Note: It has been years since I started this fic. It started as bribery for Dragon of Winter Nights to finish Protecting You, and the original plot went off the rails at some point. I dropped it in 2013 when my life got complicated, and I then picked it back up and have rewritten the first chapters, so the new start date is 11 May 2017. I hope to update relatively regularly, but we will see what happens.

Many thanks to the lovely Dragon of Winter Nights for agreeing to beta read this for me. Any mistakes still in are all mine. I blame dyslexia for the silliest of them.


Content Note: This fic will be edited for content on FFN because I would rather not have it deleted by FFN like so many English fics have been in the past (if you do not know about the purge, you can ask me for details). If you would like to read the full uncensored version, you can find it in my works on AO3 (the link is in my profile).

This chapter has not been edited for content.

Chapter 1
In which Umi arrives at Clef's house.

Umi always felt strange transporting by herself. The pull on her own was just a little strong, and it left her feeling a bit lightheaded and woozy when she made it through the gateway. Today was no different.

At first, Umi had only travelled to and from Cephiro together with Fuu and Hikaru, accepting she would just have shorter visits than they could since her school's holiday schedule didn't match up with theirs. It was far easier to make the trip with more than one, easiest with all three. It was only this summer that she'd finally gotten so frustrated she learned how to do it on her own. Umi was done missing visits just because she was the only one out of school.

This was the last week of her summer vacation. Hikaru and Fuu were back at school, but she was going to spend time with Clef. It was so difficult to see him much during term time, now that she was in her last year of school and had exams looming before her, so she was determined to enjoy this.

She appeared somewhere in the corridor near the third landing platform, where she had agreed to meet Clef. If her watch was right, she was just in time. Taking the last few paces at a jog, she turned the corner and nearly ran into someone wearing the blue uniform of a castle messenger.

"I'm so sorry." Umi instinctively bowed.

"It was a silly place to stand," he apologised. "You must be the Lady Knight of Water?"


"I have been asked to relay the Guru's apologies. He says to tell you that he had forgotten the Council meeting was bound to run overtime this afternoon, and that he will be with you as soon as he may, but if you would like to go on without him, the transport is ready and will take you on."

Umi sighed. Of course, he was still in a Council meeting just when he was meant to be meeting her. "I'll go on without him," she said.

The messenger led her out to the platform where one of the round winged disk contraptions waited for her. Umi let out an even bigger sigh. She'd been hoping for something a little less… that.

Throwing her bag in first, Umi scrambled up the side of it and sat down in the centre, as far from the sides as she could get. These things had started to make her nervous especially after she realised how flimsy the spells could be in the wrong conditions.

The shielding spell woke and snapped shut above her, and the thing lifted off with only the tiniest wobble as it moved out of the shelter of the platform and the wind caught it. While the transport didn't surprise her that much, she was a little irritated she taking it alone. It meant she had no one to distract her from the thought of the damn thing plummeting to the ground, on top of being grumpy at not seeing Clef yet, so her thoughts weren't as positive as they could be.

Nevertheless, she found the courage to sit up straighter so she could catch glimpses of the land beneath her. She and the other knights had discussed trying to do a long journey through Cephiro sometime, the sort where they could actually see everything whole and put back together. Only every long holiday break they had seemed to be broken up with family visits, or they were all free at different times, or sticking around the castle because their friends were still very much working. The rebuilding of the land and political system was taking a great deal of time and energy; from what Clef had told her, Cephiro wasn't near done expanding yet, but each new area had to be stabilised and have people put in charge of it before anyone could live there.

So maybe it wasn't so bad waiting a little longer before they went out to see it all - it wasn't all there yet. But she did want to see more of it.

Umi had just assumed that since it was the centre of government, that all of the officials and politicians lived in the castle on one of the many levels. (There were a lot of levels.) She ran into all of them frequently enough that she never guessed otherwise, so when Clef invited her to spend most of a week at his personal residence, she was more surprised that he wasn't a permanent fixture in the castle and actually had a life outside of work than the fact he'd just agreed to spend that time alone with her unchaperoned. He'd never mentioned a house elsewhere, in the years she'd known him - or if he had, she hadn't been paying attention. Whenever she couldn't find him in the castle she'd just assumed he was out… fixing something.

Apparently not. She'd stared at him. "But you're always here when we visit. When do you even go to this house, one day a year?"

"I spend about half the week there, generally. Have done for a couple of years. There are enough people living there now to look after it the rest of the time." He frowned. "I can't believe I never mentioned it. I know I complained about Aveo making me go over the household accounts last month while I was trying to get the Academy review done."

"...Huh. That's someone from your household? I thought you were talking about the Castle accounts or something. But I guess no one thinking clearly would let you near them, I've seen you trying to understand the budget." He glared at her for that, but it was true, he'd been asking her what it meant in a desperate moment there. At least he hadn't been hiding it from her, she'd just… missed it.

Probably because she was concentrating on trying not to stare at him, at least this last half a year. "But honestly, Clef, I was just here for two whole weeks and I saw you every day but one! But you want me to believe you spend half the week away from the castle?"

"Well, I had a lot of work at the castle to catch up on!" he had said, defensively. "I guess I try to be around when you - you three - are, otherwise I'd never see you."

Umi had blinked at him for a moment, not quite comprehending the fact he had just admitted to spending the past few years reorganising his schedule so he was almost always at the castle during their visits. (Which had to be a lot of schedule changes given how strangely the Cephiran calendar lined up with the Earth one.)

Since then, she'd been horribly curious about Clef's house and who these people were who lived there the rest of the time and looked after the place. Her curiosity was about the only thing keeping Umi from turning the transport around right now. Especially when a particularly strong gust of wind caused the thing to tilt sideways, tumbling her closer to the edge than she would like.

"This better be worth it, Clef," she muttered, gripping her bag tightly. She needed to learn how to do that translocation spell at some point so she could miss out weird transportation like this next time she had to travel across Cephiro.

It seemed like an eternity before a loud chime sounded, signalling the disk's descent from the sky.

Umi leaned a bit closer to the edge as the disk glided over a thick forest, the bottom starting to brush against the treetops slightly just before they ended. There was a series of gardens next, as she got closer and closer to the ground. The mansion beyond them could only be Clef's house. There were no other buildings for miles that she could see, and the disk was landing, sliding to a halt on the gravel walk at the base of a set of stone steps.

She wasn't sure what she had been expecting, but this … edifice most certainly was not it.

Clutching her bag, Umi climbed the steps toward the doors. Unlike the metal-work doors she'd become accustomed to in the castle, these were carved wood. They had a similar shape to the others she'd seen in Cephiro, but the only decorations were the scrollwork about the frosted glass of the inset windows. The only metal features were the handle and the long hinges on each side. Umi stretched out to grasp the handle as she made it to the door, but it swung away from her as the door was opened from the inside.

A friendly-faced plump woman, wearing robes a great deal more utilitarian than Clef's, greeted her with a smile. "You're earlier than we expected,"

"Am I?" Umi blinked.

"You're Umi, yes? The Magic Knight of Water?"


"Then, yes, you're a little earlier than we were told to expect you, but not much. I expect Master Clef was planning on Fyula's pace, not that thing! Your room has been ready for a while, and there's stew if you're hungry," the woman said as she took Umi's bag from her. "I can always have something else prepared, but it'll take a little longer."

Umi was only half listening as she followed her in. She was distracted by the entrance hall; the same coiling designs from the door were etched into the beams that arched overhead and murals of garden scenes and mythological tales were painted over the high walls. The animals and plants were different, but they were amazingly similar to ones she had seen in buildings from the European 'renaissance' period.

Perhaps this wasn't the first time the Magic Knights had been called from Earth. Maybe there had been others throughout both their worlds' histories...

She was startled out of her thoughts by a soft chuckle behind her.

"I forget how much of a sight this place can be." The woman smiled fondly. "I've been here too long to notice it myself. It's a bit old-fashioned, but then again, Master Clef isn't nearly so young as he looks, and he always has been rather sentimental."

"It's beautiful," Umi declared. She couldn't believe this place was Clef's home, that he was responsible for the bird-filled skies painted on the ceiling between the beams.

"He'll be pleased you like it," the woman said, leading her up the stairs and onto a landing.

Every wall surface had something covering it, whether a mural or a portrait or other framed painting. Umi couldn't help but stop and stare, only to be moved on down the long corridor when her guide chuckled. Once she was settled in, she was definitely going to have to explore this place.

When they reached the far end, the woman opened the door on the right and waved Umi in ahead of her.

Despite the grandeur of the corridor, Umi hadn't thought about what that might mean for the bedroom she was now presented with, but even in her wildest fantasies she would never have come up with something like this. It was bigger than the one she shared with the other girls in the castle. Soft curtains of silver and white were pulled away from the windows to allow the sunlight to pour in on a large bed with covers embroidered in silvers, whites, and blues. Two huge silver gilt wardrobes took up most of the space on the opposite wall, either side of a dressing table.

She would have been happy in a tiny little room with a small bed and worn quilt, so long as she was able to spend some time with Clef, but this was amazing. She definitely wasn't going to complain about spending a few nights in here.

"Wow," Umi breathed.

"My name's Aveo, by the way. I'm Master Clef's seneschal, I look after things when he's not here. And when he is too, mostly," the woman said, setting Umi's bag on the bed and turning to leave. "If you need anything, just call."

Umi turned around. "Aveo?"

"Yes, Lady Umi?"

Umi was startled by the title. She'd expected some level of formality from people working for (Or was it just with?) Clef given she was there as his guest, but just the normal polite greetings, not to be addressed as if she were the lady of the house.

She pushed the thought back and smiled. "You said something about stew?"


Once she was well fed, Umi left the mildly cavernous kitchen and traced the path back up to her bedroom. She was tempted to begin exploring the house before her host arrived. It would be nice to have him show her around, but she could have a look without him, and no one would care. She'd been told she was free to wander wherever she liked.

Umi started her exploration back in her bedroom. Her window was actually a set of doors leading out onto a balcony which overlooked an expansive garden. She peered out and saw a few people walking about on the paths. At least one stopped to look up at her, looking surprised someone was in the room. Half tempted to wave and startle them further, she laughed and stepped back into the room.

One side of the bed was a little door. Inside she found the Cephiran equivalent of an en-suite bathroom, with the funny squat toilet, a washbasin, and the strange sort of shower contraption she was finally starting to get used to now that their room in the castle had one as well.

When she went back to look in one of the wardrobes, Umi found it far from empty. She had expected maybe a dressing gown and a set of pyjamas or something, like the ones provided in their room in the castle. She hadn't been expecting to find actual clothing, much less an array of beautiful dresses. There were so many amazing shades of blue. She ran her hands over them, feeling the smooth silk and satin-like fabrics slide under her fingers like water.

Umi pulled one out with its hanger - she'd learnt the hard way that you didn't take them off unless you wanted to spend ages trying to fit the pieces back together - and held it up to herself in the mirror. It was light blue, accented with silver thread and sapphire-like stones. She pulled down another, which was almost white, with violet sashes.

A short knock at the door interrupted her investigation. Umi looked about, startled. She guiltily hung the dresses back in the wardrobe, but if she wasn't supposed to be in the wardrobes, why would they have been unlocked?

"Come in," she called.

A girl stood in the doorway. She looked to be around twelve or thirteen years old, though it was just as likely she was five times older than that, given how no one Umi had met in Cephiro yet seemed to be the age she expected.

"Sorry, my Lady," she said. "Master Clef has sent word expressing his apologies. He says the meeting is running even further over-time, so he will be in very late tonight."

"Sorry, I know it's probably a silly question," Umi asked, waving a hand at the dresses in the wardrobe. "But whose clothes are these?"

The girl looked confusedly between Umi and the wardrobe. "Why they're yours, my Lady."

Before she could ask for clarification, the girl bowed and disappeared out the door. Umi looked over at the drapes of silks and brocades in the wardrobe in utter confusion.

Clef had a lot of explaining to do when he returned. She pushed the thought out of her head and opened the bag she had brought with her, with its normal comfortable clothes from home.

She always put clothes away when she went on holiday; trying to find anything in a small bag ended badly after just a few days. Things might start neatly folded, but by day three it was nothing but a tangled and crumpled mess. She hung up what she could in the second wardrobe, which was half built-in drawers, pausing only momentarily to be distracted by the sets of shoes stored in the base of that one.

Definitely a lot of explaining.

The more drawers she opened, the more things she found. She put her two nightgowns from home away in a drawer that already had three Cephiran nightgowns in it. She did find the dressing gown she had expected, tucked into a corner of the second wardrobe. Looking about the rest of the room there was also at least one set of slippers, a jug for water and two glasses, and a basket of snacks which included an assortment of the savoury biscuits she liked. Picking up one of the little, folded paper packets, she walked back over to the bed and sat down.

Umi was used to visits to Cephiro being sort of loud and silly. Hikaru was usually bouncing in and out of the bedroom if she was around, and Caldina would usually descend upon them all at some point with whatever the current gossip was. There wasn't ever that much time to think about anything else.

Now that she was unpacked with nothing to do until her host turned up, the quiet was beginning to feel more than a little oppressive.

Clutching the biscuits a bit too firmly, she looked around the room again. It was lovely but strange. It didn't feel like her room on earth with its small bed, posters on the walls, and all of the things she had collected over the past seventeen years. Nor did it feel like her room in Cephiro with its beautiful but basic furnishings and the bits and bobs they had amassed over the past few years of infrequent visits. They had a collection of comfort reads from Earth which they kept on a small bookcase near the beds. Perhaps she should have stopped to pick a few up on her way out, rather than the silly romance novels she'd brought with her.

This room felt almost as if it were trying too hard to be perfect for her.

Umi wiped her eyes and shook her head. She was being silly. She was going to have a nice time. Clef would definitely be home tomorrow, and she wasn't really alone. There were other people in the house.


Clef was in a foul mood when he walked in the foyer of his house. Of all the meetings to run over-time this week, it had to be that dratted Council meeting, which had, of course, degenerate into an argument. He struggled to keep his temper under control in some of the more everyday political debates, but this was his life they were arguing, and he was already tired of it.

He was a bundle of raw nerves when Aveo appeared around the corner, making him jump.

"Do you want me to bring some tea up for you?" she asked.

"Yes, please." He usually drank almost a full pot of one of the calming blends before he could settle once he got home any week. He paused on the stairs and looked back at his seneschal. "Has…"

"Lady Umi arrived safely. I believe she's sleeping now, no one has seen her since she retired to her room after supper."

Clef nodded and walked slowly up the stairs. He glanced down the end of the corridor to the shut door. The bedroom was the mirror of his own, it would be the room his partner would have if he had one. Why had Aveo insisted on putting Umi in that room in particular?

His feet had carried him the length of the floor between the stairs and her room before he realised it. His hand was nearly raised to knock when he caught himself, hissed in a breath, and retreated back down to the safety of his study at the other end of the corridor. He shut the study door firmly behind himself and lingered there momentarily, thinking of casting a shield so he would feel safer. (Safe from what?) But that would keep out the tea he'd requested, and it was silly anyway.

Just as ridiculous as the suggestion that got her here.

They had been at the castle. Everyone was seeing all three girls off, after they had spent nearly two full weeks in Cephiro as part of their summer holidays. He and Umi were discussing the fact she wanted to see more of Cephiro on their next long visit during her 'winter break'. They'd not made it very far out of the central grounds and land around the castle in the few years they'd been travelling back and forth. With the reformation and all, there hadn't been that much to see at first; the land was only just beginning to look again how she should.

Why he had gone and suggested that if Umi wanted to, she should come out and stay with him, he had no idea.

It was even more perplexing that Umi agreed it sounded like fun, and invited herself to stay for the week after that one.

"Don't you go back to school?" he had asked. The girls had been discussing homework and going back to their lessons all week. That was why they were going home then, so they had a week of finishing homework before they resumed their learning, or so he'd thought.

"Oh, no. Fuu and Hikaru go back sooner than me." She had smiled. "I still have two weeks." A mischievous spark glinted in her eyes as she continued to explain she was actually spending time with her parents that week, but was perfectly free to visit the one following.

Why he agreed that his offer was sincerely meant, he had no idea. It was terribly stupid of him. Looking back, he could only hope she hadn't thought he was propositioning her; inviting someone to your home so you could show them 'more of Cephiro' sounded a lot more dubious than he had intended.

When he'd made it home that week, still feeling utterly perplexed (and somewhat embarrassed) by his agreement, he ended up with Aveo laughing at him as he explained he'd accidentally gotten himself committed to hosting a guest. Not just any guest, but one that she'd already heard far too much about, probably. He tried his best not to imagine what exactly she thought about it.

Especially when she knew his various expenditures over the past few months. He'd had to stop wandering out to the village as much on market days, he'd been spending far too much time and money with the drapers.

Pulling his coronet off, Clef walked over to his desk and dropped into his chair. He threw the headdress onto his mountain of paperwork, where it landed with a dull thud, and rubbed his face with both hands. This was stupid! He was centuries old, not a randy adolescent with only one thing on his mind, and yet he was finding himself more and more easily distracted whenever he was in the same room as Umi.

Some little devious part of his brain suggested that actually propositioning her this week might end well for the both of them, but he was saved from that train of thought by the door to his study opening and Aveo appeared with a tray of tea and some little sweet cakes.

"There's not much left over from supper," Aveo said. "But you can probably find something if you're still hungry later"

Clef's hands trembled slightly as he reached for the teapot, but not enough that he spilt the tea as he poured it. He lifted the cup to his lips, trying not to think about what Aveo was thinking, smirking at him like that.

"Are you going to put your name down on the kitchen rota, or do you think you'll be too busy?" she asked.

"Yes, I can do tomorrow, probably," Clef tried to ignore the suggestion he'd use Umi as an excuse to shirk his responsibilities. He'd not been home as much as he should have been the last few weeks, especially while the Knights had been at the castle, so he'd been missing some of his obligations at home. He furrowed his brow as he tried to work out what else he needed to do besides attend the function at Ouran's in two days, but that was the only thing he could remember that should affect his evenings. "I could pick up another day, if anyone wants me to."

"I doubt anyone will argue."

His guest might, he found himself thinking. She would probably be annoyed if he started picking up work while he was supposed to be entertaining her.

He could only imagine what his face looked like. Aveo placed a hand on his shoulder and asked, "Everything alright?"

"Not really, no." He shook his head and shoved his hair back from his face as he looked up at Aveo. "Why did I invite her to stay here?"

"Because you like her." She smiled and gave him another pat on the shoulder before walking away. "Let me know if there's anything I can do for you."

"Thank you, Aveo."

"Don't worry about it. But please get some rest, you've been working too hard again."

He nodded absently, and shifted some of his papers to find the small collection of notes he'd been working on the last time he was at home. Flipping through it, he worked out which text he meant to look at next.

Originally, it hadn't seemed so pressing, sorting out the laws that still governed the posts of the Master Mage, the High Priest, and the Head Judge. There had been the more urgent problem of rebuilding the land, and resettling people. It had taken at least a year to get the land stable around the castle. They were still working to keep it stable further out in the bordering provinces, like the one centred on this very house which he watched over and protected.

Sometime in the middle of that, probably when he started the task of hosting representatives from the neighbouring lands or visiting them for trade meetings, he'd chosen to return to an adult size.

Being taller was nice in some ways, like being less disconcerting to their various guests, but it was complicated in others. He'd forgotten how distracting a pretty face could be. Especially one belonging to someone he cared for. It had helped at first that he still saw the Knights as children. Though they had aged emotionally after the terrible deed they were summoned to do, they were still very young when they returned to Cephiro.

The change had been so gradual that Clef couldn't be sure when their relationship went from friends to something more... potent. He might have willfully ignored it, if one argument hadn't ended with Umi slamming him back against a wall and kissing him, while he held onto her for dear life.

Everything snapped into sharp focus then. The laws he'd been ignoring, the truth of his feelings, and the complications of the two of them combined.

That night, he'd started work. But even months later there was still so much he needed to do to get the changes through. Despite the progress he'd made tonight, multiple debates and hearings stood in front of him, and until they had been negotiated, if he wanted to remain within the law he needed to ignore any feelings he had and keep focused on his post.

There was still a part of him that wanted to just renounce his title and let someone else take up the mantle. He could still work on changing the set-up from the outside, but he knew it would be easier if he were still Guru, the Master Mage.


Umi had been in bed for a few hours when she finally gave up on sleeping. It was just too quiet. In Tokyo, she had all sorts of city noises she was used to sleeping through. Then here in Cephiro, she had always shared a room with Hikaru and Fuu; if there was no other sound, at least she could hear them breathing in the dark beside her. But here, in this house, the silence was overpowering.

Slipping out from under the covers, she made her way over to the door in the dark. There had to be something she could do to tire herself out so that the silence wouldn't be so deafening.

At the very least, she could make her way down to the kitchen and make herself a drink. The kettle looked normal enough, if she could work out which teas wouldn't wake her up even more.

She almost changed her mind once she was out in the corridor. Umi had never been one to be afraid of the dark (at least she'd never admit to it), but the heavy shroud of blackness was almost enough to put anyone off from exploring. Not even the stars shone in the window on the end wall beside her room.

How badly did she want to leave her room?

That question rolled over in her head a good hundred times before she noticed the tiny pool of light down at the other end of the corridor toward the top of the main staircase. Umi quietly approached the warm glow. When she got closer, she realised that not only was there light, but there was also a familiar muttering and rustle of papers.

"I was beginning to wonder if you would join me here at all," she said, walking into the room.

"I'm sorry," Clef apologised, the dark circles under his eyes stark against his pale skin. "I didn't realise it would take so long today. It was supposed to just be a brief meeting, just ratification of some changes and an informal discussion. Unfortunately, it turned into a formal debate, and… I'm sorry it took me so long to get here. Your door was already shut and the light off when I came upstairs, so I didn't want to intrude."

"You still could have knocked," Umi offered.

He raised an eyebrow. "Nothing good comes of knocking on doors in the middle of the night."

"Hey! I knock on your door at night sometimes."

"Coming to my study or my office to ask for a sleeping potion is one thing." He waved his hand. "Visiting someone in their bedroom is another thing entirely."

"Point taken." Umi flopped into an empty chair. "How was your day, anyway?"

Clef groaned. "You don't want to know."

"That bad, huh?"

He shook his head and ran his hands through his hair, then looked over at her. "I'm sorry I wasn't there to meet you."

That was the third apology. Either he was really tired, or really sincere. Or both. "Don't worry about it." Umi waved a hand at him. "I know you have to work."

"I would rather have been here."

"Of course you would have. This place isn't full of stuffy politicians!"

"No, it's not." He sighed. "But unfortunately, I'm not done with politicians for the week."

Umi frowned at him. "But you already had this fortnight's Council meeting, didn't you?"

"My presence has been requested at Ouran's ball the day after tomorrow." He gave her a half smile. "I'm allowed to bring someone with me. I thought, as you aren't doing anything, maybe you'd like to come with me?"

That was a surprise. He wasn't much of one for balls; too noisy and too many people or so he'd complained last time he couldn't avoid one. "Is that why there are two wardrobes full of ball gowns in my room?"

"They are not all ball gowns," he insisted with an air of annoyance.

"You sure?" she prodded, not sure why she had the desire to wind him up tonight. "All… twenty of them that I pulled out looked very much like ball gowns to me."

"They are clothes befitting your rank," he stated, coolly, not taking the bait. "And there are not twenty of them."

"Okay, fifteen."

"There are only twelve!"

"Just twelve?" Umi teased.

"Do you want there to be more?"

She shook her head. Twelve was more than enough. "I suppose it's a good thing I have something to wear to this surprise ball of yours."

"It's not my ball. It's Ouran's, and I did not want to attend."

"Who twisted your arm, then?"

He shook his head and went back to shuffling through paperwork with even more concentration. Getting up, she stepped closer to him.

"If you've already had your meeting, what're you fussing over now?"

Umi bent over the notes and texts that were piled on his desk. Though her reading comprehension of the script was questionable, she was pretty well able to work out two very familiar words: Guru and Master Mage. Between the way his title was scattered about his notes and the two heavy law books she'd seen on more than one occasion, Umi had a pretty good idea what he was researching.

"Clef? Are you still…" Umi picked up the topmost sheets. She had thought he must have done something about it by now. He'd had months. Did it really take that long to repeal one badly thought out law?

"Yes, I'm still trying to draft another repeal." He snatched the papers out of her hand laid them back on the desk, before sweeping her away from his research with a gesture toward the sitting area. "Come, sit."

Umi sat down on the settee. Clef sat down a little distance from her. Umi clutched the fabric of her nightgown and chewed her lip as she tried to think of something to say. She wanted to ask why he was drafting a second repeal. Had something happened to the first? Was it really going that badly?

Between them, she found his hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze, turning to look at him. The corners of his lips turned up a sad smile.

Somewhere in the house, a clock chimed out the late hour.

"Why aren't you in bed?" Clef asked.

"I was, but I couldn't sleep." He didn't need to know that her room was too quiet; he'd been to a lot of trouble to make it perfect. "I could ask the same of you, you know."

"I had more pressing matters on my mind than sleeping."

Umi bit her lip and blushed, thinking of other things that could be twisted to mean besides just work. He paused, too, and there was something about his gaze that made an excited tremor run through her.

Then he was standing, and pulling her upright. "Come. It's time we get you to bed."

"Yours or mine?" she asked before she thought better of it.

"Umi," he warned.

"That wasn't an answer." She grinned at the blush that spread across his face. It was so much easier to get him flustered lately. She took a bit too much joy in it sometimes, but she also liked the fact she could get to him that way.

"You are going to your room, and I will be going to mine," he said, giving her a gentle shove toward the door.

Umi giggled and let him guide her out the door. She told him he was no fun as they walked slowly back toward her room. They stopped at the door and she turned back around to him.

"Sure you don't want to change your mind?" she said, not entirely sure she didn't mean it.

A warm hand threaded through her hair, and Clef leaned slowly in. His lips brushed gently against hers, just once. She tugged him closer, pressing her body against his, but he pulled away even as her lips opened to his.

"Goodnight," he insisted, voice shaking slightly.

Umi watched him walk away from her, back through the shadows, and shut himself away in the room across from hers.