“Dogs are dirty,” Simon explained. “They’re big, and slobbery and wild. I’d much rather a cat.”
Kaylee scoffed, peering down into the pen of wriggling beagle puppies. “Well, these dogs ain’t big or slobbery, and if y’train ‘em well enough, they ain’t too wild, neither.” She reached down, picking one of the squirming puppies up to cradle it close to her breast. “Dogs are intelligent and cute. Can’t say so much for cats.”
Simon sighed, aware he was treading dangerous water. “Cats are very intelligent, actually. They were worshipped as Gods in the ancient Egyptian culture back on Earth-That-Was.”
Kaylee eyed him critically. “Dogs are loyal.” She scratched the puppy’s ear, which set its tail a-wagging. “And they got adorable waggy little tails when they’re happy.”
Simon smiled a little. “Well, cats purr.”
Kaylee shook her head before thrusting the wriggling puppy into his arms. It yelped happily and immediately wormed up to plant a wet lick on his neck. The revulsion that rippled visibly through Simon’s body broke Kaylee into peals of laughter. “Think he likes you.”
Jayne ambled by, arms full, glancing at the two of them. “Don’t y’all get too attached t’them mutts, y’hear? We’re droppin’ ‘em off right soon enough.”
Simon deposited the dog back into the pen before wiping furiously at his neck. “Jayne’s right,” he said, his voice wavering as he scrubbed.
Kaylee linked her arm through his, leaning into him. “You were doin’ so good, puttin’ aside all your properness earlier. A little dog ain’t gonna break you.”
“It’s dirty,” Simon protested.
“What on this ship ain’t?” she chided. “Loosen up a bit, Simon. Maybe once you stop wearin’ these fancy vests you’ll not mind getting a bit dirty.”
Simon looked down at his vest, realizing in horror that it now was coated in dog hair. He untangled himself from her to brush at it, frantically. “I have to maintain certain levels of properness, Kaylee, you know that. It’s all I’ve got left.”
Kaylee shook her head, leaning back. She crossed her arms, fixing him with a disappointed glare. “That ain’t so. You got everything on this ship, Simon. Me, and River, and . . . and everybody. It’s about time y’realized that.” She pushed past him, grumbling. “When y’finally figure it out, then maybe we can talk.”
Simon watched her storm away, stunned. “How is it that I keep managing to do that?”
Jayne looked over at him, from where he was busy assembling a kennel for the dogs. “First rule ‘bout courtin’ women--” he called.
“I’m not sure I actually want to hear this,” Simon cut in.
Jayne scowled. “First rule,” he repeated, “is you don’t never disagree with ‘em. Least, not before y’had ‘em in bed once.” He grinned lecherously.
“You’re disgusting,” Simon announced. Still, there was a valid point buried beneath all that crassness. Simon looked down at the puppies thoughtfully and made up his mind. He gingerly scooped up the one Kaylee had thrust into his arms earlier, and turned to carry it up the stairs with him. “You and I,” he said to the dog, “are going to go apologize.”