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16 December 2008 @ 06:40 am
A Woman Waits for Me 26/39  
Title: A Woman Waits for Me
Chapter
: 26/39
Author: ladygray99 
Pairing: Charlie/Colby, Don/OFC
Summary: When Don’s life slides into the darkness only family will help him find his way out. - The Eppes aren't the only ones.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3,355
Warning: OC Death
Disclaimer: Numb3rs belongs to other people who are not me. I’m not making any money from this though I wish I were.
Previous Chapters: Part 4 of Whitman ‘verse. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Authors Notes: I think people are going to be a little disappointed in me with this one. I am perhaps not as evil as some would like. On the other hand one of my beta’s cried. At any rate feedback please.
Betas: swingandswirl  and riverotter1951 

 


Part 26
A Cry Never Heard

Daniel Summer had always enjoyed watching people, making up little stories about their lives from the tiny moments he glimpsed. His wife had teased him, saying that he should have been a novelist instead of an accountant. After over a month of sitting in the NICU ward crouched over the tiny form of his third child, he began to look around a little, desperate for a small distraction from the beep of the heart monitor and the small hiss of air being pumped in and out of too-small lungs.

 The space next to his baby girl had been empty for a week before a new resident arrived in the early hours of the morning. He didn’t try to make up a story, he knew the story, same story as every other family in the ward but instead found himself trying to put the family unit together.

 The mother and father were easy enough, clutching at each other in worry and fear. A first child, Daniel figured, father certainly older than mother and a new relationship, he gathered, from the questions overheard. Father’s brother was another easy peg. Wealthy from the shiny shoes and nice watch, uncomfortable around children by the amount of coaxing needed to get him to just slip a hand into the incubator but he spent nearly as much time in the ward as the father and mother. Brother’s partner was a little trickier to peg. Large and fair, Daniel had first thought he was related to mother until he easily slipped an arm around the brother. He seemed to come early in the morning or late in the evening, sometimes with the brother, sometimes without, but he seemed an accepted part of the family, allowed to hold the baby during tests, looking as devoted as anyone else.

 Grandfather was another easy guess, often staying late through the night, sending the younger members of the family home for a few hours of sleep. A few times Daniel saw him bring out a prayer shawl and a small old book but these would always disappear before the sons returned. The small silver-haired woman that sat with him sometimes gave Daniel a moment of pause, since she looked like no one else in the family, but some overheard gentle ribbing put her as grandpa’s girlfriend who would bring tiny, soft, hand stitched outfits for the little boy.

 A tall intimidating man that did look like her would stand outside the ward sometimes and catch looks that Daniel recognized as ‘can’t you have one of your own?’ There was much eye rolling involved.

 Others would come by and stand outside, most dressed in suits. Father would wave to them and sometimes leave the ward to exchange quick words. There was one small man, always in a black suit, who would send the brother stomping from the ward. As much as Daniel tried not to make up stories about this family, one of the cards taped to the edge of the incubator had the presidential seal on it and he couldn’t help glancing at it as he walked by.

 Late one evening about a month after the little boy had been settled in next to his daughter, Daniel watched as the father suddenly sat up straight, as if waking from a dream. He shook his head as if to clear it and looked around as if suddenly realizing that he was in a room with other people. Daniel knew the feeling. When the worry and fear and tedium had become a crushing constant, there had been a moment where his brain had simply snapped him into the larger world in pure self defense, like the E string on his wife’s violin snapping.

 The father tilted his head and read the name on the side of his daughter’s incubator.

 “Megan,” the man said softly.

 “What?” Daniel replied after a moment. It had taken him a second to realize someone else had spoken.

 The man gestured to the name cut out of bright pink construction paper. “Megan.” The man said again carefully, almost as if he’d forgotten how to speak. “It’s a good name. My second in command’s named Megan.”

 “Oh” Daniel shook his head for a moment. “Your what?”

 “Sorry.” The man said, holding out his hand. “Don Eppes, FBI.”

 “Ah. Daniel Summer, CPA.”

 Don Eppes FBI looked confused for a moment before smiling at the joke. Daniel felt a little naughty thrill. Parents weren’t encouraged to socialize. He felt like he’d just passed a note in study hall.

 Don Eppes looked at his little Megan again. “Your first?” he asked.

 Daniel shook his head. “Third.”

 “Ah.”

 “FBI must give good family leave?” Daniel questioned, wondering how an agent could manage to be there almost day and night.

 Don shook his head. “Workaholic in high-risk position. I’ve accrued a lot of vacation time and favors.”

 “Still, probably not as exciting as they make it seem on TV.”

 Don shrugged. “We get enough excitement, they just never show the mounds of paperwork.”

 Daniel chuckled. “See, my whole business is to do mounds of paperwork for other people.”

 “Well, you can have mine.”

 Silence settled between the two of them. Daniel realized he’d more or less forgotten how to have a conversation. Don Eppes, FBI, was probably in no better shape.

 “Third.” Eppes suddenly asked. “You’ve done this before?”

 Daniel shook his head. “Jenny was right on time, Robbie was two weeks late.”

 “Oh.” Don Eppes shrugged. “They told us this would happen. They told us…” Eppes petered off and shrugged again.

 “Emily just woke up in the middle of the night. Said ‘something’s wrong’.” Eppes nodded. Daniel hadn’t understood how Emily could have felt fetal distress that was barely picked up by the hospitals equipment that first night. In the end he just assumed it was one of those things he would never understand as long as he had a Y chromosome.

 They fell into silence again as a night nurse headed their direction but a quick smile from Eppes told him he wasn’t the only one who felt like he was passing notes in study hall.

 ~

Charlie yawned as he made his way down the ward. If he had thought days had been long before, this was heading into new territory, bouncing between CalSci, the FBI, and the hospital. When he got to the double doors of the NICU, he started the decontamination procedures on auto pilot. He’d become almost half afraid that this whole thing was going to trigger off some sort of OCD when he’d caught himself scrubbing to the elbows before making dinner at home.

 Once he had the requisite yellow robe wrapped around him, Charlie made his way to Mattie’s incubator, still completely on auto pilot. He pulled up a chair, sat down hard next to Don and finally let his brain engage a little.

 “How is he?” he asked Don. That was always the first question.

 Don shook his head. “Didn’t put on as much as yesterday, but still breathing okay.”

 Charlie nodded. Those were the two big concerns, weight and oxygen. The doctor had said they’d probably get a grace period, but if Mattie grew too quickly he could literally outgrow his tiny lungs. Luckily, that seemed to be the only major worry, as his little heart had been beating strong and steady from the word go.

 Charlie rubbed at his eyes. He wanted to talk with Don about this weird case that Ian had handed him. That’s what they did as brothers, talk about cases or sometimes sports. It maybe wasn’t the closest form of communication but at least it was talking, when in the past they’d gone literally years without speaking to each other. But cases were now off the conversation list.

 “Long day?” Don asked.

 Charlie just shrugged. “No worse than usual.”

 Don rubbed at his own eyes. “Um, look, Charlie some bills came in the mail today…”

 “It’s taken care of, Don.” Charlie said quickly.

 Don looked pained. “Yeah, I know, the balance was zero but it was still itemized. Look, Charlie…”

 “Don I told you I’d take care of things.”

 “I know, it’s just…it’s a lot and…”

 “Don,” Charlie quickly cut Don off. “Don’t argue with me on this one, okay? I’m never going to have kids.” Don rocked back a little. “I’m never going to risk inflicting the screwed up mess that is my head on another generation. That means Mattie is as much my legacy as yours.”

 “You might…”

 “No, Don,” Charlie said, shaking his head slightly. “No.”

 “I just…” Don stuttered, too tired to argue well. “I feel like I owe you something I can’t pay back.”

Charlie rubbed at his own face unsure how to explain to Don just how much he owed his big brother. “No, Don, I’m the one who owes you. Look. There has been more than one moment in my life when I’ve been damn close to death or worse. In high school, the number of times I had a utility knife over my wrists isn’t even funny but I didn’t do it ‘cause I thought of you coming in and finding me. Not Mom, not Dad, you.” Don swallowed hard and locked his jaw tight. “After Susan left, when I was doing some pretty stupid shit to deal with life, probably the only thing that kept a needle out of my veins was the thought of you having to come home and scrape me out of a gutter. How disappointed you would have been. That horrible night with Annie, whatever bit of you is in me as my brother was the one pulling the strings ‘cause I sure as hell wasn’t there. And that warehouse floor, when I was so cold and just wanted to sleep I knew I had to stay awake, I had to stay awake because I knew you were coming for me.” Don wiped at his eyes and Charlie took Don’s other hand in his. “You have saved my life so many times just by being my brother. Please, Don, let me do this. I can’t wave a magic wand and make things better but I can at least take care of you and Mattie this way. Please.”

 “It’s still a lot, Charlie,” Don managed to say.

 Charlie nodded and lowered his head. “In eight months the military will launch what they will tell everyone are two communications satellites. They’re not. What they do I taught them how to do. My fee had to come out of three different black budget agencies. An entire shell corporation was created just to write one check and that corporation vanished the second the check cleared. I made more in six months then you made in the last six years, Don.” Don blinked a few times, obviously doing a little of his own math. “My tax returns are classified documents for the next five years and do you have any idea what it takes to find an accountant with security clearance?”

 Don gave a tired chuckle. “Okay.”

 Charlie reached out and laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “The Eppes line will continue, Don,” he said softly. “And I’ll put it through med school if need be.” Don gave another tired chuckle. “Besides, what else am I supposed to spend my money on? Colby’s threatening to start randomly throwing out suits for even new one I buy him.”

 Don grinned. “Yeah, buddy, when did you become a clothes horse?”

 Charlie grinned back. “It’s the best thing about coming out of the closet, Don- you suddenly have all this extra space for fabulous clothes.” Charlie camped up the ‘fabulous’ as much as he could, knowing it would give Don the laugh he desperately needed.

 ~

Anne sighed as the breast pump did its thing. As weird as it felt the first dozen times it hurt like hell without it. There were more reasons than one why she was looking forward to Mattie being able to nurse, not the least of which was always having the slight desire to moo when hooked up to the thing. She knew she’d certainly never quite look at a cow the same way again. Not that there were a lot of cows wandering around LA.

 She looked over at Charlie who’d been scribbling in a note pad. His eyes flicked quickly away from her.

 “Charlie? We’re you just checking out my tits?”

 “I’m...ah...” Charlie stuttered. “I’m just impressed. Last time I saw them there wasn’t really anything to look at, and now...”

 Anne looked down at her newly arrived D’s and sighed. “Charlie, last time you saw me without a shirt I was 90 pounds and bleeding from every major orifice and frankly you weren’t much to look at yourself.”

 Charlie looked away for a moment and sighed. “Yeah... but… look around. Look how far you’ve come. Look how far we’ve come.”

 Anne looked around the small room with parenting posters on the wall, and down at herself in the yellow robe she was really beginning to hate. She sighed. “Well, if nothing else, we made it out alive, didn’t we?”

 “Yeah.”

 “Do you... do you ever talk to..?” Anne couldn’t even ask.

 Charlie shook his head. “No. I...uh...I actually ran into Johnny a couple years back. He’s an orthodontist in Modesto, has a kid, drives a minivan, most awkward conversation of my life and I’ve had some uncomfortable ones.”

 “I hear Sara ODed a few years back.”

 Charlie nodded. “Yeah, I saw her face on a list of Jane Does. Went in, told them she went to my free lectures. It was horrible; I couldn’t remember her last name. I don’t even know if I ever knew it.”

 “I bet you were expecting to do the same for me.”

 Charlie shook his head. “No. Even in the worst moments there was always something in you that wouldn’t break, wouldn’t even bend.”

 “This almost broke me, Charlie.”

 “No,” Charlie said softly. “You would have survived, that’s what you do. Don it might have broken, still may, but you’ll survive.”

 Anne took Charlie’s hand and just gave it a squeeze.

 ~

It was early but the hours were finally starting to catch up with Don. He’d slept almost seven hours, waking up in the same positing he’d collapsed in. Anne had already left by the time he managed to drag himself from the bed. He was still fighting off early morning tunnel vision, which is why he almost missed Daniel Summer, sitting on the floor outside the ward.

 Don crouched down in front of the other father. “Daniel?” Don said softly. The man had a floppy stuffed rabbit clutched to his chest.

 Daniel opened his eyes and Don didn’t even need to ask. His heart leapt into his throat at the sight of bloodshot eyes and a face streaked with tears.

 “She wouldn’t breathe,” Daniel choked out. “They tried everything, she just wouldn’t breathe.”

 Don couldn’t guess at the number of parents of dead children he’d had to stand in front of in his line of work. Don slammed down his most professional demeanor, hard, to keep from falling into the other man’s grief.

 “You should be with your wife,” he said calmly.

 Daniel shook his head. “She won’t let me touch her.”

 Don knew what he should say next. ‘We’ll find the person who did this.’ That was the script, but there was no crime here; just a too-small baby that wouldn’t breathe.

 Don went off script and drew the shattered man to him, holding him tight as fresh tears fell, clamping down on his own fears tighter than ever before. When the tears settled down again, Don drew back.

 “You need to be with your wife,” Daniel shook his head. “And your children. Jenny and Robbie? Right?”

 “My little Megan,” Daniel whispered.

 Don squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth, not willing to let tears fall. Not yet. Not now. “Come on.” He helped Daniel to his feet. “Let’s go find your family.”

 As they moved slowly down the hall, Daniel taking shuffling steps like an invalid, Don looked into the windows of the NICU. Anne was holding Mattie to her chest, a soft smile on her face, stroking his head ever so gently. Behind her was an empty incubator, the name Megan still clearly spelled out in pink cutout letters.

 ~

Ian, by way of being the boss, had drawn the short straw this morning. Word had gotten up to the office- Don was on the range. Don was on the range going through ammo like nothing and snarling at anyone who got near.

 The range was empty of all noise except one lone gun being fired over and over. Less than five seconds for thirteen rounds. A ping as the last cartridge hit the floor. Metal scraping against metal as an empty clip was ejected and a new one put in. Thirteen more bangs. Ian reached out and put a hand on Don’s shoulder. Don jumped and whipped around. Ian’s heart leapt into his throat. Don Eppes had been crying. Don Eppes didn’t cry. Rumor had it the man still hadn’t cried for his own mother.

 “Mattie?” Ian asked, suddenly terrified. He should have called the hospital first before coming down here.

 Don shook his head. “Megan.” Don croaked out. Now Ian was confused.

 “Megan?”

 “She stopped breathing, just stopped breathing.” Ian scoured his memory. His brain came up with the name Megan, worked on in pink letters, next to Mattie. “I know the script, Ian. We’ll find who did this, we’ll bring them to justice, do you have any enemies, any threats?”

 “There was no crime, Don.” Ian said carefully.

 “I know!” Don shouted, flinging himself against the wall and sinking to the floor. “Her lungs were too small, they just stopped. Nothing to do. Nothing I can do.”

 Ian took a deep breath. He did not need this. He had a half dozen dead junkies in the morgue OD’d on something no one had seen before, and a dead IRS auditor whose life read like a rejected X-Files script. He did not need to deal with Don Eppes having a stress-induced breakdown in the middle of the gun range for anyone to see.

 Ian reached down, hauled Don to his feet and slammed him against the wall. “All right, Don. You’re going to listen to me ‘cause right now there’s a weird chance I could end up your older brother so you’re going to take this as brotherly advice.”

 Don blinked a few times.

 “Shit. Happens. Crappy shit happens and there’s not a fucking thing you can do about it. A baby is dead, I’m sorry, but it’s not your baby. He is alive and he needs you. He needs you there with him, not here banging your head against a wall of shit you can’t fix. She had a chance, your son still has a chance, and you’re going to take it because there are parents in this world that never get to see their child take even one breath so you are going to march your ass back to the hospital and you are going to sit there and watch your son breathe. Do you understand me!?” Ian gave Don another good shove against the wall for emphasis.

 Don’s eyes were squeezed shut, but he finally nodded.

 “Good.” Ian took Don’s gun. “It’ll be in your desk when you come back.” Don nodded again and quietly shuffled from the range. When Ian was sure Don had left, he pulled his own gun, pointed it at the target that Don had reduced to little more than confetti and blindly fired his own thirteen rounds.

~

Four days later, Don walked in to find a new resident next to Mattie. Two women sat by the incubator; one a tall Hispanic woman with a face more handsome than beautiful, the other a petite pale strawberry blonde. They looked up at Don their eyes begging for contact, reassurance. Don quickly looked away and sat down next to his son.

 

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ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Seeing as how people were betting I was either going to off Anne, Mattie, or Martin I think I could have done worse.
Erinstarlettmalfoy on December 15th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
Fuck, woman! At least three different parts of this had me crying. ::sniffle:: And obviously, the bit about Daniel's daughter. Eep. >.< And poor Don, crying... I agree with Ian, Don Eppes crying is an awful thing.

I did like Ian-as-big-brother. That sort of helped. :) And the campy-Charlie moment.

... kay, I'm gonna try to go back to work now. Mrawr.

Edited at 2008-12-15 06:05 pm (UTC)
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
*hands tissue*

It'll get better. Promise.
(Deleted comment)
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
*tissue*
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 05:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
PenguinGoddess: Lowes Teamclonus7 on December 15th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
I gotta stop reading your stuff at work, can't have the clients seeing in me in tears... not good for business.

Damn you, damn you, damn you! I know nothing about this story is really fluffy bunnies, but DAMN YOU!!! I loved the beginning of this chapter... and then you had to go and... I'm just not liking you very much right now.

... You know,Colby needs to be "Daddy" and not just "Uncle". Charlie can have a kid without passing on his genes that he's so adament about NOT passing on. They can adopt or a little Colby look-a-like wouldn't be so bad. Just a thought.

One more time... Damn You!!!!

ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)
:( Hugs? It'll get better. There will even be fluff in latter chapters, I promise.
(no subject) - clonus7 on December 16th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 05:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - clonus7 on December 16th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ninou1ninou1 on December 15th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
One never should go on losing a baby or a child for that matter.
It's so sad, and you just convey that in words, it's sad, but greatly written.

My tears became giggle when Ian gave his "big brother" advice, just what Don needed at that moment.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
I don't think I've managed to ever make this many people cry at once. Well that really should be the worst of the tears.
fredbassettfredbassett on December 15th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC)
*sniffles*

That really was a hard one to read. Great as always, just so bloody sad.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
*more tissue*
It'll be okay.
Devo79devo79 on December 15th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC)
OW!

*hides under the table*

Oh yeah *sticks head out from under table*
I loved “It’s the best thing about coming out of the closet, Don- you suddenly have all this extra space for fabulous clothes.” Charlie camped up the ‘fabulous’ as much as he could, knowing it would give Don the laugh he desperately needed.

I read that out loud four times and read fabulous as faaabulooouuussss *snorts*
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)
That's about how I pictured Charlie saying it.
tonisimonetonisimone on December 15th, 2008 10:44 pm (UTC)
I could have commented on any one of a dozen different lines here but the one that struck me as the most of the the wall was

All right, Don. You’re going to listen to me ‘cause right now there’s a weird chance I could end up your older brother so you’re going to take this as brotherly advice

I just completely forgot Alan was dating Ian's mum.


toni
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)
Try as he might Ian hasn't managed to forget it.
twins_m0m on December 15th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
First I'll talk about the funny part - Charlie's comment on fabulous clothes. Somehow I pictured a Billy Crystal skit. That had me laughing. But it didn't last long. Megan's death was hard to take. I can't see any show that has kids in danger or dying without tearing up anymore. I automatically think of my girls. Luckily no children died the 3 weeks my daughter was in the NICU, but it was tough to watch the ones that were so small they didn't look human, more like little aliens. I think that's why parents don't talk much to each other there, afraid of feeling the devastation or giving up hope for our own. I totally sympathize with Don's being afraid to talk with the two women. It's just too much for him right now.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)
Well I'm glad your girls are all right and little Mattie will be all right as well.
So Not Mucheotu on December 16th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC)
In a few lines you made us care about the Summer family, then you battered us with their pain. That's not nice! Very skillful, very effective, but Not. Nice.

Ian! Don's big brother! The mind boggles!

Can't not say this, though: No way would Alan have a Torah. A prayer book, yes. A prayer shawl, yes. But a Torah, no matter how small, is simply not the kind of thing an individual has. Never has been. Also, if Alan was the kind of man who thought that a Torah would do some good -- and canonically, he isn't -- he would understood and respect the proper way to handle a Torah. Sorry. This line yanked me from the story, and I know you didn't want that.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 05:06 am (UTC)
Sorry but I do believe Alan would pray. A lot.
(no subject) - eotu on December 16th, 2008 06:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
riverotter1951: Qiriverotter1951 on December 16th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
"A few times Daniel saw him bring out a prayer shawl and a small old book but these would always disappear before the sons returned."

The small old book is probably a prayer book and might have been passed down in Alan's family. My family is Jewish so I have prayer books passed down including the one my dad carried when he was in the Army in WWII. Like a Bible, family information can be written in a prayer book. One of mine lists birth, marriage ad death dates of my maternal family.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 16th, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
Actually you just answered a big question that was going to be a plot point for Whitman 5. Thank you.
Mia: donmia_dcwut_09 on January 1st, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)
aww im in tears
poor don poor daniel
i guess he couldn't go through it again and decided to keep out it this time
ladygray99ladygray99 on January 1st, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
He should have kept out the first time but Don is Don and has to try to save the world.
(no subject) - mia_dcwut_09 on January 1st, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
laura_trekkielaura_trekkie on January 18th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)
Another hard-hitting chapter.

I liked the start, with Daniel trying to figure out who all the visitors were in relation to Don and Anne. I liked the feeling they had of being naughty boys passing notes, but I guess it's now clear why parents aren't encouraged to chat- they end up drawn into each other's pain. It still hurt to see Don look away from his new neighbours, though :(.

I liked the talk between Charlie and Don about the bills and how Charlie saw it as payment for Don keeping him alive all those times.

I also liked the Don-Ian chat. Don crying is disturbing, especially for someone like Ian, who probably isn't around many crying people as a rule. He gave good advice and it made me smile when he mentioned the bit about possibly becoming Don's older brother :).

Laura.
ladygray99ladygray99 on January 19th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
I think that Don wanted to be sportive but he's just to deep into survival mode now. Just taking it one day at a time.
fractalmoonfractalmoon on November 27th, 2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
Now I definitely want Kathryn and Alan to wed, or at least move in together.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 3rd, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
I think Alan would need to have a long talk with Ian about that first.