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All Bark and No Bite

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Heather slowly stirred the canned chicken noodle soup heating up on the stove. Fiona had a cold, and Heather was trying to be a Good Girlfriend and take care of her. She had no idea how to be a Good Girlfriend, but she could give it a go anyways. Making soup for the sickie had seemed like a pretty good start, since that was what her...well, what used to happen when she got sick. She sipped at the soup to test the temperature, and poured it into an almost ridiculously large bowl. She plopped the spoon into the bowl, cursing when it slid fully into the soup, and spent a good five minutes fishing it out with another, bigger spoon. The soup was maybe a bit too cool by the time she got the spoon situation sorted, but it was the thought that counted, right? (Wrong, only results counted. She should know this by now). In any case, she brought the soup to Fiona's bedroom. When she opened the door, she saw Hewie's ears perk up and his head swivel to stare at her. Heather focused on Fiona, lying in bed with tissues strewn about her.

“I made you soup,” Heather said, holding up the bowl as if to prove that yes, she did indeed make some soup.

Fiona smiled, though it was a little strained under her tiredness (at least, Heather hoped that was why it looked strained). “Thank you,” she said, her voice huskier than usual from the cold. Heather kinda liked it.

She handed the bowl to Fiona, then shoved her hands in her pockets and slouched over slightly. “Least I could do,” she muttered, not feeling like she did anything special. All she did was heat up some soup, after all. After a few seconds of standing there while Fiona ate the soup, Heather asked, “Anything else I can do?”

Fiona set the bowl down on her lap and bit her lip. “Actually,” she said, “And you don't have to do this if you don't want to! But it'd be quite helpful if you could take Hewie for a walk.” Hewie, who had been staring at Heather since she opened the door, looked at Fiona at the combination of his name and the word walk. His tail thumped against the bed.

“Uh, sure,” Heather said slowly. She looked at Hewie in apprehension. Just a dog, just a dog, she thought, over and over again. Maybe sometime it'd stick.

Fiona must've noticed her discomfort (of course she did), because she added, “Don't feel like you need to! I can do it, just as soon as I'm done eating.”

“No, no,” Heather said, placing a firm hand on Fiona's knee. She could feel Hewie's eyes on her. “You're sick, you shouldn't go outside. I can do it,” she said firmly. She definitely could do it, that is, she was physically capable of putting a leash on a dog and taking it for a walk. “So, uh, where do you keep the leash?”

“It's on a hook right next to the door,” Fiona said. “The doggy bags are in a little pouch on the leash itself, so don't worry about that.” Heather winced. She had forgotten about that part. “Thank you so much,” Fiona said softly, “It means a lot to me.”

“Of course,” Heather mumbled, ducking her head down. “Come on Hewie,” she said, turning around and walking out of the room. She didn't hear the sounds of a dog following her (and she knew that sound well), so she looked over her shoulder. Hewie was still lying on the bed, staring at her, not moving.

Fiona made a soft, displeased noise and nudged Hewie with her foot. “Go on, Hewie,” she said, “Be a good boy for Heather.” Hewie sighed in the way that dogs do, but stood up and made his way off the bed and over to Heather's side. Heather took a nice, deep breath in and out, trying to relax her body. Dogs could sense fear, couldn't they? “Good boy,” Fiona said, before looking up at Heather and saying “Thank you again.”

Heather shrugged and said, “No problem. When you're done with the soup just leave the bowl on the bedside table or something. I'll get it when we get back.” Fiona nodded and picked up her spoon again. Heather finally left the room, Hewie walking at her side. She easily found the leash-and-chain combo, and looped the chain around Hewie's neck. Her hands might've shook a bit as they got close to his face (his teeth), but no one had to know that, did they?

So, with Hewie properly leashed and hopefully willing to listen to Heather, she left Fiona's apartment and started down the stairs. Hewie, again, stayed right by her side. She waved to the security guard at the desk, but didn't stick around to be drawn into another awkward, how 'bout that weather conversation. Especially not with half her focus on Hewie and where he was in relation to her and what he was doing and whether or not it seemed like he would attack and the best way to deal with it if he did. She shoved the door of the apartment building open and felt the fresh, cool air on her face. She could do this.

She, could do this? Barely, but she could. It was the time of day when the sun's set but you can still see without streetlights. There was a nice breeze, and the air was clear (no fog). There were people, real people, all around her. And Hewie was a real dog with fur, walking at her side, behaving perfectly. It was actually kind of ridiculous how well-trained he was? People, other dogs, squirrels, he didn't react to any of them. No barking, no lunging, not even a second glance. How long did it take Fiona to train him like this? Or, no, he would've been trained before she got him. After all, what use is a service dog that you have to train yourself. Well, in any case it was probably the reason Heather hadn't flipped out yet. Whenever they passed a dog that barked or growled or tried to break free from its leash, she had to fight the urge to run, or better yet, shoot it. She didn't even have a damn gun (anymore), but she'd still reach for one. In any case, Hewie not making dog noises was very, very nice.

At least, it was nice until Hewie stopped. His hackles raised, and Heather could hear a low growl rumbling in his chest. She froze, fighting the urge to drop the leash and run. Hewie wasn't looking at her, though, he was staring at someone else. There was a man in a suit walking down the street, and Hewie's eyes followed him the whole way. Heather, being a bit more subtle, watched him through her peripheral vision. They both saw him duck into an alley, and Hewie's growling grew louder. Heather, not having a fucking death wish, was just going to ignore whatever the hell that was. But then someone screamed.

“God-fucking-damn it,” Heather muttered, dashing into the alley. They'd been walking for a while, and dusk had turned to night. There were less people out, and a lot less light, and it seemed like some fucko was taking advantage. In the alley the man in the suit was pinning a woman to the bricks, his hand slapped over her mouth. Hewie started barking furiously, and Heather yelled “Hey! Get off of her!” She charged at him and slammed into him, making him stumble and let go of the woman. Once she could move, the woman bolted out of the alley, and Heather internally sighed in relief. And then she got punched in the face.

The punch was both unexpected and strong, and Heather fell to the ground, scraping up her knees and elbows. “You little bitch,” he said, cradling his (probably busted up) hand to his chest. Broken knuckles or no, he still had full use of his legs, and he was using them fully. Heather was trying to scramble back up when he kicked her right in the gut, knocking the breath out of her and causing her to fall, again. He reared back for another kick and Heather covered her head with her arms to protect it. There was a loud bark and a shout of pain, and growling and cursing and Heather's blood was racing and she didn't know what was going on anymore. She peeked through her protective arm-shell and saw Hewie biting the man's hand and playing tug-of-war with it.

Her face was throbbing and it kinda hurt to breathe, but Heather got to her feet anyways. She fought and killed God, damn it, she wasn't about to let some fat fuck in a suit be the thing that took her out. She hauled back and smashed him right in the face, sending him careening back. Bonus: because her punch sent him back, it ripped his hand out of Hewie's mouth. Forcefully. He shrieked in pain and clutched at his bloody hand, and Heather decided to get the hell out of dodge while she still could.

She sprinted out of the alley, the sounds of cursing and threats fading behind her. She made it a few blocks away before she stopped and fell against a wall, panting heavily. “Ow,” she moaned, rubbing her jaw. That fucker had a good right hook, she'd give him that much. Well, probably not anymore, she smirked, since Hewie ripped his hand up. Oh. Shit. She forgot about Hewie.

Whirling around, Heather sprinted back towards the alley. Her legs hurt and her lungs were on fire, but she'd be damned if she was gonna leave Hewie behind. She'd never be able to look Fiona in the face again if she did that. After she made it a block, she saw Hewie trotting down the street, leash dragging behind him. “Hewie!” she said, relief rushing through her so fast her legs gave out. Catching herself on her hands, she rested for a second to try and catch her breath. When she heard panting and the jangling of a collar, she lifted her head up. Hewie was sitting in front of her, tongue lolled out and tail wagging. Heather sat back on her knees and grinned, reaching out and ruffling the fur on his head. “Good boy,” she said, “Good job biting that bastard.” Hewie barked twice, but somehow, Heather didn't flinch. Patting his head a few times, she grabbed his leash and got to her feet. “C'mon boy,” she said, “Let's go back.” And away they went, Heather holding her head high, Hewie walking obediently next to her.

Heather opened the door to the apartment as quietly as possible. She crept into the entryway and took the chain off Hewie's neck, hanging it back up on its hook. Hewie plodded through the hall and went into Fiona's room. Heather just hoped he didn't jump on the bed and wake her up. She slipped out of her shoes and followed Hewie into the bedroom. Fiona was lying in bed, sleeping soundly, and Hewie had curled up on the floor next to the bed. After picking up the empty bowl on the nightstand, Heather took a moment to just, look at Fiona. Her face was peaceful and her body relaxed in a way that it never quite was when she was awake. Goddamn was Heather head over heels for this girl. Choking back the sudden flood of affection (it was love, but Heather refused to think about that) she felt for Fiona, she crept out of the room to go wash the bowl.

As she wiped her hands on her jeans to dry them off, Fiona shuffled into the kitchen, wrapped up in a blanket, Hewie at her heels. “Mornin' sunshine,” Heather said, smiling at Fiona, “Sleep well?”

Fiona returned Heather's smile with a softer, shyer one and said, “Very well, thank you. How was the walk?”

“It was pretty damn good, actually,” Heather said. Hewie walked over to her, his nails going click-clack on the linoleum, and she kneeled down to ruffle his face. “Hewie was such a good boy, weren't ya?” Hewie barked in agreement and Heather laughed. She stood back up and caught Fiona looking at like Christmas had come early. “What?” Heather said, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious.

Fiona shook her head, smiling. “I'm just happy you and Hewie seem to be getting along better now.” She absentmindedly pet Hewie's head as she spoke.

Shrugging, Heather decided to change the subject. She really didn't want to get into what exactly happened on the walk, or god, why she was so skittish around Hewie in the first place. “You should go lie down,” she said, gently grabbing Fiona's shoulders and steering her back to the bedroom. Fiona went along compliantly, and got back into bed. Heather got in as well, though, and snuggled up to Fiona's back. She heard Fiona sigh in contentment, and felt the bed dip as Hewie jumped up on it. He plodded over to Fiona's front and lied down as well, boxing Fiona in between Heather and himself. Heather smiled into the back of Fiona's neck, and closed her eyes. She felt safe.