A/N Hey my loves! I hope you're all doing well. Just a mini update to let you know that my health is getting better and my friend and I have mended fences and things are going great. Thanks so much for all your well wishes with both issues, I greatly appreciate them all!

Since my last update, I've also been gifted more fan art! I know, crazy right!? I'm beyond honored, and every time I'm gifted some I end up crying a little. I honestly can't believe that people are inspired enough by this little fic to draw something for me! Please go and check out the very sweet Knoton13 on DeviantArt. Not only did he draw an adorable piece of Safe Paws art, but he just surprised me with one for Carrot Farmers too (which you can read over on my A03 account). I love them both so much!

I also commissioned the absolutely lovely Red Velvet Panda to draw a new DeviantArt icon for me, based on a selfie I sent her. Yeah, she saw my real face! She did such an incredible job and really knocked it out of the park. Check it out on DA by searching for her under the name Caliosidhe.

On another note, this chapter may seem very short. That's because there be smut. A fair bit of it. As this is the clean version it's missing from here, so the word count took a major hit. I can't believe I wrote 3000 words of smut. Anyway, don't forget to head over to my Archive of Our Own account (under the same pen name) if you want to read the non-clean version.

As always, thank you so much for all the favorites, reviews, bookmarks, and love that you guys leave me for this fic! It means the absolute world to me.

Special shout out to Uomo for coming up with the title for this chapter!

This is Part I, and Part II will be going up next week. Enjoy!

The morning light crept through the gap in the curtains, throwing a narrow band of warmth across the bed. Judy had been awake for an hour now, watching her fox as he slept. Now and then he'd snuffle, shifting a little, and it brought a smile to her lips. Their conversation last night had been somewhat cumbersome, but Judy hoped that Nick now realized that he didn't need to be so possessive. Shortly after their discussion, they'd decided to head to bed, and with Nick's room still uninhabitable due to the paint fumes, they'd retreated to Judy's old room, now the spare bedroom.

Violet eyes memorized the slope of Nick's snout and the tip of his canines just visible through his slightly parted lips. In his sleep, her fox looked carefree, but Judy knew that there was a small storm battling inside of him. His list of issues was diminishing, and Judy felt like they'd made some more progress last night, but there were still a few more hurdles to go. Pride swelled within her at how far he'd come.

The slight change in Nick's heartbeat alerted Judy to the fact he was waking up, and her smile returned as she reached out, gently brushing her fingers across his muzzle and up to his cheek, down to his throat to a sensitive spot. Scritching lightly, Nick's tail started to thump against the mattress at her affection, bed sheets rising and falling with the movement as he lazily opened his eyes, a low purr vibrating through him. "Good morning sleepy."

"Morning Fluff." Nick smacked his lips together, head tilting back a little to allow Judy more access to his throat, his purr intensifying as she scratched just the right spot. "How long have you been awake for?"

Still fascinated with the fact that her fox purred, Judy moved her paw to a different part of his throat, enjoying the blissful expression that crossed Nick's face as she hit the right spot. "A while." She admitted, hoping it didn't come across as creepy. Something was soothing about watching him sleep while enjoying the stillness of the morning. It was like the rest of the world ceased to exist and their problems faded away to nothingness.

"And you haven't made me breakfast?" The corners of Nick's lips quirked upwards, but the sudden thump to his chest had him wheezing. "Jeez, ouch. Okay, I deserved that." Reaching out, Nick grabbed Judy's waist, hauling her closer. Noses coming to rest together, the tod stole a kiss, uncaring about morning breath. "I'm sorry."

Judy could never stay angry at her fox for long, and his teasing nature was a trait she adored. "You're forgiven." She let him off the hook with a roll her eyes and a fond smile on her lips.

Grinning, Nick adjusted his hold on his rabbit, and in one fluid motion, he flipped them, pinning Judy beneath him before he buried his snout against her throat, the bed sheets landing in a heap on the floor from his actions. Judy's squeak of surprise was adorable, and the fox chuckled, tail swishing happily at the sound. Having the advantage, Nick laved kisses across his mate's throat, his sharp canines occasionally nipping at soft skin as his bunny tipped her head back, revealing more of the smooth white fur on her neck. Small paws grasped at his shoulders, blunt claws digging in every time he used his teeth, and little pants of pleasure helped Nick find just the right spot to focus his attention on. Nostrils flaring, he finally caught the strong scent he'd missed last time he'd been home.

Reluctantly, the tod slowed his ministrations, pulling back enough so that he could look down at his panting bunny. "Come on; we have a busy day." As much as he wanted to carry on, as much as his instincts screamed at him to love his mate, they had a lot to achieve this morning.

Blinking, Judy started at her fox in disbelief. "Nick!" He couldn't just stop now, not when things had been looking so promising. Grasping his shoulders tightly, she refused to let him go. "You can't just leave me like this!"

Playing dumb, Nick adopted an innocent expression, one he'd worn countless times during his hustles. "Like what?"

"Needy." Judy snapped, hind paw flexing as if she were thumping the ground. She'd gone for months without being able to touch Nick, and though they were still relatively new to the physical side of their relationship, the thought of more was enticing. No longer on her suppressants, the does needs were difficult to ignore. During Nick's absence she'd been taking care of them herself, but now that he was here, he could scratch the itch for her.

Making a show of scenting the air, the tod smirked. "Hmm, I can tell." He couldn't resist teasing, enjoying the red hue that flushed the inside of Judy's ears. "Don't worry; I'll take care of you later on." Nick twisted out of Judy's grasp, hind paws hitting the floor as he retreated from the room, but not before the sound of Judy's frustrated squeal reached his ears. With a chuckle, he made his way to the kitchen, peering into their freshly painted bedroom as he passed it. A small part of his mind pointed out how unfair it was to rile Judy up and then leave, but the other part of his brain reminded him that it would make his plans for later that much sweeter.

Groaning in frustration, Judy brought her paws up to her face, rubbing at her eyes. "Stupid handsome fox and his stupid knowledge of my weaknesses." Forcing herself out of bed, Judy left the room, pausing in the doorway of their shared bedroom. Wincing as she was finally able to see the color scheme in the cold morning light, Judy shook her head. "Slick, the color combination is…" She called out, pausing to try and find the right word. Green and purple may have worked for their eyes, but it didn't work for the walls.

"Terrible. I know." Nick yelled back from the kitchen with a laugh, sending a text to his mom to check they were okay with dinner this evening. Phone in paw, he moved back through their apartment to stand beside Judy, looking around their bedroom.

Even though Nick had insisted that the room had to be suitable for them both, Judy still wanted it to be more a reflection of Nick than her. "Want me just to forest green everything?" She offered. It was only two walls that would need painting over, a task she could complete in a weekend.

"Nope, it may be an awful color scheme, but it's us." The tod shrugged. It was an odd combination, but for Nick, it represented how different he and Judy were, and yet they were happy together. He couldn't tell Judy that, though. It was a bit too mushy, even for him. "Besides, I don't know what you do in bedrooms, but I don't spend much time staring at the walls." Nick couldn't resist, glancing down at Judy as he suggestively wiggled his eyebrows.

Boxing Nick's shoulder with her left paw, Judy shook her head, trying her hardest to suppress her smile. She had a feeling that once she and Nick finally crossed that line, his statement would be accurate. "Insatiable." She scolded, no heat behind her words.

Lifting his free paw to his chest, Nick plastered on his innocent expression again. "Who, me?" He asked, mock scandalized. The slight curvature of the corner of his lips gave away his amusement, though.

As their Zuber came to a stop at the small park in Tundratown, Nick tipped the driver before helping Judy out, the bag from yesterday slung over his shoulder again, fresh towels at the ready. Once the car had pulled away, they started to walk in the direction of the pool, paw in paw. "Please don't try and push yourself today," Nick warned. He knew how gung-ho his mate could be, and the last thing he wanted was for his plan to backfire because she tried to bite off more than she could chew.

"I have to push myself a little, Slick, or I won't make any progress." Judy pointed out, swinging their joined paws as the snow crunched beneath them with every step. The doe knew it would be tough, but she was willing to put in the effort. She needed to overcome this, mainly so she could keep her job, but also because she didn't want to disappoint Nick.

Judy's playful swinging of their arms made the tod smile, but the innocent gesture contrasted the seriousness of their conversation. "Just don't overwhelm yourself, okay?" He asked again, needing Judy to get the message. This wasn't some game; it had the ability to make her issues even worse if it went wrong. Kit steps were needed.

Violet eyes finding the pool from yesterday, Judy nodded on autopilot, not paying attention. To overcome her issues she needed to face her fears and step out of her comfort zone. If that step was more like a stride or a jump, then so be it. "At least Nick is here to help."

Sensing that his mate wasn't listening, Nick refrained from rolling his eyes. "Massive ears and she doesn't put them to good use." He shook his head fondly, silently vowing to keep a keen eye on Judy and intervene should it get too much for her, no matter how much she protested. Reaching the edge of the pool, Nick let go of Judy's paw, dropping their bag onto the icy ground before he stripped down to his swimwear. Following the same pattern as yesterday, he stepped into the water first, hiding his wince at the cold, before he turned and offered a paw to Judy.

Hind paw thumping the ground as her nerves set in, Judy wasn't frightened about stripping off in front of her fox anymore, but she was a little unsure as to how much she'd be able to achieve today. "This is ridiculous; it's just water." She mentally scolded herself, removing her outer garments until she too was left in her swimwear. Taking the tod's offered paw, Judy stepped towards the edge of the pool. "Nick is there, if he can get in the water then so can you. You're fine. You can breathe." Judy focused on the rhythm of Nick's breathing, large ears honed in on the sound, and she mimicked him. In and out. In and out. Letting Nick guide her, Judy came to sit near the edge of the pool, slowly lowering her legs until her hind paws were submerged, the water lapping at her ankles. It was much easier today than yesterday, and Judy looked up at her mate with a grin.

"Well, would you look at that." Nick returned his mate's smile, feeling a rush of love for the rabbit sat opposite him. "Proud of you, Fluff." He praised her, remembering the journals that had explained that it would help build her confidence. Leaning in, he stole a kiss, the sweet press of lips distracting Judy long enough for him to wrap a paw around her waist, gently tugging her forward. Judy's body stiffened, however, and Nick abandoned his plan. "Slow and steady, Wilde."

Frustrated with herself, Judy took a deep breath. "You can do this." She gave herself a pep talk before she scooted her butt across the ice, drawing herself closer to Nick and the edge of the pool. The action caused her legs to sink into the icy water a little more, and Judy bit down on her lower lip, feeling the tendrils of fear whisper through her mind.

"Carrots," Nick warned, observing Judy as she pushed herself, ready to swoop in and stop everything should Judy push too far.

Shaking her head, Judy lifted a paw, gesturing for Nick to stop worrying. "I'm okay, I promise." She took a deep breath, moving forward a bit more, legs sliding into the cold water. Nick let go of her waist, his paws coming to rest on her knees, and Judy appreciated the contact. Slowly, making sure to keep her breathing under control and focusing her thoughts on her fox, she was able to scoot right to the edge of the pool, submerging her legs up to her knees.

"So gung-ho." Nick couldn't resist teasing, hoping to bring a smile to Judy's face as he gently stroked his clawed thumbs over her knees, offering her some comfort as she adjusted to the cold.

Judy couldn't argue, Nick was right, so instead, she offered him a smile, shrugging her shoulders. The cold water made her feel uncomfortable as it lapped at her knees and Judy shuffled a little before she forced herself to remain still and adjust. "You need to get over it to keep your job, and Nick put so much thought and effort into this. You need to make him proud with your progress."

Monitoring his mate, Nick watched as Judy bit down on her lower lip, shuffling before falling still, staring at her legs where they disappeared into the water. He contemplated calling it a day, but as Judy released her slightly swollen lower lip, Nick noticed her shoulders sag and her hind paws start to move through the water. She was getting used to it. Closing the distance between them, he swooped in for another kiss, the press of his lips soft and sweet as he tasted his mate, hoping to soothe her. "What do you want for Christmas?" He asked as he pulled back, throwing her a curveball to keep her mind occupied.

Confused, Judy lifted her gaze to stare at her fox, eyebrows coming together and mouth agape as she tried to figure out where that question had come from. "I don't want anything." She answered honestly. Getting to spend Christmas with her family would be more than enough for her.

"How about a necklace to match your bracelet or some beautiful lingerie?" Nick threw some ideas out there knowing they were stupid, but hoping it would distract his mate and hopefully lead to him being able to bring her a little further into the water. Judy wasn't big on jewelry, and as much as he wanted to see her in beautiful lingerie, he knew it was a slightly selfish present. The tod already had an idea as to what Judy's Christmas present would be, though it would involve some planning.

Shaking her head, Judy switched the focus from herself. "What am I going to get you?" She mused. Nick had a lot of things now, things he hadn't had before, and with the money in the deposit box, he could buy anything he wanted. What could she purchase for the mammal that could now have it all?

"I don't need anything. I have everything I want here right." Nick winced at how corny his words were, but he was telling the truth and wouldn't dare take them back. Reaching out for Judy, he wrapped his paws around her waist, holding her as he leaned in to rest their noses together.

The inside of Judy's ears turned a light shade of red with her blush, and the doe ducked her head in embarrassment, feeling the heat reach her cheeks. "Sap." She whispered as their noses came to rest together, eyes falling shut as she honed in on Nick's heartbeat, small paws reaching out to cup his muzzle, enjoying their closeness. She hadn't forgotten about her legs being in the icy water, and she gave them a gentle kick, swirling them in the pool. "It's not too bad." Getting used to the water bit by bit seemed to be working, and Judy couldn't wait for the day when she'd no longer fear it and could dive in headfirst. "By the way, if we ever have to chase a perp in this district, you're doing the running." Judy pulled back enough to gaze into her favorite emerald eyes, paws dropping to land on Nick's arms.

This time, the change in topic confused Nick, and the tod lifted an eyebrow. "That's not fair."

"First, you're the probie, so you automatically get a raw deal and secondly," Judy lifted her legs out of the water, bending her body in such a way as to show Nick the underside of her hind paws, and her lack of paw pads and sharp claws. "I don't have any traction." She explained as she submerged her legs in the water again to her knees, without a second thought.

Noting how quickly Judy returned her legs to the water, Nick had to hide his smile. He didn't want to draw attention to it and risk Judy's nerves coming back. "Fine I'll do all the running, but only because I'm a gentlemammal." He conceded, but the disbelieving look on Judy's face made him gasp in mock hurt. "Oh Carrots, you wound me! Haven't I been a gentlemammal towards you this whole time?"

"You have." Judy nodded. Bolstered by the confidence of being able to push herself a little more, Judy moved her paws to Nick's bare chest, lightly running her fingers through his fluffy fur. "Though I'm curious to see what you're like when you're not a gentlemammal." She mused, feeling her blush but studiously ignoring it as she moved her paws up, sweeping her fingers along Nick's throat and up to muzzle before she ran them underneath his lower lip.

The unexpected and brazen comment from his mate had Nick's grip on her tightening, emerald eyes widening as the implication of her words sank in. A low growl slipped from his lips before he could stop it, mind wandering as lust barreled through him. "Carrots…"

"What?" The faux innocence wasn't fooling either of them, but Judy still enjoyed falling back on it. She had hundreds of siblings, her mom had been pregnant for most of her life, and her siblings weren't known for being quiet. Judy may have been inexperienced in comparison to her fox, but she wasn't oblivious.

Realizing that Judy's teasing could be payback for the way he'd left her needy this morning, Nick gladly took it. "Fair's fair, Wilde." The tod smiled. "And you call me the licentious one." He shook his head fondly before he captured Judy's lips in another kiss, unable to get enough. He'd lost track of how long they'd been in the water for, but he was starting to lose feeling in his tail. Breaking their kiss, Nick let go of his mate. "I think that's enough for today." He smoothed down her ears, offering her a warm smile.

Pleased with her progress, Judy extracted her legs from the water, offering her paws out to help Nick exit the pool. Once her fox was out of the water and they were drying off, the doe's mind wandered. How would she carry on with this once Nick went back to the academy tonight?

"Ladies first." The tod offered, gesturing with a paw towards the bathroom. The trip back from Tundratown had been uneventful, but they both needed to clean up before dinner.

Shaking her head as she emptied their bag of towels, Judy refused the offer. "Nope, I went first yesterday. You go first." The showers at the academy were communal, and though their bathroom wasn't luxurious, it was better than the ZPA had to offer. Nick should enjoy it, and most of the hot water, before heading back.

"Carrots," Nick warned, not wanting her to argue with him. More of his body may have been in the water, but his incoming winter coat had helped keep him insulated.

"Slick." Judy shot back as she crossed her arms over her chest while her left hind paw started to thump the floor. She would gladly argue this out with Nick, and she would make sure that she'd win.

Knowing how stubborn his bunny could be, and perhaps wanting to push his luck a little, Nick's lazy grin settled firmly in place as an idea struck him. "Fine. How about together?"

Caught off-guard by Nick's suggestion, Judy's hind paw stopped mid-thump, violet eyes widening as her arms fell away from her chest, swinging down to her sides. "You want to shower together?"

"We'd save water." It was a flimsy excuse, and the look on Judy's face suggested to the tod that she knew it too. "It sounded better in my head." He shrugged, lazy grin still firmly in place as he watched Judy contemplate his offer. Her hesitation suggested to him that it had been a bit too forward, a bit too much for the doe, so he started to backtrack. "You know what, it's okay. We'll go separately." He made to move, to concede and give in by going first. He didn't want to push, wanted her to know she had an out if she wasn't ready.

It felt like Judy had been mulling it over for an eternity when in actuality it had only been thirty seconds or so. However, she'd made up her mind. "No!" She threw out a paw, stopping Nick in his tracks. Finding the emerald eyes she loved so much, Judy nodded. "Together."

"You sure?" Nick checked, giving his mate one last out. He had no idea what would happen once they were both in the shower, but he was positive it wouldn't remain completely innocent.

Determined, Judy tugged at the bottom of her jumper, lifting it up and over her head before she abandoned it on the floor. Turning on the spot, she headed off in the direction of the bathroom, leaving Nick to traipse after her. Large ears picked up on him ditching his own jumper as he slipped into the bathroom behind her.

Taking the lead, Nick turned the shower on, letting the water start to warm-up. As he turned back around, though, he was greeted with the sight of Judy left in only her damp swimwear, having removed her pants and thrown them in the general direction of the laundry basket. Realizing it was his move, Nick took off his pants too, casting them aside to join Judy's, leaving him in his damp swim shorts. Watching his mate, he noticed the rise and fall of her chest, her breathing had picked up, and her ears were smoothed down behind her. Not wanting Judy to feel shy, Nick reached out to her, pulling her close so he could wrap an arm around her waist, the other coming up to sweep along her cheekbone. Wanting to soothe Judy's nerves, because no matter how brave his bunny said she was he could still tell she was nervous, he cupped her cheek and closed the distance between them, pressing a feather-light kiss to her lips.

Needing more, Judy brought her paws up to hold Nick's muzzle, this time pressing her lips to his more firmly, demanding more from him. She could gladly spend all day kissing her fox, but her anticipation for more was growing with every passing second.

Paw moving from its place around Judy's waist; Nick used the distraction of their kiss to tug lightly at the fastenings of Judy's swimsuit. The top half came away with ease, and the fox threw it aside, a low purr slipping from his lips, muffled by Judy's kiss, as she pressed their bare chests together. The feeling of small paws letting go of his muzzle to creep down his body, toying with the waistband of his swim shorts, made the tod break their kiss, needing to catch his breath for a moment.

"If you ask me one more time if I'm sure, then you're showering alone," Judy whispered, knowing her mate would hear her. She wanted this, needed it, and though Nick's concern for her was endearing, she wasn't a wallflower. Watching as Nick's eyes opened, Judy met his gaze, emerald and violet locked together as the doe blindly pushed her mate's swim shorts down, letting him kick them aside as they pooled at his ankles. Not daring to steal a glance down just yet, Judy rose to her tiptoes, seeking another kiss.

Nick had no problem with being naked; it was a situation he'd unfortunately been in several times while working jobs and living on the street. He knew he wasn't bad looking, wasn't too out of shape either thanks to the academy, so if took him stripping off first to encourage Judy, then so be it. He would do whatever it took to make her comfortable, and if at any moment she changed her mind then he would respect that. Lips parting, the sweet taste of Judy was intoxicating. Tongues meeting, Nick slipped his paw from Judy's cheek, skimming the curvature of her waist, claws dragging lightly through her smooth fur until he reached her swim bottoms. Not wanting to risk incurring Judy's wrath by tearing the garment off, the tod slowly pushed the fabric down until gravity took it and it landed around her ankles.

Kicking aside her bottoms, Judy felt the insides of her ears burn as she realized she was completely naked in front of the fox she loved. Though she'd fooled around a lot as a teenager, she'd never let herself be completely naked before. Tongues slowing in their exploration, Judy reluctantly pulled back, eyes opening at the same time as Nick's. For a moment they simply gazed at one another, and Judy felt like time had come to a standstill. "You're really going to do this, Judy."

Towels trailed over clean fur and touches lingered as Nick and Judy dried one another off after their shower. Though they hadn't gone all the way, both mammals were sated. With all of Nick's things in Judy's old room, it didn't take long for them to dress. "We should move everything back into our room," Judy suggested as she pulled on her jumper, ears springing up once she'd put the garment over her head.

"We can do that now." Nick decided as he stole a glance at the clock on the nightstand. They had time before they had to leave for his moms. Turning, he left the room for a moment to discard the damp towels into the laundry basket. Upon his return, he and Judy set about moving their belongings into their shared room. "Do you think it would be a good idea to give mom the money tonight?" Nick asked, finding the briefcase of cash stashed in the gap between the wardrobe and the wall.

"We're planning on telling her this evening how you paid off the mortgage, right?" Judy double-checked that they were still going ahead with the plan. The doe had no idea how the evening would turn out, but she crossed her fingers that everything would be okay. Watching as Nick nodded, emerald eyes still on the briefcase, Judy gave his question some thought. "As much as I want her to have it right now, it might not be best. If she reacts badly to the news, she'll probably react badly to the cash too." Presenting a mammal with $150,000 was no small thing.

Seeing Judy's point, Nick bobbed his head, gaze turning from the briefcase to look at his mate as she approached him. "I just don't want her struggling while I'm gone."

"I think she's doing okay, Nick." Judy reached out, stroking a paw down his arm. Every time Judy went over for dinner the fridge and cupboards were well stocked, Marian was clean and healthy, and there didn't seem to be an extortionate amount of bills on the kitchen counter.

"The next time I'm home should be Christmas. We could give it to her before we leave for Bunnyburrow,?" Nick wasn't comfortable travelling so far on public transport with such a vast sum of cash. They could present it to his mom and have her put it in her bank account before leaving the city, that way ensuring it was safe and Marian would have easy access to it should she want anything during their stay with Judy's family.

A month and a half without Nick would drag, but they were nearing the end of his training now. He'd be home soon for Christmas and New Year, during which time she'd force him to study, and after that, he'd return to the ZPA for his exams. He was so close, and it filled Judy with excitement every day, knowing that she was one step closer to having her fox by her side again. "I'll put it back in the deposit box until then so that it's safe."

"Thanks, Fluff. What would I do without you?" The tod teased, turning to wrap his arms around his bunny, lifting and carrying her to the bed, sitting her on the end of it.

Paws around her fox's neck, Judy played with the thick fur at the nape. "Oh I don't know, you'd probably forget to buy new shirts." She tugged playfully at the collar of the blue shirt he had on. Jasmine had visited the city a few weeks back hoping to meet up with a buck she'd been talking to online. When he hadn't shown up for their lunch date, Judy had stepped in and taken her shopping to cheer her up. In the end, Jasmine had walked away with several bags for herself, while Judy had been carrying one for Nick. She hadn't needed anything for herself, but with Nick gaining more muscle he'd been in need of some new clothes. Judy had picked out a few for him, including the shirt he now wore, and she'd even found a few of his trademark Pawaiian ones too.

Chuckling, Nick gave Judy's waist a gentle squeeze, emerald and violet locked together. During one of their scheduled calls, Judy had taken great pride in showing him all of the new clothes she'd bought for him. The only mammal who'd ever bought him new clothes before had been his mom, so to have his mate pick things out for him was a strange yet welcome experience. "You love my shirts."

"I love you." Judy countered. Nick's dress sense left a lot to be desired, but it was part of him, and she wouldn't change that for the world.

"Same thing." The fox shrugged, smile firmly in place as he ducked down to steal a kiss from his mate. "I love you too."