Yes, I know it's not chapter sixteen. It popped into my mind earlier today and wouldn't go away until I wrote it down. It's shorter than chapter sixteen. That's my only excuse.

Inuyasha slid open Kagome's window, ignoring the bubble of anticipation swelling in his chest. He'd been unusually benevolent this last time -- he'd let her stay in the future for a whole week. But now it was time for her to come back. He'd hopped in the well promptly at sunrise, before Miroku could nod knowingly, or Sango smile encouragingly, or Shippo make a snide comment about being careful not to make Kagome angry. I just want to get her and bring her home, dammit. Then we can get on with things. He hopped down to the floor and turned to her bed, prepared to wait on the floor next to it until she woke up.

But she wasn't there.

He stood there, gaping. The hell? Where is she? Did I get the wrong day? No, I counted them off, I know I did. Inuyasha sniffed and his brows drew together. It smells like her. Her and... blood.

Kagome's door opened and his head snapped up, hand automatically hovering over the hilt of Tetsusaiga. Kagome sent him a pained, weary smile as she shuffled back to her bed. "It's just me."

"Good, you're up," Inuyasha said. Now I don't have to wait. "Get dressed and let's go." Kagome eased herself back into bed, grimacing. "Oi, I said --"

"I know what you said. I can't come with you right away. I don't know if I'm going to be able to come back today."

Inuyasha's expression darkened like clouds rolling over the sun. Kagome sighed. "You said --"

"I know what I said," she snapped. "I just... I can't, okay? I don't feel well."

"You don't smell sick." He stopped and blinked at her. Is she blushing?

Kagome plucked her cover nervously between her fingers. "It's... can't you just trust me? I don't feel well."

He plopped on the edge of her bed, scowling down at her. "What can't you tell me? That it's your bleeding time? I can smell that, you know."

Kagome blew out a breath. "I know. It's so embarrassing."

Inuyasha shrugged. "You said all human girls do it. That it means they can whelp."

"Yes. Well. Sometimes... it hurts."

He blinked. "It hurts?" She nodded, still toying with her bedclothes. "You didn't tell me it hurts!"

"It doesn't always. Usually it's enough for me to take some aspirin."

"So do that!"

"Shhh!" Kagome glanced nervously at the door. "I did. They woke me up in the middle of the night and I took four. I took another four just now. I've even got the heating pad on. And it still hurts." She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "So I'm tired, I'm sore, and it's not getting better."

Inuyasha frowned, studying her face. She did look pale and exhausted. "...How come it hurts? It doesn't hurt Sango."

"I know," Kagome muttered. "She's so lucky. As to why it hurts... I don't know. I just know that some girls get them and some girls don't."

Inuyasha looked away, staring fixedly at a point across her room. "Where does it hurt?"



He could feel her curious stare drilling into the side of his head. "...My back. Down low." The bedclothes rustled as she shifted, curling on her side. "It's no big deal. I'm not dying or anything. If I'm lucky, they'll stop by lunchtime and we can have ramen and go, okay?"

"You didn't tell me it hurts," he said again.

A small hand curved over his leg and he glanced down at her. "It isn't anything you can help," Kagome murmured. "Besides," a smile played around her mouth, "you thought it was disgusting enough that human girls bleed."

Inuyasha reached over and flattened a hand on the small of her back, edging his way under the material of her pajama top. Kagome's eyes widened. "What did Miroku-sama teach you while I've been gone?"

"Shhh," he hushed. Her skin was unnaturally warm, probably from the pad radiating heat she'd been lying on. But he could feel her muscles beneath his hand, knotted and twitching in tiny spasms. Damn. She wasn't kidding. "This happens every time?"

"It's usually not this bad." He shifted his hand and very gingerly probed the knots with his fingertips, careful to keep his claws away from her skin. She stiffened and he nearly stopped, except that in the moment before he could snatch his hand away, she groaned softly. "Oh, God. Keep doing that." Inuyasha obliged, kneading at her back with more confidence. Kagome let out a long soft sigh and cuddled closer to his leg, tucking her arm around his calf. "You have about fifty years to stop," she murmured.

"Don't say fifty years," he said, and she smiled an apology. Slowly, the spasms beneath his fingers began to stop and the knots to loosen. Her breath warmed his skin through the material of his hakama, and the tension that had knotted his shoulders since she'd left a week ago began to ease.

"If you don't stop, I'll fall asleep," Kagome whispered.

"So fall asleep," he said gruffly. "You're no good to me tired." She slapped his thigh and he smiled involuntarily. "Besides, the sooner you sleep, the sooner we can go home."

"Mmm. A little harder, please?" He shifted his hand, obliging, earning another throaty moan that he tried very hard to ignore. "Yeah. I want to go home."

"Then sleep," Inuyasha said again, and brushed her bangs back gently with his other hand. Her breathing slowed and steadied into a familiar rhythm, but even after he was certain she was deeply asleep, he kept kneading her flesh. "You have to tell me when it hurts, Kagome," he murmured. "I can't protect you if you don't tell me when it hurts." She mumbled in reply and his mouth twitched in another smile. He pulled Tetsusaiga from his belt with his free hand and leaned it against her nightstand, then carefully scooted both of them into a more comfortable position. It took a moment, since Kagome refused to let go of his leg, but eventually he coaxed her to accept his torso as a substitute. They lay side-by-side as morning lit the room, her arm draped over his side, his hand still stroking her skin, protecting her from her own pain.