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Poker Face (the she can read you remix)

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When she enrolls in Starfleet Academy, Deanna has to sign and thumbprint a 7,000 word document mandating acceptable use of telepathic abilities and the consequences of ethical violations for Starfleet cadets and/or officers. The document makes fascinating, if horrifying, reading.

Apparently, telepathy is permissible during activities of a sexual or intimate nature as long as all parties agree to its use. For her legal protection, Deanna is advised to obtain prior written consent from her sexual partner(s) before engaging in telepathy. At no point should Deanna use telepathy to curry favor with her superiors or to secure benefits to which she is not entitled. Under certain circumstances—times of extreme personal peril, for instance—the covert use of telepathy is acceptable. However, Deanna should note that even some officers who used their abilities to save their own lives or the lives of their crewmates have been subject to disciplinary action as a result.

Deanna almost walks out of the admissions office after reading that last. She has always lived among telepaths, and her mother’s political position has evidently sheltered her from the rest of the galaxy to a certain degree. Until now, Deanna hadn’t realized the depth of suspicion other races harbor toward telepaths, and she isn’t sure that she wants to spend the rest of her life either walking on eggshells or denying her heritage to placate unreasonable fears.

Then she hears her mother’s voice saying, “Are you sure, Little One? You don’t have to join Starfleet if you don’t want to. There’s a position waiting at the Embassy for the youngest heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed as we speak. I’ve already pulled all the strings. You have nothing to prove by gallivanting halfway across the quadrant. Earth is not Betazed, my dear.”

So even though Deanna is only half-Betazoid and actually incapable of committing most of the infractions the document covers, she dutifully signs her name on the padd with a stylus and presses her thumb over the Starfleet insignia with shaking hands. Then she goes back to cadet quarters and practices smiling into the mirror until her face hurts. She wants to be ready when her mother messages.

@@@

Her second year at the Academy, Deanna takes Admiral Hill’s xenobiology course. A small but significant percentage of cadets never pass this class and wash out of Starfleet. Most students score high enough on the Dragon’s oral exams to continue in the Academy, but a golden few earn a coveted “Exemplary” on their records. Deanna plans to be one of those few.

She studies every waking moment that year. She starts taking sonic showers so that she can continue reading even while bathing. She falls asleep with a padd in her hands every night, and wakes up every morning with a crick in her neck.

“Come out with us,” Deanna’s roommate Kalla says the week before final exams. She’s braided her hair in the intricate pattern Monxians use to indicate that they have committed to an exclusive pair bond. Deanna wonders when that happened and who Kalla has bonded with. “You’re turning into a hermit, Troi.”

“A hermit with excellent grades,” Deanna says. “Ask me again after finals.”

Kalla dances until 0300, and when she stumbles into their quarters giggling, Deanna has diagrammed the frontal lobe of the Vulcan brain on the white board above her desk and refreshed her memory on all seven stages of the Andorian reproductive cycle.

On the day of the exam, Deanna can’t eat breakfast. She doesn’t think throwing up in the shrubs outside the auditorium will create quite the impression she’s going for. Most of her classmates wear the same bleary-eyed, nauseated expression that Deanna saw in the mirror when she was brushing her teeth this morning, and she takes some comfort in the solidarity of shared dread.

Deanna watches two cadets she doesn’t know very well fumble through barely adequate answers, and then the Dragon calls on her. “Cadet Troi, describe the musculature of a Bolian male. In detail, please.”

For one sickening moment, Deanna’s voice sticks in her throat, and then she realizes that she knows this. She can talk about the musculature of Bolian males for as long as Admiral Hill will let her. So she does. Fifteen minutes later, he stops Deanna and gifts her with a smile. A grin looks bizarre on the Dragon’s normally impassive face, and Deanna might be disturbed if she wasn’t so gleeful.

When class is over, a handful of her classmates stay to congratulate Deanna, slapping her on the back and promising to treat her to drinks later on at WarpSpeed.

One guy, the first cadet Admiral Hill called on, hangs back until the others have left. Deanna doesn’t need to use her empathic abilities to tell that he’s angry. He walks into her personal space and clenches his fists at his sides, a deep orange flush radiating downward from his neck folds to the collar of his uniform.

“I don’t know how you did that without getting caught,” he says and knocks into her on his way down the aisle.

He’s gone before Deanna realizes what he means.

@@@

Serving on the Enterprise makes years of hard work worth all the sacrifice. Deanna’s proud to be a crewmember on the flagship of the fleet, naturally, but this appointment means more to her than that. Among her shipmates—these officers and enlisted personnel and the families they’ve brought with them—Deanna feels like she could find a home for the first time since she left Betazed.

Will corners her in the turbolift after she’s been on ship a few months. “How are you settling in?” he asks.

“I’m good,” Deanna says, and she means it. She enjoys her work and her colleagues, and she’s even managed to survive introducing her mother to her friends. Life as ship’s counselor on the Enterprise is everything she’d hoped for when she filled out that application to the Academy so long ago.

“I’m glad.”

The turbolift stops on Deanna’s deck. She squeezes Will’s hand once before the door can open, and then heads down the corridor to her office.

“Oh, Deanna,” Will says and pokes his head out of the turbolift. “I’m thinking of getting a weekly poker game going. Interested?”