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The Broken Mask

Chapter Text

 

 Nick was very familiar with the inside of this particular van. He had ridden in the passenger seat more times than he could clearly remember, but only because Finnick never allowed anyone else to drive it as long as he was in the van. After months either riding shotgun or driving the ZPD cruiser, he was also suddenly very aware of how oddly clean the inside was. He had always known that his former partner in crime had some odd obsession with the van, but he had never really realized how meticulous he kept it. Not a single food wrapper, can, or scrap of paper to be found and hardly a speck of dust on anything. Clean as a whistle.

Which was the exact opposite of how he felt. Staring out the open window with his sunglasses keeping the world from seeing the misery in his eyes, the one thing he was finding it impossible to hide behind his hustler mask.

Of course, he wasn’t wearing that mask now. After years working the streets together, Finnick could see through the mask as clearly as if Nick were some first day street con man. Besides, it had taken a good deal of talking for him to convince the large eared miniature fox that this had nothing to do with ZPD business. That talking had included the entire story; the drive to the Rainforest District, the drug deal, finding Judy covered in some sick derivative of the Night Howler flowers. How he had…

Later, Wilde. Hate yourself later when you’re drowning in a bottle. For now, hate that weasel.

His eyes scanned the dark of the rainforest at night as it rolled past. There were advantages to being a semi nocturnal animal, after all. He could see in all but the darkest corners, even with his shades on, and his many years on the streets had taught him that even when keeping a low profile, drug pushers wanted to be seen. Otherwise, how would they make their money? Or throw their poison into the faces of beautiful bunnies? Or fuck up his life by taking the brightest light out of it, so that he felt like he was walking through shadows deeper than those dark, unseen corners?

When he heard the surprisingly deep, rough cough from his friend, he realized that his claws were biting into the upholstery. He relaxed his grip instantly, and was only mildly relieved to see that he had not caused any real damage. He waited to be berated for messing up the van, and how he would have to pay up if he caused any lasting harm with a weary lack of interest.

“Hey, Nick. Are you sure you want to do this, fox?” The strange note of concern in the tone had him turning his head towards Finnick, reflex having his face carved into a carefully stoic mask complete with ears that were half folded back. “I mean, you have it good now. You’ve gone legit, got a nice place off the streets. This isn’t like you, even before you became a cop. You know this will ruin any chance you have of…”

“I don’t care,” he cut his friend off shortly, his tone as flat as his gaze turned back out into the night. “It doesn’t matter anymore. I have this one last piece of business I need your help with, and then I’m leaving the city. Maybe find a nice island where I can hustle the rich and stupid, live in the lap of luxury for a while. Now leave it. Please.”

“All right,” the other fox muttered quietly. “It’s up to you. Real shame, though.”

Nick was so focused on his hunt that he didn’t notice the light of the cell phone, or the soft ‘tap tap’ of small claws typing out a text message.

************************************************************************

“We’ve run all of the tests we can at this point,” said the doctor, a doe who looked over the chart through wire rimmed glasses. “Based on the Night Howler screening, it seems that the toxin has already worked its way out of your system. Which given the long-term effects of original toxin, leads me to believe that its effects were designed with the short-term in mind. I won’t be sure about that until we run further tests on the sample your officers brought in, however.”

“And what about the unconsciousness?” Bogo asked from the other side of the room, the massive Cape buffalo keeping his gaze leveled on Judy. “Was that caused by the drugs? Could there be side effects in the future?”

“I don’t think so,” the doctor replied, shaking her head as she set the chart back into the sleeve beside the door. “The dust itself seems to be nothing more than baking soda, so aside from the Night Howler derivative there were no other drugs involved. But her partner is a fox, correct? If he tried to restrain her while she was under the effects of the drug, it’s entirely possible that her fear caused her…”

“That’s not what happened,” Judy inserted firmly, instantly feeling defensive of her partner even if the tone of the assumption hadn’t been accusatory towards Nick. She instantly regretted it, and her ears drooped when the gazes of both mammals turned towards her expectantly. She stood her ground, however, even under the gaze of the chief, which was oddly intense even for Bogo. “I mean, I was at first. I ran and hid under a log, and I was unbelievably terrified. But when he found me and I tried to run again, he tried to stop me and fell. I realized that he was hurt and that it was my fault because I kicked him, and then I realized that he was my… Partner.”

Luckily, her ears were still lowered so neither of them noticed the burning redness that came over her ears. She had almost called him ‘Her fox.’ And it wasn’t simply the way they were watching her that caused the heat to spread over her skin, either. It was that she kept thinking of him as hers, as if there was still that tiny part of her savage mind that refused to turn itself off.

“You remember what happened while you were Savage?” the doe asked, picking up the chart again and scribbling down some notes. She sounded entirely too interested when she crossed the room and kept the pen ready to write. “Can you tell me about it? None of the mammals remembered anything after they recovered from the original Night Howler incident.”

Luckily for the uneasy bunny, the chief cleared his throat loudly at that moment. “Perhaps you can continue this another time? I assume Officer Hopps is clear to resume duty?”

“Oh, yes. Yes of course. She seems to be in perfect health,” the doe reply, her hoof thumb clicking the pen before she tucked it back into her white coat. Her gaze returned to Judy. “Light duty only until the full results of the tests on this Night Howler drug are complete. And call or report the second you feel unreasonably frightened, agitated, or aggressive; even if you think it's nothing. All right? Good.

“She’s free to go,” the doe confirmed one last time to the Chief, as she walked past him and disappeared into the hallway.

Judy somehow knew that the large male wasn’t finished with her, even as the doctor strolled out of the room, so she remained seated on the edge of the bed with paws that twisted together in her lap. She wanted to get out, now. She wanted to go see Nick, talk to him, so she would know where they were going to go from here. But she waited, and felt a little tremble of anxiety when he reached out and pulled the door closed before turning to face her fully.

“I need you to tell me your side of what happened out there, Hopps,” he began, his arms crossed over his chest and the ever-stern look on his face as he watched her with eyes that were… A little less than stern. “I need to know why one of my best new officers turned in his badge without anything that I would call an explanation.”

Because it was the last thing she had expected to hear, she was unable to find words for a moment as simply gaped at the larger mammal. When he brought his hand up to the pocket of his shirt and slipped out the bright, perfectly polished bronze of the ZPD shield, she leapt out of the bed even as the world seemed to shift sideways.

“What? Who? Nick? Why?!”

Her reaction didn’t seem to faze the chief in the slightest, and when she reached for the shield he simply closed his hand over it and slipped it back into his pocket. His face remained annoyingly calm when he faced her, and she could feel his eyes following her when she stripped down to her briefs and started to hurriedly put on her uniform without even noticing he was there. They were both cops, after all, and her mind wasn’t at all on the fact that she was half-naked in front of someone who had only seen her out of uniform once before.

“I’m not sure,” he said, his tone even as he folded his arms over his massive chest. “But because you seem to remember everything that happened, I was hoping you could explain it to me. He came into my office this afternoon, after they took you in for testing. After they were able to pry you away from him, according to the responding officer’s report. He said something about not being able to wear the badge after what he had done, and then refused to explain further.”

“What he did?” Her fingers grew still in the process of lifting her vest, and because she was facing away from him, she didn’t see the speculative look of her superior officer as her shoulders slumped. What had he done? What had that stupid, stupid fox done? Why? Because of her, because of what they had done in the rainforest?

She quickly finished pulling on her vest, not even bothering with the tip button for the first time in her carrier, and swung around to sit on the bed as she started to pull her rear paw braces on. She could still feel the intensity of the chief’s gaze on her as she did so, but she said nothing until she stood again and looked up at him. She couldn’t help the feeling of being incredibly small then. In part because Nick wasn’t there beside her, like he always was.

“I need to find Nick, and I need to do it now. I do remember everything that happened, and he didn’t doanything that warrants him losing his job, sir. Please believe me.” Her tone and the hopeful look on her face were anything but accusatory; they were right on the edge of pleading, actually.

Bogo considered her for a long moment in silence, a silence that made her want to jump up on his shoulders and scream in his face for an answer to her question. Or start begging. Either way, she hated the wait before he gave a quick, short nod.

“It so happens that I have yet to get around to filing his resignation into the official records,” he said in an even tone as he reached for the door knob and pulled it open before he stepped back to allow her to exit. They left the room together, and he followed her a short distance down the hallway towards reception where a box with her things waited for her on the counter. “And my shift has been over for a few hours now, so I see no reason I should return to the station to do it now. You have until noon tomorrow to bring him back, along with an explanation.”

“Yes, sir! Thank you so much, Chief Bogo!” She was too relieved and confused to even care that he still wanted an explanation, an explanation that she wasn’t sure that she would know how to give when the time came.

After retrieving her things, including the belt that she stood and stared at for a few seconds as memories of large dark red paws filled her mind. She buckled it around her waist and was mildly relieved that there was no longer a feeling of being trapped associated with wearing it. Just the familiar weight, and the odd marks that remained where she had tried to claw it off.

Oh Nick, what are you thinking? Where are you now? Was what happened last night so horrible that you don’t even want to look at me anymore?

Shaking her head firmly, she straightened her shoulders and forced her ears upright as she started towards the door. She was going to find him, and she was going to beat some sense into him if she had to. Even if he wanted things to go back to the way they were before, even if she had to…

The vibration on her belt made her pause her stride and reached down to grip her cell phone, her heart thudding against her chest as she thought it might have been from Nick. The unknown number made her frown before she swiped her paw across the screen to bring up the text.

-Nick hunting weasel. Rainforest, dark side. Come NOW. F-

Bogo watched with feigned disinterest as his smallest officer bolted out of the hospital full tilt.

 

***************************************************************************

Finnick saw the weasel before Nick did, but made no move to show it. Trying to give that bunny cop that his former business partner was so torn up about time to reach them before Nick made a huge mistake. But the effort didn’t last more than a few seconds, as Nick leaned his muzzle out the window and waved for him to stop the van with one paw while the other whipped off his sunglasses so he could get a better look at the scraggly looking parasite.

“There he is,” he said, hardly able to restrain the rage in his voice as his gaze locked on the weasel, who was leaning against the wall in a shadowed alley not far from a street light. “There he is, stop the van!”

His eyes never left the dealer as he felt the van roll, somewhat reluctantly, to a stop. While the desire to jump out and charge the bastard was there, he knew that the weasel would be too fast for him. Even Carrots had problems chasing down…

The thought of Judy caused his throat to tighten and his chest ached for a moment as he leaned back and drew deep breaths to calm himself. No, running in headlong like a maniac wasn’t going to get him what he needed. He needed to be cool, he needed to relax, he needed to be Slick Nick again. After a few more breaths, he glanced in the rear view mirror and put on his best ‘friendly fox out to make a sale’ expression, complete with his trademark smirk and relaxed ear set. That was it.

It lasted until he turned that hustler’s face towards the unaware weasel again, and then it crumbled as a soundless growl rose from deep in his chest. Images of a tiny, helpless bunny curled up and terrified in the forest where that bastard had left her came fresh and assaulted his calm. He felt his lips start to curl, and he dug his claws into his palm until pain shot up his arm as they pierced the pad. The pain allowed him to focus, and he turned away to lean back in the seat again.

Calm. Cool. Collected. Just for a few minutes. He just needed a few minutes of the old Nick back, then this would be done and he could move on.

“Nick, come on fox,” he heard Finnick say, the voice of the smaller predator uneasy after the display of anger. “There are other ways.”

Finnick kept talking, and Nick tuned him out entirely as he pushed his feelings deeper this time, into the parts of his mind and memory that he rarely accessed. He put the anger far out of his mind, so that he no longer even hated the weasel. Just wanted to have a friendly chat with him, maybe sell him a paw-sickle. This time when he turned his gaze towards the weasel, the mask held and he slapped on a cunning grin as he popped the latch to open the door.

“This won’t take long, buddy. You don’t have to hang around.”

So long New Nick. The pain and anger was so deeply buried that he didn’t even feel it anymore as he started the leisurely stroll towards the street light that hardly illuminated the slender body of the weasel. Because he wore his yellow Hawaiian shirt and beige khakis, he was pretty sure that he looked about as threatening as a lamb. It had always been a part of the façade; look harmless and people were more likely to fall for the scam. The dealer fell for it. As soon as his eyes settled on Nick, those beady eyes didn’t see the cop who had almost busted him earlier the same day. He saw a client that was heading right towards him with a steady gait and a pocket full of cash. He could smell him now; unwashed fur that was damp from the humid air of the rainforest, some sort of rancid cologne that had likely come from the dollar rack at the pharmacy, and fear. Not fear of him, Nick knew. Low life drug dealers that lived in the shadows like this one were always on the edge of running. It was a survival skill.

One that wasn’t serving very well right now.

That’s right. Just a little closer, you bastard. I won’t need your poison to show you a savage.

When he saw the weasel’s eyes widen, he was almost certain that his mask had slipped for a second, allowing the smaller mammal to see the growing fury and murder in his eyes. In fact, he had already braced himself to give chase before he saw the flickering of red and blue light against the green grass backdrop of the alley walls. He also realized that there was a siren slowly getting louder, and a squeal of tires on the street where he had left the van behind warned him that it wasn’t just as passing cruiser. The weasel bolted instantly, slipping into the shadows with Nick starting forward to give chase with one of those alien growls rising in his throat.

“Nick! Nick, stop!”

Half of him was relieved when he turned and saw Judy jump down from the door of the huge black police cruiser. She was fine, she was safe. They wouldn’t have released her otherwise, right? Whatever that poison was hadn’t hurt her long-term. The other half of him was furious. There was no way – no way! – that she could have found him this quickly without help. Green eyes turned to glare at that smaller fox, only to see Finnick give him a two finger salute against one large ear before he started the van and started to roll away. He was going to have words with his friend in the near future, and maybe even add a mustache to the vixen on the mural he was so proud of.

Hardly aware of the thick drops of cold rain that started to fall, he turned away from the approaching bunny and shoved his paws into his pockets as he started to walk away from her. As hard as it was to do it with her calling after him, sounding more confused and worried and hurt with every step he took in the opposite direction, he knew it needed to be done. She didn’t remember what he had done.

“Stay away from me, Ca… Judy!” he called out over the increasing hiss and sizzle of rain falling through treetops. “I’m dangerous. You were right the whole time; I can’t be trusted, especially with you!”

Stay away, please if you have even the smallest fleck of pity in that carrot head of yours, stay away from me.

But he heard the slap of her feet on the newly wet street when she ran up behind him, heard the quick breathing and the frustration in her voice.

“Nick, how could you turn in your badge? What is wrong with you? Would you please stop and look at me?” she demanded, hopping forward a few steps to put herself in front of him.

He simply side-stepped her without even slowing his pace, forcing his eyes away from the now dripping bunny and desperately avoiding her eyes as he picked up the pace as much as he could without running.

Leave me alone. For your own good.

“Nick, stop this, please! Let me talk to you!”

No! Talking won’t erase what I did. Talking won’t change the fact that I took advantage of you, molestedyou while you were vulnerable!

“Damn it, stop you dumb fox!”

Go away, go away before I Hurt you again. What do I have to do to make you leave me alone?!

“I said stop, damn you!”

He felt those tiny paws gripping his arm, trying to pull him to a stop. He whirled on her so suddenly it made his tail hurt when it whipped behind him. His paws raised, and fingers curled with black claws extended to their fullest only inches from her eyes; his lips drawn back from his teeth in a predatory snarl that made his museum performance seem lame by comparison as a vicious sound escaped him that would have made his ancestors proud to call him predator. Even the rain helped, matting his fur so that when his hackles rose on the back of his neck they looked like spikes of bloody fur in the street lights. He poured all of his self-loathing, pain and rage into the sound and he was sure that it would make her jump back, make her rethink ever believing that he was anything but a savage fox.

She didn’t. She didn’t cower away from him, didn’t scream in fear and didn’t break into a run back to the cruiser. She didn’t even flinch. Not even a little. Amethyst eyes just looked up at him with a sadness that stabbed at his guts, and even though he kept the image of a vicious predator, growls and all, for a moment longer, she reached out to place her paws on both sides of his muzzle.

“Stop.”

The word was softly spoken and as gentle as the silky fingers that traced the line of his curled muzzle without a hint of fear. And that gentleness broke something in him that he had refused to let go of. It broke a piece of the old Nick. That part of him that had always been able to throw on a mask to keep her from seeing inside of him. The savage melted away as his face fell, and the rest of him followed. He felt the rain on the street soaking into his pants as he dropped to his knees in front of her and let her cradle his muzzle, gently tilting it until he was forced to look into her eyes and that beautiful, hopeful face.

“What did you think was going to happen? Did you think that I would believe, even for a second, that you would attack me? Maul me? Eat me, maybe? You can’t,” she whispered, her fingers sliding up to brush over one of his brows to smooth the wet fur as she kept her eyes locked on his. He closed them to the touch, and as much as he believed in that moment that he didn’t deserve it, he turned into it when she pressed her fingers into the fur of his cheek. “You can’t hurt me, Nick. Not like that. And it doesn’t matter what kind of doubt is in there that makes you think that I could feel otherwise, because I know who you are.”

When he opened his eyes, he saw the hitching of her chest and felt the tremble of her touch. The wetness on her cheeks was no longer just from the rain, and that stab in his gut was twisted when he saw fresh tears spill. It was his turn to reach up, both paws cupping her cheeks, easily encompassing her face. It reminded him of just how small she was, but he felt the warmth of her tears against the pads of his paws when she leaned into his touch. “Carrots…”

“And I’m sorry!” she gasped out in a sob before he could say anything else. “I’m sorry if what happened today ruined what we have! I didn’t mean to… I… I’ve just wanted you so much, and it seemed like you want me too, and it felt so good that I didn’t want to stop myself even when I realized who you were. Because I realized who you were. And now Bogo tells me that you’ve turned in your badge! What were you thinking, Nick?”

Struck dumb by the rush of words from the overly emotional bunny, he just stared at her. The weight of her confession and dawning understanding started to drag him out of the shadows he had tried to bury himself in. He moved his paws to her shoulders so he could wrap his arms around her, and the trembling bunny burrowed into his chest as she gripped the front of his wet shirt. She also managed to catch a good deal of fur in that grip, and he felt the sting as it was pulled along with the shirt. But he didn’t mind. He didn’t mind a bit as he felt the shaking from her tears calm, and a moment later felt her breathing normalize as he pressed his muzzle between her ears and hushed her soothingly.

“I’m sorry, Carrots. I’ve made a mess of this, haven’t I?” he whispered against the top of her head, savoring the feel and the smell of her wet fur. “I thought I had…”

“I know what you thought,” she cut him off, and he was reluctantly forced to relax his hold on her when she pulled back enough to raise her eyes to look at him. “You made that pretty clear. But you’re wrong, Nick.”

The sudden certainty in her words and anger in her voice made him feel as much shame as relief given his choices over the last few hours. He resisted the urge to lower his gaze when pretty violet eyes moved over him, searching his face. Searching his eyes as her nose twitched with her focus seeming directed at reading him.

“You said,” she began, and cut herself off. He watched her take a deep breath. Not the sort of breath one took when trying to fight tears, but the sort one took when trying to steel themselves for a question they may not have wanted the answer to. “You said that you loved me.”

It turned out to be a statement that was loaded with questions, and answered just as many for Nick. It confirmed that she had been aware, and maybe the hurt he saw on her face wasn’t about what he had done to her, but what he was denying her.

“You know I love you,” he said, going for easy and confident, just like he did every time they said the words. As best friends, as partners. It would make her life easier. There might have been pain, and even a little heartbreak if he made her believe it. But those things would pass, and she wouldn’t have to deal with the stigma of having a fox in love with her.

“Don’t do that,” she chided him gently, and her searching gaze never wavered. It was like she saw something in his eyes that she had never seen before, and he felt vulnerable. Exposed to her because he couldn’t stop her from getting to him anymore. He had forgotten who he was talking to.

The mask hid nothing from the one who had broken it.

“I do love you,” he admitted, now saying the words without trying to hide the depth of them. He watched her ears rise for the first time since the rain started, and he saw the smile slowly grow on her dainty muzzle. It emboldened him, the way her face went from concerned and worried to simple happiness after he spoke the words. And his own smile came, grew as the light came back into his life. “You’re pretty irresistible yourself, after all.”

His thumb swept lightly under her eye as another tear tried to join with the rain, though he knew it would be the last for now when she rubbed her own paw across the other cheek with a little sniffle but without losing the smile. He watched her open her mouth to say something before her ears did their radar trick and turned towards something behind him. She had already leaned over to peek around his shoulder before he even caught the sound; the recognizable rumble of a ZPD cruiser.

“Well, that’s one way to kill a mood,” he mumbled after the red and blues flicked on as the large vehicle came to a rolling stop a few yards from them. Judy released a small laugh and swatted his shoulder as she gently extracted herself from his arms. The motion was slow and easy, and he appreciated that she looked reluctant to do it.

“There is a strange fox kneeling in the middle of the road in the rain,” she suggested, and looked down at her paws as she smoothed the rumples in his shirt where she had maintained a death grip for the last few minutes. “I would stop, too. You never know, he might be trying to steal the heart of some innocent country bunny.”

He heard the door to the cruiser pop open. “Do you need help, sir?” came the deep, but polite tone of the large predator. Turning to glance over his shoulder as the large form of Officer Delgado stepped out in a uniform that showed signs that he had already been out in the rain that night, not to mention that his mane looked pressed down and ragged. Judy popped her head out around Nick, and stuck her paw out for a quick wave.

Nick saw the lion pause as understanding dawned, followed by a general relaxation as he turned back to the cruiser and reached in to grab the radio. “10-22, dispatch. It’s just Hopps and Wilde. I’ll check with them and bring the breaking and entering suspect in afterward.”

“’Just Hopps and Wilde’ he says,” Nick chuckled loud enough for the other officer to hear as he drew himself to his feet and rather pointlessly wiped his paws on his pants in an attempt to remove the feeling that he was soaking wet and felt as untidy as he likely looked. “Now do you see what I’m talking about, Carrots? Not a day goes by where I don’t think to myself, ‘Nick, you need some stilts. Some nice, tall stilts – giraffe size – so I can look down on Delgado and say ‘Oh, it’s just Delgado.’”

“Funny,” Delgado said, though his mood seemed to dampen the humor when he walked over to the two of them. “You two all right? The chief told us to keep an eye out for you, Wilde, and let your partner know if we saw you. Something we should know about?”

“Nothing that won’t be grinding around the old rumor mill soon enough,” the fox replied, reaching over to drag a slightly flustered (but still smiling) Judy against his side. This of course didn’t seem at all strange to the other officer. Their close friendship had been clear and open from the moment the fox had joined the force. “Just having a little heart to heart with my partner.”

“In the middle of the street, in the pouring rain,” Delgado deadpanned, eyeing the two of them and giving a shrug as Nick just gave him his best ‘Hey, it’s a thing’ grin. “All right, I’ll leave you to it then. I’m just hauling this weasel in for breaking and entering. Looked like he broke into an empty apartment to hide from something when I… What? Hey, where are you going?”

Nick ignored the question, already running over the cruiser so he could jump onto the back door and into the cage. Sure enough, cuffed in the back with a panicked look on his ratty face was the drug peddler. 

“You son of a bitch!” Ears pinned back, he tried to wrench the door open as he hopped down, and growled when he found it locked. Which didn’t deter him from reaching towards the handle for the front door, only to be stopped by a large paw grabbing the back of his shirt to lift him off and away from the cruiser. “Let me go! That’s the weasel that attacked my partner!”

“Well he’s in custody now, Wilde, so cool off,” the lion warned in a stern tone, though that didn’t stop Nick from trying to writhe his way out of the larger male’s grip.

“Nick, it’s all right,” came Judy’s soft voice from beside them, and he watched as she placed a paw on his knee after giving Delgado a soft nod to let him down. Once he was on his feet again, he glared towards the cruiser again but made no move towards it. It took a real, honest effort for him not to pull his lips back and snarl again. Even he could feel the slam of his heart inside of his chest as the anger just couldn’t be tapped down and hidden away.

“Come on, partner,” came the softly feminine voice from beside him. He realized that even though he had his fists clenched and shivered with rage, she had taken his arm and was gently leading him away from the cruiser. “Let him do his job while I take you home.”

“Dispatch, this is unit seventy-two. Looks like that weasel I caught is the same perp that assaulted Officer Hopps this morning. Yes, Wilde confirmed identity, strongly. I’m bringing him in now.”

It was the concern in her voice more than anything that had him following her without resistance, but even hearing the report didn’t make Nick feel better. He just wanted to do… Something! Preferably something violent, which disturbed him enough to make him shove the feeling back with a little disgust.

Once they were in the car, both of them soaked from clothes-to-fur, he leaned back, rested his head on the seat and turned his head towards her. They stared at each other in silence for a long moment, listening to the constant music of the rain on the roof of the car as they tried to read each other’s expressions.

“You hungry?”

The question caught him a little off guard, mostly because it was the last thing he had expected to be the first words out of her mouth. “No, not really. Finnick insisted that we stop for some fish sandwiches a few hours ago.”

“Good,” she replied, and he quirked one brow as she reached down to start the car. She turned a quick wave out the window as Delgado’s cruiser passed by, then turned back to him with a bright smile that left him a little dazzled and more than a little love struck. “Neither am I.”