It’s all there in the details, if Kasidy dares to look at them.
Sometimes Ben comes home from work off-planet and he looks so glad to see her and the baby, so grateful to be alive that her heart breaks a little. Sure, she’s been around the bend a few times, every freighter captain has been, and she’s been in some sterile Federation prison. That’s all bad enough, but she wonders. Ben’s been through a lot: Jennifer, the war, and then whatever those wormhole aliens put him through when he was gone. But he came home, made it back that last time just days before she went into labor, like it was all planned, and never talked about it again. She could just assume he’s grateful to have this, to be home with her in the house he designed for them on Bajor, but that’s not all.
It’s the details, of course.
Kasidy doesn’t want to tell Jake his father’s secrets, though the two of them have always been close enough that it’s frankly worrying that Ben hasn’t mentioned anything to Jake. The details. Jake and Ben have always shared that loneliness of growing up without mothers, though Ben’s revelation of what he’d been missing all his life was late coming; years after a surrogate had passed without ever betraying the half of the truth that she knew. Jake knows a little, just not the disturbing parts, the twisted up reality that Ben’s had to face. He mentions it, but nothing more, haunted by his heritage. It burns Kasidy up, too, that fear she’s no more than a pawn on a board nudged into position by an omnipotent finger, enjoying her life with Ben because of another woman’s pain.
When Joseph tells them that he’s planning to visit again, Kasidy is certain it has a great deal to do with seeing his son for the first time since his return, meeting his new granddaughter for the first time, and nothing to do with her unsettled feelings. Ben looks uncomfortable when he disconnects his console after speaking with his father, and Kasidy comes up behind him with the baby—named Sarah, of course—in her arms. The expression passes, becomes something else Kasidy isn’t supposed to see.
The night before Joseph is meant to arrive, Kasidy climbs in bed after lulling her daughter to sleep and finds Ben staring glass-eyed at the ceiling. She should leave it, let him wrestle with whatever it is that bothers him the same way she has forced herself to wrestle alone with it. Even so, Kasidy isn’t certain what she could say to him that would help him in his fight.
Often, Kasidy is afraid of the truth herself. It’s too dangerous to think that she might be some cog in a greater mechanism under the whims of an unknowable alien race. Something about her, the independent, Human part of her, resists that fiercely.
Ben is still for a long time, and then he rolls to face her. Kasidy knows this is killing him, but she doesn’t have a solution for him. Whatever it is, surely it would assuage her striking terrors as well without forcing her to ignore them.
The only unfeigned joy the next day is from Sarah, and perhaps Jake, who may not understand the source of tension among his family, but senses it all the same. Kasidy takes Sarah outside to the garden and touches every plant they pass, tells her all their names and a few recipes she knows Ben likes to make with them. Sarah grabs at the bright purple flowers of Ben’s aubergine plants and Kasidy laughs—a real laugh—when she turns her body to keep her from pulling them off.
“Your father would be very unhappy if you hurt those, darling,” she murmurs into the baby’s ear. Sarah gurgles in response, but a low laugh from the edge of the garden nearly forces Kasidy from her skin.
Joseph holds up his hands, gripping a cane in his right hand, and looks genuinely apologetic. “She’s got a fair bit of Ben in her,” he says, as if in some sort of consolation for his intrusion. “He ripped up three of my aubergine plants the summer before he turned two when I took him out in my garden.”
He doesn’t quite step into the tilled dirt of the garden, waiting for some sort of permission, until Kasidy turns her body toward him and bounces Sarah on her hip.
“Does she now?” Kasidy leans back and looks at her daughter’s soft, rounded features. “I suppose she’ll take over the family cooking by the time she’s three.”
“Lord help Ben. Maybe she’ll harangue him like he does to me all the time.”
Kasidy smiles. Even when they were on Deep Space Nine and she was only visiting between cargo runs, she recalls Ben’s exasperated annoyance with his father’s defiance. A Sisko family trait, she’s long since begun to think.
“I wonder where he got it from.”
“He took up the mantle after my wife died.” Joseph’s voice is defiant and amused, but the amusement saps out when Kasidy’s face changes. Not Sarah, she remembers too late. Judith’s mother, Joseph’s second wife.
“Oh.” He sighs and grips his cane a little tighter.
Kasidy leads the way from the garden and walks only a pace ahead of her father-in-law. For his part, Joseph is silent until they pass a Terran rose bush and he stops to lean on the cane and touch the serrated leaves and thorny stems. Kasidy cannot think what to say, a hundred thoughts fighting in her head. She had hoped to get through this visit without thinking too much about Sarah Sisko, the tragedy of her life and Joseph’s part in that tragedy; or how Kasidy has spent too many sleepless nights holding her daughter and contemplating her powerlessness, ruthlessly searching herself for any lapse in the continuity of her life that might suggest the interference of greater beings.
“It seems damnably foolish to avoid talking about this when it’s eating at Ben and you both,” Joseph finally tells her without looking up from the rose bush. Kasidy hears his sigh, sees it rustle the leaves near his fingers. “But I’ll be damned if I know how to help either of you any more than myself.”
Sarah wriggles in Kasidy’s arms, but she stills the baby and shakes her head. “I thought maybe we’d have some time to get used to it, move on after we did. The longer it goes on and that doesn’t happen, the less sure I am that I’m ever going to feel comfortable about it.”
They fall silent again, except for Sarah’s quiet cooing, but Joseph finally straightens, a sort of resolve in his eyes. Resolve, or that Sisko stubbornness, and a lot of the doubt and pain that she’s seen in Ben’s distant expressions.
“I spent the first few years of Ben’s life trying to make peace with Sarah leaving me, because I didn’t know what it was that made her go. When I found her and they told me she was dead, I had to make peace with that, too.” Joseph waves for her to follow, and Kasidy does so at a small distance, and maintains that distance when they sit on the porch, her with slow care not to disrupt Sarah, and he with the pinched, arthritic movements of his age.
Because she needs to know, Kasidy asks, “Did you make peace with it?”
“I covered over the old wounds and paid attention to raising my son, and never really knew what I’d tell him. I must’ve been a terrible husband, a failure to the woman I’d loved. I never even thought it could have been... what it was.” Joseph shakes his grey-topped head from side to side.
“And who would think of that? That the woman you loved, who you thought loved you enough to marry, to have a son together, was nothing more than a sock puppet for something else? Of course she left me when she was free. I married again, had three kids with my second wife, and I was vigilant. I wanted to be the best husband and father I could be; like I couldn’t be for Sarah.
“And then Ben comes back and we go to that desert and the whole forsaken truth comes out about Sarah, those Prophets and their plans. All that pain from before came right back to me, and it was worse that time, knowing what it was that actually happened.” Joseph closes his eyes, and Kasidy wishes she could stop this all for his sake, and Ben’s, and her own, but mostly for Sarah, the Human woman whose life was upturned and ruined by the meddling of a few omnipresent aliens.
“We’re all thinking about it,” she says in a quiet voice, and touches Joseph’s shoulder. She can’t put a name to her guilt, or Ben’s, or even Joseph’s. They each have different things to reconcile themselves with.
“I wonder,” Joseph murmurs and opens his eyes. He doesn’t look at Kasidy, but he touches his granddaughter’s fat cheek, and she coos at him. “I know I did wrong, and I hate that I played right into a plan predicated on that wrong. And I wonder if I’ll live long enough to make peace with myself about Sarah again, about the right thing this time.”
“I don’t think Ben knows how to live with himself,” Kassidy whispers to him after a beat, as if the baby will hear and understand what she means. “I don’t know how to live with myself, knowing it about him. I keep thinking how easy it was for them before, how they could do it to me if they needed me, or my daughter. It’s Ben that worries me, though.”
“I’ll talk to him, too.” Joseph hesitates, and rests his arm around Kasidy’s shoulders in paternal comfort. “Maybe we’re all part of their plan—and I don’t think we are, for what that’s worth. They did it to Sarah, and they did it to me. They could be doing it to you and Ben and Jake. This conversation could be a hallucination for all we know. But working out these things, experiencing pain and doubt, guilt and regret; it’s all part of being linear beings, or whatever it is Ben says about us. What they did to Sarah, whatever that means about Ben, they didn’t take that Human part of him away.”
Kasidy leans against him and blinks back a few tears. Her throat is knotted tight, but Sarah is asleep and she doesn’t want to disturb her with her own distress. Joseph doesn’t ask her to say anything, which Kasidy appreciates, and they stay still for a long time before she feels well enough recovered to whisper thanks to him.
She finally asks in a faint voice, “Can we live with this? Building a life, a happy life, on the body of a violated woman?”
Joseph’s breath goes still, and his arm is tense on her shoulders, but Kasidy hears him push out the withheld breath.
“I wonder that every day now,” he answers and smiles sadly when Sarah closes her tiny fist around his smallest finger. “But for the sake of both our Sarahs, all we can give is our best, one day at a time.”