Title: Solas
Summary: The crew of Serenity acquires an unusual (and furry) new member.
Pairing: None, though seems to come off slightly Mal/River-ish even though I didn't write it with that in mind
Spoilers/Timeline: Post- BDM
Author's Note: Written for someone at my livejournal who requested 'something tingly'. This is what I ended up with. :-D


"Alright, we're gonna restock our food supplies and then -"

Mal Reynolds realized his crew was no longer walking with him. He turned around and found them all (minus Inara, who was working and Zoe, who was minding the ship) gathered around a small basket on the street. A little dog was perched up on the edge of the basket, eagerly presenting its face to the group of admirers.

"Hey," Mal called. "Step away from the puppy." Nobody listened. Kaylee picked the puppy out of the basket and started to snuggle with it. "Put the puppy down." Nobody listened. The puppy licked Kaylee's face with enthusiasm. Simon patted its head. "Come here or I'm gonna shoot one of you." He sighed and marched back to his crew. "We're not getting a puppy."

"But he's free, capt'n," Kaylee said, pointing to the Chinese character on the basket. "And he's all alone. Someone'll probably eat'm."

"Not our problem," Mal replied, unmoved.

"Don't listen to the grumpy capt'n," Kaylee told the puppy. "He's just a big meanie head. What's your name, huh? Let's see, you look like a - "

"Do not name that puppy," Mal warned.

"Samson."

"Samson's a girly name," Jayne put in.

"Look who's talking," Kaylee shot back.

Jayne ignored her. "He needs a name like Killer or Bonecrusher or...Rex."

"He don't need a name, 'cause we ain't keepin' him. What part of that ain't I making clear!" Mal snapped.

The puppy squirmed in Kaylee's arms and she set him down on the ground. River, who had been quietly watching the scene, sat down in the dirt beside him and he crawled up her legs, into her lap. She beamed at him and Mal had an odd tingly sensation in his stomach. He didn't think he'd ever seen her beam like that before. She picked the puppy up and held him to her, burying her face in his fur. The tingly sensation grew worse. Mal averted his eyes.

"We don't got room for a puppy. We live on a spaceship. He'll fall down the stairs and break his little puppy neck and everyone will cry and fuss," he tried to reason.

"I'll watch him real good, capt'n," Kaylee promised, solemnly. "I'll take care of him."

Not for the first time, Mal had the feeling of being the father to a bunch of toddlers. His whole crew looked at him expectantly, even Jayne. He frowned sternly and contemplated sending them all to bed without dinner.

"Ruff! Ruff!"

The puppy had made its way off River's lap and was barking with attempted ferociousness at Mal. No, not Mal, something behind Mal. The dog darted forward and latched its tiny puppy teeth onto a man's leg. The man howled and Mal spotted his wallet in his failing hand.

"Gorram, pickpockets!" he snarled. He snatched the wallet back, punched the man hard in the face. The man went down, unconscious. Mal turned back to his crew. "We ain't keeping the puppy."

"He just saved your life!" Kaylee exclaimed. Mal raised his eyebrows at her. "Well, your money at least."

"We should probably stop him from chewing off that man's leg," Simon noted, and moved around Kaylee to pry the puppy off. "He would make a good guard dog, though, captain. When he gets a bit bigger."

Mal took the puppy from Simon's hands and carefully dropped him back into his basket. The puppy righted himself and jumped against the side of it, trying to get out again. The basket rolled over and ended upside down over the puppy, like a cage.

"Rufrufruf!" The puppy barked, furiously. The basket moved along the ground as he pushed it around.

Mal's tingly stomach went nuts. He looked around at his crew again; at River, who was helping the puppy out with a wonderful smile on her face.

"Y'all better give it a better name than Samson," he said, finally.

"His name is Solas," River said, lifting the puppy to stare in its eyes. Mal's tingles moved to his spine. The puppy licked her nose, happily, like it knew that it was exactly what its name was. "Because he's all alone." She got up gracefully and cradled him in her arms. She smiled up at Mal. "Until now."

Mal nodded, briefly, and moved out of Kaylee's hug after returning it for a moment or two. "Y'all better buy it some food. And hurry, I ain't got all day."

He turned and stepped over the still unconscious pickpocket, marched back towards the docks, and willed the tingles in his stomach to go away.