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How Green Becomes Wood

Cooger tapped Alec's glass, but then froze and turned to Xander, "Who told you that? I swear to god, did Dark tell you? That ass, I'm gonna kill him. No, I never learned how to ride a bike, okay? I didn't need to, I was able to afford a car. That's the only reason why Dark learned, you know, because he couldn't even afford a crap used car! God, I gotta call him, I can't believe this."

He took out his phone and quickly dialed Dark's number, and almost immediately it was answered, and before Dark could even say hello, Cooger was saying, "Did you tell these kids I can't ride a bike?"

"I did, I did say that." Dark's accent sounded thicker on the phone, but he was still easy to understand, and it was easy to hear the smirk in his voice.

"Why would you do that?! Is nothing sacred?"

"I do not know. Why would you tell them I have never caught a fish?"

"Because it's true!"

"Well there is your answer, my brother," Dark chuckled, and while Cooger attempted to justify his lack of this skill, Dark cut him off, and in a louder tone said, "Even Tarot can ride a bike, Cooger! I have to tell her when to turn and what's ahead of her, but she's able to do it!"

Cooger huffed, not really angry, but always down to bicker with his best friend, and after a minute or two leaned forwards and said, "When are you going to tell them until you were, like, 26 you still called me anytime you needed to change a tire?"

"Probably around the time you tell them you still cannot parallel park." In the background, Daizi said something, but she was too far away from the phone to make out anything more than the sound of her voice.


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Xander contentedly ate his lunch, watching Cooger like he was watching his favorite comedy show. This was the best fourth of July he'd ever had, hands down. And he was learning all sorts of fun little facts about his foster parent.

Alec waited until there was a pause and waved at the phone. "Hi, Professor! I did not catch a fish, but I did drive a boat!" He couldn't help it. He was too proud of himself. Who cared about bikes, he'd driven a boat! And pet a cat and nearly touched a turtle.
"I saw!" Dark said in a much different tone, "Cooger sent me a video! You looked like you were doing great!"

There was a shuffle in the background, and then Daizi's voice came over the phone, "Hi Alec! I hope you're having fun! I bet being on the water today is refreshing, it is so hot!" She felt a great urge to ask if they were eating and if they've drank enough water, and Dark wanted to ask if they had reapplied sunscreen yet, because if not, they needed to, but they were attempting to not immediately barage the twins with questions about their health and safety.
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"It is so much fun!" Alec told her. "It's so hot and cool at the same time. The water is almost chilly when it splashes us. We just finished eating lunch." He paused and frowned. "We should drink more water. I'll do that right now."

As Alec went to get the water, Xander leaned forward. "I want to know how a big fellow like Dark doesn't know how to change a tire. I know how to change a tire, and I've never driven a car." He stopped when Alec handed him the water bottle, and they both drank deep.
"That's a good idea! And I'm jealous, I wish I was out on a boat. Although today has been lovely enough with out it," She sighed, "I hope your lunch was nice, and that Cooger didn't just microwave a Hot Pocket and call it a day!"

"No, I promise, they ate good, real food. Xander made sandwiches, and they're going to help with twice baked potatoes later!" Cooger replied, and then looked at Xander and said, "You're right, Little Gladiator, it is embarrassing that Dark can't change a tire!"

"I know how to change a tire now," Dark replied, mildly irritated, "but I'm not embarrassed by the fact it took me time to learn it, because nobody knows things before they learn them, and since not knowing, I have learned to do it myself."


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Xander sat back, grinning. "Wanna bet I can change a tire faster?"

"I would bet that you can't go a full day without challenging somebody to something," Alec said dryly. "Never mind him. What are you doing today, Daizi? Are you spending time in the garden?"

Xander rolled his eyes good-naturedly and sat back. It was a nice day. Maybe even too nice to start a bet with Dark. Maybe.
"Xander," This, again, was Daizi's voice, "One day you are going to learn not everything is about speed." In the background of the call, there was some flailing, followed by the sound of Daizi's bright laugh, "We're having a great time just... Talking. And Dark rubbed my back, so he's been fully forgiven for saying I look like a groggy panda."

"Oh, my brother, Dark, you said what?" Cooger laughed, "That's the dumbest thing you coulda possibly said! Did you give that kid all your braincells or something?"

"I had just woken up and apologized immediately!" Dark protested, while Daizi emphatically thanked Cooger for taking her side.

But then she laughed and sighed. There was a bit more rustling before Daizi said, "Oh, but I said I've forgiven him, and I'll keep my word."

"What are the rest of your plans for the day? And don't forget to reapply sunscreen."
Dark asked, finally giving into his desire to protect all three of the gingers in his life from a sunburn. In his defense, Cooger often forgot to put it on more than once during the day.


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Xander reached into his bag and dug out the sunscreen. He figured if he didn't start putting it on now, he knew they'd forget. He gave himself a good chunk and passed it to Cooger.

"Cooger said he's going to cook steaks, and I get to help make the twice-baked potatoes!" Alec told them proudly. "When we're done on the boat, Cooger's going to take us exploring in the woods. I just hope we don't run into his namesake, but I guess they are more likely to come out at night. I want to try to touch a turtle before we go, but that might not happen. And he got us sparklers, so when it's dark, that's what we're going to do. Nice and quiet and sparkly!"
"That sounds like a great day! I doubt you'll run into anything dangerous when you're out in the woods, Cooger makes a ton of noise. And if you don't touch a turtle today, you can always go back and try again another time! Well, we should probably be going, there's no point in us taking up too much of your day... I'll still be up when you get home, I'm not sure if Dark will be." Daizi made her goodbyes, and then allowed Dark to do the same thing. He and Cooger mocked each other for a few more minutes before eventually they hung up.

"Alright, now that we've dealt with those scoundrels, how about we head back to shore?" Cooger offered, roughly applying sunscreen, accidentally leaving a few places not fully rubbed in. Then he passed the bottle to Alec before packing the rest of their belongings away.


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Alec took a moment to rub the sunscreen in wherever he had skin showing. Then he reached out and rubbing in the white patches on Cooger. "You missed some spots."

"Yeah, let's head back," Xander agreed. "It's been nice, but I'm ready to put my feet back on solid ground."

"Me too. Thank you for teaching us how to drive the boat!" Alec grinned. "That was so much fun. I actually didn't think I'd like it."
"Sounds good," Cooger agreed, turning the boat around, "and no problem, my guys, always good to learn a new skill. I'm glad you enjoyed giving it a go. And we gotta make the most of this time, right? 'Cause next year it'll still be just us three, but after that, who knows."

He brought them back to the shore, going perhaps a bit faster than he had the last time, but still not as fast as possible, to respect Alec's wishes. When the docked, he got out, and offered his hand to the twins (whoever got there first) to help them out, "Careful, your legs'll feel different when you're off the water, and the dock sways, you don't want to trip."


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Xander helped Alec up first, making sure Cooger had a good hold of him before he grabbed the leftovers from lunch and the sunscreen bottle and climbering out. Cooger was right. His knees wobbled, and his feet felt like they didn't know what tod do with the dock. That short of time on a boat made his body this confused? No wonder sailors were said to walk really strangely.

"Thanks, Cooger," Alec said, clinging to Cooger's hand until he felt sure of his feet. Or as sure as he could be. "The body is a marvelous thing, isn't it? To try to adapt so incredibly quickly!"
"Tarot says that's why we've survived so many climatic changes," Cooger replied, helping Xander up after Alec seemed mostly settled, "C'mon, we better drop this stuff off inside and fill back up on water. Dehydration's a killer. And about the time we finish up our good forest exploration, it should be about time to get started on dinner, I think."

He checked his watch, "Or maybe not. I have no idea. Dinner sucks, because you can't just wait until you're hungry to start making it, you have to
start making it before you get hungry so that you're hungry by the time it's ready. I miss when I was a kid and my mom just made all my food for me, I didn't need to guess when was the right time to start cooking."


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"That's where schedules come in handy," Xander remarked. "If you always eat at eight, then you know when to get started based on how long your chosen dinner takes and working backward. Then you train yourself to be hungry then, and it takes the guesswork out."

"Takes some of the fun out, too," Alec said. "But I like schedules. How long do steaks take to cook? And the potatoes?"
"Steaks only take a few minutes, depending on how you want it cooked. The potatoes take longer, at least an hour I think." He shrugged, heading towards the start of a good path. Hank, the dumpster cat, at last left his spot on the porch and trotted after him, "and sure I could make a schedule, but I like to work around the schedules of my clients, you know? It's tough because they have real firm schedules, so most of the time I just kinda do whatever works for them and then get take out. It's nice and easy. I suppose, though... When does Dark normally start cooking? Since y'all are on a schedule."

When he asked this, it suddenly occurred to him how weird it'll be when he babysat the kid that was cooking, because he knew that he would, but babies, toddlers, and young children were really attached to their schedules, and Cooger rarely kept to one. He supposed he'd have to learn fast how to stick to a routine, or else Tarot and Dark would have his head when he returned the tiny one to them all messed up.


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Alec told him. It was a nice, regular time, he thought, since it was basically right after Dark got home on school days. "But we don't have to eat right on schedule if you're not up for it." He paused as he hurried to catch up. "I thought take-out was expensive and not very healthy."

"How about we get started in, like, two hours or so?" Xander suggested. "That should give us plenty of time to wander and explore."
"It's not healthy, kid," Cooger laughed, patting his middle, "it sure tastes good, though. But now Tarot's far surpassed me. But two hours sounds like a good plan."

The trail he, and Hank, were walking down was narrow, a forgotten game trail of some kind, overgrown in some places. The forest quickly grew dense around them, and it was cooler under the leaves than it was in the clearing his house was built in.


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Xander hooked his thumb at the cat. "Is that a cat or a dog?" he asked Cooger. "Or did you train him by dropping kibble bits or something?"

For his part, Alec wandered from one side of the path to the other, looking around curiously. He stopped now and then to pick up a stone or a leaf that caught his attention. Some he put back, but others he tucked into his variety of pockets. He didn't say anything, just enjoying the stroll. There was something about this place that appealed to him, and spending time with Cooger one on one had really softened him toward the older male. He no longer seemed as intense and draining. Perhaps it was the situation? He didn't know, but he was enjoying it.
"He's just Hank. Hank does whatever he wants to do. I didn't train him or nothing, it's just what he wants to do. Have you ever met an old man who lets you tell him what to do? I think he was meant to be a farm cat or something." Cooger replied, his hands in his pockets. He felt pretty relaxed about everything, and occasionally he stopped to reflect on how finally, after all these months, they had finally agreed to come out to see him, or how if the six of them went out, people would probably he was their dad, not Dark, but the thought really just amused him.

He knew long before Dark or Daizi did that they'd be parents some day, and he knew as soon as he was told about the twins that they wouldn't give 'em up in a hurry. He was right on both accounts, it seemed. The baby was a surprise to him, though. And a girl baby. Objectively, it didn't matter, not really, but he was still a bit disappointed about the news. Thrilled for his friends, of course, but he didn't know what to do with a little girl, "I know it's not any of our decision," he asked after awhile, "but if Dark and Tarot asked you for name suggestions, what would you tell 'em? It's something that, like, people ask little kids all the time. When I was, like, four, my aunt asked me for name suggestions for my cousin. You're both a bit older than four, but, the game is the same, right? And you'll probably give better suggestions than I did."


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Xander glanced at him in surprise. "Us? Name her?" He shook his head. "Nah, they haven't asked us, and I wouldn't know what to say, honestly. It's a big responsibility, and it's their little miracle. There's no way we could ever come up with the right name. Besides, I think Daizi said they were going to name her something after her culture."

"I like the name Hathor," Alec remarked absently as he held up a particularly colorful leaf.

"Hathor? So she can explain how her name isn't 'Heather' for the rest of her life?" Xander asked, confused.

Alec took the time to gently tuck the leaf away. "It's supposed to stand for everything beautiful in life," he explained. He smiled and hurried forward. "Look at this!" He picked up a rock and held it up. It looked a bit like a lopsided turtle, but flat.