I know this is a really long one-shot, but I had so much fun writing it that I could never stop for a chapter break. As always, Inuyasha and crew belong to Rumiko Takahashi, not to me. Thanks to everyone that's kept up with me over the past few months, and a special shout-out to Kristen Sharpe, a fantastic writer who always has thoughtful insights and nice things to say. If you like it, please review – if not, let me know how it could be better. Thanks for stopping by!
"Sit!" Kagome's voice shot out over the courtyard of her family's shrine. A cacophony of splintering tree limbs, terrified whimpering, and enraged howling answered her command, ending abruptly with a hard thud. Everything was silent.
For about two seconds.
"Kagome, you bitch!" A furious barking answered the half-demon's outcry. As Kagome rounded the sacred tree, she found Inuyasha planted face-first in the ground, unable to stave off the gray fluff that snapped and snarled at his toes. She repeated her command, and the furry, howling fuzz sank its teeth into Inuyasha's left foot when the half-demon plummeted to the ground a second time.
"No!" Kagome scolded, wagging her finger at the puppy. "Bad dog!" Two little pointy ears flattened back as a very chastened puppy slunk towards her. Kagome crouched and rapped its wet black nose smartly with two fingers. "Don't bite!"
"Oi, bitch, do you see what you did?" Inuyasha glowered above her, having finally shaken the spell. He pointed at his slightly-bleeding foot, scowling. His eyes narrowed dangerously as he pulled his fist back to administer his own version of puppy training.
"Sit!" Kagome announced, unfazed when the half-demon's face met the ground a few scant inches from her bent knees. "Don't hit!"
The sudden movement sent the puppy into fits of howling again, and as soon as Inuyasha was able to pull his face out of the rain-wet earth, he unleashed a string a curses that made Kagome's ears burn.
He bit off a final word – a particularly nasty one – with a snarl and a grimace.
Kagome shook her head wonderingly. "Did you really think I would let you hit Silver?"
"It bit me!" Inuyasha yelled, steaming.
"You scared him first."
"It pissed on the damn tree!"
"It's a dog. They do that from time to time."
"It stinks!" he retorted, glaring hatefully at the offending creature. "Why the hell you had to take in that stray mutt anyway, I'll never know."
"He was all by himself, Inuyasha," she protested, "and he looked half-starved. It's only been a week and a half, and see how much better he looks with Souta and Mama doting on him!"
She cast him a sidelong glance. "Besides," she went on nonchalantly, "I didn't leave you alone when you needed me." At the outraged, incoherent sputtering that constituted Inuyasha's reply, she picked up the 'stray mutt' in question and nuzzled gently at its neck. It squirmed excitedly and quickly applied a wet streak of saliva to her cheek with a long, red tongue.
"All in all, I think I get more appreciation for my troubles from Silver," she giggled. She scratched its ears affectionately, and set it down. Tail swishing back and forth at a frantic pace, it trotted after her.
Flushing partially with humiliation at having been compared to the tail-swishing fluff-ball, and partially with anger, Inuyasha stared after the pair, eyes boring into the back of Kagome's head.
So it took him by surprise when, at the door, she turned her most winning smile on him. "Aren't you coming?"
Inuyasha maintained a stony silence, fighting back the hot blush on his cheeks.
If she noticed, she didn't comment on it. Instead, she called to him, still smiling, "Come on, Inuyasha! I can't tend your foot out here; I need to get some things out of the first aid kit! So come inside."
"It's just a dog bite," he snapped back waspishly. "It's nothin' to worry about."
Her grin widened, and Inuyasha fought down a sudden urge to retreat from the hint of malice in her smile.
"You were so upset with Silver over it, it must have been very painful for you," she cooed coaxingly. "And my saying – " he waved his hands furiously at her to cut off the word she almost let slip – "that word couldn't have made your poor foot feel any better. So you'd better come in." Something hard glittered in Kagome's eyes. It might have been the sunlight – but Inuyasha didn't think so. So, scowling darkly, he followed the girl and her new pet into the house, grumbling under his breath about thrice-damned dogs and stupid, weird, stupid, stupid women.
Once inside, he grudgingly allowed her to bandage his foot, although, truthfully, the puppy hadn't done much damage. He'd take it off as soon as he was back through the well, anyway, though he didn't tell Kagome that. She was acting entirely too weird over the new puppy to be trusted with the truth.
When she had finished winding bandages around his foot, she squeezed his ankle lightly before releasing it, and stared at it with a wry kind of smile, causing Inuyasha to flush once again.
She laughed a little, and rocked back on her heels, blue-gray eyes dancing. "You really are the most obstinate person I've ever met, did you know?" she asked, her voice much gentler than her words.
Shaking her head, still smiling – a genuine smile this time – she continued, "I want to eat dinner with my family before I go back, if you don't mind, so you can head back and wait for me there, if you want. I know you're dying to strip off the dressing." Blue eyes twinkled knowingly at him, and her sweet smile played at her lips.
Damn the girl. First she knocked him all off-balance with her coy little smiles and affectionate, indulgent tones and gentle fingers, and now he had to leave the scratchy-itchy wooly thing on, just to prove that he wasn't as predictable as she seemed to think he was.
It wasn't until the damn bite had completely faded and he didn't need the bandages anymore that he realized she'd cornered him into doing exactly what she'd wanted him to. To wit, leave the bandages on until the bite had completely healed. Damn the girl!
Later that week, his companions found themselves plagued with an Inuyasha gripped with an inexplicable black mood. He snapped at Sango – the one person in the group he usually got along with pretty well – and he argued almost incessantly with Miroku. Both he and Shippou bore the telltale signs of their scuffles: Shippou's head was covered in lumps and Inuyasha's haori and hakama were covered in grass stains and dirt. Kagome refused to speak with him anymore, unless the words expected of her were "yes," "no," or "sit."
The fact of the matter, though he barely would admit the truth to himself, was that he simply did not feel well. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually been ill; he must have been at some point, he knew his mother had made medicines for him as a child. But he could tell that he was feverish, and his eyes felt gummy and sticky. His appetite had dwindled to nothing, and more and more even faint fragrances caused his stomach to lurch and roil unpleasantly. Displeased with his current state of affairs but unwilling to do anything about it, he growled and snapped at everyone who got too close.
Five nights after returning from Kagome's era, after forcing down a slimy fish for dinner and forgoing seconds, leaving the last fish for Shippou this once, nausea overcame him. He shot up from his perch on a boulder near the campfire, leaving several very surprised humans shouting after him, worried that he had smelled or sensed something they hadn't.
For ten solid minutes he emptied his gut into a dry creek bed. When nothing was left to expel, a dry heaving possessed him, as he had been further nauseated by the revolting mess and the worse smell.
Shit. I'm going to have to bathe around here somewhere, or even their weak human noses'll smell this on me, he thought, disgusted. He shuddered when he realized he probably had managed to get vomit on his clothing, in his hair. Upon reaching up to inspect the tangled silver mane, he discovered that his hair was not where it ought to have been.
Instead, it had been pulled back away from his face by two slender white hands.
He tried to jerk away, humiliated, but the vomiting spell had left him woozy. He landed squarely on his rump, unable to escape Kagome's worried eyes. Swiping at his mouth, horrified, he settled the blackest glare he could summon upon her, growling warningly.
She didn't take the hint.
"Go away," he snarled. She couldn't misunderstand that.
Probably she didn't misunderstand, but she ignored him nonetheless, slipping a cool, long-fingered hand around the back of his neck. "You're burning up," she told him, biting her lip.
"I didn't need you to tell me that, bitch!" he roared back at her. Well, tried to roar. Ten minutes of stomach acid and bile and dry heaving assaulting his throat had left his voice raspy and weak; his best roar came out as a not-so-scary hiss.
How she could examine him so intently and ignore him so thoroughly was truly amazing. Leaving the one hand cupped at the nape of his neck, she gently smudged away some gunk from his gooey, sticky eyes with the thumb of her free hand. He jerked away from her again, this time managing to at least rid himself of her touch. Still too dizzy to attempt running away, he refused to look at her.
He had never been so mortified. Sesshoumaru's insults never compared to this, this weakness, this being captured at his very worst. And by Kagome, no less. Not that it really mattered who it was, he reminded himself hastily. A bloody injury was one thing – a pile of vomit on the ground was something else entirely. Shamed and miserable, he almost didn't hear her approach him. When he did, he tried to slink away, not unlike her damned puppy.
"Stop." There was a quiet kind of pleading in her voice, and he resentfully obeyed her, though he couldn't meet her eyes.
Suddenly, a pair of white arms slipped around his waist, and he felt Kagome's light breathing through his haori as she rested her head against his back.
"You really don't trust me at all, do you?" she asked, her voice almost an inaudible sigh. There was something infinitely sad in her muted tones, and he almost felt more ashamed of having made her feel so badly than having been caught vomiting.
He opened his mouth to make some smart retort, she shushed him. "I don't want to fight with you while you're like this, so whatever you were going to say, you're right. I shouldn't have followed you: you could have sensed Naraku or some other horrible demon, or any number of other things I shouldn't have had anything to do with."
Like this, he wanted to spit back. But he found himself too despondent even to pick a fight with her.
"Like it or not, though, I'm here now. And if you think I'm going to let you shrug off being this ill, you don't know me at all." A steely determination had crept into her voice alongside her sharp concern, reminding him all too well that she was just as stubborn and unyielding in her way as he was in his.
"I'm not some weak, stupid human that can't –"
"Hush." She cut him off firmly, tightening her grip on his abused abdomen. "I know you're not. But you're still sick, and the last thing you ought to be doing is worrying about hiding it from people who care about you and want to help you."
"I don't get sick," he muttered.
"That's why it's so important we find out why you're sick now," she pointed out reasonably. Once more he pulled away from her grasp.
"Just leave me alone." She was silent for a moment before answering.
"You had no right to follow me out here," he snapped at her, infuriated and frighteningly, dreadfully insecure about where he stood with the weak human girl who had witnessed his disgusting moment of weakness.
She dipped her pretty face to one side, studying him, waiting for him lash out at her for not answering.
Which of course, he did, not even really caring that he'd been predictable. "What the fuck are you staring at?" he demanded, painfully aware of her scrutiny. She swallowed hard, as if bracing herself.
"I care about you, Inuyasha," she said slowly, locking gazes with him. She licked her lips nervously, but didn't blink or give him the opportunity to break eye contact. Knowing with her faultless, galling intuition that he could never make himself look away first.
"You're sick. That upsets me. It frightens me." She drew a deep breath and plunged onward. "It hurts me that you can't trust me with a silly thing like getting sick, when you have to deal with my limitations all the time." She reached to touch his face; he flinched away, hating himself for letting her get so deeply under his skin.
But it felt good when she finally did lay her hand against his cheek.
"Come home with me."
"We have things to do here," he objected hotly.
"Come home with me."
"I can't – the last battle is coming fast, and we both know it." She waited a few moments.
"Come home with me."
"Over something this stupid, wench? I don't think so."
She reached up and held his face in both hands. Her blue eyes were dark with worry, and damn it all, wet with unshed tears. The entreaty in her voice tugged at him relentlessly, and she uttered the final, fatal word.
Crying was cheating, Inuyasha grumbled darkly to himself, staring over the edge of the dry well that would carry him to Kagome's world. There was no way it could be fair to use weapons he didn't have access to, didn't even understand. Like samurai, against the nearing approach western weaponry, Inuyasha fell, helpless. With those stupid, stupid little water droplets, she had damped his resistance. Against those, he was about as much use as gunpowder in the rain before the invention of fully contained metal cartridges.
It wasn't fair!
"We're not going back for you to study, you know, so don't even think about it," he barked at her.
"I know," she answered with a half-smile. "I might go to class once, though, just to convince people not to come over looking for me while you're there. I'm sure the last thing you want is more people fussing over you." Her smile turned into a sunny grin. "Maybe I'll have a spectacular fainting spell and have Mama tell the school I have a highly contagious respiratory infection that prevents me from getting enough oxygen."
Although the exercise of Kagome's less-than-sterling acting abilities never failed to amuse him, however secretly, he couldn't muster up an answering smile or even a disinterested "Feh." His stomach churned, and he felt even dizzier than he had before. Before he realized it, he'd shot out a hand to steady himself, gripping the well so tightly his knuckles were turning white. Knowing that if he looked at her, he'd see that her pretty smile had been replaced with a concerned frown, he clambered into the well, exerting all the force of will at his disposal to not fall flat on his face at the bottom when the trip through time served to further disorient him.
He didn't fall over. But that was only because Kagome caught him. On leaping out of the well, he misjudged the distance and succeeded in scraping Kagome's arm badly against the rocky lip of the well. The minor exertion left him exhausted and lightheaded.
Kneeling beside the well, Kagome hovering anxiously somewhere behind him, he tried to make the world stop spinning before continuing on to the house.
Kagome slid an arm under his shoulders to help him stand. He shot her an ugly look, which she stoically ignored. Deciding that leaning on her was slightly less unmanning than proving his inability to walk on his own, he clenched his fists and ground his teeth and allowed her to support him into the house.
No one was home, though it was pretty late. The runt was probably at a friends' house; he didn't know where Kagome's mother or her grandfather were. The stairs proved a hassle; his depth perception was off and he kept missing steps, his mistakes nearly throwing Kagome off-balance as well. But finally they made it to her room, with its ruffly pink bedspread and curtains, and her warm scent wafting comfortably throughout.
He managed to get onto her bed with relatively little trouble and took up his customary cross-legged position on it, modifying it only slightly so that his back was supported against the wall. Kagome whisked out and back in with several round and ovular 'pills,' as she called them. He sniffed at them suspiciously and immediately wished he hadn't; one of them had a horrible, bitter smell that knocked into him like a blow from arrogant elder brother.
"There ain't no way you're getting me to take that," he announced defiantly, pointing at the white pill in her hand.
"Huh? It's just aspirin, Inuyasha. It'll help bring your fever down." She offered him the pills again. Deciding discretion might be the better part of valor in his current situation, he carefully selected the other little objects she held before knocking her hand away, sending the one called aspirin flying.
He expected to be sat. She just shook her head and left the room briefly, returning with water and a funny looking pill that was red on one end and white on the other. Holding it up to his face for inspection, she waited for him to sniff it and approve of it before handing him the glass of water. This one he swallowed without complaint.
"That's Tylenol," she told him. "It might make you a little sleepy." He wouldn't have been able to tell; he was exhausted already. He closed his eyes against her, still sitting upright on the bed. He heard her open her mouth and close it again, evidently deciding against whatever she had been going to say.
"You might as well study," he finally said, feeling uncharacteristically benevolent, maybe because she was handling the whole being sick thing with a great deal more aplomb and tact than he would have expected from her.
"But you said I shouldn't," she replied, eyes darkening with uncertainty.
"Bah. Listen to what I'm saying now," he instructed, eyes still closed. "You won't get another chance for a long time. You'd better take advantage of it."
A small pause. "Alright. Let me feed Silver first."
He felt his eyebrows twitch in aggravation, not really sure why he didn't like Kagome's new pet, but absolutely positive of the fact. She left the room, and he fought sleep until she returned.
"I can't find him," she said in a puzzled tone of voice.
"Don't worry about it. Just study," he told her, weariness sapping his voice of the bite he meant it to carry.
"Okay." He listened to the sound of her pencil scratching for several minutes, and had almost drifted off to sleep when he heard a small, exasperated sigh escape her mouth.
"What?" he murmured, barely awake.
"I'm just never going to remember all of this stuff for Modern Japanese History," she answered, her voice soft.
"Modern," he answered ironically. "How modern?"
"This next test is supposed to cover everything from the Matthew Perry mission to the regaining of Japanese Independence."
He opened his eyes and blinked owlishly at her. "What's there to know? Matthew Perry, 1853. Treaty between the US and Japan, ending Japanese isolationist policies, at the end of the Tokugawa period. The Meiji period made Japan a world power to prevent Western encroachment. Universal male suffrage introduced in 1925 in the Taisho period. Liberal rule replaced with military cabinets in the Showa. Japan enters WWII in 1940. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombed in 1945, resulting in Japan's unconditional surrender and allied occupation until 1951, leaving Japan with a parliamentary government and a democratic constitution."
She was staring at him wide-eyed and slack-jawed. "How did you know all of that?" she demanded.
"You got mad the last time I followed you to school, and sent me back at lunch." he shrugged, closing his eyes again. "I got bored."
"So you read my history book?" she asked incredulously.
"It's not history to me," he pointed out sleepily.
"But you remembered it!" she wailed. "Not fair, not fair, not fair!"
He smirked a little before drifting off to sleep. He didn't feel himself topple over to land nose-first in Kagome's pillow, didn't feel her turn him over to wipe at his gummy eyes, didn't feel her lay a damp rag over his forehead.
What he did feel, several hours later – it was almost dawn – was the slight shaking of the bed as Kagome quietly wept beside him. If possible, he was even more miserable – his nose had started to run and his breath rattled painfully in his chest. But at least he wasn't so dizzy and nauseous anymore. He coughed wetly.
"Oi. What's wrong with you?" he asked gruffly, sniffling.
She didn't say anything, but continued to cry.
"Hey, I asked you a question, wench." He poked her side, covering his mouth with his free hand as he coughed again.
"Silver died." He blinked, eyes itching. He swiped at them, and his fingers came away with a sticky goo. He glared at it with distaste before wiping his hands on his haori. Kagome was still crying softly.
"It was just a damn dog," he muttered, but he patted her back awkwardly as he said it. He sighed, air rasping wetly in his throat. "What happened?"
"He got sick," Kagome answered tearfully. "Distemper. That's where mom and grandpa were last night, at the vet with Silver. And you probably have what he had."
"Oh, that's perfect," he snapped, suddenly feeling a lot less kindly. He roused himself to a sitting position against the headboard. "You just couldn't leave the damn thing along, and now look what – hey!"
She'd jerked the pillow to her and clutched it tightly, sobbing heartbrokenly as she buried her face in it.
"Oi, wench, stop that already!" he urged, annoyed and extremely uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry I didn't like your stupid dog. Just quit crying!"
Her sobs quieted a little. She was so damn tender-hearted. It had just been a little silver-colored mutt, with pointy ears and admittedly engaging golden-yellow eyes, but… Inuyasha smacked himself mentally. Stupid.
"I didn't leave you when you needed me."
"All in all, I think I get more appreciation for my troubles from Silver."
"Hey." Kagome continued to sniffle in the pillow.
He prodded a little at her shoulder. "Did you pick up that stray because it reminded you of me?" The sniffling stopped abruptly, but she didn't answer him. That was answer enough.
"Stupid wench." There wasn't any irritation left in his voice, although the hissy, raspy sounds he made covered any gentleness that might have slipped out in his tone.
She glared at him, tears still staining her cheeks. "Distemper is serious, Inuyasha! And you've got a lot of the classic symptoms."
He coughed, glaring at her. "I ain't a stray dog. There's no way I'm dying from a dog disease that I wouldn't have even got if you hadn't been so stupid." Checking that last over in his head, he decided that his point had been made, even if the grammar had been a little tricky.
Suddenly, Kagome was buried in his haori, crying again.
"You better not," she whispered into chest. "You'd just better not."
"Worrying over such stupid stuff," he wondered, embarrassed.
"It's not stupid."
That... wasn't the right response, and he left off badgering her.
She spent the next few hours at the lighted, square box on her desk, researching canine distemper and how to treat it. In the meantime, having discovered that Inuyasha had a taste for history – or at least for peeking into the future – she dug up her old European history text and let him peruse it. His mother had been an avid reader, and when he had been little, it had seemed as if he'd inherited her love of writing and learning. But neither books nor education were easily accessible to half-demons, and he'd almost forgotten the feel of having discovered something new about the world.
He'd never told Kagome, of course, or the others, but when they were all asleep and it was just him and Kirara keeping watch, he'd slip her textbooks out of her heavy yellow bag and flip through them, looking for bits of random information. Her literature and history books were the best. English obviously didn't appeal to him, but for her literature class, she brought a number of intriguing paper-bound books, many of them from other cultures and translated into Japanese. What she called science and algebra assumed a basic knowledge that he evidently lacked; nothing in either of those books ever made sense. Of course, he laughed to himself evilly, nothing much made sense in there to her, either.
A little pang of guilt hit his spine. It didn't make sense to her because she never went to class to have it explained, an opportunity that, in his younger days, he would have killed for. But there was no help for it. He needed her in the feudal era, and she would just have to pick up her education in the rare free moments he could afford to give her.
Still, if it was history she was having trouble with, he could probably help her, if left alone with her books long enough. He had a good memory for that kind of thing. He flipped through a section on the English Civil war, laughing inwardly at the ridiculous costumes Europeans had got themselves up in. Or would get themselves up in… damn timeline.
"Hey." Suddenly Kagome was sitting on the bed beside him, holding a glass of water. She tried to hand it to him.
"Not thirsty," he said dismissively. Really he was just afraid it wouldn't stay down, although his stomach had settled significantly since the fish from last night.
"Drink the water, and I'll make us some ramen, okay?"
He scowled. "I ain't hungry either."
"I know, but it would be bad if you got dehydrated."
"I told you, I'm not going to be beaten by some stupid dog disease!" He glowered menacingly at her.
Her eyes began to tear up again. "Please?"
Damn the girl! Crying just wasn't playing fair. Not at all. Realizing he was beaten, he snatched the water from her and downed it, glaring at her the whole while. She smiled sweetly. "Thank you."
"No tears, s'not fair when you cry," he muttered.
"It's not fair when you haul me off bodily back to the feudal era, either, bigshot, so you're just going to have to deal with it." Ouch.
She left him to his book, and by the time he'd gotten to the Glorious Revolution, she'd returned with two steaming bowls of ramen. Usually, he'd jump at the noodles, probably burn her hand with the hot broth snatching it from her. Today, the smell just turned his stomach.
"Ugh. No." He shook his head.
"You have to eat something, Inuyasha."
"I'm really not hungry." It wasn't a lie, exactly. He wasn't hungry. But he knew, and was painfully aware that she probably knew it too, that whatever he ate was unlikely to stay down. And he had no intention of losing the contents of his stomach right there in front of her ever again.
"That's one of the symptoms of distemper," she informed him quietly. "But you still need to eat."
She smiled gently. "I took care of you back there at the creek bed, didn't I?" He stiffened. "I promise not to let you be sick all over yourself."
That did it. He bounded out of the bed, and was out the window before she could even put out a hand to stop him. Unfortunately, the sudden movement destroyed his sense of balance – flinging oneself out of a second-story window after hopping half-way across a room demanded a lot more stability than resting quietly in bed had. He landed ignobly on his side, and Kagome, faster than he would have believed possible, had clambered down the side of the house in search of him. He sprang to his feet, stiffened, preparing to launch into a run, and found the ground rushing up to meet him instead.
"Bitch!" he yelled. "What'd you do that for?"
Small bare feet appeared in front of him, connected to long, long legs, slender hips and torso, and a very worried looking face.
"Why?" he spat, grimacing at the dirt he'd managed to eat.
"Oh, Inuyasha." She sounded worried too, damn it. If he didn't get out now, he wasn't ever going to be able to get away from her. "Inuyasha, I didn't say it."
Shit. He'd tripped over his own two feet? This day just kept getting better. He struggled to rise, but a series of painful coughs seized him, and he found himself curled up on the ground, fighting for breath. He almost didn't notice the firm hand on his back, quickly kneading the back of his lungs, trying to loosen the thick slimy mess he felt like he was choking on. After a few minutes, the spell subsided, and he was left exhausted on the ground, Kagome's long-fingered hands working through his hair.
He managed to pull himself into an upright position. Drawing his knees up to his breast and crossing his arms over them, he buried his face in the folds of the robe of the fire-rat. Tears of frustration leaked out the corner of his maddeningly gooey eyes, and they only made his runny nose that much worse.
"Fuck it." He muttered hoarsely into his sleeves. "Just fuck it."
"Inuyasha?" Kagome asked uncertainly. He flinched away from her, humiliated and miserable.
A gentle touch reminded him that she hadn't taken her hands out of his hair yet.
"I'm sorry, Inuyasha." Her voice was very quiet. "You've had to be so strong and independent for such a long time, just to stay alive. I can't even imagine how you must feel having to depend on someone as weak as me." His ears pricked up, despite himself.
"But I don't mind, you know." He winced; she made him sound so pathetic. "You've always been there for me when I was at my worst. I wish I could do the same for you without it being so awkward." Her hand rubbed little circles on his back.
"You're sick, and it's my fault." She sounded so sad that he almost raised his head to make sure she wasn't crying. Then he remembered he had been, and kept his face nestled in his arms. "I know you're not used to being taken care of, and I'll try my best not to be fussy or bossy or overly protective, but please just let me help."
Shit. Had he made her cry again?
"Please, Inuyasha." Oh, damn, with the voice and the little pleading note that always gave her the upper hand and the little circles on his back, there wasn't any way he could tell her no. But it was still going to be awkward.
Inuyasha let her help him back to the house, let her help him up the stairs. He ate the damn ramen, though it had cooled significantly, and didn't taste at all like it should, with his nose messed up as it was. He let her take his haori and shirt, both too sweat-soaked from his coughing fit to be comfortable. When she drew a cool bath to try to bring his fever down, he consented to shiver in the water for almost an hour before emerging, to find that she'd taken off with his hakama too, leaving him with something she called "lounge" pants in their place. He didn't know where she'd gotten them; he didn't ask. They were loose though, and pretty comfortable, so he only groused a little about having had his pants stolen. He didn't want the "T-shirt" she'd left for him. She didn't complain. Thus fed, bathed, and changed, he sat quietly on her bed while she scribbled away at algebra equations, and dozed quietly against the wall, not quite sleepy enough to lie down.
After some indeterminate period had passed, he realized she was watching him.
"What?" he growled softly.
She was looking at him strangely. "I forgot to give you a brush."
"Feh." He closed his eyes again briefly, but opened them as he felt her slight weight join his on the bed. She held a hairbrush out to him. "It's still wet," he reminded her irritably. "It'll pull."
She shook her head. "Don't be such a baby." He sighed and reached for the brush; he was just too damn tired to argue with her. But she seemed unwilling to part with it.
"What is it now?"
She looked a little nervous.
"Oh." He toyed with the idea of telling her to get lost. Then he sighed, resigned. He didn't really feel like dealing with the knots anyway. He turned his back to her resolutely, and kept his mouth shut when she began to pull the brush through his matted silver mane.
She was surprisingly gentle, and he caught himself wondering if she was tender-headed. He usually left the brush full of his hair and his hair full of tangles, whenever he deigned to brush it at all. But she was infinitely patient as she drew the brush through his still-damp locks, and he seemed to recall his mother having done the same thing for him once upon a time. The bristles felt good scratching at his scalp, especially around his ears, and it wasn't very long before Kagome had convinced him to lie on his stomach on the bed to make it easier for her to reach the whole length of his hair. After that shift, he was asleep within minutes.
He woke up half-crazed with nausea a quarter of an hour after having fallen asleep. Shooting out of bed and into the bathroom, he watched, repulsed, as every bit of ramen he'd consumed found its way into the porcelain pot. This experience was no more comfortable than the last had been, forcing up bile when nothing remained in his stomach and leaving him dry heaving afterward. Once again, Kagome's hands held back his hair.
When he could finally speak, he pulled on the silver handle that miraculously made all the mess disappear, and ground out, "Fuck!"
She found a wet rag for him to clean his face with, a toothbrush – another useful modern invention – and some toothpaste to get the awful taste out of his mouth. Sitting silently on the edge of the tub, she looked worried, but true to her promise, tried not to fuss.
A half-used box of Kleenexes waited for him on the bed; he swiped at his eyes and nose with them furiously, at times almost missing, dizzy once again. Occasionally he snatched one up to cough into, having discovered that the wet discharge was every bit as gooey as the slime in his eyes.
Kagome brought in a pitcher of water and a glass, "for when you feel up to it," but beyond that she didn't pressure him to drink. Grateful for her unusual sensitivity, he took an experimental sip a half-hour or so after visiting the porcelain pot. He lay down after that, and had almost fallen asleep when he felt the bed shift slightly as she joined him.
She obviously believed him to be sleeping. Laying a cool, hesitant hand on his chest, she gently stroked her hand downwards along his sore belly. Then she repeated the motion. And again. And again. He fought the urge to command her to continue when she finally stopped, waited to see what she would do next. His hair was brushed away from his face, and he was suddenly grateful for the fever flush on his cheeks when Kagome brushed her lips against his forehead, knowing it would hide the blush that crept up his neck.
"Feel better, Inuyasha," she whispered. "I'm sorry I got you into this mess."
Deciding he'd embarrass her as well as himself if he admitted to being awake, he kept his mouth shut instead of trying to comfort her.
The most atrocious stench he had ever experience assaulted him out of nowhere. Every horrible scent he had ever smelled in his life seemed to be jumbled up into one terrible, rank odor. His brain froze.
When finally he could think again, he hurt all over. Even the inside of his mouth hurt, and he could taste blood. And not all of it was his.
Kagome sat on the edge of the bed, looking as though she'd been scared out of her wits. Her left hand covered her right in an attempt to conceal it, but he could see that it was covered in blood. What in hell had just happened?
The scent of her blood and the metallic tang in his mouth accused him, sickened him, but not with the stomach-churning nausea of illness. Something else tugged at his insides as Kagome's blood swelled and dropped sluggishly from her fingertips onto her frilly pink bedspread.
"Let me see." He really didn't want to see the wounds she'd been trying to hide, but he shot a grasping arm out for her anyway when she failed to obey. Pasting a stony frown on his face to hide the wrench he felt as she cried out in pain, he inspected her bloody fingers.
Across the three middle fingers, near her dainty knuckles, ran a neat little row of rents in her skin.
A particularly nasty gash along the outside of her index finger and a deep puncture in the ring finger of her right hand revealed where his canines had fallen. Carefully blotting away blood from the puncture wound, he ground his teeth to keep from cursing as a flash of white informed him he'd bitten it clear through to the bone.
But why would he have bitten her at all?
"What," Inuyasha asked slowly, "what the fuck happened here?"
She looked away. "Seizure. Another symptom of distemper."
A man in his childhood village had been afflicted with sporadic seizures. The thought that he'd been helpless like that – and that only Kagome had been there to restrain him – was chilling. Suddenly his gooey eyes and raspy breathing didn't seem nearly so upsetting.
Watching her blood mushroom and dribble to the comforter, he found he wasn't even slightly upset with Kagome anymore for having unwittingly been the cause of his current troubles. She looked as terrible as he felt, and the injuries on her hand were far more serious than any punishment he could have wished on her. On that subject: "Kagome? Is your medicine box close?"
She wouldn't look at him, but nodded her head toward her desk, where the box lay already opened. He staggered toward it, having released her hand reluctantly, and made his way back without tripping, though every sense at his disposal seemed somehow off-kilter. The world graciously stopped spinning as he took a place on the bed beside Kagome and carefully cleaned the bite with what she called antiseptic, trying to keep the acrid scent as far away from his nose as possible. Then he meticulously bandaged each finger, fighting down vomit all the while.
"Kagome." She still refused to look at him.
Sick and miserable, angry, confused, and now just a little bit scared, he dragged a very surprised Kagome into his arms and pulled her down beside him into the bed, too exhausted to worry about what the consequences might be.
Clutching her to him, he growled into her hair, "How did your fingers wind up in my mouth, wench?"
A sudden wetness on his bared chest indicated that the infuriating woman was in tears again. "I was afraid," she hiccupped. A note of desperation entered her voice, and his anger faded as a torrent of words tumbled from her lips into his chest. "I don't know about dogs, but I know that people who have seizures sometimes swallow their tongues and choke themselves to death and I looked for something to stick in your mouth just in case but I couldn't find anything and I got scared because you were so stiff and rigid at first and then your head started to jerk and I was afraid, and –"
"So you stuck your fingers in my mouth." Her black head bobbed slightly and she started to cry in earnest.
"I was afraid!" she repeated hysterically, clinging to his hair with her good hand.
If I live a thousand years, he thought to himself, still holding the sobbing Kagome in his arms, I will never, never understand this woman.
"Idiot," he grumbled, his raspy voice lost in her thick mass of dark hair.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "Inuyasha, I'm so sorry!" With a cry she clung to him even more tightly, painfully tugging his silver locks.
"I know. Quit whining about it already." She tried to jerk away, angry with his tone, but he held her firmly, cursing her for further unsettling his already queasy stomach.
"Just go to sleep," he told her wearily. It was only early evening, but he wanted to sleep, and he figured she probably could use the rest too. "The new moon's in two days. You said this was a dog disease, right? Maybe all this will go away when I turn human." That thought seemed to comfort her. She lay quietly for a moment before twisting slightly in his arms so that she could look at him.
She was still crying, but she was also blushing. Of course she is, he thought, struggling to reason through his fatigue and nausea. I just hauled her into bed with me.
"Look, just… don't worry about it tonight. We're neither one of us in a condition to cope with whatever this is." He couldn't muster any grit to make the words sound less soft-hearted, so he settled for trying to take his own advice. He felt awful, but Kagome was in his arms and it felt good, and he didn't have the strength left to maintain the barriers he'd take such care to construct. He'd kick himself later. But right now, there was a soft, comfortable weight on his left arm, a gentle tickle at his chest where her black hair floated over her shoulder to touch him, and a pair of slender hands clinging to him – one of them seriously injured for his sake. And he really just didn't give a damn about later.
The lights were still on, but Inuyasha was too tired to care, and evidently, so was Kagome. Within minutes, she had cried herself to sleep. Inuyasha held her quietly for a while longer before succumbing to slumber himself.
He didn't notice when Kagome's mother slipped in with his freshly washed clothes and a grocery sack full of anti-emetics, antibiotics, cough drops, pain relievers, fever reducers, and anticonvulsants, as well as several boxes of Kleenexes. Senses dulled by sickness, he didn't even stir when she slid her hand, slender and long-fingered like Kagome's, behind his neck to check his temperature. Nor did he feel her reach for her daughter's hand to ensure that fresh bandages weren't required. He thought he felt someone tweak his ears, but when he opened his eyes, no one was there, and he slipped back into a welcome blackness, free of nausea and gummy eyes and wet coughs.
When he woke the next morning, he didn't feel any better, but thankfully, neither did he feel any worse. A slight queasiness continued to plague him, his eyes and nose still refused to quit leaking, and his breath still rasped painfully in his chest, but at least he wasn't so damned tired anymore.
Kagome had already awakened, and upon hearing the shower turn on down the hall, he assumed that she was bathing. A number of pills sat on her nightstand along with a glass of water; he downed all of them in a single gulp. It occurred to him that he ought to be hungry, as he hadn't managed to keep anything in his stomach since the fish, but he had no appetite and no desire whatsoever to see his food again. Almost without thinking about it, he finished off the water, because Kagome had been worried about his becoming dehydrated.
He scowled. Last night had been a big mistake, and he was going to have to pay for it soon. He caught sight of bloodstains on her pillowcase, her bedspread, even her sheets where the bandage had eventually bled through, and tried to ignore the guilty twisting in his gut. Unable to do so, he stripped the mattress of its bedding and lay down on it, picking up the European history book as he did so. There was a short guy in there named Napoleon that had looked sort of interesting, so flipped through it looking for the picture of the guy with his hand in his jacket. He was already on Elba and reading about violets when Kagome returned.
"Haven't you had enough yet?" she asked sourly, glancing at her own Modern Japan text.
"I like this guy," Inuyasha shrugged. "He got stuff done when it needed to be done."
Kagome blinked. "He tried to take over the world, Inuyasha."
He shrugged again. "World probably coulda done worse."
She shook her head despairingly. "Whatever." Her gaze fell on the bedside table, where the empty glass rested. He fought back a flush when she smiled sweetly at him; then remembered he was hot with fever anyway, and went back to his book.
"Um." He looked up warningly; he'd just started reading about the Hundred Days, and she was interrupting.
"Mom and Souta are already gone, and Grandpa isn't awake yet…" She flushed. "I'm just not any good with my left hand," she admitted, holding out her clumsily bandaged right hand.
Bonaparte took a backseat as Inuyasha carefully bound up her fingers. "Thanks," she said quietly, when he had finished.
"Feh." He didn't let go of her hand though. "Hey, stupid," he rasped, throat choked with gunk, "don't do that again. Even if I…." He stopped, tried again. "It wouldn't do me any good to avoid swallowing my tongue just to swallow one of your fingers, okay? So don't do anything stupid like that." There. That was as close to an apology as he could manage, and he figured she knew him well enough to understand it.
She did. Smiling ruefully, "I couldn't help it. You scared me."
"You worry too much."
"You give me too much to worry about," she countered. He opened his mouth to retort and found he couldn't. She was probably right. He wasn't the most stable guy in the world.
"What is it now?" he asked crossly.
"About last night."
Oh, gods. Here it comes, he thought darkly.
"It's not like it was the first time we've shared my bed," she said, not looking at him. Her cheeks were bright red, though, and once again he was grateful for the fever that hid his own blush.
She smiled then, not her usual sweet smile or her happy, sunny grin, but a fake smile. "It wasn't a big deal, after all. You were sick and I was hurt, and we both just needed to get some rest."
Huh? Fake smile still plastered to her face, she started to rise.
"Oh, no, you don't, wench," Inuyasha growled, grabbing her with one hand and swiping at the goo in his eyes with the other. "You are not leaving me to sort this out by myself."
The phony smile dissipated, replaced by a confused frown. "Inuyasha…"
"You cry yourself to sleep over me being sick, clinging to me like you're never gonna let go, and you're just gonna pass it off as being hurt?" That felt like rejection, and he didn't like it one bit.
"Me?" she demanded incredulously, an angry – but genuine – glare in her eyes. "You're the one who dragged me down with you, let's talk about that!"
For a minute he considered telling her he'd just been dizzy and had wanted to lie down, but she looked so angry, and after all, he'd been angry with her for not being honest. She deserved the truth from him, anyway. She'd damn near sacrificed a finger in an – admittedly stupid – attempt to protect him.
"I felt like shit, and it felt good having you next to me," he told her bluntly. "I don't know why. I don't want to even think about why. We've got enough to worry about without giving ourselves this kind of hell on top of everything else."
Her flush had faded a little. "But it felt good."
He waited a moment before answering. "Yeah." He gave her an uncertain, sideways glance. "You?"
"It felt good to me too." She kept looking straight ahead, but she was smiling, just a little.
"Feh." He turned back to his book. As ill at ease as he felt – ever! – talking about this kind of stuff, there was some stupid, absurd little part of him that refused to stop crowing even as Napoleon came to his tragic end.
The day went a little better than the previous one had. He managed to keep down clear broths, and if he hadn't insisted he was well enough to manage ramen, he probably would have been fine. Even so, at least he didn't have Kagome hovering over his shoulder when the ramen decided to revisit him; she'd tied his hair back with an elastic band, somehow knowing he was going to make himself sick, and tactfully stayed away as he violently regretted his pride before flushing it away. The pills he'd taken seemed to help too; although his nose and eyes were still irritating the hell out of him, the constriction in his chest had eased up, and he could breathe more freely. No more seizures, either; a definite upside. He still felt a little lightheaded and disoriented, but, as he chose to stay in bed for the great part of the day, and obediently swallowed all the pills Kagome left for him, it didn't prove to be much of a problem.
If he'd been feeling better, Kagome's books wouldn't have been enough to keep him entertained, but he wasn't, and they were. He devoured the Ramayana and the Iliad, and had gotten halfway through the Trial before deciding Kafka wasn't going anywhere with the story – or at least, not anywhere Inuyasha felt up to following him to. Candide was a quick read, and he had to suppress his snickers every time the hapless hero reminded him of Kagome, falling headlong into trouble and getting out again by sheer dumb luck. When Kagome left the room to help her mother with dinner, he picked up Modern Japan and scanned over the chapters that her test would cover. He quizzed her about them when she came back with more water and chicken broth, much to her annoyance.
But by the time he'd settled into bed for the night, she had answered all of his questions correctly at least twice. And even though she'd gathered her things to sleep on the sofa downstairs, it only took an irritated glance from him to get her to crawl under the covers beside him.
All things considered, the day hadn't turned out badly at all.
Kagome left early the next morning to sit her history exam. Feeling even better than he had the day before, he ventured out of Kagome's room and into the rest of the house, with its strange appliances and contraptions, trying to reign in his curiosity enough to keep his hands off. He did pretty well, for the most part, but he did have to fiddle with the black device under the box with moving pictures, an especially evil contrivance that started to talk to him in EXTREMELY LOUD TONES about how his love life would be so much better if he would just call 1-800-555-7926. Ears flattened against his head in a futile attempt to drown out the admittedly attractive female voice, he retreated from the room before the temptation to shatter the talking box overwhelmed him. He could still hear it, even at the far end of the house. Fortunately her grandfather came in from the grounds, found the screaming, shiny black menace and silenced it before it completely destroyed his sanity.
After that little encounter, he holed up in Kagome's room until well after noon, eating up Homer's sequel to the Iliad. When he'd finished, he decided that the Odyssey was better, and made a mental note to tell Kagome so.
As Odysseus and his son managed to retake their kingdom, Inuyasha noticed that a vaguely unpleasant scent had invaded Kagome's room. It took him several minutes to realize that his own scent, tainted with sickness and sweat, was responsible for the change. He managed to open her windows without breaking them – although the latch would have to be replaced – and snatched up his clothes before stalking red-faced to the bathroom, his flush evident even through the fever. He struggled with the handles that made the water come and go for several minutes before finding a cool, relaxing temperature, but when it had reached a comfortable level in the tub, he couldn't figure out how to stop the flow of water quickly enough to avoid making a mess on the floor. He sopped that up with some of the towels under the sink, and finally made his way into the bath.
All around him, he could smell little scents that made up part of Kagome's unique fragrance. The yellow bar of soap on the edge of the tub, the jasmine scented shampoo that sat in a wire basket hanging in the corner, even the pear-smelling cream she used when she ran razor-blades over her legs, all of them mingled together in a soothing Kagome smell. There was the girl herself as well, faint traces of her in a room she spent a lot of time in.
He smiled wryly to himself as he found the soap. Stupid girl, primping and polishing herself in here. She was prettiest when she wasn't trying – when she was angry, for example, when her eyes lit up like lightning-filled storm clouds; or when she was asleep, moist lips just barely parted…
Inuyasha blinked. Her smell did funny things to him. He hurried through the rest of his bath, running the yellow bar briskly over his skin and through his hair. No way was he going to have her flowery hair smell stuck in his hair.
When he had finished, he tugged on the drain-stopper and watched the water circle down, bemused, a little curious as to where it went. He got a little dizzy standing up, but his stomach was empty, a fact for which he was infinitely grateful, wanting no more repeats of that first night at the creek bed. He dressed quickly and retreated to Kagome's bedroom once again.
Now that he felt well enough to notice, the half-demon saw that the room was in shambles. Her textbooks lay scattered all over her desk and floor, medicines of about a million varieties crowded her dresser, his dirty "lounge pants" were still on the floor, and her bed – temporarily dressed with blue, as her mother was trying to soak out the bloodstains in her pink bedspread – was rumpled and messy, and stained with sweat.
A little twist in his gut reminded him that she was usually pretty neat. And her room was like this because she'd brought a resentful, angry half-breed who hadn't even wanted her help into her most intimate spaces. Her home. Her bath. Her bedroom. Her bed. Because she was worried about him. Because she cared about him.
Damn the girl.
He spent the next half-hour or so straightening the room. He couldn't figure out how to make clean sheets cling neatly to the bed, so he refolded them and left them to Kagome to wrestle with. The dirty laundry he placed in the hamper in the bathroom, as he'd seen Kagome do a time or two. He gathered the medicines and stacked them as tidily as he could manage, then moved on to her desk and tried to do the same for her books.
As he picked up the book with all the number and funny symbols in it, the algebra book, a sheet of paper drifted down from it. He snatched it before it could hit the ground and looked at it closely.
Numbers and symbols, numbers and symbols. A few words that meant nothing at all to him. And in the upper right corner, he saw his name, doodled several times over in different sizes, with funny, creative shapes.
He blinked gooey eyes and retreated to the bare bed, snagging a few Kleenexes as he did to so wipe at his misleading eyes and still-runny nose. Then he looked back at the sheet of paper.
It was still there.
Part of him wanted to laugh at her. Part of him was touched that she'd been thinking of him while she'd been in class. But mostly, he was just pissed off that she'd wasted the few hours she could spend learning in her own time thinking about him.
Stupid, stupid, stupid girl.
Still, he was responsible for her troubles at school; or rather, her decision to stay with him had caused her a number of difficulties. He couldn't stay mad.
But he couldn't let her fail at her studies just because he needed her more, either. Maybe she didn't get the same rush of discovery that he did when he flipped through her precious, precious books, but it wasn't fair to deny her the opportunity.
He studied the symbols on the page for several minutes, but nothing came to him. None of it made sense.
Growling softly for a moment – then stopping abruptly as the sound scraped his already aching throat – he discarded the notes with his name doodled in the margins and picked up the algebra book itself. He flipped it to the first page. Even that was beyond him. Tempted to shred the book to pieces but positive Kagome would sit him straight to hell for it, he settled for flinging the offensive tome across the room. It lay open to its back flap, where Inuyasha spied something interesting.
He retrieved the book hastily and scanned the inside flaps, a slow grin baring his fangs as he did so. If that's all those symbols meant, then this wasn't going to be that hard at all.
That one meant addition, this subtraction, this one multiply, that divide. Equal to. Not equal to. Greater than, less than, square root… what the hell was a square root? He found an index in the last pages, and, thankfully, a glossary.
No, this wasn't going to be difficult at all. Starting at the beginning, and referring frequently to the glossary and the tables of symbols and formulas inscribed on the inside flaps, Inuyasha began to plow his way through the first few chapters. He worked out a few problems here and there as he went, checking them against the given answers in an appendix, pleased to find it coming easily. He almost didn't hear or smell Kagome return to the shrine; he was so wrapped up in the numbers. When he did finally realize she was near, he managed to get the book back onto her desk before she saw it.
She came flying through the door at exactly four minutes after six, just a few minutes before sundown, grinning ear-to-ear. Flinging her arms around him, she shrieked, "I aced it, Inuyasha, I aced it!"
"Oi, wench, are you tryin' to burst my ear drums? And you're late, besides," he grumbled, not entirely able to conceal his own smile. Not that it mattered, her face was buried somewhere around his fourth or fifth pair of ribs, and she was yelling "thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou" gleefully into his chest.
A Miroku-esque thought entered his head; he shook it hard to clear it away. He had spent way too much time with that perverted monk.
Looking down at her, watching her bubble over with excitement, he tried to remember the last time he'd seen her look so happy. Her contented face was familiar – little, insignificant things pleased her… sunshine on water, butterflies – especially when they came in pairs, hot springs, orange sunsets. Nice things, but things he never would have taken any notice of. But this ecstatically happy Kagome, whose joy wouldn't allow her to be quiet or sit still, whose face looked stretched out of place with so huge a smile on it – this was a new one for him.
A surge of fierce pride gripped him as he realized he'd been partially responsible for that happiness, and another when he thought about how hard she'd worked on trying learning in two days time what her classmates had studied over the course of two or three weeks. Unable to resist, he wrapped his arms around her and squeezed briefly. She stopped shouting and looked up to him in disbelief.
Then, though he wouldn't have believed it possible, an even broader grin spread over her face, so big that her eyes squinched up and he could probably have counted every tooth in her mouth if he'd been so inclined. She squeezed him tightly around his middle, only loosening her grip slightly when he reminded her he'd been ill. He barely suppressed a grin when his eyes fell on the hated algebra book, open on her desk.
Pretty certain that getting good marks in algebra would mean even more to her than a history test, he promised himself he'd work his way through the rest of the book, determined to see this bubbled-over-the-top-with-happiness Kagome as frequently as possible.
Finally, she released him. "You look like you're feeling better," she smiled.
"Eh." She was waiting. "The pills helped," he offered unhelpfully. Her smile fell a little – what was she looking for?
Ah. "I guess I should thank you." Her smile began to creep upward again.
"Although it was your fault I was sick in the first place, you and that damn –"
Oh, hell. Eyes glittering like cold sapphires, she opened her mouth –
"Don't say it, don't say it," he sighed, resigned. "I…"
Honestly, he hadn't thought those words would be so hard to say. "I…"
Well, shit! He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry about the damn dog, I'm sorry I blamed you for getting sick, I'm sorry I bit you, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
She stared at him even more incredulously than she had when he'd embraced her. Then she blinked rapidly, as if to convince herself she wasn't dreaming. Just when he was starting to get annoyed, she began to smile, like the sun coming up in the east, glowing like the dawn. Not the thrilled, toothy grin of a few minutes ago, but something infinitely better. She looked blissfully happy.
And it was all because of him.
He tried to wrap his head around that. If sacrificing his pride just that little bit could win him that kind of appreciation, why the hell had he been so reluctant to do it? There had been a reason, he was sure of it, but he couldn't remember what it had been.
Suddenly, everything went dark. He almost thought he was having another seizure, when he realized that he could still smell and see and hear, just not as well.
On the upside, his breath came and went freely, and he didn't feel the least bit nauseous, dizzy, gummy-eyed, runny-nosed, or scratchy-throated. He'd been right; that stupid dog disease vanished the instant he turned into a human.
He snatched Kagome's good hand and began to drag her toward the stairs. "We're going back now," he informed her.
She shook her head slightly, still smiling. "I have to pack a few things first."
He managed a glower at her, perfectly aware that she knew he was faking, and absolutely content with the knowledge.
"I'll be waiting at the well," he told her, as condescendingly as he could manage. He relinquished her hand and strutted off down the hall, pausing only once to call back over his shoulder:
"Don't forget your algebra book!"