How Green Becomes Wood

"Sure, but everyone in Europe can drink at 18 so if you decide to be safe in the home, I'm not going to say no." Cooger said casually, "It's not that I'd give you enough to get drunk or anything, but at 18, a beer with dinner? I mean, shoot, at 18 you can join the military and be shipped off to kill, but you can't have a drink? It's ridiculous."

He followed Alec into the house in order to help get the sides, "I'm a standard boring American man, little Sage, so I'm just going to have a beer. I only have the one kind in there. I'd have a glass of whiskey or something, which to be honest I prefer, but I gotta drive y'all home and I'm responsible as all get out."


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"Thank you for dinner, Cooger, everything looks and smells so good!" Alec told him as he helped Cooger set everything out.

"You really know how to do 'American Barbeque' really well," Xander said approvingly. He helped with the silverware and napkins and tried not to drool on any of the food.

"How long until it gets dark enough to enjoy the sparklers?" Alec asked. "And when are we going home? Not that I'm not enjoying myself immensely, more for just information."
"Aw, you're welcome, I do my best, thank you," Cooger replied, truly glad of the compliment, "By the time we finish eating it'll be dark enough. And I'll take you home after the fireworks, unless you'd rather go earlier. I don'ts shoot any off here, but if we sit on the dock, we can see the town's display over the lake, and that's always a sight to behold. You kind of get to see it twice, 'cause we get the reflections. You'll probably be home by 10:30, 11 at the latest. And I've got ice cream, but we can eat that while watching the fireworks."


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"I love fireworks! When they are far enough away not to be too noisy," Alec told Cooger. He checked to make sure they had everything before sitting next to Xander. "The colors and the flash... it's all so lovely. When we're too close, then it feels horrible and hurts my ears."

Xander grunted. "Agreed. The reflections are going to be really cool to see."

Both of them were waiting for Cooger to start eating. It felt rude to start before the main cook and the owner of the house did.
"I think Tarot would come out and join us on the 4th, even with Dark as he is, if she could see the fireworks," Cooger said, readily digging into his food with a passion that would make his mama fuss, "but even though I'm not glad she's blind or nothing, I'm glad she has a reason to stay home, 'cause even though he swears he'd be fine all alone, or alone with his dog, I feel better with someone there to keep an eye on him, so since she doesn't miss anything by not coming out to see the fireworks, it all works out just fine."


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"I thought he had a panic room in the basement," Xander said, diving in excitedly. "Soundproof and all that, maybe he could use some of those fancy headphones."

"THe noise-canceling kind?" Alec asked. "Oh, yes, those would be amazing! With or without something to listen to."

"Forget that," Xander mumbled with his mouth full. "This is so good! So good."

Alec nodded, forgetting what they were even talking about as he ate happily. The meat practically melted, but wasn't too devoid of chewiness. Of course, the potatoes were perfect. Everything was delicious! Grilling was good. And fun!
"Eh, something like that. More like a sturdy crawl space so to minimize the anxiety of the house collapsing on him," Cooger replied, but gladly fell into silence as the ate. It was a great day, and they were lucky: no rain. It always seemed to rain on the 4th, Cooger was personally convinced it had something to do with the fireworks disrupting the weather patterns.

When they finished, he sat back, full and content, and said, "You should let 'em know you ate. Just for their sake."


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Xander tried to protest, but Alec was already grabbing Xander's phone and pulling him closer. They held up their empty plates and mimed being as full as they possibly could for the camera. Alec took the picture, and Xander sent it to Dark and Daizi.

"Thank you, Cooger, this was fantastic," Alec told him. "I think you sell yourself short as a cook."

"I think it's time for a nap," Xander groaned once he put away his phone.
"The best thing my Dad taught me was to be able too cook one thing well, and then only cook that one thing when people come over. Xander really did the potatos, I just refilled the shells and put 'em back in the oven, corn is just boiled in water, and the rest was store bought, so really, all I did was the steaks." Cooger replied, glad of their compliments, but not feeling the need to over indulge in it, "and if you want to nap, you're welcome to it. My couch is very comfortable, or you're welcome to the spare bed. Don't sleep too much, though, you don't want to miss the main event."


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They considered, but both shook their heads. "No, thanks, we'd rather stay awake," Alec said. "Better awake than groggy from a short nap!"

"We never did go swimming," Xander mused. "It's kind of late, but how about wading, instead?"

"That's not a bad idea. Then we'll only get leeches on our legs instead of all over!" Alec said brightly.
"If you're going in at all, you may as well swim. It's a myth you need to wait after eating to swim, and anyway by now the water'll have grown cold enough that if you're just wading, you'll probably be colder than if you just dived in." Cooger advised, having absolutely no plans to join them in the water, and content in the knowledge the two of 'em, even combined, could by no means pull him in.

As they discussed the merits of swimming, Xander's phone buzzed because of a text from Daizi. It was a simple image (which Dark had evidently helped her to send): the scene from Avatar where the blind character, Toph, says, "Well it sounds like a sheet of paper, but I guess you're referring to what's on the sheet of paper"


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Alec debated, staring at the water. "Hmm, no, just wading is good for me. I don't want to go all the way in. I can't see the bottom."

"He has a weird thing about being able to see the bottom," Xander said as he read his phone. He couldn't help a smirk, but he didn't have a witty answer on the tip of his brain, so he let it sit.

Alec frowned and stood to go into the cabin. "So do you."

"Blame that weird babysitter for telling those creepy water stories," Xander complained, following him.
"It's a good thing Tarot doesn't have that, or she'd never be able to swim anywhere. Although she's always the one telling creepy stories. Ask her for a ghost story one time, you won't sleep for a week... So if you ever need to cram for finals," He suggested, pushing himself up, and collecting the plates. Unlike Dark, instead of carefully rinsing them and stacking them in the dishwasher, he just dumped them all in the sink to be forgotten until some time in the future where he'd look over and think he should probably clean them, "Don't freak out if a fish touches you, though, 'cause this time a night, you won't see them coming. But I'll bring my speaker out so we can have music while y'all swim."


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Xander and Alec helped Cooger clean up, and then changed into their swim trunks, keeping their shirts on. Then they went out and splashed about in the water, carefully maneuvering over the slick rocks. Alec kept a close eye out for fish and turtles, but Xander was more interested in seeing how high of a splash he could make without completely soaking himself. Then they started trying to splash Cooger, but when they nearly got a cat instead of the man, they stopped and stuck to splashing the lake and each other. The water was chilly, and the evening air did not help matters, but they were having more fun sticking to the shore than they would have swimming out to deeper waters. Xander started exploring the rocks on the edge, and he pointed out the strange creatures hiding within the crevices.
Cooger sat on the dock watching them swim and explore, occasionally calling out to them, but mostly just enjoying the evening. A few times, when they weren't looking, he'd toss a stone into the water at a distance from them to attract their attention, as if there was something big in the water, which he thought was only fair, since they were trying to splash at him.

Eventually, gauging the weather, he got up and lit a fire in his fireplace, and came back around saying, "Y'all should probably get out now. The turtles'll leave your toes alone, but I can't say the same about hypthermia."


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"What's hypothermia?" Xander asked as he climbed out of the water. "Is that a kind of fish?"

"No, it's basically when you get too cold, usually due to damp conditions," Alec told him. He gave one last little splash and followed Xander out. "Extremities go first."

Xander shuddered. "Oh, that's nasty." He walked to the fire, shivering only a little, and stood near it to try to dry off a little before going to change his clothes. He didn't want to track water everywhere in Cooger's cabin.

"I didn't touch a single fish, Alec told Cooger as he turned slowly in place, feeling a bit like a rotisserie chicken.
"You want a towel?" Cooger asked, watching Alec spin, "Or a blanket? Might also help if you go change like your brother went to do. When you're all dry, we can get the sparklers."

He looked up at the sky, sitting near the fire, "It's getting to be about that time. You feeling patriotic yet? Once I was up in the mountains, so all the fireworks were below me, and I realized we light 'em off to simulate battles. 'Cause that's what they look like from above."


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"That's kind of sad. I never thought of it that way. I know the Chinese are supposed to have invented them for celebration and later they were turned into weapons, but I didn't know they were supposed to represent anything. I'll go change," Alec said and hurried into the cabin.

In no time at all, he and Xander returned, huddled together under a blanket near the fire while looking the sparklers over. Funny, but both of them were far more excited about sparklers than they were the big fireworks that were going to be going off soon.
Cooger brought out a bucket of water, to put the used up sparklers in, and handed one to each twin, "Now we're not going to be dumb with these, alright? Don't go scampering around, keep 'em away from your body, and away from each other. Nobody's being set on fire today, alright? Number one rule in life is don't be stupid. And don't throw them."

He waited for them to step a bit away from each other and then took out his lighter, "Do you want to light 'em yourselves or do you want me to do it? But you gotta hold it when I light it, it's a bad idea to pass a lit one from person to person."


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Xander studied Cooger. "Exactly how irresponsible do you think we are?" he asked, amused with Cooger's thoroughness.

"I think it's a good idea to cover all the basics, just in case," Alec replied. He held his out carefully. "Will you light mine, please? We'll be careful."

Xander shrugged and held his out, too, keeping the end close to Alec's, but standing back properly. "No running, no sparking, and stop, drop, and roll into the lake," he said promptly.

"I want to write my name with mine," Alec grinned. "How about you?"

Xander just rolled his eyes. "Like I'm ever going to be able to write 'Xander' fast enough."