Any Necessary Means

By Seema

Characters and places belong to Paramount; it would be blasphemous - and costly - to claim them as my own.

****

He stood in front of the window, his elbow bending as he leaned forward to survey the scene. Below, a group of students played an energetic game of soccer. Members of different species made up the two teams - red and blue - their shouts echoing against the cement walls surrounding the playing field.

"Enjoying the view?"

Curzon Dax turned away from the window, a slow smile crossing his face.

"Hello, Benjamin," Curzon said. He leaned against the wall, folding his arms across his chest. "This is a surprise. I did not know you were coming. You should have told me; I could have planned something."

Benjamin Sisko stood in the door, not moving. The corner of his lip, the right corner, twitched, a slight movement that did not go unnoticed by Curzon.

"Something the matter, Ben?" Curzon asked easily.

In that moment, Benjamin hated his mentor and friend.

"I want to know why you did it," Benjamin said, his voice rising. Curzon arched an eyebrow, the smile vanishing from his face.

"I've told everyone that you must have had your reasons," Benjamin continued.

Curzon took one last look at the game and then took a step towards Benjamin.

"You told everyone?" his voice was harsh.

"They asked. They know we are friends. I defended you and I didn't want to."

"Ah, so you're angry because you had to defend me, is that right?"

Benjamin's eyes flashed as he took a few steps towards Curzon.

"Is that why you are here, Benjamin? To act as accuser and judge both?" Curzon's famous temper flared briefly, his eyes flashing. Benjamin visibly drooped in the face of that anger, his broad shoulders slumping and his chest rising in agitation.

"You do not need to defend me, Ben," Curzon said. "I'm quite capable of that myself, if need be."

The room, empty except for a couple of high-backed chairs against the wall opposite the window, felt cold, despite the sunlight streaming in from the open window. Benjamin stopped, looked at his friend, and took a deep breath.

"Something to say, Benjamin?" Curzon asked. Curzon's facial muscles visibly relaxed, that familiar indolent smile returning to his lips. "You should just say what you're thinking, Benjamin. Hesitancy does not make a statesman or even a mediocre commander."

"I want to know why you did it," Benjamin's rich baritone carried across the room. "And I want good reasons, solid reasons."

As if to emphasize his point, Benjamin raised one finger, "I want you to explain to me how you could take the life of another man so coldly. I want to know how one even arrives at such a decision and then makes it without hesitation."

Curzon shook his head in disbelief. A sardonic smile crept up his face, crinkling his gray eyes.

"Theatrics become you, Ben," the older man said.

Benjamin clenched his fists, and then drew himself up, straightening his shoulders and lifting his head so he met Curzon's gaze squarely. Curzon did not flinch, did not blink, and Benjamin hated him a little more.

"I suppose you were romancing some lovely Klingon when it happened," Benjamin said, his voice edged with sarcasm that Curzon pretended not to hear.

"A'Lekha," Curzon closed his eyes. "Yes, lovely, very lovely."

"Drinking bloodwine?" scorn dripped from Benjamin's voice, but Curzon, lost in thought, did not hear the tone underlying the question.

"A fine vintage," Curzon murmured. "From the Katah region. Excellent flavor, very fresh, very young. They know their bloodwine, those Katah."

"Eating?"

"Gagh, yes. Delicious. Plump and very much alive. From the depths of the Le'n'aw Sea. It's specialty, you know, very much like this caviar you Terrans are so fond of."

"I do not care for caviar," Benjamin said. "And I do not care for betrayal."

Curzon's eyes flew open.

"Betrayal, Benjamin? I'm intrigued. Please explain yourself."

"You ordered the assassination of Legate Maris."

"There are some who would say that," Curzon circled the room, his hands behind back.

"Are they right?"

"What do you think?"

Benjamin hesitated for a moment, watching his mentor pace in front of the window.

"Well? We have no secrets, Ben. You might as well tell me what you're thinking. Cryptic conversation does not become you."

"I think the rumors are correct. I think you ordered the assassination because you gave up on the peace talks."

Curzon folded his lean, lank body into one of the chairs. He crossed his legs and then looked over at Benjamin contemplatively.

"Of course you wouldn't do it yourself," Benjamin went on. "You wouldn't dream of getting your hands dirty. No, you hired someone. A Klingon mercenary, maybe?"

"You spin wild tales, Benjamin. I did not know that storytelling was a talent of yours."

"You lured him to the meeting, didn't you, with false promises of major concessions?" Benjamin watched as

Curzon's attention drifted towards the window, to the shouts outside. "Curzon? Am I boring you?"

"On the contrary, I'm fascinated," Curzon straightened the sleeves of his shirts, which barely extended to his bony wrists. "But will it take long? I'm due to meet A'Lekha for lunch."

Benjamin's lip curled up in a sneer; much as he admired and respected Curzon, he could never understand the other man's desire and unsatiable appetite for Klingons. Benjamin, while he did not dislike Klingons, found them loud, obnoxious and aggressive. Curzon, however, would constantly point out the Klingon penchant for loyalty, honor and duty.

"You can never find a better friend than a Klingon," Curzon had lectured on more than one occasion to a less than convinced Benjamin.

And that cuisine… Benjamin winced and then saw once again Curzon's attention drifting and knew that he had been distracted from the main purpose of his visit.

"You didn't even give him the chance to talk," Benjamin continued, his voice rising in pitch. "He had barely entered the hall when the phaser cut him down. Of course, we don't know who or where the assassin is; he or she escaped very conveniently, leaving only the bare vestiges of a untraceable transporter signal behind. Very cleverly done. Did you reroute the transporter through at least six different relays to mask the pattern buffers?"

"You give me too much credit, Benjamin. It is flattering."

Benjamin slammed his fist into the palm of his right hand.

"How can you take this so lightly?" Benjamin asked in a dangerously calm voice. Curzon regarded his friend with a careful eye. Still young, newly married and a baby on the way. Yes, Benjamin Sisko, despite his budding Starfleet career, still had an air of naiveté about him.

"You did not explain how I betrayed you," Curzon said quietly.

For the first time since Benjamin had walked into the room, he felt at a loss for words. How to start? Better yet, how to explain? Ben's thoughts jumbled in his head, none of them coherent enough to string together a sentence that would make sense at all.

"I trusted you," Benjamin said finally. This one statement, it was the best he could do under the circumstances.

"You should know better, Ben," Curzon said sadly as he stood up. Benjamin's lips parted slightly in surprise.

"What is it, Ben? Did you not expect me to say that?"

"I don't know what I expected," Benjamin admitted.

Curzon wandered to the window, placed his hand against the wall, and leaned forward.

"You came all this way to confront me," Curzon laughed. "Yes, I am touched by your devotion. Were you concerned about rumors only?"

"I didn't think they were rumors," Benjamin said flatly.

"Ah, that's good, Ben. You never doubted me for a moment. You believe I am capable of such things? Of ordering the death of another living being?"

Benjamin did not hesitate this time.

"If it suits your purpose, I don't think you would think twice."

"What low esteem you hold me in," Curzon said. "I do believe the red team is winning."

Benjamin joined the Trill at the window.

"How can you tell?" Benjamin queried.

"I can sense these things," Curzon shrugged his slender shoulders. "I know when a game is lost."

"Do you suppose the blue team knows?"

"How can they not?"

Benjamin turned away from the window and leaned back against the wall.

"So it's true then?" he asked.

Curzon nodded, not looking at his friend.

"It's all true."

There was silence for a few minutes between the two.

Finally, Curzon said, "There is more to diplomacy than drinking fine wines and making small talk, Benjamin. There are agreements to be made, concessions to debate, and then at the end of the day, both parties walk away from the bargaining table with something. It's only fair."

"You could have tried harder."

"I could have, you're right. But for how long? Knowing that Legate Maris was completely intractable? Knowing that he had no intention of stopping the slaughter of the border colonists? It had to stop, Benjamin. It did not matter how."

Benjamin bit his lip, holding back the angry retorts, which threatened to spill out of his mouth. Curzon noticed the effort and smiled.

"In time, Ben, you will learn these things. You will do those things which are necessary and not always right."

"I'm not like you," Benjamin replied furiously.

Curzon offered his friend a sad little smile.

"Be grateful for now that you are not," he said.

This short statement was not what Benjamin Sisko had expected, but nothing so far had turned out the way Benjamin Sisko expected. Curzon shrugged his shoulders again, his drawn, gray face softening in the sight of Benjamin's obvious distress.

"You should go, Ben," Curzon said gently. "Your wife, she is waiting for you, I imagine."

Benjamin nodded, "I left her in the gardens."

Again, that uncomfortable foot-shifting silence returned.

Benjamin cleared his throat.

"There was no other way?" he asked hoarsely.

Curzon's gray eyes met Benjamin's brown ones. How to explain the intricacies of diplomacy? Curzon wondered. Was there any way for Benjamin to even fathom the tangles through which Curzon stepped through every day? And how to measure the price? One man, an evil man, for the lives of ten thousand border colonists?
Could he have tried harder as Benjamin had queried? Curzon supposed he could have, but what was the use?

More would have died.

No, it was better this way. One man dead, the rebellion crushed, the threat to the Federation eliminated.

Not bad, Curzon mused. Not bad at all.

Benjamin shifted his weight from one foot to the other and Curzon realized that the younger man was still waited for an answer.

"There was no other way," Curzon said firmly.

After Benjamin had left, Curzon returned to his post by the window. The red team, as predicted, had won and was celebrating its victory wildly. One or two of the women even ripped off their shirts, waving them in the air in triumph.

Curzon applauded softly and then turned to leave.

A'Lekha was waiting.

~ The End ~

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