Dr. Chakwas flitted in and out, now showing up for a drink or brainstorming a set list at a rare lunch, now popping in to practice for an hour, otherwise disappearing for days. It was no wonder so many had shown up to celebrate her birthday. She’d treated soldiers on nearly every ship in the fleet helped members of several species over the previous twenty-odd years.
Many of them kept in touch and the doctor followed on-going cases when they docked on the Citadel. Several high-ranking Turians and Salarians owed her their lives. At least one Asari refused to see any other doctor. That all made for a lot of demands on her time.
Thankfully Chakwas knew every song they played inside and out and had the talent to improvise on the spot. Rehearsals always seemed a little smoother with her throaty laugh jollying the rest through a passage that fell apart or a solo that went south. When she was singing nothing brought her down for long and she kept the rest of them up with her.
Kaidan knew she’d seen plenty of combat and lost enough soldiers to fill a barracks. She told them one night that the music had been the only thing to get her through sleepless nights spent tying off arteries or triaging the influx from the latest battle.
Anderson reminded her of the time she’d been belting out New York, New York, barely audible over the explosions and the cries of the wounded and they both smiled ruefully at the memory. “It sure cheered up the men,” he said, “but I don’t even think you knew you were doing it.”
“I didn’t, until half of them joined in the chorus,” she answered. They all laughed but the cheer drained quickly from her face. “That was a rough one,” she said simply. She stared into her drink, lost in thought. The men all sat quietly for a minute, remembering or imagining the sorts of things she must have seen.
Chakwas shook herself a little and said briskly, “So, Irving Berlin.” The rest turned to her. “We’re missing a whole swath of his best songs.”
The chatter resumed, fueled by their shared love of music and a round of drinks sent over by an admiring group of engineers for whom they’d performed the week before.
Kaidan couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so at ease with a group of people. He’d been an outcast, as a child, his biotics not only rare but loosely controlled. When he’d been sent to Brain Camp as a teen, biotic boot camp run by the Turian equivalent of a drill sergeant, he’d hoped that he’d finally found his place, surrounded by kids just like him.
But Vyrnnus, the sadistic instructor, had made what should have strengthened and focused the young humans into a tour of hell. The teenagers clung to one another more in fear than camaraderie and quickly formed intense relationships. It may have made them stronger, in learning to protect one another, but in the end…
Kaidan shook his head, looking around his apartment in an attempt to derail the memories. BAaT had ended when he’d killed Vyrnnus defending a girl with whom he thought he’d been in love. For a few days she’d been everything his overheated, seventeen-year-old imagination could have wanted and then they’d all been sent home to different parts of galaxy. She’d never responded to a single message and he’d never seen her again.
It wasn’t something he liked to remember, though the surge of power had opened his eyes to the capacity that had mostly lain dormant inside him. For a couple of years he’d been tentative, too afraid to really use his biotics at all. Losing control and killing a person will do that to you, Kaidan mused.
Yet no matter how far down he kept his head the government kept sniffing around. Finally he bowed to the inevitable and joined the Alliance, figuring he might as well get paid for their attentions. In training he found that combat training had given him an outlet for his pent-up frustration and energy.
The crippling migraines became less frequent and he discovered a fascination with technical repairs and improvements that had been overshadowed by that damned implant. It was with soldiers and other techs that he found a place. Biotics no longer defined him, a relief after being told most of his life that it was what made him special, if in a dangerous and freakish way.
Through all of these transitions and changes, from the loneliest to the most frightening times, he’d had his trumpet. It had become a lucky charm of sorts, the only constant in a galaxy that changed faster than Ella Fitzgerald could scat. It never failed to soothe him, even if only for a short time.
To have found these people, to share this love with them meant more to Kaidan than he often cared to admit. Training new recruits had brought contentment but not happiness. Despite the growing percentage of biotics in the Alliance his L2 implant still marked him out as different and the power he commanded frightened people when they heard of it. He’d long held himself back, the command structure of the military providing a convenient excuse for not growing too close to people.
He found himself talking to Anderson, in particular, and the others about things he never thought he’d tell anyone. When he had to beg off from a practice session because his head simply couldn’t take it none of them pitied him or acted like he’d explode in a wash of uncontrolled power the next time he saw them.
They accepted his biotics as just another talent he had, one less important to them than his ability to play from memory the melody of a song more than two hundred years old. Udina’s machinations and the tepid response of the Turians meant little in the face of that. Kaidan found himself wishing at times that the new ship would never be completed, that politics and engineering problems would keep it forever short of actual flight.
The musical interlude had to end someday, however. He told himself that on his next assignment he’d hide himself less, let the people around him in a little more. Maintaining that distance, all that protective coloration, took an awful lot of energy. Chakwas, Anderson, Joker, and the rest had convinced him that maybe it wasn't the best way to live.
The Swing of Things Chapter List