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The Life That Is Waiting

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At first, every time the wormhole opens Kasidy holds her breath and waits for Benjamin to appear. She spends most of her free time on the Promenade with Jake, one arm around his shoulders and the other cradling the curve of her belly, watching the cosmos fracture again and again through a viewport. But Ben never comes.

After awhile, Kasidy goes back to doing what freighter captains do best. She’s not like Jake. She’s not like Kira. She can’t sit still and wait. She can’t trust that the wormhole aliens will return Benjamin to her. She can’t trust in much of anything at this point.

The Federation contracts Kasidy to fly supply runs between Starbase 375 and Cardassia, and the Xhosa keeps her engines hot delivering medical supplies to what remains of the population of the Cardassian home world. Kasidy stays gone long enough for the morning sickness to mostly fade, long enough for her baby brother to accept that she’s not moving into the guest bedroom in his apartment on Cestus III, long enough that her anger is almost entirely replaced with a kind of weary resignation—long enough that she once again feels the pull of the station, of Bajor, of Ben.

When she walks through the airlock on DS9, Jake is waiting for her. “Welcome home,” he says, shouldering Kasidy’s bag. His smile is so like his father’s it almost hurts Kasidy to look at him.

As much as this surprises her, being back on the station does feel like coming home to Kasidy. She’s missed evenings in Vic’s with Ezri and Julian, Quark slipping her a gratis bitters and soda to settle her stomach when he thinks no one in his bar is looking, and brainstorming story ideas with Jake over dinner. If Kasidy’s honest, DS9 became home for her when she was in prison. She dreamed of the Xhosa those long months, sure, and her shipmates, too. But what she dreamed most frequently when she closed her eyes in her cell at night was the station backlit by the wormhole and the docking clamps engaging, Jadzia’s voice on the comm welcoming her back to DS9. Dreaming of Benjamin was too uncertain then. Could he really forgive her? What would he say when they stood face to face? But the station she could long for; the station she could hold dear in her heart and hope to find a place there once again.

Kasidy’s barely settled back into the quarters she and Ben shared when Kira invites her for dinner.

“The Kai is still missing along with her most trusted aide,” Kira says as she’s clearing plates from the table. “The Minister has declared them both dead so that the process of choosing another Kai can begin. The funeral is in two weeks.”

Kasidy doesn’t know what to say. Kai Winn was never anything but a thorn in Benjamin’s side. She was power hungry and ambitious, and she frightened Kasidy, none of which she can say to Kira, who is clearly grieving. “It must be difficult to lose such an important leader.”

Kira smiles grimly as if she knows exactly what Kasidy didn’t say. “You have no idea. Kai Winn and I never saw eye to eye. I actively opposed many of her decisions. I think she too often made choices that benefitted her instead of Bajor. But she was chosen by the Prophets to lead our people, and that counts for something with me. It has to.”

Kira sits back down at the table. She leans forward and puts her head in her hands for a moment, and Kasidy resists the urge to give Kira’s shoulder a squeeze. Kira’s never been particularly physically affectionate with her friends anyway, and since Odo rejoined his people, she’s become even less so. Kasidy's never felt that she has much in common with Kira, but watching her square her shoulders and take a deep breath, her hands braced on the armrests beside her, Kasidy realizes that's changed.

“I want to ask you something,” Kira says, “but I’m afraid you’ll react poorly.”

Kasidy is instantly wary. The baby moves inside her, a flutter like wings against her ribs. “Ask away.”

Kira says, “Without the Kai, without the Emissary, Bajor is a rudderless people, Kasidy. Things have changed so drastically for the Bajorans in the last few years. We need strong leaders to ensure a strong future for Bajor. I've been asked by Minister Shakaar to approach you with an offer.”

“An offer of what?”

“An advisory position, largely ceremonial, within the Bajoran government.” Kira holds up her hand, and Kasidy has to place her fingers over her mouth to keep from voicing her objections. “Vedic Lorai, the most promising candidate for the new Kai, was gifted with a vision from the Prophets, a vision of you, Kasidy.”

“I don’t understand,” Kasidy says. “Why would the Prophets send anyone a vision of me? I’m not the Emissary.”

“No, but you’re the Emissary’s wife. You’re carrying the Emissary’s child.”

“I don’t even believe in the Prophets. Not in the way you do.”

“That’s okay,” Kira says. “You don’t have to. The Prophets believe in you.”

“I’m not qualified for a government position, Kira, not even a largely ceremonial one. I don’t know that I’d be interested in taking it even if I was.”

Kira sighs. “Bajor needs hope, Kasidy. Captain Sisko meant hope to us. So did the Kai. Vedic Lorai saw you bringing hope to our people. You’re not the Emissary, and no one is asking you to replace Captain Sisko, but you could do a lot of good on your own. Just think about it.”

That night Kasidy sleeps poorly. She dreams about prison, the narrow bed set into the wall, the rough pile of the carpet, the mechanical hum of the force field that barred her cell door after lights out. She dreams about working in the prison factory, her fingers cramping from wiring circuit boards, the other Maquis inmates shunning her for turning herself in. And even then, even in the worst time of Kasidy’s life, she still had hope; she still trusted that something better would come her way. When she wakes up, Kasidy knows that if she can be a figure of hope to the Bajoran people, if she can help them trust in a brighter tomorrow (and maybe herself in the process), she has to try.

This is how Kasidy finds herself wishing Peldor joy to hundreds of Bajorans on the Promenade, blessing more marriages and babies than she can count, and delivering an address to the Bajoran people after Vedic Lorai is elected Kai.

Kasidy’s thought long and hard about what she wants to say. For a long time, she resented the Prophets—their hold over Benjamin, their cryptic warnings, their ability to turn an otherwise rational man into someone who chased visions and read tea leaves. She sometimes thinks she resented Benjamin even more; after all, he gave the Prophets that power over him. He opened the door. He chose to be the Emissary.

Kasidy doesn’t believe in the Prophets. She can’t make that leap, not yet, maybe not ever. But she does believe in the people around her—her friends, her family. She believes in Bajor. She’s starting to believe that Ben might truly come back to her one day, and she wants to hold on to that faith as tightly as she can.

“My husband took his role as Emissary very seriously,” Kasidy says from the dais. “He said to me many times that he is of Bajor, and that means our child, mine and Ben’s, is of Bajor as well. Right now in the Kendra Valley, ground is being broken for the home my husband designed, the place we planned to raise our family, where we planned to grow old together, and where I will wait for him to return as long as I have to. It’s taken me a long time to recognize this simple fact, but I am of Bajor, too, and not just because I’m the Emissary’s wife, not just because I’m the mother of one of his children.” Kasidy pauses. The silence is thick and oppressive. “I’m not a Starfleet officer. I’m not a politician or a scientist. I’m not even particularly religious. But I have chosen to make Bajor my home, its people my friends. These are times of change and anxiety and loss, but they are also times of profound hope and optimism. And come what may, I will stand with the Bajoran people, with my friends, as we face the future together.” The silence persists for one terrifying second, and then applause echoes through the Vedic Assembly. Kira’s eyes are suspiciously wet when Kasidy finally locates her in the sea of faces.

Back on the station, Ezri meets her at the airlock and walks her back to her quarters. Kasidy doesn’t need an escort, but the gesture is nice, and if she’s honest, she’s a little unsteady on her feet now that the end is drawing near.

“Please don’t tell me Kira’s talked you into a Bajoran birthing ceremony,” Ezri says as they walk.

Kasidy rolls her eyes. “Please. Inner peace might ease the birthing process for Bajorans, but it does not work for humans.”

“Trills either. Ten seconds of that gong, and I’d be tempted to strangle the midwife.”

“You and me both. I just wish people weren’t so interested in my pregnancy. Did you know Quark’s running a betting pool on the sex of the baby?”

Ezri laughs. “I’m not surprised.”

“I think they’d broadcast the birth live throughout Federation space if I’d let them. I told Kai Lorai she can come, and that’s only because I actually like her.”

Ezri says, “It must be difficult being in the limelight at a time like this.”

Kasidy snorts. “You could say that again. Jake has been wonderful, though. So attentive and sweet. He cooks dinner almost every night and made the arrangements for my brothers and Benjamin’s father to be here next month when the baby is born. He’s even keeping a record of all the baby’s milestones to give to Benjamin when he gets back.” Kasidy’s proud that she can talk about Ben now without that awful ache in her chest, without that crippling sense of loss.

“Jadzia would have loved to see Benjamin have another child.” Ezri’s smile is wistful.

Kasidy hugs Ezri and says, “I miss Jadzia, but I’m glad you’re here, Ezri. I couldn’t have made it these last months without you.”

Ezri’s smile turns blindingly beautiful. “I will always be here for you, Kasidy,” she says. “Well, you’ve only got a few more weeks to go, and then we’ll get to meet the newest Sisko.” She looks sheepish for a moment. “In case you didn’t know, there’s a betting pool on the birth date as well. Kira and I may or may not have gone in together for exactly three weeks from today. No pressure or anything.”

Turns out Sarah Danielle Sisko is even more contrary than her father ever thought about being. She is born two weeks early on the deck of a runabout halfway in between Bajor and DS9 on the way back from a conference on gender relations in the Alpha Quadrant hosted by Bajor.

Kasidy’s head is in Ishka’s lap, Ishka’s fingers playing soothingly with her hair. Earlier that night, Kasidy had watched Ishka deliver a talk on the changing social opportunities for women on Ferenginar and their positive effects on the Ferengi economy. Ishka spoke with a power and conviction that had impressed Kasidy and made her want to get to know Ishka better. Of course, giving birth on the Rio Grande while Kira, Ezri, and Leeta watch isn’t the bonding exercise Kasidy had in mind. At least Ambassador Troi isn't just watching; she’s busy delivering Danielle.

“There, there,” Lwaxana says. “One more push, dear. That’s all we need.”

And then Danielle is sliding out of Kasidy’s body and into Lwaxana’s hands, Julian’s voice frantic for updates on the comm. “She’s so beautiful,” Kasidy says and reaches out to hold this perfect person she and Ben made.

The wormhole opens, and for a long moment everything on the Rio Grande is washed over with light—blue and pink and the softest of whites—and Kasidy can’t help but believe that wherever Benjamin is at this moment, he’s also here with her. Kasidy hugs Danielle to her chest as the runabout docks, and then Kira takes her by the hand and leads them through the airlock to home.