A/N: My entry for VaguelyFamiliar's humorfic challenge from my forums. References below.

This story was inspired by and dedicated to qt3.14159. Love ya!


The Crazies Only Come Out at Night

by Trillian4210

Nar Shaddaa, cockpit of the Ebon Hawk, around four-ish in the afternoon…

"Hey, wanna hear a joke?" Atton Rand shuffled the cards and dealt two face down on the table—one to T3-M4, the other to himself. "What do you call a mute, toothless woman with four tits instead of two?"

"Dwap?"

"Evolution." Atton chortled and took a sip from his ale bottle.

T3-M4 beeped uncertainly. It had not been programmed to appreciate sentient, nor juvenile humor.

"Are you ready?" Atton asked. He licked the back of one card and slapped it against his forehead. T3 dabbed the back of its card in some ale Atton had spilt and attached it to his foreplate with a small arm mechanism that resembled a pair of tweezers on a stick.

"Dwee, boowap?"

"Low this time, remember? And judging by the looks of your card, I'm going to clean your circuits, my friend."

Atton counted out some credits and made his wager that the card plastered to his forehead was lower than the plus-four card that was precariously clinging to the droid's plating. He liked his odds. He therefore let out a particularly colorful and graphic curse when T3 called his bet and it was revealed that Atton had a plus-or-minus five card affixed to his head with his own saliva, positive side up.

Atton was debating whether or not to try to cheat when a flash of white caught his eye. Down the narrow corridor, he could see Mical sitting in a chair in the main hold, a book in his lap. The Exile, dressed in a flowing nightdress of white with a silky hood pulled over head, was standing before him, saying something in urgent, yet quiet tones.

"Help me, Mical," Atton heard her say softly. "You're my only hope." Then she glanced hurriedly left and right and swiftly bent to hand something to Mical before slipping out of the hold.

"Now, what's this all about?" Atton muttered to himself. Mical glanced briefly at what the Exile had given him—a datapad, Atton saw—and then a supremely pleased, yet slightly worried expression came over the young man's face as he quickly tucked it into his robes.

Though Mical had only been with them for a short time, Atton was already adept at reading the Disciple's multitude of worried expressions. He had seen enthralled/worried when he first met the Exile; pee-my-pants/worried when Visas jumped out of the broom closet for the first time and tried to lop everyone's head off; and cover-my-balls/worried any time Kreia emerged from her dorm for any reason whatsoever. But now, Atton recognized triumphant/worried, and that could only mean one thing: Mical had scored a point in their battle for the Exile's heart. Well, Mical wanted her heart; Atton just wanted to sleep with her, but the stakes were equally high for both of them, and now it would appear as though the Disciple were cherishing a minor victory.

"Oh no you don't," Atton said, standing up and brushing past T3-M4, sending pazaak cards to litter the floor of the cockpit. He slowed to a saunter just as he reached the hold, and leaned casually against the wall.

"What's up?"

Mical popped out of his chair as though it had pinched him in the ass.

"Oh, uh, greetings, Atton," he said breathlessly, smoothing his impressive coif of flaxen hair with one hand, the other covering the pocket in which the datapad was ensconced.

"What you got there?" Atton asked with a nod to that pocket.

"Why, uh, nothing," Mical said, and ran his hand through his thick mane again.

"You sure about that?"

"Yes, yes, quite sure," Mical stammered, his fingers combing through his luxurious tresses yet again.

"You're trying to distract me," Atton said, narrowing his eyes. "It won't work."

Mical dropped his hand and sighed. "The Exile has charged me with a task, Atton. It doesn't concern you, but thank you for inquiring."

"What kind of task? Where are you going?"

Mical hesitated, met Atton's eye. The silence was deep and long, broken only by the sound of Kreia's snoring coming from deep within the starboard dorm. Finally, the Disciple cleared his throat and said in his most somber, serious-business/worried voice, "I'm going to the supermarket."

Atton gasped and then recovered, belatedly realizing 'the supermarket' wasn't something to gasp about. He narrowed his eyes. "Why the hell are you going?"

"She asked me to."

"Let me rephrase: why the hell did she ask you to go?

"Perhaps, because she knows she can count on me to complete the task correctly and timely."

"Uh huh." Atton crossed his arms over his chest. "And where—exactly—are you going to go?"

Mical furrowed his brow. "Now, that's quite a good question. Have you any notions as to where I might find a suitable market?"

"I might."

"Very good. Where?"

"Well, see, that's a little complicated," Atton replied, examining his fingernails. "I'm afraid navigating the streets of Nar Shaddaa would be too difficult for your brain to process under all that hair. Why don't you give me the list and I'll just take care of this for you?"

Mical held his hand over the pocket in which resided the datapad. "I think not. She specifically asked that I attend to this task."

"Well, then you're specifically going to get lost," Atton drawled. Good luck on that, though, eh? Be sure to tell me how it went—if you can get make it back to the ship all right."

"Why wouldn't I make it back?"

Atton stepped closer to Mical as said quietly, "Because you, my friend, are what they call in the Nar Shaddaa underworld, a wounded damsel-fish."

"Pardon?"

"A wounded damsel-fish. You flap around, telling every firaxa within a twenty-kilometer radius to 'come and get it.' You're prey," Atton clarified when Mical grew only more perplexed. "Your clothes, the way you walk, your teeth…You may as well where a sign that says, 'It's my first time here, be gentle.'"

Mical bristled. "I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I was in the war, you know."

Atton held up his hands. "Hey. Suit yourself."

"I will, thank you," Mical said. He turned and began walking away.

"Just don't come crying to me, complaining that a gang of eight-year old hoodlums robbed you blind," Atton added in ominous tones.

Mical stopped. "I'm not going to be robbed by eight-year olds, for Force's sake."

"Hey, if that's the worse thing that happened to you, you'll consider yourself lucky."

"And if I'm not lucky?"

Atton shrugged. "They don't call'em damsel-fish for nothing."

Mical considered Attons words. "Well…perhaps, if you wouldn't mind…"

"Sure, I'll go. Hey, no problem. Just give me the list—"

"No!" Mical said. "Perhaps if you came with me…You could show me where to go and maybe…"

"Protect you from the Nar Shaddaa welcoming committee?"

"Or at least show me what to look out for."

Atton pondered his options for a moment. "All right, I'll show you where to go and you share some of her gratitude with me. Deal?"

"Yes, I suppose," Mical muttered. "Very well, let's go. And what do we look out for?" he asked as the two exited the Ebon Hawk.

"In Nar Shaddaa?" Atton snorted. "Everything."

Pimp my Ride…

Mical had guessed they would be walking to whatever market Atton had in mind—he had worn his most comfortable loafers for the occasion. He was surprised, therefore, when Atton marched immediately over to a beat-up old speeder parked a few paces from the beat-up old Ebon Hawk.

"Where did you get this?" Mical asked.

Atton's eyes grew unfocused as he looked past Mical, his expression both hard and sad at the same time; his thoughts on another time, another place, his eyes haunted by a memory. Ever so softly he said, "I killed a man."

"What?"

"No, I'm kidding," Atton laughed, slapping Mical on the shoulder none-too-lightly. "I rented it. It's from Hire-a-Heap. Only twenty credits a day and unlimited anti-grav coil replacement."

"We've only been here two days," Mical asked, regarding the beat-up speeder dubiously. He rubbed his shoulder. "When did you find the time to rent a speeder?"

"Yesterday, when everyone went off to find that Zig-Zag Elk guy."

"That's Jedi Master Zez-Kai El," Mical correctly stiffly.

"Whatever. Check it out," Atton said, running his hands over the gun-metal gray speeder. It's fenders were dented, its nose scorched, and its transparisteel windows all blown out, but Atton looked at it like he looked at the Exile. "It's an AV-19 Seraph-Class urban landspeeder. Only twenty-five million produced in the Flash line."

"It looks like a piece of junk," Mical observed, as Atton jumped into the driver's seat and waved his ignition-card over the starter. The Disciple flinched as the repulsorlift engines came to life and extremely loud music boomed out of the transceiver.

"Pretty great, huh?" Atton shouted over the music. "Come on, get in! We'll take her for a ride!"

Mical hesitated. "Did you purchase the full-coverage insurance: fire, theft, liability…the collision-damage waiver?"

Atton turned up the transceiver volume. "Huh? Did I purchase the full-cleavage what?"

"Never mind," Mical muttered. He gathered his robes and hefted himself into the passenger seat. "Do you think we could turn the music down?"

"That's right!" Atton agreed, and shifted the speeder into forward. "We're going to turn left and go downtown!"

Mical was about to protest again when he was pressed violently back into the torn synth-nerfhide seat, and so didn't see Atton's sly grin.

The pilot navigated the crowded streets of Nar Shaddaa at sub-light speed, turning pedestrians and other speeders into drab-colored blurs. Mical was certain they were going to die a terrible, sudden death—one in which the crew of the Ebon Hawk would be summoned down to the morgue to identify the bits and pieces of him that had been scraped off the dash. But Atton seemed to know exactly what he was doing and where he was going, so the Disciple relaxed a bit…or tried to. The music was so loud, he could feel the steady base rhythm pounding in his chest. The lyrics were not so much sung, as spoken in sing-songy way, and Atton knew every word.

I got schuttas in the living room gettin' it on

And they ain't leavin' 'til six in the mornin'…

"'Six in the mornin'," Atton sang in a high falsetto.

"To enjoy this music, is it required that it be played so loud?" Mical shouted.

"Yes," Atton replied somberly, yet loudly. "Yes it is." He glanced at Mical and laughed at the younger man's shocked/worried expression when the lyrics took a turn for the vulgar. They had come to a stop at a ped-crossing and a withered old man was giving them the eye, and then the bird.

"I don't think he, nor other citizens, appreciate you sharing your music with them!" Mical shouted.

"Are you kidding?" Atton laughed. "This is Nar Shaddaa! The old coot probably knows the song better than I do. Besides, if we don't play it super loud, how will anyone know how cool we are?" Atton glanced at Mical's pathetically unhappy expression. "Oh, all right." He turned down the volume. "Better?"

"Yes, thank you," Mical said with an audible sigh of relief as Atton gunned the speeder once again. He peered around at their blurred surroundings. "Where are we going?"

"Not too much farther," Atton replied. "There's an arcade up here. They got all kinds of shops and stuff. We'll find whatever's on her list there."

"Good," Mical said, satisfied. "I—"

"Okay, we're here."

Atton jumped out of the speeder before it had even hovered to a stop. Mical followed more slowly, pausing to use the Force to repair his whiplash. He shot Atton his best pissed-off/worried look.

The pilot blinked. "What?"

The Happy Love Playtime Emporium (and discount supermarket)

The arcade was a dingy, dreary two-story construction, decorated in neon hologens in a rainbow of colors and designs. The bright lights did nothing to camouflage the drabness of the building, but only made it look more pitiful. Like an old, tired woman wearing a lot of makeup, Mical thought, and smiled a toothy grin, pleased with his metaphor.

"Hey, sweet things," cooed a Twi'lek lounging near the entrance. "You want a massage? I'll do your choobies for ten creds, pretty boy," she purred at Mical.

"No thanks," Atton told her, steering Mical out of her range. "She'll give you a massage all right—with a vibrodagger," he muttered quietly, but not quietly enough.

"Kiss my lekku, spacer," she spat at Atton.

"Sure thing, doll, I've got half a credit right here," Atton returned.

"Cost you more than half a credit, flyboy."

"Yeah, but it won't be worth more."

"Perhaps you shouldn't antagonize the prostitutes," Mical observed, glancing furtively at the various other unsavory characters who were loitering outside the entrance to the arcade. Atton had drawn close to the Twi'lek, who was a pretty shade of mauve, and was leaning against her.

"You've got a smart mouth," the hooker said, running her hand along Atton's jaw.

"Maybe," he replied in a low, bedroom-y voice, "but I'm more interested in how smart—and how flexible your mouth is…"

Mical sighed and trudged over to the pair. He tapped the pilot on the shoulder. "You coming?"

"Not yet," Atton said, and he and the Twi'lek laughed. "See you later, sweet thing," he told her.

"I hope so," she purred back, twiddling her fingers at him.

Mical rolled his eyes as the two walked inside the arcade. "One second you're warning me away from her, the next you're proposing to her."

"Okay, first of all, I wasn't proposing to anyone," Atton retorted. "I was propositioning her, which is entirely different. As a man, it is extremely important that you distinguish between the two. Second of all…she just wasn't your type. If you want to get laid by a Twi'lek while we're here, I can take you to a much better place than the entrance to the 'Happy Love Playtime Emporium', for Force's sake," he said.

"Hmm," Mical shrugged, "so she was just good enough for you but not for me."

"Yes, exact—" Atton stopped. "Oh, shut up."

The interior of the arcade was no better looking than the exterior. Sex shops selling all manner of second-hand wares lined either side of a dank hallway, their products displayed under garish neon. To Mical's mind, the only thing worse than a sex shop was a second-hand sex shop. Atton, on the other hand, inspected the pieces as though he were an appraiser of fine antiques, commenting on the favorable attributes of one contraption or another. As they passed the fifth sex shop in a three-quarter kilometer stretch, Mical frowned

"Isn't there anything artistic here on Nar Shaddaa?" he asked Atton. "Anything cultural?

"Not unless strippers are cultural."

Mical heaved a sigh. "I mean, the entire moon can't be sex-toy stores and cantinas can it?"

"Unfortunately not," Atton said, nodding his head. Mical looked to where he indicated and saw a good-sized food market tucked into the corner of the arcade, between a 'Gentlemales' Club' and yet another sex shop. Atton clapped the Disciple on the shoulder. "Would I steer you wrong, kid?"

"Would you like an answer to that?"

"So why don't you just give me the list and—"

"No, thank you," Mical said, holding the datapad tightly to his chest.

"What's the big deal with that list?" Atton demanded. "If you let me see it, I can help—"

"I don't think so," Mical retorted. "I can just imagine you grabbing the list, finding another market, returning to the Hawk like a hero, and leaving me to that…choobie-fondler outside. I say again, no, thank you."

Atton, looking like the poster-child for wrongfully-accused saints everywhere, muttered and stuttered, stamping his feet and waving his arms. "Wha—? Of all the…In this day and age …You really think I…I, would do that to you?"

"Yes," Mical said flatly.

Atton ceased his dramatics and narrowed his eyes. "Fair enough. That may be true, but let's not dwell on the past. We agreed to help each other. We both want the Exile. I want to have a squeeze and a squirt with her in my bunk as soon as humanly possible and you want to...I don't know—take her out for tea and crumpets or something, and hold her hand for all eternity. Fine. To each his own. But I'll be man enough to admit she hasn't exactly given me the green light yet. Yet."

"Me neither," Mical said and heaved a dramatically romantic sigh.

"Therefore," Atton continued, "we're both starting at the bottom. We should work together, help each other, may the best man win and all that crap."

Mical nodded. "I agree."

"Well, then what's the problem?"

"I don't trust you."

Atton stamped his foot. "What? Why not?"

"For one, you've got your hand in my pocket right now, trying to steal the list."

Atton whipped his hand out of Mical's robe pocket and scowled. "Well, jeez man, we all know who's going to win! Let's stop wasting time! No offense, but what could she ever, in a million years, possibly see in you?"

"Oh, I don't know," Mical snapped, "someone who is cultured and sensitive; who reads books that have more words than pictures?"

Atton snorted. "Sensitive, my eye. That's code for 'wuss.'"

Mical bristled. "No offense to you," he continued, "but all you know how to do is play pazaak, pilot ships and make immature quips at others' expense. You're uncouth, uncultured, you have a dubious sense of personal hygiene and you're really not as good-looking as you think you are. On top of that, you're vocabulary is narrow and seemingly limited to swearing, sexual innuendo and belches. What kind of conversation could you ever possibly hold with her?"

Atton blinked. "Oh yeah? Well, who says I want to have a conversation with her?" He smiled foxily. "A couple of compliments, a little wine, and the next thing you know, she and I are doing the bone dance…"

Mical rolled his eyes. "She strikes me as someone who requires a little more finesse than your inept gropings."

Atton planted one hand on his hip and jabbed his finger at Mical's chest. "I know you think I'm a buffoon and I may not know what 'inept' means, but I do know that she would prefer my angsty scoundrel to your librarian sleep-aid any day of the week, pal."

"Well, we'll never find out if we don't accomplish this very simple task," Mical said. "We need each other."

Atton sagged. "Fine," he said, sounding like a petulant fifteen year old who was just told to take the garbage out. "I suppose you're right."

"I am right," Mical said, puffing his chest. "We're going to be teammates on this journey the Exile's got us on—this little star trek—so we may as well start practicing now."

"All right, already," Atton griped. "I get it. You tell me what's on that list and I'll help you find them."

"Together," Mical insisted.

"Yeah, together." The two men shook hands and started down the aisle.

"And I can't believe you said 'star trek,'" Atton muttered, after a moment.

"What?"

Item Number One: Chapstick

"Really?" Atton asked. "That's what it says?"

Mical frowned at him. "Yeesss," he said slowly. "Why?"

Atton shook his head. "Oh, nothing. It's just…well," he rubbed the back of his neck with one hand, "when I think of her using chapstick…smearing it over her lips…I get that special feeling, if you know what I mean…"

"Yes, I see," Mical said quickly.

"You know where…"

"No need to elaborate—"

Atton pointed to his groin. "Down there."

Mical rolled his eyes. "Yes, I get it! Honestly, Atton, you are about as subtle as Gamorrean ballerina."

"A what."

"You know what I mean," Mical said. "You have no couth, no sense of restraint. Where most persons keep unmannered thoughts to themselves, you apparently have no compunction about blurting them right out, no matter how inappropriate."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

"It is! You must learn to cultivate a…an inner dialogue, if you will." Mical looked pointedly at Atton. "Especially where she is concerned."

"Is that a fact?" Atton demanded. "So I should take your approach, then? The say-nothing-at-all-hide-behind-books-and-wait-for-her-to-realize-you're-alive maneuver. Uh huh. No thanks. It'll be years before she notices you and then it will only be because she's tripped over your moldy old bones. With women, if you want to get some action, you got to take some action! You have to be bold! Decisive! In control! Here's your chapstick."

Mical reached for the item when suddenly Atton snatched his hand back. "Speaking of decisive…" He took off the lid and rolled the balm over his lips.

Mical's face took on a horrified expression usually reserved for substitute teachers and Democrats on election days. "Wha…what are you doing?"

"There," Atton said, and closed the lid with a satisfying snap. "Now, where her lips go, mine have went." He tossed the chapstick into the basket. "That's taking action, kid."

"You're unbelievable," Mical said. "I can't give her that." He pulled a new chapstick off the shelf. Atton grabbed it out of his hands, popped the lid, and smeared it over his lips.

"Heeyyy, this one is minty."

"Atton, cut it out." Mical grabbed another chapstick and put it in the basket. "That's not funny." Atton just reached in the basket and repeated his maneuver.

"Oooh, vanilla."

Mical began to toss chapsticks into the basket with greater and greater force, some bouncing right out to land at their feet. As fast as Mical pulled the little tubes off the shelf and into the basket, Atton grabbed them, used them, and tossed them back in.

"Ah, raspberry."

"Stop it."

"Coconut."

"Enough."

"Mmmm, lemon meringue."

"Atton!"

"Hey, you guys are going to have to pay for those," said a teenage stockboy in a cracking voice, effectively ending the battle.

"Fantastic," Mical muttered. "Just bloody terrific." He bent down to retrieve the chapsticks that had fallen to the floor in their mad journey from shelf-to-basket-to-Atton, and jammed them with great vigor into his basket. "Now, I get to bring back to her twenty-five sticks, all of which you've used, instead of one, uncompromised, unsullied stick."

Atton shrugged. "You know what they say on Tatooine: The sand gets into everything and you can't have too many chapsticks."

"Oh, bloody shut up."

"Hey. I can't feel my lips," Atton commented as they continued down the aisle. "You think that's a bad thing?"

"Will it render you mute?"

"Don't think so."

"Then I have no opinion."

Mical puts on the dreaded Boot of Reality…

"The deal with pazaak is, it's a very textured, very multi-layered game," Atton said. "It takes tremendous amounts of will and concentration and strategy."

"Don't you just have to get to twenty?" Mical mused as they strolled down an aisle mostly stocked with digestion aids and Kashyyykian Lice-Away.

"One would think that's all it takes," Atton said importantly, "to the casual observer. But if you play pazaak, you really get a feel for all its different dimensions."

"Well, you have to get to twenty, right? That doesn't sound so hard."

Atton stared at Mical for a moment. "Forget it. It's probably beyond you; the craft of it, the strategy...

"Well, I can count to twenty."

Atton shook his head. "Yeah, but that's just a small part—"

"I mean, how hard could it be? You play a card, I play a card. Neither of us have any control over what card we will draw, nor what four cards we have drawn from our sidedeck. It's all up to chance, really."

Atton shook his head and waved his hands as though to ward away the vapors of ignorance and stupidity that were radiating off his companion. "No, no, no, that's just the basic mechanics of it. The actual strategy of the game—"

"The strategy of the game is unchanged from round to round, is it not?" Mical pursued, his tone innocent and light, like a cross-examining attorney going in for the kill. "The strategy is: get to twenty. If your opponent gets to nineteen, you get to twenty. If you go over twenty, get back down to twenty. Am I right? Or am I missing something?"

Atton stood silent, his mouth hanging open like a door with a missing hinge, giving him a distinctly unintelligent appearance. "Uh…No… that's pretty much it."

"Thought so," Mical said, and walked on, a modestly triumphant smile on his face.

Atton shuffled after, hanging his head, looking like a man who's last will and dream in life has been crushed under the cold, calculating boot of reality…until his eyes fell on a tube of hemorrhoid ointment.

He snatched the tube off the shelf and waved it over his head. "Hey, Mical!" Atton called over an aisle-full of shoppers. "I found that ass cream you were looking for!"

Item Number Two: Anything chocolate.

"Hmmm," Mical mused, staring at the list with a ponderous/worried expression on his face.

"What?" Atton asked, smacking his lips that were now a brilliant fluorescent orange thanks to the sun-block chapstick he'd put on.

"Well, it's just that—" Mical stopped, staring at Atton. "You look like a deranged clown."

Atton shrugged. "Chicks dig clowns."

Mical sighed. "What I was about to say is that the Exile is not one to be vague in her requests. Therefore, this is quite perplexing."

"What does she want now?" Atton asked, leaning over Mical's shoulder.

"She simply says, 'Anything chocolate.'"

"Oh, Force, stop the presses!" Atton moaned with mock despair. "Not that! Anything but that! A vague request? No, please! It's getting darker in here." He fell to one knee, one hand pitifully outstretched. "I'm so cold…Please… give me your hand, Mical. I'm so cold…Your hand…Why won't you give me your hand, Mical….Ahahahahahghghhgh…." He collapsed onto the ground, clutching his heart, before finally…tragically…growing still.

Several shoppers offered a round of applause while Mical, his face a brilliant shade of mortified/worried, kicked Atton in the shin. "Will you get up off the floor? Force knows what's oozed over it."

"Hey," said one Huttese shopper, "I resemble that remark."

"Sorry," Mical stammered, "sorry."

Atton jumped to his feet. "You know, I wouldn't have to resort to just outrageous tactics if you'd just relax. So she wants 'something chocolate'? So what? Get her 'something chocolate' and let's get on with our lives."

"Clearly, you have never offered a woman chocolates before," Mical said, as the two continued down the aisle.

Atton scoffed. "What? And you have?"

"Indeed."

The pilot slung his arm around the Disciple's shoulders. "I hate to break it to you, kid," he said in confidential tones, "but buying your favorite Aunt Hassie a box of caramels on her birthday doesn't count."

Mical smiled placidly. "I don't know why you are so quick to assume that I am a naïve innocent when it comes to women."

Atton blinked. "Are you serious? You do know that it's you we're talking about here, right?"

"Naturally. I just have never understood why you, or anyone else, have me pegged for a bookworm virgin. Nor have I fathomed why you consider me a 'kid.'"

"Aren't you?"

Mical smiled sideways. "Of course not. I'm thirty-eight."

Atton gaped. "Thirty-eight?"

"Truly," Mical said, amused. "What nineteen-year old you know has a head this bloody large?"

"Good point."

"When you found me, I was living in the ruins of the Jedi Academy, roasting laigreks I'd killed with my bare hands over campfires every night, and—"

Atton's eyes widened. "Really? Those things were bastards to kill!"

Mical's smile widened. "Perhaps to you. I found hunting them was a nice way to relax before spending a vigorous evening in bed with one—or two—of the female scavengers who searched the enclave."

Atton's mouth dropped in awe before his expression turned dubious. "You're lying."

"Not at all. Just because I'd rather read or study than lick cards and stick them to my forehead, doesn't mean I'm completely helpless. And I am no stranger to the fairer sex; well acquainted enough, in fact, to know how to buy a woman chocolates."

"Okay," Atton said slowly, "so what do we get?"

"Certainly not just any chocolate. Only an uncouth, unmannered scoundrel such as yourself would grab the first chocolate item he spies on the shelf and haphazardly present it to the Exile. One's choice of chocolates says a lot about one's…intentions."

"Oh, yeah?" Atton said, stopping as they came to the candy section. "What kind of chocolate says, 'I want to get into your pants'?"

"Chocolate-covered cherries," Mical replied automatically and then slapped Atton's hand as he immediately reached for a box of same. "Are you mad?"

"What?"

"You cannot give the Exile those chocolates."

"Why not? You said, if I wanted to get into her—"

"Atton, think," Mical said. "Giving her that candy this early in the game is the confectionary equivalent of giving her a terrible line like: 'the word of the day is 'legs'; let's head back to your place and spread the word.'"

Atton opened his mouth to protest and then snapped it shut.

"You've used that one haven't you?"

Atton nodded. "I think I invented it."

Mical sighed. "The point is, if you—if we," he continued, "go gallivanting back to the Ebon Hawk with a box of chocolate-covered cherries in our hands, she will see us for the over-eager fools we are and we'll both lose out."

"Well, what do we get then?"

"We start out with the basics," Mical replied. He reached for a bag of candy and held it up for inspection. "Chocolate almond clusters. Simple, elegant, subtle. They say: 'We respect you. We think highly of you. Here are some almond clusters.'"

"Yeah, but they've got nuts in them," Atton pointed out.

"So?"

"Isn't that some kind of subtle sign?"

"Atton, don't be crass."

"I just don't see how you shacking up with some mannish scavenger mercs makes you the expert on what candy we get; those broads had more facial hair than I do. And we're not wooing the Exile anyway," Atton argued. "She asked for the chocolate…"

"Hmm, you're right," Mical pondered, as the pilot's eyes narrowed.

"Wait a minute…" Atton said slowly. "What's the next item on her list?"

Item Number Three: Headache Medicine

"Frack me sideways with a lightsaber," Atton murmured.

"What?" Mical demanded. "What is the cause for alarm here?"

"Don't you see?" Atton demanded, and began tearing at his hair and stamping around in circles. "Don't you get it? How could we be so blind? How could we be so stupid?"

"Atton, please calm yourself."

"Calm myself! Calm myself?" Atton bellowed. "Don't you tell me to calm myself! Don't you get it! We've been duped!"

"How so?"

"Anything chocolate, headache medicine…I bet she wants the kind that also relieves muscle cramps, doesn't she? Not being vague there, I'll bet! Huh? HUH!"

Mical, alarmed/worried now, consulted the datapad. "You're right."

Item Number Three: Headache Medicine (the Kind that also Relieves Muscle Cramps)

"Oh no," Mical breathed.

"I told you!" Atton seethed. "The chapstick? Just a red herring! Look at item number four and tell me it's not what I think it is."

Mical solemnly held up the datapad and Atton quieted. Slowly, carefully, they both peered at the fourth and final item…

Twilight falls in Nar Shaddaa, and so does the quiet. The only sounds are a dog's mournful bark, the rattle of a tin can rolling acrossan emptystreet…and the horrified shriek of two morons in the feminine-hygiene aisle of a super-market…

"What do we do now?" Mical whispered, breathing hard. He was frozen, Atton attached to his shoulder like a tall, scrappily-handsome growth.

"I don't know," Atton gasped back.

"We should at least look—"

"No!"

"We have to try! We can't give up that easily."

Atton grabbed Mical by the collar. "Dammit, man! Do you hear yourself? I say we run while we still can! It's not too late to save ourselves!"

Mical thrust Atton away. "It is too late! We're in too deep to back out now!"

"Okay, okay," Atton said, holding up his hands. "Let's just get a grip. We can do this." He took a deep breath. "Where are they?" he asked in a low voice.

"Right here," Mical said, also whispering and with a careful, wary nod of his head to the shelf in front of them. "The supermarket employees are intelligent to put the chocolates, the headache medicine and…those things all in one place."

"Yeah," Atton agreed dully. "How thoughtful. Damn, there's so many of them."

"Which one do we get?"

"How in the hell should I know?" Atton demanded loudly. He and Mical both flinched at his volume, as if they were afraid of waking some huge, painfully awkward beast. "Do I look like I'm some kind of expert on this stuff?" he hissed.

"Well, what should we do?" Mical asked helplessly.

"I say we get the hell out of here and tell her we forgot."

"Are you mad?"

"You got a better idea?"

"No, but do you know what she'll do to us if we come back empty-handed?" Mical eyed the shelf of prettily packaged products sideways, as though direct contact might blind him. Atton did the same, peering at the shelf through narrowed, blinking eyes. A passerby regarded their scrunched up faces and fluttering, squinting eye behavior.

"Perverts," she muttered as she trundled her cart down the aisle.

"Well," Mical said finally, with a sigh, "we're just going to have to get one of each."

Atton nodded solemnly. "I think you're right. You go ahead, I'll just go hold us a spot in the check out line…"

"Oh no you don't," Mical snapped, hauling Atton back by the scruff of his collar like a wayward stray. "We're in this together, remember?"

Atton, slightly amazed by the authoritarian/worried glint in the Disciple's eyes, held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "All right, pal. You win. Let's just get this over with."

Express Lane, 43 Items or Less…

It seemed to both Atton and Mical that it took the bemused cashier approximately twelve thousand years to check through the twenty-seven tubes of used chapstick, one half-eaten bag of chocolate almond clusters (Atton having opened the bag before they'd even made it to the checkout), one bottle of headache medicine (the kind that also relieves muscle cramps), and fourteen different boxes of tampons.

"You are going to help me pay for all of this, right?" Mical asked, reaching for his wallet.

"I can't," Atton said, his mouth stuffed with almond clusters. "The mauve Twi'lek prostitute out front lifted my wallet."

"Atton, honestly."

"Don't worry, there was nothing in it anyway."

"Well, then how were you…?" Mical stuttered. "Never mind. Just never mind. Bloody useless git," he muttered under his breath.

The cashier handed him his receipt with an enormous smile on his face. "Have a nice day."

"Oh, bugger off."

Not as Dumb as he Looks

"Why is it so dark out?" Atton asked as he and Mical headed for the pilot's rented speeder.

"We've been in there for four hours," Mical replied, clambering into the passenger seat with the grocery bag on his lap.

"Well, at least we did what we set out to do," Atton muttered, jumping agilely into the driver's seat.

"Yes," Mical said, with a sigh. "I suppose you're right." He favored his companion with a friendly/worried smile. "We did it." But then Mical glanced into the bag that was bulging with used chapstick, half-eaten candy and an abundance of women's feminine hygiene products. I can't give the Exile all this! She'll think I'm a lunatic!

He glanced at Atton who was settling himself into his chair, a distinctly satisfied expression on his face and realization struck the Disciple like a wave crashing over him in the surf—the kind of wave that twists your legs and pulls your swim trunks down around your ankles. Leaving my arse hanging in the wind…

"You bloody bastard," Mical murmured.

"What?" Atton asked, all innocent and sweet, though Mical could see he was biting back a smile.

"You did this on purpose!"

"Did what?"

"Don't bat your eyes at me!" Mical thundered. "You planned this all along—to mess up every attempt to bring her what she wants so that when I hand her this—" he indicated the bag, looking as disgusted as if Atton had just crapped in his lap—"she'll think I'm completely bloody demented!"

Atton began to snicker. "I had you fooled, didn't I? Thought I was a moron, didn't you?"

"If behaving like a complete imbecile is only an act, than you are a master thespian!"

Atton just laughed harder. "I can't wait to see the look on her face when you present her that bag…"

Despite himself, Mical felt a smile tugging at his own lips. "Well, you'll be front row, since I'm not doing it alone." He began to chuckle. "I mean, bloody hell. That bit with the chapstick? I thought the brilliant orange was a nice touch…"

"Wasn't it?" Atton agreed. "But hey, I never knew you were such a mighty hunter of laigreks and layer of women who don't shave and smell like ham." Atton laughed. He clapped Mical on the shoulder. "You're all right, old man."

"Thanks," Mical replied with a grin. "So are you, kid," he said and didn't fail to catch Atton's pleased expression.

The pilot started up the speeder and the music blared, the base thumping so hard, Mical thought he'd be jounced out of the vehicle.

"Glidin' down the street with Jolee Bindo, sippin' on juma juice…

"Laid back, with my mind on Mon Mothma and Mon Mothma on my mind…"

Atton reached out to turn down the music but Mical stayed his hand.

"Nah, leave it," said the Disciple with a smile. "Otherwise, how will anyone know how cool we are?"

Atton chuckled and reached into the grocery bag. "Chapstick?"

Epilogue…

An old woman makes her way down the darkening street of Nar Shaddaa. It is night and she knows she should get indoors soon. It's not safe at night. The crazies come out at night. But the old woman is tired of being afraid and so she decides she won't hurry her step and aggravate her hip. She'll take her time, the crazies be damned.

The old woman comes to a ped-crossing and waits for the light to turn her way. It does and she steps off the curb just as a speeder comes to a screaming halt in front of her. A terrible, booming noise that passes for music these days is pounding into the night air, lacing it with obscenities. In the speeder are two men, one dark, and one light. They are both bobbing their heads in time to the music, orange-neon paste is smeared over their lips, and they are cramming chocolates into their mouths. The blond sees her and bows his head.

"Ma'am," he says, between booms. He flashes her a smile of enormous, chocolate-stained teeth and salutes her with what looks to be a tampon box in his hand.

The old woman, hip be damned, hurries across the street and into her run-down apartment, for she knows Nar Shaddaa is not safe at night.

That's when the crazies come out.

FIN


The song is borrowed from Snoop Dog's "Gin and Juice" and Atton's one-man tragedy has lines that are taken from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, though don't ask me why. ;)