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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.”

 

Chapter Text

Intimacy

 

Waiting in the cruiser in front of her apartment building was not unusual for Nick. He had seen the prettier-on-the-outside building at least six times, usually to pick her up for an early morning shift or to let her grab something she had forgotten. This was, however, the first time he had this particular view, and realized that he wasn’t going to stay in the cruiser. And he was aware of that fact as he turned his eyes to the bunny sitting beside him. When she had lead him to the cruiser, telling him that she was taking him home, he had instantly assumed that she meant his apartment. Maybe a talk in the car, a walk in the park nearby, time taken to sort things out. He might even have invited her in for some coffee, as cliché as that was. Though realistically, his first choice would have been to invite her in to give her a towel. They were both still soaked to the skin.

“I can make coffee, if you want to...” The fact that she had actually said it made his muzzle spread into a wide and purely delighted grin, which only grew when she dropped her face into her paws and groaned. “I can’t believe I just said that. That is so, so cliché.”

“If it makes you feel any better, Carrots, I was pretty sure you were going to take me to my place,” he said as he leaned back in the seat for a moment without taking his eyes off of her. When she raised her eyes to him and her ears high on her head, he continued “And offering coffee maaaay have crossed my mind. Right after I offered you a towel.”

“Oh, right! A towel! I have towels,” she said, and then groaned again as she slapped her head down on the steering wheel this time. He found it particularly adorable, how her ears flopped over the other side of the steering column and hung there with the insides turned a deeper shade of pink. “Why is it suddenly so hard to talk to you? The only things I can seem to come up with are the most obvious possible ways to let you know I want you to come upstairs and spend the night.”

It sent a thrill through him, he couldn’t deny that. A sort of solid, pleasant shock to his system that made him forget that his fur was still damp and cold as her words spread heat all the way to the tip of his tail. But it still amused and delighted him when he saw her shoulders stiffen the second she realized what had slipped this time. He said nothing, and managed keep his grin from spreading from pointed ear to pointed ear when she rolled her head and peek in his direction with one eye. Seeing that he was grinning, she laughed a little and covered that eye with one paw.

“You’re enjoying this,” she accused, her tone not totally devoid of humor. “You’re enjoying watching me – the bunny you’re supposed to love – suffer in her own inability to form a coherent thought, aren’t you?”

“Oh, now that’s really adorable,” he said, ears perked fully towards her even as he reached for the door handle and clicked it open without losing his grin. “Using the ‘love card’ to hustle the ex-hustler. Well, lucky for you, Fluff, I have decided to take you up on one of your three attempted offers to spend the night. It just so happens that I have a change of clothes under my seat.”

He wasn’t all that surprised there was no rain when he jumped down from the cruiser. The Rainforest District was called the Rainforest District for a reason, after all. In fact, the ground under his feet was completely dry as he wandered around to open the back door of the car and opened the cage. As he popped the hidden lock box under the seat, he heard Judy’s door open and close, followed by the pat-pat of her bare paws on the asphalt as she came around to stand behind him.

“Try to hustle you? Forgive my dumb bunny brain, but the way remember it is that I did a pretty good job of it. I had you by the tail, Mr. Wilde.”

“Yeah, but that wasn’t a hustle, Carrots. That was blackmail,” he tossed in as he pulled his spare clothes out of the box, somewhat relieved to see that they looked as clean as the day he had put them there. “Which, now that I have actually studied the law, I realize is a crime.”

She gave a little huff when he emphasized the word ‘crime,’ but when he turned to face her she seemed far more interested in what he was holding in his paws. The salmon pink button-up shirt, grey slacks, and blue tie caught her a little off guard, and he could see the surprise in her eyes when she turned her eyes back to him.

“What?” he asked, holding them up right under her nose, which came with the added bonus of making said nose twitch. “They’re just clothes. What, did you think I only have one outfit, like some cartoon character or something? Ah, Carrots, Carrots.”

Laughing with a little shake of his head, he scooted around to stand beside her. His free paw took an easy hold on her waist to draw her against his side as they started their walk towards the building. He let out a surprised grunt when she angled her elbow up to nail him under the ribs.

“Well, you did walk down the street pushing a baby carriage for a living once,” she huffed, even as she leaned into his side as they made their way into the apartment building. “A baby carriage that contained your fully adult friend, in an elephant costume going ‘toot toot’ to hustle pawsickles. That was a little cartoonish.”

“Ah, but it worked at the time,” he shrugged, and looked around at the inside of the less than impressive apartment building. The hallways were clean, but drab with a paw print pattern that wasn’t doing it any favors. And the smell of cheap scent neutralizer was almost overpowering, though thankfully once they were past the mail room it started to fade to a more reasonable level. “So, why your place? Don’t you have annoying neighbors? What was it? Pucky and Brink?”

“Bucky and Pronk,” she corrected, giving him a little nudge to show him that she knew he was switching the names around on purpose. “And they’re out of town for a week, so they won’t… Bother us.”

He could all but hear the blush in her voice, and the way she shifted against his side drew his gaze. She wasn’t looking at him as they walked, but her high ears rested against his shoulder in a relaxed way. And when she shifted, she only ended with her pressing closer to him, causing him to adjust the pace of his steps so he didn’t end up tripping over her paws. But he didn’t mind the closeness, and he didn’t mind taking his time, so he squeezed her lightly and he let her set the pace. He understood, after all. His own nervous excitement was so intense that he felt that if it got any worse, he might just vibrate out of his fur. Not showing it was easy enough, but he felt it. He hadn’t felt like this in…

“And I’m closer to the station, so then we won’t have to drive as far or wake up as early to get to work,” she added, then slipped away from him and hopped forward a few steps in front of him once they reached her door.

That made him frown and his tail sag as she pulled out her keys to unlock the door, an act which was halted when he reminded her, “I’m not a cop anymore, Carrots. I turned in my badge, remember? I mean, I am planning on going into the station and begging the chief to give me my job back, but…”

“Oh, nonono!” He blinked when she left the key in the bolt and turned back to him with her paws raised and waving to stop him. “The chief didn’t accept your resignation! You wouldn’t tell him why you quit, and I was unconscious at the time so he couldn’t ask me, and he said ‘you have until noon tomorrow to bring him back.’ What is it with him and these deadlines, anyway? But as long as we get back to the station tomorrow before noon, you can have your job back as long as we…”

When she suddenly dropped her voice after what had been a quick and excited explanation, complete with her attempt to mimic Bogo’s deeply authoritative voice, the mildly shell shocked and relieved fox missed the last part and blinked a few times rapidly. Cupping an ear, he tilted his head towards her. “What was that last part?”

“He expects you to explain why,” she said, her voice as low as her ears were at that moment. He couldn’t remember a time when she had looked quite as shy as she did then, the extremely outgoing bunny even going so far as to refuse to meet his gaze entirely. Demure, might have been a better word, and he watched as she crossed one arm across her stomach and gripped her forearm as if to shield herself.

It was not fear based, he knew. If he knew anything now - anything at all - he knew that she trusted him on a level that he had not believed was possible before he met her. It was not because she didn’t want him there, either. But now that the roller coaster had come to a stop, the fear and the thrill was wearing off and was giving them both time to process the day’s events. The fact that they were standing outside of her apartment, being forced to confront the idea that someone might need to know the details of their encounter in the rainforest? Those events were being placed where it could no longer be avoided or thought of as ‘when that thing happened.’ And the reality of what that meant for them, what it would lead to if they allowed it to progress further, had reached the threshold.

Nick stepped closer to her and lowered himself to one knee, putting him closer to her level when he brushed the backs of his fingers over her face lightly. When her gaze rose to meet his, the nervousness in them as easy to read as the number on her door, his own eyes and muzzle softened into an adoring smile. “I can come up with something, Fluff. Bogo doesn’t need to know what happened. I can just tell him that…”

He grew silent when she placed her paw on his mouth, and his face dropped into his best stoic expression of mild annoyance as he reached up to pull it away gently. He might have managed to pull that look of annoyance off, too, if he hadn’t felt compelled to lean down and touch his mouth to the silky center of her palm lightly. He was rewarded with a little bit of a wide eyed look, and a furious rush of pink filling her inner ears as she kept them perked towards him. Neither of them was used to this new intimacy, and it was obvious that the simple gesture had caught her off guard. They hadn’t even kissed yet, after all, despite everything else that had happened that day.

“Sooner or later, you’re going to have to stop interrupting me, Carrots,” he said gently as the playful annoyance on his face melted away. “I was going to say that I will come up with something to satisfy him without giving details.”

“Whatever you have to tell him to get your badge, Nick,” she managed in a small, still slightly winded voice before she turned and finished unlocking the door. She pushed it open and looked over her shoulder with that optimistic, sunny smile of hers. “I want my partner back tomorrow. Some things between us might change tonight… Have changed. But you’ll always be my partner. And I won’t give up.”

When she stepped inside and turned back to wait for him with high ears and a happily twitching tail, he stood, clothes in paw as they stepped past that threshold.

 

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

She felt sick. But not sick. She was queasy, which was why it was easy to compare the feeling to being ill, but the sensation wasn’t a bad one. She had read about butterflies and their connection to romance, and heard from her older sisters while they were fluttering on about dating some young buck. She even thought she had experienced them herself once for a bunny shortly after leaving high school, but she remembered distinctly that it had just been a little flutter. Simple excitement, which had turned into a sweet memory but nothing more. This was something else; something deeper that caused her heart to race and her belly to tighten as she watched the fox enter her apartment. And was watched in return by sharp green eyes, she noted with a giddy feeling that made her want to dance and hide under her bed at the same time. And they stayed on her as he walked past, only looking away when doing otherwise would have required him to turn more than his head. The looks he gave her now were not with the same friendly, warm, laughing eyes that she had come to know. That was still there, too, and she was glad of it. But there was longing now, affection mingled with a deeply rooted need. And something a little hungry.

She wondered if this was what it meant to be loved. Just to be able to feel the weight of his gaze, and to feel compelled to move closer to him simply because he was Nick, and he loved her. Had he looked at her that way before tonight? Had she just been blind to it?

Closing the door as quietly as she could, she placed her key on the table as he stopped in the center of the apartment and gave an appraising look around. She tucked her lower lip in her front teeth when he walked straight towards the bed, which caused a knot to form in her belly along with a quick spurt of panic, blinking when he reached out to pick up one of her stuffed bunnies with his free paw. More than a little embarrassment rose, partly because she had nearly jumped out of her fur at the idea of him in her bed, and because she had forgotten all about her collection of stuffed rabbits. She started forward. “Oh, those are just…”

She stopped when she saw the way he rolled it over in his paw. The way he looked at the little brown toy struck her as odd; his face wasn’t amused or smug at having found out that she slept in a bed full of toys. His eyes were contemplative, and continued to be so as his attention shifted to the other ten bunnies. Something else that wasn’t lost on her was how small it looked in his paw. Strange, that she would think of that now, but what she could hug to her chest with both paws comfortably was so tiny in one of his that it reminded her of how gently he touched her. Remembering how she had tucked under him in the rain forest, the feeling of safety that had warmed her when he had wrapped his arms around her. And the ease with which he had picked her up, pressed her against the tree.

Maybe the memory caused a change in her scent – which she had no doubt that it did – or maybe he had simply chosen that moment to finish his examination of her collection of stuffed bunnies. Either way, he set the stuffed bunny back on the bed and dropped his change of clothes beside it before turning predatory greens towards her. She braced to stand her ground. It was time to stop acting like a kit with her first crush, even if that was exactly how she felt at the moment. But when the rest of him followed his gaze and moved towards her, she realized that it wasn’t a matter of standing her ground, because the ground seemed to shift towards him. There was a patient heat in his gaze when he lowered himself to one knee in front of her.

“Do you miss home?”

The fact that his tone was gentle, devoid of the joke that she might have expected under any other circumstances made her expression to soften. Taking his paw and lifting it to her cheek, she looked up to meet his eyes.

“Not so much anymore,” she replied, turning into the touch of his paw when he curved his fingers to cup her cheek. She closed her eyes to let a light shiver race through her when he passed one claw over the sensitive base of her ear, both of which drooped back as she leaned into him with both paws resting on his chest. “I haven’t felt lonely for a while now.”

She never expected there to be a first kiss with a fox to consider; not in her youth, not when she was at the academy, and not even for the year that she had known Nick. She had imagined what it might be like to kiss him, a lot more than she thought she should have, but had never expected those private fantasies to become reality. From stolen pecks on the lips, to more intimate and passionate kisses that she had only dared imagine when she day-dreamed in the privacy of this very apartment. She had imagined a range from perfect in every way, to complete disaster that ended in friendly laughter; from a sweet and chaste touch of lips to a tangle of lips and tongue that would leave her breathless; from floating in the clouds to being washed away to drown in a sea of passion. She had been sure she had imagined every possible way to kiss or be kissed by him in her sentimental and hopelessly romantic thoughts of her fox.

And her imagination obviously sucked.

And there was a moment of awkwardness, a slight miss on both their parts as they misjudged the length of his muzzle and her lips touched the fuzz of his chin rather than his lips. But there was no break down into laughter at the misstep. Just a smile; a smile that she felt when the paw on her cheek slipped under her chin to tip her muzzle up, just a bit, until their mouths fit together.

Then there was the sort of sweet chastity that she had always thought a first kiss should be like, a warm pressure followed by the feather light brush of his lips over hers that had no rush or urgency behind it at all. A moment in which she could feel the slow sigh that left him ruffle the fur of her cheek, and feel the slide of his thumb along the rim of one long ear as he cupped her cheek again. She wasn’t sure which one of them deepened the kiss, but even as she felt the parting of his lips and the deeper dip of his muzzle against hers, it was slow and gentle and just as sweet. Their first taste of each other coming in a curious meeting of tongues, an easy exploration of the passion that had already burned them. She let the small contented sound that was somewhere between a sign and a moan escape her, as soft as the large paw that slid down her side and rested on her hip to draw her closer. She knew that he was being incredibly gentle about kissing her. He had to be, simply because he was so much larger than she was.

Why had she imagined floating on clouds and sweeping waves when she had this gentle fox? When she could experience this? From the taste of his mouth on hers, to the soft caress of his breath against her neck when he drew back long enough to steal few soft kisses down one side of her muzzle. She wanted him, and romantic notions were left scattered and lost in her mind as the reality of him momentarily robbed her of thought so completely that she was the one who deepened the kiss further and demanded more of it. Because his response was instant and matched her own, she released a groan into the kiss that did nothing to ease the aching need to just be closer to him. The fact that the first sound from him was somewhere before a moan and growl only had her paws reaching up to grab the collar of his shirt to drag him closer. It could have escalated, easily. Slow sensuality could have become something more desperate, and all it would take was a single touch in the right place, or a shift of the hips to make her level of desire known. And she knew that if she had used her grip on him to drag him on top of her, or he had used the paw on her waist to draw her into his lap, neither one of them would have complained.

But this was enough, for now. And seeming to sense her feelings, or perhaps because he shared them, he was the one who finally broke the kiss. And even that was a clear example of how much trouble she was in, as his dangerous teeth nipped at her lower lip with all of the tenderness she had come to expect from him before he turned his muzzle into her neck and buried it in her fur for a long moment. Placing her paws on his shoulders and tilting her head to the side to give him access to her most vulnerable spot without hesitation, she kept her eyes closed and just let the world he had tipped on its side slowly correct itself. The warmth of his breath as he drew in her scent causing another shiver to race through her, and a small gasp to escape her when the heat of his tongue traced upward just under her muzzle. She offhandedly wondered if she tasted like rain when he placed his cheek against hers.

“That’s a nice perfume you’re wearing today, Carrots.”

It surprised a laugh out of her, one that only had a slight tremble to it. She rubbed her cheek against his adoringly, her paws sliding from his shoulders to wrap around him in a hug as best she could. He still had the slender build of a fox, but five months of torture at the Academy had made him a bit wider through the chest.

“I can’t help it. This shady character keeps coming around,” she said, drawing back and placing a light kiss on his nose. “Stirring me up, kissing me until I can’t think straight. I almost dragged him to the floor once, but managed to restrain myself.”

He gave a little snort in reply, sliding his paws between their bodies and nudging her away lightly. The loss of contact made her a little sorry for it, but she didn’t resist. “It’s a good thing you did. We will not being making love until you answer my question.”

Two things happened at the same moment. First, she felt a lovely surge of emotion and arousal when he mentioned making love. Not sex, not sleeping together; making love. Because he saw it was something important between them, just like she did. The second was she felt a little rejected, and found herself at a complete loss as to what he was talking about. Her ears perked towards him as she tried to decipher this change in his mood.

“What question? You didn’t ask me a question, Nick.” Even though she was sure that he had not asked her anything, she still wracked her brain in an attempt to find a question that might be so important that it would actually stop him from having sex if she didn’t answer it.

“I can’t tell you what the question is,” he said, drawing himself to his feet as he waved a finger at her frustrated look. “No no. Don’t look at me like that. I can’t tell you the question because it might affect the answer. And I want an honest answer. Now, there was mention of towels?”

This only confused her further, her ears dropped again as she thumped her foot on the ground rapidly and set her paws on her hips. The fact that this made him grin on made her want to thump him upside that grinning muzzle. “So what? I give you a towel, you dry off, change clothes, and if I haven’t thought of your stupid question you’ll what? Sleep on the floor?”

“Officer Hopps, I am wounded,” he said, placing his paws on his chest with what had to be the worst attempt at actually looking hurt that she had ever seen. “Am I to believe that you intend to make me sleep on the floor for defending my chastity? Shame on you.”

She couldn’t hold onto the annoyance, even though she tried. He looked much too happy, and she felt that mood rubbing off on her. Or maybe that was her own good mood coming back, despite the annoying fox in her apartment. She had to stifle the laughter that threatened to rise at the ridiculousness of his act and his words, and only managed to hide her smile by walking past him to the bed. She took another moment to think about questions he might have asked her recently as she pulled the promised towels out of the drawer under her bed, but was still drawing a blank. But a small smile curved her muzzle as she considered her own change of clothes, and deciding on a little payback, tucked the items under her own towel. She would just see how long he could keep his promise of no sex.

Casting a sidelong glance at him, she closed the drawer and pulled herself to her feet with a little hop in her step. She flipped one of the towels to him, quick and high, and was gratified when it wrapped itself around his head before he could catch it. Then she laughed when he released a long suffering sigh, and reached up to scrub it over his still damp head-fur without removing the towel. She gave him a little shove towards the bed and his own change of clothes.

“You’ll have to keep your back turned,” she informed him as she took a few steps back, holding the towel, which looked huge against her small frame, against her chest with both arms. “Since you’re so insistent on protecting your ‘chastity,’ as if I believe that for a second.”

He dropped the towel on the edge of the bed after stroking it back between his ears to smooth the now only slightly damp fur. She suffered a moment of considerable heat when he reached up to tug the knot of his tie until it came free. Something about it was so ridiculously appealing that she wanted to see him do it again.

“In that case, it’s only fair that you return the favor,” he said, slowly dragging the tie out of his collar. Green eyes were unwavering when he reached down to start unbuttoning his shirt, and she found herself unable to look away at the cream and red fur that was gradually coming into view. He stopped about halfway down, and she gave a sharp huff when he pointed one claw at the ground and spun it in a lazy circle. “Turn around, Carrots. This isn’t a show for cute little bunnies.”

The next few minutes, in which they both fully trusted that the other would keep their word and face the opposite direction, there was an easy silence in the room. A silence that was only broken by the whisper of towels over fur and the rustle of cloth as they both started to change. It was hard for her to ignore the fact that, for a moment at least, she was naked in the same room with Nick. She wanted to be naked with him. She wanted to be naked in bed with him. Now. Her mind kept drifting to wondering what those paws would feel like sliding over bare fur when her mind was entirely her own, or what it would feel like to kiss him again when they were pressed together without the barrier of clothing between them. So close now that she could taste the frustration of his odd refusal even as she pulled the sunny yellow t-shirt over her head. Her heat wasn’t helping, though she knew better than to allow that to set the pace.

When she was dressed, she dared a glance over her shoulder and saw that he was facing the window mostly dressed and flipping up the collar of his shirt to loop the blue tie around his neck. She had to admit, the shirt and pants worked well with his fur coloring. It granted him a sort of urbane appeal, on top of the fact that she somehow found him to be amazingly sexy just standing there looking away from her. For a predator.

For a predator? Who are you kidding, Judith? Stupid question. Stupid fox. I want to crawl all over him, and let him crawl all over me…

“Whatever you’re thinking about, stop thinking it,” he said suddenly, nearly making her jump out of her fur. She watched him take a particularly deep breath, which was released in a slow exhale that she could have sworn had a touch of lusty growl mingled in. His tone remained light and easy going as he continued. “Unless it’s me, which I can’t blame you for. But the fact that I can smell you from here is very distracting.”

“I’m dressed. You can turn around now,” was her only reply, and she watched him closely for a reaction as he turned. His paws were busy looping the knot in his tie, which is where his eyes were for a second or two longer before he lifted them to her. And she found his reaction particularly gratifying.

The paws handling the tie with the casual ease of someone who wore a tie every day came to a stop halfway through the act of tugging it into place. His muzzle also went a little slack, leaving his mouth parted as if he wanted to say something but just couldn’t find the words. She watched his eyes take her in, wearing nothing more than the yellow t-shirt and a pair of low cut, side-tie bikini panties that showed Mr. Nicholas Piberius Wilde a great deal more of her than he had ever seen before. And she felt considerably more feminine than she had since joining the ZPD when he snapped his mouth closed, swallowed so thickly that she could hear it, and cleared his throat while tugging at the tie as if it were somehow restricting his ability to breath.

“That’s cheating, Carrots.”

“See something you like, Wilde?” she asked him, the slightly weak tone of his voice leaving her feeling a little more like she was stepping over his resistances. “You act like you’ve never seen a bunny before.”

“Not this much of one,” he replied, and she enjoyed the way he seemed to be drinking it in. She could see those green eyes wander over her, and the reality of the desire she saw in his gaze was a wonderful thing for her. His gaze was either lazy or reluctant to leave her body when he turned it to meet hers. His expression dropping into a grumpy, annoyed fox as only his could with his ears folded back and his eyebrows lowered. This might have been because she had reached up and started to fiddle with the buttons of his shirt, which were popping open one by one under dainty paws.

“Judy, we talked about this.”

She gave him her best innocent smile, though she also noted that he didn’t actually stop her as she reached the halfway point. There was a pleasant hum in her blood and a light ache between her thighs, distracting her enough that she almost missed that little admission. She rolled it over in her mind for a few seconds, a few seconds in which she had reached the last button, allowing his shirt to fall open. She chewed on her lower lip as she reached out to slide the fingers of one hand through his fur lightly. Still slightly damp, now a little ruffled, thicker than a bunny would have, but oh so warm when she sank into it until her claws brushed flesh. And this time, she felt him tremble, and raised her eyes to see him tilt his head back as a pleased sigh escaped his muzzle.

My fox.

“What do you mean, ‘never this much of one’?” she questioned lightly, as her other paw joined the first one an explorative path down his stomach. She didn’t go beyond that, not just yet. She simply enjoyed the way she felt his muscles tense when she dug in deep enough to cause a reaction. “You can’t tell me that I’m the first bunny you’ve seen naked. You seem to have a fetish, after all.”

“I don’t have a bunny fetish, Carrots,” he said as this drew a slightly strained chuckle from him, one that she felt against her palms as her paws returned to his chest. “I have a Hopps fetish.”

“I’ll be sure to warn my sisters, then,” she said, her voice more of a hum than anything else when she nuzzled his chest. She drew in the scent of male fox as she nestled closer to him, sliding her arms around his waist as she let that feeling of being safe and warm settle around her.

“Based on your surprised reaction,” she both heard and felt him say, and relaxed against him further as he slid one paw up and down the length of her ears. “I can only think that you’ve been looking at pictures of naked foxes.”

The weak knee inducing euphoria of his finger pads sliding along the rim of one ear was quickly interrupted by a rush of embarrassment. Embarrassment that only heightened when he leaned into her, and with one paw at the small of her back, lifted her off the floor with a delighted laugh. A laugh that only ended when he dropped back onto the bed, carrying her with him until she found herself lying on top of him. Not straddling him; actually stretched out on top of him with her head still pressed into his chest, her hips nestled against his, and after a minor adjustment her legs kicked up to allow him to cross his comfortably.

Once she had overcome the terrible embarrassment, she managed to push herself up and rest one arm across his chest as he reached for a pillow to pull into position under his head. It was ridiculously comfortable, lying on top of him like this. In a way that she had never experienced before, except once in the rainforest when her mind had been savage. And because he didn’t seem to mind it one bit, she didn’t try to change it. She simply let her legs sway lightly as she studied his face in the comfortable silence, amethyst eyes moving over his muzzle to take in every detail of him. She knew that under that calm expression that he wore was the same desire for her that she felt for him. She could see it in his eyes, in the intensity of his gaze and how he watched her as though she were the only thing in all creation at the moment. And she could feel it between their bodies where she felt the light throb of his arousal. Intimidating as it was, because of what he was and what she was, it relaxed her rather than frightened her.

He wanted her, and he made that obvious in every way. It eased that slight worry that he was just making her wait to tease her. There was something that he wanted, something that she had the answer to. Something that she needed to find the answer too. But until she did, she was content knowing that they wanted each other. When she felt him slide the back of her shirt up, and felt his fingers follow that simple motion with a brush of his pads over the fur at the small of her back, she released a low sigh of contentment. She returned the affection with a touch to the top of his muzzle, letting the tiny claw of her forefinger slide over the bridge with a touch so light that it was almost non-existent.

“I’m sorry I don’t remember the question,” she said, her voice soft in her honesty as her touch wandered down until she cupped the underside of his muzzle. She brought her mouth to his, and gave herself to a slowly passionate kiss that only lasted for a few seconds.

“Don’t worry, Carrots,” he said, without a trace of resentment, frustration, or unhappiness in his voice. In fact, she had never heard the familiar voice of the once scruff and jaded street hustler sound quiet so peaceful or content. “You’ll figure it out. And when you do, I’ll still be right here.”

Chapter Text

“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.” 

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations 

 


 

There was this period for all warm blooded creatures upon waking called sleep inertia; a period when the mind was not fully engaged and most actions were taken on instinct without full awareness of surroundings. That usually brief period when written words looked like a foreign language, time is incomprehensible, and the body is sluggish in accepting outside stimulation. This was also the moment when the mind was fully capable of shutting down and surrendering to sleep without memory of being awake at all.

For a mostly nocturnal mammals such as Nick, this state could last for hours when forced to wake up at the crack of dawn, and it didn’t matter how many years he had been trying to adjust to it. The repeated, shrill ‘beep-beep-beep’ of the alarm was offensive to the ears, as was the light leaking in through the window, but he couldn’t bring himself to move at first. The feeling of warmth and contentment simply wasn’t going away, and the pillow he had curled himself around during the night smelled nice.

When it did finally become too much for him to handle, he released a small grunt of annoyance and with his eyes still firmly closed, he reached for the source of the sound blindly. When he didn’t find it in its usual place, a small grumble escaped him and he rolled his head around until he saw it sitting on the annoyingly sunny windowsill through bleary eyes. Frowning a little, he reached out and slapped his paw down on top of it without thought. When a blissful silence followed, he allowed his eyes to drift closed again, turning back to draw his pillow closer so he could continue his dream for a few more minutes. That was until his pillow breathed in deeply, and released the breath in a slow sigh as she nestled back against him before going still again.

The haze of sleep burned away and the memory of where he was, and more importantly who was sleeping beside him, came back to him. The realization didn’t come as a jolt or surprise. Just a rush of calming warmth and giddy excitement that had him wanting to simultaneously jump around like an idiot or curl in closer and just hold her. And because one would have required him to leave the bed, and possibly disturb the sleeping bunny, he decided on the calm approach. He opened his eyes for a moment, looking down at the grey and white fur nestled against him. A lot of grey and white fur, he realized. The sun colored t-shirt that she had worn to bed the night before was gone, discarded at some point in the night. And while he was relieved and disappointed when a quick check revealed that she was still wearing the snug fitting black panties, he was not in the least bit disturbed by the chance it afforded him. Just watching her sleep in the fur, taking in the way the grey blended into white down her chest and over her belly. He couldn’t actually see much of the white because she slept on her side facing away from him, but it was enough for him to enjoy just watching her breathe for a moment. Enjoying the beauty of her; feeling a little ache in his chest when he lowered his muzzle between her ears and closed his eyes again to take in her scent.

 “If you keep breathing so close to my ears, it’s going to turn me on,” came her soft voice, a voice that was not even slightly clouded by sleep. It wouldn’t have surprised him at all if she had been awake from the first beep of the alarm, and he was glad that she seemed about as interested in moving away as he did. “And that’s not fair because I still can’t remember your stupid question.”

“Too bad, Fluff. Not moving. And neither are you,” he added when she started to do just that, making her laugh when he wrapped both arms around her chest and belly to draw her back against him firmly. “Too comfortable.”

“Nick!” There was still laughter in her voice as she squirmed against him, laughter that increased to a fit of giggles when he lowered his muzzle to one of her ears and clamped it in his teeth for a playful growl. “I’m just trying to turn around, dumb fox!”

Deciding that he could have the best of both worlds if he let her turn and released her ear – the latter mostly due to the fact that her scent spiked at the bite – he relaxed his hold without actually letting her go. And because he was not a perfect gentlefox by any means, as she rolled to face him, he allowed his fingers to follow every step of the way. The pads of his fingers tracking a path slowly down her sides to her wider hips, feeling the short but intense tremble that raced through her when his claws ran up again through the fur at the small of her back . This was taken as a cue to drag her closer to him again, and she followed his guidance willingly until she was nestled against his chest, her fingers sliding into his fur lazily.

At least at first. She was not being a particularly lady like bunny when those paws spread out to either side of his chest. He watched her, his eyes follow their progress through his fur, mildly curious as to what she saw when she looked at him like that. Did she compare him to some standard? He wasn’t built like a buck, at all. Male rabbits tended to be a lot like their female counterparts, only larger and minus the wider build of the hips. But he wasn’t concerned that she might not find him attractive. Not in the slightest.

Not when the scent of her – which was sweet to his fox nose – deepened with every breath he took, and she seemed determined to outline every line of muscle under his fur with rapt attention. The fact that she seemed particularly fascinated with random things, such as the slightly thicker tuft of fur at the center of his chest, was as amusing as it was distracting. The caress of his fingers paused on their path up and down her bare side, and he couldn’t suppress the rise of arousal when her paws skated under the still open front of his shirt to slide down his back. Even as she did this, she tilted her muzzle down to dip her head under the still loose loop of his tie. He found the action to be as arousing as it was sweet when she pulled herself up his body to lay her lips on his in a lazily sensual good morning kiss that sent fire right down into his soul.

Oh, Wilde, Wilde, Wilde. You are finished. Ended. Hustled again. She has your heart in those adorable little paws, and she can have anything she wants. And are you going to stop her?

No. No you are not.

The low sound that rose into the kiss was somewhere between a moan and a growl, and only seemed to spur her onward. Their grips tightened around each other at the same moment as the lazy kiss became a precursor for need. Going from contentment to a yearning so quickly robbed him of the ability to think long enough for him to forget that there was something he still needed. But oh, it was sweet when she ran her claws down his back and rocked her hips against his, making it impossible to focus on anything other than the warm, responsive bunny beside him. The same bunny that drew back, dragging the knot in his tie under her ears until it came free and hung loose in his collar.

“I love you, Nick,” she whispered, the words caressing the side of his muzzle in a warm breath that made his body shake and weaken as emotion ran deep.

He savored the next kiss when she gave it, allowed it to linger as she played with the fur on the back of his neck. And then, quickly enough to surprise a cry and then a laugh out of her, he pinned her on her back and leaned over her until they were nose to nose. Well aware of his size compared to her, he kept his weight on his knees and one paw so that he hovered above her, using the other to cup her cheek and tilted her smiling face towards his. He nuzzled his mouth against hers twice briefly, but drew back each time she tried to deepen the kiss. Those wide, amethyst eyes almost seeming to be afraid when she looked up at him; but he knew better despite the rapid twitching of her nose and the way her ears were tucked back. It was much like the look she had given him when he had pinned her during training, one that he had been unable to recognize at the time because he had blinded himself to it. That visible desire so obvious now that he almost felt a little foolish for not seeing it before.

“I didn’t bring the recorder pen,” he said softly, his eyes not leaving hers as he stroked the silky fur of her cheek adoringly. “I am going to have to ask you to repeat that for me, Officer Hopps. Just to keep the record straight.”

“Nick, I…” she began, and then trailed off when her eyes widened slightly and the paws that had been resting on his chest moved to cup his face. “Oh, Nick. Was that the question? Don’t you know I love you?”

“I didn’t know,” he said, his paw cupping one of hers so he could turn and place a light kiss in the center of her palm. Then his gaze returned to hers when he saw the frown start to form on her muzzle. “’You know I love you’ seems like an evasion, remember? I’ve known you love me as your partner, your friend for a while now. But that’s not the same as knowing you love me. My mother told me once that saying ‘I love you’ is a question, and once you ask it to just wait for the answer. Don’t demand, don’t ask if you’re loved in return, and don’t make them feel guilty if they don’t have your answer at that moment. Sooner or later, they’ll say it back or they won’t. But either way, you know that the answer is the truth. Because that one time they answer is the only one you need for it to be true every time after.”

He realized that she was watching him with a warm intensity, and felt his ears drop a bit as he cleared his throat. “I mean, I know that the reality is more complicated than that. My mother always has been a rom…” He grew silent when she gripped both tongues of his tie and pulled him down into another kiss, this one short and sweet and more than enough to quite him.

“No, it’s really not more complicated,” she said, as he pressed his muzzle between her paws when she stroked them up the length of it. “Not this time. I love you, Nick.”

How was a fox supposed to react to that?

“I love you, too, Carrots. Oh now, don’t start that,” he said softly, when he instantly saw the shimmer of tears fill those large violet eyes. He drew his paw over her ears to the back of her neck, and the other slipped under her to pull her against him as he rose to sit in the center of the bed. Pressing soft shushing sounds between her ears, he squeezed her close to him. He wouldn’t have called it a crying jag, because it only took her a few seconds to calm as she burrowed herself into his chest, but it was enough for him to lightly tease her, “See? You bunnies, so emotional… Ow!”

He released a light chuckle at the punch to his chest, and she joined him as she looked up and wiped the wetness from her cheeks.

“Says the fox who refused sex for the sake of love,” she said with a grin; then with a simply delighted look brightening her face, burrowed into his chest again and slipped her arms under his shirt to wrap them around him.

They sat like that silently for a few minutes, during which he allowed himself to enjoy the feeling he had only known with her. The certainty of it, as solid and real to him as their friendship. And like that friendship, getting here had been dangerous and nearly disastrous. But as she had shown him, the things he wanted the most were worth the effort.

“Nick?” he heard her voice, muffled by the fact that she seemed to be intently breathing his scent now. Every small huff of her breath causing a stirring in his fur, and his sheath.

“Mm?”

“You do realize that I am still in heat, right?”

“I am very aware of that at the moment, yes” he replied, though he made no move to change position. How could he not know? That sweetly alluring scent of aroused bunny was quickly deepening, and this time he didn’t even try to hinder the affect that it was having on him. Nor did he stop the way her paws slid between them, and without even pausing for effect managed to unbutton his pants.

“If we don’t have sex, things might just get violent.”

He had a moment where he half wondered if she was joking, but wasn’t given all that much time to think about it before she was trying to slip her paws into his boxers. He released a laugh that contained more nerves than he wanted as he reached between them and took her paws before they could reach his growing erection. Not by much, but he managed to draw them up to hold them against his chest.

“Wow, you are a smooth talker, Carrots,” he said, trying to bring an ease into his voice that he didn’t feel at the moment. “Your talent for seduction knows no bounds.”

He watched her cheeks puff out and deflate in her annoyance, though her eyes moved over his face with concern, which was not what he wanted to see. She didn’t let that stop her fully, he noted, as she wiggled her paws free and slid them into the fur of his chest. She looked up at him with a part in her lips that just begged to be kissed, and he released a slow sigh as he lowered his muzzle to do just that.

“Tell me what I need to do to seduce you, then,” she murmured against him, tilted up to trace kisses along the lighter cream colored fur above his mouth. “Does my emotional fox need poetry? Love songs?”

“Listen, Fluff,” he started, needing to pause for a breath when she lifted her mouth to his throat. “I was seduced a long time ago. That’s not it.”

The path of kisses she placed there sent little shocks of fire though him that caused the fur on the back of his neck to stand on end. His groan was throaty and pleased, and deepened in a light growl when she nipped at his shoulder. When she gave a firm shove against his chest, he took the hint and lay back, looking up at her as she scooted up so that she was straddling his chest.

“You’re nervous,” she said at length, her gaze moving over his face curiously with her ears high and trembling slightly. Just, he noted, as her paws did when she traced her fingers through his fur. This did manage to relax him, if only slightly.

“Extremely,” he replied, reaching up to brush the back of one paw across her cheek slowly, turning it to slide his thumb across her muzzle when she closed her eyes and tilted into the touch. “And so are you. You’re a bunny, Carrots, and hardly more than half my size. I keep thinking that if anyone gets hurt here, it’s not going to be me.”

“Nick,” she said softly, and he watched as she took a hold of his tie to draw it out of his collar. “I’ve thought about it, too. A lot. For a long time. And I know you won’t hurt me.”

The heat that spread through him with that admission wore down his resistances considerably, and when he drew her into a kiss this time, it held and deepened. She moaned into the kiss when he rolled them again, pressing her into the bed as she tugged at his shirt to urge him to remove it. He complied, sliding out of it one arm at a time without breaking the kiss. He could feel the urgency when she touched him; feel it in the way her fingers dove into the fur at his shoulders to pull him closer as their tongues met in a curious little dance. The newness of it was taken to another level by what they were, and he refused to be rushed. Even when she released a sweetly needy little sound when he pressed his weight down, and ran the pads of his paw down her lower back just to feel her arch into the touch. She was a reactive little mammal, which he supposed didn’t surprise him at all.

He broke the kiss, the taste of her lingering on his tongue as they locked eyes, panting lightly. The look in amethyst eyes was alight with the same need and hunger that he felt, but just past that he could see how terrified she was. Trying to hide it, trying not to let it stop them because even the fear wasn’t stopping the way she tried to move her hips against him. Then again, she had never been one to let fear stop her from doing anything.

My brave, beautiful bunny.

“Slowly,” he said in a low murmur that was as much to himself as to her, nuzzling her cheek softly before trailing kisses down the side of her neck. She never hesitated to tilt her muzzle to give him access, and he noticed that. Exposing herself to him, leaving herself vulnerable. Her hips stilled, maybe because she understood that he intended to take his sweet time about this, but she still trembled when his fingers danced over her. Little gasping breaths escaping her when he let his claws slide upward through the silky fur of her belly and chest, only to turn and smooth what the motion had ruffled. He savored every little twitch, every jolt that caused her body to tense and her breath to catch, and smiled slowly when a moan escaped her as his touch grazed her lower belly just under the band of her panties. She arched to him them, and he remembered the feeling of that needy motion well enough to know he had to pull back just a bit. When he did, sweeping his paw outward to her hip, she released a small but needy whimper that made him thankful she had already unbuttoned his pants. Slow as he wanted to be, she was in heat. And once the emotion started to turn towards sensation, he could see her patience gradually turn into desperation as her scent deepened.

But that was what he wanted, what they needed; for her to be more than ready, more than aroused.

And his paws remained a gentle but constant presence on her body as his mouth joined in the pleasure of making her need him. When he nipped at her shoulder with teeth that, to her, must have seemed dangerous on so many levels, her reaction was perfect. The surprised gasp, and a sensually charged moan of his name caused his own arousal to throb, and he carried the nip into a lingering bite that had his teeth dragging over her skin harmlessly. She was right about one thing; he would pull his own teeth out before he let himself hurt her. But his hurting her clearly wasn’t on her mind, and he felt a thrill as a full body shudder rolled through her. The tiny paws gripping his shoulder fur tightened suddenly as she arched her back, released a high toned cry, and tried to pull him to her. Pull him on top of her, and between the thighs that parted under the touch of his paw.

There was something so deliciously erotic in how she reacted to him, something deeper and more primal than even her heat could have brought out. It was like some part of her, deep down, was reacting to the fact that he was a predator, just like there was part of him that wanted to take full advantage of it. It showed again when he obeyed his own desire and started to nibble his way down her chest, and the whimper of denial that escaped her when he didn’t come to her as she wanted. Green eyes that were a little more predatory than normal rose to her, locking on hers when they opened to watch his tongue slide over the fur of her quivering belly. She huffed out some quick breaths, forced to release her grip on his shoulders as he moved lower.

The way she watched him made him feel like he was stalking her, and he was reminded for a moment of the museum. Just like then, there was no real fear in her eyes. But there was the same mad twitching of her nose, the fold of her ears, and a look of anticipation in her eyes when he turned his muzzle to nip at the inside of one thigh, and then the other. The desired result came with each nip, as her legs jerked apart and her hips lifted at the same moment.

“Damn it, Nick, please! I… Ah! Ngh!”

Whatever she had been trying to say, he cut off as he swept the crotch of her panties aside with one claw and slid the length of his warm tongue over the source of the scent that had teased him since the previous day. Just one long, slow lick that allowed him to finally understand why her scent was so damned tempting to him and how hot she was just on the surface of her sex. Her words were cut off by her own paws, and he had the pleasure of watching her slap both paws over her mouth to muffle herself when a strangled cry escaped her. The tension seemed to melt out of her for a moment as he took another taste – savored her from the softer flesh of her entrance to the tiny nub at the top – and returned to press his muzzle closer, tongue slipping deeper as his free paw came up to grip her hips. A grip that came just in time as they pumped up against his mouth and another muffled sound escaped into her paws, this one more intense than the last. He watched her back arch and felt her thighs squeeze around his head; watched the ripple of her stomach as toned muscle under fur came alive when she was driven over the edge.

The fact that he held a pure, almost greedy delight in the fact that she had cum so quickly couldn’t be held against him. It was an amazing thing, watching his bunny lover ride through the orgasm as he felt her inner muscles squeeze tight around his tongue while the rest of her simply flowed with the instinct to mate with the source of her pleasure. The flavor of her altered subtly, deepened and heated at once, and he lapped at it eagerly as he allowed his eyes to fall closed. Just feeling her, tasting her, breathing her in as he listened to her struggle to muffle herself. She never seemed to come down, even as he started to explore a little deeper, began to lose himself in the pleasure of her. It wasn’t until her voice became clear and trembling paws ran over his ears that he opened them again, finding himself looking into passion filled violet.

“It’s not enough, Nick,” she gasped, her voice edged with the desperation that he saw clearly in her eyes and the trembling of her muzzle. She added to it when he felt the tips of her claws sliding over his ears as she urged him to move. “It feels so good, but it’s not enough!”

Maybe any other time he might have been tempted to resist her; teased her until she was in the palm of his paw. But right at that moment, he was in the palm of hers and moved when she called.

But he didn’t leave without another lingering taste, one that he took as he hooked two claws at the hips of the little black panties she wore and slowly pulled them down. The flash of embarrassment that reached her eyes, even as she lifted her legs to let him slip them past her paws, as incredibly adorable as the look of need was sexy. He drew himself up onto his knees as he looked down at her, though ‘looking’ was probably too simple a term for it. He took in every inch of grey and white and now flushed pink that he could feast his eyes on. Did he have a bunny fetish? It almost seemed strange, even to him, that the answer was no. He had never seen bunnies or similar species as particularly attractive, and he never had. Cute, yes, in the same way a stuffed animal was cute.

But looking at her, loving her as he did, she was achingly beautiful. Achingly in the way it made his heart hurt, and his belly tighten when his eyes met hers again. And in the way it made his still trapped erection throb when she seemed to become impatient waiting for him and rolled unsteadily onto her paws and knees. The way the fluff of her tail twitched over the curve of her rear when she moved towards him, and the white and gray blended together to meet at the juncture between her thighs; even the way long ears were perked towards him, with the skin inside flushed almost red in her current state of arousal. All of it was sexy as hell.

All right, maybe I do have a bunny fetish now.

It was easy to be relieved when she came to a rest on her knees in front of him and reached out. With eyes that were as filled with curiosity as they were intense arousal, she returned the favor with careful paws. His tail twitched once at the widening of her eyes once his pants and boxers fell to the bed around his knees.

“Well… Damn, Nick.”

He felt a slight flush crawl up the back of his neck even as the grin grew on his muzzle. He had half expected her to say ‘sweet cheese and crackers’ or something equally adorable. But the look of actual surprise that was mingled with a touch of trepidation and excitement all bundled into one had the grin softening into a smile. A smile that dropped into an ‘o’ of surprise when two small silky paws wrapped around the aching shaft, sliding upward in a curious exploration that made his entire body weak as pleasure rose to a whole new level.

“Ah ha,” he laughed weakly, his voice failing and forming a gasp rather than the words he was trying to speak. There was more than innocent exploration going on with those paws, and it became a struggle not to growl in pure sexual delight as she squeezed both around the base where his knot would form. And form too soon if she didn’t stop. “I thought you had seen naked foxes before.”

“On my phone,” she said, her voice sounding distant and more than a little dazed. He saw the rapid twitching of her nose, and the way her muzzle parted as she took in the feel of him. Her scent had also spiked, sharply, something that he hadn’t even known could happen so soon after orgasm. Maybe it was a bunny thing. He really suddenly hoped that it was when she turned her eyes up to him with a look that reminded him that she had been conscious and aware while humping against him in the rainforest. “But the screen is small, and you Mr. Wilde, are not. I want you inside me.”

He had to stamp down a sudden surge of lust that came on fast and tried to tear down his self-control. He had to stamp it down hard, because the way she looked up at him when she said that made him want to jump her and do exactly what she was asking for, quick and hard. But a shuddering breath later, and he was able to reach down reluctantly to draw her paws away from his aching length.

“I am not strong enough, or stupid enough to say no,” he said, sitting back far enough to allow him to kick his pants and boxers the rest of the way off, sending them flying under the table across the tiny room. He was aware of the fact that she followed every move that he made, with her eyes and then literally. He chuckled softly as, when he moved to the head of the bed, she made a playful grab for his tail before he swept it out of her reach with a little tsk. “Don’t grab a fox by the tail, Officer. It makes us cranky.”

“That’s a tiger,” she laughed, her eyes never leaving him as he turned to lean back against the wall beside the window, his legs folded under him.

He reached up to cup her cheek when she came to him, and when she tilted her head into the touch he drew her closer. He was surprised, but didn’t protest when she turned to face away from him halfway through the motion. This not only afforded him a view that was sure to become a favorite of his for the rest of his life, but also made it so that when she did sit, the aching length of his arousal was wrapped in the silky warmth of her thighs. He released a throaty growl, wrapping his arms around her as she pressed her thighs together and nestled her rear into his lap. He could feel the heat of her sex against his, and felt a yearning akin to pain to be inside of her. But he held her close, and pressed his muzzle into her shoulder to breathe her in when he heard her release a soft sigh.

“I woke up like this,” she said, her voice trembling lightly. His muzzle went still in the process of nuzzling through the fur of her shoulder when he heard the emotion in that voice. “When I first went savage I was running from the fox, running from what I knew was my most feared predator. And when the fox found me, I ran again without hesitation. The fear was unimaginable, just this… Drive to escape from the jaws of death, to run and hide.

“Until you called out to me, and fell because you wouldn’t stop,” she continued, turning her face to nuzzle against his cheek. He listened in stunned silence, closing his eyes as she reached back to slide one paw down the side of his muzzle adoringly. “Even though you were hurt, you wouldn’t let me go. And I was trying to figure out why, trying to understand what was so important about you – different about you – until I understood that you weren’t just a fox; you were my fox. And even though there was a part of me that was still terrified for a moment, I ran to you. And then you touched me as gently as you’re touching me right now, told me that I was safe. And it was all stopped.”

“You weren’t savage anymore?” he questioned, his fingers tracing lightly down the length of one folded ear.

“No, and that’s just it,” she said, and he saw the need for him to understand in her eyes. “I was still savage. Everything around me was still terrifying, I didn’t even know who I was. But the instinct to fear you was just… Gone. All I knew was that you were mine, and you would keep me safe. Safe. So perfectly safe and warm.”

Her last few words were soft in remembrance, and she was silent for a few heartbeats after that, during which he watched her. Wondering if she realized that what the story told was making him fall even more in love with her. But he said nothing, just hugged her closer and savored the thought of what she had shared with him.

“I woke up like this,” she repeated, raising her eyes again. “Lying beside you, pressed back against you with your arms around me. And for a moment, I was back in the rainforest. I had that same feeling of absolute safety and contentment. Because that’s what I feel when I’m around you, even before yesterday. And I want our first time together to be a perfect reminder that – no matter what – somehow we’re right together.”

Unable to speak for a long moment, feeling the heat of her, feeling this ridiculous well of emotions, he held her close to him as he tried to gather himself. He felt a little hitch in her breathing, followed by a little sniffle. Reaching around, he drew her gaze to him in time to see a single tear slide into the fur of her cheek.

“I’m sorry,” she said, and though no more tears fell there was still a wobble in her voice. “I know, dumb bunny. So emotion…”

He quieted her when he cupped her muzzle and closed his lips on hers. After she melted into him, it was easy to simply allow passion to deepen the kiss as he carried her in a gentle slide down onto the mattress. Tucking her against him, keeping her pressed against his chest and hips, he slowly rolled without breaking the kiss until they were lying side-by-side. He released a small groan into the kiss as the shift in position caused the length of his arousal to slide along the heat of her sex, which resulted in a little whimper from her. Her thighs squeezed together tightly around him, and she rolled her hips back against him in a motion that was as eager as the thick throbbing that followed it.

“Like this?” he said in a low voice against the side of one ear before he nipped at it softly, drawing another little sound of pleasure from her.

“Exactly like this,” she sighed happily in reply, her ears quivering under the gentle assault of his mouth. “Except for the part where you’re still not inside me.”

“You’ll have to forgive that…Ngh.” He was cut off by the growl that rose when she reached between her thighs to slide silky fingers over the head. When she parted her thigh, and slid one leg back to drape over his thigh, she inched herself forward until the tip nestled against the most amazing wet heat he had ever felt. A shudder ran through him with the effort it took not to just thrust forward and take her, but the restraint seemed almost unnecessary when she arched her hips back into him.

There was effort, and even as wet as she was, there was a moment where he worried that it wouldn’t work. But after a brief pause, during which they simply panted and kissed each other senseless, a minor adjustment was made. Then tight, slick, blissful heat slid around half of his length, and all he could do was bury his face into her shoulder and groan in wonder at the sensation. “Oh, sweet fox Jesus.”

This drew a breathless and almost soundless laugh from her as she gripped one of his arms and hugged it tightly to her chest. “I don’t remember you saying you were religious, Nick.”

“I wasn’t, until about two seconds ago,” he said, trying to relax the strain in his tone as he kissed his way up the side of her neck until he reached the base of her ear. There he nibbled softly, grazing his teeth down to the skin in a way that made her body tighten. When she squeezed down around him, it drew a sharp cry from her, and he quickly stopped. “Am I… Does it hurt?”

“No,” she groaned, and tilted her head back to look at him with a dazed sort of pleasure in her eyes. “Deeper. Please, Nick.”

He did go deeper, though he took it slow. So slow that the ache of need bordered on physical pain as he gently rocked his hips against her, stroking and kissing every part of her that he could reach with his paws and muzzle. Every time he tried to stop, she would beg him deeper until he found himself mostly sheathed in the heated folds of the bunny beside him. The sensation was as amazing and glorious as it was terrifying. The scent of her surrounded him now, the humid fragrance of feminine desire strong in every breath he took, which did help to ease his fears and eventually stopped him from asking if he was hurting her. But there was one point that he was not willing to cross, and they found themselves in an odd argument at the worst of times. If it could be called an argument, considering that neither of them were willing to stop the motion of his body against hers.

“All of you, Nick,” she gasped, her head rolled to one side as he nipped at the white fur of her exposed throat softly.

“The knot is too big,” he countered, though half of the argument was lost as he buried his muzzle into her shoulder and growled sharply when she arched her hips back against him hard. Hard enough to slide the rest of him into her, and that blissful feeling of being fully sheathed inside of her caused him to swell instantly. He could have stumbled over the edge then and there, let himself go in the purely physical. But she was tight. Too tight, he knew, and one of his paws moved down to grip her hips tightly as he heaved desperate breaths into her fur to calm himself enough not to move. The thickening of his knot also caused a sharp cry from her, and pain to flare through his arm when she bit down on it and held on. He didn’t try to pull away from the bite, however. He suffered it, held onto her, and stayed perfectly still as he pressed his cheek against her ears as she whimpered softly.

“It’s okay. It’s okay,” he soothed, his ears pinned back as she released his arm to gasp in a few breaths before she turned to look back at him with pained eyes that cracked his heart. “I’m sorry, it will pass. We’ll just lay right here until it passes.”

“I… I’ll adjust,” she said in an unsteady voice, her paw sliding up to touch the side of his muzzle. “I didn’t expect it to be that big, but I’ll adjust. It only aches a little. Kiss me?”

She was lying, and he knew it. Every little motion made a wince curl her muzzle, but she looked up at him with hopeful eyes.

“Carrots, that’s not going to help it go away,” he said softly, though when she parted her muzzle as he leaned closer he was compelled to kiss her. He kept it soft, brief, but sweet as he slid the pads of his fingers down her ear softly, only to be surprised by her words when she parted her muzzle from his briefly.

“I don’t want it to go away,” she said, her paw still softly tracing the line on his muzzle where cream met red to keep him close. So close that he could feel the warmth of her words against his mouth. “I want this. All of this.”

When she led him into another kiss, she didn’t allow it to remain soft or short. She reached around his ears and drew him into her, her mouth parting to slide her tongue eagerly over his canines until he surrendered and returned it. And she was relentless with the kiss, as he knew she always was when she really wanted something. The hunger that she put into it left him wanting more, and pulled a groan from low in his chest when she suckled softly on his lips for a moment to draw him back in when he tried to break it. Euphoria was too neat a word for the things she was doing to him, and he laughed lightly as he drew his claws slowly up her side.

“Sly bunny.”

“Hm,” was her only reply, her eyes closed as he watched little shivers raced through her when his paws moved inward over her belly and chest. “You’re a really good kisser, did you know that? And really good with your paws.”

“The vast experience that comes with age, Fluff,” he said, his muzzle drawn back into a cocky smirk when she rolled her eyes and flopped her head back against his chest. “What? I remember being your age. Remember? Small and emotionally unstable? You’re going to think back on this age when you’re over thirty and wonder where the time went.”

A snort of laughter escaped her, followed just as quickly by a small moan when that adventurous paw slipped between her thighs. He felt the roll of her hips against his, and stilled for a moment to watch her face for any signs of pain. But there was none. Just a look of contentment and calm, also with an almost silly smile on her muzzle when she looked up at him. Intense amethysts held simmering embers of passion and love in equal measure.

And his resistances fell to rubble. He tried to be gentle, but she urged him to passion with every slow roll of her body around and against him. It wasn’t long before he found himself lost in her again, and the paw that had moved to her hip to calm the pace was soon pulling her back into every thrust. He soon gave up on the reasoning behind being gentle as she moaned for him to move faster, take her harder, and the slick heat of her body made it impossible to resist doing just that. They were past the point of slow and easy, and took each other with the joy of the fact that somehow they fit together.

When his muzzle closed on one slender shoulder, the press of his teeth against her skin sent her into a shuddering orgasm that rocked her smaller form and caused her to tighten around him almost viciously. And he was not far behind. A sound somewhere between a moan and snarl vibrating through them both as he pressed tight against her, savored the feeling of being fully buried in her as his arms moved to wrap almost protectively around her chest and belly to draw her closer. The pleasure nearly blinded him, did blind him to everything but her, and while there were no fireworks or trumpets or any such nonsense, he still didn’t want the feeling to end.

He was unmoving aside from the quick rise and fall of his chest as they pressed together afterwards, drained and sated in ways that he had never known existed before her. With his nose resting between her ears, exactly as it had been when they had woken up that morning, he didn’t feel the need to say anything more. It was a feeling she seemed to share as they lay there listening to each other breath in the tiny apartment. There was no need for words now, no need to wonder or doubt. They had already figured out the question.

And they both knew the answer.

Chapter Text

"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.”

 

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

 

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.”