feeling the helplessness that he feels the more sand he comes across that isn't home to an upside down red Mustang and the woman who completed their little CSI family. He knows how pissed Sara is going to be when she finds out Grissom has let slip their secret; he prays she'll be around to react that way.

--

He thinks of her as the daughter he never had, whether he has the right to or not, and he wishes now that he'd told her that. He comes back in for coffee and passes Sofia as she's on her way out again, her own cup in hand.

--

Warrick reassures her that her reaction is natural; he tells her he'll always need her and he's sure Grissom will, too. She says, without a trace of bitterness, that Grissom needs Sara more, and they head back out in to the hot Nevada sun.

--

He can't stop thinking about her. He worries that she's too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, conscious, unconscious, dead, or alive. He is unable to form coherent enough thoughts to beg for mercy, to beg for the one right thing in his life to not be snatched so cruelly. She has done nothing to deserve this. Tears start to leak out of his eyes again, and he fears he does not possess the strength to stop them this time.

--

They've all come back in, to regroup, grab some coffee, use the restroom, before they head out again. They don't use up time patting each other on the back, or offering each other hugs. They can do that in congratulatory style once Sara is returned to them, rather than in supportive style whilst she's still elsewhere. They are confident, because the alternative doesn't bear thinking about. He walks in to the break room, blue eyes masked, and asks them why the hell they are all just standing there. He'll apologise later, and they'll make him stop because they understand. Five cars, instead of six, return to combing the desert for the missing member of their team.

--

She's waiting. She's waiting because she knows they (he) won't give up until they find her. She thinks muddy water has never tasted so good because it beats dry sand. She thinks a Mustang is frickin' heavy, but she's in a fortunate position, and she's tough. She thinks she's past the pain of her hand burning out in the Vegas sun; she thinks its irrelevant, because she can sooth it with after-sun cream once she's home again. She thinks that she doesn't care that she'll be forced to sleep for a week after this (her arm out to one side), because she's sure Grissom will take the week off just to sleep beside her.

She's waiting until they find her, because she knows they will.

--

Fin