Disclaimer: Jim Brass is one of my drinking buddys. We're going out on Saturday. Wanna come? (I live in my own world, it's fun here.)

Spoilers: For Still Life

A/N: Written for a challenge, exactly 500 words

000

Ellie had run away once. Not when she was a teenager. No, when she was seventeen she had calmly packed her bag and walked out of the house into her boyfriend's car, not hiding the fact that she was leaving. When Ellie had run away she had been eight. They had been at the mall, the three of them. It had been one of those rare periods in his marriage when things were going well. He was making an effort not to work so much, and they were seeing a therapist once a week. He didn't know it then, but it would be less then two years before the paperwork for their divorce would be in progress. In that moment, though, life was looking up. That was, until he turned around from the rack of suits and realized that his daughter was no longer standing next to him.

The next hours were fuzzy. He remembered frantically searching the store. Remembered his wife's hysterical shouts; glaring at the store manager and yelling at the incompetent rent-a-cops. For three hours various scenarios filled his mind. Each one seemed to be worst then the one before it. Ellie, wandering around the city street alone. Kidnapped by a crazy woman. Sold to some pervert who wasn't content to look at pictures anymore. Laying on the ground, blood drying in her matted hair. He had seen it all, on his years on the job, and he saw his daughter's face in place of each child he had ever come across.

Ellie had been found at the end of the third hour, asleep in the corner of a toy store. She had gotten bored of the clothes shopping and decided to do some exploring on her own. An employee had been straightening up a shelf of stuffed animals, and Ellie had been there using a giant stuffed panda as a pillow. When they had gotten home he had yelled at her until she cried, then rocked her until she fell asleep. Even after laying her down on the bed he had stayed, just watching her sleep. It wasn't until he had felt his own eyes weighted down with exhaustion that he left the room. Every night for the next week he would awake to a clock proclaiming three a.m. Without turning on the light he would pad down the hallway and stand in the doorway of Ellie's room. Minutes would pass as he simply watched her breathe.

000

He hadn't thought of that day in years. Not until today, first at the park and now here as he stood in the halls of the CSI lab and heard the same gut wrenching sobs he had heard that day. Saw that scared but fierce mother-lion-protecting-her-cub look from not one but two mothers. He watched as one mother found her son again, and learned that another child was lost forever. He wondered if he would ever really find his daughter, or if she was as lost as Jesse was.