In his state of mind, even the emergency lighting in medbay was far too bright. The healer in him started ticking off the symptoms – blinding headache, light sensitivity, nausea, and the bile tang in his mouth that was an aftereffect of vomiting.
Diagnosis: hangover. An aftereffect of overindulgence in certain intoxicants brought on by dehydration and the substance's euphoric properties. It had been listed in the medical guides as a "mild" condition, but there was nothing "mild" about the vertigo that hit when he made the attempt to sit up.
And once again, Mical, you get a lesson in the vast gap between textbook theory and reality, scolded the part of him that could still keep a grasp on rational thought.
He was still on the fold-out bunk, trying to gather enough will to get up and drink some water – the recommended cure – when the main lights suddenly blared on. Mical was very, very glad at that point that he apparently emptied his stomach the previous night. As it stood, the dry heaves and knotted innards felt like being on the receiving end of a Force Pike.
"And good morning. Recovered yet?"
There was an artificial cheeriness to the other man's drawl, and no genuine concern in the question. Atton was looking far, far too smug as he leaned against the wall next to the lighting controls. In mock exasperation, he shook his head. "Mikey, hate to break it to you but… Geez, you're a lightweight. I know some guys can't hold their liquor, but you? You flat out dropped it, pal."
Dimly, a vague set of memories started to pierce the hangover-wrought fog. It was all still far too hazy for his liking.
"I… went out with you last night. We were supposed to investigate that Pazaak den for the Ex-"
"Oh, we investigated it, all right. But I'm guessing you don't remember much about what happened after we ran errands for Cian."
First name basis. Mical was still uncomfortable referring to Exile as such, especially given that he still felt like a twelve-year-old apprentice in the man's presence. Atton, on the other hand, felt very little need for formalities.
"Not really. I recall you asking me to try something at the cantina…" The room had stopped spinning long enough to attempt sitting up.
"Ah, the wonders of juma," Atton mused.
"That was juma?"
"What did you think it was, kid? Blue milk?" He sniggered loudly. "And it went straight to your head. Man, you are such a lightweight."
"You're enjoying this." Either the pounding in his head was reducing, or he was merely growing accustomed to the sensation.
"Damn straight!" He laughed. "Didn't take much to bring out the wild man in you either."
Now that was something Mical did not want to contemplate. When the shadiest fellow on the ship, the fellow who boasted numerous times that "he'd seen it all," was making comments like that… "I'm having trouble remembering just what happened."
"Let's see. Should have known it was going to be a good night. Best laugh I'd had in ages. That alone was worth the credits I shelled out on the strongest stuff in the house."
The scoundrel grinned. Against a lifetime's worth of training, Mical decided that he would very much like to get up and knock that smile from his face… that was, if he could manage to stand and walk a straight line, which he couldn't at the moment.
Atton was starting to laugh in earnest. "Two shots in, and your mouth and brain had this total disconnect. You're a chatty drunk. Must have told me your whole life's story. Of course, I was so busy checking out this really well-built brunette across the way, so I only paid attention to half of it."
"Well, I had to shut you up somehow, so I had the bartender give you another couple hits."
"Oh, great Force…"
"Of course, after that I heard a LOT more than I wanted. Never knew it was your first time getting plowed. If I had the chance, I would have hauled you over to the Silver Sheets and relieved you of your other problem."
"What other –?" Mical suddenly cursed his pale complexion. He was no doubt matching HK-47's scarlet plating right now. "A brothel, Atton? While I'm certain it's your style, it certainly isn't mine."
"You weren't in a position to do any thinking past that second hit, Mikey. Besides, not even Cian bothers with the celibacy bit, if you aren't so busy worshipping him to notice."
"That's not all I've noticed about the Exile," Mical commented dully. "And you're starting to take after him."
"Just because he can't take an uptight jerk like you anywhere," Atton commented. "So, that's why I took it upon myself to dirty you up a little. It's a big galaxy outside of schools and enclaves, kid, provided you can look up from your books to check it out."
"Oh, so you feel more comfortable if you can pull me down to your level?"
Atton grunted in contempt. "Consider it a 'lesson' if you have to. Now you know what juma is, you know what it can to you, and you know what the afterburn on it feels like."
Either Mical couldn't argue with it, to he was too busy trying to keep his balance as he pulled himself up. He cast the blanket aside.
And immediately snatched it back with reflexes he didn't know he still could have in his state, hastily covering himself. "Atton where are my clothes?"
He tried to ask it as evenly as possible, but the offended dignity in his voice completely broke the smuggler. Atton burst out laughing so hard he slid down to the floor, leaning on the bulkhead for support. Tears were starting to come down his cheeks.
"Oh, man. Funniest. Thing. Ever. But I gotta hand it to you. Y'see, there was this Twi'lek at the next table that was auditioning dancers for the local Hutt…"
Forget HK-47. Mical was now certain he was blushing hard enough to rival the alert lights.
"What did you do?"
"Well, I told the guy you were my joy-boy –"
"All in a good joke. Besides, you were so wasted, you'd kiss Malak if I asked you to do it. All I wanted to see is if you were drunk enough to swing for it, and you sure were!"
"What did you do, Atton?"
"Well, he had dancer's costumes. Loincloths for the guys, not much more than that for the girls. We decided to make a few credits on the side…"
Whether it was the previous headache making a return performance, or a brand new headache adding to the chorus, Mical couldn't tell.
"You can certainly shake it, even when you're trashed. They had you set up with this really gorgeous Zeltron. We're talking dangerous curves here. The cantina band fired up this old favorite you apparently remembered through that fog on your brain… never saw anything like it. Who taught you how to dance?"
"It… it's part of diplomatic training. Balls and other dances are common entertainment for dignitaries."
"Well, the kind of dancing you were doing with that Zeltron wasn't anything you'd see at a formal ball. My eyes almost popped, and that's hard to do! If all it takes to bring out the party animal in you is a couple hits of juma, remind me to do it more often."
"Anyway, we cleared off a couple tables and let you have at it. You and the lady made a ton of tips. Women were stuffing credit vouchers into the straps of that loincloth – not just the human ones, either. I split it with the Twi'lek guy, and he commented that it was too bad ol' Vogga is more into females."
"Thank the Force for some small mercies…"
"Anyway, dancing boy, scare yourself up some water and protein rations. I'll be laughing about this all day!"
Atton walked off, a big grin plastered across his face. He was just about to arrive at his quarters when he passed Bao-Dur doing some tinkering at one of the power conduits.
"Why'd you tell him that?"
"The Disciple. You know that isn't what happened."
"That after he got to the verbal diarrhea stage, I hauled him out of there and golden boy promptly did a face-plant in the gutter? Sure, I could have, but the look on his face…"