Yes, this is going to be a love story at some point, I just don't know how fast it will happen. Certain people have to grow first.
Jinaya T'Sarev is young in the way Liara was young at the beginning of ME1, so somewhere between 60 and 90 years.
Jinaya T'Sarev scratches at a spot under her head crest as she stares at the list of supplies that Professor Solus has put in demand for his laboratory. His research in the cure for the genophage requires the strangest components. Sometimes she wonders if all these resources are even worth the promised results. Does the galaxy really need healthy, multiplying, demanding krogan?
Pulling her hand away from that spot under her fringe, she is taken aback when her fingers come back with bloody tips. She must have scratched at this spot too many times this past hour.
She sighs, shuts down the terminal and heads to the med-bay. The human doctor on the Normandy has an excellent reputation regarding all species, including asari. Maybe she knows why the skin under her crest keeps itching.
The CIC is incredibly busy, she has to wind her way through people in armor towards the med bay. Specialist Traynor nods at her in passing and she even catches a glimpse of the Commander before she disappears around the corridor to the war room. The med bay doors close behind her with a soft click and suddenly it's wonderfully quiet.
The medical officer, Dr. Chakwas, looks up from her terminal and looks over her with the expertise of a long served combat medic. When she sees no obvious injury, she smiles.
"Jinaya T'Sarev, what can I do for you?" She indicates a chair for her to sit on.
Jinaya sits down and closes her eyes for a moment. She can't feel the human doctor like she could feel another biotic but there is a calming vibrancy around the woman. She starts to relax, tension falling from her shoulders. "I have...," she opens her eyes to see the doctor watching her. She dips her head to let the woman look under her crest. "I have this itch here, it keeps coming back."
The doctor scans the area with her omni-tool but then puts it aside and looks directly at it, at her crest, her neck and finally studies her eyes like an elaborate painting.
"Have you had this kind of rash before?"
"I noticed it the first time after I came on the Normandy twelve day cycles ago."
"And before that? Did you have this kind of rash before?"
"Yes, I did." She thinks back to her work at the laboratories on Noveria, the rash had covered all of her neck then. "At my last job on the Citadel I only had it once, but on my job before that, it was pretty bad."
"That was at the Noveria laboratories, wasn't it?"
Of course the doctor knows about it. As rumor has it, the Normandy is part of the Shadowbroker's own network. They know everything on the Normandy.
"Yes, I worked with cell samples, documenting reactions to various tests. I didn't know what I was testing, it was all very secretive."
"Do you think it was rachni cells?"
"Probably. When the Alliance shut down the labs — "
The doctor chuckles. "That's a nice way of putting it."
Jinaya has to laugh. "Yes, after the labs exploded, Lorik Qui'in took control of the business and most of the laboratory staff was encouraged to seek employment elsewhere."
"You went to the Citadel then?" Chakwas asked.
"Yes, I worked as a dancer until I found a new position as a scientific assistant."
"Did the rash go away after you left Noveria?" Doctor Chakwas scans the rash again and applies a medi-gel patch to the bleeding area.
"Yes it did. Do you think it had something to do with the rachni cells?"
"I'm leaning more towards stress as a contributing factor."
"I... yes, back then maybe," Jinaya admits, "but I'm not stressed right now, quite the opposite."
Dr. Chakwas leans back and makes a short note on her pad. "Your current position is not exactly challenging for you, is it?"
"I'm a cell biologist, with years of experience and I'm currently checking requisition lists because someone filed me into administration and communications." Jinaya sighs.
Chakwas nods. "Boredom is also a stress factor. You are underchallenged and the frustration manifests in this rash. Why don't you work in Mordin's lab?"
"All positions are full. Professor Solus has all the people he needs and can fit into his laboratory already. Or maybe he just told me that because I'm too young..."
Dr. Chakwas laughs out. "I can assure you that is not the case. If he says he has all available positions filled, then that's the truth. Mordin has no concept of friendly lies. And your age is certainly no factor." She looks at her, seeming to think something over. "I know it's not exactly pioneering research but I could use a scientific and medical assistant for the med-bay. It's not quite what you're trained for but it may be more fulfilling than your current job."
"That would be wonderful, thank you Doctor Chakwas."
"Then I'll see you tomorrow here again, alright?"
The doctor is true to her promise and Jinaya finds her new work much more interesting and stimulating. She even likes working with the patients that come in. Treating war injuries is never an easy task, but she likes feeling useful, to do her part in this galaxy wide war.
She is organizing new samples from a mission, when the door opens and the gap is filled by Commander Shepard and the hulking mass of a krogan, leaning on her. The krogan is covered with red and orange blood and various other substances and groans when Shepard leads him over to a bed.
"I don't need this," the krogan complains.
He looks young, his headcrest is not fully formed yet.
"Shut up and let the doctor take care of you." Commander Shepard sounds like a mother when she speaks to the krogan, stern but loving.
"I'm a krogan, I'll heal. Just give me something to eat."
Shepard shakes her head and turns to Jinaya. "This is Grunt. He almost got killed by reaperfied rachni — "
"Didn't get killed..."
"I said almost. It was brutal enough to get everyone else killed." She looks at Grunt and the young krogan turns away.
"You did good, Grunt, and now we're going to make sure that you're going to be alright." She squeezes his arm until he looks at her. A moment passes between them. "I want you back in good shape, you hear me? You will do what Doctor Chakwas and her assistants say and take the time to heal, understood?"
"Yes, battlemaster," Grunt mumbles and it sounds like a stubborn boy who doesn't dare to talk back to his mother.
Jinaya can not quite grasp this interaction.
"I'm sorry, I don't know your name?"
She realizes after a moment of silence that Commander Shepard is talking to her.
"Oh, yes, I'm Jinaya T'Sarev, I only just recently got here."
"Take good care of him please, T'Sarev" Shepard says to her. "Rachni blood is nasty..."
"I know," Jinaya says, swallowing down her nervousness. It's not every day that you see the Commander Shepard at your workplace, especially not while taking care of a krogan like a mother would.
"I'll send someone over to pick up his armor," Shepard says, "let's see how the cleaning closet deals with rachni blood. Check him for chemical burns and don't listen to him when he says that he doesn't need any help."
"I am krogan!" Grunt hollers from the stretcher but he doesn't make any attempt of getting up.
Shepard grins. "Isn't he adorable?" she says quietly. She winks at Jinaya and exits the med-bay, leaving Jinaya in contemplation if it is even possible, in this universe, to call a krogan adorable.
Doctor Chakwas comes in with her field bag, having taken care of minor injuries in the shuttle bay. "Hello Grunt," she says, completely unimpressed by the massive body in her med-bay.
"Hello Doctor Chakwas," Grunt says sheepishly. Jinaya's mind is spinning, the krogan looks downright intimidated.
Doctor Chakwas puts on gloves and protective gear, indicating to Jinaya to do the same. "I heard you saved Commander Shepard and her squad today," she says to Grunt.
The young krogan makes a proud hum. "It was a hard battle, we fought hundreds of rachni. Aralakh Company held them off as long as possible."
They start peeling off the bloodied armor. In some places the rachni acid has caused it to fuse with Grunt's skin. But he doesn't complain, not even making a sound. Doctor Chakwas keeps talking to him. "Aralakh Company fought a great battle today. I'm sorry your friends didn't make it."
"They were not my friends," Grunt says quietly.
"They were your team and they fought with you, that's pretty close to being friends."
Another piece of armor comes off and Jinaya gets a container to store the pieces in. Grunt is quiet but his blue eyes are bright and alert, watching her.
"Hm," Doctor Chakwas says, scanning over Grunt's body. Jinaya halts in her movements, holding a piece of a shattered gauntlet up that still sticks to the skin on one end. It's never good if a doctor says 'hm' in that tone.
"What is it?"
"This injury is far more extensive than I thought at first. Even rapid krogan healing will not fix this in a few hours." She looks up to Grunt, who watches her quietly. "You will have to stay in my med-bay for at least three days and even afterwards you will have to take it easy for a while."
"Rachni," Grunt growls.
"Indeed," Doctor Chakwas says, while using a plasma scalpel to cut the gauntlet Jinaya holds up, away from the skin. "Your bones will heal quickly but your skin... We will clean up this acidic blood but your skin will have to secrete the remaining traces it on its own. Cleaning this will be painful."
"Just do it."
Jinaya cleans the blood off him with water and uses a mild solvent to remove the acid. She expects a protest any moment from Grunt but the krogan is a model patient, following every instruction, turning to give them access to all sides without complaint. Only the occasional rapid blinking of his eyes convince her that krogan are not immune to pain.
It takes them hours to remove all the acid. By now, the novelty of working on a naked krogan has worn off and Jinaya only stares a little at what krogan call their quad. Her experience with krogan is limited to a few lap dances she gave when she worked as a dancer and from what she can tell, Grunt's quad and penis are of a healthy normal krogan size.
She starts cleaning around the sensitive area while Doctor Chakwas prepares a medi-gel solution to apply to his skin later on. She is careful but she treats this area just like any other part of his body, working the solvent into the creases of his skin and removing the dissolving acid with a sponge.
A hiss makes her look up towards Grunt's face. It's the first time he voices any discomfort.
"I'm sorry, I have to do this." She tries to smile at him.
He sighs and nods.
As she is cleaning, she keeps glancing back to his face. His eyes are closed, his soft headcrest drawn low in a frown. Except for the occasional twitch when she touches his penis, he stays still until Jiyana is done.
"I'm done with the cleaning there now," she says. "I'm going to clean up to your chest now."
Grunt visibly relaxes.
Doctor Chakwas returns and begins to slather the cleaned parts of his body with the medi-gel solution. It takes them another hour until they're finally done. Doctor Chakwas has Grunt moved over on a gel-pack bed and the krogan settles into the adjusting cushion with a sigh.
"I'm going to give you an IV sedative," Doctor Chakwas says, "but I'm afraid it won't do much. Your metabolism resorbs everything so fast, I can hardly keep a steady dosage up."
"I am krogan, I don't need it," Grunt says but he doesn't protest when the doctor lays the IV and attaches the tube to the monitoring console.
Jinaya follows Doctor Chakwas to her desk and watches her hesitate to input the dosage parameters.
"I don't know..." she turns to Jinaya, "can you believe that the medical guidelines basically say 'use horse dosage, triple, and see what happens' in nice, medical terms?"
"I imagine not many people have thought about medical procedures for krogan," Jinaya says.
"No, definitely not. But I can't just watch him being in pain, krogan or not, he feels pain just like any other creature in this universe." She types in a few numbers and the monitoring console at the other end of the room beeps in acknowledgment. "We'll use this as a starting point. Can you watch over him for any negative reaction, while I research this some more?"
"Of course, Doctor." Jinaya nods and goes back to the gel-pack bed, pulling a chair close so that she can see Grunt's face and the monitoring console at the same time. It looks like he's sleeping but then his eyes open when she sits down and she is startled by the bright blue of his eyes, staring at her unblinking.
"How do you feel?" she asks.
"Don't give me that 'I am krogan' narc. How do you feel?"
There is a long pause where Jinaya wonders if Grunt has never thought about what he feels of if he's lacking the words to describe it. And then he surprises her.
"By the cleaning? I'm sorry I had to touch you there..."
Grunt chuckles. "No, I liked that part. But... do you know who I am?"
"Apart from your name being Grunt?"
"I'm the perfect krogan, purely bred in a tank. My creator wanted to make the strongest krogan and I am the result."
Jinaya stares for a moment. She has heard about the tank-born krogan but she expected him to look different. Like a brutal warmachine, not like a young krogan with bright blue eyes. "Are you humiliated because you got injured?"
"I lost my whole squad."
"They were not my friends, but they were my squad and my responsibility. Urdnot Wrex trusted Arlakh Company with me."
Jinaya thinks back to the battle scarred krogan she has seen in Mordin's lab occasionally. Not the person she would like to disappoint either. "But it was a brave battle and you saved Commander Shepard."
The krogan grins widely. "Yes, I saved my battlemaster."
"I think she was very proud of you," Jinaya says. The monitor console shows a slight reaction to the sedative and Grunt's features seem to relax. As much as she can tell with a krogan. She has to admit that she has never worried about how a krogan in distress would look.
"Thank you," Grunt says, looking into her eyes.
"For saying that my battlemaster was proud of me."
"She really was."
"And that washing was kind of nice too."
Jinaya snorts in surprise and Grunt joins her in her laughter with a deep, rumbling chuckle.
She laughs, more than she has laughed in months until she sees Grunt's eyes drooping. As she watches him, quietly chuckling to herself, he falls asleep with a smile on his wide face.
She watches him as he sleeps, occasionally looking at the readout on the monitor. Maybe there is a point to Professor Solus and his research in healing the genophage. Doesn't someone like Grunt deserve a normal life just like anybody else?
Thanks to LauraEMoriarty for betaing!