"It's not every day you meet the girl you're going to marry."
"Do you use this routine a lot with women?"
"No. Never before and never again."
The old man, Curzon, was on his deathbed, and he intended to die with two secrets. The first, he hoped, would prove harmless, once his successor, Jadzia, found out: that he was flunked her out of the initiate program because he loved her. That one didn't matter because she had gotten back in anyway, and was in the process of accepting the Dax symbiont as the old man struggled with his final thoughts.
The second secret was worse. Far worse.
It had started so innocently, with friends. The old man had been very good at making friends. These friends in particular were Klingons, with whom he had eventually formed a blood oath, so close was their bond. They weren't the problem. One of them, Kang, introduced him to the Klingon who was. Ja'rod. Unofficially, everyone knew him as the Klingon who sold out his own people to the Romulans. Well, not everyone. But certainly his Klingons friends. And the old man himself.
Ja'rod wanted a simple thing. He requested that the old man make a new friend, a human, a young Starfleet officer. He suggested that it would be of immense benefit to the Klingons, but refused to explain further. The old man didn't think much of it, did as requested. The young Starfleet officer turned out to be exactly the kind of friend the old man liked, warm and trusting. To the old man's regret, too trusting.
Eventually, the old man asked Kang what was so important about the young Starfleet officer. Kang replied, Nothing much at all. It was his girlfriend. Her father had done important work for Starfleet, and he had passed it on to her. She was so easy to overlook, a contractor, never interested in joining Starfleet itself. In the eyes of some Klingons, human civilians were pointless. But not this one. She was developing what could be turned into a great tactical advantage, an array capable of locating the enemy no matter where they might hide. Officially, Kang acknowledged, Klingons and the Federation were at peace. Unofficially, it was the policy of any true Klingon to view this relationship with suspicion, and prepare for war.
It wasn't himself or the other members of the blood pact, who viewed things that way, Kang hastened to insist. It was Ja'rod. The old man began to wonder.
The day Ja'rod came to see him a second time, the old man nearly turned him away. What do you want? he asked sharply. The Klingon ignored him. He told the old man that it was time to suggest to the young Starfleet officer that he accept posting to a starship, one that took families aboard. What difference could that possibly make? the old man asked. The young Starfleet officer had previously been engaged, happily, in building starships. The old man, besides, liked having him around. So he pressed the issue further. Ja'rod replied, War is coming to Starfleet. Not through the Klingons. I have heard from...acquaintances that there is a new threat. Starfleet will foolishly welcome this fight.
The old man at last realized what had happened. He had been asked to watch over the career of the young Starfleet officer, to form a relationship with him, so that he could help steer its course, if necessary. He had overlooked the girlfriend, who might be looking after her. Apparently they had failed. And now he was being asked to sacrifice them both. The conclusion was implicit. He didn't know who this new enemy was, but he knew the days were now numbered.
He thrust himself into his work. This in part was how he became involved in the initiate program to begin with, and so his first secret, his first sin, was intertwined with his second. When the news of the Borg invasion spread, he realized that the inevitable was now upon him. He would have to witness the end of something innocent. Something he wished, all of a sudden, to have known, better than he had ever allowed himself.
He waited patiently for the news. The battle took place and was over virtually in an instant. An entire fleet was obliterated. The old man was certain he'd lost both of them, the young Starfleet officer and the woman who in the meantime had become his wife, and the mother of his child. So that a whole family would have been sacrificed to the old man's vanity.
Months previous, he had heard in disgust that Ja'rod had been able to put the blame for the other disaster he'd allowed to happen on someone else. This time, the guilty party wouldn't be Ja'rod after all. It would be the old man. Who began to accept that.
He learned that the young Starfleet officer had survived after all, him and his son as well. But the woman had died. The old man watched as his friend spiraled into despair, the core of his being having been ripped away from him. With relief, the old man noticed that he was dying. And Jadzia had just re-entered the program.
This would not be redemption. He spent what little time he had left learning the suppression of memories. Not all of them. Just the ones that mattered. He noted with some irony that Jadzia had also entered Starfleet. He wondered, he hoped, that she would meet the friend he had betrayed. That she could be for him everything that the old man had failed to be. Had pretended to be. But hadn't been.
On his deathbed, he wanted to be able to tell his friend what had happened. But some things are better left unsaid. He died wordlessly.
"Are you going to tell me your name?"
"Oh. Ben Sisko. I just graduated from Starfleet Academy. I'm waiting for my first posting."
"Ah, a junior officer."
"My mother warned me to watch out for junior officers."
"Your mother is going to adore me."
"You're awfully sure of yourself."