Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own any of the following characters, places, or events.

Author's Note: I confess-the basis of this story came from a dream. The rest stemmed from my intense desire for a different ending to my favorite Trek series. Completely disregards canon from about...oh, "Tears of the Prophets" on. Only things that are the same are Sisko & Kasidy get married, and the Dominion War ends. Hope you enjoy, and please read & review!

by Dax's10thHost

For once in his young life, Dr. Julian Bashir, Chief Medical Officer of Federation Starbase Deep Space 9, was not looking forward to the night's dinner party. At least, not entirely. The food promised to be excellent—Captain Sisko was cooking, and Bashir doubted there was a soul left on the station who hadn't heard of Benjamin Lafayette Sisko's culinary skills. And many probably envied Julian and the rest of the senior staff because of it. No, it wasn't the food the good doctor dreaded.

Instead, it was the reason for the dinner.

Supposedly, the Siskos were throwing a Happy War's End party, a celebratory gathering of Captain Sisko's senior officers who, over seven years of service, had become his closest friends. Supposedly. Bashir suspected that Sisko had requested the senior staff's presence for a purpose other than the one he'd provided in the briefing several days before. True—with the Dominion War officially ending two weeks ago, there was much cause for celebration in that area of station life. Quadrant life, for that matter.

But that wasn't the only occasion worth celebrating.

And, being CMO of the station, Bashir would of course be the first to know. So really, if he was right (and his calculations told him that he had a 0.03% chance of being wrong), there was really no point in his going to the dinner party, other than to feel sorry for himself. If only Quark were coming.

In fact, Julian thought, examining his glum reflection in the mirror, there are two such reasons for celebration.

Only one of them dragged the corners of his mouth toward his boots.

Julian sighed and straightened his navy blue civilian jacket, squaring his shoulders as he did. "Cheer up, old boy. It's not all that bad." He attempted a smile, and grimaced at the result. "Well then. On that note, I'll head for the door." The exit to his quarters hissed open, their angular Cardassian design breaking apart, only to come back together the moment he cleared the raised threshold.

Traversing the now-familiar corridors of the Habitat Ring, Julian made his way to the nearest turbolift. When he arrived, the keypad set into the bulkhead indicated that the 'lift was in use. Sighing slightly, Julian laced his fingers together and let his eyes wander idly about, taking in the shadowy, but comforting, surroundings.

When given the choice of any job he wanted, Julian Bashir had picked what many had considered the job no one wanted. True, achieving CMO so soon after graduation was a feat few accomplished, but aboard a Cardassian space station? And one only recently acquired by the Federation? Many called him insane.

But Julian Subatoi Bashir had stuck to his guns, as Vic would say, and refused to change his mind. He wanted to experience real frontier medicine, and life aboard DS9 had seemed the obvious selection.

Within weeks of his arrival, his exuberant choice had proved to be a bit too obvious.

What once had seemed fresh and exciting had turned into a living nightmare of dying patients and devastating Cardassian attacks. At first, Bashir had floundered under the pressure, not sure how to handle his seeming failure at what he loved most: medicine. But then, over time and many more hard lessons, he'd come to realize that being a doctor wasn't always about medicine, or even saving lives. Now, seven years later, Julian was certain of what his job was, even though he couldn't put it into words.

The 'lift doors opened, revealing the entire O'Brien clan.

"Julian!" Keiko exclaimed, a smile breaking out on her stunning face. "So good to see you. Maybe you can get Miles to cheer up."

Bashir mock-frowned. "Oh?" he asked, stepping into the 'lift. "What seems to be the problem?"

"He's angry 'cause Captain Sisko's party is keeping him from finishing work, that's what." Nine-year-old Molly piped up, her adorable face clouded with a frown. "I tried to tell him it was going to be fun, but he wouldn't listen. All he said was—"

"That's enough, Molly," Keiko said gently, flashing Bashir a sympathetic smile. "I think Dr. Bashir gets the picture."

Julian turned to his closest friend, the venerable Chief Miles Edward O'Brien, and elbowed him in the ribs. "You've got to get in the spirit of things, Miles! It's a party, not a funeral. Besides, work will be there in the morning."

"Yeah, when I don't want it to be there," the Chief grumbled. "It's just that I was so close to finishing the repairs on upper pylon three. Now I'm gonna hafta start reprogramming the docking codes from scratch tomorrow, because it's a security risk to leave them half-finished."

"You couldn't have left someone else with the job? Lieutenant Anos, perhaps?"

"Now, you know how I don't like to do that," Miles began. Julian held up a hand to indicate his understanding. The last thing he wanted was to hear how much Miles O'Brien hated leaving others to finish what he started.

"Well, it's over now, and there's no use grumbling about it," Keiko said. "Besides, I'm sure Jadzia would be more than willing to give you a hand tomorrow."

Julian did his best not to wince at the name. No matter how hard he tried to perk up, something always happened to bring him back down. He stifled a sigh. Fall in love with a beautiful woman, lose said woman to a grouchy Klingon. Such was life.

The 'lift hummed to a stop, depositing them only a few meters shy of the Siskos' residence. As one, the O'Briens and Bashir piled out, little Kirayoshi leading the way with his toddling footsteps. Despite the reminder of what was to come, Julian couldn't keep a smile from his face at the sight. Would he ever have a family like this someday? Miles was lucky.

Kasidy Sisko welcomed them with smiles and open arms, forever her charming self. Jake had done well, pairing his father with such a fun-loving woman. Smiling as warmly as he could, Bashir nodded and stepped into the spacious living area. Immediately, the aroma of spicy Cajun cuisine filled his nostrils, and his mouth watered appreciatively. Maybe the night wouldn't be so bad after all.

"Doctor!" Sisko exclaimed, wiping his hands on his apron. "Welcome to our humble abode." He winked, smiling. "Good to see you outside the Infirmary. Though I must admit, you've had nothing but good news for us lately."

Bashir chuckled. "Glad I could accommodate you. There's nothing a doctor likes better than to hear his patients are happy."

The door chime sounded once more, and at Sisko's hearty "Come in," the doors slid open to reveal the smiling faces of Worf and Jadzia. That is, Jadzia was smiling. Worf was…well, wearing his usual expression.

"Worf, Jadzia—do come in!" Kasidy said warmly, reaching to embrace the tall Trill. Bashir suspected that their blossoming friendship would grow exponentially in the months to come.

"Old Man!" Sisko cried, and hugged Jadzia as if she were his old mentor, Curzon Dax, and not a female science officer under his command. Still, beneath the back slapping and shoulder jostling that bespoke man-to-man, Bashir could see signs of a bond that ran even deeper than that of a mentee greeting his mentor. A bond of friendship uniquely Jadzia and Sisko's own. He smiled, though a bit wistfully.

Sisko loosened his grip on Dax and turned to her subdued Klingon mate. "Worf, good to see you outside Ops or the Defiant," he said with a smile.

Worf nodded, his expression set in stone. "Captain."

"Zia!" Molly cried, and Jadzia turned just in time to catch a running Molly in her arms.

"Why, Princess Molly, I wasn't expecting to see you here," Jadzia exclaimed in mock surprise. "Aren't you supposed to be attending a Royal Sleepover with Arielle and Ilyia tonight?"

Molly grinned proudly, twining her arms around Jadzia's neck. Her dark brown hair fell down her back, swinging against Dax's arms in time to the girl's movements. "Nope! Mommy decided to let me come tonight, so I could see you and Uncle Worf. And Aunt Kira, too. But she isn't here yet."

Bashir watched as Jadzia exchanged a private smile with her mate at the mention of Uncle Worf. That was the beauty of their relationship, he mused (though dolefully): Jadzia Dax was quite possibly the only person in the quadrant who could make Worf smile.

"Well, then, Princess Molly, I think Uncle Worf needs a hug." She lowered her voice to a stage whisper, barely concealed smile glimmering across her lips. "He's been rather grouchy today."

Molly nodded solemnly and jumped to the floor, skipping to the figure that would have frightened most human children her age. Then, without batting an eyelash, she threw her small arms around as much of Worf's waist as she could and squeezed tightly. To the surprise of Bashir and probably everyone else in the room save Jadzia, Worf bent down and gathered Molly in a hug all his own.

The nine-year-old stayed in Worf's arms for several seconds before pulling back to pat him on the cheek. Then, angling her body to look back at Jadzia, she whispered, "I don't think he's grouchy anymore, Zia."

The radiance of Dax's smile would have melted anyone's heart. Julian swallowed hard and scuffed his boot against the carpet. No doubt about it: Jadzia was meant to be a mother.

Molly wriggled her way to the floor and ran over to Dax, slipping her smaller hand into the Trill's larger one, and Yoshi soon followed, toddling over to Dax, his little boy face a wreath of giggles. Spell now broken, the rest of Sisko's dinner guests scattered into twos and threes, chatting happily about all the changes on the station.

Julian, standing with Jake and O'Brien, was just beginning to give his opinion on the wave of incoming officers posted to DS9 when Odo and Kira arrived, hand-in-hand. Greetings and smiles circled the room once more, and then Sisko, with a dramatic flourish of his spatula, announced that dinner was served.

With plenty of laughter, DS9's senior staff and their families seated themselves around the table, digging into the delicious meal. Over Captain Sisko's famous jumbaliya and Kasidy's equally well-known yeast rolls, the talk ranged from the end of the war to rumors of Starfleet's assigning a counselor to the station to Garak's decision to close up shop and return, at long last, to Cardassia.

At one point, Yoshi, his high chair placed between Keiko and Worf, caused quite a ruckus when he managed to dip the end of Worf's braid into his Bajoran pudding. Everyone laughed, and even Worf couldn't contain the tiniest of smiles. Soon, though, he excused himself to the refresher, and, with Jadzia's help, managed to clean the sticky white substance from his unruly Klingon locks.

Gradually, though, as bowls were scraped clean and dessert slowly disappeared into over-stuffed stomachs, the chatter quieted and a comfortable silence descended over the group. Julian, his belly full, surveyed the group.

Sisko, at the head of the table, sat with Kasidy to his left. The captain's hand was twined in his wife's, and a smile rested gently on his lips. Beside Kasidy sat Jadzia, with (now that dinner was finished) Molly in her lap and a glow on her smiling face. Then came Worf, Yoshi's empty high chair, and Keiko. Beside Keiko, at the end of the table, sat Miles, with Molly's empty seat beside him. Kira was next, with Yoshi asleep in her lap and Odo beside her, his fingers wrapped comfortably around hers, allowing the recently-presented Bajoran betrothal bracelet around her wrist to shine in the light. Then, between Bashir and Captain Sisko, sat Jake.

As he looked around the table at what had become his family, Julian felt something tighten in his chest. It was a good group, this one, and he was lucky to have them. Lucky not to have lost any of them to the war, or to reassignments aboard far-ranging starships. Yes, he was lucky. Very lucky indeed.

"Well," Sisko began, his eyes sweeping the table much as Bashir's had, "I suppose now's as good a time as any." He looked to Kasidy, and her brown eyes sparkled with some hidden knowledge. A secret that only she, Sisko, Jake, and Bashir knew about. Kasidy nodded almost imperceptibly, and Bashir saw her squeeze her husband's hand encouragingly.

"You all know that this was supposed to be a Happy War's End party for my senior staff—and their families," he nodded at Keiko, "and it's true that there is much cause for celebration, now that the Dominion is no longer a threat to us or our loved ones. There's no greater relief than to know that I won't have to post those casualty lists every Friday morning."

All the adults nodded solemnly, each remembering the times they'd found the names of friends and family members contained in those long parades of names.

"But I must confess, my—our—" he smiled at Kasidy, "—reasons behind this dinner party weren't primarily ones of victory celebrations. In truth, Kasidy and I wanted those we loved best to be the first ones to know that…"

He paused, and everyone around the table held their breath. Even Bashir, who knew what was coming.

"Jake is going to be a big brother."

Shouts and hoots of delight resounded, and Jadzia leapt up to embrace first Sisko and then Kasidy, her face aglow with happiness for her friends. Bashir, relieved that the secret was finally out, clapped Jake on the back and smiled. "Well, I don't know whether to offer you my congratulations or condolences."

Jake laughed and shook his head. "Congratulations, definitely. I've always wanted a little brother or sister."

For a while, it seemed as if everyone talked at once. Then, once all had taken their turns at congratulating the happy couple, and Keiko had consoled a frightened Yoshi, things began to settle down. Yoshi returned to Kira's lap, and Molly moved from Jadzia's to Worf's.

At the sound of Jadzia's throat clearing, everyone turned, expecting a toast in honor of the Siskos' announcement. As the room fell silent, Jadzia, unable to keep a smile from her lips, glanced at her lap and rubbed it nervously. Then, reaching to grasp her mate's hand, she looked up, her gaze connecting with everyone's at the table.

"Well, then," she started, voice shaky. "I never thought it'd be this hard, considering all the times my past hosts have done it, but…seems like I was wrong." She paused, glancing at Worf. Something she saw there seemed to give her the courage to continue, and she bit her lip as she turned back to the table.

"But, um…Benjamin, you might want to tell the station nursery to make room for two, because Worf and I are expecting as well."

As the words left her lips, Jadzia's eyes sparkled like they had on her wedding day, and her fingers whitened as she squeezed her husband's hand. Gasps and delighted laughter poured forth, the group fairly showering congratulations upon the couple.

Kasidy caught Jadzia in a hug, tears of joy glistening on her cheeks, and Sisko shook his head in delighted wonder. Jake, caught in the spirit of the moment, gripped Julian around the shoulders and shook him so hard he nearly rattled his teeth out. Molly ran shouting around the room, her princess demeanor forgotten in her excitement, and Yoshi, though too young to understand the reason for the excitement, threw himself into Worf's lap, shrieking his laughter all along. Odo and Kira stood and circled the table, waiting their turn to offer hugs and excitement, and one by one the dinner guests abandoned the table.

As he stood back and watched the festivities, Julian couldn't help but feel happy for his friends. How could he not, when Sisko and Kasidy could barely let go of each other, Worf's brown eyes never stopped shining, and Jadzia's laugh filled the air almost constantly? Yes, he'd fallen for the wrong woman, and was probably fated to spend the rest of his days in unrequited love. But here, in this moment, Bashir realized there was no where else he'd rather be.

These were his friends. And they…they were his home.

The door chime sounded, but, amidst all the shouts and laughter, no one but Bashir noticed. Ambling over to the door, Julian entered the desired command. Probably Quark, coming to crash the party, he thought, watching the doors slide open. Instead, they revealed a short, dark-haired ensign standing on the threshold, travel bag over her shoulder and a very confused look upon her rounded face.

"Hi," she blurted, shifting nervously on her feet. "I have a feeling that I'm at the wrong place."

"Well, that depends," Julian said, smiling in hopes of putting the woman at ease. "What place are you looking for?"

"My quarters. You see, I'm new here—just transferred this morning, actually, but Admiral Ross kept me in briefing all day. So I wasn't assigned quarters until a few hours ago, and…"

"Let me guess—you got lost."

The woman's brow wrinkled, and she ducked her head, embarrassed. With a start, Bashir realized she was a Trill. "Yeah, I guess I did. Look, I'm really sorry for bothering you." She suddenly noticed the celebrations behind him, cerulean eyes widening. "Oh no. I'm so sorry—I've interrupted your party, haven't I? I'm so sorry—I'll go. Right now."

"No, wait, you're fine," Julian blurted out. Something about this woman intrigued him. "I was feeling a little left out, anyway. What do you say I help you find your quarters?"

The woman's shoulders sagged with relief. "Oh, would you? It's just that this station is so huge, and I'm not familiar with Cardassian design at all, and…" she gestured helplessly.

Julian grinned. "You know, I felt the same way when I was first posted here. I'm Julian, by the way. Dr. Julian Bashir, chief medical officer."

"Pleasure to meet you," the ensign smiled, and Bashir noticed she had dimples. "I'm the new counselor, Ezri. Ezri Tigan."