Kagome was startled to find herself summoned, along with her mate, to the commander's office almost as soon as their communication with their children was finished. Sisko was waiting for them with an eager gleam in his eye that made her slightly uneasy. He gestured for them to sit, and they did; Kagome snuck a covert glance at Sesshoumaru's face, but as usual, he was giving nothing away.

"Welcome," Sisko said, his voice unusually jovial. "Kagome." He nodded politely to her, and she returned the greeting. He turned to greet her mate, offering him a similarly respectful nod.

"Captain."

Sesshoumaru merely inclined his head in acknowledgement while Kagome's mouth opened and closed soundlessly a few times, her eyes growing impossibly wide. Smug golden eyes slanted over at her.

"You look like a fish, miko."

That did it.

"Captain?" she all but shrieked, unable to contain herself any more. He lifted one dark eyebrow in that maddeningly condescending way of his. She grit her teeth and made an effort to lower her voice to a more reasonable volume. "And when, mate," she hissed, "did you acquire that particular rank?"

He shrugged eloquently. Kagome turned exasperated eyes on Sisko, who seemed to be having a hard time containing his laughter.

Finally, she dragged the story out of the two of them; the commander knew most of it, and Sesshoumaru's infuriating reticence ended with the completion of the joke. On first coming aboard the station, Sesshoumaru had, apparently, invited (or, rather, encouraged) Commander Sisko and Constable Odo to look into his file in the Federation systems. In the early days of the Federation, he had made it his business to participate in as many levels of this powerful new presence as he possibly could – including passing their exams and becoming a ranked officer, which he did by the simple expedient of flying between his home and the academy in San Francisco in a ball of light; it took just long enough that everyone assumed he'd been hunting. His unsurpassed knowledge of military history, his tactical instincts, and his extraordinary martial prowess smoothed his road through the academy, and he progressed quickly through the program. He kept close ties with both the executive and military authorities on Earth – volunteering his services in subtle ways, but mostly just keeping an iron in the fire ... just in case. And, of course, mastering every technological upgrade as it arose, so that he could fly just about anything.

Kagome shook her head at him. "After eight hundred years, you think you know someone, then BAM, something like this comes along," she drawled. "Seriously, Sessh, when were you planning to let me in on this?"

His smirk faded; he looked away, his jaw tightening. "I hoped it would never be necessary." Kagome felt her own half-hearted irritation fading; he had been worried that new discoveries and new allies would also bring new threats – he'd been worried for a long time. And she'd never known.

Sisko took that moment to intervene. "Well, Captain," he started, bringing them both out of their anxieties, "your record of service on Earth is extremely impressive, and you come with the highest commendations a Starfleet officer can get. Every military tactician who's ever taught me has written in your file that they wish they'd had more time to study under you. May I count on your assistant in the upcoming war?"

Sesshoumaru nodded. "Indeed."

Sisko sat back in his chair, a satisfied smile on his face. "Excellent. Now, then." He began tapping at the computer screen before him. "To get you a ship of your own, and a crew..." he glanced up, meeting the youkai's eyes. "I assume you wish to choose your own crew?" At Sesshoumaru's nod, he continued. "Of course. There's a new vessel being brought in ... this evening, actually, the USS Firebird." He shook his head. "It's almost as if this were planned."

Sesshoumaru examined the claws of one hand, eyes unreadable.

A flashing message on Sisko's desk alerted him to a docking ship – nothing out of the ordinary, save that something was niggling at the back of his mind about the previous time it was there. "USS Goraishi," he mused out loud, allowing himself a moment of distraction from the task at hand.

"Kouga?" Kagome gasped. "They're back?"

Sisko snapped his fingers. "That's right, it was your friends – the old man with the beard, and the three young ... firebrands." Kagome snorted at the description. Yup. She glanced over at Sesshoumaru, to see if he showed even the vaguest hints of being excited or pleased to see the Eastern wolf-tribe again. He was still examining his claws. Which were flawless. A rusty cog clunked heavily into place in Kagome's head.

"You planned this!" she accused, eyes widening again.

He met her eyes, and that damned eyebrow slid up, making his crescent moon crinkle.

"Hn."

"Sesshoumaru," she cried, exasperated. "Did you orchestrate all this?"

"Hn," he grunted again. "I may have made a few transmissions from the Jem'Hadar ship in case of such an eventuality."

"You called in favors at Starfleet and got a ship, and called Yorozoku-sama back from his mission so that you could man your sparkly new ship with youkai." Kagome summarized. He didn't contradict her. She shook her head. She should be used to it by now – the man just didn't know how to not be completely in control of everything.

Sisko was listening with keen interest. "It seems your reputation is well-deserved," he murmured, a faint smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Very well; choose your crew, and if you require any of mine – save my senior staff, of course – you have but to ask."

Sesshoumaru inclined his head regally. Kagome rolled her eyes.

Before the afternoon was over, they're reunited with their allies from the East, and Sesshoumaru had convinced Yorozoku to return to Earth to help train Souta as the newly-minted lord of the West, and to oversee the cardinal landholdings. Sesshoumaru and Sisko made appointments to discuss future tactics with the admiral of Starfleet, though Sesshoumaru insisted that he be allowed to see what they were up against before committing to a strategy.

The USS Firebird was rechristened, at Sesshoumaru's insistence, the USS Shikon; Kouga, Ginta, and Hakkaku all accepted their new positions on her with unbridled enthusiasm. Kouga offered Sesshoumaru a small detachment of his own allies from the USS Goraishi, and to the shock of all – and Kagome's particular delight – they were Klingons. As it turns out, Kouga affirmed, Klingons and youkai are well-suited as allies; their values and priorities are similar enough that they do not have the same cultural barriers with each other that both species found with other humanoids. Kagome immediately befriended a few of the Klingons (after knocking them around a little to establish her place in their new pack, of course); when she offered to be their sparring partners, to keep her own skills with the bat'leth honed, she was met with enthusiastic agreement. They were no Worf, but she could happily live with them. One of them, particularly, was an engineer with a keen interest in reiki; she looked forward to working with him.

Feeling somewhat disoriented by the suddenness of everything, the bewildering speed with which events were springing into motion, Kagome was the first to agree when someone suggested that they celebrate the new ship and her new crew in Quark's. It felt like nearly the whole station crowded into the canteen with them – all the senior officers, all the new crew of the Shikon, all the friends and well-wishers she'd become so fond of during her strange, lonely time on the station.

Snagging a seat between Julian and Dax, she glanced around her with a growing sense of unreality. Sesshoumaru and Worf had settled into a conversation about antique weaponry. Kouga had retreated to the far end of the room; she could barely seem him, but he seemed to be arguing with Odo about something-or-other while Yorozoku played mediator. Two seemingly irreconcilable worlds were there, irrefutably and inextricably enmeshed.

Dax nudged her and offered her a drink, jarring her out of her thoughts. With a grin, she accepted, and the two were soon debating the merits of holosuite onsens versus holosuit re-creations of the Risa steam pools.

...

"Mmm, I want another of these," Kagome giggled, standing and stretching. Sesshoumaru was still deep in conversation with Worf, his drink untouched. She raised her eyebrows at Dax, who grinned and raised her mostly-empty mug with a grateful nod; glancing around the table, she got confirmation that no one else needed anything, and headed off to the bar.

"Two iced raktajinos with extra cream please, Quark," she called, smiling at the Ferengi behind the bar.

"Comin' right up," he called over his shoulder. "Was it Dax who talked you into liking Klingon coffee, or were you born with bad taste?"

She laughed, the sound tinkling off the glasses that lined the walls. "It's not my fault if those lobes of yours don't add any subtlety to your palate," she answered with a wink. She leaned casually against the bar, enjoying their banter as she always did. "I've always loved coffee, and I think the Klingons just might have perfected it."

He snorted indelicately and placed two squat blue mugs on the bar in front of her. "Yeah, yeah, think what you like, so long as you keep buying it here," he muttered. She grinned at him and raised one of the glasses in a mock toast.

"You." The rough male voice was unmistakable. Kagome raised her eyes and glanced down the bar, unflinchingly meeting the gaze of the Klingon she'd humiliated weeks before – the one who'd pulled a knife on her, then tried to stab her in the back after losing in a fair fight. Fabulous. She set the drinks carefully back down on the bar, preparing for unpleasantness. Her friends – including her mate – were still engaged in animated conversation, and hadn't noticed the looming confrontation. Good. She didn't want anyone else involved.

"Any true Klingon would die before serving you, bitch." She hadn't had time to process his quiet words before he lunged at her. She shifted smoothly into a defensive stance, but before he could even reach her, a gust of wind rustled her hair and made her blink. Sesshoumaru was standing in front of her, one arm anchoring her firmly to his broad back. He'd moved so quickly she hadn't even been able to see him.

The Klingon rammed his fist into what should have been Kagome's jaw, but was in fact the muscled chest of a very large, very angry daiyoukai. Without so much as blinking at the impact, Sesshoumaru glared down at the attacker with his implacable golden eyes. The Klingon – shorter than him by nearly a foot – looked up at him in fury, then in confusion, then in horror, then in dread.

From her place pressed against Sesshoumaru's back, Kagome's mind was whirling. He couldn't just kill the guy; it would be a diplomatic nightmare! She buried her face between Sesshoumaru's shoulder-blades and clutched the silk covering his sides, trying to convey to him that she was fine, that there was no harm done. When his low voice rumbled through the chest under her cheek, she held her breath.

"Attempt to touch my mate again and it will be the last act of your life." The words were spoken with no emotion; it was a simple statement of fact. The Klingon backed up, having finally realized that he was well and truly outmatched. He glanced around him, frantically searching for other Klingons to back him up; the knot standing around Kouga glared disdainfully at him, and Worf's disgusted gaze spoke volumes about his opinion of the man's dishonorable behavior. With no reinforcements to be found, he did the only thing he could think of. He fled.

Kagome slipped around Sesshoumaru's big form and nestled against him, noting his rigid features, how tense and angry the lines of his body were. He had really wanted to dismember the guy. Rising on her tiptoes, she pressed a single kiss against the underside of his jaw in thanks – both for protecting her and for doing it without bloodshed.

He blinked as though waking from a dream, and looked down at her. Her adoring, grateful gaze, her little body molded against his side, her hands resting trustingly against his chest, her scent holding no tang of fear or bitter anger, her heartbeat calm and steady – his fury melted away, and he inclined his head to press a single kiss against her forehead. She made a soft, contented noise in the back of her throat and closed her eyes, resting her head against his chest. His beast calmed, reassured that his mate felt safe and protected, even if he had not bloodied his claws as he'd wished.

She drew back from him and looked up with a sunny smile, as if to be sure he was no longer on the verge of killing someone. He met her gaze for a moment, then turned his eyes back to their table. Kagome took that as a sign that everything was A-OK. She grabbed the drinks, sent Quark a broad wink, and returned to the table. Her mate followed silently, a protective hand on the small of her back.

When they returned to their table, all eyes were on them. Sesshoumaru slid wordlessly back into his seat, resuming his conversation with Worf as though nothing had happened. Sisko squinted appraisingly at him, then at Kagome, before finally retuning to his conversation with Kira. Dismissed.

Kagome handed Dax her drink and settled herself into the uncomfortable chair. Dax gave her a reassuring smile.

"I take it it's in youkai nature to be protective?" she asked, taking a sip of her drink and closing her eyes in pleasure.

"Very," Kagome agreed quietly, knowing that her mate was listening to every word she said. "And he's ... very much the youkai." She bit her lower lip and glanced away, eyes flicking sightlessly over the door of the canteen. "It makes me worry."

Dax raised an eyebrow. "Good thing to have in a comrade," she said neutrally, clearly trying to draw Kagome into expressing her worries more clearly.

Kagome sighed. "Yeah." She sipped her drink, sending the youkai in question a sideways glance. His impassive face had a few little traces of his enjoyment on it; to anyone else, he would have looked as cold as ever, but she could tell he was very much engaged in his conversation with Worf. She looked down at her hands.

"For hundreds of years, we've been undefeatable. He's been undefeatable. And all it took was for those bastards to manipulate his protective nature by threatening our child, and suddenly we're on an exploding ship on the far side of the world, and he's taken prisoner and experimented on, and I'm a drifting outcast left to the mercies of whoever happened to pick me up. Everything turned out OK – but frankly, it was luck." She took a sip of the sweet coffee, barely tasting it. "I hate luck."

A low, even voice interrupted her. "For someone who's been fate's plaything for such a long time, you're showing a remarkable resistance to accepting the idea of it." Golden eyes were regarding her evenly from across the table. "Weren't you the one who was dragged around in time for the sake of a bauble that needed destroying?" Eyebrows raised around the table; no one had ever mentioned time travel!

"That was different, though," she argued, feeling a surge of helplessness welling up inside her. "I was dragged around by fate to solve specific problems. This all just reeks of ... chance. Chance, against a really well-organized, vicious enemy. If they'd tried to beam you off that ship a moment later, you would have died, despite your strength. If these folks had been a moment longer in beaming me off, if we'd been in the middle of nowhere, if we'd been closer to a Cardassian or Klingon ship than to a Federation base ..."

"Miko," Sesshoumaru said, his voice pulsing with quiet authority. He rose and circled the table to kneel beside her. "They didn't, and we weren't. And now we face our foes together – foes that we hold the key to defeating." One deadly claw traced a ticklish pattern down her cheek. "The difference between fate and chance is faith. Will you give up on fate, when it clearly still has plans for you?"

She closed her eyes and sighed. He loosed his aura, and it flared around them in a momentary blaze them before winding around her like a caress, nuzzling at her soul. She allowed her own aura to rise up to meet his, and they twined together in a union far more intimate than any physical lovemaking. She lowered her forehead to rest against his, and took a deep breath.

Her eyes opened slowly, meeting his own golden gaze with renewed confidence. "With you at my side," she whispered, echoing the rote of their mating day, "I will never lose my hope."

"With you at my side," he answered, "my courage will never falter." She slid her hands up into his hair and pressed a kiss against the crescent moon on his forehead.

"A toast!" They both started at the sound Miles' cheery voice, having almost forgotten that they weren't alone. Looking around, they found everyone nodding in agreement. Dax urged them to their feet as everyone else at the table stood, raising their glasses. "Commander," Miles started, turning to Sisko, "would you do the honors?"

Sisko grinned and raised his glass. "To the new command crew of the Federation Starship Shikon," he started in a ringing voice. Immediately, a hush fell over the canteen, and all eyes turned to them. One by one, the other patrons stood, lifting half-filled glasses. Sisko met Kagome's eyes.

"May your victories be swift and complete." His eyes flicked over to the demon who loomed silently over Kagome's shoulder. "May the ravens be sated in your wake." Smirking at the open shock on Sesshoumaru's face, he turned back to Kagome, offering his final blessing. "May your homecoming in the West be joyful – and come soon." She couldn't help the tears that filled her eyes as he called his final words. "To the Shikon!"

"To the Shikon!" echoed the whole canteen, and Kagome's tears spilled down her cheeks as her new friends toasted them.

Sesshoumaru's arm snaked around her waist and pulled her back flush against his chest. She smiled through her tears, and looked up at him with a new determination in her eyes. A wordless promise passed between them. Together, together they would fight the Dominion until their world was safe again. And then, together, they would return home.

The next morning marked the beginning of the end of the Dominion War, as the Federation Starship Shikon took off into the dark.


A/N: There we go, folks! Thanks for following me on this little jaunt through Deep Space. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have!