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The Savage Dark

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In the car with her parents, two of her siblings, and her –

What did she call him now? Her boyfriend? Ugh. That was terrible; that was what high school kits called the object of their usually short term affection. Her lover? That was a little better, though perhaps a little too complicated to explain; lover brought to mind a quick fling, or someone else’s mate which she detested. Love, then. Her love. She rather liked the sound of that, but still. ‘This is my love, Nick.’ That wouldn’t roll off the tongue right, and her friend was certainly out as a term of endearment. Of course, he was her friend and always would be she hoped, but it was far from everything they were now. Her fox had merit, but it seemed clingy to use it in public or to describe him to someone else. She loved Her Fox, and she had no doubt that she would think of him in that way. But that was theirs, and she would keep it that way. Partner. Always and forever her partner, no matter what. The one who had saved her, believed in her, and forgiven her when she had stumbled and made a speciest fool of herself. That was it, and it didn’t need to change to something other than that.

– partner all together, Judy was starting to wonder if this was what it meant to go quickly insane. With all of the bunny bodies squished together, though squished only seemed to apply to one side of the vehicle, the majority of her family had scooted close to her on the passage side while Nick drove. Thankfully, they were almost to the station. And then she could…

“What are your intentions towards my daughter?” Stu Hopps suddenly pipped up, in his best authoritative, father figure tone of voice.

“Dad!”

“Well a father has to ask these things, carrot pie,” Stu responded as she groaned and dropped her face into her hands. She was not having this conversation while in full uniform. “It was obvious what was going on there, and I’m just not sure that it’s a good idea for a healthy young bunny like yourself to…”

“Now now, dear,” her mother cut in before he could fall into one of his speeches about doing what was easiest and being comfortable. “They work close together. You can’t blame her for being curious. And it is that time of year, so…”

“Mom!”

“Well I think he’s kinda hot,” Beth quipped, which drew Judy’s attention to the fact that the almost pure white rabbit was, in fact, the one sitting closest to Nick. Closer than she had been when the drive had started, in fact, and was now reaching out with one dainty paw towards the aviator wearing fox’s arm in a bid to cop a feel as the rest of the family gaped at her.

“Stop that!” Judy cried, reaching out to rapidly swat at her sister’s curious paws until they withdrew. This only drew a bright smile from her sister, who looked at her with all of the smugness ever put on earth for siblings to use to torment their older sisters.

“Well I don’t trust him,” came the deeper, very unamused voice from her other side. She turned her eyes to Jason, her muzzle pulled down into a frown that matched the tan and white buck’s own when he continued with a wave of his hands towards Nick. “I mean look at him. He looks like he’s about to snarl already. Probably because he’s in a car full of ‘food.’”

Rolling her eyes, Judy still turned to look at Nick along with the rest of the family. She did see it now; the brief, occasional twitch of his lips that pulled them back enough to show the barest tip of his canines and made the top of his muzzle almost imperceptibly curl. Of course, most people would have missed it entirely, but Jason was obviously watching her partner like a hawk. With a windy sigh, she dropped her head back in the seat and closed her eyes.

“He’s not snarling, you idiot,” she explained, feeling just a little bit like shoving her relatives into the Cage. “He’s trying not to laugh.”

Which Nick, to her total lack of surprise, took as his cue to actually start laughing. It wasn’t a light chuckle, either; he let out a sharp bark of a laugh, followed by continued belly gripping laughter that had the whole family staring at him as though he had lost his mind. Except for her, of course.

Of course he would find this amusing. If I didn’t love him, I swear I would…

“I’m sorry, Carrots,” he said, though the fact that he said this while swiping one finger under his sunglasses while still chuckling made him sound very un-sorry. Especially when his grin only seemed to grow when she glared at him. “But you have to admit that this situation is a little ridiculous.”

“Why does he call you Carrots?” came Beth’s immediate question, looking between the two of them with curious blue eyes.

“He’s sitting right there,” she said, deciding that throwing Nick under the bus was acceptable considering his amusement at her suffering. “Ask him yourself.”

All eyes turned to Nick again, and the fox flashed his best, closed-mouth, no teeth hustler grin. “You got it. Ask me anything, anything at all.”

Judy put on her own smug grin, leaning back in the seat and closing her eyes to make herself seem less available as the barrage began.

“Why do you call her Carrots?” Beth repeated, her voice as eager as her eyes no doubt were.

“Let’s call it an insult that turned into an endearment,” he replied, which turned her smug grin into a softer one, though she still didn’t open her eyes.

“Can’t you get another fox instead of my sister?”

“Jason!”

“No, it’s all right,” Nick said, his voice holding a cool edge that it often did when dealing with a speciest. “I could. But I won’t.”

“Were you really a street hustler?” Judy rolled her eyes behind her eyelids. The eager-to-know-the-city-fox tone had not faded from her sister’s voice.

“I was an entrepreneur,” he replied smoothly, which drew a snort from Judy and forced him to amend, “Of pawsickles.”

“You never told me what your intentions are.”

“Dad, stop that! Don’t answer any questions under duress, Nick.”

“How does it feel being the first fox police officer?” came the smoothly sweet voice of her mother, bringing what Judy saw as the first serious question into the conversation. “Are they treating you well, Mr. Wilde?”

“I love it. The job, being on the streets, spending all day telling Carrots jokes.”

“Bad jokes,” she inserted, small smile playing over her muzzle.

“Excellent jokes,” he corrected easily without missing a beat. “As for the others. I suppose they treat me like they would any rookie,” he replied, and now she opened her eyes to turn them in his direction. She could see from his expression that he was holding back, mask in place to hide the fact that he still didn’t feel fully accepted. She understood his reluctance to talk about it. It wasn’t that they were treated badly, but it could be hard to relate to mammals that were all at least twice your size. And a lot of them still referred to him as just ‘fox’, which he often replied to with his general snarky sounding off of their species in reply. But she knew he wanted to be more than just ‘the fox on the force.’

“How much bigger is it than a bunnies?”

“Bethany Amelia Hopps!” her mother cried, blustering and stuttering and waving her paws at her husband. “Talk to your daughter, Stu!”

“And on that note,” Nick said easily, as if the question hadn’t been as horrifyingly invasive as it had been, rolling the cruiser to a stop next to the coffee shop across the street from the station. “I’m going to get some coffee. Anyone want anything while I’m in? My treat.”

“I’ll help,” she said, in part because everyone wanted a Carrlatte from the big city coffee shop, and in part because she wanted to get out of the car to breath. “You guys wait here. We’ll be back in a minute.”

Bonnie was already shushing protests – most of which came from Beth in her desire to learn more about Nick – when Judy opened the door and hopped down into the parking lot. Trying her best not to slam the door, she dashed around to the other side where Nick waited with his dark glasses tracking her.

“Well, that was bracing,” he said, a smirk tugging at the corners of his muzzle as they made their way into the coffee shop side-by-side. “I especially liked the part where your sister sexually harassed me multiple times. I may need to file a complaint with the police. Are you available, officer?”

“Ugh, I am so sorry about that. All of it. My sister especially,” she said, feeling ready to throttle all four of the bunnies, three of which she could hear were currently focused on telling Bethany to keep her muzzle and paws under control, thankfully. Some small miracles were still possible, and one was the fact that her sister kept drawing the ire of her parents instead of them focusing entirely on her relationship… With... Nick.

Oh.

“Well, it was your idea to bring them along,” Nick had continued, wandering at his deceptively lazy gait into the brightly colored café, strolling towards the counter as she considered giving her sister the bunny equivalent of a bear hug.

“I didn’t exactly have a choice,” she mumbled, keeping her voice low in the otherwise empty shop. “It was either this, or leave them in my apartment. My apartment, which smells like fox.”

“Equal responsibility there, Carrots,” he said with a grin, swaying his hips a little closer to let his tail brush over the back of her legs. While she could hardly feel it, it still made her jump and flush at the little intimacy it conveyed. She knew how Nick was about his tail, knew that for foxes that tail was something of a ‘no touch’ zone unless invited. Or if they were close enough to someone to allow that sort of contact freely.

To direct her attention away from thoughts of his tail, and what it might feel like to slide her fingers through the luxurious and beautiful fur late at night, she turned her attention back to the coffee shop. Doughnuts, pastries, and various other goodies of all sizes were on display; from little white cakes with a single strawberry on top that would hardly have been a mouthful for either of them, to bagels large enough for her to crawl through the hole in the middle. Most people misunderstood the relationship between cops and doughnut shops. It wasn’t some obsession with the calorie laden doughnuts themselves; it was the fact that the necessity of caffeine was readily available in whatever size was required to survive a shift, and the pastries just happened to be a quick, easily transportable means to fill the belly. Right then, the sweet scents assaulted her nose in the most pleasant of ways; and when mingled with the warming aroma of fresh brewed coffee, she found her stomach growling loudly. When was the last time she had eaten?

Obviously hearing the sound, her partner grinned down at her toothily. The fact that that dangerously charismatic smile still managed to be predatory sent a little thrill through her that settled in her belly as a tingle. She shoved him away playfully as they reached the counter and the smiling gazelle behind it.

“Good Morning Officer Hopps! Officer Wilde,” she said with a benign sort of cheer that often rubbed off on the ZPD officers who came into the shop with           a bright smile.

“A very good morning it is, Jess. How are ya?” Nick said in a brightly charming tone that she was sure he would have used to swindle a free doughnut or twelve at one point in his life. Now that charm was sincere, as was the smile when they jumped up on the bench that ran the length of the counter to allow smaller mammals to see the menu. “Are those blueberry muffins? I’d give you my heart if it wasn’t already taken! I’ll take two of those, if you don’t mind, darlin’. Two cups of coffee the usual way, four Carrlattes - one with extra anti-psychotics - and whatever my partner here wants to appease the tiger that seems to be living in her stomach.”

Landing a solid punch in his arm, both for the tiger and the anti-psychotics joke, she shook her head as she decided to be bad that morning. “I’ll take a chocolate cream filled, a chocolate glazed, and one of the muffins, please.”

Seeing that Nick had tugged his glasses halfway down his muzzle to level a bland gaze at her over the dark lenses, she simply folded her hands behind her back and rocked back and forth on her heels with high ears pointed in his direction. “What’s that look for? I’m hungry.”

“Hm,” was his only reply as he slid his glasses back into place with one clawed finger. “You’re never going to finish it all.”

“I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning, I’ll have you know,” she huffed when the coffee was set in front of them. Thanking whatever entity had blessed Zootopia with caffeine, she reached out and took her cup in both paws. Lifting it to her muzzle to breath it in slowly, she sighed happily when she concluded. “You’d be surprised how much a bunny can eat. Especially when there is sugar involved.”

She savored the first slow sip from the coffee, finding it strange how a stimulant could be so relaxing. She could almost forget that her parents were right outside…

“I think I’ve learned not to underestimate how much you can fit inside you,” Nick commented in a tone that was so perfectly innocent that she almost choked on that first drink.

Sending the fox a glare as he leaned against the counter and oh-so casually took a sip of his own coffee while watching her with a face that should have told her nothing. But she could feel the heat of his gaze on her, even though all the aviators let her see was her own reflection. It never left her, even when the clerk brought back the second part of their order.

“The carrlattes will take just a minute!” she informed them cheerfully, before turning her attention to the steam hissing machine at the back of the room.

Judy turned her attention to the two bags that waited, and nearly scrambled for the larger of the two bags. Her stomach not willing to wait – even as she tried to think of a good comeback against her partner and tried not to let the way her own reflection followed her get to her as much as it was about to – she opened it quickly and pulled out the first thing within reach. Not even bothering with the little white squares of wax paper in the bag, she lifted it to her mouth and took a hefty bite. The delicious burst of overly sweet flavor coated her tongue, and she groaned in blissful acceptance of her own gluttony as she took another bite before she had even finished swallowing the first.

Her gaze flicked to Nick, unashamed of her hunger even under the grin that had gown on his muzzle while watching her. She swallowed the two bites, daintily licking the frosting from one claw before she reached for her coffee. “One more remark like that out of you, Mr. Wilde, and I might have to bring you up on charges myself. Conduct unbecoming an officer.”

“Okay,” he said, setting down his coffee and taking a step closer to her. She watched him with wary eyes, the doughnut in one hand and the coffee in the other. “A few things: A. I am not an officer right now, technically. B. This coffee shop is very empty and the clerk is distracted by your family’s carrlatte lust.”

She swallowed a bit when he reached up and slid the sunglasses off slowly, setting them on the counter beside his coffee. While that look of hunger in his green eyes should not have surprised her, it still sent a little shock through her to see it as he leaned close to her. The bright newness of it all left her more than a little stunned; she simply wasn’t used to him looking at her that way, and it sent a curl of desire spreading through her that made her fur want to stand on end.

When he reached out and lightly traced his thumb over her bottom lip, she was already melting into his paw. And almost melted completely when he took that thumb away, slowly licking the spot of chocolate he had gathered away with one swipe of his long tongue. “Is there a ‘C’?” she managed, feeling like she might crawl out of her uniform on the spot if he didn’t at least kiss her.

“Mmhm,” was his first reply, his eyes on hers as his paw returned, though this time it was to nudge her chin up until their lips were nestled together. His voice was a low, whispered vibration against her lips that made her entire muzzle tingle; he was growling the words, and she had no idea why that excited her. “C. I have to get it out while I can, before Officer Wilde has to worry about ‘Conduct Unbecoming.’”

She folded her ears back and surrendered to the kiss. Surrendered, bent, and was gently blown away by it as she savored the almost odd but still so perfect way his mouth fit against hers. The way he tilted his long muzzle when their lips parted let her feel the heated exhale of a contented sigh, and when her tongue met his larger one for a lazy but satisfying exchange the taste of fox left her knees weak. They had kissed multiple times the previous night, had slept together in her bed, and had woken up to make love twice – not forgetting the episode in the rainforest. Oh no, not forgetting that – and when he pulled back from the kiss she still couldn’t fully grasp the fact that it was real.

Which left her swaying there for a moment with her eyes closed, her lips parted, a cup of coffee in one hand and a bag of pastry in the other. When she finally came to her senses – and damn her sexy fox for making her loose them in the first place – she licked her lips slowly, finding that he had put his sunglasses back on and was leaning against the counter with one elbow watching her.

“Well, that didn’t get it out of my system at all,” he said, and she could hear the strain in his voice when he said it. And she knew he was as affected as she was by the kiss when she saw him reach for his coffee with a paw that shook ever so slightly.

Smiling now, feeling brave and maybe a little foolish, be it because of the kiss or because the sugar and caffeine had reached her system somewhere between those first two bites and the bone melting kiss, she set the coffee and the bag on the counter next to him. After a quick glance to make sure the clerk was still occupied with the carrlattes, she reached up and snagged his tie with one paw, almost making him drop his coffee as she pulled him down to her.

“Then let’s try again,” she said, this time taking the kiss herself and finding that it was just as sweet.

The loud thump from the entrance to the shop made both of them jump, pull apart and stepping back as their gazes turned towards the door. She saw the bulky form of the cheetah against the glass window beside the door at the same moment that Nick did. Clawhauser had his face pressed against the window, his mouth hanging open with eyes as wide as she expected they could get. She groaned loudly when the surprised look became one of unparalleled delight and unrepentant glee as he pulled away and, with his paws clasped together under his chin, did a little bouncing dance in place that had his belly jiggling. She was pretty sure everyone within a mile heard the excited and drawn out ‘Eeiii!’ that he let loose as he ran for the door, moving amazingly quick for such a large mammal.

“Caught twice in one morning. This is your fault,” Nick told her in an offhand but soft voice as the door swung open, keeping it low so only she could hear. Of course, he was already leaning against the counter again, coffee in hand and sunglasses neatly settled on his muzzle with a cheerful grin spreading at their fast approaching co-worker. “Had to go in for that last taste of fox. Hey, Clawhauser!”

Scrunching her muzzle in a frown, which she hid behind her own cup of coffee, she watched the whirlwind of delighted feline practically dance his way up to them with his trademark “Oh… M… Goodness,” before he did a mock swoon that had her worried that he might actually fall over. “I just cannot believe what I’m seeing! Oh, this is the best thing since the Gazelle concert! And I’ve gotta say, you two make…”

“Don’t say it,” Nick warned half-heartedly.

“…the most adorable couple I’ve ever seen!” Seeming completely un-phased by their mutual groans, he continued, much to her embarrassment. “And one of my best friends is an otter who married his high school sweetheart. They had the sweetest wedding out of the city by a lake, and at the end they jumped in the water, holding hands as the current carried them away and that was the cutest thing I think I have ever seen until now. But I never expected this!”

“Clawhauser…”

“I mean, I didn’t even believe it at first, but when Delgado swore me to secrecy he said that your reaction to the weasel was ex-taremely territorial and protective,” he continued without pausing for breath, pointing a chubby paw at Nick. Nick, who simply sipped his coffee with a blank expression behind the aviators when she turned a glance at him.

Territorial?

She didn’t have time to contemplate the intricacies of predator territorial behavior as Clawhauser plowed on with all of the grace of a charging rhino.

“..But I didn’t believe him when he said it looked like more than protecting your partner. I mean, a fox and a bunny? That’s like a wolf and sheep! But that’s what makes it so sweet!”

Judy reached her limit, her foot thumping quickly on the bench for a moment before an idea had her ears lifting and her face brightening. Grabbing the bag containing her breakfast, she fished out the remaining doughnut. Sweet treat in paw, she jumped at the much larger predator and planted her feet on his round belly. The surprise on his face was replaced by sinful food delirium when she shoved the first half of the chocolate treat past his still moving lips before quickly back-flipping onto the bench again to stand with a smug look turned towards Nick when the cheetah ‘Mm’ed and ‘Oo’ed his way through the first bite.

“So how long…” he started again, but Nick cleared his throat loudly.

“The doughnut was a bribe to shut you up, Benjamin,” he said, making Judy smother a laugh in her paw when the cheerful face fell into a look of understanding.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Dummy Clawhauser. Always talking tu mucph,” he said as he stuffed the second half of the doughnut in his mouth, somehow managing to look contrite and blissful at the same time. Judy still believed that he had to be the most adorable predator that she had ever known, with a cute, carelessly affectionate way about him that often overstepped social cues.

“So, um,” Nick began, fishing out his wallet and some bills when the gazelle delivered the carrlattes. Which she did, Judy noticed, while giving her an odd look. She couldn’t quite read it, but it didn’t come across as unfriendly. Just… Confused. Judy could just imagine the rumors flying already. But she was distracted, and blinked quickly when Nick continued. “You said that you didn’t believe it ‘at first.’ When exactly was ‘at first?’”

“Oh! Well, Fangmeyer and Wolford have a bet going,” the cheetah all but chirped, moving over to the other side of the counter. “Hiiii Jess! Could you get me a mixed dozen, a caramel triple shot expresso with an extra sugar, and… Hm. Oh! One of those angel food cakes. Thank you so much!”

“Clawhauser, old buddy? What. Bet?”

Any humor or fun had drained from Nick’s voice now, and Judy lifted her ears and focused them on him. He sounded angry. On the edge of furious, in fact. It was such a rare sound from him that she reached out to brush her paw down his shoulder gently to calm him when she saw the top of his muzzle wrinkle in the start of a snarl. The touch seemed to calm him instantly, the curl fading away as suddenly as it had come, so she continued the slow strokes down to the fur of his arm even as her partner took another slow drink of his coffee. The bubbly cheetah didn’t seem to notice any of this.

“Oh. Well,” he began, and then seemed to hesitate for the first time. Though that hesitation could have been caused by the fact that his eyes had settled on a massive elephant sized cake in the display longingly. “They’ve both taken the tactical classes with you. And there may have been talk about changes in your behavior towards each other. And Wolford may have said that the two of you were going to hook up, and hook up soon based on the smell of things. But Fangmeyer may have said that it would never work, so Nick would have to go… Ahem. ‘Bang one out’ with a vixen to ease the tension. And they may have ended up betting on it? But only them! No one really pays attention to that kind of thing, I swear! And I didn’t believe them, so anyone else they told probably didn’t believe it either. Are you mad? Please don’t be mad!”

She understood why he had gone from a cheerful tone to an apologetic one. What might have otherwise been a mortifying revelation to her was blocked by the fact that she could feel the tension return to his arm. Tension filled every inch of him, in fact. Red rimmed ears were pinned back so far against his skull that they almost vanished into his neck fur and he shook for a moment. She expected his claws to pierce the coffee cup he held any second.

Then it passed, and he drew a slow breath that was released in a rushed sigh. “I’m not mad at you, Clawhauser. Though Carrots here might not share my thoughts.” He reached over to take the cardboard cup holder full of carrlattes with his bag of muffins balanced on top in one hand, and the coffee in the other. “What do you think, Carrots? Want to rough him up while I take these to your parents and loving siblings?”

Her gaze followed him as he hopped down from the bench easily, and strode towards the door with a sway in his tail. A tail that was higher up than normal, showing that he was still tense and irritated. But knowing that she couldn’t do anything at the moment, she turned her gaze to the cheetah, who had his hands clasped together under his chin pleadingly.

She considered him for a moment, noting that his gaze kept darting to the door where Nick had gone curiously. Or to be more precise, to the squad car where her family sat. A slow smile tugged at the corners of her muzzle before she recovered her own breakfast and coffee, and jumped down next to the big cat.

“Get your doughnuts. And then I’ll forgive you, as long as you do Nick and me a favor.”

 

It had been quite the sight. Driving up to the ZPD in a cruiser filled with five bunnies, one very large cheetah who was doting over four of them – even offering to share his doughnuts – and a fox wearing salmon pink and gray. While no one commented on it, there was curious stares. The same sorts of stares he had gotten when he had arrived for his first day of work in the Downtown District; those ‘well that’s not normal’ looks that now made him chuckle as Bonnie, Stu, Jason and Beth were led through the main lobby by the quickly talking and excited cheetah.

“He’s going to talk their ears off,” he commented. Keeping his tone even and amused was easier now, as even the short drive across the street with four confused Hopps and a cheetah that was impossible not to like had calmed him considerably. “Passing them off on him was a slick move there, Fluff.”

“Why thank you, partner,” she said, heading immediately to the front desk to drop her coffee and what was left of her breakfast on the cabinet behind it. “It wasn’t hard to convince them that he’s harmless, and we really need to get to…”

“Hopps! Wilde! My office, now!”

“…Chief Bogo’s office,” she finished, her ears dropping as she turned her gaze towards him.

He shrugged off the tension, though inside he felt a fist balling in his guts. What if the Chief changed his mind? What if he lost his job? It was especially concerning, considering the story they were going to have to tell him to explain why he had turned his badge over in the first place. Because of bunnies, of the beloved and the annoying variety, he had not been given a chance to come up with an acceptable story to explain things without telling the whole story. And he knew that this he couldn’t slide off with a quick hustle, no matter how much he wished it were so. Which brought another fear that was somehow even more terrifying: what if he kept his job, but lost her as a partner?

“Well, let’s get this over with then,” he said, bottling up the unease as they started towards the stairs to Bogo’s office. Sliding his sunglasses off as she quickened her pace to fall in step beside him, he turned his gaze to her and flashed her a grin. “It’ll be fine, Carrots. I’m sure we can think of something. We don’t need to tell him the whole story.”

He watched her gaze shift to his face, and she was doing… That thing again. Where those beautiful amethyst eyes seemed to be reading between the cracks and seeing everything he tried to hide from her. Before she even replied, his face went flat and annoyed as his ears flicked back; he even shoved his hands in his pockets, even if it made him feel a bit like a sulking kit.

“Stop that,” he griped, stomping unhappily up the stairs. “Fine. I don’t think we’ll be able to wheedle our way out of telling him the whole story. I haven’t exactly been focused for the last twenty four hours.”

“You felt pretty focused to me,” she muttered under her breath, which instantly lightened his mood and allowed him to relax.

“On you, maybe, but not on much else,” he said, drawing his hands out of his pockets to increase his pace up the stairs to a jog.

“Nick, wait,” she said when they reached the top of the stairs, and he turned to face her with his eyebrow raised. “No stories. No trying to avoid what happened. I told you last night, I want my partner back, and I think telling the Chief everything that happened is the way to do that. And that’s what I’m going to tell him.”

A brief moment of silence passed between them, where he wondered which one of them was more uncomfortable with that scenario. She was clearly not jumping at the chance; he could see the light tremble in her ears as she faced him. But she was also determined, stubbornly so. And if there was one thing he had learned, it was that a determined Judy was almost impossible to sway.

“If that’s what you want, Judy,” he replied, resisting the urge to reach out and slide one hand over those trembling ears to calm them. He had a feeling he was going to be resisting the urge to touch her a lot in the future. But he could deal with that; he could still touch her when they were alone. Perked up again by the thought, his ears high, he motioned towards Bogo’s office with his muzzle. “Come on then. Let’s go embarrass ourselves until our fur spontaneously combusts.”

When they reached the door, which was already open for them both, he caught sight of Wolford walking towards the same stairs they had just taken up. This gave him a moment of pause as he watched the timber wolf, who was busily flipping through the case report in his paws, pause as soon as he reached the head of the stairs. He saw the quick twitching of the black nose, followed by deeper breaths as he took in a scent that Nick knew very well he was still covered in. Raising his head to look around with alert ears, the wolf caught sight of the fox standing at the door.

Giving him a two fingered salute and a suggestive wink, Nick turned to close the door just as he caught sight of the grin spreading over the lupine muzzle.

That’s right, take it in and enjoy winning your bet, dumb-dumb. I’ll settle things with you later. And revenge will be sweet.