Title: Childbirth

Author: FraidyCat

Disclaimer: I own nothing in the world of NUMB3RS and/or Eppes. I make even less profit than nothing, and I respectfully request that no-one sue me.

A/N: Absolutely no plot. A simple and brief scene exploration based on an exercise: Use the rest of the story to explain the first line.

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Ske kissed him, as she died.

He bent almost double over the hospital bed, and gratefully received the offering. She opened her mouth to his, and with her last surge of strength snaked her small hand behind his neck. She fisted her fingers in his hair, and the familiar gesture came closer to breaking him than anything had. His own hands framed her head on the pillow, caressing her dark hair...memorizing the silky feel of it. He hummed and murmured into the connection. There were no words. There was only comfort, and a gentle 'good-bye'.

He swallowed her last breath; and then, he let her go.

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Don found him in the child's darkened nursery.

Light from the hallway clearly illuminated the sleeping infant in its crib, the empty rocking chair next to it, and the slight man standing motionless at the end.

Don's heart constricted, and ached to see his sister-in-law rocking her son to sleep in that chair. He approached his brother slowly and cautiously, so as not to startle. When he was close enough to see the lines of grief etched upon his face, he stopped.

For a long moment he did not speak, or touch. He instead followed Charlie's eyes, and looked for a time at his tiny nephew. The boy had fought so hard to enter this world – and within hours was as motherless as everyone else in this room. It was a bond Don wished with all his might they did not share.

At length he laid a gentle hand upon his brother's back, rubbed absently at the tension he felt there. "Ha-Makom y'nachem et'khem b'tokh sh'ar avelei Tziyon viyrushalayim." After five days, the words flowed from his tongue effortlessly. "Some friends are downstairs," he continued softly. "Larry. Megan. Millie. Stan. Others are on their way. They've come to pay respect, and sit shiv'ah."

The tiny creature in the crib sighed and shifted beneath the blue receiving blanket, then settled again.

Charlie trembled under Don's hand, then sighed himself in a eerie reflection of his son. "I should feel guilty," he whispered.

Don frowned, confused. "Why? It's his first night home. The monitor is on, but I'm sure everyone will understand if you need to stay up here for a while."

Charlie shook his head, and curls cascaded, effectively hiding his eyes from Don's probing ones. "It's not that."

The child shifted again, great sucking noises flowing from the crib, and Don lowered his voice. "Then what?"

Charlie reached out to grip the end of the crib in both hands, hanging onto it as if to a life raft in a raging sea. "I should hate him," he whispered back, stunning Don speechless. "He stole her from me. I have tried to hate him. But I look at his nose, or hear him wail, or touch his skin, and I cannot. What I feel…I can't even describe. But it is not hatred."

Don raised his hand on Charlie's shoulder and pulled him gently towards his own. "Buddy. You know if she had been given a choice, she would have chosen him. She would have counted on your love for both of them." He waited a millisecond, then had to ask. "His nose?"

Charlie smiled in the dark. "Surely you've seen the resemblance. He has his mother's nose."

"Thank God for that," Don breathed, and Charlie elbowed him hard in the ribs. He grunted loudly, and the child startled awake with a cry. Charlie drifted from Don's side, reached the head of the crib in moments, and bent to lift his son. He nuzzled the crying infant to his neck, and buried his own rather significant nose in the bundle. He inhaled the scent of baby shampoo and powder, and began to croon softly. "It's all right, Donnie-boy," he singsonged, jostling the infant in a rocking motion in his arms. "Daddy's got you. You're all right."

Don smiled with pride to hear again the name Amita and Charlie had chosen for their offspring, and he joined them beside the crib. He placed one hand on Charlie's curly head, and the other on his nephew's fuzzy one in a sort of benediction. "Come on," he encouraged. "Time for Donnie to meet some of his mother's friends."

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Translation: May the Omnipresent comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. A traditional shiv'ah greeting.