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Twisted Ribs

by Christi

Post-Beneath the Surface

Across the checkout counter of The Yarn Shop, Andrew was eyeing Jack with a definite look of distaste on his face. “What?” Jack finally asked, his already frayed nerves too short to handle the younger man’s quips right now.

“Nothing!” Andrew rushed to assure him, scanning skein after skein of the yarn Jack had just selected. “It’s just…are you sure you want to buy this yarn? I mean…what are you going to make with it?”

Jack eyed the pile of soft, wool-and-polyester blend and shrugged. “I was thinking a sweater.” It was about time he made something for himself, after all.

Never mind that it was May. A sweater sounded like exactly the sort of project he needed right now to distract him from…things. “A cabled one. With long sleeves,” Jack added, thinking that the additional work would probably end up being a good idea.

Andrew, bagging the skeins, still looked skeptical. “And you’re sure that’s a good idea?”

“Why not? I’ve made sweaters before. I’ve cabled before. What’s the problem?”

The cashier still had that look on his face – almost like he had smelled something particularly unpleasant. “Sweetie, I just don’t think this is exactly your color.”

Jack looked back down at the yarn. “First of all, don’t call me sweetie. Secondly, I like this color. It’s…earthy.”

At this revelation, Andrew’s face became even more dejected. “Sure, if ‘earthy’ is military code for puke orange.” Seeing Jack’s unmoved expression, Andrew sighed, handing Jack the now-full bag. “You really are a lost cause, aren’t you?”

Without his permission, Jack’s lips twisted into an empty half-smile. “You have no idea.”


Being on leave right now was just about the last thing Jack wanted. Being on leave for a whole week meant that he was trapped with a head still fuzzy, two sets of imperfect memories, and way too much time to think…thoughts about those memories.

Jack knew all too well that thinking thoughts had never led any place good.

Because he wasn’t allowed to work, Jack was left with Plan B – distraction. Instead of focusing on all the things he definitely didn’t want to be thinking about, he could focus on knitting and purling and shaping with The Simpsons playing in the background, trying to remember why it was funny. (He knew it was funny. He just didn’t know why.)

The pattern he settled on ended up having wide ribs instead of cables, long vertical stripes that seemed to go on forever and were easy enough to do. As he repeated the pattern over and over and over again over the next few days, Jack did not think.

When casting on, he did not think about how weird it was that he had spent most of his time on that damn ice planet covered in sweat.

When knitting the body, he did not think about how empty his house seemed after sleeping in a room of squeaky cots and whirring machinery and the occasional snore.

When working on the first sleeve, he did not think about what the hell he was supposed to call Thera-Sam-Carter-Major now that he knew she wasn’t going to be cuddled up against him anymore. And he certainly didn’t think about how much he was going to miss that.

When attaching the second sleeve, he never once thought about how really, Jonah’s life had had a lot going for it that Jack’s definitely lacked.

Five and a half days of frenetically paced knitting later, Jack had remembered what was funny about his favorite TV show, had definitely not thought about any of the things that he shouldn’t have, and he had a new sweater. Studying it through bleary eyes, Jack gave in to a whim and slipped it over his head.

He couldn’t help but be pleased as it settled into place, noting that the sleeves were the perfect length, the torso fit just right, and the yarn he had chosen was soft and warm without being too heavy. Wearing it was instantly familiar and strangely soothing, and Jack lay back with a beer and the remote and slipped into the first deep sleep he had gotten since they had come back to Earth.


It was several hours later when he finally jolted awake, immediately aware of someone banging rather emphatically on his front door. Rolling off the couch, Jack tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes with one hand while swinging open his front door with the other, annoyed quip at the ready.

Of course, it died the second he saw a shocked Carter standing on his front stoop, gawking at him. She was paler than usual, and with the short, choppy hair (Jonah remembered cutting it, trying to work around the engine grease she had somehow managed to tangle in her blonde locks) and her too wide eyes, she seemed more surprised to see him than he did her. Which was odd, seeing as she was the one who had rung his doorbell.

“You okay, Carter?” he asked.

“I…” she trailed off, looking him in the eye and then fidgeting away and taking a moment to gather herself before looking back at him. “Yes, sir. Sorry. I’m fine. You just…looked like…I thought…never mind.”

Confused, Jack glanced down at himself, rumpled from a night on the couch and wearing his new sweater.

And it wasn’t until that moment, seeing it as she must have, that Jack realized his new sweater was made of orange yarn the exact same color that Jonah and Thera’s tunics had been.

So much for all that thinking he hadn’t done.

Feeling slightly mortified by the distinctly weird situation, Jack tried to look back at her, but found that it was still awkward and almost painful to gaze right at her. After a try or two, he finally managed to aim a sheepish smile somewhere in the vicinity of her nose. “Carter, I am so sorry. I didn’t even realize….”

She shrugged, obviously still shaken. “It’s fine. You didn’t know I would be dropping by. Because I wouldn’t, you know, normally. Except that you weren’t answering your phone and General Hammond has been trying to get a hold of us. There’s some kind of situation at the base.”

“I figured it must be something like that,” Jack rushed to agree. “Just let me grab my shoes..?”

She nodded in a rush and he turned away, breathing out a long, slow stream of air and trying to figure out if it would be better to try and figure this whole mess out, or if jumping off the roof might be easier.

Right now, he was leaning toward the latter.


Twelve hours later, the (supposed) crisis was over and Jack found himself back in the team locker room, running a hand down the simple ribs of his new sweater thoughtfully.

Maybe it was wishful thinking on his part, but he couldn’t get the look on Carter’s face when he had answered the door out of his mind. Regret and strain and joy all in one ruthlessly suppressed package – everything he had been trying so hard to avoid thinking about.

It was supposed to be the first big project he had ever knit for himself. Instead, when he left the locker room, the sweater was folded carefully at the bottom of Carter’s locker, a simple note attached.

It’ll look better on you anyway.


Dealing with Jonah and Thera – Stitches style.

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