Fevered Mind

By Crow Skywalker

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Disclaimer – I don't own Magic Knight Rayearth, nor do I claim to. I'm in no way making any profit off of this.

Author's Notes – Well, seems like I've finally written another Magic Knight Rayearth fic other than Here I Am (which I'm going to update soon, I hope). When I first got the idea for this fic…it was supposed to be a lot different. For one, it took place only in Cephiro and it was going to be a short one shot. But after last weekend the idea expanded and I decided to go about the idea a little differently. This is the result. This is the longest one shot I've ever written. Enjoy.

Author's Notes #2 – Sorry about adding an original character into the fic. She's only there for the first part, so don't worry too much about her. If you have read Here I Am, you may recognize her. I was too lazy to come up with another name, lol. Also, yes, Clef in this fic looks like OAV Clef. Just to make things clear :)

Other Notes – Rated PG. Takes place sometime after the events of MKR2 and may contain spoilers if you have not seen the second season. This fic also contains Umi/Clef fluff, slight Caldina/Larfarga, one sided Ascot/Umi, and mentions of Hikaru/Lantis and Fuu/Ferio.

Summary – When Umi falls sick, something unexpected happens to her.

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It was a beautiful day in Tokyo. The sun was high up in the sky, warming the earth beneath it, and there was barely a breeze on this hot summer day.

"Come on, Umi! It's so nice out! I'm not letting you spend this beautiful day in the apartment moping about!" Cried a cheery voice, a little too cherry in Umi's opinion.

Dressed in her light blue silken pajamas, complete with a set of white bunny slippers, Umi Ryuuzaki was lying on the couch in front of the television, staring up at the ceiling with a dazed expression. With a blanket pulled up so far to her chin that the blanket didn't quite cover her feet and her slipper's floppy bunny ears could be seen, Umi looked like someone who was dieing. Her face was pale, her long blue haired matted and tangled, and her long fingers were gripping the tissue box in front of her tightly.

Nineteen year old Umi was sick and hating every moment of it.

Who ever heard of getting sick during summer vacation? The blue haired girl moaned into the blankets, turning her face into the couch so that she didn't have to see her roommate's disapproving look.

"Umi?" Yukari's voice sounded again, this time much closer to where the sick girl lay. The next thing Umi knew, Yukari was pulling at her blankets. With as much strength as she could muster, Umi held on. "Come on, Umi! I meant what I said! Get up and get dressed…you'll feel a whole lot better when you do!"

"Leave me alone Yukari," Umi pleaded from under the blanket, her voice muffled. "I'm sick!"

"How you got sick during summer is beyond me," Yukari grumped with a roll of her eyes. Gripping the blanket tighter she gave one last quick tug, managing to pull it away from the sick blue haired girl on the couch. "Get dressed Umi…we'll go get some ice cream, my treat!"

Muttering some obscenities concerning 'stupid roommates named Yukari', Umi sat up on the couch and rubbed at her tired eyes. She hadn't been sick for all that long – she'd only gotten the sniffles just a few days before – but she already felt horrible.

"Come on, come on!" Yukari grabbed her by the hand, pushing her in the direction of Umi's room and their shared bathroom, "And don't take forever in there either!"

Umi trudged along, letting her roommate push her into her empty room. Once Yukari closed the door and left her alone, Umi sighed and went to get some clothes before she headed towards the shower. A half an hour later she emerged from her room fully dressed, her hair pulled back with her usual navy blue headband.

"See? You're already looking better!" Yukari commented from the kitchen table. She had been reading the paper as she waited for her friend and now, jumping up from where she sat, she was ready to go.

"I sure don't feel any better," Umi grumbled as she put on her shoes. "This ice cream better be worth it," she sneezed, grabbing a tissue from her pocket, "Where are we going, anyway?"

With a bright smile Yukari replied, "To the little corner shop down the street. You know the one that serves that awesome chocolate fudge brownie sundae?" The girl seemed to tremble with excitement, "I've been craving one of those all week!"

"Should you really be eating one of those while you're on a diet?" Umi asked, forcing a smile as her roommate grabbed by the arm and pulled her out of the apartment, locking and closing the door behind them. It took only a few minutes to get to the elevator – which Umi insisted on taking because she didn't feel up to walking down several flights of stairs – and the Magic Knight of Water soon found herself listening to the corny music that always seemed to play whenever she stepped foot in the confined space.

Pushing the bottom labeled 'Bottom Floor', Yukari clasped her hands in front of her as she turned to Umi with a grin, "Hey, I've been dieting all week! It's time I treated myself to some real food!" Umi laughed at this, though she ended up coughing due to her sore throat. "Besides, fencing is keeping me in shape!"

"Is that so?" Umi raised a brow, a smile planted on her lips as the elevator dinged and the door slid open. She stepped out without saying anything else, grinning as Yukari gasped behind her.

"What's that supposed to mean?!"

Umi had to laugh, turning her gaze to her friend as they exited the building. Yukari noticed the look on Umi's face, realizing the other girl was just teasing her. With a grin of her own she boasted, "I bet I could beat you right now in fencing! I've been practicing a lot this summer!"

Umi snorted. "Yukari, right now I think a kitten could win against me. I feel like I have no strength left at all."

"That bad, huh?"

Umi sniffled in response, her fingers clenching onto the tissue she kept in her hand at all times. "I feel like I've been run over a dozen times by a big transport truck. My nose is red and runny, my eyes hurt and they make me look like a raccoon, and I have aches and pains all over my body. Of course it's bad."

Yukari patted her on the shoulder as they walked down the sidewalk. "You'll feel better in a few days. In fact, you'll probably feel better after eating some nice chocolaty goodness!" She pointed ahead of them, "There's the ice cream shop!" Yukari grabbed Umi's empty hand, pulling the sick girl along as she tried to pick up the pace.

Umi smiled, not minding one bit, though their pace was starting to make her a little dizzy. Looking down at the sidewalk she felt like it was moving beneath her, her vision twisting and turning as they walked. Umi's heartbeat quickened and she suddenly felt like she was going to be sick. She tugged her hand away from Yukari, trying to get the other girl to slow down.

"I don't feel so well," Umi admitted when the girl turned towards her. Hunched over so that she was supporting herself with her hands on her knees, Umi clenched her eyes tightly together in hopes that it would stop the world around her from spinning.

"Are you okay?" Yukari was at her side now, bent over and looking at her worriedly. "Maybe you should sit down for a bit-"

The earth beneath her feet tilted drastically, enough that Umi swayed as she tried to keep her balance. She knew that this was only happening because she was sick – the earth actually wasn't moving beneath her – but it sure felt like it.

Umi opened her eyes, feeling her stomach turn as she swayed again, this time losing her footing. She had enough time to gasp her roommate's name before she felt herself fall, the sidewalk rushing up to meet her as darkness clouded her vision and she lost consciousness.

-----

When sleep first began to leave her she hastily closed her eyes tighter, burrowing under the covers in attempts to stay in dreamland. Yes, dreamland was ever so much better than the alternative - reality, where she was dieing with a cold and felt terrible. When she slept she felt a whole lot better, her pain and troubles leaving her as she dreamt whatever her mind came up with.

"Have you awoken, Umi?"

A voice, one that Umi's foggy mind couldn't quite identify. She groaned, pulling the covers further over her head as she began to cough. No…she didn't want to wake up! She wanted to go back to sleep so she could dream of a place where she wasn't sick! With that thought in mind she tried harder to return to dream land. Someone gently nudging her arm kept this front happening, though.

"Yukari!" Umi whined, "Let me be! I don't want any ice cream!"

There was silence for a moment, then, "Who is Yukari? And what is ice cream?"

Umi growled, feeling more awake by the second. What was Yukari playing at now? First the other girl had dragged her outside against her will, then Umi had gotten awfully dizzy, and now that she was finally back in bed, Yukari was annoying her once again! Would that girl ever leave her alone?

Opening her eyes just barely enough that her vision wasn't totally blurry, Umi glared through the sheets in the direction the voice was coming from. It took only a few minutes to realize that something was wrong – the sheets on the bed didn't look like the ones she had at home. In fact, this bed felt totally different from her bed at home. It felt stiff and unused, as if nobody had slept in it in a long time. Pushing the covers away from her face, Umi blinked as her eyes adjusted to the sunlight coming in through the windows.

"Ah, so you are awake then!"

Umi gasped, startled enough that she somehow got caught up in the bed sheets and managed to fall off the other end of the bed. She landed on the floor with a thump, moaning when she hit her head off the hard floor. She lay like that for a few moments, staring up at an oddly familiar ceiling that was not her own, her mind racing.

Where am I? She wondered, Why does this place look…so familiar? How did I get here?

She closed her eyes again, hoping to block out whatever was going on. Perhaps if she closed and opened her eyes again, she would be back where she had last been..?

She opened her eyes to find herself looking into a pair of crystal blue ones that were not her own. Her first reaction was to scream.

The person looking down at her was startled at first, but then they bent down to help her up from the floor. She paid no attention to any of this, her mind frantically searching for answers. She was in a strange place with a strange person she'd never seen before! How was she supposed to react??

"Umi, it's okay!" She heard the person say in a masculine voice as he helped her back onto the bed. She quickly scooted away from him, her eyes wide as she studied him carefully.

He was tall, perhaps a little taller than herself, and was dressed in dark robes trimmed with gold and purple. His light purple hair was short and upon his forehead was a golden crown like object that contained a dark purple crystal. He held a dark staff of the same colors of his outfit in his right hand.

Never in her life had Umi ever seen this person…but for some reason she felt like she knew him.

"This must be a big surprise, waking up here in Cephiro after all of these years," he said, and Umi stared hard at his face. Where had she seen those eyes before? Why did he feel so…familiar?

Then his words sank in. "Cephiro?" She blinked in confusion, instantly jumping out of bed and running to the nearest window. Sure enough, the place outside sure seemed to be Cephiro – though it was the Cephiro that she had first arrived in all those years ago, not the world that was slowly crumbling because it lacked a Pillar or it was being invaded. No, this was the Cephiro with lush green grass and trees, the floating mountain in the sky, and everything she remembered from her first visit.

"So it really did return to how it used to be…" She breathed in a sigh of relief, closing her eyes as she smiled. She felt extremely happy knowing that Cephiro was back to how it used to be, that everything was okay.

"All thanks to you Magic Knights," the main said, and Umi felt a hand on her shoulder. "Umi, you should really get back into bed. You need your rest."

Umi turned to him, still a bit unsure, but did as she was told. Though she didn't feel quite as sick as she had before, she could still feel it beneath all of her excited happiness of being in Cephiro again. She was still sick, though she hated to admit it. Letting him guide her back to the bed, she sat down on the sheets, realizing at once why the room felt so familiar. It had been the room she had stayed in the last time the Magic Knights had been called upon.

Umi got back under the sheets, a smile on her face as she cuddled into her old bed. All panic of waking up in a strange place had left her, since technically she knew now that she was really back in Cephiro. A cool hand on her hot forehead gave her some relief, and she settled back down and closed her eyes.

"How are they doing?" She found herself asking, unsure of why she felt so comfortable in this stranger's presence.

He seemed to know what she was talking about, and as he moved his hand away from her she almost whimpered. She suddenly felt so hot, and his hand on her had felt cool and relaxing. "They're fine. I'm sure they will want to visit you in a while."

Umi grinned despite her eyes being closed. "I've missed them."

"They've missed you as well."

The Magic Knight of Water opened her eyes, finding the darkly dressed man sitting in a chair by the side of her bed, his staff still in hand. For a long moment she studied him, taking in his appearance. His eyes… "Have you missed me?"

He was a bit taken aback by her question, his blue eyes looking down at her before glancing away. "I suppose so," he smiled, his voice teasing.

Suddenly her eyes felt heavy and she felt like she was drained of all energy. Gazing up at him with hooded eyes, Umi grinned before she let her eyes droop closed and felt sleep return to her.

"I missed you too, Clef."

-----

"I think she's waking up!" An all too familiar voice was crying, and Umi almost wanted to growl in frustration. She'd just only dozed off and now someone was being loud enough to wake the dead! Did everyone in her life hate her?!

"Hikaru, shh!" a voice scolded, and Umi realized that she knew those two voices very well. They were voices that she heard very often, voices that belonged to two of her best friends that she spent almost every day with.

When Umi opened her eyes, she came face to face with Hikaru Shidou and Fuu Hououji, the Magic Knight of Fire and the Magic Knight of Wind. With bleary eyes that were only half opened, Umi smiled up at them. "What are you guys doing here?"

"Oh, Umi!" Hikaru immediately hugged her sick friend. "When Yukari phoned us up saying that you'd passed out in the middle of the street, we were so worried! We came right over to visit you!"

From beside her, Fuu nodded and took Umi's hand. "We helped your roommate carry you back to your apartment. Umi, are you okay?"

Umi looked back and forth between her two best friends, slightly confused. She was back in her apartment? But then…what happened to Cephiro? Had it all been a dream, or was she just going crazy and imagining things? "I – I think so," she replied, glad to see that her friends were relieved at this. They really must have been worried…

"Yukari told us you're sick," Hikaru sat on the edge of the bed, kicking her feet as she stared down at the floor. Umi smiled inwardly at this – Hikaru had never changed, even after all of these years. She was still as energetic as ever, and when it came to her friends, she was always the first one to worry and jump at the chance to help.

In fact, if she hadn't grown almost as tall as I am, I'd say she was still the same old Hikaru! Umi mused, staring at her red haired friend.

"We're here to keep you company until you get better," Fuu said, and Umi looked at her other best friend. Fuu was still the same as always as well, though she no longer wore glasses and she had let her dark blonde hair grow out a bit. She was still serious and very mannerly, though she had long stopped calling everyone by formal titles such as 'Ms' and 'Mr'.

"No, no, no," Umi shook her head, "You don't have to do that! I don't want you to miss out on summer vacation!"

Hikaru grinned, "Never mind that! We're your friends, and that's what friends are for! We're gonna stay right here and take care of you until you're better!"

Umi coughed, her hand covering her mouth. She tried hard not to smile, but she couldn't help it. Hikaru and Fuu were always there for her, no matter what, and they were about to prove it to her again. There was no arguing with them either – they seemed determined to take care of her until she was better.

"Would you like a glass of water?" Hikaru asked once the coughing fit was over, and Umi realized the red head had jumped up and was now holding a glass in front of her. Saying thanks, Umi took the glass and took a sip of the cold liquid. It felt nice on her burning throat and she had the whole glass drank before she even knew it. Hikaru took it and headed out to the kitchen to get another.

"Have you gone to see the doctor?" Fuu laid a hand on Umi's forehead, and the 'dream' Umi had had just before waking up suddenly come back to her. She had not had any dreams of Cephiro in years now, so it had been an odd occurrence. Why did she suddenly dream of Cephiro again? "Umi?"

Umi snapped out of her thoughts, suddenly realizing that Fuu had been talking to her. She blushed, "Sorry, what did you say?"

"I asked if you've seen a doctor," Fuu repeated.

Umi shook her head. "It's only a cold. I'll be better in a few days."

"You have a very high fever," Fuu responded with concern, "I checked your temperature while you were asleep. It hasn't gone down any since you awoke, either. If it goes any higher it may be very serious. I'm actually surprised you're awake and talking to us right now."

"I'll be fine," Umi insisted as Hikaru appeared in the doorway. A blissful grin made its way across her face, "I was having the most awesome dream before I woke up…"

Hikaru walked over to the other side of the bed, sitting at Umi's side. Her ever present smile was there as she asked, "Really? What was it about?"

"I dreamed I was back in Cephiro…" Umi yawned, her eyes fluttering shut as her voice trailed off and sleep suddenly took over.

-----

When Umi next opened her eyes, she expected to see Hikaru and Fuu again. Never in her life did she expect to wake up and see someone she had long ago left with the past, someone that she held quite dear in her heart. Actually, make that someones.

"Well now, glad to see ya up and awake!" Caldina smiled, bending down over the person sitting in the chair next to Umi's bed. The pink haired woman was the first person Umi saw, her eyes then focusing on the man sitting in the chair.

"Ascot," she smiled, pleased to see him. He seemed equally as pleased to see her, if not more, as he blushed and lowered his head so that his long bangs covered much of his face. Umi couldn't help but giggle, her eyes looking back at Caldina, "Caldina! It's so nice to see you again!"

The illusionist stepped past Ascot, extending her arms so that she could embrace Umi in a hug. Umi returned the gesture, not wanting to let go of her old friend. Looking over the older woman's shoulder, Umi noticed someone else standing behind Ascot. It was a tall man dressed in heavy looking armor, his long blonde hair tied back in a pony tail. She immediately recognized him.

"Larfarga! You're here too?"

"Wouldn't miss the chance to visit with the Magic Knight of Water," he replied.

Her arms still tightly around Caldina, Umi couldn't help it when tears started to cloud her vision. How she'd missed her friends! When she had last been in Cephiro there had been very little time to spend with them, since Cephiro was under invasion. Now here they were, standing before her after all of these years! She let go of Caldina, gently pushing her back as she studied her.

"You've changed," Umi said through her tears, sniffling slightly, though not from her cold.

"So have you," Caldina pointed out with a wink and ruffled the Magic Knight's hair playfully. "You're even more pretty than I remember you being!"

Umi blushed, opening her mouth to protest when she spotted something glittering on Caldina's hand. Her mouth snapping shut, she made a grab for the other woman's hand, holding it up close to her face as she stared at the object on Caldina's finger in awe. "Oh my God! You-" she looked up and found Caldina grinning at her. Umi then looked at Larfarga, who laid a hand on Caldina's shoulder. "You got married!"

Caldina nodded, looking at her ring with pride. "Yep, we've been hitched for about a year now."

"Was…was it a nice wedding?" Umi asked, suddenly upset that she had missed such an event. If she'd missed Caldina's wedding, then what else might have happened since she had left? Everything and everyone here in Cephiro was turning out to be so different…

Caldina nodded, letting her hand fall to the bed as she sat next to Umi. "It was beautiful. Ferio let us have it here in the palace out in the gardens. There were so many flowers…and everyone showed up for it, even those princesses from Chizeta and Faren." She smiled in remembrance, "They've turned out to be pretty nice people, ya know. They visit often. I'm sure if Tarta and Tatra knew you were here they'd come visit you."

Umi looked down at her bed sheets, her hands scrunching the material. "I wish I could have been there for the wedding."

Caldina lifted a hand to rub Umi's back in a comforting manner. "Don't worry about it, hun."

Umi looked up, smiling through her unshed tears. From beside her came a cough and suddenly all attention was on Ascot. Caldina and Larfarga seemed to take this as some kind of hidden message, though Umi didn't know what was going on, and they moved to leave.

"Take care of yourself, okay?" Caldina gave her one last hug, and Umi nodded. She watched as Caldina left, patting Ascot on the head and winking at him before she exited the room.

There was a small bout of silence before Ascot finally looked up at her and asked, "So how have you been doing?"

"I've been doing pretty good," Umi answered, "I'm in college now, but me, Fuu and Hikaru are still as close as ever. I live on my own, since my parents have been traveling a lot lately, and I share an apartment with a girl that I go to class with."

"You're happy?"

Umi looked at him and he was unable to meet her gaze for some reason. She always wondered why he got so flustered around her…why he blushed so much and refused to meet her gaze. She shrugged it off as being shy, and with a small smile, she answered, "I guess."

"You guess?" He questioned, raising his head enough that she could finally see his eyes.

Umi nodded, looking down at her sheets. They suddenly looked very interesting. "I have my family and friends, but it isn't the same. I miss everything I left behind here, everyone I'm no longer able to see."

"There isn't a day that goes by that we don't think of you," Ascot admitted. He blushed furiously as he added, "I think about you a lot, too."

Umi seemed happy with this, her face brightening, though she was quite oblivious to what Ascot was really trying to say. "I think about you a lot too, Ascot."

Knowing that she still didn't understand what he felt for her, he grinned anyway. As long as they were friends, he didn't care, though he sometimes wished that she could understand that he really did love her much more than a friend. He watched as she yawned, a hand at her mouth as she stretched her other arm above her head.

"I'm glad we got the chance to talk again." He stood up as she cuddled back down in the blankets, and before she could protest, he pulled the covers up for her and tucked her in.

"Me too," she replied with another yawn.

"Rest well."

Umi nodded, feeling her body go back into a numb state as she drifted off to sleep once more, wondering where she would end up next. Would she wake up here in Cephiro, or would she wake up home in her own bed?

Only time would tell.

-----

"Umi, come on, please wake up!" Someone was begging, and Umi groaned as she tried to roll over and ignore the delicious smell of homemade soup that invaded her senses. It felt like she had only just closed her eyes, and every time she did it seemed that someone was waking her up. She was exhausted, too tired to even open her eyes.

"I really think we should take her to the hospital," A female voice said in concern, and Umi realized at once where she was this time. Yet again she had woken up from being in Cephiro only to find herself in her own bed. Perhaps she hadn't even left in the first place…maybe Cephiro was something her fevered mind was making up to torment her at this time of sickness, and it was all a dream?

No, it seemed too real. Taking a painful breath into her sick lungs, Umi spoke, "It's alright Fuu, I don't need to go to the hospital." She rolled over on her back so that they could see that she was awake, though her eyes were still half closed. "How long was I out this time?"

"Three days," Replied Hikaru, "We were starting to get really worried."

Three days..? Umi's eyes widened. It certainly didn't feel like three days! I feel like I haven't slept at all!

"I'm awake now," she said, brushing the covers away from her. Someone had them pulled up to her chin and, being sick, she was having one of her hot flashes. It was much too warm to have the blankets pulled up on her. Sniffling, she smelled the mouth watering aroma of Fuu's cooking. "What's that smell?"

A warm bowl of chicken soup was pushed in front of her on a tray. "I made this for you. You haven't eaten anything since we came over, and I thought that if you ever woke up, you might be a little hungry."

"Thanks," Umi said as Fuu handed her a spoon and she took a sip, though at the moment she wasn't feeling all that hungry. She'd eat it for Fuu though – she didn't want to worry her friends anymore than they already were. "This is good!"

"My mother's special chicken soup recipe," Fuu smiled from where she stood. "She brought it over when I told her you were sick."

"Tell her I said it was good soup," Umi chuckled, taking another sip. Once the bowl was half empty and it felt like she couldn't eat any more, she handed her bowl to Fuu who took it to the kitchen to be washed. Hikaru stayed standing next to the bed, staring down at Umi.

"You sure you're okay?" Hikaru asked, and once again Umi's forehead was checked for a temperature. "You're burning up!"

Umi swatted at her friend's hand. "Stop worrying so much, Hikaru!"

Hikaru's face was grim. "I can't help but worry," she said, sitting down beside Umi. She must have decided to change the subject then, because she next asked, "When you woke up last time, right before you went to sleep…you said that you dreamt you'd returned to Cephiro. Is this true?"

Umi nodded, "I dreamt," she winced as she said that word, "That I woke up in my old bed in the palace, and at first I had no idea where I was. There was someone there with me as well, and at first I didn't even know who he was."

Hikaru smiled uneasily at her, and Umi knew the red haired girl missed Cephiro just as much as she did. "Who was it?"

"He looks a lot different now – I suppose he no longer needs to use magic to make him look so small and childlike – and he's tall and dressed differently." Umi dazed off, looking at the ceiling, "But once I studied him for a bit, I knew it was him. His eyes gave him away."

Hikaru was smiling now, poking Umi in the arm, "You ever going to tell me a name?"

Umi sniffed, feeling a cough coming on. "It was Clef."

"I see," Hikaru suddenly grinned. "What did you say to him? Did you-"

"No," Umi cut her off, knowing exactly what her friend was going to say. "But we didn't have much time to talk. I woke up here to find you and Fuu in my room. I was a bit surprised," she admitted.

"Did you return to Cephiro when you fell asleep after that?" Hikaru asked.

Umi nodded. "When I woke up in Cephiro Ascot, Caldina and Larfarga were waiting for me."

"Sounds like quite the dream you're having!"

Umi forced a smile, looking down at her hands that she had clasped in front of her. I'm not really sure if it's a dream or not…everything that goes on there seems so real! She looked up at Hikaru then with a small, sad grin. "You wouldn't believe how much they've changed over the past years. I think Ascot's grown taller, and Caldina and Larfarga – they're married!"

"I wouldn't be surprised if they actually were married by now," Hikaru laughed, and then her smile faded as she was silent for a moment. Then, she asked quietly, "Did you see Lantis in your dreams?"

The blue haired Magic Knight of Water shook her head. "No. Not yet, anyway."

Hikaru smiled in reply, though Umi knew that talking about Lantis always made the other girl feel kind of sad. She'd fallen in love with him after all, and had to leave him when they had last saved Cephiro. It must have been hard for her, especially after he told her that he loved her back.

Fuu soon returned, a cold cloth in hand that she put on Umi's head in hopes that it would comfort the sick girl a little. She then insisted that Umi lie back down so that she could rest. Umi didn't protest at all, since her stomach was full and she was starting to feel drowsy.

Closing her eyes, she returned to dreamland.

-----

"Mokona!" a small voice whined, "Knock it off!"

There were other voices as well that greeted Umi as she woke up, this time more eager than the past. She knew even before she opened her eyes that she was indeed back in Cephiro, and by the sounds of it, she had more visitors.

"Puuuu!"

Umi opened her eyes to be greeted by a large ball of fluff that seemed to be sitting on her face. Gasping in a breath of air, she grabbed for whatever had used her face as a chair. As soon as her arms moved though, it moved and bounced over to the corner of her bed as it chased after a small fairy who was trying to hide from it.

"Mokona!" Umi growled, glaring at the magical white creature that looked a lot like the rabbits from Earth. When the creature turned to look at her, however, her face melted into a huge grin and she grabbed it before it could escape. Hugging Mokona tightly, Umi cuddled her face into its soft fur. "I've missed you!"

There was a chuckle from beside her bed, and looking over, Umi almost dropped Mokona as she stared at a familiar blonde woman. She immediately hugged her, startling the woman and crushing Mokona between them. "Presea! It's so good to see you!"

"It's good to see you as well," a voice said from somewhere behind Presea, and Umi realized she had a lot of visitors this time. Ferio, Primera, and Lantis were all standing behind Presea, watching her with smiles upon their faces.

Once again Umi found tears making their way to her eyes. She rubbed at them furiously, sniffling. "I can't believe you guys are all here!"

"You thought we wouldn't visit our favorite sick Magic Knight?" Presea laughed lightly from beside her and Umi couldn't help but grin back at her.

"I just…I can't believe this is happening!" She admitted.

"Believe it," Presea reached out to push a stray hair away from Umi's face.

"You've been well, I take it?" Ferio asked, placing his hands on the back of Presea's chair. When Umi nodded, he asked, "And the others?"

"They're doing great," she replied, seeing Ferio looking somewhat relieved. "Fuu's going to a nearby college now. She's studying to be a doctor."

"Ah, so our little Magic Knight of Wind is going to be a healer," Presea grinned, "That should be right up her alley."

Umi looked from Ferio to Lantis, who had remained silent throughout the conversation. With a small smile she said, "Hikaru's as energetic as ever. She's still living with her family, helping out her brothers whenever they need her."

He nodded quietly.

"She still wears the necklace and pendent you gave her," Umi told him, and she noticed he was a bit surprised. "She refuses to forget you," she looked at Ferio, "Same goes for Fuu."

"I'm glad," he said, "Though I don't want her to hold back for me." He looked away, "If Fuu wishes to see other people after all of this time, I'll understand. I want her to be happy."

"She is happy, though sometimes I see a far off look in her eyes." Umi watched as he turned his gaze back to her, "She misses you dearly."

"I think about her every moment of the day," Ferio admitted, shifting his heavy armor. "Especially now since…"

"The people of Cephiro wish for their prince to be married," Presea finished for him, and Umi could see a pained look in his eyes as he turned his head away. "But Ferio here doesn't want to get married just yet, and he certainly doesn't want to marry a girl that he doesn't love."

"I refuse to marry, end of story," Umi heard him mutter darkly, and she could understand his pain. He still loved Fuu and wanted to hold onto the memory of her. Marrying someone would ruin those memories, and he was afraid that one day he wouldn't remember her at all. He wasn't ready to leave Fuu behind, not when she still held his heart.

"Ruling the country of Cephiro must be a hard task," Umi said quietly.

Ferio forced a smile, looking down at her where she lay in bed. "I never expected to be in the position I am now. I was just a mere wanderer until the Pillar was destroyed. It's taking a while to get used to this change," he indicated to his elegant clothes with a bitter look on his face.

Umi gave him a sympathetic look, knowing this was hard on him. She turned her attention to Lantis then, her head slightly tilted to the side. "And you? What have you been doing since we last met? I thought for sure you would leave once Cephiro was at peace again."

"I couldn't leave after everything that happened," Lantis informed her. "Eagle's death," his eyes held a faraway look as he mentioned his old friend, "And I couldn't leave the people I fought so hard to protect."

Primera, who had been sitting on the armor on his shoulder, suddenly took flight and landed on the bed with a pout. Her arms crossed, her small wings drooped behind her. "He wouldn't leave because there was always a chance that Hikaru would come back," she said in a bitter voice, showing her dislike. She'd never liked the petite red head that Lantis had been so fond of, though after all of these years she knew that Lantis would never be her own, that he belonged to Hikaru.

Lantis said nothing to this, and Umi gently smiled as she realized Primera had just told everyone the real reason Lantis refused to leave Cephiro.

"Have the others been here to visit you yet?" Presea asked, changing the subject.

Umi nodded, feeling a sneeze tickling her nose. She covered her mouth and drew a breath in, waiting for the sneeze to come. "Ascot, Caldina and Larfarga came to visit me earlier."

"I hope they didn't keep you up too long," Presea responded, "You really should be resting right now."

"It's all right," Umi waved her free hand in a dismissive manner, "I was glad to see them."

Umi finally sneezed, her eyes watering again, though this time it wasn't from the happiness she felt from seeing her friends. Wiping her sickly tears away, Umi managed to smile at her friends as she sniffled.

Presea laid a hand on her shoulder, handing her a tissue. "Perhaps we should leave now and let you rest." When Umi was about to protest she shook her head, "We'll see each other again, don't worry."

Umi settled down, taking the tissue and rubbing at her nose. "Thanks."

Presea nodded, standing up and shooing the men out of the room and closing the door behind her. Once the coast was clear Mokona crawled out from where he had been hiding under the bed, jumping up onto the bed and hopping over to where Umi lay. She grinned tiredly as the small fluffy creature cuddled into her arm, and turning over, she wrapped her arms around Mokona as she closed her eyes.

-----

"Hikaru, come quickly! She's waking up again!"

Umi groaned, cuddling the soft body further against her as she came to. She remembered only just closing her eyes after being visited by her old Cephiro friends. Now it seemed like she was going to be woken up again, this time in her own room back on Earth.

"Mokona.." she breathed in deeply, content on staying asleep. Her face turned into his soft fur, Umi was determined to stay asleep this time.

"Mokona?" A voice said from somewhere above her, and there was a laugh as Hikaru said, "Wow, she must really be tired if she thinks…"

Umi gave up, opening her tired eyes only to find herself staring into the two button eyes of her favorite stuffed bunny that she usually kept somewhere on her bed. She immediately pushed it away, realizing that it wasn't the annoying yet adorable Mokona, and began to sit up in bed as she stared at her two best friends, who were gazing at her with worry and amusement clearly written on their faces. "How long this time?"

"Only a day," Fuu replied, knowing that Umi was referring to how long she had been passed out.

"It didn't seem like that long," Umi muttered as she fell back down on the bed, her strength leaving her.

"You were dreaming of Cephiro again, huh?" Hikaru chuckled, looking down at the abused stuffed bunny they had given Umi just the night before. "Who was there this time?"

"Presea," Umi replied, before looking at Hikaru, "Lantis," then at Fuu, "And Ferio. Primera and Mokona were there too."

Both Fuu and Hikaru looked at each other before returning their gaze to Umi.

"Presea is doing good, and Mokona is as annoying as he always was," Umi said with a small smile, staring up at her white ceiling. She glanced at Hikaru then, "It seems like Primera has gotten over Lantis, and he's still there in Cephiro even though he said he was probably going to leave once the invasion was over. And Ferio," Umi looked at Fuu, "He seems to be doing okay, though he's struggling with his princely duties."

Both Fuu and Hikaru were quiet for a moment, unsure of how to react as they shifted uncomfortably. Finally, Fuu reached out to feel Umi's forehead. "I think this may be more serious than we thought," she said in a low voice to Hikaru. "I believe she's delirious with fever."

Hikaru frowned, watching as Fuu dampened a cloth and placed it on Umi's forehead. "I think it's time we phoned the doctor."

Fuu seemed to agree. "This has been going on far too long," she made for the telephone by the side of the bed. Umi stopped her, leaning to one side as she grabbed Fuu by the arm.

"I'm fine, really! I don't need the doctor!"

Fuu gave her an exasperated look. "Umi, you've been sick for over a week now, and for the past four days you've been lying there unconscious. Every time you wake up you try to reassure us that you're fine, yet you go back to sleep and pass out for days on end. And then you try to tell us that in your dreams you're back in Cephiro, and you tell us how much things have changed and that you've spoken to everyone…almost like you actually have been speaking with them!"

"But I have!" Umi insisted, still holding on to Fuu's arm. "I thought it was a dream at first…but it can't be! Every time I close my eyes I end up back there, and each time I open my eyes someone is there to greet and talk to me!" She shook her head, letting go of Fuu. "I'm sure it's not a dream…I'm positive!"

Fuu hesitated, her hand above the phone as she looked at Umi. Umi gave her best pleading look, one that melted the dark blonde's resolve. With a sigh Fuu let her arm drop to her side, turning away from Umi. "If you're not better within two days, that's it. We're calling the doctor."

"Fine," Umi agreed, realizing that Fuu and Hikaru didn't believe that she really had been talking to their old friends. They had just shrugged it off as feverish dreams, though Umi knew that she must have seemed pretty crazy at the time. The Pillar was gone and there was no longer any way to summon the Magic Knights. Besides, Umi was under their careful watch and she had not moved from her bed since they had arrived.

Pulling the covers up to her chin, Umi laid back and looked up at the ceiling as she felt tears come to her eyes. She wasn't imagining things! She really had seen and talked to the people of Cephiro!

With a defeated sigh, Umi looked back at her friends. Perhaps she really was going crazy…she knew in her head that everything she was saying was impossible, but she felt in her heart that the things happening to her really were happening.

Closing her eyes, she tried to block out Hikaru and Fuu's worried and sympathetic looks.

Was it really all a dream…?

-----

It was dark when she next awoke, feeling more rested than she ever had in the past few days. She paid very little attention to the cool breeze coming in from what she guessed was her balcony window, instead opting to keep her eyes closed as she lazed about in the bed, her eyes shut in content. The bed sheets were warm and comforting, and as long as her eyes were closed she didn't have to deal with her conflicting thoughts on whether she was dreaming or if it was reality.

A cold hand on her head startled her enough that she half opened her eyes. In the past few days it seemed like everyone was feeling her forehead and she was growing quite tired of it. She wished that her fever would just break and allow her to live out her flu in peace.

"You seem to be getting better," a male voice commented, and Umi opened her eyes all the way. Clef was sitting next to her bed once again, the oil lamp on her nightstand lit so that she could see him in the dark. "I think your fever may be breaking."

"That's good," she said in a groggy voice before she coughed to clear her throat. Looking up at him in the dim light, she smiled. "What are you doing back here?"

"Just checking up on you to see how you're doing," he replied, removing his hand from her.

Looking across the room at the open balcony windows, Umi noticed the twinkling stars in the night sky. If one squinted hard enough and knew the exact location to look, they could see the glow of the surrounding three countries up there with the stars. "What time is it?"

"It's well past midnight," he informed her, shifting his ever present staff, though he made no move to leave.

"Oh," was all Umi could think to say as they sat in a comfortable silence.

"Our time together is growing short," Clef finally spoke, and Umi immediately looked at him.

"What do you mean?"

He smiled at her, his blue eyes reflecting the candlelight. For a moment he didn't say anything, then, "Umi, how do you think you ended up here in Cephiro, when your friends are with you back on Earth?"

"I don't know," She admitted, before she looked downcast, "Am I dreaming?"

"Not quite."

She met his eyes. "Then how?"

He seemed to dodge the question, his eyes softening in the darkness as he looked at her. "It's been about three years, Umi. You've changed a lot," He said, a sad smile upon his face.

"So have you," Umi chuckled, reaching out to play with the sleeve of his robes. "Since when did you get so tall? Not that I'm complaining or anything – and black really is your color."

"I've changed on the outside, but I'm still the same Clef on the inside."

"I can tell," she playfully tugged at his robe before she let her hand drop back to her side. "We've all grown in some way. I feel like everyone here has changed so much…and I haven't changed at all. I've grown, but I still feel the same on the inside. Caldina and Larfarga took a big step and got married, Ferio is taking on his task as the prince of Cephiro…and here I am still struggling with my simple daily life at home, missing out on all of this." She sighed, "I've missed out on so much here."

Clef didn't say anything for a while, and Umi felt comfortable with the silence. At the moment she was feeling kind of down, and she really didn't feel like talking all that much any more. Despite what she felt, however, she forced a laugh as she said, "You know, I'm pretty sure Hikaru and Fuu think I'm going crazy."

"How so?" He questioned.

"Because when I tried to tell them I'd talked to everyone here they looked at me like I'd grown another head," she replied with a sigh, "They don't believe me. I'm not quite sure I even believe this myself."

"You think this is all a dream?"

"Possibly," she answered, refusing to meet his gaze. "You have to admit this is very odd. I'm dieing with the flu and suddenly I'm here in Cephiro with all of my old friends visiting and taking care of me? It's pretty far fetched."

"I agree," his voice sounded amused. "So you think all of this is happening because of your fever?"

"It's the most logical explanation."

Clef smiled at her, leaning his staff against the nearby wall as Umi suddenly sneezed. He handed her a handkerchief, which she gratefully accepted. Wiping at her sore nose Umi grinned at him, "I must look horrible."

"You're as beautiful as always," was his response, and Umi froze her actions.

Had he just..? No, it was just her imagination playing tricks on her again. This was her dream, after all, and surely things like this were bound to happen when…she shook the thought away, pushing down the sudden pain she felt in her chest. She didn't want to think about that right now, especially after all these years. She went back to what she was doing as if he had never spoken.

"I certainly feel horrible," she said, letting the handkerchief drop to the bed as she rubbed at her aching eyes. She stopped as she felt a heavy hand on her shoulder, and she let Clef push her back so that she was once again lying in bed. When he sat back in his chair she gazed at him questioningly.

"You're sick, you shouldn't be up," he told her. "Lie back and rest. Our time is limited - I don't want it to run out any faster than it already is."

Confused, Umi looked up at him. "What do you mean 'our time is limited'?"

For the first time since Umi had ever known him, Clef looked hesitant to answer. Finally he replied, "You'll wake up soon, and you'll be back with Hikaru and Fuu."

"So this is a dream, then?" Umi asked, suddenly looking quite sad. She had hoped that it wasn't…that it was real.

"You may call it what you wish," he replied with a small smile. There was a silent as Umi took this information in and as he turned his gaze to the open window. "The time is fast approaching. We have only a few minutes left." He suddenly moved to search for something in the pocket of his long robes, and pulling it out, he looked at the object glittering in his hand.

It was a bracelet made of silver, its shiny surface reflecting the light of the candle. Made of the finest silver that could be found in Cephiro, it would never break or wear thin. Where the back clasp was made of chain hoops, it soon molded into a firmer, solid silver rectangle shape that contained something that was very rare in the land of Cephiro. In the middle of the bracelet a crystal of blue was embedded, shimmering in the dim light. Looking down at it, to Clef, every bit of it screamed 'Umi' to him. That was why he had decided to do what he was about to do next.

Moving so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed next to Umi, he gently took her hand into his and laid the bracelet in the palm of her hand. That done, he closed her hand upon it, staring down into her confused blue eyes. "I want you to have this."

She took it, her eyes widening as she saw what he had given her. "Clef, this is beautiful!" she cried, her mouth slightly open in awe. Looking back at him she shoved her hand his way, "I can't accept this! It looks like it must have cost a fortune!"

"No, no," he pushed her hand away, "It's yours. I want you to have it so that you'll never forget me."

Umi gave him a small smile. "Clef, I'd never forget you."

"Keep it anyway, as a reminder."

"A reminder?" She asked, yawning. She was suddenly feeling really tired.

He leaned in as her eyes closed, his lips brushing her forehead as he spoke, "You never finished what you were about to say last time you left Cephiro," he kissed her forehead gently, pushing a stand of her ocean blue hair out of the way, "And I never got to reply."

Through her haze filled mind Umi smiled as she heard him say, "I love you too."

-----

"I'm phoning, Hikaru," Fuu's voice was sharp. "She said that if she didn't get better in two days then I had her permission to phone the doctor."

"But Fuu!" Hikaru was pleading, "Umi really didn't want to go through all the trouble of going over to the hospital to be checked on!"

"She's been like this for over a week," Fuu pointed out to her friend, "It's time we got someone who knows what they're doing to make sure she's going to be okay."

"Shh," Hikaru suddenly hushed her, pointing to the bed where Umi was beginning to wake up. "See! I told you!"

Umi finally opened her eyes, having heard her friends arguing over her. Hikaru and Fuu rarely ever argued, so they had to be very worried over her if they were arguing over whether or not they should phone the hospital or not. Hikaru, true to Umi and her wishes, wanted Fuu to wait a while longer before she phoned. Fuu, worried to death that something was seriously wrong with Umi, wanted nothing more than to help out her friend.

"Umi!" Fuu was at her side in an instant, feeling her head. When she gasped both girls looked up at her in confusion. "Your fever broke!"

Umi blinked, still a little dazed and feeling quite tired. She was beginning to feel a lot better now though, since she didn't feel like her whole body was on fire. "Really? That's great…told you guys I'd be fine in a few days!" she grinned from beneath the covers.

Hikaru was suddenly hugging her, ruffling her hair. "I'm so glad! For a while there I thought you'd never wake up again!"

"Hikaru," Umi laughed, trying to breathe despite Hikaru hugging her so hard that it seemed her lungs weren't working. "Can't breathe!"

The red head let go of her, a grin permanently set upon her face. "I'm just so glad that you're finally getting better!"

"I still have the flu to get over," Umi pointed out. "I might be sick for another long while, but at least the fever's gone."

"What you need now is another nice warm bowl of soup," said Fuu, and she left the room, Hikaru in tow as they went to prepare Umi a meal.

Letting the quiet settle in, Umi lay back and smiled as she gazed up at the ceiling. She had just had the most amazing dream, where Clef had finally said the three words that she had waited so long to hear. She had almost said them herself on the day she had last left Cephiro – but knowing that they could never be, that he would never return her feelings, she had stopped herself from uttering those words.

With a contented sigh Umi rolled over and turned her face into her pillow, smiling as she remembered her dream. It had been a dream after all – he'd practically told her that, hadn't he? Besides that, she was finally back in her own room now and it seemed like her Cephiro visiting days were over. She felt a pang of sadness at that fact, but she chose to ignore it. Closing her eyes, she stretched as if she were a cat, her back arched and her hands above her head. It felt good to move her aching muscles.

She was about to close her eyes when something fell from her hands, landing just before her face, and Umi realized that she had been holding onto something all of this time. Propping herself up on her elbows, she gasped as she realized what it was.

It was the bracelet that Clef had given her.

Sitting up in bed, she carefully picked up off her pillow and brought it before her face as she studied it. It was definitely the same bracelet she'd seen in her dream, and now that she saw it in the daylight, she realized it was even more beautiful than she had first thought.

"Clef…" she whispered, turning the piece of jewelry over in her hand. It felt warm beneath her touch and she was startled as she felt something hot and liquid drop onto the blue crystal that was embedded into the perfect silver. Reaching her free hand up to her eyes, Umi gasped as she found tears making their way down her face.

It wasn't a dream…everything that happened…it was real…this proves it! More tears fell and Umi brought the hand holding the bracelet close to her as she stared at the wall. Everything that happened…everything that was said…

Her eyes widened as she remembered Clef's last words.

"I love you too."

Looking down at the bracelet he had given her, she smiled through her tears. Putting it on her wrist, she made sure the clasp was tight so that it wouldn't fall off. She stared at it for a moment, taking the sight in, before she vowed that she would always wear it.

I love you too Clef…and I promise that I'll never forget you.

When Hikaru and Fuu returned with the food they had warmed for Umi, they found her sleeping in her bed, a smile upon her face as she clutched her wrist close as if holding something dear to her. Seeing that she was looking a lot better, Hikaru and Fuu smiled at each other knowingly before they left the food on Umi's desk, leaving the room and closing the door behind them as they let Umi rest in peace.

The End.