The shattered Captain looked out at the night sky.
"Once, I would have said that those stars were the eyes of God--or The Prophets--or both--or neither. It didn't matter, because of what they symbolized in my mind. Beauty--and mystery. Now, all that is gone, and all my mind sees is an endless row of razored teeth, and the sky has become the mouth of Gul Dukat, ready to devour everything I hold dear. Like Jennifer. Like poor dear Tora Ziyal. Like Jadzia."
Potter continued to shuck clams, but spoke up as well.
"Ben--grandson mine--a wise man once told a doctor that in war, good young people die, and no one and nothing can alter that rule. The Jadzia I met was a soldier, and she was married to a soldier. She knew the risks."
"Is that your saying, Sherm?"
The older soldier shook his head.
"Nope. That saying --or something very much like it--was told to Hawkeye in Nineteen-Hundred-And-Fifty--by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake--and may God rest and keep his Immortal's soul."
Ben started at something Sherman had said.
"Henry Blake was an Immortal? That's right--I wondered why you said that odd phrase to him. Who was he, Sherm? Really."
"Once, he was Bedivere, a Knight under King Arthur. Later--he was just one hell of a guy."
Sisko covered his face.
"You mean to tell me, that I met a Knight Of The Round Table? No less than Arthur's First Knight and Nephew? Ohhh--Sherm. We failed to save a man of that value?"
Potter again shook his head.
"Ben--haven't you been listening? When we met him, Henry Blake was already dead. We couldn't alter history--it took me time to realize that. But we were in the middle of a war--a time-war, but a war nevertheless. I even think that the Prophets showed you that to maybe prepare you better for Jadzia."
"I wouldn't put it past them. They've done things to me, Sherman. I see everything differently. They wanted an Emissary, and I was a reluctant one. So they custom-fit me. Told me how to win. But I ignored their advice--just once--but for Jadzia, that once was enough. Now Worf, another friend, grieves for his wife--and its all my fault."
Sherm Potter took in everything that had been said, and offered up his learned opinion of Sisko's self-judgement.
DEEP SPACE NINE
Kira looked straight at Mulcahy.
"Father, forgive me. For I Am A Blasphemer. Both to my faith--and to yours. If that being was your God, and if he is The Father Of The Prophets--then they themselves are not gods, but merely Angels, as you call them. If that being was a Pagh Wraith or some kind of trickster--then I have allowed it to take our Gods in vain, and allowed myself to believe it all might be true. Am I damned?"
While not chuckling, Francis moved quickly to dispel this notion of damnation.
"Nerys--you are not damned. If anything, you are among the most blessed of all beings--to touch the One, True---"
Francis caught himself.
"I am sorry, My Child. I promise not to let it happen again."
"Don't apologize, Father. I did ask a Priest of another faith to speak with me, after all--and I'm glad I did. Lets say--it was your God. Why speak through me?"
Now, the Padre did chuckle.
"Why do The Prophets speak through Captain Sisko--or myself, for that matter? Kira, whoever this being, or these beings are--I am sure of this much. They are forces for and of good. Angels or Prophets, Avatars or Almighty--we should both concentrate on how very blessed we are to be able to ask these very weighty questions. Whoever they all truly are--we know that we love and are loved by them. Isn't that enough?"
She tried to smile.
"It should be. It almost is. But all these 'What If' questions still make me fear for my soul, Francis.I mean, What If I ask the wrong question?"
"What If You Fail To Ask The Right One?"
That caused her to think, so Mulcahy continued.
"As to all this talk of damnation--to think that a stray thought in and of itself places you in line for Hell is taking even the doctrine of 'Impure Thoughts' a bit far. Damnation, like Salvation, is earned."
"I suppose that just these questions alone can't destroy me."
Mulcahy looked at the office door.
"Exactly--words and questions have little bearing. Watch--'I, Francis Mulcahy, The Priest, declare that whomever walks through that door next is forever condemned.' You see--my words, which I will ask forgiveness for later on, have no---"
A robed figure came into the office, fuming.
"Francis Mulcahy--you are a pernicious influence on my people. I hereby challenge you to a public debate of our beliefs. Good day!"
Still confused, Kira smiled about The Kai's entry so soon after that proclamation.
"Francis--I know who'll I be rooting for."
"I just wish I knew who HE will be rooting for, Nerys."