Disclaimer: All owned by Paramount.

Timeline: Pre-show, obviously.

Author's note: For DeborahJudge, who asked for Winn fic.


Chosen

It wasn't fair. Adami was a bright child, smarter than any of the others in her native village. In Bajor-that-was, before the Cardassians came, her family had been important, and would have guaranteed that she was to be educated as a future cleric. But the Cardassians had destroyed the caste system, and her parents had been reduced to menial labour. They couldn't afford to send her to school; if they hadn't known how to read and write, she wouldn't have learned anything. As it was, she devoured the single book they had been able to keep, again and again.

Still, when Vedek Taru come to visit their village, he said he'd be able to offer one of the children a scholarship. His robes were clean and shimmered in the sunlight, and his educated tones were so different from those of the villages. Even Adami's parents, who had adopted some of the villagers' rougher expressions, sounded clumsy in comparison.

"The Prophets have guided me here," he said, "but I must sure to make the right choice."

It made Adami furious that he didn't choose her right away, but she kept a smile plastered on her lips. She wanted the town, and the beautiful temple she had seen only once in her life, and the books they kept there, and she didn't want to remain in this stupid village where all everyone could do was moaning about how much better times had been before the Cardassians. Vedek Taru's fingers on her ear felt cool, despite the humid, hot air, and he declared her pagh to be strong.

"But," he said, "so is your friend's."

Adami was stunned. Her "friend" wasn't really her friend. It was little Lerin, who adored her and whom she had allowed to follow her around out of pity. Lerin wasn't smart at all. Adami had tried to teach her letters when she had been bored, and Lerin couldn't recall a single one. Instead, Lerin sat staring at a leaf for hours, or talked about how the sunbeams danced on the water when she was supposed to bring buckets back to her parents.

"I will have to think about this," Taru ended.

That night, Adami tiptoed out of the shed that served as her parents' house and ran to the one Lerin lived in. She found Lerin in tears.

"I don't want to go away!" Lerin declared. "And I don't want you to go away, either. I'll miss you so much, Adami."

That was Lerin for you. Stupid. She should know that she'd end up as a farmer's wife here, or worse, as a worker in the mines if the Cardassians needed more of those.

"Well," Adami said, "you can make sure we both stay."

She wasn't stupid like Lerin. She knew how adults thought. If she went to Vedek Taru and begged him to take him with her, he'd only be sure she wasn't the right one, because people selected by the Prophets didn't beg. If she told Taru Lerin didn't want to go, he'd think she was jealous. So it was simple, really.

Lerin looked very doubtful when Adami had explained her plan, and said it sounded like a mean thing to do.

"Do you want me to go away?" Adami said harshly. Lerin's lips quivered, and she shook her head.

The next day, when they were both called once more before the Vedek, Lerin told him that her friend Adami was a horrible girl, selfish, a bad daughter who didn't give another thought to her parents, and someone who would bring shame on Bajor if she ever were to become a Vedek. Taru listened with an appalled expression.

"Do you have anything to say, child?" he asked Adami. Adami looked as mournful as she could.

"No," she declared bravely. "Lerin is my friend."

"You are a good girl," Taru said, patting her head, and gave Lerin a disgusted glance. Confusion clouded Lerin's eyes. Adami felt like dancing, but she kept the mournful expression the entire time, for days, until she left the village at Vedek Taru's side. Lerin ran after them for a while, calling that she'd only said this because she wanted Adami to stay, but Adami never looked back.

"Do not bear hatred in your heart," Taru advised Adami, and Adami shook her head.

"I could never hate Lerin," she said, which was true. There was no need; Lerin had done as she was told, and ensured Adami's escape from the village. She would always remember Lerin in her prayers. Vedek Taru was another matter. He had not chosen her immediately as he should have.

Undoubtedly, the Prophets would allow her to show him the error of his ways, in time.