By Seema

Disclaimer: Paramount. That is all.

Author's note: In response to Liz Barr's "Five Stories, Five Fandoms, One Object" challenge. Thanks to Liz Logan for being the google diva she is and thanks to Rocky for her comments.


She received her first earring four days after her sixth birthday. Her parents stood on either side of her, holding her hands as the vedek blessed her. He spoke in the ancient tongue of the Prophets, with only a few words discernable; at the time, it made her wonder if the Prophets understood her when she prayed to them each night before crawling into bed.

She stood in front of the altar, shivering in her thin dress that stopped short of her knees, her hands clasped in supplication. The vedek sprinkled her with water and she swallowed a gasp and did not turn to look at her parents. She imagined they were smiling at her, that they were proud of her. She was aware that they had been planning for this day for months now, that there would be a party of sorts when they returned to the refugee camp. Small, of course, not like the grand fests her parents remembered, but they had so little in the way of food and material possessions now. "We have each other and that is enough," the refugees would say, a tight, thin-lipped smile stretching across their faded faces.

But the earring, crafted out of diamide-laced birthium and uniquely crafted for her, was not considered a luxury, not even in a refugee camp. A symbol of spiritual devotion, a symbol of all that is, was and would be forever Bajoran -- a symbol of deep cultural significance, something the Cardassians would never be able to take away from them.

"To wear this earring is to feel your pagh in your ears, and from there into your heart," the vedek was speaking gently to her now. His hands cradling hers were large, rough, no doubt from working in the vegetable fields behind the temple. Her own palms were equally blistered and criss-crossed with scars, the most recent a result of hiding in a thorn patch as Cardassians soldiers marched through the camp on their daily check. "In your heart, you are Bajoran and you belong to this earth, though they may convince you otherwise."

She didn't ask who 'they' were. Even at the age of six, she understood that there were those who were for Bajor and others, who even though they *looked* Bajoran, were anything but. 'They' were the sympathizers, the collaborators, the ones who profited from blood. "You must never become one of them," her father told her regularly. "You must not, you must never surrender."

She felt the pinch as the vedek pressed the upper part of the earring to the top of her ear and then he fastened the second part -- a circle jutting up against a half-circle of grooved silver -- to her earlobe. The chain connecting the two pieces was a delicate filigree, hand-crafted by a jeweler her father had known for years. The vedek stood up, took a step backwards.

"You keep faith with the Prophets and they will keep faith with you," the vedek said in his deep voice. Carefully, Winn Adami touched her earring. Her parents were smiling at her. She knew she would never take it off.

~ the end

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