As Dr. Chakwas’s birthday drew near their nerves began to show, however. Everyone started making mistakes more frequently and Kaidan thought Jenkins might break down altogether when they met for a rehearsal the night before the party. “I’ve never played in front of strangers,” he confided afterward when he, Kaidan, and Anderson had stopped for a drink. “I mean, the families of my friends or the crew on-board, sure, but no one who wouldn’t have clapped no matter how badly I squeaked my reed.” He looked positively nauseous.
“It’s a birthday party, not a concert hall,” Kaidan reassured him. “Everyone is there to have fun. They’ll be so surprised to see us they’ll give us a round of applause if we fall off the stage much less play well.”
“I suppose,” Jenkins responded, unconvinced. He stared glumly into his glass. “I just wish I wouldn’t have to look at them all staring at me while I'm trying to play.”
“No problem,” Kaidan retorted. ”We’ll blindfold you.” Anderson burst out laughing. “No, I’m perfectly serious. We’ll have to lead him out on stage but it’s not like he has to read music.” After a couple of drinks it started to make sense to Anderson, as well, and the three parted ways with Jenkins believing he really could make it through the performance. Kaidan had promised to find something classy to use for a blindfold when he picked up his tuxedo.
Chakwas had had a heck of a time finding a tailor who could make five monkey suits—cummerbunds, ties, and all—in a month. The Alliance uniform shop didn’t have time and no one else wanted to commit to the big job of fitting humans for so many layers. But it seemed she and Joker could do anything when they set their minds to it and they finally found a Salarian willing to tackle it. He had done a fantastic job from the old-fashioned vids Kaidan had provided for examples. Everyone had been to a few fittings and he could hardly wait to see what they all looked like together.
The tailor would likely have some leftover fabric from cutting out the pieces. It couldn’t take long to double over a length of it and sew the edges. Kaiden expected to pay a little extra but it would be worth every credit to see the look on Joker’s face. It was about time someone surprised the pilot for once.
Kaidan had begun to wonder if the man could stand up at all. He was always at his keyboard before anyone else arrived for a practice session and either didn’t show up for drinks or managed in some unseen way to arrive there first and be sitting in a booth when everyone showed despite having left last. If he hadn’t know that teleportation was impossible Kaidan would have thought it the only way Joker could get around without anyone ever seeing him move.
Maybe one day he’d ask but so far even the gentlest prying from Jenkins or the lightest joke from Anderson had been met with biting sarcasm. No one thought it was important enough for them to rock the boat when their debut loomed ever closer. Joker knew his stuff and played like a demon. Everything else was embellishment.
All the next morning Kaidan found himself distracted by thoughts of the concert. He had the afternoon free for the final fitting and a little warm-up and snack before heading for the party. Though he felt butterflies stirring they grew more from excitement than nerves. He knew that the group could be great, that their passion for classical human music would carry through to the audience from all over the galaxy, regardless of how new the sound may be to its listeners. The group simply needed to focus on the songs and on each other. If being blindfolded helped Jenkins do that then blind he would be.
When midday finally came Kaidan wolfed his lunch and headed for the tailor’s shop in Zakera Ward. He arrived just as Pressly stepped out of a dressing room with a distinguished air. The cut of the coat emphasized his long, gangly legs but the pants were cut generously enough to prevent his looking like an exceedingly well-dressed stork. He must have polished the bald dome of his head because it shone above the white fringe around his ears. Kaidan whistled long and low. “Looking sharp!”
Pressly twirled, arms outstretched. “I only hope I look as good in mine,” Kaidan said, clapping lightly. The tailor stretched his thin lips into proud grin as he presented Kaidan with a pile of clothes. He ducked into the changing room and pulled on the various pieces. Despite the shirt buttoning backwards and the material being somewhat unearthly, the tux felt almost like the one he had worn for his parents’ twenty-fifth anniversary party back in Vancouver years earlier. The high waist of the jacket made it feel so much different from his dress uniform, more flexible somehow. He admired the sharp creases of the pants and edges of the lapels.
His brightly shined, pointed shoes peeped out from the perfectly-cuffed pants. At least those the military men had already owned. He tossed aside the curtain with a flourish just in time to surprise Jenkins as he arrived for his own appointment. The youngster had never worn one before so Pressly and Kaidan helped him get everything arranged. When he was finally dressed all of the way to the nines, he stared into the mirror.
“Wow.” Normally his round face and spiky blonde hair made him look all of twelve but in the evening clothes he seemed older, more confident. The tailcoat outlined the strong body of a soldier from which his child-like face usually distracted people. He smiled for a moment before his face fell. “Can't I just watch from the floor?” he asked uneasily.
Kaidan clapped his shoulder. “We need you. Let's see about that blindfold.” He explained what he wanted to the Salarian. In a matter of minutes a perfectly-matched strip of cloth lay over his shoulder, made to measure and sewn to points on the ends. Anderson showed up just as the others were about to give up waiting for him and Joker. He changed quickly while Kaidan asked the tailor for Joker's tux to take to the party for him. If they didn't leave soon he'd hardly have time to stop at home for his trumpet much less something to eat. The Salarian answered that Joker had been in well before the others and had already retrieved his clothes.
I should have known, Kaidan thought to himself. He shook his head and returned to the dressing room to change. He didn't want to walk around the Citadel in his evening clothes. He might ruin the surprise.
The Swing of Things Chapter List