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How Green Becomes Wood

Dark looked down at Alec and tried to show he appreciated the gesture while still pulling away from it. He didn't know exactly how to respond to the teenager's comment, but he sort of mumbled, "Same to you," and left it at that.

"Your mother seems like she was a complicated woman," Daizi said, "I wish I could've met her. And you two both grew to be pretty good kids, I think. Not perfect, but I've met worse." The air felt heavy around them as they spoke, and she was really grateful for her sunglasses because they hid how her eyes had welled up, even though she kept mentally telling herself to get it together, "It's funny you know, how a few moments ago we were laughing about the possibility of Dark's middle name being Melissa. You wouldn't believe it now, would you?"


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Alec stepped away when Dark pulled away, but he felt a little hurt. He knew Dark didn't mean it that way. He knew that not everyone appreciated physical touch like he did, but he didn't know what else to do. He wasn't sure how else to connect like how he wanted to. It wasn't like Dark wasn't touchy with Daizi. Even now they were practically glued to each other, but that was different. He gave his head a shake, scolding himself for being so selfish. Dark had his own ways of showing affection. Alec would just have to figure out exactly what they were as far as a foster kid went.

Both Xander and Alec looked at Daizi and slowed to a stop as she talked. They shared another quick glance, Alec subconsciously inching closer to Xander for support and comfort.

"Daizi," Alec said, "is everything alright? You don't seem to be well, and Dark won't let you go. Are you sick or something?" They both held their breath, terrified it was the dreadful C word.
"Hm, oh, no I'm okay," Daizi said quickly, "don't worry, I'm not sick, I promise. And Dark's only holding onto me because even though this trail is pretty good, and I have my very fun off-roading cane, I still feel more secure if I have a sighted guide," That, actually, was not a lie, "and couples walk together like this all the time, it's a beautiful day, we're taking a lovely stroll. I mean, I'm a bit... emotional, but that's just, well, it'll be awkward for you both to hear this, but, there are---female things." Technically, that also was not a lie, unless lies by omission counted.

Dark was able to visibly see how anxious both twins were all of a sudden, so he also took the time to assure them, "I just like walking with my wife, that is all."

Perhaps that might've been it, and perhaps they may have successfully assuaged their foster kid's concerns... But there was one little thing which Daizi felt she should probably mention, since they were discussing her health, and if they were scared already, they would be more so if she didn't give them notice, "But, you should know--and this is not because I am sick, I promise I am not sick, with anything--I do have a small procedure this week. It's a tiny, tiny thing, and it is completely normal for women to have, and it's so minor that I could literally go back to work right after." It was just a few stitches in her cervix with only a numbing agent, not even anesthesia, but she was afraid to explain this, because she had it in her mind that they would look up why a person would have such a procedure, and she was very much not ready for that, so she told her only real lie, "honestly, and this will probably be even more awkward for you to hear, and it's sort of uncomfortable for me to say, but I'm, um, getting an IUD put in. So, nothing to be worried about."


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This was getting more awkward by the second, but they listened because they knew Dark and Daizi were trying to make them feel better. They still were not entirely convinced until Daizi started talking about the operation. Then they glanced at each other, confused.

"IUD? Isn't that the one that explodes?" Alec murmured to Xander.

"No, I think that's LSD," Xander said softly.

"No, that's the drug."

"Oh. STD?"

"That's the band, I think. STI?"

"No, that's like something bad. Aids?"

"No, that's the band."

"Then... what's the one that explodes?"

"I don't know. I don't even remember what we're talking about anymore."

Both of them turned to look at Daizi and Dark, now thoroughly lost in their own confusion.
They were both immensely relieved they managed to get out of explaining Daizi's true condition to the twins so early. Neither of them had any idea how they were going to break the news when the time came, as much as they were both praying they would get to break the news, because it meant the embryo stayed right where they wanted it to be. Daizi was half convinced Xander was going to yell at them over it.

"Okay, so, what explodes is called an IED, LSD is a drug," Dark began to explain, and Daizi chimed in with:

"It was actually created by the CIA because they thought it could be used as a mind control drug," She thought it was helpful.

"...STDs are a Sexually Transmitted Disease, STIs are a Sexually Transmitted Infection. They are actually refer to the same thing, STI has just begun to be used to help ease the stigma around those sorts of illnesses. AIDS is one such infection, it makes your immune system fail to function. And I... think, that is all of them?"

Daizi paused, trying to play back all of their three-letter confusions, and said, "I think the band you're thinking of is AC/DC, but honestly I have no idea. The point is, I am healthy, and you have nothing to be worried about. Now come on, we still have a good deal of this walk left to go. I know we're in no rush, but we can't just stand around talking all day," If she didn't have to explain that an IUD was birth control, it would make the coming months much easier, "anyway, if I were sick, Dark would be openly weeping every time he looks at me."


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"The professor weeps?" Xander said in surprise.

"Of course he would be weeping if it was his lady love," Alec pointed out as he started moving ahead. "You would weep, too, if it was your lady love."

Xander made a face as he matched Alec's pace. "There is no way any lady would actually be interested in something like me, and no way am I settling for anything less than a lady."

"Oh, my poor, dear brother!" Alec sighed. "You are going to die alone and helpless! All by your lonesome!" He put the back of his hand to his head dramatically.

Xander shoved his shoulder into Alec's, making him stumble. "No I won't, because I'll have you, dummy."

Alec stuck his tongue out at Xander and laughed. "True enough! And that's good enough for me!"

They kept walking, talking and bantering between each other with Alec occasionally stopping to pick something up off the ground. They had forgotten the IUD thing. For now. They still had a nagging suspicion about Daizi's odd behavior, but neither of them had any real idea what it could be. It was a beautiful day, so they let it go. For now.
"He cried when he proposed to me," Daizi said, smiling at the memory, "right in the middle of our favourite café."

Dark did not attempt to deny this, "I did, and if for some reason I ever had to propose to you again, I certainly would be brought to tears all over again. I cried at our wedding, too." He was not typically an outwardly emotional man, although he never considered himself emotionless; Dark felt things quite deeply, he just felt them on the inside. However, there were moments that couldn't stay inside, and he wasn't ashamed of any of them. He loved Daizi, and major moments in their life drew those feelings out of him. That was all.

"I wasn't a lady when Dark and I met, and he wasn't a gentleman then either," Daizi said when Xander expressed he wouldn't settle for less, but nobody of his standards would ever want him, "then we grew up together."

It was lovely that the twins got along well, and Dark found himself feeling oddly proud anytime they passed by another person on the trail, because the four of them, from outward appearances, looked more or less like a well-functioning family, even if they clearly were not related biologically. He knew plenty of blood-families who couldn't have a nice day out without arguing, or who wouldn't say a word to each other the entire time. But they got along, and he felt proud.

Eventually, about halfway through the walk, they stopped to have their lunch, and after everything was spread out, Daizi went into her bag and handed two identical boxes wrapped in brown paper to the twins, "Dark and I had been talking, and we wanted to give you these." After the twins opened the packages, they would explain a little bit more, but in short: they hated knowing if an emergency happened, for any one of the four, that they wouldn't be able to contact, or be contacted by, the twins.


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Alec set aside the piece of bark he'd been carrying - it was shaped like a dog, and he wanted to show it to Daizi - to accept the package curiously. He looked it over, feeling the edges. It felt like a box. He picked at a corner and started carefully peeling it open.

"What is is?" Xander asked, examining the package and hesitating to open it.

"You could just open it," Alec suggested. "I think I know what it is!"

Xander grumbled but did as Alec suggested.
Inside the boxes were two identical cellphones, and not cheap flip phones, either, not ones that were a cheap, quick option.

"We figured," Daizi continued, "it could be nice for you both, if you were ever somewhere and needed to contact us, to just be able to do it, and not be reliant on asking someone for help. Or if we were out somewhere and wanted to get ahold of either of you, we could. And that's not why we brought you out into the woods," she laughed, "our plan wasn't to leave you out here and give you a chance to test them, and we didn't plan a phone ceremony, we only picked them up yesterday, and thought since it's a nice day today, why not do both. Anyway, we already put my number, Dark's, and Cooger's in there, and obviously Alec has Xander's and the vice versa, but you can add whoever you want."

"We will also give you access to our Spotify account," Dark added, "high school became easier for me when I got an MP3 player."

Daizi curled up beside Dark, resting her head against his shoulder, and sweetly said, "That makes you sound ancient, you know."


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Alec and Xander stared at the cell phones, their eyes wide and round. Gingerly, they plucked the phones from their cases and started looking them over, almost wordless as they explored the devices, showing them to each other with little squeaks of delight and croons of wonder. It was the fanciest, most expensive gift either of them had ever received, outside of being fostered. The phones make little beeps and chirps according to the buttons being pressed, and they spent several minutes exploring said buttons before realizing that they hadn't said anything yet.

"Thank you, Daizi! Thank you, Professor!" Alec cheered, hugging Daizi briefly.

"These are awesome," Xander agreed. He held his phone up to display it. "I think this thing has more buttons to push than a principal!" He smirked at Dark to show he was joking.
Daizi grinned at their excitement and willingly returned Alec's hug, "You're welcome. It just, seemed important."

"I don't know if it's possible for anything to have more buttons to push than her," Dark replied, smiling in his own, subtle way. It's sort of what they figured Christmas was like for most families, and he supposed Christmas would be like for them this year, not that he knew what would be more exciting for them.

Daizi, it seemed, had a similar thought, "Now your birthday will certainly seem like a disappointment, perhaps we should've waited."


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The twins exchanged glances and smiled at Dark and Daizi, Xander's smile impish and Alec's smile sheepish.

"Our birthday was February third," Alec said quietly.

"We were wondering why you didn't do anything, but we're beginning to think that ignoring birthdays was what people did, like the Professor's birthday," Xander said with a mournful look, his eyes sparkling.
Daizi's eyes went wide behind her sunglasses as she apologized profusely, "I'm so sorry, we didn't know! I mean, I'm sure it was in your file somewhere, but we we still getting settled! And means you're fifteen now, too," She pressed her face into Dark's shoulder, "We're bad people."

Dark took the news more easily, and smoothing Daizi's hair said, "I am sorry we missed it, I hope our debt is repaid--"

"It isn't, we need to get a cake," Daizi whined. She would perhaps have been calmer were it not for her hormone-driven emotional fragility.

"And, for the record, we do not 'ignore' my birthday, I just do not like celebrating it." Dark explained.


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"Well, if you don't like celebrating it, that's okay," Alec assured them, misunderstanding a little. "We don't mind."

"We never did much by way of celebrating, anyway," Xander said, milking the morose waif look and sound for all it was worth. "It's just another day, after all. Why bother?"

Alec facepalmed lightly in embaressment.
"I promise we won't miss it next year," Daizi replied, finally turning to face them again, "next year you both turn 16, and that's a big deal in the United States, right? So we'll celebrate that one and it will be really spectacular, we'll throw a big party, or go on a big trip," she quickly did the math in her head and deciding early February may not be the best time for a big trip said, "or, something, whatever you want."

"You have broken my wife," Dark said dryly, guessing by Alec's reaction to Xander's comment that the latter twin was being intentionally dramatic, "but if you want to celebrate your birthday going forward, we will, otherwise we will leave it be. We celebrate Daizi's birthday, but not mine, so it is whatever you prefer."


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Xander grinned at Daizi. "It's alright, Daizi," he said, chuckling. "It really is. Next year would be awesome to do something cool, but it's alright. We'll figure that out when we get there."

"Professor, why don't you like celebrating your birthday?" Alec asked curiously. "I thought it was a way for everyone to say how happy they are that you're alive." He paused thoughtfully. "Although I did read somewhere that in some cultures, the birthday person gives other people the gifts."
Dark inhaled between his teeth, "The truth is, I do not know when my birthday is. Not really. It was never celebrated when I was growing up and the documents were lost in the war, so..." He shrugged, "I know my age because my parents would weaponize it, but the day or the month never really came up. So when I came to the United States I was able to choose my date, and I picked January 1st because it seemed easy to keep track of. There does not really seem to be a point in celebrating something fabricated."

"It's why I don't believe in Astrology," Daizi mentioned, wrapping her arms around him, although Dark was not particularly upset by it, "my friends who consider themselves experts can't agree on his star signs, and I would expect them to be able to, if they meant so much. And I still give you a present every New Years Day."

"You do, but you do not have to," He bent down and quickly kissed her, and then turning back to the twins said, "it actually is not that uncommon for people born about when I was, especially if they grew up impoverished as I did. An important museum in my city also lost hundreds of artifacts."


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"That makes sense," Xander shrugged, willing to let it go.

Alec, on the other hand, continued to think about it. "I understand," he said slowly, "but if birthdays are about celebrating with the ones you loved, then you didn't have anyone to celebrate with before, but now you do. You have people who love you who'd love to celebrate, well, you. I don't think it matters if you choose a different date, it's not the date that matters so much as the heart of the event, I think." He looked down, blushing a little. "Anyway, I think it's something worth thinking about."
Dark nodded, listening attentively to Alec's point, "Maybe. I guess it does not really matter to me. Presents and cake are nice, but," He looked down at his wife, and thought of more things than the twins, hopefully, could guess, "I do not need them. I get to wake up in that house, that I have gotten to decorate, I get to wear clean clothes, which actually fit me properly, and those are material gifts enough. I am never afraid of going hungry, which is far better than cake. I do not need a day to be celebrated, I feel that way daily. I have grown up to become rather fortunate, so I am content to celebrate the many birthdays of everyone else in my life." He shifted his hand from Daizi's waist to her abdomen, not really thinking about it, and she turned in towards him to disguise it, even though it wasn't exactly a conspicuous hand placement, and he had probably touched her there a thousand times since the twins moved in.

"I think," He added, "people would be much happier if they celebrated the people they loved all year round, instead of waiting for one specific day."


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"You know, I never realized how sappy you really are," Xander mused thoughtfully.

Alec smiled. "You have a point, sir, but would it be okay if we did something next year? Just a little thing, like if we gave you a cupcake, just to make us happy. I'd like to celebrate you on a day, but only if it's okay. Just a little thing, I promise."

Xander rolled his eyes at Alec. "You really can't take no for an answer, can you?"

"Any excuse for a celebration!" Alec said brightly.