My Lady Sonnet
Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, looked at the young human woman that materialized on the transporter pad and wondered why she was to be considered a priority passenger. Her companion, a tall red haired man who looked a few years older than she, looked to be a more important person than she did. But he had his orders.
"Welcome to the Starship Enterprise, Lady Higurashi. My name is Captain Jean-Luc Picard," he said with a winning smile.
The redhead handed the lady down and she smiled back at Jean-Luc. Jean-luc was caught by how small she was – hardly coming to his chin. The redhead had a few inches on Riker, making him much, much taller than the little Asian woman.
"Thank you for having me aboard your ship, Capitaine. I hope that we will not be an imposition upon you and your crew," she said after a small bow. "My friend and I will endeavor to give you no trouble."
"Kagome," said the redhead, gently resting a hand on her back. Kagome, the woman, looked up at her companion. He bent over to whisper in her ear. After a moment she nodded.
"Forgive me, Shippou, I almost forgot." She turned back to Jean-Luc. "This is my friend, Shippou," she introduced. "Would it be possible for him to be shown to a holodeck while I am shown to our quarters?"
"That shouldn't be a problem," Jean-Luc said. He turned to Shippou and addressed him directly. "Will you need a guide to your quarters after you have finished in the holodeck?"
Shippou shook his head. "That won't be necessary. I can find Kagome anywhere."
"Very well," Jean-Luc said and motioned for one of the security officers to step forward. "Ensign Goodman will escort you."
"Thank you, Captain Picard," Shippou said with a nod of his head. He turned back to Kagome and stroked her hair in a familiar gesture. "Ichijikan," he said softly. "Jaa, youbo-sama."
"Jaa, Shippou-kun," Kagome answered, trailing her fingers down his cheek affectionately. Shippou nodded and followed his guide out into the corridor.
Kagome turned back to Jean-Luc who was waiting politely. "Merci, Capitaine," she said. "My friend is troubled. His teacher has assigned him more homework than he thinks he will be able to accomplish in the allotted time."
Jean-Luc motioned for Kagome to follow him even as he gave her a curious look. "He is still studying? What is he studying?"
Kagome laughed, easily keeping pace with the long strides of the taller man. "At the moment? Swordsmanship, ninjitsu, and advanced theoretical physics. Shippou's something of a professional student. Anything and everything he can learn, he does."
"That's an interesting combination of subjects," Jean-Luc commented. The entered a turbolift together and Jean-Luc gave the computer their desired destination. The lift slid into motion gently.
"Oh, this is nothing. You should have been there for the blacksmithing, construction, and cooking phase," Kagome giggled behind her hand.
Jean-Luc almost raised an eyebrow. He settled for an amused chuckle instead. Kagome looked up at him with a smile. "You have a very nice laugh, Capitaine," she commented. "But I have the feeling that you do not get to laugh nearly as much as you probably should. Being a captain of a Starship must be a difficult job."
"At times," Jean-Luc admitted candidly. He looked down at the little woman. "If I may enquire," he said, wondering if he was stretching his luck, "what is your mission aboard my ship?"
Kagome glanced up at him momentarily. "I'm sure you were already informed that my duty was to be considered better than top secret, Capitaine," she said softly.
Jean-Luc sighed internally. "I was, Lady Higurashi," he answered.
"Kagome, please. But since you are captain, I should inform you of my duty," she said and pursed her lips thoughtfully. The turbolift doors slid open and Jean-Luc motioned for Kagome to precede him into the corridor. They continued to the quarters assigned to Kagome and Shippou. When they entered Kagome took a moment to look around before turning back to Jean-Luc.
"Please, take a seat, Capitaine," she said, sitting down herself. "This is for your ears only, perhaps your First Officer, but it should be restricted from most anyone else for security purposes."
Jean-Luc stared at the small woman for a moment before his dismissed the single security officer. As the door slid closed behind the retreating officer, Jean-Luc sunk down onto a seat opposite Kagome. He waited for her to speak, patiently watching her in silence. Kagome took a deep breath.
"What do you know of ancient Earth mythological creatures? Demons and deities, in particular."
Jean-Luc frowned slightly. "Some," he admitted.
Kagome nodded. "One of the greatest secrets on Earth is that humanity is not the only sentient race natural to our home planet," she said. "Many of the creatures that humanity largely thinks of as mythological beasts actually exist. As humans progressed in their social evolution, creating a new world of science and art, the youkai," she paused. "Forgive me. The term is an old one that encompasses the races that I am describing."
Jean-Luc nodded. "I understand," he said. "Please, do go on."
"Thank you," Kagome said. "As I was saying, the youkai, in face of humanity's violent self-assertion, opted to take three paths: fight, flee, or live in hiding. Those who fought were put down centuries ago by the women of my clan and youkai who had chosen to live amongst humans as humans. Those that fled set up their new lives in remote areas that are, to this day, hidden from humanity's encroachment." She sat back in her chair and folded her hands in her lap. "Many of the youkai who live among humans have contact with and work for some of the more powerful youkai who have chosen a more secluded lifestyle. Not all, mind you. As for myself and why I am here aboard your ship," Kagome quirked a smile. "You have a small number of youkai as crew members and I, as liaison between humanity and youkai, have some questions to ask them. With your permission."
Jean-Luc took a moment to digest her words. Now it was Kagome's turn to wait. He studied her carefully before speaking. "How did you become a liaison between humans and youkai?" he asked.
Kagome smiled. "The short version is that my grandfather had raised me on tales of youkai, tales I didn't believe for a moment until I met a young man who had dog ears and a little orphaned boy with a tail. From then my life has been full of youkai, left, right, and center. After a couple of years the dog-eared boy's elder brother adopted a little human girl and we found something in common. I was raising a little youkai boy at the time as well and Sesshoumaru and I traded information in a sort of two-person interspecies parenting group. Now that our children are older – don't look at me like that, I'm older than I appear," she said when Jean-Luc looked skeptical.
"Forgive me," he said.
"Don't worry. I get it a lot from many people," she said. The she continued, picking up where she had left off. "Anyways, now that the children are older Sesshoumaru has asked that I, as a human, act as a sort of ambassador. He's not good with people outside of his own and he's terrible with humans. I've spent most of my life working with youkai and I know their customs and habits. We agreed that it would be beneficial."
The comm on the door chimed and Kagome called for the visitors to enter. Three crewmen came in, each carrying luggage. Kagome directed them to just leave them by the wall and thanked them for their services. When the door closed once more Jean-Luc asked his next question.
"Why the secrecy?"
Kagome regarded him with deep blue eyes, unusual in a person of her Asian caste. "Because although humanity as a whole may believe itself advanced past prejudice, the memories of youkai are very long," she said simply. "And I don't blame them in the slightest."
Jean-Luc nodded solemnly. "May I ask why you are on my ship, then, Lady Kagome?"
"Honestly, Capitaine?" she asked. Jean-Luc nodded again. Kagome sighed. "I'm not certain. Sesshoumaru can be an enigmatic pain in the neck sometimes. All he told me was that I needed to get away from Earth for a while and that this would be, let me see if I can recall his words correctly, 'that the Enterprise would be an adequate vessel to travel on.' When I asked him what he meant he told me not to come back until I figured out why he wanted me here." She huffed and glared at the carpet. "He may be a very old friend but he is far too used to getting his own way."
Jean-Luc smiled faintly. "So you have no knowledge of why you are on Enterprise?"
"No. Not at the moment. I'm sorry," she said. "I think Shippou has an idea, but he's not telling me anything. I think he finds this amusing. He would. I am sorry about this, Capitaine, but I promise that I will try to stay out of the way and not cause trouble."
"Lady Kagome," Jean-Luc said, getting to his feet. Kagome rose as well. "I hope that you enjoy your voyage with us and I thank you for your conscientious attitude. I must be getting back to the bridge now."
"Of course, Capitaine Picard," Kagome said, nodding. "Steady sailing."
Jean-Luc paused at the door and smiled back at Kagome. "Thank you, Lady Kagome. I hope that we can talk again some time soon."
"I as well," Kagome said. Jean-Luc bowed his head in a regal nod and excused himself. Kagome watched as the doors slid closed with a soft hiss, smiling. He was interesting. Something about him felt very right to Kagome's soul.
* * *
Kagome and Shippou sat in ten-forward. Kagome watched the stars stream past them and Shippou amused himself with a pad of paper and a pen, sketching the people around them.
"I wonder if I could pass for a Vulcan," he said aloud. "I got the ears, after all."
"You have red hair too," Kagome pointed out. "I haven't seen a Vulcan with anything other than brown or black hair."
"Too bad. What's up with the bartender? She's been giving you odd looks ever since we came in."
Kagome looked away from the stars towards the bar. Guinan wasn't looking in their direction. "Has she now?"
"Yeah. More you than me. I think she's confused about you." Shippou said, scraping his pen across the paper in rapid strokes.
"Well, I am confusing," Kagome said, looking back out at the stars. "My kind is all but vanished, lost by the wayside. Miko are a thing of myth and legend. Even the word is antiquated!"
"How do you know that?" Shippou asked, looking up from his sketching momentarily.
Kagome grimaced. "I looked it up in a dictionary."
"Oh. Ouch." Shippou winced.
"So are you going to tell me," Kagome said, changing the subject, "why Sesshoumaru wants me here?"
The doors hissed open, and the men walking through them caught Kagome's attention. Jean-Luc entered ten-forward with another man, taller and younger than him. Shippou chuckled. Kagome shot him a frown even as the captain caught sight of her and started winding his way through the crowd towards the table she shared with Shippou.
"Capitaine Picard," Kagome greeted, smiling brightly. "Please, join us."
"Lady Kagome, Mister Shippou," Jean-Luc greeted as he and his companion pulled up chairs, "may I introduce my First Officer, Will Riker."
Kagome smiled. "It is a pleasure, Mister Riker."
"The pleasure is all mine, Lady Kagome," Will said, taking his captain's lead in her title. "Captain Picard has informed me of your purpose on the Enterprise, and I must admit that I find myself intrigued."
Shippou looked up sharply. He stared at Kagome with a growing smile he was trying to repress. "You told?"
Kagome looked at Shippou and raised her eyebrow. "While you were training in the holodeck."
"Did you tell them about me?" he asked. The two Star Fleet officers stared at him.
"I thought that should be your call," Kagome said, shaking her head.
"Aa. Tasha, Youbo-sama," Shippou said, smiling.
"What about you?" Will asked, curious.
Shippou grinned at him. "The captain filled you in about the youkai of Earth?"
"Well, I'm of the fox breed," he said, still grinning. "Not going to drop the illusion here: too many eyes. But it's not really covering up much, anyways."
"Just your ears, tail, fangs, and claws," Kagome tossed in. She turned to Jean-Luc. "Shippou is the little boy that I raised. He's a little irrepressible at times, but a good child, nonetheless."
"Yep," Shippou sat back in his chair, "since Kagome's my youbo I'm the one who gets to follow her on her job as her bodyguard." He turned to a fresh sheet of paper and started absently sketching again.
"'Youbo'?" Riker asked Shippou.
Kagome answered. "The Japanese word for an adoptive mother," she said.
Will looked impressed. "You speak old Japanese?"
"And Manadrin, French, Spanish, English, Tagalog, German, Russian," Shippou listed absentmindedly. "Among others. We had the time and we travelled a lot. Your Basic is still new, relatively."
"Shippou," Kagome admonished softly. "Go back to your drawing." She pursed her lips at him when he shot her a mischievous lopsided grin over the top of his sketch pad. Shaking her head she turned back to Will and Jean-Luc. "So what brings you two hard working career officers to ten-forward?" she asked.
"The prospect of relaxation and company," Jean-Luc answered. Kagome smiled at him.
"Well," she said, "I can't promise that I'll be very good company, or very relaxing. I haven't spent much time cultivating either skill."
"Don't listen to her," Shippou threw in, not looking up, "Kagome's a fount of information on some topics I bet you'd be interested in, Captain."
"Why do you say that?" Jean-Luc asked, calmly.
Shippou grinned before looking up, and catching Kagome's expression only made him grin wider. "It's widely known among circles that you're interested in... ah, ancient literature. Go on Kagome, tell him about ol' Bill."
Kagome looked confused. "Ol' Bill?" she wondered.
"Come on, Kagome," Shippou chided. "Don't tell me you forgot about that trip Sesshoumaru insisted on taking us on after you regaled him with stories of world history."
"Oh." Kagome coughed. "That trip. That Bill. Right, well, I don't think that that would be an appropriate story to share, Shippou," she said.
"You sure?" Shippou put down his pad of paper and pen, resting his elbow on the small table and cradling his chin on his palm. "Because it sure was funny, I'll admit." He turned twinkling green eyes on the officers. "Kagome had managed to get Sesshoumaru interested in what the rest of the world was like and so he decided that we three were going to go on a roadtrip to Europe. As luck had it we arrived just in time to catch a play – Merchant of Venice, was it? - and Kagome almost had a fit when she realized who she was talking to later that day. Do you still have Bill's autograph, Kagome?" he asked cheekily.
"Among others, Shippou," she said, glowering.
"Hold on," Jean-Luc interrupted. "Bill?"
"William Shakespeare," Shippou illuminated. "The funniest thing about the situation was that Kagome could hardly speak English at that point – but it was head and shoulders over what Sesshoumaru and I could speak – and she had such a time trying to get him to understand what she wanted."
Kagome groaned, curling over the table to hide her head in her arms. "I'm going to skin you, Shippou."
"How could you meet William Shakespeare?" Jean-Luc asked. "You're talking of a holodeck program, aren't you?"
Shippou shook his head. "Nope. Kagome's a lot older than she looks."
"I will skin you, Shippou, and make your mangy pelt into a coat. No! A pair of slippers!" she vowed. "Don't you dare!"
"She's about a thousand now," Shippou continued, ignoring Kagome's threat. She kicked him in the shins and he winced.
"How?" Will asked.
Kagome glowered at Shippou, her eyes blue fire. "Any more out of your mouth, Shippou, and I'll inform Sesshoumaru about your antics. I'm sure he'll be able to find some more homework for you to work on."
Shippou's mouth closed with a click. He picked up his sketch pad and pen once more. "Right. My mouth is closed on the subject of your past," he said.
"Good." Kagome frowned at him for another moment.
"What about your future?" Shippou asked, suddenly sly.
"No. You're not setting me up on any dates again or so help me I will make a necklace for you," she said seriously. "You have atrocious taste in what sort of men you think I should date."
"Alright, alright," Shippou conceded. "I'll stay quiet. You go on. Will here is wondering if what I just said is true. Go on. Have fun." He waved a hand at her and Kagome bit her lip to keep from saying something scathing. She took a breath to calm herself before turning back to Jean-Luc and Will.
"Over a thousand years old?" Will asked, looking like he was just indulging them.
Kagome sighed. "Methuselah has nothing on me," she said seriously, running her hand through her hair. "Long, long ago I was charged to piece back together a cursed object or watch as the world was destroyed. When the dust settled and I had accomplished my mission I found that the object had plans of its own. It moved itself into the center of my heart and stopped my body from ageing when I was only eighteen."
"It was cursed? How?" Jean-Luc asked, his eyes narrowing in thought.
Kagome sighed and looked away. "Anyone who had any desire to use it, or the ones charged with guarding it, died under tragic circumstances. It was rumoured that it would be able to grant one wish, but any wish is twisted and tainted so that it only brings grief. According to its legend a perfectly selfless wish would be able to made on it without fear of repercussions, but I have not been able to think of one single wish that does not have some degree of selfishness."
"So Kagome's cursed to live forever, guarding the Shikon until the end of time, unless she can find a single wish," Shippou said softly. "But hey, that's okay with me. Because of it I get to keep my youbo."
Kagome laughed. "I suppose that there is always that upside to it," she said, her spirits suddenly lifting. "And Sesshoumaru gets to keep his living encyclopedia of 'why humans do...' as well."
Shippou rocked back in his chair, laughing loudly. "Yeah. The old Ice King would be lost without you to explain things. He didn't even understand why Rin decided to keep him."
"Sorry, Capitaine, Mister Riker," Kagome said, trying to catch her breath between bouts of laughter. "Rin is the human girl that Sesshoumaru adopted. I mentioned her to you, Capitaine, if you recall."
Jean-Luc nodded, smiling faintly. "I do."
"Well, Sesshoumaru never told me how he found Rin, but Rin told me that he had brought her back to life after she had been killed. And when she followed him he never told her to go away, even made certain that she was fed and cared for, as much as he could with his limited knowledge of humans. It was really quite sweet," she said, smiling at the distant memory. "Sesshoumaru, you have to understand, is as stoic as they come and had the unsullied reputation of a human-hater, and Rin was a little ball of love and energy. You couldn't find two people more perfectly different than those two and they worked wonders for each other."
Kagome shook her head and looked to Jean-Luc. "So, tell me, Capiatine, why Shippou would press telling that ancient Shakespeare story."
Jean-Luc smiled. "Shakespeare is the greatest of Terran poets," he said. "I have a complete collection of his works."
"Really?" Kagome asked, interested.
The captain smiled and the miko leaned forward so they could hear each other better. Shippou hid a smile behind his sketch pad. Will caught sight of the picture in progress and raised an eyebrow at the portrait. Shippou caught his eye and raised a finger to his lips. Will sucked in a slow breath, looking at his captain and their guest with an amused light in his eyes.
Shippou started a new picture, grinning like a fool.
* * *
Kagome stared at the arabian. Shippou tightened the straps of the saddle and patted the beast on its neck. Around them the sun shone, verdant greenery grew, and birds flew from tree to tree.
"Why do you want me to do this, Shippou?" Kagome asked fearfully.
Shippou turned and motioned for her to come closer. "Because it'll be fun, Kagome," he said.
"I have never ridden on a horse before, Shippou," Kagome said, not moving. The arabian eyed her placidly before turning its attention elsewhere.
"I know that, Kagome," Shippou said patiently. "Now come here and you'll see what you were missing."
"Shippou, what if it steps on me?"
Shippou rolled his eyes. "You've rode on Sesshoumaru's back when he was in his true form, haven't you? He's at least twenty times as big as this horse. What are you so scared about?"
"Sesshoumaru is sentient," Kagome said honestly. "A horse is an animal."
"Kagome. The safeties are on. Come here. I'll help you up. We won't go any faster than a walk, alright? You can handle that." Shippou reached out and caught her by her arm, pulling her reluctant body closer.
"Fine," she relented, "but if I get hurt this will all be your fault."
"Oh, Kagome," Shippou grinned, "that was so mature."
Kagome stuck her tongue out at him. He helped her into the saddle and made sure she was seated properly before mounting his own horse. Shippou looked over at Kagome and nudged his horse forward with his heels. Kagome followed, directing her horse awkwardly.
They navigated the holographic terrain in pleasant silence. After almost half an hour Shippou pulled his horse to a stop.
"Kagome," he said, dismounting, "I forgot, I have an appointment. Can I leave you here?"
"An appointment, Shippou? What's her name?" Kagome asked, raising an eyebrow.
Shippou grinned. "Elarian," he said.
"Have fun with her, Shippou," Kagome said, gently urging her horse to turn. She waved over her shoulder. "I'll see you for dinner."
"Jaa atode, Youbo-sama," Shippou said and called up the exit so he could leave. He passed Jean-Luc in the corridor and nodded to the captain.
He grinned to himself.
* * *
Kagome sat across from one of the Enterprise crewmen, Shippou standing at her elbow and Deeana Troi as the token supervising officer. The crewman, Hamada by assumed name, fidgeted nervously. Kagome flashed him a small smile.
"Relax, crewman Hamada," she said, "Councillor Troi is bound to silence by means of her profession and Shippou and I only want to know the answers to a few simple questions."
"What sort of questions, Lady Kagome?" Hamada asked.
"To start: how are you doing?"
Hamada frowned. "I don't understand."
"It's simple," Kagome said. "While man, humans, have been in space for centuries now, youkai have been slow in following. Only the past fifty years have seen youkai take to the stars, and the effects are still being explored. Lord Sesshoumaru is most curious, as am I. So, how do you feel right now?"
"Fine," he answered. "I have had no problems, with my health or with anything else."
"That's wonderful to hear," Kagome said, sounding quite honest in her enthusiasm. "How are the charms holding up?"
Hamada's hand rose to touch one of the earrings he was wearing. "Wonderfully. I have no complaints about their effectiveness."
"Good," Kagome was genuinely pleased. "Be careful with them. They're hard to create."
"I understand, Lady Kagome," Hamada said, nodding. "Your workmanship is expensive enough to purchase without being careless with it."
Kagome shrugged. "Quality is expensive."
"But quality will keep you alive," Shippou added.
Hamada nodded solemnly. "I know that well."
Kagome blinked. Shippou bent down to whisper in her ear and she nodded. "That's right. You would," she said. "My condolences."
"Thank you, Lady Kagome," Hamada said softly. "Your words are precious to one such as I."
Kagome nodded in silent acknowledgement.
Shippou spoke next. "Can you tell us, Hamada, If you think any of the other youkai on board this ship or others are having any difficulty adapting?"
* * *
Kagome ran into Jean-Luc in the corridor, dropping the PADD she had been reading. She apologised and stooped to pick up the fallen PADD. Jean-Luc beat her to it, picking up the PADD and returning it to her hand.
"Lady Kagome," he said as they stood.
Kagome smiled, accepting the PADD. "Capitaine," she said, "it is a pleasure to see you again. You are keeping well?"
"I am. Where are you heading?" he asked.
"Sickbay," Kagome said. At Jean-Luc's curious expression Kagome elaborated. "Doctor Crusher has told me that she would like a copy of this," she said, lifting the PADD briefly. "It's a brief report on youkai biology that I've been authorized to pass on."
"Authorized by whom?" Jean-Luc asked.
"Sesshoumaru," Kagome said. "He's essentially the youkai equivalent of your President of the Federation."
"And he has allowed this information to pass into our hands?" Jean-Luc asked.
Kagome nodded and they started walking together towards Sickbay. "Sesshoumaru feels that it would serve his people better if there was some information out in the Star Fleet about how to care for youkai should they be found in a situation that would require them to accept more than the basic of medical treatments," she said. "How far is it to Sickbay?"
"Two levels up," Jean-Luc said.
"Oh," Kagome said with a relieved smile. "That's not too far. This is a very large ship, Capitaine. I am impressed."
"It's the largest in the fleet."
"Only the best for the best, of course."
They reached the turbolift and Jean-Luc gave the computer instructions and the turbolift slid into motion. Kagome leaned against the wall of the lift. She glanced at the PADD and flicked her fingers over it, saving the information and turning it off. That done, she cradled it in her hands and studied Jean-Luc, who stood at ease across from her. The lift sild to a halt and the door opened, revealing a new corridor. Jean-Luc motioned for Kagome to precede him, which she did, smiling up at him. He followed her, willing to act as her guide.
In Sickbay Beverly Crusher was sitting in her office, reading at her desk. She looked up when Kagome knocked on the wall.
"Hello Doctor Crusher," Kagome said. She held up the PADD. "I brought the information you will need."
Beverly smiled and stood. "Miss Higurashi, Jean-Luc." She accepted the PADD from Kagome. "Thank you," she said. "This should be most interesting and helpful."
"I hope so, Doctor," Kagome said. "If you have any questions, you can feel free to ask. What I don't know I can find out for you."
"How did you learn so much of these people?" Beverly asked, scanning the information on the PADD.
"I'm a close personal friend of the one who authorized this," she nodded to the PADD. "He and I have worked together for quite some time."
"This is quiet extraordinary," Beverly murmured distractedly. "And they're really from Earth?"
"Just as you and I are, Doctor," Kagome assured.
Kagome shared a look with Jean-Luc. "Shall we leave you to this, Doctor?" Jean-Luc asked.
Beverly was already sinking back down in her desk chair. The captain and the miko slipped out.
* * *
Kagome sat in a conference room with Shippou, Deeana, Beverly, Jean-Luc, and Will. Shippou sat on her right hand side, leaning back in his chair, sketching. The Enterprise doctor was quizzing Kagome on the finer points of youkai biology and Deeana was inquiring about culture and customs. Will and Jean-Luc listened with interest. Shippou tossed in the occasional comment, usually with some form of joke attached. Kagome had to hush him more than once.
Kagome was cut off by Jean-Luc's comm badge beeping. He tapped it and one of the bridge officers on duty requested his presence. Jean-Luc stood, followed by the other Enterprise crew present. Shippou looked up from his pad of paper.
"Trouble, Captain?" Shippou asked.
"Nothing to worry about, Mister Shippou," Jean-Luc said calmly.
Shippou raised an eyebrow and closed his sketchbook. He got to his feet and held out a hand for Kagome. Kagome accepted and stood as well. She nodded to Jean-Luc, who smiled briefly in return before leading the way out. Kagome and Shippou shared a glance.
"I'll be in our quarters," Kagome said.
"Reading?" Shippou asked.
Kagome nodded. "Can't think of a better way to spend today."
Shippou smiled. "Acting the shut-in on your birthday? I can think of a few things better to do than reread The Lord of the Rings for the thousandth time."
"I'm almost a thousand myself," Kagome said archly. "The symmetry is fitting."
"Should I bring alcohol?" Shippou asked.
"I'm not partying, Shippou," Kagome said. "The last thing I need is alcohol to depress me even further."
Shippou put his arm around her shoulders and drew her close. "Could be worse. We could be back home. Then Sesshoumaru would insist on throwing you a party."
Kagome groaned. "Of all the hobbies that old dog could take up, he had to choose tormenting me on my birthday by reminding me just how old I am."
The comm beeped, attracting their attention. Shippou tapped the wall comm.
"Shippou here," he said.
"There's a transmission for Lady Kagome," said Jean-Luc. "Would you two please come to the bridge to receive?"
"On our way," Shippou switched the comm off and motioned for Kagome to join him. Less than five minutes later they entered the bridge of the Enterprise. Kagome's attention was caught by the face on the viewscreen. Her eyes widened.
"You wouldn't!" she exclaimed, moving front and center to address her caller. "Don't you dare Sesshoumaru. Did you request this forum?"
Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow. "You know me well, Kagome," he said. "May I pass on my congratulations?"
"I hate you right now, you should know," Kagome said evenly, crossing her arms over her chest.
"You say that every year," Sesshoumaru returned. "And yet you still have not done anything other than talk about your ire."
"Because if I did I'd be out one of my oldest friends," Kagome said.
"You have not been able to kill me yet," he pointed out.
"Only because I haven't needed to," Kagome said. "Do you have something to say, Sesshoumaru?"
Sesshoumaru looked like he wanted to smile but had too much control. "I merely wished to pass on my felicitations on the anniversary of your birth, Kagome," he said.
"Another fancy way to remind me how old I am?"
"How old are you this year?" Sesshoumaru asked.
"You're the one keeping track," Kagome returned. "I'd be happy to forget, but you're too sadistic to let me."
"It has been nine hundred years since the completion of the Shikon. Happy nine hundred and nineteenth year."
"Thank you, Sesshoumaru. Are you done tormenting me right now and tying up this comm line?" Kagome asked.
"You may go now, Kagome," Sesshoumaru said, nodding. "I wish you well on this day of your birth."
"One of these days, Sesshoumaru, I'll find out your birthday and then I will take pleasure in reminding you of your ancient age," Kagome promised.
Sesshoumaru cracked a small, amused smile. "You forget the longevity of my line. I am still young."
"Older than me by at least two centuries," Kagome threw back at him. "Give my love to the mate and children. Good day, Lord Sesshoumaru."
"Good day, Miko," he said. He turned his eyes to where Shippou was standing off to the side. "Kitsune, take care of her."
"You don't have to ask me, Sesshoumaru, I'd do it anyways and you know that" Shippou said, leaning against the railing.
Sesshoumaru nodded and terminated the transmission. Kagome glowered at the large viewscreen for a moment before she turned to Jean-Luc.
"I'm sorry about that, Capitaine. Sesshoumaru has few hobbies but the most irritating hobby of his is to remind me of my age, every year, like clockwork," Kagome said.
"Happy birthday, Lady Kagome," Will said, looking quite amused. Kagome sighed.
"Thank you, Mister Riker," she said, nodding. "Now, Capitaine, if you'll permit me to retire, I will not bother you or your crew for the rest of this day."
Jean-Luc nodded. "Enjoy your day, Lady Kagome."
"She's going to do another Lord of the Rings marathon, Captain," Shippou said, shaking his head. Kagome swept past him and entered the turbolift without him. Shippou lingered to continue addressing Jean-Luc in a stage whisper. "If you think you can drag her away from Frodo and Aragorn, I beg you to," he said before whirling away and slipping through the closing turbolift doors.
Will had to turn his head to hide his amused grin. Deeana covered a smile behind a raised hand. Everyone else circumspectly returned to their duties. Jean-Luc looked around him carefully before deliberately sitting down.
The rescue from Middle Earth would have to wait.
* * *
Shippou leaned against the wall of the corridor and watched as Will and Deeana drew near. The First Officer and the ship's Councillor smiled at the redhead and he joined them as they passed. Shippou tucked his sketchbook under his arm.
"Good day to you two," he said cheerfully.
"Good day, Shippou," Deeana said with a friendly smile.
"How go things on your front?" he asked.
"Surprisingly well," Deeana said. "Captain Picard is quite taken with Miss Kagome and she with him. I've never felt him react like this to anyone."
"And Kagome tends to keep at an arms length from..." he paused and shrugged, "from pretty much everyone. She's spent too much time loosing friends to old age, so she doesn't make a habit of getting close to anyone anymore. But she's really interested in your captain." Shippou grinned.
"Is she really over nine hundred?" Will asked.
"So am I," Shippou said candidly. "She's cursed. Pretty much she's frozen until she can find a perfect wish. Then, as far as we've been able to surmise, she'll resume aging at the normal human rate."
"So she's immortal," Will said. "Why are you pressing for her to fall in love, then?"
Shippou shot Will a bittersweet half-smile. "I just want her to be happy again. Kagome's such a wonderful soul, it's a pity that she's been stuck with us youkai for so long. Although, I have to admit that, if I was to be selfish, I would gladly keep her forever. But Kagome's human, and humans aren't supposed to live as long as she has." He paused for a long moment and Deeana and Will shared a glance. Shippou took a breath and continued. "Sesshoumaru sent her here in hopes that she'd find what she needs to find to be truly happy again."
"How long has it been," Deeana asked, "since she has been happy?"
Shippou looked down at her. "Too long. Kagome's heart has been slowly bleeding until recently."
"The Captain seems much better as well," Will commented.
Shippou stopped at the doors that led to ten-forward. "I have a date, but Kagome's going to be in holodeck three for the next hour. Alone. Practicing her archery. If someone, say of a captain rank, wished to take some time to walk in the manicured gardens of ancient Japan, now would be a good time. Kagome's archery is already past perfection, under any conditions – and I do mean that – and she could really do with company."
"We'll drop the hints," Deeana assured.
Shippou grinned at Will and kissed Deeana on the cheek before retreating into the dim atmosphere of ten-forward.
* * *
Kagome drew back the bow, taking careful aim. Her breathing was steady and her mind cleared. Wind blew, catching her hair and clothing. Kagome compensated immediately. She released the string. The twang of the bowstring and the whistle of the arrow as it cut through the air lasted a bare second before the arrow hit true.
"Very impressive," Jean-Luc commented. Kagome turned, surprised.
"Capitaine," she said, brushing a stray lock of hair behind an ear. "When did you come in?"
"Not long ago," he answered, pushing away from the wall and walking closer. "How long have you been an archer?"
Kagome smiled. "Since I was fifteen," she said. "It's a traditional weapon for a miko."
"Miko?" Jean-Luc asked curiously.
"An old word for a Shinto priestess," Kagome explained. "There are few people who still use it."
Jean-Luc nodded and looked around. "Where is this?" he asked.
Kagome turned her face to the sky and smiled. "This is a replica of one of Sesshoumaru's manor houses from the Feudal Era of Japan. I prefer training here because of the peace."
"It is beautiful," Jean-Luc said.
Kagome looked over at the captain. "Would you like to walk with me in the gardens, Capitaine?" she asked.
Jean-Luc offered her his arm and Kagome, charmed, set aside the bow and tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow. "Jean-Luc, please," he said. Kagome smiled but looked away. Jean-Luc accepted the silent, polite refusal, with a veneer of a politic permissiveness. "So you say that these were Sesshoumaru's gardens?" he asked as they stepped out of the archery range and into the gardens.
"At his southern estates, yes. The archery ranges were installed fifty years after I moved in because Sesshoumaru was tired of the gardeners complaining about me using trees as targets," Kagome explained.
"This was your home?"
"Before the revolution, yes." Kagome plucked a flower and held it up. "Sesshoumaru's daughter planted the gardens. She was very attached to flowers of all kinds and before she married she personally oversaw the landscaping for all of the gardens of Sesshoumaru's estates. She had a good eye and more taste than most." She offered him the flower and Jean-Luc took it from her.
"Was all of Japan as beautiful as this?" he asked.
Kagome took a moment to consider. "The land, yes. The country was beautiful when there wasn't war. Unfortunately, war was the province of most of the lords of that time, so when I wasn't fighting power hungry youkai I was helping villagers as much as I could. The last world war was good for ridding Earth of conflict like that. Japan is beautiful again."
Jean-Luc smiled. "My home of La Barre as well," he said. "France fared badly as well. Now it is as beautiful as it once had been."
"Do you get to return home often?" Kagome asked.
"Not often," Jean-Luc admitted.
Kagome smiled. "Married to your ship?"
"Every good captain is," Lean-Luc said. Kagome laughed.
"That's what I have been told before," she said. "And as Shippou would say about Sesshoumaru, every good lord is married to his country. I assume that it has to do with leadership."
"You probably assume correctly," Jean-Luc said.
They continued in companionable conversation for the rest of the hour that Kagome had booked the holodeck for. When their time ran out Jean-Luc offered to escort her back to her rooms. Kagome accepted. When Jean-Luc and Kagome reached the doors to Kagome's suite Jean-Luc invited her to take dinner with him.
* * *
Shippou almost cheered when Kagome left that evening, carefully dressed and made up in a portrait of understated elegance. Shippou had done her hair, forcing her to sit down and submit to his skillful ministrations. He watched her leave, anxious as a father watching his little girl go on her first date, but hopeful that everything would go well. He had to admit that he was looking forward to getting another dad.
* * *
Kagome and Shippou had been on the Enterprise for three standard months before anything of great interest happened. Jean-Luc and Kagome had been seeing more of each other. Kagome had caught Will and Deeana sharing knowing looks with Shippou. She wasn't sure what to make of them. Jean-Luc noticed as well.
So did the crew. Most were amused, interested in their captain's quiet romance. Some were even happy for them. Some were not.
One of these less-than-pleased crew members made his opinion known quite spectacularly.
* * *
Ten-forward was usually a quiet place for people to meet over a drink, enjoy light music, watch the stars stream by. That was usually the case. Usually Guinan served drinks.
That was not the case today.
Drinks had been served by Guinan and shared between friends, music had been playing. The stars still streamed by outside. But everyone had been evacuated and security officers pointed their phasers at a crewman that Kagome had met with two standard month before.
"Tatsuke!" Kagome exclaimed in horror. "What are you doing? Put that away and stop this!"
"No!" Tatsuke yelled, shaking his head sharply. "He can't have you. He's only human, he's not worthy of one such as you."
"Tatsuke," Kagome said, "I'm human."
"You're special, Lady Kagome," Tatsuke said. "You're perfect, you're special. To every child of Joukamachi you are more beloved than Lord Sesshoumaru, more precious than their own parents. You are our goddess, Lady Kagome."
"Goddess?" Kagome asked. "Tatsuke, please. Put away the phaser. Your Capitaine has done nothing wrong."
Tatsuke turned back to Jean-Luc and glared at him, ignoring the security officers who were only waiting for a shot. Shippou, silent until now, grabbed Kagome's arm and whispered something in her ear. Kagome looked up at him, her expression desperate. She shook her head. He nodded and turned back to Tatsuke. Tatsuke was muttering, looking wild. His control was so frayed that, even with charms to hide his youkai traits, his eyes were bleeding red.
"Tatsuke," Kagome said, holding out her hands. Shippou kept her from moving closer. "Don't do this."
"But my lady," he said, looking over towards Kagome and smiling grimly, "I'm doing this for your own good."
"Crewman," Jean-Luc said, "if you take this shot you will die."
Tatsuke turned his attention back to Jean-Luc and scowled. "For my lady, I will lay down my very life," he said.
Kagome screamed. Tatsuke pulled the trigger of his phaser. Jean-Luc was thrown back into the bulkhead. Shippou pushed Kagome out of the way and dove at Tatsuke, his true form revealed as his illusions dropped.
Shippou wrestled with Tatsuke, claws tearing through flesh. The two youkai fought, breaking tables and scattering the security officers. Shippou came out on top, digging his claws into Tatsuke's neck and kneeling on his back. He growled at the other youkai, baring white fangs. He turned his still-green eyes on to Kagome, who was kneeling over the prone body of Jean-Luc. His hand tightened on Tatsuke's throat but he fell silent as he watched.
Kagome was frantic. She could not see anything beyond the terrible hole that burned through Jean-Luc's chest. Her hands moved in stilted, aborted gestures around the wound, her mind in chaos.
This was all her fault.
She knew what she had to do. She had to leave the Enterprise. But first...
Kagome turned to look over her shoulder at Shippou. Her blue eyes met his green. She turned back to look at Jean-Luc's face.
"Jean-Luc," she whispered, bending over him. "Forgive me. For you I give up my immortality. For you so you may live." She straightened and held her hands together, praying. "I wish for Jean-Luc Picard to live."
Shippou's gaze did not waver from Kagome. He watched as she drew out a glowing pink crystal orb from her chest and held it before her. the glow intensified until everyone watching had to avert their eyes. When it abated Kagome was standing. Shippou was kneeling on a pile of ashes. Kagome held her hand out to Shippou and helped him stand.
"Please notify Doctor Crusher that she will need to monitor your captain until he wakes," Kagome said. "Shippou and I will be leaving the Enterprise as soon as it is feasible."
"Kagome?" Shippou asked, following her out, passing the security officers Kagome didn't answer.
* * *
Jean-Luc woke in sickbay three days later. Other than a shock to his systems there was nothing wrong with him, not even a scar to show for his death. Beverly released him after a quick physical. Will, who had been called down to Sickbay when Jean-Luc had woken, informed him that Kagome, using her political muscles, had beamed aboard another ship bound for Earth with Shippou. Jean-Luc received the news in silence. Will left his captain at his quarters, visibly worried about the older man.
The captain's quarters were dark, lit by the stars alone. Jean-Luc walked over to the porthole and stared out at the stars that moved by in bright streaks of light. After a moment he turned and sat, reaching for a book, hoping to loose himself in literature. A piece of paper on the table caught his attention before his fingers reached the spine of Les Miserables. He picked up the paper instead. The writing was unfamiliar, but that was not a strange occurrence in a culture that primarily used computer type. The paper, however, was familiar.
Dear Captain, Jean-Luc read, Kagome has decided to leave the Enterprise because she fears that the blame for the incident that resulted in your death and resurrection lies solely on her shoulders. Because of this mistaken belief she has decided to return to the familiar ground of Earth, specifically Sesshoumaru's castle. If you want to continue knowing Kagome, on any level of familiarity, you can find her, or, barring that, me, at the following coordinates. Comm frequency is also listed. I would recommend calling before beaming down. I hope you choose what is right, Captain Picard.
It was simply signed Shippou and the coordinates and comm frequency promised were listed below the signature. Jean-Luc sat back, still holding the note, and closed his eyes.
What to do.
* * *
Two standard months later Kagome sat in a garden, alone. She watched the koi swim in the pond. Her tears had dried and she was almost feeling human again. It had been a month since she had returned to the castle she had called home for almost five hundred years. Kagome had not said anything to Sesshoumaru about what had occurred. She didn't need to. He already knew. Shippou had been sure to fill him in before they arrived. Sesshoumaru had been kind enough not to bring it up, for which Kagome was thankful.
Shippou leaned against a pillar and watched Kagome from across the garden. He had watched her for the past hour. She hadn't moved. Sesshoumaru came up behind Shippou and took a moment before speaking.
"How is she?" he asked.
"The same," Shippou answered. "She's not crying anymore but I think she's resigned herself to living and dying as a mortal again. Alone."
"She loved this Star Fleet Captain," Sesshoumaru said.
Shippou nodded gravely. "She does."
"She will die because of him."
"She will." Shippou looked away, then over to Sesshoumaru. His expression was pained. "I'm going to loose her, Sesshoumaru," he said.
Sesshoumaru met his gaze evenly, his visage shuttered. "You knew that it would happen eventually. Kagome had a mission."
"That doesn't make it easier to swallow," Shippou said.
There was little Sesshoumaru could say to that. He turned back to look at Kagome. She had not moved.
The tattoo of footsteps drew near. Sesshoumaru turned to receive the news the messenger carried.
"Lord Sesshoumaru," said the messenger, "a transmission is coming in from a Star Fleet vessel. A Captain Picard is the hailing party."
Shippou and Sesshoumaru shared a glance. "It's about time," Shippou said.
"I'll take it in my office," Sesshoumaru said. "Shippou, with me." He turned and left.
"Couldn't stop me if you wanted to," Shippou muttered, following the older youkai. Sesshoumaru didn't acknowledge the comment with anything more than a shake of his head.
In Sesshoumaru's office the two youkai took the call of Jean-Luc Picard. Sesshoumaru sat behind his desk, looking as regal and professional as a sculpture of a emperor. Shippou stood behind him, at his right elbow, just as professional.
Sesshoumaru tapped the comm screen on. Jean-Luc's face appeared.
"I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise," he introduced himself.
"We know you, Picard," Sesshoumaru said.
"What we want to know is that why it took you two months to get here?" Shippou said.
Jean-Luc's face fell momentarily. "I am a Star Fleet captain," he said. "Regardless of my personal wishes, I have a duty to execute. At the soonest possible opportunity I returned to Earth."
Shippou put his hand on Sesshoumaru's shoulder to forestall anything the lord might say. He leaned down and whispered something in Sesshoumaru's ear. The lord took a moment before nodding. He turned his attention back to the comm screen.
"You may beam down, captain," he said. "If you can convince Kagome, I will allow this relationship."
Jean-Luc nodded. "Thank you Lord Sesshoumaru. Picard out." The connection was terminated. Less than a minute later Jean-Luc was transported into the front courtyard. Shippou met him there soon after and escorted him in silence to the garden where Kagome was still watching koi swim.
Jean-Luc paused on the threshold. Kagome was a portait of oriental beauty but her expression stabbed painfully at his heart. He watched as a servant approached her and handed her a PADD. She looked it over and handed it back with a nod. She caught sight of Jean-Luc and her eyes widened.
Jean-Luc took his cue and moved closer, walking the path towards the stone bench where Kagome sat. She moved over to make room for Jean-Luc to sit as well. He took the invitation.
"Capitaine," Kagome said softly, "what brings you here?"
"You do," Jean-Luc answered honestly. Kagome looked away.
"You should not have come, Capitaine," she said. "You were killed because of me."
"But I'm not dead. And it was not your fault," Jean-Luc said. "Kagome, will you look at me?"
Kagome took a moment before she turned to look up at Jean-Luc. "Capitaine."
"Jean-Luc," he corrected. Kagome blushed and looked down again.
"Jean-Luc," she whispered. "Why aren't you on your ship?"
"Because you left me," he said.
"I left you to keep you safe."
Jean-Luc smiled. "I have faced more terrors and met death before, Kagome. This, however is uncharted territory."
"What is?" Kagome asked, looking back up at Jean-Luc.
He took her face in his hands. "Love, Kagome. I love you."
Jean-Luc nodded. He stroked her hair and looked deep into her eyes. "How like a winter hath my absence been from thee," he whispered.
"Shakespeare," Kagome said. She caught one of Jean-Luc's hand in her own. "My love is as a fever, longing still for that which longer nurseth the disease, feeding on that which doth preserve the ill, the uncertain sickly appetite to please. My reason, the physician to my love, angry that his prescriptions are not kept, hath left me, and I desperate now approve desire is death, which physic did except. Past cure I am, now reason is past care, and frantic-mad with evermore unrest; my thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are, at random from the truth vainly express'd; for I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright..." she trailed off.
"Who art as black as hell, as dark as night." Jean-Luc changed the last line to a question and laughed softly. Kagome smiled.
"I didn't think that the end was entirely appropriate," she said.
"Lady Kagome," Jean-Luc said, going down to kneel on one knee before her, "will you do me the honour of marrying an old sailor like me?"
Kagome's eyes filled with tears but her smile was full of mischief. "Not if you call me 'lady' I won't," she said.
"Kagome," Jean-Luc whispered. Kagome nodded.
"Of course I will," she vowed. Together they leaned in and sealed their love with a kiss.
* * *
Shippou cheered. He and Sesshoumaru watched the goings on from a safe distance. Sesshoumaru looked resigned to Kagome's decision and annoyed at Shippou's happy dance. Shippou didn't care about what Sesshoumaru thought about his dancing about, Kagome had just agreed to marry Jean-Luc and Shippou was about to get a youfu to go with his beloved youbo. Sesshoumaru had to hold Shippou back when the kitsune made to run to Kagome and congratulate her.
"Give her a minute more with her human before you disrupt their peace," Sesshoumaru instructed.
"But Sesshoumaru," Shippou whined.
Shippou pouted but obediently waited sixty seconds before twisting away from Sesshoumaru and sprinting through the garden. He collided with Kagome and wrapped her in a suffocating hug.
"Omedetou!" he exclaimed. He snaked an arm out and pulled Jean-Luc into the hug as well. "Welcome to the family, captain," he said.
"Shippou, loosen up," Kagome gasped, "I can't breathe."
Shippou released them immediately. "Sorry Kagome! I'm just so happy for you. When's the wedding going to be? I'm invited, right?"
"Of course you are, Shippou," Kagome laughed and gave him a warm hug before returning to Jean-Luc.
Sesshoumaru, approaching at a slower speed than Shippou had, nodded to the captain. "This Sesshoumaru expects to be invited to the ceremony as well," he said. "And this Sesshoumaru also expects you, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Fleet, to care well for this miko."
"I will, Lord Sesshoumaru," Jean-Luc promised.
Sesshoumaru eyed Jean-Luc warily. "Good."
* * *
The wedding was held in La Barre, France. Kagome wore a pure white furisode and Jean-Luc a tuxedo. Officers of the Enterprise, Kagome's youkai friends, and other notable figures attended. Vows were exchanged and man and woman were pronounced husband and wife. Shippou cried, grinning like a loon.
There were, of course, a few eyebrows raised. Human eyebrows raised over the apparent age difference between Jean-Luc and his new bride, wondering what had inspired the 'very, very young woman' to consent to marry a man so much older than she. Youkai opinion was that Kagome was doing the cradle-robbing, but large age differences were typical amongst their people, so it was not anything to comment about.
The captain of the Federation Starship USS Enterprise returned to active duty three standard weeks later, his wife on board with him and already expecting their first child.
Capitaine: (French) captain
Ichijikan: (Japanese) one hour
Jaa: (Japanese) well (see you later)
Youbo: (Japanese) adoptive mother
-sama: (Japanese) suffix of deep respect, polite
-kun: (Japanese) suffix for males, close to speaker or younger than speaker
Merci: (French) thank you
Aa: (Japanese) ah
Tasha: (Japanese) many thanks
Atode: (Japanese) later
Youfu: (Japanese) adoptive father
Omedetou: (Japanese) congratulations
Furisode: (Japanese) a formal style of kimono