Disclaimer: As much as I wish I owned this story and its universe and characters, I don't. All content belongs to BioWare. I'm just having fun with it. Also, this is my first fic written for Mass Effect, and any feedback/critique would be greatly appreciated. Bright Blessings, ~R.S.


Thessia

The sun broke over the hills of the city, washing the world in pale light, signaling the end of another long day. The doctor walked through the white, sterile hallways of Thessia Medical, pinching the bridge of her nose, each step leading her closer to the sliding doors, the kiss of air, and the sweet taste of freedom after a day-long shift.

The doctor's hands shook faintly, trembling with exhaustion and the over-abundance of caffeine running through her system. Though she tried to deny that the stress of coping with her hyper-critical colleagues affected her in any sort of way, she could not lie. It had been difficult, defying the social norms of her people's culture, finishing standard schooling, biotic training, and entering from thence immediately into the most difficult medical program offered by Thessia's oldest and most renowned university.

She had not even entered her matron years, and the high and mighty surgeons at Thessia Medical tended to upbraid her for it. Only in the operating room did she feel secure in her training, could she drown out the hushed whispers over the intercom in the overhead observatory. When a beating heart lay splayed open on her table, then there was calm, validation, belonging. All else faded.

The doors were before her now, the promise of freedom step away, when a voice shattered her determination.

"Dr. T'Aryn!" a nurse ran up to her, almost frantic, a chart flashing on her omni-tool. "Dr. T'Aryn! One moment please!"

T'Aryn's heart began to pound as she looked between the nurse and the door, debating between freedom and duty. She groaned inwardly and turned, attempting to school her expression into something other than ire. Her appearance was off-putting enough to her fellow asari. They did not need her glaring at them to further damage her reputation.

"What can I do for you?" she asked, cringing as her voice came out too rough, far cry from the melodious and soothing tones attributed to those of her race.

"You've been asked to consult in the ER." the nurse stated, holding up her omni-tool in the universal symbol, asking for a sync.

T'Aryn reluctantly brought up her own wrist and watched as the nurse transmitted the information in a matter of microseconds. The chart flashed up on her display, but T'Aryn ignored it, preferring instead to get the information first hand.

"Is the patient being admitted to the cardiac floor?" she asked, wondering which day shift doctor she could pawn this off on, so she could get through those doors…so close…to home, to freedom, to Mira's smile and embrace and pot of coffee.

"She says she's fine, but her EKG is reading an arrhythmia, type not yet determined."

"And the doctors down there aren't qualified to make a simple diagnosis?" T'Aryn frowned as the nurse looked away from her eyes.

"The chief of emergency services specifically requested a cardiac specialist for this patient." the nurse explained, tugging on T'Aryn's elbow, impatient, knowing it would be her career on the line if the chief's orders were not followed promptly. "You're the only one not in the OR, and I know it is the end of shift but…"

"I'm coming." T'Aryn sighed, closing the chart and opening a message screen, typing a quick, frustrated note to Mira, explaining, as briefly as possible, the current situation.

Even though Chief T'Sere was not the head of her department, T'Aryn knew it would not benefit her already struggling career by ignoring one of the head staff members of the Medical Center. Perhaps, if she could complete this inane, surely simple diagnosis and treatment, the chief would put in a good word for her with Dr. Ela T'Vari, her own chief and harshest critic.

It is not standard practice to employ a surgeon still within her maiden years, T'Aryn remembered Dr. T'Vari's greeting, no matter test scores or reports from your supervisors during your residency. However, if you consider yourself able to perform under the scrutiny of your fellows, I have no option but to give you this opportunity.

T'Aryn had left that office with ice in her veins and a fury in her heart that did injustice to the galactic stereotype of the asari being calm, gentle beings. She had clenched her fists to contain her upset, concentrating on what her mother would say, what Mira would say, should she lose her dignity and temper in front of her administrator.

She followed the nurse into the elevator, staring longingly through the glass at the brief peeks of the world revealed as it traveled down from the twelfth floor to the first. The nurse led her through the maddening maze of shift change, the mass entrance and exodus of each day. T'Aryn rubbed the grit from her eyes and stumbled as she tripped on the fresh mopped floor.

"I am so sorry, Dr. T'Aryn." the nurse apologized again. "But you were the last resort. The chief insisted."

"It's all right." T'Aryn assured the nurse, who couldn't have been much older than her. She idly ran her fingers over her omni-tool, having forgotten to bring up the patient's chart after sending her message.

This is not a good idea, she warned herself. I am tired, cranky, and already under the microscope. Not to mention that my bedside manner suffers at the best of times, and this is already seeming to be a high profile case. An arrhythmia? Really?

T'Aryn gathered her composure and attempted to plaster a smile on her face. She opened the door to a private room, strange for an emergency room patient…and immediately caught her breath. The asari sitting on her exam table was breathtaking. Obviously into her matron years, she rested with a composed grace, ankles crossed, hands folded into her lap.

She looked up with a smile crossing her cobalt lips, a smile that reached her blue eyes…until she looked at T'Aryn. Then her expression faltered, her breath caught audibly in the small exam room, and she lifted a hand to her chest.

T'Aryn immediately keyed in her omni-tool and ran a scan of the asari's heart. It beat at a furious pace, but with no abnormal or erratic beats.

She rested her hand on the asari's shoulder, maintaining eye contact. "Are you all right, Matron?" she asked, cursing under her breath as she brought up the asari's chart.

T'Aryn's face drained of blood and her own heart began to hammer so loud she did not hear the response. Her career was over, done with, license stripped and tossed away, like it had never existed, never been fought for. She bit her lip and examined the chart, attempting desperately to ignore the name at the top.

Dr. Liara T'Soni.