The Importance of Thermal Clips
"Shepard. Back from your mission?"
Commander Shepard raised one hand in greeting to Mordin, half of her face buried in the other and her stride carrying more stumble than usual.
"Got a free moment, Mordin?"
The salarian's eyes flickered sidelong at her, his own hands deftly continuing to type at his work station, just as a dark drop slid between two of the commander's fingers and fell soundlessly to the floor.
"Would appreciate it if you didn't bleed in my laboratory, Shepard. Important to keep things sterile. Don't have many live samples, but still require antiseptic environment"
Commander Shepard would have put her hand on her hip, but she knew that Mordin hadn't noticed the look she was giving him to go with it. She instead used it as a second layer to contain the blood.
Mordin patiently closed all of the applications he was browsing. "Tech lab isn't a med bay, Commander," he scolded lightly as he passed her a cloth.
"I didn't get the worst of it. Dr. Chakwas is otherwise occupied," Shepard replied curtly. "I thought you were a doctor."
"Thought with a resume as colorful as yours, Shepard, would be familiar with how to handle a simple broken nose. Elevate head—common knowledge. Slows the bleeding. Sit over there."
He motioned towards the small cot along the wall opposite his work station. Shepard obeyed. "My job is to avoid familiarizing myself with broken bones, actually," she retorted. She rolled her eyes at him when he passed by her with a wipe she thought was meant for her, leaning down to delicately clean the blood droplet from the floor instead.
"Interesting story to go with injury, at least?" he asked after he took her rag from her to examine the damage. His black eyes glittered with amusement.
Shepard mimed a downward strike with the butt of a rifle. Mordin tutted at her, shaking his head.
"Sloppy. On your part, that is. Assume you replied in kind?"
Shepard grinned darkly. "I got the blunt end of a claymore to the nose. He got a cryo round to his."
"Mm," Mordin approved, the corners of his mouth twitching upward slightly. "Would have reacted similarly. Hold still, please."
Shepard tilted her head up a bit, grimacing as the doctor cleaned the blood from her face. "Served him right for running out of clips."
"Have seen you employ similar tactics, Shepard," he reminded her. "Ranged weapons actually effective for melee combat… in a pinch."
The commander looked upwards at the lab's fluorescent lights as she felt her eyes start to sting and snorted in derision. "When I do that, I at least have the good sense to hit the poor bastard hard enough to drop him."
Shepard caught his eyes again, and suddenly became very aware of the closeness of their faces. She tensed slightly, drawing a quick breath as his huge black eyes held hers.
"Admire you for aptitude in the field. Can't deny ability to lead, make difficult tactical decisions. Adaptive—flexibility in tight spots unsurpassed. However, overconfidence in abilities can lead to downfall. Have witnessed friends, colleagues, killed due to small missteps, easily correctable errors. Senseless. Wasteful. Need to be more alert, Shepard. Lives in the balance. Depending on you. Requiring you to survive."
Mordin's voice was low, serious, and after his speech he took a long moment to simply keep his gaze on her. Shepard had seen the doctor speak this seriously about a topic before, but their physical closeness added a strange subtext to his otherwise stern words that she didn't know how to feel about.
The doctor lifted one hand to her face, slowly. His face was drawn tight in concentration, a strange, focused fascination lighting his features. She swallowed against a dry throat, trying to ignore the sudden tingling of her skin. Two of his fingers finally came to rest gently—almost tenderly—at the side of her nose, their smooth warmth requiring her to smother a shiver.
For another long moment, they stayed like that—Mordin frowning, expression serious and intense, Shepard transfixed by his gaze, heart pounding helplessly. She opened her mouth, ready to say something completely foolish.
Without warning, Mordin's other hand darted to the other side of her nose. In a practiced, clinical movement, he snapped the appendage back into place with a sickening crack that made her vision go white with pain.
She reeled forward, gritting her teeth against a yell through watering eyes. Mordin had straightened, standing over her as casually as if he had just ripped off a bandage.
"Nasal fracture," he commented matter-of-factually. "Had to re-break and set to prevent septal hematoma. No apparent cosmetic deformity. Gauze in third drawer of cabinet on the back wall. Help self—already behind on analysis of gene expression arrays. Remember what I said—be careful next time, Commander."
Commander Shepard looked up at the salarian incredulously as he summoned the holos he had been looking at before with a few swift movements.
"Doing that actually rather fun," he admitted, eyes dancing as he browsed through his work. "Pity we salarians don't have similar nasal protuberance. Though, much harder to break that way. Better design."
Shepard stared at him for another moment before shaking her head.
"Thanks for the help," she muttered, gingerly testing the bridge of her nose before standing up.
"Make sure to check in, would like to see how injury heals. Shouldn't cause problems," he quipped pleasantly. "And Shepard?"
She was already halfway to the door, but she turned to look to him. He gave her a quick glance to make sure she was listening, but then returned his own attention to his data.
"Unnecessary to break nose just for chance to talk. Enjoy company, when not interrupting work. Here if you need me."
Commander Shepard rolled her eyes at the salarian's teasing, making short work of the distance between her and the exit. Once the door had closed behind her, she paused briefly, considering the events that had transpired in the professor's lab, one hand pressed lightly to her nose.
Shaking her head with an exasperated sigh, she took off decisively towards the armory. Suddenly, double-checking the team's selection of ammo seemed like a very good idea.