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The Broken Mask

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"I became fascinated by your goodness. I was drawn in by it. I didn't understand what was happening to me. And it was only when I began to feel actual, physical pain every time you left the room that it finally dawned on me: I was in love, for the first time in my life. I knew it was hopeless, but that didn't matter to me. And it's not that I want to have you. All I want is to deserve you.”

Choderlos De Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons

 


 

 

 

“You need a bigger apartment, Carrots,” Nick commented while she searched the room for her discarded shirt, her panties, and a fresh towel. “Not that I mind the close quarters at the moment, but at least a place with your own shower. Having to run out into a communal bath every morning is… Hm. I supposed you’re used to that, though, with the size of your family.”

Nick remained in bed, feeling no particular rush or desire to move, himself. Her non-committal sound of reply as she started to grow more frustrated with all she could find was the towel she had used the night before made a grin spread over his muzzle. It was almost unreal in a way, watching her glide around in the nude after leaving the bed they had shared in the night and made love in that morning. It was also adorable, because even with her ears pinned back against her head, he could tell that she was flustered about walking around naked in front of him. The cute little country bunny, who was so easily embarrassed by nudity.

He would tell her eventually that her panties were under the pillow.

“Is that an invitation to move in with you?” she said, stopping when she found his shirt under the desk. The view of her rear granted to him when she dropped down to crawl under the desk was enough for him to feel what was already a twinge of basic want heat into a spark of desire. A spark that became something hot and bright when, rather than give him the shirt as he expect, she slipped it over her shoulders and seemed to snuggle into it for a moment  with a deep breath before starting to button it. What was it about a woman wearing her lover’s shirt that was so impossibly sexy?

“My place isn’t exactly what you would call ‘relationship ready,’” he countered, watching her nibble on her lower lip when she raised her eyes to him. A small, almost shy smile came to her muzzle as she backed away from him, until she was forced to stop when she bumped into the desk. He was sure – from the way she looked down at herself in a button up shirt that reached past her knees – she was trying to find out why he was looking at her the way he was. Looking at her like he wanted to eat up the no longer naked bunny, which no doubt was the opposite of the effect she had been going for.

“Nick,” she began, her voice a little nervous when she raised her eyes back to him. That didn’t change the fact there was a shift towards sweet in her scent, or that her ears perked towards him and quivered when he rolled to sit on the edge of the bed. His eyes didn’t leave her when she stepped away from the desk and moved towards him, and only closed when she raised her muzzle to place a light kiss on his lips. “We have to go to work.”

Her argument was weak, both in the fact that she said it with a softly breathy voice that sounded less convinced than he did, and because a quick glance at the clock told him that it was only eight fifty-nine. Because they were both so weak, his paws moved to her hips without a peep of protest when he lifted her up and against his chest.

“Luckily for us, Officer Hopps, you seem to be in the habit of waking up at ridiculously early hours of the morning,” he said, taking the next kiss himself and making it anything but short and sweet as he rolled them onto the bed.

They made love for the second time that morning in a sun warmed bed. There was no hesitation this time; no concern about the impossibility of it. With the barriers gone, they simply enjoyed each other, savored the differences and similarities as they allowed their desire to guide them. And while that didn’t make it necessarily sweeter or more important, it did make them more passionate and eager as they freely explored the pleasure they could bring each other. Moving together in a tangle of limbs and tongues and bodies, he was certain that he had passed away at some point during the night and was now wallowing in the bliss of the afterlife. It was the only real reason that such joy should exist, and could possibly be his.

An hour later, they were right back where they started again. Only this time, he reclined on the bed wearing his own unbuttoned shirt – which now smelled pleasantly like his aroused partner – and she was wearing the sunny yellow shirt and black panties, a fresh towel and her uniform folded in her paws as she got ready to head to the public bath for a shower. Which brought him right back to the subject that mutual need had set aside.

“But really, Carrots,” he said, as if nothing had stopped the conversation. “You make enough for a better place than this. And I was thinking that if you had a bigger apartment, then you could ask me to move in with you. I am a progressive fox, after all. I’m not afraid of being asked.”

“Of course you are,” she said, though he could see the grin growing on her muzzle when she turned back to face him. “We’ll talk about it later. I’m going to take my shower, and you need to get ready to do the same. We only have two hours to get back to station, and I wasn’t planning on sprinting to the Chief’s office because we dawdled around here all day.”

“So that’s what bunnies call it,” he said, and laughed when he could literally see the pink spreading up the insides of her ears. “I have to say, that is pretty cute. Not as cute as your…” The towel slapped him in the face and covered his muzzle as she retreated from the room, the snort of restrained laughter following after her. He didn’t mind the towel too terribly much; it was the one she had used last night, so it smelled like her. Releasing a contented sigh after tossing it back on the floor, the incredibly happy fox laid his head back onto the pillow and let his mind drift.

He managed to let his relaxing drift – where drifting actually meant focused, pleasant memories of the taste and scent and feel of his partner against him and under his tongue and around him – for a full five minutes before there was a light, short knock on the door. With a quick roll of his eyes, he drew himself from the bed and grabbed his boxers.

“Hold on, Carrots,” he called, sliding them on as he stumbled his way to the door. He found himself slightly annoyed that going through police training, constant sparing and chase sessions with the super bunny seemed to have made him no better at the simple act of pulling on his underwear. “What happened, did you forget your… Key…”

Standing in her door with his boxers freshly pulled on, shirt open and exposing a good deal of sex ruffled fur, and wearing a dumbfounded look on his face was not how Nick had imaged meeting her parents for the first time. But there it was. Four bunnies with one suitcase between them standing at the door. And though all four noses started their instinctive twitching, the sight of the mostly naked fox caused different reactions in each of them. Judy’s mother, who he instantly recognized from the time she had all but shoved the phone down his throat so they could see her new partner, quickly averted her gaze and covered her eyes with one paw. The other paw went instantly to Stu Hopp’s arm to grip his flannel shirt as his face went through stages from quick fear, to recognition, then surprise and shock. He was also very aware of the hard glare from the male who looked about Judy’s age but was a good head taller than her, and he even heard a gasp from the female standing to one side of the door before he forced a smile onto his muzzle.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hopps! What brings you here? Ohmygosh, what’s that!” he asked quickly, pointing down the hallway with a dramatic flair that had all four bunnies jumping and turning.

He slammed the door at their backs.

Closing his eyes as he turned to lean back against the surface of the door, he placed one paw over his eyes as the weight of the short encounter started to sink in. Then he borrowed one out of Judy’s book, simply because he couldn’t seem to find anything else to fit the monumental blunder he had just committed.

“Sweet cheese and crackers.”

 

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The warm water ran slowly through her fur, the relaxing heat seeping into aching muscles as her paw ran lazily over her shoulder to help wash away the remains of the fur conditioner. The aches were a pleasant distraction from her normally rushed morning shower, all the way down to the more intense one between her thighs. That one kept an almost constant, dreamy grin on her muzzle. There was something so pleasant about it, being able to enjoy the warm water as it soothed the minor pain of the far more visceral pleasure she had experienced only a few minutes ago. Her mind kept returning to the feeling of large paws sliding over her body for the first time, unabashed in their intent and fluid in execution as he had searched out the spots that would make her shiver and moan. Paws that had been shaking the entire time, because he had been so afraid of hurting her.

Even as she planned to make certain he learned that she wasn’t made of glass, she loved him for the care he had taken. He had been right, after all. She had been more terrified than she ever would have admitted. She wasn’t afraid of him, even instinctively. But there was still the fact that he was nearly twice her size, and was very well equipped to… Well, hunt rabbits. If her desire for him had not burned her with its intensity, she might have hesitated. Hesitated and lost out on a night with a male who had proven to be passionate, loving, romantic, and a very good kisser.

Even as she released a little shiver at the thought of him kissing her again – kissing her in the way that made the insides of her ears tingle and left the dangerous taste of fox lingering on her tongue – her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Nick’s voice down the hall. Quickly alert, she shut the water off as her ears lifted and swiveled towards the door to the bathroom. The silence that followed almost had her relaxing, before she heard his voice again, louder this time.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hopps! What brings you here? Ohmygosh, what’s that?”

Then the sound of the door slamming made her jump even as she reached for her towel, a little chill of panic slithering up her back when, not much more than a second later she heard pounding on the door.

“Hey! Hey, where is my sister, fox? If you hurt her…”

Jason? Why did they bring Jason to the city?

She groaned and rushed out of the shower. Not even bothering to dry herself off, she wrapped the thankfully large towel around her dripping body and tied it off. Reaching over to gather her uniform, she heard Nick reply through the door with his classic dislike of stereotypes against foxes shining through.

“Look, kid. I’m a cop, all right? You sister’s partner. Carrots will be back any minute, so if you could just…”

“What do carrots have to do with this? Wait, did you just call Judy Carrots?”

“Jason, dear,” came the almost always calm voice of her mother, as always trying to calm the males of the family. Maybe Nick was right. Bunnies were emotional. “We’ve talked to Mr. Wilde before, remember?”

“Yeah, but…”

“Mom, dad, Jason, Beth!” Judy interrupted with cheerful surprise in her voice as she threw open the bathroom door, a quick billow steam following her out as she made a beeline for them. “What are you guys doing here?”

She tried her best not to make the greeting sound like an accusation, especially to Jason who had always been ‘that’ sibling. ‘That sibling’ in this case being the one who had a well-known prejudice against all things predator. Though he did relax at the sight of her, as if there had been an actual thought in his mind that Nick had her imprisoned in her own apartment and was subjecting her to horrific torture. Or eating her. Both of which were not actually too far from the truth. The idea almost made her burst out laughing, but made it easier to hold her smile when she wrapped her one arm around her mom’s neck as all four moved in for a group hug. A group hug that she savored for a few seconds because she had missed them, rubbing her cheek against her dad’s extra fluffy one for a few seconds.

“Judy, baby,” her mom said at length during the hug. “Your fur is soaked.”

“Oh, right!” she said as she pulled back, drawn back into the reality of her family being there. “What are you guys doing here? Why didn’t you call? Did you take the train into the city? I could have picked you up!”

The affection and the rush of questions seemed to reactivate Stu, who had been locked in a state of stunned silence up to that point. “We got a call saying that you were in the hospital, and we came as fast as we could. We’ve been trying to call you, but you haven’t answered your phone. Then when we called the station, they told us that you had already been released, but we were already on the train. So we decided to pay you a visit. And let me tell you, the weasel driving the taxi really tried to shave our fur with what he was charging!”

“Stu, we talked about this, honey,” her mother chided him, though her tone was indulgent and affectionate at the same time.

Right! They’re still on my emergency contacts list.

Watching her parents start their back and forth banter about how Stu only seemed to be a speciest when it came to his children (he still played cards with a weasel, and now did business with Gideon, after all) Judy took the chance to back towards the door to her apartment. Glancing between her two siblings, with her gaze only briefly staying on Jason – who of course frowned unhappily – before settling on her wide eyed sister. Once eye contact was made, the pretty face brightened with a knowing grin. Judy slapped her paw to her face when her younger sister ticked her eyes towards the door, then wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. While she was pretty sure that it had just been a sisterly tease, that didn’t stop the inside of her ears from burning bright pink as she fumbled for the door.

“It’s great to see you guys,” she said, once she managed to find the handle and push the door open just enough for her to fit through. All eyes were on her instantly, as if her opening the door had suddenly reminded everyone that there was a fox just beyond it. “But could you give us just a minute? We need to get ready for work.”

Once she closed the door, she closed her eyes and released a groan. “Sweet cheese and crackers.”

“That’s exactly what I said,” came Nick’s voice from across the room, along with a good deal of noise from the city outside. She blinked when she looked over, and saw him leaning out her now open window to look down at the street below. “What do you think, Carrots? I scaled the ice wall in the Academy, no problem. This shouldn’t be too hard. You’re welcome to join me.”

Her face softened as her muzzle spread into a smile that was equally amused and adoring. “Nick.”

After successfully extracting him from the window, she stood in front of the now fully clothed fox, who watched her paws as she looped the knot of his tie with practiced ease and carefully tugged it into place a few inches short of all the way up. She could tell from the concerned, somewhat miserable look on his face that he was looking for a way to apologize. And she waited for the exact moment when he opened his mouth to lean close and silence him with a quick kiss.

“It’s all right,” she said, smoothing her paws over the tie and the front of his shirt before she met his gaze. The smile came easily, more so than she would have expected given how nervous she was, but she simply loved this slick fox too much not to be happy. “I would have told them soon, anyway. Now that we’re...”

“In love,” he supplied when she looked to him for an answer she didn’t actually have, taking her paws in his much larger ones and sliding his thumbs across her palms.

“In love,” she agreed, and then joined him for a grin that she knew was just as dopey as the one that grew on his handsome muzzle.

She didn’t resist when he reached down to untie the towel around her, and stood still for him when he started to slowly scrub it over her wet fur with both paws. There was nothing sexual about it, not directly. It was more about the contentment of being taken care of by the paws of another for the first time since she had been a kit, and she luxuriated in it even though it only lasted for a minute or two. She particularly like it when he ran the towel over her ears, and down the back of her neck. Or it could have been the fact that he ended that motion with a light kiss on the top of her head between those lowered ears. And when he had finished smoothing her fur as best he could with said towel, she drew her muzzle to hers and savored a slightly longer kiss before she turned to start putting on her uniform.

“You’ll need to shower at the station,” she commented as she glanced at the clock. Ten-thirty. “We still have time, but now I have my family to deal with.”

“You know,” he said as she pulled on her shirt and vest. When he seemed to hesitate, she turned her eyes to him and found him rubbing the back of his neck uneasily. “It’s not too late to change our story. If you don’t want to deal with it now, we can always tell them that I slept on the floor. I mean, we’re partners after all. And after a strange day like yesterday, you know.”

He trailed off, waving his paw in the air absently in a ‘You know the rest’ gesture as she adjusted the fit of her vest. Violet eyes watched him for a long moment as she felt a drop in her stomach. Maybe he didn’t want anyone to know; she hadn’t even considered that. She hadn’t been planning on parading down the streets, or putting in the ZPD newsletter, but she had not considered actively hiding it outside of work. Especially not from her family, and the idea that he did made her feel…

Silly. It made her feel silly for even considering it when he raised his eyes to hers. He had on his ‘nothing gets to me’ mask, but she saw through it when bright green met amethyst. The romantic in her wanted to call the look in those eyes beseeching, and the word stuck in her mind when she stepped close to him.

And bopped him lightly on the muzzle.

“Dumb fox,” she said when he blinked at her, and her face softened when she reached up to grab his muzzle to draw him nose to nose with her. “My Fox. I’m not going to hide what I feel for you. Besides, there have been four ears pressed to the door since I closed it. Isn’t that right?”

That last question came out a little louder than the rest as she perked her ears towards the door. She was gratified to hear quick shuffling beyond it and her father’s sudden overly loud comment about ‘how lovely the wallpaper was.’ A small laugh escaped her when she turned back to Nick, finding him looking at her with a strange expression. The smile dropped from her muzzle, and her ears dropped with concern. “I’m sorry, Nick. I…”

She was cut off, finding herself suddenly and completely crushed against his chest. Surprised by the sudden embrace, she didn’t react to it immediately, not sure what had brought it on in the first place. Until she heard him whisper ‘Thank you’ against the base of her ear. Then she softened, and felt an ache in her chest that was happiness and sorrow in one; understanding that he had somehow expected her to be ashamed, or at least reluctant.

As if he didn’t deserve her.

She knew his life had been one filled with stereotypes, prejudice and constant reminders that he was just another untrustworthy fox. And she knew that he still doubted himself, sometimes felt the shards of the past rise up to cut at him. And she knew that he hid it, most of the time behind a mask of sarcasm and humor. She wrapped her arms around him, returning his embrace as she breathed in the foxy musk of him for a long moment in silence. He didn’t cry. The still slightly jaded hustler wasn’t the type. But he expressed himself in other ways, ways that were loud and clear and beautiful to her. She hoped, with all of her heart, that her unwillingness to hide her love for him would help him understand. It wasn’t about deserving her, or being good enough in anyone else’s eyes. It was about them, and only them in the end.

When he relaxed his grip, she held hers for a moment longer to look up into his now smiling face; a smile that she returned as she pulled herself up to kiss the tip of his nose lightly. Then she reached down even as she took a step back, taking his larger paw in both of hers to tug him towards the door.

“Come on, Slick. Let me introduce you to my parents properly.”