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Momentous Holiday

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Clef did not enjoy his first flight on an airplane. Being suspended in the air without the aid of magic or anything he could either understand or control was absolutely terrifying. The noise and the crowds of the airport they had to get through to even get to the plane had been bad enough; he'd taken hold of Umi's hand before they even made it inside the building and kept hold of her all the way through the hours of the flight.

Logically, he knew that they both had phones and could find one another if they were separated, but he didn’t want to take the chance of that happening and him panicking so badly he forgot how to speak Japanese. He was struggling to understand the announcements overhead while so many people were conversing around them, and the staff either used Japanese so polite he could barely follow it, or looked at him and tried to speak that one other language he recognised just enough to say he didn't know it.

He couldn't have lost her on the plane itself, strapped into seats next to each other while the tube-shaped conveyance vibrated unnervingly and roared around them. But his head ached, his joints ached, his ears hurt - no matter how many times Umi tried to teach him how to do the strange nose-pinching air-blowing thing that was meant to make them pop. With all that, he couldn't make himself let go of her hand.

Umi didn’t seem to mind too much, but she did keep giggling at him.

At the very least, the way Umi kept lacing her fingers between his and stroking the back of his hand with her thumb was a welcome distraction, even if it did try to give his body the wrong idea about why his heart was racing his chest. The constant anxiety kept that from becoming an embarrassing situation, so in some ways, the two balanced each other out.

When they reached their destination and managed to escape, finally, into the fresh air, they walked out from the artificial cool of the airport and the heat hit like a wall, thick and pressing. Clef stumbled, the headache that had been niggling away at him the whole time flaring up instead of easing.

He must have made some kind of noise, because Umi turned to look at him, then took his hand more firmly and pulled him over to the vehicles, found the one they needed, and gently pushed him into the welcome chill inside.

When they finally arrived at their hotel, Umi left him on some seats with their luggage while she spoke to the staff at the counter. The world slowly started to feel steady underneath him again as he made himself breath slowly - until she came back with the unfortunate news they had to get into yet another transport to reach their rooms.

"Just one more, and just a couple of minutes," Umi promised him, pulling him up, and indeed it was only a short trip before they finally arrived at a small building that was apparently theirs alone, with a garden and a pool behind a wall that gave them privacy.

“Oh! This is cute!” Umi declared, abandoning the luggage at the door to get it open and explore.

Clef followed her inside, less interested in looking around for the moment and more in finding the first seat he could and dropping down into it with a sigh.

"Are airplanes always so-" he started and gave up. He didn't have the words in Japanese to express the oppressiveness of that mode of transport,

Umi seemed to understand anyway, "Yeah, pretty much," she said, with a shrug. "But it takes a plane or spending days in cars and on boats - months, if you're going far enough around the world."

The thought of holidays spent exploring more of this world suddenly seemed a lot less appealing to him.

A moment later, Umi made a startled noise that had him looking up to see what she'd just realised - that the only thing between the shower and the rest of the room was a transparent glass wall.

“I don’t remember that from the pictures,” Clef said, staring. He pushed himself back to his feet, walking over to see if there was a curtain or some other method of obscuring it, but found nothing.

Umi stared at the glass wall with her hands on her hips, then stepped back into the bed area, only to immediately jog across to the far end of the sitting area, expression going from confused to exasperated as she moved. "You can see into the shower no matter where you are. It's like you're meant to be on show. Who designed this place?"

Clef stepped into the bathroom area and opened the first door to peer inside. "Well, at least the toilet's private," he said.

Behind him, a door slid open and a few moments later Umi called to him from outside. "There’s a spot on the patio you can't see in from. I guess we'll just take turns sitting out here when we want to shower."

“We don’t need to worry about that right now,” Clef said and dropped back onto the sofa.

“You’re right! We should go eat; I’m starving.” Umi bounced back into the room and grabbed her phone to pull up a map of the resort. "I think there's a cafe in the main building."

"I just sat down!" Clef protested, slightly horrified, and Umi looked at him before flopping down beside him on the sofa.

"Well, I'll look at the options while we sit for a bit," she said.

A half-hour sat down in the quiet, Umi's knees pressed against the side of his leg as she flicked through information on the various facilities, and he felt much better. Enough he barely protested when Umi suggested they walk back to the main building to have lunch over there.

As she'd promised, the heat was a lot less oppressive once he'd had a little time to adjust to it - especially as their small holiday home was cooled, but a lot less than the aggressive chill of the airplane and airport. The food proved to be excellent, and Clef had to admit he enjoyed the meal.

"So, do you need a nap when we get back to the room?" Umi teased him as they slowly walked back through the well-kept grounds, the ocean visible across the stretch of brilliant green lawn, bright flowers and shrubs clustered in beds set carefully here and there.

"I'd like to mostly rest today, at the very least," Clef admitted. "I wouldn't mind sitting in the garden by the pool, but I would rather not go out again until dinner. Unless there was something you really wanted to do?"

Umi grinned. "We do have a whole pool of our own - we could go swimming."

"If that's what you want to do, go ahead," Clef told her.

He wasn't planning on getting in the water himself, but he knew Umi too well to bet against her splashing him at some point, so he changed from the lightweight shirt and trousers he'd worn for the trip into a t-shirt and one of the pairs of colourful swimming shorts Umi had bought him, while Umi waited outside for her turn.

This method of finding privacy was going to get old fast, but Clef wasn't about to suggest they simply change clothes in the same room. Especially when it had been a couple of weeks since Hikaru and Lantis left, and they still hadn't talked about that one morning kiss.

Clef had hoped that while they were here, away from their little apartment, it would be easier - but finding some way to broach the topic of either his feelings or sex was going to be a lot more complicated than he'd expected when there was even less space for privacy here. He should have realised that this place was set up for people who wanted to share that kind of intimacy, after the talk of 'honeymoon destination' and 'romantic setting'.

Not being from here was no excuse when he kept watching and reading a dozen things that demonstrated precisely this kind of setting - and the horrible complications that could come of a misunderstanding in a place like this. If things went badly, where could either of them escape to?

He should have braved his fears and spoken to her weeks ago, rather than finding another excuse for procrastination.

When he finally headed back out, Umi vanished into the villa as he walked along the edge of the pool and sat down under the shade of a tree, dipping his feet in. The cool water felt good in the humid summer heat, and he was rethinking the idea of getting in the water when Umi reappeared.

"Hey, Clef!" Umi called. "Would you help put sunscreen on my back?"

Clef looked up and his answer died on his tongue. Though he'd gone shopping with her, Clef had no memory of that particular swimming costume. Everything he'd seen either involved lots of ruffles or were streamlined one-piece garments that provided a reasonable amount of coverage.

This was little more than strategically placed triangular pieces of fabric held together with bits of string. The little bows on each of her hips looked like they might come undone any moment.

Swallowing hard, Clef took a deep breath and realised he had no memory of what Umi had asked him. "Sorry. What did you say?"

"Will you help put sunscreen on my back? I don't want a sunburn on our first day here." She pressed the bottle into his hand and turned her back toward him.

With her hair tied up on her head, Umi's back was almost completely bare. Clef was used to the various spirits and fairies in Cephiro who wore less, but this was Umi, and that made it disconcerting in a way he didn't know what to do with. It left basically nothing to the imagination: the top had none of the extra padding most of her bras did, and his memory was quick to flashback on the feeling of those curves against his chest, the way she'd pressed into him.

And now she was asking him to touch her.

Clef stared at the bottle. "What do you want me to do?"

"Just rub some on my back, where I can't reach."

If she was doing this on purpose - but how could this be a seduction, when she seemed so casual about it? She'd spent enough time insisting he remember sunscreen himself that he knew she was serious about the risk of burning. How else would she get her back covered?

Her choice of swimming costume he set to one side. After all, when else would she have a private pool and a chance to experiment with what she was comfortable wearing?

The sunscreen was slick on his fingers, and they shook a little as he warmed it in his hands before sliding them over her back. Umi's skin was warm, smooth, and Clef rubbed sunscreen over the nape of her neck before he could give in to the impulse to press a kiss there instead.

He made sure to do his job well enough to keep her from harm, then thrust the tube back into her hand and slid all the way into the water, hoping it would hide and help calm his body's reaction.

Umi sat down on the edge of the pool beside him, hissing in a breath when her legs touched the water then laughing, gently kicking her legs until the swirling currents she was generating had the water shifting all about him.

"That's a bit colder than I expected, I guess I see why you changed your mind about getting in."

"Yeah," Clef agreed, holding on to the side of the pool, staring at the shrubbery beyond her, reaching desperately for his composure as the water rippled against him like she was using it to touch him.

*

The way Clef's wet t-shirt clung semi-translucent to his chest was almost more distracting than if he'd gone without it, and Umi was trying her best not to stare. She watched the ripples roll through the water as she kicked her feet instead. She'd had a plan - part of a plan - well. She'd had at least an idea about gauging his reaction to this bikini, only his hands sliding that cream over her back had been far more distracting than she'd anticipated.

Being so turned on that she moved too fast and made him panic again was not the plan. Trying to breathe evenly enough it wasn't obvious how much that had affected her, she searched for something innocent to talk about while her heart rate slowed back to normal.

"Do you want to try snorkelling tomorrow?" she asked.

Clef turned to look at her. "You're not planning to wear that in the sea, are you?"

"Why shouldn't I?" Umi asked, trying not to giggle at his dubious expression. This bikini had been bought for use in this pool and nowhere else, but Clef didn't have to know that right now.

"Well..." Clef waved at her. "Those little ties cannot be secure enough to hold on in the waves."

Umi couldn't fight the grin that spread across her face and forgot all the plans about calming down. "Clef, are you thinking about my clothes falling off?"

"No!" A bright flush spread across Clef's cheeks.

"You are!" Umi insisted, kicking water at him. "You're thinking about me without my clothes on."

"It's not like that outfit hides very much!" Clef said, letting go of the side of the pool to splash water back at her. "It's nothing I haven't-"

'Seen before', Umi's brain filled in when Clef cut himself off. Heat rushed up the back of Umi's neck. Not just at the reminder that he'd already seen her naked, but that she'd seen him too, and that clinging t-shirt was daring her to think about it. "Pervert," she said, leaning forward to splash him again.

"Why don't you prove it will stay on in the water then," Clef said, boosting himself up onto the side long enough to get an arm around her back, sweeping her into the water with him before Umi had time to protest.

The cold rush of the water left Umi gasping as she surfaced.

Clef grinned at her, and with a laugh, Umi swept a large wave of water at him in retaliation. This was more normal - well, the fighting was - but if someone had told Umi last year she'd be having a water fight with Clef, on their honeymoon, she'd have laughed in their face.

The two of them moved around each other in the pool as they tried to splash each other, and swiftly escalated to attempts to dunk each other under the water.

After one particularly big splash, Umi managed to get behind Clef while he was pushing his hair back out of his face. When he turned out to be too well balanced to be pulled over, Umi clambered onto his back and ruffled his hair up, giggling at the way it flicked out in curls all over his head.

"Stop it!" Clef said, grabbing at her.

Umi just wrapped her leg more firmly about his waist.

It wasn't until Clef hissed in a breath and went very still that Umi noticed where her legs had ended up and that not only was her calf very much not pressed just against Clef's leg, but Clef's body was definitely responding to that touch. "Clef?"

Clef pushed her leg away, his voice shaking slightly as he said, "Get down."

"Sorry!" Umi's face went hot and she slid off his back.

"You stay here and do your swimming. I need to have a shower before we go to dinner." Clef waded through the water to the stairs, not looking around at her, flushing so hard even the back of his neck was going blotchily pink.

Umi rubbed her hands over her face, and leaned against the side of the pool, taking a ragged breath. She needed something to get her mind off that.

Climbing out of the pool she headed over to grab her phone off the table by the deck chairs, only it wasn't there.

She must have left it inside.

Well, it had to have been less than a minute, Clef couldn't be in the shower yet.

"Sorry, forgot my phone!" she called as she scurried across the room to get it off the table.

The shower was already running, and she didn't mean to look. Really she didn't. But the combination of the sound with motion out of the corner of her eye had her glancing over automatically, even as she reminded herself not to.

Clef was naked in the shower.

Of course he was naked. He was in the shower. She should have realised - should have thought - he was hardly wearing the normal amount of clothes. They hadn't even been dry - he could have walked right into the shower without a pause.

It wasn't just the nakedness that caught her attention, but the way he was bent forward supporting himself on the wall with one hand while the other...

The other...

Umi flailed back out of the villa. She stood on the patio, clutching her phone to her chest, unable to get the image out of her head. Was he thinking about her while...

Umi carefully set her phone down and sat on the edge of the pool with her back firmly to the villa, the realisation dawning that Clef's declaration he needed a shower that one morning after their kiss could have had a very different meaning than just putting space between them. Had he touched himself then, too?

Back then, with Hikaru and Lantis both in the apartment, she could understand why he might have hidden himself away. But here there were just the two of them, and he still ran away to take care of himself on his own.

But Clef's body reacting to being touched didn't mean he was actually attracted to her, Umi told herself, sharply, splashing her legs in the water and biting her lip. It wasn't like many people touched Clef at all, let alone climbed all over him. Even if he was... Just being attracted to someone didn't actually mean you wanted to have sex with them. Logically she understood that - she'd heard her friends complaining enough about hot people they didn't like, even if Umi hadn't ever felt that way herself. She'd only ever been interested in touching a couple of people, and they were all people she liked.

Her hands were shaking. She clasped them together, then thought better of that - it just reminded her of holding Clef's hands as they walked about, and she grabbed hold of the edge of the pool instead.

Clef might not want to have sex with anyone, whether he liked them or not. He'd certainly not done anything like that for centuries, now, and if he was still worried about his bond with Cephiro - he'd mentioned once, wistfully, that he hoped that he would at least stay Guru long enough the Council were forced to change the rules, even if they appointed someone else to the post.

Umi took a deep breath. If he didn't want to have sex, she would be okay with that. She would. It would just be... a little disappointing.

Her whole body ached at the thought of him, no matter how hard she pressed her legs together, how hard she tried to breathe deeply and concentrate on the cool of the water.

Biting her lip again, she shook her head. It was fine. He didn't want them to have sex? Okay then. It didn't change anything.

She'd bought some cute bikinis for this trip and wanted to enjoy them. If Clef didn't like it, that was his problem.

Umi splashed back into the water and forced herself to swim laps of the pool. It almost worked - she was nearly feeling calm again until Clef walked out, towelling off his hair, looking so good with it curling about his face that it instantly undid all Umi’s hard work cooling off.

“Do you want to shower before we go to dinner?” Clef asked, looking at her like nothing had happened.

“Yeah, I’ll do that!” Umi flailed out of the water and back into the villa, cursing under her breath the whole way.