Cadence by sixbeforelunch
Summary: Betazoid names aren't easy but Will Riker is a determined man.
Categories: Next Generation Characters: Riker, William, Troi, Deanna
Genre: Het, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 1668 Read: 324 Published: 05 Feb 2020 Updated: 05 Feb 2020
Story Notes:
For Fluff Bingo, prompt: Free Space (I used the prompt Only You from elsewhere on my card for this one).

1. Chapter 1 by sixbeforelunch

Chapter 1 by sixbeforelunch

An excerpt from Cultural Notes: Betazed, published by the Starfleet Public Affairs Office:

We move now to the matter of Betazoid names, specifically personal names. The first thing to remember is that no non-telepath can correctly pronounce a Betazoid name. This is because there are two parts to personal names, one being the verbal name, the other being a telepathic impression that is projected along with the name. (In writing, this telepathic projection is indicated by a superscript character that is not intended to be pronounced and indeed is unpronounceable. When names are translated into other languages, this superscript is always omitted.) Some non-Betazoid telepaths are able to project this impression, although the accent 1 will generally be considered very strong. Non-telepaths are under no obligation to attempt to master this aspect of Betazoid naming, but it is important to be aware of it as it will help to explain certain facets of Betazoid culture. For example, it is not uncommon for two Betazoids of the same extended family (though not, generally, siblings) to have names which seem to non-telepaths to be identical, when in fact Betazoids consider them completely different as, while the verbal part of the name is the same, the telepathic impression which accompanies it is not.

Also important to note is the role which being able to properly pronounce ones own name plays as a milestone of maturity. As discussed in part one, Betazoids do not come into their telepathy until adolescence, and so, being able to properly pronounce one's own name is considered a statement to the world that one has mastered the basics of telepathic communication, and is now a part of the adult world in a way that they were not previously. Some disabled Betazoids who never grow into full telepathy, as well as many Betazoid hybrids, will often struggle to pronounce their names properly. It is important to know that telling a Betazoid that they cannot pronounce their own name correctly is considered an insult 2 and may be extremely hurtful to someone who does in fact struggle with this aspect of their culture.

Non-telepaths who do want to learn the proper pronunciation of a Betazoid name should be sure to have a very patient teacher and an understanding that no matter how hard they try, they will never get the pronunciation quite right.

1 As stated in part one of this document, the words "accent", "pronunciation", and "cadence" are used as imperfect indicators of the different types (sometimes called "flavors") of telepathic speech and communication. For more information, the suggested reading is Explaining the Unexplainable: Communicating Beyond the Limits of Sensory Perception by Nyota Uhura, Starfleet Library Catalog Number 5.49.72.FC39278.

2 Betazoids who are close to one another may occasionally exchange taunts along these lines. Non-Betazoid Starfleet officers are strongly urged to avoid engaging in this sort of teasing as they will not have the cultural knowledge needed to safely navigate the exchange. It should also be noted that the teasing use of the phrase is controversial and actively petitioned against by many in the disabled community on Betazed. For more information, the suggested reading is Cross Cultural Studies in Disability Volume 7, article 19, "What Happens if You Never Hear the Voices in Your Head?: An Overview of Non-Telepathic Betazoids", Starfleet Library Catalog Number 5.49.85.JM89431.

*

"No, no, I'm going to get this," Will said. "Say it again."

"Deanna," she said, and projected hard into his brain. A man walking past them in the other direction radiated annoyance and Deanna sent a wordless apology. She was doing the telepathic equivalent of screaming.

"Deanna," Will tried again.

"Better," she said, although it really wasn't. "You do know that you'll never actually be able to pronounce my name?"

Will shook his head. "Nope. I'm going to master this."

They were walking arm-in-arm along Beynar's Walk, along the Rivkari River. It was the first warm day after a cold winter, and the walk was crowded with people out enjoying the sunshine. Deanna looked up at him. "You're going to be the first non-telepath in the recorded history of my planet to master a Betazoid name?"

"Why not?"

Deanna rolled her eyes. She should have found him arrogant and insufferable, but there was something so incredibly charming about Will Riker and his cheerful self-confidence. Maybe it was because it was tempered by a sense of humor. He was happy to laugh at himself when he got it wrong and fell flat on his face. Maybe it was because the confidence was earned. He'd told her he was the best pilot stationed to Betazed and she'd thought he was bragging until he'd been called away in the middle of the night to participate in a freighter rescue because they needed a good pilot and he was the best they had. Or maybe it was because she envied his lack of self-doubt. As someone who still wasn't sure of her place in society, his ability to walk into any room and be comfortable and secure in himself was enviable.

"It took me a long time to learn how to pronounce my name right," Deanna said quietly. His quiet 'ah' of understanding and the surge of sympathy that she felt from him told her that he knew everything that underlaid those words, at least as well as any non-Betazoid could. She cleared her throat.

He led her down a side path that ran behind the shops that lined Beynar's Walk. When they had gone a little way, he sat down on the stone wall. Deanna stepped between his spread legs and they were face-to-face. He gave her that soft, bright smile that made her legs go weak. "Say it again."

"Deanna."

"Deanna," and it was better this time, the impression sharper in her mind.

She took advantage of the relative seclusion and the convenience of having him right at eye-level, and kissed him, long and slow. When they finally broke apart, she laid her head on his shoulder. "I'm the wrong teacher for this, you know. Even if you were to get it perfectly right, I still wouldn't hear it the way a full Betazoid would. I can't hear a non-telepath like that, not even you."

He pulled away, and frowned. She sensed annoyance from him, but she was pretty sure it was directed inward and not at her. "I didn't think of that." He tipped his face up to the sky and then looked back at her, and she sensed determination. "Well, in that case, you teach me to say your name how you want me to say it. Teach me how it feels best to you."

Deanna ran her fingers through his hair, scraping her nails along his scalp in a way that made him shiver. "I thought you were going to be the first non-telepath in history to master a Betazoid name."

He shrugged. "Yes, but only because I wanted to impress you. If I can't do that, what's the point?" He started playing with her hair. "How do you want me to say your name?"

Deanna laced her fingers together behind his neck. She remembered asking her mother how her father had said her name, and Lwaxana had laughed and said, "In his own way." At the time, Deanna had thought that was code for badly, but maybe they had done something like this. Maybe, with 'proper' out of reach, they had found something better instead.

"Close your eyes." Will complied. "Now think about the first thing that comes to mind when you say my name in your own language. Think about how you feel when you say my name."

Loved. Happy. Warm.

"Now take that and--and form an image in your mind. Something that represents all of that." She could feel him concentrating. She wished so much in that moment to be a full telepath, to be able to see what he was seeing, but she couldn't, and she knew better than to ask him to describe what he saw. His words would never capture it.

"Now think of that image, and project it. And say my name at the same time."

He opened his eyes. "Deanna."

She blinked against sudden tears and he was concerned. "Did I do something wrong?"

She shook her head, not wanting to ruin the moment by telling him that she had always wondered how her father would have said her name if he had lived long enough for her to be able to sense the attempt. She thought it would have felt something like that.

"Say it again."

"Deanna." It was clearer this time, sharper, and even more beautiful.

"Deanna." He kissed her neck. "Deanna."

*

There were two of them, two William Rikers, standing next to each other, entirely alike, except one of them wasn't William Riker at all. One of them wanted to destroy the ship, and the other one wanted to save it.

Worf was next to her, phaser in hand, but he didn't know who to shoot, and this wasn't a shoot-them-all-and-sort-it-out-later sort of situation. He looked at her, but the real Will and the false Will were too close together for Deanna to separate the emotional radiation that she was sensing. With time, it would have been easy enough to tell the real from the fake with a few choice questions, but there wasn't time. There were barely seconds.

And then one of them, the one on the left, met her eyes and said, with feeling, "Deanna."

She pointed to the one on the right. "Shoot that one."

Worf did, and it promptly turned back into a meter tall, two meter long, telekinetic insect. Because it was one of those days.

Later, when it was over, and they were in sickbay having their scratches and bruises tended to, Beverly asked how she'd known who was who.

On another biobed, Will grinned and quipped, "It's my funny accent."

Momentarily ignoring Beverly's confusion, Deanna smiled at Will. "And only you have it."

end

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