The sun was getting low on the horizon when Clef realised just how many leagues he and Umi must have walked.
"We should probably head back," he said.
Umi didn't hear - or didn't listen, because she vanished over the next hill.
Clef reached the crest and found Umi had apparently gained a new burst of energy and was enthusiastically making her way over the dunes to the beach. If they'd made it to the sea, they had walked a very long way - much farther than he had planned.
While Clef was slowly making his way down to the sand, Umi had dropped her bag, kicked off her boots, and pushed her leggings up to her knees to wade out into water.
Out in the water, a particularly large wave rolled up to the shore, splashing Umi's legs. She stood a moment, glaring down at her clothing like it had personally wronged her, and walked back up to the beach.
Clef picked up her boots and bag, and collected her socks on the way to meet her. "It's dinner time," he said, holding them out to her.
"Ten minutes," Umi said, wriggling out of her damp leggings.
Umi didn't answer, she grabbed her tunic and hauled it over her head, dropping it to the ground with her leggings, quickly followed by her underthings as she bolted back out into the surf.
"Umi!" he called, feeling more like her exhausted parent than her lover. Gathering up the clothing she'd left in her wake, Clef followed her down to the water's edge, muttering, "Blasted water mages."
She bounded out into the water, like she was greeting an old friend.
Clef let out a large huff of a sigh. "We've walked the day away. I'm tired, and I'm hungry, and I want you to get out here and put your clothes on, so we can go home."
"If you want me out, you'll have to come and get me!" Umi called, cackling as she moved out further from shore.
Just about any choice he made about getting her out of the water was probably going to end with him getting wet too. And as tempted as he was to just turn around and leave her, it wasn't safe. You didn't swim in the sea on your own.
"I'm too old for this," he grumbled and dropped Umi's things on the ground. Before shrugging off the top few layers of his own clothing to go in after her. The water wasn't precisely cold, but Clef preferred to submerge himself in a calm and herby bath of hot water, not a wild and salty sea with a chill. "I'm far too old for this."
Umi was all bright smiles in the gloom when he reached her. "Oh! So you decided to join me, after all?"
"It's dinner time," he repeated. "I want to eat and go to bed."
He took hold of her arm, pulling her toward the shore, and Umi didn't fight him, just pouted as he tugged her back out of the water. "You're no fun," she said.
Clef pointed at her clothing. "Stop acting like a child and put your clothes back on."
"Technically, I'm still legally a child for several decades," Umi said as she tried to wriggle her way back into her underthings.
She loved to bring up Cephiro's legal age of adulthood when it was convenient, always ignoring the fact that she was an adult by her world's laws and therefore could be counted as one in Cephiro with a few simple forms and a short hearing.
Shaking his head, Clef picked up his own clothes, which clung to him uncomfortably as he pulled them on. He hissed in a breath and let out another sigh before shaking off the water with a warm spell that dried his skin and damp clothing. "If you want to go paddling so badly, we can make a dedicated trip with a picnic. Just not today."
"Tomorrow?" Umi asked, turning to him as she pulled her tunic down over her head and pulled her damp hair out of the collar, letting it fall loose down her back.
Clef shoved his feet in his boots. "Next week."
"What about Thirdday?" Umi suggested, sticking her socks in her bag and jamming her feet into her own boots. "You only have two meeting - both in the morning - and won't you have most of the committee report finished?"
The hopeful smile had him caving in before he'd even thought of an argument against it. "Fine. But you're sorting the picnic."