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How Green Becomes Wood

"Nobody built it," Dark said, releasing his wife's arm and walking to stand on the edge of it, "the pit is the sinkhole, and the bridge is what is left of the cave that used to be here." He looked down into the pit, where leaves piled up from many old autumns, and thought about how some day the pit may one day be filled with soil. Then he looked up and seeing Xander making his way across it said, "Be careful, I do not want to have to climb in there to rescue you if you fall."

Daizi turned towards Alec, who was still standing faithful by her side, "Aren't you going to brave it too?"


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Xander snorted as he stood in the middle of the bridge and jammed his hands into his pockets. "Ah, come on, Professor! You really think I'd need rescuing from a leaf pile?" He grinned challengingly at Dark and took a couple of steps back, perfectly at ease despite the unevenness of the surface.

Alec shook his head firmly and reached up to lightly touch her elbow. "No, thank you! I am perfectly fine right here. I don't like narrow ledges."
Dark crossed his arms; he knew full well children played on the bridge all the time, and in all the years he had lived in the area, he had never heard of someone getting seriously injured on the bridge. Yet, when he watched Xander walk backwards, he couldn't help but feel a bit of dread, because what if this was the time it happened, "There are rocks underneath the leaves, you know, and if you fall the wrong way you may break your neck."

"I suppose that's fair," Daizi replied, and rested her arm on Alec's shoulder while her husband and Alec's brother had a battle of wits, "I'm not the same, though, I love a good precipice. I love that feeling they give you, like anything could happen. I love rollercoasters too, I think it's because people love to treat me like I'm fragile. Anytime I do something risky it proves that I'm not," She grinned at him, "but maybe it helps that I can't look down."


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Xander paused and looked down over the edge again. "You don't say. Huh. Well, I suppose leaves can only go down so far before there's rock. How about I see how deep they go?" He swung a foot out and pretended to start hopping off the edge of the bridge. He wouldn't really, but it was fun to get a rise out of the stoic Dark. He never showed any emotions other than being smitten with his wife. Even now, the tells were barely there, but Xander could see how uncomfortable this was making him.

"I suppose one foot would be the same as twenty to you," Alec mused. "I don't think you are fragile at all, but it is hard to tell sometimes when I should help and when I shouldn't. I guess that's the same with everyone, it's just people who look okay don't think they can or should ask for help. You are obviously going to need to help sometimes, so people presume you need it all the time. That has to be really annoying."
"Because of you the school already thinks I already engage in the occasional Ménage à Trois with the parents of my students and have an untold number of bastard children, and you, apparently, enjoy watching it, so I really think that if you show up to class on Monday with a broken arm, my reputation might be entirely ruined." He was trying to play it cool, but he still took a few steps closer to the bridge, just in case. Xander wasn't stupid, he knew Xander wasn't stupid, but he was also fifteen--and recently fifteen--and he knew full well that all fifteen year olds are a little bit stupid.

Daizi hummed, "It can be annoying. I mean, I understand that it comes from a good place, but also I'm not so proud that I'm afraid to ask for help when I do need it. And I might be needing it more," She said this last sentence without thinking about it, and in an almost dreamlike way. When she heard her own words, she furrowed her brows, and added, "when the rainy season starts, because then everything is slippery, and there'll be puddles on the linoleum, and I won't be able to see them coming, but unless I ask, it's fair to assume that I've got this." She ruffled his hair, because it just... sort of felt like the right thing to do.


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Xander put both feet on the bridge and looked at Dark in utter confusion. "Ma-nag-a-what? Oh, you mean what I told the loser?" He snickered and shook his head. "Oh, please, only true idiots believe school gossip, and that's not entirely what I said, anyway. The kids'll pass it around until the next best rumor comes around." He turned and moved to the very edge of the bridge, balancing on his toes with his heels hanging off the edge, still watching Dark's expression. "Besides, everyone knows I'm a little effed up in the head. No one would be surprised if I went to school with a broken arm, and even if it was your fault, the first thing they'll do is ask you what I did to deserve it."

Alec grinned and even gave a tiny laugh as she ruffled her hair. He'd caught her odd sentence and quick save, but decided she had meant exactly what she said and let it go. "You're right. You completely do! I think I need more help than you do." He smiled up at her even if she couldn't see it.
He really wanted to turn away and just recognize and let go that Xander was pushing his buttons, but he still could not quite help but imagine one small thing going wrong and seeing him tumble down into the pit. So he began walking on the bridge himself, so that if Xander did slip, he would be a little bit closer, at least? "Even if that is true, it would still be quite a headache for me, and anyway, you just got a new phone, and it would not survive the drop, so if you will not be cautious for yourself, or for my sanity, then--" He shook his head, it was ridiculous, it was all insane.

"Of course you need more help than I do, Alec," Daizi said, "you're fifteen. Everybody needs help at fifteen. It'd be freaky if you had it all figured out." She spoke gently, and the sunlight streaming through the trees was caught in her hair. The conversation between Dark and Xander made her laugh lightly, "I'm glad we all came out here today. It's really been a really good trip, hasn't it?"


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Xander frowned and pulled his phone out of his pocket. "Hmm, yeah, you're probably right about that. Wouldn't want to break this before I even learned how to use it." He turned on his toes and suddenly dropped, plunking down on the edge of the bridge. "Hey, this is a pretty good view," he said, casually waving the phone in one hand to indicate the drop. "Wanna come take a look?"

Alec smiled and nodded. "Yes, it really has. I don't think I've ever seen Xander have so much fun with someone other than me, and it's been so long since we've been out of the house! I mean, like really out of the house. Do you think we could do this again sometime? Maybe after you've healed up properly from your operation?"
When Xander dropped down, Dark felt temporary panic before it was obvious he was just sitting on the edge. With a sigh of exasperation, he went and sat down beside him saying, "I think when I go for my yearly physical my doctor will diagnose me with high-blood pressure and it will be entirely due to you." He was only joking, although it may not have been immediately evident. Dark looked down over the edge of the bridge and briefly had all of the intrusive thoughts that one has while looking over a pit, and then looked out at the quiet forest.

"I'm really glad you're both starting to relax around us. I know it's weird, all of this is weird, but it's nice you seem comfortable. I hope you stay comfortable, because Dark and I really are glad to have you here," She thought a little bit about her secret, and considered trying to subtly express that nothing would ever change the twins' position in their household, but it seemed to obvious, and she had already risked her secret too often that day, a fact she blamed entirely on the secret itself, she directed none of the blame to normative self, "We definitely can do this again. I think my doctor said I'll need to take it easy for about ten days, but after that, we can definitely come back here. Or go to other places, whatever you want. Although, aquariums are kind of boring for me, if I'm honest, but Dark can take just you two to one."


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Xander gave Dark a suspicious look, not fully trusting he was joking, but something in his face said he was. The teen relaxed with a smirk and carefully stuffed his new phone as deep into his pocket as he could. "And teaching like a hundred other teenagers almost every day has absolutely nothing to do with it," he said dryly. He leaned back, putting his hands behind him to support himself. "You know, this is not bad. I see why Cooger likes living out in the middle of who-knows-where. It makes me feel like sitting back with a beer or building something both."

"Summer is coming," Alec said, enjoying the view of the pit from his nice, safe distance. "He gets time off during the summer, like other teachers, doesn't he? Maybe we can do something we'd all like. Maybe... maybe we could go to a petting zoo at pet the horses and whatever else they have at a petting zoo." He smiled to himself. He still hadn't said anything about Xander's secret passion, but he felt Xander had nearly given that away himself.
"The other teenagers I can tune out. I do not have to keep worrying about them when I go home at the end of the day." That wasn't exactly true, there were plenty of students who he thought about. Some he hasn't even had in class since his first year of teaching. But he couldn't start a whole club of students he worried about, this wasn't Dead Poets Society. So he focused on the two he did have with him most of the time, "and Cooger definitely has a few things figured out. I love my house, I hate the suburb it is in. I would rather a stormy cliffside or off a long, dim, curving road. But at the time we were expecting to care about if we were in a good school district. For your sake, and Alec's, I suppose the forethought was a boon. And Tarot loves to terrorize the neighbors. Also," he looked at Xander with a glimmer in his eyes, "our house is the best one at Halloween. We get more trick-or-treaters than anyone in the neighborhood, probably the whole town, and we throw a huge party, and then," He looked over his shoulder at Daizi, "the next day is our anniversary. So if we lived in the middle of nowhere, we would miss out on all of that."

"He gets summers off, but I don't. But I have my weekends, so we can go to a petting zoo one of those days, I'd like that. And some day we could go horseback riding together, there are bound to be some trails around," Although, she remembered, that wouldn't be something she could participate in, at least not this summer, "and maybe next year we could take a vacation somewhere nice. I'm not sure where, but it's enough to plan for the petting zoo for now."


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Xander snickered at that. "Actually, I hate Halloween with a passion, but I can see why you two would like it." He started to push himself up. "Looks like I'll have to learn to at least tolerate it. Especially if your anniversary is right after that. So, are we heading off? Or are we going to push each other into the abyss and see what happens?"

"Honestly, the petting zoo is enough for me. A whole vacation trip is overwhelming," Alec admitted. "It sounds both amazing and terrifying." He shuddered briefly.
"I cannot imagine hating Halloween," Dark said with a tone of mock indignation... Mostly mock indignation, "it is the only day a year where you do not have to pretend to fit societal norms. If you wish to go to work at your dead-end office job in giant antlers and blackout contacts, no one will stop you. Everyone may present themselves exactly in the ways they dream they could. And!" He stood, smoothing his pant legs, "it is the one Holiday where there is not expectation to feel happy. Christmas everyone wants you to be happy, from November 1st to the middle of January everybody wants you to be happy and smiling and full of light, but Halloween? Halloween is accepting of the shadows and fears and the void. What is there to hate? But," He sighed, and forcing himself to be understanding, "I accept learning to tolerate it. As a start. Our anniversary, though you do not have to worry about it. We make a fuss, but only because it was a big day in our lives, I understand it is not really important for anyone else." He rolled his shoulders back, and finished crossing the bridge.

"A petting zoo it is then. Vacations are fun, but so are smaller days out," She squeezed his shoulder, and when Dark came back around, she took his arm again, "Are we ready to keep going?"


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Xander snorted. "Dude, one thing living with Alec has taught me, big days for people you care about are big days for you, too, because of the transitive property of caring. Or something like that." He sauntered after Dark, wondering vaguely what people did on their anniversaries. He didn't really have anything to compare it to. Everyone must be different, he figured, but how did a foster kid show support or whatever? He wasn't worried about it, there was a long time to figure it out, but it was something worth thinking about.

"I'm ready!" Alec chirped, instantly stepping out and away from the bridge. "Professor, do you like petting zoos?"
"Your brother is a very caring person," Dark agreed, "I suppose I see our anniversary mostly as something for the two of us. But perhaps I should learn something from him and let people be supportive of... whatever they choose." He didn't even know what Halloween, or his anniversary, would look like this year. And thinking about Halloween, if everything went well, they'd have to figure out a maternity costume that wasn't embarrassing, and he wasn't sure how many of those he had ever seen. But, they had time.

Once they were regrouped and heading down the trail again, Dark said to Alec, "I am neutral on petting zoos, I think. I do not dislike them, they are not my favourite place in the world, but I also believe I have only ever been to a petting zoo located amongst other things to do, not one whose soul purpose is to be the petting zoo. Why do you ask?"

"We were talking about visiting one this summer, it seems fun," Daizi explained, "we've been thinking up outing we could go on as--well, together."


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"I thought Daizi might like a petting zoo," Alec said.

Xander wrinkled his nose. "Petting zoos reek. And aren't you just trying to get in so you can try to steal a rabbit again?"

Alec sniffed as if offended. "That was one time, one rabbit, and he bit me, so I am no longer quite as fond of rabbits as I was when I was four."

"Then you tried to steal the baby goat," Xander pointed out.

"It was tiny! And just my size," Alec protested. "Again, I think I was five. Or six."

"Six," Xander replied. "After you tried to walk out with the baby goat, you then tried to kidnap a chicken."

Alec shuddered at that memory. "That did not go well. Not well at all. I never tried again after that. That chicken cured me of my animal-thieving ways!"

"Or was it because we got banned from the petting zoo?" Xander asked pointedly.

"That may have been a factor, yes, I suppose," Alec mused.
Daizi laughed listening to them bicker, again, "Well please do not get us banned from anywhere, and please do not kidnap any animals, we have entirely run out of space in our house."

"There is room for perhaps one more," Dark murmured, "but livestock is not ideal. Cooger is still pushing us to adopt a cat, but he is always pushing everyone to adopt a cat."

"That's because he's got so many, he's just trying to find good homes for them all. I don't know when he became a good person." She chuckled.

As they walked and chatted, Daizi somehow missed a tree root while scanning the ground with her cane and stumbled over it. She didn't fall, though, because as soon as she tripped, Dark released her arm to catch her more securely, using reflexes which only really come from decades being with someone with her particular disability. It was a brief moment, without any harm done, and the only way they acknlowedged it was by Dark quickly asking if she was okay.

Then they kept walking, although after her extraordinarily mundane stumble, he kept his arm around her waist, which she liked, because she was still a bit tired, and he was warm. Not too long after they left the bridge, they made it back to the start of the trail, and then, to their car.


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Alec watched Daizi quietly, his shoulders tense, but he said nothing. He knew something was wrong, he just didn't know what or if he should actually be concerned.

For his part, Xander stayed glued to the window, muttering in quiet excitement when he saw the horses. He tried to keep it hidden, but he couldn't fully hide the quiet grin. He hadn't thought twice about Daizi's stumble and figured whatever Dark and Daizi had told them, it had to be the truth, right? WHy lie about something like that?
On the way home, Dark made sure to drive slowly as they passed the horses again. He didn’t know that Xander loved them, but he did find his earlier lie about ‘military forces’ suspicious, so he slowed down—the sight of the teenager’s grin in the rearview mirror confirmed it was the right choice. Daizi sang along to the music playing in the car, and when they got home she slipped away upstairs to take a nap.
Later that week, she went in for her procedure, and neither she nor Dark went to work. Ultimately, although it was important, and could literally mean life or death for one bean-sized embryo, it wasn’t serious. She didn’t even need to go to a hospital, it was done right in her doctor’s office. But they took the day, just to be safe. In case there was a complication, and there wasn’t, Daizi wanted to be at home and she did not want to be alone. But everything went great, and they were feeling good. Emotionally.

Physically, for Daizi, things took a turn. She had been pregnant before and in the past had felt maybe slight food aversions and mild nausea. Fair enough, it started there. But it did not stay there. At first, they were able to play it off as food poisoning, and then maybe the flu.

Trying to excuse two weeks of what seemed like near constant running to the bathroom was much more difficult to explain away. There were some days where she felt too awful to go to work, which was unlike her, and many more where she’d come home early, which—as Alec pointed out the first time she did so, back in January—was unlike her.

Her morning sickness (a name she resented every time she swiftly left the dinner table) did give Dark a chance to show his character. If he was around when Daizi hurried off, so long as he wasn’t occupied with something that could not be temporarily set aside, he followed her to hold back her hair and rub her back. Whereas prior to this period of sickness, the two of them were occasionally caught not exactly keeping their hands, or tongues, to themselves, for lack of more delicate phrasing, these days they were more likely to be spotted on the bathroom floor, since when time is of the essence, taking the time to shut the door wasn’t a priority. Daizi would look rather like a clock in a Dali painting, draped pitifully across her husband who held her tenderly until she felt prepared to reemerge.

It wasn’t like she was sick from sunrise to sunset every single day over those weeks, but she also was never totally herself, and had slowed down a lot, and she was sleeping a lot more. Sometimes, at night, when she and Dark were alone, they argued about if it was better to just tell the twins already or if it was better to wait just a little bit longer, because they didn’t want them to be anxious about her, but also Daizi was scared. Not just of if they’d react poorly, but because if something went wrong, which wasn’t an impossibility, then there would be two more people she’d have to tell, and that would only make it harder for her.

But thankfully, her morning sickness disguised smaller symptoms of her “condition.” She had always been her dog’s favourite, so his new intense obsession with her didn’t seem too out of the ordinary, and with everything else going on, it seemed unlikely that the twins would notice how she wasn’t… exactly fitting into her old bras, although she figured that even if she was feeling totally fine, they’d have to more worry about them noticing Dark noticing her than anything else.

Regardless, it was still hard that these past few weeks were not as easy or comfortable as they had been, and she and Dark both felt guilty about it. And then, the day after her third doctor’s appointment in four weeks, Daizi went to work in the morning, but by the time the twins came home from school, she was already lying face down on the couch in the living room with one hand limply on her dog’s head. For the first time, in all the months she had known them, she seemed weak.
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Xander and Alec watched Daizi's growing illness with growing fear and worry. Xander reacted with his usual moodiness and sullen quiet, pretending as if he didn't notice and didn't care. He did notice. He did care. But if no one was going to tell them what was really going on, what could he do about it? Nothing. Nothing at all. So he stayed out of everyone's way and waited. At least he managed to stay out of trouble at school.

For his part, Alec watched Daizi from afar, pulling himself further and further away. He wouldn't have admitted it if anyone had asked, but he was preparing himself and waiting for her to die. What else could be so wrong that Daizi and Dark wouldn't even talk about it? Nothing else made sense to him. So he waited, hiding from the world in books and music, picking at his food and barely eating a few morsels at a time. How could he eat when Daizi was in such distress?

They arrived home that day after a long day of school and walked in, discussing the events of the day.

"So Jazzy likes Micheal, and Micheal likes Jazzy, but he's already with Tara, and you know what a terror Tara can be, so he's afraid to break up with her," Alec explained to Xander as they took off their shoes and touched the salt.

"But Tara and Micheal have only been together like a week," Xander said in confusion as he hung up his jacket. "How hard can it be to break up with someone you've only been with a week?"

"One week and four days," Alec told him. "It's-" He stopped short with a gasp, spotting Daizi on the couch. "DAIZI!!" He raced over to her, dropping down on his knees next to her. "Daizi, are you dead? Daizi? Xander, call somebody!"

Xander followed him over, phone in hand, but waited to see what was what before dialing.