Rating: a bit less than PG-13,
Pairing: R/T.
Summary: Issues are raised, and mistakes are made.
Set: about 3 years after discoveries.
Notes: Aletheia, is prenounced Al-eeth-ee-a and means 'Truth'

Disclaimer: They aren't mine of course, everything belongs to Paramount, and no one makes any money. Don't sue, I'm a student so its not worth it.

With her eyes closed in peaceful slumber Deanna Troi seemed as human as the rest of them. A serene smile graced her lips, her beautiful face turned towards him as she slept, the only visible sign of her true heritage hidden for now beneath soft lids and long black lashes. But when she finally woke, that small disguise would flutter open, and she would gaze up at him with passion filled eyes that were like nothing on earth. Eyes that were as dark and as fathom less as space, yet seemed to dance with a light all of their own. They had no pupil, no iris as he would have understood them, only a photo reactive lens that made them seem even blacker in strong light. Her eyes did not look like human eyes, and they did not see like human eyes, but it was no disadvantage. She had the gift of a sight far beyond what any human could have dreamed. She could see into your very soul; and she would except what she found there without question. There was no need to prove your self to her, no fear of being misunderstood, for she would know you the instant she met you and she would rejoice in your individuality. RaBeem. It was part of what made her such a good counsellor. Not her empathy its self, but her warmth and the open generosity of her spirit which taught her patients that, no matter what they said, they would not be judged. It was a reassurance few humans could ever have given, but it came to her as naturally as breathing.

It was strange, but in all the time that he had known her, all the time that he had loved her, he had never seen her as different. To him she had always been simply Deanna; a beautiful, spirited woman, full of grace and intelligence. So why was it now that he looked at her and saw an alien? He had always known that she was half Betazoid, of course, that her beliefs and customs differed from his own, but it had never bothered him before. It certainly hadn't been an issue when he had married her. He loved her, surely that was all that mattered. Wasn't it? He shook his head, mildly disbelieving that he was even entertaining these thoughts. Had the admiral's remarks really affected him so deeply? He sighed, not sure what to think any more, and let himself slouch back against the smooth bulk head, staring out at the stars, trying not to remember what had occurred in the ship's lounge earlier that night.

He had left his wife with Vice Admiral Johannson and Lieutenant Tharek at their usual table while he went to the bar to collect their drinks, hoping it would give them a chance to become better aquatinted. So far the Admiral's interaction with the crew had been limited to Riker himself, and the recalcitrant Andorrian was unusually loathed to make small talk with any one. Will had figured that a little light conversation would do them both the world of good; and with Deanna there to defuse the security chief's potentially disrespectful frankness, what could possibly go wrong? Little did he know that his unspoken question was about to be answered in spades. When he returned he found them part way through an intense debate on the merits of mixed species relationships, a subject that quickly turned into an ethical minefield at the best of times. He wasn't certain what had started such a controversial discussion, but the presence of Sarah Kellin and her part Vulcan husband only a few tables down probably had a lot to do with it. Placing the glasses down on the table with a definite clunk, he had reclaimed his seat beside Deanna, deliberately trying to change the subject as he asked her what she thought about the small jazz band performing on the stage below. She had answered, silently thanking him for his attempt, but the admiral was not that easily put off.

"It's just wrong," he had declared with a sidelong glance at Kellin.

Biting back the response he would have liked to make when he felt his wife's restraining hand on his arm, Riker managed to remain respectful as he answered. "Surely if they love each other, species doesn't matter,"

"Naive, and sentimental, Captain." Johannson scoffed, "They have nothing in common. Culture, religion, experience, nothing. A relationship like that can't work."

It was Tharek who answered this time, some how managing to keep his voice calm as he spoke. "If their marriage has lasted more than eight years, then, surely, it must be working,"

Deanna had helped him come to terms with the devastating loss of his family, finding time for him whenever he needed it, even outside normal duty hours and throughout what had been a very difficult first pregnancy. She had become one of the few people he considered a friend, rather than just a colleague and as a result he was unusually protective of her. How he was able to contain his rising anger was anyone's guess, because from what Will was reading behind those steely eyes, the Andorrian would have gladly hauled the arrogant son of a bitch over the table for insulting her like that and let his fist do the talking.

The admiral let out a derisive grunt, clearly not impressed. "There shouldn't be anything to work" he sneered, clearly unaware of the danger he was in "Nature separated those two people by light years, and there was a reason for it."

Tharek shifted uncomfortably in his seat, muscles bunching under his shirt, ready to lash out at any moment until he felt the empath's restraining hand on his shoulder. "It's OK, Tharek," she said softly. He might have been willing to sacrifice his career, and possibly even his freedom to preserve her feelings, but she wasn't. Instead she turned her attention to Johansson, regarding him for a moment over the top of her drink, apparently considering his position, "I would think," she said at length, "That perhaps since the invention of warp drive, such distance should no longer be an obstacle to happiness, much in the same way the development of terrestrial transport enabled your own parents, sir, to meet despite them being born on either side of Earth's Atlantic ocean."

"That's different," he huffed.

"Only in scale,"

Riker had allowed himself a small smile at that, touched by his wife's insight, and glad that the admiral, if only briefly, seemed at a loss for words. Tharek for his part mellowed visibly, acknowledging the silence with the smug twitch of one smooth blue antenna.

"I still think its disgraceful," said the admiral ungraciously. Clearly, he was not pleased at being out manoeuvred by a junior officer, and he was apparently willing to descend to out right racism as he continued, determined to get the last word. "This mistaken belief, that just because we can reproduce with members of another race, we should. If things continue like this for long you won't be able to tell one species from another. We'll all just be one great cross bread mess!"

"I see," Troi's voice maintained it's unearthly serenity, even in the face of such open bigotry "And how would you propose to stop this happening?" She asked "We can hardly police people's hearts,"

"We should teach our children," he told her, "that such fraternisation is unacceptable,"

"Do you have children Admiral?" her voice was still calm, but there was a deffinate edge to it now.

"No, I never had time for a family," his voice, and his expression softened, almost to a wistful smile. He looked back at her, his emotions full of regret as he took in the image before him. She was clearly with child, her beautiful face lit with that maternal glow he'd heard others talk about, but never thought he'd see up close; her husband's arm was wrapped around her, their hands joined over her gently rounded abdomen. They seemed so content. The moment passed too quickly though, and he pulled his eyes away, the feelings vanishing as suddenly as they had appeared and his thoughts returning to their argument. "Can you honestly tell me that you'd want your offspring to marry out side the human race? That you'd welcome grandchildren with Klingon DNA, for example?"

It was a bad example. Deanna valued the time she had spent with Worf, and she would have loved any child they'd had together with the same ferocity as she loved the family she was now creating with Will. "I know that you wouldn't," she snapped angrily, not really answering the question as she fought to hold onto her failing control.

"I believe I've made my position clear, Commander," he told her harshly, "I'm merely curious as to how you'd react if this disgusting practice of extra-species mating, which you all seem to support so whole heatedly, was indulged in by your own flesh and blood!"

Forcing herself to turn away from the heated response she wanted to make, the counsellor drew a small cleansing breath and regarded her attacker with a level gaze. "I would embrace any decision my children made," she said, "provided that decision was made in love,"

"Love?!" Johannson scoffed, his expression hardening further, "Its an excuse. An excuse for something you know is wrong. I know from experience that such emotions only make us weaker as a species,"

Beneath his words, she heard others, said to her by someone else years ago, 'it can be fatal to have a heart' but she didn't agree with them now any more than she had then. "Your emotions are what makes you human, and to deny them destroys the very thing you seek to protect,"

Riker allowed himself a broad grin, proud of the elegance with which his wife had defended herself, and couldn't help but add his own voice to the older man's defeat. "It's our souls that make us what we are, Sir, not our Genetics. Wouldn't you say so, Tharek?" He turned to his security chief for confirmation.

"Indeed," the Andorrian replied solemnly, all trace of his previous ire now gone, "Infinite diversity in infinite combination; as Lieutenant Kellin's husband would say,"

"I'm entitled to my opinion," huffed the Admiral, but he no longer had an audience. No one was listening. They were watching Deanna instead, who had turned back towards the entrance as if she expected some one to join them at any moment. Sure enough, the doors opened seconds later and a mini tornado swept through the lounge and headed strait towards them.

Everything else forgotten, Deanna dropped from her chair and held her arms open to welcome the speeding child. "Leaf!" she cried, overjoyed at the little girl's unexpected arrival, but still concerned that she was on her own "How did you get all the way up here?"

"Missed you, mommy," she announced happily, wrapping her arms around Deanna's neck and allowing herself to be lifted into her mother's lap.

"I missed you too, Leaf, but where's ensign Rees?" The little girl pointed back in the direction she'd come from, Deanna following the tiny hand just in time to see a harassed looking young man burst into the room and cast around helplessly until he saw them. She smiled her thanks to him and he left, relieved that he wouldn't be needed for the rest of the evening.

Trying not to laugh at the ensign's hasty retreat, Troi looked down at her daughter and asked, "Have you been giving him a hard time?"

"Missed you," the child repeated, knowing from the sound of her mother's voice that she wasn't really in trouble.

"OK, now why don't you turn round and say hi to daddy and the others?"

The little girl obediently squirmed round to face the rest of the table, suddenly shy in front of the other adults, and smiled her hellos. Her father waved and smiled back, and Tharek wobbled his antennae causing a gurgle of delighted laughter before she turned her attention to the only person she didn't recognise. She studied Johansson quietly for a while, trying to remember weather she should know him or not, until she gave up with an exasperated little snort and boldly demanded "Who are you?"

Although she couldn't have been much more than two years old, she was probably the most beautiful child he had ever laid eyes on. There hadn't been many of course, the odd nephew or niece perhaps, but children only reminded him of a life he knew he would never have and he had tried to avoid them. This little girl though seemed able to capture him with out even trying. She was small, even for her age, with a head full of bouncy chocolate curls and her mother's delicate features and pale olive complexion. Her most startling feature though were her eyes; huge orbs of deepest cobalt that seemed to shimmer in the room's gentle light. Looking from her solid blue eyes into her mother's solid black ones the admiral started to realise that he'd made a horrible mistake. "Oh my God,"

After listening to him unwittingly insult his family for most of the evening, Will was hardly in the mood to assuage the man's conscience, but for his daughter's sake he kept his tone civil as he made the introductions "Admiral Johannson, this is Aletheia Bethan Riker, our daughter," his stern expression vanished as he turned towards his little girl, and he smiled at her, running an affectionate finger down her small nose, "Leaf, this is daddy's boss,"

"I'm so sorry," started the Admiral, "I didn't realise Deanna wasn't human. She looks so-" but he knew it wouldn't do any good, the damage had been done. It was his own fault; he'd spoken without being in full possession of the facts and now he would have to live with the knowledge that he'd manage to alienate one of the finest officers in the fleet. "I shouldn't have said those things,"

"You're right," Will told him, "You shouldn't have,"

They had left soon after that, Deanna needed to get their daughter settled for the night and she gratefully allowed him to escort her back to their quarters. Neither of them had thought it necessary at the time to apologise for their early departure, not caring if the admiral took offence or not, but that had been their only breach of etiquette all evening.

"Will," his wife's soft musical voice reached out into his thoughts, pulling his attention away from the window. "Are you all right?"

He nodded, taking in the soft curve of her pregnancy as she rolled towards him. She was bigger than he could remember her being with Leaf at this stage, the doctor had told them early on that she was carrying identical twins, but he hadn't expected to notice the difference so soon. Looking down at her, he reached over to brush a stray lock of raven hair from those alien eyes and smiled. From the time he'd first seen her, this was what he had wanted, this family. Nothing that the admiral could have said would ever change that, he realised. " I'm fine." he whispered as he sank into the bed beside her. And he meant it.