Rose loves knitting. She loves the feel of the smooth needles in her hands, and the way the yarn twists around her fingers, almost playfully. She loves the quiet, comforting click-clack, click-clack as she works. She loves spreading a half-finished piece out on her lap and admiring the stitchwork, or the color, or the softness and warmth of the yarn. She loves flipping through a book to find the perfect pattern, or improvising one as she works.
But most of all, she loves the tangibility of the finished piece. It's not just something she did to pass the time, it's something she made that can keep someone warm, or be fashionable, or beautify a room. It's something she can give to someone and know, even if they don't, that she poured all her energy and passion into every single stitch.
When the game begins, of course, she doesn't have much time to knit. There are, after all, other priorities - namely survival, and attempting to save the doomed planet, and later to break the game that broke her. (That last one should really be a warning sign, if not to her than to someone. But there are bigger things at stake than one young girl's mental health.)
But some time later (it's impossible to keep track of time unless you're Dave, and she has no desire to ask him. She's not sure which would be worse - that it's been weeks since normalcy, or that somehow it's still April 13th and there's no hope in sight) she's idly watching over John's body as his dreamself roams Skaia looking for his father.
The image on her Hubtopband is remarkably clear, and as she watches John shivers fiercely, and attempts to curl into an even smaller ball, His face twists a bit uncomfortably, and he ducks his chin instinctlively to protect his neck from the chill.
Rose's hands move seemingly of their own accord, to her knittng bag, which she hasn't touched in too long. She sorts through the balls of yarn until she reaches the one she knows is just right - a bright blue skein, rather fuzzy, very thick and warm. Another quick rummage brings up a pair of plain needles (it would most likely be a Very Bad Idea to try knitting with the Thorns of Oglogoth). She casts on, building the first row of a scarf.
The scarf works up quiclky - apparently she's not as rusty as she thought - and she flies to the Gate that she knows will take her to John. She tiptoes up to his sleeping form as quietly as she can - who knows what he's doing on Skaia that could be ruined by an abrupt awakening - and gently tucks the scarf around his neck. He's really rather sweet when he sleeps, she thinks idly. Of course, he's also rather sweet when he's awake. It seems to be a constant state of being for John Egbert.
As she rises to leave, a movement catches her eye. John's hand curls around the scarf, and he smiles, pressing his nose to it in his sleep. Rose stifles a chuckle and heads back home. Yes, very sweet.
There are two ways to cast on - one is fast and tight, the other slower but more flexible. Rose tends to use the former - time is of the essence for everyone but Dave. The needles and yarn fly past her fingers, forming scarves, sweaters and blankets for her friends. And they're grateful, particularly John - his land is the coldest of the four, and he cherishes that first thick blue scarf.
But she begins to notice little signs that they aren't as comfortable as they seem - scarves that snag on any loose object, blankets that never seem to quite keep someone warm enough, sleeves and collars that get tugged at almost subconsciously. The others don't say anything, and neither does she, but when she gets a few minutes alone she practices the looser method until it's almost as fast. Fast may not be functional, but who says functional can't be fast?
And the next round of sweaters is appreciated even more.
The knit stitch is the simplest - slip the needle in, catch the yarn on the tip, and pull it through. She can pump out miles of that one without thinking. Several times she's dozed off, found herself on Derse, and later awoken to her body still knitting away.
She tries teaching Jade to knit, as they sit on the beach outside of Rose's house, because they're there and they're bored and the boys are off dreaming, doing something down on Skaia and up on Derse. And Jade gets so quiet when anyone mentions dreaming, Rose'll do anything to keep that dark look off her face.
But knitting frustrates her, too. "I'm doing the knit stitch, so why doesn't it look like knitting? I thought it was supposed to make little v's, like your sweaters! This is all lumpy and ugly, Rose!"
"That's because every time you change rows, you turn the work over, and knit stitch looks different on the front and the back. On the front it's nice little v's, but on the back it's lumpy. See, look on the inside of your sweater, there's little lumps there too."
Jade peers into her sleeve and grudgingly agrees. "But how do I make it all pretty on the front?"
So Rose teaches her the purl stitch. It takes Jade a few minutes to wrap her head around, but then she exclaims, "Oh, it's just knitting backwards! Of course!"
Rose smiles. "Not so difficult, is it?"
Jade shakes her head. "Nope! You just need to look at it from... a different... angle..." She stands, dropping the needles and yarn from her lap. "I think I know how I can help the guys." She runs down the beach, disappearing a few yards away from Rose.
Rose chuckles and picks up the abandoned knitting, dusting off the sparkling white sand and tucking it safely into her bag. She'd wondered how long it would take Jade to remember that she was the Witch of Space.
She worries about running out of yarn. There are no cute little yarn shops in the Medium, and she'd only had a few skeins stashed away when the game started. She tries to calculate how much longer she'll be able to work at this rate, and frowns. There should be at least a little more yarn than this - she hasn't used that much already, has she?
John, Jade and Dave are being alarmingly furtive lately, as well. Rose is an intelligent girl, she knows how to connect the dots. But she's not quite sure what picture they make. So she waits for their secret to reveal itself.
And it does, when John takes her hand and leads her up to the house, saying "We've got something for you."
"Yup. Me, Dave and Jade. We noticed that you don't have very much yarn-"
"So we figured out a way to alchemize some," Dave interrupts. He and Jade are sitting among dozens of carved totems, each with a punched captchalogue card set on top. Rose glances at the nearest one - it holds the image of a bulky yarn in a deep red. The one next to it is finer, and yellowish-green. The next is purple wool, perfect for a new sweater.
Jade bounces with excitement. "This way, you can make as much as you need. You can change the thickness just by playing with the enlarger. And we even figured out how to make it different colors-"
"The point is, you don't have to worry about running out," says John. "Sorry we had to steal some of what you have, but-"
Rose cuts him off with a hug. "Thank you." She reaches out and pulls Jade and Dave over. "Thank you all so much."
It would be stupid to cry over a bunch of yarn.
She does anyway.
She's using the fine green thread to make a pair of lace gloves for Jade. Sometimes it seems like she knits more than she sleeps.
Yarn-over increases are easy, and exactly what they sound like. Bring the yarn over the needle, and it makes a new stitch. But it also makes a hole in the fabric. Sometimes that's a good thing, like in these lace gloves. The holes form a pattern, a picture, something beautiful. Jade will like these - the pattern looks like the sun, her favorite of the randomized symbols of her wardrobe.
But if she used yarn-overs in, say, a sweater, the holes would be a bad thing. They'd let the cold in, and hurt the overall integrity of the fabric. They might still be pretty, but they're just as likely to be a mess of Swiss cheese.
Dave scares her so much sometimes. His temporal abilities save his life time and time again, but she's seen the corpses of alternate versions of him, evidence of timelines gone bad. But he - some version of him - always comes back to them, to warn them about what has to happen and what'll get them killed.
He's always been reckless, but this power over time means he has nothing to lose. Infinite extra tries. Infinite do-overs. As long as he can get a hand on his timetables, he's immortal.
Sometimes that reckless immortality is necessary, even vital. But it's mostly just dangerous. It leaves holes in the timeline and corpses on the ground. He loops time around itself and bends it to the picture he wants it to make, but nothing ever comes free.
And Rose shudders to think of the price Dave'll someday have to pay for his shenanigans.
Raised increases. Lift a new stitch from the space between two stitches. Create something where there was nothing at all.
It shapes a sweater to fit snug and warm, and leaves no sign of its existence except in the whole of the finished piece. Rose spreads out the current project, a hooded sweater. A shadow falls over her lap, and she looks up, squinting into the light.
John grins and sits beside her. "Whatcha doin'?"
"The usual. You?"
"Uggh. Arguing with the salamanders. You'd think they'd figure out I'm just trying to help!"
She turns her attention back to the sweater. "What are you trying to do?"
"Get them to take up weapons and fight for themselves! The imps are tearing their homes apart, and they just stand there bubbling away. It's all 'nooo, you're the Heir, it's your job to protect us!' I can't be everywhere at once!"
"This really bothers you, doesn't it?"
He looks at her oddly. "Of course it does! I can't just let them get hurt and killed, but I can't help them unless they help themselves, either. I don't know what else to do."
Rose smiles. "You'll make it work, John. I know you can."
He flops down on his back. "I sure hope so. It's hard, being the Heir."
"It's hard and nobody understands."
Sometimes stitches fall off the needle. The loops undo themselves, making a tangled mess where hours of work had been just seconds before. And she can scream and cry all she wants about it, but in the end she needs to sit down and pull out the knots and try again.
She's halfway through a blanket when Bubbles (John insists on calling him Casey, but she knows her familiar) stumbles up the beach toward her, bubbling frantically in alarm. He's followed by a horde of imps, all smacking him with swords and wings and tentacles.
Rose drops her needles and picks up the Thorns, dealing with the threat to her familiar as quickly as she can. But somewhere in the battle she absently kicks her work aside, and once the last imp is sent scurrying with a cursed backside, she goes back to assess the damage.
Bubbles nudges curiously at the abandoned knitting. Half the stitches have fallen off the left needle.
Rose sighs and pulls the salamander into her lap. "Come on, Viceroy. Let's try and fix this before it gets any worse." The little amphibian reaches out and tugs the blanket, unraveling nearly a dozen rows.
The girl swallows a scream.
Knit two together. Slip the needle into two separate stitches, and tie them together with a single strand.
Once, Jade very nearly gets overpowered by a crowd of imps. Rose and John are stuck in their own battle, and Dave is off doing some kind of weird time shit.
Jade's still horrified at the thought of using her rifle on anything alive, and no torment from the imps or coaxing from Rose and John can convince her otherwise. One imp bares rows of sharp white teeth, while another pulls the sword from its stomach and brandishes it menacingly. Jade whimpers, gun clutched to her chest, indecision written in every line of her body.
And suddenly Dave is there, sword at the ready. He quickly dispatches the imps closest to Jade, and scatters the rest with a look. He turns to her. "You okay?" She throws her arms around him and nearly drops her weapon.
Their own imps dealt with, John and Rose focus on his Serious Business goggles. John coughs first, and switches off the video feed. "I think we can leave them alone for a little while." Rose agrees, and they busy themselves with just about anything else for some time.
When they next see Dave and Jade, the only sign that anything unusual occurred in the interval is slightly ruffled hair on both parts, deep blushes from Jade and shit-eating grins from Dave. John and Rose figure that they really don't want to know.
Casting off is simply wrapping each loop around the next, forming a strong, smooth edge.
Rose is finishing another blanket, thick and woolen. She slips off the last stitch, tucks in the ends of her yarn, and gathers it up in her arms. She walks over to where John is sitting at the mouth of the cave, and drapes it over his shoulders. He smiles up at her. "Thanks." He lifts one side of the new blanket. "Join me?"
She does, and he arranges the blanket over them both. For a moment there is just silence, the comfort of companionship where nothing needs said. Then John opens his mouth to speak.
"Do you think it's true, that we're doomed?"
She considers for a moment before answering. "I think the game's not over yet, and until it is there's no point in wondering."
"So, we should just do what we can, and hope it all works out?"
"Exactly. It's all we can do."
He fiddles with the blanket again, draping his arm over her shoulders. "I think we'll be okay."
She wraps her own arm around his waist, and tucks her head against his shoulder. "I hope you're right."
Wrapped around each other, they watch Skaia spin across the sky.