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Old Habits

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Bogo didn’t say anything after that until we’d reached the station. Part of that may have been the extremely awkward silence that ensued after I’d explained that I had been joking about the mixtape. 

“You’ll have your results tomorrow morning. Come to my office directly after roll call, and bring Hopps.” With that, he adjusted his glasses, popped his back from sitting in the cruiser for so long, and strode off towards his office. 

My nerves were shot. I felt like I’d had way too much coffee for one day, which was surely a first for me. My eyes felt sore, and I was certain the fur on my tail would never lay flat again, bristled into anxiety permanently. 

It was in this near fugue state that I ran right into a fuming Judy, who was tapping her foot something fierce, her arms crossed so tightly it looked as though she’d never unfurl. 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Carrots, what’s got you all steamed?” I said, regretting the pun the instant it left my mouth. She glared at me, and I cowered out of habit. 

“Detectives Lowell and Howlton were awful, bigoted jerks, that’s what!” She threw her paws up in the air angrily before marching towards the door. 

I had a lot on my mind. I was frazzled and frustrated, and worst of all, I was only about half as worried about the results of my exam as I was about what Bogo and the precinct and what felt like the whole world had to say about Judy and me. But when I saw, just barely, a tear form in the corner of her eyes, all of that was pushed instantly to the back of my mind. 

“Hey, now,” I said soothingly. I tried to, at least—every attempt I made at sincere still sounded phony to me. I placed my paw on her back and steered her towards the doors. “Let’s get out of here, and you can vent to me over some takeout and bad B-movies. Sound good?” She was schooling her face well, determined to keep it in, but I could see her lip begin to tremble. My heart ached to see her like this. I leaned close to her ear, my paw on her shoulder squeezing out a symbol of comfort. 

“Remember what I told you,” I murmured into her ear. “Never let them see they get to you.” She nodded, shaking loose a single tear. I stood back up. 

“Okay, why don’t you go wash your face a little first, then we’ll head over to your place?” She took two hesitant steps towards the female changing rooms, then bolted back into a rib-crushing hug. 

“Thanks, Nick,” she whispered. Before I had a chance to respond, she dashed away.

I had only seen Carrots’ first apartment in the city once. To be completely honest, it had actually been the day we’d met. After our confrontation in the wet cement, something had compelled me to follow her home. I think I’d wanted to revel in the misery I’d caused. 

It would have broken my heart now, but at the time, it merely killed my good mood to see Hopps shuffle back to her apartment, trailing little bits of dried cement as they flaked away from her hindpaws. I felt vindicated in what I’d said to her—that she couldn’t be just anything, and that the shoebox she lived in proved it—but that didn’t mean I was happy to be right. 

Thankfully, Carrots had made friends with a certain streetwise fox who knew anybody worth knowing in the city, and he had managed to find a new apartment complex that wasn’t quite so…squalid. I had another month left on the lease I currently had, but there was no doubt I’d try to get a spot in her building as soon as it was up. 

That had been the plan, at least. I sat on my own in the living room of her new apartment (imagine that—more than just enough room for a desk and a bed!) while she showered. And I tried not to let my mind wander. 

She was my friend—perhaps my only friend—and certainly that meant we were only friends. If I happened to be a little co-dependent on her, so what? It wasn’t like I’d had a whole lot of positive reinforcement throughout my life. Of course I would want to stick close to someone who did believe in me. 

And so what if I was beginning to wonder if the way I found her cute had changed since our first meeting. That just meant I was no longer seeing her as a cute, token bunny instead of the confident, smart mammal that she was. 

The confident, smart mammal with hips anyone would be drooling over. 

I shook myself vigorously, trying to get myself under control. 

“I’m letting Bogo and the precinct get to me,” I said to myself, though I made sure to speak very quietly. I still wasn’t sure what the range on those ears of her’s was. “I wouldn’t be thinking of this if they hadn’t pushed me. It’s—“

“Did you order food yet?” I nearly jumped out of my skin. 

“Oh my god, Carrots, you are going to give me a heart attack.” I could hear her shuffling around in the kitchen behind me as she responded. 

“You’re definitely going to have a heart attack drinking as much coffee as you do.” I turned partially to retort but quickly spun away. 

Carrots had been grabbing a juice from her fridge, and it was clear she’d just stepped out of the shower by the towel she wore. I could feel my ears burning, and to my horror, they were not my only reaction to her state of undress. I furiously snatched a pillow towards myself. I tried not to move or draw any extra attention to myself as she flitted past me on her way to her room. 

“Goddammit,” I breathed, my heart still pounding from the double shock. A knock at the door spurred me back into action. 

“I’ve got a veggie pizza and a beetle mushroom pizza for Wilde,” the delivery boy said, not looking up from his pouch. 

“Yep, that’s for me,” I replied, starting to dig out my wallet when the teenage ram’s head shot up.

“Hey, where’s the rabbit?” He tried to look around me before calling into the apartment. “Ma’am, is everything okay?” My expression soured. 

Officer Hopps is in the other room, and I can assure you as her police partner that everything is fine.” Comprehension, followed by dawning horror, stole over the gangly youth’s face. 

“S-sorry, officer,” he replied, giving an awkward and unnecessary salute. “I just thought—“

“I’m sure,” I said, cutting him off. “Here you are.” I thrust my paw out with the cash for the food and snagged the boxes in the same movement, slamming the door shut as soon as I had the pizza. Glowering, I returned to the kitchen. Carrots wandered out a few moments later, running a brush along her ears. 

“Did you say something?” she asked. “I had the fur dryer running, I couldn’t hear you.” I shook my head, pasting a grin on my muzzle. 

“Nope, just getting the food.” I pushed the veggie pizza towards her. “Ready to talk about today?” She wilted somewhat, and took a slice of pizza without much gusto. 

“I don’t know,” she said. “Part of me just wants to forget about today and move on.” She perked up. “How did your exam go?” I winced, remembering the conversation I’d had with Bogo. 

“Oof, not good?” she asked. I grabbed a few slices of pizza for myself and made to move for the couch. 

“No, just…Bogo.” I replied, hoping that would be enough to push her off the subject. “You know how he is.” She gave a perfunctory little nod. 

“Sounds like we need something to get our minds off of work,” she said, getting the TV and player all set up. I made a point of focusing on my food when she bent over. 

She made a running leap and landed right at my side. “Got anything in mind?” I tabbed through the selection before settling on a film I vaguely remembered sneaking out to see as a young teenager.

“How about this one? Guy and his wife are moving across the country when their car breaks down.” I took a bite of my pizza, appreciating the crunch the beetles provided. “The guy has to track down his wife after the trucker who promised to give her a ride to a phone booth kidnaps her.”

"Sounds good to me!"

...

The movie did its trick for Carrots. She was totally enthralled in the over-the-top 90s action sequences and cheesy comeuppance that the villain always succumbed to at the end. 

My problems, however, seemed to be multiplying. I found my gaze drawn time and time again to her during the movie. I couldn't help but smile as she gnawed slightly at her lip with those buck teeth of hers when things got tense for the hero, or laugh at the cheer she gave out when the wife dropped the villain's big rig on him off of a bridge. There was a pit in my stomach.

"You all right there, Slick?" She shook my arm slightly. I gave her a tired smile. 

"Of course I am, Carrots," I replied. She gave me a look that clearly communicated her disbelief. 

"C'mon," she said. "I can never get you to be this quiet in the cruiser. What's up?" I fidgeted slightly, a movement that caused her to move slightly closer to me.

"I've just been thinking about that trailer Clawhauser showed us at the bar," I confessed. "It kind of feels like they're trying to capitalize on...us." She groaned.

"Tell me about it," she said, settling into the back of the couch. "My family has been texting me about it all month." My head shot up. 

"You already knew about it?" She nodded. 

"Yeah, one of my siblings sent it to me the day the trailer went out, asking if I was getting my Maid Marian costume ready for Halloween." She shook her head and snorted. "It's not a big deal, though." I grimaced.

"I don't know," I said, reaching up to rub at my neck with a paw. "It just feels like people are looking at us differently now. I mean, Robin Hood and Maid Marian are a classic romantic pairing." She tilted her head at me, clearly not getting my point. "I think people will get the wrong idea about us because of the movie. I mean, they clearly cast it with us in mind."

"So what?" she said. "Aren't you the one who's always saying 'never let them see they get to you'? What does it matter what they think about us? It's not like today–"

She abruptly shut her mouth and looked away. 

"What about today?" I asked. She shook her head. 

"It's nothing," she said, but I could hear her voice catch slightly. 

"Well, clearly it's not nothing." I moved closer to her and threw my arm around her shoulders. "I said never let them see they got to you, not me." She shook her head. "Carrots...Judy. What were Howlton and Lowell talking about today?" She wiped at her eyes and smiled up at me. 

"Thanks for the pizza and the movie, Nick. I think I need to get to bed, though. You're welcome to take the couch if you don't want to head back to your apartment tonight." She gave me a quick hug before heading off to her bedroom. 

I began to put the room back together and getting the couch ready to sleep on, my anger at the Homicide detectives growing by the minute.

"Oh, those two dum-dums don't know what's coming for them," I muttered. Time to up the ante with my office pranks from recreation to retaliation. I stepped out of the apartment to make a call. 

"Hey, Finnick," I greeted. "I've got a few cops who need tailing–you interested in getting paid?"