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Jacobi picked up knitting seven months after the Air Force kicked him to the curb. One of the older women at the minimum wage, dead end job he found had seen him fiddling with rubber bands during slow hours and stuck a pair of needles in his hands. Over the next several weeks, in the spare minutes they could catch, she showed him how to cast on yarn and a few basic stitches and… it helped. Knitting took all of his attention, so as long as the needles were in his hands, he wasn’t thinking about the mistakes he made or the pointless years stretching out before him.

The day management fired Charlotte was the day he walked out and didn’t come back. He did come to her monthly stitch-and-bitch, getting pointers on tension and purling from “Lottie” and her friends.

“You aren’t the first vet we’ve taught to knit,” one of them, Suzanne, told him.

“How’d you know I was military?” he asked, then swore as he dropped a stitch.

“It’s the way you hold yourself.” Lottie leaned over to show him how to fix his mistake. “There. Soon you’ll be knitting socks to keep your girlfriend happy.”

Jacobi choked. “Oh, uh. No. I won’t, um. Not for a girlfriend.”

There were no shocked, scandalized gasps, just Elaine across the room setting her needles in her lap. “Then we need to warn you. About the Sweater Curse.”

For the first time since the accident, he found himself laughing.

 


 

He never actually thought of his knitting as a weird thing until Kepler pointed it out, two years down the road. They were on a stakeout together, the second or third field assignment Jacobi had done with SI-5, and he was getting fidgety an hour in. He expected that, though, and brought his needles. He can knit and purl mindlessly at this point, and he’d been working on a scarf for Lottie’s granddaughter. The girl had just come out as pansexual and Lottie wanted to show support, so the whole knitting group had been making Pride gear.

“Are you knitting?” Kepler said after several minutes of silence broken only by the clicking of Jacobi’s needles.

“Yes,” Jacobi answered calmly. He was still watching where he needed to, glancing down occasionally to make sure he was keeping his tension consistent.

“Why?”

“Because I like it.” Jacobi lost his place and cursed under his breath, holding up his needles to count the stitches on them. “It’s relaxing.”

“It’s busywork,” Kelper scoffed, and Jacobi glared. It took a surprising amount of self-control not to stab him with a knitting needle, but then he’d get blood on his scarf and this yarn was a cashmere blend. “You don’t have to do that anymore.”

Jacobi lowered his project to his lap. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t need to distract yourself. You have things going for you now.”

“And I’m using those things to pay for more yarn,” Jacobi snapped, and furiously shoved his knitting back into his backpack. The rest of the stakeout was done in steely silence.

Was it busywork? In the beginning, maybe, but Daniel liked knitting. He liked having something to do with his hands, and he refused to embarrassed by it.

He wasn’t embarrassed by it, Kepler was just an ass.

Jacobi found a skein of wine-red yarn and a bottle of scotch on his kitchen counter a few days later. “Please stop breaking into my apartment.”

“I wanted to apologize.” Kepler appeared in the entrance to Jacobi’s bedroom. “You weren’t kidding. That’s a lot of yarn.”

“Two years of collecting,” he deadpanned. He dropped the tote bag he used for active knitting projects onto the counter. “Hope the yarn you picked isn’t itchy, I’m making you socks with it.”

“I think I picked well? I asked the associate for help.”

Jacobi snorted. He opened a cabinet and pulled down two glasses. “And the scotch?”

“You’ve been SI-5 for six months now. I figured we should celebrate.”

“Celebrate me not needing busywork anymore?” Daniel popped the lid on the scotch and poured, making pointed eye contact with Kepler as he did it.

Kepler smiled and ducked his head as he stepped into the kitchen. “I’m going to be paying for that one for a while, aren’t I?”

“Forever.” Daniel handed him a glass of scotch. “To Goddard Futuristics?”

“And SI-5.”

The scotch was good, but it was better when Kepler pinned him against the counter and Daniel tasted it off his tongue.

 


 

Alana was ecstatic when she first heard about Daniel’s knitting. It was a harder project, one that needed his attention, so it took him far too long to notice her face very close to his needles, watching, completely enraptured.

“Can I help you?”

“Did you know,” she said, “that we got to space because of knitting?”

“What?”

“It’s true!” Alana reached out to run her fingers over the completed part of his first attempt at seed stitching. “The binary code for the Apollo mission was recorded like a knitting pattern, and the mainframes were hand wired using those ‘patterns’ by women who knit. I wanted to learn, but I never really got the hang of it.”

“Wanna try again,” he caught himself asking, but she was shaking her head already.

“Oh, no, I know it's not for me, but I think it's amazing.”

Daniel went looking for the binary used for Apollo that night, trying to find the patterns Alana mentioned even as Kepler tried to get him in bed.

“Why is it so important?” he grumbled, setting his chin on Jacobi's head.

“I'm gonna knit it, and then I'm gonna give it to her.”

Kepler snapped his laptop closed. “Tomorrow.”

Daniel sighed overdramatically and let Kepler take him to bed. He crept back out a few hours later, wrung out and endorphin high, and opened his laptop again.

He’s pretty sure the sweater curse didn’t apply to friends.

 


 

Goddard didn’t let him bring his knitting on the Urania.

“Limited space allocations,” Kepler told him. Alana could bring her Apollo sweater, Kepler could bring his red wool socks, but Jacobi couldn’t bring his needles.

Or, well, he could, but he couldn’t bring yarn without sacrificing necessities for the space it would take.

He gave all of it to Lottie. “I don’t know when I’ll be back,” he told the knitting group, “but you all better still have a spot for me when I do.”

Suzanne caught him in a hug. “Of course we will. Just make sure you come home.”

“I will,” he mumbled into her shoulder. “Maybe when I do I’ll have decided if you all get to meet my not-boyfriend.”

“Calling him that won’t protect you from the Curse!” Elaine teased.

“It’s a good thing I’m not making him a sweater!” Daniel singsonged back. “But, really, I’ll come back. I promise.”

“We know you’ll come back,” Lottie said, physically waving off his words. “Coming back and coming home are different.”

He didn’t understand, but he nodded anyway. “Okay, then I promise I’ll come home.”

“You keep that promise, Daniel Jacobi,” Lottie said seriously, “or I’m frogging all of your projects.”

“Don’t you dare,” he said. “Maybe the green, actually, I don’t remember what that was anymore.”

By two weeks in space, he wished he had even the green mystery project. He didn’t realize how much he hated his hands being idle until they were. By three weeks, when they picked up the mayday from Officer Eiffel and his shitty little shuttle, he was ready to bang his head against a wall.

At least on the Hephaestus, there was always something to do, even if half the station was probably planning to kill him.

During some of the rare downtime, Lieutenant Minkowski noticed. “What are you doing?”

“Hmm?” Daniel glanced down; he'd been fiddling with a piece of wire, looping it around a pencil like he was casting on yarn. “Oh, nothing.”

“Looks like my mother's knitting,” Minkowski said softly, and Alana giggled.

“Probably because it is. He didn't have the space allocation to bring his yarn and he's been bitching about it the whole time.”

“Big words from someone wearing my sweater,” Jacobi shot back. She stuck her tongue out and wrapped herself tighter in cashmere.

“So that's why the front looks like that,” Eiffel said. Both Alana and Jacobi prepared to put him in his place, but Hera beat them to it.

“The pattern is binary, Officer Eiffel,” she chided. “It looks like… Apollo?”

Apollo,” Alana confirmed. “It's my favorite,” she stage whispered.

“I'm leaving gunpowder in your sheets,” Jacobi threatened.

“I have some,” Minkowski said, and Jacobi twisted sharply to look at her.

“Gunpowder?”

Yarn,” she said. “I figured I would try and teach myself while I was up here but I never had the patience.”

“Jacobi,” Kepler started, but he wasn't listening.

“I will pay you for it. Money, blood, my undying loyalty-”

“Mister Jacobi!”

He didn’t flinch. He didn’t, but it was a near thing. “Yes, Colonel,” he said, and went back to work. The pencil and the wire wrapped around it floated away.

Warren pulled him aside later. “Remember where you are,” he said lowly. “No distractions.”

“No distractions,” Jacobi echoed. He was starting to suspect ‘distractions’ included him.

 


 

Minkowski shot Alana in the head. Daniel held her sweater to his chest and wondered if maybe it was cursed after all.

 


 

“You're armed aren't you, Minkowski?”

Kepler grinned, eyes full pride. Jacobi didn't look at him. “Good catch.”

“Unholster your weapon. Slowly.”

She drew it haltingly, hands shaking. Jacobi wondered if it was the same one she used to kill Alana. Fitting, if it was.

“Good. Now shoot him.”

He could see the disbelief in both their faces, but he was furious and hurt and hollow.

“Jacobi‒” Kepler said, and Jacobi turned on him, full of a feral rage he hadn't felt in years, wrapped in wool he was never meant to wear.

“Shut up! I'm done! And, Lieutenant, so is everyone in this fucking station if you don't shoot him dead where he stands. Autopilot, advance detonation setting by one.”

The bomb was fake, but the fear on their faces was not.

“Jaco‒ Daniel,” Warren said, soft and frightened.

“Don’t,” Daniel said harshly. “Don’t you dare pretend we’re okay after this, after the threats and pressure and getting my best friend killed. No, see, Colonel, this is the end for you. Either Lieutenant Minkowski shoots you, or I blow all of us to bits. You have ten minutes to decide, Commander.”

He shoved past her through the door, lifting her comm as he went. As he suspected, Lovelace had uncovered his ruse, but he’d planned for that. After making sure she knew her place, he stuffed the comm in his pocket and shattered.

He pulled the sweater up over his face and gasped for breath that was suddenly so much harder to find. He knew every loop, every knot, every fucking snag in this sweater, and it was never meant to be on anyone but Alana. Daniel refused to cry, though, refused to let Kepler see him like that.

“Let’s go be monsters,” he whispered into the wool, and pulled on that familiar fury.

Minkowski pointed the gun at him.

 


 

The empty thing Pryce made out of Jacobi does not fidget in his spare time. When Warren offered him the knitting needles and yarn he found in Minkowski’s quarters, there is no quiet joy, no complaints about the yarn quality or the beginnings of uneven stitches. The thing in Jacobi’s body just finished the row with neat purling and asked if he helped.

The scratch of the acrylic yarn cut deeper than knives, and Warren knew this was how Cutter was punishing him.

 


 

Eiffel‒Doug didn’t remember anything. Kepler was dead, and so was Cutter, and Minkowski was trying to ensure they had to supplies to actually survive the six week return trip to Earth or if they needed to raid the Hermes on their way back.

(—their bodies, Klein’s body, crumpled to the floor, finally the corpses they’d been for months now, and Jacobi had killed people before but somehow this was different—)

He pulled the needles free and unravelled the yarn back to the misplaced purl three rows back. Stupid fucking acrylic, he thought viciously, like it was the yarn’s fault.

“You look like you’re trying to set that on fire with your eyes.”

“It would melt, actually.” Jacobi worked the needles back through the loops. “What do you want, Ei‒ Doug. What do you want, Doug?”

“You knit?”

“Yes, I do.”

Doug pushed himself into the room, hooked an elbow through the railing on the walls. “Did you make the sweater you’re wearing?”

Alana’s Apollo sweater was a little worse for wear at this point, after the beat down from Reimann and the explosion, but it was still in one piece. “Yeah. Oh, for fuck’s sake.” He pulled the needles out again. “I’m frogging more than I’m actually fucking knitting at this point.”

“Frogging?”

Daniel glanced at him, then back down. “Pulling stitches is called frogging, because, uh. Because you rip it, rip it.”

Doug burst into laughter. Real, true, honest laughter, with no trace of bitterness or anxiety. “That’s amazing.”

“Yeah, I thought so, too. You never answered my question.”

“Oh, right, um. Honestly, I just wanted to stay out of Renée’s way? And Isabel looks so hurt whenever she sees me, and Miranda is as much a blank slate as me, so…”

“So you decided to bother me.” Jacobi gave up and frogged the whole… whatever. He just needed something to keep his mind busy. He started casting on yarn for a sock pattern, then changed his mind.

“I don’t want to be a bother,” Doug murmured. “I just… could I? Knit? Or anything like it?”

“You made fun of me for it,” Jacobi said. “Get up here, idiot, I’ll show you.”

Doug grinned, bright as the sun, and pushed up through zero-g to where Jacobi was unravelling yarn for the third time.

 


 

Daniel introduced him to Lottie, Suzanne, and Elaine as the “not-boyfriend.”