Title: Invasion of the Fluffballs
Author: Maychorian
Genre: Humor
Timeframe: JA; Obi-Wan is in his middle teens, 15, 16, something like that
Summary: Obi-Wan is extremely irritated by a new Council edict. Qui-Gon offers a suggestion.
Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn
Author's Note: Inspired by random discussion among some Jello-lovers.

Invasion of the Fluffballs

"Master, the Temple is under attack!"

Qui-Gon looked up as Obi-Wan entered their quarters with face red and clothes rumpled. By his frustrated trembling, he was obviously trying to keep from kicking something. "Is that so, Padawan?"

"Yes! We're being overrun by tiny creatures! They're walking through the halls as if they own the place, noses in the air, tails twitching like fur-covered snakes . . . And you know the worst part? Everyone dotes on them!"

"Everyone except you."

Obi-Wan nodded vigorously, stepping forward as he brushed ineffectively at his robes, trying to rid them of the fine, orange hairs that clung to the fabric. As he walked into the common room he froze, staring at the small creature in Qui-Gon's lap with round, disbelieving eyes. "Master! You too?"

The small black-and-white cat rubbed its head against Qui-Gon's palm, purring like a lightsaber on a low setting. He raised one eyebrow at the boy. "You're surprised?"

The Padawan huffed a sigh and flopped into the chair across from his Master. "Oh, I suppose not," he muttered. "I just . . . hoped . . ." He paused to shoot the older Jedi a pointed glare.". . . that my home might be a sanctuary from the madness."

"Do tell," Qui-Gon said neutrally.

Obi-Wan proceeded to do so. "They're everywhere! A litterbox on every floor! The other day I saw Yoda talking to one of the little furballs, crouched down with his nose nearly touching its, and I swear the thing was talking back. The initiates argue over their names . . . each child must have a different name for each cat. You wouldn't believe what they've come up with! Motheus? Sprinklekin? Muffin? It's positively disgraceful. Whose idea was it for the Temple to start taking in all the strays of Coruscant, anyway?"

Qui-Gon smiled. The black-and-white cat meowed.

Impossibly, Obi-Wan's eyes got even bigger. "Sithspit!"

"Language, Padawan. As a matter of fact, Kit Fisto made the first suggestion. But this is one council edict that I will not try to circumvent."

The huge blue-green eyes narrowed suddenly. "You used a Force-suggestion, didn't you? I had no idea you were so devious, Master."

Qui-Gon ignored this, merely tipping his chin toward Obi-Wan's robe as he continued to stroke the cat. "If you're avoiding them like the plague you claim they are, how did you get fur all over yourself?"

"Well, I was trying to do a good deed. A kitten was stuck in a tree in one of the meditation gardens, and a little initiate asked me to help her get it down. And look at this!" He pulled back the sleeve of his robe and tunic and displayed his inner forearm, pointing accusingly at three long, red lines that wavered along the pale flesh. "Ungrateful little beast . . ." he mumbled. "They don't like me, Master."

"Of course they don't, Padawan. Cats are very sensitive. They can tell you dislike them and want to get rid of them. And that kitten probably could have gotten out of the tree by itself. Have you ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree? No wonder it didn't want you to touch it."

The black-and-white meowed its agreement. Obi-Wan crossed his arms over his chest and glared at them both.

Qui-Gon sighed. "You are taking this much too seriously, Obi-Wan. I suggest you go meditate until you find a proper attitude to deal with this situation."

Obi-Wan was wise enough to recognize a command. He rose and bobbed a stiff little bow, then started making his way toward the door, still brushing at the hairs clinging to him and mumbling under his breath.

The Master lifted a finger. "May I suggest a calming technique? There's a simple action that I find very soothing and helpful when I have difficulty meditating, which I don't believe you've heard before."

Obi-Wan paused, looking back at his Master with interest. "Truly? What would that be?"

Qui-Gon smiled. "Why, stroking a cat, of course."

Once again he had to rebuke the Padawan's language before Obi-Wan finally made his way out the door.

Obi-Wan made his way to one of the smaller meditation gardens—not the one in which he had "rescued" a kitten earlier. This one was relatively cat-free. Only one tortoiseshell lurked under a bush on the far side of the garden.

He settled down on his knees, breathing deep the scent of fresh, growing vegetation, enjoying the sound of the small brook meandering over large, smooth stones in the middle of the room. It was peaceful here. Quiet. No meowing or baby-talk or arguing over the merit of such names as "Twinkleberry" and "Moobie-mine."

Still, he could not find a "proper attitude" for this situation, at least not as he imagined Qui-Gon would expect it. Concentration was slippery, and inappropriate emotions like frustration and self-vindication kept surfacing despite his best efforts to subdue them.

Obi-Wan sighed and let his eyes slip open, settling further into the mossy earth. This wasn't working. He needed to change his attitude, and the Force seemed ambiguous on the subject, not helpful at all. Or perhaps that was him projecting his own feelings.

The tortoiseshell cat caught the corner of his vision, and he looked at it with eyes suddenly narrowed in thought. The cat licked its paw and pulled it over its head several times. At least they were clean little beasties.

He remembered Qui-Gon's suggestion, and scrunched his nose in doubt. Well, Obi-Wan was willing to try anything once. Especially if it might help him meditate.

He leaned forward, resting one hand on the ground and extending the other toward the cat. "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," he called in a soft, high voice.

The cat lowered its paw and stared at him, but made no move. Obi-Wan dropped his hand, staring back. One small, pointy ear flicked minutely, and the cat blinked, displaying large yellow eyes with those freaky vertical pupils.

Force, he felt like a fool. Obi-Wan sat back on his heels, still staring thoughtfully at the cat. Qui-Gon had said that cats were sensitive and could tell he didn't like them. But that was what he was trying to change, though he couldn't quite manage it on his own . . . .

Obi-Wan grunted slightly. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. He closed his eyes and focused on the feelings he was projecting. Gradually he changed the sense he sent out proclaiming that he would be just fine if every cat in the Temple decided to eat itself to something slightly more positive.

Cats are living creatures, part of the Force, he reminded himself. The one that scratched me was defending itself. Their seeming arrogance and self-absorption is actually independence and expression of individuality. Yeah. That's it.

It was probably more of a mask than an actual change, but when Obi-Wan opened his eyes he was pleased to discover that it had worked. The tortoiseshell cat was slowly stalking toward him, eyes narrowed in contentment, bushy tail whipping back and forth.

"Hello, you furry little monster," Obi-Wan crooned sweetly as it sniffed his outstretched hand. "Want to help me meditate? 'Course you do!"

The cat rubbed its whiskered cheek across his fingers, and Obi-Wan's feeling of positivity tipped toward being genuine. It was . . . rather cute, actually. He shifted into a cross-legged position, and the cat seemed to consider this for a moment, then stepped daintily into his lap with all the stateliness of a royal ascending his throne.

"My liege," Obi-Wan said respectfully, and carefully began to pet the length of the warm, lithe body.

Almost immediately a low, rough purr began to rumble through the small chest, vibrating against Obi-Wan's hand. It was . . . nice. Kind of comforting. The fur was soft and silky, pleasant against the callused pads of his fingers. He opened his hand to stroke with his palm.

Hmm. He could almost understand what Qui-Gon saw in this. Very calming. The Padawan's positive feeling slipped a couple of notches upward.

Obi-Wan closed his eyes and fell into an easy meditation. Qui-Gon was right, as usual. This was very soothing . . . helpful . . . nice.

He slid slowly into the deeper levels of meditation, always aware of the rumbling purr and silky fur against his hand. His connection to the Force was different than he'd ever experienced it, not necessarily stronger or deeper, but different. Sweet. Smooth.

Obi-Wan was positively glowing with good feelings for all the small, furry creatures in the Temple. In fact, he was close to experiencing genuine love for all cat-kind.

As he began to surface from the meditation, he was aware of a warm, fuzzy feeling. It was not just his hand, but all over. In fact, it was a bit stifling.

Obi-Wan's eyes snapped open, and he realized what his good feelings had wrought. Apparently his positive projection had worked on the cats in the Temple the way the sound of a bell worked on trained Gundarks.

He was covered with cats. And they were all purring with supreme contentment.

"Gah!" he yelled, flailing ineffectively beneath the pile of fur, not strongly enough to throw them off because he didn't want to hurt them. "Somebody help me!"

In moments Qui-Gon Jinn ran into the garden room, summoned by the distress through their bond. "Obi-Wan, what—!"

His eyes suddenly got very, very big.

"Help me!" the boy cried desperately. "I can't move! I can't breathe! Everything's going dark!"

"Calm down, Padawan," Qui-Gon said, beginning to gently unbury his apprentice. "You can breathe enough to yell—you're nowhere near passing out from lack of oxygen."

At last the Padawan was on his feet, shaking slightly and clinging to his Master's arm. The cats milled about, rubbing against his legs, purring like mouse-droids with faulty motivators. Obi-Wan tried to take a step and nearly tripped.

"My, my, what did you do, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon asked in bemusement.

Breathlessly the Padawan explained. "I didn't realize it would work so well," he finished, still close to hyperventilating.

"I've told you that you're more powerful than you realize," Qui-Gon said gently, patting his arm. "Now they all love you. And you know, cats are very loyal. Once you earn their affection, they'll follow you forever."

Obi-Wan stared at him blankly for a split second.

Jedi three floors away looked up at the anguished wail that echoed through the hallowed halls.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

The End (probably)