"Why do I have to come with you?" Padmé asked again. She was eight months pregnant and was in danger of qualifying for the wrong half of the title of the Whiny Chosen Ones support group. Someone had warned her her son was going to be a whiner too, but she was determined that if he was, at least everyone would know he'd gotten it from his father's side of the family. "You never want me to actually listen to you."
"I told you, I don't like going into meta alone, and you fit in better than Obi-Wan does. He always gets confused by the split-actor thing."
"I'm not a Chosen One," she reminded him. "I got stuck as a love interest. You know, I really did want to go to that Strong Females Weakened By Falling in Love support meeting."
"If Tonks didn't keep changing the times she can show up there probably wouldn't have been a conflict. But you know if you stay home and wait she'll comm and say it's hopeless again."
"And now that I'm going with you, she won't, and they'll all be mad at me. I don't want to have to deal with Aeryn mad at me again."
"You never told them you were going to be there." At this point they reached their destination. The platform floated several meters above the nearest structures, and had on it only a pale white circle etched in the middle. They disembarked and walked into its center.
A moment or so of just standing there, and the universe around them shook to its bones, the air turned hot and bright, and Padmé closed her eyes; watching this part always gave her a headache. She opened them again when she was standing on a solid and motionless floor. She and Anakin had arrived in a conference room with grey carpet, metal tables and chairs, and cheerful blue-grey walls with a few beeping panels inlaid in them. It was made more for the comfort of those like her and Anakin, she supposed, who came from similar-looking surroundings, then people like, say, Nymphadora Tonks, who had complained a couple of times that such places looking boring to her.
The only other person in the conference room was Tsukino Usagi, who was asleep in one of the chairs. Anakin walked over and gently shook her.
"Huh?" Usagi looked up blearily. "Oh, it's you. Hi. Harry told me to tell everyone he's running late. He said something about Tonks and a teddy bear."
"I don't get those people," whined Anakin. "Harry keeps saying he's off looking for something and then refuses to tell us what it is. Why not just not tell us he's questing in the first place? That's just insulting, what he does, thinking we won't spend hours and hours longing to find out."
"I know," Usagi agreed, "and I'm dying of curiousity, and it can't really matter that we know, you know, because it's not like we can tell anybody from his universe."
"I could," Padmé pointed out. "I know Tonks from my own support group."
For a moment she was sure she was going to regret speaking instead of just tuning them out like she usually did. But then Usagi jumped up like she had consumed too much sucrose again, and threw herself into Padmé's arms. "Padmé! Why didn't you say you were here, I've wanted to talk to you forever, it's about that shampoo you gave me; I love it a bunch but I can't seem to find anything like it in Tokyo, and do you think you could do my hair in that cool style you had it in last time you said hi? Anyone have a hairbrush handy?"
Padmé had throughtfully brought one. "Sit down." The chairs were fully rotatable, so Padmé soon had Usagi sitting on one with its back towards the table and her legs hanging over the side, while she sat behind her and unpinned her long pigtails. She didn't mind being demoted to hairdresser; it was a good distraction in her current company. She really didn't know if allowing the members of this support group to gather before their moderator arrived was such a good idea; they were a terrible influence on each other.
"So Setsuna's all grumpy right now," Usagi was saying, "because some stupid scientists declared that Pluto wasn't a planet anymore, because it was too small or something."
"What?" asked a confused Anakin. "Why weren't they more careful when classifying it? Don't they know how confused they can make people? Your planet needs a Cartographer's Guild; they would never have allowed such shenanigans."
"Well apparently it was classified as a planet a really long time ago, before the scientists even knew it was possible to get off Earth, and they didn't know any better..."
Padmé was able soon enough to reduce her perception of both Usagi and Anakin to the sound of their voices, because they did talk very quickly with each other. Harry Potter talked really quickly too, and he had an attractive accent which Usagi had gone googly-eyed when for they'd first met. Though ultimately, she was committed to her guy, Chiba Mamoru. Padmé wished he'd come. She liked him. He was sympathetic to her position.
The thing about Usagi's hair was its stiffness. The girl was supposed to be human, same as Padmé, but her hair felt more like what Padmé had always imagined Zabrak hair must be like. It naturally hung suspended a little bit over her back, the way Padmé's might on nights when she'd sprayed it too much. For the hairstyle she was creating, she'd have needed a lot of spray for herself, but needed none for Usagi.
"Okay, what did Master Yoda say this time?"
"It wasn't Master Yoda, it was Master Windu..."
They did talk fast. Padmé tuned them back out even faster, even as she got close to Usagi's ears to try to figure out where to pin her hair. Why couldn't someone else come in? Where was Rupert Giles? He was supposed to be moderating this.
She was twisting part of Usagi's hair around her fingers and trying to pin it to the top of her head when she heard Usagi ask her, "But how do you rule an entire planet, Padmé? I'm not going to ask about an entire solar system, though at least I'll have the others there to help me, even poor Setsuna, whatever those scientists are saying about her planet, but a planet and a moon all at once, because when I marry Mamo-chan we'll be ruling over both?"
Remembering, unlike Usagi, that Padmé generally didn't like to be included in their conversations, Anakin answered for her. "I think Naboo has a much lower population than Earth, and Padmé's got people to help her in the various cities too. Though you actually did rule over the moons too, don't you?"
"Yeah," said Padmé, "But from what I understand, but Jamillia and Apailana were always pretty hands-off when it came to both; Rori's got its own seat of government; subservient to ours, of course, but we don't interfere that much. You really do need help if you're running a planet and moons. You and Mamoru should look into that."
Usagi's response to this was preceded by a huge dramatic sigh: "Yeah, I suppose, if he ever gets his nose out of that..." Padmé almost instinctively tuned them back out again as quickly as possible. She took the part's of Usagi's hair that were still loose and started on a braid. The girl's hair might need trimming, she thought. She was sure to get her own trimmed regularly. When she was done with the braid, she started hanging it.
The hairstyle finished, Padmé surveyed her work. It didn't look as good on Usagi as it did on her. Or maybe it was just that Usagi wasn't dressed for it, in her relatively simple school blouse and skirt.
"Oh, are you done? Do you have a mirror?" Usagi broke off her conversation with Anakin. Padmé produced a mirror. Usagi looked into it and squealed with delight. "It's perfect! It's so cool! I want to see the back of it-do you have another mirror?"
She should have thought to bring that. Padmé fought down panic as she tried to think of what to say next. Much to her relief, before Usagi could say anything more, the door opened and she heard Giles: "Good afternoon, Miss Tsukino, Knight Skywalker."
"Afternoon, Mr. Giles!" Not having needed to get upset about the lack of a second mirror, Usagi easily bounced up. "Harry's going to be late. Like my hair? Padmé did it for me."
"Very splendid." He came from the same part of the same planet as Harry, but his accent was even more attractive; Usagi was repressing her sighs over it even now. "Good to see you, Senator Amidala. Aeryn Sun's wants you. Second door to your right."
Padmé had not wanted to hear something like that. She'd face Aeryn's wrath before, and as she'd told Anakin earlier, she never wanted to again. But it was either that or sit in this meeting, and she genuinely wasn't sure which was the worse ordeal. "Thank you, Master Giles. Excuse me."