Data Log #866
It's Kasumi's fault. No, Not true. Immature and wrongful misplace of blame. Better than that. My fault for letting Ms. Goto's proding and goading get under skin.
In retrospect, might have been a little... abrupt. More so than usual. Should have at least let the Commander begin the conversation she intended when arrived in lab. Perhaps her coming to lab to speak had nothing to do with any kind of romantic interest as Kasumi asserted. Did not offer up much after mention of awkwardness and lack of interest with previous interested parties, besides appreciation for letting her down gently. Did I? Am no longer sure. In any case, she left shortly thereafter.
Perhaps in attempt to deter any interest, made her uncomfortable? Tried to suggest that dealing with stress through sex entirely healthy and normal outlet for her species, simply not the same for my own, or personally.
Irrelevant in any case. Cannot be interested in me.
Wonder why felt it was necessary to bring up the possibility and lack of interest then...
Data Log #867
Must concede in discussing possibility of sex or a relationship with Shepard, subconsciously registered at least possible she may be interested in me. Could simply be a cultural misunderstanding of course, differences in cues, etc. Probably for the best to have turned her down though. If any feelings for me, can only be idealized, not based in fact. Cannot be what she will eventually want or need out of a relationship. Best to establish as much now.
So why am I still thinking about it? And why do I feel a sense of loss?
“Got a minute to talk?”
The words are out of Shepard's mouth before she can stop them. The same ones she’s used to start up a conversation with him a dozen times before, hell when looking for an opening with any number of her crew. It’s easy to fall back on the old standby now, save the carefully plotted out and measured words for later, for the real purpose of her coming back in here after any hopes of their perhaps being or pursuing something more with the ship’s resident scientist was quickly and efficiently shot down.
She’s still not entirely sure this is a conversation that she wants to have, but the cold hard truth is that it would be ridiculous for the Commander of the ship to avoid the tech lab and a member of her crew for the duration of the rest of their fight against the Collectors. More importantly she’s a grown fucking woman, and a respected soldier in the Alliance Navy, she’s a big enough girl to handle being rejected. She is. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a few things she’d like clarified. Just for the record.
Per his usual level of productivity the Salarian hardly even looks up from whatever it is he is currently inputting into his omni-tool before he’s nodding. Really, Shepard thinks, she’s probably as familiar with his horns as any other facial feature as a result, but Mordin finishes whatever thought he was in the middle of, and makes the time to meet her gaze, just as he always has every occasion she has come to speak with him before now. Will be here when you need me, really isn’t just words to him. And for an alien that speaks as rapid-fire as he does, it’s an impressive feat that she can’t recall a single instance in which he’s said something he didn’t actually mean. It’s one of the many things she’s long since come to appreciate about him.
“Of course, Shepard. Expected this. Realized conversation yesterday may have seemed a bit.. abrupt. Apologies. Have been approached by several species before, but never human. Each species and individual reacts differently. Not always good at reading social cues, Salarians primarily a more solitary and direct species than many other races. Bit like Elcor. Suspected you might still have questions or more you wished to discuss. Awkward, but will do my best. Admit I still do not entirely understand myself; wanting me is- illogical.”
“Why is that?”
“Old. Very old. Many younger crew members, your own species even, potentially more compatible, could offer you more than I can.”
“C'mon Mordin, how old can you be?”
“Approaching mid-thirties in your Earth-years.”
“But that’s not so bad, that would only make you a few years older than me.”
The Salarian shakes his head, “Was speaking in relative terms. Age gap between us irrelevant. Salarian lifespan, very limited. Advanced metabolism, reduced need for sleep… great for efficiency, but takes its toll, body runs harder, wears out faster. Even in the best case scenario would have few years to offer you. Would do more harm than good.”
“Healthy Salarian can live to be forty Earth-years, if lucky. Forced to retire from STG because of age. Expected this will be my last mission. Prepared. Proud. If we do not survive, will have been grateful and honored to have served with you, and at least die for something meaningful,” the doctor shrugs.
“That’s the best you can hope for at this point? A good death? That sounds more like a Krogan, or maybe a Turian.”
“Everything dies sometime. Would love to be remembered for more discoveries, scientific breakthroughs, but must also be realistic.”
“So turning me down yesterday- that wasn’t lack of interest?”
“In sex? Yes. Very little interest. Inter-species breeding impossible. Old to have any offspring anyway. Low sex-drive, minimal interest in sex. Have other preferred methods of stress-relief," he nods. "But lack of interest in you? Never. Endlessly interesting. Could spend an entire Salarian lifespan studying and probably not completely know or understand you, Shepard. Would like to,” Mordin adds sincerely, before shaking his head. “But remaining time insufficient. Perhaps if we had met sooner… As I said, if intended to try human, would try you.”
The Salarian, who thus far seems to have been using his lab table as a kind of (albeit perhaps unconscious) barrier between the two of them, steps out from behind it and begins pacing a little now, but the Commander can’t be certain whether that’s some sort of tell that the professor is nervous, or simply a way of expelling some of his what seems to be boundless energy. It’s hard seeing him as mobile, as capable, as full of life as he always seems to be as anything approaching elderly, or nearing the end of his life.
“No immediate interest in sex, limited remaining years… letting you down gently as possible only logical conclusion. Allows you to find more suitable companionship that could share more of your lifespan.
"Logic isn’t the only factor at work here, Mordin.” And being the same species hardly guarantees compatibility, Shepard thinks as the alien nods again.
“True. Stress. Hormones-“ She sighs.
“I know you’re a scientist, and you’re probably the most logical and pragmatic guy I know-“ she begins, trying to find a way of voicing the frustration she feels.
“Thank you, Shepard.”
“But just for a minute, do you think we can think and talk about this in less scientific terms? I care about you, Mordin.”
“Of course. Obvious. You care very much for all your crew that serve under you, human and alien, even helped members of Cerberus- Jacob with his father, Miranda with her sister, Mess Sergeant, Engineering wonder twins- despite distrust of Illusive man. Admirable.”
“No, as a member of my team, sure, but that’s not what I meant. -Maybe some chemicals from my brain and glands have something to do with it, but I’d like to think it’s more, that I know myself better than that. This isn't something that's come on suddenly, or just the stress of everything coming to a head with us making a run for the Omega 4 relay soon. Mordin, I- I've fallen in love with you.”
“Oh,” the doctor manages, abruptly stopping his pacing to meet her blue eyes that search his own, before resuming his pacing, if anything a little more enthusiastically than before, fingers moving through the air at his sides as if typing, or calculating on some invisible device only he can see. “Hmm, potentially problematic,” he mumbles softly. Yeah, Shepard thinks, problematic sounds about right.
“Look, I’d appreciate it if this doesn’t get around to the rest of the crew, but the fact of the matter is I’ve died once already, and even if we win this fight against the Collectors, it’s only a matter of time before the Reapers come for all of us. I don’t fool myself in thinking I might live to collect any kind of pension. Humans might have the potential to live one hundred and a half years, but I don’t expect to. Maybe that makes all of this seem a bit impulsive, but it feels like it really brings into focus what’s important. I haven’t had a lot of choice in any of this, nobody’s asking what I want, I suppose that’s small potatoes compared to the fate of galaxies. But I’d like to spend whatever time I have left with the people I care about, with or without sex..”
The Salarian is still studying her, his expression essentially unchanged and yet the Commander feels sure there’s something of a hint of surprise and disbelief there. At the very least this is the longest she’s ever heard him remain quiet. Even alone in his lab, before he’s caught on to her presence he hums, sings, talks, even argues with himself, hearing him speechless like this- it’s a bit unsettling.
“I understand your reasoning- for turning me down. You don’t have to worry about me pressuring you. I can maintain professionalism and respect your choice. I just- I guess I just needed you to know it wouldn’t have been just about trying a Salarian for me,” She manages, before turning to take her leave. It’s not the answer that she hoped for, but she hadn’t really come with the idea that she might change his mind about it all, so much as a need to clear the air a bit between them, and get this off her chest.
“Shepard,” he calls as she’s walking away, and she has never heard him speak so purposefully slowly; like he’s afraid, unsure, and even if every bone in her body, every ounce of self-preservation is urging her to flee she stops and turns around to face him once more. “Scientist, soldier, doctor… I have hurt many in my lifetime. Some on purpose- enjoyed some of them, some accidents or unavoidable- learned from those. Never wanted you to be either. Am trying to protect you, but seems I am making it worse.”
His lips curl into something of a frown, before he continues. “Salarians don’t have sex,” he blurts out awkwardly, hands clasping each other as fingers wring together. “-We are bred through careful politics and genetic selection, eggs fertilized after female lays them- no intercourse as humans understand it required. Bred to be a population of 80-90% males. Salarians don’t generally have…”
Large, dark eyes blink closed, as he draws a small breath shaking his head, before beginning again. “I don’t know how to have the kind of relationship you are suggesting,” he confesses. It's not the right moment: now when everything is up in the air and nothing about what is and isn’t appropriate or comfortable between them is certain anymore, but having so rarely seen him like this before (perhaps only once when they found that dead female Krogan while looking for Maelon)- she wants nothing more than to pull him into her arms and hold him.
"And I don’t have a lot of time left to learn,” he adds, his voice almost a whisper. “I- I would disappoint you. Wouldn’t be able to give you what you want.”
He still hasn’t opened his eyes, as if the words he needs, or the courage is somehow hidden behind his eyelids, or maybe in opening his eyes again it will make all of this that much more real, even more terrifying than admitting he is fearful not of the Collectors, or the Reapers, but in something so small, so ordinary as disappointing and failing her. So she closes the gap between them, knowing as she does so even with his eyes still closed that he will hear her boots approaching, feel that tell-tale slight static tingle of her biotics. Warm hands envelope his own, stopping their wringing.
“Mordin,” Shepard whispers softly, soothingly, thumbs caressing the back of his hands, willing him to open his eyes and look at her again. “You could never disappoint me. Never. You are what I want. Whatever that means, whatever you are comfortable with giving me, however much time we have- I’ll take it,” she promises softly. “Even if it’s just this. Just someone to trust and talk to. Two friends who care about each other.”
“But-“ he protests.
“What do you want," the Commander interrupts.
“Stupid,” Mordin mutters, scolding himself and shaking his head. “Can’t have it.”
“Mordin,” Shepard smiles patiently, squeezing his fingers where they rest in her hands. “You’re the smartest guy I know, but you’re allowed to be or to want something a little stupid now and again,” she soothes. The scientist huffs out a disbelieving laugh, a frown twisting over his features.
“More time,” he admits with a laugh that isn’t actually the slightest bit amused. “I want more time.”
“And what would you do with it?”
“Study and develop practical understanding of love and human relationships," he admits softly with a twitch of his lips she thinks might be a smile, and she can't be certain, but the Commander thinks maybe, just maybe his skin flushed a little with this admission. "Maybe write a paper," he adds as a joke to ease the mounting tension between them, with that hint of an amused smirk on the doctor's thin lips that she's come to associate exclusively with him.
"With me," she asks, just to be sure they are both talking about the same thing.
"With you," Mordin nods.
"You're right. You can't have more time," she replies, and Mordin nods sadly. "But I'm willing to fight for, and steal as much time as we can get if you are."
"Would like that," he nods with a small smile, and for the first time his hands finally wrap and close around hers.
"So would I," Shepard smiles softly. "So, what sort of tests are you working and waiting on today?"
Data Log #868
Remember to buy Miss Goto something nice at next outpost or spaceport we visit.