Title: A New Home

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Star Wars

Rating: G

Spoilers: none

Disclaimer: How I wish I owned them. But alas, nope and not at all.

Summary: Qui-Gon brings home yet another pathetic life form and Obi-Wan gets the bad end of the arrangement, as usual.



A New Home


     "Isn't she beautiful?" Qui-Gon beamed, digging his fingers into the long, warm fur, stroking firmly.


     "She's... well... she's lucky to have a new home, I'll say that." Mace looked apprehensive. To call a pregnant ball of fluff like this beautiful was going too far, even for his sensibilities. It had a squashed face and a turned-up nose, and its amber-brown fur was long but curled in some places and straight but matted in others. It had four very stumpy legs and a round belly that made it almost impossible for it to move on its own. Mace reached out a hand to pat its head between two long, floppy ears. But it hissed, showing razor-sharp teeth, and he withdrew with haste. "Yes, ah, she's very lucky. Well... enjoy, then." Qui-Gon bent down and nuzzled his nose against the animal's. Mace raised an eyebrow. "And am I correct in assuming you haven't told your Padawan you were bringing home another pet?"


     Qui-Gon shrugged, still looking starry-eyed at the animal. "He won't mind," he whispered, scratching beneath its chin. "He's used to me bringing home unfortunate animals."


     Mace grinned. "Yes. Yes, I suppose he is. Good luck, Master Qui-Gon. May the force be with you."


     Qui-Gon bid him farewell and left the landing pad, heading back to his quarters. It had been a long mission, and he was looking forward to hearing what his young Padawan had been up to in his absence. The fluffball was struggling in his arms as he could not pet it and carry his bag at the same time with his other hand. Talking in a sweet, childish voice to the squirming animal, "It's all right, we'll be home soon and I'll find you a nice warm place to curl up in." Qui-Gon was thinking of his own warm sleep couch, with thick blankets and comfortable pillows.


     Obi-Wan was spread out over the couch when Qui-Gon got home, surrounded by assignments, papers, datapads, books, scrolls. Qui-Gon smiled, making sure the door was securely closed behind him, before clearing away some of the work around Obi-Wan. Then, mischievously, he placed the animal on Obi-Wan's chest to wake him.


     And Obi-Wan did wake, with a startled yelp, in fact. He pulled back but was unable to go anywhere with the heavy animal pinning him down. He looked into it squashed face as it studied him, trying to decide if it wanted to hiss or settle in against Obi-Wan's warmth. After a few seconds, it chose the later, kneading its paws into the Padawan's chest with a very loud purring. Obi-Wan looked up at Qui-Gon with distaste. "Might it be possible for you to once go on a mission and not bring back some sort of animal, Master?" He was beginning to regret ever letting his master go out on solo missions as they all ended up like this.


     Qui-Gon laughed, bending down and kissing Obi-Wan on the forehead. "I'm glad to see you, too, my Padawan." He reached down and scratched the animal's head tenderly. It purred even louder and tilted its head towards the scratching fingers to get more attention from them. "It's a Throlorpian Diggaduff," he said offhandedly. This seemed to stir something in Obi-Wan's mind. He had learned something about Diggaduffs somewhere... just could not recall what it might be. "She was all alone and crying. And as she's pregnant, well, I just couldn't leave her outside in the storm. She would have been torn to pieces." As Qui-Gon scratched behind its floppy ears, it made a loud, gurgling sound and closed its eyes in relaxation. "Besides, it's been so quiet around here since we sent the pair of Longwaith birds over to the reserve."


     Rolling his eyes, "I liked the quiet. I was just getting used to it again, Master." His whisper was so soft that he doubted very much that Qui-Gon had heard it over the purring and gurgling noises the Diggaduff was making.


     "Poor little thing," cooed Qui-Gon, sitting down on the edge of the couch by forcing Obi-Wan over a bit, which essentially squished the Padawan against the back of the couch. "You know, it's a Jedi's job to protect all the creatures of the universe, not just the humanoid ones." The animal, as though understanding this commitment, stuck out its bright green tongue and licked his wrist. Qui-Gon chuckled as the sensation tickled.


     Obi-Wan was quite familiar with his Master's commitments to the other creatures of the universe as well. Not two weeks after Qui-Gon had taken him as a Padawan Learner, Obi-Wan had been forced to share his bedroom with a small flock of white Teranian pelicans for the fish tank holding the likewise rescued ocellati were in Qui-Gon's room and the two had to be separated so the birds wouldn't devour the fish. Shortly after that, the common area had been taken over by a vine that had been withering and dying on a planet doomed to a desert-age. The vine thanked Qui-Gon for restoring it by growing so thick and fast that they almost had to kill it off to get it to detach from their furniture. There had been several small animals over the years, of varying types and sizes from common animals like canines to more extravagant world-specific ones. Some with broken legs or hearing problems. Some blind or paralyzed. There had even been a horse-like animal that had been covered in scales where fur would have been and feathers where a mane and tail would be. It trampled several of Obi-Wan's homework reports before Qui-Gon found a sufficient home for it, too.


     This Diggaduff wasn't the first pregnant animal either. There had been litters of animals born beneath practically every piece of furniture they had. Obi-Wan recalled having to buy new bed sheets after one gave birth right on his pillow. And while Qui-Gon was taking care of and playing with the new arrivals, it was usually Obi-Wan's lucky duty to clean up after them all.


     Obi-Wan sighed, looking down at the ball of brown fur and shaking his head, resigning himself to the fact that it wouldn't be too bad this time. His master had the kindest heart he had ever known a Jedi to possess, and if he had to endure a litter of baby Diggaduffs for that, it was well worth the sacrifice. He reached out to pat its head in welcome, but quickly withdrew his hand. Instead, he quickly cupped it to his face, breathing heavily. "huh... huhCHIHHH! hehCHIIHHH!"


     The sneezes were quick and strong, shaking him. The Diggaduff hissed her displeasure being startled like this, and began furiously scratching at him where once she had been kneading. He made to push her off his chest completely, but didn't have the heart to do so. Wincing with pain and sniffling, he looked up helplessly at Qui-Gon. However before he could say a word, the scene faded and darkness closed in around him.


*          *          *


     Obi-Wan woke to a cool compress on his forehead. He propped himself up on an elbow and looked around to find Qui-Gon sitting on a chair beside the couch. "How're you feeling, Padawan?" he whispered, flipping the cloth over so it was again cool against his forehead.


     Obi-Wan thought to say he felt fine, but in truth he felt quite woozy and lowered himself back against the couch with a groan. His head throbbed as the room spun around him, and his head was filled with pressure between his eyes. His nose was filled with congestion and when he tried to sniff, he got nowhere in the attempt. "What happened?" he asked, confused.


     "You startled her with your sneezes and she scratched you. A Diggaduff's claws have--"


     "--toxins," Obi-Wan remembered. Qui-Gon nodded. "No wonder I feel so weak."


     "You'll be fine," Qui-Gon said, petting Obi-Wan's head the way he would an animal's. "You're fighting it. And the worst is over. Though you look rather paler than I'd like. And your breathing is too heavy."


     For that very reason, Obi-Wan couldn't reply. Feeling weak, he didn't lift a hand in time to his face, sneezing freely, "huhKUSHHH! hehCHIIIISH! huhSHIIHHH!" He sighed deeply. "I think I'm allergic to your new pet, Master."


     Qui-Gon chuckled, brushing a hand against Obi-Wan's cheek. "I should have guessed." This, too, was not an uncommon occurrence. Obi-Wan's nose had always been the sensitive sort and did not do well to have animals with fur or feathers sharing the same small space. Qui-Gon pulled out his handkerchief just in time to help cover Obi-Wan's next bit of sneezes.


     "huhCHUHHH! hehCHISHH! hehCHIHHHH! huhCHIHH!" Obi-Wan took the handkerchief from him, snuffling into it and blowing his nose in an attempt to alleviate the tickle. The thick congestion only made him cough and snort in a very un-Jedi-like manner.


     Qui-Gon took hold of his arm and put a hand on his back. "Come on, I know you're feeling faint but try and sit up for a little while. I'll help you." He got Obi-Wan to sit up, bending forward at the waist more than normal as coughs and deep breaths tore at him. He petted Obi-Wan, calming him down a little with each stroke against his soft, buzzed hair and his strong back.


     "hehKSHH! huhCHIIIHH! hehCHISHHH!" He rubbed at his nose this time, not needing to blow it. It seemed the tickles were going to come no matter what he did. And the urge to sneeze was irresistible. "huhCHIHHH! huhCHIIIIHH!"


     "Let's take your shirt off," Qui-Gon suggested, starting to tug Obi-Wan's shirt off. "It's covered in fur."


     The simple act of removal made some of the fur fly into the air, tickling Obi-Wan's nose terribly again. He buried his nose in the handkerchief, trying to push back the tickles, but the damage had been done. His breathing changed to gasps, his eyes were forced closed, and his jaw dropped. "huhCHIHSHHHHH! hehCHIIIH! huhCHIHHH!" He waved one hand in the air, trying to clear away whatever fur and dander might be lingering there. "huhhh...huhCHIIIII! ehhhCHUHHH! uhhhCHAHH! CHIIIHHH!"


     "Bless you," said Qui-Gon, smiling. His eyes twinkled, and his lips quivered as he tried to hold back his amusement at the situation.


     "Don't laugh, Master," Obi-Wan begged, sniffling. He looked up at Qui-Gon over the folds of the handkerchief. "hehCHIII!" Qui-Gon began chuckling at this. "Please... don't laugh at me. This isn't funny."


     Qui-Gon shook his head, trying to restrain himself again. But Obi-Wan's condition was just too much. Scratched and sneezing, and worse for it all even now that the animal wasn't even in the room. "No... not funny," choked Qui-Gon in agreement, tears in his eyes. But then he ducked his head and burst into laughter.


     The sound was musical, soft and comforting, and made Obi-Wan smile. He blew his nose and leaned sideways against the back of the couch with a laugh of his own. "I always seem to end up on the bad end of one of your charity cases, don't I, Master?" Qui-Gon looked up, face a little flushed, laughing too hard to answer. This was all Obi-Wan needed to start laughing as well.


     When the fit subsided, Qui-Gon leaned forward and gave Obi-Wan a warm hug. "Oh, my poor, sensitive Padawan. I'm so sorry," he said, rubbing tears from his eyes. "But yes... you do always seem to." He placed a hand on Obi-Wan's cheek. "Can I get you some tea, maybe?"


     Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. "That's your solution for everything, isn't it? huhCHII! huhCHIIIIH! Sniff!" He paused a moment to rub his nose. "I have a sore throat, you give me tea. I've got the flu, you give me tea. I've got a headache, tea. I can't sleep, tea. I have allergies--"


     "Tea," Qui-Gon nodded decidedly and popped right up to get some, leaving Obi-Wan sniffling on the couch.


     Though he wouldn't admit it, the tea, in fact, did help a bit. At least in keeping him from sneezing long enough to drink some of it. He set the cup down in his lap with a sigh, looking around the room. "So... where did the little brown fur-ball get to?"


     Slightly distracted by his Padawan's mild poisoning and allergies, Qui-Gon now turned his attention back towards the new pet. "I set her down so that she could choose the place she wanted to have her little ones in." He looked around the room and peered under the bed. "But I'm not sure where she headed off to. She waddles rather slowly and had to push herself on with that plump tail of hers. It's rather adorable, really." He checked beneath his own seat, but the Diggaduff was not there, either.


     "hahCHIIII! huhCHUHHH! huhCHEHHH! hehCHIIII!" Obi-Wan searched for a dry spot on which to blow his nose. "Yes, adorable, I'm sure. Just sniff, sniff! Just warn me if she comes near me?"


     Qui-Gon chuckled, nodding. "All right. Here," he gently pulled the handkerchief from Obi-Wan's fingers, balling it up in his palm. "I'll get you a clean one." His nose was tickling so badly that when his master had left, Obi-Wan double-checked beneath the couch to be sure the animal was not there. She wasn't. He righted himself just as Qui-Gon returned. "Well, I've checked my bedroom, and she's not there either. He eased the handkerchief into Obi-Wan's hand. "I'll look more carefully around everywhere in a moment." He pressed his hand against Obi-Wan's cheeks again. "You're all flushed."


     Obi-Wan smiled. "I'm all right. You go find that Diggaduff and get her settled in, all right? I'd help you but..." he lifted the handkerchief to his nose. "huhCHIIHFFF! hehCHFFFF! huhCHIFFFF!" He breathed heavily into the handkerchief and shook his head. "I dod't thig she'll wadt to see be... huhCHIISHH! hehCHIIIIHH! Or hear be for that batter."


     Smiling, Qui-Gon kissed his forehead again. "All right. I'll start the search." He dropped to his knees and started making soft clucking noises with his tongue against the top of his mouth. With a chuckle of his own, Obi-Wan lay back against the couch to close his eyes against the pressure that was still building between his eyes.


*          *          *


     "She couldn't have gotten out, could she?" Obi-Wan asked, lifting the sheets up from around his sleep couch to peer beneath it for the umpteenth time.


     "No!" Qui-Gon called from the common room. //I simply don't understand where she could be.//


     //We'll find her, Master. Don't worry.// For he could feel his master's worry between their bond. Obi-Wan checked behind his dresser, then proceeded to open and close each drawer of it in turn, just in case the animal had crawled into one of them. They had been searching for an hour without stop and without success. And, frankly, they were running out of places to look.


     "Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon said, coming into Obi-Wan's bedroom. "She's not here? You're sure she's not?"


     Obi-Wan stood and shook his head, pushing his long braid over his shoulder. "She's not here, Master. If she were here, I'd know it because I'd be snee...snee... sneh..." Obi-Wan cupped a hand over his nose and quickly turned away. "Sneh-hehCHIIIHHH! hehCHIIIHH! huhhhCHHIISHH! CHESHHH!" He pulled the top drawer of his dresser open and extracted a handkerchief forthwith.


     Qui-Gon grinned. "That's my Padawan." He patted Obi-Wan's arm affectionately as he went past.


     They had checked the closet thoroughly already several times, but went through it again. Or rather, Qui-Gon checked. Obi-Wan leaned against his sleep couch, sneezing almost constantly. "huhKSHHH! hehCHIIII! huhCHIIHHH! huhCHIIIII! hehSHIIIHH!"


     "Found her!" Qui-Gon called triumphantly after only a minute or so.


     "G-g-CHIIIH! huhCHIIIHH! hehCHISHHH!" He blew his nose, then got up and retrieved a fresh handkerchief from his dresser to cover more sneezes. "huhCHISHHH! huhCHESHH! hehCHIIII! Sniff, sniff! Good!" he called. He held the handkerchief over nose and mouth and peered into the closet, over Qui-Gon's shoulder.


     The Diggaduff was curled up in such a small ball that she was much smaller than Obi-Wan remembered. She was behind several boxes at the very bottom of a laundry basket which held some of Obi-Wan's old, dirty robes. With her amber-brown fur she blended into the robes so well she could barely be seen. Qui-Gon reached out and stroked her fur. She lifted her head, ears which had flopped over her face now pulled back. She blinked up at them with brilliant green eyes and began purring loudly. Obi-Wan grinned at Qui-Gon. "I'll... huhCHIII! hehCHAHH! hehCHUHHH! Sniff! I'll go get her sub warb bilk." She seemed to understand this and only purred louder at Obi-Wan's offer.


     But she cried out as he turned to leave. It was a honking, screeching sort of sound, which froze him in his tracks. "Seems she wants you to stay," Qui-Gon said, laughing. The Diggaduff was pulling herself to her feel and meaning to follow him, though her slowness in waddling with such a full belly seemed to cause her anxiety as she could not catch up to Obi-Wan. "You stay, I'll get the milk," Qui-Gon corrected. "Seems you, not I, have a new pet, Obi-Wan."


     "huhCHIIII! uhhhCHIIHH! hehCHIISHH! huhCHUHH! hehCHIIIH!" Obi-Wan rolled his eyes as the ball of fluff, which at least looked as though it had washed itself so its fur was not quite so gnarled and matted, rubbed up against his leg. "Oh... good," Obi-Wan sighed, sitting down on his couch and flopping into the pillows and blankets. "hehCHIIII!"


*          *          *


     "How's your nose, Padawan?" Qui-Gon asked, settling down on one end of Obi-Wan's sleep couch and handing him a large, steaming cup of tea.


     "huhCHII! hehCHIIISH! HIHSHHHH!" Obi-Wan blew his nose, which looked chapped enough that he could have easily claimed having a head cold. "It... it's better," he said. Though an improvement on absolutely terrible still meant he wasn't very well off at all. "It must be nursing time," he said, looking around the floor of his room to see the tiny little Diggaduffs running into the closet. He heaved a sigh of relief. "At least when they're feeding they're out of... of-hehCHIIIHH! huhCHUHHH! hehCHIIII!" He waved his hand around the room.


     Qui-Gon chuckled. "So we can tell their location and activity by your sneezes now, can we? What a wonderful talent you have there." Obi-Wan nodded miserably and leaned over, resting his head on Qui-Gon's shoulder. "Do not worry, my Obi-Wan," he said, stroking the back of Obi-Wan's head comfortingly. "They'll be out of here in another few weeks."


     Obi-Wan gave a weak smile as one of the little ones hopped up into his lap, apparently quite full and in need of a nap. Obi-Wan rolled his eyes and picked up a fresh handkerchief. "huhKSHHHH! huhCHISHH! huhCHHIIII! hehCHHIIII!" The little Diggaduff, which was a brilliant white with paws a soft shade of brown, purred happily and kneaded into his lap, circled, and settled down to sleep. Its paws were large compared to its small body, and its tail was longer than its legs. Its ears were so large and floppy that they were easily twice the size of its head. "Cute, isn't it?" he smiled wearily as Qui-Gon patted its little head, making it purr twice as loudly. "Cute like a little dev... devil-huhCHIIIHH! huhCHHIIIIH!" A second had joined the first on his lap, this one all brown except for white ears. It nuzzled against Obi-Wan's chest, then curled up to sleep beside the first one.


     Qui-Gon slid his hand down the back of Obi-Wan's head and across his back, giving him a loose sort of hug. "You know you love them. And you know you'll miss them when they're gone."


     "huhCHIHHHH! huh-heh-CHIIIIH!" He grimaced, but smiled and nodded as a third one snuggled onto his lap, purring contentedly.


     "Drink the tea, my Padawan," Qui-Gon said, squeezing him around the shoulders. Obi-Wan had had at least three glasses of tea every day since Qui-Gon had brought the mother home. Extremely tired of tea, Obi-Wan glared at him. "Ah-and I'll get you another decongestant."


     "Thank you," he said with a nod, smiling gratefully at Qui-Gon. He was almost certain that the reason he'd taken such a liking to the little Diggaduffs was because the medicine knocked him quite out of his normal senses. A fourth jumped into his lap now, crawling over the second and snuggling in the middle of the pile of his brothers and sisters. It looked up at him with tiny green eyes, a perfect mirror of its mother. Then it gave a great yawn, opening its little mouth as wide as it would go, then blinking its eyes with fatigue, unable to keep them open a minute longer, though it was trying because it seemed to like looking at Obi-Wan. It flopped down, falling asleep in seconds. "Well, maybe I do love them a little..." he said, smiling, immediately setting the tea down to pick up another handkerchief. "huhCHIFFFF! huhCHIFFFF! hehCHFFFF!" He looked down at his lap of fur and fluff skeptically. "Add baybe dot."