Mordin glanced up as the doors to the tech lab opened. "Shepard. How can I help?" he greeted the Commander with a smile.
"I just wanted to check in on you," she replied. "Have you got a minute to talk?"
The salarian paused for a moment before walking around the table to speak to Shepard without distractions. "Actually, wanted to talk. Medical matters. Aware that mission is dangerous; different species react differently to stress. Aware you come by a great deal. Have had other species become attracted to me before. Awkward. Not interested."
For a brief moment, Shepard just looked at him blankly, then laughed quietly. "I'm afraid you've misunderstood the situation, Mordin."
The scientist seemed to brighten a bit. "Ah, good! Appreciate clarification. Cross-species body language awkward. Movements of your lower eyelids suggestive by salarian standards. Glad you stopped by; cleared the air."
"Have you really had members of other species hit on you, too?" the Commander asked as she sat down on one of the many tables in the lab. Mordin had gone back to his work and spoke without looking up at her.
"Constantly. Very awkward." Shepard nodded in agreement, even though Mordin wasn't looking at her to see it. "Skin tone apparently attractive by turian standards. Subset of krogan sexual deviants enjoy salarian flexibility – more cartilage in skeletal structure. Asari offers… intriguing, actually. Wonder why. Transspecies pheromones unlikely to work. Must be neurochemical."
If he'd been looking, he would have noticed how on-edge Shepard was. She was tense, looking at him with a vague glimmer of confusion and hope in her eyes. Her voice came out sounding slightly meek. "So… you don't feel sexual attraction to anyone?"
"No. Salarian reproduction different. Very little sex drive. Intercourse mostly a matter of reproductive duty," the scientist explained.
Shepard's eyes fell to the floor again as she clasped her hands on her lap, and muttered disappointedly to nobody in particular, "But I'm not a salarian."
Mordin glanced up briefly before going back to his work. "Pardon?"
"It's not normal for a human to not want…" Commander Shepard trailed off.
The salarian muttered quietly to himself. "Certainly fully mature. Last medical examination showed normal hormone levels. Biographical information contained no reference to sexual trauma." He took a deep breath and continued at his normal volume as he spoke directly to her, without even looking up from his work. "Always been this way? Asexuality known to occur in other species, humans included. Rare, yes. Not unheard of, though."
"Asexuality?" Shepard asked. "There's… a name for what I am?" Her voice wavered slightly, then stabilized. "I'm- I'm not the only one? I'm not…?"
That broke Mordin from his concentration. It was in that moment that the salarian realized that Commander Shepard had gone through her entire life not knowing why she was the way she was, likely believing – possibly even being told – that it somehow meant she was in some way ill or even damaged. "Shepard!" he said, looking up at her with a pitying frown.
She was still sitting on the table with her hands clasped, staring at him. As always, the Commander kept a valiantly calm face, but the corners of her mouth were twitching slightly. Mordin walked briskly over to her and put his hands on her arms, looking her directly in the eyes and smiling reassuringly.
"Nothing wrong with you, Commander. Orientation like any other. Not sick. Not broken."
And it was like a weight had lifted from her shoulders as a smile spread on her still-quivering lips. "Thank you."