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Umi thumped down onto the floor of the receiving hall in the Castle, and hissed as the jolt shot through her legs right into her hips and her back. Fuu and Hikaru both hesitated, keeping hold of her when usually they’d be letting go and spilling away by now. Today they’d been promised serious entertainment - one of the travelling shows Ferio had spent sometime with had managed to reform, and was doing dress rehearsals for their first performance in three years.

“Umi,” Hikaru said, softly, “are you sure you wouldn’t rather go back home? We can come to Cephiro another day…”

She made herself smile. “And make you two miss out on the fun? No way! I’ll be fine in a bit - I just want to sit down in the quiet for a little while. I could even get some homework done, I’m really behind after the fencing match last week.”

Fuu wavered, glancing towards the door - they all knew Ferio had wanted her in particular to see this. “If you’re feeling really bad, we should-”

“I’m fine,” Umi said, rolling her eyes. “It’s not like this doesn’t happen every month. Besides, isn’t Ferio going to teach you how to juggle? And I know Hikaru wanted to see the Cephiran acrobatics - go, both of you. I’ll curl up with my books and a blanket and feel better in no time!” Hikaru still wouldn’t let go of her hands, seeing straight through the cheerful face she was putting on, and Umi searched for something more she could say. “…Hey, maybe I’ll bother Clef for a while. You know irritating him always makes me feel better!”

At that Hikaru laughed and let go, shaking her head. “If you’re sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Well, come find us if you need to go home, okay? Come on, Fuu.” Hikaru grabbed Fuu’s hand and pulled her away.

Umi watched them go until she was alone in the hall, then slumped, wrapping her arms about herself as another cramp ground her insides into agony.

She hurt, she felt sick, and she wanted to curl up in bed and cry. Preferably with a hot water bottle and a steady supply of painkillers. But she really didn’t want to stop her friends getting to have fun, and they needed all three of them to make it to Cephiro and back.

Clutching the strap of her schoolbag like a life-line, she meandered through the corridors to Clef’s study. At least no one would bug her in there, and if she behaved herself and didn’t poke him, Clef was perfectly happy to let her hang out quietly in the corner without them even talking - she’d finished a good few last-minute projects for school that way.

It wasn’t until she was actually at the study door that she thought to wonder if he would even be there. Last week, he’d been in a meeting the entire time they were in Cephiro - but she was already knocking, body on auto-pilot, and that was Clef’s voice telling her to come in.

Peering round the door, she winced at the stack of paper at his elbow; his hands were ink stained enough he must have been here a while already today, but whichever pile of papers he was working on, the one left was just as tall.

He looked up briefly, nodded, and looked down again. “If you’re here to try dragging me to the performance, I’m afraid I have far too much work to do.”

“No, I’m not gonna- do you mind if I just-” She waved at the squishy armchair tucked in the corner of the room, as he looked up again.

“As long as you’re quiet, I don’t care what you do,” Clef told her, the honesty making her giggle some as she slunk across to the armchair and curled up best she could in her school uniform. She took a book out of her bag, but didn’t get as far as opening it. Instead, she clutched it tight and closed her eyes, breathing through her mouth as another wave of pain hit and hoping Clef wouldn’t turn around.

He certainly had enough to keep him occupied, and therefore looking the other way…

That round finally began to lessen off after a few minutes. As she began to breathe normally again, Umi heard the clink of porcelain as Clef poured himself a cup of tea. “Would you like a cup?” He asked, glancing over with the teapot in his hands.

Swallowing, Umi shook her head. “No, thanks.”

Clef paused, looking at her more carefully, and Umi flushed miserably. But he put the teapot down without any comment, and Umi closed her eyes again, resting her cheek against the back of the chair.

It would be over soon. Or at least better - it had to be. She’d never had bad pains like this before the last few months, and she was not pleased with the experience.

Perhaps she could drowse off a little, that might help…

She was starting to shift, lower back twinging again, when something soft and warm was draped over her lap. Her eyes shot open, and she stared at Clef, as he let go of the blanket. It was warming against her faster than nature would allow, obviously charmed somehow. He went over to his desk again, and came back with the closest thing Cephiro had to a mug, three-quarters full with tea, from a different pot than the one he’d been using.

Umi eyed it warily. “I’m not sure…”

“Try a little?” he asked, quietly. She reached up and accepted the mug, and the steam didn’t make her stomach turn over, at least. It actually smelt a little like mint.

Clef nodded and went back to his papers without another word - Umi wasn’t sure if she was imagining the embarrassed flush on the tips of his ears, and decided she probably was.

He settled back to work, the skritch of his nib on the heavy paper was familiar enough to be soothing, and the blanket was almost as good as a hot water bottle against her stomach. She tucked it tighter about herself then sipped hesitantly at the tea.

It was… definitely herbal, but not exactly bad. And she probably needed to drink something; she hadn’t managed much today.

Half an hour passed before she realised the aches and cramps weren’t just easing off with the heat, they were actually fading properly away, leaving her feeling almost human for the first time in hours. She stared at her mostly-empty mug, then at the back of Clef’s head. “Clef-”

He twisted to look at her and somehow he’d managed to smudge ink on his cheek now. She blinked at him, wordless. “…I can get you another cup, if it’s helping?”

“Please?” Umi gave up her mug and accepted it back a minute later, steaming again.

Clef didn’t say anymore about it, just let her curl unbothered in the corner until Hikaru and Fuu came to fetch her home, feeling far happier than when she’d arrived.

And if that blanket stayed on the armchair after that, and the box of tea he’d given her stayed on the side where she could find it, well. As long as he didn’t mention it aloud, she didn’t have to work out how to say thank you.