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21 December 2008 @ 07:52 am
A Woman Waits for Me 31/39  
Title: A Woman Waits for Me
Chapter: 31/39
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. – Bradford and baby pictures.
Rating: PG13
Word Count: 2,266
Warning: none
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 28 29 30
Authors Notes: Figured I needed to get Don back on the couch one more time. Feedback please.
Betas: swingandswirl and riverotter1951

 


Part 31
The Taste of Worry

Bradford held out his hand.

 “Okay, Eppes. Hand them over.”

 Don grinned and pulled a small stack of photos out of his jacket pocket.

 “That’s the newest,” Don said, pointing to the one on top. Bradford looked at the baby in the Dodgers onesie. There was no doubting who the father was. “He looks like you.”

 “I think he got Anne’s eyes, or maybe Charlie’s, they’re kinda wider than mine. Actually, they just went brown last week. They’ve been a kinda dark ocean gray-blue.” Bradford flipped through the photos that seemed to go backwards in time. “That’s when we got to take him home. Seven pounds even, and that was his due date, Six pounds, twelve ounces. He put on over four pounds in two months.”

“I’m happy if I can lose four pounds in two months.”

 “Once we got him off intubation and nursing properly he just started growing like nothing, started crying. Best sound I ever heard, first time he cried.”

 Bradford just nodded. He’d been getting updates from Colby on the goings-on of the Eppes clan and knew there had been a couple of close calls. Bradford flipped over a few more photos. “That’s priceless,” he said at the picture of a terrified-looking Charlie holding a painfully small baby.

 “Colby took that one. Charlie’s getting a little better but I don’t think he’s going to be completely comfortable until he can talk to Mattie and Mattie can talk back.”

 The next photo was of a much more comfortable-looking Colby and the baby. “Well, now that’s just cute.”

 “Colby’s a natural,” Don provided. “Charlie, on the other hand, not so much, though I’ll be very surprised if they don’t sit down and talk about kids soon.”

 “That’ll be an interesting discussion.”

 “You’re telling me.”

 Bradford picked up another picture that had slipped to the bottom of the stack. “Now that’s great blackmail material.” The picture was of Ian sitting on a couch making faces at a little bundle wrapped in a blue blanket.

 “Oh, I’ve seen better. I’ve seen Ian Edgerton baby photos.”

 “Oh, dear,” Bradford chuckled.

 “And for the record he was not a cute baby. He’s had that ‘I can kill you all’ expression down since he was two months old.”

 “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

 “Oh, and all that time I’ve spent fluffing around about how I’m not ready to be a parent, Kathryn had him at sixteen. Sixteen. At sixteen I wasn’t responsible enough to have a car, let alone a kid.”

 “I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her. How are you two getting along?”

 Don shrugged. “I like her. I mean, I wish my mom was here. Could have used her a few time lately, but Kathryn seems good for Dad. He needs someone around to keep him on his toes.”

 “From what I hear she does do that.”

 Don cringed. “I think Charlie’s been permanently traumatized. I would not be surprised if there is a revival of the great condo hunt.”

 “That might be best for all involved.”

 “Yeah.” Don fell silent.

 “So how are you doing Don? You’ve been back a week.”

 “Still catching up on paperwork mostly, trying to figure out where Ian left everything. I’m out of shape. Started taking the stairs, hitting the gym again.”

 “Yeah, that happens, but how are you doing?”

 Don looked down at the photos and picked up one of Mattie in his incubator. “I wish I was home,” he said quietly. “I mean, I’m glad I’m back, I missed the place, but he’s still so small and I feel like I’m missing things or if I’m not there something will happen. I know, me, full time house husband, even if we could afford it, I’d start bouncing off the walls pretty quick. It’s a nice thought, but I don’t think the Bureau is about to grant five years of parental leave.”

 “No, probably not.”

 “And it all happened so quick. I mean, Anne and I, we haven’t known each other a year and a half yet and we’re married with a kid.”

 “Don, the very first time you talked to me about Anne you talked about having kids, getting married, you talked about how happy she made you feel and you’d only known her two months. Does she still make you happy?”

 “Yeah, she does.”

 “Well, then you just need to take a deep breath and realize you just had the American dream dropped in your lap and you’re just going to have to deal.”

 Don rubbed his thumb over the picture of his son. “Is it weird if I say I want another?”

 Bradford chuckled. “Have you told Anne that?”

 “No, I like keeping my balls attached. Call me picky.”

 “Eppes, I’ve got three,” Bradford said with a grin “Survive the terrible twos first, then think about adding to the Eppes clan.”

 “I’ll take that under advisement.” Don quietly flipped through the pictures for a few minutes. “I haven’t been sleeping well.”

 “You’re a parent. You’re not supposed to.”

 “So I’ve been told.”

 “What’s worrying you?” Bradford asked.

 Don shrugged. “Absolutely fucking everything. I mean, I still have the ‘what if he stops breathing’ panic. The first two weeks we had him home, Anne and I slept in shifts so one of us could watch him. Then there’s all the, what if he get sick, what if he stops eating, what if I drop him, what if he gets asthma or needs braces, what if I hurt him trying to cut his nails? What if he’s allergic to peanut butter or strawberries?”

 “Those are all reasonable worries.”

 Don stood up and started pacing the room. “Sure, but then there’s the completely unreasonable ones or the ones that are so far down the line I don’t know why I’m even thinking about them.”

 “Like what?”

 “Like… what if he has trouble reading, what if he has trouble with math? What if he can’t make friends? What if he hates baseball? What if he wants to be a Fed? What if he’s really good at baseball and signs with the Yankees?” Bradford chuckled but Don was on a roll. “What do I do when he brings a girl home? What if he brings a boy home? What if he never brings anyone home because he’s horribly ashamed of his parents?”

 “Don, trust me on this, even if he ends up a socially introverted dyslexic gay Yankees fielder he’s still your son and you’re still gonna love him.”

 “Yeah,” Don said softly sitting back down. “Then there’s the really big wake-me-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-in-a-cold-sweat worry.”

 “What’s that?”

 “What if he’s a genius?” Don said, voice barely above a whisper, as if not wanting to give the universe ideas.

 “Would that be such a bad thing?”

 “You mentioned the terrible twos,” Don said slowly. “I remember Charlie’s terrible twos. They were…beyond terrifying. See, he’d have these screaming fits, not tantrums for candy or anything, he’d just scream. He wasn’t talking. He didn’t talk ‘till he was three. He’d just scream for hours on end and Mom and Dad would have to hold him because if they didn’t…” Don petered off.

 “What would happen?”

 “He’d hurt himself.” Don answered flatly. “He’d rip his hair out in clumps until Mom cut it short. He’d throw himself against the walls or furniture. Climb up on chairs and tables and throw himself off. Mom didn’t let him outside for nearly a year because he was always covered in bruises and she was afraid of getting accused of child abuse.”

 “That must have been scary for you?”

 “I remember this one time Charlie had been screaming for hours and Mom was holding him and she was crying too in what I’m sure was just frustration. And…he suddenly stopped and gave this little cough and suddenly there was just this blood across my mother’s face. He’d managed to scream until he ruptured something.”

 “What did you do?”

 Don shrugged. “I ran, I hid, my baby brother was coughing up blood. He was either dying or possessed.”

 “When did the tantrums stop?”

 “They haven’t,” Don said softly. “I mean he stopped screaming after the math started but…When they give you that ‘watch out for your brother’ speech it’s about not letting him run into the road or take candy from strangers. There’s nothing about what you’re supposed to do when you find your five-year-old brother beating his own skin raw with a stick.” Don squeezed his eyes shut. “He’s channeled it, hid it, figured out how to get off on it, but he’s still… he’s still two years old throwing himself against walls and as much as hearing Mattie cry is something I flat-out prayed for, every time something in my stomach knots up and I wonder if this is the time he’s going to start crying and not stop.”

 Bradford nodded and let the room fall into silence for a moment. “You do know that Charlie is a very unique and extreme case?”

 “I know,” Don took a deep breath. “Mom was depressed.”

 Bradford blinked a few times. In all the discussions with Don about his family this had never come up. “What makes you say that?”

 “I’ve just been spending a lot of time thinking about my childhood. And, you know, normal is what you’re brought up with until you find out otherwise.”

 “Were things not normal?” Don leveled a look at Bradford. “Aside from your brother.”

 “I remember lying in bed and hearing Mom walking around the house in the middle of the night. She’d go two or three days with hardly any sleep, clean everything, organize everything, and then one morning Dad would be making us breakfast. ‘Your mother’s tired, she’s not feeling well.’ She’d stay in bed for a day or two, then spend a couple of days barely hauling herself out of bed and to work and then it would ramp back up again.” Don rubbed a hand over his face. “I mean, she got everything done, held down a job, rewrote city housing law, took care of Charlie, composed half a symphony in secret but… I’ve been looking at old pictures, birthdays, family trips, holidays and there’s just a few too many where she’s forcing the smile and now I can tell.”

 “Those could have been signs of a chemical imbalance. Perhaps some form of bipolar disorder.”

“And the thing is I look at those photos and there are way too many where I know I’m faking it too. I mean I’ve always chalked it up to the job, stress, my family but…I mean we’ve never talked about it and quite frankly I’m scared shitless to but what if all the times I chewed on my gun or took some random woman home…or…or quit baseball? What if that’s all just some bit of my brain under secreting or over secreting two teaspoons worth of some brain chemicals and…I don’t want Mattie to ever feel that. I don’t ever want him to look at a…bullet as a viable sleeping pill but there’s all this research and DNA analysis and…I just want him to be happy.”

 Bradford took a deep breath. “Okay, Don, I’m going say this as a parent. You can’t write your children’s future. You can worry and wonder but what is going to happen is going to happen. All you can do is make sure he’s strong, smart, healthy, adaptable, and most importantly that he knows he is loved and I don’t think you’re going to have trouble with any of that. Got that?”

 Don nodded.

 “Now, speaking as your shrink…the problem with the way we used to do things is that no one knew what they were looking at usually until it was too late and too far past a point where it could be dealt with easily. Times have changed. We know what we’re looking at now and what’s more we know how to spot it in its earliest forms. Now Charlie is the way he is because at a very young age he had a problem and found a useful if destructive coping mechanism. By the time anyone tried to stop him or realized what it was he was doing, it was completely ingrained in him. Now let’s face it, the chances of two super geniuses in one family, even yours, are pretty small, but if it does happen you will know what you are seeing. You’ll know what’s coming and you and probably Charlie will be able to help him find healthy and safe ways of dealing before he has a chance to go down a destructive path. And if there appear to be symptoms of a more minor form of depression, again, you’ll know what you’re looking at, and you’ll know what’s coming and as long as you are honest with yourself about it you’ll be able to help him better than nearly anyone else. Are you following me?”

 Don nodded again. “Yeah,” he said softly.

 “You’re a parent now. That means it’s your job to be worried and mildly panicked every day for the rest of your life and probably for a bit after.”

 “That’s not comforting.”

 “Not meant to be. You’re a good man and you will screw your kid up a little because every parent screws their kid up a little, but you are willing to learn from your mistakes and more importantly the mistakes of others. Like your own parents. Got it?”

 “Yeah. Okay.”

 “Keep doing what you’re doing, Don. Keep an eye on him, keep your own head together and he’s going to be fine.”

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Devo79: crydevo79 on December 20th, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
I think only the really bad parents don't worry.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 20th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
Well Don'll be a good one 'cause he's nothing but a giant screaming ball of worry these days.
fredbassettfredbassett on December 20th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
I love Bradford!!
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 20th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
So do I. :)
ninou1ninou1 on December 20th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
Bradford is the best, always the good words.

I love the Don you're picturing, very in character. He's gonna be a great daddy, already is...
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 20th, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
I've always thought that Don just had Daddy written all over him.
riverotter1951: north American river otterriverotter1951 on December 21st, 2008 12:35 am (UTC)
“Don, trust me on this, even if he ends up a socially introverted dyslexic gay Yankees fielder he’s still your son and you’re still gonna love him.”

“Yeah,” Don said softly sitting back down. “Then there’s the really big wake-me-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-in-a-cold-sweat worry.”

At least, Bradford is aware of the family history and can help. Charlie can also help his nephew from wandering down the dark path that Charlie walks.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 21st, 2008 02:57 am (UTC)
Yep. through in Colby and little Mattie's going to have a lot of people looking out for his mental health.
wcpjfditdov on December 21st, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)
There is nothing quite the same as a parent's love. And there isn't a parent who doesn't mess up their kid a bit along the way.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 21st, 2008 02:57 am (UTC)
Ain't that true. :)
Mia: brosmia_dcwut_09 on January 1st, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
i love the way you write his sessions with braford
*sighs* colby or don feds with baby *turns to goo(
ladygray99ladygray99 on January 1st, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It's always a good excuse to just have people talk.
twins_m0m on January 15th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
Love Bradford's words of wisdom. I think all parents need that talk. Yes, Don, worry and love do go hand and hand. And you'll be fine. Just take it one day at time. And I think he's got a great group of family and friends who will be there for support.
ladygray99ladygray99 on January 15th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
I'm always a bit worried about writing parent stuff 'cause I don't exactly have a kid of my own. I just try to do the best I can.
twins_m0m on January 16th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
Well, you must have amazing powers of observation because you did a very good job of touching on parental fears. As a parent, I do worry about everything from colds getting worse to my daughters picking the wrong friends when they get to high school and ending up pregnant drug addicts. And it's amazing how much you can see of yourself in your kids that just seems to be a part of them, nothing that you taught. You did a great job with this.
ladygray99ladygray99 on January 17th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
I guess maybe all those method acting classes came in handy. A little method writing.
laura_trekkielaura_trekkie on January 18th, 2009 05:03 pm (UTC)
I must be a mind reader, 'cause here's the talk with Bradford! :)

And it was a good talk. It really hoghlighted Don's issues and how Mattie has added to them and changed them, but they're all still there. I'm glad Bradford was able to offer some insight and to reassure Don that it was normal.

Some disturbing background on Charlie's early life here, too, as well as more about their mother.

Laura.
ladygray99ladygray99 on January 19th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
Just 'cause Don's got a kid and is going to get hitched doesn't mean he doesn't have all the issues we started the fic with ;-)