Disclaimer: Don't own Mass Effect 2 or its characters.
First attempt at a Mass Effect oneshot. Enjoy.
The SSV Normandy SR-2 lay in low orbit over 2175 Aeia. Commander Shepard had taken a ground team planet-side to search for Jacob Taylor's long-lost father, leaving the ship quieter and emptier than usual.
It was the perfect time for a certain quarian to pursue her own agenda.
"Where are you, you little bosh'tet?"
Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, the Normandy's quarian Chief Engineer, was in the ship's science lab, rifling through drawers as she desperately searched for something.
"Come on, it's got to be here."
Not finding what she sought, Tali slammed the drawer shut with a grunt of disgust and moved on to the next one. Then the next one. And the next one.
Becoming increasingly irritated, Tali moved on to the shelves.
"This would be a lot easier if he organized his stuff."
The shelves lacked the sense of organization that one would expect from a science lab. Vials of liquids, boxes of microscope slides, and other such objects cluttered the shelves in a seemingly random order. It was as if each object had its own opinion on where it should be.
Despite the clutter, Tali pressed on in her search.
She had to find it.
Tali shuffled through the shelves with a growing sense of urgency. Every second she was in here increased her chance of getting caught.
And the last thing she wanted to do was explain what she was doing.
Tali reached the second to last shelf and had still found nothing. She was about to give up hope when, miraculously, she found what she was looking for.
She had nearly missed it, as it was hidden amongst a group of similar looking vials. Cautiously, Tali picked up the vial. The quarian read the label on the vial three times before she finally convinced herself that she had indeed found what she was looking for. The sound of the door swishing open caused Tali to whirl around and hide the vial behind her back.
Mordin Solus, the Normandy's salarian Research Scientist, entered the room deeply engrossed in a datapad. He was so engrossed, in fact, that he didn't notice Tali until he had reached his workstation and put the pad down.
"Oh, Tali!" exclaimed Mordin. "Apologies, didn't see you there. Was just doing some light reading. Turian amino acids. Basic stuff. Still, good as refresher. Keeps me sharp. Relieves stress. Have you been here long?"
Tali shook her head, and fought to keep her voice level. "Not really. I came in and you weren't here, so…" She let her sentence trail off and Mordin, thankfully, took this as a cue for him to speak up.
"Yes, sorry about that. My fault. Had to visit the little scientist's room. Not as effective with a full bladder. Hard to concentrate."
"You brought your datapad with you to the restroom?" asked Tali, both out of curiosity and a need to keep Mordin talking as she inched her way towards the door and freedom. Mordin nodded emphatically.
"Of course. Often read when relieving myself. See things differently. New…perspectives."
Tali tried not to think too much about the last comment. She was nearly at the door now. She could almost taste freedom.
"Was there a reason you came up here?"
Tali stopped dead in her tacks. "E-excuse me?"
"Was there a reason you came up here?" repeated Mordin. "Medical issue? No, that's Doctor Chakwas' department. Problem with your suit then?"
Tali shook her head.
"No, nothing like that Mordin. Just came up here to…get a new perspective on the Normandy's power core."
It was all Tali could do to keep herself from wincing. It had sounded even weaker aloud than it had in her head.
"Uh-huh," said Mordin, and Tali could tell that the salarian clearly didn't believe her. "Anything else?"
"No, that was it," said Tali. "Now if you'll excuse me, I really should get back to engineering."
"Of course, of course," said Mordin. "Won't keep you."
"Thank you, Mordin," said Tali, and it was all she could do to not let any of the relief she was feeling enter her voice. "Talk to you later."
The quarian turned and was almost out the door when Mordin called out.
"Oh, Tali! One more thing."
Tali felt a lump form in her throat as she turned around.
"Would you mind returning whatever you took from my shelf back to its proper place?"
Tali went rigid. She felt like a hand made of solid ice had gripped her spine.
"W-what are you talking about, Mordin?"
The salarian gestured towards his shelves.
"My shelves are a mess now. Organized before I left. You were in here when I returned. Most likely culprit."
Tali felt her mouth run dry.
"I didn't take anything. Anyway, how would you know? I wouldn't call your shelves 'organized'."
Mordin's expression was the definition of indignation.
"Excuse me? I use a well known salarian organization system. You start by…never mind. Doesn't matter. Please return what you took."
Tali was growing increasingly uncomfortable, and could no longer keep herself from stuttering.
"Tali, please," said Mordin with a sigh. "I could do an inventory, but that would waste time. Time I could spend studying the Collectors."
Mordin's words threatened to tear Tali's heart out. How could she lie to him?
Because I have to do this, Tali told herself.
"Mordin, I didn't take anything."
Tali froze, refusing to believe what had just happened. Slowly, painfully, the quarian looked at the ground.
She had dropped the vial.
Lousy three fingered hand.
His face unreadable, Mordin walked over to Tali and held out his hand. Defeated, Tali bent over, picked up the vial, and handed it to the salarian. Mordin scanned the label of the vial.
"AT-936. Powerful Immune System Booster. Why would you need this?"
Tali was about to answer, but realized Mordin was actually just talking to himself.
"Perhaps for the mission? Afraid of getting sick and jeopardizing it? No. Would not resort to stealing. Would just ask. Something personal, then. Immuno-booster would indicate risk of exposure to foreign bacteria. Would necessitate exiting suit. Points towards physical contact. Secrecy points to something intimate. Intimacy, physical contact point to relationship with crewmember. Haven't been here long enough to form a relationship with most of crew. Most likely somebody you have a history with."
Tali's heart rate increased with every word Mordin spoke, and it was a miracle she didn't faint as Mordin finished his train of thought.
"Shepard," repeated Mordin, and Tali was surprised to see a small smile touch his lips. "This is so you can have intimate contact with Shepard."
Tali didn't know what to say. Fortunately, Mordin didn't seem to want her input.
"Not surprising. History, familiarity with Shepard encourages coupling. Good stress relief."
Tali snapped out of her stupor at the last comment.
"Stress relief? You think this is about stress relief?" Tali realized that she had just admitted to everything Mordin had just said, but she didn't care. There was no way she was letting Mordin get away with calling what she felt for Shepard "stress relief." "I'm doing this because I care about him. I care about him more than anybody I've ever met."
Mordin seemed unfazed by Tali's words.
"Of course. Apologies. Never meant to suggest otherwise. Merely stating that intercourse is good stress relief. Did not mean to suggest it was the reason."
"Oh." Tali felt sheepish. How could she have believed Mordin would say something like that? "I'm sorry for snapping at you."
"Not at all," said Mordin, who had placed the vial on his desk and was tapping away furiously at his terminal. "Response normal to perceived slight. I stand ready to help in any way I can."
Tali was caught off guard.
"Oh…well, thank you, Mordin. But there's no need for you to concern yourself with this."
"On the contrary, there is every reason. Someone must make sure you don't get yourself killed."
Tali crossed her arms and huffed.
"I know the risks, Mordin. That's why I need the immuno-booster."
The salarian shook his head furiously.
"The immuno-booster not for risks. Immuno-booster is risk."
"What do you mean?" asked Tali, confused.
"AT-936 is a powerful immuno-booster. Quarian immune system is very weak. Combination could cause irreversible damage. May even be fatal."
Tali swallowed hard.
"Yes. Quite dangerous."
"Well…I don't care," said Tali, emphatically. "I'm willing to take that risk. For Shepard."
"Don't doubt it," said Mordin, who was totally engrossed in his terminal. "Still, no need to cross a raging river when there is a small stream nearby."
"Huh?" asked Tali.
Mordin didn't answer. Instead, the salarian made his way over to one of his shelves and began pulling out vials and boxes and putting them back, muttering to himself all the while.
"LH-074? No, could cause kidney failure. Maybe…no, only works for batarians. Perhaps…no, no. Not without more tests. Hmm…"
Tali waited patiently, and a little nervously, until Mordin finally found what he was looking for. The scientist returned carrying several vials and a box.
"Immuno-boosters," explained Mordin as he held up the vials. "Relatively weak on their own. But combined should provide a sizeable boost. Minimize risks. More importantly, unlikely to cause damage."
Tali nodded and accepted the vials. Mordin then held up the box.
"Herbal supplements. Take twice a day. Preferably with water or food."
Again, Tali accepted what Mordin offered her.
"Thank you, Mordin. For everything."
A broad, warm smile spread across the salarian's scarred face.
"Think nothing of it, Tali'Zorah. You are my crewmate. More importantly, you are my friend."
"I'm glad to have you as a friend, Mordin. Thank you."
Tali turned to leave the room, but Mordin called out.
"Tali! Quick question."
"Yes?" asked Tali as she turned around.
"When did you realize you loved Shepard?"
Tali was silent for several moments.
"Did I ever say that I loved him?"
"No," replied Mordin, the smile still on his face. "No you didn't. Easy enough to infer."
Tali gave an amused snort and leaned against the wall, head bent in deep thought. Mordin waited patiently, tapping away at his terminal.
Several silent minutes passed.
"I don't think I can pick a specific moment, Mordin," Tali said finally. "There are so many I could choose: when he saved my life on the Citadel, when he rescued me on Haestrom." A short pause, then, "when he represented me at my trial. And there are so many more, Mordin. As many as there are ships in the Flotilla."
Mordin nodded, the smile still present.
"I can tell you why I love him."
Mordin looked up from the terminal and gave Tali his full attention.
"Well, there's the obvious, of course," said Tali. "He's handsome, strong, charismatic, confident, and loyal. But more important than any of that, more important than anything else, is that he sees me."
"Hmm?" asked Mordin, puzzled. "Not sure I understand."
"He sees me, Mordin," said Tali, and the salarian could hear the smile spreading across the quarian's face as she spoke. "I never thought anybody could see past this," Tali ran her hand down the side of her mask. "But Shepard looks past it and sees me for who I am. He's never seen my face. He has no idea what I look like. But none of that matters to him. He just…he sees me. And I love him for that."
"Ah," said Mordin, and the smile fell from his face. The salarian was silent for a long time, and Tali feared she had said something to hurt him. Just as she was about to apologize, Mordin looked up, a small smile touching his lips.
"That is Shepard's strength, isn't it? Working with Cerberus. Could easily give in to pro-human bias. But doesn't. Look at crew. Turian. Krogan. Quarian. Salarian. Drell. Even Geth. Geth! Race is a non-sequitor. Shepard only cares about who we are and what we can do. Not at all concerned about what we are. Remarkable. Great leader. Great man."
"Great friend," said Tali, finishing Mordin's thought for him.
"Quite," said Mordin. "You're lucky, Tali. Nobody else quite like Shepard in the galaxy. Can guarantee that."
"I know, Mordin," said Tali quietly. "I know."
"Cherish your time together," said Mordin. "Life is too short not to. Salarians know that more than anybody."
"I will, Mordin. You can rest assured I most definitely will."
"Glad to hear it," said Mordin. A mischievous grin spread across the salarian's face. "Now, in addition to the immuno-boosters, I can also offer several other things. Pamphlets on positions favored by humans. Tender points on the human body. Also have several ointments and lotions that can help intensify the 'big moment'."
"You know, Mordin, I do have a shotgun."
"Yes. Well. Would not recommend using that during intercourse. Result could be…messy."
Doing her best not to laugh, Tali thanked Mordin one last time before making her way to her quarters, where she stored the medicines and lay down on her bed.
She closed her eyes and was about to slip away into a gentle sleep when her omni-tool announced that she had a new message. The quarian opened it up and was surprised to see that it was from Mordin.
Thought this might be helpful, Mordin.
Attached to the message was an article entitled "Pleasing Your Man: A Woman's Guide to the Human Male."
"That dog," said Tali. The quarian went to delete the message, but stopped herself.
"Well…I guess a peek wouldn't hurt."
Well, there you have it.
This was supposed to focus mainly on Tali, but when I started writing Mordin's dialog I found it was a lot more fun. In the end, I put more effort into his dialog than the detailed writing I like to put into my fics.
Gonna go back through this and add more details in the near future.
I've come to realize I don't like begging for reviews, so I won't.
What I DO beg for is help. Point out misspellings, bad grammar, punctuation errors, etc. I can't get better and make my fics more enjoyable without some help from my dear readers.
Hope you all enjoyed it. Until my next one.