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knitting for beginners

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Steve finds the beginnings of what he thinks is a scarf when he sits on the couch in the living room near the main kitchen and knitting needles stab him in the ass. He pulls the tangled mess of red yarn from where it's wedged between the cushions and inspects it. The piece is about six inches wide, a little uneven on the sides, with a dozen or so rows completed. The last row stops halfway, and a stitch is just on the very tip of one needle, ready to fall. He can see several loose gaps where stitches have already been dropped in the scarf's short life. Whoever is working on this is clearly a beginner, though he thinks they show some promise.

He glances around the room as if the mystery knitter will magically appear to claim their work. They don't, however, and Steve briefly considers undoing the scarf and fixing the dropped stitches but decides it's rude to do so without permission. Instead, he untangles the yarn so the snarls won't turn into a mass of unfixable knots and wraps the loose thread around the skein. He sets the bundle on the end table, where it can be easily found and not so easily sat upon.

The knitting is gone when he passes through the living room later that evening, and Steve promptly forgets about it.

*

Steve remembers when he comes back from a run through Central Park a few days later. He's passing the south drawing room on his way to a shower when he hears loud cursing coming from within. When he sticks his head in to investigate, he finds Darcy unraveling the same red scarf, yarn draped across both her and the chair she's sitting in.

"That will be easier to work with if you wrap it around the skein as you go."

Darcy jumps at the sound of his voice and turns to frown at him. "Yeah, and then when I go to start knitting again, it falls in the floor and Natasha's cat decides it's a toy."

"Better that than you accidentally strangling yourself," he counters, hoping she can hear the humor in his voice.

Darcy huffs. "Touché." She stops undoing the scarf and starts rewinding the skein. "Happy?" she asks, quirking an eyebrow to match the sardonic tone of her voice.

"Yeah." He glances down at his feet. "Hey, let me go get cleaned up, and I'll come back and help."

"Help?" she asks, giving him a look of disbelief.

"Yeah."

"It's not gonna take me that long to rewind this, Steve, but thanks."

He shakes his head. "No, I meant help you with the scarf. You're a beginner, right? I can show you a few tricks to make it easier."

Darcy blinks at him in surprise. "You… knit?"

Steve rubs a hand across his temple. "Yeah?" he answers, a little sheepish now. She looks like she's about to ask more questions, but he stops her. "The short version is my ma taught me when I was a kid. There's more to it than just that, and I'll explain, but I gotta shower first."

Darcy gives him a once-over, and he can feel the way her eyes settle on his still-sweaty t-shirt. "Yeah, okay. But you better not be lying, or I'm telling the whole team you said you knew how to knit just to get in my pants." She says it with a grin on her face so Steve's pretty sure she's joking.

"Scout's honor," he says. "I'll be back in a few."

He takes a faster shower than usual, even for him, but he lingers over what to wear. He tells himself to stop being ridiculous, it's just Darcy, and it's just knitting.

By the time he gets back to the drawing room, Darcy is wrapping the last bit of loose yarn around the skein. She scoots over so there's room for him on the couch.

"All right, super soldier, show me what you've got." She shoves the needles and yarn into his hands.

"Oh no, I'm not doing the work for you. I'm just helping." He hands it back to her, and she takes it with a scowl, though there's laughter in her eyes.

"How do I know you didn't just make that up so you could come sit next to me?"

Steve looks guilelessly back at her. "I would never!" he exclaims, feigning shock.

It has the desired effect, as Darcy throws her head back and laughs. "Sure you wouldn't, Steve. But seriously, you better put your money where your mouth is and show me how to do this or Jane's never gonna get her Christmas present."

"Okay, okay, here. You've got a pretty good start, you just dropped a few stitches along the way."

"Through no fault of my own. It's usually because I've been interrupted," she tells him indignantly. "And it's almost always Clint's fault."

Steve shakes his head. "Of course it is. But look, if you're not counting as you go, or if you lose count or something, here's how you can fix it without unraveling the whole thing."

He shifts closer and shows her how to stretch the knitting carefully so the stitch doesn't drop any further than it already has and then how to weave it back up to where it belongs. Once she understands how to do it, he sits back and lets her work. The silence is comfortable, the only sound the slight scrape of the metal needles, though Steve wishes he'd thought to bring a book down with him.

"So, did you really learn this from your mom?" Darcy asks after she's finished a couple more rows.

"Yeah. I was sick a lot as a kid, and knitting was a good way to pass the time. Used to knit socks and gloves and hats that my ma sold at the church fair. Bought our Christmas oranges with the profits." He hasn't thought about those memories in a long time, and even though they still leave an ache in his chest, the pain is duller than it once was.

It's quiet for a moment and he realizes Darcy has stopped knitting, so he looks at her, eyebrows raised in question. "Find a hole?"

"No. Just… tell me more about your ma? I mean, if you want to. I've never heard you talk about her before, and she sounds wicked awesome."

He smiles at that. "What do you want to know?"

Darcy shrugs. "Whatever you want to tell me."

Steve hums a little, tapping his fingers on his knee. "How about the time she caught me and Bucky trying to nick peaches from the green-grocer on Bergen?"

"Captain America was a peach-thief?" Darcy gives him a considering look. "I'll bet you were a criminal mastermind, weren't you? Running scams with that 'woe is me' puppy-dog face of yours while you robbed people blind."

Steve snorts. "Hardly. Bucky was the thief; I was just the look-out. Ma still whaled the tar out of both of us when she found out, though. She whipped us so hard, we could barely sit in our seats at supper. And then she made us go to confession with Father Andrews, which was a fate worse than death." He drops his voice to a whisper. "Father Andrews was the priest who thought baths were the devil's work."

"The horror!"

"It was!" Steve insists. He shakes his head. "After we came back from confession, contrite boys that we were, there was a peach pie waiting for us."

Darcy laughs. "What a punishment! Steve, I think I would've liked your ma."

Steve smiles back. "I think she woulda liked you, too."

Darcy preens a little at that and then frowns. "Hey, so do you still knit?"

"Haven't had a lot or inclination to recently, no. Why?"

"I've got some Captain America blue yarn in my room and a second set of needles if you want 'em."

"And what in the world am I going to make with 'Captain America blue' yarn?"

She shrugs. "A Christmas sweater? Socks? A cozy for your shield?"

He looks askance at her. "A cozy for my -- really, Darcy?"

"If you don't want to, you don't have to."

"No, no. It's just. I'd like that. I'd like that a lot."

"Good. Wait here." She unceremoniously shoves the scarf back at him and runs from the room, calling behind her, "I'll be right back."

Steve looks down at the yarn in his hands and thinks there are far worse ways to spend his time.