“And we’re here. Ready?” Felix says. He just nearly backed into a ditch while parking in a driveway. It wasn’t even parallel parking. He’s a disaster who can’t admit he’s a terrible driver.
“So ready.” There’s a picnic basket in the back filled with sandwiches and chips and iced tea. There are blankets and towels. There’s, like, 80 proof sunscreen. Books, board games, water wings, a surfboard. The kids are like four, Felix protested while Sylvain loaded up the car with everything he could think of. Whatever, Felix. It’s never too early to think surfing is cool, even if they can’t catch some waves yet. He’s so ready for beach day.
Glenn opens the front door before they even knock. “Hey, squirt,” he says, ever ready to risk a fatal stabbing. “The kids are excited.”
Glenn opens the front door before they even knock. “Hey, squirt,” he says, ever ready to risk a fatal stabbing. “The kids are excited.”
And, yeah, there are quiet four-year-old shrieks echoing from inside the house. “Sophie! Arthur!” Glenn calls. The shrieks quiet for like half a second and then turn into a louder, more excited double-toned scream.
Sylvain’s hit by two very small toddler-shaped torpedoes before he really has time to register it. One clings to his legs. One stops and holds their arms up imperiously as though they expect to be carried around, like, on default. Sylvain squints. It’s Sophie glaring up and tapping her foot like a true Fraldarius-Galatea, dark-haired and green-eyed and really fucking impatient.
She weighs nothing when he picks her up. Sylvain balances her in the crook of one arm. Sophie shrieks in delight. “Uncle Sylvie!”
He raises an eyebrow at Glenn. He smirks, like a smug fucker.
Ingrid finally shows up, tousled and yawning like the screams just woke her up, “Thank you so much for taking the kids today,” she says to Felix and Sylvain. “You guys are going to have a great time with your Uncles Sylvie and Fefe, right?”
So Glenn and Ingrid are both enabling the stupid nicknames. They’re both smug fuckers. Sylvain doesn't have to look around to feel Felix bristle. It’s tangible, but whatever. A stupid nickname is well within the realm of things Felix can deal with. “We’ll have such a great time at the beach. I’ll take a bunch of cute pictures for you,” Sylvain volunteers, because Felix probably isn’t going to be manning the family memory camera.
Glenn waves them off. “Yeah, we have like three albums already. So be selective, right? Just send the cutest.”
Felix’s scoff is both audible and some sort of force moving through the air, like all the Fraldarius family scoffs. “Sure. we’ll be selective about what memories are worth preserving, asshole.”
“Dimitri always takes hundreds of photos. We have so many photos,” Ingrid explains, like a reasonable person.
“Awwww, Fe, you don’t have kids, you wouldn’t understand.” Glenn adds, pinching Felix’s cheek like an asshole trying to piss off his brother.
“Ooookkay, Sophie, Arthur, why don’t we head to the car before we witness a fratricide?” Sylvain says, really in the nick of time if you ask him.
“Yeah!” Sophie says.
“What's a fratri- fratricide?” Arthur asks, and like, fuck.
“It’s when your dad and your uncle are a little too similar and try to murder each other over it,” Sylvain explains.
Sophie stares at the sky with all the solemn weight of a four-year-old. “What’s a murder?”
Fuck. “It’s a thing for adults to worry about.” Hopefully that tone of voice comes across as cheerfully explanatory instead of as patronizing? Hopefully.
He climbs into the driver's seat while Felix is still busy strapping the kids into their carseats, sticks out his tongue like a very mature adult when Felix glares. Sylvain’s a safer driver, okay?
Ingrid ruffles the kids hair and then checks the carseats, very obviously not trusting them to handle the simple task of strapping them into the car. “What do you say to your uncles for taking you to the beach?”
“Yeah, what do you say to Uncle Fefe and Uncle Sylvie?” Glenn says, still like a smug asshole. It’s impressive how Felix might be the least abrasive member of his family.
“Thank you,” Arthur says very seriously from his carseat. And then, “can we get ice cream?”
“Ice cream!” Sophie agrees. It’s so cute.
“We’ll see,” Sylvain says instead of caving immediately. There’s no way he’s not going to buy these kids all the overpriced ice cream cones they want, but he can at least pretend to be a reasonable and responsible adult.
“Let me tell you a secret about your dad,” Felix says, face set dead straight and unsmiling. He looks between Sophie and Arthur. “You have to promise never to tell another soul.” He isn’t whispering, and Glenn’s standing right there in his perpetual amusement.
“Your father,” he pauses dramatically, still wearing his murderously serious face, “is a poopyhead.”
Arthur gasps. Sophie giggles in scandalized delight. “Is that worse than a shithead?”
“Much worse.” Felix’s poker face is, like, really good.
Glenn cheerfully flips them off as Sylvain reverses out, not almost backing into the ditch even once.
There’s always this moment where he worries about interacting with the kids, right? What do you say to a pair of extremely small, fragile humans who don’t know anything and need constant protection? Maybe it’s a stupid worry, considering Arthur and Sophie haven’t been capable of shutting up since the moment they said their first words. It’s definitely a stupid worry right now, since it’s a generous two minutes before Sophie’s retelling her latest dream (it was really cool, and you were there! With a sword! And the dragon gave us cookies!) and Arthur is singing “Baby Beluga” at the top of his lungs, except he only knows half the lyrics.
Maybe it should be annoying. But out of the corner of his eye he can see Felix twisted around in his seat, making the world’s most deadpan interested noises every time Sophie pauses for breath, letting Arthur cling to his hand while he sings.
The beach is crowded. The sand is scorching. The sun beats down. And Sylvain stares in consternation at the carload of random shit he’d packed. Okay, so the beach towels are important. They need the floaty things for safety and fun. The picnic basket, obviously. Maybe a game or something? That leaves, uh, a lot.
“Leave the surfboard,” Felix says, looking up from where he’s convincing Sophie that taking her shoes off right now will just result in burned feet.
The surfboard looms. It took a lot of effort to fit it into the van with everything else. Sylvain is, in his own estimation, a good surfer. An impressive surfer, in complete and utter honesty. Definitely impressive enough to get two small kids to think he’s the cooler uncle. Surfing’s cool, right?
“But surfing’s cool, Fe.”
“You really want to surf and leave me alone on the shore watching both of the kids?”
That’s a point. The surfboard can stay. He’ll load up on snacks and supplies instead. Felix rolls his eyes at the thirty-piece sandcastle kit he tries and fails to tuck under one arm but doesn’t actually protest, so that’s a victory.
It probably helps that Arthur’s eyes totally light up when he sees it. “Hey, we’re gonna make the best sandcastle together, right?” Sylvain says.
“Yeah!” Arthur points. “I want the orange bucket.”
“With a moat,” Sophie adds.
“Hell yeah it’ll have a moat! I’m an expert sandcastle engineer.” He is not. Sylvain has not built a sandcastle since he was maybe ten.
“Let’s find a spot.” Felix scoops up Sophie with one hand and grabs the picnic basket in the other. It’ll take some walking to find a place clear enough to support the dream sandcastle Sylvain might be incapable of building. It’ll have a moat, and turrets, and intricate carvings. It’ll be the kids favorite beach trip.
But Arthur is looking up expectantly and both Sylvain’s hands are full, fuck. He fruitlessly shuffles things around, but there’s no way to free up space without leaving something behind. “Want a piggyback ride?”
Arthur nods. Sylvain’s barely crouched down before the kid is jumping onto his back. “You good up there, dude?”
“Let’s catch up!” Arthur yells, literally right into Sylvain’s ear, which, ow. The things he puts up with for the sake of being the cool uncle.
There’s a perfect spot past a little patch of rock, plenty of space for Sylvain to put down his armful of precious beach supplies and set up their comically large beach umbrella. It’s a painfully bright shade of green. They got it on clearance.
The kids get sunscreened up, wrapped in a comical amount of water wings, and tumble into the water, under strict instructions to stay in the shallows.
“You don’t have to try so hard to impress them.” Right, Felix is stupidly perceptive exactly when it’s most inconvenient.
“But I wanna be the coolest uncle, Fe.” Sylvain grabs Felix closer, looping an arm around his shoulders despite the heat.
“Cooler than me?”
“Felix. Kitten. Love of my life. You’re not cool.” Felix looks like he might be cool from a distance, but then you get closer and realize the black-and-teal getup is the worst thing and the long hair has never been styled or properly conditioned and he has, like, one and a half facial expressions. Felix doesn’t even fucking argue. He knows he’s a nerd in tacky goth clothing.
“They don’t know what cool is. They’re not even in school yet.”
“Yeah,” Sylvain says, cuddling Felix closer and happily watching his lil almost-niece and nephew splash each other in the waves. Arthur is waving around a pool noodle. Sophie’s hugging a floaty dragon toy thing like it’s her favorite thing in the world. They are both yelling in simultaneous, dissonant symphony. “I still want to impress them.”
Felix’s little eye-roll is shorthand for a whole lot of things, probably starting with goddess I’m dating an idiot and skipping along a bunch of interconnected thoughts until it hits goddess I’m so in love. “So buy them ice cream cones. You’ll be their favorite person until someone else buys them ice cream.”
“That’s so pedestrian. Mundane. Anyone can buy them ice cream.”
“Sylvain.” Felix says it like it’s a curse upon his tongue. “They’re four. They’ll barely remember this.”
That’s… kinda sad, honestly. The perfect day, excessive heat notwithstanding. Their first big outing just with their cool uncles. Sophie hitting Arthur with her dragon floaty after he splashes her - which is fine, it’s soft and shit, it’s kid-safe. It’s a normal and healthy level of aggression between siblings.
“Fe, what if I really want them to remember this?”
Felix blinks up, squinting against the bright sky and looking into Sylvain’s eyes. He’s got his my-boyfriend-is-an-insecure-fuck face on. Which, like, fair, and why does he have a whole expression specifically for that?
“Listen to me. Seriously, listen.” Felix brushes Sylvain’s hair away from his sweaty forehead. “Take pictures. They love you, Sylvain. You’re a good uncle. They’ll grow up being taken on big family vacations. You’ll have hundreds of photos.”
Sylvain’s going to protest, that’s not enough, that’s not what this is about, but Felix shushes him.
“They’ll be little shits about it, but you’ll always have their back, right? They’ll know that. In ten years the kids will show up at our house when they have some stupid fight with their parents about going to a party or getting their drivers license.” He smirks. “Glenn’s gonna be pissed about it.”
Yeah. They’ll keep a spare room for Sophie and Arthur, stock their favorite foods, welcome them in no questions asked. He’s getting choked up just thinking about it. “I wanna be the best uncle, Fe. I want them to trust me.”
Felix peers up like he’s diagnosing Sylvain’s exact state of mind. He nods, recognizing a job well done. “You can start by breaking up that fight they’re starting.”
Yeah, there’s more yelling coming from the water. He squints. Arthur’s splashing is getting wilder and angrier, not like he’s trying to hurt his sister, but like he’s a frustrating kid losing a splashfight and flailing around a lot. “Leave it to me.”
Arthur yells when he wades into the water beside them. “Sophie hit me!”
“He keeps splashing me!”
So, okay, still a normal and healthy sort of sibling fight. Good. “Yeah, Sophie, no hitting your brother with your dragon.”
She pouts and clutches it tighter. “But it’s a dragon. It’s supposed to attack people.”
It isn’t a very ferocious dragon. It’s powder blue and cartoonish. “Yeah, but you hurt Arthur’s feelings. New rule, your dragon can only attack people bigger than you.”
Kids consider things really seriously. Sylvain never realized how much thought someone could put into that sort of proposition, but Sophie finally nods decisively. “That means it can attack you and Uncle Felix?”
“It sure does. We’re tough! We can take a few dragon attacks. But after I talk to your brother, okay?”
Arthur’s still sniffling and slapping frustratedly at the water. “You okay, kiddo?”
“Sophie hit me.”
“Yeah, that was mean of her, but she’s not gonna do it again, okay? Where’s it hurt? Can I kiss it better?”
Arthur points to a spot on his shoulder. There’s absolutely nothing visibly wrong with it. No redness, no bruising, nothing.
“Wow, yeah, you’re so brave. That dragon took a chunk out of you but it’s fine now, right?” Sylvain picks Arthur up and kisses his shoulder, loudly. “Magic kisses. No more dragon bite. That feel better?”
“Mmhmm. Can we have ice cream?” Hurts already forgotten, just like that.
Sylvain pretends to think, like he hasn't scoped out an ice cream truck parked near the head of the beach. “I guess so. Do you think we should bring Sophie some, too?”
“Okay! Even though she’s a shithead.”
“It’s not nice to call your sister a shithead.”
“But daddy calls Uncle Felix a shithead all the time.”
“Well, your daddy’s rude.” He carries Arthur out of the water, up to where Felix is lying on the sand and resignedly weathering a dragon attack. “We’re getting ice cream, Fe. you want anything?”
“No. Besides, it’s unwise to turn your back on an angry dragon.” The dragon dives down at Felix’s face again, propelled by a giggling Sophie. He doesn’t bat it away. “Oh no. it’s going to defeat me.”
“I want ice cream!”
“Yeah, we’ll bring some back for you, Soph. What's your favorite flavor?”
Getting ice cream takes ten minutes max, but by the time they’re back Felix has been defeated by the dragon and is halfway to being covered in sand. It’s so fucking cute, Felix lying back and suppressing a smile while Sophie buries him.
“Gotta stop burying your uncle long enough to eat your ice cream, kiddo,” Sylvain says, handing over a chocolate cone. “Hey, you guys wanna build that sandcastle after you finish?”
Loud, enthusiastic, ice-cream muffled agreement. Felix snickers beside him.
“Why are you laughing? We might make you the centerpiece of the sandcastle.”
Felix’s snickers turn into a real laugh, loud and long. He sits up out of his pile of sand, leaning in against Sylvain. “You’re an asshole, Sylvain.”
“Can’t argue with that.” He kisses Felix, just a chaste little kiss on his unfortunately sand-sprinkled mouth. The kids make perfectly unison noises of disgust.
“Sandcastle! I want the red shovel!” Sophie yells, the little go-getter.
“I get the orange bucket!” Arthur basically screams.
There is, predictably, another scuffle over who gets which parts of the sandcastle kit.
“It’s a thirty-piece kit,” Felix mutters. “There’s plenty for both of you.” He glares at Sylvain while he says it.
“What? I’m trying to be thorough.” And it’s a really cool sandcastle kit. There are little molds for making fancy decorations. He takes a seashell-shaped one for himself before the kids claim everything. “You gonna help us?”
“I,” Felix says, stretching languidly in the sand, “am going to stay right here and laugh at you.”
“You mean you’re gonna stay right there and let us bury you again.”
Felix shrugs. “If I must.”
Okay. Sandcastles. It can’t be that hard to build a sandcastle. It’s just sand. Admittedly not the most stable building material, but there’s plenty of it and a whole ocean of water to hold it together. “When was the last time you built a sandcastle?”
“When I was a child,” Felix says. “I never did very many.”
“Let me guess. You spent all your beach days having pool noodle swordfights.”
“I used to collect shells, actually. I had a whole box of shells and rocks I found at the beach.”
He used to collect cool rocks. Felix used to collect cool rocks. “Please tell me you still have them.”
“No idea. They might in storage somewhere.”
“Fe, That’s so cute.”
“Hey, kids,” Felix says, “why don’t you tell your Uncle Sylvain he’s an asshole?” It’d hit harder if he wasn’t still cuddled up against Sylvain’s side.
“Mommy says we’re not supposed to swear in public unless someone really deserves it,” Arthur says primly while Sophie nods in agreement. Goddess, Sylvain’s going to die someday from trying not to laugh at these guys. He’s going to rupture his intestines or something.
Anyway! Sandcastles. It’s been ages since he built a good sandcastle. He always liked them, taking such a generic substance and using it to build something both ephemeral and oddly sturdy, standing up to wind and sun until the rolling tide washed it away. Or, like, in theory. In practice most of Sylvain’s sandcastles got kicked over by his brother. Sylvain is going to literally murder anyone who tries to kick over this sandcastle.
...He might be projecting a little. It is, to these kids, just a sandcastle.
“Okay guys, do you want to be organized about this and work together, or do you want to have a sandcastle free-for-all?”
“We can make a really big castle if we work together,” Sophie says in an excellent display of the general tenets of cooperation. She’s been hugging her shiny new plastic shovel since she picked it out.
“The biggest! With towers!”
“That sounds pretty cool, little dude. Here’s the plan: you guys start bringing buckets of water up here so we’ve got plenty of wet sand for the foundation. I’m gonna make some blueprints. Sound good?”
The kids run off, already competing to see who can be the best at getting water for sandcastles, racing back up and dumping it all into one spot. Is that ideal sandcastle construction method? Sylvain doesn't know. There’s probably a whole bunch of how-tos he could check, but nah. He’d rather fumble through this.
A big sandcastle, with towers. Right. He walks in a circle, surveying the space they have to work with. They’ve gotta have a moat. A ring of walls inside the moat, with parapets every so often. An inner keep. It makes sense to work from inside to outside. He outlines it, drawing with a plastic rake in the sand, an enormous, ambitious, unparalleled structure with enough room for a Felix-sized man to lie down between the castle and exterior walls.
“You start digging the moat,” he tells Felix, who wrinkles his nose in disdain.
“It’s in the sun. I'll pass.”
Well, shit. He’s gotta break out the big guns. Sylvain leans in close, cups Felix’s cheek, and looks as sad as he can. “Please, kitten? I really want to make a cool sandcastle.”
Watching Felix’s resolve crumble in realtime is always fun. He glares, and glares some more, and then his glare cracks into the tiny smile he reserves for cats and small children and Sylvain. “Okay. You’re lucky I love you.”
“I’m so lucky you love me.” That’s an easy statement to agree with. Sylvain’s lucky in so many ways, all exemplified today.
So that’s the moat sorted, Felix grabbing a shovel that’s sized for children’s hands and looks hilariously tiny in his. He ties his hair back, rubs more sunscreen onto the back of his neck, and soon is digging with a will, piling heaps and heaps of sand as he carves out the moat.
“Oh, wait, put the sand in the buckets,” Sylvain directs as head sandcastle technician. Felix sticks out his tongue but does start putting the sand in the buckets. He’s so perfect, pretty and grumpy, sweating in the sunlight and humoring all of Sylvain’s whims, looking up every so often to encourage the kids.
The surface of the designated water-dumping spot is turning into a soupy mess. The sand a couple inches down is still bone dry. Hmm. Sylvain packs a bucket full anyway, carefully upends it on one of the designated tower spots. It crumbles. He frowns. He tries it again. It crumbles again. He packs the bucket with sand and upends it really carefully this time, picking the bucket back up as slowly as possible. He holds his breath.
The sand crumbles.
“Fuck,” he says.
Sophie, who he did not realize was standing right next to him, gasps. “You’re not supposed to swear in public,” she reminds him.
“The sand really deserved it, though?”
Sophie surveys the crumbled cylinder of sand with all the solemn condemnation of a judge handing down a death sentence. “Fuck,” she agrees.
“What do you think? How would you build a sandcastle foundation?”
She squints at the sad pile of sand. “More water?”
That’s a thought. The water-to-sand ratio isn’t high enough. That’s, uh, a lot of water. But it’s fine! He’s smart, he and Felix can make this happen.
“Hey Fe, new plan! You’re off moat-digging duty and on water-carrying duty.”
The new plan: filling buckets most of the way with sand, filling them the rest of the way with water, mixing it up, and using that to make the foundation. It’s more labor-intensive, but still doable. And it works! Sophie carefully upends the sand buckets where she’s supposed to, equally carefully lifts them up, leaving behind perfect little structures. They’re a little short for towers, but it’s fine. They can add flags to make it more impressive. So that leaves… the walls, the inner keep, and the moat. That’s a lot. They’ve already been at this for what, like, half an hour? He’s starting to despair. Both of his assistants have abandoned the delicate work of building structures in favor of playing in the partially-dug moat moat. Felix is sitting back and snapping picture after picture of their progress.
“Got any good pictures, Fe?”
“I’m sending this one to Glenn and Ingrid.” Felix pulls up a short video. Sylvain and Sophie are staring down at a very sad part of a half-built sandcastle. The mic barely picks up Sophie saying fuck.
“You can’t betray me like this. At least send a picture of one of the cool parts of the sandcastle.”
Felix looks at him, amber eyes level and serious. “Sylvain. This is hard for you to hear, but there are no cool parts of the sandcastle.”
“There’s the moat!”
“Yes. A big pit in the sand. Very cool.”
Sylvain sighs. “Fe, I really want them to have the best beach day ever, and I don’t even know how to build a sandcastle.”
“Does it look like they care?” Felix gestures over to where the kids are, admittedly, doing an enthusiastic job of scooping sand out of the moat and dumping it into a huge pyramid.
“I mean, no, but,” he sighs. “I don’t know!”
Felix grabs his hand, yanks him over to the sand mountain. “How’s the castle going?”
Arthur shrugs. “Uncle Sylvain isn’t very good at sandcastles.” Behind him another piece of the exterior wall cracks and slumps to the ground. “We made a big mountain, though!”
It is kind of impressive? Up close it’s probably bigger than the kids. “Yeah, I saw,” Felix says. “Great job. So, I've got a really fun idea for when you get tired of making a sand mountain.”
“I’m listening,” Sophie says.
“You have this perfectly Uncle Sylvain sized chunk of moat dug out. I think you should bury him in it, since it’s clear that the sandcastle idea isn’t going anywhere.”
Her smile lights up. “Yeah!”
“What!” Sylvain squawks. “You’re mean, Fe.”
The force of Felix’s eyeroll is such that Sylvain doesn’t have to see it to know it’s there. Felix lowers his voice. “You want them to think you’re cool.”
“What’s cooler than letting the kids bury you? Clearly they love piling sand up for no reason.”
He’s got a point. The kids are practically bouncing with excitement. The things Sylvain does to impress his adorable, wonderful, sort-of niece and nephew. He sighs and lies down in the moat which is, indeed, almost perfectly Sylvain-sized.
“Okay,” he says, long-suffering and definitely deserving the Uncle of the Year award. “Do your worst.”
The kids cheer. A whole mountain of loose, freshly-dug-up sand gets deconstructed really quick and tossed on top of him. It’s kinda nice, actually. A heavy, cool blanket of sand that protects him from the rays of the sun. The kids cheer every time they manage to make one of his limbs disappear, strategizing like they’re trying to cripple a giant monster.
Felix always has the camera sound on his phone turned off, which means that when Sylvain hears the synthetic clicking noise it’s because Felix turned it on, on purpose, just to annoy him.
“Felix,” he says pathetically.
“Shut up. This is gold.”
Sylvain shifts. The sand, while still nice and cool, is getting literally everywhere. “I’m gonna need such a long shower,” he laments to the sky.
“So will I. You remember I already went through this today.”
Right, Felix already filled his quota of being sand-buried, although less thoroughly than Sylvain. “That was cute.”
“And so is this,” Felix says, quiet, for Sylvain’s ears only. He smooths Sylvain’s hair away from his eyes, brushes the stray grains of sand off Sylvain’s face. “Having fun?” he asks the kids.
“We’re burying a giant!” Sophie chirps. Active imagination, that one.
Arthur doesn’t respond, redoubles his efforts carefully filling the plastic bucket he’s so proud of and then dumping it over Sylvain’s left foot.
It’s kinda nice. Peaceful, between the cool sand and Felix’s hands comfortably running through his hair and the laughter of the children. It’s not kinda nice, it’s really nice. He could do this every day. It would be exhausting and demanding. He’d go to bed tired and ready to collapse into unconsciousness, have to seek out moments alone and calm, but still. It would be good. Felix and his friends and their kids are family enough, but. Maybe there’s something to be said for having his own?
“I love you guys,” he says, just in case they need to hear it. He gets a chorus of “love you too's” back from the kids, with the unconscious joy of two people who are used to being loved by everyone around them. They’re good kids. They have the best family he’s ever seen, with their obnoxious dad and their pushy mom, with their constellation of aunts and uncles. They’ll grow up learning not to take shit from anyone. They’ll grow up knowing they’re loved, completely and unconditionally, with half a dozen homes they could wander into and instantly be welcomed.
“I adore you,” Felix says, just for Sylvain.
The kids do a victory dance once Sylvain’s appropriately buried. It isn’t a huge weight of sand or anything - he could escape just by sitting up - but they’re satisfied with their triumph. They pose for a few photos, sitting up on Sylvain’s mound of sand and waving gleefully at the camera. Felix probably sends them off immediately.
“So how long are you going to keep me here?”
“Forever!” Arthur says. Strong opinions, that one.
“Really? I bet my legs are going to fall asleep soon. That seems pretty mean.”
Sophie giggles. “We’re going to build a sandcastle on you.”
Sylvain blinks. Huh. It’s just more sand, so why not? “What a cruel fate,” he moans, “used as a foundation for a sandcastle by my own niece! My own nephew!”
Felix enters his field of vision carrying a pair of heavy buckets. “My own boyfriend!”
“Oh, shut up, you’re happy,” Felix says as he helps the kids get the sand appropriately damp and buildable.
“I really am,” Sylvain agrees.
It turns out Felix is better at sandcastles than Sylvain, either from childhood practice or by luck and natural inclination. He’s not going for an impressive castle, just a tidy square foundation topped with one tower. The kids find a feather for the top; Sylvain makes a note to disinfect their hands really thoroughly before they eat anything.
“Do these things work?” The fancy little decorative molds seem to stump Felix. He tries a few. The sand crumbles into unrecognizable chunks instead of the Elegant! Striking! Imaginative! decoration that was promised on the box.
“I couldn’t get them to,” Sylvain says.
“Does that mean anything?” Felix asks, turning the decorative seashell mold over in his hands. “You were really bad at this.”
Which, fair. “My own boyfriend, mocking me this way while I can’t even defend myself. You owe me, Fe. You owe me so much for this.”
“Fine,” Felix says with the fond resignation of someone who's well acquainted with how annoying Sylvain can get when he wants something and is usually happy to cave anyway. “Tonight.”
Sophie, of course, chooses that exact moment to tune into the conversation. “What does he owe you?”
“I have to do the dishes for a week,” Felix glares at Sylvain with the weight of a man who will commit a murder if he’s contradicted.
“Yeah, that. You guys wanna take some more pictures and then let me up?”
They take more pictures, the kids doing increasingly ridiculous poses in front of the sandcastle. It’s finally destroyed when they both lose their balance and tumble over into it. He’s pretty sure Felix got a video of that moment, Arthur standing on one leg and slipping, grabbing Sophie’s arm for stability, falling back and knocking over the whole structure. It's beyond saving, so Sylvain sits himself up, pulls both of the kids into an enormous, sandy hug, grins up as Felix takes even more photos.
The drive back is quiet, exhausted kids dozing off in their carseats.
They hand off the kids to parents who look much less tired than they did this morning. Glenn pulls out his phone and points silently at the new album Felix shared with him, 308 photos and 6 videos of the kids playing in the sand.
“Shouldn’t have asked him not to take a lot of pictures, dude,” Sylvain says with no sympathy. “No idea why you thought that would work.”