"Of course, nothing could exist between them. He was hardly even her friend. His rough mannerisms and predatory ways reminded her of this, even if sometimes that intense golden stare caused her heart to quicken and the feminine cleft between her thighs to grow slick with unholy desires…"

Catelyn Cottonburrow
Red and Grey


Six Days Until New Year

Judy was sure that Nick kept secrets from her.

She might have been a bunny from the country and still relatively new to having a fox for a friend and partner, but that didn't mean she expected him not to have secrets. Nick had been a street hustler for two decades. When he had poked fun at her, telling her that he had been doing this since before she was born, he had almost been right. While he revealed more to her with every conversation they had, be it simple personality quirks or secrets of the less-than-reputable side of Zootopia, she held no illusions that he told her everything about his past. And she was fine with that.

It was when she knew he was intentionally and actively hiding something, something that she had directly asked him about, that she felt a little hurt and worried.

It had started two days before. Midway through the day, while on patrol, he received a call from Finnick. The call seemed normal enough, certainly nothing to rouse more than a mild curiosity when there was mention of a 'package' and that Nick would be dropping by to pick it up after work. He evaded her questions, though she only asked a few. Trust meant that she didn't have to wonder what he could be doing that would require him to spend his lunch break alone going to pick up a mysterious package from his old hustling partner.

Then he had called in sick instead of returning to work.

"Yeah, sorry Carrots," he'd said, sounding drained and weak even through the phone. "It just hit me when I was on my way back. Dizzy spell, nausea, the whole nine yards."

"Do you need to see a doctor?" she had pressed, curious as much as concerned, and not looking forward to the rest of the day behind a desk without her partner. "Should I stop by and check on you later? Is there anything you need?"

"Nah, I'll be fine," came his reply, a reply that was a little too fast for her liking. "I'll just sleep it off and hopefully be back in it by tomorrow. I'll give you a call in the morning, okay?"

"Yeah," she said slowly, then shrugged it off as she pulled the cruiser into the ZPD lot. "Talk to you soon, Slick."

But he didn't call her the next morning and he didn't come into work. She had to learn from Bogo on arrival that she would be on parking duty because of her lack of proper backup, which put her in a foul mood for the better part of the morning. By the time lunch rolled around, that foul mood had turned to one of worry. Why wouldn't he have called her? She knew he was a headstrong, independent fox who was used to handling things on his own. While that had not been a problem in their partnership or friendship before, she had never known him to get sick, either. It worried her, made her wonder if there was some connection to this mysterious package he had gone to get from Finnick and his odd disappearance. More than anything else, it was the fact that he didn't pick up her second attempt to call that had her driving her little Meter Maid Mobile to his apartment.

Standing in front of his door as she had done at least half a dozen times before, her ears were perked around the brim of the meter maid hat that she was being forced to wear as she raised her paw to knock. She paused at the odd masculine grunting sounds that barely penetrated the heavy wood, filtering through with just enough volume to have her paw pausing and her nose twitching as she strained to hear. Before she knew it, her ear was pressed against the surface as she picked up little sounds here and there. An oddly wet, meaty, repetitive sound was the most obvious to her sensitive ears, along with what she could have sworn was the sound of a page turning at one point. The little tingle that ran down her back and ended with her tail hiking up was not alien to her, but it was the first hint that led to understanding.

Is he…?

She wasn't even sure why she knocked. Once she had, she instantly regretted it. If he was… doing that, then she should have just left and been done with it. What did she care if he was… doing that?

I should leave. Maybe he didn't hear me. I can just leave and forget this ever happened.

"Nick? Are you alright?"

Even the stern internal voice wasn't enough to have her moving away as she heard him curse, "Sweet Fox Jesus," followed by the sound of a book slapping closed and scrambling for what she assumed were his pants. "Come on, come on, where are you. Just a minute!"

More shuffling, more cursing, a thump, and a few steps later, the door opened to her flustered and shirtless partner. "Hey, Carrots! What brings you to my neck of the woods?"

She had never seen him in a sexual light before. She might even admit that she hardly saw him as a male. He was her best friend, her partner, occasional drinking buddy, teller of bad jokes, and the mammal she trusted most in all Zootopia and beyond. Beyond that, he was a fox, not a bunny so the idea of something beyond that close friendship never crossed her mind. But the wave of scent - the humid, musky scent of aroused male fox - that washed over her when the door opened blew those innocent ideals out of her mind. That combined with the fact that she had never seen quite so much of the slim but well-toned fox had her blushing from toe to ear-tip as he put on his best charming grin and leaned his elbow high against the door frame to keep her from seeing inside of the apartment. This also had the effect of making him look taller, lengthening his body and exposing the fact that the front of his quickly thrown on pants was still clearly tented. Her mouth felt dry and her normally very comfortable uniform felt entirely too tight.

She was at a loss for words for a long moment, mostly because of the heat that bloomed in her lower belly and spread through the rest of her body like a wildfire as she desperately tried not to follow the love trail of cream colored fur to the bulge in his khakis. "I… you… I… should… Um…"

Maybe it was her lacking powers of speech. Or maybe it was the fact that she was standing at his door with her fists balled at her sides, blushing furiously with eyes that refused to meet his. Whatever it was, he seemed to understand clearly that he had been caught in the act and cleared his throat as he turned his eyes away and stared at the far wall for a long moment. It was the longest silence between them that she could remember since they had become partners, one which she decided to break herself as she herself tried to escape the awkward situation.

"I should, you know, get back to work," she said, backing away from the door and giving him a little 'gotta go get 'em' fist pump. "Make the world a better place."

Then what that fist pump mimicked seemed to strike them both, making him find a tiny spot of dirt on the doorframe increasingly interesting while she turned quickly on one foot and marched down the hall with her ears pinned down and back stiffened by absolute mortification.

"See you tomorrow, Carrots," she heard him call, receiving a squeaked reply from her as she quickened her pace, all but jumping down the flight of stairs before she made a dash for the Meter Maid Mobile.

She wasted no time in starting the tiny vehicle up, desperately wishing it could move faster so she could put some distance between herself and what had just been burned into her mind. She made it two blocks away before she found a nice, quiet corner to park on and shoved the vehicle into park a little harder than she needed to. She slumped forward so her forehead rested on the dash, knocking the hat off as she closed her eyes.

"Why did you knock? You knew. You knew what he was doing, so why did you knock, you stupid bunny?"

Of course, she asked that simple question to avoid asking the more important and much less comfortable ones. Such as, why did she still feel like there was a fire between her legs, and why had her partner smelled so damned good?

And most important, why had the smell of her partner started that fire to begin with?

"It wasn't as if he planned to ravish her. Seeing her fur, wet and glowing in the moonlight, almost stripped him of his will. He had become a creature consumed by passion, a being of lust rather than one of reason. She denied it even now, even with the truth staring them both in the muzzle, but her passion was the mate to his own. He had to have her, had to make her see that she could have him, or the fires of passion would consume them both."

Catelyn Cottonburrow
Red and Grey


Four Days Until New Year

She had almost wished he wouldn't return to work the next day. The embarrassment was still too fresh in her mind, along with the lingering memory of the scent that had haunted her the night before. She was easily able to convince herself that her reaction to his scent was superficial. The unexpected exposure to his sexuality had caused a spike in her own and she simply needed a little time to sort it out so things could get back to normal. It wasn't like she was attracted to him, it was just that bunnies tended to be hypersensitive to sexual activity. Catching him… doing what he had been doing caught her by surprise, throwing her body and mind into a state where everything could be seen as sexual. It could have happened to anyone.

She repeated it in her mind through the morning briefing, while sitting next to him after a somewhat awkward morning greeting. And through the ribbing that other cops gave Nick for being absent for two days. And through their walk to the cruiser. It did help that his scent seemed absent, allowing the mantra running through her mind to stick, and preventing the disappointment in the absence from lingering as they started their patrol.

"Listen," he said, drawing her gaze to him when they stopped at a red light. He was looking as half organized as ever. His tie was partly down from an open collar, allowing the thicker fur around his neck to ruffle over it even though the uniform was clean and pressed with the brass polished to a high shine. All in all, he managed to make it clear that he was proud to be in that uniform without seeming to have changed all that much from the fox who walked the streets looking for another hustle. She adored the way he looked in the dark blue and brass. In a completely non-sexual, 'he's my partner and best friend' sort of way, of course. "About yesterday…"

"It's fine!" she said, much too quickly and winced instantly afterward. Releasing a slow breath, she pulled the cruiser over to the curb and shifted into park before she leaned back in her seat and looked across at him. He looked at her, one dark brow quirked upward as he waited for her to say something, or tried to decide what to say himself. She swallowed once before she took the torch herself. "It's fine, Nick. It's my fault. I shouldn't have bothered you at home like that without calling first."

"We've never had to call to visit before, Fluff, and I don't want to start now," he chided, shaking his head as his ears dipped back. He waved one paw between them in a noncommittal gesture. "It was just bad timing on both our parts. Sorry you had to - you know - catch me jacking off, but I am a male after all. Last time I checked, it's pretty normal for anyone with a penis."

She was right on the edge of believing that her ears could catch fire at the blunt talk before she saw the quirk of a grin on his muzzle. He was teasing her! And the normality of that teasing eased her mind so that she almost sank into the seat with relief.

Okay, we can get past this. I should joke back, let everything go back to normal. You can do this, Judy. Strike up a conversation.

"Well, at least I didn't interrupt you with a vixen," she said, forcing cheer into her voice as she leaned over to sock him in the arm lightly. "This way at least we don't have to explain why your partner is knocking on your door unannounced. I hear vixens are territorial. Though none of the lady-foxes you hook up with in the future would have reason to be jealous of me. It's not like you're a bunny."

She felt good. Things were back on track now! The comfort of that gave her a warm feeling right down into her belly as she glanced out the window at a passing car before she turned her eyes back to her partner. That warm feeling dropped into her gut like a brick when she saw the pain in those green eyes. Normally full of affection and bright with humor or - at worst - sparkling sarcastic humor, the dull hurt and distant anger caught her completely off guard. Then, as sudden as it was shocking, a smirk curved the fox's lips, but the normal sarcastic humor failed to reach his eyes. "I'm just not cute enough to be a bunny," he said, then turned his eyes out to the street, resting his muzzle on his paw. "Let's get going. We're not getting paid to sit here chatting about mistakes."

What had she said? What had she done? Was there some vixen he was brooding over and she had stumbled over it without knowing? Someone who had hurt him?

"Nick, I…"

"Let's just go, Carrots."

Not really sure what to say, she did what he said. Pulling away from the curb, they continued their patrol in the most oppressive silence she could remember. She would just have to do her best to cheer him up. Whatever had caused his mood wouldn't last long, and then everything would go back to normal. She was sure of it.

"It wasn't like she didn't understand him. He was a fox. She was a bunny. He saw her as prey. Weak, helpless, and small. His claims of passion fell on deaf ears because she understood his nature. He wanted to chase her, conquer her, devour her innocence to prove his worth as a fox. The hunger of male to female in sun-gold eyes was an illusion. And if she ignored him long enough, maybe they could focus on solving this mystery. Everything would go back to normal…"

Catelyn Cottonburrow
Red and Grey


Two Days Until New Year

Things didn't go back to normal. For two days, his mood only seemed to darken until it was impossible to ignore it. His tail hung low half the time, his ears just never stayed erect even when he was obviously trying, and those bright green eyes that she adored were constantly shadowed by hints of sadness. Worse yet, she was doing nothing at all to help it. She could see that he was trying, just like she was. They still chatted, he still told mostly bad jokes that she either laughed at or rolled her eyes at, and they did their job as cops without losing the connection that made them so damn good at it. From the outside looking in, she was sure that most mammals had no idea that anything was wrong at all.

But she knew. And it only seemed to get worse. He wasn't as talkative and even seemed irritable when she tried to strike up a conversation. And today, as the slow day wore down to its end, he had given her an obvious excuse for not being able to come with her when they were invited to join the pre-New Year's celebration for those officers that would be working on New Year's Day.

It had been the final straw for her and led to the first real fight between them since the press conference.

"Fine," she told him, once they were out of earshot of the other officers getting ready to leave for the party. He didn't stop walking even when she hopped up beside him to keep pace. "You go home and be an ass. I'm still going to the party. I'm not going to let your mood ruin my New Year. Especially when you won't even tell me what's wrong!"

"I never said you couldn't go to the damned party," he growled in reply, increasing his pace in an attempt to put distance between them. While they were well beyond the point where his growling could frighten her, it still surprised and hurt her slightly. Which only made her anger rise when he continued. "You can't solve this, Carrots. You… You just can't."

"How do you know I can't if you won't even talk to me about it?" she yelled after him once he walked beyond the parking lot. She stomped her foot when he simply waved his paw dismissively without looking back, trudging towards the metro-rail station with flat ears and a tail that literally dragged across the ground it hung so low. Her foot was soon thumping against the ground rapidly as she clenched her paws. "Damn it!"

Despite what she told him, she knew that she wouldn't be able to go to the party now. Even if there was a chance that friends, comrades-in-arms, and drinks would allow her a chance to relax, she couldn't get a single fact out of her head.

It had all started when Finnick had called Nick about a package.

When you really wanted to find someone was when it would take forever to find them. She had learned this lesson when she had returned to Zootopia and had gone looking for Nick. Now, the distinct feeling of déjà-vu washed over her when she drove the streets of Savanna Central looking for the same friend. The anger from the argument before had lingered for all of fifteen minutes into the drive before it had become a sinking feeling of guilt. If something was wrong with him, yelling at him and promising that she could have fun without him had not been the best course of action. The fact that she was starting to draw parallels in watching him walk away tonight and watching him walk away after her blunder at the press conference during the Night Howler case was not helping. She hadn't seen him for months after that, and the very idea that she would lose him for that long again - or even worse, forever - made her chest ache and her stomach turn.

Come on Finnick! Where are you? she wondered to herself, tapping her paws anxiously on the steering wheel of the cruiser until she spotted the van and slammed on the breaks. There!

She didn't even bother to park the cruiser before she jumped out and ran up to the back of the van, which was parked as it often was in an alley with the rear doors facing the main road. She knocked, far less uneasily than she had the first time until one of the doors swung open to the shorts wearing, sandy-furred fox with huge ears and annoyed eyes. At least this time, he wasn't wielding a bat in his free paw.

"Well, Officer Hopps," he said in that surprisingly deep voice, his gaze instantly slipping behind and to either side of her. "Not traveling with Nick tonight?"

"We had a fight," she said before she even gave it thought, then waved her paws to cut him off when he raised a curious eyebrow. "It doesn't matter. You had a package for him, and since he went to get it, he's been acting strange. I don't even know if it's related to that or… something else that happened, but I need to find out what's going on because he won't talk to me."

"'Something else?'" he questioned as he dropped into a crouch on the edge of the van bed while looking at her with curious eyes. There was no doubt in her mind that the eyes of the nocturnal predator could see the heat rush up her ears even in the dim twilight, and it only made the blush run deeper as she averted her eyes. Then his sharp muzzle pulled into a grin as he motioned to her with one claw. "You and Wilde didn't… you know, fool around and then get into a fight, did you?"

"No!" she protested, a surprised titter of laughter escaping her before she could stop it. The fact that the sound was a little panicked only meant that he had caught her off guard and the emphatic waving of her paws was just her way of making sure that Finnick understood that he was mistaken. "Nick doesn't see me that way! Why would you even think that?"

"Why?" he hummed, his eyes silently considering her for a moment before he gave a slow shrug and a dismissive twitch of one large ear. "Forget it. That explains some things. Look, officer: Nick asked me to acquire a rare item for him, all perfectly legal like. But because he asked me as a friend, I can't just tell you because you want to know."

Frustration bubbled until she released a scream that she muffled by keeping her muzzle shut as she turned to walk away. She didn't return to the cruiser, though. She paced, stewed, and thought, aware that she was being watched the entire time by the stoic-faced fox. Her steps paused as she turned back to look at him, her arms folded over her chest as she returned his gaze evenly. "I want one."

That same large ear twitched again, one brow raising as he jumped down from the bed of the van and leaned against the bumper with his own arms crossed. "You want one what?"

"Whatever it was you got for Nick. I want one," she repeated, returning to stand in front of the shorter mammal with her ears high and paws on her hips. "I'll pay the same price. You're a business man. Can you get it or not?"

"Five hundred bucks."

"Five hundred!" she exclaimed in horror, her attempt at authority and savvy falling apart when the price struck her. "That's robbery! Is that what Nick paid?"

"Of course not," then he shrugged easily as a predatory grin crept up his muzzle. "But like I said, it was a rare item. Acquiring a second one would be twice as hard, so the price goes up. The question is, are you willing to pay?"

"So, you think it has something to do with whatever is wrong with him?" she questioned, the idea of finding that much free money a daunting one on her ZPD paycheck.

"I never said that," the small fox reminded her, making her groan and drop her face into her paws for a second. It had to have something to do with it.

"Fine," she snapped, glaring at him as she drew herself up and resigned herself to living off bagged lunches, noodle soup, and no coffee for the foreseeable future. She may also have to wheedle around being late on her rent, but she was sure she would survive. "I'll pay it. Start acquiring and I'll get you the money. I have to know what's wrong with Nick."

If she had not been so irritated and stressed, she might have noticed the slight softening around the aged hustler's eyes when she said it. But right then he looked more like a weasel than a fox (and how speciest was that?).

"Wait here then," he said, and she frowned when he climbed up into the back of the van, slamming the door in her face. He appeared again a minute later with a small package, wrapped in brown paper and tied with rope twine. Her eyes widened when he held it out to her. "I actually figured you might come by looking for one of your own. And I lied. I know damn well this played a part in whatever's happened between you two in the past few days."

Excitement to finally know what was going on overcame any annoyance she had at being tricked and the crushing weight of a five hundred Buck debt. She reached forward, taking the edges of the book-shaped package in her paws, only to find him keeping his grip on it from his end. She looked up and met a pair of serious brown eyes.

"Don't open this until you get home," he warned her, his expression even more serious than it normally was. "You'll know why once you get there. Got it?"

"Yeah," she said, looking down at the package in confusion for a moment before she nodded. "Got it. I'll get you the money soon. Tomorrow, if I see you then."

"You're a good bunny, Judy," he commented as he released the package, watching her draw it to her chest and hold it there with both paws. "When Nick came back after he met you, he wasn't the same. He smiled the same, talked the same, even acted the same at first. But I could see that none of it reached his eyes like before. The hustle wasn't in him anymore, like something in his heart had been ripped out and stepped on. Dumb fox spent most days sitting under that bridge, staring at that stupid pen. I never asked him about it, and he never talked about it, but I could see that he had changed. Heartbreak changes mammals like him more than he'd like to admit."

So, there was a vixen, she thought, frowning as she looked down at the package with a sharp twinge of pain in her chest that could only have been regret. She regretted the argument, after all. Regretted that they had argued and she had let it go as far as she had, not knowing that his heart was broken. I should have…

"If you're smart enough to fix it this time like you did last time," he continued, drawing her gaze back to him when he climbed into the rear of the van again, "consider it a gift. To Nick, not you. I don't need a reputation of giving things to cops for free, no matter how cute they are."

With that final poke, which only made her grin slightly because of his own status as one of the 'cute,' he slammed the door and left her to stare down at the package in silent, personal, and misunderstood sorrow.

"Impossible! Insane! Morally wrong and deeply depraved! She had lost her mind, to even think of him in such a way. It was so wrong, the way she longed to be closer to him. His teeth were sharp and deadly, his claws long and dangerous. His muzzle was too narrow, his paws too large, his fur not silky enough for her liking. He frightened her. She feared that he would break her if she gave herself to the golden eyes that glowed at her in the dark, if she surrendered her body to the breath that stirred against her neck. There were so many things about him that terrified her, yet he had saved her. One little kiss couldn't hurt, could it?"

Catelyn Cottonburrow
Red and Grey


New Year's Eve


Sitting on the bed with the package in front of her made her feel like a bit of a coward. She had no idea what to expect, beyond the fact that it felt like a book of some kind. There was a feeling of foreboding; like she was about to pry into some deep dark secret of Nick's past. Or maybe learn something about him that she would rather not know. Or it could be something related to whoever had broken his heart recently. That had to be the cause of his sudden shift in mood, after all. It hurt her a bit: the fact that he hadn't told her, his partner, about his being in a relationship. Not the fact that he was in one. But still, she hesitated to open it now that she had the opportunity, even if the delay the night before hadn't been entirely welcome.

The call from Clawhauser caught her off guard when her only real desire had been to get home, but she honestly had not had the heart to deny the excitable cheetah when he begged her to go out as promised. Her fellow officers wanted one of the newest and most liked members of the force to go with them, and so she had relented. Somehow, she even managed to put on a cheerful face and join in the drinking and games, even if the chosen bar was a bit of a dive and the drinks were terrible. When questions came about Nick and his absence, she evaded with half answers like 'He had plans' or 'I'm not sure, but he's not having as much fun as we are!' By the end of the night, when she finally stumbled into her apartment with a light buzz still lingering on the edges of her tired mind, leaving the package on the desk and stumbling into bed took all that was left of her energy.

It was well into the morning, much later than she normally woke up, before she finally reached to pull the twine bow free and opened the package. The paper opened easily, and the dark rear panel of a book stared at her:

Zootopia: Early 1920s. A city divided, where the tension between species teeters on the edge of all-out war. Ceres Longears is a reporter looking for the truth behind a conspiracy to increase the gulf between predator and prey. After a near-death experience drives her into the arms of a brash and dangerous private eye, Renard Flame, can the two of them find the truth? And can they, against all odds, find the passion that will heal not only their city... but their hearts?

"A romance novel?" she muttered, a confused frown forming at the title of The Red and Grey before she flipped the book to look at the cover.

She had never before experienced surprise so sudden and sharp that it struck her like a blow to the gut, but she did when she saw the image on the cover of the novel. Surprise was too gentle a word, really. Shock. The image of the half-naked Red Fox, with green eyes - No wait, they were golden - golden eyes staring down at the form of the grey bunny with torn clothing in his arms was enough to have the book slipping from her fingers and slapping down onto the bed. The quickening of her heart was just a sign of that surprise, obviously, even if it only increased when she reached down and picked the book up again.

This? This is what Nick ran off in the middle of a work day and called in sick for?

It was silly. It made no sense at all. She even laughed a little when she opened the book and started to read. At first, she thought it was a joke on Finnick's part. It was way to cliché from page one, starting on a stormy night with the heroine standing under a streetlight while waiting for a contact who had 'vital information' on the rising political unrest in the city. The dialog was cheesy, dire threats were issued (the words 'dire threats' were actually on page two, which had her laughing out loud) and there was a chase scene within the first few pages. Ceres was already trying to avoid shadowy figures, whose faces she hadn't seen - of course - when she was forced to jump off a bridge to avoid being hit by an oncoming car. And the water was black and icy because all water was black and icy on rainy nights in the city.

With a paw held up to her muzzle to keep herself from laughing too loud, which would lead to questions from her noisy and easily disturbed neighbors, she continued to read the novel. It wasn't until the fox, Renard Flame, was introduced that she stopped laughing and was gradually pulled into the book. The story was much more interesting once the dashing private eye pulled the half-drowned bunny from the water and carried her to his waiting car. From there, the course of the book was predictable but still managed to enthrall her. Exactly what anyone would expect from a fox and a bunny. Antagonism. Mistrust. Outright and undisguised specism from the bunny, which rose the first inkling of anger from Judy as she continued to read. What had started out as cliché and silly, and in most ways still was, did contain a deep subplot as the relationship between the bunny and fox started to develop into romance.

It wasn't a slow understanding, either. It was brutally hard on both characters. His desire was made clear first in an intense scene where the two were forced to share a single bed hotel room and he had just blurted out the fact that he wanted her. The fact that Judy felt a little tingle slither down the length of her spine, her tail twitching in excitement at the prospect of the fox ravishing the bunny, was just a result of a well-written scene. Though she was disappointed when Ceres denied him, rather pointedly pulling their species into it, her own desire soon followed suit. The bunny's desire was far less forward. She kept it to herself, desired him from a distance and continued to refuse his advances.

She had no idea how long she sat in bed, flipping from page to page as she was more and more engrossed in the romance. She managed to eat once, for the first time not realizing how terrible frozen carrot meals were as she ate absently without putting the book down for even a second. More than once, she wanted to scream at the two idiots in the book to just kiss already! It didn't matter that he was a fox and she a bunny. If they would both stop being so stubborn and blind, they could enjoy each other! Her frustration grew when fear became the focus of the reason.

Ceres was afraid of his claws. Afraid he would bite her. Afraid he would be too big. Afraid his predatory instincts would cause him to attack her. Every time the word afraid or fear came into the story it brought what was almost a perfectly hot moment to a grinding halt. It reached the point that Judy almost flung the book across the room as she drew near to the end and they still hadn't so much as kissed.

Then it happened. Suddenly and with such intensity that she had to bite the back of her paw to keep from crying out in glee:

"I'm tired of waiting for you, Ceres," he said, his gravelly voice rolling across her fur like sin. "You fight for the unity of our species, but you won't even admit what's in our hearts. Until you can, I have to find my own way without you."

"No, stop! Don't leave me!" She wailed the words, rushing to his side and gripping his paw to drag his gaze to hers. Tears shone as brightly as the passion in his eyes when he turned back to her. "I don't want you to go. I do love you. Damn you, Renard, I love you!"

The kiss was like water on the surface of the sun. The eruption of energy between the two when their muzzles met and locked in the forbidden embrace of need was explosive…

She released a little squeal of delight when she dropped back onto the bed with the book held in both paws above her to she could keep reading. Delighted that they had finally kissed, she eagerly continued to read and found that the kiss wasn't the end of it. He picked her up, carried her into the bedroom (they were in her house at the time) and clothing was removed one piece at a time. Even if the wording used was almost pornographic at times, way too flowery in others, and downright corny with things like 'feminine cleft' and 'rock-hard foxhood,' the love of the fox was obvious.

He absolutely adored her. Every thought in his mind and every word written for him was of love and her beauty and how perfect she was. 'His heart was a drum at the sight of her bare fur.' 'Her fur was so splendidly soft.' 'Her body a subtle curve that his paws wanted to follow forever.' 'Her bunny cunny was delicious.' That last part was a bit graphic for her, not to mention poorly worded, but the spirit of it remained the same. He loved her for her differences.

But just the fox. Ceres, who had annoyed Judy in multiple parts of the story already, continued to be a monumental moron in her eyes. Even unclothed, naked in bed with a fox that clearly adored her, she was afraid. Even after confessing her love for him, she tried to avoid every aspect of him that made him different from her, made him a fox. 'She shied away from the touch of his claws.' 'His teeth made her nose twitch with momentary horror.' 'His predatory eyes made her want to flee as he covered her.' 'The first sight of his rock-hard foxhood.' 'The knot caught her off guard, and she panicked.'

The description of the knot caught Judy completely off guard, too. She had never heard of such a thing, but then sexual education tended to be a species-to-species affair. If nothing else, the description of being joined with a lover in such an intimate way was thrilling to her. It was when this aspect of Renard's sexuality was detailed that the tingle between her thighs became an aching hunger that had her rolling onto her belly and placed the book on a pillow so she could read more easily. Comfort was important, after all. The fact that it allowed one paw to slip under her shirt so it could slide up and down her belly in lazy strokes had nothing to do with it as she turned to the next page with the other paw. Her tail twitched in anticipation.

To Judy's dismay, only when Renard soothed her with sweet whispers and promised only to do it if she would allow did she relax. And then she begged him not to knot her! That was… Cruel! She didn't even try to take it before she denied him. Coward.

But the fox's restraint was sooo hot!

His need to please her overpowered the need to fill her with his hot canine knot, even if it ached with every thrust into the treasure between her thighs. The ache was worth the price, he knew. The pleasure of her silken passage wrapped around his aching foxhood was…

"Mph," she mumbled as she continued to read, pleasure shooting through her from the finger that stroked steadily over the damp folds of her sex. She gave up any pretext and stopped fooling herself into believing that the idea of a fox on top of a bunny wasn't one of the hottest ideas she'd ever encountered in her life. At least now, when they were lost in pleasure, the idiot bunny had no complaints. Her hips hiked up as she pressed her cheek into the bed with her eyes facing the open book, freeing her other paw as Renard started to take his lover faster. When he growled, Judy moaned for Ceres and slipped the second paw into her panties. One silky finger circling the nub of her clit as the action on the page grew more intense, another quickly stroking the mouth of her sex as the juices quickly soaked both paw and panties. Her pace quickened as Renard leaned over his new lover, the desire burning like suns in his golden eyes as...

The page ended, mid-sentence - when the ache of need had become a hum of pleasure in her blood - had her muffling a cry of frustration into the mattress before she closed her eyes and simply imagined the fox over her. Soaking wet and hot all under her fur, the image of the fox leaning over her back came as two fingers slipped past the outer lips and into the heat of her body. This time, the cry was pure pleasure as she pumped them into her body in time with the thrusts of her phantom fox. She saw him clearly behind closed eyes. His fur was carrot orange instead of near red. That long and narrow muzzle was curved into roguish grin of pleasure rather than the stoic expression of a hardened detective.

Her own paws had never been able to bring her to climax so quickly before, but the moment her dream lover opened his eyes and emerald green burned down at her with hunger and passion, she came. Gasping cries that she couldn't muffle into the mattress without suffocating filled the room as the need and ache became an intense outpouring of pleasure centered between her legs. Inner muscles tightened on fingers that pressed deeper, trying to squeeze down around what her mind wanted desperately to be the throbbing length of Nick's arousal. Even the pleasure of the act, which had her hips up and her toes curling with every rock of her butt towards her imaginary fox, wasn't enough. Knowing he wasn't there was enough to tear his name from her throat in a frustrated cry of need that her own fingers wouldn't be able to satisfy.



Four Hours To New Year

"Who do you think 'Nick' is?"

"That's her partner, idiot. We've met him before."

"It can't be that Nick. He's a fox."


"So what if he is? She can't like a fox?"

So blind.

"You ever hear of a bunny crying out a fox's name like that?"

Swimming back to reality was a jarring thing. The memory of green eyes instead of gold was still fresh, despite her post orgasm stupor. And with it, as with every time in the past she'd brought herself to climax, her body was warm and lucid. But she wasn't relaxed, actively struggling against the afterglow as she tried to focus her mind on one single thought: she had been blind.

"Well, I bet you never saw a bunny in a police uniform, either."

"Or a fox."

"Could you two shut up for a minute?" she sighed, rolling over and lying on her back with one arm resting over her eyes. "I'm trying to think."

"Sure thing."

"What does she need to think about?"

"How should I know?! She said be quiet, so shut up!"

"No, you shut up!"

"You shut up!"

"No, I mean shut up because she asked up to be quiet!"

"Oh, right. Sorry, neighbor."

Then they did shut up, leaving her alone with her thoughts. Thoughts that were as confused as they were clear. Clear because now it was impossible not to see Nick in this light she had refused to see before. She remembered a dozen times since he became her partner when his quick grin had caused her heart to beat faster. A dozen more times when an accidental brush of paws had caused her blood to warm and her tail to twitch. She knew why she loved it when he took off his sunglasses so she could see beautiful green eyes focused on her. And more clearly, because it had only happened a few days before, she remembered her reaction to the scent of his arousal. Embarrassment had given her an excuse to brush away her quick and intense desire when exposed to it, but…

She opened her eyes to find the book that had fallen closed during her Nick induced fit of passion, snatching it up and sitting upright as she looked down at it. He requested this from Finnick and then had disappeared from work. That meant her visit to his apartment had come right as he was reading it, and she had found him masturbating. It wasn't hard to put two and two together, and the little skip in her chest was nothing short of delight. Her partner and best friend, whose dream image alone had just blown her mind, had feelings for her. It explained everything! His interest in the book, his disappearance, his sudden sexual appetite, his odd behavior over the last few days. It wasn't some vixen who had broken his heart!

"Oh, god."

"Though none of the lady-foxes you hook up with in the future would have reason to be jealous of me. It's not like you're a bunny."

"Oh no," she whispered, the book slipping from numb fingers to land on the floor with a thump as she jumped out of bed.

"He smiled the same, talked the same, even acted the same at first. But I could see that none of it reached his eyes like before. The hustle wasn't in him anymore…"

"Hey, what's going on? You going somewhere?"

"Yeah, you finished thinking?"

Quickly pulling on a pair of jeans, she felt a sinking pain deep down in her guts. A pain that she had only felt once before; when she had made the biggest mistake of her life and it had almost cost her the best friend she would ever have.

"…like something in his heart had been ripped out and stepped on."

"I'm going to see Nick," she said, as much to herself as to her curious neighbors as she threw the door open. "I have to fix this."