Author's note: Written for Caesar's Palace shipping week (prompt "pets"). Because this relationship deserved more than a one-liner mentioned in "Shattered"!

Also uses the CP prompt playful (Emotions Challenge) and slim (Nova Challenge).

Thanks to: Scorp for the beta lookover!

Faithful and True

The memories of her earliest days were fuzzy, but she had memories of those days when she had lived in the big blue-gray building that housed dozens of animals. Only her mother, brothers and sisters had the long, luxurious russet fur that caused the resident humanoids to coo and squeal and call them "beautiful", although there were many other puppies in residence—just with different fur colors and body shapes and in different sizes.

And then there were the strange animals! Some of these other animals had more fur than she did; others had no fur at all. Some even lived in water, or in special enclosures that stayed closed all the time. She had always been glad that she and her siblings could come out when visiting humanoids came to play.

Many of them specifically came to visit the puppy's enclosure. Some even asked to see her up close. The latter request often meant a trip to the open play area, where she got to run in the fresh air. She would show the visitors how well she could run, jump and bring toys back or chase after them. Sure, she was a little smaller and slower than her brothers and sisters—and sometimes she even tripped over her own paws, but she did well enough at her own pace.

But then she would watch the resident humanoids talk to the visiting humanoids in low tones. Their faces were serious, the words she could make out insensible: "runt" and "potential immune issues" and "needs a dedicated companion". These conversations always made the visiting humanoids cast sad glances in her direction before they would leave, never to be seen again.

Day after day, the small red puppy watched the veritable parade of humanoids come and go. Each time, she did her veritable best to make a good impression but it was in vain.

Until the day she came.

This new humanoid—a female—was small and slim for a humanoid, compared to the resident humanoids, at least. She was clad in the black-with-colored-collar second-fur that so many of the visiting humanoids often wore. Just like all the others, she requested a closer look. Except unlike the others, she knelt down in the middle of the enclosure and waited patiently. Curious, the puppy bounded over to greet her, pausing when they were face to face. She sniffed the offered hand, then barked and bounded in a circle around the female, hopping into her lap, then out of it and back again. On her fourth circle, she stumbled during a jump and landed on her back right in the humanoid's lap, all four paws in the air. Growling at her own clumsiness, she rolled back onto her paws and sprang over to grab a nearby rope toy. When she turned back around, ready to offer the toy, the female was standing upright again and talking to one of the resident humanoids.

"Are you sure? Perhaps you'd like to see some others before making your decision?"

"No, thank you. This one will do just fine."

"Captain, she was the runt of the litter. You should be aware of—"

"I know what the information on file says. But she has spunk and that's exactly the kind of dog I'm looking for..."

"This is the last time I'll allow you on the couch, Molly. You're not a puppy anymore."

Molly huffed a sigh of satisfaction as she flopped down on the other half of the sofa and lay her head on Kathryn's blanket-covered knee. She couldn't get away with sneaking onto the couch like she used to when she was a puppy, but there were still occasional times that the combination of a long, soulful stare and a little whine would get her her way. But she knew the stack of padds on the side table meant Kathryn was leaving again soon—and therefore, she was being allowed these little liberties before another long separation would come.

Closing her eyes, Molly let the muted chirping noises from the padds lull her to sleep.