Disclaimer: I have nothing to disclaim but my own brilliance... No wait! Oscar don't pick up that chair! I'm story I mangled your quote (runs rabbiting from an effeminate dead writer who really is quite Wilde.)

Note d' Authoria: Sorry for the delay: I'm trying to write an interlude regarding the other characters but They're not interested in being written about and Sesshoumaru-sama [author bows, scrapes and tugs her forelock in his general direction] was insistent that he wasn't willing to wait around for their chapter to be extracted from an unwilling muse. Thus I was induced to upload this one for you.

Reviews: As always - let me know of spelling errors, grammatical flubs, if anything really drags or if there are passages that particularly tickle your fancies.

~ Chapter 19 – A Lesson in Confidence ~

Kagome woke to a presence in her room in the middle of the night. She froze, straining her ears then realised it wasn't a sound that had woken her – but the sharp presence of a familiar aura. She sat up and her heart sank as she recognised the shape of Sesshoumaru standing between her bed and the open window. Kagome's first wild thought was He's come to kill me after all. A frantic glance at his hands showed he was carrying something pale and elongated. Kagome scrabbled backwards, her shoulder blades bumping into the headboard of the bed. The taiyoukai did not move from his concentrated scrutiny of her.

"Sess…Sesshoumaru-sama?" Kagome's throat constricted and she took a deep breath, trying to ignore the pelting of her heartbeat. "Is there something wrong?"

Sesshoumaru impatiently proffered his hand and Kagome realised he held a narrow strip of paper, rather than a knife. She could make out something written on it but the light was to poor to make it out.

"Um… I can't read in this light… let me get a lamp…" Kagome fumbled in the dark for the taper she had left on her bedside table, intending to light it in the coals of the room's hearth. Sesshoumaru hissed a warning and gestured at the door. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her out of bed, half dragging her across the room to pull open the curtains, allowing her to read the paper by moonlight.

"You will use your reiki to remove the harm done to this Sesshomaru's aura."

"What? Right now? Sesshoumaru-sama it's the middle of the night."

A shrug. What should he care the time of day? There was a soft rustle as he folded the paper over and Kagome realised that he had made a paper fan with different responses written on each plane.

"There will be less chance of disturbance."

"What if someone checks to see if you're in your room or not. I don't want to imagine what my advisors are going to do if they find you here…" Sesshoumaru's lip curled in distain and he flicked forward through the folds in his fan of answers.

"This Sesshoumaru locked his door from the inside. They will assume occupancy." Kagome didn't know whether to be impressed with the taiyoukai or disappointed with herself that her questions were so predictable. He flicked back to the first fold. And Kagome's heart sank.

"You will use your reiki to remove the harm done to this Sesshomaru's aura."

"Eh? I know I asked what I could do to help Sesshoumaru-sama, but that's impossible! I'd have more luck cutting down a Sansho Tree* with a blade made of leather. I've only ever managed to use my reiki on shards or arrows and even then it fails as much as it works."

Sesshoumaru's teeth clenched as he turned the fan to its very last fold.
This Sesshoumaru cannot make any use his youki. Something prevents his control. You, Miko, will use your reiki in its place at this Sesshoumaru's direction.

Kagome's eyes widened at his admission. She wanted to deny his demand, she'd accepted she had no control over her powers a long time ago, but if Sesshoumaru stated she would then she was capable. The thought frightened her as much as his recognition of her potential complimented her.

She took a deep breath in and released it.

"All right. What do I do?"

Sesshoumaru flipped the fan over, opened it and held it out to her. Neatly written on the back of the paper were her instructions, such as they were.

Focus ki in your fingertips

Draw the edges of this Sesshoumaru's aura together

Seal the aura rift.

Sesshoumaru would have sucked as a teacher, Kagome decided, as he stood there waiting for her to comply.

She stared at her fingers, willing something to happen and trying to remember what she had done any time she had succeeded in calling up her reiki. The white of Sesshoumaru's cambric shirt dappled with moonlight kept catching her eye and distracting her. Here in the silver light she could make out a faint pattern woven into it. You could almost imagine the garment was made up of white peacock feathers. Kagome shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts and Sesshoumaru made an exasperated noise through his nose.

His lips moved soundlessly, irritated. "No. Here This!"

Sesshoumaru snatched her wrist with one hand and, fingertips resting over her pulse, he exerted his will. For half a breath nothing happened then, through sheer strength of intent, the taiyoukai managed to concentrate the barest scrape of youki in his fingertips. Kagome's skin felt prickly beneath his hand, as if touching something slightly acidic. Her own reiki flared and hummed into existence in response.

Kagome held her breath and watched the glow pulse across her skin and had just begun to tentatively feel for how the power flowed around her when Sesshoumaru released his grip. Her reiki fizzled out as fast as it had manifested. The taiyoukai scowled and twitched an eyebrow. Kagome cringed: if looks could be a slap of anger then his expression was a descending open palm. She held her own hands in front of her and desperately tried to summon her reiki again.
Nothing.

Sesshoumaru huffed silently and clicked his teeth together in a canine snap of exasperation as he circled both of her wrists with his hands, barely touching her. His youki billowed around them both but only the faintest hum of it was retained in his hands. Kagome's reiki sprang up again, far more stable than Kagome had ever managed to maintain it on her own.

Her skin smarted where Sesshoumaru's touch rested and Kagome's eyes watered in response. She sniffed and took a deep breath in, unwilling to show weakness before the Taiyoukai. Instead Kagome concentrated on how the energy flowed around her, along her from her heart and out, down her arms and legs and back again. She took a slow breath in and closed her eyes, concentrating on directing her reiki to her hands.

Focused on the positive thought, rather than her fear of inexperience and failure, that Sesshoumaru had asked for help! Had asked for HER help. Around her Kagome's reiki gathered intensity, humming on her skin like static electricity, winding around her like an affectionate cat, arcing across her skin as if eager to have been called. Sesshoumaru had asked HER for help which meant that he knew she could achieve the task.

She opened her eyes. She could see the rent in Sesshoumaru's aura clearer than ever, beyond him she could see the world limned in ki – her hands glowed as if white hot metal.
Sesshoumaru leant away from her fractionally, his eyes closed, though he still held both of her wrists loosely. Kagome's concentration wavered as she noticed how reddened the taiyoukai's fine white hands had become from their proximity to her purifying ki. He hissed without opening his eyes as her reiki fluctuated. Kagome steeled herself and focused again of pushing her reiki to her fingertips, away from her wrists and the taiyoukai's hands. Her fingers felt fuzzy, as if resting on a small motor – the air around them seemed to hum with energy.

Slowly she reached up with one hand to grasp at the edge of Sesshoumaru's aura. His hand travelled with hers, still loosely clasping her wrist.

Kagome pinched at the air with her fingers. The aura felt a little thicker beneath her fingers, like grasping soft jelly in water, she could almost but not quite get a grip on the edge of the aura tear. It slipped elusive from her fingers several times before she had the spider web edge of the energy caught between her fingers. She rubbed the together the fingers of her other hand as if to roughen their gripping surface then concentrated on catching the other side of the rift. This came easier. Carefully she drew them together, trying to ignore how exertion had caused a thin film of sweat on the taiyoukai's brow and her own trembling.

Kagome drew together the two sides of the tear, touching the edges in the hope they would seal on contact. No luck.

"What do I do now Sesshoumaru-sama?" Kagome asked. The taiyoukai shook his head, eyes still closed and focusing on mustering what control he could over the youki. He could not 'speak' without letting go of her wrists and them having to start anew, a fine mist of perspiration glittered on his forearms. Kagome strengthened her resolve and sought her own solution.

She concentrated on her own aura and, after a few false starts, fashioned a needle of reiki. Pinching the two edges of the aura gash together she breathed a prayer to all the gods she could remember then pushed the reiki needle through them as if sewing, pinning them together.

Sesshoumaru hissed softly and his grip on her wrists fractionally increased but did not hinder her movements. Heartened by how the reiki needle seemed to be holding Kagome drew her focus and made more, one by one, tacking the sides of the aura closed again. The flow of youki around her lessened each time. However by the time she placed the last one Kagome realised with dismay that her pins of Ki were reacting with the youki –the demonic energy gradually corroding them even as the pin holed they had created gradually burned larger from the purifying energy.

Her solution wasn't going to last long.

"Sesshoumaru-sama. I need a thread of youki. Can you … can you make one for me? I'm going to try sewing this tear shut," Kagome asked.

The taiyoukai drew in a slow breath. His colour had improved since she had pinned the tear closed. He did not look so grey and waxen. A small crease furrowed between his brows as he assessed the request. He clicked his teeth together and nodded fractionally in acceptance of the task and split his concentration.

Still encircling her wrists with his hands, Sesshoumaru touched his index claws together, slowly drawing them apart. Finer than embroidery thread and as fragile looking as a cobweb, Sesshoumaru drew the golden glow of his youki whip out for the Miko. He had begun trembling slightly but the amount of youki flowing out around them was now barely a trickle.

Kagome yelped as she took the strand of youki, almost dropping it. The tips of her fingers burned from the contact but she held on, pushing her reiki to buffer her skin from the demon ki. The reiki sewing needle she held almost fizzled out in contact with the strong thread of power Sesshoumaru had provided. Kagome, biting off a curse, set her own will on the fine shaft as she threaded it, concentrating her energy into it until the spiritual needle cast a light that made her eyes water.

As fast and as neatly as she could Kagome stitched the two sides of the torn aura together, discarding the reiki tacking needles as she went. They dissipated into the air with a faint sparkle of power. As she sewed Kagome was relieved to see the stitches absorbed back into Sesshoumaru's aura, leaving no trace of where the rent had been.

Sesshoumaru himself had slowly been releasing his grip on her wrists since he had created the thread of youki. Shamefully he found he could not maintain both the youki in his fingers and the thread. He had not been surprised when Higurashi Kagome's reiki remained strongly present even though he had stopped provoking it. The girl was intent on her task and so did not expecting it to fail her, she had not even noticed he had broken contact. Even as she had begun tacked the wound in his aura closed Sesshoumaru had felt his Youki stabilise and begin to return. He found still could not exert much more control over his ki than before but the majority of it, once again, sat warm and solid in his core.

Kagome grinned triumphantly as she tied off her last stitch and straightened, pulling her reiki needle free of it's thread. Both glimmered then faded from existence. She stood there, limned in the confident radiance of her own reiki for a moment, then as she realised she was the only one controlling her ki her eyes widened in surprise and her reiki sputtered out, like a candle.

A gust of wind ruffled the curtains, filling the silence and Kagome shivered, suddenly realising how cold she was. She felt drained. Sesshoumaru, on the other hand, almost seemed to be glowing in comparison to how she had become used to seeing him. He straightened further and flexed his talons, testing to see if he could call up his youki. A faint glow shimmered around his claw tips but nothing more. Sesshoumaru frowned slightly his hand then turned away, back towards the window, obviously intending to leave the way he came.

"Sesshoumaru-sama…?" Kagome's voice wavered. "Um…"

The taiyoukai turned back impatiently, using his claw he wrote across the surface of the white cloth that covered her bedside table. The youki in his fingertips burning words into the pristine fabric.

This Sesshoumaru goes to bathe. The stench is no longer tolerable.
The taiyoukai was out the window and gone before Kagome looked up again.

Kagome sat flabbergasted a moment then picked up the fabric and threw it in the hearth. She stood and watched as the coals flared up and flames licked hungrily over the taiyoukai's last callous message, reducing it to cinders. Her earlier elation of success had dissolved all together, leaving her feeling abandoned and isolated.

Any of her friends would have been so happy for her managing to draw on her reiki – there would have been hugs and celebration, demands for ramen and the aftermath of Miroku's attempts as congratulatory groping. Instead she was in a dark room, alone and with no idea when she would find her way home.

Kagome slumped back down onto her bed and drew her knees up under her bit back tears. She felt so very tired but without anything to show for her exertion. Though a small part of her remained triumphant: after all look what she had just done, and with no prior experience! The cold reality was Sesshoumaru didn't care, she wasn't important now that his youki wasn't bleeding out in front of her.

The fan of paper slid off her coverlet and fell the ground at her feet with a muffled rustle. Numbly Kagome stooped and picked it up, turning the folds to read his other responses, ones to the questions she hadn't thought to ask. She paused, somewhat stunned, on the second to last fold, written, stiffly, formally was the word 有難う. Thank you

Kagome released the breath she hadn't realised she was holding and started to silently laugh, tears trickling down her cheeks, until her mirth became sobs.

He had known she would not fail.

She folded the awkwardly written piece of paper and tucked it into her inner kimono before rolling over and cried herself to back sleep, uncertain of if she was happy or sad.

~o0o~

Sesshoumaru ghosted through the palace, he still walked as if on on glass shards but it was easier to ignore now that he at least could contain his youki again. He reveled in the comfort of having his ki stay where it should be, even if he could not draw on or influence it yet. But this pleasure was undermined by his awareness of how he was encrusted with salt, sweat and lingering the stench of fear. His own.

From the nearness of death when he had been bleeding youki, from memory of the crushing ocean depth that roused him from meditation time and time again, and from the reiki that had just sizzled round him, easily capable of purifying him in his weakened state.

He stank and it was not to be borne any longer. Scenting the air he identified the nearest large body of hot water and headed in that direction.

~o0o~

*Sansho Xanthoxylum piperitum, in the family Rutaceae. Not a true peppercorn tree but known as Japanese Pepper and native to that country. Another reference to that song I mentioned a few chapters ago.

* 有難う (ありがとう)arigatou, thankyou.