Actions

Work Header

Shards

Chapter Text

“Volunteers, huh?” Bella hummed to herself, watching a stream of the news from her HUD, dually so eyeing Flux from her position nearby. 

They had open comms between all the members of their team, allowing the others to hear all that was said. 

“I’m not so sure the name sounds… edgy enough,” Essie offered with a regretful inflection to her tone, as if she were trying not to sound insulting. “Plus, I’m not sure what to think. Are we basically community service people now?” 

“I would figure you, above all of us, would know what that means,” Gus offered with a slightly snide tone, the grin apparent in his voice. “A volunteer isn’t just one for charity work. The very core of it’s concept is those who willingly give themselves to service without being forced or conscripted, usually for military service.” 

“You sound like you Zoogled that…” the wild dog remarked accusingly. 

“What can I say?” the grizzly bear grunted. “I love military history. That’s a huge part of it. The most pivotal battles were won mostly by armies that were invested in the cause, rather than forced to fight.” 

“I for one am finally glad to have a name associated with me that doesn’t sound grueling or gory,” Connor fired over the comms with a strange giddiness. 

The deer doe arched an eyebrow, finding this vigor odd… yet slightly welcome. 

The team were set upon their tasks, coordinating their efforts with salvage teams. 

Bella kept her words short, as she didn’t want a potential co-worker among them noticing who she was. She shouldn’t have cared, but the more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea of being able to be more blunt with a few select people who couldn’t pinpoint who exactly to complain about. 

Using her suit functions, the doe was able to scan wreckage and detail safe points for others to investigate and survey. 

“Our next focus point is that opening about thirty feet up,” one of the techs remarked, pointing upwards to a hole in the jagged chunk of alien wreckage. 

“On it,” Shroud called out, using her hooves to bring up a virtual projection screen that only she could see. To others, it appeared she was simply splaying her arms around oddly, but she was using a very intricate interface to more efficiently interact with her scanning tech. 

A readout scrolled through her view, with a 3D render of the scanned wreckage and any pockets of space or harmful readings. While the tech was advanced and a bit of a sensory overload, Bella found it was somehow streamlined for ease of use and a learning curve. 

Seeing a potential issue with getting up there, the armored deer turned and waved down her wild dog companion from nearby. 

“Hey Es… Rebound, I need your help with something,” she entreated in short, to which Essie perked up and hurried over, the doe not realizing she was currently being berated by the very stiff beaver. 

“Thank GOODNESS!” Essie all but yelled out, her voice an exasperated mess. “That Kent guy is soooooo BORING! I didn’t know leaning against that vehicle with my suit would mean denting it... Hard to think this suit is heavy when wearing it feels light as a feather.” 

“Wait… is that why he looked like he was chewing you out like a little pup?” Bella added, holding back a snicker.

“...yeah…” 

A roar of laughter could be heard over the comms, both Connor and Gus having overheard and chortling like deep voiced hyenas over where they were working. 

“A… Connor…” the deer doe seethed in a breath, to which the gnu cleared his throat and shut up, Gus having started to settle down himself as well. 

“While the suits enhance strength and agility,” Leo began to explain, unbidden, “they do still weigh a substantial amount. Yours in particular weighs 2.2 times your own weight, being nearly…” 

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence,” Essie growled in a deadly tone. Though she may have known somewhere in her mind that the android is immune feeling the gravity of that tone, it definitely worked for the others listening in. 

There was seconds of silence, before the robot finally spoke up once more, “I don’t quite understand the fascination of females keeping their body mass measurements a secret. With as many species and such as there is…” 

“Best not to think about that too much, Leo,” Flux cut in curtly. “If the males of thousands of years of civilization haven’t been able to completely grasp it… I doubt you will either.”

“Understood.” 

“....Anyways… Rebound,” Shroud refocused on the armored wild dog. “I need you to jump up there and investigate an electrical issue. If the salvage crew…” 

“Got it!” the energetic canine barked, leaping upwards using her jump jets. With precision that seemed more practiced than her current known expertise with the suits, she bounded upwards and dove through the hole, much to the waning protest of Bella below. 

A resulting zap and energy expenditure blew her out of the gap, where she arched downwards and impacted the ground with a thump. 

“Rebound! You alright?” the armored deer called out in worry. 

There was a groan to allay her fears slightly, with the dog raising an armored paw, “Uhm… what was it you were about to say?” 

The deer doe sighed, rolling her eyes as she finished her earlier thought, “I was trying to say that there were exposed components with random electrical surges that could hurt salvage members. Use the capsules of insulation foam in your suit to keep them from hurting you or others…” 

“Ah! Got it!” she yelled out, jumping to her feet and bouncing back up to the gap, Bella rolling her eyes. 

“I can see how she fits the name Rebound,” the doe vented out in a low grumble. 

Some of the others on the comms snickered a bit, though not replying or remarking any further. 

“Hey… Leo?” she called out, an irksome feeling rising ever since earlier in the morning. 

“Yes?” his even tone echoed through her, as well as the other’s comms. 

“While I’m doing this, I would like some answers. The explanation earlier felt woefully insufficient.” 

“Alright,” it answered. “Go ahead.” 

“First of all,” she began, the line going somewhat silent as the others either shut off their input or stopped speaking to listen in, “I can accept that Flux is three hundred years old and has a power that does what it does to keep him alive, but how is it that Phantom shares the power AND is apparently NOT the same age?” 

“A Shard works in odd ways,” Leo began to explain. “It adapts and evolves to give the host the best survival chances. It’s power was so unstable at creation, that it split apart to keep one host from being destroyed by it. Judy found something that completed the connection, so to speak, fully spreading the burden of their power between her and Nick. As they have interacted and fought together, not to mention her ability to turn into an energy form to ‘Shift’ as the two call it, the power between them has stabilized and grown.” 

“I think that makes sense,” Bella remarked, multitasking with her interface and giving data to both Essie and the salvage team for safe exploration of the wreckage. “Next question. Why can’t you find a way to disrupt the wormhole from our end? You said in short that it was unstable, making sense of their periodic incursions, but couldn’t you just energy beam that thing into fading out?” 

“Imagine it like trying to fire a bullet into water,” the mechanical being detailed. “Any such effort is useless, since it flows in one direction, making interference from the opposing direction exponentially problematic. We can scan for coming breaches, but can’t interfere directly.” 

“We’ve seen their Drones fight on automation,” the deer doe spoke, blowing right into another question, with a whole list of them to rattle off in response to the quick, comprehensive, though lacking in detail explanation from earlier. “Couldn’t you just use a big automated army to fight them back? Why us?” 

“They run off basic combat programs with no learning capabilities. It’s why Flux had fighting them down to a science until a new Shard showed up. I could run a few suits, as you have witnessed, though my ability to effectively balance quality of function with quantity of units becomes very tenuous beyond five or six suits. Therefore, more intuitive and less automatic assistance is required. Besides, I don’t think the populace would trust an artificial army with no empathy or emotion.” 

“So… we’re convenient flesh bags to fill the suits for empathic and political purposes?” Connor spoke up. 

“Absolutely not,” Leo rebuked evenly. “We could create an army of our own Drones to protect you, but the history of your civilization and others have a consistent theme that doing as much can make for a complacent population for when actual crisis arises. Build walls high enough to keep out threats for generations, and descendants have no skill or will to fight when the walls finally fall. You are a means of both representation and evolution in technology. Flux and Phantom have become akin to heroic deities, as much as they dislike the insinuation, resulting in many feeling there is a gap. They can’t amount to what the pair have achieved and never will. You however… break that belief for some hopefully.”

“I see…” the gnu answered, sounding deep in thought. 

“So, we’re the normal mammals to say it’s possible to be like them?” Rebound chriped, a pant to her tone as she was engaged in other activities. 

“I would hardly call a mammal like yourself ‘Normal’, Essie…” the being began. 

“Awww, Thanks,” the canine interrupted with a sincere tone that she took it as a complement. 

“...But the spirit of your assumption is as you say.” 

“If you’ve been here this long… why haven’t you taken Nick off planet?” the doe asked, causing a stunned silence. 

“Would you like the long answer or short one?” Leo remarked in kind. 

“Uh… short first?” 

“Very well,” the robot replied, awaiting for all that wished to hear this to tune in. “In order of chronology, the first issue is my ship, which was drained of all power upon first going through the wormhole. It crash landed in the water offshore of what was going to be Zootopia. My next issue was that I was now without any assistance from the tech on the ship. Sparing you exact details of my search and such, finding Nick was an incomplete mission. I was tasked to protect the Nova Shard. He was only half of it. Therefore, even if I could leave the planet with him under the guise of protection, my mission parameters wouldn’t allow that. Barring that, there was no means for me to produce anything significant until about one hundred years ago. Since then, Nick and I have been taking advantage of the rise of industry and innovation to recreate my creator’s technology enough so to prepare for the potential arrival of those that wish to take the Shard by force.” 

“That sounds like a long string of bad luck,” Gus told Leo in a sympathetic tone. 

“Indeed, though the biggest reason we simply couldn’t leave is this. I ask of you… If we couldn’t close or seal the wormhole behind us, and left as you say, what would have happened?” 

An almost morbid silence ensued for several seconds. Everyone in the team knew of the first arrival of the Drones. Large, well armoured, with a linear goal that seemed devoid of interest elsewhere, those lumbering, walking tanks appeared immune to conventional weapons and easily counterattacked to neutralize any aggression against them. 

If that were left unchecked with no Flux to drop in and “save the day”, their planet might very well be under siege, totalitarian alien rule, or simply eradicated. 

“I… don’t know…” Shroud admitted. 

“My best case predictions would be that the civilization after us now would commandeer your planet for resources and use as a staging point to effectively transit more forces and search the local systems for us,” Leo further spoke. 

“How would that be best case?” Bearzerker asked simply. 

“I guess…” Breaker replied. “I guess they could simply eradicate the planet or subjugate our population as slaves?” 

“Unfortunately, I can’t refute either possibility,” Leo responded evenly. 

“Wait, I have a question now,” the wildebeest cut in. “It’s been nagging at me for a while, but nuclear power runs off of heat induction through a generator that’s more or less a steam powered unit. How in the blazes did you figure out it could be prone to a feedback power loop?” 

“I got this one, Leo,” Flux finally said, breaking away from the melancholy of dealing with reporters asking all the same, boring questions. It was nice to answer a question with more mystique and thought process. “I made an assumption based on how much tech you were basing off salvaged Drones. Remember… I tried to keep as much of that out of your collective paws as I could for a while.” 

“Right… you’re point?” the gnu goaded further, wanting to hear the how. 

“Well… yeah… Drones use a form of nuclear power that’s more of a direct induction to a power supply. Hard to explain… but basically they have dampers to keep excessive power use from causing a feedback to disrupt their power supply. It’s a very intricate piece of tech that I missed during my first few times reverse engineering the tech… I figured you did too.” 

“Oh… I actually don’t know that much about the power source we used,” Connor admitted. “I knew it was nuclear but it was built by another team that was working in tandem with us. I’ll be sure to ask about that.” 

“Do as you will, but be assured I have already notified the proper people about that,” the mechanical being mentioned. 

“I have one last inquiry,” Bella interjected. “If there are Shards all throughout the cosmos… what makes these two so special?”  

“To explain,” Leo denoted, “I must tell you about classes of Shards. There are two. Star Shards and Nova Shards. Star Shards are charged in a star for a number of years and discharged by solar flares or the like, with two subsets of Red and Blue, with the latter being more powerful. Until Nick and Judy’s power, Nova Shards were only green, having been created from the virulent storm of a supernova. However, those Shards only imbue what power they can while being cast into space. This new Shard, being purple in hue by energy expenditure, was created from three stars going supernova in an artificial fashion, a vast majority of the energy being imploded upon the space where the dark matter was, thusly imbuing the power. It is the most powerful Shard ever created, not by any small margin, but by exponential value.” 

“Does that mean they could explode?” the female canine asked in a slightly joking tone. 

“The energy they hold is definitely that which could eradicate the whole system, as well as many beyond, if released in its raw form,” the robot replied. “But it is combined with dark matter, fused with their very existence. Best to say the power resides in an inert state, much like a battery, in an alternate pocket dimension.” 

“That doesn’t really answer my question…” Essie, sharp as ever, less confidently inquired. 

“Fine… Fine,” the armored fox answered. “I… can… ‘explode’, but it’s happened rarely and only affects things in a dozen feet or so.” 

“It hasn’t happened recently,” the rabbit doe added easily, trying to add security to the explanation. 

“Wait can Judy explode, too?” the wild dog barked in surprise. 

“I uh… no idea?” the aforementioned bunny responded, tone unsure of the possibility. She did remember an episode at her parents’ farm that seemed near that level, but she didn’t want to bring that up. 

“... hmmm… I would say that it would be hard to give you hugs now… but I still think it’s worth it,” Essie followed up with easily, getting over her implied trepidation quickly. 

“Definitely worth it,” the red fox agreed. Judy groaned as the two seemed to find some new resonance to tease her with. 

0000000

The salvage job, while slightly interesting, continued without further incident after Rebound’s little escapade. 

Even though they were delving into and taking apart alien ship remains, the group found the previous conversation the highlight of the trip, gaining more specific insight to the fight that Nick, Judy, and Leo were battling on their own before. 

After dispersing the team, Leo having given them all watch-like devices that could track, locate, and communicate with them, everyone went home for the day to rest. 

Nick and Judy parted ways at home, with the fox seeming well preoccupied with something that drove him to head to his Blade Storm repository. The bunny doe shook her head and smiled, figuring something in his brain clicked. She made a mental note to check on him in a few hours. 

Until then, she found some reading material, switching between a relaxing book and some schematics for her suits. She liked trying to figure out how some of her suits’ functions worked.  Especially so since she went in blind during her rescue of Nick with Gravitrix. The memory brought a sense of pride in her success of doing so, but also a bittersweet tinge at the thought of how she fell, faltered, and nearly failed while using it. 

She wanted to be better and know better. 

The time passed easily, going right into sunset outside and making Judy realize how long she’d been sitting and staring at the mess in front of her. Leo was kind enough to have schematics and such printed out, instead of having her stare at a bright screen to read them, resulting in a mess of papers on her desk. 

Jarring the silence, and surprising the rabbit a bit, her phone began ringing, with the doe automatically picking it up, believing it was Essie, with a long overdue freakout she couldn’t have in the suit. 

“Hey there,” she responded upon answering. 

“Hey Judy!” a familiar tone rang across the phone line. She was shocked to hear a male, letting her brain catch up in its addled state. 

“D-Dad?” the grey bunny stammered slightly. “How are you?” 

“I’m great, Kitto. Just calling to let you know something,” Stu belted out cheerfully. “Your mom and I are making a trip out to Zootopia. You know? That time of year again.” 

“Oh… OH! Right. I almost forgot,” Judy replied, smacking her forehead lightly and smiling. 

The time of year he mentioned was more like a quarterly visit. Even before she moved to the city, her parents had to make a trip to Zootopia to meet and greet with the grocers they supplied. As the economy changed, so too did prices and such. Technology now afforded them far more ease to just email or something to negotiate or trade details on such things, but her parents liked the polite nature of an in mammal meeting and actually shaking paws instead of short and curt messages. 

She couldn’t disagree or complain, as these semi-frequent trips meant some of her siblings, as well as herself when she got lucky, could be picked by lottery to tag along. It was how she got to see the city for the first time as a young kit and loved the grandiose scale of the city, even when it frightened her parents. ‘Big city, big problems’ they would say. 

“I hope you get your fair share,” she told him. 

“I’m certain of that,” he chirped happily. “We even got three new grocers in the city to talk to about contracts. So, I’m confident we’ll do good.” 

There was a pause. 

“We did, however, want to see you when we came to town,” her mother voiced over the line, clearly having taken the phone from her father. “We’re staying in a place in the Central District for a few nights and hoped to spend a little time with you. Rey is welcome to come with. Turns out Kale won our little lottery to come and really wants to see him again.” 

“Kale?” Judy laughed. She remembered a little about their exchange, but she had the impression that he was rather annoyed with her boyfriend. “Well I’m let him know. No promises, but I feel like he’ll do his best to come.” 

“That’s all we wanted to call for,” Bonnie remarked. “I would talk to you more but getting the kits ready is taking up our whole night. We’ll be in the area in the morning, but don’t worry about finding time for us until at least the next day. The whole group of us will be busy tomorrow with the negotiations and visitations.” 

“Alright. Thank you for telling me. I’m sure we can make time. Love you, Mom.” 

“Love you too, Judy,” her mother replied softly. 

“Hey! Don’t hang up without letting me say it too!” her dad shouted from somewhere a ways from the phone. “Love you too, Bun. Say Hi to your boyfriend for us.” 

“I will,” Judy mentioned, with both parties hanging up. She sighed in relief, not realizing she was holding a breath. 

It wasn’t a problem that her parents called, but after the last visit, she still felt there was tension there in the form of a metaphorical trip mine if she wasn’t careful with her words. Not to mention, she has to keep her affiliation with Flux and being Phantom a secret, making mention of living with him something to avoid. 

She stopped herself, knowing she was overthinking things. Regardless of her decision to live with him, they, nor anyone in particular, would know to make the leap in logic to believing either of them were armored heroes for the city. 

Sighing once more, rolling her eyes at her own dramatism, Judy figured it was about time to check up whatever Nick was working on. Given the look on his face earlier, the doe surmised he had a moment of clarity or inspiration to tackle something with his suits. 

Taking the short walk to his armory/workshop, she found the right door to where she last remembered his Blade Storm project being. 

Sure enough, as the door slid open, he was inside, eagerly scurrying about with a crazed and mad look in his eye, like he had been up for three nights subsisting on extreme amounts of caffeine. 

“Hi, Fluff,” he voiced without looking at her, reaching out a paw to point at a strange probe-like electrical device. “Would you give that to me, please?” 

“Sure,” the grey rabbit doe mumbled, looking around and trying to make sense of the mess. Whatever the case, she grabbed the tool by its grip and let the fox tod take it gently from her waiting paw. 

“Thank you very much,” he chirped in a sincere and cheerful tone. 

“Mind if I ask what’s got you looking like you worked up?” Judy inquired, trying not to seem worried in tone, but her expression having a hard time keeping that sentiment. Thankfully, he wasn’t looking at her face. 

“I was listening to the conversation earlier and got something in my head that seemed to click with my Blade Storm problem,” Nick explained. The doe perked up, glad to potentially see more of the project come into play. 

“What was said that triggered it?” she asked simply. 

“Honestly, I haven’t a clue. It began as a foggy thought from the whole conversation, then I tried to look at my problem from different perspectives,” he continued, the probe lighting up as it hovered over another piece of unrecognizable tech. It looked like a module for storage. “It’s like looking at fire and thinking about S’mores. The two aren’t exactly related, but they can be short leaps for the mind in the right context. I just started berating myself for trying to use the nanotech as both armor and constructor. I guess when I tried to pretend I was criticising my work from another angle, why would I make it act as a fluidic metal and hard armor. No sense whatsoever. So… I changed it.” 

Tossing aside the probe, Nick stripped his shirt, attaching the module, of which there were many others, onto his undersuit. 

Judy sucked in a breath as he pulled his shirt off, but was slightly disappointed at the result, even if the tech was intriguing. 

The red fox finally looked over at her, brow arching up and smile creeping onto his muzzle. 

“Expecting another sight, Carrots?” he teased. The doe promptly blushed and turned her head to pout, ears flopping over her face as she crossed her paws across her chest. 

“N-no…” she rebuked weakly, eyes flitting back. 

“I mean… if you want…” the tod began, stepping towards her, “I could forgo showing this off and show you something else?” 

“I uh… that’s…” the bunny stuttered, amethyst eyes locking onto his emerald ones before traveling lower and blushing. “...just show me what has you so excited.” 

Nick began to snicker, voicing with a laugh, “Poor choice of words there, Fluff.” 

Judy became embarrassed and indignant, huffing and choosing to stare with impatience until he got to his point. 

“Alright. Alright. I gotcha,” he finally relented, the remnants of a chuckle doing him no favors. “I basically had to tweak the overall core programming of the nanotech, but I was able to correlate it so that… well best if I show you.” 

Before she could react, Nick reached out and allowed the modules to open, fluidic nanotech spanning his form into a chrome-like layer. Like before, it looked malleable and with a sheen to it. Gripping a couple of ingots, they crumbled in his paws and were absorbed into the chrome mass. 

Unlike before, plating and metal scales surfaced, interlocking over the nanotech, instead of with it. 

From her examining gaze, it appeared that the fluidic tech was inhabiting the space between the plating and his fur, acting like a cushion and some sort of muscular network, like servos to move the suit. 

“You made the tech build the suit like an actual exoskeleton over it,” she muttered to herself, giving it a closer, more thoughtful look. 

“Yep!” the fox belted out, proud of himself. “The nanotech contructs only, instead of trying to imbue itself with the materials to create a pseudo suit of polymorphic integrity. I figured trying to meld a flexible element with a rigid material was stupid, once I actually thought about it. But this way, the suit is created like a shell, with Blade Storm mimicking everything from servos to scanners to bolt emitters underneath and changing the suit to match my needs… or yours.” 

“Mine?” she questioned with a glance up to Nick’s softer smile. 

He nodded, a paw reaching up to lift her chin. She smiled a bit, before nearly darting back in surprise. 

A stream of the nanotech coursed from the armor, running under her chin and layering itself over her clothes and fur, quickly constructing a suit. 

Her trust in him held her still, allowing a suit much the same as his to contruct itself over her, with his paw on more ingots and more fluidic metal coming from a small vat, supplying the material for her suit without diminishing his. 

As his paw withdrew, the last of the suit formed and closed in plating over her eyes and ears, with his doing much the same. 

“I can copy any design I’ve made thus far, as well as use the tech to scan and appropriate adaptable designs from foreign technology,” the red fox tod detailed. 

To line that thought, his armor changed, the fluidic nanomachines reconstructing the paws with beefed up armor and repulsors, mimicking the Jackhammer suit. As Judy noticed this, he switched it up once more, with the armor changing into Ricochet, quickly formed discus units detaching and just as swiftly reforming into his suit. 

He gestured to her, the doe letting her HUD respond to a neural command, then seeing a few selections pop up. Mentally focusing on it, the suit picked up on the intent, changing her suit from the basic form into Gravitrix, with the large orb constructing on the chest plating. 

“Wow… this is… amazing,” the grey rabbit breathed out, recognizing just how significant it was that Blade Storm succeeded. Now she and he could change tactics in the field without having to wait for a saving grace from above. Not to mention, the armor could likely repair itself, if the construction was any indication of its ability to form what wasn’t there. 

Without answering her complement, Nick changed the suit once more, the nanotech reforming the plating and tech into an unrecognizable design that seemed sleek, well formed, and almost devoid of any offensive capabilities. 

“What is that?” she dared to ask. 

“This… is finally the catalyst we needed to start the next step in our journey together,” he slowly and in a low voice remarked. “It’s our deep sea diving armor.” At that, he input a command, making her own suit adjust to reconstruct itself into a comparable design derivative of his, but adapted to her size and proportions. 

Before she could ask the obvious questions, her display added in new functions. There was a depth meter, hull integrity functionality, and a life support display that showed the air stored in the suit and oxygen being filtered from the water. The air storage slowly rose, denoting the suit was preemptively storing air for immediate use. 

“Oh my cod…” Judy rasped out, smiling in mild shock. “FINALLY!” 

“Yep,” Nick replied with a chuckle, knowing she realized exactly what it meant. “I already told Leo. He wants me to continue testing and making sure it’s safe, but we should be able to make the trip in a few days. Time to find his ship.” 

“Yes yes yes!” the doe yelped out, hopping and leaping around. More shouts and incoherent babbles of positivity left her maw for several minutes, the translation of her squeals and chirps being lost on the awkwardly smiling fox. He was glad. Glad it excited her so much and that he could provide that level of… crazed happiness. 

Finally, she seemed to calm down, allowing the tod to continue, “You sure are excited.” 

“Damn right!” the bunny exclaimed. “I’ve been waiting all my life to see a spaceship from beyond the stars! Now I get to see what seems to have been described as being as large as some sort of sci-fi battle cruiser that could decimate an entire city merely by landing on it. I’m soooooo excited to see it. You think it looks like a saucer? A giant sphere? Oh… Maybe a squid like creature with prehensile manipulator arms?!” 

Nick crossed his arms, face plating gone and smirking at his bunny. 

“You are so adorkable. I love this,” he softly spoke about her. 

Judy suddenly stopped and crossed her feet, toes overlapping as she blushed and twiddled her paws together. She wanted to be a bit infuriated at his look, but it was so full of endearing energy towards her, that she couldn’t get one word out to refute his sincere compliment. 

“Thank you…” she murmured timidly. 

“Geez… you’re going to break me, Fluff. One can only look so cute.” 

The usual rising infuriation at being called ‘cute’ was second nature by now, but was quickly quashed by the expression on her fox’s face as he cupped a paw over his muzzle, blushing at her display. 

Instead, she merely let her ears fall and whimpered a little. 

“You’re like a strawberry shortcake,” Nick continued in thought.

The doe’s muzzle contorted in confusion slightly, feeling like this had a catch to it. 

“How?” Judy asked him incredulously. 

The devious smirk he wore did not assuage her reservations. 

“Well… you’re small, fluffy, sweet….” he spoke, trailing off with a flick of his tongue over his snout. 

She simply stood there, waiting for the penny to drop. 

“...and maybe a little tart,” he finished. 

“Hey!” the grey rabbit yelled out, tapping her foot angrily and crossing her arms. The tod simply looked at her, raising an eyebrow as her pouting lips began to quiver slightly. She then let the facade fall and smiled gently, sighing out reluctantly, “...You’re not wrong…” 

“I love you for it though,” Nick comforted her. 

Throwing a snarky grin his way, Judy shook her head and snapped back, “You better!”