It's not about being Bajoran or Cardassian, not really. Those labels are for simplification, and are usually accurate. There are a few exceptions, of course, Collaborators, for one. They are technical Bajorans, but they are not on the same side of the line that divides them.

It's about lost childhood, about growing up too fast, about learning to shoot a phaser when playing with dolls would be much more appropriate. It's about dreaming of freedom and safety instead of inventing romantic scenarios in your head.

It's about having the innocence shaken out of you because death is all around, and you spend your childhood as a terrorist. Or a prisoner.

That is what makes Ziyal fall on the same side of the line as the Bajorans, not her mother or her place of birth. It is the fact that on her fourteenth birthday, instead of being sung to, or given presents, she watched a man die slowly, painfully, as the Breen guards jabbed her in the side and told her to get on with it.

It's not about race. It's about loss. That is why Nerys understands her, why she considers her one of her own.

It's hard to reclaim your childhood once it's been stolen from you. Nerys knows the scars of the Occupation are all too obvious in almost everything she does. She is stronger because of it, but no happier. She can't indulge in fantasy or even look back fondly upon the games she played in childhood the way others do.

Ziyal, though, can smile at the tiniest thing, be fascinated by the world, look at the universe through the open wondering eyes of a child. She has reclaimed the innocence that was taken, and though she is prone to quietness, she is as unselfconscious as any little girl when it comes to expressing affection. She is not afraid to be touched, though by all rights she should be. She is pure in a world that has hurt her, over and over again.

This is why Nerys loves her.

- end -