Constellations is a week shy of being two months old. I first posted this on May 12, and it's had almost 2000 hits in the first two months this has been up. Wow! That's a new record for anything I've ever written and posted online. Thanks to everyone, because I couldn't and wouldn't do it without you guys. I know I sound like a broken record, but it's true.
An extra-special thanks to the awesome skywalker05, who has been my most loyal reviewer and has been reading since the first few days Constellations has been online. Thanks so much! You know you're appreciated. Check out her work if you haven't already, else I stop updating for a month. You've been warned!
Obligatory disclaimer: I blame Bioware.
I walk up the gantry, whistling an old song I don't remember the lyrics to, in a better mood than I've been in in days. That can happen when my womanhood stops rearing its ugly, bloody head every month. I feel lighter, happier, and cramp free. I have every right to be in a good mood.
"I love that song," Jeff says. He doesn't turn around as he punches in the coordinates for the closest mass relay. "Ol' Beggar's Bush, right?"
"Why am I not surprised you know Flogging Molly?" I ask as I lean on the back of his seat. "Leave it to you to be the only other person on this ship who knows about an Irish band from the twentieth century."
"I blame copius amounts of free time," he says, shrugging. "So, why the whistling?"
"I'm having a supremely good day," I say. "I was just talking to Mordin-"
"Talking to Mordin is a supremely good day for you? Wow. Men and women really are different."
I give him a light smack upside the head. "Shut up. I went to ask him something about upgrading the medbay again, so maybe we don't have to lock it down when Tali needs to repair her suit, like turning one of the beds into a little clean room for her, when he told me something I think you'll like."
"And what might that be?" he asks, trying not to sound too interested.
"He thinks he's found a cure for Vrolik's," I tell him.
He perks up, but keeps playing like he's indifferent. He's not letting his hopes get too high, lest he be disappointed. Jeff would never admit it, but he's always waiting to hear of some medical breakthrough that will cure Vrolik's, but he won't let himself get hung up on it for fear of jinxing it. He's an incurable pessimist, and he and Garrus are very alike in that capacity. I don't understand why they don't try harder to hang out. They'd be best friends.
"What does the good doctor think he can do?"
"Why don't you go ask him?" I say. "Something tells me he wants to talk to you about it directly. From what I gather, it entails a good amount of pain and recovery time, and without the distinct possibility of liver failure like his last 'cure.'"
"He's sure he won't destroy my liver this time?" he asks, his eyes round and serious. "I'd really rather keep it in working order, but that's just me. I don't want someone else's. I like mine."
"From what I gather, you're liver need not worry," I tell him. I squeeze his shoulders around the back of his seat, grinning. "Thank god I won't be subjected to you being yellow. It doesn't look good on you, and I don't happen to be one of those women who find jaundice attractive."
"Oh, well, crisis averted," he chuckles as he kicks his footrest down and stands up. "EDI, take the helm for a while."
"Logging you out, Jeff," she says. She blinks quietly for a minute. "Dr. Solus's research into your condition is sound, and there is an eighty-five percent probability that the treatment will take."
"Eighty-five percent is good," I say hopefully. Jeff shrugs.
"'Treatment' doesn't mean a cure," he says. "It's just a better way of managing the problem, and 'probability' isn't a guarantee. It's just a good chance."
There he is, my pessimist. Would it kill him to be a little hopeful for once? Probably. Forget I asked. He goes off to the lab without another word. He trips, and I go to help him, but he regains his balance and keeps going.
"I'm fine," he says. "Don't bother."
"I don't know why I do sometimes," I mutter, sinking into his seat. "Is he ever that negative with you, EDI?"
"At times," EDI admits. "I find it helps to focus on his more positive qualities when he does, however few they may be."
"I hear that," I sigh. "It's not always easy, though. He's a royal pain in the ass most of the time, but I love him anyway. I won't let him and his angst ruin my day, EDI. I refuse to let it happen."
"A very good mindset, Shepard," she says, blinking approvingly. "You have quite the talent for consciously controlling your feelings."
I smile. "I wouldn't get anywhere if I didn't. It comes in handy most of the time, you know? It helped me get through school and N7 training, it helped me on Elysium, and has never once let me down in my military career. Not even when I died. I made myself focus on the fact that I saved Jeff's life instead of dwelling on the vacuum that was killing me."
"You are remarkable, Shepard. My databases tell me that you are exceptionally self-aware and selfless for a woman of your age. Most women succumb to 'baby fever,' in their early thirties."
"Nope, no baby fever for me," I say a little, I admit, proudly. "There is no place for a screaming infant in my life. I could, however, go for a dog up in the loft. I think the wagging tail and slobbering on my shoes is what I'm missing in my life."
She doesn't say anything, but I have the distinct feeling that EDI's laughing at me.
"So, what's up, doc?"
Mordin looks up from his microscope, his freaky frog eyes blinking. "Joker. Good to see you. Been meaning to talk to you."
"Uh, yeah, Feli-" I stop myself. I'm not supposed to call her Felicia around other people. It ruins the whole invincable Commander Shepard illusion thing. Whatever. "Shepard mentioned it."
"Calling her by name?" he asks. "Not surprising. Dating, as it were. No need to be secretive. Whole ship knows."
"Irrelevant," he says, waving his hand dismissively. Fine. I'll let it go for now, but I'm demanding answers from EDI later. "Here to discuss possible cure for Vrolik's, yes?"
"EDI said it was a treatment," I say as I walk over to his table. "It's a cure?"
He shrugs his tiny, slouchy shoulders. "Perhaps. May begin as treatment, mature into cure. Impossible to tell at present. Requires test subjects, data collection, credits, credits, credits. Costly business, science." No shit. Science seems to cost many a pretty penny nowadays. Not that I'm complaining or anything; modern medical science is the only reason I'm where I am now.
The creepy mad scientist's lab around me has me on edge. For someone who spends so much time in medbays and labs like this, I can't be comfortable in them. It's partially the sterile antiseptic smell of medigel, partially the too-bright lighting on the too-clean and too-white surfaces, and partially the numerous and painful memories I have of these places. If it isn't fractured hips and knees from trying to stand when it's a seriosuly bad idea to, it's shin splints or heel spurs from standing, or broken toes because I put my boots on too quickly, or about a million other stupid leg-related injuries I've had in all thirty-one years of my life.
"Was reading on extranet about Earth's astronaughts in late 20th century losing bone density," Mordin is saying. I spaced put for a minute there. I shake myself back into attention. "Bones became fragile, like Vrolik's, caused by radiation damage from space travel. Research into bone grafts began, looking for ways to reverse damage. Early R and D promising, and initial grafts effective, but not cost-effective. Program shut down after initial trials became too costly to research further. Findings recently rereleased to public, looking for new funding to reopen as a treatment for Vrolik's."
"How does it work?"
"Erring on side of caution?" he asks, grinning. It's kind of creepy because he doesn't really have any lips. "Past experience defers to wariness. Process surgical, very painful. Uses coral to rebuild bone and small electrical implant to speed growth. Coral mimics bone structure, fills in holes and replicates to rebuild bone density. Out-patient procedure. Time tells if grafts are taking, if procedure was successful."
I frown. It sounds like something out of a bad 21st century medical drama. I don't like the idea of volunteering for pain, even if it means being able to walk like a normal person instead of gimping around all the time. I've dealt with enough pain to last most other people's lifetimes.
He's staring at me, waiting for me to agree to be his guinea pig or tell him to go to hell. Behind us, the door opens. Felicia comes in, all light footsteps and grape bubblegum perfume and red lipstick. God, I love that lipstick.
"Hey, uh, Joker?" she says. "Tali needs to see you down in engineering for a sec. She says one of the engine drives is running a little hot." It's a bald-faced lie, but Mordin doesn't seem to notice. He ushers both of us out of the lab and into the hallway, already saying that he'll do more research and give me some time to think it over. As the door closes behind us, Felicia smiles.
"Yes, I was eavesdropping courtesy of EDI," she says. "I thought you could use a rescue. You don't mind, right?"
I shrug. "Not really. He was scaring me a little bit with all the coral stuff. I'm not sure I want a sea creature replacing my fragile bones."
"But they're such pretty sea creatures," she says, laughing.
"It's not like I'd ever be able to see them," I tell her. "They'd be under my skin. I'd end up having a candy-colored skeleton, though, so that's a plus."
She laughs and takes my hands in hers. "But you'll think about it, right? I mean, you should. For your own sake, you know? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get up and take a piss without worrying about breaking your leg on the way?"
"Wasn't it you who said I'm not that breakable anymore?" I ask. She shrugs. "You were surprised and thoroughly impressed by my newfound sturdyness yesterday."
Her cheeks turn pink. It's kind of stupid, but there's a sick sort of pleasure I get from being able to make her embarassed. She cries when she's mortified, but she turns the brightest pink you can imagine when she's embarrassed. It's the funniest, cutest, dumbest thing I've evern seen. I love it.
"I-well, I-uh," she stammers, "If-if you didn't have to worry about your legs, you'd be happier, right? That's what I what for you."
"I'm happy already," I admit. "I'm not even sure if I'll do it, but I'll think about the coral thing, okay? In any case, I think I deserve comfort sex because I've had a very trying morning. I've totally earned it." Her face gets pinker, her eyes darting to the armory door behind me as if she's afraid Jacob will come waltzing through and see us. She snatches my hat off my head and proceeds to hit me with it.
"You ass!" she cries, her eyes getting the tiniest bit glassy. "It's not even midday and you're already horny! Go-go fly my ship or check the engines or watch your porn or something!"
I grab my hat away from her and hold it up and out of her reach. She jumps for it twice before she gives up and glares at me like she'd like nothing more than to kick my shin before she stomps away through the armory. Jacob watches her go by and looks at me.
"She's pissed," he says.
"What did you do?"
"Hell if I know," I admit. Seriously, all I did was ask for sex. Since when's that a crime?
Jacob nods. "I hear that."
What can I say? The man gets it.