A sigh.

Behind me, slightly to my left. Stu. A second later, he started typing again, trying to find information that there is no way he's going to find because it isn't there anymore, assuming it was even there in the first place.

Another sigh, this time to my right, also behind me. Frost. He shifts in his chair, tired of sitting. He knows better than to get up now, with Joan in the mood she's in and Annie in the hospital, even if she'll be out by tomorrow and back to normal by the end of the week.

The other tech ops probably know me better than anyone else, which is why the most they were doing after a grueling nine hours straight of fruitless labor was sighing, though they probably felt like screaming and throwing things and cursing anyone and anything even remotely involved with this nightmare of a day. They knew the information we were supposed to have already found was important, and they knew I was stressed, and they didn't want to add to the problem.

They'd seen me lose my cool once before, back when I first joined them, and a repeat of that incident was the last thing they wanted. It was the last thing I wanted myself, so I was grateful that they were backing off.

They knew how close I'd come to losing it earlier, even if Joan didn't, and even though Joan had once known me as well as they did. Of course that was before, and I wasn't entirely the same person now as I had been then.

So when Joan had assured me that there was nothing I could have done to prevent Annie from being injured earlier today, and I had managed a half smile and nodded because I knew she was right, and she believed it, they had realized that I still felt guilty anyway.

And when she he reminded me that Annie's injuries were not excessive and that I could see her tomorrow because she would undoubtedly show up in spite of having been released only that morning, and reminded me how important this information we couldn't find was and that we had work to do, and I had agreed and thanked her for the update on Annie's condition, Joan had missed that I had barely resisted the urge to argue that if we hadn't found anything yet it wasn't likely we would and that our being here was consequently a waste of time, even if Stu and Frost had not.

The result was that for the next six hours I heard no complaints at being stuck here after hours working on a lost cause. There had been no muted grumbling, no swearing at the computer monitors, and no fantasizing about home, or sleep, or food or coffee.

Until now, as they each ventured a sigh, and waited for my response.

They were tired. Probably almost as tired as I was. They'd been here almost as long. They'd also been sitting at their desks for the past six hours, and had been searching and sorting through and examining information with no result for the past nine.

I finally allowed myself the yawn I'd been fighting off for the last four hours. "Some coffee would be really good about now." I groaned, rubbing my temple, and was immediately reward with the scrabbling sound of Frost and Stu scrambling to their feet.

"I'll go." Frost was the first to get it out. Stu was probably shooting him a dirty look as I told him to make it quick.

"Will do. Stu? Coffee?" Frost asked. I could hear the smugness in his voice.

"Definitely." Stu was too tired to hold a grudge. "Food would be great, too." He added, a bit hesitantly.

My stomach growled at the mention of the word. Frost took it as an agreement and made a break for the door, probably worried I would change my mind.

As if I would.

Stu's chair creaked as he settled back into it, but I never heard him start back to work.

We all needed a break.

"Take a walk, Stu." I said through another yawn. "Go to the bathroom or something." When he didn't immediately get up, I added, "I need to make a phone call."

I did hear him move then. His chair groaned as he stood, there was a rustle of cloth and a groan from Stu himself as he probably stretched, and then his footsteps sounded as he crossed the room.

The door opened. "Back in five, boss." Stu said. The door closed behind him, leaving me alone in a room that was now silent save for the humming of the computers and lights.

I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number. I wondered, as it rang, if I actually expected her to answer her phone.

"Hello?" I hesitated. I didn't recognize the voice on the other end, but whoever she was, she sounded tired.

The number was right, I was certain of it, but who else would answer her phone?

"Annie?" I asked anyway. I was way too tired and nine hours was way too long to spend looking for nothing and I knew my brain wasn't operating at peak condition at the moment.

"This is her sister." Came the reply, and I could have slapped myself. Duh. Danielle, Annie's sister, would answer her phone. "Who is this?"

Again, I hesitated. How long had it been since I had had to think up a cover while half asleep and sporting a major headache? "Auggie Anderson." I decided to go with the truth. For now, at least. "I work with Annie. I heard about the accident, and was wondering how she's doing."

"So you called at two in the morning?" That sounded a little bit like Annie. The sister was definitely tired. Grumpy too. I couldn't really blame her.

I allowed myself an embarrassed chuckle. "Is it that late? I'm sorry, I didn't realize." I lied. "I hope I didn't wake you."

"No, I was up. It's just been a long day." Of course it would have been. She was at the hospital with Annie, I guessed. Had probably been sitting with her for the past several hours. "Annie's asleep right now. I'm with her at the hospital." She added, confirming my guess.

"How's she doing?" I asked.

"Not bad. The doctor says she can probably go home in the morning." Danielle sounded as if she were trying not to yawn herself. "She still needs to take it easy for a few days, but I can see that happening. She'll probably insist that she has work to do."

"Nothing that can't wait a day or two." I commented as I heard the door open.

"Coffee and sugar!" Frost announced himself as he entered. Footsteps followed; Stu must have been with him.

"Sorry to bother you." I told Annie's sister. "I won't keep you."

"I'll tell Annie you called." Danielle replied.

"Thanks." I said before hanging up.

I felt the warm cup of coffee brush the back of my hand and took it. "Thanks." I said again, this time to Frost as I accepted the cup. I inhaled the rich aroma as his footsteps headed back towards his desk and Stu's took him to his.

I heard the junk food being examined at Frost's desk, and listened as he and Stu spent the next couple of minutes arguing over what sounded like a bag of Combos.

I eventually quashed the argument. "Since you children can't play nice and share, hand them over." I called, eliciting groans from both men.

"Come on, man, I paid for those." Frost whined. I didn't relent.

"Let's go, Frost." I turned my chair towards him and held out a hand.

I flinched when the bag hit me in the face before dropping into my lap, but simply picked the bag up and opened it. I took a couple pieces out and popped them in my mouth.

"Mmmm." I breathed, causing Stu to swear at me good naturedly and Frost to growl at me under his breath. I smirked at the two men. "Let this be a lesson to you, kids. If you fight over it, I'm going to take it away. Then neither of you can have it."

"Yes, Dad." Stu retorted. Another object that I assumed was food hit me, this one also thrown by Frost, who was smart enough to have moved after throwing it.

"Donuts." I identified them, and set them on the desk. "What else you got back there?"

"Nothing you like." Frost replied. I picked another Combo out of the bag and threw it in the direction from which his voice had come. "Hey!" Frost yelped, signifying that I had hit him, especially since Stu was now laughing hysterically.

It was way too late; we were starting to get goofy.

"Come on, you didn't realize he was asking so he could figure out where you were?" Stu managed through wheezing gasps.

Frost didn't answer. There was a sudden scramble for seats and the sound of frantic typing reached my ears. I turned my seat back facing my desk as the door opened.

It was Joan. "Anything?" She demanded.

"Still nothing." I told her. I hesitated, then forged on. "I don't think we're going to find anything, Joan." She was not entirely successful in stifling a sigh. "We've been looking for the past nine hours." I reminded her quietly. "If we haven't found anything, there's probably nothing there to find."

Long pause. Quiet, except for the clicking of fingers on keyboards. I waited.

"All right." Joan finally said. "Go home. All of you."

Footsteps. The door opened and promptly closed again. Frost grumbled about it almost not being worth going home, as late as it was, as he and Stu hurried to get out off here.

"Don't be late tomorrow." I called after them, shutting down my computer.

Disclaimer: Covert Affairs does not belong to me.