Chapter Fifty-Five – Volatile

"I just can't believe it!" Judy stormed around his small kitchen a day later, throwing her hands up in the air. "Bogo won't let me come back to work until next week!"

Nick's ears flattened at her tone as he tried to keep his face a mask, deeply pleased the cape buffalo had handed down the decree. "He's just trying to help you recover," he reasoned.

"I don't need to be protected like some fragile figurine!" She shot back, on the verge of loosing a predator-like growl. "I know my limits!"

Nick knew he shouldn't – for his own health and good-standing with the three-foot creature radiating ire – but his finger traveled through the air of its own accord, barely poking her injured side.

Judy cringed and leapt away. "Ow!" She hissed.

Nick pulled his arm back into the safety of his chest, bravely arching a brow.

Her glower made his tail sink to floor, and he cleared his throat meaningfully. "Now… easy. I was just illustrating that you're not quite—"

"I'm fine!" The rabbit snapped, glaring. "I don't need you joining Bogo in my list of 'overprotective males pretending to see me as an equal'."

Nick kept quiet, feeling it unwise to point out that nursing a broken rib hardly qualified as 'overprotective'.

Judy resumed pacing, muttering to herself as she stalked past old cupboards, his toaster, coffeemaker, and the pair of glasses he had pulled out when she'd arrived with the intent of offering her a drink. He hadn't quite gotten to the question – she had launched into a tirade the moment his apartment door opened.

Curses and ground-out mumbles floated through the kitchen, punctuated by Judy's frown and balled fists.

"No one… treats me… seriously," she grumbled. "Just some dumb bunny… can't carry… damn sandwiches…."

Nick foresaw the afternoon going poorly if this continued and attempted to interject. "Want to watch a movie or something?" He asked. "We could search for a film with a buffalo villain if it'll make you feel better."

The rabbit paused, considering. "One where he falls from a building at the end?"

Nick swallowed.

Her anger faded, softening her features. "I'm kidding – well, half-kidding," she turned sheepish. "I know he had good intentions."

He let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Remind me not to offer you a pillow on the couch – don't want to seem patronizing."

Judy spit out her tongue. "Alright, alright. I'm just feeling stir crazy with nothing to do."

Nick risked a step forward. "Just remember it came from a good place. People do all kinds of things for the ones they care about."

She nodded, reaching out and brushing fingertips along the length of the white plaster along his arm. "Yeah. You're right," she looked up, stealing his breath again. "I know this great guy who was just the right amount of protective."

"Really?" Nick felt his head going fuzzy. Why did she smell so damn nice? She had literally just stopped stalking around – shouldn't she be sweaty or something?

"Mmhmm," Judy murmured, edging up to his chest. "Plucked me from a car crash, breaking his arm in the process."

Nick wanted to relish the credit she doled, but couldn't help making a joke. "That's your idea of the 'right amount'?"

The rabbit rolled her eyes. "Okay, he was a bit much too," she stretched up to her tiptoes, nosing his chin. "But it was pretty heroic."

"So heroic is okay?" Nick didn't even know how he was still speaking with her mouth so close to his.

A smile broke across her face. "From you it is," her hands found his waist. "Please kiss me – it'll make me feel much better than an offered pillow."

"You sure?" Nick bent, speaking at her cheek. "Even if I'm not a feminist?"

Judy sucked in a breath. "You big liar," she stretched farther, and her lips found his, pulling him down in a contact full of pressure.

Nick echoed her touch and slid his hands around her back, drawing her up against him.

The kiss started deep and grew more ardent, ignoring the shadows of afternoon as they inched forward across a sink and cutting board.

They broke for air and smiled at each other.

"I'm sorry Bogo won't let you go back to work," Nick whispered, wrenching one of his hands at her lower back to smooth the fur of her cheek.

"I'm sorry I was so upset about it," Judy answered, slipping her fingers to the back of his belt. "I think seeing my parents got me riled – they always make me feel like I'm a kid again," she fidgeted with the brown band at his pant's lip, tugging slightly to bring him even closer. "Put too much of that feeling on my boss."

"I get it," Nick magnanimously offered, trying not to be distracted by her touch. "My mom can bring me back to junior ranger scouts too."

Judy looked up, her face suddenly shy. "I missed you."

"We saw each other yesterday."

"I missed the non-hospital you."

"Ah," Nick stroked her cheek. "That Nick version felt bad, about a number of things."

"I know – parents, tailgaters – he's an expert on guilt."

"Glad he's good at something."

The rabbit beckoned with her eyes. "He's good at lots of things – one he should continue right now."

Nick pretended to ponder as one of her hands left its delightful toying with his belt, traveling up behind his neck. "I think he's working on that like he's practicing with cars," he mumbled, feeling her pull him lower.

"Nope, she whispered against his mouth. "He doesn't need an ounce of practice with either."