Oh God, I really shouldn't have had that third glass of wine…
The lone thought dominated Commander Angelina Shepard's agitated mind as she walked boldly through the narrow passage into the tech labs, where she knew Professor Mordin Solus would be hard at work overseeing research projects to further outfit the Normandy's weapons systems. As expected, the pale-complected Salarian—too engrossed in his work to have noticed her entrance—was looking over a datapad of information with great interest, an enigmatic smile tipping up the corners of his mouth. The room's fluorescent white light illuminated the dark tattoo on his forehead and the multiple battle scars dotting his cheeks and face.
She announced her presence with complete calm and grace, in stark contrast with the anxiety and inner turmoil she was now feeling.
"Shepard! How can I help?"
"Have you got a minute to talk, doc?" Her eyes darted from side to side, surveying each of the entrances to the lab. "In private?"
The Salarian activated the locking mechanisms on the doors so as to restrict entry into the tiny quarters—after all, as he had so often declared, doctor-patient confidentiality was his sacred trust.
The minute the doors slid shut, he was analyzing her, his wide black eyes flitting back and forth while he fired off observations at seizure-inducing speeds.
"Pupils dilated… am detecting elevated levels of serotonin, though brain function, by all accounts, appears normal. Cheeks unnaturally flush… You are well, Shepard?"
Although the doctor was one of her first acquisitions several months ago when she had just begun to recruit a team to battle the Collectors, Angelina still hadn't grown accustomed to his brash, straightforward manner of speaking. Mordin could form a thought at the speed of light—which was no doubt a product of his relatively short Salarian lifespan—but that left something to be desired in his bedside manner, and he was often found delivering difficult news without the sensitivity of a normal healthcare professional. Angelina silently cursed herself for not having visited Dr. Chakwas instead, but the woman had little experience when it came to the health and wellbeing of… aliens.
She was almost certain her affliction was the product of her most recent encounter with Thane Krios. The previous night, she had summoned him to her quarters via the intercom so that they could share a meal together in private. The soft and subdued atmosphere, coupled with the glass or two (or three) of wine they had shared and the romantic mood lighting, had robbed her of her senses. One thing led to another, and before she knew it, they were entangled in the sheets of her bed. She had been so surprised by the strength of her need for contact that she'd been reluctant to deny her body's needs.
And now she was paying for her stupidity with a hangover the size of Therum... and a rash that itched like hell.
Note to self: wine and sex with Drell do not mix, she reminded herself. Must learn to exercise caution in the future…
"I'm fine," she said curtly. "At least… I think I'm fine. I've been feeling a little fatigued lately, and I've been fighting off a fever. I feel like my skin is on fire all the time."
Mordin signaled her to show him the rash. Looking around to make sure there were no prying eyes, Angelina undid the flaps of her charcoal-colored uniform and rolled the thin material down just barely over her alabaster shoulders, stopping right where the swell of her breasts started. Sure enough, the unmistakable beginnings of a rash were plain to be seen dotting the curvature of her neck and peeking out from under the parts of her uniform she still held against her chest.
"Hmm," the Salarian said, his lidless oval eyes taking a quick scan of her exposed flesh. "Rash appears to be localized—dermatitis? No. Eczema? No. Treatment usually depends on cause. Diagnosis subject to further investigation."
"Hold on a minute, doc," Angelina said. "No way are you poking and prodding me like some science experiment. Save yourself the trouble. I… uh… think I already know the cause."
"Indeed? Do tell, Shepard. Easier to recommend treatment if virus' source can be pinpointed."
"I, uh… was with Thane again last night." She ran a heavy hand through her close-cropped black tresses, a few disobedient strands flying into her eyes. "I'm guessing you can give me those ointments you promised me earlier? Like, now? God, it burns…"
Using her knuckles, she scratched at the raw skin until the pustules that had risen to the surface burst with exuberant force. The painful cracks split apart her tender flesh, excreting fluid. Feeling very much like a disgusting mess, she gazed over at the doctor with a pleading look in her eyes that wordlessly begged his aid.
"Will prepare them immediately," the Salarian said, flitting about his workstation with his hands delving into several of the compartments. "Glad to see you made use of those demonstration vids, Shepard. Not sure I've seen you this happy in a while—current circumstances notwithstanding."
"I am happy," she said with a coquettish little smile, resisting the urge to scratch her skin raw as she gazed at the Salarian. "He's different than anyone else. He makes me feel alive… which is something I haven't felt since I woke up in Cerberus' hands."
"Patient happiness and satisfaction is ideal, yes, though greater care must be taken to prevent rash in future. Would still advise against oral contact—on both the giving and receiving end. Cannot stress how crucial it is for recuperation. Very much like these little visits of ours, but fear I don't have the… ah… reserves necessary to treat repeated episodes."
Angelina sputtered and felt warmth creep into her cheeks as she was, for once, rendered speechless. Thankfully, she didn't have to wait long for the void of silence to be filled, as Mordin finished pumping a few small vials full of liquid and then handed them to her in a neatly bundled package, along with a small ingestible tonic.
"Take once, maybe twice a day before meals. Side effects may include nausea, constipation, flatulence, diarrhea, insomnia, dyspepsia, among other things. Though no need to worry—all perfectly normal."
"Oh, great. Just what I need… to be lying in bed with a big bout of gas when I'm trying to get amorous."
Angelina surveyed the package of vials and the tonic pressed into the palm of her hand. The highly concentrated reddish liquid looked unappetizing at best and downright toxic at worst. Her throat burned at the thought of consuming it, but she had always trusted Mordin to act in her best interests where medical matters were concerned.
"…Increased libido and invigorated sex drive also side effects, might interest you to know."
Not that she needed any help in that area…
"Urge you to exercise caution here, Shepard. Situation has potential to become cyclical if proper care is not taken."
"I hear you, doc. And thanks," she said with a wave of the hand, lifting the locking mechanism on the door so she could emerge back onto the ship's bridge. Instead of walking by her private terminal and Yeoman Chambers, who she knew would query her about the vials she now held in her hand, she followed the slim passage toward the armory. On the way there, she was intercepted by the tall, hulking form of the Drell assassin himself. He was so light of step that she hadn't even realized he was coming until he was nearly upon her—and by then it was too late. He had already seen her haphazardly fumble to hide the vials in her pockets.
"Siha," he said by way of greeting, inclining his head nobly toward her, black eyes downcast.
"Thane." She narrowed her eyes, looking for some way to preoccupy him so he wouldn't notice just what she was up to. "What brings you out of solitary confinement?"
"I must speak with Professor Solus while he still has a moment alone."
"Nothing serious, I hope? It's not your Kepral's Syndrome, is it?"
With hesitation, he replied, "No," though it was clear he refused to elaborate. The throwaway thought that he, too, might be suffering adverse reactions to her company playfully entered her mind, but she dismissed it almost immediately. A seductive smile tugged at her lips.
"See you later tonight?"
"Tonight, Siha. Until then."
Propriety quickly took over—as it so often did—and they bowed to one another out of a sense of deep respect.
As they went their separate ways, she clutching her package of vials and he off to seek out the doctor, one thing was certain: every single moment of discomfort—every little itch, burn, rash, and sore—was completely and utterly worth it.