Disclaimer: CSI and its related characters belong to CBS, Alliance Atlantis, and the show's creators; no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: A word of thanks goes out to beaujolais for her awesome beta skillz. Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Spoilers: Way to Go; and a mild reference to Hollywood Brass
Jim was finally leaving the hospital; he should've been happy, except he wasn't. He sighed as he sat down on the edge of the bed and remembered a portion of a phone conversation he'd just had with his daughter.
"I need to deal with this on my own."
"I saw the picture on your desk. Daddy's little girl ain't so little anymore. When are you going to realize that?"
"When are you going to let me in?"
"I-I've got to be heading back to LA."
"Yeah, run away… just like you—"
"Don't. I showed up, isn't that enough for you?"
"Well, thanks for the concern."
"You almost died, dammit."
"I did… twice."
"Come by the house and we'll—"
"No dad, I can't… and for what it's worth, I do care. I gotta go… bye."
Jim hung up the phone then shut his eyes. A pang of regret spread across his heart when he realized that he hadn't even been able to say goodbye to her properly.
He had been sitting there for a few minutes, absently rubbing his palm across his chest when the door opened, ushering in Catherine with a concerned look in her eyes. Jim waved off the impending question and slowly got off the bed.
"You ready, Jim?"
"Thanks for giving me a lift home, Catherine."
"Was that Ellie on the phone just now?"
"How'd you know?"
"She was getting into a cab as I was driving in. Oh, I almost forgot… she asked me to give you this."
Jim stared at the white envelope in his hand then peeled the flap open and out slid a neatly folded sheet of paper. Written on it were the words: 'I thought you'd appreciate having this'. He looked inside the envelope again then pulled out an old, very creased, and dog-eared color photo of himself and Ellie walking hand-in-hand along the boardwalk on Coney Island; she cradled an enormous pink teddy bear in her right arm as she happily beamed at the camera. The memory of that day, long ago and the relevance of the stuffed animal in particular made him smile.
"What's so funny?"
"Huh? Oh, it's just that the future looks promising."