Sandcastles and Fireworks

BY : DarklingWillow & BronxWench
Category: +M through R > Neverwinter Nights
Dragon prints: 904
Disclaimer: We do not own Neverwinter Nights, nor the characters from it. We do not make any money from the writing of this story. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

This is a reboot of a story that we have been writing on the AFF forums for years. We tried to turn this into an original but it just did not work. So, here we are again with our Neverwinter Nights + AU fanfiction. 

Additional tags and warnings will be added to the relevant chapters, so please be careful to check the Author Notes at the top of chapters. 

Yuji arched an eyebrow and stared at his wife for a moment. “A what?” he asked, and he could tell she struggled not to roll her eyes at him.

“A writer’s retreat,” Willow answered and emphasized her words with that irritating half nod of her head and quick sweep of her hand which signalled that she was about to give up on his stubbornness.

“On another planet?” he countered and this time her eyes did roll at him.

“Another plane, not planet. Totally different things,” she answered and looked over to Satoshi for support, then added with a hint of irritation, “It’s not on another plane, but there’s going to be beings from other places. Pets, muses, and stuff.”

Yuji could tell that she was not going to let him get away with claiming misunderstanding due to the language barrier. She had become fluent enough in Japanese, and his English had improved enough during their relationship, that the language barrier had all but disappeared between them. And Satoshi had always been better at languages than Yuji, so Satoshi was always the first to jump to the aid, if they stumbled.

Kansas sniggered a little where he was perched on Satoshi’s lap, but Satoshi just nodded his head, and sucked on the piercings in his lip, his arm protective around Kansas’ back, making sure that the younger man would not fall off his perch.

“Totally different things,” Kansas echoed, and bounced on Satoshi’s thigh, his balance perfect as he lifted both his feet off the floor and put them on Satoshi’s other thigh to tuck his knees under his own chin, his small feet disappearing into the legs of his oversized jeans.

“I don’t know,” Yuji answered, shook his head again, then ran his fingers through his thick hair to scratch the back of his head hard, switching over to English. “You’re asking me to suspend a lot of belief here.”

“Actually, I think it’s suspend disbelief,” Satoshi interjected in Japanese, and Willow sniggered at them both.

“It’s suspend disbelief, love,” she said and Yuji frowned at her.

“Semantics,” he growled and stood up, which made the little imp on Satoshi’s lap cringe noticeably.

“Terminology, not semantics,” Willow growled back at him, her brow furrowing a little.

In the living room the little boy, who should have been his, looked up from the book he had in his hands and narrowed his eyes at Yuji. Yuji shot the toddler a quick smile, though he knew it would take more to placate the fierce and protective little boy. Then Yuji turned back to his wife and lovers. “You three are still asking me to believe a lot of crazy stuff here.”

“You live with a dragon,” Kansas pointed out nonchalantly, as if they had an actual living, breathing dragon curled up in the car shed. “Two, if you count Ryuu,” the young man continued and nodded his head towards the little boy in the living room, who was still peering at Yuji over the top of his picture book.

Yuji sighed loudly and went over to the kitchen counter to pour himself some more tea, and took another look at the books and the strange invitation that rested on the countertop, the envelope with the plane tickets in their names laying next to the books.

“But, another plane,” he said quietly and turned around to look at his strange family. “It’s just so out there. I mean, believing that you have the soul of a dragon, or that you’re somehow a little magical, or even that you can see ghosts and spirits, that’s one thing. But I can promise you, if any of you mention any of this to your therapist or doctor, you’re all going to get locked up in the psych ward faster than you can say it.”

All three of them frowned at him, and Yuji sort of knew he had lost right there.

“That’s a low blow,” Satoshi muttered and rested his chin on Kansas’ shoulder. The slender youth patted Satoshi’s evergreen hair lovingly as he frowned at Yuji in anger.

“I am a dragon, you know that,” Kansas said, and slid off Satoshi’s lap with such grace that for a moment Yuji really could believe he was right. “We all know it. We’ve all seen it. I’m just a little bit trapped here at the moment, but it’s where I’m supposed to be, and you know that.”

Willow rose to her feet, her hips swaying as she joined Yuji by the breakfast bar and topped off her own tea cup. “And you know as well as I do that I am far more than a little magical. My daideo was a bard. All of Donegal, Tyrone and Londonderry can tell you that. And I am one too. Both sides of the family can attest to that,” she said with one of those looks that Yuji knew better than to argue with.

“I know,” he conceded, and sighed inwardly. He looked at Satoshi, and the look in those pretty dark brown eyes made him nod his head. He knew as well as Satoshi that Satoshi could see far more than any mere human could. It had saved their scrawny butts more than once, more than twice, and he knew better than to argue that point.

“You believe that your great grandmother was an elf,” Satoshi said quietly, and looked up through his lashes. Kansas tittered and bounced up to sit on the countertop to top off his own teacup.

“I don’t,” Yuji sputtered, but he still looked into his tea to hide the look that came on his face as he remembered his crazy great grandmother Sora, with her scarred ears, and funny stories, and strange lullabies sung in a language that no one else outside the family had ever heard, and his father now insisted had been a made up language, invented to calm Yuji’s grandfather when he and Sora had been hiding from the blanket bombings during the war.

Yuji sighed and pushed back the yearning for his lost great grandmother, the grief still heavy in his heart even though it had been eleven years since she had vanished in the Zao mountains in Miyagi. In his mind he could hear her soft voice, singing that sweet lullaby to him, her work roughened hands sliding through his silken hair and when she thought he was asleep she would tell him stories in that strange language. Stories about lands on different planes of existence, in far away worlds, where dragons soared in the skies, and elves lived, with dwarves and trolls and giants, and giant eagles. The hairs on his arms stood on ends, and his skin prickled as the memories were followed by that cold shiver of sorrow that now tainted all of them.

“Who is the invitation from?” Yuji asked his wife, and he could clearly see her tensing to celebrate that she had won him over.

“You remember that short story that I got published in that American anthology, last year?” she countered, and Yuji frowned as he struggled to recall the particular achievement.

“The one with the red haired archer?” he asked, but Kansas shook his head as he answered,

“No, that’s the one that won the prize at the Irish thing, the one we couldn’t go to.”

Yuji frowned again, and looked to his wife for help, but she just continued to give him that look that meant he was supposed to be able to recall each and every single one of her writing achievements off the top of his head, without so much as a hint of help from her. Yuji struggled to keep in his sigh of frustration as his mind skipped off to remind him of that stack of music history papers that he still had not graded, and was supposed to hand back before the New Year’s holiday. Yuji pushed the thought away again, willfully ignoring his own procrastination, and arched an eyebrow at the three people he called his spouses.

“The story about the lonely ghost boy?”

“No, that one was published in the English ghost story annual,” Satoshi answered, picked up the thick parchment invitation to sniff at it, and turn it this way and that to inspect the ink.

Yuji looked back at his wife and sighed when he noticed that she was now wearing the look that meant he had one try left before he would be forced to sleep in Satoshi and Kansas’ bed tonight.

“Oh, the one with the blond elf guy?! The one you borrowed from that American author?” Yuji cried out and Willow’s look changed to one of her bright smiles.

“Exactly!” she cried out, jumping up on her toes to kiss him hard on the lips. “Well, you know the woman who writes the stories about that elf and his whole series? Bronwen? The one who had that story about that sídhe in the same anthology? Well, we’ve stayed in touch ever since I went to New York for that conference, and she’s the one who’s organizing this whole thing, and she invited me. The only downside is that you three would have to come as my pets, sort of. You know, as in the inspiration for my writing, kind of.”

“I’m married to you, doesn’t that count as being your pet?” Yuji asked, giving Willow one of his dorky smiles, and Willow sputtered before she slapped his shoulder, and called him an idiot.

Before he could answer Aika began crying in the living room, and Ryuu came racing into the kitchen to let his mother know that the baby was crying, and Willow hurried off to soothe the baby girl.

Kansas on the other hand jumped down from the counter and held his hand out to Ryuu, offering the boy to come take a shower together before bedtime.

Satoshi watched the two of them head off, and Yuji looked at his dear friend as he asked quietly. “Do you want to wait until they’re done showering, so you can tuck him in, or you want me to drive you back now?”

Satoshi bit his lip, sucked on his lip piercings, then looked up at Yuji. “I have to be back before nine, otherwise the doctor won’t let me come visit again.”

Yuji checked his watch and nodded his head. “You’ve got time. Go help them with the shower and the bath and then tuck him in. Then I’ll drive you back, love. I know it makes you feel calmer to do the bathtime yourself. But he really hasn’t done anything wrong in the weeks that you’ve been away. He’s actually really attentive to Ryuu.”

Satoshi nodded his head and hurried off after the youngster and the toddler, obviously anxious, but calmer than Yuji had seen him in months.

Yuji stood alone in the kitchen and looked at the invitation again, reading the fancy script and the antiquated English carefully. It all sounded so bizarre and ridiculous, but it was a seven day trip to New York, flights, accommodations and food all paid for and provided by the host. Even their ESTA waivers seemed to be already taken care of. It sounded very much like so many other writer related celebrations and awards ceremonies and workshops that Willow had been invited to in the past, save for that one little part. The part where it said that it would be extended to another dimension, to a world on another plane of existence, where magical creatures would be safe and welcome.

Of course it could just mean that it would be a whole bunch of slightly sexually adventurous writers and their companions, dressed up in silly costumes and pretending to be something other than mundane humans, suspending disbelief for a fun week, and pretending to be in some other place, where magic and fairies and elves roamed free. And yet, somehow, that sounded less plausible than the alternative.

Yuji jumped a little when Willow called for him from the living room and he dropped the invitation on the counter to hurry to his wife’s aid as the baby screamed in protest again, and from the bathroom Satoshi shouted at his little son and Kansas, ordering them to stop acting like a pair of monkeys.

Just another regular Friday evening in their house.

Satoshi took Ryuu upstairs after the toddler and Kansas had taken their bath, to tuck him in and read the standard two picture books before Ryuu would agree to go to sleep. Kansas on the other hand joined Willow and Yuji in the living room and turned on the TV, to watch a movie instead of doing his homework.

When Satoshi came back downstairs he kissed Willow and Kansas on the lips, then followed Yuji through the laundry room and out to the car shed. Yuji was silent as he started the car and pointed it towards the hospital, but halfway there he cleared his throat softly.

“How are you doing, neko?” he asked, not surprised when Satoshi shrugged with a dismissive sound, followed by a mumbled,

“I don’t know.”

Yuji bit his lip to remind himself not to cry, then tried again. “Do you think the therapy is helping?”

“They let me come home for a visit,” Satoshi answered, his voice as lifeless as it had been three weeks ago.

“Did the doctor put you on medication again?” Yuji ventured, reaching out to stroke Satoshi’s forearm.

Satoshi made a soft sound in the affirmative, then sighed. “They’re crushing me,” he said, just loud enough for Yuji to hear him.

“You know how it is, love. First they just seem to drag you further down, but then they begin to help. The doctor always says so. Just, please, don’t give up. Not after everything…” Yuji trailed off and looked at his lover as they stopped at a traffic light.

“I know,” Satoshi said, plucking at a thread in the seam of the pocket of his cargo pants, his eyes dull when he looked up. “I won’t give up like that again. I promise. Kansas just got home, Aika is finally getting better and I promise, I won’t give up like that again. I’ll make it work, somehow.” He sighed softly and looked out the window again, licking his lips when the hospital came into view further down the street.

“I think we should go,” Satoshi said and looked at Yuji again. “To the thing. With Willow, I mean. I mean, my committal period will be finished by then, and Muriyama-sensei is going to let me go home. He said so, tonight, when he let me come visit. So, I think we should go. Just ask Hideko-chan to watch the kids for us, and we should go. I’ve got this weird feeling that we might need it.” He sighed again, and looked down to pluck at the loose thread again. “Or maybe I just need it. I don’t know.”

Yuji parked the car in the spot under the large zelkova tree, and leaned closer to kiss Satoshi’s pierced lip softly. “We’ll go, my love. I know I’m being a jerk about it, but I guess I’m just fretting about the whole being crazy like my grandfather thing, you know. So, if you promise me that you’re getting better and coming home happier and healthier, then we’ll go. Now, do you want me to walk you upstairs?”

Satoshi actually had a small smile to spare for Yuji, and Yuji’s heart jumped with joy when the tiny smile nearly reached Satoshi’s eyes. “I’ll come home healthier and happier. And I’ll be a good boy and take my medication. I promise. I won’t go down that path again. And I think I can walk upstairs by myself. I promised that I was going to make this work this time, so I won’t try to run away, Yuji. I promise.” Satoshi ducked his head to hide the blush in his cheeks, then darted in to smack a kiss to Yuji’s cheek. “I love you, Yuji. Good night.”

“Sleep well, my love, I’ll call you tomorrow,” Yuji answered, and watched the shorter man walk through the entrance and head for the stairs to the psych ward on the third floor. As always, Yuji sat in the car and watched the windows of the stairwell, making sure that his beloved went upstairs, and did not try to sneak out again once Yuji drove away. When the light in Satoshi’s room turned on, Yuji started the car and drove home again, just in time to kiss Kansas good night, and then slide into bed next to Willow, still ignoring that stack of music history papers that needed to be graded.



“So, when would you go?” Hideko asked, as she bounced around Yuji where he was getting in the way in her small kitchen, and Yuji popped a grape into his mouth with a shrug.

“The flight leaves on New Year’s Day, in the afternoon,” he answered, and looked away from his nephew in the living room. “So, we’d stay home for New Year’s Eve, go to the temple in the morning and then head out in the afternoon. It’s seven nights, so you’d have to have them for a little over a week, probably.”

“You know that we’re going to Tsutomu’s family on New Year’s Day, don’t you?” Hideko said and twirled around Yuji again to deliver a small bowl of cut up fruit to Tomio in the living room, the little boy thanking her sweetly before turning back to his drawing.

“I know, that’s why I’m asking you,” Yuji called after his sister, then sighed. “If you were going to otousan’s, then I’d have asked Kiyoshi-kun and Haruka-san. But we’d feel more comfortable if you take the kids for such a long time. I mean, Ryuu adores you. As long as you feed Aika every two hours, she doesn’t give a shit either way.”

Oniisan,” Hideko said with a frown and an exasperated sigh. “Your daughter is adorable, and she adores you.” Hideko frowned again and slapped Yuji on the arm hard enough for him to wince. “We’ll take the kids. We can meet for lunch at your place, on New Year’s Day, and then we’ll take them. But leave me the keys to your house, in case Ryuu wants to go check on it. And it’s only the kids, right? Not Tatsuya-kun?”

“No, not Kansas. He’s coming with us this time. He’s all better, and the doctor said there’s nothing to stop him from flying. And Satoshi won’t go without him,” Yuji confirmed, popped another grape in his mouth and then sighed a little.

“How is Satoshi-kun?” Hideko asked and handed him a cup of coffee, then jumped up on the small countertop to perch there as she sipped her own coffee. “I haven’t seen him since before Kansas came home from the hospital. We keep missing each other when I come around your house.”

Yuji stared into the pitch blackness of the coffee and opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came out except for a soft sob. He slammed his mouth closed and drew a sharp breath to force his tears back. “He’s terrible,” Yuji admitted, his chin trembling as he looked up at his little sister. “He’s back on meds, and it’s just… you know… just, wet potato sack bad.”

“First round bad?” Hideko asked, her voice gentle, and she reached out to stroke Yuji’s shoulder.

Yuji shook his head, pursing his lips as he thought about it, then shook his head again. “No, it’s more like first relapse bad. But, he got to come home for Christmas Day, yesterday. I picked him up just before lunch, and after we opened the presents, we all went to the mall together, and then to the Aquarium, and finally we ate dinner together at home. He gave Ryuu his bath and then I drove him back to the hospital, just in time for curfew.”

“That bad?” Hideko asked with a gasp, then reached out to squeeze Yuji’s shoulder. “You should take him up to Kenji-sensei’s place for a visit, when he gets out of the hospital. Just to help him get his focus again. You guys are not coming to otousan’s house for New Year’s Eve, right?”

“After last year?” Yuji said with a sneer, then huffed loudly. “Only if I can shoot Taro, and bury him under the rose bush.”

“The roses wouldn’t like that,” Hideko answered with a snigger, then sighed and rubbed Yuji’s shoulder again. “I get it. I wanted to hit otousan with something sharp and heavy too, after the way he and Taro treated you guys. Okaasan was in tears, afterwards, just so you know. And otousan went out to the shed. He stank like a cheap izakaya when he came back inside.”

“You say that like I’m supposed to feel sorry for him. Or her. They’re the ones who chose to side with Taro. Always have, and I guess they always will,” Yuji said, his voice sharp and he put the cup down a little harder than he meant to. Hideko jumped a little at the loud sound, and her muscles tensed as she glared at Yuji.

“Sorry, Hide-chan,” Yuji said softly and sighed, looking up into her soft brown eyes, the eyes that people always said looked so much like their great-grandmother Sora’s eyes. “I just don’t want to talk about it. Can you take the kids for the first week of the new year? Please? We’ll leave you some money for it, and the keys to the house, of course, and maybe we can arrange for you to get the car too, while we’re away. It’ll make things easier for you and Tsutomu. We need to go on this trip. For Satoshi’s sake, I think.”

“No problem, oniisan,” Hideko said, pulling Yuji in to hug him. “We’ll take the kids, and we’ll take them to Tsutomu’s family’s house. His parents adore your kids. Just promise me that you, Akane-chan, Satoshi-kun and Tatsuya-kun enjoy this trip, and come back to us better, stronger and healthier, alright?”

“We will,” Yuji promised and squeezed his sister, lifted her off the counter and blew a raspberry against her neck as he put her down on the floor. He righted himself and smiled at her, feeling more confident than he had since Kansas had come home from the hospital. “We will enjoy the trip and I’ll make sure that Ryuu is on board with spending the first week of the new year with you guys. He likes to spend time with his cousin Tomio. Just try to keep Taro away from him, if you have to go around okaasan and otousan’s place, alright?”

“Of course I will. After last time, I’m going to staple his mouth shut if he so much as breathes in Ryuu’s general direction,” Hideko said, and puffed out her chest, making Yuji grin a little.

“Alright. Then I’ll talk to Willow and the kids tonight, and then we’ll make arrangements to meet for early lunch on New Year’s day, so you can pick them up,” Yuji said and hugged his sister again. Hideko squeezed him back and nodded as she stroked the back of his head the same way great-grandmother Sora used to do when he had felt small as a child.

“We’ll talk, niisan,” she said and walked him to the door, and waved him off until he stepped inside the elevator to ride down to the ground floor.

The days that followed were spent making sure that all of their papers were in order, and Satoshi came home on December 28th, with strict orders from his doctor to stay on his medications, and Yuji swore that he would make sure Satoshi did not forget a dose.

Ryuu had been convinced that spending a week with his auntie Hideko would not be a bad start to the new year, but Satoshi still sat with his son for the next three days and promised that they would do all sorts of fun things when Satoshi came back from the trip.

Willow did talk to their little Aika about spending the week with Hideko, but it was quite evident that as long as she got fed regularly, the ten month old didn’t care a whole lot either way.

And then the New Year’s was upon them, and Hideko and her husband Tsutomu came to their house for lunch, then left with the two children. Satoshi’s uncle drove the four of them to the airport, and then promised to drop the car and the house keys off at Hideko’s house before going home himself. And then Yuji boarded an airplane for the third time in his entire life, along with his beautiful wife, his most beloved friend, and their young ward, headed for what he dreaded would turn out to be one of the worst decisions of his entire life.

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