Pack A Day
Disclaimer: Don't own Numb3rs, not making any money off this.
Summary: Well, there are worse habits he could have picked up from his father.
Quick Author's note: I'm really touched by all the positive feedback I've gotten so quickly, you all really know how to make someone feel welcome to the fandom, thank you!
"Shit!" Don yelped, scrambling to catch the glass that slipped from his grip. It was his mother's favorite and he really didn't want to be the one to break it. He got a hold of it seconds before it hit and grinned to himself. Another great catch by Don Eppes! Too bad no one had been around to see-
"What was that?" Alan leaned in the door frame, eyeing his ten year old son.
Don put on an innocent expression quickly, "What was what?" Shit, Don swore again, remembering to keep it in his head this time. At least his mother and Charlie weren't home, then he'd get an earful first for swearing and again for adding to Charlie's vocabulary, since Don was sure he would start using it once he heard Don saying it.
"Nice try," Alan frowned, "Stay right there." He disappeared out of the doorway for a few long moments, and then returned, something cupped in his hand. He tossed it to Don who caught it easily. He looked the package over and then gave his father a puzzled look.
Alan nodded, "I won't pretend you're never going to swear again, and I have a feeling you'll be hearing words like that a lot more from your friends. That sort of language isn't anything you need to use to prove you're grown up, you know. But any time you feel like using those words? You chew on a piece of gum instead." He slid out of the doorway again, leaving Don to stare at the gum curiously.
That was it, he wondered. His friend Derek had swore in front of his mom and had gotten himself grounded for three weeks. Shrugging, Don shoved the pack of gum into his pocket and finished his chores.
Standing on the pitcher's mound, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, twelve year old Don shoved a piece of gum in his mouth. Just one more pitch, one more strike, and they had the game. No pressure, right? He chewed hard on it for a moment, glancing around slightly to make sure the runner on 3rd wasn't about to make a break for it. He drew back and threw, knowing before it made it to the plate that he'd done it. He grinned when the ump called the strike- it was still great to have it official. Game over. No sweat. He jogged over to his teammates.
"Gum, huh? Just like the majors?" Mike teased him.
Don grinned back, "Yeah, just like the majors." He sought out his dad's face in the crowd though, and grinned even wider seeing Alan's proud face.
Don stuck two pieces of gum in his mouth as he walked out of the federal building. He wouldn't know until next week how he did on the entrance exam. The instructor had seemed pleased though, and that had to count for something, right? He drove back to the Craftsman, sticking another piece in his mouth. He still hadn't decided if he was telling his parents tonight about the sudden career change or waiting until he knew for sure he was in. He barely remembered to stick the gum in a wrapper before going in. He didn't want to give everything away on the spot just because his dad noticed.
He dug out his last piece of gum before striding out to the garage. Charlie had to come out. He didn't care what Mom said about Charlie's coping skills, he needed to be there for her and for Dad. Not that Don expected to make a whole lot of headway this time either, but the doctors were pretty sure they were down to just days now. There had to be some way to get in Charlie's head, past those damn numbers, to get him to see reason. He wasn't going to get another chance if he missed this.
"Charlie?" He didn't turn away from the boards; the only other sound in the garage was the rapid clacking of chalk. "You need to go see Mom. She's not going to make it much longer." He'd kept his voice steadier then he thought he'd be able to. Still no reaction though. Don avoided grinding his teeth by grinding the gum instead. Alan insisted he not start a fight, not now, but it was so hard not to just grab him by the shoulders and yell some sense into him. "This isn't the time for this, Charlie. It's now or never, you gotta go see her."
Charlie shook his head, "I can't- I'm too… I can't." He waved the chalk at Don absently before writing faster than ever. Don ground the gum again and stalked out.
He popped a piece of gum in his mouth and tightened his vest. Charlie watched him anxiously.
"Hey, I'm always careful, Buddy." Charlie rolled his eyes.
Don held up a hand to stop any math he was about to rattle off, "Never mind." He noticed Charlie eyeing the increased amount of protection he was wearing; he'd broken out the elbow pads and safety glasses as well. Don wondered if Charlie had some sort of equation involving the ratio of protective gear to probability of injury during a raid. He probably did. Don decided he really needed to go read over old case files and start sounding like an agent rather than a mathematician. He chewed a little harder and refocused on checking his gun.
Glancing out of the van, he saw everyone was getting into position. He squeezed Charlie's shoulder lightly, "See you in a few- you don't leave this van, you hear me?" Charlie nodded quickly. Don knew he heard the big brother voice behind the agent in charge tone (as his father had dubbed it one night). He hopped out, giving orders as he jogged to his own position.
"On my mark," he whispered into the comm as they crept closer and closer, "Three... two... one! Execute, execute!" The shouts of "FBI! Freeze!" from all angles disoriented the drug dealers as it was intended, but it didn't stop them from pulling together enough to fire in return. He swore as something grazed his arm, shrapnel from the crate that had just splintered near him or a stray shot, he couldn't be sure. Glancing down, two thoughts hit him simultaneously: he was going to have matching scars on each arm, and Charlie better not say anything to Dad.
"Here, I'll give you a hand with the dishes," Don offered. Alan raised an eyebrow in surprise and hauled him off to the kitchen before he could change his mind, while Charlie muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'suck up' before starting to clear the table. Don automatically shrugged out of his jacket and started to fill the sink with water.
"Donny?" Alan asked, nodding toward the bandage.
He stuck a piece of gum in his mouth.