How Green Becomes Wood

Cooger was a bit surprised at the hug, but not having an issue with physical contact hugged back, giving a few solid pats on Alec's back, "No problem kid. I'm glad you had fun, and you're always welcome over at my place. Although I ain't responsible for that display."

After Alec pulled away, Cooger stretched, scooping Hank up under one arm, "You sir, sleep inside the house. Let's get goin', cat," and brought him inside, and for the first time the old thing seemed disgruntled, but didn't try to get away, "How about you, Xander? You have fun?"


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Alec yawned so wide he felt he was going to split his head in two. He rubbed his face and headed inside to help collect things like their wet trunks. He stuck those in a plastic bag. "I hope we can do this again someday."

"Yeah," Xander nodded. "It was pretty awesome. Really went off with a bang." He smirked at his bad joke and then yawned. "Thanks for introducing us to s'mores and really good steaks."

"I think that's everything," Alec said, picking up the backpack.
"Of course we can. Neither of us are going anywhere, we'll have plenty a time. Whenever you want to come on over, I'll come pick you up, alright? But don't start saying goodbye yet, I still gotta drive y'all home." Cooger said, climbing into his truck after making sure all the cats were inside. Then once the twins were in, he texted Daizi to let her know, and then he drove back to their home, and brought them inside.

Cooger just let himself in, because he knew they were okay with it, and anyway Daizi was waiting in the kitchen, and she got up to greet them. She was wearing Dark's robe, because it was bigger, although it was also a bit too long, but the sleeves just made it more comfortable, "Hey," she smiled, yawning only a bit, "Did you have fun?"

"I did at least," Cooger replied, giving her a hug, "How is he?"

"Alright. He slept for a bit. It wasn't too bad this year." She replied, and Cooger nodded, relieved to hear it had been a good year. With all of the past few weeks, he was worried it would be a bad one.


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The twins nearly fell asleep on their way back, and they wandered into the house sleepy and a little dazed. Xander stood off to one side, zoned and not paying attention to anything other than not falling asleep. Alec waited until Cooger had his moment with Daizi and went to hug her, as well.

"It was fun. We missed you," he mumbled, happy but tired. He let go slowly and meandered toward the stairs.

Xander shook himself. "Thanks, Cooger, for the awesome time," he said. He picked up his backpack and started toward the stairs as well, both of them moving slow, almost as if waiting for someone to call them back before they were released.
"Oh, I'm glad. We missed you too." Daizi replied, and to Cooger said, "You really wore them out."

"They wore me out. We don't have energy like that anymore," Cooger sighed, feeling suddenly very old.

"Just wait until this one is walking, it'll be a brand new fitness program," She teased, while her friend muttered some snarky comeback. Then Tarot turned towards the stairs, "You can go say hello to Dark if you'd like, you won't make it worse for him."


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"I thought he was asleep," Xander said, rubbing his eyes.

Alec smiled. "I'd like to go see him, please. Thanks again, Cooger, it was wonderful."

"If he's okay, yeah, it'd be good to see him," Xander agreed. "Upstairs or down?"
"He had been, but only for a little bit, when I went upstairs he was up again. His hidey-hole is too small to lay down in, so he was never going to be asleep for a long time." Daizi explained, "Down in the basement."

"No problem, kiddos. It was good to have ya over, I'll see you soon, okay?" After the twins had gone down, Cooger made some inappropriate joke, asked Daizi to give Dark his love, and left. He would've gone down to visit him too, but he had a drive home still, and he wanted Dark to get some rest.

Down in the basement, Dark was sitting awake but with his eyes closed, wrapped in a weighted blanket. The fireworks had stopped, but he couldn't bring himself to go upstairs. There was always one or two people who fired them off long after everyone else had stopped, and he was torn between the logical part of his brain who knew it was fine, and the other part. Still, he looked more or less like himself. Tired, but not like some haggard ghost with wild, staring eyes.


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Xander left his bag near the stairs out of the way where Daizi normally walked, and he and Alec went down to see Dark. "Professor?" Xander called down as they approached. "Hey, Professor! We're back."

They didn't normally go down into the basement, so it took them a bit to orient themselves. When They spotted Dark, they both with to join him, sitting near him.

"We had a really good time with Cooger," Alec said, rubbing his eyes. "The trees are so beautiful! All green and fluffy."

"I learned how to drive a boat, so that was pretty cool," Xander said with a yawn.
Slowly Dark opened his eyes, pulling himself out from wherever in his mind he had hidden himself away, and spoke in a low, quiet voice, "Hello... I am glad you had fun. His land is beautiful, he was fortunate finding it. I saw the video of Alec driving the boat, but I am not surprised you drove it as well. You both seem tired."

The lights were off, and even when they sat beside him, he sat utterly without movement, except for his breathing, as if he had been carved from stone.


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Alec inched over and, moving slowly in case Dark didn't want the proximity, leaned over into him, almost nestling against the blanket. "It was utterly exhausting," he admitted, "but it was worth it. We missed you."

"We did get to learn some fun facts about you," Xander said softly, an almost gentle teasing tone in his voice. "Your secrets are slowly coming to light. Very slowly but surely."

"Not that we'll ever pry on purpose," Alec assured him.
"Oh really?" Dark asked, neither moving closer to Alec nor pulling away, "What secrets? I do not keep secrets." He closed his eyes again, and breathed deeply, "It is good to be missed. Cooger should be cautious, I keep his secrets, too. And you know what they say about how two can keep a secret." A slight wry smile spread over his face and he seemed older than he ever had, as if he may well have been sitting there for decades.


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"Something about one of them being dead?" Xander asked uncertainly. He yawned again but tried to stop himself. The result was he felt like he unhinged his jaw.

"That's okay. I won't tell anyone either of your secrets ever. Secrets should be kept secret," Alec agreed, leaning into Dark, his eyes closed. "You feel really soft."

"You're leaning on the blanket," Xander mumbled. "I bet if you leaned against real him, he'd be like steel."

Alec patted Dark's knee awkwardly. "It'll be alright in the morning. Like that song says. Little child, be not afraid, And someday you'll know, this same rain that draws you near me falls on rivers and land and forests and sand, makes the beautiful world that you see in the morning. Little child, be not afraid, the storm clouds mask your beloved moon and its candlelight beams still keep pleasant dreams. I am here tonight "

He got the words a little wrong and messed up, but he followed the soft tune of the lullaby well enough. He would have sung the song Dark and Daizi sang to them when they were upset, but he was too tired to remember quite how it went, so he relied on the song that comforted him. Maybe when he was more awake, he'd try to learn the other song.
He smiled a bit at being compared to steel, but didn't say anything until after Alec went through the lullaby, "Thank you. I am okay. Or will be. This is not my first experience with all of this, and it is easier than it used to be. It was overnight everything changed, we still played chess in the street. You want to come? Yalla! Let them come." He sighed, thinking back ok those years, "It was not until after I left that everything became difficult. All of the city was too quiet. I was in the city that never sleeps, and found it quiet."

He opened his eyes again and looked at them, "If you are tired, you should go to bed."


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"We can stay with you," Xander stated stoutly.

Alec nodded. "Can play chess, but not in the street," he agreed sleepily.

"We're not that tired."

"We can stay up for a few more minute hours."

"If you want us. Do you want us to stay?"

"We can go if you want us to go."
He shook his head, "I am alright. Stay up if you wish to, but you do not need to do it for me. I have been here many times before, it is enough to know you would stay, if I needed it."

Again he closed his eyes and pulled the blanket tighter around him, "Tomorrow will be better. And you do not need to worry, most of my day was fine. You should sleep, your back will hurt in the morning if you sleep down here."


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"Alright. If you're sure." Xander peeled himself up off the floor and pulled Alec up. "You should get some tunes down here or something. Paint it green."

"Good night, Da, see you tomorrow," Alec mumbled sleepily. It had been a long day in the bright sun, and the sun as much as the activity had drained him. Drained them both.

Xander and Alec toddled up and out, both yawning and grumbling softly as they made their way to their room. They called goodnight to Daizi and got ready for bed in a few minutes. In no time at all, they were laying on top of the blankets of one bed, half tangled up together and sound asleep. Tomorrow they would tell Dark and Daizi more. Tomorrow would be another happy day. Tomorrow, Xander had something to give Dark and some things to do. Tomorrow, Alec would draw out his idea for what he wanted on the bedroom wall. Tonight, they slept and slept well.
"Goodnight," Dark replied, pulling the blanket back to reveal he did, in fact, have earbuds in, and let them go. After Daizi made her goodbyes to the twins, she joined him back in the basement, eventually encouraged him to come to bed. He slept with earbuds in, but the night was still enough everything felt okay. It was manageable.

He didn't dream well, but come morning the previous night was only like a faint shadow that clung to him, but he wasn't dwelling on it as he went about his normal routine. Daizi was in a great mood, because her day alone with Dark, before evening fell and he had to hide himself away, was something she had been missing and really needed. And god knew when she'd have that time alone again where they were just at home with each other.

"Did you two get burnt at all?" She asked, pouring Dark some tea, "We've got aloe if you did."


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"Under my chin got a little toasty, but not bad," Alec admitted, touching his chin. "It's just pink." He and Xander were both still in their pajamas. Alec had green dinosaurs on them, and Xander's were black and white striped like an old prison suit. Alec stretched and smiled at Daizi. "You look like you had a good day!"

Xander ignored them, looking out the window as he turned his cup around and around in his hand. He was distracted and thinking on other things.
"That's not too bad then, but I don't know how beneath your chin got burnt. And I did! We had a rough evening, but a good day, right Goose?" Daizi ran her hand through his hair before kissing his forehead.

He couldn't help but smile into his teacup, and after setting it down he said, "Yes, we did. Very nice."

"And didn't get into any trouble, so you don't need to worry, Alec."

"Are you alright, Xander?" Dark asked, turning towards him, "You seem like you are thinking hard about something."


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"Huh?' Xander asked, coming back from where he was. "Oh. Right. I, uh, I have something for you. I need to go get it." He left the table and went to his room.

Alec sipped his tea to hide his smile. He knew what it was but didn't want to give anything away.

Xander came down after a moment with an old shoe box. "Sorry it's not better wrapped. I couldn't find anything better," he said a bit sheepishly as he handed over the box.

The box was far too big for the gift, which was a wide, leather bracelet Xander had made himself. The top was wider than the strap, giving space for the images he'd carefully punched into it. A crystal ball with a flower inside, a knight's shield and sword crossed, a book with a music note, a spear, and a tiny rainbow. A few decorative lines swirled around the edges. The images were small, and the occasional line wasn't quite perfect, the flower in the crystal was rather generic and probably closer to a daisy than any other type, but it was a labor of love. He'd gone through a lot of leather trying to get the bracelet just right.