Thrawn furrowed his brow in concentration as he watched Eli click together the long metal needles wrapped in yarn. A tail of string tapered off to the ball of soft thread at his side.
The Chiss returned to their room at the Imperial Academy to find Eli sitting on his bed. His friend tensed up immediately like he was caught in a terrible act. Eli stuttered and tried to hide his work.
Thrawn’s curiosity took over and hailed the human with numerous questions. Dragging his desk chair over, the Chiss promptly sat down to watch.
After twenty minutes of explanation, Thrawn asked, “This knitting,” the word was foreign on his tongue, “is common on Lysatra?”
“Kind of,” Eli had slowed his movements of the knitting needles so Thrawn could follow the motions. “Shipping is still the main source of income on the planet. That said, it used to be really common for families to barter with each other. They would make different goods and swap ‘em.”
“That is quite common in agriculture centered worlds. Lysatra, at one point, was a key farming planet in that system before wide spread droughts ravaged the planet.”
Eli fought not to roll his eyes. He’d known Thrawn for a couple months, and the Chiss was always absorbing some kind of research. Getting “Thrawn-splained” his own culture might have angered him in the beginning. By now, Eli realized it wasn’t anything malicious.
Eli continued, “Now, those old trades are more tradition. A lot of families continued those side trades to keep a sense of community. I remember sitting in the living room with my grandparents, Mom, and Dad, and we would knit together while listening to the radio. I’d swap the things I made with other students. Get things like pottery, charms, and handmade tools from my friends.”
“Why do you continue to do this?” Thrawn tilted his head.
Their exams were looming ever closer in a few months. Between lessons and dealing with the Core World jerks in the Academy, Eli sighed remembering it all, “It helps me relax.”
“This is a similar trade to caht’tinn back on my world,” Thrawn said thoughtfully. He held out his hand for the ball of yarn asking for permission. When Eli handed it over, he analyzed the material, “Perhaps when the Chiss used to trade with humans, we acquired this knowledge from them.”
“Maybe,” Eli lowered his work since his friend had the string.
“What are you making?” Thrawn looked at the small half circle hanging off the needles.
“A little hat. An old school friend of mine named Candella Peirson just had a baby.”
“And it is tradition to give gifts?”
“With friends, yeah.”
Thrawn handed back the ball of yarn to let Eli continue his work. After a long moment of considering his words, the Chiss quietly asked, “I would like to learn this skill. Can you teach me?”
Eli glanced up expecting some kind of joke. But only honestly with a small hint of a smile swept his friend’s face. Eli asked, “Really?”
And the look faded into something Eli had yet to see. Thrawn, for just a moment, looked tired. The Chiss said, “I, too, could use some… relaxation.”
For all the name calling, bickering, and stupid Academy politics Eli waded in daily, he knew it was nothing compared to Thrawn’s life. Eli was always mentally tired. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like for someone who was a blue alien in a world of humans.
Eli smirked and nodded, “Sure. We’ll go into Coruscant tomorrow after class and see if we can find you some knitting needles and yarn.”
Satisfied, Thrawn settled into his seat and silently watched as Eli’s metal needles quietly clicked together for the next half hour.