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18 December 2008 @ 08:05 am
A Woman Waits for Me 28/39  
Title: A Woman Waits for Me
: 28/39
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. – Don hides in numbers. Charlie prays.
Rating: PG13
Word Count: 2,465
Warning: Medical stuff
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 26 27
Authors Notes: I’m fudging a buch of medical stuff in the next couple of chapters. Sorry.
Betas:swingandswirl and riverotter1951


Part 28
The Fall of Numbers and Prayers

It was Don that first noticed. Mattie had patterns and habits, likes and dislikes that made Don rethink his opinions on nature verses nurture. After being fed mid day, after the tube was removed, Mattie kicked his legs. He kicked his legs for two or three minutes then, fell into an afternoon power nap. Don was trained to look for patterns and breaks in patterns. It was what he did.

 Don watched the tube come out, the last drops of milk wiped from his nose. Don frowned. Mattie didn’t kick his legs. He twitched once and fell asleep. Don looked at the monitors.

 “Martha, do these look right?” Martha looked at the digital read out.

 “Everything’s within normal range.”

 “He didn’t kick his legs.” Martha frowned as well.

 “Well his 02 levels are a little on the low side of normal. How about if I get the doctor to take a listen?”

 “Thank you.” Somewhere along the line Don had told himself he wasn’t going to one of those parents that worried over every little thing. A little further down the line Don said fuck it and decided to embrace worrying as a new hobby.

 Anne got back from the bathroom as the doctor arrived. Don didn’t particularly like the doctor. There was something cold about him he didn’t trust. Don figured with ten minutes and an interrogation room, he could probably get the guy to cop to tax evasion or insurance fraud.

 “What’s wrong?” Anne asked, catching the look on Don’s face. Don put on a smile.

 “Just checking something.”

 The doctor listened to Mattie’s chest, front and back then turned to Martha. “Get a set of blood samples for the lab.”

 “What’s wrong?” Don asked quickly.

 “I’m hearing a small amount of fluid in his left lung. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but he can’t cough yet.”

 “Well, what would cause that?”

 “I don’t want to speculate until we know more.”

 “I mean…” Don felt the panic begin to swell.

 “Mr. Eppes, right now it is a very small amount of fluid in one lung. He’s not running a fever, his O2 stats are still with in normal and his waste output is consistent. If the fluid increases we’ll drain his lungs. If his O2 stats drop we’ll intubate. If his temperature spikes we’ll do a spinal tap. Right now I’m going to continue with rounds and be back every fifteen minutes to have a listen and put a rush on the lab tests.” The doctor made a note in Mattie’s chart and moved on.

 Don growled under his breath. Anne squeezed his hand. “He’s a good doctor, you can’t get him audited for the fun of it.”

 Don sighed. “But I’m so sure he’s doing something.”


 An hour later Mattie was carefully put on his side and the oxygen mix in his incubator was increased. Don tried not to hover, tried not to lose his lunch as his stomach began twisting into knots, tried to be calm and strong for Anne, who was twisting her fingers around and around. By three Charlie had arrived. He sat quietly, hardly moving. Whatever statistics, odds or probabilities were running through his head, he gave no outward sign of them.

 At 3:37 Martha went to shift Mattie. He twitched once, twice. Something thick and yellow appeared at his lips and his 02 levels dropped. Don felt his heart stop. There was a dull echo in his ears as Martha suctioned away the mucus. He was peripherally aware of Anne’s hand in his.

 Time stopped, started and seemed to jump the way it did when flying bullets were involved. The doctor was there and so was Colby.

 ‘When had Colby arrived?’

 The doctor had lab results. Some part of Don was nodding, agreeing, understanding. Some part had disconnected and was only aware of the rise and fall of a small chest moving faster and harder than it should.

 Mattie’s face contorted as a needle, thin as rice paper, went into his skin, into a vein, a comparatively thick tube following. The part of Don that had disconnected counted the drops slowly falling from the IV bag into the tube.

 Don lost time again. His father was there saying something. Don’s lips moved in response. A second later he couldn’t remember what he’d said. The doctor was talking again. Tubes, more tubes.

 ‘Weren’t there enough tubes already?’

 Don watched the tube slide down his son’s throat, his face crunched up but suddenly the movement of his chest became even and steady. Don felt his own breath begin to steady out but it still didn’t feel right. Nothing felt right.

 It was almost seven when the fever started. Just a point of a degree. No one noticed. Then another point. When his temperature hit 100 and rising the doctor ordered a spinal tap. It was the night doctor, whom Don liked better. He was soft spoken with quick, efficient movements. Don signed the consent form and felt a strong arm wrap around his chest.

 The horror was in slow motion. They strapped Mattie face down so he wouldn’t move. The needle looked sickening it was so large. The needle went in. Mattie’s eyes scrunched up, his mouth opened. There was no sound but Don recognized a scream. He lunged and Colby held him fast in place while the doctor and nurses worked. Don looked to his right. Charlie had put a hand over Anne’s eyes and turned her head away.

 The needle was out, the straps removed. Something was injected. The temperature reading went up, the O2 reading went down. Others surrounded the incubator. Nurses pushed him out of the way. Don wanted to see, needed to see. Colby pinned his arms. Don didn’t even feel the pain, just a dim awareness of the click grind of his right shoulder, an old pitching injury.

 Don looked over. Anne’s face was pressed against Charlie’s shoulder, Charlie’s arms tight around her, her fists beating against his back. Charlie’s eyes were closed but his lips were moving silently, repetitively. Don couldn’t read lips but he could read Charlie. Whatever words he was saying weren’t numbers. Numbers were random. This was repetitive. This was… Charlie squeezed his eyes tight.

 A jolt hit Don, he sagged in Colby’s grip. Charlie was praying. Charlie didn’t pray, Charlie didn’t pray. Charlie didn’t pray because Charlie didn’t believe, couldn’t believe, couldn’t push himself beyond the numbers. Colby let Don go, then turned him around. Don hid his face against Colby’s shoulder and tried not to listen to what he couldn’t see.


 It was midnight. Anne sat still in the rocker, Don slouched in the cold plastic chair next to her. There were too many tubes. More than ever before. Tubes to put air into Mattie’s lungs, tubes to draw the fluid out of them. Tubes under his skin for medicine to go into or blood to come out of.

 The fever had stopped climbing at 102.2. Don stared at the number.

 ‘102.2 divisible by 2. 51.1. Not divisible again, maybe, 51 is probably prime. No. 17-round extended clip, 3 times, 51 rounds. Still doesn’t work with that point 1. 102.1, now what’s that divisible by?

Don blinked and shook his head, shaking out the numbers. Charlie would be so proud.


 The number had dropped again. Don held his breath. It could go back up.


 Don breathed. He didn’t say a word, didn’t make a noise, just watched at the number began to slowly trend down.


 Colby stumbled into the office. He had dozed for an hour or two after the fever broke. He pushed into the war room. Ian looked at him over the top of some files.

 “Get out of here, Granger.”

 “What?” Colby stuttered.

 “We’re fine without you, you look like shit, you know where you need to be. Get out.”


 “That’s an order, soldier,” Ian barked.

 Like a marionette having its strings yanked, Colby straightened up, turned around, and marched himself out of the office.


 Don ran his hand through his hair, desperate to keep awake as the doctor talked. He wasn’t sure how many hours had passed since he’d slept. His eyes felt like they were full of grit.

 “…and we’re going to stop adding supplements to his feedings.”

 “What? Why?” Don asked.

 “The infection is going to stunt lung development for at least a couple of weeks and while we don’t want him to lose weight it would be preferable if he didn’t gain much more until his lungs have a chance to heal and catch up.”

 ‘Starve a fever.’ The bit of old rhyme popped into Don’s head. “Um…the tubes?” Don tried to ask.

 “I’m sorry, Mr. Eppes, but he’s not out of the woods yet. His temperature is still fluctuating and we’re still draining fluid. The intubation really needs to stay until the last possible moment.”

 “Of course.”

 The doctor patted Don on the arm and walked off just as Colby arrived. Colby turned to watch the doctor leave.

 “I’m sure he’s up to something,” Colby said.

 “Me too.”

 “What did he say?”

 “Not out of the woods yet.” Colby nodded, then pulled Don into a hug. Don sagged against Colby. “What are you doing here?” Don asked.

 “Ian threw me out.” Don chuckled. “Where’s Anne?”



 Don sat down hard in the rocker. “I’m so damn tired, Colby.”

 “Get someone to drive you home. Get a couple of hours.”

 “I can’t.” Don laid a hand on top of the incubator. He wanted to reach his hand in, but was afraid of disturbing the nest of tubes.

 “He’ll be okay, Don,” Colby said.

 “How do you know?”

 Colby gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Because I refuse to believe otherwise.”


 Charlie jerked awake at the sound of his name. His head was throbbing and he felt the muscles in his back cramp. He quickly looked around. He was in the dining room at the table. His father was standing next to him.

 “Sorry,” Alan said. “But you’re going to put your back out if you sleep like that for too long.”

 Charlie arched his back and winced. “Too late.”

 “Come on. Go upstairs, find a real bed.”

 Charlie checked his watch. “No, I’ve got to get to the hospital.”

 “Charlie, you’re not going to do anyone any good if you make yourself sick.”

 “Really? And where may I ask are you heading on this lovely evening?”

 Alan looked down at the keys in his hand. “Come on. You can ride in with me. Maybe two of us can talk Don and Anne into going home.”

 Charlie grabbed his jacket. “I wouldn’t put money on it.”

 Charlie felt himself begin to doze off as soon as he settled into the car. “What are we going to do, Dad?” Charlie mused half asleep. “I don’t want to lose Don. If something happens…”

 “Don’t even think about it, Charlie. We’re not losing anyone. Don’t even put that thought into the universe.”


 “Get a couple of minutes of sleep. I’ll wake you when we get there.”


 Alan rolled his neck around. It had been another long night. He sipped at the cafeteria coffee and tried to keep his eyes focused. Not that there was much to focus on, the hall outside of NICU was that generic hospital blue/grey/green. Alan was learning to hate that color almost as much as yellow.

 He blinked a few times as David stepped into his field of view.

 “Morning, Alan.”

 “Hello, David. Would you like me to grab Don for you?”

 “Nah, was just heading into the office, thought I’d just see how things were going.”

 Alan leaned heavily against the wall. “His temperature hasn’t gone over a hundred in three days but it’s refusing to stabilize and the drugs that are keeping his temperature down are going to start giving him kidney stones in another few days unless they take him off them.”

 “If it’s not one thing it’s another?” Alan shrugged. “How are you holding up, Alan?”

 Alan just shrugged again. “I feel old, David. I spent so many years nagging the boys about grandkids and getting married. And I could picture it so clearly, either one of them with a little boy or girl. Dark eyes and curls.”

 “Mini Charlie.”

 “Oh, Donnie’s hair curls up worse than Charlie’s when it’s long. That’s why he’s always rubbing gunk in it.”

 “And here I thought he was just trying to deflect bullets with his head.”

 Alan smiled. “It does these really tight little curls so instead of going shaggy like Charlie’s it just kinda fros out two, three inches from his head.”

 “Oh, tell me you have pictures.”

 “Of course. Rule one in the parents’ handbook. Take embarrassing photos at ever possible opportunity.” David chuckled and Alan rubbed at his eyes. “Oh, David, I have never felt more useless in my life.”

 “Alan, trust me, your boys need you right now probably more than they ever have. You’ve never been more important.”

 “I just wish I could do more.”

 “You’re doing plenty. And you’ll all get through this.”


 It was all about the side effects. The medicine to stop the fever created kidney stones, the medicine to dissolve the kidney stones could depress breathing. They couldn’t risk depressed breathing, not when the fluid coming from Mattie’s lungs was finally starting to dry up. Of course they couldn’t risk stones in kidneys that small and under developed anyways. Steroids to improve the breathing would depress the immune system that was already stretched.

 “We’re going to see if his temperature will stabilize on its own,” the doctor said. Mattie’s urinary output had dropped. Don had no idea how much medical information could be deduced from quantity and quality of pee.

 Anne was resting her head against Don’s side. Don wanted to argue, wanted a second opinion. “Do what you have to do.” Anne said quietly.


 It was late. Ian knew he should be at the office going over case files, catching up on paper work. He stood outside the windows of the NICU ward and peered in. Anne and Don sat on one side of the incubator holding each other. Charlie and Colby sat on the other.

 “Mr. Edgerton?” Ian whipped around. A young man in a nurse’s uniform was standing by the door.


 “Would you like to come in?” the young man asked.

 Ian shook his head. “I can’t.”

 The nurse flipped through a couple of pieces of paper.

 “You’re listed as an uncle?”

 Ian gave a half chuckle, running his hand through his hair. “Yeah, I guess. Sort of a recent development.”

 “I gathered.” The young man’s face turned serious. “You might want to come in.”

 Previous Next


Erinstarlettmalfoy on December 17th, 2008 07:28 pm (UTC)

I-I'm gonna try focus on the humorous aspect that is Rob Morrow/Don's hair, because that's a nice mental image. Tubes are not.

Poor Mattie... :(

I hope tomorrow comes quickly. The wait hurrrttssss....
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)
Remember Mattie's an Eppes. that means he's damn near indestructible.
(no subject) - starlettmalfoy on December 17th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dirk_rta on December 17th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ninou1ninou1 on December 17th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
I knew it. Here I'am holding my breath... Damn you.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
breathe once in a while. You'd look silly all blue.
(no subject) - ninou1 on December 17th, 2008 08:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
PenguinGoddess: supercuteclonus7 on December 17th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, where do I start with this one? I could of course start by calling you some very nasty names... BUT, I think that I will control myself because there are still eleven chapters to go and I have faith that you WILL NOT make Don eat his gun.

I swear Colby is like the new rock of the Eppes family. He's there for everyone and everything... I just have one question, who is there for him? (I don't see Charlie being able to do that for him right now)Sooner or later, I'm guessing he's either just gonna be hospitalized for exhaustion or have a nervous breakdown. I personally don't want to see either happen to Colby.

Don with an 'fro... OMG! That would be hilarious to see. Good thing he looks way better with short hair.

Uncle Ian... everyone should have a kick-ass uncle that can be described as the "bastard child of Clint Eastwood and Yoda"!

Get better Mattie...
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
Mattie thanks you. He's starting to feel better already. If you want to see fro!Don dig out season 5 Northern Exposure when Joel's gone a little feral. Colby's going to crack a bit but not until the next story. For now he's holding on.
(no subject) - clonus7 on December 17th, 2008 08:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 08:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - clonus7 on December 17th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - starlettmalfoy on December 17th, 2008 08:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - clonus7 on December 17th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - clonus7 on December 17th, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Devo79devo79 on December 17th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)

I've had a spinal tap. The worst pain in the WORLD! It feels like they're trying to pull your spine out of your back.
ninou1ninou1 on December 17th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
I second that, I may have been a grown up adult, it was still downright frightening, I think I gave some nasty names to the doctor.
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
twins_m0m on December 17th, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
How could you put sweet little Mattie (and Anne, Don, Charlie, Colby, Alan and everyone else) through this hell! I'm mentally throwing shoes at you at the moment, so you might want to duck. Charlie praying is definitely a BAD sign. But I add my prayers with his. Mattie's got to make it through this!

Alan's comment about Don hair was a nice break from the humor. Love to see those pictures, too.
Erinstarlettmalfoy on December 17th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
Haha, I posted a couple of links a few comments up, if you wanna see that hair. :)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
riverotter1951: fractal heartriverotter1951 on December 17th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)
Mattie might be an Eppes but he can still hurt and feel pain. Uncle Ian- that's great. Does this mean that Alan and Katherine are planning to elope? Will she take his name? Will he take hers? Will they hyphenate?
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
Edgerton-Eppes. That would be a scary name to have coming down the road at you.

I actually haven't made a decision about Alan and Katherine yet. I do know they are going to stay together but I'm not sure about marriage. I keep asking them and they keep avoiding the question.
(no subject) - mikes_grrl on December 17th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
mikes_grrl on December 17th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
Oh this breaks my heart. Not just for Mattie and Don and Anne and the immediate circle, but for Ian and Megan and David and Larry and everyone who orbits the Eppes family...this will be like shockwaves through their world. Even survival will have a price for Mattie (and I'm glad he has Don for a father; Anne could really become overprotective of the child, and while Don is protective my inclination he's spent a lifetime dealing with Charlie and knows when to let go whether he likes it or not).

Beautiful, sad, worrying, and hopeful all at the same time. <3

ladygray99ladygray99 on December 17th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
Well that's kind of all the things I was going for. Everyone's just keeping their fingers crossed.
foolartist02: charlie thinking bwfoolartist02 on December 18th, 2008 06:05 am (UTC)
Ok, now I'm really caught up. I should look around more before I say "more please"

I think this chapter is more terrifying than the kidnapping of Charlie. You've said that Don wouldn't survive Mattie's death therefore you won't kill Mattie. It's a comforting thought that I've held onto since the idea of Mattie was introduced. You almost had me give it up this chapter. But now I'm holding it stronger than ever. And what the hell is "do what you have to do."? What? Audit the disliked doc? Hold him at gunpoint and say "Fix my son, NOW!"?

I hate fics where kids die. It's life but... 1 fic I'll remember had an adorable little girl. Two men lived on the same street along with one of men's goddaughter(the little girl) well they're both gardeners and the little girl ends up playing a game. She takes a flower to one and brings back another, everyday. It's really cute and sweet. And then the little girl falls out of a tree(she loved to climb) and breaks her little neck. ... Yeah. So I really hate when kids die in fiction. Can't wait for tomorrow.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 18th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
Remember Ian took Don's gun away. believe me he wishes he could pull it right now.
(Deleted comment)
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 18th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
Take a big breath and tell yourself it'll be ok.
Mia: eppesfamilymia_dcwut_09 on January 1st, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
hope things go well
don with a fro love to see that
ladygray99ladygray99 on January 1st, 2009 11:09 pm (UTC)
Go look at late season norther exposure eps. Rob Morrows hair was great.
(no subject) - mia_dcwut_09 on January 1st, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on January 1st, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mia_dcwut_09 on January 2nd, 2009 12:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
laura_trekkielaura_trekkie on January 18th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
I think *meep* sums up my feelings here. Not good, not good, but we must take heart in the fact that it's not as bad as it could be- his temperature's down, his lungs are clearing, and he's an Eppes with all the stubbornness that includes.

ladygray99ladygray99 on January 19th, 2009 04:26 am (UTC)
Eppes are damn near indestructible.