John Shepard had never seen the doctor drunk.
In truth, he'd never seen Dr. Chakwas do much of anything besides, well, doctoring. Needless to say, seeing her slung back in her chair with her sensible, regulation shoes propped on her desk, high ball in one hand and a display pad in the other was really...weird. The angle from the entryway was bad, too much glare from the low-lamps over the beds to actually make out what she was looking at, but it really wasn't his business.
She hadn't noticed him enter. Her wrist rolled, sloshed the liquid in a lazy motion. After a moment, Shepard cleared his throat.
"Ah," Chakwas announced flatly and brought the glass to her lips. She drained the remaining liquid and set it blindly on her desk. Once her hand was freed from the weight, she broke her stare and turned to look at him. There was something a little slower, a little off about how her blue eyes locked on him, like she were paying more attention than usual. "Is there something you need, Commander?"
"Wanted to get your opinion on that last mission," Shepard prefaced. It wasn't uncommon, though he didn't usually seek tactical advice from his CMO. She stared at him for a long, awkward period of time before setting the screen in her hand onto the desk. The display had long passed into grey mode and was blank as it mirrored the low lights above.
"Straight to the point, Commander," Chakwas answered. Her feet dropped off the table in a plain motion and she swiveled in her chair. "Come in," she demanded idly.
"That sounds like an order?" Shepard jested lightly. The atmosphere in here was strange, it wouldn't hurt to lighten the mood. Unfortunately, while it brought a smile to the blonde woman's lips, it didn't much alter her demeanor as she stood and moved alongside her desk.
Good god, but she was sloshed. He could see it in the limp swaying of her hands and the slightly off kilter fall of her steps. She propped her hip against the side of the table and braced her weight there.
"Well, Commander, I can't let a little thing like the chain of command cow me too badly," Chakwas returned and lifted her right hand. She curled her index finger at him, a surprisingly childish way to motion him over, but he decided not to comment. The door closed silently in his wake and Chakwas let out a plosive breath. "So why do you want my opinion, Commander? I'm not exactly part of your ground crew."
"I value your input," Shepard answered honestly and fell into a listless parade stance. He wasn't sure why, but he'd become accustomed to standing like this in her presence, rank notwithstanding. "You have a very...humanitarian perspective."
"Because I'm a doctor," Chakwas clarified and hmm'ed at him.
"Exactly," Shepard agreed.
"Are you sure you want to know my opinion, Commander?" Chakwas prompted and arched a brow. Her lips pursed lightly and Shepard stood up a little straighter. There was something about her, the set of her features, the lilt of her voice, that made him feel like a cadet. After wiping out a couple of geth hoards and receiving the accolades of the Citadel, it was strangely comforting to realize how easily he could be humbled.
"Because," Chakwas continued and took a step closer, maneuvered along the perimeter of her desk until she was leaning back against it, looking at him with that vague, slightly bemused expression. "It sounds to me like you're looking for validation from a source more humane than yourself."
Shepard blinked and opened his mouth to reply, but Chakwas held up a hand in a silent motion. He took the hint and waited for her to finish.
"Did I ever tell you, Commander Shepard, just why I joined the Alliance Medical Corps?" Chakwas prompted and folded her arms across her torso, just beneath her breasts. Her head tilted to the side and she stared at him slowly, evenly. He wasn't sure if it was the liquor or just her personality to blame. "Well, it doesn't matter if I did, because I'm going to tell you again and you're going to listen because you listen to everything, soak it all up like a polite little sponge."
Chakwas pushed off from her desk and stepped forward. Her steps were even, almost cautious, definitely careful. She moved just to the side as she approached him, her arms still folded. When she started to talk, her steps slowed.
"I had this crazy notion when I was a young girl," she began and looked away from him as she moved to his side. "Naieve, perhaps, that I would be able to make a real difference, that I would go to space and save the lives of brave men who fight for our safety, our liberty."
"You do," Shepard interrupted and she stopped, cast a sidelong glance flavored with just a tinge of warning. "Sorry, go ahead."
"I thought, for certain, I would be saving brave soldiers with enormous hearts and sensitive souls," she continued as she passed behind him, moved to circle around. "That I could bring some measure of peace to the restless and look in their kind, beautiful eyes and find something there."
She moved around him and he caught a glance of her face as she did. Her expression was more than a little sad, her eyes focused on the far wall. When she returned her vision to him, her soft, doctorly smile returned.
"Needless to say, the Allied Navy is not comprised of a significant number of kind-eyed, sensitive soldiers," she announced dryly. Shepard's brow furrowed as he looked at her. She hadn't moved back and was staring up at him with that infinitely patient look on her face. If her story had been didactic in any way, he'd missed the point.
"Go...on?" Shepard hazarded and Chakwas laughed outright. It was a loose, cheerful sound, one he'd never heard her make.
"Oh Commander," Chakwas said cheerfully as she took a deep breath. The smile on her face was natural and stuck. In a sloppy motion he hadn't expected, she reached up and patted his cheek. "Sometimes I forget just how young you are." Her hand lingered on the side of his face, further compounding his confusion.
"Goodnight, Commander," Chakwas said with a light sigh and stepped around him.
"Doctor Chakwas," Shepard said abruptly and broke his self-imposed parade stance. She was at the door, but she stopped as he said her name. He wasn't used to being brushed off, mid-conversation.
"Yes, Commander?" Chakwas responded but she didn't turn.
"Did you find any soldiers that fit the bill?" Shepard questioned a bit awkwardly.
"Yes, Commander," she answered as she stepped through the doors and left Medical. The door closed and Shepard stared at it for a moment. That had been...strange and more than a little intense. He hadn't really intended to have this sort of interaction, but it had been...useful, probably.
He checked the back room but, apparently, Liara had gone to sleep. As he walked out, however, he spied the dark display on Chakwas's desk. He knew it was none of his business, but he really couldn't resist stopping to investigate. After that conversation, his curiosity definitely had the better of him.
As he picked up the piece of display glass, the sensors in the plate activated, stirred the display from its slumber, and the surface jumped back to life. There was a picture on top of the reports of the last mission, but it wasn't surveillence. It was a picture of him, taken just before the Eden Prime mission. It was innocuous, just some boring candid shot. Why would Chakwas be staring at a picture of him?
Without touching anything else, Shepard put the display back down and left.
That was a conversation for another time.