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Mine

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After their time with the people of Datsun - or their time in the temple without any other people - Umi and Clef had been sharing rooms, both on the ship and on the lands they visited, and no one was saying very much about it. The lands nearby hadn't questioned it when they asked to stay together - and more than one had given them a shared room unprompted. The Datsun weren't the only people hereabouts to have a strong empathic talent.

This morning, nearly two months later, Clef was telling Umi to hurry up before they missed breakfast as he headed out of the door - which was why he didn't notice the box on the ground until he tripped over it and thumped down onto the floor.

"Ouch!" Umi called out, shooting across the room. "Hey, are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Can't you tell?" He rolled over to look up at her, pulling a face. "If you hadn't distracted me-"

"Things don't always come across clearly, you know that," she said, reaching down to pull him up. "Anyway, aren't I allowed to express concern?"

Clef stumbled onto his feet, and carefully stepped around the box, letting Umi pull him back into the room and push him down on the only chair which was free enough from heavily embroidered cushions to actually sit on. She brought the box in, and shut the door, before having a similar issue with where she could put the box down - every piece of furniture not covered in embroidered furnishings was covered with bowls and bowls of flowers, a hundred different types.

After a moment, she set it on the bed, and raised an eyebrow at Clef. "I'm guessing this is for us. Can you tell if it's safe to open it?"

A quick spell brought back no sense of danger, and the people here had been nothing but welcoming. "Go ahead."

The box itself was a dark wood, heavily carved, laquer in deep reds, blues, and greens filling the recesses in the swirling pattern. It was beautiful, and about as long as Clef's forearm in every direction - which made it even more embarrassing that he'd gone arse over head over it. The latch was simple, and Umi flicked it open, and then raised the lid cautiously.

A gleam of metal shone back from the inside, and the awe hit him even as Umi took a sharp breath.

"Hey, Clef, is there any reason these people would be trying to bribe us?"

"Not that I know of?" He abandoned the chair to come perch beside her on the bed, and had his own moment of impressed confusion. "That's… that's a lot of jewellery."

"Isn't it?"

The box was lined with a silken red cloth, embroidered in gold; nestled in the cloth were paired pieces of jewellery. Delicate filigree earrings, solid metalwork bracers… two matched pendants… he reached out, brushing his fingers over one. "Do you think-"

"It's meant to be one of each of these for each of us?" Umi nodded. "I… think it might be."

"…Do you suppose we're meant to wear them now? Would leaving them off be some kind of an insult?" he wondered, the metal warming swiftly under his fingers. There were five sets of rings, in little carved bowls tucked into the folds of the lining. "Or would wearing them be an insult?"

"Given we don't know why they were left, I don't think we're going to be able to work that out," Umi told him, wryly. "Though I'd expect some kind of explanation, if we were meant to wear some of this today."

"Did anyone else receive a present this morning, I wonder?"

"Well, if we go down to breakfast, we might get answers to at least one of those questions." Umi shrugged. "They can't take offence at our not wearing things until we've asked about them, can they?"

Stranger things had caused offence in the past, but it seemed the safest bet, so Clef helped Umi shut the lid again and they headed back out of the room, down the corridor and outside, where a raised walkway carried them over a large pond full of decorative fish that looked like smaller versions of Fyula. Their friends were just sitting down to eat, at a table set up in the covered platform which waited at the far edge of the pond, and as they came to the end of the walkway one of the hostesses rose gracefully from her seat and somehow managed to intercept them.

"Good morning," she murmured, with a bow.

"And good morning to you, too," Umi said for them, bowing in return and leaping straight into questions. "We found a very lovely box of shiny things outside our room this morning, was it intended for us? Or-"

The hostess smiled at them, turning her hand over so the heavy bracelet on her wrist glinted. It had a pattern not dissimilar to the one on the bracelets in the box they'd found, but the shapes weren't the same. "It is a bonding-gift box," she said, keeping her tone low. "As your bond is still recent, and you are travelling, it was thought right to give you what would be given to any of our people who are newly bound; many lands take the wearing of shared tokens as an outward sign of your commitment. The box ensures that whatever form the local token takes, you will be able to supply yourself appropriately should you wish."

Umi stared at her, then somehow flushed, and why that of all things made her grin Clef couldn't say. "Thanks!" she said, and he could tell she was on the verge of laughter - could hear it in her voice, let alone through the strange connection they were still working out.

"Thank you for the gift, we appreciate it very much," he said, and the hostess said no more, just ushered them to the table.

Several hours later, they returned to their room, and Umi grinned at the box again.

"What is amusing you so much about this?" Clef asked, still confused. "It's a lovely gift, I think."

"It is!" Umi grinned at him. "I just - I can now plainly label you 'mine' on any of the lands around here. It's absolutely lovely."

Clef looked at her, then burst out laughing. "Yes, I can see why that appealed to you," he said, and held out his arm to her. "It's the bracelets here, I believe. If you want to go ahead?"

It took her barely a second to take the invitation, and as the cool metal closed about his wrist, his breath caught, and he couldn't help but smile.

"Mine," Umi murmured again, still giggling slightly as she leaned up and kissed him, the barest brush of her lips over his.

"Yes." He kissed her, even as his hands helped slide the second bracelet about her wrist. "Yours."