Eli and Yularen leaned back against the sofa, watching with amused interest as the loose competition unfolded before them. Thrawn and Faro sat on the other two sofas, a bottle of whiskey and two glasses on the low table between them. Eli had been entrusted with the brandy, and had taken it upon himself to distribute it justly – and generously – throughout the evening.
After his first swallow, Thrawn coughed and grimaced. “Is this supposed to be painful? Is that part of the competition?”
Faro laughed and swallowed her own drink in a smooth motion. “It’s not. Just wait for the alcohol fumes to clear your mouth and nasal cavity before taking a breath. You’ll be fine.”
Yularen murmured beneath his whisky breath, “Does he know how to drink at all?”
“I don’t think so.”
Eli took a deep breath, and a sip of brandy, “Yep.”
. . .
They’d stopped counting the glasses. More accurately, Yularen had lost count, but at that point, no one cared. If a glass became empty, it was refilled. That was the rule now.
Does he ever intend to shut up? Thrawn seemed progressively more distracted by whatever thoughts kept running around in his head, “ … but if the Twi’lek and Nautolan both possess similar artistic traditions and perceptive tendencies, I’m sure they must have been linked in their heritage at some point in the distant past.”
“Which matters why? Exactly?” Faro was beginning to become frustrated with all of the talk. Her bouncing knee and rapidly drumming fingers spoke of a vivacious energy that required an outlet.
“It matters because …” She wasn’t listening. Instead she was pouring the glasses full again, with intensity.
Thrawn was too preoccupied to refuse and so they both threw back the shots.
“ … as I was saying …”
With an abrupt thump and rattle of glass, Faro’s elbow announced its presence on the table-top.
Thrawn narrowed his eyes at her elbow, then at her open hand, then at her intent face. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Lieutenant Vanto, do you care to aid in a demonstration?” Oh, here we go. Faro was tall, and years of combat training had hardened her. She was a wiry fighter. He’d seen her in the practice dojo. She was a force to be reckoned with, for certain.
“Um, sure, ma’am” He sat down beside Thrawn and she shifted to a position opposite him.
“Left hand, if you please. I’ll save my right for the Admiral.”
After the count-down, supplied by Yularen, the struggle began. Damn. She really is strong. After a period of enduring intensity, throughout which Eli was uncomfortably aware of the way Thrawn was studying everything that was happening, he was finally able to force her hand down. He tried to ignore the sharp burning in his shoulder.
“Well done, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
Faro again planted her elbow on the table, eyes flashing confidence.
Thrawn placed his own elbow opposite hers, long fingers wrapping around her palm. His forearm was noticeably longer than hers, his hand definitely more sinewy. She doesn’t know what she’s in for. Eli poured himself another drink. One or the other of them is sure to have a damaged ego after this.
Yularen held his glass out to Eli, who obligingly filled it. After a measured sip, Yularen hit the countdown again.
It lasted under 10 seconds. As far as Eli could tell, Faro first eased to Thrawn’s powerful thrust, then, before she hit the critical angle of defeat, and as soon as he let up when he realized he didn’t need to apply such strength to overpower her, she pivoted her elbow in a way that didn’t lift it from the table and didn’t violate the rules, but which definitely shifted the angles to stress his joints more than her own, then she shocked those joints with an wrenching outburst of pressure and subtle shift of body weight. Thrawn’s knuckles cracked into the table-top as Faro whooped in victory, slamming the table for added emphasis. Apparently, years of wrestling men larger than herself had taught her a trick or two.
Thrawn withdrew his hand and smoothly inclined his head to her. “Congratulations, Captain.”
Eli noticed that the Admiral’s ears had turned just the slightest bit violet, or was it his imagination?
Three hours later . . .
Things had deteriorated.
An argument had ensued regarding something to do with the Clone Wars. Eli had zoned out at an undetermined point, so he wasn’t quite sure what the issue was. The bottle of whiskey was only half gone. That doesn’t make sense. Oh. This was a new bottle. That wasn’t a good sign.
In any case, it had gotten messy, in a friendly kind of way. Though protocol and rank had certainly broken down, and the argument was heated, no one seemed angry. Except maybe Faro, who had just about had it with Thrawn’s capacity for getting hung up on abstractions and logic.
Thrawn had settled himself into the sofa in a languid slump, long legs crossed, drink swirling lazily, head periodically falling back to study the ceiling with that expression of blearily intense, contemplative focus peculiar to the inebriated. But when something in the loud conversation between Yularen and Faro struck him as being very important, he became almost more intent and serious than he was when sober, passionate hand-movements and an unusual kind of earnest energy accentuating his arguments, which constantly were being derailed by his distraction with the smallest details. He would eventually wind down into a tangential conversation with himself and end up staring at the ceiling again, lips silently mouthing questions and answers while Yularen and Faro reengaged.
Yularen was in the best state, as he, like Eli hadn’t had quite so much to drink as the other two. But he’d become rather blustery and quick to laugh.
Eli was just having fun watching. And sleeping. Sleeping was nice.
Faro was fairing better than Thrawn, but her usual boldness and direct manner were now pretty much entirely uninhibited. Her face had a ruddy tinge to it, and strands of hair were making their escape from the usually impeccable bun. Her movements were quick and violent, and she had no qualms about interrupting when she thought a point was obtuse. Her colorful language was also coming through, with a vitality all its own.
As far as Eli could tell, the conversation had pretty much become a complete muddle that everyone was too drunk to realize they should stop caring about.
Thrawn made a horizontal cutting motion with his hand, “That, captain, was’a fallacy. You can’t jus’assert something without supporting the, the thing.”
Faro’s glare lashed at him like a solar flare, “I did support it, sir, with kriffing evidence. Y’know, th’empirical kind? But were you lissening? Nnoo! Don’t “fallacy” me when you’re the one who’s NOT PAYING ATTENTION.”
“I assure, I’ve been paying the attention. I can’t help it if you’re not making any sense.”
Ouch, fat lot of good my language lessons are doing him now.
“I make perfect sense, sir.”
“You really don’t.”
Faro had had enough.
“You, sir, are an asshat.”
Oh no, she didn’t. There was a moment of silence.
Thrawn seemed confused by this statement.
“Why would an ass, ah, need a hat?”
Yeah, he’s far gone now. Lucky for the Captain.
Faro’s anger faded as she processed the question. This was not the reaction she’d anticipated. “It doesn’t. The ass is the hat.”
“So, I’m not’a hat; I’m an ass.”
“But who’s wearing me?”
“Doesn’t appear so. Besides, how can an ass, or a hat, wear is’self?”
“You are wearing your ass as a hat. That’s the point. S’just another way of saying you got your head up your ass.”
“But you don’t call someone … who wears a combat helmet, “combat helmet.”
Faro bit her lip and thought really hard about that one. “’Cause they aren’t the thing they’re wearing. When you wear something thas’a part of yourself, you’re both the person who’s wearing and the thing that, um, is getting worn.”
“Aahhh. Now I understand.”
Eli shook his head in disbelief. What the kriff just happened?
After a moment, Yularen began to chuckle uncontrollably. Attempting to contain his amusement had been making his eyes sparkle and mustache twitch throughout the entire exchange. His laughter was contagious and in moments he was joined by the other humans.
Thrawn, who had been taking the conversation very seriously, didn’t understand this at all. Eli poured him another glass to make him feel better.
Yularen gripped his side, “Alright, no more arguing. Who’s got a joke?”
Faro wiped tears from her eyes and poured another glass. She only missed a little bit. “So, I once walked into a bar with a honeycomb and a womprat …”
… It was a good joke. Eli and Yularen were dying.
Even Thrawn couldn’t help but smile. He shook his head with a grin as he reached for the bottle, but paused as his shoulders began to shake slightly, then passed his fingers over his eyes and bowed his head, elbows on knees. Soft chuckles began to roll up from his chest, gaining intensity, and in a moment the rich sound of full-blown laughter came from him.
The others exchanged shocked looks. None of them had ever heard him laugh before.
He grasped his diaphragm with one arm, and covered his face with the other, but didn’t seem able to stop the paroxysms from gripping him.
The others began to laugh again, this time not at the joke.
I really hope I remember all of this in the morning.
Pretty good. Needs more Cheuhn in it. I’d probably speak it by the time I’ve imbibed that much alcohol. And…yes, I can hangovers.