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As the World Caves In

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   “C’mon, girl… You ready to go for a walk?” Yelena excitedly called, patting her thigh to coax Fanny over. However, Fanny did not need the extra encouragement, because at the mere mention of a walk, she was already bounding over excitedly, wiggling in place as she eagerly waited for the blonde to put on her leash.

   Yelena grinned widely before growing just a little more hardened as she held her hand up in a signal for Fanny to sit.

   “Alright, sit down and be patient,” Yelena commanded somewhat firmly but with a great deal of fondness swelling in her chest as she looked down at her dog. Fanny swiftly complied, remaining still as she just watched Yelena with the utmost anticipation in her eyes. Yelena grinned a little in spite of herself as she clipped the collar onto the Akita.

   “Good girl,” Yelena praised, running her hand through Fanny’s fur affectionately. Fanny wagged her tail just a little, licking Yelena’s hand happily. Yelena smiled happily before turning to face the room, a slightly less enthusiastic look on her face as she looked behind her.

   “See you later, Liho,” Yelena bid the cat farewell before heading out the door, Fanny obediently at her side as they started on their walk to the compound.

   Natasha had to go for a meeting, and she had very graciously managed to get Yelena out of having to go so that the blonde could sleep in. That morning, Natasha had woken Yelena briefly to tell her that she was leaving and to come to the compound whenever she got up later. Yelena had not wanted her to go, but after many promises of cuddles later, Yelena finally let her leave and she fell back into a deep sleep.

   When she had finally gotten up and made herself a bowl of cereal, her heart had warmed at the sight of a bowl and the cereal box already resting on the counter near the fridge with a little sticky note with Natasha’s definitive handwriting scrawled across it. It had been a simple but sweet message with Natasha playfully expressing that she loved her with an adorably scrawled heart on the note.

   Now that she had finished her breakfast, however, she was going to go meet her big sister and she what she was up to at this point. And she figured that she would bring Fanny as well so that she could play with Lucky around the compound while Yelena hung out with Natasha.

   Yelena set out along the sidewalk and jogged as Fanny trotted along beside her briskly, the dog’s tongue lolling out happily as she enjoyed the exercise offered by the run.

   Yelena was looking forward to seeing Natasha, and that was honestly what was hurrying her pace a bit more than she ordinarily would have been moving on a walk with Fanny. Fanny, however, did not really seem to mind it too much.

   Yelena was already planning what she would do when she saw her big sister. She was going to ambush her and run as fast as she could behind her and jump onto her back. She knew Natasha would catch her since she always did every time that Yelena launched herself on her at full speed. In fact, it had become a bit of a game between the two of them, and Yelena had taken it upon herself to launch surprise piggy-back rides on Natasha. The redhead always complained that Yelena was getting too heavy for it, but Yelena knew that her big sister really did not mind the attacks.

   Fanny was quite similar to Yelena in that way as well. Oftentimes, when Yelena would jump and tackle Natasha from behind, Fanny would join in and place her front paws on Natasha’s back. She would then grab the back of Yelena’s vest or shirt between her teeth and tug playfully. She never tore any clothes, but Yelena was sometimes afraid she might.

   Fortunately, today, Fanny would probably be distracted when Yelena launched her attack on Natasha. Fanny always loved to play with Lucky, and it made Yelena really happy to see the two of them running around the compound together.

   “So, Fanny, you excited to see Lucky today?” Yelena piped up and asked the dog playfully, figuring that since she did not have a sister to talk to right now, she could talk to her current companion. Even if the dog was not really able to respond. Yelena liked to think that Fanny could actually understand her even if she could not reply.

   Fanny looked up at her intelligently, tilting her head a little at the sound of her name, and Yelena chuckled a little, looking ahead as she continued to jog along with Fanny close by her.

   “Yeah, I thought you would be,” Yelena chuckled under her breath with a slight smirk.

   However, she was quickly distracted by her phone sounding off in her pocket. Yelena paused in her jog, Fanny slowing down beside her, and Yelena withdrew her phone, stopping to take a look at it.

   She immediately rolled her eyes as she realized it was Kate messaging her some TikTok link. Yelena honestly regretted giving Kate her number since the goofy kid would not leave her alone now. Kate was way too determined to become friends with Yelena, and while a large part of Yelena was irritated by the girl, a small, traitorous part of herself actually appreciated Kate just a little in some odd manner. She was definitely not going to be best friends with Kate, but she did care about her a little.

   Yelena liked to compare Kate to a wart. It is really super annoying at first, but one learns to live with it.

   Despite the fact that Yelena would rather just keep jogging to the compound, she nevertheless took the time to follow the link and watch whatever weirdness that the brunette had sent to her.

   To her surprise, it was actually sort of entertaining. It was a compilation of videos of cats getting scared, which was one of Yelena’s favorite things to watch, despite the fact that Natasha frequently scolded her about it and said that it was mean to laugh at the poor cats. Yelena never listened to her, however, and she was very glad to find out that Kate actually had her same sense of humor in that way since they were both definitively dog-people.

   Just as Yelena was about to type a response to Kate and tell her that she was proud of her for finally being cool for once in her entire twenty-two years of life, she felt a tug at her leash. Yelena muttered a scold to Fanny, centering her attention on the text before her.

   However, just as she heard Fanny whine under her breath, the leash was suddenly yanked out of her hand. Yelena’s eyes went wide, and she looked up quickly.

   To her horror, Fanny was chasing a squirrel down the sidewalk with her leash flying along behind her. Yelena knew that Fanny’s greatest weakness and the one thing she was never able to resist were squirrels.

   But Yelena had never had to deal with Fanny chasing squirrels outside of the well-fenced dog park that she and the dog visited every week. So, at this point, she was really hoping her training with her would work.

   “Fanny! Come! Now!” Yelena called sternly, trying to keep the fear out of her voice as she hurried after the dog. She knew she needed to convey complete confidence to make Fanny actually listen to her.

   “Fanny!” Yelena yelled more loudly trying to at least get Fanny’s attention. However, Fanny continued to chase the squirrel, and she suddenly veered off of the sidewalk, starting to chase the squirrel onto the road.

   Yelena suddenly heard a car swiftly approaching, and Yelena’s eyes went wide as she hurried even faster, yelling for Fanny.

   “Fanny!!! Fanny, come, girl!!! Come here!” Yelena called even louder, hoping that the dog would come running toward her before the car came upon them.

   Yelena felt her heart stopping in her chest as she watched Fanny pause in the middle of the road, looking back at Yelena curiously as she finally listened to her. Yelena patted her thighs, trying to coax Fanny to hurry.

   “Fanny, come here, girl! Come on!” Yelena cried, flashing a quick glance at the car. It was moving far too fast and was way too close.

   Yelena steeled her gaze, starting to run toward Fanny as the dog began to come toward her. However, just as the dog turned to come back to her and Yelena thought Fanny was out of the way of the car, everything went down in a blur.

   There was a loud squealing of cars, a definitive thump, and a crunch. Fanny was immediately thrown a small distance down the road, rolling over herself. There was so much fur, and Yelena was immediately screaming as the car buzzed past, moving around the fallen dog.

   “FANNY!!!!”

  Yelena rushed over to the dog, collapsing onto her knees on the pavement on the side of the road as she frantically looked over the dog. Fanny was just lying there, panting and whimpering in pain as she looked up at Yelena out of the corner of her eye. Yelena ran her hand over the dog’s head in the most feather-light of touches, and Fanny lifted her head just barely to lick her hand, a whine resounding from her.

   “You’re okay, it’s going to be okay, pup, please…. Please just hang on for me,” Yelena told her almost in a panic, her hands shaking miserably as she felt tears overwhelming her as she took in the blood on the road around them.

   Yelena ran her hand along Fanny’s side and toward her leg, red staining her palm from the blood on the dog, and she gathered Fanny’s upper body in her arms, burying her face in Fanny’s scruff around her neck. Fanny whined a little once again, sensing Yelena’s pain and trying to lick Yelena’s face.

   Yelena felt the tears coming on strongly, and she tried to pull Fanny to the side of the road just a little so that they would hopefully not be hit again. Fanny pitifully cried as she did it, and Yelena felt her heart breaking in half as the tears spilled hotly down her cheeks.

   “I’m sorry, pup, I’m sorry,” Yelena apologized, her voice shaking miserably as her accent thickened to the point that it was almost not even coherent English.

   Fanny was panting, her chest rising and falling with the pain, and Yelena sobbed hard at the sight of her beloved dog in such horrid pain. Guilt was overtaking her so strongly that she almost could not think in a straight line.

   Why didn’t Yelena just pay attention to Fanny when she was making noise? Why couldn’t she have looked away from the phone and listened to her?

   “You’re going to be okay. Please don’t leave me, girl, please,” Yelena begged, and Fanny just labored to breath in her arms, the dog licking her hand that was near her face. Yelena sniffed hard, wiping her tears from her face with her arm only for them to be replaced by more.

   Yelena dug into her pocket for her stupid, accursed phone, and she withdrew it carefully, her fingers stained with blood as she unlocked it and clicked Natasha on her emergency contacts. Yelena sniffled again, holding onto Fanny tightly and keeping her in her lap as she cried over her. She ran her fingers through her fur, trying to ignore the periodic whines that Fanny kept releasing with every other breath.

   “Hey, sweet girl.

   “Natashka, something happened,” Yelena could not keep the sob out of her voice as she spoke, and she could almost feel the redhead’s concern rolling off of her.

   “Yelena, are you okay?

   “I’m fine,” Yelena replied, sniffing hard, and Natasha was quiet, just listening to her carefully as she no doubt waited for Yelena to explain what was going on.

   A beat of silence ensued for a moment. Yelena took in a shaky breath, a wail overtaking her in spite of herself as she uttered her next words.

   “But, Natashka, I think Fanny’s dying.”