Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: Thanks as always to ritt, the world's best beta and sounding board! I swore I wouldn't write a postep for 'The Janus List' and I didn't really, but there is a slight spoiler for it.
Charlie sat in his mother's old rocking chair in the solarium, gently rocking back and forth as he worked on his latest project. Though he was surrounded by windows he had no desire to look outside. The marine layer had rolled in off of the Pacific and the sun was nowhere to be seen. One of the few drawbacks to living in "Sunny Southern California" was the fact that it was anything but for about a month of the year in June. This year it had started early, in late May, as if Mother Nature herself had known what was coming in his life and set the mood.
Charlie watched as the knitting needles in his hands moved back and forth, sliding and clicking against one another. He occasionally glanced at the skein of yarn in his lap, satisfied with the pace at which it was disappearing.
The rhythmic sound and the way the yarn took form under his ministrations was a welcome bit of control in his life. Given everything that had happened since Ashby and the bridge… No, he refused to think about that. Refused to think about how hurt he'd been by his good friend's betrayal, how his brother still seemed to be reeling from the incident…
Charlie took a deep breath and willed his hands to slow down. The object of his latest hobby was to restore some semblance of control to his life and allowing his emotional state to affect the pace with which he knitted defeated the whole purpose of the activity. He forced thoughts of Colby's betrayal – alleged betrayal, he reminded himself – and turned his mind to his upcoming summer class. His first lesson plan began to take shape in his head as the sweater he was knitting began to become recognizable in his lap.
Whick… Whick… Creak.
He smiled as the sound of the old, creaking rocking chair lined up with the clicking and sliding of the needles, creating a soothing rhythm that was almost perfect enough to chase the events of the past few weeks from his mind. He was slightly startled when he heard the front door close, followed a few minutes later by heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. Don's home, he thought to himself. His heart skipped a beat as he wondered what his brother would say about his newest hobby. A man of action, of scrapes, cuts, bruises, broken bones, testosterone… Don would never let him hear the end of it. Even before he could move to hide the incriminating evidence, the door to the solarium nudged open. Charlie's eyes closed as he waited for the teasing to begin. After a few moments of silence, he dared to glance across the room, surprised to find Don stretched out as much as he could along the small loveseat.
"Hey, bro," Charlie greeted quietly.
Don grunted a response through a yawn.
"You look beat."
"I feel beat," Don admitted. "In more ways than one."
The younger man nodded, uncertain how to respond. "Um, you hungry? Dad made some soup earlier."
"Not really. I just want to sleep for a week. Get away from… everything."
Charlie nodded as he glanced back to his lap. "I know the feeling."
"So," Don said, attempting to wave toward his brother but letting his hand drop to the floor in exhaustion. "Should I expect a sweater for my birthday?"
Charlie detected a note of humor in his brother's voice even through his obvious fatigue. "Only if you're good."
Don grinned as he attempted to push himself upright, giving up after a moment and sagging back into the welcoming cushions. "Knitting, huh?"
Charlie bristled, preparing himself for the teasing to begin. "It's very relaxing. Just because it doesn't involve violently smacking or hurling a round object through the air-"
"Whoa, Buddy," Don cut him off. "I didn't say there was anything wrong with it."
No, you didn't, Charlie thought to himself. And I wonder why that is? "Sorry. I just thought you would think it was… I was…"
"Charlie," Don said warmly, a huge smile on his face. "No matter what you decide to do in life, you will always be the man. I count on you more than you know."
The younger man felt his face flush with pride. "Thanks," he sheepishly whispered.
"I mean it," Don said around another yawn. His eyes began to drift shut as the past few weeks caught up with him. "Suggestion?"
Charlie raised an eyebrow, fighting back a chuckle of amusement as his brother fought off sleep much as a toddler would. "Shoot."
"The twisted stockinette looks good on a sweater but I'd trim it with a feather and fan pattern to jazz it up."
"I haven't learned that stitch yet," Charlie said thoughtfully. Then it hit him… "Don?" But his older brother had lost the battle with sleep, leaving Charlie to shake his head in wonder. "Don Eppes," he whispered proudly. "Man of many deep, dark secrets."
He returned to his knitting and gently began rocking again, his brother's deep, regular breathing registering in the back of his mind. Charlie smiled as he finally felt the weight of recent events lift from his shoulders.
Whick… Whick… Creak… Sigh.
This is the perfect rhythm, he thought happily. And it takes both of us to create it.
Charlie knew right then, no matter what happened, he and Don would be okay… together.