Based on the episode, "In the Pale Moonlight." Characters, places and said episode belong to Parmount. If they belonged to me, I'd be rich…
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
~ Sisko in "In the Pale Moonlight" ~
"But Garak was right about one thing: one man's guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the entire Alpha Quadrant. And I can live it with it," I said. I crossed my legs and shifted my weight on the sofa. The words tasted rancid on my tongue. Still unconvincing. I had to try again. "Because I can live with it."
This time the words came out with a little more force but still sounded hollow to me. But what did it matter how I sounded? No one else would ever hear this confessional.
I raised my cup, "Computer, erase that entire personal log."
I stood up, trying to shake the weariness pervading my muscles. How long had I been talking? My mouth felt chalky.
I gulped down the water and contemplated the glass in my hand with unusual intensity.
A small price, I mused. How had Garak put it? The life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of a Starfleet officer…
Without thinking, I hurled the glass against the wall. It shattered, flinging droplets of water everywhere.
I stared at the shards of glass, the pieces blurring in front of my eyes. I got down on my hands and knees and started to scoop up the pieces.
The Romulans had declared war on the Dominion.
I felt giddy inside, almost drunk with illicit pleasure. I wanted to shout to the world, tell everyone from here to Earth about what I had done. I wanted to be able to tell my grandchildren about how I had tricked the Romulans into joining the war and how their presence had made all the difference.
But I could never tell.
This would be something only between myself and Garak.
Somehow, it did not seem fair.
I scanned the floor for more glass, but could not find any. I clenched my fist around the pieces in my hand, ignoring the sharp pricks against my palm. I was still standing there, the glass in my hand, when the door chimed.
"Come," I called.
Dax stood there, her expression a serene mask bearing more than 300 years of experience. I knew then that Garak and I were not the only ones who shared a secret.
"You want to tell me about it?" she asked casually.
"Excuse me?" I said awkwardly.
"About the Romulans," Dax walked in. "You're bleeding, Benjamin."
I stared at the blood droplets pooling in my palm.
Dax found a towel.
"Here," she said.
"Thanks," I said gratefully.
Dax perched on the arm of the sofa, her eyes focused on me. I turned away, focusing on cleaning my hand.
"I suppose you're suffering from guilt," Dax said.
"Guilt?" I asked.
"Hmmm," she said.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Have it your way," Dax sighed. She got off the sofa and headed towards the door. "We are waiting for you, Benjamin."
"Yes. You know, the `Welcome to the War' party?" Dax said. "Or do you not feel like celebrating?"
"I don't think this is an occasion to celebrate," I answered carefully. Dax came and stood in front of me, so close that I felt her breath on my cheek.
"How does it feel to have blood on your hands, Benjamin?" she said softly. I flinched at the tone of her voice. Her lips parted slightly and then turned up into a smile.
"I thought so," she said. "How did you do it?"
It was no use pretending to Dax. Our long history together prevented me from lying.
And I really did want to tell someone.
"Garak arranged it all," I said. "He tricked me."
Dax laughed, "He only tricked you because you allowed yourself to be tricked."
Heat rose in my face and I stalked away. I could just imagine Dax standing there, her hands on her hips, wearing that strange expression that said she knew she should be angry, but could not muster the necessary energy for the emotion. I had seen that look directed at Worf many times before and it had always amused me.
I could not face Dax as I asked, "Does anyone else know? Worf?"
"No, not Worf," Dax assured me. "He believes too much in your integrity to believe you capable of something like this."
I did not miss the irony in her voice.
"Does anyone else suspect?" I queried hollowly.
"No," she said. I let out my breath slowly, feeling a curious calm entering my limbs. I knew I couldn't possibly face the crew if they knew what I had done.
"You're sure?" I asked hesitantly.
"Julian is too idealistic to suspect you of duplicity. O'Brien would never question you and Kira… I think if Kira spent enough time thinking, she would know."
"How did you know?"
"I know you," Dax said. She rounded over to my side. "Benjamin, you made it very clear, to me at least, that you believed that Romulans needed to enter the war in order for the Federation to have a chance against the Dominion." She chuckled softly. "You can be awfully hard-headed."
"I once said that to you," I smiled at the memory of helping a bruised Curzon Dax out of a bar nearly fifteen years before. I remembered the details so vividly, Curzon lusting after a Klingon female, and me telling him that he was too old to go after a married woman. He had not listened and paid for it with a broken nose. I had chided him that night saying, "You can be awfully hard-headed." Curzon had turned to me, his eyes twinkling, "But it was fun, wasn't it?"
Now Jadzia asked me in a somber voice, "But this wasn't fun, was it?"
I shook my head, "No."
"It was the right thing to do."
I raised an eyebrow at her, "The right thing to do?"
She nodded and then I remembered how Dax had gone against my orders to uphold her part of the blood oath made with Kor. How she had…
I pushed the thought away, unwilling to think of my best friend as a murderer.
When Verneek and I had met for the first time, he had commented with a sneer of Romulan arrogance, "So, you're the commander of Deep Space Nine, and the Emissary of the Prophets, decorated combat officer, widower, father, mentor... and, oh, yes, the man who started the war with the Dominion."
And now, I thought, Verneek could add "murderer" to that list.
Did it make a difference that I did not know what Garak had planned? But if I had not said something, hinted something, then Verneek would still be alive.
"Am I a… murderer?"
She considered, tipping her head to one side.
"That's a good question," she said finally. "I can't answer that for you."
I felt frustration knotting itself in my stomach. If Dax, with her 300-some odd years of experience could not answer this question, how could I?
"But think of how many lives you have saved," Dax said.
I laughed sardonically.
"There's nothing you can do about it now," Dax said. She grabbed my arm and pressed me against the wall; I had forgotten how strong she was.
"Jadzia," I said in a warning tone.
"You must come to the party with me," she said harshly. "The others are wondering where you are. You will come and you will be pleased that the Romulans joined the war. You won't say anything about the death of an unfortunate senator and you will not think about the machinations of one former Cardassian spy. You will not think about any of these things."
I glared at her, pushing her away.
"I am responsible for someone's death," I told her. "I can't go to a party and pretend everything is all right when it's not."
"You have to. I hate to tell you this, Benjamin, but this is war. This is not the first time you've killed someone and it's not going to be the last. You're going to have to accept it."
"I don't want to accept it!" I screamed. Dax's eyes grew large and she stepped back. I could see her jaw working, her eyes moving side to side. I took a step closer to her.
"Old Man?" I asked.
Jadzia's eyes glazed over.
"Would you like to know what it feels like to actually kill someone?" she asked in an almost dreamy voice. "I put my hands around his neck and this incredible rage, it boiled within me. I felt a surge of energy through and for a moment, this one moment, I floated outside of my body."
"Joran?" I whispered.
Dax snapped back to attention. She nodded her confirmation, "Joran." For a moment, Jadzia looked absolutely ill. She shook her head a couple times and then pressed the palm of her hand against her temple. When she spoke again, her voice was her own, "I see his face, Benjamin. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and I see his face."
"Yes. I see his eyes bulging and I keep screaming but no one hears me. And then I feel the very breath slip from his body, his muscles stiffen, and then there is nothing. It is me and this corpse."
I stared at Dax. She had rarely spoken of Joran since our discovery of this previously undisclosed host. Once or twice, that strange musical talent of his would emerge, and then just as quickly, she would stifle the urge to produce music. Somehow, that music acknowledged that dark side of Dax, the part that would remain with Jadzia Dax no matter how much she wanted to deny it.
"I live with it, Benjamin," she said softly. "So can you."
"There's a difference," I said. "Jadzia didn't kill anyone."
"Neither did you."
Our eyes met. She placed her hand lightly on my forearm.
"Benjamin, the others, they are waiting. Will you come?"
I nodded almost mechanically.
"The guilt will ease," she whispered. "In time, you will learn to live with it."
My voice, already hoarse from hours of speaking, cracked, "I will learn…"
Read the follow-up to this story, The Executor by Una McCormack
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