A/N: Been writing too many doom and gloom fics. So here's a quick fluffy-ish one shot involving puppies.

"A puppy," Obi-Wan says in weary disbelief.

Qui-Gon shifts the creature's weight slightly in his arms and doesn't even have the grace to look embarrassed. "Acute as always, Padawan." The puppy yips in agreement, its tongue lolling out in a smile.

Obi-Wan glares at it.

He's so busy glaring at it, in fact, that he almost misses his Master's next words. "She's your responsibility now." Obi-Wan stares at him, aghast.

"But—" he sputters. His Master though, is already striding off, long legs taking him further and further out of sight, having deposited an armful of squirming puppy into Obi-Wan's arms, who seemed to have betrayed him by automatically reaching out when Qui-Gon handed it to him. The puppy looks after Qui-Gon's receding figure and whines pitifully. "Yeah, me too," Obi-Wan mutters.

There's nothing else to be done but to take his new charge back to their quarters to get settled in. Obi-Wan doesn't bother to hide his mournful expression as he takes the shortest route there, resolutely ignoring the amused looks of everyone he passes.

"Well," he says to the puppy, who's ignoring him in favor of gamboling about as soon as he's set it down. He picks it up again to get its attention. "Well, here's where you'll sleep." He points to the comfortable pillow he usually keeps in his closet for emergencies like these. He places the puppy on the pillow to demonstrate, but it shakes itself and leaps onto his bed. "No," he says firmly, picking it up and putting it back onto the pillow. "That's my bed, not yours."

Food, he thinks. That'll distract it. As if sensing his thoughts, the puppy bounds out of the room toward the kitchen, Obi-Wan trailing after it.

He looks through their stock of food and decides on cooking some rice and meat for the puppy, and making a sandwich for himself. He finds himself holding it as he cooks. Her fur is soft and warm.

After dinner, he reads while she romps around a bit, playing with a worn rope toy. When the Force becomes peaceful, sleepy, he carries her to his room and places her gently on the pillow.

Then he leaves to go find his friends.

"I mean, I'm twenty standard years old," Obi-Wan complains half-heartedly.

Bant nods with the air of someone who's heard the same speech many times over. "What did he give you this time?"

"A puppy," Obi-Wan says, not appreciating her squeal at his words. Still, he shows her a picture.

"Aww," Bant says. "She's adorable! This one I'd be happy to take off your hands until your Master returns."

Obi-Wan shakes his head. "As much as the thought appeals to me, she's my responsibility."

Bant laughs. "Just admit it, Obi. You love her already, you big softie."

Obi-Wan smiles but shakes his head. "I just wish he'd stop leaving me with creatures to care for when he leaves," he mutters. "I'm not a child anymore." It'd been years since that horribly embarrassing incident when he'd had a very mild case of separation anxiety the first time Qui-Gon had departed on a solo mission. After that, his Master had brought him a different helpless creature to take of every time he had to leave Obi-Wan behind at the Temple. The only reason they aren't running a zoo by now is because Qui-Gon always returned with a family ready to give the animal a good home.

He soon takes his leave of Bant, as she had to turn in earlier for an early mission departure the next morning.

When he steps into his room, mindful of the sleeping puppy inside, he finds her still on her pillow. He eyes the dog hair on his bed with mild annoyance that he dispels into the Force. After he prepares for bed, he crawls under the covers with a sigh. The apartment seems lonely without his Master. "You're not fooling me, you know," he finally says. He sense the puppy open one eye guiltily. With a chuckle, he pats the bed. The puppy immediately leaps up and curls up by his side. "It'll be our secret," Obi-Wan murmurs as he drifts to sleep.

Three days later, Qui-Gon returns to find Obi-Wan engaged in a game of tug-of-war with the puppy. His Padawan lets go when he sees him, sending the puppy tumbling across the floor, jaws still tightly clenched on the rope. "Master!" he says. "I apologize for not meeting you at the landing pad."

Qui-Gon waves the apology away. For every return, he'd calculate a fifty percent chance Obi-Wan would be there to meet him. He knows some of the other Masters believe it to be a lack of devotion, but he knows better.

He watches as Obi-Wan absentmindedly pats his thigh, and the puppy come running toward him, snuggling into his lap with a contented sigh. He looks up at Qui-Gon expectantly.

"The mission was a success, Padawan," Qui-Gon says, not wishing to break the news yet. Obi-Wan must have gotten very attached to the puppy if he hadn't even stood up and offered to take his bags.

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan says, one hand petting the puppy. "Oh, let me take your bags." He places the puppy gently on the floor and stands up.

Qui-Gon allows him to take the bags to the room. He'd learned long ago that declining would only disappoint his apprentice. Instead, he wanders to the kitchen, where Obi-Wan had prepared a cup of tea for him. It's piping hot. So Obi-Wan had consciously decided to stay behind today, to play with his puppy and make his Master tea. He pats the puppy's head when she snuffles at his feet. "No treats for you," he says, smiling. "I'm sure Obi-Wan's spoiled you enough. He certainly spoils his old Master."

"You're not old, Master," Obi-Wan says as he enters the kitchen. "And I don't spoil you. I simply treat you as you deserve." It's the first his attention's focused solely on Qui-Gon, and not on his puppy. There's a hint of something in his eyes, in his Force signature, that Qui-Gon's been sensing for years now, and more so recently. He turns away though, his attention once again caught by the puppy, who'd evidently decided that Obi-Wan is a better human to convince of treat-giving. Sure enough, Obi-Wan reaches into his pocket and tosses a biscuit to her.

"You'll like the home I've found for her," Qui-Gon says gently. Obi-Wan's hand doesn't stop petting her.

"I always do," Obi-Wan says.

"Two loving and sweet girls, and one cheerful younger brother who has the energy to keep up with her."

"I'm sure she'll love her home, Master."

"I've sent the address to your datapad," Qui-Gon says. "You may bring her to them today, Obi-Wan."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan murmurs.

Qui-Gon sits at the table as he usually does after his Padawan had dutifully left to take whatever animal Qui-Gon had given him to its new home, and thinks. He considers whether the lesson had been taught and whether it need be repeated again.

He knows Obi-Wan thinks he gives him a pet every time he leaves on a solo mission because of the mission years ago when Qui-Gon had misjudged Obi-Wan's readiness to be separated from him. At first, it had been that. As the years passed though, Obi-Wan had grown into a fine young man, a Padawan any Master would be proud of. Qui-Gon wonders if he's being overly paranoid, but in this case he had to trust in the Force. He cannot shake the faint sense of tragedy written deep in Obi-Wan's Force signature, despite his constant admonishments to "live in the moment."

If he had to be cruel, if somehow this parade of pets would help Obi-Wan deal with loss in the future, then Qui-Gon would bear his own guilt and Obi-Wan's quiet moping.