AN: I decided that this has languished on my hard drive long enough. So I'm taking up space here as opposed to on my computer. Posted minus any editing. Sorry ya'll...


Corde wasn't certain when she had fallen asleep, but she woke when Deriane stepped into the room and turned the lights on to blind them.

"Good morning, girls." She singsonged. Corde rolled over in bed and thought about pulling the covers up over her head for a moment before sitting up reluctantly. She idly wondered how many cups of caf Deriane had drunk before she had arrived in their quarters at the ungodly hour of…0315. It was just as well that she had elected to get up on her own. While Deriane struggled with the other girls, Corde was able to slip into the 'fresher and take a quick shower before dressing and emerging to find the other three scrambling to make themselves presentable.

Corde sighed, deeply, as the other three girls tried to stuff themselves into the 'fresher and ended up bickering. "Deriane, should I wake Padme?"

"You think she needs to be awakened?" Deriane asked. "Master Danan seemed to think she would rise on her own."

Corde raised an eyebrow calmly. "How well do you know her?"

"Not very well." Deriane admitted.

"I've been a friend of hers since we both came in. The only reason I was able to drag her out of bed last night was because she'd just gone down." Corde explained.

"Very well, go ahead. I'll get them dressed and see if they can't prove to be of some use to you." Deriane shook her head at the three remaining girls as they shrieked at one another despite the early hour.

***

Corde slipped into Padme's still darkened quarters silently, although she left the door open to light her steps. Unlike their own room where the beds were actually bunks stacked on top of one another along narrow walls, Padme had an enormous bed centered in a fairly spacious room. As Corde had guessed, Padme was still sleeping. She was curled into a ball in the middle of the bed, mired in her shimmersilk bedding with her head buried under a luxurious pillow. Corde sighed, loudly, and moved to bring up the lights.

"Padme?" she called softly. "Padme." Edging closer to the bed, Corde sat down beside her and gently shook her friend's shoulder to try and wake her. "Padme."

Deriane appeared in the doorway a moment later. "They're almost ready. Is she still sleeping?"

"Yes, of course." Corde sighed again in irritation. She poked Padme roughly in the back, and was rewarded with a flinch. She grinned slightly, and poked again. Hard.

Padme grunted that time, and scooted away in the bed a little.

"Padme," she said warningly, "you need to get up. We'll be late if you don't."

Padme still didn't move, and Corde swung around to look back at Deriane in desperation.

Deriane shook her head in bewilderment. It was one thing to rudely wake three young girls who were merely aides. It was another to wake the very prominent Junior Chancellor and begin a very long day on a bad note. Corde stared at Padme for a long moment and then changed tactics. She began rubbing Padme's back soothingly, and Deriane moved closer to the bed in confusion.

"Corde, what are you—" she started to ask, only to watch in dismay as Padme shifted slightly in the bed, inadvertently pushing her blanket down. Corde continued rubbing her back with one hand and wrapped the other tightly in the blanket. She offered Deriane a wolfish grin before she stopped rubbing her back, took the blanket in both hands and yanked as hard as she could. The blanket flew up in the air as Padme curled into a ball and howled angrily.

"Corde!" she shouted, and Deriane felt surprised at the way Padme sat up on the bed but instead of rushing after her, she propped herself against the bedframe wearily. "I hate it when you do that." She said sulkily.

"I did ask nicely, my lady." Corde pointed out.

"What time is it?" Padme asked around a yawn.

"0345." Cercale appeared in the doorway and was looking over the pad Deriane had given her the night before.

"What time is the cabinet meeting?" she mumbled. Corde tugged on her hand and half-dragged her out of bed and pointed her toward the 'fresher.

"0415." Cercale said just before she stumbled inside and shut the door. "Are we going to make it on time?"

"Barely." Corde snorted and motioned for Cercale to follow her. "You were the one who wanted to be a handmaiden, right?"

"Yes." Cercale sounded confused, but followed obediently. Corde threw open the closet door and pulled out a jumpsuit for Padme, as well as her official robes. "Put this on the door for her. I know how slow she is in the morning."

***

At 0410, Deriane led the Junior Chancellor Padme Naberrie and her four new aides, Corde, Cercale, Iriane and Grela out of their quarters and down silent, dimly lit halls toward a conference room located at the heart of the ship. Stumbling along, half-awake, Corde smiled despite herself when Padme tripped once in a while.

"Are you all right, Padme?" she asked, smiling broadly. Padme gave her a dirty look as she pulled her billowing silver robes tightly about herself and began fastening them closed.

"Irtitka selutha kitira." She mumbled crossly as she finished adjusting her robes and dropped her hands into the sleeves. Iriane snorted with laughter, and Corde smiled in amusement. Grela and Cercale merely looked to one another in confusion.

"What was that?" Deriane asked sternly.

"What was what?" Padme asked, though a smile played about the corners of her lips.

"What did you say? It had better not have been derogatory." Deriane came to an uncomfortable halt before the conference room door. Deriane stared Padme down, half-expecting the girl's eyes to drop in embarrassment. If anything, she only seemed more amused.

"I were merely expressing myself in my native language. I wonder if I will be allowed to drink caf this year?" Padme asked airily.

"Not likely, my lady." Deriane gave her another stern look before she pressed the door activator switch. "You should wait to be in your teenage years so it won't stunt your growth."

"I don't really mind not being tall." Padme pointed out as they entered the conference room to find most of her cabinet assembled, with the exception of the off-planet members. Most of the room's occupants were in their mid-to-late teens. And almost every one of them had a cup of caf cooling before them. They rose when Padme entered and moved to the head of the table before waving them back into their seats. Deriane moved to one side of the room and moved the girls over with her. Padme reached out and took one of the cups of caf in clear defiance. Deriane sighed, loudly, but otherwise said nothing and Padme's executive assistant moved to bring the meeting to order.

Corde, although two to three years younger than the other girls waited patiently, leaning against the wall. The other girls' patience seemed more or less dependent on their age and experience, with Iriane and Grela fidgeting the most. By the time the two hour meeting ended, Deriane shepherded all five girls down to the main cafeteria and into the lines to get their meals. Padme seemed absorbed in the reports she'd collected in the meeting, but the other girls busied themselves with eating and gossiping.

"Padme? Are you going to eat your meal? We're going to land soon." Corde pointed out. Padme nodded distantly, and Corde snatched the pad away from her.

"Eat." She said firmly. Padme opened her mouth to protest, but Corde shook her head in warning and she silently began picking at her morning bread. Beneath them, the ship shuddered imperceptibly as they dropped out of hyperspace and took an approach to Coruscant's planetary travel lanes.

"Umm, I kind of feel dumb for asking…" Grela began uncertainly, "but I wondered what exactly we were supposed to do today."

"Help out, I guess." Corde speculated quietly, watching Padme struggle to find enough jelly to smear on her bread. She put the cap back on and flipped it upside down, shaking it impatiently. Corde sighed, and took the jar from her, picked up a knife and dug around in the jar until she managed to get it down in reach.

"Don't spill." She warned Padme as she handed it back to her and watched as Padme began scraping it out.

"Yes, mother." She muttered irritably.

"What do you want us to do?" Cercale asked bravely, and Deriane smiled. She'd been waiting for one of them to speak up and ask that question. Padme seemed to have gotten enough jelly for a time, for she settled down to eat at last.

"All I really want is to know where I'm going, when, and for how long." Padme finished her bread and wiped her mouth with her napkin. "Other than that, I guess just do your debates, and figure out what exactly you'd like to do. I was planning on naming a couple of you to my cabinet, when Telane and Faelon leave in a few months, but it depends on how you seem to handle it."

"Handle it?" Iriane sputtered. "We've handled the Legislature just fine." She said hotly. Grela nodded uncertainly.

"This isn't just debating, Iriane." Padme said smoothly. "There's no way you could possibly comprehend how complex it is, right now, but I'm willing to bet that by the time you go to bed tonight, you'll rethink your decision."

"I am now." Iriane muttered, and even the other girls looked surprised at her hostility after the night before. Padme laughed out loud at that, and looked away from them for a moment to smile at Master Danan who was approaching their table. The other girls rose to their feet the moment they spotted him, including Deriane. Padme remained seated, of course, smiling broadly as Danan took her hand and kissed it gently.

"May I speak with you for a moment, my lady?" he asked kindly.

"Of course." She got to her feet and he motioned for her to precede him out into the corridor. They spoke quietly for a few moments, unaware or unconcerned about the number of eyes upon them. Most of the cafeteria had come to absolute silence when Danan had entered, and now were staring silently back at their table.

"This is good." Corde murmured after a moment. Padme seemed to be speaking in earnest with Danan, for after a few minutes, he took her hand and kissed the palm again. Padme put her head back in the doorway and motioned her companions to their feet. Danan took up a position near the cafeteria entrance as his young protégé and her aides moved past him into the corridor. Holding a hand up to get the attention of the remaining young politicians, Danan spoke.

"Attention, everyone. I'm sure most of you realize it by now, but our ship is on final approach to the Youth Legislature headquarters. In approximately ten minutes, we will be docking. I would like to ask that all counselors meet with your groups and take them down to the disembarkment platform. We will be in mock senate meeting for the majority of the day, so I would like to ask that those students who finish debates and committee meetings to return to their assigned quarters until instructed otherwise. I wish you all the best of luck."

***

Corde had been somewhat surprised to find that Padme didn't have to wait on the disembarkment platform as the ship descended onto it's platform at the Youth Center on Coruscant. At least, she didn't seem too interested in joining the main queues that were forming as students barreled down into position. Padme had led the way to the far side of the platform—where Danan and the senior counselors always sat—and settled onto a bench. Corde, Cercale, Iriane, Grela and Deriane had followed her obediently, settling beside her as she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes.

"Wake me when we land." Padme instructed. Corde reached out to grab her shoulder but stopped, when she realized Master Danan was looming above her.

"No, child." He whispered softly, kneeling down before them. Corde longed to get to her feet, but found herself unable to do so. "Let her sleep for ten minutes. It's going to be a long day. The secret of any good politician is to know when to sleep. You have to be able to turn your mind on and off." He snapped his fingers for emphasis. "That's why you'll notice so many of the older politicians sleeping in chambers." Danan smiled kindly at Corde, before he rose to sit beside her. Several of the other senior members of the program filed in and most of them smiled at the girls warmly before taking their seats along the wall.

"Yes, sir."Corde remembered to answer him at last, whispering softly. Danan patted her knee reassuringly, and motioned for Deriane to come closer.

"Well, Deriane, how are you finding things this morning?" he asked quietly.

"It's been an interesting morning." Deriane admitted. "We're getting along all right, though."

"She's not been too much trouble?"

"No, no."

"Ah, good. I know she'll not hesitate to make her needs known, you just remember to do the same, and you'll all be fine." Danan promised.

The ship settled down on the tarmac with a bump and a jolt, and the instant the doors opened from the outside the noise level tripled. Corde watched in amazement as almost every student started pushing their way toward the exit. Voices echoed shrilly inside the ship as younger counselors struggled to restore order. The senior counselors got to their feet, and the girls rose when they did. Corde struggled to hear anything above the chaotic voices and laughter and scuffling footsteps; she longed to plug her ears and drive the noise out. Instead, she looked down to find Padme, eyes still closed and her posture just relaxed enough that she might have truly been asleep. It was unbelievable, because there was no way she could really be sleeping.

"All right, my lady. It's time to get up." Danan knelt down before Padme and took one of her hands, squeezing it gently. After a moment, she reluctantly stirred, giving him a sleepy smile.

"Thank you." She murmured., stretching as she got to her feet.

"You're quite welcome. Good luck today, they all seem more energetic and less focused than usual." Danan gave her an amused smile, and Padme rolled her eyes as she followed their master and the other senior counselors off the ship.

"Padme?" Corde asked, pressing close behind her.

"What?"

"Were you really sleeping? Or only pretending to fool the master?" Corde asked in a low voice.

"I was sleeping. Why?" Padme turned to face her when the line slowed, she was smiling.

"How could you sleep through that? I never could in a million years." Corde admitted. Cercale and Deriane were nodding, as well.

"You will by the end of the night, I promise."

***

Master Danan had been right, the majority of the group had been terribly unfocused and energetic. Padme had taken charge right from the very beginning of the day as she bounded into the mock senate hall and brought the session to order through sheer force of will by 0800. Gone was the compliant, sweet-tempered girl that Corde had known thus far in her life, she had become stern and uncompromising in the face of tremendous pressure to perform her duties. Committee after subsidy after petition was addressed in the opening session, or set aside to be explored at a later date. Midday meal was brought to them while in chambers along with several bottles of water. Padme had actually not been critically involved in every single event of the day, but she did have to stay on top of what was being presented, who was presenting and be prepared to handle any and all potential complications that could arise throughout the day. Padme'd eaten a small portion of her meal and had a little bit of her water before she'd been interrupted by a request for a certain issue to be addressed immediately. While the chamber had been relatively quiet for hours on end, it erupted suddenly into shouts that echoed off the high ceiling. Padme had retaken the podium and banged her gavel to bring the session back to order quickly, promising to appoint a committee to look in to the allegations and address them in due time. To keep the mongerers silent, she moved quickly to the next topic, although she remained out on the floor and left her half-eaten lunch to be thrown away. She looked tired already.

Deriane was sitting quietly along the back wall, as were the other girls, although they periodically giggled and whispered to one another as they came and went to their debates of the day. Corde had paced restlessly for a time before rejoining Deriane silently.

"This seems a lot longer now that I'm not doing other things." Corde whispered confidentially.

"I know what you mean." Deriane whispered back. "I never really paid too much attention to the JC before. I always just worked with my group and presented and left."

The day wore on, and Padme continued her duties tirelessly, although when she returned for a drink of water she rubbed at her forehead and closed her eyes for a moment. Looking up, she found Corde watching her and gave her a small smile before returning to the floor. By the end of the day Corde felt as though there were sand in her eyes, and rubbed at them frequently as students continued to present their main debates for the day and slowly left the hall, until, at last, only those with Padme and the senior members of the program remained.

1730.

Padme had done the best she could to close the session on time, and for them to be only a half-hour late was extraordinary, really. Over ten and a half hours in chambers, with no break. Corde longed to complain, as did the other girls, but there seemed no way to do it so long as Padme remained utterly silent. The only outward sign of her fatigue was that she stumbled once in a while, and reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose, which she had been doing off and on periodically all day long.

"Is anyone else hungry?" Iriane asked suddenly, and Padme shook her head.

"No time." She said, and Iriane looked at her askance.

"No time to eat? Everyone else—" she began, and stopped cold at the look in Padme's eye.

"No time, Iriane. I told you when we left this morning that this position wasn't like the others. You eat when you can. You sleep when you can. And you hope above all hope that you can do what needs to be done for as long as possible. You don't get to stop and take breaks, or eat lunch, or have a rest period. If you want those things, you'll have to go back down to the leagues." She snapped crossly. Without waiting for the rest of them, Padme moved faster down the corridor headed for the shuttle that would take her to the main senate complex. After a moment, Corde, Cercale and Deriane followed, taking care to keep her in sight. She nodded slightly to a young man standing outside the speeder door and slipped inside.

"Deriane." Danan called out of nowhere as he came loping down the hall, and the girl paused while he jogged over to them. "How is she?"

"She seems upset, which isn't that surprising, I suppose." Deriane began.

"Has she said anything about a migraine?"

"No, sir. She gets migraines?" Deriane sounded puzzled, generally migraines seemed to affect older people. Not nine-year-old girls.

"Where is she?"

"In here, sir." Corde motioned to the door and Danan sprang up into the speeder and left them outside for a moment. He emerged a moment later with Padme in tow. Her freckles from the day before had all but faded, her complexion was sallow and waxen.

"How long have you had the migraine, my lady?" Danan was asking, he motioned her to one of the benches and followed, sitting down beside her and tilting her chin up to look in her eyes. He had apparently dealt with the situation before, for he pulled a small handlight out of his pocket and shone it into her eyes directly. She winced and ducked away, but Danan's hand held her chin firmly. Both pupils were larger than normal, and Corde realized with a flash of insight that she must have been light reactive.

"I don't—" she began, and then stopped at the look in Danan's eyes. "Since 1300." She confessed reluctantly. The muscle below her right eye twitched ever-so-slightly.

"Did you take anything for it?" he asked.

"When would I have?" Padme asked sharply, and then closed her eyes and grunted in pain. Corde watched fearfully, as Padme's small frame began to tremble, and Danan sighed softly. He picked her up and started quickly for the infirmary.

"So stubborn. Your father will have my hide if I let you get as bad as you were last time. Deriane, bring those girls and come along!" he called, and Corde could see Padme wince at the loud sound of his voice.

"So don't tell him." She said softly.

"You have those pills to take, why do you insist on torturing yourself?" Danan asked.

"Not the infirmary." Padme mumbled. "Just give me a minute."

"Do you have the pills on you, my lady?" he asked, and Corde could see Padme nod at him. Danan stopped reluctantly, and returned to the bench he had been sitting on before and settled Padme down again. Putting one hand to her head, she used her other hand to reach inside her robes and remove a small bottle that she gave to Danan.

"Would any of you happen to have any of your water left?" he asked gruffly.

"I do. It's warm though." Corde apologized as she held out the half-empty bottle for him and Danan waved her close as he fumbled with the pill bottle and withdrew a single tablet. Corde popped the top on the water and handed it to Padme, who took both the pill and the water with trembling hands.

"Thank you." She whispered after she swallowed it. She closed her eyes and leaned forward to put her face in her hands. She was still trembling a little bit, and Corde carefully took the water bottle back from her.

"How long do they take to work, my lady?" Danan was asking.

"Half hour." She mumbled incoherently.

"You'll need to lie down for a while." Danan decided, and Padme shook her head.

"I wanted to meet with Senator Palpatine." she said.

"I don't know that you should, Padme." Danan reached out and carefully smoothed Padme's hair. Corde gave a start as she realized it was the first time she had heard anyone else address Padme by her given name.

"This is only the beginning of the longer session, and you know that. If you have a migraine on the first day, I think you'll be in serious trouble by the end of the meet. As it was when we returned home last time you were 10 kilos underweight and your father was prepared to hunt me down."

"I'll be fine." she whispered. "Let me lie here for ten minutes, and I'll be ready to go."

Danan sighed loudly, but rose from the bench. "Very well, on one condition."

"What?" Padme murmured.

"If I find or am informed that you have a migraine tomorrow, or any other day of this session you will abide by my wishes and go to the infirmary. Agreed?" he asked, and Padme sighed.

"Yes." She mumbled. Danan smiled fondly and patted her shoulder gently.

"Deriane, I'll send word to the senator that she'll be delayed a few minutes. Whenever she feels ready, go ahead and head over." Danan moved away from Padme and leaned in close to the young counselor. "If you think she's making herself sick, please let me know. I may need to step in and restrain her a bit."

"Yes, sir."

"Be well, my lady." Danan called fondly, and then he left them all to sit silently with Padme. She shifted on the bench and lay down with her arm flung over her eyes.

"Padme?" Corde asked softly. "Do you want to go lie down in the speeder? It'll be darker in there."

"Yeah." Padme mumbled again, and Corde moved to help her friend get to her feet. "Thank you." Padme whispered as Corde wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"You're welcome. But why didn't you say anything if it hurts so bad?" Corde asked. Deriane smiled when Corde moved to help her friend, and spoke quietly with the young guard on duty to get him to open the door for them.

"I almost always have a headache when I'm in session." Padme whispered. "It only turned into a migraine an hour or so ago."

"What's the difference?" Corde helped her clamber up onto one of the seats and sat beside her as she turned to lie on her side with her face pressed into the back of the bench. The thick, plush fabric muffled her voice when she answered.

"I can't explain it very well. It's just a headache, and then I feel this pop in my ears, and then everything gets really loud, and bright, and hot." Padme fell silent as Iriane and Grela and Cercale quietly moved into the speeder and took seats near Deriane on the opposite side. The young guard was nice enough to close the door from the outside and plunged the speeder into relative darkness.

"How long does it take to get to the main senate complex?" Deriane asked, leaning over to peer out the window.

"20 minutes, depending on traffic." Padme muttered.

"Should we head over, or do you want to wait a minute?" Deriane shifted back to try and find Padme's limp form lying on the bench in the dark.

"That's fine. We could leave now." Padme offered tiredly, her words somewhat slurred together. "Just let me sleep for a couple minutes.."

Whether the speeder was automatically controlled, or there was a hidden speaker allowing a driver to listen in, Corde wasn't certain but the speeder slowly came to life and began their commute to the main senate hall.

***

Traffic was far from light, but they made fairly good time. Almost 20 minutes later the speeder began spiraling slowly down to find a platform to settle on, and Corde slid away from Padme and joined Deriane.

"Should we wake her up?" Corde whispered.

"She's asleep?" Deriane sounded surprised.

"Yes, she's definitely asleep." Corde smiled. "She's snoring a little."

"Wow." Deriane sighed, looked out the window again before turning back to Corde. "I guess so."

Corde moved back to her friend and began trying to wake her, albeit far more kindly than she had that morning. "Padme? We're here…"

"Wow!" Iriane was kneeling beside the window and cried out in her excitement. "That's the Supreme Chancellor!"

"Be quiet, Iriane." Corde hissed, even as Padme slowly sat up and pulled her hair back away from her face. "Are you all right, Padme?" Corde asked solicitously.

"My head still aches a bit, but not so badly as before." Padme admitted. Her fingers worked quickly through her hair and smoothed out the places it had fallen out of her braid. "I can see now. And hear things at a normal volume."

"That's good."

"Are you meeting with the Supreme Chancellor?" Iriane blurted.

"Yes, although I thought it was later. By the way, who has that scheduling pad?"

"I do." Cercale activated it and held it out for Padme, who seemed to return to herself quickly. She finished smoothing her hair and her robes before taking the pad and scrolling through it. She looked as polished and prepared as she had that morning. It was amazing.

"Ahh, this worked out well. The Senator was unable to meet with us as he had a couple new engagements that required his attention. But the Supreme Chancellor asked to meet with us earlier, so I guess that's why he's waiting for us." Padme finished scrolling through the schedule and handed it back to Cercale. "Have you met the Chancellor before?"

"Uh, no." Corde said quickly. "None of us ever hoped to." Iriane and Grela shot her a dirty look, which Corde ignored. The speeder was settling down on the tarmac as Padme spoke.

"That's all right. Just smile at him, bow, shake his hand if he offers it, and stay silent. That's all you really need to worry about." Padme was getting to her feet as the hatch opened. "And move quickly, I'm amazed he's out here waiting for us. It's a huge security risk."

Padme was out of the speeder and moving toward the Chancellor quickly. The girls followed quickly and silently, bowing when Padme did and then moving along hurriedly to keep up. The Chancellor seemed like a very nice man, he had kissed Padme's hand and asked several almost-personal questions that implied he had at least met her before. Corde watched her friend closely as they moved into the Supreme Chancellor's private office, Padme showed no sign of the headache from before, and she knew Deriane was watching her closely as well.

***

They managed to conclude Padme's meeting with the Supreme Chancellor almost a full hour early. At 2100 they took their leave of his office and silently sat down again in the speeder. Where Iriane and Grela had been coldly skeptical of Padme's claims the day before, they sat sunken in silence, surely contemplating the choices before them. Padme was sleeping again, curled into a ball with her legs drawn into her chest, she dozed against the cabin wall. Corde leaned back and pillowed her own head on one arm and leaned against the window. She closed her eyes, and could tell that Cercale was mirroring her. If it was indeed the mark of a good politician to be able to turn your mind on and off, Corde intended to figure out how.

Of course, it was easier said than done. Corde found that leaning her head against the window made her teeth vibrate. She scooted a bit to shift away from it, but then found her head rested unevenly against the back of the benchseat. Sighing deeply, Corde opened her eyes and scutinzed Padme's position closely. Corde slouched down in the seat, brought her knees close to her chest and closed her eyes again, and willed herself to sleep.

Corde felt the speeder drop its nose down as it began spiraling to the platform they would land on back at the Legislature's housing quarters and a split second later, she found herself sliding off the end of the bench and landing in a heap on the floor. Sighing loudly, Corde regained her seat and glared coldly at Iriane and Grela, who were giggling madly. Deriane was smiling, but trying not to laugh.

"It's not funny." She growled, but found she wasn't really angry. She studied Padme again, she hadn't been disturbed by the speeder, nor by Corde's antics. It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair. Corde flopped back on the seat and considered trying to sleep, but they were already beginning to slow on approach.

"Cercale?" Corde asked, and the girl started awake.

"Yes?"

"Is there anything else to do tonight?"

"No, I don't think so." Cercale stifled a yawn as she sat up and stretched.

"You mean we can go to bed? That would be wonderful, I am so exhausted." Corde rolled her eyes as the speeder settled on the main platform of the Legislature's housing complex. Cercale climbed to her feet and flopped down beside Grela.

"Iriane." Deriane said warningly. "I cannot believe that you are exhausted. I haven't seen you do anything so far today except complain."

"I.." Iriane opened her mouth to argue, and Deriane sat up and glared at her.

"Corde, would you wake Padme, please? Let her know we're back." Deriane smiled at Corde, who nodded. She spared a glowering look for the other girl, who stuck her tongue out at her.

" Iriane, come here, please." Deriane instructed.

Corde did her best to ignore whatever Deriane was saying to her, although she dearly wanted to watch, she forced herself to focus on Padme. The nine-year-old was resisting her call to wakefulness, apparently the long day had caught up with her. "Padme, we're back. You need to get up." Corde shook her shoulder gently, and then more roughly until she finally groaned and stirred.

"How's your headache?" Corde asked sympathetically.

"It's gone." Padme lied, Corde could see something was still bothering her from the way she was squinting in even the dim light of the speeder.

"Liar." She whispered accusingly, and Padme gave her a wan smile.

"It's not as bad as it was. It's not a migraine, I'm just tired." She amended.

Whatever Deriane had intended to speak to Iriane about, it hadn't taken long. She had returned to her seat near Grela and turned to stare moodily out the window with the faintest glimmering of tears on her cheeks. Corde eyed her for a moment, wondering maliciously if Deriane had threatened to kick her out of Padme's service. She was forced to abandon her thoughts when the door opened at last and they each got to their feet slowly and made their way across the tarmac and into the housing complex.

Not surprisingly, Danan was waiting for them inside the doorway.

"Well, my lady?" he asked in the tone of a man who expected to have platitudes flung at him. Padme seemed not to be in the mood for any more games, she was tired and hungry, having not slept in almost 24 full hours and not having eaten a substantial meal in almost double that.

"It went very well, thank you, master." She said sweetly. She made to brush past him, only to find his hand caught hers and tugged her toward him. She yielded, but only insofar as to let him kneel before her and tilt her chin up to look briefly in her eyes.

"Did the pills work?" he asked gruffly. "You're still squinting, my lady."

"Yes, my migraine is gone." Padme sighed in irritation.

"I think you should go to the infirmary. Our concern when you went down before was that there was something more substantial than migraines going on." Danan said softly. Danan was studying her with such sympathy in his eyes that Corde believed he was genuinely concerned about her, and not only as a mentor for a prized student.

"I was sleeping!" Padme protested hotly, but her voice broke when she said it. To Corde's dismay, she seemed close to tears. It suddenly became clear that Danan was trying to set her off, to see how she would react. Perhaps he was trying to find out if her migraine would return.

"You gave me your word, my lady." Danan waited, his hand still clasping Padme's firmly as she tugged anxiously, struggling to free herself.

"No! I'm fine, please…" her voice trailed away in a low, mournful howl and she gave one last desperate tug and collapsed into Danan's arms, crying. Iriane, Grela and Cercale stared at her, their faces expressionless. Deriane looked moved to tears herself, and Corde felt tears prick her eyes.

"Don't make me go to the infirmary." She whispered faintly as Danan picked her up. "don't make me go.." she mumbled. Danan held her while she silently cried, rubbing her back soothingly as he started walking toward her assigned quarters. There was no need to tell their assembled group to follow, they did so this time without question. He sighed imperceptibly when she relaxed into him, settling her chin in the crook of his shoulder wearily. Even from a distance behind, Corde could see her small shoulders hitch with muffled sobs once in a while. He stopped mid-way down a darkened, never-ending corridor and waited impatiently for the girls to join him.

"Would one of you reach in my pocket, and take the keypad to this door?" he whispered. Deriane nodded as she did so, and opened the door to Padme's quarters. They were similar in design to the ones she had had on the ship. Danan moved to the bed and set Padme down on it. He smoothed her dark curls away from her face, and gently edged a fingertip under her eyelashes. She grunted and tried to twist away. Was she awake? She certainly seemed to be trying to avoid him.

"My lady…" Danan was saying, "I'll need to see your eyes if you want to avoid

the infirmary."

"No infirmary." She mumbled.

"Let me see." Danan hedged.

Padme sighed, but did as he asked and opened her eyes. They were red-rimmed from weariness and her tears, but her pupils were not dilated in the least.

"Thank you, my lady." Danan whispered fondly.

"Why do you do that to me every time?" Padme asked angrily as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.

"Because you need that release. And at some point, I'll stop doing it, when you are older and able to find your own way of doing it." Danan said simply.

"How do you know I couldn't now?" Padme sounded genuinely interested in figuring it out, and Danan smiled at her as he got to his feet.

"Because you can still ask me about it. Now, be honest with me. What was the trigger for your migraine?" Danan asked.

"I don't know." Padme sat up on her bed and scrubbed at her face wearily. Danan gave her a look of disbelief, and she shook her head. "I really don't know. We had just finished lunch, and when I got up to address the calls for an investigation I felt my ears pop—"

"They popped? How? Can you hear all right?" Danan knelt again, and smoothed her hair away from her ears to look at them closely.

"Yes, I can hear fine. They just popped a little, and then I felt hot, and the light started to hurt my eyes." Padme sighed softly, and Corde sat down beside her.

"I thought you looked like it hurt a little right after lunch." She said.

"Yes, it started then."

"And now?" Danan asked patiently. "What do you feel now?"

"I feel tired." Padme admitted. "My head hurts a little, but not like it did."

"Do you feel hot? Does the light hurt your eyes?" Danan was asking as he smoothed her hair away from her forehead.

"No, I'm not hot, and it doesn't bother me." Padme shook her head steadfastly.

"Have you eaten tonight?" Danan slowly got to his feet, and held a hand out for Padme. She took it reluctantly and slid to her feet. Corde did the same, and shook her head.

"No, master. She hasn't eaten." Corde smiled when Padme nudged her sharply.

"Have any of you?" he seemed to remember that there were five other girls as well as his star pupil.

"No, none of us have." Padme said shyly.

"All of you need to head down to the cafeteria right now. If you hurry, you might make the last meal." Danan motioned the others ahead, but held Padme back with him to walk down together. Corde lingered a bit behind the other girls, half-watching Padme and Master Danan. He was doing most of the talking and she seemed to be listening seriously. By the time they made it through the lines with food, they seemed to be showing signs of closing the service down. Corde hurriedly went back through the line to grab Padme a tray, filling with everything they were offering in hopes of finding her finicky friend something she might eat. They seated themselves in a group at a table near the exit and settled down to eat in silence. Padme joined them eventually, smiling her gratitude to her friend.

Danan motioned Deriane away briefly, and it wasn't hard to imagine that he was asking her about each of the girls and their progress. At one point, both counselors turned their attention to the young aides and then moved a little further away so as not to be heard.

"How are you doing?" Corde asked. "What did Danan say?"

"I'm all right. Danan wanted to talk about tomorrow." Padme toyed with her food for a few minutes before finally setting her utensil down and picking up her bread. Corde gave her a withering look and she took up the fork again and forced herself to eat.

It only took them a couple more minutes for her to finish eating and then she slowly picked her tray up and made her way to the line to throw away her food and put her tray away. Without waiting for the rest of them, she started for the exit. Sharing a look, both Corde and Cercale got to their feet and threw away their food, put their trays on the rack and hurried after Padme. Corde wasn't certain if Iriane and Grela intended to follow or not, and right that second, she didn't really care.

***

Corde quickened her pace to be able to walk alongside Padme. The girl's mouth was set in a line, all of her concentration was going to putting one foot in front of another. Padme had swayed unsteadily on her feet as she swiped her keycard in the doorway to her quarters. Corde put a hand on her shoulder and helped her inside once the door irised open. Padme stumbled to her bed and sat down on it, moving to lie back but for Corde's hand snaking out to grasp her wrist.

"Padme, you should change."

"I'm tired." She mumbled, and Corde sighed.

"I know you are. But you'll need these robes in the morning. Come on, you can do it." She cajoled, and helped her friend sit up. Rummaging hurriedly through a drawer in the wardrobe, Corde came up with a nightshirt and a pair of socks. Padme had begun to strip off her robes. She lay them aside carefully, and began to fumble with the tiny buttons of her jumpsuit. Her sleep-numbed fingers couldn't seem to grasp the tiny edges, and Corde impatiently pushed her hands aside to take over the process. She had Padme out of her robes and in her pajamas in record time, and Padme had flopped down to lie bonelessly in her bed. She was asleep before she hit the pillow.

Corde quietly rose from Padme's bedside, taking care not to jostle the mattress too much. Not that she needed such caution. She could probably open the next session of the legislature in the same room and not come close to disturbing Padme. Moving once more to the closet, Corde hung Padme's robes up for her, and tossed her jumpsuit into the wash bin. She silently tugged a blanket up about her, and then crossed to the doorway that connected their quarters to Padme's. She reached up to the lightpanel and was about to dim the lights when the door irised open to reveal Deriane.

"Ahh, good. She made it to bed. Is she asleep?" she asked quietly. Corde smiled.

"I hope you're kidding. She was asleep before she fell into bed."

"I know." Deriane smiled as Corde flicked the lights off and let the door slide shut. She stopped in her tracks as she realized that Danan was in their quarters, sitting across from the other girls. Realizing she had interrupted, she turned to move to the sleeping area but froze when Danan called for her.
"Corde, could you come in here please?"

"Yes, master?" she asked softly as she crossed to stand before him.

"I want to thank you for everything you have done for Padme today. Deriane tells me you have been very supportive." Danan smiled broadly at her.

"She's my friend." Corde said simply, and Danan nodded.

"As I was telling the other girls, I hope you have a sense of how complex her position is."

Corde nodded.

"When we returned home after our last session, Padme was a mess. She was ten kilos underweight, and absolutely rail thin. She had almost constant headaches, most of which were migraines. She was doubled over in pain. Then she developed abdominal pain. She spent a week in the medcenter before they figured out she had appendicitis, and subsequently removed her appendix. She seemed to improve almost immediately afterwards, but her migraines continued to come and go. Her continuation in her current role is solely based on her ability to perform it; and while she is one of the most formidable politicians right now in any arena, her health is of great concern.

We began to suspect the last time that something else was triggering her migraines, but all tests came back inconclusive." Danan paused to take a deep breath.

"She said the migraine was gone, though." Corde pointed out worriedly.

"Her pupils are dilated again. I believe the worst of the symptoms have passed, or are being held in check by the medication from earlier this evening. But when it wears off, I suspect she'll be in a great deal of pain."

"This was during the last break?" Cercale asked in horror. "She didn't seem as though she had been ill when she came back."

"She had been out ill for three weeks preceding this break." Danan clarified, looking at each girl carefully. "After she had recovered, her family moved to their home in the lake country for a vacation. I hope you can appreciate how concerned I am about her condition."

Uncertain what to say, the girls each nodded silently. "I have spoken with Deriane, and I must say that I am terribly disappointed with your antics today. From what I have been told, both Corde and Cercale have done well, and have tried to be of some assistance to Padme. But I would like to speak to Iriane and Grela privately about their conduct. Padme's position is difficult enough without anyone starting an argument from within her support staff." Danan rose to his feet, and Iriane and Grela turned their gazes downward in embarrassment.

"Master?"

"Yes, Corde?"

"Will Padme be well enough to work tomorrow?"

"I do not know. I have called for the physician to check on her momentarily. At least if she sleeps through the examination she has no reason to complain." He smiled at them. As if on cue, the chime sounded and Danan moved to let the physician in. He looked grim, and moved immediately to Padme's quarters. Corde stayed the impulse to join them; she feared for her friend.

"Master, will you tell us if all is well with Padme?"

"Of course I will." Danan soothed, and then winked at them. "You should probably all prepare for bed. It will be another long day for you." He left then, sliding the connecting door between their quarters shut.

"All right girls, to bed." Deriane urged, and one by one the girls turned to unpack their luggage. They took turns in the 'fresher, silently changing and brushing their teeth before emerging and tumbling into bed. Corde sunk into the bedding and propped herself up on a pillow. Despite her effort to remain awake, she found she drifted off to sleep within moments.

***

Cercale lay awake for a long time, staring into the darkness at the door leading to Padme's quarters. A thin strip of light shone on the floor, but no sound emerged. The other girls were asleep, finally, although all of them had been restless to some degree. Even Deriane, whose quarters were now connected to their own was restless and easily roused.

"Deriane?" Cercale whispered into the darkness.

"Yes?" she whispered back.

"I can't sleep." The girl admitted, and Deriane slid from her bed to join Cercale.

"Thinking about Padme?" she asked, and Cercale nodded.

"Do you think she's all right?" Cercale asked just as the door opened slowly. Danan entered as quietly as he could, edging silently into the room. In the light from Padme's quarters, he found Cercale and Deriane awake and staring at him.

"Would you come in here, please?" he asked.

Both girls got to their feet and hurried into Padme's quarters to find them empty. The room smelled faintly of illness, and both girls looked to one another worriedly.

"Is she all right?" Deriane asked anxiously as Danan slid the door closed so as not to disturb the other girls.

"She was ill." Danan professed. "Her migraine has returned full force, and the physician found she has an unusually high level of cortical activity for someone who is supposed to be sleeping. We have taken her to the infirmary to run some tests."

"What kind of tests?" Deriane asked, even as Cercale asked; "What does that mean?"

"It means her brain is doing something it shouldn't be." Danan explained gently. "And they'll run a series of tests to make certain she's not being harmed. She'll likely not be able to participate in tomorrow's meeting."

"Will the meeting go on as planned, without her?" Deriane asked.

"Yes, yes. Much as in the real senate, sometimes the Supreme Chancellor is unable to attend due to illness or other business. The both of you should try to get some sleep as your schedule will not change. Padme will probably remain in the infirmary at least for the night."

"Yes, master." Deriane whispered faintly. Danan looked weary himself; he ran a hand over his face and made to open the door once more.

"Make certain to let the other girls know the change in plans." he ordered.

"If there's news on Padme--?" Deriane's voice trailed off, and Danan smiled.

"I will certainly let you all know. Sleep well." He said fondly, and left them.

***

Deriane found she still did not sleep well; and judging by Cercale's expression, she hadn't either. The other girls looked somewhat well rested, although they seemed equally upset by the news on Padme. Corde, in particular, seemed very anxious. They had dressed and moved to the cafeteria for morning meal; gathered their trays in silence and settled at a table near the entrance.

No one spoke.

It was Cercale who spotted Danan, and nudged Corde's elbow. Both girls sat up straight and were looking at him anxiously when he joined them.

"She's going to be fine." He said without preamble. "The tests are complete, and the physician believes he can give her something effective to stop the migraines. She will be given a couple days to rest before rejoining the session."

"When will she come back to quarters?" Cercale asked.

"I believe she'll be released later this afternoon. She's sleeping now."

"Can we see her?" Corde demanded, and Danan smiled.

"I believe you all have morning debates. But by midmorning she should probably like to see you." Danan rose from the bench and put a comforting hand on Corde's shoulder. "Best you all finish your meal and prepare for the day."

Corde dug into her breakfast with more gusto than she had previously, and it was as though a dam had burst. The anxiety of the morning vanished, and the warm chatter of the room began to pervade their corner.

Danan left them, and moved to address the room at large. He briefly informed them that the Junior Chancellor would not be present at the day's meet, but that they should continue their debates and committee meetings without her. A thousand rumors sprung up almost before he had left the room, and it was with great difficulty that the preceptors got all of the Nubian youth up, moving and on with their day.

Some five hours later, Corde, Cercale, Deriane, Iriane and Grela hurried down the corridor of their residence hall to the infirmary. They had each gone to their debates and met with their advisors to discuss how their agenda for the meet was progressing. All tasks complete for the day, they had decided it was far past time to visit Padme.

The infirmary was silent and dimly lit, the girls fell into the silence and walked slowly toward the only bed with a curtain drawn. Corde put her hand out to draw the curtain back only to find it roughly pushed aside.

"Ahh, what have we here?" a pleasant voice asked.

"We're here to see Padme." Corde said after a moment. She tilted her head back to look the physician in the eye. He did not seem to be the same dour man from the night before; this man was much more upbeat.

"So I see." The physician knelt down before her in the condescending manner of adults ignorant in the ways of children. "Are you friends of hers?"

"Yes," Deriane said firmly. " we are assigned to her for the duration of the meet."

"You must be Deriane." The physician smiled as he stood once more. "Master Danan was certain you would come by."

"What can you tell us of her condition?" Deriane asked quietly, and the physician shook his head.

"Perhaps we could let the girls visit while we discuss that?"

Corde needed no further prompting, she all but bounded to Padme's bedside.

"Try to keep quiet, please. I'm certain she will be very happy to see you, but she does presently have a migraine. She was just given a dose of medication, and as it takes effect I'm certain she'll want to sleep once more."

"We'll remember." Cercale bravely voiced, and the girls silently slipped into the partitioned area.

The physician pulled Deriane some distance away, and spoke plainly. "Her migraines are related to hyperactivity in her cerebral cortex. We are trying to find an effective medication that will reduce the extrasensory activity, but until we find the right combination her migraines will continue."

"Master Danan seemed to feel this morning that she would be well enough to be released this afternoon."

"I will likely release her to quarters, provided she feels up to it. I would prefer to allow her to rest in privacy. I do not feel at this time that she should return to her duties."

From behind the curtain, Deriane could make out faint whispers. However, she could not distinguish between the girls' voices.

"What happens if you can't stop the hyperactivity?" Deriane wondered aloud, and the physician blanched.

"At the very least, her migraines will continue unabated. At worst, the electrical activity could begin to essentially 're-wire' the neural pathways of her brain."

***

Behind the curtain, Corde was standing eye to eye with Padme, who was sleeping deeply. Lifting her eyes to the monitors beyond Padme's shoulder, she studied the screen thoughtfully, trying to discern her friend's condition by judging the numbers. She was still dressed in her nightshirt from the night before; her dark hair was matted with sweat. She seemed comfortable at the very least, and looked a great deal better than she had the previous day. Even as Corde contemplated her friend thoughtfully, Padme opened her eyes and blinked in the gray light of the infirmary.

"Hi." She mumbled tiredly, and smiled sleepily as both Iriane and Grela jumped.

"Hi." Corde whispered softly. "How do you feel?"

"Tired." She murmured muzzily.

"Does your head still hurt?" Cercale asked quietly, and smiled while Padme considered her question.

"Yes," she slurred, "but not like it did. What are you doing here?"

"We're here to see you." Iriane supplied at last, stepping up to Padme's bedside. "I'm sorry you're not feeling well." she blurted, and Padme smiled.

"Thank you." Padme mumbled as she rolled onto her side to face them.

"Does the medicine help?" Iriane was asking when Padme blanched, and closed her eyes.

"Yes," she grunted. One of her small hands snaked out to grip the edge of the railing, the other came up to press against the bridge of her nose. Corde slipped discreetly away from Padme's bedside and out to the physician who regarded her thoughtfully.

"I think she's in pain." she said simply.

The physician moved swiftly to Padme's side and took in her tightly closed eyes and the way she seemed to be clenching her jaw.

"Padme?" he asked quietly, and gently put a hand on top of Padme's and guiding it away from her face. He carefully produced a scanner and ran it along her forehead. Padme stiffened, and grunted in pain as he pressed down slightly on the bridge of her nose, and his soothing murmur was almost deafening in the silence. After a long moment, he turned the scanner off and reached in his pocket for a vial. He prepared a syringe, and loaded it into the IV.

"I'll need to ask you all to leave, please." he said softly.

"Come along, girls." Deriane urged quietly.

"Will she be all right?" Corde demanded, resisting Deriane's tugging on her hand. Padme's breathing was growing steadily louder, until they could hear nothing but the raspy sound. She was whimpering in pain, her tiny hands were curled into fists and she trembled. The physician reached for a cloth and pulled it over her eyes. He whispered to her, and Padme nodded, her breath coming in short gasps. After a few minutes, her breathing began to slow. Her whimpers ceased, and she seemed to relax. The physician took out his commlink and pressed it once before returning it to his pocket.

"How do you feel, Padme?" the physician asked in a low voice, and Padme gave a shaky sigh.

"Better," she said after a long moment. "it doesn't hurt like it did before."

"What caused it to start hurting?"

"I don't know." she mumbled wearily, her words beginning to slur.

"Does your headache seem diminished?" he asked, and Padme sighed.

"A little. I still feel lightheaded." Her words were almost indistinguishable and seemed to alarm the physician, who ran the scanner over her several times.

"Sleep for a while then." He said finally, and shook his head. Looking up, he shook his head at the girls and moved to settle his instruments back on their tray. Gesturing for them to precede him out into the waiting room, he pulled the curtain back around Padme's bed. He looked at each of them steadily, and then lifted his gaze as Danan came hurdling through the door.

"What happened?" he demanded hoarsely. He seemed not to notice the girls, and Deriane hurriedly ushered them out of the way.

"Another spike of activity." The physician gestured for Danan to precede him into his office, although Danan ignored him and stepped behind the curtain to examine Padme for himself.

"What caused it?"

"I don't know." The physician turned to Corde expectantly, and she froze. "You were with her, could you see anything that might have triggered it?"

"I didn't see anything." Corde said softly. "She was talking to us, and then just stopped."

"What about your treatment plan?" he asked slowly.

"I'm not certain." The physician admitted. "The medication should have kept it in check."

"What options do we have?" he asked again.

"I will need to call in a specialist. I have made several calls to a colleague of mine, and she is willing to assist."

"Do it. Can you keep her comfortable?"

"The medication I gave her should keep her sedated for several hours."

"Good. In the meantime, I'll contact her family." Danan rubbed at the bridge of his own nose as the physician retreated into his office.

"Master?" Corde asked faintly. "Can I stay with Padme for now? Until her family comes? She shouldn't be alone."

Danan smiled, and knelt down to Corde's height to look her in the eye. "I think that's a very generous offer, Corde. Thank you."

Corde nodded shyly, and then retreated to Padme's bedside.

"The rest of you should return to your activities." Danan said brusquely. He left the medical suite and the girls stared at one another silently.

"Do you think she'll be okay?" Cercale asked Deriane.

"They'll take care of her." Deriane said confidentally. "Corde, if you need anything you call, okay?"

"I will." Corde promised, and smiled. "I'll let you know what happens."

***

Deriane had dutifully taken the remaining girls to the rest of their studies and meetings. They'd gone to dinner in silence, and then back to their quarters to prepare for bed. Corde returned as they'd each showered and changed. She looked tired, but smiled when she entered.

"Her dad's here, now." Corde said simply. "He's going to stay with her."

"How is she?" Cercale asked in concern.

"She slept most of the day. She woke up around 18:00 for a little while, but the Doctor sedated her again so she wouldn't trigger another headache."

"How did she seem?"

"Tired. A little confused, she didn't remember being taken to the infirmary. Danan talked to her for a little while until her father came."

"Do you know what happens next?" Deriane asked as Corde sank into a plush chair. She leaned her head back sleepily.

"No, I don't." Corde sighed. "They wouldn't tell me anything, but her Dad promised to let me know."

"All right." Deriane tugged on her hand. "Time for bed."

"Do you think she'll be okay?" Corde asked, biting her lip.

"They'll be able to help her, Corde. Don't worry." Deriane said sincerely, and watched as the little girl slowly walked to her bunk.

Despite her words of reassurance to Corde, Deriane found she was unable to fall asleep. She pondered the physician's words; thinking of Padme's wan, pale face filled with suffering. Staring into the darkness, she lay there for a few more minutes before throwing back her covers and slipping silently into her cloak.

"Deriane?" Cercale whispered, and she paused near the door.

"Yes?" she whispered back.

"Are you going to see Padme?" she sat up, and Deriane hesitated. Clearly, she wasn't the only one unable to sleep.

"Yes." She admitted quietly.

"Can I come?"

Deriane crossed silently to Cercale's bedside and sat down beside her. "You should rest." She said softly. Cercale shook her head anxiously.

"I don't know her that well, but I don't think she should be alone."

"Her dad's here." Deriane pointed out.

"Why are you going then?" Cercale asked, not entirely able to keep a note of smugness out of her voice. After a moment of silence, Deriane got to her feet.

"Come on then." She whispered tersely.

Cercale hurriedly changed into a jumpsuit and slid out of bed to join Deriane in the corridor. They moved silently through the complex and made their way to the infirmary.

It was dimly lit, and eerily silent when they crept into the infirmary. Cercale fell into step behind Deriane as they moved to Padme's bed. Pushing back the curtains, Deriane was surprised to find a man sitting beside her bed, holding her hand.

"I'm sorry." she whispered. "We were just coming to see Padme, and I didn't-"

"It's all right." He smiled at her, lifting his chin to spy Cercale peeking at him shyly. "I'm glad to see she has friends who care for her."

"I'm Deriane, and this is Cercale." Deriane introduced herself, and stepped aside to let Cercale step forward.

"Nice to meet you."

"How is she?" Cercale asked shyly.

Ruwee watched as Padme shifted restlessly to roll onto her side before stilling once more. He smoothed her hair away from her face, and drew the blanket up about her before getting up to switch on one of the lamps beside the bed.

"She's sedated. The physicians feel it would be best to let her sleep until they can help control the activity in her brain."

"Do they know how to help her yet?"

"They think they will need to do an operation to help her." Ruwee admitted reluctantly.

"What kind of operation?" Deriane asked.

"I don't know." Ruwee Naberrie admitted reluctantly.

"She's so small." Cercale said softly.

Deriane started then, biting her lip as she struggled to remember the details of the previous morning.

"Deriane?" Cercale asked, when she noticed the older girl's expression.

"Does she usually drink caf, Master Naberrie?" she blurted the question without thinking, and then cringed.

"No. Why?" Ruwee leaned forward on his seat and looked intrigued.

"I was just thinking…she had asked for a cup of caf yesterday morning, and I had told her she couldn't have one. It would stunt her growth. And if she doesn't normally drink it…could it have something to do with the electrical activity?"

Ruwee looked surprised. "I suppose it very well could. At least, it can't hurt to ask." Leaning over, he pressed a call button on the side of Padme's bed. It only took a moment for the physician to come hurrying in.

"Is everything all right?"

"This young lady has put forward an interesting theory." Ruwee smiled cryptically, indicating that Deriane should speak up.

"She asked me for a cup of caf the other morning. Master Naberrie doesn't think she normally drinks it. Could that have something to do with her…problems?"

The physician looked stunned, but quickly recovered himself. He picked up a scanner and ran it over her form, paused to recalibrate, and then ran it again.

"You're absolutely right." He said in wonder. "The electrical waves have been altered because of the stimulant."

Ruwee smiled, and squeezed Deriane's hand.

"Can you fix it?" Cercale asked eagerly.

"Yes, very easily. I'll give her something to countermand the effects of the caf, and we'll let her come out of the sedatives on her own.

"So she'll be all right?" Ruwee asked.

"We'll have to wait until she comes out of the sedatives."

"Awesome." Cercale was beaming, and impulsively hugged Deriane.

The physician moved about as he prepared a syringe for Padme. He injected it into the base of her neck. She stirred again, rolling away from the stinging pressure. Ruwee put a hand on her back reassuringly and she stilled beneath his touch.

"All right, you two." The physician said softly. "You should probably return to your quarters. You'll have a long day as it is."

"Yes, sir." With some reluctance, both Deriane and Cercale shuffled toward the door.

***

Deriane had seen Cercale back to bed before taking to her own once more. And rising only three hours later had been pure torture. She'd reluctantly rousted the other girls out of bed and hurried them through their morning ablutions before herding them down to the cafeteria. As had been the previous morning, the girls had been silent and withdrawn—well, Corde and Cercale had been silent. Iriane and Grela, aside from inquiring politely as to Padme's condition had not seemed overly concerned. Deriane found herself staring about the room, trying to catch Danan's eye. Any information he could give them about Padme's condition would greatly ease the girls minds.

"Deriane?" Corde asked worriedly. She was biting her lip and looked as anxious as she had ever seen her. "I want to drop the session."

"Why?" Deriane struggled to keep the surprise out of her voice; Corde was an accomplished young politician in her own right.

"I'm scared for Padme." She said softly. "I want to stay with her."

"Her dad's with her, you know that. He's keeping a close eye on her." Deriane tried to soothe.